Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Infinity: Chronicles of Nick book 1" by Sherrilyn Kenyon

"Infinity: Chronicles of Nick book 1"
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read by Holter Graham
Produced by Macmillan Audio
Approx. 8 hours.

I think I have just listened to the next juvenile fiction craze. Okay it's really hard to figure out what today's youth will read, but if the recent trend of supernatural series is any kind of sign this series will glide right in. This one not only has vampires and werewolves, but within this first in the series (or rather sub series, but I'll explain that later) the hero getting bit by and then chasing zombies, befriended by demons, getting suspended from school and worse yet getting grounded by his mother.

Nick Gautier (pronounced Go-shay not Go-tee-ay or Goat-chay, that has an extra H in it and as Nick's mom says, "We're so poor we couldn't afford the extra letter.") is your typical high school freshman. Okay, typical in some aspects, like full of sarcastic wit, worried about bullies, and fully aware of girls. Now he's not so typical in that his mom dances at a strip club on Bourbon Street to pay for Nick's tuition to a private school that because he tested so high got somewhat of a scholarship and is the only reason he is in a school where everyone else constantly reminds that he doesn't belong.

Nick also has one more secret, one that he doesn't know himself, he's not quite human. It is never revealed fully what he is but it is powerful. His father is in prison and is the secret behind what Nick is and what Nick could become.

One day before school Nick's mom gives him a hideous Hawaiin shirt, Nick knows he's going to be picked on, AGAIN, and the shirt will be the cause, but, because Nick loves his mom so much he doesn't argue with her to protect her feelings. When he arrives at school, sure enough he's picked on. This time Nick takes the taunting about his shirt. He even takes the taunting about his being poor. But, when the taunting by the school's football team bullies becomes about his mom Nick fights back. This fight gets him suspended and grounded. His mom only allows him to go to work, but he feels so bad about letting his mom down so he skips work to go apologize to her. On the way back he runs into some friends that say that if he stands lookout while they pull a job they'll pay him 200 bucks. This will be the biggest deposit in Nick's miniscule college fund ever, so Nick decides to help. When he the "friends" proceed to rob a couple of tourists at gunpoint, Nick helps the tourists escape and then gets beat up and shot by the "friends."

This turn of events is witnessed by Kyrian, who turns out to be a Dark Hunter. Here's where the idea of the "sub-series" comes in. Sherrilyn Kenyon has written numerous books about the Dark Hunters, the Dark Hunters are death to those that prey upon humans. This book is the first in a series in which Kenyon is writing for a younger audience. The nice thing is that as a writer when the readers get older they can discover her earlier works which are actually later in the life of Nick and the Dark Hunters. But for now this series is full of fun, thrills, zombie chases, crazy rednecks and very strange supernatural beings of all sorts.

Kyrian takes Nick on as an assistant to help Nick on the right path. Before Nick can fully enjoy his job he discovers Kyrian and his many friends are demons or supernatural beings. He also discovers his uncle is a demon that stays hidden to keep him safe and to aid in his training, that some demons love to eat humans with barbecue sauce, the football team is made up of shape shifters and the world is not what it seems. Then again this all takes place in New Orleans, and New Orleans has never really been what it seems.

The reader of this audio book, Holter Graham, does a superb job of interpreting this book to audiobook form. He captures Nick, with all his sarcasm, angst and discovery perfectly and captures all the characters in their own uniqueness, from the redneck zombie hunter, Bubba, to the extremely wealthy upper class of Kyrian. Some of you old-schoolers may recognize the name Holter Graham as the kid from the Stephen King movie "Maximum Overdrive." He has grown up and honed his talent to becoming a great voice actor that brings this fun novel to life.

So, if you are a fan of the Dark Hunter series and would like to share the series with your younger friends and family, or just want to know what made Nick, Nick put this one on your list. I you like reading supernatural fiction, no matter what your age this is one I highly recommend you give a listen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"The Trail of the Red Diamonds" by L. Ron Hubbard

"The Trail of the Red Diamonds"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio, 2010
Approx. 2 hours.

This September marks another month where Galaxy Audio and Galaxy Press release another set of "Stories from the Golden Age." This audio pulp will take you on an adventure with a couple of tales from the Orient. The book is also availaby from Galaxy Press in a pulp version you can hold in your hand and read but this review covers the audio book version.

All the audio books from Galaxy Audio have all been a pleasure to hear. I started out with my interest in Science Fiction (which Hubbard wrote some really fun sci-fi) but since discovering these releases from Galaxy Audio, I have been testing out all the genres. I'm still waiting to sample some of the westerns, but I have a feeling that'll be coming soon. I mean it's gotta be good if any of the others are a sign. All these audio books have superb voice acting, original music and subtle yet effective sound effects. These all combine with the excitement and thrills of the twists and turns of Hubbard's writing to make for an experience that will leave you looking for more.

The two stories in this collection are:

"The Trail of the Red Diamonds," originally published in "Thrilling Adventure" magazine January, 1935 and is a story of betrayal, espionage, death and adventure. This story was originally written under the pseudonym of Lt. Jonathan Daly, who by chance, but more likely by design, is the main character in the story. This story mixes in a lot of reality in that the authenticity comes from Hubbard's many experiences in China.

Lt. Daly translates an original manuscript of Marco Polo's travels and discovers that Kublai Khan was buried with some rare red diamonds. The diamonds were to light the Kahn's way to heaven. Lt. Daly sets out to follow Marco Polo's directions to find the red diamonds. Along the way are double crosses, death and deception. At what cost to Daly is the trail to these diamonds? Untold riches sound good but when the Chinese army and renegades want those riches for themselves, Daly has some competition.

"The Hurricane's Roar," originally published in "Thrilling Adventure" magazine April, 1939 is another story of betrayal, espionage, death and adventure. Hubbard's second story about the man the Chinese call “Feng-Feng” or “Wind-Gone-Mad" the true interpretation for the Chinese slange for hurricane, actually pilot-adventurer Jim Dahlgren—and a conspiracy to incite a provincial war. "Wind-gone mad" plays both sides of a provincial war against each other to have them discover they have already been played against each other, along the same lines he stops a war by creating a war between the provinces. As you can tell this story is full of twists and turns and double crosses that only L. Ron Hubbard does so well.

These two stories are a perfect pairing for some adventures in the orient that will be the perfect companion in your next audio adventure.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Eternity In Death" (novella) book 29 of "...In Death" series by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)

"Eternity In Death" (novella)
book 29 of "...In Death" series
by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)
read by Susan Ericksen
Produced by Brilliance Audio
approx. 3.5 hours

Okay, I've been reading a huge batch of vampire, zombie and werewolf novels and thought I'd go back to listening to one of my favorite futuristic detective novels. Once again I visit the "...In Death" series by J.D. Robb and the thrilling world of Lt. Eve Dallas of the NYPSD as she solves another series of murders. Well guess what? This book, which I just picked out of the blue as one in the series I haven't read yet, has vampires. Either that is synchronicity at work or just luck, either way this book was great to hear.

To sum up Lt. Eve Dallas has escaped a childhood of torture only to become the best homicide detective on the New York Police and Securities Department in the mid 21st century. She is assisted by a wonderful cast of characters including her husband, Roarke, an Irish immigrant that now seems to own half the world and even a few planets and satellites, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one. Other fun characters are here detective assistant Delia Peabody, Peabody's main squeeze Electronics Division Detective McNabb, the Chief of Electronics division, Feeney (her former partner in homicide) and Psychologist/Profiler Dr. Mira. The setting of these books is just far enough into the future to have some really cool sci-fi toys to work with or contend with, yet close enough where real detective work is still done.

The entire series is read by Susan Ericksen, who does a smashup job of capturing each and every character vocally. Sometimes I wonder if Ms. Ericksen doesn't suffer from some sort of personality disorder with all the voices that come out of her. Each character is distinct and acted vocally to perfection.

This book opens with a young, famous-for-being-famous, socialite anticipating the visit of a dark stranger that has promised she will keep her 23 year old youthful appearance, but first she has to die.

The next morning the socialite's body is discovered drained of blood and two punctures on the neck. Lt. Eve Dallas is called to the scene where the adventure into the darker side of New York City begins. Dallas, in no way believes in vampires, but her assistant, Peabody, does get the creeps on this one and starts wearing a cross.

The clues lead to a vampire themed club in New York's seedy underground. In Eve Dallas's time New York's Underground is a place where even the police have no jurisdiction. A club called "Bloodbath" is where the socialite recently frequented and the owner of the club seems to have some strange powers. Eve must pull in all her resources to ignore the supernatural beliefs trying to sneak into her thoughts and bring down a murderer masquerading as a vampire.

Once again J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts) creates an exciting detective thriller that you can't stop until the last word is spoken. Once again I will point out the single downfall of the entire series and that is the explicit sex scenes. I realize that J.D. Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts, and Nora Roberts is a romance writer, but come on, enough is enough. The scenes are totally unnecessary. The story moves great without them and they add nothing to the story, plot or characters. The good side of this novella is that it is short and only one of these scenes is in the book. In audio format I just fast forward and lose nothing in the missed scene.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Carnival of Death" by L. Ron Hubbard (audio book review)

"Carnival of Death"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast Performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
approx 2 hours.

I would never really say L. Ron Hubbard was a horror writer, for the most part he wrote some great Sci-fi, but Hubbard did write a lot of fiction from various genres back in the golden age of pulp-fictions in the mid-twentieth century. In one of those genres, mystery, some of the stories tended to branch out into the horror realm. This book is one of those that branches out and adds a little of the horror genre of fiction into the mix.

Galaxy Audio has taken Hubbard's short stories that were published through various aviation, sports and pulp magazines and have created a series of somewhat audio pulps. These audio books are all about two hours in length and contain one or more short stories within a given genre. The production mixes subtle sound effects, original music and an extremely talented cast of voice talent to create a cinematic audio experience that provides the perfect audio escape from reality.

This book includes the following two stories:

"The Carnival of Death," originally published in "Mystery/Detective" magazine November, 1934, starts out as a bit of a horror story but with the twist and turn expert of Hubbard's typewriter becomes a spectacular mystery in which a drug ring is thwarted. A Carnival has recently imported four "Headhunters" from Darkest Africa to scare the audiences in America. When the 4 escape and headless corpses begin showing up US Treasury Agent Bob Clark working undercover as Security for the carnival must solve the mystery and before the horror of headless corpses continue.

"The Death Flyer," originally published in "Fantasy" magazine April, 1936, is a great ghost story that would be worth listening to around the campfire, especially if there is a train track nearby. Jim Bellamy, finds himself stuck to a train track where decades before a train crashed killing dozens of people. He cannot free himself from being stuck before a train begins bearing down on him. Suddenly the train stops and the engineer yells down for Jim to hurry aboard they've been waiting for him. It seems Jim has found himself on-board a ghost train, but for what reason? Give this one a listen and you'll never hear a distant train whistle the same again.

A couple of stories from the Golden Age, by L. Ron Hubbard that provide some nice chills of horror, nothing too scary.

Monday, July 12, 2010

“Dog Blood” A Novel by David Moody (audio book review)

“Dog Blood” A Novel
by David Moody
Read by Gerard Doyle
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Approx 9 1/2 hours

David Moody has created a thrilling joyride through an apocalyptic world of zombies, but without an apocalypse or zombies. This may need some further explanation, so bear with me. First of all this novel, “Dog Blood” is the sequel to Moody’s previous novel, “Hater.” In “Hater” the world changed. Many people suddenly began killing other people, it was soon discovered that a percentage of the population was changing into what was being labeled as Haters.

The Haters would kill for no reason using only their bare hands in most cases. The book “Hater” followed Danny McCoyne as he tried everything he could to protect his family, but near the end of the book Danny, became a Hater. The change in him was sudden as if a switch was thrown. Once he had changed he immediately felt the urge to destroy the Unchanged. One of the Unchanged was his father-in-law. When his wife witnessed this she knew he had become a Hater. As she gathered the children to make their escape Danny looked into the eyes of his 5 year old daughter and knew she was like him, but by then he was incapacitated and could do nothing. This left the novel “Hater” with either the most thrilling ending ever or a serious hint at a sequel.

As it turns out David Moody has written this novel, “Dog Blood” and continues the story with such a a delivery that you get tired as if YOU are the one running around and trying to survive. The story creates such a unique insight into the world of Haters and Unchanged, that not only do you read about the battles, the survival, the lack of governmental control but Moody writes in such a fashion you feel as if you are part of the story. The reader, Gerard Doyle, does such a great job that he further presses that urgency and emotion that is within the story it is as if the story were written with him as the intended reader. Doyle at times when the story calls for it can be emotionless but within a splitsecond the story telling turns to a rage fueled story and Doyle makes those shifts perfectly clear with some very artistic voicework.

In “Dog Blood,” Danny McCoyne continues the bloody kills to destroy the Unchanged but this time he is also looking for his five year-old daughter, Ellis. Danny makes his way back to the city from which we was taken to where his wife and daughter could be hiding/surviving. Danny was taken to a camp where the Haters where being mass slaughtered not unlike the German concentration camps of World War II. After escaping Danny learns of the Haters, led by a former politician, grouping to form an army to destroy the Unchanged. The biggest obstacle in this is that as a Hater organization is hard to come by because all killing is done by instinct, not unlike a zombie horde. This is where the zombie aspect comes in, the Haters act as vicious as any zombie from any zombie movie or story, but they can think and they don’t eat their victims, well, not always.

Moody also takes us through the lives of the Unchanged by jumping into the story of Mark Tillotsen as he helps the military to scout for food and survivors in the area. Mark gets extra rations for this volunteer work, which he needs because he has recently taken in a family member and his wife is pregnant.

Survival, hordes of violent attackers, and the possible end of the world, “Dog Blood” takes up where “Hater” left off and I will warn you the ending keeps you questioning. I will warn you also to make sure you allow extra listening time when you approach the end of the book, the last few chapters are so exciting you CANNOT stop listening. Actually, you won’t want to stop the book at all once you start.

Friday, July 09, 2010

"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls" by Steve Hockensmith

"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls"
by Steve Hockensmith
read by Katherine Kellgren
produced by Brilliance Audio
approx 9 hours

So you've read "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, what next? I highly suggest following up with this novel, the prequel. The zombie smashing mashup that mixed the undead with Victorian primness was hilarious and yet a bit educational. Sure you were reading about zombies, but by golly, Jane Austen's classic was still in there so you got some culture. This time around, though, there is no classic literature involved. I will give you a heads up in that this book still captures some of that same mood and writing involved in Jane Austen's style. This time around there is a lot more humor. I know, humor and zombies, what is he talking about? Trust me, there are many laugh out loud moments.

Let me first give the proper praises to the reader, Katherine Kellgren. She read/performed this book with the same Victorian delivery, trying to keep the culture in the story telling, but when it came to zombie howls and moans and the Bennet sisters' battle cry, she delivered with uncanny realism. So while listening you feel high-brow until the carnage begins and the battles roar.

Basically in the first book we learned that England has been over run by zombies, or rather the "unmentionables," because no proper English person would ever speak the "Z" word. The Bennett sisters have been trained, like their father, in the "Deadly Arts." They were trained int the fashion of Shaolin monks, with skills in the martial arts, katanas, nun-chuks, and throwing stars, in order to defeat the undead scourge sweeping the country. In this prequel we learn not only the hows but the whys of their training and of their prejudices in finding suitable men to marry.

As the book opens the Bennett family is attending the funeral of a friend. All is quiet and solemn until the deceased rises from his coffin and begins to moan. Mr. Bennett, having fought the undead in the previous war, knows what is happening and more importantly knows what must be done. Ushering everyone, except his two oldest daughters out of the church, Mr. Bennett then begins the process of separating the unmentionable from his head. However he has his daughters do the dirty work so they can begin to be trained in what must be done because the zombies have returned.

Returning home from the funeral and beheading of the zombie, Mr. Bennett reclaims his Dojo (Mrs. Bennett has turned it into a gardening shed, hanging tools from the various swords and arsenal), and begins the Bennett girls' training in the Deadly Arts. At this time he also alerts the nearest officials that the zombies are back, and sends word back to his master that he needs someone to train his daughters.

This book is full of fun and zombie smashing once the troops arrive. The troops are all very young boys led by a recently promoted captain who has no arms or legs. To make up for the lack of appendages he is wheeled around by some soldiers referred to as "Limbs." When he needs to shake someone's hand he orders, "Right Limb, shake that man's hand." This creates many comical moments. It also seems that the Captain and Mrs. Bennett have a history that works in some more fun. The troops are accompanied by a mad scientist. This mad scientist is out to catch a zombie and try to turn him back into a proper Englishman.

The Bennett sisters begin their training once the Master arrives from the Far East, and during their training sessions there is more hilarity, especially having to deal with the different personalities of the sisters.

The book leads up to Elizabeth Bennett's coming out ball and a zombie invasion in which they all seem to be doomed. But knowing that this is a PREQUEL, you know the important characters survive, but you will be on the edge of your seat while listening to this supremely funny horror classic. I would have to say that this book is more fun than the first book but keep in mind the first one was a mashup in which Jane Austen's writing was the basis.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

"Last Sons" by Alan Grant

"Last Sons"
by Alan Grant
Multicast Performance
produced by GraphicAudio
Approx 2 hours

With the help of superb audio book production I have recently become a DC comics fan. I used to only be a Marvel fan, but hey even Stan Lee did some stuff for DC a few years ago, so I can bend a little. The thing that really got me was the "Movie in your Mind" created by these audio books from GraphicAudio. They take excellent voice talent mix in out-of-this-world sound effects and original incidental music and blend it all in to become a cinematic audio production of some great novelizations. They cover other genres of literature, but my favorite by far is their productions of DC comics novels.

This book has sold me even more on DC comics in that I have found my new favorite DC Character. Most of DC comics superheroes are square-jawed, do gooders in tights but this time we are introduced to the bounty hunter, Lobo. Lobo is meant to be DC's answer to Marvel's Wolverine. I think DC also took a bit of Lobo's personality from Marvel's "Merc with a mouth," Deadpool. Deadpool is my all time favorite hero or rather anti-hero, because he is quick to crack wise and has a psycopathic disposition that sometimes leads him to have witty conversations with himself. One thing Deadpool does that I have yet to hear Lobo do is break the fourth wall, you know, turn and talk to the audience. But maybe in the future when Lobo gets his own comic that can happen. There has been a short run of Lobo comics, but I have yet to read them.

In a recent audio book produced by GraphicAudio, "52," there was a slight mention of Lobo but not enough to really note. This time Lobo is the main character. Lobo is a psychopathic bounty hunter that only thinks about 3 things; himself, booze and broads, in that order. I guess you could throw in mayhem and finding the next criminal to bring in. Lobo is an expert biochemist and has the uncanny ability to know exactly what to do next, mix this in with his super healing factor and the ability to track any molecule via sense of smell and his super strength, this makes for one bounty hunter you hope you never have after you. He used his biochemical expertise to wipe out his entire race/planet and become the last known survivor of his planet before moving on to become a bounty hunter.

This book opens with Lobo bringing in a gang of thugs but as he's rounding them up they manage to blow up his space bike, oh yeah Lobo is also a biker, and to fix the bike, which is no ordinary bike, he uses the brain of one of the thugs to replace the destroyed brain of the bike. Yeah, it's a pretty cool bike. As he returns he finds that he has been requested to bring in J'onn J'onnzz (The Martian Manhunter) with a 1 million cred reward. This would provide some serious booze and broads for "The Main Man," as he refers to himself.

If you don't know, J'onnzz is the last remaining of his species from Mars. He prides himself on being on the side of justice and could never break any law. After a brief battle between J'onnzz and Lobo, Superman (the last son of Krypton) intervenes and after Lobo presents the warrant, he and J'onnz decide the warrant is legit and J'onnzz decides to allow to be taken in and find what the mixup is about. Superman is wary but allows his friend to be taken in. In being wary Superman heads to the office where bounty hunters are dispersed and finds that no crime is listed. He then follows the 2 to where J'onnz is to be delivered.
The delivery point is a planet where the race of beings are excellent at carving rocks. An artificial intelligence, calling itself Alpha, has latched on to these beings, making them its slave and forcing them to create a body so the electrical based artificial intelligence can inhabit. From there the Alpha begins making the planet into a giant supercomputer/space ship (similar to the Death Star in Star Wars). Alpha also has the beings carve out spacecraft which it plans on using to destroy all live in the universe.

Lobo is heading to the Alpha's planet not knowing what the Alpha is planning, but just wanting to collect the bounty. When he arrives he sees J'onnzz placed into a prison cell and the Alpha declares that he is keeping J'onnzz because he is the last of his race. Knowing he is also the last Lobo prepares to battle his way out, but is not able to act fast enough before being subdued and imprisoned himself.
This leaves Krypton's last son, Superman to try and save them, but the Alpha is prepared and has Kryptonite on hand to subdue Supes. J'onnzz, Superman and Lobo have to put aside their differences and team up if there is to be any hope for the survival of the universe. Once again through some great battles and with even greater witty rapport on the part of Lobo this story creates a fun adventure in the world of DC comics.