Shepherdstown, WV, United States
Over the past month, I have read all 4 of Tana French's Dublin police mysteries. I have enjoyed their complex characters; their reflection on the effects of modern globalization on traditional values and culture; their discussion of the devastation wrought by the economic downturn; and French's flair for poetic and descriptive language.
With "Broken Harbor," however, the author has gone too far. As in the case the first and third series entries, the book is just too long. These characters and this plot never for a moment rang true to me, and I figured the conclusion out well ahead of the end. There's a real disdain expressed here for young professionals and the manner in which prosperity has supposedly 'destroyed' the Irish culture and way of life. It seems to me that French's pessimistic and judgmental attitude diminishes "Broken Harbor".
What a disappointment!
There have been a lot of literary interpretations of other women from the Bible; Mary Magdalene, for example, has been reexamined and interpreted in many ways. But rarely has an author taken on the prospect of transforming the Holy Mother herself into a flesh and blood woman and mother. Our religious images are too imposing: the serene, sorrowful, and eternally loving and patient virgin and Saint.
This is an exceptional performance of an impressive monologue. Meryl Streep's expressive, clear and powerful voice conveys what actually might be the thoughts and feelings of a mother in the circumstances in which Mary finds herself. She's an old woman now, weary and heartbroken still, sometimes questioning and untrusting, even angry. All that, and yet the qualities of her strength and honesty shine through.
Some will of course be offended to see Mother Mary presented in this way, without the trappings of 2000+ years of religious teachings. I was very moved by Toibin's writing and Meryl Streep's interpretation. The "Testament" is brief, thought-provoking, and just about perfect in every way. This Mary is truly full of grace.
This is cynical stuff. There's not much of anybody to really like in the story, and extreme violence makes it not for the faint of heart or stomach.
BUT, this is a really effective view of what it must be like to live in a war zone such as Northern Ireland was at the time of this action (and many places in the world, alas, remain today). McKinty is chillingly good at description, and the constant fear, guardedness, emotional numbness and lack of hope seem very real. There could be no more suitable narrator for this than Gerard Doyle.
If you like gritty, realistic mysteries about the worst of characters and situations you may appreciate this one. It's a lot of bleak, but I can say that it took all the "romance" out of the fabled "troubles" of Ireland for me - an outcome very much intended by the author, I think!
You can't argue with "The Grand Sophy". Here is one of Georgette Heyer's most memorable heroines, full of courage, charisma and feeling.
The "minor" characters are so essential in these books, which (it must be admitted) have pretty thin plots. No fear, Sophy and those around her make for rich entertainment. Not a lot of hot romance, but mayhem and comedy aplenty. I love the way Sarah Woodward voices these eccentric characters, male and female. She is an excellent narrator - so very important in the enjoyment of Heyer's books.
This book was written in 1950, at the height of the author's powers. How I wish that she had refrained from the cringe-worthy stereotypes which make a (thankfully short) episode in "Sophy" uncomfortable to listen to. I know she is writing about Regency England, where such perceptions were commonplace, but, by 1950, she should have known better than to have dwelt on them.
Aside from that, "The Grand Sophy" remains one of the best of Georgette Heyer, and therefore very entertaiing indeed! In the mood for light, well written diversion, and with a great narrator like Woodward, the listener can't go wrong with Sophy!
If you have ever been to or wanted to visit any of the great museums of the world, then you should read this and marvel!
It's a great book, but the real marvel is that we have never heard of this endeavor before. There are many stories of inspiration from WWII, and I think this ranks with the very best of them! It's the story of how we nearly lost most of the great and irreplaceable treasures of Western culture - and why that would have been a tragedy of unthinkable magnitude.
Of course, so many people died too. And, understandably perhaps, that story has been the focus of most books and movies about WWII. This book acknowledges that, but it also asks an important question about the role of art in the identity of nations.
Is any work of art worth a human life? Should military decisions include an attempt to preserve important cultural sites and works of art? These are questions well worth our consideration and "The Monuments Men" offers a terrific argument about why the answer should be "yes"! It was important in the past and should be in the future.
This book is fascinating! These people and their mission make for a "you couldn't make these things up", true and suspenseful story. The narrator does a great job.
I'll never again visit a museum without thinking about this book and the movie made from it. I know the movie didn't get great reviews, but it did bring to light a fantastic and hopeful story. Those who like books about history and/or art will enjoy both the filmed and audio versions.
This is important stuff!
It is with thorough approval that I declare "The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon" to be just exactly like all the other Mma Ramatswe stories.
Predictability, reassurance, comfort are not bad things in every case, and Alexander McCall Smith keeps reminding us why. In a modern, fast-moving, cynical world it's a wonderful pleasure to put up your feet in front of the fire, relax, and listen to the superb Lisette Lecat reading about the good woman of Botswana. Reader and character are never cloying, never "cute" - just a reminder that simplicity and goodness can still exist.
I like that this world changes little, that the quiet humor and unfailing kindness and tolerance of our lady detective can be depended upon.
These gentle books are not for every mood, to be sure. But I hope they keep coming - I love these visits!
Behind the main story of this book, a real controversy of current politics looms: in times of stretched budgets, does a small town/city really need its own police force? It seems the debate will continue in this series, as that particular question is not resolved here. But it adds another note of timely reality to the Fergusson/Van Alstyne novels.
"Through the Evil Days" also adds a darn good thriller to a fine series. There's lots of action and suspense, a real terror of an ice storm, and innocents aplenty in peril. For my taste, there's one or two too many "top this" twists and turns, but the story certainly moves quickly and holds the readers' interest.
Clare and Russ have proven to be a likable, believable characters who complement each other. Their marriage has not brought boredom or total peace of mind to the relationship. I like their feisty individuality and their differences. This volume also throws a great deal of light on the secondary romantic relationship of the series, and this relationship is every bit as interesting and complicated as the one between Clare and Ross. I marvel that Spencer-Fleming is so good at developing these romances while still maintaining a religious/philosophic element and first-class suspense in the series. I will definitely be back for the next adventure!
The narrator is a different issue. Although I like her basic reading voice very much, I find her extreme attempt to change tone for different characters a bit disconcerting. She tries too hard: those overly gruff male and sickeningly sweet female voices are distracting to a point nearing the absurd. There's plenty of drama in the book. I'd prefer a little less overdone narration.
This book lacks qualities that will appeal to a larger audience than young teens. Even without the cover art, it's so reminiscent of "The Hunger Games" that it's hard to see more than a cynical profit motive behind publication of this trilogy.
First person voice here really limits the scope of the tale: just how much teenage angst is the reader willing to suffer? I'm far from a teen, yet I enjoyed the wider sociological and science fiction elements of a 'Hunger Games' or a 'Harry Potter'.
All that said, there is an appealing heroine here, and the basic premise of dividing a world into various factions is interesting in this first volume. I think teen fans of Katniss might well enjoy it. But don't expect the true nature of 'divergence' to be much explored.
This is a long book! Really, really long! In the very best way!
At first, it seemed as though Doris Kearns Goodwin might have bitten off more than she could chew in taking on the divergent lives and stories in one volume. But I came to realize that these characters, and this piece of history, do indeed belong together. These two amazing Presidents (and hooray, Doris, for reminding us of the admirable Taft!), began the struggle against the powerful business interests that has continued (with varying degrees of success) until this day.
Even less remembered or acknowledged was the work of tireless journalists who - at least at first - truly had the welfare of the country foremost in mind. We are so accustomed to viewing the Press as a cynical, self-serving bunch; thank you Ms. Goodwin for reinstating Ida Tarbell, McClure, Baker, Phillips and others to their important place in history. The Golden Age of Journalism was indeed a worthy and necessary inclusion in this effort.
This author/historian has a real gift for making historical figures come back to life. As this book progresses, the reader cares more and more for them as people. As in "A Team of Rivals" about Lincoln and his advisors, there's real feeling in the portrayals of Theodore Roosevelt and Taft and in the people who most influenced them, especially their wives.
It seems to me that Goodwin presents these people and this important time in American history with a good deal of objectivity and prospective. Often the faults of these men and women are as grand as their strengths, and what begins as idealism and vitality sinks into egotism and self-aggrandizement. As Ray Baker is quoted in the epilog, in their belief that injustice would swiftly be corrected if it was known, these early crusaders never realized fully "just how hard-boiled the world really was."
We may be appalled at how little things seem to have changed and at how often we repeat the mistakes of the past, but, reading "The Bully Pulpit" ultimately assures us that the effort has been worth it, some progress (however slowly) has been made, and we soldier on.
Be warned: there is a pretty big ick-factor in "White Fire".
Of course, if you are a Preston/Child/Pendergast fan, you already expect this. The series is not for the faint of heart or stomach.
As usual, there's a lot of violence and a lot of suspenseful action here. But, surprisingly, no hint of the occult. Not usually an occult fan, I have come to accept it in the Pendergast series and to admit grudgingly that this hint of the unexplainable helps make the improbables and impossibles easier to accept.
On the contrary, all in "White Fire" is scientifically and psychologically understandable, regardless of how ludicrously overdone or unbelievable. There's the action and suspense I mentioned before, plus clever use of Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. But, ultimately, I found the inevitable murders, the drawn-out chases, and the conclusions to be impossible to swallow (a pun I hope those who read the book will forgive!).
They've had a long and good run with Pendergast; maybe it's time for a Preston/Child breakup.
A dangerous, ill-advised medical rescue flight in an ancient aircraft to Denver on a stormy winter's night. Tension aplenty, and a flashback to Walt Longmire's early days as Sheriff, when his daughter was a youngster and his wife was still alive. There's also new insight into Walt's predecessor and friend Luther.
My husband and I listened to this short piece during a holiday driving trip. Walt is always a good companion. Some of our favorite Longmire characters are missing from this novella, and its length prohibits the usual multifaceted plot of Johnson's works, but we nevertheless enjoyed this short adventure. Perhaps not the best introduction to the series, so don't start with this one if you are new to Craig Johnson. But, for fans, it's a great, bumpy ride! And George Guidell, as always, is just spot-on perfect!
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