Audiobook Review: Year One by Nora Roberts

21 03 2018

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

Year One (Chronicles of the One) by Nora Roberts

Narrated by Julia Whelan

Brilliance Audio

Grade: B+

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

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

 

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Audiobook Review: A Criminal Defense by William L. Meyers, Jr.

25 04 2017


A Criminal Defense by William L. Myers, Jr.

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Grade: C

So many legal thrillers are about a crusading defense attorney protecting the fragile rights of his downtrodden client against an over zealous prosecutor in a system skewed against them. Yet A Criminal Defense takes a different approach. It’s about a whiney entitled lawyer and a menagerie of asshats fighting an asshole prosecutor to protect a rich, unlikeable megalomaniac. All the characters are so unlikeable that despite how well constructed the lawyers intricate plans are you hope they all come crashing down and everyone involved is locked up in a shipping crate and sent out to sea, never to return. William L. Meyers delivers a lot of smart twists and managed to surprise me more than once yet all that was in service of characters who I just couldn’t find the latest motivation to care an iota about. 
I’m a fan of Peter Berkrot. With the right book he can suck you right into the story. Maybe this just wasn’t the right story. He just seemed like he was trying too hard. Most of these characters were that extra dull flavor of vanilla and had the personalities of robots stuck in the perpetual blue screen of death and trying to breathe life into them was about as futile as doing CPR on a crash test dummy. Plus, the first time I heard him call Wawa “Wall-Wah” I wanted to throw my delicious hot Wawa coffee in his face. (I’m a very sensitive Wawa enthusiast.) Part of my issue is that as a Philadelphian, I expect books set in Philly to have a Philly feel that just wasn’t there. Overall, this was the odd meshing of being impressed by the writer and intrigued by future work but hating this particular novel. 





Audiobook Review: The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons

7 03 2017

The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons

Read by James Patrick Cronin

Brilliance Audio

Grade: B

I think it’s telling that before I sat down to review this book I had to reread the summary to remind myself what the story was about. The Short Drop wasn’t a bad book, it’s an entirely serviceable thriller that I enjoyed listening to but in the end it was forgettable. Gibson Vaugh is a likeable enough character but it’s another case of an author telling you they’re some brilliant progeny of social engineering but shows you him acting pretty dumb throughout the novel. The mystery plays out on the clever side of paint by numbers and the ultimate show down offers enough ingenuity to leave the reader satisfied that it was worth the effort before happily moving onto their next book.

This book was nominated for an Audie so my expectation of being blown away by the narration may have weighed down my opinion. James Patrick Cronin is a good narrator. Early on in the novel his cadence seemed a bit to staccato, nor matching the rhythm of the book but that became less noticeable as you became a little more invested in the novel. His dialogue is strong and his characters distinct but all in all, nothing about his reading makes it stand out in the genre. 





My 2015 Audies Prediction

10 02 2015

The 2015 Audies season is upon us and I for one am excited. Being that I didn’t listen to as many audiobooks in 2014 as I had in the past, I am excited to be taking part in Armchair Audies this year so I can discover some of the missed gems of last year.

In the past, I have felt critical of the Audies process, but I have come to terms with the fact that the process and criteria of an Audie nominated book may not need to exactly shadow what I believe makes a book standout. In the past, I \put much emphasis on the synergy between performance and context. I didn’t believe a title deserved to be nominated unless the content was just as “Award worthy” as the performance. This year, I am focusing more on the technical side, giving more focus to the “audio” then the “book.” Yet, since this is my predictions post, I am going to present some books in a few categories that I believe are worthy of recognition, due to both content and performance appealed to me. I have done well in the past in my predictions, so lets see how I do in 2015.

Let the Armchair Audies Games begin:

Science Fiction:

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Read by Josh Cohen

Random House Audio

Josh Cohen’s performance in The Book of Strange New Things is a pure example of what makes audiobooks so special. His transitions from English to American accents were so seamless I had to Google him to discover his true nationality. Yet, it’s the haunting voice of his alien creatures, and the emotional impact of Peter’s communications with his wife Bea that make this not just a title deserving of a nomination in Science Fiction, but should give Cohen, at the least, consideration in Solo Narration of the Year.

World of Trouble, The Last Policeman, Bk. 3

by Ben H. Winters

Read by Peter Berkrot

The Last Policeman series may be the shining star in Peter Berkrot’s luminous career as a narrator. He gives a multifaceted performance that is both funny and emotional. He ushers us through a broken society with a wink, and takes us the brink of the world’s end with a comforting hand on our shoulder. He makes this wonderful novel work on so many levels, truly a performance worthy of the book.

Fantasy:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

MacMillan Audio

Words of Radiance is so enthralling that there were moments that I forgot to breath. There is a reason why Michael Kramer and Kate Reading are THE voices of fantasy, they managed to guide me through of nearly 50 hours of audio, in a genre I often struggle with, and leave me wanting more.

Authority: The Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 2

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio

Jeff Vandermeer’s series about a strange terrain known as Area X has hit a cord with many speculative fiction fans. At times, I personally struggled with the series, but what I never struggled with was Pinchot’s performance in Authority. I know Pinchot is a wonderful performer, what I forgot was how funny he could be. Authority isn’t a humorous novel, but Pinchot is able to tap into the absurdity of the main character to bring the humorous aspects to vivid life.

Paranormal:

Fear City by F. Paul Wilson

Read by Alexander Cendese

Brilliance Audio

Alexander Cendese may be the biggest hidden talent in the audiobook business. His performance in the prequel series, Repairman Jack: The Early Years series, turned me into a fan of the series that spawned the prequels. When I did listen to the Earlier Repairman Jack novels, I found myself missing Cendese, despite excellent narrators like Dick Hill handling them. Given more opportunities, I feel Cendese could become a real force to be reckoned with in the industry.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Read by Christine Lakin, Terra Deva, Sunil Mohatra, Robert Morgan Fisher, JD Jackson

Hachette Audio

Broken Monsters is not a comfortable listen. Beukes latest genre busting tale is disturbing on many levels. Yet, the material is brought to brilliant life by this mutli-cast performance. Don’t expect to sleep comfortable after this listening, but do expect to be utterly enthralled.

Mystery\Thriller

The Wolf In Winter by John Connolly

Read by Jeff Harding

Simon & Schuster Audio

John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series finally gets the performance it deserves, at least stateside, with Jeff Harding’s masterful handling of this genre blending novel. Harding, who has read the complete series across the pond in England, finally performs the American version as well. His gruff style manages to catch the flow of the narrative, adding to the chills of this paranormal mystery.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

In all honesty, I was not a fan of this novel. Personally, I though King’s attempt to do a straight mystery thriller fell flat in a genre filled with talented writers. Yet, Will Patton’s performance kept me in the game. Patton managed to make this boring novel interesting, and made me almost care about these characters. Based solely on performance, Mr. Mercedes is an good bet at landing an Audie nomination.

 

Well, there are my predictions. I should be tweeting my reaction to the Audies announcement tomorrow, using the hashtasg #Audies2015.





Audiobook Series Review: Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (Frontlines Series)

26 01 2015

The Frontlines Series by Marko Kloos

Terms of Enlistment

Length: 9Hrs 40Min

Lines of Departure

Length: 9Hrs 7Min

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Grade: B

I am a sucker for End of Year lists. I always find new and interesting books by pursuing the Best of… lists put out by Industry people and bloggers. While checking out the Goodreads and Audible lists, I saw a title I was aware of, but was surprised to see on such lists. At first glance, Marko Kloos Frontlines series, with books Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure seemed like pretty much by the numbers Military Science Fiction in the vein of John Scalzi and Jack Campbell, so I was surprised to see getting such high praise. Yet, then I realize, Old Man’s War and the Black Jack Geary military SF series are some of my favorites, so why not give it a go. The Frontline series is basically just what I expected, solid military science fiction with a likable main character. The writing is solid, with much less of the pulpy cheese factor of series like BV Larson’s Star Force yet with just as much fun. While at times I got a little lost in the extended action scenes, Kloos does a good job, especially on Lines of Departure, setting up intriguing scenarios reminiscent of classic Military science fiction, yet spins it just enough to give it it’s own flavor. One of the highlights of the book is the unique nature of its alien enemy, but the true heart of the novel explores the murkiness of domestic life, with some well drawn internal sociopolitical conflicts giving the tale a multilayered approach. Fans of classic Military science fiction will find this series a step up from much of the current offerings available in terms quality and enjoyment.

Often times the term workhorse is applied to a mediocre position player who always seems to find himself in the game. Well, Luke Daniels is a workhorse in the Audiobook Industry, with one glaring exception, his performances are never mediocre. Daniels seems to be able to handle any genre at the drop of the hat, giving the performance of an expert. In Kloos’ series, Daniel shows off his ability to keep the action at a brisk pace while bringing the characters to life in intriguing ways. There is a reason why we see Luke Daniels as the narrator of so many audiobooks, his performances always manages to bring the most out of the books he is reading.





Audiobook Series Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

25 04 2014

For my reviews of the first two in this series, click on the images above

Hammered by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 3)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B

Tricked by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 4)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 41 Min

Genre:Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Trapped by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 5)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Hunted by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 6)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: A-

People seem to love The Iron Druid series. In fact, they love it so much that upon discovering that someone may be like two… or four books behind in the series, that person’s status as a blogger and perhaps even their masculinity is called into question. As someone who cares greatly about his image as the manliest of all audiobook bloggers, it was my secret shame to be woefully behind in the various adventures of the titular Iron Druid, Atticus and his canine cohort Oberon. Now, I had, some time ago, listened to and enjoyed the first two books of this series. I even reviewed those books pretty positively, so OBVIOUSLY I should have quickly moved on to the rest of the series.

Yet, I didn’t. I got all sorts of distracted by other pretties. Hot new releases, other series, covers with alien crab walkers on it. I said to myself, Hey, you need to get back to that Druidy thing with the funny dog, and I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah… but this book has cyborg robots in love with Unicorns. Maybe after this book about a small boy and his talking chimp who survive global economic chaos through pluck and bad cockney accents.

Basically, there is too many goddam books for me to listen to them all, and dammit, I listen to a lot of frakkin’ books.

I know, excuses, excuses.

Since 2014, so far, has been the year of the audiobook series binge listen, and since I knew that in the relatively near future, due to a change at work, my listening time may decrease, I decided that if I was ever to catch up on this series, I needed to do it now. Hence, the Iron Druid Binge Listen. I have always been a fan of the binge listen. In fact, it’s my favorite kind of binging, since binge eating leads to health issues, and binge drinking eventually leads to me vomiting next to a merry-go-round in a elementary school playground. Yet, I find that certain types of book series, particularly Urban Fantasy and Horror series are well suited to the binge listen.

OK, confession time. Often times when I start the next book in a series, after the required year long wait, I am totally lost. I don’t know if it’s just the limit of my brains, or the affects of reading 150-200 books a year, but I tend to lose much of the details of a book over time. Even with my most favorite series ever there are characters who I know I should know, and foreshadowing events I should absolutely remember, but instead the details take a long time coming. More than once, I will get like two thirds of the way into a book, and have an “ah ha” moment saying, “Holy shit, that’s who that dude is.” I think this is one of the reasons I’m hesitant about epic fantasy, since by the time book 3 comes out I forgot who 758 of the 760 perspective characters where. This, my friends, is why Cthulhu created the series binge listen.

So, I started the binge listen with Hammered, book 3 of the series. Honestly, throughout most of Hammered, I was kinda “ho… hummm…. this is nice.” I definitively was suffering some of the dissonance of jumping back into the story, and the core part that always stuck out to me in this series was the relationship between Atticus and Oberon, which wasn’t as prevalent in Hammered. It seemed to me that Hammered was that essential book in every Urban Fantasy series where the protagonist goes off to do something incredibly stupid, which they know is stupid, and everyone they trust tells them it’s stupid but they continue to do it for some sort of arbitrary “pride” or “honor” reason and you the reader just knows it’s basically going to unleash the shit storm that they will be dealing with in upcoming books. You know you have to get through the “protagonist acting like a complete nit” book, in order to get to the more awesome “protagonist dealing with the shit storm that acting like a nit unleashed” books. There were two scenes that made Hammered worth it. Atticus’s interaction with Jesus, and the “bonding” sequence where each of the questers told their stories. So while I was less than thrilled with Hammered, I believed there was good things to come.

Thank God I was right!

After the events of Hammered, Atticus has a lot on his plate. Gods want to kill him, Religious whackjobs still don’t trust him, he has an apprentice to train, and Oberon still needs sausages. Tricked benefited a lot from a scenery change, and a whole new mythology to explore. I often cringe when books bring in Native American mythology, because it often comes off as derivative, but Hearne has a way of exploring mythology in creative ways while not diminishing the traditions. Tricked was a fun change of pace, and gave the characters a bit of a breather before the chaos begins, well, if you can consider dealing with evil skinwalkers a breather.

I was both surprised and relieved with the 12 year time jump in Trapped. When Atticus discussed the prophesy of the word burning in 13 years, I was like “Shit, now Hearne is going to write 12 novels each spanned out over a year until we get to the global apocalypse we all are waiting for. WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY WORLD BURING NOW!!!!” Now, maybe he still plans on string out 12 more novels, but at least Ragnarok is looming closer and closer, and this absolutely builds the tension. I really, really enjoyed both Trapped and Hunted. First off, I love that Hearne ended the sexual tension between Atticus and Granuaile with a choice, and not some clumsy fumbling moment where they both finally give into their long repressed passions. I love the interplay between Atticus and the various Gods. Hearne never gives into the Hollywood dulling of the natures of the gods but embraces their utter despicableness. Hunted is a brilliant otherworldly chase novel, that cleverly included some new perspectives, and lots of cool twists and turns that kept me enthralled until the end.

Yet, everyone, let’s be honest. We’d all probably like a Iron Druid novel if the plot was an unadventurous trip to the Laundromat, as long as their were plenty of interactions between Atticus and his hound Oberon. Sure, life and death struggles, battles with the gods, hot druid sex are all fine and good, but without Oberon bartering for sausages and bitches, what’s the point? Oberon makes this more than just another Urban Fantasy series. He imbibes it with soul, acting as Atticus’ insatiable moral compass. I mean, he’s a friggin’ dog and he’s awesome. What else do you want?

Now, I like to keep my personal feelings about a performer out of my evaluations of their performances, so I will not let my jealousy of the fact the ladies swoon at the mere mention of Luke Daniels name influence my thoughts on that rotten bastards narration of The Iron Druid Chronicles. I have listened to Daniel’s narrate a lot of thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary science fiction novels, and I am always impressed with his ability to tell a good story. He handles characters well, making each one distinct and creating dialogue that feels natural. Yet, I often forget just how wide of a range he truly has. Books like The Iron Druid Chronicles and Martin’s shared world anthology Wild Cards show that Daniels can take on any character, no matter what sex, nationality, genetic mutation, planet of origin, or any other goddam weirdo thing a screwed up author throws at him with ease. I honestly at times thought, “Now, Kevin Hearne is just fucking with him, right?” with some of the voices he had to pull off, but pull them off he did. I truly can’t imagine experiencing this series in any other manner besides audio without a significant decrease in awesomeness, and really, people, we want more awesomeness, not less. So get with it. So, if you have yet to listen to this series, maybe you too should partake in an Iron Druid binge listen.





March Audiobook Report

8 04 2014

My March listening was dominated by my decision to Binge listen to the Repairman Jack series. Binge series listening was something I enjoyed doing before I began blogging, but with the drive to keep current, I stopped. Well, f’ that noise. I love a good series binge. It offers interesting insights into the world the author created, and helps a reader like me who tends to lose the details about characters over a long delay. Since the Repairman Jack series is more or less completed and in audio, I gave it a go. Of the 16 books I listened to in March, 7 were Repairman Jack books. The highlight of the month, and perhaps the year was the release of a new Jack Ledger book and a few birthday audiobooks from friends also made the cut. Here is my listens for the month, with some mini-reviews.

Archetype by MD Waters

Read by Khristine Hvam

Penguin Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 12 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: B

While Khristine Hvam does an excellent job bringing this highly textured novel to life, there was something in the structure of the novel that made Archetype a struggle in audio form. The transition between the dream/memory sequences and real time were confusing, and took time to adjust to. The story itself was solid, straddling the line between classic Young Adult themes and adult dystopians like The Handmaids Tale and The Testament of Jessie Lamb, with a touch more science fiction. MD Waters is a strong storyteller, and Archetype offers a thought provoking tale with a few clever twists along the way.

The Alligator Man by James Sheehan

Read by Ray Chase

Hachette Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 1 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Grade: B+

As a fan of James Sheehan’s legal thrillers and a recent convert to Team Ray Chase, I was very excited about The Alligator Man. Sheehan blends the Florida Thriller style of James W. Hall with the legal procedural in an effective manner. I struggled a bit with the storybook reconciliation story between father and son, due to many factors including personal issues. Sheehan doesn’t break too much new ground, telling the story of a Big Firm lawyer looking for redemption, and including some Perry Masonque legal happenings, but all together it works. His character development is superb, and there is enough solid courtroom machinations to please my legal thriller nerd. Ray Chase is again excellent. He struggles early with some breathy female voices, but I think this was more due to the characters than his performance. He has a deep gravely tone that can smooth out in unexpected ways offering surprising range.

Ruins (Partials, Bk. 3) by Dan Wells

Read by Julian Whelan

Harper Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 4 Min

Genre: YA Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Grade: B+

Dan Wells is one of the few authors I trust to properly end a series, and he does it solidly in Ruins. A good ending answers the questions you need answered while still leaving enough to allow you brain to linger in world the author created. Ruins is a strong fast paced post apocalyptic tale, with realistic characters and lots of cool weirdo shit along the way. As someone who has read a lot of apocalyptic lit, it’s awesome when an author manages to include elements you just haven’t seen before and her wells offers some of the strangest, most fascinating ecological and biological twists since Heiro’s Journey. Julia Whelan gives another solid performance, never getting in the way of this fun story. A strong finish to another quality Dan Wells series.

Eden Rising (Project Eden, Bk. 5) by Brett Battles

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible Studios

Length: 9 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic/Pandemic

Grade: B

MacLeod Andrews reading about the apocalypse. Shit, that’s a no brainer. Brett Battles has upgraded the classic apocalyptic adventure series with a well crafted and fun look at a potential man made pandemic. Lots of cool characters, plenty of action and bad guys getting what they deserve makes this a series perfect for those apocalyptic fanboys and girls looking for something to fill their end of days. Plus, did I mention MacLeod Andrews. Dude kicks ass, right? His handling of these diverse characters adds a thrill to the listen, and he drives the pace like a high schooler with a Trans Am.

Already Reviewed:

Review Pending:

Armchair Audies Listens:

Repairman Jack Series: