I have liked several of Brad Meltzer's books in the past and had read the first book in this "Culpa Ring" series. I also was out of books to listen to by always-great authors like Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, David Baldacci and James Rollins. This was a painful listen in every way.
First, unlike so many other reviewers, I am NOT a Scott Brick fan. I think the criticisms here that he reads each sentence as if the weight of the Universe is hanging on his next breath is an apt description of every book he narrates. If the story itself is good enough, I can suffer through Mr. Brick's love affair with his own pronunciation. Unfortunately, this book was almost as bad as the narrator. He makes the characters either too whiny or too self-important or puts an inflection in his voice that makes the listener know "this is the BAD GUY." The overly dramatic narration made it almost impossible to finish.
Secondly, I could have gotten past the narration if the story wasn't SO incredibly weak. I don't believe that the story was convoluted or told out of order as some other readers have suggested. The story was just plain stupid. When I am reading espionage thrillers (and I read many, many books within this genre), I'd like there to be some sort of basis in reality. I can willingly suspend my disbelief to a certain point -- all espionage has some angle that is not credible. Where Mr. Meltzer fails miserably in this story is that at no place in the story did I ask myself "could this really happen?" or "is there someone like this running around the federal government?" Without that mere hint of realism, the story is laughable.
It was not a good use of my credit. More importantly, after agonizing through yet another of Scott Brick's narrations of a Meltzer novel, I am done. The two -- author and narrator -- are a deadly combination. And not in a good way.
I really hesitated in writing this review. First of all, I am THRILLED that Mark Greaney is continuing the late great Tom Clancy's storytelling and I ALMOST gave the story a five star. Almost. I have been reading these stories for decades and, although I know the last few were co-written, I have remained loyal to the series. Mr. Greaney did a wonderful job as far as he went.
My critique of Scott Brick is not new. I realize he is everyone's favorite narrator. He is not mine. I would have preferred that Lou Diamond Phillips remain my storyteller. Scott Brick's voice irritates me -- not AS much in this book as in some others. However, I have never listened to someone who is more in love with his own voice. Every word is drawn out and too emotional. I think three stars is probably the highest rating I have given to Mr. Brick in quite some time so that's actually a positive rating from me.
My SOLE critique of this novel is the virtual lack of existence of Cathy Ryan and the other Ryan kids. I realize that, several years ago, a decision was made to follow Jack Junior's escapades (and I love Jack Jr. !!). I was hopeful that with quite a bit of focus back onto President Jack Ryan, that more attention would come back to Dr. Cathy and the other kids. Maybe in the next book, the whole Ryan family can be better represented. It's the all-American family who become major political figures that truly made the Jack Ryan series so wonderful. I can (and do) read hundreds of thrillers, but there is something about THIS First Family that makes me want to know all the details of their lives. My favorite book to date is still "Executive Orders" because it explores the relationships and isn't just about the thriller/action portion.
Other than those very minor comments, "Full Force and Effect" is spectacular. I wouldn't change anything about the story -- not a single detail -- I would just have added a little more. I love the story and the premise and the characters. I love the "ripped from the headlines" feeling with North Korea acting like the criminals that they are and the subtext of Russia getting frisky. I love that President Ryan was again a player in this story. It's a great novel. Both my overall rating and story rating are actually 4.5 stars.
Any book that starts with the historically-accurate analysis that the Civil War was NOT all about slavery is going to get my attention fast. Period. This novel, which outlines a deal made between President Lincoln and the Mormons was believable, attention-grabbing and just plain wonderful.
Great novel, great characters, amazing blend of fact and fiction. And I learned about something new (in this case, the Mormon religion) which is always my favorite part of a Berry novel. I downloaded. I listened. I'll listen again. Very few authors have the ability to earn a second listen -- Steve Berry is one of those authors. .
Well done. Very well done!!!
Court Gentry is a hero who everyone wants to make a villain. In this most recent novel, it is made more clear that he is being targeted by people high up in the US government for all the wrong reasons. We've always know that as readers, but this novel makes it very clear that Court is a victim of someone, somewhere, who wants him dead.
The action is continuous. The storytelling is excellent. I was not 100% thrilled with the narration, but not enough to downgrade my overall score. I strongly suggest starting at the beginning of the series -- "The Gray Man" -- in order to understand Court's character.
First of all, most of this review applies to all five of the books in the Thornleigh series. Since I have now wasted my time on all five books, I am merely going to make slight adjustments to each review so as to protect others from wading through them as I did. If it hadn't been the "slump" period for new novels -- between mid-January and mid-June when no awesome new books are released -- I wouldn't have gotten through the first of these books, let alone all five of them. However, I spend hours every day waiting at my kids' activities and I use that time to listen to books and knit. So I drowned myself in Barbara Kyle. After the first few hours, it almost became like watching a train wreck -- you just have to keep going. I also believe in giving authors EVERY benefit of the doubt.
This is the fifth and final book (currently) in the series of the Thornleigh family. The historical time frame is mid-16th century England and the Elizabeth and Mary saga. I always acknowledge that history is written by the winners so I get it: Elizabeth is good, Mary is bad. As the author correctly acknowledges at the end of the novel, the Casket Letters which were allegedly written by Mary, Queen of Scots, have not survived to be examined. The ONLY reason I am giving this novel two stars on the story is because Ms. Kyle gets the piece about the Casket Letters right and explains that the Scottish Lords suddenly resented these letters and their authenticity was very questionable. Other than that one part that few authors acknowledge, the story is ridiculous.
The entire series, without spoilers, tracks the fictional Thornleigh and the Grenville families as feuding throughout Tudor history. Book One is the beginnings of the Protestant reformation. Book Two is early Bloody Mary and the Wyatt Rebellion. Book Three is Elizabeth's captivity under her sister, Mary. Book Four is Elizabeth's early reign and the French/Catholic threat from Scotland. Book Five is supposed to be the rivalry between the two queens. In each and every book, a Thornleigh woman gets herself into unnecessary trouble, there a long and loving description of the penalty for treason (which some character or another has invariably committed) and some sort of rationale given for why the heroine of each book hates herself until she is saved by love from self-loathing and guilt. There is also a very anti-Catholic tone to all of these novels which I just accepted although it was disturbing.
Yes, it is JUST that bad, All five books are JUST that bad. These women think far too highly of their own responsibility in matters of world affairs. Then, when they take action (or don't take action), the author spends the next several chapters of dialogue with that woman berating herself about the choice she made and worrying about the consequences of that choice. And the worst part is that these women make DUMB choices -- it is a very sad literary day when I WANT the heroine to get burned at the stake or think that it would serve a heroine right if her fiance died of wounds because he had to come chasing after her. These women are not strong fighters for the Protestant/Elizabethan cause. They are constant whiners who get themselves into silly situations. They certainly don't think things through before jumping into action for their causes.The books are a never ending series of "let me see how much trouble I can get into and then let me whine about it and then let me apologize to the man I love and live happily ever after." Yes, it is JUST that bad.
And authors should not ever EVER narrate their own novels. Ms. Kyle's voice is very nice and I would enjoy listening to her narrate a novel that she had not written. However, she loves her own words too much and adores her very unlikeable characters. Every word is drawled out lovingly and a heavy emotional emphasis is placed on the dialogue. I don't know if I would have disliked the books quite as much if someone else had been reading them. I know that her voice became so grating to me by the third book that I was talking BACK to the book and I was doing so out loud. When I heard "Justine knew she couldn't just leave...," I literally said "Of COURSE she couldn't jut leave. That's what a practical person would do."
After which, I promised my husband that I would be done soon and that I would not listen to anymore more books in the series.
I love James Rollins's Sigma Force novels but was very hesitant to read/listen to this story because many times co-written books are choppy. That can be ok if reading, but when listening, it can be very disturbing to hear two different writing styles. This novel was seamless. It was as near to a perfect novel as I have ever read.
I was finally swayed when my husband said that I "must read" this novel. My husband despises vampire fiction (although he loves James Rollins). He was up reading the Kindle version well into the night for several evenings. So I downloaded it onto my iPod and turned it on. And was hooked from the first five minutes. I became anti-social because people were disturbing my reading/listening time. It took me less than three days to listen to this novel; all while working and taking care of busy kids' schedules.
I won't do spoilers because I go out of my way not to do so, but the main theme behind this book mixes the history of the Roman Catholic Church with that Eastern Europe and Masada and does so in such a way that each new plot twist causes a quick rewind to make sure that the authors really DID write that passage.
I have also now listened to the second book and am eager for the third in the series. I did find the second book a little stretched in the credibility department, but this is a GREAT series.
Espionage and spy novels almost always reflect the politics of their authors. I'm not complaining since I happen to worship at the altar of Brad Thor, Vince Flynn and Ben Coes, but their politics come through loud and clear. Not so with this novel or its successor novels. About halfway through the second of the three novels, I figured out the author's politics (and interestingly agreed with the author's critique of the actions of talk radio hosts) and by then I was HOOKED on this story.
I refuse to give the spoilers that any sort of substantive review would reveal. The theme of the story is that the wife of a candidate for President is accidentally assassinated during a speech the candidate is giving the latter part of a primary season. As the investigation progresses, many more deaths take place, seemingly unrelated. The lead character, a specially-assigned Secret Service agent, is left to track the assassin and to link the deaths. The novel is beautifully written and I listened very late into the night to go through the story and to find out what happens. I'd call it a "page turner" if I was reading in book form.
The only minor negative was the way in which the narrator performed a couple of the female voices; really snarky and crass and not how I "hear" the character speaking. The other warning that I have to give is that the author attempts to add bold sexuality and is unsuccessful. The sex scenes almost appear to be plugged in to fill in some sort of formula and the writing of the sexual scenes is not necessary to the story. Many other authors can allude to the sex without actually writing it. I'm not a prude, but the sex scenes are such that I can't let my teenager read a book that he would otherwise LOVE.
Immediately after finishing the first novel, I downloaded the second and then the third novels in the series. I simply could not stop listening to this series and cannot wait for another addition. Love the characters. Love the story. LOVE the lack of political in-your-face opinions. This is a great book.
I truly don't know where to start with how much I disliked this book so I'll actually begin with the few positives.
Bianca Amato's narration was extraordinary and the only feature that allowed me to finish this novel.I have listened to books she has read in the past where I wasn't in love with her voice, but for this book, her voice was well-paced and soothing to listen to. She got the gender voices done without over-exaggerating the differences. Truly, I would not have finished this book (and almost didn't) but for the narration. I have never put those words in a review before.
The novel brings the War of the Roses series to a conclusion and merges it into the Tudor series (The Constant Princess would logically follow from the conclusion of this story). I'm very glad Ms. Gregory wrote the Tudor books and The White Queen first so that I know that, somewhere, she has some knowledge of the time period. This book most certainly does not demonstrate any such knowledge.
The negatives are based in the "levels" of the book that Ms. Gregory defines at the end in her "Author's Note." Apparently, her intent was to create a "novel about a mystery that has never been solved." Therefore, she unabashedly makes stuff up left and right throughout the entire novel. I would love to see a single piece of historical research that even hints that Henry VII raped Elizabeth of York repeatedly prior to their wedding in order to see if she was fertile and only married her once she became pregnant. For Tudor fans out there who have done an iota of research, this is painful to read material. I completely understand that Ms. Gregory is of the school of thought that one of the two princes survived the Tower of London and that Richard III was not responsible for their deaths. I'm not taking a stand on that question in this review -- even if you accept as true that the younger prince (who would have rightfully been Richard IV of England) was not in the Tower of that he somehow survived or that someone other than Richard III or one of his minions killed the princes, the story doesn't work.
I will give a fiction writer every reasonable inch of "willing suspension of disbelief" to allow them to tell their story. What I will not enable with any positive comments is not warning the reader in advance that the author's plan is to do so. A recent book called "The Boleyn King" says at the outset: what if Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had a son and Anne Boleyn was not executed? That is a very good premise for a novel and I enjoyed the story. It was fun, it was completely against any and all historical facts and I had no problem with the story BECAUSE of the disclosure. Ms. Gregory attempts in her Author's Note to justify her diversion from anything resembling truth.
Even more grating was the author's use of repetition as a literary tool. I've complained about this style in other novels she has written (specifically, "The Red Queen"), but she perfected whiny repeated phrases in this most recent epic tale. Once again, I found myself thinking "ok Philippa, I get it... Henry VII is afraid of 'the boy' who might be young Richard... I get that Henry VII and his ridiculous mother, Margaret Beaufort, trust no one and have a spy network. I get that Elizabeth of York is emotionally torn between her duties as a York princess and her duties as a Tudor wife." I felt like my ears were bleeding from the use of the words: "the boy." I'd be very interested to see a proportional word count of how many times that phrase appears. It could easily be up to 25% of the words in the entire novel. Maybe it's the presence of Margaret Beaufort -- the repetition was ghastly in the novel about her as well.
I have never, ever given a story one star until today. This book was simply horrible. Ms. Gregory fails in her attempt to re-write history; written by the victors or not. The characters are shallow and false. The writing is borderline unbearable. The "mystery" that is "solved" by the novel has nothing to do with Elizabeth of York so even the title of the book is misleading. If Ms. Gregorty wanted to write a "what if" story about the younger prince in the Tower, she should have called it "The Missing Prince" or something else that more truthfully highlights what the story is about -- not used an interesting woman from York/Lancaster/Tudor times and crammed her into being the emotional outlet for a fairytale that has no basis in fact.
If you have read all of the other books and really want to finish the story, go ahead and wade through this tome. Otherwise, use your credit more wisely.
Excellent book and another reason (besides Brad Thor) that I am frequently seen with earbuds firmly implanted. When Ben Coes and Brad Thor come out with books on the same day...???? Well, that's just not spreading the wealth out over time !!
In this fourth installment of the Dewey Andreas series, Mr. Coes wraps intrigue, Chinese politics, romance and Dewey's take-no-prisoners approach into one excellent package. I'm doing my usual "no spoiler" review, but Dewey goes on some serious rampages in this novel: well justified and no holds barred. My only critique is with the narrator that read me the novel -- I'm almost ready to put Coes on the list of books (James Rollins too) that must be physically read because the narration was really bad. When Dewey is speaking to himself to keep his morale high, the narrator groaned and grunted like.... Well, it wasn't a good narration. It was bad enough that I took away a star from the novel as a whole -- which I LOVED.
The story never stops moving. As events unfold, they do so with logical purpose and credibility. Some thrillers leave me saying "that's not even remotely possible," but Coes's writing is step-by-step, country-by-country, event-to-event. And all at a non-stop pace that leads to me being very anti-social for the 14 hours or so when I was listening. Great novel. Read the first three books first !!
Let me first do my standard disclosure: I do not like Elizabeth Tudor. Whenever I write a review about Tudor fiction, I feel it is only fair to state that up front because my dislike of Elizabeth I may or may not color my opinions. I try to be fair, but I don't like her.
That said, I DO like what Robin Maxwell does with Elizabeth in this fictional portrayal of her teenage life. The story is set during the time period, following Henry VIII's death, when Elizabeth had been restored to the line of succession, but came in behind her brother Edward (now King of England but a child) and her sister, Mary Tudor. Elizabeth lives with her stepmother, the Queen Dowager, Katherine Parr, and with the Lord Admiral of England, Thomas Seymour. The story of Katherine's quick marriage to Thomas, her pregnancy and death from childbed fever is incorporated into this novel of the relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour -- which was always suspected, never confirmed and which is the source of all of the rumors that Elizabeth may have had a child after all. There are no spoilers here -- Alison Weir wrote a brilliant novel on this same subject and her research is always flawless.
I like Robin Maxwell's writing. I like it a lot. As I said in a previous review about The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, I do not want to like Elizabeth Tudor, but I find my eyes opening just a little. Any author who can get me to feel sorry for Elizabeth is talented by definition. That said, I find the Princess terribly whiny in this novel; not the narration, the dialogue. However, we are talking about a teenage girl who has had a difficult life, always fearing for own life, never certain of her place. I continuously thought to myself as I listened to this novel that "if there was an older man hitting on a teenage girl NOW, his backside would be locked up." That alone, the pursuit of Elizabeth by Thomas and the lengths to which he manipulated her young emotions, is worth the listen.
You will not, after listening to this book, like Thomas Seymour. He was never the most likeable person to begin with, but Ms. Maxwell portrays him in such a way as to be beyond detestable. He borders on evil and that is my sole criticism of this novel -- my own research has not shown Seymour to be evil, just grasping and scandalous and greedy beyond measure. From the historical viewpoint, he probably deserved his execution for treason; I'm just not sure he deserves as much loathing as Ms. Maxwell creates for the reader/listener. I have no doubt he seduced Elizabeth Tudor. I have no doubt he attempted to steal the Protectorship of England from his older brother. I do have my doubts as to the lengths he may or may not have gone to in order to gain the power he sought.
Overall, this is a fantastic book. I listened to it avidly and enjoyed it thoroughly. It's well worth a credit (in fact, I purchased extras to get this book and Ms. Maxwell's other Elizabethian novel, The Queen's Bastard).
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