I've lost count of the times I've read the Hobbit, but picked it up on audio with the deal of day. What a delight! I'm so happy to add this to my audio library now. The master, JRR Tolkien never fails to enchant and this is a really nicely done audio with the songs actually sung and special, fitting voices for the sweet, the mysterious, and the scary inhabitants of Middle Earth. If you have read it before, try it again on audio. If you haven't read it, why not???? Great for audiences of any age.
I haven't read a lot of Stephen King because I am not a big fan of the horror genre, but when King goes a little easier on the adrenaline pump, I really like his writing and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is one of those. How do you make 9 days in the life of a lost 9 year old engrossing? King does it by creating a character who is not only likable, but charmingly flawed, and totally believable and he sends this character on an emotional and spiritual journey at the same time she must find her way back in the very real physical world. The baseball metaphor and Anne Heche's truly brilliant performance further enhance the narrative. This one will stick with me.
I had to use this line from the book as the title of my review because, a. it's funny and will give you an idea of the ironic/sardonic tone of the book, b. it conveys the "every man" status of the protagonist, Mike Ross, who recognizes this sentiment when he gets the brush-off.. Mike acquires a "gift" to see ghosts and interact with them via a cornea transplant following major injuries in the Iraq war. Mike not only has war wounds to overcome, but he's short, broke, and uneducated. He'd like to use his new abilities to make some money, but his efforts, while useful in protecting the living and assisting the dead, almost never pan out with much moolah. And Mike's new talents greatly hamper his love life and family relationships (see title above) so ultimately, this guy is no Gary Stu! After listening 1/2 way to two books (one sci-fi, one fantasy) in a row where the primary protagonist was all that and a bag of chips (Atlas/Adonis rolled into one, every woman falls at his feet, yada, yada), I was thrilled to pieces to meet Mike Ross; a guy who doesn't get anything for free and yet keeps trying - my kind of hero.
In this urban noir fantasy, Jim Bernheimer not only provides some realistic living men and women, he borrows from the gangster and Civil War eras to populate the world with some memorable ghostly characters. This is a fast paced adventure that stands well on it's own, but definitely made me want to read the sequels.
Jeffrey Kafer does a great job at invoking the dry, wry tone of the noir story and provides good characters voices as well. Nice performance!
Some reviewers have compared this to Dresden, but Dead Eye actually reminded me more of the nicely done Felix Castor series by Mike Carey. If you like urban noir, if you enjoy a hero who's only human, if you like your ghosts to have a bit of moxie, and if you like a bit of history thrown into your fantasy fiction, you'll like Dead Eye.
Our Lady of the Islands was a real breath of fresh air. Two central protagonists, both female and both middle-aged and these two women wrestle with the common problems of many of us in the middle while engaged in an enthralling fantasy adventure. Sian Katte is a successful business woman with grown children and grandchildren; Arian is the wife of the Factor (leader of the Islands Nation, Alizar). Sian is thrust into a mission for the butchered god which leads her to cross paths with Arian. The two women not only must deal with political and religious factions that stand in the way of their goals, but also deal with all the same issues that most of us in the middle years grapple with:
When passion dies down, will friendship and respect sustain the marriage commitment?
Evolving relationships with adult children
Juggling professional and personal priorities
What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose?
Evolving relationships with adult siblings and other family members
Unlike so many fantasy novels, this is not a coming of age story and there is little romantic angst or impetuous or petulant behavior. The emotional conflict in the book is primarily the reassessment of spiritual, emotional, physical, and professional issues that most middle-aged people have to tackle. What makes the book rock, is that these women are going through their mid-life crises in the middle of a world in turmoil and while on the run so there is truly never a dull moment.
The prose in Our Lady is fluid, dialog rings true, and all the characters, male and female, are well drawn and believable. Allyson Johnson provides a good performance as the narrator.
Jay Lake died of cancer while working on this book with Shannon Page. I read that Shannon Page is continuing the sequel with another collaborator. Our Lady of the Islands stands well enough on its own, but I enjoyed it so much that I am looking forward to more.
No science fiction works without a great plot/concept driving it and The Three-Body Problem has zero problem on that score - an experiment, done out of a kind of desperation, actually results in first contact with an interstellar alien community and sets up a pending crisis. But even a great concept still needs good characters, setting, and fluid writing to make for a great sci-fi read.
I didn't have much trouble with setting. This first book of a trilogy draws on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, past and current geopolitics, and current and theoretical quantum physics to set the stage for the saga - interesting, with plenty of potential to sustain the trilogy. My only quibble with the setting used was with the sequences that take place within an on-line game. It is in the game that characters attempt to resolve the Three Body Problem and I found those segments of the book to be rather dull and confusing. No doubt some of the information in those sections will come into play in later books, but they read like bad dream sequences where you don't have any context to make sense of what is going on. And, there is no plot or character development happening during those passages so I just wasn't engaged during those sections.
The flow of the writing feels a bit choppy, but I would chalk that up to the fact that this is a translation. The translation seems pretty good in that the meaning is clear, but English and Chinese are such very different languages there is bound to be some loss of fluidity. Ultimately, my biggest difficulty with The Three-Body Problem is the characters. The book starts with Ye Wenjie during the Cultural Revolution and she is a very interesting character throughout the book and the only character that is ever really fleshed out. Much of the book is from the POV of Wang Miao, a character that gets little back story and is hard to connect with, and none of the other characters is more than sketched. The Aliens may have some potential in the sequels, but ruthlessness is about the only characteristic they show in this first book.
Luke Daniels does his normal phenomenal job of creating great character voices which is a huge help with a book with unfamiliar names and he adds much to making this a good listen.
Bottom line, The Three-Body Problem is challenging, but intriguing and I will listen to the sequels when Audible has them available.
He might well have twisted Russian folklore to tell a story much like Egg & Spoon - witty, charming, a little food for thought, and just plain fun. I don't know why this book is listed as "Teens" because like the best of "fairy tales" or fables, this is a fantasy yarn that could be enjoyed by any age listener and the ultimate hero is Baba Yaga (yes, you heard me, scary old Baba Yaga saves the day), who is ancient! The story is a bit slow picking up speed in the beginning as the characters are introduced, but gets fun and adventuresome fairly soon. I think if I had actually read the book, I would also think some of the length could be edited. However, listening to this book performed by Michael Page is a real delight - what an artist! So, the length in the audio book is not a problem. I'm SO glad Audible had this on a Daily Deal because the teen classification might have caused me to miss it otherwise.
I picked up "Paw Enforcement" on a Audible Daily Deal and it was just fine for the price. It's not a great book; the only character I really liked was Brigit, the dog, and much of the police procedural of the story doesn't ring true. However, the story is set in Fort Worth (a city I know well and is seldom used in fiction) and the author did a decent job of using the city in the story and portraying its personality accurately and I loved that she used a mutt as the police dog since most working dogs are purebreds, although many mutts have the potential. The author goes a little over the top on the snarkiness, but the story is entertaining and requires no major mind exertion so it makes for a good "beach read" - one of those books that works when you want totally passive entertainment. It's not as good as the Stephanie Plum books, but reminds me a bit of that series and might have some potential to get better. Coleen Marlo was OK as the narrator, but as another reviewer mentioned, she's a bit heavy handed with the sound effects.
I absolutely LOVED this little allegorical tale that reads like a regency story as told by Aesop. You really don't need any summary of this story; the plot is right out of Jane Austen with all the class consciousness, priggishness, and blatant sexism of 19th century England, but all the norms of behavior have been translated to dragonkind. In addition, Walton addresses servitude/slavery, religious influences (I loved the CofE and RC analogous dragon religions), and racism in a way that Austen never did. Like Austen's stories, "Tooth and Claw", is fun and entertaining with fabulous characters, subtle satire, and a very tidy ending. Unlike Austen, Walton exposes the truth of a highly dysfunctional and abusive society by using an animal illustration much like Aesop in his Fables. Philostratus said of Aesop, "...he by announcing a story which everyone knows not to be true, told the truth by the very fact that he did not claim to be relating real events." And indeed, Walton tells some great truth while she entertains us with dragons.
John Lee provides a wonderful performance of the story making this an all around terrific audiobook!
Jo Walton's murder mystery set in an alternate history Post-WWII England is a little unsatisfying since there a couple of "loose threads" and true justice is at best postponed. I would also argue a bit with the alternative history. In this version of World War II, the US never enters the war and Britain negotiates a peace settlement with Hitler to avoid invasion by the Germans. The chances that the Japanese would not have pulled the US into the war with attacks on China and the Philippines even if they had not hit Pearl Harbor are slim. (There's a reason all that Navy might was amassed at Pearl Harbor in the first place!) And the isolationists in the US would not have been able to hold out against the military-industrial complex (hence the Lend/Lease Act) forever. Having read the whole trilogy, I felt like Jo Walton's view of a alternate history reflected a rather Euro-centric point of view throughout and she discounts countries with vast natural resources and large populations like China, the US, and Russia and doesn't even address the enormous change in the world economy that oil and natural gas created. World War II may have marked the end of colonialism and the shift in world power, but the war was only one element of that change. Leaving that aside, I think this book and the series truly does succeed as a cautionary tale and gives the listener much to ponder.
The ineffable slide into Fascism that comes with great fear and ignorance in the citizenry at large can be seen everywhere - witness the Patriot act (the fear of terrorism negates the rights of the individual), or Russia having freed itself of communism, but still mired in regional/ethnic conflicts is now quickly sliding back into totalitarianism. Jo Walton's trilogy beautifully illustrates the poem, "First They Came" by Pastor Martin Niemöller. And whether or not you buy into this possible alternative to history, it is abundantly clear that a world where Hitler wasn't stopped would be ugly.
Walton's prose is very nice and she uses setting extremely effectively to help drive the plot. The city of London, the surrounding countryside (and its denizens), as well as the very class-conscious society all play a part in the tale. In each of the 3 books in the series, Walton tells the story from a woman's POV in first person and a man's POV in third person. The woman changes in each of the books while Detective Carmichael is in all three. John Keating and Bianca Amato both do nice turns in narrating alternate chapters of this first book. Amato is much better here than I've heard her before - no breath sounds - and her voice is perfect for Lucy.
I'm not sure Farthing would satisfy the true murder mystery aficionado, but if you enjoy the what-ifs of alternate history, or have an interest in WWII, you will probably find this book and the whole series worthwhile. You should know going in that this first book isn't really meant to stand alone. It has a rather disconsolate conclusion and the real story spans all 3 books in the trilogy.
I got Working Stiff on sale and for the sale price it was a decent buy. This non-fiction first person account of a young woman's introduction into a fascinating profession is quite interesting and occasionally even engaging, but it read like a story with unrealized potential. The narrative moves back and forth in time and is often disjointed. Some chapters are simply one case description after another; most have a brief explanation of the crime or death scene, a more detailed review of the autopsy, and little or no case resolution information particularly for the homicides. (Melinek repeatedly closes a story with, "I never knew what happened to so & so" or "I never learned if charges were filed".) Although I have spent my long career in technology, I have a degree in BioMedical Science so I enjoyed the autopsy detail (sounds way more interesting than straight on anatomy lab dissections), but I didn't learn much new and in giving the reader so little information on how the ME's findings are used, much of this seemed a bit purposeless. I realized that there's a good reason that famous fictional biological forensics (ie Quincy or Bones) is coupled with police and legal work. Who really cares that there's a notch on a bone if you don't know whether that info sent the bad guy to jail?
In addition, Melinek and her co-author husband, sort of randomly throw in information about her personal life with her husband and kids, but none of those pieces provides much enlightenment or enhances the narrative. It just makes the book seem even more disjointed and like the authors were searching for a unifying theme without success.
Tanya Eby did NOT help this audio book at all. Her voice is fine and since this is non-fiction, I think she'd have done better just reading it straight up. Unfortunately, she attempts to give characters unique voices and her voices (especially for men) are really bad and pull the listener out of the story. (Eby actually voiced one of the women using that awful made up "MidAtlantic" accent that was so popular in 1940's Hollywood!) And, although I can appreciate the difficulty of proper pronunciation for a book with MANY medical and biological terms, it's the narrator's job to get those right if that's what the author wrote. Eby frequently mispronounces words like ketamine and trabeculae.
Ultimately Working Stiff reads like it was written by someone who without choice became part of a world event and then capitalized on that tragedy to sell a book that doesn't really have anything unique or important to say about that event or about being a Medical Examiner. The book is too short in length and substance for me to recommend it at full price.
I totally love the irony of a book about werewolves, with featured parts for wolves, dogs, and coyotes written by a guy named Fox - canines rule! That was enough to pique my interest in this book, but I got much more fun than I bargained for. No Such Thing as Werewolves is properly designated Paranormal Fantasy (not only werewolves, but also hints of Zombies to come), but you could almost slot this in sci-fi since all the paranormal phenomenon is given scientific explanation drawing from various sciences - helio astronomy, archaeology, zoology, genetics, virology, and geology. Take that spicy mix and blend in a bit of ancient history, mythology, some great characters, a coming disaster, a little humor and a lot of suspense and you get a really entertaining and unique werewolf adventure.
The book takes a little time to set up the scenario and introduce characters, but once a major crisis occurs (about 2 and 1/2 hours in) it becomes really hard to stop listening as the tension continues to build and the explanations trickle in. The book ends on a cliffhanger and I'd bet virtually anyone who listens to book 1 is going to buy book 2.
Ryan Kennard Burke sounds a bit like Luke Daniels, but he's not as deft at letting the narrative dictate the tone. Burke uses that "high suspense" voice for every sentence even when the book is in a more relaxed section. However, his character voices were good and this is an enjoyable performance.
I also really loved that Chris Fox worked in some subtle "banner waiving" for wolves since most wolf species are endangered and this apex predator could use a bit more love and respect from all of us. Can't wait for the sequel!
Report Inappropriate Content