Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Audio books

In looking through Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce for my last post I was reminded that some books don't make the translation into audio book format quite as well as others. Sometimes that's because there are illustrations which help to tell the story. (As is the case, I think, with Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.) But there are one or two other reasons for it in the Beka Cooper books as well.

For example, the following quote:

"Is that a Dog thing, to want other opinions Never mind, Beka! Leave that muddling for the scholars!" (195)

The crossed out question is in the audio book, but the listener has no idea that Beka decided to cross it out.

Another example is when, on the last page of Beka's first diary entry, we see feline paw prints on the paper. Of course this doesn't translate well into the audio book, so the listener misses out a little when she writes "Pounce says I am to stop feeling sorry for myself and get to bed, or he will ruin another good page with his inky paws" (6). Sure the listener can figure out what just happened, but that awesome visual is missing.

Finally, there are the times when Beka is exhausted and it shows in her writing. In one entry, as I recall, she actually stops writing mid-word and there is a line leading away from her writing as her quill falls away from the page. That isn't the case in the example I've got here, though.

"I think I mst halt for a time. I've dun done a fearful abont amount of writing. Even in syfer I've writ a lot of pages. Ill write more of yesstrday yesterday, night, after a nap" (416).

Unless my memory fails me, all but the first of the crossed out words are not in the audio recording. (And I've listened to it enough times that I should know!) But even in the audio recording, try conveying the fact that an apostrophe is missing in "Ill."

Despite my criticism I do love the audio books of Beka Cooper. Even though they fail to convey little details the narrator does a wonderful job, and I'll listen to them many more times I'm sure. :)


I recently reread Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce for the...you know, I don't know how many times I've read it now.


 It's interesting to look at the interplay between Dale and Beka. He comes in, sweeps her off her feet (literally...see page 308), and she falls head over heels for him (not literally).

Only, there's one problem. Beka's hunting cole mongers, but because she can't say so she has to lie to Dale about her reasons about being in Port Caynn. Not a good way to start off a relationship!

Oh, and it doesn't help that, as a gambler, he is a prime suspect for spreading the coles -- especially since it's a well established fact that they're being spread by gambling. Then despite the fact that, in the end, it is proven that Dale had nothing to do with the coles, his best friend Hanse was at the middle of the cole monger ring.

Goodwin and Beka are delighted to have the acquaintance of gamblers because it will help them on their hunt. And even though Beka really does have feelings for Dale, Goodwin pushes for her to be friendly for the sake of the hunt, as seen when she says "At least one of those coves will be there to see you, [. . .] They took to you during that riot, and you're going to be friendly even if I have to shove you all the way" (241). Beka even takes advantage of the relationship to do some snooping, although it's obvious that she wants to think more with her heart than with her head: "I will search Dale's rooms, as I should. That is how I shall think of tonight. And if I were to say that to Goodwin, she would laugh until she popped something" (367).

But Dale is smart. Even before the storm really breaks he's questioning the reason given for Beka and Goodwin's presence. "I'd been hearing the word coles of late, so I looked at my own coins. [. . .] I'm not the only one who's getting bit this bad. So I'm wondering, here are Beka and Goodwin, fresh in town. Maybe they're looking for colemongers" (410). Of course Beka denies it by way of pointing out how young she is for such an important hunt (which it is true that she's unusually young for something with such a high stakes). Yet even though Dale seems to agree that she's too inexperienced for hunting colemongers he probably revisited that theory of his after Beka caught the queen rat almost single handed. He may have also realized that she didn't deny his question about it with an outright "No."

My assumption is that in the end Dale figures out that Beka and Goodwin were on the hunt, because he's smart enough to figure things out for himself, especially in retrospect. That being the case, he probably questions Beka's reasons for becoming his lover. Sure, the reasons he gives for ending it are valid: that they'll be in two different cities, and that those kind of relationships are tough. But an unspoken reason is probably that he doesn't trust her to not lie, and/or because he suspects that she used him.

I wonder if Beka ever realized that he probably guessed. If so, did she regret that she didn't come clean in the end? After all, it couldn't have done any harm at that point, and although Dale wasn't unpleasant to her (aside from dumping her, that is) things might have ended slightly more pleasantly if she had told the truth.

If Beka wanted to have any hope at all of continuing the relationship or picking it up again she should have told Dale the whole truth. Yet, in addition to the reasons Dale gave, she knew there were other reasons it couldn't have worked. "Still, how would we have managed? Him in Port Caynn, when he is home, me in Corus. Him wanting someone to be his luck at games, me being on duty when he begins to play and weary and cross, like as not, after my watch. And he had yet to be in my bed the nights I woke, screaming or sweating, from some dark dream of Rats, blood, and death" (528).

...and from my writing classes I know that I should have some comment following that quote, but because I don't know what else to add I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: The New Death and others

Book cover
I got a request from an author to review a book. Since this book is in my favorite genre and he would give it to me for free, I couldn't resist. FYI: I am not getting paid to write a good review.

The book in question is The New Death and others by James Hutchings, and it is a collection of short stories and poems. They are mostly dark fantasy, and all of them fun. I've even gone back to reread a few of them.

If you like fantasy, you'll probably find something to enjoy in this book. It has a variety of material, from good witchy stories to commentary on modern culture, stories about various gods such as the goddess Fame, tales of love gone wrong, and even some good stuff for us cat lovers. I have a suspicion that Hutchings likes cats. Oh, and there's even one good story whose ending is a very nice pun that left me in a fit of giggles. But you'll have to read the book to find out which story it is.

I will admit that after the first short story, which blew me away, I found Hutchings' writing style in the next few stories to be a distraction. That was probably because it reminded me of another author, but as I kept on reading I stopped making comparisons because Hutchings' writing style is definitely his own. And when I reread those stories during which I had been comparing Hutchings to Terry Pratchett I couldn't find anything to complain about.

Perhaps my favorite stories and poems in this book are those which are commentary about both modern culture, and about some of the stupid things have probably done all through history. Those are the kinds of stories/poems which you read once, pause to think, and then reread. They include one about our our materialistic world (poem "Law and Justice"), one about why it might be better to not be famous (short story "Fame's Beloved"), and one about how we are often our own worst enemies (short story "The Enemy Within"). There are many more than just the three I've shared here.

The New Death and others is a very good book, and I definitely recommend it. And as I said, it has something for just about any fantasy lover.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reading challenge completed!

We're hardly even two and a half months into 2012 and I've already completed one of my reading goals for the year: to listen to 12 audio books.

I think I can blame my job...even though it keeps my hands busy, it also gives me ample time to listen to audio books. :)

Below is the list of what I've listened to, and that list will continue to grow throughout the year!

1) Abhorsen: Sabriel by Garth Nix, read by Tim Curry
2) Daughter of the Lioness: Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce, read by Trini Alvarado
3) Rocannon's World by Ursula K. le Guin, read by Stefan Rudnicki
4) Midnight Magic: Murder At Midnight by Avi, read by Jeff Woodman
5) Avalon High by Meg Cabot, read by Debra Wiseman
6) Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, read by Anthony Heald
7) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Lloyd James
8) The Princess Bride by William Goldman, read by Rob Reiner
9) Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, performed by various readers
10) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, read by Nadia May
11) Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Lloyd James
12) Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce, read by Susan Denaker

For a complete list of all challenges I'm taking part in, click here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Urtiz and Ashmari

So I just finished listening to Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce...


One scene that I find very interesting is when Beka talks to Urtiz about coles. In a way it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the story, just like another interesting scene I wrote about last year. It's also one of my favorite bits of the novel.

First, a brief summary: Beka shows up to ask Urtiz about a counterfeit coin ("cole") that he used to try to buy bread. He tells her that he got it gambling, and that once he knew he had coles he bought a slave (Ashmari) with them and threw what was left over in the river. Beka points out to Urtiz that that's against the law, Ashmari attacks Beka to protect Urtiz, Beka ties Ashmari up, and then Urtiz tries to bribe her into letting him free Ashmari before he's arrested. Beka tells them off, unties Ashmari, gets the info that she had gone to Urtiz for (about the cole...remember the cole?) and gets out of there.

So, here are my questions:

1) Why does the scene not entirely seem to fit with the rest of the novel? I'm not sure how to explain.

2) Why does Urtiz admit so easily to Beka that he broke the law when buying Ashmari? Someone that stupid shouldn't have survived to his age.

3) Does this move the plot along in any way, or otherwise contribute?

I still don't have an answer to #1. But as for the other two...

My assumption is that Urtiz wouldn't normally admit so freely to breaking the law (especially to an officer of the law) but that he was feeling over confident or cocky. Then again, we don't see any more of him, so I can't say for sure.

The information that Beka gets from Urtiz does move along the plot. In fact, what she gets from him is really important. But she could have gotten that info without the whole mess with Ashmari. So, why is Ashmari there?

Ashmari doesn't move along the plot, but she does show something important about Beka's character. Not only does Beka love the trick played on the slavers when Ashmari is bought with false coin (Beka may be a follower of the Trickster, in a way), but even more of Beka's character is revealed when she turns down Urtiz's bribe. And it's a pretty hefty bribe, too:
"I'll give you five gold nobles. Let me free her, let her escape, before you hobble me, [...] Guardswoman, I swear, the coin is right here. Only let me free her, and I'll go with you quietly. She was trying to protect me! Not just five nobles -- I have jewels. Let me buy Ashmari's freedom and you can have the rest. It's enough for you to retire on" (51).
Beka had already intended to let the two go. She could have taken this bribe, pretended to think it over, then go ahead with what she'd already decided on. Not only that, but she knows that her superiors would not be pleased with her turning down the bribe:
"The truth is, I must think of a way to write this up for Ahuda so she, Tunstall, and Goodwin don't suspect about Urtiz's bribe. They'll never forgive me for turning it down" (51).
I guess it shows that Beka cares more about justice, and what's right, than about money. One might go so far as to say that she cares about justice more than the law, since Urtiz did break the law by buying Ashmari with coles.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Starship Troopers: comments

I just finished listening to Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein today.

I've read it before, but it's been a while. I'd forgotten how much it talks about ethics, and the proper way a government should be put together. I remembered that they were both in there a little bit (though I remembered the latter more than the former), but didn't remember they were both discussed in such detail.


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