In the top five
A truly gifted writer who tells a fascinating story of the Roberts court and the chief justice's strategic brilliance. Interesting takes on all the sitting justices, and insights as well into Obama's judicial philosophy. There is a noticeable tilt to the left, but Toobin is fair to all and generally balanced. You'll never view the Supreme Court in same way after reading this book.
He is awesome. He uses a pitch perfect inflection to convey shades or irony, bemusement, and sarcasm, not to mention a full range of other emotions.
This is a wonderful book, particuarly if you lived through Watergate, and even if you didn't. Mallon tackles the whole affairs from the viewpoint of richly drawn characters who come right out of the pages of newspapers -- E. Howard Hunt, Mrs. Nixon, Alice Longworth Roosevelt, Magruder, Dean, Woods, and of course Nixon himself. Though the story is imagined, at least from the inner thoughts of the characters, Mallon's imagination is as sharp and plausible as a scapel. You come to think: Oh, so that's why Mitchell did that, or: Well, now we know what Rosemary Woods was doing. And Mallon's scapel slices deep -- poor Tricia, poor Elliott Richardson.
If you lived through Watergate, it's fun to be the fly on the imaginative wall of Thomas Mallon. If not, here's a better window into Washington than any civics textbook.
Read this book! Please.
I enjoy reading/listening to novels for many reasons, but two come to mind with this book: 1. I like an intriguing story, and 2. I enjoy learning about real world problems, issues, conditions, etc. from characters who can teach me something I don't know. Darkest Corner scores on both those points.
Case in point: I probably would never read a nonfiction book (maybe not even an article) about OCD. But I learned so much from Catherine, not only about the behavior of those who suffer but the backstory that adds the causal dimension, not to mention the remedies that help someone escape the clutches of OCD. You can feel her anguish, grasp her (sometimes bizarre) behavior, even sympathesize with the impatience of her psychologist/boyfriend. You also learn (as Catherine does as well) why a woman finds it difficult to impossible to escape an abusive relationship.
Elizabeth Haynes has done an effective job of organizing the story by switching back and forth between two time periods, four years apart, to explore how Catherine gets drawn into a relationship that turns (almost) deadly, and how she copes with its aftermath. (I am also a sucker for the quaint and generally more accurate language and idioms of the British, which makes this a more enjoyable listen than a read.) Even when the story drags occasionally, you get the sense that it's supposed to drag because the pace reinforces the endless "checking" Catherine must undertake to feel safe.
This is a winner!
This is mostly a compelling read/listen. The story and subplots are captivating and the characters are well-drawn. As always, Wolfe is a provocative thinker and writer who has a fresh way of looking at old, seemingly settled aspects of American life and culture. So, definitely would recommend.
My only hesitation is a growing impatience with Wolfe's writing style -- the Electric Kool-Aid schtick that was innovative in the '70s, and still refreshing in the '90s, but now is more distracting and annoying than illuminating, like a monotonous drumbeat. Perhaps that comment simply shows my age, but Wolfe's stories with, say, Elmore Leonard's sparse story-telling would be a terrific combination.
Ignatius does a very credible job of crafting and telling his story, with characters who are believable and who matter. But the narration of this book detracted from the story rather than enhancing it. His attempt to alter his voice for different characters, while appreciated from a more skilled narrator, here was annoying, very off-key. And his voice was tuned to hyper-dramatic, which was irritating enough as his default persona, but was even worse in that he made even scene-setting or background explaining narrative sound breathless and urgent. Like an actor trying to perform stage directions.
The story is worth reading, but in this instance, not worth listening to.
I love Elmore Leonard, and his books are almost more fun to listen to than to read, especially when the narration is as superb as Frank Muller's. These are not sophisticated, serpentine whodunits. They are really more character driven than plot oriented. But Leonard has such an engaging and economical way of characterization that you feel these people really exist -- a feeling enhanced by a narrator who makes each character come alive.
The story is quite good, and I learned some history that I didn't know about Lincoln and the Civil War. But I wish I had read, rather than listened, to the book. Bill O'Reilly warned in the intro that he was reading this as a thriller, rather than a historical narrative. But the book didn't need that breathless tone and breakneck pace. The story itself was thrilling enough, so his over-the-top narration actually detracted, rather than enhanced the story. Except when his voice expressed his incredulity at the lax protection the president had; that was hilarious.
At first, I thought: oh-oh, I'm not liking this and there are about 20 hours left. I was really turned off by the female narrator, whose chirpy voice seemed out of character for the nature of Amy's character. There was also some clunky writing. But the more I listened, the more I became hooked by the plot, and the narration didn't bother me. I came to see that the characters were well drawn, and I appreciated the major plot twists and turns that I never saw coming. I thought the ending was superb; again, not what I expected but perfect pitch.
Snoozer. I've read or listened to several Lee Child books, but when after 10 minutes Jack hadn't even gotten through the doors of the Pentagon, I realized I had neither the patience nor time to wait for him to inch along.
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