Dear Leader by Jang Jin-sung

JangDearLeaderWhy I Read It: I wanted to read something educational.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Care to learn more about North Korea? This is a very interesting tale.

Narrator: Daniel York

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 11 hours 43 minutes

Author’s Page

In this nonfiction tale of living and working in North Korea, Jang Jin-sung takes the reader through his life from a young age, through his schooling successes, his recognition by the Dear Leader himself (Kim Jong-il), and then to his flight from North Korea to China and eventually South Korea. I found this book fascinating. Granted, part of that fascination was due to my near total ignorance of North Korean politics and culture. And yet, I believe this book could hold the attention of those well read on the subject. Jang makes the information very accessible by bringing the reader into his life and his culture.

When I picked this book up, I thought it would be an educational, if a bit stuffy, read. Instead, I was riveted. I didn’t want to put it away in the evening and I found myself regurgitating tidbits of what I had learned to my man over dinner. Jang shares several anecdotes from his life that helped me to understand how tightly controlled the country is, how devoid of outside information it is. Having a book of classic English poetry in ones possession is dangerous. The image of the Dear Leader is nearly everywhere and is treated almost like a spiritual icon. At a young age, Jang was instructed to become a musician; however, this was not his calling. Yet it was very difficult to change the course of his education. As an American, I have so many freedoms and this book shined a new light on those freedoms and deepened my appreciation for them.

Eventually, Jang got a job in the government’s propaganda department. He was now legally sanctioned to view/read/listen to art, news, magazines, movies, music, etc. from outside North Korea. His focus was imitating the style of South Korean poets in order to write and have published (in South Korea) pieces that shined a positive light on North Korea. Now I figure every country has a propaganda department, but I was surprised at how controlled and insidious the North Korean department was.

The book has its poignant moments as well. Jang is given a week’s paid vacation and he wishes to visit his home village from his childhood (both he and his parents live in the capitol city of Pyongyang for the majority of the book). This allows hi to describe the difficulties inherent in traveling the country (so many checkpoints and train delays). Then he describes the state of his home village and the people (this is during North Korea’s great famine). Later in the book, Jang and friend must escape North Korea. There are plenty of desperate moments on that journey that show just how precarious their situation is. With so very little news and culture allowed into North Korean, many North Koreans know no other language. You can imagine how this would hinder their escape and make them stand out. This book also offers moments of great trust between one human and another, not only in North Korea but also in China. It was uplifting to see that so many people had a conscience and tried, even in a some small way, to make the situation better.

And then there was all the weird stuff – North Korean women paid and required to sleep with prominent politicians or business men from other countries and bear their children (who would be used as game pieces in politics); the whole Admitted cadre that grants the members extra food and political considerations; many songs are about Dear Leader (in a good light) or are whistling (as no one and nothing can be held in higher esteem than the North Korean leader). The list goes on. I won’t spoil things for you; just know that this book is a trove of cultural tidbits that I had not heard of before.

Over all, this book reads very quickly. There was one or two points where the narrative bogged a little in history of North Korea, but in my case I think this was due to information overload. 99% of the info in this book was brand new to me so in the few cases where lots of North Korean politician names were bandied about, I became a little lost. Still, that is a very minor negative in comparison with the wealth of knowledge I gained from this book.

The Narration: The narration was excellent. Daniel York did a great job with distinct character voices and emotions. I only know a little Chinese so I can’t speak to accuracy of his North Korean accents and use of Korean words, but I can say it worked for me.

What I Liked: Lots of intense moments; very educational; kept me entertained; several poignant moments.

What I Disliked: There were a few spots where the narrative slowed down.

What Others Think:

Co-Op

Ambassador by Wiliam Alexander

AlexanderAmbassadorWhy I Read It: I have loved other works by William Alexander

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For those who enjoy an alien adventure story that includes some cultural diversity.

Narrator: William Alexander

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 4 hours 37 minutes

Series: I sincerely hope this is Book 1 in a series – I want more!

Author’s Page

Modern day Minneapolis finds Gabe Fuentes babysitting his two younger siblings at the playground and surreptitiously chatting with his best friend. They aren’t suppose to be chatting. After all, their last get together involved a home made rocket and a small fire. Essentially, they have been grounded from each other for at least the summer. With a heavy heart, Gabe heads home with the twins in tow to his parents and his older sister. His parents are Mexicans that met in India and their homecooking is a fusion of the two cultures. Yum!

But I digress. You want to hear about the aliens. OK, so Gabe has an assortment of small unwanted pets he took in – a little fox, a bird, a lizard. And one night this sock puppet being pops into his room for a chat. He is Envoy and he is looking for a likely candidate from Earth to act as an Ambassador for the entire planet at the galactic assembly. Gabe is naturally intimidated by the offer but decides to give it a go anyways. Envoy proceeds to the basement where he uses odd bits and the clothes dryer to create an entagler to send the entangled Gabe to the galactic assembly. There Gabe becomes a target for at least one assassin and has a mystery to figure out. Meanwhile, back home his parents are facing deportation (since they are in the country illegally).

I loved this book. I really enjoyed William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets and Ghoulish Song but this is a new level of excellence from him. While suitable for all ages, it had a certain refined intensity that makes this my favorite Alexander book to date. I loved the multicultural aspect as so many SFF novels have Caucasians as the focus of the story. The Mexican-Indian cultural fusion of the Fuentes household, set in Minneapolis, reflects the real life I know and enjoy. Plus, I now want tasty curry tamales. Gabe’s awareness of this cultural diversity(with both the pros and cons of it) give him special insight for his new role as Earth’s Ambassador.

In the Galactic Assembly, the Ambassadors get to know each other through play. I thought this was a great point as well as allowing for fun and awkward moments. The author did a great job of capturing different approaches to communication from the various alien envoys, and also Gabe having to puzzle out the least familiar attempts at communication. Plus there is this nomadic warrior race that travels the galaxy dominating or annihilating any other alien race they come upon. They too have an Ambassador at the Galactic Assembly.

Pretty soon Gabe has lots of concerns. Someone is trying to kill him and he thinks it is another Ambassador. Plus his parents are facing deportation for being in the country illegally. I found these scenes particularly poignant as Gabe is trying to save himself, potentially the world, and now his family in particular. So much on one young man!

The ending was satisfying. It tied up the overall plot arc but left some questions open for a sequel (and I really do hope there is a sequel).

The Narration: William Alexander narrated his own story, as he has done with his other works. Once again, he was amazing. I have lived in New Mexico for over 2 decades and Alexander’s Hispanic accent for Gabe and his family was very believable; he didn’t over do it as so many non-Spanish speakers will at times. I also loved his various alien noises he had to come up with from time to time. He has clear distinct voices for both the male and female characters. In short, he is a joy to listen to.

What I Liked: Curry tamales!; Envoy looks like a sock puppet with google eyes (great imagery); Gabe loses a lot in this book but still continues on; the ending was satisfying and sets us up for a sequel.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great book!

What Others Think:

True Book Talks

Interview: Fred Wolinsky, Audiobook Narrator & Producer

FredWolinskyVoice Over HeadshotEveryone, please welcome Fred Wolinsky. He’s an Audible.com approved narrator, an actor, a puppeteer, a sign language interpreter, and all-around entertainer! Today we chat about audiobooks, fantastical worlds and fictional people, the differences of live performance versus narration, and much more. Enjoy!

What fictional world would you like to visit?

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by fictional worlds — Neverland, Oz, Wonderland, and others. That is one of the reasons I really enjoyed narrating “The Doorways Trilogy” by Tim O’Rourke.  His fictional world of Endra borrows from many others, and sets up its own intriguing rules.  If I had to pick just one fictional world to visit and explore, it would probably be Narnia.

O'RourkeDoorwaysIf you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

In thinking about that, there are actually 2 very different book series that I would like to experience again – “The Tales of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, and “Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin. I read them both when I was very young, and would probably have a whole new perspective now, with more life experience.  Narnia presented the wonder and innocence of childhood shattered by evil, and saved by magic and faith in the good.  That series touched me in the soul, as well as my sense of adventure.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Tales of the City” presented a large cast of quirky, flawed, and lovable people in real world San Francisco.  It presented its own kind of innocence of young people growing up through a changing time.  That series touched my heart and my sensibilities, and I would like to meet those people again, looking back in time.

I am hoping that some of the books that I narrate, like “The Doorways Trilogy” will become experiences that others will want to experience again.  One of the benefits of narrating audiobooks is that people can experience the stories in a whole different media, providing a new perspective.  After hearing my narration of his book, Tim O’Rourke responded that “The book really comes to life and even though I wrote it, I got caught up in the story as if coming across it for the first time.” Readers can have that same experience and listen to books even if they have already read them.

O'RourkeLeagueOfDoorwaysWhat are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

My favorite parts are meeting lots of interesting people — even if only virtually — and getting the support of blogs like yours.  I love getting feedback and hearing people’s views.  I also like writing and designing promotional material.  The worst part is the frustration of limited market reach, and the inability to break through a glass ceiling of visibility.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to narrating?

I have been fortunate to have jobs that I enjoyed throughout my life, so there is no “worst” job.  All have their simple moments, and their difficulties, but the difficulties present the challenges that make them exciting.  The most challenging job I have ever had is that of a Sign Language Interpreter.  The mental challenges of handling 2 languages simultaneously, each with very different structures and thought processes, plus dealing with each individual’s linguistic styles and accents, makes it extremely intensive work.  Experts have called the process of interpreting the most challenging cognitive process that man is capable of.

Narrating has its challenges as well.  Each book has a different style, tone, and “voice,” plus each character should have a unique voice and personality.  It is similar to sign language interpreting, in that acting and narrating is also a form of interpreting — interpreting the author’s thoughts and words, and delivering that message to the listener.  The mental challenges of switching instantly between character voices and narrative can be comparable to interpreting.  However, interpreting is done live, in real time.  Narrating, on the other hand, has the luxury of being able to stop and start and then edit it together to appear live without having to actually do it within the confines of real time.

LongoInsanityTalesWhat does your Narrator’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess?

That depends on the eye of the beholder.  I have my various piles around my desk that I feel are neatly arranged, and I know just where everything is.  However nobody else would be able to make sense of it.  So, it could probably be described as a tidy mess.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

I am a tea drinker, so I would love to have tea with Merlin, Gandalf, Aslan, Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot — all wizards of either magic or of the mind.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another’s work?

I have only been doing audiobook narration for a little over a year now, and most contact with fans are virtual.  Even though I have 20 books available through Audible.com at the moment, and several more in production, I have not had much direct interaction with fans.  However, as a puppeteer, I had much more direct contact.  Perhaps the most awkward moment was when someone saw me at a conference and just gushed over how much they loved my shows.  As they talked about it, I realized that it was not one of my shows they were talking about, but actually someone else’s show.  I tried to explain that to the fan, but she insisted that it was my show, and suggested that perhaps I just “forgot.” (Having done each show dozens or perhaps hundreds of times, I know which are and are not my own shows, but this fan had a different opinion.).   So, rather than argue with a fan, and especially since she loved the work, I just smiled and thanked her for her praise.

PhillipsHallsOfHorrorYou are also a puppeteer. How does the real live audience experience compare with recording a narration that will be enjoyed by an audience at a later date?

I have been a puppeteer and an actor — both performing before a live audience.  While there are many similarities to book narration, there are also many differences.

They are similar in that they both require bringing characters and words to life, and interpreting an author’s story.  They both require extensive use of the voice, including character voices and accents, sometimes many different character voices in one performance.

One of the differences is that with narration, the entire illusion must be created with the voice.  In acting and puppetry, there is a visual aspect which is just as important if not more so.  Another difference is the amount of preparation.  Since acting and puppetry are presented before a live audience, extensive rehearsal is needed to do it in real time, without the ability to stop and correct anything.  It is performed over and over again, each performance being essentially the same, but always slightly different than the others.  Narrating involves very little prep, but you have the luxury of stopping and starting, correcting, and retaking until each component is just right — then it is frozen in the recording.  And a final difference is that with live performance, you get immediate feedback from the live audience — hearing their responses — and can adjust your performance accordingly.  With narration, you have to imagine and anticipate the audience response, and do not have the pleasure of actually hearing it happen.  You do, however, get feedback from authors and listeners. In some ways the artistic rewards (the pleasures of creating the art) last longer in narration, but the ego rewards (the praise from fans) are more hidden and delayed.

PhillipsApocalypseTangoAs a sign language interpreter, do you occasionally find an animated person who talks with lots of gestures inadvertently signing off-beat things? Due to this skill, have you modified any of your own gestures?

Actually no.  In both spoken and signed languages, gestures and language complement each other, but are different.  Sign language is an actual language.  Just like spoken languages, it also incorporates gestures, but the gestures themselves enhance rather than replace the words. I have never seen anyone doing a gesture that inadvertently translates into an unexpected lexical sign.  However, I have experienced times where I am trying to express myself verbally to a hearing person, and find that my thoughts are more clearly expressed with sign language.  I then automatically start signing without thinking about it, but quickly catch myself and remind myself that the person I am talking with does not understand sign language, and I have to figure out how to express myself verbally instead.

TaylorToLightTheDragon'sFireFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I currently have 20 books available on Audible.com.  My most recently completed projects have been the first 2 books of the paranormal fantasy adventure, “The Doorways Trilogy” by Tim O’Rourke.  You recently reviewed book 1: Doorways.  Book 2 (League of Doorways) is also currently available.  The third book (The Queen of Doorways) will not be out until sometime the first half of 2015.

In production, and coming out soon will be Insanity Tales, a collection of stories of murder, mayhem and madness by David Daniel, Stacy Longo, Vlad V., Ursula Wong, and Dale T. Phillips, with an introduction by the New York Times Best-selling author Jonathan Maberry.  Also coming out soon is the paranormal fantasy romance, To Light the Dragon’s Fire by Margaret Taylor.  I have several other books in the production queue as well that I am working on.

For the latest information about my books, to listen to a wide range of audio samples, and to see a short video of me narrating an excerpt from Doorways, check out my website at http://fredwolinsky.weebly.com/

Places to find Fred Wolinsky

Website

Audible.com

Kyrathaba Rising by William Bryan Miller

MillerKyrathabaRisingWhy I Read It: Post-apocalyptic world, aliens, and virtual reality – what’s not to like?

Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For post apocalyptic fans who like a few twists.

Narrator: Christine Padovan

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 29 minutes

Series: Book 1 Kyrathaba Chronicles

Author’s Page

Kyrathaba is the name of a virtual reality world. Set in the future by nearly 200 years, humans exist in only subterranean remnants. The Earth suffered a devastating attack from aliens and what few humans are slowly dying out due to radiation poisoning. Sethra, a member of compound A-3, has found a way to enter Kyrathaba, and perhaps stay there indefinitely. Things look grim and Sethra, along with a few close friends, seriously contemplate the possibility that humanity as we know it may not be able to continue in their current form.

The story starts off with Sethra and Byron sharing a morning beverage of U Tea. Since they live in these completely enclosed underground capsules, everything, including their urine, is recycled. I am sure you can figure out what goes into the U Tea. Of course, I was enjoying my own morning cup of tea when I listened to this part of the book. And yes, I stared at my tea suspiciously.

So you can see that I was sucked into the straight-faced humor of the book right away. I enjoyed learning about the characters first, letting their current world unfold around me as Sethra and his friends went through their daily routine. Radiation poisoning is killing them off bit by bit. Even though they continue to reproduce as quickly as they can, attrition may well win out; humans are facing the very real possibility of becoming extinct. Compound A-3 has a regular security force who have a regular schedule. Their food is bland. The medical staff and care is the best they can maintain under such circumstances. And there are robots, which is the cool part in all this gloom.

While Sethra looks deeper into the possibility of long-term virtual reality habitation, Earth has a bigger issue. There’s an alien ship in orbit and it’s sole purpose is to monitor the remaining humans. I don’t think humanity could stand up to a second alien invasion. Meanwhile, the geoscientists explore drilling further into the Earth to escape the radiation and expand their living quarters. They discover an underground cavern with a clean water source. In exploring the depth and width of the water source, they make a very surprising discovery. I think this was the secondary plot line I enjoyed the most and want to learn more about. So many questions!

Kyrathaba itself is a Dungeons and Dragons kind of world; there’s magic, Orcs, plenty of sharp weapons, and paragon points to be earned. This magical world complimented, rather than contradicting, the science fiction tone of the larger story. I don’t always enjoy scifi and fantasy melding, but in this case it was done very well.  The story had a good mix of characters, both male and female characters having crucial roles to the plot. Plus we had a range of ethnicity and ages. Definite plus!

My one criticism lies in the use of radiation poisoning to be the initial driver of the plot. I did radiological work for several years, dressing in yellow Tyvek, full-face respirator, nasal swabs, etc. To make it very simple, you either have a radiation source emitting radiation or you have radioactive particles that you have ingested or inhaled. For the first, you put shielding between you and it and you should be good. Shielding can be lead, several meters of earth, etc. And compound A-3 had all that in place between it and the surface of the contaminated Earth. The story didn’t really mention the possibility of the population all repeatedly inhaling, imbibing, or ingesting radioactive particles. Basic HEPA filters would take care of this problem and would be the first solution for signs of radiation poisoning. Also, with enough radiation to be causing prolonged radiation sickness over generations, then we would see the electronics failing left, right, and center. Electronics do not hold up well in the glow of radiation. At the best, they get buggy and stay that way. In this tale, we have a lot of cool tech and all of it was working just fine, showing no signs of electronic wear due to prolonged exposure to radiation.

But if I wasn’t such a know it all, the radiation threat would probably work just fine. Over all, I enjoyed the tale and the multiple plot lines. I really want to know what is in that big cavern pool of water! I want to know what happens to Sethra and his friends in the virtual world of Kyrathaba. There are enemies every where it seems, human, alien, and potentially something else. Indeed, there is plenty of worth in this book to propel the reader into the next installment.

The Narration: Padovan did a decent job of narrating. Her characters were each distinct. In fact, she did most of the book with a geek accent which was well suited to many of the characters as they were half raised by their computer implants. Her male voices could use a bit more masculinity, but that is my only negative comment.

What I Liked: Good mix of scifi and fantasy;great character development; multiple plot lines to give the reader much to think on; the ending answered enough questions to be satisfying and left the door open for a sequel.

What I Disliked: The use of radiation poisoning was superficial and doesn’t match up with the science we have on the subject.

What Others Think:

Rob’s Book Blog

Scifi & Fantasy Reviews

Readers’ Favorite

Drawing Dead by Scott Mckenzie

MckenzieDrawingDeadWhy I Read It: Las Vegas and vampires – makes sense to me.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy watching or playing poker, then this would be a fun story for you.

Narrator: Alex Hyde-White

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 1 hour 47 minutes

Author’s Page

The story is told using a few flashbacks to bring the reader up to date on how Eddie Nelson got to this deplorable state. A Brit, he and his girlfriend came to Las Vegas for a vacation. He returned home to nurse his blossoming addiction for on-line poker. That on-line addiction grew to playing in live tournaments. Soon, he was playing professionally, and living by himself. Fast forward to present day and Eddie has been on a losing streak for weeks now. He’s out of money, considering who he can call to wrangle a plane ticket home when a sketchy stranger buys him a beer. Raphael wants to stake him in a high-stakes game. If Eddie wins, he gives half his winnings to Raphael. If he loses, then Eddie has to do Raphael a favor and play in a private poker tournament.

This tale started off a little slow for me and I think that is because I don’t play poker and some of the lingo was lost on me. There was a quick run down of game rules and terms at the beginning of the book, but such a list is hard to absorb in audio form. Anyway, the story does pick up with the flashbacks of Eddie spiraling into the poker addiction whirlpool. I really enjoyed watching Eddie go from a winning high to another high to another high and then the bum of a loss, and then another loss, and finally to the point where Raphael finds him.

And I guess I am free to talk about the Las Vegas vampire aspect since there is line about these poker vampires in the book’s description. The vampires don’t show up until about half way through the book. Mckenzie has created this whole underworld society in Vegas for these vampires. Even the taxi drivers know about them; or know enough to not ask questions. This part of the book was the true story, and the gem of the tale. It was for more interesting, suspenseful, and messy. Not everyone makes it out alive.

For much of the book, there are no females. Sure, Eddie had a girlfriend that had one or two lines at one point, but she didn’t play a real role in the story. There is an epilogue to the tale told from a woman’s stand point. It is done well, so one can see that the author is very capable of writing female characters. But it would have been nice to make some of the other players, a dealer, or even a few of the vampires female. We make up 50% of the population (even more as a generation ages because men just don’t last like us ladies) so why not have them make up 25% or more of the characters in a book? But that is my only complaint.

The Narration: The narration started off a bit rough, like I could hear background noises. This was when the basics of poker were being introduced. But once the story started proper, the narration became excellent. So I wonder if that part at the beginning was tacked on as an after thought? Anyway, Hyde-White did a great job with Eddie’s voice, the few accents, and keeping each character distinct. He even had to make a few creepy vampire noises which were done well.

What I Liked: Eddie’s fall into gambling addiction; his high from winning followed by his self-loathing in losing; Raphael and his deal; the second of half of the book and the vampire enforced tournament was great – lots of suspense; the ending.

What I Disliked: Few female characters; the first half had a few slow spots where lots of poker lingo was used to describe a game.

What Others Think:

Col’s Criminal Library

A Pack of Wolves II: Skyfall by Eric S. Brown

BrownPackOfWolvesSkyfallWhy I Read It: Werewolves versus aliens, why not?

Where I Got It: Review copy via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy heavily armed sexy alien half breeds, check this series out.

Narrator: David Dietz

Publisher: Grand Mal Press (2013)

Length: 1 hour 58 minutes

Series: Book 2 A Pack Of Wolves

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 and I have not listened to Book 1 as I thought it would stand alone. It almost does. The plot is easy to grab on to, but the characters are introduced so quickly and little background is given that I lost track of who was who. So I recommend giving Book 1 a read/listen before venturing into this book.

OK, so we got aliens in mech suits stomping around our fair cities, rounding up humans for unknown uses. Then we have the werewolf pack lead by Zed Farr. His family and their friends are the only ones who can save humanity. There was at least 1 vampire in the mix and a sorcerer (though he might have also been a werewolf who just happens to be trained in the wizardly arts). Plenty of action and weapons make up the plot of this book. Oh, and death. Yes, there is death. In fact, I am not sure there will be a Book 3 in this series.

If I recall correctly, we started with Brian, who seems to have gone off on his own, lone wolfing it. He is gathered back into the family fold to battle the aliens. Zed, who takes on a southern USA hick accent (even though he is far older and can probably mimic any number of world-wide hicks), is the family’s leader. Then we had other players like Jennifer, Brooke, Nathan. But honestly, they were introduced so quickly with little to no background that I didn’t really get a sense of them. Also there is some rivalry between the Blood (trueborn werewolves) and the Turned (or was it Changed? – those that were bit and turned werewolf). One of the short stories gives a little more info on this, but largely it was pretty sketchy.

The action is fun, though the plot is very, very basic – kill the aliens before they kill you and eat you. While an alien or two have 2-4 lines late in the story, we never get any background on them and why they have invaded Earth and what their endgame is. Still, it was a fun lunch break listen. Honestly, it made me think of one of my PC games where I can just run around as a good(ish) guy and smash evil guys.

At the end of this novella, there were 2 short stories. I think they might have been better at the front to give the listener some background to a few of the characters. They were a nice addition to the audio version.

The Narration: David Dietz did a good job with maintaining distinct furry characters, blood suckers turning into mist, aliens in mech suits, and feminine voices. He made this book fun with his action voices – panicked, angry, sad, vengeful, etc.

What I Liked: Reminded me of a PC game; lots of simple action; werewolves, aliens, & a vampire – a fun mix.

What I Disliked: The characters were introduced very fast with little to no background, making it nearly required that the listener/reader give Book 1 a read first.

What Others Think:

Doubleshot Book Reviews

 

Dying for a Living by Kory M. Shrum

ShrumDyingForALivingWhy I Read It: Sounded like a new take on zombies,and lord knows we needed a new one.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Urban fantasy fans who enjoy death and mystery would find this fun.

Narrator: Hollie Jackson

Publisher: Timberlane Press (2014)

Length: 8 hours 56 minutes

Series: Book 1 Jesse Sullivan

Author’s Page

Jesse Sullivan is a necronite and hired as a consultant by the government to participate in federally sanctioned life regenerations. Basically, a client pays a fee to the company, an AMP (a simple acronym for a fancy term for psychic) is consulted, and a necronite is assigned to shadow the person on the day of their predetermined death. When death comes, someone has to walk through the tunnel of light into the void and that is what Jesse is paid to do. Don’t worry, she regenerates in anywhere from a few hours to a day later (depending on the circumstances of death). The story opens on the morning of her 67th death as she meets her client, her life assistant (Allie) in tow. He’s a pretty dull business man and sure enough, Jesse saves him later in the day, after many hours of watching him make boring calls and process paperwork. The most exciting thing about this man was his use of improper slang, such as ‘zombie’ for necronite.

The 68th death was much more interesting. Jesse was assigned to a prostitute. Yep, Jesse got an education during this day’s work. These were some of the best scenes of the book, having me laugh out loud. Who was pretending to be the boat again? What are we bending the other direction? Of course, Jesse has to stay in the same room as the client the entire time, so she got to play a different role for each of the prostitute’s clients throughout the day, including a sex worker in training. Ha!

The story gets a little deeper when someone tries to outright kill Jesse (yes, even zombies can be killed) and it is just luck that her friends are able to save her in time. This event is the start of a deeper mystery for Jesse, Allie, and Lane (Jesse’s friend with benefits). There’s a lot of people and groups, including many religious organizations, that see the necronites as unnatural. It’s hard to nail down just which group or which individual wanted Jesse dead for good. Her case handler, Brinkley, goes missing and suspicion falls on him.

But then things get even weirder for Jesse. Most necronites don’t recall much of their lives before their first regeneration. Jesse’s first death was due to a barn fire. She has a complicated and sometimes painful past; as the story moves forward, Jesse has to start working through some of that. Then we have Gabriel, a black winged, suited man that only she can see and interact with. Now Jesse must question her own sanity.

I really enjoyed this fast paced urban fantasy. It used science to explain (sort of, it’s still fiction) the regenerations and then placed it within a boring government job. Jesse’s ability isn’t unique (there are others, although not bunches, like her) and it is used like a tool in her weekly job. I really liked this new take on zombies. With our current culture saturated with zombie books, movies, tv, music, costumes, games, etc., I wasn’t sure I would find this book interesting. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I didn’t want to put the book away.

And there was a love triangle! I despise love triangles in general, feeling that they are also overused in the last 10 years. But this one was different. Jesse wants simple – like friends with benefits kind of simple. She’s not looking for a long-term, deep connection kind of relationship. But both her lovers are. Plus our main character is bisexual (without it being a big deal). I loved this aspect because Jesse was so many things – government consultant, snarky wit, center of some big mystery – and oh, yeah, she also swings both ways. It was footnote to her character, not the main aspect. So the love triangle really worked for me, adding to the character building instead of ticking me off.

I almost passed on this book and I am ever so glad I did not. There’s a lot of cool stuff that happens in the second half of the book, but I don’t want to toss spoilers around. Let’s say that there is plenty of action, some sacrifice, more character development, and more dealing with the past. It’s excellent. I am very much hoping Book 2 in the series makes it’s way to audio as well.

The Narration: Hollie Jackson was a good fit for Jesse Sullivan. She really pulled off all of Jesse’s witty remarks and defensive mechanisms. She had distinct voices for all the characters and good range that included male and female characters.

What I Liked: A fresh take on zombies; zombie regeneration is simply a tool to help you get a job; the scenes with the prostitute were full of humor; Jesse’s pet pug; the love triangle; the sacrifices made.

What I Disliked: The cover didn’t do much for me – there’s plenty of coolness captured in this book and I don’t feel that the cover really conveys that.

What Others Think:

Rabid Reads

Files & Records

The Bookie Monster

The Silver Petticoat Review

Geek Chic Elite

Mikel Andrews