This is Episode 9 of The Human Division series. Only two episodes so far have in my opinion been freestanding episodes with good, solid story lines and endings. Many of these episodes, including this one, are just filler stuff, making me wonder why Scalzi divided what might have been one longer book into all these silly pieces. That being said, this episode had an okay plot with some cute humor and then a pretty good ending. I am ready for them to start coming together to create what hopefully will be an exciting bigger picture and great conclusion.
The narrator did a good job, despite the fact that there were no real challenges to the performance.
STORY (teenage fiction) - Leonard Peacock plans to shoot himself today, after he says goodbye to four people who are very important to him. You will be "in the head" of this troubled teen as he goes to school that last day, his 18th birthday, with a gun in his backpack. You will learn what's important to him and what isn't, who he loves and who he hates, and ultimately why he's planning to take his own life. Throughout the day Leonard (who's very intelligent) talks about Hamlet, Humphrey Bogart, the Holocaust, atheism, his first kiss, same-sex relations and why he wants to shoot his ex-best friend before turning the gun on himself.
This book was beautifully written. You will feel sorry for Leonard, but at the same time you will root for him to see and embrace his own strengths. The day you spend inside Leonard's head is not overdramatized or predictable. To the contrary, it feels very real. (The author gives credit to multiple mental health professionals who reviewed the book for authenticity). In the end the message is clear: Never lose sight of the light. Things will get better!
PERFORMANCE - I don't know how old this narrator was, but he did a great job of performing the complex feelings and emotions of 18-year-old Leonard Peacock. Other characters were performed equally as well.
OVERALL - I'd recommend this book to all males/females high school age and older. Teachers, parents, students, kids who are picked on or depressed, class bullies -- there's something for everyone to learn here. Some sexual situations are described, and there is some cursing.
STORY (mystery) - I really loved this book. Thomas, a schizophrenic who spends his time memorizing maps on an ap called World360, thinks he sees the frozen image of a woman being suffocated in the window of a New York hi-rise. He and his brother, Ray, investigate. There's so much that happens in this story and so many unexpected surprises that I can't possibly give it justice in this review. Aside from the image of the woman with the plastic bag over her head, there are a couple other mysteries which are equally exciting as they unravel. The plot is complicated but not hard to follow, so you don't have to wear a thinking cap to enjoy it. Also, the author manages to inject a bit of humor occasionally. Great stuff!
PERFORMANCE - Good job, but I reserve five stars for stellar multi-voice performances. This reader does a great old woman's voice.
OVERALL - Highly recommended for all mature listeners. There's some profanity and references to sexual acts and lesbianism, though there are no actual sex "scenes" in the book. There is also occasional violence.
STORY (humorous mystery) - This was my first venture into the detective world of Chet and Bernie. In this book they're hired to find a boy who disappeared from wilderness camp. The mystery and investigation are good, but what makes this book refreshing is that it's told from Chet's point of view...and Chet is a dog. Hiking adventures and crooked small-town police are woven into the story, but there is lots of what I call Chet's "doggy digressions" in between. He will be talking about what's happening, and then he will go off on a tangent about how he loves bacon or how proud he is of his master, Bernie. Sometimes he will lose his train of thought completely.
There's LOTS AND LOTS of stuff kind of like this: We finally made it to Jackrabbit Junction. I don't know why they call it that because I don't smell any jackrabbits. I chased a rabbit once and it was lots of fun. That was in the case where we were looking for Slippery Sam. He's wearing an orange suit now somewhere upstate. Anyway, Jackrabbit Junction is a small town with...(and then gets back on track with the story). It's cute and refreshing for a while, but I soon tired of the novelty and just wanted to hear how the mystery was wrapped up. I probably won't listen to any more books in this series.
PERFORMANCE - Nice job! He had a good rhythm which complemented how a dog might be thinking and trying to speak, but it didn't detract from the story he was telling.
OVERALL - I'd recommend this for children and adults both EXCEPT for about six or seven F-bombs which pop up sporadically. You must be in the mood for a light mystery and lots of slightly humorous dog thoughts. The story stands alone.
STORY (historical romance) - I like contemporary romances much better than historical ones, but this one is actually pretty good. It has the usual issue -- someone from the upper class falls for someone from the lower -- but this book has a lot of other stuff going on that makes it much better. Olivia is an English Dutchess whose husband has just died, and Jack is a scoundrel. They've been thrown together in a most unusual way, and they end up living in the same house and Jack is appointed to be guardian for Olivia's son.
Needless to say, they end up having the hots for each other. I subtracted a star from this book primarily because I got sick and tired of them constantly thinking about each other and trying to analyze their feelings and what they should do about them. Enough!!!! But nevertheless, the story is good and their feelings for each other become genuine. The author has a talent for writing very hot scenes in a unique way that has great tenderness and also maintains an element of class.
PERFORMANCE - I love Susan Ericksen from the In Death series, and she continues to deliver. Her voice lends itself to portray men and women nicely, and her natural English accent is lovely. She doesn't distinguish much between characters but does some pretty good cockney accents and the voice of a young boy.
OVERALL - This is Book 2 in the series, but it's the first I've listened to. I can't comment on its relation to the rest of the series, but it can stand completely on its own. There's no profanity, but there is lots of thinking about sex and also some pretty explicit sexual acts. Recommended for mature females only. Definitely not for guys.
STORY (True) -- This is the personal memoir of a remarkable young man named Eric Greitens. He attended Oxford and excelled scholastically, and he also traveled to many poverty-stricken countries to aid children and victims of genocide or war. His impression was always the same...we're here too late, why are we handing out food when we should have stopped this from happening in the first place? He also adopted an attitude of "If not me, then who?" He reached a point in his life where he had three paths before him. He could stay and teach at Oxford, work for a Fortune 500 company making megabucks or join the Navy. He chose the latter.
A major portion of the book is Eric's going through boot camp and training to become a Navy SEAL. It's detailed and fascinating. You will spend lots of time listening to what goes on during Hell Week, which is the grueling final test which must be passed before becoming a SEAL. All I can say is Wow! After graduation, you will hear of multiple SEAL missions in which he participated, most of which were in Afghanistan trying to capture high-ranking members of terrorist groups.
The end of the book is a very short bit about the organization Eric has formed to help veterans. The book definitely sends some important messages and will leave you thinking about them.
PERFORMANCE - The author narrates his own memoir and it was good to hear Eric's voice. He does a good job, but personally I would have preferred a professional narrator.
OVERALL (Actual rating 4.5) This is a great book. I'm not rating it a 5 because I was anxious for the SEAL part to start and was less interested in his college years and humanitarian efforts. There's a little bit of profanity, but not much. Eric describes the sad conditions he finds overseas and speaks frankly about his military missions, but I didn't find anything overly gross or depressing. I'd recommend this book for guys over about age 15. Females probably won't be interested in the subject matter till they're older.
STORY (sci-fi) - I can't begin to describe everything that happens in this book. It's #4 in a series of 15 books, and it's my favorite so far by a longshot! Bren Cameron (main character) is a human translator/negotiator who lives among the Atevi, an intelligent, peaceful alien species. In this book, Bren and a small group of Atevi travel to a human space station orbiting the Atevi's home planet to negotiate peaceful coexistence while making repairs to the station. They enter a political mess onboard the station, and there's one crisis after another. Too much to begin to describe here, but there's lots of action and suspense and it's also very mentally stimulating. I listened every spare minute I could and was intrigued every second.
CJ Cherryh is a genius! The world she's created, the culture of the Atevi, and I don't know how in the world she came up with everything that went on in this book. The suspense was palpable and the action was exciting, but it didn't rise to the level I would consider "for guys only."
PERFORMANCE - Great job, great voice distinction among many characters. Lots of strange alien pronunciations to keep straight, which he did. He has a distinctive style of reading, the way he pauses throughout sentences, but it's perfect for this book.
OVERALL - Highly recommended for mature males and females. No cursing. A very small amount of vague sexual references. Definitely don't start in the middle of this series because it has a lot of it's own language that would be hard to pick up midstream. Also, the story line builds with each book so you will want that history, but each book ends at a good stopping point where the issues in that particular book are resolved.
STORY (supernatural romance) - Eclipse is Book 3 of a four-book series. I'm a bit older than the target audience and not a fan of supernatural romances, but I've persevered listening to this series in order even though I've been pretty bored. Multiple mega-hit movies and 28,071 Audible listeners rating the series 4.4 overall means something, right?
The series is famous for it's human-vampire-werewolf love triangle, but the werewolf love interest doesn't really become a factor till the end of this book -- after about 35 hours of total listening time. I'm sure I'm a minority here, but I think this would have been better if it had been condensed to about half the total time investment. That said, I'm hooked by the cliffhanger at the end of this book, and I'm probably going to buy the final one soon, rather than waiting for a sale as I usually do!
PERFORMANCE - It's okay. She doesn't try to distinguish between male and female voices at all, which sometimes is confusing. There is a male narrator who reads a small bit at the beginning and an epilogue at the end, conveying Jacob's perspective.
OVERALL - The target audience is high school and college girls, and it's perfect for them. There's no cursing or sex, although there is lots of kissing and talk about when they'll actually go further. There's talk about vampire blood-sucking but I don't think much of that actually happens, and a small amount of violence. You must listen to all four books in order, but think about the time investment. As an adult, I can't say it's worth it till I hear Book 4 and see how everything ends.
STORY (European classic) - This is a fairy tale about a little girl who is trying to rescue a dear childhood friend. As an adult, I found it pretty boring. I never got into the main character and, thus, never really cared about what she was trying to accomplish. I also got annoyed by all the characters' names being prefaced by "Little." Little Gerta went here and Little Kay did this and the Little Robber Girl did that.
Didn't care for the book, but it is written in some nice, descriptive, wintery language. There you have it, short and sweet.
PERFORMANCE - This is the first time I've listened to Julia Whelan, and she has a lovely voice. Her reading of this story gave it a very wondrous, magical flair (even though the story fell flat, IMHO). It wasn't a difficult performance, but I will look for more books narrated by this Narrator of the Year 2014.
OVERALL - I'd recommend this for young children only but thank you, Audible, for the free holiday listen!
STORY (true historical) - This is the story of Mary Ingles, a truly incredible woman. It begins with a brutal Indian raid on her pioneer settlement in Virginia where people are massacred and scalped. Pregnant Mary and her two sons are kidnapped and transported to an Indian village where they are held captive for several months, but Mary eventually manages to escape. Leaving her children behind, she begins a grueling 43-day trek 1,000 miles across the wilderness, with only the clothes on her back, a blanket, a knife, a tomahawk and a crazy old Dutch woman. The terrain is often mountainous and difficult, food is scarce and winter is approaching, but Mary is driven by a strong will to survive and to see her husband, Will, again. Her strength and courage is amazing and so is her story.
At the end of the book is a note from the author where he explains how he compiled his information to write this book, as well as some additional information. (And just FYI, this book is about Mary INGLES, not Mary INGALLS of Little House on the Prairie fame.)
PERFORMANCE - I can't quite understand why Audible chose a male to narrate the story of Mary Ingles. He tries his best to perform a female voice when she is supposed to be speaking but is not really able to inject proper emotion into that high voice. Sometimes the result is that she sounds too "perky" in what is otherwise a dire situation. Otherwise, he does a good job.
OVERALL - I'd recommend this book for adults who enjoy stories of pioneer America and don't mind listening to hours of hardship, challenge and suffering. I don't know why Audible suggests this book for teens. There are no teen characters and, while older teens could certainly hear this story, I don't think they'd enjoy it. There's a tad of profanity and no sexual acts, though there is discussion of potential Indian rape. Mary flashes back to passionate evenings with her husband, but they're described with almost no detail. The Indian raid at the beginning of the book is totally gross, and some of the treatment of the prisoners in the Indian village was very cruel as well.
STORY (romance) - I have loved all three books in this series so far. The romances are HOT and the background stories are really, really good! In this story Mark and Sophie share a special night in high school, then he leaves to serve his Country in Afghanistan. They happen to meet again 12 years later -- I'm really condensing here -- and they quickly find themselves on the run. There are some bad guys after them, and they're also fugitives from the law.
The story is complex and exciting. Mark and Sophie sizzle, which leads me to my only real complaint about this story. I had to move the narration speed up to 2X a couple times to get through the sex scenes. I wouldn't say there's too much sex (I'd guess maybe 15 minutes in the whole book) but it was beyond my personal limits and I was anxious to jump past the passion and get back to the story. Otherwise, I loved the characters, their plight and the ending!! It's really a good book.
PERFORMANCE - As far as I'm concerned, the only person who should ever narrate a romance is Kaleo Griffith. Wouldn't you much rather hear a young, sexy man's voice than a woman reading a romance? His voice is husky and sensitive. Perfection!
OVERALL (Actual overall rating 4.5) - The books in this series stand alone. There is character development running through the series, but it's not important enough to really worry about listening to the books in order. There's quite a bit of profanity, explicit sex, and the topic of rape is addressed multiple times. There's some violence, but not a lot and it's not the gory kind. I'd say this is a must-read for adult females who like hot romances.
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