The cast was great. I enjoyed the different voices. Also the folklore and other stories that were not part of the main narrative were mostly a lot of fun.
Something with a plot
I would never have gotten through this book on paper. it had no plot, no suspense, no reason to keep reading. The narration was the most fun part.
Neil Gaiman is the most self indulgent writer I have ever read. He is a master of description and wonderful at inventing characters and settings but has no interest in plotting. The only reason I kept listening to this was the narration,which is terrific, and the fact that I could pick it up anytime and it wouldn't matter if I remembered what happened. It's so episodic you never lose track. When I listen to something suspenseful it's hard to stop listening. This book was easy to turn off.
One of the best written for sure. Her writing is glorious. The evocation of the time and the botanical research was fascinating. I enjoyed it tremendously. Alma was a fascinating character and I loved all the details about botany about which I know nothing.
Tightened the plotting. It really falls apart after the death of Henry Whittaker when Alma leaves for Tahiti to discover the "truth" about Ambrose. I really had no idea why she went, why she needed to find out what happened to Ambrose, and when she got there and found out the "truth" it was still unclear what the hell really happened to him and why. It was very murky and inadequately explained. The plot had gaping holes. Also, the ending was contrived.
I did love all the details about life in Tahiti at that time and Roger the dog was the most charming character in that part of the book.
Her reading was delightful and dramatic and brought the book to life. Her English and Dutch accents were charming. However her American accent was jarring. She couldn't get the American "r" right. I kept wishing she would have just given the American characters British accents and stopped making them sound like they'd taken bad elocution lessons.
I found Gilbert's portrayal of Alma's sexual attractiveness almost anti-feminist. Gilbert seemed to "buy" the explanation that because Alma was big and homely no man would want her even though her mother was big and homely and attracted her father who was no slouch (which she actually indicated she knew) So why was Alma, despite her simmering sexuality, not of sexual interest to any man. Chances are she would have had lots of suitors, she was going to be one of the richest heiresses in Philadelphia after all. I felt that Gilbert herself couldn't see men being attracted to someone who looked like Alma.
Gilbert didn't seem to really "get" the sexual magnetism of Ambrose. From "Eat,Pray, Love" I gather that wispy-type men don't appeal to her so she really didn't understand why others were obsessed with him.
I liked some of the descriptions of the background and events, like Charlotte's home (who knew anyone lived like that) and the dinner at the Sizzling Steakhouse (or whatever it was called). That was a hoot. The class differences between Charlotte and her roomate were spot on. But I was totally disinterested in the college setting, and the characters all seemed one dimensional and boring. Charlotte did not ring true. I don't think the author had a real handle on her--he doesn't understand women. Since the other characters seemed like stereotypes the book got boring quick. Plus I have no interest in football--college or otherwise. I gave up after Chapter 6 or so.
The characters. None were the least bit interesting.
The Sizzling Steakhouse scene. Satirical gold.
Don't bother unless you are in college or went to college in the 90s. In that case you might love this book. I loved Bonfire of the Vanities, but then I worked in the Juvenile Justice system in the Bronx at the time so I knew whereof he wrote. I think unless have some interest in Wolfe's subjects his books fall flat--wish I'd got the book about Miami. But i don't want to waste another credit.
I was really looking forward to this sequel to Discovery of Witches but it was really a slog to listen to it all. I often forgot who new characters were but it didn't seem to matter. Nothing much ever happened. Like many series authors Harkness succumbed to the temptation to just write and write without paying attention to building suspense or plot. She throws in historical characters for no rhyme or reason. Basically this book just rambles on with no compelling drama. People have compared Harkness to Diana Gabaldon, but at least Gabaldon puts her characters in jeapordy and creates suspense. There is only one mildly suspenseful scene in this book, but if you have a witch who basically can cast a spell to do anything it's pretty hard to endanger her. On the upside Harkness is a historian and some of the historical detail is fun. She doesn't really explain the time travel paradoxes satisfactorily and I was left wondering why Matthew didn't warn his father in the 1500s about the Nazis who eventually killed him.
I'm only halfway through this book and it's so riveting I can't stop listening to it even when i don't want to. The writing is superb, her insight into people is incredible, it's by far the most absorbing audiobook I've listened to since Game of Thrones. I don't want it to end.
If you're a Singer fan you will love this book, and the performances by these great actors truly bring it to life. At first I didn't like the idea of 3 narrators because it was distracting, but I quickly got used to it. The opportunity to listen to a Singer book I hadn't read, narrated by three great actors, two of whom are favorites (Bikel and Harris though Rubinstein is fabulous as well) is why I sprung 4 credits for this ONE book that the publisher greedily split into four volumes, although it's a terrible ripoff. I actually contacted Phoenix Audio, the publisher, months ago, and was told they are reviewing their audiobook policies but they haven't done a thing about it. Audible was kind enough to refund me 2 credits on this. I just had to hear it and wasn't sorry -- I loved it. I tried reading part of it to save a credit, but it's tough going--the theme of how to be a Jew after the Holocaust is pretty depressing--but the narrators make all the difference.
I'm slogging through this audiobook, mourning the fun I had with the first three books. As everyone has mentioned Roy Dotrice forgot the voices of the female characters and made them all sound the same. He also sounds tired of narrating the series in the first place. I suspect he turned down A Feast For Crows because he was sick of it, but they must have paid him extra to come back for this book because there were so many complaints. He got his revenge by doing a bad job
Martin forgot the plot he was developing and went off into the never never land of gruesome violence including auto-cannibalism (geez, who ever heard of eating your own fingers), lengthy, boring, travel and battle plans ( we can cut them off at the Twins) and confusing new characters. Its as if he felt that if he was sufficiently shocking readers wouldn't notice that he'd dropped the plot ball.
Anyway both Dotrice and Martin are no spring chickens and I'd be surprised if there is another book. Martin's characters will probably outlive him. If there is another book why not try a different, but equally talented narrator. How about a woman? Davina Porter who narrates Diana Gabaldon's books is incredible and does both male and female characters believably in all kinds of Irish, Scottish, English, Gaelic accents. She would be fabulous.
Anyway, I truly hope that Martin gets back on the horse (or garan) and stops lopping off heads and putting them on spikes in the next book. Someone should do a count of how many heads wound up on spikes in this book.
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