Houston, TX, United States | Member Since 2008
It surprises me that Crais' name does not get linked with Connolly and Sandford more often. He certainly belongs in that company and, in fact, one of my fantasies is to find out what would happen if Elvis and Harry Bosch got together on a case.
This is definitely one of the very best of the Cole/Pike books and is eminently worth your time and credit. Characters and plot are beautifully balanced, and the LA setting is vivid and evocative. if you have not read any Crais, this would not be a bad place to start even though it is well along in the sequence. It does not substantially spoil any previous cases and actually sheds some very interesting light on the underpinnings of the whole series. I thoroughly enjoyed it far beyond the satisfaction of the well designed plot which moved the book along at a satisfying pace. I tried to find a reason to mark it down to four stars but could not. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
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.
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.
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