The subject matter of this book is compelling. The production quality is very high. The voice actors do a mighty job. This is just pure trash, though. There are very, very few books I give up on, and this now joins that very short list.
For starters, I'm a Carl Hiaasen fan. I have every book written by Carl as solo author, and love most of them. I loved this story. It follows the classic Hiaasen formula: disgruntled, alienated anti-hero who loves the landscape of Florida; smart, no-nonsense female lead; stupid criminals, one of whom becomes more and more disfigured through the story while they do everything in their limited intellectual powers to harm the environment, and a plot full of fun twists and turns. Everything you want from Carl is here, plus a wonderful cast of secondary characters, all suffering from various states of delusion, incompetence and (at times) outright stupidity. Everything we love about Carl Hiaasen is in this book.
Arte Johnson is not the best narrator (my favorites for Hiaasen are George Newborn, Hiaasen himself (he did a bang-up job on Basket Case), and believe it or not, James Van Der Beek), but he is also not the worst. A number of people savaged his narration - it's ok, not terrible. Carl deserves better, but I still loved the book, so that means the narrator did not get in the way.
I say, pick it up. It's Carl. How can you go wrong?
Oh, if only we lived in Carl Hiassen's world. Where the bad guys always loose (in the most entertaining of ways), corruption meets it's comeuppance, the environment is always saved and good people manage to find each other and eke out an existence in this stupid, silly world we live in.
This is classic Hiassen, from the corrupt judge to the hysterically stupid white power militia thugs to the small town living on fake christian miracles. If you like Hiassen, you'll love this one. Paced beautifully, peppered with crisp dialog, smart insights and great comic timing. I'm sorry it ended!
I started Tana French with "In The Woods", a taught psychological mystery, and looked forward to following the character Cassie Maddox as she takes over the lead from her psychologically damaged partner from the first volume in the series. If you haven't read "In The Woods" yet, stop, download that volume, and go through it first before entering into this world. The actions that Cassie takes in this book are directly related to events in the first volume of Dublin Murder Squad. You don't need to read it to understand the plot in this one, but you do need the backstory to understand the lead character.
As "The Likeness" opens, Cassie is in Domestic Violence, still reeling from earlier events that she went through in the murder squad. She is drawn into a bizarre undercover operation that runs as much havoc with her psyche as "Woods" did to her former partner, Adam Ryan. Just like the earlier volume, there is very little blood (only one murder apiece), and essentially no violence. (In other words, if you're looking for the fiction equivalent of "Die Hard" look elsewhere) French writes about the difficult subject of human psychology, and she takes her time unfolding the precarious walls we all build up in our minds.
About 2/3 through the book, the pace becomes even slower, and even more careful. In this section, Cassie makes some severely stupid choices. We know the reasons behind those choices, sort of, but still, I found myself saying to the character, "Come on. You know better." Honestly, I was writing my review in my head while listening to this section, "Tana French needs a better editor". Boy, was that initial impression wrong. When the pace suddenly shifts, and everything falls into place, you get what she was trying to do. French has written a very good narrative of how, and why, we all make severely stupid choices.
I now admire the careful crafting of that pace. We all do things that people from the outside of our lives and our histories judge. But French manages to get under the skin. All of the characters, from the arrogant undercover lead, to the sad collection of misfits living in a large old Irish mansion that Cassie infiltrates, are well drawn and fully fleshed out. Once I was through the slow bit, I understood why Cassie did what she did. And even better, I can't say I would have done the same thing. My history is so different; my narrative would have to be different. French is excellent at creating portraits of the complex individuals we see everyday on the street.
Oh, those Irish and their beautiful way with words. Who else could take the dull, mundane world of a Catholic boys school and turn it into such a magical gem. I laughed out loud on a number of occasions - Murray's wit and ability to get under the skin of his characters is amazing. The first 2/3 of the book are so funny, from the Irish rappers auditioning for the Christmas Concert to Dennis' interpretation of "The Road Less Traveled" (he's convinced it's anal sex), to simple banter among young boys, Murray lulls you into a light, humorous world that somehow moves (almost in the blink of an eye) into the much more somber final section. All of it is worth is. All is written as expertly as the reviews said.
The recording is terrific, I'm usually not taken with "cast" recordings, but this one was so well cast, directed and edited, it was a winner. I loved the entire experience.
If you're looking for something kinda silly, not too challenging, but still well-written, this is your book. I figured out the direction of the story very early on, so I was a bit disappointed - the "twist" was not a twist at all. But, the narrator is terrific, perfect for the book, and the writing is decent, so I kept it on during my daily walk. Actually, I needed something like this, I'd been listening to too many tough, and depressing books about the Middle East.
I got this because I, like every other yuppie out there, am trying to change bad habits. The book was vague help on personal habit change, but for the most part, it reads like a series of essays about various things, forced under the purview of habits. Some of the things are people changing bad habits (the first part stayed on point nicely but ends too quickly), other things are primarily about management practices and how to control workplaces. There's a lengthy section on modern management and employee satisfaction that is crudely crammed into "habit change".
The frustrating thing is the book doesn't give clear methods to keep you on track in the very tough practice of habit change. He offers his solution: Cue to perform habit, Repeat the habit, Reward the habit. Once. The issue is, he doesn't go into the second step as deeply as he needs to; repeating the habit. Repetition, no matter what, is the only way to ingrain new habits into our lives. It's the "no matter what" that is the hardest part of habit change, and he offers absolutely no guidance on this difficult, difficult stage. This book is as unsatisfying and frustrating as Mark Bittman's Cheese Biscotti video. I am such a yuppie.
I can't believe this made one of "The Year's Best". I'd put it in the lukewarm category.
Colson Whitehead is a great writer. His fabulous turns of phrase kept this snoozer alive. The issue is not with his craft. It's with his subject. Honestly, I don't get the current obsession with zombies. They're a pretty dull subject when you get down to it. We got the metaphors about "we are all zombies", spawned from a Walmart-based culture back in the late 70's when Romero created "Dawn of the Dead". There's not a lot more to say after that, and while Whitehead makes the same point with expert grace, it's still the same point.
For a much better listen, check out Whitehead's "The Intuitionist". This subject lives up to his great gifts as a writer. Zombies, not so much.
This book is a well-written and preformed warning, one that we need to take seriously. Set in an undefined near-future, Shteyngart paints a portrait of a dystopia we are already teetering on. In the book, the US is dominated by a totalitarian bureaucracy that is desperately trying to keep it's economy afloat with complex financing schemes that remain incomprehensible to most Americans (sound familiar?). The day to day world is dominated by a computer that everyone carries with them, clogged with useless facts and celebrity gossip. "News" is opinion, and the principle opinion that matters is your ranking that is constantly being updated by a mysterious algorithm. Our hapless hero, Lennie, falls for the "ideal" girl—a young, slim Asian woman, obsessed by fashion and her ranking. The affair is doomed (I'm not giving anything away, it's in the title), yet Shteyngart manages to keep us involved and invested in the story.
Ali Ahn does a great job preforming the role of the self-absorbed Eunice Park. Adam Grupper as Lennie has a much more difficult task (Lennie is a bit of a schlimazel), yet rises to it quite well. Eunice grows a little bit during the course of the book - she is very young, after all. But Lennie, nearing 40, still hasn't learned to question his surroundings or his choices — he stands as a warning to us all.
I was surprised to read the reviews of others who seemed to think nothing happens in the second half of the book. This is the part where everything comes to a head; the affair of the main title reaches it's inevitable end, a major character comes to a Brazil-like end, the dystopian society crumbles in spectacular fashion. This book is haunting and memorable—one of the best listens of the year for me.
Ok. Disclaimer. I am a fan of Christopher Moore. If you like funny, fast-paced, extremely well written foolishness, Moore is your man. If you are looking for the "great American novel", move on. Also, if you are near the same age of Abbey Normal, and are at all sensitive about being accurately portrayed as that annoying, this book will drive you crazy. If you want a good, silly time, get it.
That said, "Bite Me" finishes off the trilogy (or does it?) started with "Bloodsucking Fiends" and "You Suck" The first book was Jody's tale, the second, Tommy's, and now Abbey comes in front and center. The first chapter is a recap of the first two books, so if you know them, you can move ahead a little. But not too far, the story get's a little complex very quickly. With Abbey as the narrator, it feels a little disjointed at first, but there is a rhythm and once you get into it, everything starts falling into place.
There are a lot of comments about the narration - I am happy that all three books are narrated by Bennett. It gives a nice continuity to the set. As always, I feel Bennett does a great job. Abbey is accused of being "too perky", so Bennet's choice of rapid fire, breathless reading is excellent. But, as with every book here, listen to the sample. In my humble opinion, Bennet and Moore are a great team.
The only problem? I want more Moore!
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