A bit unsatisfying
If would probably recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre. It is well-written - great characters, good foreshadowing, excellent plot twists - but I would be more likely to recommend it as an audiobook than as a novel to read. The battles in the book would have gotten quite tedious for me if I were reading, but I think I could enjoy Pacey reading the phone book to me. He is amazing.
I've only heard Steven Pacey on the 3 First Law novels, but he's got to be one of the best and I will look for other books he narrates.
Pacey is perfection and the novel is well-written. However, I found the ending disappointing. Abercrombie wrote the First Law series as 3 books although none stands alone. And, then this last one leaves you hanging. That seems a bit unfair and sort of manipulative on the author's part. If I have spent the time and money to go through three entire books which constitute the whole series and some of the central characters are left hanging still...not quite right if you ask me.
I love to read almost anything except diet books. However, 2 years ago having developed microscopic colitis and some big-time middle age spread, I picked up Wheat Belly on sale on Audible and that started me on changing my diet to that point that I have now lost 45 lbs and cured my colitis when none of the expensive drugs did! I got some major help from another excellent audiobook, The Big Fat Surprise, and really just designed my own plan to eliminate wheat and sugar and reduce overall carbs. Now that I am back in my 6's, I very much want to maintain this weight and my colon health so I thought I'd see if I could get some maintenance advice from Living Low Carb and I was very pleased with what I heard. Jonny Bowden does a great job of reviewing a whole slew of low carb plans, but he also provides some good advice on how to jazz up your meals if you are getting bored and how to adjust the components of your diet/exercise/lifestyle to maintain or restart the losing if you hit a plateau. I've spent my whole life believing in low fat as the way to lose weight and I've also spent my whole adult life fighting to stay slim. I was slow to accept the low carb approach, but it is hard to argue with success! My personal experience leads me to believe that low carb is healthier (at least for the colon) and although it is hard to give up the sugar, getting back a little fat (butter, olive oil, cream, coconut oil - all the things that make food so yummy) has more than made up for that for me. I'm so glad Audible made these books available because I might have missed out on something that truly has changed my life. There are so many approaches to low carb that you can probably find one that will fit your lifestyle and Jonny Bowden reviews almost all of them in this book. Check it out if you are searching or if you just need some tips and tricks to stay motivated on the plan you have.
I accidentally started Adler-Olsen's Department Q series with Book 2 and I was so glad I did because when I later listened to Book 1, the narrator made me crazy and I had to read it in print. Having read/listened to the Dept. Q books available on Audible, I eagerly picked up The Alphabet House and there is a lot to admire here, but it is not nearly as satisfying to listen to as the Department Q books. This book was first published in Danish in 1997, about a decade before the first of the Dept Q books and you can definitely see the change that 10 years made in Adler-Olsen's writing with the biggest difference being in the characterizations.
Brian and James are two English flyers shot down in World War II. They manage to escape capture and finesse their way into German military hospital to try to survive. Challenging under any circumstances, but especially tough when only James speaks German. The first part of the book detailing their travails in the mental ward of the SS hospital is fascinating and was clearly well researched, but then the book shifts 30 years and kind of loses its impetus and clarity. I found part 2 difficult to get through because it is fairly clear early on what will happen, but it takes a very long time to get there. Repeated threats to the protagonist might have been more suspenseful except that I didn't ever really connect with these characters. Former SS officers are the villains of the book and there is no subtlety in these guys - they are just plain evil to the core. There is more shading to the other characters, but I didn't relate to them or feel much for them. That stands in sharp contrast to the Department Q characters that I connected with almost immediately and am always happy to meet again in each subsequent book. Ultimately, The Alphabet House is quite interesting, but just not as satisfying as Adler-Olsen's other books.
Graeme Malcolm provided a nice narration of this book and did a great job with all the German names and places.
Ultimately, I am not sorry to have read The Alphabet House and if you are already an Adler-Olsen fan, you will probably like it. However, if you have not read this author yet, pick up Book Two of the Department Q series, The Absent One, first. It's a great book and a great audiobook and will give you a better idea of what Adler-Olsen can really do.
I am late to the Retrieval Artist banquet, but happily pigging out now! There are many deserved good reviews for The Disappeared so I'd be tempted not to take the time, but I enjoyed this book so much that I just have to add my plaudits to both Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Jay Snyder, the narrator, as well as my thanks to Audible for bringing this to me.
If I rated this book as a police procedural/detective mystery, I'd probably rate it 4.5 stars - police procedural believable and fairly interesting, mystery nicely plotted, very clever, and a little twisty, but not as sophisticated as some. If I rated this book as strictly science fiction, I would probably rate it as 4.5 stars also - terrific detailed world building, no big science blunders, but little hard science. However, The Disappeared is much more than a Sci-Fi Detective Mystery; it is a book that has all the elements for seriously great fiction. When you combine that with top-notch narration from Jay Snyder, you have an audio book that I could hardly stand to it turn off - truly stellar!
* Engaging, believable characters. Men and women who have unique personalities that extend beyond body type or looks; varying levels of intelligence, talents,and flaws; complex emotional and psychological make-ups; diverse backgrounds, ages, and socio-economic levels. It's tough to write good fiction in any genre without good characters and yet it is especially difficult to find good characterizations in science fiction - particularly for female characters.
* Interesting plot - science fiction lends itself to good plots which is one of the reasons I like the genre, but much of it is about colonization and/or battles. I have enjoyed many space exploration type plots, but Rusch's plotting is more about the challenges of life after the initial survival hurdles have been made in space and it was a nice change of pace.
* Setting - The Disappeared takes place primarily in the domed city of Armstrong on the Moon, but Rusch also lines out the politics and the aliens across known colonized space. Her descriptions of Armstrong made me feel like I was there.
* Prose - evocative, but not effusive; truly readable and keeps the story moving.
* Themes - I think all good fiction has to be entertaining, but not all fiction has to give "food for thought". But, if a fictional story makes you think that's a big bonus and there's plenty to ruminate on in The Disappeared. We already know that human societies enact and enforce laws differently. (There are Americans imprisoned in various places around the world for doing things that would not be illegal in the USA.) In Rusch's universe with multiple alien peoples, there is a group that finds death so abhorrent that a person who comes in contact with a dead body is subjected to a cleansing ritual that includes evisceration; a group that takes retribution not on the offender but on his/her loved ones; and a group that subjects even minor offenders to hard labor. You could just avoid contact with those groups to stay out of trouble, but what if they have something really marketable (what if North Korean sat on all the world's diamonds or oil)? The capitalism that lives in most human hearts will find a way to trade for something they want even if there is a great risk in doing so. What if what you believe is moral is illegal - and, you are a cop? What if your style works to make you effective at your job, but keeps getting you into political trouble - can you/should you change?
I listened to two more in The Retrieval Artist series before I could make myself stop to write a review and I am still totally taken with Rusch's writing and her universe. "Retrieverse" keeps expanding in interesting and unusual ways and Flint and DeRicci continue to evolve and grow. As a great topper, Jay Snyder, nice narration/good characterizations, continues as the narrator throughout the series. Most sci-fi enthusiasts will enjoy The Retrieval Artist and most readers who appreciate finely crafted fiction independent of genre should be entertained.
I haven't read a lot of Stephen King because I am not a big fan of the horror genre, but when King goes a little easier on the adrenaline pump, I really like his writing and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is one of those. How do you make 9 days in the life of a lost 9 year old engrossing? King does it by creating a character who is not only likable, but charmingly flawed, and totally believable and he sends this character on an emotional and spiritual journey at the same time she must find her way back in the very real physical world. The baseball metaphor and Anne Heche's truly brilliant performance further enhance the narrative. This one will stick with me.
I had to use this line from the book as the title of my review because, a. it's funny and will give you an idea of the ironic/sardonic tone of the book, b. it conveys the "every man" status of the protagonist, Mike Ross, who recognizes this sentiment when he gets the brush-off.. Mike acquires a "gift" to see ghosts and interact with them via a cornea transplant following major injuries in the Iraq war. Mike not only has war wounds to overcome, but he's short, broke, and uneducated. He'd like to use his new abilities to make some money, but his efforts, while useful in protecting the living and assisting the dead, almost never pan out with much moolah. And Mike's new talents greatly hamper his love life and family relationships (see title above) so ultimately, this guy is no Gary Stu! After listening 1/2 way to two books (one sci-fi, one fantasy) in a row where the primary protagonist was all that and a bag of chips (Atlas/Adonis rolled into one, every woman falls at his feet, yada, yada), I was thrilled to pieces to meet Mike Ross; a guy who doesn't get anything for free and yet keeps trying - my kind of hero.
In this urban noir fantasy, Jim Bernheimer not only provides some realistic living men and women, he borrows from the gangster and Civil War eras to populate the world with some memorable ghostly characters. This is a fast paced adventure that stands well on it's own, but definitely made me want to read the sequels.
Jeffrey Kafer does a great job at invoking the dry, wry tone of the noir story and provides good characters voices as well. Nice performance!
Some reviewers have compared this to Dresden, but Dead Eye actually reminded me more of the nicely done Felix Castor series by Mike Carey. If you like urban noir, if you enjoy a hero who's only human, if you like your ghosts to have a bit of moxie, and if you like a bit of history thrown into your fantasy fiction, you'll like Dead Eye.
Our Lady of the Islands was a real breath of fresh air. Two central protagonists, both female and both middle-aged and these two women wrestle with the common problems of many of us in the middle while engaged in an enthralling fantasy adventure. Sian Katte is a successful business woman with grown children and grandchildren; Arian is the wife of the Factor (leader of the Islands Nation, Alizar). Sian is thrust into a mission for the butchered god which leads her to cross paths with Arian. The two women not only must deal with political and religious factions that stand in the way of their goals, but also deal with all the same issues that most of us in the middle years grapple with:
When passion dies down, will friendship and respect sustain the marriage commitment?
Evolving relationships with adult children
Juggling professional and personal priorities
What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose?
Evolving relationships with adult siblings and other family members
Unlike so many fantasy novels, this is not a coming of age story and there is little romantic angst or impetuous or petulant behavior. The emotional conflict in the book is primarily the reassessment of spiritual, emotional, physical, and professional issues that most middle-aged people have to tackle. What makes the book rock, is that these women are going through their mid-life crises in the middle of a world in turmoil and while on the run so there is truly never a dull moment.
The prose in Our Lady is fluid, dialog rings true, and all the characters, male and female, are well drawn and believable. Allyson Johnson provides a good performance as the narrator.
Jay Lake died of cancer while working on this book with Shannon Page. I read that Shannon Page is continuing the sequel with another collaborator. Our Lady of the Islands stands well enough on its own, but I enjoyed it so much that I am looking forward to more.
No science fiction works without a great plot/concept driving it and The Three-Body Problem has zero problem on that score - an experiment, done out of a kind of desperation, actually results in first contact with an interstellar alien community and sets up a pending crisis. But even a great concept still needs good characters, setting, and fluid writing to make for a great sci-fi read.
I didn't have much trouble with setting. This first book of a trilogy draws on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, past and current geopolitics, and current and theoretical quantum physics to set the stage for the saga - interesting, with plenty of potential to sustain the trilogy. My only quibble with the setting used was with the sequences that take place within an on-line game. It is in the game that characters attempt to resolve the Three Body Problem and I found those segments of the book to be rather dull and confusing. No doubt some of the information in those sections will come into play in later books, but they read like bad dream sequences where you don't have any context to make sense of what is going on. And, there is no plot or character development happening during those passages so I just wasn't engaged during those sections.
The flow of the writing feels a bit choppy, but I would chalk that up to the fact that this is a translation. The translation seems pretty good in that the meaning is clear, but English and Chinese are such very different languages there is bound to be some loss of fluidity. Ultimately, my biggest difficulty with The Three-Body Problem is the characters. The book starts with Ye Wenjie during the Cultural Revolution and she is a very interesting character throughout the book and the only character that is ever really fleshed out. Much of the book is from the POV of Wang Miao, a character that gets little back story and is hard to connect with, and none of the other characters is more than sketched. The Aliens may have some potential in the sequels, but ruthlessness is about the only characteristic they show in this first book.
Luke Daniels does his normal phenomenal job of creating great character voices which is a huge help with a book with unfamiliar names and he adds much to making this a good listen.
Bottom line, The Three-Body Problem is challenging, but intriguing and I will listen to the sequels when Audible has them available.
He might well have twisted Russian folklore to tell a story much like Egg & Spoon - witty, charming, a little food for thought, and just plain fun. I don't know why this book is listed as "Teens" because like the best of "fairy tales" or fables, this is a fantasy yarn that could be enjoyed by any age listener and the ultimate hero is Baba Yaga (yes, you heard me, scary old Baba Yaga saves the day), who is ancient! The story is a bit slow picking up speed in the beginning as the characters are introduced, but gets fun and adventuresome fairly soon. I think if I had actually read the book, I would also think some of the length could be edited. However, listening to this book performed by Michael Page is a real delight - what an artist! So, the length in the audio book is not a problem. I'm SO glad Audible had this on a Daily Deal because the teen classification might have caused me to miss it otherwise.
I picked up "Paw Enforcement" on a Audible Daily Deal and it was just fine for the price. It's not a great book; the only character I really liked was Brigit, the dog, and much of the police procedural of the story doesn't ring true. However, the story is set in Fort Worth (a city I know well and is seldom used in fiction) and the author did a decent job of using the city in the story and portraying its personality accurately and I loved that she used a mutt as the police dog since most working dogs are purebreds, although many mutts have the potential. The author goes a little over the top on the snarkiness, but the story is entertaining and requires no major mind exertion so it makes for a good "beach read" - one of those books that works when you want totally passive entertainment. It's not as good as the Stephanie Plum books, but reminds me a bit of that series and might have some potential to get better. Coleen Marlo was OK as the narrator, but as another reviewer mentioned, she's a bit heavy handed with the sound effects.
I absolutely LOVED this little allegorical tale that reads like a regency story as told by Aesop. You really don't need any summary of this story; the plot is right out of Jane Austen with all the class consciousness, priggishness, and blatant sexism of 19th century England, but all the norms of behavior have been translated to dragonkind. In addition, Walton addresses servitude/slavery, religious influences (I loved the CofE and RC analogous dragon religions), and racism in a way that Austen never did. Like Austen's stories, "Tooth and Claw", is fun and entertaining with fabulous characters, subtle satire, and a very tidy ending. Unlike Austen, Walton exposes the truth of a highly dysfunctional and abusive society by using an animal illustration much like Aesop in his Fables. Philostratus said of Aesop, "...he by announcing a story which everyone knows not to be true, told the truth by the very fact that he did not claim to be relating real events." And indeed, Walton tells some great truth while she entertains us with dragons.
John Lee provides a wonderful performance of the story making this an all around terrific audiobook!
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