When I purchased the book I was unsure as to whether it would be something I would enjoy, especially as I am writing the first review of the novel. The bare bones of the story is that of a magistrate and his clerk in the year 1699, who have come to an embryonic city to judge whether a young woman is a witch. The clerk becomes interested in the way that the facts don't add up as regards her case; he also falls in love with her and tries to rescue her.
Don't let simple descriptions of the plot deter you from listening to this audiobook. It grasps you from the very beginning of the novel and keeps your attention the entire way through. The characters are well thought out and include an iinvestor, colonists from England, servants, slaves and Native Americans.
The main character, the clerk Matthew Corbett, is likeable even when his actions might appear to be foolish. As he works out the truth behind why a widow is named as a witch he encounters the undercurrent of the city's society. His relationships with the other characters, whether filial as regards to the magistrate, antagonistic with the town's investor, tender with Rachel (the accused with) or fearful. The twists and turns he experiences as he seeks the truth are compelling and sometimes quite surprising.
A word about the performance: Ballerini masterfully peforms a wide variety of characters. I did find his portrayal of Rachel, the accused witch, less credible but it is a very minor complaint compared to his portrayal of every other character in the book. He characterizes a charlatan who is introduced a bit into the book brilliantly, enhancing the character's outrageous claims and offers.
I'm very thankful that Ender's Game was the first O.S. Card book I ever read, because, unfortunately, the Ender series seems to be the only writing Card does that really grabs me. I was willing to take a chance with this one, because the idea of a modern take on the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" intrigued me.
The story line begins with a young man and his family who live in the Stalinist Ukraine. I know that many people who are younger than the Baby Boomer generation have a hard time grasping the idea of how life in the USSR (no Beatles reference intended) really was. I really enjoyed this part of the book because it detailed the insecurity due to the Cold War, the Refusenik movement (several years in in the early 1970's and 80's when Jews were allowed to emigrate to Israel) and the difficulty Jews had applying for permission to leave the "Mother Country" and the worldwide astonishment as the Berlin Wall, then the U.S.S.R. and finally statues glorifying Stalin - fell.
Card does an amazing job of adding complexity to mythical characters and their lifestyles, including casting the evil witch as Baba Yaga. It's tantalizing to think that her spell was so complicated that the princess was indeed hidden in the forest, but in a century so far in the future that, even if someone managed to encounter her, language had changed so much over the centuries that it was almost impossible that they would be able to communicate.
Sounds like great stuff, doesn't it? But for some reason it just drags. I got pretty far into the first part of the book before I realized that I wasn't really looking forward to turning on my iPod. It just became . . . ponderous.
I think if you are someone who enjoys, e.g., the Pathfinder series, or some of his more fantasy-style "sci-fi", you will probably greatly enjoy this novel. I can see that much of what I find way too verbose (and hey, you can tell that I don't have an issue with verbosity in general!) might be appreciated by a reader who enjoys stretching out and immersing themselves into the totality of characters' everyday lives.
Unfortunately, as the title of this review indicates, it's not for me.
I haven't actually finished this book, but I was already searching for another of his books to add to my library and was "offered" the chance to review. I enjoy military sci-fi, as long as the military side of it doesn't get overly technical and/or don't provide subplots concerning the characters' lives when they aren't engaged in battle. I also like my sci-fi to be believable.
Steel World is satisfying my requirements, plus he adds a bit of a philosophical/technical introspection on the part of the characters which I find refreshing. Often in science fiction certain strategies/technical developments, etc., make me wonder if the result of a certain biological procedure, for example, really does provide what the characters think it does or if
the characters are having the wool pulled over their eyes. And in most circumstances, there is no real way to find out which is true.
These conundrums are rarely, if ever, approached by writers who create such technological situations or by the characters they put into these situations. So I was pleased to find at least a brief moment of doubt enter the mind of the protagonist - even if only for a moment before it's brushed off as exhaustion and/or battle fatigue.
In addition, the characters presented are not static. They grow and change over time and sometimes they revert back to the were earlier in the book. It can be a bit numbing for a character to start out not liking the protagonist and then, after a couple of chapters, become fully convinced that the protagonist is the greatest thing ever since canned beer. Life doesn't usually happen that way, and good novelists/writers know it.
I'm a writer/editor and therefore I am much more likely to pay attention to the plot, etc. than the performance, as long as the performance isn't so terrible that it turns me off to the entire thing. (Which has happened.) But I did find the narration quite good. Most characters had individualized voices and I could tell who was who.
I was also happy that Boyett used inflection/tone/emotion that I found authentic during conversations. Sometimes, more often than I would like, a narrator will speak as though a character is responding in a way which is so different than what I would have expected that it "bumps" me a bit out of the story. But Boyett's interpretation of the characters' comments, responses, etc., jibed completely with the way I "saw" it.
I've already added "Swarm" to my Kindle library; and today I plan to begin another of Larson's series' in my Audible library. I just hope I won't zip through the writing too quickly!
First, I want you to know that I am squirming in my seat because, instead of writing this review, I really want to be purchasing any other book by Karen White and listening to it ASAP.
However, this audiobook was a bit of a wild card for me and I want to make sure that this little jewel doesn't get passed over. When I first started listening to it, I wasn't yet sure if I'd made a mistake. I was focusing on problems I had with the narration, which I will address later in the review.
I loved this book! It not only had a great plot and provided such a beautiful multi-sensory description of Charleston that it made me want to move there, not less visit.
It is also the best modern haunted house story written since "The House Next Door" by Anne Rivers Siddons. Stephen King once wrote a book about the genre of ghost stories in which he said that the best story lines are those which contain not only a supernatural (inner) threat, but also an external threat - whether it be a blizzard, a villain or the IRS. (Oops, those last two examples are redundant, lol!)
Also, and I don't remember if King said this or not, but she layers the thrills in a way that, rather than slamming us in a way that discredits the story line, it begins quietly and naturally. I am referring to the supernatural aspects of the story, but it is also true of the secondary, everyday threats in the story as well.
It left me thrilled, satisfied and ready for another of her books.
Now for the narration:
Aimee Bruneau, to my ears as a born Texan, nailed the Charleston accent, but sounded as if it was a skill she had just learned. I don't know if she is a Southerner who has lived elsewhere for many years or if she perhaps had difficulty creating separate "voices" for the characters, but it sounded as if she paused to take a breath before she read certain lines. It made me lose concentration on the plot at first, because it seemed to me that she even "lost" the accent at times.
Another problem I found with the narration, and Bruneau is NOT the only performer with this issue, is that I got the feeling that she were reading the book for the first time. Many lines were read with completely different expressions than I would expect. If it happens once or twice, I figure it's just me. But with this audiobook (and a couple of others) both the expression and the cadence of certain lines made me feel that they had caught the narrator unprepared.
Further, and this is not her fault as a narrator, there were fairly long gaps of "dead air." I had to check my iPod a couple of times to see if it was still running - the silences could be that long.
I don't want to dump on her, but it is a bit of a put-off at the beginning of the book. I'd hate for anyone to stop listening too early to get so involved in the plot that the narration doesn't distract from a gem of a story. (So to speak.)
PREFACE: In my opinion, Stephen King is one of the greatest
In "Doctor Sleep" King provides us the answers.
While listening to the beginning of the novel, I was very disappointed with Danny (now in his thirties, he goes by "Dan"). There is no indication that his "shine" played more than a small part in his adult life. And despite the fact that his father was a published author and possible intellectual, Dan has achieved almost nothing as an adult. The only way he is similar to his father is that he is an alcoholic. An alcoholic with an almost unmanageable temper. He supports himself by working as an orderly in hospitals, nursing homes and sometimes hospitals. He has no roots. His mother is dead, he's lost contact with Dick, and due to his drinking and violent urges he hasn't settled down for more than a couple of months. He drifts from city to city, job to job, one night stand to another.
Then one day he hits what he considers his rock bottom. He moves to New Hampshire, gets a job in a nursing home and joins AA.
But "Doctor Sleep" is not only about Dan. King provides us not only with a slew of co-protagonists, characters friendly and not, plus his AA pals. Alcoholics Anonymous is so central to the book that the organization and its founders can almost be considered a character in the book. There is also a Queen Bee of a villainess who, due to the long life her evil has provided her, taken charge of a brigade of similar beings, called the True Knot. Her accomplices aren't just stock characters and neither are their victims.
Using shifting points of view we not only develop strong connections to the other main characters, but are introduced to Dan's co-protagonist (Abra Stone) at her birth; a scene remarkably similar to the one in "The Shining". King intertwines her - and her life and that of and her family- not only with Dan, but also with the Knot.
Of course, the novel includes a number of "showdowns," a long journey, and a penultimate victory for the good guys.
Sparkles? There are plenty, ranging from small ones like a miniature train (large enough to be ridden), a fabulous Italian great-grandmother, a cat named "Azzi" and . . .
OOPS! Here comes a tiny spoiler(?)
a main character, a physician, called "Dr. John." For those of you who are not acquainted with the musician Dr. John, here is a brief description: He plays a New Orleans jazz and Creole type of music which is very strongly influenced by Voodoo culture and imagery. The musican's name is that of a historical character named Dr. John. This mythology (legend) includes a great voodoo queen named Marie Leveau.
(Marie is the French version of the name "Mary," which is the name of the venomous "queen" of the True Knot.)
There are more and better sparkles - the two biggest are tear jerkers - one concerning Abra's family history and a bigger and better one at the end of the big battle. Look out for them.**
I'm sorry the review is so long, but the novel is not a short one either and deserves a great deal of attention.
*I don't remember how Dick's last name was spelled or even mentioned in "The Shining," but the unusual spelling of his last name is an important element in the story.
**I forgot that there is another sparkle at the "beginning" of their final battle. Cry away, I did.
I never would have considered buying this audiobook if I hadn't heard its promo at the end of listening to "14." I found "14" so intriguing that it was hard for me to stop listening at times when I had to interrupt the story for one reason or another. Thus, the promise that '[I]f you liked "14" you will also enjoy "The Junkie Quatrain",' was enough for me to break my general rule about not using credits to purchase short audiobooks.
I also overcame my disdain for modern fiction concerning zombies (along with that of vampire, werewolf and other "sophisticated" takes on erstwhile monsters). I felt that anyone who could create a credible and entertaining story with a bit of H.P. Lovecraft as part of the plot would be able to bring a new spin to the flesh-eating, contagious-zombie syndrome.
He got very close to achieving this. Very, very close. Clines provided interesting characters within a realistic framework. The action scenes were very well-written. Dividing the story into four different narrative voices was interesting and skilled.
Unfortunately, the audiobook seems to be more of a writing exercise than a short-story or novella. Even labeling "TJQ" (easier than writing out the entire title) a "quatrain" doesn't, in my opinion, justify the fact that it doesn't have a real plot. I could even forgive that if it provided some sense of "closure."
I am not going to ask for my credit back, because I did find it entertaining. ( I also like it when bicycles are portrayed as useful and thrifty forms of travel, something "TJQ" shares with "14".) But I hope that one day Clines goes back and re-works this piece in a way that does it justice.
I seem to remember reading a review here or there which indicated that people who love Diana Gabaldon's work will love this book too. I agree with this statement, but I also feel it does this book a disservice.
Yes, it is about the Scottish resistance to the Hanover dynasty, beginning in the 18th century. And it features a beautiful young damsel and handsome Scottish rebel. But in my opinion, that is basically where the comparison ends.
Kearsley has given us, basically, two novels in one; and there is no time-traveling involved. Her modern-day protagonist is an American novelist with Scottish ancestry who moves to a Scottish village near the sea and falls in love with a 'local'. The historical plot is about a young 18th century woman who has lost her nuclear family and moves in with relatives who live in a castle/manor house close to the same village that features in the modern plot.
These two timelines connect during the novelist's dreamstates. And, since she is a writer, the dreamstates become the source of her new novel. In addition to her artistic interest she soon finds that, since her father is a history/geneology buff, they can combine interests by sharing information - each researching the same material on opposite sides of the Atlantic . The two of them sort out the lost details of the young couple's romance. By doing this, they also end up connecting the dots to their own ancestry. (All while the protagonist is also trying to sort out a tricky familial relationship concerning her lover.)
I really love this story. It is moving, well-written and engaging. As a writer, I enjoyed her portrayal of the various ways authors can approach their craft.
The only thing that bothered me had to do with the narrator. I know that the modern protagonist is a woman in her 30's, and so have no problem with the mature voice given her. But I felt that the way she used her voice when mentioning her prurient interest in the man who becomes the character's lover is overplayed. To me, that type of tone is more realistic when used by a male character. The protagonist is a feminine intellectual with heightened sensitivies. Hearing her description of a man's physical attractions in what I would almost call a 'predatory' tone of voice adds a "smarminess" which I find at odds to her character. I think she should have played those lines straight. They would have been more powerful. (Come to think of it, I'd find it smarmy if used by a male character.)
But otherwise, the narrator does a beautiful job. I am always amazed at how female narrators are able to recreate a variety of male voices. Plus, her ability to switch from one accent to another is so natural that I only thought about it in retrospect - after I read the book and was allowing the phrasing of this review mix in the "soup" of my subconscious.
So don't compare it to Outlander and you will love it.
Dave Barry at his best! Barry is a master at the multiple, interweaving plotline, with believable yet hysterically funny and complicated characters. Listening to his novels usually leave me not only satisfied and exhausted (hey you people with dirty minds!) but also feeling wonderful about life. This is because not only are most of his characters optimistic even to the point of absurdity, but also because his books almost always end on a happy, upbeat note.
Somehow he's managed to involve: the owner of a small empire of cut-rate chain businesses, the mob, a 'has-been/wannabe' rock band, television newscasters, a pissant petty criminal, a variety of cocktail waitresses and casino workers plus the funniest two elderly gentlemen residents of a retirement home in a workable, complex and wildly funny plot. His characters are so well fleshed out that, when many of them reveal surprise elements to the story, the listener is as, if not more, surprised than the other characters! Barry is a Miami resident, and I don't know if the city and its environs are as strange as he portrays them, or even 10% as funny as he makes it, but if I worked for the Florida Tourism Board I would try to incorporate his paradoxically inviting humor into my game plan.
In addition, Dick Hill does a fabulous job as narrator! Some people have a hard time portraying people of the opposite gender, but Hill makes it work. He realistically imitates the accents and voices of the characters so ingeniously that listeners can even tell the difference between two retired nursing home residents from the New York City metro area. You almost wonder if the two collaborated on the work - the combination is that good.
Prepare yourself. Make sure you don't drink any water before you listen to it, and go to the bathroom before you start. (Don't want any accidents, do we?) Schedule out enough time to listen to it so that you can realistically either listen to it in one go if necessary (my daughter and I did it driving from - where else - Florida to Iowa).
Usually I try to buy audio books which last several hours - by several I mean more than 15, and if an audiobook is only 15 hours it better be really good. The first time I ever heard a Dave Barry book (Tricky Business) was almost 10 years ago, back when I still used CDs to listen to them. I was driving from Miami (that's why I bought the Dave Barry audiobook) to Iowa with my teenaged daughter.
I had no problem with staying awake while I was listening to it. There were very few minutes of that book which didn't have us crying with laughter. I never thought that I would find a scene with people throwing up so hysterically funny.
But of course, when you haven't listened to an author for a while, you're not sure if it was really as funny as you remembered. Also, they're REALLY short.
But last week I needed something new to listen to while I exercise. Drawing upon past experience, and having faith in Dave Barry, I bought it and listened to it.
Nobody, nobody writes books which have incredibly complicated and unusual plots and situations as Barry. And he is wise enough to keep most of his characters basically normal. Sometimes I wonder if he writes these books because someone dares him to write a novel including an orangutan, an albino boa constrictor, helicopters and a pirate ship.
If you haven't heard any of Barry's books, mazel tov! Audible has several more.
Oh and speaking of mazel tov, he's included retired Jewish parents with only one son and no other children. If my husband didn't have a brother I'd think he'd met my inlaws (they should rest in peace).
But I don't think they'd eat the brownies.
This is the second Takashi Kovacs book I've listened to. He is great at telling a story, his concepts are intriguing, the action is realistic and characters well-developed. I was excited when I began listening to it, especially because it is a long book. (I like to get lots of time for my credits.)
As I listened, his sex scenes really got to bothering me. I'm not a fan of explicit sex in fiction, I don't think it adds to the story line. I keep imagining an agent or a publisher saying to a novelist: "You've got to put in the sex scenes or nobody will buy it." I do suppose many people have come to expect it and, possibly want it. Personally I feel it either shows a lack of inventiveness on the author's part or pandying to the public. Very rarely it reveals something about the protagonist's personality. Which is what, in the first book, I think was accomplished.
As I listened, and the sex scenes kept "piling up" in the book, I could hardly listen to them. If I had better fast forwarding control on my iPod, I would have skipped them.
You got to say one thing for the performance - Dufris really gets into the mood. Hey - I love cyber punk, but I'm a grandmother. It's really difficult to be working on something with my son and son in law, and grandchildren, and daughters walking around me while Dufris is practically yelling "And then I RIPPED off her underwear . . . And she BIT me . . . " etc., etc.
I feel like these scenes were targeting frustrated 15 year old boys. Which is a shame. Because he is a terrific writer. And even though each novel can stand alone, the trilogy begun in the first book gets fleshed out in this one, and then the last one . . .
Was great. But I dreaded listening to it. Audible "suggested" another one of his books to me just now. I'm not getting it.
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