"The Left Hand of God" tells the story of Cale, one of possibly several thousand boys imprisoned within the Sanctuary, a fortress controlled by religious fanatics whose purpose is to brutally indoctrinate the boys into the faith of the Hanged Redeemer, with often-times bloody and fatal results. Cale has become disillusioned by the the constant mental and physical punishments doled out by the redeemers and seeks an escape with the help of two other similarly dispirited boys.
The story has a lot of potential. Cale's seemingly invincible skills hint at some supernatural purpose. However we do not find out what it is until the closing chapter of the book. By that time, I had lost most of my interest in what was happening. The characters do not instill a sense of caring in the reader. Cale is particularly cold and lacking personality. Understandable given his upbringing. The other characters seem more light-hearted and I know I should care about what happens to them, but they are just as hollow. If any one of them had died, I wouldn't have felt any sense of loss.
A hollow bleakness permeates the whole book, reinforced by Sean Barrett's depressing rattling narration. The narration does fit with the tone of the book though, and Barrett does try to liven up the characters, but it's Hoffman's writing that loses the cause. Even once outside the Sanctuary and in the bustling city of Memphis, the depressing vibe is still there. It doesn't make me want to go back and read the second book. It's just too damn bleak! I understand this is what the author intended, but there are limits. It's a shame, because the next book could very well be fantastic, as Cale realizes what he is destined for. I might even consider it if he wasn't such a callous bore of a character.
The Night Eternal rounds out a great trilogy. Set two years after the previous book, the world is now in the iron grip of the Master. The nuclear blasts that destroyed the other Ancients have cast darkness over the earth. It's a new world order where humans are harvested for blood in concentration camps and only a few still fight for a seemingly hopeless cause.
The most interesting parts of the book are the revelation of the Masters' true origin and the story of Mr Quinlan. Be warned that the story does take a bit of a religious turn, breaking away from the hard reality-ground logic of the first two books. But this adds strength and mystique to the story.
The narrator does a good job of bringing the characters to some sense of life. His range isn't always the best, but it's a better effort than Ron Perlman. I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion to the series and am sorry to see it end, but it ends very neatly and every story thread is tied up.
Hogan and Del Toro have done a worthy job of bringing the mythical vampire back to its darker roots. This novel laughs in the face of teen stories involving beautiful vampires as objects of lust (yes Twilight, I'm looking at your pathetic crap).
The Strain explores the vampire myth from a virology point of view. Vampirism is presented wholly as a parasitic disease. It blends elements of the zombie and vampire myths together. It's a somewhat new take on the genre and the story moves along mostly well, except for some repetition of how scenes play out when the strain breaks out. The exposition is great, and the inclusion of the "Masters" - seven mysterious elder vampires from which the strain is born - is very intriguing.
I will agree with most people and say that Perlman's narration is mostly flat and lacking any punch and conviction. However it wasn't a book-ruining experience for me. I like him as an actor and found his deep voice moved the story along well. I've heard far worse.
I'll definitely be picking up the next book and am also eagerly awaiting the TV series.
If history has taught us anything, it is that the past should never be forgotten. To his credit, Paul Ham has brought the story of the Sandakan POW camp and death marches back into the public eye. I personally did not know such a travesty occurred to our Australian and British diggers and I found it very informative.
Many people may be vaguely aware of the horrific conditions and cruelty suffered by prisoners at the hands of Japanese forces during WWII, but even I wasn't aware of just how far the depravity went until I heard this story. Over 2200 prisoners passed through the Sandakan POW camp. 1500 were killed on the forced death march near the end of the war, many murdered for being too weak from sickness and exhaustion to continue on. The rest died in and around the camp from disease, torture and from being forcibly worked to death. Of the 1500 marched to death, only 6 survived. Combined with the losses suffered at the camp, it was a death rate of 99.8%.
The story is told in all of its shocking detail in Ham's book. Eyewitness accounts from surviving prisoners, guards and natives make for a disturbing telling. I was moved to tears a number of times during the book. It is so important that these events are never forgotten. For as George Santayana said: those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
I’ve always enjoyed watching Gordon Ramsay on TV. Yes he is a foul-mouthed politically incorrect man, but I admire his ability as one of the world’s top chefs and never get tired of his antics. This book tells the story of how he came from a struggling family plagued by his abusive alcoholic father and drug-addicted brother to his place as one of the greatest chefs of his generation.
The book is actually quite hilarious. It is riddled with Ramsay’s F-bombs and unique insults as he tells of his escapades in climbing to the top of the catering world. It also has its sad points as well. If most people understood the life Ramsay had as a child, perhaps they would understand why he is so hot-tempered and driven. They may not like him, but they might understand him better. Not to say that this gives Ramsay a free pass. He has done questionable things through his life and career, but he makes no excuses.
Aspel’s narration is very good and he reads with the vigor required for the biography of such a volatile expletive-uttering man. This is a must for any Ramsay fan. Give it a go. You’ll get a laugh at the least.
Having never read or studied Hamlet in school, but having read (and enjoyed) “Macbeth: A Novel”, I was more than willing to get my first taste of Hamlet from this novelized version. Like Macbeth before it, the authors have stripped away all of Shakespeare’s poetic language and focus on telling the gritty story in a way that is accessible to both fans and non-fans alike.
The characters have deep personalities and are brought to life in a superb and faultless performance by Richard Armitage. Some changes have been made and elements added by the authors, but be assured that the writers have thoroughly researched all the history behind the story and these new additions do not detract from the tale in any way.
For the uninitiated, the story follows Hamlet, prince of Denmark as he seeks to uncover the truth behind the murder of his father the King by his Uncle Claudius. What follows is a tale of madness, murder and revenge as Hamlet carves a bloody path to his final confrontation with Claudius.
This book a must for any listener who wants the full story of Hamlet without the poetic drivel.
Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard-for-hire and Knight of the Winter Court is back for more supernatural action. This time he is called upon by Queen Mab to assist in breaking into the most heavily fortified vault in existence: the personal vault of Hades, Lord of the Underworld. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Harry must ally himself with Nicodemus and the Denarians in the heist, courtesy of a debt required to be repayed by Mab to the fallen angel.
The story starts slower than is usual for the series, with a lot of character introductions and planning of the heist. It isn’t until the last third of the book that the mayhem the series is known for breaks out, and once we get there it is worth the ride. Harry is as wise-cracking in his smartassery as always and we even see the return of an old friend to watch his back.
Marsters is back to narrate again and does a steller job as always. He is hands down one of the best in the business and his personality lends every character a lot of weight. But he really shines when voicing Dresden. His voice has just the right tone to convey every nuance of the character. Now the arduous wait for the next novel begins…
This is my first foray into a Tom Clancy novel. I love the films based on his books, but until now, never thought I had the patience to sit through the written work. This one is a great read in terms of characters and story.
The major story centres around Cardinal, a Soviet double agent working to sneak secrets out of Russia to the CIA. There is also a plot that sees the USA and the USSR racing to complete their versions of a laser defence system. There are a lot of characters in the book, but they are all fully fleshed out and realised. Surprisingly, Jack Ryan himself takes a backseat for much of the story. As the title suggests, the book focuses a lot on Cardinal, and luckily he is a very likable character.
Now to the narration. One of the reasons I was hesitant to listen to the audio versions was that I had heard that Michael Prichard's narration was flat and boring. It is to an extent, but it wasn't bad enough that I had to stop listening. He doesn't have any range as a actor for different characters and when he does try to do different voices, he seems to just give up after about one sentence. The book would definitely have been better with an actual voice actor, but it was tolerable.
I bought this book under the impression that it was about a troubled widower with writer's block who moves to his lakeside retreat, only to find it haunted by malicious ghosts. While this is partly true, the story focuses more on the main character's interaction with a single mother trying to protect her daughter from her evil custody-seeking father-in-law. The ghost stuff takes more of a backseat to this other storyline. Eventually the two parts unite to show that they were all part of the same story anyway, but it still felt like a cop out.
I wasn't looking forward to Stephen King's narration. After listening to him speak in the afterword of his other books, he sounded too much like he was reading from the page. Not natural enough. However I enjoyed his reading of this book more than I expected to. While he is not as good as other readers (I think anyone could have done a better job), I found I wasn't as distracted as I thought I would be. He lends good nuances to some of the characters and isn't too bad.
The book is a mediocre read in the grand scheme of King's other work. If you're planning to listen, make sure you know what you're getting into.
Doctor Sleep’s story follows Danny Torrance – the special boy who survived his father’s murderous possession by the Overlook Hotel twenty years ago – living a nomad’s life as he moves from place to place, wrestling with an alcohol problem that he uses to dull the effects of the Shining. His ability has become more powerful over the years and the demons from his childhood still haunt his waking hours and his nightmares.
King has managed to take the idea of the Shining and develop it in ways not before thought of. We encounter characters who have a fair bit of “shine” that manifests itself as different abilities. Some of these characters are good, some are evil. The latter includes the True Knot; semi-immortals who were once human, but are no longer. They survive by feeding off the “Steam” that children with the Shining produce when they are tortured to death. Of course, Danny inevitably crosses paths with them as he seeks to save a powerful child from their insane obsession. It’s a good story. Nothing wrong with it at all. It just doesn’t stand out from King’s earlier works.
As to the narration, I’ve only ever seen Will Patton in movies and was a little sceptical as to his selection as the story’s narrator. I haven’t ever seen much acting range from the man. I was wrong. Patton brings each character to life in a performance that I wouldn’t have believed possible from the understated actor. He is brilliant.
The majority of books detailing Ned Kelly’s exploits usually present a sympathetic view of the man. Even people who know the major history behind the Kelly Gang see him as an Australian hero. While this book seems to start as yet another of those, it gradually evens out to a neutral stance. This is good, for make no mistake, Ned Kelly was a killer and relished being an outlaw. Fitzsimons presents all the well-detailed facts, supported by multiple testimonies of Kelly himself and the people who encountered him.
The book is broken up into four parts: Ned’s early life, his early crimes and the Stringybark Creek murders, the last stand at the siege of Glenrowan, and his trial and final days in prison. The story is paced well, embellished with Fitzsimons’ usual flair and narrated fairly by Aspel. The siege of Glenrowan is particularly fascinating and even Ned’s final days in prison are foreboding and poignant.
The book’s accounts allow the reader to make up their own mind about what kind of man Ned Kelly was. But no one can deny he was a victim of the harsh times and circumstances within which he grew up. It was a time that pitted rich squatters against the poor selectors (the Kellys among many others). The rich got richer and the poor struggled to put food on the table. These conditions led Kelly to early thievery and eventually onto bigger crimes. This doesn’t excuse his deeds, but it does make you understand why he did the things he did.
Such is life.
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