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review 2017-10-17 04:03
Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel - Mark T. Sullivan

5 stars for story

4 stars for narration

4.5 stars overall

 

I loved this. It's easily the best thing that has come out of Amazon Kindle First ever, and I'm so glad I picked it up. 

 

This is a "novel" only because the author wasn't able to verify all the facts of the story that Pino Lella told him about his time in Italy during the last two years of the war. As it explains in the foreword, a lot of documents were "lost" after the war, and many people who lived through it chose not to talk about it and simply let it fade into history. Being unable to 100% verify every detail, the author decided to call it a novel, but it is a biography. 

 

As such, I can't really critique this the same way I normally would any other story. These are real people and real events. There's no ultimate struggle of good vs evil (well, there is but as we all know, humans are complicated and things aren't always so black and white) and there are no tropes to rely on or subvert. This is just what happened, and it's both inspiring and infuriating. 

 

Without giving too much away - and assuming you're not a WWII history buff and might know some of these details already - Pino Lella was seventeen when the war came to Italy, and in order to avoid being conscripted and forced to fight on the German front in Poland, where many Italians pressed into service were losing their lives, he instead "volunteered" to work for Operation Todt. All he knew about it was that it was less likely to get him killed and would keep him off the warfront. Things don't go as planned and he ends up in a prime position to work for the resistance, getting them valuable information that helped the Allied invasion. 

 

For the first third of the book, things move pretty slowly. Pino is at first hidden in the mountains near the Switzerland border and helps refugees escape over the border. When his parents bring him back to Milan, things start to pick up and slowly get more complicated. And yet, things seem to almost go too well. Then the end of the war is in sight, and that's when things really hit the fan. The writing in the last third is especially strong and emotive, and I really had to work not to cry in the car as I listened to this on my daily commute. 

 

As for the narrator, Will Damron, he takes the Kevin Costner approach to accents. I would honestly have no accent at all than to listen to a really horrible Italian accent, so I wasn't bothered by this. He does do a decent German accent though. He's very clear and easy to follow along with, and he reads at a good pace. At first, his narration was almost matter-of-fact, but he can really bring the emotions when it's called for. I would say for the most part, he's a 3 star narrator, but the ending was strong enough to bump it up to 4 stars. (And he's certainly popular with audiobooks, so he has his fans.)

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review 2017-09-22 03:34
The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series #1) (Audiobook)
The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series Book 1) - Jeff Wheeler

Well, this was a strange one. This can't be considered YA, but the POV character is an eight-year old boy. Which also makes getting a woman narrator that much more strange. She does okay with the material, but her voices for the men were not the best. 

 

The story itself was pretty straightforward and includes many of the staples of the fantasy genre. There is some subversion of tropes, so that was nice, but even those weren't anything that were all that surprising. 

 

I probably would've stopped listening halfway through, but that's about the time that Elizabeth Victoria Mortimer arrived on the scene, and she's an absolute delight of a character and most of the stars are for her. Without her, there wouldn't be anyone to really care about in this story.

 

If you're looking for a story along the lines of Game of Thrones, look elsewhere. If you're looking for something light and breezy with a bit of intrigue to read on a lazy day, this might be the ticket.

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review 2017-08-11 01:52
The Last Girl (Dominion #1) (Audiobook) - DNF @ 17%
The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy Book 1) - Joe Hart

Meh.

 

I'm not one to quibble over present or past tense usually, but the present tense just wasn't working for me for some reason. This is dystopian, about a virus that prevents female births, and it's set one year from now. I need my dystopian to be a lot more in the future than that. And the premise just wasn't interesting, all told. Narrator was all right.

 

Moving on.

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review 2017-08-09 02:30
The Moonlit Garden (Audiobook)
The Moonlit Garden - Alison Layland,Corina Bomann

This was a pleasant surprise! Especially for an Amazon First selection since usually those books are not that great. This is translated into English, but I didn't notice any awkward phrasing to the translation was well done. 

 

I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this one, except that at some point there'd a moonlit garden :D so I was just going along for the ride and it was a good one. Lily owns an antique shop in Berlin and one day an old man comes in, hands her an old violin, tells her it's hers and leaves. The rest of the book goes back and forth between Lily trying to solve the mystery of the violin and Rose, the violin's original owner, a master violinist in the earliest part of the 1900s.

 

There's enough left out in the historical parts to keep the mystery moving in the current timeline. It's just nice to have a mystery that doesn't revolve around murder for a change, and trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. And while parts of this take place in England and Germany, a good chunk of it takes place in Sumatra, Indonesia, which was also a nice change of pace as I don't often come across books set in Asia.

 

The narrator has kind of a soft voice but it didn't bother me too much. I do wish she had more range in her voices, especially for the men since despite some slight differences to their accents, it was difficult to tell them apart because they all sounded so similar. She does a somewhat better job differentiating the female voices. 

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review 2016-06-28 06:02
Crow Hollow (Audiobook)
Crow Hollow - Michael Wallace,Rosemary Benson

Meh. I can tell a lot of research went into this one, and it was honest for the time period as far as the characters' views on Puritans versus Quakers versus Native Americans versus everyone who isn't exactly like them. The mystery part was fairly well done. The romance part felt tacked on just to get a sex scene that felt completely out of place and out of character. I just wasn't buying that part; it felt like a contemporary romance trying to cram itself inside a historical mystery.

 

The narrator does a fairly decent job with the material and was easy to listen to and follow along, though her overall tone and reading pace (and I was listening at 1.25 times) was kind of sedate. I don't know if that added to the overall meh-ness or not, but it certainly didn't help.

 

This is probably one of the better Amazon Kindle First books I've read, which sadly isn't saying much.

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