Gabriel Allon must tread delicately while learning about the history of a beautiful painting if he wants to rip apart a pretty picture of the past, painted by greedy men and countries. The better to deceive you, my dear.
Daniel Silva will break your heart while he reveals the world's past, but he will also show you beauty and healing in unexpected places. His books are at the top of my Must-Read (or listen) list.
I try not to be too hard on narrators, but the truth is they can either make or break a book in audio. Holdbrook-Smith didn't have an unpleasant voice, he enunciated just fine so he was easy to understand, but he read so quickly it was hard to get a handle on what was happening.
The narrator really needed to give his reading a sense of pacing appropriate to what was happening in the story. There were a few times when a joke would just fly by, giving the listener no time to appreciate it. There were other times that the suspense of a scene was ruined because he sped through it so quickly- there was no time for me to get worried for the characters.
It was almost as if he'd made a bet with the production team that he could keep the book under 10 hours, and he was determined to squeak it in.
As for the story itself, it was good. Although, I think I'd have been able to appreciate the work Aaronovitch put into it better if I'd read it instead of listened.
I'm going to try to be honest here, because I think this is an important book that deserves to be read. That said, I think there were a few production issues, and you might want to consider them before you decide whether or not to purchase as an audio book or read the text. So here we go...
Once you've read about this time period, you'll find yourself wondering why on earth you never learned about it while in grade school? Not just because it's important to understand our roots, but also because it's damn good entertainment.
You might be disappointed if you are looking for a more personal telling of the events in America during 1776, but instead find a straight recitation of battles and troop movements. That said, McCullough does sprinkle in a fair amount of quotes from correspondence in this telling, for which I'm very grateful. Still, many times I found myself wishing he would explain the context of a decision or delved a little deeper. If you're a history nut who knows a bit about the subject, you may find yourself wondering why the author chose to leave certain things out. What the author did choose to include was fantastic.
Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair in my assessment. Looking back, the dry nature of the book could easily be chalked up to the publisher's choice to have the author narrate it. McCullough has a very pleasant voice- almost too pleasant. I found myself drifting off a few times and thinking of other things while he read from his book with little intonation at all, regardless of whether or not he was reading from dialog or a battle scene.
Do you remember in school when the class was asked to read from the textbook? And the toneless monotone everyone used? Oh yes. Exactly like that.
There was nothing grating or annoying about his reading, it was simply forgettable. Easily tuned out. Easy to be distracted by other matters while you're listening to it and suddenly you realize you haven't heard a word of what happened in the last five minutes or so and now you need to rewind a bit.
Even worse, in the middle of a paragraph or statement, the narrator suddenly goes silent for 10 seconds or more. The audiobook is still playing, but the editors have left huge gaps of dead-air in the middle of the book. It happened at least once a chapter and I always found myself looking over at my smart-phone to make sure everything was working properly, when suddenly it would start up again. It was really annoying.
It's a shame 1776 was produced in this way, because looking back at the whole of the book, I think it was well worth a read, even worth owning a hard copy on the bookshelf. I suppose that's something for me to keep in mind the next time I notice a historical text narrated by the author.
"For people who like this sort of thing, this is just the sort of thing they'll like" - Book review by Abe Lincoln
You'll need to be patient and stick through the first 1/4 of this book- in the beginning there is quite a bit of "explaining the situation" by Miller, and not a lot of showing. It's obvious the author has a rabid passion for historical fact, so it takes him a while to settle into his tale.
That said, if you stick with it, you won't be disappointed. Miller does a fantastic job of setting the stage and presenting his characters. Eventually he seems to hit his stride and is better able to share the historical tidbits naturally in the course of the story. Well worth a listen.
Smith could have chosen any of the characters in his story to be his main character. He might have made it a "coming of age" tale and chosen one of the sons. Or a sinister tale of desperation and sorrow by choosing one of the children who were stolen. These days, it's become popular to have an "anti-hero" and make the villain the protagonist; in which case he might have picked the Baba Yaga to tell the story.
All of those plot lines have been done before, however, and some of them are getting quite tired. Instead, Smith chose to tell the story from the perspective of Luka, a father and retired Russian soldier living in the Ukraine- the result surprised me. Luka is one of the most well written characters I've ever come across.
Still, it's not just Luka's story. There is tremendous depth and subtlety everywhere you look here. It's clear how much thought Smith put into crafting this. Even the setting cold, quiet, and dangerous- is given a personality. The result is an utterly unique tale that is haunting me days after finishing it.
As for Bronson Pinchot- I fell in love with him as a narrator while listening to Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles (for which I hear he's been nominated for an Audie- well done, sir). I cannot imagine a better actor to voice this story. In the beginning, the thick Ukrainian accent threw me. By the end, however, I could not help but marvel at how absorbed I became in the story- completely thanks to Pinchot's abilities. He successfully creates distinct men, teenagers, soldiers, women's and children's voices without distracting you. He voiced both the bark of command and the choked crack of despair during this novel- I really can't praise his work enough.
You will want to listen to this book. You will want to re-listen to this book. It is that good.
Might as well add my two thumbs up to the couple thousand people who have already given this series 5 stars. (this is #3)
After learning a bit more about Correia, what I find absolutely incredible is that he's only been writing for a few years, 6 or 7 from what I understand. He's incredibly prolific, and with a natural sense of action and pacing in his books.
Pair him up here with Bronson Pinchot and you've got a series that kicks literary hiney.
You're probably also going to want to snatch up a copy of the kindle version, because you're not going to want to put these books down- even in bed at night when wearing headphones gets to be a tad bit tangly.
I realize that if you're considering this book, like myself, you've already read every other Gamache novel. And, like me, you're a solid Penny fan. So I KNOW I'm going to take heat for this review. I'll try to make it as quick as ripping a bandaid off.
Let's start off with this: You're going to read this book. You will. You'll do it because there are a lot of plots from previous books that get tied up here and you want to know what path Jean-Guy ultimately chooses, how Clara and Peter are getting on, and whatever happened to Agent Nicole.
And going into this book, you'll be expecting the same fantastic writing that we've always gotten in this series, peppered with poetry and humor.
You're not going to get it.
Well, yes, you'll get the plot closures. In many ways, this book feels like the last of the series. You'll even get poetry and humor, albeit the poetry isn't new, we've heard it before in previous books.
The issue with this book is that you'll have to actually forget MAJOR events in the series to make this one fit. For example, remember in The Cruelest Month when Agent Nicole was getting phone calls all throughout the investigation from a mysterious person who wanted to know everything she and Gamache were doing? And how, at one point, Jean Guy attempts to take the phone from her because he suspects she's spying on the Chief Inspector? It was a fairly important part of the plot, it defined Agent Nicole and gave you some insight into why she behaves as she does.
In the same book, do you remember when a certain agent uses the bistro's laptop to go online to research the drug ephedra? He then leaves the page up on the screen on purpose to tip off the community about the drug they're looking for...?
Of course you remember all of that! It was critical to the story!
Well Penny forgot about it.
Now, as she writes it, Three Pines is a complete "dead zone." You can't get on the internet to research ephedra, and you can't use your cell phone while spying on your boss. And it's always been this way. Those previous books were all in your imagination. Yes they were. Don't argue.
And while in previous works we've seen our Chief Inspector use his ability to read and understand the motivations of people to solve crime, in this book we get something entirely different. Gamache is going to put together a team of hackers to break into the archives of the Sûreté du Québec. No, really. Gamache is going cyber-stalking.
And look. You're listening to this as an audio book, right? So you might not be a programming genius, but you at least know how to download a file and put it on an ipod or smart phone, right? You are likely not baffled by the mysteries of downloading.
Unfortunately, Gamache's team of computer experts don't appear to understand this concept. Nor does it occur to them to copy/ paste a file that they're currently reading.
The entire hacking plot-line required more than a slight suspension in belief. I hate saying this, I really, really do. But it was kind of ridiculous. I found myself wishing that Penny had written more about what she knows (characters, community, art, and poetry) and had left off the computer stuff for other writers.
So is this Penny's best? Her most brilliant writing ever? Well, with all respect to the previous reviewers, I don't think so. While I've listened to her other books multiple times (Still Life is my favorite) - sometimes just for Ruth's poetry - this book clearly doesn't have the same draw the others had.
Ready Player One could be the plot of a campy 80's teen movie. The characters are flat and make predictable choices, the villain is super evil, but fairly dumb and gets his way only by cheating and various other shady shenanigans. All in all a fun and enjoyable read.
Who would like this:
If you like 80's pop culture (with a heavy emphasis on video games) you will absolutely love this. The only thing I thought detracted from the story was the strange atheist preaching at times, and the politically correct lectures on "tolerance". Other than that, it's a amusing, light listen that had me smiling and looking on the internet for free copies of Zork and Pac-man.
Card is a master, and this new series can testify to that. Card mixes sci-fi/ fantasy with philosophy and physics so neatly that you'll walk away feeling refreshingly challenged. This is no cliche adventure tale, although there *is* adventure and suspense, of course. It *is* Orson Scott Card we're talking about, here.
Say one thing about this series, say it's a buzz-kill.
I feel that I should put this review here, before the series begins, as a bit of a warning. I fairly enjoyed the first two books in this series. I think the comparisons to Jim Butcher and G.R.R.Martin are a bit over blown... Butcher is much funnier and more clever with his words, and Martin's characters are much better rounded. Even his "bad guys" are likable. (you either like them, or love to hate them, that is)
I found Abercrombie's characters here to be somewhat flat, but with good potential. His plot was interesting and you get a good idea where he's leading you. (Life is hell, and not all heroes are nice guys) His settings... meh. Unbelievable and bland.
That said, I really was enjoying this series. It wasn't a favorite, but the plot and a few of the characters, Logen and Glokta in particular, I found very intriguing. They really carried the first two books. I wanted to read more about them and couldn't wait to get to the third.
Oh, how I wish I had left off at the first two. All of the development and growth in his characters, all of the plot lines, they all collapse in on themselves. And before you think it was a failing on the author's ability, let me assure you, he did it deliberately. By the end of the series you wonder what, exactly, was the point to all of it?
I liked this well enough as I listened to it. Although, admittedly, once it was done, I moved on fairly quickly. Good for a casual read, but not much of a "makes ya think" book.
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