January 2017: Quick and Dirty Reviews

31 01 2017

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

 

My Pick of the Month:

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Read by Elan Mastai

Penguin Audio

Grade: A

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

 

The Raft by Fred Strydom

Read by James Patrick Cronin and Julie McCay

Audible Studios

Grade: A

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

 

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Read by Cynthia Hopkins

Macmillan Audio

Grade: B+

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

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Read by Chris Patton and Stephen Yen

Harper Audio

Grade: A-

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

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Read by Molly Pope

Simon & Schuster Audio

Grade: C

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

The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet

Read by Nick Podehl

Harper Audio

Grade: B

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

Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Read by Damian Lynch

Audible Studios

Grade: B+

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

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Read by Rachel Dulude

Tantor Audio

Grade: B

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





My Favorite TV Shows of 2016

10 01 2017


I’m thinking about making this blog a bit more than Audiobooks, so for fun here’s my favorite TV Shows of 2016. I’m typically a binge watcher of TV and rarely watch more than an episode a night. I’m always open to suggestions. I tend to lean towards Sci-fi in books, I lean more towards mysteries/thrillers in my TV, especially British. 


1. Line of Duty, Season 3 (Hulu)


2. Happy Valley, Season 2 (Netflix)


3. The Night Manager (AMC)


4. Quarry (Cinemax)


5. The Expanse (Syfy)


6. Person of Interest, Season 5 (CBS)


7. Orphan Black, Season 3 (BBCAmerica)


8. The Night of… (HBO)


9. Bosch (Amazon Prime)


10. 12 Monkeys, Season 2 (Syfy)


11. Stranger Things (Netflix)


12. Game of Thrones, Season 6 (HBO)
Honorable Mentions: Hap & Leonard, Goliath, The Americans, Fargo, Season 2, Marcella, River, Jessica Jones, Jack Irish, The Kesserling Incident 
There were a few shows I didn’t love that I thought I would Westworld was kinda meh, until the final few Episodes, The People vs. Oj Simpson was brilliant at times but its True Crime nature blunted it for me, and I never really felt Mr. Robot the way so many people did.





My Favorite Audiobooks of 2016

10 01 2017

2016 was a crazy year of alternate reality politics, celebrity deaths, ecological uncertainties and scientific and technological breakthroughs. So, not at all shockingly, some of the best books of the year are full of political satire, weird physics and genre bending timey whimey fun. I had another down year of listening/reading and did a horrible job tracking and rating my books but overall I feel like I have a nice list of books I enjoyed. So, here, in very deliberate order are my favorite listens of the year. Do with it as you see fit.

 

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

Read by January LaVoy

Random House Audio

Alternate dimensions, time travel, online dating blended together in the best story of the year. Palmer manages a story that should have been mind numbingly confusing but tells it in simple language built around strong characters. The narration turned me into a January LaVoy fanboy.

 

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Read by: A Full Cast

Andy Secombe
Eric Meyers
Laurel Lefkow
Charlie Anson
Liza Ross
William Hope
Christoper Ragland
Katharine Mangold
Adna Sablyich

Random House Audio

Sleeping Giants is the kind of science fiction that reminds you why you love science fiction. Each step in the story took you in new unexpected directions. The audio production was brilliant and perfect for the story.

 

The Hike by Drew Magary

Read by Christopher Lane

Brilliance Audio

The Hike is the most fun I had listening to a book this year. It’s The Pilgrims Progress on and acid trip, chock full of everything I didn’t know I wanted in a book. Magary takes the Portal fantasy places that they probably should never go, but I’m glad they did. Lane gives a strong performance, and bit affected at times, but when your giving life to a talking crab, a little affectation is forgivable.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

Read by Joe Jameson

Hachette Audio

It seems the social media age and horror may be a perfect fit. Arnopp’s Jack Sparks, a narcisistic, atheist reporter who seeks out the supernatural, is not just an unreliable narrator, but an asshat that is blatanly lying to you. I absolutely loved every minute of this book, and the narrator, Joe Jamesom, hits all the right marks.

Faller by Will McIntosh

Read by George Guidall

Recorded Books

McIntosh is probably my current favorite Science Fiction author, and he had two great books out this year, the YA novel Burning Midnight and Faller. In Faller, McIntosh manages to break the world, while breaking my mind. The two interlocking storylines come together perfectly, and his often nameless characters become more real than many of the people I know in my real life. This book could have topped my list if it wasn’t for the poor audio production and a narrator that just wasn’t the right fit for the book.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Read by Robert Petkoff

Hachette Audio

With all the talk about Fake News, Noah Hawley’s novel plays with perspective and it’s influence on truth in this novel about a mysterious plain crash and the notoriety that the survivor achieves. It’s both an intricate character story and a look at the modern conspiracy culture. Petkoff gives a subdued impassioned performance, allowing you to feel the main character’s slow breakdown.

IQ by Joe Ide

Read by Sullivan Jones

Hachette Audio

The start of a promising new series, IQ features Isaiah Quintabe, a brilliant young detective that serves as a urban equalizer, helping those who would never usually reach out for help. Ide fills this tale with characters as quirky as from a Hiaasen novel, yet much more believable. Sullivan Jones gives one of the top performances of the year, especially in giving voice to the mentally unstable rapper/client. This is one of the few times where both an author and narrator manager to bring a musical portion to life with credibility.

 

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Read by Jonathon McClaine

Random House Audio

While I am typically not a big fan of Historical Fiction, I have always been fascinated by the War of Currents and Tesla’s influence on it. Moore brings this time period to life through his characters giving us more than just a retelling of a murky historic period but tale as crisp as any fictional tale. McClain’s narration captures the personas perfectly, and his pacing keeps the listener holding their breath waiting for the next twist.

The Stone Man by Luke Smitherd

Read by Matt Addis

Luke Smitherd

The Stone Man is called a sci-fi horror novel, but it really is more than that. Smitherd takes a ridiculous situation scenario, a main character that is comically flawed and gives you a novel that fascinates, appalls and makes you laugh. This is my surprise pick of the year, a little throw away novel that stuck with me for a long time after its final moments. Narrator Matt Addis milks the tale for all it’s worth, making you believe each ridiculous twist.

End of Watch by Stephen King (Bill Hodges Trilogy, Bk. 3)

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

As much as I hated Mr. Mercedes, the first book in the Bill Hodges trilogy, I loved End of Watch. While Mr. Mercedes felt like King attempting to be something he’s not, End of Watch is King at his Kingiest. It’s a great end of the trilogy, and maybe his most truly disturbing villain in a long time. Will Patton is brilliant and probably the only reason I listened to this entire trilogy after my disappointment with the first novel.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Read by Alyssa Bresnahan

Recorded Books

I went into All the Birds in the Sky as a cumedgeonly skeptic expecting to hate the book but was quickly won over by Andrew’s fluid prose and two characters you can’t help but love just a bit. As dark as it is sweet, this novel reminded me that there may still be magic left in this world. Alyssa Bresnahan reads the tale with a poets soul, making Andrew’s words sing while allowing us the feel the characters.

 

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black

Read by a full cast including Suzanne Ellis Freeman, Lincoln Hoppe, Ryan Gessell, Mike Chamberlain, Adriedne Meyers, Jonathon McClain

Penguin Audio

J. Patrick Black’s Ninth City Burning was full of all those modern science fiction, young adult series tropes that I can’t stand, yet for some reason, I had so much fun listening to this that I was able to put those aside and just enjoy. The multiple narrators were excellent, building the story off each other, and driving the pace forward to the crazy, over the top finale.





Why I Won’t Be Listening to Phil Gigante Anymore

22 01 2016

As a big supporter of the audiobook community, I feel like I may lose some “friends” over this one. I was just going to let it be when I first read about Phil Gigante’s guilty plea for accosting a minor for immoral purposes and possession of child sexually abusive material. As part of his plea deal, two additional charges of using computers to commit a crime were dropped.

All together his charges could have gotten him 28 years in jail. He will serve 4 months in jail, and three at home.

As someone who has promoted Phil, interviewed him, praised him, and on that weird world of online interaction, considered him a friend. My initial thought was to stay quiet on the issue. I truly don’t know the whole story. Basically, all I know is that he was charged due to an inappropriate online relationship he had with a 14 year old girl. He said while pleading “”I had inappropriate conversations on Facebook private messenger” and admitted to having inappropriate pictures of her. I have heard rumors of other actions, but this is all I know for sure.

Honestly, it’s more than enough. There is no excuse for a 49 year old man to knowingly engage in this type of behavior with a minor. Personally, I will never be able to listen to one of his books again.

Yet, I still felt like I should stay quiet. Yet, a few comments have forced me to reconsider this. First off, Author Karen Moning who has been supportive of Phil Gigante and wants him to continue reading her books has stated that what’s being reported isn’t really what happened, that many people know the true story and that he is not a sexual predator.

So, first off, if what is being reported, That he has an inappropriate relationship with a minor and that he admitted it in court isn’t true, then why not tell us the real story? If you know the truth, what is stopping you from sharing it. If you are one of the many people that know what really happened, then feel free to come onto my blog and share what you know. Yet, your super secret inside information that you can’t share has only done one thing, it has given license to those who response is to blame the victim to once again scream and rant about grown men being lured into this kind of behavior by underage vixens.

Even, in some strange fantasy world, this girl initialized and sexualized the interaction, Phil is a 49 year old man taking advantage of a 14 year old girl. He alone is responsible for his behavior. There is this strange idea that men cannot control their corporeal sides so they can’t truly be held responsible when they are lured into inappropriate sexual relationships. This is the ultimate bullshit of scumbag assholes who look to justify their abhorrent behavior.

Yet, what really bothered me was this comment in a group I’m on:

“my guess is it wasn’t as bad as it seems because otherwise 4 months seems a really weak sentence to me? they were probably both pretending not to know which is of course wrong but I’m just glad it wasn’t worse cause I love the KMM books and had he been a “pedophile” I don’t think I could have listened to them again.”

Basically, it can’t be bad because he only got 4 months. This shows a dangerous ignorance to the trend of plea agreements and sentencing that treats such interactions as “minor.” Those who argue against the dangerous rape culture in America as another over reaction of the so called Social Justice Warriors, have not read of the institutional victim blaming that has resulted in Judge’s blaming toddlers for luring grown men into raping them, to plea bargains that allow child rapist and sexual predators to stay off the registry and the blind eye turned to celebrities who abuse their position to prey on women and children. When a formerly obese spokesman for a sandwich company was discovered to be a child rapist our collective response was fat jokes. The fact that Phil only got 4 months in jail should not been seen as a mitigating factor to his crimes, but as further proof of a ineffectual, dangerous and corrupt system and a culture that allows said system to exist.

I have often said that Phil is my favorite narrator. He is a tremendous talent, and has brought many books I love to life. It makes me sad, because he has narrated books for Andrew Vachss, one of the preeminent warriors against the rampant abuse of children. He read Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series, which will soon become a TV series I am very excited about.

As an audiobook enthusiast, I am saddened by this. As a human I am sickened by this.

After writing most of this, Moning has come out and admitted she didn’t really have super secret info, and will not work with Phil in the future. Sadly, this is way too little too late.

Links

Defending the Indefensible: On Phil Gigante and Karen Marie Moning from Bibliodaze

Red Hot Books: Where is the Feverborn Review

Trout Nation

News Articles on the case:

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2015/07/facebook_suspicion_leads_to_ar.html

http://www.shorelinemedia.net/ludington_daily_news/news/local/phil-gigante-pleads-guilty-to-accosting-a-child-for-immoral/article_502116d2-71d4-11e5-a921-8b0e8f496b4a.html#.Vp2TfdoHX0g.twitter

Michigan State Sex Offender Registry





My Top 10 Audiobooks of 2015

21 01 2016

It was quite hard for me to come up with a definitive Top 10 list this year. In 2015 I listened to just over 80 audiobooks, ranging from Amazing to well, meh. I was more brutal than usual, quickly stopping any book that didn’t grab me pretty quickly. When putting together this list, my rules were pretty simple, I would stick to 10 books, they would be books produced in 2015 and they would be books that hit that sweet spot between performance and content. When I narrowed my selections down originally, I came up with 20 contenders, with about 5 absolute Top 10 books. It took me a while to whittle the final 15 books into the five final slots, but I put my emphasis on the performance at this point, and that helped a lot. I think this list has a lot of diversity with genre and style, and hope all my readers can find something that suits their tastes.

And yes, it’s been a while since I have posted here at the old ‘lobe. 2015 was an interesting year personally, mostly in a positive way. There has been some ups and downs, and my audiobook listening time has been a constant source of positive influence. A big shout out to the storytellers who helped me through this year.

My Favorite Audiobook of 2015

The Cartel by Don Winslow

Read by Ray Porter

Blackstone Audio

If you are going to invest over 40 hours in an audiobook experience, who better to lead you through it than Ray Porter. When I completed THE POWER OF THE DOG, I felt there was so way Winslow could top this story, and was expecting the sequel to be a bit of a let down. It wasn’t even close. THE CARTEL was even more riveting than it’s predecessor, taking characters you already knew in surprising new places. Yet, what truly amazed me about THE CARTEL was the slew of new, fully realized peripheral players, each one brought to life so completely they could have carried a novel on their own. THE CARTEL taught me things about the War on Drugs and the formation of the Cartels that I never really wanted to know and shined a light on the drastic effects our policies can have on developing nations, but more importantly, it told a hell of a story. Ray Porter was simply brilliant, taping emotions I didn’t know I had. I have always believed that Porter was the best 1st person narrator in the business, but here he proves his skills are just as effective in a 3rd person narrative.

 

My Favorite Apocalyptic Audiobook of 2015

The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell

Read by Sasha Dunbrooke

ListenUp Audiobooks

I have a feeling people are either going to love this audiobook, or hate it. Me personally, I found it absolutely friggin’ brilliant. More importantly, Sasha Dunbrooke gives my favorite performance of the year, taking a complex idiomatic tale and seamlessly infusing life into it. Her performance is as much music as it is narration, creating a unique rhythm to the patois of this post apocalytic world. Dibolla explores uncomfortable truths about motherhood and survival and has created one of the most unique and memorable characters in the flooded post apocalyptic subgenre. Her slow burned post pandemic world feels scarily plausible.

My Favorite Horror Audiobook of 2015

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Read by Joy Osmanski

Harper Audio

I think it’s very hard to legitimately scare people. You can thrill them, disturb them, nauseate them, creep them out and disgust them, but to literately invoke fear into the hearts of your audience is a very, very hard task. I can probably name 5 books and movies that actually scared me, not counting that weird train episode of Laverne and Shirley that gave me nightmares when I was 5. Well, A Head Full of Ghost is legitimately, check your underpants for stains, scary. Yet, even better, it is so cleverly written, so well crafted that it may contain one of the most effectively surprising endings that is impossible to spoil because each person reading it, in essence, creates their own ending. Trembley plays on your preconceptions and biases so well, that it feels like he tailors the book to each person who will experience it. Joy Osmanski’s performance is exceptional, capturing the feel of the book, and never getting in the way of the story. In fact, her performance brings added levels to a novel that deserved nothing better than a stellar reading.

My Favorite Hilariously Uncomfortable Audiobook of 2015

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

Read by Brad Sanders

Hachette Audio

Joe Lansdale’s tale of Nat Love, aka Deadeye Dick, former Buffalo Soldies and African American Cowboy on the run from an unstable racist upset that a black man looked at his wife’s ass, is maybe the most hilariously uncomfortable audiobook of 2015. There were so many moments that had me laughing out loud, then wondering just what the hell I was laughing at. Lansdale’s punchy, uncluttered prose combined with the ruminations of the main character kept me spellbound, through comedy and tragedy. Brad Sanders performance was delightfully uneven, capturing the essence of Nat Love perfectly infusing the appropriate amount of likeable unreliability into out hero.

My Favorite WTF Did I Just Listen To Audiobook of 2015

The Great Forgetting by James Renner

Read by David Marantz

Audible Studios

“OH, this is an interesting premise….

Wait… what?

But that makes no sense…

Oh, OK…

HOLY SHIT….

Wait…. WHAT!!!!!

I mean, really, can he do that? He can’t do that, right?

HOLY SHIT!!!

What did I just listen to….”

Really, that sums up my experience with THE GREAT FORGETTING only to add that David Marantz does a great job with, well, whatever the hell that was. Brilliant…. I think…

The Final Five

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Read by Titus Welliver

Hachette Audio

There were a lot of stellar continuations of long running series this year, but top of that list was Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch/Mickey Haller legal/crime thriller. There has been much debate over who should be the voice of Harry Bosch, but with the wonderful new Amazon Prime series, BOSCH, I’m hoping the narrator question is settled for a while. Titus Welliver performance is the perfect blend of stoicism and emotion that befits the main character. Bosch should never be emotive, but Welliver captures the subtleties of the character better than some of the past narrators. Connelly delivers both an effective mystery as well as his best courtroom work since THE BRASS VERDICT.

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Read by Christy Romano

Audible Studios

Wong’s first novel not featuring David and John is an effective dismantling of the superhero genre. OK, maybe that’s too fancy a way of saying it. Basically, this novel bitch slaps the normal superhero novel and then screams nasty invectives at its stunned face. Wong has matured as a writer, and while there isn’t the uneven glee of John Dies at the End, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits introduces us to a unique main character and a bunch of weirdos then forces them to deal with duplicitous mayhem using means that defies the norms of genre fiction. Christy Romano is absolutely having fun with this tale, as if she knows she may never get the chance to read something this bizarre again, so she may as well go all out.

Predator One by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

Maberry continues his tradition of making me feel unsafe in my own neighborhood with his latest Joe Ledger science thriller. This times its not alien space bats, or zombies, or mutant animal hybrids plotting to take over the world be releasing a vampyric strain of hemorrhagic fever into Wawa’s delicious coffee. No, instead he just has a drone attack my favorite ballpark leading to a tragedy even worse than the Phillies 2015 season. And that’s just the beginning. Ray Porter should just legally change his name to Joe Ledger, because they are the same dude. So, if you see Ray Porter walking in your direction, I’d say run.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Read by Patricia Rodriguez

Hodder & Stoughton

Well, it may be a stretch to include this book, because it is currently only available at Audible UK, but in a year with a lot of wonderful space adventures from authors like John Scalzi, James SA Corey, Jack Campbell and Ernest Cline, Becky Chamber’s THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET is the most fun you’ll have hopping around the galaxy in a while. Full of colorful characters and a flexible narrative that comes together so well, this book is a joy for pure scifi fans. Patricia Rodriguez gives a delightful performance teetering between whimsy and seriousness. She never downplays the tension but still manages to keep it fun at all times, no matter how grim it seemed.

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Read by Almarie Guerra

Audible Studios

I didn’t want to read THE WATER KNIFE. Although I know for many this is heresy, I hated THE WIND-UP GIRL. Well, by hated I mean, found boring and couldn’t get more than a third of the way through before flinging it out of my ears and searching for an erotic paranormal thriller to cleanse the palate. But, everyone said “Read THE WATER KNIFE” “THE WATER KNIFE is so good.” “Stop being a stupid poopy head Bob!” Well, grudgingly I listened to it. OK, so, yeah, it was pretty awesome. Great characters, interesting world, and an actual story that went, like places and shit. Plus, it was goddam funny. To make things even bettery, the narrator, Almarie Guerra was fantastic. So, yeah, I loved THE WATER KNIFE. I still stand by my opinion of that other Bacigalupi novel.

 

So, yeah, that’s my Top 10. I’m sure there are many of you screaming “What abouts…” So, here are my What Abouterable Mentions:

Robert Crais told a solid story in THE PROMISE with two of my favorite narrators, Luke Daniels and MacLeod Andrew’s duking it out.

I loved MORTE by Robert Repino, but surprisingly found Bronson Pinchot’s performance a bit flat.

Two Thirds of Neal Stephenson’s SEVENESE was amazing. The last third was pretty crappy.

AURORA by Kim Stanley Robinson was well done, and pissed me the fuck off. Screw you, Mr. KSR, you party pooper. I can haz my space colonies.

Will Collyer delivers a fun performance in Chris Holms The Killing Kind, featuring one of the most fun final shootouts any book of 2015.

John Grisham may have his own Lincoln Lawyer in Sebastian Rudd the titlular ROGUE LAWYER, in this series of vignettes that makes a fun listen.

While I didn’t like Claire North’s TOUCH as much as THE MANY LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, it was still a fun listen thanks to a good performance by Peter Kenny.

Dan Wells picks up his John  Cleaver series with a bang in THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND, and Patrick Lee continues to blend scifi and thrillers together in THE SIGNAL.

In Print, I really loved Brian Keenes, THE LOST LEVEL. Pulp scifantasy at it’s best.





Audiobook Review: Sector 64: Ambush by Dean M. Cole

24 02 2015

Sector 64: Ambush by Dean M. Cole

Read by Mike Ortego

Dean M. Cole

Length: 11Hrs 57Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: B

Let’s face it, we all know that there are aliens out there. Somewhere in the vastness of space, life has sprung up. I mean, if Earth managed to evolve enough to bring us to a point where 50 Shades of Grey is a literary and cinematic phenomenon, then somewhere out there other life, maybe even sentient life, exists. And, would we really blame them if they want to destroy our planet and rid the universe of our menace. That’s the thing about Alien Invasion stories. If there is a species of Alien Life out there who can actually make it to Earth, then we better home they haven’t seen that our cultural contribution to the universe is 50 Shades, or being tied down and abused is the least of our worries.

That being said, I love alien invasion tales and Sector 64: Ambush is a pretty solid one. While the book doesn’t break all that much new ground, it isn’t really your typical Invasion tale either. Most invasion tales take a macro view to the story, giving us multiple big picture perspectives on the devastation an alien attack and the fight against the invaders Sector 64: Ambush gives us a more limited look, based on the perspectives of a few key players. It’s creates a fresh feel to the story, while still utilizing plenty of alien invasion, apocalyptic and military science fiction tropes.

Author Dean M. Cole moves the story along well. His prose is bare bones but polished. Early in the book, he definitely uses the David Weber “introspective infodump” style of giving us a bunch of the set up through the thoughts of some of the key players, but once he has the universe established, it’s pretty much well paced action that drives the narrative. There are a few unnecessary side trips, including a bit of potential sexual violence that I don’t think added much to the story, but overall, the tale stayed on target. Overall, I like the potential for the universe that Cole set up. I am interested in seeing where he make take the story in future installments. Sector 64: Ambush is highly accessible, action filled alien invasion science fiction that should appeal to the fans of the subgenre, while offering just enough little tweaks to give is a unique feel.

Mike Ortego has a old school narrator style that fans of narrators like George Guidall and Richard Ferrone should enjoy. He makes some smart choices along the way, including not trying to hard to give perform female voices that are out of his range. While fitting for the tale, it’s not my favorite style of narration. I personally would have enjoyed a narrator with a bit more energy and range, but this is a stylistic preference and not a true criticism. Ortego does a good job, especially with the alien voices. His pacing, at times, could get a bit staccato, but mostly he handled the action well. The production quality was excellent, and, for the many fans of this style of narration, Sector 64: Ambush should hit a homerun.





Audiobook Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

20 02 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher

Penguin Audio

Length: 10Hrs 59Min

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Grade: A

I often wonder how an author feels when their novel is compared to some cultural phenomenon. Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train is being called the next GONE GIRL. This must be both exciting and frustrating for an author, who wants the book to be commercially successful, yet also must want it to stand on its own. I highly doubt, due to the way the publishing industry works, that Hawkins sat down and said, “I’m going to write the next Gone Girl.” Hell, there have been plenty of twisty novels full of unreliable narrators and despicable characters before Gone Girl and I am sure there will be plenty more . Yet, it’s hard to write a review without at least considering the comparison, and I thought I had two choices, ignore the comparisons completely, or jump on them with full gusto.

So, in my opinion, The Girl on the Train is a better novel than Gone Girl. The twist were more surprising, the set up more unique, and the characters more complex. While Gone Girls relied on it’s tricks to drive the story, Hawkins relies on her strong characterization and unique use of perspective to create a true mystery that never telegraphs its moves. Hawkins plays on our personal misconceptions about gender and class to effectively shape the narrative, creating a unique storytelling style. She often uses what we know or think we know against us. Her characters are unreliable, not because it allows her to surprise us with twists, but because humans are unreliable. Being that we too are unreliable, as readers, we create blocks and misconceptions that she exploits. While the twists aren’t as big as Gone Girl’s twist, I personally felt they were more effective. While the comparisons exist, The Girl on the Train stands on its own both as a thrilling mystery and a intriguing look at some well drawn yet complicated characters.

There are those of us Americans who believe that all British people basically sound the same, so what would be the point in casting three different British narrators to narrate this tale? As with many things, we are so wrong. Clare Corbett, India Fisher and Loise Brealey’s narration enhances this book, giving each character just the right feel that I doubt a singular narrator could achieve. The three narrators helped create three distinct characters, aiding in their development. With the way that the interlocking narratives and tricks of perspective played it, it was vital for each character to have her own distinct voice, otherwise the plot, which often balanced on the razors edge, would have been torn to shreds Yet, instead of this potential mess, The Girl on the Train was one of the most taunt, surprising novels I have read in a while, and easily my favorite audiobook of 2015 thus far.