New York in 1845 was a powder-keg of unrest. With an influx of Irish immigrants escaping the tragic Great Potato Famine into an already packed city, the New York summer of 1845 was filled with riots, religious unrest, murder, and the eventual birth of the New York Police Department, known by New Yorkers as a "standing army." Timothy Wilde, once a bartender with an unfulfilled love for a charitable woman named Mercy Underhill, has accepted a position as a policeman after a horrible fire leaves him with no bar to tend and his face disfigured. Amidst racism, brothels, drugs and murder, Timothy learns there is much more darkness in the city than he ever imagined. When a young girl, Bird, runs into him one night during his rounds, her nightdress covered in blood, with unbelievable stories of a murdered child, his new career becomes even darker.
A strong dislike for his older and more politically-minded brother, Val, Timothy's got an ethical side that can't be undone. Even with Bird, he doesn't have the heart to deliver her to the House of Refuge for orphaned children and instead takes her back to his apartment building where the female proprietor cares for her. As he takes the case to uncover the child murders, which seem to point heavily to a blatant hatred for Irish Catholicism, Timothy's unsure of who to rely on. His brother is of questionable character and the locals don't take any issue with brothels, even if children are an option. It's a gritty underworld that he didn't expect to be immersed in.
The Gods of Gotham is superb with early 1800s elements of New York life and American history, from the combination of race and religious unrest to the Irish "assimilation" into New York and even to the seedy brothels. While Mercy Underhill maintains her own sense of willful independence that at times was shocking, she provides the clear contrast to the city's evil with her ministering of care to the orphans and uncared for children, all the while dreaming of her one-day voyage across the Atlantic to England to escape New York. Each piece of the story was brilliant.
However, I did take issue with the audiobook so let me first encourage you to visit the Audible.com reviews site because I definitely do not represent the majority of the listeners. While I loved the story, I struggled with the audio considerably. In 1845 New York, I anticipated a little more accented English and instead felt the narrator's voice was flat and non-regional, and a good portion of the audio was monotonous, even to the point that there wasn't any variation between the male voices. There was also a distinct lack of emotion for several of Timothy's truly painful moments and with such a vivid story, it's unfair to the characters to be so colorlessly represented. Usually, a narrator keeps a bad story going, but in this case, The Gods of Gotham was thankfully a captivating tale which was the sole reason I was motivated to continue. I do want to mention that there was one bright spot that I loved in audio, which occurred between the newsboys and Timothy when they spoke "flash," a slang dialect of the lower classes in New York. It was extremely unique and interestingly enough, "flash" is also the foundation of several slang words we use today. Other reviews point out that these conversations were a difficult part when reading in print, however I can say the audiobook makes it much, much easier to understand and visualize and I do feel the narrator did a good job here. (For a really cool interview with the author discussing "flash," click here.)
The story and historical elements are fascinating and while it was a bit wordy at the start of the book, it evened out and became an engaging tale which makes me now eagerly await the sequel. At that time, though, I will be reading the printed version versus listening to the audio.
Alternating viewpoints between a young man saved from a village massacre and a young woman held captive within the land of her family's enemy, Across the Nightingale Floor is an epic and absorbing novel set in Japan. Combining mystery, politics, and love, this is one of the best audiobooks I've listened to, and easily makes my own "best of" list. Both narrators are intense and representative of the culture and time, and easily swept me up into this fictional fantasy world.
Takeo has only known the life of the Hidden, a cloistered community who follow a spiritual and peaceful path. When a warlord decides to brutally massacre this community, Takeo's narrow escape directs him into the path of Lord Otori, who chooses to save and adopt him. Takeo soon learns that his own mystical talents evolve as he grows up as Lord Otori's son, and finds that he has more to offer his adoptive land than simple dedication and loyalty.
I loved everything about this story, and both narrators excellently grasped the beautiful lilt and pacing I would anticipate for a story set in feudal Japan, for both Takeo and Kaede, the prisoner in the evil warlord's land. Since it's a trilogy, I already have the next installments in my Audible wishlist, and I'm ready to dive in.
This story or narration may not be for everyone, but I would argue that if you're looking for something different and want to listen to a beautifully told tale of adventure, love, politics, and mystery, this might be just the story for you.
When Nate has to find a new apartment, he never thought one with such cheap rent in a great location with a view would fall into his lap. It's not a big deal that his apartment isn't perfect, but when he realizes that everyone else's also has an odd difference here and there, with quirks that just don't add up, Nate and his fellow building-mates decide to figure it all out. And what really is behind the door of apartment # 14?
I loved this story. With recent selections for both audio and print missing the entertainment mark for me, 14 by Peter Clines was an absolute welcome relief. It completely knocked it out of the park. A combination of mystery, suspense, thriller, fantasy, and a whole heck of a lot of humor, I was completely whisked away into this sometimes creepy, but always interesting, fun ride into the mystery of why an entire apartment building has such cheap rent. With a thoroughly unique cast of characters who regularly referenced the Scooby gang, I adored them all, as they just wanted to figure out the mystery of their building. Clines' story is a hit for any long road trip, and the narrator is INCREDIBLE. That's right, Internet. He's an ALL CAPS kind of awesome, and I seriously need to find everything Ray Porter has narrated and buy them all now. (He also narrated Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and I loved that one as well.)
I could probably share more, but I'm worried I'd spill the beans inadvertently. Suffice it to say that this is the most fun I've had with a story in a long time and I loved it. With pop culture references including everything from the TV show "Lost" to which recent Hulk movie was better (duh, the Ed Norton one), there's a little bit for everyone who enjoys getting thrown into a mystery that has a slight edge of creepiness to it. I've heard Peter Clines is a horror writer, and although there were moments that were a little freaky, I don't know if I'd tag this as horror. Mostly, it's a suspenseful thriller as a vibrant cast of characters decides to spend their free time trying to figure out their building's odd layout, quirks, and vibe. It's well worth it.
I really wanted to like this. Turns out, I am extremely upset by the fact that I just did not. I'm harsh, but I can't sugarcoat. Usually, if I don't like something, I'll keep my comments honest but brief. In this case, I'm more comfortable bluntly expressing my dissatisfaction.
Lately, I have been drawn to more diverse authors and story lines, and that's probably as a result of recent BEA sloppiness in selections for author panels. Forgotten Country, for all its promise in synopsis, just didn't meet the mark for me, and for several reasons. I tried to isolate if it was the story itself, the narrator, or both, and I'm confident it came down to both, but primarily the narrator. Reader be warned: Keep in mind that this is MY opinion only. Another listener/reader may connect with this much better than I did. I encourage you to Google the book and you'll find that most reviews are highly flattering, but I would cautiously recommend that it's likely a book better read than listened to. Always do your research to get a more well-rounded overview. For me, I just feel let down.
The promise in the story lies in the description which immediately pulled me in. "On the night Janie waits for her sister Hannah to be born, her grandmother tells her a story: Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, their family has lost a daughter in every generation, so Janie is charged with keeping Hannah safe." Curiously intriguing, especially when you know that Hannah does eventually disappear from the family.
There are two levels to this story. At its surface, two first generation Korean-American sisters come to America at a young age and later on, the older sister must find the younger sister who has disappeared. Both are now in college, but the younger sister's disappearance occurs at the most crucial time for the family, as the father has developed cancer and the prognosis is devastating. Traveling back to Korea to get treatment that isn't being done in the States is the only solution, so Janie and her parents leave without Hannah. It becomes Janie's responsibility to find Hannah and bring her to her father.
At the core of it is a complex and rather naive battle of ignorance, nonchalance, mostly laziness, particularly on the main character, Janie's, part. I must admit I was the most frustrated with her complete lack of common sense, not to mention her inability to just do what was right, instead of always layering ridiculous rationalizations, one after another. If I had to create a metaphor for this: Was she in a car, strapped in and always idling in neutral? When she would make a decision, it was always in the wrong direction, but again and again, she piled on excuses that even she knew were false, but it didn't matter. She still did it. Or didn't do it. In fact, the story felt like it came down to a series of moments in which Janie questions herself: Should I, shouldn't I; would I, could I; the end. That's the crux of it and I can't be plainer about it. There was so much more that I wanted. And for those who have read it, what was that random thing with her adviser? Huh?
But I wonder if the story itself, which most reviewers who read the book enjoyed, was lost in the audio experience. Would I have read it differently, applying a voice that didn't always sound so jumbled and confused? The narrator just didn't live up to initial expectations. The biggest annoyance was that she chose a voice for the father, a man with a courageous backstory, at a pitch so much higher than even his own daughters had when they were younger. He sounded perplexed, confused, pathetically hopeful, and ultimately weak. Honestly, with what he had to deal with throughout life, I expected a much stronger and thoughtful voice, who only becomes weakened by cancer, but still maintains his fortitude. I don't know why he was voiced in such a high, feminine tone. Come to think of it, I would have been annoyed even if a woman was voiced in this same pitch.
All in all, it could have been an interesting tale. Reflecting back on it now, I think I would have been much more interested in the story told from the perspective of the parents, instead of the annoying older daughter. I was fascinated with the history in Korea when her parents were younger and found them to be the most important characters. However, the father's voice would chime in and it was so high-pitched, I had to steel myself to continue to listen.
Sometime last year, Audible.com had a sale and The Blood of Flowers was included. I nonchalantly read through the synopsis, and was pulled in by the story of a young girl in seventeenth century Persia, but I was immediately hooked once I listened to the audio sample. Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo is one of those actresses I've always liked but never knew her name, yet it's her voice that is so memorable. I didn't even need to search online to know that the narrator was the actress in House of Sand and Fog, Fox's series 24, and most recently on the NBC series, Grimm. Click here to listen; isn't her voice beautiful and captivating?
Combined with Aghdashloo's voice, Amirrezvani's mesmerizing tale of seventeenth century Persia comes to life even more. Although it was a time that wasn't easy for anyone, much less for women, our fourteen-year-old protagonist is certain her world will be full and happy, consisting of marriage and many children. But when her father unexpectedly dies, life forces a different turn. Soon, she is traveling with her mother to Isfahan to work with her uncle, a rug maker. Her own artistic talents as a designer help her to excel in a world in which men lead the way, but it's when a secret marriage secures her current financial situation that she and her mother finally feel safe. The crumbling turn it takes is unexpected and derails her from the comfortable life she had created, but it might just be the choice that sets her completely free.
I loved this story. Rather, I'll call it an experience, particularly as it was the audiobook. The richness of the characters and the details alone make it worthy of a recommendation but with Aghdashloo beautifully relaying the intricacies of the story, from the artistry of rug-making, the secret marriage, intense love scenes, and staggering betrayals of friends and family, made it even more at the top of the list of best audiobooks to listen to. Rounding out the tale itself are seven fables embedded into the story, told by the protagonist's mother. Each of them come from traditional sources, particularly thirteenth-century poets and adds another layer of cultural fullness to the story.
Keeping the protagonist unnamed may be unsettling for some, but in this case, it makes perfect sense. The author points out at the end that when you admire the artwork on a carpet, the designer is anonymous. Never do you see a signature and so the artist is never named, their legacy somewhat lost. Allowing the main character to remain unnamed keeps with the spirit of anonymity. And although some may not like a more mature voice speaking the words of a young girl, I did not find it disconcerting in the least. Again, Aghdashloo's voice is magical enough, lending even more authenticity to the story.
I loved everything about the story of a young girl in her early life of unexpected friendships, marriage, love, loss, and betrayal. Amirrezvani is a new-to-me author and I'll eagerly add her work to my bookshelves.
I struggled with this one. It may be because my reading preferences have changed, or perhaps it was the narration, but any way you dice it, it didn't work for me. The narration for the main character of Maggie sounded much, much more mature than a twenty-four-year-old woman and while she may have grown up with her British aunt, she most assuredly did NOT sound like a woman who had grown up in Boston. It sounded as though the narrator tried desperately to deliver a "type" of American accent, but in fact, at several points throughout the narration, slipped into an odd Southern accent which was jarring. All the British characters sounded pretty much the same and it was rather difficult to identify who was who, other than a deeper voice for a man and a higher voice for a woman, so it was the most challenging to identify who was who when Maggie was only with her girlfriends. While the story was interesting, the narration couldn't maintain my attention and in fact took me three weeks to finish when it's only a little under ten hours of audio time. Unfortunately, I don't anticipate picking up the next in the series in audio. In reading other bloggers' reviews, it's clear I would have had a likelier chance for a better reaction had I read it instead. However, do take note of the majority of reviews on Audible.com, as it's evident others loved the audio. The average rating on Audible is 4 out of 5 stars for performance.
Fans of Jacqueline Winspear and the like, who enjoy the cozy thriller and mystery experience, may like this story. I would recommend reading it versus listening to it.
I'm sure this is better in print or on the big screen... If you are like me and do a lot of errands, or go for a run when listening to an audiobook, than this might not be for you. I love science fiction, but this was just much too challenging to listen to. With six interconnected stories, each has its own narrator, which is fantastic, however each tale is simultaneously unique and challenging to comprehend. There is a specific way each narration is delivered, and depending on the time period of the story, it can either be 1800s prose or a completely made-up dialect that was painful to listen to and translate. I would not recommend this book if you like to do other things while you are listening. There were some moments within each tale that piqued my interest and engaged me for a little while, but then it switched to the next tale and I was left with trying to get used to the way it was written yet again.
However, I did enjoy the stories for Luisa Rey and Timothy Cavendish. The others, especially Zachry's tale, were just painful to listen to.
Well, my friends. Laini Taylor has hit it out of the park yet again with her sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and partnering yet again with incomparable audio narrator Khristine Hvam, I am simultaneously thrilled and pained that the wait has now begun for the final book.
Picking right up where Daughter of Smoke and Bone left off, this fast-paced and emotional book will not disappoint, as second books in trilogies sometimes can. Instead, Taylor sparkles with wit and depth, continuing the intelligent, wistful, and adventurous tale of Kerou, the heartbroken chimera. Left alone and considered a traitor, Kerou is still dealing with her conflicted feelings for Akiva, the seraphim angel. And although she is completely dedicated to her chimera people, and her wonderfully loyal and hilarious friends Zuzana and Mick (loved them!), Kerou doubts the leader of her chimera people, Thiago, and his motives. Final chapters leave the listener reeling, shocked by events, and breathless for the final book.
I refuse to divulge anything more for fear that it might give anything away for either book in the series, however suffice it to say that:
-- Book 2 is just as spectacular, creative, and innovative as Book 1
-- It is excellent on audio
-- It is the perfect book to listen to while running (it will make you run longer just to hear what happens next)
-- I wish that this was a longer series simply because I believe that Taylor has created a universe just as full and magnificent, and could equal a long duration, as the successful Harry Potter series
-- Bottom Line: You should read this
That is all I can say about this stunning Young Adult fantasy tale of angels and monsters, good versus evil, love and heartache, loyalty and betrayal. Laini Taylor keeps the fierce momentum going in Days of Blood and Starlight, powering through to the final emotional scenes, that ultimately leave you determined for more. Well done yet again, Ms. Taylor!
Audio Notes: Khristine Hvam returns to book two, thank goodness, and is a theatrical genius. I enjoyed her brilliant narration for all characters. Each is distinct and memorable.
Parental Notes: While the books are for an older young adult crowd, bear in mind that while it should be expected that there are battle-worthy moments of sword fighting and more, this one has moved a little more into scenes with consensual s3x, but also attempted s3xual assault. These are tougher to read/hear than the previous story. Make sure you have a conversation with your young reader to see if they have any questions.
I am not kidding when I tell you that Steven Weber is incredible in this epic tale from Stephen King. This story is about so much more than a clown, so please do yourself a favor and download this. I have never listened to an audiobook more than 15 hours, so 44 hours sounds daunting, but it is well worth it and flies by with Weber at the helm of King's powerful story of childhood friends overcoming their own personal battles and one incredibly hellish evil. Download this, trust me. It's the best audiobook I have ever listened to.
Do yourself a favor. Download this audiobook and enjoy a double dose of Gothic atmosphere, delivered by the winning combination of the eerie writing by phenomenal author Daphne du Maurier, and narrated by the accomplished actor Jonathan Pryce. You won't regret it. Click here to listen to the audio sample.
Philip Ashley, a young man just around the corner from turning twenty-five, has lost the one person in his life who was his only family. Ambrose, his older cousin and guardian, passed away while in Italy and Philip is now grief-stricken and confused. After all, how could Ambrose, a man who professed to be more suited to a life of solitude, fallen in love and gotten married? Who is the woman? With jealousy and fear, combined with paranoia, this Gothic novel satisfied every need for an unsettling tale as the air continues to get much cooler this autumn.
Rachel, a cousin of Philip's from a distant line, was Ambrose's wife and the subject of many a letter from Ambrose to Philip during the time he spent away from the estate in England. While the letters initially express love, later letters describe something quite different about Rachel, ominous, deceptive, and perhaps even dangerous. Should Philip trust Ambrose's letters, which may have been written at the height of his illness, or should Philip instead believe that Rachel is a good and decent woman, who was very much in love with Philip's uncle?
I read Rebecca by Du Maurier last year for the first time and promised myself I would read more of her work. Suspenseful and haunting, Du Maurier's work continues at a slow, yet consistent pace, building to those peak moments that reveal startling sadness and events that require you to read slowly, to appreciate, or rather to savor, each word. With Jonathan Pryce's rich and warm voice expertly narrating events, I was easily hooked to this Gothic tale of love, deception, and misunderstandings, all set on a sprawling estate that will immediately pass to Philip once he reaches his twenty-fifth birthday.
Remember this about Du Maurier: She is not a romance author. I was ignorant for years about this, and shunned reading her work. However, I instead found she is quite the master of suspense and storytelling, and while she dapples in love, it's nothing like what people thinks she writes. (I blame it on that ghastly, albeit memorable, red cover.)
Du Maurier always maintains the unreliable narrator, the main character frustratingly naive. In My Cousin Rachel, Philip is so annoyingly innocent about women that I wanted to slap him. How could he be so blind? How could he so stupidly trust the wrong people? But, Du Maurier trips you again, because even as I wanted to yell at Philip, I started to feel unsettled, questioning whether or not he was right, and I, the all-knowing reader, was somehow wrong... Philip certainly has led his life similarly to Ambrose's, sequestered and unsociable, his friends limited to the few who are the children of those who have provided a service to the Ashley estate, so there shouldn't be a surprise to how he reacts when he first meets Rachel, and subsequently gets to know her better. The confusion he feels, the emotions he falls victim to! Argh! You might utter proclamations of annoyance, you might throw your hands up in the air! You might. I did. But, as I do with most Gothic installments in my reading background, I enjoyed every moment.
This journey the reader experiences is key to My Cousin Rachel and to Du Maurier's signature style, so mind your patience, as the story is a good one and worth it to experience.
At the risk of sounding abject, I would also suggest this could be the "prequel" to Rebecca, granted with a few characters moved around. With a little research, I found I'm not the only one who compares both of these books as they have extremely similar images and settings, and it is of course, acutely atmospheric. Du Maurier tends to love her wealthy and affluent main characters, recluses living by the cold and rainy coastline who don't have much experience in the ways of love or business. And I enjoy it every single time. The Gothic nature of this story satisfied me to no end. Jonathan Pryce is superb and will not disappoint; I certainly will continue to eagerly download his work in the future.
Audio Notes: This was my first time listening to Jonathan Pryce, and as I've already mentioned, he is undeniably a master of delivering this story. With a voice quiet and haunting, Pryce narrates Philip's innocence and frustration, his helplessness and desire for more, so well that I found I made yet another excuse for more and more errands to do, places to go, just so I could continue to listen to the story. Pryce successfully captured each character distinctly, without confusion, and I'm happy to listen to him again.
I cannot believe I doubted this for a minute. Brava, Ms. Taylor! *standingovation*
Karou, a seventeen-year-old, lives in Prague and has a few friends at the art school she attends. With her naturally blue hair and gifted drawings of a magical world her classmates don't believe exists, Karou has more secrets than even she knows what to do with. Regularly called on by Brimstone, a creature with a ram's head who runs a curious shop filled with teeth, to complete mysterious tasks requiring her sudden departures, it's not a surprise for others to write off her disappearances. While her best friend, Zuzana might raise an eyebrow to Karou's answers, she doesn't pursue more detail. No one knows that Karou speaks multiple languages and uses magic to travel from Prague to Morocco and other cities within a blink of an eye. Brimstone, almost a father-figure for Karou, regularly reminds her that, while magic may be fun, it always comes with a price. It's only when Akiva comes into her life, a glorious angel who knows much more about her past than she does, that Karou learns just how much of a price it actually is. Her own mysterious past could be even more than she can handle.
With love, magic, battles, and loyalty, the creative tale from author Laini Taylor unfolds with style and intrigue. Each and every character was crucial to the story, thoughtful and compelling in their own ways, whether innocent, selfish, or even creepy and malicious. I particularly loved Zuzana, but that could be attributed as well to the incredible narrator bringing her to life. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an adventure that in its last few pages becomes so incredibly amazing with each event that I was left thoroughly breathless and awestruck at the creative tale.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: fantasy stories are just that.much.better in audio. Even more so in this case, as Daughter of Smoke and Bone is read by Khristine Hvam, one of the most talented narrators in town. This was my first time listening to her voice, but I can assure you, it will not be my last. With Hvam in control, every character became so immensely distinct that the story stepped up with its magical moments.
My absolute only issue is pretty ridiculous and more than likely to be expected, as I'm well out of my teen years. *sadface* At first, all of the "ooey-gooey-lovey-dovey" stuff was a little over the top, but I had to remind myself I'm not the intended audience. As a general reader who is appreciative of Young Adult fiction, however, the initial first blush of romance was a little more than actually needed. But, no matter. It's simply my own gentle reminder that you should push through it; a little elderly eye-roll every now and again is no big deal when the story ultimately is so incredibly worth it.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone will not let you down; it will likely make you stamp your feet, though, annoyed that you have to wait for Days of Blood and Starlight, the next installment in the series, to be released on November 6, 2012. I think I'm going to just pre-order it right now because I am so impatient. *hatestrilogies*
Khristine Hvam was absolutely wonderful for this story. She clearly felt comfortable voicing each of the characters, easily punching up drama and emotion and love when necessary. What a talent she is! I can't wait to listen to more from her.
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