As a fan of Lindsey Davis and Stephen Saylor, I am thrilled to have found Ruth Downie. In her third book featuring Roman medicus during the reign of Hadrian, she takes it to the next level. The first two books were enjoyable, but this volume is in an entirely different league. The change of setting from Roman Britain to Transalpine Gaul (modern Provence), takes Ruso into the bosom of his very dysfunctional family (who had been alluded to in previous books). While it's possible to read this book as a stand-alone, I would highly recommend reading the books in order in order to appreciate the characters' histories and development. I have a background in Classical History, and while I won't pretend there aren't some anachronistic elements, I was impressed by how much research Ms. Downie must have done to recreate the period. Unlike the more free-thinking Falco of Lindsey Davis's books, Ruso seems more a product of his era and culture.
I haven't read the print version, but the narration is so stellar that I can't imagine any way that I could enjoy this more than on Audible. In fact, I have a friend who is a fan of Terry Pratchett and am constantly telling him that he ought to get Audible to enjoy the books to their fullest.
Terry Pratchett makes the characters so real that I'm invested in them almost immediately. These are people I want to meet. They're layered and complex. The writing is among the best I've ever encountered in any genre. My favorite Discworld books feature Sam Vimes and the Watch - some of whom make an appearance here.
He brings every one of the characters to life and captures Pratchett's gorgeous and funny prose with pitch perfection.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
While this book can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, I think the impact is even greater when read after the City Watch books and The Truth. It really is a triumph of storytelling and brought tears to my eyes.
I'm rarely inspired to write a review of an Audible purchase, but I felt the reviews currently out there (largely extremely positive) needed some balance.
I wanted to like this book. I like historical fiction and the time travel premise is one that I usually enjoy as well.
But I just couldn't finish it. I got about half way through the third of four segments and began to fast forward (which I never do with an Audible book).
Ms. Gabaldon is a good writer - her knowledge of the period seems sound and her prose is quite elegant. The reader, Davina Porter, was excellent. It was just that the book went nowhere and took hundreds of pages to do it.
To be fair, I'm not a fan of straight romance, so that could have impacted my impression. I prefer more intrigue. If you are a fan of historical romance - especially of the bodice ripper variety - this might be right up your alley. While not what I would call pornographic (though some other reviewers have said so), Outlander is highly erotic. But oddly - and perhaps it's due to the literally dozens of sex scenes - rather than being exciting or titillating, it became unbearably dull. A good three-quarters of the sex could have ended up on the cutting room floor and it might have helped the story's momentum.
I think I read that this was a 600 page book and that the five sequels just get longer (up to twice as long). Judiciously edited, I think Outlander could have been decent. Sadly though, this is one time that I would have preferred an abridged version of an Audible book.
This book has a great premise and, as a Medieval historian, I really wanted to like it. The major problem for me is that it could have worked as a short story, or even a short novel, but not the tome that it is. A truly ridiculous amount of time is spent going over the same ground - maybe the reader is meant to be living the horror of the protagonists in real time, but it's painful and really boring. Even the jokes, which elicit a chuckle the first time they appear, become tiresome when repeated over and over. The last part of the book picks up a bit, but by then it's much too late.
The other big issue for me is how incredibly stupid the protagonists are. These are supposed to be academics at England's top university, but my 12-year-old niece could figure out "surprises" that they seem oblivious to until nearly the end of the book. I can suspend disbelief about the sci-fi elements that didn't make much sense, but it was hard for me to imagine anyone being as willfully blind as this cast of characters.
I was hooked on Harry Dresden practically from the first moment of Storm Front. While early books were a little shaky - and James Marsters took a while to reach his stride as a reader - by the time I listened to White Knight, I was convinced that Butcher & Marsters were at the top of their games. Yet over the course of the next several books, Harry and the cast of supporting characters became even more complex, more interesting, more human. And Butcher kept revealing surprises and "Aha!" moments that kept me engrossed.
From the opening moments of Changes, I knew that Butcher had trumped himself with this one. Everything - and I do mean everything - comes together here in a deeply satisfying way (despite a cliffhanger conclusion). Plots that have been unfolding for several books are finally resolved and new ones introduced.
Changes reminded me a lot of the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings - a series referenced by Harry as he and his friends (and even former foes) form a fellowship in order to complete the ultimate quest. The book culminates in a battle of good vs. evil of epic proportions and has a valedictory feel to it. But according to Butcher, there are several more books planned for the series - good news for his devoted fans.
I urge anyone who has not read previous Dresden Files not to begin with this. The impact of this book is meant for devoted fans - it is a payoff 12 books in the making - as well as a glimpse of new directions for Dresden and Company.
Any criticism I have seems petty by comparison to the towering achievement Butcher has realized in Changes. There are a few moments where I felt the editing should have been tighter - which is perhaps why Butcher has pushed back the release of his next outing - Ghost Story - from April to July, 2011. The worst part of being a Dresden Files fan is figuring out how to feed our addiction between fix.
Bravo, Mr. Butcher! A tour de force.
I read the Falco books when they first came out - and I was hooked. But over the years they have deteriorated badly. Occasionally, there is a winner (such as Saturnalia), but more and more, they are bogged down in interminable history lessons (and I was a Classics major, so I enjoy historical detail). But when Helena is opening her mouth every 5 lines to deliver 2 pages on a particular esoteric detail, it's just too much. The author also confuses matters by having dozens of characters (suspects) not one of whom is developed. It was a chore listening to this book.
When I first read this book some 20 years ago, I remember it being a delight. It has not aged well, however. This time around, it seemed hopelessly dated, particularly with regard to all the allusions to then in-vogue "women's lib." When it finally wraps up and the mystery is solved, I found it hard to believe the motives of the villain/s.
Ellis Peters' prose is always a pleasure to read and Simon Prebble's narration is a joy to listen to. If you enjoy, Peters' Cadfael books, give Felse a try.
I just couldn't make myself listen to this beyond the first couple of hours. First, I generally don't enjoy it as much when books are read by multiple readers - I find it distracting. Additionally, the eerie music playing between each chapter was over the top. Finally, the story is just poorly written - absurdly melodramatic - I kept expecting to come across the sentence "It was a dark and stormy night."
This book continues the adventures of a medicus in Roman Britain, Ruso, and his slave/companion, Tila. This book spends a lot of time on Tila, exploring her background and developing her character. One of the best things about this series on Audible is the fantastic narrator who does a splendid job in bringing the characters to life.
Tommy and Tuppence are a pair of London Bon Vivants without a pence to their collective names until they come up with a scheme to form the "Young Adventurers." Not surprising, they get more adventure than they bargained for. All in good fun, of course. I was certain I had the mystery figured out, but the reveal of the villain entirely surprised me!
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