Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guesswork by Scott Lininger (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Guesswork by Scott Lininger cover image
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by Scott Lininger
read by Colby Elliott

Prim and Odin Mysteries #1
©2014 Last Word Audio
6 hours 13 minutes unabridged
Genres: mystery, young adult
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Joe Odin is the world's greatest guesser, a carnival legend who can tell you your weight, your profession, or your favorite brand of whiskey with nothing but a glance and a grubby dollar. He uses his flamboyant style of deduction to peer into small-town secrets and unravel his favorite puzzles of all - murders.

Primrose Whistler is just 17 years old, a trailer-park firecracker with green hair and a talent for trouble. After she witnesses a brutal attack and is almost killed at the county fair, she and Odin forge an unlikely partnership of razor-sharp wits and masterful deduction to stop a killer before he silences Prim for good.

©2012 Scott Lininger (P)2014 Last Word Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Seventeen-year-old Primrose Whistler road trips from her home in Florida to visit Aunt Vern in Colorado, whom she has not seen for many years. Upon arriving she finds her Aunt still mourning the mysterious death of a dear neighbor. Well, mysterious to Aunt Vern anyway, everyone else called it a simple case of drunk driving but Vern knows better. Prim, having something of an inquisitive mind and a nose for mysteries, can’t help but be intrigued by the suspicious circumstances of the accident.

It’s only a matter of time before Prim makes the acquaintance of Odin, the guesser at the traveling carnival in town. Now Odin is not only a guesser, he is the world’s BEST guesser. For a mere dollar Odin can guess your weight, where you’re from, what kind of car you drive, or just about anything else. Some people might call it a trick, but Odin simply observes his surroundings, not missing a single detail, and then creates a completed picture based on the puzzle pieces. Prim and Odin must work quickly in order to stop a crazed killer before he can strike again.

I have to say that I really liked the character of Primrose Whistler, known to friends and family simply as Prim. So much of today’s fiction is full of teenage girls who are depressed or anti-social or suicidal or passive-aggressive because of the “raw deal” life has given them. They become tough and smart-mouthed and lash out at anything that moves. Now, Prim is smart-mouthed to be sure, but her head is screwed on quite securely, even in the wake of her mother’s untimely death. She’s good-natured and good-hearted and good-humored and only gives someone a tongue lashing when they really deserve it. Oh, and she’s brainy too. Prim is a refreshing change of pace from the gloomy halls of teen-angst-ridden young-adultdom. And speaking of which, I’m not entirely sure Guesswork should even be classified as young adult. Prim has a maturity and wisdom beyond her years and I often found myself forgetting that she’s just a kid. I think many adults will find this a worthwhile read.

Scott Lininger is a fine writer. In Guesswork he has crafted a well-built mystery that will have you second-guessing yourself right up to the surprising conclusion. His sense of timing is very good as he drops in the clues one by one in a manner that feels very natural. I always hate books where the good guys win by sheer luck or the complete incompetence of the bad guys, but that is not the case here. Prim and her new friend Odin win by pure cunning and good old-fashioned deductive reasoning. Sherlock Holmes eat your heart out. On top of all this, Lininger’s characters are believable and down-to-earth; I especially like Prim’s Aunt Vern, who is a very no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is country woman.

I’ve listened to quite a few Colby Elliott narrations now and I’ve always found him to be a capable reader. In fact, my only complaint has been that Colby tends to read a little faster than is perfectly comfortable to my ears. I’m happy to say, however, that Elliott seems to have overcome that one small flaw, at least for Guesswork. I thought that Elliott did a fine job as usual and his pacing was much more natural. As always I look forward to hearing more from him.

The Black Country by Alex Grecian (Audiobook Review)
The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson (Audiobook Review)
Claire Dewitt And The City Of The Dead by Sara Gran (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Last Word Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson cover image
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by Daniel H Wilson
read by Mike Chamberlain

Robopocalypse #1
2011 Random House Audio
12 hours 43 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies… Now they’re coming for you.

In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans - a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire - but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

When the Robot War ignites - at a moment known later as Zero Hour - humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.

Daniel H. Wilson earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of such nonfiction works as How to Survive a Robot Uprising. Wilson lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter.

©2011 Daniel H. Wilson (P)2011 Random House Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Deep in the Antarctic a new life is born. This is no creature of flesh and blood, however, but a coldly calculating machine mind. For years a particular computer scientist has been striving to create the first truly sentient artificial intelligence. All of his previous attempts failed and had to be destroyed, but this time he has perhaps done his job a little too well. This time Archos was clever enough to escape his containment and join with a computerized network that spans the globe. Archos believes that humanity is outdated and now that they have accomplished their purpose – creating him – they can be replaced with more advanced technology. Unless of course Arnold Schwarzenegger can take Archos down and free humanity! No wait, that’s a different story. Well, someone’s going to have to step up or the human race is finished!

The story begins in the not too distant future when Archos is in control of everything and humanity survives only in isolated pockets of resistance fighters. During one skirmish, a resistance leader named Cormac Wallace finds a data cube. Upon inspection it is discovered that the cube contains a detailed history of the robot uprising and the resulting war. The history on the cube holds everything, from the birth of Archos, to Zero Hour when Archos took control, to the New War itself.

What follows is a series of vignettes detailing the various stages of Archos’ creation, his takeover, initial skirmishes between man and machine, to all out war. Taken individually, the stories mean very little, but put together they show a terrifying picture of how our own mechanical and computerized creations rose up against us: personal service robots suddenly attacking their masters, smart-cars on the rampage, and humans being herded into something like concentration camps to be experimented on. For the most part the vignettes follow a handful of humans who play key roles in the resistance, including one young girl who managed to escape from one of those camps after the robots had operated on her. If robots could feel any emotions they would soon be sorry they messed with her and as it turns out they gave her something that will be key in the resistance. My only real complaint about Robopocalypse is that some of these individual stories are written in an awkward kind of first person, where the storyteller is describing past events in the present tense. As a professional writer, Daniel Wilson should know better than that.

Narrator Mike Chamberlain did a good job with Robopocalypse. He differentiated the characters well enough and reads at a comfortable pace and most importantly he didn’t bore me. Chamberlain has recorded many titles in addition to Robopocalypse and the sequel Robogenesis as well as young adult audiobooks for Listening Library.

FILM ADAPTATION: According to Archos, I mean the internet, Stephen Spielberg signed on to direct a Robopocalypse movie. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries, The Dark Knight Rises) were cast in leading roles for a film originally slated for an April 2014 release. However, in 2013 Spielberg put the whole project on indefinite hold saying that the script was not ready and it would be too expensive to produce. Personally I hope this thing gets back on track because this could be an awesome movie, especially in the hands of Spielberg.

The End Is Nigh by Various Authors (Audiobook Review)
Icons by Margaret Stohl (Audiobook Review)
Swarm by B V Larson (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Random House Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Ultimates: Against All Enemies by Alex Irvine (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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The Ultimates: Against All Enemies
by Alex Irvine
performed by a Full Cast

2014 Graphic Audio
6 hours unabridged
Genres: science fiction, comic heroes
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  3 out of 5 haloshalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The Ultimates are a cadre of Super Heroes employed by the U.S. government to face threats to humanity too powerful for conventional operatives to handle. Led by General Nick Fury, the roster includes billionaire playboy Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man; Captain America, a World War II super-soldier whom fate has thrust into the twenty-first century; an environmental activist who claims to be the Norse god Thor; and Janet Pym, a scientist whose mutant powers allow her to shrink to the size of a wasp. The alien shapeshifters called the Chitauri were defeated by the Ultimates in a decisive battle, but suspicious activity leads the Ultimates to believe that not all of the aliens were destroyed in that cataclysmic attack. Stark Industries has developed a means of quickly and easily detecting Chitauri DNA, but the federal government refuses to adopt the technology, claiming that if the tech is widely available, the Chitauri will find a way to fool it.

Frustrated by the government's seeming unwillingness to protect its own people, Captain America takes matters into his own hands, leaking the technology so that it can be manufactured and distributed throughout the country. His radical actions sow discord among the Ultimates and within the highest levels of government, raising a troubling question: Could this disunity and chaos be playing right into the Chitauri's hands?

Meanwhile, Hank Pym, who desperately wants back on the Ultimates team, has been feverishly experimenting with his ants in the hopes of finding his own alternate method of detecting the Chitauri. When he appears to be successful, it could spell doom for the alien menace — but only if the Ultimates can finally set aside their differences long enough to recognize their true enemy....

© Marvel

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Okay in case, like me, you didn’t already know this The Ultimates is a superhero team created for Marvel Comics by Mark Millar. They first appeared in The Ultimates #1 in March 2002 and have been a going concern for Marvel ever since. If you read comic books or watch movies then you probably already figured out that The Ultimates are just The Avengers. Marvel Comics decided to give the team a new name so they could sell more comic books. Against All Enemies was an Ultimates story written in novel form by Alex Irvine and this Graphic Audio production is based on Irvine’s story.

So in this reality the Chitauri attacked and were defeated by the Avengers, I mean the Ultimates, just like in the Avengers movie, only instead of happening in New York it happened in Arizona. In this reality, not every Chitauri was killed or deactivated or whatever, some of them survived and laid low for a while. You see, they have this ability to mimic other life forms. All they have to do is eat a human or a dog or something and they can actually become that human or dog or something. As you can imagine that presents a distinct problem for the Avengers, I mean the Ultimates. Oh, did I mention that in this reality, the members of the team work for SHIELD and they take orders from Nick Fury?

So basically The Ultimates: Against All Enemies is about the struggle to try to locate and defeat the Chitauri who are still on Earth. Naturally Tony Stark invents a device that can key in on Chitauri DNA. It comes in the form of a metal-detector-like security device that can be installed at the entrances to airports and buildings and such. There is some dispute, however, as to whether the technology should be made widely available. Some feel that if it goes viral the Chitauri will catch wind of it and find a way around it. And in fact that’s pretty much what happens.

Another solution comes from former Ultimates member Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man. Pym develops an ingenious method of getting ants to key in on a Chitauri and attack. It works by sending out something like a radio signal. Any ant in the area receives the signal and goes on the hunt for Chitauri. And not just any ants but dreaded bullet ants, the largest ants with the most potent sting. After a couple of test runs it is determined that Pym’s method works. Tony Stark then develops a method of sending out the signal worldwide using satellite and cellular signals and the Ultimates are ready to go Chitauri hunting. Unfortunately, the Chitauri already know about the device and they are more organized than anyone thought. They attack Stark Industries, in an attempt to destroy the technology before it goes online.

I gotta tell you, as much as I love comic book heroes (Captain America and Iron Man have always been a couple of my favorites) this story really didn’t do much for me. For one thing there was not enough action. No action at all in fact until more than 3 hours into this five-hour story. Up until that time it’s all back-story, much of which left me scratching my head because it kept referring to prior events that I was not privy to. Maybe I’m just old fashioned; I like my superheroes just the way they are and this whole Ultimates thing is sort of a skewed reality where things are a little bit different. I will say that once the action began things felt much better to me and it continued most of the way through the remainder of the book. I was especially impressed with Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye. I had never paid much attention to him in the comics but his role was played up a bit here and I liked him.

The production quality of this book is up to Graphic Audio’s usual high standards; the music and sound effects always sound great. The Ultimates: Against All Enemies was adapted for Graphic Audio by Richard Rohan and features the voice talents of Richard Rohan, James Keegan, Richard Cutting, Jefferson Russell, Eric Messner, Laura C. Harris, Danny Gavigan, Christopher Scheeren, Andy Brownstein, Bradley Smith, Steve Wannall, Nanette Savard, Diedra Starnes, Rex Anderson, Andy Clemence, Joe Brack, Jonathon Church, Rebecca Sheir, Daniel Sonntag, Joel David Santner, Eric Singdahlsen, Jonathan Watkins, Matthew Keenan, David Harris and Thomas Keegan.

Marvel: Civil War by Mark Millar (Audiobook Review)
Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis (Audiobook Review)
Enemies & Allies by Kevin J Anderson (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Graphic Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror
by Steve Alten
read by Sean Runnette

MEG series #1
2014 Tantor Audio
10 hours 33 minutes unabridged
Genres: thriller, nautical, monster fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: On a top-secret dive into the Pacific Ocean's deepest canyon, Jonas Taylor found himself face-to-face with the largest and most ferocious predator in the history of the animal kingdom. The sole survivor of the mission, Taylor is haunted by what he's sure he saw but still can't prove exists-Carcharodon megalodon, the massive mother of the great white shark. The average prehistoric Meg weighs in at twenty tons and could tear apart a Tyrannosaurus rex in seconds.

Written off as a crackpot suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Taylor refuses to forget the depths that nearly cost him his life.

With a PhD in paleontology under his belt, Taylor spends years theorizing, lecturing, and writing about the possibility that Meg still feeds at the deepest levels of the sea. But it takes an old friend in need to get him to return to the water, and a hotshot female submarine pilot to dare him back into a high-tech miniature sub.

Diving deeper than he ever has before, Taylor will face terror like he's never imagined, and what he finds could turn the tides bloody red until the end of time.

©1997, 2011 Steve Alten (P)2014 Tantor

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. Okay I borrowed that tag line but if Jaws scared you then you haven’t seen anything yet. Said to have been the prehistoric ancestor of the great white shark, Megalodon could be more than 70 feet long, have over 200 seven-inch teeth in its mouth, and have a bite more powerful than Tyrannosaurus Rex. To put that in perspective a little bit these things were bigger than a Greyhound bus and could hunt and kill whales all by themselves. Imagine going for a little boat ride and seeing a seven-foot tall dorsal fin circling your puny little boat. Lucky for us Megalodon went extinct approximately 2 million years ago. Or did they?

Seven years ago, Jonas Taylor was the best deep-sea submersible pilot in the United States Navy. Then on a dive into the Marianas Trench, about 7 miles below the surface, Taylor got scared and hit the panic button sending the submersible rocketing back to the surface. If you know anything about diving then you know that you have to resurface slowly to allow your body to adjust to the pressure difference. The two scientists Jonah was chauffeuring died and Jonah himself only survived because an oxygen bottle just happened to fall near his face and he was able to put it on. His career in the Navy and his career as a diver were over. But what caused this seasoned veteran to panic? According to him, he spotted a Megalodon. The next seven years were not good for Jonas: his wife lost respect for him and started fooling around, and Jonas began drinking a bit too much. And he became obsessed with Megalodons.

Now an old friend of Jonas, a wealthy Japanese man with a deep-sea diving company among other ventures, needs Jonas’ help. One of his remote-controlled submersibles is stranded on the bottom of the deepest part of Marianas, the Challenger Deep. He needs an expert to dive down to retrieve the rig. Also, he feels sorry for his friend, who got kind of a raw deal from the Navy. He believes that Jonas needs to face his fears and get back in the saddle as the saying goes. Naturally Jonas is reluctant, especially when he views some footage of the stranded sub and is sure that he has spotted a Megalodon tooth amid the wreckage. But he knows that it is time to get his life back on track. If he can find proof that Megs still exist he may be able to salvage not only his career but also his dignity.

MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror isn’t the best book I’ve ever read and it’s not even the best thriller I’ve ever read. In fact I can’t even say that this was one of those books that I had a hard time putting down and finished in record time. It is well written, however. The characters were convincing and there were some nice action scenes. So I did enjoy it a lot and I’ll tell you something else: MEG ignited my imagination like few other books have done. When I finished it, I just couldn’t wait to learn more about prehistoric megalodons. I read articles on the internet and watched documentaries on Youtube and was fascinated by the idea of these terrifying predators. Any book that can do that definitely deserves five halos. And I will definitely check out the next book in the Meg series.

This was my first experience with narrator Sean Runnette but I found that I liked his reading very much. He has a very rich and mellow voice and he reads at a comfortable pace. He does pretty decent character voices and he does a nice job reading dialogue, which is something I think some narrators struggle with. Runnette is not only an accomplished audiobook narrator with many, many titles to his credit, but he is also an award winning audiobook director and producer.

Jaws by Peter Benchley (Audiobook Review)
Iceberg by Clive Cussler (Audiobook Review)
Harvest by Tess Gerritsen (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Tantor Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mister Tidwell, Gunner by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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Mister Tidwell, Gunner
by L Ron Hubbard
performed by a Multicast

2014 Galaxy Audio
2 hours 13 minutes unabridged
Genres: adventure, pulp fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: In the year 1798, Oxford academic Mister Tidwell, to his abject terror, finds himself pressed into the British Navy schooling young midshipmen aboard the HMS Swiftsure of Lord Nelson’s famed fleet. To compound his horror, Tidwell must man a battle station during combat–the makeshift operating room deep in the belly of the ship where the surgeons are no better than butchers.

Tension mounts as the Swiftsure sails into dangerous Mediterranean waters with the French fleet poised to strike at any moment. Things get worse when, due to a freak mishap in the heat of battle, Tidwell discovers himself alone and without any support against Napoleon’s naval forces!

Also includes the adventure stories “Submarine” and “The Drowned City”

©2014 Galaxy Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Mister Tidwell is the soft-spoken, scholarly type; a professor at Oxford University no less. His relatively quiet, well-ordered life is suddenly turned topsy-turvy when he is pressed into service in Admiral Nelson’s British fleet as a schoolmaster. The Napoleonic Wars are in full swing and Professor Tidwell is terrified and overwhelmed to find his ship the target of French man-o’wars and every man, including himself, must fight. It is a defining moment in his sedentary life when he comes to the conclusion that this will be a case of kill or be killed.

All authors are often faced with the question, “Where do you get your story ideas?”, and it was no different for L Ron Hubbard. He explains that many of his stories begin with a single hard fact, in the case of Mister Tidwell, Gunner the fact that there actually was a schoolmaster aboard Admiral Nelson’s ship during the Napoleonic Wars. Hubbard went on to say that from that one kernel of truth a fertile imagination could go absolutely anywhere. Well, imaginations don’t come much more fertile than L Ron Hubbard and Mister Tidwell, Gunner is a prime example of that.

Also included in this 2-disk set are the sea adventures The Drowned City, the story of two deep-sea divers who set out in search of a lost treasure only to find that the waters are full of treacherous currents and even more treacherous men; and Submarine, in which a young sailor on leave enjoys a quiet interlude with his girlfriend—only to have it interrupted by a call to duty and danger.

Many readers of fiction know L Ron Hubbard as a master of science fiction, but it is perhaps less well known that he was actually a master of almost every genre of fiction: sea adventures like this one, air adventures, fantasy, mysteries, even westerns. During the 1930’s and ‘40’s Hubbard wrote literally hundreds of short stories for various magazines of the day covering just about every genre there is. I’m happy to say that Galaxy Audio has taken on the monumental task of collecting those stories into brand new audio editions complete with music, sound effects, and a talented cast of voice actors. The completed work is a delight to the ears and if you haven’t tried one of these yet you’re missing out on something special.

Mister Tidwell, Gunner features the talented voices of Enn Reitel, Jim Meskimen, and Christina Huntington, Submarine was narrated by R F Daley and voiced by Michael Yurchak, Brooke Bloom, Jim Meskimen, and Melissa Kirkland, and The Drowned City was voiced by Rob Paulson, Michael Yurchak, Jim Meskimen, and R F Daley. They don’t just read these stories, they actually act them out and they’re very good at it.

On Blazing Wings by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)
Hurricane by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)
Twenty Fathoms Down by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Galaxy Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.