I know that I should have done a better job of managing my expectations when I settled into my car to listen to Steve Martin's "Shopgirl." Over the years, I have admired how the author has managed to keep a strong following while at the same time continuing to push into more "mature" projects. That said, I found myself a bit disappointed by the story of Mirabelle the Shopgirl.
Mirabelle is the saleswoman at the counter of the glove department of Nieman Marcus. Mirabelle is a small-town girl fighting depression and loneliness in Los Angeles. She is in her mid-twenties, feeling her way through her post-college awkwardness in a city that doesn't know what to do with a shy artist from Vermont.
We follow Mirabelle through two romantic relationships. One with a wealthy businessman and another with a slacker in the guitar amplifier business. The meat of the book is found in the inner-thoughts of the characters who are all feeling their way through the politics of sex, commitment, love, and relationships. Interestingly, I found that the descriptions of the thoughts of the secondary characters were more fully explored than those of the main character. I suspect that the thoughts of the male characters came more easily to the author. Somehow, I found the thoughts of the shop-girl herself to be largely caricatures of what men think that women are probably thinking. I'd be interested to hear the comments of women that have read this book.
I doubt that I would have even considered this book had it not been for my familiarity of Steve Martin. That being said, it was a nice non-challenging book to listen to while commuting. Don't come expecting the Steve Martin of The Three Amigos. Don't come expecting the Steve martin of The Spanish Prisoner either.
Just a quick review on this one. This might've been a 4-star selection had it not been for the never-ceasing honking laughter from the interviewer, Lynn Hirschberg. If you can get past that, Bill Murray shines as you'd hope he would.
If you enjoyed the movie "Die-Hard" and want more of the same, this is the book for you. Other reviewers here have noted that this book would make a good movie, and they are probably right. If you are looking for a well-writen book with an intricate plot or interesting characters, however... you should just click on by.
It's evident that the author knows how to write well. If not, there would be no other way to stretch this into an eleven hour chase scene. The truth is, you could probably skip over full hours of this book and pick up just about where you left off... chasing somebody or being chased.
I cannot say that this is the worst book that I've ever listened to, but I'm not convinced that it's the book that made me listen. In fact, the narrator Stephan Rudnicki might be the only reason that I made it through the entire book. Like he's proven in his other narrations (Ender's Game, for example), he's able to walk the fine line between acting and narrating without becoming too dramatic or distracting.
I purchased this book after reading all of the glowing reviews here... and now that I've finished listening, I'm somewhat puzzled. While this was a decent book, it definitely didn't live up to my expectations. I found the plot to be slow and the characters to be caricatures. Goods guys are sincere. Bad guys are evil. And crusty cantankerous (crippled) guys? Why, you know that they really have a heart of gold, right?
Like a couple other reviewers here, I found the sex scenes unnecessary, but for a different reason. They were mostly absurd. I definitely wouldn't characterize them as porn or x-rated like other reviews... I just kind of thought they were filler and had to wait through them until the plot continued. I found myself talking out loud to my car stereo on several occasions saying: "okay, okay... we know they get it on... let's get on with the story now".
It would be misleading to say that I disliked this book. The writing was adequate. The narration wasn't terrible. I just don't know that it was worth fifteen hours of my time.
You probably won't be astounded when you find out "whodunnit", but this is an enjoyable book nonetheless. No loose ends and a somewhat believable plot.
I was a little unsure at first with the narration. He seemed a bit slow and deliberate, but I quickly became accustomed to the pace. Also... did anybody else happen to notice that they seemed to switch narrators about half-way through the book? It was either a different person, or they prodded the original reader into a faster pace (and with a higher pitched voice). Not too distracting, it just caught my attention.
I think that I have listened to every "Spenser" novel that's available on Audible. It isn't so much that they are fantastic books... it's more that they are predictable in their high-quality. I tend to listen to these short Robert B. Parker novels between larger books... enjoying a mostly mindless story before undertaking another long listen.
Joe Mantegna continues his entertaining portrayal as Spenser... one that he's also become known for in made-for-TV movies. As a side-note, the voices that he gives his female characters in his readings never fail to amuse me. I particularly enjoy when he attempts to pull off a rendition of a woman trying to seduce Spenser. Those laughs alone make the commute fly by quickly.
If you're looking for a nice light read that's well-written, this is just the book for you. Just don't expect to be dazzled. It should be no surprise at all that this book is being made into a movie.
There is one serious flaw here, though. None of the characters are very likable. You go through the entire book, and don't really care much whether the main character lives or dies.
If you're new to Robert Crais, I'd strongly suggest that you wait to read this book until you've finished the Elvis Cole series. Go check out 'The Monkey's Raincoat'.
As somebody who uses Audible to make my commute bearable, I have the tendency to gravitate mostly towards mindless fiction to make the time pass... and base my reviews primarily on how successful books do with that criteria.
That being said... this is a book that isn't mindless, but still kept me captivated. It's a facinating look into both American policies in Central America as well as techniques that are used in tracking people. I have thought about this book frequently during the recent hunts for Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. I was very surprised how hit-and-miss the technologies seem to be.
The author does a good job in presenting the details of the situations without making personal judgement on the characters involved, but does so in a manner that isn't school-bookish.
If you've read any Spenser novels before, you probably don't really care about the reviews... you're going to read (or listen to) it anyways.
That being said... you won't be disappointed by Joe Mantegna's reading of these books, although I found the accents that he gives the female characters hysterical. The "he said, she said" comment of the previous reviewer is valid, but I didn't find it overly distracting.
Let me begin by saying that I think I've either read or listened to every book that Grisham has written. Let me continue by saying that I haven't really enjoyed many of them. I consider his books to be perfect beach, airplane, or commuting material. This book is no different.
No, you won't really like the main character. You won't feel sorry for him when things start going badly for him. You know where the story is going after listening to the first half hour.
Reading a Grisham book is like watching an episode of a television drama. You're not expecting high-brow intellect or overly thought-provoking moral dilemmas. You listen to Grisham because it's a fast-paced story that makes the time fly by.
He delivers that again here.
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