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Alison

Wellington, New Zealand | Member Since 2004

37
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 12 reviews
  • 321 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 16 purchased in 2014
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  • Relics of the Dead: Mistress Of The Art Of Death 3

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Ariana Franklin
    • Narrated By Diana Bishop
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    On hearing of this momentous discovery, King Henry II demands evidence that the legendary Arthur is dead. So he calls upon his Mistress of the Art of Death, anatomist Adelia Aguilar, to examine the bones. But someone doesn’t want the skeletons identified – and is prepared to kill in order to prevent it…

    Alison says: "Intriguing mystery, fascinating historical context"
    "Intriguing mystery, fascinating historical context"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I love this series - this is the third of four, and I almost don't want to listen to the next, knowing that it's the last. The characters are strong and intriguing, the historical setting and context well explained without being over explained. Henry II is the Plantagenet King of England, and Adelia, a female doctor from Salerno reluctantly agrees to conduct one more investigation into some mysterious deaths for him. Evil outlaws and evil mother-in-laws, mad monks and lepers all play a part in this fine fine mystery. It's also beautifully read, with even the minor characters, men and women from different regions and levels of society, given voices that are distinctive and convincing without falling into irritating stereotype.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Serpent and the Pearl: Borgias, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Kate Quinn
    • Narrated By Leila Birch, Maria Elena Infantino, Ronan Vibert
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (73)
    Performance
    (67)
    Story
    (67)

    Rome, 1492: The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous - or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web.... Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham.

    Linda Lou says: "VERY INTERESTING TAKE ON THE BORGIAS"
    "A delicious take on the world of the Borgias"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I finished this book and immediately bought the sequel, I really didn't want to leave the world that the author has (re)created. Set when Rodrigo Borgia become Pope, The Serpent and the Pearl was *very* enjoyable. It's just the sort of historical novel I like, with plenty of actual history wrapped around the tale, but not getting in the way of it. It's written from three alternating first-person points of view. There's the Pope's naive mistress (who shares a household with her mother-in-law and various Borgia bastards), a runaway-nun Venetian cook, and a very short but deadly bodyguard. The voices of each character are quite distinct, both in a story sense, and in the performers reading the story sense. I especially enjoyed the acerbic food-obsessed cook.

    It ends on a slightly too abrupt cliff-hanger, though as I now have the next book, I'm not too worried (that was a very effective tactic there Ms Quinn).

    All in all fine summertime escapism, also making me want to go back to Rome.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Spirit Ring

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Narrated By Jessica Almasy
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (161)
    Performance
    (134)
    Story
    (139)

    Fiametta Beneforte dreamed of making beautiful and enchanted objets d'art, but alas her magician-goldsmith father was more likely to have her scrub the kiln than study magic. After all, it was a waste to train a mere daughter beyond the needs of the moment.... Thur Ochs dreamed of escaping the icy mines of Bruinwald. But the letter from his brother Uri arranging his apprenticeship to Master Beneforte was not the only force that drew him over the mountains to the Duchy of Montefoglia.

    Becca says: "On the whole, a disappointment"
    "Delightful medieval world"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This story is told from the perspective of a young woman whose greatest wish is to be a proper apprentice to her metalsmith-magician father. Instead, the assassination of the local Duke by a very bad man leads to her father's death. Fiametta has to find her own way, with the help of friends, to defeat her town's enemies. I enjoyed immersing myself in this world - the heroine is bright and appealing, and the secondary characters are rich and interesting, with plausible motivations and reactions. I love Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan sagas, but I would happily visit her version of sixteenth century Italy again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Joe Abercrombie
    • Narrated By Steven Pacey
    Overall
    (3696)
    Performance
    (2647)
    Story
    (2661)

    Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers.Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain and shallow, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men.

    Steven says: "Steven Pacey is magnificient."
    "The most wonderful unlikely heroes"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Mr Abercrombie makes his unlikely heroes human and sympathetic, even when they are variously cruel, cowardly, venal, relentless, self-serving and vain. Beautifully read by Steven Pacey, who gives each character a distinct voice with a distinct attitude. Recommended for fans of fantasy set in brutal times - no sparkly vampires here.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Cyteen

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By C. J. Cherryh
    • Narrated By Gabra Zackman, Jonathan Davis
    Overall
    (409)
    Performance
    (366)
    Story
    (372)

    The saga of two young friends trapped in an endless nightmare of suspicion and surveillance, of cyber-programmed servants and a ruling class with century-long lives – and the enigmatic woman who dominates them all.

    troy says: "This is a Heavy Book (lovely too)"
    "Still intriguing after all these years"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I first read Cyteen 25 years ago; nothing dates faster than imaginings of future technology (talk of fiche and faxes for example), but the core ideas behind Cyteen remain intriguing. The slower first part begins with an ageing Ariane Emory in charge of a sprawling business and scientific empire, the main product of which is gene-manipulated humans, the azi. From the moment azi are born from artificial wombs, they are trained and conditioned by carefully designed drug assisted ''tape' learning to be perfect workers, soldiers, or whatever. There's probably a bit much overview info on the political and scientific history and situation (the sort of stuff easily skim-read in a written novel), but there's also a murder mystery, a sinister security system, political terrorists and plenty of intrigue - all picking up pace as the story goes along.

    The reading is excellent.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • How We Decide

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Jonah Lehrer
    • Narrated By David Colacci
    Overall
    (1706)
    Performance
    (488)
    Story
    (484)

    Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need to figure out how we decide, drawing on cutting-edge research by Daniel Kahneman, Colin Camerer, and others, as well as the real-world experiences of a wide range of "deciders" - from airplane pilots and hedge fund investors to serial killers and poker players. Lehrer shows how people are taking advantage of the new science to make better television shows, win more football games, and improve military intelligence.

    Sarah says: "Summarizes information from several superior books"
    "A little less than riviting"
    Overall

    I struggled to pay attention during the extended sports anecdotes in the early part of this (not being American, I have no knowledge of or interest in football strategies for example). Nothing particularly wrong with the book, but I have read/heard the same basic ideas expressed more engagingly before.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Dragon Keeper: The Rain Wild Chronicles, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Robin Hobb
    • Narrated By Saskia Butler
    Overall
    (89)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (56)

    Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River, the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and impenetrable forest, it is a hard place for any to survive.

    Alison says: "Great story"
    "Great story"
    Overall

    This continues in the same world as the author's "Live Ships" trilogy, and includes some of the same characters, a few years on. The narrator voices the fine mix of interesting characters, human and inhuman, with convincing skill. The only minor annoyance is that it ends somewhat abruptly, albeit after 17 very enjoyable hours - a story that is very clearly "to be continued". Soon I hope!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • EMPEROR: The Death of Kings, Book 2 (Unabridged)

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs)
    • By Conn Iggulden
    • Narrated By Robert Glenister
    Overall
    (182)
    Performance
    (142)
    Story
    (144)

    Abandoned after months of captivity, Julius Caesar gathers recruits that he will forge into a unit powerful enough to gain vengeance on his captors. But soon a new crisis threatens: a gladiator named Spartacus.

    Alison says: "Wonderful tale"
    "Wonderful tale"
    Overall

    Once, ancient history was torrid current events. This tale tells of Caesar's early career including his role in the Spartacus slave rebellion, and is packed with great characters. Voicing the flawed heroes, depraved villians and the odd innocent bystander the narrator gets it just right too. The others in this series are definitely on my listening wish list.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Iron Tongue of Midnight

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs)
    • By Beverle Graves Myers
    • Narrated By Geoffrey Blaisdell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    In September 1740, singer Tito Amato is offered the lead role in an opera being staged at an isolated villa in the Italian hills. Puzzled by the air of secrecy that enshrouds the production but attracted by a generous fee, Tito agrees.

    Wadie says: "Flamboyant!"
    "This should have been great!"
    Overall

    From the synopsis I expected "The Iron Tongue" to be exactly the kind of historical mystery tale that I most enjoy. Sadly however, the narrator's voice and the author's prose combined in a way that just couldn't hold my attention. I kept losing track of the characters and the plot, and eventually just gave up. Try some Roberta Gellis or Martin Stephen instead.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Winter Study: An Anna Pigeon Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Nevada Barr
    • Narrated By Barbara Rosenblat
    Overall
    (555)
    Performance
    (190)
    Story
    (192)

    It is January, and Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is sent to Isle Royale in Lake Superior to learn about managing and understanding wolves, as her home base of Rocky Mountain National Park might soon have its own pack of the magnificent, much-maligned animals. But what was once an idyllic refuge becomes a place of unnatural occurrences and danger beyond the ordinary.

    W. Black says: "Perhaps better than reading it"
    "Enjoyable, but . . ."
    Overall

    An enjoyable enough listen, but, like the last few Nevada Barr mysteries getting just a bit 'samey' plot wise. As per usual: a remote wilderness, endangered by bureaucrats, a murderer among an isolated group, Barr's heroine Anna Pigeon is horribly threatened but juuuust manages to overcome the baddie and survive. Sigh. Nice vivid wilderness descriptions though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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