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review 2016-06-11 07:06
Great writing, less-great narration
Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot (Spenser) - Ace Atkins,Robert B. Parker,Joe Mantegna

This is a very mixed bag of an audiobook. I loved the novel 3 years ago, and enjoyed reliving it. But man, the narration was just not my thing. But I'll get back to that in a bit.


I stand by pretty much everything that I said 3 years ago (although, I seem to have missed/underrated one plot point last time -- I totally bought it this time). Here's some of what I said before that still applies:

On the one hand, this is not Atkins' best Spenser. But it's the one that feels like Parker more than the rest (make of that what you will). The banter, the poking around and stirring things up until you get a break, the fisticuffs, the donuts, the gun fight, the needling of underworld players, and so on -- he captures Parker's voice and pacing better here than he'd managed before (yet doesn't come across as pastiche). Spenser's sniffing around the big money and big boys (and a few men) in sports, which serve as a good place for Spenser to reflect how men are to act. Parker did this Mortal Stakes and Playmates (and to lesser extents elsewhere -- like Early Autumn), and Atkins is able to do that here (arguably he does so with a subtlety that Parker didn't achieve).


Kinjo Heywood's a fun character -- slightly more grounded than Mortal Stakes' Marty Rabb, far more mature and grounded than Playmates' Dwayne Woodcock. One advantage Heywood has is his son, Akira (who's plenty of fun on his own) -- he has someone to provide a good example to, and he strives to. Heywood also seems to have thought ore about life and how one should live it. Marty seemed to think only about Linda (his wife) and baseball, Dwayne was all about his girlfriend (Chantel) and basketball, too -- but with less self-examination, it's just that's all he had the chance to think about (although Chantel would see that changed, and his horizons broadened if she had anything to say about it). Heywood's got a kid, he's been through a divorce, and is fully aware of his place in the limelight (including social media) and his own shortcomings. This alone saves the book from being a reworking of Parker.


I should add that Sixkill has a lot of perspective here (with the assistance of Atkins' own background in football) -- he was close to Heywood's level, and if he'd made one or two better choices, he would've been at this level. He has a better idea what's going on in Heywood's mind than Spenser and his brief stint in the boxing world would.


The book begins with Spenser doing bodyguard duty -- and as always (Stardust, Looking For Rachel Wallace, A Savage Place, Rough Weather) things don't go well. You'd think people'd stop hiring him for this kind of work. Spenser turns to investigating -- and unearthing lie after lie from his client -- while getting Hawk and Sixkill to pitch in on the bodyguard front.


In addition to the main characters, Hawk, Susan, Sixkill, Tony Marcus, and so on; Atkins continues to show a command and familiarity with the impressive gallery of supporting characters in the Spenser-verse. And the new characters fit into the 'verse just fine, nothing that Parker wouldn't have created.


Not only did Atkins give us a good story this time, he appeared to be planting and/or watering seeds for future books at the same time -- something Parker never bothered with, but I'm glad to see.


About the only thing I'd like to add on this front is that I think I liked the story more this time around.

So much for the lovefest. I just didn't like Mantegna's work. I know, I know -- he's done many, many of the Spenser Audiobooks; Parker loved his work with Spenser (even getting him cast in those semi-regrettable movies); and he's Joe bleepin' Mantegna. Still, it didn't work for me. When he was reading the narrative parts -- Spenser describing what he was doing, what he was seeing, etc., even making smart aleck asides -- I dug it. He did a perfectly entertaining job -- maybe even more.


But the strength of Parker's work was his dialogue, and Mantegna fell flat (at best) on this front. Spenser sounds like Fat Tony, which just should not be. Ever. Kinjo sounds like a stereotypical old blues man, not a young NFL linebacker. Hawk sounds like a slightly younger blues man. And don't get me started on Zee. That was just embarrassing. Most of the other characters were pretty poorly done, as well. And when the book is so reliant on dialogue, so reliant on the charm of the characters, that missing with just about all of them hurts.


So, like I said, great writing, mediocre (when not disappointing) narration. Please note this rating is for the Audiobook -- the whole experience, the narration as well as the writing -- still love the book, and would recommend the novel in a heartbeat. This? Eh. It was entertaining enough, but that's it. Still, any time with Spenser is time well spent.

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review 2016-01-14 00:00
Dr.Atkin's New Diet Revolution
Dr.Atkin's New Diet Revolution - Robert C. Atkins Back on the saddle
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review 2015-06-04 18:07
The Adventures of Basil and Moebius Volume 2 by Ryan Schifrin
The Adventures of Basil and Moebius Volume 2: The Shadow Gambit - Ryan Schifrin,Larry Hama,Robert C. Atkins

The Collector commands Moebius and Fox to find a mysterious weapon that was smuggled out of Germany after WWII and then disappeared.

It's good to once again read a Moebius and Fox adventure, but I wasn't so taken in by the story even though it was a nice change to read a graphic novel instead of a book. It was a lot of action and around the world hunt and the art was good and the ending promised an interesting continuation. But I felt that it lacked something extra to make it really, really good. Perhaps the whole evil nazi thing is getting a bit old to read about. Feels a bit been there done that. Perhaps some more unusual enemies in the future...


I received this copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review! Thank you!


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review 2014-10-27 14:24
ArtSpeak by Robert Atkins
ArtSpeak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1945 to the Present - Robert Atkins

An illustrated guide to the movements and buzzwords of the post-World War II art world.

All professional worlds have their own language and codes that seem impenetrable to outsiders, and the art world is no different. However, art is unique in that even those who consider themselves insiders seem to resent the opaqueness of words, denouncing the quizzical texts that can be found in exhibition press releases and catalogues as a pompous, non-sensical attempt to be “deep". This book is the perfect antidote to that.

The truth is that a lot of the writing you find in the art world today is baffling, but that doesn’t mean that all the buzzwords are meaningless. Naming movements and concepts helps us make sense of the largely fluid and eclectic art world, and it gives us points of reference to attempt to construct art historical narratives. The problem is that a lot of today’s art is better understood when you are aware of those points of reference, which makes a lot of people feel inadequate when they visit a gallery. This book explains all the movements and buzzwords in plain English, detailing the origins, the artists, and the influence of styles, movements and ideas. As such, it is an excellent read both for beginner art enthusiasts and those on the inside who need a reference book (granted, a superficial one, but good as a starting point) to the major developments of modern and contemporary art.

It was refreshing to see that this includes not only Western art movements, but also those from Brazil, China, Japan, and Australia, among other places. My only complaint is that , with a few exceptions, the Middle Eastern region is largely ignored, which is not entirely surprising, as this region’s artistic narratives have only recently begun to be explored by the mainstream, but it is something to keep in mind for the next edition of this book.

A good book to offer to your non-artistic oriented friends, so that they will start coming with you to gallery and museum openings without feeling left out of the conversation.


Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley. This review has been cross-posted to my Curious Curator blog. 

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review 2014-07-04 00:00
Castle: A Calm Before Storm
A Calm Before Storm - Robert Atkins,Richard Castle,Peter David I enjoyed this title. Very intriguing story.
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