I have tried three times to listen to this book, and have not been able to make it beyond about an hour or so.
I was very excited by the premise of the story, and was looking forward to more books by Barbara Hambly.
But the narration is so abysmal that I cannot finish the book. Teri Clark Linden is the absolute worst narrator I have listened to in all my time as an audiobook listener.
She over-enunciates every single word and gives everything the same emphasis. She can only read about 4 words before having to take a breath, and there are odd pauses in all the wrong places. She prounounces the indefinite pronoun "a" as a long vowel (as in the first letter of the alphabet) and it's like biting on tinfoil. Other words are mispronounced, and it makes for an abysmal listening experience.
The only slightly better narration is when she is using a mock-English accent (voice of the wizard), but that only rises the performance out of the mire for a short time.
I am prepared to give Barbara Hambly another chance, but I will never listen to anything by this narrator again. I am going to return or delete the book.
As I listened to this book I had an overriding image of Katherine Helmond in Brazil. That whole weirdness to me captures The Ward.
The book starts off fairly normally and then gets creepy and weird. The characters, unfortunately, are not particularly likeable. Lisa Cassavetes is particularly shallow and odious and suffers from a most extreme form of body dysmorphia. ("Boo hoo. Poor me. I see myself as fat and ugly. I'm self-centred and shallow and my family has spent a fortune on counselling and therapy for me but all I want is more surgery to make me perfect.") Josh Farrell doesn't seem to have done anything more heinous than be an arrogant jerk who dominates his supermodel girlfriend, but he's not a terribly sympathetic character.
Josh wakes up in a hospital and discovers that he's been sent to the state-funded, low-income hospital and he's blind and stuck in a janitorial closet. Lisa is in hospital for voluntary surgery and seems to suffer from surgical addiction which she failed to disclose to the hospital administration. Things start to get dark and shadowy at the hospital and there is a suggestion of sinister goings-on. Josh and Lisa meet up in the hospital waiting room. They escape! They're returned to the hospital. There are more dark and sinister things. They get released. They return.
It gets very bizarre from about an hour into the book. The premise is an interesting one, and it may be that the first book by S.L. Grey (The Mall) will fill in some blanks.
This had potential for creepy gothic horror, but it seems to have verged in a different direction. There's a parallel reality where "donors" donate various bits and pieces to "clients" who undergo the surgery. There's a price to pay, and the weird alternate reality Ministry bureaucratic drones will come to collect their pound of flesh (literally).
The narration by Ingeborg Riedmaier and Denver Isaac starts out jarringly. It takes a while to place the accents (and the story itself). Riedmaier narrates the story from Lisa's point of view and Isaac narrates from Farrell's point of view. That works fairly well, and both narrators have fairly good emotional depth and vocal range. The only odd bit is the characterization of one of the nurses who is portrayed with an African accent or intonation by Isaac and with no accent or intonation by Riedmaier. Other than that, the narration works pretty well.
The description and dialogue of the Ministry characters is particularly well done.
At points I thought this book was rubbish, and then it picked up again and held my interest. There were a couple of unexpected twists and the ending isn't what I had anticipated.
But it leaves me scratching my head a little. I don't know whether I liked it or enjoyed it. I didn't loathe it. I think it was okay, which is why I gave it 3 stars across the board. It's like a combination of Brazil, 1984, Brave New World, The City and The City, and a random sampling of Robin Cook medical thrillers.
I'd give it a qualified recommendation. If it ever ends up in the Blue Moon "pick a book for $4.95" sale, I'd recommend getting it. I'm not sure it's worth more than about $15. So if you can get it for less than that, I'd recommend it.
It's bizarre, all right, but it's kind of interesting.
This review is really for all five books in the Game of Thrones series. Having just listened to them all in order, my comments are directed at the performance and narration rather than at the actual story.
The stories themselves are fabulous and well worth the credits. Each book warrants a 5-star rating for the story. There are twists and thrills galore. In a number of places, George Martin doesn’t explicitly describe certain pivotal events; they’re referred to afterwards and are often shocking. This is epic fantasy at its finest. George Martin manages to combine the typical medieval background of much epic fantasy with some interesting twists. There are dragons and sorcerers, but it’s not Harry Potteresque.
Some of Martin’s creations are absolutely genius, and some of his turns of phrase are masterful. Things like direwolves, greyscale, milk of the poppy and the religion of the Seven (with septons and septas as the priests/priestesses) are absolutely genius. Everything fits beautifully.
I find that where these books fall down slightly is with the narration. Don’t get me wrong—Roy Dotrice is a skilled reader. He’s obviously well-read and understands sentence structure and phrasing. He doesn’t insert inappropriate pauses or butcher the meaning of sentences. His intonation is good and his expression is good. He has a wide repertoire of accents on which to draw from.
What I find irritating, particularly in listening to all five books one right after the other, is the inconsistencies in some of Dotrice’s characterizations.
There are few mispronounced ordinary words (with the exception of lichen which he insists on rhyming with kitchen), but the pronunciation of some of the names varies within books and between books. For example, in the first book or two, Catelyn Stark’s name is pronounced cat-lin; in later books it changes to kate-lyn. Petyr Balish is pronounced pit-tire in the first few books and then Peter in the later books. Dotrice’s pronunciation of Varys changes within each book: sometimes it’s pronounced var-iss, sometimes it’s pronounced varies (as in the verb), and some times it’s pronounced various (as in the adjective). That’s just sloppy reading.
The bigger inconsistency and the one which brings my ranking of the performance from five stars to three stars is the inconsistency of accents. There are many, many, many characters in these books and it is of course impossible to find different accents and voices for each. I understand that. But I really don’t care for the fact that the same characters’ voices change from book to book.
Dotrice has given the Lannisters Welsh accents. It’s a good way to personalize them. In the first books, Jaimie and Tyrion have Welsh accents, but Cersei never does. In later books, Jaimie loses the Welsh accent. The depiction of Tyrion Lannister gets 5 stars because it’s excellent and never changes. Dotrice is consistent within that particular characterization, and the accent never wavers.
Some of the characters have Irish accents and some have Scots accents and others have a variety of English accents.
Dany starts with an English accent, but in book 3 or 4 Dotrice reverts to his standard Irish washer-woman accent. The same thing happens with Arya Stark. The change is so jarring that I almost stopped listening. The Irish washer-woman accents for Danerys and Arya are interchangeable. It’s also the same accent used for Osha the wilding.
Overall, Dotrice is better with male characters than with female characters. He has a much more limited repertoire of female characterizations.
In the second book, Dotrice gives Melisaundre a very deep voice – lower than any of the male characters’ voices. Later, she has a completely different accent.
The vocal characterization of Varys doesn’t change, but that same voice is used for all eunuchs. The accent for Petyr Balish changes along with the pronunciation of his name.
I’m writing this primarily to let people know that if you intend to listen to all of these books sequentially and without a break, there will be some jarring inconsistencies which detract from the listening pleasure. Part of that may be due to the protracted periods between books and recordings. But that should not deter anyone from listening to these. They are a masterpiece and I will gladly purchase and listen to the others when they come out.
These books are definitely worth the credits. They get two thumbs up. My overall ranking is 5-stars and the story is 5 stars, but the narration only gets a 3 for the reasons above.
I was a fan of Dan Brown's before the Da Vinci Code took off and catapulted him to the literary stratosphere. Brown is an intelligent writer who is a master of intricate plot development. Inferno is perhaps his best novel yet.
The action takes place over a very short period of time and starts with Robert Langdon (Harvard symbologist and art history professor) waking up with amnesia in an Italian hospital and narrowly escaping an attempt on his life. Langdon soon finds himself fleeing with Dr. Sienna Brooks as he tries to unravel the mystery of why he is being chased, why he has retrograde amnesia, and why he is having visions of Dante's Inferno.
The people chasing Langdon are members of the shadowy Consortium, and it takes a while to determine why they are chasing him and what it is they are looking for.
Nothing is what it seems in Inferno and no one is what s/he seems.
One of the many joys of Dan Brown's works is his meticulous attention to detail and the wealth of knowledge he imparts about a subject area. His ability to bring Washington DC alive is paralleled in Inferno with all the information about Florence, and to a lesser degree, Venice. Brown's knowledge of Dante and all the art inspired by Dante's works is similarly encyclopedic, but he never conveys the information in a pedantic way. It took me about 4 hours of listening before I realized that the portrait on the book cover is Dante himself.
Brown makes the reader (or listener) want to go out and explore in depth the things he's describing.
All of that is background to a taut thrilling story. The twists and turns in Inferno are incredible, and the reader / listener is often surprised by what is really going on. This is a many-layered masterpiece and has none of the preachiness of some of the earlier Langdon novels.
This is a well-crafted thriller with vaguely apocalyptic overtones. Langdon still comes across as a bit of a superhero, but the other characters are painted in shades of grey and are more multi-dimensional than in previous Brown novels.
Brown's philosophical musing in Inferno revolves around overpopulation and its effect on humanity. However, it's not heavy-handed.
I'd describe this as a literary thriller. It's a great blend of art, literature and a cracking adventure / mystery story. Hopefully this will win Brown back some of his earlier fans.
Paul Michael does an exceptional job narrating the story again.
Great story; great narration. Two thumbs up.
This is an interesting non-fiction account of the loss of several planes carrying American military officers in Greenland during WWII and of the attempts to rescue the survivors. As it's non-fiction, not all the characters survive.
The historical tale from November 1942 to April 1943 is intertwined with the modern tale of the attempt to pull together a team to search for the lost Grummond Duck in 2012.
It is always clear which time frame is being referred to. The stories are different, and the contemporary tale is told from the author's first person perspective and is told in the present tense.
The WWII story is interesting and is brought to life fairly well. This is a good fast listen and will appeal to history buffs. For those itnerested in travel, particularly in the Arctic, it's full of interesting factual tidbits. Zuckoff does a good job of turning the frozen and unforgiving landscape into a central character.
Having said that, I think that Mitchell Zuckoff was not the best choice to narrate the story. He's a good writer but not a good reader. There's a difference between someone who tells a story and someone who reads a story. Zuckoff mispronounces several words -- after about the 30th instance of pronouncing ration as RAY-tion, I wanted to scream. He also has a tendency to slur his words and this affects his reading and the story. There were a couple of times when I wanted to turn the whole thing off and find another book to listen to, but the story kept me going.
I'd say the story is very good, but the narration is only fair. I'd probably give this about a 3.5 stars overall.
It's rare that I listen to a book and don't find something to redeem it. The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates is the most disappointing book I've listened to in a long time.
Despite the fact that she draws on historical and literary figures, there is not a single sympathetic or engaging character in the book. I don't care about any of the characters, and that's a rare thing.
The premise of the book had great promise. What would a vampire / demon novel look like set at the turn of /very early in the 20th century? As it turns out, not much.
The blatant racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism make me grateful that I live in the next century. The small petty politics of Princeton Univeristy and the local community are uninteresting and tedious.
This book might be better experienced in the written form. The story is largely told from the perspective of an "historian", and the book is replete with footnotes. The constant interruption of narration by the footnotes is jarring and doesn't make for a seamless reading experience. The epistolary extracts are better, but overall the entire work hangs oddly.
Grover Gardner does a passable job as narrator, but he doesn't have much range and most of the characters sound the same. He also has an annoying habit of mispronouncing words (ie. consummation).
This is a long and meandering journey which doesn't ultimately go anywhere. If you're interested in this particular time period in American history, you might find this mildly interesting. If you aren't, then there's not much to recommend it.
Overall, I'd say save your credits and find something else instead.
Solomon's Song, the third and final installment in the Australian Trilogy, tore my heart and had me in tears on a number of occasions.
The novel spans time from the late 19th century through to World War I.
Hawk is the unsung hero and the glue which holds the story and the entire family together. The biggest tragedy is that Hawk remains alone following the death of his beloved Maggie. Hawk becomes a surrogate father to Tommo's daughter, and helps raise her with Mary. Unfortunately, if Hawk has a fault, it's that he feels too much and is blinded by emotion.
Some of his decisions are questionable, and result in more difficulty. A case in point is his decision about how to deal with the other branch of Ikey Solomon's family as a way of atoning for having stolen the contents of Ikey and Hannah's safe without having passed any of it on to Hannah and David.
This book contains more description of the other half of the Solomon family. The entire branch of the family is tainted. Hannah was odious, and none of her offspring are any better. David Solomon is thoroughly nasty and unlikeable, and it's unfortunate that he didn't come to a nastier death about 40 years earlier. His son Abraham is less morally repugnant, but he is weak-willed and spineless and ultimately agrees with the decisions made by his irascible and nasty father. Abraham's son Joshua is merely a pawn of David's and he is also morally weak and repulsive. I wanted to slap him. In fact, I still do.
There is finally some interweaving of the two branches of the family and their fortunes. The Tommo / Hawk / Mary branch of the family is rounded out by Tommo's half-Maori daughter, Hinetitama, and her family.
Hinetitama unfortunately suffers from the same demons as Tommo, and all hope for her is lost when Mary stupidly arranges for Slabbert Tikkelman, Hinetitama's Dutch lover, abuser and enabler, to come to Hobart to marry HInetitama and work at the Potato Factory. Slabbert Tikkelman has no redeeming features, and it's unfortunate that he wasn't killed off earlier in the book. The ultimate downfall and degradation of Hinetitama is terribly sad and appalling. Bower's narration of Hinetitama in the hospice in her 50s when she is reunited with Hawk is superb. It's a complete tear-jerker. What a terrible waste of a life.
Hinetitama's children, Ben and Victoria, grow up under Hawk's care and are poised to take over the family business, but Ben is called away to war.
Many reviewers have criticized Solomon's Song as a piece of anti-war propaganda, but that's not a fair criticism. The horrors of trench war are brought to life with Courtenay's usual brilliant research and writing. But the focus is on more than just Gallipoli. The tedium and terror of training and travel are set out, as well as the futility of the landing at Gallipoli. Ben becomes a great leader on the front lines, and is wounded. He convalesces and recovers in London, becomes betrothed to his shipboard nurse, and then heads out to fight in the front lines of France. Meanwhile, the evil David has pulled strings so that Joshua is coccooned and protected from any hard duty. Joshua eventually feels shamed by the fact that he is sitting comfortably working in an administrative position, and gets himself sent out to fight on active duty in France.
Not surprisingly, the fates of Ben and Joshua are intertwined. As with Hawk, as soon as there is hope and light and laughter for Ben, it is snatched away by cruel fate. Joshua survives but is left with the curse of madness brought on by the war.Yes, the book ends suddenly, but not surprisingly.
There is just so much in this series to love. It's brilliant. It's also brilliantly narrated.
I will go back and listen from the very beginning, in order to catch all the references which I may have glossed over on first listen.
Solomon's Song is ultimately unsatisfying in that I wanted the series to continue, but all good things must come to an end.
Tommo and Hawk starts with the return of Tommo and ends with the departure of Tommo. In between is the description of the unlikely twins' coming of age and finding themselves.
As usual, Bryce Courtenay has written a gripping epic novel which is masterfully researched. The description of whaling is brought to life and is utterly gripping and gruesome.
I was a little afraid that the story of joining the Maori and fighting in New Zealand might become too political and preachy, but as usual, Bryce Courtenay handles things deftly. And as always he sets up scenarios and characters which recur later in the series.
Getting reacquainted with Billy Lanney was a nice surprise, for example. Getting reacquainted with Sparrow Fart was not such a nice surprise.
This middle book chronicles a roughly four-year period when the twins leave Mary and become whalers and then join the Maori before returning to Australia. Back in Australia, Hawk meets a courtesan named Maggie Pye and falls in love with her. Tommo unfortunately falls victim to the opium pipe and the clutches of the nefarious Sparrow Fart. In a sense, Hawk grows in this book while Tommo withers. Unfortunately, Tommo is so haunted by his time in the wilds when he was kidnapped as a boy that he cannot escape his demons.
Toward the end it finally appeared as though things were going to go well for Mary, Tommo, Hawk and Maggie Pye. But as always, fortune has other plans in store.a
The book again has a Dickensian flavour, although not in the same way as the Potato Factory. But the ending of the book has the flavour of A Tale of Two Cities, and the sacrifice made by Sydney Carton is similar to that made by Tommo.
Tommo and Hawk is lush and well-written and full of derring-do and acts of heroism. Life in Australia at the gold mining camps is brought to life in all its seedy realism. This is another book with gritty descriptions of the life and times in the early colonization of Australia.
As always, Humphrey Bower brilliantly narrates the story. His ability as a narrator is I think unparalleled. Bower is an absolute genius.
I don't understand the negative reviews of this book. I read and listen to a lot of books, and I would put the Australian trilogy at or near the top of my listening list. I often get antsy toward the middle and end of an audiobook, wishing for the end, but that is never the case with any of these books. I have now finished the entire series, and it still resonates. I think I might pick it back up and start again with the Potato Factory.
I was saddened to hear of Bryce Courtenay's passing in November. Now I have to go and get more of his works.
Tommo and Hawk does not suffer from the sophomore curse. Nor does it contain excessive or overly graphic content. Whatever graphic content is in the book is necessary to the story. The description of whaling and life aboard a whaling ship is probably more graphic than anything even remotely sexual in the books. Courtenay does not shy away from descriptions of floggings and brutal treatment at the hands of men (and nature). But it all adds to the story and is well done.
This is definitely worth 5 stars in every category and well worth the credit. It would even be worth paying for at full list price.
The second book in the trilogy covers the 1930s and the Second World War and beyond.
As with the previous novel, the characters are well-done and the narration is excellent.
Some of the expressions don't seem consistent with the time, and there's a surprising lack of contemporary references to music and literature and entertainment.
This book is the second generation of all the characters introduced in the first book, and continues with their lives and interests.
It's an excellent second installment and again showcases the many strengths of Ken Follett as a writer.
This is another great epic saga from Ken Follett. As usual, he has done a superb job of researching his subject matter, and he brings to life the lives of five different intertwined families around the time of the First World war.
The character depictions are done well, and John Lee is a great narrator who has an excellent command of dialects and voices. His American accents are less convincing than his English. Welsh, Russian and German accents, but that's only a very minor flaw.
Follett manages to bring to life all of the political and social issues without being pedantic or overbearing. All the characters are related to one another by six degrees of separation, and there are some very satisfyingplot turns.
This is a book which engages the mind and the heart. It's as rich and satisfying as a seven-course meal.
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