I haven't added any new content since April of this year. I have not given up on the blog or on adding new content. It just is not possible at this time. I have spend weeks deciding how to write this post, this difficult post.
Sometime late last year when my depression began a downward spiral, I began to notice that my writing process was not as smooth as before. More often I found myself stalling for long periods. By February of this year, it has screeched to a halt. Writing at this point is similar to trying to write in a language I do not speak. Every word searched for like using an English to whatever language dictionary. I do not know when my writing will return to normal. My physician has two theories. Hopefully in the near future an answer will be found.
If I owe you a review (and I owe 4 audio and 6 e book reviews), I apologize. In most cases, I have completed reading or listening to your item. I just cannot write the review. I will continue trying until they are all complete. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Forty stories set in the Star Wars Universe. Forty stories on the periphery of the main stories we all know. Whether you are a Star Wars fan or a true Star Wars all out nerd, these stories are enjoyable. For example, the first story Raymus by Gary Whitta was an enjoyable story for me, a Star Wars fan. My daughter-in-law, who was listing with me, told me one of the characters mentioned is the Stormtrooper Luke and Han knock out when they are freeing Leia from the prison. I would have missed that but it was still a good story.
Ultimately that is why this collection works because it has something for everyone. Just looking through the authors in the table of contents is a sci-fi fans dream. Chuck Wendig writes a great fun piece called “We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here”. Based on that one line in A New Hope, Wendig creates an entire piece that changes how you view the character that speaks that line. Wil Wheaton’s Laina was incredible. Just so many feels, especially bitter and sweet. There are too many stories to list them separately as I usually do with anthologies but they are more hits than misses. Authors such as Delilah S. Dawson, Glaudia Grey and Alexander Freed who are already familiar with Star Wars fan, extend their writings into the universe in this collection. And who can pass up on the story told from the viewpoint of the monster in the trash compactor?
This audiobook does have sound effects, which is something I am not usually fond of. In this particular case though, the sounds effects do not overwhelm the dialogue and are a nice addition. Each one of the narrators does a great job. Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris and Janina Gavankar are just three of the very talented bunch to narrate the book. Every story is a fascinating trip into part of the beloved universe that finally have a light shined upon them.
This review and many others on Audio Book Reviewer who provided a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Acceptance is the conclusion to Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. It is told from multiple view points. The Biologist, Control, the former Director, the Assistant Director are all woven together to create the most complete picture of Area X readers will be given. There are still questions when the book is finished. Some may be answered by a second listen. Others may remain because Area X is still Area X and as such is till a mystery.
Carolyn McCormick, Bronson Pinchot, and Xe Sands do a fantastic job as narrators. The alternating viewpoints are clearly voiced and it is no problem deciphering who is speaking. I really enjoyed this changing of narrators in this book. It helped make the mysteries of Area X more believable. There is so much about the book that cannot be shared because of spoilers. I highly recommend the entire Southern Reach trilogy.
Authority is the 2nd book in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. I highly recommend reading the first book Annihilation before Authority. Otherwise it will not make much sense.
While Annihilation was told from the viewpoint of The Biologist, this book is told from the viewpoint of Control. Control is the third generation of spies in his family. He is sent to the Area X administration to assume the position of Director. His job is to find out what is wrong with the Area X explorations and fix it. First up is to interview the three members of the 12th expedition who returned, including The Biologist.
Control is challenged at each step by the Assistant Director who loyalty is to the former Director. He is also given orders by The Voice, a faceless, nameless male that he must give progress reports to daily on the phone. As Control struggles to do his assigned job, he discovers there is as much hidden in the administration of the Southern Reach as there is behind the barrier of Area X.
Bronson Pinchot does a fantastic job narrating Authority. He creates distinct voices for Control and The Voice as well as the female characters. He is one of my favorite narrators. Authority leaves the reader/listener waiting for the solution to Area X.
Jeff VanderMeer creates a very realistic and at the same time foreign world in Annihilation, the first book of the Southern Reach Trilogy. The world is real. It seems to be set in contemporary times, with cell phones and no radical technology that screams future world. The premise is that an area called the Forgotten Coast, which is predominately rural, has suddenly been cut off from the rest of the world. Some type of invisible force field came down and the area became inaccessible. No one knows what happened or the fate of those behind the barrier.
The Southern Reach is the administrative body created to monitor and study Area X as it is called. This first book deals with the 12th expedition sent into Area X. The story is told from the viewpoint of The Biologist. The expedition members are referred to by their functions, not their names. As the story details the expedition from The Biologist viewpoint, we learn about the strange life forms in Area X and the byzantine administration that continues to send expeditions in Area X even after disasters.
The narration by Carolyn McCormick is very good. Although this is the first in a trilogy, it does have a rational ending. Trust me, you will want to continue. Trying to find the secret, the reason for Area X will get under your skin.
I saw the Psycho movie multiple times over the years but this was my first time with the book or audiobook in this case. The story is so much more than the movie ever covered (no surprise). There is an entire backstory to Norman and his mother. Norman is described as being overweight, not the thin good looking Anthony Perkins from the movie. Mary, the character Janet Leigh played in the movie, also has a more complete story. I really enjoyed the write style of Robert Bloch. Even though it is somewhat dated, the dialogue is not stilted at all. The suspense was maintained until the very end. The narration was good but not great. I cannot quite put my finger on what in the narration bugged me but something was enough to cause me to rate it 4 instead of 5 stars. I will be checking out the rest of the series soon.
By Stephen King and Owen King
Read by: Marin Ireland
Courtesy Simon & Schuster
I went into this audiobook expecting the wonderful hair raising horror experience that I have enjoyed from Stephen King since reading his first book, Carrie, back in the 1970’s. So I did have high expectations. I expected a good story, great characters and something normal morphing into something that scared the crap out of me (example clowns).Sleeping Beauties did not deliver. I did not find the book or characters enjoyable.
In a small town in Appalachia there is a women’s prison. Many of the women are there because of drugs or domestic violence that caused them to break the law. A strange illness breaks out at the prison where the women fall into a deep sleep and are enveloped in a cocoon. If they are removed from the cocoon, they become dangerous and homicidal. While the women are in the cocoon they travel to a different place. Time is different. There are no men. They are safe and heal from their traumas. Meanwhile, the men go into testosterone overdrive. There are a lot of guns, a lot of driving around, and a lot of dealing with the situation by violence.
I found that I just did not care about the women or the men. I did not find any reason to connect to them. Marin Ireland did a nice job narrating. My inability to get into the book had to do with the story and not the narration.
A People’s History of the World
From the Stone Age to the New Millennium
Author Chris Harman
Narrated by Napoleon Ryan
Publication date Aug 29, 2017
Running time 27 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
I love history. I have loved it since childhood. I have favorite eras, like the Plantagenet and Tudor reigns of England. I lack an overall view of world history. How it all fits together. The non-European history and how it connects with the history I was taught. When I saw A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman offered for review from Tantor Media, I thought it would be a good opportunity to fill the gaps in my knowledge.
The Introduction begins stating that the book is meant as an outline, a stepping off point for deeper study into specific areas. Although it is an outline, not an indepth look at every moment of history, the book does have a thread that runs throughout all the eras studied. Part One is the Rise of Class Societies. It begins with prehistory. The author posits that at this point in history there were no classes. Every individual was important to the life or death of the tribe so all things were shared equally. There is no way to say for sure this is true or false (unless Doctor Who shows up with the Tardis and the right coordinates). As he lays out the development of civilization, he accompanies it with the development of a classed society. He shows a shift from matriarchal to patriarchal societies, not all but the majority, leading to the subjugation of women.
The sections following are The Ancient World, The Middle Ages, The Great Transformations (Reformation and Renaissance), The Spread of the New Order (Enlightenment), The World Turned Upside Down and finally The Century of Hope and Horror. Mr. Harman is a leading socialist in Britain. His writing style is fluid but not simple. This is not a book that can be devoured quickly. It is best to read a chapter at a time and let it percolate before moving one. Mr. Harman’s socialist background is evident in his interpretation of events. That does not mean it is invalid. Very few historians can write without an visible biases. It is not the history you learned in school and will open your mind to possibilities.
Napoleon Ryan is a British actor who has done quite a bit of voiceover and narration in addition to theater and screen. His voice is rich and he enunciates clearly. The problem I had with the book was that I tried to start it on a very long road trip. About an hour in I had to stop. I had no idea what I had heard. Mr. Ryan’s voice washed over me and was pleasant to listen to but I could not concentrate on driving and the complexity of the book at the same time.
I would suggest A People’s History of the World if you can give yourself the time to take it slow. It is rewarding when you take the time to truly concentrate. You may not agree with all of it but it will give you a new angle from which to explore history.
The Occupant is the third book in the Afterlife Investigation series by Ambrose Ibsen. It is a thriller, horror, paranormal and if you have not read or listen to the first two books, STOP reading now. It is impossible to write a review of the sequels without leaking spoilers from the previous books.
The main character of all three books is Stephen Barlow is an adjunct professor at an Ohio college. In the first book Asylum, Barlow becomes involved with two students, Elizabeth and Jake who want to form a Spiritual Club ( paranormal not kumbaya). They investigate Chaythe Asylum and inadvertently release something evil that has been stuck there for 28 years. In the second book, Forest, Barlow is trying to stop the entity known as The Occupant. Elizabeth is possessed by the entity as Barlow tries to save her and kill The Occupant.
In the third book, The Occupant, Barlow is now deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He and Jake are searching for the lost town that The Occupant was associated with. Elizabeth is somewhere in the unending dark woods, the body through which The Occupant was working to bring its full entry into our world. Jake and Barlow try to piece together the history of The Occupant through the history of the town which has disappeared. They are helped by Jane who was originally used by her uncle to bring The Occupant into the world from the pit where it dwelled.
The pervading sense of dread is ratcheted up several notches in this book. It creates almost a sense of breathlessness. Even when the action is slowed down, there is still the feeling that something is circling ever closer. There are constantly large swatches of forest, trees blocking out the sun or the moon, swaying in the breeze, hiding anything moving slowly, carefully and quietly towards Barlow. The ending of the book really did not give me any sense of closure or peace. I am not sure if the series will continue with Barlow investigating other paranormal things or if this will be the end. Somehow I don’t think it is. “The door has been opened. It’s already too late.”
Joe Hempel does as great job narrating all three books. He conveys the tension and fear just as well in this book as he did in the other Ibsen books I have listened to. While the story gets very intense, Mr.Hempel never veers in hysteria or yelling. I really enjoyed his narration. I will be looking for more books narrated by Mr. Hempel.
Audiobook Review - A Pope and a President John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century by Paul Kengor
A Pope and a President
John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century
Author Paul Kengor
Narrated by James Anderson Foster
Publication date Sep 20, 2017
Running time 23 hrs 21 min
Courtesy Tantor Media
I remember the spring of 1981 well. I was a freshmen in community college. I had turned eighteen the fall before and voted in my first election. The end of March my family, friends and classmates were all shocked by the assignation attempt on President Ronald Reagan. I was too young to remember the Kennedy assassination. Six weeks later, Reagan was back at the White House and finals were looming. The assignation attempt on Pope John Paul II really hit me as a Catholic. I really did not understand why someone would try to kill the Pope. Finally thirty-six years later, author Paul Kengor supplies the answer and how Reagan factors into the events of May 13, 1981.
Kengor does a fantastic job of constructing the background that sets the stage for the partnership of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II. He explains the events of the history of the Catholic Church and Communism in Russia that are intertwined by the communist opposition to all religions. The author states that “Lenin ordered the shootings of an estimated 14,000 to 20,000 clergy and active laymen.” This book has much to offer even non-Christians or atheist. The religious content is important because it is what motivated those involved. The religious beliefs of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II are are central to the history as the communist antipathy to all religion.
Would the USSR have fallen when it did without President Reagan or Pope John Paul II? I do not think it would have. I think it was the unique unofficial partnership and true respect between the two men that facilitated the events. Without the hope Pope John Paul II gave his countrymen in Poland and other communist bloc countries, without the pressure applied by the government of the United States under President Reagan’s direction, without the same message from two perspectives from two of the most powerful men in the world, the USSR had no reason to allow the changes to happen without bloodshed. Gorbachev is quoted in the book as stating that the Pope, “did a lot to prepare for the end of the Cold war.”
The book is fascinating but the audiobook is even better. James Anderson Foster has been one of my favorite narrators for years. This is the first nonfiction I have heard him narrate. The book contains a number of names that I struggled to read and retain in the print book. With Foster narrating, I was easily able to keep the various people straight because of his clear pronunciations. His voice is easy to listen. I recommend listening to the audiobook over reading the book just for the pleasure of hearing Foster’s narration.
Asylum: The Afterlife Investigations, Book 1 is a thriller, horror, paranormal story written by Ambrose Ibsen. I recently discovered Mr. Ibsen thanks to Audiobook Reviewer. I enjoyed the previous book by Mr. Ibsen I listen to so how could I pass up a creepy asylum story? Who doesn’t love an abandoned asylum with a macabre history?
Stephen Barlow is an adjunct professor at a college in Ohio. He is brand new on staff and only teaching one course. One day walking to campus he witnesses a student killed in a hit and run. The dying boy asks if Stephen can hear “them” and dies in his arms. While trying to avoid the nightmares that follow, Stephen gets talked into being the faculty advisor for the newly forming Spiritual Club. It is spiritual like paranormal not spiritual like kumbaya. The club has only two members, Elizabeth and her overprotective boyfriend Jake.
Chaythe Asylum has been closed for close to 28 years after years of decline and allegations of staff abuse of patients. A patient who escaped her room and killed several other patients and staff before she was killed herself was the final event in the asylum’s history. It was referred to as the 3rd Ward Incident. A strange series of events lead Stephen, Elizabeth and Jake to the tour the asylum, with the present owner’s consent, on the twenty-eighth anniversary of the murders.
This was a fun, although scary, story. Mr. Ibsen does a nice job of creating a pervading sense of dread. Each event is part of a chain that leads to the asylum where things truly go to crap (insert stronger word here). There is no easy solution visible at any point in the book. This is the first book in a trilogy. There is a closure of sense to this book but the story does continue on in the next two books.
Joe Hempel does a great job narrating Asylum. He conveys the tension and fear just as well in this book as he did in Stirrings in the Black House book. While the story gets very intense, Mr.Hempel never veers in hysteria or yelling. He maintains a consistent volume level. I really enjoyed his narration. Mr. Hempel and Mr. Ibsen are now on my list to check out whenever I come across their work.
ABR received this audiobook for free from the Narrator, Submitted in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect our opinion of the audiobook or the content of our review.
Anna is seventeen years old and absolutely stifled by her guardian Aunt Rachel. There are so many things proper ladies do not do. Anna repeatedly gets herself in trouble due to natural intelligence and curiosity. She has, fortunately, had her Uncle Silas, a co-conspirator in bending Aunt Rachel’s rules. Due to the time they spent together, Anna knew him better than anyone else in the family. When Silas died after an illness, Anna was not the least bit surprised that the last request of his will was to have his head cut off from his body. Silas had a horrible fear of claustrophobia due to a traumatic experience. He often told Anna if his head was cut off there would be no doubt he was dead and have nothing to fear.
Anna’s family wail and scream at the family lawyer until he calmly tells them the request is not legally binding but it is considered something the family should do. As Anna’s family rages around her, she realizes the reason for the request and also realizes her family will not honor it. What is a well-bred young woman to do? Let her favorite uncle down and follow the strict etiquette of the time? Or maybe handle the last request herself without letting the family know but risk a world of trouble if they find out?
Last Request is a short listen. Perfect for a shorter trip or sitting in a waiting room. The story is very well done. Short stories are difficult to write, more difficult than a novel. In a limited space, the author must tell his story, invest us in his characters, and ultimately fulfill our need for a good story with a satisfactory ending. Mr. Chapman does it so well I would like to read more stories involving Anna and the trouble she finds. The narration by Caprisha Page was excellent. She handled the different accents from Anna’s educated one to the sexton’s lower class words equally well. The male versus female characters was also well done. I highly recommend Last Request as an enjoyable yet thrilling story, perfect for Halloween moods.
ABR received this audiobook for free from the Author, Submitted in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect our opinion of the audiobook or the content of our review.
Nights of the Living Dead by Brandon Shusterman, Brian Keene, Carrie Ryan, Chuck Wendig, Claire Bloom, Craig Engler, David J. Schow, David Wellington, Gabrielle de Cuir, George A. Romero, Issac Marion, Jay Bonansinga, Joe McKinney, Joe R. Lansdale, John Russo, John Skipp, Jonathan Maberry, Keith RA DeCandido, Max Brallier, Mike Carey, Mira Grant, Neal Shusterman, Ryan Brown, Sandra Brown
Narrator: Adenrele Ojo, Claire Bloom, Gabrielle de Cuir, Kasey Lansdale, Kristoffer Tabori, Nicholas Guy Smith, Ray Porter, Rex Linn, Richard Gilliland, Stefan Rudnicki
Nights of the Living Dead was an enjoyable anthology. George A. Romero contributed only one story but his influence is apparent in every story. This was a nice anthology and very even. The good stories greatly outnumbered the meh stories. I have included my thoughts on a few of the stories including the two introductions. The introduction by Romero is almost a class in cinema history, just incredible to listen to.
Night of the Living Dead: An Introduction by George A. Romero
Wonderful history of the zombie genre by its godfather and he prefers “ghoul” to “zombie” but gave up arguing the point years ago.
Reflections of a Weird Little Kid in a Condemned Movie House: An Introduction by Jonathan Maberry
This was fun to listen to. Imagine growing up to collaborate with your childhood hero. Wow.
Dead Man’s Curve by Joe R. Lansdale
A great opening to the anthology. A Wonderful female protagonist and unpredictable but satisfying story.
In That Quiet Earth by Mike Carey
An incredible love story. The lengths a man goes to in order to spend eternity with his beloved wife. Touching, poetic and, ironically, life affirming.
Jimmy Jay Baxter’s Last, Best Day on Earth by John Skipp
This was disturbing on many levels. The main character is one of the most detestable individuals I have ever encountered in literature. I really did not enjoy this story because I was so repulsed by it.
The Burning Days by Carrie Ryan
A cabin in the woods. Two couples and two single friends. A planned vacation that skids to a halt when the dead show up uninvited. Who survives and more importantly whose relationships survive?
The Day After by John A. Russo
The immediate aftermath of the dead uprising has monsters who are very much alive.
The Girl on the Table by Isaac Marion
The zombie apocalypse through the eyes of a young teen girl who has been bitten. It is very complex and excellent writing.
Williamson’s Folly by David J. Schow
“Fidget-pickle” what an incredible word! I have no idea what it means (neither does Google) but there is a character in this story described as a fidget-pickle (I guess it is a hyphenated word).
You Can Stay All Day by Mira Grant
A fun day at the zoo? Not so much.
Pages from a Notebook Found Inside a House in the Woods by Brian Keene
In rural Central Pennsylvania, a group of robbers knocks off a Comic-Con. As they escape the robbery scene they run out of gas and luck. Out of gas and finding their first zombie, they flee into the woods. They find a cabin and make themselves secure. What happens when you are safe from the zombies outside but not the vengeful ghost inside?
Lone Gunman by Jonathan Maberry
“Mostly dead but not entirely” starts with a soldier waking up under a pile of large pile of dead. He must find his sanity and his purpose before he can survive.
Live and On the Scene by Keith R. A. DeCandido
This one starts like a real newscast. Harvey, the on the spot TV reporter, is reporting on a rash of multiple murders in the rural areas outside of Pittsburgh. Witness report seeing strangely acting people which police immediately discount as hysteria. The story alternates between the newscasts and reporter’s life as the events happen. It reminded me of Orson Well’s War of the Worlds broadcast.
Other stories included:
Deadliner by Neal and Brendan Shusterman
A Dead Girl Named Sue by Craig E. Engler
Fast Entry by Jay Bonansinga
John Doe by George A. Romero
Mercy Kill by Ryan Brown
Orbital Decay by David Wellington
Snaggletooth by Max Brallier
Dead Run by Chuck Wendig
My two favorite stories were In That Quiet Earth and Pages from a Notebook Found Inside a House in the Woods. What the two stories had in common, besides zombies, was an unexpected conclusion that left me very pleased, both as an adult and as the 7-year-old who loved Christopher Lee as Dracula. These two stories are horror gold for fans of all ages.
The narration by Ray Porter, Stefan Rudnicki, Jonathan Maberry, Kasey Lansdale, Kristoffer Tabori, Rex Linn, Gabrielle de Cuir, Adenrele Ojo, Richard Gilliland, and Nicholas Guy Smith (as listed on the Audible description) was first rate. All of the stories, even the ones that did not especially set me on fire, were still narrated well.
If you love zombies (it is cool to admit to loving zombies in the new millennium) and if you have a fondness for the history of the genre, treat yourself to this wonderful audiobook anthology. Let me know which stories you like the best. Enjoy and remember aim for the head.
I received this book from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
The Devil’s Bible is the sequel to Dana Chamblee Carpenter’s best seller Bohemian Gospel. I highly recommend you read or listen to it first. Both books were very well researched in terms of
the time periods and the very complicated politics in addition to the Church history. In the first book, Mouse, the main character, was a very unusual female for the time period. She was 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.
Mouse is changed in the second book, The Devil’s Bible. Her spirit seems very damaged, if not broken. She is not living as much as surviving. She forms no ties with anyone or anything. She lives a life of simplicity that she can flee at a moment's notice. She is more of a shadow of a person than a person. While I understand why she felt she had to live that way, I really did not like Mouse like that. It made me angry. Ever wish you could jump into a book and save your favorite character? That is how I felt, like I needed to reach it and tell Mouse I would help her. I was so glad when she decided to fight to regain herself, she was more like the Mouse from the first book.
There are so many plot points that I cannot discuss because they are spoilers, especially for someone who hasn’t read the first book. Mouse is a character steeped in mystery and mythology. She is not wholly human as though it is what she longs to be. The characters she interacts with are human and non-human. I love Mouse and really like both books.
Tantor Media had given me the first book and then offered me this one in exchange for an honest review. I was happy to accept. Justine Eyre is wonderful. Her voice has a musical quality to it. I found I could not listen to it in bed because I fell asleep. Otherwise I had to have a quieter atmosphere than usual. I think it was because of the complexity of the plot. Ms. Eyre does such a fine job of clearly enunciating every word. So it is totally my fault that I could not binge listen to it even though the story was enticing.
I would recommend both Bohemian Gospel and The Devil’s Bible narrated by Justine Eyre to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery and paranormal fantasy.
By Mercedes Lackey
Read by Amy Landon
The Hunter Series: Book 3
8.81 Hours unabridged
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
The Hunter trilogy, by Mercedes Lackey, is just as much fun and page turning action from the first book to the last. Each of the three books has its own mystery with an over reaching story arc for the series. The books feature a very strong female character, Joy. She does not need men saving her. In fact, she does pretty much all the saving.
The universe this series constructs is amazing. It is rich and complex, built on the ashes of our world. Our world went through a series of cataclysmic events that tore a hole through reality. This hole allowed monsters to come through, monsters from all of earth’s mythologies as well as some that no one can identify.
Along with the monsters come the “hounds”. The "hounds" are not normal dogs. Some can fly, some are the sizes of ponies and some are made of smoke. When they come through to our world they bond with an individual who have the ability to use magic. They become a team of hunters, one human with uses magic and their "hounds". Most hunters have two to four hounds. Joy started with seven. Through the events in the first and second books, she gains four more.
The other beings, besides hounds and monsters, from the otherside, as other reality is called, are the folk mages. They vary from a feral type to a sort of nobility. Some want to wipe out all humans while others are more concerned with their own affairs. The mages, of all kind, play a major role in Apex.
The character development is excellent. Joy is a believable young lady. She feels happiness and sadness and despair and desperation. Yet she continues to fight. I really like her. I like the way she has developed and grown through the three books. She has learned so much about herself that allows her to make her own decisions instead of being a tool in the hands of others. This is a young adult novel so the romantic action is described as “making out” or kissing. This would be appropriate for a teen. It is also appropriate for adults. I am fifty-four and really enjoyed it.
Amy Landon is an excellent narrator. I have enjoyed her narration through all three books. She gives Joy a realistic voice. Her male voices are good. She does a nice job on the attitude of the characters. I really enjoyed Ms. Landon’s narration and will definitely check out other books she has narrated.
In Distant Lands
A Short History of the Crusades
Author Lars Brownworth
Narrated by Joe Barrett
Publication date July 11, 2017
Running time 8 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
I have never read anything directly about the crusades. Whenever I encountered them, they were the backstory or window dressing of another story. For example the legend of Robin Hood centers around Richard the Lionheart being held for ransom when returning from the third crusade. I knew there were several crusades but not exactly how many. I knew some of the main characters like Richard, Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was Queen of France, Saladin and Suleiman but I did not really know how they all fit together. I knew there was seriously messed up stuff involved like the Children’s Crusade and the crusaders sacking Constantinople, their own ally. In Distant Lands A Short History of the Crusades helped fill all those gaps in my knowledge of an incredibly complex subject that continues to have relevance even today.
Mr. Brownworth begins the book by explaining which characters go with which crusade. I found that extremely helpful. So many of the names are not familiar, like Alexius I Comnenus, who was the emperor of Byzantium and whose request for help set the first crusade in motion. The book then lays out the logical order of events that created the need for the Byzantine emperor to seek help from the Roman Catholic Pope. He also then shows how events spiraled out of control until there was absolutely no hope of stopping the disaster that followed.
The book does a wonderful job of balancing events and people. The significance of the events, what led up to them and what their consequences were are all told in a very readable fashion. At the same time the people involved in the events are discussed in a way that gives them depth and life. Nothing happens in a vacuum and the author does a great job of illustrating the people who created the events.
Joe Barrett did an excellent job narrating In Distant Lands. His voice is very pleasant to listen to. He enunciates clearly and the production quality is excellent. He never stumbles on any of the foreign words whether French or Arabic. I would not hesitate to choose another book he narrates.
In Distant Lands has kindled an interest for me in this period of history. I have two other books picked out for my next trip into this time period (God’s Wolf by Jeffrey Lee and The Templars by Dan Jones). I will also be looking into more of Mr. Brownworth’s work. I found In Distant Lands to be very accessible while not oversimplifying a complex subject.
Red Sister: First Book of the Ancestor
CD - unabridged
Audio (16 discs)
Length: 19 hrs and 21 mins
Author: Mark Lawrence
Narrator/s: Heather O'Neil
Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure you bring an arm of sufficient size.” When I saw this sentence listed as the first sentence of Red Sister by Mark Lawrence in a tweet, I requested the e-book through my local library system. I enjoyed the book so much, I requested the audiobook through Audiobook Jukebox to review. I am thrilled to report that the audiobook enhances the experience of reading the book.
Red Sister involves a wonderful character named Nona. The book starts with her as a young child, under ten years old, and tells her story for several years as she approaches adulthood. Nona is from a very poor family. She is sold to a man who buys children from rural poor families and sells them to various organizations or institutions in the capital city. Some are sold to churches and some to be trained as basically gladiators. The buyer is determined by their gifts. Nona is originally bought by a trainer to eventually fight in the ring. She is saved at the foot of the scaffold from hanging (read the book to see why) by the abbess of a Convent of Sweet Mercy. Nona’s exploration of why she was saved, who the nuns are and the mysteries of her world are fascinating and so intriguing I did not stop reading/listening until I had to.
This is one of the most amazing parts of Mr. Lawrence’s world building, the gifts. The world of Red Sister has four tribes. Each tribe originally had a gift of their own. One tribe was larger in body size. One was very fast. One could access minor magic. The last could access major magic and do what was called “walk the Path”. The world is divided by nobility and non-nobility. Nobility can be a matter of heritage or awarded by the emperor. May I just say thank you to Mr. Lawrence for putting his glossary and dramatis personae at the front of the book?
Oh, did I mention the moon is falling? The world is very much controlled by the moon. The entire land area is being trapped between two great ice areas. The ice areas are like huge glaziers with walls hundreds of feet high. The liveable area in between is call The Corridor. During certain phases of the moon, the nights get very warm, almost hot. There is still so much mystery at the end of the first book that I cannot wait for the next book.
Heather O'Neil does a very good job narrating Red Sister. I had only heard one other book narrated by her and frankly was not fond of it. Many years ago, my son and I listened to her narration of Cry of the Icemark by Stuart Hill. Neither of us cared for her narration of that book. Before I requested the audio version of Red Sister from Audiobook Jukebox, I listened to the sample and found I was enjoying it. Ms. O’Neil’s narration of Red Sister is very different from her earlier work on the Hill book. In Red Sister, she is clear. Her character voices are recognizable. Her accents are good. She does an excellent job conveying emotion. I highly recommend Red Sister audiobook, even if you have already read the book.
This review first appeared at Audiobook Reviewer:
Stirrings in the Black House was a fun haunted house story. When I say fun about a haunted house book, I mean thrilling, scary, nerve racking and had it been a movie there would have been several jump scenes. I enjoyed listening to it.
Emil is a washed up concert pianist. At twenty-three, he is living with his parents and being supported by them. His career as a pianist came to a screeching halt due to his addiction to Percocet. He is now clean but in the way of all addicts, still just one misstep from using again.
Everything changes for Emil when his uncle Gustav dies. Gustav was a world class concert pianist of the caliber to play with the London Symphony Orchestra. He was a composer too. Gustav had come once to see Emil play and then dismissed him as having no talent. Emil had not seen or heard from his uncle since. Why would Gustav leave him a house? A house that is across the country from where he and his parents live? Looking for a fresh start, Emil drives his beat up car with his meager possessions to Newberg, Oregon. To Weatherby House.
The story is told in the first person. It allows the listener to share the emotions and thoughts of Emil as he arrives and finds a large two story house empty except for a massive black Steinway Grand Piano. No other furniture. No light bulbs in any light fixtures and no electricity. With his limited funds, Emil sets up electrical service and buys a few light bulbs and basic foodstuffs and settles in.
The fresh start is going as well as can be expected for Emil when he meets Kelly, a local girl. Kelly, upon hearing he lives in Weatherby House, tells him of its sordid history. The house was constructed by a cult who believed they could possess the bodies of victims they tortured to give them eternal life. When one victim escaped, the cult leaders were caught and jailed. They all died before going to trial.
At this point, I cannot discuss the plot any further with spoilers. So to recap, we have a vulnerable young man, isolated from his family, in recovery from addiction. We have a town that openly shuns Weatherby House and refuses to acknowledge it. We have a house with a bloody and occult history. Even an optimist can see this is going to end badly.
Joe Hempel does a great job narrating. He conveys the tension and fear in Emil’s voice and thoughts very well. He also does a great job on Kelly and other characters. I really enjoyed his narration. I will be seeking out more of his work as well as that of the author, Ambrose Ibsen.
Stop by Weatherby House for a few hours. Just not with all the lights off.
Stirrings in the Black House by Ambrose Ibsen
Narrator: Joe Hempel
on 29 June 2017
Length: 4 hrs and 40 mins
Courtesy Audiobook Reviewer
The Ghost of Freedom
A History of the Caucasus
Author Charles King
Narrated by Michael Page
Publication date May 23, 2017
Running time 12 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
At 54 and with chronic health conditions, I know I will never have the opportunity to travel to the many wondrous places on our planet I would like. I have found that learning about those far off lands is fascinating and fulfilling. I recently listened to audiobooks on India and Scandinavia. Next up is the Caucasus. Again I was not disappointed in my audiobook adventure.
The Caucasus is still a remote and wild region on the world map. It sits at a crossroad between Europe and Asia, an isthmus between the Black and Caspian seas. The Greeks chained Prometheus up in the Caucasus to have his liver devoured each day by the eagle for giving man fire. Ovid, the Roman poet, had Jason said to the Caucasus, the end of the known world, to steal the Golden Fleece. The regions lends itself well to mythologies with its blend of beauty and danger. It is a land that has been contested and fought over for centuries. The original tribes who settled the area gave dynastic giants like the Russian and Turkish Empires more than they could handle.
The Ghost of Freedom A History of the Caucasus by Charles King and narrated by Michael Page does justice to this incredible region. King starts with a forward which explains the importance of words in the region. “In a part of the world where ethnic, religious, and political categories are hotly contested, being sensitive to labels is particularly crucial.” He then provides a in depth chronology of the history of the area as well as a glossary of words related to the area. The words are influenced by the original tribal languages as well as successive waves of conquerors from Russia, Turkey and others. I want to point out how incredible Mr. Page’s narration is concerning the many, many foreign words. Had I read the book, my eyes would have skimmed over the unpronounceable, for me, and in doing so I would have lost a part of the book. Listening to Mr. Page’s confident pronunciation conveys the rich of the words and helps spin the spell of foreign lands.
The books leads the listener through the history of the Caucasus region from the first recorded Russian foray in the mid sixteenth century to the early twenty first century struggle to emerge from the shadow of the former Soviet Union into individual nations. This is an audiobook I will listen to again. Mr. King’s storytelling on the history of the region is complex, vast and accessible. Coupled with Mr. Page’s incredible narration, the audiobook is a entertaining, educational and fascinating experience.
My rating is 10 of 5 stars. Yes, it is that good.
Imagine walking into a museum and seeing a gorgeous medieval tapestry. The overall impact is overwhelming. Then you begin to notice the finer details. Strands of shining gold and silver catch your eye. You notice the less brilliant colors the silver and gold intertwined with. You begin to see patterns. You see how individual colors, whether vivid or muted, work together to create the whole work of art. I have just described The Gilded Cage by Vic James. It is a work of art.
I have read over 100 books this year, 2016, and The Gilded Cage is in the top 3. It is a finely crafted novel. It was released in February 2017 along with an audiobook version. I suggest you get both. I read 99% of books in electronic version due to a movement disorder. Gilded Cage and any sequels will be ordered in hardback. These I plan to give to my future grandchildren when they are old enough.
There are two main families in Gilded Cage. The Jardines , the “haves’, and the Hadleys, the “have nots”. It is what they have or not that makes this novel so unique. The Jardines have “Skill”. The Hadleys do not. Skill is the ability to use magic. This is not the learn the spells and potions of Harry Potter magic. This is the intuitive, instinctual, primal magic that flows from the individual’s soul. Not everyone can do the same things with Skill and not everyone has the same strength of Skill.
The universe Gilded Cage is set in has always had Skill as a part of it. The difference in England begins when King Charles the first (and last) is not overthrown by puritans. He is executed by a powerful Skill member of the aristocracy. A new system of government is set up. Parliament with only Skilled members. A few token Unskilled are allowed as observers. Other countries have different systems. In the States United of America, the Civil War was fought. The North has outlawed Skill while the South continues to follow the same system as Britain.
But the worse change is the years of slavery forced on the Unskilled. Each Unskilled man, woman, and child must serve ten consecutive years in slavedays to the Skilled. That slavedays can be in a factory area working six days a week, with barely enough food, and no rights. It can be served on the estate of one of the Skilled. It can be served when one is young or old or anytime in between but it must be served. Whether in slavedays or before or after, the Unskilled have no rights. They can be beaten, raped, killed and all with no consequence to the Skilled who did it or to the Unskilled who did it under the direction of a Skilled. This is the world which the Jardine and Hadleys cross paths.
The characters are very well developed. Abigail Hadley is strong young woman who forgoes medical school to enable her family to serve their slavedays together. She fights for her family. She works the system. She does what she needs to do without relying on anyone, let alone need a man to save her. Luke Hadley, Abigail's brother, is a sixteen year old, who in the way of all teens, somehow never thought his slavedays would really arrive. He must grow up quickly to survive.
The Skilled are not simple characters either. The Jardine family has its heir in Gavar, it’s mystery in youngest son Silyen and it’s total shame in middle son Jenner who is Unskilled. The premier Skilled family contains a son who may be the most powerful Skilled of all time and one of only two Unskilled ever born to Skilled parents. Each Skilled family has the head of the family and it’s heir sitting in Parliament. What each member of each Skill family has is an agenda all their own. One of my favorite parts is when one Skilled character remarks to another, “Your allies aren’t always who you think they are, Miss Matravers. And neither are your enemies.”
Avita Jay does a great job narrating the book. There are male and female voices. Voices from upper, middle and lower class. Voices that hold power and danger and voices that verge on voiceless because of their despair. Ms. Jay conveys all of this so very, very well. I hope she will be narrating the rest of the series because I know hear Abigail with her voice.
The novel has an ironic sense of humor. “Father was planning a debate. Silyen was planning a resurrection. And Gavar was planning a wedding. There was so much wrong with that, Gavar didn’t know where to start.” It is this wonderful combination of characters and themes surrounded by damn good writing that makes The Gilded Cage a must read. It is subtitled Dark Gifts #1 which means there is more to come. I cannot wait for Tarnished City to be released this fall.
Scandinavia: A History
Written by: Ewan Butler
Narrated by: Matthew Lloyd Davies
Length: 6 hrs and 25 mins
Publisher: HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
Ewan Butler’s Scandinavia: A History has all the drama, treachery, warfare and larger than life characters as The Game of Thrones. The thrones in Scandinavia involve Sweden, Norway and Finland with interference from Denmark on a regular basis. This was a fascinating book covering an area of the world that while not a superpower has none the less had an impact on the world at large.
The book is full of interesting tidbits like the word “Vikings” is derived “from the word “vik” which still means “creek” in all Scandinavian languages.” The Vikings longships that were so feared were engineered to be able to go into very shallow waters. This enable them to hide in creeks and wait for passing prey or to penetrate far inland in search of riches. “Norsemen” was applied to peoples from all three counties. These raiders left their names and genetics in vast territories like Normandy and Russia.
As the Viking age comes to a close, around the end of the first millennium, the Middle Ages of Scandinavia began producing better characters and drama than Shakespeare dreamed of. Denmark did her best to control all the lands within Scandinavia but was never able to hold on to its short term conquests. Sweden had a King with clear lines of succession. Norway had not rules for succession so each King’s death brought about great upheaval. Each nation's trials and coups created a domino effects on its neighbors.
The book continues down through history with story after story involving kings, coups, wars with Russia, France, and each other. Russian controlled Finland for over a hundred years. As the twentieth century arrived, Finland, Norway and Sweden each found their own identity through independence. The Scandinavian nations produced great composers, explorers, and diplomats.
Matthew Lloyd Davies is a very good narrator. He handles the many words in a vast range of languages without any problems. His voice is clear and all words are enunciated including the non-English ones. I found his voice pleasing to listen to.
Butler’s Scandinavia: A History is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to an area of the world whose rich history is only surpassed by its sumptuous landscape.
The House Between Tides A Novel
By Sarah Maine
Read by Justine Eyre
Courtesy of Audiobook Jukebox
The House Between Tides is a mystery and a love story. The love story is not just between two people, it is also between the author and Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The story also straddles two timelines. The one story follows artist Theo Blake who takes his new wife, Beatrice to his family home in Scotland, in the early 1900’s. The second story line follows Hetty Devereaux who inherited the house in 2010.
The author’s love for Scotland’s Outer Hebrides comes through very clearly in every chapter of the book. She describes landscapes, the sea, animals, birds, weather, and the people who make a life in the daunting environment. The descriptions were alluring enough that I did searches on the Outer Hebrides and some of the wildlife that was mentioned. I think it is the mark of a good author who inspires readers to continue to educate themselves about her subject.
Theo is a famous artist who marries Beatrice who is much younger than he is. After six months in Edinburgh, he takes her to his family’s ancestral home on the Outer Hebrides. Theo initially worries that the isolation and rural setting will make Beatrice unhappy. Quite the opposite happens. Beatrice loves the natural setting and the people of the area.
The Theo and Beatrice love story is more of a triangle that involves an employee of the estate, Cameron. Cameron loves Beatrice. Beatrice is married to Theo and was in love with him but fell in love with Cameron. Theo married Beatrice but has a strange intensity in his relationship with Cameron which only Theo knows the reasons why. Hot mess Edwardian style. The two storylines weave around each other as the book progresses. There will be one or two chapters of Beatrice and then switch to Hetty, then back to Beatrice again. It is well done. The plot points happening in Beatrice’s timeline eventually fill in the blanks in Hetty’s plot.
When Hetty inherited the house, her current boyfriend stepped in, decided she would renovate it to a B&B or sell it for a resort and hired property managers for her. Hetty had not even seen the property yet and her boyfriend had already decided its fate. That fact that Hetty just rolled over on this because it was easier did not bode well for our relationship. I am not an admirer of doormats and that is how Hetty comes across to me. The plan falls apart when Hetty visits the property and finds out that human remains have been discovered in the ruin of the house.
Justine Eyre is a fantastic narrator. This is not the first time I have listened to one of her works but it has reinforced how superb she truly is. Her male voices are distinct from her female without sounding odd. The accents of the locals are distinct from Beatrice or Theo’s educated voices. The language of the Edwardian timeline flows just as easily as the modern one. Ms. Eyre’s voice, whether in a character or her own narrating no dialogue parts, is a joy to listen to. She speaks clearly and has a wonderful voice. I would recommend her as a narrator for any work.
All in all The House Between Tides was an enjoyable listen. Easily half the credit goes to Justine Eyre. In the hands of a lesser talent I am not sure I would have stuck with the story. In itself, it was not compelling. Ms. Eyre’s narration is what drove me to keep listening. Authors should never forget the value of a narrator. They make or break your book, even a good book. The talent of a good or great narrator can elevate a book to a new excited level for the listener.
The Dead Zone
Written by: Stephen King
Narrated by: James Franco
Length: 16 hrs and 11 mins
Release Date: 04-25-17
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
I first read The Dead Zone when it was published in 1979. Still living at home at the time, my mother and i struggled over whose turn it was to read. It was, and 38 years later still is, a great book. The premise of a man who foresees the future with a touch was intriguing. It leads back to the the great “What if?”. What if you could travel back in time and kill Hitler before his rise to power? What if you had the knowledge of a future catastrophe and could do something to prevent it? Would you do it? Would you be Cassandra (see Greek myths)?
The Dead Zone starts in 1953 when a young Johnny Smith suffers a head injury while ice skating. After that injury Johnny has one premonition which comes true but he does not remember stating the prediction. The story moves forward to the 70’s, when Johnny is an adult and teaching high school. He is in love with a fellow teacher, Sarah. They go on to a fair where Johnny’s unknown precognition allows him to win several hundred dollars at a game of chance. After taking Sarah home, Johnny is in an accident and ends up in a coma for several years. When he wakes up, the world has moved on. Sarah is married. His parents are gone. And he now sees the future of people who he touches or touching their possessions.
Unfortunately Johnny is not seeing what is in the big wrapped present under Bob’s Christmas tree. Johnny is seeing emotional hot wires. He tries to come to terms with this curse and stay out of the public eye. After helping the police find a child murderer, he becomes controversial; is he real or a fraud? Another story line running parallel to Johnny’s is Greg Stilson. When first introduced, Greg is a bible salesman. Greg is also a deeply disturbed violent person.
When he and Johnny finally meet, Greg is campaigning for President of the United States. When Johnny shakes Greg’s hand he sees Greg initiating a nuclear war. Remember this was written when the Cold War was a daily concept in our lives. Mutual Assured Destruction was the doctrine that ruled the super powers, specifically the United States and the Soviet Union. What Johnny sees is no less than the destruction of the world and the onset of nuclear winter. Enter the “What if”?
Reading The Dead Zone when it was first published was different than now. Although the Cold War was still raging, the current President, Carter, and incoming President, Reagan, were professional, tested politicians. Listening to The Dead Zone now was terrifying in a very different way. “It can’t happen here” mentality no longer works in our present world. It is very easy to draw a comparison between the unstable Greg Stilson and the tantrum throwing 2017 version. If you have not read/listen to The Dead Zone or read it years ago, now is the time. There is a new layer of horror awaiting you.
James Franco narrates this new release of The Dead Zone. He recently received acclaim in the production of Stephen King’s 11/22/63, which I have not seen yet. As a narrator he is adequate. I cannot say I would seek out an audiobook based on it having him as narrator. He seemed to switch between performing and reading. For example, Part 1 Chapter 4 has Franco’s narrating included Sarah and Johnny’s parents. There is no change in the tone, pitch or accent in his voice. He basically just reads the words from the book. In Part 2 Chapter 2, Franco changes his accent for the neurologist. Other than that, I did not detect any differences in the characters speaking. As narrators go, I prefer the narrator either read the book or perform it, not switch back and forth between the two.
The Dead Zone is a fantastic book. It is more terrifying today than when Stephen King first conceived and created it so long ago. It is well worth listening to. While Franco’s narration does not elevate the experience, it does not hurt it. I recommend The Dead Zone as an audiobook just because it is so relevant in a totally terrifying way.
Note: I received a review copy from SimonandSchuster.com in exchange for an honest review.
Written by: Arkady Strugatsky , Boris Strugatsky , Olena Bormashenko (translator)
Narrated by: Robert Forster
Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
Publisher: Random House Audio
Roadside Picnic is a classic of science fiction. It is also a testimony to perseverance on the part of the authors who wrote under Soviet censorship. The forward by renown science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin is a fantastic explanation of how the book was received when first published in the 1970;s. The afterward by Boris Strugatsky details the fight to get the book published by the Soviet censors.
The premise of Roadside Picnic is that the earth has been visited by aliens. In six areas of the world, they have come and gone, leaving only their debris or garbage behind. Five of these areas are on land. By the end of the day of the visit, the Zones are declared off limits. Eventually world scientific organizations set up on the borders of the Zones and begin to study the visible and invisible. Some of the items in the Zone are powerful energy sources. Some of areas of intense gravity that crush men and vehicles flat. There are also organic life forms that cannot be studied because they kill all who get near them. Thirteen years later they are still being studied.
No one except scientist are allowed into the Zones. The trade in the black market for items smuggled out of the Zone is huge. The money to be made makes it worth the risk for these smugglers or "stalkers" to enter the Zone at night risking their lives. They are also risking more. Stalkers who frequently run the risk of the Zones find they have severe mutations in their children born after they begin venturing into the Zone. The book prefigured many of the issues surrounding the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
It really is an amazing book that really must be read. Or even better, listened to. Robert Forster does a great job narrating the book. Roadside Picnic, although written by two Russian brothers, takes place in Canada. Forster keeps his voice in somewhat of a neutral accent but he conveys the toughness of the main character, Red. Red's frustration with the problems of living with the Zone and the issues it causes comes through very well in the narration.
Roadside Picnic is a great book. It has all the tension of a thriller, all the science of a science fiction, all the character development of a great literary novel and it is an exciting audiobook. The Forward by Ms. Le Guin is really important to listen to before the book itself. It helps put the importance of the novel in the listeners mind as they hear the incredible story of Stalkers and the risks they take to provide for their families.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature
Written by: The Great Courses
Narrated by: Professor Pamela Bedore
Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
Series: Genre Fiction
Publisher: The Great Courses
I won a free Audible credit from the Audiobook Addicts facebook group. I chose The Great Courses title Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature. I have enjoyed many of the Great Courses before and the topic really appealed to me. Professor Bedore does a fantastic job of presenting the material while keeping it very interesting for the listener. The course has twenty-four lessons totalling over twelve hours.
The course begins with a discussion of what Utopian and Dystopian mean. The next lesson starts the discussion of the first Utopian work by Thomas More. There are several lessons covering the other Utopian writers such as Swift and H. G. Wells. The course then moves on to the Dystopias. It covers much more than Orwell's 1984. The breath of the course is really amazing. It covers The Hunger Games and the Apocalyptic works of this century. The final lesson is on the future of the two genres.
The accompandy course guide, in Adobe pdf format, is amazing. It is over two hundred and forty pages of information. Each lesson has an outline of what is covered and a Suggested Reading section as well as Questions to consider. The Bibliography at the end is incredible. It is going to populate my to read list for years to come.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature was a very enjoyable and educational audiobook. I would recommend it for anyone who reads Utopian or Dystopian genres.