I'm a Twain fan. If I had to invite several people from history to dinner Mark Twain would definitely be one. He knows the art of storytelling and can make an amusing story from virtually nothing. That's a little of what this book is - little stories about this or that which happened to him or his family over the years.
The stories are sweet and sentimental and full of love and warmth. I would not say that this is an autobiography in the conventional sense and the author will tell you as much in his opening forward. For a better biography I would read "Life on the Mississippi" which covers most of Twain's early life as a river boat pilot. There are overlaps between the books but the "Life on.." book is much more chronological and orderly about the tales.
I liked this book because Twain has a sweetness and innocence in his style that I think speaks to an age gone by - an age I would have liked to have known. From his stories I like the man. I feel that he was a very generous and kind man and for that I like to listen to him rattle on about this or that. Those that don't feel such a kinsmanship with Twain or that are new to Twain might see this book as a collection of the ramblings of an old man in no real order or sense which could be frustrating.
The real hero in this presentation is Bronson Pinchot. His narration was one of the best I have encountered. The inflections were perfect. Even the tearful reminiscences were so skillfully done that I would swear it was Twain himself recounting these tales to me personally.
I was really surprised when I looked at the reviews for this book. I thought that this book was average AT BEST. For a mystery it completely lacks any drive or urgency. Perhaps this is because I didn't care about any of the characters - some were flimsily drawn, some were robotic, and some were just down right comical. The plot was slow and plodded along (and along and along). There were chapters that, in my opinion, needed editing - nothing happened in them worth mentioning! While I am no medieval expert some of the things that were said or done just seemed unbelievable to me. Finally, the narrator didn't do much to help the robotic characters. I think he sounded at times like a computerized voice.
I really thought I would have liked this book. I sometimes like typical genre plots told in new settings to make them fresh, but I just couldn't connect with this book.
"You are Now Less Dumb" is a perfect title for this book - not because I believe that the book makes you any smarter, but rather because this is exactly what I think the author would smugly say to you after telling you that the "love" you feel for your parents is really a survival instinct.
This book presents a miriad of different psychology theories in a well written an entertaining way. It is intended to show you all the ways our brains trick us, and that all of our actions and emotions can be explained.
The problem I have with this book is not with the writing - it is excellent. Overall it was pretty entertaining, but I did find it hard to listen to in long chunks because the material all started to sound the same ( In fact, I'll be lucky to remember a quarter of what I listened to). Rather, my problem with the book is that in the end it seemed to push the following messages:
1. we essentially have no free will
2. we are essentially animals and all of our behaviors come from evolution
3.. The world we live in is devoid of mystery, and by mystery I mean anything that can't be explained using the evolution and modern psycological science
Regarding #3 - how do we know that psycological science of today won't be debunked 100 years from now? For example, Freud is largely seen as a weirdo now, but at the time he had all the answers?
Anyway, I guess what I am saying is that the book came off a little smug. Also I don't feel any less dumb.
The story opens in 1968/69 in NW Vietnam near the Laotian border and primarily follows the story of a Marine lieutenant in bravo company from his first days in the bush until he becomes a seasoned jungle fighter and leader of men. While the story is primarily about this lieutenant, the perspective shifts around to various enlisted men, officers, and executive officers. Bravo company faces especially hard conditions and many die and the rest try to survive. The action begins almost immediately and the book is a true page turner until the last few chapters where it bogs down and loses excitement and momentum. The end left me feeling unsatisfied.
While some books focus on the story and don’t have much of a message, this book is the opposite - it is almost all message - sometimes at the expense of the story. The message, as I could make it out, is something along the lines of that
we are living in a world of opposites – us/them. It is everywhere you look and you can’t escape it. You must choose sides but the thing is - your side is largely decided for you already by luck and circumstance. Its how you respond to this that matters – in the end your good is someone else’s bad and vice versa. By the way, its not just the Vietnamese I am talking about here. There is conflict everywhere in almost everything we do that involves someone else.
I found this book to be a bit of a downer. It drew the curtain back exposing the futility of our fleeting lives and made me sad. I did learn a lot about the Vietnam war and something about the human condition.
On another note, Bronson Pinchot is one of the best narrators I have ever heard. I love the books he reads. He did a wonderful job with the performance here - a performance that required a ton of different dialects and emotions .
This is a wonderful novel about a servent class waiter that remarkably wins a quiz show like "who wants to be a millionaire". Nobody can understand how this uneducated guy could answer all the questions necessary to win the grand prize!
At the beginning of the story the hero has been arrested and is being accused of cheating - the question is how. The story evolves into the hero's explanation of how he knew each answer one by one.
What results is a collection of short stories that entertain, amaze and sometimes evoke tremendous feeling and sentiment. The stories seem to share the theme of tenderness and innocence colliding with harshness and ugliness. Nevertheless, the story is philosophically upbeat and hopefull. The short stories wove together and complemented each other leading to a good ending.
I never saw the movie but I am so glad that I stumbled upon this book. It was inspiring. I will read more by this author.
Much like the show. His tongue in cheek opinions that represent a FOX news pundit on steroids are so laughable that even conservatives will find it amusing. In this installment he covers everything from jobs and the economy to Obamacare. The strongest bits were at the beginning but then wavered towards the end of the book. His set on food towards the end was so forgettable that I can't even remember it and I finished this book just the other day. I would have given this book higher ratings if it was longer and if the material was more timeless. This was a short book and is already a little dated.
I am a fan of horror fiction. Not the slasher stuff or anything too corporeal but rather all things paranormal. The last 10 years have seen an explosion of the horror genre and the “paranormal twist” has been applied to almost every genre – its paranormal meets romance, paranormal meets detective mystery, and don’t get me started about zombies. Don’t get me wrong, I love the selection but sometimes I just crave the unadorned, back-to-the-basics ghost story. That is why when I came across Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story,” the unadorned title sold me.
“Ghost Story” is long, the characters are numerous, and it takes a while to get used to Straub’s shifting perspective, but those that stick with this book will enjoy what they find. This is a well written novel with a tight plot that is very good at setting a gloomy tone with tension that slowly builds. The mystery is slowly revealed and compelling. One particular aspect of this novel that I found unique was that the paranormal entities were multidimensional and had character with motivations that made sense. I am happy I found this novel, and I would put it on my list of “must reads” for the genre.
One other thing worth mentioning here is that the narration is excellent, and really helped with the shifting perspective and with keeping track of characters.
This is the first of the Jack Reacher novels and it was the first one that I had ever read. I had heard about the series before and so went into this book with high hopes. I must say that on one hand I was not disappointed. The plot moves along very briskly and the action is compelling. The plot twists enough to never be boring. Overall it was an above average piece of genre fiction.
The story opens when the hero, Jack Reacher, a retired Army MP is arrested for murder in a small Georgia town full of corrupt politicians and police. It isn’t long before our hero is drawn into the search for the real killers and in the process must take down a crime ring that is on an international level! Sounds great right? Why then don’t I give this novel highest marks? Well here are a few things that I found funny or annoying.
1. Jack is a man’s man. Think Rambo mixed with James bond. He is hyper violent but smooth with the ladies. His violence is always justified in his eyes and he is never remorseful even when he is gouging out the eyes of hired thugs. 10 to one odds? Sure that is easy for Jack Reacher. The violence in this story is over the top and nobody ever seems to hold Jack accountable or even be interested in his murdering disposition.
2. There are twists and turns in this story but you’ll see them coming well before the characters who sometimes get woefully behind the reader in their understanding. After a good climatic scene the end somewhat rolls to a halt and loose ends are swept under the rug conveniently and unrealistically.
3. There are a few too many coincidences to be random. Without giving the plot away, let’s just say that the ties that Jack has to this cases are SO strong that the odds defy logic. There are other plot issues that I won’t go in to so as not to give anything away but suffice it to say that you shouldn’t ask too many questions from this plot.
After all these complaints I still think that this is an above average action mystery. Perhaps too violent for me but still fun and entertaining - especially if you don’t want to think too hard about how this town’s mystery could actually happen. I recommend it as a casual read for the beach or perhaps a long drive (not for the kids however).
This is a lively piece of historical fiction that is probably more fiction than history. It’s nominally about the court astrologer for King Christian IV of Denmark and his quest to murder the king for what he believes was the unlawful execution of Tycho Brahe, the famous astronomer. Along the way the astrologer must deal with the king’s conflicted son, traitorous knights, adulterous ladies in waiting, and a few ghosts for good measure. Sounds pretty exciting right? Well not exactly.
The story bogs down when it comes to the astrologer. Exciting things seem to be happening all around him but his own story is pretty weak. As a result the middle section drags but the beginning and ending are both pretty good. Indeed, the novel’s focus on the science of the day seemed like a new spin for a story occurring in the middle ages.
I would have given it higher marks if it weren’t for the performance. It was really pretty bad. The reader ignored most punctuation and did not voice his characters very well. As a result the story as read was hard to follow – especially at the beginning.
Lighting is a time travel action suspense story that revolves around a girl named Laura who is selected by a time traveler as special - so special that this time traveler risks his life, the lives of others, and the fate of the world to save her at various times in her life.
I found this book dated, tedious and tiresome due especially to the author’s penchant for unfunny comic relief and melodrama. The story unfolds very slowly. More than half of this book is spent in exposition of Laura’s life. When the plot finally starts you realize that ALL of this could have been skipped. Why you ask? Because this girl is only secondary to the plot which is all about the time traveler’s attempt to keep the evil forces that created the time travelling portal from changing the world as we know it. I am tempted to tell you who the “evil forces” are just to reveal how worn out this plot is, but I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.
While the author does a good job with the mechanics of time travel, the plot, at times, changed gears so roughly that it forced me out of the story. I found myself turning the performance off when I didn’t have to. The characters surrounding the Laura are annoying and made worse by the narration which, in my opinion, made odd choices for the some of the voices.
I know people love Koontz stories and maybe if I had read this in 1989 I would have found this story fresh and lively but it is 2013 and I found it average at best.
We are a culture obsessed with positive thinking. Just look a self help best sellers list and you’ll find “The Secret”, “The Power of Positive Thinking” and others which boast the idea that if you think positively then positive things will manifest themselves in your life. Gurus like Wayne Dyer and Tony Robbins have gotten fantastically wealthy off of this message so I guess that it works for them, but how about the rest of us? If you’re like me then you probably have read some of these and even tried to apply them but without much success; life is too troubling, too unpredictable, and too sad sometimes to face it with a dumb grin. That’s why I love this book, “The Antidote,” so much; it is a much more realistic way of thinking that can face the world we live in and still offer some peace.
This book talks about the flip side of positive thinking. It starts with stoic reasoning and shows that what is bad in our life is labeled bad by our own mind and that when studied almost anything could be worse. The book moves on to talk about goal fixation, the ego and the self, and ultimately death. I really enjoyed this book written in the journalistic style of a magazine article. There is a LOT of wisdom packed into this short presentation. I plan on listening to it multiple times to get all of the messages. What I mean by this is that some parts of this book require “active” listening - you really need to consider what the author is saying to understand it. Maybe not the best book to listen to while you’re doing something else, but a definate must read for those who have found self help books to be lacking in some way.
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