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I have been hesitant to read Neil Gaiman even though he gets rave reviews. Fantasy is not my favorite type of genre or my second favorite or even my third favorite. So, when this book came out and it was short, I knew this was my initiation book into the world of Neil Gaiman. This book is written so beautifully. I was swept away at the writing style and the superb narration. The first half of the book was a 5 star listen, hands down. Gaiman did a great job introducing and building up the characters while laying the foundation of the story. The second half was a 4 star listen, only because this was the more fantastical part of the novel and while I could still appreciate it, it wasn't the first half. I loved this book because even though it was told through the eyes of a 7 year old boy, it still came across as an adult fictional book. This book makes you remember what it was like to be a child, all the safe and fun parts and all the scary parts. As an adult, it made me appreciate all of those experiences, but also made me feel like they were so far away. All the imagination surrounding the Hempstock women, our protagonist's neighbors, is quirky and charming. I also give props to all the quotes on the love of books, the kitty cats and the British slang. This is a book that I would listen to again.
This book follows 6 people that live in NYC (but only 4 intensively) that met at a summer camp for the arts in the 70’s when they are teenagers. They become best friends and stay connected throughout the next 40 or so years. The book is mostly told thru Jules Jacobson’s eyes, the most normal one of the bunch. Jules and her friends are all interested in becoming artists of one form or another, but only one of them actually becomes famous for his talents. They all differ in their levels of talent and creativity and we see how this affects each of them. There is not a ton of plot in this book unless you count normal life as a plot. People get married, have babies, become famous, don’t become famous, experience death of loved ones, and a whole slew of other life experiences. I guess the getting famous part or knowing anyone famous isn’t really part of any normal life, but the rest of the book is about “normal” life occurrences. There is a bit of heavier drama that happens between 2 of the friends early on in the book, but it isn’t really the main focus of the story. I found all of this to be interesting, even though I think “The Interestings” is a bit of a misleading title for the book. The friends decide to call themselves this while attending Spirit-In-The-Woods, the summer camp. These people are semi-normal with flawed personalities and I think that’s what makes them interesting to me. These friends differ widely in money, class and fame, especially in relation to Jules. She is not as talented or rich or as beautiful as the others and sometimes this matters and sometimes it doesn’t. As in real life, secrets exist and the reader is left to ponder the morals/ethics behind them. Wolitzer created interesting (no pun intended) enough characters that I ultimately cared what happened to them even if there wasn’t terribly engaging plot twists along the way. I thought there was a bit a of hole in the book when Jules’ and Ash’s children are growing up… somewhere in the early teenage years. I felt that the rest of their lives was explained more thoroughly, but that was only a minor bump I found in the road of “The Interestings.” Wolitzer provides a lot of flashbacks from the past as she moves forward through the story and it can be confusing at times to keep up with the timeline, but after a while I got used to this writing style. Also, she is pretty amazing when it comes to imagery.
I loved this book, but I know that it has lots of mixed reviews. I think readers who enjoyed Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life” and Niffenegger’s, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” will have a better chance of liking it than those who did not. The protagonist, Greta, travels back in time to 1918 and 1941 from her life in 1985 through electroshock therapy she receives for depression. She doesn’t really travel back in time though because she is the same age and living in the same apartment with the same people surrounding her in each of these eras, but details of each of Greta’s lives differ. So, she really is visiting alternate dimensions of her lives in 1918 and 1941. The Greta of 1918 and the Greta of 1941 also “travel” due to the electroshock therapy administered to them, but this tended to be unclear for me at times because it wasn’t always explained well. So each of the 3 Greta’s rotate between 1918, 1941 and 1985. We only get to meet 1985 Greta, but we get glimpses of how the other Greta’s live and whether or not they are happy. If you think about this too hard, it doesn’t make sense that this kind of therapy would allow for one to wake up in a different time and life, but it provided the necessary transportation method for Greer to tell Greta’s story. The book is melodramatic and romantic and the narrator, Orlagh Cassidy, portrays this well. Greta is often nostalgic and sentimental about her family and friends in each of her lives and this is what I liked most about her character. I don’t want to reveal too much because I liked being surprised by the twists and turns of the story. Like I said, I loved this book, but I know many others did not. I think this book will mostly appeal to fans of romance and time travel books. I really like Cassidy as a narrator, but I know she is not everyone’s cup of tea, so give the sample audio a listen before making your decision. This book isn’t perfectly executed, but it really tugged at my heartstrings and so I felt it deserved 5 stars.
This book was a fairytale to me, a very adult and gotham fairytale. I loved the story of the golem more at first, but as the story went on I became very entranced in the jinni also. For 2 characters that are not of this world, one made of fire (the jinni) and one made of clay (the golem), they possess many human characteristics. Chava, the golem, is a creature made of clay to resemble a human woman. She is made to be bound by a master, but her master dies soon after she is brought to life on a boat bound for New York. Ahmad, the jinni, is a being who is able to change forms, but is trapped as a male human by a wizard and locked in a flask. He is accidentally set free by a New York tinsmith, but doomed to remain in human form. Chava and Ahmad struggle to live amongst humans while keeping the secrets of their identities. Few know the truth of where they came from. Eventually they cross paths, each sensing an un-humanness the other possesses. Wecker introduces many other interesting characters that add layers to make this a complex story that is rich in imagery. As a reader, I felt the grittiness of the city and the strange qualities of the golem and the jinni to be so real. I read that the author spent 7 years researching this book and it shows in the details of the city and it's immigrants. The historical fiction aspect of this book did not disappoint.
I am not a huge fan of fantasy books. In fact, I usually avoid them unless they are getting outstanding reviews. To me, this book was worth all the hype. I found the protagonists to be strange and likable and I ultimately cared about what happened to them. I have read other reviews in which readers have said the book needed some editing because it was too long and maybe this is true, but I didn't find myself getting bored at all. I was captivated. This is the first time that I tried Whispersync and I found it to be a great tool, esp. for this longer book. Also, George Guidall did not disappoint, he was an excellent narrator and I look forward to listening to more of him in the future.
This book is full of brutality and emotion, but it is also about hope and change. It takes place in the early 19th century in Charleston during the time of slavery. The book switches between 2 narrators, Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a prominent white family, and Handful/Hetty, a young slave of the Grimke family. Sarah loses the ability to speak at a young age while witnessing cruelty against slaves on her family's property. Later, she finds her voice, but struggles her whole life with a speech impediment. Handful is given to Sarah as a gift for her 11th birthday. Sarah resists this present of Handful as her personal maid, but is forced to live with the situation. This marks the start of Sarah's and Handful's relationship. Sarah tries to help and befriend Handful, but there is always a chasm between them seeing as one was rich and white and the other a slave. Still, there is a connection between them that endures their whole lives. Both Sarah and Handful have many significant life experiences that Monk exposes with grace and wit. I was especially drawn to Handful's and her mother, Charlotte's, story. It was easy for me to become emotionally invested in their plight and their desires for freedom. It was easy to get swept up in Charlotte's story of the blackbirds and the quilt. Monk's symbolism involving the blackbirds and the soul tree(?) added depth to Handful's narrative. For someone who lost their voice, Sarah was able to find it and use it to her advantage on the behalf of slaves and women everywhere. I was surprised to learn that this book is based on real people. Sarah Grimke and her family did exist. I went into this book thinking that it was purely fictional, but learning that Sarah and her sister, Nina, were real people shed a whole new light on the story and made the book more significant. The narration is very good, especially Oduye's (Handful's) part. It was a bit hard to listen to Sarah stutter so much, but that wasn't the fault of the narrator, it's how the book is written. I have heard that this is going to be THE book club book of 2014 and I agree wholeheartedly.
I also want to say off the bat that this book shouldn't be compared to "The Help". This book is a much different story than "The Help". It takes place in Virginia on a slave plantation in the late 1700's, while "The Help" takes place in Mississippi in the 1960's. They are both amazing books, but not similar except that they both deal with injustice and cruelty towards black people.
The basic plot was intriguing. The idea of a young white orphan girl being taken to live on a slave plantation and placed under the care of the slaves is a unique take on this time period. Lavinia, the orphan, was a very likable and naive character. I thought that maybe the slaves would resent her more since she lived and worked in their midst, but they took her in and loved her like she was their own. Maybe they realized how helpless she was. This book had strong characters, both wonderful and despicable. The kitchen house characters brought the life into this book, e.g. Mama, Belle, Papa George, Fanny, Gertie, Ben, Sukie, etc. I just wanted to hug Mama and sit with her, push Rankin off a cliff into shark filled waters and shake Lavinia once in a while to wake her up to the reality that she sometimes missed in her naivete towards what it meant to be white and what it meant to be black. Lavinia was a white girl… no matter how much she identified with the slaves she loved. Lavinia also learned that even though she was white, she was very powerless in her plight to help her kitchen house "family" from the cruelty of slavery. This book was horrifying and brutal and heartbreaking, but I found it to be so good that I couldn't stop listening. I enjoyed the way the book switched between Lavinia and Belle. I liked getting Belle's perspective in addition to Lavinia's. Bahni Turpin did an excellent job of narrating Belle, but I had mixed feelings on Orlagh Cassidy's narration of Lavinia. I don't know if she was the best choice for the job, but she was good enough. The book ended a bit too quickly in my opinion. I could have used another 10 minutes of detail from that last chapter.
On a side note, if you listen to this audiobook, take the time to listen to the last few minutes of the author speaking about her motivation and passion for writing this book. It was very interesting.
I recently listened to "The Husband's Secret" (Moriarty's latest book) and enjoyed it so much that I needed to find something else of hers to read. I didn't know that I could like chick-lit so much. Is this chick-lit? I felt like it was smarter than what I typically think of as chick-lit. Maybe it could be called contemporary fiction for women, but is that just chick-lit in the end?
I really like Moriarty's formula. She creates an interesting event that her stories revolve around. Her books are suspenseful with side plots that also have hidden secrets. In this book, Alice bumps her head at the gym and forgets the last ten years of her life. AMNESIA! What a interesting and soap opera thing to have happened, minus all the bad lighting. So instead of knowing that she is 39, Alice thinks she is 29. Of course, Alice's life has change a lot over the last ten years and not necessarily for the better. We get to see in time all of what Alice has forgotten about her own life as well as those close to her. Her sister and grandmother also play significant roles in the book and narrate sporadically. Maybe the amnesia twist is over the top, but I think that Alice's reaction to the event and to those close to her was convincing. I thought it was smart and well executed on the author's part. I didn't love the ending, it was a bit drawn out and slow, but it didn't leave anything unresolved. Overall, the book was heart-warming and heart-breaking with a bit of humor tossed in.
I don't think this will appeal much to men. It gets a bit dramatic and focuses on the thoughts and feelings of 3 different women. It's a bit "girly". And, like I stated before, this isn't a book that you would call literary, even though I think Moriarty has well thought out plots and dialogue. I enjoyed the narration by Lovatt-Smith, especially her Australian accent. I thought she was charming. If you are a woman that enjoys chick-lit or contemporary fiction, then I think you will enjoy this listen/read.
I want to write this review while the book is still fresh in my mind. I struggled with this book. I thought the first half was kind of boring and was tempted to abandon it, but my curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to know what the big deal is about this book, why everyone is swooning over it. Now that I have finished, I am still not quite sure. Eleanor and Park are both described as misfits in the book description, but Park barely is. He's a somewhat cool kid that comes from a good family environment. His being half Korean is the only thing that sets him apart from his peers. Eleanor is a misfit for sure, in more ways than one. I felt bad for the poor girl. Anyone in that type of home situation gets sympathy from me. With that said, she wasn't the most likable person. The book dragged for a while and I didn't feel like there was much character development for Eleanor or Park until the second half began. Then the story picked up and things started happening. At this point, the book went from a 3 star to a 4 star. Eleanor and Park have a sweet romance full of lovey-doveyness and moodiness. At times, it made me want to gag, but I have to remember that I am not the target audience here. My teenage years are way behind me. Then the ending happened and the book went south for me. What was up with that? I felt like Rowell described everything that was happening and how everyone felt in detail until the last couple of chapters of the book where many things were left unsaid and it seemed a bit incomplete. This is why I cannot give the book 4 stars. If the ending were better, I could have overlooked the slow first half. I liked the way the book constantly alternated between Eleanor and Park point of view's. I liked getting both perspectives on what was going on in their relationship and lives. Rowell did a good job of creating believable teenagers. I think that she kind of nailed down how teenagers act and how they think. This book is about first loves and heartbreak, surviving a bad home life and trying to keep your head above water in those difficult teenage years. The narration was pretty good, but Malhotra's (Park's) narration was awful when it came to doing Eleanor's voice. It was so quiet and mousey and very different than the way Lowman portrayed Eleanor. My very favorite part of the book was Park's mom. She was awesome. She was charming and full of personality. Malhotra's narration of Park's mom was spot on. I could listen to a whole book just about her and I wish she was my next door neighbor.
If you are a person who seeks out YA books, then you should go for it. Listen to it or read it and you probably won't be disappointed. If you generally don't enjoy YA books, then I say proceed with caution.
Poor Leonard Peacock. Leonard is a depressed and troubled teen who has reached his limit. He has crappy parents, issues with his former best friend and is worried that life isn't going to get better. All the adults he sees seem to be unhappy and what is the point of becoming one if life isn't going to look up at some point. The book begins with Leonard telling the readers that it's his birthday and he is going to kill his former best friend and then shoot himself. In addition to the gun in his backpack, he has four gifts for the people he cares for. As the book progresses and Leonard gives his gifts, truths are revealed. We get to see exactly why Leonard wants to shoot his best friend and himself.
I thought that Matthew Quick created a smart and, in the end, hopeful character with Leonard. He makes Leonard a believable teenager, albeit a very intense and intelligent one. This book is dark and depressing, but I think that's ok considering the issues Leonard faces… even though it felt a bit extreme at times. As stated before, Leonard does have people he cares about and who care about him: Walt, his neighbor, and Herr Silverman, his teacher. I really liked the dialogue and relationship between Leonard and Walt. I thought it was very creative for Quick to use Humphrey Bogart movies as a way for them to relate and talk with each other. I also thought it was smart on Quick's part to show teenagers that teachers are real people that can be trusted. In the end, I think all Leonard wanted was to know that someone cared about him and that life would or could get better.
Young adult books are not my go-to genre and I don't tend to enjoy them as much as other books I read. I did find "Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock" to rise above the rest and Galvin narrated Leonard in a believable way.
This book teeters on the edge of being chick-lit. The plot and character development were more complex than what you might expect to find in typical "chick-lit", but the story is mainly centered around and about women and they choices they make and the consequences that they have to deal with. To be honest, it does get a bit dramatic, in an engrossing and want-to-keep-listening kind of way. I also think that the book is going to appeal to mainly women which in a sense does make the book "chick-lit".
I finished this book a few days ago, but I keep thinking about the story. While I wanted to give the book 4 stars, it's lingering effect on me is prompting me to give it 5. This book deals with 3 Australian women. It was a bit confusing in the beginning to keep them all straight, but once I got ahold of the reins of Tess, Rachel and Cecelia… I was hooked. I felt sympathetic to these 3 characters. Bad things had happened to them, things that were out of their control and they had to figure out how to handle their situations. As the story progresses, their lives become entangled with each other. While some of the book was predictable, other parts surprised me and caught me off guard. I felt like it was easy to relate to many of the characters even if I could not relate to the predicaments that they were in. Moriarty builds interesting relationships with the characters. I especially liked Tess's and Felicity's so-called friendship and Cecilia's and John Paul's marital interactions. Caroline Lee was a perfect narrator for this book and I loved how she played Ester's lisp and her Australian accent is very nice to listen to. The epilogue was genius on Moriarty's part. I really appreciated how she "finished" the book and I think I may have listened to it twice. On a side note, I don't care for the cover art. I think it is too girly and tacky. With all of that said, I enjoyed this book enough to go right out and buy another of her books, "What Alice Forgot."
As I think about what to write about this book, I am a bit confused. It covers many different facets of life. It talks about bullying, Buddhist nuns, the Japanese culture, the American culture, quantum physics, time, WWII kamikaze pilots, etc. When I read this list, I have to say that it doesn't sound too appealing, it sounds like Ruth Ozeki is trying to put too many elements into her book. BUT that is not what I found at all. This book was beautiful, sad and also uplifting. The book switches between the 2 main narrators, Nao and Ruth. Nao is an Japanese teenager living in Japan after spending many years living in California. Ruth is Ruth, the author of this book, who lives in Canada. Ruth definitely reveals some of her true self in this book, but to what extent I am not sure. Ruth finds herself connected to Nao's story/life after finding a lunchbox washed up on the shore. I enjoyed Nao's narration more, but Ozeki was able to braid both narrations together in a smooth way. I found myself getting emotionally invested in Nao and her life, especially when she goes to visit her great-grandmother Jiko, a buddhist nun, at her temple. At that point, I was also emotionally invested in Jiko too. Jiko was my favorite character in this book and that isn't because I have a soft spot for grandmothers. She was funny, insightful and mystical, the way all buddhist nuns should be when they are 104 years old. One of the best parts about this book was the narration. Ozeki should always narrate her own books and, frankly, some other author's books as well. She was awesome. My only compliant about the book was that it contained too much science talk about time and space and particles. The book dragged a bit in those parts, but not enough for me to lose my interest in finding out how Nao's life and Ruth's life panned out in the end.
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