I am sorry to say I did not like the narrator who left me in a somnolent state most of the time. Her voice sounded bored, pouty and flatlined. I did not get in to the story or care what happened to the main protagonist. The outline for the book made an interesting read but the the actual prose did nothing for me. I am not sure if I would have got more from this book if I had read it myself,
I would definitely listen to a snippet to see if you like the narrator. I bought this on a whim as it was recommended in the Oprah book club list and sounded very interesting. I wish I had listened to my own advice.
The audio version of this is masterfully narrated by Neil himself , so there is no doubt to the timber, intonation, pronounciation or inflection. It is pitch perfect and even more of an enjoyable experience because of this. .
It begins one night when a family are slain in their beds by a character named jack, as he sets his sights on the last memeber or the family he finds the baby has gone. The baby has infact escaped it's crib and toddled off on an adventure ending up in the old deserted Graveyard near his home. Knowing the baby is being persued by Jack forces the inhabitants of the Graveyard to decided whether to intervene and savve the child or not.....
There is a sense of the macabre about the story, however, there is also strong values of love and respect and doing the right thing. I enjoyed this book very much along with it not following a strict format. The chapters are in widely varying lengths and each ones contains a story within the story of an adventure or milestone in Bod's life. It rambles as life does into different relationships and the actions one takes to form stronger bonds. It is often not spelt out what some of Bod's guardians are but as the book unfolds it becomes more obvious and would probably keep a child's imagination more ignited.
In the vein or Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan or Rudyard Kipling's Kim there is the idea of an orphan being raised by what seem like unsuitable and very different souls. However, like its predecessors it shows how love and respect can overcome these difficulties... but then again Nobody Owens is an exceptional child.
The ending was very well done and left the reader with a few mixed feelings, lot of possibilities and some discussion as to what they thought of Bod. A very different children's tale and consistent with Neil Gaiman's work although lacking some of the humour of his adult books such as the Anansi boys.
Interesting new series which is probably more Urban Fantasy meets Historical Romance than Steampunk. I would also put this as a crossover from Young adult to adult. Small amount of sex, a lot of English swearing and violence.
I could not help but find similarities to Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate but it is not any where near as amusing and is far more gritty and most of the humour comes from anachronistic paraphernalia and altered history lines. There were no World Wars, Hitler was a failed artist, tampons, rotaries, bloomers and corsets are every day regalia and Sid Vicious and Queen Victoria Co-exist. The humour is more wry. Queen Victoria, a Vampire is not deceased and still rules with a Fang of Iron. This is a new world that we have not been privy too before.
The author is Canadian from the East Coast and is a big anglophile. Although a lot of the terms and speech in the book is truly English you can tell in places it has been adopted for the NA market, this does not detract from the mainly authentic feeling of a modern day Victorian London. The narrator does a good job. She keeps the story moving at the fast pace it deserves and gives Xandra a feisty edge that makes her believable and eminently likable even though she is a little unhinged at times. She is rather spoiled and tunnel visioned believeing all she is told but is staunchly loyal and protective For the UK listeners: I did find the narrator's accent a little odd as most times she spoke with a middle to upper class accent but on occasion used the harder As used in the Northern part of the country.
The reason I do not find this novel to be truly Steampunk is that there are not inventions before their time and very little science jargon and the usual suspects of Steampunk and not a single derigible in sight. The science seems to be more genetic and torture related being of a most disturbing nature. Again like the Parasol Protectorate there is a lot of dialogue about the types of food consumed, relationships with family and work and the outcast protagonist having an alpha boyfriend. Although women seem to not be under the Rule Of Thumb and have a say.
After the Plague during Victoria's reign the virus slowly turned the aristocrats into vampires and some of them (especially the Scottish contingent) into werewolves. Humans still existed and another breed emerged, a cross of the strongest humans with the Aristos has produced another group called Halvies who are used to protect the Aristos. Our protagonist is one of these and they are distinguishable mainly by their unnaturally coloured hair, speed adn strength.. Last and not least there are the Goblins living under the City.... There is a vague harry Potter feel at times but there is no magic. It is all genetic.
In the present time, London operates as usual, only the aristocrats and Queen Victoria are still ruling. The vampires have some sort of celebrity status, while normal people live no different apart from donating a pint of their blood occasionally and keeping a record of their DNA with state's hospitals so they can be monitored for the virus development. Also they always keep their children in after dark knowing a seedy adn brutal underworld exists adn they are not safe..
There is much unrest and attempts of revolution which will give people more rights and diminish the rule of aristocracy. Bedlam, the infamous mental institution still exists and many Halvies end up behind it's formidable walls. There is also a strange destructive drug that allows people to borrow the supernatural strength of those affected by The Plague however. humans will not last long on this.
Xandra Vardan is quite content with her life as a special guard, living with her half sister and brother, until her younger sister, Dee Dee, goes missing and a body burned beyond recognition is identified as Dee Dee. Then the plot takes off and were are lead into the underworld and lots of truths are revealed and twists and turns occur that shake the foundations of Xandra's belief system. Forcing her to see the truth of those around her and herself. As everything falls away she does not know who to trust.
One of the things I was not so keen on was that there waas an invented words for this verse, a bit like in A Clockwork Orange, that got very overused which again made me feel it was aimed at a younger audience.
I loved Kate Locke's non nonsense style with likable characters, action and a good deal of punching, Xandra is straightforward and likable and I think there will be great times ahead in the rest of the series.
3.5 starsfor this book the First.
So very much enjoyed this debut of this new series. After reading all of the Parasol Protectorate and being particularly fond of this style I was pleasantly surprised to find some of the second generations and original cast making appearances in this novel along with a whole raft of new friends and fiends.
The narrator was spot on with annunciation, pronunciation and pace... really added to the overall pleasure.
Sophronia is the only wayward child of a large and relatively wealthy family. Her dear long suffering Mama finds herself at her wits end with Sophronia's lack of etiquette, grace and general gentility and sends her off to a finishing school in the unlikely hopes of having a presentable and comeoutable daughter. From the moment Sophronia leaves her family home her adventures begin, along with our own.
The plot of this tale is not very hard to work out but this novel is really about the journey and not the destination. There are Mechanimals, dirigible schools, boys, best petticoats, salacious pistons, poorly executed curtseys, the most adorable Bumbersnoot, Soap, coal, werewolves, vampires, stuffed corsets, classes in deception and covert operations; lashings of comestibles, steam, flyway-men, lace and hats. All the trade marks of Gail Carriger are here but written for a younger audience.
Gail's humour, sense of the ridiculous and eminently likeable characters fill these pages. Sophronia's best friend Dimity reminds one a bit of Ivy which brings a great balance to the friendship. Happily though this book has a tempo and pace of it's own and has a lot of charm and innocence and maybe just a pinch of St Trinian's about it. Bringing the fun and adventure back into reading whilst putting those annoying boys in their place.
I think the series has a lot of potential especially as the girls grow up and I am looking forward to Book the Second.
Read to perfection by Tom Hollander, narrating in an understated way to allow the listener to feel the full impact of the words and deeds of the characters in this small town.
As has been said before this is very different in many ways from Harry Potter. However, the later HP books were darker and dealt with people's prejudices, festering emotional baggage, jealousies, abuse etc and all the novels share JKRs extreme attention to details so that I could really see the characters and the town so clearly as she cleverly describes through the eyes of the other characters. The themes in this novel can be seen in Harry Potter, depression, dominance, betrayal, homosexuality, anarchy, they simply are not so much at the fore.
This is a further iteration of the English village novel, however, it is not the usual bustling celebration but more the cracks that lay ugly and seeping below the beautiful chocolate box like veneer. The complacency, hypocrisy , selfishness, narrow-mindedness, ignorance, prejudice, abuse, double standards, ignorance and sheer unpleasantness of the great majority of the inhabitants of Pagford,nr Bristol, is a constant challenge to your senses. I found the story to be somewhat of a large heavy boulder slowly rolling down the hill. It starts off with the death of Councillor Barry Fairbrother and we are shown how his death impacts on certain members of the town in less than flattering ways. It takes quite a long time to get into all the characters and what they are about but suddenly, about 100 pages in, you begin to see what is going on and the boulder moves along swiftly.
JKR brings forward some characters who are rarely encountered, and insists we notice them standing blinking in the spot light. Most notable is Krystal, school age daughter of a drug addict, resident of a 'sink estate' as other people in the village would term it, foul mouthed, sexually promiscuous, and the carer of her 3 year old brother. She is both brave and desperately in need of affection. She is so very vulnerable and sadly misjudged by most of the village. Her expectations and dreams are so small and basic hey alone shout at the reader to care and open their eyes to what goes on around them. Krystal is one of a range of teenage characters who JKR is able to present persuasively, as if from the inside. Others include Sukhinder, a self-harming Sikh girl, from the only Asian family in the village; Andrew whose crush on Gaia is brought to life with complete conviction and who brings back vivid memories for the non-teenage reader; Gaia herself, exiled from London by her single parent mother's move from Hackney, privileged by good looks and sense of coolness is enraged by her mother's unpleasant boyfriend and uprooting her at the age of 16; and 'Fats', whose lacerating wit covers his unhappy home and hatred of his father. The families that these young people live in are mercilessly exposed by JKR as nests of mutual dislike, infidelity, abuse, rape, backstabbing and cruelty. Spattered amongst these parents are more likeable and emphatic characters who help cement you there.
JKR shows through the characters treatment of each other both sympathy and often contempt. Rowling's authorial presence dominates the narrative, imposing moral judgement, left and right. The narrative deliver's punishment to the wicked and then to the innocent as is JKR's way... she does not shy from gritty subjects. Most of the characters descriptions come from other peoples' minds and can be rather unflattering at times but extremely vivid. These descriptions become layered throughout the book as more people describe the character.
By the end of the book I really did care, especially about the children for whom JKR has a special insight and for the 'Fields' folk, who are so completely p******d on by the comfortably off. Judged and abandoned they were getting by as best as they could, surviving being victims of victims. No one walks out of this novel unscathed but there are some surprises in there. As we saw people's malice spring up from jealousy, avarice, anger and fear of what others might think, I had to pull back and just observe ... letting all judgements go was necessary. The last chapters of the book were especially real to me as they were told through the eyes of one of the teenagers, we were led away from the facade of an adult ritual and into the truth of who Krystal really was, her essence and more importantly what she could have been if more Barry Fairbrothers were out there championing and believing in people. Krystal's expectations and dreams are so small and basic they alone shout at the reader to open their eyes.
There is a wellspring of compassion in this author that is welcome in the world of contemporary fiction. While JKR has joined the higher echelons of wealth, her attitude appears to have not been altered. She no longer has to write, a nd is brave to set out after Harry Potter to stake a new claim, although I felt this is a cathartic process for her at some level. I hope she does so again, as she has something to tell us and hopefully if even the smallest part of these adults resides within us we will recognise them and ask the to leave the building..
Jim Broadbent was superb for this novel. Right up there with Davina Porter for tempo and pitch. Bravo.
This is one of the most beautiful, unassuming and courageous books I have had the pleasure of reading in a very long time.
Harold Fry is an ordinary man who does not voice his feelings but stoically goes on, whatever life throws at him knowing his wife barely tolerates him and tries to appease her. One day he receives some very distressing news that a colleague and friend from the past is dying with cancer. He decides to send her a note and finding this inadequate a series of events leads to him walking the great distance from one corner of England to the other. This does not dissolve in a Forest Gump fest, although there are echoes, but trudges along at Harold's timbre. Allowing him to learn more and more about himself and the mysterious world around him.
Harold is retired and is wearing every day shoes and sets off in nothing more than one would be wearing for a trip to the shops. But he is armed with determination, self belief and sense of right. On his journey the introvert Harold, who likes to see the best in people but tries to avoid them, meets many different characters,some who bolster and assist him and others who use Harold and his story to further their own ends. But all leave their mark on dear Harold. He brings out the best of the British nation as they unite on his travails.
His journey becomes a pilgrimage and whilst walking, letting going of the trappings of life and just being Harold cleans out the corners of the painful memories that dwell inside along with the happy ones. He begins to reflect and unearths and examines his marriage, his choices and his relationships with his parents, his son and Queenie the woman he is walking to see, hoping his pilgrimage will give her that umpf she needs to hold on because she feels valued. He is repaying what he sees as a debt from the past. As he journeys he reaches his own private watershed and we are allowed to share this with him.
Harold's wife tetchy and cleaning obsessed Maureen also has to examine her own choices and behaviours. She runs the entire gamut of emotions which gets the reader wondering what terrible things Harold may have done and becoming suspicious, against your better judgement, or Harold's motives. Maureen too examines her part in this life of theirs and begins to see another truth emerging and allowing her to be who she really is.
This beautiful tale shows the very best, the very worst and how the ordinary can become most extraordinary. I smiled, I laughed and towards the end where the tale completely unfolds I cried big fat tears of sadness as the secrets were finally spilled. But I also rejoiced at the end.
To find oneself and to love is a joyous thing.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good this series is. People who like the Harry Potter type books with magical happenings and a clear division of dark and light should enjoy these books. They are very well writen with a glorious use of vocabulary and are narrated by the splendid and most talneted Jim Dale (who also reads the US version of Harry Potter).
The premis of the books is around a London most of us cannot see and how two human children can. They are hurled together in this otehr dimension of London where all the statues are animated and divided into very clear sides. The main Villan is quite comparable in the evil stakes to Voldemort and the the evoluation of the main protagonist is most enjoyable. The back up the children receive from the Gunner, a war veteran still speaking and acting from is time frame is the biggest lightening rod conducting the reader to anchor to these set of books.
It does seem to have an super long, never ending, chase going on. But it is peppered with so many characters and different twists and turns it keeps you interested and invested.
I will never feel the same when I walk around London or any big City with statues again.
I really enjoyed Hounded for a lot of reasons. It was light and fun with a lots of action, mythology, characters (some old some new) and plot twists without being overly complicated and dramatic and falling into the usual plot devices.
Atticus is a 2,000 year old Druid, who is really cute, who swaps from old vernacular into modern English in a blink. As I enjoy Shakespeare I liked a lot of the references he made to his verse and other classics. His world is made up of almost every paranormal and mythological world there is. Viking Vampires and werewolves, fae and gods, witches, demons and Death himself. But the favourite is Oberon, his familiar.... a huge Irish Wolf hound with some very good one liners and a very bizarre though train. Neither Atticus nor Oberon take themselves too seriously which gave this book a light feel and allowed you to breath and run barefoot with them wondering how they would get out of the next sticky situation but knowing they would. Atticus' interactions with his lawyers is superb..... well beyond the bounds of even the Lincoln Lawyer's relationships.
It has the Young Adult feel from the point of view that there is no graphic sex or violence on a par with Gail Carriger in some ways. There is enough to entertain you with the story line and learning the powers and personality traits of all the characters. I am still wondering who his stoic little old Irish lady neighbour really is.
My one and only peeve is I listened to this on audio, the narrator was great but why did Atticus have an American accent as he is Irish. I know he has travelled but should then end up sounding more like Christopher Lambert that Percy Jackson. My spleen... is now vented :)
Got to go and start Hexed now.... hope you enjoy Atticus at least as much as I did.
I just love this book from start to finish. The wonderful Lennie Henry was superb and Neil could not have made a better choice, Lennie was Fat Charlie. I grew up near London with one English and One North American parent which gave this book even extra appeal to me with the mixed cultures. Gaiman has a wonderful touch with humour which is often on the ridiculous observational type that just could happen. A step on from Ben Elton. The characters were wonderful and the story of duality, magic, relationships, mishaps, evil, spiritual, horror and bravery gelled together so I well I could picture every scene in my head and was entirely sucked in. But mainly this to me was a story of love and respect of yourself and those around you. Bravo Mr Gaiman you had me laughing out loud so many times and even the odd tear and I truly adored the ending. I have not read American Gods and it made no difference to my enjoyment.
This novel is exquisitely descriptive and beautifully written. The evocative detail brings an incredible depth of sentience which serves to bring the elusive Night Circus and its colourful performers and cast to life in a very Gothic way. This book is for those who can relax and enjoy the journey because it is not about racing to the destination but enjoying the scenery along the way. It would appeal to fans of Dickens and Audrey Niffeneger.
Jim Dale the narrator of US version Harry Potter books, did an extremely good job of narration. However, I did at times hear Hermoine, Dumbledore and Slughorn intonations but I felt even more at home with this.
The plot slowly unfurls for the reader. Shocking terrible things happen every so often but they are not sentimentalised, but rather, are left to the audience to react or not. People are who they are without contrivances and we can decide if we like them or not warts and all. The main character is the circus and the characters all seem peripheral and yet so integral to it. Everyone has a reason for being on the pages and all play their parts. This novel has breathtaking climax and then leads on to a wonderful ending that I feel leaves the reader satisfied and happy.
Celia and Marco, are caught up from childhood in a complicated and merciless game run but two veteran magicians who have lost their grip on what being a human truly means. The protagonists are bound to the game for as long as it takes without their permission. The game makers are so out of touch with their emotions they seem to no longer see what they are doing to people, if indeed they ever did. There are two main stories running. Celia and Marco who are pitted against each other and the incredible illusions they create a warm and charming young lad, Baily, who falls for a girl in the circus and ultimately the circus itself.
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