Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Relic Relic, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, is not a new book. It’s the first in a connected series of novels that features or involves Special Agent Pendergast, and was originally published in 1994. As an audiobook, it was only published on cassette, and has long been out of “print.” This new MP3 CD edition, released in March, is what I hope is the first of the authors’ back catalog being re-issued in modern formats.

You can read the synopsis at Amazon.com; my summary: it’s a terrific novel, and a great spoken performance. I especially enjoy the character of Agent Pendergast, who seems to be the authors’ favorite character. He is a delight. Rochelle and I listened to The Cabinet of Curiosities, which also features Pendergast, before we realized that the book had others that came prior, and was abridged. In spite of that, we were gripped the entire time we were listening, and didn’t mind the traffic we were in much at all.

To date there are seven published novels featuring Agent Pendergast, with an eighth on the way later this year:

  1. Relic
  2. Reliquery (print only)
  3. The Cabinet of Curiosities (abridged)
  4. Still Life with Crows (abridged)
  5. Brimstone (abridged)
  6. Dance of Death
  7. The Book of the Dead
  8. The Wheel of Darkness

Preston and Child are a great writing team. The later novels by the duo have been best sellers, and have also done extremely well in audiobook format. I believe that’s why Relic is being re-released at this time. If Relic’s publication is an indication that the other books will be issued in digital and unabridged formats also, then I’m very, very excited.

Recommended: Sonos Digital Music System

Sonos SystemWe bought a Sonos Digital Music System back in September 2006, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while. It’s a terrific product that has us listening to music far more regularly than we ever did. What’s more, it works pretty well with audiobooks that we’ve imported into iTunes or purchased from Audible.com, which is nice for listening to them when we’re moving around (e.g., in the kitchen), when an iPod and headphones might get in the way.

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Review: Audiobook Builder 1.0

Audiobook BuilderOver the course of importing dozens of audiobooks, I’ve used a variety of techniques and different tools to try to improve my workflow and the final product. And in the course of answering hundreds of reader questions, I’ve mentioned and even recommended a few of those tools. This is my first full on software review, and I’m inspired to do so by the quality of the tool: Audiobook Builder is awesome, and at $10 it’s also a bargain.

Audiobook Builder gets my rave review for three reasons:

  1. It’s easy to use
  2. It saves a lot of time
  3. The final product is superior

The only real “problem” with it is that it is for Mac OS X only.

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The Bloomsday Dead by Adrian McKinty

The Bloomsday DeadThe Bloomsday Dead, the latest novel by Adrian McKinty, has just been released in audiobook format. This is McKinty’s third novel to feature Michael Forsythe. Michael is a surviver, an angel of destruction, and a lyrical narrator; I intensely enjoy the character. Gerard Doyle has read all four of McKinty’s books, and has a lovely Irish accent that’s distinct enough for atmosphere, but not so strong as to be distracting. I greatly enjoyed the first two Forsythe novels, and have been looking forward to this one for almost six months.

The first two books are (in order) Dead I Well May Be and The Dead Yard, and they’re available from Audible.com via the links, as well as Amazon.com and other online stores. Both are highly recommended, and judging from the early reviewer comments, so is this latest.

Note: I’ve only been able to get The Bloomsday Dead via Audible.com, though it’s ::amazon(“0786160780”, “listed on Amazon.com”)::, as well a few of the specialized audiobook retailers. When I tried ordering it from Amazon.com, they sent me a follow-up email saying there was a delay of up to a month before they could ship it, so I cancelled the order. Audible.com released it the next day, and that was that.

“You had me at scrolling”

Two thoughts about today’s Apple keynote given by Steve Jobs, and the introduction of the Apple iPhone.

The Apple iPhone The first is that it’s an absolute grand slam home run. Think about it this way: take away the phone and the Internet connectivity, and it would still be a breakthrough product, a truly amazing next generation for the iPod. It blows even the current iPods away, to say nothing of Zune and other competitors. People would easily pay $499 for it. (The original Newton MessagePad cost more at introduction, IIRC, $799.)

Similarly, take away the iPod and the Internet connectivity, and the phone is amazing. And then look at just the Internet connectivity — the email, web browsing, Google Maps, the connected widgets like weather and stocks — and in a handheld form factor, it’s revolutionary too. Any of these alone, it’s worth $499. Put them all together…

Second thought, can you guess at what time Steve announced the iPhone?

Apple stock price 2006-01-09

Backtracking using the CNET play-by-play of the keynote, it looks like the initial (and foolish) sell off came when Steve said he wasn’t going to talk about new Mac products. I can’t figure that out at all. When Steve said he wasn’t going to talk about the Mac for the rest of the keynote, I got chills down my spine. Something big is coming. What in god’s name inspired people to sell at that point?

OK, while we’re doing stock graphs, one last thought, courtesy of John Gruber:

Apple stock price vs. PALM and RIMM

And it will be interesting to compare Cingular vs. Verizon over the rest of this year…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I missed the announcement last week of the title for the final book in the Harry Potter series and, since others might have also, thought I’d pass the news along:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I am so looking forward to this book. A month before it gets released I am going to re-listen to all six of the prior books, to have the whole series fresh in my head. It’s very exciting to know that it must be getting closer!

Five things about the new iPod nano

Here are five things I’ve noticed about the new iPod nano I picked up yesterday (I bought the new 8 gigabyte nano, available only in black), which I have not seen anyone else write about yet:

  • The packaging is not just smaller, it’s hard, clear plastic instead of cardboard. It’s a really clever design that holds the nano suspended in the front of the box. There’s a small label on the back of the bracket that holds the nano tightly, which illustrates how to flex the bracket to release the nano. Very clever design…but it took me a few tugs and pulls and a bit of frustration, before I turned the piece over, and saw the illustration.

  • The new nano looks and feels substantially smaller than the old nano, until you line them up right next to each other. The new nano is a teensy bit thinner, but virtually identical in the other two dimensions. The size difference is mostly optical illusion caused by the new rounded edges.

  • Speaking of rounded edges, the new nano comes with a new dock connector fit bracket. The new nano fits into the nano bracket of my Logitech mm50 portable speakers, but my old nano will not fit into the new Apple bracket. It’s a bit too thick, and doesn’t have the rounded edges. I suspect that the new nano will work with most products which fit the old nano form factor, but the reverse will be hit and miss. Products that support a perfect fit for the new nano will not work with the old one.

  • The new nano requires iTunes 7 to sync with a computer. Normally I like to wait a week or two before trying new versions of iTunes, but in this case, I had to install it. (Working wonderfully so far, knock wood.) A very nice set of improvements, including a few things of use to audiobook aficionados like me; more on those in another post.

  • The center select button, the “dot” in the middle of the click wheel, is very slightly concave (the button on the old nano is perfectly flat). It seems like such a tiny difference, and I’m sure by measurements it’s a small fraction of a millimeter, but it’s both quite visible as a real-world gradient, and a really wonderful tactile difference. You instantly know when your thumb is on or touching the button. Just another one of those aesthetic touches that only Apple seems to think of and consider worthwhile. They seem small, but they add up.

All in all, I think the new 8 gig nano is a terrific refinement to a device which I already thought was nearly perfect. And now that it’s sync’ed up with my audiobooks, I am looking forward to road testing it later today during my commute.

Cool bartender weblog

Rochelle found the weblog of Jeffrey Morgenthaler, and I ended up reading it for an hour. Nice writing, and some fun stories and insights from an experienced bartender. Eight Things You Should Never Say to Your Bartender was the one that caught Rochelle’s eye, and I was gratified to see that we’d never done any of those things. (When we are traveling we will ask about fun things to do in town, but only if the bar’s not busy, and the bartender has time and interest in chatting.)

In addition to stories and so on, he’s also got recipes and histories of favorite cocktails. While I’d certainly make a different choice for tequila than he does, the recipes all sound interesting, especially the Richmond Gimlet and the Brisa, both his own creations. Recommended reading.

Get Free Audiobooks from Brilliance Audio

I posted previously about BMW’s free audiobooks, a collection of four short stories, professionally read and available in MP3 format. I’ve only listened to one completely so far, and while the product placement was, shall we say, distinct, the story and the reader were both very good.

I recently stumbled across another source for high-quality spoken word fiction. THRILLER is a free podcast from Brilliance Audio, which offers five of the “thriller” short stories from a collection of 30, all by well-known, best-selling authors. Here the financial motive is more obvious; if you like the five freebies, you might buy the whole collection.

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Tequila Recommendations

When Rochelle and I go out, and especially when we travel, we often run into other tequila enthusiasts. Many of them are just beginning their appreciation of this fine spirit, and the number one question we get is “what is your favorite tequila?” We always disappoint, because we can never limit ourselves to one, or even a couple. We tell them what we can, point to good selections on the current bar’s list (part of our “love the one you’re with” philosophy), and promise to follow up with recommendations. But we have never attempted write down a list of our favorite tequilas. Until now.

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Eudora 7 for Mac OS X Progress?

Eudora 7In addition to posting a few beta versions of a minor patch release to Eudora 6.2, the current version of Eudora for Mac OS X, QUALCOMM apparently is getting enough inquiries about the long-anticipated (and overdue) Cocoa rewrite of Eudora to have recently posted an official statement about it.

It doesn’t sound particularly close, but making a statement at all seems to imply that there continues to be commitment and progress, and I consider it a positive sign. I’d love to see betas of the new version, too, but we take what we can get.