Louise Penny has written a tale with all my favorite things - fascinating historical context, complex, emotional characters, and a good story. The cloistered monastery setting is wonderfully detailed, and each monk has a clear, vivid character (even the minor ones). The twists of the story, whether humorous little details or fast-paced dramatic actions, prevented me from putting it down. The murder mystery was a wonderful tale, with an interesting resolution and a strangely hopeful twist at the end.
The parallell story, among the regular characters, will be interesting to new readers, and almost overwhelming for those of us who follow the series. I noticed in her previous book, "Bury Your Dead," that Penny has a gift for imagining the most heart-breaking thing that could happen to Inspector Gamache, and making it so - drawing it out over the course of hundreds of pages, awful yet irresistible. This book is no different. She definitely has a gift for creating characters whose emotions are so engaging, so vivid, that I am invested in their well being.
I loved this book, but I do feel like I need a support group now.
This is a great update on the reporter as crime fighter trope - this isn't 'His Girl Friday,' it's a depressed newsroom with layoffs and budget cuts, and has a more unvarnished view of the journalism industry. The protagonist, Mulligan, has issues, of course, but also has an entertaining cast of acquaintances and sources, in varying shades of unsavory. The author does a great job of creating the look and feel of this town. This first is an excellent book, with a lot of heart. I recommend 'Cliff Walk' as well, a solid follow up.
I find the books in the Inspector Alan Banks series to be reliable and plentiful procedurals. I discovered this series after exhausting all of the Dalziel books, the rest of the Reginald Hill catalogue, all the Ian Rankin, the M.C. Beaton, the Tana French, and in between Louise Penny's annual installments. I recommend them as entertaining mysteries with an interesting detective who has enough trouble with the ladies to keep it unpredictable. I really liked 'Final Account,' as it uses one of my favorite literary devices (though I can't be more specific without spoiling), and takes place in the purview of white collar crime.
I picked this up so impulsively that I didn't read the description carefully. Thus, I was surprised to find that the author organized the book to take on and refute the 'urban paleo diet' movement. Since I have never found the 'urban paleo diet' movement credible anyway, this approach would not have appealed to me. I might never have read it, and that would have been my loss. It's a good book, and the author takes a glee in noting grim details and bursting myths. The details about human anatomy and running were interesting; her take on continuing evolution with respect to human diet, illness, and microbes was fascinating. I hope that in her next book she foregoes the artifice of taking down online commenters, though - she doesn't need that shtick, her science writing is engaging as it is.
An orgy of minutiae about cycling and the history of manufactury! I heard Robert Penn interviewed by Jack Thurston on The Bike Show, and I was excited to see the book listed here. History buffs of any stripe will enjoy it - Penn takes us from present to past, and across the globe, expertly weaving together technology, social movements, and vivid characters. For example, a visit to Chris King Headsets diverges seamlessly into a reverie about the nature of the child hood experience of learning to ride; Mark Twain's essay Taming the Bicycle; and 20 years of urban planning and tattoos in Portland, Oregon. I enjoyed hearing about the "glory days" of cycling, when cheap fast transportation changed lives in unpredictable ways. I loved Penn's take on the title - which he doesn't acknowledge until late in the book - as a reclamation of the elegance of the bicycle, a most enduring invention. This is one of the few books I have listened to twice. I recommend it heartily.
(The narrator is affable, but may make a listener cringe with his unfortunate mispronunciations of European names - the great cyclist Hinault does not rhyme with "salt," for example.)
Personal essays, mostly essay-length, about the author's travails as a late blooming cycling fanatic. These 'inner voice' stories are quite humorous, especially the author's ping-ponging between hubris and humiliation at the club rides. My favorite sections were the introduction, when the author makes the life-changing decision to get fit during an awkward elevator incident, and his ride of The Étape in France, a cyclo-sportive event in which amateurs may ride a Tour de France stage on the rest day during the 'real' Tour. In the essayist tradition, the best stories emerge when things go wrong, and the author has plenty of things go wrong. My one criticism - occasionally attitude gets the better of the author. For example, he makes a point to single out and mock fellow cycling essayist Elden, of Fat Cyclist blog. Why do that? The two are cut from the same chamois, so to speak, and Elden is a much beloved figure in cycling blogs. Still, this was great to listen to while trapped in the carpool wishing I were cycling.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit, despite its obvious shortfalls (rather brief; no photos in an audiobook; somewhat tame thesis). Listeners who are new to the history of this great race may enjoy the wonderful backstory of how the Tour came to be, and the crazy stories of its early iterations. The history of the race is, of course, inseparable to the histories of both 20th Century Europe and the Industrial Revolution, which makes for an intriguing perspective. For full disclosure, I am already a fan of the Tour de France, so I never tire of hearing the old familiar stories. There are not enough cycling audiobooks, and so we fans will listen to almost any of them. I was curious to hear the official viewpoint on the post-Armstrong era. The authors give an awkward "pass" to Miguel Indurain (whose name the narrator pronounces delightfully!), but otherwise they pull together a credible context for appreciating the race with a view to the long term.
One of my favorite quotes from the book: "Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are. A man shouts: ‘Faster!’ He probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast." Part memoir, part rant, part poetry, it is the story of a bike race in the subjective voice of one racer. The fictional 150 km 'Tour de Mont Aigoual' is the scene, and the characters are the fellow riders and the unforgiving terrain. I love how Krabbe so accurately renders the ceaseless inner monologues that occur while cycling. This book is perfectly suited to the audio format, and wonderfully performed by narrator Mark Meadows. The words, the language, are so beautifully crafted, so incisive, witty, and economical… I am so pleased that Krabbe turned his copious literary gifts toward cycling. This book has earned its status as a classic of sport writing.
I found this book to be enchanting. I couldn't put it down. My tween son is listening right now, even. Ji Chaozhu is certainly a witness to history, but he is also clearly a thoughtful, self-deprecating, charming person and an eloquent writer. Ji's vivid storytelling takes us to Manhattan and Harvard in the 1930's and 40's, sharing details of his playful and humorous boyhood that show his deep connections with the U.S. Ji goes through many highs and lows as the political winds change throughout the decades, for sure, but he maintains an optimism and a faith in the overall project of Communism that is weirdly refreshing.
In Norman Dietz's performance, I grew to love my one-sided conversations with "Little Ji." We disagreed on many things (Ji complains of being treated as a spy in America when, in fact, his father and brother were spies in America, for example), and we part company regarding the incidents of Tiananmen Square (Ji could not seem to fathom why people would complain "now," when finally things were better than they ever were). But I think you will enjoy the repartee. And it will shed light on the stature Premier Zhou En-Lai has in China, as the years go by.
Corruption and extortion run amok, and as is customary, the poorest people are the most frequent victims. The individual stories in this book are similar enough to make a credible argument, yet each has detail and tragedy of its own. The majority of China's population still live in the countryside right now, and are subject to completely different rules, tax law, social services, and mobility restrictions than folks in cities. There is such a paucity of this kind of material in English right now, yet it is so important. While much of the book has to do with extortion, there are glimpses of other issues (like population policy abuse and repercussions) that appear as well, and point to more questions, more to explore.
I echo reviewer Delano: "by listening to this book, you're eavesdropping on what people in China are saying to each other." This book is essential reading for the informed global citizen.
This relatively short but detailed memoir covers the epic events of the last hundred years, told by Henry Pu Yi, the last appointed emperor of the Q'ing Dynasty. Pu Yi clearly underwent enough psychological trauma for several lifetimes - complete lack of childhood boundaries; virtual imprisonment after the birth of the Republic of China; collaboration and betrayal with the Japanese in Manchukuo; incarceration by the Soviet Union; ideological re-education by Communist authorities. I found his perspective to be startling. How can a person be simultaneously so pitiable and yet insufferable? Both helpless and haughty? Fascinating. Much of the emotional impact of the memoir comes from the fact that we readers know that he was being taken advantage of by many sides - yet Pu Yi seems tragically oblivious. I surmise that this memoir emerges from the massive "confessions" generated in the re-education camp - it definitely has mea culpa overtones.
It is a useful companion to the Bertolucci film, incidentally, which seems to follow this memoir fairly closely (with a few extra characters here and there for drama). The narrator does a remarkable job of interpreting Pu Yi's persona (cool, and with little affect) and does pretty well on the Chinese pronunciations. Bravo!
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