Audiobook Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

21 03 2017


Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Read by Anna Bentinick, Josie Dunn, Bea Holland, Huw Parmenter 

Macmillan Audio

Grade: B

If you’re planning on reading this book but haven’t yet then don’t read this review. I mean, really, stop now. I’m serious…

You still here? *Shakes Head*

Honestly people, if you’re at all interested in this book, just read it. I can’t promise you’ll love it, but you’ll definitely have a reaction to it. But, reading any review about it will affect you, even one that tries to avoid spoilers because the fact that the potential for spoilers exist is in itself a spoiler. Just one of those literary paradoxes.
So, I didn’t love this book. At times I found it very frustrating. I didn’t like the characters or understand their motivations. The author used a lot of POV tricks which placed the reader in an almost omniscient observer role which while clever also never allowed you the distance from the reality of what was happening to find any character to root for. The weird obsessive love triangle push the boundaries between true love and delusional behavior. Yet, there was something compelling about the story, something simmering underneath the surface that kept you invested. 

Then came the ending.

Here the author is treading dangerous waters. If you truly loved the delusional love triangle story, I think the ending would just piss you off. But, if you found it all frustrating then the ending works. It either destroys the story or saves it, and for me it was a big acrobatic goaltender sports highlight real sort of save. It was shocker that left lots of questions followed by a totally unexpected shocker that answered them. It’s the ending that made the journey and justified all the work that it took you to get there.

Now, the narration. In truth, I didn’t get it. Now, none of the performances where bad, in fact they were all quite good. Yet, what I didn’t get was the use of multiple narrators who, at least to my unrefined American ears, all sounded the same. It’s hard to evaluate because I’m not sure who took on what role or when the narrator changes came. Honestly, if you told me it was all the same narrator I would have been like “Duh, of course it was.” Yet, whoever did whaterever here, it was good.





Audiobook Review: The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons

7 03 2017

The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons

Read by James Patrick Cronin

Brilliance Audio

Grade: B

I think it’s telling that before I sat down to review this book I had to reread the summary to remind myself what the story was about. The Short Drop wasn’t a bad book, it’s an entirely serviceable thriller that I enjoyed listening to but in the end it was forgettable. Gibson Vaugh is a likeable enough character but it’s another case of an author telling you they’re some brilliant progeny of social engineering but shows you him acting pretty dumb throughout the novel. The mystery plays out on the clever side of paint by numbers and the ultimate show down offers enough ingenuity to leave the reader satisfied that it was worth the effort before happily moving onto their next book.

This book was nominated for an Audie so my expectation of being blown away by the narration may have weighed down my opinion. James Patrick Cronin is a good narrator. Early on in the novel his cadence seemed a bit to staccato, nor matching the rhythm of the book but that became less noticeable as you became a little more invested in the novel. His dialogue is strong and his characters distinct but all in all, nothing about his reading makes it stand out in the genre. 





Audiobook Review: Rusty Puppy (Hap and Leonard Series) by Joe R. Lansdale

5 03 2017


Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale 

Read by Christopher Ryan Grant 

Hachette Audio

Grade: B+

After 12 novels, numerous novellas and short stories and a tv series, it’s hard to review this book. If you’re into the series you’ll read it and since Lansdale is one of the most consistent authors out there, you’re gonna like it. No one writes best friend banter as sharp and realistic as Lansdale and that’s the foundation that makes this series work. Lansdale can write a story about these two grocery shopping and discussing breakfast cereal and I’d read the hell out of it. What makes matters better is he writes with such precision that it’s like he uses a scalpel instead of a pen, cutting away the fat and just leaving pure story. Rusty Puppy is solidly a Hap and Leonard book, with many of the growing number of series characters ducking out of the spotlight and letting the boys do their thing. It’s great to see such a tight tale at a point where too many series get bloated down with peripherals. Rusty Puppy is another winner is one of the most consistently fun series out there. 

I tend to be skeptical of the new guy when they take over for iconic characters but Christopher Ryan Grants soft Texas twang and strong narrative voice hits all the right notes. I can easily see a narrator turning our heroes into hillbilly cartoon characters but Grant finds the humanness of this duo that long time series fans have already embraced. Hopefully we’ll hear plenty more from these two with Grant serving as the voice of the series. 





Audiobook Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

20 02 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher

Penguin Audio

Length: 10Hrs 59Min

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Grade: A

I often wonder how an author feels when their novel is compared to some cultural phenomenon. Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train is being called the next GONE GIRL. This must be both exciting and frustrating for an author, who wants the book to be commercially successful, yet also must want it to stand on its own. I highly doubt, due to the way the publishing industry works, that Hawkins sat down and said, “I’m going to write the next Gone Girl.” Hell, there have been plenty of twisty novels full of unreliable narrators and despicable characters before Gone Girl and I am sure there will be plenty more . Yet, it’s hard to write a review without at least considering the comparison, and I thought I had two choices, ignore the comparisons completely, or jump on them with full gusto.

So, in my opinion, The Girl on the Train is a better novel than Gone Girl. The twist were more surprising, the set up more unique, and the characters more complex. While Gone Girls relied on it’s tricks to drive the story, Hawkins relies on her strong characterization and unique use of perspective to create a true mystery that never telegraphs its moves. Hawkins plays on our personal misconceptions about gender and class to effectively shape the narrative, creating a unique storytelling style. She often uses what we know or think we know against us. Her characters are unreliable, not because it allows her to surprise us with twists, but because humans are unreliable. Being that we too are unreliable, as readers, we create blocks and misconceptions that she exploits. While the twists aren’t as big as Gone Girl’s twist, I personally felt they were more effective. While the comparisons exist, The Girl on the Train stands on its own both as a thrilling mystery and a intriguing look at some well drawn yet complicated characters.

There are those of us Americans who believe that all British people basically sound the same, so what would be the point in casting three different British narrators to narrate this tale? As with many things, we are so wrong. Clare Corbett, India Fisher and Loise Brealey’s narration enhances this book, giving each character just the right feel that I doubt a singular narrator could achieve. The three narrators helped create three distinct characters, aiding in their development. With the way that the interlocking narratives and tricks of perspective played it, it was vital for each character to have her own distinct voice, otherwise the plot, which often balanced on the razors edge, would have been torn to shreds Yet, instead of this potential mess, The Girl on the Train was one of the most taunt, surprising novels I have read in a while, and easily my favorite audiobook of 2015 thus far.





Audiobook Review: Rewinder by Brett Battles

22 01 2015

Rewinder by Brett Battles

Read by Vikas Adams

Audible Studios

Genre: Time Travel Adventure

Grade: B

Brett Battles seems to enjoy writing Thrillers, no matter the subgenre. In his latest standalone thriller, Rewinder, Battles gives time travel a go with solid results. Rewinder reads like a cross between Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, and Steven Jay Gould’s Jumper series. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking entry into the fray of time travel adventure, in fact, if anything, Battles quickly infuses the story with the feel of a pair of comfortable jeans. Instead of trying to create some clever new way to spin the genre, he puts his own spin onto time honored tropes. Like Jumper, Rewinder can work equally well as a Young Adult or Adult novel. While Battles main character Denny Younger is, well, younger, he doesn’t instantly fall into the character trapping of many young adult protagonist. Battles offers some interesting sociological insights, yet does it as a plot point, where his goal isn’t social commentary but just telling a damn good story. Battles creates a fast paced, exciting tale, with plenty of twists, that fans of old school time travel adventure novels will find perfect for an afternoon reading.

Narrating is more than just having a pleasant voice, and the ability to do character voices. A good narrator finds the right feel for a novel, and pushes the narrative in the right direction. Vikas Adams gives a strong textured performance, with a crisp reading that gives homage to the pulp nature of the tale. I have always admired Adams ability to handle both adult and children characters smoothly, something that isn’t really easy to do. I like that Adams gave Denny a youthful feel, yet still acknowledged that he was an adult doing an adult job. He captures the right blend of coming of age naivete, with a hardened edge of young man who grew up in the fringes of his society. Rewinder isn’t going to blow your mind, or have you rethink everything you knew about time travel, instead it will give you 8 hours of solid entertainment.





Audiobook Review: Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

31 03 2014

Code Zero (Joe Ledger, Bk. 6) by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 3 Min

Genre: SF/Horror Thriller

Grade: A+

In the latest Joe Ledger thriller by Jonathan Maberry…. well, awesomeness happens, Horrible, tragic and often fatal awesomeness, but still… you get the picture. It’s very hard for me to actually review a Joe Ledger novel and this is why I don’t really try. In the last novel, Extinction Machine Maberry took the X-Files to the next extreme, and in the series debut Patient Zero Maberry reminded us why zombies are goddam fucking scary. Really, if god created an author solely for the purpose of putting my worse fears and fanatical likes to paper, Maberry is a robot uprising away from divine perfection. This is why you have to take my review with a grain of salt… an awesome grain of salt. In the latest, Code Zero Maberry has topped himself by returning to some of his previously traveled paths and amping them up with blue meth. One of the standout aspects of Code Zero is that Maberry gives us an alternate view of past events at the Department of Military Sciences through a new set of eyes. Because of this, we got a chance to revisit, if briefly, some beloved fallen comrades. Maberry also manages to create a new kind of bad guy, maniacal in her own way, yet quite different from what we have seen in the series. As with every other book in the series, Maberry doesn’t cut his hero any breaks. Joe is again called on to literally save the world while the potential of tragic personal sacrifice lingers over his head. As a reader, I don’t know how much more I can take, and I am surprised the Joe’s fragile psyche has held up as long as it has. Again, Maberry’s intense action is cinematic in scope. The scenes come alive in your head. Each scene is huge, but Maberry keeps it contained and intimate guiding us through the chaos like a master director. My only negative is that I still haven’t bought in to Joe’s latest love interest. Maybe it’s a residue from the loss of a past love, or perhaps the incongruousness of the relationship. While the relationship is conflicted, it lacks conflict and part of my brain agrees with Violin when she says he needs a women more in his world. Yet, Maberry does use the relationship effectively, adding levels to the story. My other quibbling complain is that, despite his move to the West Coast, Maberry once again releases potentially apocalyptic danger onto the Philly area, but since it’s Willow Grove, I’ll forgive him. (Suggestion: Croydon could use a nice dose of Captain Trips.) The release of a Joe Ledger novels is my Christmas and Code Zero is a gift that doesn’t disappoint.

It must be a great feeling as an author knowing you have a narrator that doesn’t just get what you’re doing but manages to deliver every line with authenticity and emotional impact. Ray Porter, with a simple pause, or a stumbled line, milks every moment of this book to make you truly feel it. His reading raced my heart, gave me chills down my back and had me hiding in the bathroom so people at work didn’t think I had a pet related tragedy. If there is one series to point to and shout “This is how audiobooks should be done” (which admitted I would absolutely do given the right motivation and perhaps one too many Yuengling lagers,) than it’s Ray Porter’s reading of the Joe Ledger series. Take it from this fanboy, I would totally recommend getting a full physical before listening to Code Zero to make sure your heart can take it.





Audiobook Review: Runner by Patrick Lee

3 03 2014

Runner by Patrick Lee (Sam Dryden, Bk. 1)

Read by Raul Esparza

Macmillan Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Thriller

Grade: A

I am a real sucker for tales that don’t let themselves be defined by easy genre labels and this is one of the biggest reasons I have become such a big fan of Patrick Lee. His first series, The Breach/Travis Chase Trilogy is a favorite of mine, and I waited with grand anticipation for Runner, the first book in his new series staring Sam Dryden. Well, the anticipation was far from the greatest pleasure of this experience. Runner is super sonic thriller with a science fiction edge that is sure to please fans of multiple genres. Sam Dryden is a complicated but likeable character. In fact, he starts of almost as a cliché, the broken hero, yet builds up into something so much more. He finds his redemption in a strange little girl who is being chased my merciless killers for reasons she doesn’t fully understand. If the book starts off a bit rote, that roteness is redeemed with a series of well choreographed reveals that have you reexamining any assumptions made early on. Runner examines complex issues as diverse as childhood development, the true nature of evil, governmental influence and the potential for science to disrupt society, yet these exploration take a back street to the relationship at the heart of this tale. One of my biggest pet peeves in fiction is how much could be simply resolves if characters fully communicate with each other, and Lee manages to laugh at this notion, creating secrets between characters who have no secrets. Lee is no slouch in the action department either. How Lee manages to fully develop these character amidst big screen style elaborate chase sequences amazes me. If you are like me and are becoming a bit hesitant when every new book is part of a series, don’t worry here. Runner can absolutely serve as a standalone, with a fully resolved plot line, yet with enough underlining mythology to increase your desire to have the next Sam Dryden novel in your hands or ears as soon as possible.

Raul Esparza gives a strong performance in his reading of Runner. While his characterizations often lean to the subtle side, they are affective and memorable. He gives an offbeat delivery to the narrative, often emphasizing sentences in places you wouldn’t expect, and altering the tradition cadence with a well times pause. It keeps the listener on their toes, examining each word and where it fits into the narrative. In fast paced action thrillers, it’s easy to become lost in the action, but Esparza never let’s you get comfortable, causing you to hanging on every word, breathlessly waiting for the next twist in the road. Runner is a treat for both fans of thrillers and Science Fiction, or those like me, who like them swirled.