Finally finished listening to the story this morning. Ugh. I think this was supposed to be a romantic adventure, but it felt like a horror novel through and through. I didn't like any of the characters, and I had serious issues with the ethics and morals of pretty much everyone in this story. They were either actively evil, amoral, or supporting the activities of said evil and amoral characters.
I should have stopped when I hit the end of part one, and Elena, our supposedly-intrepid vampire hunter chick, still hadn't actually started the job she'd been hired to do in chapter two...hunt down a serial-killer angel. Instead, Elena spent most of Part 1 trying to fend off Raphael, the creepy, possessive, sexual-predator "hero," who spends the first half of the book mind-raping her, stalking her, and sexually harassing her. He's the one who hires her for her unique talent in hunting down runaway slave vampires, but then he keeps her from doing her job because he really wants to have sex with her and make her "his toy." (That's actually how he refers to her.)
So many things wrong with this book. A "hero" who implausibly (as in, we're told this but don't see any actual evidence of his character change) falls in love with our supposedly-spunky (read, rude and mouthy for no good reason) heroine after she repeatedly tells him "no" to his various attempts to seduce her.
In the course of the story, Raphael takes advantage of his position as the ruler of New York to do various creepy things like taking control of Elena's mind, feeding her aphrodisiacs, repeatedly groping her, kidnapping her, and oh, yeah, turning her into a supernatural being at the end of the book quite against her stated will (in fact, she pleads with him not to do it). And all of this is presented as somehow okay and romantic because the author tells us it's True Love. I dunno--on *my* planet, if someone has power over another person, and keeps making unwelcome sexual advances despite being told "no," that's harassment and sexual assault.
And Raphael is supposed to be the romantic lead, the "good guy." The "bad guy" angel is a predictably over-the-top serial killer, but we don't spend much of the book focusing on him, so his characterization and motivations are sketchy at best. Honestly, this would have been a more satisfying story if Raphael had been the bad guy, and Elena finally managed to get rid of her stalker and overthrow the angels. Instead, she eventually decides that his pretty blue eyes and bulging biceps excuse the mind-rape and other indignities, and falls in love with him.
And the world-building, which had a lot of potential for conflict--despotic, frequently-cruel angels who are the absolute rulers over mankind, with vampires as the angels' slaves and bond-servants--is used by the author merely to create a circumstance under which our spunky heroine finds it impossible to refuse the hero's job offer or to slap him with a restraining order. Otherwise, there's really no exploration of a fundamentally unjust society ruled by an oligarchy of supernatural tyrants who can murder, rape, and otherwise do whatever they want to mere humans without consequence. A vampire slave who tries to break free of their angelic masters is recaptured or killed by vampire hunters, like our heroine, humans who are actively supporting the angelic tyranny. And the angels have no oversight and very little compassion for their subjects. Might makes right in this universe, and the angels are the mightiest so if they say something's okay, it's okay. For example, when the serial-killer angel goes off the rails, there's a concerted effort to cover up the true extent of his crimes, and keep the oppressed masses in ignorance. And this is presently as a perfectly okay thing by all the characters.
In short, this was a novel filled with unsympathetic characters, sexual assaults disguised as romance, and poorly-thought-out moral conflicts. Add to this mess a narrator with a flat, nasal voice, and I'm really glad I picked this up during one of the $4.95 sales and didn't pay full price for it.
Loved Juliani's skillful narration of this book, but I had a hard time caring about Corwin, the book's narrator. Written in a style frequently reminiscent of hard-boiled detective novels, awkwardly combined with the occasional bit of pseudo-Elizabethan dialog, this very short book follows the adventures of a man who wakes up, amnesiac, in a private hospital, and makes a daring escape, followed by the eventual revelation of his true identity as a royal price of Amber, a kingdom located in a alternate universe.
Once he discovers who he is (and that he's part of a large brood of seemingly-immortal, mostly-amoral siblings), he reveals himself to be mostly self-centered, ambitious, and ruthless, with occasional flashes of decency and compassion (though not enough to make him a very sympathetic character). His goal--to prevail against his other brothers, and seize the throne of his late father.
To do this, he forms and breaks alliances with various of his other brothers and sisters, and recruits a huge army of gullible aliens who believe him a god, to use as cannon-fodder. He promptly gets every last one of his followers killed in an ill-advised attack upon Amber, and his own life is in grave peril.
Where the book failed to spark my interest in listening to subsequent volumes is that I simply didn't care whether Corwin became king, or one of his other brothers. They all seemed equally arrogant and awful to me, the entitled, privileged scions who considered all those not of royal blood to be mere pawns in their game of thrones.
I grew up watching Attenborough's wildlife documentaries on PBS, and found this book an absolute joy to listen to--fascinating and frequently-hilarious anecdotes of his globetrotting adventures, skillfully-narrated by the man himself.
He's a man who loves animals and people, and his joy in his experiences and discoveries, as well as his deep respect for the various people he met, really came across in this memoir.
One of the best books I've listened to this year--I was actually disappointed on the days when my commute ran smoothly, because it meant less time with David Attenborough in Africa, or Australia, or South America, or Tonga, or...
Love the narrator for this series. He's got one of those plummy "Royal Shakespeare Theatre" voices, and is doing a fabulous job performing the different characters. His performance definitely adds a lot to the entertainment value of the story.
This sequel to the inventive and witty LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA proved to be just as entertaining as the first book in the series. In the wake of the events in the first novel, Locke and his best friend Jean arrive in a new city. They've managed to triumph over overwhelming odds, but the two young con-men did not escape unscarred from their experiences in their home city. Locke especially is a mess, and it takes a while before he can take an interest in the unscrupulous activities he used to revel in. But once Locke and Jean get back into the game, they are quickly pulled into a bigger, darker game by a puppet-master whose reach and skills may exceed theirs. I enjoyed watching these two brash, clever characters foiled at every turn, and forced into adventures on the high seas. Be warned that the story ends on quite a cliffhanger, and I am eagerly awaiting the release of the third volume in October. As before, Scott Lynch does some very interesting world-building...not your usual Tolkien-derived medievalesque fantasy, but reminiscent of Dickens' London hybridized with Machievelli's Renaissance Italy, set on an planet littered with the ruins of alien cities made of a strange, indestructible glass-like substance.All in all, a highly entertaining tale enlivened by an outstanding performance by a skilled narrator.
What a fun story! In a world littered with the mysterious buildings and artifacts of an alien civilization, master con-man Lock Lamora and his band of sworn brothers set out to swindle the nobility, Robin Hood-style, in a setting that mingles Renaissance Italy and Dickensian London.
An orphan sold to a notorious thief-master, and trained as a pickpocket and petty thief, Locke is a born troublemaker, a restless genius with a knack for biting off more than he can chew, and leaving chaos and unintended destruction in his wake. Along with Jean Tannen, warrior and intellectual, a young thief nicknamed 'Bug,' and a set of larcenous twin brothers, Carlo and Galdo, Locke is later adopted by a priest determined to train a select group of thieves to prey upon the city's upper classes, and ultimately to break the power of the city's Capo, the master of all the criminal gangs.
Unfortunately for Locke and his gang, a new and mysterious criminal figure, nicknamed The Gray King, is also determined to take over the city's criminal underworld...and the Gray King has a frightening and powerful sorcerer at his bidding. What follows catapults Locke into a complex scheme of revenge and bloody conflict as he finds himself cast into the role of the city's unwilling savior.
Loved the high-spirited plot and the sharp dialogue, enhanced by a wonderful performance from narrator Michael Page, who gives each character a distinctive voice and characterization. I've already downloaded the sequel, RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES, and am looking forward the publication of the third book in the series in October 2013.
I loved this story about Thom, a 17-year-old boy who has two big secrets. The first: he's the son of a disgraced superhero, growing up in a household where the topic of superheroes is absolutely verboten...and, so of course, he starts developing superpowers.
And the second secret, that he's absolutely terrified of his factory-worker father (or anyone, actually) discovering, is that he's also gay.
I love the main character--he's a really nice kid despite his insecurities, and he's got a very interesting and authentic-feeling relationship with his Dad, who's also basically a decent and loving man, despite his homophobia. The tensions in his home are nicely described--Thom's desire to be a hero and help people, and his terror of having his secrets discovered...and thereby disappointing the father he loves and worships.
The reader for this book is really good, and I'm finding the story very engaging. (I'm at the halfway point, and I'm finding that I really want to keep listening after I finish my daily commute. That's usually the mark of a excellent book for me.)
By turns horrific, fascinating, maddening, and thought-provoking, this book chronicles the rise and spread of a global pandemic in 1917-18 that killed millions of people, wiping out entire communities in some places, but which is little-known today.
THE GREAT INFLUENZA is not only a suspenseful account of the spread of a deadly disease to almost every nation on Earth, but also a searing indictment of how the American war effort under Woodrow Wilson's leadership helped spread the disease across the world.
Determined to send American troops over to Europe to fight, the influenza spread across America from military bases and training camps by ignoring the pleas of military medical professionals to quarantine the ill. The situation was then worsened when authorities used the strict wartime censorship laws to prevent accurate reporting, which was intended to bolster morale but had the opposite effect as people in affected cities and towns learned to distrust newspaper reports that contradicted the devastation and horror they experienced as bodies piled up in the streets and in houses, and hospitals were hopelessly overwhelmed by the numbers of the sick and dying, and the high death rates among nurses and doctors.
The book concludes with a somber look at modern efforts to chart each new wave of influenza, and what the inevitable pandemic might look like, in an era of hospital cutbacks and outsourcing of pharmaceutical manufacture.
I can't say this was an "enjoyable" book, but it was definitely very interesting and educational!
Far from being a dry account of dates and battles, CAESAR'S LEGION brings this ancient Roman military force to vivid life by chronicling the lives and adventures individual commanders, centurions, and ordinary soldiers.
Filled with fascinating details about how soldiers were recruited and trained, and how they lived while on the march, the book focuses on three major periods in the legion's history: the conquest of Gaul and Britain under the leadership of Julius Caesar; the legion's role in the civil wars that ended the Roman Republic and ushered in the reign of the emperors; and the Jewish rebellion and siege of Jerusalem under Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus.
All three of these campaigns, as narrated by Dando-Collins, are rife with intrigue, political maneuvering, betrayal, battles, and heroism. It made for a very interesting listening experience, and I'm looking forward to listening to another book in this series.
Beginning with a gripping account of Augustus's death in AD 14 (the author speculates that Livia may have participated in an assisted suicide so that timeline for the transfer of power to Tiberius would go exactly as planned), this fascinating account of the life of the first Roman emperor covers both the personal and political life of Augustus, who was shrewd and ruthless, cruel yet loyal to his friends, a master manipulator of public opinion, and a consummate propagandist who maintained the facade of being merely the "first citizen" in a republic, while holding sole power for forty years.
In addition to vividly sketching Augustus's famous contemporaries--Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, among others--the author also presents a lively picture of life in ancient Rome, from weddings to funerals, from food to sexual mores.
A very enjoyable and informative book. I'm definitely going to be downloading the Everitt's biography of Emperor Hadrian next!
I've just spent the past six weeks immersed in this book while driving to and from work every day. After downloading SHANTARAM during one of Audible's special sales last years, on the basis of all the rave reviews, I put off listening to it for a while because I thought it might be a depressing read.
Not so. By turns suspenseful, funny, interesting, and philosophical, Roberts brings Mumbai/Bombay of the early 1980's alive with vivid descriptions and memorable characterizations. International fugitive Lin's journey through the heart of his adopted city take him from the slums to five-star hotels, from brothels to mosques and temples, from a comfortable apartment near the beach to the Purgatory of the notorious Arthur Road Prison. Likewise, the section of the book dealing with Lin's adventures smuggling guns and antibiotics into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan makes for fascinating, if grim, reading.
And the narrator! This is honestly one of the finest audiobook performances I've ever heard, as Humprey Bower moves effortlessly between Australian, North American, Indian, Iranian, Afghani, and German accents. (Kudo on his flawless German pronunciation, as well, for the brief passages in the book with German dialogue.) His voice and his skill in telling Lin's story made for an utterly compelling listening experience.
I understand that the sequel is forthcoming, and you bet I'll be listening to that, as well!
On pretty much the worst day ever, small-town librarian Jane finds herself unemployed and undead in one fell swoop. What follows is an amusing, frequently funny story about her rocky adjustment to the life of a vampire, while trying to find a night job, trying to hide her new existence from her nosy, overbearing mother, and trying to figure out who's stalking her and harassing her.
The mystery is fairly lightweight, the romance fairly conventional, and the "villain reveals all in a grand speech at the final confrontation" was kind of cheesy, but Amanda Ronconi's wry narration and the author's trademark snarky humor make this an entertaining way to liven up a boring commute.
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