Clare Wille is excellent. This is my first book she's narrated, but I will definitely purchase her again. I don't know why so many classics get read by bad narrators, but they do. I spend too much of my classics reading time trying to tune out narrators, but Wille is able to capture the characters, including (at least to my untrained ear) all the variations in accent attributable to class and regional differences. She moves the story along, but doesn't overwhelm it, which is all I ask of a narrator.
I focus on the narrator some, in part, because North and South is so obviously wonderful. It is my personal favorite of Gaskell's works. Not only is there a sweet and wonderful romance with characters who are real and flawed and therefore more appealing than some of her other flawless heroes and heroines, but she captures in this work a society in change. The intense struggles that form the background of the work are mesmerizing. There is the struggle between older ideas of good society- landed gentry who show merciful condesention to the people beneath them- and the rising power of industry, which brings with it people who may not have the advantages of birth or breeding but who, through labor and intellect, use their influence to shape their world. She also captures the struggle between the masters and the men, their interdependant and yet oppositional relationship, as well as touching on the problems in the Church of England, from which Mr. Hale becomes a Dissenter.
All of these various facets come together in an amazingly honest account of the terrible tragedies and wonderful triumphs of each system. It is masterfully written and beautifully read.
If I were to have any criticism, it would be that things happen to fall together in an extremely fortuitous and unlikely way. That doesn't really bother me though. It's well done enough that you don't care how it workd out, only that it does.
This book turned me into one of those people who can't get my friends to read what I'm reading and so tells them in too much detail about it. It can get a bit preachy in places, and the major premise of the book- that markets aren't morally neutral and we need to jettison that lie so we can begin to discuss the morality of certain transactions- is fairly apparent to anyone who's given it any thought, but the book was interestingly written and full of exciting examples. I became a factoid dispensing machine, outraged at the things money can, in fact, actually buy. It was good to know and easy to get through.
The narration wasn't spectacular, but it didn't detract for me. It happens sometimes when authors narrate their own books. Not exciting enough for a long road trip, but good for a morning commute.
So I often try not to review trilogies until the whole thing comes out and has been read and digested, because I think, "What could be worse than recommending a first book to someone only to have the successive two books suck the life and happiness from the little thrill left by a great first book?" Then I finished this trilogy and had an answer: worse? 2 fantastic books finished with one that makes little sense and ends wholly unsatisfactorily.
I will try not to give spoilers here, so please bear with any vagueries. I try to understand that not everyone will agree with me and refuse to read the series. So...
There are serious plot wholes in the last book. The ending makes no sense. If you think about it too hard- by which I mean almost at all beyond letting action scenes enter your brain and then leave again unrelated to anything- your brain might explode. At the very least, you will be frustrated.
Also, I don't care who you are (and I won't say who), but nobody's death should getmore than a chapter. It's maudlin. It's depressing. It's old.
Even Dobby didn't get more than a chapter, and that was one of the best written death scenes in YA fantasy. It didn't need it, because more than a chapter is maudlin and depressing and all the rest.
The absolute worst part of all of this is that the first two books were excellent and interesting and beautifully done. They are not complete in themselves though, and so can't really be read without the final book. It's like Ms. Roth had this fantastic idea, butdidn't bother to develop the world prior to writing the books, so she just ended up making it up as she went along. I know, it's fiction, and, by definition, made up as she goes along, but she didn't seem to think out the end at the beginning, so the world lacks consistancy, and overwrought scenes of heart-break and radical personality change resulting from said overwrought heartbreak are there to distract us from the knowledge that the Wizard of Oz is just a sad guy behind a curtain. O.K., I'm not sure that analogy works entirely, but I can't think of anything more frustrating than going down this whole road in pursuit of some grand goal only to discover smoke and mirrors and little of substance (O.K., maybe it works as an analogy ).
There is no Wizard at the end of this yellow brick road. There's only road work ahead.
I keep reading these books. Every time a new one comes out, I think, 'I should read something with more redeeming value than this series', and every time, I buy it the day it comes out and consume it in a single sitting (where my work schedule allows). These books are addictive, entertaining, and action packed.
I'm not a huge fan of the narrator, but she doesn't really detract from the books. The stories are hugely fun. Sage is a much better heroine than Rose ever was, and it has been enjoyable following her.
This book begins to allow us to follow Adrain as well. Usually, I dislike the shift in perspective part-way through a series, but here it is good. Adrain is an interesting character, and it is very difficult to really understand and appreciate him and his struggles with mental illness from the outside. Seeing it from his perspective allows us to go through the ups and downs and see why it is both so scary for him to go on the way he his and so hard to get help.
Having said all these wonderful things about this cracktastic series, I have to say: What! You can't leave me with that kind of a cliff-hanger. This is not a TV show where I get the part 2 the next week or even the beginning of the next season. I have to wait for at least a year for the next book. Ms. Mead, you are a sadist.
I don't know if this is intended to be a stand alone, but I will be sad- so sad if it is. I originally read this author with Paranormalcy, which was good, though the subsequent books were lackluster. I thought i'd give it a try anyway. Man was I pleased.
First, the writing. I think Ms. White is a pretty talented writer. She uses several techniques that allow you to get into the ehad of the characters and really feel their pain, and there is a lot of pain in this book. There's a bit in the sample you can listen to that talks about the boy stopping to pet a puppy, to help the puppy, and how the heroine, Sophia, knows she can't kill him after that, and how it ruins her day. You get her, you like her, you sympathize with her in a matter of minutes, even though she is one of the angriest heroines I've come across. The writing also jumps from storyteller- from Fia to her sister Annie, and from time period to time period. This could be disorienting, but it is done so well, that it isn't.
The story line is excellent. There is an epic struggle of good versus evil, and what we will and will not do to fight that evil or simply to survive it. There's guilt and pain and hope wrapped in despair. It's beautifully done.
As an aside, if you happen to have read many of my reviews, you will know that "I'm blind, blind the way Annie is- except for the supernatural stuff- and I truly appreciate the way Annie's blindness is described, her willingness to live in her prison because it is a prison she knows and can, to some extent, control, the way she feels out of control and often a burden and wants to be more. Her hope at the treatments iws heartbreaking. I don't know any blind people- who weren't born blind- who wouldn't give almost anything for that hope, so Annie's willful blindness (metaphorically, of course) to her sister's deep unhappiness to hang on to that hope to the special help she gets that promises to make her just a little more independent, a little less reliant on Fia, it resonates in a way most descriptions of blindness don't. I don't know if the author's blind or friends or family to a blind person, but she makes it more than just some inconvenience or pitiable thing we shouldn't discuss for fear of catching it. I get Annie and everything she does.
The narration was going to bother me, I thought, but I ended up kind of liking it. I might read this narrator again. This is why we need a different ranking system though. She would only get a 3 and 1/2 from me. Otherwise, she is excellent.
If this is the start of a series, which it should be, though I think it stands alone- frustratingly, but sufficiently- I would like to see Eden developed more, and I want the romance handled. I'm old enough that the serious age difference including Fia's age when the thing starts, is a bit creepy.. I get it, don't get me wrong, and Fia isn't young the way most girls her age are, but she is deeply damaged, and if the romance is going to continue, frankly with either of the possible love intests, I'm going to need something to take the ick factor down a couple of notches.
Otherwise, I will buy the next one if there is another and devour it. I even want the same narrator.
O.K., I admit it... I bought this book because there was nothing out by anyone I usually read, it came well-reviewed by someone I like, and, yes, it was on sale. I will say this- no spoilers here.
Having said that, I actually really enjoyed this book. It wasn't the entirely new twist some reviewers had lead me to believe with descriptions of a wholly new type of paranormal creature- I can think of at least two series with nulls, the Parisol Protectorate (we need spell check) and the Carol Marie MMonning (again I don't know how to spell her name- I'm blind and don't see these things so I'm mostly making up spellings), in which the heroine is actually called a "null" with the power to nullify supernatural powers. Even so, it was funny, well-written, and engaging enough that I didn't get bored despite usually being the jerk people refuse to watch mysteries with since "I'm always saying, "obviously it's so and so, the affair and the motive are too obvious" ten minutes in. It wasn't brilliant, but I wanted to read it in a single sitting, and I didn't guess what was going on until well into the second part.
The bad guys are bad, but they are also human- in a manner of speaking. They aren't all bad, and the good guys, such as they are, aren't all good. After all, the heroine does crime scene disposal for a living- ie she hides crimes from the cops to pay the bills. I liked the complexity of the characters, even those provided mostly for comic relief, like the adorable and occasionally hilarious roommate.
I read some complaints about the narration, and, though a huge amount of that is a matter of personal taste, I liked her- eventually. It took me some time to like her, past the sample even, but she's right for it. Just the right mix of bored, amused, and terrified. She does the male voices justice even if they don't want to make me throw my clothes off (which would be weird and possibly confusing to my sexual identity).
A little more on the characters in the potential love triangle- I was fully ready for the "bad BOY" who is sexy and who she is just too stupid to resist and the good guy she should eventually end up with. That's just not the case, no matter how much the heroine wants to make it that way. I obviously still have the guy I want her to end up with- sexy cop just has to beat out sexy bartender werewolf in my book everyday, but they're both actual people with complex personalities, and the sexy bartender werewolf surprised me with his depth- not an easy thing to do. I might even be O.K. if she ends up with the wrong guy, though that usually results in throwing books across the room (obviously metaphorically now that I use my precious I-phone to listen). I also liked that, while there is some romantic stuff going on, and there is some off scene sex, there is no graphic sex, no explicit scenes I need to mute when my husband/friends/ occasionally co-workers walk into the room for the huge amount of mocking that follows. Plus, that kind of sex, graphic and frequent, just gets old after a while, so this was pleasantly refreshing in that sense. There's also none (or very little) of the constant thinking about- and then sharing with us- sex at all times, like during fights or body disposal, which is all too common in these kinds of books- plus, it's creepy to be thinking about getting laid while actually chopping up a body- eew. I like a romance. I want my heroine to end up happily ever after, but me personally, I don't need it graphically. If you do, try Sookie Stackhouse (I'm O.K. if I misspelled that- it's clearly made up), or anything by Carrie Arthur or the Anita Blake books or... the list goes on and on.
This NEXT SENTANCE is'nt a spoiler, but you may want to not think too hard about it as you read the book.. the thing SOME PEOPLE SAID WAS A SHOCKING ending, not particularly a shocker if you were paying attention. When people say there's ONLY one possible reason for something, even if they follow it up with, but that's impossible, remember we're talking about vampires, witches, and werewolfs. Reassess impossible. Still, it was a fun cliff-hanger ending.
One final note... the second book, Trail of Dead, is out and not on audible or on the audible coming soon list. What gives? I'm kind of craving to know what exciting gore/romance related misadventures one of my potentially favorite heroines gets up to. Give me book two or at least a release date or explaination OF WHY I'M CONTEMPLATING MY FIX ELSEWHERE (GASP). We grow impatient, possibly with torches and pitchforks.
Ordinarily, I dislike reviewers who don't finish the book but feel O.K. about writing reviews. This time, I have to make an exception in the hopes of sparing others. I simply could not finish this book. The graphic descriptions of the sexual molestation of a small child, the physical abuse, the deeply disturbing recounting of the child's masturbation were all too horrifying. The narration was fine, but the story itself left me feeling sick to my stomach. I did not get the sense of this book from the publisher's summary or the sample, and I think I am much too squeamish (hopefully read human) to get through this feeling even a little O.K. Maybe it gets better later, and the girl grows up to overcome her childhood trauma and there's some kind of good and positive ending that would make this less monsterous, but I couldn't get there to find it over the overwhelming awful of the first half.
The things that are wrong with this book include:
1. the narrator- There is simply nothing remotely redeemable about the main character of this book. She is shallow, vain, conceited, narcissistic, ignorant, prejudiced, and lacking in basic human compassion. I thought from the sample (which was reasonably funny) that it would be the low point, and she would improve, but no- she remains a horribly unredeemable person throughout without more than the teensiest bit of personal growth;
2. The narrator- the reader of the audio book is not carrying off a Texas accent, but the fact that the book is set in Texas is kind of a big deal throughout. I wouldn't mind if she simply didn't use an accent (many of us Texas girls don't have them and are only identifyible as Texans because we say y'all), but she does use a passable, but also fake sounding, southern accent. Also, though this is probably a problem with the character more than the reader, she is constantly saying "me, Freddie Ware!" and "moi" in a too-loud, obnoxious, irrationally indignant way that grows to be like finger nails on a chalkboard;
3. The writing- If someone is supposed to know French, she should probably have more than 3 words of it repeated ad nauseam. The plot doesn't exactly make a lot of sense either. I won't give spoilers for those who might buy this book despite everything, so I will only say that the money resolution doesn't make sense and the ending scenes were pulled out of nowhere with nothing leading us to think this might conceivably be some kind of solution;
4. The support staff- The only remotely likeable character in this entire book is the bumbling, crude, bizarrely ignorant seeming lawyer, and he is likeable only in comparison. Everyone else is either as shallow and horrible as the main character or a flat stereotype (devoted maid constantly breaking out into Spanish tirades who would stick around when she was not being paid, please).
I did like the use of lists though. It is a good tool. There were some funny parts, but you kind of have to enjoy mean humor to think so, and that gets very old very fast.
I don't exactly understand how I ended up with this book either. I got here from a Joshilyn Jackson book. That book was so amazing that I wanted to try one that came on the "people who bought this also bought...". I sincerely hope that the fact that I bought this book will not encourage it to stay in that list. As far as I can tell , the only thing the books have in common is what people not from either Texas or the South would think of as a common setting which plays an important role in the story. Beware if you are coming from Ms. Jackson's excellent writing and complex characters.
I actually enjoy books with some intellectual basis (because I am a total geek), but want trash that doesn;t make me think too hard after a hard day of sorting through Estate tax statutes or Medicaid rules. This seemed perfect- murder mystery set in a backdrop of exotic locales and archeological discussion. I could not have been more wrong. There is absolutely nothing which would make this book even remotely readable.
First, I lost the body count and so can give only a rough estimate of the non humann casualties which include (but are not limited to): several helecoptors, 1 motorcycle, 3 trains (1 of which is highjacked), innumerable cars, a high tech bio lab, 3 ancient cities, 1 entirely innocent villiage with all inhabitants, a private plane, at least one bridge, 2 submarines- need I go on? There is also both racism and the belief even by the nonn racists that race=predestination and that cnspiracies can survive for mellinium without anyone being the wiser despite an apppparantly vast number of people involved and willing to do anything including unnecessary murders to continue it.
Also, there is apparantly a love story in this which seems to be brought on by glimpses of something like basic humanity masked by crudeness, lack of intelligence, and farting and belching to ensure emotional distance (or perhaps because of gas).
I actually purchased this book was so disgusted that I returned it, discovered that I could not warn anyone who had not, in fact, kicked my cat and therefore deserved this book as a form of torture, not to read it under any circumstances. I felt so strongly about this that I bought it again to say: unless you need penance for flinging flaming kittens into an orphanage on Christmas in a former life, do not read this book. Just don't. Even the violence doesn't make sense.
I am no prude. I don't mind sex in my books. I don't have some need for monogamy or care if sex is casual so long as the participants are consenting and safe. I applaud people who treat sex as a celebration. The thing is, this book says that the sex is a celebration (while repeatedly belittling anyone who treats the werewolf way as not for him), but this book is not in any way a celebration of sex. The basic premise behind the sex bit (one of about 4 unresolved and frustrating plot lines) is that for a week leading up to the full moon, werewolves must have sex nearly constantly or they will become blood hungry beasts who will savagely rape/murder indiscriminately. It is degrading, disturbing and unnecessary.
Aside from the sex happening every chapter or so, the heroine frequently has sex with 1. men she hardly knows with no intention of getting to know them 2. men she does not trust/like 3. men with whom she is having sex in exchange for information and 4. men who make absolutely clear their lack of respect for her as a person/species. Apart from all this, there are several rape scenes treated like they are no big deal, sex in the middle of breakins and rescue attempts, and a total lack of anything that might make the non-stop orgy remotely more than mere porn.
Which brings me to the "plot". If you could cut the sex down to something approaching sensible (well then the book would be about 2 hours long) you would have three seperate dastardly plots at world domination which somehow are related and somehow appear to focus on a girl who is relatively unimportant except for a secret that the people masterminding the plots would be delighted to know about, except that they are unaware of it, despite having- apparantly- been planning to use her for at least a year. Confused yet? There are plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, and almost nothing gets resolved. The kidnapping of her brother, which gets her involved, is left largely unresolved. One whole plot line that is never quite explained is left open with its wildly unlikely involvement in the other unexplained. Everything about this book is terrible. Bad sex, bad plot, bad writing.
I am now going to do something I have only ever done with one other book, and return it.
This was an extremely well written book. First, the story itself is excellent. The characters are complex and funny. They manage to be both totally messed up and entirely relatable. The book is actually pretty dark, with some truely disturbing scenes, but still a laugh out loud funny romp through the perspective of a troubled, likable, wicked, redeemable heroine. They are all- especially the protagonist- deeply flawed, and all the more likable for it. In the end, they are redeemable, despite the insanely messed up things they have done. Even the worst among them- the villan, as it were- is not so straightforwardly bad as all that, though he is plenty bad enough.
I am pretty solidly agnostic and a true apostate. I don't usually like books with heavy religious themes or characters (they tend to be preachy and have 'messages' you are supposed to learn from). For these characters, religion is woven into the fabric of who they are. I didn't find it in any way intrusive. It just is part of the characters. It's important to the story but it's not Christian fiction by any means, and, for me, I really found myself appriciating the approach to religion by flawed characters who do care about their religion, but except for "the Baptist Ladies Auxiliary for plaguing your children to death in the name of the Lord", they mostly approach it with genuine caring without sounding too terribly righteous or hypocritical- a heavy task for the kind of truely fantastic sinners most everybody in the book is.
The writing is great. The author has a beautiful way with words. You can see Alabama. You can see the development of each person, the flashbacks drawn carefully to move you perfectly through this story. All throughout, you see everyone complexly and richly woven, the people and the places.
The narration was also fabulous. I usually dislike southern accents narrated. Too often they sound horribly fake or wildly overblown. This narrator sounded like she was from Alabama (I say without any idea where she might actually be from). She caught the dry tones of the humor and the truely deep sadness and the moments of frozen emptiness. She was great.
So my major criticism of this book was the audio production. The thing is this: if I want music to cue me that this moment is supposed to be suspensful/creepy/heart-warming/dramatic, I will watch T.V. If my books need the music to cue me into the mood of a scene, they are too badly written to read. This book was not badly written. We all get when it's suspensful/creepy/heart-warming/dramatic. That is what a good author does. So all the random cuts of frankly inexplicable music did was distract me from an otherwise excellent audio book.
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