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Ryuhi

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  • Blazing Glory

  • Havoc's Crew, Book 1
  • By: Angelique Voisen
  • Narrated by: Peter Verbena
  • Length: 2 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 31
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 31

No one can hold a candle to Blaze. He's the only pyromancer in Havoc's Crew, and everyone knows Havoc's Crew is the best magic outfit in Lyon City. When an accident leaves Blaze disfigured, all he wants to do is disappear. When a wave of zombies threaten the city it's up to him and bear-shifter Levi Black to clean the mess up, but the shifter seems more interested in him than the mission.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A Short Read That Never Went Very Deep

  • By Carolyn AKA The Reader on 01-07-16

Interesting premise, lackluster execution

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-10-17

I like urban fantasy, I like m/m fiction, alas, this one does not work for me.
The characters are okay, though not really that interesting, I felt they were not too fleshed out in interaction.
The biggest problem I think is that everything feels really rushed, both the relationship and the action in the plot. We get a few timeskips, which I think wasted perfectly workable stretches of plot.
Some of the lines between the characters and how their relationship was built up felt rather cringy and alas not even in the kind of cheesy way that. even when you know it is a bit constructed or cliche, still tugs at a part of you that wants just that.

Better pacing and more time to make the characters come alive would have greatly helped.

  • The Hammer of Thor

  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2
  • By: Rick Riordan
  • Narrated by: Kieran Culkin
  • Length: 10 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,941
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,639
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,629

Thor's hammer is missing... again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon - the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost; it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can't retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki - and the price he wants is very high.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Narrator sucks

  • By Christina on 11-04-16

It feels like pandering...

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-09-16

The Hammer of Thor picks up where the Sword of Summer left us, alas, it left me rather disappointed.

First the good parts:

Rick Riordan still gives us some pretty hilarious moments (like the democratic Viking zombies, as Magnus calls them, or the banter with Jack and the other Einherjar) and there are scenes that are entertaining and suspenseful enough to keep tension. There are wacky and amusing takes on various gods and other entities as is expected and those who found Christopher Guetig disappointing, may like Kieran Culkin better, I admit, I am okay with both for the most parts, though MR Culkin sometimes was performing rather noticeably bad in a few spots...

With that said, now to the bad points:

1. There seems to be less magic and richness. The first book made some very nice efforts to give the strange, wonderful and weird feel of the different worlds and all the mythological entities. This book, it just does not give the same magical atmosphere to me. Of course it is partly due to visiting many known locations, but I found the descriptions less compelling and atmospheric overall. I think the sequels of Percy Jackson, or the Kane Chronicles were better in that regard. It may be a bit subjective, but it left less of a powerful impression, unlike the first book which created an actual wish to revisit it.

2. Characters feeling a bit less like themselves: Magnus personality seems a bit faded compared to his very outspoken attitude in the first book. He makes some jokes, he does not hold back his opinion, but whereas he stands out in the first book, he just does not seem to have the same development, the same intensity or the same liveliness here. This is tied to the later points, but it seems to be much less his story this time around and it shows...
The other chief offender is Loki. I loved his charismatic, devious, unpredictable nature in the first book, I liked how we felt torn about sympathizing with him, I do not feel that this time around at all...
And his plans seem not to be worth his trickster god fame either.

3. This one is a bit of a spoiler, but not much:

The new character, Alex Fierro, child of Loki.
I feel a bit torn here because as a gay man (still a teen when the first Percy Jackson books came out), I definitely liked the fact that Rick Riordan included homosexual / bisexual characters before. I found it refreshingly true to the original myths in the Trials of Apollo and I thought that it was very relatable and quite authentic in The Heroes of Olympus. I could relate to that, I thought it was appropriate and it did not take a more important tole than other topics like issues with step parents, or the other issues the young protagonists face.
The problem is maybe that very thing: non binary Alex Fierro is not a character who we see struggle and come to terms with their problems, not someone who we can easily relate to because we can see them figure things out for themselves.
Alex is there and the focus seems to be more how other characters have to deal with her/him.

I really think that is a bad choice.
We do not see Alex having to deal with the same kind of condescension Magnus had to go through, people praise her performance and skills (of which she, or he occasionally has many), we see a character who is confrontational, pretty much always gets to win and excel and who never has to face consequences. Especially because of the parallels to Magnus, it is pretty obvious that there is a double standard that does not make Alex very likeable.
...and whereas Nico had people react surprised but eventually supportive, helping him deal with his sexuality, Alex gets to confront people about how to treat her properly...

Sorry, but that is not any sort of positive inclusion, this is pushing things on other people, both in the story and outside. That does not help to make people tolerant and ready to accept others, this serves to dig the rifts deeper.
And this is alas not something that stands out from how these topics are handled by media in general very much.

Alex is more a political statement than a living, breathing character you can relate to.

4. Samira and her faith:

I never took too much to Samira in the first book, but she does at least get her flaws and her struggles and I actually found the point of being torn between her traditional background and her wanting to have a career and being a Valkyrie a nice plot point.
My own Muslim friends have had their struggle with that and I know that it is not easy to resolve.

But in this book, Samira it feels more like even the very norse gods whose existence is at odds with her religious upbringing cheering her on to be a religious Muslim while still getting to fit everything else in...
That just does not seem to be how these kinds of stories go...

For a thought exercise, imagine a devout christian girl in Samira's place who would have the same sorts of attitudes and behavior.
Would you expect the same kind of treatment?
I honestly doubt that there would be the same universal respect and careful avoidance of problematic issues.

I am also not quite sure who he ultimately is trying to address here. I think that young adults who read his books are more likely to be struggling with the pressures on them to not get to freely leave Islam (the problems, often even violence facing ex-muslims is I think a problem that actually might benefit from being addressed), than to be as religious as Samira is portrayed to be...


5. Buzzwords:

"It is not my job to educate you", "Cultural appropriation", and in the last book before that, "mansplaining"...

If those words were just used in jest, it would be actually funny, but please, please do think of what you actually are saying here!

Cultural appropriation, if taken seriously, would pretty much lay waste to every book Rick Riordan has written.
If you write about the mythologies of other cultures, other religions, how can you take such a ludicrous concept as cultural appropriation seriously?
Are you aware what we would have to excise from our daily lives if we wanted to make a stance against cultural appropriation?
Starting with the very letters we use, which are not of American, not of British, not of German, French or Spanish origin?
Think about how many things have passed from one culture to another and then reconsider the idea of one culture "owning" something and you will realize how silly it soon gets.

And how shall we see someone, who both insists on everyone around her adapting to her wishes regarding how she is to be treated while at the same time saying something like "it is not my job to educate you".
You can say that if someone demands explanations from you which you neither have the time, nor the inclination to give, but if you refuse, then how can you at the same time demand from them to inform themselves and change their behavior accordingly?
I am gay, and when I want people around me to change their attitude, then the very thing I will do and have to do is try to educate them!
That attitude seems lazy and entitled. People have fought for their tolerance, their equality under the law, chiefly by educating and informing the majority of people that discrimination and prejudice are wrong. We owe a lot to all the brave people who stood up and did educate others, even when it cost them much more than a bit of patience and time.
I cannot accept that attitude, it just seems like a slap in the face of the people who fought so hard for us nowadays getting to grow up without having to be afraid of being persecuted by the law or being without recourse when someone attacks you for what you are.


I honestly am not sure if I will pick up the next book...

35 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • The End of Faith

  • By: Sam Harris
  • Narrated by: Brian Emerson
  • Length: 9 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,027
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,600
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,583

Here is an impassioned plea for reason in a world divided by faith. This important and timely work delivers a startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in today's world. Harris offers a vivid historical tour of mankind's willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when those beliefs are used to justify harmful behavior and sometimes heinous crimes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Easy to misinterpret

  • By Mark on 08-04-13

Surprisingly disappointing

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-13-16

I listened to Richard Dawkin's the god delusion and found it a good book, which, though self admittedly biased and partial took a pretty fair, even handed and careful approach.
Since I am overall a fan of Sam Harris, I expected something similar, a take on religion that is critical but well reasoned.

I was rather disappointed, and for the hasty reader:
If you consider this book, do look at the God Delusion first, you will find better arguments there.


The core problem, I think is this: Harris will flip-flop on several of his approaches.
What he says will be inconsistent with each other and I shall try to explain how:


1. He first looks at religion in a scriptural literalist approach, he gives the thought experiment of a person from a past century, placed in the modern age, highlighting that such a person would know pretty much everything there is to know about his, in this case, christian religion, but be terribly out of date and seemingly moronic on pretty much everything else.

He will argue, that modern moderate religious position owe their existence to outside developments: not to christian values, so to say, but to modern sensibilities.

And those arguments can be made. One can see a religion as primarily defined by its foundational documents, especially since officially, all of those still stand as canonical in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam, etc.
They have not been overruled in the same way that constitutions have been changed, even though it seems rather oversimplified to not give more space to how theologians have dealt with them.


However, if this is one's reasoning, if one sees theologians' modern interpretations as in the end, relatively inconsequential, then one will not be able to argue the way the authors does.

You cannot blame Christianity for antisemitism, as all such ideology is not in any way less contemporary theology (the texts still talk of the old covenant, the prophets, the entire Jewish foundation of Christianity) than moderate modern outlooks.
Similarly, other atrocities can not be blamed on Christianity, whenever they go beyond the texts and the theological foundation.

You have to decide whether religion is eternally defined by its foundation, or whether it is a changing phenomenon developing over time.

So either you will have to accept both the good and the bad changes, or discard them both.
You cannot have your derision of modern moderate religious groups and your condemnations of every evil ever carried out in the name of a religion.
Arguing that way seems awfully convenient.


2.The same problem I see in his views of atrocities and deeds of compassion.

Same Harris will argue, that you need no irrational believes to do good (when talking about Christians for example protecting Jews under the Third Reich motivated by their Christian faith), but then claim that for genocides and similar atrocities, one will find irrational believes behind them.
I find this a very bold assertion.

First, mass killings of "out-group" individuals, paired with acquiring their resources (including land) can hardly be argued to lack any "rational" reasoning - as immoral as that rationality is for us.
Third Reich Germany acquired massive short term profits from confiscating Jewish fortunes. Their ideas of war and conquest similarly were founded on ideas of massive land acquisitions.

And they are not in any case the first. History is teeming with atrocities which were highly profitable for those carrying them out. Irrational believes make a good tool, for sure, to direct and organize such activities (ideologies give swift access to an in-group and an out-group to attack), but denying the fact, that such atrocities tend to have very materialistic motives seems questionable.

On the contrary though, looking at primarily cost-benefit aspects, actions such as risking your own life and that of your family to oppose a regime like the Nazis and thus possibly facing the same fate as the people you help, this indeed seems hard to justify.
You need at least some sort of irrational believe to place the necessity of such an altruistic act (which will not even benefit your gene's survival) over the costs it imposes on you.

Now, do not get me wrong, this does not mean that any religious sentiment is necessary to do those altruistic acts, clearly it is not. A completely secular belief in the value of altruism perfectly suffices.

But Sam Harris will be quick to label secular ideologies as quasi-religious. And if we will liken an atrocity comparable to ones we see in some religious contexts to a religion, but not also liken a selfless act which we see in some religious contexts, then we are engaging in quite a bit of inconsistency.


So in the end, I am left with a book that seems to attempt some not even very subtle rhetorical tricks to argue against religion.
Could we not instead look at what actually causes atrocities?
How about we look at the phenomenon of group formation and violence between groups - and within against those who are seen to deviate from the group identity?
How about we stop obsessing about the relatively inconsequential part of whether or not superstition is involved (believing in unproven things of a supernatural nature) and focus on the very real problem of justifying violence and atrocities against others?
You can both be a perfectly peaceful superstitious person as well as a violent non superstitious ideologue.

Sam Harris does address the "superstitious" part, I think those are the actually good passages of the book.
He will argue quite well, if not in a very original way, that any benefits of religion are completely unrelated to their veracity - which is completely true for plainly obvious logical reasons.
But as it stands, the End of Faith offers little that has not been said better elsewhere and a lot of unsound reasoning.

The book however is also over ten years old.
I personally think judging more recent talks and podcasts, that Sam Harris has become better at this.
Thus, I would advise any potential buyer to look at other, especially more recent books. The end of Faith feels very sadly lacking and does compare poorly to books like "The God Delusion".

As a small aside, I do find it a shame that Sam Harris does not narrate this book himself, I do overall prefer him to Brian Emerson as a narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature

  • Why Violence Has Declined
  • By: Steven Pinker
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 36 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,029
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,524
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,494

We’ve all had the experience of reading about a bloody war or shocking crime and asking, “What is the world coming to?” But we seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?” In this startling new book, the best-selling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. In fact, we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I'd kill for another book this good

  • By Eric Nicolas Morgan on 11-11-11

An overall good books with a few caveats

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-05-16

Steven Pinker does use a lot of time to in almost all cases very thoroughly argue his points, most of them I think seem very solidly founded, and more than that, different theories and explanations are frequently discussed and I think given a quite fair observation.

This is all very laudable for a popular science book, which this of course ultimately is.

I admit, I frequently felt the wish to examine some of his sources, I do wish there maybe was a pdf with lists of references and such included, but to be fair, that is likely expecting too much (Many popular science podcasts will nowadays be meticulous about linking sources, so I may be spoiled there).

I do want to point to a couple of points that I found to leave me unconvinced or critical:

1. The problem of historic and prehistoric data:
This is more minor, because I felt that Steven Pinker was pointing out sufficiently, that there are problems with this, but as someone who has taken a good amount of courses in prehistory, I want to strongly stress that any observation of prehistoric violence is HIGHLY speculative.
We have a limited archeological record, one that only shows a fraction of the population of its day. We are limited in how accurately we can asses details about day to day life that transcend the pure material record.
As an example, Ötzi, a quite famous neolithic ice mummy is discussed, and Pinker goes with a single interpretation of his cause of death and reconstructed life, without, as I think, sufficiently making it clear that this theory is not without competitors. He portrays him as being a raider, frankly, we do not know that, neither whether it is true, nor whether it can be seen as unlikely.
And this also goes for preserved bodies found in bogs.
There is a lot of uncertainty in this area which, frankly, makes any quantifying of data on violence very unreliable.
Similarly, ethnographic parallels, using contemporary hunter gatherer cultures and similar to understand prehistoric cultures is a method with several flaws, some of which are thankflly addressed in the book.

2. Historic phenomena being discussed:
Sometimes the book will discuss certain historical practices to argue its claim without, I think, sufficiently providing a nuanced view on them.
I shall use the example of the with hunts and witch trials which Pinker mentions in his books. The height of witch trials falls in the same era as the Renaissance, and in this context, I think it might have been useful, for understanding the phenomenon, to look at how people tried to rationalize it. There is quite some interesting information on arguments about witchcraft, like the the question of whether it was "real", or whether it consisted of what we today would call hallucinations and similar psychological effects.
Pinker instead presents a rather simplistic model of "crazy superstition" - an also fails to mention the strongly ambivalent role the church played in it. More than one pope illegalized witch trials, unsurprisingly denouncing the idea of witches as scapegoats for famines and other natural disasters.
I do feel that it is at least a fair argument to point out that something like that at least gives the impression of deliberately using this portrayal to enhance the impression of historic inhumanity and irrationality.
This does not quite sit well with me.

3. The feminization hypothesis for the reduction in violence:
Steven Pinker does mention his believe in women / femininity / the emancipation of women being a causal factor in reducing violence.
I am rather critical here mostly because I feel that he gives much less alternative interpretations, facts, detailed arguments and data for this than for many other claims.
Steven Pinker often is very methodical about pointing out the danger of misinterpreting correlation as causation, he does not show the same rigor when it comes to this theory.
More than that, when he describes states basing social systems strongly on authority ranking - and then also using the same model for marriage and family relations, by his own logic,he would be forced to identify men as a pacifying force in part responsible for the lower rate of violence in women - while making the contrary claim.
I think that had he given more space to a nuanced view on this theory, he could at least have addressed inconsistencies like this or made a better case for it, but frankly I think he overall fails to make an argument for feminism, women's rights and similar being a cause of reduction of violence, instead of being a positive consequence of the factors responsible for providing us with better living standards on the whole.
His reasoning seems more ideological than factual here, and that is I think a problem in a scientist.

In conclusion, I still think this is a good book which provides interesting and useful information and is definitely worth your time, but I strongly advise a critical attitude.
Steven Pinker definitely seems to be correct in his overall thesis, but I feel much less convinced when it comes at some of his explanations for this trend.

Lastly, the narration is clear, easy to listen to and well suited for a scientific book, I would rate it as a great production.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Maelstrom

  • A Whyborne & Griffin Novel, Volume 7
  • By: Jordan L. Hawk
  • Narrated by: Julian G. Simmons
  • Length: 7 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 214
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 199
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 197

Between his father's sudden - and rather suspicious - generosity, and his own rash promise to help Christine plan her wedding, Percival Endicott Whyborne has quite enough to worry about. But when the donation of a mysterious codex to the Ladysmith Museum draws the attention of a murderous cult, Whyborne finds himself in a race against time to unlock its secrets first. Griffin has a case of his own: the disappearance of an historic map, which quickly escalates to murder.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Please tell me there will be more!

  • By SassiKassi on 04-26-16

One of the better ones in the series

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-24-16

Maelstrom returns again to the town of Widdershince, and honestly, I usually always like those books a bit better than the "travel" entries.

The book provides the usual mix of occult mystery, male / male romance and good supporting characters.
It also adds in many interesting little tidbits again, which nicely round out the experience, mentioning things in passing which are as fr as I can jude well researched and add quite a bit to the atmosphere.
I should really state that I like those kinds of little things which allow the reader to also actually learn something interesting.

Still, if you have not listened to the previous books, just go to Widdershince and start there, while Maelstrom is a very nice entry, I still would say Widdershince is my all time favourite.

For returning readers, I think I can definitely say that Maelstrom is a very satisfying sequel.
I quite liked to see Griffin being more dominant again as well (I missed that and this time felt just right with the two of them), the occult mystery part felt interesting and very nicely creepy and the whole family drama of the Whybornes added nicely to it all without feeling too over the top.

It pretty much had all that I wanted and missed a bit in the previous books.

Perhaps the title giving Maelstrom itself could have been a bit more impressive and incomprehensible still, but any critcisim is extremely minor, I could literally not stop listening and the suspense was very good, even though I saw the culrpit before our heroes did (but I find their reasoning for it perfectly valid).

I already look forward to the next one.

Also, Mr Simmons was nice to listen to as ever, my only wish for him would be to do more audiobooks in general.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Forging the Future

  • Change of Heart
  • By: Mary Calmes
  • Narrated by: Sean Crisden
  • Length: 6 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 189
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 181
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 183

Jin Church is back where he started, alone, wandering, and uncertain of his path. It's not by choice but by circumstance, as he remembers he's a werepanther...but not much else. He knows one thing for sure - he needs to find the beautiful blond man who haunts his dreams.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5+ Stars!!!

  • By Belen on 10-10-15

A final? chapter to the Change of Heart series

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-20-15

I so far have listened to all the previous books, they are enjoyable m/m romances with a dash of action and modern fantasy (of sorts) thrown in which is a good mix on its own.

I always liked weres and gay werepanthers were a must read / listen for someone who is fascinated by big cats.
First of all, I would not recommend starting with this volume as the characters and history will be rather puzzling without any prior knowledge.
Thus, to the book from the standpoint of someone knowing the others (and if you don't, do try Change of Heart, it is a fun listen!):

The story picks up five years after Crucible of Fate, so be prepared for quite a few things having happened in the meantime. And be prepared to start worrying like mad what could have thrown Jin into his current situation, on his own, memory lost and taken in by some other tribe.

The book takes its time to keep you guessing and that is definitely good for suspense.
Not spoiling anything, things look quite a lot better again after a while, but be prepared for some very hard hits just when things seemed to be going well again.

Feeling rather invested in the characters, I admit I found many of the turns of the plot rather painful, Forging the future hits the reader hard, maybe too hard.

Characters we came to know show aspects of themselves we hoped they overcame and again, we do get reminded of what a harsh world the werepanthers live in.

How the story develops is not per se implausible or out of character, but it is in some cases pretty much things going the worst way possible.
Listening to the end did make me kinda wish for the next sentence being "it was all just a dream!", but that it is not.

The plot overall relies a lot on the drama and unlike the first book, where everything ends for the better, this time, some things don't.

One downside is that the action ends up, like in the previous book, be more buildup than resolution, it all seems to go for a big epic clash and then things diffuse...

I would have preferred the series to get a more lighthearted, adventury last chapter, more adversity from outside, more loyalty from within, more action and a bit less of a dark mood.

Sean Crisden still delivers a nice narration, but I have to subtract points for some vocie inconsistencies, it is weird if a character is voiced that differently in some cases, especially Danny seems weird now.

Still, it is a decent book, maybe not one I will have as much fun revisiting as the others though.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Hoarfrost

  • Whyborne & Griffin, Book 6
  • By: Jordan L. Hawk
  • Narrated by: Julian G. Simmons
  • Length: 8 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 232
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 218
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 216

Sorcerer Percival Endicott Whyborne and his husband, Griffin Flaherty, have enjoyed an unprecedented stretch of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, the calm is shattered by the arrival of a package from Griffin's brother, Jack, who has uncovered a strange artifact while digging for gold in Alaska. The discovery of a previously unknown civilization could revive the career of their friend, Dr. Christine Putnam, or it might kill them all if the hints of dark sorcery surrounding the find are true.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very solid continuation of a great series.

  • By Ryuhi on 07-07-15

Very solid continuation of a great series.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-07-15

Hoarfrost mostly is business as usual, but in a good way.
It spins on the threads of plot delivered before, it adds some new, it gives more hints and explores further...
If you liked the previous books, you will also like this, I would say.

I can really only lay my finger on three things I did feel could have been better (or more to my liking) but none of it is really something missing, it is actually more what I would like for the next ones.

1. No direct appearance of Whyborne senior, I always liked how the father son relationship was worked since it always managed to subtly show that it was more complicated than just the usual "terrible father".
2. Griffin mostly on the receiving end.I just think that he makes the better dominant partner all in all, or it might be that it is that the dynamic in the first two books was more easy to relate to me personally as a gay man.
3. A bit less horror. Continuing the trend of book five in particular, it is more conciliatory towards the "eldritch horrors", which is not bad, but I do hope we get something really alien and scary again.

Other than that, it had good new characters and a very nice building of suspense, since it kept me guessing to what exactly was going on, making it both logical and vague enough to make the guessing fun.

It also elaborated more on magic in a sensible way, I especially liked that it managed to give Whyborne a difficult opponent while still staying true to characterizing him as especially powerful, that was something I really liked since it is easy to mess that up.

I hope we will hear a lot more from Whyborne and Griffin in the future as well!

The narrator also kept up his good work, I do really hope I may hear him in other books too, I like his style and voice for gay fiction and supernatural stories both.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Hell & High Water

  • THIRDS, Book 1
  • By: Charlie Cochet
  • Narrated by: Mark Westfield
  • Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 899
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 849
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 846

When homicide detective Dexter J. Daley’s testimony helps send his partner away for murder, the consequences - and the media frenzy - aren’t far behind. He soon finds himself sans boyfriend, sans friends, and, after an unpleasant encounter in a parking garage after the trial, he’s lucky he doesn’t find himself sans teeth. Dex fears he’ll get transferred from the Human Police Force’s Sixth Precinct, or worse, get dismissed.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good humor to Military/shifter book

  • By Ezinwanyi on 10-08-14

Failed despite all the concepts I like

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-06-15

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Seriously? Someone with a lot of tolerance for inconsistent characters, implausible setups, cheap attempts at rousing the sympathy for the poor, miserable hero, the sense of humor of a elementary to highschool age kid and the ability to overlook the author's lack of ability to portray plausible male characters.

This book would have been right for me if it was written better, I LIKE stories about weres, shapeshifters or however you call them, I enjoy detective stories (though I usually prefer private eyes to police investigations) and I even like slightly corny m/m romances.

If you are starved for this particular combination, I admit there is, alas, not a lot of stuff in print or in audio that is terribly good but this definitely not among them, not in my opinion at least.

So pick this if you really want a human / were romance in a police setting where the plot does not just center around the hookup, but only if you feel in a very forgiving mood, you will need to have a lot of patience and tolerance here...

Would you ever listen to anything by Charlie Cochet again?

No. Seriously, there are too many examples of bad writing and there seem to be enough readers who do not care about them to make a serious self examination likely.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The narration was decent, not exceptional, but the narrator pretty much did nothing wrong here.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Annoyance. Really, I have to cringe at lots of scenes. That feeling that this could at least be entertaining if just some of those scenes were not that jarringly botched...

Any additional comments?

One rather major problem is the main character Dex. He starts out as the unjustly mistreated brooding guy, then at some point he switches to being a foppish clown who jumps from one stereotypical depiction to the other.

Second problem is, all the other characters join in being as mature as the cast of a stereotypical highschool manga. That would be fine in a wacky comedy (even though it can be tedious even then), but it is very hard to belief in a elite police unit.

More importantly, the characters do not really come across as believable male characters, they are two dimensional at best and I usually do not go and throw that word around at everything I dislike.
They just are too much characterized by some personality quirks and rough character types.

And even the animal part is a bit patchy. There are at least scenes trying to deal with the turning into an animal aspect, they are even among the better ones, but it is a bit too uneven and has animal facts thrown in that are just off (No Jaguars are not the strongest felines, they have a comparatively very strong bite and are very efficient hunters, lions and tigers are quite a lot bigger, stronger and thus potentially deadlier).

Lastly, the surprise villain manages to be at the same time obvious (because of narrative conventions and lack of any better alternative) AND unlikely.

If any of those seems like something you would be likely to be dissatisfied with, skip this book, wait for a better attempt at this particular combination or browse the number of kindle books with a similar theme.

  • Black Dog Blues

  • The Kai Gracen Series, Book 1
  • By: Rhys Ford
  • Narrated by: Greg Tremblay
  • Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 593
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 565
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 564

Ever since being part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figures he used up his good karma when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in. Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races are left with a messy, monster-ridden world, and Stalkers are the only cavalry willing to ride to someone's rescue when something shadowy appears.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful narration paired with terrific adventure

  • By JP-NH on 05-22-15

Acceptable modern fantasy, dissapointing m/m

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-01-15

What did you like best about Black Dog Blues? What did you like least?

Blackdog Blues uses some interesting elements of anglo-celtic mythology / folklore to build the world, the author manages to use the appropriate names in a way that makes them mostly sound interesting.
Many of the details about the world are left vague enough to rouse curiosity
There also were some details thrown in to set things up on which to build on, that was not bad, too many books just focus on the main plot and make everything else blank.

But, then there are the bad points. Let me start with Kai, since he is the focus of the story.
Kai is a typical example of dark, troubled, snarky and nihilistic, well, too typical, as he seems to not really stand out with much interesting variations on the archetype which is after all quite popular for any modern fantasy with a touch of noir. What annoyed me most was that part of the presentation of his backstory seemed not to be quite consistent, or rather, the more it was expanded, the less it felt like an organic whole, more as if earlier parts still came from a point in the writing rpocess where the details had not been decided. That is still acceptable, that happens in other books, even though it usually is more noticeable in a series than one single volume.
Secondly, I found his "dark and troubled" past a bit overdone, precisely, it reminded me at times a bit too much of the kind of things you find in slash writing fanfiction. It just seemed too strongly opposed to the current personality, the presentation a bit too indulging, in short, it did create more the vibe of an author delighting in a grisly backstory than achieving to evoke sympathy or compassion or horror or any deeper emotion, though the narrator did help to counteract that quite a bit.

Then there is the a bit too persistent effort to make pretty much everything dark, grisly, gritty and, well, a bit disgusting. Maybe I just have lost my patience for this sort of thing, but dark, gritty and dirty can get very annoying if it is pushed too much, and Rhys Ford does push it a lot. Pretty much every detail of Kai's world seems to be aligned to be messy, miserable and slightly disgusting, really?

Then there is the gratuitous Japanese...
As a manga and anime fan, I know my share of this, and, okay, the idea with the English mixed with other languages is okay, even though it has been done to death in near future scifi settings and similar. But, don't make me laugh and roll my eyes by presenting me a character who says he has to use Japanese swear words to properly convey his feelings.
I mean, the author does know Japanese, at least to some degree, or, not even that, at least looked up the words she used?
Kuso, shit, literally and its derivatives are pretty much as vulgar as it gets, instead of bastard and all the many creative english swearwords, Japanese gets things like temee, literally, "that guy there in front of my hand", an impolite way to say you, yeah, very, very bad swearwords Kai...

The plot itself, well, it is not horrible, I leave that to other books whose purchase I regretted more, it does not really create the kind of keep guessing suspense and focuses more on lots of navel gazing for Kai, but it is workable.

What is less workable, at least for a book branded under the gay and lesbian category is the balance of gay VS straight encounters.
Kai gets a giant string of women he has various relationships with, makes out with or just focuses a lot on.
Then there is Ryder. The relationship seems to try for vitriolic sexual tension, problem is, it mostly is just vitriolic. Aside from some innate pull, Kai seems barely able to work up even a faint liking for Ryder and for Ryder's part, I have to wonder what he really sees in Kai too.
Perhaps my biggest problem, Kai manages to easily outclass characters like straight Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series in being the typical rivalry or dislike for most other males straight guy out for a fight for dominance. He has ONE tense and gruff but friendly male bonding kind of relationship with a rough father figure, all other relationships with males are either disturbed, abusive and violent, filled with contempt or, well, the rather inorganic romantic tension with Ryder that gets overshadowed by the focus on various hookups with females.

So, yes, this manages to be a m/m type of story that has less meaningful relationships between men than most straight stories of the type, and those at least have a descent excuse...

What was most disappointing about Rhys Ford’s story?

From all the points listed above, the overall vague feeling of "fancictionishness", the mix of overuse of a dark and troubled past and gratuitous Japanese. Those are the points I was most sensitive to and which made it hard to take the story fully serious and made me end up more pushing myself to finish listening to it. Yes, I had to put in effort to finish an audiobook, and that IS something that does not happen too often.

What about Greg Tremblay’s performance did you like?

Greg Tremblay pretty much gave it the emotional dpeth and the authentic feeling the story failed to deliver, I enjoyed his performance before, he can really convey emotions well, he is pleasant to listen to and he has a good range of voices. I really liked pretty much anything, well, his Japanese pronunciation could have perhaps improved a tad bit, but I have heard much worse there, so it is more a small annoyance.

Could you see Black Dog Blues being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

No.
Well, okay, it could work, the after the end scenario and all, a gun wielding hero and a touch of supernatural would be viable, but frankly, as the audiobook performance was what I liked best about it, I would not be too interested.

Any additional comments?

It is the first book I listened to from this author, so I cannot say if others are better, but after this book, I do not really feel like trying.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Pack or the Panther

  • Tales of the Harker Pack
  • By: Tara Lain
  • Narrated by: Max Lehnen
  • Length: 5 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 118
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 111
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 111

Cole Harker, son of an alpha werewolf, is bigger and more powerful than most wolves, tongue-tied in groups, and gay. For 24 years, he's lived to please his family and pack - even letting them promise him in marriage to female werewolf Analiese to secure a pack alliance and help save them from a powerful gangster who wants their land. Cole then meets Analiese's half-brother, panther shifter Paris Marketo, and for the first time, Cole wants something for himself.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Horrible narration

  • By K.S. on 09-07-14

Not terrible, but really poor

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-16-15

What disappointed you about The Pack or the Panther?

Where to start...?
I generally like werewolf and other shifters, so the general theme was not the problem, but many of those dialogues felt so flat, the sex scenes (with things like elephant cock thrown around like in a teenage fanfiction) seemed unintentionally comical, the parts where the "animal shift thougt process" was described really appeared silly and not like the author really knew too much about animals to start with...
The villain was a complete disappointment, I could not take him seriously and it seemed ridiculous someone like him could even pose a legitimate threat with his ineptitude.

...and many of the twists and turns of the romance felt forced...
Sorry, but it seemed like only extreme lust could kit that relationship at most parts and that is a bit dull for a romance plot.

What could Tara Lain have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Rework her conception of werewolves. Seriously, the animal part seemed utterly lacking.
Make Paris seem more likeable at some parts, add some better reasons for the romantic difficulties instead of him throwing temper tantrums.

Make Cole actually seem like he is a competent warrior / tactician instead of letting it float around as an informed attribute.
Make his insecurities come off as a bit more authentic.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Well, the narrator was okay, a bit, quirky maybe in a way, not necessarily a voice I am sure I would want to listen to much...

Any additional comments?

The book still manages some nice moments, some of the character interaction is okay, but unless you really must have more werewolf stuff and went through everything else that seems remotely enjoyable, I would not recommend this book.
There ARE worse shifter stories, but there are also quite a good amount of better ones.