Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, narrated by Kate Mulgrew

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Don’t slow down

Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn’t tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself.

Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie’s twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.

And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble…and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie’s unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget.

But Charlie Manx hasn’t stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won’t slow down until he’s taken his revenge. He’s after something very special—something Vic can never replace.

As a life-and-death battle of wills builds—her magic pitted against his—Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all…or die trying…

So I had this whole plan to fill my October reading/listening list with scary, gothic, horror-thriller stories for Halloween. I didn’t make it far and now the season is over. But I did choose well because what a crazy story! It is one of the best supernatural thrillers that I have read. I have read Hill’s other book Horns, and I think NOS4A2 might be more fraked up.

It was full of adventure and suspense. It got my heart racing and feeling really nervous for the fate of the characters I liked. I did feel like the ending did drag on a touch (which is why I deducted a point from my rating) because I was bit like, “oh, we’re not there yet?” However, the ending was very fitting and the opening for a sequel is there. Which scares me to no end. So mission accomplished.

It’s also a good mom story because it takes the saying “I will go to the ends of the earth to find you” to a whole new level. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorn.

Kate Mulgrew’s performance is phenomenal! The way she does Manx’s voice sends shivers down my spine. I think her voice has changed a bit since Star Trek: Voyager and the deep, raspiness was such an asset to her narration.

I loved the geeky references to Batman, Harry Potter, and others, as well as the nod to Horns when the Treehouse of the Mind is mentioned. All that geeky stuff made me gleeful.

While there is a lot of suspense, and some really disturbing, f-ed up situations, there was some humor too. It might have been Mulgrew’s delivery, but this one part in particular that made me laugh out loud was in Chapter 65 (page 377 in the paperback) when Charlie Manx says, “You will quit right this instant or I am leaving you by the side of the road. There is no reason for you to take out your failures on the handsome interior of my car.”

I ended up buying the paperback too because there are illustrations in it that are, of course, missing from the audiobook.

Lastly, there was a chapter at the end when Joe Hill talks about the story, his family and his inspirations and I liked when he said we all live in two worlds: The Real World and our own Thoughts. Ideas are thoughts made into realty through song (or any art form). I never thought about it that way before, but it’s true.

That is what music, books, movies, paintings, sculpture, etc. are. You think of it in your mind and it exists in your inscape… and then it becomes real and others can see, hear, and feel it too.

4 out of 5 Bikes.

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Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley, Narrated by B. J. Harrison

Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley, Narrated by B. J. Harrison; 8 hours 19 minutes.

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It is the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein! It also October and I decided to read some ghoulish stories.

I first read Frankenstein almost 20 years ago when I was in high school.

So back then I was a bit bored by the writing. I still was at times because Shelly would go on a bit with some descriptions, and listening to Harrison’s soothing voice would allow me to doze off.

I do think this time around though that I appreciated the prose more and found some passages quite poetic. I do love that Mary Shelly was a woman ahead of her time to write such a deep, philosophical, science fiction story.

I am so used to the adaptations of Frankenstein that I forgot that in the original story it is never outright said how he makes the Creature. It’s not the digging up bodies and using lightening method we’re used to. It’s implied that Frankenstein made the body from scratch. Also, and maybe I fell asleep during that part, he is also never called Doctor Victor Frankenstein. Did he get his P.H.D.?

The reason that this story still stands today is because the philosophy and themes in the story are timeless. We’re a blank slate and what shapes us is nature and nurture together. Also, take responsibility for your actions. I am looking at you, Victor.

4 out of 5 Lightening Bolts

I just want to give a shout out to my two favorite adaptations:
– Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein, which is still hysterically funny.
– Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, where Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated their roles each night as Frankenstein and the Creature.

New York Comic Con 2018 – Saturday, October 6

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First panel of the day was I’ll Take Dementors for $500, Obi-Wan: A Fan Game Show with Marc Thompson, Delilah S. Dawson, Sylvain Neuve, Ryan North, and Chuck Wendig.

Here is the gist: Do you know the whole DC universe by their legal names? ID a Star Wars villain from a single wicked line? Name every kind of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans? Test your knowledge, competing alongside bestselling authors in categories like The Dark Side, Bad@ss Chicks, Winter Is Coming and more, using clips from Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter audiobooks. Narrator Marc Thompson hosts in character as Obi-Wan Kenobi and will select a few lucky audience members to compete onstage.

While Marc was dressed as Obi-Wan, he didn’t do his voice the whole time. The game was played like Jeopardy! and the categories were The Dark Side; Expecto Patronum; Winter Is Coming; Fierce Females; I Can Be Your Hero, Baby; and Nerd-Tastic.

It was really fun to watch. My favorite categories were The Dark Side and Expecto Patronum. For some reason they weren’t picking Winter Is Coming until nearly the end. If none of the players knew the answer the audience would shout it out and the first one to buzz in got to answer it. In the end Delilah’s team won.

There was a short Q&A afterwards. The part that interested me most was when Marc Thompson was talking about the process of recording an audiobook. He’ll get the book and make notes, and also record some new voices on his phone to refer to. As he gets more into the recording process he will be so used to doing the new voices he won’t need to refer to his voice memo.

Marc doesn’t talk to the authors because he has a director and doesn’t want to go over the director’s head by saying, “Well, the author said this.”

He was complemented on how great he sounds but Marc gave the credit to the editors who piece it together when he makes mistakes, as well as the music and sound effects they add when it’s a Star Wars novel.

As for the voice of Thrawn, I guess he did a different voice for the anniversary edition of the Thrawn Trilogy, because that was before Rebels. I still have to listen to it. But for the two most recent books he really captured the his voice from the animated series.

I can’t remember this other question or full answer now, but Chuck said that Palpatine’s first name “Sheev” is like “Steve” in AGFFA. That made me laugh.

After the panel there was a signing with the authors right outside the room, which was super convenient. We didn’t have to run and push our way to another part of the Javits.

This time I brought From a Certain Point of View with me. I told each author how I plan to slowly collect every author’s signature until I am old.

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Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson.

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson. 13 hours 21 minutes.

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader ally against a threat to the Empire in this new novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root—its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs—including the Death Star project—the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown…and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance—neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store.

Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged—by a test of their allegiance to the Empire…and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

 

My wish came true! I had mentioned in my review of the prequel that I wanted the story of when Thrawn met Anakin Skywalker and would he figure out that he became Darth Vader?

I don’t think one has to read Thrawn before reading this sequel, but it sure would help to know his background. That said I was reading some reviews on Goodreads and some people mentioned that they missed Eli Vanto. I honestly did not. Though knowing the outcome of Thrawn: Alliances I wouldn’t mind seeing what he is up to with the Chiss Ascendancy.

I listened to this story on audible and once again Marc Thompson is a fantastic narrator. I did laugh at his voice for Padmé, but what can you do? He’s not Natalie Portman, or Catherine Taber.

I also bought the Barnes and Noble exclusive edition, only because I wanted the poster of Padmé. (Side rant: why must they put that ugly sticker on the cover? It’s hiding Vader’s buttons. And it is already printed inside that it’s a B&N exclusive. I pealed it off but there will always be a sticky residue.)

Ok, so back to the review.

I like that we have a time frame. The past is set after Ahsoka has already left the Jedi Order. The present is set after the Battle of Atollon on Star Wars: Rebels. So between seasons 3 and 4.

I’ll start with some critiques and then end on the positive. This is going to get spoiler-y.

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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Narrated by B.J. Harrison

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Revenge at all cost!

A young sailor returns home from a dangerous voyage. His father and his sweetheart are waiting for him. But an act of jealous treachery changes his life forever!

An unexpected meeting changes everything and the man who was once an unknown sailor emerges as The Count of Monte Cristo, mysterious, rich, and powerful enough to take the ultimate revenge against his enemies.

I love, love, love this classic novel. Definitely one of my all time favorites. The complexity of it is just brilliant. It’s not just a revenge story (though the revenge is juicy and deserved!) but also a story of hope and forgiveness.

I began listening in the fall of 2017, but I didn’t like the narrator’s voice and couldn’t get past the first chapter. Then I found B.J. Harrison. He narrates a few of Poe’s short stories I love and his voice work is amazing. When I saw he narrated TCoMC I started listening to his rendition.

For two days in December I listened to 14 chapters. Then I took a break to do a re-listen of the Red Rising books before Iron Goldcame out. Fast forward to mid-February I went back to TCoMC and spent the next couple of months only listening to it. The audiobook is 52 hours long (117 chapters). To clear things up in the beginning (February- March) I wasn’t listening everyday. I was doing like only 5 hours a week. The past few weeks of April I have been listening 1.5 – 2 hours daily.

The length of the novel can be intimidating but it is so engaging, and the prose is so poetic. I book marked a lot of sections. I’ll have to share a few of my favorite quotes.

There are so many details between the events and the characters’ connections. There is just so much planning involved that
A) I would have loved to see the outlines that Dumas made and B) I don’t know how anyone can read an abridged version. So many little details from early in the story come back later. You may think something is insignificant, but it’s not. Every subplot has a purpose.

I kept a list of the characters nearby and would refer to it in the beginning to keep them straight, but as time went on I didn’t need it.

I love the evolution of Edmund’s character from innocent and naive to worldly, educated and cunning. I don’t know how Edmund juggled all those identities and stories. (My friend who listened to it right before I did called Edmund the first Batman. I’ll say! She also listens all day long and finished in about a week or so. Damn!)

I loved the way Harrison changed his voice for Edmund. When he was young and naive it was a bit higher and faster. When he became the Count it was deeper and more articulate.

Harrison is a wonderful narrator. His pacing is just right and he does a great range of voices so you know which character is speaking. I love the way he pronounced the name Mercédès. Actually, if it weren’t for the audiobook and hearing all these French names and words pronounced correctly I would be saying them in my head the incorrect American way.

I also loved the way Harrison said “Yes” for Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort (he is paralysed and only able to communicate with his eyes, but retains his mental faculties). His “Yes” is very long and deep.

I could go more into all the characters and their fates but that would turn into a whole essay. (So maybe another post someday.) I’m really glad that I persisted because now I am proud to say I read The Count of Monte Cristo.

5 out of 5 Millions in Diamonds.

FAVOTRIE quotes:

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Thrawn by Timothy Zahn, Marc Thompson (Narrator)

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In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power—uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.

I really enjoyed this book and one of the many reasons why is because Thrawn is part of the new Disney canon! I was so happy to see him on Star Wars: Rebels. Not much was changed about him. Still the same species, still a tactical genius and a savant at studying artwork to know his enemy. I squeed when he gets his Star Destroyer, Chimaera. I now want to go back and listen to the audiobooks of The Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command).

It feels funny rooting for him because he works for the Empire, but he is just so good at what he does. Of course he has faults. He’s not very good at politics and he does face prejudices for being an alien from the Unknown Territories.

I really enjoyed Thrawn’s insight into people. There would be an aside of his observations of them and their reactions. Like studying art, it’s how he would anticipate their actions.

I also loved how every chapter started out with his how-to-be a genius at strategy. It was like the Star Wars version of “The Art of War by Grand Admiral Thrawn.”

A few critiques:
1. Some parts I thought were slow and my mind would wander off. Mostly it was the parts with Arihnda Pryce, but there is a point to her subplot. Her political manipulations balance with Thrawn’s military tactics. Some of the missions Thrawn and Eli were on were slow, but they all come together in the end and add up to a final conclusion.
2. Sometimes Thrawn’s voice was so soothing I would drift off to sleep and would have to go back and listen again. (Thrawn says “Perhaps” a lot. A LOT.)
3. Thrawn’s aide, Eli Vanto, got on my nerves sometimes. He was taking too long to get up to speed with Thrawn’s plans.

Marc Thompson is an excellent narrator. I know I said Thrawn’s voice was so soothing I would drift off to sleep, but it was so perfect. Matched the voice on Star Wars: Rebels. He was also excellent at performing the voices for the Emperor and Tarkin.
My favorite voice though was Arihnda Pryce’s friend. I think her name was Jewett? I can’t find her on Wookieepedia. It is really annoying when their articles and character lists are incomplete. I wonder if the printed edition has a Dramatis Personae…
Anyway, her voice was so funny. It was like the Star Wars version of a valley girl and I could not be more amused by the way Marc Thompson performed her voice.

From now on I want to listen to Star Wars on audiobooks. It’s like a radio drama with the sound effects and the music.

4 out of 5 Glowing Red Eyes.

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Spoilers Below.

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Review – Catalyst: A Rogue One Story, by James Luceno, Jonathan Davis (narrator)

Words can’t describe how devastating today has been. I don’t cry for a celebrity’s passing, but I have cried many times today after hearing of Carrie Fisher’s passing. I really hoped and prayed she’d pull through after her heart attack. 2016 had been so cruel taking a few of our legends from us.

I am obviously heartbroken as a fan but what is really sad is knowing the grief her family feels. Her daughter Billie is still too young to lose her mother, and my heart goes out to Debbie Reynolds. A mother should not outlive her daughter.

My condolences to her family. You are one with the Force, Carrie, and you will be missed. ❤

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War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.

Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.

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