I could not get through this book simply because of the over-heated style of the narrator. The story was swamped by the endless emoting and all subtlety lost in the melodramatic pitch. What a shame.
Exercise is more than a boost to cardiovascular fitness, it also makes you smarter, and calmer, and happier, and, well, just a hell of a lot better. The book by John Ratey traces findings in neuroscience and psychology that show the many ways exercise improves life quality. Still, professionals have been slow to recognize its many benefits. But Ratey does a good job of reviewing the research, showing what a work out can do to stave off cognitive decline with age, the chaos of ADHD, the mood swings of PMS, and a variety of other woes.
It's tough to get excited about nonfiction narrators, but Walter Dixon does a decent job of keeping things interesting, never once lapsing into the dreaded nonfiction drone.
If you normally speed up books to listen, you may want to keep this one at normal speed, at least at first, to follow the actions and interactions of the neurochemicals Ratey discusses. Don't worry, though. The book doesn't bog down on this detail. But it did make me wish there was text available to review as I listened.
I suspect if you're a committed vampireophile, my complaints about the pace of this book will not deter you. Skip the review. Enjoy the book. But for the rest of us, I'm afraid there's not as much here as one would hope. The author is incapable of writing a line of dialog without having a character think about it at some length. If you're hoping for a rapid exchange of ideas between characters, fast-paced conversation, find another book. These guys think too much -- presumably in case you're too dim to think for yourself. If something is horrible or awful, the writer does not trust us to see that for ourselves. She will tell us, showing no faith in her own descriptive powers. She will rarely skip an opportunity to remind us this is a baleful and wicked character we're pursuing, yet fails to create a portrait that fulfills her adjectives. All of the main male characters are interchangeable. Listen to the voices of Rossi and the father and tell me how to distinguish the two. To the book's credit: There's much original here. It paints some nice portraits of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania during the Cold War. It may send you in pursuit of European monastaries. It will make you wonder about vampire lore and its pervasiveness. But as a bit of storytelling, it's not quite there.
The most enjoyable thing about Cloud Atlas is the continual wonder it evokes: You wonder how anything this bad could have been published, let alone won a prestigious award. You wonder at the stilted language, the numerous cliches, the deadly silly plots, the unbelievable characters, the painful dialog. It's a veritable celebration of how to write an annoying novel. Of particular note is a subplot involving a journalist who uncovers secrets at a nuclear plant. The characters here were so unidimensional, they make Dick and Jane seem deep and nuanced by comparison. And the plot is full of holes and anything but suspenseful. When an author in the next subplot throws a critic out the window, I couldn't help thinking that the book critics who awarded this drivel an award could only have acted out of fear of the same fate.
Finally, I could almost forgive the generally histrionic readers on this recording. Surely, overacting may have been the only plausible way to handle prose like this.
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