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Troy

I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

ratings
237
REVIEWS
161
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
48
HELPFUL VOTES
312

  • Pavane

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Keith Roberts
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (261)
    Performance
    (232)
    Story
    (233)

    Considered Keith Roberts' masterwork, this novel consists of linked short stories (six measures and a coda) of a 20th century in which the Roman Catholic Church controls the Western world, and has done so since Queen Elizabeth of England was assassinated in 1588. The Protestant Reformation never happened, and the world is kept in a Dark Age of steam-power transportation, with no allowance for electrical power, by a tyrannical Rome.

    Betty says: "Dense & rich - not a light listen"
    "It's the Characters that Outline the World"
    Overall
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    Neil Gaiman Presents, and George R.R. Martin praises it right on the cover. Two powerhouse names like that can't be wrong when they stand in agreement, and it's that very reason I selected this book. These are names I trust.

    This is an older novel and reads like one, but that's certainly no turn-off. What's a bit jarring is the format and presentation. A Pavane is a style of music, and the format was presented in here in literary form as 6 movements and a coda. The basic idea is that this is an alternate history where Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated, and in the mid-20th century, the Roman Catholic Church is still in supreme dominance as a result of having killed the Reformation. It's a steampunk styled world ruled by superstition and fear, but far more authentic feeling than most steampunk. It feels less like fantasy and more like a legitimate alternate reality. Sounds epic, right? Yes and no. You don't get an epic here. What you get is a personal account. Each of the stories contained here link one to the next through the eyes of the characters. Instead of a big worldview epoch, you get a human quality to the world as these people see it - what it's like to live in this world from within a few different walks of life, with the same emotions, strengths, and frailties that people are prone to have in our world as well. It's a master class in characterization. As a result, it burns slow, but it burns evenly, as surely as a higher quality candle. It doesn't illuminate the entire world, but it does illuminate the corners of it we visit through these characters, and it casts larger shadows of suggestion into that world. It definitely leaves you wanting more. More's the pity that there is no more save for what we take from the suggestive nature of asking the two most powerful words in the English language: "What if...?"

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • The Constantine Affliction: A Pimm and Skye Adventure, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By T. Aaron Payton
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (23)
    Performance
    (22)
    Story
    (22)

    It is 1864, and London is a city in transition. The Constantine Affliction - a strange malady that kills some of its victims and physically transforms others into the opposite sex - has spread scandal and upheaval throughout society. Scientific marvels and disasters, such as clockwork courtesans, the alchemical fires of Whitechapel, electric carriages, and acidic monsters lurking in the Thames, have forever altered the face of the city.

    Troy says: "Screwball Fun"
    "Screwball Fun"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I went into this expecting a steampunk mystery built upon a screwball, gender-bending premise. From there, the only assumption I made was that it would either be fun or absurd. I got both, and I got a few surprises along the way, which I won't spoil because that's part of the fun.

    The characters are a blast. Oddly, as much as I like the two lead characters, it's the supporting cast that really makes this story tick. Kudos for the villain on this one. I love a good over-the-top "I'm the hero of this story" monologue in the classic style, and this one doesn't disappoint. As bizarre as the premise is, the story does offer some rather spectacular modern social commentary through the lens of Victorian society and its expectations. Explained through the villain's point of view... wow.

    I'm looking forward to book 2 now. I'm curious to see what the author offers as an encore.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral - and How It Changed the American West

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Jeff Guinn
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (168)
    Performance
    (138)
    Story
    (139)

    For the first time ever, the full story of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral - not only what really happened but why, and how mythology has led us to completely misinterpret the real history of the frontier. Combining cinematic storytelling with prodigious research, The Last Gunfight upends conventional wisdom about what the West was really like, who the Earps and Doc Holliday really were, and what actually happened in Tombstone on that cold day in October 1881.

    K. says: "Better Than Advertised - An Important story"
    "Incredible Detail and Depth"
    Overall
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    As most people know from Hollywood, the infamous shootout took place in the span of a few breathless moments. This book is not just the immediate story of the shootout itself, but rather the entire scope of the story going all the way back to the founding of Tombstone, the formation of the cowtowns and cattle trails, the origins of the Cowboys in the wake of the Texas Rangers, and the bios of each of the personalities involved in this most classic of Old West soap operas. Back room deals, barroom boasts, double-crosses, trial testimonies, politics, logistical data on capabilities of firearms... it's all here and then some, presenting such an incredibly rich tale that you can walk way from this book feeling both entertained and educated. Guinn leaves no stone unturned, no eyewitness account unheard, and no theory unexamined. As a bonus, Stephen Hoye's narration has the same enthusiasm and cadence of the old Lone Ranger series without being overblown, which for an old radio fan like me only adds to grin level. I think the only way to improve on this one might be to give it an old-fashioned musical score.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Lady of Devices: A Steampunk Adventure Novel: Magnificent Devices, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Shelley Adina
    • Narrated By Fiona Hardingham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (477)
    Performance
    (436)
    Story
    (439)

    At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire's talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It's not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices...

    Kitty Lagorio says: "Was it really just one book divided into four?"
    "I Needed More From This One"
    Overall
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    The setup led me to believe that we were dealing with a strong-willed, steampunk lady with a penchant for building devices and blowing things up. I'm good with the idea. The world needs more heroines like that, and as such I expected to like this one more than I did. I didn't NOT like it, but I didn't really like it as much as I hoped either. I kept waiting for... more. I admit, I got spoiled with Morris and Ballantine's Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels in regards to female leads such as this. But then, those are high-powered steampunk adventure novels, and this one... not really an adventure regardless of what the cover billing says. Not yet, anyway.

    As origin stories go, this one's believable. The credibility is there, with the explanation of her father's death and loss of fortune serving to boot our lady to the next phase of her life. I think the issue is one of pacing. There's plenty of character here, but beyond her father's death and the subsequent fallout, not much happens until about the last hour or so of the audiobook. It's like our heroine is so smart that she knows how to avoid the plot before becoming truly victimized by it. By the time she becomes the Lady of Devices pretty much in a single moment, the story seems pretty much over before it really gets going. And as to her personality, she's likable enough, but it seems like she's sandwiched between the layers. She's too unconventional for the high society life she started in, but she's too conventional to be a streetwise success. I commend her for wanting to take care of the kids and set them on a better path and all, but... well, the kids are part of why I'm not really invested. I would rather she spend more time building gadgets and blowing stuff up (preferably by design rather than by accident) than teaching kids basic arithmetic and how not to steal. There are some good ideas skirting the edges of the story here and there, especially in regards to the tech, which is always mandatory in a steampunk novel, but again... more is better.

    I can only assume, given the short, quickly-read nature of these books, that now that the origin story is out of the way, the path is clear to tell bigger stories. Thing is, I didn't get that idea by the end of it either. The way is clear, but to bigger stories? Not really convinced. Only one way to know for sure, and I may circle back around for book 2 at some point simply because it is a quick read. I'm open to seeing the potential unfold for this one.

    Fiona Hardingham did a wonderful job with the narration, and she's got a beautiful voice, a perfect match for what I'd imagine the Lady of Devices to sound like.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs)
    • By Robert E. Howard
    • Narrated By Todd McLaren
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (685)
    Performance
    (413)
    Story
    (411)

    Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities...there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars.... Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand...to tread the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandalled feet.

    Flavius says: "Some Great Stories"
    "By Crom, The Classics Live!"
    Overall
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    When last I read any of the original Conan pulps, I was a kid. Going back through them via this collection, the first of 3 such compilations, has been a real treat. Despite all of the racism of the era and everyone in the stories moving "with the lithe suppleness of a great cat / lion / tiger / panther," it's really difficult to not appreciate the sheer fun and adventure that spawned the sword & sorcery genre. The kind of writing you find in these stories showcase nearly every kind of "bad" writing that's held up by the pros today as examples of what not to do, and yet, Conan has withstood the test of time. Such is the power of good old fashioned, classic storytelling.

    The thing that really caught my attention, which I didn't know enough to think about as a kid, is how much Howard borrowed from existing mythology to shape his world, be it Sumerian, Egyptian, Norse, or the Elder Gods of his contemporary, H.P. Lovecraft. Having read quite a bit of Lovecraft and his followers over the years, it's actually a breath of fresh air to know that somebody in the multiverse stands up to the Elder Gods at all, to say nothing of winning.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sparrow Hill Road: Ghost Stories, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Seanan McGuire
    • Narrated By Amy Landon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (53)
    Performance
    (50)
    Story
    (49)

    Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross - a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn't ask Rose what she thought of the idea. It's been more than sixty years since that night, and she's still sixteen, and she's still running. It's been more than sixty years since that night, and she's still sixteen, and she's still running.

    Sires says: "A Series of Interconnected Stories"
    "Compelling"
    Overall
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    The Ghostly Hitchhiker is one of the most classic ghost stories of all time. It's certainly one of the first I heard as a kid. There's a lonely romance to the concept. Even though the story has seemingly endless variations, ultimately it stays the same, fixed as though trapped in amber. I'm never quite sure what brings me back to this kind of story, but whatever that unknown ingredient is, Seanan McGuire has tapped into it in a way that seems effortless. Following our Ghostly Hitchhiker, Rose, and her experiences on the ghost roads, this story is deceptively simple, beautifully written, and creeps into your heart and mind in a way that won't let go. There's an evanescence about it that haunts you, if you'll excuse the unintentional pun. At least, that's the effect it had on me. It's written as a series of encounters, like short stories, but similar to the interconnected webs of ghostly highway she walks, Rose's story becomes something far larger and more compelling than the sum of the parts.

    This book is not a horror story. It's neither gory nor gratuitous. If you're looking for that, shoot for Clive Barker. This is the other end of the ghostly spectrum that addresses the human side of things. In the hands of a lesser writer, this would be sappy and probably turned into some cheesy teen movie. Some still might think it so, but I found it endearing and satisfying.

    This is my first book from McGuire, and if it's anything to judge by, it won't be my last. Her writing style is lyrical without being excessive, the kind of thing that either comes naturally or not at all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Susanna Clarke
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    Overall
    (3224)
    Performance
    (1218)
    Story
    (1222)

    English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

    David says: "Hang in there!"
    "Charming"
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    For most people, this one's either really good or really bad. I found myself right in the middle. It's well-written, imaginative, and brilliant in its scope and depth, but I found it moved far too slow for me. Ultimately it's the old-world charm that kept me with it, and I'm glad I made it to the end, as the story starts truly building about 8 hours or so into it. I suspect this is one that, should I revisit it, I'll get even more out of it.

    SImon Prebble brings his ever-present A game, and he is a more than comfortable choice for narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Music of James Bond

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Jon Burlingame
    • Narrated By Tom Parks
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    The story of the music that accompanies the cinematic adventures of Ian Fleming's intrepid Agent 007 is one of surprising real-life drama. In The Music of James Bond, author Jon Burlingame throws open studio and courtroom doors alike to reveal the full and extraordinary history of the sounds of James Bond, spicing the story with a wealth of fascinating and previously undisclosed tales.

    Troy says: "This One's For the Fans!"
    "This One's For the Fans!"
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    Spy music is it's own genre, an eclectic merging of sounds from across other music genres - from swing to jazz to rock to classical and beyond - to create that definitive style that everyone knows. Any why does everyone know it? Because of "The James Bond Theme," one of the most recognizable movie themes of all time. As Bond himself put the spy craze in motion, likewise his theme put an indelible stamp on the music that defines the genre.

    But the music of James Bond is far more than just that theme, and like the behind-the-scenes stories of the 007 movies, the stories behind the film scores are anything but boring. After all, the soundscape for these films are part of what kept Bond in style an updated with the times, and that means collaborations with big personalities and sometimes some big fighting.

    Each film and its soundtrack are covered in-depth, and for the completists out there, this also includes the "unofficial" Bond movies, the 1967 spoof Casino Royale and 1983's Never Say Never Again. Each movie has it's own chapter, making it really convenient if you decide to revisit a chapter later. I know I appreciate that as I fully intend to go through this book again with my soundtrack albums on standby. Much like with many books about music, it'd be more convenient to have that music plugged into the audiobook, but I'm sure the licensing doesn't come cheap, and it would likely double the size of this audiobook. Makes me very grateful I have all of the movies and soundtrack albums at my disposal, but it's a missed opportunity to present the full potential of the audio format. After all, who says audiobooks have to merely be a reading of the print copy?

    I only have two deep notes of criticism about this audiobook, and both are likely just the result of me being a fanboy, so pardon me while I fly that flag a bit.

    The first is that this book is "incomplete" in my eyes. This book was one of the many tomes released in celebration of 007's 50th anniversary on screen in 2012, and as a result does not include a chapter on the movie that was released later that year, Skyfall. This irks me because, while the hardcover of this book is understandably missing this chapter, the paperback updated the material for it's 2014 release, which is when this audiobook was released. You'd think that maybe they could have gotten the narrator to read one more chapter, but nooooooo. Apparently that would make too much sense, especially since Adele won the Oscar and Golden Globe for her title song, and Thomas Newman got an Oscar nomination for his first 007 score. Yeah, I could see where that might be important enough to skip over...

    The second issue, and this is admittedly just a gripe on style points, is the narrator. The one they got does a decent job and packs plenty of enthusiasm for the subject matter, don't get me wrong. He earned his money. But... this is JAMES BOND. When you hear "Bond... James Bond" spoken by a flat American voice right near the beginning of the book, it's the equivalent of backing a jazz ensemble with an accordian player; all the cool gets sucked right out of the room. Maybe I'm just thinking stereotypically, but I think perhaps a smooth British voice might have lent an air of class and dignity to a production like this. Extra style points if maybe they could have shelled out the money to get one of the many British actors or actresses who have featured in one of the films. Seriously, if they can re-record all of Flemings novels with top talent (and why aren't those new Audio Go recordings on Audible YET?!), then why not shoot for the moon? Yeah, I know... it's because this book won't make the money of the Fleming novels. But still, one can dream. At the very least, this is an audiobook on the sound of 007, so make it SOUND like a 007 audiobook. There are plenty of quality British narrators in the audiobook world. Simon Vance, for example, who narrates the Ian Fleming novels in the version Audible does have, would have been an excellent choice.

    End of fanboy diatribe. Regardless of those two points of disorder, if you're a fan of the James Bond movies or a film score aficionado, this book is for you. It's a fun and insightful look into the music of film's greatest superspy, an absolute must for the uber-geeks out there. You know who you are.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Frankenstein

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Mary Shelley
    • Narrated By Dan Stevens
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (226)
    Performance
    (206)
    Story
    (208)

    Narrator Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) presents an uncanny performance of Mary Shelley's timeless gothic novel, an epic battle between man and monster at its greatest literary pitch. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor to the very brink of madness. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship, scientific hubris, and horror.

    Nancy says: "A great listen"
    "The Creature Lives!"
    Overall
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    Story

    I pretty much cut my teeth on the classic monsters of the silver screen from Universal and Hammer Studios. Those old movies in turn helped me to discover books such as this one. As a kid, I used to find myself returning to the well as often as the movie studios do, for as everyone knows... the novel is ALWAYS better. And regardless of which monster is your favorite on screen, Frankenstein is the best written of them all when it comes to the original source material. That's not just opinion on my part. That's just the very nature of the beast. Between Shelley's considerable literary gifts and personal influences, perhaps it was inevitable that this novel should stand the test of time as one of the great proto-Gothic horror masterpieces.

    As my reading list has grown considerably wider since I was a kid, it's been a decade, perhaps more, since my last reading of Frankenstein. In those years, I've since better acquainted myself with Shelley's world and contemporaries such as her husband Percy, Lord Byron, Keats, et al, so I feel I've gained a deeper appreciation of the author and her circle through history and their own works. As a result, I feel it's been far too long since I revisited this story.

    But chances are, if you're reading this review, it may be that you're ready to read this story for the first time, and so you naturally want to know what to expect. Above and beyond all of praise I heap upon it, this book is a product of its time and place. It reads with all the flowery prose of the early 19th century, but it's by no means difficult reading as some novels of that time may be for modern readers. As to the story itself, Frankenstein has the distinction of not only being the source for so many fun horror movies, it's also the very science fiction novel. When this was written, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and the boundaries of what was possible culturally and scientifically were being pushed all the time. Long before Jurassic Park, Shelley dared to ask if humanity should open the doors we dared to open simply because we could. This classic is born of fear and despair, which is as real as the ink that flowed from Shelley's pen. Because of pop culture, it's so easy to take this story for granted, but it's precisely for that reason that this book needs to be experienced. It's depth will surprise you as you come to know Dr. Frankenstein and his equally intelligent Creature. If anything, for all of our social media, I find that the perceived isolation of our current generation is something that will likely resonate with modern readers.

    For this particular edition from Audible, Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens is an excellent choice for narrator. He lends his own brand of class and gravitas to this tale in a way that just works for me. He brings this venerable tale to life with the same depth and perception gifted to the Creature.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Scarlet Contessa: A Novel of the Italian Renaissance

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Jeanne Kalogridis
    • Narrated By Wanda McCaddon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (51)
    Performance
    (32)
    Story
    (32)

    Daughter of the Duke of Milan and wife of the conniving Count Girolamo Riario, Caterina Sforza was the bravest warrior Renaissance Italy ever knew. She ruled her own lands, fought her own battles, and openly took lovers whenever she pleased. Her remarkable tale is told by her lady-in-waiting, Dea, a woman knowledgeable in reading the "triumph cards", the predecessor of modern-day Tarot.

    Troy says: "An Unfortunate Sideshow"
    "An Unfortunate Sideshow"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Wanted to like this one as Caterina Sforza is easily one of the most fascinating people in Renaissance Italy, but I couldn't finish it. For starters, the book isn't about her, and that's my own fault for not taking other reviews to heart first. It's about her fictional, intolerably new-agey handmaiden Dea. I didn't pick this book to read about Dea, and I especially don't care about Dea's tarot readings as a plot device.

    At some point I may come back to this one and give it another try now that I know what to expect, but right now... so many better books await.

    Wanda McCaddon, by any name she uses, is always a superb narrator. Her talents are wasted on this one, but you can't win them all. I trust she got paid well anyway.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Secret History of Star Wars

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Michael Kaminski
    • Narrated By Josh Robert Thompson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (11)

    The tale of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker has become modern myth, an epic tragedy of the corruption of a young man in love into darkness, the rise of evil, and the power of good triumphing in the end. But it didn't start out that way. In this thorough account of one of cinema's most lasting works, Michael Kaminski presents the true history of how Star Wars was written, from its beginnings as a science fiction fairy tale to its development over three decades into the epic we now know, chronicling the methods, techniques, thought processes, and struggles of its creator.

    Troy says: "Repetitive, but Thorough"
    "Repetitive, but Thorough"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This would have been a 5 star work, save for the extreme repetition of facts. Ironically, the author thanks his editor up front, who probably should have been fired. This is such an issue that it probably could have reduced the size of the book by a third without loss of content.

    That said, this book is a wonderful companion work to J. W. Rinzler's equally incredible "Making of" volumes. This work covers the creative story development of the 6-film saga in full in such a way that no stone is left unturned, and gives us insights into the lives of the people involved, especially that of creator George Lucas. This work is so detailed that it breaks down every single version of the scripts, stage by stage. In this regard, this book is an absolute MUST for the die-hard uber-fans of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

    Not covered are the technical aspects, such as special effects, sound effects, or the musical scores.

    What is casually glossed over in the history is the infamous 1978 Holiday Special. There is some basic information on the Ewok movies as well as the Droids and Ewoks cartoon series, but nothing in-depth for these either.

    One point of weirdness: the narrator attempts impersonations of the various people who are quoted in interviews or various characters quoted in scripts. Some of these are passable and even respectable, and others are so far off base so as to be screwball if you know what the person is supposed to sound like.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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