First off, yes, the narrator is odd, perhaps the oddest reading I've ever experienced; ah but thankfully second, give the story a good hour of listening, suspending your judgment, and you will find that you have become quite fond of the narrator, almost as if an eccentric and favored uncle (who flunked oh-so-veddy-pro-pah British butler school, but has retained the diction) is reading to you (while alternating bites of tofu noodle soup). But the story and characterization is the true gem here, as Ms. Aidan absolutely never fouls the spirit of Austen, never presents Darcy out of character, and even casts some new flashing crystal glimmers upon Lizzie, perhaps presenting her a little more intoxicating (if possible) than in "Pride and Prejudice." Many mysteries are solved as we experience Darcy's knotted anxieties as he falls in love despite himself, even in spite of his almost supernatural self control). The language is beautiful, and the novel is fully realized (despite this being Part 1 of 3), and a few new oddly eccentric characters come ice skating into the story. Unlike so many modern novels that attempt to extend classic stories, this one by Pamela Aidan does not sneer at the original work, but throughout is respectful and imaginative in building on a beloved tale, and even more beloved characters. Art et Amour Toujours
This story was a true event. It is disturbing in points, hilarious, oddly raunchy every now and then, but for the most part this was amazing storytelling. As promised, it is a whole new world, and Murakami can never be accused of predictability.
If you want to read something that is like something else, especially something mainstream, then Murakami probably is not what you are desperately seeking in an author. 1Q84 is not science fiction, nor is it “magical realism,” although a whole bunch of those key elements are swirled into the mix. This is something quirkily new, a lot of it bizarrely disorienting, but always fascinating, and it draws you on. 1Q84 is story of soul mates, and destiny, and the “unknown” barging into our lives to get us back on track (those silly little people, yo ho!) and free will versus pre-programmed packaging, you know, all that good stuff that plagues us throughout our lives (regardless of which world we are currently stumbling through).
On the narration, the two male readers, Vietor and Boyett, are adept pros who stay out of the way of the story. Allison Hiroto is masterful, crisp and almost as unique in reading as Haruki Murakami is in storytelling (and it must be the reason she was chosen) but she does dish out a tad too much of a good thing, over-enunciating her “ing” endings so that the word “ending” becomes “ending-GUH” or at other times “ending-KUH”) which creates more than a little auditory dissonance, I often found myself disoriented while wondering what in the world a “ring-KUH” is, and at first I figured this was intentional, to give a bizarre spin on certain characters, but then it kept popping up throughout (and to her credit, this distraction could have been handled in post-production, as the exaggerated consonant endings can be toned down, or clipped). This over-enunciation is a technique that works well on live stage, but up close and personal with earbuds, it can tend to distract. Do not let this distract you (and do not punch anyone in the face!). Stick with the story, and allow Hiroto to teach you some patience!
My favorite character by far (well, other than Tengo, as characters just do not get much better than Tengo) is Ushikawa (though I doubt I'd like to go out to dinner with him, although it would certainly be interesting), better known as Ushi (and what a difference in interpretation compared to Ushi’s stint in the Audible version of “The Wind-Up Bird”), he is hilarious, and sometimes evokes huge empathy (even as repulsively as he is represented) and deep sadness.
As long as the book is, even including the passages where the characters repeat their stories, like electricity sparking along neural pathways in the creation re-telling of memory (and Tango did program the ability to rewrite one’s own history, didn’t he?), I still wanted the story to continue at its end. If I had to categorize Haruki Murakami’s “genre” I would lean toward “Lucid Dreamism.” Art et Amour Toujours
It is unusual when a following book is better than the original, and even more rare when considering that the first book is marvelous in its own right. In the first book Quentin was somewhat pathetic, but you loved him even so (one of those negative people who is never satisfied, regardless), he was an antihero who yearned to be a hero. But discovering Breakbills through Quentin's eyes was nonetheless magical, and haunting, and when the first book ends you pretty much have to go back and read it again. Book 2, The Magician King is even more all that than the first book, replete with Julia's experiences, and Julia is probably even a better character than Quentin, although her unbelievable constant fury matches Quentin's omnipresent ingratitude and teenage lack of direction. Julia and Quentin are both utterly believable as highly intelligent, unique-thinking braniacs (Grossman is brilliant, in dialogue, characterization, and plotting). Fillory is much more engrossing in this second book and finally provides a worthy contender to C.S. Lewis' Narnia (albeit a raunchy, F-bomb laced Narnia, drunken and drugged). There is a lot of raunchy language, but The Magician King is haunting and beautiful, and quite a read, and more satisfying than the first book (which was quite satisfying, read it first). Mark Bramhall as narrator is skilled and sophisticated (and I keep thinking I'm listening to David Hyde Pierce's Niles Crane, with a slight cold, and a little drunk on cough syrup, but his voice changes and delivery is masterful). Great book, and worth the wait! Art et Amour Toujours
I have to admit I was a tad put off that "Cousin Balky" was the narrator, until I began to listen, and without exaggeration, this has to be about the best, most consistent long-term performance I've ever heard. This is probably as close as currently possible to actually sit down in Samuel Clemens' presence and hear him humorously relate hitherto unknown details of his life. Pinchot is that good in his reading. Remarkable feat. The southern-fried accent is never overdone, but more growled and grumbled in a lovable singularity (you can almost smell the cigar smoke). Mark Twain's material is wonderful, as always, but Bronson Pinchot's performance is what both seals and steals this production as an Audible.com classic (and it should win many awards). Heart-breaking in parts, laugh-out-funny in many parts (and that's not the usual review hyperbole), and always historically engrossing, I highly recommend "Chapters from My Autobiography" (and keep your eyes, especially ears, on Bronson Pinchot). Art et Amour Toujours
A quick, happy fix? Not this novel, but magically like life, if you can endure and hold on through the dark, rough squalls of the storm, you will find rich, warm yellow light on the other side. I find this a more satisfying read than "The Third Angel," which I loved, but this "The Story Sisters" is more lyrical, despite the tragedy lurking around every echoing corridor, beauty survives, joy bursts up like tomatoes of gold and green and brown in surprising places. Elv and Meg are fully drawn characters, even if they frustrate you to near death with their angst and self-loathing. But life has bad things, and often we lie to ourselves, hardly admitting that dark secret from back when, but it is always there, the demonic shadow, following along, pouncing upon every doubt, whispering in punctuation to every flaw. Alice Hoffman shows us that despite the bad things in every story, life is worth living, it is magical, and to my heart this story comes close to my two favorites "The Probable Future" and "Practical Magic." No romantic fluff here, but true romance, bone deep, painful, mysterious and haunting. There are funerals, and hardly a wedding, and more than a couple of calamities. But there is also invented language, fireflies of crystalline enchantment flitting all about the story. Read this novel once, and it is assured you will read it again. Art et Amour Toujours
I think it would have been a much better book if Grahame-Smith had presented his fractured fairytale more seriously...what IF a plague of zombies invaded the tale of "Pride and Prejudice" and how would have strong characters such as Darcy and Lizzie reacted to such an horrific ordeal? Instead it is equal parts kung fu chopsocky and through-the-shattered-looking-glass Austen. But still, it IS a fun tale, never quite "laugh-out-loud" funny, but surprisingly witty in some places, as the world of Jane Austen goes goth (and Jackie Chan). Uma Thurman, oops, I mean Lizzie, is just too far-gone "Kill Bill," but it does make for a hilarious fantasy sequence when a put-out Lizzie beheads her gabby punk of a little sister. Darcy, I guess due to the "plauge," has taken a puerile air, frequently making word plays on the ever-present frequent balls (stacking up some impressive frequent ball mileage). To Grahame-Smith's credit, frequently I would forget that I was listening to a lampoon of "Pride and Prejudice" and for an hour I'd truly enjoy the story, with even a minor few revelations and perspectives (but if you really want to be dazzled by Neo Austen, try Pamela Aidan's "An Assembly Such as This"). Never quite "Mad" magazine (but generally close), the story juggles classical beauty, very familiar archetypes, and a big bag of constant silliness. Never as witty as Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next" novels, still, sometimes Seth Grahame-Smith is pretty witty. I have to admit (and I'm perfectly ready to duck tomatoes) I liked the story, and Katherine Kellgren's narration is as good as I've ever heard, beautiful in fact, and perhaps the reason that I enjoyed the book as much as I did. As a whole I'd rank the novel a 4 (out of 5), but the narration is a perfect 10 (out of 4). Art et Amour Toujours
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