Mike Finn - Audio Book Junkie

Mike Finn - Audio Book Junkie

My name is Mike Finn and I'm an Audio Book Addict.

I'm here to share my experience of the books I listen to.

Review
5 Stars
"The Privilege Of Peace - Peacekeeper #3" by Tanya Huff - highly recommended
The Privilege Of Peace - Tanya Huff, Marguerite Gavin

 

Tanya Huff says that "The Privilege of Peace" will be the last Torin Kerr book, I've followed Torin Kerr through the five Confederation novels, which I think are some of the best and most innovative military SF novels ever written and then on to the three Peacekeeper novels, which show how Torin, having helped end a galactic war hundreds of years long, handles the peace.

 

"The Privilege of Peace" was the perfect goodbye to the series. It moved the story arc on, engaging most of my favourite characters but didn't make the mistake of tidying everything up.

 

As I left the book, I could see that Torin had grown and, in the process, had helped me understand how much more difficult the maintenance of peace can be than the fighting of a war.

 

I'd love there to be another Torin Kerr book, but if there isn't I'll look on this as nine great novels, set in a universe I believe in, with people I care about, which never took the most obvious path and always placed accountability above expedience. I real life was like that, I'd enjoy living there. It isn't, but at least I have Tanya Huff to show me that it could be.

 

Margurite Gavin's narration has always increased my enjoyment of the Torin Kerr books.   Her voices are so well thought through that I could immediately recognise who was speaking, regardless of sex or species.

 

If you haven't read this series yet, you have a lot of pleasure ahead of you. Take a look at my reviews below

confederation 1 - 3The first three books in the Confederation series were fast-moving, trope-twisting, emotionally taxing military SF novels that established the Confederation universe from Torin's point of view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

valor-s-trial"Valor's Trial"(every time I see these titles, I want to add a U) was the game changer for me. The universe expanded and Torin became someone even more interesting.Va

There's a lot of sadness and a lot of hope in this book. It's probably the most anti-war pro-soldier military SF book I've read.

 

 

 

 

 

the-truth-of-valor

"The Truth of Valor" brought the Confederation series to an end in an unexpected but enjoyable way and I thought it was the last I'd see of Torin Kerr.

 

What more could be asked of her?

 

Well, it turns out that she was going to be asked the question: "What do non-violent Elder Races do with the we've-been-fighting-a-war-for-so-long-it's-all-we-know Younger Races?"

 

 

 

 

 

An Ancient PeaceWhen Torin considered that question, she did what she always does. She set about bringing her people home. She also started to rethink what everyone thought the knew about the Elder Races.

 

"An Ancient Peace", the first Peacekeeper novel had Torin in transition, no longer in the Corps but not really equipped to be a civilian and kept me guessing all the way through to the surprising outcome. 

 

It reset the situation completely, especially with regard to the Elder Races

 

 

 

 

 

a peace divided

In "A Peace Divided" Torin leads a Peace Keeper Strike Force, dealing with violent people churning through civilian space in the wake of an unexpected peace. Torin’s not a soldier anymore. Winning now involved more than getting in, killing the enemy and getting her people home. Now she has to uphold the law and make sure as few people as possible, on either side, die while she’s doing it.

 

She also starts to question how the Confederacy she's always defended, works and whether she might have to find a way of changing it to protect her people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 8%.
The Water Cure - Sophie Mackintosh

My first Man Booker Londlist read is off to a slow and difficult start but is intriguing enough to keep me interested.

 

Lots of short chapters from the point of view of each of the three sisters in a situation that is exotic but remains obscure. 

 

Not your typical post-apocalyptic dystopia. More like "The Tempest" if Miranda has two sisters.

2018 Man Booker Prize Longlist and my personal four book shortlist (without having read them yet).

unnamed

The 2018 Man Booker Prize Longlist has just been announced. This time we have six Brit writers, three American writers, two Canadian writers and two Irish writers. Seven of the writers are women and six are men. Four of the thirteen are debut novels.

 

I like the idea of the Man Booker Prize. It discovers new talent and gives a global platform to writers who might otherwise struggle to find an audience. That doesn't mean I'm going to read all, or even most, of the Longlist. I'm beyond the stage in my life when I read what I should rather than reading what appeals to me. I'm looking for the wow-that-was-amazing reads, not the worthy-so-I-should-make-myself-r-get to-the-end reads.

 

Of the seventeen books, four have enough appeal to make me pick them up at a bookshop and take them to the till. My shortlist has one thriller, one love story, one debut dystopian novel, one historical (World War II) drama.

 

So here's my personal, Man Booker Shortlist, based on not having read any of the novels yet.

 

snap

Snap by Belinda Bauer

 

I picked this one because I'm always hungry for new and original thrillers. Belinda Bauer is a CWA Gold Dagger winner with a reputation for edgy writing and I've never read her before so this is an easy win.

 

Publisher's Summary

On a stifling summer's day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack's in charge, she said. I won't be long.
 
But she doesn't come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.
 
Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you.
 
Meanwhile Jack is still in charge - of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they're alone in the house, and - quite suddenly - of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.. .
 

Normal PeopleNormal People by Sally Rooney

I've a weakness for Irish writers. Sally Rooney is new to me but the combination of love, politics, long-term complicated relationships and people from the same town but different circumstances staying connected does it for me.

 

Publisher's Summary

Connell and Marianne both grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. But they both get places to study at university in Dublin, and a connection that has grown between them despite the social tangle of school lasts long into the following years.

Sally Rooney's second novel is a deeply political novel, just as it's also a novel about love. It's about how difficult it is to speak to what you feel and how difficult it is to change. It's wry and seductive; perceptive and bold. It will make you cry and you will know yourself through it.

 

The Water CureThe Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

 

This is one that I'd hold in my hand and think about. It's a debut novel with a message by a short story writer. It could be wonderful or it could be too allegorical for me to care. So I looked it up and GoodReads and a couple of my favourite reviewers put it on the wonderful side so it's in the basket.

 

Publisher's Summary

Imagine a world very close to our own: where women are not safe in their bodies, where desperate measures are required to raise a daughter. This is the story of Grace, Lia, and Sky kept apart from the world for their own good and taught the terrible things that every woman must learn about love. And it is the story of the men who come to find them - three strangers washed up by the sea, their gazes hungry and insistent, trailing desire and destruction in their wake

 

 

 

WarliightWarlight  by Michael Ondaatje

 

This wouldn't normally be my choice. The author's name appears above the title but I've never chosen to read his novels, so why start now? Also, it's set in World War II (again) which puts me off - but not always.

 

The killer first line was what changed my mind

“In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals”.

Publisher's Summary

In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlightis a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.

 

Review
3 Stars
"How To Date Your Dragon - Mystic Bayou #1) by Molly Harper - fun, fast, rom-com read - with dragons
How to Date Your Dragon - Audible Studios, Amanda Ronconi, Molly Harper, Jonathan Davis

"How To Date Your Dragon" starts a new supernatural rom-com series by Molly Harper. Much as I like Half-Moon Hollow, it was nice to have a new setting and some completely new characters.

 

Fans of Molly Harper will get everything they expect: strong independent female lead, apparently dominant and distant male lead with a heart of gold, witty dialogue, mutually mindblowing sex arrived at after overcoming a satisfying number of hurdles and a well-drawn supernatural setting.

 

They'll also get a new and different take on the supernatural than Half-Moon Hollow, a serial killer, and how clutch of new characters, beyond the female and male leads, that are going to be a lot of fun.

 

One of the things I liked most about this book was that the male characters seem better drawn and more compelling than usual, mostly because Molly Harper has written "How To Date Your Dragon" with some chapters told from the female lead point of view and some from the male lead point of view. The Amanda Ronconi. who has narrated all the other Molly Harper books, takes the female lead and does her usual excellent job but my enjoyment was greatly increased by listening to the deep, rumbling voice of Jonathan Davis narrating the male lead chapters.

 

This is an entertaining holiday read that delivers a few smiles and a new world to explore. A good start to a promising series

 

Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/389500347" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

Off Topic Post: The coolest Basketball court ever?

Dubrovnik Basketball Court

 

I was walking the Dubrovnik Old City Walls today and as well as all the "King's Landing" GOT familiar stuff, I came across this basketball court built right up against the city walls.  Of course, it's too small to play a game on but what a place to practice.

Review
5 Stars
"The Devotion Of Suspect X - detective Galileo #3" by Keigo Higashino - Translated by Alexander 0 Smith - Highly Recommended
The Devotion of Suspect X: A Detective Galileo Novel - Keigo Higashino, Alexander O. Smith

"The Devotion Of Suspect X" is an original, surprising, thought-provoking crime novel set in Japan. It's one of the most satisfying reads I've had this year so far because it's fresh, it works on so many levels and it's entertaining.

 

"The Devotion Of Suspect X" sets out to do something different than a normal crime story. We know who killed whom and how pretty much from the beginning. The rest is about defeating the police investigation by out-thinking them. It becomes a reluctant duel between two genius-level thinkers who were at Imperial University together decades earlier. One is a mathematician working to cover up a killing. The other is a physicist curious to work out what really happened. This gives plenty of scope for the discussion of the nature of problem-solving, the role of assumptions in disguising meta-problems and the nature of proof.

 

Yet this is not a dry abstract, book. The plot is driven by ordinary people wanting ordinary things and this makes it much more than an intellectual puzzle. It's about happiness, purpose, devotion, and guilt. It's about what gives you the will to live and the ability to kill. Even the "dual" between the two mega-minds is not what you might expect. It's based on a respect and understanding rather than enmity of moral conflict.

 

The ending caught me by surprise, not because it's some kind of last-minute tricky twist but because the actions come from values in a culture that is not mine and brings the whole puzzle back to a human level.

 

The book is translated from the original Japanese. Some translations leave me feeling distant from the text or make me feel the text has been "pasteurised" into English. Alexander O. Smith's translation kept the text vital and accessible without losing the sense of the places where Japan is alien from my Western experience.

 

David Pittu's narration is flawless. You can hear a sample by clicking on the SoundCloud link below.

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/46866532" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

 

Don't be put off by the "Detective Galileo #3" tag. "The Devotion Of Suspect X"  works as a free-standing book. Detective Galileo is the nickname the police give to the physicist who sometimes assists them  I can't find books one, two or four in English but books five and six, "Salvation of a Saint" and "A Midsummer's Equation" are available in English.   "A Midsummer's Equation" was made into a movie in 2013.

 

"The Devotion Of Suspect X" was made into a movie in 2017 in China (in Mandarin with English subtitles), with the script written by Keigo Higashino. If the trailer below is anything to go by it looks like a faithful adaptation.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpfBF5dJqwk&w=560&h=315]

Off Topic Post: a quiet place to read

After some difficult weeks, my wife and I are taking a few days off at a resort near Dubrovnik, on the Adriatic coast.

 

There are great views, lots of swimming pools, restaurants and bars but the selling point for me is a balcony that I can sit and read on.

 

IMG_0246.JPG

Off Topic Post: Small Pleasures- dappled sunlight

I come from the North West of England. I grew up facing into horizontal rain being driven in off the Irish Sea. The Northern skies over deep water of my childhood were beautiful but seldom cloudless and rarely had sunlight strong enough to make me burn.

 

At least, that's how I remember it now, decades later.

 

Now I live in Switzerland 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) further south and 700 metres (2,230 feet) higher and I've come to understand the importance of shade.

 

Here summer days are long, the sky is often a bright unclouded blue and the sun shines fiercely enough to ripen whole terraced hillsides of grapes. The evenings may belong to the bellows of thunder along the lake and the manic flashes of lightning across the mountains but the day belongs to the sun.

 

Today started cloudless. By eleven the sky was blue and the temperature a steady 28C (82F) with almost no breeze, even by the lake. I was in a teeshirt and jeans and felt overdressed.

 

The need to find shade asserted itself, so I walked along the Vevey Promenade to take a coffee in one of my favourite places.

 

IMG_0234

 

The Promenade is treelined here and offers great views across Lake Geneva to the Alps rising up on the other side.

 

My attention was on the small cluster of umbrella-shaded seats next to a classic silver Airstream trailer that's been converted into a food-truck and serves some of the best coffee in Vevey.

 

My younger, born-under-Northern-skies self would have made straight for the public bench and worshipped the sun. He's never have wondered why the bench hadn't been claimed by locals ahead of him. The locals, of course, are all in the shade.

 

I sat in the shade, coffee in hand, relishing being able to see the sun on the water without having it pushing down on my shoulders and taunting me for not bringing a hat and reminded myself that small pleasures are worth treasuring.

 

Yet the shade offers more than relief from the heat of the sun. It offers its own dappled beauty. As I walked back into town along an avenue of shade trees the simple complexity of light through shade struck me as it always does.

 

IMG_0238.JPG

 

When Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote:

"Glory be to God for dappled things -"

he was referring to English skies but I think, if he'd seen the lacework of shadows cast by the trees along the Promenade today, he'd be thanking his God for shade trees.

Reading progress update: I've read 50%. - sadder and more complex than I expected
Plum Rains: A Novel - Andromeda Romano-Lax

I picked up "Plum Rains" because the premise interested me: a near-future Japan where longevity is rising, fertility is falling and the Japanese, dependent on immigrants for many personal services, start to introduce AI-driven robots that grow and learn as they interact with their owners.

 

I'd imagined a clever SF exploration of the ethics of AI and the relationship between server and served.

 

I got all of that but I'm also getting a very human tale about the youth of a woman reaching one hundred who is now a respected Tokyo matron but started as a mixed-race aboriginal on Taiwan and about a Filipino nurse, alone in Japan, trying to work off her debt.

 

I supposed I shouldn't be surprised. Some of the best writing about AI taps into deep emotions: "Speak" by Louisa Hall and "The Unseen World" by Liz Moore are great examples.

 

The added dimension in "Plum Rains" is that the point of view is Asian rather than European.

 

This is not a fast read but it is a rewarding one.

Reading progress update: I've read 12%. - immediately immersive
Clock Dance - Anne Tyler

"Clock Dance", Anne Tyler's latest novel, sets out to share the defining moments of a woman's life.

 

The first. longish, chapter immediately immersed me in the life of the then eleven.year-old-girl, in small-town America in 1967, on the day her mother walks out of the house.

 

It effortlessly captures that feeling of still working out what's going on in your family, when you're not sure if stuff is really weird or if all the other families do this too and when your anger and anxiety and desire for competence get twisted up with your love for your parents and your doubts and hopes about yourself.

 

 

So far, it's wonderful stuff.

Reading progress update: I've read 8%. - totally compulsive listening
The Princess Diarist - Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher reading her own diary looking back on her involvement with Star Wars and including journal entries made at the time of the first movie - how could I resist that? WHY would I resist that.

 

With dry wit, unflinching candour, a dash of carefully expressed malice and a wry sense of humour, Carrie Fisher takes us into her confidence. I'm going to be dipping into this eagerly when I need to relax.

Review
5 Stars
"Magic Shifts - Kate Daniels #8" by Ilona Andrews - THIS is how you reboot a series
Magic Shifts  -  Ilona Andrews

 

I delayed reading this book for a while as I knew the previous " I am your Father and I may need to kill you" story in the last book,"Magic Breaks" was originally meant to be the end of the series and I didn't want to spoil what I'd already read with a faint-hearted extension requested by the publishers. I was also a little disappointed in and frustrated by the last book.

 

I should have had more faith in the writers. "Magic Shifts" does exactly what the title implies, it shifts the series to a new level - completely rebooting it.

 

So how do you reboot a series?

 

You don’t wallow in nostalgia, repeat storylines, make things a similar as possible to the original but with a few decorative twists.

 

You do make the present valuable and the future something to hope for; introduce new threats, new uncertainties and new opportunities to collaborate; dare to let your characters grow, let their actions have consequences, let their lives have meaning beyond kill-the-bad-guy save-the-world try-not-to-die.

 

When we first met Kate as a misfit mercenary, calling “Here, kitty, kitty” to the werelion Beastlord in "Magic Bites", she was alone and in hiding, taking on all-comers because she had nothing to lose and she knew her doom was coming for her one day. She was afraid of her blood and ashamed at being good at nothing but killing.

 

At the start of "Magic Shifts" as Kate rides home through the Atlanta night, sword on her back, blood on her clothes, we immediately see how she's changed: she's comfortable in her own skin, reconciled to her power and happy to use it. 

“…the night shadows watched us and I watched them back. Let’s play who can be a better killer. My sword and I love this game.”

She's also not alone. She now has a family, friends and a city to protect. At the end of the last book, she has turned her whole world upside down - a truce of some sort with her father, a responsibility of some sort for the city she claimed, a life completely outside of the Pack, even a house in the suburbs. She and Curren have gotten past the will we won’t we? stage into the more interesting how will we stage. Of course, she still has this I-have-to-save-everybody reflex, she still behaves as if she's invulnerable, although the evidence shows she isn't and she still worries about the monster she might become. I guess that's what makes Kate Kate.

 

Curren is having fun in the suburbs, free from the politics of being Beastlord and enjoying being underestimated by strangers who see him as Kate's muscle.

 

This is a fast-paced action-packed book that starts with a battle that's really more of a slaughter - two against thirty isn't really fair when the two are Kate and Curren - and the violence escalates from there. We get new monsters, a new baddy an interesting new ally, all wrapped up in a puzzle that uses characters from earlier books in new ways. One of my favourite pieces was Kate meeting her I'm-the-most-dangerous-being-in-the-world father at Applebees for a family dinner. That started off as funny and became quietly menacing.

 

Although the pace is fast, it's always perfectly controlled. .When I reached the penultimate chapters I thought “Oh no - cliffhanger ending” I should have known better. What I got was a perfectly executed, action-packed, denouement that delivered a satisfying conclusion to the puzzles in the book, followed by an epilogue that deepened the emotional impact of ending and opened intriguing possibilities for the next book.

 

This is how you do Urban Fantasy when you’re at the top of your game.

 

I won't delay in reading book nine.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 47%.
Magic Shifts  -  Ilona Andrews

I delayed this book for a while as I knew the previous " I am your Father and I may need to kill you" story in the last book was originally meant to be the end of the series and I didn't want to spoil what I'd already read with a faint-hearted extension requested by the publisher's.

 

I should have had more faith in the writers. This post-Pack episode is energetic and full of renewed vigour.

 

The fight scenes are strong.  The enemies seem to be new and the dynamic between Kate and Currently is changing in interesting ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review
2 Stars
"Full Dark House - Bryant & May #1" by Christopher Fowler - DNF - reluctantly abandoned at 37%
Full Dark House - Christopher Fowler

The premise behind this book was intriguing: a Peculiar Crimes Unit, set up during the Blitz quietly to handle crimes that might undermine civilian morale, leaving lots of room for Mulder-meets-British-stiff-upper-lip humour.

 

The Unit is led by Bryant: an eccentric, ostentatiously intuitive, tactless, scarf-wearing, driven twenty-two-year-old who is more comfortable with exotic books than with ordinary people. His newly-hired first-day-on-the-job side-kick is the enthusiastic, scientifically-minded, charming, good-looking nineteen-year-old May, brought in as a detective despite his lack of experience because all the experienced people have left to fight the Germans.

 

The overall effect was that of a frenetic young "Dr Who" meeting "Endeavour".

I liked the spirit of it. It would make great television. It didn't hold my attention as a book.

 

The opening, in London in the 1990s when Bryant and May are still serving officers although they are both beyond the normal retirement age, didn't quite work for me. It asked me to care too much about characters I'd barely met. I had no context and so didn't get the emotional impact of the devastating fire-bomb.

 

Once the story flipped to London during the Blitz it hit its stride. The writing was strong on visuals, a little predictable on dialogue and way out there on the weirdness of plot.

 

The problem I had was that this retrospective visit to London felt a little too cosy and too nostalgic, a feeling that was amplified by the "Mystique of the Theatre" riff. The murder was surprisingly gruesome but carried little emotional impact.

 

I abandoned the book when my irritation with the changing points of view, sliding timelines and self-consciously look-how-clever-but-quaint-we-were-back-then technology innovations overwhelmed my interest in who had what to whom and why.

 

I'm sure many people will enjoy this. Maybe I'd have ridden with it more easily if there was an all-cast audio version but the text by itself didn't hold me.

Film Review "Leave No Trace" a quietly powerful film - highly recommended

leave_no_trace"Leave No Trace" is one of those rare films that is brave enough to allow truth to be spoken in silence. Director Debra Granik(best known for  "Winter's Bone") uses beautiful photography, extraordinary acting and a subtle script to deliver a story about a daughter and a father living on the fringes of American society with compassionate realism.

 

Based on the novel "My Abandonment" which was itself based on a true story, it tells the story of a thirteen-year-old girl and her father who are found to have been living off-the-grid for some time in Forest Park, Oregon.

 

The movie starts by showing how efficiently and easily daughter and father work together to live in the forest with only basic tools, minimal shelter and with most of their food harvested from the forest. The bond between them is clear. She is intelligent, resilient and happy. He is caring and competent but somehow not quite right.

 

When they are discovered by the authorities, things change. They both have to adapt to new circumstances. She becomes aware of other ways of living and then comes to the understanding that these ways of living are not open to her father in the same way. He suffers from PTSD as a result of his military service and struggles when he has to deal with people, especially people in authority.

 

Leave No Trace stills

Told from the daughter's point of view. the story focus on her struggle to understand what is happening and what she wants to do.

 

The bond she has with her father is deep but, as she at one point blurts out in frustration: "Whatever is wrong with you. It isn't wrong with me”.

 

LNT_01544_RThomasin McKenzie'sperformance as the daughter is fresh, nuanced, skilful and compulsively engaging. It reminded me of the power Jennifer Lawrence brought to “Winter’s Bone”.

 

Leave-No-Trace-trailer-screenshot-Ben-FosterBen Foster'sperformance as the father is a triumph. Avoiding the usual clichés, he manages to be both strong and vulnerable, showing us a troubled man who knows his limits but is fighting against them to be what his daughter needs him to be.

 

I recommend that you seek "Leave No Trace" out and let yourself feel its power and humanity. This is movie making at its best.

 

Watch the trailer below if you're still not convinced.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ecmbu1s_HHI&w=560&h=315]

 

Reading progress update: I've read 15% and it's getting there after a slow start
Full Dark House - Christopher Fowler

I think this has the makings of a good retro series. The opening didn't quite work for me as it asked me to care too much about characters I'd barely met.

 

Once it went back in time to London during the Blitz it hit its stride. 

 

The writing is strong on visuals, a little predictable on dialogue and way out there on weirdness of plot.

 

currently reading

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