Category Archives: Hachette Audio

Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (Audiobook)

  • Series: A Cormoran Strike Novel
  • Listening Length: 17 hours and 22 minutes
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio (June 19, 2014)
  • Source: Publisher

Known for frequently disappearing for days on end, this isn’t the first time author Owen Quine has gone missing. Knowing the police will do nothing to help her, Mrs. Quine calls on private detective Cormoran Strike to find her husband. As the days pass and still no clue as to Quine’s whereabouts, Strike is concerned there is more to his disappearance than Quine’s wife believes. Quine has recently submitted a manuscript for a novel that portrays many of his acquaintances in a less than desirable light.  If this novel was to be published it would ruin lives and cause a public uproar.  With this information, Strike believes there are more than a few people who would be interested in silencing Quine.

Stakes are immediately raised once Quine is found, brutally murdered. When the details of his murder replicate those of a murder within his manuscript, anyone who had access to the manuscript is at the top of Strike’s suspect list. Unfortunately, the local police are convinced his killer is closer to home and rejects any additional information Strike provides them.  Strike methodically evaluates all the evidence he has obtained, slowly eliminating the suspect list until he’s left with one brutal killer.

I can’t rave enough about this series. By now, we all realize that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. You know what? It doesn’t matter at all to me, for in no way does it influence my decision to devour this series or not.  Frankly, there are hints or suggestions that the two individuals are one in the same so I actually pretend that they are, in fact, two separate people.

There are so many things to appreciate and enjoy about this series and this novel in particular. Cormoran Strike has quite a bit of history. Injured in battle, he now wears a prosthesis on one of his legs. He’s a rough, brusque kind of guy but his sensitivity does shine through on occasion.  He is a renowned private investigator, thanks to his parentage and the case he solved in the first book in this series, A Cuckoo’s Calling.

His assistant, Robin, is another character I genuinely adore. Hired to do secretarial work, she now wants to assume more responsibilities and work alongside Strike on their investigations.  She’s toughed up, ready to show Strike she can handle the additional stress (and danger) involved in working a case.

Typically, I tend to figure out a culprit early on in. In this case, however, I was genuinely surprised when the killer’s death was revealed. This is a sign of a well developed thriller!

I listened to the audio production of this title. The narrator, Robert Glenister, is truly talented, able to carry out the brusque and rough tone of Strike just as well as the secondary female characters. This time around, the voice effects required were a bit more challenging yet Glenister tackled it with the ease of an expert!

While it isn’t necessary to read A Cuckoo’s Calling in order to appreciate The Silkworm, I do highly recommend starting from the beginning. A Cuckoo’s Calling provided quite a bit of history and development of Strike’s character.  While there is a bit of back story provided in the early pages of The Silkworm, I don’t feel readers get a full, detailed representation of his character.

Ultimately, it’s quite easy for me to recommend this title to readers of all types, not just thrillers alone. I do highly recommend the audio if that is your kind of thing. It was honestly a delightful listen, an experience I genuinely savored. Highly, highly recommended.

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.

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.

Frightful Friday: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

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 book is 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad:

  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 43 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • Release Date: April 17, 2012
  • Source: Publisher

It’s been four decades since the last manned space shuttle explored the moon. NASA, desperate for funding, creates a massive international contest in which teenagers can enter to win a week-long trip to the moon base DARLAH 2. No one but top NASA insiders are aware this moon base exists.  The three winners-Antoine, Midori, and Mia-have no real interest in space travel and are shocked to learn they won the contest.

Before heading to NASA for training, each of the winners witness strange experiences meant to deter them from their journey. This is unknown to each of them and they proceed with the mission as planned. Little do they know there was a reason NASA hasn’t embarked on a mission to the moon…a dark and deadly reason.

After two months of training, the mission begins. It’s not long before they touch down on the moon that everything starts going wrong: computer malfunctions, sightings of mysterious individuals…and death. Soon, the crew has been nearly depleted and it is up to the surviving teens to find a way to get back to Earth.

172 Hours on the Moon is a completely engrossing and intense read. Quite frankly, I was surprised I haven’t heard much about this book. The premise is completely unique and original. By far one of my most favorite things about this book was the character development. Harstad devoted nearly a third of the book to building up the characters. A great deal is learned about Antoine, Midori and Mia before their feet even touch down on the Moon. The pacing of the novel follows this progression, starting out slow with the development of the characters and dramatically intensifying as soon as the mission begins. And the ending!? Wow…I was floored, never anticipating it!

I listened to the audiobook production of this novel. The narrator, Casey Holloway, does outstanding job of portraying the teen voice of each of the main characters, each from different nations and with different accents. I found myself forgetting there was just one narrator for her range of accents was so profound and distinct.

While I am happy that I listened to the audiobook, I am sorry I missed out on the photos and illustrations that apparently grace the print version. That said, I’m making it my mission (pun intended!) to get my hands on a copy!

Bottom line: 172 Hours on the Moon is a completely thrilling, chilling and frankly, terrifying novel. It will most certainly be making an appearance on my favorites list this year!

Frightful Friday Audiobook Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

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 book is I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga:

 

  • Listening Length: 9 hours and 32 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • Source: Personal copy

Jazz isn’t your typical teenager. His father, Billy Dent, just happens to be an incarcerated serial killer, one of the most prolific killers of modern times. As a child, Jazz was immersed in his father’s sick obsession so now as a young adult, he’s desperate to prevent himself from becoming the man his father wants him to be. Every little urge has Jazz wondering if this is how his father started out, if they are the early warning signs of his evolution into a sociopath.

In an attempt to right his father’s wrongs, and perhaps ease his conscience a little, Jazz helps his small time police force hunt down a new serial killer called the Impressionist. Using the expertise he gained from his father, Jazz soon realizes that the Impressionist is mimicking his father’s killing career. Luckily, Jazz is so familiar with each of his father’s victims that he is able to predict the Impressionist’s next steps. Will it be soon enough?

When I first learned about the premise of this book, I thought it was going to be a horrible take on the Dexter series. I was prepared to be let down; luckily, in this case, I was proven quite wrong. Lyga provides readers a truly chilling psychological thriller. The knowledge Jazz has about his father’s victims is so terrifying, it amazes me that this character is as “normal” as he appears to be. Growing up with a father telling you that cutting human flesh is just like cutting chicken would be enough to forever damage your average youth. Not Jazz, however. He’s dead set against becoming the man his father, and the local small town citizens, believe he is fated to be.

The secondary characters are quite rich. First, we have Connie, Jazz’s girlfriend. She’s safe…mainly because she is African American and statistics prove that they are rarely the victims of serial killers. Then there is his best friend and hemophiliac, Howie, a kid who bruises if you look at him wrong. A truly eclectic slate of characters that add a bit of comedy to potentially very dark novel. Given that this is a book about a serial killer, it’s pretty obvious that there will be some pretty gruesome scenes but it’s nothing too excessive or graphic.

I listened to the audio production of this book, narrated by Charlie Thurston. This is my first experience with this narrator and I hope it won’t be my last. He captures Jazz’s character, his anguish and pain and frustration, perfectly. He truly does a stellar job at narrating, making me forget that I’m actually not listening to the voice of a young man.

Bottom line: I Hunt Killers is a truly amazing and gratifying novel. I’m hoping it’s the start of a new series because I’m hooked!

Frightful Friday: The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi

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 book is actually an audio book, The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi.

 

  • Listening Length: 13 hours and 43 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • Source: Publisher

In a clearing in the woods, a brutal burial ground is found. Within it are six arms belonging to young girls. Their identities unknown, the rest of the remains missing.
Leading the investigation are profiler Mila Vasquez and criminologist Goran Gavila. Eventually the bodies start to be revealed, found near the sites of horrendous crimes yet discovered by the authorities. Five of them are the bodies of girls previously reported as missing, the sixth is a mystery. The team quickly has in their custody a suspect, although he doesn’t seem to have ties to any of the victims other than the first. It’s not long before they discover that their original suspect is just a pawn in the case and that another truly evil individual is running free. He always seems to be ahead of them, playing a sick game of cat and mouse with the team. They are running out of time, the sixth girl could potentially still be alive.

Mila and Goran come to this case with their own baggage. Mila, well known for her ability to find lost and abducted children, has a dark past quite similar to the victims. She isn’t part of the original investigative team, she comes in on loan from another county. She’s an outside, finding it hard to fit in with the other members of the team. She’s not your usual individual and tries very hard to hide her femininity, wanting to remain invisible in a crowd. Goran is a single father, raising his young son on his own after his wife abandoned them.

Interspersed throughout the novel is correspondence from a prison director about an inmate, only known by his inmate number. The prison is unable to determined his identity, for this inmate cleans up after himself quite well, leaving no trace of fingerprints or DNA in his cell. They are certain he has committed a crime so serious that he will stop at nothing to prevent his identity from being revealed. Unfortunately, the crime that put him in the prison isn’t severe enough to keep him for an extended period of time and his release is imminent. The reader can’t help but wonder what, if anything, ties this individual to the case at hand.

Carrisi has created a truly chilling psychological thriller in The Whisperer, a serial killer that others have compared to the character of Hannibal Lecter. I would have to agree. But what really sets this book apart from the others is that it really makes you think, taking you on a dizzying ride of unexpected twists and turns. The characters, themselves immersed in darkness, really add to the overall feeling of depravity and desperation that flows throughout the book.

I listened to the audio book production of this novel. The voice of the narrator, Carol Monda, adds to the chilling tone of the book. She is, without a doubt, the perfect narrator for a book of this style of book. Her vocal talent has impressed me so much that I find myself looking for books she has narrated.

The Whisperer is an international bestseller, likened to the work of Stieg Larsson. I’ll dare to take that a step further and state that Carrisi’s work exceeds that of Larsson. Highly, highly recommended.