Normally I don't like it when authors attempt to narrate their own audiobooks, because authors generally do not have acting skills. But, in the case of "Dexter Is Delicious," Jeff Lindsay has done a surprisingly good job, giving the characters different voices and accents, and conveying their emotions well. He maybe doesn't have the most beautiful voice in the world, but that small quibble doesn't justify docking a star from my rating. As always with the Dexter books, "Dexter Is Delicious" entertains. I mean -- let's face it -- all the Dexter stories require suspension of disbelief and a sense of humor for complete enjoyment. With "Dexter Is Delicious," I fear Lindsay may have painted himself into a corner, because, thanks to the birth of his daughter, Dexter seems to be morphing into a ... human? Thankfully, at the end of the audiobook, we learn that our old friend, the monster Dexter -- the dark passenger -- is still fully functioning within Dexter 2.0. I am already looking forward to the next book in the series: Will the two versions of Dexter co-habitate amicably? Or will an inevitable power struggle ensue? Stay tuned.
Ted Bell and his publishers categorize “Time Pirate” as a children’s — or “Young Adult” — book, probably because it has a twelve-year-old protagonist and no sex scenes. I (decidedly not a child or Young Adult) enjoyed both “Time Pirate” and its prequel, “Nick of Time,” very much; however, I do not know whether I would actually recommend this series for youngsters. Nonetheless, I can help you decide, if you are considering purchasing this audiobook for your child. First: if it would discomfit you to have your child ask you the meaning of words like “wench,” and “octaroon,” or phrases like “waterfront dives, brothels, and rum dens,” then perhaps you should withhold the Nick McIver series from your child for the nonce … and listen to it yourself! Second: I do not think that little girls will enjoy the Nick McIver series as much as little boys. (Don’t little boys still like stories about combat and weapons and battles better than little girls? Or am I engaging in outmoded sexist stereotyping?) On the other hand, both “Nick of Time” and “Time Pirate” will teach children of both sexes a lot about history in a fun way. (I sure learned a lot from listening to these two audiobooks!) Ted Bell is a keen history aficionado, specializing in military history. In the Nick McIver series — set, initially, at the beginning of WWII, but then moving back in time — we get to meet Admiral Lord Nelson; Winston Churchill; George and Martha Washington; and (wait for it …) Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, aka: Le Marquis de La Fayette — a French aristocrat who helped Washington win the American Revolutionary War, and who now has almost as many places in the U.S. named after him as does Washington, himself. (Hey, I never knew all that stuff. This is exactly — and exclusively — the way that I want to learn history!)
Whether you are considering purchasing “Time Pirate” for yourself or for your child, I would suggest listening to its prequel, “Nick of Time,” first; since “Time Pirate” continues the story and character development begun in “Nick of Time.” Both audiobooks offer us delightful, fun, highly fanciful-but-entertaining plots, with an excellent narrator.
… if you listened to “Tsar” first. Yes, the predictable surprise-ending to “Warlord” will probably come as no surprise at all to anyone who has listened to the previous episode in the Alex Hawke series (after all, he never 𝙙𝙞𝙙 actually see the body, did he?); but never mind: “Warlord” still provides us with rip-roaring good entertainment. However, starting with “Tsar,” I would suggest that you need to listen to the Alex Hawke series in order … In other words: Listen to “Tsar” before you listen to “Warlord,” so you will fully understand why Alex is moping around so badly in the first chapter, and why the last chapter comes as no surprise. Also, prepare to suspend disbelief entirely for the whole Alex Hawke series. Although author Ted Bell does do his research, and comes up with some pretty scary scenarios for his novels — based on actual real-world situations — he then extrapolates potential threats to their worst-possible outcomes; at which point Alex Hawke, & Co. must step in to save the world — 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣 — at the last moment. Good stuff for all thriller-lovers!
Some reviewers have accused Ted Bell of right-wing racism. While Bell certainly does lean considerably to the right; and one could legitimately accuse him of testosterone-poisoning — and maybe even a bit of misogyny (which kinda goes with the testosterone-poisoning, right, ladies?) — I must disagree with the racism accusation. I think, rather, that Mr. Bell is fiercely patriotic and just plain fed-up with all terrorism and any “P.C” tolerance for terrorists. To quote one of the minor characters in “Warlord:”
“They hated the country, the people, and the government, from what he had read in the Daily Mirror. Terry had an idea: If they didn’t bloody like it here — didn’t like our flag, our religion, our way of life — pack up and go home! He had never expressed those feelings out loud, of course — very un-P.C., as his wife would say. But he was beginning to wonder about this whole “P.C.” movement. He thought that it was ruining everything … especially the truth.”
As a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, I none-the-less tend to agree with Mr. Bell on this issue. To mis-quote Winston Churchill: “Anyone who is not liberal in their youth has no heart. Anyone who is not conservative in their maturity has no brain.” Experience does, hopefully, teach us a thing, or two; including the hard lesson that tolerance has its limits. On the other hand, Mr. Bell needs to exercise some anger-management in his proposed solutions to the terrorism dilemma, lest we emulate the terrorists themselves. Do terrorists deserve due-process? Obviously not. Should we apply the same torture-techniques to the terrorists that they use on their hostages? Hmmm …
Animal-lovers, stand forewarned about this audiobook: I have deducted a star from my rating of “Warlord,” because of the scene where Alex Hawke & Co. murder their pack-animals, in order to provide a bullet-bulwark against approaching Afghan Mujahideen fanatics. As a devoted animal-lover and animal-rights activist, I could not bear this scene, and will never listen to this audiobook again, because of it. To me, murdering or hurting other animals differs in no way from murdering or hurting our fellow humans: Both are criminal actions — every bit as evil as terrorism — and devising a literary predicament where murdering animals provides the only solution sends a wrong message. I therefore recommend against this audiobook to all animal-lovers, although I generally recommend the Alex Hawke series to thriller-lovers.
Thriller-lovers will enjoy the whole Alex Hawke series. Just don’t expect realism, O.K.? Alex Hawke is a cross between James Bond and Dirk Pitt: an impossible super-human super-hero. In the Alex Hawke series, the good guys always save the world in just the nick of time; our hero is a tall, dark, and handsome babe-magnet; the good guys always manage head-shots with one bullet, while the bad guys usually miss altogether, but might manage to hit our hero in the shoulder; and our hero always recovers from grievous wounds in record time, with no lingering sequela. Oh, and to top it all off: Alex Hawke — a Peer of the Realm, mind you — happens to have more money than God; so he can buy lots of great toys, like the fabulous armored speed yacht that our heroes use in “Spy” to root out the bad guys from their hidden Amazonian lair. If far-fetched, fantastic thriller plots offend you, I would steer you away from the Alex Hawke series. Maybe choose John Le Carré, instead. I, personally, use escape fiction to take a break from reality, so I enjoy the Alex Hawke series immensely.
On the other hand, I hope that Islamic terrorists don’t read “Spy,” because it might give them ideas! Here, Mr. Bell coins the word “Jihadistas” to describe an unholy alliance between Mexican Reconquistadores and Islamic Jihadists. He places the political hot-potatos of illegal immigration and the porous, violent Mexican/American border at the heart of “Spy”’s plot. The resulting scenario — if Mr. Bell is not making it up out of whole cloth — would be very scary, indeed ….
Narrator John Shea has a nice voice, and does a good job of dramatizing “Spy” for us. He has lots of voices and credible accents at his command to help distinguish the characters from one another. Although he makes little attempt to voice female characters differently from male characters, I hesitate to criticize him for that, since thespian attempts at gender-crossing sometimes flop hilariously. For the character of Stokely Jones — the big (“approximately the size of an armoire”), black co-hero of “Spy,” Mr. Shea always uses a laughing voice — which generally works, since Stoke usually does have pretty funny lines — but sometimes this voice for Stoke does not work in “Spy,” like when our good guys are engaged in hairy combat. Aside from those minor quibbles, I like John Shea’s narration of the entire Hawke series very much.
In summary, I would recommend “Spy” to all thriller-lovers, provided that you are not expecting realism, and that you are not thinking of illegal immigration as a racist issue. You can probably get away with listening to “Spy” (the fourth in the Alex Hawke series) out of series sequence, since each novel in the series does not rely too much on previous episodes. Indeed — as of this writing — we have no option but to listen to this series out-of-sequence, since Audible has not yet provided us with the 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙨𝙩 installment, “Hawke.” (Hopefully, by the time you read this, “Hawke” will have been published in audio form!)
“Dream Sky” ends with a cliff-hanger that almost irresistibly compels us to immediately purchase the next entry in the Project Eden series. Prepare yourself to budget for two audiobooks in quick succession: You will want to know what happens next. Technically, 𝙩𝙝𝙚o𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮, you can listen to any of the Project Eden audiobooks without having listened to its predecessors; because author Brett Battles does us the courtesy of including, at the beginning of each episode, a “What Went Before” chapter that summarizes the story so far. However, I think that you will miss a lot of this saga if you don’t start at the beginning, with “Sick”. The Project Eden series is really one long story published in several pieces, of which “Dream Sky” is the sixth piece.
I can’t explain why this series causes such addictive, compulsive listening. It deals with a pretty scary — if far-fetched — scenario: What if a nefarious cabal of ego-centric, power-hungry conspirators hatched a plot to rid the world of most of its human population, leaving only them and their hand-picked survivors to re-build civilization according to their own specifications? I, personally, have trouble with scary, dark audiobook stories; because I get so emotionally sucked into the plots. Nonetheless, this series kept me listening, despite its “Yikes!” factor. I was rooting for the Good Guys and hating the despicable Bad Guys obsessively all the way through.
Maybe narrator Macleod Andrews had something to do with my relentless listening to the Project Eden series. Mr. Andrews has the rare Acting Gift: He is one of those natural-born actors, who can change voices and accents so effortlessly that he makes it sound easy. For me, the narrator counts every bit as much as the story. A good narrator can rescue a mediocre story, and can influence me to purchase an audiobook that I might not otherwise consider.
I recommend “Dream Sky” to all thriller-lovers, with the proviso that you first listen to its predecessors in the Project Eden series.
I only recently discovered Brett Battles — thanks to Audible’s Daily Deals — and have just finished listening to his entire Jonathan Quinn series in sequence. (I have now started listening to Mr. Battles’ Eden Project series, so I guess that shows you that I like this author!) I recommend the entire Jonathan Quinn series to all thriller-lovers; but I especially enjoyed this eighth (actually ninth, if you count “Becoming Quinn” — which you should) entry in the series. However, you really, 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 do need to listen to this series in sequence: Don’t start here with “The Discarded,” or you will miss out on a lot of the fun. (One slight exception applies here: You might want to start with what Audible calls "#4.1" in the series — “Becoming Quinn” — where Battles goes back to Quinn’s emergence as a Cleaner. Alternatively, you can listen to these audiobooks in literal chronological sequence. I think that either way would work, enjoyment-wise. I decided to start with the prequel, and did not regret doing so.)
In Battles’ Jonathan Quinn series, I particularly like the way Quinn’s team gradually grows with each novel; starting with him as a lone operator, and proceeding to where, in this episode, he is working with five other people — in a beautiful display of teamwork — to perform their most heroic feat to date. How on earth does a Cleaner get to doing heroics? You will just have to listen to the series to find out! I only regretted that the Abraham character introduced in this episode did not survive to join the team for future outings. (Sorry, spoiler-haters.) I guess that Battles decided that Abraham, at age 60, could not keep up with the others in future adventures. (As one who has decidedly past the 60 mark — never mind how far past! — I beg to differ!)
Regarding my mediocre rating of Scott Brick’s narration of “The Discarded”: I apologize to all Scott Brick aficionados. If you don’t already know whether you like Mr. Brick’s voice, I suggest that you listen to the 4-minute sample excerpt that Audible provides, to determine if his voice bothers you sufficiently to bypass this series. I, personally, have trouble with his nasal timbre and some of his inflections; but I have to acknowledge that Mr. Brick has good acting skills, and, for the most part, distinguishes the characters from one another adequately. Obviously, my own distaste for his voice did not deter me from purchasing the whole series! Aside from that one complaint — and my caveat about listening to the Jonathan Quinn series in sequence — I highly recommend “The Discarded” to all thriller-lovers.
Although “The Rising” completes Kelley Armstrong’s “Darkness Rising” trilogy, the trilogy, itself, is one long story — not three episodes in a series. For this reason, I advise you not to begin listening to “The Rising” without first having listened to “The Gathering” and “The Calling,” in that order. Otherwise, the story will seem disjointed and puzzling: “The Rising” picks up exactly where “The Calling” ends, just as “The Calling” picks up exactly where “The Gathering” ends. The Darkness Rising trilogy falls under several fiction genres: Young Adult, Fantasy/Supernatural, Thriller, and — yes, alas — Romance. I usually avoid Romance audiobooks; and The Darkness Rising Trilogy has all the usual Romance elements, including the one-or-more (in this case, two) handsome men (a good boy and a bad boy, of course) hopelessly, helplessly, devotedly, unconditionally in love with our beautiful heroine, never asking more of her than a little cuddling and kissing. (Hey, guys — if you want to know what women want, read Romance novels!) However, Kelley Armstrong can actually write well, and she has composed a pretty interesting plot, here. Best of all, the audiobook publisher selected the perfect actress to narrate this trilogy: Jennifer Ikeda. She has a lovely voice, and excellent acting chops, allowing her to clearly distinguish all the characters — including the guys — from each other, while always delivering the exactly right inflections. For me, the narrator can make or break an audiobook — even rescuing a mediocre book or ruining a good book — so Ms Ikeda kept me listening to “The Rising,” despite the Romance elements. I would recommend The Darkness Rising trilogy to young women, lovers of Romance fiction, and anyone who enjoys the Supernatural genre. (You 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 need to suspend disbelief here, folks.) Just remember to budget for all three audiobooks, because none of them stands alone.
Although "Nobody's Child" brings us the fourth episode in Ms Hellmann's Georgia Davis series, and although it does refer back to events that took place in some of the previous installments, this novel stands alone well: You can enjoy it even if you have not already listened to its series predecessors (but it will make you want to do so!). You will like the character of Georgia Davis: She feels like a real person -- albeit exceptionally smart, but sill real -- because Ms Hellmann really knows how to develop character ... and write, and plot! The word "gritty" always comes to my mind when I listen to Ms Hellmann's Chicago-based novels -- Yikes! Talk about a "seamy underbelly"! -- and "Nobody's Child" digs right down into the grit. I want to hope that Ms Hellmann is exaggerating a bit -- or even just making it all up out of whole cloth -- when she describes the dreadful criminal enterprise at the heart of "Nobody's Child." I want to believe that people would never sink to such abominations in order to satisfy their greed; but I know that Ms Hellmann always does her research, and that she is probably exposing a true horror that none of us wants to see. Of course, Georgia Davis manages to penetrate the web of deception and cruelty spun by these wicked people (in this case, Russian mobsters), and to do so very cleverly: by setting mobster against mobster. (Take that, you wicked people!) In the process, she escapes death by the skin of her teeth; and emerges from her adventure with a new sister and a new boyfriend. (Whew!) Unfortunately, I have to say that "Nobody's Child" deserved a better narrator. Although Beth Richmond has an undeniably beautiful voice, I would have preferred a narrator with better acting skills ... even if she did not have such a pretty voice. In particular, this novel requires good Russian accents and better vocal distinction between characters. Aside from this one criticism (and I admit to a fussy predilection for good acting), I recommend "Nobody's Child" to any lover of gritty detective fiction.
"Legacies" falls almost -- but, fortunately, not quite -- into the Psychological Thriller genre. Unlike its predecessor in the Repairman Jack series -- "The Tomb" -- "Legacies" does not contain any supernatural components; but, rather, unfolds a compelling mystery. Spoiler-haters should, perhaps, stop reading here; but I honestly don't think that you will regret learning the kernel of this story ahead-of-time, since "Legacies" will still remain a gripping audiobook. Like any novel concerning a discovery that would have changed the world -- had it really been discovered -- author F.P. Wilson has to figure out a way to "un-discover" the scientific breakthrough at the heart of "Legacies" -- in this case, an inexhaustible source of clean energy -- before the book ends. I looked forward to seeing how Wilson would manage this "un-discovery" at the end of "Legacies," and he did not disappoint me. (No, I won't spoil the surprise 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 much: You will just have to listen to the audiobook to learn why we do not now have this much-needed discovery!) I liked the way that Wilson 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 -- ever so slowly -- introduces us to the bad guys -- Saudi princeling Kemel Muhallal (remember that "Legacies" was published back in 1998, well before 9/11); his mercenary muscle-man, Sam Baker; the enigmatic Japanese agent, Yoshio (who turns out to be not such a very bad guy, after all); and co-protagonist Alicia's detested half-brother, Thomas -- whose nefarious motives we must learn at the same pace at which Repairman Jack laboriously uncovers them. "Legacies" keeps us on the edge of our seats all the way through the audiobook, wondering why Alicia does not want her father's legacy, and why seemingly everyone else does. I deducted a star from my rating of narrator Christopher Price's performance, only because Joe Barrett -- the narrator of "The Tomb" (the previous Repairman Jack audiobook) -- did a better job; and I wish that the publishers had continued to use Mr. Barrett to narrate the rest of the series. Mr. Price does an adequate, if not stellar, job of narrating "Legacies," although he mispronounces some uncommon words -- like "antimacassar" -- and some common words, like "Julio." Also, Mr. Price doesn't have the repertoire of voices and accents that Joe Barrett has. (I loved the way that Mr. Barrett voiced Yiddish character Abe Grossman in "The Tomb." Mr. Price just doesn't even try ... not that I blame him.) Otherwise, I highly recommend "Legacies" to all thriller-lovers, although you will enjoy it even more if you listen to "The Tomb" first.
I am just beginning to listen to F.P. Wilson's Repairman Jack series for the first time (I have now reached #3: "Conspiracies"); and, so far, I love it. "The Tomb" starts it all off with a bang, and leaves you hungry for more of Jack's adventures. If you like true thrillers -- with just a soupçon of the supernatural -- then you will enjoy "The Tomb." I liked Wilson's incorporation of the (alleged, but probably apocryphal) pre-Vedic humanoid monsters called Rakoshi into the story. These Rakoshi -- governed by the Hindu goddess Kali -- embody all of the evil and malevolence of humankind, with none of the good. Jack must overcome these virtually invincible demons with only his wits (Jack has lots of wits), since not much can harm them. Very personal incentives motivate him to succeed, or to die trying. Other reviewers have rightly compared Repairman Jack with Lee Child's protagonist, Jack Reacher ... except with that added touch of the supernatural. Like Jack Reacher, Repairman Jack lives outside the laws and conventions of society -- for instance, he has no last name and no Social Security number -- while still fighting for the good, against wickedness. Unlike Reacher, however, Repairman Jack stays put in NYC, pretty much. Author F. P. Wilson -- whom, I understand, has an M.D., and still practices medicine -- writes beautifully and intelligently. Narrator Joe Barrett does an excellent job of reading "The Tomb," harnessing many different voices and accents (including the difficult Hindi accent) to clearly distinguish all the characters from one another. It disappointed me to discover that the audiobook publishers did not employ Mr. Barrett to narrate the rest of the Repairman Jack series. (The subsequent narrator, Christopher Price, does okay, but not as well as Mr. Barrett.) In short, I highly recommend "The Tomb" to all thriller-lovers who aren't put off by a touch of the supernatural.
If you have been enjoying Randy Wayne White's delightful "Doc" Ford series for the past twenty episodes, don't despair: White's new Hannah Smith series does not stray far from home. We are still frolicking along Florida's west coast, with Doc and his Dinkins Bay buddies. Now, though, we are seeing all the action through the eyes of a different character, Hannah Smith. Indeed, White took a big chance writing from a woman's point of view: Men writing female protagonists usually doesn't work; but White pulls it off. Why do you suppose that White can convey a woman's perspective so well, while most male writers fail? It might have something to do with the fact that he was raised by a loving family of 𝙚𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 women: his mother and her seven sisters! (Eat your heart out, Bertie Wooster.) Mainly, though, any female reader of White's novels will perceive that he really likes women. These early Hanna Smith novels remind me a bit of Nevada Barr's formidable protagonist, Anna Pigeon, except with more humor. If you like a tough, smart, fearless heroine, then you will probably enjoy the Hannah Smith series. Incidentally, if you look up White's locales in an atlas (or MapQuest or GoogleMaps, in case you don't remember atlases), you will find that Sanibel Island, Dinkins Bay, Captiva Island, and all the other improbable-sounding, too-good-to-be-true settings for White's novels really do exist. Similarly, White has based the character of Hannah Smith and her Florida forebears on real historical Florida women. "Deceived"'s narrator, Renee Raudman, does an excellent job of narrating this audiobook. At first, I thought that I would not like her narration, because she has such a "young" voice; but it turns out that she definitely has the acting chops for these novels. I would offer two suggestions to you, if you are contemplating buying "Deceived." First, listen to at least some (preferably all) of the Doc Ford novels first, so that you will get to know the lovable, eccentric Dinkins Bay denizens, and so that you will understand why it is so funny that Hannah worries about Doc. Secondly, I think that the Hannah Smith novels are meant to interleave with the Doc Ford novels, rather than being read as a separate series: Listen to them in chronological order.
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