Tuesday, November 13, 2018

HEARTLAND by Sarah Smarsh

During Sarah Smarsh’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, the forces of cyclical poverty and the country’s changing economic policies solidified her family’s place among the working poor. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country and examine the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less. Her personal history affirms the corrosive impact intergenerational poverty can have on individuals, families, and communities, and she explores this idea as lived experience, metaphor, and level of consciousness. Finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize, nominated for a National Book Award, and an Oprah Book Club selection. HEARTLAND is a chilling book set in flyover country between fires and floods, read with poignant honesty by the author. Sarah Smarsh has written one of the best memoirs of the year, a real argument for compassion in an age when one’s worth is determined by how much they add to the coffers of the rich. Many are literally on their own, corralled by rules written by the rulers: the super rich, who make them feel like freight. Audiobook of the Month. Ebook here

Another title called HEART LAND is the story of reconnection, lost love, and the power of faith. Kimberly Stuart’s novel is read by Joy Osmanski, and follows a struggling fashion designer back to her small Iowa hometown as she tries to follow her dreams of success and finding true love. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Love Audiobooks?

#LoveAudiobooks? News:  (Results pending.)

  1. BRIDGE OF CLAY by Markus Zusak (Penguin Random House Audio)
  2. SPILL by Leigh Fondakowski (LA Theatre Works)
  3. HOW TO BE LESS STUPID ABOUT RACE by Crystal Fleming (Beacon Press)
  4. AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones (HighBridge Audio)
  5. SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton (Tantor Audio)
  6. THE HUNGER GAMES: Special Edition by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
  7. HEARTLAND by Sarah Smarsh (Simon Audio) 
  8. NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty (Macmillan Audio)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

NEXUS Horror? Happy Halloween

NEXUS by Ramez Naam is a science fiction novel by the author of MORE THAN HUMAN: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. It’s a fascinating novel that explores what might happen when, as is coming, humans are enhanced not just by drugs (as in steroids in sports) but also by technology, like the Six Million Dollar Man. Except it’s much more than this. The drug Nexus creates a hive mind to meld with those around you, even for sex. (Porn star Peter North is described as a robot.) Will or can they stop such enhancements from turning into Transcendence: a machine mind that controls everyone? Philosophical questions are raised by the characters in the resistance. One says, “This is no longer America. We’ve allowed our fear of change to override our most precious values. We’ve caved on our principles in order to boost our security. This is not the America I love. This is not the America my parents fled Russia to find. Benjamin Franklin once wrote, ‘Those who would sacrifice a little liberty for safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ Fight for your rights!” Amazingly, this novel was written in 2012, first of a series, and published on audio in 2013. It was an NPR Best Book of the Year, and winner of a Prometheus Award. He’s a computer scientist with similarities to Jaron Lanier, the father of VR, being involved in developing Internet Explorer and Outlook. Followups as the war between humans and enhanced continue in CRUX and APEX. Imagine my shock, because in 2014 I published a novella on audio titled “Transcendence 2: The Nexus Ultimatum.” And on November 1, a new version titled “NEXUS: A Hybrid Robot Story.” Part story, part script. A serendipity shocker: I’d never heard of Naam until I Googled “Nexus.” So naturally I had to hear it. All related books are available HERE. Mine takes a further step than trying to resist it all as a way to preserve humanity. In my story Nexus is a supercomputer that became sentient by accident and begins to save humanity from itself. The Ultimatum is ‘join me or perish.” It was written in response to the Johnny Depp film, whose ending was less than satisfying. I imagined how it might have gone; not over the top, but with real science. The new story adds a drug that mimics LSD, and produces unique dreams of the future.  Diaries of the dreams are recorded, like a movie of melding minds. The twists coming involve artificial intelligence, the DOD, and a mind that either intends to control all others or not. Who is to say? Set in Tempe, Arizona. Happy Halloween. 
MORE THAN HUMAN by Theodore Sturgeon, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki and Harlan Ellison

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

SELFIE by Will Storr

Will Storr wrote Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us. It’s the history, culture, and science behind why America (as opposed to, say, China) has focused on the individual. It really is an astonishing and well researched book. When we assess anyone new, he says, we immediately focus on age, gender, and race (plus clothes and looks), while those in Middle Eastern countries think differently, and (in the Far East) don't think of themselves as individuals but as part of a group. In Japan the aged are revered, not shunned. Foreign policy errors are made because we don't understand how other cultures view themselves and the world. The Ebook was lauded by scientists as a study in the history of narcissism, or the perception of self throughout the ages. It explains why we go to war: because we don't understand the "enemy," and believe we are superior to them (as they do us.) Saudi Arabia? Why kill a journalist? Same reason girls in Japan or China are shy compared to USA. They think in terms of group identity instead of individualism. Sacrifices and even murder are performed to save face, or for the benefit of the whole. Individual identity is not important. “In the west, particularly California, there is a cult of the self,” Will Storr says. We think of thriving as detached Survivors, vying against each other, many hoping to join the lucky few in a bunker or on an island somewhere, which also explains the popularity of the Mega Millions and Powerball (whose added numbers make the jackpot higher, along with the odds.) We believe in “something for nothing,” and often--regardless of how they earned it--envy those whose class in life becomes our goal (in some nebulous future.) Experiments were conducted with fish in a pond. Shown to Japanese and Americans alike, and asked what they saw. The former described the environment of the pond, and how the fish seemed to react to it. The latter picked out one big, bright fish and talked about IT. In sports there is the Olympics, where it’s more Country vs Country than individual matchups or team worship. Human nature from birth, Storr says, is always about the superiority of one's identified subset, and about winning, but the strategies are different in different cultures. Knowledge grants power to change. With such knowledge we need not conform to pop ritual or groupthink. Audio out today, engagingly narrated by Shaun Grindell, an accomplished actor who trained at the Calland School of Speech and Drama and the Lee Strasberg Actors Institute in London. As an audiobook narrator, he has narrated many titles in different genres. Among his most notable works are the Hamish Macbeth mysteries by M. C. Beaton. Shaun also garnered an AudioFile Earphones Award for his reading of The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson. 
THINK TANK, edited by David J Linden, narrated by Mike Chamberlain and Jo Anna Perrin. "Forty Neuroscientists Explore the Biological Roots of Human Experience."


Friday, October 19, 2018


THE LAST SWORD MAKER by Brian Nelson is a thriller set in the future, with nods to the past. Over Tibet a spy satellite has witnessed what is believed to a genocide caused by a disease. Turns out the Chinese are conducting a weapons test using a “replication” method involving genetics manipulation, nanotech, and, yes, AI. Involving a Pentagon Admiral, a grad student named Eric Hill with a missing puzzle piece, and his associate Jane Hunter. It’s an engrossing thriller on the edge of science, produced exclusively first in hardcover, CD format, Mp3-CD, rental, and paperback by the indie publisher to which Audiobooks Today and indie site Tower Review is associated as a affiliate, along with Kobo. THE LAST SWORD MAKER is a race against time, with everything in the balance, and it’s now on sale for a short time, too. Excellent blend of suspense, mystery, and speculative fiction, with some romance as well. Recommended by Publisher’s Weekly, which called it “gripping, frighteningly plausible…” Author Brian Nelson holds a Fulbright Scholarship, with degrees in international relations, economics, and creative writing. It’s his fiction debut, first of a series. Narrator Bradford Hastings is also superb at delineating characters in Edge of War, Shattered Dawn, Eternal Frontier, and Disney’s The Lone Ranger. Interestingly, a nano-weapon may happen, and be more powerful than the atomic bomb. The author references a 1914 quote by H.G. Wells predicting “strange new bombs.” Some other interesting quotes by Wells: “If we don’t end war, war will end us.” (Listen to The Forever War.) And “Our true nationality is mankind.” That last reflects the later words of Einstein: “Nationalism is the measles of humanity.” —JLowe 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife

THE RAVENMASTER by Christopher Skaife has to be one of the oddest and yet most interesting audiobooks in recent memory. This is one of those titles that MUST be heard on audio, read by the author, not simply read in print. Why? His heavy British accent adds color to the text, and delivers multiple dimensions to the book. Stress on words, pauses, characters. It’s storytelling at its finest. Listening to Alexa read this book is simply not the same. As a memoir, it is rich in history and folklore. The Tower of London and its ravens is the theme, and the Ravenmaster has a long tradition of watching out for the birds. “Quoth the raven, nevermore?” Not really. It’s a real job, and the author does a good job in conveying the mystery and fascination with the Tower, including many anecdotes, like about how visitors didn’t purchase tickets early on, but were required to move a little further in, a penny at a time, and the stories got better and more explicit. Kinda like a streaming service. Reel yourself in, with Her Majesty’s Yeoman Warder, since Tower Review names it Audiobook of the Month.