Audiobook Review: The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens

20 02 2017

The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens 

Read by R.C. Bray, David Colacci and Amy McFadden 

Tantor Audio

Grade: B+

2017 Audie Nominee in Mystery

There’s something special about a mystery where you think you basically have it pretty much figured out and the author still manages to pull it all together in a surprising way even though what you suspected turned out to be true. This was my experience with The Heavens May Fall, a truly effective and well constructed mystery and legal thriller that was simply a whole lot of fun to listen too. 

Being this is an Audie nominee, I hold it to a higher standard than most books. Bray and Colacci have both given Audie caliber performances in the past and while this isn’t the greatest example of their work, it’s still pretty strong. I tend to believe that Bray is an excellent first person narrator but in third person POVs he’s simply very good. His cadence is excellent during courtroom scenes and moments of heavy dialogue but can become a little distracting during quieter scenes. Colacci’s voice has a bit more quirk to it but it matches well with Bray’s style. McFadden’s role was sadly limited but I’d love to hear her take on Lila is a bigger role I the future since I love the character. Overall, this was a good mystery take with solid performances that could be a dark horse among the Mystery category. 

Audiobook Review: The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens 

17 02 2017

The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens

Read by Jonathan Yen

Tantor Audio

Grade: B

There are a lot of books featuring likeable troubled antiheroes seeking redemption but in The Guise of Another author Allen Eskens flips the trope on its head taking what could be a typical crime thriller and turning it into a carefully constructed character character study that uses the readers preconceptions against them. It’s  a well executed tale that works on many levers leaving the listener satisfied yet a little off balance. He builds well in his first novel adding nuance to the shared characters of the world he created. 

I think Jonathan Yen is a good narrator when working in a multi-narrator production or in a first person tale with a character that fits his style but struggles when he’s the sole voice in a 3rd person narrative. He has the gruff detective thing down fine but at times his rhythm and cadence seemed a bit off. Admittedly, he has an old school narration style that isn’t really my favorite, yet I know appeals to other listeners so this just may be a matter of personal taste. Overall, the performance doesn’t really distract from the book but it doesn’t really enhance it either. 

Audiobook Review: The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens 

13 02 2017

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Read by Zach Villa

Tantor Audio

Grade: B

I started listening to The Life We Bury due to the fact that his latest book was nominated for an Audie and I’m sort of anal about reading series in order. Well, I’m glad I did. The Life We Bury is a solid mystery with a unique enough premise to allow it to stand out from all the “gruff cop solves a murder” novels. While I can think of books with better mysteries or more engaging characters, The Life We Bury is solid from top to bottom. My only quibble is something I see in many legal thrillers, the need to explain things people who have seen an episode of Law & Order know. For example, a young relatively intelligent college student seems to not know what an opening statement is and is surprised that his pretty housemate knows about stuff like that. Other than that, I really enjoyed this novel and and jumping into his next book right away. 
I enjoyed narrator Zach Villa’s performance. He was engaging, with a sly tongue in cheek style that was fitting to the working class college student protagonist. He picked up a nice rhythm during the longer exposition scenes creating a nice atmosphere matching the frigid Midwest locale. Altogether it was a fun refreshing mystery. 

Audiobook Review: Kill the Next One by Federico Axat

10 02 2017

Kill The Next One by Federico Axat

Read by Maxwell Hamilton

Hachette Audio

Grade: A+

I am a big fan of books that fuck with your mind. Yet I have yet listened to a book that achieved the level of mindfuckery that is Federico Axat’s Kill The Next One. It’s like a mindfucked brain had carnal relationships with an equally corrupted cerebrum and gave birth to a mutant of whatthefuckery. It’s a novel so brilliant and unexpected that to even name its genre seems to be too much of a spoiler. At no point in the novel did I feel like I had a grip on the reality of the novel, until the very end. Well, at least until the final sentence of the epilogue, which sent my Parietal Lobe reeling once again. Yet, this was no esoteric stream of conscienceless literary hoity toity snorefest. It was highly accessible with characters you grew to care about, and a truly rewarding experience. One of my favorite listens in a long time.

It’s hard to truly evaluate narrator Maxwell Hamilton’s narration other than to say I was so immersed in the multilayered reality of the novel, if there were any issues with his narration, I failed to notice it. Sometimes it takes a great narrator to enhance a bad book, but equally it takes a smart narrator to know when his job is just to keep the reader sucked into a brilliant story, and never get in its way.

Audiobook Review: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian 

8 02 2017

The Sleepwalker by Chris Boujalian

Read by Cady McClain and Grace Experience 

Random House

Grade: B+

There is a reoccurring theme throughout Chris Bohjalian’s latest thriller. The characters often talk about how they can’t quite figure out what type of novel they are in. This is what makes The Sleepwalker so effective, yet frustrating. You never know what kind of novel you are reading, a romance, a crime thriller, a tragedy or even something slightly paranormal. So, when it all comes together, the ending resonates throughout the whole book coloring the experience. It’s rewarding for the reader, especially since getting to the ending took you on so many side trips. 
It took me a while to get into Cady McClain’s narration. She had a weird cadence I thought would find annoying but as I got more into the story i noticed it less and less. It wasn’t the perfect reading but she kept me in the story and in the end I felt satisfied. The additional narrator, Grace Experience,seemed unnecessary at first but as the story played out it added a eerie quality to the twisty tale. 

Audiobook Review: The Second Girl by David Swinson

3 02 2017


The Second Girl by David Swinson

Read by Christopher Ryan Grant

Hachette Audio

Grade: B+

Fiction is full of likeable antiheroes that you just can’t help but cheer for, well, the protagonist of David Swinson thriller, Frank Marr a coke addicted ex DC cop, isn’t that. He’s not very likeable, and the only reason you want him to succeed is because the stakes are so high. Swinson takes what could be a predictable set up, and makes it feel fresh. He never lets up, pushing the reader deeper in the crime ridden back alleys of the metropolitan DC area. It’s a top notch crime tale, with a unique but disturbing main character, that comes together well.


If some mad scientist put used some fringe science experiment to create the perfect gritty cop voice, he’d probably just end up with Christopher Ryan Grant’s contact information. Grant captures the character of Frank Marr perfectly and keeps the listener engaged with his strong pacing and solid peripheral characterizations.

January 2017: Quick and Dirty Reviews

31 01 2017

In 2017, I’m trying to get back to reviewing all books I read, but in a very scaled down manner. I have reviewed all the audiobooks I completed in January, and posted them to Goodreads, and other spots where possible. Here they are for you to peruse. I listened to a bunch or really good ones, so maybe you’ll find something you’ll like. My focus was on books that appeared on best of 2016 lists, with a few new things.


My Pick of the Month:

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Read by Elan Mastai

Penguin Audio

Grade: A

The narrator of All Our Wrong Todays, an ill suited time traveler desperately trying to fix his tragic mistake, tells you repeatedly throughout this tale that he’s not a good writer. Well, Elan Mastai may not be a great writer but he’s one hell of a storyteller. While he gets a little annoyingly cutesy at times, All Our Wrong Todays is a grand concept, intimately told. It’s the kind of tale that sucks you right in and makes you sad when it’s over. I was a bit concerned when I heard it was narrated by the author, but the books conversational tone, along with a strong narrative voice makes it work, and Mastai has an engaging style that connects with the reader.


The Raft by Fred Strydom

Read by James Patrick Cronin and Julie McCay

Audible Studios

Grade: A

I can’t even begin to explain the experience of The Raft. It’s one of the most complex, unique Post Apocalyptic novels yet it’s extremely accessible and engaging at the same time. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it took I turn into even more intriguing territory. It’s play on memory and post apocalyptic tropes made it like someone putting together a beautiful puzzle using pieces from different boxes. The narration was solid. James Patrick Cronin handled the bulk of the tale, getting the feel just right, acting as the guide to the story but never getting in the way. Julie McCay’s segment was short but handled well.


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Read by Cynthia Hopkins

Macmillan Audio

Grade: B+

While full of magic and whimsy Every Heart is a Doorway truly excels when it’s at its darkest. True fairy tales are about stolen innocence and McGuire embraces this in her natural novella. Solid performance by the Cynthia Hopkins especially in her handling of McGuires use of gender roles.

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Read by Chris Patton and Stephen Yen

Harper Audio

Grade: A-

Highly engaging coming of age tale. Mongrels takes everything you think you know about werewolves and uses it against you in. The narrative uses deception to get at the real truths in clever ways. Narrator Chris Patton is superb in his performance of the bulk of the novel while Jonathan Yen offers a interesting counterbalance to the tale.

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Read by Molly Pope

Simon & Schuster Audio

Grade: C

While Ink and Bone was a well written tale, I never really engaged with it, and in the end found the experience bland. Two factors contributed this. When I started Ink and Bone I had believed it was a stand alone completely new novel, only to discover it was a spinoff of one of Unger’s other series. Because of this I felt like I missed much of the subtext of the novel. Also, I felt the narration was bland. The narrator had a mature voice that I don’t think fit the main character, a 21 year old struggling to come to terms with her impulses and psychic abilities. The narrator did little to add to the moodiness and aura of the tale, never really capturing the ethereal nature of the book. I don’t think the book would have awed me if those factors weren’t in play, but they did little to build on a novel that I struggled to stay interested in.

The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet

Read by Nick Podehl

Harper Audio

Grade: B

The God Wave is a novel of big fascinating ideas with some flaws in execution. When Hemstreet is geeking out it’s fun to experience and he has a strong grasp on his subject matter but when it’s time for the big action scenes or emotional moments between characters thing fizzle out a bit. Yet the flaws can easily be overlooked because it’s you can tell the author is having fun throwing around his ideas and you can’t help but have fun along the way. Narrator Nick Podehl helps smooth out some of the clunkiness of the prose and breathes life into these characters.

Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Read by Damian Lynch

Audible Studios

Grade: B+

It’s not really such an original set up, a group of misfits on the edge of the law in a starship get sucked into an adventure that may be over their heads. There have been a bunch of these types of novels, yet few have come off as fresh and fun as Mike Brook’s Dark Run. Dark Run is a rip roaring scifi Western full of grand adventures and complicated relationships. Brooks features an eclectic crew of diverse characters, who you never quite trust but come to root for. Narrator Damien Lynch is brilliant in his performance, pushing the dialogue to the next level with a quirky delivery style that keeps the listener entranced. Lynch pushes the plot bringing all the badassery to the front with deliberate speed and keeping the listener fully emerged in Brook’s world. Fans of Firefly and the Expanse series should find this start to a promising series a worthy addition to their libraries.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Read by Rachel Dulude

Tantor Audio

Grade: B

This follow up to Chambers excellent debut, is a sweet change of pace novel. Instead of interstellar action, Chamber slows it down with an intimate tale of interspecial social adaption and friendship. Chambers takes two characters with unique worldviews and allows us to see their often parallel development. If your looking for more action Fireflyesque space daring-do, you’ll be disappointed, but you’d be pretty heartless if you didn’t fins yourself caring for these characters. Narrator Rachel Dulude has a nice pleasant voice that would be perfect for a nice American standard coming of age tale, but here I was left wanting more. Despite characters like sexual morphing aliens, artificial intelligence, and cloned humans, the reading lacked much diversity. In scifi I love when you can tell a species by a narrators change of accent and cadence, here, outside of a bit of studder and minute vocal changes, all the characters sounded dissapointedly alike.