Tag Archives: Audible

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo created a slippery and enticing novel with ‘Six of Crows.’  Once I started listening to it I didn’t want to stop. I am impatient for the next in series. Kaz Brekker, “Dirty Hands,” from the Barell…wait, scratch that – it is part of the legend he has created about himself. Kaz is a leader of “The Dreggs,” a group of young thieves in The Barell of Ketterdam.  No job is too difficult or unscrupulous.  They will do what is needed to survive.  Kaz and his associates, aren’t as dark as they would like to be believed, but they are skilled.  Enter “The Wraith,” the stealer of secrets.  You will not hear her enter or exit.  Nina is Grisha, a trained warrior, but separated from her army she is still a Heartrender.  She can make you see what you want/what she wants.  Jesper is a brash Sharpshooter most comfortable in life being shot at.  Wylan is new with an unclear but necessary skill set.  This peculiar team is going to take on an impossible job. A heist requiring Matthias, a convicted Fjerdan Druskelle, to get them into the Ice Palace.  It will be hard enough to break him out of prison, but since he was sent there on Nina’s false testimony, his willingness to betray his country and beliefs with her is only the beginning of the crews obstacles.

I have not read Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy.  I read mixed reviews, but was intrigued by the alternate Russian fantasy world she created.  ‘Six of Crows’ has been reported as darker and more adult.  That makes sense.  It loosely falls in the YA genre because it is about a group of young thieves.  The book, however, is about an intricate heist, politics, subjugation, and drugs.  There is minor romance secondary to the story.  It is present to instigate development in the characters.  I was impressed at the depth and range of traits Bardugo built into them.  They are authentic, likable, and I became invested – especially in Inej or ‘The Wraith.’

There is a strong theme of disillusionment with any form of idealism.  These characters each lost innocence of believing in right and wrong having strict delineations.  Mathias is a Druskelle, raised to be part of a fanatically religious Fjerdan army that believes Grisha, non human abominations, must be eliminated.  Nina was raised as a Grisha warrior meant to infiltrate Fjerda.  Kaz lost all as a child at the hands ruthless con artists.  Inej was caught, enslaved, and sold to a house of ill repute where she was hocked nightly.  You get the picture.  This story is about a group of people forced to deal with dark aspects of the world as it is – not as it is represented. YA is flush with dystopias where people have loss, but there is generally a strong theme of revolution based off of right and wrong.  It rarely shows the aftermath where those newly in power, considered bastions of right, resort to abuses of power similar to the regime it displaced. Bardugo’s novel deals with realization of  complexities or murkiness between ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Despite dealing with these heavy topics ‘Six of Crows’ is fun.  I am impressed.

It is narrated by a talented ensemble cast including Jay Snyder, David Ledoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris, and Brandon Rubin.  The group does a great job.  With the large cast there is clear character differentiation.  They handled Bardugo’s fantastical word pronunciation consistently which does not always take place.  If done incorrectly it is cause for me to abandon the audio version for the book.  I don’t doubt that reading the book is enjoyable but when the second book comes out I will look for the audible version.  The narrators interpretation of the characters helped endear me to them.  If you would like to listen to a sample of the narration take the link below.  My personal tastes prefer to listen to it at 1.25 speed.

If it is not clear, I encourage you to read this book.  I think even those who only like the grimmest of the Grimdark will enjoy ‘Six of Crows.’ If you enjoy Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series I’m pretty certain you will like this.  As said above, I didn’t read the Grisha trilogy, but I’ve seen enough reviews to be able to say that if you liked it you will want to pick up ‘Six of Crows.’  I think this book will have a wide audience.

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Magic Shifts – Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels #8)

I will reread the Kate Daniels series several times.  Ilona Andrews created a world and characters that make me feel like I’m coming back to my very own alternate home.  It’s urban fantasy but it feels real.  They live in Atlanta after ‘The Shift.’ Technology hit its peak triggering a cataclysmic event bringing magic back to the world.  All the myths, god’s, vampires, shapeshifters, and jinn exist.  Not all have their roots in history and legend.   New beliefs spawn unnamed things/ideas into existence too.  It’s an interesting time.  Magic doesn’t rule constantly.  The world is out of balance and snaps between magic reigning and technology ruling.  Newspapers are back because the internet is unreliable.   You have both cars and horses for transportation but horses are the most sensible.  They work all the time.  If you haven’t explored Kate Daniels world this isn’t the best place to start.  This is the eighth book in the series with several novellas set between.  ‘Magic Shifts’ can stand on its own but you’d be better off starting with ‘Magic Bites,’ the first book.  The titles and the book covers give an impression of light romantic urban fantasy.  The genre doesn’t have the best reputation for good writing but Ilona Andrews breaks the mold by being well written, having strong world building, and flawed wonderful characters.

Life continues in book eight.  Curran, Kate, and Julie have left The Pack and moved to the suburbs.  They have not, however, settled into domestic bliss.  Kate still has Cutting Edge, her detective agency, and people who can’t go to The Order, The PAD, The Pack, or The Mercenary Guild still come to her.   It hasn’t been sixty days and already friends from The Pack have found their way to her door.  Eduardo has gone missing, and the Beastlord isn’t able to investigate because Clan Heavy declared it a clan matter.  They don’t seem to be doing anything, however, and there are reasons Mahon might it opportune for him to disappear.  Eduardo was there for Kate and Curran.  They will have to play politics, from outside the Pack and in general society, to find him.

Kate and Curran have their own problems.  They are running out of money. The Pack can’t buy Curran out of his Pack investments, and are pressing him to take their shares of The Mercenary Guild as a compromise.  The Guild, however, is a sinking ship.  When it was left without Solomon Red, their leader, they let go of the administrative and cleaning staff.  No one is securing contracts for work, and the members are trying to plunder the pension fund. …On top of all this Kate’s father, the all-powerful harbinger of doom, wants to get to know the family.  Kate’s walking a tightrope.

She has magic of ancient and horrifying lineage and is a master with a blade, but Kate doesn’t take direction well.  She runs into danger without thinking.  She is blindly loyal despite having learned to abandon all attachments.  Her warped childhood taught her to survive at all cost.  She is stubborn, and doesn’t know when to stop speaking.  She isn’t perfect, and life rarely goes according to plan.  Unlike several books who have female heroines/hero’s that obtained their skills without effort or thought, Kate has worked her while life for them. She is still working, scarred, has trust issues, and is funny.  This is a real woman, and Andrews draws their other characters equally real.  In life you may hate your parents but in many situations you’re forced to continue to deal with them.  Ignoring her father doesn’t make him go away.  One of my favorite scenes takes place at Applebees for a dysfunctional family dinner.  Life still happens in post shift Atlanta.

Fans won’t be disappointed.  This is good.  New magic is explored well with Ifrit Jinn.  There is an appropriate return/use of the Mercenary Guild – a humble nod to Kate’s beginnings.  Heavy exploration of responsibility of power, relearning hard lessons, and consequences are strong themes.  It is a book of consequences.  Not all are bad but all have to be acknowledged.  I listened to the audible version of this book narrated by Renee Raudman.  She does a great job especially in the voice and inner dialogue of Kate.  She can do many characters but more than anything her interpretation and expression of emotion in characters, across the series, impresses me.  I equally love to read and listen to this series.


The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley

This book is hard for me to categorize.  A review I read called it Steampunk but this 1880’s version of London doesn’t have to fall in an alternate timeline, and while clockwork gears and machinery play an important role, it is not fantastical.  Natasha Pulley’s novel plays with the line between fantasy and realism/ science and clairvoyance.  It is beautiful.  Thaniel shortened from Nathaniel, to distinguish himself from his father Nat, is simplified to match his unaffected straightforward character.  He is the center of this novel.  Keita Mori, Grace, and even Dolly circle arround the choices of this man.

Thaniel is a telegraphist. His profession isn’t world-changing and doesn’t hold much growth, but it allows him to live a sparse existence while helping him provide for his sister and her sons.  He doesn’t mind it.  His days blend until he goes home to his barely lived in room to find it burglarized.  I need to rephrase that, someone broke into his apartment.  Instead of taking anything they left him a gift in the form of a beautiful watch.  This is curious behavior.  It is something he could never afford.

When threats of a bomb meet his office he is told he must draw up a will.  This is laughable Thaniel doesn’t own anything – except the watch. His sister would never sell it, out of sentimentality, so he tries to pawn it.  The brokers, however, won’t take the piece of clockwork ridiculously claiming it will disappear.  Thaniel keeps it and when his office is bombed the watch chimes its alarm just in time to save his life …and make him look like a suspect.  Out of fear, anger, and no better idea, Thaniel drags himself bleeding to acclaimed watchmaker Keita Mori’s shop.

Thaniel, at the request of his boss, goes undercover.  He believes the watch and Mori are linked to the bomb.  Thaniel isn’t convinced.  The night he met Mori, this kind and unassuming man, offered him tea, a clean shirt, and a room to sleep in so he wouldn’t die trying to walk home injured.  Keita’s shop is a mystery filled with clockwork birds, watches, and a strange clockwork octopus that likes to steal ties and socks.  It appears to have a life of its own, but Mori assures that he created it as a pet.  Due to how the gears and magnets are programmed it only appears to have choice in its seemingly random actions.  Mori’s friend and pet plays a joyful and strange role in our tale.

Pulley’s comfortable and charming style of writing draws characters that feel real and carry the style of the 1900’s.  They play their roles in the politics boiling in London – including the early meetings for suffrage, the socialist movement, and the tentative international relations specific to Japan and  Brittain.  The mystery of who Keita Mori circulates through the story.  Mori has an uncanny ability to know what one will say and do.  Is it clairvoyance, trickery, or something more? Thaniel’s chance meeting with Grace, pulls her into the mystery. She studied physics at Oxford but did not receive a fellowship. That lack of fortune has her family pressuring her find a good man to take care of her.  She has a house left to her by an Aunt, but she only receives it if she is wed.  The women in her family historically are weak and unintelligent, so her own intelligence is seen as eccentricity and madness rather than ability.  The possibility to study this scientific phenomenon draws her in.

Mori’s unconventional and unexplainable way of living scares many, including Grace.  Her desire to understand the ether, the unknowable, makes her simultaneously drawn to and afraid of Mori. The man can manipulate events? These two characters, and the way they see life clash and pull Thaniel in alternate directions. Pulley’s novel boils down human actions questioning our ability to choose.   It takes predestination out of religion.  Can we control our actions, are our ideas and lives random, or are we really just ingenious clockwork? Humans may not be so very different from Katsu – the clockwork octopus.  Pulley’s placement of this story in the 1900’s is perfect, set at a time where the old ways that allow for magic and ‘the other’ fall to science and mechanical industrialization.

I listened to the narration by Thomas Judd.  He is the perfect voice to read Pulley’s work.  I am sure I would have enjoyed reading ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ but Judd’s voice captured every character.  He handled the assortment of accents with ease.  He was faultless and enhanced the experience of the book.  I would encourage people to listen to it first.  His reading made me feel like I was curling up in a blanket with a cup of tea in front of a fireplace.  Perfect for the books atmosphere which is predominantly drizzling and cold.

I loved this novel.  The end is quick – almost abrupt.  The slow thoughtful novel moves at a frantic confusing pace towards the end.  This is purposeful, and necessary, but it had me rereading/relistening to sections.  I wasn’t sure I followed Pulley’s frenetic path correctly.  This may take away from the reading enjoyment for some, but I encourage almost anyone to read it/listen to it.  If you like China Mieville and 1900’s history mixed with an ever so small amount of science fiction/fantasy this will appeal to you.  It is not as complex as Mieville and does not fit with the New Weird but it has some similarities.  Also, if you enjoyed The Golem and the Jini you will likely enjoy this.  Pulley created something special and something I will reread.  It became a friend.

I received ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ from Audible in return for an honest review.  If you would like to sample the narration click on the link below.


The Fold – Peter Clines

The more I think about this book the more I like it.  It’s clever, complicated, and funny.  Clines, with ’14,’ generated a campy following that loved a throw back to Scooby Doo and Lovecraftian Horror.  I loved it.   ‘The Fold’ carries some of that with better writing, a fleshed out unique story, interesting characters that come across a bit more real, alternate dimensions, and don’t worry Clines gave us some monsters.  We get a little Lovecraft style at the end.

The fact is I’m impressed.  Our main character looks like a young Severus Snape.  He’s a genius but doesn’t want to be.  Why, you ask? Well a genius with an eidetic mind is going to research what other geniuses have gone through. When he sees that it’s not all roses but depression and disappointment he makes a decision, at a young age, to limit himself.  He chooses not to research everything despite the fact he can.  Instead he chooses to be an English teacher at a run of the mill high school.  He purposefully leads a “simple life” in an effort to be happy.  That’s smart and quite the twist – not one that most people can understand.

His government stooge of a friend derails all that planning with the best of intentions and an opportunity of a lifetime.  Any geek, nerd, or layman with a penchant for pop culture will love the asides and references sprinkled into ‘The Fold.’  They are salted throughout the text and they are fun and fit.  I mentioned Clines is clever and I meant it.  I don’t like spoilers and I avoid them, but I need to give you the basics.  Mike Erickson (The Severus Snape/Alan Rickman look-alike) gets drawn into a top-secret project, as government oversight, that is a gateway to worlds of possibility.  His eidetic mind is challenged and changed irrevocably.  His life is changed permanently, as all good stories and twists do.  He also becomes the only hope the project scientists, who resent him, have.

I liked ’14’.  I enjoyed and respect ‘The Fold.’  Well done Clines, well done.  I don’t believe this will become cannon or required reading, but I can say it satisfied me.  It is well written, I liked the characters, and at the end I was satiated.  I believe others will be too.  Is that enough to get you to read it?  If not, well, my powers of persuasion are not enough…

I listened to it through Audible.  I was lucky that I recieved it in return for an honest review.  The fact is I would have paid for it happily, and maybe I’m showing my hand in a garish and impolite way, but I don’t care.  Ray Porter narrated it.  He was able to differentiate characters with ease while embodying the main character of Mike Erickson expertly.  I was impressed at his capability to handle both female and male characters equally well.  I relished listening to it.  I’m sure I would have appreciated reading it just as much, but listening to it was a joy.  If you are curious about ‘The Fold’ at all, but maybe don’t want to invest in the time to read it, I say listen to it.  I would be suprised if you come away disappointed, but if you are skeptical at all, you can go to the audible site through the link below and listen to a sample of Porter’s narration and form your own opinion.  It is a good representation.

I haven’t decided if this is a five or a four for me.  It keeps hovering in the middle and I argue with myself where it belongs. Either way, it really doesn’t matter that much.  I enjoyed it.  I believe you will enjoy it.  Go and read or listen to it already….

I received this audio book from Audible in return for an honest review.


The Fire Sermon – Francesca Haig (The Fire Sermon #1)

The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon, #1)

‘The Fire Sermon’ is Francesca Haig’s debut and first book in her dystopian trilogy.  It takes place after The Blast.  The ruins of cities are left to fall apart empty and quiet. Fear surrounding them comes from old stories of radiation and The Council forbids all from entering them.   In this new agrarian society people are always born in twins.  One twin is the Alpha and the other a disfigured Omega.  The Omega’s are cast out of their families as soon as they are identified.  In cases where the impairment is obvious it takes place at birth.  The child is sent to live in Omega settlements where other Omega’s raise them or they are sent to Orphanages.   Omega’s, if they can afford to, willingly take kids since they are barren – disparagingly referred to as the dead-end of the human race, but some Omega’s are not so obvious.  Their disfigurement is invisible.  The Seers, those that see the future and past, are feared and reviled by both the Alpha’s and Omega’s partially due to their ability to hide in plain sight.  When Cass and Zach were born no one could tell which was which.  It created a strong bond between the twins since the other children wouldn’t play with them and even their own parents held them at arm’s length.  Afraid and attached to her family, Cass hid who she was until she was thirteen, but it built a fear and resentment in her twin that had significant consequences.

The book is an easy listen. The piece to this series that is unique is the Alpha and Omega twins.  If you hurt one you hurt the other.  Consequently, if you kill one you kill the other.  The idea of engaging in warfare and rebellion becomes complicated when taking out your enemy also reduces your own forces. Cass, our main character, is likable.  She is a teenager for a portion of the book but the larger portion is centered on her life at approximately nineteen. As an Omega, who is either in captivity or on the run, she barely notices her or her compatriots appearance because they are dirty, and while a romance exists it isn’t a focus. I found this refreshing.

The drawbacks are the beginning is slow to build and it is predictable.  As Haig introduces you to her world and provides us with the necessary backstory for Cass and her twin, Zach, there is very little action.  If you are impatient it will be hard to get through the beginning of the book.  I could also see the big reveal about half way through the book.  I’m sure there are others who will see it sooner than I did.  It is young adult fiction, however, and if I was picking this up as a teenager, who had not already read a large amount of dystopian literature, I think I would be more impressed.  It still held my attention and I am curious to see what the next installment of the trilogy has to offer.  Haig’s writing was good and I think there is potential in it.

I did like listening to this book.  I believe ‘The Fire Sermon’ lends itself to the audio format.  It has twists and turns but you are not going to miss huge chucks of the plot if you get distracted for a moment  It’s perfect for doing errands or driving to work.  Lauren Fortgang narrates the audible version and she did well.  She wasn’t overly dramatic and had no trouble differentiating her characters.  Usually a narrator can do one character well but as you add characters it’s hard not to make one of them either annoying or indistinguishable.  Fortgang had neither problem.

Audible provided this audio book to me in return for an honest review.

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 (Click the link above to go to the site and listen to an audio clip)


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