Dragons are pretty passé in the fantasy genre, definitely reaching its death knell after that horrendous Eragon movie, but Jack Campbell’s new series, The Pillars of Reality, is definitely turning the tide. Originally released as an Audible exclusive, The Dragons of Dorcastle introduces a world inhabited by two powerful guilds, Mages and Mechanics, and the struggle between its two most promising proteges, Alain and Mari.
I expected to find this story trite and its YA heroes to be cardboard cutouts of angst, but I was seriously hooked on the world and character building Campbell managed. It’s a heavily character driven story where the audience is introduced to the age old conflict between these two guilds through the principle characters and their struggles with each other. Is The Dragons of Dorcastle and the eventual romance between Alain and Mari kind of tropey? Yes. But it does those tropes justice, nailing the whole damaged character angle and slowly developing its forbidden romance. When tropes are done right and the pacing of the story is good, it makes a fun an entertaining read from start to finish.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Tuesday, June 30th, 2015||No Comments »|
During high school I visited Ellis Island with members of my school’s wind ensemble. While many of my compatriots excitedly used the database to explore their familial origins, I didn’t bother. Both my sets of grandparents came to America in the early seventies on an airplane. My roots don’t extend into a mysterious past.
However, for Alex Haley, understanding his family’s heritage was not just a personal matter. Roots: The Saga of an American Family is all but a part of American history. What’s kept me from finishing this epic journey of “the African” and the generations of Black-Americans that followed was its dry, informative style, something the TV series was able to dramatize to great effect.
Once again it’s Audible to the rescue with Avery Brooks’ unabridged reading of Roots. I think Brooks narration brings to life both his and Haley’s original passion and fervor to tell this story–a story we may not personally share, but one we’re a part of within this continuum of race relations in the United States.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Thursday, June 25th, 2015||No Comments »|
There’s exactly one memorable scene in Hot Tub Time Machine and it’s when three men peaked past their prime whisper reverently of “the great white buffalo,” like chanting a spell, summoning that sweet memory of the one who got away, that first great love. Jane Austen was a master of the slow burn of an old flame well before that scene was imagined, conceiving the greatest white buffalo of all time in Captain Frederick Wentworth.
The audiobook for Persuasion as read by Juliet Stevenson is listed as one of the bestselling, guaranteed-to-love products on Audible.com, offered as an incentive to members at the crazy reduced price of $2.99. Stevenson does a fabulous job, giving both a mature gravitas and feminine vulnerability to the regretful Anne Elliott, as well as delivering Austen’s witty prose with perfect timing and sly grace.
I’m convinced that whether you’re a Mr. Darcy fan or new to Jane Austen, Persuasion will appeal to anyone with a beating heart–because there’s nothing we so painfully long for than a second chance in love.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Thursday, June 18th, 2015||No Comments »|
If you were obsessed with The Princess Bride as a kid, that obsession is about to be reawakened by As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, written by Cary Elwes. Yes, that’s right. If you buy the Audible version, Westley will talk about the infamous fencing scene, how he broke his toe driving Andre the Giant’s ATV, and even do fantastic impressions of his imposingly gentle costar.
It’s seriously a must for anyone who ever got an iota of pleasure from the cult classic movie that every good childhood must include. Everyone who contributed stories, from Billy Crystal to Rob Reiner, obviously have a lot of respect for each other and deep, abiding love for this project.
It’s a little about the craft of moviemaking, it’s a little about the wacky things stars do with each other behind the scenes, and it’s a little to do about R-O-U-S actor being late for a shoot. Inconceivable!
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Wednesday, June 17th, 2015||No Comments »|
Scott Brick, the narrator chosen for Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel, is no Sam Neil or Jeff Goldblum, but he has a gift for voicing subtle accents and making the Spielbergian dinosaur adventure story most of us are familiar with appropriately ominous, reminiscent of the way Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was also a cautionary tale to the hubris of those students of morally ambiguous science.
As a kid who was already spending hours in the dirt trying to find the correct rocks to shape Native American style arrowheads, the Jurassic Park movie was just another reason to keep digging in the dirt and search for dinosaur bones. However, the new Jurassic World trailer hardly fills me with nostalgia and excitement (motorcycles and velociraptors, seriously?). But listening to Crichton’s original story really does bring back that feeling of wonder for those enormous prehistoric beasts.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Wednesday, June 10th, 2015||No Comments »|
Have you ever wondered what a classically trained, Shakespearean actor would sound like reading the books from your high school reading list? Because that’s exactly what’s delivered with Kenneth Branagh’s reading of Joseph Conrad’s original flight into deep jungle madness.
Heart of Darkness is one of those books that really stick with you, from the distinct word style like “papier-mâché Mephistopheles” to the vivid sayings from Captain Marlow’s slowly deteriorating mind (“Your strength is just an accident owed to the weakness of others”). The prose glides so gracefully and effortlessly into chaos, it’s easy to see where Marlon Brando’s iconic look from Apocalypse Now came from.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015||No Comments »|
I’ve mentioned John Green and The Fault in Our Stars before in passing. While I think Green’s YA novels are perhaps overrated, I loved TFiOS and like what it’s done for the YA genre. Hazel Grace Lancaster is no Bella Swan. Cancer isn’t just used as the dramatic backdrop of their teen romance, it was a way to focus on the existentialist dilemma we all face: that we don’t necessarily matter to the rest of the world, but what makes life, however long it is, worth living is at least mattering to each other. And for all the critique the book and movie have gotten regarding the myopia of sick-lit, I think it’s important that there’s a novel out there accessible to teens that confronts the issue that the terminally ill are still complete people rather than broken, false starts of a life.
While I adored Shailene Woodley in the movie adaption, I think Kate Rudd’s reading added a beautiful sensitivity to the already poignant story. She gives Hazel a sly humor, laced with chronic teenaged fragility and gives Augustus the slow drawl of a cocky teen nevertheless choosing his words very carefully to impress his crush.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Wednesday, May 27th, 2015||No Comments »|