Reading with my ears

It seems that these days I listen to more audio-books on CDs than I read tree-books. As I was writing this review for the last three audio books I’ve listened to, I was still crawling through the same tree-book I’ve been reading for over a month.

I could listen to music while driving; the news or NPR—as my wife and daughter prefer—but for decades I’ve filled my road time with audio books first on tape and now on CDs. In fact, now that I’m a published author, Blogger, Tweeter, etc., I find that my time to read tree-books at home is limited and the hours I spend in my car each week offers more time to read but with my ears.

The first audio book in my trio of reviews is of “Portrait of a Spy” by Daniel Silva.

What impressed me the most about Silva’s “Portrait of a Spy” was the complex, unpredictable and challenging world of politics and loyalties that it reveals in the Middle East. I’ve read about this often in the news but reading about it in fiction brings it into focus so it is better to understand.

The main character is Gabriel Allon. He and his wife are Israeli assassins and in this story they work with the CIA—with Israel’s spy chief’s blessing—to end the thread of an American-born Islamic cleric in Yemen who once worked for the CIA but is now a terrorist who has been behind several attacks in Europe and the UK that took many innocent lives and wounded more.

What made this novel even more interesting was Gabriel’s real-[ fictional]-life cover as one of the world’s most renowned restorers of Renaissance paintings by the great masters—work that often sells for tens of millions of dollars at auctions. This plot thread is woven into a story that includes Islamic terrorists, spies and assassins and eventually these plot threads merge as the world of art helps them find the target.  And how they get there is what makes reading [or listening] to this story worth your time.

Second was Janet Evanovich’s “Explosive Eighteen”.

I’ve listened to most of the Stephanie Plum novels written by Janet Evanovich and the LOL humor is always appreciated. Stephanie Plum, as usual, finds herself in double-trouble with bad guys [or women] as she balances the two men in her life: Joseph Morelli, a Trenton vice detective, and Ranger, a fellow bounty hunter and former member of America’s Special Forces. Stephanie’s problem is that she loves Morelli but her libido has trouble resisting Ranger.

“Explosive Eighteen” opens with Stephanie returning from a Hawaiian vacation early because Morelli and Ranger had a knock down fight over her in that Pacific island state. If she hadn’t been on that early flight back home, she would have never gotten into the mess this story is about. The man sitting next to her on the flight home slipped a photograph into her carry-on bag. Soon after landing, that guy gets murdered and next the FBI and several criminals types are after Stephanie to get that photo she threw away. The trouble is no one believes her.

The third novel was “Judgment Call” by J. A. Jance.

I enjoy Jance’s work, and I’ve listened to several of her books. In “Judgment Call”, the high school principal of Joanna Brady’s daughter—who discovers the body—is brutally murdered, and it is the elected Sheriff of Cochise County—Joanna Brady—who heads the joint task-force to catch the murderer.

The investigation isn’t made any easier when Brady discovers that Debra Highsmith, the principal, isn’t who she seems to be leaving Brady with another mystery that has to be unraveled before she can search for anyone who might have had a motive to kill her.

One element in this enjoyable novel was the plot thread that focused on the teen world of social networking and how rumors and gossip ruin lives. The message is strong and clear that parents must be more involved in their children’s lives even when the children are teenagers in high school.  Studies show that the average American family spends about three-and-a-half-minutes in meaningful conversation with their underage children on a weekly basis and this story helps showcase that American parenting tragedy.

There are 10,080 minute in a week, and it is unforgivable that the average parent in America spends only three-and-a-half minutes in meaningful conversation with his or her children. That’s 0.0347% of a week.

When my wife and I were raising our daughter, we often spent thirty-minutes to an hour or more in meaningful conversations with her every day and maybe that explains why she is in her fourth year at Stanford.

If you read or listen to this novel, pay close attention to how Sheriff Brady deals with her daughter when this issue of Internet abuse and misuse comes up. Maybe parents who fit the American average could learn something from the good Sheriff—that is if they read or listen to books.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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2 responses to “Reading with my ears”

  1. I’m an audiobook ADDICT. I can’t remember life before audiobooks and I don’t even want to remember. As I get older and my eyes resist focusing on a page for long periods, I more and more am so grateful there ARE audiobooks!

    1. I understand. I started out when they were on tape and my drive to work for more than a decade was about an hour one way. I listened to many a book on tape that way. Most of the books-on-tape I listened to I checked out of the library. I still read books printed on paper but not as many as I listen to.

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