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!
It's rare when books in a series get better and better after the author's initial foray into the characters, but not so for this series. This 4th (and so far, last) installment delves deeper into Cole's reaction to the fatal shooting of his former lover as well as his need for and commitment to Jae-min. The narrator brings so much to the story, I can't imagine what I would think of the books, how Cole would sound in my head, if I had read them instead of listened to them. I sure hope there are plans for more of this sexy series!
I enjoyed the "Dirty" series very much and so I looked forward to this other series but after listening to this first one, I don't plan to listen to the rest. I found the "Dirty" books sexy, funny portrayals of great characters in realistic story lines. I found Sinner's Gin to be schmaltzy, predictable and one-dimensional. It's not that I hated it, it just wasn't as good, and so, by comparison, it sucked. Like the "Dirty" books, there is one character with an accent, one skinny Asian loverboy, one strong cop type and a sympathetic female. As with that series, the murder mystery in this one is secondary to the relationship building of the main characters.
Also, the biggest issue MAY have been the narrator. Since I found him awful, I was never sure whether the lack of sexual appeal and the overall baseness of the story was simply that he couldn't (for me) portray these characters adequately or give them any realistic life. The characters are 25-30ish and the narrator's voice sounded 50. The story has a cop with an Irish accent and one with a Latino one. The narrator does the accents well but he sometimes talked in one accent when it was the other character talking (and sometimes did no accent when it was a character who had one). He did not alter his voice to portray the emotions of a situation, with the exception of a few crying moments. The sex scenes? He read them as he read every other word, sentence, paragraph, not sexy at all!
If you have time and credits/money to spare, this book really isn't that bad, but if you are getting it just because you loved the author's other books (on audible) I suggest taking a sample listen before buying, or just passing this one up for something else.
Rhys Ford has such a way with words and, more than that, with using them to put you into the story. This installment was similar to the former two, no better, no worse. Definitely worth a credit if you have enjoyed those!
As I said in prior reviews, the reader has a peculiar lilt to his reading, but it fits the character and is easy to get used to. In this book, I thought he did a particularly good job with an emotional Jae-Min.
The story is the same every time: going to talk to all these people to figure out the crime, being in the wrong place at the wrong time a few times, and then the killer coming in from left field, being someone you could hardly have suspected due to what the writing does/does not let you see. But, hey, it works. I'm not reading this series for the mystery. I don't even like mysteries. I like good characters and love stories, and get that here!
That doesn't sound like the best headline, unless you know these stories and this reader, in which case you know you will get a detailed account of a few months on the lives of Jamie, Claire and their friends and family, read by a reader whose character voices put you right into the story. This book involves some marriages, some coming to terms with who you are and some more info on how the time travel aspect may function (still not a lot of real info on that topic). One review I read before purchasing said the book had too much of reviewing plot developments in former books. It did, but for me, that was welcomed as I tend to forget things. If you've enjoyed all the other books in this series, you'll enjoy this one. If you haven't yet read/listened to them, you should start at the beginning.
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.
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).
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