Homefront: A Novel of the Transgenic Wars by Scott James Magner

Homefront: A Novel of the Transgenic Wars by Scott James MagnerHomefront: A Novel of the Transgenic Wars by Scott James Magner
Narrator: Allyson Johnson
Published by Audible Studios on 11/11/14
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible

Story: B-
Narration: B

Quick Review:

Homefront is a thoughtful speculative fiction novel with a nice mix of action and emotion. Although I struggled to remain engaged with it consistently, overall the combination of physical conflict, interpersonal clashes, and internal quandaries kept the story moving forward at a nice clip. The narration allows the listener to easily distinguish between individuals in a diverse cast of characters and enhances the pacing of the story.

My Thoughts:

In a future world where humanity has been infected with a transgenic virus and individuals have mutated with an unbelievable rapidity to gain enhanced abilities—from telepathy to extra arms or eyes—there are both unmodified humans and a range of modified humans (“mods” or “gennies”) . The latter are divided into something like castes—Alphas as the ruling caste then Beta, Delta, Gamma, and Omega—in descending order of mutation away from an unmodified human form. The mods were exiled to the outer colonies and the story opens as a small contingent of mods are returning to the inner worlds with a cargo of “sleeper” mods to establish a hidden colony.

Jantine is a Beta and captain of the mission to establish a secure and hidden base for her crew and cargo. Although it’s generally expected to be a suicide mission, she succeeds in landing her crew but not before encountering local planetary defense forces engaged in an apparent civil war. The people who surround Jantine are varied and complex. In the moment, they are fully realized characters with varied motivations and feelings. Part of my inability to remain engaged with them, though, is that too much of their back story and how that made them who they are is pushed off until later. I struggled with the dynamics that arced between the mods running the operation and was annoyed with some rapid flip-flopping of emotions that seemed odd for such highly trained “super soldiers.” A lot of the cause for that became clear later but by then, it was a bit too late for me to do my usual readerly bonding with them and I was left with a strictly intellectual curiosity for the story instead.

The introduction of an unmodified human to the group provided a nice basis for some mild pondering on what it was about the mods (other than a physical appearance for some) that caused them to be considered inhuman or worth exiling (as if people need a logical reason, right?) There was also a light vein of philosophical musing to be had about how family is defined and where we choose to place our value in that construction. Lieutenant Mira Harlan is unwillingly swept along in the mods’ plan and finds herself irrevocably changed by her contact with them.

There was a fair amount of head-hopping and while the changes in points-of-view added complexity and interest to the story , they also emphasized the tell rather than show aspects engendered by the amount of internal thoughts that recapped events or motivations. That narrative tool struck me as over used and not in line with how thoughts generally manifest themselves. To an extent, this was also emphasized by my biggest point of contention with the narration style: a tendency to slow certain sentences down and phrase them in a thoughtful manner more often that the text or the flow of general human speech would indicate is appropriate.

Magner does an excellent job conveying the sense of “other” the Mods and their changed physiology (and more to the point, thought processes and perspectives) embody while balancing that against the things that still make them human. There’s a lot that comes to light in the last few chapters and while there’s a general wrap-up, I am interested in what the future holds for the mods and the world they landed on.

The Narration:

If you’re familiar with Allyson Johnson’s narration of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series and enjoyed the audiobooks (as I did) then read no farther, you’re good to go with this one. I admit, I was hoping for the more casual delivery she brought to Kim Knox’s Dark Dealings (which struck me as more organic in tone) but she brings considerable skill to this story nonetheless.

Ms. Johnson excels at differentiating characters, both between individuals and in the typical vocal characteristics that cue a listener to male or female. She’s attentive to the author’s narrative and chews over the syntax in service to it. Her dialogue delivery is reactive and flows naturally and while the frequency with which lines are given a thoughtful and slower delivery chimes against my ear as excessive and not always in line with the context, she still keeps the story moving at a nice pace. The narration on this one actually helped me track through some of the complexities in the story so I suggest you check out the sample and see how it works for you.

I received this book at no cost from Audible Studios in exchange for a review. The book’s source does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet MarillierDreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier
Narrator: Natalie Gold, Nick Sullivan, Scott Aiello
Series: Blackthorn and Grim #1
Published by Audible Studios on 11/4/14
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Audible
three-half-stars

Story: B
Narration: B+

Quick Review:

An engaging fantasy novel that smoothly incorporates a bit of mystery and a dash of “whodunit,” Dreamer’s Pool broke me out of a listening slump and I found it easy to become invested in the story and characters. Three narrators deftly shift between the three points of view at play and while all bring different strengths in terms of delivery, all three added to the listening experience.

My Thoughts:

I started my listen of Dreamer’s Pool expecting a pretty traditional fantasy story built on Irish mythology and folklore.  My expectations were incorrect and this is one of the rare instances in which that was a good thing. This audiobook struck me as a mix of fantasy and mystery and was far lighter on magical elements than I anticipated. The mystery wasn’t just in terms of the more-than-one “whodunit” plot lines, it was also in the way in which the characters’ backstories were woven into the overall tapestry of the story.

As the story introduces us to Blackthorn and Grim – imprisoned and facing torture or death – events begin their rush forward and it’s only with some skillful weaving of backstory into ongoing events that we begin to learn some of the history of our main characters. Making a bargain with Conmael, a fey nobleman who offers Blackthorn her freedom (for reasons known only to him) in exchange for her agreement to three conditions, the healer and her fellow prisoner—a taciturn giant of a man named Grim—find themselves free and heading to Dalriada where Blackthorn is to set up as a healer and wise-woman.

There, they cross paths with Oran, the Dalriada prince and the future king of the realm. Oran is an intelligent and unexpectedly romantic figure who has agreed to an arranged marriage and is awaiting his future bride in his holding of Winterfalls. With his intended’s arrival in advance of the hand-fasting, though, comes questions the prince needs answers to. Through her work as a healer, Blackthorn and Grim become embroiled in a sordid investigation involving abduction, murder, and arson. Their success with the investigation leads the prince to seek their help solving the greater mystery of his intended bride and Dreamer’s Pool.

Blackthorn is a hardened and bitter woman whose past has taught her to distrust those in authority. She’s sympathetic overall but that consistent core of anger may make her a frustrating protagonist for some. Her character arc isn’t one of self-discovery so much as it is one of re-discovery: how to trust again, how to be among people again, and (I’m projecting to future books here) how to let go of her anger and desire for revenge against the man who wronged her and learn to build a fulfilling life. Her experiences have made her distrustful of men and blind to the truth on some issues. Although (or perhaps because) I was particularly engaged with this book, I reached a point where frustration made me stop listening for almost a full day when Blackthorn took actions based on those bitter influences from her past in that way that we never recognize in ourselves in real life but get so frustrated with in our fictional characters.

Grim’s character arc is the most nebulous of the three—not because it was poorly written or because he was an incomplete character but because the author was able to make him integral to the story while letting Oran and Blackthorn fill out the majority of the gradual weaving of the tale. The story was neatly wrapped up with no cliff-hanger but there are more than enough threads, many of them Grim’s, for me to look forward to the next in the series.

Oran was an unexpected character for me. Part of that is due to how the narrator voiced him, which I’ll get to in a bit, but I found him to be the most complex character of the three. He was an intelligent and fair-minded ruler but relatively young with a streak of romanticism and poetry in his soul that struck me as atypical (in my experience with the genre) for the character who possessed the most agency and secular power in the world-building structure.

There was one significant point of break-down for me and minor spoilers will be necessary in the explanation that follows. Two threads to the story incorporate violence (physical and sexual) against women. While that’s a theme I’m getting a bit weary of personally (at least it wasn’t used to justify character flaws or toughness,) from an historical and world-building standpoint I can understand the placement of it as well as the inclusion of an attitude reminiscent of “she was probably hooking up with a boy already anyway so she got what she deserved.” It did strike me as an odd contrast to Blackthorn’s more modern view in defense of the victim via a clear statement that it didn’t matter if the victim has slept with everyone or no one, rape is rape. That progressive (for the times) attitude then seemed at odds with her later attitude towards a false accusation of rape. Not that Blackthorn the character wouldn’t have logically fell victim to an issue that hit a personal trigger but that the transition was from historically accurate “women as chattel and not deserving control of their bodies” to the very modern “no means no regardless of the victim’s character/dress/etc.” to a muddying false rape accusation. All that likely says more about me as a modern reader that it speaks to a flaw in the writing but it was… disturbing to me.

Overall, the story is, if not fast, then certainly well-paced, both in terms of a smooth and story-appropriate shift in character perspectives as well as in terms of forward momentum in plot. I was wrapped up in the tale and the characters and the narration was an enhancement to the experience of the written word.

The Narration:

All three narrators are skilled and delivered a listen-worthy (vs. a “go with the text” recommendation) experience. Although I have a few specific complaints, the amount of text I dedicate to them below is not at all indicative of their impact on the audiobook as a whole. For all the narrators, character differentiation was always excellent; voicing the opposite sex never sounded forced or unnatural to me, especially when combined with the “here and now” narrative skills of all three; delivery was smooth and corrections were nicely blended with the original tone and dialogue ebbed and flowed with a pretty natural give and take.

In addition to the above high notes, Natalie Gold has a pleasant voice that meshed well with the age and experience of the character. If I had one complaint, it would be that Blackthorn is, as mentioned, a woman whose life experiences have hardened her and while she showed moments of softening, the emotion I pulled from the narration was delivered more consistently from inflection that vocally highlighted the textual emotion rather than from a wholly organic read of the subtext. This was less problematic for me here than in many of my past listens but it had the unfortunate effect of blunting the impact of what should have been some really great moments. When Blackthorn allows her past to color her perspective on everything she had learned up to a critical point, the fact that vocal inflection is a mask rather than a transformation became evident and her anger didn’t translate as betrayal or a bitter pill swallowed whole against the ways in which her new experiences had been wearing down the edges of her past, it was just a slightly amped up version of the anger she’d carried all along.

If I had been asked to describe how Oran sounded, it wouldn’t have been at all what Scott Aiello delivered… so thank goodness I’m not an audiobook director because Oran’s character was complex and that came though nicely in (or perhaps was truly best illuminated because of) the vocal delivery. I’m tempted to break out into an in-depth wine analogy about top notes and subtle undertones but I’ll spare you and boil it down to the fact that in addition to varied cadences that made each of Mr. Aiello’s characters incredibly distinct, his ability to express the wide emotional range that can be crossed not just in a single character but sometimes within the arc of a few sentences made for a very organic and natural feel to Oran as a character.

I imagine voicing Grim came with its own set of challenges for Nick Sullivan; I know it did for me as a listener. With a deep voice for Grim and as a character with very little to say and a tendency to do it in short sentences, Mr. Sullivan had two text-imposed limits that affected how his delivery struck me. Terse sentences combined with the gravelly, lowered voice invariably set up a hard-boiled noir detective vibe at the start of each section from Grim’s point of view. This set up a disconnect between the actual genre/mood and my immediate interpretation. It’s an artifact forced strictly, I would argue, by the translation from text to audio but it was nevertheless a momentary disruption to my ability to wholly immerse myself in the listening experience.

Overall, though, three strong performances. I would listen to more audiobooks by any of these narrators.

I received this book at no cost from Audible Studios in exchange for a review. The book’s source does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
three-half-stars

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine HarrisMidnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
Narrator: Susan Bennett
Series: ,
Published by Recorded Books on 5/6/14
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal

Story: B
Narration: A

Publisher’s Blurb:

“From Charlaine Harris, the best-selling author who created Sookie Stackhouse the world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, comes a new, darker world – populated by more strangers than friends. But then, that’s how the locals prefer it.

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town. There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own). Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth….”

My Thoughts:

Charlaine Harris culls two characters from other series she’s written and drops them in the town of Midnight, TX.  Manfred Bernardo – a young psychic who makes a living providing scam readings over the internet interspersed with true psychic visions – moves from the Harper Connolly series to this new trilogy. Bobo Winthrop – on the run from a family legacy of racism and violence covered in depth in the Lily Bard series – lands in Midnight and seems to have found his place in the world. Of course, there’s a host of other residents in town who weave into the story and each one is unusual. Bobo’s tenants: pale Lemuel who only comes out at night and the drop-dead gorgeous Olivia Charity are as deadly as they are mysterious. Across the street from the pawnshop Bobo runs is Fiji Cavanaugh – the proprietor of a new-age shop offering occultist paraphernalia and self-discovery workshops – who is a witch with unexpected power and and amusingly named pet cat: Mr. Snuggles.

This book is a tightly woven combination of mystery and paranormal with the cast of a small-town cozy. As a standalone, it works very well. As someone familiar with the characters from her other series, I had a very hard time adjusting. The Harper Connolly and Lily Bard series always struck me as straight contemporaries, despite Harper’s psychic abilities. To find characters from that world thrown into a small Texas town with vampires and werewolves was jarring. Other than the genre change speed-bump, they actually work really well as characters here and anyone unfamiliar with their pasts should find their presence seamless to the story.

As Manfred learns more about the town and its residents, Bobo’s ex-girlfriend’s body is discovered and he’s the primary suspect in her death. To compound his situation, white supremacists who believe he is in possession of his dead grandfather’s weapons cache are eager to do whatever it takes to get their hands on it. The story moves at a nice clip and I found myself entirely engaged throughout. It was only after it was over that I felt the lack of character building. There’s a thin layer of background for each person and an emotional depth (or lack) that’s primarily comprised of longing and unrequited love but with nothing for a reader to really sink her teeth into.

That kind of perceived flaw is usually a significant issue for me but the story was a lot of fun and it was such a nicely paced plot with a well-blended mix of genres and character types that, in conjunction with an audiobook narration that gave so much vocal depth to characters that it masked much of their actual lack of depth, I ended up enjoying this audiobook immensely and recommend it.

The Narration:

This was my first experience with narrator Susan Bennett and part-way through I stopped to look at what other books she’s done with the intent to pick some up. I was very impressed with her performance. First and foremost was the delightfully dry delivery she brought to the humor; she nailed all the amusing lines without missing a beat. Her character interpretations were excellent, giving me fully-voiced personae with clearly transmitted emotional nuances and varied speech patterns. Her voicing of the eventually-revealed villain of the story was excellent and surprisingly hackle-raising in its ability to reveal shifting glimpses of the evil hiding behind a… well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

The story opens with a third-person present tense narrative, a la Pushing Daisies, and Ms. Bennett provides the vocal equivalent (via voice tone) of a camera slowly spiraling in on the little town of Midnight as the omniscient narrator lands us in the story underway. With the switch to third-person past, the sense of being present in every moment is nicely delivered and the narration was perfect for my tastes: lightly burnished with a down-home flavor in terms of accents and laconic delivery and sweeping me into the story without distraction.

Best of 2013 Audiobook Blog Hop

Best-of-2103-Blog-Hop

January 1st kicks off the Best of 2013 Audiobook Blog Hop hosted by The Book NymphoHot Listens, and Geeky Bloggers Book Blog and I’m excited to join in and share my top listens from the past year.

Even as I write this I can imagine all the audiobooks in my TBL queue muttering about how they could have been one of my top three listens of 2013 if only I’d stopped continuously adding to the pile and actually listened to more of them. I feel a little guilty picking favorites when there were so many I never got to. That’s one of the things I like about “Best of…” blog hops, though: not only does it point me toward something I might not have tried otherwise, it reminds me of what I might already have but have been ignoring. I look forward to what you might have to share as your favorites but in the meantime and in no particular order, here are my top three listens of 2013.

Best of 2013 Audiobook Blog HopThe Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published by Random House Audio on 4/30/13
Genres: Literary Fiction
Format: Audiobook
four-half-stars

 

How much success do you have when you venture outside your usual listening tastes? My reading habits this year altered somewhat and this book was partially to blame. I don’t read a lot of literary fiction and after I finished The Woman Upstairs, I had to ask myself why. Beautiful use of language, pages and pages of highlight-worthy lines, complex characters, and intricate emotional dynamics can be found in this story of a woman who – like most of us already have or will do at some point – questions what she’s done (or more importantly, hasn’t done) with her life.  The listener knows that the steps she takes to push beyond her quiet and secure life are bound to end in disaster but I could only watch in fascination as it all came together and then fell apart. Cassandra Campbell turned in an excellent performance with her narration of this audio and her delivery let me experience the content of this book very differently than I would have if I’d read it, to my clear benefit.

Thirteenth ChildThirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
Series: Frontier Magic #1
Read by: Amanda Ronconi
Length: 9 hrs 30 mins
Published by Audible, Inc. on 6/5/13

 

Although I chose not to review this one on the site, it was one of my favorite 2013 listens. I’d read the book several years ago but was hesitant to try the audio for a re-read because I associate the narrator, Amanda Ronconi, so closely with Molly Harper’s books. I consider Harper/Ronconi to be one of the best pairings in audio and I wasn’t sure if her voice and delivery style could make the transition from goofy romantic snark to alternate-history frontier America YA. Foolish me – that’s a narrator’s job, after all.

This coming of age story uses the emotional impact of being unable to work magic and being thought of as an unlucky thirteenth child as stand-ins for the emotional uncertainties of adolescence. There’s vivid and creative alternate-world-building where magical creatures occupy the American West – held back from the civilized territories by a magical barrier that follows the Mammoth river – and it’s the ever expanding westward march of settlers that gives Francine “Eff” Rothmer a chance to shed her thirteenth child reputation and find out who she really is. Ronconi settles into the personalities, voices, and accents of a large cast of characters with ease and perfectly captures the sibling dynamics of the very large Rothmer family as well as all the emotional nuances of Eff’s transition from insecure adolescent to mature adult. This is the first in an immersive audiobook trilogy.

The Sea of TranquilityThe Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Read by: Candace ThaxtonKirby Heyborne
Length: 13 hrs 10 mins
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 6/4/13

 

Angst, trauma, drama, romance, high school, family conflict, fitting in… it sounds like a stereotypical YA book, right? This one stands out from the crowd in oh so many ways for me. The tragedy that drives the protagonist happens prior to the opening of the story and the listener witnesses both the slow unfolding of Nastya’s past and how she deals with that damage in the present. Nothing happens quickly in this book: no insta-love, no magic boy or healing sex that makes everything better. It’s a story with some pretty solid psychology in character motivations and actions and it’s a slow process for both Nastya and Josh to work their way back to functional, let alone “normal.” Despite that (or perhaps because of it) each scene still manages to contain enough character reveal or emotional tension to drive the story forward and engross the listener.

Kirby Heyborne gives Josh a (character appropriate) almost detached mien for much of the book which left me unprepared for the emotional impact of that mien shattering. Candace Thaxton wowed me with a conversational and intimate delivery that alternated between Nastya’s brittle protective facade and glimpses of the fragile house of cards that was her coping mechanisms. The combined power of the story and the narration caught me by surprise and this one rounds out my top three listens of 2013.

If you’re not participating in the blog hop, I’d love to hear about your favorite listens of the past year in the comments.

 

The blog hop hosts are giving away a six month Audible.com membership (entry form just below). In addition, I’ll gift an audiobook of your choice to one random commenter on this post. The winner must be able to redeem a gift audiobook at either Audible.com or Audible.co.uk and will be drawn on 1/15/14 and notified via e-mail. 

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Don’t forget to check out the other blog hop participants:

Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor

Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini TaylorNight of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor
Narrator: Kevin T. Collins, Khristine Hvam
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2.5
Published by Hachette Audio on 12/5/13
Genres: Fantasy, Romance

Story: A
Narration: A-

Quick Review:

Adorable! An amusing and romantic short story set in the generally more serious universe of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The dual narration was unexpectedly perfect. Honestly? Don’t bother with the review, just go buy the audio.

Publisher’s Blurb:

In Night of Cake & Puppets, Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Told in alternating perspectives, it’s the perfect love story for fans of the series and new readers alike. Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him.

My Thoughts:

I think I’m pretty much onboard to read anything Laini Taylor wants to write but when I heard that there was an upcoming novella about Zuzana and Mik – characters from the fantastic Daughter of Smoke and Bone series – I… er… I may have squeed aloud. A little bit. And pestered @HachetteAudio to find out if there would be an audio version. Some of my favorite scenes in Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight contain Zuzana. As the perfect humorous foil for the darker material in the book, she got most of the funny lines and I glommed onto her like a raft in the emotional storm that was Karou’s life. I was pleased to discover that this novella lived up to my expectations.

Although we get a short glimpse of the early friendship between Karou and Zuzana, the story is primarily about Zuzanna as she plots her first date with Mik and leads him on a treasure hunt to get to it. Unexpectedly, we also get to hear Mik’s perspective on this adventure. Both characters speak directly to the listener which is a conceit that can sometimes be a bit problematic for me when it’s overdone or seems too clever. In this case it worked perfectly and made me feel like I was overhearing a conversation in a coffee shop the day after a first date.

In addition to the magic of romance, there’s a little of the real magic that inhabits the DoSaB world and they blend together well. As in the full-length novels, Prague comes alive in the story and the atmosphere of one snowy night in that ancient city is a vivid construction in the listener’s imagination. The imagery is beautifully rendered and the phrasing is well-written. This is a sweet, adorable, and laugh-out-loud funny story that’s a perfect companion to the series or a lovely stand-alone listen when you’re in the mood to be charmed.

I was going to include some quotes of the amusing or well-worded parts of this novella but then I realized I’d been cutting and pasting practically the entire book and decided…perhaps not. As a short précis of Zuzana, though, I can’t resist:

“I mean, who would I be if I’d been raised on milquetoast bedtime stories and not forced to dust the glass prison of a psychotic undead fox Cossack? I shudder to think.

I might wear lace collars and laugh flower petals and pearls. People might try to pat me. I see them think it. My height triggers the puppy-kitten reflex – Must touch – and I’ve found that since you can’t electrify yourself like a fence, the next best thing is to have murderer’s eyes.”

and a bit later…

“Anyone with an older brother can tell you: Cunning is required. Even if you’re not miniature like me – four foot eleven in a good mood, as little as four foot eight when in despair, which is way too often lately – morphology is on the side of brothers. They’re bigger. Their fists are heavier. Physically, we don’t stand a chance. Hence the evolution of ‘little-sister brain.’

Artful, conniving, pitiless. No doubt about it, being a little sister – emphasis on little – has been formative, though I take pride in knowing that Tomas is more scarred by years of tangling with me than vice versa. But more than anyone or anything else, it’s Deda who is responsible for the landscape of my mind, the mood and scenery, the spires and shadows. When I think about kids (which isn’t often, except to wish them elsewhere and stop just short of deploying them hence with my foot), the main reason I would consider…begetting any (in a theoretical sense, in the far-distant future) is so that I can practice upon small, developing brains the same degree of mind-molding my grandfather has practiced on us.”

As for Mik…the cat analogy… oh, the cat analogy. It was brilliant and amusing and so well voiced by Kevin T. Collins that I’m not going to quote it but only suggest you listen to it yourself. This novella is well worth a listen and likely several re-listens.

The Narration:

I was concerned when I saw that this novella was going to be voiced by dual narrators. I was please to see that Khristine Hvam would be narrating – after all, she does such a great job with the full-length books in the series – but why did we need another voice? Well, aside from the fact that the story is actually broken out into “Her” and “Him” alternating sections, as it turns out, Kevin T. Collins was awesome as Mik.

Each narrator brings personality and individualization to the characters: from the squeak when Zuzana gets excited about what she’s saying to the tentative uncertainty Mik displays and the way in which Mr. Collins leverages perfect inflections to build the character and his mood and personality in my mind, this pairing was audio gold.

Why the “-” to the A” grade? I heard a little inconsistency in Zuzana’s accent and Mr. Collins uses a lot of breath(iness) to push out Mik’s lines. These were very minor issues as the narration was above average and makes audio the way to go with this story.