I grew up watching the original Upstairs, Downstairs, own all the episodes and recently enjoyed the new series. So it was wonderful to know that I could listen to a novelization voiced by Jean Marsh. Hawkesworth, who I believe wrote many if not all episodes of the original series, does a great job of turning the first season into stories. And Marsh is a very good reader, and does the various accents quite well. So I was hooked. But the bizarre thing is that someone forgot to edit this recording. We hear mistakes, retakes, different versions of the same line -- at one point we even hear the producer talking to Marsh -- and it's a bit disconcerting. I would have given this five stars, but had to take one off for the lack of editing. After all, we do pay for a finished product. But still worth listening to, and quite addictive!
I was literally counting the hours until my pre-order of this book arrived. It was certainly compelling, but not as strong as the first volume, in my opinion.
The plot got very complicated -- yes, the Civil War was complicated, but the battles and plot twists were sometimes hard to follow -- and as another reviewer mentioned, some of the dialogue was long-winded.
What I felt in this book was that characters that were quite well-drawn in Volume One became a bit more stereotypical in this book. The "villains," Ashton and Bent, were somewhat ridiculous in the first book -- I thought heaving bosoms and nymphomania were the stuff of really bad romance novels -- but became very caricatured in this one. The sex scenes were cringeworthy.
But even well-drawn characters like Charles and Orrie lost some luster here.They often fulfilled the stereotype of the Southerner as "hot-blooded" and "impetuous" -- if they'd been horses they might have stomped their feet!
I generally like Grover Gardner as a narrator, but he's pretty weak on accents.
Having expressed these reservations, it's still a really engaging and moving story, and gives a sense of the human bravery and sacrifice that shaped this terrible period in American history.
Now counting the days and hours until Part 3 arrives!
This book definitely kept me engaged. The idea of combining the voices of Sgt. D. D. Warren, investigating two bizarre murders of entire families, with that of a mother of a very disturbed child and that of a nurse who not only works with disturbed children but who was the sole survivor of her family's massacre, is quite intriguing.
The scenes in the psychiatric unit for disturbed and mentally-ill children were very difficult, but they rang true, and did much to illustrate the character of Danielle. And I loved the narrator who voiced Danielle.
However, I had a problem with the character of Victoria, the mother of the violent child Evan. She started out sympathetic, but she eventually sounded if she was determined to be a martyr. The trembling voice of the narrator also got irritating.
But those weren't insurmountable obstacles.
As the book started to wrap up, however, things just got too odd. The motivation of the killer was very thin -- avenging an act that didn't really need avenging -- and the discussions of alternate planes of reality got silly when one of the most sensible characters in the book started believing in them. Say what?
So it was enjoyable overall, but frustrating enough that I couldn't give it more than three stars.
I usually enjoy Lisa Gardner's work, but I gave up on this one just over halfway through. First of all, this is some of the worst audiobook narration I've ever heard. I've heard Anna Fields before, and she was competent, but this is cringeworthy. Her attempt at male characters reminded me of adolescent girls pretending to be men while making prank calls. Plus, all the men seemed to have slurred speech. She attempts to do a Boston accent with the character of Bobby (the only character with a Boston accent in a book full of Boston natives), but it comes and goes, and is never effective.
The story seemed intriguing at first -- top-notch sniper saves the lives of a mother and child in a hostage situation, but finds himself accused in a murder plot -- but became so implausible that it got tedious. The femme fatale Catherine is supposed to have such beauty and sex appeal that men abandon their senses, morals and good judgment at a single glance. She's written like a really bad cartoon character. The sniper Bobby, whom I've enjoyed in other Gardner novels, completely lacks common sense in this one. Hard to believe that a supposedly smart suspended cop runs around interrogating witnesses, showing up at crime scenes and doing just about everything that could incriminate him.
And the idea that virtually everyone is prepared to ignore the facts of the case -- armed man is shot after pointing gun at woman's head -- in favor of some bizarre conspiracy theory just gets silly after a while.
I am not usually this negative about an audiobook, but this one made me angry that I had wasted so much time in hopes that it would get better.
I usually love the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus novels, and am always anxiously awaiting the next installment. I know that this one is from earlier in the series, but it's not one that I had read or listened to.
In a nutshell, there's not enough Decker and Lazarus and WAY too much Cindy Decker, who is an extremely unpleasant and unsympathetic character at this stage in her life and career. Every pig-headed, short-sighted, stubborn and childish option that crosses her path, she pursues.
Someone's tailing her -- naturally, she doesn't report it to anyone (don't worry, I'm not spoiling much). Drive drunk? Sure. An apartment's been broken into? Don't call backup, just barge in there! Have a hunch on a case? Why would you even think about calling your colleagues?
I got halfway through and decided life was too short to finish it -- made my blood pressure rise.
The other thing that was really irritating about this novel was Kellerman's level of detail about insignificant events. She devoted huge amounts of space to things like a discussion among three women at a restaurant about who would order what. Who cares?
I hate to be so hard on Ms. Kellerman, who is a brilliant writer. And I love nothing more than to be immersed in the world of Peter and Rina and their rich and observant Jewish life, and the way the cases come together.
But this one is worth a pass.
No, I love the series and I will read or listen to future books. And I love the genre.
He's an excellent reader -- captures nuances of voices and conversational rhythms, can convey different male and female characters without forcing the female voices. I've always enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, his readings/performances.
Anger -- I found myself talking back to the book because Cindy's behavior was just so irritating and immature.
I know that this is something of a coming-of-age novel for the character, but I didn't have the patience to experience it.
I usually know what to expect from Lisa Scottoline's books: Smart woman does stupid things, but lives to tell the tale. They drive me crazy at times, but her stories are usually a good way to get away from the real world for a while.
This one fits the "smart woman/stupid things" pattern, but it adds a layer of domestic drama that wastes an inordinate amount of time. And the central character is just so irritating that I found myself talking back to the book.I should have turned off after the first half hour, but made it halfway through before deciding that it wasn't worth listening to all the dreck to solve the mystery.
Imagine that your long-lost stepdaughter shows up at your door to tell you that her father's been killed. Wouldn't you ask what happened? When, where and how? Nope, we first have to listen to endless dialogue between the drunken, sobbing teenager and the saintly stepmother about how sorry each of them is about not having been in touch with the other.
Then the central character's biological daughter comes home, and there's more sobbing and teenage angst.
I disagree with those reviewers who disliked the narrator. She couldn't handle an Irish accent (or was it supposed to be Russian?), but I think she did a great job channeling the teenagers -- you could even hear the different intonation from the character who wears braces!
But the performance is irritating because the characters are irritating -- that's what whiney teenagers sound like! -- and there is way too much soap opera and not enough mystery.
The central character -- I called her Jill the Pill -- appears to be a good doctor, and was probably a good stepmother. But she lacks common sense and perspective -- hey, let's run down the middle of a highway to chase an SUV! -- and she's way too self-righteous.
Can't believe I'm expending this much time and effort to review such a waste of time, but I wouldn't want other readers who have enjoyed Lisa Scottoline's books in the past to be sucked in by this one.
I love the Sean and Michelle stories, and was looking forward to a new one. But I almost gave up when I heard Orlagh Cassidy's harsh and inappropriate voices for the female characters, particularly for Michelle. She may be from the south, but the accent Cassidy gives her is grating, and her intonation makes the character a real witch (actually, the word that rhymes with it), instead of just a strong and assertive woman. Same with the other woman with an even more pronounced southern accent. I like Cassidy's British accents in other books, but this is like fingernails on a blackboard.
It's also bizarre because sounds as if McLarty and Cassidy recorded their parts in separate studios at separate times, so the sound quality is completely different for each reader. Conversations sound weird.
In terms of the book itself, it's reasonably interesting and engaging (although I figured out a lot of it way before the end). However, Baldacci has given the characters some excruciating dialogue -- instead of having the narrator explain facts about weapons, or why they are in Maine for this case, he makes it part of Michelle and Sean's dialogue, so that many of their conversations sound completely unrealistic and artificial. And hearing the US President and various high-level officials explain to each other in a meeting how their intelligence program works, as if they've never heard it before, was also ridiculous. Made me cringe on more than one occasion.
Bottom line, if you like the series and want to take your mind away from the real world for a while, it's OK. But don't blame me if you throw your iPod across the room a few times!
I always enjoy the Peter and Rina Decker novels, although I find we haven't had enough of Rina in recent books. And the link between their religious observance and their daily lives is hardly emphasized any more -- in this book, they take in a non-Jewish kid and there is barely any reference to how he is going to adjust to life in a Shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observant) home. But that's not my main complaint about this one, which just feels disjointed and unbalanced. Kellerman has decided to describe every female character's clothing, which is a bit bizarre -- do we care that Marge is wearing rubber-soled shoes? And she goes into great detail about every single preliminary interrogation as Peter and his team try to solve the murders -- but then all of the final and crucial leg work, interviews, shocking evidence, interrogations and confessions are described in a summary narrative in the last 45 minutes of the book, or less. Did she reach her page limit and say, "Oops, no time for more dialogue, let's wrap everything up?" Also, no one seems at all fazed that an intelligent doctor has stayed married to a hit man for years and seems to have no problem with his continuing to see their son. I'm giving it three stars because I was consistently interested, but it's not up to Kellerman's usual standards.
I've always enjoyed Gerritsen's books and the characters of Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli. But this story is so full of holes and completely bizarre behavior that I kept listening just to discover what inane twists Gerritsen would add next. Maura is just plain whiney for the first part of the book -- is she surprised that having an affair with a Catholic priest is a recipe for heartache? -- and then we have to listen to endlessly banal conversations as she goes on an ill-fated road trip with an irresponsible medical colleague and his dysfunctional friends. Worst part is that Maura -- who comes across as prisisy and priggish -- is always a step ahead of these people in terms of foreseeing problems, and yet she lets Dr. Doug, aka Peter Pan, lead the group into one disaster after another. There's a ridiculous case of a corpse being misidentified that would have lasted about 30 seconds if someone had actually bothered to check dental records BEFORE the funeral -- what kind of investigators are these people? After an impressive body count and a few false "solutions" to the crimes, the story ends with a reference to some unspoken clue that will affect one of the character's futures. Is it something we're supposed to remember from a previous book? Or is it a starting-off point for the next novel? Either way, it's the final frustration in a frustrating novel.
I had read so many reviews of this book, all comparing it to The Help. Don't believe the hype! It's a relatively enjoyable listen, and deals with an interesting time in US and world history -- before the US entered the war, and as the world was just learning about the fate of Europe's Jews. But the characters are just too stereotyped: the plucky girl reporter, drinking whiskey with the boys and having anonymous sex during London's blackouts; the middle-aged, no-nonsense postmistress experiencing romance for the first time (and getting a certificate of virginity from her puzzled doctor -- ick!); and the timid wife whose doctor husband runs away from a medical mistake by deciding to tend to victims of war in London. The young wife character is never developed -- maybe we could forgive her timidity and vapidity if we had been given any sense of why we are supposed to care about her or what strengths she has besides being a little doll her husband can protect. The scenes of the "radio gal" doing her reports from London are quite interesting, and her encounters with doomed Jews in France and Germany are chilling. But we don't end up caring that much about the characters, and there's nothing surprising or compelling in their fates. And so many loose ends are never tied up. The narrator is terrible at accents -- her British accent and her New England accent often sound the same, and her French pronunciation is appalling -- and she often pronounces Edward R. Murrow's name as "Mur-ROW." This book was a decent diversion but more frustrating than rewarding.
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