MtSnow, Mel, Bethany, Marc, and Dana review the audiobook version of ‘Murmuration’ by TJ Klune. (Published by Dreamspinner Press on October 28, 2016. Released on Audible January 16, 2017. Narrated by Kirt Graves. Length 12 hrs 11 min.)
Several RGR reviewers were individually chosen to review this audiobook and received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. As the interest in this book by our reviewers and readers was enormous, we decided to do our first Group Review with 5! reviewers to show you our different experiences reading this book. While we always try to avoid any major spoilers, this mysterious book may be best enjoyed without any prior information, if you trust the author enough to take the plunge (don’t forget to check back after reading to compare your reading exprience with ours, if you want). Otherwise, we will try our best to help you decide if this book is for you.
In the small mountain town of Amorea, it’s stretching toward autumn of 1954. The memories of a world at war are fading in the face of a prosperous future. Doors are left unlocked at night, and neighbors are always there to give each other a helping hand.
The people here know certain things as fact:
Amorea is the best little town there is.
The only good Commie is a dead Commie.
The Women’s Club of Amorea runs the town with an immaculately gloved fist.
And bookstore owner Mike Frazier loves that boy down at the diner, Sean Mellgard. Why they haven’t gotten their acts together is anybody’s guess. It may be the world’s longest courtship, but no one can deny the way they look at each other.
Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.
But something’s wrong with Mike. He hears voices in his house late at night. There are shadows crawling along the walls, and great clouds of birds overhead that only he can see.
Something’s happening in Amorea. And Mike will do whatever he can to keep the man he loves.
What MtSnow thought:
Okay. Up front, I have to say I’m not a fan of all this author’s work. While he is an excellent, talented, and very diverse writer, I honestly do not get into his over-the-top humor as many of my fellow readers seem to. In fact I have had to DNF a few of his stories. BUT. In saying that, I will admit he has a special place in my heart when he writes serious, or paranormal. When he writes in that style, I become goo. And this one, well, it was no exception.
Murmuration. Wow. What do I think? I think it needs to marinate for a bit. I just finished what felt like a very long, exhausting 12-1/2 hours of audio. BUT. I did it all almost in one sitting. A certain part last night, I almost set it aside to go back to later. But something whispered in the back of my mind to not give up yet. And now? It somehow has me blubbering like an idiot. And. I will say. It will have me thinking about it for a long time after.
At first, I admit…since I listened to it, the beginning 2/3 of the story felt kind of dry and repetitious. I admit I actually sped up the audio in the beginning, trying to speed things along, but that wasn’t anything to do with the narration, as it was narrated very true to the story. In fact, it fit the same style as a previous book by this author ‘Wolfsong’ (which makes sense since Kirt is the same narrator). But THEN. There were these little blips. Like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Or The Matrix. I just, at this point, am almost speechless. And for anyone that has read my reviews, you know that’s rare. As I know I do tend to ramble. And be wordy.
But this story. It yanked something in my heart. I can’t tell if I’m mad, sad, or just wondering ‘what if’. What is the opportunity to love and BE loved worth?
All I can say is. It definitely was worth the journey. Even though I struggled, feeling like at times it felt too long. Or that it was going nowhere. The last 1/3. So totally worth it. The beginning DID feel almost too long, but as you get toward the end, you get an aha moment where you start to understand it had to be. For the setup. For the investment. And the last few chapters. Well. They just BLEW my mind. And this story, odd as it is, will stick in my mind for a VERY long time. Thank you TJ.
Do yourself a favor. If you get this book, start it, and stick it out. The ending will make the trip worth the journey. You won’t be sorry.
9.5/10 Pots of Gold (95% Recommended) – Compares to 4.75/5 Stars
What Dana Thought:
If you are a fan of audiobooks, the narration was excellent. Kirt Graves who narrated another book by this author, has a very pleasant tone. He creates slight variation in voices, to differentiate in between characters. It wasn’t as distinct as some narrators, but his voice relaxed me as I listened and it didn’t feel like twelve plus hours.
I’ll start out by saying that I am a big fan of this author. To me, TJ Klune is a master at writing romances laced with angst and large doses of humor. Some books are sillier than others like Lightning Struck Heart, and some are pretty serious like Into This River I Drown, but usually there is a sense of humor/endearing awkwardness in one or more of the characters that stands out. The main thing I noticed was that this book doesn’t have that. I didn’t get the usual TJ Klune experience listening to Murmuration, but I’m not complaining.
MtSnow had listened to this book before me and we often have similar interests in our reading, so when the beginning of the book left me out of sorts and wondering what was really happening in this small town of Amorea, I heeded her advice and semi-patiently waited for the reveal. One of the things that was baffling in this book was the 1950’s setting and yet, no one blinked an eye when two men (Mike and Sean) in this little town started courting each other publicly. It was a refreshing idea, but I knew it wasn’t fitting for that decade. I wondered if the people there really were the best of the best, until one of them disappeared and no one could remember. Add to that Mike’s memory lapse in the beginning and the hallucinations that followed, and I was at a loss to what was going on.
I pride myself on usually figuring out what is really happening in mysterious situations, or at least getting close. At no time could I come up with any explanation let alone come near to the truth. I was sad. I had hope. I was sad again. I was surprised. I can’t go into detail without risking ruining the experience of discovery. In my mind, the ending wasn’t satisfying. Yet, it was much better than how I had feared it might end. It was very hard for me to say how I felt at the end of this book. My heart was damaged a little too much for me to say I love this book, but I can say that I love how well it was written. I love that it is so much different than anything else I’ve ever read. I love that I was able to be confused, and surprised.
There is romance in this book, but if you are looking for a romance novel, this isn’t one. There is a message of perseverance and love, but this book is so much more than that. It’s about the mysteries of science, of life. Nature vs.Nurture. It’s a beautifully written, confusing as hell story, and if you want a haunting mystery of the human psyche, I’d definitely recommend this book.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
What Melissa Thought:
SERIOUS. BOOK. HANGOVER.
This book really messes with your mind. It’s different from anything else I’ve read by TJ Klune. I do think I will listen/read this one again, because now I know what’s going on it should make a little more sense. I hope.
I am a HUGE fan of TJ’s writing and blame him for the odd looks I get from strangers when I suddenly burst out laughing about something TJ wrote. With Murmuration, there was no risk of strangers giving me a wide berth, because well, for one I was listening to an audio and did so in my car or at home alone. But also because this is the first book by TJ that I have read with no comedy. This is a very serious and dare I say, dark, story.
The whole time I listened to Murmuration I was so anxious because I didn’t know what was going on. I had my theories, and I was sort of half right with them, but not completely. And I really hated being in the dark. (I admit to being the type of reader who during tense parts of a story will skip ahead to see what happens, and I couldn’t do this with the audio.)
I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this story. It’s crazy imaginative and I would say this book takes place not only in the past, but in the future as well. I enjoyed the roller coaster that was this book, but I wasn’t happy about a lot of the events that took place. I feel a rant coming on so (*takes deep breath)… I don’t know about anyone else, but this book put me through all the emotions, confusion, fear, anger, sympathy and a lot of awww moments for Mike and Sean,
My biggest fears centered around Mike and Sean and the possibility they wouldn’t get a happy ending. The whole time I am reading, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “TJ wouldn’t give us a story with no happy ending…would he?” And I was so uncertain the entire time. And frankly (hopefully this isn’t a spoiler) one’s interpretation on if they get a happy ending can vary. I hesitate to say which camp I am in because I don’t want to influence anyone (like I could!). Mike and Sean were a very cute couple and sweet. It took them 3 years to get together and while in reality that sort of relationship would have made me crazy for taking so long, in Amorea it worked. Which put a lot of pressure in the “will they get a happy ending” mantra I kept having, LOL.
As I said, I am a huge fan of TJ’s and am so grateful for the opportunity to listen to my first TJ Klune book in audio format. Kirt Graves narration was so perfect for this story. Amorea and all it’s characters came to life for me as I listened to Kirt. I felt the emotions each character had and I highly recommend Kirt and the audio version. I was able to truly focus on the scenes being described.
Even thought this book confused me at every turn, I do recommend it because I totally plan to re-read it. And if I am going to re-read anything, that means it’s something special. I would love to tell you more but spoilers are not allowed (you need to be a blank slate for this story to fully experience it), so just remember, it’s TJ Klune – need I say more?
8.5/10 Pots of Gold (85% Recommended) – compares to 4.25/5 Stars
What Bethany thought:
So I just finished this one and I think the first thing I said was “what the ever living f*@k did I just listen to?”
Ok let me see if I can adequately review this book, because I will tell you it deserves the best. I love TJ’s humor in his series ‘Bear Otter & The Kid’ and ‘Tell Me It’s Real’, so much so that when I am listening or re-reading them I laugh out loud so much my kids and hubby look at me like I’ve lost my damn mind. And when I read ‘Into This River I Drown’ I sobbed like a baby, and felt such emotional upheaval that I had a book hangover for DAYS after it. It took me a while to read something else. After that I knew TJ was a brilliant writer, capable of creating such a wide variety of emotions, plots, angst, humor and different worlds. Worlds where you get lost, you cry, you rage, you laugh so hard you spit your drink out of your nose.
But this one, this one was different. I hadn’t yet read ‘Murmuration’, because honestly the blurb kinda scared me a little. But when we received an audible code for this one, I figured it was the perfect time to try it. And while I got it about a month ago, I was afraid to try it. What if I didn’t like it? What if I just couldn’t get through it? Because there were times I didn’t think I would. Why? you ask. Because it is TJ and I just think it would have broken me to find out I didn’t LOVE one of his books. I know because he writes such a broad spectrum of books that they won’t always be for everyone, as in MtSnow’s case. So yea I put if off, but when we decided to group review I knew I needed to put on my big girl undies and listen.
Like I said above, yes, there were time I just didn’t think I could go on. Heck I wasn’t sure I could make it past the first chapter. But let me explain. Yes I know I keep saying it’s so different, but bear with me. The writing is different, not told in first person like most of his are. But its not just that. It feels different, like it’s told as a narrative, and I think that is partially why I didn’t think I would be able to stick it out. But my goodness I am glad I did, I’m glad my fellow reviewers pushed me. They kept saying it will be so worth it in the end. They were right, I should never doubt them. 😉
You know how they say that slow and steady wins the race? Well this was the perfect saying for Mike and Sean’s relationship. It was a super slow burn, they have spent three years courting. I so adored these two and watching the absolute sweetness they showed each other. But here is my issue and a big reason this book felt very dystopian to me. Its set in the 1950’s yet no one seems to care that Mike and Sean very openly, for lack of a better word, flirt with each other. And its not just that. The townspeople actually push for the two men to FINALLY take that next step and enter into a relationship. Don’t know about yall but I know the 50’s weren’t that accepting. Then things start to happen, Mike starts to question things, he says stuff but doesn’t remember why he knows that.
It’s not until close to the end, that things come to light and it is revealed what has actually been going on. This is where my maybe 8 star review turned into a very solid 10. It had me by the seat of my pants, equal parts wanting to finish to see what happens and begging it to never end. I was bawling like a baby at the end, though for those that know me knows thats not hard for a book to do to me. No I was crying at the end of this one for different reasons. Reasons that after listening to the authors note, felt very real.
I could go on and one about this book, how it made me feel. How I see things differently know, how my heart is equal parts happy and broken. You won’t be able to read/listen to this and not be affected, changed in some way, see things just a bit differently. I know I have. I am glad I stuck with it, it will be a book that sticks with me for a long time, one that I will think of often. So please if you were on the fence about this one I HIGHLY recommend getting it. Try it, let your mind be open to what can be when you step outside the box.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
What Marc thought:
I had actually already bought this audiobook with my latest audible credit, when the other reviewers were given review codes and decided to do a group review. I didn’t have time to listen to it at first, but the reactions from my fellow reviewers made me want to join the group review and start the audio ASAP.
It was so much fun for me to read the other reviews, because I know what they are talking about, yet still had such a vastly different experience reading this book. I just finished it a few minutes ago and absolutely loved it, but I already absolutely loved it from the very beginning. This kind of story is just my cup of tea, so to say. I love dystopian stories, sci-fi and fantasy with a fierce passion and have read so many books and watched so many shows and movies in those genres that I picked up on many clues that helped orient myself in this story. While I didn’t figure out what was going on exactly, I came pretty close and I loved the direction the story took and thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns I did not expect. It felt like watching a show like ‘Lost’, but I was more satisfied with the way it ended, because the author was able to make the revelations in the end fit perfectly into the big picture, so every reader can understand what is going on by the end and everything finally clicks togther.
It is very hard for me not to rave about all the things I loved in detail and analyse the book, but knowing too much about the story would spoil the fun of discovery for new readers. We will definitly have to follow this review up with a ‘Murmuration: Post Mortem’ to discuss every detail of the book for everyone who already finished it and will put a big spoiler warning with that.
The style of this book seemed most similar to T.J.’s ‘Withered + Sere’. As has been mentioned before, it feels more serious and dark than many of his other books, but for me it was actually lighter and more romantic than his post-apokalyptic ‘W+S’. I would probably call the ending HFN, though the author confirms that they remain happy after the end credits roll. In any case, the ending felt very satisfying to me after a rollercoaster of emotions. It will have me thinking about the story for a long time.
As in ‘Wolfsong’, another of the author’s books that has a similar style (though more humor and romance than ‘Murmuration’), the narrator Kirt Graves does a wonderful job in making the characters come alive. It was a pleasure to listen to the audiobook, which is very important for a book as long as this one.
So, what can you expect from the book?
For me it was very important that the book started as it did. The main character wakes up somewhere without memories and is as confused as the reader. His experiences reveal to the reader that something weird is going on and it helped me to pick up on little things that didn’t quite add up. From that very beginning, I started to form theories about what was going on and it made even ordinary things feel thrilling, because there was always the knowledge that something felt off. I looked at every person I got to know with suspicion, even if they dug their way into my heart. I questioned every event that took place in the city, especially as the MC and I figured out more and more things that didn’t make any sense. I felt positively paranoid in the best of ways, even as I enjoyed the sweet romance between Mike and Sean and the friendships they have formed in the most wonderful town of the entire world.
As I wondered what the hell was going on, the MC wonders the same and considers things like alien experiments, mental illness, communist experiments, etc and everything seems possible to a certain degree, but nothing fits perfectly without the missing pieces.
What is going on, why is it happening, where is it happening, how is it happening, who is responsible, is it good or bad?
Most of the questions are answered and often in unexpected ways that surprised me, but made sense with everything we knew about this world and its rules. However, having read the book, I am still uncertain about the ‘good or bad’. The book opens interesting questions about science and morality that I really can’t begin to answer, but it was very interesting to think about them.
As our science progesses ever faster, it is so important that we keep up with it as best as possible and adjust our laws, rules and moral understanding to what science can do and if necessary limit what science is allowed to do to what is acceptable to us morally. However, if this very imaginative ‘mind fuck’ of a story is any indication that will not be an easy thing to do.
Having said that, one of the things that was most interesting to me about this story is how it does not try to make any judgements about the people and everything that is taking place and push it onto the reader, but leaves us and the MC to form our own judments and our own thoughts about the events. It leaves me with many questions about identity, morality, science, love, human potential for good and evil. And I’m still not quite sure if Amorea is good or evil and if this book is Dystopian, Utopian or neither. The only thing I am certain of is that this book is one hell of a ride. Well-written, well-narrated, an emotional rollercoaster and a book that will certainly leave an impression on any reader.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
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When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)