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. 





My 2015 Audies Prediction

10 02 2015

The 2015 Audies season is upon us and I for one am excited. Being that I didn’t listen to as many audiobooks in 2014 as I had in the past, I am excited to be taking part in Armchair Audies this year so I can discover some of the missed gems of last year.

In the past, I have felt critical of the Audies process, but I have come to terms with the fact that the process and criteria of an Audie nominated book may not need to exactly shadow what I believe makes a book standout. In the past, I \put much emphasis on the synergy between performance and context. I didn’t believe a title deserved to be nominated unless the content was just as “Award worthy” as the performance. This year, I am focusing more on the technical side, giving more focus to the “audio” then the “book.” Yet, since this is my predictions post, I am going to present some books in a few categories that I believe are worthy of recognition, due to both content and performance appealed to me. I have done well in the past in my predictions, so lets see how I do in 2015.

Let the Armchair Audies Games begin:

Science Fiction:

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Read by Josh Cohen

Random House Audio

Josh Cohen’s performance in The Book of Strange New Things is a pure example of what makes audiobooks so special. His transitions from English to American accents were so seamless I had to Google him to discover his true nationality. Yet, it’s the haunting voice of his alien creatures, and the emotional impact of Peter’s communications with his wife Bea that make this not just a title deserving of a nomination in Science Fiction, but should give Cohen, at the least, consideration in Solo Narration of the Year.

World of Trouble, The Last Policeman, Bk. 3

by Ben H. Winters

Read by Peter Berkrot

The Last Policeman series may be the shining star in Peter Berkrot’s luminous career as a narrator. He gives a multifaceted performance that is both funny and emotional. He ushers us through a broken society with a wink, and takes us the brink of the world’s end with a comforting hand on our shoulder. He makes this wonderful novel work on so many levels, truly a performance worthy of the book.

Fantasy:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

MacMillan Audio

Words of Radiance is so enthralling that there were moments that I forgot to breath. There is a reason why Michael Kramer and Kate Reading are THE voices of fantasy, they managed to guide me through of nearly 50 hours of audio, in a genre I often struggle with, and leave me wanting more.

Authority: The Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 2

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio

Jeff Vandermeer’s series about a strange terrain known as Area X has hit a cord with many speculative fiction fans. At times, I personally struggled with the series, but what I never struggled with was Pinchot’s performance in Authority. I know Pinchot is a wonderful performer, what I forgot was how funny he could be. Authority isn’t a humorous novel, but Pinchot is able to tap into the absurdity of the main character to bring the humorous aspects to vivid life.

Paranormal:

Fear City by F. Paul Wilson

Read by Alexander Cendese

Brilliance Audio

Alexander Cendese may be the biggest hidden talent in the audiobook business. His performance in the prequel series, Repairman Jack: The Early Years series, turned me into a fan of the series that spawned the prequels. When I did listen to the Earlier Repairman Jack novels, I found myself missing Cendese, despite excellent narrators like Dick Hill handling them. Given more opportunities, I feel Cendese could become a real force to be reckoned with in the industry.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Read by Christine Lakin, Terra Deva, Sunil Mohatra, Robert Morgan Fisher, JD Jackson

Hachette Audio

Broken Monsters is not a comfortable listen. Beukes latest genre busting tale is disturbing on many levels. Yet, the material is brought to brilliant life by this mutli-cast performance. Don’t expect to sleep comfortable after this listening, but do expect to be utterly enthralled.

Mystery\Thriller

The Wolf In Winter by John Connolly

Read by Jeff Harding

Simon & Schuster Audio

John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series finally gets the performance it deserves, at least stateside, with Jeff Harding’s masterful handling of this genre blending novel. Harding, who has read the complete series across the pond in England, finally performs the American version as well. His gruff style manages to catch the flow of the narrative, adding to the chills of this paranormal mystery.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

In all honesty, I was not a fan of this novel. Personally, I though King’s attempt to do a straight mystery thriller fell flat in a genre filled with talented writers. Yet, Will Patton’s performance kept me in the game. Patton managed to make this boring novel interesting, and made me almost care about these characters. Based solely on performance, Mr. Mercedes is an good bet at landing an Audie nomination.

 

Well, there are my predictions. I should be tweeting my reaction to the Audies announcement tomorrow, using the hashtasg #Audies2015.





2014 Armchair Audies: Fearless Prediction Post

14 02 2014

So, it’s Armchair Audies time (almost!)

Any day now, the APA will announce the nominees for their 2013 Audie Awards. This has been another great year for Audiobooks, and I feel more and more public scrutiny of the Audies may have interesting affects. Last year, I felt the whole thing was a bit of a fiasco, with one particular company and it’s offshoots almost monopolizing the nominees and an audiobook of the year category made up mostly of celbriturd narrators and productions that were more about hype then the best the industry has to offer. Yet, I’m not totally soured on the whole shebang. I think that we may see some changes to the process in the near future, as the industry changes, so must the awards and I’m quite interested in seeing how these changes take play out.

This year, for Armchair Audies, I will be taking on the Science Fiction and Fantasy categories again. I will probably pick up a third category, after I get a look at the nominees, either Paranormal or Thriller/Suspense.

Today, I will be prediction the nominees in these 4 categories. I am using an intricate formula of my favorites, industry trends, past nominees, hype and WAGs (Wild Ass Guesses) to come up with these nominees. I am also playing a bit with the Genres because, even if a book is decidedly Science Fiction, it very well may be nominated in the Fantasy Category. Also, no once has quite explained exactly what encompasses Paranormal.

So, here are my predictions for The Audies.

SCIENCE FICTION

The Human Division by  John Scalzi

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible Frontiers

Lexicon by Max Barry

Read by Heather Corrigan and Zach Appelman

Penguin Audio

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Read by Kevin T. Collins, Eileen Stevens, and Ali Ahn

Hachette Audio

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Read by Kate Rudd

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

FANTASY

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Read by Neil Gaiman

Harper Audio

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Read by Alana Kerr

Audible for Bloomsbury

Cold Days by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files, Bk. 14)

Read by James Marsters

Penguin Audio

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Read by Kate Mulgrew

Harper Audio

Helen & Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez

Read by Khristine Hvam

Audible, Inc.

PARANORMAL

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith (Vampire Empire, Book 2)

Read by James Marsters

Buzzy Multimedia

World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Read by A Full Cast

Random House Audio

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Read by Khristine Hvam, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, Joshua Boone, Dani Cervone, Jenna Hellmuth

Hachette Audio

THRILLER/SUSPENCE

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Read by Reg E. Cathey

Hachette Audio

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Read by Jeremy Bobb

Simon & Schuster Audio

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Read by Michael Beck

Random House Audio

The Lawyer’s Lawyer by James Sheehan

Read by Rick Zieff

Hachette Audio





Armchair Audies 2013 Wrap Up Post: Science Fiction

21 05 2013

2013 Armchair Audies Category Wrap up: Science Fiction

This years Science Fiction nominees offered an interesting dilemma, except for one title, I had already listed to them. The Science Fiction Category offers a lot of wonderful audiobooks this year from a wide selection of subgenres. I was truly amazed by the diversity of the titles. All of them offer wonderful performances by their narrators and there’s not one title here that I would be disappointed if it won. Here are the nominees.

Click on the Cover Image for My Review:

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Read by Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins and Casey Holloway

Hachette Audio

Length: 14 Hrs and 9 Min

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Read by Emily Janice Card

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs and 3 Min

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio (A Girl Genius Novel, Bk. 2)

Read by Angela Dawe

Brilliance Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 35 Min

14 by Peter Clines

Read by Ray Porter

Audible Frontiers/Permuted Press

Length: 12 Hrs 42 Min

Invincible (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, Bk. 2) by Jack Campbell

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 46 Min

My Picks

I really struggled picking a winner out of such a strong category. I think Emily Janice Card’s performance of Age of Miracles was mesmerizing, and I couldn’t help but be happy that one of my favorite series, The Lost Fleet and it’s excellent narrator Christian Rummel received a nod. Julianna Baggot’s brilliant world in Pure came alive through the work of four excellent narrators. Angela Dawe gave one of the most fascinating and funniest performances in her reading of Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess   Yet, when it came time to chose who I thought would win, and which title I wanted to win, I came up with two distinctively different titles. Peter Clines 14 was one of my overall favorite audiobooks of 2012 and Ray Porter is a breathtaking narrator. Yet, the slow burning Apocalypse in The Age of Miracles and spot on narration of Card I feel may sway more judges.

Who Will Win:

My Pick:





Audiobook Review: Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess by Phil and Kaja Folio

21 05 2013

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess: A Girl Genius Novel, Book 2 by Phil & Kaja Folio

Read by Angela Dawe

Brilliance Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 35 Min

Genre: Steampunk

Quick Thoughts: This latest edition of the Girl Genius series is a highly original Steampunk tale so full of crazy adventures and wondrously horrifying creations that the pure enjoyment of the books just busts out of the cracks. There are some frustrating moments along the way, but Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess isn’t a rollercoaster ride, it’s a Runaway Spinning Cup Carousel of Death and Delights romp through a vivid alternate world.

Grade: A-

2013 Audie Nomination for Science Fiction

One of my favorite aspects about books is names. I love when writers seem to put a lot of thought into their characters names, and often get dismayed when authors seem to use cookie cutter names for their heroes and villians. Each genre has its own types of names. In thrillers, you want a name that is quick and forceful like a punch to the gut. You want Jack Reachers, and Joe Pikes. You want Jack Bauers and Sidney Bristows. These names are memorable, yet don’t take up too much space. You can often tell what kind of fantasy you are reading by the name of the characters. One of the first things that drew me to Stephen Donaldson’s series was his main character’s name, Thomas Covenant. Something about Biblical names has always tickled my imagination. Donaldson has some of the greatest character names, in my opinion, including one of my all time favorite fantasy characters the Giant Saltheart Foamfollwer. Then there is Steampunk. I am a recent convert to Steampunk, and one of my favorite aspects about the subgenre is the names. I love the battle between the classes, where the aristocratic types have flourishing, almost poetic names, the Royal names often have a warrior motif like Stormbringer, and they working class seem to have names that suit their role in society. The Baron Bagwell Von Newman liege of the mighty House of the Lightning King may employ a mechanic named Rivet. While all this is great, I often remember that my name is Bob. Yeah, Bob. When I was growing up, everyone was named an iteration of Robert like Bob, or Rob or hell, even Bert. Bob isn’t a great Steampunk name. If I was a Steampunk character my role would be to go up and down in water. So, maybe I’d be a buoy. I want a cool Steampunk name. One that shows I can fight off undead swarms, while making robot minions to do my wishes. After much thought, I decided my Steampunk name should be Triggerfist Clankbottom. It has strength, ingenuity and it sounds funny.

After learning the secret of who she really is, Agatha Clay and her talking cat companion Krosp are on the run from Baron Klaus Wufenbach in a stolen Airship. When she crashes into the Wastelands, she meets up with Master Payne’s Traveling Circus who agrees, after some bit of adventure, to allow her to travel with them to her home in Mechanicsburg, where her step mother told her to go. As Agatha becomes immersed in the Circus life, she finds herself wrapped up in an elaborate plan of dueling loyalties and family secrets that may rip away the new identity she only recently discovered.  Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess is another light hearted romp through and alternate Steampunk Europe where the toys of mad scientist have wreaked havoc on the local population. In many ways, the Girl Genius series is like a Steampunk playground full of hilarious monsters, mind bending contraptions, secret histories and ridiculous over the top evil plans. While listening, I kept wondering just where that maniacal laugh was coming from the entire time, and I realize it was coming from me. While this entry was full of so much great fun, there were also small issues along the way. I liked Agatha, but so did everybody else in the whole damn world. Princes and playboys fell for her innocent charms, to the point where it was just a bit obnoxious. Overall, the pacing of the story was awkward, with crazy moments of pure madness followed by extended scenes of dull. There were times where you felt every minute of the 18 hour production, and other times where the pace felt like it was in the hands of a crazed Time Lord. Yet, it was so much fun. The Folios did something here that rarely is done, they made the exposition actually uproariously hilarious, sometimes through malfunctioning fact spewing robots, and others through a series of fourth wall breaking tongue in cheek footnotes. It got to the point where something was mentioned in the book, and you were disappointed if there wasn’t a footnote for it. This latest edition of the Girl Genius series is a highly original Steampunk tale so full of crazy adventures and wondrously horrifying creations that the pure enjoyment of the books just busts out of the cracks. There are some frustrating moments along the way, but Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess isn’t a rollercoaster ride, it’s a Runaway Spinning Cup Carousel of Death and Delights romp through a vivid alternate world.

This is the final audiobook of my 2013 Armchair Audies listening experience and it was a heck of a great one to go out on. Angela Dawe gives a wonderful performance, again bringing all the crazy casts of humans, monsters robots and things in-between to life. Just her handling of the many fantastic names of the series made it work the listen. She truly put all of herself into the production, and all of Angela Dawe is a whole lot of good. I liked her ability to handle the footnotes in the tale, a pitfall for action packed fiction navels where pacing is so important. She read each footnote with a wink and a nudge then leaped back into the narrative with ease. It was a delight to listen to. It was one of the audiobook experiences where you just found yourself immersed in the world, with each character distinct and complete, where you didn’t even feel like you were having an audiobook read to you by a single narrator. Instead, you were there among the clanks and constructs enjoying all this world had to offer. This was truly an outstanding performance totally worthy of an Audie nomination.





Armchair Audies 2013 Category Wrap Up Post: Fantasy

20 05 2013

Armchair Audies 2013 Wrap Up: Fantasy

This years Fantasy category offered over 93 hours of diversity within the Fantasy genre. As a genre, I thought 2012 was a strong year for Fantasy, and I was a bit surprised by the selections. To say I was under helmed would be putting it mildly. Despite having some issues with the content, all of the performances were outstanding in this category. There were some old favorites and new to me narrators, and all of them I enjoyed. Despite some books that I found less than compelling, there were a few standout listens that I may have never listened to if not for this event. So, first off… The Nominees.

Click on the Cover Images for my Reviews:

All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen

Read by Emily Gray

Recorded Books

Length: 17 Hrs 2 Min

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan (The Riyria Revelations, Volume 1)

Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds

Recorded Books

Length: 22 Hrs 37 Min

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens (The Graveyard Queen, Book 1)

Read by Khristine Hvam

Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. \ Audible

Length: !0 Hrs 52 Min

Anita by Keith Roberts

Read by Nicola Barber

Neil Gaiman Presents

Length: 9 Hrs

Princess of Wands by John Ringo

Read by Suzy Jackson

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 29 Min

Heroes Die: The First of the Acts of Caine by Matthew Woodring Stover

Read by Stefan Rudnicki

Audible Frontiers

Length: 22 Hrs 28 Min

My Pick:

For me, this was a two horse race. I went back and forth on my pick a few times factoring many different factors like publication date, narrator history, genre integrity and what I thought the judges of the APA would do, and then I threw it all out and decided to go with my overall favorite as my pick. For me, it came down to Michael Sullivan’s Epic Fantasy Theft of Swords, and Lev AC Rosen’s All Men of Genius. Now, I think Heroes Die and Anita also both have excellent shots to win, but based on my pure enjoyment Theft of Swords and All Men of Genius stood out. Theft of Swords is the most traditional style of Fantasy nominated, and for this I’d be happy with a win for Sullivan and Tim Gerard Reynolds, but one title was just so delightfully fun, full of madcapped scenarios and over the top characters that I just had to choose it and I think the good judges of the APA will as well. So, for the Fantasy category, my pick is:

All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen read by Emily Gray for Recorded Books





Audiobook Review: The Bride Wore Black Leather by Simon R. Green

15 05 2013

The Bride Wore Black Leather by Simon R. Green (The Nightside, Bk. 12)

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 10 Hrs 31 Min

Genre: Paranormal Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: For fans of the series, The Bride Wore Black Leather should be a lot of fun, completing the story in the style of the previous novel. For me, though, this final novel highlighted many of my issues with the earlier novels and stripped away the one aspect of the series I really liked.

Grade: C-

2013 Audie Nomination for Paranormal

Really people, I tried. I love the Armchair Audies Event. It’s one of the few blogging activities I take part in every year that I am proud of. It’s one of the few things I do on my small little slice of the internet that I think both forces me out of my comfort zone, and also provides a valuable service. Sure, I do Zombie Awareness Month, and participate in things like June is Audiobook Month and Jenn’s Bookshelves’ Monsters, Murder and Mayhem events, but for those things I still control the content on my blog. In many ways what I like about Armchair Audies is that the book selections are out of my hands. Last year, I loved the experience. It was really an awesome experience. I have loved the experience so far this year as well, but it has come with more difficulties. From the moment the nominees were announced, I was a bit flummoxed. You can tell just by the nominees alone that one company made a concerted push to have their titles at the forefront of the selection process. The nominees both in my categories and in other had me shocked, and a bit dismayed at times. It had me doubting the process. Some of that was saved after listening to the two selections from Recorded Books in the Fantasy category, but since then, I have been pretty much under whelmed. My favorite category, Science Fiction was practically all titles I have already listened to. Then came paranormal, which had some really amazing titles, but also one title that was the 12th in a series. Yet, I was going to try. I was going to pool my resources, and listened to as many of the 11 prequels as I could. I had the time management skills, and the determination. I made it to Book 6, and then I just couldn’t. I saw all the other awesome books I could have been listening to instead of this series, which was, in my opinion, mediocre. So, I broke my cardinal rule, and skipped ahead to Book 12, the Audie nominated entry of Simon R. Green’s Nightside series, The Bride Wore Black Leather.

So, I’m going to keep the summary of the book short. Basically, the Nightside series is ending. Some bad guy decides he wants to make The Nightside a 60’s paradise and force The Nightside, where it is always 3 AM, into the light and of course, this is a bad thing, because then where will all the monsters go to terrorize people. Groan… Listen, Simon R. Green’s Nightside isn’t a bad series. I can understand why it has a following. I personally felt like the one story arch was pretty strong, but not strong enough to keep me interested. The thing I like most about this series is the strange camaraderie between an oddball group of characters, and the essence of this final edition of the story was stripping John Taylor away from his friends, thus eliminating my favorite aspect. In fact, the Bride mentioned in the title, John Taylor’s fiancé Susie Shooter doesn’t even show up in the tale until the last 30 minutes of the audiobook. Like most of the series, it’s not bad, just mostly blah for me. As John Taylor freely admits, he isn’t really an Investigator, which sucks for a series about a guy who runs a Private Investigator firm in a strange magical section of London where it’s always 3AM. He’s a guy with a gift that is moved around on a chessboard by unseen forces in order to use that gift. He has a knack for getting out of bad scrapes, which of course, he allows himself to be maneuvered into regularly. He’s a hero with no agency, surviving by the ultimate Dues ex machina, and waits patiently for the villain to reveal his evil plan before stumbling on a way to thwart it. I love the setting of the story, the bizarre world, the blending of speculative fiction tropes and genres, I just never became invested in the plots of the tale enough to give two shits and a half of a giggle. Skipping from book 6 to book 12, you would think you would feel lots of holes in the story and want to find what filled them. Sure, there were holes but only on a few occasions was I in the slightest way tempted to fill them. Fans of the series should love this finale, since basically it’s John Taylor going from character to character he knows and reminding all of us about their sordid relationships. The action doesn’t really take off until the final third, and that mostly consists of some of these same people being magically manipulated into acting like douchebags. For me, well, I can’t gather up enough passion to lambaste and bash this title with snark and clever .gifs, so I’ll just say, if you like The Nightside books, you’ll like it. If you’d rather spend 10 hours watching a marathon of episodes of Gilligan’s Planet, then here’s a link to it’s theme on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sGOfWP2bWk

While aspects of the audiobook drove me up a wall, very little of this was due to the narration by Mark Vietor. He had total command of the characters and the setting, and I thought this performance was much more nuanced than in some of the earlier editions. Yet, some of the problems with the writing in this series become BLINKING RED LIGHTS OF DOOM in the audiobook. The repetition was horrible. If I had to hear John Taylor say "…and then it was the easiest thing in the world…" just one more time I would have laced my head in moth pheromones and sat outside under a porch light while they attempted to mate with my skull. FYI, I HATE MOTHS. I was actually going to keep a running count on how many times Vietor ominously said “The Nightside…” in his patented mustache twirling soft British sneer but instead I invested my time more wisely by picturing Justin Beiber on tour with Menudo. That being said, Vietor was quite good and if you like the series, he’s the way to go. Sure, give him an Audie nomination and everything. I mean, he did read 12 of these things.