Crouch keeps the story moving and the plot twists coming in this dark-but-entertaining suspense novel. I purchased it after listening to his superior (and, if I'm not mistaken, more recent) book Pines, which I highly recommend. Abandon is less satisfying, in part because it's central mystery is solved long before it ends and there were a few too many twists and coincidences for my taste. However, that's nitpicking and if you're looking for an entertaining thriller with some old west flavor (the novel flips back and forth and tells the story of Abandon in two different times), this book is a good ride.
I thought the narration was a little stiff but Luke Daniels seemed to warm up as he read and he did a nice job with accents and dialects. His overall performance, like the book itself, is solid.
The highlight for me was an unexpected bonus, a related short story at the end, read by the author, who does a fine job. I actually enjoyed it more than the novel itself!
I've always considered The Shadow Out of Time one of Lovecraft's better tales. It's as much a science fiction story as a horror story, although the mind-bending experiences of it's protagonist would be enough to push anyone's mind to the brink of madness.
This story probably isn't the best starting point for a Lovecraft reader (try The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Over Innsmouth or The Call of Cthulhu if you're just getting to know HPL) but it's one of his most carefully constructed tales and it gradually builds to a ripping climax.
Mike Vendetti's reading of the story doesn't ruin it by any means but it ranges from good to lifeless to distracting. At times, he does a fine job but he repeatedly struggles to pronounce words correctly. Some of them are Lovecraftian creations but he has as many problems with good ol' English as he does with words like "Necronomicon" (how can anyone be allowed to read Lovecraft for an audiobook if he can't pronounce the name of that infamous tome correctly?).
Anyway, I don't mean to be too hard on the man but this isn't the sort of reading that truly enriches that material like, say, the readings of Wayne June, which I highly recommend.
I've read and listened to quite a few Stephen King novels at this point, including fan favorites like The Stand and It and I'd rank this as one of his best. Like many of King's books, it's long but in 11-22-63, he uses that time to really develop his characters, to give them rich, emotional lives, and it serves this fascinating time travel tale well. It's more than just a time travel tale, of course. It's also a love story, a thriller and even a bit of a "chiller" in places, though this really isn't a horror novel.
The pacing is good and King hooks the reader/listener from the start. His fondness for the past is evident and there are times when the book feels a bit like a paean to simpler times. However, the author is sharp enough not to simply romanticize the past and he also reminds us that the period had a darker side. After all, this is a book that concerns itself with the assassination of a U.S. President.
It's a great, compelling listen, well worth the credit, and the narration by Craig Wasson is as good as it gets. He does a superb job.
I'd consider it but it would depend on the theme of the book.
The most interesting aspect of the story was it's central mystery: what really happened to Sara's daughter Gertie? Was Sara really able to accomplish what her notes and the legends surrounding her implied?
The book was read by two readers and I'm not sure which reader read which sections. The novel splits it's narrative between the past and present. The reader who handles the contemporary sections of the book does a fine job but the reader who handles the past sections, featuring Sara, has a tendency to seriously overact at times, trying to squeeze so much emotion and pathos out of her voice that it became an annoying distraction.
I doubt it.
This is a book worth reading if you like gothic tales and ghost stories. As I implied above, the audio performance detracted from parts of it for me so I might have enjoyed it a little more if I had simply read it.
This well-narrated novel about a girl not only coming of age but coming to grips with the mystery of her lost mother's disappearance and the more recent death of a friend is alive with the local color of the Ozarks. The reader not only feels the weight of family ties alluded to in the novel's title but also the intimate connections the people who dwell in a small, rural community. Laura McHugh's debut is an excellent read and I won't be surprised if it's up for an Audie award at the end of the year. I'm glad I took a chance on this book!
WARNING: Contains a few SPOILERS.
There might be a very good 250-300 page novel somewhere in American Elsewhere but author Robert Jackson Bennett buries it in a book that's over twice that length. At 22 hours, this audiobook ended up being a slog for me. Jackson s-l-o-w-l-y introduces readers to the unusual town of Wink, then tediously reveals the truth behind it's mysteries, truths that any seasoned reader of weird fiction will grasp long before the book comes close to revealing them. When they were finally revealed, I found it hard not to smirk a bit at the combination of Lovecraftian extra-dimenional beings and mommy issues. The whole thing plays out pretty predictably, all things considered, and similar concepts have been handled more efficiently and effectively. There ARE some good moments in American Elsewhere. There was a section in the middle of the book where things really picked up, became original and interesting and got me enthused about listening further. Unfortunately, in the end, I didn't feel that enthusiasm was rewarded.
I give reader Graham Winton an A for effort. His quality performance actually helped me finish the book.
Annihilation is the first volume in a planned trilogy but the novel easily stands on it's own. It reminded me of the work of J.G. Ballard in that it's at least as concerned with the psychological state of it's primary character as it is with the strange, mysterious area she and her companions are exploring. There's a dose of Machen and Lovecraft in the book too, which isn't surprising since Jeff Vandermeer is a champion of weird fiction. However, in the end, the novel is unique and original, a beautifully written, sometimes harrowing, exploration of humanity's encounter with something new. There are passages that border on the hallicinogenic and Vandermeer wisely leaves some questions unanswered. Perhaps they will be answered in subsequent books but honestly, I hope not. Some things are best left to the imagination.
I highly recommend Annihilation. I found Carolyn McCormick's reading of the book a little monochromatic but it's certainly not bad and there are moments where the placid tone she uses really works in the novel's favor.
This novel won the Hugo award and was nominated for the Nebula award as well so I went into it with relatively high expectations. Unfortunately, it turned out to be somewhat of a bore. A Fire Upon the Deep contains some original and fascinating ideas but the characterization is stiff and the novel really drags in the middle. Vinge seems more interested in exploring the medieval world on which he's stranded some of his characters than the complex and interesting galactic structure he's created, populated with numerous intelligent races and super intelligences so powerful they are impossible for lesser being like humans to comprehend.
Peter Larkin's reading contributed to my disappointment with the book as well. He used cartoony voices for a number of the alien characters that made it increasingly difficult to take the book seriously.
Dick Hill's expert reading of this dud wasn't enough to save it and after nearly 8 hours of dull listening, I finally bailed. Perhaps there's an unexpected twist and a great payoff at the end of this mystery but the ride was so dull and predictable, even with a great reading, that I lost interest in reaching the destination. This novel is riddled with clichés, the main character isn't particularly likable OR interesting and the pacing didn't work for me. By the middle of the book I was just too bored to care what happened next.
Felix J. Palma's first novel, The Map of Time, was a clever, charming story full of surprises, well-written characters and a wonderful mix of history and fiction. It used H.G. Wells classic novel, The Time Machine as a launching point and Wells himself as a character.
Wells is back in this sequel, which draws upon another of his most famous novels, The War of the Worlds, for inspiration. Unfortunately, while the first book was clever and inspired, this novel was more like a bad Hollywood sequel. It tries too hard to replicate the experience of the first book and consequently feels forced and labored from start to finish. It was a 22+ hour slog. In his effort to deliver the kind of unexpected surprises he gave readers in The Map of Time, the author pushes too far, repeatedly forcing the issue. The surprises feel labored and at one point, he thoroughly betrays the reader's trust in way he probably thought was clever and playful but was, in reality, so disappointing that I almost bailed on the book immediately after finishing that chapter. In the end, maybe that would have been a good idea.
Palma is a talented writer and I'm hoping he'll put that talent to better use on his next book and leave the themes and characters of his first two behind.
I have no desire to give anything about this excellent novel away to interested listeners so suffice to say that it's read perfectly by Grover Gardner and that author William Landay has written an excellent tale that explores the responsibilities of parenting, the consequences of accusation, the impact a family member's choices can have on the rest of the family and much, much more. The characters are well developed, the legal scenes fascinating and the book keeps the listener guessing until the end, which is memorable, to say the least.
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