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Melanie

Stoneham, MA, United States | Member Since 2009

44
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 14 reviews
  • 132 ratings
  • 286 titles in library
  • 22 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
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  • His Majesty's Dragon: Temeraire, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs)
    • By Naomi Novik
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1497)
    Performance
    (876)
    Story
    (882)

    When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo - an unhatched dragon egg - fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle.

    Janet says: "Dragon Riders of Pern meet Master and Commander"
    "Excellent AU period fantasy"
    Overall

    The tone of the writing fits the setting perfectly, and the narrator matches as though the book were written specifically for him.

    Some reviewers have complained that the story is tedious. Certainly the writing style is deliberate and considered, but as I said, it matches the setting and especially the naval character of Lawrence, the main character whose perspective is our own. Anyone who needs a very fast-paced writing style (like Carl Hiassan) might dislike it, but anyone who can tolerate Tolkein would have no trouble.

    Temeraire is delightful, and Lawrence is such a good man. His gradual shift from the navy to the aerial corps is believable and involving; his struggle with integrating himself into the new culture is fraught with pitfalls that are paralleled nicely by Temeraire's difficulty with being a rare breed.

    Lawrence's stiff manner and preoccupation with propriety stem from a powerful and selfless desire to do the right thing, both for his country and for his loved ones, making behavior that would come off as pompous in another man seem heartfelt and honest from him.

    What little aerial combat there is (surprisingly little if you're expecting a war, but for the story and Temeraire's age it's appropriate) is occasionally paced a bit oddly, but in truth, the action sequences are exceptionally easy to follow, dramatic, and realistic, with real consequences and believable decision-making, none of the absurd posturing of the usual fantasy battle scene.

    In short, Naomi does an excellent job of convincing the reader that her world is real, that dragons are real, that we know a guy named Lawrence, that he has a dragon named Temeraire, and that we care about them both.

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • The Diamond Throne: The Elenium, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By David Eddings
    • Narrated By Greg Abby
    Overall
    (831)
    Performance
    (514)
    Story
    (523)

    Sparhawk, the Pandion Knight and Queen's Champion, returns from a long spell of exile to find his native land overrun with evil and intrigue, and his young Queen grievously ill. Indeed, Ehlana lies magically entombed within a block of crystal, doomed to die unless a cure can be found within a year.

    Bryan J. Peterson says: "Quirky pronunciations but overall a worthy job."
    "A classic; listen to it like you do Tolkien"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    All of Eddings' epic fantasy work is dated now. It seems clichéd and trite. It would never get published by today's standards. Thing is, though, this stuff became a cliché for a reason: these are powerful ingredients. Eddings uses them masterfully.

    The worldbuilding here is perhaps not as immersive as his Belgariad/Mallorean series, but the story is more mature and revolves around a battered yet formidable knight instead of a Chosen One farm boy (this will be relevant to you if you, like me, are tired of the Chosen One trope).

    The key to enjoying Tolkien is to use your classic ear, not your modern ear. Tolkien wouldn't get published today, either (hello, Tom Bombadil), and so many of his elements seem like clichés now, too (elves and dwarves, le sigh). If you listen to him like you do Jim Butcher, you'll get bored... but if you listen to him as a classic, an exemplar, you can see why his books are still being read. Same goes for Eddings.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tricked: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Kevin Hearne
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6037)
    Performance
    (5575)
    Story
    (5568)

    Druid Atticus O’Sullivan hasn’t stayed alive for more than two millennia without a fair bit of Celtic cunning. So when vengeful thunder gods come Norse by Southwest looking for payback, Atticus, with a little help from the Navajo trickster god Coyote, lets them think that they’ve chopped up his body in the Arizona desert. But the mischievous Coyote is not above a little sleight of paw, and Atticus soon finds that he’s been duped into battling bloodthirsty desert shape-shifters called skinwalkers.

    Nicholas says: "Hooked in an Instant"
    "Kevin Hearne is a beautiful butterfly"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    TL, DR version: Kevin Hearne has really matured into an amazing writer. This has his best plot yet, and best action by FAR, in the very highest class.

    Also, for new readers, I think it's okay to start here if you don't have time to start at the beginning. You can always go back and read the first three later, and might even enjoy them more, since this book finally explains some things that have been bothering me since day 1, especially the issues with eternal youth.

    Long version:

    The first books in this series were marked by a very specific pattern that I've observed in a lot of new writers (I'm an editor).

    First, the author is hesitant and lacks confidence in certain specific areas, usually battle/action sequences, often punting them off-screen in self defense. That happened in "Hounded."

    Next, the author is emboldened by success, and attacks material he used to shy from, this time with great enthusiasm and regrettable lack of restraint, such as in "Hexed" where pregnant women are stabbed in the uterus (yes, they're demon babies, but still).

    After that, the maturing author has come to terms with whatever material used to worry them, and now turns their attention to being creative with plot. "Hammered" contains Kevin's experimentation with new plot techniques and concepts in world-building.

    Next? Well, next comes awesomeness.

    "Tricked" is creative, exciting, funny, adventuresome, and dramatic. None of its plot elements disappoint, and Kevin's battle scenes are reaching mastercraft. All his earlier promise is fulfilled. All the horrible cliches that I have come to dread from reading other, less enlightened authors were neatly avoided and left me embarrassed for not trusting him.

    Which is really the central issue, at least for me. For me, it's about trust. Can I trust this author with my feelings? Does he want me to enjoy his work, or is making his readers sad some sort of power trip for him (George RR, I'm looking at you)? I am hesitant to try any new author with audiobooks because I can't easily skim through any bits I don't like. If I pick an untrustworthy author, I'm in for a really bad day.

    Basically, Kevin Hearne has, with "Tricked," proven himself trustworthy. I can let myself relax and put my heart in his hands and know that he will take good care of it, and if anything hurts, it'll definitely be the good kind of hurt. I don't have any higher praise.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon: Burton & Swinburne, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Mark Hodder
    • Narrated By Gerard Doyle
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (308)
    Performance
    (286)
    Story
    (288)

    It is 1863, but not the one it should be. Time has veered wildly off course, and moves are being made that will lead to a devastating world war. Prime Minister Lord Palmerston believes that by possessing the three Eyes of Naga he'll be able to manipulate events and avoid the war. He already has two of the stones, but he needs Sir Richard Francis Burton to recover the third.

    Chris - Audible says: "Almost, but not quite."
    "Unrelentingly grim, depressing ending"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The performance is excellent, and the book is very well-written and colorful, which is why I gave it so many stars. However, it has serious problems.

    - The overall plot lacks the fun and adventure of the previous books.

    - Africa seems so horrible, I don't know why anyone would want to go there. It makes the explorers seem totally barmy. It's also not much fun to read about bugs and ulcers and watch the horses die one by one.

    - Bad thing after bad thing happens, with no relief (except the parakeets), making for a tiring listening experience.

    - The author switches focus to the Eugenecists and their plant machines. That's fine, except... they are impossible. It isn't genetics that keeps a tree from reaching 30' maturity in 2 days, it's plain old physics. I could ignore the tech-y impossibilities, imagining they found some way around it (Fornby coal), but the existence of the plant-things broke my suspension of disbelief repeatedly.

    - All the female characters in this series have 2 purposes: Serve the hero's supper, and/or die for the hero. Really? In 2012? We can do better.

    - The ending. Without giving anything away, I can tell you that it is a complete non-ending. Nothing is resolved. Also, disappointingly cliche.

    Reading back, it does sound like I hated the book. I ... guess I did. Thing is, I know myself and I know that I object strongly to things many people actually like. For example, I hate Game of Thrones for most of the same reasons (grim, dark, women are stupid, animals are abused and killed, everyone dies). I think, if you can enjoy books despite, or because of, unrelentingly grim storylines, then you will probably enjoy this book.

    Ending still stinks, though.






    SPOILER-ISH WARNING: (Lots of characters die here, so brace yourself, or don't read it if that kind of thing ruins a book for you.)

    16 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Kevin Hearne
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10653)
    Performance
    (9516)
    Story
    (9492)

    Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old - when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries....

    Chris says: "Finally, a modern day fantasy that really hits the"
    "Stylish, fun, well-read, inconsistent quality"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book had a lot of promise. The narration part of the writing is excellent, funny, and descriptive; secondary characters like Lif, Perry and the fantastic Oberon are vivid and very well written. Many concepts are cool and the druidic take, along with the restrictions on druidic magic (what it can do, what it can't) is nice becaue it feels possible. Things don't happen "just by magic" and there are some things Atticus just can't do, at least not if he wants to stay a druid. It's incredibly well performed, one of the top three I've had the pleasure of hearing. I really wanted this to be my next favorite series.

    Ultimately, though, it's got a couple of flaws that would not have been so disappointing if I hadn't set my hopes so high. Atticus never met a contraction he liked - it's always "do not," "is not," "I am" instead of the contractions that actual people use during all normal conversation except when being very adamant, so he comes off as ALWAYS being adamant. His dialogue was pale compared to Oberon's. Also, I think Hearne lacked confidence when writing this book, because many actions take place off-camera and we have to imagine it. In my experience as an editor this happens when the author worries they will not be able to do a good job describing it, but as a reader, I really wanted to SEE the werewolves transform, not listen to howling and then have the wolves trot into the room. I want to SEE the final conflict between the two groups at the end, not hear it in the distance while Atticus takes forever to get there.

    If the good parts were not SO good, I would give up on the series. However, I really want to see if Hearne gains confidence in his next novels. I think he has potential to be as fun and exciting as Jim Butcher (high praise from a fan), and much more stylishly written. Hearne already has a better vocabulary and writes dog and canine characters WAYYY better.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Ghost Story: The Dresden Files, Book 13

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Jim Butcher
    • Narrated By John Glover
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5868)
    Performance
    (5029)
    Story
    (5022)

    When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin. But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own. To save his friends - and his own soul - Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic....

    Bill says: "Not the best audio book in the series"
    "Fresh new entry into a long-running series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The ghost angle made the newest entry in the Dresden Files fresh and exciting when I'd been beginning to feel like they were edging into formulae. It's also good and long, which I like because it's good value for money! It doesn't feel long because the plot has many parts. Jim's style is occasionally laborious, however, and this is no exception; action and adventure runs freely, but whenever anything sensitive or philosophical comes up the writing screeches to a walking pace until it's time for more excitement.

    Unfortunately, enjoying the story was severely hampered by the reader. When I read everyone complaining about him, I thought they were just being sour because they didn't like change, but it's true: Glover is just not very good. His voices are so similar that I lose track of conversations, and his diction actively gets in the way of following the plot. He pronounces everything like a revelation, like "She was wearing a coat... with BLUE buttons." Like the blue buttons were a huge big plot point and I needed to remember them. After a couple of chapters I learned to tune that out because I realized I was wasting my time trying to figure out what he meant - he didn't mean anything, he just talks like that. I hope they use a different guy next time, if not Marsters then at least someone who reads calmly and doesn't actively get in the way.

    That said, if you enjoy Dresden files, you won't want to miss this. It's important to the overarching plot and has a lot of new stuff and new ideas that made the serious freshly interesting and fun. You might want to read it in dead-tree format, though, so you won't have the comedic timing ruined by the reader.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Storm Front: The Dresden Files, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Jim Butcher
    • Narrated By James Marsters
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12360)
    Performance
    (9173)
    Story
    (9175)

    A call from a distraught wife, and another from Lt Murphy of the Chicago PD Special Investigation Unit makes Harry believe things are looking up, but they are about to get worse, much worse. Someone is harnessing immense supernatural forces to commit a series of grisly murders. Someone has violated the first law of magic: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Tracking that someone takes Harry into the dangerous underbelly of Chicago, from mobsters.

    Tom says: "Excellent Story, Distracting Sound Engineering"
    "Harry Potter and a noir PI's hard-rockin lovechild"
    Overall

    A great character voice, thrilling action (more than once I paused it and ran to excitedly tell my husband "And then there was this giant scorpion and he cast this awesome spell and-") and a very interesting magic system. The magic captures the joy I felt when first reading Harry Potter, yet developes it into something that feels real and complete, somehow beyond mere fantasy.

    I've listened to a few more of these and there's two consistent flaws. One is that the reader keeps breathing heavily into the mike, and the other is that characters keep having extended conversations during the time it takes a monster to run across a room. Either that's one slow monster, or they're talking at lightspeed. In general, the pacing of action sequences is often askew, with characters having time to do things that they really would not have time to do, and events being described as though in slow-motion.

    But that doesn't stop Butcher's action from being some of the most creative and exciting I've ever had the privilege to read, and that, combined with the overall extremely high quality of the work, makes me heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery, action, fantasy, paranormal or noir.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Victory of Eagles: Temeraire, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Naomi Novik
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (616)
    Performance
    (364)
    Story
    (360)

    It is a grim time for the dragon Temeraire. On the heels of his mission to Africa, seeking the cure for a deadly contagion, he has been removed from military service - and his captain, Will Laurence, has been condemned to death for treason. For Britain, conditions are grimmer still: Napoleon's resurgent forces have breached the Channel and successfully invaded English soil.

    Karin W. says: "Excellent story, but the audio files are truncated"
    "My favorite"
    Overall

    My favorite in the series. Naomi begins to shift point-of-view to Temeraire occasionally, and that is delightful. His mind is clearly a dragon's and works slightly differently, yet easy to understand and identify and sympathise with. The battles and strategies are great, some of the best I've read and I'm pretty picky about such things. I really don't have anything bad to say.... Yeah, no, I really don't. If you haven't started Temeraire's series yet, start it now, it's worth it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • I Shall Wear Midnight

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Stephen Briggs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1217)
    Performance
    (741)
    Story
    (755)

    Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren't sparkly, aren't fun, don't involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy. But someone - or something - is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches.

    Rebecca says: "Another Treasured Pratchett"
    "More great work from Terry"
    Overall

    He's back in the game - after Nation, I was afraid my favorite author was too discouraged about life to write any more of the joy-filled work I so loved. He's been proving me wrong ever since and I am heartily ashamed of myself for doubting him.

    Tiffany's adventures are perfect for young girls, unlike most fantasy marketed to young adults.

    Characters are well-drawn. The village and its culture on the Chalk feels like I could book a plane ticket there, it's so real. Magic is well-developed and believable, as are its limitations. Tiffany's strengths and flaws are balanced and leave her as a lovable, yet strong, young woman and a great role model, too. I also love Preston, one of several new characters, whose mind works in its own unique way - that's quite a feat of writing, in my opinion, to show us so clearly that one character is so different from another.

    In short, strongly recommended. Buy it for your niece, too, like I did!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tongues of Serpents: Temeraire, Book 6

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Naomi Novik
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (555)
    Performance
    (397)
    Story
    (393)

    A dazzling blend of military history, high-flying fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat adventure, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels, set in an alternate Napoleonic era in which intelligent dragons have been harnessed as weapons of war, are more than just perennial bestsellers—they are a worldwide phenomenon. Now, in Tongues of Serpents, Naomi Novik is back, along with the dragon Temeraire and his rider and friend, Capt. Will Laurence.

    Shelly says: "Didn't drop the excitement for me"
    "It's a fun ride, but it doesn't go anywhere"
    Overall

    I loved the other entries in this series. I loved this one, too, right up until I realized that all those reveiwers who complained that it went nowhere... were absolutely right. The story concludes at a dead end. Is it the end of the series, or what? Poor Lawrence seems so depressed and discouraged. I feel like the next book will consist of him gardening or learning to crochet, because he's too world-weary to leave his front porch.

    Even so, enough events are enough fun that it is worth a listen. Fans of Temeraire himself won't be disappointed, nor will fans of Ischierka (sp?) and the two new baby dragons are delightful. I just hope Lawrence gets a new lease on life in time for the next book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Final Empire: Mistborn Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Brandon Sanderson
    • Narrated By Michael Kramer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8997)
    Performance
    (6405)
    Story
    (6444)

    For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison.

    Lore says: "Book 1 of a great series that is not to be missed!"
    "Great story, hampered by bad execution"
    Overall

    The characters are interesting, the plot is pretty cool. I love Sazid (sp?) and Ham. The magic system is unique and plausible. The ending is exciting and I loved how he pulled all the pieces together.

    What's the problem, then? Sanderson desperately needs a thesaurus. I feel like a shell-shocked victim, I twitch whenever I hear the word "paused." Characters pause on average four or five times a conversation. Another reviewer suggests making a drinking game out of it - I don't recommend that. You'd die of alcohol poisoning. Oh, and "crystalline," that one got me, too. Everything that even remotely relates to anything mineral is "crystalline."

    Considering how long the book is, I should know and love everyone in it, but the prose is long and slow with the result that I barely got to know most of the characters. Another reviewer compared them to David Eddings' and that is apt, except that Eddings' characters are more fun.

    The story takes place in one small geographical area, giving me no sense of "world" beyond the fact that Luthadel is kind of depressing and ugly.

    Exposition re: the magic system. Oh God, the info-dump. Find a way to work it into the story! Show, don't tell! The best part is Vin's initial misunderstanding about her own powers, calling them "luck" and using them instinctively. That was cool. Then Kelsier came along and drew up a spreadsheet.

    Action sequences are hit-or-miss. Some, like Vin's desperate flight across the spires of the palace, are suspenseful and vivid. Others are rote descriptions of metal objects flying through the air, with many stops to describe the physics involved.

    I'd have given it only 3 stars, except then the ending was just that awesome. If you can tolerate the kudgy prose, and you have a long attention span, then you should enjoy the book. I personally don't regret buying it at all, but I don't think I'll get the next 2 books for a while. Maybe after a break I will enjoy it more and not be bothered by the stylistic problems.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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