My Top 20 Audiobooks of 2013

23 01 2014

2013 was an up and down year for me. While I achieved some wonderful personal goals, I have also experienced some of the toughest trials and tribulations of my life. Some of that has been reflected on this blog and social media, where my presence is not as active as it once was. Typically, when I write this list, I give a statistical breakdown of my listening. While my overall consumption of audiobooks was up this year, my tracking, recording and reviewing of them were down. In 2013 I reviewed I posted 164 reviews of audiobooks, many of them including multiple titles. Roughly, I believe I listened to around 200 books his year, which would exceed my highest previous total.

2013 was a great year for audio. Any of the Top 5 titles in my list could have been contenders in any previous year. There were so many books that simply blew me away. It is always tough for me to choose my favorites. Instead of asking "What were the best books of 2013?" the question I asked, upon reflecting on the year is "What 2013 books affected me the most?" Whether through heart stopping action, stylistic writing or characters that stay with you, these are the books that lingered in my brain long after they finished. Some made me laugh, a few made me cry, and some made me cringe and want to grab on the closest person near me for a comforting hug.

When compiling this list, I also look for titles that truly stand out in the audio format. Scanning over this list, there is only one title I would say that the narration didn’t enhance the experience, yet that book was full of such awesomeness that the less than amazing performance couldn’t keep it off the list. For a bit of a surprise, there are no Zombie titles and only one true apocalyptic title, so those of you who have pigeon holed me as the "zombie apocalypse guy" may be a bit shocked. Don’t worry, my favorite Zombie and Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 list will be on its way.

So, thanks for sticking with me through 2013, and be sure to keep injecting stories into your brain through your earholes for the rest of 2014.

 

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

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

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 37 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: Love Minus Eighty is one of the most engrossing science fiction novels I have read in a long time. McIntosh has created a darkly beautiful near future world and populated it with characters you truly wish were real. It is an exploration of our romantic future and an affective romance all in one wonderful novel.

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 35 Min.

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

What I Said: Brilliance is a smart blockbuster movie for your brain, with a complex and engaging main character, a stunningly created world, and so much action you should probably keep your cardiologist on Speed Dial. It’s a a straight thriller with enough science fiction elements that I want to force all my Speculative Fiction friends to read, at gun point if necessary. I absolutely loved this book.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

MALE NARRATOR PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR.

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 35 Min

Genre: Horror

What I Said: Doctor Sleep is an audiobook that will linger with me for a long time, a wonderful and moving story combined with one of the favorite narrator performances of all time. Doctor Sleep is a prime example of just how special the medium can be.

 

Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger, Bk. 5)

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Science Thriller

What I Said: Extinction Machine is like a sick blend of The X-Files and 24, amped up on meth, laced with cocaine, marinated in Jolt cola and mainlined directly into my brain through my earholes. I absolutely loved this book. It’s a novel so tailored to my likes that I briefly wondered if my 2-year-old self was correct and the world actually does revolve around me.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Read by Benjamin Percy

Hachette Audio

Length: 21 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Literary Horror

What I Said: Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon tells the tale of the afflicted, the demagogues and the victims that this world of werewolves has created. It combines the detailed political and social alternate history of Harry Turtledove or Robert Conroy with the gut level horror of Stephen King told with a literary flair that escalates the novel beyond its influences.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Read by Fenella Woolgar

Hachette Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 34 Min

Genre: Fiction

What I Said: Life After Life is a novel that defies easy categorization. It’s a genre busting look at life in the 20th century through the eyes of a normal women given the extraordinary ability to relive her life. Life After Life is one of the most fascinating novels I have read in a long time, and while at times I felt dragged down by the melancholy of the tale, by the end, I wanted to keep experiencing the many lives of Ursula Todd.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Read by Kate Mulgrew

FEMALE NARRTOR PERERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Harper Audio

Length: 19 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Horror

What I Said: Joe Hill’s latest novel is lush vivid horror tale full of wonderful characters, and unsettling imagery. Hill manages to take the thing we love best, the innocence and joy of Christmas time, and flip it on its head, making it a representation of all that we fear. NOS4A2 is brilliantly executed, leaving a lingering affect on the reader long after it is over.

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

Length: 17 Hrs 1 Min

Genre: Alternate History Urban Fantasy/Steampunk Superheroes.

What I Said: Larry Correia brings the arc than began in Hard Magic to a natural and completely satisfying conclusion in Warbound. With a combination of amazing storytelling, wonderful characters and one of the best narrator performances I have experienced, The Grimnoir Chronicles has earned it place as perhaps my favorite all time Speculative Fiction Audiobook series.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Read by Neil Gaiman

Harper Audio

Length: 5 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Fantasy

What I Said: I loved every moment of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is the rare book that from the wonderful start to the bitter end, kept me enthralled in its words, a prisoner to the next sentence and situation. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminded me of why I read.

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Read by Graham Winton

Recorded Books

Length: 22 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: Robert Jackson Bennett takes on the American Dream, and twists it in so many bizarre ways it becomes a kaleidoscope of what-the-fuckery. An engaging plot full of wonderful characters, that Bennett sends on one of the weirdest, wildest sciency fiction adventures my poor brain has ever had to process. Some narration issues may have held back some of it’s overall potential, but it’s still one heck of a good listen.

The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Vanessa Michael Monroe, Bk. 3)

Read by Hillary Huber

Random House Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Thriller

What I Said: In The Doll, Taylor strips away the trappings of her writing and presents a balls to the wall fast paced action thriller that will leave the reader awash in adrenaline soaked bliss. While her normal touches are still there, her vivid international setting, her complicated character’s unique skill set and her spin on typical action hero motivations, the action in The Doll is crisp and mean which makes it the most satisfying entry in an already excellent series.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Read by RC Bray

Podium Publishing

Length: 10 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: The Martian is probably my biggest surprise awesome audiobook this year. If you like realistic space travel tales, with cursing, 70′s pop culture references, laugh out loud one lines and plenty of fascinating creative science and engineering problem solving, download this sucker now. It’s really good.

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett (The Demon Cycle, Bk. 3)

Read by Pete Bradbury

Recorded Books

Length:  26 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Fantasy

What I Said: The Daylight War is not just a wonderful edition in perhaps my favorite fantasy series, but the proof of the validity of the trust I have put in Brett as a unique storyteller. The Daylight War continues with the characters and themes we loved in the first two novels, yet also manages to take the story in a whole new direction. While the clash of cultures is brilliantly done, and the increased menace of the demonic enemy even scarier, it’s the intricate relationships that Brett has built that is the true beauty of this novel.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Read by Kate Rudd

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 9 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: : The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a melancholy near future tale of love, family and robots, told on a canvas of a fascinating post disaster world. She fills her world with fully realized, flawed characters that filled me with joy as they were pissing me off. Clarke has managed to create a wonderful science fiction tale with a romantic tilt that I totally bought into. which isn’t the easiest of feats.

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller, Bk. 5)

Read by Peter Giles

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 49 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Why I Chose It: Connelly continues to prove he is a master of both plotting and characterization as he guides his broken creation, criminal defense lawyer Mickey Haller, along a bumpy road to redemption. Connelly redefines the concepts of innocence here, both legally and morally, while creating a compelling procedural tale. Giles continues to give a masterfully subtle performance that captures the nuances of Connelly’s writing.

The Thicket by Joe Lansdale

Read by Will Collyer

Hachette Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 19 Min

Genre: Historical Western/Thriller

Why I Chose It: I tend not to be a huge fan of historical/western tales, but The Thicket simply blew me away. Lansdale’s writing has a way of sneaking up on you. There are no bells and whistles, just straight forward storytelling, that surprises you with it’s emotional depth, colorful characters and dark humor. Collyer is quickly becoming a go to narrator for me. His performance of 16 year old Jack Parker manages to balance the naiveté and maturity of a young man forced to grown up due to tragedy.

The City of Devi by Manil Suri

Read by Vikas Adam and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Literary Post Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The City of Devi was never an easy tale for me, I often felt uncomfortable with not just the action but my reaction, yet, it was also a lot of crazy fun. For me, this tale worked on so many levels, creating a sort of beautiful mosaic of apocalyptic themes, strange love, and over the top absurdity.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Read by Michael Beck

Random House Audio

Length: 20 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Why I Chose It: Grisham returns to Clanton and his Jake Brigance character in a tale that rivals the A Time To Kill. Honestly, if you told me that Grisham would appear on my Top 20 list, I would have yelled OBJECTION! but Sycamore Row manages to be a effective legal thriller as well as a socially poignant tale. What makes matters even better is Michael Beck’s narration which is emotionally charged and pitch perfect. His performance enhances this novel, giving it a bump over a few other stellar legal thrillers this year, like Sheehan’s A Lawyer’s Lawyer and Ellis’s The Last Alibi.

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Audiobook Review: Downfall by Jeff Abbott

20 08 2013

Downfall (Sam Capra, Bk. 3) by Jeff Abbott

Read by Kevin T. Collins

Hachette Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 33 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Downfall is another fast and complex thriller in Jeff Abbott’s excellent series featuring ex-CIA spy Sam Capra. If you like fast paced action, with a dude running around like a crazy man, throwing himself in harms way, and finding ways to handle threats from all sides, well, dammit, read this series. It’s a good time.

Grade: B+

Every time I hear the main character in a thriller, adventure, spy novel talk about how he or she wants a "normal" life, I wonder exactly why. Honestly, dudes and dudettes who spend your days chasing down nuclear launch codes or exposing international conspiracies that go all the way to the top, normal lives are kind of Meh. Really. This is why you are in a book, because, despite the fact that everyone you have sex with ends up either betraying you or kidnapped to forced you to commit a crime, at least you are promised hot spy sex at least once a year. I have lived almost 40 years and I am yet to experience hot spy sex…. that I know about. Normal is really, really boring. That’s why the typical day to day life of a white suburban male who works a crappy job tends not to be what author’s write about, unless you’re one of those hoity toity literary types, and really, who wants to read that. Actually, maybe you spy types. Maybe, after a long day driving cars off cliffs, jumping out of supersonic experimental planes, and tossing corrupt CEO’s who are blackmailing the president out the windows of their penthouse apartments, maybe you like to lean, back and relax and read about some dude filling out purchase orders, and trying to figure out how to complete all the work when two people have called out and one is out on FLMA leave. Maybe, after whining and dining a Russian heiress whose father may have ties to international arms brokering, you just can’t wait to find out how some dude is going to handle the woman complaining about her leaking sink, when she never reported it was leaking. Maybe, when you say you want a normal life, you are speaking the absolute truth. I mean, is it really YOUR fault that the woman being hunted by the shady power broker just happened to come into your bar, or the man you just had to forcibly remove from your establishment just happened to be related to the Russian mob? Can you help that trouble finds you, and it’s not the kind of trouble that a normal person has to deal with when some clerk accidentally enters their purchase order twice and they receive double the amount of supplies they were expecting but have very limited space? Probably not.

Sam Capra was just tending bar one day when a beautiful women came in asking for help, followed by two shady characters. Of course, Sam Capra, being the highly trained ex-CIA spy that he was, and his bar being the front for an international organization tracking and containing the works of certain evil conspiracy groups, Sam knew better than get involved, so of course, he gets involved. When the confrontation leaves one man dead, and Sam on the radar both of the cops, and a shadowy man who likes to subtly manipulate people in such a way to bring fortune to himself and those in his network, Sam must find out how much danger he and those he loves are in. Of course, it’s a lot. Downfall is another fast and complex thriller in Jeff Abbott’s excellent series. Sam is finally settled down with his son, and pretty much in a nice normal groove, so of course, the rules say something has to shake things up for him, and shake they do. Downfall puts Sam at odds with just about everyone, allies, enemies, and those who he’s involved with in a personal way. Abbott makes up for the change in focus of the first two novels, where Sam is put into direct confrontation with an international cabal, while searching for his wife and son, by shifting the conflict, making it a bit more unseen. While the threats are there, and direct at times, Downfall works much life an iceberg, where the real danger is hidden under the surface. As always, the action is crisp and thrilling. Abbott’s action choreography differs from most thriller authors.  Typically author’s action descriptions tend to be more focused on the overall picture, creating elaborate set pieces with many moving parts. Instead Abbott takes an almost kinesiological approach, focusing on the precise placement and movement of the body, as Capra fights, flees and does what it takes to bring down the bad guys. Yet, the plot goes the other direction, combining direct threats with a bunch of hidden players mixed in. It was nice to actually have more information than the protagonist, and often see how Capra’s logical deductions were actually wrong, due to his lack of information. Yet, Abbott still managed to pull off some surprises that only Capra may have seen coming. One thing that did annoy me was a few interactions, particularly between Sam, and his kind of sort of  Nanny seemed somewhat unrealistic due to information that those who have read the previous novel had, but the characters seemed to be jumping through hoops not to mention, seemingly to avoid spoilers for those who may read the book out of order. While this is something that I guess you deal with when reading a series, sometimes I wish a character would just yell, "Well, that’s because in the last book, I tried to shoot you then harvest you spleen for my own mad experiments *Note: Spoiler not real* but I guess author’s can’t really do that. *pouty sulk*  While I didn’t enjoy Downfall as much as The Last Minute, it was still a heck of a lot of fun, and the Sam Capra series continues to bring you solid conspiracy plots, and lots of unique, yet still kick ass action. If you like fast paced action, with a dude running around like a crazy man, throwing himself in harms way, and finding ways to handle threats from all sides, well, dammit, read this series. It’s a good time.

Once again Kevin T. Collins handles the narration, and for my money, thank god he does. Here’s the thing. Kevin T. Collins emotes. When his characters are upset, he sounds upset. When there are happy, horny, angry or indignant, he sounds that way. His emotional spin is obvious. If you want someone to just read the words, you probably won’t like Collin’s reading. If you want to experience the characters, and get thrilled, frustrated angry, sad (but, hopefully not horny, unless that’s your thing) Collins is your guy. Collin’s handles the international cast superbly. He does some Russian, some British, some Moldovan, and a few others thrown in for flavor. He reads the action with a precise, deliberate pace perfect for Abbott’s style of writing. Collins has quickly become a favorite of mine, and for my book, he is the voice of Sam Capra, good, bad and ugly.

Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

10 07 2013

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

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

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 37 Min

Genre: Science Fiction’

Quick Thoughts: Love Minus Eighty is one of the most engrossing science fiction novels I have read in a long time. McIntosh has created a darkly beautiful near future world and populated it with characters you truly wish were real. It is an exploration of our romantic future and an affective romance all in one wonderful novel.

Grade: A+

I was quite hesitant to start Love Minus Eighty. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect it to be good, quite the opposite. After reading Soft Apocalypse, I knew Will McIntosh would be an author whose work I would savor. Yet, I had recently finished a literary science fiction novel that I felt I should have loved, and whose style and literary flair I appreciated, but I just couldn’t engage with it. I know I can be a moody reader, and sometimes the worst thing for me to do is eat a steak when all I want is candy. When I read the description for Love Minus Eighty it contained some key phrases that just told me this would be a novel that requires my brain to be ready to consume a nice big thinky piece of cow flesh. First off, the term Love, meant that this would be about, well, love. I told myself that this would be a novel ABOUT Romance, and not a romance novel. The description goes on to say the book “follows several interconnected people in a disquieting vision of romantic life.” To me, whenever I see the term “interconnected” in a novel or movie description, I assume this means either nonlinear story telling or a group of loosely connected vignettes. I assume that, in this case, the style of the book would be just as or even more important that the plot. These assumptions made me almost classify Love Minus Eighty in the same light as an art house film, one that would require me to think up snooty literary terms during my review to describe the style of the novel, as opposed to my typical review style of screaming “LOTS OF EXPLOSIONS! KILL KILL KILL” So, I kept putting off listening to Love Minus Eighty. Until the voices of those I follow on twitter began yelling at me, telling me that I just have to listen. So, mood be damned, I gave it a go.

After an embarrassingly public breakup, Rob is just seeking a bit of solace, when he accidentally hits and kills a jogger. Devastated and depressed, Rob discovers that his victim is part of the Bridecicle program, where attractive women are cryogenically preserved as potential mates for rich men who could afford to have them revived. Giving up all he holds dear, he works at a soul crushing job to raise money for brief 5 minute visits with his victim, Winter. When he learns that she may be removed from the program, Rob, with the help of Winter’s Ex-Boyfriend Nathan, a dating coach and his partner Veronika, attempt to save her life. Love Minus Eighty proves to me that I simply make some of the stupidest assumptions about books. I mean, really, my hesitation to start this book was based on some of the most ridiculously bad assumptions in the history of bad assumptions. Will McIntosh has created on of the most realistic near future worlds I have ever encountered. So much science fiction depends on brilliant scientific breakthroughs that while possible, seem to go against our societal priorities. Love Minus Eighty relies as much on an acute sociological understanding of our society as any extrapolation of our future technological progress. MicIntosh’s brilliant dark futures only enhances a series of complicated, but sweetly hopeful romantic entanglements. To describe Love Minus Eighty as simply a novel about romance would take away from one of the most solidly romantic tales I have ever read. Love Minus Eighty is a romance for the socially awkward, where true affection and organically developing friendships play a much greater part than romantic delusions or moments of instalove. McIntosh fills his novel with a range of regular people, from the fabulous to the frumpy, each of them coming alive in a way that made you wish they were in love with you. I felt more of a connection with these people and their relationships than I do with people I encounter in my real life. In particular, the characters of Veronica and Lycan resonated with me. Their relationship was a realistic counterweight to Rob and Winter’s more movie plot story, and I think the interplay between the two relationships made both work even better. One thing I loved about Love Minus Eighty was the subtle way he integrated this world with the world he created in Soft Apocalypse. While, in no way a sequel, those who read Soft Apocalypse could see how this new strange world came out of the one he created in that novel. Love Minus Eighty is one of the most engrossing science fiction novels I have read in a long time. McIntosh has created a darkly beautiful near future world and populated it with characters you truly wish were real. It is an exploration of our romantic future and an affective romance all in one wonderful novel.

Kevin T. Collins is quickly becoming on of my favorite narrators. His voice is sandpaper smooth, a unique velvety grit that that can add depth to a character, while still being pleasing to the ear. I am simply amazed at his ability to pull all the emotion out of a scene. With a slight break in his voice, or a simple unexpected modulation, he deftly displays the emotional complexities of a character. I am not a very emotional person, but Collins is one of the few narrators who has managed to affect me with his voice in ways I just didn’t expect. He is perfectly cast in Love Minus Eighty. He display’s Rob’s devastation and depression with a subtle touch, making the listener feel for his plight without ever feeling emotionally manipulated. He allows us to feel the relationship between Rob and Winter develop naturally. The perspective of Veronica is handled by Eileen Stevens. Steven’s gives a solid performance as well. She captures the self deprecating Veronika perfectly. She struck a totally different tone than Collins, offering a new perspective and a needed shift in tempo. The other perspective, that of Mira, a gay woman who was the longest member of the Bridecicle program, was handled affectively by Ali Ahn. What truly made this production work was how organic the transition between narrators felt. Whether a science fiction fan or not, Love Minus Eighty is a novel that should be given a priority spot on your reading list.

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





Audiobook Review: A Case of Redemption by Adam Mitzner

13 06 2013

A Case of Redemption by Adam Mitzner

Read by Kevin T. Collins

Audible Inc.

Length: 10 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Quick Thoughts: A Case of Redemption is an entertaining Legal thriller for hardcore fans of the genre, or those people who have never seen an episode of Law & Order, The Practice, LA Law or, hell, even that one with those two annoying dudes that currently airs on some damn cable channel. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.

Grade: B-

There is nothing more important in children’s development then helping them foster a sense of self awareness in order to determine what paths there lives should take. It’s easy to tell a child that they should choose a job for security, for money, or because of some family heritage, yet these reasons may not allow a child to be happy. When I was younger, after wanting to be a missionary, a scientist, an award winning film maker, I finally settled on wanting a career in law. I even went to college as a political science major with the express purpose of one day attending law school. Adults had been telling me for years that I should be a lawyer, because I loved to argue. Then they would pat me on the head, ignore my well reasoned arguments, and go back to acting like condescending adults. Despite my love of arguing, there was one really reason I wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted to be able to yell "OBJECTION!" in a crowded room, and force people to pay attention to me. Yet, eventually, years of reading legal thrillers wore me down. It seemed these lovely, characters who get to yell objections at the top of their lungs were destined to become broken down, alcoholic, workaholic success junkies with failed relationships and little to no happiness. It seemed the only way they would be destined to achieve happiness was after they quit their big city firms in disgrace, get themselves into rehab and take on an unwinable case that in someway involves a beautiful and mysterious woman and really, I didn’t want to have to go through all that knowing in the end, I’d probably still be disillusioned or betrayed. So, yeah, maybe law wasn’t the best choice, but, occasionally, when no one is paying attention to me, I still like to yell out "OBJECTION!" or when someone really annoys me, scream “OVERULED!”

Attorney Dan Sorenson was on the fast track to success in his big city firm, when a drunk driving took away everything he held dear. 18 months later Dan is an unemployed drunk living off the insurance money from the accident. When a beautiful attorney approaches his with the case of Rap Artist Legally Dead accused of killing his pop Diva girlfriend, Dan sees the case as a chance to redeem himself for past cases and a way to get his life back on track. A Case of Redemption is a solid legal thriller that offers some great moments, but often falls flat along the way. I enjoyed A Case of Redemption but mostly because I am a legal thriller fan, and often enjoy a good courtroom procedural. After Mitzner’s excellent debut, A Conflict of Interest, I was hoping to be blown away with a big step forward in this legal thriller author’s career, yet, I felt the opposite. In a way, it seemed Mitzner was relying on the themes and tropes of the genre without developing them much on his own. Dan was definitely in a downward spiral, but I felt the transition from down and out drunk, to rejuvenated hero lawyer was too smooth. I was also uncomfortable a bit with the romantic subplot where the attractive, full breasted young attorney managed to make him forget all about his dead wife and child through helping him find meaning and some rigorous sex play. It all felt too easy. Mitzner is no slouch in the legal strategy department, and puts together an interesting case, but it felt too much like a blending of bad Law & Order subplots. For instance, from the very beginning Dan was faced with a hostile judge, yet Mitzner does nothing to set up why the judge was so against Dan and his client. I believe there probably were reasons she was so vehemently against Dan, but it was never really explored. Also, now, I’m no legal strategist but I have no clue why two attorney’s for whom money didn’t seem to be a major issue, didn’t even consider hiring a private investigators, instead ran around like a couple of doofus wannabe Magnum, PI’s alienating potential witnesses and basically blundering along. I think this was my main concern, Dan, this high powered and smart attorney, was simply a big doofas. He pissed people off when he didn’t have to, pushed buttons he should have avoided and basically made an ass out of himself. I mean, really, did he think showing up at the dead pop star’s mother’s house and saying, “Hey, was your dead daughter banging any old dudes?” a smart decision?  Along the way, Mitzner uses some clever plotting to hack out some really intriguing twists, but in all honesty, there wasn’t one surprise that I didn’t highly suspect at some point. A Case of Redemption is an entertaining Legal thriller for hardcore fans of the genre, or those people who have never seen an episode of Law & Order, The Practice, LA Law or, hell, even that one with those two annoying dudes that currently airs on some damn cable channel. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.

Luckily, for me, A Case of Redemption was narrated by Kevin T. Collins, who at the very least makes things interesting. Collins has an ability to enhance the quirkiness of a novel or, when all else fails, create quirkiness out of thin air. He has a solid voice that just has a little something extra. I loved listening to him during the courtroom scenes. He captured the rhythms of the courtroom perfectly, giving it an almost poetic feel. I love how he handled the snarky judge, and the defeatist tone he gives Dan whenever she beat him down. Honestly, I shouldn’t have taken so much joy in the judge ripping Dan apart, but I just couldn’t help it. He even made the strange rejuvenation process of attorney down feel almost natural, giving him a bit more life as he immersed himself in the legal work of the case. One thing that Collins may need to work on is his rapping skills. He handled rapper Legally Dead well, but the rapping, was, well, Collins ain’t no Ghost Faced Killah or even an Eminem. Despite my harsh tone in my review, I enjoyed A Case of Redemption, and I think a big part of that was due to the excellent work of Kevin T. Collins.





Audiobook Review: Fuse by Juliana Baggott

14 03 2013

Fuse by Juliana Baggot (Pure Trilogy, Book 2)

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

Hachette Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 44 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: With Fuse, Baggott took everything I had expected from a follow up to Pure, and threw it out the window creating a vivid and visually stunning follow-up that made me care about these characters.

Grade: A-

One of the problems when you become obsessed with a specific subgenre of fiction is trying to find a balance between originality and classic themes and images you love. As an obsessive fan of post apocalyptic fiction who attempts to read anything that even remotely fits into the category, I love when I find a truly strikingly original idea, yet I also love when an author reminds me of previous experiences within the genre. It’s hard not to turn the whole reading experience into a sort of mathematical exercise "Oh, it’s the whole roving gang of cannibals trope" -1pt.  “Oh, wait, these cannibals are psychic muties who can only live off the specific prions within human flesh" +2Pts. Last year, when I read Pure, I loved the original concept that Juliana Baggott. Pure was full of some of the most strikingly beautiful, all together shocking and darkly poetic images I have experienced in Post Apocalyptic fiction. Yet, I also was left feeling a little bit cold by the end of the experience. I’m not sure why. It was possible that her Apocalyptic world was so unique that it almost had a different flavor than I tend to enjoy within the genre. This is why I was a bit hesitant going into Fuse. Then Baggott began throwing classic images at me, with new twists. "Oh, an apocalyptic amusement park named for some twisted clown." +2pt’s. "Oh, wait, she’s not going to even let our characters go in and mingle with the mutie carnie folk." -1pt.  "Fused escaped zoo animals in a devastated Washington DC." +3Pts "Hold on there, an apocalyptic Airship journey up the East Coast, and across the Atlantic.’ JACKPOT!!! Of course, in the end, the math is meaningless, since I give letter grades in my reviews…. or is it…?

Fuse picks up after the shocking ending of Pure, with Pressia, Bradwell and El Capitan searching for more answers and Partridge and Lydia trying to come to terms with life outside the Dome. Yet, when the Dome releases a young girl, now made pure, telling those outside they will start killing hostages if Partridge isn’t returned, the group must each make decisions that could affect not just them, but their world. Once again, the story is told from four different perspectives, giving as unique looks at events that are taking place. I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into Fuse, so not so surprisingly my reaction was totally unexpected. After a bit of time to readjust to the tale, I found myself totally absorbed in this world. Whatever coldness that there was in my initial take of Pure left fairly quickly. Instead, I simply couldn’t get enough of the tale. Baggott totally flipped the script on much of her world, pushing her characters in directions I hadn’t expected. My least favorite POV in Pure, that of El Capitan and his fused brother Helmut, became my favorite. My favorite POV in Pure, Lydia, created the most conflict for me. I still loved her character and valued her perspective, but she lost a bit of her agency, being easily manipulated by a group whose motives made me uncomfortable. The frustrating romantic entanglements of Pure became more confusing and complicated, yet even more integral to the plot. Baggott added some new strangeness to the tale, especially in Partridges tale that I simply loved. It was all strange because everything I didn’t like about Pure turned into the highlight of Fuse for me. I think one of the things that helped for me was that Baggott continues to create a unique scenario, yet also added in the classic Apocalyptic roadtrip which gave the story a grounding point I could be comfortable with. I think that Baggott’s world may have lost a touch of its luster here, but her characters became much more interesting. Heck, there were even some incredibly touching moments, particularly between Bradwell and El Capitan, that if I was the sort of person who had like feelings and stuff, I may have been a bit moved. The ending of Fuse was even more stunning than Pure, with one of the most disturbingly unexpected moments I have experience in a while. Honestly, I was a bit blown away by Fuse. My reaction was unexpected. I was prepared to be let down, and when I wasn’t, well, I didn’t know how to react. With Fuse, Baggott took everything I had expected from a follow up to Pure, and threw it out the window creating a vivid and visually stunning follow-up that made me care about these characters. Who’da thunk it?

I really wasn’t surprised when I learned that Pure was nominated for an Audie. It was far from my favorite science fiction audiobook of 2012, but it was a beautiful production. So it was no surprise that Fuse was also wonderfully produced. Again, each perspective was taken on by a different narrator, giving each character its own flavor. Last time I highly praised the performances of the female narrators. Khristine Hvam continues to capture the dark poetic beauty of Baggott’s world while giving voice to Pressia’s internal conflicts. I really loved the awkward, almost exotic pacing Casey Holloway gave Lydia’s perspective. There was almost a robotic feel to it that set her character apart from the others in the tale. Yet, this time, surprisingly I think the guys outshone the gals, which was something I hadn’t expected. New to the series, Pierce Cravens took over the Partridge perspective, capturing the young mans conflicts to come to terms to what he learned about his father perfectly. He counterbalanced Lydia with a smooth flow that made her perspective even more striking. Kevin T. Collins though, got to sing. Sing a quite creepy song that still gives me chills. His performance of the El Capitan perspective was wonderful. His voicing of Helmut was something special, and I think added a level of depth to the interplay between brothers that may be missed in the print text. Collins has slowly begun to become one of my favorite narrators, and the work he does here is stellar. I may have choked up a few times during some scenes, maybe… but you can’t prove anything.

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





Audiobook Review: The Last Minute by Jeff Abbott

26 02 2013

The Last Minute by Jeff Abbott (Sam Capra, Bk. 2)

Read by Kevin T. Collins

Hachette Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: If you were like me and a bit hesitant about The Last Minute, do not walk to your bookstore or digital download site, but run across walls and along roofs to get your hands on this thriller. The Last Minute was a heck of a lot of fun, with some great characters, true emotional resonance and a whole lot of breathtaking action making it one of the best action thrillers I have experienced in a while.

Grade: A-

As some of you may be surprised to know, I live a pretty simple life. I have yet to get involved in some globe spanning bit of international intrigue. I have never been framed for treason, or set up as a fall guy for some international global cabal set on world domination. It may not be the most exciting life, but at least the woman I love hasn’t betrayed me, and those I hold most dear are not in the hands of my greatest enemies. I’d call that a positive development. Yet, I have always been fascinated by just how far characters will go to protect those they love. You see, I don’t have kids of my own, but I have nieces and nephews, and other people who I hold quite dear. Now, I really doubt I could hold out against torture techniques like small pinches and pillow flogging, but if I managed to, I’m sure I’d roll over in a second if some guy with a strange accent threaten to decapitate my nephew’s Rex from Toy Story doll. Yet, I am the first person to scoff at book characters when they risk little things like assassinations and an apocalypse to rescue their children. I mean, I may be willing to reveal nuclear launch codes due to some slight discomfort but should a character on TV reveal where he hid the cable remote because some sociopathic bad guy is holding his children hostage, I’m quick to label the character a wuss. Yet, I am not ashamed. I revel in my hypocrisy, and after all the emotion of the moments are over, I am willing to forgive the characters their moments of weakness, as long as it all turns out peachy for the world in the end. I’m big like that.

After the events of Adrenaline, disgraced spy Sam Capra is now running a group of bars as front companies for a shadowy international organization. Only one thing matters to Sam, finding out were the organization known as Novem Solas has hidden his infant son. Yet, Novem Solas has other plans, and offers Sam the opportunity to get his son back, if he performs one favor, kill an innocent witness with damning information about the organization. I was a bit hesitant to take on The Last Minute, in fact, if it wasn’t for a bit of a technical snafu, it probably would still be lingering unlistened to on my MP3 Player. I liked Adrenaline, but the length of the audiobook (nearly 17 hrs) and the number of other audiobook commitments had placed it on the back shelf. Well, sometimes technical problems are there for a reason. The Last Minute is a grand adventure novel full of fast paced action, lots of intrigue, tons of twists and some unexpected emotional wallops. With thrillers, I tend to enjoy tighter, simpler tales, and was worried that the length would lead to an unfocused narrative full of unnecessary side trips. This worry wasn’t completely unfounded. Abbott doesn’t take the easy road to get to his destination, and there were some strange, somewhat distracting tangents along the way. Yet, there were also a few diversions that pushed The Last Minute beyond just another typical thriller, into something better. Abbott sets up a massive interlocking conspiracy that often pushed the edges of credulity, but in fun, exciting way. He deftly uses the emotional turmoil that Sam Capra is facing to push the story in interesting directions. There is one brutal and brilliant chase scene that ended in one of the most shocking decisions made by a protagonist in a thriller I have read. It was reasonable and utterly irrational at the same time. Yet, what truly stood out for me was one of the novel’s side trips, a tale of human trafficking and revenge that could work as it’s own short story or even novella, but ends up adding so much depth to one of the more elusive characters in the series.  So, if you were like me, and a bit hesitant about The Last Minute, do not walk to your bookstore or digital download site, but run across walls and along roofs to get your hands on this thriller. The Last Minute was a heck of a lot of fun, with some great characters, true emotional resonance and a whole lot of breathtaking action making it one of the best action thrillers I have experienced in a while.

I was all set to tell everyone what a good job Kevin T. Collins did in his narration of The Last Minute. I really enjoy Collin’s voice, it’s youthful, yet full of grit. There is a huge international cast in The Last Minute, and Collins handles this well. He even manages to tough trick of switching from a first person perspective to a third person perspective with ease. So yeah, I was ready to praise Collin’s reading, until I got to the section where Collin’s reads Mila’s origin story. Mila is Sam Capra’s mysterious boss, a Moldovan woman with a shadowy pass. Listening to this left me stunned and speechless. It’s very strange to say, but Kevin T. Collin’s reading from the perspective of a Moldovan woman was one of the best segments I have listened to in an audiobook that’s not narrated by Bronson Pinchot. It was brilliant and gave me chills. I think there was a few times listening to this part of the audiobook that I may have forgotten to breath. Collins had me so enthralled, and Abbott’s story so impactful that it pushed this good novel into the great category. The Last Minute was a real surprise for me, although it probably shouldn’t have been. The 17 hours just flew along thanks to an engaging character, some wonderful scenes and a gifted narrator.





Audiobook Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

16 02 2012

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Read by Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins and Casey Holloway

Hachette Audio

Length: 14 Hrs and 9 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Pure is full of tragic beauty, and Baggott does a great job setting up the theme of finding pride in our scars, both real and metaphorically. While there were moments where I found myself enjoying the settings more than the plot, the novel comes together well with a satisfying ending.

2013 Audie Nomination for Science Fiction

Grade: B

There is a sort of visual beauty in destruction that is hard to define. One of the things that I have always liked about the Post Apocalyptic novels is the images of desolation, of the earth taking back the land, of skeleton cities and empty highways. The first time I read George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, I was mesmerized with his meticulous descriptions of Nature reclaiming the land after a pandemic plague. This visual image has stuck with me for a long time. Yet, much of the time, these images are of landscape, of setting and not of people. Reading Justin Cronin’s interview with Julianna Baggott about the release of her new novel, Pure, he describe the visual of a young girl with a doll head fused to one hand. I found this image itself both stunning and a bit disturbing. Here is the same beauty that I often find is the descriptions of landscapes twisted by the ravaging of the earth, or the decimating of the earths population yet applied to an innocent young girl. I was quite fascinated with this, and wondered not just about the hows and whys of the circumstance that lead to this tragedy, but how it would play out over a whole novel.

Pure is the story of the world after the “detonations” when a series of nanotech enhanced bombs decimated America, causing the victims to merge with items they were in contact with. Pressia is a young girl with a dollhead merged to her hand being raised in an ash filled devastated world by her grandfather, with a fan lodged into his throat. In the distance stand The Dome, where those untouched by the bomb, called Pures lived is a clean, sterile and safe environment, promising to one day return and set things rights. Then, one day, Partridge, a Pure from the Done, escapes to find his lost mother. Pure is a visually stunning Post Apocalyptic tale which successfully straddles the line between Adult and Young Adult fiction. Baggott melds classic dystopian tropes of the haves and the have nots, sexual politics and social and physical stigmata into this story with Post Apocalyptic themes of survival and adaptation to a decimated landscape. While this tale is definitely science fiction, with nanotechnology, robotic insects and genetic engineering it often feels almost like a fairy tale style fantasy, with technology in place of magic. While I was amazed with the visuals, and intrigued by the future history Baggott presented, I had a hard time engaging with the actually plot for the first half of the novel. I felt so much emphasis was placed on the world building and setting up the basic mystery of the tale, that the characters felt a little flat early on. Yet, once the pieces were all put in place and things set into motion, I became more and more engrossed in the tale. The ending offered a few nice touches, and did a good job completing the tale, while setting up the next novel of the series. Pure is full of tragic beauty, and Baggott does a great job setting up the theme of finding pride in our scars, both real and metaphorically. While there were moments where I found myself enjoying the settings more than the plot, the novel comes together well with a satisfying ending.

Pire utilized the talents of four excellent narrators to bring about this tale with each narrator handling a different POV character. While the four narrators, Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins and Casey Holloway all did excellent work, I think the women stole the show on this production. Hvam did a wonderful job bringing Pressia to life, giving her a strong, confident voice, yet also capturing the fact that she was a teenager full of self doubts and conflicting emotions. Holloway voiced the POV of Lyda, who gets the least airtime, but may have been my favorite character. In some ways, she is almost the opposite of Pressia, yet, may have had the most significant overall transformation, and Holloway captures this aspect of Lyda well. While the women’s performances stand out, both Kevin T. Collins and Joshua Swanson bring a unique flavor to this production giving their characters distinctive voices. One of the problems with using multiple narrators is the voicing of peripheral characters that appear in multiple POVs. There are some small issues of this kinds of discontinuity that pull you out of the story, but these moments are rare, and mostly occur when switching from a female to male narrator in the midst of an extended scenes. Overall, the production was excellent, and all of the narrators contributed to bringing this striking vision to life.

Note: A special thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.