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Brian

Niagara Falls, NY
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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-20-18

These Mermaids Will Give You Goosebumps

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Mira Grant fan. It all started with my husband saying “look, I know it’s about zombies, but you have to read this book,” as he passed me his copy of Feed. Not previously having much of an interest in books about zombies, I rolled my eyes, took the book, and dug right in. I was immediately converted and completely hooked. If you haven’t checked out the Newsflesh series yet, take my word for it--you’re going to love it. Having recently finished Grant’s novella, Coming to You Live, I was looking for something that would have a similar pull, a book I just didn’t want to put down.

I saw Into the Drowning Deep and thought, “mermaids?” Queue the eye roll. I’m not sure why I hesitated, if Mira can draw me in and make me interested and invested in a world involving zombies surely I can buy into mermaids, right? Right, absolutely right. The publisher’s summary begins by saying “the ocean is home to many myths…” and this may be part of the allure, part of why, despite my best judgment and most logical reasoning, I started to think, “perhaps mermaids could be real.” Grant makes them real.

Into the Drowning Deep begins with a brief recap of the events surrounding the “disappearance” of those on the doomed Atargatis. We learn that this vessel was found at sea and all aboard were presumed dead...but no bodies were ever recovered. Victoria (Tory) Stewart’s sister was a tv personality on the Atargatis and Tory, a young scientist, is determined to find out what really happened. Into the Drowning Deep follows, Tory (Victoria Stewart), her research partner Luis, and a team of elite experts including large game hunters, linguists, marine biologists, a journalist, and a cameraman as they embark on a similar journey, traveling to the Mariana Trench to determine if mermaids are real, once and for all. I can’t share too much more plot-wise without giving away too many spoilers but I’ll say this: Into the Drowning Deep will hold your interest and have you biting your nails.

The eclectic group of characters are well developed and many are very likable--those who aren’t (I’m pointing to you Jacques and Michi Abney)-- may even grow on you. Ms. Larkin’s narration brings each character to life, giving them each a distinct voice and personality, and a kind of dimension I don’t think I would have experienced if I had read a physical book. Her narration is paired perfectly with Grants writing--her speed variations and emotional inflections combine with Grant’s foreshadowing and character development to create a sense of urgency, convey fear and discomfort, and spark curiosity.

Like the Newsflesh series, Into the Drowning Deep is immersive. Grant paints such a clear picture of the world in which her story is set that you’ll feel like you’re in it. From her description of the ship and her explanation of the Minnow (piloted by one of the Wilson sisters) to the discussion of the depth and darkness of the sea--the imagery is masterful. Close your eyes and picture a mermaid in your mind. The mermaid you’re seeing right now is not the mermaid Grant will conjure for you. Her mermaids will give you the goosebumps.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-19-18

A Well Written Thriller Sure To Please

I have a rather eclectic taste in books. I’m down for anything–Sci-Fi, Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian, Chick Lit, Memoirs, Historical Fiction, you name it, I’ll read it, so long as it’s a good story. Recently, I’ve been on a historical fiction kick, reading The Alice Network and Fortunate Ones and listening to The Address, The Lilac Girls, and All the Light We Cannot See. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each of these pieces but oh man was I in need of a palate cleanser. I was looking for something…a little less historic. Brian suggested I check out The Speed of Sound and I was definitely not disappointed. My biggest gripe? The Speed of Sound is the first book in a series and the second book, The Sound of Echoes, isn’t due to be released until June of next year!

The Speed of Sound is a thriller centered upon an extraordinary young man, Eddie Park, who resides at Harmony House, a “special place for special people.” We quickly learn that Harmony House is funded by a governmental or quasi-governmental organization looking to control the intellectual property and technological developments created by the special people who live there, primarily highly-functioning autistic savants like Eddie, in the interest of national security. When Eddie’s creation, the “echo box,” successfully utilizes “acoustic archeology” to re-create sound waves, Eddie is ecstatic, hoping to use the box to hear his late mother sing. He demonstrates the box for Dr. Skylar Drummond, playing a rather compromising conversation involving the director of Harmony House. Dr. Drummond quickly realizes the box and its ability to recreate any conversation could have powerful and potentially dangerous consequences. She worries that Eddie and his echo box may be in imminent danger and the real story begins, as the pair embarks on a risky game of “tag,” trying to outrun and outsmart the “mystery man” and others anxious to get their hands on the Echo Box.

I was extremely impressed by every aspect of The Speed of Sound but was most captivated by Bernt’s portrayal of Eddie. As an undergraduate, I had the pleasure of knowing two remarkable young people much like Eddie and was happy to see Bernt present Eddie not as a strange and limited person but as a unique, talented individual with the power to change the world, hindered only by his inability to effectively communicate with those around him. Similarly, I found Dr. Drummond immediately likable. Driven by a deep-seeded and personal desire to serve the Autistic community, Dr. Drummond’s compassion and dedication to helping Eddie achieve his goals are almost palpable. The suburb characterization in this piece is enhanced by a phenomenal narrator, Christopher Lane. Lane’s voice was an excellent match for the Speed of Sound’s third person, omniscient point of view. His voice was the perfect embodiment of “the wizard behind the curtain,” an all-knowing narrator capable of telling us exactly what each character was thinking and feeling. His voice drew me in and wouldn’t let me go.

With a technological advancement capable of changing the world, a young, likable, main character, a few creepy, mysterious “bad guys,” a few altruistic “good guys,” and a fabulous narrator, The Speed of Sound is a well written and well-narrated thriller sure to please. As the first in a series, the only disappointment you’re likely to face is a bit of a cliffhanger at the end and the suspense and anticipation you’ll be forced to endure while you await the release of book two, The Sound of Echoes.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-19-18

Sci-Fi, Military Thriller, Time Travel.. and Dinos

I remember Jake Bible posting a rough sketch of what he thought the cover should look like (I tried to find it so I could share it with you) and it was basically a stick dino, a bubble, and a stick person.  The cover art on this is gorgeous and I'll tip my hat to whoever designed it.  It's a perfect depiction of Bible's world.

The Flipside tells the story of a world where dinosaurs are real and time travel is possible but only in certain "time bubbles".  One company owns the rights to them in the US and is using it for tourism to "the flipside".  Tragedy strikes and a team is left on the other side for a year.  When they were supposed to come back - we find out that things aren't what they seem.

I'm familiar with Bible's world building from his other books but this was really well thought out and beautifully written.  I felt like I understood each person, place, and thing along with why they were there. I like when I don't have to try hard to imagine the world that an author is trying to create.

The characters in this were also awesome.  They were all strong in their own way and each provided some comic relief when you least expected it. I won't go into describing or explaining any characters - just know that you are in for well developed and interesting ones.

Andrew B. Wehrlen did a fantastic job narrating this book (as he's done with other Bible titles) - he gave each character their own voice without overacting each part. I found that listening to this made it immensely more enjoyable than reading it myself would have (I don't have a lot of good voices for characters in my head).

Overall, I thought that The Flipside had it all.  Jurassic Park elements (and even a reference to the movie), a futuristic setting, a "far in the past" setting, strong characters, time travel, and oh yeah, dinos.  Definitely dinos. I requested a copy of this book from the narrator - it has not affected my review in any way.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-11-18

A Sci-Fi Political Thriller/Murder Mystery

3.5 out of 5 stars

For some reason, there have been a lot of "murder mysteries in space" books in my queue lately.  Gunpowder Moon was another one to add to the list.  This was on my list of "most anticipated" for 2018 and I'm glad it was.  I enjoyed almost every second of it thanks to Pederiera's no-nonsense writing style and Jeffrey Kafer's delivery.

I called this a Sci-Fi Political Thriller/Murder Mystery because that is every category I think this book fits into. There is a murder of a miner on the moon and we are tasked with figuring out not only who killed him but why.  The government gets involved and it spirals from there.

The plot of this wasn't anything new to me since I've read a few other books similar to this in the last few months - but I did appreciate that it was set on the Moon and not Mars.  That helped it stand out a little to me (and made it a little more believable).  There was some science in this that I wasn't sure if it was real or possible - and some other science-y parts that bugged me a little.  I don't expect every author to be Andy Weir level of science by any means.  Or even capital S science. But some of the stuff written in this just got on my nerves.  I understand that it's set in the future and "anything is possible" but it's not the Sci-Fi parts that were the issue.

The characters were a little take them or leave them until later in the story.  I didn't know much about most of these people until they were thrown into the blender.  It wasn't typically how I get to know them - but it worked for this story.

Overall, for a genre-jumping book - I thought that Gunpowder Moon was a pretty good one.  There was a little too much political pandering for my likes - but I just got past it and enjoyed the Sci-Fi Mystery part of it.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-11-18

Intense, Uncomfortable, and Raw

Something in the synopsis of Girl Last Seen hooked me right in. Maybe it's because "The Face on the Milk Carton" was one of my all-time favorite books as a young adult and this seemed a little reminiscent, with the main character seeing a familiar face on a missing poster, much like the Janie saw her's on a milk carton... but oh man. In this novel, Lane sees a face that looks like her own and is immediately pulled back into her past, and the hell she experienced at the hands of a kidnapper, the same kidnapper she suspects has taken Olivia Shaw.

Girl Last Seen can be intense, uncomfortable, and raw, as Lane recounts the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse she experienced and struggles to cope with its physical and emotional scars. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I thought Laurin's character development was phenomenal, particularly with Lane's character. I don't think she was stupid, but I do believe she makes some rash, reactionary decisions, something a traumatized young woman like her might also do if left with so little support.

I liked the pace of Girl Last Seen and found the plot line to be pretty interesting, holding my interest through a few twists and turns, but it didn't blow me out of the water. I also found the last hour or so of the book to be somewhat rushed, as if Laurin was trying to tie up all of the loose ends in a hurry. Overall, Girl Last Seen was a good read and I'd recommend it, with a trigger warning for those who find reading or listening to another's stories of abuse traumatic.

I adored the narrator's voice and am looking forward to listening to more of Vanessa Johansson's work. I would give her narration a five and the book an overall three.  Overall, a book that I didn't love or hate - it kind of felt like a "take it or leave it" story.

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-09-18

Gripping and Powerful

I'm going to paraphrase Stallcup's synopsis of Sinful here:  Charlie Johnson is your average American teenager. He’s a good student, he’s a good son, his girlfriend is the love of his life. He’s a nice kid. Charlie also murders people for their sins. A serious car accident leaves Charlie comatose and when he comes to... he soon discovers that when he touches people, he can sense their evil and see their greatest evils. 

I liked the first introduction to the "power" that Charlie has with the nurse.  I won't go into too much detail here but the scene was powerful and the thought process that followed was well thought out and written.

I will preface this with a compliment.  I liked this book.  Now I'm going to take some away from that.. but.  I liked this book but, there are a lot of serial killers who think the same thing that Charlie thinks.  That God is telling him to kill people.  Sure, in this book he has this "power" but can we really prove that it's true or not? I'm sure that other serial killers would love to prove that God was talking to them.

I'm the kind of person who appreciates a story this powerful in a book this short.  Some people don't like to spend the money on an audiobook this short but it was a perfect palate cleanser for some of the other things I've been reading lately.  This is my first book by Stallcup and I don't think it'll be my last.

Overall, I thought that Sinful was gripping and powerful and it only rubbed me the wrong way a few times.  Add in Rick Gregory's narration and you have a nice story with good narration. I requested a copy of this audiobook for review - it has not affected my review in any way.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-18

A Mayhem-Filled Zombie Story

A zombie story through and through with a lot of other elements that lots of people would enjoy.  You've got mayhem throughout and all of the things that come with mayhem.

Planet of the Dead was one of those stories that I didn't know I was going to enjoy.  Sure, I love zombie books as much as the next guy - but I just didn't know going into it.  Well, I loved it and had a blast flying through this book.

Flowers way of skipping from person to person explaining the story from their viewpoints really made this so easy to read.  Even if you didn't like a person or a point of view - you knew it was going to move on to another person soon after.

Bouncing from person to person can be hard to follow but I thought that Gregory did a great job tying everything together with good narration.  Every one and a while I find him to be a little too... flat in his narration (no ups or downs depending on the pace of the story for example) but nothing that would turn me away from another book narrated by him.  It's hard to add that to the story without over-acting the part.

Overall, an enjoyable zombie book by a great author.  Planet of the Dead - what's not to love?

Also, let's take a second to enjoy the cover art on this.  Well done and thought out - this one definitely had my attention before I knew anything about it. I requested a copy of this book from the narrator which has not affected my review in any way.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-18

Kept Me Guessing

You know how the publishers of psychological thrillers often tell you the book will "keep you guessing until the very end?" This book did just that.

Five years after a university student disappears and a professor is found dead of an apparent suicide, the professor's wife, Mia, is putting back the pieces of her shattered life. Coping with the ostracism she endured from strangers and friends alike in the wake of her husband's death, Mia seems to be balancing the many facets of her new life, raising their daughter as a single mother, working as a therapist from her home office, and enjoying a relationship with a wonderful man, until one day, a patient arrives and causes her to question everything.

That patient, Alice, claims to know the truth about what happened to the missing student and suggests Mia's husband may not have killed himself. But Alice seems...strange. Her reliability and credibility seem limited and her significant other offers insight into her past that further exacerbates Mia's concerns.

Told from two perspectives, this piece alternates between present-day Mia and flashbacks told in the voice of Josie, the student who disappeared. Having two narrators with two distinct voices truly helped me keep these characters straight (something that can be particularly difficult for me when listening to audiobooks with single narrators and multiple points of view) and enhanced the characterization Croft so carefully crafted.

As Josie's story unfolded, I wondered if perhaps Josie and Alice could be the same person, perhaps she assumed a new identity? But why? And how? This didn't seem right, but I couldn't rule it out. As details of Josie's life emerged, I suspected a few men from her past may have been responsible for both crimes but, with each revelation I found myself guessing again. Without giving too much away, I'll say that I had four or five different hypotheses and "suspects" throughout the duration of this book...and none of them were right.

Silent Lies was like an onion, with many layers to peel back before you find the truth. If you enjoy psychological thrillers that keep you guessing, I don't think you'll be disappointed by this book.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-06-18

A New Twist on a Space Murder Mystery

4.5 out of 5 stars

One Way has been on my radar for some time – I ended up picking this book up to read (non-requested review) which I have very little time for anymore. My wife and I started another book on a drive home from DC and we just couldn’t get into it. We put One Way on and were instantly hooked. Literally the first 3 minutes were more intriguing than the hour we had given another book.

Morden knows how to build both suspense and intrigue as he builds the world, the characters, and the mistrust throughout. You follow one main character but are introduced to numerous others. Frank is one of those characters that in the beginning you don’t know if he is going to be a good or a bad guy – and you’re told right away that he’s a convict. You’re also told pretty early on why he’s a convict. While I’m not a parent – I could completely understand the crime that Frank committed.

Once the Earth part of the story was over – this entire book read like the synopsis said. It combines And Then There Was One and The Martian. And it references and I think pays a little homage to The Martian a couple times (there was at least one scene where duct tape was mentioned. I thought for sure one of them was going to mention Mark but they didn’t. I kept thinking to myself that this could have honestly been the prequel to The Martian. It was built in such a way that the convicts sounded like they were building the HAB that the characters in The Martian were going to live and work in. While I understand that the science and technology needed to power a Martian base would be the same – it felt so similar.

So, that bodes well for fans of The Martian. And if you like a good “whodunit” murder-mystery an are looking for something set in a new and unique environment you should check out One Way.

Overall, I thought that One Way was a well thought out and paced combination of a science fiction and murder mystery book. It has elements that a lot of people would enjoy and will have me thinking about it when it comes time to vote for my best books of 2018.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-06-18

A Crazy Adventure

4.5 out of 5 stars

This was a crazy book from beginning to end.  I did read the first book in the series and it felt a bit confusing to start but then settled into a nice groove.  Helios was similar but Robinson and Ellis just bounced all over the place and didn't include one history lesson/relic/era in this book - the hodgepodged them together to make this crazy adventure book that had the Herculean Society bouncing across the globe.

The irony is that all of the pop culture things that I would compare this book to, they included in the book.  It's very Indiana Jones thrown into the world of Assassin's Creed with a little Tomb Raider thrown in there.  If Robinson and Ellis aren't gamers I'd be a little shocked. Some of the characters "origin" stories came from watching Indiana Jones as a kid.  A nice way to tie in the Jones references into Helios.

This was a little different than most Adventure books because they throw in a bit of a Sci-Fi vibe to it. There's an over-arching story that involves space and satellites.  They included some cool autonomous equipment, too - which I enjoyed.

Jeffrey Kafer provided the voice for this one and I'm glad he did.  There's something about when he works with Robinson that just makes it work.

Overall, I thought that Helios was an enjoyable adventure thrill-ride from beginning to end.  I flew through this one and I'm glad I picked it up.  It didn't disappoint me and I hope if you pick it up it doesn't disappoint you either. I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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