I've read other Halprin books, and he's always shown a lot of potential, and some terrific writing in places. But in this book he really put it all together: wit, satire, tenderness. My wife and I loved it. Be patient: he takes his time, but it's worth the wait. Listen to the UNabridged. Despite its length, Helprin isn't trying to get you there quickly. Rather, he's letting you savor the details of each event, so you have to be patient. But if you are, you'll be amply rewarded.
It's an engaging page-turner, occasionally moving. I was bothered by the needless distractions, such as: 1) The trial is, to say the least, implausible on so many levels I don't know where to begin. As a trial lawyer, perhaps I shouldn't read courtroom dramas written by non-lawyers. But I do. It was amazing how many pieces of compelling evidence, littered throughout the book, were ignore, overlooked, or used poorly when the trial came. No explanation. No trial strategy. And the stuff thrown in to make it colorful, like Addie's father bringing biscuits for the jurors and the judge and lawyers, was ludicrous. If the DA was bothered, and he was, why not move for a mistrial? 2) The narrator did the voices of the characters very well, but mispronounced quite a few words. Please, look them up: "Lomotil." Or "Corazón, as examples. 3) The author--or narrator--made a dumb mistake, when a character who is a big Red Sox fan refers to a key play in the 1986 ALCS championship as the 1987 playoffs. NO Red Sox fan ever gets such things wrong. 4) Many of the characters seem to lurch from doing one thing to the next, without much plausible reason for their actions. It seems to have more to do with the author's need for plot development than the characters' inner logic.
Like a few other Audible books I've listened to, the intervals between chapters are sometimes messed up. In some cases, the sequence of sentences is confusing because there's no gap.
But if you don't listen too hard, and don't think about it very much, it's a good page-turner to listen to in the car.
Dave Van Ronk was far from the most famous of the Greenwich Village musicians that transformed American "folk" music in the 1960s, but perhaps the most influential. This book lies somewhere between an autobiography, an account of the life and times in the Village during that era, spiced with trenchant observations about society, musicians, politics, and songwriting. A great listen! My only quibble: the narrator mispronounces some words.
I had lost track of Dave Barry, so this was a pleasant surprise.
The BAD: You've read/seen/heard the bare outline of this plot a gazillion times before: the bachelor party just before the wedding that goes awry, the "perfect" wife-to-be, who isn't, the rich father of the bride who wants everything to be perfect for his beautiful daughter etc., and so the novel isn't all that surprising in that regard. These aren't spoilers: they just demonstrate that much of the structure of this novel is utterly predictable. And to some degree, the madcap antics in South Florida are reminiscent of Barry's fellow Floridian, Carl Hiaasen.
The GOOD: It IS Dave Barry, so when it gets funny, it gets VERY funny, laugh so hard the car is shaking funny. And more off-color than his newspaper columns, and appropriately so. I won't reveal the details of the funniest parts--they're what make it worthwhile. It's a bit like having a bunch of little Dave Barry newspaper columns that pop up unexpectedly in the middle of an ordinary novel. That's a good thing, And I would add that the stereotypical bachelor party novels/movies(and even Carl Hiaasen novels) don't feature an orangutan as a major character.
The DELIVERY: I don't know the narrator, but he's just right for this book.
1. A plot that a) didn't give away the ending at the beginning; b) was plausible; c) where the only issues that created any possibility of suspense weren't resolved within the plot, but thrown into the denouement--almost as an afterthought.
2. At least ONE character I actually cared about.
I'm starting Harlen Coben's latest, Six Years.
He does a terrible job portraying female characters.
I would start by cutting the author. And if we cut the cop, then we'd be spared the pathetic denouement/epilogue.
I believe the last Robin Cook book I read was Coma, and perhaps one more about the same time (long ago). I liked it. But it looks like Cook has kept the formula, but hasn't improved his character or plot development. The vast conspiracy between the health insurance company and the plaintiffs' lawyers is ridiculous enough, even if the reader/listener isn't a fan of either group. But serial murders based on THAT ridiculous conspiracy? It would be laughable on its own, but it's even more ridiculous, given that it doesn't even make economic sense, let alone simplistic page-turner-thriller sense. We knock off long-term high-risk consumers to keep our rates low. Why? Because it'll cost more to cover them in the long term. Why? Because they're at risk of dying from a sudden heart attack. Uh, wouldn't that cause them to drop dead, and cost LESS? Besides, who signs up for health insurance for LIFE? It's a year-to-year proposition for most people. As long as they're young and healthy now, why would an insurance company care if they're at risk of dropping dead 20-30 years from now? They'll probably be someone else's problem by then. The central idea of the entire story is simply so preposterous on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin.
Terrific writer, excellent performance
Two very smart main characters, each plotting against the other. Both kept outsmarting me. What will they do next?
No, but they were terrific.
Dumb question. It's a great book. I wasn't paying any attention to how to adapt it for the Big Screen, and I don't intend to start now.
Disappointing sequel to one of our favorite DeMille books. Not much happens until the end, and it's a LONG wait, with fairly tiresome conversation, until something finally occurs. Too little, too late.
He is a terrific narrator, and he makes the best of a bad situation, but he can't make the story shorter, and he can't create action that doesn't exist.
I'm a big Harlan Coben fan, but Promise Me was a big disappointment. First and foremost, he should stick to writing and not narrate his own books. I know that some authors can do it well, but he's terrible. Someone as talented and successful as Coben ought to be able to get someone good to do his reading, but alas, he didn't.
Second, while I realize that his books follow several formulas, they are usually so engaging on other fronts that I don't mind. They have heart, you care about the characters, and they're written with true compassion that transcends a lot of other formulaic thrillers. This one seemed contrived. Perhaps that's a result of his lousy narration--maybe the characters would have exhibited more heart if a good narrator breathed life into them, but it was not to be.
Harlan: PROMISE ME you will stick to writing and PROMISE ME you'll stop pretending you're Scott Brick. Unfortunately, you're not.
The good: It's a nice follow up to Pillars of the Earth, and it's clever and original to create a "sequel" several centuries later. Follett does an excellent job blending the story with actual historical events, and he brings to life a period of history too few know about and fewer still care about. As always, his main characters are compelling. Overall, these make for a very good listen, and you know it's good when you pull into the parking lot and sit there until the chapter ends rather than get out of the car.
The bad: how much badly-written sex and violence do you want? I'm no prude, but I thought a lot of it was gratuitous and not particularly well done in any event.
The Gate House sounded like the one everyone was bugging him to write: "Oh, you HAVE to do a sequel to the Gold Coast. It was such a GREAT book!" So he tried, and tried, and finally succumbed. But, its not the Gold Coast. It's just going through the motions. Fairly slow plot, and, with a few delightful exceptions, it lacks the sharp, hilarious, satirical dialog that distinguished most of his other novels. The narrator didn't help, either. There's a fine line between upper crust, "effete preppy snobs" and "gay," and the narrator sounder more the latter than the former. ("Not that there's anything wrong with it."), but it just sounds wrong and, in the process, detracts from the humor that might otherwise exist in some of the dialog.
This is a terrific book, stunningly written, adeptly performed. Having come of age during the era of the early Civil Rights movement, the time in which the book is set, these characters and their challenges brought back so many memories, mostly heartbreaking but also inspiring, of the evils of a segregationist society and the quiet courage of those who dared to challenge it. The characters are brilliantly drawn. My only regret is that the principal antagonist of the book doesn't get whist she truly deserves, but that's kind of what happened in the Deep South.
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