This was one of the most memorable novels I have read in the last few years.
The narrator, Jacob, is “ninety or ninety-three” and lives in a nursing home. The arrival of the circus next store leads him to reflect on his experiences working on a circus during the depression. I have never been to the circus but Gruen makes the days when the circus was still a big event come to life.
Several things make this story stand out. First, instead of the usual format where the elderly person only appears to introduce a flashback, in Water For Elephants, the story alternates between Jacob’s present life in the nursing home and his life as a young man in the circus. In the audio version, there are separate narrators for the younger Jacob and the older Jacob. This makes it easy to tell where you are and adds to the realism.
At first I found myself wanting to get out of the nursing home and back to the circus, but by the end I cared as much about what was going to happen to the elderly Jacob and I did about learning the secret of his past. Even so, I thought the writing about the circus was especially powerful. Gruen’s ability to evoke the world of the depression-era circus reminded me of Ann Rice’s ability to make me feel that I am in New Orleans. She puts you in the menagerie with the animals, and Rosie, the elephant, is a character you won’t soon forget.
Finally, there is a surprise at the end, which leaves you feeling happier than you expected.
This is a relatively short book that I think anyone who loves animals will enjoy.
The mystery was not very compelling but I enjoyed the continuing maturation of the relationship between Holmes and Mary Russell.
Since 2006 I have hosted the Brain Science Podcast, which has given me the opportunity to interview a wide variety of neuroscientists. While this book was written by a science journalist, not a scientist, I enjoyed the way she incorporated current research into a discussion of a subject that concerns almost everyone.
Strauch points out that as we get older we tend to worry about why we forget the names of people we know (and those of people we just met) and we seem to be more easily distracted, BUT we fail to notice our mental strengths.
In this book you will learn what the research shows about how for most of us, the gains outweigh the losses.
I have recommended this book to all my listeners.
Ginger Campbell, MD
Creator and Host of the Brain Science Podcast
I have been a fan of David Halberstam's since I read The Best and the Brightest as a young adult. I haven't read everything he wrote, but I think this may rank with "The Best and The Brightest," both for his reporting and for the importance of what he tell us.
Not only is the Korean War a mystery to most Americans, Halberstam's book shows that there are valuable lessons to be learned by examining what happened, even though it was over 50 years ago.
I think he deserves another Pulitzer, though I do not know if that award is ever given posthumously. The only thing wrong with this book is knowing that it was his last. (Halberstam was killed in an car accident only a few days after turning in the final manuscript.)
Edward Hermann's reading was excellent, as always.
The world of this book is a world in which no human babies have been born in 25 years. Obviously, such a situation would have mostly devastating effects. James mostly looks a the psychological effects.
The premise is interesting, though extremely hard to swallow, but the problem is that none of the characters, including the narrator and the young woman he falls in love with, are the least bit engaging.
With a good audio book one may find oneself sitting in the driveway to listen to the end, but for this book I procrastinated listening to the last hour and finally had to force myself to finish. I won't give away the end, but I will say that it did not change my basically negative response.
Have you ever watched a bad movie to find out how it ended only to regret the decision?
That is how I feel about The Ruins. It is possibly the worst book I have ever finished.
First, I think the narrator was great! After all the story is set in Missouri, not the South. Even so Campbell catches both the rhythm of Flagg's prose and essence of the characters speech.
The story is not as sugar-coated as it might seem on the surface though it certainly lacks the bite of "Fried Green Tomatos" The character of Eliner is someone you wish you knew.
I am not really a fan of mythical small towns but I enjoy Elmwood Springs because although Flagg moved her story north the town is southern through and through. This is glimpsed not only in the dialogue, but in the food and other aspects of daily life.
I have lived near Flagg's hometown of Birmingham, Alabama for nearly 30 years and I enjoy the local tidbits that constantly crop up. My favorite in this book is Carraway Hospital. Also, as ER physician, I think she captures some of the contemporary stresses of medicine. These touches raise the book above a mere "It's a Wonderful Life" fairytale.
I discovered the Ender Wiggin Saga several years ago when I checked out a multi-volume audio at the library. (I still don't know exactly how Children of the Mind ended because the last tape was damaged.) I went on to read the stories of Bean and Peter. I have never been disappointed.
This reading is excellent. Besides the original narrator there are several voice actors for the various characters.
My advice is that if you have never read this you should, but if you have read it, you will enloy this reading!
While its true that Sarah Vowel doesn't have a great radio voice, I don't think this matters at all. I enjoyed this book immensely.
The first description that comes to mind is that she is the Annie Lammott of the Nerds.
Most of the essays in this book are interesting but the two I enjoyed the most were the one about Gettysburg (because I had just finished Killer Angels) and the one about how Al Gore should have used Willow of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a model for how to turn being a Nerd into an asset.
Best of all, Vowel shows that one can be a liberal Democrat and passionate history buff, but still have a great sense of humor
Even though I have an ancestor who was wounded at Gettysburg, I really didn't know much about the battle. This novel was written back in the 60's but has re-issued partly because Josh Whedon says it was the inspiration for Firefly/ Serenity. At least that is why I read it.
First if was a compelling account of the battle told in the form of an historical novel, through the eyes of men on both sides. After reading it I feel an interest in the Civil War that I never had before.
The narrator is wonderful. He captures accents as varied as those of Maine and Virginia. During the battle he uses emotion in his voice to capture the horror of the scene.
All in all, I highly recommend this recording.
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