I first heard Gregory Boyle interviewed on On Being, and he was so compelling I had to check this book out. This is a great example of a book that's 10x better in audio--Boyle's narration has so much heart and really brings the people he writes about to life. It helps that Boyle is fluent in Spanish and nails most of the Angeleno accents. Such great stories of humanity and redemption that brought back years living in the Pico-Union area. HIGHLY recommended!
Unfortunately, these days this is becoming normal in this genre. The author has an idea for a story...and it gets broken up into 3+ books which makes 3x the money. This here is like a first draft of a part one of an interesting story idea. I really like the world and the concept, but there's very little story arc, and a whole lot of endless repetitive inner dialog. For example:
"I can't believe I'm talking to a mage!" x 535
"Mages are wrong about mechanics!" x 623
"Mechanics are wrong about mages!" x 624
"No way, Mari, you can't like a mage!" x 625 in the last few chapters
Etc etc etc.
There is also endless repetitive detail. For example:
"Alain said such-and-such in a toneless voice without any emotion." x 752
You get the picture. I did care about the two main characters, and I want to know what happens...now that the premise has been set up. But I can't bring myself to spend another $15 to get another barely edited segment that isn't a full story. This book could have been easily a third or even a forth of the length and moved along much faster. But Audible could care less--they're makin money!
I really love Richard Rohr, and was happy to see a bunch of his books on Audible. Sadly, most of them are read by an atrocious narrator, so I've stayed away. However, when I saw that some of the titles here are not audio books but rather, audio teaching, I was excited to try one out. This one was fairly enjoyable, and Rohr's voice is pleasant to hear on 1.5x or 2.0 (otherwise, it's painfully slow on this one as he's reading a script, unlike the others that feature live teaching). But the content--inspired by Francis of Assisi's life and teaching--isn't by far as profound as Rohr's brilliant book Eager to Love. I'd highly recommend buying this book instead (but not the audio book due to said atrocious narrator who sucks the life out of the content) if you're interested in this topic. It's profound and even life-changing, whereas a lot of this content is forgettable.
Brene Brown is great, but sadly, this really has no real new content beyond what you will get in The Power of Vulnerability. If it wasn't so expensive I would be fine with it as it's always a pleasure to listen to her, but this is really not worth the price. It seems like SoundsTrue is just trying to make more money by offering new shorts by Brene that are just more of the same, unfortunately. Just get the latter audio book which is more than 6 hours of teaching, and you'll get all you need on this topic.
Was surprised that the narrator was considered by Audible "Narrator of the Year." Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was amazed that she would pronounce the Danish/German name of one of the protagonists so horribly (Kai sounds like "Ky," not "Kay"). It's a pretty common name. I was able to double-check this within a minute of googling, so it It bothers me that this is often an issue in Audible productions--I'm not sure why it isn't considered important to the narrators--or even that Audible would check on that sort of thing. Not like they have to pronounce everything perfectly--but I'd like to think Audible would care a little more! Shouldn't this be a standard?
I guess the other four few reviewers thought the book was great, so perhaps your feelings about this book will be a matter of taste. But if anything I describe here resonates in a bad way with you--avoid this one.
I love retellings, and thought this looked promising--after all, the author promises us early on that we're in for some unique worldbuilding and a fascinating relationship dynamic. Both are hollow promises the author puts very little effort into fulfilling. There's all kinds of potential, but what seems like it will be a fascinating mystery to figure out within the magic system of this world turns out to be only a glittery surface. You soon discover that the author didn't really put the time into working these elements out very well thoroughly and just plunged ahead with her shiny premise. In reality, there turns out to be actually very little mystery to any of it, and very, very little substance to the magic system. You'd think at *least* the romance might be at least a bit entertaining (come on, this is Beauty and the Beast!), but instead it was enormously unsatisfying and emotionally hollow--not because the characters didn't have potential, but because the author didn't put much work into developing them.
I waded through the endless repetitions of the protagonist raging on about her bitterness and feeling guilty about it--not in an interesting way, but in a monotonous way (seriously, this takes up about 3/4 of the book), hoping that the story would bloom at some point--but by the end, I was like, "That's it? REALLY?" The tidy little ending felt utterly false to me. Juvenile in the worst of ways--not in the best. No wonder, no magic, no depth.
All that to say, if you demand a little more substance out of a story--especially one that's been told many times exactly because it has such potential for exploration of its characters and themes--avoid this one, which to me was just another disappointing, hastily-written YA offering. Try either of Robin McKinley's retellings (either Beauty or Rose Daughter) if you're looking for something well-written and satisfying.
I kept thinking this story would get better--after all, the basic plot had so much potential, didn't it? A secret library! Well, no real spoilers, but the book--which ended up taking me FOREVER to get through (I almost quit so so many times but kept thinking maybe it would take a turn)--was a whole lot of nothing.
No real story at all. Just a couple interesting characters--and no real story. You keep thinking something interesting will happen--some twist, some connection between all the random pieces--but there is no real mystery, no real wonder, no real anything.
There are enough negative reviews on Amazon that I should've listened to, but I ended up wasting a great deal of time trying to give this story a chance. What a shame.
If only this were a full-length audiobook of Storycorps' best...that would definitely be worth the $10/credit. If you enjoyed these fabulous stories, make sure you subscribe to Storycorps' podcast. It's an ongoing project that 10x worth whatever grant money they're getting to produce--makes you have hope for humanity!
This is the 2nd book in a 4-book series by the Dyachenkos, but unfortunately it's the only one that's been translated into English so far. Still, the story works as a stand-alone, and is strong in spite of the mystery of the Wanderer--whose identity we would know sooner had we read the first book in the series (which is about his story).
To get to the real meat of the story, you'll have to get past a significant part of the protagonist being excessively beastly--but once the story catalyst takes place, the plot picks up considerably. I'd highly recommend listening at 1.5x (via the Audible app)--the narrator is great, but I found the pace to be far more enjoyable a tad faster. I've discovered that only extremely experienced narrators are able to get the pacing just right--it requires a massive amount of preparation--and good ones sound far more natural--more like they're telling the story rather than reading it--at 1.25x or 1.5x. Try it out.
There were certainly a few significant holes/loose ends in the story, but I expect that this is only because the authors were planning to write two more books after this one. We can only hope that Tor invests more in translations.
If you enjoyed this book, there's a new Kindle book by the Dyachenkos that's currently available in English (called Vita Nostra--not sure why it hasn't been printed yet, though, as it won all manner of Russian awards and has been optioned into a film), as well as a free novella (The Burned Tower).
To repeat myself: Another great example of a wrist-gnawing narration suddenly made pretty durned good sped up. In other words, I'd completely agree with the reviewer who pans Will Patton as being a bad fit for this book--if I'd listened to this at normal speed. However, at a truly listenable speed (yep, he needs 1.5x--1.0x is *that* bad), I'd say the opposite. 1.5x Will Patton keeps these books from being pigeonholed as YA paranormal romance--and they really are not, in spite of this author having written books of that flavor in the past. His narration fits the mostly-male cast of protagonists, and is even better than the first as he better gets the characters--and his delivery (on 1.5!) is really enjoyable. Despite other listener complaints of him being a bad fit, I can't imagine a female reader convincingly voicing Ronan, who takes the lead a lot more in The Dream Thieves than The Raven Boys.
As for the story, it gets richer and the characters more compelling. While the first book certainly had more of a YA flavor, this one felt broader and almost completely outside the genre. Sure, the protagonists are teenagers, but for the greater part of the book, they're handled with a depth that simply makes them human. Definitely wittier and more eloquent than is realistic, but all the more enjoyable. The ideas are fresh, and the writing is of far higher quality than the YA novels that get churned out left and right. The author does well to not just make this story so much of an Act 2 (as is typical) but rather, focuses on a fresh plot and brings a new antagonist. In other words, there's a real story arc.
However, I was pretty disappointed when the final section of the book started to unravel and push me out of it. I felt that The Raven Boys also started to fray in the last couple chapters, but this one started coming apart far earlier...it felt 10x more jarring and disjointed and rushed. There are WAY too many wth?! moments/scenes, beginning with an absolutely unconvincing and seemingly arbitrary scene when all the characters decide to go over and chat with said antagonist. Pretty much everything from that point devolves. It felt (and disappointingly so, considering how carefully written the rest of it felt) like a book deadline rapidly approaching...and the effect was such that I went from being utterly absorbed in the story and totally caring about these characters...to not being sure I cared that much and feeling mighty dubious about a fictional novel I was just listening to. In other words, the people in a believable world suddenly became contrived characters in a book, and I was just sitting there observing an author make up stuff about them. Big, sad difference. Not sure how that's supposed to compel me to wait for another year until the next book comes out to find out if I still care enough.
Another great example of a wrist-gnawing narration suddenly made pretty durned good sped up. Same goes for book 2. You're welcome.
C'mon Audible: don't keep making us have to speed up dragging, breathy readers ourselves...not everyone can use the app that lets one change the speed, and this has been *the* difference between me giving up on a book immediately and finding it truly enjoyable.
As for the contents...probably the best Y.A. book I've read in a long time...normally I'm not one for these books, but this one stands out with its far-above-average writing and lack of the usual cheesy overfocus on a teenage romance. The characters are compelling, the story unique enough. The end is a bit of a tumultuous hodgepodge that I probably wouldn't have been okay with--if I'd read this a year ago when there was no sequel to immediately turn to. But when you're able to immediately go on to the next book, the story feels richer as a whole and said conclusion doesn't feel quite as dissatisfying.
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