I hated this book. The reason it gets 2 stars is the performance by Clive Mantle is terrific. He manages to breathe life into what is otherwise a long, dull, and less-than-thrilling thriller where I was both confused and annoyed. The action takes place over one evening, with plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of rambling flashbacks. Two couples -- brothers and their wives -- meet for dinner to discuss their sons who have done something awful. BTW, that "something awful" is revealed pretty early on. There is no mystery here. The only issue being wrestled with at dinner is what to do about the boys' heinous acts. It's thoroughly unbelievable that anyone would be discussing such a private and dire situation in a crowded restaurant, especially since one of the brothers is a famous politician. SPOILER ALERT: the lead brother turns out to be some sort of sociopath with a history of violent assault, and yet is free to walk around and have dinner at a 5 star restaurant. He admits he hasn't worked in years. How does he support himself, much less not be in JAIL for his own crimes? Then there is a Lady MacBeth turn at the end with his wife that felt like a complete cheat. No idea why this got such good reviews in PEOPLE MAGAZINE, etc. Save your money and spend it somewhere else.
This book is a story-inside-a-story. One is of "Ruth" -- the actual author -- who finds a Japanese teen girl's diary washed up on the shore of her remote Canadian island. Ruth, half Japanese herself, is struggling with writer's block and fixates on the diary (and the other items in the plastic bag with it, including a kamikazi pilot's watch.) The other story is of Noa, the Japanese teenager, who is contemplating suicide but first wants to tell the story of her Greatgrandmother, Zen Buddhist nun Jiko. Instead, Noa's diary is about herself, how she was born in America but now lives in social isolation in Japan, her equally suicidal father, and the life-journey her "Old Jiko" inspires. Ruth believes the diary is floatsam from the Japanese Tusnami and sets out to find out if Noa is real/alive.
Noa's story is overall engrossing and emotional. At times even hard to listen to. But Ruth's story is a snooze. There are no "stakes" for Ruth, I never cared about her and I find the conceit to write a fake narrative about your real self to be pretty insufferable. Especially since she is totally unnecessary to tell Noa's story. Overall, Ruth's sections of the book don't even read real. She and her husband Oliver talk to each other like strangers. I have never heard two married people talk so formally and stiffly. I'm still shocked this was nominated for a Mann Booker prize based on how wooden Ruth's sections are.
But here's the worse part: Noa's story is eventually hinged on some vague notion of "quantum physics" (???) and Zen ideals about time. Which might have been okay IF there wasn't a sudden, unneeded and off-putting mystical/supernatural element introduced into the plot about 3/4 of the way through. I almost stopped listening when (SPOILER ALERT) Ruth has this incredibly self-involved dream... than ends up saving Noa's life, in the diary! Oh, come on. I slogged through all of this so the author could go on a ego trip??
The ending is vague, which I'm sure some people find "artsy" but I found a cop out.
All that said, my biggest issue with this book is the author reads it herself!!! Ugh, I hate when authors do that except when they're professional actors, like Steve Martin or how Mindy Kalling or Tina Fey read their own books. Hey, author: I'm sure you had fun in drama club back in high school, but you're not a great actor. You really suck at doing voices, sometimes even your own! Sure, since Ruth Ozeki is half-Japanese, she pronounces all the Japanese words in the book perfectly. But any decent actor who knows Japanese could have done that! Ruth Ozeki's has no ability to bring the characters alive through her voice. Mostly, it was flat, and when it wasn't, she sounded stiff or over-done, like someone doing bad impressions of mutual friends.
Please leave the book narration up to the professionals.
I often listen to books when I'm doing something else: walking the dog, stuck in traffic, doing housework. I listen on my smart phone with ear plugs. So I like books that capture my imagination from the get-go but also "easy" to follow along. For instance, I love Balzac but I'm not listening to one of his novels while doing housework! I'd get lost.
I enjoy thrillers because when done well they are zippy and engrossing. This is the first in a series with psychologist Dr. Frieda Klein. So there is some ground work laid with the characters who will be regulars, like Frieda's mentor and also, her handyman. Their storylines aren't germane to this plot, really, so the introductions are a bit awkward. But after that business is done, the plot gets going and moves along. Overall, I'd say the book was well written. I was never bored or tempted to "fast forward". I very much liked Frieda as a protagonist. She's flawed but principled. Although, Frieda makes some very questionable ethical choices when it comes to her profession. In the US you might get your medical license revoked. But I am aware that Brits have different rules when it comes to medicine, especially "public" medicine that is paid for by the government.
I am not sure what the complaints are in some other reviews about the narrator. I loved her, I thought she did a great job with all the voices, both men and women. I could tell which character was talking just by the timbre and cadence.
The plot is about child abduction, so be warned if you're sensitive to that sort of thing. There are a couple of big twits -- a few I saw coming, a few I didn't. Which is always fun.
Planning on reading the other books in this series!
Rachel Dratch is hilariously funny. She does voices, etc., that really brings her own words and stories alive. I laughed out loud many times. Listening to her is like listening to a good friend.
Ultimately, the book loses steam. Rachel herself admits her story doesn't have much of an ending.
This isn't exactly a "memoir" but I enjoyed the sections more about her comedy days, SNL, and her dating life. MINOR SPOILER: then it becomes a book about having a baby. I felt like that material was less fresh, she didn't really have any new, funny or insightful take on motherhood. But worth the read for the first half.
Dark. Disturbing. Compelling.
The entire book is memorable.
The title is horrible. It's a true crime novel of hostess girls in Japan. I'm not great at titles but it could use a better one than this.
Best true crime novel I've "read" in ages. The narration is spot-on.
Exciting action that begins to peter out at the end.
GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO
The opening grabs you from the get-go.
This is a fast, exciting read. The narration is terrific, Michelle Hicks really hits it out of the park. The action is NON STOP for the first 2/3 of the book and I really liked the characters. So much more human and real than many YA novels. I enjoyed this was NOT supernatural or dystopian. But once I realized this was just a set up for another book, I became a bit disappointed. I want to read a YA novel that is self contained. Also, the story starts to get VERY large at the end and I'm not sure I'm going to like where book two goes. But I'm sure I'll read it to find out!
I will read the final book in this series but won't read another Veronica Roth book. I definitely will not seek out Emma Galvin.
Emma Galvin's performance comes off as indulgent, victim-y and whiny. Maybe that's just the cadence and timbre of Ms. Galvin's voice but it made me dislike the protagonist Trice.
At times, DIVERGENT can be an exciting roller coaster. Something is always happening, plot-wise. But the writing is so amateur it's hard to stay engaged.
Edge of seat.
GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO because the characters and story suck you in.
I liked both performances. Honestly, at first I didn't like the timbre of Kirby's voice. But he's such an incredible actor/reader, I got into his story. Julia was first rate.
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