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Brian

Niagara Falls, NY
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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-12-18

Hilarious Through and Through

You might be familiar with H. Jon Benjamin from shows like Archer and Bob’s Burgers – but this book talks very little about that and gives you a much broader look on all of the failures that Benjamin faced on his way to being where he is today.

Told almost like an anti-self-help book, Failure is an Option was a blast to listen to – hearing him tell stories of his failures was both enlightening and hilarious.  He had a way of telling the stories so that you felt for him along the way – but also knew he was going to make you laugh throughout.

I particularly liked the email correspondences with the two history professors one where he wouldn’t help at all and the other where he was extremely helpful. I cracked up throughout both of those and couldn’t stop the smile on my face when I realized where it was going.

I was familiar with the final story in this memoir because of a podcast I listened to where Jon was the first guest (it was Aisha Tyler’s, I believe) where he told the story about the rental car and the hotel.

Overall, the audiobook version of Failure is an Option was really enjoyable and I think that listening to him tell his own stories makes a book like this work even more than the print version.  I laughed throughout this and found it endearing.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-03-18

A Great Finale

What a great way to end the series, and what a series it's been! Akart made me feel things that I don't normally feel while reading normal books - let alone post-apocalyptic ones.  Suicide Six is about as perfect of an ending you can write for a series and I'm glad that Akart picked the ending he did. Over the course of this series, we lost some people - and Akart lets you know that he nor his characters will forget these people. 

The name itself made me smile when I realized he named it after a plotline in the book.  I was driving to work and I got this big smile on my face ("oh, that's why he called it Suicide Six!").  He was able to sneak it in there without making it seem overdone or make you react like when a character says the movie title in the middle of a movie.  

It's crazy to think back on the first part of this book and realize that all happened during the same story.  Akart splits the book in two and gives you not one, but two battles you won't soon forget.  And then the end he gives you yet another one if you didn't have enough action in the opening.  The final battle and then scenes after (I'm trying so hard not to give anything away) really hit me in the soft spot.  Akart was able to get that gut reaction out of me that most authors strive for.

Overall, Suicide Six might be my favorite book in the series (it's probably tied with the first book, Axis of Evil). The writing is just perfect, it's not in your face with polarizing politics, and has so many heartwarming moments that will be remembered long after the battle scenes are forgotten.  Suicide Six and the entire Lone Star Series will hold a special place in my heart. I requested a copy of this audiobook - it has not affected my review in any way.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-23-18

I Flew Through This Like A Wildfire

Lit, the second book in the Alt Apocalypse series by Tom Abrahams throws some of the same characters into a totally new situation.  What I like the most about the series as a whole so far is that you find new heroes and new favorites in each and every book. 

When watching the wildfires this year in California and other regions - I often wondered why fire wasn't as often covered in post-apocalyptic books. I've read a few where it was just one of the problems - but none where it was the main issue that people were dealing with. Whether it came from a bomb or just from an errant campfire it is definitely something that threatens human life and can make living terribly difficult.

There's something about the familiarity with a character that makes curveballs so hard to see coming.  Someone who was strong in book one might not be able to cope in book two. A fire might totally destroy a stockpile where an EMP would have no effect on it.  I just love that about these books.  I feel like Abrahams is onto something here and I hope that a whole new group of people read these and get interested in the Post-Apocalyptic genre.

Lit itself was something that I could not put down. I voraciously read it over a 24 hour period - only stopping to sleep and work.  I started it the night it was released and finished it later the next day before I went to bed (yes, I stayed up to finish it).

The way that the first was written about made it so believable.  The characters (selfish and selfless ones, I won't call anyone out specifically) mostly did what you would expect but Abrahams wrote it in such a way that it still made me emotional when bad things happened.

I didn't wanna point any one person or group out - but the way that Abrahams wrote about the wildfire firefighters in Lit made me proud to support his work.  He knows that these brave men and women go out there and literally jump into the fire to try and save others.  He wrote about them in such a way that you felt like you knew them but also felt relieved they were on your side. 

The worst part about this book is that I want to read the other ones even more.  When I finished the first book, I knew it was good and I knew that I enjoyed it.  But now that I know how the series is with two books out - I cannot wait for Torrent to come out.  Water is the most destructive force on the planet.  I can't wait to see how that one works out. 

Overall, I loved the one.  It pulled me in from the opening scene (a fire surrounding a campsite) to the very last scene (I won't mention what happened, but I literally sighed relief like it was a real thing). We are in for something amazing with this series. I requested a copy of this book - it has not affected my review in any way.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-20-18

Impeccably Written & Beautifully Narrated

4.5 out of 5 stars

Maude Julien’s memoir, The Only Girl in the World, is an impeccably written, beautifully narrated first-person account of hope, strength, and perseverance that is incredibly difficult to listen too. I found this book to be much like a car crash—I knew I shouldn’t look but I couldn’t look away. It was a captivating, disturbing, and ultimately inspiring tale.

Written from Maude’s perspective as a young girl, The Only Girl in the World takes readers and listeners back in time to a time period between the First and Second World Wars, when her father, Louis Didier, became enamored with Nietzsche’s theory of Ubermensch. The novel begins with a bit of backstory, as Maude explains that she was not her father’s first or only victim. In 1936, her father, convinced that he could raise a superhuman, if the child was “properly physically, mentally and emotionally trained from birth,” persuaded a young impoverished couple from Lille to relinquish custody of their daughter, Jeannine, to him. He promised them that Jeannine would have a comfortable, financially stable life, complete with a university-level education, under one condition: they would never see her again. Twenty-two years later, Jeannine gave birth to Maude and the second phase of Didier’s plan begins.

Didier soon isolates his wife and young daughter, moving them to a large, remote home in Northern France, limiting their exposure to outsiders, restricting their access to news and information, and strictly controlling their few excursions into the real world. The telephone, for example, is in a locked box and radios are strictly forbidden, outsiders are limited to tutors, construction workers, groundskeepers, and guests of her father, and Maude’s only friends are the animals who live within the walled lawns of the estate.

Through young Maude’s eyes, we pass through the gates and see behind closed doors, joining Maude as she experiences unthinkable pain and suffering at the hands of her parents. After years of “willpower training exercises,” long bouts of silent treatment, strict discipline and carefully controlled education, it’s amazing to hear how hopeful Maude remained, and how her small rebellions, each act of passive-disobedience, allowed that hope to stay alive. As the story progresses, Maude grows and so does her determination. Her escape isn’t a climatic suspenseful Hollywood type escape but the sense of relief I felt was palpable and in no way diminished the stories resolution.

The Only Girl in the World is a fascinating account of the trauma and abuse Maude endured as a child that is as painful as it is uplifting. Her story is horrific and the pain she survived is difficult to comprehend but Maude’s resilience and sheer determination not only to survive but to escape was simply awe-inspiring

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-20-18

A Story Worth Telling

Another stonking (forgive me, I’ve been watching a lot of Youtube lately of a British guy) intro line by Abrahams for Legacy: “She’s small. She’s quiet. She’s deadly.” I mean – don’t you want to read about Lou already? Lou might be one of the characters that I have an image in my head but I’d be really interested to see what or who Abrahams would compare her to (I might reach out and ask him since I’m that curious).

I rarely ever read books in a series back-to-back – usually because I’m caught up and the next book isn’t out. But I had the chance to read books 5 and 6 of the Traveler series back-to-back and I’m glad I did. Book 6, aka Legacy, is a standalone book in the Traveler Series. It tells the backstory of Lou. One that I could not wait to dive into.

From the other books, I knew that Lou was on her own and a master with her knives. I believe we met her in either book 4 or 3 and (not really spoiler alert) this book leads right up to the scene where Battle first meets Lou (and the same scene plays out in this book, too but from Lou’s perspective).

What I didn’t know was much of anything about Lou’s father and how she became to be a knife-master. Their story was really awesome and I found myself falling in love with this series all over again. Being able to learn about one of the most interesting young characters in a post-apocalyptic series was a dream for me and I think that Abrahams wrote this perfectly.

I couldn’t get over how young she was when this started and how quickly she realized that she was going to have to do things on her own. And try to learn every bit of knowledge her dad would share.

If you’ve read the other books in the Traveler Series – you’ll know a little about her backstory – but I thought it was interesting to hear them first hand. Lou shines as always and made this such a fun read.

Overall, I thought that Legacy might be one of the best books in the series and was definitely a story worth telling. I requested a review copy of this book - it has not affected my review in any way.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-15-18

I Couldn't Put It Down

All he wants is peace.  All he finds is war. This might be one of the best opening lines I've read for a synopsis ever - and it fits this book and story so well.

I'm unsure if this is the last book in The Traveler Series (at least for Battle), but it was a great way to clean up some of the loose ends. I want to write more - but I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who's gotten 5 books deep in the series so far.

As with the last book, I loved Battle and Lou's stories, connection, and interaction. Lou is such a great character I'm glad that Abrahams is giving her, her own book for book 6 of the series.  I finished Battle and instantly jumped into Legacy because I wanted to know exactly what he was going to write for/about her.

As with all reviews - I don't want to give much up, but their interaction, especially in the middle (sheriff) and the end were intimate and real.  I love Abrahams for it.  It's just nice to feel like you're reading about real people and not just characters.

Also, the inclusion of more about the Scourge had me perked up.  I want to know more and more about it and I was given a slight taste in this book. It just makes me wonder what a bio-thriller book by Abrahams would look like (though this is borderline in some of the stories).

Overall, I thought that Battle was a great book with great stories in it.  I loved every minute of it and literally finished it in an afternoon. I couldn't put it down. Kevin Pierce's narration was perfect as it's been for the rest of this series. It fits perfectly with Battle's character. I requested a copy of this book for review - it has not affected my opinion in any way.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-10-18

I Haven't Laughed At A Zombie Book... Ever

4.25 out of 5 stars

I Haven't Laughed At A Zombie Book... Ever (Until Now)

I'd read a few other reviews (even just titles) from a few of my other reviewer friends before jumping into this one.  All of them talked about laughing throughout the book.  I knew to expect it, but it still caught me off guard how randomly funny this book was.

Zombie Lake tells the story of Mo Collins (no, not the MadTV star and don't mention that unless you want to get punched in the face by him) and his groups trials and tribulations as they learn of a new zombie-like plague hitting the town they are docked at on their replica pirate ship, the Viva Ancora.

Along the way, we meet other survivors including The Expert, The Tech, The Oracle, The Sacrifice, The Old Friend plus many more.  Seriously, they were all explained out by The Oracle - and every time he would "predict" the next scene or next person they would meet - Mo's reaction would kill me. It really made me (like Mo) realize that most of the Post-Apocalyptic books I read follow and almost exact plot map.  Not all in the same order - but they all seem to hit it.

The movie trivia/quotes/similarities were awesome to a movie-lover like me.  I really enjoyed when they came to the scene near the church and they talked about other zombie movies.  Or when they would go anywhere and Smokes would basically tell them that because he was black, he wouldn't go in first because they always died first in every "bad horror film".

Bonds really understands both his audience and the post-apocalyptic genre and allows that to shine in Zombie Lake.  I thought that Mo, Smokes, and crew were incredibly enjoyable to follow along especially in the format of a journal that "if you're reading this, then I must have died" format.  It just made the story easier to dive in and out of.

Overall, a funny and enjoyable post-apocalyptic zombie tale that has some new parts in it that I've never seen or read before (zombie poop for example).  And a refreshing take on the genre.

The narration, by S.W. Salzman was good.  At first, I was worried about the accent.  The character is supposed to be a slow-talking southern drawl dude - and I think that Salzman hit it on the head without making the book unlistenable.  After the first chapter or so I found myself getting into a rhythm with his narration and it became part of the story. I requested a copy of this audiobook and it has not affected my review at all.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-09-18

A Flawlessly Written Captivating Tale...

Keep Her Safe by K.A. Tucker was one of Audible's "Top 9 Mysteries & Thrillers This Week" sometime back in January and the publisher's summary really intrigued me. "Making a Murderer meets Scandal?" Oh, yes, please! Sign me up. If you're a fan of Scandal, you'll love this piece of romantic suspense as Tucker seamlessly blends "police, corruption, family secrets, and illicit affairs" into one heck of a story.

Noah Marshall's mother Jackie is Austin's highly decorated chief of police and after an evening of heavy drinking and seemingly incoherent rambling, she has just committed suicide. Noah, who led "a privileged and comfortable life" until the night of his mother's death, feels obligated to fulfill her final request and seek answers to questions he didn't know he had. Fourteen years ago, Jackie's former partner Abe died in what appeared to be a drug deal gone wrong, but what really happened, why did it drive Jackie to end her own life, and why does she want Noah to personally deliver a bag of cash to Abe's daughter Gracie? 

When Noah arrives at Gracie's door in Tucson, her mom Dina is far from the woman he remembered from his childhood. As Dina struggles with addiction, Gracie works two jobs and does her best to blend in and survive in The Hollow, a trailer park where most don't seem to know or care that Abe was a corrupt cop who died in a shroud of scandal. Gracie doesn't seem to trust anyone but when Noah shows up on her doorstep, she has few options and they begin their search for answers together.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid I can't give you too many more plot details without spoiling the twists and turns Keep Her Safe will take you on. I will tell you that it was a flawlessly written, captivating tale of secrets, corruption, loyalty, and love, the budding love between Gracie and Noah and the love they each have for their parents.

Keep Her Safe is narrated by a cast of extremely talented narrators: Robin Eller, Roger Casey, Wendy Tremont King, and Will Damon. Each had a distinctive, easy to listen to voice as they brought Noah, Jackie, Abe, and Gracie to life. I felt myself identifying with the characters and empathizing as they struggled with their demons--the emotions Tucker and her narrators were able to conjure were impressive and the complex story was filled with intellectual suspense.

While some portions of the story seem a bit predictable or cliche, I stayed interested, wondering how it would all turn out. Each time I started to think I had it figured out, another layer was revealed--I felt like I was peeling an onion--and the end was still full of surprises. I never felt like I was certain who I could trust and who I couldn't. While some of my suspicions were accurate, there were twists I never saw coming.

If you're more interested in the traditional crime fiction/suspense novels I have good news for you: you may be able to tolerate the romantic aspects of Keep Her Safe. Though the budding romance between Gracie and Noah was a significant feature of this book, wasn't over the top, overly graphic, or steamy in a way that makes you a little nauseous and/or uncomfortable if read in public. Keep Her Safe felt predominately like a suspense story and the romance was just like the icing on top of the cake, complimenting the mystery quite well. I requested a review copy of this audiobook - it has not affected my review in any way.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-05-18

Chrildren of Wrath Makes You Feel

There was no "waiting for the story to pick up" with Children of Wrath. T.A. Ward had me hooked from the very first moments of the story when we meet Dr. Ethan King on "the Day of Destruction." Her use of imagery was masterful and diverse, encompassing a vast array of visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile imagery--it was as if I could see, hear, smell, and feel what Ethan was experiencing from the very first page. When coupled with the third person point of view, making readers privy to Ethan's inner monologues, I felt as if I was standing right there in the midst of the drama. It was as if I were right next to Ethan as he listened to news coverage of the bombing on the Capital, when he watched as the dirty bombs, filled with a toxic nerve gas, were dropped on his own city of Philadelphia, and as he and his co-workers scrambled to decontaminate and treat survivors of these horrific attacks.

Five years later, Ethan and his wife are struggling to come to terms with their new reality. We learn that this new reality includes Inexorables, the children born to women who were exposed to the toxic nerve gas, children who are "ruthlessly violent, irrepressibly psychopathic—and incurable. They kill without thought or remorse, and inflict torment on their victims with childish glee." Despite these dangerous, horrific qualities, Ethan recognizes that Inexorables are still children, human children, and faces a moral dilemma when he encounters an abandoned young Inexorable, freezing and in grave condition after exposure to the elements. He quickly decides to take the child home with him, a decision that changes everything for him, and for his wife Liz, a resilient, loyal woman who desperately wanted a child of her own.

As Children' of Wrath progressed, I found myself fully engrossed and completely invested in the characters. Ward's description of the Inexorables left me feeling torn--one moment I was cringing at the description of their violent outbursts, wondering how Ethan could subject himself (or Liz) to such risk, and the next, I was learning how the government was "dealing with" Inexorables at "Assistance Centers," and fighting tears for the horror and indecency of it all.

This book will make you feel things, all kinds of things. I felt uneasy, wondering how much Ethan should trust his co-workers, the government, the media, the employees at the Center, even his longtime friends. I frequently wondered how I would react to events in the book. I found myself questioning what it means to be human, what it means to be humane, what kinds of moral obligations we have to other living beings if it is ethical or moral to cause harm or pain to some in order to protect the masses.

I pondered my own strength and considered how I might cope if exposed to a nerve gas that dashed my dreams of one day being a mother, of raising a healthy, happy child. What would I do if I thought I had the opportunity to fulfill that dream, only to learn that my baby was destructive, relentless, and sadistic, hell-bent on hurting everyone around them?  What I would do if faced with Ethan's situation. I wanted desperately for Ethan and his wife to enjoy a happy, stable relationship and have the opportunity to raise a family in peace. I wanted Ethan to find the answers to what was really going on with Inexorables.

I wanted him to find a cure. In short, I wanted everyone to live "happily ever after." I can't tell you if I got any of what I wanted because the answer to that question would involve too many spoilers. I do encourage you to check out Children of Wrath for yourself and feel all the feels.

Tom Askin's voice felt like a perfect fit for Ethan and I thought he did a sufficient job voicing the female characters as well. His voice was generally soft but expressive, booming on occasion to add drama and his tone was easy to listen too. However, there was something a bit off with his cadence. Askin would pause or speak in a halting manner, in a way that at first seemed intentional, as if an attempt to bring to life the fleeting, halting thought patterns Ethan might be experiencing during traumatic moments...but it continued for the duration of the novel. I found it a bit disruptive and annoying at times, so much so that I took a star off of the "performance" portion of my audible review for what was otherwise a solid performance. I requested a free copy of this audiobook which has not affected my review in any way.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-05-18

Candidate For Best of 2018

Awakened doesn’t waste any time. We meet a tunnel boring operator and are thrown (almost literally) into the chasm that is to be the introduction of this intense story. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this but I knew within the first few pages what I was in for.

The first third of this book was really done. We meet some characters and are quickly/partially introduced to the monsters of the story. The line that the survivors and the affected take (terrorism) made perfect sense when things like Murray and Wearmouth describe aren’t supposed to exist. I particularly liked the “Jaws-like” “there is something there but we can’t see it” aspect of it. In the beginning, we’re not sure if it’s because they don’t like light or for some other reason – but it definitely adds to the tension and horror in Awakened.

This book reminded me of a few other books that I’ve read including “Hell Holes” by Donald Firesmith and “Broken Shells” by Michael Patrick Hicks. Not enough to make me dislike this book at all. I thought that they had a unique enough story that it was worth reading.

The interweaving storylines, changing of characters, and the “deep state”/conspiracy theory part of the books kept me riveted to this book. I couldn’t let it down. I ended up finishing it in a traffic jam today and I was mad that I didn’t have more story to listen to!

Overall, I thought that Awakened was an excellent book that will probably make my Best of 2018. I enjoyed it that much.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful