Faye Kellerman introduced teenaged Chris Donatti in 1995???s ???Justice,??? an unusual but fascinating (and surprisingly erotic) entry in the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series. Chris resurfaced in 2002 in ???Stone Kiss,??? one of the best books in the series. Chris--a superhandsome, superintelligent, artistically gifted sociopath and mob assassin--had grown up, served time, and become a wealthy businessman operating on the shady side of the law, able to go where stalwart cop Decker cannot tread and with feelings for Rina that are never articulated but come across quite clearly.
Chris showed up again in last year???s ???Hangman,??? leaving his son Gabe Whitman in Peter and Rina???s care. Gabe, who has inherited his father???s good looks, intelligence, and an even more prodigal musical talent, is the focal point of ???Gun Games.??? He???s still a kid, and is a teenager-in-love (with a Persian Jewish girl who loves opera?!?). Likeable as he is, good guy Gabe is not the compelling character his father was at his age (why are handsome, dangerous bad guys so exciting?), and there???s not a lot of action in "Gun Games" until close to the end. But fans of the series should find this a solid entry, and it seems to set up some interesting possibilities to come. I???m already looking forward to the next book!
If you are a huge fan of Michael Sullivan's "Riyria Revelations" (as I am), you may be disappointed by storyline of this book. If you love Hadrian and Royce and Gwen and Arista (as I do), you may be disappointed by the characters in this book. If you are simply a fan of Sullivan's writing (as I am), or if you like thought-provoking social commentary with offbeat sort-of science fiction, you may like this book.
Elements of the book reminded me of "Looking Backward," an 1888 book by Edward Bellamy. It is a change to see a vision of the future that had at least some elements of utopia, rather than the bleak and brutal dystopian futures portrayed in most 21st century novels. But 2,000 years is a long time (trying to go 200 years into the future, our MIT-trained protagonist miscalculates by an order of magnitude), and this future is indeed weird.
Definitely a change of pace for Michael Sullivan, and not something I would have chosen if he hadn't been the author. "Hollow World" lives up to his high standards as a novelist, and I'm not exactly sorry I listened to it, but, unlike the "Riyria" books, it's not something I'd want to listen to a second time.
You should only consider getting this title if you're already a fan of the Black Jewels trilogy ("Daughter of the Blood," "Heir to the Shadows," and "The Queen of Darkness," hereafter referred to as BJT), and even then I wouldn't recommend "The Invisible Ring."
The BJT is a mix of magic, epic fantasy, sadistic evil, adventure, romance, and erotica (both romantic and BDSM). Its world is one of multiple planes (Terreile, Kaelaer, Hayll, and the Twisted Kingdom) and different races (winged humans, humans who live for centuries, regular humans, "black widows," and undead sorta vamps). Jewels are the source of magic, and the darker the jewel the more potent the magic. Women hold the dominant sexual power and evil queens enforce it by forging "rings of obedience" onto the … anatomy … of any powerful Warlord Prince they can get their hands on.
If you're still reading this after the above description, you might enjoy the BJT books, which are unique, intriguing, exciting, romantic, and often erotic. But "The Invisible Ring," a prequel to the BJT, is none of these.
The marvelous, fully developed characters of BJT are absent. Instead we have the callow Jared and a pretty young pre-queen who may, if Jared and his buddies can manage to save her from the hideously evil Red Queen Dorothea, develop into a full-fledged Grey-Jewelled Queen (grey jewels being pretty high-powered items in this world). Dorothea is the only major character from BJT who shows up (well, BJT' s hero Daemon has a cameo, but it's so pale you can overlook it). Dorothea's scenes are truly gruesome--she is one corrupt witch queen!--but mostly the book is just boring and trite, and very unlike the books of the trilogy.
P.S. The review of Invisible Ring by Tango is spot on. I have been meaning to post this "warning" review for a while, and her excellent summation has just beaten me to it!
Archer Mayor's mysteries featuring Joe Gunther are "regionals" depicting life and crime in Brattleboro and other locales of the upper Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, along the Interstate 91 "ski-way." This installment takes Joe south down I-91, into the Western Massachusetts part of the Valley--which happens to be the region where I happily hang out. The action centers on Northampton, the self-proclaimed "Paradise City" of the book's title, which is generally regarded as the fine arts and fine dining center of Western Mass. (Snobs from Boston need not comment on that statement, thank you.)
I enjoyed reading the portrayals of Northampton, Amherst, Greenfield, and other haunts of my stomping grounds. Most of the places described are real--from Coolidge Cafe to the Summit House, from the abandoned Strategic Air Command post hidden inside Mount Tom to Amity Street and Potwine Lane, the accuracy of the locations was fun (at least for a "local" like me). The art and jewelry gallery that is crucial to the story is fictitious, but certain (noncriminal) elements of it were recognizable in real establishments.
Even though the "taste of home" kept me reading, I found the overall story less than compelling. I also found it very hard to follow the characters. We are introduced in rapid succession to Billie, Willie, Mickey, Bobby, Tony, Jimmy, Dan, and Ed, to name a few. One's a victim, some are cops, and the rest are bad guys. We also have Mina, Anna, Donna, Nancy, Sammie, and Lou. It was a relief to meet Li Anming, an artisan "smuggled in" from China and kept as slave labor, re-setting and re-crafting stolen jewelry; her character at least I was able to recognize readily.
I remember reading a couple of the early Gunther books, and that I enjoyed "Borderlines" and "The Skeleton's Knee." But the series never grabbed me, and there are 15 or 16 books in between "Knee" and "Paradise" that I never read; so it's partly my own lack that I didn't know the characters (beyond Joe Gunther himself) who are series regulars. But even discounting the regulars, the rather flimsy plot seemed overburdened with players. It's a fairly short read with some interesting scenes. Not awful, not great.
To me, one of the most best things about the three volumes of "Riyria Revelations" was the seamless way everything came together over the course of the saga and, especially, at the end. There are no bewildering meanderings by pointless characters; the whole enterprise is beautifully conceived and well written (and the narration is also very good). "The Jester" encapsulates all these qualities into a short, neat 1-hour package. Immediately, we are plunged (literally) into the adventure with no idea of what's going on, but over the course of a few pages all becomes clear and winds up in a poignant "wow" moment that's very satisfying.
It probably helps to have a little "Riyria" background -- at least enough to know who Hadrian and Royce and Riyria are -- but in terms of the story "The Jester" stands alone. Well done, Mr. Sullivan!
A rabbi, a priest, and a molecular geneticist... oh, you've heard this one?
Well, they are all part of a super-secret government project in an underground lab deep in the desert. It seems that while digging the Panama Canal in 1903, workers unearthed a huge, humanoid being with wings, horns, and cloven hooves. The being was alive but in a state of suspended animation. So of course Teddy Roosevelt took him back to the U.S. and installed him in this no-expenses-spared secret lab.
Fast-forward to the present. The molecular geneticist is there to sequence "Bub’s" DNA. There's also an M.D. and a veterinarian on the study team. The priest and the rabbi are there just in case, and there’s a crusty old army general who runs the show and reports to the president. Bub has suddenly woken up and started talking, but no one can understand him, so a noted linguist is called in. But Bub picks up English real quick, so the handsome linguist is really there to romance the pretty lady vet and to team up with her to lead the heroics when everything goes horribly wrong (as we know it will because we remember Jeff Goldblum's speech about chaos theory in Jurassic Park).
This adventure is fast-moving, gruesome, and ridiculous if you think about it (and you don’t have to think very hard). But it had enough interesting characters (including Bub) and unexpected plot twists to keep me intrigued and just enough humor to lighten the gore. It’s also the right length--long enough to build suspense but short enough so the silliness doesn't become exasperating. I suspect that if you enjoy books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (especially their solo efforts) you'll probably enjoy "Origin."
Luke Daniels does his usual fine job of narration, right up to the book's memorable last line, which he delivers perfectly.
The John Carter trilogy (Princess of Mars, Gods of Mars, Warlord of Mars) was a high school favorite of mine, and these three books were among the first purchases I made after joining Audible. I chose the Gene Engene recording of "Gods" and my review of it is there. But that production was marred by technical problems, so when the recent movie tie-in came out with veteran narrator Scott Brick at the helm, I decided to get a "new, improved" version of this middle book.
Technically this is indeed a good productio. But Scott Brick's modern, somewhat deadpan delivery seems at odds with the over-the-top drama of the "this is my marvelous life" voice that Burroughs used for John Carter's first-person "memoir." Admittedly, capturing the colorful dramatics without sounding silly is a tough job for any narrator. Brick is a pro, and this is a professional if not inspired reading.
I still like Sondricker's narration of the first book, "Princess of Mars," the best. Engene's version of "Warlord" is fine, technical problems were fixed, but "Warlord" isn't as good as the first two books.
Preston & Child's "Helen" trilogy (Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, Two Graves) introduced a lot of twists, turn, changes, and new characters into Pendergast's life. It also re-introduced Corrie Swanson, the grubby adolescent from "Still Life with Crows," now a college student and apparently potential protege of Pendergast.
"White Fire" opens about a year after the end of "Two Graves." Pendergast has been in a state of isolation, traveling the world alone, when he receives a forwarded letter from Corrie describing her exciting new forensic project. He joins her in the nick of time to save her from the rich and despicable.
This is, as others have said, Corrie's adventure. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't typical Pendergast. It will be interesting to see how P&C handle the "scope for the future" that we glimpsed at the end of Helen's story. I hope there's another trilogy in the works. Meanwhile, this stand-alone was an OK fast and gruesome adventure.
As always, Rene Aberjonois does a spectacular job of narration.
The Spenser books, particularly the early ones, are good, fast reads and very short by today's standards. Although technically book #3, "Mortal Stakes" (1975) is a good starting place for this classic series.
On the surface it's a simple story: the Boston Red Sox' manager suspects that their superstar may be throwing games as well as pitches (all Red Sox personnel in the book are entirely fictional). The manager hires PI Spenser to investigate the rumor. The trademark Parker descriptions of meals (heavy on the cholesterol), drinks (Labatt's Pale Ale, anyone?), clothes (lots of polyester), and local flavor (Boston's ambiance is captured nicely) are all there, as is Spenser's trademark repartee (which unfortunately doesn't always translate well to audio, especially since Michael Prichard is an OK but not spectacular reader).
Underneath a fast-moving plot involving blackmail and gambling, this novel builds the foundation for the Code of Spenser as the tough PI faces up to the physical, emotional, and spiritual conflicts inherent when "work is play for mortal stakes." At this point in the series he has not yet partnered with Hawk, the sociopath-with-integrity who plays such a large role in later books. Hit men like Vinnie and Chollo have not yet become Spenser's buddies and back-up. Cops Belson and Quirk, his stalwart links to law enforcement, are present, and the bonds of commitment between Spenser and his future soulmate Susan Silverman glimmer but are not yet forged.
Over 35 years and 30 novels (there are more than 30, but for me the books lose their lustre and originality somewhere after "Potshot," which was #28 or so), Robert B. Parker created an iconic character that in many ways (and despite many superficial differences) is the logical antecedent of Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Both "heroes" operate under individualistic codes of honor that in their world justify breaking rules and laws in the interests of eliminating evil, protecting the innocent, and righting wrongs. As the lines from Robert Frost that are the epigraph in "Mortal Stakes" sum it up, their deeds are done "for Heaven and the future's sakes." Spenser thinks about it a lot more than Reacher does, but they both wind up serving as judge, jury, and executioner more often than not.
If Georgette Heyer's many fans were to vote for their favorite Heyer heroine/novel, I predict "The Grand Sophy" would win. Naxos did a nice job on the abridgment that has been on Audible for two years (and which I quickly ponied up a credit for), but it was … abridged.
Now we get the entire book, and it is good. I enjoyed Clare Wille's narration of the abridgment -- she also reads the unabridged versions of "Cotillion" and "A Civil Contract," both well worth listening to -- but Sarah Woodward's rendition is equally good, and now all my favorite scenes are here, not on the cutting room floor.
Sophia Stanton-Lacy is the daughter of a British diplomat who has spent her teenage years traveling the Continent with her widower father as the Napoleonic wars wound down. Now Sir Horace is off to Brazil and leaves the 21-year-old Sophy in London with his sister and her numerous offspring. The household's eldest son is strait-laced Charles, who has recently (1) inherited a large fortune from a distant relative and (2) become engaged to the Honourable and egregiously proper Eugenia Wraxton.
Sophy is sparkling, spontaneous, self-sufficient, and as Charles disapprovingly observes, “on easy terms with every rattle who ever wore a red coat." Not hard to see where the romance will go, especially keeping in mind that first-cousin alliances were common among the “quality” right up through the early twentieth century.
Besides the protagonists -- and Sophy and Charles are among Heyer's most delightful and memorable -- several other characters also have romances underway or underfoot, and the machinations are tangled, funny, and occasionally bittersweet. Sophy's interactions with her large brood of cousins add marvelous depth to this classic novel. All will be well that ends well, so set aside the dreary dystopians and the vapid vampires and enjoy a romp through the Regency.
I am thankful for this series, which I've been reading since 1995, when Eve's pocket link communicator actually seemed futuristic.
I am thankful to be done with this particular installment, which--despite a few enjoyable scenes with Eve and friends-- spends far too much time in the head of a whining, despicable, disgusting psychopath who has suddenly discovered the joys of torture, mutilation, and murder.
I am thankful that Robb/Roberts continues to write this series, and I look forward to Installment #38, because even when there's been the occasional misfire (hey, 37 books? it happens), I always come back for more and am seldom disappointed.
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