This is a good time to learn about North Korea. Having listened to the biographical "Nothing to Envy..." earlier, this novel seemed the logical next choice.
This book is fascinating, disturbing, and surprising at every turn. The first half of the book is stronger than the second and the story becomes less grounded as you go, but it never loses momentum. The characters would be unbelievable were they placed in our society, but given how other worldly North Korea is, they make sense.
The readers change as the point of view moves between characters. The reader during the title character's view is more effective, but as a group, they are very good.
If you don't know much about North Korea, my suggestion would be to listen to "Nothing to Envy..." or another slice of life book about the country before this one. By all means, though, take the time to enjoy "The Orphan Masters Son."
There are thousands of books set in World War II, but I would bet that there are none that like The Persimmon Tree.
Is it a book set in WWII that happens to contain a love story?
Is it a love story about how experiences can change young love that happens to be set in WWII?
Courtenay has done a good job of combining the love story with essentially two separate stories about Anna and Nick while they were apart and trying to survive war with the Japanese. The book bounces back and forth between Anna and Nick and except for the beginning, where they met, and the end, where they reunite, their lives have no real connection other than their pledges to each other before they parted.
Courtenay has obviously well researched the world Nick and Anna were placed in and the framework is rooted in history. The portrayals of Japanese military and the Javanese population are not always flattering, but they appear to be realistic.
Humphrey Bowers reading is top notch and adds to the enjoyment. He handles the different accents well and the characters are, for the most part, distinct.
This was my first Bryce Courtenay book and it will probably not be the last.
I don't really care that J.K Rowling wrote this under as nom de plume. I don't really care who wrote it. I am simply glad that I found it as it is a very good book and, I hope, the first of many Cormoran Strike detective stories.
If you happen to be a fan of Michael Connelly's "Bosch" detective books, you will be right at home with this book. I don't mean that J.K. has copied the formula, but just that whatever grabs you about Connelly's books will grab you here, too.
As the book unfolds, you can tell that the main characters are being written for the long haul. Rowling's touch with character development has, if anything, improved from the Harry Potter days and she has written some very flawed but likeable ones here.
The overall story is one that left me saying "I have no idea where this is going" the entire way. Stories that end up with some implausible conclusion that no one could have figured out bother me. Stories like this one, though, that are challenging to figure out but make sense in the end are what you want.
Finally, Robert Glenister is an exceptional reader and I trust that he will be kept around for all of the series--I hope so. Jim Dale MADE the Harry Potter books to me and Robert Glenister seems after this first book to be in that same league.
How in the world do you make a 22 hour audiobook about an obscure Naval officer from 70 years ago work? Well, Elliot Carlson/Danny Campbell find a way. A large portion of this book is dedicated to a detailed account (almost day by day) of code-breaking in the Pacific theater from mid-1941 to mid-1942 period, but it's not boring. Before and after those detailed accounts is the story of Joe Rochefort and his career's many highs and lows; a compelling story itself.
Obviously, this is a book meant for people with a high level of interest in WWII (like me) and I can't imagine my wife sitting through even 30 minutes of this book. However, even for someone who finds the stories from WWII compelling, this could have been TMI if not written with as much care and style.
Danny Campbell's reading is adequate. He does have an occasional inflection/emphasis issue when pronouncing certain words and names (e.g. "Rabaul" comes out as "ra-BOW-el"), but overall it does not detract from the story.
Finally, when writing a book about a somewhat controversial figure from this period, Carlson could have sided with Rochefort unilaterally to make his subject an absolute hero. Instead, he does a good job of balancing the account and provides a well researched and fair treatment of Rochefort and his primary adversaries, the Redman brothers.
This book is so "personal" and so heartfelt, that, as my headline says, it's hard to believe it's not true. With all of the positive reviews of the book here and in print, all I can do is join the chorus and say that it's a wonderful listen and a book I will remember fondly for years to come.
You'd think I'd learn. "DaVinci Code" was great. Everything else Dan Brown writes is just a poor copy of that formula.
I did enjoy the first 2/3 of this book and I think Dan Brown enjoyed writing the first 2/3 as well. From that point, though, realizing he had written himself into a corner, he looked over to bookshelf with the last 6 books and sighed "well, I can always do THAT again."
Paul Michael does a very good job again. His reliability matches Dan Brown. In Paul Michael's case, this reliability is a good thing. In Dan Brown's case, reliability breeds contempt.
Don't do what I did...learn from your mistakes and pass on this one.
I had this book on my Wish List for about 4 years. Finally, I bought the book and started it anticipating the movie later this year. I listened without knowing much of anything about Orson Scott Card. After completing it, I did Google him and learned the basics...and the controversial things he has said.
I'm glad I did these things in this order, because if I had researched Card first, I might have missed out on a wonderful story placed in a unique universe. I have since listened to "Speaker For the Dead" and "Xenocide."
"Ender's Game" is vivid, engaging, and well paced. The multiple narrators do a good job with most voices and the characters are all memorable.
It's hard to reconcile a person with the creative mind that Orson Scott Card possesses having such narrow views on social issues. However, as this is an audiobook review, I will end with suggesting that you don't let any news reports about him keep you from this book. It is an excellent listen and should be on your short list.
We actually went to hear David Sedaris read two days before this book was released. Going into the auditorium I was thinking how cool it was that he picked Columbia, SC as the feature stop on his tour; the stop right before the release. However, when he admitted that he didn't really know anything about Columbia (despite growing up in North Carolina), my hometown shriveled back down to it's normal lowly status.
As for the book, it is very good; much better than "When You are Engulfed in Flames." David has left most of the really personal reflections about his youth and family behind in "Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Naked," and "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim," but still manages to find some new ones for this book. It is amazing how many good (and funny) stories are to be found in one family.
This book is his most polished so far and David has nearly perfected his unique delivery. After hearing (watching) him live for the second time, I realized that though his speech patterns are his own, he does plan his cadence and pauses very carefully for maximum effect. I have listened to all of his books and several of his broadcasts and having done so, I don't think I could "read" his books. Hearing him read his own stories is a big part of what makes David Sedaris so enjoyable.
If you have listened to David Sedaris books before, then you will feel right at home. If not, then listen to one or more of the earlier books mentioned above first. Either way, you will enjoy this audiobook.
Let's hope there isn't 5 more years before his next one.
Oh, and the music played between the stories IS great, too.
I have to admit that when I heard the introduction to this book, I was about ready to turn it off. The author's story of how he came to write it and, especially, his belief at the time the base story came to light that all German's were Nazi's in WWII left me wondering whether this could be a good listen. However, I soon forgot any misgivings and found myself immersed in the story, especially Franz's side.
The brief central story is compelling, but it's the background stories that are the most interesting. I have read other books about the air war over Europe, but learned from this book a great deal about how the air war evolved from the pilot's point of view.
I won't give out any spoilers, but this is a very interesting book that is well worth your time. I gave the "story" a 5, not because of it's prose, but because of the information it contains. The writing is fine (basically it's reporting) and the pace of the book and organization are spot on. There is an element that is overplayed in the writing, but it's not so over the top to detract from your enjoyment (I'll leave it to you to figure out what I am talking about).
With all that's been in the news about North Korea lately, I thought it time to learn more. This book is, I think, as good of a place to start as any.
The book is about several citizens, mostly in the lower end of the sociopolitical strata. You learn that all of these people are escapees from the regime and though I believe the accounts, you do have to recognize that they represent a unique sample of the society.
That said, Barbara Demick does a great job of telling the stories without embellishing the accounts. My guess is that she realizes that they don't need any added emphasis or passionate vitriol; for most Americans, the situation under the "Dear Leader" is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.
If you ever wonder why the people of North Korea hate us so much, you will get your answer in this narrative. You will also learn, as I did, that the chances are very low that we will see another Libyan or Syrian type uprising in North Korea (we will be dealing with the most unfriendly country imaginable until we or they cease to exist). Finally, you will also learn, as the title explains, just what an ordinary life in North Korea looks like.
Karen White's reading is adequate, but not great. I don't want to tell you what bothered me about her style lest you listen for my complaint. However, if you do find yourself thinking that something about her reading bothers you, keep listening. Either she gets better, you get used to it, or the story becomes so compelling that you don't notice.
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