Just coincidentally, I have recently listened to three sci-fi novels that all begin as police procedurals with law-enforcement agents investigating a localized crime that expands into a much more cosmic, universal mystery - The Prefect, The Great North Road, and Leviathan Wakes. The Prefect was by far the best of the three. Not only does The Prefect benefit from Reynold's elegant, evocative writing which is a cut above most other sci-fi writers, these are some of Reynold's best characters (primary protagonists and antagonists fleshed out with great back stories), the tightly woven plot is riveting with multiple twists, and the setting, The Glitter Band, is one of the coolest concepts from Revelation Space. Jon Lee does a bang-up job on this book - this is one where the Reynolds-Lee combo makes for a terrific audiobook. The Prefect will be an enjoyable listen for anyone who loves hard sci-fi even if you haven't read any of the Revelation Space trilogy, but if you have read the trilogy, the new stories of Philip Lascaille and Dan Sylveste in The Prefect will be extra fun.
Tabula Rasa starts with an interesting concept - controlling behavior by tampering with the memory of violent offenders or other people who might just be in the way. Unfortunately, the story slides quickly into standard YA tropes - evil doctors and corporate types; unbelievably intrepid, super smart teenagers fighting the system; a lot of teenage angst/anguish and a dopey love story; and contrived conflict during a long and rather tedious takeover of a hospital/lab.
Tabula Rasa isn't a hard science sci-fi, but touches on biological sciences and computer science. The biological science isn't bad; we already have a lot of research going on in the study of memory and drugs and techniques that can impact that. However, the computer science here is pretty lame. At one point, one of our intrepid teens hacks into a state of the art encrypted mainframe with a wireless tablet - uh, yeah, right. One other small issue for me; the author makes a big deal about a young male character being much less attractive when he put his glasses on and he had to put his glasses on because his contacts were knocked out. A. No excuse for ugly glasses these days - have you noticed the amazing designer frames out there, Ms. Lippert-Martin?, and B. His contacts were knocked out? Catch up - almost impossible to knock out soft contacts and EVERYONE wears soft contacts. The days of having your contacts knocked out ended about 30 years ago as I can attest having worn contacts for 40 years. Not a big deal, just a personal irritant with this part of the book.
Kate Rudd did a good job with narration and if you loved Hunger Games or Divergent, you might enjoy Tabula Rasa more than I did. Wasn't bad for the sale price, but I wouldn't recommend using a credit on this one.
Victoria Schwab starts this high fantasy with a great concept. Four parallel worlds whose only commonality is a central city called London. When Black London is consumed by magic, all the other Londons are sealed off from each other to prevent the spread of the consumption leaving only the Antari who can travel between the 3 remaining Londons. Oh, and there are only two Antari left. One of the Antari, Kell, travels regularly between the Londons delivering messages between the monarchs and doing a bit of smuggling on the side. But Kell's side job leads him into a trap that sets up the plot and introduces him to Lilah who joins him in the adventure.
I think this basic scenario could have been developed into a really interesting tale, but that potentiality is NOT realized. First, it takes a full 4+ hours for the book to progress to the real starting point; more than four hours to find out almost nothing more than I just wrote in that first paragraph! Schwab writes with some classy, lyrical prose, but just doesn't really say much. She is downright stingy with information so you get a lot of description, but little understanding about the characters, the magic system, or the point of anything.
The two Antari, Kell and Holland, seem like they might be interesting, but Schwab seems to want to keep these two so mysterious that you don't get a chance to know them. It's hard to invest in characters you don't know. Lila has a lot more personality, but she's hardly likable. A cut-purse and occasional cut-throat, she's very cavalier about taking a life.
Steven Crossley has a nice voice, clear diction, and decent character voices (fitting accent for Lilah especially). Only one minor bone to pic with the narration. Crossley uses a rather rough voice for the character of Kell which made me picture a man of 35 - 45, but Kell is actually very young. I was shocked to remember this a couple of times when the author referred to the character as a youth or a young man because I kept picturing him as much older due to Crossley's voicing of the character.
Ultimately, I spent 11+ hours with these characters and this story and just never got engaged - at all.
When Finn Fancy showed up in my Audible recommendations, I didn't pay much attention for a while because I never heard of Randy Henderson or the narrator, Todd Haberkorn, and the cover art and title made me think it might be too silly. After all, everyone and his dog seems to think he can write fantasy and a lot of it is drivel. But I finally picked this one up when I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to hear and wow - I LOVED THIS BOOK and I really loved the narration, too!
The story starts with the release of Finn from exile where he has been for 25 years having been sentenced to having his spirit separated from his body for a magical crime where he was the fall guy. The story flows from there with Finn's determined pursuit to find the truth about who set him up, why that was done, and who is still out to get him.
One of the things I liked best about the story is that Finn, although he has some magical abilities, is such a regular Joe. He loves his family, but doesn't always like them or get along with them; he wants to find love, but doesn't recognize it when it sneaks up on him; he has work to rid himself of prejudices he was taught when he was young. And this poor guy has to face all those regular human challenges and some major magical challenges while he has just jumped physically, mentally, and emotionally from being 15 to being 40!
There was nothing I didn't like about Finn Fancy and so much I loved so I'll just list a few:
* Great prose, much better than most fantasy writers and I particularly like the many clever similes that Henderson throws around. One example:"To know I'd helped to make him so unhappy, made me feel like I had beaten a unicorn to death with a Care Bear in front of a small child."
* Good World Building. This story is low fantasy - magical elements integrated into our world with most non-magical people (Mundanes or Mundies) being unaware - but most of the plot takes place on the magical side with mostly magical characters. Henderson lets his world unfold naturally with the plot progression so there are no info-dumps, but also very little time when the reader is confused.
* Fun 80's nostalgia. If you were born early enough to remember the 80's you'll get a kick out of the references to old TV shows (a lot of great Trekker references incorporated here), movies, slang, and miscellany (remember the Commodore 64 anyone?). Henderson has a lot of fun with our hero having to leap the big technology gap from then to now.
* Nice characterizations and realistic relationships between characters.
* Both witty and suspenseful. It's a tricky line for a writer to use some dark and suspenseful themes mixed with some comedy relief, but Henderson does this really well. So there is a good mystery with a twisty resolution in this story, but a lot of engaging funny moments and a great deal of wit that keeps the story lighter and fun..And, for all that I am usually a fan of snarky humor, most of the wit in Finn Fancy is much more gentle and leans to clever rather than snarky and that was a nice change of pace.
So, I've found a new writer I love, but I've also stumbled on a narrator I really enjoyed as well. I initially thought that Todd Haberkorn sounded a bit nerdy and then I realized - that's the character. Finn is a bit of nerd and Haberkorn not only captures him well, but finds a great voice for every other character in the novel (including women and girls). Really nice performance for a really fun novel.
This is Randy Henderson's debut novel which explains why I hadn't heard of him before. I sure hope to hear a LOT more from him in the future.
This paranormal murder mystery is a little light on suspense and the ghosts aren't all that interesting either. Might have a bit more appeal for those who like those genres and enjoy DIY (lots of home renovation action here) and precocious (i.e. sassy, irritating) children - neither of which are big favorites for me. This the first of a series of mystery books that will continue these characters and I think there might be some potential for future episodes to be more interesting. Copperman can be amusing, although I'd suggest she dial down some of the snarkiness when discussing death threats and truly serious issues, and she has lined out a decent set of characters in a good setting (small NJ shore town) to expand her plotlines. However, she will need to more fully develop the characters (only Allison has much back story so far) and their relationships with each other. Copperman depicts each of these relationships as simplistic one-note interactions - each exchange between Allison and her ghosts, her daughter, her mom, the main police officer, her best friend are exactly the same. With all that said, I didn't hate the book - I got it on sale and it was a decent "beach read" - no thinking required and sometimes humorous. In addition, Amanda Ronconi is always good to listen to and did a nice job with some of the character voices, especially the cop and the newspaper owner. I won't be quick to pick up more in the series, but if I need a light read again, I might try another.
Although I generally eschew best sellers, I'll admit that I read the Millennium Trilogy not long after the books were published in English and loved them. With the amazing character of Lisbeth Salander and the dark and twisty plots, these books are hard to put down once you pick them up. And since they are long books, reading Stieg Larsson means you have to hide out from family and friends for days at a time which is something my life just doesn't allow too often. But when I heard that a fourth book in the series will be published in August of this year, I knew I wanted to re-read the trilogy first. So, I decided to buy the audiobooks and re-visit my friend with the dragon tattoo in a way that doesn't make me give up the rest of my life.
I can't add much to the many reviews of the books this late in the game, so I will just review the audio experience for anyone like me who has read the books and wondered if it was worth 3 credits to buy the audiobooks. IMHO - YES! If you haven't read the books in at least 2 - 3 years, you probably won't remember a lot of the details even though you might remember the basic plot lines so the story still felt fresh and surprising to me the second time around. And, if you are going to spend 55+ hours listening to a narrator, you want the best and you will get it. Simon Vance is tough to beat - I loved every minute of listening to him. He gives each character a unique and believable voice and maintains the narrative flow perfectly through these long suspenseful stories.
Swedish author, David Lagercrantz, is writing the fourth book in the franchise and although he will be using the established characters, he will not be working from Larsson's notes. It's hard to believe that the fourth book will be as good, but I am sure I will read it and just hope another writer can capture some of the magic that Larsson put into the original three.
I love to read almost anything except diet books. However, 2 years ago having developed microscopic colitis and some big-time middle age spread, I picked up Wheat Belly on sale on Audible and that started me on changing my diet to that point that I have now lost 45 lbs and cured my colitis when none of the expensive drugs did! I got some major help from another excellent audiobook, The Big Fat Surprise, and really just designed my own plan to eliminate wheat and sugar and reduce overall carbs. Now that I am back in my 6's, I very much want to maintain this weight and my colon health so I thought I'd see if I could get some maintenance advice from Living Low Carb and I was very pleased with what I heard. Jonny Bowden does a great job of reviewing a whole slew of low carb plans, but he also provides some good advice on how to jazz up your meals if you are getting bored and how to adjust the components of your diet/exercise/lifestyle to maintain or restart the losing if you hit a plateau. I've spent my whole life believing in low fat as the way to lose weight and I've also spent my whole adult life fighting to stay slim. I was slow to accept the low carb approach, but it is hard to argue with success! My personal experience leads me to believe that low carb is healthier (at least for the colon) and although it is hard to give up the sugar, getting back a little fat (butter, olive oil, cream, coconut oil - all the things that make food so yummy) has more than made up for that for me. I'm so glad Audible made these books available because I might have missed out on something that truly has changed my life. There are so many approaches to low carb that you can probably find one that will fit your lifestyle and Jonny Bowden reviews almost all of them in this book. Check it out if you are searching or if you just need some tips and tricks to stay motivated on the plan you have.
I accidentally started Adler-Olsen's Department Q series with Book 2 and I was so glad I did because when I later listened to Book 1, the narrator made me crazy and I had to read it in print. Having read/listened to the Dept. Q books available on Audible, I eagerly picked up The Alphabet House and there is a lot to admire here, but it is not nearly as satisfying to listen to as the Department Q books. This book was first published in Danish in 1997, about a decade before the first of the Dept Q books and you can definitely see the change that 10 years made in Adler-Olsen's writing with the biggest difference being in the characterizations.
Brian and James are two English flyers shot down in World War II. They manage to escape capture and finesse their way into German military hospital to try to survive. Challenging under any circumstances, but especially tough when only James speaks German. The first part of the book detailing their travails in the mental ward of the SS hospital is fascinating and was clearly well researched, but then the book shifts 30 years and kind of loses its impetus and clarity. I found part 2 difficult to get through because it is fairly clear early on what will happen, but it takes a very long time to get there. Repeated threats to the protagonist might have been more suspenseful except that I didn't ever really connect with these characters. Former SS officers are the villains of the book and there is no subtlety in these guys - they are just plain evil to the core. There is more shading to the other characters, but I didn't relate to them or feel much for them. That stands in sharp contrast to the Department Q characters that I connected with almost immediately and am always happy to meet again in each subsequent book. Ultimately, The Alphabet House is quite interesting, but just not as satisfying as Adler-Olsen's other books.
Graeme Malcolm provided a nice narration of this book and did a great job with all the German names and places.
Ultimately, I am not sorry to have read The Alphabet House and if you are already an Adler-Olsen fan, you will probably like it. However, if you have not read this author yet, pick up Book Two of the Department Q series, The Absent One, first. It's a great book and a great audiobook and will give you a better idea of what Adler-Olsen can really do.
I am late to the Retrieval Artist banquet, but happily pigging out now! There are many deserved good reviews for The Disappeared so I'd be tempted not to take the time, but I enjoyed this book so much that I just have to add my plaudits to both Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Jay Snyder, the narrator, as well as my thanks to Audible for bringing this to me.
If I rated this book as a police procedural/detective mystery, I'd probably rate it 4.5 stars - police procedural believable and fairly interesting, mystery nicely plotted, very clever, and a little twisty, but not as sophisticated as some. If I rated this book as strictly science fiction, I would probably rate it as 4.5 stars also - terrific detailed world building, no big science blunders, but little hard science. However, The Disappeared is much more than a Sci-Fi Detective Mystery; it is a book that has all the elements for seriously great fiction. When you combine that with top-notch narration from Jay Snyder, you have an audio book that I could hardly stand to it turn off - truly stellar!
* Engaging, believable characters. Men and women who have unique personalities that extend beyond body type or looks; varying levels of intelligence, talents,and flaws; complex emotional and psychological make-ups; diverse backgrounds, ages, and socio-economic levels. It's tough to write good fiction in any genre without good characters and yet it is especially difficult to find good characterizations in science fiction - particularly for female characters.
* Interesting plot - science fiction lends itself to good plots which is one of the reasons I like the genre, but much of it is about colonization and/or battles. I have enjoyed many space exploration type plots, but Rusch's plotting is more about the challenges of life after the initial survival hurdles have been made in space and it was a nice change of pace.
* Setting - The Disappeared takes place primarily in the domed city of Armstrong on the Moon, but Rusch also lines out the politics and the aliens across known colonized space. Her descriptions of Armstrong made me feel like I was there.
* Prose - evocative, but not effusive; truly readable and keeps the story moving.
* Themes - I think all good fiction has to be entertaining, but not all fiction has to give "food for thought". But, if a fictional story makes you think that's a big bonus and there's plenty to ruminate on in The Disappeared. We already know that human societies enact and enforce laws differently. (There are Americans imprisoned in various places around the world for doing things that would not be illegal in the USA.) In Rusch's universe with multiple alien peoples, there is a group that finds death so abhorrent that a person who comes in contact with a dead body is subjected to a cleansing ritual that includes evisceration; a group that takes retribution not on the offender but on his/her loved ones; and a group that subjects even minor offenders to hard labor. You could just avoid contact with those groups to stay out of trouble, but what if they have something really marketable (what if North Korean sat on all the world's diamonds or oil)? The capitalism that lives in most human hearts will find a way to trade for something they want even if there is a great risk in doing so. What if what you believe is moral is illegal - and, you are a cop? What if your style works to make you effective at your job, but keeps getting you into political trouble - can you/should you change?
I listened to two more in The Retrieval Artist series before I could make myself stop to write a review and I am still totally taken with Rusch's writing and her universe. "Retrieverse" keeps expanding in interesting and unusual ways and Flint and DeRicci continue to evolve and grow. As a great topper, Jay Snyder, nice narration/good characterizations, continues as the narrator throughout the series. Most sci-fi enthusiasts will enjoy The Retrieval Artist and most readers who appreciate finely crafted fiction independent of genre should be entertained.
I haven't read a lot of Stephen King because I am not a big fan of the horror genre, but when King goes a little easier on the adrenaline pump, I really like his writing and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is one of those. How do you make 9 days in the life of a lost 9 year old engrossing? King does it by creating a character who is not only likable, but charmingly flawed, and totally believable and he sends this character on an emotional and spiritual journey at the same time she must find her way back in the very real physical world. The baseball metaphor and Anne Heche's truly brilliant performance further enhance the narrative. This one will stick with me.
I had to use this line from the book as the title of my review because, a. it's funny and will give you an idea of the ironic/sardonic tone of the book, b. it conveys the "every man" status of the protagonist, Mike Ross, who recognizes this sentiment when he gets the brush-off.. Mike acquires a "gift" to see ghosts and interact with them via a cornea transplant following major injuries in the Iraq war. Mike not only has war wounds to overcome, but he's short, broke, and uneducated. He'd like to use his new abilities to make some money, but his efforts, while useful in protecting the living and assisting the dead, almost never pan out with much moolah. And Mike's new talents greatly hamper his love life and family relationships (see title above) so ultimately, this guy is no Gary Stu! After listening 1/2 way to two books (one sci-fi, one fantasy) in a row where the primary protagonist was all that and a bag of chips (Atlas/Adonis rolled into one, every woman falls at his feet, yada, yada), I was thrilled to pieces to meet Mike Ross; a guy who doesn't get anything for free and yet keeps trying - my kind of hero.
In this urban noir fantasy, Jim Bernheimer not only provides some realistic living men and women, he borrows from the gangster and Civil War eras to populate the world with some memorable ghostly characters. This is a fast paced adventure that stands well on it's own, but definitely made me want to read the sequels.
Jeffrey Kafer does a great job at invoking the dry, wry tone of the noir story and provides good characters voices as well. Nice performance!
Some reviewers have compared this to Dresden, but Dead Eye actually reminded me more of the nicely done Felix Castor series by Mike Carey. If you like urban noir, if you enjoy a hero who's only human, if you like your ghosts to have a bit of moxie, and if you like a bit of history thrown into your fantasy fiction, you'll like Dead Eye.
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