Steampunk that works on every level with alternate technology woven seamlessly into the plot (not just tossed in for effect) with a mash up of genres (melodrama, alternate history, paranormal, horror, romance) and flavored with a bit of everything (romantic comedies of the 40's, Dr. Frankenstein, Regency tales, etc.). The plot sizzles and steams until all these bits and pieces gel into a wonderfully fun and cohesive story that will have a permanent home in My Library. It would be a spoiler to detail anymore of the plot than provided in the Publisher's Summary, but the premise of a disease that causes gender change in a person during a era when genteel people would never mention the word gender much less sex and in a time when men held most of the property and power and women were not guaranteed basic human liberties obviously provides a setup for some interesting conflict. T. Aaron Payton (pseudonym for Tim Pratt) has used this terrific premise to lay out a very engaging story that is fun and funny while still providing some food for thought. I have liked some of Tim Pratt's previous books, but I'm glad I didn't realize Payton and Pratt are the same person before I read the book because The Constantine Affliction is a major cut above and I'm really glad this book is a "Book 1" because I want much more of this. The characters are well developed (I could so picture Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell or Katherine Hepburn playing the leads in this), the plot is crazy but coherent, the biological bent of the alternate technology is a nice new twist on steampunk, and John Lee's narration is truly great. Even if you have given up on steampunk (because, hey, there is a lot of it that isn't very good), I'd urge you to try this one - first rate entertainment!
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!
A Just Determination almost reads like an episode of Law & Order set in space. You have a short intro to the characters and the ship, the ship sets off on its mission and quickly encounters a crisis resulting in deaths and potential crimes, which ultimately leads to a military court procedural. I was interested in this book because I have a close friend who is Army JAG and one of the most interesting aspects of her stories from both the defense and the prosecution side of the job has been the huge difference between military law and criminal/civil law. I wanted to see if Campbell showed that in his story set in space and to some extent he did. However, this story really is more about aspects of leadership and personal ethics which made it a "broader" story in some ways.
I enjoyed listening to the book and I thought the moral dilemma of the main character was well presented - made me think. I also really liked the fact that Campbell portrayed a Space Navy that was fully integrated with many ethnic names and both men and women in positions of leadership. He also did a nice job of balancing his protagonists and antagonists across genders and gave all of his characters some believable flaws - no unrealistic superhero types here. However, from a "literary" standpoint, the book was a bit disappointing. There is quite a lot of dialog and it was rather wooden and unnatural sounding and I didn't really connect with any of the characters because they aren't that fleshed out. And, while I enjoyed the story, the plot is not very complex and the moments of suspense and real action are very limited.
Nick Sullivan does a competent job with the narration. I think he was a bit limited because the dialog in the book is kind of stiff. But I really like the way Sullivan conveyed the difference between the characters thoughts and his spoken words.
Although A Just Determination is set in space, there is only a little "sci-fi flavor" to the book and not a lot of action so it may not satisfy some sci-fi lovers. However, if you have an interest in law, particular military law, you will probably find this book entertaining.
Katherine is not just a love story set in a historical setting, the love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt lasted decades and changed the course of European history. The two became the ancestors of the Tudor line of England and the forebears of many other significant European rulers and historical figures. Seton meticulously researched this book and pieced together a biography of Katherine Swynford that not only accurately documents a fascinating period of time - the end of the Plantagenet rule in England - but sucks the reader into a love affair that changed history.
I have loved this book for so long so perhaps no narrator could quite measure up to my expectations of what it deserves on audio. However, I was a bit disappointed in Wanda McCaddon. This book is very focused on Katherine's long love affair with John of Gaunt, but it is a serious piece of historical fiction and I didn't think that McCaddon's rather melodramatic delivery quite did it justice. However, McCaddon is easy to understand and this is a great book so overall, the narration was acceptable.
One of the greatest love stories of all time - highly recommended!
I have now heard all the books in this series and the only criticism I have is that the narrator changes through the series. Although Christopher Cazenove is the best of them, fortunately, all are quite competent. And, since Jonathan L. Howard does not follow the current overly used trend of first person, his third person narrative is not really harmed by the change in narration.
It is hard to describe this book or this series that is a fantasy turn on alternate reality with a bit of steampunk, but I found myself completely captivated, thoroughly entertained, and desperate for more. Howard's writing is witty, wry, sardonic, and very clever and his characterizations are brilliant - odd and strangely sympathetic. One reviewer aptly compared the tone to "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell", but this is much more fast paced with characters that are ultimately more likable as bits and pieces of the backstory fill in the gaps. This is my favorite type of series - each of the books delivers a satisfying resolution to the immediate conflict with an overarching goal that ties the series together so each book is a credit-worthy experience.
Dark and delicious - I can't wait to forget the plot points in the series so I can enjoy it again!
Someone I know who is an internet fan of Scott Sigler suggested I read this so I checked it out and have now listened to all 5 books currently available in the series. This is not the best writing in the world and I am not a football fan, but this is so entertaining, that I was really sorry to get to the end. (More, please ASAP Audible!)
I grew up in West Texas (Friday Night Lights) and was in high school marching band. I then went off to Texas A&M (home of the Fighting Texas Aggies - Gig Em'!) so of course I was a complete football fanatic in my younger years. However, as age and a little wisdom crept into my life I was more and more disturbed by the level of violence in football on and off the field (Michael Vick) and the serious injuries that resulted and have lost my taste for the game. However, I have to admit, that if I had a chance to see a Galactic Football game (can you imagine seeing a player leap 20 feet in the air to catch a pass?), I would be there with bells on!
The basic premise is simple if a bit silly - far in the future an alien race has conquered most of colonized space which includes 5 different sentient beings (including humans). They want to find a way to unite these varied groups of sentients, many of whom hate each other, and they do it through a Galactic Football League. The story is about the League, these many types of "people", a coming threat to all the sentients, and most especially it is a great coming of age story of one boy, Quentin Barnes.
If you only like "hard" science fiction, if your religious/political views tend to be fundamentalist, or you can't handle any violence in your books, you won't like this series. If you like soft sci-fi with some great aliens, lots of action, and some great characters, you're probably going to really enjoy The Rookie. Kind of goes without saying that if you love football, you will probably get a kick out of this book, but you really don't have to be a fan to enjoy the story. (It does help a little if you know the basics of football, but that probably isn't really necessary to enjoy the story.)
I had only two problems with the series:
1. Quentin Barnes is presented with many opportunities to expand his mind and make choices. He doesn't always make the right choices, but he eventually grows in ways that make him easy to like and understand. However, I draw the line at having to accept that other people's cultures are always OK. One group of aliens in the book eats live animals - not because their biology requires that just because that's what they like. I'm NEVER going to say that it is OK to inflict pain and agony on another living being just because that's what you like to do. I think the book takes accepting other cultures maybe a step too far - some cultures include child slavery, no education for girls, caste systems and that's just not OK in my book. Our own culture encourages eating and drinking to excess along with a lot of other ugly things and that's not OK either. I just don't think open-mindedness means you have to turn a blind eye to cruelty or stupidity or discrimination.
2. The books start out saying that they are "suitable for readers 10 and up" and I TOTALLY disagree. While the value systems portrayed are mostly quite positive and most parents would be happy with "moral messages" woven into the narrative, there is a LOT of violence both on and off the field in these books. Players are maimed (a guy has his leg bit off!) and killed during the games and there are murders, torture, and executions that take place off the field. I would never recommend the books for someone as young as 10 - I think older teens would be OK.
With those two issues said, the series is extremely entertaining, really funny (some great satire on sports journalism), and the audio presentation is wonderful - totally pulls you into the story. I was surprised how much I enjoyed The Rookie and all of its sequels.
Well, I fell into an Audible trap - bought books 2 and 3 on sale but I hadn't read book 1. I won't do that again. It's not that I hated these books, but had I listened to The Second Ship before I bought the next two, I wouldn't have bought the next two. Live and Learn.
Since I had all 3, I listened to the whole trilogy and it's not the worst I've ever heard but I did have some problems with it. Much of the writing and definitely all of the characterizations are standard YA. You have 3 SUPER SMART teens, 1 rogue Black Ops agent who might as well be Super Man (seriously - chiseled features, body like a brick house, flashing eyes - somehow with these stellar good looks, the guy is never recognized???), well-intentioned but completely oblivious parents, and a slew of evil scientists and government baddies. Oh yeah, also one intrepid reporter who goes so far beyond the call of duty that it isn't funny. The plot is a step above that with a lot of action, some pretty interesting and decent science, and quite a lot of suspense. However, the entire series is chalk full of sadists, psychopaths, rapists, and murderers and there are several scenes in each book of torture, kidnapping, rape, gang rape, and gruesome murders. Each of the books in this series made me feel like taking a shower when I finished because they pushed me past my disgust limit. Kind of a shame because I don't think that added anything to the story.
I've heard MacLeod Andrews perform better - I didn't think he added much or took much away from this book.
Most adults can probably handle the seamier parts of these books, but I would not recommend these for teens.
I picked up The Nelson Touch because the aliens in Ark Royal seemed like they might be interesting and I was hoping the second book might pick up a bit from the first. I was sadly disappointed. Although there is a little more insight into the aliens in The Nelson Touch, the storylines are still mostly focused on human melodrama with an awful lot of repetitive detail. (Got really sick of the zillion discussions of how sleep deprived these people are - well, duh, often true for active duty military.) The worst part for me is that the book has a huge anachronism in it that is actually a major plot driver. The first born son of the King of England (who is the SECOND born child) enlists as a fighter pilot and much angst ensues because as everyone knows, as the first born SON he will take the crown if his father dies. Nuh-uh! The British Law of Primogeniture has recently changed (about time!) and sorry, Mr. Nuttall, but the prince's sister would be next in line in the 24th century if there is even a crown to wear by then. So, that whole story line becomes a big bust. OK, the book was published a few years before the law changed, but I think a good sci-fi writer needs to be able to project out the future just a little better than this and this one was definitely predictable.
Once again, the women characters are cardboard cutouts and the men aren't really that interesting either. Once again, Ralph Lister did a good job with narration, but this just wasn't a very engaging story. And, once again, we STILL don't know much about these aliens.
I'm done with this series.
In this first episode of a first encounter space story, there is not a lot of battle action, little information about the alien race, and not much hard science, but there are some good character studies and some suspenseful build up for the second book in the series. My biggest criticism of the book is that the male characters were much more interesting and realistic than any of the female characters. Part of this is because Nuttall writes in 3rd person limited with a shifting POV and none of his POV characters is a woman. However after reading both this and the second book, The Nelson Touch, I think the bigger part of that is because Nuttall doesn't have a very good sense of women. OK, just my opinion, but if you are really going to write great space opera, you have to have great male AND female characters - especially in a book where you don't yet know much about the aliens and a lot of action is about relationships between men and women.
Ralph Lister is better with male voices than female, but he did a good job with the narration and his voice seemed a good fit for the book.
I liked Ark Royal enough to listen to the next in the series and I will review that separately to prevent spoilers, but I really did not like The Nelson Touch and won't buy any more in this series.
There is so much going on in The Palace Job that you definitely don't get bored, but you also don't have much chance to really get to know the characters and the plot gets muddy and confusing at times. This is a fantasy con story like Ocean's 11 or The Sting set in a world of wizards and unicorns. Weekes has a real talent for being able to "twist" a story - sometimes quite delightfully - and he sketches out characters that are easy to like and root for. But, he keeps the reader so in the dark that it is hard to understand the action at times and there is insufficient backstory to truly fall in love with the characters. Justine Eyre has an amazing voice - the timbre is lovely and perfectly suited to a fantasy story. But I found her difficult to understand. Her enunciation is not really precise and combined with her pronounced accent, I had a tough time understanding her when there was any other background noise (like the car or the washing machine). She does do really nice character voices and I would have rated her higher except that I had to rewind so often because I didn't catch what she said.
I liked The Palace Job enough to read the sequel (The Prophecy Con), but my feeling about the second book was about the same. I found both books to be entertaining enough that they were worth the price, but far from the best fantasy I've read. I will keep an eye on Patrick Weekes - I think the talent is there and experience might make him a pretty great fantasy author.
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