Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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Love in the Time of Global Warming
by Francesca Lia Block
read by Julia Whelan

2013 Brilliance Audio
5 hours 25 minutes unabridged
Genres: post apocalypse, young adult
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  2 out of 5 haloshalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

©2013 Francesca Lia Block (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: I love a good post-apocalyptic tale but, unfortunately, Love in the Time of Global Warming didn’t do it for me.

Pen was the only survivor of her family after the big earthquake and for a while she holed up in her house, living on the meager supply of canned goods her parents had put away. Eventually a band of scavengers comes around and it looks like the end for Pen. As it turns out, however, one of the marauders happens to be a friend of her parents, and he just happens to be the one who finds her cowering in the basement. The nice robber drops a clue that Pen’s father may still be alive and that she needs to look for him. Then he helps her escape by telling her that the keys are in the van they arrived in and that it’s stocked with plenty of food and stuff.

So begins Pen’s journey through the wasteland that used to be Los Angeles. Her trek strangely mirrors that of Odysseus in Homer’s “Odyssey” but in a darker and less interesting way. She encounters a giant mutant with one eye. She tells the “Cyclops” that her name is “nobody” before putting out its eye with a pair of scissors. Then it’s on to the Lotus Hotel where she spends some time with a group that drink the nectar of a special flower that keeps them tranced out. Then there were the sirens of Beverly Hills, girls who used to get a lot of plastic surgery and now live in the mud of a swamp or something. They sing with their beautiful voices and lure people in. And on and on. If you’ve never read “The Odyssey” these things will mean very little to you.

All in all this book was perplexing. All of these individual scenes come off like a fever-dream or a bad trip. The images are confusing and the passage of time is hard to follow. Pen came out of the Lotus Hotel after what seemed like several hours and I found out that it had actually been several weeks. In each stop on her trip Pen meets someone who inevitably joins her on her quest but none of the characters really turn out to be very interesting. If Pen is searching for her father she’s going about it in a very haphazard way, almost as if she expects to just run into him in some random place. Well, I listened to Love in the Time of Global Warming for 2 or 3 hours and then gave up on it.

In spite of the story, I did enjoy Julia Whelan’s narration. She reads very well and does pretty decent voices for the characters. Whelan began acting at the age of 11, playing in a couple of notable roles. After taking some time off to earn a Bachelor of Arts she returned to acting in 2008. In addition to her acting roles, Whelan is an accomplished audiobook narrator with many titles to her credit including the wildly popular Gone Girl.

Pure by Julianna Baggott (Audiobook Review)
The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell (Audiobook Review)
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (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.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ghosts of Bungo Suido by P T Deutermann (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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Ghosts of Bungo Suido
by P T Deutermann
read by Dick Hill

2013 Brilliance Audio
13 hours 24 minutes unabridged
Genres: military fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A thrilling World War II adventure that moves from a daring submarine to a notorious Japanese prison camp and ends in a dramatic military court, by the Boyd Award-winning author of Pacific Glory

In late 1944, America’s recapture of the Philippines is jeopardized by what seems an insurmountable threat from Japan: immense Yamato-class battleships, which dwarf every other ship at sea. Built in total secrecy, these 76,000-ton warships seem invincible. American military intelligence knows of two such ships, but there are rumors of a third, built not as a battleship but as an aircraft carrier. Now ready to go operational from Japan’s heavily defended and mined Inland Sea, a carrier of that size could disrupt the entire invasion effort. American bombers can’t reach the Inland Sea, so the Navy high command decides to send a submarine on a special mission to kill the carrier...assuming that it even exists.

No American submarine has ever been able to penetrate the Inland Sea; five boats and their crews have perished in or around the main entrance strait, known as Bungo Suido. Lieutenant Commander Gar Hammond - an aggressive, ship-killing captain with a reckless streak - is now skipper of the Dragonfish, a new submarine. When Admiral Nimitz decides to try one more time, Hammond becomes the navy’s only hope to locate and stop the Japanese super-ship before it escapes into the open Pacific.

P. T. Deutermann’s previous World War II adventure, Pacific Glory, won acclaim from listeners and reviewers, and was honored with the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction, administered by the American Library Association. In Ghosts of Bungo Suido, Deutermann presents another sweeping, action-filled World War II novel, based on a true event from the Pacific theater.

©2013 P. T. Deutermann (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved. Published by arrangement with St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Ghosts of Bungo Suido had been sitting on my TBR pile for several months before I finally got around to listening. I think I got it sometime last summer. So by the time I loaded it onto my MP3 player I couldn’t remember at all what it was about. That’s okay because I like to approach a book that way, with no expectations at all and with no clue as to which way the plot might turn at any given moment.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover, or rediscover, that Ghosts of Bungo Suido was a military fiction piece set during World War 2. The main character is Gar Hammond, captain of the US submarine Dragonfish. When it comes to attacking Japanese ships, Hammond has a bit of a unique approach. Instead of going straight for the cargo ships, those carrying fuel or raw materials, and then running like the devil, Hammond first attacks the Destroyer escorts while he still has the element of surprise. Once the escorts are eliminated, he can then pick off the remaining ships in the convoy more or less at his leisure. In fact, Hammond has begun to achieve something of a reputation back at command headquarters in Pearl Harbor. The kind of success that Hammond has achieved in the Pacific is usually a good way to get promoted but in this case Gar will end up wishing his name had never come up.

Word has come down that Japan is building a new aircraft carrier. Once it’s completed, it will be the largest carrier in the world and could cause some serious problems for the Allied fleets in the Pacific. The new ship is being built at a shipyard in Japan’s Inland Sea and the only approach is through a narrow trench called Bungo Suido. The passage is heavily mined and several American ships have already gone to a watery grave trying to penetrate the gap. There is, however, a newly developed type of sonar that should make it possible for a submarine to “see” the mines and thus avoid them. The powers that be want to send a single submarine through Bungo Suido and into the Inland Sea to take out that aircraft carrier before it becomes operational. And, you guessed it, Hammond and his Dragonfish get the job.

You know, something just occurred to me while I was typing out that last paragraph. Does that sound a little like Star Wars? The Empire is building the Death Star and the Rebels need to take it out before it becomes operational. The only way to do it is to penetrate a narrow gap into the heart of the base and blow it up. Okay that’s a bit of a stretch I know. Actually, Ghosts of Bungo Suido reminded me more of the movie Crimson Tide starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. If you’ve never seen that I highly recommend it. Just like Crimson Tide, this audiobook is just one tense moment after another with very few lulls in between. It’s got bucketloads of suspense, plenty of action, and some interesting historical notes as well. A little something for everyone and a highly enjoyable read.

Narrator Dick Hill is a wonderful reader. His voice is very rich and warm and is easy to listen to. He doesn’t do the best voices but he does manage to differentiate the characters enough that you can tell when someone different is speaking. Hill was an AudioFile Best Voice in Mystery and Suspense for the novel 61 Hours in 2010 but is probably best known for his work on Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. I enjoyed listening to Hill and will look for more of his work.

American Chronicles: World War 2 by NPR (Audiobook Review)
The Lieutenants by W E B Griffin (Audiobook Review)
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck (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, March 19, 2014

Planting Dreams by Linda K Hubalek (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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Planting Dreams
by Linda K Hubalek
read by Ann M Richardson

Planting Dreams #1
2013 Linda K Hubalek
3 hours 5 minutes unabridged
Genres: historical fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: This first book in the Planting Dreams series portrays Swedish immigrant Charlotta Johnson as she ponders the decision about leaving her homeland, how they will travel to America, and worries about her family’s future in a new country.

This book series is based on the author's ancestors, and contains actual maps of where they traveled and settled. Each chapter is written as a thought-provoking story as the wife of the family travels to a new country to find a new life for her children. Why did this family leave? Drought scorched the farmland of Sweden and there was no harvest to feed families or livestock. Taxes were due and there was little money to pay them. But there were ships sailing to America, where the government gave land to anyone who wanted to claim a homestead.

Can you imagine starting a journey to an unknown country, not knowing what the country would be like, where you would live, or how you would survive? Did you make the right decision to leave in the first place? Follow Charlotta and her family as they travel by ship and rail from their homeland in 1868, to their homestead on the open plains of Kansas.

©1997, 2010, 2012 Linda K. Hubalek (P)2013 Linda K. Hubalek

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Hubalek carefully and faithfully describes every step of the journey for the Johnson family. She begins with the very decision to leave their home, weighing the possibility of prosperity in a new land with the likelihood of starvation after another meager harvest in Sweden. Then it’s a wagon ride to the nearest harbor with all of their possessions, or at least everything they could reasonably carry with them. Boarding the ship reminded me a little of the story of the Titanic: wealthy passengers on the upper decks and the poor, steerage class down in the bottom. The long boat ride brings them finally to the shores of America and Ellis Island, where they soon learn to protect their money very carefully. A train-ride to Chicago, then another into rural Illinois, brings them at last to their destination.

The hope of the Johnson family as they travel is contagious and I can’t help but wish the best for them on their journey. They fully expect to become wealthy landowners in America. This is partly due to the rumors and stories they heard, but is also based on what they see with their own eyes as they travel west from New York: large farms with neat houses, healthy looking livestock, and expensive machinery to make the work simpler. The Johnson’s are fairly bursting with the desire to reach their new farm and get started and I shared in their enthusiasm. It takes a special kind of writer to illicit that kind of response from a reader I think. Hubalek did a nice job of researching the material and an even nicer job of expressing it in human terms.

Hubalek makes it clear that, while Planting Dreams is based on the story of her own ancestors, she has filled in the large and numerous blanks with her own thoughts and ideas on how the journey might have gone. In my own opinion she did a wonderful job and I think that this must be very close to the way it really happened. I found it to be especially interesting as my own ancestors immigrated to America during this same time period, albeit from Germany rather than Sweden. No accounts of this journey have been handed down in my own family but maybe the story was similar to that of the Johnson’s. If you’re a history buff like me, this is fun stuff to think about.

Ann Richardson, as I have learned, is a very capable narrator of audiobooks. Planting Dreams doesn’t have the kind of “he said she said” type of dialogue that can truly show the merit of a narrator, but Richardson shines nevertheless. Her reading voice is very soft on the ears and is one that I can listen to for hours without growing weary. But what impressed me most about her work on Planting Dreams was the way she handled the Swedish dialect. Hubalek uses various Swedish words and phrases in her story and Richardson pronounces them like a pro. She admits in the ending credits that she had some help in the pronunciations, but the extra work and due diligence paid off.

Greenwillow by B J Chute (Audiobook Review)
The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck (Audiobook Review)
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Ann Richardson 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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Greenwillow by B J Chute (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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by B J Chute
read by Ann Richardson

2013 Post Hypnotic Press
6 hours 44 minutes unabridged
Genres: general fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A lyrical and poetic fable, Greenwlllow, tells of the romance between young Gideon Briggs, who walks in the shadow of a family curse and vows never to marry, and Dorrie, the orphan girl he loves. Greenwillow was brought to the Broadway stage in 1960, starring Anthony Perkins, and with words and music by Frank Loesser.

©1956 B.J. Chute (P)2013 Post Hypnotic Press Inc.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Before we begin, I want you to take a look at the opening lines of Greenwillow okay?

"Long ago, centuries perhaps, the village of Greenwillow had been stood in the corner and forgotten.

"A river ran through it, a river that came down fresh and fast from the tall hills, and, once away from the village, grew very important and tossed up debris along its banks… Beyond Greenwillow, this river was called by another name which no one in the village troubled to remember, but here it was the Meander, having let itself grow tame in a swamp that was all goldcups in the spring and bordered with dark-berried catbrier at the autumn turn of leaves and sun. Bedded down in wide soft marshland, it paddled about for a bit giving great pleasure to the blackbirds and water thrushes, and then it slipped docilely between green banks and entered the village."

Wow, doesn’t that just make you feel all calm and peaceful inside? If I could live anywhere in the world I think I would live in Greenwillow. In Greenwillow you’ll find no murders, no high-speed car chases (or even a single car for that matter), no robberies or muggings or stick-ups. The worst thing you might find in Greenwillow is, perhaps, a preacher who indulges in too many sweets. It’s a town where the people take care of each other and just generally act like good neighbors. It reminds me a lot of that old TV show Little House on the Prairie, which I still enjoy watching now and then.

The story centers primarily on the Briggs family, and primarily on eldest child Gideon Briggs. Gideon is contending heavily with an old family curse. Being the firstborn son of a firstborn son he knows he is doomed to wander the world, leaving loved ones behind just as his father did. But Gideon has a plan of sorts. He knows nothing can save him, but he has vowed to never fall in love, therefore having no children, therefore ending the family curse forever. Over the course of the novel, Gideon will learn, however, that even the best laid plans often go awry, and that love will often have its own way with us.

To accompany Gideon on his journey to manhood, B J Chute created an endearing cast of characters from Dorrie, who can’t quite bring herself to tell Gideon that she has fallen in love with him, to the younger Briggs children, mischievous but good-hearted every one, to Greenwillow’s newest arrival Reverend Birdsong, who has been described as something of a Mary Poppins figure, a description that suits him quite well. Chute’s characters are as interesting and unique as real people, her town is the stuff literary dreams are made of, and her writing is as lyrical and flowing as the Meander River. Greenwillow has appealed to many readers since it was first published back in 1956 and will no doubt continue to enchant future generations who long for simpler times. I for one am glad somebody finally created an audio edition.

Two or three years ago, I listened to a non-fiction audiobook that was narrated by Ann Richardson. I stated in my review for that book that I would like to hear her narrate something else, as non-fiction books are not a good way to get a feel for a narrator. With Greenwillow I finally got my wish and I was not disappointed. Ms. Richardson’s voice is very easy on the ears. Her pacing, tone, and inflection are all comfortable and easy to listen to for hours on end. I was most pleased, however, to hear Ann providing different voices for the characters, something I always enjoy in an audiobook. Her voices were quite good and she managed to make each character unique and distinct. It was an all-around good performance and I’m looking forward to hearing more from Ann.

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson (Audiobook Review)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Audiobook Review)
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Ann Richardson 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.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Swarm by B V Larson (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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by B V Larson
read by Mark Boyett

Star Force #1
2010 Brilliance Audio
9 hours 36 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  3 out of 5 haloshalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Earth arms marines with alien technology and builds its first battle fleet! Kyle Riggs is snatched by an alien spacecraft sometime after midnight. The ship is testing everyone it catches and murdering the weak. The good news is that Kyle keeps passing tests and staying alive. The bad news is the aliens who sent this ship are the nicest ones out there.

A novel of military science fiction by best-selling author B. V. Larson, Swarm is the story of Earth's annexation by an alien empire. Long considered a primitive people on a backwater planet, humanity finds itself in the middle of a war - and faced with extinction.

©2010 B.V. Larson (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: I have to say that Swarm is one of the most unusual science fiction stories I have read.

Unknown to backwoods planet Earth, there is a super-advanced race of beings slowly making their way across the universe, destroying everything in their path. This race will soon become known as the Macros and they are now on a direct course for Earth. Lucky for Earth there is another race out there who has made it their sworn duty to battle the Macros, or at least to help their victims defend themselves. This other race uses swarms of nanobots, microscopic robots, as the basis of their technology. Funnily enough they will become known on Earth as Micros.

So here’s the deal: the Micros send in a fleet of automated starships that are programmed to choose captains for themselves from among the local population. Those that are chosen must pass a series of tests to prove that they are brave and quick thinking and able to problem solve and all that stuff. Fail a test and you’re out the door, literally! A hole will open up in the ship and you’ll be tossed back down to the surface of the planet. It’s a long fall to your death; that is if the test itself didn’t already kill you. And if you survive all the tests and become captain of the ship you kind of have to figure things out on your own, there’s no instruction manual. The ship’s AI is there to help of course, but it is only programmed to answer direct questions, not offer advice. And you only have a short time to figure things out because the enemy is on their way.

For those of you who like to nitpick, you’ll find plenty to satisfy you in Swarm. I have two main complaints about this book. The characters are not realistic; most notably when Kyle was chosen for testing his two children were killed and this didn’t seem to bother him much. The characters just don’t react to things the way normal people would. Also, there were few space battles and Larson was not very descriptive with these. I found them to be sort of dull. Oh and that name, Star Force? Was this book written in the 1950’s or something?

Swarm is not all bad though. One thing that I did find interesting was the way the humans learned to use and manipulate their new starships. You see, they’re made up entirely of billions and billions of tiny nanobots, which means they can take on any shape the human pilot wants, so long as he can properly communicate his desire to the ship’s AI. It was fun seeing Kyle figure out new ways to use this feature, like when he had the ship create a bathroom and when he figured out a way to make a “view screen” on one wall of the bridge. This was one area at least where author B V Larson showed some creativity.

Okay, so the book was more silly than serious. But you know, I still found myself enjoying it for the most part. Sometimes it’s nice to just relax with something simple that can take your mind off your troubles for a while and doesn’t make you think. If that’s what you’re looking for, then look no further, Swarm is for you.

Aurora Cv-01 by Ryk Brown (Audiobook Review)
Into The Black: Odyssey One by Evan Currie (Audiobook Review)
Ender'S Game by Orson Scott Card (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.