Volume 1 of The Last Lion is one of the top five Audible books among the hundreds I have experienced. Manchester's scholarship is astounding, and the story of this great man's life and times is endlessly fascinating. That much remains true in Volume 2, but the book is tragically diminished by the narration of Richard Brown.
Frederick Davidson, the narrator of Volume I, was absolutely perfect. When Manchester quoted Churchill, Davidson spoke in Churchill's own voice. It was as if someone had recorded Churchill, himself, for each statement. Churchill's humor and emotion come through as if he were speaking directly to the listener. Brown, on the other hand, cannot even begin to imitate Churchill's intonation and cadence, much less the subtler meanings behind the words. As a matter of fact, Brown would have been better off, as would the listener, if he had not even tried. If he had just read Manchester's words, it would not have come off as so, well, amateurish. The only thing Brown's rendition of Churchill and Churchill himself have in common is an English accent.
It is deeply disappointing. I am hoping that I can convince myself to finish this volume, simply for the historical information it can provide. However, that's a far cry from the way I felt about Volume I, when I could scarcely force myself to turn off my Nano early enough to get a decent night's sleep. I feel like a kid who got stiffed by Santa. I just don't get it. Whoever decided that ANYONE other than Frederick Davidson should render this work needs his (her?) head examined.
Sorry to say that you really can't start with this excellent book. The trilogy should be read in order, and I speak from experience. I tried to listen to this book first and just couldn't get into it, to the point that I almost didn't go back for When Gravity Fails, the first in the series. I eventually did, however, after reading numerous passionate reviews, and I've enjoyed all three, now, one after the other.
Jonathan Davis does a fine job on the voices, but he often puts the emphasis on the wrong word in a sentence. Be prepared, and then blow it off and enjoy the story.
Sad to say, this is all there is of Marid Audran, since there was so much farther this setting and character set could have taken us. Effinger died in 2002, only two chapters into the fourth Audran novel. We'll never know all there is to know, but when do we ever. Highly recommended.
If you really care to read detailed descriptions of meals and clothes, that would be a good thing, because there is no mystery, here. There is a considerable amount of contrived but minor angst between our narrator and her intended and a whole lot of wedding chore anxiety, but if you're not all about that, the plot is so obvious that you won't find anything to engage you, at all. The murder is a sort of sidelight.
The marshal is a nice guy, but his girlfriend (and our heroine), Skye, is just too concerned about inconsequential crap, and the plot, such as it is, is totally and completely guessable, including how her mom plays into the honeymoon. Dime a dozen, but it'll cost you more to indulge in this fluffy confection.
The narrator is better at English accents than American ones, but that's not saying much. He manages to butcher lowbrow Bahston, New Yauk, and Sheecahgo accents, which he throws into the mess that is the voice of our main character. Add to this the hash of a story, and you end up with a totally unsavory way to waste your time.
If you're having second thoughts because of the reviews that pan Dante's narrator, dismiss them at once. While it's not the best performance I've ever heard, it's not that bad, either. Dante's narrator speaks a bit slowly for my taste, but since the chapters are all attributed to one character or another--Dante, Anne, Elario, or Portier--I simply sped up the audio during the Dante chapters, as another reviewer suggested. Problem solved, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this wonderful conclusion to a marvelous series. Highly recommended.
I confirm what other reviewers have said re: the excellent pacing, tone, character development, and story line of this novel and the spot on perfection of the narration. You are, by now, acquainted with the plot, so I won't bother to repeat the description.
What I found most astonishing about this book was the concept of evidence in the Italian court system. It is giving nothing away to say that all the "proof" presented in this criminal procedural is circumstantial in the purest sense of the word, and yet it is considered to be totally sufficient for conviction, not just by the prosecutors but also by our protagonist, the defense attorney. "Evidence" that would barely rise to the level of coincidence in a US investigation is enough to send a plaintiff to prison for life, in Italy. Given that the author knows whereof he speaks, I found this to be totally alien and absolutely chilling. It may happen here, but you tell me, after reading this book, if you see no difference between what the US and Italy consider to be sufficient proof in a court of law. For me, this dissonance lent a tension and sense of uneasiness, paranoia, and helplessness to the novel that I more usually associate with horror fiction than with crime novels.
The writing is excellent. The tone, despite what I've said, is serious but not gloomy, and there is much more going on here than a simple courtroom drama. Entirely worth your time.
Those who are King devotees will very likely be bemused by my review, but I've only read a couple of Stephen King's books and that was long ago, so this review is for those who, like myself, might consider themselves newcomers and relative strangers to his work.
It must be extremely difficult to write truly scary books, since so few authors seem to be able to pull it off. The Shining, however, is a masterpiece of the genre, and this audio version is perfectly executed, resulting in a work that is simply breathtaking.
What impressed me most, though, is the quality of the writing. The story is told from the inside, out. It is terrifying because of the meticulous dissection of each character's state of mind, so artfully accomplished that every thought, every action seems not only plausible but real. Not one scene, not one thought, not one word seems fabricated. There are scenes that could only occur in nightmares of the worst kind, but King transports the reader so completely that it seems it is we who are caught in the dream that is not a dream but is evil, itself.
I downloaded The Shining because of all of the hype surrounding the release of Dr. Sleep, and I decided that, if I were going to read that, I should begin at the beginning of the story. Dr. Sleep has a lot to live up to, if it's to be a worthy successor to The Shining. Although I don't read much horror fiction, The Shining would be a masterpiece in any genre. I will just join my voice to all the others who have said that it is entirely worth your time and your Audible credit. Neither the book nor the narrator could be improved upon.
The narrator's voice is pleasant, but she has no idea what a real Southerner sounds like. As for Cajun, well, it's just embarrassing. Furthermore, she repeatedly pronounces "fleur-de-lis" as "fler de leese" and "jewelry" as "jewlery." Oh, and "objet d'arte is "Ob jet duh artay." The coup de grace, though, is when one of the male characters treats Jane with condensation (sic), which I am rather certain Faith Hunter wrote as "condescension."
This is the first audio book during which I found myself trying to glimpse the printed word beneath the hash the narrator made of it. I think Jane is a lot smarter than the narrator portrays her to be and that Hunter wrote a better book than comes off in this audio version. While it's nothing special in the world of urban fantasy, the book would have been enjoyable were it not for the clunkers thrown in by K. Hvam. Since it appears that she narrates future books in the series, I won't be pursuing it.
Kelsey is an annoying, silly, immature character that no adult (and hardly any children) could possibly relate to. I can't imagine that the teenagers this book was probably written for have ever been as insipid as our "heroine." Way, way too much time is spent in Kelsey's games, nastiness, and emotional chaos around Ren. It is impossible to understand why any man would ever be interested in this shallow, obnoxious female. She is definitely not worth it. Further, why is this book focused on her "relationship" to begin with??? Please don't waste a credit on this nothing of a book. Too bad. The supporting characters are not nearly so abhorrent, and it could have been a good story, had the writing been less pedantic and the lead character even tolerable. Oh, and if the writer had any concept of dialogue. Example? "Fine." "Fine." "Fine!" Really. So, seriously, as Kelsey would say, "Don't get your hopes up, Mister." Ewwww.
Fun, light read. Nothing whatever serious about this book, and, yeah, it's a romance of a kind, but the sex isn't overplayed, the accent is on the comedic, and it comes off, well, like a story you'd tell over drinks that has all your friends rolling on the floor. You didn't expect Moby Dick, did you?
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