This book probably got a worse rating from me because immediately before it I had listened to a book by Philip Roth, "American Pastoral". Since Philip Roth is one of the great American writers, a book by Carl Hiaasen seems very light weight and silly. Hiaasen depends on gimmicks, outrageous characters and outlandish plots to cover the fact that he can't write very well. Some of the writing was so hackneyed and formulaic that I felt embarrassed for Hiaasen. I could write better than him. I thought the reader was really annoying and his voicing grating. I thought "Skinny Dip" was a much better book and was really disappointed by this book. I had started another book by Hiaasen which was even worse than this one so I'm done with Hiaasen. I think he just got lucky with "Skinny Dip". I couldn't wait until "Strip Tease" was done. The fact that he had to have an epilogue to tie up all the loose ends of the story weakened the book even more. The plot was ridiculous; no Judge would ever give custody to the main character's husband since he was so thoroughly despicable in every way. The only interesting part of the book was the semi-expose' of the sugar industry and how corrupt Washington politics are.
Five star after five star after five star. How could I resist? Little did I realize that the reviewers all must have been computer game nerds who sit in their rooms and play nothing but games all day and night. I guess I'm too old to appreciate the sophistication of the "avatar" life and all of the references to swords and magic spells and solving codes. To me a book that deserves a five star rating has a spectacular plot, well drawn characters and understandable lines of reason. This book has none of these. It has so many plot holes that I began to lose interest halfway through and, truthfully, couldn't finish the book. The love relationship was between two make believe characters (avatars) who admittedly could be in reality, trolls. I gave this book three stars only out of pity for the poor souls who live in this dungeon and dragon world. Word of caution for a serious reader; this book is only for a very narrow spectrum of reader for whom this drivel is perfect.
Michael Lewis is one of our great non-fiction writers. He has this amazing ability to take complex problems and make it understandable to the ordinary person. Moneyball joins his other books like "The Big Short" and "Liars Poker" that digs into the baseball industry, turns over the rocks and watches the insects scatter. Unlike the movie, which turned the book into a maudlin story of giving up money for being with his daughter, the book is a hard edge, no BS look at how his system of baseball team construction could be based on statistical analysis of player value. Although he was successful at portraying the success from the financial aspect, Lewis never really explores the consequential loss of the fun side of baseball. That is, some of the most enjoyable aspects of baseball like base stealing, sacrificing, hit and runs, squeeze plays etc. are virtually eliminated from ordinary play. Basically, Billy Beane turned his teams into no risk, maximum value only decisions that are really boring.
Robert Moses is a classic example of the enigmatic political giant. Simultaneously, a genius and heartless dictator, it is difficult for me to make up my mind about his true value. The book is spectacular in portraying both his unbelievable accomplishments and the heartless manner in which he achieved them. Although he did build many public works, it appears that these parkways, expressways and bridges, although visually monumental, were ultimately damaging to the healthy growth of New York City. It’s clear that he built all of these structures for the facilitation of the automobile. His total dedication to the automobile, his genius and his stubbornness are aptly portrayed in one small vignette: When he designed and constructed all of the Parkways in New York, he made all of the bridges that crossed them, less than eleven feet of clearance. He acknowledged that this would prevent the passage of any busses. This has prevented the use of these Parkways for public transportation and would have helped reduced traffic congestion. It’s clear that he wanted visible monuments to himself because he refused to have any tunnels constructed. His solution to traffic congestion caused by his bridges was to build more bridges even though the evidence was that bridges were the cause of the problem not the solution. Had he spent one tenth the money and effort on public transportation, the horrible traffic congestion and urban sprawl that resulted would have been eliminated. As a study in the attainment in power, this book is superb and is easily on the same level with Machiavelli’s, “The Prince”. Although Moses achieved so much, it is hard to like a man who was so arrogant and condescending to everyone. He was the living example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. One strange omission was the sage of the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a Brooklyn Dodger fan, I was disappointed that Caro didn’t point out that Moses singlehandedly forced the Dodgers to move to California. This is a great book and one that is both educational and exciting.
Wow! is all I can say after finishing this book. It must stand as one of the great biography's of all time. Caro has woven a tale of such complexity that it defies any summary. Having grown up during the years of this book, I was completely unaware of the enormous achievement of Lyndon Johnson during the six months following Kennedy's assassination. I had not read the previous three volumes and so was unaware of the complex nature of Johnson. It didn't matter. Caro so thoroughly revealed his character and so seamlessly wove it into the history of those pivotal years that the book almost seemed like a novel. I literally could not stop listening at certain points in the book. It was engaging as any of the best suspense novels: How will he get that bill passed? Who will he have to threaten, who will he have to massage, what promises will he have to make? He was able to facilitate the passage of the unpassable, stalled in Congress for thirty five years, Civil Rights Bill in four months at one of the most volatile moments in our history. He began the process four days after assuming the Presidency. Unbelievable! People (myself included) took this unbelievable achievement with a blase' attitude-Oh, no big deal. This book puts this dismissive in a deeply buried coffin where it belongs. As always, the superficial picture of famous people is often taken as the truth of who they really are and what they really achieved. It has often been said that the legacy of John F. Kennedy was most greatly served by his assassination. Although a cruel statement, this book proves this assertion. The book shows that Kennedy was completely impotent in domestic affairs. He had no idea how to deal with a recalcitrant Congress who ran circles around him and he had not achieved one significant piece of legislation during his three years. He had great ideas but it took the political genius of Lyndon Johnson to bring them to fruition and change the course of American history. It is sad that Johnson's great achievements will always be overshadowed by his horrible decisions regarding the Viet Nam war. Caro hints at this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dichotomy at the end of this book. The greatness of this book is how well Caro elucidates Johnson's internal contradictory devils, how these devils were used for the greatest good and then for the greatest evil. Caro also pulls the curtain back on how Washington really works. Considering what is happening in Washington today, it is illuminating to see how things have not changed much. It only emphasizes the greatness of Lyndon Johnson and how his particular political genius single handedly moved our Country to a level of greatness that may never be achieved again. When the moment called, he rose to it like no other President in our history. Hopefully, history will give Johnson credit as one of the great President's we've had. If you like biography, put this book at the top of your list.
I had read this book 40 years ago when it first came out and loved it then. Except for the basic story, I had forgotten most of the detail of the book. Listening to this book was a great experience and, as always with a great reader, better than the written text. It's hard to imagine that the author wrote this book in 35 days. In these days, it seems that author's do years of research so that they can accurately document the detail in the novel. When I think about it, who cares whether the gun used is a P-24 semi-automatic rifle with a 10mm short stroked bored and blah, blah blah. I guess this is to satisfy readers of "Rifle Today" magazine. This story was so realistic and so engaging that the specifics of the gunnery were show to be irrelevant. There were several plot holes that I found annoying. For example, having the mistress of the Minister of Air Force in position to relay information seemed contrived. Forsyth needed this desperately to keep the Jackal one step ahead so I understand this need. The second gripe is the negative attitude of the Council when Lebel couldn't find this unknown assassin in three days. This was really hard to accept. This book reminded me of Martin Booth’s 1990 novel A Very Private Gentleman. I could easily see the Jackal as the protagonist in this book. I made me wish that George Clooney had played the Jackal instead of Bruce Willis in the movie remake. Of course, Clooney would not have gone along with the ridiculous plot rewrite. Why mess with a great story? The ending of this book was so fantastic that it deserves to be remade. Was George Smiley of John LeCarre fame the basis for Lebel?
I usually love Nelson DeMille Books and I especially like John Corey. This book was not quite up to his best. The Panther was a very weak villain and like James Bond movies, a book is only as good as the villain. The Panther seems to have been left out of the middle half of the book. He opens it up and then disappears until the last few pages. I thought it was a feeble attempt to vilify him by making him a turncoat American. What made the Lion so good was the believable history for his actions and his continual presence and evil behavior during the entire book. In the Panther, Corey was at his quippiest but they seemed a little strained. And where was Kate Mayfield? She's disappeared as an active character. And what was the intimations that Corey was attracted, very attracted, to another sexy military woman about? "Kate Mayfield is the love of my life but boy do I wish i could be in the same vehicle alone with the young lady doctor and who's maybe wearing a wet T-shirt." I don't know, maybe I'm getting a little soft but this attitude seems not very John Coryish. The real enemy seemed to be the CIA and the book seemed to be a set up for a sequel to seek revenge against them. DeMille seemed to be struggling to find one consistent enemy. He waffled between Al-qaida, the Yemeni chieftans, the Yemen secret service and the CIA. I guess this was his attempt to keep us guessing but his effort was too muddled and became boring. Usually, DeMille's books have a good mystery raveled up in the story but in this book there was no mystery. Corey was bait and he had to find the Panther before he found him. Usually, I'm sad when one of his books is over. When I finished this one, I longed for "The General's Daughter".
Although I really like Gregg Hurwitz and his books are always turbo charged, there are times when his exchanges between the main characters get maudlin and overextended. This is not helped by Scott Brick's feeble attempts at voicing the sensitivity being expressed. (listening to two Scott Brick books in a row is like nails on a chalkboard) Although character development is not at the top of the list in books like this, Gregg Hurwitz has done a better job than most in this genre. However, the characters in this book often become cardboard when they have sudden behavioral changes that help the protagonist out. For example, his estranged father suddenly decides to help Nate after a fifteen year absence. Nate himself suddenly becomes dedicated to his daughter after ignoring her for five years. All this is explained away by his decision to not commit suicide but I didn't buy it. The extended love scenes between Nate and his wife became so annoying that I had to turn the book off or else be drowned in butterscotch. Also, the entire storyline of the book, that Nate had to obtain the contents of the bank security box was absurd. The villain could have easily gone into the bank several weeks later with a new crew and retrieved the contents himself. One of the best parts of the book was the manner in which Hurwitz nailed the personality of a 15 year old girl in LA. She was so totally obnoxious, so totally self-absorbed and so totally out of control that how Nate could even stand to be around her was a fantasy in itself. Why he would sacrifice his life for her was beyond me. I also thought the way that PTDS soldiers were treated was a disgrace. Dumping these poor guys because they are psychologically damaged is like divorcing the guy because he has no legs. Yeah, he's scaring the daughter. So what! That's the sacrifice we all make for those who put themselves in harms way. I also thought that the ability of the Ukranians to track every step of Nate's was somewhat contrived. It reminded me of the movie, "Enemy of the State". I could see it if the tracking agency was Governmental but a small group of foreign thugs? Nah! After reviewing this comment, I'm not sure it deserves the four stars I gave it but, on the whole, if one's cynicism is suspended, its a good hurricane read.
I was very disappointed in this book. It received such rave reviews. It started out very strongly with the first 1/4 but then it fizzled. The book should have been a novella. The beginnings of the comic book industry and how comic book stories are conceived was really interesting and exciting. But then the story began to sway from sub story to sub story with no apparent reason. Why was it important to spend so much time on Joe's time in Antarctica and why was there such an emphasis on the dog relationship. It seemed to me that Chabon had made up a story board like they do in comic books and tried to fit them all in to the book. Some parts of the book seemed like it was trying to be a True Romance comic. My overall feeling is that the author was trying to hard to write a really powerful book but just didn't have the story upon which to hang it. I couldn't wait for it to be over.
What a great story line: extra-terrestrials become addicted to Earth rock and roll. However, it should have been a short story. The story line becomes a one trick pony and becomes very boring half way through. The author stretches for more and more far fetched subplots to keep it going but he lost me. Couldn't finish the book. Maybe some day when I have nothing else to listen to.
First, I must say that I love the way Niall Ferguson reads this book. On top of that, he makes an excellent argument for why the Western Civilization predominates. Just as scary is his contention that our "king of the hill" status is sliding away. I learned more about world history in the 11 hours than listening to almost any other book I heard. When he describes Western Europe in the 14th century, it is mind boggling that they took over the world. His contention that turning inward and restricting the rest of the world influence is the key to the fall of a great civilization. It is particularly relevant to our times in the US. Our xenophobia is literally setting us up for a fall. My suggestion for interested readers is to listening to the book, "Debt:a history". After these two books, any intelligent person will have a firm understanding of where we've come from and where we're heading as a people. It's hard to not buy into the belief that homo sapiens are essentially war mongers. When watching the movie, "Chronicles of Riddick," it is hard not to think the US is not turning into Necromongers.
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