It took me nearly 2 months to make my way through this book and I'm still trying to decide if it was worth the effort. In the Introduction of the book, Gaiman says that he wanted it to be "big and odd and meandering." It certainly is that.
I did find the premise of the book to be original. When people from all over the world came to American from other countries, they brought their gods with them. Now hundreds and even thousands of years later, these gods are in danger of dying out and being replaced by the newer gods of media, technology, and the like. A battle is brewing.
Shadow, recently released from prison, is offered a job by the mysterious Mr Wednesday to be his driver as he amasses the older gods for the coming fight. As Shadow and Wednesday make their way through the mid-American landscape, Gaiman introduces a host of characters and places with only a smattering of plot to tie them all together. Here and there he includes more traditional stories and breaks in every now and then with a Coming to America segment that detail how many of the different gods were brought to this country. I found these the most interesting.
As much as I liked the premise, I kept waiting for something to happen. When the big climax of the book did happen, ironically it seemed anti-climatic. We went through all those pages for this, I thought?
I listened to this book via Audible. It is one of the first books I've listened to that had a full cast recording. I found that really disconcerting at first, not just because it was strange to hear all those different voices, but because the dialogue was so short, the voices seemed contrived. Later though, as I became used to it, I did think the voices helped me keep track of who was whom in the large cast of characters.
Overall, an interesting read/listen, but not my favorite.
I am a saver, and I try to capture everything. I’ve got boxes and boxes of old letters and my notes from college. (Have fun at my estate sale, everyone! The treasure you’ve been waiting for!) I bought an extra hard drive to save all of our pictures. I’ve started digitizing all my old home movies. And I like to save TV shows, too. It’s funny for me to think that my kids have always lived when it’s possible to record what’s on TV. I still have tapes from their childhood in a drawer somewhere with old shows on them sitting next to VCR to play them (More treasures!). These days changes in technology have made it so easy to record TV—click a single button on your phone(!) to record a show—that you can imagine why the To Watch list on my DVR is perpetually growing.
But there was a time, young friends (and all my old friends here can attest to it), when the only way to see a program was to be sitting in front of your TV when one of the three networks played it the one time they would ever play it. If you missed it, you missed it. And there wasn’t a Wikipedia or an IMDB to go to the next day to read the episode recap. If you wanted to see a show, you scheduled your life around it.
So it was in the summer of 1977 when Roots, the mini-series aired. You knew it was an event because everyone I knew—without exception—made certain they were in front of their TV while it was on. Meetings got rescheduled and lessons postponed so we could all watch.
It was that big of a deal.
The times probably had something to do with it. I was sixteen that year. I was a baby when the Civil Rights marches were happening and only a few years older during the horrors of 1968. Growing up in an all-white town, those events weren’t something that really seemed to affect me that much. We were a patriotic crowd. During the bi-centennial the year before we ate from bi-centennial plates with bi-centennial forks that we bought with our bi-centennial quarters. America was the grandest place on earth! Slavery was a word I had learned in school, but it was a word I knew in order to pass a history test, nothing I had really thought about deeply.
Roots was the first time the truths of slavery became real to me—the fetid horror of the slave ships, the ever-present brutality, the rending of families. I was living in the era of women’s liberation when the mantra we girls were cutting our milk teeth on was that we could be anything we wanted to be, and that message was brought into stark contrast by the total lack of control a slave had over her life and her body was stunning.
The last several years I’ve been in a race to read as many books as I can in 365 days, but this year I decided was going to be the year of the long books. I wanted to read epics that I had skipped previously because they simply would take too long to read. I had purchased Roots from Audible.com much earlier, but now it was time to pull it off the virtual shelf and give it a listen.
Simply put, Roots is a great audiobook. Tremendous story by a really terrific narrator. His voices were so right for each of the characters that sometimes I felt like I was listening to a play instead of a book. I still had flashes of the story from nearly 40 years before rolling around my head and I was surprised at how much I did remember—Kunta’s horrific sail across the Atlantic (and Ed Asner’s bad wig), Kizzy’s separation from her family, and of course Chicken George, but reading the book brought new details and insights that I had never known or forgotten, especially the details of Kunta’s life in Africa before he was stolen away.
One of the parts I do remember was at the end when Alex Haley went to Africa. I wondered how it would be handled in the book and his whole explanation of how he fit into the story and how he had come to write the story was any genealogist’s dream—true satisfaction with a healthy dose of humility as you realize all those stories—real lives and heartaches—that had come before you.
If you want to listen to a good book that will entertain you and make you think all at the same time, download Roots and start listening. You won’t be disappointed.
I became a Jasper Fforde fan about a year ago when I ran across Shades of Grey. It became an instant favorite of mine, and I was excited to delve into another Fforde novel.
Like Shades of Grey, The Eyre Affair is set in a dystopian world, this one an England that is somewhat controlled by mega-corporation, Goliath, and that is still fighting a 100+-year-old Crimean War. Thursday Next is a LiteraTec, part of a Special Operations team tasked with preventing crimes against literature, who gets called in when the evil Acheron Hades finds a way to enter literary works and kill characters off, changing the novels entirely to the outrage of the reading public.
I liked the character of Thursday Next. She's smart, resourceful, vulnerable, and loyal. This is the first of several Thursday novels, and I liked her enough to read another one. That being said, I didn't think this world worked as well as the one in Shades of Grey, and given a choice I would read that sequel first. There was too much "different-ness" in The Eyre Affair, especially in the middle of the book, that it got in the way of a pretty good story. (Vampires and werewolves--really?) By the end, however, when Hades attempts to change Jane Eyre Fforde gets back around to clever twists that make reading him him fun. Satisfying ending!
I listened to this as an audiobook and Elizabeth Sastre does an excellent job as a narrator. Good "Thursday" voice and a host of other voices to give life to all the fun characters in this book.
My first experience with Whispersync, the new bookmark-in-the-cloud service from Amazon and Audible, is complete and my official reaction is -- not bad! The Mysterious Affair at Styles is one of 20 Kindle/Audible combinations that Amazon is giving away for free, so I snapped it up a few weeks ago. I decided to read this one first, because it was only 5 1/2 hours long on Audible. I could read on my Kindle and then turn on Audible when I got in my car and it would ask me if I wanted to go to my furthest read point. I had a little trouble at first getting Audible to sync reliably--sometimes it would ask me to sync and sometimes it wouldn't, but eventually it seemed to get better. Kindle always seemed to be able to keep my place no matter if the last place I read was on Kindle or on Audible.
But even if you don't want to do the Whispersync thing, you should download both versions just to get the Audible version. David Suchet, the actor known for playing Hercule Poirot, narrates Agatha Christie's first Poirot mystery and he does an outstanding job, not just with Poirot's voice, but with all the voices--male and female. This was a really, really well narrated book.
The mystery itself was intriguing, if typical Christie. A houseful of guests are together at Styles, the country home of Mrs.Emily Inglethorpe, when she is found dead. Several of the house guests, including her much younger husband, her stepsons who stand to inherit her fortune, her daughter-in-law, and the mysterious Dr Bauerstein, all have reasons to want her dead, so Poirot is called in to find the murderer. The solution to the mystery is a bit contrived, but satisfying nevertheless. Poirot's uncanny ability to sift through the clues and combine them in ways that mere mortals don't seem able to is always entertaining. A quick, fun read!
Rating: **** 1/2
It was May 1981. School had been out only a couple of days, but I had already left for the bustling metropolis of Hydro, Oklahoma, population a smidge under 1000 or about the size of the Psychology 1103 class I had just finished in Norman. My roommate that summer was Debra, an old schoolmate who had let me bunk at her house the summer before while we both worked at the local bank presidented by a mutual family friend and who had agreed to the same arrangements this particular summer.
The first summer we were together we shared a teeny-tiny house in Weatherford, but only a few weeks before I moved back to town, Debra had purchased a new mobile home right off the I-40 in Hydro and life was going to be good. We each had our own bedroom, a spacious living room, and a full kitchen. The week that I moved in, however, Debra was on vacation, so she left me a key, instructions about which bedroom was mine, and word that she would be back in a week.
The house was so new that she was still furnishing it and while it had a great couch and a working fridge, there was no TV yet, so I had to find something to entertain myself each evening after work. I decided, of course, to read. And my book of choice that week was The Shining by Stephen King. It was one of the stupidist things I ever decided to do. Each night I would read a few chapters, then lay the book on my chest for 30 minutes while I got up the nerve to turn off the reading lamp, get up off the couch, and make the ten-step beeline in the dark to my bedroom door. I was so petrified that I haven't read Stephen King since.
I decided to give 11/22/63 a shot because it was getting really good press over on Audible.com, and I'm glad I did. 11/22/63 is definitely a page-turner--scratch that--a drive-maker, because I would find myself taking the long way home just so I could listen a little longer. Stephen King writes stories that sound good out loud.
In the novel protaganist Jake Epping is introduced to a wormhole through time by Al Templeton, the owner of a local diner. The wormhole takes anyone who goes through it to Sept 9, 1958 and no matter how long they stay there, when they come back only 2 minutes have passed. Al convinces Jake that he should go through the wormhole and stay until 11/22/63 and prevent the Kennedy assassination. Al tells Jake that he tried to do it himself, but now has cancer and knew he would die before being able to complete the task, and so now he's asking Jake to take over.
Jake reluctantly agrees to do it after realizing that he might be able to change not only Kennedy's fate, but also that of others he knows who suffered tragedy during that same time, and so off he goes for a 5-year stint in the past.
But the past doesn't want to be changed.
This was a long book, and most of the sub-plots could have been novellas of their own, but the story kept my attention throughout and as I said above I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next or how King was going to bring all the time-travelling threads together in the end.
Kudos also to Craig Wasson, the narrator, whose myriad voices kept the audio entertaining and easy to follow. Ironically, I thought he sounded too old to be Jake, but all the other voices were spot on--even the Bill Clinton and Jimmy Stewart sound-alikes.
I'm taking away a half star for the length which I think could have been pared down a bit with no real impact to the story, but this is a rip-roaring yarn that left me in tears at the end. Highly recommended!
I'm not sure if it was the narration or the subject matter or a dated book, but eh..... Won't make my favorite list.
That being said, the ending did surprise me and I liked that part.
When her officemate dies while on an assignment to find the elusive Dr. Swenson in the Amazonian jungle, Marina's boss sends her on the same quest. So begins State of Wonder.
State of Wonder is the second book of Patchett's I've read. Like Bel Canto, Patchett makes it seem like anyone could write a book because her prose seems so effortless. Like Bel Canto the plot is unlike anything else out there, and yet as implausible as the plot may seem later, while you're reading it, it seems so possible.
I was unhappy with the Bel Canto ending because it seemed rather contrived and too perfect, but the ending of State of Wonder was satisfying because all the ends don't get tied up. Good stuff.
I listened to this on Audible and Hope Davis is the perfect narrator. Excellent job!
Revenge is a dish best-served cold, in this case really, really cold. Edmond Dant??s takes twenty years or more to exact his revenge on the men who stole his fiancee, his happiness, and years of his life.
This is one of the longest audiobooks I've ever listened to. It took me over 3 months to finish, but the story and the narrator made me excited to listen every chance I got. Great book! Highly recommended.
I really wanted to like this book, but it was excruciatingly slow! I listened to it on Audible and the book was broken into two 7-hour parts. When I finally got to the second part, the action got started, but by then I was just ready for it to be over.
I really had a problem with Jim Dale's narration, too. I loved him reading the Harry Potter series, but for some reason he read this one in a sing-songy voice where every sentence, whether declarative, exclamatory, or interrogative, sounded like a question. At one point while listening in the car I actually yelled at my radio, "Shut up!!" and hit the off button.
Add to that the book was written in the present tense which also left me on edge, and this was not an enjoyable experience. Ok, I'm done with the whining and I'm on to the next book as quickly as I can!
It's the near future, the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, and the best place to escape it all is the OASIS, a virtual world that is so well rendered, it's nearly real. When Robert Halladay, the creator of the OASIS and 1980's afficienado dies, he posthumously mails an invitation to ever user of the OASIS to find an easter egg that he has hidden within the OASIS itself. First person to find it wins control of the OASIS and Halladay's fortune.
This is the story of Wade Watts, an orphaned teenager, who decides like many others to start searching for the egg. Each step in the journey is deeply steeped in the history and culture of the 1980s, which is when Halladay grew up. Luckily, Wade (known by his avatar's name Parzival through most of the story) has spent all of his childhood boning up on the 1980s and memorizing just about every movie, every TV show, and how to win every video game, so he's ready to meet the challenge.
The book was entertaining and I enjoyed the chase. After awhile, though, I got tired of all the 1980s references. It's a good schtick, but too much of anything eventually becomes too much period, and that's how I started to feel about the 1980s here.
Wil Wheaton does a really nice job as the narrator, with a nod of the head to his Star Trek days in the 1980s.
Not my favorite book, but it's a good listen.
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