Audiobook Review: The Bride Wore Black Leather by Simon R. Green

15 05 2013

The Bride Wore Black Leather by Simon R. Green (The Nightside, Bk. 12)

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 10 Hrs 31 Min

Genre: Paranormal Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: For fans of the series, The Bride Wore Black Leather should be a lot of fun, completing the story in the style of the previous novel. For me, though, this final novel highlighted many of my issues with the earlier novels and stripped away the one aspect of the series I really liked.

Grade: C-

2013 Audie Nomination for Paranormal

Really people, I tried. I love the Armchair Audies Event. It’s one of the few blogging activities I take part in every year that I am proud of. It’s one of the few things I do on my small little slice of the internet that I think both forces me out of my comfort zone, and also provides a valuable service. Sure, I do Zombie Awareness Month, and participate in things like June is Audiobook Month and Jenn’s Bookshelves’ Monsters, Murder and Mayhem events, but for those things I still control the content on my blog. In many ways what I like about Armchair Audies is that the book selections are out of my hands. Last year, I loved the experience. It was really an awesome experience. I have loved the experience so far this year as well, but it has come with more difficulties. From the moment the nominees were announced, I was a bit flummoxed. You can tell just by the nominees alone that one company made a concerted push to have their titles at the forefront of the selection process. The nominees both in my categories and in other had me shocked, and a bit dismayed at times. It had me doubting the process. Some of that was saved after listening to the two selections from Recorded Books in the Fantasy category, but since then, I have been pretty much under whelmed. My favorite category, Science Fiction was practically all titles I have already listened to. Then came paranormal, which had some really amazing titles, but also one title that was the 12th in a series. Yet, I was going to try. I was going to pool my resources, and listened to as many of the 11 prequels as I could. I had the time management skills, and the determination. I made it to Book 6, and then I just couldn’t. I saw all the other awesome books I could have been listening to instead of this series, which was, in my opinion, mediocre. So, I broke my cardinal rule, and skipped ahead to Book 12, the Audie nominated entry of Simon R. Green’s Nightside series, The Bride Wore Black Leather.

So, I’m going to keep the summary of the book short. Basically, the Nightside series is ending. Some bad guy decides he wants to make The Nightside a 60’s paradise and force The Nightside, where it is always 3 AM, into the light and of course, this is a bad thing, because then where will all the monsters go to terrorize people. Groan… Listen, Simon R. Green’s Nightside isn’t a bad series. I can understand why it has a following. I personally felt like the one story arch was pretty strong, but not strong enough to keep me interested. The thing I like most about this series is the strange camaraderie between an oddball group of characters, and the essence of this final edition of the story was stripping John Taylor away from his friends, thus eliminating my favorite aspect. In fact, the Bride mentioned in the title, John Taylor’s fiancé Susie Shooter doesn’t even show up in the tale until the last 30 minutes of the audiobook. Like most of the series, it’s not bad, just mostly blah for me. As John Taylor freely admits, he isn’t really an Investigator, which sucks for a series about a guy who runs a Private Investigator firm in a strange magical section of London where it’s always 3AM. He’s a guy with a gift that is moved around on a chessboard by unseen forces in order to use that gift. He has a knack for getting out of bad scrapes, which of course, he allows himself to be maneuvered into regularly. He’s a hero with no agency, surviving by the ultimate Dues ex machina, and waits patiently for the villain to reveal his evil plan before stumbling on a way to thwart it. I love the setting of the story, the bizarre world, the blending of speculative fiction tropes and genres, I just never became invested in the plots of the tale enough to give two shits and a half of a giggle. Skipping from book 6 to book 12, you would think you would feel lots of holes in the story and want to find what filled them. Sure, there were holes but only on a few occasions was I in the slightest way tempted to fill them. Fans of the series should love this finale, since basically it’s John Taylor going from character to character he knows and reminding all of us about their sordid relationships. The action doesn’t really take off until the final third, and that mostly consists of some of these same people being magically manipulated into acting like douchebags. For me, well, I can’t gather up enough passion to lambaste and bash this title with snark and clever .gifs, so I’ll just say, if you like The Nightside books, you’ll like it. If you’d rather spend 10 hours watching a marathon of episodes of Gilligan’s Planet, then here’s a link to it’s theme on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sGOfWP2bWk

While aspects of the audiobook drove me up a wall, very little of this was due to the narration by Mark Vietor. He had total command of the characters and the setting, and I thought this performance was much more nuanced than in some of the earlier editions. Yet, some of the problems with the writing in this series become BLINKING RED LIGHTS OF DOOM in the audiobook. The repetition was horrible. If I had to hear John Taylor say "…and then it was the easiest thing in the world…" just one more time I would have laced my head in moth pheromones and sat outside under a porch light while they attempted to mate with my skull. FYI, I HATE MOTHS. I was actually going to keep a running count on how many times Vietor ominously said “The Nightside…” in his patented mustache twirling soft British sneer but instead I invested my time more wisely by picturing Justin Beiber on tour with Menudo. That being said, Vietor was quite good and if you like the series, he’s the way to go. Sure, give him an Audie nomination and everything. I mean, he did read 12 of these things. 

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Audiobook Review: Princess of Wands by John Ringo

21 03 2013

Princess of Wands by John Ringo (Special Circumstance, Book 1)

Read by Suzy Jackson

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 29 Min

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: If my role as your resident audiobook blogger was to offer you critical analysis of the writing, character development and world building of the author, then I could probably nit pick every aspect of this book. Yet, that’s not my job. My job is to say, if the idea of a Christian Soccer Mom who teams up with a Pagan Call Girl, Wiccan Practitioners and Buddhist Monks to battle evil monsters for a secret Monster Hunting agency using the power of their personal faith appeals to you, then by all means, add A Princess of Wands to your reading list.

Grade: B

2013 Audie Nomination for Fantasy

There is a popular quote that often finds its way to science fiction boards that says, "There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot’." The problem is this is hard to do. It’s getting even harder now that every author has a Twitter, a Facebook and/or a blog where they actually state their beliefs. I’ll admit, I can be an idiot. I often have a hard time when an author has a character repeatedly espouse certain beliefs to not believe the author shares at least a version of that belief. The difference for me is, I really don’t care. If a book contains things in it which I find extremely offensive to the point where it affects my ability to enjoy it, I simply won’t read it whether this belief is something the author actually believes or not. For example, I won’t read a book where the sexual exploitation of children is in any way justified. This doesn’t mean I believe an author actually believes this without further exploration, I just won’t fill my brain with stuff like that. Conversely though, I really don’t care about an author’s politics or religion. I may vehemently disagree with something an author believes, but if he tells a good story, and isn’t overtly pushing his beliefs onto people, I’m cool with that. I know this level of disconnect isn’t shared among readers, and I accept that. It’s just, I’m politically moderate. I could probably find something that I vehemently disagree with with almost every author and since I like books, well, I need that level of disconnect. I don’t want characters in my books that are simply a reflection of me. I want to read books about Right winged Christian soccer moms, who believe things that right winged Christian soccer moms believe. What I don’t want is a book about a right winged Christian soccer mom whose beliefs are tempered to reflect some sort of more comfortable world view. All this is to say, I often find John Ringo’s work uncomfortable but I still read him. Why, you ask. Because he writes books about huge battles between humans in mechanical battle suits and carnivorous centaur like aliens. He doesn’t really need to be an Obama supporter to do that.

So, Princess of Wands…. I’m not really sure where to start. OK, so there’s this mom, you see. And she’s like Blonde, and chesty, but really modest about it. She’s got these annoying bratty kids she loves, and an oafish husband who she respects as the head of her household, even though the dude really doesn’t deserve it (learn to cook something, jackass.) Oh, and she loves Jesus. A Lot… I mean, a whole frakkin’ crapload. This Jesus love is important, because, you see, she takes a little breather from said bratty kids and douche bag husband, and gets mixed up in this town full of yokels who are trying to bring about the incarnation of some weird demon lizard thing. Oh, I forgot… she knows karate or something… and she is totally bad ass with guns, although she’d never say badass out loud because Christians don’t say that. So, you’re following me right… this Christian Soccer mom becomes this totally awesome monster hunter infused by the power of Christ working for this secret organization…. when her husband let’s her. Really, this was a frustrating one for me. I liked Princess of Wands. I did. I really even liked Barbara Everette Episcopal Monster Hunter. Growing up in a Christian home, her viewpoints, from her submission to her husband, to her Pro-Life beliefs are things I understand even when I don‘t agree with them. Plus, she really was much more open minded about things than people I know. I think Ringo did a great job creating this character who was true to her beliefs, however unpopular, had actual faith, yet was for the most part non-judgmental and flexible without violating her nature. I know many people would hate her, but I really didn’t. Yet, I totally had mixed feelings. Princess of Wands is actually two novellas and a short story, all connected in an overlapping narrative. This is a style that Ringo has used before, and I’m comfortable with it. The middle story, which takes place during a Literary conference, caused me some issues. Ringo infuses this tale with so much inside baseball that part of my brain was trying to figure out who these characters may really be based on instead of actually following the plot. There is a sequence where Barbara goes around, interacting with various sorts in the conference, as they give these long professorial soliloquies on things like why women prefer fluffy fantasy over hard science fiction, and I wanted to scream, and bang my head repeated against a stack of Larry Niven Hardbacks, not because I found the annoying things his characters were saying indicative of the author’s beliefs but because I wanted to know WHO THE GODDAM DEMON INVOKING SERIAL KILLER WAS! Yet, at times, I really enjoyed this book. There was humor, and action and John Ringo’s brand of over the top writing that’s like a madassed clown on meth who crashed his tiny clown filled car into a bayou full of hybrid croco-walruses. (Wait, I think that last part may have been a dream I had, oops, sorry.) Princess of Wands was a rollercoaster ride of SHUT THE HELL UP PLEASE KEEP TALKING SHUT THE HELL UP dialogue between warring parts of my brain. If my role as your resident audiobook blogger was to offer you critical analysis of the writing, character development and world building of the author, then I could probably nit pick every aspect of this book. Yet, that’s not my job. My job is to say, if the idea of a Christian Soccer Mom who teams up with a Pagan Call Girl, Wiccan Practitioners and Buddhist Monks to battle evil monsters for a secret Monster Hunting agency using the power of their personal faith appeals to you, then by all means, add A Princess of Wands to your reading list. Hell, I may even read the next book in the series.

So, let me say this right off THIS BOOK WAS NOMINATED FOR AN AUDIE AWARD. When I first read the list of nominees, I’ll admit, I was sort of shocked. While I’m not sure I would call myself a John Ringo Fan, I am a John Ringo Reader (well, except for his Paladin of Shadows series which I just can’t stomach.) That being said, my first thought when seeing that Ringo was nominated was that Suzy Jackson must be narrator incarnation of The Wiccan Mother of something to pull this one off. Well, Suzy Jackson was good. Really good. Not blow your mind good, but solid, pleasant voiced, infused with humor professionally good.  Suzy Jackson reads this story as it should be read. I really liked her voice. It was definitely the standard soprano American style similar to Emily Bauer, but with more warmth, maturity and moments of depth. When Barbara was talking of her beliefs, her faith in God, Jackson sounded authentic. I really enjoyed her self editing, where she would start to cuss then stop herself. It just came off naturally. She handled the prayers, and church speech with the right inflections and rhythms. As someone who grew up in a conservative church, there is an almost patois to the American Church goer. A way a certain phrase is said is often just as important as the words, and Jackson’s reading of this novel had me wondering if she grew up in a similar church as well. So, yes, I am still surprised that A Princess of Wands was nominated for an Audie. Yet, the book is what it is, and delivers on what it is supposed to be, and Suzy Jackson does her job well.





Audiobook Review: Cold City by F. Paul Wilson

4 03 2013

Cold City by F. Paul Wilson (Repairman Jack: The Early Years, Book 1)

Read by Alexander Cendese

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 19 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Cold City is a fun thriller that tells the story of a young hero finding his place in the world. It’s a good blend of fast paced shoot ’em up action and cerebral plotting that manages to keep a strong flow. The characters are full of color, and the humor jumps off the page despite some dark situations. This is my first experience with Repairman Jack, but I am sure it won’t be my last.

Grade: B+

A few years ago, when I was a relative newcomer to the world of Urban Fantasy, a friend of mine recommended two series to me, The Dresden Files and Repairman Jack. At first, I was planning on starting the Repairman Jack series, because, well, I thought the name was pretty cool. Honestly, that’s the kind of well informed decisions I tend to make. You know that whole book/cover judging conundrum, well, throw some robot monkeys or hybrid Gorillaroos on your cover, and I’ll probably buy it even if it’s just a repackaging of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Yet, here comes the problem. While I am often arbitrary about my book purchases based on cover, cool author name or impressing the ladies, as an audiobook consumer, I do my research. I was a bit confused about the order of the Repairman Jack books, yet I came to discover the audiobook releases were sporadic, with some holes and inconsistent narrators. I am one of those weird guys who like to read a series in order, even if an author declares that each book can be read independently. It’s a strange quirk of mine. Also, I do prefer consistent narrators for a series, but am willing to deal with a narrator change, because that’s the business. Yet, when I discovered that Dresden had a consistent narrator, and that it was James Marsters, I went with Dresden. Yet, I still couldn’t get past the cool name. Repairman Jack. I’ve always thought the name Jack was pretty badass. Jack Bauer, Jack Bristow, Jack Reacher, heck, even Jack Ryan had his moments, and this particular Jack was a Repairman. I’m not so handy around the house, so, yeah, that had to be cool. So, upon learning that F. Paul Wilson was releasing a prequel Trilogy to this series that solved some problems. I knew I could listen without too many chances of spoilers, nor the need to learn the mythology, plus, I imagined the trilogy would use the same narrator. So, I was totally in, my maiden Repairman Jack journey, if you will.

Cold City starts in New York, as a young man named Jack, fresh off a family tragedy, is trying to disappear into a new life. At first I was a bit taken aback. As the story started, I did feel I was missing some back story on the character. I did some research and discovered that Wilson had written a YA series based on this character. Luckily, Wilson does a good job filling in enough details to give you a sense of where the character is, without forcing you to go through a big bout of exposition. The novel starts off with Jack in a bit of trouble, with some machete wielding former coworkers looking to resolve some personal issues. This leads Jack into looking to get a weapon of his own, which in turns leads to some interesting contacts, and a new opportunity. This is the interesting thing about Cold City, while the plotting is consistent, and the story compelling, it is more a series of events, where Jack meets some interesting people and gets mixed up in the machinations of some bad people. The driving force seems to be more luck, whether good or bad. Without actually knowing much of the mythology of The Repairman Jack, I can see why Wilson took this approach. I imagine many of the characters and organizations at play in Cold City, become significant later in the series, and for fans of the series, seeing just how Jack got mixed up in these things had to be cool. For someone new to the series, it works as well, because it wasn’t dependent on knowing what has already been written. Sure, there were probably little nuggets that a new reader will miss along the way, sort of Easter Eggs for the regular reader. Cold City wasn’t what I had been expecting. It was more of a straight thriller than an Urban Fantasy or Paranormal tale, but it was quite effective at what it was. I really liked Jack as a character. He had the right blending of grit and naiveté, a cool customer, with room to grow. Wilson put him up against some real badies, and while Jack was able to work around them, he wasn’t any superman, but someone dealing with evil in a human way. Cold City is full of colorful characters who add a lot to the tale. My only warning is that this novel has to be looked at as the first of a series. There are many ends that aren’t tied up as the book comes to a close. If you need a clean ending, you won’t get it, but in my opinion, it’s worth it for the potential I can see in the series as a whole. Cold City is a fun thriller that tells the story of a young hero finding his place in the world. It’s a good blend of fast paced shoot ’em up action and cerebral plotting that manages to keep a strong flow. The characters are full of color, and the humor jumps off the page despite some dark situations. This is my first experience with Repairman Jack, but I am sure it won’t be my last.

This was also my first experience with Alexander Cendese as a narrator, and I was quite impressed. In fact, his style reminded me quite a bit of one of my favorite narrators, MacLeod Andrews. He has a young voice, perfect for a 21 year old protagonist, but also with a bit of gravel that gave Jack a definite edginess. He managed to capture the tragic nature of the character as well as his naiveté while also giving him a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  I also think he made a conscience effort to give some of the other characters recognizable voices, the mafia goombah, the old Yiddish gent, while still filling their characters out as more becomes revealed about them. He captured the humor just right without it ever becoming cartoonish. The action scenes were well paced and visual, allowing the listener to picture exactly what was going on. There are a few other titles that have been narrated by Cendese that I had been on the fence about, but listening to Cold City makes me much more confident about giving them a shot.

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





Audiobook Review: Unnatural Acts by Kevin J. Anderson

24 01 2013

Unnatural Acts by Kevin J. Anderson (Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., Bk. 2)

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 7 Min

Genre: Paranormal Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Author Kevin J Anderson leaves no pun unturned as he masterfully blends tropes, satirizes pop culture and demonizes bigotry in this uproarious edition to his Supernatural Noir series. It’s like someone took everything I like in a good book, Noir detectives, legal quandaries, slapstick humor, and Zombies, and blended it together in a tasty treat that is also quite filling. After the amazing Death Warmed Over, Unnatural Act proves that Dan Shamble isn’t just some one trick Zombie

Grade: A

Sometimes when I watch the news I am reminded of just how simply ridiculous our world is. What makes it even more insane is how we like to broadcast out ridiculousness out into the universe for all of creation to see. This is why I have enjoyed satire for most of my life, because without it, I may fall into a heap of fleshy goo and spend all my days crying, trying to rip the sounds of some talking head’s latest comment out of my ears. Satire reminds me that it is OK to laugh at the ridiculousness of our culture, despite there being some serious issues. I recently read a review of the first Dan Shamble novel, Death Warmed Over, where the reviewer lambasted the novel for its PC sentiments of turning the white males into monsters, while singing the praise of diversity of monsters of all stripes, obviously representing ethnic minorities. After repeatedly hitting my head against the wall in existential angst, I got right back to listening to Unnatural Acts, and laughing as a douchey Senator tries to regulate the sexual activities of the Unnatural citizens of this great series. Because, all we can really do is laugh anyway. People will either choose to be bothered by the basic tenants of acceptance and make an issue of it and if I allow these types of people to affect my ability to enjoy my day than maybe I’m the ridiculous one. Because, these novels aren’t full of any agenda, just simple tales of acceptance in the guise of monsters and creatures of legends told with some great characters that make me happy. Plus, it’s full of jokes like, "What does a zombie vegetarian say? Graaaaaaaiiiiiinnnnsss…. Come on people, laugh a little. Grains….

The Offices of Chambeaux & Deyer is a beacon to the many monstrous citizens of the Unnatural Quarter, so it was the perfect place for escaped Golem Bill to seek help to bring down a sweatshop using unpaid Golem labor. Thus begins another adventure of Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. Author Kevin J Anderson leaves no pun unturned as he masterfully blends tropes, satirizes pop culture and demonizes bigotry in this uproarious edition to his Supernatural Noir series. The Dan Shamble series breathes a breathe of fresh air into the bloated corpse of urban paranormal fantasies. One of the things I love about this series is that although being a zombie with a ghost girlfriend has many issues, Dan Shamble is an uncomplicated character. He and his lawyer cohort exude a sort of innocent empathy and desire to help the oppressed in the increasingly murky world after the Big Uneasy. Dan is just instantly likable, a zombie boyscout without pretension and all his cohorts, from a Vampire bodyguard and wanna be comedian to the lowly Golem’s looking for a break, are so full of life even when they are not quite living. The lighthearted nature of the storytelling, full of cheesy jokes, breezy camaraderie and goofy dialogue never mutes the emotional outrage you feel when these likable monsters are being mistreated. Anderson fills this tale with social commentary, but in such a way that you really don’t think about it, until you realize how much these stories parallel the ridiculousness of modern culture. I love that there isn’t one single underlining plot, but a series of interlinking events that Anderson pulls together for an effective finale. These are all recognizable Noir storylines, blending with the paranormal, and filled with satire that allows Unnatural Acts comes off both comfortable, yet edgy. I had such a good time listening to Unnatural Acts. It’s like someone took everything I like in a good book, Noir detectives, legal quandaries, slapstick humor, and Zombies, and blended it together in a tasty treat that is also quite filling. After the amazing Death Warmed Over, Unnatural Act proves that Dan Shamble isn’t just some one trick Zombie.

Phil Gigante populates this tale with such a menagerie of wonderful character voices that I barely contain my fanboyish squeals. Like Anderson, Gigante calls upon his library of monstrous tropes to create characters that are both recognizable yet unique. At times I heard everything from Count Von Count to Bub the Zombie lend their voice to this tale. Gigante adds his soft southern charm, peppering it with a gothic Cajun feel, to the character of Dan Shamble. It’s almost like a Noir Forrest Gump with just a bit of Clark Kent added for good measure. The soft spoken Zombie is balanced by his sexy astral girlfriend and his pious crusading partner. Gigante manages to take all these characters and against all odds, make their dialogue flow naturally. His pacing is slow and steady, allowing the natural storytelling skills of Anderson to shine through. He does all this with the vocal equivalent of a wink, making it obvious to the listener that he is enjoying every moment of narrating this tale. There is a reason that Death Warmed Over was one of my Top Audiobooks of 2012, and these reasons prove just as true in Unnatural Acts. Unnatural Acts was simply a joy to listen to, full of humor, a wonderful story, endearing characters, and even some emotional payoff.

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





Audiobook Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

27 11 2012

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

Read by James Marsters

Penguin Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: 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.

Grade: A

The Dresden Files series will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s really was the gateway series that got me interested in, not just Urban Fantasy, but Urban Fantasy audiobooks. Before the Dresden Files, I can’t remember very many ventures into Urban Fantasy, and the ones I did attempt didn’t go over very well. I have taken a very weird road into Science Fiction and Fantasy fandom, nowhere near the traditional geek cultural road taken by many fans of speculative fiction. I was never into comic books as a kid, and enjoyed Stark Trek and Star Wars as isolated bits of fun, but in no way was an obsessive SF geek. When Scifi writers make clever Dungeons and Dragons references on Twitter I am basically lost. I read the staples, Narnia and The Hobbit as a kid, a few Star Wars books as a teenager but mostly I stuck to Legal Thrillers, Detective stories and other ,mysteries. My first dedicated sojourn into speculative fiction was through horror, where I found my first real literary obsession, Post Apocalyptic fiction. Through Post Apocalyptic fiction, I began moving into Science Fiction and Fantasy, expanding being apocalyptic novels to Space Operas and Portal Fantasies. I knew nothing of fairies or ghouls, and most of my vampires where of the Stephen King Variety, and pretty bare fanged basic. To this day, I don’t know what inspired me to pick up the first Dresden Files audiobook, but it opened a new window. Slowly, Butcher lured me in with wizards, and werewolves, things I have had literary experiences with before, but then slowly began to introduce me to new aspects of fantasy, for me at least. Now, while I’m still playing on the edges of the urban fantasy world, now, Harry Dresden convinced me to at least put my toe in the water.

Cold Days is the 14th novel in the Dresden Files, and more importantly, the start of a new story arch in the course of the series. If The Dresden Files was a TV show (I know, I know) Changes would have been a Season Finale, and Cold Days the premiere of the next season, with Ghost Story serving as a fun little Teaser special branching the two main arches. Harry Dresden is now, for better or worse, The Winter’s Knight, and must do the bidding of the Winter Queen Mab. Yet, when Mab gives him an assignment that is seemingly impossible, the assassination of an immortal, Harry gets drawn into a complicated chess match between an unseen new enemy and the allies of reality itself. To make matters worst, Harry must battle the mantel of the Winter’s Knight’s attempts to change him, while his friends and allies are not sure they can really trust him. In Cold Days, Butcher takes everything you think you know about Harry and the world of 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. It amazes me how far we have come from the world we first met in Storm Front. Nothing is the same, yet Butcher stays true to the essence of the characters, despite outside forces trying to change them. I was so enthralled by this story, going through a plethora of emotions, from pure exhilaration to heartbreak. While I loved Changes as a novel, I was scared about the direction it would force the series into. Butcher convinced me, that despite my doubts, he has a plan and its one well worth following. Cold Days simply reinvigorated my love of this series, making me excited for what is yet to come for Harry and his cohorts. Even knowing that what is coming is probably going to break my heart as much as entertain me doesn’t diminish my desire to take the journey.

So, Ghost Story happened. I think I was one of the very few that didn’t insta-hate John Glover’s performance. I sort of liked it in fact, and gave a pretty positive review garnishing some negative responses. That being said, John Glover isn’t Harry Dresden. Perhaps he could be ghost Harry Dresden with the sniffles, but he is not Harry Dresden. James Marsters is Harry Dresden, and proves it once again in his reading of Cold Days. Marsters is one of the few narrators who I think I enjoy more every time I listen to him. There were moments in this novel, when Harry would be shouting his spells, calling down Fire, Force or Ice that I got the chills. Marsters narrates this like Harry himself, through the full brute strength of his will. It is straightforward and powerful, maybe not as nuances as some narrators, but perfect for the world that he is bringing to life. Marsters proves that he knows these characters, that he has grown with them, and he is their voice. He has easily captured the rhythms of Butcher’s writing delivering them with an almost cinematic quality. If you are a fan of The Dresden Files audiobooks, you too will feel the chills to have Harry back as we have grown to know him.

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





Audiobook Review: Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

26 11 2012

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Read by Emily Bauer

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 20 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal

Quick Thoughts: Discount Armageddon is full of all the pulpy goodness you will need for a well balanced entertaining read, including plenty of music video action scenes, cool monsters, Aeslin mice, weapon concealing club clothes, an exotic and infuriating love interest, and wonderful characters both human and other.  Anyone looking for a fun new urban fantasy series to sink their prehensile teeth into should give this one a shot.

Grade: B+

If there is anything that fiction has taught me it’s that I am a pretty boring person, from a boring family, living a relatively boring life. I have no deep dark secret hovering over my soul that may one day come back to haunt me. I am a pretty straight forward human being, perhaps, even, if you would have it, a square. My family isn’t in any way aligned with an ancient order or secret society that has magical powers, or controls the banking industry or hunt monsters. While I am estranged from my father, I am pretty sure he really is my father and is in no way a fairy, werewolf or wizard.  No one in my family has been kidnapped by Orcs, sold their soul to the devil or practiced any sort of black magic. I would never make a very good urban fantasy protagonist. Yet, I have learned a lot of things that I think any urban fantasy protagonist should really learn. If, one day, you discover that your real mother is actually a fairy, or that you were hidden away among normal humans because your biological family is involved in a centuries old blood feud with cross dimensional Lovecraftian horrors, here are a few little tips. First, never utter any phrase like, "Well, at least it can’t get any worse" because, you are an urban fantasy protagonist, it probably will get worse. Secondly, that highly attractive member of the particular sex you find you self attracted to who you think is good looking but has drastically conflicting values, well, the sex will be great, but beware, it may lead to existential angst and probably a knock down, drag out alienating fight right after the first time you two bang. Lastly, this is more of a plea. I know you are trying to save the world from entities preparing to end reality as we know it, but, my insurance doesn’t cover the theft of my automobile and if you decide to toss a werewolf through my window, I will probably have to pay for the repairs. I don’t make a lot of money, so please consider us boring squares that before you act.

Verity Price is a woman of many talents. She is a world class ball room dancer, a skilled free runner, a reality TV personality and trained in various forms of martial arts. She also happens to be a cryptozooligist from a family who hunts dangerous monsters while protecting those not guilty of harming human society from an international cabal set on the extinction of Cryptid species. Oh, did I mention she’s also a waitress at a strip club? Of course, despite her desires to just live a normal life, establishing contacts with the Cryptid community in New York and trying to develop a career in Dance, Verity gets pulled into situation that may blow her cover, put those she is sworn to protect into severe jeopardy and quite possibly, kill her. Oh, and there’s a boy, of course. Discount Armageddon is a novel I had been waiting for for a while, and when I found that it finally had been released in audio form, I snatched it right up. Well, it was definitely worth the wait. I had a heck of a lot of fun listening to Discount Armageddon. Verity Price is the type of character who would scare the stuffing out of me in real life, but is a heck of a lot of fun to read about. Quirky, and sarcastic, with killer skills that will either charm you, or kick you ass, depending on the situation. I always get a little fearful of first books in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal series. Often times, an author will build their world in a heavy handed many, using long bits of exposition to explain the mythology of their universe to the reader. In Discount Armageddon, McGuire assumes that her readers aren’t stupid. She simply lets you know, "Hey, this world has monsters in it" and figures the reader will be smart enough to grasp that. McGuire instead focuses on developing a wide array of fascinating characters, and slowly building her world through there eyes, often dropping amusing hints through her characters. Maguire fills her book full of things that I would usually be deathly afraid may lead to girl cooties, things like Ballroom dancing, kissing, and shoes with various heel sizes, but you know what, she does it in a amusing way that serves as an inoculation for any strain of cooties. Discount Armageddon is full of all the pulpy goodness you will need for a well balanced entertaining read, including plenty of music video action scenes, cool monsters, Aeslin mice, weapon concealing club clothes, an exotic and infuriating love interest, and wonderful characters both human and other.  Anyone looking for a fun new urban fantasy series to sink their prehensile teeth into should give this one a shot.

With my long wait for the audiobook version of this novel, I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I learned it was narrated by Emily Bauer. Bauer is definitely a professional and skilled narrator. She reads with a clear concise style and has a great sense of pacing, particularly during complex actions scenes. Yet, her main narrative voice is always the same flavor of perky young adult. Cast in the right production and she is perfect, yet, she is way too often miscast. She’s wonderful at capturing younger, teenage characters, but will often give older, more complex characters a vapid feel. Casting her for Discount Armageddon wasn’t a horrible choice. Verity has a perky quality to her that Bauer’s voice fits at times, but it far too often fell more into the arena of petulant teenager than independent adult with perkiesque qualities. Where Bauer’s deficiency in the character was most glaring was during the more sultry moments of Verity’s internal dialogue. It just didn’t come off believable to me, seeming less like a woman comfortable in her sexuality than a young girl fantasizing about a boy. My other main complain is in her portrayal of Dominic. Bauer used more of an all purpose exotic tone for Dominic than a cultural specific accent, and at times, made him sound like a bad Monty Python character. All these complaints aside, I know that many people love Bauer, and she gives a solid reading here. She just happens to hit a few of my peevish buttons. Overall, I enjoyed the heck out of this audiobook, and most of my annoyances didn’t really distract from the experience.





Audiobook Review: The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm

12 11 2012

The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm (The Collector, Bk. 2)

Read by Brian Vander Ark

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: The Wrong Goodbye comes at you like a slow boil, building in tension as the pieces fall into place, resulting in a well executed mad rush of a "should have seen it coming" ending. This series is breathing fresh new life into an Urban Fantasy Trope that I never even realized it desperately needed. If you were a fan of the wild, action filled Dead Harvest, then you will delight in the next steps the story takes in The Wrong Goodbye.

Grade: A-

Sam Thornton, the protagonist of Chris F. Holm’s Urban Fantasy series, is a Collector. It’s quite easy to mistake him for a Grim Reaper, but his job is much different. Within the mythos of The Collector series, a Collector gathers two very specific types of souls. One type is those whose actions are so heinous, so evil that Hell claims their soul right away. The others is the souls of those who struck a deal with some demonic force, selling their soul for some temporary earth bound advantage. Now, I know what you are thinking, what sort of idiot would risk eternal damnation for some temporal reward. What gift would be worth having now that would make up for years of torment at the hands of the denizens of hell? For those of you who are thinking, nothing…. nothing is worth giving up my soul, well, I’m with you. Except, that I know myself too well. Intellectually, I know that 10, or 20 or 100 years of health, wealth and happiness would not make up for an eternity of suffering. Of course, intellectually, I also know that blowing $50 at the bookstore when I have rent, and a crap load of bills coming in doesn’t make sense. Yet, for some reason, my bookcases keep getting fuller. I’ve never been great at delayed gratification.  Growing up poor, portly and pretty much unlucky with the ladies makes me tend to grab on to whatever luxuries I can manage, often times knowing it will come with a price in the future. As I have grown, I have learned more discipline, but it’s been an uphill battle. I am lucky that the younger me never came across that strange man in the crossroads offering me a taste of the good life for the mere pittance of my soul. I’d like to think I would have turned down that deal just as I’d like to thigh my frugality and good decisions have created a comfortable little nest egg. Unfortunately, I probably blew all that for some nice pretties for my nest, and plenty of eggs.

While tracking a particularly evil drug dealer through the South American jungle, Collector Sam Thornton comes upon a grisly scene. His quarry is found ripped apart, soul missing, with a message for Sam carved into his body.  There is only one being who could pull this off, another Collector, and one that Sam shares a complex history with. In The Wrong Goodbye, Chris F Holm again offers a look into the otherworldly domain of the collectors. While there are many urban fantasies out their today dealing with angels and demons, very few are as unique and fascinating as the world Holm has created. Holm shrugs off everything you think you know about the afterlife, stripping away the Sunday School mythology and offering you a well conceived world that makes its own rules. In The Wrong Goodbye, Holm gives you a slower more complicated plot than in Dead Harvest. While the action is there, it does not come at quite the breakneck speed as the first novel of the series. Instead Holm concentrates on creating a clever plot, expanding his mythology in creative new directions and presenting us with some of the best characters that I have met in an urban fantasy. What I really liked about The Goodbye was how Holm flips the traditional hero roles. None of his characters are what you would consider good guys. They are drawn from the dregs of society, mafia goombahs, con men and the like, yet they have more heart, and more potential for heroism than the nearest Boy Scout. Many of these characters know they are destined for an eternity of torment, but they step up and surprise you. The Wrong Goodbye comes at you like a slow boil, building in tension as the pieces fall into place, resulting in a well executed mad rush of a "should have seen it coming" ending. This series is breathing fresh new life into an Urban Fantasy Trope that I never even realized it desperately needed. If you were a fan of the wild, action filled Dead Harvest, then you will delight in the next steps the story takes in The Wrong Goodbye.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m not yet sure I’m 100% sold on Brian Vander Ark as a narrator. Now, I think he does a great job here in The Wrong Goodbye. As a first person narrative, Vander Ark really captures the essence of Sam Thornton. There is a certain hesitant gruffness in his reading that really enhances Sam Thornton as a character, capturing the often "deer in the headlights" noir feel that the narrative creates for Sam. The rawness gives the reading authenticity, but it also offers some negatives. Vander Arks pacing is uneven at times. As the action speeds up, Vander Ark does a good job conveying the urgency of each scene, but there is often an awkward feel to the slower, more contemplative scenes. There are also some distracting noises throughout the reading. I’m not sure if they were lip smacking or other mouth sounds, but there were noticeable at times throughout the production. Yet, I think that in a way, the rawness and awkward pacing sort of worked for this novel, but I’m not quite sure it would work in something else. I would be quite interested to hear Vander Ark taking on a third person POV or multi POV story to see if some of the flaws that worked here where a conscious choice or just the limits of his skill. No matter my complaints, I really enjoyed the audiobook production and encourage people to give it a listen.