I expected a sensual love story taking place in Japan. What I got was a quasi spy novel with strong character development dotted throughout with excellent tidbits about people, governments, life choices, etc.
I say quasi-spy story because there is no actual espionage nor any mystery here about who did what and why to whom. However, the main character is a spy (now retired) and the majority of the book is about how he became that (backstory) and what he's going to do now with one last job plopped on his plate (the rest of the story).
The author has been admonished in some of the low-rated reviews for bashing Western societies and elevating Eastern and I can certainly say that there is fodder for that view in the book, its' just that I tend to actually agree with the author's poor view of industrialized, materialistic society (while I live nicely within it........). I found many lines and discussions that were so insightful I wanted to stop the recording and write them down (did not do, but should). I looked the author up on Wikipedia, after all, how could I not be intrigued by an author with only one name, obviously just a pen name? He is a intellectual, a professor, that indeed did "check out" of US society in favor of Europe, but he does not sound angry just realistic (to me).
My favorite aspect of the book was the insights. The narrator did a fine job, creating a different voice for different characters and I especially like the voice he chose for the main character as an adult. The story was unsurprising and incredibly long and involved but not bad.
I think you will enjoy this book if you enjoy learning how WW2 affected China and Japan (from an individual's point of view) and if you like a trained assassin with a heart who turns out to be the good guy (and if you don't mind FBI being the bad guys).
This is the second book in the series that I read and I did not enjoy it nearly as much as the first, Dex in Blue. I really felt for Dex and his lover but Ethan's story did not grab me as much. Both of them are soul-searching young adult men coming to understand their place in the world, how to be adult men who can get and deserve what they want, and I loved that aspect in both books. However, I really understood Dex and his reasons for having reservations about accepting himself whereas I didn't resonate with Ethan's I'm sure that is just me and my own, personal, psychology or experience and that it may well be the reverse for other readers....which is to say, I don't thing the writing fell short.
My same criticism of the narrator applies to this book as well: His voice is more mature than the characters' and he at times adapts a childish voice that is just wrong for him and makes the character sound silly. He is a fine reader, gets the inflections and emotions right, but he makes the other main character, Ethan's lover, sound like a pimple-faced nerd, which makes is not easy to the attraction for Ethan, let alone allows you to feel the depth of that character's already-adult feelings about himself (so he can be a guide and light for Ethan).
For those who like to know, there are explicit sex scenes. I found them to be sexy, important to the story development (not just gratuitous) and one of the reasons to keep listening to an otherwise just ok story.
The story is about a young gay man who comes to understand who is he and what it will take to get out of life what he wants and deserves. It is not a heavy or deep story, but accurate and meaningful in terms of the feelings and growth involved. You will come to love both the main characters as well as the background ones, who each have their own book in the series.
My only criticism is the reader. His voice seems more mature than the characters' ages are supposed to be. At times he adopts a childish lilt/tone to account for that or differentiate between different character's voices. Also, one of the main characters has an LA Mexican way of talking that the narrator can't quite pull off (mainly to the aforementioned childish lilt, which makes the character sound like a whiny child). I did, however, get used to his voice and found that it didn't detract so much as it left me just wishing it were different/better.
This is the first book in this series that I listened to. I don't know if it's the first in the series or not, but it was not a problem coming on board with this one. For those who wish to know, there are explicitly written sex scenes and I found them well-done, grounded in the story-characters (not gratuitous) and exciting.
I gave Dirty Kiss only 4 stars in all categories but moved it up to 5 for this book. Was it really that much better? No. I think I just got more into the characters. That, however, is no small achievement, since many times the later novels don't live up to the first in the series.
I found some parts of this story to be a little more dull than the duller parts of the first novel but the emotional scenes (and not just the sex scenes, which ARE emotional and not gratuitous at all), cut much deeper than in the first, so it's a fine trade-off.
I can't wait for the third, and I haven't read even a 2nd book in my string of purchases in a long time. Great characters, great social commentary (subtly included), great narrator.
The author has crafted a well-written novel that is more of a week-long slice of life story than simply a m/m romance. There is, however, a sparking beginning of a relationship here..... you know: that time when you've just met and you get weak knees and can't think about anything else. And sexual relations of a fairly explicit nature are part of that, for sure, but these scenes are merely part of what's going on in the days and nights of the main character in this first-person narrative. They fit into the entirety of the book seamlessly and are exciting.
The narrator purrs these scenes out rather then merely reads them. He also does a great job with the accents, not that I know what a Korean accent really sounds like, but the narrator gives the various people different voices, plausibly Asian.
As for the mystery aspect, I am not a mystery-genre person in general, but the mystery in this story took a back seat, again, to the slice of life aspect, so it worked for me. I don't want to figure out "who dunnit," I just want a good listen and that's what I got with this book.
I often don't order the second book in a series even when I enjoyed it because I want to sample around. however, the follow up to Dirty Kiss is downloading as I write this. I think it's due to the excellent writing and likable characters. The only reason I didn't give it 5 starts all around is that I reserve that for the books you want to read over and over, the ones that are destined to become classics in your personal library.
I am a female who dabbles in martial arts for kicks (ha ha) and who also enjoys sci-fi as well as romance novels, so that tells you that this reader is not a macho male martial arts nut nor a die-hard sci-fi nut. I liked the book but I think it was lighter fare than the aforementioned "nuts" would find interesting.
There really wasn't much mystery or strategizing. There was romance but the scenes ended just short of graphic description (which to me was a disappointment). The sci-fi was not science-based or realistic at all in terms of flitting among the planets, but in terms of what humans might do with a little more technology to misuse, it was interesting.
The writing was insightful and well-paced just not deep (nor too light). The reader did a good job and did not distract from the story.
This book was my type of book....after all, who buys one of these without wanting to read them! But I mean not only is it the genre that I like, it was a book within the genre that I actually cared for. I did not find it cheesy or too light or too ....... anything. It was just a good romance that happened to be between two guys. It was about am I right for this relationship? Am I doing the right thing for myself? For the other? Am I enough or not of what they need? You know, all that self-questioning and worry we get as we delve into a relationship.
The sex scenes were explicit and well-written as part of the story not as THE story. In other words, not just gratuitous sex scenes, but rather they were moments that showed you something about a character's mind or feelings or moved the story along (for the most part).
The story was well written and thoughtful but predictable,,,,,,but who cares, it's pleasure reading not deep meaning time or literature class.
The only complaint I have is that the narrator chose unappealing voices for all characters except the Duke. He gave the love interest an accent that I thought made him sound dumb and uneducated and unattractive. He also gave a similar voice as either the Duke or his love interested to all other characters (they were all minor characters) and so sometimes it was hard to tell who was speaking. Also, the characters were 20-somethings and the narrator sounds considerably older. The narrator did a fabulous job with getting emotions, intonations and the sighs and curses spewing from all those hot and heavy moments spot-on.
Fantasy is not my favorite genre. I do not like Tolkein or dragon-y stories. I do, however, like coming of age stories, stories of kids growing into roles or powers they were unaware they had, stories with social/political issues to be dealt with and stories with a hero fighting for good against evil. Star Wars, for example.
Ok, so now that you know what I like, I can say that this was a beautifully written book with a contrived world that is believable and very well-drawn characters that you really care about.. There are no faeries, elves or dragons or creatures. There is no magic but there is a power that these humans have that we don't, IF they can learn to tap into it. There are issues about power and politics aplenty. There is not a lot of action in this story. I saw one reviewer noted that it was therefore boring but to me the interpersonal relationships were the story. So, if you're looking for adventure and swashbuckling, look elsewhere.
The narrator is good enough. He didn't vary his voice much between characters and so sometimes I had difficulty telling who was speaking, but the authors writing always cleared that up really fast, as if it were written for such confusing audio issues, but it was not, of course. The narrator brings the right emotions in, the right pauses and sighs in...you know, just that extra touch that brings the story to life. The voice is of a much older man than the boy, pre-teen and teen in the story, but it is written as the character is reflecting back on this time from an older point of view, so it works.
Overall, solid writing, enjoyable listen.
I don't normally read spy novels, but I love James Bond and Mission Impossible movies, and hubby and I were going to be listening on a road trip, so I opted for this book that sounded part spy novel, part romance.
It is written by a real intelligence agent apparently, and I can believe it, as the book had amazing details about how spies move, think, operate. These details made the story richer and fascinating, in my opinion.
The romance was definitely in there, but the reason I can't call the story really a romance has to do with the way the book was written: There is little dialogue, with the narrator telling you what characters are doing, feeling, thinking. That, plus the narrator's even, cool tone of voice kept the reader/listener at more of a distance. The romance was one aspect among many in the plot, no more no less.
I got caught up in the story because of the author's ability to build the characters (and fast!) and to make you feel you're right there. I think the story was somewhat predictable, which is strange for a spy novel (and to a newbie spy reader at that) but that did not detract at all from wanting to know the details of how it was going to play out.
I'm not sure how to rate the narrator, whether it was his reading or the author's "voice" (style of writing) coming through. The narrator was easy to understand and got inflections right on emotions when there was dialogue but overall he used an almost monotone or rather mono-emotion delivery with a cadence and pacing that was superimposed almost over the story. It did not detract from nor aid the story. In a way, it was perfectly fitting that it was cold ad distant, seeming to just "tell it like it is." Was his voice entertaining, no.
One issue I had with the audible experience was that the author tended to start chapters with this format: Mr. Smith, seeing that it was noon, headed out and.....That's not from the book! But starting the chapter with a name, and often the name is Russian and they all sound the same to me, means that I don't hear it at first and then a sentence or two later I'm wondering who is doing the action. In a printed book you can go back and look (and I also have a good visual memory) but you can't do that with an audible version (hard to find the right place to go back to) so at times I just had to listen and work it out.
Both hubby and I looked forward to getting back in the car after a pit stop to hear what happened next, so it worked great for our road trip!
I am not a Steven Pressfield person, didn't even really know who he was before I looked him up after ordering this book, but I wanted to read an artist's thoughts on creating art, and how hard it can be; I didn't care who the artist was. However, the book turns out to be very much from a male, former marine, do it or die point of view (the author's background). There was much in the book that I could identify with and I really loved the first part, which is on how to overcome resistance to working. What artist is there who doesn't find everything and anything else to do other than the work of their favorite yet most challenging thing? There were a lot of stories and insights about it that I could "take away" to use in real life. The last part was supposed to be transcendent, tying together philosophy, science and religion. It didn't work for me because I don't share his religious views, but his points were not radical or strange. I believe there is some useful info in here for everyone, at some point in their creative life. The reader did an excellent job, but he sounded all too tough and male and that probably made me feel separate (being female).
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