A compelling story, interesting characters, terser plot and pacing, and a better reader/narrator.
Right now I'm listening to "The Ice Princess" by Camilla Lackberg. It's not a great book either - deadly dull and full of stilted dialog - but it's still more listenable than Baby Grand.
The narrator sounds exactly like the guy who does the Smucker's Jam commercials. His voice and cadence just didn't work for a crime thriller. At all.
All of the above.
One does begin to wonder how many homicidal billionaires bent on exacting some sort of multi-generational revenge there can realistically be in the world - but of course, if you're a fan of P&C, you're probably pretty comfortable suspending disbelief so you can enjoy the spectacular ride.
As a fan since "The Relic," I found this story really satisfying - a deliciously twisty mystery that takes us from an abandoned resort town in California to the slums of Rio de Janeiro to the basement of the New York Museum of Natural History. And of course all the unusual suspects are here as well: irascible curators, intimidating Brazilian drug lords, exotic poisons, and clues that lead back into the Pendergast family's sinister past...
I've actually read positive reviews of this book by people who haven't read any of the previous entries in the Pendergast series, but it's hard to imagine reading this as a standalone - there are so many favorite characters from previous novels and references to earlier events. Those who have followed the many adventures of Pendergast will be thrilled, though - I certainly was. The best of this series in a long time!
Rene Auberjonois is, as always, marvelous.
I was really ready to love - or at least like - this book. I like spies, I like historical fiction, I like werewolves, and I think Robert McCammon's Matthew Corbett series is just great. I was absolutely ready to embrace WWII werewolf spies! And then...the story just didn't grab me. I didn't really connect with the main character, and his relationships with other characters in the story were uninteresting.
The werewolf-focused parts of the story were pretty good - even realistic, which may have been part of the problem. McCammon successfully addresses the workaday aspects of being a werewolf. Michael Gallatin is very chill about being a werewolf. I needed some excitement! YOU'RE A WEREWOLF SPY IN WWII. This should be completely off-the-chain crazy, and it's not even as over-the-top as most Bond novels.
Robert McCammon can be very, very good - and he can also be just OK. This is just OK. If you're looking for a straight-ahead, slightly pulpy action story about a werewolf in World War II, you've come to the right place. If you want a really compelling story about a werewolf in World War II, you might have to go write it yourself. And I'll read it if you do!
I think I read this in traditional paperback format years ago and I remembered liking it - but I really, really hope that I am misremembering. This was DREADFUL.
I don't mind age differences in romance novels - I actually tend to like that. I don't mind guardian-ward romances. I can handle all the sick sex cult stuff - I'm not saying I condone sick sex cults, I don't, but I can read about them without feeling traumatized for life. I'm not even bothered by the idea that the hero was once in love with the heroine's mother. Nope, all that, I could've taken in stride if there had been ANYTHING romantic about their relationship - but there wasn't.
Chloe is an improbably featherheaded, immature person, and Hugo is a depressed alcoholic twice her age. They don't really relate to one another, and didn't have any chemistry to speak of. Chloe is childish and silly, and Hugo treats her like a little badly-behaved toddler...and then sleeps with her. And then sends her to her room.
They don't treat each other with respect and both behave like people who have never had emotions before. If you like romances with large age differences, I would recommend "What I Did For a Duke" by Julie Anne Long, which is actually worth reading
I waited a while after listening to this before I wrote a review, because my disappointment was extreme when this one ended. That was partly due to the length of the story - it's short, compared to the earlier entries in the series - but also due to the rather flimsy content.
Just when things would start getting REALLY weird and interesting in one of the previous books, this one just...ended. On a cliffhanger. After a series of events that felt contrived and silly. Man-eating alligators? Quicksand? Amnesia? Really?
There were still some positives here: as usual, the characters are good, the plot is swift, the writing draws you in. Robert McCammon is a good writer, Edoardo Ballerini is a fabulous narrator, you won't get bored.
There were also more negatives: where the earlier books give us meaningful struggles and fascinating character arcs, this one was just a series of implausible and ridiculous pitfalls. There's no satisfying conclusion to any of it - it was all so much sound and fury that served to set up the NEXT book, which promises to be more interesting. I'll chalk this one up to a bad year and look forward to the next entry.
To make this review more useful, I have some recommendations:
1) If you love everything Robert McCammon has ever written, you'll be a little disappointed by the length, but will overall enjoy this story and look forward to the next entry. Get this book!
2) If you like this series, but aren't interested in, or didn't like, anything else by McCammon: proceed with caution. This has nothing but its essential McCammoniness to recommend it.
3) If you only liked a few books in this series: skip this one. If you decide to read the next one, just read the last two chapters of "River of Souls" and you'll be good to go.
4) If you haven't read anything by Robert McCammon: I suggest you try "Speaks the Nightbird," the first book in this series, which is excellent!
I showed up for "The Magician's Land" ready to have my 30-something worldview shaken around once more by the horrifying genius teenagers from the previous novels, only to find them all grown up (at least, those who survived) and behaving much more sensibly, and sensitively, than I expected.
Quentin finally gets some perspective! He has become the likeable adult that often results from a troubled and disaffected youth. It's incredibly refreshing, and so is the first part of the story: Quentin, working as a magical gun-for-hire, gets involved in an ill-advised heist for some shady characters. It's funny, a little sad, and insanely dangerous, and it sucked me into the story at once.
In the end, everything ties back to Brakebills and Fillory - and this is where this book really starts to stand out as something exceptional. Previously, we experienced everything through the lens of the main characters' (often tiresome) teenaged jaded world-weariness. Now, Quentin has had time to reflect on the world, magic, and life in general, and he's more optimistic, thoughtful, and creative.
There are some really beautiful themes woven into this story - about the way people experience stories as children, teenagers, and adults; about growing up, and of course love, redemption, all that stuff. But it's also thrilling and exciting and totally unpredictable. It's huge, I loved it, and I wholeheartedly recommend it!
Rosalyn Landor reading Courtney Milan is one of my very favorite things, and this book did not disappoint. If you like your heroes and heroines to be genuinely intelligent; if you like your stories to be more than just a loose framework for a series of sex scenes; if you've ever thrown down a romance novel in disgust and wondered what that ninny of a heroine saw in that boorish, rapey thug of a hero, then you are exactly the audience for this book (and this whole series).
Ms. Milan crafts stories that boldly address social injustices without being preachy - on the contrary, her characters balance heartbreaking vulnerability, moral courage, and senses of humor in perfect proportion. Somehow, this book - which addresses themes of sexism, war, family discord, and torture - trips along on prose light as meringue and is often laugh-out-loud hilarious.
The heroine, Free, is everything you'd want the editor of a feminist newspaper to be - brash, confident, courageous, smart - but she's entirely relatable. Even if you think you're not a feminist, you'll still like her. The hero, Edward, is obviously perfect for her from the start, but there are still plenty of surprises along the way.
Complaints? The obstacle to the hero and heroine's ultimate happiness starts to wear a little thin by the end, and the primary villain is so thoroughly unsympathetic I found him a little unbelievable - but it didn't really matter. Courtney Milan now sets the bar for historical romance, as far as I'm concerned, and this book was awesome.
This is a classic "can't judge a book by its cover" case for me. I looked at the cover of this book, read the blurb about a magic private eye, and I doubted. I doubted a lot. Happily, I was desperate for something to listen to/read, and I had credits to burn, so I figured what the heck - and I was treated to 16 hours of one of the most entertaining stories I have ever heard.
Bronson Pinchot is a virtuoso of audiobook narration. He is a genius. He was born to read books to people. I will listen to him read cookbooks. It's worth buying this book just to hear audiobook narration done amazingly, crazily right.
The story: the description makes it sound like this will be like "The Maltese Falcon" with magic in it, but it really didn't have much in common with a detective novel or the noir genre. It's more of a speculative fantasy thing - if I were describing this to a friend, I'd tell them to think "The Untouchables," except with magic powers, and instead of Al Capone they're trying to stop a shadowy cabal based on WWII's Axis powers from destroying the world. If you mashed "Star Wars," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "The Wizard of Oz," you'd get something not totally unlike this book.
So: fun, fast-paced and totally over-the-top story plus mind-bogglingly good narration. Fantastic combination! I'm glad I stumbled upon this deservedly well-reviewed book!
The short version:
I don't really understand why such an established writer of bestsellers that are also loved by critics doesn't rate a first-class narrator for every book. Otherwise, this book was OK but not the best of the Bosch series. The tantalizing but unresolved final chapter suggests that there are good things yet to come, so I'm hopeful.
The long version:
First, let's talk about Titus Welliver as a narrator: the wrong narrator can really make or break an audiobook, so once I saw all the negative reviews I was pretty sure I had made a mistake by pre-ordering this latest Bosch book. My personal favorite narrator for the Bosch books is Len Cariou. My least favorite was the guy who read "The Black Box." Titus Welliver is a great Bosch on TV, but he clearly hasn't hit his stride as an audiobook narrator - he wasn't glaringly, irritatingly bad, just lackluster and uninspired. My attention wandered a few times, but at least I wasn't actually ANGRY about the narration, as sometimes happens with truly awful recorded book readers.
Listen to the audio sample: what you hear there is what you get. Titus' voice isn't horrible or anything, he just isn't a natural at the audiobook thing. Maybe audiobook narration isn't his jam.
Okay, on to the story: I love pretty much everything else Michael Connelly has written, so this was an automatic pre-order for me. As usual, we get a perfectly crafted police procedural with a side of angsty Bosch and some internal police HQ politics. Since Bosch is drawing nearer and nearer to the end of his career, I keep hoping for a story that offers a little bit more - more character development, more action, more something! - but I guess "The Drop" was really the story that gave us a lot of closure on Bosch's career, and now he's just counting down the months?
No spoilers, but this did end on a little bit of a cliffhanger, so I'm hopeful about the next entry in this series.
I'm not sure what a reader is supposed to get out of this. There wasn't really a mystery here, there was no character development, no insights into Bosch's life, past, relationships, approach to detective work, nothing.
I love Michael Connelly and have enjoyed (almost) all of his full-length novels, but this was a baffling disappointment and an empty reading experience - I thought I'd relish even a little dose of Bosch while I eagerly anticipate "The Burning Room," but I'd have been better off just waiting for the novel.
I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches, and although I didn't like Shadow of Night quite as much, I had high hopes for The Book of Life. This book has gotten fantastic reviews, so it obviously works for most people. If you loved both of the previous books, you probably don't need me to tell you that you'll like this one, too. BUT. If you were beginning to have some doubts by book 2, you might want to save your money (or your credit) for something else.
Characters move from city to city, discuss the incredibly urgent danger they face (but don't do anything about it), bicker, travel, drink tea, and discuss how possessive Matthew is about Diana. There is a seemingly endless review of vampire family politics and legal issues, and there is a huge cast of characters, although most of them are superfluous to the plot. Somehow Ms. Harkness made this all work in the first two books, but it felt to me like she had lost the rhythm and pace of the story in BOL. There is too much telling, not enough doing; too many plot points that go nowhere. There are many conversations that cover ground that has already been tread and retread in earlier chapters - I felt totally bogged down for the first 18 hours or so of listening.
I so wanted to enjoy this book! I found the first two difficult to put down, but this one was all too easy to set aside. The ending was fine, but I'm still not sure it was worth the tedious slog through 20+ hours of listening to get there.
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