I love Zafon's writing and his skill in creating a dream-like sense of reality. The Shadow of the Wind was wonderful, with The Angel's Game close behind. Both of those books had the strength of being marvelous stories which could each stand on their own.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for The Prisoner of Heaven. I have read both of the earlier books, but it's been a while, and my less than perfect recollection of the plot intricacies of the first two books definitely detracted from my enjoyment of this one.
The story itself is something of an homage to Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo, and definitely has its magical moments. However, it lacks much of the mystery and complexity of the earlier two novels. I understand Zafon intends to write one more book for this collection. I certainly plan to read it, hoping that he returns to the form which so entranced me in The Shadow of the Wind.
This book, recommended to me by another dog lover, is an odd combination of relatively dry discussions of the biology and psychology of dogs and treacly anecdotes about the author's dog, "Pump." As such, it does not work very well on either level.
The book has its moments on topics such as dogs' eyesight and sense of time, and a critique of the skewed (by human assumptions) conclusions of some studies on dog behavior. Notwithstanding these bright spots, much of the material will already be familiar to any dog-lover, and the frequent and cutesy descriptions of Pumps's behavior, while apparently intended to make the book a bit more "personal," came across as an irritating effort on the part of the author to convince us of her own dog's particular specialness.
The narration is slow (try it at 1.25 speed, at a minimum) which doesn't make the material any easier to get through. I am giving it 3 stars because it does contain a lot of information which may be unfamiliar to some readers. Still, if you're looking for a book to help you better understand your dog, I would recommend "The Wolf in the Parlor" by Jon Franklin.
It is the time of year when I find myself in the mood for a good ghost story, but unfortunately, this isn't one of them. The premise is intriguing, involving dead and half-dead characters who exist on their own plane and sometimes interact with the living, most often in dreams. Plenty of potential here for eerie suspense and exploration of dimensions of human existence beyond the worldly. Sadly, this potential is wasted and what we have instead is combination of vapid romance novel and tedious travelogue of the traditional Chinese afterlife. There are aspects of Chinese mythology and culture which are of interest but they can't compensate for the predictable plot, 2-dimensional characters and cloying narrative style. Guess I'll still be searching for a good ghost story.
This book has been sitting on my shelf unread for many years, so I welcomed the chance to listen to this audio version. I usually find classics well-worthy of their reputations as such, but I confess to being disappointed in this one. Perhaps that is the pitfall of having such high expectations.
The novel is an exploration of the many facets of love from the heterosexual male point of view. The female characters serve mainly as foils--as the objects of male attention, intention and obsession. Even the main female protagonist, Fermina, seems rather 2-dimensional--her actions mainly serving as the impetus for the actions, thoughts and feelings of the men who are drawn to her.
The cholera of the title is not accidental. Episodes of this plague occur at various points throughout the book, but more important are the parallels drawn between cholera and love. Love is likened to a disease--mercilessly consuming its victims and typically causing far more torment than pleasure. While certainly containing elements of truth, it is a fairly oppressive view of the nature of love.
The prose is beautiful--evocative of time and place, if at times slow-moving. The translation serves the work well as does the narration. It is certainly a book worth reading once, but I doubt I will want to return to it anytime soon.
Although it has been more than a decade since this book was written, it remains as mind-boggling as when it was first published. Here, Ronson delves into Islamic fundamentalists, David Icke with his theories about reptilians in control of the planet, the Bilderberg Group and the shenanigans at Bohemian Grove.
We are often left wondering who the real extremists are: Is it David Icke who maintains that world leaders are really reptilians in disguise or members of the JDL who insist that "reptilian" is code for "Jewish" ("No, he really means 'reptilian'" Ickes' followers claim)? Is it the Weaver family holed up on Ruby Ridge or the quasi-military force that took them down (a very sad episode)? Part of what makes Ronson's writing (and excellent narration) so compelling is the way he juxtaposes the ordinariness of every-day lives of these people with the often bizarre extremist views they hold.
A both informative and very enjoyable listen.
This book is both very strange and VERY slow (both in content and narration). The allusion to Proust is apt as it originates in the book itself which contains repeated references to Proust’s 7 volume “In Search of Lost Time,” best known for its obsessive preoccupation with even the most trivial minutia of daily life. A variant of Proust's style is employed in this work to describe a parallel fantasy world of 1984 Japan in which there are 2 moons, the world is controlled by undefined "little people" who emerge from the mouths of dead animals and humans to create doppelgangers of existing people, and in which immaculate conceptions can occur. Despite overly frequent references to genitalia, sex, menstruation, etc., erotic is the last thing this book can be described as.
To be charitable, my guess is that this book does not translate well--either figuratively from a cultural standpoint, or literally, as the language often seems clumsy and stilted. Although there are frequent allusions to Western culture, the feeling of the book is more akin to that of the highly stylized form of Japanese Kabuki theatre--the characters seem to be stand-ins intended to represent concepts or principles rather than real people and it's difficult to empathize with them or care about their fates. There were probably some symbolic references which could have been gleaned from the various facets of the fantasy world, but frankly I was too exhausted from the book’s ponderous verbiage to have the energy to figure them out.
If you still think this book might appeal to you, I would recommend playing it at 1.5 speed. I did this for the last 3 sections—it helped me keep from tearing my hair out over its excessively slow pace and actually enabled me to finish listening to it.
For those who have a long-standing interest in Lincoln/Civil War history, or for those who saw the film "Lincoln" and wondered what happened to Mary after her husband's assassination, this book provides a fascinating coda to the Lincoln saga.
There are many accounts which attest to Mary's erratic and tempestuous behavior during the course of her marriage. After her husband's assassination in her presence, she managed to more or less hold things together until the adolescent death of her son,Tad, finally sent her over the edge. Anyone familiar with Lincoln lore knows that Mary, though totally devoted to Abraham, was never the most stable of individuals--but during the course of her life she was subjected to a degree of tragic loss that would unbalance many far less fragile than she.
My only complaint about the book is that its thrust seems to be a defense and justification of Todd Lincoln's conduct in having his mother involuntarily committed. I don't necessarily disagree with the author's conclusions, but I do think his interest in exonerating Todd does at time skew his analysis. Nevertheless, the book provides a valuable addition to our understanding of the Lincolns, 19th century women's history and the state of 19th century mental health care.
A rather disappointing collection with predictable plot-lines and few original ideas. Narration was mediocre at best. Generally left me feeling sleepy rather than creepy.
Unlike other reviewers, any intended humor in this work largely eluded me. To me the most appropriate adjectives describing this book would include dark, sad and frightening. What is disturbing about "Y," the "visible" (really invisible) man of the title, is the same thing that is disturbing in the idea of a ghost--that is, the idea of an intelligent, invisible presence following, watching and at times interacting with us in our most private moments. What makes the character of Y additionally loathsome is his sanctimonious arrogance in assuming his right to act as he does.
I confess that I am genuinely puzzled as to what others found funny in this book. I can only imagine it consists of the sections detailing the private behavior of those Y chooses to watch in the seclusion of their homes. I found these sections more sad than amusing since they show human beings at their most vulnerable--letting down their guards and casting off the persona they assume for the benefit of the rest of the world. Y's conduct in these circumstances is nothing short of despicable.
There are interesting ideas suggested in this book but ultimately none of them are really developed satisfactorily. Neither of the 2 main characters are at all likable,which makes understanding just what makes them tick that much more difficult. I'm giving this book three stars overall because it is well-written and did hold my interest, but I admit that it left me feeling slightly nauseated--perhaps what the author intended but not really my cup of tea.
Fans of David Sedaris rejoice--this is his best collection of essays since "Me Talk Pretty One Day"--at least in the humble opinion of this reviewer. Sedaris is in top form here on topics ranging from airline travel to the pitfalls of foreign language instruction (Japanese, German, Chinese) to the casual everyday cruelty of children--and of adults, for that matter. The tone is in turn poignant and sarcastic, and always unflinchingly honest.
Sedaris' humor has an edge to it and he doesn't spare himself from its blade, but he unfailingly finds the comedy in his experiences and invites us to do the same. His turn of phrase manages to state truths while at the same time being very funny--one example I can't get out of my head is his observation that Americans see Australians as "Canadians in a thong."
While one or two of the essays had a familiar ring to them (perhaps from a version appearing on an episode of This American Life?), the material is almost all new as far as I can tell.
Sedaris' deadpan delivery style greatly enhances the listening experience--this is certainly an instance where the audio surpasses the print version. Highly recommended!
What do fairy tales tell us about ourselves as human beings? Graham has written a deeply mysterious novel about a 15 year old girl, Tara, who goes missing for 20 years and then suddenly reappears without seemingly having aged more than a few months.
The story draws upon fairy tales, folk-lore and psychology in seeking some sort of explanation for Tara's strange disappearance and reappearance. It is a modern re-telling of the classic story of claimed abduction and missing time and raises the question of why tales like these are such a perennial aspect of human culture--whether the claimed abductors are fairies, demons or UFO aliens.
The title of the book says it well; it really is "some kind of fairy tale" and it will leave you wondering...
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