Some readers really disliked this one, claiming the characters are insufferable. I can see why it might seem so in print, but in the audiobook they were quite well-defined (quibble though that Vera and Valentina were kind of similar sounding names, so I got them a bit confused at times). Since we see the action through the point-of-view of the younger daughter Nadia, naturally we're going to find the sister she dislikes (or at least resents) offputting; at least until the full story comes out later in the book. Nadia is a bit of a put-upon mouse at first, but comes into her own as well. Valentina may be scheming and materialistic, but a golden opportunity was thrust at her, so no surprise she took it! Their father did, indeed, put himself into the mess, but he did so much for the family over the years (as becomes evident later), that I could forgive him a well-intentioned idea ("rescuing" a Ukrainian woman and her son) gone horribly wrong. The book's not perfect - for one thing, I found the War years details clunkily done, awkward to get through. No spoiler, but the later developments were a bit much also: one key player comes to England as part of a long-term conference/training scheme ... yet speaks no English! Still, the farce helps balance out the more serious details of the family's painful past.
I'm not certain I would be giving the print version such a high rating, but the narrator hit a home run with the material as far as I'm concerned. Loathsome though Valentina behaved throughout, I looked forward to her scenes as Thomas laid on the Ukrainian accent and broken English for maximum comic effect. The father was also well done, although he sounded an awful lot like a Russian character in a mystery series I listen to ("What's Petru doing here?").
So, not only would I recommend listening, I was left hoping for a sequel.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, as I'm not a poetry guy at all, nor am I into extensive descriptions of nature. Well, neither of those were a problem here. There are some poems in the book, but only a few, so that I appreciated the poetry readings he gave along the way. Book is especially recommended for poetry fans, as well as those with a string interest in the English countryside. Audio narration a terrific fit - I kept forgetting Armitage wasn't reading this himself.
I hadn't realized this was such a YA book. Sue, the 17 year old protagonist, came off as closer to 14 to me, very immature.
As a bit if plot re-hashing, which I normally avoid, her mother's just committed suicide, and she hates her dad's fiancée, so she's off to her Aunt Coral at her mother's family estate, or at least manse. At that point, some of the story is told in flashback form over Coral's lifetime from her journals; I liked that as an alternative to Sue mooning over a boy she can't have in the present. Coral's the best part of the story, although she's rather immature herself, at her best when leading the weekly writing seminars. Naturally, there's a villain as well, who becomes the girlfriend of the object of Sue's obsession. Never fear, by the end she's contrite, Sue learns that the truth about her parents wasn't what she'd assumed, her life is on track, and Coral is left with a rehabilitated manse, formerly a money pit, to run as a sort of guest house. Sorry for the spoilers, but most readers would see all that coming in a book where everything's tied up very neatly.
One of the few audiobooks where the author's own narration is probably better than a professional would have done.
It's tough for a sequel to equal a strong first book, and this series is no exception. The plot takes an awfully long time to get going as there's no actual murder for quite a while. Also, I didn't really relate to Danny and his young friends all that much; to be brutally honest, they seemed a bit boring to me. But, okay ....
I give the book a fourth star as the villain was actually quite interesting, complete with an ending that one cannot reasonably expect, even if it's rather over-the-top. More importantly, the author makes the point that a) bullying can have consequences later, even if seems "fun" at the time, and b) so can rejecting your kids for not being what you deem "successful" early on. There's also an angle regarding Ceepak's discovering talent in a young man who seems anything but a success on the surface.
Wanted to throw in that while there's nothing gory or grisly here, one scene did fill me with complete horror: Danny stumbles across a young kid, around 5 in a wheelchair (presumably with developmental issues or Downs Syndrome, not really gone into), being bullied by a group of young men in their late teens who are going to have "fun" pushing the " 'tard" down a steep ramp (the kid is absolutely terrified). Call me a wuss if you'd like, but I was incredibly rattled for quite a while that such an event was even possible in real life.
He does a good job with presenting new (to me) points of view regarding well-trodden ground. Wasn't a great fan of his style of dramatic reading though.
So-So Victorian period piece, but no thriller. Author was trying for "Turn of the Screw" but ended up with something closer to a Movie of the Week script instead.
Narrator did the best she could with the material, so no knock on her performance here.
Where to begin after saying that ... I spent a few decades in the Garden State (ages 2 - 35), though have only been Down the Shore a few times for day trips; still, I've heard enough stories to know that instead of laying things on thick here, the author's portrayal was actually understated, if anything.
I'll start with the plot, where the only "fault" I really found was in believing that municipal cops would end up having any say in investigating such a high-profile crime. Once the state (and, in this case, FBI, as well) became involved, their presence would be distinctly unwelcome. Grabenstein manages to introduce a red herring, which I fell for along with Danny, which really shifted the tone considerably. All in all, the plot worked fine for me.
So, let's talk about Ceepak. He really did turn out almost Holmes-like in his attention to detail. Yes, he is a bit Dudley-Do-Right, but rather than seeming goody-goody, it's just who he is. His Springsteen obsession made him appear a bit Asperger-ish, although analyzing the personality of a fictional character only goes so far. Sufficed to say, he turns out to be a "totally awesome" character. The final scene would be incredibly corny in any other situation, but because it's Ceepak, I found myself making a thumbs up gesture.
Perhaps Grabenstein decided that Watson-describing-Holmes worked so well that he'ddo that, too. Or. maybe he tried writing a Ceepak point-of-view story, realizing that was just too ... awkward (difficult). In any event, this is really Danny's story. He grows from a "kid" with a summer job (he seemed a bit younger than 24 to me), taking a seasonal job involving parking tickets, and other minor offenses, to someone who goes through a lot (it is a murder case after all), and learns more about where he'd like to go (no spoiler really that he's actually a pretty good potential cop himself). In other words, the draw of this as a series is seeing Danny's point-of-view as he gains experience.
And, part of the draw is Jeff Woodman's narration. He's one of the three best narrator-material fits I've run across in eons of audio listening. (For the record, the others are George Guidall reading Hillerman's Jim Chee series and the late Frank Mueller reading the novel Motherless Brooklyn).
Now, someone stop me before I rant again!
I've seen reviews that state this one can be read as a stand-alone, which is probably true, but I'd still read the others first. Phil Gigante is a great fit as narrator for the series.
As for the story here, frankly I found the first third or so rather boring, with Apelu moping around on a remote island alone, grieving for his young daughter who'd died on cancer; he blames himself for not having insisted she be treated earlier. The wife and kids are in Western Samoa with her family, except for the older boy, Senele, who comes to live with Apelu later in the story. Anyway ... once one of the pahlonghi (white American) associated with the construction crew is murdered, the action picks up, or at least we have something to go on from there. The ending is quite rushed, almost tacked on, so I didn't really get why the victims were killed specifically?
The book filled time, but if I had to describe it in a single word: grim. Between Apelu's morbid moping, and the nasty characters, it was tough to actually like reading this one. I will give Enright credit for the way he so thoroughly coveys a sense of place and culture. On to the next installment, which just came out ... though probably not right away.
Yes, the author does get carried away with his own schtick at times; however, he's usually informative and funny enough to easily carry what could be dry subject matter if handled differently.
Seems my ancient degree in International Relations really paid off here! Those without a very strong interest in foreign relations would find this one rather a slog I'm afraid, beyond the travel narrative aspects. Audio narration is well done.
Good that this was a short book (non-fiction "novella" as it were), as I never got used to the author's rather verbose, corny style. I suppose it may well be the way Victorian sea captains spoke, and I assumed that the narrator faithfully reproduced that effect, but the result just wasn't for me; had this been a full-length work, I doubt I'd have finished it. The final hour (25%) consists of a second-hand tale from the South Seas written by Slocum, based on reports he says he "translated" with the aid of a Polynesian Bible as his Rosetta Stone; I gave that part a pass.
I had my doubts about "Sailing Alone Around the World", which now goes into the Highly Unlikely category.
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