I am not a sci-fi fan, but I read this book when it first came out in the '80s, and it was chilling (from a woman's point of view, at least). Looking back on it from the 21st century, it seems even more frightening, since the premise of the dystopian society -- the overthrow of the US government by murdering the president and all of congress by an EXTREME right-wing supposedly Christian group -- seems not so far-fetched as it once did.
The USA has been changed to Gilead. Pockets of resistance are still fighting against the group which has established a society where women are completely subjugated.
Any woman who is still fertile (after most of the world has been so contaminated that fertility is rare) is forced to become a Hand Maiden, assigned to one married male at a time solely for the purpose of bearing children to be raised by the father and his wife. The Gilead society is so repressive, and so brutal, that the Hand Maidens and almost all women are forced to become silent and internalize all thought.
Offred ("of-fred") reveals the minutiae and the indignities of her life in an almost anesthetized state. Claire Danes' narration fits the tone and atmosphere perfectly, detailing every day in an almost emotionless manner. This is an excellent book with exception narration. I recommend it to any and all readers, whether you are into sci-fi or not.
Marion Chesney is an extremely prolific author, writing both period and contemporary novels and series of mystery and romance under several names, including Marion Chesney and, probably best known, M.C. Beaton. I have read books from several of her series, including contemporary, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian mysteries. I have enjoyed almost all of them. They are written with a light hand, enjoyable without serious pretension.
I have especially enjoyed her Edwardian series and the Hamish MacBeth series. So when I saw a listing for a Chesney Victorian series, I anticipated the pleasure I had experienced in the Edwardian series. Alas, despite the intriguing underlying concept (a set of sisters who have been raised in, and have adopted, the ideals and goals of women's rights, especially women's suffrage), the book felt flat and uninteresting to me.
This book was missing all the light, humorous touches which I had come to expect from Chesney. The characters, especially the sisters, seemed dull and lifeless despite the fact that the plot contained more than a little action. Finally, many of the occurrences in the plot were simply not believable, and no amount of humor could cover up or diminish that fact. Despite the best efforts of narrator Vanessa Benjamin, she could not give this book enough life to make it enjoyable.
I will continue to read other Chesney books for those times when I just want a light, humorous break, but I doubt that I will continue this Waverly Women series.
In "The Silkworm," J.K. Rowling, aka Robert Galbraith, proves that she can write and develop characters in adult detective fiction just as magically as she did in YA fiction where the characters themselves were surrounded by magic. She captivated us through a 7-book series in Harry Potter. Now she/he has created detective Cormoran Strike and Robin, his assistant/protege wannabe. In this second book both Cormoran and Robin grow and become stronger, more mature, and more comfortable with themselves.
Along with the exceptional character development, "Galbraith" provides the reader with lots of characters who are quirky, to say the least, and a great plot which had me keeping up but not able to foresee the twists and turns.
Robert Glenister takes the story and adds even more magic with his narration. He has settled into these characters and, despite a deep voice, he creates believable female voices. All in all, this was a wonderful listening experience. I can't wait for the next book in the series!
I purchased this Audiobook as a result of some good reviews by other listeners whose reviews I respect. Alas, I was not impressed. At times I felt like I was listening to a poorly-written teenage adventure novel. (My apologies to the many extremely well-written and imaginative young adult novels.) I found the main character, Sky Stone, a one-dimensional character who repeatedly goes off on tangents motivated either by anger or by hormones, often ending up in very uncomfortable situations. Secondary characters were not much better, and that only because they appeared in the story for shorter periods of time.
I was made even more aware of the lack of development of the characters in this book when I listened to my next book, The Silkworm, written by J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith, and experienced the marvelous, three-dimensional characters which that writer produces.
That said, the plot of The Profiler's Daughter was fairly engaging, although there were a few too many red herrings. I did enjoy the depiction of the rather stormy relationship of Sky and her Grandmother. I found the narration to be adequate.
Alan Bennett is my all-time favorite writer of dialogue and monologue. He is a master at showing a character's inner feelings without the character's actually knowing he or she is revealing much of anything. And he has an uncanny knack for creating the talk of women: every line, even when pretty far out, sounds absolutely true to the character.
These talents make the "Talking Heads" monologues memorable, ironic and funny at the same time that they are moving and powerful. In particular, "A Lady of Letters," with Patricia Routledge, and "Bed Among the Lentils," with Anna Massey demonstrate the quiet lives of desperation lived by many women.
This is material guaranteed to make you laugh or chuckle and yet be moved by the speakers. Highly recommended!
When you listen to this book, it seems as fresh and current as it was when first published in 1953, with a main character psychopath/sociopath who is charming and ruthless, preying on young women and willing to kill to get what he wants.
Ira Levin was 23 when "A Kiss Before Dying" was published, and I marvel at the taut, complex and frightening plot which he produced. This is especially true when you consider that his other works through his lifetime included "No Time For Sergeants," "The Boys From Brazil," "Rosemary's Baby," and "The Stepford Wives."
While I had previously seen a movie of this story, I had never read the book. The book is sooo much better at building the suspense and keeping you guessing. The author even manages to keep the reader guessing for a while over which of three possible young men is the culprit.
The recording also contains an informative introduction about the author and the book, and how the book was received when it was first published.
Highly recommended to anyone who appreciates taut and careful plotting, and enjoys classic mystery stories.
In "The Secret Vanguard," the 5th book in the Appleby series, Michael Innes starts the plot with a dead poet, then takes us on a wild ride around the English countryside as it was in 1940. Characters are kidnapped by strange foreigners, escapes are engineered, then escapees have to play desperate games of evasion, only to be caught again. As the story goes along, you are told that these bad guys are German agents, and if you stay alert, you will be told how all of this is tied to the murdered poet. The story is great fun, and reminds me a bit of "The Thirty-nine Steps" by John Buchan, which dealt with World War I spies in England.
I enjoy Innes's literate writing, his plots and his characters, especially Inspector Appleby, who is ordered by the Government to join in the chase after the Germans. Matt Addis delivers his usual excellent narration in this story, performing in both educated and regional working class accents in a polished and effective manner.
An excellent way to spend a day or two (or a long drive) listening.
Like other reviewers, I must confess that I have an addiction to all those sequels, variations, and other books which I just call "Austen genre." I have read quite a few and will continue to read more, even if they turn out to be disappointing attempts by writer and/or narrator.
Pamela Aidan's trilogy ("A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman") is among the very best of the Austen genre. Aidan writes quite well, conveying the atmosphere, culture, and daily life of the English upper class during the Regency Period. In addition, she provides a great deal of information about the politics, foreign affairs, and legal matters of that Period. And she does all this while staying very close to Jane Austen's characters and plot in Pride and Prejudice. I found her suppositions about the true natures of the P&P characters to be completely believable and understandable: her Darcy never puts a foot wrong or betrays his principles (until he sees that his principles are mistaken or no longer valid). I enjoyed seeing the fleshing-out of characters like Georgianna and Mr. Bingley, and the introduction of new characters, especially Fletcher, Darcy's valet.
As to the narrator, George Holmes, I had no trouble with his reading. While his cadence is a bit different because of pauses between phrases, the pauses are very slight and, to my mind, create a less-hurried cadence, one more suited to the age in which the book is set. It is my understanding from quite a bit of reading that the upper classes in the Regency Period actually did talk slowly, because they seldom had any sort of deadline which required urgency. In addition, I believe that George Holmes' voice is very well-suited to this book -- light, somewhat delicate, and very much like the voice of a Regency aristocrat (as I have imagined them or heard them in BBC productions).
This was a very enjoyable read, and I have already started volume 2 of the Trilogy.
Set in the village of Kurland St. Mary, "Death Comes to the Village" is the first in a projected series. The mystery plot is intriguing, with several twists along the way, featuring two missing maids from two households, and a series of thefts of small items from the houses of each of the wealthier families in the area. The identity of the villains is not who we usually would suspect, and the author keeps the secret well through most of the book.
The characters are even more intriguing, in my opinion, particularly Miss Lucy Harrington, the oldest daughter of the Rector, considered by some to be an old maid in her early 20's. Unlike the heroines in most Regency Romances I have read, this young woman chafes under the strictures imposed upon her by society. Since her mother died in childbirth when Lucy was 15, Lucy has had to act as nursemaid to her 7-year-old twin brothers and as her father's housekeeper and hostess, fulfilling the duties her mother would have performed. She has no prospect of escaping those duties, since her father views the arrangement as a permanent one and intends to send her beautiful younger sister to London for a coming out season.
In rebellion, she becomes involved in investigating the disappearance of the maids and the thefts, in an uneasy alliance with Major Robert Kurland, the wealthy local squire, who is bedridden while he recovers from injuries suffered in the battle of Waterloo. He is rude, with a quick temper, and they argue as much as they work together. Both main characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. Other characters, while not as finely drawn, are still interesting and entertaining.
Narrator Susannah Tyrrell has an unusual voice and delivery which bothered me a bit at the beginning, but I soon grew used to it and decided that it was perfect for this book. Her change of voices and delivery of both high class and low class regional accents sounded wonderful to this American's ear. And she dealt well with scenes of suspense and violence.
I enjoyed this book a lot, and I look forward to listening to the series as it progresses.
Well worth a credit!
"Death on Blackheath" is the tenth book which portrays Pitt as a member of Special Branch, a government agency concerned with security, espionage and government secrets. When Anne Perry first moved Pitt from the police to Special Branch, I had difficulty adjusting: the espionage and thriller parts just didn't ring true for me. But I hung in there, believing that Perry would get it together so that Special Branch would be as believable and engrossing as the earlier police novels were. And the last few Special Branch books did finally come up to the quality of plot and style that I had so enjoyed in the police stories.
In this latest installment, Pitt and Stoker of Special Branch are called to investigate matters which would not otherwise come under their jurisdiction, except that they occured at the home of Mr. Kenyston, an important scientist doing secret weapons work for the government. As things progress, bodies are discovered near the same home, all causing Pitt to focus on Kenyston. It turns out that some of those things were intended just to create that focus.
Anne Perry writes with her usual fine eye for detail, both physical and emotional detail, and describes minute details of her characters that allow the reader to see the faces, and the new lines caused by aging, hard work, fear and other factors.She allows us to understand and feel what the characters are feeling, and the exceptional narration of Davina Porter makes us feel the fear, the happiness, the love and the hatred that the characters experience. Many of Perry's continuing characters appear in this installment. This book may be one of my favorite Pitt books, because it also lets us see, and feel, new love between two of my favorite Perry characters.
"Fingersmith" is the award-winning, masterful exhibition of Sarah Waters' exceptional skills in creating settings so real the reader can see them clearly and characters who are fully developed and who act like real human beings. In this book, the setting created is Dickension London and neighboring areas, and the characters, both lower and upper class, are ones who would feel perfectly comfortable among the characters created in Dickens' various stories.
Add to that setting and those characters a plot which would outdo even Dickens with its many twists and turns, leading the reader toward an inevitable conclusion, then at the last moment adding one more element and turning toward another inevitable conclusion, and then turning again. Waters keeps you guessing almost up to the end.
From the first words of "Fingersmith," I was completely engrossed. First because of the exceptional voice of narrator Juanita McMahon, quite low and velvety, speaking in the accents of the London slums. Then I became caught up with the characters and became embroiled in the plot. I remained engrossed right to the very last words of the story, more than 23 hours later. By then, I had laughed and cried at and with these characters, and I didn't want to let them go. I wished for a longer book or a sequel.
Some people have called this soft lesbian porn because the relationship between the two leading characters, both women, is gradually recognized by each of them as being love.
There is only one scene which contains a brief physical act between them, and it is described in such euphemistic Victorian terms that our more hardened modern sensibilities might barely notice it. For each woman, it is the love she feels for the other that is important and is almost the only source of joy in her life.
If you like Dickensian stories or settings, you should enjoy this book. Even if you don't enjoy such things, but do appreciate exceptional writing skill, I would recommend this book to you. There are passages in "Fingersmith" which were so well drawn that they took my breath away. Obviously, I recommend this book very highly.
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