Written by: James S. A. Corey
Narrated by: Jefferson Mays
Length: 20 hrs and 55 mins
Series: The Expanse, Book 1
Publisher: Hachette Audio
My husband and I watched The Expanse on Amazon Prime a couple of months ago. It was good but not great. I am not a hard sci fi consumer. I usually go more towards sci fi/fantasy or sci fi that is not has heavy on the sci part. I decided to check out the book that The Expanse was adapted from because the book is always better than the movie or tv series (it is a law of the universe which someday scientist will discover written with stars). I am really, really glad I did.
Leviathan Wakes is the first book in The Expanse series. The TV series uses seasons 1 and 2 to cover the story. There are significant differences between the series and the book, all of them lining up on “the book is better” side.
Leviathan Wakes takes place in mankind's future. We have spread ourselves through our solar system but have not quite reached the stars yet. There are humans living on moons of Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and in the large planetoids within the belt between Mars and Jupiter. People have been born, lived and died outside of Earth’s gravity. There are physical and cultural differences between Earthers, Martians and Belters which create a tense political situation.
The story is told from several points of view, all third person.
Julie: a poor little rich girl leaving her privileged life behind to fight for the rights of Belters
Holder: an Earther, now serving as the XO on an ice hauler
Miller: a Belter and native of Ceres who serves as a cop
Fred: an Earther and former United Nations general who now fights for the rights of Belters
Ninety-five percent is told from Holden and Miller’s viewpoints. It gives the story a much better diversity of scope than had it just been from only Earthers or Belters. There are several other characters who have large parts in the story. There is diversity in gender, ethnicity, politics, and where they call home in the solar system.
Jefferson Mays narrates this almost twenty-one hour epic. At no point did my attention lag or wonder. He really brings all the tension and wonder to life through his voice. I am currently trying to figure out how I can possible afford the rest of the series right now instead of waiting for sales or a birthday. It is just incredible. I think I may have started a love affair with hard science fiction thanks to James S. A. Corey, Andy Weir and the wonderful narrators of their books.
by Andy Weir
Pub Date 14 Nov 2017
Mark Watney became one of the best protagonist in publishing when The Martian by Andy Weir came out. He was smart, funny, persevering and adaptable. Those qualities allowed him to survive being stranded on Mars. His story was so engrossing the book hit the bestseller list followed by a blockbuster movie. Wow. How does an author top that? Andy Weir does it quite nicely in his upcoming book Artemis.
Jazz Bashara is similar to Mark Watney in several ways. She is smart, funny, adapts to what life throws at her and preservers in her dream to be independently wealthy. While Mark Watney had several degrees to hi name, using his very well educated background to solve problems, Jazz is entirely self taught. She does things her way, whether it is acceptable to the authorities and her father or not.
I love Jazz. She is a smart, strong young woman, born in Saudi Arabia but calling the moon home since she was six years old. Jazz lives on the moon. Andy Weir takes us to a future where there is a community living on the moon. Weir does a fantastic job of explaining how the moon colony came into being and how it is owned by a consortium from Kenya. It is believable and it seems like the technology he uses is available now or just over our technical horizon.
The story revolves around Jazz’s quest to move from the poverty level to a more financially stable group. While Artemis is on the moon, it does have several earth issues to deal with. There are economic classes. There is smuggling due to the high cost of shipping anything to the moon. It has crime. It also has a level of constant danger that those on earth have no concept of. Imagine if there is an explosion that takes out one of the main walls in a dome. On earth if a wall if blown out, people can be hurt or die if they are in the area. On the moon, everyone in that dome will die as the air is instantly removed. Jazz is navigating all of these issues and for the most part doing it very well for a twenty-something with only a high school education.
The secret weapon in Jazz’s plan is herself. She is confident in her ability to do whatever task she takes on to further her dream. When she takes on a huge job that could give make her dream real in one day, she knows it will be risky and possibly dangerous. Even on the moon, what is planned is often not what happens. Jazz is now fighting not only for her life but for the life of Artemis and all the people who call it home.
I loved Artemis. I have already pre-ordered the audiobook. I am not a well educated person (a 35 year old associate in liberal arts degree) and I do not speak science fluently. Andy Weir makes the science understandable even to someone like me. I was born during the Apollo era and have an incredible love for space exploration. I hope Mr. Weir continues to entertain and educate me about the possibilities of space exploration that my generation may yet see. Artemis is five stars, five bright, blazing stars.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War
Author Doug Bradley, Craig Werner
Narrated by Sean Runnette
Publication date June 6, 2017
Running time 10 hrs 12 min
Courtesy Tantor Media
When I was in 10th grade, around 1977, there was a substitute history teacher for one semester. She was younger than most teachers at the school and very cool. For two weeks, we did nothing but listen to music. She checked out a turntable and brought in a bunch of her albums. She played various songs for us and then we talked about them. After my classmates and I commented on the beat or the singer’s voice, she would chide us, “but what about the lyrics?”. She taught us to critically analyse the lyrics of music. What she was playing for us were protest songs. None of us ever knew you could protest other than carrying a sign when the local teamsters were on strike. It was a powerful lesson. One I taught my children using music from each period of history we studies in their pre-college education.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War by Doug Bradley and Craig Werner presents the role of music in the lives of those fighting, working in support roles and protesting the war. For many a particular song was a link to their far away family and home. Other songs gave them a way to express their fear for their lives and their anger at being in a situation that made no sense no matter how it was viewed. The book does a good job of including women who served in VietNam in the discussions.
The authors also explore how the different types of music exposed the racial divide among the troops. Some soldiers found the different music as a way to learn more about each other while others used it as barrier to keep other the “other”. As the Armed Forces Radio refused to allow many popular songs to be played on their network, a string of underground radio stations sprung up with GI’s sharing their own albums over a radio frequency. The tent with the turntable and albums was the most popular tent in the evening.
Many bands from Japan and the Philippines came to VietNam to tour doing concerts for the troops. Soldiers remember the band members only knew the English lyrics to the songs. One of the unique aspects of the book are the “Solos”. A Solo is an extended quote by one of the soldiers about a particular topic. It is not just a line or a paragraph. It is longer and more in depth. It is an excellent way to allow the veteran to really tell their own story.
The last section of the book deals with the role of the same music after the soldiers returned from VietNam. It was a way of connecting with the memories of the friends they lost and those still overseas. As PTSD was finally recognized as a legitimate condition, the music became a way for veterans to connect with each other. It also provided a way to ease into the discussion of difficult topics.
Sean Runnette does a very good job narrating the book. He has a pleasant voice. When he is narrating a soldier’s memories, he conveys their emotions well, especially the individuals with a sense of humor. I would seek him out as a narrator again.
Throughout history music has provided a lens through which to view events. Ken Burns is premiering his newest documentary this fall which happens to be a VietNam. Now is the time to list to this amazing book. It will enhance your understanding of the soundtrack Burns uses and your understanding of the power of music in the lives of those who served in VietNam.
Beloved Poison is the first book in the Jem Flockhart series. As with the second book, Dark Asylum, the setting is Victorian London with its tenements full of poverty, crime and disease and a society that punishes those afflicted with a case of being from the lower classes of society. This first book takes place in a hospital where Jem is an apothecary. The hospital cares for the lower classes, no nobility or wealthy patients are found here. The poor people have little hope of surviving their illnesses or injuries and less hope once most of the doctors get their hands on them. If they do not survive, their bodies are whisked away for the medical students to dissect. Jem is the rare person at the hospital who practices cleanliness and seems to honestly care about the patient’s welfare.
As with Dark Asylum, Beloved Poison got some many things right.
* The setting was written very well. All the smells of Victorian London. The darkness, the smog, the tenements. It really created a believable atmosphere.
* The hospital was horrifying. I think I would have rather died at home than subject myself to what passed for medical treatment.
* The characters were fantastic. I really did not have a good line on who was evil until the very end of the book.
* Jem was wonderful. I loved what I learned about the character in the second book. Now here in the first book I have, for lack of a better phrase, Jem’s origin story. It reinformed to me why Jem is one of the most likeable, relatable and well written characters I have encounter.
* Again another great mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. A logical solution also, not a deus ex machina ending.
I was very surprised to find that there are not audio versions of of either of the Jem Flockhart books. The publisher is missing a huge market by not releasing the books on audio also. Both Beloved Poison and Dark Asylum were a joy to read. I am looking forward to reading more from E. S. Thomson and hopefully seeing her titles as audiobooks.
by E. S. Thomson
Pub Date 07 Nov 2017
Dark Asylum is the second book in a series featuring Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain. Jem is an apothecary. Will is an architect. The setting is Victorian London with its tenements full of poverty, crime and disease and a society that punishes those afflicted with a case of being from the lower classes of society. Although I had not read the first book in the series yet (Beloved Poison), I had no problems following the story and the characters. I had read about three chapters before I contacted my library and requested Beloved Poison. Any other books in the series will be requested as soon as they are available.
There were so many things I liked about Dark Asylum. The easiest way to communicate it is probably by bullet points:
* The setting was written very well. All the smells of Victorian London. The darkness, the smog, the tenements. It really created a believable atmosphere.
* The mental health aspect was very well researched. The way people have treated the mentally ill throughout history is diverse. Some cultures treated mentally ill people as though they had been touched by the divine. Then you have the Victorians. The belief that the mental illness was caused by a weakness or failing on the individual’s part and needed to be punished is just cruel. The book does a very good job of showing that mind set while also showing the few who began to realize that possibly humane treatment would do more good than strait jackets and locked cells.
* The characters were fantastic. Characters like Susan Chance did not reveal themselves to the reader all at once. What was revealed was a well rounded and complex character. All the characters were like that.
* Jem. Oh my goodness, Jem. Not having read the first book yet, I do not know Jem’s whole story. What I do know is that Jem is one of the most likeable, relatable and well written characters I have encounter. There is only so much I can say without spoilers. Read the book and you will see what I mean.
* The plot at it’s heart is a mystery. What a fun mystery it was. At one point, I was sure it was this character. I chapter later I changed my mind. A chapter later back to the original one. At the end, I was totally wrong. It is wonderful to be surprised by the solution to a mystery when that solution makes sense.
I was very surprised to find that there are not audio versions of Dark Asylum or the first book in the series. The publisher is missing a huge market by not releasing the books on audio also. Dark Asylum was a joy to read. It really was. I am looking forward to reading more from E. S. Thomson.
I was watching my twitter feed yesterday looking for the announcement of who would be selected for the role of Doctor Who. I had to laugh at some of the theories. Some of them were well reasoned and some, like David Tennant was coming back to the role, were far fetched. I was also unfortunately not surprised by the attitude that the Doctor could not be anyone other than a white male. The Doctor is a fictional character and an extraterrestrial. The usual rules do not apply.
I am excited to see Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor. I am not familiar with her work at all. I did look her up on IMDB and was impressed with her resume. I am interested to see what her take on the doctor will be. Matt Smith had such an exuberance and childlike wonder quality. David Tennant was more serious but also had a quality of danger. One the one hand I would like to see the first woman doctor treated no differently than a man doctor but that is not realistic. There should be one or two stories were her gender does play a role in terms of the society they interact with. I remember Jon Pertwee's two episodes on Peladon where women were marginalized, even when one of them was the ruler. How the writers deal with that type of situation will be very important. There has to be at least one episode where the Doctor's gender provides the conflict but it should not be a constant theme.
Dear Doctor Who writers (whether comic, tv show or audios) here is my wish list: I want the Doctor to be strong and confident. I want her to be everything positive that we want our daughters and granddaughters to aspire to. She should be kind as all past Doctors have been. She should have soft spot of us "apes". She should also not be afraid of conflict or stepping in to protect those who need it.
I also feel the show should not engage in debate with trolls who say they will stop watching the show. If polled, a large number of them probably only heard about Doctor Who because a woman has been cast, not because they are long time fans. Doctor Who fans have embraced change since William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton and every time since. We all have our favorite Doctors. For many it is the first Doctor they say (in my case, Tom Baker). Imagine those that one day will list Jodie Whittaker as "their Doctor". At least people should give the show a chance. It is a new Doctor and a new show runner.
Finally, "It has always been this way" is the worst reason for something to remain unchanged. We are looking forward to Christmas and a very special regeneration episode.
Angel Dance: A Shadow Council Case Files Novella: Quest for Glory Part 3
by John G. Hartness, Melissa Gilbert (Editor)
Quincy Harker attracts trouble. It is an unfortunate fact of life for his friends and associates. If they know Quincy, Quincy leads trouble right to them. The Shadow Council Case Files is a series of eight novellas. Quincy has to find missing angels who have lost their memory and get them back on the path to heaven. Since Quincy cannot be everywhere at once, his teams is set out to track down the lost souls. The first book in the series Calling All Angels, featured Jo Harrison, descendant of the mythical John Henry. In Angel Dance, the reader gets to spend time with Adam Franks.
Adam Franks is a complicated man. He is the sum of his parts. Adam’s father, or more accurately creator, was a certain Dr. Frankenstein. Adam is now over one hundred and fifty years old. He is abnormally tall and big and scarred. He also seems to be indestructible. This is not the two dimensional monster of Hammer Studio films. This creature is a very complex man who wants what all people want but also realizes that his very existence precludes a normal life.
Adam journeys to New Orleans, one of my favorite cities, to track down one of the lost angels. The Shadow Council's members are not the only ones looking for the angels. There are demons at every turn trying to beat Adam in finding the angel. Adam’s strength and indestructibility will be tested as well as his humanity. The story is fast paced and the characters interesting. Another fun entry in the Quincy Harker universe.
I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Mask of Shadows
by Linsey Miller
Sci Fi & Fantasy , Teens & YA
Pub Date 29 Aug 2017
A Queen who stopped a civil war by destroying the magic that allowed “shadows” to flay people alive. A Queen who was still working to hold her new kingdom together while one faction retreated to the mountains to plan their bloody return. Our Queen’s Left hand: Ruby, Emerald, Opal and Amethyst. The rings she wore on that hand. Also the names of her four personal guards/assassins.
An audition for a new Opal, the previous one having been killed by the nobles in the mountains. Twenty-three possible new opals. Five invited due to reputation or nobility. The rest walk ons. Kill your competition without being caught or killed yourself. Survive combat, poisons, the competition.
Sal (auditioneer number Twenty-Three) is the protagonist. One of the most brilliant characters I have ever encountered. Sal has a heart of rage because of what happened. Nacea, a peaceful land, was overrun by “shadows” created by mages who flayed people alive. The nobles let it happen by withdrawing all the troops to protect themselves and leave Nacea undefended. Sal saw the shadows destroy Nacea, person by person and was only one of two survivors. Sal has an adoration for the Queen who stopped the shadows and ended the war. Sal has a desire for a better life than a thief and fighter. Sal has motivation and mystery.
The story is so wonderfully constructed. Sal takes the measure of his competitors. The entire court and the Opal auditions are like a huge puzzle Sal must make sense of. Piece by piece a plan develops, not only for Sal in the competition but for the Queen to deal with her unruly nobles. I loved all the characters. Even the side characters had depth to them and felt like real people, not like parts of the scenery. The action scenes were very well written. I could see them in my mind and did not get confused on who was where or had what weapon.
I pre-ordered the hardback of Mask of Shadows. As soon as the audiobook is available for pre-order, I will be ordering it also. I am excited to see what Ms. Miller does with Sal and the plot in the sequel. The world Ms. Miller has created in Mask of Shadows is rich and begs to be explored.
I received an advance review copy of Mask of Shadows from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Book 1 in the Bohemian Gospel series
Author Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Narrated by Justine Eyre
Publication date Jun 14, 2017
Running time 14 hrs
I had not heard of Bohemian Gospel before I selected it from the Book of the Month club. It sat on my desk for about two weeks before I picked it up. I began reading morning a blizzard struck and had finished it by the evening. Even without the blizzard I would have finished it quickly because it kept me engaged and curious.
I can only imagine the amount of research the author conducted on the time period and the very complicated politics in addition to the Church history. I am not an expert in any of those areas but I can tell you without a doubt she created a very real atmosphere. The places and characters who inhabited them seemed very real. Mouse, the main character, was a very unusual female for the time period. Her backstory explains how she came to be better educated than most women at the time. It is not her education that struck me as much as her spirit. She was trying to live a life of her own choosing, and while it did not always work out, she still continued to try.
When I had the opportunity to revisit the book by listening to the audiobook, thanks to the generosity of Tantor Media, I happily journey to medieval Bohemia once again. Listening to Justine Eyre perform it was wonderful. She has such a wonderful voice. She is also so versatile with voices for male and female characters. I really enjoyed hearing the words like Podlazice and Vaclac pronounced correctly. When I read the book, my mind stumbled over the Bohemian words. Ms. Eyre does such a fine job of clearly enunciating every word.
Although I have read a lot of historical fiction from this time period, I had not read any from this geographic area. It was all new and very enjoyable. I would recommend Bohemian Gospel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
by Christoph Martin
Clink Street Publishing
Courtesy of NetGalley
The Expansion by Christoph Martin is set in Panama and deals with the expansion of the canal. The original canal, completed in 1914, could not accommodate the modern large ships. The largest ships that could fit were labeled Pana-Max, for maximum size. After years of planning, Panama decided to go ahead with the expansion by building a new set of larger locks next to the original locks.
I was very interested in getting my hands on this book for one simple reason: I was born in the Panama Canal Zone. I am the descendent of one of the original workers. Although I left shortly after the end of fifth grade, my identity begins and ends as a Zonian. I was very curious to see if Mr. Martin could tell a good story and have an accurate Panama a the landscape on which he told it.
So many of the details are good. The oppressive humidity. The food. The mix of languages and customs. The extreme wealth and extreme poverty contained within Panama City. It was recognizable to me.
The main character of the story, Max Burns, is a British engineer who is hired to plan how the new canal will be built. He is hired by his childhood friend Godfredo Roco and his father Paco. Paco is a big league con man. His plan is to win the bid on the canal, start the work, drain off everything he can, declare bankruptcy and blame Max. He plans on doing it far into the project so Panama has no choice but to bail out the project and finish it. Godfredo is aware of some of his father’s plans but not all.
Added to the mix is Karis Deen. When the book starts, Karis is working for the Smithsonian in Panama as a biologist. She is actually a CIA agent is a deep cover project. As the canal project progresses, the US government keeps a wary eye on China who they fear want their own canal in Nicaragua and will try to sabotage the new Panamanian Canal.
The story is interesting. It is not compelling though. I had a hard time with Godfredo and Paco’s characters. They seemed two dimensional. Max seemed naive. All it all, it wasn’t a bad story until the end. The last chapter had me scratching my head. The book ended very abruptly, I mean VERY abruptly. I turned back and forth several times on my device trying to figure out where the conclusion of the story went. I am not sure if this is to be a series or not. If it is, the ending needs to get fixed or readers will not stick around for the next one.