Monday, 31 January 2011

Officer 666 by Barton Wood Currie and Augustin McHugh

Official Blurb

Bored with his life as a wealthy businessman's only son, Travers Gladwin learns of a plot by a renowned art burglar to rob his house, so rather than thwart the planned burglary, he borrows a police uniform from a friend and decides to confront the robber by posing as an officer. When the burglar arrives at the house, he tries to pass himself off as Travers Gladwin. From there, things only get more complicated, including the arrival of the burglar's girlfriend who believes that her beau is the wealthy man's son.

My Review

This is a comedic farce in the best tradition of such things. If you like P.G. Wodehouse's farces, then this will be right up your street.

This story does rely on a certain suspension of disbelief, the characters making somewhat odd decisions that lead to outrageous situations. This is to be expected of course otherwise there would be no farce! In fact, now I think about it, it's not just farce, characters in horror stories make odd decisions too!

The lead characters are all attractive to the listener and although perhaps not as distinct as Wodehouse's characters, they are the sort of people you'll laugh along with their antics. There are no real bad-guys in the story, even the thief is a likeable rogue.

The reader lends a voice to the story that is perfectly paced for this kind of story, he doesn't race through the comedy moments nor dawdle in between. This kind of pacing helps you keep track of things, and you need to do that in a farce.

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 6/9


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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Immortals by Tracy Hickman

Official Blurb

The future story of United States Internment Camps ... of the dreams of the pre-deceased ... and of triumph beyond oblivion.

It's 2020, and an attempted cure for AIDS has mutated into a deadlier disease, V-CIDS. The U.S., under martial law, has set up "quarantine centers" in the Southwest. Searching for his gay son, Jon, media mogul Michael Barris smuggles himself into one of centers only to discover that it and the other centers are actually extermination camps. With a strange assortment of allies, including the leader of the camp's gay barracks, an army officer and a local cowboy, Barris precipitates an inmates' rebellion that promises the unraveling of the death-camp system and the overthrow of the government that established it.

My Review

This is a good audio book. It's well written and has a loverly production including a minimalist approach to sound effects and some delightful incidental music. I found the story itself compelling, it was a book I HAD to finish.

It is a story set in depair, in a world an environment where life has no value, it's dark and upsetting. If not for the few sci fi elements thrown in this could so easily be just a couple of years in our future, or even today.

I was moved by the moments of human kindness presented in the horror of the camps and the audio presentation works perfectly to reinforce this.

Do not expect to be cheered though, this is not a happy story, its a sad tale that can give you scarey chills with it's likeness to reality.

Reading 3/3
Production 3/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 8/9

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Owners Share by Nathan Lowell

Official Blurb

When Diurnia Salvage and Transport undergoes a change in management, Captain Ishmael Horatio Wang finds himself adrift in a sea of red ink, and intrigue. He dives in only to find that he is over his head in a universe where cut-throat competition takes on an all new meaning.

What price will he pay for his Owner’s Share?

My Review

This book is the sixth book in the series, it is also the final. The book continues the story of Ishmael Horatio Wang's rise in power and station. The author does another sterling job of reading his own work.

I remarked in reviews of the previous books in the series that despite nothing happening they were still good. This book breaks that pattern. The author has written a strong and fitting final episode to his serial.

I really do not want to give away any spoilers, (the title kind of does that) but what I can say is that I was blown away with this fantastic ending. I actually cried when it finished. Part of that was me wanting it to go on, but mostly it was down to the shock, the horror and the bitter sweet emotional elements that the author wove through his story.

If you haven't been listening along with the whole series, then this is not the place to start. The stories impact and meaning will be lost on you. Go back to the beginning of the series "Quarter Share" and start there.

If you've started this series, then I reccommend you finish it.

Reading 3/3
Production 2/3
Story 3/3

Total Score 8/9

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Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Arwen, Season 3: Armada by Timothy P. Callahan

Official Blurb

The Earth Alliance prepares itself for a new war. Two old enemy's have allied themselves with Regal, the planet the Arwen saved two years earlier, to build a massive Armada assigned to destroy Earth. Vice Admiral Payton Cook must defend the planet against insurmountable odds while Captain Cook does battle to save Ulliam from a deadly surprise attack.

The Arwen: Season 3 is the final chapter of the Gyssyc trilogy which started with the Parsec award winning novella, the Arwen: Season one Regal, and continued with The Arwen Season two: Ulliam.

My Review

This a the third part of a series of books. I've reviewed the previous installments in the trilogy and liked them both. Frankly, this is just as good. There is more action in this segment than the previous two books and its all good stuff.

The series follows the trials and tribulations of the starship "Arwen" and its crew. They don't have an easy life, as the Arwen is constantly bound up in galactic scale politics and battles.

This book is pure sci fi, aliens, battleships in space, future weapons and real people running the whole show. Just what this sci fi fan really enjoys.

This book would stand fairly well as a stand alone book, but does make reference to the people and events of the previous stories, so I recommend you dont start with this part, but you could if push came to shove.

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 6/9

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Friday, 21 January 2011

The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton, volume I

Official Blurb

Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bront̩, KB (29 September 1758 Р21 October 1805) was an English flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He won several victories, including the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, during which he was killed. These are the letters that he wrote to Lady Hamilton, with whom he was having a notorious affair until his death in 1805.

My Review

I have to admit to being a bit of fan of history. I've also read pretty much every "action under sail" type of novel I have ever got my hands on. Also I might add, blowing my own trumpet, the first audio book I ever recorded was "The Death of Lord Nelson".

So with those caveats in place let me tell you what I thought about this book... I loved it!

As the title suggests it is a series of letters from a man to his lover. Each of them is facinating on a couple of levels. I really enjoyed the little details to be found here. From the delightful way he would sign off dedicating himself to his lady, to the details of the admiralty politics.

Little historical facts pop out of these letters that give you facinating insights into how life was for these people. For instance that letters sent via the admiralty had weight limits, that they often had to be redirected, that workers for the postal service took fiscal advantage of people who didn't know better.

The letters also show just how human "Nelson" was, how worried about offending people, how money troubles pursued him, how he hated black guards!

I can't really tell you more without ruining the delight you might discover for yourselves.

The only down side is that this book is not voiced by just one person and the change of voice can be distracting when the letters come from the same person.

Reading 2/3
Production 1/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 5/9

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Peace Lord of the Red Planet by Steven H. Wilson

Official Blurb

Shepherd Autrey is a Quaker, a physician, and a man deeply disturbed by the madness around him as the War Between the states bears down on his America in 1863. Dared by a friend to take an active role, Shep volunteers to provide humanitarian aid to the victims of Sherman’s scorched earth campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. There he runs foul of a Confederate recruiting drive and fi nds himself hanged by the neck from a tree. Awakening in a strange land which can’t possibly be earth, Shep is plunged into battle and saves the life of an alien warrior prince. Hailed by bloodthirsty killers as the bravest man alive, Shep combats his conscience, his flagging faith, and an ever-growing number of people who want him dead.

My Review

The title and the blurb suggest that this might be set in Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom world. Even the civil war link to the red planet suggests it may be a Barsoom story. Sadly I have to report it is nothing of the sort.

The world that the protagonist is pulled through to is Red, but its not aliens with six arms on the planet but men. Yes they do have flying boats and fight with swords over a mostly desert world but its not Barsoom. I was severely disapointed.

The story started so well , Shep the protagonist is an appealing character and the opening chapters put him in some really interesting situations. Sadly it does not stay that way. The story gets exceptionally preachy. At one point two consecutive chapters focus almost entirely on various characters trying to convince the protagonist that his Christian based anti-homesexual sentiments are wrong. Two chapters!

The end of the story was also a dispointment. Instead of building to a big battle or highly adventurous final climax it resolved with lots of explaining what happened in the past rather than showing us the action.

In the end, I was very disapointed, I kept listening hoping it would get better, be more what I had been hoping for.

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 1/3

Total Score 5/9

Dont bother downloading it from Podiobooks

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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Hand of Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Official Blurb

Further adventures of Nayland Smith and Doctor Petrie as they continue their battles against the evil genius, Dr Fu-Manchu.

My Review

This is the third Fu-Manchu book available via Librivox and I think the actual third in the original series of books. In case you don't know Dr Fu-Manchu is an evil genious working for mysterious eastern powers, the goal of whom is to subjugate the west to the power of china. The Yellow-Peril as it is known in these books.

Set against the evil doctor is Nayland Smith, an intrepidagent of the British Government and his faithful companion Petrie, who narrates these tales. In the previous two books Nayland Smith is constantly on the back foot trying to catch up and overtake the plots of the evil genious. This third book is no different. If you liked the earlier books, you're getting more of the same here.

The evil doctor is trying to kill people, kidnap others and generally cause mischief bit things do take an interesting twist in this book. Not only does Petrie's love Karamina (thats not how you spell it) get kidnapped but we also discover that Fu has other loverly slaves to do his bidding. We also, and this the twist, discover that Dr Fu-Manchu is not the head honcho, he has to report for his failures to a higher power!

So it's an adventure story, episodic in nature, full of daring do and slimey bad guys.

The reader is excellent and employs a nice variety of voices.

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 6/9

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Friday, 14 January 2011

In the Shadows by Basil Sands

Official Blurb

A collection of Short Stories by action author Basil Sands.

These stories will get your heart racing in thirty minutes or less as you plummet to the depths of human emotion and the desire to protect what is dearest when all hell breaks loose and there is no one there to do anything about it but an Average Joe...or an almost Average Joe. Think of each episode as something like the Twilight Zone, with guns, knives, and whatever the hero can find to defend themselves and their families from the bad guys. These are Basil's original action novels taken down to single episode bite size chunks that'll get your blood pressure up on the commute to the office, or while on the treadmill at the gym.

From a former Navy Seal, to a dad trying to make things right for his son, to a bunch of twenty something adventurers high on an Alaskan mountain you'll get the hardcore action you crave. Twice a month, delivered right to your MP3 player.

You want action? You want pulse pounding excitement? You want to see the bad guys get their due?

Here it is in a way that only a guy named Basil can do.

So make sure to put your tray table in the upright and locked position, and fasten your seat belt... it's going to be a wild ride.

My Review

As the blurb says the author has presented us with high action in ten different stories. Each is an action based story with the emphasis on action rather than story. this is because they are just too short to contain any real story.

Think of stringing the action scenes from your fave' movies into sequence and you'll have a feel for how listening to these stories present themselves. All of them share a second common trait, apart from the action, in that someone is not what they seem.

There are ten stories, I rated nine of them as good, and one as OK. The author is reading his own work here and does good job of it. Well worth listening to

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 6/9

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Shadow Falls: Badlands by Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff

Official Blurb

After a condemned ex-soldier cheats the gallows and wakes to find everyone in a small Texas town dead and his jail cell door wide open, he begins a cross-country journey to follow his nightmarish visions of mankind's end. But as he searches for a way to stop the coming apocalypse from happening, he soon discovers that what lays behind destiny's door is a darkness beyond his control.

My Review

The first thing I shoudl point out is that this is the second in a series and I haven't listened to the first part. I Only realised it was part two as I listened to the last section. I didn't realise that I was in part two because it you didn't need to know what came before!

This story is part horror, part mystery, part adventure. The author has created a story that jumps back wards and forwards through time to tell a mysterious story of horrific people and dark powers. It's very cleverly done. Sometimes as the author takes us forwards opr backwards in time it can take you a breath or two to catch up and this blends the differn't parts into a mystery that hooks you.

This story primarily set in the old west when people still used muskets and pistols that used black powder, but does go further back into the earliest days of the settlement.

Pretty much everyone in this story is a nasty piece of work, and they are often making sure you know it, with bullet, knife AND teeth!

This book is not for those with a weak constitution, but does have a pacing and mystery that will keep you glued to the ear buds.

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 6/9

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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Dead Hunt by Kenn Crawford

Official Blurb

Off the coast of Nova Scotia on a remote island, a lonely scientist, a powerful computer, a simple mistake. Unleashes a new threat, somewhere in the hills of Margaree.

"Dead Hunt" is Kenn Crawford’s chilling tale of a desperate father’s undying love, a daughter frozen in time, and the small group of teens trapped in the aftermath.

"Everyone makes mistakes. Some are small, some are bigger. My father’s mistake, born of an innocent heart and fueled by sadness, was the greatest mistake. Some thought the death of his little girl drove him to the point of insanity; some thought he was trying to be God. But, this is not how it happened. The truth is, he wanted to save me. To give me life. And, in doing so, everyone was doomed." ~Robin

My Review

Imagine a slasher movie, imagine a bunch of teens starring in a saturday night zombie flick and thats where this book sits. It's blood and guts and teens surrounded by zombies. A simple theme but the author has put more than a little thought into it.

The first third of the novel deals with the cause and effect of the zombie outbreak, and does it with stylish, intellectual way. This is no plague caused by a passing asteroid, instead the author builds up the science behind it with some great characterisation in the process. It all makes sense to my semi logical mind, sure the science is probably guff, but I didn't spot it.

The teens that star in the story are nice, are individual, and best of all intelligent! So often in these stories teens act stupid, they go down into unlit basements, out into the eveil woods etc, but not in this story. That makes this a step up from the usual zombie dross.

There is blood, there is gore, there are sexual situations ( not explicit ) so it's you basic horror collection of tropes, but as I said nicely done.

It's a full cast drama with music and sound effects and a delightful narrator. If you like horror, give it a try.

Reading 3/3
Production 3/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 8/9

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Monday, 3 January 2011

The Blockade Runners by Jules Verne

Official Blurb

Writing at the end of the American Civil War, Verne weaves this story of a Scottish merchant who, in desperation at the interruption of the flow of Southern cotton due to the Union blockade, determines to build his own fast ship and run guns to the Confederates in exchange for the cotton piling up unsold on their wharves. His simple plan becomes complicated by two passengers who board his new ship under false pretenses in order to carry out a rescue mission, one which Capt. Playfair adopts as his own cause. This is going make the Rebels in Charleston rather unhappy with him.

Sure, his new ship is fast - but can it escape the cannonballs of both North and South?

My Review

This is a short two hour audio book by one of my favourite writers ( Jules Verne ) and one of my favourite readers ( Mark Smith ), so whats not to like! As the blurb says it's set during the war between the states and predominently on board a steam ship that is about to run the yankie blockade.

It's not a swashbuckling adventure, we dont have any heros leaping about sword in one hand pistol in another, no, it's much more sedate than that. In fact the high action takes place off stage, yet in the end that is not a disapointment.

The story is much more a character piece, that's set in exciting times. As with many of the stories written in these times, you get a feeling that all will end well at the end but that's not why you're listening, you want to hear how they get to that point. So sit down , stick this light adventure in your ears and you wont be disapointed by what is a delightful and well made audio book.

Reading 3/3
Production 2/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 7/9

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Saturday, 1 January 2011

Personal Effects: Sword of Blood by J.C. Hutchins

Official Blurb

Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital art therapist Zach Taylor is endlessly curious, perhaps to a fault. When his cheerful elderly patient Gertrude “Spindle” Spindler completes her latest quilt and informs Zach that a 30-year-old "grand design of nine" has just concluded, Zach’s curiosity is piqued ... and he soon embarks on a quest to unwind the meaning of the woman's cryptic phrase.

He isn't expecting a descent into a world filled with mystery and ruthless subcultures -- and he isn't expecting to be haunted by Spindle's coy clues. What is The Great Blade of Blood? What are The Charred? What is the grand design of nine? And who is the dark-skinned stranger stalking Zach at every turn, threatening his life?

The answers may lie in Spindle's granddaughter, a willowy self-proclaimed psychic named Hen. But Zach soon discovers that Hen may be crazier than the patients he treats ... and the treasure he's pursuing may be more dangerous -- and deadly -- than he ever imagined.

My Review

This audio book is a prequel, it's also of novella length, and when it finishes you'll be saying "what!? You can't end it there!" At least that's what I said. It's an investigative mystery with the protagonist not being a detective but rather an art therapist of all things!

It's been written by the author of the 7th Son trilogy and he's brought his own very distinctive and very good style of writing and narration to this audio book.

This book is a short thriller with just a hint of the super natural to add flavour. The protagonist is a likeable guy with some problems and an "interesting" life. As the story proceeds you learn more and more about him and his world, which when combined with a racing plot keeps you glued to your MP3 player.

I really enjoyed it, but it does suffer from being a prequel, so you're left wanting more, and it's so short you'll just have to buy the book "Personal Effects:Dark Arts". These are not bad things, but if you dont have access to the sequel do yourself a favour and don't start listening to this!

Reading 3/3
Production 2/3
Story 3/3

Total Score 8/9


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