Can't say what drew me to this odd title--I knew that Ben Fountain received the PEN/Hemingway Award for the collection of short stories, Brief Encounters With Che Guevara--but I hadn't read the reviews or the publisher's summary. I didn't know that some critics are calling Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk this era's Catch 22, (oh! did we love Yossarian!) and THE best novel about the Irag war. I just saw this title on a list of suggested Beach Reads; "Beach" and "Read", two of my favorite words, and I was in. Turns out this was an unexpected treasure, the perfect approach, and an experience I won't be forgetting soon. So, I don't want to go into details and ruin your experience other than to say....WOW; I loved this book!
I thought it was almost perfection, from the very concept, to the brilliant depiction of Billy's youthful naivety and his contrasting soldier's wisdom, to the sentence structure, and every perfectly placed word. It was laugh-out-loud funny, then at once sobering, like laughing at someone that just biffed it on the stairs, then realizing the tumble resulted in a compound fracture. There are a lot of cliche's as far as characterizations go, and Texans probably won't like this one, but the powerful message contained in this short read goes far beyond little criticisms--indeed to the very core of what we as Americans value. The detailed description of the football team's equipment (in it's context) was as powerful and perfect as anything written, and could alone justify getting this book.
A short listen, at just 6 1/2 hours, but what an experience--what an impact. I'm just sorry that what I am sure will be the highlight of my summer reading is over before summer even begins.
I would have passed on reviewing this novel as the last le Carré novel I read was Constant Gardner, followed by about a third of Tinker Tailor..., and I feel there are more informed le Carré fans that already cover his books with better insight than I could. But, I recommended this book to a friend that disliked it very much, surprised that I liked it at all. Looking again at the reviews (which convinced me to try le Carré again), I realized most of the reviewers indicate they are fans or followers of le Carré's work. I'm a fan, but not so consistent. I view le Carré's novels as timeless, sophisticated writing about British espionage, characteristically strongly tinted with lively moral outrage, (and--nothing like James Bond) -- I've followed his books long enough to accept this caveat upon purchase. I now understand how a reader experiencing the le Carré phenomenon for the first time might think they are getting a lightweight piece of British noir from a white-hat-wearing cantankerous Brit with a bad taste for Americans and a diseased society.
Le Carré characters tell the story to the reader with a person to person intimate style, very much in character, passing along the top secret story and bringing the reader into the espionage, something he does better than any contemporary writer in this genre. As in any conversation, if you aren't listening to the person speaking to you, especially in the sometimes hushed tones of esoteric code-speak, affected with the innuendo of the specific lifestyle, you won't know what is going on. A Delicate Truth begins in a confusing maelstrom of events; le Carré doesn't insult the reader's intelligence by spoon-feeding you the game plan, or by bloating the dialogue with information -- attention and observation crystallize the details as you listen. The characters aren't overly sketched, but the details garnered are artfully defining and individual hallmarks. He leaves the tech-gadgets to Ian Fleming, relying more on integrity and honor than reflexive aim and brute force (which I am also all for). The action may not get your adrenalin pumping, but the dead-on assessment of our global greed and ruthlessness drives in deeper than any bullet could.
This wasn't my fav le Carré, but I did think it a good one -- a return to a style of his books I preferred, with taught suspense and a plot that could erupt in a single simple action (or lack thereof). I enjoyed being a part of the intellectual and moral process. The author's bona fide performance as narrator, with his *humphs* and audible exasperations, gives an added exuberance to the story and the characters. I fault myself for not giving my friend the *caveat* with the recommendation--maybe he would have approached the book the wiser. I enjoyed le Carré again, and am glad I took the time to read the reviews of his fans. A good thoughtful listen in true le Carré style.
Unless - like our cerebral hero Langdon at the opening of Inferno - we find ourselves suffering from retrograde amnesia, it's impossible to not be reminded of the previous Langdon installments when reading this latest clue-seeking romp through the art treasures of Florence and Venice; or for that matter, comparing the previous 3 novels with Brown's latest. Dan Brown has his formula, as do most authors, and there is no sign here that he is trying to fix what was almost broke with his last Langdon adventure (The Lost Symbol). Both Brown and Langdon are in fine form here: Brown sends us on an almost scenic, fact-based excursion through the cathedrals, museums, and art hot spots, and Langdon dodges bullets, the Italian Polizia, untangling a sinister plot (with the prerequisite political statements ala Brown). Brown is nothing if not consistent; so you get what you know you are getting; better than Lost Symbol, not as good as Da Vinci Code; a solid middle grounder. If the formula has lost its luster to you, enjoy the new scenery and history, like I did (easily worth a star).
More so than Brown's previous novels, I thought this was a bit padded (maybe that is because it seemed written for the silver screen, even to the point of describing the minutiae of the on-lookers, the horse-toothed girl getting her picture drawn near the Academe, etc.). As a do-over, and if it was offered, I would do the *gasp* abridged version. I also noticed Langdon has become a little snarky, taking pot shots at the turistas, poking fun at those guide-book toting Americanos, while he should have been paying attention to where he next placed his Italian loafered-foot on the cat-walk (oopsie! look out below).
You want another Dan Brown/Langdon--you got it. A good pizza-read, and who doesn't love pizza? Paul Michael does a great job as narrator and tour-guide.
My interest in this book was purely nostalgic, having driven by the Hollywood landmark for years growing up in California. Bordered on one side by a freeway, and stretched from curb to curb on the property it sits on, it still is like a secluded giant rather than a welcoming, accessible hotel, that exudes a kind of seedy glamour and mystery. I was looking for a real look inside. Instead of a real insider's look at the hotel, this reads more like a peek at the registry of guests with a little of the upkeep history and the personnel that kept the place running. There were lots of famous guests, but the majority of those written about are the old Hollywood--prior even to John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe, with mere mentions of some of the early rock star guests, a nod about Belushi's fateful stay, and nothing more than a roster of modern day personalities that have graced the Marmont. The entire text could have been used as information under photos in a good coffee table book and been acceptable --as an entire book...it was a painless waste of time.
I enjoyed every aspect of this brief, well produced audible version of I Am Legend, (and especially recommend if you can pick it up when Audible has one of its special offers). Dean's narration made the listen as animated as a Columbia Broadcasting System radio presentation ala Orson Wells doing H.G. Well's War of the Worlds.
Bless Matheson for bringing us the concept of a vampire apocalypse! Because of his imagination and talent, so many of Matheson's books and stories were translated to movies and TV. Loved, loved, reading the reviews and opinions about the book vs. the multiple movie versions of I Am Legend. Either I am not so opinionated, or just easily entertained, because I thought all the book to movie interpretations were great fun ... from the Vincent Price version (which embarrassed author/screenwriter Matheson resulting in him using a pseudo-name in the end credits aka *Logan Swanson*); especially the very campy Omega Man, the vampires replaced with the *Family* of albino mutants [so bad it was good]; and finally to Will Smith's intellectualized NY version with the *Darkseekers*. As fun or as creepy, none of those versions equal the book and it's emphasis on the psychological impact of being alone.
Why read this book when we know the story almost ad nauseam - in hundreds of incarnations? Because 'MATHESON is legend'. Give a quick look at his Wiki profile.... The Legend of Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Somewhere in Time, A Stir of Echoes, I Am Legend, Steel, Duel (yes directed by Spielberg), The Night Stalker, Twilight Zone episodes (including intro and closing every show), Star Trek episodes. If you are still unconvinced of his genius - remember the Zuni fetish doll that chased Karen Black around her NY apartment with a carving knife?....Matheson's creation! And the piece de resistance....Nightmare at 20,000 Feet -- William Shatner looking out the window from his airline seat at a gremlin tearing the steel and wire cables from a rear jet engine. I think I'd rather see vampires at my door.
It's not so much an issue of *holding up to time* as to how many times it has been done; but read with the knowledge that this was the first...wow. What a legacy--what a legend!
[Why not ignore that awesome stalker just waiting, finger poised over the *no* help button?]
After this enjoyable experience, I intend to look up other books by this author. Rutherfurd did an admirable job condensing 700 plus years of history, from several different class perspectives, in Paris: The Novel--although "condensing" may seem an odd word to use when referring to an almost 39 hour book. But the information is as significant and as impressive as the book's girth.The tangled machinations of politics, religion, social position, etc., was intriguing, given added color by the personalities entwined in the years of rich history. The timelines that crossed America's progression with where Paris was at a particular place in it's historic march fascinated me, reminding me that we are a young country in comparison. The embellished dialogue sometimes seemed staged to facilitate passages of information, as is often the case with this kind of historical fiction (an great-aunt takes her very young children on a Sunday afternoon stroll, giving quite a lengthy discourse on the history of the Louvre, or Notre Dame) but so much information is given that I enjoyed these episodes (that reminded me a little of following the knowledgeable group-guide with the flag). With such an abundance of information, I'm sure that even the most erudite Francophiles will be enlightened.
*Please allow me: To you who follow certain reviewers just for the sole purpose to vote no after reading their reviews, usually before even reading them at all...just stop reading them; follow someone else; write your own freaking reviews that enlightens us all as to what IS helpful; gut-up. There are reviewers that don't write anymore and now I understand why. Keep some dignity and class in this "community". "Mean people suck." ( I'd give that statement a *yes this was helpful.*)
"You better watch out, you better not pout...Charlie Manx is coming 2 town." Don't be surprised if this coming Christmas, when the snowflakes start to fall, the colored lights brighten the night, and Christmas songs tinkle from every speaker everywhere, you find yourself reluctant to trim the tree, refusing to let your children sit on Santa's lap, acting horrified when the kids want to build a snowman, and definitely throwing your Christmas CD's through the air like clay pigeons. Halloween will become the new jolly holiday, jumping next to New Year's Eve, because Joe Hill obliterates everything warm and cozy about the holiday no-longer-to-be-mentioned, including the once delicious homey smell of gingerbread, and choirs of *angelic* children singing carols....it's giving me bad goose bumps just thinking about their innocent toothy-smiling faces.
I have always said that a good scary book is my favorite guilty pleasure, and what I think is one of the hardest kinds of book to find...Merry Christmas to me...I found one, (but almost ruined Christmas in the process)! Hill has a jolly time here, visions of psychologically damaged children grown-up, bearing the weight of their injustices, acting on the misdeeds hard-wired into their little heads. Victoria McQueen (Vic the Brat) we meet during her troubled childhood. On her beloved banana seated bike, she can escape her quarreling parents, or just get away to another world by crossing a magical bridge that she can imagine, or conjure. It takes her to her *inscape*, a place where she finds things that are lost, or where she can stay lost, but a toll is taken out of her, no free ride. She grows into a tattooed, bad-ass, motor cycle mama that's not so good at the mama part to her son, Bruce Wayne -- haunted through the years by her memories of a specific trip across that bridge where she met Charlie Manx -- the Grinch's mean and ugly older brother.
Charlie Manx is no Nosferatu, sucking the blood from his victims; he is more like part Transformer, part chi-vampire, part Mr. Burns as a giant gangly giggly mortician that drives a vintage Rolls Royce Wraith that is connected to him psychically--and he/the Wraith is powered by the goodness and joy of children. He is aided by a demonic, sadistic oaf of an elf, the gas-mask wearing (literally Mo-Fo'er) Mr. Bing Partridge, and his ever present canister of gingerbread-scented sevoflurane (that gas that puts you out on the operating table while you count backwards from 100...and get to 96). The very naughty team do away with the pesky parents, then whisk the cherubic children off to Christmasland, where there are no rules, everyday is Christmas, and no parent can tell them what to do. Christmasland is Charlie Manx's inscape--his off the map destination to keep his hoard of children and stay away from people that want to stop his murderous ways.
Bing is a character that will be remembered (and dismembered?). Belittled and badgered one time too many by his cruel parents, he puts them to sleep for good, and takes over his dad's collection of porn. He is oafish and slow, and fond of childish demented rhyming. Charlie Manx was nagged by a wife that felt he was never good enough, and claimed he was *sucking the life out of his daughters,* (now residents of Christmas land themselves...so what exactly happened to Mrs. Manx?..). There is lots of fun here, so much so that it is hard to look at this as just horror--can we say delicious horror? The puns, the metonymy, the tropes, the references to King's books (Salem's Lot, Christine, It, etc., the movie Psycho? The White Christmas song crooner? Batman? Maxwell's Silver Hammer?...) could make this a great ghoulish game of Bingo, or even better, a wild drinking game..."I found Pennywise!!" down the hatch...
Downside, I'd have to put Kate Mulgrew on the naughty list, her over exuberance did mellow, but jeez, it was painful in the beginning, and I think she herself mixed up the voice of whom was whom. Did an obsessively nagging wife turn Charlie into an energy-sucking fiend, did Santa miss him the year he wished for a puppy to dissect, or what is his black-back story, and how did he hook up with the Wraith? Some etiology or info would have been helpful to understanding his motivation. But then, I guess a monster's motivation is...he's a monster!
There's so much more I'd like to say (oh, the kiddies at Christmasland!) but I don't want to give away even one eye-popping detail. More like a 3.5 star, but like I always say, it's a hard genre to get a good book out of, and this was a lot of creepy scary fun. It could have been whittled down a couple of hours-but the time didn't bother me because I didn't want my trip to Christmasland to be over. Only my second book by the genetically gifted Joe Hill, I had read Heart Shaped Box, but I found this one the better package under the tree! If you are a fan of the genre, get out a tally sheet, or line up a couple of six packs, and definitely download, but remember, when your family is crying because you won't make a snowman with them -- I warned you...NOS4A2 is COMN4U.
You are going on a journey; insert your ear buds, and be prepared to step into a vortex of imaginative chaos, oppression, corruption, cruelty--you will wonder if you need to check your navigation...is this Johnson's novel about No. Korea, or is this Orwell, Kafka, Murakami (Timothy Leary), that has hijacked your device and carried you into a surreal and convoluted parallel universe created by Phillip Dick?
The speakers blare out...The first blast of propaganda hints at Pak Jun Do's mother--a kidnapped opera singer, a *toy* of the Dear Leader. The father, it is assumed, is the Master of the orphanage. The story is told in 2 parts, the first section being about Jun Do and his upbringing --the dirty and horrific jobs he takes to survive. Here Johnson is at his best describing the tunnels and kidnappings, the rusting fishing boat and the voices that seem to come from nowhere through the ship's radio, the haul of Nike shoes fished up from the sea. The paranoia and oppression entrenched in the men is like the rust taking over the boat. Jun Do goes through several professions and levels of social standing, tunnel fighter, kidnapper, radio operator, then prisoner, hero, foreign dignitary, and eventually takes over an assumed identity, inheriting a wife, and finds love.
Johnson tells the story using several different methods; creative and clever, and at times even humorous, these many devices tell the horrors and atrocities almost like background music floating behind a scene: the propaganda speakers blare out the love the Dear Leader has for his people, while Jun Do travels through the country seeing his people eating grass or raising dogs for food; an interrogator thinks, "we ramp up the pain to inconceivable levels..in a few weeks he will be a contributing member of a rural farm collective" --the prisoner, a professor, was accused of playing pop music from South Korea to his students. The writing methods and devices are like passages to another place on the timeline of the story, adding a new dimension to reader participation, but just as easily can be confusing-- making this a read that requires real effort, but very worthwhile.
If you have ever used the aid of nitrous oxide at the dentist's office, you will relate: I started listening to this novel at the dentist's office (I was scheduled for a 3 hour fun-block). A new book, a fully charged ipod, and the gas mask firmly in place. After about 1 hour, I got a little break. I lifted the nitrous mask from my face, looked at my ipod and thought, "WTH?! Maybe I shouldn't be listening to this under the influence." When I got home, lungs full of oxygen, brain cleared out, I started over. I listened a while then thought, "WTH!?" Once you catch on to the methods, the story becomes clear and easily navigated. Johnson's novel is a piece of inspired literary construction with steps and passages, tunnels, holes, voices from nowhere... with writing that is just as alarmingly beautiful and incongruent. Parts seemed even beyond surreal to me and were not a good fit, thus my 4* rating. But, for all I know, behind that wall of secrecy, this could be complete reality with just a surreal and convoluted leader?
The first time I heard Sedaris, I thought I was listening to the funniest, most clever and original humorist since the early years of George Carlin and Steve Martin, whose live performances had you leaning on complete strangers to help support your racked-with-laughter body to keep you off the floor. Forget polite sophisticated chuckles--these were open-mouthed, tears down your cheeks, ugly-faced guffaws. You never finished a drink before the carbonation went flat...you knew there'd not be even one safe second to swallow before an explosive laugh might send that sparkly beverage spraying out your nose. Sedaris even had the added unique ability to get you laughing at those never before funny, tough memories we all share--those growing up rights of passage moments that elicit laughter through tears. He was (and is) that good at observing life and the ridiculous humor in the everyday.
Maybe I've lost my funny bone, but it seemed like something was missing with this latest collection. I never felt the urge to rewind and listen again, and at times found myself giving an obligatory chuckle out of respect for a comedic genius that has shared better comedy. He is still observant and witty; several of the pieces were great, but there was not much that seemed new and crisp, nothing to catch you off guard and slap you silly. There's a dusty air of reflection, even melancholy, in a few of the pieces that set a tone that stayed with me, in spite of some sunnier funnier bits. But then, maybe unfairly, I always compare his latest to his greatest, the one that had me afraid to drink a Coke even alone at home--Me Talk Pretty One Day; several guffaws better that hooting it up here with the owls.
Fans of Sedaris will still enjoy this, and will probably get plenty of laughs that make it worth the price of admission. Anything that can lift our spirits, give us a little enjoyment, and make us smile is worthwhile, afterall. *Worth mentioning: not a great or consistent production. As usual, there are live bits which you expect to be a little tougher to listen to, but even the studio recorded pieces are tinny and inferior.
A GOOD dystopian read, including some of those inhabited by *reconstituted beings*,the zompirepocalypse reads (i.e. I Am Legend, World War Z, The Strain,only book one--) is one of the hardest books to find, in my opinion, and one of the most fun. I loved The Road; Dog Stars will always be my favorite, there's Alas Babylon, Brave New World, Hunger Games, The Handmaid's Tale,...take me away dystopia. But I draw the line pretty sharply between GOOD and HOKEY ( a few hokey limbo-ing under the pole/line occasionally).
This book was suggested to me, I took one look at the cover and muttered to myself, "yeah, sure." But then I scrolled through my library and saw the jacket for Patient Zero, which I liked something awful. We never judge books by their covers....Reapers was a great surprise -- not so much about the *reconstituted* (aka *zombies*) at all, but more of a philosophical survival story western style, with a heart. Young Temple is anything but polished, born into a time that has always known the *meatskins*, danger, survival, and almost self-raised, or feral. Her survivalist nomadic life is interrupted when she saves a lumbering gentle giant that is mentally challenged and unable to speak. The narrator handles these one-sided discussions aimed at the wall of a man with warmth and heart--Temple talks about her own moral judgements, memories, and losses during her brief but difficult life, as the two of them embark on a quest Temple feels honor bound to see to the end. One of the bigger surprises was the quality of writing--really nicely done with some touching insights. Personally, I enjoyed this more than Cronin's Passage books (and it's only 7 hrs. long - and $9 on sale!) *but will refrain from final judgement on that until the series wraps. Whether you are looking for a little diversion before diving into Moby Dick (couldn't pass it up at $9.66), or tired of looking up pictures of cute puppies while you anxiously await the re-release of the expanded World War Z, you just might find this a pleasantly unpleasant book to spend time with. (BTW check out the Tibetan Mastiff puppy!)
Well, Dr. Phil just wrote a book based on his belief that it's time we all knew *how the world really works* and how to become *street savvy;* claiming that he is offering a rare glimpse inside the mind of the "bad guys"....philling Dr. Phil's pockets with more cha-ching is fine, but Highsmith outlined exactly what you look out for over 25 yrs. ago, giving us much more than just a glimpse into the mind of one of the baddest. -- and he is the talented and sociopathic Mr. Ripley.
Highsmith's Ripley is like a textbook study of a blooming sociopath/psychopath--along with the personal narration of the processes taking place, and that's what makes this so wonderfully chilling and entertaining. Imagine a film of Ted Bundy's crimes with a lucid Bundy narrating the thought processes going on; fascinating. I worked with more than a couple of budding Mr. Ripleys in my former profession and Highsmith has done her research. True, the story might have a few moments that require you suspend belief, and it may be considered slow by some, but the action is the smooth unfurling of the petals on our psycho flower. (And this guy puts an extra *o* in the word smooth.) I'm tempted to continue on with the 5 series *Ripliad* just to shake my head and see "how's that working for you Mr. Ripley?"
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