The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen

30763903The Forgotten Girls
(Stevens & Windermere #6)
By Owen Laukkanen
Narrated by  Edoardo Ballerini
Audio Book Publisher: Recorded Books
ASIN: B06XC6WDM3
Unabridged: 9 HR 45 Min
Genre: Crime Thriller/Mystery

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They are the victims no one has ever cared about, until now. Agents Stevens and Windermere return in this new crime novel.

She was a forgotten girl, a runaway found murdered on the High Line train through the northern Rocky Mountains and, with little local interest, put into a dead file. But she was not alone. When Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a horror far greater than anyone expected—a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice.

But someone has noticed now. Through the bleak midwinter and a frontier land of forbidding geography, Stevens and Windermere follow a frustratingly light trail of clues—and where it ends, even they will be shocked.


My Thoughts

First of all, I want to admit that this was my first encounter with the Stevens & Windermere series, and it worked beautifully as a standalone. I enjoyed the detectives, even though I know it is probably more beneficial to follow them from book one. I am sure that an even stronger connection can be established.

Sixth in the series, The Forgotten Girls takes us on a journey to uncover a killer who is targeting young female drifters. When Kirk Stephens and Carla Windermere find themselves at the center of a murder investigation involving a young woman who was train-hopping in a last-ditch effort to return home, they uncover a larger set of crimes. A killer is claiming victims that have tragically flown under the radar. While working hard on a trail of vague clues, another young girl Mila, is also hunting down the unknown assailant. But her intentions are to avenge her friend, lost at the killer’s hands. As their paths come to an ultimate crossing point, will they find the answers they seek in time?

“You don’t ever surf trains on the high line.”

As with any mystery, dissecting the plot can is almost impossible. After all, the big pay off is that key revelation. And I have no intentions of spoiling it. But this one did work beautifully for me with only the minimal hiccups.

What worked..

  • Clear and precise navigation carried the story with incredible ease. The alternating POVs were an enhancement, in this case, adding a welcomed addition of depth. The author writes with an air of intelligence that speaks of research done and even feels familiar of real-life cases.
  • An original plot tackles relevant issues surrounding the dangers many transients face ranging from harsh environments to the more unseen, those who prey on isolated victims. It offers insight into a life many have little understanding of.
  • A fascinating approach to police procedure supplies the reader a refreshing and realistic glimpse into the struggles and challenges of tackling a difficult case and relying on a partner.
  • The atmospheric writing easily immerses the reader into the heart of the story.
  • A wonderful audio narrative from Edoardo Ballerini managed to keep me engaged and provide a steady pace.

Those small hiccups..

  • This was an initially uphill start that required a few chapters to really engage me. The connection with Stevens and Windermere took longer to establish than I would have liked. However, once it happened, I really enjoyed it.
  • The ending, while complete, felt excessively emotional and a touch overdone. But I am sure many will find gratification in it.

The end result was a worthwhile read that fostered a desire to explore this series further. Fans of crime fiction will likely find an appreciation for Laukkanen’s sophisticated and intricate style of writing that delivers a well-balanced plot and mystery.

*I would like to thank the publisher and Audiobook Jukebox for this copy. The above review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Serves well with a nice cup of hot black tea (I favor Earl Grey) and a hint of warm milk to carry you through the descriptively cold world building.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

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Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume 1 – Audiobook Review

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The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (Volume 1, 1929-1964)
Edited by: Robert Silverberg
Includes Stories by: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and many more.
Narrators: Various
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Unabridged: 28 hours and 9 minutes
Genre: Classic Science Fiction

Synopsis: 

The definitive collection of the best in science fiction stories between 1929-1964.

This book contains twenty-six of the greatest science fiction stories ever written. They represent the considered verdict of the Science Fiction Writers of America, those who have shaped the genre and who know, more intimately than anyone else, what the criteria for excellence in the field should be. The authors chosen for The Science Fiction Hall Fame are the men and women who have shaped the body and heart of modern science fiction; their brilliantly imaginative creations continue to inspire and astound new generations of writers and fans.

Robert Heinlein in “The Roads Must Roll” describes an industrial civilization of the future caught up in the deadly flaws of its own complexity. “Country of the Kind,” by Damon Knight, is a frightening portrayal of biological mutation. “Nightfall,” by Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest stories in the science fiction field, is the story of a planet where the sun sets only once every millennium and is a chilling study in mass psychology.

Originally published in 1970 to honor those writers and their stories that had come before the institution of the Nebula Awards, The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame, Volume One, was the book that introduced tens of thousands of young readers to the wonders of science fiction. Too long unavailable, this new edition will treasured by all science fiction fans everywhere.

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thoughts

Clocking in at over 28 hours, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame was an incredibly easy listen that seem to fly by over the course of a few days. Offering a wider range of stories accompanied by varying narrators, I quite enjoyed my time with this collection.

While it is always difficult to review anthologies (particularly of this size) I did want to share a few thoughts on this one, as many have been such a miss for me lately. When I discover a collection that feels well-balanced and overall rewarding, I want to hand it the spotlight for a few.

With that stated, I do feel it is important to mention that Volume 1 is not without flaws. As to be expected, there are times the narration missed the mark or the true age of the material was inevitably felt. Also, I received an MP3 file from the publisher, so there was a lot of information that was not accessible in terms of biographies. Several stories that were multiple files in length, actually downloaded out of order. This was a frustration to work through and I fear I missed some titles. But none of this was enough to take away from the enjoyment of a fantastic collection of sci-fi classics.

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Supplied in easily digestible chunks, this anthology takes the reader on a journey that begins in 1929 and end in 1964. There are the notorious tales of androids and psychic abilities gone bad to space craft stowaways that challenge our moral obligations and stories where protagonists face situations with universal ramifications. Each story feels unique and challenges the reader (listener) on some varying emotional level. And as good science fiction does, there are many subtle and not so subtle messages  contained throughout that explore humanity on a multifaceted spectrum.

A few of my favorites included:

A Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum
Helen O’Loy by Lester del Rey
The Quest for Saint Aquin by Anthony Boucher
The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke
It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby
The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin
Fondly Fahrenheit by Alfred Bester

Even with the obstacles I encountered, I can easily say that this a collection of great value for all fans of science fiction! I will definitely be picking up a physical copy of this anthology for my shelves at first opportunity and look forward to exploring later volumes.

*I would like to thank audiojukebox and the publisher for my copy. The above review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Enjoyed over several cups of chamomile tea with a hint of lavender.


Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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Borne by Jeff Vandermeer (Audiobook)

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Borne
By Jeff Vandermeer
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Unabridged: 12 Hr & 10 Minutes
ASIN: B06ZXTH9RF
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia

Synopsis:

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.

Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long-lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.

Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?


thoughts

Borne is a complicated experience that will likely land readers on one of two sides of the fence; love or hate. For myself, I fell onto the “love” side with a heavy landing. Although, with my constant appetite for the peculiar, I cannot say I am surprised.

The Company lies at the edge of the city, where while known to be almost defunct, many still believe continues to create. One such creation, Mord (a bio-engineered bear) flies above the city where he was once created, held captured and ultimately tortured. Now he reigns havoc on the land while also providing a way of life for scavengers, such as Rachel, who survive off of the remnants of Mord’s destruction. Upon discovering a small green, gelatinous blob (Borne) snared within his fur, she makes the decision to bring the creature home into her safe haven shared with her only companion Wick. He happens to be a drug dealer, developing tiny creatures who have the ability to give others more desirable memories, and he immediately wants to dissect Borne to experiment with his genetic composition. However, Rachel develops an attachment and refuses to surrender her newfound discovery, much against Wick’s advice. But as Borne begins to evolve, secrets also begin to surface. Secrets about Wick and the Company he once worked for. The same company responsible for Mord. What is it that he cannot tell Rachel? And what is Borne?

Attempting summarize Borne in a paragraph feels like a ridiculous and almost impossible task. As you may have noticed, it is not easy to do. I am sifting through the many notes I acquired during my listen (read) and trying to reduce this review into a more digestible and compact recap of my time with Vandermeer’s very original, and often odd approach to an ultimately endearing and emotional dystopian tale.

In terms of character growth there is an enormous amount happening, but in the most subtle of ways. Rachel begins to bond with Borne over her own loneliness and desire for something more in a desolate and harsh environment. But in turn, we soon discover that Borne is the one who truly encompasses that loneliness. There is a brilliant exchange of developments, realizations and acceptance that is continually occurring between both, supplying the reader with a very unique and profound form of character development that is rarely seen. As Rachel’s relationship with Borne evolves it slowly begins to challenge her relationship with Wick, bringing multiple questions to the surface, further exploring all characters. And tucked within it all, we learn that everyone is grappling with various issues of self-identity and acceptance.

The setting is typical of many dystopian tales in the sense of the usual suspects: imminent dangers, the fight for survival and a barren landscape that requires daily scavenging and roaming. All of the expected threats and dis-pleasantries are offered with the additional element of bio-engineered life forms. The effect is intriguing and inviting, but not in the warm, fuzzy sort of way.

But the real appreciation for Borne can be found in its strangely contrasting narration that manages to present the often harsh and brutal reality of a post apocalyptic setting in an almost child-like and innocent manner. There is an ever-present air of light-heartedness that should clash with the current setting and events, yet it successfully fuels a rare and welcomed study of humanity and the significance of its small presence on Earth. Accompanied with Bahni Turpin’s well paced and enthusiastic narration, it becomes something of great worth in terms of science fiction. I was convinced this story was written to be told by Turpin.

The final product is a bizarre and bracing take on a timeless tale that will not be for everyone’s taste. However, there will be those that cannot help but find delight and fascination between the pages, making it an instant favorite. I am happy to fall well within the latter group. Highly recommending that you give this one a chance!

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Enjoyed with several cups of green tea and mint.

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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