Sunday, November 30, 2014

Book Review: Console Wars: Sega, Ninetndo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation- Blake Harris

Console Wars was my nonfiction pick for this round.  I wasn't too sure about getting into a book that would focus on business, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Although I didn't have a console growing up, we did have an old PC running DOS & Windows 3.1 and I became an avid computer gamer, and still prefer that medium, I remembered many of the overarching events in this book.  I had friends that had the Nintendo Entertainment System [NES] or the Sega Genesis and eventually the systems that followed.  There were even a few friends who had both at some point.  What this book did, was give insight to the details of the competitiveness between the two major manufacturers at the time and how Sega rose and fell so quickly.  Several times I told people that I wasn't sure whether I should recommend it to my gaming students because I wasn't sure how much of it is truly good and how much of it was nostalgia for me.
Unfortunately the focus of the book was more on the the company Sega than it was on Nintendo.  This probably has to do with a combination of the company's meteoric rise and fall, as well as its rebellious attitude, the characters who worked there, in addition to Nintendo's traditional secrecy.  One of the characters at Sega was Tom Kalinske.  The book focused a lot on him and his work at Sega of America.  His resume before Sega was impressive, including turning a chalky children's vitamin into Flintstones vitamins, bringing Matchbox back from the bring and into the #2 position against Hot Wheels, and doing the same thing with Barbie while also creating He-Man.  Once at Sega he regularly butted heads with Sega of Japan, but set his sights on being competitive against Nintendo.
Although it was a very easy and enjoyable read, I do have a few minor complaints.  First, it was kind of obvious from before the half-way point of the book that there would be 64 chapters as an homage to 64-bit consoles.  In and of itself this isn't a problem, but it did result in some of the chapter breaks feeling forced and interrupted the flow of the narrative.  The other issue, is that much of the book was conversational.  I assume this didn't come from transcripts of everyday conversations, so I have to assume it comes from interviews.  The downside is that many of the conversations seem like they were recorded word-for-word, but this of course is probably stretching the truth.  I'm not sure the book would have been as enjoyable if it wasn't for this perspective.  In fact, it seemed to often abandon this perspective when describing Nintendo only to return to it for Sega.  The text is certainly biased towards showing Sega's story, but it does show the good and the bad.  The one other complaint I have is actually more of a disagreement.  in the end the author argued that Sega failed because the American and Japanese divisions fought against each other too much and the Japanese branch wasn't ambitious or aggressive enough.  Certainly this played a part, but even the text makes it obvious that Sega was out-competed by Sony [who amazingly almost didn't get into the market on its own, but instead sought partnerships with Nintendo and Sega before deciding to do their own gaming system] and Nintendo.
I wish that the book, long as it was, had continued into the shift of Sega into a third-party developer and the current competition between Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft; but maybe this book will result in a sequel- probably doesn't happen too often with nonfiction, but it would be welcomed in this case.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: Stiff:The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers- Mary Roach

This was the only book that Mary Roach had written that I hadn't read yet.  I kind of read her books in the wrong order.  I stumbled across Bonk at some point and listened to it and was amazed at the quality of the research and the interesting stories.  Shortly thereafter Packing for Mars came out and at the time I didn't realize it was by her, it was just another space science book to listen to.  Packing for Mars made me fall in love with her writing, because despite knowing a lot about the space program and its history, I still learned a lot from her book.  From there I set out the exhaust her other books which included Spook and later Gulp came out.  It was difficult to find an old copy of Stiff on audio.  Eventually I did and it was every bit as enjoyable as her other books.
Stiff explores the uses for and history of cadavers in medical, and other, research.  Mary Roach always has her eye on the odd and interesting.  Also, in the beginning of this book, she explained why she loved to pursue odd topics and I saw hints of every book yet to come within this one.  Being essentially a free-lance science writer for magazines and newspapers she travelled the world looking at current research in science.  Unfortunately, that can get expensive so she started looking for science stories closer to home- topics that were universal, but could be more easily researched and satisfy her curious nature.  That insight was great and makes me regret it not being repeated in other books by her, or saving this one until the end, rather than listening to it sooner.
None-the-less the research was engaging as always.  Most of her books have focused on biology, which not only is not my speciality, but also the science subject I tend to enjoy the least.  She always helps me to enjoy the biology that is there and I laughed more often than you would think for a book about science and cadavers, but this book also made me more uncomfortable than any of her others.  I can get pretty squeamish and I described this to several people while I was listening to the book as follows: I'm not a fan of biology, but I can do it.  I don't like things like dissections, but I've always been able to psych myself up to doing them and then power on through them.  But the next time I need to do it I have to psych myself up again and steel myself against the things that disgust me.  If I get distracted I have to do it all over again.
That's how it was with this book.  There were times where I was repulsed, but curious; it's like a train wreck- you don't want to stare, but you can't look away.  The downside of listening to it on audio, is that if someone distracted me while I was listening that shield just dropped and the disgust or repulsion would wash in, very quickly.  This was also the first time that I listened to a Mary Roach book and wasn't left wanting more when it ended.  Her books always seem to be too short and end too soon, but this one I was OK with letting go.
Of course, I learned a lot from listening to the book and thoroughly enjoyed it, but the part that had the biggest impact on me was the end.  The last chapter was titled "Will She or Won't She" and referred to whether she would donate her body to science when she passed away.  She said organ donation was a no-brainer and she told her husband that she wanted him to not over-rule her wishes on that matter.  Beyond that she explored different donation programs and mentioned the one that I want to do.  I had a teacher whose classroom skeleton wasn't a model, but instead was the real thing.  Came with a note about who the person was and everything.  It was awesome, and even though we were sometimes disrespectful to the skeleton [the number of times it grabbed itself in its privates, flipped the bird, or picked its nose is probably uncountable], I have always thought that I'd love my organs to be harvested and then the skeleton to end up in a classroom.  After all, what better way to keep teaching for a long time beyond the grave than to be a biological model for students to learn from?  Alas, Mary Roach shattered this dream because there is no place in the US [she mentioned that somewhere in German does it still] that prepares bodies in this manner.  She also pointed out that with rare exceptions, donation programs usually don't let you specify what you want to do, but rather specify what you don't want done and the rest is up to the researchers.  Furthermore, she felt that it was the rights of the remaining family and not the individual to determine what happens to the remains.  I understand the family needing closure, but if they are OK with it, or if I pass away last, then I do feel that I should get a say and a specific say in what happens to me.  Although I don't want to give up on the dream of being a skeleton in a classroom and although these two are not mutually exclusive, she did point out a way to teach more than once from beyond the grave and that is plastination.
A few years ago the BodyWorks exhibit was at COSI and my family and I went to go see it with some friends.  Although there were parts I really enjoyed, like learning organ systems and looking at diseased versus healthy organs, there were plenty of displays that were "artistic" and not respectful, but rather disturbing.  None-the-less, because the patent ran out, and/or because an alternative process was discovered by Dow Chemical the plastination process is now much cheaper, quicker, and safer for the workers.  Dow has partnered with a University in Michigan to preserve specimens and they primarily focus on organs.  From there they have both a lending library of organs, which is better than anatomical models because it is the real thing, potentially cheaper, and it more long lasting than a cadaver.  I do like the idea of non-donated organs being preserved instead of going to waste and also the idea of my organs helping more than one classroom through a lending program, so if possible this is the route I would like to pursue, like she said she hoped to do as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review: Dad is Fat- Jim Gaffigan

Jim Gaffigan is a funny guy and he specifically talked about this in this book Dad is Fat, he hates that he gets called "family-friendly", but he is.  Now I cannot take credit for his jokes, but as he said "family-friendly" on a restaurant might as well mean "the food and service stink here" and "kid-friendly" might as well say "parent unfriendly", after all when was the last time you went to a Chuck E. Cheese's to enjoy the food or service?  None-the-less, Jim Gaffigan does excel at being funny and clean.  This book is no exception.  Although, like most comedians' books, there are times where the narrative is nothing more than the written down version of one of his stand-up routine bits, it is hilarious throughout, and there were plenty of parts that were unique to the book.  It was made even better by the fact that he read the audiobook.  It was great to hear about how he went from not wanting kids, to having 5 (2 girls and 3 boys) in 7 years.  As he joked, this isn't because [or at least just because] he's Catholic, in-fact if nothing else having 5 kids will make you religious and turn to God.  At the time of writing the book, they lived in a small, 2 bedroom apartment in New York City which is hilarious to think about.  He's my wife's favorite comedian and certainly top two for me [Brian Reagan might have him beat], but the book had me laughing from cover to cover and my family thought I was crazy the whole time because I kept bursting out in laughter for no apparent reason. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review: The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald

     The Great Gatsby is supposed to be a book that you read in high school.  It is one of those classics that seems to be a must for students.  However, we managed to skip it my junior year; this happened mostly because a research project and persuasive speech that came before it.  That project took too long and because I was in the "dumb" English class at that point so we moved very slowly through material.
     Before I review the book, I feel like I should elaborate.  At the time, Piqua High School had different levels of classes including: regular and enriched English, during our junior year dyad English [a combined US History and English class where readings and projects overlapped] was added, and for senior year AP was offered as well.  There was no difference between the classes other than difficulty and amount of work, unless and until you took dyad or AP.  For my first two years of high school I thought it was important to challenge myself, but then after my sophomore year I asked myself, "why am I killing my GPA by getting As and Bs in enriched English, when I could instead by flying by getting As in regular [dumb] English?"  A few of my friends had figured this out before me and a group of smart slackers entered Mrs. Krogman's classroom for junior English.  I was not challenged there and I easily blew most of my peers out of the water in my grades and performance.  I also had the first English teacher that I actually enjoyed in high school.  We read fun books, joked a lot, and she wasn't afraid to skip parts of books, or to admit that there were classics she didn't like.  Furthermore, she played an audiobook for us for at least one novel [Ethan Frome (total side note, about the same time my home computer got a virus that affected MS Word '97 called "Ethan Frome", but of course I assumed I had messed something up on the computer until I got to college and the anti-virus software there [which was up-to-date because it had a real internet connection] flagged and then cleaned all of my person files)].  More than once she joked that the State would take away her teaching license if they knew she said this, but the movie was better than the book, so there were times where we watched the movie instead.  One of those times was the slow parts in The Taming of the Shrew and others included The Grapes of Wrath [more on that in a moment] and The Great Gatsby [although here it was more because we ran out of time than that she didn't like the book].
     It was at the end of the school year, during the last period, of the last day while the rest of the class was watching The Grapes of Wrath that Mrs. Krogman pulled me out into the hall and unleashed her last effort to get me to join AP English.  I don't know for sure that it was her, but throughout that school year, especially after we registered for the next years classes in the late winter, that I think every, or almost every, senior who was at that time currently in AP English tried to convince me to take it.  Then after resisting their efforts and the long-drawn-out efforts of my guidance counselor, Mr. Cain, my peers [other juniors] who were signed up to take AP the following year began trying to convince me to take it.  One even pleaded to me that if enough people didn't sign up that the class ran the risk of being cancelled, but I was resolved to stay in "dumb" English and coast on through.  Then came Mrs. Krogman's final assault.  In my memory it as the last day of my junior year when she pulled me out into the hall and took all period, the whole 50 minutes with the classroom beside us through a door, flickering in the light of a black-and-white movie, for her to convince me and wear me down.  Eventually I agreed with her that I wasn't being challenged in regular English and that I was smart enough to take AP and even if I didn't get As [which I didn't always succeed at], AP at least came with the weighted grades buffer which added a point [so Bs counted as As].  After acquiescing to her arguments and agreeing to take the class, she then handed me a packet of summer homework to go along with the summer reading assignment [The Prince of Tides, which I hated by the way] and she sent me to the guidance counselor to change my schedule.  He harassed me that I let others convince me, but not him, and then cheerfully signed me up for the class.  At that point, I had missed my bus, and all of my friends who I could bum a ride off of had left as well, so I ended up having to wait at my school until my dad was off work and could come get me.  I lost a quarter to the pay phone to call him and then I had almost 2 hours for a ride; during which I read Crichton's Andromeda Strain still one of, if not, my favorite Crichton book- although my views on him have changed [post to come].  Anyway, I loved AP English, but never did read Gatsby in high school.
     A couple of years ago when I heard the new Gatsby movie with DiCaprio was coming out I tried to get my wife to read it with me.  I started and made it to about Chapter 4, but then I lost my free-time at night [rocking my youngest daughter to sleep because she started putting herself to sleep].  I set the book down and unfortunately did not finish it until after the DVD of the movie and the John Green's analysis of the book on CrashCourse were out.  I knew plenty about the book and had several family members, including my sister, recommend it to me.  So when I finally got my new MP3 player, Gatsby was the first classic I put on it to read.
     After having such a long introduction here it is hard to talk about the book without spoiling it.  I enjoyed the book, but not so much that I'll read it again.  I'm not even sure that I understand completely why it is a classic and why it did so well, other than that it: 1) has a lot of symbolism for such a short book, and 2) is set in a time that is historically romantic for the US and this was probably made all the more important by the onset of the Great Depression such a short time later, causing us to long for a book that spoke of more hopeful and carefree times.   I will say that I find it funny that we have a way of looking at the past with rose-colored glasses and imagine it to be better than it was, when a book like this reveals that sex, cheating, drinking, and perversion were at least somewhat common, in addition to things that I think we have actually improved upon like stopping racism and reducing spousal abuse.
     As I read the book, I couldn't help but think about the question that John Green asked in his analysis, "Was Gatsby great?"  I have to conclude that he was eccentric and not afraid to dream, nor was he afraid of a challenge, but he was thrust into adulthood so abruptly that I don't think he had the time to develop the emotional maturity necessary to ground himself or to become great.  I haven't seen either movie all the way though yet, but it is like Fitzgerald reached through time and wrote a part that DiCaprio was born to play, he's done so many roles like this that I am sure it will be a perfect fit.  The story is tragic and enduring and tells the tale of a man who burned bright and hot, and flames like that always burn themselves out too quick.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book Review: I Am The Messenger- Markus Zusak

I loved The Book Thief so much that I decided I should read some of Zusak's other books.  It took me a while to get to it, but the only other one that I could find on audio was an older book I Am The Messenger.  The style, setting, and genre is very different than The Book Thief, but it is still very good.  It is obvious that Zusak has become a better writer, because this book lacked the metaphors that I loved so much from The Book Thief.  The book is a little hard to follow at first until you figure out the pattern, but then eventually follows the pattern so well that it almost becomes predictable.
The book opens on a robbery in progress in a bank with what we find out shortly later is the main character and his three close friends on the floor cracking jokes and harassing the inexperienced robber.   The jokes told in this scene and the robber's nervous man trying to be tough responses drew me right in.  The biggest disappointment was to find that the robber would not be a major character throughout the story, although he threatens during the trial to come back when he gets out of jail.  I also have to add here that the reader of the audiobook, Marc Aden Gray, did a stellar job bringing the characters to life.
The main character, Ed Kennedy, happened to help foil the robbery and this thrust him onto a hero's path that he never intended.  He receives a card in the mail, an Ace with three addresses written on it.  He then has to go to those addresses and figure out how to help the person or people that are there.  Throughout he wrestles with whether he should complete the tasks, how to complete them, who is sending him on these mysterious missions, and why.  Meanwhile, life does not come to a halt and he has his dysfunctional extended family to deal with, his friends and acquaintances to live life with, a girl who has him stuck in the "friend-zone", and an aging dog who is the best companion in the world.  Honestly, one of my favorite parts about the book was the way Ed talked to his dog and how Ed talked back [or thought back] to himself for his dog.  This didn't happen in a crazy way, or an animals behave like people way, but simply in the way a loving owner speaks for their beloved pets so many times, it just happens that Ed gave his dog a great sense of humor and of responsibility.  Despite having friends and a life Ed doesn't confide about his cards and his escapades to many people.  The chapters are named for other cards in the suit that go with the ace Ed got, by the time the King comes around he's helped the people on his list and a new card arrives sending him on more missions.
Although, the naming of the chapters kind of made the books a little predictable, I was still surprised by how Ed got himself out of many predicaments, helping people where it seemed the help needed was too great.  And he didn't just help people he developed relationships with them.  Although I disagree with the pastor that he helped that Ed is somehow a saint or an angel who lives outside of religion, I did like the book and the "do good for others" message it had.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Zusak and hope to read more by him soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review- America Again- Stephen Colbert

I'm sure that listening to this book causes me to lose some of the humor that is in the print version.  This certainly happened with I Am America, And So Can You! where there were numerous visual gags, but none-the-less this was a very enjoyable book.  I don't know why, but for some reason it seems that only autobiographies and comedies are regularly read the the author.  When the author is not a performer their audiobook usually stinks, but here it is great.  Furthermore, when read by the author there are some changes inevitably made, if nothing else referring to the book as an audiobook and consciously taking out references to reading in the pages and replacing them with things like listening to this story.  Having said all of that, there were some great audio only gags as well, including the opening of the book which was mono- through one ear before going stereo through both, I even got upset that my earbuds had possibly went bad.
America Again was shorter, but more well organized than Colbert's prior book.  In it he discussed, in his normal comedic ├╝ber-conservative style, the issues that face America today.  Many of these issues need to be dealt with and are not getting the attention or the solutions they need.  I laughed throughout and overall agreed with him most of the time.  I laughed continuously and my family thought I was crazy since I was listening to the book while doing normal activities.  There were lots of jokes and unfortunately, it was kind of overload and I don't recall a lot.  However, my favorite one was probably where he was talking about he financial collapse in the Fall of 2008 and he stated it was "Negative four months into Barack Obama's presidency", which I think we sometimes forget.  Certainly President Obama was guilty a couple of years later of still using the crutch that he inherited a lot of these problems when he took office, and he certainly has been no where near as transparent as he said he would be, but sometimes we forget who and what political party caused most of the issues that we faced in the first decade of the 21st century.  I do not look forward to the day when Stephen Colbert leaves Comedy Central and The Colbert Report because this has been his talent and his bread and butter for so long that even if he can make it as a normal late-night host and compete against Fallon [which already is an uphill battle] I don't see how he can bring this type of humor and politicism over with him.  I have to imagine that the satire will be done, as well as the "me focus" that he has, and I have a hard time imagining that if it does not end that instead his late-night career will come to an end as well.  It will be a shame if this is the last time we see Colbert hit hard politically.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Book Review: Inferno- Dan Brown

Like all Dan Brown novels this book was fast-paced and focused on where art meets symbology meets thriller.  I was glad that this book was different than all of the rest of his in that it did not open with a murder, it was just getting old and it was nice to have a different hook this time.  More than anything this book reminded me of how much I enjoyed reading Dante's Inferno in college.  I don't recall if we covered it in English Literature my sophomore year, but I would be surprised if we did not, but I did end up listening to it while working for building services mopping and vacuuming floors in the building that was my normal stomping grounds anyway, the ENS [Engineering, Nursing, & Science] building.  I never read the full comedy, even though I have always wanted to and am committed to doing so now.  The other largely enjoyable thing about this book was that, and I don't think I will spoil anything by saying this, the focus also had a scientific bend to it.
Dan Brown's first two novels Deception Point and Digital Fortress both focused on science topics, life and SETI along with evolution and biology in Deception Point and computer science and code-breaking in Digital Fortress.  To a much smaller extent the bomb at the center of Angels & Demons was scientific since it involved anti-matter, but the science focus was minimal.  The next two Robert Langdon novels had no science to speak of, but here in Inferno the science was realistic and current.  The debate about biological research and genetic engineering as well as how much information should be publicized when very lethal biological studies are conducted is pressing and relevant.  The concern of population growth and Earth's limited resources is also interesting and although the solution that the book points to is reprehensible the discussion is needed and awareness needs to be raised.  Lastly, I don't agree with all of the ideas of trans-humanist, but some of them are valuable and worth pursuing.
The only complains I have of the book have to do with it being a little annoying that so much of what Langdon accomplished was because he was being deceived and because he started the book with amnesia which seemed unnecessary.  I think the book would have held up on its own if the main story occurred without the redundancy of repetition caused by the amnesia.  Not Dan Brown's best book, but I'll come back for more, if nothing else it is a guilty pleasure.- ES2082

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Out Genetic Code- Sam Kean

I don't remember how I stumbled across Sam Kean's first book, The Disappearing Spoon, but it was probably something like, me just browsing the new science books and/or science audiobooks [500s in the Dewey Decimal System].  It was by and far the best book about the elements I had ever read.  I know that sounds like a very narrow statement, but I have read at least a dozen, and I have read all of Theodore Gray's Wooden Periodic Table Table before he purchased  Ever since I have fallen in love with the subject of chemistry I have read as much as possible about it, and especially the elements.  His first book was so good though, I found reasons to go drive and work so that I could just spend more time listening to the book.  Sam Kean's follow-up book was just as good.  In the Violinist's Thumb he focused on stories of DNA, genetics, and inheritance.  He told more personal stories than I remember in his first one, including the humorous fact that his parents are Gene & Jean Kean and about his own experience going through a genetic testing through 23andMe or a company like it.   Personally since I do not specialist in biology I learned a lot from this book.  It was fun to hear more stories of the RNA club, which I originally heard about through the book Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman.  The most startling story from the book, I heard originally in an interview that Sam Kean did with Radiolab (and I encourage you to listen to the podcast, which is great due to good sound editing, a very curious nature, and Robert Kurlwhich), to entice you to listen to the podcast, only one man [lucky or unlucky you can decide] is known to have survived both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb blasts.  There are only three complaints I have about this book: 1)  there were times when DNA strands were being read and it was hard to following [this complaint obviously applies to the audiobook and not the book], 2) it spent a little too much time (last 1-2 chapters) on the emerging field of epigenetics which was a lot of "we don't know or understand this fully and this might change" and I think it would have been OK if this section had been left out, and 3) even with these minor complaint and the recommendation to cut chapters, it still suffers from the same problem every Mary Roach book has- it was too short.  I want more of this book, and am already impatiently waiting to read his next book The Dueling Neuroscientists [having trouble finding it on audio].  Also, while browsing his webpage I just found out that he's going to be speaking in Ohio twice soon, once in Toledo in November, and again at the SECO Conference in January, which I am already approved to go to.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Books Review: A Song of Ice & Fire 1-3- George R.R. Martin

First, credit where credit is due.  A friend of mine ended up working at my old church camp a few summers ago and got bored re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and so asked for suggestions of other fantasy books to read.  I recommended The Wheel of Time series, but her husband commented that although that series was good he preferred A Song of Ice and Fire which at the time had the TV show coming out that fall.  Since I respect his opinion on media very highly, I decided that I wanted to read them, but was torn because of my old vow to not read a series until it is almost done, so as to avoid the long waits.  This of course, is problematic with how long George R. R. Martin takes to write books.  Later, another friend who also is a fan of the Wheel of Time series recommended this series too.  Furthermore, she loves to read long epics and she and my wife enjoy reading a lot of the same books.  So, with that my wife decided to read the series.  She finished the five books published so far within about a month around 2 years ago.  Since then she has been bugging me to read the books so that we could watch the TV series together.  I resisted because of my "waiting for a series to end" policy, but ended up finally listening to them the first month of the summer, and then we watched the first half of the TV series while I recovered from my gall bladder removal surgery.

Now onto my thoughts about the books.  First, spoiler alert I will try to hide spoiler text like this which you should be able to reveal if you highlight the section.  Next, I have to address the elephant in the room that is Roy Dotrice.  Roy Dotrice is an British actor who has had a great career by all accounts.  He is also the reader of this series, and I know many long-time fans who have listened to the audiobooks who prefer his reading, and even have a hard time with the TV series because the voices are different.  I totally get this.  To me Jim Dale is, and always will be the Harry Potter series, his voice is the voice I hear when I think of characters, Dobbey never sounded right in the movies, nor did He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Lord Voldemort.  Jim brought that series to life and deserved all of the awards and accolades the he received for it.  The same will go for the Wheel of Time if that ever gets turned into a TV show or movie.  However, I don't hold Dotrice's reading of A Song of Ice and Fire in such high regard.  In fact, it made it hard to take in.  Many who defend Dotrice, point to his age and say "What else do you expect, he's ancient"; and to that I say, then maybe, as hard as it is, it is time to let go.  Obviously, someone agreed with me because books 4 and 5 were read by other people, although Dotrice did go back and read 4, which he had avoided because of other commitments and not his age or the publishers seeking someone else out.  I've heard that there are at least 3 other readers who have read the series and at least one Redditor agrees with me that Dotrice is the worst.  The only thing I like is that his Tyrion voice and attitude is phenomenal and seems to really closely match that of Peter Dinklage, which of course happened long before Dinklage was cast for the part.  Having said that, I know that having a different reader will make it difficult for me to follow the story as well, because I have had series where the reader changes, and with that so do all of the voices, and it was horrible when Arnold Morgan no longer sounded big and intimidating, but instead mousey.  I have nothing against Dotrice and even think it is really cool that when he turned down a larger role in the TV series an appropriate part was still found for him to make a few cameo appearances.  The other problem is that Dotrice holds the Guiness Book of World Records title for most voices portrayed by an audiobook reader, but I'm pretty sure that if we assume all of the characters got split evenly [that is take the total number of characters and divide by two (2782/2=1391)] that Michael Kramer and Kate Reading top this, at least for now, with The Wheel of Time.  What is more, the characters didn't get split evenly because they did a reader per chapter, male or female based upon who was the main character in the chapter and so Rand al'Thor had a voice both from Kate Reading and Michael Kramer.  A Song of Ice and Fire might surpass The Wheel of Time for total number of characters and if Dotrice keeps reading then he will hold the record, but those are two ifs, and right now I believe WoT wins.
Onto, the actual review of the actual book.  I was told that lots of characters die.  This may not seem like a big thing, but it over-prepared me to not become attached to characters.  I was also told, by the first who first recommended the series, that he liked it because Martin is not afraid to kill off main characters and that the book was more of a saga about houses and generations than it was about individuals.  About houses and families yes, but generations no.  This made it so that some of the most surprising plot developments did not surprise me.  Overall however, the books were good.  They moved a little slow at times, but were often surprising and very engaging.  It is hard to talk about this without giving away spoilers,but the series is good and was difficult to put down.  The characters are believable and frequently  I found myself having real emotions towards them.  However, the books are long and it was a grueling listen, and as I've complained already the reader made it harder to listen to.  So since I listened to the books enough to get caught up to the TV series I am taking a hiatus.  I also am hoping that the break will dull my memory in regard to the voices of the characters by the reader and next time I will try a new reader.  The books are graphic so I certainly recommend caution, although I think that it obvious.  I'm going to pick on my friend who first recommended these books to me, I bumped into him over the summer and told him that I was listening to the books so that we could watch the show, and he felt it necessary to warn me to not watch it with my children around.  We laugh about that often because he doesn't have kids and he doesn't think that way.  I do look forward to finishing the series and maybe it will be better when there aren't spoilers waiting for me to stumble across.