John Irving is my favorite contemporary author. I have everything he's written, including his pre-Garp books. And typically, I finish a book even if I'm not enjoying it. I want to give the author a chance to turn it around for me. This is one of the few books that I just couldn't finish. I particularly wanted to extend the benefit of the doubt to my favorite author. I managed to get through most of the first two parts and just couldn't take the idea of sitting through another 16 to 18 hours. The first several hours are devoted to Jack and his mother moving from town to town searching for his father with the same result and recycled characters in every town. That part could have easily been condensed to one or two chapters without losing any critical plot points. The story simply takes to long to advance. Along the way, the protagonist encounters so much sexual exploitation that it made my head spin...and I work in child welfare. Irving's books are always full of deviant and bizarre behavior. But my favorite thing about him is that by the time the character commits such behavior, the reader has such a through understanding of them that their actions seem quite reasonable. Irving makes us understand that we can understand just about anyone once we hear their story. But in the case of this book, I couldn't even care about the main characters. My primary thought while listening to the first half of this unreasonably long book was "please...just get on with it."
I love this series. I have enjoyed it as much as any series I have ever read, with the exception of Harry Potter. Roy Dotrice is brilliant. His voices bring the book alive and really allow the listener to connect with the characters. However, I'm about 1/3 of the way through this book and I don't understand what has happened to the character voices. Almost every voice sounds markedly different than in previous books. In addition to that, he has completely changed the way he pronounces some names. Catelyn went from Cat-lynn to Cate-lin. Petyr has gone from pa-tire to Peter. It is really quite disconcerting, especially, since I am listening to the series one after the other.
This book is the best of two of my favorite genres--fantasy and espionage. I was actually surprised at how much I loved this book. Just couldn't stop listening. I love the way the characters are interwoven as the author switches back and forth from their respective story lines. By the time he switches back to a familiar character, I can wait to find out what's happening with them. The character development is excellent. You get to know them well, but this book is not a character study. Even the children in the story are so well developed that their own plot lines are as interesting as the adults. Must say, HBO also did an excellent job with this adaptation. But, of course, the book is always better. I couldn't wait to start the second in the series. I'm so glad the first 4 were written by the time I caught on to this series so I didn't have to wait for the next release. One word of caution...unlike many fantasy books that are appropriate for older kids and tweens, this one is NOT. It includes both graphic sexuality and violence. Well worth the time.
When I was in high school, my English Lit teacher said that every summer, right before school started back, she deliberately picked a book that was "pure trash" and immersed herself in it before diving back into fine literature. This is on of those books. I was a late convert to this series because I don't typically like romance novels, especially ones that make teenagers swoon. But a trusted friend recommended them and I thought I could at least give it a try. I read all four books back to back. Read several of them twice. In fact, when I got to Breaking Dawn, I only had one credit left in my account so I called Audible and had them turn my account over early so I could get the book that day. Are they serious literature? No, but who cares. Literature as Art has its place and I do love it. But this was a great ride, and those have their place too.
...you won't enjoy this book. I was surprised to find that so many people were downright angered at the conclusion of this book. Not just on this site, but many others. But if you read carefully, you will notice that those who really enjoyed the book understood the retelling of Hamlet as a modern day story. Those who hated it tended to miss that critical reference. My recommendation is to read, or at least get a good synopsis of Hamlet before you read. You'll enjoy it much more.
This is a wonderful story. Every story line is woven into the fabric of the book beautifully. Some may find that unrealistic, but I believe it offers us the back story of people's lives and behavior that we don't get to see in our real lives. We all come to the events in our lives with our past experiences and those experiences shape our reaction to the world. But we rarely understand how the past influences the present of others (and sometimes not even ourselves). Sue Monk Kidd deftly demonstrates how the past is inextricable from the present. I only hope the movie does it justice.
If there was ever a book that was meant to be listened to, this is it. I typically prefer one narrator in a book. While this would be a 5 star book either way, I wanted to tell others to stop READING the book and start LISTENING to it. I usually listen to books on my long drive to work. In this case, I couldn't wait to back in the car each day. Stockett tackles the dynamic of race relations in the south so perfectly that it never feels patronizing or moralistic. This became one of my all time favorite books before I even finished it. It will become a classic to rival "To Kill A Mockingbird" (on my personal top 10 list). Don't miss this one.
I read The Secret Life of Bees and thought it was a 5 star book. So I was excited to find Sue Monk Kidd's second novel. While I enjoyed the book, it was not as compelling as "Bees." In "Bees" every story line is woven into the fabric of the book. I found the Mermaid Chair a bit lacking in that department. There are too many holes and not enough back story to fill them. I was left with an incomplete picture of why characters behaved in the way they did. It was a good read, just not so compelling that I would make a point to recommend it to friends.
For some reason, I find it hard to put down a book, even when I'm not enjoying it. I have to give the author a chance to put some hook in the story that will give me reason to keep listening. I hated this book from early on, but I preserved because I have never read an "Oprah" selection that I didn't enjoy. I even loved Edward Sawtelle, which many others panned because it didn't have a happy ending. The difference here is that there was no redeeming qualities about either of the primary characters. They even bring those around them to despicable behavior. I don't mind when characters meet an unhappy ending, but I at least want to like them. Give me someone to root for.
I love Pat Conroy primarily for his ability to craft language so beautifully. The stories are enough to draw me in, but the craft he uses to write the story is what makes me want to read more of his books. Beach Music is no exception. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I can never refrain from comparing Conroy's books to The Prince of Tides, by far his best book. Thus I give it 4 stars.
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