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Melinda

So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. Love reading the reviews. *If my reviews help, please let me know.

UT | Member Since 2009

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  • 245 reviews
  • 590 ratings
  • 1047 titles in library
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  • Defending Jacob: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By William Landay
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4493)
    Performance
    (3843)
    Story
    (3845)

    Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than 20 years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: his 14-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

    Kelli N. Perkins says: "Still Thinking About This Tale Weeks After"
    "Whiplasher!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I doubt you'll see this one coming--so, the less said the better....
    Perhaps the greatest achievement of William Landay in writing Defending Jacob is the fact that he was able to write a suspenseful courtroom/domestic drama that is completely original, and unexpected. I can think of a particular current event from which a similar story could be extrapolated--but to say anything more would be a dirty rotten spoiler--and you deserve all the unexpected twists and pathetic ugly turns this gripping story has to offer.

    I wouldn't say Landay has reached the level of polish of fellow lawyers-turned-authors Turow and Grisham with his writing style, but if you are a fan of their books you'll probably find Defending Jacob an engrossing read that can stand on its own among these big boys. The narration is split into the first person narration by Andy Barber, and the reading of the Grand Jury transcripts. Grover Gardner does an animated job of narrating; my only complaint was his voice is a bit gruff and harsh, as is very much of the language (especially during the first person narration), and while I thought it fit "Father O'Leary" and Andy's incarcerated father, I didn't personally care for the tone for most of the book. If you like a gritty courtroom drama--if you can handle the truth--this one might be for you.

    46 of 50 people found this review helpful
  • Unbecoming: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Rebecca Scherm
    • Narrated By Catherine Taber
    Overall
    (15)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (15)

    On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she's from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she's in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail.

    cristina says: "Ridiculous and boring"
    "Staying a step ahead of her lies"
    Overall
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    Story

    This story begins in Paris with her first lie... "Bonjour, je m'appelle Julie." She is really Grace from Tennessee, hiding out in France. Tomorrow her secret husband, and former lover will be released after 8 yrs. in prison for a crime she masterminded. Casually she tells the reader, "the best lies were the simplest...and made the most sense...these lies are the easiest to swallow." With the ease of a chameleon switching colors Grace tells the reader how she came to be Julie in Paris. The story is told in flashbacks for the first portion, then switches to real-time. Until that switch, the story is jittery and suffused with tension; Julie expecting any minute to be found.

    From a dysfunctional wrong-side-of-the-tracks family, Grace has always felt insignificant and ashamed. Growing into a pretty young girl, she catches the affections of local golden boy Riley Graham. From an esteemed and wealthy family Riley has everything Grace has ever dreamed of, a wealthy aristocratic family, respectable parents and a doting mother that has always wanted a daughter. Grace twists and turns herself to meet their expectation, molding herself into that longed-for daughter, and Riley's perfect girlfriend. Always on her mind is caution to keep up the pretense...to become the person she is pretending to be, staying one step ahead of the lies. As we hear her tell it, it all seems a harmless act of survival by a desperate little girl longing for love. Grace's longings go much further than just love though, and as she moves through the years her personality becomes defined, Scherm deftly creating a little sociopath before the reader's eyes, that dismisses the trail of destruction she leaves behind.

    The back and forth narrative style keeps the plot going at a steady, but sometimes bumpy pace. The flashbacks didn't always transition smoothly into a segment, but it wasn't distracting either. While not nearly Highsmith or Hitchcock, Scherm gave me the sense and promise of her own definite style. Her development of Grace/Julie was most nuanced while she is away from Riley, but it was also interesting to see how she manipulated around the Grahams. Most enjoyable to me was while Julie worked for the disreputable Jacqueline restoring antique jewels, and then finally, where we see what the author can really do when she releases Julie from her years of self-doubt -- when she finally *becomes.*

    New author Rebecca Sherm is one of the new crop of debut novelists that have found themselves one of the *critic's darlings* having their debut novel released with an attached pedigreed before it even hit the shelves. It's commonplace lately to see every psychological thriller with a psycho femme fatale branded the next Gone Girl, every art heist story inspired by Tartt's The Goldfinch, and any suspenseful crime novel the offspring of Hitchcock or Highsmith. With these astral claims, marketers are lining these fledgling writers at the gate with the seasoned thoroughbreds --not always a favor. My opinion is that Unbecoming was a very good debut novel, and I hope that Scherm will feel encouraged to continue writing. She definitely has both creative and writing talent and a distinctive style that I'll be looking forward to reading in the future.
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    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Deep

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Nick Cutter
    • Narrated By Corey Brill
    Overall
    (55)
    Performance
    (51)
    Story
    (52)

    A strange plague called the "Gets" is decimating humanity on a global scale. It causes people to forget - small things at first, like where they left their keys... then the not-so-small things like how to drive, or the letters of the alphabet. Then their bodies forget how to function involuntarily - and there is no cure. But now, far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, deep in the Marianas Trench, an heretofore unknown substance hailed as "ambrosia" has been discovered - a universal healer, from initial reports.

    Melinda says: "Deeply Disturbing; Descent into Madness"
    "Deeply Disturbing; Descent into Madness"
    Overall
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    "The Abyss meets The Shining" and I would say also meets King's IT, and a quite a bit of Jeff VanderMeer's *weird fiction,* the AreaX: Southern Reach Trilogy. I can see why author Nick Cutter has amassed fans like Stephen King. To open this book, you are under the control of Cutter's chilling narrative in a setting that is completely foreign from what you know. He controls the horror with vivid imagery that (unfortunately for us) imprints itself on your mind. It is a multi-level horror attack that is claustrophobic, psychological, repulsive, and in the end, unfathomable. In other words..no happy ending and chances of some pretty macabre nightmares.

    Readers, especially listeners, are at the mercy of Cutter's darkly creative mind as the book descends into the Marianas Trench and the total deprivation of the Trieste. Isolated 8 miles below the sunny surface in a pitch black world, a spider-like conglomerate of tubes form the lab. The lights illuminate only a tiny radius, lighting just parts of foreign creatures that glide in and out of the murky *sea snow* at the bottom of the ocean. The sounds are slurpy, slimey, and schllicky, and your mind does awful things with those sounds. At 8 mi. below, the pressure against the lab makes every sound a horrifying threat; they sound like bowels and digestion of a gigantic beast. It is almost traumatizing.

    If not already terrifying, Cutter creates a pair of brothers that survived a very dysfunctional childhood that would be enough to induce nightmares. The older brother is the scientist that has not been heard from since the Trieste went incommunicado. Clayton spent his childhood escaping the abuse by unconscionably experimenting on (dismembering) animals. He is cold and without compassion, purely scientific. Luke has the opposite temperament; a veterinarian and a father that lost a son in a heartbreaking *missing-child* incident that haunts him. (Let's just say the boys have TONS of baggage between them.)

    An issue I had with this book is the lack of story about the *Gets,* the initial catalyst for the story. So little is said about the effect on the world and how it motivates the trip down to the Trieste. That could be a whole great book. And for animal lovers...don't expect any mercy from this horror master. There are animals aboard the Trieste, cute, furry, animals and they don't fare well. The narration was spot-on, with great pronunciation of those onomatopoeia words that Cutter uses to make your skin crawl, and things slurp and splat and skitter.

    Stephen King once said, “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud.” The Deep is one of those that swings for the terror, bounces on the horror, and lands square on the gross-out. If that sounds like your kind of read -- enjoy. A little too much like swallowing slugs for me personally, but to you horror fanatics I say...Bon Appétit! You'll love this.





    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Christopher Scotton
    • Narrated By Robert Petkoff
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    After witnessing the death of his younger brother in a terrible home accident, 14-year-old Kevin and his grieving mother are sent for the summer to live with Kevin's grandfather. In this peeled-paint coal town deep in Appalachia, Kevin quickly falls in with a half-wild hollow kid named Buzzy Fink who schools him in the mysteries and magnificence of the woods. The events of this fateful summer will affect the entire town of Medgar, Kentucky.

    Melinda says: "Loved it in Spite of..."
    "Loved it in Spite of..."
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    Some of my favorite novels are those told from the *looking back* POV -- those coming of age stories, retelling of events enlightened by hindsight. From King's The Body, to Twain's The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, and Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, when told with skill and sincerity the shared humanity, no matter how diverse, *strikes those familiar chords* in each of us [*paraphrased from author Daniel Woodrell's NY Times review for this book]. In his debut novel, Christopher Scotton shares the tragedy of a family and strikes those chords with a skill that defies the term 'debut novel.'

    The plot of this Bildungsroman is complex in that it is set in 1985 and tackles not only the usual companion issues of growing up after tragedy, but also is intertwined with the complexities of social and environmental attitudes. Kevin recalls the summer when after witnessing the horrific death of his 3 yr. old little brother (truly grizzly), the mother is grief stricken and withdraws into a catatonic state. At the urging of the grandfather (Pops) the two retreat to the mother's childhood home, tucked into the Appalachian Mountains, to heal.

    Pops is that stalwart of integrity and honor; a hard working veterinarian with a love for the land and its people. He introduces Kevin to reading and great books, but when Kevin still shows signs of heading into serious trouble to cope with his feelings of guilt and loss, Pops makes him his vet assistant. Together they trek back into the hills to administer to ailing livestock. But it is Buzzy Fink that saves Kevin from his sorrow by befriending the naïve city boy and teaching him the secrets of the mountains. Under Buzzy's tutelage, Kevin learns to respect and love this land, opening a connection and a closeness with Pops. He also learns that in a small town everyone is connected, and nothing remains a secret for long.

    In Scotton's characters, you'll recognize many of the same qualities that define the great characters of favorite novels. As the book progresses, these characters become more defined by the environmental and social issues. The bucolic setting hits a boiling point when the towns people begin experiencing the effects of Mountaintop Removal Mining -- a process that literally blasts the tops off the mountains leaving the countryside scarred and riddled with toxic carcinogens. Bubba Boyd is the strong arm mine owner that employs most of the town and is buying out the land to extract coal without consideration for the environment. The contention splits the town and the leader of the opposition, a gay hairdresser despised by Bubba both for his stand on preserving the pristine mountains and his secret sexual orientation, is found murdered.

    The novel is substantial in page number and subject matter, difficult to summarize and do it justice. The heart of the story is charming and unforgettable, and this was one of my favorite reads. I can't recommend it highly enough. Here comes the BUT... I had a few issues with the book that I point out to justify my rating: Once Pops takes Buzzy and Kevin on a *Quest* into the mountains, I found myself having to chew a little more to swallow some of the story. There's a chimerical white stag that felt a little too "Expecto patronum!" and a legendary moss-back fish that almost swims onto Kevin's hook, a poultice concocted by Buzzy that defies known medical cures. Character-wise, Kevin is inordinately naïve; Buzzy, very Huckleberry; Big Bad Bubba?; Peter the gay hairdresser? the mule-shootin', corn-piped hillbilly?...I'm listening to their story, but sometimes thinking *central casting.* Technically these are issues that felt like little hiccups, but kept this from being a perfect novel. Didn't really matter...loved it in spite of itself.

    *[Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell, is one of my all-time favorite novels.]

    **Though already long, I'd like to address another reviewer's comments about the foul language. With respect, there are a few F-bombs, but I don't recall it being used often or gratuitously (I didn't count).


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Girl on the Train: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Paula Hawkins
    • Narrated By Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher
    Overall
    (2079)
    Performance
    (1758)
    Story
    (1762)

    Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. "Jess and Jason," she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

    Paula says: "Mind Boggling Thrilling Mystery! Don't Miss It!"
    "On Track"
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    From the onslaught of pre-release reviews for this book I was very prepared for the *unreliable narrator,* that tricky little beastie that requires the reader to stay on their toes, but, when our girl Rachel settles onto the train and pops her canned gin and tonic for breakfast, I knew we were in for one helluva ride. In what has been called an *amnesia thriller,* been compared to Hitchcock's Rear Window, and tacked with the ubiquitous "the next Gone Girl" tagline (when will that stop?) author Hawkins gives us one of those always entertaining train-ride thrillers told from the pov of 3 female narrators -- one of whoms story is ala Mary Alice Young in Desperate Housewives, from the grave. Their connection...a man, a neighborhood, and a fateful event.

    Not much should be said about the story because it relies heavily on slowly revealing a little more with each clickety-clak of the rails. I'd suggest just settling in and riding along as sad, overweight, unemployed, newly divorced, and barren Rachel rides the train and peers into a certain yard/window of a house that borders the tracks along her journey. Looking out the window of the train at that house, she projects everything she wished for onto a certain willowy blonde she names *Jess,* and her husband. Rachel used to live in the same neighborhood -- now her ex lives in the home with his new wife and baby girl.

    Hawkins dishes out the information with a controlling hand, and might rely a little too much on this tactic to keep a sense of tension when more information, fleshing out the characters a little more, could have given the story more psychological depth -- she certainly has created characters with the underpinnings of a great psychological thriller and shows talent as a writer. Maybe I've seen too much Hitchcock, read too many Flynn novels; I didn't find the story really thrilling or mysterious, but that's OK -- it was fun and entertaining, and I flew through it enjoying every minute. I have to say it is a much lighter read than that GG novel (except for the issue of alcoholism, which is especially dark here).

    The narrators did a good job keeping the novel moving and interpreting the characters and make this all the more enticing.

    72 of 89 people found this review helpful
  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Peter Stark
    • Narrated By Michael Kramer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (97)
    Performance
    (89)
    Story
    (89)

    At a time when the edge of American settlement barely reached beyond the Appalachian Mountains, two visionaries, President Thomas Jefferson and millionaire John Jacob Astor, foresaw that one day the Pacific would dominate world trade as much as the Atlantic did in their day. Just two years after the Lewis and Clark expedition concluded in 1806, Jefferson and Astor turned their sights westward once again. Thus began one of history's dramatic but largely forgotten turning points in the conquest of the North American continent.

    Gene Brown says: "Woulda Shoulda Coulda"
    "Where Lewis and Clark Left Off"
    Overall
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    Story

    Each chapter of this superbly crafted book contains multiple *moments in history,* events that intersected with the political strategy and shaped this country's development. It is also a character study of ambition, courage, greed, inexperience and bad decisions, all set on the grand stage of the beautiful and treacherous, still uncharted, American Northwest. On the heels of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (just 2 years prior) one of the country's wealthiest businessmen, John Jacob Astor, schemed to corner the hungry global fur market by establishing a trading post on the west coast of the continent, thereby harvesting the untapped resources of the Pacific Northwest. *[from his NY base, Astor was already trading heavily with a demanding China and Europe. It was an extremely lucrative business for Astor. His company was trading *trinkets and beads* to several Indian tribes for pallets of furs worth thousands of dollars -- at a "2,500% profit."]

    Encouraged by Jefferson, who dreamed of claiming the country after Lewis & Clark's report, and expanding America from coast to coast, Astor financed 2 expeditions: by sea, the 94 ft. 290 ton, copper-hulled Merchant ship, the Tonquin, captained by a seasoned but arrogant, US Navy lieutenant, Jonathan Thorn; and a land expedition led by fur-trader businessman, Wilson Hunt Price. Though inexperienced, and it can now be added ignorant, Hunt planned to use information gathered from the Lewis & Clark Expedition to lead his group west to the mouth of the Columbia River. 340 days later, the two groups would meet at their destination...but, both journeys had been ill-fated. 61 men had perished (also an infant child born on the trek) or had suffered physical and psychological traumas, the Tonquin lay at the bottom of the Clayoquot Sound, and eventually, the weary survivors sold out to the Canadian North West Fur Company for pennies on Astor's dollars.

    Stark has done an outstanding job researching journals, letters, articles, interviewing descendants of the explorers, and studying the different cultures of the Native American tribes that inhabited the landscape of the American Northwest -- a culture that paid the ultimate price of Manifest Destiny. Stark, wonderfully describing the topography along the journey, leads his own expedition in a sense: the passages detailing Hell's Canyon and the "Mad River" (The Snake River) are both beautiful and intense; the vistas of buffalo covered prairie's out of the Dakota's are majestic, and so on. The voyage of the Tonquin is just as eloquently written. Struggling to navigate through the system of bars and shoals at the mouth of the Columbia River, battling the waves, wind, and currents, Stark gives readers a white-knuckle passage through what is known as the *Graveyard of the Pacific.* Often I was left behind, picturing the scenes, in awe of the fury or the serene beauty -- the land seems so raw from what I have experienced... I've safely rafted down the Snake River, looked out across the Badlands, ridden a tugboat through the bucking swells of the Columbia Bar. To look back through history from our hard-won state of comfort is incredible.

    The characters are nothing less than fascinating from the robust and colorful French Voyageurs to the quiet, brave interpreter, Maria Dorian [gave birth during the trek]. It would be overwhelming to highlight every stunning aspect of this book, or encapsulate such a huge and important adventure into paragraphs. The epilogue is the eye of history looking back over the expedition and wrapping it all up nicely for a great conclusion. This is a read I recommend highly to anyone, and an absolute *don't miss* for history fans. I would also recommend reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose, if you haven't read about Lewis and Clark.


    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Michael Punke
    • Narrated By Holter Graham
    Overall
    (52)
    Performance
    (45)
    Story
    (43)

    The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Trapping beaver, they contend daily with the threat of Indian tribes turned warlike over the white men's encroachment on their land, and other prairie foes - like the unforgiving landscape and its creatures. Hugh Glass is among the Company's finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker.

    Alexandria says: "Surprisingly addictive."
    "It Was A Good Death...almost"
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    Reading the account of the bear attack, I couldn't help but think of the almost silly slow motion battle between Tristan (Brad Pitt) and the monstrous grizzly bear (Bart the bear) at the end of Legends of the Fall. Apparently the trained stunt bear, Bart, thought the two were just rough housing and the clip had to be tweaked to make it appear the grizzly was the killer that would give Tristan his "good death."

    Working for Capt. Andrew Henry as a member of the Rocky Mountain Fur Co., Hugh Glass is sent out scouting the uncharted hostile territory along the tributaries of the Missouri River. The trapper is startled when a pair of frolicking bear cubs tumbles onto his path, their notoriously protective mother just a few yards behind. Faced with a charging mother grizzly, Glass knows that no matter how many bullets he can fire into the animal with his 1822 model rifle, he is facing certain death -- he draws his knife and braces for the blow of a massive paw.

    Glass is mortally wounded; Capt. Henry and the trapping party begin to dig his grave. After days of caring for the dying man, Capt. Henry decides he is losing money and time and leaves two men behind to bury the body; a cold-blooded cutthroat John Fitzgerald, and the young Jim Bridger. Seeing hostile Indians nearby, Fitzgerald forces Bridger to leave with him, taking the dying man's weapons as they leave.

    Against all odds, Glass does survive, and swears to kill the two men that left him defenseless, to die. Unable to walk, Glass begins his mission of revenge on hands and knees in what is a mind boggling account of survival and perseverance. Author Punke writes a riveting tale in the style of great westerns, based on the true story of Hugh Glass. The supporting characters are diverse and colorful pieces of the American Frontier. I couldn't put the book down (audible talk for couldn't disengage from my ipod) until I finished the story.

    As a narrator, Graham did a good job bringing the characters to life. His depiction of young Bridger tended to be jerky and halted, and therefore a little distracting at times, but not enough to spoil the novel for me. For fans of the American Western, you can't go wrong with this piece of absorbing historical fiction.
    *[I noticed a publish date of 2002 and found that this has been reprinted. It is probably no coincidence that the movie version is scheduled for release Dec. of 2015, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.]

    14 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • The Good Soldier

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Ford Madox Ford
    • Narrated By Frank Muller
    Overall
    (89)
    Performance
    (49)
    Story
    (50)

    On the face of it Captain Edward Ashburnham's life was unimpeachable. But behind the mask where passion seethes, the captain's "good" life was rotting away.

    CB says: "The saddest story"
    "Treachery in the Troops"
    Overall
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    The saddest story my aching arse....

    Ford may have given readers the ultimate *unreliable narrator* in 1915 when he published The Good Soldier. For all of my reading, I don't recall ever coming across a narrator half as guileful, or as entitled, as John Dowell -- or is he so inconceivably dim-witted and naïve the story IS actually sad? There in lies the brilliant pinpoint on which this story is balanced, and masterfully so by author Ford Madox Ford. Though, there was the peer group of his day that would have taken to task anyone that thought the writer *masterful*, or anything other than *unreliable* himself. His own *wife* -- or should we say biga-mistress (seems Ford didn't have any problem *marrying* or carrying on affairs in spite of his legal marriage to another never being dissolved) wrote that Ford had "a genius for creating confusion," and he himself stated that,"he had a great contempt for fact." So, it is with that insight to this author that one should approach this story; this is the magic that turns just an OK story into absolute brilliant writing -- and a top notch mystery in disguise that requires an efficient reader.

    A wealthy American couple, Dowell and Florence, and a wealthy English couple, Edward and Leonora meet at a spa during an extended stay in Europe and become friends. Interestingly, Dowell narrates the story directly to the reader/listener, as if it is a tale he was told, "the saddest story I've ever heard in my life." Immediately you assume he was told this story and is just now recounting it to the reader, but as he goes on we learn it is his wife Florence and the Englishman, Edward, that have an affair that leads to her heartbreaking death on her and Dowell's honeymoon.

    Dowell's story continues to twist like a hanky wrenching out the tears. But, is it her reported weak heart that killed the young bride...(weak enough that she warns her new husband she is unable to have sex because of her condition) or is it suicide (her medicine bottle smells strongly similar to a particular acid)? So it goes... where nothing is as it first seems, nothing can be taken at face value. The outward grace, the breeding, the money, the passion, blend into a swirl of colors that lose definition and become a muddied mess. Even our narrator repeats often, "I don't know, I don't know!," sharing doubts as to his competence to recall what happened.

    The profiles of these characters are intriguing; illuminated by Dowell's shaky perspective they become outrageous, even contrarily uncivilized, extravagant, and completely without principles. I could only conceive of this caliber of persons by reminding myself, "how reliable is this narrator/participant, what hidden agendas, sociopathic befuddlements contort the players and twist this supposedly sad tale?"

    If you were a keen-eyed detective taking Dowell's testimony, you would listen carefully to this one...ignore your colleague's protests of his innocence...put a tail on him...watch for those insurance policies, secret bank accounts, more missing bodies of people he crossed paths with...sit back and wait for this Keyser Söze fellow to make a wrong move. Or; did poor Mr. Dowell just tell you, truly, the saddest story you've ever heard...? This is a classic that needs to be read competently to be truly appreciated. If so, you'll see The Good Soldier draws out the kind of reader participation, where the text is "open to the greatest variety of independent interpretation" -- what Barthes said was the *ideal text.* Gosh, what a masterpiece; if I wasn't so disgusted by the whole lot of them, I'd turn around and read this again, right now.




    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Ordinary Grace

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By William Kent Krueger
    • Narrated By Rich Orlow
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (749)
    Performance
    (662)
    Story
    (661)

    Award-winning author William Kent Krueger has gained an immense fan base for his Cork O’Connor series. In Ordinary Grace, Krueger looks back to 1961 to tell the story of Frank Drum, a boy on the cusp of manhood. A typical 13-year-old with a strong, loving family, Frank is devastated when a tragedy forces him to face the unthinkable - and to take on a maturity beyond his years.

    Ronna says: "best book to come along this year!!"
    "Charming, Bittersweet, Pure Pleasure"
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    “It was a summer in which death, in visitation, assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. I still spend a lot of time thinking about the events of that summer. About the terrible price of wisdom. The awful grace of God.”

    Frank Drum begins his story, looking back over forty years to this fateful summer in 1961 when he was 13 yrs. old. The story is immediately familiar and the nostalgia consuming. Krueger writes poetically, creating an idyllic summer so vividly the years tick backwards. For many it will recall that well-known coming of age through tragedy, Stephen King's The Body (movie: Stand By Me). There are similarities, but Krueger's story is a murder mystery tucked into a gentle and sweet tale, focused on family, small town secrets, and spiritual struggles, more than the physical threats of big brothers, dead bodies, and junk-yard dogs.

    In addition to being a New York Times Bestseller, Ordinary Grace recently won the 2014 Edgar Award For Best Novel, the 2014 Dilys Award, and has been selected as a *School Library Journal Best Book Of 2013. I'm not familiar with the author's Cork O'Connor series and can't speak to any comparison, but I found this book completely charming and captivating. Krueger's ability to create a soothing kindness through his choice of words, even in the midst of violence, death, and some (mild) sexual encounters, is remarkable. The novel deals with a multitude of *delicate* issues with frankness and compassion instead of sensationalism. Moments like the Reverend's sermon after a death (I won't spoil it by divulging the victim) are healing balms, so beautifully written they are all the *church* you could hope for.

    There are some stereotypes and clichés, some sentimentality, but it all seems fresh and original, they are so well used, and so much a part of the period. You may see the ending coming, may figure out the murderer, may even question little brother Jake's keen insight, but any concerns are lost in the overall beauty and grace of this novel. It may not be the block buster everyone is talking about, but for me it was a pure pleasure reading this novel; one of my favorites of 2014.

    **The School Library Journal is a monthly magazine with articles and reviews for school librarians, media specialists, and public librarians who work with young people. They have this book listed as an "Adult Books 4 Teens." I would say use your own discretion.

    9 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Natchez Burning: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (35 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Greg Iles
    • Narrated By David Ledoux
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (770)
    Performance
    (687)
    Story
    (693)

    Raised in the historic southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of honor and duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering Viola Turner, the African-American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses to even speak in his own defense.

    Carolyn says: "Can't get past reader"
    "Iles Returns to Writing, Returns to Natchez-Almost"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    After a near death collision in 2011, Iles has struggled back to give readers what he says is the *first of a trilogy,* the very ambitious Natchez Burning. From what little I've read about his accident it seems a miracle the author made this return. It's good to know that Iles is recuperating well and will continue to write. Whether or not I'll continue to read...I'm still uncertain. The word *trilogy* attached to this 800 page behemoth has me feeling like someone just offered me a piece of pie after I just finished a pie eating contest.

    I've liked this author's previous books and especially found his portrayal of Mississippi seductive. Though his novels are consistently heavy on the violence, the morality of Penn Cage and his dedication to family, truth, and justice, as well as his love for the South, have always kept me wanting to return. Natchez Burning was the first of his books that I've had to force myself to continue. Substantial in both page count and story, Iles has over achieved in ways, and may have sacrificed some of the important points he is trying to make regarding the racial history of the American South. In comparison with the previous Iles novels I've read, this one was poorly edited (very poorly edited), congested with an overabundance of psychopathic sadists, and stuffed with pointless digressions and repetition, repetition, repetition. For me, much of the book seemed implausible, and the focus drifted from the civil unrest of the South that I was interested in following, to the gratuitous violence of Iles' characterizations of vitriolic *good 'ol boys* in white hoods.

    Dick Hill has always been as much of the Iles novels as Will Patton is James Lee Burke, Ray Porter and Jonathan Mayberry...but I came to accept Ledoux, more than I accepted this work of Iles. There is a good and entertaining story here, but in so many ways, this was not the Iles I'm used to. Sadly, not up to my expectations.





    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Revival: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By David Morse
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2033)
    Performance
    (1866)
    Story
    (1879)

    In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs - including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession.

    Thug4life says: "Not fit for a King"
    "One Listener's *Meh* is Another's Listener's *Wow*"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I find myself in the latter group, because this is how I like my King...it's familiar, smart and layered, the product of a storytelling virtuoso. It reads tight, flows enjoyably without a bump, and whether you are actively searching for the infamous King-style Easter Eggs or just perched on the edge of your seat waiting for the inevitable terror ala King to hit, it is captivating. I for one, liked the slow steady crank -- I know King is like a sinister jack-in-the-box with a cozy style that lulls you into near-complacency...then POW! it sinks its teeth into you. But, I understand well why some listeners/readers found the story "slow" or did not like the ending.

    Though this is one of King's shorter novels, it takes its time building those goose bumps. The eerie opening scene is a foreshadowing of the relationship between Preacher Charlie Jacobs and Jamie Morton. Jamie's once idyllic life stumbles into disillusion, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. The Preacher suffers a devastating loss, gives a damning sermon which ends his career in the Methodist ministry, then undergoes a malevolent transformation. Their paths serpentine through the years, with each meeting the pair seem to have added layers of corruption and ugliness -- the kind of disfiguration of the soul the supernatural portrait of young Dorian Gray collected hidden in his secret room. In a sense Jamie sold his soul to the devilish preacher at one point in his life, and there is a contractual bond between the two. King doesn't elaborate on the many incarnations of ex-preacher Jacobs (from minister to carnie to tent revivalist), the bulk of the book is devoted to Jamie and his life of guitars and rock and roll until the electrically charged ending (literally: homage to Frankenstein, and a healthy aside to King's passion for rock and roll). Though you may think this makes for a "slow" read, or a loosening of the plot, I felt the story remained tight and threatening, with a lurking sense of tension always building. I participated by keeping mental track of Jacobs, creating his evolution myself from the crumbs King throws in periodically.

    Central to the overall nightmarish feel of this book is the *Dedication* by King, which if you have the book you will know reads as follows:
    "This book is for some of the people who built my house: Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, Fritz Leiber, August Derleth, Shirley Jackson, Robert Bloch, Peter Straub, And ATHUR MACHEN, whose short novel The great God Pan has haunted me all my life."
    A rich flavor pallet for fans of horror and a recipe for certain nightmares. The book will strike a strong Yagsafarian, or Cthulhu Mythos flavor, with a vigorous nod to Lovecraft by the time you finish, but it is the work of the all capped MACHEN that King echoes most in this novel, specifically The Great God Pan. [*you can download this short story free of charge at Gutenberg Project site.] What is it with King and bugs...ants? The answer may lie with his youthful years spent reading the likes of these horror heavyweights, definitely Lovecraft and Machen--'nuf said lest I spoil the last page.

    To me this was a *thinker,* a foundation-shaker that had me examining these characters, science, religion, loss and extreme sorrow, and at what point our personal constructs shake and finally crumble. I won't say it is old-form-King. I think he has given readers different facets of his creative mind over the years that highlight his own growing pains and artistic expression (whether readers liked it or not), but I will say it felt like kicking off a pair of 5" heels and throwing on your favorite comfy slippers. It is less about the horror of antique collecting vampires on your block, sinister clowns hiding in the drainage systems, and more about the kind of terror we might feel faced with the death of our scientific *facts,* the disintegration of our *faith.* It's like going down the stairs in the dark, thinking you feel that secure bottom stair under your foot, but stepping into an abyss. Not my very fave King, but one of them; a good entry, and the best in a while.

    And, a Post Script of sorts to fellow readers that ponder, dwell, dissect, perseverate...What direction does this story go for you if the Shelley-infused Jacob's first *patient* was actually his wife and little boy (hello Pet Semetary)???





    9 of 14 people found this review helpful

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