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:

Bob’s Audiobook Report: January Roundup

7 02 2014

Despite surgery, preparing for a move and general life unpleasantness, I was able to listen to a respectable 11 audiobooks at just over 131 hours in January. My priority in January was to focus on some series books that have been sitting on my TBL pile for way to long. I made some good headway into F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series, completed Ian Douglas’s Heritage Trilogy and rounded that out with a Burke novel. All the books I listened to where backlist novels, except for Myke Cole’s latest Shadow Ops book, Breach Zone and the start of a new series for BV Larson.

Overall, January was tough, but now most of the hurdles have been jumped and I am starting to get the blog moving again. In February, I have a bunch of new releases on my list, including new ones by William Forstchen, Tim Dorsey Jeff VanderMeer and Daniel Suarez. I also plan on continuing my focus on series, with more books by Andrew Vachss and F. Paul Wilson. Expect quick and dirty reviews of the new releases and roundup style reviews of everything else.

Also, sometime in the next month the Audies will be announce, and Jennifer, The Literate Housewife has some fun things planned for The Armchair Audies. This blog will again be taking on the Science Fiction and Fantasy categories. I haven’t decided whether to take on the Paranormal Category. I may wait until the announcement and see how many titles I will need to tackle.

Besides reviews, look for my Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 Post and some fun Audie predictions.

Here’s the roundup of the books I listened to in the second half of January.

Luna Marine by Ian Douglas (The Heritage Trilogy, Bk. 2)

Read by Ray Chase

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Science Fiction

14 Hrs 57 Min

Grade: B

Europa Strike by Ian Douglas (The Heritage Trilog, Bk. 3)

Read by Ray Chase

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Science Fiction

14 Hrs 23 Min

Grade: B-

The Heritage Trilogy was a whole lot of fun blending high concept space exploration and exogenesis with Military Science Fiction. The book often gets bogged down in concepts, then shift to fast paced action, leaving the listener disoriented. The narration is top notch. Ray Chase is quickly becoming a personal favorite.

Choice of Evil by Andrew Vachss (Burke, Bk. 11)

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Thriller

10 Hrs 46 Min

Grade: B+

This edition to the Burke series gives more insight into Burkes past, and the mystery presence of Wesley. The Burke series is one of the more disturbing yet fascinating looks at the darkside of humanity out there. Phil Gigante is excellent as always.

Hosts by F. Paul Wilson

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Thriller

13 Hrs 13 Min

Grade: B+

Probably wasn’t a good idea to read this one right after surgery. Hosts was one of my favorite Repairman Jack novels so far, blending supernatural and biomedical thrillers.

Also, check out my review of Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole and my Top 20 Audiobooks of 2013.

Bob’s Audiobook Report: January Week 2

13 01 2014

Week two of 2014 saw me completing 4 Audiobooks, two from the same series, and two of series that have been sitting on my TBL Pile for a while. Since I have a lot of stuff coming up in January, a move at the end of the month, surgery this week, as well as plenty of other stressors, I have been looking for lighter, more straightforward stories that are easy to focus on. This is why I have been choosing mostly action based series with well drawn characters, because during times like this, I have trouble focusing on highly conceptual plots and esoteric storylines. I like monsters and explosions and aliens and my choices all pretty much hit the mark.

Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson (Repairman Jack, Book 3)

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Grade: B+

All The Rage by F. Paul Wilson (Repairman Jack, Book 4)

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Grade: B+

I completed two of F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack novels, COMSPIRACIES and ALL THE RAGE. In the beginning of long running series, especially those with a supernatural edge, I always enjoy watching the development of the series mythology. I feel both of these book are important to building the Repairman Jack Mythos, while still pretty much self contained stories. Both were a lot of fun, each giving more incite into Jack, while continuing the frustrating interpersonal conflict between Jack’s desire to be a part of his girlfriend Gia and her daughter’s life, while knowing that he also lives on the edge of society and must feed his need for adventure and violence. I am still less than thrilled with Christopher Price’s narration, especially in comparison to the other narrators in the series. I think his voice is too deep for the character, and while his vocal range is admirable, I don’t thing he ever nails the characters. They always feel just a tad off of what they should be, like listening to a celebrity impersonator, just after listening to the real thing.

Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell

Read by Kirby Heyborne

Blackstone Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 36 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic/Alien Invasion

Grade: B+

Midnight City has been languishing on my mountainous TBL pile for a long time, and with the recent release of the second book in the series, I thought I had to give it a go. Midnight City has a War of the Worlds meets Chtorr feel. A classic Alien Invasion vibe with an esoteric spin and a touch of magic. While marketed as a Young Adult novel, it definitely has a more mature vibe that should fit a large range of readers. It did take me a while to get into the book. Mitchell doesn’t ease you into his world, but throws you right into the deep end, and it takes some time to adjust. But when the book gets moving, it gets bad ass moving, with now stop action in a fascinating apocalyptic setting. Kirby Heyborne’s excellent performance shouldn’t be a surprise to any audiobook fan. His reading is crisp and professional, with just the right amount of edge.  

Semper Mars (Book 1 of The Heritage Trilogy) by Ian Douglas

Read by Ray Chase

Audible Frontiers

Length: 13 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Grade: B+

Military Science Fiction is one of my go to genres when I find myself in a reading slump and just want something fun, fast and furious. MilSF has a way of making fascinating concepts accessible and throwing in lots of pyrotechnics for effect. Yet, not all MilSF hits the spot. My first attempt at a Ian Douglas novel failed miserably. Didn’t like it at all. Yet, the concepts around The Heritage Trilogy seemed fascinating, and I had been looking for more stuff performed by narrator Ray Chase. Semper Mars is jingoistic, HOORAH! near future MilSF at it’s best. Full of lots of Marine history, potential alien tech, World War between the ol’ US of A, and those pesky univeralist United Nations. and clever battles, Semper Mars was just the right listen for my mood. Ray Chase continues to impress. While I think he’s a better 1st person narrator than a 3rd person, his voice is pleasant, and he brings the characters alive. He never hampers the relentless pace of the narrative, and at times can be just as clever with his delivery as a marine with a beer bomb.

Coming Soon: Well, this week I have surgery, so I’m not sure how it will affect my listening. I plan on continuing listening to Repairman Jack, and The heritage Trilogy (currently listening to book 2). I also plan on listening to a book called Noise by Darin Bradley read by Chris Patton. Plan on a bit more print reading this week during my time off.

Bob’s Audiobook Report: January Week 1

7 01 2014

So, I’ve been struggling with what to do with the blog. Without going into the crazy details of my life, spending the 2-3 hours a night writing detailed reviews 4-5 times a week is no longer feasible. Plus, in all honestly, I have discovered that "not blogging" can be just as rewarding "blogging" when your life fills up with stress. I have realized that I am just not a really good blogger. Being a "Blogger" began to feel like a chore, and a label I have no desire to live up to. I never had been that good at challenges, or special posts, or whatever. I just like talking about books.

So, I may try so new things this year. I definitely won’t be posting as often. I don’t plan to get too involved in bloggy type things, outside of things that are pretty much free form, and fit into my "spend less time doing this stuff" mentality. I never want the idea "I want to binge read this series over the next few weeks, but then what would I post on the blog" or even "I really want to read BOOK A but BOOK B is more relevant to the blogoverisity."

So, for now, 2014 is the year that Bob strips being a blogger. Now, Bob is just some dude who randomly post shit about books he’s been listening to.

One of the things I will try to do, is post a weekly audiobook report about what I listened to that week. It may contain some thoughts, a rating and other unstructured comments.

For the first week of January, I listened to two audiobooks. It was a partial week, so I think 2 is a pretty good number. Here they are:

January 2014 Audiobook #1

Legacies by F. Paul Wilson

Repairman Jack, Book 2.

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 29 Minute

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Grade B+

Narration: C+

One of my plans for the early part of 2014 is to binge read the Repairman Jack series. I had wanted to do this for some time, but hadn’t because I was so keen on bloggy diversity, and I just had to grab the hot new release, I never did. I had really enjoyed the "early Years" Repairman Jack novels, COLD CITY and DARK CITY, especially the wonderful narration by Alexander Cendese, but hesitated on the series, because I was never quite sure where to start since the Repairman Jack series seems to be intertwined with F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary cycle. Finally I decided to just go with the Repairman Jack Series, and then after I worked my way through a significant portion of that, depending on my enjoyment of the series, figure out what to do with the Adversary cycle.

My other issue was a lack of a consistent narrator.  Joe Barrett, reads the first in the series, while audio veteran Disk Hill reads a few of the latter. Brilliance Audio seems to be filling in the rest with a new to me narrator names Christopher Price. I listened to and enjoyed The Tomb. While it took some time to get used to the new narrator, and I didn’t like him as much as Cendese, Joe Barrett did a solid job.

Moving onto Legacies. Legacies was another solid entry in the series, balancing a straight forward thriller, with a touch a weird physics, and some hints of otherness along the way. Jack is becoming more complex of a character, and while some of the relationship back and forth stuff becomes frustrating, Wilson does a good job developing his working-class Batman-for-hire character in a believable way.

I wasn’t blown away by Christopher Price. I won’t go as far as saying I was disappointed by it, because I thing a lot of it had to do with the fact that this is the third narrator handling this character I had listened to within one month and three books. Price has potential to improve, and I hope he begins to settle into these characters, since he is reading a bunch of novels set in this world.

2014 Audiobook #2

Steel World by B.V. Larson

Undying Mercenaries, Book 1

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 45 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Grade: B

Narration: B

For Book 2, I listened to Steel World by BV Larson. Larson writes the goofy and sometimes incredible frustrating, but highly enjoyable military science fiction series, STAR FORCE. Steel World is his newest Sci-Fi series, about a troublemaking but oh, so clever Earth boy who joins the Space Legion to fight as earth’s mercenaries. The concept is both very recognizable, but with interesting twists. Steel World is popcorn Sci-Fi at its Redenbachiest. Lovable, cardboard characters, over the top action, and a young trainee soldier, who happens to find himself at the center of many important events, where he’s the only one who can save the day, and does so to the chagrin of some of his superiors.

Part of me wished that they would have cast someone other than Mark Boyett to narrate this series. Not that he doesn’t do a good job, because he does, but because he is the voice of the Star Force series, so it’s hard to separate that from his performance here. Sometimes, choosing the Fan Favorite to narrate isn’t the right choice. Someone a bit younger sounding would have been preferable, since this book was told from the POV of a starry eyed recruit, but overall it’s a solid listen, especially if you are a fan of BV Larson.

Coming Soon:

I have selected and have been working on my Top 20 Audiobooks of 2013 post, so look for that soon, and tell your friends, neighbors, and nanobots.

Audiobook Review: Cold City by F. Paul Wilson

4 03 2013

Cold City by F. Paul Wilson (Repairman Jack: The Early Years, Book 1)

Read by Alexander Cendese

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 19 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Cold City is a fun thriller that tells the story of a young hero finding his place in the world. It’s a good blend of fast paced shoot ’em up action and cerebral plotting that manages to keep a strong flow. The characters are full of color, and the humor jumps off the page despite some dark situations. This is my first experience with Repairman Jack, but I am sure it won’t be my last.

Grade: B+

A few years ago, when I was a relative newcomer to the world of Urban Fantasy, a friend of mine recommended two series to me, The Dresden Files and Repairman Jack. At first, I was planning on starting the Repairman Jack series, because, well, I thought the name was pretty cool. Honestly, that’s the kind of well informed decisions I tend to make. You know that whole book/cover judging conundrum, well, throw some robot monkeys or hybrid Gorillaroos on your cover, and I’ll probably buy it even if it’s just a repackaging of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Yet, here comes the problem. While I am often arbitrary about my book purchases based on cover, cool author name or impressing the ladies, as an audiobook consumer, I do my research. I was a bit confused about the order of the Repairman Jack books, yet I came to discover the audiobook releases were sporadic, with some holes and inconsistent narrators. I am one of those weird guys who like to read a series in order, even if an author declares that each book can be read independently. It’s a strange quirk of mine. Also, I do prefer consistent narrators for a series, but am willing to deal with a narrator change, because that’s the business. Yet, when I discovered that Dresden had a consistent narrator, and that it was James Marsters, I went with Dresden. Yet, I still couldn’t get past the cool name. Repairman Jack. I’ve always thought the name Jack was pretty badass. Jack Bauer, Jack Bristow, Jack Reacher, heck, even Jack Ryan had his moments, and this particular Jack was a Repairman. I’m not so handy around the house, so, yeah, that had to be cool. So, upon learning that F. Paul Wilson was releasing a prequel Trilogy to this series that solved some problems. I knew I could listen without too many chances of spoilers, nor the need to learn the mythology, plus, I imagined the trilogy would use the same narrator. So, I was totally in, my maiden Repairman Jack journey, if you will.

Cold City starts in New York, as a young man named Jack, fresh off a family tragedy, is trying to disappear into a new life. At first I was a bit taken aback. As the story started, I did feel I was missing some back story on the character. I did some research and discovered that Wilson had written a YA series based on this character. Luckily, Wilson does a good job filling in enough details to give you a sense of where the character is, without forcing you to go through a big bout of exposition. The novel starts off with Jack in a bit of trouble, with some machete wielding former coworkers looking to resolve some personal issues. This leads Jack into looking to get a weapon of his own, which in turns leads to some interesting contacts, and a new opportunity. This is the interesting thing about Cold City, while the plotting is consistent, and the story compelling, it is more a series of events, where Jack meets some interesting people and gets mixed up in the machinations of some bad people. The driving force seems to be more luck, whether good or bad. Without actually knowing much of the mythology of The Repairman Jack, I can see why Wilson took this approach. I imagine many of the characters and organizations at play in Cold City, become significant later in the series, and for fans of the series, seeing just how Jack got mixed up in these things had to be cool. For someone new to the series, it works as well, because it wasn’t dependent on knowing what has already been written. Sure, there were probably little nuggets that a new reader will miss along the way, sort of Easter Eggs for the regular reader. Cold City wasn’t what I had been expecting. It was more of a straight thriller than an Urban Fantasy or Paranormal tale, but it was quite effective at what it was. I really liked Jack as a character. He had the right blending of grit and naiveté, a cool customer, with room to grow. Wilson put him up against some real badies, and while Jack was able to work around them, he wasn’t any superman, but someone dealing with evil in a human way. Cold City is full of colorful characters who add a lot to the tale. My only warning is that this novel has to be looked at as the first of a series. There are many ends that aren’t tied up as the book comes to a close. If you need a clean ending, you won’t get it, but in my opinion, it’s worth it for the potential I can see in the series as a whole. Cold City is a fun thriller that tells the story of a young hero finding his place in the world. It’s a good blend of fast paced shoot ’em up action and cerebral plotting that manages to keep a strong flow. The characters are full of color, and the humor jumps off the page despite some dark situations. This is my first experience with Repairman Jack, but I am sure it won’t be my last.

This was also my first experience with Alexander Cendese as a narrator, and I was quite impressed. In fact, his style reminded me quite a bit of one of my favorite narrators, MacLeod Andrews. He has a young voice, perfect for a 21 year old protagonist, but also with a bit of gravel that gave Jack a definite edginess. He managed to capture the tragic nature of the character as well as his naiveté while also giving him a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  I also think he made a conscience effort to give some of the other characters recognizable voices, the mafia goombah, the old Yiddish gent, while still filling their characters out as more becomes revealed about them. He captured the humor just right without it ever becoming cartoonish. The action scenes were well paced and visual, allowing the listener to picture exactly what was going on. There are a few other titles that have been narrated by Cendese that I had been on the fence about, but listening to Cold City makes me much more confident about giving them a shot.

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