I love Bryce Courtenay as an author and the prose of this book is often very beautiful and vivid, as I've come to expect from him. The narrator is also excellent, keeping the various voices and accents consistent and reading with feeling. So why three stars? I just didn't enjoy the story very much. [Warning: Minor spoilers.] The heroine of the book is a strong, likable woman. As the story moves forward, one bad event after another befalls her. I really wanted her to catch a break at some point, but for the most part the story starts out depressing and stays sad all the way through. I've heard conflicting reports of whether it's based on a true story or not. Either way it's a remarkable tale of human perseverance in a harsh world. I am not one of those people who needs every story to end happily with the bad guys brought to justice and the good guys rich and content, but there is very little happiness in this book from start to finish. If you don't mind that kind of thing, it's a well-written and narrated book, but ultimately it just kind of bummed me out. Incidentally, if you stumbled across this book without first reading The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, I would HIGHLY recommend you go read that one instead.
I am a huge fan of the Outlander series. This story was not bad, Diana Gabaldon is a good storyteller, but it is not an Outlander book, it belongs to the Lord John series of books. It even has the same narrator as the Lord John series, not the narrator of the Outlander books. Since I have not read the Lord John books, the story was a novella about characters I didn't know (aside from Lord John). I kept waiting for it to come around to the Outlander storyline, but it never did. I assume they called it an "Outlander" novella since that series is more popular than the Lord John series, but I feel that doing that is a misleading way to try to encourage sales.
This is an interesting and engaging story which contains profound insight into the lives of illegal immigrants working in the USA. It doesn't feel so political that it's preachy and because the story is entertaining and multi-dimensional, it would be a good read for anyone, regardless of their point of view. The main character is relatable and flawed, but still sympathetic. I did have a couple of problems with the plot - I won't go into detail so as to not give spoilers, but there were some flimsy choices by everyone involved, but especially the main character, that I find it hard to believe any halfway intelligent person would make. My other main problem is that I don't speak Spanish and not all the Spanish language was translated, leaving me feeling that I was missing things on occasion, but they were not crucial to the story and were perhaps intentional to cause the reader to relate to a situation that many non-native-English speakers surely encounter daily. With those caveats, it's a thought-provoking book that captivated my attention from start to finish.
I don't generally like "self-help" type books, but since this was a gift from Audible (i.e. free) and I'm in a serious relationship, I gave it a go. To my surprise, I enjoyed the book quite a bit and found many things I can use. It focuses on avoiding pitfalls in relationships, including falling into (or staying in) the wrong relationship for you and escalating problems instead of resolving them, all from the point of view of the type of attachment profile of the people in the relationship. At first I found the premise to be somewhat commonsensical, but as the explanations progressed, I found myself often thinking "a ha, I never thought of it that way." Although I felt the book over-simplified some interactions, it is a good jumping off point for any readers who have had relationship problems or find themselves occasionally thinking something like, "How the heck did this argument start, I didn't do anything wrong?" To be honest, a lot of the information was not really relevant to my romantic relationship, but it did have tips I can use with my partner and much of what they discuss can also be applied to the other important relationships in your life (friends, family, coworkers). Prepare to find yourself not only evaluating your own attachment profile, but looking around at the interactions of others with a new perspective.
I enjoyed this story very much. I love to listen to stories about people carving their own place in nature and their adventures, successes, and problems. The story made me want to move to Alaska and try my own hand at building a cabin... until I remembered I'm more a car-camping type of person. I have two criticisms: 1. I didn't love the narrator, but he was okay, it's not something that detracted from my enjoyment, I just think there could be someone better. 2. I'd like to see ALL Audible books that have photo sections come with a pdf of the photos the way Bossypants and some others do. It's frustrating to know there are photos out there, but have to search on the web and hope you're finding the right ones.
For much of my life I have liked Card's sci fi, but these will be the last of his books I read. I do not want to support the type of homophobic prosthelytizing present in this book. I have known for a number of years that Card was a Mormon and although I disagree with many teachings of that church, I do not mind having a difference of opinion with someone as long as they don't shove it down my throat. This book crosses the line. It's not just a distaste for same-sex attraction - he very clearly endorses the ex-gay movement wherein gay people are reformed to live a "normal" heterosexual lifestyle (a pseudo-therapy which has been proven to be extremely psychologically damaging). One male character even admits to having been attracted to men and then reveals that his life has been made worthwhile because he has turned away from his "perversion" and married a woman with whom he will try to have children to redeem his life. I'm not reading between the lines and this is not just the viewpoint of one character in the book - the message is presented as inescapable fact that all of the characters must embrace in order to have fulfilling lives. Again and again Card speaks of how every man should find a woman and life is without value unless you have children to pass on your genetic material. It is a major plot point. Meanwhile, two teenagers well below the age of consent (I believe they're 13 or 14) marry and have children, which seems to be not just fine, but desirable in Card's universe.
I can't believe that Card took a sci fi (not a religion) book in such a strongly religious direction, potentially alienating a large fan base. I can't believe that the publisher let him do it. If Card wants to write essays or novels on religious doctrine, by all means, he should do so, but he should not embed them in a totally unrelated book, one whose characters we've grown to care so he hopes we'll keep reading. It's akin to a friend suddenly asking if you have a moment to talk about Jesus Christ and when you say no he tells you anyway. The repeated assertions that gay is bad and only through heterosexual marriage and lots of kids can your life be worthwhile is offensive to me and even if it weren't, it is unnecessary and distracting to the story. I hope that potential readers notice, as I did not, the reviews discussing the strongly homophobic agenda in this book before buying it. (Incidentally, several reviews have referred to the book as anti-gay-marriage... Card's message is more encompassing than a discussion of equal rights, he preaches the perversion of any same-sex attraction, period.)
Potential readers - I understand the desire to know what happens to these characters you've come to know over the past several books and if you absolutely must find out what happens in the rest of the Ender series, I suggest you borrow the books or try to buy them somewhere used or even read a summary. Don't buy the books new or on audio and give more money directly to Card and this publisher because that implies we're okay with the prosthelytizing Card has taken to injecting where it does not belong.
I loved Ender's Game and am now re-reading the whole series in audio format. It's great to see the same story from the perspective of a different character. Bean, in particular, is a very interesting character. Learning about his background, where he came from and what made him who he is, really fleshes out the story. Much of the book takes place exactly overlapping Ender's Game, but Bean's life is so different and Card's storytelling is so good that it doesn't feel at all duplicative, even though I reread the two books right after each other in this go-around. I particularly liked things like *mild spoiler alert* how we find out that some of the things that were done to Ender by the teachers were actually thought out by Bean.
My only complaint is that Card seems to try almost too hard in spots to differentiate Bean's understanding of events that happened in both books from the viewpoint of Ender. He occasionally took things that Bean said or did, and injected ulterior motives on Bean's part that seemed a little forced, like no event could ever have been viewed the same by both Ender and Bean. This often took the form of a statement or action by Bean having actually been perfidy or sarcasm that Ender didn't catch on to. This process made Bean a little less-likable, as if he were constantly throwing barbs at Ender and Ender just didn't notice. Every once in a while I'd have liked to see Bean's recollections of a situation be the same as Ender's because in real life, sometimes everyone has the same understanding of what's going on and that's fine.
Despite that complaint, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book and adds a new and interesting dimension to the story of told in Ender's Game. Incidentally, Card speaks at the end of the book (it's nice to hear the author's own voice on audiobooks and I always like it) and says that without Ender's Shadow, a movie of Ender's Game wouldn't really be possible and that a movie version would bounce the story back and forth between the two books to handle some of the difficulties of telling the story from Ender's viewpoint alone. I don't entirely understand the difficulties he speaks of, even though he tries to explain, but regardless, if adding Bean's perspective makes an Ender's Game movie more likely, that's another plus for this book, in my opinion.
I loved Ender's Game - I read it first many years ago and recently got the audiobook to re-read. Then I decided to re-read the whole series while I was at it. Overall this is a great addition to the Enderverse and I liked hearing about what happened with all the characters I'd grown to love from Battle School, but I have two complaints:
First, as many others have noted, the production of this audiobook is really poor. It is riddled with pronunciation problems, even with the word "hegemon" (which is in the title) and with the name of one of the main characters, "Achilles" (how it's pronounced - English or French - is an important plot point to show if a character actually knows Achilles and it's often done wrong in this book). In some spots a different person has dubbed the correct pronunciation of hegemon into the audio, which is possibly more annoying than just dealing with the wrong pronunciation. The audio quality is overall bad - differences in volume and some garbled speech, etc. The voice actor casting are also not great. In particular, whoever reads for Peter's POV sounds about 70 years old, even though Peter is supposed to be quite young. This is a relatively expensive audiobook given that it was released more than a decade ago and I expected better.
Second, there were a few problems in the story itself. For instance, there's a lengthy portion of the book where they talk about Ender's childhood home, but they're in the wrong city - Ender's family moved from the home he grew up in and this was discussed at length in earlier Ender books. I do believe this was caught and remedied in a later version of the book (which just underscores the need for a newer audio version). I also thought that there were portions of the book that were a bit too long or too preachy, etc., and were both unnecessary and out of character in the story. This is is a problem I've often noticed in subsequent books from a highly successful author - it's like editors no longer take the red pen to texts in the same way they would with new authors.
Despite the problems noted above, if you liked Ender's Game (and other books in the series), this is a worthwhile read. I'd recommend you skip this audiobook, though, and read the newest paper version, which wouldn't suffer from the poor audio production and would also have corrections of some errors that made it into the first edition of this book.
I'm always in search of the longest audiobooks I can find, since I usually read both my credits' worth before the end of the month. At almost 47 hours, this one fit the bill and had excellent reviews so I gave it a shot even though I wasn't familiar with the author or book. I'm glad I did. The book (I think it was originally 3 books in Japan) kept me absorbed from beginning to end. It's a very unique idea and I loved the story-within-a-story aspect. Interestingly, nearly all the characters are kind of one-dimensional, from a traditional literary point of view. The characters don't change much from the beginning to the end, which is something I was always taught to avoid in writing, but it works here because (without giving spoilers) the story itself changes around the characters. Instead of the world being stable and the characters moving through it, the characters are the fixed point of reference. Because it's just a little off traditional storytelling techniques, it makes the story feel unique above and beyond the plot itself.
The writing is also vivid and excellent. It's the type of writing where you have to pause occasionally and really take in a phrase that hits you just the right way. Another reviewer commented on the phrase "shaken his heart from a strange angle," which is one that I loved, too. I was also very taken with the phrase "Bright words make the eardrums vibrate brightly." It's such an odd phrase, when looked at literally, but you instinctively know what it means. The whole book is peppered with that kind of language. The author, obviously, takes primary responsibility for this, but the translators also did a great job. I'm not really sure how the translation process works, but I suspect there were spots where they added small explanations to ease the reading of unfamiliar concepts. They also did a great job with the occasional idiom or slang word. It was so well-done that I felt less culture-shock than I have with some books that are written in English to begin with. (There's a bonus interview with the narrators at the end if you want to hear their perspective.)
There are a couple of things that I disliked. The first was, as others have mentioned, the female narrator. It was kind of bizarre - when she is voicing the main character she does fine. She has a pleasant voice that effectively conveyed emotion. When she was voicing some of the other characters, however, it's almost like instead of changing the timbre of her voice she just changed how slowly she talked. The elderly dowager, in particular, sounded similar to a computer reading text. Her speech was very slow, oddly emphasized, and emotionless. In some books with a narrator that talks too slowly I just speed up the playback, but it wasn't possible since the slow alternated with normal speech. My other complaint is that I would have liked it to be about 30 minutes longer and tell us what happened concerning a few supporting plotlines. I'm not saying that every loose end needs to be tied up - I think this is a cultural thing because I've noticed that American books and movies tend to completely resolve all stories and foreign ones don't... I ordinarily accept it as part of the style. But the way it was written, several secondary storylines were building towards a climax and then just disappeared. It felt like when you think you're going to sneeze and then you don't. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll give a made up example: It would be like saying that someone's dog had run away and they got a call from the pound saying there was a dog that might be theirs so they get in the car and go to the pound, and then the story switches to another character and never comes back to tell you if the dog was theirs or not.
Despite my two small complaints, the book is undoubtedly one of the best I've listened to recently and (especially if you like long books) you should not hesitate before getting and reading this book!
I'm a big fan of historical fiction - you get a great story as well as some education. This title is a great addition to that genre. I had to start it twice... sometimes a book just doesn't grip me from the outset and I have to come back to it once I have time to really concentrate on the first hour and get invested. I could imagine that some people might find it a little slow - if you like 200 page mystery or thriller stories, this is probably not the book for you. Likewise, if you can't deal with a story that is not always moving chronologically forward you might want to think twice. The story is rich and interesting, but takes time to fully mature. Many times the author introduces uncertainty into the plot; the main character (and therefore the reader) doesn't have all the facts. Rest assured that all is answered in the fullness of time.
The book's characters are very authentic - slightly flawed, not always entirely likable - which makes the story so realistic that I had to check at one point and make sure it was fiction. While this story itself is invented, the historical background (both of Ethiopia and of medical science) was quite well researched. Without giving spoilers, the medical aspects deviate from real life at the end of the book, but I still learned a lot about medicine in the process. I had never heard anything on the history of Ethiopia and was glad to add that background to my knowledge-base, too.
As with all of the Molly Harper books I've read, this is not a great work of literature, but it is very enjoyable to read due to the author's dry sense of humor and great, realistic dialogue. The theme (werewolfs passing as humans) and storyline (human/werewolf love + person terrorizing town) are not terribly original, but if you like that kind of book, this is a good addition to the genre. This is a quick, fun read that would be especially good while on vacation or not in the mood to think too hard.
By the way, I enjoyed the sequel to this book, The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf, more than this one so if you read and like this, consider getting that one, too.
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