Years ago, I read the book The Lions of Tsavo about man-eating lions and found it riveting. I went into this book with high hopes. The set up was pretty good with these well-meaning mercs planning to take out a war lord. There’s also an embassy and all their employees being evacuated or put under guarded lock down. Then the lions enter the story. All that was a great hook that pulled me into the tale.
Then things go into a bit of a slump. All of the mercs are nice guys which just made them come off as fake and one dimensional. After the first staging of the scene, there’s very little details about the location. Basically, this story could take place any place with a large predator. I would have liked more details about Africa in general and the country in specific to keep me in the story.
A few of the mercs die in their quest to rid the area of this pride of man-eating lions. Since I hadn’t gotten attached to them, I wasn’t sad when they had to exit the story. In fact, I had trouble keeping them all straight because they were nearly copies of one another in all their goodness.
The other big issue for me was that all the ladies are attached to the mercs (wives, girlfriends) and when they get together, all they do is cry in their wine as they miss their men. They have no lives of their own. These female characters were there to hold up the male characters and none of them stood on their own. Since this is fiction, we could have had at least one female character, perhaps as a merc or native Tanzanian wildlife guide. Alas, the ladies were even less memorable than the men.
Despite the flaws, the story has several good action scenes and some intense moments between hunter and hunted. 3/5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Dave Cruse was a good fit for this book. He had distinct voices for all the characters and a variety of accents. He also had decent female voices for the ladies. I’m not familiar with the Tanzanian accent, but the accent Cruse used for the Tanzanian characters was consistent throughout the story. There were no recording issues. 5/5 stars.
While it did take me 3 tries to get into this book, I’m glad I stuck with it. Occupied is a thought-provoking work. The three main characters, Tamsin, Ellie, and Arun, start off as kids, each coming from different backgrounds. As they age, they are pulled apart and their friendships set aside though they do occasionally intersect later in the story. A fourth pivotal character, Charlie, comes into the tale much later.
While this story qualifies as a satire, I did feel that I would have gotten quite a bit more out of it if I was more knowledgeable on Middle East politics (past and present). For the most part, the story stood on it’s own though I admit that I often lost track of which character is a Godly versus a Holy. I had the feeling that the underlying alluded to politics were more important than the story and I really just wanted to be swept up into the tale.
There is a lot of repetition in this book. Lots. That is the main thing that kept me from getting caught up in this book. If the book was 1/3 to 1/2 as long I feel that it would have more of punch, the important scenes would hit harder, and there would be more poignancy to the disturbing bits. All those things exist in the book as it is but you have to wade through the repetition to get to them.
The last fifth of the book was my favorite. It takes us into a near-future view of a consumer driven society. It definitely had that Brave New World vibe which I quite enjoyed. Also, I didn’t feel I had to be knowledgeable about certain politics to get what the story was telling me. This was the most chilling part of the book because there’s a society-encompassing apathy whereas the rest of the book has plenty of emotions flying around as one wrong is done after another, usually in the name of Right.
So, all told, I’m glad I finished it and I can see how fans of the satire genre would be interested in checking this book out. While the repetition and my lack of great knowledge on the politics alluded to made this book a bit of a chore to get through, it did end on a very strong note that resonated with me. 3.5/ 5 stars.
The Narration: Jack Wynters gave a decent performance. He had some accents and some voice range though not all of his characters were distinctly performed. He sounded interested in the story for the entire book never going deadpan bored. The pacing was good and there were no technical issues with the recording. 4/5 stars.
➜ This audiobook was received at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
I was pretty excited to dive into this time travel novel because I played way too much Oregon Trail as a kid and this book is set in the mid-1800s along the Oregon Trail. Kit MacKlenna is a modern day paramedic living on her ancestral horse ranch. Yet she has questions about her heritage and a small package left to her tempts her into the past to discover her true roots. I really liked that she knowingly traveled to the past. She plans well, studying up on the time period and packing certain supplies. Now I will say that I was a little surprised by how many modern things she decided to take with her (flashlights, IVs, pregnancy tests, etc.) and I did worry that would lead to many, many questions for her later. Also, she chose to take her dog and cat along for the trip as well. While I do like having furry companions in any story, I did find this an odd choice and I deeply worried the pets were going to be Red Shirts for drama down the road.
Then we’re off into the semi-civilized lands of Missouri. She knows that it will be hard to get a place on a wagon train as a single woman so she’s hoping to find a group that will accept her. She’s capable of seeing to her own food, camping gear, and animals so it’s really a matter of bending the social norms of the time. At first, the mid-1800s characters held to their social morays but as the story progresses, I did notice that there were sometimes unlikely reactions to Kit’s modern attitudes. Those little breaks in character took me out of the story from time to time and I wish that Kit had to work harder to either hide her modern ways or win others over to her ways quietly.
There is a strong romantic element to this book. I did like Cullen though I found the insta-luv between him and Kit to be rather convenient. Cullen is an interesting character but once he becomes involved with Kit they had this silly emotional roller coaster. Flirting, fighting, showing off to one another, ignoring each other, kissing, making up, etc. I was much more interested in the historical elements of this story but, alas, those were rather lacking once the tale was set up and off and running. This is a romance story first and foremost and a historical fiction second.
Despite the silly romance, Kit is a woman who does get stuff done. She’s a good shot, knows how to ride well, and has her medical skills. She’s also skilled at sketching. So she has a lot going for her if she can just wrangle in her emotions and stay focused. This mystery about her true relatives eats away at her throughout the story. While I can understand how that mystery can drive a person, I did feel she was a bit too needy at times, forgetting all the good things her upbringing modern Kentucky did have. I can’t help comparing The Ruby Brooch to other time travel books by the likes of Diana Gabaldon and Connie Willis. This book isn’t on the same level as those works. It’s more romance than historical fiction.
Some of the other interesting characters include Braham McCabe, who adds a bit of comedy here and there.The Barrett Family was very good to Kit and I feel I got to know Mrs. Barrett and Frances the best among them. Elliot Fraser is Kit’s godfather in modern Kentucky and he provides wisdom and safe household to return to if needed. All told, 3.5/5 stars.
The Narration: Teri Schnaubelt was awesome as the narrator. I really liked her variety of accents and the range of voices she had for men and women. Kit cried so much in this book (a little too much for me) but Teri did a great job with all the emotions. Schnaubelt sounded engaged throughout the story and all her character voices were distinct. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.
➜ Susan received a free copy of this book from the narrator. Her opinions are 100% my own.
This story started off promising: sex scene followed by several murders by unknown means. Detective Norton is assigned to look into it and initially he’s stumped. There’s no obvious motive or even murder weapon. Norton is reeling from the death of his girlfriend Mel, so he’s got that beaten down, drown-myself-in-work thing going for him. Norton is what drew me into this story.
Then the mysterious Orchid makes an appearance. She’s got skills and I wasn’t sure Norton would last the entire book. Thankfully, Orchid doesn’t want him dead right away! I went back and forth about Orchid. She’s got this ‘disguise’ and her Evil Mistress name Orchid but then some minor character easily identifies her doing her regular day job. So, not much of a disguise there. She’s fun but turns up too conveniently or gets out of handcuffs too easily. That sort of thing had me roll my eyes a few times.
While the story is indeed fast-paced, I occasionally lost interest in the story. It’s one fight or chase scene or quickie in the office supplies closet after another. There are a few quieter moments, usually when Norton is thinking about his Mel. Those helped balance some of the fast-paced nature of this tale. I did enjoy the scifi techno thriller aspect to the murders even if I found it lacked any substantial detail. The story wasn’t here to show me how such a cyber crime could be possible, but, rather, used the idea as a gimmick to set the stage and occasionally push the plot forward.
The story initially gripped my attention, but then lost it, tried to snatch it back, failed, tried again, gained a bit of interest, and then held it because I knew the ending was nigh. All together, it was OK. 3.5/5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Rick Gregory had to pronounce the word ‘whilst’ far too many times in this story. I don’t know why the author used that word so often. Gregory did give it a second syllable nearly every time which I found to be a little jarring. Other than that, Gregory gave a good performance. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. 4/5 stars.