Minneapolis, MN, United States | Member Since 2007
I guess I'm a sucker for dog books - especially books about big, furry dogs with an edge. And this one is terrific. The biggest issue with this book is that it's not longer. I could easily have listened to another 4 hours and been just fine with that. It's efficiently and professionally written. Maybe just a little predictable, but a good listen.
Here's my best recommendation: if you have to do something unpleasant - like clean the garage or basement - load this one on your iPod and get to work. The time will fly by. Maggie is great company. You'll miss her when it's done.
I truly love this series. I'm now on my second listen to all 20 books and appreciating the details I missed the first time through.
This particular book in the series, the second one, starts to explore Jack and Stephen's personalities more. As characters, they were established in "Master and Commander" but now are really fleshed out. Jack is growing up and growing into his role as a leader. Stephen, ultimately more complex as a character, is showing his colors more as an naturalist and volunteer spy in addition to his role as a "sawbones." The eccentricities of both are so delightful. I have to keep reminding myself that these characters were created in O'Brian's unbelievable imagination.
I never would have guessed that I could be this smitten with nautical historical novels set during the Napoleonic Wars. But I am. I love Patrick Tull's narration and the way he gives voice to these amazing characters. It's such an engaging listen.
The Sean Duffy "Troubles Trilogy" books have been incredibly engaging listens - this one exceptionally so. All three books share some elements that make this series unique:
First, the backdrop of Northern Ireland at the height of its conflicts is so different. I don't think I've ever encountered any writing that makes day-to-day life during that time any clearer. As with any good read, you come out of it knowing more than you did when you started. I'll never be an expert, but at least I have a little more understanding now.
Second, Sean Duffy is SO flawed and SO likable. Flawed characters are nothing new. But when an author can create one that you actually admire, it's really an accomplishment.
Third, these are never scripted books with conclusions all wrapped up like a present. The pacing is unexpected. Sometimes McKinty takes you down a path you had no idea would ever enter into the mix. And even when Sean Duffy succeeds, it's not a cinematic win. It's messy. Justice may be served, but it's not tidy.
Fourth, Gerard Doyle makes this work. If I had read these books in print, I never would have heard the voices quite the same way. He really puts you there and gives life to every character.
When you add all that together with the cultural references to the early 80s - music, Princess Di, Thatcher, strikers, politics, et al - the result is a lively, thoughtful series that's unusual and very well done.
This series is just plain adorable. Katherine Kellgren's narration is worth a credit on its own. She's marvelous as Jacky. Like a big bowl of ice cream, it's a great treat. But, it's not a meal. I've listened to the first three and I'm done.
As a break in the routine, I've thoroughly enjoyed listening - more because of Kellgren than the rather simplistic plot. But all the talk of mizzen masts and bowsprits makes me long for another listen to the whole Master and Commander series by Patrick O'Brian. With Patrick Tull giving voice to Stephen and Jack, it's a complete meal for sure.
There's a Pipi Longstocking element to this book that's adorable. No, it won't make you smarter or add to your understanding of the world. It's just swashbuckling good fun. But the best part of the book is the narration. Really, it should be Example 1 in the "How to narrate a book" tutorial. Katherine Kellgren makes this book what it is. She is Jacky. This is a simply a delightful, entertaining listen.
Can I give this negative stars? I wish I could. It doesn't belong in History or Historical Fiction. The way the author has treated this story makes it a good candidate for Romance. This book is based on the true story of one of history's most remarkable survivors. That the author found a need to put bodice ripper crap in it is criminal.
I would really love to see a serious non-fiction writer do this subject justice. Cut it by half, skip all the crap and go for facts. Mary Draper Ingles was an amazing woman. Someone needs to really tell her story. And when you're done, get a different narrator.
It's interesting when an author can create such a despicable character and make you like him. I think the way the other side of India is presented and the way the character tells his story allows you to see past some behaviors that are reprehensible. The cleverness in the writing buys lots of forgiveness from the reader.
I understand why this was an award winner. It is a highly creative work. But it is disturbing while you're listening and once it's done. Because of that, it has all the makings of a very good book club book. If you simply take on the writing separate from the story, it would be a great discussion. If you opt to talk about the societal impact of progress, be prepared for a long night.
And now the narration ... I'm burned out on John Lee. He does an okay job with this book (as he does with the kazillions of others he narrates) and his manufactured accent is consistent. He is a pro. But I would have liked it a lot more if the narrator had been authentic.
The positive: This is the first time I've ever read anything that was so personal from a German WWII soldier. I loved the fresh perspective. I didn't anticipate his reaction to some of the events and decisions. So, content (story) gets 4 stars.
Now let's talk about the narration and audio. To say the narration is flat is an insult to flat things. It is unbearable. Even the lighthearted moments are delivered in that same one-tone voice. And the audio? Whenever the audio needed to be edited, it was done with a clip that didn't match the audio quality of anything before or after. So all of a sudden, you'll hear a sentence that sounds completely different. It's really amateurish and annoying.
It's really too bad the audio and narration has been this mangled. I think this book would be a great read. Forget listening until it's fixed.
I need to say two quick things about this book before I comment on content. #1: Ray Porter is amazing as a narrator. #2: The author does a great job with "just the facts, ma'am" even though his opinions are clear. Look up any number of the things he talks about and you will find supporting facts. I value that with non-fiction.
This is NOT a feel-good book about America's export of democracy or freeing the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. It is a harsh look at the mechanical parts of occupation and the responsibility you assume when you decide to take over another country. It's too bad the word "hubris" has already been used by another book. This could have been titled the same way.
There are many things I do not understand and this book didn't help. How could we as a country allow bridges to fall into rivers due to infrastructure neglect yet support the billions of dollars it took when we decided to rebuild Iraq? How do lawmakers justify their support of the billions of dollars for this and not for education and health care in our own country? When you look for skills during a crisis, why would political party even matter? And what does it take to put down your political party affiliation and just do the right thing?
There are two particular people in the book who are incredibly effective at carrying out their tasks. Their effectiveness has nothing to do with politics and all to do with pure competence. Reading about them and their M.O. is a great lesson in how to get things done. I was impressed at the odds against them and what they achieved.
There really isn't a way to review this book without spilling secrets. So I won't. I listened to it without much foreknowledge and was glad for it. I'm not sure I would have started it had I known more - and that would have been my loss.
I wish this had been a book club book. I really needed to talk about it when I was done. Interesting how the big hot issues of today are not so new. Maybe openly talking about issues is new ... but the issues themselves are as old as mankind. It's not only the issues that stick around from generation to generation. Courage and cowardice, too, are timeless. Same with rejection, love, passion and forgiveness.
This book reminds me of others - like Pat Barker's "Regeneration" - but it really stands alone in what it has accomplished. It is beautifully narrated. If you want to listen to a book that will move your soul, this is it. It is not a feel-good story. It is a thinking story. It's perhaps my best recommendation for a book club book in 2014.
This book has an interesting premise. You can read about that in any number of the kazillion reviews that have been written. But the execution of it? Not so interesting. If this is a five-star listen, we need more stars to give out to really fabulous books.
The biggest question this book raised for me is this: at what point does an author have the right to dismiss all editors? I felt like this was a perfect example of a book that really would have gained from a big fat red pen. Truly, at least 100 pages could easily have been cut. That only would have removed the repetition. My guess is that at some point in time after you've made millions and millions for your publisher, no one will suggest editing. I think of the conversation going more like this: "Fabulous book. Wouldn't change a word. Here's your check. When can we get another?"
Many people have loved this book so take my review of it with a grain of salt. I did get sucked into the story - though continually commented on the need for editing. I thought it could have been much shorter and still had impact. It also could have gained from more lively narration.
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