Review of The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan

October 14, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Crown TowerThe Crown Tower (The Riyria Chronicles #1)
By Michael J. Sullivan; Narrated by Tim Gerald Reynolds
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 6 August 2013
[UNABRIDGED] = 12 hours, 49 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / warrior / thief / prostitutes /

Publisher summary:

Two men who hate each other. One impossible mission. A legend in the making.
Hadrian Blackwater, a warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with Royce Melborn, a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most prized possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels that the old wizard is after, and if he can just keep them from killing each other, just might do it.

The Crown Tower is the first book of the Riyria Chronicles series by Michael J. Sullivan in the same world as his Riyria Revelations series. Even though published later than Revelations, the Chronicles books are chronologically earlier and explore the adventures of the same characters before the events of Revelations. Sullivan gives a great forward to the book explaining all of this and explains that he went to great lengths to ensure that a new Riyria reader (like me) could start from either point. The Crown Tower serves as a great introduction to the world and the characters and I’m looking forward to more Riyria!

The plot of the novel mainly follows two threads: Hadrian is a highly skilled warrior who has quit fighting in armies and killing men for no good reason. He gets roped into a high risk heist with a thief (Royce) he doesn’t like or trust by an old wizard friend of the family. They need to steal something from an impregnable tower but there seems to be more going on here than it seems. Gwen is a prostitute stuck in the city of Medford waiting for a man of prophecy she isn’t sure will actually come. She works for a terrible man who cares nothing for his girls and is quickly reaching the breaking point. Oh and she can tell a man’s past, present, and future by reading his palm. Gwen’s story was the less compelling of the two threads for me, but I’m sure parts of her story have greater significance in later portions of Riyria.

I really like the dynamics between Hadrian and Royce just because of how different they are. Hadrian has hope in the world, faith in the goodness of people, and a desire to help others. Royce trusts nothing, no one, and is prone to killing innocents to remove the possibility of witnesses whenever needed. One is outgoing and the other is a complete mystery. Naturally, they hate each other.

I also really like the setting of the world and the way the book is written. So many fantasy book are going the direction of “grimdark fantasy” where everything is gritty and terrible, fights are graphic, and sex scenes are pornographic. Sullivan does a great job of being realistic portraying people in dire circumstances (like the prostitutes) while still keeping the novel clean overall. He manages to have a brothel in this story without being pornographic! Amazing! Sullivan also doesn’t dwell on gore and violence while still having compelling action scenes. He builds up some serious anticipation to see Hadrian fight and does not disappoint when it comes.

As for the audiobook performance, Tim Gerard Reynolds does a great job with the different characters’ voices in this book. Hadrian and Royce’s voices match their characters really well and I had no trouble following anything going on. He did well building up the suspense during the climax of the book. I am definitely looking forward to more novels read by Reynolds.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Commentary: Downpour.com – an audiobook delivery system that just works

March 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commentary 

SFFaudio Commentary

Downpour.comDownpour.com, Blackstone Audio’s online audiobook store, is a genuine competitor to Audible.com.

It offers audiobook downloads of titles, from Blackstone Audio’s extensive catalogue, and also those from many other audiobook publishers like Recorded Books, Harper Audio, Penguin Audio, Hachette Audio, and AudioGo.

Their subscription service is almost identically priced to Audible’s, each offers one credit per month for about $15. And, like an Audible credit Audible.com, a Downpour credit almost always gets you one audiobook.

I signed up for Downpour when they started late last Summer. And so far, I really, really like it.

I’ve had an account with Audible.com since 2001. But Audbile.com has always caused one giant problem for me: DRM.

DRM is actually designed to prevent you sharing your audiobook with your friends and family.

But worse, it can also make it difficult for you, the owner of the audiobook that you bought, to actually listen to what you have paid for.

Over the years I’ve spent countless hours trying to make an audiobook, that I bought, play on my audiobook players.

Every single time I’ve bought a new computer, iPod, iPad, or iPhone I’ve spent time authorizing and deauthorizing my devices. Sometimes it just takes a couple of minutes, sometimes hours.

Audible’s DRM makes you have to authorize your iTunes account, and your computer, and your iPhone, and your iPad, and your iPod. And you have to deauthorize your old devices to make the new devices work. You can’t have all of your devices authorized if you have more than three.

I just want my audiobooks to work like regular books, I want them to open up and give me their ideas. DRM cripples your ability to do that.

Downpour.com has no DRM at all. It just works.

In fact it works absolutely perfectly.

You make a purchase, it shows up in your online library, and then it downloads and delivers itself to your devices.

It is smoother than any audiobook service I’ve ever seen. It’s even smoother than Tantor Media’s excellent DRM-FREE download service.

If you use an iOS device for an audiobook, like I do, I’m betting Downpour.com is will work for you.

If you use a different audiobook player Downpour offers MP3s, which work with every audio player.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #190 – READALONG: Beowulf

December 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #190 – Scott and Jesse talk about the epic poem, Beowulf (and the Tantor Media audiobook edition read by Rosalyn Landor).

Talked about on today’s show:
The Odyssey, mead, Recorded Books Modern Scholar series, Michael D.C. Drout, Norsemen in the Mediterranean, “embarrassingly subservient to their women”, Miklagard, Russia and the Rus, Vikings -> Normans -> Britons -> Crusaders, the fall of Rome, Beowulf: A Dual Language Edition by Howell D. Chickering, Jr., the king of the blanekty blanks, Seamus Heaney translation, popularity of Beowulf, the Icelandic Sagas, Greeks vs. Romans vs. Scandians, more mead halls, fewer philosophical schools, guardsman vs. tutors, action vs. xenia, thanes just wanta band up, “they’re Klingons”, The 13th Warrior, Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton, biker gangs, Hrothgar, Scyld Scefing, Unferth (un + frith = “mar peace”), Herot, the challenging retainer who gives the hero a sword, the swimming contest, Beowulf (the 2007 Roger Avary/Neil Gaiman adaptation), the visual composition, Babylon 5, Wiglaf, “badasses must compete”, Eric S. Rabkin, nine hours underwater, Grendel -> Grendel’s Mom -> The Dragon, the hoards, “a story to tell while you’re drinking mead”, “story is at the primacy”, “she’s got tentacles!”, the spawn of Cain, “Cain’s clan”, Beowulf is a poem about pagans by a Christian, the historicity of Beowulf (literally “bee” + “wolf” = “bear”), The Iliad, The Odyssey, historical King Arthur, J.R.R. Tolkien, what kind of poetry is it? It’s EPIC!, Tantor Media’s version of Beowulf (translated by Francis B. Gummere), the LibriVox version of Beowulf, Brian Murphy, “whale road” vs. “whale path”, Kevin Crossley-Holland, “foundling” vs. “waif”, Caesar -> Kaiser and Czar, The Hobbit is like Beowulf told to children, rapine warriors vs. cute dwarves, The Lord Of The Rings, golden rings and magic swords, breaker of swords, visual parallels Grendel’s arm + socket -> Beowulf’s arm + socket, “movies excel at visual metaphors”, “the thirteen dwarfs is not a good idea”, heavy going, watch the movie first then read the poem, Beowulf’s death, “often when one man follows his own will many are hurt”, “his high destiny”, a Talmud for Beowulf, having it every way, arguing the Bible, the etymology of “Homer”, we’re fans, Brendan Gleeson, Wiglaf’s choice, why Grendel’s got a grudge, monsters as externalizations of horror within, Viking men and their bastard sons, kings need heirs, the sins of the father (and Original Sin), the family of Cain, why did Cain kill Abel, capturing the reasons hidden within the story, Robert Zemeckis, adaptations of Beowulf, why put Beowulf in the future, the Christopher Lambert Beowulf, The Monarch Of The Glen by Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things, Grendel by John Gardner, Eaters Of The Dead |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Herot Series by Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, and Jerry Pournelle, Sons Of Anarchy, Hamlet, overturning the mead benches, named swords, Hrunting

Beowulf

Beowulf - SWORD, SHIELD, SHIP

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Tales from the Hood: The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley

October 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Tales from the Hood: The Sisters Grimm by Michael BuckleyTales from the Hood: The Sisters Grimm
By Michael Buckley; Read by L.J. Ganser
6.5 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2008
Themes: / Fantasy / YA / Magic / Trial / Fairy Tale / Mystery /

This is my second book in the series. I started with book 5 and couldn’t put it down. At the end, I had to purchase and listen to book 6. Once again, I found myself lying in bed, listening to the book far longer than was prudent. It reminds me of the nights as a child when I would take a flashlight and read under the covers of my bed. It’s wonderful to again find a series that warrants that sort of need to read.

In the sixth volume, Mr. Canes, otherwise known as The Big Bad Wolfe, goes on trial for the murder of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. As always, the story was and was not what we’ve heard before.

Mr. Buckley again laced the story with clues. This time I had the ending figured out beforehand, but I didn’t mind as I enjoyed the story and how it unfolded.

In volume six, the trial is mostly a sham. The Mad Hatter is the judge and the defense is thwarted at every turn by a devilish prosecution. While we follow the main story, the overarching plot that weaves through the series also advances satisfactorily. The author is adept at giving us just enough backstory to keep from being lost but not enough for those who read previous books to mind.

The trial reminded me a lot of a Disneyland ride I loved as a child: “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”. The author grabs you, throws you into the car and takes you on a fast-paced ride, full of twists and turns, sudden stops and dead ends. But the denouement was quite satisfactory. The “To Be Continued” at the end of the book was more a “that chapter’s over, now it’s time for the next one” rather than a “I must get the next book!” But that, too, was fine. After the crazy trial, I’m ready for a short (very short) break before moving on to see what happens next.

Do I recommend the book? Absolutely. I’d give this a 9 out of 10. I’d recommend the entire series (based on two books) to readers of all ages. I’m an adult and I loved it. Young readers (the target audience) will love it as well.

This is a series you can safely buy as a gift for any child who loves to read mystery, adventure or fairy tales. The world comes alive in the books and you believe that, somewhere, Ferryport Landing really exists. That, to me, is high praise indeed.

Posted by Charlene Harmon

Review of The Sisters Grimm: Magic and Other Misdemeanors by Michael Buckley

September 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Sisters Grimm: Magic and Other MisdemeanorsThe Sisters Grimm: Magic and Other Misdemeanors (Book 5)
By Michael Buckley; Read by L. J. Ganser
6.5 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2008
Themes: / Fantasy / Magic / Mystery / YA /

This is the fifth book in the series, but my first foray into the world of the Sisters Grimm.

At first I found it interesting. Two young girls, Sabrina and Daphne, are the last in a long line of descendants or Wilhelm Grimm. They live with their Granny Relda, Uncle Jake, Mr. Canis and Puck, a mischievous fairy with a penchant for trouble. Their parents are asleep, victims of some sort of sleeping spell.

The girls are being trained to be detectives and help the Ever Afters, immortal folk from the fairy tales, who are trapped in Ferryport Landing.

I like the premise. I like the characters and the story. But as I got into the story I found myself pulling out my iPod every chance I could get to listen. I even found myself lying in bed, listening to the story when I should have been sleeping.

This time, the group must pay the evil Mayor Heart and Sheriff Nottingham exorbitant back taxes or risk losing their home. At the same time, three of their Ever After friends have lost valuable magical items and need the Grimm’s help in recovering them.

The ending is not what I expected. Well, not exactly. Nor were several of the twists thrown in to distract the family and keep them from solving the case. But they all fit very nicely and the ending was satisfactory – sort of. The story ended with a “To be continued” as the overarching story continues. I’ve already purchased book six to begin as soon as I finish this review.

On a scale of one to ten, I give this book an enthusiastic nine. Read it. Give it to your daughters, nieces, nephews and anyone who loves fantasy and fairy tales. It’s a delightful book.

And now, on to book six…

Posted by Charlene C. Harmon

The SFFaudio Podcast #171 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #171 – Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, Julie Hoverson, and Matthew Sanborn Smith talk about the latest NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS in audiobooks and paperbooks.

Talked about on today’s show:
Matt is sorry, audiobooks and paperbooks, The Mongoliad (Book 1) by Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, E.D. deBirmingham, Luke Daniels, Brilliance Audio, “speculative history”, shared worlds, Jenny appreciates the effort, Mongolian food yum!, Genghis Kahn And The Making Of The Modern World by Jack Weatherford, swordplay, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Angry Robot Books, “our hirsute friend”, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose“, Peter Boyle, The X-Files, “I’m on team more please”, Counter Clock World by Philip K. Dick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday, “The librarians have all the power and they use it for evil.”, Red Dwarf, Backwards, WWII in reverse, time’s arrow, South Park, Dreadnaught: The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier by Jack Campbell, military SF, Steve Gibson (of Security Now), “Gratuitous Space Battles”, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Battleship, Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov’s website, D&D style action, George R.R. Martin, Shadow Prowler, is there a Russian Goodreads?, Luke Burrage, The Scar, The Hot Gate by John Ringo, Baen Books, Sword & Laser, Omega Point (A Richards And Klein Investigation) by Guy Haley, an angry AI, The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan, “don’t poke the nerds”, Farmer In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, collective tractor problems, Tunnel In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, Silent Running, bringing earth from Earth, Nick Podehl, “solar operas”, The Number Of The Beast by Robert A. Heinlein, a bloaty book, Sliders, lawyer world is our world, bickering about who is in charge, “sensual”, The Number Of The Beast Wikipedia entry, Amidala is Ozma?, Space: 1889, The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction: Volume 4 edited by Allan Kaster, After The Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh, Charles Stross, Robert Reed, Kiss The Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton, noir, Anne Rice, PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT (email Jenny if you’re an audiobook reviewer in search of audiobooks to review), Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde, Hamlet, The Unwritten, Recorded Books, One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde, Shadow Of Night by Deborah Harkness, a Martian day, Moon War by Ben Bova, the “Grand Tour” series, Kim Stanley Robinson, mowing the lawn while audiobooking, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, Downton Abbey, Cranford, The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman, The Secret Pilgrim by John le Carré, A Perfect Spy by John le Carré, Michael Jayston, AuralNoir.com (SFFaudio’s long forgotten clone), “it’s about ideas”, John le Carré as a narrator, Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Penguin Audio, Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman, Breaking Bad, a surreal chain of events, Kirby Heyborne, Homeland by Cory Doctorow, Eric S. Rabkin’s Coursera Course: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, Night Watch by Linda Fairstein, A Game Of Thrones food, when is Winter coming?, Barbara Rosenblat, It’s The Middle Class Stupid by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, is that a speech impediment or an accent?, I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me by Joan Rivers, “You’re not the gay son I wanted.”, Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures Of A Hollywood Geek by Olivia Munn and Mac Montandon |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Newsroom, Attack Of The Show, Michael Caine, audio biographies, My Life by Bill Clinton, Bossypants by Tina Fey, 30 Rock, SecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, Phil Gigante, The Stainless Steel Rat, Fatherland, Kop Killer by Warren Hammond, wife wife wife, Spider Play by Lee Killough, Beware the Hairy Mango, 19 Nocturne Boulevard, Fatal Girl (anime audio drama), internal consistency, is anime a genre?, Hayao Miyazaki, Tony C. Smith’s District Of Wonders network, StarShipSofa, Tales To Terrify, Crime City Central, Protecting Project Pulp, Lawrence Block, Lawrence Santoro is awesome, should we care about networks?, Mucho Mango Mayo (a new story every day), web-series writing month, Saki, H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, Dis-Belief, cosmic horror, parallel universes.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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