“Twisted and Frighteningly Relatable” — James reviews The Circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle
By Dave Eggers
Narrated by Dion Graham for Random House
 [Audible | Downpour]

— Review by James Alexander —

Like a novel-length episode of Black Mirror, Dave Eggers’ The Circle paints a twisted and frighteningly relatable picture of technology and human nature gone wrong. The story beings with Mae Holland, a recent college graduate, bored, broke and overqualified at her nightmare of a job in public utility. She’s eventually recruited into the Circle, an exciting, all-encompassing tech company like Google, Facebook and Apple cranked to 11.

It looks like a dream job, at first. But what seems like an exceptionally accommodating work environment eventually becomes overbearing and unsettling. Are the constant parties and the gamification of workplace participation a team building strategy, or is it an attention draining trap? Are the campus dorms, stores, and health coverage simply convenient, or are employees being made dependent and cut off from the outside world? The longer she stays, the more the Circle and its utopian vision blurs the line where it starts to resemble a cult.

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March #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Kate Reading reading Marie Brennan, Simon Vance reading Brian Staveley and James Maxwell, and more

I’m getting this roundup just, barely, under the wire, as the main roundup expires at midnight on March 31. So… without further adieu, here’s what most catches my #WhispersyncDeal-attuned eyes and ears among the 218 eBooks with Audible Narration in the March Monthly Deals in Kindle Books:

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by [Brennan, Marie]  The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Book 1) by [Staveley, Brian]

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan, read by Kate Reading for $2.99+$3.99 NOTE: it looks like the Audible add-on portion of this price changed to $12.99? or? I somehow had the wrong number yesterday? — A fantastic book and audiobook, highly recommended: “All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day. Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.”

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley, read by Simon Vance for $2.9+$3.99 — Book 1 of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, fantastic epic fantasy under one of the best narrators in the business: “The emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.”

Golden Age (The Shifting Tides Book 1) by [Maxwell, James] Mockingbird by [Tevis, Walter] The Atlantis Gene: A Thriller (The Origin Mystery, Book 1) by [Riddle, A.G.]

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What ever happened to Sam’s “Release Week” roundup posts? They’re on reddit!

I’ve realized that I never made any kind of “formal” post or announcement here on the blog, when I moved the “Release Week” roundup posts from here to reddit‘s /r/audiobooks… So… Yeah… Sorry about that. I’ve been a moderator there for quite a long time now, and when push came to shove for that particular column, the formatting, linking, images, and such just became a bit too much to both write up here and then sanitize a bit for posting over there, and I just took to using the more or less “barebones” formatting over there and calling it a day. If you’d like to go back and take a look at what’s been coming out on a week by week basis for, oh, the past year and a half, at least, start here with my picks for the release week ending February 28 and work your way backwards through the “last week” links. Enjoy! I don’t think I’ll make too much of a habit of posting here about it, but I’ll start at least sharing the week’s picks on Facebook and Twitter. I know it’s not quite the same without the images and links (and more extensive write-ups) but, well, it’s what I’ve got time to slash together these days.

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“The past can’t be changed, but it can be learned from.” — James reviews Snapshot

Snapshot Audiobook

Snapshot
By Brandon Sanderson
Narrated by William DeMeritt for Audible

— Review by James Alexander —

Snapshot is one of those books you know will probably be a movie soon right away. I mean that in the best possible sense, the premise is just too good. In a city of millions, detectives Davis and Chaz are the only real people. Cops in this futuristic world have taken to using “Snapshots”, large scale, holodeck-like re-creations of the past to solve crimes. Continue reading

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February #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Octavia Butler, Julie McElwain, Wesley Chu, Greg Bear, Rysa Walker, Veronica Rossi, Ben Fountain, and more

All right! February’s Monthly Deals listings, of which 269 are eBooks with Audible Narration, aren’t actually that long in terms of what I would call outstanding #WhispersyncDeal titles. But! A solid dozen are well worth checking out, starting with some time travel:

Kindred by [Butler, Octavia] A Murder in Time: A Novel (Kendra Donovan Mysteries) by [McElwain, Julie]

Kindred by Octavia Butler, read by Kim Staunton for $2.99+$3.49 — “Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.”

A Murder in Time: A Novel by Julie McElwain, read by Lucy Rayner for $1.99+$3.47 — “When brilliant FBI agent Kendra Donovan stumbles back in time and finds herself in a 19th century English castle under threat from a vicious serial killer, she scrambles to solve the case before it takes her life—200 years before she was even born.”


All right, how about some sci-fi?

The Lives of Tao by [Chu, Wesley] Blood Music by [Bear, Greg] Rebel Fleet (Rebel Fleet Series Book 1) by [Larson, B. V.] Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines Book 1) by [Kloos, Marko]

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January #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Aldous Huxley, Meg Elison, Jacqueline Carey, Alex Bledsoe, Clive Barker, and more

The first #WhispersyncDeal roundup of 2017 is here! As usual I’ll run down my picks among this month’s Whispersync-for-voice-enabled Monthly Deals in Kindle Books, also known now as eBooks with Audible Narration, of which there are 536 to scan through this month. Well, I’m going to keep calling them “Whispersync deals”, and here’s what most caught my eye and ear this month; don’t wait too long as these deals expire on January 31:

Island by [Huxley, Aldous] The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere 1) by [Elison, Meg]

Island by Aldous Huxley, read by Simon Vance for Tantor Audio for $1.99+$3.99 — Orwell’s 1984 is a best-seller again, though I might suggest Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for a more apt parable for our “road to dystopian” times, not to mention it’s read superbly by Claire Daines, but I’m quickly losing track of what I wanted to say here. Huxley’s Brave New World is his most well-known work, also depicting a dystopian future, though one of control through entertainment and drugs rather than fear and misinformation. Here, though, is a utopian novel, and one we could all stand to revisit, and hope upon, under the superb narration of Simon Vance. “In his final novel, which he considered his most important, Aldous Huxley transports us to the remote Pacific island of Pala, where an ideal society has flourished for 120 years. Inevitably, this island of bliss attracts the envy and enmity of the surrounding world. A conspiracy is underway to take over Pala, and events are set in motion when an agent of the conspirators, a newspaperman named Faranby, is shipwrecked there. What Faranby doesn’t expect is how his time with the people of Pala will revolutionize all his values and—to his amazement—give him hope.”

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison, read by Angela Dawe for Brilliance Audio for $1.99+$1.99 — A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016, a Tiptree recommendation, and Philip K. Dick Award Winner, rather than a strictly dystopian tale, a post-apocalyptic feminist speculative novel. “When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead. In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it. A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence. After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.” A sequel, The Book of Etta, is forthcoming in February.

Kushiel's Dart (Kushiel's Legacy Book 1) by [Carey, Jacqueline] Wisp of a Thing: A Novel of the Tufa (Tufa Novels Book 2) by [Bledsoe, Alex]

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December 25th #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Neil Gaiman, Harper Lee, Pax, The Nest, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, and more

In addition to the month-long December deals, Amazon.com has a pretty darned good lineup of Kindle Daily Deals today, including 26 Whispersync for Voice enabled titles. Here’s a quick roundup of the best deals on the best titles:

American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Novel by [Gaiman, Neil] Go Set a Watchman: A Novel by [Lee, Harper] Pax by [Pennypacker, Sara]

American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman, read by either George Guidall (the original audiobook) or the matching 10th anniversary edition full cast production, for $2.95+$3.99 — “First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic—an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. Now discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this tenth anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.”

Fiction: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, read by Reese Witherspoon for Harper Audio for $.99+$3.95 — “A historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014. Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.”

Kids: Pax by Sara Pennypacker, read by Michael Curran-Dorsano for $2.99+$3.95 — “National Book Award Longlist * New York Times Bestseller * An Amazon Best Book of the Year. From bestselling and award-winning author Sara Pennypacker comes a beautifully wrought, utterly compelling novel about the powerful relationship between a boy and his fox. Pax is destined to become a classic, beloved for generations to come.”

The Nest by [Sweeney, Cynthia D'Aprix] Bad Feminist: Essays by [Gay, Roxane]

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December #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Patrick deWitt, Marko Kloos, Chuck Wendig, Arthur C. Clarke, Kurt Vonnegut, and more

A well-timed Amazon.com gift card burning a hole in your digital pocket? Looking for some year-end reading and listening? I’ve got you covered with another monthly #WhispersyncDeal roundup, with great current year titles from Patrick deWitt, Marko Kloos, Chuck Wendig, and more, and classic sf from Arthur C. Clarke and Kurt Vonnegut. Here we go, with my usual picks from the monthly $3.99 or less listings. 358 are Whispersync-for-voice enabled, of which my very top picks are:

Undermajordomo Minor: A Novel by [deWitt, Patrick] Invasive: A Novel by [Wendig, Chuck] Bird Box: A Novel by [Malerman, Josh]

Undermajordomo Minor: A Novel by Patrick deWitt, performed by Simon Prebble for $1.99+$5.99 — “A love story, an adventure story, a fable without a moral, and an ink-black comedy of manners, Undermajordomo Minor is Patrick deWitt’s long-awaited follow-up to the internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Sisters Brothers. Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the bucolic hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, Lucy is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for producing brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the Majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as Undermajordomo, Lucy soon discovers the place harbors many dark secrets, not least of which being the whereabouts of the castle’s master, Baron Von Aux. He also encounters the colorful people of the local village—thieves, madmen, aristocrats, and Klara, a delicate beauty for whose love he must compete with the exceptionally handsome soldier Adolphus. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder in which every aspect of humanity is laid bare for our hero to observe.”

Invasive: A Novel by Chuck Wendig, read by Xe Sands for $2.99+$6.99 — “Hannah Stander is a consultant for the FBI – a futurist who helps the agency with cases that feature demonstrations of bleeding-edge technology. It’s her job to help them identify unforeseen threats: hackers, AIs, genetic modification, anything that in the wrong hands could harm the homeland. Hannah is in an airport, waiting to board a flight home to see her family, when she receives a call from Agent Hollis Copper. “I’ve got a cabin full of over a thousand dead bodies,” he tells her. Whether those bodies are all human, he doesn’t say. What Hannah finds is a horrifying murder that points to the impossible – someone weaponizing the natural world in a most unnatural way. Discovering who – and why – will take her on a terrifying chase from the Arizona deserts to the secret island laboratory of a billionaire inventor/philanthropist. Hannah knows there are a million ways the world can end, but she just might be facing one she could never have predicted – a new threat both ancient and cutting-edge that could wipe humanity off the earth.”

Bird Box: A Novel by Josh Malerman, read by Cassandra Campbell for HarperAudio for $1.99+$3.99 — “Something is out there…. Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from. Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, Malorie has long dreamed of fleeing to a place where her family might be safe. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: 20 miles downriver in a rowboat blindfolded with nothing to rely on but Malorie’s wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?”

Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines Book 1) by [Kloos, Marko] The Palace Job (Rogues of the Republic Book 1) by [Weekes, Patrick] The Immortalists by [Mills, Kyle] The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series Book 1) by [Wheeler, Jeff] Continue reading

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Cyber Monday #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Seveneves, The Hunger Games, 1984, The Forever War, Flowers for Algernon, The Muralist, Octavia Butler, and more

Today’s “Cyber Monday” Kindle Daily Deals listings number in the hundreds — over 400, actually. It’s a lot to look through, especially with the wonky “paging” (with no apparent “see all” or category search links!) for the sale. But, have no fear! As I did just recently with the monthly November #WhispersyncDeal roundup, which is still ongoing through Wednesday so don’t miss that, either, I took a glance through and found the best deals on the best books. Here we go:

Seveneves: A Novel by [Stephenson, Neal] The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1) by [Collins, Suzanne] The Uninvited by [Jensen, Liz]

Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson, read by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron for $2.99+$5.49 — “From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic—a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years. What would happen if the world were ending? A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . . Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.”

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, read by Carolyn McCormick for $2.99+$3.95 — “In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. ”

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen, read by Colin Mace for Whole Story Audio for $1.99+$3.99 — An apocalyptic thriller: “A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious?”


More in the mood for classic science fiction? Here we go:

The Forever War by [Haldeman, Joe]  Flowers for Algernon by [Keyes, Daniel]

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Black Friday #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, McCammon’s Swan Song, Cashore’s Graceling, and Sanderson’s Alcatraz

While the November #WhispersyncDeal roundup continues through the weekend, today’s Whispersync-enabled Kindle Daily Deals include some spectacular speculative fiction for all ages:

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1) by [Jemisin, N. K.] Swan Song by [McCammon, Robert R.] Graceling (Graceling Realm Book 1) by [Cashore, Kristin] Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians) by [Sanderson, Brandon]

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles for $2.99+$4.95 — An absolutely amazing book and audiobook, the start of a new fantasy trilogy by Hugo, Nebula & World Fantasy Award nominated author N.K. Jemisin.

Swan Song by Robert McCammon, read by Tom Stechschulte for $1.99+$3.95 — “Robert McCammon’s prescient and shocking vision of a post-apocalyptic nation, a grand epic of terror and, ultimately, renewal.”

Teens: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, read by David Baker, Chelsea Mixon, Zachary Exton, and a full cast for $1.99+$2.99 — “With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.”

Kids: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, read by Ramon De Ocampo for $2.99+$3.99 — “Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians is the first adventure in a fantasy series for young readers by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson.”

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