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Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

AUG 2014
by Jonathan Lowe

BILLIONAIRE BLEND by Cleo Coyle is the latest of an offbeat series of coffeehouse mysteries, this one involving an internet billionaire who is aided (after a car bomb nearly kills him) by Landmark Coffee’s manager Clare Cosi. He buys her an expensive espresso machine as a thank you, and then hires her to help him create the world’s most expensive coffee blend. The perfect mystery for coffee lovers, this plot (and quirky narration by Rebecca Gibel) reminded me of the paring of Janet Evanovich and Lorelei King in the Stephanie Plum bounty hunter series. As Evanovich always said, “I love getting up in the morning with my cup of coffee and going into the world of Plum.” There’s also a lot of Dunkin donuts and Tim Hortons coffee involved. Of course Dunkin Donuts coffee was surprisingly rated last in a taste test by the winner of the World Barista Championship. “So bad I had to spit it out,” he said. Rated highest (among commonly available coffees) was Gloria Jeans and Newman’s Own.

GO WILD by John J. Ratey MD, and Richard Manning presents the argument that modern diseases result from the agricultural expansion of rice, wheat, corn, and potatoes. When man went from hunter/gatherer to farmer, starch slowly grew in the diet, and people didn’t need to move as much. Waistline growth in our modern times go hand-in-hand with autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and cardio-vascular disease. This results, say the authors, from too many empty calories instantly available without any effort at all. Fat and protein are not the problem that too much sugar from carbs is. This in depth look at all diets is ultimately pro Paleo diet, which says that the human species did not evolve to properly digest grains or processed foods. It is pro seeds and nuts, anti salt and dairy. It is anti-gluten, pro raw fruit and vegetables. It is pro water, anti anything else you can drink. The authors expand from just diet as well, into philosophy (including meditation), exercise (particularly running), community connection (versus TV/social media), and sleep. Dan Woren narrates, and the audiobook includes a forward by Dr. David Perlmutter, author of GRAIN BRAIN. Whatever your take on the various points made, it is well worth exploring since it is also pro-science, anti-pop diet (and anti soda pop to boot!)

There is a theory in physics that our universe is a multiverse. That is, we live in a bubble universe with higher dimensions not visible to us on our brane or plane. One egotistical theory within the theory is that all possible variations of our own universe play out within those other bubbles. Verification won’t come until, in a few years, a gravity wave detector can determine the theory’s validity regarding the Big Bang. In the meantime, two authors (Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter) have combined forces to produce a series of books on the idea that a high tech “stepping” device can take you on a trek across the Earth or (as here) Mars. It’s called THE LONG MARS for a reason. The possibilities are infinite. Story and character development are quixotic and secondary. A super race of humans is postulated, but of course being human means being never completely free of human flaws (in both this and the multiverse of all possible worlds.) Given that Terry Pratchett is a whimsical fantasy writer who often wears a Gandalf-like hat, and that Stephen Baxter is a hard SF scientist type (who appeals to a different mindset), putting them together in order to iron out the wrinkles each of them possess in attracting audiences (while bending their believability quotient toward the scientific) was a good idea, although it does make this experimental fiction. Hard SF fans may still cringe at the fantasy elements, and straight fantasy fans may want more quirky characters and less science. So it’s a compromise. The writing is good, whether tongue in cheek or not, and the narrator (Michael Fenton Stevens) is always engaging, and, at times, superb in his dramatic character voicing.

Finally, there are wine snobs, and then there are rare growers who have become legends—men and women who love the land, know the seasons, understand nature, appreciate their employees, and pray to a God other than money. Such was Aubert de Villaine, the proprietor of what was the most revered plot of grapes in the world…a man who fell victim to possible ruination after a million Euro ransom threatened his vineyard with poison. Journalist Maximillian Potter expands his Vanity Fair article about the 2010 debacle into a full book titled SHADOWS IN THE VINEYARD, which tells the entire story of grape growing in Burgundy, and uncovers the plot against La Romanée-Conti, home to one of the finest wines in the world. Explored here are not just this crime and its investigation, but the politics of wine in France, the effect of French wine on the world, (and California wine on France,) The audiobook version, as rendered by Donald Corren, is like a poetic and aged red wine, steeped in exquisite undertones, savored by the ear due to its mystery and intrigue. Subtitle: “The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine.”


Jonathan”s latest is TRANSCENDENCE 2: The Nexus Ultimatum, an SF novella available at Amazon and Audible.)

2014 Past Columns