Publisher: Random House Audio

Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

April 14, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 8 Comments

Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain NeuvelSleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator: Andy Secombe, Eric Meyers, Laurel Lefkow, Charlie Anson, Liza Ross, William Hope, Christoper Ragland, Katharine Mangold, Adna Sablyich
Series: Themis Files #1
Published by Random House Audio on April 26th 2016
Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Eleven-year-old Rose Franklin rides her new bicycle in Deadwood, South Dakota when she suddenly falls into a large hole. At the bottom of this hole was a twenty-foot-long metal hand which she had fallen directly into the palm. Seventeen years later, Rose Franklin is a brilliant physicist who has been brought in to study the mysterious hand that she fell into as a child to determine anything she can about it.

“I don’t really believe in fate,” she says, “but somehow ‘small world’ doesn’t begin to do this justice.”

Its origins and its chemical makeup defy logic; it weighs far less than would be expected based on its mass and its composition couldn’t have come from Earth. When Army helicopter pilots Kara Resnik and Ryan Mitchell crash somewhere in Syria, they find an extremely long, metal forearm that connects to the metal hand like a magnet when placed nearby. The search for the remaining pieces of this metal body continues across the globe to hopefully one day determine the purpose of this creation.

I absolutely adored this story. Sleeping Giants is a science fiction story that delves into the mysteries of space, the mysterious mythology uncovered about the origins of the metal giant, and delves into the scientific aspects of the giant’s metallurgy in an informative and detailed way. The mysteries go beyond the giant though, expanding to each and every character and no one is left to fall by the wayside. Who is the unnamed narrator that possesses so much power and authority, how coincidental is it that Rose Franklin remains involved with the hand years later, what was the purpose of this metal giant and where did it come from? The whole book reads like one massive conspiracy theory, much like an episode of the X-Files and we’re slowly fed answers but never to the bigger picture questions. Will we ever truly know?

The fact that this was Neuvel’s debut is absolutely mind-boggling. The concept and the execution both are fascinating and immensely entertaining. The execution will definitely divide readers seeing as he traded a traditional narrative for a more epistolary type storytelling, using interview transcripts, news articles, journal entries, etc. for the entirety of the tale. If you’re an audiobook fan, this is even more brilliant to listen to with its full cast narration. I don’t re-read stories often but I re-read this one in anticipation of Waking Gods. I think I loved it, even more, the second time around.

Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain NeuvelWaking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator: Andy Secombe, Adna Sablyich, Laurel Lefkow, Eric Meyers, William Hope, Charlie Anson, Christoper Ragland, Karina Fernandez, Madeleine Rose, Roy McMillan, Olivia Dowd, Sarah Wells
Series: Themis Files #2
Published by Random House Audio on April 4th 2017
Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.


“I came to realize that good and evil were out of my reach, that time was the only thing I had any control over. I could buy time, create intervals. I could not truly make the world a better place, but I could make part of it a better place for a short while.”

Waking Gods bolsters and expands upon the Sleeping Giants storyline by adding high levels of adrenaline and excitement in this highly anticipated follow-up. Ten years have passed since the end of Sleeping Giants when Rose and team completed the reconstruction of the metal giant they named Themis after the ancient Greek Titan-goddess. They were beginning to slowly piece together information surrounding the mystery of her origins and are only briefly grasping her full technological capabilities when another metal giant appears in the center of London. It stands immobile for weeks, but without provocation, it attacks one-day leaving thousands dead, but some miraculously survived. More giants appear around the globe and Rose and team are given the impossible task of determining how to stop these attacks and to find out the reason behind them before Earth’s population is exterminated.

No sophomore slump to be had here. Listening to Waking Gods felt akin to being on a high-speed roller coaster: you’re buckled in, the ride is moving, and the time to change your mind has long since passed. But damn, is it a crazy good time.

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Waking Gods continues with the same interview style of storytelling, with a few new characters/voices to acquaint ourselves with. The plot was incredibly fast paced and read much like an action movie would just minus the visuals. Incredibly similar to The War of the Worlds in regards to the severity and devastation of the attacks but much less straightforward in terms of the reasoning behind the attacks themselves (and far more fascinatingly scientific View Spoiler ».) Neuvel imbues his alien invasion with a history and purpose essentially giving the human race a chance at survival. He also manages to add a level of humor (there’s something unequivocally humorous about two individuals trying to manhandle a giant robot, albeit clunkily, into battle) that somehow manages to meld harmoniously with such a somber narrative. There are twists and turns aplenty, one particular scene made me loudly gasp and another where my face started leaking, and the ending will leave you thunderstruck. Neuvel’s endings, while definitely worthy of the term ‘cliffhanger’, never feel cheap but rather an apt ending that will lead to a brilliant beginning of the next, and possibly last, installment.

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Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe

December 30, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Short & Sweet Reviews 1 Comment

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
Published by Tally Hall Press on 1868
Pages: 635
Genres: Classics, Historical Fiction, Holiday - Christmas
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn't be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they're putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there's one thing they can't help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

Can you believe it? The last person on Earth has finally read Little Women! Okay, I’m kidding, I’m sure I wasn’t the last one to read it but sure feels like it. But yes, this was my very first time reading it and I’m glad I did even though it was a bit of a struggle because 18th century works of fictions and I don’t often get along real well. But despite my apprehension View Spoiler » this one really won me over in the end. I learned to appreciate it for what it’s meant to be: an old-fashioned yet authentic tale of a close knit family, and in particular four very different young women, struggling to find their place in a difficult time in history. It’s not a glamorous tale of silk gowns and ball rooms, but rather an accurate interpretation of how life really was for Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters, as well as all the other women coming of age in the 1800s. It makes you appreciate family, life itself, and presents under the Christmas tree. And NOW, I can finally watch the movie.

Image result for little women movie gif

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeSkipping Christmas by John Grisham
Narrator: Dennis Boutsikaris
Published by Random House Audio on November 6th 2001
Length: 3 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Holiday - Christmas
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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five-stars

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

In my opinion, this is the Christmas book. Forget A Christmas Carol or anything else resembling wholesome Christmas stories, Skipping Christmas is a destined classic. What can I say, the concept of skipping Christmas entirely and going on a cruise instead just speaks to my Grinch-y soul.

cartoon

This year I opted to re-read the audiobook version which is narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris who portrays Luther Krank perfectly in all his deadpan humorous glory. When I first discovered this novel, many, many years ago… I almost glanced over it because “John Grisham? Isn’t that the guy that writes legal thrillers?” Yep, he sure is, but apparently he also has a humorous side. Many of you have likely seen the film adaptation Christmas with the Kranks which is all sorts of hilarious (especially with the book lacking that sidesplitting scene after Luther gets botox), but this short novel is an amusing way to spend a few hours surrounded by Christmas cheer as you contemplate an alternative to it all.

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeChristmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson
Series: Comfort Food Cafe #2
Published by HarperImpulse on September 23rd 2016
Pages: 209
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Becca Fletcher has always hated Christmas but she has her reasons for being Little Miss Grinch. Now, though, she can’t avoid her version of ho-ho-hell – because she’s travelling to the Comfort Food Cafe to spend the festive season with her sister Laura and her family. She’s expecting mulled wine, 24-hour Christmas movie marathons and all kinds of very merry torture.

Little does Becca know that the Comfort Food Cafe is like no other place on earth. Perched on a snow-covered hill, it’s a place full of friendship where broken hearts can heal, new love can blossom and where Becca’s Christmas miracle really could happen – if only she can let it…

‘They are perfect together, and it’s only their pasts holding them back.
Which, I suppose, is a sentence that could be applied to all of us, in some way or another.’

Becca Fletcher has always been known as the wild child of the family: drugs, alcohol, one night stands, you name it. She’s turned over a new leaf after a tragedy strikes her sister’s family and she realizes that it’s time she became someone that can be depended on. And now that same sister is asking her to come visit her for Christmas. She hates Christmas, but she just can’t say no to her sister.

The little town of Budbury is a charming little seaside village where everyone is friendly and looks out for one another. It’s the kind of quaint place that is only found within the pages of a story, but it doesn’t stop you from wishing such a place really existed. This is a fun Christmas time read but admittedly the Christmas theme took a backseat to the romance. Becca’s sister has been trying to set her up with the cute Irish boy named Sam since this past summer and when she visits, they finally meet in person for the first time. I appreciated Becca’s honesty with her past problems and not wanting to jump into anything (like a bed) too quickly and was up front and honest with him about this. She didn’t beat around the bush and gloss over her problems or make any sort of excuses, so for him to continue to doggedly pursue her despite her insistence they take things slow was a bit problematic for me. Granted, this all works out like your typical storybook romance is supposed to and was undeniably cute once I got past my awkward feels about the whole thing.

Christmas + cutesy romance = two peas in a pod.

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Audiobook Review – Heartburn by Nora Ephron

January 8, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 8 Comments

Audiobook Review – Heartburn by Nora EphronHeartburn by Nora Ephron
Narrator: Meryl Streep
Published by Random House Audio on March 12th 1983
Length: 5 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Chick-Lit, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes. For in this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of Sleepless in Seattle reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.

Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has "a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs" is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron's irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes. Heartburn is a sinfully delicious novel, as soul-satisfying as mashed potatoes and as airy as a perfect soufflé.

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‘I think I was so entranced with being a couple that I didn’t even notice that the person I thought I was a couple with thought he was a couple with someone else.’

Heartburn is Nora Ephron’s first and only novel, and this breaks my heart because I adored this story. Never did I think it so thoroughly possible to take a story about heartbreak and turn it into something so full of life and jest. Heartbreak is a devastating thing that we humans are forced to suffer through, but can you even imagine having to undergo it at 38 years old and 7 months pregnant? Rachel discovers a note from her husbands lover in a book of children’s songs, suggesting that he sing them to his son. Him and Rachel’s son. Written with such stunning clarity, it’s effortless to understand the rage (and embarrassment) that Rachel felt. But being pregnant and having a toddler left her with a precarious decision on whether to stay or go.

‘Maybe he’s missed me, I thought as we came around the corner. Maybe he’s come to his sense. Maybe he’s remembered he loves me. Maybe he’s full of remorse. There was a police car parked in front of the house. Maybe he’s dead, I thought. That wouldn’t solve everything, but it would solve a few things. He wasn’t, of course. They never are. When you want them to die, they never do.’

Rachel Samstat has such a wry and cynical sense of humor (the best type of humor) that manages to never tread into bitterness. I’m not sure if it’s because Meryl Streep herself played Rachel in the 1986 movie adaptation of Heartburn but she voiced Rachel impeccably (do yourself a favor and listen to the clip below). I spent half the time listening to this story laughing uproariously with tears in my eyes. She portrayed a perfect combination of indifference and restraint while handling a tough situation but opening up the dam of emotions when absolutely necessary. It encompassed everything about true heartbreak and just how calamitous it can be, but galvanizing as well. Infused within her tale of heartbreak are comfort food recipes such as Sour Cream Peach Pie, plain ol’ mashed potatoes, and of course Key Lime Pie; perfect for consuming or weaponizing, if ever the situation calls for it.


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Audiobook Review – The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

June 26, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 4 Comments

Audiobook Review – The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) by Rob Thomas & Jennifer GrahamThe Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Jennifer Graham, Rob Thomas
Narrator: Kristen Bell
Series: Veronica Mars #1
Published by Random House Audio on March 25th 2014
Length: 8 hours and 42 minutes
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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three-half-stars

The first book in an original mystery series following popular television sleuth Veronica Mars, all grown up and back in action after the feature film funded by a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign.

Twenty-eight-year-old Veronica Mars is back in the game after the events of Veronica Mars: The Movie. With the help of old friends-Logan Echolls, Mac Mackenzie, Wallace Fennel, and even Dick Casablancas-Veronica is ready to take on Neptune's darkest cases with her trademark sass and smarts.

In The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, (almost) the whole gang is back together again. Veronica has left her high paying job as an attorney in New York City to return to Neptune, CA to help her dad out with his PI business. Mac Mackenzie has left her fancy job as well to assist in the computer aspects of the job but they’re struggling to make ends meet. A huge case finally lands in their laps when the incompetency of the local sheriff department requires the Chamber of Commerce to hire help to find a missing girl that was visiting Neptune on spring break.

Veronica Mars is one of my all-time favorite shows that was cancelled much too soon. When it was released that not only would there be a new movie to look forward but a book series as well I had a total fit. It looked something along the lines of this:

No exaggeration. Finding out that Kristen Bell narrates the audio of the first book was even better news. Kristen Bell perfectly narrated each and every character we’ve grown to know and love. The audio is definitely the way to go with this one. The story itself was ALMOST as good as I had hoped it could be. It was a slow build in the mystery bits and Veronica doesn’t even make an immediate appearance but that’s temporary. The mystery is interesting and has a few twists I didn’t see coming but it did still feel like it possessed the typical framework of many already been done before VMars investigations. Regardless, just being back in Neptune was the best thing ever.The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is written in third person POV and for the most part it worked. Would first person have worked better? Most likely. But third person does allow the reader the opportunity of a different perspective on Veronica and the investigation in order to formulate their own thoughts and opinions rather than seeing it solely through her eyes.

One of the things I loved about the show was the skillful combination of the mystery and the romance. This wasn’t the case here though as Logan has a minuscule part in the story, however, I am okay with this as I find myself a bit over Logan. Gasp. I know. I just wanted to something fresh and different for her I think. Here we have Veronica in her late 20s and yet she’s doing the same things she did in high school. She left a well-paying job in New York to go back to Neptune just to go back to the same job that makes it a struggle to pay the bills. While I understand this is an introductory novel back into the life of Veronica, I can only hope that we can expect bigger and better things for her. The ending definitely left open the opportunity for future VMars stories and I for one cannot wait.

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Audiobook Review – Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois

January 17, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 8 Comments

Audiobook Review – Cartwheel by Jennifer DuboisCartwheel by Jennifer Dubois
Published by Random House Audio on September 24, 2013
Length: 14 hours and 25 minutes
Genres: Mystery-Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
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two-half-stars

Written with the riveting storytelling and moral seriousness of authors like Emma Donoghue, Adam Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together.

When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans.

Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves.

Jennifer duBois’s debut novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction and was honored by the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 program. In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. Who is Lily Hayes? What happened to her roommate? No two readers will agree. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how much we really know about ourselves will linger well beyond.

‘Although the themes of this book were loosely inspired by the story of Amanda Knox, this is entirely a work of fiction. None of the characters are real. None of the events ever happened. Nothing in the book should be read as a factual statement about real-life events or people.’

‘Loosely inspired’ would imply that a subject was taken and adapted and molded to fit into a new version of the story. Cartwheel is an echo, a reflection and lacks in any true substantive differences from the headlines other than the location (Italy vs. Argentina). I know next to nothing about the Amanda Knox case as I never followed closely along with the court proceedings, however, even with the paltry details I have gathered I see no true differentiation that would warrant the term ‘loosely inspired’. Cartwheel is at heart a character study but ultimately lacks in creative elements.

The writing style was well-written yet extremely tedious and I found myself setting my print copy aside and opting for the audio version. The excessive use of prose was an obvious intent to place this novel solidly in the realm of ‘literary’ but it gave the story an overstated and exaggerated feel that did more harm than good. The story was told from the point of view of several individuals such as Lily’s dad, her sister Anna, the prosecutor and Lily’s boyfriend Sebastian. Each character is extensively detailed but I felt Lily herself was drawn vaguely in a possible attempt to retain the mystery behind her guilt/innocence. The details from the point of view of the prosecutor were informative but the details regarding his estranged wife felt ultimately unessential and detracted from the story.

The ending was the most underwhelming of all as questions remained unanswered and just like the actual Amanda Knox story, we’re left to decide whether or not to believe in her innocence. The examination of individuals involved was in depth and detailed yet there was an emotional disconnect. So many pages were spent delving into the intricate details of Lily’s actions and how even minor actions transformed others opinions and perceptions of her. It all felt very superfluous compared to the amount of time spent on the trial itself though and the ending was extremely rushed compared to the slower pace we became accustomed to. The fact that so much of Lily’s case was based on those perceptions vs. actual concrete evidence was interesting but made for a very ponderous read. The ultimate duplication of a big news story seems solely as a means for the author to showcase her obvious writing skills but only puts a spotlight on her complete lack of creativity.

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Audiobook Review – MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3) by Margaret Atwood

October 1, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 0 Comments

Audiobook Review – MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3) by Margaret AtwoodMaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne, Bob Walter, Robbie Daymond
Series: MaddAddam Trilogy #3
Published by Random House Audio on September 3rd 2013
Length: 13 hrs and 23 mins
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Amazon
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Also by this author: Oryx and Crake

three-half-stars

A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers – a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans. Toby, onetime member of the Gods Gardeners and expert in mushrooms and bees, is still in love with street-smart Zeb, who has an interesting past. The Crakers’ reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is hallucinating; Amanda is in shock from a Painballer attack; and Ivory Bill yearns for the provocative Swift Fox, who is flirting with Zeb. Meanwhile, giant Pigoons and malevolent Painballers threaten to attack.

Told with wit, dizzying imagination, and dark humour, Booker Prize-winning Margaret Atwood’s unpredictable, chilling and hilarious MaddAddam takes us further into a challenging dystopian world and holds up a skewed mirror to our own possible future.

MaddAddam Trilogy

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1)The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy, #2)

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy #1)
The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy #2)

MaddAddam is the long-awaited conclusion to the trilogy which began with Oryx and Crake. It’s the story of Crake, a man who played God and developed a plague to wipe out the human race in order to usher forth a new, more advanced species called the Crakers. The MaddAddam introduction shows the few surviving humans converging with the Crakers in hopes that their combined efforts can ensure their survival in the harsh and ravaged world they are left with after the plague. In MaddAddam, it’s slow going but the Earth is on point to regenerate itself with an increase in thunderstorms and the growth of plants to help sustain their diets. Animals are even adapting to life among their genetically modified cousins, the rakunks, liobams, wolvogs and pigoons. The surviving humans are a combination of geneticists and environmentalists and we’re given several, separate stories that end up all integrating and explaining their roles from the beginning of the plague.

“There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the story came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.”

MaddAddam is primarily told from the point of view of Toby, as it was in The Year of the Flood, however we receive much back-story about Zeb. Toby spends much time telling the story of Zeb to the Crakers, who have developed a strange fascination with Zeb. Much is left out and is transformed into a myth of sorts for them, just like the stories that Jimmy used to tell them.

Considering this is the final installment in a trilogy, I was personally expecting more of an engaging ending. It’s a slow-build of an ending and doesn’t exactly amount to much, but I believe that to be due to the way it was written. Most of the current happenings are told after the fact or retold in the form of a story rather than a step-by-step accounting of occurrences. We finally get all of our lingering questions answered regarding what led up to the plague being released on the world and how each character came to be where they are now in the story. While this managed to make it slightly less satisfying it was no less compelling. The MaddAddam trilogy is a unique interpretation of a dystopian world that is not only brilliantly imaginative but is shockingly possible.

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Audiobook Review – The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy #2) by Margaret Atwood

May 30, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy #2) by Margaret AtwoodThe Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol, Mark Bramhall
Series: MaddAddam Trilogy #2
Published by Random House Audio on September 22nd 2009
Length: 14 hrs and 4 mins
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Oryx and Crake

four-stars

Set in the visionary future of Atwood’s acclaimed Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood is at once a moving tale of lasting friendship and a landmark work of speculative fiction. In this second book of the MaddAddam trilogy, the long-feared waterless flood has occurred, altering Earth as we know it and obliterating most human life. Among the survivors are Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, who is barricaded inside a luxurious spa. Amid shadowy, corrupt ruling powers and new, gene-spliced life forms, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move, but they can't stay locked away.

The MaddAddam Trilogy
Oryx and Crake

“What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.”

The Year of the Flood is a companion novel to Oryx and Crake (however O&C fills in much of the necessary back story so make sure not to skip it).

The discussion (or argument) continues with The Year of the Flood regarding the ability to alter humans in order to achieve perfection and whether it’s an ability that should be used. This time, we get to see the world through the eyes of Gods Gardner’s (and also those of whom live in the pleeblands). The God’s Gardner’s are an extremely eco-conscious group of people that have been prophesying for years of the ‘Waterless Flood’ that is impending. Because these people have anticipated this event for so long they’re more prepared than anyone else, or at least the ones that survived the initial pandemic are. This group of people has created their own ideology which melds science and nature into the fabric of religion and was really quite fascinating. The most fascinating aspect of Oryx and Crake was learning about the pandemic and how it came to be but with The Year of the Flood it was the focus on this extremely adaptive group and how they managed to survive in a world where no one else could.

The highly creative world Atwood has created is not without flaws. It is imperfect and blemished, however for me that was what appealed the most. I expect if we ever find ourselves in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic world it would be much the same lacking a perfectly wrapped up ending. Atwood has been clear to designate this trilogy as “speculative fiction” and not “science fiction”. Science fiction tends to be so outlandish that its very unlikely it will ever occur whereas speculative fiction may be outlandish at first glance yet its still dreadfully possible. That’s exactly what these stories exude: the actual possibility of these events transpiring. It’s what makes these books fantastic yet so terribly frightening.

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Audiobook Review – Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy #1) by Margaret Atwood

May 24, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy #1) by Margaret AtwoodOryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Campbell Scott
Series: MaddAddam Trilogy #1
Published by Random House Audio on May 6th 2003
Length: 10 hrs and 29 mins
Genres: Canada, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Year of the Flood

four-half-stars

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

I am astounded at how fascinating this was.

The story opens with Snowman, a hermit of sorts, struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic society that has experienced an originally unknown catastrophic event. Snowman is seemingly the last human left on earth, with only the Craker’s to keep him company but they are far from being close to human.

We’re treated to flashbacks to Snowman’s childhood, back when he was known as Jimmy, back before the entire Earth was changed. His parents were scientists that dealt in genetic manipulation and were in charge of creating pigoons, pigs which were engineered solely to grow human organs for transplants. We’re also introduced to Crake, a childhood friend of Jimmy’s who goes on to become a brilliant geneticist and the creator of the pill and the project behind the Craker’s.

‘They were inextricably linked—the Pill and the Project. The Pill would put a stop to haphazard reproduction, the Project would replace it with a superior method. They were two stages of a single plan, you might say.’

Oryx and Crake is much more philosophical than I had anticipated. This is a story of altering the human design to create the perfect creature. Crake intended on playing ‘God’ in order to design the perfect human being that would not continue to destroy the Earth and while it’s easy to call his actions wrong, it could also be construed as genius. The Craker’s are peaceful creatures that are physically perfect and lack any sort of violent thoughts or sexual drives and treat the Earth with far more care than any human ever did. The question remains: even if we have the power to alter life itself, do we have the right to do it? Even if it benefits the Earth and possibly saves it for future generations? But what purpose is that if all humanity is killed off for created creatures to continue living so as to repopulate the Earth? Oryx and Crake definitely raises some interesting questions.

I loved the brief glimpses into the past. We’re already given a glimpse of the world as it is “now”: Snowman is the only human remaining, he’s practically starving to death and the Earth has been ransacked. What was the catalyst that caused this change? How long has Snowman been forced to live like this? Slowly we’re given answers and paints a shocking picture. Margaret Atwood is an amazingly inventive writer and has created a world that is both inconceivable and convincing.

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Audiobook Review – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

February 2, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 6 Comments

Audiobook Review – Lolita by Vladimir NabokovLolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Narrator: Jeremy Irons
Published by Random House Audio on June 27th 2006 (first published 1955)
Length: 11 hours and 32 minutes
Genres: Classics, Cultural, Literary Fiction, Romance, Russian
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause célèbre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist. But Vladimir Nabokov's wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the twentieth century's novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author's use of that material to tell a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness.

Awe and exhilaration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in this account of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America, but most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation."

‘It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.’

Lolita is likely one of the most controversial stories in 20th century literature to date. Lolita has been coined as a ‘love story’ and even ‘erotic’. In all honesty, this was simply Humbert attempting to convince himself (and others) that his actions were normal and completely justified. By the end pages, I could honestly say that Humbert believed wholeheartedly he truly loved Lolita, that he always had the best of intentions for her and that he was a good father to her. His version of love was of course far from normal and was quite sick and twisted indeed but because we’re only seeing this story from his point of view it’s obviously a biased and glamorized interpretation.

‘We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.’

But to me that was the most amazing part of this story. When you really think about this story as a whole, you know what he did was wrong, you know that he changed that 12 year-old girl irrevocably and you can almost despise him for the fact that he blamed her for seducing him initially. However, despite all that, I know I’m not the only reader that struggled to not feel at least a slight bit of sympathy for him. And that’s the true brilliance of it.

‘And the rest is rust and stardust.’

Lolita is a truly remarkably written story that was undoubtedly shocking after its initial publication in 1955. I can’t help but find it severely unlikely though that it would have ever been published during this day and age.

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Audiobook Review – World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

January 25, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2012 0 Comments

Audiobook Review – World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Published by Random House Audio on August 30, 2006
Length: 6 hours and 3 minutes
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Horror, Zombies
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

“The end was near.” —Voices from the Zombie War

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”

Note: Some of the numerical and factual material contained in this edition was previously published under the auspices of the United Nations Postwar Commission.

I did like this one surprisingly. I say surprisingly because this is ultimately a documentary of what happened in ‘World War Z’ and had great potential of being boring. I thought it was a nice change up in writing style. Considering the fact that all of these personal statements, made by different individuals involved, were conducted after the war was ‘over’ it didn’t have the excitement or in the moment terror that I always love in a zombie novel. Despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy the political aspects, they were nonetheless extremely interesting as they were detailed and very thorough. Everything was covered quite comprehensively in this book; it could be an actual testimonial of a real zombie war.

I had attempted to read this book before but failed to get very far; I found it hard to read something written in such a way. The audiobook was completely different for me. The audiobook added more to the story than was present in the ‘print’ story. Each individual making their statement regarding what happened was spoken by a different individual rather than the narrator alone using different voice inflections. This was my favorite part and what made it even more real for me.

Definitely a winner for any zombie lover out there.

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