Going Public… In Shorts Presents Oliver Wyman Reading Pickman’s Model by H.P. Lovecraft

23 06 2013


June is Audiobook month (JIAM 2013). The audiobook community is giving back by teaming with the Going Public Project by offering a serialized audio story collection. All proceeds will go to Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization. Throughout June, 1-2 stories will be released each day on the Going Public blog and on author/book blogs. The story will be free (online only – no downloads) for one week. In collaboration with Blackstone Audio, all the stories will be available for download via Downpour. The full compilation will be ready June 30th.

The full schedule of the story release dates and narrators are at Going Public. Engineering and Mastering are provided by Jeffrey Kafer and SpringBrook Audio. Graphic design provided by f power design and published by Blackstone Audio. Project coordination and executive production by Xe Sands.

Today I am blessed with the ability to bring you the work of one of my favorite narrator, and someone who I personally consider a heck of a good guy.  I first discovered Oliver Wyman as the voice of the beloved Serial Killer and Florida Enthusiast Serge Storms in Tim Dorsey’s series of madcapped adventures. I will often credit Oliver Wyman’s performance in Hurricane Punch as the catalyst that moved me from Audiobook listener to insatiable Audiobook Fan. So, really blame him.

Oliver has been a guest before here at the old ‘lobe and is one narrator that has more than gone out of his way to embrace fans of audiobooks. Make sure you check out our interview, which I bribed him into through a series of veiled threats and pictures of Robot kittens. As an added bonus, I have included my ode to the Going Public…. In Shorts program with this series of poorly written Haikus.

They Show us their legs
By Going Public In Shorts
Raising love of words


Our Hirsute Hermit
Whose Voice Brings to Vivid Life
Shoggoths and Killers

Beloved Xe
One whose voice rhymes with sexy
Still our Ferret Hearts

So, now I present to you, one Mr. Oliver Wyman reading H. P. Lovercraft’s Pickman’s Model.

Make sure you follow Oliver on twitter at @mrkawfy.

Check out his Facebook page. 

Go listen to him at Soundcloud.

For more Going Public in Shorts fun, please check out yesterday’s entry featuring Cris Duheheart at The Book Tart.

Tommorrow, one of my favorite Bloggers host one of my favorite narrators when John Lee stops by Beth Fish Reads.

Armchair BEA: 2012 Audiobooks for the Uninitiated

6 06 2012

I had to switch some of my posts around for various reasons. This was supposed to be yesterday’s post, for the best of 2012. Yet, due to another bigger giveaway post, I knocked it back to today. Being that today’s topic is how you use your blog in your community, well, there would be a hole in my postings, because honestly, I don’t. The only thing that may even come close to that is donating the review copies of audiobooks to my local library and to the company I work for, which is a home for people with special needs.

Yet, since June is Audiobook Month, I do use my blog to spread love throughout the Audiobook Community. Today I will be highlighting 2012 Audiobooks that would make excellent starter Audiobooks for someone unfamiliar with the format. I will be attempt to offer as wide a range of genres as possible, so maybe you can find something you’ll be interested in.

All these audiobooks are plot driven tales with solid narration. I tried to choose books where the narrators have strong, pleasant voices and excel at pacing and storytelling. While, unlike some, I enjoy offbeat and experimental narration styles, when they fit the text, I stayed away from those types of narrators because they are often an acquired taste. If you have yet to listen to an audiobook, and are willing to try, I hope you find something here that may interest you.

If you do decide to listen, I invite you to post your thoughts on the experience for Audiobook Week, hosted by Devourer of Books at the end of June.

My 2012 Audiobook Recommendations for Armchair BEA Participants. 

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Read by Grover Gardner

Blackstone Audio

Genre: Legal Thriller

My Review

Defending Jacob is a twisty legal thriller about a Father who must defend his son after he is accused of murder. Grover Gardner is a veteran narrator who brings an everyman style to his reading. He creates authentic sounding characters without ever infusing himself into the narrative. Gardner’s subtle performance and Landay’s engaging text make for a wonderful listening experience.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Read by Anne Hathaway

Audible, Inc.

Genre: Children’s Classic

My Review

For those who are quite hesitant about trying audio, Audible’s latest version of The Wonderful Wizard of OZ has a lot of things going for it. It is short, and the material is familiar enough to allow the listener to become actively engaged in the material. Hathaway gives a wonderful performance drawing on familiar sources, including the classic musical version, to create characters the listener will already feel affection for.

White Horse by Alex Adams

Read by Emily Durante

Blackstone Audio

Genre: Literary Post Apocalyptic Thriller

My Review

Alex Adam’s highly literate Post Apocalyptic tales echoes some of the more stylistic entries of the genre, while infusing it with a thrilling plot and complicated female lead. Emily Durante’s solid narration allows the reader to fully immerse themselves into the character’s plight.

The Gods of Gotham by Lindsay Faye

Read by Stephen Boyer

Penguin Audio

Genre: Historical Thriller

My Review

The Gods of Gotham takes you deep into historic New York City that tends to be overlooked. A murder mystery set at the foundation of the NYPD, The Gods of Gotham are full of ethnic and religious strife, and introduces us to some colorful characters. Stephen Boyer will not blow you away with his reading, but simply allows the tale to unfold, while creating authentic sounding per4ipheral characters.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Read by Susan Duerden

Dreamscape Media

Genre: Urban Fantasy

My Review

The Rook is a first person Urban Fantasy novel that actually manages to feel fresh. Instead of battling evil fairies and ogres, Myfanwy Thomas battles ledgers and bureaucracy as a high level official for a secret magical agency. Until loses her memories, and discovers someone want her dead. Susan Duerden gives a wonderful performance is this fun, action filled fantasy novel.

The Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

Read by Angele Marsters

Hachette Audio

Genre: Historical Thriller

My Review

Edge of Dark water is a coming of age adventure which echoes Mark Twain and Stephen King. A group of teenagers attempt to escape angry neighbors and the law as they travel up a River in Depression era Texas. Angele Marsters infuses her lovely voice with integrity, capturing the depths of the main character, while still highlighting her naiveté.

Partials by Dan Wells

Read by Julia Whelan

Harper Audio

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

My Review

With Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian fiction all the rage in Young Adult fiction, Dan Well’s Partials creates something that is familiar and fresh. Both full of action, and thought provoking, Partials is excellent science fiction for young and old. Narrator Julia Whelan does a good job capturing the inner turmoil of the main character, and crispy delivers the actions scenes making it easy to visualize what is going on.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Epic Fantasy

My Review

Love fantasy, but sick of the Eurocentric faux-medieval settings, then you’ll love Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. Ahmed fuses epic fantasy with an Arabic flair, combining unique character and a strong plot into something that is a whole lot of fun. Phil Gigante is my all time favorite narrator and here he shows his ability to control the pacing of narrative while creating some of the most rememberable character voices around.

Audiobook Review: Apocalypse of the Dead by Joe McKinney

30 06 2011

Apocalypse of the Dead by Joe McKinney

Read by Todd McLaren

Tantor Audio

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: A highly enjoyable multi-character zombie apocalypse tale full of authentic characters. Excellent narration by Todd McLaren only adds to the fun.

Grade: A-

With all the new zombie horror novels out there, authors more and more are looking for a unique angle to take with their undead creations. You have demon possessed zombies, love sick zombies and even British pop star zombies. Zombies have invaded everything from Jane Austin novels to high school football teams. Yet, with all this going on sometimes you just want a classic zombie apocalypse tale and Joe McKinney has one in Apocalypse of the Dead. Not to say McKinney doesn’t have a unique spin on his zombies. McKinney’s zombies have much of the characteristic of Romero’s zombies, with some added fun. Some zombies, called Level 3 zombies are more developed, able to work in groups to trap prey and acquire food. People who have had physical prowess before being turned may come back with more speed and determination after being infected. Yet, these aspects are more for world building than actual plot development for Apocalypse of the Dead. For the most part, the majority of zombies act like classic zombies, and the majority of humans act like scum. This is how it should be in a good apocalyptic zombie tale, where the zombie swarms have changed the world, but the truly living are the real dangers.

For pure enjoyment value, this has one of my favorite zombie listening experiences. While it may not be as sophisticated as Deadline, or as emotionally affecting as Warm Bodies, Apocalypse of the Dead reminded me of that feeling I got when I first read books like Stephen King’s The Stand or Robert McCammon’s Swan Song. Apocalypse of the Dead is a multi-character vision of the apocalypse and its aftermath. McKinney has created a large group of authentic characters that you quickly become attached to. One thing I really like about his characters is that they are all flawed, with devastating pasts, and it is how they coped with their pasts that truly give you a glimpse of their true character. While religious leaders, Harvard graduates and law enforcement personnel may get pulled down into the mire of the apocalypse, ex-cons and porn stars can rise above their pasts and become heroes. Within this world, it is the unlikeliest of characters that bring about the most good. McKinney has also created some devastating images of Apocalypse that I haven’t seen before including an attack on a retirement home, and a blind girl struggling on her own in a town overcome by zombies. I have said this before, I am not a literary critic, I judge books by how much I enjoy reading or listening to them. While McKinney need not wait for the Pulitzer committee to come knocking on his door, I personally had a hell of a time listening to Apocalypse of the Dead.

Todd McLaren handled the narration for this book. At first I though he started off a bit slow, but as the book progressed he began to match the pace and tone of the novel with precision. McLaren is the perfect narrator for multi-character epics like this. He has an uncanny ability to nail characters with precision, from the major leads to the smallest roles it almost as if McLaren has created a back story for each, and comes up with the perfect voice to match it. McLaren is a master at characterizations matching regional dialects and accents perfectly and it was interesting to hear him create just the right southern accents for various characters. Apocalypse of the Dead is a must listen for fans of multi-character epic Apocalyptic zombie fiction, and for anyone else who like a good story well told.


Note: A special thanks to the wonderful people at Tantor Audio for providing me with a review copy of this title.

Audiobook Review: The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison

28 06 2011

The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: A slower paced Stainless Steel Rat novel, yet still full of fun and humor. Another winner for the franchise.

Grade: B+

So, I have nearly reached the halfway point of the Stainless Steel Rat series. My latest listen, The Stainless Steel Rat for President, is the fifth of eleven total novels in the series. So far, the ride has been a blast. I have reviewed the audiobook versions of three of the first four, and they have all been glowing reviews. What I have grown to love about this series is it’s over the top nature, and the sense of comic timing shared between the author and the narrator. Most of the novels of the series are pretty short, around five to seven hours, and the fit nicely between two serious, humorless or dire novels. They are a perfect break up in my reading allowing for a quick entertaining ride full of laughs and hi-jinks. In fact, I just finished listening to the latest Thomas Covenant novel, which was even more depressing that the previous eight, and a blast of the Rat was just what I needed.

In The Stainless Steel Rat for President, Slippery Jim, with the help of his brilliant but deadly wife, and his twin sons, are off on another cosmic adventure. This time, they are attempting to overthrow an evil dictator by the most nefarious of means, a democratic election. I have to admit, this was probably my least favorite of the Stainless Steel Rat novels so far, which means I laughed out loud perhaps ten times during the novel, as opposed to my usual twenty. I think this was a slower tale, as compared to the supersonic paces of the previous novels, so the humor was still there, but it came at you in a slower pace. Slippery Jim spends more time out thinking his opponents, as opposed to out acting, and Angelina, while still a presence, didn’t have as big of a role.  Yet, for all that, it’s still a Stainless Steel Rat novel, and that’s an awesome thing. This series offers enjoyment in its purest form, without pretension and I for one am looking forward to that pure enjoyment in the next six novels as well.

Again, Phil Gigante was the narrator, and again he was the embodiment of our slippery friend. Gigante puts his all into the reading of this series, and it shows. In this edition of the series, he handles the various accents of the mostly Hispanic planet of Paridiso Aqui with ease, a standout being the pomposity he gives to Paradiso’s evil dictator. I should also add that he gives Angelina such a sultry sexy voice that I have a few awkward moments when I remember it’s actually a dude reading her lines. Yet, again the pure genius of Gigante’s reading is Slippery Jim’s inner monologue, which is where most of the true belly laughs come from. So, while a slower paced novel, The Stainless Steel Rat for President is still another winner in this excellent franchise.


Note: A Special thanks to the good people of Brilliance Audio for providing me with a Review Copy of this title.

Audiobook Review: Against All Things Ending by Stephen Donaldson

25 06 2011

Against All Things Ending by Stephen R. Donaldson (Book 3 of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant)

Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds

Recorded Books

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Donaldson’s latest is not an easy read, and it will try and pull you down into its character’s despair, yet, with its brilliant ending, and beautiful narration it is a worthwhile listening experience.

Grade: B

Against All Things Ending is the third book in the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and the ninth overall in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever series. The Covenant novels have always been daunting to me. I am not a huge epic fantasy fan, and quickly tire of elves and fairies. Donaldson’s epic fantasy tale about a leper transported to a new land, which he believes to be just his unreal imaginings, is definitely not about elves and fairies. Donaldson has created a world, called The Land, which is both beautiful and terrifying. From the earliest moments of Lord Foul’s Bane, I fell in love with The Land, reveling in its Earth power, yet fearing its many mysteries. Yet, Donaldson’s writing is not easy. While his prose is beautiful, it not only borders of overwritten, but often generously leaps into that territory. It is often said that Donaldson would not use a short word, when a long one would do. For the first eight novels, which I read in Dead Tree form, I would always keep a dictionary next to me, knowing I would need it often. While for many this is a criticism, I often reveled in the overwritten nature of the books. I’ll admit, the vast majority of the books I listen to are written in a straight forward manner, and I tend not to read what is considered “literary fiction.” So, Donaldson’s verbosity is unique for me, yet, so appropriate to The Land I have fallen for, and its plethora of characters that stick in my mind long after the last page is turned.

Against All Things Ending was a tough one for me. Donaldson’s work has always been full of imperfect characters, filled with self loathing and bordering on despair. This is Thomas Covenant’s essential character. Yet, since the first book of the Second Chronicles, The Wounded Land, Donaldson has provided us with a character in Linden Avery who is one of the strongest female characters in Fantasy Fiction. I know, she is a polarizing character among Donaldson fans, but for me, she has been the true hero of The Land for the past six books. Yet, with the ending of Fatal Relevant, when her decisions and actions have lead to such dire consequences, Linden has basically lost her mojo. She spends much of Against All Things Ending doubting herself, and rightly so. This fits well into Donaldson’s theme for the novel, “Only the damned can be saved” yet, it didn’t make for the most uplifting reading experience. The only thing that kept the book from being utterly depressing was the attitude of the Giants, who always bring joy and laughter no matter the situation. Despite Linden’s break down, the company takes on some great foes of the land, in some brilliant action. It was nice to have a corporeal Covenant as well, even with his shattered memory. What truly saves this novel, which is the penultimate tale of the series, is the brilliant and redeeming ending. The last five hours of the audiobook easily makes up for whatever flaws the first 28 hours had.

Before listening to Against All Things Ending, I was a bit skeptical about the choice of Tim Gerard Reynolds as narrator. I know that many people were disappointed, including the author, that Scott Brick no longer narrated the tale. Since I never listened to Brick’s handling of the earlier tales, I didn’t suffer any discontinuity that other listeners may have. My major concern was that Reynolds is Irish and has a strong Irish accent. Now, nothing against Irish narrators, yet, I never liked the fact that many people feel that fantasy novels should be read by those with accents. Even American narrators will pepper their fantasy readings with a bit of an Irish or English tilt. Since the two main characters of Donaldson’s world are American, I just wondered what the point was. Yet, upon listening to Reynolds’s narration, I now have to admit my concerns were unnecessary. I found Reynolds’s narrative tones to truly bring out the beauty of Donaldson’s words. I also loved his characterizations of the Giants and the Haruchai, as well as many other creatures of the land. I didn’t love his take on Covenant, just simply because it didn’t fit the voice in my head for him, and I thought his voice lacked some of Covenant’s brokenness, but this is a minor complaint at best. Where I feel he truly excelled was communicating Linden’s inner turmoil.  Linden’s voice was gruff, bordering on masculine, yet with a surprising feminine tilt at moments that truly fit her character. Donaldson’s latest is not an easy read, and it will try and pull you down into its character’s despair, yet, with its brilliant ending, it is a worthwhile listening experience.

Audiobook Review: Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder

21 06 2011

Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder (Nick Heller, Book 2)

Read by Holter Graham

MacMillan Audio

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Finder continues his Nick Heller series with a clever plot, intriguing characters and another excellent performance by narrator Holter Graham.

Grade: B+

Buried Secrets is the second novel in Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller series, and coincidentally it is the second Joseph Finder book that I have listened to. I am not exactly sure why I hadn’t listened to Joseph Finder before Vanished, the first Nick Heller novel. I had heard of him. I knew he wrote Intelligence Thrillers, which is a subgenre that I hadn’t totally embraced, but occasionally would dip my toe into. I’d seen his books on genre lists, and other sources. Heck, I’d even seen High Crimes, a mediocre yet watchable movie based on one of his novel. Yet, it wasn’t until I heard that he was starting a new series did I jump on the Finder bandwagon. Perhaps the idea of getting into a series on the ground floor was what attracted me to Vanished. Most of the thrillers I read are part of series. If I find a writer and a character I like, I usually try to listen to the series in in order of publication. So, despite Joseph Finder’s well regarded Stand Alone novels, it wasn’t until he developed a series character that I began to listen.

A good thriller series lives or dies on its main character and Finder has a winner in Nick Heller. After the events of Vanished Heller, a former intelligence agent and corporate fixer, has branched out on his own in Boston. Heller is quick witted and charming, full of resources and a strong moral code. He has a sort of Boy Scout with an edge persona, yet, as the story progresses the edge begins to dominate the Boy Scout. In Buried Secret’s the teenage daughter of a family friend is kidnapped, and Heller is called in to try and find the girls. Not surprising, in thriller land, the client is less than open with Heller, and this leads to clashes with Federal Agents, and various shadowy bad guy types. Finder hasn’t created the most unique plot, yet he does quite a lot of clever things with it. Each piece that Heller unveils only leads to more questions, and the few answers he gets doesn’t help him in his ultimate goal. Finder constantly pushes the pace, never allowing the novel to become stagnate, but applying mounting tension which pushes Heller to the end. Finder wins points for allowing us to see the cracks on Heller’s façade and showing us that he is not some sort of superman. Finder moves us to a satisfying and thrilling conclusion complete with some surprising twists. What more can you ask for in a thriller?

Holter Graham has a great voice for narration and he uses it well here. Graham captures the character of Nick Heller perfectly, giving him a bit of snark when needed, as well as allowing us to hear the pressures of the case piling on his shoulders. Graham also does a great job handling the various foreign languages and accents. His Russian accents aren’t just cookie cutter, but each Russian character, or those of other cultures are given their own succinct voice. Grahams light crisp voice worked well with the overall pace of the novel. His clear descriptions of the action allowed the listener to follow the tense scenes well. Together, Joseph Finder and Holter Graham provide us with the perfect summer listen which has everything you want in a good thriller. In fact, I enjoyed it enough where I have started to add Joseph Finder’s back catalogue to my “To Be Listened to” list.


Note: I won a prelease copy of Buried Secrets during Audiobook Week hosted by Jennifer from Devourer of Books. Special thanks to MacMillan Audio for participating in Audiobook Week.

Audiobook Review: Dead City by Joe McKinney

18 06 2011

Dead City by Joe McKinney

Read by Michael Kramer

Tantor Audio

Genre: Zombie Horror

Quick Thoughts: McKinney’s Dead City is a fast paced, real time first person look at a Zombie Uprising, with a realistic and likeable main character.

Grade: B

One of the best things about zombie novels is the vicarious living effect, what would you do if you were in that situation? There have always been a lot of discussions on this topic among zombie fans. The movie Zombieland even presents a list of rules for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. Yet conversely, it’s also a quite frustrating part of zombie fiction. You know that anytime someone writes a zombie novel, there are going to be tons of reviews and posts by internet know-it-alls about why the main characters were stupid or unrealistic in their actions while attempting to keep from being eaten. Now for me, I know exactly what I would do, I would legally change my name to dinner. You see, us 30 something guys living in a major metropolitan area with a bum knee who neither own nor have ever fired a firearm, well, our best option is to have a variety of dipping sauces available when the zombies come. Personally, I think the internet trolls would find plenty to complain about with that strategy as well.

One of the things I loved about Dead City, the first of Joe McKinney’s Dead World novels, is that the hero, Eddie Hudson, is quite fallible. He makes mistakes, some of them quite stupid. He spends much of the story in a state of shocked disbelief. In the beginning it was quite frustrating, this cop running around in the midst of a zombie uprising, trying to save his family, yet he seems to take unnecessary road trips into danger. Yes, this isn’t the smartest thing to do, but who in their right mind would have their brain firing on all cylinders when seemingly dead people are walking around trying to eat you. Dead City moves in real time, following Hudson as he moves through the city of San Antonio, from one zombie encounter to another. Hudson meets an assortment of characters, some interesting, and some annoying as he searches for his family.  Dead City offers us a perspective that far too few Zombie novels give us. Dead City takes place at the height of the zombie uprising, before the survivors have had a chance to wrap their brains around the situation. It’s this initial terror that is fascinating and McKinney does an excellent job capturing it. This isn’t a novel about seasoned zombie hunters who have it all figured out. So, sure the trolls will probably find problems with Hudson’s decisions, but then again, I’ve heard that Zombies particularly like the flavor of troll meat.

I have to admit, I am not a huge Michael Kramer fan. I often find his narration on the dry side, with his deep tone bordering on monotonous. Here, he does a solid job handling the first person narrative of Eddie Hudson. It wasn’t perfect, I would have loved for him to add more of a southern twang to the character. Some times you can hear a bit of the Texan in Kramer’s Eddie Hudson, yet is comes and goes, but, not really to the point of distraction. Kramer does a good job with the peripheral characters, especially Hudson’s former partner Marcus, who he infuses with an appropriate childlike southern charm. Kramer slow reading works well with the fast paced nature of the book allowing the listener to follow the often chaotic action. What I am truly looking forward to is the next two books in the series which are narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Todd McLaren. Despite some minor issues with the text and narration, Dead City is definitely full of great zombie action and a well realized main character.


Note: A Special thanks to the wonderful people from Tantor Audio for providing me with a copy of this audiobook. You can purchase this title directly from their website Tantor.com

Audiobook Review: The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

17 06 2011

The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Ray Porter

Blackstone Audio

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The third Joe Ledger novel starts with a literal bang and never lets up. The incredibly terrifying plot is handled perfectly by narrator Ray Porter, who totally encompasses the role of DMS agent Joe Ledger.

Grade: A

I think Jonathan Maberry is trying to kill me. OK, maybe not me specifically, but it seems with each book, the terrorist attacks, and general mayhem of Joe Ledger’s world just keeps getting closer to home. In Patient Zero, fundamentalist try to unleash a zombie plague in Philadelphia, the city whose suburbs I’ve lived my entire life in. Now, in King of Plagues mercenaries wreak havoc on a Starbucks a mere 10 minutes from my house. What’s next, genetically engineered monkeys on my front steps, I mean, seriously, can’t we send some grief Cleveland’s way. I’m just saying. The King of Plagues is the third book in the Joe Ledger series, and it starts off with a literal bang. Ledger is pulled out of his self imposed exile to investigate the bombing of The Royal London Hospital. This attack, which leads to nearly 4,000 casualties, is the type of tragedy that a good thriller ends with the good guys preventing. Yet, in The King of Plagues, Maberry starts with the successful tragedy, sending notice right away that this isn’t going to be an easy day in the life of Captain Joe Ledger.

In Joe Ledger, Maberry has created one of the most intriguing modern day heroes in fiction. Ledger isn’t a superman. Sure, when the battle is brought to him, he usually finds a way to wind, no matter what the odds, but despite his victories, he never leaves without scares, physical, and otherwise. What truly has made Ledger, perhaps my favorite thriller character is his utter humanness. Some author’s give lip service to how hard it is to take a human life, and how hard the life of taking down evil-doers is, yet, in Ledger, you feel the karmic scares, and sense his heartbreak with each horrible thing he must do. In the King of Plagues, Ledger is again battling those who would do harm on a global scale. The scenario dreamt up by Maberry is terrifying, using what is best about humankind to aid in evil of a massive scale.  Again, Maberry offers well choreographed action that plays out in your mind in more crisp detail than most action movies, each step is deliberate, with no wasted movement, or unnecessary clutter. I for one was wondering how Mayberry would top his previous two Joe Ledger novels, yet I knew right away that Maberry was bringing his ‘A’ game when you find out that Joe Ledger now has a dog. I mean, all the awesomeness of Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory, plus a kick ass dog. That’s off the chart awesome with all the fixin’s.

You only need to listen to the first 15 minutes, or the last 15 minutes of the audiobook to see how much Ray Porter has encompassed the character of Joe Ledger. Porter’s reading of Ledger is so real, so perfect that it’s almost scary. With each character, Porter not only creates a voice and accent, but a specific cadence and confidence in speech. With each sigh, deep breath and awkward pause you can hear Ledger’s doubts, and feel his pain, yet, with Mr. Church, Porter comes at you rapid fire, as if each second he spends talking heightens the chances of the world coming to an end. Porter adds this level of detail to every character, no matter how large or small. It’s a rare treat to find a narrator so suited for a role. For fans of thrillers with a science fiction bent, you can’t do much better than the team of Maberry and Porter.

Note: A special thanks to the kind people at Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of The King of Plagues. You can purchase this audiobook direct from their site: BlackstoneAudio.com

Audiobook Review: The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

16 06 2011

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

Read by Hillary Huber

Random House Audio

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The Informationist is an intelligent, deliberately paced thriller, introducing a fascinating new character which is brought to life by an excellent performance by narrator Hillary Huber.

Grade: B+

If you haven’t heard, June is Audiobook Month, and part of my goal for this lovely month is to stretch beyond my barriers, listen to some things I normally wouldn’t and to check out new authors and new narrators. So, my latest audiobook listen fits nicely into my goals. The Informationist is the debut novel of author Taylor Stevens and the start of her Vanessa Michael Monroe series. It also works with another goal of mine, to experience more female authors. So far, the majority of the female authors I have listened to have been science fiction, horror or supernatural writers, so recently I was looking for a good thriller, written by a women, and discovered The Informationist. I have always enjoyed thrillers, yet I have also found the genre label to be ill-defined. What constitutes a Thriller, is tons of action needed, or just a tense life threatening situation? Often time a book is called a thriller based solely on the fact that the author has written thrillers before. When it comes to thrillers, I have always been more of a set up guy. Typically our heroes are investigating something, gets into a few squabbles, figures out what is going on, then runs around, outfoxing the bad guy in order to shoot him. I was always down with the figuring out more so then the bullet filled denouement.

The Informationist is exactly the type of thriller I enjoy. While our hero, Vanessa Michael Monroe, is quite physically capable, she tends to think her way out of her problems more so then shoot and punch. Monroe uses her understanding of language and cultural traditions to better effect then some action hero types use their fists. The Informationist is definitely not a run and gun thriller, but a deliberately paced tale of corruption and betrayal, which takes you from the penthouses of Houston, to the dirt roads of Africa. As Monroe searches for the lost step-daughter of an oil magnate, she also is taking a trip through her brutal past. Author Taylor Stevens has developed a fascinating yet tragic hero, highly capable, yet burdened by a justifiable mistrust of others. The plot is highly textured, with each step of the search hampered by both enemies and friends, and placing Monroe in positions that are impossible to think her way out of. This is when the action comes, and when it does, it is swift and brutal. Stevens doesn’t toy with the reader, creating overly elaborate action scenes, instead she has her protagonist move like a viper, striking quick and hard with efficiency. All this leads to a well orchestrated ending, allowing Monroe to do what she does best, outthink her opponents.

Another benefit of The Informationist is the chance to listen to well respected narrator Hillary Huber for the first time. Huber reads The Informationist with breathy slow tone that works like a trap, it lulls you in, makes you feel comfortable then ensnares you into the story. This pacing fit perfectly with the tale, building tension until both narrator and protagonist lash out. Huber truly brings Monroe to life for the listener, giving her the world wary tone you would expect from such a character, yet she also handles the international cast of secondary characters well. There is a plethora of accents in this tale, and Huber gives them all an authentic tone and realistic feel. If you are looking for a thriller full of explosions, gun battles, car chases, and one dimensional characters, perhaps The Informationist isn’t for you. Yet, if you are in search of an intelligent, deliberately paced thriller full of well envisioned characters, I urge you to give The Informationist a try.

Audiobook Review: Go the F—k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

15 06 2011

Go the F—k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

Read by Samuel L. Jackson

Audible, Inc.

Genre: Bedtime Story

Quick Thoughts: A Shocking amount of profanity makes this bedtime story a questionable choice for children.

Grade: B-

Warning: Review may contain mild story spoilers

Often times, when questioned by my therapist, or an ex-girlfriend or two why I am the way I am, I explain simply that my mother never read bedtime stories to me as a child. At least, I don’t remember her doing so. No Goodnight Moon, no Purple Crayons or Pokey puppies. She did not read to me in my bed, she did not read to me with her head. Now, I don’t blame her, I had two younger brothers, one of them a severe bedwetter, who required her bedtime attentions, and, well she was a single mother of four. Plus, Big Bird and Grover taught me to read at a really young age. So, it was with a sort longing brought about by deep psychological trauma that I gave a listen to Go the F–k Asleep by Adam Mansbach from Audible. Now, while the pricing of this tale of a father struggling with doubts of his quality of parenthood while attempting to lull his child to sleep appealed to my frugality, my psyche was further hampered upon discovering the reading of the book was done by Samuel L. Jackson. You see, ever since watching a pre-release showing of Shaft, I wanted Samuel L. Jackson to be my father. I was 26 when that movie came out. Well, enough about me, let’s talk about the book.

On the surface, Go the Fuck to Sleep, is a poetic bedtime story. I was shocked by some of the risks Mansbach took with his poetry, often breaking away from the Iambic pentameter. Some of the rhythms of the tale of all the creatures that were sleeping during the nearly 40 minute long attempt by the anonymous father to encourage his child to join them were hampered by the obvious emotions of the situation. When the father would yell out things like, “F__K your stuffed bear, I ain’t getting you shit” I feel even a child would find the pacing awkward at best. I also had some concerns with the accuracy of the story. I am pretty sure that some of the animals mentioned are nocturnal, and others, like whales, may not operate on the same sleep schedule as humans. Also, some of the wording was poor, allowing us to assume that cubs and lions were huddled together, which is highly unlikely. Maybe better editing would have helped make this book a little more consistent. Despite these problems, I feel the book did a good job capturing the feel of a child’s bedtime story, although the ones I remember reading, by myself, never had as much cursing.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson narrates this tale. I feel he really nailed the asides made by the father like, “I know you’re not thirsty, that’s bullshit. Stop lying.” yet his overall reading of the more mundane childlike poetry about field mice and sparrows lacked the same level of oomph. I would like to see what someone like Christopher Walker or Bob Dylan would have done with the reading. I did enjoy the lullaby tunes that played in the background. I never really got to listen to lullabies as a child, although my dad did often play “I Guess That’s Why They Call it The Blues” by Elton John at nighttime when I was trying to sleep on weekend visits. Maybe the lullabies would have calmed my nightmares, but here, they play perfect counterpoint to the emotional outburst of the father. While I enjoyed the satiric and caustic nature of Go the Fuck to Sleep, I wonder if it would have made a better betimes story if the profanity and abusive nature of the father was toned down. I don’t think I would buy this book, or play the audiobook for my children. Of course, I have no children, but I have 5 nephews and a niece and I would leave it up to their parents to decide whether this was appropriate for them. I probably wouldn’t recommend it though. You know, for kids.