Category Archives: Audiobook

Frightful Friday: Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is the audiobook production of Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry:

  • Listening Length: 16 hours and 3 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 25, 2014)
  • Source: Personal copy

*Note: This is a review of the sixth book in a series. Please proceed with caution if you have not read/listened to the previous books in this series*

 

Joe Ledger and the other members of the Echo Unit of the Department of Military Science (DMS) have had their share of interesting experiences. From battling the zombie plague to designer viruses, they’ve seen it all. Any remnants of these weapons have been stored in a remote and isolated location known as the Locker. Until now…

After other units of the DMS are decimated in attacks, the DMS is spread thin. Weapons they thought destroyed or locked up are appearing in public locations. Their new nemesis, Mother Night, has managed to break into the DMS’ impenetrable super computer system, Mindreader, gaining access to knowledge that shouldn’t be made available to the public. Even worse, she broadcasts a video of a rescue mission in which a team went in to put an end to a plague of zombies. The same plague the DMS thought they conquered and destroyed. Before doing so,  she dubbed over the sound to make it appear as though the individuals being shot upon are citizens begging for their lives.

This isn’t the first time the DMS has been under fire. The timing, however, couldn’t be worse. The must put an end to Mother Night and her league of rogue “soldiers” before she can unleash something more dark and devastating than before. In doing so, they realize that the individual responsible for their actions isn’t a stranger to the DMS. Her identity shatters the tough exterior of the DMS. Rather than weakening them, however, it makes them stronger, more dedicated and determined to put a stop to Mother Night.

Told in a series of flashbacks to the time Joe Ledger originally joined DMS, Maberry takes readers (or in my case, listeners) on a path through the history of the DMS and Ledger’s existing unit.

Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is one I rush to listen to as soon as it is released. Not only are they truly outstanding novels filled to the brim with action and less than natural enemies, but they contain truly outstanding characters that have grown tremendously since the culmination of the series. Joe Ledger, on the surface, is a mean, brusque, no-nonsense kind of guy.  Yet in the past several novels, Maberry has slowly unveiled a softer, more vulnerable side of Joe.  To me, this has created a more dynamic, more genuine character in Joe Ledger.

Fans of Maberry’s writing will appreciate the return of characters from the past (as well as one from another series). I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning and have to say, without a doubt, this is the best one yet.

As with the other titles in this series, I listened to the audiobook production of this title. I don’t see myself ever “reading” them.  That’s not to say that the writing doesn’t stand on its own, it genuinely does. Yet Ray Porter’s narration has captivated me. To me, he is the voice of Joe Ledger and the other cast of characters. He completes the package for me, his narration capturing the essence of Joe and the rest of the cast of characters.  I won’t say I wouldn’t enjoy reading the titles, it would just feel different, not complete. If you are new to this series, I highly recommend going with the audio.  Some of the best out there!

I know this goes without saying, but this, and other Ledger novels, come highly, highly recommended.

Other titles in the Joe Ledger series (in order):

Patient Zero
The Dragon Factory
The King of Plagues
Assassin’s Code
Extinction Machine

 

Audiobook Review: The Bear by Claire Cameron

  • Listening Length: 6 hours and 22 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio (February 11, 2014)

Five year old Anna is camping with her parents and three year old brother Alex (affectionately referred to as Stick) on a remote island. She is awakened to hear her mother yelling (“Momma never yells, except maybe twice”) and finds that the campsite is in shambles. Their father, in an effort to protect them, throws Anna and Alex into a cooler, ordering them to remain inside.  Anna, too young to contemplate what is happening, sees a big brown shape and believes it to be a big dog. The big dog is actually a bear and their campsite is under attack.

So begins this story of survival. Anna, a young child herself, is now not only responsible for her own survival but that of her  young brother as well.  Told from Anna’s point of view, the reader (or listener) gets a glimpse from the perspective of a five year old. Her innocence, her naivety, are at the same time endearing and heartbreaking.  She’s thrust into situations no five year old should ever have to experience, much less alone. Her attempts to care for her brother are admirable, finding berries to feed him, “chocolate milk” water from a puddle to quench his thirst, and leaves to clean him when he soils himself. Her knowledge for a child that age is quite admirable.

The problem with many books written to be told from the perspective of a child instead read like what an adult think that child’s perspective would be. That’s not the case with this novel. I honestly completely forgot that I was listening to a novel, written by an adult. Instead, I was instantly consumed by young Anna’s world. It felt as though I was sitting beside her, listening as she retold the tragedy that had befallen her family.

This leads me to the audio production of this book. One word: Outstanding. Honestly, I don’t think anyone else could have narrated it better than Cassandra Morris.  Her voice sounds young, perfect to voice the narration of a story told from the point of a young girl. She so beautifully captured Anna’s essence, her naivety and innocence.  I think it is her talented narration, combined with Cameron’s story, that made this audiobook stand out so much for me. I don’t know that I would have the same experience reading the print version of the book.  I don’t know that I would be able to create Anna’s voice in my  head the way it was intended. It would have been what I feared: An adult reading a story from the viewpoint of a young child.  It is for this reason that I encourage you…no implore you…to listen to the audio version of the novel if it strikes your fancy.

I originally planned for this review to be part of my Frightful Friday feature. Here’s a snippet of the publisher’s summary:

While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, three hundred pounds of fury, is attacking the family’s campsite — and pouncing on her parents as prey.

Sounds terrifying, right? Except it wasn’t. At least not to me, in the format of an audiobook. Yes, the scene in which she looses her parents is quite terrifying. Save for that particular scene, the rest of the novel is actually quite devoid of terror, actually sometimes rather comical exploration of survival, love, and family.  So…not necessarily the criteria for Frightful Friday.

This novel is based on an actual bear attack in the 1990s. The author, at the time, was a camp counselor nearby.  This novel is based on her memories and subsequent research on the attacks. She obviously fictionalized the account, adding the two children survivors when the actual bear attack had none. It’s obvious that the original bear attack hit close to home for Cameron, for her fictionalized version is full of passion and what I believe would be an honest understanding of how young children would respond to such an attack.

What stood out for me, beyond all that I have already summarized thus far (Anna’s ingenuity, her passion and determination to survive) was the Afterward. The reader/listener gets to see Anna and Stick as adults, just recently understanding what transpired on that island. Knowing that they are okay, that they survived not only the bear attack but growing up without parents, was so rewarding and fulfilling.

I could honestly go on and on about this novel. It is one that still lingers in my heart and soul. A story I will not soon forget. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher Mysteries) by Kerry Greenwood

  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Listening Length: 5 hours and 50 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd (August 29, 2010)

Phryne (pronounced Fry-knee) Fisher lives a life of wealth and luxury in 1920s England. Bored of this high-society life, she goes to Melbourne, Australia to help a family friend, Lydia Andrews. Lydia’s aristocratic parents are certain someone is trying to murder their daughter for her money and Phryne is determined to get to the bottom of it.  It doesn’t take her long to make herself at home in Melbourne, making arrangements to stay at the best of hotels, obtaining a luxurious wardrobe, hiring a woman’s maid…and becoming involved in tracking down illegal abortionist and putting an end to a cocaine ring.

In her investigations, Phryne is introduced to a whole host of lively and memorable characters including Dot, her assistant (whom she barely managed to stop from killing a wealthy young man out of revenge) and Bert and Cec, two partners in a cab driving company.  What makes this novel stand out to me is Phryne’s character. She’s smart, fearless, funny, and sexy, making for a truly compelling character given the time period.

This is my first sampling of this series, a book series that apparently the basis of a television series, the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries. Television series or not,
this is a highly addictive series that I plan on devouring as quickly as possible. I listened to the audio book production, narrated by Stephanie Daniel.  This is my first experience with Daniel’s narration and I believe she did an outstanding job, differentiating between characters from vastly different cultures with varying accents. I’m pleased to see that Daniel is the narrator for the remaining books in the series. I do plan on continuing this series in audio, versus print, as I enjoyed her narration so strongly.

If you are looking for a new mystery series, set in the 1920s with a strong, dynamic female lead, this is the series for you. Highly, highly recommended.

 

 

Audiobook Review: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Unabridged edition (April 10, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0061341045
  • Source: Personal copy

Twelve-year-old Stephanie is confused when, after her eccentric uncle passes away, she is on the list to attend the reading of the will. There, a stranger appears, a man bundled up in a scarf, coat, and hat.  He’s introduced as Skulduggery Pleasant, a close friend of her uncle. When it comes time for the reading of the will, Stephanie is shocked to learn she’s inherited her uncle’s home.

Stephanie is attacked her first night staying alone in her uncle’s home. It is Skulduggery Pleasant who comes to her rescue, but Stephanie sees him for what he truly is: a walking, talking skeleton detective. She quickly becomes immersed in a world of magic in which an evil creature by the name of Nefarian Serpine is attempting to get his hands on the Scepter of the Ancients, a weapon that will wield him limitlessness power.  Together, with Skulduggery, the unlikely duo must confront this ancient evil and prevent him from taking control over the world!

A few weeks ago, I put out a request on Twitter for audiobook recommendations. This series was one of the first recommendations I received.  I don’t listen to a lot of middle grade/young adult audio books so I was really looking forward to this adventure. And boy, was it an adventure! Skulduggery Pleasant encompasses so much that I feel is missing in middle grade books! A young, female protagonist who, despite her age, is quite strong and fearless. The addition of Skulduggery himself adds a sense of humor and wit that lightens a potentially dark plot line. A sci-fi/fantasy meets detective story! But what really stands out for me is the audio book production.  Not only is there an outstanding narrating performance by Rupert Degas, but each chapter leads with catchy (ok, and a little bit cheesy) music. It’s almost as if you are listening to a television series or a radio show.

Finally, while the cover looks a bit creepy, the tone of the book is actually not. I have both an eight and a fourteen year old and I think this would be appropriate for both!  I guarantee any fan of mystery or magic of any age will fall in love with this unlikely duo of evil fighting heroes!  I cannot wait to listen to the next book in this eight book series! Highly, highly recommended.

Mx3 Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Audiobook)

  • Listening Length: 18 hours and 35 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio, September 24, 2013
  • Source: Publisher

We’re all familiar with Danny Torrance, the young boy who, with his mother, barely survived a horrific experience at the Overlook Hotel.  Now an adult, Dan Torrance continues to fight the evil that haunts him. Despite promises to avoid becoming an alcoholic like his father, his past haunts him and he succumbs to alcohol. An experience after a drunken stupor causes Dan to hit bottom. He plants his roots in a New Hampshire town with an AA group that supports him and a job in a nursing home that allows him to use his “shining”power to give comfort to those who are passing on. His “talent” has earned him the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”

Dan is contacted by a twelve-year old girl named Abra. She, too, has the shining but it is far more powerful than his own.  She’s witnessed the brutal murder of a young boy who has the shining, his killers torturing him slowly to drain him of his power, his essence, his “steam.”  They are referred to as The True Knot, a tribe of people who travel the highways in a caravan of RVs.  Despite being quasi-immortal, the The True Knot have succumbed to the most horrific of human diseases. Getting enough steam to heal them is of utmost importance. Led by a terrifying woman with a top hat and one, long and horrifying tooth, The True Knot discover Abra and make it their mission to locate her and use her steam to heal their ill.  Together, Dan and Abra begin an epic battle of good versus evil to finally put an end to The True Knot and their deadly reign of terror.

As many of you know, I have been waiting for the release of Doctor Sleep since I was a teen and first read The Shining. When I received and advanced copy of the audiobook of Doctor Sleep for review, I was insane with excitement. Also, however, I was terrified. What if my expectations, my hopes, for this novel were not met.  What if the sequel I had built up in my mind for decades left me disappointed?

Well, reader, my expectations were exceeded. As a child, have you ever woken up on Christmas morning to find a gift that was far beyond anything you could have hoped or dreamed for? That feeling, that overwhelming excitement, is what I experienced in listening to Doctor Sleep.

I don’t dare to compare Doctor Sleep to The Shining. Stephen King was a completely different person when he wrote The Shining. A recovering alcoholic himself, he was battling his own incessant demons. Personally, I believe this is what gave The Shining the intensity and horror we have grown to love.  In writing Doctor Sleep, he has presented himself as a completely changed writer who, over the decades, has undergone a metamorphosis of unparalleled magnitude.  In Doctor Sleep, readers are reunited with characters from Dan’s past and, despite all his attempts to separate himself from what transpired at the Overlook Hotel, Dan is forced to face those demons he once attempted to bury. Dare I say that Doctor Sleep is a more mature version of King? That’s not to say he hasn’t always been a tremendously talented writer, but this most recent novel exemplifies just how much he has evolved over the years.

I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of the novel. I don’t want to give away anything other than the basic premise. For, like all of King’s books, reading them is an experience that is wholly individual, a trek that one must take alone without any preconceived notions or expectations. Just know that it will be an experience that will haunt you, in the best of ways, long after you finish. For me, personally, it was an experience that ranged from terror to delight. At one point (and you will know what this point is!) I nearly had a car accident while listening, a “revelation” nearly forcing me to rear-end the car in front of me. I went in with anticipation but, as the audiobook ended and Stephen King himself read the author’s note, I was left with a smile.

I listened to the audiobook production of this novel. This is only the second King novel I have experienced this way. Leading up to the release of Doctor Sleep I listened to the recording of The Shining.  Let me tell you, there is something about listening to King’s words read aloud that will send a chill down your spine, terrifying you (in the best of ways, of course.)  Doctor Sleep was narrated by Will Patton and, honestly, I can’t think of anyone (ok, maybe King himself) that could have done a better job. Patton’s voice exuded the terror and horror of this novel, but also picked up on the innocence of Abra herself.  He did a truly outstanding job, a production that will certainly top my favorites of all time.

I could continue to go on and on about how brilliant this novel is. To spare you, however, I will leave you with these final words: this is the novel I have been waiting for my entire life. It is a gift of immeasurable value and importance to me. It has forever sealed, in my mind, the proof that Stephen King is one of our country’s greatest authors of all time. Highly, highly (to infinity!) recommended!

Before I close, a bit of warning: If you haven’t read The Shining, your only experience with the Torrance family was by watching Stanley Kubrick’s film of the same title, I implore you, beg you, to read the novel first before diving in to Doctor Sleep. While Kubrick’s production was terrifying, it only captured a small essence of what Stephen King himself presented in the novel. To truly experience the genius that is The Shining, you must experience it through King’s writing itself. Any other experience pales in comparison.

2013MX3

Frightful Friday: World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.This week’s featured title is the audiobook production of World War Z by Max Brooks:

 

  • Audio CD
  • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • ISBN-10: 0804165734
  • Source: Personal copy

The Zombie War came frighteningly close to decimating mankind. In this documentary-style oral history, survivors (including men, women, and children) look back on the tumultuous time immediately following the outbreak. While sharing their experiences, it isn’t hard to grasp the social and political commentary that follows, how our nation responded to the “attack” and the aftermath. The interviewed include soldiers forced to fight a losing battle, individuals who were just children at the time, now adults reflecting on a horrific past.

While obviously a fictional piece of writing, one could easily take the Zombie War and replace it with any major military insurgence the United States has participated in. The results, the impact, are virtually the same. Lessons learned, inadvisable and rash decisions, are easily transferable.

The interviews are what make this novel truly impactful.  Granted, since there are so many victim statements it is hard to get connected to any character. It wasn’t Brooks’ intent for his readers to relate to any of the characters, but instead focus on the story they are sharing. The story, the memories, the testimony: that should be, and is, the focus of this truly outstanding audio book production. Unlike many other zombie novels, Brooks doesn’t try to explain how or why the zombies came to be, instead focusing on how their existence forever altered society as we know it.

This particular audiobook is an “update” to the original previously released five years ago.  The release of the World War Z motion picture inspired this update, including over five hours of additional content. The previous audio book was abridged, honestly a disappointment. While this update is technically an abridged version as well, to me, the parts removed are not noticeable. Honestly, I was incredibly impressed with the additional content, specifically the additional narrators.  These include New narrators include Martin Scorsese, Alfred Molina (Spiderman), Frank Darabont (the creator ofThe Walking Dead), Nathan Fillion many, many more.

While I haven’t seen the movie yet, I cannot even begin to contemplate how a novel (and audiobook) so brilliant could be transferred to the big screen.  Perhaps a mini-series, but definitely not a full-length film. Instead, I chose to stick to the original, the true brilliance of World War Z. This production definitely tops my list of best of the year. While there are still a few months in the year, it’s going to be hard to top this one. So, in my opinion, skip the movie and stick to the audiobook. Highly, highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book.

This week’s featured title is the audiobook production of The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper:

  • Listening Length: 9 hours and 15 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (March 5, 2013)
  • Source: Publisher

David Ullman is a professor at Columbia, known for his expertise in literature, particularly John Milton’s Paradise Lost. One day, he is approached by woman who offers him the opportunity to travel to Venice, Italy to give his professional opinion on a phenomenon. Indicating that his knowledge of demons makes him the perfect candidate for this request, she offers him a large sum of money to perform this task. David needs a change of pace; his wife has been having an affair with one of his peers and this opportunity would give David and his twelve-year-old daughter, Tess, an opportunity to spend some quality one-on-one time together.

Upon arriving in Venice, however, David realizes he is in over his head. The “phenomenon” he is asked to witness forces him to re-evaluate his skepticism regarding the existence of heaven and hell. Not even in the city more than a day, he informs Tess that they are leaving…immediately.  Before they are able to leave tragedy strikes, sending David on a dark battle with demons, both literal and figurative,  that have haunted him since childhood.

The Demonologist is a truly intense, intellectual examination of good versus evil. Centered around Milton’s Paradise Lost, Pyper takes readers on a journey using clues from this literary work that examines the very root of evil and how it manifests.  The journey David is forced to embark upon is long, dark and deadly, spanning continents and countries. The evil that taunts him has lain dormant for years, first manifesting when David was a child, patiently planning and plotting for the appropriate time to strike.

The reader (or in my case, the listener) follows David on this journey.  He starts out as a man who has withdrawn from his marriage, shadowed by an overwhelming sense of melancholy and despair.  Eventually, armed with a sheer determination to face this evil adversity head-on, David embarks upon a journey of self-awareness and self-actualization, truly transforming into a completely new, more optimistic individual.

I listened to the audiobook production of this novel. The narration of John Bedfrod Lloyd most definitely added to the dark and chilling tone. His deep voice had a cadence to it that sent chills down my spine. I’m not certain I would have had the same experience had I read the print version, for having such a terrifying book read aloud to you adds a completely new dimension to the horror.

A must-read (or listen!) for any fan of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as fans of literary horror. Highly, highly recommended.

 

 

Celebrating June is Audiobook Month! Going Public…In Shorts with Dick Hill

June is audiobook month! This year, I’m participating in something really exciting: Going Public…In Shorts, a serialized audio story production!

Spoken Freely, a group of 30+ professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) 2013 by offering a serialized audio story collection: Going Public…in Shorts. Each narrator has recorded a short piece from the public domain, including the work of Chekhov, Twain, Chopin, Poe, Lovecraft, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Wilde and many others, even Lincoln’s pivotal Second Inaugural Address. All proceeds will go to the Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization.

Throughout June, 1-2 stories will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. Each participating narrator will be hosted by a different blog. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, stories will be available to listen to for free, for one week (online only – no downloads).

 

You can imagine my excitement upon signing up to join in on this fantastic project.  This excitement only grew when I discovered one of my favorite narrators, Dick Hill, had signed on as well. Partnering with Dick has been a true honor.  He narrates Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, one of the very best thriller series out there.

Rather than interviewing Dick, I asked him instead to contribute a guest post about what he does, as a narrator, to get into the role of the character he is narrating. Without further ado, I give you Dick Hill!!

Photo credit: audiobookstand.com

The truth is, Jenn, not a helluva’ lot.  I’m a fly by the seat of your pants kinda’ guy.  Always have been.  I delight in doing cold reads, and with my wife Susie Breck engineering and directing, I’m able to do those safely.  Susie has won a number of awards, among them an AUDIE, for her own work recording books, and I trust her to keep me from going too far astray.  She preps our books, makes character notes that she gives me to work from.  Age, personality traits, education, accents, etc.   Unless we’re doing a military thriller, I don’t look at the script before recording.  With military books, I’ll skim through, marking dialogue to i.d. characters (often these books have groups of characters engaged in dialogue, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, POTUS, and a dozen others sitting around some table discussing some crisis)  Military jargon is something I’m more familiar with than she is.  

A typical book however, would have Susie handing me one or more lined yellow pages, listing main and secondary characters, with notes about their appearance or general attitude, etc.  I work with that info as a guide, assigning voices as we proceed.  Having read the book, Susie can keep me out of trouble if I choose a voice and approach that will get me in trouble.  Giving someone a nasal tenor voice when on page three hundred umpty seven it’s revealed that he was a rumbly bass, who sounds as if he gargles with ground glass.  That sorta’ thing.

With a character like Jack Reacher, we’ve been together so many times that it is very comfortable and natural to assume the role, but then it was an easy fit from the start, thanks to Lee’s writing.  I think the brunt of the work is done by the author.  Someone as skilled as Lee Child does a terrific job laying out specifics of behavior and persona for his main character.  He also has a very definite rhythm to Reacher’s dialogue that’s remained consistent through the entire series.  All I do is read, tell the story, the best way I can.  I can’t really explain how I arrive at all the decisions I make beyond that.  In fact, I don’t really want to examine my process, if indeed I even have one.  I’ve been getting away with it for a long time, and I don’t want to rock the boat by intellectualizing whatever it is that happens.  

Supporting characters are handled pretty much the same way.  Sometimes a person I know, or a character I’ve seen portrayed onstage or on t.v. or in a movie, will come to mind to guide my choices.  Then I don’t try to exactly mimic that character, but I’ll do my impression of my memory.  It may not seem or sound anything like the character that inspired my take, but in keeping that imagined performance in mind, my offering will at least have a measure of consistency.  (e.g., any book with a sub commander may feature my imagined version as played by Fred Thompson.  More attitude than vocal impression, though there’s a nod to his patterns and inflections.  Similarly, officious martinets may have me keeping in mind William Daniels, and wise, solid, salt of the earth characters will reflect my late father-in-law. ) 

I can’t speak to anyone else’s process, (hard enough to speak to my own) but I think most narrators prefer to work with the script more than I do, reading and perhaps studying it before stepping into the booth.  I love the challenge of cold reads, and perhaps there’s something gained by the sense of immediacy and discovery the approach engenders.  Then again, maybe not.  As I stated above, I try not to examine my process too closely.  I’ve gotten away with what I do for a good long while, and I hope to continue doing so.  I also hope I’ve given some kind of glimpse into how it comes about for me.  Hope it makes sense to you.  I think I’ve laid out, as best I could, the way it comes together.  Then again, I may be fulla’ shit.  Often am.

Learn more about Dick Hill and his contribution to Going Public…In Shorts! Finally, click below to listen to Dick’s contribution to the project: narration of Mark Twain’s Two Illuminating Stories: The Story of The Bad Little Boy, and The Story of the Good Little Boy

Two Illuminating Stories from Mark Twain (read by Dick Hill) by Going Public Project

Be sure to check out Paul Michael Garcia’s visit today at SFFAudio! Also, in case you missed it, Gabrielle de Cuir visited Teresa’s Reading Corner yesterday! Tomorrow, check out Devourer of Books for a new short!

Frightful Friday: Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

The featured title this week is audiobook production of Jonathan Maberry’s Extinction Machine:

  • Listening Length: 14 hours and 58 minutes
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Release Date: March 26, 2013
  • Source: Personal copy

*Note: this book is the fifth in a series. Reading this review, I assume you have read/listened to the other books in the series*

When the President of the United States disappears from the White House, the only evidence left behind includes a crop circle on the front lawn, the Department of Military Science (DMS) is called upon to investigate. Unfortunately with the President missing, Joe Ledger and his team are under the harsh criticism of the Vice President, now assuming the role of Commander in Chief in the President’s absence. Still obsessed with destroying the DMS, he begins an investigation into Ledger’s past, desperate to bring him and the rest of the team down. Meanwhile, during a test flight, a top-secret prototype stealth fighter is destroyed by a craft that immediately fled at impossible speed.

Despite everything that is transpiring around them, Ledger and the Echo team must focus on rescuing the President. His “ransom” is a mysterious “black book” that contains very detailed information on alien technology. Something unworldly is definitely amiss and, using their cunning and creative investigation and recovery skills, the Echo team is once again responsible for the safety and future of a nation.

Admittedly, when I heard Maberry was taking a stab at aliens I was a bit hesitant. Never a fan of UFO stories involving little green men, I was worried that one of my favorite authors was crossing a line I would not be able to follow.  I don’t know how I doubted Maberry’s talent because Extinction Machine may very well end up being my favorite in the Joe Ledger series.  As with nearly everything he writes, Maberry adds a completely unique interpretation of aliens and alien hybrids that left me completely entranced. Not even adding a love story (yep!) diminished my love and adoration of this novel.

What I particularly liked about the Extinction Machine was that it showed a deeper, more emotional side to Joe, the Echo Team, and Church himself. In this novel, we see them at their darkest and most vulnerable. It shouldn’t surprise any fan of this series that the team rises above the devastation, guns blazing, taking no excuses.

I listened to the audiobook production of this novel. What can I say? Ray Porter is outstanding always.I have listened to every single Joe Ledger title and can’t imagine reading the print at the risk of missing out on one of the best narrators I have ever experienced. Ray Porter is Joe Ledger, at least in my mind.  He picks up on the emotional cadence of the characters and is expertly able to vacillate through the multitude emotions of the characters.

All in all, Extinction Machine is a tremendous addition to an already outstanding series. It is by far one of my favorite series, particularly in audio, and one I find recommending quite frequently. Fans of science fiction, paranormal, military, and more will be handsomely rewarded if they opt to join in on this adventure. Highly, highly recommended.

Audiobook Review: The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer

  • Listening Length: 14 hours and 3 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • Release Date: January 15, 2013
  • Source:Personal copy

Throughout our country’s history, there have been over two dozen Presidential assassination attempts; only four have been successful. Now, an killer is attempting to recreate these assassination attempts.  Authorities believe that four lone individuals are responsible for these historic attempts yet Beecher White, an archivist with the National Archives, believes differently. A member of The Culper Ring, a secretive group originally created by George Washington to maintain the safety and stability of the union, Beecher learns that the four assassins (John Wilkes Booth, Charles Julius Guiteau, Leon Frank Czolgosz, and Lee Harvey Oswald) were in fact part of The Knights of the Golden Circle and, over the last century, worked together to bring down the President of the United States.

It is the grotesque deaths of a number of religious leaders in Washington, D.C. that brings Beecher’s attention to The Knights of the Golden Circle. Each of the individuals killed are done so in a method reminiscent of the presidential assassinations. Their actions all lead up to an assassination attempt on the current President of the United States, Orson Wallace. The fifth assassin, the Knight chosen to take out the current President, must be stopped at all costs, only Beecher White has the information to stop him.

Let me start off by saying I am a long time fan(atic) of Brad Meltzer, not only of his writing (including comic books!) but television shows as well. He is brilliant, providing readers (and viewers) a unique glimpse of something from history, forcing us to take a step back and reexamine everything we’ve believed or have been taught over the years.  He successfully does the same with The Fifth Assassin.  He does so with a tremendous amount of research, including interviews with previous Presidents. What makes Meltzer’s books stand out among others like him include this actual, verifiable research and a stellar cast of supporting characters.  Also, his brilliance is obvious but he isn’t cocky about it at all, instead simply wanting readers to look at history through a new set of lenses. Finally, fans of Meltzer’s previous novels like Inner Circle will be pleased to see the return of many of his famous characters.

While there are aspects of this story that may seem a bit far-fetched, I truly do not think this detracts from the overall appeal of this novel. Meltzer’s insane amount of historical factoids will draw in any fan of thrillers or history. It’s obvious that Meltzer knows his stuff, and this knowledge and confidence is the secret to his success as a writer, what continues to bring in readers book after book.

I listened to the audiobook production of this novel, as I have with all of Meltzer’s novels. Scott Brick has narrated each and everyone of them, and for good reason. Brick is a vocal genius, truly capturing the intensity and overall feel of the novel. Additionally, he captures the voices of each of the characters so precisely, producing unique voices for each of them, nearly making the listener forget that there is only one narrator. It’s no secret that I’m a long time fan of Scott Brick (actually discovering him via Brad Meltzer) and this is all due to his truly expert narration of nearly every and anything he reads.

I had the pleasure of meeting both Scott and Brad at Book Expo America a few years ago (and have since had the opportunity to hear them both speak again since). It was truly a dream come true: two men who I truly admire and for whom I hold a great deal of respect.

I could truly go on and on about his novel (and the narration!) but let me end with this: even if you are not a history buff, take a listen (or read) of any of Meltzer’s novels. I guarantee he will draw you in, causing you to rethink our nation’s history. Highly, highly recommended.