Audiobook recommendation- The Night Fire

Old dogs can learn new tricks!

It’s official! I’ve listened to every Harry Bosch book ever published! It has only taken me 20 years (since 2001 to 2021), but I’ve achieved it! So when I say I’ve grown old with Harry Bosh, I literally mean it. The first time I listened to ‘City of Bones’, I was a young and impressionable 17-year-old, I remember how that title seemed a bit too adult and intense for me at that time. But when I re-listened to ‘City of Bones’ 15 years later when reading all of the Bosh series in sequence, CoB seemed like just a child’s book, nothing to keep one replaying scenes in the middle of the night.

But as I grew old with Bosh, the brilliant thing about Michael Connelly’s creation, was that Bosh also grew old with me (so did the old waiter at Philippe’)- Harry’s age incrementing at the same pace as the real world. At this stage in 2019 in The Night Fire, Bosh is fully retired- not even a part-timer for the San Fernando PD. And more and more of his LAPD buddies are dropping dead due to old age.

But to keep the Bosh series about solving crime and putting criminals behind bars (rather than just stories of golfing and retirement) Michael Connelly has merged two of his  previously separate series together, thus the younger Renée Ballard who is a Night shift detective can still continue on the good fight with her badge. And not only has Connelly combined two previously separate characters, but he has also brought in Micky Haller, thus bringing together even more elements to make The Night Fire even more  interesting to say the least.

And where I’ve teased that ‘old dogs’ are able to learn new tricks, if you’re familiar with the Bosh series you’d be aware that for most of his novels- Michael Connelly has Bosh spending the entire novel investigating and solving a single case. However in The Night Fire, as now we have Bosh, Ballard and Haller in one book, so we end up investigating several cases at one time- thus it feels more like an anthology of short stories, rather than a novel, which isn’t a bad change-up?

And as this book is as much a Bosh series, as it is a Ballard series, alternating chapters we have the novel driven through Bosh’s perspective, then Ballard’s perspective (with a corresponding male and female narrator to play each). While it was interesting to notice the different styles Connelly writes in, like for Bosh it’s in the 3rd person, while for Ballard it’s always from the first person’s point of view.

The Night Fire involves a seemingly accidental death of a young homeless man; a 30+ year old cold case killing of a drug addict in a dingy alley; and a court case to convict a mentally ill man accused of killing a prominent judge. These all seemingly separate storylines progress in different directions, before they eventually converge in a gripping finale! The final 2 hours of the book, I smashed it out in one sitting at 2.30am in the morning, seated in an armchair with ear pods in, trying not to wake my sleeping wife. And as usual, Michael Connelly had me riveted and holding my breath right down to  the very end! Brilliant! Bravo!

For the official ‘The Night Fire’ blurb, and extras, click HERE!

Audiobook review- Curse of Hera

How similar can books be, before we shout out plagiarism!?

I was checking out what other books Rick Riordan has released recently, as I was in the mindset for another fantasy series- when I was recommended a similar series to Percy Jackson & The Olympians.

To say that the two series are similar, is an understatement. Curse of Hera (Camp Hercules book 1) by P.J. Hoover features a male teenage protogenos (Check), clueless about the Greek mythologies (Check), finds his way to a summer camp to hone campers’ monster slaying abilities (Check), and finds out that they are special, being a spawn of a Greek god (Check).

But how Curse of Hera differs, is that Logan (the main character) is sent to Camp Hercules with the pretence that he was just attending an ancient Greek themed summer camp. Unaware that the gods and demi-gods who he comes across, are in-fact the real deals- Hercules is the Hercules, and Athena is the Athena. The author P.J. Hoover creatively combines the Greek tales nicely with modern day fixtures i.e. camp t-shirts which act like PPE (Personal Protective Equipment or should I say Armor), and the Fates are armed with an iPad tablet to record their transactions with mortals. 

The book contains Hercules’ famous Labours, and when things go horribly wrong and the labours are released and run amuck in the camp and beyond the walls of Camp Hercules- quickly summer camp becomes an old-fashioned Quest!

The book contains a few pivotal twists and sets things up nicely for a follow-up sequel.

So, if you’re a fan of the Greek mythologies and you were a fan of happenings at Camp Half-blood? I think you’ll enjoy P.J. Hoover’s Curse of Hera- just as long as you’re able to stop yourself from constantly comparing the two series. If you want to check it out, click HERE!

However, if you’re not into a near ‘fan fic’ of Rick Riordan’s original creation, perhaps you might be interested in ‘The Blood of Zeus’?

Blood of Zeus is a Netflix animated series, uncannily featuring the Greek gods and heroes again, Heron being the main character, a demi-god who is tasked to save Olympus and earth (a simple task? Really!).

Over 8 episodes Heron moves from being a simple peasant boy with no particular skill, to an awesome fighter with supernatural powers! The storyline is like any Greek mythology story, so it’s a bit predictable. While the animation is a bit jerky due to the low frames used in its animation creation, so it’s not the most amazing looking thing. However, if you welcome    variety from Netflix, then you’ll embrace this new content.

To check-out ‘Blood of Zeus’, click HERE!

Audiobook Review- No Middle Name

Jack non Reacher……. Enough said.

 

We’ve been a fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series for a while now, perhaps for a decade or more? It sounds like a long time, but I do believe that we’re still late to join the fan band wagon.

 

And Lee Child’s 2017 anthology of Jack Reacher short stories simply adds to the legend that is Reacher. The mish-mash of stories give us a glimpse into his pre-pubescent life; the character he was as a late teen; filling in some gaps in his military service; and of course more examples of his nomadic wanderings in the United States.

 

The anthology is made up of 2 novellas (definition of a novella is a short long story, or a long short story….. *shrug*); and 10 properly short stories.

 

My favourite from the collection of shorts were ‘Second son’ a snap-shot of when Reacher was but a boy, newly arriving on the island of Okinawa as a military brat, and how he handles business with the local bully-boys in the only way he knows how.

 

‘Deep Down’, when Reacher is still in the service of Uncle Sam, he goes under-cover to weasel out a mole within the US Military Core.

 

While we liked ‘Everyone Talks’, just for the shear fact that to this day the ending still remains a mystery to us. Nothing like a story which keeps you baffled right to the very end and beyond!

 

So if you’re a fan of Jack Reacher, and you’ve read all of the novels in the long and still ongoing series, but you haven’t read this anthology? It’s definitely worth you’re while! Getting Reacher in small, easier to consume portions is definitely the way to go! To pick up a copy of ‘No Middle Name’, click HERE!

 

And while I still have your attention, here are my thoughts on the Jack Reacher motion picture……..

 

Prior to watching it, I was convinced that I’d hate it- as Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher…… Enough said? Right? Like Reacher is a hulking 6’3 being- I’d imagine an actor like Kevin Sorbo-est might be better suited to play the indestructible Reacher in a live action drama. But little old Tommy?

 

But I’m here to let you know, that Tom Cruise actually pulls-off quite a convincing role as Reacher. So much so that you forget that he’s meant to be invincible. Haaha. To say that he made the role his own, is an understatement. In the end, ‘Jack Reacher’ in the hands of Tom Cruise has turned the film into another action thriller franchise, with a surprisingly cool collection of cars and action scenes involving cars. And we enjoyed it so much that now we’re purposefully searching the Netflix library for films starring Tom Cruise, as we’re secretly a new convert of Tom’s.

 

To watch Tom Cruise as ‘Jack Reacher’, click HERE!

 

Audiobook Review- Rich People Problems

Die old woman, die!

 

Ok, my opening line does seem a bit crass, but over-time the above had become the code word that my wife and I used to refer to the book ‘Rich People Problems’. E.g.

 

“Die old woman, die?” Uttered as a suggestion that we listen to the audiobook together over Sunday morning breakfast (which had become a bit of a tradition for us).

 

Or “Die old woman, die!” uttered when the story-line hit a particularly slow draggy spot- which seemed to be too often, as it took us over 6 months to   finish the book.

 

But while getting through a book over a long period of time may suggest how non-riveting  a novel may be- however in our opinion ‘Rich People Problems’ may actually be the best of the Crazy Rich trilogy!

 

The preface of the 2017 Kevin Kwan novel, the 3rd and last in the series is that the matriarch of the Young family Shang Su Yi is on her death bed. And after 4 years of estrangement after his marriage to Rachel, Nick returns back to Singapore to reconcile with his grandmother before she passes. And when he returns to Tyersall Park,  he finds that all of his extended family are there, some out of familial duty, others out of real affection for Su Yi, while others are just wanting to get into her good books and her will, so they could be “set-up for life”. Hence the novel’s title- Rich People Problems.

 

Previously I had shat all over the second book in the series (China Rich Girlfriend), however the formula which made the first novel ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ a global sensation, that same winning formula was back in RPP. I.e. the spotlight place back on the Young family and the story once again unfolds on the island of Singapore. What we also liked about the book, was that all the previous characters are back again! Including all the characters from the second book- at the time when we were painfully slogging through China Rich Girlfriend and wondering why seemingly inconsequential characters like Kitty Bing-Pong (her friends call her Beer-Pong) and Colette Bing were getting so much air-time. However the reasoning for this, was so that the scene was set and they could play their vital roles in the conclusion of the 3rd story. Gold hey!? And we also liked the fact that all story-lines were tied off in a neat bow by the conclusion of the book, so at the end of the trilogy you can walk away feeling at peace that all was final (while keeping your fingers crossed that there won’t be another sequel to open all the healed wounds again).

 

What we didn’t like about the novel, was the fact that again there wasn’t a family tree included as an appendix to better explain who’s who, and what were their relations to everyone else (considering they had all those footnotes throughout the novel, couldn’t they include a family tree as well?). Which resulted in quite a few conversations between my wife and I throughout the past 6 months, trying to explain to each other  our understanding of who was Alfred Shang and how many daughters did Su Yi actually have. And even after completing the first two books and part way through the third- then and only then did we realise that Astrid had other siblings, not only one nor two, but 3 other brothers!? What the? And the last thing which I didn’t like, was that some parts of the novel were uber cringing. I understand that the novel is satirical in nature, however some story-lines were just flogged a little bit too hard I think. Like Eddie Cheng’s carrying-ons, and the extreme shallowness of Kitty Beer-Pong. “Yeah, we get the idea, can we please move on?”

 

But all in all, Rich People Problems had worked to salvage our perception of the series and Kevin Kwan as a story-teller- so much so that we have already purchased his latest novel ‘Sex & Vanity’. A completely unrelated tale to the crazy rich Asians, but we hope just as fun!

 

To check out ‘Rich People Problems’, click HERE!

 

Audiobook Review- Artemis

Could this be our future in 2080?

Ok, I purely lucked onto this book. I was searching for the audiobook version of Artemis Fowl – prompted by the release of the motion picture of the same name – when I came across another novel with a very similar title. And my interest was piqued by the back sleeve blurb telling of life on the Moon, and the promise of criminality on the lunar settlement – I was sold!

Artemis (the name given to the lunar settlement) is written by American science fiction writer Andy Weir – who is famous for ‘The Martian’, and to follow-up his successes with that book (which was turned into an action blockbuster featuring Matt Damon), Andy has penned ‘Artemis’ which soon will also be turned into a Hollywood motion picture. The protagonist of Artemis is Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara, a porter by day and part-time smuggler when the need arises – filling the demand for contraband on the moon, which has resulted in a life-time of petty acts of criminality. However Jazz is drawn in over her head into a conspiracy with the promise of a pay-day she  simply could not refuse. So a life of petty-criminality is replaced by planning for and pulling off the mother of all crimes, to bring down a mining operation with dire consequences for her, her employer, and all the inhabitants on the Moon, both friend and foe alike!

It’s Han Solo-esque space smuggling meets Oceans 11, as Jazz assembles a rag-tag team to help her pull off the ultimate destructive act in 1/6 of the earth’s gravity, in a vacuum where no-one can hear you scream!

I personally really enjoyed the book because it was a whole new world, while it was still a world which was familiar. Andy Weir leaned on his geeky background – thus the science elements of the book were based on believable fact, not on unbelievable fiction. And it was fast-paced, and seemingly insignificant details in the earlier parts of the book, ultimately played a significant role in the conclusion of the story!

And a big bravo to the production team who put together the audio version of the novel, with special praise to Rosario Dawson the narrator…..or should I call her a voice actor!? As to me it felt more like listening to a feature film, rather than just listening to a plain old audiobook. Her delivery and changes in the tone of her voice to reflect disappointment, fatigue or excitement was wholly believable and immersive. And Andy Weir’s storytelling and Rosario Dawson’s delivery made even the regular appearance of metal welding interesting! Who knew that welding and metallurgy could be so gripping and would play such a vital part in a story-line!? And discussions about “what is the most important item to get your hands on, if there was a global lock-down?” Before listening to this book, my answer was water. Must, must have water, as you can’t survive more than a few days without it. But after listening to Artemis? Ok, you’ve changed my mind. What we can’t live without? It’s oxygen! The good O on the periodic table!

If you want to listen to a tale which is out-of-this-atmosphere? Check out Artemis HERE!

Audiobook recommendation- The Slightly Alarming Tale of the WHispering Wars

…& we’re still searching for a Harry Potter replacement.

13 years on, after the last Harry Potter novel was released, once-were-young adults are still searching for a fantasy novel to fill that void which J. K. Rowling left after she packed up her quill and ink bottles and called it a day. But has Jaclyn Moriarty potentially penned a fantasy series which will keep the next generation of primary school kids and soon to be young adults spell bound?

“Hey? Whatcha reading?” my wife asked a 9 year old daughter of a close friend at a summer’s BBQ party.

“It’s ISBN 9781760297183- The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars” she replies in a no-nonsense 9 year old way, blinking up at my wife.

“Oh cool, is it any good?” asks my wife……….

And returning home, my wife proceeds to tell me of a new book she’d like to listen to on Audible. And here we are, me letting you know what I thought.

Well, we first have to back-track a bit, as The Whispering Wars was the second novel of a loosely connected series; ‘The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone’ was the first book (although the Whispering Wars is actually a prequel). *Cross-eyed*. But let’s keep Bronte Mettlestone to another day and another time, as quietly just between you and me…. It wasn’t all that good. *Whispered from the corner of my mouth*. But if you read it first, it does complete the entire story for the Whispering Wars (although WW can be deemed as a standalone novel).

Well, essentially The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars (hence forth to be referred as TSATotWW) is set in a fantasy world, similar to our own world (including an incurable infectious illness) where there are 2 groups of children living in a fictional harbour town called Spindrift. On one side of the tracks, we have the orphans (a boy called Finley being the main protagonist) and on the leafy, affluent side of the tracks are the boarding school children (of which a girl named Honeybee is the main character). The children first come together in a local track & field competition, and after a disagreement breaks out between the two schools, one of the orphanage kids goes missing, and shortly after, a declaration of war is pronounced by the Whispering folk from the Whispering kingdom……. & the story unfolds from there.

TSATotWW follows a well-thumbed recipe for fantasy books, i.e. there is a fantasy world with fantasy kings and queens (check); there are mystical beings (check); there is the use of magic (check); warring kingdoms (check); and time travel to boot (check). However, where say, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings used well known mystical beings e.g. goblins, dwarves, rangas, and Pegasus, Jacclyn Moriarty has invented her own mystical beings which…. um….. doesn’t always work. However I’m nit-picking now….

But the story was interesting enough, riveting enough, had me turning the pages, and there were plenty of twists and reveals which made it a stand-out read. And Jacclyn Moriarty use of epistolary form, i.e. alternating chapters voiced by a different character (Finley for the orphans and Honeybee for the boarders), drove the story forward through letter entries, each in their distinctive style – requiring different voice actors for the audiobook version. That made it quite an enjoyable listen. But will Bronte Mettlestone be a household name like Harry P? Unfortunately I don’t think so, so the search for an HP replacement goes on!

So if you, or if you’d like to gift your child a new fantasy series to immerse themselves in? Give TSATotWW by Jacclyn Moriarty a go, you can start listening to it HERE!