This is a prime example of a type of science fiction that I loved as a young adult. It's technically science fiction, but is for all practical purposes fantasy. While ostensibly about people on a faraway planet far in the future, it has much to say about Western culture and norms at the time it was written. The main character is a girl living in a sexist, pre-industrial society with a fairly rigid social system. She has great musical talent, but on Pern, women do not become harpers, the musicians who, while providing entertainment, are also responsible for transmitting the history and culture of their people. The heroine must overcome the prejudices of her family, as well as her own fear of failure, in order to do what she was born to do--make music.
Happily, the concept of girls not being free to follow their hearts' callings feels dated and rather silly. Fortunately, the Harper Hall trilogy is good enough to overcome this. I'm lucky to have been raised on stories such as this, so that by the time I became an adult, my sense of opportunity seemed limitless. Many girls are not as fortunate as I have been, and I hope that stories such as this help to ease their roads and broaden their dreams.
I was so happy to see that Audible hired Bernadette Dunne to read "Local Custom". It had been the only Liaden novel available on audio for a long time, and although it had been read with love by its first narrator, the art of producing audio books hadn't really reached the quality of current standards. I've listened to Bernadette Dunne read "The Sharing Knife" series by Bujold and I love her work. She does this one proud.
One nice thing about the Liaden books is the wide variety in plots and characters. While many are decidedly of the space opera variety, this one is focused on Liaden customs and is a romance. There is little "action" and lots of parlor room politics. If that is not to your taste, it is easily skipped. If it is, you will probably reread it many times, as I have.
When I started listening to this, I thought that perhaps something had gone wrong with the download. The way in which the narrator exaggerates the last syllables of each sentence is downright bizarre. It's such a pity because the story is a gem. Buyer beware!!
This is a perfect "get away from it all" book. The characters charmed me and the overarching story is interesting. This is my second time through the first five NIghtrunner books as I prepare to read the sixth, so obviously I've enjoyed them. For me, it's the relationship between the two main characters which keeps me listening long past bedtime. Serigil and Alec are one of the fictional couples who feel completely real to me and who I truly care about. The romance which develops between them in future books was one of the most endearing I've ever encountered.
Warning: Book 5 is NOT a relaxing book. I stuck with it because I had to see Serigil and Alec through what was a long, miserable ordeal. I'm a sissy, and it's a measure of how much I love them that I kept reading. Thank goodness I own a paper copy of that one and can skim it before starting on the sixth. I know I can't bear to go through it again!
Although the idea was reasonably good, this book completely failed to win me over. Foolishly, I kept listening on and on, convinced that soon the main character and his friends would give me a reason to care about them, and it just never happened. I also instinctively knew that the story wasn't really about kids attending a college for magicians, and I was curious to figure out what it really was about. How disappointed I was when, 7/8 of the way through the story it finally became clear, and it was even more dull than the story had been up to that point. I have never written such a negative review, but I don't want others to pay for this expensive book and then spend hours listening to such a disappointing story. If the general idea of young adults entering into a fantasy world that turns out not to be the Narnia they, (and mostly, the author), obsessed about as kids, try the Fionavar Tapestry, which is more engaging and gives the reader more reason to care.
Having watched the Wallander series from the BBC, with Kenneth Branagh in the lead role, I was curious to read the books. Mankell 's narrative places heavy emphasis on the inner life of Wallander, as well as what he sees as the deterioration of Swedish society in the modern age. I was fascinated by the differences in how I'm used to Americans thinking about and pursuing criminal activity verses how the Swedish characters engage in police work. They are so much more shocked by the violence and injustices they encounter, and so less ready to shoot first and ask questions later. Although Mankell clearly feels that his country is succumbing to hatefulness and greed, I felt relief to read about people for whom violence is still shocking. I loved arm-chair traveling to Sweden and will continue with the series.
Having adjusted my expectations after reading several lackluster reviews of "The Distant Hours", I was happily surprised to find myself mesmerized by this complex, layered, romantic story. Listening as I knitted, gardened, cooked, and hung laundry, I was glad for the slow pace, the detailed descriptions that transported me in space and time, and the character development which made Juniper, Saffy, Percy, Meridith, and Edie real and sympathetic. Kate Morton crafts her language, and I savored her almost poetic descriptions of Milderhurst Castle. I loved that she took the time to tell the story properly, having faith that the reader would prefer quality over pace. When something is as beautiful as "The Distant Hours", I'd really rather not be rushed.
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