and am well-educated, but failed to get whatever "point" Ferguson was making here - just lots and lots (and lots!) of historical stories/anecdotes/facts for 14 hours. His reading wasn't a problem for me; although the sections where he read quoted passages in the speakers' accented English seemed weird at times, that did serve to set them off from the "story" itself.
If I had the choice again, I'd read (skim) the print version instead. I tried breaking it down to listening no more than an hour per day, and even that left me looking at the time-elapsed counter frequently.
I thought the first book wasn’t too bad, but this one is, to use a southern expression, rather a hot mess. Three quarters of the way through I found myself wondering when the “mystery” angle was going to kick in? It sort of did after that, but by then that didn’t really matter, more like, “Oh, it was that person.”
Let’s talk about Cherry, whom another reviewer has labeled “narcissistic”; I tend to agree. She spends her time sulking about slights quite a bit, when not outright provoking hostility from others. At one point, she engages in a nasty bit of badinage with the waitress at a dive (an establishment called “The Viper” could be anything else?), which would’ve been avoided had Cherry not deliberately escalated the situation. Later, when she makes a very nasty remark to her “arch enemy” Shawna, she gets punched in the face. When asked what happened afterwards, she admits that she make the remark, but says defensively, “I didn’t think she’d hit me!” Cherry's crack was the kind of remark that even a Philadelphia Main Line society matron would’ve been hard pressed to ignore. Score one for Shawna. At one point, the locals bristle at the idea of being called “country”; okay then … “yokels” perhaps? Almost all of them seem like something out of Jerry Springer to me. My jaw dropped when Cherry referred to someone as trash, and a moment later tells us how she “honored” her grandmother’s passing with a t shirt featuring that lady’s photo “outlined in Swarovski crystals.” Pot-kettle-black, I’d say. Finally, there’s one subplot that I found fascinating, featuring the one character who isn’t at all trashy, Max Avtaikin. I think of it as The Case of the Suspicious Speedos.
Max is an immigrant from the former Soviet bloc, who seems somehow to be involved with illegal gambling, at least in Cherry’s mind. He lives in a mansion, is single, and husky enough to have the nickname “Bear” which Cherry uses (he generally calls her “Artist” in return). In addition to a light-years-beyond-gorgeous boyfriend, Luke, Cherry has a quasi-ex-husband, Todd, from an annulled quickie Vegas marriage (see Jerry Springer above), who’s also H-O-T. We know this about them because Cherry tells us … often. Todd is employed by Max part-time as a bingo caller, when Max lets the Ladies’ Auxiliary use his property for their games. During one bout of snooping to confirm her suspicion that Max is running an illegal high stakes poker operation in his pool house (involving poor Todd in that sordid scheme, so he needs her “rescuing”), Cherry runs across Todd swimming -- in speedos! She is mortified beyond belief. When she (hysterically) demands to know WHY he is wearing speedos, Todd replies that they are not his, but that Max “loaned” them to him. She never actually questions that single, husky middle aged men routinely have speedos that fit young hunks perfectly lying around as a matter of course. One might get the impression that the games played in the poolhouse might be more of the strip poker variety perhaps? At one point, the plot has Max taking Cherry upstairs to see a painting he bought, with the line, “That is my bedroom (behind the closed door); you do not need to see it.” I suppose if she were that curious, she could just ask Todd?
I would be willing to read the next book, on the assumption the series was actually intended to be a campy parody, ‘cause in that sense, it’s a rip-roaring success!
This collection of travel essays, many from Cold War-era eastern Europe, I found "right up my street" (as our British friends would say). Narration seemed a good fit, too.
I couldn't put my finger exactly on why I didn't like the book more, deciding it was his style of ingratiating himself with Hispanics he met as "such a cool Anglo" (which he had the honesty to report actually backfired on him at least once).
The first part is rather slow going with backstory of his life, finally getting in the water at El Paso, and then canoeing down to Laredo, where the author lives. A couple of friends join him for stretches, and he meets up with others along the way. This section isn't very populated, and there's only so much description to go on about, so he "profiles" the folks I've just mentioned, which fell into a "you had to be there" mode for me.
Still, on balance, that was marginally better than the second part from Laredo to the Gulf of Mexico. Here, he spends a great deal of time charming initially-unfriendly border patrol agents, between beer runs in local towns. At one point, he marvels that he was able to stroll through a (prosperous) winter retirement community ... "because I'm white!" That was back-to-back with an encounter with a Mexican who was pleased that his countrymen had treated Bowden so kindly (he had bopped back and forth between the countries in a sort of zig-zag fashion); his delight in telling the reader of that fellow's follow up remark "and how would I be treated as a stranger in your country?" to which Bowden gives the expected answer of "not well!" had my eyes rolling. If that politics wouldn't bother you, you'll like the book more than I did.
Finally, the narration was outstanding - perfect fit!
This title includes two short stories - first one that sets up the "series" and a second ghost story, that takes place ten days later, which would be okay as part of a larger collection (of, say, a half dozen or more), but not really a lot of plot on its own. Obviously, one credit for two stories that last under two hours is a no-go proposition, but $5 a throw is still steep (I used promotional currency to purchase this book). A single title of six stories for $15, or one credit, would have been the way to market these. The narration seemed a bit slow at first, but I got used to Ms. King's style by the second story, and it's fairly clear she put a lot of effort into the job.
but after a couple of hours I was totally invested in the story. Odelia's the kind of character you wish were real so that you could actually meet her.
Here's hoping the rest of the series becomes available in audio format soon!
The audio sample seemed pretty good, so I was baffled by the low rating here. However, now that I'm finished, I have to report that it was a real chore getting through this one -- proof that a great narrator can't save a weak story.
Much of the first half of the book is typical story setup: introduction of characters, setting the scene, and the like, which is fine, although it's dragged out here with the focus on squatter Jim Peck (technically, he has Joe's grudging permission to stay on the property). As the hippie-ish young man makes himself gradually into a more permanent fixture, than just pitching tent, Joe's level of resentment grows ... as did my fatigue. Second half of the story contains flashbacks to Joe's past, that help explain his strong feelings, as well as another storyline about a neighbor, until the Final Conflict, where all goes horribly wrong. It's no spoiler to say that Peck is quite manipulative, although perhaps a slight one in mentioning that Joe's mistrust proves grounded in the end.
Stegner could write ... and how! Unfortunately, the story's grim tone marches on throughout, his heavy-handed warning about the societal changes that the 60's will bring seeming dated, and largely disproved. Edward Hermann does a knockout job with the narration, as though the book were written back then with him specifically in mind for the job.
but I'd suggest reading "Dolphins" first to get to know the Claytons; if you liked that one, you'll enjoy this one, too. As for what to expect: an hour or so of pre-trip talk (which I found a bit lengthy), and then they leave the Balearic Islands for Sardinia. At that point, they decide to head back towards Gibraltar, rather than moving further east, so they explore the Balearics in greater detail (they were there in the first book), hit mainland Spain, and then Gibraltar, where they're confined for a while for mechanical repairs resulting from the wake of a huge pleasure craft swamping the inside of their boat earlier. After Gibraltar, they hear head out to the Canary Islands for the final leg, where things get a bit spooky a couple of times.
I've seen readers say that Sandra seems negative, and I understand where they're coming from as things do go wrong regularly for them. However, I feel she's more balanced on the whole, with lots of mention of beautiful places, friendly locals and fellow boaters, etc. To be fair, yachting in itself does attract the self-indulgent rich, and the nouveau riche aren't exactly known for their concern for others.
I didn't think I'd be interested in reading their third book on their trip from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean, but now I would, although I'd strongly prefer an audio version if possible. Pamela Garelick does a good job with the stories.
I'm not from the South, but Erin Clark's Georgia accent brought the book alive for me; her Russian one was great, too! Story veered a bit into chick-lit territory for me at times, but overall I was busy getting into Cherry's sense of humor. I had wanted to know more about she and her siblings live with the grandfather, but enough was alluded to that I figure it can come out over time in future stories.
The characters weren't very sympathetic, and there wasn't all that much of a plot exactly, just inner thought. Moreover, the religious angle was clearly Greene justifying his conversion to Catholicism in a heavy-handed, awkward manner. Colin Firth's narration was excellent, but couldn't "save" this one.
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