Interworld is a really fun sci-fi adventure. I read this with one of my sons and while it fits its Juvenile category, we both enjoyed it. It contains a really interesting backdrop of a multidimensional universes where the sliver that contains versions with alternate Earth’s is the focus, the Alternative. It plays out well with interesting, if not deep characters. This book is a lot like a good sci-fi summer film; it’s a great, fun ride with quick moving narrative hitting all the right spots for what it’s trying to do for its target audience (and beyond). No Oscars but a lot of fun.
I switched between the Kindle version of this and the Audible version read by Christopher Evan Welch (I do wish the Audible team would get Whispersync for Voice working on their Windows Phone 8 app). Mr. Welch does a fine job with the character’s voice. I think it was a good choice to have him also read the sequel, The Silver Dream.
One of the first things that struck me about Gilded, besides its ridiculously cool cover designed by Abby Kuperstock, was how fresh the story seemed. If you examine any individual element, it's been done before: protagonist girl with abilities of which she is unaware and a willingness to go where angels dare not tread, the cool and slightly shy boyfriend who the object of the gorgeous girl's desire, the over-worked and slightly overbearing widowed father who hides his true care and concern under a gruff exterior and the insanely powerful, other-worldly bad guy. Then again, I and the best chefs in Paris can use the same ingredients to prepare a meal but you'll want to eat the end result of their cooking over mine. While there is nothing really new under the sun, Christian Farley melds the characters, worlds, writing style and narrative elements to make something really fresh and new. The writing is clear, the dialog crisp and the storyline twisty enough to be fun and keep you guessing while not so winding that you can't remember your way.
As I often do, I went between the Kindle and Audible versions (using Whispersync for Voice to keep a smooth transition). Greta Jung did a beautiful job narrating, fully allowing you to immerse in Jae's world. Her pacing was spot on; I particularly liked her smooth-talking Haemosu.
Swordspoint is a particularly good example of the challenges of book selling in a world of genre focus and the challenges of making your work known. Swordspoint has been called a "melodrama of manners", a fantasy, a high romance and a fairy tale for grown ups. To me, it seems like an alternate world history novel about the political and sexual intrigues of court. Obviously that's not a genre. One distinguishing feature of the novel, and possibly the fantasy element, is that nearly all of the men are bisexual; none of the women are depicted this way
Her descriptions, characters, pacing (for a book on court intrigues) and world creation are spot on. It is a testament to her writing that I became invested in what happened to Richard. Her descriptions present the world of Riverside in such a way that I feel as though I've furtively traveled through the streets or wandered up the Hill. It's also described in such a way, that I wouldn't like to visit, let alone live there. The characters who peopled her story were often complex and clever. Ironically, the two people who seemed to have the best character were killers: Richard St Vier and Vincent Applethorpe (a former swordsman who ran a fencing school).
It is a well built world I don't care for peopled with complex characters that I mostly don't like and has as its main focus clever politicking and sexual intrigue amongst the lords of the city which I don't prefer as a focus. If you like this stuff (and the bisexual element doesn't bother you), then you'll like Ms. Kushner's book.
I had an opportunity to listen to much of the audiobook (I went between the Kindle and Audible versions using Whispersync for Voice). Overall, it nicely done. It was not quite a full audio play but it was a multi-cast reading with sound effects. While Ms. Kushner has solid narration skills developed doing radio with WGBH (Boston), the tone in her voice is not my favorite. She does a nice job of narration; this is simply personal preference.
Hood provides a whole new look into the Robin Hood legend. It is a richly written tapestry late 11th Century Britain. The enemy are the Normans (and the Frank). It's told primarily from the protagonist's (aka Bran Bendigedig, the Hood) perspective and uses the etiquette, pacing and milieu of the day for dialog, action and relationships of the day. I thoroughly enjoyed this but my teenage boys found it a bit slow.
Stephen Lawhead provides a compelling argument in the supplement to the book "Robin Hood in Wales" to move the Robin Hood we know and love from Sherwood Forest (and indeed from being English) to being a Welshman in Wales. The reason I bring this up is this sets the tone for the book and is indicative of Mr. Lawhead's writing. He is thorough in his research and, as I indicated above, the subsequent setting of his book and the way the dialog and action move forward. He writes as if this could have been a personal history.
I went between the Kindle and Audible versions. Adam Verner does an outstanding job with the challenging Welch titles and overall language. His pacing is spot on with Bran being quicker spoken than Iwan. Irritation, whininess and arrogance of just the right amounts come from Count Falkes de Braose voice. There are times that the period is spoken quite slow, but I suspect the paces of things were a bit slower. If you like audiobooks, you'll enjoy this one.
For full review: http://wp.me/p2XCwQ-J5
A few things to know about Ms. Ashby - she's a flippin' genius, a marvelous storyteller and she's willing to pursue her ideas and stories without reference to niceties. While I think it would be fair to say she's a liberal feminist, she's way not PC. She takes it all head-on, sensibilities be hanged. She reminds me of a liberal Ayn Rand with a few important differences besides ideology - she knows how to edit, if she explores the same or similar themes, she does so in interesting and new ways; Ms. Rand tended to rehash with slight variations. Also, her are subservient to the story, not the other way around. vN explores themes tied to sentient androids and their relations to humans other vN (she invokes something similar to Asimov's 3 laws of robotics), unique issues tied to self-replicating androids (hence the Von Neumann machine reference) and a world in which cataclysmic events have destabilized our world (does she have a thing against Seattle?). "An iteration is not a copy, it is simply the next version." Ashby, Madeline (2012-07-31). vN (First Machine Dynasty) (Kindle Location 3651). Osprey Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Prior to dipping my toes below the spoiler line, however, I also want to commend Christina Traister's narration. As I typically do, I went between the Kindle and Audible versions relying on Whispersync for Voice to keep me on track. I would think this book would be a bit of a challenge to narrate. Amy needs to be young whilst quickly becoming a full, somewhat jaded woman. Javier is a Hispanic-based model. Portia is wacked. The terminology is a bit eclectic, to wit "...but her spirit was as strong as the titanium sheathing her graphene coral bones, her personal integrity as impermeable as the silicone skin overlaying the polymerdoped memristors embedded there, her wit as quick as the carbon aerogel currents wafting through and shaping the musculature of her body." Say that fives times fast. Ms. Traister handles it all with aplomb. Her phrasing and pacing are spot on. Her characters are believable and the tone of her voice matches them and their context. She is easy to understand. Lovely work. Seriously good reads; I highly recommend both books (but start with vN).
If you happen to follow this blog, you know that I gushed over Michael J. Martinez's The Daedalus Incident. Yes, I confess to being a bit rabid in my love for the book and becoming a raving fanboy of Mr. Martinez’ writing. Now, I was waiting, to borrow a phrase from the Bard, "...with bated breath, and whispring humblenesse" for its sequel, The Enceladus Crisis. Truth be told, however, I was also waiting with a little trepidation. After all, Mr. Martinez set a high bar for himself in his debut novel; could his sophomore effort live up to the expectations it established? It has and then some. His characters and their relationships are even more fully flushed out, his dialog , description of action (I love the first battle scene) and overall handling of the narrative is, if anything, tighter and better.
Before I go on, if you've missed The Daedalus Incident, stop. Do not collect $200. Do not pass go. Head (physically or virtually) directly to your favorite bookstore and get it. I personally recommend the Kindle/Audible combination which I previously reviewed (the narration rocks, see the review for more details). Mr. Martinez actually gives you enough in The Enceladus Crisis to allow you to read it without reading Daedulus, but why? Seriously, go get it or download it now. It's great.
As is my habit, I read this on my Kindle (Paperwhite) and listened to it via the Audible app on my Windows Phone (Nokia Lumia 920). Once again, the narrators, Kristin Kalbli (22nd Cent) and Bernard Clark (18th Cent), do a superb job with all of the different accents of all of the characters. They jump seemlessly between characters and bring a believability to the dialog. If you like audiobooks, I highly commend this one to you.
There is an epic sweep to this book not only because it takes place over much of a lifetime, but it deals with core issues:
◾How do we find our identity and calling in a world where convention and societal pressure would have us choose a safe and deadening path?
◾How do we risk ourselves to truly abandon our self-focus to love another, not just love our image of another but love the person, in the midst of a world filled with pain and loss
◾Can we let go of our self-focus, our enlightened self-interest and ought we?
Cassandra Rose Clarke brilliantly explores these issues and more in The Mad Scientist's Daughter. Science fiction has always been a great medium to explore issues since we're pulled out of our culture, and its related blinders, into another world with less pre-built conceptions. Ms. Clarke takes a future earth, which is so much like our own, with all our current foibles, some additional challenges and capabilities. The story centers around Caterina Novak and Finn. Cat is the daughter in the title and Finn, an android unique in his understanding and consciousness.
I listened to much of the story on the Audible version (flipping between the Kindle and the Audible version with Whispersync for Voice). Kate Rudd narrates the story. I first heard Ms. Rudd perform John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. She is fast becoming one of my favorite narrators and performs this book admirably. One of the brilliant choice points was to play Finn with a totally flat, neutral voice. This may seem obvious for an android but I've heard them done with very artificial robotic voices. This is done with flat, even timing and tone but it never feels artificial. Certainly her performance drew me in and allowed me to get lost in the novel.
For full review: wp.me/p2XCwQ-Cs
This is a story of lives lived out in a compacted time due to cancer. I will not give the line that these two lived more in their brief time together than most live in longer lives, although that may be true. I will say that their time together is authentically loving. I think that is both the tragedy and the allure of the book. Well, the writing might be a bit of a draw as well, of course. I’m reminded of that famous Camus line: “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”
I applaud the book’s rejection of tripe and its honest struggle for meaning.
Kate Rudd has a challenge set before her in the narration of the book: breathless but snarky cancer-ridden teenage girl, confident but sensitive teenage boy and Dutch accents. She must cry and laugh but enunciate enough that we understand her. She does all of this and more. She refers to her work as performing a book, not narrating it. I think that’s an accurate assessment. I especially like how she portrays Augustus Waters’ confidence in his pacing as well as his tone. Admirably done Ms. Rudd.
I whole-heartedly encourage you to read the book; you might want to have a few tissues by your side both for tears of laughter and of pain.
For full review: wp.me/p2XCwQ-AL
While many of the ingredients in Ms. Clarke's story aren't particularly novel, such as a young lady fleeing from an arranged marriage, having to throw her lot in with an apparent bad guy and being chased across the globe by true evil, she weaves them together and binds them into a tale that is both original and enthralling.
As I often do, I switch between the Kindle and the Audible version. Tania Rodrigues really nails the narration. She deftly jumps between Ananna and her erstwhile assassin, Naji. Pacing and annunciation are perfect even while she vocally portrays the drama of the various situations the characters inhabit. This is the first book Ms. Rodrigues narrates that I've heard; she's first rate. (As of this post, Assassin's Curse seems no longer available on Audible. I hope that's rectified soon.)
For full review: wp.me/p2XCwQ-zP
Under The Empyrean Sky takes off screamin' - a "race" takes place with the protagonist and his gang against another scavenger team to reach for the (comparatively) big prize. In the midst of the action, Mr. Wendig clearly provides a good picture of the characters and the unique characteristics of this world of flotillas and heartland. These quick "brush-stokes" that provide a hasty sketch of it all do so through the story and action. The middle proved to be a bit more sluggish. while I had to wade through a bit of exposition, overall, Mr. Wendig tells a nice story in a richly detailed world with characters that grow on you.
As I typically do, I went between the Kindle and the Audible version (using that lovely Whispersync for Voice). Nick Podehl is one of the better narrators around. Before this book, I most recently heard him in Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles series. Mr. Podehl can move from concerned parent to whiny brat in the blink of an eye. He knows how to pace the tale and, no matter which character he voices, his articulation is spot on. Another nice narration under his belt.
For full review: wp.me/p2XCwQ-yd
This is one of those books that I read simply because of the author; reading about a serial killer is not a natural draw. I've heard countless praise regarding Ms. Beukes writing and became more acquainted with her through interviews she given. So I found myself with The Shining Girls; its characters are memorable with a tightly paced story-line, brilliant setting and deftly applied phrasing and dialog. As a writer, Ms. Beukes does not disappoint. Despite this, or rather because of this, it was a difficult book for me to read. I had to take the story in doses. Part of her goal is to show us the ugliness of violence against women; she succeeds. This story is about the strength of a women (Kirby) whom a time-traveling serial killer (Harper) attempts to kill, fails and comes back to finish. Kirby is befriended by Dan, a jaded newspaper man covering sports because he burned out covering the crime scene
As I often do, I went back and forth between the Kindle and the Audible version. It was a well cast with special kudos to Ms. Hvam as Kirby and Mr. Snyder as Dan. I think they handled the drama without over dramatizing and the pacing and hand-offs between dialog went well. If you enjoy audiobooks (and serial killer thrillers) you like this recording.
For full review: wp.me/p2XCwQ-xN
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