There's a lot going on in American Psycho, and in the mind of its protagonist, Patrick Bateman. Set in the 1980s, at its best, American Psycho gives the reader a look at the life of the Yuppie and the mind of a serial killer.
Bateman is a successful, handsome Wall Street trader, a fastidious dresser with impeccable hygiene and an encyclopedia of etiquette. He's also a deranged killer. Sounds like an interesting story? Maybe. Unfortunately, if there was a point that the author is trying to make here, it's easily lost in the graphic descriptions of torture and murder. It wasn't frightening, shocking, or thought provoking, and it wasn't even particularly interesting.
Be prepared for a long lists of the designer of every article of clothing and every accessory every character is wearing in every scene (frankly this didn't bother me much, I kind of liked it), dissertations on a few key musicians from the 1980s, and sex/torture scenes more awkward and gross than scary.
Unrewarding, tedious, and forgettable except for the stuff you'd rather forget.
Ok, ok, I get the negative reviews. There's lots of stuff about the '60s. There's lots of talk about drugs and talking by people on drugs. If it's going to turn you off, skip this one. Comparisons with The Big Lebowski are justified, but IV’s got a lot more going on than just a spaced out protagonist.
Doc, the main character, is a Private Investigator who works a lot of free cases but manages to get by. But he's more than a cliché PI who’s a sucker for a pair of legs and a pouty lip. Pynchon neither subscribes to nor ignores cliché. He plays with it. He uses it, from blonde jokes to stoner metaphysics, as postmodern documentation of a society that would have such clichés.
It’s America and the end of an era. The Civil Rights movement has become a caricature of itself, as increasing government power and surveillance methods begin to attack Civil Rights in new ways. Is this the paranoid delusion of washed out surfer hippies, or something more? Will this ARPAnet someday grow into something all-pervasive, all-knowing?
This is no Cheech and Chong meets Bogart. It’s more Mark Twain meets Umberto Eco.
Lost worlds, secret organizations, zombies, crooked cops, biker gangs, and (of course) dentists are packaged in with the sex, drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll.
It’s a fantastic, wonderful ride.
Freedom: Just About Everything That Terrifies Me as a Married Father -an accurate if not precise subtitle. Freedom is about so much more, but what will stick with me is how every character did everything they could to hurt the ones they love and are loved by. It’s an incredibly courageous, unflinching stare-down of everything I try to hide in myself and ignore in other people.
I wished it was preachy or judgmental so that I could agree with it and feel smart. Instead, I cringed when I related to a character's pettiness, spitefulness, and insecurity. I turned the book off in anger and frustration several times. I didn't want to finish it.
But the writing is compelling. I had to know how it would turn out. I'm glad I did. I don't want to give a single thing away. I will just say it was one of the most emotionally powerful moments I've ever experienced in literature.
So why the four stars? Frankly, it meandered a lot. Franzen tries to tackle a lot here, perhaps a bit too much for me. Be prepared for a bit more politics than you might be expecting.
Those who have read The Corrections will recognize the character and plot development techniques. The big difference? The Corrections was funny. Freedom doesn't laugh at the folly of mankind and the mistakes people make. It exposes how our mistakes define and affect those around us.
Finally, I want to say that I personally admire Franzen for this work. It takes a certain amount of fortitude to put something like this out. Well done.
Calling The Book Thief a kids' books is sort of like saying the same thing about To Kill a Mockingbird. While the main character is a child, and there's nothing overly complicated structurally or thematically, making it accessible to a younger audience, the emotions are complex, the writing rich, and the subject mature. Ok... so maybe that was a glorified way of saying it's a good book for many ages, but coming across such a find is tough.
Many great books have been written about The Holocaust, but one of the things that makes The Book Thief unique is the treatment of Germans caught up in the insane nationalism of Nazi Germany. While it may be a bit tongue in cheek to say that everyone in The Book Thief is "human", Zusak does a fantastic job of keeping humanity at the forefront of the story. Death, fear, cruelty, love, compassion, selflessness, and loss are all players, but The Book Thief puts humans first, and what they do second.
A definite buy for anyone looking for a well narrated, genuinely emotional listen.
Full disclaimer: I'm a bit of a Pynchon fanboy. That being said, if you're considering Bleeding Edge, check out the sample. If you can handle the narration, and you're familiar with the author, you will love Bleeding Edge. It's got everything Pynchon fans like, but in a more subdued, dare I say "mature" way?
It's about the Internet. It's about 9/11. It's about what it means to be real and alive. It's full of conspiracy and obscure hacker (Yes, Thomas, I remember anon.penet.fi and own an earlier edition of ORA's Perl 5) and pop culture references from the noughties. However, I didn't find the references stifling and forced (unlike the 80's references in Ready Player One. Then again, I did admit I'm a bit biased).
Like any good fanboy, I picked up the audiobook and printed book on the publication date. I love the book but just can't get into the audiobook. Granted, reading Pynchon is a daunting task. Any reader would have trouble really nailing puns in Russian or hitting every German joke, but Jeannie really made it sound -exceptionally- difficult.
I really wouldn't bother with the audiobook, but the book's so good I encourage curious shoppers to check out the sample. Maybe it's just me!
If you've never read Pynchon before, I emphatically suggest skipping this audiobook as an introduction. There's too much in the writing to love to be turned off by the reader!
14 is an exciting search into strange occurrences at a California apartment building. I looked forward to each chapter and was genuinely interested in finding out exactly what was going on and how the story would progress and conclude. Plenty of humor and a little romantic spiciness rounds out an enjoyable sci-fi mystery. While not particularly thought provoking or emotionally engaging, 14 is full of trivia that kept my ears open and my brain working.
It was however, a bit disappointing as a mystery. You know that famous Sherlock Holmes line about eliminating impossibilities? 14 takes that line, rolls it up, smokes it, and flies off laughing, leaving me far below, scratching my head wondering what happened. It’s probably an unfair comparison…nobody ever said 14 was a whodunit. But when a significant part of a work is people sitting around trying to figure out what’s happening, it’s maybe too easy to expect a little nod to convention.
Fans of David Wong or listeners looking for something bizarre will find things to like in 14. Complete strangers to the genre will find this a more than sufficient introduction.
In short: The narration makes this book a "pass" to anyone except those with a real interest in the novel. Those just perusing, looking for a good read, might want to move along.
In detail: The Jungle tells the story of an immigrant trying to make his way in America during the turn of the 20th century. What follows a fable of how the power struggle between the US Railroad Trust and Meat Packing Trust took its toll on the goods manufactured and the workforce that manufactured the goods. Upton then makes the case for his solution.
Whether or not you or I agree with this solution, I think Upton does a fantastic job in outlining his concerns with completely unregulated capitalism (and specifically the lack of anti-trust laws).
If you're interested in the difficulties of immigrants in settling in America, fiscal policy or economic philosophy, this is a great novel for you. In the same vein as Atlas Shrugged (albeit from the exact opposite perspective and a historical instead of futuristic viewpoint), The Jungle is food for thought for those with an open mind and an interest in politics.
Likewise, if you are interested in a story about humanity at its best and worst, or if you're looking for a story about the struggle of human spirit against soul crushing odds, you can't go wrong with this pick.
However, if you're looking for a lighthearted or fanciful novel, you'd be better off looking elsewhere. The Jungle is bleak, depressing, and not for the faint of heart (or weak of stomach).
The narration was, at first, pretty bad. Like the reviewer Kosina before me, I am not sure whether he got better or I just got used to it, but there were still times where I found Mr. Affleck's stilted style difficult to endure. I truly hope this book gets a better treatment from another narrator.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a picaresque work of American realism that gives us a glimpse of the antebellum south through the eyes of a brilliant satirist. Twain's characters, blissfully ignorant of their fallibility, are at once funny, frustrating, and sad.
Meandering down the Mississippi River, it may be easy to forget Twain’s warning at the beginning of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:
"Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."
Without taking it too seriously, it’s important to keep this in mind. By focusing too much on a motive or moral, one risks over-simplifying the work into a piece of propaganda. There’s a lot more going on here, and a patient understanding of human weakness is a subtle undertone too important to the work to be lost in a fury of moral indignation.
It is slightly more difficult to ignore the plot. Warning or no, it's hard to overlook the glaring inconsistency of the ending with the rest of the book. Twain goes so far as to conjure Dumas in his Count of Monte Cristo style escape sequence. Unlikely, contrived, and episodic as it may have been, the French masterpiece still stuck together better than the American.
But if we heed his warning, we can focus instead on scathing satire that sheds light on absurd logic and a value system almost too incredible to believe. Elijah’s narration is a superb transparent window through which Twain’s gilt-edged wit shines brilliantly. It was here that I found the most enjoyment, not in the "adventures" themselves.
Twain also kindly lets us know that there are a few different dialects used this book. This being the case, it must be very difficult to do a true narration. Now, I'm no expert on “Missouri negro” or “Pike County” dialects of the mid 1800s, so I can't comment on Elijah’s authenticity. However, I can say that they were entertaining and largely consistent throughout the work. Be warned, however, that there is a studied exactness in his cadence that tends to drag behind the narrative.
If you're a fan of the book, and are on the fence, I can tell you to buy with confidence. You'll love the audiobook! If you've never read it, it's still worth the credit to experience Twain through the voice of such a faithful interpreter.
Ostensibly, Uncle Tom's Cabin is about the power of a slave's faith in God. This faith gives Uncle Tom the strength to endure and find peace even as he his separated from everything he loves, and is physically and mentally abused.
Here we find a conundrum. Is Tom to be admired for enduring these hardships, or damned for accepting his subjugation? Is he morally obligated to break free from his bondage, or to endure a morally reprehensible situation?
Uncle Tom's Cabin doesn't answer these questions, it asks them of the listener. The journeys of other slaves are included so that the listener can easily compare alternatives to Tom's value system to that of some of his fellow slaves.
Uncle Tom's Cabin is not a light-hearted, whimsical adventure tale. So if you're looking for that I wouldn't recommend it. I really doubt anyone could enjoy it at a superficial level. However, if you're looking for something that will inspire you to re-evaluate your value system, this is a rare opportunity to do so
It can be dry at times, and it jumps around from character to character a bit, kind of like a soap opera. I think this actually makes it more interesting, and I wasn't put-off by it like some listeners. The narration was solid, if somewhat lacking in dynamics. I really appreciated that the accents weren't overdone.
A must have for those who want a challenging, rewarding book. Unfortunately, not for those who are looking for a bit of fun or entertainment only.
Dark and somber, Winter's Bone isn't a great pick-me-up. A sense of gloom and foreboding stays with the listener throughout the book. Woodrell doesn't romanticize the pervasive poverty and crime in the story, nor does he dehumanize the cast.
Although I found it hard to identify with any of the characters - their motives were mysterious and their way of life completely foreign - I still enjoyed the listen. It was a glimpse into a side of America that I've never personally experienced.
The narration was appropriate for the work. Galvin did a good job with the accents and the emotional strains of the character. However, I thought that the book didn't call for some of the dramatic flourishes that Galvin gave. With such a sparse writing style, it did add color to an otherwise gray world and made the listen more interesting, but may have detracted a bit from the overall mood of the work.
A dark work of modern realism, Winter's Bone was a credit well spent.
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