This was my first detective/crime mystery. It had a very good plot with an unusual crime, interesting detective work, a strong heroine, romance, a twist at the end -- it had everything. I'm not sure why I can't give this a five all the way across, perhaps because I'm learning that crime mysteries are not my favorite genre. This is a very good listen, however, with an excellent reader.
STORY (espionage thriller) - Okay. The Toymaker is not going to win any awards and some of the points in negative reviews I've read are valid -- there is testosterone-driven action, stereotypical characters, motives of revenge and a dramatic narrator -- but boring? I must have read a different book. I would say just the opposite. It's fast-paced and exciting from beginning to end with terrorists, neat gadgets and lots of twists and turns. It's also not hard to follow what's going on, so it's an enjoyable, easy listen.
PERFORMANCE - I don't understand why so many people complain about Scott Brick. It's true that he overdramatizes a bit, but I'm totally fine with it. I like his voice, and he definitely doesn't deliver a boring or monotone performance.
OVERALL - There's no sex or violence, and the violence is not gory or graphic. I recommend the book to anyone who's looking for an easy but exciting listen. It's not perfect, but I was thoroughly entertained.
STORY (historical fantasy) - The premise of this book sounded good, but I almost stopped listening multiple times because I couldn't get into it. Britain's war with Napolean is raging, but in this story both sides possess dragons which add an aerial component to the battles. The dragons are intelligent (they talk) and loving. The main character in this book is present at the hatching of a very rare dragon which he eventually comes to possess and name Temeraire. Much of the book is about the care, feeding and training of Temeraire as he grows from a hatchling into a very powerful adult dragon.
The most interesting parts are the battles themselves but, being an animal lover, they made me cringe. The dragons drop bombs on enemy ships but they also claw and rip at enemy dragons with their talons, and once I became "acquainted" with the dragons I didn't like these scenes. They probably won't offend most people, but I'm a sissy when it comes to animals and pain. Anyway, the book gets decent by the end, and there is an epilogue where they discuss the characteristics of different breeds of dragons which is pretty interesting.
PERFORMANCE - Simon Vance does a great job with multiple voices and accents. Temeraire sounded kind of robotic, but then I wouldn't know what to expect from a talking dragon.
OVERALL (actual rating 2.5) - I don't recommend this book for anyone. The plot is too simplistic to be engaging for adults. Even though there are talking dragons, the presentation of the book doesn't seem to be meant for children and I think they'd find it boring. There is no profanity, sex or particularly graphic violence. It is Book 1 of a series but I think it can stand alone, and I'm definitely not planning to hear Book 2.
STORY (Western fiction) - This is Book 3 in the Longhorn series, and I must admit I have absolutely loved all three. If it's not my favorite series, it's definitely in the top two or three. Two brothers, each one thinks the other is dead. One is a successful cattle rancher in Texas, the other is an ex-gunslinger in Colorado. You will fall in love with both brothers and root for them as they navigate through the hardships of post Civil War America. It's all there -- cattle rustlers, Indians, banditos and on and on. There's never a dull moment, but there are touching moments as well. The ending of this book was so moving it made me cry, and there's still one more to go!
PERFORMANCE - Mr. Engene is the perfect narrator for this series. He has many different "western" voices he can portray, and they all will contribute to your enjoyment of the story. Some of them are a bit over the top, but it's great listening.
OVERALL - I'd recommend this series for absolutely anyone except young children. No sex or profanity. If you'd let your child watch a western on TV with Indian raids and shootouts, you can let them hear this story. Men and women alike will love this series equally. It's an easy listen and pure enjoyment! Definitely listen to them in order.
STORY (military sci-fi) - Courageous is Book #3 in The Lost Fleet series. Capt. Geary, who escaped death and survived in an escape pod for 100 years, now finds himself caught in a perilous future where he must command an Alliance fleet in multiple deadly battles with the Syndics (another race of humans). This book continues the same threads as the first two books. Some of his crew worships him while others are nearly mutinous. His fleet is badly damaged, low on weapons and fuel, and cannot find a safe path back to the safety of Alliance space. The Syndics pop up everywhere and sometimes seem to know Geary's next move and be a step ahead of him. But how? There seems to be another alien entity "manipulating" things. Who or what are they? How do they get their information? Are they helping the Syndics or trying to send Geary a message? Very intriguing!
Anyway, I love everything about this book. The battles are ship-to-ship, not man-to-man, so there's no blood and guts. I love hearing Geary and his fleet captains discuss tactics and strategies for the next engagement with the Syndics. Even the battles themselves are interesting. The author has a Naval background, so the formations and movements of the fleet are described in detail and easy to visualize -- not to mention interesting and creative. Also, Geary becomes a bit more human in this book. He's still the renowned hero nicknamed Blackjack Geary, but he and Ambassador Rionne are having a romantic affair and their relationship becomes even more complicated.
PERFORMANCE - Christian Rummel does a great job. He does multiple accents and his voice is low and sexy, yet he still manages to do pretty good female voices. I must admit, however, his performance probably would have just received four stars if it weren't for the fact that I love his voice!!!!
OVERALL - This book is pretty "clean." There's no profanity and only minor references to sleeping together, having an affair, etc., with no actual sex scenes. I highly recommend this to adult sci-fi lovers, both male and female. It's mysterious, tense and the characters are very human. You should listen to the series in order, but each book can "stand alone." Due to the fact that the fleet is in the middle of a six-book journey back to Alliance space, the ending of this book is actually Geary preparing to face the Syndics yet again!
STORY (historical fiction) - This story takes place in Boston around 1803. Despite the name and the cover art, this is a fun, lighthearted series. In Book 1 we were introduced to Jacky Faber, a young orphan girl (about age 13) who poses as a boy to get a job on a Naval vessel as a ship's mate. In this book, Jacky has been sent to a girls' school in Boston to become a lady. She tries to hide her humble past and fit in, but her antics will keep you in stitches. (Like carrying a full chamber pot into a room full of guests and asking where to dump it, or whacking her bread on the dinner table to make the weevils come out!) Jacky tries to do the right thing but always finds herself in the middle of some kind of trouble. She is adorable and her antics will make you laugh, but she doesn't learn from her mistakes or listen to what others tell her. As soon as she gets out of one mess, she gets into another one. I found that frustrating after a while but, all in all, it's great fun and has a wonderful ending.
PERFORMANCE - There are a handful of narrators that I save my 5-star ratings for, and Katherine Kellgren is one of them. She does a great job of Jacky's Cockney accent as well as a multitude of other voices, and the emotion she pours into every sentence is just wonderful. She also sings a pretty good tune. Awesome job!
OVERALL - This is a fun, easy listen. Audible labels this series as Teens age 11-13, but there are topics in this book that are not appropriate for that age group. I'd recommend this primarily for mature female listeners. There's a bit of language that borders on profanity and some sexual innuendos. It's Book 2 in a fairly lengthy series. It can stand alone, but there are questions left unanswered that will keep you hooked enough to continue on to Book 3.
STORY (new adult romance) - Easy is a contemporary romance which takes place on a college campus involving college students. There are some difficult issues and a lot going on besides just the romance...BUT...it is what it is, a college romance. I'm an adult with a grown child and it was still a great escape for me, but you may think differently. There's are classes, roommates, parties, fights, breakups, hookups, etc. Nevertheless, I loved it.
The story is told from Jacqueline's perspective. She is a music major who's just been dumped by her long-term boyfriend. She meets Lucas, who has kind of a bad-boy image, but he's noticed Jacqueline. He's sensitive, romantic, sexy...and complicated. They have some issues which must be overcome before they can have a relationship, but I won't spoil them in this review. I will say that I wouldn't have titled this book "Easy."
PERFORMANCE - She reads with good expression, and the "male" voice she gives Lucas is pretty good. Some of Jacqueline's female friends, however, sound a bit too bouncy or nasally for my personal taste. All in all, though, she does a good job.
OVERALL - This is Book 1 of the series, but it stands alone. I understand Book 2 tells the same story from Lucas' perspective and gives a bit more detail in some areas. Recommended for college-age listeners or older (like me) who are in the mood for a walk down memory lane and a romantic escape. There are quite a few makeout sessions that are romantic and steamy, but they don't really go anywhere. Then there are a few sex scenes where the concentration is on kissing and touching with only a minor reference to the actual act. Quite a bit of profanity due to the age of the characters, but it's not "overdone."
STORY (personal memoir) - Lawrence Anthony is "The Elephant Whisperer." He lives in South Africa and runs an animal preserve called Thula Thula. He is persuaded to adopt a herd of rogue elephants to save them from being killed, and he establishes a form of communication with them. Though they still live in the bush and remain wild, he learns from them and earns their respect. They form a strange bond, and his life is forever changed and enriched.
Much of this story is about the day-to-day running of Thula Thula. Anthony must deal with poachers, fire, Zulu tribal politics, animal attacks and running a preserve teeming with all kinds of creatures. In a place where only the fittest survive, there is the beauty of life but also the sadness of death. I'm an animal lover and must admit to shedding a tear or two, but I'm so very glad I heard this story. I was impressed with Anthony's patience and kindness, and I was amazed by the intelligence of the elephants! The message I take away from this book is one which is mentioned in the beginning, that there is much more to life than yourself, your family and your own kind. Makes me think...
PERFORMANCE - He does a good job. I liked his African tribal accent.
OVERALL - I'd recommend this book to everyone except younger children, due to some intense scenes. There is no profanity. Animal lovers who are softies (like me) will cringe and cry a little, but the book is wonderful so don't let that hold you back!
UPDATE AFTER THE BOOK - Mr. Anthony died in 2012 of a heart attack. According to news articles, two herds of elephants mysteriously traveled for 12 hours to his home shortly after his death. It had been approximately 18 months since their last "visit." They stayed two days, as if paying their respect, and then returned into the bush. Yet another example of the unusual communication and bond Anthony had formed with the elephants.
STORY (historical fiction) - I didn't want to put this book down. Yes, Auschwitz was a horrible place and you will hear some awful things, but I didn't find it depressing. From the very beginning you will become invested in the characters and their lives. You will learn how Jacob, the main character, is captured and sent to Auschwitz, and you will hear his reactions to the atrocities he finds there. Existence at Auschwitz was not living-- it was barely surviving -- but a small group of exceptional characters develop relationships and manage to keep each other strong. Needless to say, this book is about an escape. It's fascinating to listen as the characters plan and make their preparations, and you will be on the edge of your seat as they are actually carried out!
PERFORMANCE - Good job with French and German accents.
OVERALL - I highly recommend this story for all adults. There's no profanity, but lots of death and suffering. Be prepared for an emotional ride.
STORY (fiction) - This story takes place in Scotland, sometime near the present day. When I bought this book, I was expecting a heartwarming family-oriented story about a six-year-old child. There is that component to the story and it's very sweet (Bertie and his overbearing mother), but there's two other story lines of equal importance -- a story about some newlyweds and another about two women vying for the attention of one man. The stories are all basically about navigating through life's various ups and downs, and there's lots of character development. I almost returned this book after about an hour or so of listening to it because there wasn't enough going on to hold my interest, but I persevered. Soon I became involved with the characters and their various personal journeys.
PERFORMANCE - Good job.
OVERALL - Recommended for adults only. Even though there's no sex or profanity, children would find it boring. It's part of a series, but the story stands alone. This book is basically rambling around in the daily lives of richly developed characters. I prefer a little more "going on" in books so I won't be continuing with the series, but I enjoyed this book nonetheless.
STORY (horror/suspense) - First of all, this book is creepy and scary, but it's not blood and gore like the cover art suggests. In fact, there is no character that bleeds from her eyes and there's very little bloodshed. The story is about an investigation into a house that is supposedly haunted -- to be filmed live on Halloween! The book begins with the haunted history of the house, moves to assembling an investigative team and prepping for the show, then culminates in the live broadcast. I enjoyed all aspects of the story but, as in all mysteries, there are lots of clues that the reader is trying to figure out and understand. During the live broadcast, when I thought things would start to be revealed and make sense, the book seemed to just drag on and on with very little becoming clear. Then there's a short prologue where the main characters get together months after the broadcast and talk about what had actually occurred. It is only then that the mystery of the haunting becomes clear, and I doubt any reader would have seen it coming. It's a decent explanation, but I didn't like the way it was revealed.
There are lots of characters that are all important, so you will want to keep them straight. Sometimes they're referred to by their first names, sometimes their last and sometimes by their job in the story. "The Supernaturals" refers to the team who assembled to assault whatever is haunting the house -- a professor, an Indian dreamwalker, a psychic, a genius in inventing ghost-detecting gadgets and a woman who is possessed by a male ghost. They're all likeable and you will root for them as the suspense in the story progresses. The other characters in the story each have their own motivation for wanting the live program to succeed or fail, so there's television politics, police conflict, double-crossing, etc., which keeps the story interesting.
PERFORMANCE - Good job. Characters that were on the phone or radio sounded as if they actually were, and the ghostlike voices were pretty creepy.
OVERALL - Quite a bit of scary occurrences and also profanity, so not suitable for children. While I chose not to listen to this book as I was falling asleep (as I often do), I don't think it would cause anyone bad dreams unless you're pretty easily scared.
SLIGHT SPOILER ABOUT THE AUTHOR'S VISIT TO THIS HOUSE - While this story is fictitious, the house itself is a real house which is supposedly haunted. A realtor showed the house to the author, but she wouldn't go inside. The author, after driving several hours, went in alone. He said he felt like an ominous presence was watching him and wanted to be left alone, so he left the house after only a couple minutes. That visit was his inspiration for writing this book!
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