Amazingly Awesome Audiobooks

Monday 17 February 2020

I was originally going to do a post about my favorite audiobooks from 2019, but seeing as it's already February, I figured I'd change this one into an ongoing series where I give suggestions of audiobooks I loved. When I'm at work I spend about half the time in an office at a desk. I bought a set of Bluetooth ear buds so I keep one in as I work which allows me a lot of time each week to enjoy books from Audible, Libby, Overdrive, and other great services. So let us begin with my first ever Awesome Audiobooks!

The Land Series by Aleron Kong
Narrator: Nick Podehl
Premise: Richter was playing an MMORPG one day and completed what he thought was a hidden mission. Instead of loot, gold, or experience, he finds himself transported to a strange land. What's even stranger is that he finds the world is just like a video game. He has a character sheet, he can gain levels, he has abilities, but so does everyone else. What is new new world? Can Richter survive? Can he ever get home?

This is one of my favorite series of all time. I got the first book as the daily sale book on Audible and I'm so thankful I did. This was the first book I ever listened to that was narrated by Nick Podehl who quickly became my favorite narrator of all time. He's a true voice actor who has a different voice for every character and it helped me get immersed into the series. When I'm listening to The Land, Kong could leave out who said what line and I'd know just from Podehl's voice.

But there's a catch with this. This is from the new(ish) genre LitRPG, which I love but is also a very very specific genre. Last year the PopSugar Reading Challege had LitRPG as a prompt and boy did people bitch about it. Read something out of your comfort zone? Heaven forbid! This isn't like Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance, or Thrillers which are very broad genres. This is a very unique and limiting genre. So if you don't think you can broaden your horizons and give it a shot, then don't even try.

But if you do want to give it a shot, I want to press the fact that this is a wonderfully written and enjoyable series that is up to 7 books at this point. So you're not jumping into a series that after two books you'll have to wait years for the next one.  Kong isn't like Patrick Rothfus, he can actually finish a book! So give this series a chance. It's a wonderfully fun and deep story with the best narrator in the world of audiobooks and there are enough books in the series to keep you entertained for months.

Sadie by Courtney Summers
Narrators: Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, Rebecca Soler, and Fred Berman.
Premise: Sadie has had a hard life. She grew up basically on her own, caring for her younger sister Mattie in a small town and tries her best to provide a life for her. When Mattie is found dead, Sadie's world crumbles. After the police are unable to find the killer, Sadie takes it upon herself to find the killer and starts her own investigation. Wes McCray is a radio host starting his own podcast about small town America. He hears Sadie's story and becomes obsessed with finding out who killed Mattie and what ever happened to Sadie. Can he help her before it's too late.

Sadie was the perfect book to get the audio treatment. The story is presented in two parts. The first is Sadie's side of things then we're presented with Wes's experience as told through his podcast. This audio book has a full cast and "reads" like an old radio drama, but not as campy. Not only is it a good story, but if you listen to a lot of audio books, it comes as a nice break. It's not presented in the classic fashion so it breaks up any possible monotony from back to back to back audiobooks.

The pacing of the story is quite impressive as we hear Sadie's story then we hear Wes's point of view as he's a week or two behind her (if I remember correctly). So you can see the effects of Sadie and her actions and the impact she left in her wake.

The ending kind of bothered me and I think it would have been a deal breaker if I didn't enjoy the story leading up to the conclusion. So just a warning if an ending can kill a book for you. I didn't hate the ending, I just found it lacking. Courtney Summer's conclusion was either lazy or attempted to be avant garde but fell into a tired trope instead. Either way I was left mildly cold, but the rest of the book was enjoyable enough to keep this on my list.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Premise: When you read this book you will make many assumptions. You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife. You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement - a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle. Assume nothing... (taken from Goodreads).

Earlier on in this very blog I told you that my favorite narrator was Nick Podehl, that was incorrect. He's tied for first place with Julia Whelan who may not do the insane amount of voices that Podehl does, but she has a very smooth and enjoyable cadence to her voice that made me hang on to every word she uttered. Each of her voices were unique and even her male voices were different. Let's be honest, for both men and women narrators, doing a voice of the opposite sex isn't the easiest thing. But she can do it (Podehl can too, but we're talking about Whelan here).

But enough about the narrator. What about the story? This is a solid thriller. I'm fairly new to the genre so maybe I'm not as well versed as others may be, but I didn't see the big twists coming. My wife, on the other hand, did see them coming, but still enjoyed the book which is why I feel that this is a good one to recommend. Both of us enjoyed this. One who guessed the twist and one who was blindsided by it. Hendricks and Pekkanen weave an intriguing story that was strong enough to hold up to my wife's superhuman ability to pick up on book twists. All of the characters avoided the standard genre tropes and in the end it was a gripping and enjoyable story.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Amazingly Awesome Audiobooks. Maybe this will catch on and we can call it Triple A like Guy Fieri's Triple D or Triple G.... maybe?

The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin | Book Review

Tuesday 11 February 2020

I hate “meh” books. I hate books that are only disappointing and not terrible. I’d rather hate a book. That way I can either DNF it or I can use my outwardly negative passion to speed through it to write a scathing review. But those books that aren’t bad enough to hate but not good enough to enjoy fall into this aggravating grey area. The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin is one of those books.

Let’s discuss the plot first. Michael Grace Martin, aka MG, is as nerdy as they come. She even works as a writer for her favorite comic book company, designs costumes, and has her hair dyed wacky colors! Oh snap! Her life takes a turn when she meets the handsome Detective Kildaire, a man on a case that hits close to home. A group of drug dealers were recently capture by a vigilante. The catch is that this case matches up perfectly with a classic comic book that MG knows well. Can she help the handsome detective solve his case? And are any of her ragtag group of friends involved in it all?

The plot is basic. We’ve seen books, movies, and TV shows about a criminal who takes inspiration from comics or some other media and the creator or some other nerdy expert is the only one who can solve the crime. It’s okay to have a plot similar to other books when you can set your work apart from those before it. Meghan Scott Molin couldn’t do that.

The plot was predictable in the worst way. Even when I didn’t see something coming, I still didn’t care. The suspect was innocent? Eh, whatever. Someone died? Oh shucks, I’ll send flowers. Nothing mattered in this book. Even things that were important to MG passed without any consequence. One big thing that she had been stressing about for about half the book came and went and it might as well have been spilled coffee. No one cared. One of the things that would help shape her future happened and it was forgettable to her and the reader.

Let's take a break and talk about the good. I liked the drag queens and the character of Lawrence. I wouldn't mind Lawrence getting his own book. I also liked the cop who didn't like MG. I forgot his name and at this point I can't be bothered to look it up, but anyone who hates MG is a friend of mine. I also liked the back story of the creator of the comic MG likes so much. It was interesting and could be a book on it's own.

The worst part on this painful journey was the constant bombardment of nerdy references. We get it, Meghan, MG is a nerd. Good job. It felt like every page had at least one reference and not even all of them were correct. Out of all the cons I’ve gone to, the comic stores and game stores I’ve shopped at, and all my nerdy friends, no one I’ve met has made as many references and jokes as MG. It got old. It got old real fast. I’d rather be friends with anyone from Big Bang Theory than MG and that show has terrible characters.

MG has made the list as one of my most disliked main characters. While I do understand the struggles of being a women in a historically male dominated niche (as best I can), I couldn’t get behind someone who was as judgmental and shallow as her. At one point she complained about the nerds at Comic-con seeing the equivalent of a pair of breasts with legs when they look at her but then she goes and objectifies Detective Kildaire the same way. I get that eye candy is called eye candy for a reason. Because it’s something easily accessible for the eyes to enjoy. But don’t stand on a soapbox and put yourself above others and then do the same things you judge them for.  MG also hated it when people put her in a box but she talked about types of nerds she hated, lumping them all in the same box too. She's a huge hypocrite. Part of the book was MG’s journey from angry hermit like nerd to less angry, friendlier nerd, but the two previously mentioned aspects of her were so distracting that I didn’t care.

When all is said and done the story isn’t bad. It may be basic. It may have been done before. And MG may be an insufferable character, but I’ve read worse. A lot worse (Seanan McGuire anyone?). But I’ve also read a lot better. Unless I get many MANY people telling me the second book is worth my time, I will forever leave MG and her ultra-nerd life behind me.

The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin gets a 4 out of 11

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Movie Review

Friday 7 February 2020

I had to wait to see this film. Star Wars "fans" drive me crazy. It seems like they auto-hate anything new and swear that the only good thing about Star Wars are the old movies and now defunct expanded universe. Even though I go into these films with more of an open mind than some of my nerdy friends, I consider The Last Jedi one of the worst of all 9 films. So was J.J. Abrams able to pick up the ball that Rian Johnson dropped? More importantly, was he able to give the saga a complete ending? Here's my review.

Let me start by saying Ewan McGregor was the best part of the prequel trilogy. In that same way, Adam Driver was the best part of this final trilogy. Adam Driver is one of the best actors of our time. I bring up this point because a big part of my enjoyment of this trilogy, was his story. So I was already going into this film expecting to like one part of it. I also was a big fan or Rey. Her story wasn't as developed as I would have liked, but she was interesting and brought something new to the Star Wars table.

Kylo Ren's story and the story of the resistance saved the new trilogy. I know I've mention disliking The Last Jedi already, but I have to bring it up one more time as it's because of that movie that the newer trilogy feels so disjointed. It seems like Abrams had his own story he was telling but Johnson popped up in the middle and effed it all up. I do like Johnson's other work. I've seen Knives Out, Looper, and The Brothers Bloom and they were all good. But I think something went wrong, it could be Johnson's fault, Abrams fault, or even Disney's fault, but the fact of the matter is the new trilogy is disjointed because of TLJ. But I truly believe that there was enough good in this film that the Skywalker Saga ended on a good note.

The old characters, Leia, Chewie, Lando, C-3PO, R2-D2 had good stories, but it was important to remember that it was no longer their tale. This was the tale of Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, and BB-8. I liked this new story and I'm glad it got the ending it did.

But let's pause and talk about the things I didn't like. I didn't like the fact that the Emperor came out of nowhere. It felt like Deus Ex Machina for the bad guys. Oh, you're about to lose? Here's the original big baddie! I would much rather have had hints dropped the whole time then a quick flashback montage showing everything we missed. But Snoke is dead, Kylo Ren is in charge, but guess what, he's not!

Also, it felt like the whole thing was rushed because Abrams had to fix or deal with everything that happened in The Last Jedi. I had just rewatched The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi before seeing this so I could tell there were huge pacing issues with the trilogy as a whole.

There, see! I can admit this wasn't a perfect film. None of the Star Wars films are. But you shouldn't watch these movies if you're looking for a perfect cinematic experience. You should watch these movies if you're looking for fun space fantasy with enjoyable characters, flashy sci-fi antics, and the classic story of good versus evil.

I liked this movie. And, as you can see, I can admit it's faults, but in the end I really enjoyed it. I feel sorry for those aholes who sit back and shit on the movie because it "ruined" their childhood. I feel sorry that they're so fragile. I feel sorry for any Star Wars hater because there's so much to love about all the movies, why spend so much time being a hateful nerd?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker gets an 8 out of 11

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