Houston, TX, United States | Member Since 2008
I had been looking forward to listening to this book on the strength of its reputation and reviews but found it sadly disappointing. It is badly dated and strains credibility repeatedly. Even thirty years ago when the book was written the answer to the door lock of a quality hotel was not a quick trick with a credit card. Curare administered orally is harmless and therefore useless as a murder weapon. People who have never ridden a horse do not jump on the bare back of a thoroughbred in the dark and, clinging only to its mane, jump two fences and escape across a wintery landscape at a full gallop. In addition, time after time twists in the plot were entirely predictable.
Michael Kramer does a nice job with the narration and my distaste for giving up on a book before finishing carried me through to the end, but I would not recommend "The Butcher's Boy" to a friend.
Clearly Lalu (later Polly) Nathoy was an extraordinary woman. Sold into slavery by bandits in China, she survived and ended up thriving in the hostile, alien Idaho frontier at the turn of the last century. Unfortunately this fictionalized account of her life is fragmented and disjointed as well as being somewhat sentimental and less than artful stylistically. Perhaps the author could not find enough reliable material to tell the story with the continuity and depth it deserved and did not want to invent enough to fill in the huge gaps, sometimes of a decade or more. In that case, straight historical reportage would have been preferable to giving us neither the simple facts nor a satisfying story arc. The narrative as is leaves the reader thinking, "Hunh? What happened in between?" The episodes which make up the book are often fascinating; still I would not recommend it, though I would love to read more about the resourceful and inspiring heroine.
C.J.Cherryh is an established and revered master of the SF/F genre so, not having read any of her work for a while, I snapped up this book and its sequel when I saw them on sale. Unfortunately that was a mistake. This is the 13th book in the series, the first in the 5th three book sequence, and I was almost completely lost for over half of the nearly thirteen hours it took to finish listening. Joining in the middle of any series is difficult and ill-advised, but Cherryh made it an almost insurmountable task in this case. She creates extremely intricate and fully realized worlds for her stories, including an entirely alien system of names and titles, a culture which is completely distinct from humanity, and byzantine social and political structures which, while brilliant in their conception and consistency, resist every effort to understand them when joining a narrative "in medias res." Add to that the difficulty of retaining it all as spoken without being able to see the alien terms on the page, and the result was glassy-eyed bewilderment. All of Cherryh's literary assets of imagination, plot integration and subtlety of effect conspired to make it a real chore to get through the book.
In addition this is a book about diplomacy with dozens of factions involved and with years of history undergirding it. There is virtually no overt action. The leading character comes across as unassailable in his skills of negotiation and persuasion so that we never really fear an unfavorable outcome. The arc of the narrative is long, uninterrupted and without a great deal of suspense. In context with the precedent events of the four earlier three book sequences, I have no doubt it fascinates and delights, but even given Cherryh's superbly drawn characters and evocative descriptions of settings, it was at times tedious.
It's unfair to ask an author to overcome the obstacle a reader faces when starting in the middle of a series, but we often do it anyway, don't we. Usually we lose something but get up to speed fairly quickly and perhaps decide to go back later and pick up what we missed. Please heed the warning, however. If you ever have the urge to sample the Foreigner series, do not even consider starting here. I began it at the beginning many years ago and lapsed. I think I will go back and pick it up again at the proper place now.
I had never heard of Kokoda before listening to this book. That is a shame. I am not likely to forget the name now. This is one of the more amazing chapters in the annals of war.
It is very much a story of the indomitable spirit of common soldiers called upon to perform impossible tasks with inferior equipment, little or no training, some of the worst terrain in the entire world and stupid, pig-headed leadership at the highest level. FitzSimons does a fine job of keeping us engaged with the narrative even as the action of the men on the ground is reduced to an interminable, repetitious slog between indefensible positions which are held in the face of overwhelming odds and casualties only to be given up as the serial holding actions continue. He does this by giving us detailed and moving accounts of individuals and etching in our minds indelible images of moments of extraordinary heroism and gallantry. Nor does he fail to include Japanese participants among these glimpses of war's exquisite anguish. In addition we are regularly taken to the rear to witness the unpardonable, ego-driven pig-headedness of MacArthur and the Australian high command which failed the troops in almost every way.
This is an account made all the more gripping because it played such a pivotal role in turning the tide of the Japanese expansion in the South, holding the door shut while the U.S. put Marines in place on Guadalcanal where they would dig in to face their own ghastly ordeal. Without Kokoda, there would have never been a victory at Guadal and the war would doubtless have lasted significantly longer. The poorly trained, unprepared, mostly unsupported men of the Australian home defense forces at Kokoda deserve to be remembered with reverence, and this book tells their story brilliantly. I highly recommend it.
I am never anxious for a Dick Francis book to finish. Never. His urbane, first person narrators are satisfying companions for however long it takes them to relate their tale, and they take me along to vividly rendered, fascinating settings in circumstances which are perfectly calculated to create suspense. As a bonus, I get an expert insider's view of the rarefied world of horse breeding and racing. His prose is spare and elegant and his plotting is flawless. Polished mastery in the service of accumulating tension and moments of unanticipated ferocity.
In this early work which already shows Francis at the height of his powers, his bereft but completely engaging protagonist takes us with him on a leisurely and terrifying float down an English waterway and then into some very rugged foothills in the American west; a soulless Las Vegas suburb, posh breeding properties in Kentucky and California, and a remote desert road in Nevada follow. I loved every moment of it.
I long ago decided that I would never write a review about a book I had not finished which saved me from giving up on this one too soon. I found the opening chapters cloying and annoyingly cute. As much as I respect Wil Wheaton's work (often remarkably good), I think it was his reading which caused me to put the book aside after an hour and almost not return to it. His introductory narrative voice sounded as though it was aimed at a six year-old auditor and suggested that I was about to spend a large chunk of time wandering through a fairytale which had been cutely fractured.
After spending some time with a few other books, I decided to give Max and Peter one more chance to see if I could at least finish their story and review it. A couple hours later I realized that I was no longer cringing. Wil's voice had taken on a much richer and far less condescending timbre. His usual skill at creating audibly defined characters was operating nicely. And the fairytale setting had darkened and skewed somewhat so that I only recognized it when a familiar name appeared. Of course it still informed the plot, but in ways which were more imaginative and compelling than simply clever. I was, in short, enjoying the trip along this particular road which stretched between the piper's Hamlin and a farm in upstate New York and twisted, along the way, through some of the darker recesses of human behavior. I still could have done without the talking animals, but all in all I am quite happy that I finished the journey.
A wonderful range of characters you can actually engage with. Brilliantly written action scenes which make sense and only occasionally push too far into "give me a break" territory. Smart, even sophisticated, historical tie-ins which add tremendously to the surprise factor as we enjoy Correia's take on "familiar" figures from the past. A reader who is practically without peer in bringing an extensive gallery of colorful characters to audible life. A brilliantly light touch even when dealing with death, destruction and despair. All the strengths of the first two books of the trilogy make "Warbound" another delight to listen to.
And perhaps best of all is the fact that this, for the moment at least, is the end. A very good end. Knowing when to stop is not easy when you have a boffo series going. (We can all name a few authors who have missed the right exit.) I have no doubt the author has a few tricks left up his sleeve, but by the end of this book, the brilliantly realized concept was already beginning to seem a tiny bit short of breath. Just the tiniest bit, you understand, but I look forward to a completely new idea from LC for the immediate future. Maybe in a few years, the Grimnoir Archives? I'd be hungry again and part with my credits happily.
The Robin Hood legend is so appealing and its historical roots so fog bound that it is ideal material for writers with an historical bent and the chops to combine its familiar elements into a tale both familiar and refreshingly new. McKay makes a good start of it with a lively, rustic setting in keeping with a specific moment in British history and an appealing young future hero who easily garners our sympathy and support. Unfortunately, by starting with a teenager whose only qualifications as the renowned Hood-to-be are superb skills with a bow and a good and generous heart, the author makes it very difficult for us to believe that Robin becomes the unparalleled swordsman, tactical genius and superb leader of hardened, older men he needs to be within the scant year he is given in this first book in the series. Suspension of disbelief is always necessary in these tales, but we need a few threads strong enough to support our willing credulity. Those are missing here, and as a result, by the end I felt as though I were in a fairy tale world where one does best if there are no questions asked. Too bad, really, because we are given a very interesting mix of semi-familiar characters and the plotting is quite strong.
Given the expert narration by Nick Ellsworth, this could have been a really satisfying retelling. I rather wish the story had begun later in Robin's development so that brief glimpses of back story would have supplied the experience and maturation he needed to be convincing. Too late for that now, sadly, and I will not be going on to the next in the series.
“In 1816…Congress enacted a duty on imported foreign books…. 'Our government,' declared the chairman of the Senate finance committee in defense of the tariff, 'is peculiar to ourselves, and our books of instruction should be adapted to the nature of the government and the genius of the people. In the best of foreign books we are liable to meet with criticism and comparisons not very flattering to the American people. In American editions of these, the offensive and illiberal parts are expunged or explained, and the work is adapted to the exigencies and tastes of the American reader. But withdraw the protection, our channels of instruction will be foreign.'"
Does the spirit of that sound strangely familiar? There is nothing new under the sun. At least not in the history of political discourse and strife in the United States. I’m not sure if listening to this extraordinarily enlightening history of the nation’s first quarter century left me more confident that what we have overcome in the past we can get through again or more depressed that after all these years we are still at one another's throats over the same issues. For ideologues there is ammunition here to defend every doctrinaire viewpoint about the true nature and genius of the American experiment. What I found most interesting, however, was the fact that all the parties to the struggle to define a nation which was still determining its own nature were at some point forced to act counter to their principled pronouncements, not for political considerations but simply because it became clear that to do otherwise would lead to a disaster born of stubborn consistency. In the end these men, and they were, sadly, all men, put the survival and welfare of the nation before their commitment to any inflexible philosophy of government.
It is also fascinating to find that the interests and factions of today were often allied or opposed in very different alignments during those early years, and the gradual shift in these alliances forms some of the central action of this historical account.
Perhaps the most valuable thing about Wood ’s book is the fact that there is no discernible bias in his account. This is ground where we can all meet and wonder at the events and actions which kept a very fragile ship of state off the rocks even before it seemed to be fully seaworthy. Impressively, it deals with every aspect of the American experience in those years, from foreign affairs to manufacturing to religion, education and the arts. It is a hugely worthwhile listen.
On the afternoon of October 5, 1957, I was a paperboy picking up my daily issues to deliver. There on the front page was the news in a stark, black headline. The Russians had launched an earth satellite. Even a kid in small-town Connecticut could feel the shock waves and experience the excitement and wonder at this dawning of a new age. But how could they have done it before us?
The extraordinary story which was NOT in the Bridgeport Post that evening is here, fully revealed, rich in detail and personality, seen from both sides of the Iron Curtain in a way I never expected to read it ever. Politics, science, engineering, cutthroat struggles for leadership are all present in a very nicely balanced account which moves along with a momentum appropriate to the story of the highly charged "Space Race." That contest, of course, had very little to do with space and a great deal more to do with image, influence and the military calculus of a nuclear age still in its infancy. Brzezinski brings all of that into sharp focus.
The narration is charged with energy and consequence without becoming uncomfortably overwrought. A coldly detached presentation of this material would, to some degree, fall short of putting us in touch with the spirit of the times. Tension, risk, soaring innovation and sometimes crushing failure come with emotional baggage. The twelve year-old paper boy in me is glad that that fact is tastefully reflected in this reading. A quick listen to the sample will allow you to judge for yourself, however.
The book was one of those rare pieces which are transformed as they develop so that everything which seems humdrum and uninspired as you listen to the first half suddenly becomes electric and exquisitely meaningful as the author shifts your perspective. It began for me as a two or three star listen and soared to five stars searching for a sixth as it engaged my heart and my head in the sudden truth it reveals. I now want to go back and listen to the first half with open eyes.
The reading is flat out masterful by both of the actresses. Perfect evocation of character; a low key delivery which heightens the impact of the most wrenching moments. And emotion which is unaffected and completely rooted in the truth of the narrative.
This is not an action packed adventure story. It develops slowly and requires some patience from the reader, although the character detail and the development of the relationship between the two women is charming, often funny and very rewarding. In the end, it is deeply satisfying and moving. One of my absolute favorite listens during the past year. I hope this review will lead to some of you having the same experience I had with it.
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