I regret all my previous five-star ratings and reviews. Nothing is as good as "The Winds of War." Except perhaps, for its sequel, "War and Remembrance." The plot lines are intricate. The characters are conflicted; right and wrong are constantly pulling at them. The backdrop is World War II. Author Herman Wouk puts everything together and the end result is literature's greatest historical novel(s).
But the greatness does not end with the writing; it does not end with the story itself. Narrator Kevin Pariseau also brings his art to new heights. Not only does he give each and every character a distinct voice, he gives those voices depth of emotion and maturity as the story unfolds. His women's voices actually sound like women speaking. And when the novel calls for singing, he breaks into perfect song. A tour de force of voice acting.
You cannot go wrong with "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance."
Walter Isaacson commits the Cardinal literary sin of telling us what Seve Jobs did with his life rather than showing us what he did. Instead of weaving a series of narratives -- rather than relating the stories that made up the life and times of Steve Jobs -- Isaacson throws a lot of quotes at us from Jobs and others. He fills in the spaces between these quotes with a few odd details, very few of which the reader/listener can really latch onto and use to build a moving narrative in the mind's eye.
And that's a shame, considering Isaacson was writing about an evil genius who touched hundreds of millions of people, disrupted numerous industries and left behind a legacy that is already being compared to Leonardo Da Vinci.
Fact is, there is a much, much better biography of Seve Jobs, and it is even available on audible: Alan Deutchman's "The Second Coming of Seve Jobs," published in 2001. Deutchman relates all the same tales, except he actually shows us the life of this man through the power of narrative. And except that Deutchman actually includes details that are rich in evocative power.
Do yourself a favor: Download Deutchman's book; not this clunker.
It's a story about talking bunnies. Child's stuff, except for all the political intrigue. It drawls on for the first 14 hours at a slightly entertaining pace, then picks up for an awesome climactic scene, then falls back to its slightly entertaining mode for the last half hour. The narration is excellent, and so is the author's introduction, a little story about how his novel came to be. Worth the $8 sale price, but that's all.
to write 49 hours of nothing?
As it turns out, yes, it did. George RR Martin seems to have no idea of what a good story is, or how to tell a story, even a bad one.
Let me summarize for you. Dany, formerly one of the wisest characters in the series, is hit by a big stupid stick. She imprisons her dragons and marries her enemy. Forty-nine hours later she realizes her mistakes and goes on to ...
Well, that's where the book ends.
There are other plot lines. Like Bran's, for instance. He continues on some mystical a journey toward who knows what.
There is also Bran's half-brother, John Snow, commander of he wall. He spends the book trying to save the lives of his enemies, only to have his enemies kill him in the end. Or maybe not. He takes four dagger stabs and the reader is left to guess that he is dead. But considering George RR Martin is the worst storyteller of all time, it is very likely that John Snow will come back to life like so many other dead characters in the series. Oh, there is also The Imp. Much of the book describes the wanderings of Tyrian. He's trying to make his way to Dany, sure that he will become a trusted advisor. Why? Who knows. But he never makes it, anyway. His plot line also ends abruptly.
There are other characters, none of whom the reader is made to care about. It's as if the author is trying to torture his reader so at the end of he series he can go on TV and call us a bunch of fools for buying his lousy books.
If these unresolved plot lines and excruciatingly boring characters are worth two credits to you, please buy this book.
But I cannot remember ever being riveted to a piece of nonfiction like I was to his telling of "The Mayor of Castro Street." While the writing does not add anything to the story, Shilts himself does. He gives us history. He gives us an education in politics. He gives us a 1970s American city.
But he takes us so many more places and introduces us to so many characters. And he really lets us know Harvey Milk the way HBO let us know Tony Soprano. He gives us a deeply conflicted human being. Harvey Milk was short-tempered with friends. Demanding of volunteers. He was a nymphomaniac who let a boyfriend half his age embarrass him in public because "he's a really good lay." Perhaps the book actually ends that particular sentence with a four-letter word.
But while Shilts gives us a Harvey Milk who led a flawed personal life, the author also gives us a Harvey Milk who sacrificed his finances, his relationships and ultimately his life to better the lives of perhaps America's most beset upon minority.
Shilts never uses the word sacrifice, but he draws a picture of a man, who after he was assassinated, left friends who were surprised to find that every article of clothing he owned was thread-bare. Looking for something for the funeral, the friends couldn't even find a pair of socks without holes.
This is a David and Goliath tale that ends in a Shakespearean tragedy.
It is one of the greatest stories ever told.
And it is semirecent American history.
A great adventure. A range of characters from innocent to bullying to shrewd to gullible to an evil genius all brought to life by one of the best narrators I've had the pleasure to listen to through audible.com. And let's not forget the adventure itself -- a search for buried treasure. This was as magical as the Harry Potter books. Download it! It will become an instant favorite.
You would think that a shipwrecked family living on an uncharted island would face plenty of challenges, but The Swiss Family Robinson seems to have landed on a Wal-Mart of an island. Hey, look! Potatoes!. Hey, look! Flour. Hey, look! Aloe, coconuts, vanilla, jasmine, pineapples, lobster, salmon and so much more!
The shipwreck, meanwhile, is a veritable Home Depot, filled with building supplies, seeds for every kind of vegetable imaginable, saplings of every kind of fruit imaginable, livestock, kitchen gear, casks of gun powder and shot, all the tools necessary to build a forge, etc.
The father, from whose point of view the story is told, is a walking encyclopedia and therefore knowledgeable of every plant and animal the family comes across. He also comes off as the kind of arrogant know-it-all who in real life would have no friends.
The plot seems to be whether the author can mention every animal and plant he has ever read about. There are no red herrings, no literally devices of any kind. Just one loooooong snooze.
Oh, and the narrator is among the worst, too. All his character's voices sound nearly identical. He has no cadence and puts no emotion into the story. A pure failure.
There is very little plot here. There are a lot of pathetic, low-life characters who spend the book brooding. It will depress you.
OK, I get it. Perrin Aybarra is conflicted. But how many times in the same series, in the same damn book, do we have to hear the same character's inner monologue going on about what a bad leader he is? This character had grown stale several books ago, now I dread when the narrators return to his story arc.
I also understand that al'Lan Mandragoran is conflicted. He's out for revenge, knows he is on a suicide mission and therefore doesn't want any followers as he sets off to fight the dark one all by himself. But do we really have to repeat this refrain every time he picks up new followers? Did someone tell Brandon Sanderson that he had to fill 900 pages and to drag out every single story thread to reach that number? Sheesh!
I also understand that "bubbles of evil" are hitting the "Wheel of Time" world with greater regularity. But going into great detail as though these episodes are integral battle scenes is like hitting the pause button and trapping the plot line in freeze-frame mode.
Even Matrin Cauthon's thread has become bogged down in this book as he basically waits ... to open a letter from Verin Sedai, for an audience with the queen of Andor, to go rescue Moiraine Sedai ... A pity because Mat's character had been so full of life in all the previous works.
Brandon Sanderson did such a fantastic job breathing new life into the series with the previous book. It was spellbinding. It was gripping. It was full of surprises and great writing. But "Towers of Midnight" is only a tiny bit "gripping" surrounded by a whole lotta boring.
Having listened to two of the authors other offerings -- "Relic" and "Thunderhead" -- I was expecting another brush with the supernatural or occult. What I got instead was a suspense thriller about a couple of egomaniacs trying to solve a series of enormous engineering, psychological and political challenges. Managing to pull everything off would mean moving the world's largest meteorite from a desolate island off the tip of South America to New York. Once back in the U.S., one of the egomaniacs would use the meteorite as the centerpiece of his new museum. Along the way, the listen feels a bit like a really good road trip movie, one in which the characters come to know and trust one another and learn more about themselves in the process. We do get our bout with the supernatural toward the end of the book, when it seems like the ride is sure to end -- the authors surely can't pull us around more hairpin turns, can they? But they do. Buckle up, this is 17 hours of pure adrenaline.
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