August WhispersyncDeal roundup: Ken Liu, Chuck Wendig, Joyce Carol Oates, Max Brooks, and more; read by Michael Kramer, Luke Daniels, Kate Rudd, Grover Gardner, Mary Robinette Kowal, and more!

I keep getting later and later in the month with these… so this time, once more, with feeling, don’t wait too long. The first two sections of deals all expire on August 31. Tick-tock.

First, a rough pass through the 156 Whispersync-enabled Monthly Deals for $3.99 or Less which, let me tell you, is a lot of titles. Here’s what most caught my eye, and there are some really good ones:


The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty) by Ken Liu, read by Michael Kramer for Simon & Schuster Audio for $1.99+$3.99 — Liu’s debut novel in a “silkpunk” subgenre of Chinese-influenced epic fantasy. Battles. Big characters. Friends. Betrayals. War. Empire. Easily the strongest debut fantasy I’ve read this year. “Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.” Continue reading

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I’d been meaning to check out’s digital audiobook rental program for a while; there’s a recent flurry of titles out that I really want to get to soon — most recently Molly Tanzer’s Vermillion and Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings — and there’s only so much money in the audiobook slush fund for them. I’ve noticed the $5.95/$6.95 rental program for a while, but was never really quite that tempted. I like the idea of being able to go back and listen to a title again in a year or two years, even though it’s something I very rarely do. (Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series, I’m looking at you. 4? 5? times now, in 6 years. You complete me.)

Anyway. So just as I was resolving to maybe, finally dip my toes into this rental business, along comes an email offer from advertising a free rental, of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander, book one of his Aubrey-Maturin series, read by Simon Vance.

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

Well, I’ve heard quite a lot about this book and series over the years — most notably for me, David Drake openly and proudly points to it as direct inspiration behind his own Lt. Leary space adventure series — and if you wouldn’t listen to Simon Vance read pretty much anything (random Wikipedia pages? without a doubt!) then I wonder if you’ve ever heard him at all.

So, free without any strings attached being an attractive offer, I went ahead and added the rental to my cart like I would any other title and checked out, the primary differences being (1) the $0 price, natch and (2) an additional page warning the use that rentals are only currently supported on the Android and iOS applications, not from the website or for download to one’s PC.

Once checked out, I returned to my phone and refreshed my library, where the only thing to distinguish the rental title from others is a small triangular badge showing the days remaining, and a slight change of text when beginning the download:

IMG_1266  IMG_1267 Continue reading

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Locke Lamora meets Dostoevsky after the Apocalypse — Review: Dancing with Bears

Dancing with Bears: A Darger and Surplus Novel | [Michael Swanwick]
Dancing with Bears: A Darger and Surplus Novel
By Michael Swanwick
Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki

It’s a shame there are so few reviews of this 2012 audiobook of this 2011 novel, as this really was pretty fantastic. It’s like: Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora meets Dostoevsky in the post-apocalypse. And as always Rudnicki is great; in this one he gets to show off a range of Russian accents, cyber wolves, giants, genetically engineered bear-men and Neanderthals, and a fascinating, hilarious pair of con artists in Darger (British, what ho) and Surplus (a genetically uplifted dog, from Vermont, yeah I said it, Vermont). Continue reading

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July #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Scott Meyer’s Off to Be the Wizard, John Scalzi’s The Human Division, V.E. Schwab’s Vicious, Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, Richard Ellis Preston, Jason Sheehan, and more

When advertised “Kindle” deals in its Prime Day previews, I was admittedly excited. Maybe hundreds — no, thousands, surely! — of titles on discount? But, no, it was a few Kindle devices, not ebook titles. Alas. Still, that surely leaves not just me with a few extra bucks to spend on this month’s #WhispersyncDeal listings, so here we go, starting with some choice picks from this month’s 50 Kindle Books for $2 Each listings; and don’t wait too long to take advantage as most of these deals only run through July 31:


Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 Book 1)Spell or High Water (Magic 2.0 Book 2), and An Unwelcome Quest (Magic 2.0 Book 3) by Scott Meyer (Author), Luke Daniels (Narrator) for $2+$1.99 each — I really enjoyed this comedic fantasy/sf audiobook, a fun romp through (and at times subverting) tropes; recommended for those who enjoyed Ready Player One and thought, “What this book needs is more time in ZORK.” Here’s book one: “It’s a simple story. Boy finds proof that reality is a computer program. Boy uses program to manipulate time and space. Boy gets in trouble. Boy flees back in time to Medieval England to live as a wizard while he tries to think of a way to fix things. Boy gets in more trouble. Oh, and boy meets girl at some point. Off to Be the Wizard is a light, comedic novel about computers, time travel, and human stupidity, written by Scott Meyer, the creator of the internationally known comic strip Basic Instructions. Magic will be made! Legends will be created! Stew will be eaten!” Continue reading

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Once Upon a Time There Was a Girl — Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

The Darkest Part of the Forest
By Holly Black, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang
Length: 8 hours, 39 minutes

Welcome to Fairfold. Here, in the forest beside this quiet little town sleeps a horned boy in a glass casket. Deeper still you may glimpse dangerous faeries, or even monsters. The locals of Fairfold have become accustomed to the oddness that blossoms around them — teenagers drink and party around the horned boy while he sleeps, making shrines of empty bottles and cans and secrets. The tourists love to visit the quaint, sleepy old town. Every once in a while, one of them seems to quietly disappear. But no one seems to worry about that, certainly not the tourists, who continue to visit. Hazel and Ben are teenaged siblings, who have lived in Fairfold most of their lives, and are more familiar with the dangers of the forest than most. After what seems like just another party in the woods, Hazel and Ben wake up the next morning to find things changing in Fairfold, and that the magic in the forest isn’t always safe. Continue reading

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June #WhispersyncDeal Roundup: James Bond, Max Gladstone, Pierre Grimbert, Mary Robinette Kowal, Arthur C. Clarke, Chuck Wendig, Richard Matheson, Cassandra Clare, and much more

Well, June’s over half over, so it’s again past time to have the monthly #WhispersyncDeal roundup posted. I’m going to start with highlighting a few of the 13 James Bond titles that are on sale for $1.99+$3.99 this month, as the sale ends June 22. So, if you like 007, don’t wait too long:


Casino Royale (James Bond – Extended Series Book 1) for $1.99+$3.99 by Ian Fleming (Author), Simon Vance (Narrator) — “Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome, chillingly ruthless, and licensed to kill. This, the first of Ian Fleming’s tales of secret agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called “Le Chiffre” by ruining him at the Baccarat table, forcing his Soviet spymasters to “retire” him. It seems that lady luck has sided with 007 when Le Chiffre hits a losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules, and Bond’s attraction to a beautiful female agent leads him to disaster…and to an unexpected savior.” Also on sale: Live and Let Die (James Bond – Extended Series Book 2)Moonraker (James Bond – Extended Series Book 3), and all the rest through book 13.

Next, a big crop of titles at up to 85% off as part of The Big Deal, through June 28:


Continue reading

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Today’s #WhispersyncDeal Roundup: Richard Phillips, Ben H. Winters, Water for Elephants, Amy Tan, and more

Saturday, May 23: While the May #WhispersyncDeal roundup lists some ongoing deals (some of which expire tomorrow, some at the end of the month, and some which will just keep going as long as publishers keep offering these crazy upgrade prices) today brought a pile of one-day-only titles via the Gold Box Deal of the Day, including horror, YA fantasy, literary fiction, a 19th century ghost story, and more, starting with a pair of scifi titles from the “regular” daily deal list and moving right into those “Gold Box” deals:


Once Dead (The Rho Agenda Inception Book 1) and Dead Wrong (The Rho Agenda Inception Book 2) by Richard Phillips (Author), MacLeod Andrews (Narrator) for $1.99+$1.99 each — “Jack Gregory, the CIA’s top assassin, went rogue after a mission gone wrong. When a confrontation leaves him bleeding out on death’s doorstep, he is faced with an offer from a dark figure named Anchanchu. If Jack is willing to act as a human host for Anchanchu, the entity will revive him and give him another shot at life. Jack takes the deal…but he must now face the consequences of having the same dark creature in his head as some of history’s greatest villains. Struggling with desires and memories that are not his own, Jack is not the man he once was. One year later, he is known internationally as The Ripper, assassin for hire, and is faced with having to wrest control of his dark compulsions while preventing a nuclear attack on the United States. From the bestselling author of the Rho Agenda trilogy comes a globe-spanning thriller with a twist unlike anything you’ve ever seen….”

   Continue reading

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2015 Armchair Audies: Science Fiction

I’m honored to be a guest judge this year for the The Armchair Audies, the audiobook blogosphere’s annual “challenge” in conversation with the Audio Publishers Association Audies which will be awarded at the sold-out APA Audies Gala on May 28. This year I signed up for the Science Fiction category, if for no other reason than that I’d already listened to 3 of the 5 nominees, a 4th was very, very high on my wishlist, and the 5th came highly-recommended as well. (It didn’t hurt that The Guilded Earlobe was also involved.) In the end, all 5 were mentioned in some way in my picks for the year’s best of 2015, though while none were in my own personal top 5, all were absolutely well deserving of their Audie nominations and outstanding, both from a science fiction and audiobook standpoint.

So. How to judge 5 audiobooks, which while all under the purvey of “science fiction” are nonetheless in many ways very much apples and oranges? (And pears and likely a vegetable or two.) We’ve got a book that’s, essentially, a series of first person log entries; a multi-POV near future episodic epic narrated by a full cast; a tightly-plotted story of time travel (of a sort); a gender-bending near-future federal investigation; and an already-lauded British sf novel getting a fantastic new audiobook edition. I decided to apply a numeric ranking to each audiobook, weighted toward my personal preferences, and let the chips fall where they may. Personally, that means more a few more points for a well-written story than it does for pitch-perfect narration, and more consideration for a moving performance than for a flawless production.

But enough talk! In order of appearance on the nomination list, on to the reviews and ratings!

The Beam: Season 1 | [Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant]

The Beam: Season 1 by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, narrated by Johnny Heller, Tara Sands, Ralph Lister, Ray Chase, R. C. Bray, Jeffrey Kafer, Chris Patton, Eric Martin, Brian Holsopple, Rachel Fulginiti, Stephen Bowlby, and Emily Woo Zeller for Podium Publishing is an outstanding multi-narrator production combining elements of dystopian and post-apocalyptic sf, mystery, and thriller ideas. Continue reading

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May WhispersyncDeal roundup: The Paper Magician, The Second Ship, Neil Gaiman’s Interworld, Neal Stephenson’s The Mongoliad, and! a big look at 2015’s new Whispersync-enabled releases from Podium, Brilliance, and more

Another month, another Whispersync deal roundup. This one’s a really good one, with sf, fantasy, YA, historical fiction, mystery, and! a deeper look at deals on new releases outside of the monthly Amazon sale listings. [Editor’s note: Since this series continues to draw some new readers/listeners who may be unfamiliar with Whispersync for Voice, in brief: after (or at the same time as) buying the Kindle edition you can add on the narration if an enabled Audible edition exists, often for a steep discount on even the member/credit price.]

First, though, as they’re the ones with the obvious time limit, some picks from the monthly $3.99 or less listings which are Whispersync enabled:


The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Series, Book 1) and The Glass Magician (The Paper Magician Series, Book 2) by Charlie N. Holmberg (Author), Amy McFadden (Narrator) for $1.99+$1.99 each: “Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever. Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined – animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic. An Excisioner – a practitioner of dark, flesh magic – invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart – and reveal the very soul of the man.” Continue reading

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Hugo Award nominees in audio, 2015 edition

From an audiobooks standpoint, I don’t have too much to say about this year’s Hugo Awards controversy. However, I do want to cover the nominees in terms of what’s available in audio, even though this listing is already out of date as nominees are disqualified (for prior publication, etc.) or withdrawn. Here goes, starting with the Best Novel nominees:


  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK) — read by Adjoa Andoh for Hachette Audio
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books) — read by Mark Boyett for Audible
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books) — read by Kyle McCarley for Tantor Audio
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books) — read by James Marsters for Penguin Audio
  • The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor) — read by Luke Daniels for Macmillan Audio
  • Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North) — read by Luke Daniels for Brilliance Audio [withdrawn by the author]

Continue reading

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