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  • A Better Place

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Mark A. Roeder
    • Narrated By Andy Babinski

    A Better Place is the story of two boys from two completely different worlds struggling to find themselves amongst a whirlwind of confusion. Will the strength they find in each other be enough to overcome the hatred and abuse of others? The unlikely pair struggle through friendship and heartbreaks, betrayal and hardships, to find the deepest desire of their hearts.

    Donald says: "Hang on for the ride..."
    "Hate-Listening is the new Hate-Watching"
    What didn’t you like about Andy Babinski’s performance?

    For some reason he only gives 1 character a distinct voice, everyone else is the same. Why even put for the effort for one character?

    Any additional comments?

    Do you know what hate watching is? It is when you find a television show that you hate, and you know you hate it, but you still continue to watch it. Usually it's because the show is over the top, ridiculous, and filled with unbelievable characters and situations. And though you hate this show, you watch it because it gives you something to focus your anger and hatred on and helps relieve stress because you have something to direct all the day's built up negative feelings. It's quite cathartic.

    I spent a little over 5 hours hate-listening to this book. This audiobook is actually about 10 and a half hours, but I listened to it on 2x speed. Listening to the whole audiobook, I realized that if the author employed a decent editor, he would have easily cut this book in half and made it vastly better, but up to a point, because this story is plagued with one dimensional characters and an "everything but the kitchen sink" plot that induces many eye rolls.

    The author gives us 2 main characters (Casper and Brendan) for the first 3/4 of the book and then inexplicably gives us 2 more main characters (Nathan & Ethan) in the last quarter of the book. I qualify these as main characters because the author uses 1st person narration and hops from character to character to tell the story. Usually a writer would do this to give us a feeling of personal insight to a character, to really let us know how each character feels, and to get in their psyche without feeling like you're making assumptions the way a 3rd person narration can do. When you use multiple first person narratives in one book, I feel that each character should be distinct and have their own personality. However, the author does not accomplish this well. Each character is exactly the same in terms of thoughts, worries, and action justification. Other than the names and description of their bodies (“rugged,” “bronzed,” “muscular,” etc), and maybe a couple hobbies, they are essentially all the same character.

    Additionally, the believability of this story is low. The characters in this story are both the unluckiest AND the luckiest set of people I have ever read in a novel. They are unlucky in that the characters are subjected to discrimination, rejection from family, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, incestual sexual abuse, abandonment, torture, confinement, prostitution, parental neglect, life-threatening circumstances, suicide, homelessness, and even a random and inexplicable instance of magic premonitions that pretty much come out of left field toward the end of the story. Oh, and there’s even a natural disaster that happens too! I feel like this is just way too much to include in one story, and after all is said and done, I wonder how the author can feel that he has any story left to tell (apparently this is just 1 book of a series!).

    The characters in the story are also incredibly lucky. For a story that is set in rural parts of the US in the early 80s, the characters are accepted for their sexuality way more than I would think they should have been, considering their levels of fear and anxiety of being outed. The characters are lucky in love, too. They fall in love at first sight and become inseparable. However, the characters are so one-dimensional I do not understand how they could have ever fallen in love with each other, let alone have their love withstand the events that occurred in the story. But then again, the characters are young, and as I mentioned above, they are essentially all the same character with different names. So they're enough alike to have fallen in love. Maybe that's the secret to everlasting love and happiness: one dimensionality. The first two main characters are also lucky being that they are able to survive 6 weeks traveling on foot as run aways with little money. The story actually glosses over this stretch of time and a narrator just tells the reader, "yep, it's been 6 weeks and we've been walking every day until night heading north, then we would sleep on the cold ground until the next morning; occasionally we'd do odd jobs for a little bit of money." (That's not a direct quote, though it probably isn't too far off). Gay youth homelessness is actually a pretty big and unacknowledged issue, and the author completely bypassed an opportunity to tell a better story. Instead we catch up with the characters after 6 weeks just in time to see one prostitute himself, and they eventually wind up in a gay commune farm where they meet the other two characters in his book.

    As I mentioned above, a decent editor could have cut this story in half, and at least a quarter of that would have been due to redundant storytelling. Because the chapters of the story alternate between characters, combined with the fact that throughout most of the book the characters are in nearly every scene together, we get so much redundancy. For example, the narrator (Casper) will give a first person account of a scene. This scene will have Casper and Brendan together. Casper will talk about his hopes and fears and feelings while explaining everything that happens in the scene. Then the next chapter will be Brendan's narration, and he'll start by recapping the previous scene he had with Casper, what Casper said to him (though we just READ IT from Casper's POV) and then give us his own thoughts and feelings, WHICH ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN CASPER'S. That's one of the biggest things I cannot overlook in this story. The point that so many characters are able to say so little. It's a waste of time. Thank you Audible for 2x speed on your iPhone App.

    I know this review may be a little harsh, but I do not think it is undeserving. Mark A Roeder states on his website that he is the author of "more than 30 novels." With this many books under his belt, and the fact that this book has a publication date of 2011 (so it must be one of his more recent creations), I worry what this early novels read like, unless Mr. Roeder is sacrificing quality for quantity. There is more that I could point out from this story, but if you are not yet convinced based on what I have said thus far, then you probably want to hate-listen to it, too. :)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Year of the Flood

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Margaret Atwood
    • Narrated By Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol, Mark Bramhall

    The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners - a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life - has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life.

    Melinda says: "thought-provoking, engaging dystopic fiction"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Year of the Flood to be better than the print version?

    what's with the singing?
    at the end of every chapter is a song and it is sun by some voice actor that wasn't in the original book. bleesase stop it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • My Life as a White Trash Zombie

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Diana Rowland
    • Narrated By Allison McLemore
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Teenage delinquent Angel Crawford lives with her redneck father in the swamps of southern Louisiana. She's a high school dropout, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and has a police record a mile long. But when she's made into a zombie after a car crash, her addictions disappear, except for her all-consuming need to stay "alive".

    Marvin says: "New diet trend, become a zombie!"
    "Don't be put off by the title or the cover art."
    Any additional comments?

    I just finished listening to My Life as a White Trash Zombie, and I really enjoyed it! I had come across this book a few times when searching for something to listen to on Audible, but I kept glossing over it after reading the title and looking at the cover art. To me, the biggest issue with the book is its packaging.

    I think the cover art is more of an issue than the title because to me, the cover art suggests a book that has a post apocalyptic setting with a lot of gore and fighting. The initial impression I got was that it was a book written in the manner of Warm Bodies, where we are able to get into the main character's head as they lived their life shuffling around being a zombie, an outcast to the world and society, but at the same time fighting for it. I wasn't sure if I wanted to use my credit for that book.

    The title is abrasive. However, I guess now that I know the story and the character Angel, I could imagine that if she ever sat down to write a memoir she would put this as the title. But before you read it and get to know Angel, it's hard to get the meta joke that Diana Rowland (the author) is using with the title. These two issues I experience with the packaging of the book are not Diana Rowland's fault, per se. I think the bigger issue is that there are a lot of science fiction/fantasy books that are thoughtlessly written and with absurd titles and cover art, and I think that this book can be robbed of the consideration it deserves.

    However, after seeing the title on sale, instead of using my Audible credits, I purchased it cheaply and decided to give it a chance based on the reviews & by the fact that there aren't many zombie books with a female main character that I have come across.

    The book itself is not what I imagined based on the cover. Okay, now that I admitted to the sin of judging the creative work by its cover, I will move on:

    Angel is a young high school drop out in her early 20s, living with her alcoholic father in a messy house with a messy yard where they are barely able to make ends meet. We first meet Angel as she wakes up in the hospital. Though she doesn't remember, she isn't too surprised when she's told she had overdosed and nearly died. Near where her body was found there was a decapitated body, the first in a series of murders that occur through the rest of the book. Angel has on her person a mysterious note that tells her she has a job working as a driver for the coroner, and that she must take this job because her life depends on it. Though she is completely flummoxed by this and has questions, she has nothing else going for her in her life, and decides to recognize this as some good luck and an opportunity to turn her life around.

    Angel takes the job and follows the instructions on the note hoping that within time she will figure out who wrote the letter, why they want to help her, and why her life is at stake. Through the beginning of the book she pieces together that she is not the same person she was before she had her over dose, and she is determined to take on the challenge of figuring out who she is while at the time time clean up her act. As she tries to work out her life she has to resist urges that a lot of people have when they are trying to break bad habits: she has to resist temptation to go back to her old ways of taking drugs and being a slacker, which are hard because she still has her enablers in her life.

    I like the way the book handled the complex interpersonal relationships that people have with addicts and their enablers, abusers and those who they abuse, and even the criminal justice system in relation to mental illness. Angel has a lot of negative relationships in her life, but they are relationships that have always been there and are familiar to her, and she recognizes that logically she should restructure her relationships with the people in her life in order to try and be happier, but her heart and emotions are tied to certain destructive relationships that have kept her held back, and those are the hardest ties to break. Though most of these are handled in a humorous manner, the are treated respectfully and the author is not glib about the situations. Still, these are pretty heavy themes I wouldn't have expected from this book!

    As you can tell from what's written above, this book doesn't follow a traditional zombie story format. There are lots of zombies in it. There are a lot of scenes with dead bodies and brains being eaten, but it isn't gratuitous. The presence of zombies is with us in every scene, but I think the zombies are more of a set piece of a much larger production. This is really a new angle for a coming-of-age story. The story is really about how one person can be their own worst enemy, recognizing it, and trying to overcome your basic nature and impulses in order to be happier and mature.

    What clicked for me to let me know that this book was definitely a wise purchase was when we find out about how Angel became a zombie. It is an interesting twist on the vampire story: a zombie bites you and then you must be fed brains before you die. I have never read this before in a zombie book (though I haven't read too many), so the idea is unique, and it brings up a lot of interesting dynamics that are found in vampire mythology that can cross over to the zombie genre: in order to turn someone into a zombie you have to take time to feed that person, you have a sire, there is a reason they would want to turn you into a zombie (after all, more zombies mean less brains to go around). Also, this book introduced the idea that zombies can appear normal and human so long as they eat brains with some regularity. They only begin to decompose and risk losing their humanity and turn into indiscriminate cannibal killers when they haven't eaten in a couple of days, and that can be really fun to play with. Not only was Angel struggling not to fall into her old habits of drug use and messing up her life, but she was also struggling from transforming into a monster when she was unable to eat.

    As for the performance, Allison McLemore is great as Angel. She has a perfect aw-shucks southern accent that is spoken clearly & easy to understand; she is not trying too hard, nor is she overplaying the accent to tell the reader, "Listen to me, I'm an under educated southerner!" With Allison's voice, Angel not the yokel that could have been portrayed if she had forced the accent harder, which would have been an easy thing to do. I hope she continues to narrate in the other books.

    So if you're a fan of zombie books, listen to this with the caveat that it is not about the blood and guts. If you like strong female characters, listen to this. If you like stories about overcoming who you are to be who you want to be, listen to this. I look forward to listening to the rest of the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Brilliance

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Marcus Sakey
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible. They’re called "brilliants," and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in.

    Benjamin says: "Predictable Thriller"
    "Interesting questions regarding rights & morals"
    Any additional comments?

    Brilliance is based on the premise that inexplicably, around 1980, 1% of newborns had above average talents. These gifts were evident from the mid-80s, and as the kids grew up and their above average intelligence became more apparent and began to have a larger effect on the world, tensions began to arise between Normals and the Gifted.

    Cooper works for the department of Equitable Services, which is tasked in finding those who are gifted and using their talents to gain heavily from a deck already stacked in their favor. Cooper himself is gifted with the ability to read body language and uses that to tell when people are lying or to predict their actions.

    The story takes place around press t day, so the oldest gifted are around 32 years old and many of them see the government as persecuting them and treating them as less than normal in order to quell their talents. Already there is mandatory testing for all children by 8 years of age and the gifted are separated from their family until 18 where they are manipulated to be against each other. The reasoning for this is that if the gifted do not trust each other, then they won't band together to make normal humanity their slaves.

    Currently Cooper is on the hunt for a gifted named John Smith who is an activist for the gifted's civil rights. In John Smiths efforts to make political stances he has been labeled as a domestic terrorist.

    After Cooper was unable to stop a bomb going off that killed over 1000 people, he volunteers to go deep undercover to try to get to John Smith himself and kill him. He is aware that there is a mole in the government so only his boss knows he is undercover, and as a result the bombing is blamed on Cooper and he is labeled a rogue agent so he can gain John Smith's attention and try to get his trust.

    The story unfolds from there, and is really great to listen to. It is not too demanding on your attention, either. I normally listen to audiobooks when I'm playing a game on my iphone or exercising, so I need a book that is not hard to follow.

    This books was fast-paced, exciting, suspenseful, and at times, funny. The performer did a great job in giving all the characters their own voice. I am continuously pleasantly surprised at the quality of the readers on many audible books.

    I am finding more and more that while I am not much of a fan of action movies, I do like to read/listen to action/suspense books. This is because the author is forced to make all the actions believable in a way that doesn't distract you from the story the way a special effect in a movie can take you out of the moment.

    The plot itself is new and interesting, so it is not a story that I feel like I've heard before. The themes are touching on civil rights and how those in power try to keep themselves in power, but there was one thing that I kept thinking that lingered in the back of my mind: don't we already have an elite 1% with advantages disproportionate with the rest of society?

    I kept comparing The Gifted vs Normals struggle in the story with the top 1% income earners vs the occupy Wall Street/99%-ers that played out over the last couple of years. While in real life these 1%-ers don't have brilliant minds like in the story, they have access to power, privilege, and other advantages that put them well ahead of everyone else to be successful, rich, and powerful. I am not going to weigh in on the issue, but I feel like it would be an interesting English paper topic to discuss, and it was something that kept coming through my mind when listening.

    Overall I recommend this if you like action or thriller books. Though its more action than thriller or suspense.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • A Land More Kind Than Home

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Wiley Cash
    • Narrated By Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, Mark Bramhall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can't help sneaking a look at something he's not supposed to - an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess's. It's a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he's not prepared.

    Janice says: "An American Tragedy"
    "Lots of tension and suspense!"
    Any additional comments?

    This was a great audiobook to listen to, primarily because the story itself was so fascinating. A snake oil salesman reverend has built a congregation in a secluded town where he subjects his followers to horribly risky acts that have deathly consequences! This story is about a charasmatic person's ability to draw in people to do things that are against their best interests, and how one person's charm can blind people to what's right & wrong.

    This story is told by multiple people and there are multiple voice actors performing in this audiobook which was a real treat to listen to. From these multiple perspectives you can really get a feel for the power dynamics that make up small towns. When I first started listening to this I thought it was a mystery, but it is not at all, but it has a lot of suspense in it and it is a great story to listen to and multitask with.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Snow White Must Die

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Nele Neuhaus
    • Narrated By Robert Fass
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    On a rainy November day, police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: a woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer. On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace.

    C. Vincent says: "Great narrator, unbelievable, never-ending story"
    "Interesting thriller that layers on many stories!"
    Any additional comments?

    Snow White Must Die is about a man, Tobias, who is released from prison after 10 years for the murder/disappearance of two girls when he was in his late teens. Coming back into town he finds that the whole town turned not only on him but his family, too. His parents struggle to live in town and be supportive of their son. The people in town still harbor resentment and take it out on the entire family through vigilante acts.

    Then the bodies of the girls are discovered and another girl in town goes missing. Again, all eyes start to focus on Tobias as he tries to prove his innocence to the town on the past murders and the new crim that has happened.

    This audiobook started out really good, but the overall plot got too heavy. There were too any side stories and characters and at what point I just had to accept the fact that I had completely missed the issue between two characters and why it was important to the overall narrative. This is definitely not a book you can listen to when multitasking and be able to keep track of all the details.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • 14

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Peter Clines
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much. At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

    Magpie says: "Super solid listen!!"
    "Great story told by great performer."
    Any additional comments?

    This was the first time I listened to a horror/paranormal novel, and I really enjoyed it. Now that I've been an audible customer for a few months, I've learned the value of having a great performer, and Ray Porter is indeed a great performer. He had to cover around 10 different voices and was able to give them each a distinct personality and varied enough that I knew who was speaking. The one negative is that he did one minor character's voice in a way that was offputting that it grated my ears. Maybe that was what he was going for, but it was bad enough that it took me out of the story a little. Luckily this minor character didn't have too many lines.

    The story itself is good, Nate, a man in his early 30s struggles living in LA with a terrible job when a decent apartment with a wonderful price is offered to him. As soon as he moves in, he starts to notice odd features of the apartment. When he starts to meet his neighbors and get a feel of the place the mysteries of the building begin to stack on top of each other to the point where Nate becomes consumed with figuring out the mysteries of the apartment and is able to get his neighbors in on the detective work. There is a wide range of characters who are all believable and react in ways you can imagine people acting in these paranormal situations.

    So yes, I recommend this audiobook. The story is decent and easy enough to listen to while multitasking. However, the story itself isn't necessarily scary, but it is intriguing to listen to a paranormal mystery that is something other than a whodoneit. And I'm impressed with Ray Porter enough that I'm going to look out for other books he performs in.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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