Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Wistful Ascending (Audiobook Review) by JCM Berne

Before jumping into this review I have to thank everyone who has reached out this week. As much as I joke around it’s been a bit dreadful and I endlessly appreciate everyone in the book community who has been down for shared storytime or just validating how useless I’ve been this week. I’m not sure what I’d do without the book community sometimes 😅

Secondly, thank you so much to the author for the audiobook code. I rely a little heavily on audio these days due to my eyesight and am endlessly thankful especially for a bit of pure escapism this week. I’m trying not to just be numb and having superheroes and sentient AI ships (and bears with three penises) queued up on audio has been just what I needed.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wistful Ascending
  • Series: Hybrid Helix #1
  • Author: JCM Berne
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2020
  • Length: 405 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for anyone interested

A quick note on the audio: narrated by Wayne Farrell at 13h 29m, definitely recommend for fans of audio!

Here’s the synopsis:

A superhero space opera for grownups.

For fans of Invincible and Marvel Cinematic Universe films who like a little hard science fiction in their superheroes.
If Thor and Harry Dresden combined in a transporter accident.

The il’Drach have conquered half a galaxy behind the civilization-ending Powers of their mixed-species children.
Half-human Rohan, exhausted by a decade fighting for their Empire, has paid a secret and terrible price for his freedom.
Now retired, he strives to live a quiet life towing starships for the space station Wistful. His most pressing problems are finding the perfect cup of coffee and talking to a gorgeous shuttle tech without tripping over his own tongue.
A nearby, long-dormant wormhole is opened by a shipful of scared, angry refugees, and the many eyes of the Empire focus uncomfortably on Wistful.
As scientists, spies, and assassins converge, reverting to the monster the Empire created is the surest way to protect his friends. And the surest way to lose them


So what if our superheroes are half alien? What if there’s a DS9ish space station (that’s also sentient) out by some wormholes in the far reaches of a galaxy, and one such superhero has escaped there after deciding to escape his past? What mix of aliens would gather there? What if there’s equal parts humor and tragedy and high octane fight scenes? Would a superhero feel awkward if someone talked to him while peeing?

I listened to this one nonstop in my free time this week, then read the last few chapters on Kindle. You’ll love Rohan and Wei Li and Wistful.  Snarky ship AI’s and the integration of different species are some of my favorite sci-fi tropes and they are here in abundance. I like that the book never took itself too seriously but did have some serious themes. It’s fast paced with readable prose and perfect for my brain right now. I guarantee with all the plot lines and things happening that you’ll never be bored.

I also liked the world building and look at space station life.  There are shopkeeps, refugees, many cultures meshing together,  and even a mysterious tailor.  On a wider scale I think there’s enough background given to the wider conflict and dominant alien race to paint the big picture without bogging the book down with too many details.

There was one wtf moment regarding where their powers came from but I ultimately decided it was more funny than anything else.

All in all, I totally recommend this one as pure space opera & superhero escapism. It’s great in book or audiobook form!


Thanks for checking out my audiobook review & book review of Wistful Ascending.  The audiobook code was received for free in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own. Stay tuned for my thoughts on #2 and #3 because both are queued up on Kindle Unlimited right now!

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Paranormal Suspense

The Outsider by Stephen King (Audiobook Review)

I think it’s a fair goal to continue to read one Steven King book every month until I’m sick of it. The good news here is that every book I read just causes me to crave more 😅

Additionally helpful towards this goal is the fact that Will Patton narrates a considerable number of Stephen King’s books and he is by far my favorite audiobook narrator of all time.

I think the first question that readers looking at The Outsider should consider is: Do I have to read the Bill Hodges trilogy first? Do I want to? It’s a bit of a commitment but I do believe that meeting Holly Gibney prior and having some familiarity with that series will greatly enhance enjoyment of The Outsider, as it did for me. That said though, you could absolutely read this one alone and only miss a few references. (Plus Will Patton also narrates those books so you could take that route 😅)


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Outsider
  • Series: Holly Gibney #1
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2018
  • Length: 576 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ not for the fainthearted

Here’s the synopsis:

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

As a quick note on the audiobook: offered by Simon & Shuster Audio, narrated by Will Patton at almost 19 hours and worth every second. 


Alright this one starts out as a straightforward enough crime novel, and then takes a rather jarring turn for the supernatural once Holly gets involved.  I think though that since this is something I’ve come to expect from Stephen King, the supernatural transition worked for me and was neither a shock nor a jar as I’ve seen some people writing in their reviews.

As you can tell from the first sentence of the synopsis, if any kind of child brutality bothers you definitely do not read this one. I don’t think I would recommend it as someone’s first Stephen King book either, but I have no problem saying you could start with the Bill Hodges Trilogy and then work into it.

I almost always love the majority of King’s characters.  Ralph is enjoyable both as a detective and a person, especially towards the end when he is willing to suspend disbelief to help Holly the most.  He’s a real hero! My other favorite character was Yune Sablo, although I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much without Will Patton lending his voice.  Yune served as a bridge between all of the other factions and was one of the first to throw some legitimacy into the supernatural line of thought. That and he was just funny.

After the events of End of Watch I wondered how Holly was going to hold up, and thankfully she seems to be doing well. Quirky and whip smart as ever.  I like watching her manage her issues and relate to others in her own way, and it’s undeniable that she’s as brave and prepared for action as anyone on the force.

While the book was brutal and a little bit hard to read at times, I appreciated The Outsider because the action never let up and there was always something to be interested in.  At least in the first half of the book too it was fun to play detective and try to figure out how the heck the crime had occurred. I like the themes of the supernatural versus the terrible things that criminals do in everyday life, and how different really is our understanding of these things? Holly had some excellent insights too into the nature of the paranormal and humanity’s potential reaction to the possibility.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of Kings writing or a fan of crime/paranormal detective thrillers.  I’ll certainly continue to seek out other books along this line that he’s written.

(P.s. no, I have not seen the TV series yet but I am 100% interested in it, especially since Stephen King liked it, so maybe I’ll try to track that down this winter!)


Thanks for checking out my book review & audiobook review of The Outsider by Stephen King! 

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Armada by Ernest Cline (Audiobook Thoughts) ~ Or, does anyone care about Wil Wheaton anymore?

Synopsis & book facts can be found at the end, I just decided to rant and joke around in uninterrupted peace

I’m going to have a hard time writing out a whole review of this book.  It’s literally The Last Starfighter’s plot having a baby with Enders Game, re written with one idea from every science fiction game, tv show, movie, and adjacent pop culture item out there, shoved into one book. It’s like item -> location -> item -> location, ad infinitum. Everything from HG Wells to Team America to Tron.

OH IT FUNCTIONS LIKE THE DEATH STAR -YOU KNOW, FROM STAR WARS!

Ok. Great

Everything was a thing from something else. While this did feed into the plot and make sense at the end, I found that it got boring real quick.  It didn’t help that both the start and ending were weak either.  I love a good pop culture reference as much as the next person but how much can you really take from everywhere else and then slap the actual most half-assed ending ever on it? 

Well friends, read the book and find out.

Or don’t. I had content issues with it too for a YA book but I know I’m on a losing battle with that one, let’s just say the defending generals spent too much pre invasion time mixing business with pleasure 🙄 . Actually I’m not even sure if it’s a YA or not, but Zack is in high school so I assumed so.

Anyway, maybe don’t do what I did. Don’t listen to the audio.  I never particularly had strong feelings one way or the other about Wil Wheaton but his voice irked me for some reason. I can’t take him seriously and I think it rubbed off on my feelings on the book, which by no means is meant to be taken seriously either.  It’s just a big geeky parade of everything.

I actually picked the book up because I was curious as to Wheaton’s narration skills.  Plus what’s he even been doing these days besides raising kids, podcasting, playing games, and narrating a few Ernest Cline books? Who knows.

I can’t really dislike the guy because Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) made him a hilarious long running joke on the show.  I can’t really dislike him because TNG gave him a stupid ending either.  I just, I don’t know, let me pose it to any audience members here:

Does anyone actually care about Wil Wheaton anymore? Did you guys ever have  feelings about him one way or another?


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Armada
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Ernest Cline
  • Publisher & Release: Ballantine Books, 2015
  • Length: 384 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐✨ sorry not sorry hahah but if you really love sci-fi pop culture and young adult books maybe try this one

Quick note on the audio: obv narrated by Wil Wheaton, I didn’t love it.  Whether he was hollering or sad or just talking, I just didn’t enjoy this book at all.  It’s 11:50 long from Random House Audio

Here’s the synopsis:

Zack Lightman has never much cared for reality. He vastly prefers the countless science-fiction movies, books, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. And too often, he catches himself wishing that some fantastic, impossible, world-altering event could arrive to whisk him off on a grand spacefaring adventure.

So when he sees the flying saucer, he’s sure his years of escapism have finally tipped over into madness.

Especially because the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of his favorite videogame, a flight simulator callled Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting Earth from alien invaders.

As impossible as it seems, what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And it’s just the first in a blur of revlations that will force him to question everything he thought he knew about Earth’s history, its future, even his own life–and to play the hero for real, with humanity’s life in the balance.

But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking: Doesn’t something about this scenario feel a little bit like . . .  well . . . fiction?

At once reinventing and paying homage to science-fiction classics, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a coming-of-age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before

Categories
audiobooks Crime Horror Paranormal

Later by Stephen King (Audiobook Review)

I continue to have no regrets about reading through my endless Stephen King backlog.  In October I finished both Wizard and Glass (The Gunslinger #4) and Later, which is his third surprisingly deep horror & crime novel for the Hard Case Crime publisher.

What I like most about King as a person, and an author, is that it’s 2022 and he’s still writing amazing shit like “he kept moving further west like some fucked up braindead pioneer” to describe the main characters uncle, who kept moving to cheaper nursing homes as the family’s finances got worse.  It’s equal parts fucked up and hilarious – King is my go to author when I need a break from the politically correct world.

As an aside, I started and now love following King on Twitter.  His comments are like a little morale boost in the middle of a crazy world.

Anyway, ok let’s talk about Later


BOOKISH QUICK FACTS:

  • Title: Later
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Hard Case Crime, 2021
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for classic King & horror/paranormal fans

A note on the audio: Later is narrated by Seth Numrich, who has narrated many King novels and is absolutely phenomenal. Solely rating Numrich’s narration, an easy 5 stars. 6h32m long for Simon & Shuster Audio

Here’s the synopsis off Am*zon:

SOMETIMES GROWING UP

MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel ItLATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.


Later is a short little novel that has an incredible amount packed into it.  It’s a coming of age story for Jamie, it’s a touching-at-times story of different ghosts, there’s a crime aspect, and it’s a horror story.

Like I said, this is a horror story

It’s so much more than that though.  I love the characters too, from Jamie to his mom to the old professor that the family stays friends with and eventually guides Jamie through his murdery ghost problem.  Nothing like an eccentric old man that likes to make fairy tales sound academic and terrible, right?

Oh, right.  I was absolutely never bored, and thankfully never that scared either.  Some King books are downright horrifying but Later never quite fit that mold even when it was in it’s horror element.  I think he meant to keep a slightly lighter tone and focus more on the people than the scares in this one.

Another of my favorite King aspects is that he loves to shout out his prior novels and other authors too.  The Ritual of Chud is back.  Jamie’s mom runs a literary agency and mentions many, many books & authors including Sue Grafton.

I was so ready to smash that 5 star button until that very last reveal! It wouldn’t be a King book if someone didn’t have a mommy problem, but, it didn’t work for me at all.  I’m glad to see others agreeing with this sentiment🤣

I don’t want to ramble forever but I would wholeheartedly recommend this one if you like fast paced stories with a little bit of humanity, horror, action, ghosts, monsters in all their forms, and King’s classically offbeat sense of fucked up humor.

As a note about Stephen King audiobooks – I don’t know if King personally hand picks his narrators or what but I’ve discovered most of my favorite narrators through listening to his books.  They are an amazing bunch including Will Patton and Seth Numrich, both of whom bring their stories straight to life and add that little bite that adds something extra to King’s novels!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Historical Fiction Middle Grade

The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane (Audiobook Review)

Thanks to the author for letting me listen to and review the audiobook of The Witches of Crannock Dale! I’ll also be interviewing Thomas Kane on the Sunday Brunch Series soon so keep an eye out for that 🍳🎤

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Witches of Crannock Dale
  • Series: Mara of the League #1
  • Author: Thomas M. Kane (Nar. Stevie Marie)
  • Publisher & Release: Self Published, 2019
  • Length: 288 pages (11h48m run time)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for middle grade fans!

Synopsis:
Spies. Witch-hunts. A little girl who asks dangerous questions.

When invaders threaten, eleven-year-old Mara must grow up fast. All her life, her homeland has been on the brink of war with the Commonwealth of Waan. But as bells warn of approaching enemies, her own realm’s knights arrest her favorite aunt for witchcraft. This prompts her to rethink much of what she has been taught about her country. When adults ignore her points, she teams up with unlikely friends in a bid to rescue her aunt and protect her village. Mara must make sense of grown-up politics if she is to save the people she loves.

This is Book One of the political fantasy series Mara of the League.

I thought that for a middle-grade, this one checks pretty much all the boxes for me.  I can’t speak for the rest of the series yet but Mara is 11 here, and the content stays 100% age audience appropriate. Although she is 17 in book two I believe it remains a middle grade age level throughout.

Mara is a very smart and brave little girl who eventually becomes a spy for her country in later books. Here in Witches we are introduced to Mara and her family and learn about the plots and political conflicts happening in the world.  Told in the first person point of view of an 11 year old, I think it’s a marvel that Kane had me interested in the imposter bandit king and how the war will eventually unfurl.

Mara is an easy character to root for as she becomes involved in local issues.  I liked her brother too and the rest of the family.

As I’m obviously not 12 anymore (🤣🤣🤣), when reviewing for middle grade, I tend to look more at whether the book is fast paced (yes), interesting (yes), repetitive (no), and age appropriate (yes). I think it will hold their attention well. It’s also extremely well edited for a self published book so that’s helpful!

Are the themes something I would want my little niece reading? Yes, absolutely. Mara has to navigate complicated adult politics while still doing what she thinks is right. She also learns  that sometimes rules do have a time and place in society, and that actions can have severe and unintended consequences.  I like the sense of responsibility she has towards family and even town & country.

The issue I had is that the audio itself did not hold my interest, likely due to the Authors Direct app and a few challenges that it presented. That was an experience related issue though and I think Stevie Marie was a pretty solid, clearly spoken narrator. I did end up reading on Kindle Unlimited though and was then lucky enough to see the map and drawings.

Overall: I’m excited to keep reading to see how Mara and the war develop.  It’s a solid middle grade read that I think YA can enjoy too since Mara ages fairly quickly in the books. Stay tuned for the author interview!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman (Book Review)

A few weeks ago I had a patient with a very Irish wife. She was a talker, and usually I discourage talkers because I have actual work to do, right? Wrong! I told this woman to talk as much as she wanted because I love listening to the Irish accent and rolling cadence.  Anyone remember Damian McGinty? /Swoon

Anyway, that led me to asking the SFF Oasis discord group if they knew of any audiobooks narrated by Irish natives, and the one recommendation that popped out was The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman.

Although he resides in Florida and is not the tad bit Irish that I know of, Buehlman came pretty darn close to nailing it and I just love, love, loved, both the book and audiobook of this equally funny and dark fantasy.  When I wasn’t laughing out loud at the slang and other hilarious turns of language, I was cringing at the darker elements or “oooh-aaaahing” at the world building and tattoo magic. Definitely a book I would recommend to most fantasy fans.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Blacktongue Thief
  • Series: Blacktongue #1
  • Author: Christopher Buehlman
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 2021 (Macmillan Audio)
  • Length: 416 Pages (12:26 audio length)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨   For fans of slightly darker fantasy that can take a joke

Here’s the synopsis:

Set in a world of goblin wars, stag-sized battle ravens, and assassins who kill with deadly tattoos, Christopher Buehlman’s The Blacktongue Thief begins a ‘dazzling’ (Robin Hobb) fantasy adventure unlike any other.

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

A thief misjudges a mark and ends up on the adventure of his lifetime, discovering political intrigues and magic beyond his imagination along the way . Other reviewers have plugged the book as Abercrombie x Eames and I agree pretty well with that assessment.

This is a rare novel where I praised most of the elements equally, so it’s hard to tell where to start.  Let’s do the characters first.  Kinch is one of those characters that I ended up rooting for right away due to his sense of humor and ability to quickly assess and act in various situations.  Galva is a tough warrior with the sense of humor of a rock, and her lack of sense of irony/sarcasm alone makes her likeable. She inadvertently provides a more natural comic relief than Kinch and his frequent turns of phrase.

I don’t always love narration from the first person point of view but it ended up being an immersive and enjoyable experience via the audiobook.  I did a mix of reading and listening and believe that to not hear the words out of the author’s mouth is to miss a large part of the experience of consuming this book. This is also a big, big fantasy world with lots of local flavor and many stories and song, which are sung beautifully in the audiobook, and seeing it all through Kinch’s eyes gives us a consistent “jumping point” into widely varied action.

Have you ever wondered the difference between a squid and a kraken? Basically stay the f*ck on land. You will learn. The book covers adventure on both land and water!

I’ve briefly touched on the world building which is very well done.  You get all sorts of both macro and micro details, legends, songs, food, local customs and laws, even money, magic, and more. It’s a lovely scale of world building. I’ve never minded small info dumps and found this a good balance. One thing that added a little depth to the entire book was how the cause and effect of various wars and curses and actions of the populace have ripple effected the entire novel.  I like that consistency.

As a horse girl that has read a lot of horse centric fantasy, I can say that outside of Green Rider I have never seen horses described as gratuitously as Buehlman does.  The end scene with the giant… *sigh*

Now let’s talk about my other favorite part- the magic system! The magic tattoos are so freaking cool, just, so cool.  I have never seen the ink represent actual living animals and living spellwork before. I would give my skin to be able to call upon my old dog’s portrait to bring her into existence again! There’s also more macabre magic that is not tattoo related but I think it’s worth reading to see what those things entail.

I always appreciate books that take language into consideration. Kinch spends a lot of time with his various language speaking companions explaining the difference between languages, his word choices, and, of course the slang! The slang is just phenomenal, it’s an art form that the author is professionally versed in (literally) and I never knew if I’d be laughing out loud at something completely absurd or cringing at something going down the grim dark rabbit hole on the next page. The light and dark is fairly well balanced but overall the book had a darker tone despite all the dry humor.

All things considered, this is definitely an audiobook or book worth checking out.

And did I mention there’s a blind cat? There’s a blind cat

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (Book & Audio Thoughts)

The Frontlines series continues on with more military sci-fi goodness. I liked Terms of Enlistment quite a bit and enjoyed Lines of Departure even more. The book started out full speed and once again just never let up. I’m such a sucker for these action packed books!

Bringing into the sequel more ethical conflicts and increasing the level of bad-assery, so far I would definitely recommend this series for anyone interested.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Lines of Departure
  • Series: Frontlines #2
  • Author: Marko Kloos
  • Publisher & Release: 47North, January 2014
  • Length: 329 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for anyone interested in the series!

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the Solar System…

Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is North American Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.

After surviving a disastrous space-borne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.

In this sequel to the bestselling Terms of Enlistment, a weary soldier must fight to prevent the downfall of his species…or bear witness to humanity’s last, fleeting breaths.

Five years have passed since Andrew and Halley survived the wreck of the Versailles and humanity met the Lankies. Both are now at least staff sergeants and Andrew has become a combat controller! I like seeing his career develop. Things are heating up in the Lanky war while also going to hell on Earth.  With tension off the charts and humanity incapable of pointing it’s guns in the same direction…

I watch the red icons on the plot. They’re steadily advancing toward the town. Each of those icons represents thirty or more troops, people I’ve shared a mess hall with, men and women who wear the same flag we do. The universe is falling apart around us, and we still have nothing smarter to do than to try and kill each other.

Yeah, wow, if the North American Commonwealth wasn’t so busy fighting itself they could do some great things.  This is a huge theme in Lines of Departure as a dissenting chunk of the military is shipped off to a moon of ice and left there with the transportation nodes closed.

When ordered to attack and seize civilian assets, Grayson and Fallon say “f*ck you kindly” and stage a mutiny.  I love everything about this storyline SO MUCH

I am also SO glad that Fallon wasn’t a one and done character. I just love her. Same with colonel Campbell, I’m glad he came back and was developed into a character with the only personality in the fleet on par with Fallon’s craziness! His speech about the nukes was impressive. I kind of hope he hooks up with Fallon at one point because they would be unstoppable 😍

With the aliens attacking as far as Mars in our own solar system and the military too busy fighting itself, unlikely alliances form with SRA refugees. The mutinous (read heroic) soldiers are going to find one way or another to get home.

(I loved the lead scientist on the planet too because science and physics should save the day in sci-fi)

The main characters grew some more depth here too. I loved the chapter where Grayson went home and took his mom to Vermont.  She deserved every second of that trip. Halley is going to have a big book three I hope since she didn’t see much fighting action in this one 😉 overall I just have a ton of respect for the main characters at this point

My only gripe was that I don’t think the passage of time was well represented on the Fomalhaut moon.  It seemed like only weeks had gone by when there was enough time for the solar system to be overcome as far as Mars, it seemed like it had to have been months gone by.

Overall, this was an action-packed and exciting second installment with hecking awesome characters too. I feel like I just want to binge read this series. It’s addictive!

As a quick note on the audio: once again I think Luke Daniels was phenomenal.  I love his pilot voices but he makes everyone sound so real and bad ass. About 9 hours from Brilliance Audio, I would definitely recommend either reading or listening


The series so far:

  1. Terms of Enlistment
  2. Lines of Departure
Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos (Book Thoughts)

I have been on a pretty heavy sci-fi kick this summer and needed an audiobook!  Cue a Kindle Unlimited with free audio search and I got lucky with Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos!  A soldier himself, Kloos delivers a fast paced and action packed military sci-fi adventure.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how many on discord read and enjoyed this series! I had never heard of this author but George RR Martin plugged the series soooo

Let’s get into it

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Terms of Enlistment
  • Series: Frontlines #1
  • Author: Marko Kloos
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, May 2013
  • Length: 334 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for a solid, addictive read that was enjoyable but didn’t do anything new

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

“There is nobody who does [military SF] better than Marko Kloos. His Frontlines series is a worthy successor to such classics as Starship TroopersThe Forever War, and We All Died at Breakaway Station.” ―George R. R. Martin

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements: You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world . . . or you can join the service.

With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment is an addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.


Mostly taking place on a futuristic and overpopulated Earth, we meet Andrew Grayson and follow his enlistment into the army, eventual transfer into the Navy in space, encounter a lot of danger and explosions and army shenanigans, then finally end on first contact with a hostile alien race.

The pace never lets up in between those events either; it was hard to stop reading!

While Kloos doesn’t do anything new or particularly special, this is a fast paced, utterly action packed book with all the military humor and happenings. I like reading military sci-fi and fantasy when it is written by soldiers. Kloos delivered something that felt like realistic enlistment complete with bureaucratic nightmares, while embracing all sorts of futuristic technology and interstellar travel.

The action was good too.  There plenty of danger and destruction, rocket launchers, warzone action, death and more.

I hate to admit I miss the stupid ass stories my exes used to tell, so I am drawn to the military stories (especially sci-fi) since I’m just so used to that language. Maybe that mixed with growing up on Star Trek and classic scifi draws me to these books but I will read them all day.

Character wise, I like what I saw of Grayson and Halley and the others.  No one comes to military sci-fi for the characters but there are a whole cast of side characters and people we meet along the way that add a lot of personality and banter to the book. Sgt Fallon was amazing 🤣

I usually hate first person point of view but here, it’s ok.  It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t get to five stars but still, I didn’t hate it.

“At ease,” Sergeant Fallon says. “Jesus, don’t those instructors over at the depot remove the corn cobs before they send you off into real life?”

“I don’t remember having been issued any sort of vegetables, Staff Sergeant,” I reply, and Sergeant Fallon chuckles.

“A smart-ass. As if we didn’t have enough of those already. I think you’ll fit in just fine.”

From boot camp to destruction of a colonized world, Terms of Enlistment never let up on the action. I can’t wait to follow more of Grayson and Halley’s adventures. I listened to the second half on audio and liked it too, either format comes recommended!

**Narrated by Luke Daniels, from Brilliance Audio, the audiobook is about 9.5 hours long.  I liked his clear enunciations and many different voices.  Daniels added a lot to the banter, personality of the characters, and book in general**

Overall, I recommend for fans of the genre!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal Young Adult

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (Audio & Book Thoughts)

When I polled my friends for their favorite books, one of my bookstagram buddies  responded that her whole family loves Skulduggery Pleasant!

It sounded a little silly. A middle grade novel with fantasy/horror/humor elements about a snarky skeletal detective. I have seen it recommended before and said ok why not, I could use a laugh!

The audiobook didn’t disappoint.  I absolutely loved it enough to put holds on the next few books.  I’m told that the series goes downhill and gets PC/political later on so I am a little bit wary, but plan on enjoying the books until it gets to that point!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Skulduggery Pleasant
  • Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #1
  • Author: Derek Landy
  • Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, April 2007
  • Length: 400 pages:
  • Rate & Recommend: 4.5⭐  for fans of middle grade-YA. (Remember that I rate these books mainly off of age appropriateness and overall enjoyment)

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant

Ace Detective
Snappy Dresser
Razor–tongued Wit
Crackerjack Sorcerer and
Walking, Talking, Fire-throwing Skeleton

—as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old.

These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil.

The end of the world?

Over his dead body.

There are a lot of books bridging the Middlegrade to YA reading gap and this is one of them.  A mature 10 year old could read or listen to this, or an adult could find a few things to laugh at too.

It’s funny, very funny, and I think the narrator brought out the banter and personalities of the characters really well.  Some of the dialogue is clunky but for a debut novel I really liked the characters.

Stephanie didn’t seem to have a lot to be upset with in her life, but she is seeking adventure and finds it after her uncle dies and a skeleton in disguise shows up at the reading of his will.

Between Stephanie’s adventure sense and Skulduggery’s one liners and absolute lack of any idea of how to handle a 12 year old, they make quite a pair. I say again how much I love the banter and how awkward Skul could be

The book moves at an appropriately fast pace for middle grade fantasy. The fighting got a bit repetitive but the story moved quickly and I was absolutely not bored at all.  I think that 10-16 age group would devour this book

The biggest thing I noted that set this one apart from it’s genre peers is how dark it got at times.  Age appropriately dark, but still dark.  Where other books in this genre stay fairly light on tough themes, this went into grief and torture, betrayal and madness, among other things scattered between the jokes and lighter content.

I liked it for that contrast of light and dark, highlighting the gray zones and debating who the “good guys” are.  

Here are a small few of my favorite quotes:

I’m placing you under arrest for murder, conspiracy to commit murder and, I don’t know, possibly littering


A living skeleton isn’t enough for you, is it? What does it take to impress young people these days?


To betray is to act against, I just haven’t acted at all


Content wise – there’s very little language, I think he says “damn” once. There is no romantic content and the dark content stays pretty age appropriate which I love and find necessary in order to rate these books!  Any one liners targeted at adults are going to go straight over the little one’s heads, even I hardly caught them.

Overall: I would definitely recommend this as a fun, fast paced read or listen for anyone interested in middle grade/ early YA books

A quick note on the audio: approximately 7 hours, narrated by Rupert Degas.  I loved his accent so much and found it perfect for the text, characters, banter, etc. There’s music at the end of each chapter that set the mood for the next chapter, corny but fun. 100% going to listen to a few of these because I need a laugh in my life and if nothing else, I was laughing out loud for sure 😂

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Fiction Science Fiction

Aftermath by LeVar Burton

I think I can speak for my entire generation saying that we all love LeVar Burton. From Trekkies to Reading Rainbow and even now with LeVar Reads, the man has been a literary and sci-fi presence longer than I’ve been alive 

Last year, Burton recorded and narrated Aftermath on audio for the first time. He added a politically charged Forward/Author’s Note on the state of America and the commentary that truth is often “stranger than fiction”. His debut novel published back in 1997 and it’s a little ironic how accurate he was in predicting how 2019 would look.

That said, I’m agreeing with the GoodReads rating that lives around 3.37/5 for the book. It was a solid debut but his political commentary shut me off before the book even started. I find that blatant political statements shut me off these days when I’m turning to fiction for escapism, although he raises many good points. Aftermath has many cool and interesting parts, it struggled in places too, and as always Burton is an amazing narrator. 


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Aftermath
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: LeVar Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Aspect, January 1997
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of speculative fiction, light scifi, post holocaust/apocalypse type reads

Audio: approx 10 hours, narrated by the author, from Hachette Audio, 2921

Here’s the synopsis:

The acclaimed actor’s shockingly prescient novel of speculative fiction “presents a near-future United States torn apart by civil war and deep racial strife” (Tampa Bay Times). For the first time ever, available as an audiobook read by the author.

America today is teetering on the edge of the alarming vision presented in LeVar Burton’s debut novel, written more than two decades ago…. 

In 2012, the first African American president is assassinated by a White extremist – just four days after he is elected. The horrific tragedy leads to riots, financial collapse, and ultimately, a full-on civil war. In its aftermath, millions are left homeless as famine and disease spread throughout the country.

But from Chicago, a mysterious voice cries out….

To Leon Crane, a former NASA scientist now struggling to survive on the streets, the pleas he hears remind him of the wife he could not save – and offer him a chance at redemption.

To Jacob Fire Cloud, a revered Lakota medicine man, the voice is a sign that the White Buffalo Woman has returned to unite all the races in peace and prosperity.

And to little Amy Ladue, the cries are those of her mother, who disappeared during the devastating St. Louis earthquake – and who must still be alive.

These three strangers will be drawn together to rescue someone they have never met, a woman who holds the key to a new future for humanity – one remarkably brimming with hope.

I do think it’s interesting that they a new synopsis for the audio, which is the one I included. So yeah, you can tell that there’s quite a bit going on in the book. There’s a timeline at first that introduces how events came to be, and America is in the *Aftermath*

But then there’s also a completely separate plot line where a scientist is captured and the book turns more post-apocalyptic as the other characters are traveling to rescue her. I feel like he had two separate ideas and try to impose the scientific invention for curing disease storyline into a separate speculative fiction background

It mostly works too.  The storyline itself was fast paced but felt a lot longer than 288 pages.

Burton’s writing is where it really fell flat for me, and it was hard to gauge exactly how devastated America and the world was.  There are tent cities and extreme poverty and rationed electricity in some areas, but then Disney World is still open? There are high tech scientific inventions coming out of a supposedly broke and corrupt world where the banks are shut down but people are still rich? If you don’t think too hard it’s a good read but I was trying to parcel out exactly how devastated the world really was. He also made a good point of saying how the farms vs the rich vs those already in poverty would handle the changes …. I just had a hard time with the Disney World and other incongruous things.  Disney would take an entire city’s electricity ration!

Another thing with the writing – and he did this frequently – would be to say something like “there were two choices, right or left.  The right side was blocked, which meant she had to turn left.” Not a direct quote but it drove me nuts when he over explained simple choices and events like that. 

I did like the historical events created for the book though, the timeline made sense.

Moving towards the end of the book, Burton changed gears and took on some real post apocalyptic type elements of horror, which fit but vastly changed the tone of the book.  He also likened a grain silo to a giant p*nis which stuck out like a … I don’t know, a giant p*nis from the rest of his descriptive language.

To end on a positive note – the characters were pretty standard but all pretty likeable, I wanted them all to succeed. They rotated chapters in different points of view and Burton kept each narrative voice distinct and age appropriate.  I liked Jacob the most, the old Sioux was surprisingly both the comic relief and springboard for the epilogue and story going forward.

Overall – definitely I have mixed feelings on this one. I would recommend more for fans of speculative fiction than Sci-Fi readers.  My biggest takeaway is that for being written in 1997 – Burton had a hell of a vision of the future. 

p.s. look at the old original cover 🤣 I love it