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.
Fans of Jasper Fforde's novels and fairly tales would like this.
It's a reasonably interesting novel with some quirky characters and interesting plot devices. The narration is fairly well done, and the story is interesting enough.
Is it great? No, but it's fairly good. This is in the category of light fantasy summer reading.
It's about fairy tale archetypes which occur in real life and the squad of characters hired to stop the stories from taking over and having dire consequences. The main protagonist is a Snow White character who ends up getting pulled inside her own story.
As I say, if you like Jasper Fforde's work, then this is right up your alley.
This is one of the few audiobooks where the narration is miles better than the story.
It's an interesting premise (priest called on to exorcise the White House) but it ultimately doesn't deliver. This would have made an interesting long short story or very short novella, but it just drags out interminably.
Take a stereotypical aging alcoholic defrocked priest, possessed building, and throw in some slavery history and some utterly uninteresting tidbits about prior inhabitants of the White House. Shake well and then discard.
Unfortunately, this is the third in a series, and the first two aren't available on Audible. Hint, Audible: Get on that.
There is obviously some backstory missing, but the reader/listener can make an educated guess about what has happened in the previous two books.
Interesting mix of English suburban village (do the outskirts of London count as "village"), residents with secrets, and an interesting cast of characters.
Shawn Barrett's narration is great and he does all voices well. I didn't see the whodunnit coming.
Interesting placement of the story back in the mid-70s as well.
For fans of the Eisenmenger books, this is another winner by Keith McCarthy. His writing is dryly amusing and droll and I find it very appealing.
Mo Hayder has written a fabulous series about the exploits of DI Jack Caffery and Sgt. Flea Marley. As the events in some of the books take place close in time to the previous book, it's helpful to listen to them all in one marathon.
Damien Goodwin, the narrator of Birdman and The Treatment was absolutely excellent. He has a fabulous range of voices and characters. Andrew Wincott, the narrator of Ritual and Skin, was very good (but not as good as Damien Goodwin).
Unfortunately, Stephen Crossley, narrator of Gone and Poppet, is abysmal. He has only two voices: one male, and one female. Regardless of age, class or origin, the characters all sound the same. He has the same sort of breathy earth-shattering revelation quality to his narration that Scott Brick has, but without the skill.
If the story weren't so good, this would be unlistenable. I'm dreading listening to Poppet because it's the same narrator. Perhaps he will have had some lessons in vocal range and intonation.
The story lines are absolutely gripping, and filled with red herrings and intrigue and multiple plot lines. Mo Hayder is a genius. I love everything she has written. She's not afraid to kill off her characters, and there are often things she leaves hanging from one book to another.
The series is fabulous and a must-listen to anyone who likes thrillers, British police procedurals, and intricate psychological mysteries. The books aren't for the faint of heart or the squeamish, but they're well worth it if you enjoy this particular genre.
The theme of lost / missing / kidnapped children runs through all the books, but it's never heavy-handed.
The first two books are five stars across the board, the second two get 4 stars for performance and 5 overall and for story, and this one only gets a 2 for performance. They all merit 5 stars for the story.
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.
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.
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