Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / October 7, 2014

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is an apocalyptic tale about the fall of human civilisation and the struggle of the survivors after a pandemic wipes out 99% of the population.  It follows several characters as they attempt to survive in this new world and come to terms with what has happened to their civilisation.  I Iistened to this in audiobook format and enjoyed it very much. What I liked Interesting narrative structure.  Rather than have a straightforward linear narrative, Mandel tells her story through a series of non sequential vignettes taking place before, during and after the Collapse as it is called.  These snapshots are loosely connected through the character of Arthur Leander.  Although Arthur dies in the very beginning, shortly before the Collapse, his presence is felt throughout the book.  These snippets of life give more of an impression than a comprehensive narrative, but it is very effective at conveying the idea of a society after a collapse. Interesting characters.  Mandel has a wide cast of characters with each given his or her moment in the spotlight.  The points of view covered include characters who remember society before the Collapse, some who have only vague memories of…

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / September 8, 2014

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks is the third and penultimate in his Lightbringer series following on from The Black Prism and The Blinding Knife.  It continues the story of Prism Gavin Guile and his illegitimate son Kip and their attempt to stop the Seven Satrapies from collapsing under the pressure of the Color Prince and his new gods. My impression of this book was that it was very much a middle book – concentrating more on positioning the characters for the final assault.  It concentrated more on character development than moving the plot forward.  While there were a couple of eyebrow raising moments for me, but nothing compared to the couple of WTF?!? moments of the previous books.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. What I liked The magic system.  For this series Weeks has created a wonderfully developed magic system.  I usually consider Brandon Sanderson the master of magic system development, but with this colour-based system Weeks could give him a run for his money.  In essence, Weeks’ magic system works in the opposite manner to a candle.  A candle takes a physical substance – wax – and converts it into light.  Weeks’ magic users (drafters)…

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / July 22, 2014

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is a new YA epic fantasy novel which tells the story of Kelsea Raleigh Glynn who must reclaim her birthright of the Tear throne.  To do this she must survive plots against her by her uncle, the Regent, and take a stand against the Mort Queen to protect her people.  The fantasy is quite subtle in this book, unlike HarperCollins’ publicity machine which has been seriously promoting this book.  This has been helped by the fact that Emma Watson has bought the film rights to the book and intends to play Kelsea in an upcoming movie adaptation.  In all honesty, I cannot say that the hype was justified – I had a few significant issues with the book.  But first of all let’s say what I liked. What I liked The protagonist.  From various interviews by Erika Johansen I have read it appears she has set out to create a YA protagonist who was more of an Everygirl rather than your typical YA heroine; stunningly beautiful with attractive young men fighting over her attentions while she runs a marathon and slays a few baddies before breakfast.  In that respect I believe Johansen…

The Blogger’s Survival Guide – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / July 7, 2014

I received The Blogger’s Survival Guide: Tips and Tricks for Parent Bloggers, Wordsmiths and Enthusiasts by Lexie Lane and Becky McNeer free to review though Audiobook Jukebox.  This is a how-to guide to assist newbie bloggers in setting up their blog, marketing it and monetising it.  Thank you for the opportunity to review this title. This is the first time I’ve listened to a non-fiction reference book in audiobook format and I don’t think it’s something I will do much of in the future.  On many occasions the authors referred to online resources to supplement or backup their tips, and I didn’t find the format a great way to be able to pick up those links.  In all fairness the narrator did enunciate very clearly and repeat the urls where necessary, but still for me it was an additional hurdle of the audiobook format.  Additionally, with reference books I find I’m more likely to want to refer quickly to a previous or subsequent section in the book – not easy in audiobook format.   What I liked Good structure.  The book is laid out in a series of lessons which cover a specific topic related to blogging; setup, design, marketing, SEO,…

Reading roundup – 3rd July 2014

Here in Canada Tuesday was the national holiday, Canada Day, so I had a day off work.  I was particularly pleased it fell on a Tuesday as that’s the day new books are released.  I was therefore able to spend a pleasant afternoon listening/reading The Jedi Doth Return, the third and final part in Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. [book-info] As with the other two in the series, Verily a New Hope and The Empire Striketh Back, Random House Audio has done a fantastic job with the audiobook – it is a full cast audio with a talented cast and enhanced with sound effects and John Williams’ iconic music.  (Doetscher had the backing of George Lucas for this undertaking). Like the two earlier books, this is one I would recommend in audio format.  The cast is superb.  Audiobook listeners should remain right to the end for a cameo appearance by the Bard himself! While I really enjoyed The Jedi Doth Return, I wasn’t quite a head over heels in love with it as I was with the previous two books.  Perhaps it’s because the novelty had worn off somewhat.  I still wish these had been available when I was…

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 30, 2014

Orange is the New Black is the memoir by Piper Kerman detailing the year she spent in a women’s prison.  The drug related offences date from 10 years prior to her incarceration and in the meantime, Kerman had built a life for herself with a rewarding job and supportive fiancé.  The book has also been adapted into a successful Netflix Original television show, of which I have seen season one, and plan to binge watch season two in the very near future.  It should be noted that the TV series and the book, while both excellent, are very different beasts.  There is a lot of dramatisation in the TV show not present in the book, which, on the other hand, gives a very thoughtful, measured introspective into Kerman’s emotional journey during her incarceration. I listened to the audiobook during my coach trip from Montreal to Toronto – a trip of about eight hours – and not only did it hold my attention through the trip, but I wanted to continue listening when I got home.   What I liked The narration.  Cassandra Campbell does an amazing job of providing the voiceover for Kerman’s emotional journey as well as creating distinct…

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 25, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo is the third and final book in the Grisha trilogy.  It completes the story of Sun Summoner Alina Starkov and her fight against the Darkling.  In it Alina and her group of trusted friends must escape from the Apparat and his ragtag army of religious zealots, and track down the third amplifier, the firebird, before confronting the Darkling.  Along the way, Alina learns more of Morozova’s background and his secrets. I enjoyed Ruin and Rising far more than Siege and Storm, which suffered from middle book syndrome and patchy pacing. What I liked The Russian style setting.  As in the previous two books, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, I loved the world that Bardugo has created for her characters.  The writing and descriptions really give a feel for Russia with a twist. The characters.  We’ve been with these characters for three books now, and I appreciated the way they’ve grown and developed throughout the series.  Their changing relationships were also very well drawn.  Who would have guessed meeting Zoya in book one just how much Alina would grow to rely on her?  I liked that their experiences have left their marks on…

Half Bad by Sally Green – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 18, 2014

Half Bad by Sally Green tells the story of Nathan who is the son of a white witch mother and a black witch father.  In Nathan’s world, black witches are hated and feared and Nathan’s parentage makes him a pariah, someone to be caged and studied.  To make matters worse, Nathan’s 17th birthday is approaching by which time he must receive three gifts and the blood of a family member – or die. The story starts off with Nathan in a cage and trying to escape before flashing back to recount his earlier life.  The story is told primarily in the first person present, almost stream-of-consciousness – with some diversions off to the second person when Nathan is trying to distance himself from what is going on, such as during torture.  The narrative style is deliberately simplistic to reflect Nathan’s lack of book learning. What I liked The narration.  I LOVED the audio narration of Half Bad, which was done by Carl Prekopp.  Written as it is in the first person present, the narrator IS Nathan, and it’s as if the protagonist himself is speaking.  This is emphasised by the simple, informal language. My heart rate did shoot up during…

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – Review (Spoilers for Broken Empire trilogy)
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 16, 2014

Prince of Fools is the first in a new series – The Red Queen’s War – by Mark Lawrence who wrote the Broken Empire trilogy.  This new series is set in the same world as The Broken Empire, but focusses on a different set of characters.  Emperor of Thorns was one of my top reads for 2013, so I had high expectations of Prince of Fools – I’m happy to say it lived up to them. What I liked The setting.  Both Red Queen’s War and Broken Empire trilogy are set in a world which is strongly implied to be ours many millennia after a cataclysmic event (the “thousand suns”) in which magic plays a part.  Some references to our world bleed through but often in an almost unrecognisable form.  It’s a great deal of fun spotting these references.  These are very subtle – for example our protagonists meet a circus elephant, who is, of course, called Nellie.  A week later I still can’t get the children’s song out of my brain and now you can’t either.  You’re welcome.   Anyway to return to the setting.  One very interesting choice Lawrence made with the Red Queen’s War trilogy is to set…