I was unable to finish reading this book, so can not give an overall view of it. But I CAN say why I gave up on it.
Although I found the characters to be interesting and the narrative to be clever and funny, the constant crudity and obscenities grated on me. If crudity and obscenities bother you, this is NOT the book for you. If you like politically incorrect social satire, and don't mind a bit of crudity, I think you might like this book. :)
This book is the king of unreliable narration. Presumably, this book is about David and John, two friends in a Midwestern town who need to fight off evil forces when a new drug (soy sauce) opens a door to a parallel universe. Although it's clear that David exaggerates a good deal for the sake of story-telling, it is up to interpretation whether David and John are really kicking the EF from PU butt, or if they're hallucinating. Either way, it's a wild, crazy, and very humorous ride. The humor is very dark, dry, and sometimes witty. It was my favorite part of the book. The plot was fairly non-existent, though. The book was more about action and weirdness - the story was just too wild to actually have a coherent plot. During the middle of the book, I was starting to regret that it was so long because I'm more of a plot-driven than situational-driven reader. But I'm glad I hung in there, because I got some great laughs and may view the world a tiny bit differently after listening to this book.
You wouldn't think this book would lend itself well to audio format, but Stephen R. Thorne did an amazing job. His delivery of the dry humor and action was spot on. I'm happy that I took the risk on audio.
When Earth Master Richard Whitestone's wife dies in childbirth, he discards their newborn daughter Suzanne in a fit of rage. Suzanne is raised as a servant of the household, while her father wastes away in his chambers. After many years, Whitestone develops a new passion - necromancy. When he sees his daughter wandering his lands, he realizes she is the perfect vessel in which to trap his dead wife's spirit. Suzanne must flee her father, and hide in the guise of a servant in another household. But her skill in Earth magic is difficult to hide...
This is a non-canonical retelling of the fairy tale Donkeyskin, and is part of Lakey's Elemental Master series. Although it certainly has charm and originality, it is not my favorite of the Donkeyskin retellings, nor of the Elemental Master series. I felt the premise of the book - a necromantic father, Elemental Masters fighting in WWI, with a touch of romance - had promise. Unfortunately, it just wasn't delivered as well as it could have been. The romance seemed forced, and the war sections uninteresting. Not that it was a terrible book, but it could have been so much better. Lackey is better than this.
But, if you're looking for a fluffy-quick read, or an original fairy tale retelling, this book will certainly deliver that. The narration by Kate Reading was quite good. She did the voices well, and had good timing.
Camille Preaker is a troubled young woman and a mediocre journalist. When her editor sends her to her home-town in Missouri for investigative reporting on a possible serial killer, she must stay with her emotionally-destructive mother and wild half-sister. As Camille struggles with ghosts from her past, including her own self-destructive behavior and memories of a dead sister, she discovers that the murders are darker and more complex than she'd originally suspected.
Although this book certainly had a good deal of mystery to it, it wasn't really for me. Although I generally liked Camille's character, there were several times when I groaned inwardly at her choices. She was weak and self-destructive. Such characters are really difficult to write well, and Sharp Objects had a bit of a debut-novel feel to it - perhaps Camille's character should have been created by a more seasoned author. Another issue I had with the book is it was simply too dark for my tastes. There was so much ugliness in the book. Violence, self-loathing, sexual exploitation, and more. On the other hand, I DO understand why some people like this book. The key question to ask is - how much ugliness can you deal with? If you like reading about emotionally troubled characters, then this book would be attractive to you. There was a slight redemptive feel to the story at the end. A ray of hope for Camille. I appreciate that I was given that much.
Narrative by Lee was quite good.
This well-known story was excellently narrated by Tim Curry...and I'm SO glad I decided to pay the extra couple of dollars for the Curry narration! His voice is soothing yet engaging at the same time. His voices for each character are spot on. And his delivery of the humor was so well-timed!
When grumpy and miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his long-deceased business partner, he gets the shock of his life. Apparently, a person's job on earth is to walk among his fellow men and help them. For those who were too selfish to help, they are doomed to an eternity of walking among men and desiring to help, but not being able to. Scrooge is about to be given a chance at redemption. He will be visited by three ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds him that although he'd had a rather dreary childhood, he'd had plenty of chances to make people (rather than wealth) his passion. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows him how happy people can be when they are surrounded by the people they love at Christmas. And the Ghost of Christmas Future reveals a dreary future which may come to pass if Scrooge continues on his miserly path. On Christmas morning, Scrooge awakens a new man - someone who knows how important it is to love one's neighbors and to rejoice in their friendship. This is such a great story because it reminds us that wealth does not necessarily make us happy. It reminds us to look at the world through a different perspective. And, it's pretty darned funny. :)
Culture and Imperialism describes how the language used in literature can powerfully impact our stereotypes of other cultures. Using examples in classical literature (ranging from Jane Austen, to Joseph Conrad, to Albert Camus), Said shows us how imperialism was reinforced by the written word. Then, (using examples including V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie) he illuminates how today's societies - who are so focused on multi-culturalism - read the right books for the wrong reasons. I found this book intriguing. I listened to it on audiobook - Ganim's reading was smooth and engaging - but I'm now tempted to pick up a hard-copy of the book and use it as a reference in my perusal of literature. This book would be interesting to anyone interested in the culture of imperialism or in literary criticism of literature in the imperialist era.
In this fourth installment of Joe Ledger's story, Ledger kicks the @$$ of evil Iranians, a Romanian? weirdo cult, and a group of religious doomsday vampires...all while trying to figure out where the mysterious group of psychotic women fit in to this mess. This book is brainless military sci-fi/horror action at its best. I only gave the book three stars because I started to get bored of all the bad @$$ military action. And it waxed a little too political for me at times. This is also a book that you shouldn't think too deeply about--for instance, why the heck did he bring his DOG for a mission in Iran (when clearly the dog wasn't being used for the mission)? Certainly, the dog HAPPENED to come in handy at times, but it seems poor planning to bring a dog and then leave him pointlessly in the hotel during the mission, so that if things didn't go as smoothly as planned, Ledger would have to go back and get his dog before getting out of harm's way. I also felt some of the "intrigue" plot was rather overcooked. Really? Intrigue in the Catholic Church? Gasp! Never seen THAT in a book before! So, like I said, this book is great if you're interested in some mindless action...just don't think too much.
If you liked the rest of the Joe Ledger books, then this is more of the same. If you liked the first and felt "meh" about the rest, then this book is similar to the rest of the sequels. If you haven't read any of the others, pick up Patient Zero (it's good!) and then keep in mind that the rest of the books are less intelligent, but just as much pulpy action.
I think Porter did an excellent job of capturing the emotion (mostly anger and fiery annoyance) of Ledger while reading this book. I enjoyed the narration quite a bit.
In The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson expounds upon the theories that were set forth in his classic work Sociobiology. His main thesis is that group selection, not kin selection, drove evolution and helped us to develop societies. He compares the way human society developed to the way ant "society" developed (ants are his specialty). He suggests reasons why religion and xenophobia would have originally developed as protective characteristics of groups. This book covers a large swath of material...from ants to human prehistory, to history, to today. I think he did a pretty good job organizing the book considering what a wide topic he was covering. His theories were clear and for the most part convincing. I think Wilson is an atheist, but he did a pretty good job of stating his opinions in an agnostic sort of way to avoid insulting the faithful. I think the book was well-written, interesting, and approachable by a non-scientific audience.
I had no issues with Hogan's narration--he read the book well, but it wasn't anything worth raving about.
In this opiate-veiled book, Thayil introduces readers to the seedy underbelly of Bombay. It begins in the 1970's and transitions with surreality into modern-day Mumbai--which has lost not only its tradition and identity, but also it's name. The story follows several memorable characters, all of whom fight addiction in one form or another. Addictions range from opiates to violence to sex to adulation. The most memorable character IMO is Dimple, a pipe-wallah, a prostitute, and an addict. Dimple's character is rather horrifying to the unjaded Westerner because she was abandoned by her mother and sold into prostitution as a child. At the age of 9, she was castrated and her penis was removed, which apparently makes her into a deliciously seedy prostitute (in the eyes of creepy men who make me shudder). When we are introduced to her, she is a little older, and is suffering some of the ill affects of her surgery--including addiction to opium, which was originally given to her as a narcotic for her pain. We watch Dimple as she changes from a beautiful young woman to a sickly and shriveled middle-aged woman.
Perhaps I'm reading too much in to the story (I think it would be clearer after a second reading, which it's not going to get), but I think Dimple was meant to represent India. When we met Dimple, she was young and beautiful, as was the young India. She had been docked and gelded, yes, but she was beautiful, intelligent, and had potential if ONLY she could get out of her rut. Perhaps this is meant to imply that the Westerners had "docked and gelded" India (by their colonization and then partitioning of the land), but that she still had potential. She was still beautiful. But time passed, and the slow-and-easy opium life in the "best opium den in Bombay...maybe even India," was forcibly supplanted by frightening hallucinatory "cheap" chemical-laced heroin. During this time, Dimple became increasingly sick. Likewise, India itself was getting sicker from the negative influences of modernization. As time passed, Dimple's name changed, as did Bombay's, and their identities were lost in the harsh new world.
This book was allegorically very deep, and I'm sure that a second, third, and fourth reading would teach me something new every time. But, unfortunately, once was enough for me. I don't regret reading the book...it will stay with me forever. But the violence, sex, drugs, and sickening human condition described was enough for me the first time around. Don't get me wrong, all of these negative issues were handled with graceful tact. But it was still difficult for me to read.
Now, a note on the narration: I imagine this book was a very difficult one to read aloud. Robertson chose to represent surreal quality behind the veil with an airy tone of detachment. This detachment makes the narration less-than-enticing. However, this is not the narrator's fault, but an issue with the book itself. I think a tone of detachment was probably quite appropriate in this situation. Just be warned...if you're picky about narrations, then this book may be better read silently. On the other hand, if you're reasonably tolerant, like I am, then you should be able to delve into the story with no problems. Robertson's tone of detachment didn't distract from the story, once I got used to it and understood the purpose. I was happily able to engross myself in the flow. AND a nice? thing about the audiobook is that I apparently missed a 6-paged sentence. I didn't even notice it.
In The Believing Brain Michael Shermer, the founder and editor of Skeptic Magazine, shows the reader how and why we believe. He begins the book with a discussion of religious beliefs, providing a few examples of life-altering religious (or irreligious) experiences, including his own. I found these stories engaging and enjoyed Shermer's philosophical discussion. Then Shermer defines "agenticity"--the tendency to assume patterns have meaning and intention (an outside agent) instead of seeing them as non-intentional or even random events. He describes the cellular mechanics of our brains and why we would have evolved "agenticity," and then provides many examples of how we see patterns even when they don't exist. This part was pretty funny. I enjoyed his examples. Shermer describes how we can become convinced that our own beliefs are accurate and unbiased, how confirmation bias leads to unconsciously ignoring data that contradict our ideas while noticing in minute detail all the examples in which the data confirm our ideas. This leads to a political discussion of liberals versus conservatives versus libertarianism (because, after all, we simply MUST hear about Shermer's libertarian beliefs!). The final third of the book describes the progress of scientific beliefs from world-is-flat to the multi-verse (again, Shermer inserts a commentary about what HE believes, which seemed a small digression from his main point). This third of the book also describes how the scientific method works. I found the final third of the book less interesting than the first two thirds. It seemed a little less organized than the first two parts, but that may have been because my mind was wandering since I was already familiar with the material he covered. In the end, this was a fun and interesting read, but nothing I'm going to read again.
Shermer is well-spoken and therefore did a good job reading his own work. There were a few words that he hesitated on EVERY time (like spectroscopy), but he was mainly a pretty smooth reader.
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