Clemency…

I just removed 32 books from my “To Blog About” List. 32. Most of these were re-reads, and a good number of them were audiobooks. For the most part, with the audiobooks, I’ve written something on the text version and have nothing really to add other than a comment or two on the narration — and there are only so many ways I can say that George Guidall has really grown on me (and I can’t imagine anyone else doing the Walt Longmire books now), or Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is the perfect match for Peter Grant, or that Lorelei King and Luke Daniels just blew me away with their work.

Another example would be my re-read of The Rook by Daniel O’Malley — I took pages of notes on my re-read of that in preparation for the release of the sequel, Stiletto. Then my life got busy and not only did I not get around to taking those notes and making them into a longer-than-normal post, Stiletto sits on my shelf, unread. That’s driving me crazy.

There were a couple of non-re-reads on that shelf, too — but I never figured out how to take my one or two thoughts on the books and turn them into something interesting to read/write, and enough time has passed that I have to admit that it’s just not going to happen.

I still have too many books on that list, but I’ve gotta tell you, the (totally self-imposed) burden being lifted feels great.

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Off to be the Wizard (Audiobook) by Scott Meyer, Luke Daniels

Off to be the Wizard Off to be the Wizard

by Scott Meyer, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: Magic 2.0, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs, 15 min.
Brilliance Audio, 2014
Read: August 8 – 16, 2016


I’m just going to steal most of what I said about the book before and add a little bit at the end about the audiobook — and Daniels in particular.

The first thing Martin always did when he found some new data file was to search for his own name. It may seem egocentric, but Martin wasn’t worried about that. He had spent a lot of time thinking about himself, and had come to the conclusion that he was definitely not self-absorbed.

There’s a great temptation — and frequently a rush — when discussing an amusing/funny book in SF or Fantasy to compare it with, well — the name rhymes with Schmouglas Schmadams — this can be damning, because almost nothing can live up to it. So I’m going to resist even saying the name. If anything, I think you could say this was reminiscent of Schmon Schmalzi — only funnier.

Martin Banks is the rather unimpressive hero here — a college dropout, living in a poorly-furnished apartment, working in “a cubicle farm, . . . a fluorescent-lighted, beige-walled abattoir for the human spirit where he had to spend most of his time,” and doing some minor hacking on the weekends, just to amuse himself. He stumbles upon a way to manipulate reality, to change things just a little bit here and there around him. Being human, it takes very little time before he begins using that ability in a way to draw the attention of the Federal Authorities. Which is not all that comfortable, so he heads off to England in the Middle Ages where he figures he can do okay for himself, living as a wizard using these abilities.

That’s when things start to get really entertaining (and I had no complaints up to this point). Anything more I say on this front is a horrible spoiler, so we’ll just leave it with really entertaining.

This is a coming of age tale — and, as it’s about a Millennial, it’s a delayed-coming-of-age story. But Martin’s not one of those protagonists that you have to see mature before you like him — you connect with him right away (or you’re probably wasting your time reading on). He definitely doesn’t mature in your typical way, which is part of the fun. I can’t help comparing Martin to Wesley Chu’s Roen Tan. But without the stakes that Roen had to deal with (and a nicer mentor).

Most of the characters we get to know are met after Martin’s time jump — so don’t worry if you find everyone in 2012 a little shallow and undeveloped. They are, but other people won’t be.

There are several things in the book that won’t hold up to much scrutiny — like his ability to get a smartphone signal in Dover, England in 1150. Adapt the advice Joel and the ‘bots used to give us, “just repeat to yourself . . . you should really just relax.” It’s worth it.

The book is just littered with wit — from the extended jokes, the funny visuals, or little asides like: “The fact that wristwatches weren’t invented yet made it difficult to look impatient, but he managed.” On nearly every page, there’s something to make you chuckle or laugh — or at least grin. I laughed enough that it was annoying to my family — not that I cared, mind you. But it’s not just a yuk-fest, there’s a well-written story here, in a great world with some characters you want to spend time with.

Daniels scores again here — his performance didn’t really remind me of his work on the Iron Druid Chronciles, which, I have to admit I was a little worried about. I got a kick out of his voice choices for Martin and Jimmy in particular — Martin’s voice when he got excited was perfect. I’m not sure I liked his choice of voice for Philip — it reminded me too much of Douglas Reynholm from The IT Crowd (I’m probably the only person on Earth who hears that, so take it with a grain of salt), and I never got used to it. But I loved everything else he did, so who cares, right? If anything, Daniels’ narration helped the material (not that it needed it).

Meyer’s writing holds up to a second-read, even jokes/situations I knew were coming worked pretty well — more than well, actually, judging by my laughter. I enjoyed it as much the second time through as the first, so that’s a pretty good sign.

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4 Stars

The Purloined Poodle (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

The Purloined Poodle (Audiobook) The Purloined Poodle (Audiobook)

by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles, #8.5/Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 2 hrs, 57 min.
Kevin Hearne, 2016
Read: October 3, 2016


The best and most consistent part of The Iron Druid Chronicles has been Atticus’ Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. Now Kevin Hearne has given us a novella narrated by and starring him, with Atticus in the supporting role. It’s good that he kept the Druid around, because he has the whole opposable thumb thing going for him and can do things like communicate with other people

While playing in a dog park, Oberon stumbles upon a rash of dognappings — the victims are all Grand Champions. Oberon is appalled that such a thing can happen and vows to find the dogs and return them home. He enlists Atticus to assist him (and well, to do most of the work). They spend the next couple of days moving around the country visiting various dog trainers/owners and skirting trouble with the law. While Atticus does the heavy lifting of investigating, Oberon has a lot of fun meeting various Champion dogs — in particular, a Boston terrier named Starbuck.

The interplay between Atticus and Oberon is a lot of fun, but his narration is even better — between the repeated mentions of trying to pull off “the Full Jules” (reciting Ezekiel 25:17 at just the right moment); his summary/slash review of The Great Gatsby (which will forever alter the way I look at the book); Oberon as food critic (his takes on coffee and mustard are highlights); and a repeated tribute to Denis Leary’s best movie, this book was flat-out entertaining. Because it’s by Hearne and featuring Oberon, I assumed I’d enjoy it — I didn’t plan on (but should’ve) cackling by the 7% mark.

I thoroughly enjoyed this as a novella — the story was good enough to justify the time reading, but Daniels doing Oberon’s voice elevates the audio version to something great. Daniel’s Oberon doing a Pickup Truck commercial-voice over killed me — how Luke Daniels could read this whole book in that voice, I’ll never know. It must’ve required a lot of takes and more recovery time than you’d want to think about.

If you’ve read an Iron Druid Chronicle or two, you’ll know how good Oberon can be. Get this — you’ll squee.

—–

4 Stars

Hexed (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

HexedHexed (Audiobook)

by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #2

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hours and 52 minutes
Brilliance Audio, 2011

Read: June 21 – 22, 2016

This takes place just 3 weeks after Hounded and the dust is still settling. The target on Atticus is bigger than before — funny what a reputation as a god-killer will do to a guy, from attacks to pleas for help, more people than ever want to know where he is.

Last time, I summed up the book with this:

Atticus finds himself in even more trouble–this time there’s a very nasty coven that wants to come in and take over the Tempe area–and their first step will be eliminating all other magic practitioners.

So our hero has to suck up his prejudice against witches and team up with the very same group that threatened him last time out to defend the home turf and maybe even clean up some long unfinished business.

which pretty much holds up.

The couple of additions I’d make are that I loved Coyote, and had totally forgotten that he appeared so early in the series. I miss Mr. Semerdjian — and while I understand why Hearne took the steps he did to prevent us from getting the nosy neighbor in every book, I sort of regret it after getting reacquainted with the character. Another thing that I’d forgotten about, but really enjoyed (probably more than I should’ve) is the scene where Atticus has to go all Three Stooges with the policemen and his camouflaging of his sword, some baseball bats and himself. Seriously funny, while juvenile, stuff.

Speaking of funny, it’s dangerous to listen to these at work — there were at least two times that Oberon’s commentary made me laugh out loud. Thankfully, none of the people who work next to me were at their desks either time, or I’d have gotten a few looks. Just a warning to anyone thinking of it — you may look silly.

Luke Daniels delivers again — he’s so good at this that I’m thinking of shopping for something by him just to hear him read. The only complaint I have is that his Mr. Semerdjian sounds too much like a high-pitched Oberon. Which is just weird, and probably not something that either character would enjoy. Daniels’ Coyote, and the speech patterns Atticus adopts while talking with him are fantastic.

A great edition of a solid sequel.

—–

4 Stars

Hounded (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

Hounded AudiobookHounded (Audiobook)

by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hours and 11 minutes
Brilliance Audio, 2011

Read: April 26, 2016


Keeping this brief so I can catch up on other things, I posted a few quick thoughts about the book previously — and that still covers most of my thoughts:

It took no time at all for this book to grab me, and another 15 pages for me to fall in love with this. Right off the bat we get a solid action sequence, get the basics of our hero’s magic system, and meet a goddess. Not a bad start–it helps a lot that Atticus’ personality and charm comes through right away and draws you in.

Then we get a talking dog. Technically a dog (Oberon the Irish Wolfhound) that can communicate telepathically with Atticus, but why get picky? Oberon’s snarky, smart and pop culturally savvy–he runs a close second behind Harry Dresden’s Mouse for coolest pooch in Urban Fantasy. I’d be willing to read a book that’s nothing but Atticus and Oberon hanging out.

Throw in a helpful werewolf pack, a friendly vampire, a troublesome local coven, and a fight with an ancient Celtic deity and you get yourself a dynamic intro to what seems to be one of the best Urban Fantasy series around.

From the point of view of someone who’s read book 8, going back to the beginning like this was a lot of fun. I could see the development in Atticus, Laksha and others (even Oberon — who is now cooler than Mouse), got to see dearly departed friends (like spoiler and other spoiler), and could see a lot of seeds being planted that are still bearing fruit. It was also nice to be reminded why I used to like Granuaile.

So, I guess I should focus on Luke Daniels’ narration. It was great — I’m not crazy about his interpretation of Oberon, but it has an undeniable charm (that goes beyond the incredible amount of charm that Hearne gave him). His characterizations of each everyone are strong — even the accents. In particular, his Widow MacDonagh made me laugh, even after repeated exposure to her (read the book at least two times, and now listened to the audiobook twice).

It’s a fun listen with some great characters — and the beginning of one of my favorite ongoing series. If you’ve still happened to miss The Iron Druid Chronicles, this is a great way to dive in.

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4 Stars