Member Since 2010
I have lost count of the number of Austen adaptations I have seen/heard and never get tired of hearing another. I am quite a fan of Miriam Margolyes and had high expectations for this dramatized version of P&P, and as such it is with the greatest disappointment that I declare that I want the last 2 hours and 4 minutes of my life back!
Within the first 10 minutes of this version I was aware of the fact that it was going to fall far short of my expectations, but I listened all the way to the end out of pure stubbornness, just so I could give a thorough and comprehensive review. It was like driving past a car accident - I didn't want to listen to it all, but morbid curiosity had me listening to the very end.
I can appreciate and do not begrudge them the parts of the story that were trimmed, this is part and parcel of abridged versions (and the reason I give the story 3 stars), but the acting! Oh the acting was atrocious. I actually paused part way through to see if the acting company was associated with Lampoons, it was so over-driven and hammed up. I was most definitely groaning out loud at the disgrace of it several times. I, like others who have reviewed before me, am not an Austen purist, but this is so far past impure and on the road to rotten that there is nothing to recommend it beyond the name of the author and the merit of the original story. Save yourself the agony and go find a BBC dramatization - I'm off to do that right now to wash the remnants of that nightmarish performance from my mind.
It's never fair coming down off a truly fabulous read onto a new author and new series. Leaping from well developed characters and an intimate knowledge of the story-verse into unfamiliar territory is always going to take some time, and often make you feel disappointed in the new novel so I'm trying to pull my punch on this review a little knowing that I'm ja bit jaded (no pun intended!) at this point in time.
I feel that as a first novel this series has potential, and I will probably get the next book in the series when I have a spare credit lying around, to see if my suspicions are correct. And also to see if my apathy for the book is just "new series" syndrome.
In a market saturated with vampires, a novel with ghosts at least adds a different plethora of paranormal jargon to learn. Unfortunately I didn't really engage with many of the characters much, the lead was the weakest of them all - I felt that if the novel had been from the point of view of her new best friend it might have had more umph.
The narrator, Traci Odom, was mostly quite good, although some of her pronunciations bothered and distracted me a bit. (why do I do that? Fixate on a word they say wrong/weird, and then miss half the next sentence???). I also struggled with some of her more manly vocalisations, but overall enjoyed her performance and portrayal of the majority of the characters.
In summary, if you're looking for a light-hearted low-calorie read, this fits the bill. However, if you're looking for action and a gripping story line to drag you from book to book as fast as you can buy and download them, then perhaps try Kim Harrison (Rachel Morgan series - witch/vampire/fairy/demons), Jeaniene Frost (Cat Crawfield series - vampire/vampire hunter), Diana Rowland (Kara Gillian series - demons) or Kevin Hearne (Atticus O'Sullivan Iron Druid series - druid/faerie/witch/vampire/werewolf) for other options in the paranormal genre.
I didn't know it was possible for one person to feel so polarised about something. But I am!
Usually it requires two individuals of opposite opinions to polarise a subject, but somehow, after a couple of hours consideration I've decided I have very dichotomous views about this book. I loved some aspects and really quite disliked others. If I'm brutally honest, if this were a first book in a series, rather than the 20th (and therefore at a stage where I already have a deep connection with the characters) I'm not 100% certain I would have continued the series. I think this book is not a good introduction to Phryne for non-fans, and deviates a little from the perfected formula enough to perturb her loyal fans. It certainly won't make me throw down my Phryne Fisher Fan Club membership card in disgust, but it didn't make me feel like I needed to press "Play Again" as almost every other Phryne novel did.
On the one hand I loved the return of Phryne, as I knew I would. And Phryne was as she ever was; fun and sassy, and meddlesome in her very enjoyable way, and Stephanie Daniel's narration was stellar as always. I also enjoyed the Sherlock-ian story line. By its very nature, a Sherlock theme is not original, but Kerry does a wonderful job of portraying a Sherlock as SHE imagines him (fans of the BBCs Sherlock will have no trouble imagining BC in the role of Rupert). And I think her style of book really has been begging for the opportunity to take a dig at the Sherlock method, so I enjoyed this aspect of the novel immensely. I also thought that the back story of the things Phryne got up to during the war were great, if a little "out of the blue".
Regarding the the bits I did not enjoy (as much): I, like many other readers, was disappointed with the increase in the detailed sex scenes, scenes that I only appreciate listening to when they add to the context of the story. As many of the scenes were filler, (likewise the increase in Phryne's inner dialogue regarding handsome men she'd like to "tumble") I found these scenes to detract from the story rather than add to it. Don't get me wrong - Kerry manages to sound more tasteful than any other author I've read who includes these sorts of scenes, but even done tastefully it didn't interest me. All that said - one presumes that she is under pressure from publishers to include/increase this sort of content as there has a been a HUGE surge in adult content books in the last 2 years, and I suppose the publishers must feel that these sorts of scenes have become necessary to maintain sales, because Kerry has never furnished her novels with such a quantity of "romance" before. In reality, accumulated they account for less than 30 minutes of an 11.5 hour story, so not really voluminous, just more than necessary.
The mystery... well, the mystery was much more the sideline story here than the driving plot line. After I got over waiting for a cracker mystery to unfold, and simply sat back to enjoy the character/Sherlock story line, I enjoyed the book a lot more. In this case, the mystery is just like starch, or emulsifiers in chocolate - necessary to bind the story as a whole and bulk it up a bit, but not really important to your enjoyment of the book. If you go in with low mystery expectations, and simply aim to enjoy the characters you'll feel less disappointed with this book.
On a final note, in a previous review for Unnatural Habits I mentioned that I thought Kerry had done a fantastic job of maintaining the character of Phryne, and she still portrayed a wonderful Phryne in this novel (if more sexy) - for me I felt that this book demonstrated a character change in another key character, and one wonders if a little of the TV show portrayal of said character has rubbed off on Kerry and altered her representation of them? After all, she writes for the TV show as well, so such a change would be understandable. I won't say any more to bias you, listen and see for yourself. After all, it is still a Phryne novel, still an enjoyable listen, and I still recommend it, despite the negative aspects commented here.
All good books should have a little of everything - humour, fear, grief, relaxation and exhilaration. And this book has all those in spades.
I have to say, I've got a bit of a lady-crush on Phryne. She's the kind of gal you love to love. Wild and chic, tough and compassionate, feisty and laid back. She has a wardrobe I'd love to own; a collection of lovers I doubt I could say no to, a butler who makes cocktails I dream about tasting, but most importantly, she always gets her bad guy.
Considering the number of years over which the character of Phryne has strutted her stuff (from 1989 when Cocaine Blues was published, to now in Unnatural Habits), I am continually amazed at how true Kerry stays to her character. Very few authors have the ability to delineate such a clear and resonating character who is maintained in all their glory from book 1 to book 19; especially when the dates of publication span more than 2 decades! But Phryne is just as lustrous a character in book 19 as she was in book 1; not a jot of her wit, passion or intelligence has dulled over time. And while she has grown as a person, there have been no jarring changes in personality traits to disrupt the beautiful flow of the series.
Like many others, I was introduced to Phryne via the Australian ABC TV series, and as someone who has rarely ventured out of the classical literature and fantasy/sci-fi genres, these books have blown me away, and as usual, upon reaching the end of the book I bemoaned the need to wait for however long for the next to be published!
The content of this story line provided ample opportunity for Phryne's strengths and weaknesses to be amplified. With a darker tone to the mystery placed before her, and more at stake than just finding a killer to be brought to justice; the achingly intense sense of futility that Phryne feels as she works her way through this case is very poignant, and cannot fail to strike a sympathetic chord with the listener.
Stephanie Daniels is, as ever, the perfect Phryne. Just as Kerry has remained true to the Phryne character over years of development, Stephanie has also maintained such a solid consistency over the duration of the recordings that each character is instantly identifiable from book to book. She is a pleasure to listen to.
I heartily recommend this book - and if you haven't read the others in the series before it, you won't be disappointed with those either, and I do suggest reading them first. Although each book is a complete story in its own right, there are certain aspects of the storyline that carry over from previous books in the series, that although not necessary to the overall understanding of this book, will certainly enhance your enjoyment of it.
This was the book that began my audiobook infatuation, and it was the perfect introduction to a love affair that looks set to go the distance. After having read the first 5 books in paperback I stumbled across Audible and this recording when looking for the best buy for purchasing book 6.
I fell in love with Simon Vance's glorious voice, and the soundscape he painted was perfect for all the characters and scenes I had already developed in my mind. His voice is rich and melodious, and his characters are properly distinguishable by voice alone. How a man with such a rich baritone voice can pull off a female treble without sounding foppish continues to amaze me. Too many male readers fall back on horrible, generic falsetto voices for all female characters, but not so with Simon, even the female voices are excellent and don't have that grating, distracting edginess of so many male readers that can often distract from the storyline. His verbal skills are impressive to say the least!
Aside from the performance, this is a wonderful addition to the series, in the crossover genre of fantasy/lit, this series would definitely be my favourite. I agree with others that this individual book did not seem drive Temeraire and Lawrence through such crazy adventures as previous novels, but as it is not the final volume in the series I was not disappointed. Sometimes it is about the journey and not the destination, and even fantasy characters deserve to have a vacation from their frantic lives to give us the opportunity to enjoy their character development as the primary objective. Despite the change in tone from previous novels in the series, I still really enjoyed this instalment in the saga of Temeraire and eagerly await the next.
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