Monday, September 28, 2015

Contract to Kill by Andrew Peterson, Performed by Dick Hill

This audiobook is Book 5 in the Nathan McBride series.  I’ve listed to all 5 of these so far, but as I’m only now getting around to posting reviews…we’ll start with the latest story.

Dick Hill is an excellent performer in his genre.  I never hear him when I am not reminded of Jack Reacher (“Reacher said nothing.”) and this series is well within his bailiwick.  It’s also hard to think of the Nathan McBride and not compare him with Reacher.  They are similar in natures, and unfortunately story development.

Like Reacher the series starts off with a bang and works itself towards a repetitive fizzle.  Contract to Kill is rather shallow in story depth and there really isn’t much more character development to me.  Nathan is still having difficulties in his long distance relationship, Harvey is still the Jiminy Cricket to Nathan’s Pinocchio.  His Dad still struggles to maintain their relationship, etc, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I like formulaic books, The Dresden Files  stand testament to that, but while I can accept that our main character will always prevail in the end, good over evil, and so forth the story that relates how and why they triumph (and fail) is crucial.

This story introduces us to our requisite ‘bad guy’ by relating an event where he could be tempted to take a large chunk of money for himself…but chooses the virtuous path not to…until later apparently when the opportunity presents itself again in civilian life as a highly trusted member in a private military contractor company.  Things don’t go as planned and he inevitably crosses Nathan’s path, and as things go badly for this former military specialist, instead of stopping, realizing he won’t prevail…he continues on doing more and more reckless things.  This kind of incongruity vexes me.  Either they have prowess in tactics and operations, or they are a desperado with a gun(s) but typically not both.

Nathan, of course, prevails, and honestly there wasn’t a lot more revealed in this story.  This series, I fear, is on the same path as Reacher which I gave up on after the 10th book in that series.  I can suspend disbelief, but not stupidity.

I recommend these books if you are looking for a light, good guys with guns series.  But if you are looking for good stories with interesting increasingly deeper characters I refer you to The Dresden Files

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Written by: Jenny Lawson
Narrated by: Jenny Lawson
Length: 8 hrs and 20 mins 
Unabridged Audiobook

Jenny Lawson (a.k.a The Bloggess had her latest book released last Tuesday September 22nd, 2015 and I downloaded the audiobook first thing Tuesday morning.  I finished it in less than 20 hours (I have to work after all) because it was just that good!

She performed this book just as she did her first book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) and as much as I typically don’t care for author’s performing their own works, Jenny is actually very good at it.  Though it turns out that she’s only pretending to be good at it.

I have no doubt that this book is many things to many different people.  This isn’t a story about a character in a fictional time/place no these are vignettes from her life and the (mis)adventures she’s had living through all of the things in her life that could stand in her way…if she let them.  That’s the key to both of her books to me.  Everyone (I think) has things in their life, events that happened to them or others in their lives that could stop us from going forward and living our lives.  The difference is how you deal with them and whether you choose to let events and circumstance dictate your life or whether you go forward in spite of them.

This book stands as a bright example of someone who has every reason and opportunity to just lay down and quit…yet every day (hour, minute) refuses to do so.

What stands out the most to me is one piece of advice she related when she was struggling to perform her first audiobook.  After struggling and performing poorly she reached out to friend Neil Gaiman and explained she wasn’t doing well and was afraid she’d not be able to tell her own story.  His advice: “Pretend you are good at it.” Now that hit home.  How often are we our own worst enemy?  How much easier is it to believe all the negatives our mind conjures?  What a difference could it make if instead of believing that we can’t…that we can?

I really enjoyed this audiobook and hope to meet Jenny later this week on her book tour, if for no other reason than to say ‘thank you.’  It was well worth the time and Audible credit, I highly recommend this to anyone who needs an example to compare how much worse life can be and how not to give up!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Son of the Black Sword, by Larry Correia

UPDATED for post release review of audiobook:

  • Written by: Larry Correia
  • Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • Length: 16 hrs and 21 mins 
  • Series: Saga of the Forgotten Warrior, Book 1
  • Unabridged Audiobook

  • Release Date:10-27-15
  • Publisher: Audible Studios

  • I recently completed the audiobook version of this great beginning story of a new series.  If anything the audio experience only served to reinforce how much I enjoy this story, and look forward to more in this series.  One of the big things I don't think about as much regarding reading a book myself versus audio book is getting the pronunciations of character names and places correct.  Though I will admit having read through the first time in my own voice hearing Mr. Reynolds accents threw me off at first.  :)

    Again I highly recommend trying this new series as well as the rest of Mr Correia's works!

     Books by Larry Correia 

    Pre release review:

    First of all a couple disclaimers:

    I am not a professional…reviewer of books at least.  As a matter of fact this will be my first attempt at such an endeavor and if it works out I may make a habit of it so my friends have an easier time than getting my random brain dumps of what to read that oft times becomes a rather tangential mess.  Mostly because I go through so many books, and I know so many really good ones to recommend, but it gets cumbersome as I tend to gravitate towards large books and series with large books in them…like Monster Hunter International (MHI) for example, also authored by Mr. Correia. 
    (His surname is pronounced the same as Korea, just FYI)

    Secondly, I primarily consume the rather large amount of books I go through in audiobook format.  So it was a bit of a change for me to experience the single task behavior of actually reading a printed book again.  :) I enjoy audiobooks because I’ve never successfully read a book while driving in to work.  There are those who disagree that this is analogous to reading a physical book…we disagree, let's move on.  I’ve already pre-ordered this audiobook (performed by Tim Gerard Reynolds) and I am really looking forward to it.

    I had the good fortune and distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. Correia at Dragon Con ( in Atlanta earlier this month.  I’m happy to say that while I have found him to be a very good author for a few years now he is also a genuinely nice guy, and was exceedingly gracious and approachable in person.  There are few disappointments in life like that of meeting someone whose work you’ve admired and when meeting them in person they are, to put it mildly, rather ugly, unpleasant people.    At our first meeting he very graciously allowed my wife to take this photo of us together.

    At our second meeting at one of his book signings he gave me an advanced copy of his latest book (and autographed it!) that is the beginning of a new series with the only request that I read it and post my thoughts on it.  (I was very excited, and thank you again!)

    So here we go:  As this book isn’t due to release until October 27th (Pre-order here via Mr. Correia’s link: I won’t get into very many specifics so as not to spoil anyone’s fun.   

    Son of the Black Sword is the first book in what will be The Saga of the Forgotten Warrior series.

    I’ll start off with the quote by Jim Butcher from the cover of the book (another of my favorite authors and another really cool guy in person) “This book has everything I like in fantasy:  intense action scenes…good struggling against the darkness…gorgeously flawed human beings…”

    We are introduced to a strange, yet possibly familiar continent, called Lok.  In the opening chapter we meet one of our main characters Ashok as he wakes from a dream and begins to go about his duties as a member of an elite class of warriors known as Protectors.  We discover this part of the world has a caste system, and the lowest of these were the casteless non-people, or untouchables.  And that what it is Ashok protects against are demons from the sea.  Like any great apocalyptic event you really need something to fall from the sky…in this case it’s demons!  They are fierce, love eating people, and hard to kill.  Unless of course you happen to be one of the Protectors and also happen to have one of the few remaining magical swords, or ancestor blades.  Ashok happens to be such a person.  He’s on assignment in our opening chapter and has a demon to smite.  We get a really exciting opening fight scene, but what’s more, by the end of this we get a little foreshadowing of rebellion and that all is not quite as it seems to be at first glance. 

    This book is a beginning, and there are many characters to introduce and histories to learn.  I love all the plotting and scheming and long game chess-like maneuverings going on in the intricate story lines we’re given.  I’m inclined to say this is unlike any of Mr. Correia’s other works that I’ve read like MHI, The Grimnoir Chronicles or the Dead Six work he’s done with Mike Kupari, but if I had to give you a reference point I’d lean towards Grimnoir, but only in the sense that he’s artfully crafted a world that is completely foreign to our own, yet familiar in a way that keeps the reader grounded.  A world of intrigue, politics, greed, deception, (but I repeat myself) failure, and redemption.  We get excellent character development and even though this is a beginning of a series I didn’t feel like I was left with a cliffhanger ending.  We get resolution to what we know, and foreshadowing for what is yet to come.  All things I really look for and enjoy in a good series.

    If you enjoy good stories where you find a less than perfect hero who manages to experience the thrill of victory as well as the agony of defeat and everything in between, you’ll certainly enjoy this book.  I really enjoyed this opening book, and am looking forward to more in this saga.

    If you aren’t familiar with the works of Larry Correia I highly recommend any and all of his works!   Books by Larry Correia The opening line from Monster Hunter International for example is one of my favorites:

    “On one otherwise ordinary Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth story window.”

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is art. 

    So thank you again to Mr. Correia for his time and his gift of this book to me.  I hope much continued success for you  and that many others get to enjoy your efforts as much as I have.