Houston, TX, United States | Member Since 2008
Given the amazing number of rave reviews written for this book, it has obviously provided a lot of people a great deal of pleasure. That is pretty hard to argue with but, even though I enjoyed the book well enough, I did have a few problems with it. I have to admit that, though I love many of the books in the high fantasy tradition, for whatever reason I am just not much of a fan of the very popular urban fantasy genre. So Atticus the contemporary druid probably had a bit of a hard nut to crack in me. Still, I think that there was more to my objections than just personal predilection.
First--I was never really able to buy into a 2500 year old druid who had all the sensibilities, maturity and perspective of a member of Generation Y. I understand that he is masquerading as a young, single, new age guy, but his interior voice is identical with his ruse, and this was not helped by the fact that Luke Daniels delivered the 1st person narration without any of the color or texture which might give us a sense of those 2500 years. There should be a serious and hard won understanding of the world there, and we need to hear it.
Second--Oberon the dog was often amusing and consistently cute. Cute is nice in children's literature, but it is a serious drawback when it becomes the entire raison d'etre of one of your two central characters. The reader did not help in this regard either, though his endearing, dimwitted voicing of Oberon seems to account for at least half of the rave in the reviews. Don't get me wrong, I think Oberon is a lot of fun and he often made me laugh while he was undercutting my belief and commitment to the story as a whole.
Finally, the tone of the book was just too light for me to be able to accept the graphic nature of much of the violence. The whole thing seemed to be caught between gory realism and just kidding, never really integrating the two. As a result, the juxtaposition was often jarring and a little unpleasant. I have read only one of the Dresden books, but my sense is that this is something Jim Butcher handles more successfully.
None of which is to say that this was not a fun listen. It was. Just not satisfying enough to move me to use a full credit to try another in the series.
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.
The publisher's notes suggest that in this book you can find the truth behind the classic Japanese story of the 47 Ronin (masterless samurai). That is only true if they were referring to the prologue which draws a clear line between the actual events and the fictionalized account presented by the author. This sets up an interesting tension which is clearly troubling for some people. The Ronin and their single minded leader are tainted by the clarifications in the prologue, so that there is a persistent "but" stalking the entire narrative of the book.
Nonetheless, the story is fascinating, deeply rooted in a culture which is profoundly alien for a Western reader in many ways. It develops slowly but very steadily, as successful revenge plots almost always do, and provides a pretty respectable emotional punch. I found more than enough tension along the way to keep me engaged, and the well drawn details of the daily life of the characters successfully drew me into that distant time and place in a very satisfying way. This is NOT an action adventure, however. Its appeal is in the gradual, carefully contained progress toward an explosive and appropriate ending. And, for me at least, in the nagging tension between the popular story and the uncomfortable facts which lie behind it. As a result, this is not a book for someone looking for authentic history, nor will it satisfy the listener who wants to be left breathless at the end of each chapter. If, on the other hand, you want to read it purely for the beauty of the classic story, I suggest you simply skip the prologue.
I had no problem with David Shih's narration, but other reviewers did. I suggest you check the sample reading before you invest a credit. It is taken from the prologue, but it is representative of the style and quality of the vocal work.
Jason Matthews is a very competent story teller, maintaining tension and interest throughout this very contemporary treatment of the nearly century old Russo/American espionage tango. He very effectively ushers us into the world of spying trade craft and introduces us to the grey scale palette of motivation and ethical rationalization which goes with it. I had no problem relaxing and letting his developing plot carry me along for eighteen hours. I believed the story; I liked the characters I was supposed to like and I detested those I was meant to despise. All very neat and effective.
Still, when I reached the end, I realized that I had never been either surprised or intensely engaged. Nor was I ever challenged or unsettled in the way I have come to expect from Greene or le Carre. This is story telling as diversion, and even though it spends a lot of effort explaining the emotional turmoil of the protagonists, it never really managed to bring me closer than arms length to the characters. This in spite of consistently expert reading by Jeremy Bobb.
I suspect we will be hearing more from these characters, and I will probably read the next installment if there is one. There are not that many espionage authors out there who write with this level of command, and this is a beginning. Who knows where it may lead.
I am old enough that I should be able to relate to this novel quite easily. It is clear that a lot of people do. It is about the unreliability of memory and how that intersects with an accumulating sense of responsibility for actions which now lie partially obscured by our inexact recollections of the distant past.
The book begins with a good deal of discussion of the nature of history, but what is never said is that, after participants in events have had their shot at justifying or condemning their own actions, the real work of evaluating is done by people who have some useful distance from which to observe. Memoirs are not history whether they condemn or exonerate. They are only useful as raw material for later evaluation. And I can think of few activities more useless and self indulgent than picking apart one's own memories in search of untapped resources of guilt. Dealing with the readily apparent lapses is quite enough to keep most of us occupied. Besides, it seems to me that living as well as one can in the present is the real moral and ethical imperative and is quite enough to keep one busy and challenged as long as breath lasts.
That said, Julian Barnes, with his gorgeous prose and seductive way with the nagging mysteries of common life, comes close to making the tedious, ad infinitum self-examination palatable. And Richard Morant's voice and pace brought the obtuse Tony to convincing life (though he did not provide a voice for any of the other characters). Nonetheless, when I finished listening to the last, perfectly turned phrase, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I hope this review is transparent enough to allow listeners who love a bit of very stylish wallowing in self-reproach to recognize that this is a book which will delight on every level. I think this is one of those works which will please or disappoint based on temperament rather than taste.
Perhaps Joe Abercrombie is a little weary of seeing the word "gritty" attached to his name in every other review, however accurate it may be. But formulaic is not an alternative to gritty; it's just...formulaic. Most of this book you have read before. Admittedly Abercrombie does it at least as well and mostly better than others, but it is impossible not to sigh and wonder why he decided to attend the party without his best clothes on. Still, reweaving old threads into a costume which is perhaps somewhat more stylish than the original demonstrates skill, albeit little inspiration. Less wise was his impulse to rework a peerless piece of stitching (a scene from Hamlet) and leave it hanging tattered on the rack. The advice comics give to their peers, "If you are going to steal, steal from the best," is not necessarily good counsel for writers.
All that being said, this is still Abercrombie, and his second or third best work is well worth reading. The ending, in particular, is very well crafted (will we have to wait until a sequel or two have come and gone before we can get you fully back, Joe?), and I was never really bored or confused. I certainly do not regret the credit, though I was also never astonished, never shocked, never terrified, never convulsed with laughter, never deeply moved, never transfixed by an image. Much more tender, much less muddy. But oh how the mighty have fallen. An extra star off for the descent from the heights, I'm afraid.
John Keating does a perfectly creditable job with the narration. Stephen Pacey or Michael Page, as much as I admire them both, would have been poor choices for this wide-eyed, coming of age story. Keating uses a variety of Scots, Irish and English dialects to set and identify the characters, and he only occasionally misses a meaningful inflection. It is strange hearing him read Abercrombie only because this is not the JA we are all used to.
The setting and central character of C. Johnson's Longmire series invite comparison with James Lee Burke's recent books set in Montana. Both authors evoke landscape and local culture with deft brush strokes which contribute not only vivid visual images but also a sometimes haunting sense of milieu which actively drives the story. Both law officers are Vietnam era vets who have evolved into men who possess tremendous charisma rooted in a wisdom and gentleness born of tragedy, loss and recovery. Both are surrounded by an engaging cast of characters who become more interesting and "real" with each book. Both mine rich veins of mysticism at times in ways which challenge our comfortable assumptions about the limits of reality.
That said, there is something much more comfortable, approachable and less visceral (not to mention bloody) in Sheriff Longmire and his adventures. If you seek antagonists who are personifications of evil, you will be disappointed here. Johnson's plots rise most often from the everyday and the prosaic while Burke's almost celebrate the existence of a kind of intrusive malevolence beyond understanding. As a result, instead of the high voltage exhilaration derived from defeating Dave Robicheaux's typically diabolical adversaries, Walt Longmire leaves us with satisfaction at a job well done and a nagging awareness of how most evil springs from roots which are very familiar to all of us.
I love both series, but I was less taken by "Crow" than by the previous Longmire novels. The victim never quite mattered enough for me, and it seemed that the investigation took a back seat to the introduction and development of a new character (a very promising one). These books are always driven by character, but the balance seemed a trifle off this time to the point that the climax of the investigation left me wanting more. Still well worth the credit, however, and I have already downloaded the next book in the series.
I loved the early books in this series, but I am slightly disappointed with this one.
Iggulden is a superb storyteller, no less here than in the previous Mongol works. He never allows my interest to flag; he creates complex and fascinating characters and is able to engage us emotionally; he writes battlefield descriptions to a fair-thee-well and builds suspense with remarkable skill. Plus, he is writing about some of the most amazing personalities in all of human history.
Unfortunately, while the author made a real effort to stay close to the historical narrative in the first few books and was in the habit of setting the record straight in an informative "Afterword" about instances where he had strayed or invented extensively, this time his story often bears only a passing resemblance to the facts, and he never acknowledges the discrepancies. Interestingly, there were a few times in the narrative where I had a little trouble believing the story or where it got particularly thin. Checking the history subsequently, I found some congruence between these weak points and the major departures from the factual record.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book a great deal, and Richard Ferrone does a terrific job with the narration. If you approach the story as fiction with some familiar names, you will probably have a fine time listening.
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