Audiobook Review: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

18 01 2019

the dreamers

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Read by Cassandra Campbell

Random House Audio

Grade: B

There were times while listening to The Dreamers where I was simply blown away. The premise of Karen Thompson Walker’s newest novel isn’t all that original, but she tells the story in such a unique ways, viewing from different angles, and examining it in ways you’re not used to that you can’t help but be mesmerized at times. Yet, at other times I found myself not fully engaging with the tale. It was a weird experience. The tale is told in almost a dream like way that lulled me, but then she would hit me with a narrative trick, or a slight skewing of what I expected, and I’d have to stop, rewind and listen again. All in all, it was an interesting, if not disconcerting experience. While I tend to be a story over style type of guy, you just can’t help but be impressed with her style, even if the story dragged at time.

Cassandra Campbell was simply perfect for this tale, bringing an ethereal quality to the reading yet grounding it just enough in reality to keep a more basic listener like myself in the game. Her voice can be entrancing at times, weaving bits of magic into the story, while pacing it in ways that can’t help but pull you along as a reader.





Audiobook Review: Tear It Down by Nick Petrie

14 01 2019

Tear it Down by Nick Petrie (Peter Ash, Book 4)

Read by Stephen Mendel

Penguin Audio

Grade: B

Truly all a good action series needs is an intriguing main character, a colorful cast of supporting characters, a decent hook and lots of fun explosions and car chases. Well, the latest Peter Ash thriller, Tear It Down has this in spades. Petrie takes the “drifter who gets involved” motif and cranks it up for a fun adventure taking on both white supremacists and drug dealers while trying to help people. Don’t look for anything too deep, just lots of fun thrills.

Stephen Mendel’s narration hits all the right notes. He reads the many action scenes with a high paced intensity that creates a manic but clear picture of the action, driving the story in just the right direction.





My 10 Favorite Audiobooks of 2018

1 01 2019

Audiobooks2018

Gone are the days where I get through 200+ audiobooks/books a year but I still try to get through a nice number and you’d be hardpress not to find me with a book in my ear, and others waiting for me on paper and floating in the cloud in digital form.

In 2018 I managed to complete:

88 Audiobooks

12 Print Novels/Novella

5 Graphic Novels

4 Short Story Antholgies

Here are my Favorites of the year:

The Gone World

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Narrated by Brittany Pressley

Penguin Audio

Tom Sweterlitsch takes three well worn sub-genres, the procedural murder mystery, time travel adventure and apocalyptic fiction and twists them into a miasma of something truly original. Sweterlitsch has created a tale full of dark imagery. He creates settings like a visual artist, hauntingly beautiful, like a nightmare you can’t escape. Yet it’s not this dark landscapes that truly make this novel work, but the human characters he populates them with. No matter how strange the trip gets, and people, it gets pretty damn strange, you never lose the connection with the main character. It is both literary and accessible, the kind of fiction that appeals to those looking for a true work of art and those who just want to read a grand tale of adventure. It’s all topped off with a bittersweet ending that may have pulled a bit of feeling from my hardened soul.

ThisBodys

This Body’s Not Big Enough For the Both of Us by Edgar Cantero

Narrated by January LaVoy

Random House Audio

I absolutely adored this book. It was twisted and obscene in all he ways I love. ‪it’s like the put Phillip K Dick and Phillip Marlowe in a blender, mixed them together on high speed and baked them in a cupcake tray.‬ The uniquely bizarre premise and style didn’t detract from a solidly plotted mystery. January LaVoy handled the gender fluidity of the novel perfectly and pushed the narrative with a kinetic pace.

Cabin

The Cabin At the End of the World by Paul Trembley

Narrated by Amy Landon

Harper Audio

The beauty of a Paul Tremblay novel is he doesn’t spoon feed you the horror but uses your own mind against you. Complex and disturbing, with an ending that goes against the grain in uncomfortable but brilliant ways. I absolutely loved this book.

CalculatingStars

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Audible Studios

I have known Mary Robinette Kowal mostly as a narrator and read some of her short fiction. This is her first full length novel I’ve read and I absolutely loved it. It has so many elements I like, part apocalyptic alternative history and part hard science fiction with a focus on developing a space colonization program. While I loved all the science and social stuff in the book, what I truly enjoyed what how real her main character felt.

Down the River Unto the Sea

Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Narrated by Dion Graham

Hachette Audio

Dion Graham handles the narration like a master musician who know just the right instrument for the right moment. At times, smooth like a saxophone, at others, driving the pace like a bass guitar, Graham uses his voice like he’s scoring a film, creating a mood while bringing Mosley’s well conceived characters to life. With some books, I feel like narrators struggle to find the right voice to fit the author’s intent, but here Mosley and Graham seem to be workings like a team, Mosley creating them and Graham revealing their vibrancy. Down the River Unto the Sea succeeds where other tales have failed, to tell a truly human story that doesn’t exploit current events but lives firmly within our world’s new realities.

Murderbot

The MurderBot Diaries by Martha Wells

Including All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy

Narrated by Kevin B. Free

One of the more intriguing themes of this series is how SecUnit becomes more and more jaded by its interactions with human but his his interactions with artificial beings begin reveal its “human” side. In Rogue Protocol we find hidden depths in what it initially labels a pet robots that plays out well throughout the tale. Kevin R Free continues to shine as the series narrator. He pushes the pace during the action keeping the listener engaged. More importantly, as MurderBot continues to evolve so does Free’s performance adding new levels of introspection and emotion to his voice.

Washington Black

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Narrated by Dion Graham

Random House Audio

I was a little skeptical going into Washington Black mostly due to the fact that it was outside my comfort zone, yet I was quickly won over by its engaging main character and the sense of adventure in the story. Edugyan creates a tale of unequal friendship, set in a uneasy cultural landscape full of uncomfortable truths that makes you think while entertaining. What truly helps is the the narration of Dion Graham who, while a personal favorite, still manages to amaze me with his performance.

Still of Night

Still of Night by Jonathan Maberry and Rachael Lavin

Narrated by Ray Porter

Journalstone Publishing

I went into Still of Night expecting a throwaway book, a fun little addition to Maberry’s vast world, and instead I got my favorite Zombie tale of the year. Intriguingly, this book does a lot to connect many of Maberry’s other works in interesting ways. Ray Porter is phenomenal as always, bringing these characters to life in poignant ways.

An absolutely

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Narrated by Kristen Sieh and Hank Green

Penguin Audio

With echoes of Ready Player One and the Themis Files An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is #science #fiction for the hashtag generation. Green sets up a scenario that hard core sci-fi fans will embrace but plants it firmly in a world where events only truly happen if they are tweeted out to a significant social media following. Featuring a protagonist whose vapidness has layers making her frustratingly fascinating.

Unbury Carol

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Narrated by Dan John Miller

Random House Audio

This book wasn’t what I expected at all. It was a unique weird western. While pretty much it played it straight, there was enough weirdness simmering at the edges to keep you constantly guessing. The characters were vivid, and the settings stunning. Malerman kept me invested throughout the journey with an ending that unexpectedly paid off. Malerman plays with the tropes of the western in wonderful ways that turns the genre on his head.

Honorable Mentions:

Favorite Non-2018 Listen:

fantasticland

FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven

Narrated by Angela Dawe and Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Favorite Print Reads:

The Only Harmless Great Thing RD3

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

Return-to-the-Lost-Level-Generic_776x

Return to the Lost Level by Brian Keene

Hope You All Have a Great Reading Year in 2019.

 

 





Audiobook Review: Only Human (Themis Files, Bk. 3) by Sylvain Neuvel

1 05 2018

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

Narrated by William Hope, Charlie Anson, Laurence Bouvard, Adan Sablylich and a Full Cast

Random House Audio

Grade: A+

Only Human is the third novel in Sylvain Neuvel’s Themis Files series. It’s hard for me to objectively write about the series, since it’s probably my favorite current science fiction series. Typically, my thoughts are akin to a GIF of Homer Simpson’s Head with his brain replaced but a couple of rockem’ sockem’ robots.

So far, Only Human is probably my least favorite of the series, which means instead of an A followed by an infinite string of +’s, like their first two in the series, Only Human is simply a A followed by a string of pluses that terminate but so far down the path it might as well be infinite. Part of this is due to the fact that this is the third book in a series that has consistently brought the awesome, that the expectations for awesome bringing may actually be unachievable. The pacing is a little slower, more focused on relationships than on big ass robots fighting and potential world doom and destruction. It’s a more intimate tale of one family, than a global struggle. Adds to it a teenager who acts like a teenager, basically, a bratty, potential egomaniacal narcissist, and a father who humbly attempts to control her, and the struggles of this interplanetary drama are more terrestrial, no matter which planet it takes place on. Yet, none of this middling criticism negates that Only Human is still full on awesome, and fans of the first two books should devour this with glee.

Once again, Penguin Random House produces a brilliant audio version worth wonderful performances. Only Human is as close to a radio drama without all annoying bells and whistles that tend to bother traditional audiobook fans. The Narrators are full on acting the scenes, not just reading them, with screams and raised voices. It’s affective for the material, not quite the traditional narration style. The production really brings the world and characters to life in wonderful ways.





Audiobook Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

23 04 2018

Space Opera (Unabridged)

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Read by Heath Miller

Highbridge Audio

Grade: B+

One thing I love about science fiction, is that it can be timely and poignant, examining cultural, political and scientific changes and their potential impact on modern existence. Also, it can be fun. Space Opera manages to be all this is one delicious gooey package. It’s a roller coaster ride of exobiology where the twist come in not what a character does, but in what a character is. At times it feels like it can be plummet into saccharine triteness, but then Valente suddenly veers off in another direction, causing the reader to want to throw their appendages up in the air and ululate in glee. It’s a testament to a novel when the author seemed to have just as much fun writing it as the reader does consuming it and Space Opera is a prime example of this symbiotic literary experience. Space Opera tackles some important topics, examining the ridiculous nature of some of our human hangups and prejudices, but does it in a style that less preaching but more drunken conversation with your crazy friends at the local pub,

If the value if an audiobook narrator was based in the number of times you chortled, snickered, or guffawed in inappropriate public forums than Heath Miller would be raking in the lols like a teenage girl with her first snapchat account. His reading hit all the right notes. It easy, when reading novels it a comedic element to veer off into the cartoonish. Miller is obviously having a good time with the material but never lets it become whatever the British version of Daffy Duck is. He has an endless array of character voices. It’s like each time Valente tries to outdo him with some crazy alien character, Miller was all “Yeah. I got this.”  In the end, the best compliment I think I can give this audiobook was that good fun was had by all.





Audiobook Review: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

18 04 2018

Unbury Carol

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Read by Dan Jon Miller

Random House Audio

Grade: A-

This book wasn’t what I expected at all. It was a unique weird western. While pretty much it played it straight, there was enough weirdness simmering at the edges to keep you constantly guessing. The characters were vivid, and the settings stunning. Malerman kept me invested throughout the journey with an ending that unexpectedly paid off. Malerman plays with the tropes of the western in wonderful ways that turns the genre on his head.

Dan John Miller’s narration was pitch perfect all the way. His reading of the prose was like a warm cup of hot chocolate that someone helpfully slipped a shot of brandy into. He voice was so welcome and warm that at points it created a mood of unease as it conflicted with some of the happenings of the novel, adding to the feeling of weirdness simmering at the edge.  His characterizations at times bordered at over the top, never quite reaching that level but making them stand out enough in ways that played well into the plotting of the novel. In the end, I felt his performance was well planned, enhancing the experience of the novel.





Audiobook Review: Year One by Nora Roberts

21 03 2018

Year One Chronicles of The One, Book 1 (Unabridged)

Year One (Chronicles of the One) by Nora Roberts

Narrated by Julia Whelan

Brilliance Audio

Grade: B+

It seems every other week or so some book comes out that’s accused of being a blatant rip off of Stephen King’s classic The Stand yet when I sit down to read or move around while listening the book is either not really a rip off, or just not blatant enough. Being a blatant ripoff of a great novel isn’t a sin, but not pulling it off well can be a disappointment to fans of that novel who maybe want just a little taste of that experience again. Year One is the latest in a line of books to come tagged with this accusation. Luckily, Roberts actually kinda pulls it off. Year One is a book that has enough echoes of the classic to please to less assholey fans of The Stand, with enough differences to make it stand out on it’s own. Like The Stand, it’s not a perfect novel, but it follows the classic post apocalyptic formula of bringing groups of survivors together to face a big threat well. It’s not a perfect novel and it’s just the start of a series, so there is a lot of unfinished business when you reach the end, but for fans of the genre, it can hold it’s head up their with some of the classics.

Julia Whelan is an audiobook veteran and gives a strong steady performance. This book didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles, and the publishers made a good choice using one strong consistent voice to drive the narrative. Whelan handles the large cast with ease, and keeps the pace moving forward. Overall, Whelan serves the novel well, keeping you fully engaged in the story.