LISTENER

Trav

  • 25
  • reviews
  • 185
  • helpful votes
  • 136
  • ratings
  • The Big Picture

  • On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
  • By: Sean Carroll
  • Narrated by: Sean Carroll
  • Length: 17 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,970
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,763
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,742

Already internationally acclaimed for his elegant, lucid writing on the most challenging notions in modern physics, Sean Carroll is emerging as one of the greatest humanist thinkers of his generation as he brings his extraordinary intellect to bear not only on the Higgs boson and extra dimensions but now also on our deepest personal questions. Where are we? Who are we? Are our emotions, our beliefs, and our hopes and dreams ultimately meaningless out there in the void?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Keeping this on REPEAT for months to come

  • By Chris Akers on 06-10-16

Scientific discussion of theism

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-09-16

Not what I was after in a physics book. I think I should have paid more careful attention to the publisher’s description; namely the portion that mentions “deepest personal questions” and “give [our lives] meaning.”
So, for the benefit of anyone else who might breeze over the publisher’s description, let me be explicit in my statement here: THIS BOOK PRIMARILY DISCUSSES SCIENCE, RELIGION/SPIRITUALITY, & ATHEISM VS THEISM (and the scientific thought process applied to analysis of the subject).
--
This IS the book for you, if you are interested in listening to a very detailed and extensive discussion of the application of the scientific method/analysis (e.g. objective evidence-based discussion centered on the predictive power of various religious/metaphysical beliefs). This is also the book for you if you are interested in a rather enlightening look into how we can find meaning for our lives in a universe of physical laws and chance. While a somewhat dry piece of literature, Carroll does an excellent job with a logical progression of evidence and thought exercises to bring to light both of the fairly vast and complex subjects.
Frankly, when I pick up a layman’s physics book, I’m not looking for a discussion of philosophy. I’m interested in the scientific aspect of a scientific subject. I’ll keep the theology shelved separately, thank you very much.
The production quality was excellent, and the narration by the author was surprisingly good (though occasionally a bit overly-enunciated or slower than I like).
--
That being said, my relatively low rating for this book is ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE and based largely on my disappointment in the subject matter covered. I would give it 1-2 stars simply because it's not what I want from a physics book. I gave it 3, because I have to admit that it does a good job of what it aims to do (not great, but good). What I see as a negative may be a great positive for someone else in this case. So, I’d say, as long as you’re aware of what you’re getting into, this may be the perfect book for you.
P.S. The PDF IS AVAILABLE to download, so you can see the figures referenced.

35 of 45 people found this review helpful

  • Ibenus

  • Valducan, Book 3
  • By: Seth Skorkowsky
  • Narrated by: R. C. Bray
  • Length: 10 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 369
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 350
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 350

After surviving a demon attack, disgraced police detective Victoria Martin tracks down the Valducans in search of answers. Recognizing her potential, and despite the warnings of the other knights, Allan Havlock, protector of Ibenus, takes her in as his apprentice. As the Valducans travel to Paris to destroy a demon nest infesting the catacombs, the knights find themselves hunted by an Internet group intent on exposing them. Victoria, who belongs to this group, must desperately play both sides to protect not only herself but Allan, whom she has begun to love.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent addition to a very creative series

  • By Aaron Brown on 09-26-16

Good demon-bashing fun & good 3rd book in series.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-15-16

If you’re thinking of getting this book, then you’ve likely previously read the first two installments of Skorkowsky’s Valducan series, and you probably don’t need me to tell you that Ibenus is another enjoyable romp through demon-infested terrain. So, I’m not going to do the usual blathering on about how the Ibenus is fun, engaging, just dark enough to take more seriously than YA novels, and much better than I expected it (or the series in general) to be. Instead, I’ll just mention a few impressions, comparing a bit to the first two books…
--
OVERALL (B): In short, Ibenus is not a deep book; no genres bent or minds blown or awes inspired. HOWEVER, it is a fun engaging book, with plenty of action to grab and suspense to hold. Good fun vacation from deep thinking, if you're in need of that sort of thing.
--
THE STORY (B-): As a whole, the Valducan series is a solid entry into the urban fantasy genre (I’m still really surprised by how much I’ve liked these books). Skorkowsky has done a nice job creating a “magic & mythical creature system” that is original enough and detailed enough (without being overburdened by technicalities) to be a true asset to the Valducan storyline. It really is a refreshing spin on the mythical and demonic. Of course, there is a little less time spent defining said system/creatures in this book—thankfully avoiding too much redundancy. So, we get a slightly more streamlined version, as new characters have to “learn the ropes.” While none of these books are character studies by any means, there’s noticeably less depth in character development in this book than the previous ones, but they’re not totally flat either.
If I were to over-simplify the first book, Damoren, I’d call it one of those “lone hero in a big world” sort of story as he’s enfolded in the greater battle. The second book, Hounacier, definitely returns to that grandeur in the end, but felt more focused on the tenebrous thaumaturgy of regional folklore (kind of a cool dark mysticism feel about it). While avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that much of this third book departs from the previous tone(s) a bit for more of an “action movie monster hunter” kind of feel. It’s definitely a good book for anyone who enjoyed Arisen :).
As far as the plot goes, the whole series is a little formulaic …BUT I’m fairly forgiving when it comes to the urban fantasy genre. If you’re looking for a fun (non-heavy) UF book, it’s hard to avoid the ol’ Mad-Lib plot of: [heroes] must save [world] by preventing [villains] from getting [magic stuffs] to do [bad stuffs]. So, I’m totally willing to let that slide in exchange for a fairly unique, engaging/exciting, spin on a demon-bashing tale that keeps me listening …which Ibenus, like the previous books, does in spades! :)
--
THE NARRATION (A-): I always enjoy the narration/voice-acting of R.C. Bray! Once again, he did a great job of making an already good book oh so much better, employing a pace and tone that reflect the action and suspense of the story. There’s also a noticeable improvement in his character voices and accents since the first book. Do I have a criticism? Sure. Here’s one that dear dear R.C. just couldn’t get right: “chitinous” (ˈkītn-əs) bugs made of “chitin” (ˈkītn) can fly like kites, not fry like bits of pigs made of “chitlins.” It did provide a little comic relief to think of hog maws and chitlins when faced with demonic arthropods :). Once again, I'll forgive a little mispronunciation for such an overall great performance.
Production quality and editing are solid too.
--
--
A bit about my audiobook tastes (so you know how worthy/worthless you might find this review):
I LOVE the abstract and awe-inspiring! I like a book to not only escape today, but largely escape reality. My most favorite books often tackle reality-bending quandaries and “what is human” questions OR totally and completely leave this world for another. I often find this best done through Sci-Fi books and atypical fantasy books (but keep the magical stuff in the fantasy realm). Re bent realities, Brian Greene's non-fiction cosmology books deserve mention too. Some of my favorite Sci-Fi = House of Suns & Revelation Space (Alastair Reynolds), Permutation City & Diaspora (Greg Egan), Blindsight & Echopraxia (Peter Watts), The Girl with All the Gifts (M.R. Carey), The Dark Forest (Cixin Liu). Some of my favorite Fantasy = anything by Neil Gaiman(!), Perdido Street Station & Kraken (China Mieville), Warbreaker (and most others by Brandon Sanderson), The Gunslinger (Stephen King), Age of Myth (M.J. Sullivan).
…and anyone who thinks Song of Ice and Fire is better than Malazan Book of the Fallen is entitled to their opinions, as long as they’re OK with being wrong ;)

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • The Everything Box

  • A Novel
  • By: Richard Kadrey
  • Narrated by: Oliver Wyman
  • Length: 11 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 856
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 792
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 788

A beautiful, ambitious angel stands on a mountaintop, surveying the world and its little inhabitants below. He smiles because soon, the last of humanity who survived the great flood will meet its end, too. And he should know. He's going to play a big part in it. Our angel usually doesn't get to do fieldwork, and if he does well, he's certain he'll get a big promotion.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Everything not for Everyone

  • By Mel on 05-12-16

Nice narration for a mediocre book

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-12-16

This is just a quick little review to warn Kadrey fans this is no SMS!
I thought Kadrey's Sandman Slim series was pretty darn good (though the dumb tough-guy act got a little old), enjoyed books by A. Lee Martinez (very amusing), and loved the Johannes Cabal series (by J.L. Howard). So, I thought that another dose of dark humor with a supernatural bent would be fun. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this tale.
--
The Story [D+...maybe C- if I'm feeling generous]: At its heart is a story about a jailbird offered a chance for a big score, which leads to mishaps and a bit of a mystery as he gets wrapped up in a special criminal investigations division. While the idea has obviously been done a few times before, it still has potential. But frankly, I just got plain sick of the book. A Sandman Slim-esque bad-boy/tough-guy main character is only one among the many many MANY characters who seem to do nothing but trade "witty" quips (and calling them witty is either being sarcastic or being kind), insults, and silly one-liners perhaps meant to reflect their sang-froid. Each chapter was just a seemingly endless series of these exchanges. Regardless of whether it was meant to make fun of the Noir genre or pay homage to it, I think it just went too far with the back-and-forth "zingers" that would make an occasional appearance in better movies/books. The plot and pace just get lost in these silly little exchanges; and I felt like, after enough of them, each one got to be akin to being bludgeoned about the head with a club that reads "This character is a smart-ass bad-boy who doesn't give a flying fig!" After a while, I just couldn't bring myself to finish it.
--
The Narration [A-]: Oliver Wyman did a very nice job with pace, tone, and enunciation throughout the narration. Wyman also did a great job with the voice acting, making each character distinct, and emulating various states of intoxication in some cases, without ever falling into campy caricatures. While not being as fully immersive as some voice actors (e.g. George Newbern) or hitting that perfect tone (e.g. R.C. Bray), I think that Wyman did a very nice job.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Saturn Run

  • By: John Sandford Ctein
  • Narrated by: Eric Conger
  • Length: 16 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,817
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,622
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,615

The year is 2066. A Caltech intern inadvertently notices an anomaly from a space telescope - something is approaching Saturn and decelerating. Space objects don't decelerate. Spaceships do. A flurry of top-level government meetings produces the inescapable conclusion: Whatever built that ship is at least one hundred years ahead in hard and soft technology, and whoever can get their hands on it exclusively and bring it back will have an advantage so large, no other nation can compete.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Best Sci-Fi Book in a While!

  • By Ted on 05-29-17

Treatise on space travel minutia & political games

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-10-15

Overall: C
If you like HARD sci-fi and political strategy, this is the book for you!! Unfortunately it really was NOT the book for me. This is definitely one of those books to which I wish I could give 2 different scores/ratings. One would reflect how much I liked (or disliked as the case may be) the book and one would be for the quality of the book itself, which was admittedly reasonably well thought out, I guess. It just wasn’t a book for me.
The Story (B–/C+)
The good: As far as hard sci-fi goes, this one is definitely effective for remaining within the constraints of known physical laws and [pseudo-]feasible technical capabilities. I liked the fact that ideas were largely within the realm of reasonable suspension of disbelief. As far as political strategy and game theory goes, WOW! The authors really did a great job with that. The latter portion of the book even had my relatively stable stomach in knots. The down-side is that political gamesmanship doesn’t engage me nearly as much as it just gets me angry at humans (so, they weren’t really the good kind of knots).
The bad: While the novel stood on technically and scientifically stable legs, it lacked the majesty, scope, and sense of awe I associate with what I think of as really great sci-fi (e.g. much of Alistair Reynolds). To me, the detailed account read less like impressive technical achievement or cool sci-fi and more like a treatise on all the minutia of months of space travel (i.e. not much drama, and a whole lot of “here’s a problem… there, we fixed it… here’s another problem,,, etc.”) with a little political chess shuffled in. The political posturing was largely just that—posturing—for the vast majority of the book; until some action picked up near the end. Even then, I just didn’t get into it. The crew selection and the characters who got on board a ‘pioneering expedition for all mankind’ was a little absurd. Characters included a slacker, a news reporter, an anthropologist, his CAT(!), and some scientists. How many of these people had any semblance of proper training for zero-G environments, technical aspects of space travel, biosecurity, or any clue as to how to pilot a ship? …ummm maybe ONE. So, the book slapped together totally unrealistic crew, all together too realistic (i.e. boring) account of space travel, and political posturing to result in a tale that kept hinting, and kept me HOPING, that the cool stuff was just around the corner. For the most part, I felt like it was a corner that never really came (with exception of the aforementioned political maneuvering, which isn’t my cup of tea anyway).
The Narration (D)
If the average Audible book narrator is a C (and someone like RC Bray is an A), Eric Conger earned himself a nice fat D. He didn’t fail, because he was tolerable. He did FAR from excelling in voice acting, because every—and I mean EVERY—character had almost the exact same voice. There were a couple of subtle accents adopted, which shifted over the course of the book (compare early Fang-Castro to late). He did FAR from excelling in narration, because everything was [overly-]enunciated and dictated more like a manual than a story. It was all kind of bland/flat.

--

More about my general book tastes (so you can decide if my opinion is even worth your time):
Favorite Sci-Fi Audible books: The Martian, Fear the Sky, House of Suns, Permutation City, Diaspora, Blindsight.
Aspects of favorite books in general: I like reality-bending questions. I LOVE the abstract and awe-inspiring! I like a book to not only escape today, but largely escape reality. For awe-inspiring, Brian Greene’s non-fiction physics books are great, Alastair Reynolds captures the scope of space and deep time while making dark and complex characters, Greg Egan (some of his books) are enthralling for the way they tackle questions of consciousness and what does/doesn’t human consciousness unique/special. Outside of science/Sci-Fi, Neil Gaiman’s novels (which simply can’t be beat) convey the mystery and magic of fantasy while adding a slightly darker/gritty realism to it.
Things that don’t quite cut it for me: Many of the works by Iain M. Banks are interesting, but leave too much of the space/science part out of the Sci-Fi. Peter F. Hamilton’s work is enjoyable, but often has a little too much that comes a little too close to magic for my Sci-Fi interests.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Good Intentions

  • By: Elliott Kay
  • Narrated by: Tess Irondale
  • Length: 22 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,853
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,720
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,721

He knew it was a dumb stunt from the start. A midnight run through a cemetery to impress a couple of girls is hardly the stuff of legend, but Alex Carlisle longs to escape the crushing mediocrity of life after high school. Then he stumbles upon the ritual, and the cultists, and two bound and bloodied women. Alex intervenes and the ritual blows up in his face, leaving him bound to them both: Rachel and Lorelei, an angel and a succubus.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Well done with a side of porn?

  • By Sean O'Meara on 09-15-15

Cool story flanked by literary porn for D&D geeks

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-27-15

Good Intentions = FUN :)
Overall: B
Thinking of getting this book? Into contemporary fantasy? Enjoy getting into more adult magic and mayhem? Want to get vampires, werewolves, demons, and angels back OUT of the kiddy pool? I say grab this 2-book tale and go for it! The best word I can think of in summation is “FUN.” At its roots, that’s what Good Intentions (and Natural Consequences) provides. So, why the less than perfect score? In short, it got dragged down by baggage. This seemed like a REALLY good novella, with a bunch of sexual fluff/filler expanding it into a mediocre novel. This downfall was successfully rescued by: an otherwise engaging, fun, and super-cool plot; truly witty laugh-out-loud humor; interesting characters (who gain more depth in book 2); excellent narration/voice acting; and a second book that is so cool, I’d recommend sitting through far worse than this first installment just to get to 'Natural Consequences' (which gets an emphatic “A” grade from me).
-
Story: C+/B–
“A great tale in the spaces between sexual fantasies[/literary porn] for D&D geeks”
- THE NOT SO GOOD: Within the book, there was really an interesting, original (as far as I know anyway), fun, engaging plot that I was really getting into. Unfortunately, it got bogged down by lots of superfluous sex that collectively started to seem like filler. At some points during that filler between the otherwise really cool story, I admittedly felt like some bad acting and poor set design would turn this into a porn…with about the same general contrived plot getting the characters into sexy situations. I wasn’t put off or offended by it at all. The writing for the sexual narrative was actually quite good (though I admittedly am lacking for comparisons). I want to clarify/reiterate that, unlike some reviewers have mentioned, I didn’t get offended by any means, but rather I actually got BORED with all the sexual encounters and started considering skipping through those because of my anticipation for getting back to the actual STORY (which was really pretty darn good). There were some other, more general, weaknesses in the writing, such as finding that many characters (with a few exceptions) from vastly different time periods and vastly different locales used basically the same colloquialisms—it was a bit silly.
- THE OH SO GOOD!: The redeeming factors were the aforementioned sharp witty humor and cool plot …once all the sexy stuff was out of the way. The basic premise automatically sets itself up for mischief, mayhem, and fun. In short, Alex is a really nice guy, but certainly never a superstar. He stumbles on a lousy situation that gets him entangled with a demon and angel, as well as the broader battle they represent. Why this odd trio forms is actually explained well (and believably). Thereafter, Alex stumbles and fumbles his way into, and out of, and into again, the treacherous traps of nefarious demonic AND angelic machinations (and their lesser earthbound groupies like vamps & werewolves). Keeping afloat, he finds salvation from one side in the other (and back again) and he finds support in both. As it turns out, there might be more to angels and demons than the one dimensional entities we learned about from theology. Reading a bit between the lines, amidst the amusing mishaps and cutting quips, there are some deeper more compelling intricacies in the story and in the characters (everybody has emotions, strengths, and vulnerabilities …even the immortal). Also, some aspects of the relationships—especially between Lorelie and Alex—reflected some deeper aspects of human interpersonal relationships, getting at some of the tides that pull underneath the glassy fluid surfaces of the selves people often present. This was better developed in the second book. The second book really has more depth on the whole—so much so that I would still give this book high recommendations just to get to the second if nothing else, and even higher recommendation since this book is still fun in-and-of itself.
- A note to the author: Being from the south, I find it necessary to point out that “y’all” is a contraction of “you all,” and therefore is NOT used in the singular. When addressing a single person, even us’n ol’ backwoodsy folk’ will still say “you.”
-
Narration: A
Very VERY well done! Tess Irondale really hit the nail on the head with this one. Characters had their own distinct voices, matching their personalities/tone, without ever extending into the caricatures that some narrators/voice actors can fall into. Clear enunciation, nice pace, dynamic, and just restrained enough not to be overly dramatic. She also did a very good job with the “pornier” parts, in that she obviously didn’t shy away, clearly took effective delivery seriously, but was also not over the top.
-
FYI: Natural Consequences [thankfully] focuses more on building of what I thought was a great story and less on the fantasy porn. It was really enjoyable! I was truly sad to reach the end. As with the first, the witty banter had me chuckling aloud a few times. Extending beyond the first, the characters gained more dimension, the plot gained more complexity, the chaos grew in scope, and the consequences grew in scale. :)

26 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Steel World

  • Undying Mercenaries, Book 1
  • By: B. V. Larson
  • Narrated by: Mark Boyett
  • Length: 12 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,522
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,897
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,900

In the 20th century Earth sent probes, transmissions, and welcoming messages to the stars. Unfortunately, someone noticed. The Galactics arrived with their battle fleet in 2052. Rather than being exterminated under a barrage of hell-burners, Earth joined their vast Empire. Swearing allegiance to our distant alien overlords wasn't the only requirement for survival. We also had to have something of value to trade, something that neighboring planets would pay their hard-earned credits to buy. As most of the local worlds were too civilized to have a proper army, the only valuable service Earth could provide came in the form of soldiers....

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Its like Starship Troopers but with Dinosaurs

  • By Ryan on 10-16-15

It's about as SOFT as Sci-Fi gets

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-25-15

Steel World Overall = C
Story (D+): I was HOPING for another great SciFi novel. What I got instead was a protracted first-person tale of a series of battles against dinosaurs (T-rexs & raptors). I guess it is technically SciFi in the same way that Land of the Lost or something is SciFi, but you could completely remove the spaceships, put it back on Earth, rewind time to the Cretaceous period, and you’d end up with basically the same story by sprinkling in some humans. The only part even remotely worth pondering for a few minutes was the concept of brain “backups” allowing for revival after becoming dino hors d'oeuvres (but the author beats that concept to death, since everybody was getting picked out of T-rex teeth ad infinitum).
Narration (B): pretty solid. Decent variation for voices. Some of the characters were voiced in a bit of a stereotype of military personnel.
I actually had to convince myself to go ahead and finish up with the book. I will NOT be checking out the other ‘Worlds’ in this series.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • The Road to Bedlam

  • The Courts of the Feyre, Book 2
  • By: Mike Shevdon
  • Narrated by: Nigel Carrington
  • Length: 13 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 93
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 86
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 84

The sequel to Sixty-One Nails. "There's been an accident. It's your daughter." But Alex isn't dead. She's been snatched because she came into her magical power early. Her father, Niall Petersen, must use his own wayward magic to track her down and save her from the madness of Bedlam. Mike Shevdon lives in Bedfordshire, England, with his wife and son, where he pursues the various masteries of weapons, technology, and cookery.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Poor story compared to first volume

  • By Robert on 12-07-16

Solid urban fantasy (B+ 4-part series); book 2 = B

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-24-15

Note: In this review, I discuss the four-part series as a whole, in addition to main focus on this book. There are purposefully vague references to some of these things below, to provide examples without creating spoilers.
-
Short version: First book is decent, second is fairly good, but investment pays off as the following 2 books just get better and better. Book 2 = B. Overall series = A-. If you’re into contemporary/urban fantasy, I would definitely recommend picking this series.
-
Story (B+): If you like dynamic characters that really grow and change as the story unfolds, then this might not be the book/series for you. If you like urban fantasy that has a pretty cool story, then pick this one up. In that it centers on a normal contemporary guy who tumbles into a surreal world, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Neverwhere (by Neil Gaiman), but without quite hitting the mark. There were few times when I thought it almost got started to approach a similar level of suspense/tension/emotion/thought, but fell just a little short for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on (which is probably why I’m not a writer). Then again, I think it’s really not fair to compare other authors to Neil Gaiman (he’s just too good).
As mentioned right up front, not terribly dynamic main characters—this is primarily a plot-driven book. Fortunately it’s quite an enjoyable plot. At the same time, I’d suggest practicing a little suspension of disbelief… and maybe suspension of a bit of logic too (just a touch). There are odd little incongruities, or at least little things that could be patched up a bit better. For example: Character 3 asks “do you trust me?” Character 2 had been placing trust, headlong, in 3 for the majority of the tale at this point and has not been let down, but for some reason 2 is suddenly skeptical. So, 2 thinks “3 might have good intentions, but also has 3’s own motivations.” But there’s nothing that really changed up to this point to bring about this skepticism. As far as the villains and many secondary characters go, I found them to be perhaps the richest part of the tapestry woven by the story, and would enjoy reading again. The magic system is not terribly outlandish or especially original, but one thing that I REALLY liked was that nobody was leveling forests and towns with god-like power. When magic is employed it is generally more targeted and taxing. Characters are clearly limited in their ability to conjure by some clearly set guidelines (I won’t get into specifics, because everybody hates spoilers). There are also methods of travel and communication, which I found both entirely sensible and fantastically abstract at the same time (one of my favorite bits).
-
Audio (B): The performance was good, but not great. Good tone and pace, plenty clear, good production quality, etc. I thought it would be better to have more range, or incorporation of accents, to differentiate segments of quick conversation that didn’t explicitly specify the speaker. There are fairly long sections of dialogue would go by without a single “he said”… not good for someone with my attention span… anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yeah.. In some conversations with similar voices I got a little mixed up as to who said what.
-
The overall series (A-): The second, third, and fourth books follow on with the story. The third and early fourth (and late part of second) are the sections that get into the culmination of previously laid out plot points. That’s when things ramp up, and the whole scope increases (including some of the aforementioned magical capabilities). Basically, we get very well acquainted with the people who can really throw their metaphysical weight around. We also get to learn that some people are more capable, and/or differently motivated, than we (or anyone) had originally assumed. In the first book, I really feel like the whole story is sort of set up and the ball gets rolling a bit. The second was sort of the low point of the series, but still good. It built up characters and environment more, which was good. The next two installments are where things come together and happen in a way that made me stop questioning the value of the first book, and say ”Yeah, this was TOTALLY worth it.” The fourth is a REALLY solid resolution.

  • Sixty-One Nails

  • The Courts of the Feyre, Book 1
  • By: Mike Shevdon
  • Narrated by: Nigel Carrington
  • Length: 16 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 161
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 146
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 148

There is a secret war growing beneath the streets of London. The immense Sixty-One Nails follows Niall Petersen, from a suspected heart attack on the London Underground, into the hidden world of the Feyre, an uncanny place of legend that lurks just beyond the surface of everyday life. The ancient peoples are at war - but is Niall really the one who can wield the dark magic of the Untainted, and save them all?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Urban Fantasy with a Gothic Flavor

  • By Tango on 03-16-14

Solid urban fantasy (B+/A- trilogy)

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-15-15

Note: In this review, I discuss the trilogy as a whole, in addition to main focus on this book. There are purposefully vague references to some of these things below, to provide examples without creating spoilers.
-
Short version: First book is decent, but investment pays off as the next books just get better and better. Book 1 = B+. Overall trilogy = A-. If you’re into contemporary/urban fantasy, I would definitely recommend picking this trilogy.
-
Story (B+): If you like dynamic characters that really grow and change as the story unfolds, then this might not be the book/trilogy for you. If you like urban fantasy that has a pretty cool story, then pick this one up. In that it centers on a normal contemporary guy who tumbles into a surreal world, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Neverwhere (by Neil Gaiman), but without quite hitting the mark. There were few times when I thought it almost got started to approach a similar level of suspense/tension/emotion/thought, but fell just a little short for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on (which is probably why I’m not a writer). Then again, I think it’s really not fair to compare other authors to Neil Gaiman (he’s just too good).
As mentioned right up front, not terribly dynamic main characters—this is primarily a plot-driven book. Fortunately it’s quite an enjoyable plot. At the same time, I’d suggest practicing a little suspension of disbelief… and maybe suspension of a bit of logic too (just a touch). There are odd little incongruities, or at least little things that could be patched up a bit better. For example: Character 3 asks “do you trust me?” Character 2 had been placing trust, headlong, in 3 for the majority of the tale at this point and has not been let down, but for some reason 2 is suddenly skeptical. So, 2 thinks “3 might have good intentions, but also has 3’s own motivations.” But there’s nothing that really changed up to this point to bring about this skepticism. As far as the villains and many secondary characters go, I found them to be perhaps the richest part of the tapestry woven by the story, and would enjoy reading again. The magic system is not terribly outlandish or especially original, but one thing that I REALLY liked was that nobody was leveling forests and towns with god-like power. When magic is employed it is generally more targeted and taxing. Characters are clearly limited in their ability to conjure by some clearly set guidelines (I won’t get into specifics, because everybody hates spoilers). There are also methods of travel and communication, which I found both entirely sensible and fantastically abstract at the same time (one of my favorite bits).
-
Audio (B): The performance was good, but not great. Good tone and pace, plenty clear, good production quality, etc. I thought it would be better to have more range, or incorporation of accents, to differentiate segments of quick conversation that didn’t explicitly specify the speaker. There are fairly long sections of dialogue would go by without a single “he said”… not good for someone with my attention span… anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yeah.. In some conversations with similar voices I got a little mixed up as to who said what.
-
The overall trilogy (A-): The second and third books follow on with the story. The second and beginning of the third are the sections that get into the culmination of previously laid out plot points. That’s when things ramp up, and the whole scope increases (including some of the aforementioned magical capabilities). Basically, we get very well acquainted with the people who can really throw their metaphysical weight around. We also get to learn that some people are more capable, and/or differently motivated, than we (or anyone) had originally assumed. In the first book, I really feel like the whole story is sort of set up and the ball gets rolling a bit. The next two installments are where things come together and happen in a way that made me stop questioning the value of the first book, and say ”Yeah, this was TOTALLY worth it.”

  • Hunt of the Bandham

  • The Bowl of Souls, Book 3
  • By: Trevor H. Cooley
  • Narrated by: Andrew Tell
  • Length: 14 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 887
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 833
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 830

Ewzad Vriil's keep has fallen and Justan has been reunited with his friends. Justan's bonds with Fist and Gwyrtha have made him stronger and faster, but the more he learns about his powers, the more questions he has. Meanwhile, the kingdom remains in turmoil. The mother of the moonrats still builds the Dark Prophet's army of monsters in the mountains, and the Battle Academy forces are weakened.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Still good at book 3

  • By LornaDavis on 07-07-15

OK vacation book series, but not top10 (grade: B–)

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-31-15

Bowl of Souls Series (books 1–3): B-
Bottom line recommendation: “If you’ve got a credit (or $) to burn, and you’re looking for some decent entertainment, yeah sure, might as well go for it.” If there’s some supposedly acclaimed book sitting on your wish list that you’re considering diving into, but haven’t jumped, I’d say go get that one, and you can come back and listen to this afterward. That is to say, save the Bowl of Souls for when you want a break from those “deeper” more “Intense” or “intricate/complex” books. I think this series certainly has it’s high points, but overall, this is just another fantasy book with the story line and characters poured straight out of the mold. I certainly wouldn’t say I wasted my time by any means—it has been entertaining thus far… but I also won’t be putting this one on any top-10 lists.
- The good stuff: 1) As stated, it’s entertaining. I suppose it would be one of those good pure entertainment “beach-reads.” 2) Though it doesn’t really come to light until after the first book, there’s a pretty neat component of the magic system that is either original, or I just didn’t come across it before. So it was nice to ponder that different aspect. 3) The fauna is neat. There’s a lot of variety and the interactions between species and races is pretty cool.
- The not-so-good stuff: Not the best writing in the world. It’s somewhat juvenile, especially for character dialogue. I don’t know if it was just my failing patience, but it seemed to get worse as the books went on. Also, I don’t really want to be “that grammar guy,” but I think that people on the radio should be able to enunciate clearly and writers should be able to employ grammar properly. If I’m the one (as a “sciencey” person) catching the grammatical goofs, it’s probably not a good sign.
--
Eye of the Moonrat: B
They might look like it on the cover, but Moonrats are NOT cute!
- Story: The first book of the series is definitely the best so far. This is one of those books with a few distinct plot lines with different sets of characters (the sort in which you just know those stories will come together by the end). For this book (1st in series), I like the fact that the author doesn’t always use cliffhangers to get you to read on (like many authors employing this format do), but rather makes each chapter self-contained enough that you’re not screaming “WTF happens after he picks up the sword?!” or whatever. Instead, the author has made the stories interesting and somewhat dynamic in such a way that you’re excited to read on instead of compelled to do so. I just finished a chapter and thought, “wow, that’s nice. I’m sure glad he wrapped that up before switching to the next story line,” and figured I’d better make note of how much I appreciated that aspect. There are DEFINITELY some heavy fantasy genre clichés. This gets significantly worse in the following books.
- Audio: Narration was pretty good (B). Some characters in the voice acting seemed a bit forced, but still OK. I actually enjoyed the fact that the narrator (or someone) decided to go with a US southern/south western accent for the dwarf instead of the typical Scottish. No complaints about production quality.
--
Messenger of the Dark Prophet: C+
- Story: This is where all the fantasy genre clichés cast right out of the same ol’ mold really come to light. Another story of a boy going to school, feeling out of place, meeting some new friends, and running into the obligatory characters who, because of some scarred past or for whatever stupid reason, become obsessed form some petty vendetta against the main character for their own f-ups. Really? There’s not another plot device out there? We’re gonna keep bludgeoning that poor deceased equid?
- Audio: Narrator was same as before = good, not great. No complaints about production quality.
--
Hunt for Bandham: B-
- Story: The plot picks up a bit and gets into the larger scope during this book. Background built up during the first 2 books starts to come together and the tale gains momentum.
- Audio: The narrator switch in book 3 was a MAJOR step down (grade = C). The characters that may have previously seemed a bit forced became downright caricatures in this book. Also, the reading style for the narration reminded me a bit of a child being careful to pronounce every word properly, because the kid’s just getting this whole reading thing down. No complaints about production quality.
--
Future: I'll be getting the upcoming books, as long as I remember (but I'm not putting stickers on my calendar for release dates). They're good enough for entertainment. :)

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Messenger of the Dark Prophet

  • The Bowl of Souls, Book 2
  • By: Trevor H. Cooley
  • Narrated by: James Foster
  • Length: 14 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,068
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 992
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 990

Justan's dream of entering the Dremaldrian Battle Academy has been put on hold. His burgeoning magic powers have been deemed too dangerous to go untrained ,and he has been sentenced to two years at the Mage School. How is he supposed to fit in among the mages and wizards, a physically weak group of people with whom he has never identified? Can he learn how to control his new powers without losing his identity as a warrior? Can he stick to his plans while the mother of the moonrats tries to destroy the school from within?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Wish they were all on audible

  • By LornaDavis on 05-12-15

OK vacation book series, but not top10 (grade: C+)

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-31-15

Bowl of Souls Series (books 1–3): B-
Bottom line recommendation: “If you’ve got a credit (or $) to burn, and you’re looking for some decent entertainment, yeah sure, might as well go for it.” If there’s some supposedly acclaimed book sitting on your wish list that you’re considering diving into, but haven’t jumped, I’d say go get that one, and you can come back and listen to this afterward. That is to say, save the Bowl of Souls for when you want a break from those “deeper” more “Intense” or “intricate/complex” books. I think this series certainly has it’s high points, but overall, this is just another fantasy book with the story line and characters poured straight out of the mold. I certainly wouldn’t say I wasted my time by any means—it has been entertaining thus far… but I also won’t be putting this one on any top-10 lists.
- The good stuff: 1) As stated, it’s entertaining. I suppose it would be one of those good pure entertainment “beach-reads.” 2) Though it doesn’t really come to light until after the first book, there’s a pretty neat component of the magic system that is either original, or I just didn’t come across it before. So it was nice to ponder that different aspect. 3) The fauna is neat. There’s a lot of variety and the interactions between species and races is pretty cool.
- The not-so-good stuff: Not the best writing in the world. It’s somewhat juvenile, especially for character dialogue. I don’t know if it was just my failing patience, but it seemed to get worse as the books went on. Also, I don’t really want to be “that grammar guy,” but I think that people on the radio should be able to enunciate clearly and writers should be able to employ grammar properly. If I’m the one (as a “sciencey” person) catching the grammatical goofs, it’s probably not a good sign.
--
Eye of the Moonrat: B
They might look like it on the cover, but Moonrats are NOT cute!
- Story: The first book of the series is definitely the best so far. This is one of those books with a few distinct plot lines with different sets of characters (the sort in which you just know those stories will come together by the end). For this book (1st in series), I like the fact that the author doesn’t always use cliffhangers to get you to read on (like many authors employing this format do), but rather makes each chapter self-contained enough that you’re not screaming “WTF happens after he picks up the sword?!” or whatever. Instead, the author has made the stories interesting and somewhat dynamic in such a way that you’re excited to read on instead of compelled to do so. I just finished a chapter and thought, “wow, that’s nice. I’m sure glad he wrapped that up before switching to the next story line,” and figured I’d better make note of how much I appreciated that aspect. There are DEFINITELY some heavy fantasy genre clichés. This gets significantly worse in the following books.
- Audio: Narration was pretty good (B). Some characters in the voice acting seemed a bit forced, but still OK. I actually enjoyed the fact that the narrator (or someone) decided to go with a US southern/south western accent for the dwarf instead of the typical Scottish. No complaints about production quality.
--
Messenger of the Dark Prophet: C+
- Story: This is where all the fantasy genre clichés cast right out of the same ol’ mold really come to light. Another story of a boy going to school, feeling out of place, meeting some new friends, and running into the obligatory characters who, because of some scarred past or for whatever stupid reason, become obsessed form some petty vendetta against the main character for their own f-ups. Really? There’s not another plot device out there? We’re gonna keep bludgeoning that poor deceased equid?
- Audio: Narrator was same as before = good, not great. No complaints about production quality.
--
Hunt for Bandham: B-
- Story: The plot picks up a bit and gets into the larger scope during this book. Background built up during the first 2 books starts to come together and the tale gains momentum.
- Audio: The narrator switch in book 3 was a MAJOR step down (grade = C). The characters that may have previously seemed a bit forced became downright caricatures in this book. Also, the reading style for the narration reminded me a bit of a child being careful to pronounce every word properly, because the kid’s just getting this whole reading thing down. No complaints about production quality.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful