Audiobook Review: Burning Bright by Nick Petrie

30 03 2017


Burning Bright (Peter Ash, Bk. 2) by Nick Petrie

Read by Stephen Mendel

Penguin Audio

Grade: B

In Burning Bright, Nick Petrie’s second Pete Ash thriller, Petrie takes on a lot of hot button topic, Surveillance, drones, privacy, hacking, black budget special operators, military corruption, the influence of technology on our everyday life, survivalism and archery. Many of these topics have been explored better with more focus in other books but here he blends them into a interesting mosaic. Even the things that made his first novel stand out, the crisp action and his main characters PSTD are muted. This, at times leaves the listener a bit befuddled by the plot, not sure what piece is important and, by the end, you’re left with the feeling that there’s a lot of loose ends. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because in a way it highlights the unique nature of Petrie’s highly appealing main character and the reality that the world isn’t always as cut and dry and books portray. As Ash hacks his way through this miasma of modern society, we get even more of a glimpse into his outsider nature. The highlight of a Burning Bright is the budding relationship between him and his quirky new love interest. It’s an adult relationship between two complicated characters who are still coming to terms with who they are. All in all, Burning Bright is a solid effort, with some fun action and lots of developments that create interesting possibilities for the series. If you are already invested in this character than you’ll enjoy the book, but if this would be your introduction to Peter Ash, go read The Drifter first.
Stephen Mendel seems to be one of those narrators whose main talent it seems is to blend into the background and let the listener immerse themselves into the story. He does an excellent job managing the rhythm of the dialogue, giving the interplay between characters a natural feel. He tries his best to guide the listener through a plot that can be a bit murky, keeping you in the game for the next key moment of character dialogue or action. Burning Bright is a worthwhile addition to a series that should appeal to fans of Jack Reacher style, thinking man action thrillers. 

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Audiobook Review: Say Nothing by Brad Parks

28 03 2017


Say Nothing by Brad Parks

Read by George Newbern

Penguin Audio

Grade: B

There’s a conundrum that we lovers of mystery and thriller novels face, and that’s the fact that we know we are reading a mystery novel. We know the tricks and literary rules of mystery fiction. We see it from an outsiders perspective, know that that author is just as much a character in the book as the players and we often hold that perspective against the characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten frustrated with a character in a book, because, dammit, doesn’t he or she realize they are a character in a book! This was the problem I faced with Say Nothing. Throughout the book I wanted to yell at the main character (and may have actually yelled at him causing strange looks from those around me) because he was missing such obvious things that were plain to me, an outside observer who didn’t have any true emotional attachment to the other characters or the distraction of being worried about the fact that my children were kidnapped. I mean, come on dude…. 
That being said, Say Nothing is a top notch thriller that will keep you invested until the very end. It definitely relies heavily on the tropes on the genre and doesn’t break much new ground. There were definitely twists, many of which seasoned mystery readers will see coming but still appreciate their execution. There two small scenes of a child being tortured or injured which may be tough on readers, so beware, but they do serve the plot and are not just brutal exploitation. At times, you too will want to yell at the main character but this is just indicative of how invested you become in his plight. 
George Newbern takes a workmanlike approach to this tale, which was appropriate. Say Nothing didn’t need any bells and whistles, no narrational gymnastics, just straight forward delivery. He keep the story moving, never getting it bogged down and just let the listener absorb themselves in the tale. If you’re looking for a solid mystery novel about ordinary people dealing with an extraordinary circumstances than Say Nothing fits that bill. 





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.