Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin cover image
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by Rachel DeWoskin
read by Annalie Gernert

©2014 Listening Library
10 hours 40 minutes unabridged
Genres: young adult
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: When Emma Sasha Silver loses her eyesight in a nightmare accident, she must relearn everything from walking across the street to recognizing her own sisters to imagining colors. One of seven children, Emma used to be the invisible kid, but now it seems everyone is watching her. And just as she's about to start high school and try to recover her friendships and former life, one of her classmates is found dead in an apparent suicide. Fifteen and blind, Emma has to untangle what happened and why - in order to see for herself what makes life worth living.

Unflinching in its portrayal of Emma's darkest days, yet full of hope and humor, Rachel DeWoskin's brilliant Blind is one of those rare books that utterly absorbs the listener into the life and experience of another.

©2014 Rachel DeWoskin (P)2014 Listening Library

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: So you may not be aware of this if you haven’t done much exploring around Audiobook-Heaven, but I used to be blind. Long story, but I was blind for almost three years before recovering my eyesight. It was an interesting time in my life to say the least: learning to walk and use the computer and lots of other things all over again. In fact that was when I was introduced to audiobooks, which I still love even now that I have my sight back and it was because of my own experience as a blind person that initially drew me to Rachel DeWoskin’s Blind.

Main character Emma was a pretty ordinary teenager before her accident. She was at an age where she was starting to notice boys even if they weren’t noticing her. Like most teenagers she was still a bit self-centered. Then in the blink of an eye, so to speak, her whole life changed. Everything she took for granted had to be relearned. Emma, already an introvert, drew even further into herself and often lashed out at those closest to her. Leaving her old friends and going to a special school for the blind was tortuous. But as she gradually learns to navigate a world designed for the sighted, her true healing begins. This is Emma’s coming-of-age story. Helped along by her accident, the death of a classmate, and the betrayal of a best friend, Emma matures into a strong and courageous young woman, even someone that others look to for leadership. It’s the story of the difficult journey that we all must make at some point in our lives.

Listening to the story of how Emma lost her sight in a tragic Fourth-of-July accident and had to learn new ways of doing all the things she used to take for granted struck a deeply resonant chord in me. I was vividly transported back to my own blind days as Emma walked with her cane, learned how to pour a drink without spilling, and struggled to find a balance between independence and the need for help. I totally related to her initial feelings of wanting to be left alone, to become invisible, but as Emma herself says, ”…being blind is the exact opposite of being invisible.” I thought for sure that Rachel DeWoskin must be blind to have captured the experience so deftly but I read her bio on Wikipedia and it doesn’t mention anything about it. I’m guessing she has probably spent a good deal of time with a blind person because she shows an amazingly in-depth knowledge of what it’s like.

Blind is a great book for anyone who has experienced being blind, but I think it has a much more general appeal than that. We all, mostly when we’re young but not always, suffer from blindness, some of us literally and others figuratively. Growing up and learning how to navigate in the world is a process we must all go through. Rachel DeWoskin’s description of Emma’s journey would be a good read for anyone.

Annalie Gernert’s narration was entirely appropriate for this book. Her voice was an excellent match for main character Emma, not only the physical sound of her voice but her intonation and inflection. Gernert captured Emma’s wit and sarcasm perfectly. Her voice actually reminded me a lot of Emma Galvin, which is high praise indeed (see the 2012 Halo Awards). Annalie is relatively new to the audiobook industry and has only a handful of books to her credit but I predict she will have a long and successful career in the field if she chooses to stick with it.

Traveling Blind: Adventures In Vision With A Guide-Dog By My Side by Susan Krieger (Audiobook Review)
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Audiobook Review)
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Listening Library 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, November 19, 2014

Breakers by Edward W Robertson (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Breakers by Edward W Robertson cover image
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by Edward W Robertson
read by Ray Chase

Breakers #1
©2013 Podium Publishing
12 hours 10 minutes unabridged
Genres: post apocalypse, science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: In New York, Walt Lawson is about to lose his girlfriend Vanessa. In Los Angeles, Raymond and Mia James are about to lose their house. Within days, none of it will matter. When Vanessa dies of the flu, Walt is devastated. But she isn't the last. The virus quickly kills billions, reducing New York to an open grave and LA to a chaotic wilderness of violence and fires. As Raymond and Mia hole up in an abandoned mansion, where they learn to function without electricity, running water, or neighbors, Walt begins an existential walk to LA, where Vanessa had planned to move when she left him. He expects to die along the way. Months later, a massive vessel appears above Santa Monica Bay. Walt is attacked by a crablike monstrosity in a mountain stream. The virus that ended humanity wasn't created by humans. It was inflicted from outside. The colonists who sent it are ready to finish the job - and Earth's survivors may be too few and too weak to resist.

©2012 Edward W. Robertson (P)2013 Podium Publishing

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: In New York City, Walt discovers rather by accident that his live-in girlfriend Vanessa is preparing to leave him to pursue an acting career in California, leaving Walt with some serious questions about what he did wrong and what happens next. In Los Angeles, Raymond and Mia are on the brink of losing their home because Ray can’t find a job. In both cases the future does not look good. Then people start dying, including Vanessa, and future prospects go from bad to worse.

Within a couple of weeks the so-called Panhandler virus kills billions, an estimated ninety-nine percent of the world’s population. Even though the situation in L.A. is grim, Raymond and Mia decide to stick it out and aren’t doing too badly for themselves. Losing their house to a fire, they move into a now abandoned mansion up on the hill. They plant fresh vegetables in the back yard and forage for the things they need in the surrounding neighborhoods. In New York, Walt simply doesn’t want to live anymore and decides to walk to Los Angeles knowing that he will probably be killed on the way. And then worse finally becomes worst when the alien ships appear in the sky. The Panhandler wasn’t created on Earth after all. But why did these aliens cross the unimaginable depths of outer space to come here and kill off all the people?

I think that Edward W Robertson is drawing some interesting parallels in Breakers. The Panhandler virus, as described by one of the characters, “nickels and dimes you”, weakening you little by little before finally going in for the kill. Robertson seems to be saying that people are the same way. You lose yourself little by little, you give an inch and then another and another, sacrificing your principles and morals bit by bit, until suddenly you don’t even know who you are anymore. This is especially evident in the character of Walt. He did a lot of soul searching on his walk from New York City to Los Angeles and he came out the other side a whole different person. We see it happening all through the story, people reacting to events and being forged into new people, sometimes for the good and sometimes for bad. Robertson does a great job of introducing us to his characters and showing us how they evolve over the course of the book.

Outstanding character development isn’t the only thing that made Breakers such a great read. Robertson is just an all around good storyteller. The chapters of the book alternate back and forth between Walt in New York and Raymond and Mia in California. Each chapter ends with kind of a mini-cliffhanger that leaves you wondering what happened in New York while we’re catching up on events in California. Robertson keeps the suspense at a high pitch all through the book right up to the explosive ending.

This was the first time I had heard a narration by Ray Chase and I liked him a lot. His pace and inflection are very comfortable and he does very good character voices. He even does convincing voices for the female characters, which not many male narrators can pull off. Ray is also good at reading dialogue so that it really sounds like two or more people talking to each other. This is an especially good thing because Robertson uses dialogue heavily to show us who his characters are. I would definitely like to hear more from Ray Chase and I will definitely get my chance since he has narrated all five books (so far) in the Breakers series.

Swarm by B V Larson (Audiobook Review)
White Horse by Alex Adams (Audiobook Review)
The Passage by Justin Cronin (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Brilliance 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, November 12, 2014

Armor by John Steakley (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Armor by John Steakley cover image
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by John Steakley
read by Tom Weiner

© 2009 Blackstone Audio
13 hours 37 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction, military
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  1 out of 5 haloshalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The planet is called Banshee. The air is unbreathable, the water poisonous. It is the home of the most implacable enemies that humanity, in all its interstellar expansion, has ever encountered.

Felix is a scout in A-team Two. Highly competent, he is the sole survivor of mission after mission. Yet he is a man consumed by fear and hatred. And he is protected not only by his custom-fitted body armor, the culmination of 10,000 years of the armorers' craft, but also by an odd being which seems to live with him, a cold killing machine he calls "the Engine."

©1984 John Steakley; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: I love military science fiction and I have also grown quite fond of the powered armor fighting suits that have become so prevalent in the genre. When I saw Armor on Blackstone’s website it was a no-brainer; I had to have it. Boy was I disappointed. I started listening to this book and right away I found it difficult to keep my mind on the story. I kept drifting here and there as the story did not engage me at all. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and started again from the beginning, this time trying extra hard to focus on it. I had slightly better results the second time and got through part one.

Part one of Armor is about a guy named Felix who signs up to fight in the Ant War. Yes, I said Ant War. The enemy is a race of three-meter tall ant-like creatures. Felix’s squad is dropped onto the planet Banshee, where the Ant population is thought to be low. They are, of course, surprised when the Ants come boiling up out of the ground by the thousands. Out of Felix’s group of more than 200 soldiers, he is the only survivor and of the entire army of about 10,000 only a couple thousand survive the initial onslaught with more dying with each new wave of enemies.

Then began part two of the book. Suddenly we’re in a different place following a guy named Jack Crow who is apparently some kind of space pirate. His story begins with his escape from prison and how he was taken aboard a ship where the crew had mutinied. I listened to part two for more than an hour and have no idea what it was about. Again and again I kept rewinding to listen to the same parts trying to pick up on what I had missed. There were some mentions of the Ant War but from what I could gather we are now far away from where it is being fought. I tried really hard to make Armor work but eventually had to give up on it.

When you are having trouble with an audiobook like this, it is sometimes hard to tell if it’s a bad story or a bad narrator. With Armor I believe that at least half the problem (probably more) was the narrator Tom Weiner. Part one of the book should have had me riveted but I kept having trouble focusing on it. Part two got a little boring and I lost interest altogether. Weiner’s voice just drones on and on without ever really changing much. I think if I had a print version of Armor I would probably have enjoyed it.

Germline by T C McCarthy (Audiobook Review)
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (Audiobook Review)
Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Blackstone 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, November 5, 2014

Fifty-Fifty O'Brien by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Fifty-Fifty O’Brien by L Ron Hubbard cover image
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Fifty-Fifty O’Brien
by L Ron Hubbard
performed by a Multicast

2014 Galaxy Audio
2 hours 26 minutes unabridged
Genres: military, pulp fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Looking for some excitement, Winchester Remington Smith, barker for the .22-caliber rifle shooting gallery on the circus midway, decides to leave carnival life behind and join the Marines.

His quick feet and stealth make him the perfect Marine message runner, but Smith hates the silence between orders. But a message runner he’ll always be if First Sergeant Fifty-Fifty O’Brien has anything to do with it. That’s especially true after Smith deliberately breaks off a message run and uses his deadly aim to save the sergeant’s life. After being brought up on charges, Smith now faces a fatal dash to Mount Pelo, where no messages have penetrated the enemy lines. Smith soon discovers that, even in the most unexpected situations, the tables can turn—much to his and O’Brien’s surprise.

Also include the adventure stories “The Adventure of X” and “Red Sand”

©2014 Galaxy Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: With a name like Winchester Remington Smith I guess you better be able to handle a gun and Win is certainly capable in that area. After spending some working in a carnival shooting gallery, however, Win decides that his talents are going to waste. Craving some real action, Win joins the Marines and goes off to war. But things don’t go quite the way he would have liked. In the jungles of Central America, Win is assigned to be a runner, running messages back and forth. When Winchester runs afoul of Sergeant Fifty-Fifty O’Brien, he finds himself in trouble and the only way to redeem himself will be to run a message deep into enemy territory where no runner has ever made it back alive.

Hubbard often drew on his own real life experience when writing his stories and he actually was involved in World War II although he was in the Navy not the Marines. Hubbard wrote many, many stories involving wars and battles but, as in the case of Fifty-Fifty O’Brien, those wars are of his own devising rather than the wars of actual history. Still it is clear that he is writing from experience when describing the inner workings of the military.

This 2-disk set also includes the military adventures The Adventure of X, in which a French Foreign Legionnaire’s intelligence mission leads him into an enemy ambush, and he has to warn his fellow Legionnaires before they walk into a massacre; and Red Sand, the story of a disgraced Chicago cop who joins the Legionnaires and finds his investigative skills invaluable in the desert.

These are just three of the literally hundreds of short stories L Ron Hubbard wrote during the pulp era of the 1930’s and 40’s. Galaxy Audio is collecting many of those stories and bringing them to life in stunning audio quality, featuring beautifully rendered music and sound effects and a very talented cast of voice actors. On this set you’ll hear the voices of R F Daley, Taron Lexton, Corey Burton, Jim Meskimen, Shane Johnson, Phil Proctor, and Jason Harris. These are some of the more talented voices in the industry, some of them playing multiple roles although you’d never know it was the same actor. If you haven’t tried one of these then I highly recommend it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Death Waits At Sundown by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)
Red Death Over China by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)
Red Dragon 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.

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.