Posts Tagged ‘audiobook’

Hey guys! Normally I write book reviews, but sometimes I’ll have such strong feelings about a book that the review ends up being all CAP LOCKS and lols and 🙂 🙃 😱 😬 🙄🤔😍 🤓😄 😂 🤣; in cases like that (which is what happened with my review of Shadow’s Edge ((Night Angel #2)) by Brent Weeks), it’s just easier to talk about it instead of translate my feelings to typeface. I would love to know what you think- about the video, about the book, about how messy my book shelves look, anything! 😀 I hope you enjoy!

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It took me a few weeks to come to terms with this novel, but I finally did and this is what I decided: despite the hype about Station Eleven, or perhaps because of the hype, the book turned out to be a huge disappointment for me.

About :

It starts off brilliantly with an actor’s onstage death that, while seeming both tragic and horrible to the cast and fans, also feels right—this is an elderly actor, surrounded by his favorite people, doing his favorite thing amidst the glorious fanfare of playing King Lear, dying a completely natural death. Sad, but, in a sense, also normal and even enviable. The way a person wants to die. (This scene made me want to go pick up King Lear, immediately, which is a bonus. I love being inspired to read classics by reading modern books.)

Then, as the acting cast meets afterwards in a bar to take in the death of their lead, we get this line:

Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on a road out of the city.”

Whoa, what!? This compelling line introduces the coming apocalypse—which, we soon learn, will be in the form of an epidemic that causes collapse of human civilization. The actor’s death is indeed a happy mercy in comparison. The perfect prose sets up the drama of this revelation perfectly.

Unfortunately, the prose is the only thing I enjoyed about the rest of the book. My interest died fairly soon after that amazing intro, after which we find ourselves following a cast of narrators connected in distant and basically meaningless ways. The revelations about those character connections are supposed to somehow give the novel structure, but the strategy doesn’t really work. It just reads like a bunch of character sketches set against a relatively static “post-apocalyptic” background. We see the fall of humanity through the eyes of these characters, which is sort of interesting, but…

Thoughts :

For me, two problems killed the character-driven premise of “examining the individual and collective human response to apocalypse.”

First of all, the cast is boring, completely average and largely unchanging. These are normal people who make huge mistakes, but never redeem themselves. The two characters who do change only do so in flashbacks: the actor, imo the least sympathetic character, and the vaguely-Protestant-sounding cult leader. Although Mandel attempts to give the story structure by following the arcs of the actor and the cult leader, both are snoozeworthy. I’ve read so much more interesting and illuminating portrayals of religious nutsos (see Hazel Motes in Wiseblood or St. John Rivers in Jane Eyre or even Kelsier in Mistborn!), so this kind of religious stereotype completely bores me.

Second, Mandel wrote Station Eleven almost entirely from the viewpoint of non-religious peoples of European descent. A little more diversity would have gone a long way toward creating a more compelling cast. The lack of sane religious people in particular seems like an odd disparity in a post-apocalyptic population. So, in regards to religious people, either: (1) ALL of them are nuts; (2) ALL the sane ones died already; or (3) ALL the sane ones were raptured!

‘What about the post-apocalyptic setting?’ you may be wondering. Well…it’s largely static, like the characters, unfortunately. [Highlight to view SPOILER: After the initial fall, we just see everything collapse again and again through the eyes of the cast, and that’s where it stays. Nothing else happens, no clues about the future. Maybe that’s what Mandel is saying: the future remains static forever. I guess you could interpret it that way, but it’s boring and relatively hopeless and in conjunction with everything else I didn’t like about this story? MEH. ]

To end on a high point: several members of the cast belong to a troupe of Shakespearean actors traveling through the wasteland, and Mandel uses them to share the redeeming power of story. I enjoyed that theme, even if it is apparently the exclusive source of meaning and hope characters find in the world of this novel (which is just silly. I love my books, but I don’t base my identity and hope in them, and I certainly wouldn’t do so in the case of an apocalypse. That, in addition to the apparent Theophobia??, made it difficult for me to find myself anywhere in this novel). Still, imaginary bonus points for the lit love.

Overall :

Dull, dull, dull. I’ve read literary fiction that accomplishes all of this with far greater success, so I really don’t understand why people loved this one. There’s just such better stuff out there. For a much more compelling character-driven and literary post-apocalyptic novel, I would recommend Arslan by M. J. Engh. Happily, I just reviewed it two days ago and it’s fresh enough that I’ll guarantee a much more thoughtful reading experience than Station Eleven can provide. Still not much plot, but the characters are way more interesting PLUS they’re unreliable narrators, which, I mean, bonus points, right?

So I gave Station Eleven 1 star for the prose, 1 star for the terrific intro and a half a star for a half-way decent cast. But I rounded down because I was so disappointed.

2.5/5 STARS

Recommended To:

If you super-love post-apocalyptic fiction, you might still enjoy Station Eleven, especially since it’s so mainstream and popular now. It will likely come up in conversations about literary sci-fi, and sometimes it’s just fun to take part in a popular sci-fi fandom. My library is giving away free copies of it this year for the Big Read, which is really a big deal for a science fiction novel!

Station Eleven is adult post-apocalyptic science fiction authored by Emily St. John Mandel and published September 9th 2014 by Knopf. Hardcover, 336 pages. The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.

RidersRossi2

I hit so fast it felt like I landed everywhere at once—feet, a**, head.

The last thing I remember was hearing the crunching of bones in my arm and my legs. And that was it.

I was done.

About :

Gideon Blake boarded a plane for Fort Benning the day he got his high school diploma. But during his training to become an army ranger, he died in a parachuting accident.

Then…he woke up. Impossibly, he’s soon healed, being pursued by monsters and falling in love with a mysterious girl—a girl who refuses to tell him what the heck is going on.

But he finds out soon enough: Gideon is War incarnate, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and he has to find the other three members of his team—Famine, Death and Conquest—before the bad guys do. Riders is ya fantasy written by Veronica Rossi and published February 16th 2016 by Tor Teen. Hardcover, 384 pages.

Thoughts :

Even before I realized that Dan Bittner was narrating the Riders audiobook (which is a huge bonus!), I was hooked by the premise: the four horsemen? Cool factor, amirite?

We start out the story in an interrogation room—after all the action has occurred. A disbelieving, top-secret investigator is interviewing Gideon Blake about said action in some kind of army bunker.

I’m in a small room with pine walls and floor boards. Even the trim is pine, so. Either I was eaten by a tree or I’m in a cabin.”

We quickly learn that the US military rescued Gideon and the other horsemen from some kind of epic failure in Denmark—and that some girl named “Daryn” elected to stay behind. Which upset Gideon so much the army had to tranquilize the kid.

I think someone has a crush 😏

So now, all Gideon wants is to get out of the restraints placed on him by the military, but first he must tell them his story. We learn the details as gradually as the military listeners do.

If you’re starting to hanker after the plot details, trust me, I understand! That’s a feeling I had to get used to during the course of the story. The plot mainly consists of finding the other horsemen (three of whom end up being Americans, which is kind of funny, but they end up traveling to a few different countries anyway) and, in the very end, facing the monsters they’ve been “incarnated” to battle. We do get glimpses of the future conflict in the apocalyptic touches, such as the monsters themselves, the super weapons belonging to the four horsemen and—the coolest speculative element—the supernatural horses featured on the covers of books I and II. But the mysterious Daryn keeps many secrets of their incarnation and missions to herself.

So the conflict comes mainly from the story structure of Gideon’s interview, which is a genius mode of storytelling for Veronica Rossi. Her greatest strength as a writer (imo, of course)  is her character voice. Gideon’s voice, ah! I just love it so much. If you’ve read Veronica Rossi before, you probably know about her way with characters. In Riders, she enriches the YA genre in one very specific way. To explain:

If there’s one cringe-worthy commonality in YA fiction, it’s the girly guys. Seriously, where are all the macho males? I married a manly man and he’s definitely worth knowing and representing in YA fiction. Give me confidence! Swagger! Muscles! Convictions! Loudmouths! Anger issues! I would love to see more testosterone in YA, and I think other genre readers would, too.

So I thoroughly enjoyed Rossi’s extremely successful macho male perspective. Two of the four horsemen have serious aggression issues (War and Death, which somehow doesn’t surprise me!) and it’s interesting to watch them battle things out. Gideon turns into a jealous jerk, at times, but it’s a plausible character fault to go along with his strong leadership tendencies and smart mouth (not to mention his age and circumstances).

Gideon is also completely sassy and hilarious in a very character-specific way.

Her navy-blue suit looks expensive and she has a Ph.D kind of vibe, like she knows everything about something. And wrote a book about it. A civilian. I’d bet anything.”

Now does that scream soldier boy or what?

And the audio narrator! Dan Bittner stole my soul!! He saved Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy, for me, by basically BECOMING Cole St. Clair—but this. This is magnificent! Rossi’s and Bittner’s talents really bring Gideon alive, in the Riders audiobook. Bittner seems to go for the voice-driven authors and I’m so glad he does because he rocks their work.

Overall :

I loved this sooo much, it’s exactly my kind of thing, even though there’s little plot involved; most of it is “series set up” and character development. In that sense, it reminds me of Extracted by RR Hayward, which is also a book about “setting up the crew”; but Riders is much funnier and I loved Rossi’s characters far more than Hayward’s.

Recommended To :

I think Riders will be best enjoyed by audiences who look for strong character voice (especially humor) and character-driven narratives over strong plotting. The speculative element, while present, is minimal beyond the obvious “four horsemen” thing. It’s possible that the series as a whole has a fabulous plot; but book II doesn’t come out until next month, so we’ll have to wait and see 🙂 And, of course, I highly recommend the audiobook, although I’m sure the regular book is just as fabulous….

****4/5 STARS

The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.

Bloodbound

“The devout belief that the world is explainable is both a terrible vulnerability and a stout shield. Evil prefers it when people don’t believe.”

About :

Mercy Thompson knows a thing or two about “the unexplainable.” For instance, she can shapeshift into a coyote, much like the werewolves she knows, except without suffering their transitional pains; the title of her true nature was lost with the death of her father, so her supernatural friends deem her simply—and incorrectly—a “Skinwalker…of the Southwest Indian tribes.”

But even Mercy gets shaken up when a sorcerer appears on her home turf, bespelling and threatening her vampire friend Stephan and his coven. Werewolves and vampires start working together to hunt him down, and all of her supernatural friends—especially her werewolf “gentlemen callers,” Adam and Samuel—warn her to stay out of the dangerous sorcerer’s way.

But even her besties can’t convince Mercy to stay benched while they put themselves in danger. Blood Bound is adult urban fantasy/paranormal romance authored by Patricia Briggs and published January 30th 2007 by Ace. Mass Market Paperback, 292 pages. The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.

Thoughts :

It’s been a few weeks since I listened to this audiobook, so get ready for a short and sweet review! Overall, I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed book I. The mystery—“Where is the sorcerer? And where is he hiding all of Mercy’s menfolk?!”—actually held my attention better than the mystery in book I, despite the two plots’ similarities. (The plot of book I is also, “Where did the bad guy hide Adam and his daughter?”) The clues are more exciting and fun to decode, many of them involving ghosts (one of my favorite Urban Fantasy elements). We also get more familiar with both the wereworld and vampire politics. The worldbuilding just keeps getting better and better!

My only real complaint is that I wish Mercy would wear more clothes on the book covers! J/k, but in all seriousness, I do feel lukewarm about one element in the series so far: the men (all of them, even, strangely, Mercy’s gay friend?) spend a lot more time jockeying for Mercy’s attention in book II than they did even in book I. Mercy seriously needs a few chick friends, considering how much the male wolves annoy her when they get territorial. She does seem to make one sort-of friend in Honey, so I’m hoping we get more girl time in book III.

On the plus side, I’m getting some serious vibes between Mercy and Adam, which is awesome because…well, Adam is pretty hot 😀

Overall :

I’m really enjoying this world, so I’m definitely going to keep reading. It’s nice, light entertainment. And, okay, I’m curious about who Mercy picks!

Recommended To :

If you like book I, chances are you’ll like book II. Mostly, you might want to hang around because I hear the series keeps getting better!

3.5/5 STARS

The Immortals

“I protect you, just like I protect all the women who come to me. And all I ask in return is two promises: You won’t tell the cops about me, and you won’t hook up with ***holes again.”

About :

The pantheon of Greek gods is alive, though not exactly well, in the city of Manhattan. Artemis—or Selene the Huntress, as she calls herself these days—wearily goes about her age-old task of saving women from male predators, but in truth her powers waned long ago as mortals began to worship other things.

But a brutal murder puts Selene back in touch with her ancient calling, and suddenly her powers begin to return…In her search to find the murderer, she finds herself disarmed and, alarmingly, charmed by a handsome classics professor, Theodore Schultz, who doggedly pursues the same answers. The Immortals is adult urban fantasy authored by Jordanna Max Brodsky and published February 16th 2016 by Orbit. Hardcover, 447 pages.

Thoughts :

Let’s start with the good things. The publisher marketed this as Percy Jackson for adults, and I’d say that’s about right. How could I not at least try “Percy Jack for adults”? So much potential in this premise! Brodsky clearly researched the pantheon, too, and developed an interesting faith system for modern life, as gods try to stay relevant to today’s worshippers. (Selene’s brother Apollo tours with his rock band, catering to adoring crowds and groupies.) Brodsky combines a murder mystery with this brilliant idea, and it held my attention, although I’ve read enough murder mysteries to have pinpointed the culprit immediately.

My other favorite thing? Nerdy and hilarious academic references abound. I love Theo’s pseudo swear, “Holy Roman Empire!” which had me literally laughing out loud as I listened to the audiobook. Brodsky represents the world of academia with great color and life. This goes beyond just the killer premise of bringing the Greek pantheon to life in modern Manhattan; Theo’s university scenes left me feeling totally nostalgic for college.

So it kills me to write this, but…

DNF at 33%

I could not get into the characters. I couldn’t help getting the impression that both protagonists are condescending snobs. Selene condescends to everyone except her dog, but especially to men and specifically to Theo, who practically prostrates himself before her. In one scene, he proves his credentials by helping her with a lead, then pleads to be allowed to help her investigate the murder. This response characterizes Selene’s attitude during the entire conversation:

She put on her baseball cap and pulled it low, so he could barely see her eyes glaring at him from beneath the brim. ‘But don’t think we’re partners, because we’re not.’”

Uhhh okay. Why does he find her attractive again? And she’s just like that all the time. It’s sort of inhuman, which I guess might be the point: Selene is a vengeance goddess. She doesn’t want or need to be liked.

At least Theo’s a nice enough guy, but both he and Selene spend the first 150 pages condescending to the police in ways that just irritate me. Just one example: Theo physically grabs a cop and then gets all amped up when the cop supposedly “trumps up” assault charges on him; but the fact is, grabbing anyone will legitimately earn you an “assault” charge. These kinds of misunderstandings always bother me because my husband is in law enforcement and depends on these laws for protection in the field.

I almost can’t blame Theo and Selene for their attitudes, though, because the cops in The Immortals are all bumbling idiots. They fail to investigate leads and, as poor Theo observes, can’t even remember to Mirandize their suspects (or perhaps don’t want to?). Brodsky’s narrative about law enforcement feels more angry and targeted than the humorously inept “Lestraudes” of normal mystery stories, going beyond humor and straight into using police corruption, brutality and neglect as the main antagonists of the investigators. I don’t know if this is just a clumsy mishandling of the mystery trope or if Brodsky is trying to set up a narrative, here, but unfortunately it made the book difficult for me to enjoy.

Overall & Recommendation :

If the things I mentioned above don’t personally barb you, and if you like the sound of the synopsis, I would definitely recommend trying The Immortals. I think most urban-fantasy lovers and mythology geeks will enjoy it; and luckily for you who do enjoy it, book II just came out in February!

MoonCalled

“I am a walker. The term is derived from ‘skinwalker,’ a witch of the Southwest Indian tribes who uses a skin to turn into a coyote or some other creature.”

About :

Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson runs a Volksvagen garage in Washington and keeps largely to herself. She’s a “walker,” a magical shapeshifter, and she can slip easily into the form of a coyote. Her brand of shapeshifting remains a secret from almost everyone; only the Fae have revealed themselves to the mundane world, and they bear the brunt of significant persecution. As a result, the werewolves, vampires and other supernatural spooks stay underground—and Mercy prefers to do the same. It’s just easier.

But Mercy’s connections with the local magical presence are finally coming around to “bite” her. When a runaway werewolf appears in her garage asking for a temporary position, Mercy gives him a job and hooks him up with the local werewolf pack leader, Adam, who is also her sexy neighbor. But somebody is looking for the runway—and they don’t mind confronting Mercy or Adam to do it. Walker and werewolf race the clock to find the man behind the mystery before more innocents suffer. Moon Called is Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy written by Patricia Briggs and published January 31st 2006 by Ace.

Thoughts :

I picked up the first of the Mercy Thompson series because I’ve been wanting to get a better feel for Urban Fantasy, and Niki over at The Obsessive Bookseller told me it was a great place to start. (Thanks Niki! 🙂 ) I also love reading about Native American cultures, so of course I had to start with this series. It sucked me in immediately with the introduction of the runaway and, no joke, the “inciting incident” made me cry! (I’m totally a crier 😋)

Because the cast of this first installment remains relatively small, readers easily get to know everybody. In Mercy we find both a pleasant person and a decent heroine—hardworking and easy to like, lacking gimmicks to rub readers the wrong way. I do wish she had some chick friends (although I like all her guy friends, too). But I enjoyed hearing about her Native family history and how her father was a Walker.

I listened to Moon Called alongside reading an eARC of Melissa F. Olson’s Midnight Curse, so it was fun to compare the two books as I get to know the genre:

Midnight Curse has a stronger mystery element than Moon Called and I enjoyed guessing at the twists. Midnight Curse’s characters also really got to me, as evidenced in my IMPASSIONED REVIEW, haha. But the romance arc kept me from loving Midnight Curse or wanting to continue that particular series (although I’ll definitely consider trying a future new series by this talented author).

As for Moon Called, I just plain liked everything about it! Although nothing blew me away in this first installment (it is a first installment, after all, and only 288 pgs), nothing repelled me either, and Briggs develops the worldbuilding impressively well for such a short volume. It thoroughly introduces the werewolf world, and I’m looking forward to exploring more. (The second book sounds like it might tackle the vampires.) Although I didn’t follow the mystery as well, that could be in part due to the nature of the audio experience. I prefer a book like this as my intro to a series, I think.

And the thing that topped off Moon Called, for me, is the great narrator, Lorelei King. I’m always amazed when one narrator can pull off a whole cast so well.

Overall :

I enjoyed pretty much everything about this short and sweet audiobook. I actually felt rested after finishing it. Just something nice and fast with a fun world to inhabit for a few hours. I’m definitely planning to continue the series.

Plot: 3 Stars
Characters: 3.5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 4.5 Stars
Audio: 5 Stars

****4/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Anyone looking for a quick start to a new Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy series. I would say this tends more towards the “paranormal romance” side of the spectrum, although the romance is largely a background element of this first installment; but the romantic tensions swirl beneath the surface of Mercy’s interactions with the two male werewolves in her life. So if that sounds like fun, I bet you’ll enjoy Moon Called!

illumniae

About :

What could be worse for a teenager than breaking up with her year-long boyfriend?

Well, lots of things, as Kady Grant soon discovers. When a major mining corporation attacks her sort-of-illegal mining settlement on the tiny planet of Kerenza, her breakup with Ezra is demoted to the second-worst thing that’s ever happened to her.

And they happen on the same day. Of course they do.

But even the Kerenza refugees who escape the attack remain in grave danger—a warship pursues the refugees through space, and as their ship breaks down, everything that can go wrong absolutely does. Worse yet, Kady, Ezra and the rest of the refugees must pry information out of those in charge, who would prefer to avoid panic by avoiding disclosure.

How can anyone onboard help if they’re left in the dark? Illuminae is YA sci-fi written by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman and published October 20th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. Audie Award for Multi-Voiced Performance (2016), Aurealis Award Nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel (2015), The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky (2016), Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) (2015), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2015)

Thoughts :

In a cool sci-fi twist on the epistolary novel, the authors wrote Illuminae in a series of IM logs, medical reports and other “hacked documents.” It looks brilliant in hard copy. Still, I hesitated to pick it up—I don’t get the chance to read much YA in hard copy, these days.

But when I heard good things about the audiobook, I decided to give it a shot.

“Audiobook?” you may wonder. “How could they convert this clever and unusual epistolary format into an audiobook?”

With lots and looooots of talented voice actors and sound effects. The “translation” from text to audio is well-planned and executed. This is one impressive audiobook, folks.

As far as the actual story, readers will find a lot to like there, also. The “voices” of our two main protagonists—the rebellious teens Kady and Ezra—are completely unique. I don’t know if Kaufman and Kristoff wrote the two perspectives separately or what, but Kady comes off as an extremely brainy, competent and ambitious hacker while Ezra embodies a soulful, handsome and foul-mouthed jock who flies starship missions after being drafted into the onboard military. Two such different and convincing voices rarely appear in the same book.

That’s particularly important in this book, where the voices basically carry the long setup of the book’s first half. The main focus revolves around Kady and Ezra’s love life as several different potential plot problems mount around them. The setup of the first half feels a little like the authors are throwing in tons of tropes to hold our attention, such as [Highlight to view SPOILER: a mutating disease and a warship “timebomb”]; but when the real story starts about halfway through, it grabbed me immediately.

I lovelovelove the twist [Highlight to view SPOILER: when Aiden releases the infected from Bay 4, OH MAN! That got my attention, haha]. Older readers of sci-fi will have read the trope before, but it will be new to a lot of young adults and anyone new to sci-fi and I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. I wish I could talk about it more because it’s probably my favorite thing about the book!

But before I close this review, I’ll leave you with my favorite quote, an offering from the romantic Ezra:

You deserve every star in the galaxy laid out at your feet and a thousand diamonds in your hair. You deserve someone who’ll run with you as far and as fast as you want to. Holding your hand, not holding you back.”

Overall :

Ultimately, the sci-fi epistolary format is the most unique thing about Illuminae. Other than that, I think it’s a fun sci-fi, if a little overlong. A good contribution to the YA genre. I’m hoping for more history and cool techy inventions in book II, Gemina.

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 Stars
Writing: 4/5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 4/5 Stars
Audio: 5/5 Stars

****4/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Anyone new to sci-fi and any fans of YA in general. If you enjoy Star Wars, you might enjoy this. Oh, and if you like audios, the novelty of such a well-orchestrated audio might make it worth trying!