Audiobook Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part 1 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonasinga

9 10 2013

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor Part 1 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

Length: 7 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Through surprising deceptive marketing, this is only the first half of the promise finale of what magically is now being called “A Four Book series” instead of the original label of a trilogy. What follows is a ranty rant rant.

Grade: Incomplete

Note: This review is less of a review, and more of a rant. Of course, everybody likes a good rant, so enjoy.

There has been a lot of talk about blogger responsibilities, and how in reviews we need to “Review the book, not the author.” Well, I’m going to call bullshit on this. We, as bloggers, have a little slice of the internet in which to talk about our experiences with books, and there, we should have the right to do just that, review the experience. If something about an author affects your ability to enjoy the experience of the book, feel free to review it. It’s you slice of the internet, and I think bloggers need to be honest. I would implore people to be respectful and, well, not act like raging dicks, but again, your house, your house rules.  Yet, there is more than just the content of a book the affects your experience. Whether it be your own expectations, the cover, any interaction with the author or publisher, or even your own ignorant beliefs, if it affects your enjoyment, it does a disservice to the book not to mention it. For example, if I hate a book, because I have a strong dislike of the fact that the author once marched in the mummers parade, it’s actually benefits the book if I mention that is what affected my negative experience. Your readers will learn your peccadilloes, and adjust their expectations based on them if you are honest.

All of that is to say that despite the fact the story was pretty good, and the narration was decent, my experience with The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor Part One, was one that was akin to watching a drunk man kick a puppy, while screaming invectives at school children. The dude may be, in reality, a nice guy, but in that situation, he is an utter douchenoodle.  My experience began, when I was thinking about how the cover of this latest walking dead novel was kind lame compared to the last two. It’s all good, Lame covers rarely affect my enjoyment of a book. Yet, I flicked my finger over the audible app to get a closer look, and there, under the words “Fall of the Governor” in dark lettering on a dark background, it says “Part 1.” WHAT IS THIS PART ONE SHIT? I thought. Maybe I only downloaded half the book on audible, and needed to download Part 2? Nope. Listening to the book intro, Mr. Fred Berman, our audio guide through the series, also said, PART 1. So, my anger began to grow. I was already surprised that the finale was significantly shorter than the first two novels. With what Kirkman said we should expect in the final novel, it’s length surprised me. i expected it to be longer than the first two, not shorter. So, I reread the product description. No where on the Audible page, beyond the cover image did it say Part One. In fact, the product description contained this sentence:

“…readers will experience a terrifying finale befitting the cultural phenomenon that this great series has become.”


Readers will experience the first half of a terrifying finale because…


So, when will there be a part two. Who the hell knows? Yet, I know when it comes out, they sure as hell won’t be charging me half price for the book. I just spent a full credit to buy a half of a book. I would be OK with this if they let me know this beyond a small little tag on the cover. I would have been happy telling fans of The Walking Dead that this was a pretty cool story, about Rick, Glenn and Michonne’s first disastrous meeting with the Governor, which is just different enough from the TV show to be enjoyable. I liked the story. Not as much as The Rise of the Governor. There was less zombie action, and more person on person cruelty, not to mention a brutal off camera rape scene. Yet, the grit was what you expect from The Walking Dead. Yet, I can’t in good conscious give this book a good rating, not based on content, but on the deceptive marketing. It affected my ability to enjoy it. As I got close to the ending, with my fears being realized, I kept getting angrier and angrier.

So, yeah. this isn’t much of a review. More like a Bob rant with cussing and mean faces. Let’s call this my review: PART ONE! Part two will come when the bastards give me the rest of the book I paid for.

So, for shit and giggles, here’s the initial imagery of the book.

Yet, the released version looks like this:

Anyone notice the difference?

EDIT: I found a statement about this from Kirkman’s editor, Brendon Deenan:

“When the draft for the third and final book of the Governor series, THE FALL OF THE GOVERNOR, came in, it was much too long to be published as one book, but we knew (Robert, Jay and I), that fans of the series would want the whole story, the Governor’s story in full, as raw as possible and as true to Robert’s vision as we could get it. And that’s the book Robert and Jay handed in, the Governor in all his glory ‘til the bitter end. So we made the tough but ultimately necessary decision to split the conclusion into two parts—the first available now, and the second picking back up in March with the terrifying, concluding pages of this series.”

I call Bullshit. If you had enough time to know that the book needed to be split in two, you had enough time to let the marketing material obviously reflect that. Sneaking a Part One onto the cover in easily overlooked lettering was not enough. This book came in under 8 hours. Even if you double it the book would have been around 15 hours, not “too long to be published.” My guess was that the book was long enough that they realized THEY COULD split it in two, not they HAD TO split it in two. So, yeah… bullshit.

Audiobook Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

1 10 2013

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 35 Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Doctor Sleep is an audiobook that will linger with me for a long time, a wonderful and moving story combined with one of the favorite narrator performances of all time. Doctor Sleep is a prime example of just how special the medium can be.

Grade: A+

I think it’s impossible for me to review anything by Stephen King without putting it into context of my history as a reader. Over the past few years he has released books, or had audiobooks released that tie in with significant moments in my reading history. Whether it’s a new Dark Tower novel, or an audiobook version of The Stand, it’s hard for me to write a review of listening to just that book. My experiences with any Stephen King novel is so tied into my past experiences because so much of his work informs and is informed by his other books. There are other worlds than these, and Stephen King’s books bend and weave through these many other books, wrapping a mutliverse up like a beautiful but uneven tapestry. This is why I approached Doctor Sleep with hesitation. I first read The Shining during my initial wave as a Stephen King reader. I was about 14 or 15 and devoured many of his early novels like Carrie, Christine and Cujo. These novels where straight in your face horror tales, some of which could have passed for modern Young Adult novels, which was perfect for me at that point in my life. Then I read The Shining. I’ll be honest, The Shining was never my favorite Stephen King novel. I didn’t have the same relationship that Jen from Jenn’s Bookshelves talked about in her brilliant post about her relationship with that novel. The Shining was a different kind of horror novel than I was used to. It was more subtle, a lingering horror that played around the edges and sneaked into your nightmares from side doors and shadows. It’s a much scarier experience than say, Cujo or Carrie, which hit you in the face with their horror, but it was also an adult style of horror. It scared me for reasons I didn’t understand.

As part of my preparation, I decided to listen to The Shining. I think I understand the brilliance of the novel more now. It still isn’t my favorite Stephen King novel, but I think it’s because the horror the Torrance family undergoes, and the secrets of REDRUM have become an iconic part of our culture that it’s tough to experience it today as King intended it to be experienced. Still, I was surprised by how much I missed within King’s characterizations of Jack Torrance. As someone from a broken home, who hadn’t yet understood what kind of man his father was, back when I first read The Shining, I felt sympathy for Jack Torrance and was almost resentful of Wendy. Now, I realize what a truly despicable man Jack Torrance was. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but any sympathy I had for the character is gone. King’s depiction of a selfish, self delusional man being manipulated by an evil that tapped into his true nature makes much more sense to me as an adult than it ever did a child. I am glad I decided to listen to The Shining. While I still had issues with it, and my feelings on the narration was that it was pretty much lackluster, and may not have done the story justice, it did make me even more excited to start Doctor Sleep.

Danny Torrance never believed he would give into the temptations of alcohol like his father, but years later he finds himself a drunk, full of regrets and about to hit rock bottom, when his old friend Tony, a remnant of his Shining, lead him to a small New England town. There with the help of a curmudgeonly former drunk, he joins AA, and tries to piece his life back together while working in a hospice where he helps the dying to transition to the next stage, Yet, his Shining isn’t fully dead, and on occasion he is reached out to by Abra, a young girl with perhaps the strongest power he has ever felt. When the True Knott, a group of not quite human travelers who feed off the essence of those with such powers, targets Abra, Danny Torrance, called Doctor Sleep by those who know him, must confront his past in order to protect this young powerful girl.

I often find it really hard to put my thoughts about a work like Doctor Sleep into words that effective portrays the experience I had listening to it. Unlike almost any other author, Stephen King has an ability to totally suck you into a world, where you become so enthralled in in, you never want to escape. Yet, this is hit and miss. There are times where I have struggled through a Stephen King novel like a junky trying to relive the experience of that first high, only to be disappointed. There are other times where you feel like if you just stand on your tippy toes, you may be able to lightly touch that feeling with the your fingers. Then there are times you are just transported into that world with no effort of your own. Doctor Sleep was this type of experience. From the first moments, I was pulled into Danny Torrance’s world, and the special magic of the written word that encompassed it.  Stephen King has created a tale that is both familiar and utterly different. While a sequel to The Shining, and dependent on it for back-story, it doesn’t depend on it for style or substance. King creates a whole new mythology for this world, and does it seamlessly like it’s what he intended from the very start. I found the True Knot to be one of his most fascinating concepts, a group of olderish road travelers riding the American roads in Winnebago’s and Recreational Vehicles who are in fact, a unique type of vampiric community. King does what he does so well, taking something that is seemingly innocuous and tapping into its hidden creepiness. He somehow makes you feel like you have always felt there was something just a bit off when you would see people like this, even if you never realized it on a conscience level.

Yet, the true heart and soul of Doctor Sleep is the journey of Danny Torrance. Danny’s journey feels like his father’s journey in reverse, a man giving into his inner goodness. Doctor Sleep is full of so many touching, self revelatory moments.  Ever since the infamous accident that almost killed King and very well may have ended his career, each novel, on some level, has seemed to be King trying to come to terms with his mortality and eventual journey into the irrelevance of history. Doctor Sleep feels like the natural conclusion to this journey. King seems to have finally found some middle ground with the haunting specter of death, and guides us through that discovery. What he has seemed to discover is that in order to accept death, you must come to terms with life. Doctor Sleep is about this, a man discovering his life, and finding his relevance through community and family. It’s also one heck of a wonderful tale, exciting and well told. I know this isn’t much of a review per se. Doctor Sleep affected me in a way where I can’t say, "Oh, I loved the witting here… what great world building or wonderfully developed characters.”  I’m sure the internet will be full of review analyzing and critiquing the novel for its literary value positively or negatively. For me, it was one of the more meaningful listening experiences I have had in a long time, and reminded me that when King is truly on, you should just give into the experience.

One of the interesting things about audio is that it’s easy to pinpoint how a bad performance affected your feeling of the novel, yet it’s not always as easy with a great performance. How much of my love for Doctor Sleep comes from Stephen King’s ability to tell a wonderful story and affect me on a personal level, and how much came from Will Patton’s amazing performance? In the end, I don’t think the answer is that important. In audio, sometimes the symbiosis between text and performance is so intermingled, it does a disservice to try to separate them out. As audiobook reviewers, we often talk about how a narrator’s performance can elevate the text, but less frequently we mention how the author’s words can elevate a narrator. I think Doctor Sleep may have been about as perfect a symbiosis between prose and performance that I have experienced in a long time. Will Patton’s performance was breathtakingly brilliant. His reading of Doctor Sleep will easily find its way into the pantheon of all time great audiobook performances, in my opinion. With a simple pause, or peculiar emphasis, Patton brings King’s words to full life. King will often use italicize and other tricks in his print texts that doesn’t always translate into audio, but Patton let you hear each word as it was intended in ways that even King may not have realized he intended them. Doctor Sleep is an audiobook that will linger with me for a long time, a wonderful and moving story combined with one of the favorite narrator performances of all time. Doctor Sleep is a prime example of just how special the medium can be.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Audiobook Review: Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

29 10 2012

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

Read by Steve West

Blackstone Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 25 Min

Genre: Horror/Dark Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: From the opening sequence to the brilliant conclusion Buehlman fills Between Two Fires with vivid images, dark poetry and tempered hope offering us perhaps the most affective horror novel of the year. The combination of the apocalyptic setting of the Black Death, the Biblical battles on hell and earth and some of the most memorable characters I have encountered  makes for a strange yet exciting journey.  If some moment or image within this novel doesn’t disturb your sleep, then you may need to check to see if your soul is still attached.

Grade: A-

So, October is winding down, and it has been a fun month exploring the darker side of fiction. One thing I enjoy about focusing on horror, thrillers and dark fantasy during October is I get to explore what exactly frightens me. There are very few times in my life when I remember actually being frightened by something from pop culture. The first time I remember having trouble sleeping was after an episode of Laverne and Shirley where they get involved with a murder on a train. I was probably around 5 or 6 and remember lying awake, watching the lights come through my window, wondering if a murderer will jump out. Slightly older, I often remember being frightened by a series of Christian end times movie, fearing one day the Rapture will come and I would be the only one in my family left behind. I remember me and my best friend freaking each other out late one night singing the Nightmare on Elm Street song. Yet, as I have grown into a fan of horror and dark thrillers, I realize it takes a lot to really scare me. I rarely find a slasher or splatterpunk movie scary. Sure, it’s disgusting, but the over top nature of them usually just leaves me cold. While I love Zombie and other monster books and movies, I rarely get frightened by gore.  Series of events and horrific happenings in books and movies rarely do the trick either. What seems to get me in the end are images. While the gore of a zombie fiction usually lets me sleep like a baby, the image of an undead mother holding onto a corpse baby will freak me out. I can deal with the carnage of a Friday the 13th movie, but the image of Jason Voorhees’s lone cabin in the woods in Friday the 13th always leaves me with chills. Of all the monsters I have experienced on Doctor Who, I am always most frightened by The Weeping Angels. These types of incongruous unnatural images in fiction are truly what keep me up at night. That, and moths. I frackin’ hate moths.

I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant going into Christopher Buehlman’s follow up to last years Those Across the River, which was a subtle, well executed horror novel. Well, there is nothing subtle about Between Two Fires. Buehlman moves from small town Americana to France during the Black Death to tell us a tale of a disgraced Knight who takes a strange young girl under his protection after her father’s death. The girl is brash and naive, yet believes she has been sent on a holy mission by an Angel. Between Two Fires melds a classic quest tale with Apocalyptic Horror to give us a story with Biblical implications. There is an almost episodic feel to Between Two Fires as the fallen knight Thomas, the young girl and a young priest racked with guilt travels across an apocalyptic landscape encountering a series of unspeakable horrors. The combination of the actual horrors of the plague and the horrors unleashed by dark forces made Between Two Firs one of the most affective horror novels I have experienced in a long time.  I mean, seriously folks, there where some moments in this novel that totally freaked me out to the point where I had to fight with myself to turn the lights out before bed. From the realistic portrayal or Paris during the Black Death, to the atrocities, monsters, and living statues, Buehlman has created some of the more vivid images that will linger with me for a long time to come. Buehlman does a lot with Between Two Fires and while not all of it worked, and the episodic feel often caused small problems in the pacing, most of what he does is undeniable brilliant. It all builds up to a final battle for the very soul of the world, and while the ending has a totally Dues Ex Machina moment, well, in a battle between the forces of heaven and hell, God better go an make something happen at some point. I should note that each part of the novel is introduced by almost poetic King James Style Biblical passage detailing the demonic reasoning behind the happenings, and these opening are simply wonderful. From the opening sequence to the brilliant conclusion Buehlman fills Between Two Fires with vivid images, dark poetry and tempered hope offering us perhaps the most affective horror novel of the year. The combination of the apocalyptic setting of the Black Death, the Biblical battles on hell and earth and some of the most memorable characters I have encountered  makes for a strange yet exciting journey.  If some moment or image within this novel doesn’t disturb your sleep, then you may need to check to see if your soul is still attached.

I absolutely loved Steve West’s reading of Between Two Fires, particularly in his portrayal of the disgraced Knight Thomas. West managed to capture both the dark humor of Thomas, while still portraying his brokenness. You could just here the struggle in Thomas as he unsuccessfully tries to resist becoming attached to this strange young girl he has taken under his protection. West also has lots of other strange characters, from Medieval Knights and Lords, Demons, Angels, monsters, belligerent brigands, and so much more, and brings them all the life vividly. The handles the pacing of the story well. There were moments where the story went off on some strange tangent, or felt like it was beginning to lag, but West always kept it moving in a strong steady pace that kept my interest. West has an almost everyday man British accent that just gave the reading a lot of flavor at the right moments. It was truly a wonderful performance and I look forward to hearing more of him in the future.

Note: Thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Audiobook Review: The Commission by Michael Norman

17 10 2012

The Commission by Michael Norman (Sam Kincaid, Bk. 1)

Read by William Dufris

Blackstone Audio

Length: 6 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Police Procedural

Quick Thoughts: The Commission isn’t going to floor you as a mystery. Norman tells a straight forward tale in workmanlike prose with realistic and likeable characters. Despite its heavy use of Procedural clichés, The Commission is a lot of fun and should provide a quick fix for mystery and detective thriller fans.

Grade: B

So, all month long I have been participating in Jenn’s Bookshelves annual October Murder, Monsters, Mayhem blog event. So far, we have had a lot of monsters and plenty of mayhem, but we’ve been pretty light on the Murder. I have always liked a good murder mystery. OK, maybe not always. There was a time where I liked Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, and at no time did I worry about whether Sam was killed by a goat, on a boat in a moat for his oats, but pretty early in junior high school I met Dame Agatha Christies, and I became a murder mystery fan for life. In October, we spend a lot of time preparing ourselves for the monsters that come out at night, and try to steal our souls dragging us down into the great abyss. Yet, so much of the mythology behind our monsters is based on the evils that humans do. So, I wanted to squeeze in at least one murder mystery this year for Murder, Monsters, Mayhem. One of the big reasons I wanted to do this is it provides me a bit of a break during the event. Back when I did my Zombie Event, and I listened to nearly 20 Zombie Audiobooks in a single month, I realized that in future events, I would need a buffer. This is why I specifically looked for a Police Procedural instead of some other type of murder thriller, so I could get away from the horror genre just a bit, before jumping back head first into the zombie hordes.

When a member of Utah’s Parole Board is gunned down in the driveway of his home, Sam Kincaid, the chief detective in the Investigative Branch of the Utah Department of Correction Department is called in to act as a liaison with the Salt Lake City Police Department. Teamed up with Kate McDermott, a fast rising detective known for her handling of high profile cases, Sam investigation leads him to kinky sex, public corruption and puts him and those he loves in danger. The Commission is a pretty straight forward, by-the-numbers police procedural. It is full of situations that border on clichés of the genre. While very little in the book will surprise seasoned mystery reader, it has the feel of a warm jacket, or comfy blanket. You know what to expect, and that is exactly what is delivered. I actually really enjoyed The Commission. I liked the characters, and Norman does a good job walking you through the process of the investigation. This isn’t one of those stories that will floor you with a big twist, or shock you with an intimate betrayal, but simply competent professionals doing their job well, despite political pressures. Even the bit of romantic tension between the main characters is done in a workmanlike way that feels realistic. The Commission isn’t going to floor you as a mystery. Norman tells a straight forward tale in workmanlike prose with realistic and likeable characters. Despite its heavy use of Procedural clichés, The Commission is a lot of fun and should provide a quick fix for mystery and detective thriller fans.

It took me a while to get into Dufris reading, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because I’m most familiar with Dufris in his narrations of Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen series, and I couldn’t help but wonder when the lizard like Grik were going to show up. Yet, before too long, Dufris pulled me into the world and kept me there for the rest of the book. Dufris really shines during the first person POV readings of Sam Kincaid. He brings a natural humor to his reading that added personality to the clever but serious main character. He gave Kincaid a real feel, never making him sound like a professional voice over actor pretending to be a cop. Dufris gives the investigation a sort of quirky pacing that kept it lively, even during the longish expositional segments where Kincaid is describing his thought process. While The Commission is a pretty straight forward procedural, Dufris does a great job bringing the story to life.

Note: Thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Audiobook Review: Tales From the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry

3 10 2012

Tales From the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 39  Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: This is a great series of stories for those cold autumn nights. Maberry has a good mix of outright horror and subtle psychology terror and with his penchant for visual action and vivid imagery, this collection is a sure hit. So, welcome to Maberry’s Fire Zone, but be warned, you may just get a little singed in the process.

Grade: B

It’s October, and that means it’s time to turn our listening experiences over to the spooky side. OK, not much of a stretch for me. Personally, I believe that monster stories, intense thrillers and the paranormal are a year long delight, but that little bit of chill in the air and the early onslaught of darkness give these stories just a bit more bite. Also, since misery loves company, I’ll be joining up in the fun over at Jenn’s Bookshelves Murder, Monsters and Mayhem event. For my first October audiobook review I decided to take on one of the modern masters of horror, Jonathan Maberry and his audio short story collection, Tales from the Fire Zone. In all truthfulness, outside of the horror genre, I have never been a huge short story fan. I always enjoy sitting down with a good novel, and letting the plot swim over me. Yet, I think horror tales are specifically suited for the short story format. Over the years, I have enjoyed the shorter works of authors like Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Brian Keene and Dead Koontz. The shocks and horrors come quick and fast in these tales, and the final moments rarely give you closure, but instead hover over you like a permeating sense of dread. A good horror short is the literary version of yelling BOO! in a dark room. It is an instant scare that lingers even after you realize there really isn’t anything to be scared of. A horror short story will make you uncomfortable in the most comfy of bedrooms, and uneasy in the places you usually feel safe.

Tales from the Fire Zone is a collection of five spooky stories from the mind of Jonathan Maberry, one of which has written exclusively for Blackstone Audio. The first story, Like Part of the Family, may have been my favorite, since it’s a simple noir styled Detective tale with a paranormal edge. A women contacts former policeman and current Private Investigator to scare off her abusive ex husband. The husband, the operator of a Goth themed bar had recently undergone some drastic changes that led him to turn physically and emotionally abusive towards his wife. This tale offers a few twists and an enjoyable edgy protagonist with a secret. Maberry turns up the creepy with Doctor Nine. Doctor Nine takes us into the mind of a burgeoning serial killer. While my least favorite of the collection, it is one that provided for some real psychological suspense. The collection has an added treat, in "Property Condemned." It takes us back to Pine Deep and reintroduces us to the characters from the Pine Deep Trilogy back when they were kids. It’s a genre bending tale that mixes a haunted house with weird physics and gives us an insight into these characters that you will eventually see play out in the trilogy. In his Blackstone Exclusive tale, Cooked, Maberry tells us a tale of drugs and revenge with a mix of Haitian mysticism. Cooked is full of the stunning imagery that Maberry is known for in his longer works, and has one of the best endings in the collection. The true real gem of the production though is Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost. This tale is based on a true story about a trial where the testimony of a ghost is admitted into evidence. To add to the fun, Maberry brings legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson across the pond to get mixed up in the proceedings. It’s a lot of fun and sure to please fans of ghost stories and the gruff troubled detective. All together, this is a great series of stories for those cold autumn nights. Maberry has a good mix of outright horror and subtle psychology terror and with his penchant for visual action and vivid imagery, this collection is a sure hit. So, welcome to Maberry’s Fire Zone, but be warned, you may just get a little singed in the process.

This collection is ably narrated by Pine Deep Veteran Tom Weiner. Weiner does a great job on all the stories, although Doctor Nine may have been a little out of his wheelhouse, making it the hardest tale to engage with. Elsewhere he shines. He does a great job with Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost, effortlessly jumping between the detectives British accents and the local West Virginian drawls. His depiction of a Haitian spiritual man is chilling, and his return to Pine Deep is pulled off flawlessly. His deep voice is perfect for the noir styling of Like Part of the Family, and all the tales are told in a moody pace that adds to the chills. Tales From the Fire Zone is a great audio short story collection, a quick but scary jaunt into a modern master’s twisted mind.

Note: Thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Fall 2012 Reading Events: RIP & MX3

1 09 2012

Well, it’s officially September, which means that soon the leaves will begin changing, the kids will; be back in school, and the dark forces that inhabit the night will be unleashed upon us. Fall is a wonderful time to explore the darker themes of literature, and to help us along the way are two excellent blogging Events.

First up is hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings:

Readers Imbibing Peril VII

The seventh edition of Stainless Steel Droppings ode to the macabre brings together a lot of wonder4ful bloggers who will be listening. reading and reviewing books, movies, television and whatever else may give you chills at night. This events runs from September 1st until October 31st.

Murder, Monsters, Mayhem

Once again, Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves will be our Dark mistress all through the month of October. Jenn will highlight the thrilling and frightful and be giving out some goodies along the way. Look for some excellent guest posts as we celebrate all things bone chilling.

While I have a lot planned for the events, here are some of the new releases coming out that I plan on listening to and reviewing:

From Tantor Audio

From Blackstone Audio

Macmillan Audio:

Simon & Shuster Audio:

Random House Audio:

Audiobook Review: Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey

31 10 2011

Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim, Book 3)

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Brilliance Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 8 Mins

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Kadrey’s visions of the worlds of the afterlife, and his spin on characters that you thought  you had known pushes this series past your expectations for Urban Fantasy and puts the Sandman Slim series in a category all of its own.

Grade: A

With a bit of sadness, I must declare this Halloween audiobook review my final post for the October Murder, Monsters and Mayhem blog event hosted by Jenn from the wonderful Jenn’s Bookshelves blog. This month we have tackled all sorts of evils including vampires, zombies, werewolves, summer camps, child molesters, released mental patients and of course, demons. I think it is quite appropriate to end our trip in the place were evil meets its final rest, the Devil’s Playground, Hell. Now, personally, I don’t want to go to hell, but I have always enjoyed literary trips there. I wrote a bit about the reasons behind my fascination with Hell in my review of Chuck Palahniuk’s Damned, so I won’t repeat myself, but I was intrigued that three books were released this month giving us unique and fascinating looks at hell.  Today I am reviewing Aloha From Hell, the third novel in the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. I have listened to and reviewed the first two in this series this year, and it has quickly become one of my favorite urban fantasy series. Sure, I’ll admit that in the initial novel I was totally frustrated with the main character, James Stark, but like a fine fungus, Stark grows on you. What I really loved about the first two novels was the mythology that Kadrey has developed for this series. It’s a fascinating mix of Biblical and world myths with his own unique twist that just works perfectly with the world he has created.

A great series is like a work of art, in a physical sense. With the first book, you create the framework, and set the canvas. Done right this works as a piece of art all its own, but also preps the recipient for what is to come. The next book you add in the background, and truly begin to develop your theme. What comes next are the details and colors that make your work fascinating and allows it to stand out from other pieces of art in its vein. With Aloha from Hell, Kadrey takes the framework he sets in the first two novels, and pushes his art to a whole other level. Aloha from Hell is a story in two parts, the first half centering around Stark and his allies investigating a botched exorcism that lead to a young man, seemingly possessed by strange demon to go missing. You get a lot of trademark Stark attitude and brash impulsiveness that makes this series so compelling. Yet, the second half of this novel is a game changer in the truest sense of the word. Stark must return to hell to save the soul of a friend and stop a war that may not only lead to the overthrow of heaven and hell, but to the end of the our universe in total. Kadrey shakes and bakes his mythology is so many wonderful and fascinating new ways as Stark travels the many levels of the lands of angels and demons. With each of Stark’s actions and inaction, the foundation that Kadrey has created becomes twisted and cracked in ways you never expected, leading to an ending that would only work in the world he has created. Kadrey’s visions of the worlds of the afterlife, and his spin on characters that you thought  you had known pushes this series past your expectations for Urban Fantasy and puts the Sandman Slim series in a category all of its own.

It is so hard to explain the wonderful things that narrator MacLeod Andrews does with this series. Of the many narrator’s I listen to, Andrew’s is one of the best at taking well reasoned risks with his narration and these risks almost always pay off perfectly for the listener. Instead of just using his default narrative voice as the voice of the main character, he uses the persona that Kadrey has created for James Stark, and builds a voice around him. As a listener, you feel that Andrews really knows these characters. With some narrators, you feel like they have stock voices, old-grumpy man, crazy guy, sexy siren, etc, and they just plug them into the characters of the story, almost like vocal stereotypes. You never feel like the characters that MacLeod Andrews creates are boilerplate in the least, they are fully fleshed out detailed interpretations of the author’s creations. Aloha from Hell did something that doesn’t happen often, it surprised me and blew away any expectations and assumptions I had about a series. I just can’t wait to see where James Stark and his allies and enemies go next.


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

Audiobook Review: Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry

27 10 2011

Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry (Pine Deep, Book 3)

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 17 Hrs 42 Mins

Gerne: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Bad Moon Rising is the finale of the Pine Deep Trilogy, bring together the events of the first two book in an action packed bloodbath which serves as a pay off that should bring joy to horror fans. Maberry’s tale of evil and the good people fighting it taps into that section of our psyche that still wants to be scared, with wonderful results.

Grade: B+

Bad Moon Rising is the final book in Jonathan Maberry’s Pine Deep Trilogy, about the Most Haunted Town in America. If you need to know why I decided to listen to Bad Moon Rising, it’s pretty obvious, Jonathan Mayberry is an awesome writer, the first two books in The Pine Deep Trilogy were awesome, and, really how can anyone resist that coming together of factors of awesomeness? The Pine Deep Trilogy is one of those old school horror tales that reminds you of those early days of Stephen King, full of great characters, small town secrets and ancient evils. It’s been a while since I found a truly old school epic horror tale that reminded me of why I fell in love with the genre to begin with. In fact, the last great horror trilogy I enjoyed was James A. Moore’s Serenity Falls trilogy back in 2005. The best horror tales always find a way to combine modern day fears with the mythological archetypes of our past. These tales work, when done right, because, while our outer intellectual sides reject vampires, werewolves and other mythological creatures. that part of us that prays when we’re scared, that sees that monster in the shadows from the corner of our eyes, still influences us. Maberry’s tale of evil and the good people fighting it, taps into that section of our psyche that still wants to be scared, with wonderful results.

One of the things that most impresses me about Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is that he provides a real world science basis for the monsters that we fear. In Bad Moon Rising, instead of science, Maberry wields a different tool, mythology, with the same excellent results. The mythology that Maberry uses isn’t your typical Hollywood pop mythology, where Vampires run screaming from your necklace, but a well researched mythology that feels authentic. Maberry takes everything you think you know about vampires, werewolves and ghosts and annihilates it, in turn offering a mythos that is truly frightening, and steeped in cultural history. Bad Moon Rising is definitely the most ambitions novel of the trilogy, and the most effective. Not only does Maberry reunite us with the characters we have grown to care about, Crowe, Mike Sweeny, Val, Saul Weinstock and Newt, but introduces some new significant characters that become vital to the story. One of the more fun aspects of Bad Moon Rising was the use of real life horror icons who aren’t just making cameo appearances but actually get mixed up in the action. Everything that Maberry set up in the first two books comes together in action packed bloodbath as our heroes attempt to turn back the apocalyptic plans of true evil. Bad Moon Rising is a great finale which doesn’t fail to give the pay off that you want in a great horror epic.

Tom Weiner narrates this third installment in the series, with the same creepy flare as the first two. Weiner captures the truly horrific feel that the book offered, and carefully guided us through hectic finale. There is a lot happening in Bad Moon Rising and Weiner narration helps keep the listener focused on the events, never leaving us behind. As always, his voices were spot on, capturing even the characters that you would expect a narrator with such a deep voice to struggle with, particularly women and children. It’s sad to come to the end of any good series, but a great ending always eases the pain a bit, and having the right narrator to guide us through that ending doesn’t hurt at all.


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

Audiobook Review: Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella by Mira Grant

25 10 2011

Countdown by Mira Grant (A Newsflesh Novella)

Read by Brian Bascle

Hachette Audio

Length: 2Hrs 15 Mins

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse/ Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Countdown is Mira Grant’s gift to the fans of The Newsflesh World, a prequel that isn’t wooden of forced, but gives us a new perspective to look at the world she created.

Grade: A-

2011 was one of the best years ever for Zombie fiction on audiobook. In 2011 I have listened to 24 Zombie novels, a significant upgrade over 2010, where I listened to 6. The first zombie novel I listened to this year, back in January was Mira Grant’s zombie/political conspiracy thriller, Feed. Since reading Feed I have become an utter Mira Grant fanboy and evangelist, constantly recommending her Newsflesh series to everyone from hardcore zombie fans to those tentative about the genre. The Newsflesh Series has some of the most fascinating zombie apocalypse world building I have ever experienced, full of great characters, and intriguing concepts. So, of course, discovering that Mira Grant has a new novella available for download on Audible, that this novella was a part of the Newsflesh world, and it was on sale, well, after the paramedics revived me, I ran right to my computer and downloaded it.

Countdown is the story of the events leading up to The Rising, and acts as a prequel to the series. It tracks the scientists working on cures for cancer and the common cold, and the events that lead to these two seemingly wonder cures being released into the world, merging and becoming the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which upon full amplification, revives the dead into zombies. Countdown is full of characters only briefly mentioned in Feed and Deadline, and fills in much of the back story that sets the stage for these novels. You also see a few peripheral characters from the series, and get a glimpse of what they were like before the tragic day that changed the world forever. Yet, none of these characters are the true stars of this tale. The true star is the science of the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Unlike much hard science fiction that presents the science as hard theorem and datum, Mira Grant does what she does best by presenting the science in a beautiful, almost poetic way that allows the reader to do more than simply understand, but to experience it. Grant turns the actual viruses into characters, allowing us to see the transformation from helpful to world destructive in a vivid fashion. Yet, despite being a cautionary tale, Grant never demonizes the science or those involved in the development of the viruses. Instead she just allows us to see them for who they are and what they were hoping to accomplish. Countdown is Mora Grant’s gift to the fans of The Newsflesh World, a prequel that isn’t wooden of forced, but gives us a new perspective to look at the world she created.

This was my first experience listening to Brian Bascle and thought he did a good job. For the most part, he just allowed me to enter into the story and stay there, presenting Grant’s words as they lead me where I needed to go. He has a nice narrative voice, and handled most of the characterizations well. The only characters he struggled with were adolescent girls, which is not strange for male narrators. My only real complaint about the audio production was that the transitions were presented with no real pause letting us know we were moving to another point of view. This would pull me out of the story a bit, when I realized we had switched characters or story arcs.  This small complaint wasn’t enough to really detract from a wonderful listening experience.

Audiobook Review: The Infernals by John Connolly

24 10 2011

The Infernals by John Connolly (Samuel Johnson vs. The Devil, Book 2)

Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 18 Min

Genre: Middle Grade Adventure/Dark Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: This sequel to Connolly’s The Gates is another wonderful, clever and laugh out loud hilarious adventure. The style of the book with its humorous asides and clever footnotes is perfect for translation to audiobook, and Tim Gerard Reynold’s narration only makes it better.

Grade: A

One thing I really wanted to do when planning out my books for Murder, Monsters and Mayhem was find a book that was suitable for children, but also enjoyable for adults. Halloween, despite its origins, and its relationship with the horror genre, is really a light hearted Holiday. Yes, there is a place for body shredding monsters, blood sucking vampires, and brain eating zombies, but, well, that doesn’t need to be the focus. Halloween is a chance for our children to make fun of their fears, to stick their tongues out at the monster in their closet, and of course, score some candy. Growing up in a relatively poor family, we couldn’t afford fancy, custom made Halloween costumes, which was cool because we got to make our own. My go to costume as a kid was a hobo, which probably wasn’t the most politically correct choice, but I got to rip up some old flannels, color some patches on some old jeans, and tie a sack to a stick. Of course, there was one time I went as a thief which was the same basic costume, but I drew a dollar sign on my sack. Yet, I always enjoyed it, because I got to use the favorite tool given to children no matter what their economic status, their imagination. In the end, choosing my fun, child oriented Halloween tale was pretty simple. The Infernals is the sequel to John Connolly’s delightfully quirky novel, The Gates, about a young British boy named Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell, who must save the world when the demon Ba’al creates a portal from hell into our world and possesses a local woman named Mrs. Abernathy.

In The Infernals, Mrs. Abernathy, aka Ba’al, looking to get back into the good graces of The Great Malevolence, again creates a portal, this time with the goal of sucking her greatest foes, 13 year old Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell, into hell. Her plan works, but with a bit of a twist, along with Samuel and Boswell, the portal also sucks in two police officers, an ice cream salesman, and four troublesome dwarfs. Thus begins another wonderful, clever and laugh out loud hilarious adventure. Imagine The Wizard of Oz meets Dante’s Inferno, and you get only a brief idea at the feel of this novel. The Infernals should delight everyone from children, to young teenagers and adults, although surly older teenagers may find it a bit too clever to be cool, which would be their loss.  While Samuel Johnson and Mrs. Abernathy are great characters, it is the huge cast of peripheral characters that make this novel so delightful. There is of course, Nurd, the former scourge of five Kingdoms, Shan and Gath, the beer brewing Warthog Demons, Dan, Dan the Ice Cream Man, and a multitude of other demons, wraiths, imps, demonic bureaucrats, and careless scientists that it was hard to choose a favorite. One of the things I loved about this novel was that Connolly never speaks down to the children reading it, he talks about complex scientific theories in a way that is both funny and educational, and even taught me the meaning of the word “lant” which is something I think I would have been OK with never learning. For parents looking for a read to share with their older children, I highly recommend the Infernals. Heck, for adults looking for a hilarious, heartfelt and a bit scary tale perfect for those chilly October nights, check out both novels in the Samuel Johnson series.

Connolly’s style of quick funny asides, informative and clever footnotes, and stunningly visual descriptions of the sceneries and residents of hell translates perfectly to the audiobook format. Tim Gerard Reynolds beautiful Irish accented voice brings the magic and wonder of this novel alive, while nailing the humor of the novel as well. I have to say, Reynolds’s reading of this novel was one of my favorite narrator performances of the year. With the huge cast of characters, you think that he would have run out of voices, but every character from a mumbling dwarf to The Great Malevolence itself was voiced with vivid authenticity. Reynolds’s wasn’t afraid to take chances in his reading, adding wild affectations and crazy laughter at just the right moment, never coming off forced or out of place. I loved how he captured the footnotes, taking on the rhythm of a teacher, yet peppered with a wry wit. You could just tell how much fun he was having narrating this tale and that fun bled into every turn of phrase in his reading. The Infernals was a joy to listen to, filled with everything you look for in a Halloween novel, and reminding you what it felt like to have your childlike imagination tickled just right.