Audiobook Review: The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

6 03 2018

Armored Saint

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

Series: The Sacred Throne, Book 1

Narrated by Michi Barall

Recorded Books

Grade: B

I’ll be honest, I am hesitant to start any new Epic Fantasy series, even by authors I love. I tend to enjoy the occasional fantasy but they take a lot of commitment and I tend to be more of a contemporary science fiction guy. That being said, I have heard Myke Cole talk about this series for a while and I was intrigued about it. So, I started The Armored Saint with some hopeful optimism. At first, I was a bit disappointed. Not that it wasn’t good, it’s just what I heard Myke talk so passionately about wasn’t there yet. It was definitely a well envisioned world and there was moments it almost felt like a companion piece to Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle. So much of the book is about creating the world and letting us meet the characters, there was a bit of a “been there” feel to it. It wasn’t until perhaps the latter third of the novel that I began to get a feel that this trip would be something entirely unique, and that Myke just needed to get the ball rolling. Finally, with a confrontation and a twist Myke’s passion finally came to life for me. In the end Myke gave me what I was looking for, and a bit of a surprise on top of that. This is just the first chapter of this tale, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Early going, I wasn’t a fan of Michi Barall’s narration. In the early going, the pace felt forced. In a strange bit of a twist, she seemed to handle the male character voices much better than the female ones. As the book progressed I eases into her style a little more. As more action and conflict arose, her pacing picked up and she delivered. While not a perfect performance, it was strong enough in the end to keep me in the game.

Audiobook Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

12 02 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Read by Simon Prebble

Macmillan Audio

Length: 32Hrs 2Min

Genre: Fantasy

Grade: A-

A wonderfully performed audiobook can be like music sometimes, it pulls you in with it’s beauty, mesmerizes you with it’s rhythms and cadence and puts you in a altered state. The problem with this is, when the story isn’t as engaging, or you are in a relaxed state, you begin to listen and appreciate the performance more so than what is being performed. You enjoy the experience, and find yourself floating in the music of the words, yet sometimes losing the context behind them. The positive side of this, is sometimes, simple the beauty of the performance keeps you in the game long enough to get sucked into it.

This was in someways my experience with Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell, a lavishly written and brilliantly performed fantasy opus about the reemergence of magic to England. For the first third of the novel, I found myself drifting at times. Simon Prebble’s narration carried me away like a master musician, yet the story itself, at times, lost me. Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell should have been an extremely hard novel to perform, with frequent sidetrips and added footnotes, that for some narrators would have disrupted the rhythms of the prose, yet Prebble weaves them together flawlessly, making each side trip just another thread in a grand tapestry. It wasn’t until about the 10 hour point, when Strange was working his magic in the aid of England against Napoleon in Spain the performance and story crash together making each worthy of the other.

I choose to listen to Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell, after years of hesitation, due to the coming BBC series. I feared the 30 hour time frame, but decided to take the ride. So, this review comes with a big, “late to the party” feel. Do I really need to “review” a novel that had reached such acclaim? All I can do is talk about my experience. Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell blends historical and fantasy fiction in a unique way that I loved. It’s told not in a straight path, or even in a non-linear but focused story, but instead the story is like a maze, taking you in many directions, with only a few leading back to the main body of the tail. In many ways, it’s the unconnected side trips that build the heart of the novel. While the battle between Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell serves as the base story, the beauty comes in the deeper world that surrounds these narcissistic characters and their almost petty fueding.

I was hesitant to start this novel for many reasons, yet I am glad I took the leap. At times the listening to this audiobook felt like I was sitting in a warm comfortable room, sipping some cocoa while a slightly eccentric but engaging old man tells me of times long ago full of just enough embellishments and asides that the tale feels almost real.

Audiobook Review: The World House by Guy Adams

4 02 2015

The World House by Guy Adams

Read by Paul Boehmer

Audible Studios

Length: 10Hrs 43Min

Genre: Fantasy

Grade: C-

I’m not sure what just friggin’ happened. I mean, I kinda know. There are these characters, and a weird house, and time travel, and god like people, and amnesia, and a cool game of Snakes and Ladders, and I think that one guy is also that other guy or maybe I am thinking about someone else. Oh, and that girl is like maybe autistic, which of course means she has some special ability or perception that will help save the world, or destroy it, or maybe stop the bad guy who I am not sure is really bad because that’s that’s what mentally challenged people do in fantasies… and, well, maybe I’m just an idiot who can’t follow the authors disjointed train of thought. I mean, I get this way with “high brow” stuff where I think I am supposed to get it. Like Birdman, which I guess had moments, but still, I didn’t get it. Like art or jazz or that weird class of philosophy I took…



So really, maybe Guy Adams is a genius who created this beautiful mosaic of a novel, full of complexities and layers upon layers, creating a mesmerizing tale that blends generations and genres and I am just too dumb to figure it all out. I know I feel like this when I attempt to read China Mellville and Paolo Bacigalupi, which people I respect tell me is brilliant, but turns my brains to mash, and, well, kinda bores me at the same time making me want to pull out something with explody monsters hunters or time traveling Nazis.

Or maybe Guy Adams just wrote a book that had some brilliant moments, was fun at brief intervals but was mostly a mess that barely held my interest and often left me confused about exactly what the hell just happened.

But maybe not…

I’m confused.

One thing I like about Paul Boehmer is that he has a unique narrative voice. His voice has a tone that reflects an international feel yet isn’t specific to any particular nationality. It reminds me of the subtle accents that many 1800 era American period pieces use, not really modern American or Modern British but somewhere in between. This is why I think Boehmer is excellent in historical fiction and has been underused in the fantasy genre where straight British accents seem to be the preference of audio producers. This is why I thought he was perfectly suited for a book like The World House. But, now I am not so sure he was, mostly because I really didn’t care about the book enough to figure it out. His characters were fine. I often found the perspective shifts were not distinct enough, but this may just have been because I wasn’t invested enough in the characters to realize that they had shifted.

Oh well….

Basically, The World House was a book that constantly had me on the edge of thinking,”Let’s end this and move on to something else” but that little part of me said that eventually there would be this sort of AHA! Moment that pulled it all together and made it worth it. And I guess there was something like that, but by that point I just wanted it all to be over.

Now maybe some time traveling zombies or talking unicorns or sexy dragons….

Audiobook Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters

15 04 2014

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Bk. 3)

Read by Khristine Hvam

Hachette Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Grade: C

Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters was one of my most anticipated releases of spring 2014. I loved the first books in the series, particularly in audio. Taylor’s prose was like poetry come to life, dripping magic with every word, brought into life like music through the voice of Khristine Hvam. Even the angst filled forbidden love between Karou and Akiva, the star crossed angel and his lovely monster, managed to keep me entranced. Her world full of angles and demons, of battles spanning time, fate and worlds was unique in a genre filled with stilted cliches. I was anxiously awaiting the final ballad of the trilogy, the last burst of magic that would bring this story to it’s ultimate world changing climax.


I did not love Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Oh, the beauty and magic were still there, and Taylor’s writing still enthralls me, but the final chapter of this trilogy was 12 hours of angst interwove between 6 hours of story. There was stuff I did like. I really liked the new character of Eliza, a doctoral candidate who worked as the assistant for the scientist studying the genetic makeup of a discovered mass grave of Chimera, whose dark past hid secrets to her dreams of monsters and angels. Even though her story arch took some odd turns along the way, Taylor’s prowess at developing strong characters is on full display her. My major problem, beyond the long eloquent ruminations of fated love, was the way the plot was concluded. The Angel invasion into earth was anticlimactic at best. I applaud Taylor for trying to bring an nontraditional closure to this storyline, yet, it’s execution paled in comparison the nature of the set up. The large battle between the Seraphim and the joint rebel Angel and Chimera was totally Dues Ex Machina, even worse it was an off camera Dues Ex Machina in service of an unnecessary twist. All this blunted the tale, allowing the angst to become the driving force of the tale, instead of an influencing factor. Taylor explores some fascinating new physics concepts, adding more Lovecraftian spins and examining the nature between magic and science. It was a wonderful, beautifully formulated thought experiment, and if added in more detail to the earlier novels, or explored on its own in another book, I may have really digged it, but by the time these concepts were fully examined, I was so frustrated with the book and ready for it to end. All criticisms aside, Dreams of Gods and Monsters didn’t diminish my view on Taylor as a writer. It just didn’t offer what I was looking for in a conclusion. I am sure, those who love the tragic love tale between Karou and Akiva, will be thrilled by this ending. I was not one of those people.

As always, I have nothing but high praise for Khristine Hvam. More than once her reading of this novel gave me chills. I highly doubt I would have made it through the 18 hour production if it was read by a lesser narrator. Her performance is music, and beauty and humor in all the right places. I almost enjoyed the long soliloquies on love and fate… well, almost almost… well, not really, but at least there was a bit of sugar to help those bitter pills go down.

Series Review: The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson

14 04 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

Macmillan Audio

Length: 45 Hrs 37 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Grade: A+

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

Macmillan Audio

Length: 48 Hrs 15 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Grade: A+

Big sweeping epic fantasies and I don’t always mesh well together for many reasons. First, magic tends to annoy me. I think it can be all kinds of cool when some crazy old sorcerer unleashed hellfire and damnation down upon the wicked, but when every problem is solved by a twinkle of the nose or some demon released from the nether regions, and magic becomes more important than characters, I lose interest. And while I love characters, after the 300th one appears in their cardboard cutter glory, and they are all named, Taragon, Sharagon, Sh’othan, Larry of the Sharaghon Forrest, Troctadon, Bill, Z’Atmothathalogabn, and… I WANT THEM ALL TO DIE. Also elves. OK, in the right context, elves can be sort of fun, but when they show up in their Tolkenesque glory in the first five friggin’ minutes of a book, I tend to want to scream GO BACK TO MIDDLE EARTH YOU POINTY EAR BASTARD! Maybe I’m speciest, I just don’t trust them. Yet, when I do fall for an Epic Fantasy, I fall hard. I fall like a YA protagonist after just meeting her first Vampire. I lie awake wondering if the book will call me the next day. I wonder if I read the book too much it will think I’m creepy, but still go back to it over and over again. I have spent months, reading and rereading Fantasy series. I have spent hours refreshing author’s websites when they are supposed to announce when the next book is coming out. This is why I am often hesitant to jump into a big fantasy novel. It becomes either my bane or my existence. Luckily, this is why god created other awesome people to motivate you into important life decisions like dedicating 100 hours of your life to listening to the AWESOMEST SERIES EVER. So, yeah, thanks. You know who you are.

So, what is The Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson about. Well, I’m not going to even try. If I could do justice to a summary that would truly give you an idea of the nature of this book, I would be a much better writer than I am and probably should concentrating on trying to fuck with people’s brains they way Sanderson did with mine. I think often, especially with hard core readers, there is a sense when reading where you think… “You know what… I could do this.” With Sanderson my reaction was “How in god’s name did some human being imagine this with his brain thing than manage to transport it from the twisted regions of his mind to words on a page. WHAT FOUL MAGIC IS THIS?” Truly, Sanderson has created a world that is truly breathtaking. From the otherworldly creatures that react to the emotions of the people, to a shattered land serving as the field for a massive battle. It’s full of dark beauty, fascinating magic, deep secrets and something tickling along the edges of the narrative letting you know there is even more than you can possibly imagine. Yet, the true beauty of this novel is the characters. Sanderson tells the traditional fantasy origin story in an entirely unique way. He creates a character, strips them down to their core, then builds them back up piece by piece. Along the way, they become real to you. Not just some powerful mage, or savvy political leader, but a real broken person, with flaws who manages to pull you entirely into their world. Sanderson surrounds his key players with an assorted menagerie of colorful characters, allowing you to see the growth of his protagonists through how they affect those around them. Bridge 4, a collection of slaves forced to carry bridges in suicidal battle runs, is one of the most wonderful group of characters I have read in a while. Their transformation from beaten down slaves, to an effective unit is so brilliant, it makes you almost want to to start running these death marches yourself.

Then there is the action. Holy shit, the action. There were moments where I just had to stop where I was and absorb some scene of pure baddassery. I became so mesmerized, I ignored those around me for the much more interesting people performing crazy ass action in my brain hole. I’m lucky I was never in the middle of traffic when these scenes came, because it’s hard to finish listening to a book after a F150 runs you down. The Stormlight Archives is the rare fantasy novel that is about war, but never glorifies it. Sanderson allows us to accompany his characters into the battles, giving as an intimate look at chaos, letting us see the full horrors of these event. Yet, there is some level of hope at play within the context of the team, and the players assembled. These are characters that make each other better, that build each other up, become a true family of choice, setting the basis to allow the events to build. The individual fight scenes rivaled the visual splendor and choreography of the best superhero films. These fights go beyond the “so and so punched so and so in the face” battles, but took place in multiple dimensions that break the laws of physics, yet never become muddled or obfuscated. Sanderson creates a vivid conflict in your head, and leaves you breathless as you follow each movement, each action and each new mind bending discovery.

Another fascinating element that Sanderson sneaks into the plot is the self defeating nature of isms. His society is built on highly structured class-ism based on the arbitrary physical attribute of eye color. The division between the Noble Bright Eye class, and the peasant dark eyes, creates levels of conflict that plays out in multiple ways throughout the tale. Sanderson shows how such and arbitrary class structure creates self defeating scenarios and ingrained suspicions among people who are essentially good and should be allies. It adds a level to the tale, that while on surface seems almost cliché, yet Sanderson subverts the clique effectively making it unique in his hands. Also, I found the division of labor between the sexes to be quite interesting. Men have deemed reading, writing and scholarly pursuits to be feminine qualities, when they focus on the more physical. So, while women are viewed as subservient, they control the knowledge, and well, we know what that means.

This is my problem with reviewing something like the Stormlight Archive. I just want to scream, AWESOME! READ THIS NOW. There is so much here that I simply loved about this book, that I can’t even scratch the surface. I want to yell “Dalinar is such a badass” and you just understand what I mean. Or, THANK GOD SHE ASKED HIM ABOUT POOP and you just shake your head knowingly. Because, there is so much here. So many aspects that I want to frantically point out to you like a frat boy looking at Christmas lights while tripping on LSD. And what’s the hardest thing to reconcile, is I may never have read it. So, if you even think you might possible like Epic Fantasy, read this.

If you can listen to two people read a book for almost 100 hours and not once want to stab yourself in the ear with a rusty fork, then those narrators are doing something right. At no point did either Micheal Kramer or Kate Reading make me want to stab myself in the ear with a rusty fork, in fact, their reading made me want to protect myself from any sort of rusty fork in the ear related injury. These two talented narrators brought this story alive in a brilliantly vivid way. I love how you could hear the character development in their voices, with Shallan going from a seemingly flighty naïve girlchild, to, perhaps, the pivotal character of Words of Radiance and Kalidan developing from a man with nothing to live for to a leader of men. Kramer does a wonderful job guiding us through this brokenness and rehabilitation of Kalidan as well as showing us the turmoil of Dalinar’s struggles with his own sanity. Plus, his Bridge 4 character never failed to put a smile on my face. One thing I especially liked about Kramer is he gives his characters a wide range of exotic sounding accents, without falling back onto the annoying Elizabethan feel that many people seemed to think fantasy novels require. One of the problems you face with two different narrators is the dissonance of shared characters. This isn’t too much of an issue here. Sure, Kramer’s Shallan sounds a bit more imperious than Readings, and Reading’s Kalidan a bit younger than Kramer’s, the two POV’s don’t really come together to late in the series and by that time the narrators have had such a strong grasp on the material, you are fully engaged in the story. So, yes, The Stormlight Archive is now my newest Fantasy obsession, so please forgive my creepy book stalking during the wait for the next book in the series.

My Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 (Non-Zombie)

21 02 2014

2013 was another great year for post apocalyptic novels. Where 2013 truly stood out was the diversity of it’s offerings. From straight forward apocalyptic tales, to absurdist comedies, last years apocalyptic audiobooks showed just how much ground there is to cover in the genre. It was tough for me to pick just 10 Apocalyptic audiobooks, partially with the glut of continuing series putting out even better entries this year. Yet, after much contemplation and hair pulling, I came up with my list. So, if you are like me, and one of your favorite, most relaxing activities is to listen to the world go up in flames, here is my list of the best 2013 had to offer.

Expect my Zombie based Top 10 to appear soon.

Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt and David Wright

Read by RC BRay, Chris Patton, Brian Holsopple, Ray Chase, Maxwell Glick, and Tamara Marston

Podium Publishing

Yesterday’s Gone truly borders on the goofy at times, and I think in some ways this was the authors’ intention. Maybe not goofy per se, but the twists are so over the top, the plot so derivative of the classics and the characters so bizarre that you can’t help but shake your head at it. Yet, somehow it all works brilliantly. Yesterday’s Gone is a post apocalyptic fan’s somewhat inappropriate, at times shamefully wonderful dream. Yet, what truly sets this one apart is the brilliant production and wonderful narration. Ray Chase gives one of my favorite performances of the year, and add that to the excellent work the other narrators included notable performances by RC Bray and Chris Patton, and Yesterday’s Gone can crown itself my favorite Post Apocalyptic Audiobook of 2013. And, lucky for us, this is just Season One.

Countdown City (The Last Detective, Bk. 2)

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Countdown City picks up were The Last Detective leaves off, bettering the series by leaps and bounds. Book 2 offers a unique apocalypse of anticipation, where the wait for the world killer asteroid is an apocalyptic event all it’s own. Winter’s fascinating world is brought to life expertly by Peter Berkrot. Berkrot’s performance still sticks with me months after I finished listening to it.

Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

Read by Kirby Heybourne

Tantor Audio

Arguably, Odds Against Tomorrow is more of a disaster tale than a typical Post Apocalyptic novel, but really, there is nothing typical about this one. Apocalypose fans looking for something utterly unique should check out this tale of a brilliant disaster analyst who finds himself immersed in the “perfect storm” that he predicted. Equally moving and hilarious this tale is brought to life wonderfully by Kirby Heybourne who manages just the right tone for this tricky tale.


Breakers by Edward W. Robinson

Read by Ray Chase

Podium Publishing

Breakers is The Stand meets Lucifer’s Hammer with weird crab creatures. Podium Publishing is quickly making a name for itself with unique audiobook offerings excellently produced and Breaker’s is no exception. Ray Chase masterly guides us through this strange new world helping create one of the freshest looks at alien invasion since Gerrold’s Chtorr series.

Ashes by Brett Battles (Project Eden, Bk. 4)

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible, Inc.

I have always been one of those people who get a bit annoyed when the good guys stop the global  conspiracy top release a world killing pathogen. Luckily, in The Project Eden series, the competent good guys are facing impossible odds, and well, aren’t able to do the impossible. This series starts with a straight forward pathogen thriller and progresses to a The Stand-like pandemic tale, and I loved every second of it. Plus, MacLeod Andrew’s. The man can bring it.

There was a fifth book in this series, released in 2013 as well, but I have yet to read it. Once I free me up an Audible credit, I plan to jump right back into this dangerous world.

The City of Devi by Manil Suril

Read by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

So, who doesn’t like absurdist comedy, heartbreaking romantic entanglements, strange embodiments of deities, Bollywood musicals, and gonzo sex in their Mumbai based apocalyptic tales? The City of Devis is a wonderful, and at times awkward tale, beautifully narrated by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar.

Fuse by Julianna Baggot (Pure, Bk. 2)

Read by Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, Pierce Cravens

Hachette Audio

This may have been the year for Book 2’s in Post apocalyptic trilogies, and Fuse is proof that often the followup can better something already pretty darn good. Baggot’s world is darkly beautiful and her characters wonderfully tragic. Plus, the performances, particularly that of Kevin T. Collin’s made me feel things. Like emotional things. I’d rather not talk about it.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy

Read by Brandon Espinoza and Phoebe Strole

Penguin Audio

More Alien Invasions? Yes Please. Despite one annoying plot twist that I may have over emphasized in my review, Phillip Yancey’s YA novel is a heck of a good tale. His alien’s are different, and the plot well constructed. The performances by two new to me narrators also enhance this already quality tale.

Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey

Read by Simon Vance

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

While I tend to like my Post Apocalyptic tales more scifi, there is definitely a place in the genre for a good Fantasy, one that Joseph D’Lacey provides for us in Black Feathers. With shades of The Dark Tower, D’Lacey balances dual timelines with ease to create a fascinating apocalyptic world where everything you believe gets twisted in wonderful ways. And truly, if you are going to go the Fantasy route, you might as well call on one of the best voices for Fantasy, Simon Vance, whose voice gives the context almost instant creditability.

Fragments by Dan Wells (Partials, Bk. 2)

Read by Julian Whelan

Harper Audio

One of the reasons I think I enjoy book 2’s in apocalyptic series, is because they often involve getting away from the static setting of book one and embarking on everyone’s favorite jaunt, the apocalyptic road trip. In Fragment’s Dan Well’s offer’s one of the best, a cross country trip through a devastated wasteland that used to be America. Julian Whelan continues to infuse the tale with heart and personality, the perfect voice to bring the tale’s wonderful protagonist to life.

2014 Armchair Audies: Fearless Prediction Post

14 02 2014

So, it’s Armchair Audies time (almost!)

Any day now, the APA will announce the nominees for their 2013 Audie Awards. This has been another great year for Audiobooks, and I feel more and more public scrutiny of the Audies may have interesting affects. Last year, I felt the whole thing was a bit of a fiasco, with one particular company and it’s offshoots almost monopolizing the nominees and an audiobook of the year category made up mostly of celbriturd narrators and productions that were more about hype then the best the industry has to offer. Yet, I’m not totally soured on the whole shebang. I think that we may see some changes to the process in the near future, as the industry changes, so must the awards and I’m quite interested in seeing how these changes take play out.

This year, for Armchair Audies, I will be taking on the Science Fiction and Fantasy categories again. I will probably pick up a third category, after I get a look at the nominees, either Paranormal or Thriller/Suspense.

Today, I will be prediction the nominees in these 4 categories. I am using an intricate formula of my favorites, industry trends, past nominees, hype and WAGs (Wild Ass Guesses) to come up with these nominees. I am also playing a bit with the Genres because, even if a book is decidedly Science Fiction, it very well may be nominated in the Fantasy Category. Also, no once has quite explained exactly what encompasses Paranormal.

So, here are my predictions for The Audies.


The Human Division by  John Scalzi

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible Frontiers

Lexicon by Max Barry

Read by Heather Corrigan and Zach Appelman

Penguin Audio

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Read by Kevin T. Collins, Eileen Stevens, and Ali Ahn

Hachette Audio

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Read by Kate Rudd

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio


The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Read by Neil Gaiman

Harper Audio

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Read by Alana Kerr

Audible for Bloomsbury

Cold Days by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files, Bk. 14)

Read by James Marsters

Penguin Audio

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Read by Kate Mulgrew

Harper Audio

Helen & Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez

Read by Khristine Hvam

Audible, Inc.


Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith (Vampire Empire, Book 2)

Read by James Marsters

Buzzy Multimedia

World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Read by A Full Cast

Random House Audio

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Read by Khristine Hvam, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, Joshua Boone, Dani Cervone, Jenna Hellmuth

Hachette Audio


Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Read by Reg E. Cathey

Hachette Audio

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Read by Jeremy Bobb

Simon & Schuster Audio

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Read by Michael Beck

Random House Audio

The Lawyer’s Lawyer by James Sheehan

Read by Rick Zieff

Hachette Audio

Audiobook Review: Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole

6 02 2014

Breach Zone (Shadow Ops, Bk. 3) by Myke Cole

Read by Korey Jackson

Recorded Books

13 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Military Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: While Breach Zone’s high concept scenario should thrill any speculative fiction fan, the true heart of the tale comes in Cole’s intimate development of the relationship between two characters. Breach Zone asks big question and never provides easy answers, but what it does provide is a whole lotta fun and characters you become truly invested in. 

Grade: B+

In Breach Zone, Myke Cole rounds out his Shadow Ops trilogy with a well conceived and solidly executed completion of the story that began in Control Point. When I first began Breach Zone, I was a bit worried. The concepts behind the tale, a siege of New York City by magical otherworldly beings under the leadership of a disgruntled and dangerous women, was brilliant, yet part of me wondered if the concept was too big for the writer. While Cole’s action scenes are solid, the strength of his writing came in his ability to create realistic, morally conflicted characters. I wondered if the big time blockbuster scenario would drown out the essence of the story. Yet, Cole took the story in a direction I was totally not expecting. While probably his biggest novel to date, it was also his most intimate, expanding the stories of two peripheral characters in a heartfelt way that felt like a natural progression to the story. While goblin battles and magical warfare was going on in big ways, the story proved to be about two characters and this conflict became the soul of the story, giving Breach Zone the humanity it needed. Breach Zone asks big question and never provides easy answers, but what it does provide is a whole lotta fun and characters you become truly invested in. 

After some pacing issues early on in the first novel, Korey Jackson has seemed to really find his stride in this series. It’s not easy for a series narrator to take on a series where the main protagonist shifts book to book, yet Jackson handles this seamlessly. Jackson’s reading sucked me into the tale, breathing life into these characters. His narration drives the story forward, keeping the listener on their toes. Cole brings the first arc of hi Shadow Ops series to a strong finish, and allows a good framework for more tales to come.

Audiobook Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

19 09 2013

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente (Fairyland, Bk. 2)

Read by S. J. Tucker

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 18 Min

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE  maintains all the magic, dark adventure and vicarious joy of the first novel, and builds on it with delightful results. Catherynne M. Valente’s twists of classic fairytales and portal fantasies is a magical joyride for people of all ages.

Grade: A

It’s been a year since September has returned from Fairyland, where she had grand adventures, made fabulous new friends and helped overthrow the Marquess who wanted to prevent any other little girls from crossing over into Fairyland. A year of patient waiting for her father to return from the war, for her 13th birthday, and for the wind to sweep her back to Fairyland where now that the darkness has been defeated she can delight in the magic and the company of her friends. Yet, when she finally does return, nothing is right. Someone has been coming up from Fairyland Below and stealing the shadows of those from Fairyland Above, and September suspects that the shadow thief may be her own shadow she left behind a year ago. OK, let‘s screw suspense, people…. I LOVE LOVE LOVED this book. This book made me want to have kids just so someday I can introduce them to the wonderful world of Fairyland where young girls can be bishops, markets run wild, shadows can dance and play, and science is a device searching for it’s use. Catherynne M. Valente’s twists of classic fairytales and portal fantasies is a magical joyride for people of all ages, from wide eye children to gruff brutish, emotionally distant, socially awkward almost 40 year old men like myself. Following September’s adventures in Fairyland is the closest I have come to reliving those days when I would give anything to travel to Narnia or Oz and have grand adventures with talking animals, ogres and ghouls, and maybe have tea with a family of beavers. THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE  maintains all the magic, dark adventure and vicarious joy of the first novel, and builds on it with delightful results.

There is so much in the book I loved that it’s would almost be easier to write a checklist of awesomeness. While you may miss out on the illustrations that come with the print version, the story itself is perfect for audio. Valente, in the form of a nameless narrator, tells this story in a conversational tone. The narrator acts as a conspiratorial conduit for the tale, letting the reader in on bits and bobbles and tiny secrets that the characters of the book are not privy to. She is quick to defend September for her often rash manner, explaining to us about how she is just now finding her heart, and is just getting used to it. This style truly pulls the reader into the tale, becoming more than an outside observer, but investing themselves into September’s adventure. I was amazed at the small and subtle moments of wisdom that Valente sneaks into her tale, flipping typical platitudes on their heads, and revealing as much about our world as Fairyland through the absurdity and wonder of it’s denizen’s. Small words of wisdom about ones "bone’s desire" and how you never forget what you do during war, ring even more true through the innocents of these characters. Like the first novel, Valente create magic through the mundane, taking regular items and having them act in irregular ways. Often times, the magic that forms is more in the altering of perceptions of everyday things than on spells and potions. While I am not a parent, I am an uncle, and I feel this book is one that little girls should read to understand their true potential, and little boys should read to understand little girls. Also, adults, because adults should always take moments in their lives to remember what it was like to be children. While THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND… is all these things I have mentioned in theme and execution, it is also a delightful, suspenseful and engaging story full of magic humor and wonderful characters. Most of the characters from the first novel, or some altered version of them, return, and often it surprising ways. Old friends become new enemies, and old enemies are surprising allies. Also, there are a couple of crows because crows are awesome. As I said, I could go on rambling and rambling about the many reasons I loved this book, and will probably hate myself tomorrow when I realized I missed 10 or 20 more, but just know I loved this book, and if you still have a heart somewhere, whether you remember how to use it or not, you will love it too.

THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRLYAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE had been languishing on my TBL pile for a while, and the only reason I decided to listen to it at this time was due to a malfunction in my planned audiobook. So, with all this love of the book, why wait? My hesitation was solely from the change in narrator. This first novel was read wonderfully by the author, and I balked at a new voice taking over these delightful characters, particularly in a narrator I have never experienced before. So, it was somewhat of a shock to me when I absolutely fell in love with S. J. Tucker’s performance of this novel. She has a rich exotic voice, with a bit of spice that perfectly fed into the otherworldly magic of the novel. Tucker reads it with an unrecognizable accent, something not quite American and not quite British, but somewhere in between, adding a lyrical cadence to made the simplest line sing with poetry. I have always said, when talking about audiobooks, that readers can hear a smile, yet, with S. J. Tucker’s performance you can hear the shades of the narrator’s grin from the sly smile to the devilish Cheshire. While I am not sure if it was planned, Tucker’s performance seemed to have a continuity with Valente’s. I suffered no dissonance, each character felt right to me, as if I had already spend plenty of time on adventure with them. There were so many wonderfully memorable moments in this production, but I would be remised if I didn’t mention the rhyming goblin sales pitch, which was wonderfully written and performed and a joy to experience. As I mentioned early, this series is almost tailor made for audio, and S. J. Tucker’s beautiful performance enhanced the experience.

Audiobook Review: Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

9 09 2013

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

Read by John Lee

Random House Audio

Length 24 Hrs 5 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Perdido Street Station is a brilliant but at times overly complex fantasy tale that twists, meshes and redefines many of the standards of what fantasy is. Most importantly, if you are a big fan of giant empathic man eating killer moths and enjoy listening to them gaining carnal knowledge of each other before heading out to suck the life essence from a human being, this book is for you, you sick twisted excuse of a human being.

Grade: B

I really should learn my lessons. The other day I was scanning through my reviews this year, and realized I have actually listened to very little traditional second world fantasy. I’ve listened to plenty of Urban Fantasy, and other such genre off shoots, but not much tales of worlds other than ours, with magic, and unicorns and elves, and the like. This really isn’t too surprising. Of all my genre faves, second world fantasy is the genre I am probably most hesitant about. Typically, when I jump into a new fantasy reality, it’s part of a series, and I fall in love with the world in book 1, get intrigued my the story progression but dismayed by the lack of any true closure in book 2, and then totally ignore book three. I can probably name 5 series which I have read the first two books in, and still haven’t finished. So, the obvious solution to my fantasy drought would have been to pick up one of this final books in a trilogy, but this would require that awkward adjustment period when you jump back into a fantasy world you haven’t been in for years, but are expected to remember. So, instead, I put out a call on twitter for a stand alone second world fantasy novel. This first thing I learned is there is almost no goddam standalone fantasy novels out there. There are plenty of books that “standalone but exist in the same world” which I know I would be crazily trying to figure out the missing subtext and those little character relationships that are thrown in as Easter Eggs to the series fans. Finally, after receiving a few recommendations for series, or fantasy series that weren’t second world, I finally decided that it was going to come down to two names, China Mieville and Guy Gavriel Kay, fantasist that I believe met my criteria, but I have always been a bit intimidated by. This off course, lead me to my major issue. Upon talking about China Mieville, I suddenly got slammed with PERDIO STREET STATION! PERDIDO STREET STATION! recommendations. So, I chose to, well, take my initial voyage into the world of China Mieville with Perdido Street Station. I guess this is what I get for asking for book recommendations on Twitter.

So, I am going to forgo writing a synopsis about this book, because it is so weird, and really, what same person would believe me. Perdido Street Station is at its core, a love story between a woman who has a human body, but her head is, well, not so much insectile but an actual full bodied insect and a mad scientist, who is really quite sensible. It is also a tale of government corruption, organized crime, and a fantasy exogenous anthropological tour through a fantasy city which is both recognizable and entirely alien. Mieville’s city of New Crobuzon is brilliantly conceived and surprisingly vivid. Each moment he spends showing us around this city is breathtakingly physical. In many ways you feel the heat, smell the stench and find yourself a bit uneasy as you enter each new district, and meet it’s strange other than human denizens. Yet, it’s not just a thought exercise, but a interesting story of a scientist who let his zeal to find a way to give a bird like being restored flight after his wings had been removed due to a crime, lead to a danger that may destroy the entire city. Herein lies the problem. It’s wonderfully done, full of complex action scenarios, strange diverse characters including robots, demons and large spidery things and a fascinating revenge tale involving a disturbing crime boss, but the menace was HUGE EMPATHIC KILLER MOTHS. This is what I get for asking for recommendations on twitter, monstrous moths having sex and eating people’s essence. I have been quite open about my mottephobia. I have an irrational fear and disgust of moths which I trace back to the days when my sister would hide at the bottom of the attic steps and throw dead moths at me when I came down. If a moth lands on me, I feel dirty the rest of the day. And now I have images of giant moths fucking in my brain that can’t be removed without targeted radiation or some PDK-like superdrug. Perdido Street Station was a challenging book for many reasons. Mievelle’s world is so foreign that it takes time to adjust to. In many ways, his world building is the antithesis to much of the fantasy I have read in the past. There were moments I really enjoyed this book, particularly the wonderful city and some of the most fascinating characters I have encountered in fiction, but for the most part my brain was so involved in understanding the book, it forgot to enjoy it. Plus, KILLER MOTHS! I mean, really. One last note, I only later discovered that Perdido Street Station is in fact, listed as part of a series. I know… I know… it’s not a traditional series, but moths and a series. What’s next, finding out that New Crobuzon is actually located in Idaho? Geez…

So, John Lee reads Perdido Street Station, and this makes me angry. I love John Lee. I think he’s one of the best narrators out there particularly when it comes to fantasy. He has a lush voice that can be both simple and complex at the same time. He manages to bring New Crobuzon alive in such beautiful ways.  One day, I would love to interview him for the blog. Of course then I would absolutely have to ask him about moth sex. MOTH SEX. If I ever meet the man in person, the first thing that will pop into my head won’t be his performance in Pillars of the Earth, which I consider one of the greatest narrator performances of all times, or his handling of the wonderful works of Graham Joyce, or even the odd but brilliant choice to have him narrate Brian Hodge’s Prototype… nope, it will be “Here’s the man who voiced killer empathic moth sex.” DAMMITT! Yet, this shouldn’t take away from the fact that once again Lee gives a wonderful performance. Perdido Street Station is a brilliant but at times overly complex fantasy tale that twists, meshes and redefines many of the standards of what fantasy is. Most importantly, if you are a big fan of giant empathic man eating killer moths, and enjoy listening to them gaining carnal knowledge of each other before heading out to suck the life essence from a human being, this book is for you, you sick twisted excuse of a human being.