Review of Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

September 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

ConquestConquest (Chronicles of the Invaders #1)
By John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard; Read by Nicola Barber
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: February 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 33 minutes

Themes: / aliens / YA / wormhole / romance /

Publisher summary:

The Earth has been invaded by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien race.  Humanity has been conquered, but still it fights the invaders. The Resistance grows stronger, for it is the young people of Earth who battle the Illyri.

Syl Hellais, conceived among the stars, is the oldest alien child on Earth, the first to reach 16 years of age. Her father is one of the rulers of the planet. Her future is assured. And Syl has hidden gifts, powers that even she does yet fully understand.

But all is not as it seems. Secret experiments are being conducted on humans, the Illyri are at war among themselves, and the sinister Nairene Sisterhood has arrived on Earth, hungry for new blood. When Syl helps a pair of young Resistance fighters to escape execution, she finds herself sentenced to death, pursued by her own kind, and risks breaking the greatest taboo of her race by falling in love with a human.

Now the hunter has become the hunted, and the predators become prey. And as Syl Hellais is about to learn, the real invasion has not yet even begun.

Apparently aliens are the new vampires and I guess I’m a sucker for aliens because this is the second YA book about aliens I’ve read in a year’s time.

In this one, out of nowhere, a wormhole appears at the end of the solar system. This spells the doom of mankind because an alien race has come to dethrone mankind, thus, Conquest.

Except, while these aliens take over the governments of Earth, they have also brought technology which can not only cure diseases such as cancer, but expand the human lifespan. I’ve hit on this topic recently, but here it comes again, are the trade-offs worth it?

What makes this one different?

This one takes a different spin than I was prepared for. Usually, and especially with a name like “Conquest,” it’s a story of survival, of a rogue squad who’s fighting back. While there is a bit of that, this story mostly follows the aliens themselves, in fact, one of them who is the first born alien on earth.

So instead of a fight for the world, you really get a bigger glimpse of the nature of the aliens, the culture, and the political machinations and infighting of the political parties.

This is good and bad.

Why it doesn’t quite work

Well, first, why did it work. I thought this was a great take on the alien story … at first. It’s almost like reading a fantasy book because you’re reading more about the society of this alien species and getting to know them and on the side you get some of the story of the rebel humans fighting against them.

What doesn’t work is that some of the tension is gone or really never intended to be there. I know it’s not really fair, but I expected more of a fight, which is there, but it’s in a very small degree. The culture is interesting but I can’t say I cared all that much about it, but that’s probably for a different reason.

The Characters

The characters are for the most part, quite bland. I did listen to this on audiobook, so that could account for some of this, but by the end of the book I was still having to remember and figure out who some of the main people were. You get to know the main character, Syl, who’s as interesting as a prepubescent teen can be to a non-creepy male of 30 (spoiler, there’s not much we have in common).

But, by the end of the book, I really should have been able to keep track of the insurgent boys who help Syl out in the beginning and play a big part in the story, or Syl’s best friend who also played a consistent part in the story.

Again, it’s not all the novel’s fault, I take some of the blame, but I don’t think it’s all mine.

I enjoyed many parts of this book, but for the most part, it didn’t work for me. The alien societies were interesting, but a tad boring. The characters were mostly flat. I wanted to read this because I have some friends who are huge into John Connolly, but I’ll have to check out some of his other works for an actual understanding.

2.5 out of 5 Stars (Okay to good)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente

November 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Girl Who Soared Over FairylandThe Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Fairyland #3)
By Catherynne M. Valente; Read by Catherynne M. Valente
Publisher: Dreamscape
Publication Date: 1 October 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 23 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / YA / children’s / fairy / coming-of-age /

Publisher summary:

September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.

This was a lovely third book in the Fairyland series, where September has struggled to return to Fairyland and is wondering if you can ever really go back. The characters left behind in Fairyland have struggled too, missing her and loving her. Life apart is not always easy.

September meets a few versions of Saturday and starts to question whether she gets choices in her life, and between that and the nostalgia of childhood and facing being a grownup and what that means for her fairy land and fairy friends, this book is a bit tinged in sadness. It also includes Valente’s amazing imagination that we’ve seen from her poetry to Palimpsest (still my favorite) to the very underdiscussed Prester John books.

This is the first book of Valente’s that I’ve listened to, and Catherynne M. Valente is a marvelous performer of her own work. Her voice has the versatility of an old-Hollywood actress, with moments of great rich depth. I feel like going back and listening to everything she’s ever read. Her performance enriches her worlds, and I highly recommend the audio.

The Fairyland books are highly recommended, starting with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  Perfect for kids, young adults, and adults who can still dream.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The SFFaudio Podcast #217 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #217 – Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, and Marrisa VU talk about audiobook NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s podcast:
Hammer Chillers, Mr. Jim Moon, British audio drama horror anthology, Hammer Films, Janette Winterson, Paul Magrs, Stephen Gallagher, the official physical list, spaceship sci-fi, Honor Harrington, David Weber, Audible.com, Horatio Hornblower in space, broadsides and pirates, gravity propulsion, Steve Gibson, a telepathic treecat, Lois McMaster Bujold, Luke Burrage (The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast), David Drake, S.M. Stirling, 90% of Lois McMaster Bujold’s sales are audiobooks, Sword & Laser, a girl writer, Prisoners Of Gravity, religion, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin isn’t Tolkien deep, secondary world, The Curse Of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, Blackstone Audio, Paladin Of Souls, Miles Vorkosigan, low magic vs. high magic, high fantasy, Westeros world vs. Harry Potter world, the Red Wedding (and the historical inspiration), the guest host relationship, John Scalzi, Redshirts, Agent To The Stars, The Human Division, The Ghost Brigades, Old Man’s War, William Dufris, Wil Wheaton as a narrator (is great at 2x speed), snarky comedic Scalzi stories, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Kirby Heyborne, Fuzzy Nation, Andrew L., Starforce Series, Mark Boyette, military SF, Legend: Area 51 by Bob Meyer, Eric G. Dove, traditional fantasy, epic fantasy, conservative fantasy, elves princes quests, fewer tattoos more swords, Elizabeth Moon, Graphic Audio, truck drivers, comic books, westerns, post-apocalyptic gun porn, Paladin’s Legacy, Limits Of Power, elves, simultaneous release, Vatta’s War, horses in space, The Deed Of Paksenarrion, Red Sonja, non-beach armor, Elizabeth Moon was a marine, sounds pretty hot, Any Other Name, the split-world series, Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, The Assassination Of Orange, Terpkristin’s review of The Mongoliad Book 1, The Garden Of Stones by Mark T. Barnes, books are too long!, books are not edited!, cut it down, self-contained books, find the good amongst the long and the series, Oberon’s Dreams by Aaron Pogue, Taming Fire, Oklahoma, urban fantasy, Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig, Adam Christopher, blah blah blah quote quote quote, “Wow I’ve never read anything like this before!, a head like a wrecking-ball, cool artwork, Lovecraft sounds like the book of Jeremiah, Net Galley, a Chuck Wendig children’s book, Under The Empyrean Sky, The Rats In The Walls, “two amorphous idiot flute players”, Old Testament Lovecraft, Emperor Mollusc Vs. The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez, lucky Bryce, Legion by Brandon Sanderson, we have sooo many reviewers!, Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep, Jill Kismet, Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow, Nice Girls Don’t Bite Their Neighbors, a vampire child, B.V. Larson, The Bone Triangle, Hemlock Grove (the Netflix series), True Blood, Arrested Development, House Of Cards, House Of Lies, The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, Angry Robot, the Angry Robot Army, a complete list, Peter Kline, in the style of Lost, The Lost Room by Fitz James-O’Brien, Myst, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Joyland by Stephen King, Hard Case Crime, Charles Ardai, HCC-013, Haven, The Colorado Kid, setting not action, mapbacks, Iain M. Banks died, the Culture series, Inversions, Player Of Games, Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote The Rules Of Innovation And Conquered The Global Toy Industry by David Robertson and Bill Breen, Downpour.com, At The Mountains Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, Edward Herrmann, Antarctica, Miskatonic University, The Gilmore Girls, M*A*S*H, 30 Rock, The Shambling Guide To New York City by Mur Lafferty, New York, great cover!, Spoken Freely … Going Public in Shorts, Philip K. Dick, Edgar Allan Poe, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Turetsky, Xe Sands, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, a time-traveling serial killer, Chicago, Jenny’s Reading Envy blog, fantasy character names, Ringworld by Larry Niven, Louis Wu, The Shift Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey, The Wool Series (aka The Silo Series) by Hugh Howey, a zombie plague of Hugh Howey readers, why is there no audiobook for Fair Coin by E.C. Myers?, The Monkey’s Paw, YA, Check Wendig on YA, what is a “fair coin“, rifling through baggage, dos-à-dos, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Odd And The Frost Giants, The Wolves In The Walls, Audible’s free Neil Gaiman story, Cold Colors, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar, Audible download history and Amazon’s Kindle 1984, the world is Big Brother these days, George Orwell, dystopia, BLOPE: A Story Of Segregation, Plastic Surgery, And Religion Gone Wrong By Sean Benham, The Hunger Games, Philip K. Dick, The Man In The High Castle, alternate history, Antiagon Fire by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., William Dufris, what podcasts are you listening to?, Sword & Laser, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Sword & Laser‘s interview with Lois McMaster Bujold, ex-Geek & Sundry, Kim Stanley Robinson, KCRW Bookworm with Michael Silverblatt, The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy, Writing Excuses, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, the Savage Lovecast, WTF with Mark Maron, depressed but optimistic, Maron, Point Of Inquiry, Daniel Dennet, Neil deGrasse Tyson, S.T. Joshi, how do you become a Think Tank, a weird civil society thing, Star Ship Sofa’s SofaCON, Peter Watts, Protecting Project Pulp, Tales To Terrify, Crime City Central, the District Of Wonders network, Larry Santoro, Fred Himebaugh (@Fredosphere),

Stan
Beyond the valleys, green and grand,
Peek the frightened eyes of the weak colossal Stan,
the giant boy of infant lands.

Stan grasps with Herculean hands the pinnacle peaks,
Clutching feebly with avalanche force.
It’s azure bulky hides his enormous and titanic hulk
From the frightening lights of the big small city.

Stan’s fantastic feet,
Like ocean liners parked in port.
His colossal thighs,
Like thunderous engines resting silently for a storm to come.
His tremendous teeth like hoary skyscrapers shaking in an earthquake,
like a heavenly metropolis quivering beneath a troubled brow,
above a wet Red Sea of silent tongue.

Stan, insecure in his cyclopean mass,
Feels fear for his future beyond the warm chill range of the bowl-like hills
That house his home and heart.

Stan fears a fall filled with
Judging eyes,
Whispered words,
Of mockery and shame.

How could city slick students stand Stan’s pine scented skin?
His dew dropped pits dripping down in rivulets turned to rivers!
And what does a giant know of school and scholarship?
What can mere tests, of paper and pen, say
For the poor and friendless figure who quakes and sighs
Behind the too small mountain looming high over
A big small city to which young Stan has never been?

SFSqueeCast, vague positivity, Charles Tan, SFFaudio could use more positivity, Hypnobobs, Batman, weird fiction, Peter Cushing, The Gorgon, Christopher Lee.

Stephen King's Joyland - Mapback

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

January 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Daughter of Smoke and BoneDaughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)
By Laini Taylor; Read by Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: September 2011
ISBN:

Themes: / fantasy / paranormal romance / YA / angels / creatures / seraphim / other worlds / portals / magic / regeneration / flight /

Publisher summary:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages – not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers – beautiful, haunted Akiva – fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

While YA paranormal romance is not normally my thing (I read this with a book club), I think the author Laini Taylor does a few things that make this book far superior to some of the not-great YA paranormal romance we have been inundated with since Twilight came out.

First of all, the world. The author has chosen Prague as the location for where Karou, the main character, lives. She goes to an art school and lives on her own, but has to trick the school with a fake grandmother.  Prague is mysterious enough on its own, but we soon discover that she uses certain gateways to travel between that city of the 21st century and Elsewhere, to do errands for Brimstone, a creature that helped to raise her.

I saw this picture of Prague at night in the fog in Pinterest, and it pretty much matched what I see in my head as I listen to this book.  There could so easily be magic here.

The storytelling kept me interested, although I was rolling my eyes at some of it – I’m just not the intended audience. I’m not going to swoon over a desperately handsome seraphim in a star-crossed lover type scenario, but I can see how that might be appealing to a slightly younger crowd (honestly, I don’t remember ever quite being that girl, but maybe I was.) I did appreciate some of the details. The description of Madrigal’s dress, little tidbits like Karou being given the gift of knowing a new language on her birthday, the burned handprints that come back in the end, and so on.

Even better, the story takes some interesting twists. The story of Madrigal may be the most interesting part, and it isn’t even introduced until the last fourth of the novel.  It helps that the reader discovers Karou’s story along with her, and she does not yet know her history or all the ramifications for what is happening around her.

I had the audio version of this book from a free download I got last summer when the publisher was trying to promote new books alongside YA classics. Khristine Hvam does a nice job with the accents, although Brimstone sometimes sounded Nigerian, which didn’t fit with how I was hearing his voice in my head. Most of the time, I wasn’t thinking about the reader at all, which to me is a good sign. She also is a great reader of emotion, and captures Karou well.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of The Sisters Grimm: The Everafter War by Michael Buckley

October 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - The Sisters Grimm: The Everafter War by Michael BuckleyThe Sisters Grimm: The Everafter War
By Michael Buckley; Read by L.J. Ganser
6 Hours 45 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2009
Themes: / Fantasy / Magic / YA /

I listened to book seven in a day. This is something I used to do when I could read. With audiobooks, I can’t multitask as well so I tend to go through a book in smaller bites. Not this one. Fortunately, the books aren’t too long, so I can do one in a day. Once in a while.

As the title suggests, this is the book where the war the girls saw in book five comes to pass. The Everafter War is between the followers of the Crimson Hand and the Everafters who refuse to follow the Master. Basically, it’s a war between the followers of the Drimson Hand and everyone else. Their plan is to first take over Ferryport Landing and destroy the barrier keeping them prisoners in the small town, then taking over the rest of the world. Lovely Evil Villain stuff fit for a fairy tale.

This book, however, is darker. Although Buckley doesn’t go into detail and doesn’t dwell on the war, there are casualties. Including one of my favorite Everafters from the series. But this death is the linchpin that rallies the troops and makes them realize this really is a war.

Sabrina and other characters have their own moments of truth where they begin to see things more clearly. I won’t say more, because you need to experience these with the characters. So, no spoilers!

I love Buckley’s touch when it comes to humor and relieving tension. He kept the story fast-paced, but used humor, character development and the overarching story to break up moments of tension and sorrow.

As the teaser at the beginning of the book promises, you find out who the Master is. I figured this out in book 5, but was still interested in WHY that person became the Uber Villain, the Master. And there are a few other answers to clues put in previous books.

It’s a good read. It’s a good series. I think, though, I’d give this book an 8 out of 10. The violence is not too much for pre-teens or middle grade readers. The story is also worth reading for adults who like to share books with their kids.

I’m looking forward to next month when I can buy book eight and see what happens next!

Posted by Charlene Harmon

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

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