Rocklin, CA, United States | Member Since 2004
Excellent book -- but a half star subtracted for the inclusion of the completely unnecessary element of having a much-loved dog killed. It added nothing to the story, didn't serve to heighten tension or move the plot ahead, in fact it served no purpose at all that I can see. Granted, the event doesn't occupy center stage for very long, so it's not serious demerit, but nevertheless, for all of these reasons, it should have been left out.
Other than that, a really excellent listen. This was the first book in the long-running series, and on the whole, one of the best. It's easy to see how this book, new on the stands, became a best seller, propelling Stephen White on to publishing one of the best amateur detective series out there. Even though it was published back in 1991, it's completely fresh. The single element that dates it was when one of the characters demands that some photographs be turned over. "And make sure I get the negatives, too," he adds. Right.
It's interesting, listening to this first book, meeting the characters for the first time, pretending we don't know what will happen in later installments. The delightful cop Sam Purdy doesn't play a large role here, nothing like he does in the later books, but Madeline -- Dr. Gregory's first wife -- does, and it's interesting to see how their marriage failed. And of course Lauren, the new love interest, enters the picture, just as big a termagant in the beginning as she is in every book. Once again, I found myself wondering why Dr. Alan puts up with that shrewish woman, who demands everything from everyone in her life, and offers almost nothing in return. The relationship does give rise to a philosophical question though: Lauren is afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis, in this book, in its early stages. It's a horrible affliction, no question about that. Anyone who suffers from it deserves our sympathy. But the question is, how much sympathy? Does having a devastating, obviously frustrating, non-curable -- although not life threatening -- affliction give Lauren - or anyone else, for that matter -- the right to run roughshod over everyone with whom she comes in contact? At times, during this first book, I found myself hoping that Dr. Gregory would just walk away -- he'd have saved himself a lot of abuse if he had. But of course he doesn't. Apparently he, the great healer, sees something in Lauren that doesn't come across all that well to the reader. Maybe he just loves to play caretaker in all aspects of his life.
Whatever, this was a great listen -- great characters, innovative but reasonably plausible plot, psychological insights courtesy of several of Dr. Gregory's nutty patients we readers have come to enjoy. It's a credit very well spent. I know I'll enjoy it again sometime in the future.
I don't seek out ghost stories too often -- nothing ever seems to equal Susan Hills's "The Woman in Black" -- the audiobook, not the film. Ghost stores just don't get any better than that. But this one comes close. I'm not sure why I decided to take a chance on it, but I like creepy old houses, especially if a ghost or two might linger, so that was probably it.
Glad I did -- I should have known this would be good. James Herbert also wrote "The Fog" and I remember reading that decades ago, and afterward, that book came to mind every single day when the tule fog overtook the Sacramento Valley and I had to navigate around in it. That's a seriously frightening book, too.
"Secrets" also has none of the things I don't like in a scary story, which is to say, I don't like stories that merge into science fiction. These are actual ghosts in this book -- real ghosts -- ha! -- not alien creatures or dragons or man-made monsters, or any of that sort of thing.
There are truly creepy moments aplenty -- although why people who are already unnerved by odd happenings decide to explore the basement is always beyond me, although I suppose if they didn't, there wouldn't be a book.
Special praise for the narrator, David Rintoul -- he must have burned up a thousand calories an hour narrating this. It's a high-energy narration, but in a good way. Just very well done.
Highly recommended. And three cheers for Chester -- a real trouper!
Exquisite timing, in releasing this book. As the US is torn apart by political scandals, here's a fictional take on the political process that exposes any number of the problems, but offering none of the solutions -- assuming there are any. This is politics in America today. Are you happy with the system? How it works?
A week before a tight election the family-values Republican candidate becomes the target of dirty tricks by Democrat operatives, loading his personal campaign office computer with child porn, suggesting that he had been viewing the material, was called away from the computer, and had forgotten to hide it, A young female staffer uncovered the computer screen by accident -- and then all hell broke loose.
A sociopathic, self-obsessed, nothing-I-could-ever-do-is-wrong, the-end-justify-the-means totally ruthless Democrat candidate, a wealthy photogenic woman who's recently taken a fancy to politics, is the obvious beneficiary.
Watch how all the players in this tightly-contested US Senate race are -- as Lucas Davenport observes -- wealthy. In fact, everyone involved is loaded -- including Davenport himself, of course, although that isn't a part of the plot. Nonetheless, watch all these wealthy people fight to the death (literally) over a job that pays $174,000 annually -- probably about half what any of them spend on clothes in any given year.
Watch the press assume the high moral ground, taking exquisite delight in the Republican's likely downfall. When, after Davenport reveals information showing that the Republican hadn't done it -- watch the press continue to beat up on him, saying that after all, nothing is ever proved with absolute certainty (shades of the OJ jury), and anyway, even if he hadn't done it, he COULD have, so therefore their obsession with his "child porn habit" is fair commentary.
Watch a whole bunch of innocents -- well meaning, idealistic campaign workers on both sides -- get taken to the cleaners. Watch corrupt schemers, campaign managers, lobbyists, other elected officials all go into high gear to protect each other, all with the blissful complicity of the press.
Watch the voters of the United States get turned off, wondering why it is they even bother to vote anymore. There's no honor out there, no bright shining candidates, no one with integrity who could ever win. When year after year, decade after decade, voters find themselves relegated to voting for the lesser of the evils, watch them tune out -- leaving the playing field completely open to all these Machiavellian operatives seeking absolute power over their subjects, the American public.
A painful book, but a great one. Sandford joins my short list of mega-popular authors who keep getting better and better as time goes by, and who never seem to run out of interesting plot ideas. As usual, narrator Richard Ferrone outdoes himself in excellence.
All this makes Silken Prey one of my favorite books of the year -- I will definitely listen again. And for those of you who've already read it, let me join your ranks and say I too am desperately hoping for a sequel. You'll know what I mean.
Like many other readers, I've greatly enjoyed Lisa Unger's newer books. I wasn't aware that this one was a very early effort, the third she'd written, originally published under her maiden name, Lisa Miscione. Would I have bought it, if I'd known? Probably, I wouldn't have known. Some early works by other writers have been just fine.
In her introduction, Ms. Unger tells us how she "met" her main character and couldn't get her out of her mind. The backstory is interesting enough, but I'd prefer the way Harlan Coben did it, in reintroducing his first book -- "Play Dead" -- republished many years after he'd become very successful. Coben averred as how parts of his first book make him squirm now, too, seeing his own immaturity, but still, there were good things about the book, and he was offering to his readers for what it was worth. (For the record, it's a great book.)
This one? Not so much. If you like Lisa Unger, you might want to skip it.
What's the problem? Just an immature writer, lots of high-handed preaching, too many lofty idealistic notions set into the plot, all of which gets tiresome after a while. One example: Part of the plot revolves around a community of homeless people who live in the tunnels and channels underneath New York City. The history of all those subsurface dwelling places -- and the people who live there -- is interesting, and has been explored in other books by other writers. Unger does fine in the history department. But as many young writers tend to do, she over-endows those homeless characters with way too much honor and virtue. Time and time again, we're informed that in THIS community -- underground -- "everyone gets a chance." Everyone will be left in peace, we're told, so long as they "obey the rules, don't hurt anyone and don't cause trouble."
So tell me: how exactly does that differ from the regular world upstairs?
If these homeless and disaffected (and many of them mentally ill) could have followed those three simple rules, wouldn't they now be living in a nice 3/2 bungalow with a picket fence in Poughkeepsie?
Bottom line: too much preaching, too much lavishing of praise on the virtues of the homeless and disaffected. It makes you wanna growl after a while.
The narrator has her own annoying habits -- that's about the worst Brooklyn accent I've ever heard. But not even a great narrator could have made this heaping dose of moral high-grounding go down pleasantly
When "14" first came out on Audible, I read the both the publishers blurbs and customer comments, and on the basis of that, put it on my wish list. I'd never heard of the author or the book, so I tend to rely mostly on customer reviews -- of which there weren't many, in the beginning. More to the point, there weren't any that said, openly and clearly, that this was a book of science fiction -- or maybe fantasy, a distinction I won't discuss any further for fear of spoiling the story for someone who does likes that sort of thing.
I don't. Or at least I haven't liked science fiction since I was about 9. I'd read ALL of the SF books in that impoverished little school library we had, and I loved them -- until I found myself totally blown away by the fact that I'd read a whole book -- an entire ADULT book -- about the dastardly doings in the world "Urth" without ever realizing, up to the very end, that it was EARTH they were talking about. Jeepers!
It's not nice to fool either me or Mother Nature about things like that, so I promptly dropped the genre.
The problem for me was, all the customer reviews referenced only a "mystery" behind that secret closed door. None of them hinted -- nor will I -- what actually lay behind it. Given that I'm totally consumed by detective fiction, my mental image focused on a room full of dead bodies, say, or maybe a few million in stolen loot. What actually WAS behind the green door -- no, wait, it wasn't really green, was it? -- was something very different, and not my cup of tea, so to speak.
When "14" appeared as a "Daily Deal" I didn't investigate it any more, I just snapped it up, which wasn't a bad thing at all. I loved the first three-quarters of the book. Peter Climes assembled a delightfully diverse and eccentric group of adventurers, people I greatly enjoyed reading about. The way Climes worked in their back stories, each of them in turn, was just great. Loved the early adventures, the run-ins with Oscar, the nasty building manager, Nate's story, the times and trials of being a data entry clerk at a magazine -- who knew? -- and about all the beer consumed on that scenic roof top. Sounded like fun, actually. I enjoyed it.
Then it went weird on me. I got to the heart of the book, and suddenly it wasn't about eccentric women who sunbathed in the nude -- in public -- a habit the lady tossed it off with "Oh for crying out loud. It's just BOOBIES! Haven't you ever seen any before?" which made me laugh out loud. "14" got serious, with lions and tigers and dragons and things, and my mind started to drift.
I quit an hour before the end -- tick tock, tick tock, tempus fugit and all that -- and I decided not to waste any more of it on this book, which had already gone way beyond my tolerance level for non-reality-based fiction. I quit.
Still -- good book, and I'm glad I listened to the first part. Special kudos to narrator Ray Porter. He mastered a strange assembly of characters of varying ethnicities -- listening to him, I could picture every one of them.
If you like well-written weird, this one's for you.
Like a dancing bear, the key issue concerning "The Storyteller" isn't how well it's done, but that fact that it's done at all.
The fact that a book like this, with so much excellent and accurate information about not just the Shoah, but also about the people involved and the culture in Europe at the time, is simply amazing. The fact that an awesome number of readers not only read or listened to it, but reported liking or even loving it, is even more amazing. It's reaffirming, in some simple way. In a world where way too many people, on too many continents, are openly saying they wished Hitler had succeeded, it's good to know that opinion isn't shared by everyone.
I'm also astonished at the amount of research Ms. Picoult -- or her research assistants -- did. Although the main story line -- the writing of the story about the vampire or golem -- is fictional, virtually all of the stories that comprise Minka's experiences before and after her incarceration in the camps are factual and written about by actual survivors. In order to come up with all these little stories, someone did a whale of a lot of reading to find them all. That's impressive.
Also unusual is the fact that several times, Ms. Picoult manages to make the very clear distinction between Jewish "forgiveness" and that of the Christians. That was brave -- and much appreciated, at least by this Jew. This is a theme that almost never appears as a plot point -- at least not favorably -- in contemporary fiction, and it blew me away, how well she did it. Kol hakavod!
... which made it disappointing, I have to admit, that when Leo decides to take Sage to a shul in a subtle attempt to reconnect her to her roots, that he took her to a reform synagogue. That was a major false note and very disappointing. What that meant was that as Sage sat there, contemplating that her grandmother in her youth had said these same prayers, attended these same services, that simply wasn't true. Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat services at an orthodox shul would have been 100% familiar to her grandmother -- orthodox services haven't changed -- but in a reform organization, an awful lot would be different to Minka I'd guess that she would have been shocked. What a bummer! Since Ms. Picoult goes go far to be accurate in her Shoah history, why fall apart over that issue?
Even so, I greatly enjoyed the book. I'm delighted that it's out there, that a lot of people who would never think of picking up and reading a book on the Holocaust can get so much accurate history from a contemporary and compelling novel like this.
Unfortunately, I can't tell which of the narrators read the part of Leo, but he was absolutely excellent. Great voice, and perfect timing for Leo's many funny lines. Whichever of them it was, he was great.
On the whole? Great book. Very well done.
I can honestly say I'm one of David Liss's most ardent fans. I have LOVED -- and reread -- his first books several times. They have everything I like -- historical setting, a good mystery, interesting characters, absolutely fascinating details about whatever time period he's writing about. Those books just can't be beat. So I was looking forward to this one.
I had an inclining of trouble from the first moment, when the book starts with a listing of the dozen or so successors to the tumultuous British throne following Henry VIII -- that's exactly the kind of thing that made you hate history in school, the meaningless need to memorize names and dates without any apparent relevance. To include that list might make sense in a paper book -- you could look back if you wished -- but it makes no sense at all in an audiobook. But worse yet was what that list implied: that you'd need to know this stuff before you could hook into the book.
Truth is, you don't really need that list -- you just need to know that this was a violent time in Great Britain, where competitors were offing each other, right and left, legally and otherwise, in a no-holds-barred battle for power. But even so, there was still too much time-period politics in this book to make it very interesting. Okay, the Whigs and the Tories were fighting it out, with the Jacobeans in there punching whenever they could. Much as I love this period in England, not to mention contemporary US and Israeli politics, I just didn't find this account very interesting. Politics is a paper game, a numbers game, and it takes something more than heated differences of ideology to make it interesting.
Strike number two: I'm always amused by fictional characters who barf when they come upon a nasty crime scene. I always think, "I'd never do that. I'm tough. It wouldn't bother me." But I tell ya, this book had several scenes -- several including animal abuse -- that made me ill just listening to it. Literally ill -- my stomach was rattling. The one involving the goose was just too much -- too painful, too agonizing, too awful to even think about. I don't want that scene in my head, not now, not ever. I took my ear buds out for about ten minutes, hoping they'd get done with it and move on. Just awful, really.
There was no strike three -- but a couple of good things. The narrator, for one. Michael Page is just way beyond excellent. I can't praise him enough. That, plus there is a full component of Liss's trademark tidbits of history and observation. One example: He makes the point, several times, that it was when the terms of elected officials were lengthened that the most serious corruption -- and expensive electioneering -- came into being. With longer terms -- more time to feed at the trough -- winning elective office became more desirable, and hence more combinative, in every sense. A worthy observation -- makes sense to me. There's lots of those things in the book -- I loved those parts. Liss is GOOD, y'know?
So if you're in for a pretty-dull, overly laden tome detailing electoral politics in 18th Century England, go for it. If not, reread -- or listen to -- the earlier books. One -- The Whiskey Rebels -- ranks at the top of my list for Best Books Ever. It's a gem -- and a much better use of time than this one.
I've loved Alafair Burke's previous books -- really loved them, in fact, I said things like, 'She's much better than her father ever was' -- which is saying something.
But this one? I couldn't get into it. I listened to the first 3.5 hours, realized my mind had never really keyed in, but -- only because it was Alafair Burke! -- I decided it must be my fault, this was a book I was obviously going to love! So I went back and started again.
It didn't help. It wasn't me. There's something unfocused about this story -- a lot of sound and fury, signifying not much of anything at all. Lots going on, but the plates just spin and spin. Where was the editor??? So much repetition -- I normally don't mind the 'three-quarters of the book review of facts', but in this book, she kept doing it over and over and over, all through the book. Maybe her mind was wondering, too.
Part of it was the narrator. When she was just straight reading the text, she was fine -- no complaints. But when she was interpreting several of the characters, she insisted on giving them voices that might more properly have come out of zombies. Not just raspy, but really obnoxiously grating. I might not have felt so disinclined to trash those characters had they had themselves a better voice.
I'm disappointed, but this was another stand-alone book. Maybe Miz Burke will get her groove back in one of the series books again. I'll give her another try, just because she's Alafair Burke.
A gazillion years ago, a friend and I were lurking and prowling in used book stores in San Diego. We separated, then when we met up again, my friend asked, 'Did you find anything good?' "A few things," I said. "But I was looking for a copy of 'Deliverance' and didn't find it." "You're not missing anything," he replied.
Among everything that's happened in my life since, that remark still stands out as one of the most seriously mistaken. Based on his advice, I sort of stopped looking for it, but when the paper copy and I finally did connect, I was astonished. "Deliverance" is an unqualified masterpiece. Now, I've read it about three times and just finished listening for the first time -- and I tell ya, the audio version is even better than the printed version. I normally listen to audiobooks when I'm doing some sort of mindless task, and many times during "Deliverance" I found that I'd just stopped what I was doing and just stood there, listening. It's totally captivating and consuming.
I suppose my friend's mistaken opinion of "Deliverance" was based on the film -- which I've now seen, too. Once. Indeed, the film is brutal and harsh -- scary, in the vicious savagery it depicts. The book stands in stark contrast -- tense? Yes. In fact, I'd be surprised if this book weren't used in writing classes, to demonstrate the proper way to build tension until it becomes almost unbearable. In the first few chapters especially, you just know something awful is going to happen -- you're just waiting for something to explode. And it does, of course -- but in the book, those terrible scenes we remember from the film take up just a few pages. By today's standards, in the book, it's not even especially violent.
What does linger in the mind is the poetry of the whole thing -- a river runs through the whole story, with Dickey's marvelous commentary on its almost ethereal beauty, its symbolism as a life force, for good or bad, and the danger it can represent.
It's also time for me to issue an apology to narrator Will Patton. The truth is, since listening -- trying to listen -- to several of the James Lee Burke books Patton has narrated, I've avoided any other books listing him as narrator. The Burke books are -- my opinion -- annoying, in that Patton sounds as though he's either drunk or half asleep or maybe both. For me, it's not a pleasant thing to listen to. But here? Oh, my. He's perfect -- none of that drugged-out sort of talk, nothing like that. Not only do I have no complaints, but I have nothing but the highest praise for his work here. Sorry 'bout that, Mr. Patton. Now I'm going to see what other books -- other than the Dave Robicheaux series -- he's narrated. Maybe that half-asleep silliness was just an affectation for those books alone.
Bottom line: if you haven't read "Deliverance" yet, you've got a treat in store for you. Forget the movie. Listen to the audio version -- marvelous, just marvelous.
Awhile ago, I decided to spent a few Audible credits, and knew for sure one of the books I wanted to buy -- I couldn't quite remember the title, but it had something to do with fireflies, and was written by P. T. Deutermann, who's thrillers I've loved. So -- I found the book, bought it, downloaded it, and then a few days ago clicked on it to listen.
It started out a little odd, but as the minutes ticked away, the whole thing seemed a little strange -- this wasn't anything at all like Deutermann's previous books -- I was enjoying it, but this was very different from what I'd been expecting. Only then did I check to see who the author was -- had I made a mistake? Indeed I had: this wasn't Deutermann's "The Firefly", this was "Chasing Fireflies" by an author I'd never heard of.
Well? Good mistake! By that time I was hooked.
"Chasing Fireflies" is a thoroughly enjoyable book, one I probably never would have set out to buy but which I enjoyed enormously. Wow, these southerners can tell stories! From Faulkner to Flannery O'Connor to Pat Conroy to Grisham to those southern writers who weren't quite as prolific -- Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee, Katheryn Stockett, John Berendt, on and on, The one thing they all have in common is consummate storytelling. These are not, for the most part, white-knuckle books, where danger, tension or fearsome acts of derring-do reign supreme. These are books about life, about the strange and wonderful world in which amazing things happen to regular, ordinary people -- or so these authors would have us believe. Listening to Charles Martin's tale of two "lost" boys, I couldn't help but marvel at how little was happening -- and how much I couldn't bear for the book to end. There are momentous moments -- of course. But played down to the point that they become the stuff of every day -- which makes them all the more interesting.
I really loved this book. Narrator Andrew Peterson -- apparently not the same man as the author of the Nathan McBride books, which are also very good -- is perfect for the voice of the young journalist who tells the story. Parts of the book are very sad, other parts very funny, but nowhere does Martin veer away from just recounting the story as it happened. Nowhere does he feel the need to prove his writerly abilities, of which he appears to be abundantly blessed. "Chasing Fireflies" comes across as a simple tale, which has to be one of the very hardest things for a writer to do -- and one in which southern writers, in particular, seem to excel.
I highly recommend "Chasing Fireflies" -- as for me, my next purchase of a Charles Martin book won't be by mistake. I'll be seeking them out.
Starting back in the mid 1980's, I was one of the few lawyers who was trying to defend rural landowners like the Roberson's, the endangered protagonists of "Breaking Point". When I say "trying", that's what I mean: As author Box suggests, these federal agents operate outside the Congressionally-enacted law, with unpublished rules and regulations, to the point that it's almost impossible to clear your clients in these cases. Besides, if you try to fight back, they just throw in more charges -- again, as Box suggests. The best you can do is to try to work out some plan that will let your client keep some portion of his land -- although by the time they get done defending themselves, most abandon the farm. Everything they valued has been destroyed. It got so bad that by the mid-1990's, I had to quit. I decided that if I had another sobbing farm wife sitting in my office, listening while I had to explain that there really wasn't much that could be done other than to work out a "deal", I'd go crazy myself. Like my clients, I too walked away. It just hurt too much.
A few things in "Breaking Point" are fiction: I never had a client kill, or even try to kill, a federal agent -- but I did have two who killed themselves. The trauma of having your farm -- in your family for over 100 years -- plowed, planted and harvested every year -- suddenly declared a "wetland" and therefore off limits, subject to horrendous penalties if "disturbed", is just too devastating. Can planted acres be a "wetland"? Indeed. Under federal law, a "wetland" is determined by soil type -- it has nothing to do with its being "wet". No self-respecting duck would ever look at this land, let alone land there. All that's required to constitute a "wetland" is a particular soil type -- merely that the land WOULD SUPPORT hydrophytic vegetation IF IT WERE wet, is enough. Kafkaesque, certainly, but entirely true.
There's more in this book than just the trauma faced by the Roberson family -- the range fire at the end, the tense escape, is one of the best white-knuckle scenes in history. Box is so good that you can picture the whole thing, feel the heat.
As far as I know, C. J. Box is only one of two popular authors who dares to make federal agents the 'bad guys' in some of his books -- P. T. Deutermann being the other. And why not? It's not just pharmaceutical company owners, businessmen, religious leaders and Republicans who do bad things, as virtually every other contemporary author would have you believe. Sometimes there are rogue federal agents, too.
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