Sierra Foothills, Northern CA | Member Since 2007
From the very beginning I fell in love with the quirky characters. Set in early 19th century London it was easy to pick up on the Dickens-like portrayals. At the point when one of the street urchins (one of the smartest students in the Light Fingers Academy) was questioned outside a London courthouse by a reporter who identified himself as Charles Dickens (his only appearance in the book) I became intrigued with the connections. The urchin gave the reporter a made-up name of "Artful Dodger". It was a pretty quick step to realize from there that one of the main characters, Ikey Solomon, was a real life London thief. Dickens used Solomon as his model for Fagin in Oliver Twist -- where the Artful Dodger also appears.
Yes, it's a long book. But I never once wanted it to speed up. The story is action-packed with fascinating characters and much intrigue. Since it's a triology, do not expect all story lines to be resolved. There is much more grist here for future mills!
This is most definitely fiction but based on real history: places, characters and legal systems. It moves from London to the Australian penal colony where it picks up a very McMurtry-like tone (think Lonesome Dove). This book has given me the gift of a new favorite author and a new wonderful narrator. I bought it based on the recommendation of a reviewer I follow. What a tremendous discovery. And, thank you, fellow reviewer.
If you haven't read any Dick Francis before, this is an easy start to his writing. The main character, as is true in all of Francis' books, is a jockey with an aptitude for sleuthing. The book contains all of the right ingredients: a crime and puzzle that need solving, a love story, strong secondary characters, horse stories and suspense mixed with danger -- all delivered with charm. This is the Francis formula and he does it very well.
The storyline includes a number of possible villains (some of whom turn out to be guiltless). The listener needs to pay particular attention to these characters or the ending will be confusing. I think this is an important part of any mystery and Francis delivers on it.
My only quibble is with the main character's seemingly unending capacity to forgive slights, some deep and mean and some others merely minor but irritating things. There is a multi-generation family feud, a la Hatfields and McCoys, that our hero seems to be unrealistically able to overcome and overlook.
If you are looking for a deep book imbued with life learnings, this is not what you want. If you are, instead, looking for an interesting plot with enjoyable characters told by a masterful storyteller, you've found it.
Some elements of this book are true 5's and some are definite 3-'s. Therefore my 4's.
I read an interview with D Koontz wherein he was asked about writing a sequel to this book. (Something that would interest me and I would buy without hesitation.) His answer surprised me. He stated that this book's story arc was focused on change -- mostly the life experiences, attitudes, and personas of the man and woman at the center of this story. I was stunned; what captivates me about this book is the personality and intelligence of the dog. Without him this book would be a dull 2!! The focus on change, altho distinctly a part of the book, seemed without import to me.
What worked very well:
* the personality and humor of Einstein (the dog) are enchanting. I'm a through and through animal lover and easily fall for anthropomorphic fantasies. This one is excellently accomplished. Another book based on this character would have me in an instant.
* when the "good guys" are threatened or in danger, the plot moves fast and keeps the listener's attention.
* there are other interesting characters in this book as well. Koontz writes humorous scenes and dialogue, easily fitting them into the flow of the story.
What didn't work:
* this book falls back on pop psychology not just once or twice (which might be forgivable), but every time a motivation or attitude needs justification.
* the love story, although mostly believable, periodically turns sappy.
All in all, I recommend this book as a fun read.
I bought this book because it was on sale. It is a light frothy book, very traditional Bond and without depth ... and nevertheless quite entertaining. I've been listening to long and heavy novels of late (i.e. Jakes' North and South Trilogy). This was the perfect palate cleanser between those novels. I'm happy to have listened and simultaneously happy that I didn't have to spend a whole credit on it.
Much of the fun of this book was due to the outstanding performance by Simon Vance. One of my audible favorites.
It is really necessary to read this series in sequence. This book, 2nd in the series, would be hard to fully appreciate if you hadn't already read/listened to the 1rst book. Jakes doesn't give sufficient background summaries to let the reader have a real understanding of the characters' histories and complex relationships.
Grover Gardner is outstanding as a narrator! However the story wavered between being a history text (somewhat dry) and a horrifying condemnation of man's inhumanity to man. There were barbarous acts on both sides of the Civil War. The constant horror or the war was exhausting and heartbreaking to listen to. I can't even begin to fully understand the actual reality that our ancestors lived (or died) through.
My 3 stars for story, are based on the very wearing nature of the heinous acts described. This book is quite likely very true and history based ... but I listen to books for entertainment and found much of this installment very hard to hear. If you are a history buff and love good historical insights that are well researched, then this book is probably for you. Just not for me.
I do recommend listening to Jakes' afterword. Even if you give up early, don't skip this last chapter. He is a thoughtful author who demonstrates a deep caring for the authenticity of his work and the reader's overall experience.
This book is well written. It's an interesting story with well drawn characters. The main character is a boy who is going through his 'coming of age' learnings and mishaps. As a 13 yr old, he is the typical flippant, disrespectful, inquisitive child of that age. He does mature and learn as the book progresses and reaches the point (at 16) where he can be considered a thoughtful young man.
So why my lukewarm rating?
* The story got hugely bogged down in Card's need (desire?) to ensure that the reader/listener understood the nature and origin of the mages and their magical abilities. Slowed the pacing of the storyline to a slow crawl in several sections.
* S Rudnicki is an excellent narrator and voice actor. He is a 5 star reader. E J Card is by contrast very hard to listen to. She sounds untrained and awkward -- the transitions between the 2 narrators serves to underscore that vast difference in their talent level.
* Although the story was nicely wrapped up at the end, it is clearly a beginning of a series. Not really satisfying as a standalone book.
I should have anticipated this. Ender's Game (probably OSC's best known and most beloved story) never stirred me. I didn't hate it, I just didn't love it. My reaction to Lost Gate is no different. If you loved Ender's Game, then this book is for you. Personally, I won't continue in this series.
During Jakes research, he read Bruce Catton's civil war studies and came across the above quote and referenced it in his afterword. I was struck by its unusually apt descriptiveness and therefore used it as my review headline.
There are many wonderful things about this book: it's well researched, richly panoramic, excellently narrated and beautifully written. It is very easy to feel you know the main characters as they grow and experience life. They're well rounded and quite human in all aspects. The growing political and civil unrest in this period of our country's development is described such that you also get a quite tasty history lesson along with the characters' storylines.
There are however several characters (4 of whom are primary to the story) that are truly sadistic bullies. Their sheer meanness is predominantly against other whites and not aimed at the slave population. I came to believe that this was true because the slaves were "property" and therefore not seen as a logical target of enmity. These cruel characters were so despicable that I questioned why they were necessary to the overall story arc. I would have understood 1 or 2 ... but 4?? Therefore my 4 star rating for the story.
I will get the other 2 books of this trilogy immediately. The series is well worth your time and credits.
The reviews were so mixed on this book that I had to listen for myself. To begin with, some of the reviewers used "Amelia Peabody step aside" comments. I'm a longtime fan of Peters' Amelia Peabody series and thought it a huge leap for others to make that comparison. So let me set that part to rights up front. There are several elements that deserve appropriate comparison -- but it's not a match overall. To be fair it's close, but not a neck-and-neck race.
I normally stay away from vampire/werewolf stories. Just not my favorite kind of story. Do NOT shy away from this because of the magical characters. Their personalities are very human and the fantastical traits aren't distracting at all.
Here's what I loved about this book:
* The narrator is superb. She does wonderful justice to the characters, the storyline, the Victorian era and all the twists and turns in this book. Huzzah to Emily Gray!
* There are truly delightful characters in this book, too many to describe in this review. Trust me they are without peer. Afterall what author would name one of her characters Ivy Hisslepenny (sp?) if she weren't quite willing to imbue all of her characters with incredibly unique personalities.
* The storyline has twists, turns and momentum. Although this is certainly not a deep or thought provoking book, it is fun and interesting.
* There is an innate sense of humor behind this book that is charming.
What I found lacking:
* Some of the prolonged romantic scenes (read this as kissing and mild groping) went on too long for my taste. That's just me and might not disturb other listeners.
I whole heartedly recommend this book.
As I listened to this book I was struck by the moral ambiguity running through the main story line. The good guys did some pretty bad stuff and the bad guys had a theme of righteous vindication. In the meantime the thrills, and sometime chills, came frequently. This book has pace and action worked together very skillfully.
The characters are outlined clearly enough that you know what they're about and understand their actions and reactions. They are, however, without much depth. The narrator can be hard to get used to as you start the book but pretty quickly becomes the spirit and appropriate characterization for all the nuances contained in this story.
The author's final comments at the end of the story made it all clear (at least to me). This was his 2nd book and the 2nd in an intended series. As he wrote it he became torn between writing a thriller vs writing a social commentary. The commentary is based in large part on the victimization of native Americans over time in this country. A plight that is still quite relevant today. Once he finished the book he realized that he couldn't have it both ways, tore it apart, and rewrote it to be a thriller. From this listener's perspective the social commentary theme is still in the underlying tone of the story. Therefore my sense of moral ambiguity.
I'm thoroughly enjoying this series and would love to give this book 5 stars across the board. My 4 stars on the story are strictly based on the unresolved ambiguity...no neat bows were offered to wrap it all up. That's ok by me, I'm on to the next story in the series.
If you like cop/detective thrillers, then this series is for you!
Centuries ago Aristotle discussed the concept that the whole could be greater than the sum of the parts. That's a great description of my reaction to this book.
I had read so many positive reviews of this series that I had to find out what it was all about. Many times the first book in a series is a case of the author becoming familiar with the primary characters and developing appropriate themes. I'll keep listening to this series and see if that holds true for Johnson's Walt Longmire books. That is, I suspect that they will continue to just get better and better.
* The characters are wonderfully and appropriately lovable or despicable but with many shades of grey in all of them. I felt as if I were getting to know them as part of a community that I could live in (I do live in the Mts).
* Guidall's narration is a brilliant match to the tenor and tempo of this book. I honestly can't think of any other of my favorites doing it this well.
* The story, while interesting, sometimes meandered (a good Walt Longmire word).
From the very beginning this book made want to sit down in front of a warm fire, my cat(s) on my lap and just sink into the story. It felt like a master storyteller was spinning a great yarn just for me.
This is a hard book for me to rate. The performance should have received 4 1/2 stars and the story 3 1/2. Oh well.
1) the narrator -- a lot. He gave excellent voice to men, women, the elderly, children, Germans and Winston Churchill.
2) the intermittent humor amidst the horror. Nice touches to stop it from being rather nasty at just the right points.
3) the complex logic puzzles presented by the paradoxes of time travel. Couple mind benders that were very interesting to think through.
What wasn't as good:
1) Some of the characters are truly despicable. Probably necessary to the plot, but still left a very unpleasant taste behind.
2) I wish the storyline and characters had more depth. They were fine for a fast read, but still left me wanting more grist.
3) The ending. Although the story did get wrapped up, sure did happen fast and without a whole lot of sense of closure.
Overall: I liked it and will read more Koontz, but my expectations will be properly set next time.
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