Audiobook Review: Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

22 02 2018

Down the River Unto the Sea

Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Narrated by Dion Graham

Hachette Audio

Grade: A

In Down the River Unto the Sea Walter Mosley does something thoroughly impressive, he manages to put together a book that is both timely and timeless, a classic detective story written for a troubled time. The set up is classic noir, Joe King Oliver is a flawed man but a good cop. When his personal flaws allow him to be set up for a crime he didn’t commit, he finds himself floating between the world of cop and criminal, no longer comfortable in either world. Now, a disgraced detective, he’s tasked with preventing an injustice all to close to his own. Mosley excels at creating an uncomfortable but real world, and populating it with strong, memorable characters. In a world where we often see things as black and white, Mosley thrives in the gray. Joe Oliver’s complexities as an African American cop betrayed by those he trusted and thrust into a community that often sees him as the enemy, adds layers to a well tailored mystery. His transformation parallels the story brilliantly, moving him towards a surprising climax. Yet, strip away all these complexities and at it’s core Mosley tells a hell of a story, with exhilarating action, some well choreographed twists and populated with a slew of memorable characters.

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

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Audiobook Review: Pandora: Outbreak by Eric L. Harry

16 02 2018

Outbreak Pandora

Pandora: Outbreak by Eric L. Harry

Narrated by Morgan Hallett

Recorded Books

Grade: B

For old school apocalyptic fans, a new book by the author of Arc Light, should be, well… something. I was a bit surprised when I heard that Eric L. Harry, a man who has released 4 books since his debut in 1994, was starting a series. The set up sounds a bit samesy… A deadly pathogen is released in the melting snow of Siberia that makes people turn violent and attack without fear of pain or death. It’s basically another “it’s kinda like a zombie but not” novel. When Pandora: Outbreak tries to be a apocalyptic novel, if feels like every other apocalyptic novel, but when it focuses on the science and the interesting relationship between the twin sisters, one infected and one not, it becomes a compelling read. It feels a bit bloated at times, like Harry took the long path on purpose, but despite that, as the reader, you don’t quite mind since the path is scenic enough to be interesting. For fans of apocalyptic medical thrillers, Pandora: Outbreak is a smart thriller that will keep you invested, but if your looking for a zombie shoot ‘em up or action packed survivalist story, there are other options that would better suit your taste.

This was only the second book I’ve listened to narrated by Morgan Hallett. While she won’t wow you with verbal gymnastics, her performance hit all the right notes. She took on the task of handling the twins wonderfully, managing to differentiate in ways that were true to their character. He voice and timing drew the listener in and kept them solidly implanted in the story. While Pandora: Outbreak probably won’t stand out among the glut of apocalyptic fiction it’s a solid enough entry, with fascinating science and a strong performance by the narrator, and worth the listen.





Audiobook Review: Killer Choice by Tom Hunt

15 02 2018

Killer Choice

Killer Choice by Tom Hunt

Narrated by Ray Porter

Penguin Audio

Grade: D

Tom Hunt’s debut thriller Killer Choice asks an intriguing question, could you kill someone bad to save the life of someone you loved? What if this choice was complicated by the fact that you are the stupidest, most boring suburban white dude ever? Hunt newest spin on the classic “Desperate Man” scenario pits his vanilla hero against some of the scariest things facing the boring suburban white guy, like having to go to the “bad neighborhoods,” not being treated deferentially by people in positions of authority and having to choose between lying to your wife, ignoring her, or mansplaining things that she just isn’t smart enough to get. Luckily, our man character has a slightly less boring brother, who probably has a cooler haircut who he can ask for help. But, of course, dudes don’t ask for help. All together, Killer Choice is a mess of a novel, that may find a following among people who never even accidentally rubbed up against a James Patterson novel. Unless your idea of a great twist is “Just when I thought he did something like, totally dumb he gets even dumberer,” I’d probably avoid this one.

So, yeah, I know the next question. Hey Bob, as a guy who has no problem tossing a book that’s not working for you why did you finish this novel if it was giving you brain herpes. Basically, the answer was Ray Porter. Although, part of me was literally tempted to call up Ray and ask him to simply read the phone book to me, I was so enjoying hearing him read to me that I forgot I actually hated the book. I really wanted to just nudge Ray and say, “Really dude. Is this guy an idiot?” I feel like this may have been one of those situations where a bad movie is better with a good friend. Sometimes, the best way to enjoy a bad book is with a good narrator.





Audiobook Review: City of the Dead: Author’s Preferred Edition by Brian Keene

12 02 2018

City of the Dead

City of the Dead: Author’s Preferred Edition by Brian Keene

Narrated by Joe Hempel

Crossroad Press

Grade: B+

It’s really hard to review the audio version of a book you read originally over 10 years ago. When I first read The Rising and City of the Dead, the current wave of Zombie fic was in it’s infancy. Over a decade later, and I can now truly appreciate how truly cutting edge and influential this novel has become. Also, as I followed Brian Keene’s career, one thing that truly stuck out to me in City of the Dead was how personal this novel must have been for him. City of the Dead isn’t just a novel about inter dimensional “demons” inhabiting the bodies of the dead to eliminate life on this earth, it’s also an often heartbreaking look at a man reconnecting with his child and understanding what it means to be a father. Like most of Keenes’s book, while grounded in traditional tropes, it’s far from a traditional zombie novel. Fans of Keene will rejoice at having these new versions of The Rising and City of the Dead to embrace, and be slightly jealous of the new fans getting to experience these stories for the first time.

Joe Hempel has to take on the task of bring a world alive that is already alive in my brain. Like in most cases, Hempel’s interpretations don’t really match up with how I originally imagined them. Yet, often times, his choices were probably better. His voices for the Siqqusim were more human sounding then I imagined them, but that makes sense and actually makes the “zombies” even more creepy. Where he really excels is driving the pace of the action and building the tension, along with truly bringing to life the relationships between the characters. He has a smooth, crisp delivery style and never falls into the “deep dark horror voice” trap that is overused in this genre. While those new to the series should fully embrace Hempel’s performance, the toughest critics, those fans reliving the book, will be more than satisfied with his performance.





Audiobook Review: Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale

12 02 2018

Fender Lizards

Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale

Read by Kasey Lansdale

SkyBoat Media

Grade: B+

I had no idea what I was getting when, on a whim, I downloaded Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale. Lansdale is a favorite of mine. He writes in many genres and so you never know what you are gonna get when you leap blindly into his world. And, as often is the case, what I got was something I didn’t quite expect yet fell in love with. Fender Lizards is basically a book about a roller skating waitress who decides to start a Roller Derby team. Lansdale takes this simple story and makes it come alive with witty dialogue, an engaging main character and lots of humor. Fender Lizards is like a spontaneous road trip with a fun new friend. You don’t know where exactly you’re heading but you sure as hell are enjoying the ride.

Kasey Lansdale handles the narration with simple lovable charm. Fender Lizards is a first person tale, and Kasey becomes Dot. She infuses the tale with an almost musical style, using an upbeat tempo and catchy twang to fully pull the listener into the story. It seams impossible not to like Dot, and even when she can be frustrating, she’s like cute little sister frustrating. Fender Lizards is a prime example of how fun a well told story with engaging character can be when brought to life by a talented performer.





Audiobook Review: The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

11 02 2018

The Gone World

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Narrated by Brittany Pressley

Penguin Audio

Grade: A

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

Narrator Brittany Pressely only adds to the beauty of the tale. As our protagonist changes throughout the tale, so does our narrator but she never loses the core of the character. Pressley is like an anchor, always keeping our minds from going afloat. She reveals Sweterlitsch’s worlds with haunting beauty and makes us feel for these characters. The Gone World is the first great science fiction novel of 2018, and one that going to be hard to top.





My Favorite Audiobooks of 2017

4 01 2018

I did a horrible job tracking my books this year. Actually did pretty good for the first few months, then stopped for a while. Combing through my various social media and book related sites I came up with a list of about 100 Books I listened to, and another 20 Novels, Novellas and Anthologies I read. In no real particular order, my favorite books of 2017 are:

Waking Gods

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Random House Audio

Cast of Narrators:
Andy Secombe – Interviewer
Eric Meyers – Headings
Roy McMillan – Jacob Lawson
Laurel Lefkow – Rose Franklin
Adna Sablylich – Marina Antoniou AKA Alyssa Papantoniou
Charlie Anson – Vincent Couture; Jamie
Christopher Ragland – Ryan Mitchell; Lieutenant General Alan A Simms
William Hope – Mr Burns; Eugene Govender
Madeleine Rose – Kara Resnik
Karina Fernandez – Eva Reyes
Olivia Dowd – Sarah Kent
Sarah Wells – Deborah Horsburgh

 

The Power

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Hachette Audio

Narrated by Adjoa Andoh

American War

American War by Omar El Akkad

Random House Audio

Narrated by Dion Graham

Lola

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

Random House Audio

Narrated by Roxanna Ortega

Reincarnation Blue

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Random House Audio

Narrated by Mark Bramhall

The One Eyed Man

The One Eyed Man by Ron Currie

Highbridge Audio

Narrated by Kevin Pariseau

The Changeling

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Random House Audio

Read by The Author

MEDDLING kIDS

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Random House Audio

Narrated by Kyla Garcia

Sea of Rust

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

Harper Audio

Narrated by Eva Kaminsky

Flashmob

Flashmob by Christopher Farnsworth

Harper Audio

Narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Kill the next One.jpg

Kill The Next One by Federico Axat

Hachette Audio

Narrated by Maxwell Hamilton

After On

After On by Rob Reid

Random House Audio

Narrated by Sean Kenin and January LaVoy, with:
Felicia Day: NETGRRRL.COM
Patrick Rothfuss: Special Field Operative Brock Hogan
John Hodgman: Charles Henry Higgensworth III
Tom Merritt: voice of The New York Times
Jesse Cox:  Whistle Blowings Blog
Leo Laporte: voice of the San Francisco Chronicle