For some reason I always think Young Adult books should be simpler than their Old Adult counterparts. This book went a long way towards dispelling that stereotype. The word that best describes the plot is - dense. If you peeled back the top layers, the tragic death of a sibling, the destruction of a family unit, New York and Paris through the eyes of a jaded, wealthy, emotionally unbalanced, humorously sarcastic, tragic heroine there is still so much more to explore.
The arguments between history and science, the therapeutic quality of art, a young girl's struggle to keep her life together, parent her mother and forgive her father, the healing ability of friends and the destructive and vindictive quality of those who are not your friend and the debris that occurs when the technology and culture of today collides with a pocket of civilization that still exists but has remained unchanged for centuries all could fill a book.
The role of music in this story is critical. And just exploring the lyrics and the history of the songs on Andi's iPod could have made a complete and fulfilling read. The author lists a playlist on her website, but I would be fascinated to know how she selected the music she used, if it all holds specific meaning to her and who wrote the lyrics attributed to the characters in the book. They were beautiful bits of poetry, absolute grace.
My only criticism of the book was that sometimes the diary segments were hard to track. Jumping back and forth between two periods of history, especially if they are separated by several hundred years, makes the plot timeline more difficult to follow. In this book it is even more complex. The story unfolds in real time, and the narrator also relays her recent past - the death of her brother and the breakdown of her family. Then the author uses a diary to explain the distant pass, but instead of just relaying what happened on the actual dates of the diary entries, the entries also relay what happened on numerous days over the last six years. There were diary entries when the diarist was recording her interaction with the living Duke d'Orleans and memorializing her conversation with his ghost and the entries read as if both happened that day. Keeping track of whether I was reading about today or some time between two years ago and today or 212 years ago or some time between 212 years ago and 218 years ago, was difficult. The two narrators helped, and keeping the diary entries brief helped. But it still made sections of the book tough to follow. But the beauty and tragedy of the plot made this difficulty worth the effort.
Young Adult, Old Adult or someone in between - you should read this book.
I may be one of the few people who didn't fall in love with Larson's book Devil in The White City. His writing style is a little too florid and wordy to me. However, since I read anything I can about World War 1, my issues with Larson's writing style wouldn't stop me from reading Dead Wake. And it is a book worth reading. Dead Wake tells the story of the sinking of the Lusitania, but that is really just the launching point of the book. Larson interweaves other key events and people into the narrative so the reader gets a good overview of the British Intelligence system, especially its code breaking department, the German and British navy's, especially the German U-Boat program, the operation of one of the largest businesses of the period, the Cunard Lines and more importantly the individuals intimately involved in the fate of the Lusitania, not just those on the boat, the crew and the passengers, but also the captain of the U-Boat who fired the torpedo that sunk the ship. He brought detail to at least a couple dozen passengers and crew members, some who survived and some who didn't. People who were never famous and are largely unknown by now. Because so much of the book dealt with the minutia of people's lives, I thought his writing style was better suited to this subject.
He also dealt with the Wilson administration and Wilson's appalling immaturity and naivete far more sympathetically than other contemporary authors. If anything, his generally positive handling of Wilson, was about the only thing that rang untrue.
I listened to this book and while Scott Brick is a prolific narrator and I regularly listen to and enjoy his narration style, I found his narration of this book a little too dramatic. he tried to infuse the narrative with a little too much emotion and drama for my taste. Regardless, it is still a book worth listening to. And it seemed to go very fast.
I heartily recommend this book.
I was feeling pretty good after I finished the book "The Swerve" so decided to tackle another book that had long been on my TBR stack that dealt with essentially the same time period and the same dawn of modernity.
Russell Shorto also wrote "The Island at the Center of the World" about the Dutch new world settlement New Netherland. It remains one of my favorite historical books regarding that time frame. It was well written and extremely readable. So I had high hopes for "Descartes' Bones."
Unfortunately I was disappointed. The book was well written, but while I understand how important a figure Descartes was both at the launch of the modern period but also today, that really wasn't what the book was about. Rather, it was about the circuitous route Descartes skull took when it was separated from his body after his death. I think the goal was to use the skull, and actually his entire skeleton as symbols for the radical ideas Descartes proposed and by understanding people's reactions to the skull and skeleton we could understand their reaction to those ideas. Unfortunately that didn't work for me. I appreciate that his remains became relic-ized, mirroring what the church had long done with purported saints bones, but to me that has never been an admirable or interesting practice and in this case, it had little to do with Descartes thoughts and ideas and those are what was important.
If you want to read a piece of non-fiction dealing with the dawn of modernity, I recommend "The Swerve" over "Descartes Bones." Russell Shorto is a very good writer, but the topic itself was uninteresting and it fell far short of convincing me that the fate of Descartes skeleton and skull was anything I should remotely care about.
I purchased this book quite some time ago. I started to read it then, but put it aside because at the time I wasn't up for the level of attention it clearly required. I recently picked it up and this time I made it through. I am very glad I did.
The focus of the book is on the rediscovery of an ancient poem "On the Nature of Things" by Lucretius, and the impact that rediscovery had on the swerve towards modernity and the beginning of the Renaissance. The poem, which stems from the author's devotion to the beliefs and ideals of Epicurianism, was written almost 2100 years ago and was rediscovered by a priest on a mission almost 600 years ago.
I admit I have never made it through an entire translation of "On the Nature of Things" and since I don't read classical Latin I will never tackle the original. But I have read substantial portions and have found them both lyrical, perceptive and surprisingly modern. I was interested in learning about how the poem was viewed within the context of the time of its rediscovery.
I think it is far fetched to give this rediscovery alone so much credit for swerving western civilization into the modern world. But I do agree it is one of the important factors. Greenblatt used this event as a launching point to explore several of these events and factors and the key participants at the time. The portions of the book that focused on the time period, the people and leaders who lived through them and especially the martyrs created by a church desperate to avoid any thoughts or ideas that did not mesh neatly with their doctrine, were fascinating. Much of this information wasn't new, but Greenblatt is quite a story teller. Large sections of the book were real page-turners. And it is rare to find a non-fiction book about a 2000 year old poem written to honor one of the fringe philosophical movements of the time, that was rediscovered by a Catholic priest about 1600 years later after being long forgotten and buried in a monastery, that could achieve "page-turner" status.
I highly recommend this book. And I highly recommend it be listened to. Edoardo Ballerini is one of my favorite narrators and he does an outstanding job on this book. His narration is what moves this from a four star to a five star.
I've put off reading this series for a few years and I am not certain why. It covers one of the most fascinating times in recent history - the First World War - and I tend to read anything I can about that time period. It is by an author whose other works I enjoy - to a degree. I found the first few books of the Monk series fascinating, the Pitt series far less so, although I read several of them. The problem with Perry is, while I like to read series books in order and one after the other, when possible, the books in her series tend to run together and they all begin to sound like essentially the same book with different secondary characters and London locations inserted into the same plot line.
I was hopeful that would not be the case with this series. I enjoyed No Graves as Yet, the first book in the series. It takes place at the cusp of the war, the main event that drives the plot actually occurs the day the Archduke is shot. There was a family of main characters to get to know and while they all seemed dry and stiff, based on Perry's style of character development, as well as the time period the book was set in and the class of the family, that probably makes sense. There are more colorful characters when the plot moves to Cambridge and London, which keep the reader engaged. The problem was there wasn't anybody the reader could really like or really hate. There were several characters I found very annoying though. But the storyline was complex enough it kept my interest even if the characters always didn't.
The mystery revolved around a plan to keep England out of the war.It seemed a little far fetched and overly complicated, but since this plan was the reason for the mystery that drove the book, I was OK with that. The end held a few surprises, which was great. In her other series, the endings quickly became predictable.
The book was full of details regarding the ramp up to the war and Perry did an excellent job with her research and her ability to so clearly define a specific time and location.
I usually enjoy Michael Page's narration, and he did a good job with this as well. The only problem I noticed with the narration was there were too many middle-aged male characters for him to give each a unique voice, inflection or diction and I had trouble telling who was talking sometimes. And he contributed to the annoying qualities of a few of the female and younger male characters by the shrillness of his voice sometimes.
I am on a roll that started with The Girl With All the Gifts. This is the fourth post apocalyptic book I have read in the last 12 months. Which is 4 more than I've read in the last 20 years.
The Dog Stars covers much the same ground as Station Eleven, or I guess I should say that the other way around since The Dog Stars came out first. It was perhaps better written. Heller's MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop shows. He writes almost lyrically. His magazine background shows as well. The writing is tight and he doesn't use any extra words. So much so that many of his sentences are just a single word. That can be annoying when reading, but I listened to this so I did not have that problem. And the narration was wonderful.
The plot revolves around a guy's guy - a carpenter, outdoorsy Colorado guy who loves to hunt, fly his Cessna and most of all fish. His best friend is a dog and his companion is someone even more macho than Hig is. The author soften's Hig up a bit by confessing that he writes poetry and he clearly loved his wife. But Hig's response and reaction to the events occurring around him are definitely from a guy's perspective, so it was sometimes difficult for me to relate or wonder at his response.
But Heller does a wonderful job of capturing the loneliness Hig deals with constantly. It is so thick you can physically feel it. He portrays Hig's lonely existence so well, that this is the first book of this type I have read where I found myself thinking that the 99.9% of the population that died got the better end of the deal. There seemed very little in his world that encouraged him to live. Especially after he loses his best friend. The chapter retelling that loss is one of the best pieces of writing I have seen in a very long time.
There really wasn't a climactic end to the book, no resolution, no closure. I know that books in this genre can't have "happy" endings, but I always feel like I must have missed a couple of pages at the end, because the words just stop. And that is the only way you know the story is finished.
I recommend this book. Especially in audio format. It is well worth reading.
I enjoyed the first book in this series, as well as the novellas. I believe Ms. Hunter is an extremely talented author. Desert Bound was not a bad book and was eminently readable. If written by someone else I might have rated it higher. However, I felt that she wasn't terribly committed to this plot. After the years of tension, hurt feelings, anger, frustration and regret between the two main characters, their differences seemed fairly insurmountable. Then they reunited so abruptly it seemed almost anti-climactic. And while her books are usually chock full of characters, that works because she either proves their value to the story by the end of the book or makes it clear she is setting a character up in this book that will reoccur in future story lines with a purpose. I felt like there were superfluous characters in this book, involved in fairly heavy scenes and then disappearing without any idea of why they were included.
Again, enjoyable book and definitely worth reading if you liked the first book in the series. I recommend you read the first book in the series and the novellas before reading this book. Just not up to her best efforts
This is the story of a young woman who discovers the cancer she previously defeated has come back with a vengeance and now she has "lots of cancer." I know this sounds strange but to me, that phrase "lots of cancer" which the author uses frequently is the most original and inventive thing in the book.
Rather than a story about a young woman and her husband who discover their marriage is about to end along with her life and how they handle that knowledge, the tragedy is used as a hook to lure the reader into yet another book about a troubled relationship that would quickly be fixed if only the characters would start talking to each other instead of to themselves. This is no different than so many of the contemporary chick lit or romance novels. The impending death of one half of the couple is nothing but a gimmick, not the driving force moving the plot along.
I expect a a young woman facing her own mortality in the very near future would naturally be introspective. Introspective about her upcoming demise, how she feels about death, her fears about the process, how her beliefs and her faith or lack thereof affect the process, her concerns for her loved ones, etc. But there is very little of this. I admit I skipped through some of the numerous soliloquies she engaged in ad nauseam, but there seemed to be very little thought given to the actual act of her dying and death.
The main character in this book spends her time obsessing about her relationship. Not the upcoming end to it, but whether this spouse who has already gone through so much with her really loves her or if he has already crossed her off and moved on. The male character is fairly well written and it seems obvious that he cares for his wife, at least obvious to everyone but her. She comes across as an 8th grader with her first boyfriend. A boyfriend she has so little faith in she is certain he cannot survive without her constant guidance.
I liked the narrators. However, the female narrator already has something of a sing-songey voice and the author substitutes dialog for internal prose so often that the narrators lyrical voice just made the character more affected and less real.
I admit i picked this book up hoping it would expand on the dialog that accompanied the recent death of Brittany Maynard. This seemed like a timely subject. And a subject that is sometimes easier to digest in fiction. But instead of a discussion regarding death and the choices faced by a young woman and a young married couple now facing that subject, we got a chick-lit romance in disguise with all of the angst of the worst of that genre and none of the depth of the best of that genre.
I will say that the end of the book, written after her death begins to address the subject I expected to be addressed throughout the book.
I cannot recommend this book.
I admit I have read the rest of the books in this series and enjoyed the first couple of them. They seem to get progressively weaker. And Karen White's narration, which used to not bug me is now like fingernails down a chalkboard. Her voice just drips with sincerity and has a catch in it right when you are ready to strangle the character for being so vapid. It sends me over the edge.
But even a less annoying narrator could not save this book. There is no way the main character has the brains to get through vet school. She could not think herself out of a box and has absolutely no control over her thoughts, actions or emotions. She is the kind of person everyone hates - always trying to "help" others who don't need or want her help and are far better at taking care of themselves than she will ever be.
The main male character, Wyatt is totally one dimensional. He is supposed to be some alpha male, but he seems to be so laid back that he might be asleep and no one has figured it out yet.
The other problem I had was the author does create some interesting secondary characters. And not just characters from future books. The most interesting character in this book is Emily's sister. Why did she have multiple degrees, including a Phd in Philosophy and work construction. Why did she get away with using her student loans as an excuse not to pay her share of the rent? She should have thought of that before she decided to get multiple degrees and not use them. And the breakup with her girlfriend is never really explained. What could have been a very interesting character was basically introduced then ignored.
After the previous book in this series, I swore I was done with it. And definitely done with Karen White as a narrator, no matter how much I want to listen to a book. However, in a moment of weakness, aka an Audible sale, I relented and got this book. I wish I had not.
This book has garnered quite a bit of positive noise. I had fairly high hopes. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed. It had good bones, but the primary characters, especially the mother, who was supposed to become gradually redeemed and sympathetic, were simply not likable. The only sympathetic character ends up being the character you should not sympathize with. I usually appreciate novels where the characters each have their own agenda and that agenda isn't revealed up front. But this book makes everyone without ulterior motives, seem like chumps at the end. It makes fools of characters who are trying to do the right thing at the expense of those with no redeeming value. Mia is no better than her father, so it is hard to appreciate his comeuppance.
But the absolute worst character is the mother. She is worse than the evil father. She is so whiney, mealy-mouthed and shallow that you hope that whatever she wants she never gets. The narrator for the mother was terrible. I am not certain if I would have found the character quite as offensive if I had read it or if there was a different narrator. But I could easily tell why her husband and her daughters ignored her. I would too. To me, this character was so weak, so problematic and so unsympathetic, it affected my opinion of everyone else.
There were also far to many holes and implausible plot twists. The detective just drops Colin's mother at a Nursing Home and they automatically accept her, no questions asked and with no funds? The detective takes weeks to check out a lead he learns about fairly early on. A lead that he knows instinctively should be followed up. The mother goes from ignoring her daughter, admitting she seldom talks to her daughter, is totally unconcerned when her daughter's friend calls and says she is missing, then we are supposed to abruptly understand that she really cares about her. The other daughter is defined as a bitch who dislikes her sister, then abruptly disappears from the plot. Why bother? Colin gives Mia his gun and isn't even concerned enough to know where she hid it?
If you want to read a book about a kidnapped daughter that is well written, suspenseful, has engaging characters, and continually surprises you, I recommend Still Missing by Chevy Stevens, a much better book.
I would not recommend The Good Girl to anyone.
(3.5 Stars) This book is on so many "Best of" lists and has received generally glowing reviews, so I was optimistic. Plus Caroline Lee is a strong narrator. And much of it did not disappoint. It was an interesting plot and the characters were well developed and generally likable. The author included several small mysteries that she wrapped up throughout the book and the ending neatly tied most of them together. I admit that I did not expect the ending. I assumed another character died than the one who actually did.
What kept this book from being a 4 or even 4.5 star book was the length. It was about 30-40% too long. Any time an entire chapter is devoted to a character thinking and the character of their thoughts, there is a problem. A great deal of this book was devoted to internal thoughts, miscommunication and "what-ifs". And even though the author attempted to use these sections to advance the plot and answer questions, that could have been accomplished far more successfully and far more succinctly. A character's introspective thinking doesn't move the plot forward. It isn't action. And miscommunication and "what-ifs" are overdone and generally a sign of a weak story.
This wasn't a weak story because the author writes well. But it could have been a stronger and a better story, if she had not written quite so much.
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