Audiobook Review: Symbiont by Mira Grant

5 02 2015

Symbiont (Parasitology, Bk. 2) by Mira Grant

Read by Christine Lakin

Hachette Audio

Length: 16Hrs 47Min

Genre: Science Fiction/Horror

Grade: B+

When Parasite came out, I was so excited. Mira Grant is like, the modern god of the scientific horror novel of some hyperbole. I loved the Newsflesh series, and was excited to see what she would do next. Plus, the book was about sentient tapeworms taking over their human hosts. Honestly, if you can’t get excited about sentient tapeworms taking over their human host then you probably aren’t my people.

Honestly, I should make that my online dating profile. Just list weird bizarre things that make me squeal and jump up and down in morbid glee, and if that makes you think I’m a bit weird, and the idea that being a bit weird is a negative aspect, well, you should probably pass on me.

So, Parasite came out. It was good….

I mean, I liked it but…

It really was pretty damn good…

OK, so basically, it wasn’t totally awesome, and I set myself up for totally awesome, so even pretty damn good was a bit of a letdown. So, I was less excited when Symbiont came out….

Symbiont, was pretty damn good. It’s hard to say whether I liked it more than Parasite or if my lessened anticipation just made it more fulfilling, either way, except for a few minor quibbles, Symbiont was maybe lightly brushing up against awesome.

Mira Grant has a great concept with this series, and Symbiont continues to explore it. Yet, despite the original concept, Grant storytelling has a traditional comfortable feel. This is actually a complement. Many authors today value style so high it gets in the way of a good story. Grant seems to know that no matter how unique the setting of concept, the story has to be accessible and compelling. While she spends a bit too much time on Sal/Sally’s internal struggles, she keeps the story moving forward with strong action and interesting characters. As Symbiont is the second book in series, the ending leaves a bit too much up in the air, which gives the take and incomplete feel, which, I guess is expected since the tale is, in fact, incomplete but I hoped for a bit more of a substantive ending. Symbiont moved the series in the right direction, giving us a greater glimpse of a world shattering around itself opening up space around the tale to give it a much bigger feel.

Christine Lakin gives a solid performance. Basically, she does her job and does it well. She has a pleasant voice, and is technically proficient. In all honestly, I really don’t remember much specifically about her performance. It won’t stand out as one of those amazing performances that remind me why I love audiobooks. Mostly, she just got out of the way of the story. Sometimes this is the best thing for a narrator to do. I think Symbiont could have benefited from a narrator that took a few more risks, but it also could have turned into an utter disaster, so I’ll take it.

If you liked Parasite, and don’t mind a few of Grants particular peccadilloes, than you will probably be quite satisfied with Symbiont. Just remember that this is just book two in a series, so don’t expect to feel like anything has actually been accomplished.

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Audiobook Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

12 11 2013

Parasite (Parasitology, Bk. 1) by Mira Grant

Read by Christine Lakin

Hachette Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: Science Fiction/Horror

Quick Thoughts: In Parasite, Mira Grant takes a bizarre concept and makes it horrifically realistic through well researched science. Full of fascinating concepts, wonderful characters and plenty of dark humor, Parasite is a truly compelling listen.

Grade: A-

In the start of a new series, Mira Grant once again blends genres, taking a concept that seems almost bizarre on its face, grounding it well researched and surprisingly realistic science creating a scenario that is more horrific than traditional supernatural horror. While the story is utterly unique, Grant revisits many themes that made her Newsflesh series stand out, skewed family dynamics, untraditional romantic bonds, a society that adapts to drastic scientific change and characters that break away from norms in delightful ways. In PARASITE, a revolutionary change in health management, developed as a responsive to the Hygiene Hypothesis, has genetically engineered Tapeworms controlling and monitoring the health of individuals. Sally Mitchell received one of the top of the line, early prototypes of the SymboGen Intestinal Bodyguard, due to her father’s high level position as a Government Scientist. After an accident that leaves her seemingly brain dead, Sally miraculously recovers, despite a nearly total loss of memory. Now, Sally must undergo regular testing by SymboGen, as well as her parent’s obsessive protective care, while she attempts to live a normal life. When a strange sickness begins to affect some with the SymboGen Intestinal Bodyguard, Sally finds herself pulled between her family, the man she loves, and the shady company that may have saved her life.

It’s no surprise that based on the concepts of potentially sentient tapeworms that I would absolutely love this book. Well, I did, for many reasons. Mira Grant has become the closest thing to the modern day Stephen King for me, and author who manages to thrill and horrify me on a consistent basis. What surprised me most about Parasite wasn’t the well written action, the fascinating science, or the mind numbing high concept plot, it was the humor that Grant infused throughout the novel. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Grant’s novel managed to elicit several inappropriate laugh out loud public moments for me. Sally Mitchell as a character was fascinating, but also managed to be a bit awkward and frustrating at points. Unlike Georgia from the Newsflesh series, while Sally was impressive and strong in her own way, she was quite naive, and even at times whiny. Yet, Grant filled out her cast with characters that balanced Sally out. Grants characterizations are superb, and the number of memorable, crazy, yet fully fleshed out characters was impressive. I love how every relationship in this book is pushed in interesting ways. Sally’s unique relationships with her family, boyfriend, coworkers and even the scientists at SymboGen are not just peripherals of the series, but informed the story in wonderful ways. While I loved Parasite, it wasn’t the perfect novel. It suffered a bit from being the obvious first book in a series. While many questions are answered, the story didn’t have the feeling of being a self contained story that Feed, the first Newsflesh book, managed to have. The big reveal at the end of Parasite was only truly a surprise to the main character. Yet, despite this lack of closure and the telegraphed twist, Grant does a lot with this story and does it well. I’m quite excited to see where this story goes. Again, Grant has created a wonderful world, which offers her plenty of places to play in, and I for one really enjoy watching Mira Grant play.

This is my first experience with Christine Lakin as narrator, and she did an excellent job with the story. Lakin found the right balance between strength and self doubt that peppers Sally’s personality. She read Sally with a quiet strength that was almost stoic at times, allowing the moments of emotional flair to have more impact on the listener. You could just feel Lakin having fun as she voiced Tansy, one of the more colorful characters of the series. She captured the comic absurdity of the character without turning her into a cartoon character. He pacing was brisk yet smooth, allowing the action to push the narrative without being forced. At times some of the lesser characters came of a bit cardboard, but the more colorful standout characters in the book truly came alive in Lakin’s hands. Mira Grant continues to impress me, and I will be waiting trepidatiously yet with growing childish glee for the next entry in this series,





Book Review: San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant

11 05 2013

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (A Newsflesh Novella)

Orbit Books

Quick Thoughts: San Diego 2014 has everything you want in a Zombie novella, wonderful characters, heroic stands, epic deaths, zombie killing badassery, dark humor and emotionally jarring moments.

Grade: B+

So, it’s Zombie Awareness Month and I was faced with a bit of a problems. How can we have a celebration of Zombies without discussing Mora Grant? Her Newsflesh Series has been the highlight of my Zombie loving life the past three years, and she was the first author ever to allow me to ask her some awkward questions in interview format. The problem was, I had already listened to all of Mira Grant’s audiobooks, even the short non-zombie Apocalyptic Scenario #683: The Box which she narrated herself. Then I remembered that I can also consume words through my eyeballs and not just my earholes. While I had listened to all the audio entries in the Newsflesh series, I had yet to read the one Newsflesh Novella not yet available in audio called San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats. Also, I had this rectangular shaped plastic thingy called a Nook which you can actually download word strings that form stories onto making it a perfect devise for ocular word consumptions. Hence, my problem solved.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats takes place in the early stages of The Rising, at a time where Zombies were still fictional, and the weird stories being spread around about a new disease were basically just rumors, and rumors are not enough to keep the die hard fans from attending the annual ComicCon is San Diego. Mahir Gowda, newsie for Georgia and Shawn Mason’s After the End Times blog, has tracked down the last survivor of that fateful ComicCon, the daughter of two members of a Firefly fan group. Through his interview and other means, the tragic story of the infestation of Kellis/Amberlee into the ComicCon is told. San Diego 2014 is simply another bit of evidence proving Mira Grants place as one of the premiere Zombie novelist of our time. In just about 100 pages, she managed to make me care about a group of characters and laugh and cry with them through their last moments. San Diego 2014 has everything you want in a Zombie novella, wonderful characters, heroic stands, epic deaths, zombie killing badassery, dark humor and emotionally jarring moments. Heck, Grant even manages to fit in a courageous service dog. One thing I loved about San Diego 2014 was, unlike her other Newsflesh Novella Countdown, this was a story that can stand on it own. Grant creates a loving image of Fandom, highlighting its quirks and eccentricities without making them seem like freaks. There were moments when reading this novella when I groaned at the fate of a character, or laughed at a simple line like "We are in the middle of what looks increasingly like a zombie apocalypse. Moaning people don’t need help…" Yeah, that. San Diego 2014 was the perfect Mira Grant fix needed for Zombie Awareness Month.





My Top 20 Audiobooks of 2012

27 12 2012

2012 was a great year for audiobooks. As an avid listener of audiobooks, I don’t think I can remember a year quite like this. With the releases of some classics like Stephen King’s The Stand and the complete Chronicles of Amber, to some breathtaking debuts, and a bunch of authors and narrators releasing some of their best works, it will be a year I remember for a long time. At one point early in the year, I was wondering if I had been becoming to easily pleased based on the number of A reviews I was giving, or if the quality was just better this year.

As far as quantity, I have easily broken my record this year. In 2011, I listened to 174 audiobooks. As I am writing this post, for 2012 I have written 192 audiobook reviews, including two posts that reviewed the 10 Chronicle of Amber novels, as well as a few double reviews of audiobook novellas. If I include all my multiple reviews, and those audiobooks I have listened to yet haven’t reviewed yet, my total for 2012 is over 200. Now, some of these were shorter novellas and short story anthologies. Of these 200, about 30% received a grade in the A range, while 60% fell into the B range.

Favorite posts like this are very subjective. I know a lot of people who listen to the kind of audiobooks I enjoy, but few who match my specific likes, so I will never call my picks the best. If you are new to my blog, I listen to a wide range of speculative fiction genres, which leans heavily towards Horror and Dark Fantasy, as well a blend of science fiction. I listen to a lot of Zombie and Post Apocalyptic novels. I also enjoy Crime Fiction and Thrillers, particularly detective stories and legal Thrillers.  For my 2012 list, I limit it to audiobooks which are produced in 2012, even if the book itself was written pre-2012.

I really struggled with my picks this year, moving things around repeatedly and even considered expanding my list to 25 titles. Yet, in the end, I stuck with 20. I went back and forth on my number 1 pick this year. I knew which book resonated with me the most this year. It was the best mix between content and narration, and thinking about it still haunts me. Yet, I considered going with another title because it was an audio reread of a novel written in 1990. It is one of my favorite novels of all time and listening to it now in audio, in a new production with a wonderful performance by the narrator made me love it even more. So, I went with it. I mean, heck it’s my list, right?

This year I decided to try something a little different. Instead of writing a new blurb for each book, instead there is a link to my original review, plus my "Quick Thought: entry. Also, I invited some authors and narrators to talk about their experience with the audiobook versions of the entries. I want to thank those who contributed on short notice during this hectic holiday season. So, here it is my 20 favorite audiobooks of 2012. Hopefully, you will find something here to love as well.

 

A Gift Upon the Shore by M. K. Wren

Read by Gabra Zackman

Audible Frontiers

My Review

What I Said: A Gift Upon the Shore is one of my all time favorite novels, a darkly beautiful vision of a nuclear apocalypse. This novel stands apart from many within the genre by its frightening realism and its strong female characters. Narrator Gabra Zackman captures the poetry of the novel perfectly, making it a wonderful example of how good an audiobook can be.

Gabra Zackman, narrator of A Gift Upon the Shore

“A Gift Upon the Shore was one of my favorite books to record.  Partly because the story seemed so vital and relevant, and partly because it felt personally meaningful. It’s a really beautiful thing to connect emotionally to a book you are recording… it doesn’t happen all the time, and it makes the reading infinitely better when it does.  At the time I was in a fascinating life space… I was about to make a move cross country to new terrain and was both excited and scared by the prospect.  So to read a book about female pioneers re-inventing life in a landscape of the unknown was…. extraordinary.  Comforting.  Validating.  And offered me some courage I badly needed.  In addition to all that, I am a passionate lover of language, and the folkloric nature of the writing was music to my ear.”

Blackout by Mira Grant

Read by Paula Christensen and Michael Goldstrom

Hachette Audio

My Review

What I Said: Blackout is full of adventure, betrayal, true love, sacrifice, conspiracies revealed, surprise enemies and allies, fascinating science and of course, zombies. It has everything you want in a series finale, leaving you both utterly fulfilled, and desperately wanting more.

 

The Stand by Stephen King

Read by Grover Gardner

Random House Audio

My Review

What I Said: For fans of this novel who, like me, are skeptical of allowing another person to become the voice in your head, bringing this world you love to life, don’t be. The audiobook version of The Stand achieves its goal of presenting this classic in a way that will be accessible for both long time fans and those new to King’s frightening landscape.

Assassin’s Code by Jonathon Maberry

Read by Ray Porter

MacMillan Audio

My Review

What I said: Assassin’s Code is a fast paced, no holds barred science thriller with perhaps the most engaging series character in fiction today. If you have yet to listen to a Joe Ledger Book, makes sure you have plenty of time on your hands because once you start, you will not want to stop.

Ray Porter, narrator of the Joe Ledger series:

“I am a big fan of Jonathan Maberry. Every time I get to read Joe Ledger it is like visiting a good friend. I was very entertained by both books and I hope people have as good a time with them as I did.”

Spellbound by Larry Correia (Book 2 of the Grimnoir Chronicles)

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

My Review

What I Said: Spellbound left me simply breathless. Larry Correia has taken classic fantasy tropes and blended them into something that is almost its own new genre. The Grimnoir Chronicles with its blending of Superheroes, Steampunk and Alternate History is a series you simply cannot miss.

Larry Correia, author of Spellbound: “I’ve been blessed with amazing narrators. For Hard Magic and Spellbound, Bronson Pinchot makes the characters come alive. Sometimes it is really hard as a writer to listen to an actors interpretation of somebody you made up, because obviously they are never going to match exactly with what you’ve got in your head. Bronson does such a darn good job in Spellbound that as I’m writing the third book I find that the characters in my head now sound like his version of them.”

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Read by Susan Duerden

Dreamscape Audiobooks

My Review

What I Said: The Rook is one of the most fascinating Fantasies I have experienced in a long time, truly touching that sense of wonder as only the best Fantasies can. In many ways, this is the novel that JK Rowling’s should have wrote next, an adult fantasy that reminds us of those feelings we would get as a child  hiding under our blankets trying to read just one more chapter.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Read by Grover Gardner

Blackstone Audio

My Review

What I Said: Defending Jacob made my courtroom thriller loving heart sing for joy, a well written, deftly plotted legal tale that was full of hidden depths. Fans of crime fiction, even if not particularly legal thriller fans, should not miss this utterly enthralling novel.

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Read by John Hodgman

Random House Audio

My Review

What I Said: If I can compare a book to Ready Player One, Agent to the Stars and The Hitchhikers Guide, then it should be a given that I loved it. I did. Year Zero may be the most pure fun I had listening to a book this year. There was enough inappropriate laugh out loud moments that the weird looks I began receiving from strangers and coworkers became part of the scenery. Year Zero is the kind of accessible, pop culture ridden science fiction that should be embraced by a wide audience.

14 by Peter Clines

Read by Ray Porter

Audible Frontiers/Permuted Press

My Review

What I Said: Peter Clines novels are always highly visual, with intricately detailed action that comes across splendidly in audio. If there is any justice in the world, 14 is a novel that should make Peter Clines a household name among not just horror fans, but fans of good stories, expertly told. Clines has created a novel with characters to cheer for, twists to be honestly shocked by and stunningly vivid horrors that will make your dreams  uncomfortable.

Ray Porter, narrator of 14:

“I really enjoyed Peter Clines’ book, I look forward to more from him. I’d love to have a chance to narrate another of his books.”

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

Read by James Marsters

Penguin Audio

My Review

What I Said: Cold Days reinvigorated my love for this series. Butcher takes everything you think you know about The Dresden Files and smashes it, twisting and pulling it like taffy. He expands his world in amazing new directions, answering questions you never knew you where asking, while creating whole new realties to deal with.

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, Bk. 2)

Read by Khristine Hvam

Hachette Audio

My Review

What I Said: Days of Blood & Starlight left me totally breathless. Taylor creates her worlds with poetry, twisting our perceptions of the genre with each word, creating something both comfortable and unique with a magician’s touch. Fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bones will not only have their anticipations paid for with this novel, but they should be totally blown away.

Khristine Hvam, narrator of Days of Blood & Starlight:

“I think we can all agree that the world Laini Taylor has created is incredible. It is an honor to be a part of it.

We finished up recording Days of Blood and Starlight in a beautiful New York City Studio, with some pretty awesome people, a few months ago. Since then the response to the book, and the audio version have been fantastic. What an honor to have been cast for this project. Taylor’s story gives me so much room and opportunity to discover new voices, play with old ones, and develop as a voice artist. It’s kind of what we all wish for in a project.”

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

My Review

What I Said: Throne of the Crescent Moon is the rare fantasy that seems to do everything right in an accessible, highly readable way. This book will thrill fantasy fans, and make them long to discover even more about Saladin Ahmed’s intriguing world. Even better, this is the type of accessible fantasy that I would have no trouble recommending to people whether they are fans of the genre or not.

Phil Gigante, narrator of Throne of the Crescent Moon:

“I really loved Saladin Ahmed’s juxtaposition of classic Arabian tales with a "Western" Fantasy style. He captured the true history and intrigue of his Middle Eastern roots, and told a story worthy of the best modern Fantasy authors. It is beautiful and lyrical, as the best Fantasy should be. I met Saladin at a sci-fi convention where he was touring for the book, and I found him to be a great person, and a writer to watch for a long, long time. He also has possibly the best hair of any writer working today! I’m really looking forward to the sequel, as all the Eastern pronunciations really gave my glottal stops a workout.”

The Reanimation of Edward Schuett by Derek J. Goodman

Read by David Letwin

Audible Frontiers

My Review

What I Said: The Reanimation of Edward Schuett is a novel that blends the unique zombie perspective of a novel like Zombie Ohio, with the recovered society motif of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, mixing in a liberal dose of the quirkiness of Raining Stony Mayhall, then adds it’s own secret blend of herbs and spices making it the most unique, and perhaps, rewarding zombie experience of the year.

This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It by David Wong

Read by Nick Podehl

Brilliance Audio

My Review

What I Said: This Book is Full of Spiders is just pure fun for any fan of horror fiction, full of adventure, plenty of creepy scares, monsters, shadowy government types, weird otherworldly weapons, slapstick irreverent humor and of course, a good dog and an even better woman. Fans of John Dies at the End will love this latest adventure with their buddies David and John, and if you have yet to spend time with this duo, go do it now. You’ll thank me.

Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI, Bk. 1)

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

My Review

What I Said: Death Warmed Over is a haunted Halloween treat that pulls from The Police Squad as much as classic monster tales. Kevin J. Anderson has created a tableau for storytelling that should please a wide plethora of fans across many genres. Death Warmed Over is a tragic yet beautiful romance, an action filled buddy comedy, and a unique legal thriller all rolled into a tasty noir zombie shell and readers will want to take a big bite out of it.

Phil Gigante, narrator of Death Warmed Over

“I was impressed, as Bob mentioned in his review, how Kevin J. Anderson takes what could be every cliche in the "undead" realm, and layers on characters and situations that hit home mentally, spiritually and emotionally. He adds layers of true love, justice and intrigue, as well as screamingly funny dialogue, making the listener actually care deeply about the ghosts, zombies, mummies and other "Unnaturals" that make up the Big Uneasy. I screwed up many studio takes laughing out loud. Anderson even takes on modern slavery in the follow-up with tenderness and aplomb, all the while keeping the humor at a fever pitch.”

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

Read by Robert Petkoff

Hachette Audio

My Review

What I Said: The Prophet is a crime novel with literary flair. It is a tale of redemption and relationships which can uplift your spirit while devastating your soul. Koryta continues to prove that no matter what genre he is tackling, he is one of the best storytellers working today.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

Read by John Lee

Blackstone Audio

My Review

What I Said: Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a beautiful, vivid tale of relationships colored with a touch of the fantastic. Joyce never spoon feeds his readers but creates a vibrant mosaic for each person to translate on their own. Some Kind of Fairy Tale is simply wonderful storytelling and one of the most rewarding tales I have experienced this year.

Zombie by J. R. Angelella

Read by Alston Brown

AudioGo

My Review

What I Said: Zombie is truly a feat in storytelling. It reads like a novel Chuck Palahniuk would write after reading too much Robert Cormier. Full of witty dialogue, pop culture references and a unique rivalry between the bittersweet and the bizarre, Zombie is a buzz worthy book that defies classification, but would definitely make a wonderful edition to anyone’s bookshelf.

Control Point by Myke Cole (Shadow Ops, Bk. 1)

Read by Corey Jackson

Recorded Books

My Review

What I Said: Control Point delivered what I thought it would, tons of action, a fascinating world, and an authentic military feel. Yet, it’s what I didn’t expect that put this over the top for me. A hero I’m still not quite sure I can believe in and a blurred line between the good guys and the bad guys that lead to an emotionally devastating climax. Control Point is a novel that will be bouncing around in my head for a long, long time, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Myke Cole, Author of Control Point:

"When I first heard that CONTROL POINT was being made as an audiobook, I asked my agent to get me an audition. How hard could it be to read your own book? I mean, heck, I know how to properly pronounce all the names, and acronyms, and . . . uh . . . other names. CONTROL POINT was packed with incredibly nuanced words, like . . . "helicopter" and "sorcerer" and "pentagon."

To my great shock and dismay, Recorded Books politely declined.

So, I went home and beat my breast, shouted at the heavens, lamented the injustice of it all.

And then I heard Corey Jackson, channeling Oscar Britton with a passion and sensitivity that I would never have been able to muster. When I first saw the US cover of the book, I felt as if Michael Komarck had reached into my head and plucked images there for the final painting. Hearing Jackson was the same way. His voice *is* Oscar Britton’s voice. It always was.

The hard lesson here? Heinlein was wrong. Specialization isn’t for insects. It’s for specialists. And sometimes, it’s best to stand back, swallow your pride, and let them do their jobs. I’m sure glad I did."

What It Was by George Pelecanos

Read by J.D. Jackson

Hachette Audio

My Review

What I Said: Pelecanos fans will rejoice in a new Derek Strange tale and he certainly does his fans justice. What is Was is the hip thrilling story that his fans have come to expect, full of authentic, almost poetic dialogue, and human characters which will leave the listener wanting more.

Some Notes on the List:

Favorite Book published in 2012: Blackout by Mira Grant
Favorite Standalone Book published in 2012: Defending Jacob by William Landay
Favorite Debut of 2012: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Favorite Fantasy Novel Published in 2012: Spellbound by Larry Correia
Favorite Horror Novel published in 2012: Blackout by Mira Grant
Favorite Science Fiction Novel published in 2012: Year Zero by Rob Reid
Favorite Mystery/Thriller published in 2012: Defending Jacob by William Landay

This is the first time that my top 2 Audiobooks were written by Female Authors.
Five of the top 20 picks were from debut Authors:

Honorable Mentions:

There were a lot of titles that would have made the list in any other year. Legion by Brandon Sanderson was a wonderful audiobook, but as it’s only a two hour novella, I couldn’t justify putting it on the list. I broke out of my typical genres and listen to a few more literary titles, among which A Land More Kind Than Home probably would have been in place #21 if I expanded the list particularly due to the wonderful performances by the narrators. Based solely on the book, Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole would have been a top 10 pick, but the author’s narration, while decent for what it was, knocked it down a bit on my list. Another recently audiobook reissues of a classic, The Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle was wonderfully produced by AudioGo, and, as part of the so called A List, Anne Hathaway’s reading of the beloved children’s classic The Wizard of Oz is a must listen. Lastly, for shared world anthologies, you can’t get much better than V-Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry and full of some wonderful performances by a star studded cast of narrators.

Now, onto 2013!





Audiobook Review: Blackout by Mira Grant

21 05 2012

Blackout by Mira Grant (Newsflesh Trilogy, Bk. 3)

Read by Paula Christensen and Michael Goldstrom

Hachette Audio

Length: 17 Hrs 8 Min

Genre: Science Fiction Zombie Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Blackout is full of adventure, betrayal, true love, sacrifice, conspiracies revealed, surprise enemies and allies, fascinating science and of course, zombies. It has everything you want in a series finale, leaving you both utterly fulfilled, and desperately wanting more. Blackout is hands down my favorite Audiobook of 2012, and if it doesn’t top my list at year end, then some miracle of audiobook greatness must have taken place to knock it off its perch.

Grade: A+

Blackout will be available in Print and Digital format on May, 22, 2012, and in digital audio format on June 1, 2012.

Note: If you have not read the first two novels of this series, do not read this review. While it contains no spoilers for Blackout, there are definite spoilers for Feed and Deadline. Also, why the hell haven’t you read/listened to Feed and Deadline yet. Stop reading reviews, and grab those books now.

It’ all started with some moron poking a zombie with a stick. Personally, I couldn’t believe it. Here I am, this guy who reads and listens to tons of Zombie fiction, and watches more Zombie movies than is legally considered healthy, and I’m listening to a book which starts with some moron poking a zombie with a stick, followed by some Dukes of Hazardesque chase seen with a motorcycle instead of the General Lee and Zombies playing the role of Roscoe P. Coltrane. You see, when I started Feed, I had no idea who this twisted soul known as Mira Grant, or her Fantasy writing alter ego Seanan McGuire was. I had no idea how much she loved these twisted B-Horror type scenarios that should totally come off as ubercheese. Most importantly, I had no idea, as I followed this moron Shaun Mason, and his sister Georgia, that I would fall in love with them, and this strange, hauntingly plausible world they lived in. I had discovered Feed, late one night, while searching the Overdrive Library system. It was the blood splattered cover and tagline, “Good News: We Survived. Bad News: So Did They.” that caught my attention. I was mildly pleased with my discovery. While I had read quite a few Zombies novels, I had yet to read one written by a women and I was looking forward to experiencing something maybe just a bit different. It is a decision I’m glad that I made. It’s now been almost 5 days since I finished listening to the finale of The Newsflesh, and I really needed that time to let it settle in. If I had written my review right after I completed listening to the audiobook, the review would have been an utter geekgasm, full of heart signs, XOXO’s and pictures of Lotsa Heart Elephant and the rest of my favorite Care Bear Cousins. Five Days later, and my appreciation and love of the trilogy hasn’t waned, but I have stepped away enough to be able to get my fanboyishness down to a more acceptable level. Although, fair warning, if I ever do meet Mira Grant in real life, I cannot promise that I won’t squeal, run over and give her a hug that both of us would find a bit awkward after the fact. I am not known for impulse control.

So, I guess I should talk about Blackout. If Feed is a Political Thriller with Zombies and Deadline is a Science Thriller with Zombies, than Blackout is their brilliant love child. Grant is able to take the best aspects of both novels, and blend them together is a way that exceeded even my high expectations and produced the rare series finale that delivers more than just the goods. The ending reveal of Deadline, was such an utterly brilliant, game changing, world shaping moment that I loved and feared it. Sometimes the worst thing a writer can do is give the readers what they want, and what any reader of Feed wanted was more Georgia Mason. Georgia Mason is a character that you can’t help but want to be like in all her complicated forms. Yet, I was worried about what Grant would have to do to fit her comfortably back into this world. I really shouldn’t have spent the year worrying about this. Georgia’s return fit seamlessly into the narrative, adding such a wonderful new slant to the overall tale. Yet, with my insatiable crush on Georgia, and desire to hang with the After the End Times crew, the true star of Blackout and the Newsflesh trilogy is the world Grant has created. Grant’s world is a realistic depiction of a society attempting to retain normalcy in what typically would be viewed as an apocalypse. In an America irrevocably altered by Kellis-Amberlee, the dead walk, spies have PhD’s, government agencies use fear to maintain control over the populous, and mad science may save humankind, but destroy the world in the process. Grant pieces it all together like a complicated puzzle that you have no idea what the final picture is, but when it is finally revealed, it knocks the breath out of you. Blackout is full of adventure, betrayal, true love, sacrifice, conspiracies revealed, surprise enemies and allies, fascinating science and of course, zombies. It has everything you want in a series finale, leaving you both utterly fulfilled, and desperately wanting more. If any part of you thinks I am overdoing my praise of Blackout, this, my friends, is restrained fanboyishness.

Typically, fans of series want consistency in audiobook casting, yet with the unique challenges of The Newsflesh series shifting perspectives, this was tough. Fans of Feed will be happy to know that Paula Christensen has returned to handle Georgia’s perspective. I had some small quibbling complaints with Christensen’s performance in Feed, yet in Blackout Christensen’s performance is flawless and beautiful. She totally encompasses the role of Georgia. Christensen has a unique, yet lush voice that highlights Georgia’s maturity, while still staying true to her youth. Yet, the biggest surprise for me in the audiobook was Michael Goldstrom’s performance. Goldstrom takes over for Chris Patton who read the Shaun Mason perspective in Deadline, yet there isn’t that discontinuity that often occurs when there is a narrator change. Goldstrom, like Christensen, becomes Shaun Mason. He is totally believable in this role. Yet, the highlight of the audiobook was Goldstrom’s performance of the peripheral characters, particularly Mahir. He delivers Mahir exactly as I imagined him, and fills him with heart, transforming him, along with Grant, into perhaps my favorite character of the series. Both narrators work together well. These is a bit of disconnect when the perspectives finally merge, and you have multiple narrators handling individual characters but you quickly adjust to this necessity, which isn’t nearly as jarring as I have experienced in other productions.  Overall, every aspect of this production was done just right, the sound crisp, the narrators spot on, and the pacing perfect. Blackout is hands down my favorite Audiobook of 2012, and if it doesn’t top my list at year end, then some miracle of audiobook greatness must have taken place to knock it off its perch.

 

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





Welcome to the Apocalypse: Upcoming Audiobooks for The Walking Dead Fans

23 03 2012

While Rick, Glenn, Andrea and the rest are on hiatus hanging out in the shadows of a creepy prison, The Zombie Apocalypse doesn’t rest. If you are like me, you need a regular zombie fix or you start jonesing for entrails and brains. Well, have no fear, there are plenty of new Zombie Apocalypse Audiobooks coming out between now and the Season 3 Premiere of The Walking Dead.

Completed Trilogies

If you are like me, often times you hate that long wait between books of a series or trilogy. Well, here are two trilogies whose finales are due out over the next few months:

The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

Hachette Audio

Blackout, Book 3 will be out early June,

As the World Dies Trilogy by Rhiannon Frater

Audible Frontiers

Siege, Book 3 will be out soon.

 

Ongoing Series

Sometimes it’s nice to meet a bunch of Survivors and follow their ongoing adventures adventures. Here are some series with new audiobooks coming out in the next few months.

Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo

Tantor Audio

Four Audiobooks in this series will be released by Tantor Audio over the next few months.

The Becoming Series by Jessica Meigs

Audible Frontiers

Book 2 The Becoming: Ground Zero will be released in July.

The Dead World Series by Joe McKinney

Tantor Audio

Mutated, the fourth book in the series will be released in September.

The Infection Series by Craig DiLouie

Audible Frontiers

The Killing Floor, the next book of the series, will be available in April.

Undead Debut

It’s always fun to discover a new author. Check out this Debut release.

The Return Man by V M Zito

Hachette Audio

The Return Man releases in early April

 

Young Adult Zombies

Let’s face it, kids like zombies too. The following are series of novels written for young adults, but should make adults hearts leap out of their chests as well.

The Benny Imuru Series by Jonathan Maberry

Recorded Books

Flesh & Bones, the final book in the trilogy will be released in September.

The Ashes Trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick

Brilliance Audio

Shadows, Book 2 of The Ashes Trilogy will be released in September. Cover Art not yet available.

 

Zombie Anthologies

Sometimes you don’t want to take on the whole hordes at once, just handle the zombies in a couple quick bursts. Here is a Zombie Anthology with stories by some of the top names in Zombie fiction including Sons of Anarchy’s Creator, Kurt Sutter.

21st Century Dead ed. by Christopher Golden

Blackstone Audio

This title will be released in July.

The Walking Dead Audiobook

The Governor is one of the key antagonist of the Graphic Novel version of The Walking Dead, and will make his way to the Television series soon. Learn his backstory in these audiobooks.

The Walking Dead Audiobook Series by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

MacMillan Audio

Book 2, The Road to Woodbury will be released early October.

Permuted Press Zombie and Post Apocalyptic Releases

Permuted Press is one of the more successful publishers of Zombie and Post Apocalyptic Fiction. Their deal with Audioble Frontiers continues and there will be a plethora of new audiobook releases over the next few months.

The Following Titles will be released:

March 27th

April 10th

April 24th

Well, I am sure there are more than these coming soon, and feel free to leave a comment about an upcoming Zombie or Post Apocalyptic Novel you are excited about.

If you are looking for Zombie Titles right now, check out my list of Best Apocalyptic Zombie Audiobooks of 2011.





My Top 20 Audiobooks of 2011

15 12 2011

It’s that time of year. I know every year you anxiously wait to find out what The Guilded Earlobe has chosen as his favorite audiobooks of the year, with your audible credits and library’s Overdrive website ready to go.

A few things to note. This is a list of my favorite audiobooks that were produced in the calendar year 2011. Some of the books may be older, but their audio versions appeared in 2011. I am in no way a literary expert. This list is judged solely on how much I enjoyed the novel and its narration. This list is heavy on Genre and speculative fiction titles, because that is what I read most of. At the time this list had been written I was just about to finish my 165th audiobook of the year.  While I did receive some of these titles for free as review copies, that in no way impacted their rank, nor have I been compensated in any way to promote any of these titles.

In 2011 I began actively blogging and reviewing audiobooks. This definitely affected my reading habits, since I was more aware of trends and the hype of the publishing industry. In 2010 I spent a lot of time listening to complete series, where as in 2011 I listen mostly to standalone novels and took more risks in my overall selection of books. I think that change has helped make more well rounded list. I hope you find something on this list that tickles your interest.

1. I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
Read by Kirby Heyborne
Tantor Audio

I really struggled with what audiobook to pick as my number one of the year. Dan Well’s John Cleaver series is a wonderful look at a young man who fights against his dark nature. In many ways John Cleaver is an anti-Dexter, a character with a “dark passenger” that doesn’t give into its control. I Don’t Want to Kill You is the finale of the series, and may be the best finale of a series I have read in a long time. The ending of I Don’t ant to Kill You affected me more than any other book this year and still haunts me every time I think about it. Kirby Heyborne deserves a lot of credit for the work he does narrating this novel. I suggest if you haven’t read this series that you take on the first novel in print, then the final two in audio.

My Review

My Interview with Author Dan Wells

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Read by Wil Wheaton
Random House Audio

Ready Player One will be on many Best of lists, maybe even topping a few. It’s a fun ride through 80’s nostalgia and a sci-fi dystopian near future. In my opinion, the audiobook version, narrated perfectly by Wil Wheaton is the best way to experience this novel. Wheaton’s grasp on geek culture allows his to not only voice the characters of the novel, but capture all it’s bells, beeps and whistles.

My Review

My Interview with author Ernest Cline

3. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Read by Kevin Kenerly
Blackstone Audio

In the year of the Zombie audiobook, Isaac Marion’s zombified reimagining of Romeo and Juliet is the best Zombie audiobook of the year. Kevin Kenerly is brilliant in his reading, giving the novel a breezy flow that underscores the themes of the novel so well. Warm Bodies is currently in production for a movie version, so listen to the audiobook to prepare yourself for this event.

My Review

4, Children of Paranoia by Trevor Shane
Read by Stephen Boyer and Emma Galvin
Penguin Audio

Children of Paranoia is a story of a secret war between two anonymous groups that is raging on our streets. I have heard many people list this novel of dystopian. It is not and it is not science fiction. What makes this novel so effective is that it is taking place in our world, behind our backs. Despite the deep secrets of the war, that even the participants don’t understand, Shane gives it such a feel or reality that it’s frightening. Children of Paranoia was the biggest surprise novel of the year, and Stephen Boyer and Emma Galvin adds a lot of depth to it with their reading.

My Review

5. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Read by Mark Bramhall
Penguin Audio

If any novel gives Ready Player One a run for tickling my nostalgia bone, it’s The Magician King by Lev Grossman. The Magician King and its predecessor The Magicians is a twisted adult and often brutal version of the fantasy novels I loved as a kid, particularly The Chronicles of Narnia. Mark Bramhall takes on the role of storyteller as he leads us through the dark sides of our world as well as the magical land of Fillory.

My Review

6. The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly
Read by Peter Giles
Hachette Audio

I have always loved legal thrillers, yet I feel the best years of the genre were the 1990’s and since then, the novels have moved from solid Courtroom procedurals to basically detectives with a bar card mysteries. It’s been nearly 20 years since some of my favorite legal thrillers, like Philip Friedman’s Inadmissible Evidence, and Turow’s Presumed Innocent. Then Michael Connelly, a non-lawyer, but arguably the best procedural writer in the business, comes out with the Mickey Haller series. The Fifth Witness is my favorite legal thriller in over a decade, and wonderfully delivered by narrator Peter Giles.

My Review


7. Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory
Read by David Marantz
Audible Frontiers

Raising Stony Mayhall is a book the reminded me in many ways of Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump, in that it’s the tale of a young boy, whose somewhat different, who goes on to live an amazing life that affects many people. The major difference is that Stony is a zombie. Raising Stony Mayhill hasn’t received the hype it deserves. It is a really good book, and should be able to reach past its genre and pull in fans of types. With all the hype of the blending of literary and genre titles, this book succeeds where so many other have failed. David Marantz does a wonderful job bringing this story to life, and is a narrator to look out for in the future.

My Review


8. The Ridge by Michael Koryta
Read by Robert Petkoff
Hachette Audio

The truly supernatural aspect of Michael Koryta’s novels is they somehow when you think he’s put out a novel that cannot be bettered, he betters it. The Ridge starts with an unsettling image of a lighthouse built in the hills of Kentucky far away from any body of water. In The Ridge Koryta blends a gothic history with modern day thriller to present one of the more unsettling novels of the year.  Robert Petkoff continues his streak of enhancing Koryta’s novels with his wonderful narration.

My Review

9. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill
Read by Holter Graham
Neil Gaiman Presents

If you would have told me that one of the most engaging characters of the year would have been a half-bull/half man who speaks in grunts and short gruff sentences, I probably would have told you, “Yep. Sounds about right.” Thanks to Neil Gaiman, whose audiobook line is now bringing us some of his favorite novels into audio, audiobook fans are finally meeting this wonderful character. Holter Graham does a wonderful job narrating this slice of life tale of a mythological creature in a very real American south.

My Review

10. The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry
Read by Ray Porter
Blackstone Audio

Jonathon Maberry has been my author revelation of the year. I have listened to more Maberry audiobooks (9) this year than any other author by far. Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is on of the tightest, well plotted action series around. Ledger is such a wonderful engaging character that you become totally invested in his actions. Ray Porter seemingly becomes Joe Ledger in his reading of this novel. He utilizes heavy sighs, a cracking voice, and flushes of emotion to really bring Ledger to life.

My Review

11. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Read by Tom Stechschulte
Audible Frontiers

While Swan Song is nearly 25 years old, it has finally been given the audiobook treatment. Swan Song is one of my all time favorite novels. It is the tale of America after a full nuclear exchange. It is a book I have read at least 5 times, and I was looking forward to reentering a world I knew so well in audiobook form. What I wasn’t expecting was to discover a hidden poetic beauty in its prose that was brought to life by Tom Stechshulte.

My Review

12. Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey
Read by MacLeod Andrews
Brilliance Audio

Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is quite entertaining, but Aloha From Hell takes a giant leap forward in quality. Kadrey really outdid himself with this twist on Dante’s Inferno told from the perspective of his punk rock protagonist. MacLeod Andrews continues to blow me away with his characterizations, as he really gets into the heads of these characters bringing them to life in a scarily realistic way.

My Review

My Interview with Narrator MacLeod Andrews

13. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
Read by Wil Wheaton
Audible Frontiers

John Scalzi takes a risk that pays off in his reimagining of H. Beam Piper’s classic scifi story Little Fuzzy. It’s a nice quick tale of a prospector on an alien planet who meets some cute, Fuzzy creatures. The question is, are these cute little animals, or sentient beings? John Scalzi’s tale of what it means to be human is delivered smoothly in Wil Wheaton’s direct narrative style. My only complaint was that the novel ended a bit too quickly.

My Review


14. The Infernals by John Connolly
Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Simon & Schuster Audio

This is quite a year for novels set in hell. Irish Author gives his own hilarious slant to Dante’s Inferno in this endearing sequel to The Gates. It’s full of wonderful characters, otherworldly adventure, and a series of laugh out loud footnotes that truly enhances the overall story. Tim Gerald Reynolds gives what is perhaps my favorite narrator performance of the year. It was simply a joy to listen to and a book that should appeal to everyone from children to adults.

My Review


15. Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry
Read by William Dufris
Macmillan Audio

Despite my love of Zombies, Dead of Night is probably the only zombie novel this year to actually scare me. Maberry uses the essence of his zombies to horrifying effects. William Dufris adds to the chills with his wonderful characterizations.

My Review

16. Deadline by Mira Grant
Read by Chris Patton and Nell Geisslinger
Hachette Audio

The fourth and final Zombie book of my top twenty. As the second book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy, we find ourselves in the midst of a world that has adapted to living with zombies, and the ever present dangers of the Kellis-Amberlee Virus. In Deadline, the science takes center sage and Grant handles it with loving detail. Chris Patton does an excellent job capturing the brokenness of Shaun Mason. All that and an amazing ending that makes Blackout one of my most anticipated releases of 2012.

My Review

17. The Cut by George Pelecanos
Read by Dion Graham
Hachette Audio

Pelecanos introduces a new series character, Spero Lucas, an Iraq war vet who works as an unlicensed Investigator. While Spero is fascinating in his own right, it’s Pelecanos rhythmic urban prose that wins me over every time. Dion Graham turns Pelecanos’ prose into poetry making this audio a joy to listen to.

My Review

18. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Narrated by Nick Podehl
Brilliance Audio

The long awaited sequel to Rothfuss’ debut Fantasy novel The Name of the Wind was well worth every minute of the wait. The Wise Man’s Fear is a series of moments in the life of a young man who will grow to be a legend. Rothfuss brilliantly shows us how tales are altered to become legends, yet still maintaining a feel of truth. Nick Podehl handles a novel full of poetry and unique communication styles perfectly.

My Review

19. Germline by T.C. McCarthy
Narrated by Donald Corren
Blackstone Audio

While Germline is considered a military science fiction novel, it is unlike any Military scifi novel I have read. This isn’t a grand tale of space adventure, but a gritty realistic look at a future on our own planet. Germline is more akin to Matterhorn then Honor Harrington. It’s characters are flawed, and their orders murky and inconsistent. Donald Corren allows the nature of the narrative to affect his reading in just the right way, allowing us to hear the transformation of the characters as they move through each phase of the story.

My Review

20. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Narrated by Jim Dale
Random House Audio

While the story may be about two magicians manipulated into a secret contest by their mentors, the real hero of this tale is Morgenstern’s lush, gorgeous prose. The story is full of beautiful moments, but it is the underlying sense of a mysterious darkness that separates it from many of the other novels people have attempted to compare this one to. Jim Dale adds a truly magical feel to the reading of this novel.

My Review

Honorable Mentions

I have two honorable mentions. Both of these titles totally blew me away. The only reason they didn’t make the list was that they were not released in 2011.

Honorable Mention #1: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor Read by Anne Flosnik

Honorable Mention #2: A Quiet Belief In Angels by RK Ellory Read by Mark Bramhall