As a debut, "Everything is Illuminated" deserves five stars. The story centers around Alex and "the Hero"-also named Jonathan Safran Foer-and their journey to discover the woman who possibly saved Jonathan's grandfather from the Nazis. The story takes shape by intertwining the correspondence of Alex and Jonathan as they each attempt to write a story, each ostensibly about the journey.
While Alex's story is playful and light, at times, it carries underneath the strongest cords of emotion in the book. Jonathan's story is sometimes annoying. It focuses on the history of his family in the Ukraine and has a magical reality feel to it. Though clever and generally funny, some of his digressions are too much and do not carry the story forward or add depth to the characters.
As the book progresses, your commitment to the characters and the journey is significant, and leaves you heartbroken by the end.
A note about the reading. This is one of the finest audio book productions I have come across. The readers have done an outstanding job, especially with the voice of Alex. Though I would love to check out Foer's second novel, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," I don?t think that it will read well on audio format as it combines several experimental techniques to tell the story.
Do not be fooled--If you do not enjoy slow moving, character driven plots, then this book is not for you! The narrative of this story is very nicely done and fits excellently with the tone of the book and characters. Ms. Clarke has done a remarkable job of creating a world you can lose yourself in. Though lacking in action, the story of "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell" is so intricately woven that it is more like a detective novel with historical/magical elements. Fantastic read for those who will be patient with it.
Steve Martin is brilliant at directing attention towards the small events that we glance over. Unfortunately, this talent also creates a liability: a book that has more value for its quirky insights than its characters, plot, or deeper meaning. While "Shopgirl" is an endlessly fascinating foray into the depths of Beverly Hills, and all the psychosis that exists there, the journey ends before you have a chance to be drawn to any of the characters in a meaningful way.
Don't get me wrong. This book is well worth listening too... but only because it isn't worth the time to read it. If you are having any difficutly making your choice, go read War and Peace, but listen to Shopgirl.
Joseph Ellis has done a remarkable thing: created an American history that is as tantalizing as a mystery novel with the elegant prose of Fitzgerald.
In "Founding Brothers," Ellis makes several difficult choices. He is trying to give a sweeping view of the generation that founded the American idea, but in an almost short-story format. Because of this, Ellis has selected what, he feels to be, are some of the most important moments in our history. From these snapshots he creates a panorama of the interactions between the men who loved, hated, respected and desipsed one another: our founding fathers. And he does a remarkable job.
If the book has any flaws, and they are hard to find, it is that the book is too short. This allows Ellis to create a picture that can be misleading to readers unfamiliar with lives of the founders. The book is probably better for those who have an interest in reading about some of the fascinating intersections of between these important men, than for those wanting to brush up on U.S. history.
Also, it is a great audio production. Excellent reader.
but ultimately still a Grisham novel... lack of depth is a problem.
Slow moving plot, redundant, frustrating narrative, shallow characters.
In "On Writing," Stephen King has noted that most of his novels begin with "what ifs" and proceed to grow as he writes. The GWLTG is an example of how that method can fell miserably. The "what if" at the center of the story is familiar and interesting: What would a young girl trapped in the middle of the woods do to survive? Basically a toned down version of "Robinson Crusoe." King, however, fails to follow through. The characters are flat, the journey seems pointless and redundant, and King does a poor job of blending the neurotic (his way of inserting a horror element) with the mundane.
Even if you like King, you won't like this.
If you are looking to waste your time and money (or book credit) this is your book. I will admit that my perspective may be slightly biased since I am not a Rand fan, but it seems to me that this was a boaring, ill-thought out book. Rand tries to explain her philosophy of Objectivism (which, I might add, is not considered worth while by any serious philosophers) but does so primarily through the excessively long harangues found in her fiction. This leaves the listener feeling that Rand did not want to take the time to put her ideas in a different format, instead leaving "The New Intellectual" simply re-published thoughts that are unrevised.
Aside from the merits of her thoughts (which aren't very interesting or deep: Just think you are your self because- you are yourself and that is enough to justify anything) the presentation should be enough to turn people away from this production. If you want her fiction, listen to "Atlas Shrugged," if you want her philosophy, go listen to "Objectivism," or "The Virtue of Selfishness." If you want to save yourself time and money -- skip her philosophy and just enjoy her fiction for what little its worth.
"Gunslinger" seems to be one of King's better books. Taken singly (not having read the other Dark Tower books) it is difficult to judge the characters or the plot. However, King does a good job of creating the isolated, lone-gunman atmosphere. Much of the narrative is also very good, told in flashback, which gives you an almost dazed feeling. In all, "Gunslinger" is good enough to make you want to listen to the next Dark Tower book.
I am not a big King fan, and consider most of his work to be rehashed and poorly written. However, Salem's Lot is especially well done. It combines the classic elements of a good horror story (in the tradition of Dracula or Frankenstein) with some interesting narrative digressions about the history of the town of Salem's Lot.
Though the story is strong throughout, I thought the end of the story lacked some finality I was hoping for. There is, of course, some attempt to factualize vampires by explaining their origins, but I'm not sure how well this came off.
Great story, and recommended for easy listening.
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