Bob’s Audiobook Report: January Week 2

13 01 2014

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

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

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Grade: B+

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

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Grade: B+

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

Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell

Read by Kirby Heyborne

Blackstone Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 36 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic/Alien Invasion

Grade: B+

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

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

Read by Ray Chase

Audible Frontiers

Length: 13 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Grade: B+

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

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

Audiobook Review: The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly

22 01 2013

The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly (Charlie Parker, Bk. 11)

Read by Jay Snyder

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The Wrath of Angels was a dark and atmospheric ride deep into the mythology of John Connolly’s brilliant world. Those new to the series would do better to go to the beginning and experience the series in order, but for fans, The Wrath of Angels will thrill and chill you to the core.

Grade: B+

I always have a lot of trouble writing reviews for books in series. I think this is especially true for an author like John Connolly. John Connolly is one of my favorite authors, and for me, a new Charlie Parker novels is an event. Yet, the Charlie Parker series is also one of the hardest series to explain to those who aren’t familiar. To call is a Supernatural Thriller series isn’t quite right nor is calling it a crime fiction series. It is both, and it is neither. Connolly defies genres, shrugging them off and telling the stories he wants to tell. Sometimes it involves fallen angels, Hollowmen, and books made out of human flesh, while other times it’s about serial killers, assassins, sexual abuse and kidnappings. Sometimes it’s about all of the above.  The Charlie Parker series often reminds me of a well done TV series, like Fringe or the X-Files. There are episodes that stand on their own, that can be straight forward TV, and then there are episodes that fit into the mythology of the series. Sometimes, an episode is there fully for the mythology, and sometimes an episode is straight forward, but skirts the edges of the series mythology. There are a few books in this series that I would feel comfortable telling someone to pick up, without knowing the underlining issues of the series. I mean, on the surface, the character of Charlie Parker, a retired cop turned detective who has never really come to terms with brutal slaying of his wife and daughter at the hands of a twisted serial killer called The Traveling Man, is almost boilerplate Thriller Noir. Yet, then it get’s weird. For me, I love the weirdness. I love speculating on Charlie’s true nature. I love the blending of fallen angels, voodoo curses, and a strange serial killer called The Collector with his own moral code. For me, it’s a hot mess of awesomeness, yet, to thrust another person into the mess would leave them treading water in the midst of a hurricane. Except when it doesn’t. So, if you are new to the Charlie Parker series, The Wrath of Angels would throw you into the deep end without a single swimming lesson. If you are a lover of this world, this may be the one you have been waiting for.

There is an area deep in the woods of Northern Maine where no one goes, and on the rare instances someone wonders there, they don’t return. There lives a force ancient and old, and a girl who is not quite a girl. Yet, when a plane holding its own type of evil, as well as information that people and other entities would kill for, crashes in these woods, forces both worldly and otherwise will lead detective Charlie Parker and his friends there, with evil on their trail. One of the beautiful things about a Charlie Parker novel is that it is never about what it is about. Any synopsis written will only give you a small glimpse of one of the stories contained in its pages. Here, the story is about a plane crash, yet, it isn’t. Instead the plane crash is the catalyst to bring a many of the elements of past Charlie Parker novels together, and send them on a perilous journey. In many ways The Wrath of Angels is the novel that John Connelly has been setting up for a while. It’s a darker more atmospheric tale than usual, which is saying a lot for a writer like Connolly who permeates his prose with an ominous sense of dread. As a comprehensive tale, The Wrath of Angels may not be as strong as some of his more straight forward works. Here Connolly plays the edges, creating more of a mood piece, tying up some ends, and creating new threads for his characters. It’s a beautiful piece of series writing that could come off as unfocused and distracting to any reader not already immersed into this tale. Yet, for fans of Charlie Parker, it’s a dark look at what the past has set up and the future holds for our hero. More than any other work in this series, it gives us insights into the anomaly of Charlie Parker. Yet, it’s not all dark and mood and gloom, like usual, there is plenty of humor to lighten the mood. Charlie Parker’s cohorts Louis and Angel, despite their brutality, bring a sort of levity to the novel. Connelly knows right when to add a bit of light in his dark world, adding a particularly funny, yet poignant moment where Charlie, Louis and Angel join Charlie’s young daughter for ice cream. It’s these small moments that are the saving grace of Connelly’s dark world. The Wrath of Angels was a dark and atmospheric ride deep into the mythology of John Connolly’s brilliant world. Those new to the series would do better to go to the beginning and experience the series in order, but for fans, The Wrath of Angels will thrill and chill you to the core.

I have talked a lot about my issues with the narration of the Charlie Parker series. For the American versions of this series, there has been a horrible lack of consistency among the narration. This series has been narrated by Titus Welliver, Jay O’Sanders, Holter Graham, and George Guidall. The Last novel was almost the last straw for me with co-narration by George Guidall and Tony Lord, which was simply horrid and almost ruined the book for me. What frustrates me even more is that this series has been consistently narrated by Jeff Harding in the UK but in order to get these versions you either have to have a friend across the pond who is willing to obtain them for you or resort to illegalities. To be perfectly honest, if I had seen Tony Lord’s name attached to The Wrath of Angels, I would have gone with the print version. Yet, Jay Snyder was cast. I was a bit hesitant about Snyder as a narrator. Snyder is sort of a blockbuster narrator, with a big professional voice suited to big professional productions. Snyder doesn’t bring a lot of nuance to his reading, which is something that I think these novels need. So, to be perfectly honest, my initial barometer for any Charlie Parker narrator is how he handles Angel. Angel is the personality of this novel, and if a narrator doesn’t realize this, than he doesn’t get these characters. At first, I hated Jay Snyder’s Angel. He sounded just like Charlie and Louis. Yet, as the novel progresses, Snyder got better with his interpretation of Angel. This actually bothered me. I just wondered how prepared he was for this novel. It was like, about halfway through he realized that Angel was a larger than life character, and slowly began to reflect that in his reading. Snyder’s reading wasn’t bad. In fact, technically it’s good. Just, it lacked the flavor of a Charlie Parker novel. You didn’t have Charlie Parker or any other the New England Characters with any sort of regional accent. You couldn’t hear Louis southern roots or Angel’s New York. It was a good solid reading that could have been so much more. I’ll be the first to admit, I am very hard to please with this series. I was happy with O’ Sanders, Harding and even Holter Graham. Yet, with each change I became grumpier. I though if you changed the narrator, it should be for the better, not just for expediency. The Wrath of Angels was much better narrated than The Burning Soul, but it still isn’t the perfect Charlie Parker audiobook experience I have been hoping for.

Audiobook Review: Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

20 09 2012

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (Miriam Black, Book 2)

Read by Emily Beresford

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 4 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Mockingbird is the rare sequel that truly elevates a series.  It’s a visceral trip through the gutters of human evil, with a character walking the fine lines between righteousness and damnation.  Mockingbird expands the mythology of Blackbirds, and continues to build on it with exciting potentiality. It’s a dark journey, but one definitely worth taking.

Grade: A-

Chuck Wendig is one of a very few authors that I have followed on twitter before ever reading a word they had written in fictional form. The thing was, so many people that I followed would retweet his crazy, bizarre and often profane tweets that I decided I may just as well follow this strange, strange man and get my crazy directly from the source. Now, as a faithful follower of Mr. Wendig I have grown to enjoy his specific blend of reasonableness and insanity. One thing I enjoy is that when he discovers a new review of one of his pieces of fiction, he doesn’t just retweet the reviewer, or link to the review, but provides a favorite quote of his. This says to the reviewer, not only do I appreciate that you took the time to write a review, but I actually read it. So Hoo Zah! Yet, it also places a bit of pressure on the reviewer to come up with a Wendig worthy quote for him to tweet. I mean, do you really want the King of Cockwaffles to tweet some bland, roller-coaster ride, stayed up all night reviewing cliché? As a reviewer, you need to find a way to say, BANG! I liked this book, and I am also a twisted, socially questionable, mind freak like the author. So, I needed to play around with my blurb. Originally, I thought I wanted something sort of visceral and borderline pornographic, like "Mockingbird penetrates your mind like a uranium tipped dildo." But, I never had my mind penetrated like a uranium tipped dido, and I doubt most people could relate to that. Plus, it didn’t sound pleasant. So, then maybe pleasurable, yet pop culture infused would be good, so I was going to go with "Like taking a bubble bath in a hot tub full of Seanan McGuire’s cats." But then, I thought, if Seanan McGuire’s cats are anything like mine, they would have no desire to jump into a hot tub with any human, let alone the type that would read Mr. Wendig’s work. Plus, maybe my readers have pet allergies. So finally, I thought, embrace the cliché and go with, "I stayed up all night on the edge of my roller coaster’s seat reading this action packed thrill ride." Then I remembered I’m an audiobook blogger, who probably listened to this awake, walking and driving around without the help of any seat’s edge. So, in the end, I decided, maybe I should listen to the book first before coming up with a blurb. So that’s what I did.

Miriam Black was never built for the straight life. If working retail wasn’t hard enough, living in a trailer park with the assorted examples of humanity trailer parks tend to collect just has her on edge. Yet, she was willing to try for her trucker boyfriend Louis, willing to keep her hands gloved so to not experience the death visions that is her curse. So, when Louis finds her work using her skills, she jumps at it, to his chagrin. Yet, what seems like a simple case of predicting a teacher at a private girls school’s demise, turns to something different when she envisions a gruesome death of one of the girls by a twisted serial killer. I was a big fan of the first Miriam Black thriller, Blackbirds, yet, honestly, something about it just didn’t totally resonate with me. Originally, I thought it was simply the fact that I totally despised most of the characters. Yet, reading Mockingbird, I think I realized what it was. Miriam Black is such a dark character, and the majority of the tale takes place in gritty locales with less than respectable characters. It felt like painting Ravens onto a black canvas, no contrast. Yet, in Mockingbird, Miriam is set against a tapestry of quiet rural Pennsylvania, at a seemingly idyllic school for troubled girls. The contrast between Miriam and the setting really brought the story to a whole new level. The undercurrents of darkness that Miriam discovers, and her attempts to combat it seemed more vivid, and the stakes much higher. Mockingbird is the rare sequel that truly elevates a series. The plotting is tighter, and the mystery has a much bigger payoff. I love the journey that Wendig has taken Miriam on. Miriam confronts not just evil, but her own darkness. She faces horrific acts, yet, she is also confronted with the fact that the motives behind them are a mirrored reflection of her own. My only frustration with Mockingbird is with Louis. God save us from the righteous disappointment of good men. Louis is the kind of man who acts how you wish you would, but when placed in similar situations, most wouldn’t. He knows Miriam, and what she can do, yet attempts to restrain her, to force her into a normalcy that just will never suit her.  It’s frustrating to see this as a man, and as a reader. One word of warning, Wendig infuses this tale with not just darkness, but the incessant uses of profanity, politically incorrect musings, and in your face sarcasm. Wendig will find your trigger, the one thing that just grates on you, with his shotgun approach. This makes Miriam hard to like, but compelling to follow. Mockingbird reminded me again of why I love supernatural horror tales, why I was willing to risk groundings and other such punishments smuggling books by King and Koontz into my Fundamentalist home as a teenager. It’s a visceral trip through the gutters of human evil, with a character walking the fine lines between righteousness and damnation.  Mockingbird expands the mythology of Blackbirds, and continues to build on it with exciting potentiality. It’s a dark journey, but one definitely worth taking.

While I enjoyed Emily Beresford reading of Blackbirds, I felt there it took her a while to get comfortable with the character’s voice. In Mockingbird, any such reservations were gone. Beresford give a strong, consistently solid reading, capturing Miriam’s voice effortlessly. Gone were the hesitations that hampered Blackbirds. Beresford seemed to really just channel her inner Miriam and let her rip. Her pacing was markedly improved, particularly in the books finale, where she kept the action moving briskly. There were a few moments early where she seemed to over annunciate some words, which sort of tripped up the smoothness of the reading, but as you got deeper into the plot, this disappeared. I have to particularly point out her creepy performance of the Bad Polly song sung by the serial killer. There had to be some temptation to pull out her American Idol skills and give a good performance, but instead she performed it as described, with fluctuating registers. It was perfect for the mood, and contributed to the flavor of the audiobook. Mockingbird improves itself on every level over Blackbirds, which was a pretty good audiobook to begin with. This one is a true winner.

Audiobook Review: Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz

31 08 2012

Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas Series, Bk. 5)

Read by David Aaron Baker

Brilliance Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Odd Apocalypse is just further proof to me that Koontz can no longer write a novel with a strong character whose voice  doesn’t end up turning into Koontz‘s own. Odd Thomas now feels too old, and the plotting of the novel is overly complex, pulling the character along the way instead of allowing his to challenge the fates. I still hold out hope that Koontz will wow me again the way he did with novels like Watchers and The Bad Place, but novel by novel that hope is fading fast.

Grade: D

Many years ago, when the first Odd Thomas novel came out, I had high hopes. Dean Koontz had been a favorite author of mine for a long time, and despite his more recent work not resonating with me as much as his earlier novels, I always looked at a Dean Koontz novel release as a big event. Koontz’s work has been almost entirely stand alones, yet Odd Thomas was set to be the start of a series. Yet, even better, Odd Thomas broke away from his norm. Koontz’s novels tended to be from an older, male perspective, typically someone who lives on the edges of society, bustling up against some evil force or governmental conspiracy. Koontz often allowed his libertarian vies to influence his writing, pitting the individual against the bureaucratic machine. Sometimes Koontz pulled this off with great affect, yet sometimes, not so much. With Odd Thomas, Koontz was giving us a younger, almost hipper character. Sure, Odd was a bit of a loner, working as a fry cook, and living on the edges of his Pico Mundo town, yet, this was explainable by his gift. Odd Thomas could see dead people, Sure, OK, this has been done to death, but there was something fresh and exciting about Odd Thomas. Gone was the tired voice of the typical Koontzian protagonist. Odd actually, despite all that stood against him, had hope. The plot of Odd Thomas held up, was actually quite timely and relevant. I had high hopes for this series. Yet, somewhere it went off the rails. Somehow Odd lost his voice, Koontz’s plots became too involved and strange, and the original story, of Odd using his supernatural powers to fight real evil, became ploys increasingly reliant of supernatural weirdness, with Koontz bleeding more and more into his character. Yet, each time an Odd Thomas novel comes out, I need to grab it, hoping to rediscover the character I used to know.

In Odd Apocalypse, Odd Thomas, and the strange pregnant women Annamaria, which he meat in Odd Hours, have been invited to stay at Roseland, the former estate of a Hollywood mogul. Odd isn’t exactly sure why they were invited. The residents of the estate are openly hostile, and constantly warn him from straying from his room. Yet, Odd knows that someone there needs his help, and as he tries to discover just why he is there, he encounters strange creatures, people who should not be there, and ghosts who don’t act like the ghost he usually deals with. Odd must discover the dark secrets of Roseland, and figure out just who needs his help. Like much of Koontz’s work, Odd Apocalypse is a blend of genres. Koontz manages to fit elements of horror, science fiction, and even a bit of Steampunk into this tale. Yet, instead of pulling this off seamlessly, the plot becomes weighed down by its constant change in tone and feel. Koontz never really builds the mysterious mood that needs to settle over Roseland, but hits you in the head repeatedly with it. In reality, the plot is a hot mess, with Odd constantly being pushed by so many gods in the machine they could have made their own pantheon. Worst of all, Odd has totally gone from a fresh young voice, to an old man in a young man pants. Koontz’s humor falls flat coming from Odd. His jokes are about those horrible cell phones, pop music and reality TV, basically the trifecta of curmudgeonly horrors. I enjoyed the relationship that Odd developed with Elvis in the first book, but each celebrity ghost he meets tends to be not just from before Odd’s time, but before mine and my father’s time. He’s a twenty something fry cook, who hangs out with Elvis and Sinatra. Why not River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, or Curt Cobain? Probably because old man Koontz’s “kids these days” attitude has so infected Odd, that next book we should be seeing him sitting on his porch yelling at the ghosts of younger pop culture icons to get off his lawn. Now, to balance this review, I have to say that the majority of Odd Thomas fans seem to like this latest edition. It’s gotten wonderful customer reviews, so perhaps I will be in the minority for me. Yet, Odd Apocalypse is just further proof to me that Koontz can no longer write a novel with a strong character whose voice  doesn’t end up turning into Koontz‘s own. Odd Thomas now feels too old, and the plotting of the novel is overly complex, pulling the character along the way instead of allowing his to challenge the fates. I still hold out hope that Koontz will wow me again the way he did with novels like Watchers and The Bad Place, but novel by novel that hope is fading fast.

I remember the first time I listened to an Odd Thomas novel, I thought that David Aaron Baker’s voice had enough youth and vitality to pull off the character. Now, I’m not sure if it’s the author or the narrator’s fault, but I just didn’t feel it this time. I think that I was just so frustrated with the character and plot of the novel that I couldn’t gel with the narration as well. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. He performed the characters well, giving them appropriate voices, and his pacing was strong. I just didn’t feel Odd. I think, if Baker had infused the same levels of vitality he did in the earlier novels, that maybe Odd’s crotchety voice wouldn’t have felt so wrong. Maybe the narrator is becoming just as frustrated with the character as I am, or maybe I was just allowing my frustration to color my perception of Barker’s performance. Not sure. All I know was that I left Odd Apocalypse feeling entirely blah.  There is so many fresh exciting voices working in the Supernatural genre today, and sadly, Koontz no longer is one of them.

Audiobook Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

23 04 2012

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Read by Emily Beresford

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Blackbirds reminds me of a novel Dean Koontz would write if he was high on ecstasy and learned how to swear properly. It is a ripping yarn that is equal parts bittersweet, and profane. Forcefully paced and darkly humorous, Chuck Wendig doesn’t just establish himself as the new voice of horror, but jumps on top of the genre and does a little dance to prove his point.

Grade: A-

I hate spoilers. It is one of my ultimate pet peeves. Screw global warming, inflation and international crises, I will vote for the candidate who promises to outlaw spoilers and make the death penalty an option for habitual offenders. You spoil a book, movie or TV show for me, and I will no longer be your Facebook friend. (I’m looking at you mom.) For this reason, I don’t want to know how I will die. Sure, I can see that there may be a bit of freedom in knowing the exact moment and cause of your death. No longer would you need to look both ways before crossing the street, or bother with wearing your seatbelt. You could take up cigarettes, red meat and high-risk sexual behavior without a worry that it will lead to your demise.  But, is the added feeling of security and freedom worth it? Not to me. I want the adventure of crossing the street without knowing ahead of time whether or not a secret CIA black helicopter will fall out of the sky and land on my head. I want to experience the twists and turns in my life without knowing how it all is going to end. I want to believe that I may not end up sad, lonely and struggling to get that last breath out of my disease riddled lungs. I want life to be full of surprises, and just enough risk to make it interesting.

In Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig has created a character who should be wearing a T-Shirt that says, “Spoiler Warning.” With a simple skin to skin touch, Miriam Black can see how you will die. Estranged from her overbearing mother, she travels around the country like a vulture, bearing witness to the deaths of strangers, and stealing from their corpses. Despite how much she tries, she is a slave to fate, unable to prevent the deaths that she witnesses. Then one day she meets a kindly truck driver, envisions his brutal murder, and hears his last words, her name. Check Wendig invigorates my love of supernatural horror with this visceral, fast moving thriller. While typically I feel like just an anonymous observer in most tales I read, Wendig managed to put me right in the story, eliciting gut level responses to his characters. I found myself equally compelled and frustrated by Miriam, wanting to connect with her, wanting to understand the world she lives in, but often becoming frustrated by the choices she makes. I utterly hated Ashley wishing death and dismemberment in horrific fashion upon his person. These types of reactions only come when you are totally immersed in a tale, and from the earliest moments of this novel Wendig had me hooked. One of my pet peeves in horror is the often heavy handed foreshadowing that many author’s use, but Wendig uses the talents of his main character to foreshadow events in a natural way bringing greater depth to the narrative. To make things even better, I totally loved the ending, it creates so much potential for Miriam’s character that I already am looking forward to Mockingbirds, Wendig’s follow-up to Blackbirds.  Blackbirds reminds me of a novel Dean Koontz would write if he was high on ecstasy and learned how to swear properly. It is a ripping yarn that is equal parts bittersweet, and profane. Forcefully paced and darkly humorous, Chuck Wendig doesn’t just establish himself as the new voice of horror, but jumps on top of the genre and does a little dance to prove his point.

I have mixed feelings about Emily Beresford’s narration of Blackbirds. This seems to be her first foray into audiobook narration, and I feel she has a lot of potential. Yet, I also feel she may have been miscast for this production. Miriam Black is an edgy, irreverent character who swears like a sailor, and even had me blushing a few times with the things that come out of her mouth. Beresford’s interpretation of her sounded a bit like a suburban mother who takes a secret naughty pleasure in saying a bad word, but is uncomfortable with it. The beginning of the novel, her pacing seemed a bit forced. Yet, as the novel played out, I felt Beresford got more comfortable in the tale. She definitely handled some of the more vocally defined characters well. Her handling of accents was excellent and she made some interesting choices for characters that I feel paid off in the end. While my feelings are mixed overall, I came away with a generally positive view of this production, and hope the Beresford continues with Mockingbird, just with maybe a bit more edge added to Miriam’s voice.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. Blackbirds will be available in paperback, E-Book, Digital Audio and Compact Disc on Tuesday, April 24th.

Audiobook Review: The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

10 02 2011

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

Read by Robert Petkoff

Hachette Audio

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The team of Michael Koryta and Robert Petkoff once again offers us a truly special listening experience.

Grade: A

I only recently discovered Michael Koryta. I was looking for a few new mystery series to get into, when Koryta’s Lincoln Perry series was recommended to me. So, I gave them a try, and really enjoyed them. Yet, doing some more research into the writer I noticed he was now focusing on stand alone novels. Not only did he moved away from series writing, but also flipped genres moving from mysteries to supernatural thriller. Given that, I checked out his novel, So Cold the River and was so blown away by it, it made my Top 20 audiobooks of 2010, sitting nicely at number 4, and easily became my favorite novel of all time about mineral water.

Yet, I was a little skeptical when I began The Cypress House. Could Koryta again deliver a creepy, moody masterpiece on par with So Cold the River? As I began the audiobook, I became a little concerned, not with the storytelling, although sometimes a Depression Era setting can be, well, depressing, but, at the first moment of “super naturalness” we were hit with a creepy sound effect. Well, sound effects worked pretty well in So Cold the River, but I have also seen it turn audiobooks into corny radio dramas with screeching tires and gunshots. Luckily, this sound effect was pretty creepy, and fit well with the story. After that, Koryta totally sucked me into his world. I was totally enthralled by his flawed realistic characters, who both frustrated and excited me throughout the novel. The Supernatural elements were a key part of the novel, but never hijacked it. Koryta creates a path full of twists and turns, yet never loses control, building tension bit by bit until the well plotted, brilliant finale.

Robert Petkoff, who was so right for So Cold the River, is again superb in his handling of this novel. Petkoff has one of the best pure voices in the business, and handles the story with such appropriate restraint that it truly comes to life. His characters are read simply and believably, without overacting or vocal gymnastics. This is one of those audiobook experiences that allows you to just close your eyes and become totally immersed into it. Just don’t try it when you’re driving.

Audiobook Review: What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

4 01 2011

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

Read by Steven Weber

Brilliance Audio

As a teenager Dean Koontz was my favorite author. In the late 80’s and early 90’s he published some of my favorite supernatural thrillers. From Watchers to the Bad Place, from Strangers to Mr. Murder, I just couldn’t get enough. Then, something changed, maybe is was me growing up, or maybe Mr. Koontz’s novels just began to grow stale and repetitive. Yet, with each new addition to his library, I became less excited and more disappointed. During the 2000’s I can’t think of one of his novels that just blew me away. Oh, the Odd Thomas series had its moments, but mostly is was just a lot of interesting concept novels that never really went anywhere.

So, with that in mind, I strapped the old earphones on and began to listen to his latest, What the Night Knows read by Steven Weber. Within minutes, I was fully engaged. By the end of the first hours, I remembered why I loved Koontz when I was younger. Koontz tells a great story.  In What the Night Knows, we have a modern day Ghost story, creepy and at points seemingly hopeless. It has all the great Koontz themes, tragic past, redemption, true evil, respect for life in all its forms and of course (yet not on such a big scale as others) the benefits of a good dog.

Steven Weber was a great choice to narrate this tale.  His voice is simple, and he just allows the story to flow instead of forcing it. He doesn’t overdo the character voices, allowing Koontz’s dialogue rhythms to indicate characters voices, more so that squeaky falsettos, and octave gymnastics.

Grade: B+