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M. Spencer

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  • Zero World

  • By: Jason M. Hough
  • Narrated by: Gideon Emery
  • Length: 15 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 677
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 627
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 627

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he's ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew - save one. Peter's mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth's twin.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Conduit to SciFi Entertainment

  • By Kurt Schwoppe on 02-25-17

High Octane Sci-fi Spy Thriller

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

Reviewed: 02-18-17

I really liked this book. It's basically a non-stop spy thriller with some pretty cool sci-fi concepts. The world building is interesting, though it's simple in a way and definitely reminds me of Star Trek a bit. I also liked the characters--Peter Caswell is, without doubt, a total badass.

Probably the best part of this novel was the writing. It was very tight and moved the plot along at a fast clip. The action sequences were really good. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I must also mention that the narrator for this novel was really good. It may be one of those situations where I enjoyed the book more in audio than I would have otherwise because the narration was just so well done (even if the narrator's voice always made me picture Caswell as Jason Statham).

  • Elantris

  • By: Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by: Jack Garrett
  • Length: 27 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,949
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10,754
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10,806

Once the godlike rulers of the capital of Arelon, the inhabitans of Elantris have been imprisoned within themselves, unable to die after the city's magic failed years ago. But when a new prince falls victim to the curse, he refuses to accept his fate.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • What if your body could never heal?

  • By Lore on 09-12-13

Not Sanderson's Finest

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

Reviewed: 02-04-17

For a little perspective, let me start by saying that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors. According to Goodreads, I've read 18 of his novels or novellas, and I'm actually reading the hardcover edition of Calamity right now.

That said, I thought Elantris was, frankly, just bad. I had been warned that, as Sanderson's first published novel, it was little rough around the edges, but that was an understatement. Unfortunately, I discovered that Elantris was full of flat characters, unrealistic dialog, and tons of fantasy tropes. Sadly, Sanderson's amazing ability to write fast-paced novels with good characters and great magic systems must have manifested AFTER writing Elantris because none of those qualities were present here and it was quite a let down.

What really surprised me the most was just how boring the novel was. There's almost no action until the last hour or two of the recording and there's no sense of suspense at all. The characters, plot, and worldbuilding just didn't push the story along like they should have. It's not even clear until near the very end of the book why the "bad guys" are even bad at all.

However, I do have to wonder if this was one of those rare cases where the narrator actually made the book worse. Jack Garrett was just not a great choice for a fantasy novel. Everything just came off a little too upbeat and his reading style was really slow. This is the first time I felt compelled to use my Audible app's increased speed feature, first going up to 1.25x and then later to 1.5x when I just couldn't wait to be done.

Now, for whatever reason, this novel gets pretty amazing reviews, well, everywhere. I don't really understand why that is, but it may be that Elantris simply wasn't a good fit for me or perhaps it was a case of the wrong novel at the wrong time, so if you really love Brandon Sanderson and you still haven't read Elantris, perhaps you'll still like it, but just beware that the reasons that you love Sanderson may be the same reasons why you won't like Elantris. And do yourself a favor and pick up a print copy.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Blood Mirror

  • By: Brent Weeks
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 20 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,884
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6,309
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,289

When does an empire fall? The Seven Satrapies have collapsed into four - and those are falling before the White King's armies. Gavin Guile, ex-emperor, ex-Prism, ex-galley slave, formerly the one man who might have averted war, is now lost, broken, and trapped in a prison crafted by his own hands to hold a great magical genius. But Gavin has no magic at all. Worse, in this prison Gavin may not be alone.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Filler novel

  • By Jason Campbell on 11-03-16

The Dud Mirror

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

Reviewed: 12-23-16

Here's the deal, if you enjoyed the previous three novels, then you will in fact enjoy The Blood Mirror for the most part. Brent Weeks is a good writer and there are many good things in this novel, but it falls short in a few major ways:

1. The plot is weak. After three novels of epic battles and huge consequences, The Blood Mirror's plot is very bland, filled with the kind of stuff that you would expect to happen between novels.

2. Kip's marital issues fall majorly into the TMI category. Seriously. I really did not enjoy that. At all. The other problem is that, even though Brent adds a little afterward to explain that the medical condition is real, the use of it as a plot device is still heavy handed and hard to believe.

3. Poor Gavin. If you've ever watched Heroes, Gavin is like all the best characters from that show like Peter and Hiro...you know, the ones that were so powerful that the writers couldn't figure out what to do with them so they just found ways to sideline them instead. Gavin is awesome. One book of him suffering was brutal, but really well done. A second book of it just feels redundant.

On top of that, the revelations about Gavin kind of ruined him as a character for me. I feel like Weeks has twisted Gavin's story around so many times that now it's just a tangled mess that no longer makes any sense. I actually thought at one point while listening, "I think this novel just jumped the shark." I was not a fan of Gavin's arc.

4. The conclusion is so anticlimactic that I literally stopped listening with approximately 5 seconds left in the novel without realizing it until I started up again the next day. When it was over, I was just kind of stunned that the ending could be so mundane.

Realistically, this shouldn't have been a novel. It should have been a couple of chapters in the next novel or an optional filler novella or a series of short stories. Because it just didn't have enough substance to live up to the high standard set by the other novels in the series.

Yes, I'm being extremely hard on the novel, but that's what happens when a series is really amazing and then the next novel is somehow not. My expectations were high (without even realizing it) and they weren't met. The Blood Mirror is by no means a terrible novel, but it's not an amazing one either.

With that said, Kariss is awesome. The dialog is snappy. There's some good action. We're getting closer to the conclusion. Those are all good things and helped the story move along despite the shortcomings.

Regardless of my criticisms, I look forward to the next in the series as I fully expect Weeks will be back on form and deliver an epic conclusion.

  • The Broken Eye

  • By: Brent Weeks
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 29 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 5,941
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 5,515
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 5,509

Without the protection of his father, Kip Guile will face a master of shadows as his grandfather moves to choose a new Prism and put himself in power. With Teia and Karris, Kip will have to use all his wits to survive a secret war between noble houses, religious factions, rebels, and an ascendant order of hidden assassins called The Broken Eye.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • BY ORHOLAM'S BALLS THIS BOOK IS AWESOME!!!

  • By Bakerman1016 on 05-14-17

Good Character Development

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

Reviewed: 10-13-16

After listening to The Blinding Knife, book 2 of Brent Weeks’ epic Lightbringer saga, I decided to jump right into book 3. Honestly, with the cliffhanger ending of book 2, I really had no choice–I had to find out what was going to happen.

Overall, I don’t think The Broken Eye was quite as strong as The Blinding Knife, but it was still very enjoyable. The overall plot didn’t really move forward all that much. The events of The Blinding Knife required some amount of regrouping and rebuilding on both sides of the conflict and The Broken Eye was set during that period. What that meant was a lot of setup and a focus on the main characters and plots surrounding the Chromeria. But what it also meant was very little focus on the conflict with the Color Prince.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I liked the novel and I enjoyed spending more time with the characters (because they are pretty awesome across the board), but I was a little disappointed that the battle with the Color Prince was so downplayed. I’m also not sure how I feel about Gavin’s storyline. Gavin’s story was interesting and engaging enough in its own right, but it was so separate from everything else–it’s almost like Weeks was looking for a way to sideline Gavin for a while without killing him.

That said, the ending was outstanding. Weeks did an amazing job setting the stage for book 4 and ensuring that his ravenous readers would stick around to read it. Personally, I’m really glad that it’s coming out next month so I won’t have to wait long to dig in!

  • The Anubis Gates

  • By: Tim Powers
  • Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot
  • Length: 15 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,187
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,093
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,094

When Brendan Doyle is flown from America to London to give a lecture on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, little does he expect that he will soon be traveling through time and meeting the poet himself. But Brendan could do without being stranded penniless in the teeming, thieving London of 1810.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Yesterday… All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away

  • By Doug D. Eigsti on 06-21-16

Time travel, body switching madness!

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

Reviewed: 10-13-16

Wow. Where do I even start with The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers? What a strange book. You've got time travel, sorcery, body switching werewolves, gypsies, beggars, insane clowns, dopplegangers, and Egyptian gods all rolled up into one fast-paced and chaotic story.

Chaotic. I think that's the keyword here. The story is fun and sometimes funny, but it's also a bit all over the place and can be hard to keep it all straight. It's definitely one of the more interesting stories that I've read, but I think perhaps it's almost a bit too interesting. There's just so much going on...

And then there's the hapless protagonist, Brendan Doyle. He's probably the most helpless and pathetic main character that I've encountered since Arthur Dent. Unfortunately, I didn't find him quite as lovable as Hitchhiker's Guide's unlucky protagonist. I will give Doyle some credit though; he did manage to grow as a character over the course of the novel and became considerably more likable and respectable by the conclusion.

Overall, I enjoyed The Anubis Gates, but, even though it was very fast-paced, it didn't leave my dying to continue to reading. I'm giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Half a King

  • Shattered Sea, Book 1
  • By: Joe Abercrombie
  • Narrated by: John Keating
  • Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,986
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,816
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,815

Yarvi, second son of the feared King Uthrik and the ruthless Queen Laithlin of Gettland, was born with a useless hand, and cannot hold a shield, or do any of the things expected from a man. Left an outcast, he's surrendered his birthright and been given a woman's place as apprentice to Mother Gundring, Gettland's Minister, training to be an adviser, diplomat, healer and translator. But when his father and brother are murdered by Grom-gil-Gorm, King of neighboring Vansterland, Yarvi is forced to take the Black Chair and become king himself.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Formula is not the opposite of gritty; it's just..

  • By David on 07-25-14

Half a Story

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

Reviewed: 07-10-16

If you have never read anything by Joe Abercrombie, I expect that Half a King will come across as a somewhat simple, lighthearted YA fantasy and probably not half bad. However, if you have read Joe Abercrombie, I expect that you'll have the same reaction to this as me: mild disappointment.

What I Liked:
- The story itself is very simple, but has enough action and small twists to keep you interested.
- The characters are fairly well developed, especially the protagonist.
- The conclusion is rather satisfying.

What I Disliked (Minor Spoilers):
- Abercrombie tries to convince us that the protagonist has inherited his father's rage, but I had a really hard time buying it.
- The identity of Nothing was about as predictable as they come.
- The whole reading experience was just bit underwhelming. Nothing about the writing stood out as particularly creative, insightful, or refreshing.

Conclusion:
If you've read Abercrombie before and you are expecting his typical gritty style, you aren't going to get it. Half a King is like if you took a typical Abercrombie work and sanded away all of the grit and rough edges until you have something rather dull. I have to wonder if Abercrombie was simply not that familiar with YA novels when he wrote this, because, although Half a King wasn't terrible by any means, it's just not even in the same league as something like Red Rising. I found that surprising from an author of Abercrombie's skill. Overall, it was just ok. I think the phrase I'm looking for is "milk toast."

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Emperor's Blades

  • Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book 1
  • By: Brian Staveley
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 19 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,426
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,945
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,942

In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 4 Primary Crimes Committed By The Author

  • By Captain Spanky Of Nazareth on 05-09-16

Fast Paced

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

Reviewed: 09-27-15

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It was fast paced and exciting. The characters could be a bit thick at times and some of the decisions made little sense, but I liked the world a lot and the characters well enough. Simon Vance, the narrator, is one of the great ones--his voice is perfect for fantasy novels.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Stardust

  • By: Neil Gaiman
  • Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
  • Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,294
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4,574
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,567

Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, as they watch, a star falls from the sky, and Victoria promises to marry Tristran if he'll retrieve the star and bring it back for her. It is this promise that sends Tristran on the most unforgettable adventure of his life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Witty and magical

  • By R. BREEN on 12-21-06

Charming!

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

Reviewed: 11-23-13

Let me start by saying that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I've been working my way through his catalog ever since I read American Gods a couple of years ago.

Although Stardust will not go down as my favorite of Gaiman's works--that honor still probably goes to American Gods--I still enjoyed it thoroughly. Neil Gaiman has a way of telling stories that really appeals to me. He has a way of capturing magic and making it seem like the most natural thing.

He can also take well-used themes and retell them in unique and delightful ways. And that's what Gaiman did with Stardust. Stardust is a fairytale complete with unlikely heroes, damsels in distress, and wicked witches, and, despite all that, it's still a very charming story.

Recommended!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Rithmatist

  • By: Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by: Michael Kramer
  • Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,098
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6,498
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,503

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings - merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Beware of the chalk!

  • By Brandon on 05-17-13

Awesome Magic System

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

Reviewed: 10-27-13

The more I read by Brandon Sanderson, the more I respect him as an author. In fact, at this moment in time, I think he is probably the best fantasy author in the business. His work is consistently of high quality, his characters are realistic, his world building is outstanding, and his magic systems are unique, imaginative, and very well considered. On top of that, Sanderson is fast writer, meaning that he publishes multiple novels a year.

With all that said, I really enjoyed The Rithmatist. It is technically a young adult novel, but I hardly noticed. The only real differences between it and Sanderson's adult fiction is that it's shorter in length, the protagonist is 15 years old, and there's no romance. None of that bothered me in the slightest.

It's hard for me to pick my favorite thing about the novel, because I really liked it as a whole. However, the magic system was absolutely fantastic. In The Rithmatist, magical energies can be used for attack or defense by drawing shapes with chalk. I thought that was a really cool idea, but I also really liked how Sanderson took it another step and developed a dueling system complete with rules and strategies.

Beyond that, I thought that Joel was a really good protagonist. Sure, he fits the typical "unlikely hero" motif almost exactly, but it's a classic trope that never gets old if done well. Joel is full of youthful exuberance and is easy to relate to. I liked how it was his intelligence that was his true asset and not magic.

The world that Sanderson created was really interesting as well. The story is set in a alternate United States somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century. I don't recall if an exact year was given. It seemed like the story was going to fall into the Steampunk genre, but instead the world relies on magnets and magic for technological innovation. I really liked that, because, to be honest, Steampunk just isn't my favorite.

Overall, the story was not overly complicated, but had enough mystery and suspense to move the plot along at a brisk pace and keep things interesting. I liked this so much, I would recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in speculative fiction.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Anathem

  • By: Neal Stephenson
  • Narrated by: Oliver Wyman, Tavia Gilbert, William Dufris, and others
  • Length: 32 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,261
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,991
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,999

In celebration of the week-long, once-in-a-decade rite of Apert, the fras and suurs prepare to venture outside the concent's gates - opening them wide at the same time to welcome the curious "extras" in. During his first Apert as a fra, Erasmus eagerly anticipates reconnecting with the landmarks and family he hasn't seen since he was "collected". But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the perilous brink of cataclysmic change.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Unparalleled

  • By Baron on 11-25-08

Epic Sci-Fi World Building

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

Reviewed: 10-26-13

Writing this review is going to be a challenge. I mean, how do I write a piece of commentary that adequately relates all of my thoughts and feelings about Anathem, Neal Stephenson's masterwork of epic science fiction storytelling? I'm not sure yet, but I'm going to give it a shot.

First off, you may notice that I only gave the novel 4 stars. That's simply because I base my star rating on how much I enjoy a novel, not necessarily on its quality or literary value. Although I recognize Anathem for what it is, a brilliant piece of literature, independent of genre, I must admit that there are simply other novels that I have enjoyed more thoroughly, including Stephenson's own cyberpunk classic, Snowcrash.

With that said, let me start by saying that there were many elements of this novel that I did thoroughly enjoyed. To start with, I really liked the characters. Erasmus was an excellent protagonist that I could easily relate to and he was complimented with excellent secondary characters.

I also loved the world that Stephenson created. I don't think I've ever encountered such rich and detailed world building in a science fiction novel before. The universe was incredibly interesting and shockingly familiar, and that familiarity made the story all the more intriguing. I couldn't wait for more secrets of the universe (or should I say multiverse?) to be revealed. It was fascinating to learn how all of the worlds and races were interconnected.

In addition to the broader universe, the localized monastery was so intricately imagined, I was nearly dumbfounded. Needless to say, at some point, I stopped trying to figure out how the damn thing was laid out. It was far too complex for me to wrap my head around without a blueprint of some sort.

That is actually probably one of my few complaints. Although I loved the extreme detail of the architecture, I just couldn't follow it all. I don't know if that's the fault of the author or my own lack of imagination, but it was a little frustrating at times when I would realize that I just had no idea how Saunt Edhar looked. I even tried a Google search and was shocked that I couldn't find an image! I guess I wasn't the only one who was perplexed.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the only time I was confused. I don't believe that I'm unintelligent, but my math education ended with pre-Calculus and, while I grasped most of the mathematical principles from the novel, it was sometimes a bit much to follow, especially considering that I listened to the audiobook, usually while driving.

I've listened quite a few audiobooks now and I've found that some novels translate really well--the drama and pace being perfect for an oral performance--and some don't work as well. Although I thought the novel was narrated very well, it was just a bit complex for an audio only experience. There were passages that I would have liked to reread and points when I would have like to pause and consider something. That is possible with an audiobook of course, but not nearly as convenient. It's also quite hard to go back and refer to something from a previous chapter.

I think the biggest issue with listening to the novel, rather than reading, it was missing out on seeing the unique spelling of the novel's vocabulary. I knew that there were spelling differences based on the narrators pronunciation, but I really wished that I could also see how the words were spelled. It felt like I was missing an important part of the novel.

Overall, the plot was excellent and well executed. There was plenty of drama, mystery, and suspense, despite the fact that there was little actual violence.

I would heartily recommend Anathem to any science fiction reader. It really was an excellent novel and I'm sure it will be long regarded as a classic.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful