Sugar Land, TX, United States | Member Since 2010
(1) Listen closely to the details, but (2) Never accept anything at face value, and (3) Never assume you have it all figured out until you have read (or listened) to the very end. Goddard is a master at constructing complex, constantly shifting stories, populated by characters that you may think you know until the next ground shifting revelation. Just when you do sort out how some of the threads are woven together, that’s when you need to watch out. How Goddard manages his juggling act without making you feel foolishly manipulated is part of his genius. All of the twists and turns make sense in their context.
As with the other Goddard titles I have enjoyed, I will reveal nothing of the plot. You really must enjoy the story as he intends you to discover it. The editor's summary may sound kind of bland, but don’t let that fool you. For me this was the edgiest of his books that I have listened to, whose central mystery has the most at stake and a protagonist with the most to lose. There are plenty of villians, and some you’re not sure what they are. Protagonist Ian Garrett is self-centered, yet lacking in self-awareness at the beginning, and must undergo a painful quest to find out why his life has turned upside down. Not very sympathetic, but by the end of his quest he is nothing like the man who started. Only by experiencing his journey can you judge if he is a better man in the end. Michael Kitchen’s reading is absolutely brilliant and is reason enough in itself for the download.
I have had a very hard time finding the words to review this book. It is so well written with characters that travel in your head even when you’re not listening. Traveling with Tom who carries Jack in his head as they get away from their care home to try to find their dad. And, through Tom’s thoughts, going back to the times before everything went wrong, seeing a warm and close family where the young boys felt safe and loved, but with a shadow already gathering overhead. Throughout the story you have the inescapable dread of how that shadow would spread, of how well intentioned decisions to shield the boys from sad, hard truths actually set disastrous events in motion that could never be taken back.
The narration could have been very tricky, but was handled brilliantly. Shifting constantly between Tom’s 18 year old voice and Jack’s 10 year old voice as they competed to tell the story, and as Jack tried so hard to be heard in spite of Tom’s efforts to restrain him. Their interactions defined Tom’s struggle between maintaining old delusions and facing tragic truths. This is not a light story. It has weighed on me over the several days since I finished it. But if I can’t say I enjoyed it in the entertaining sense, I can say that I admire its bravery and uniqueness.
The write-up for The Jester assured me that no prior knowledge of the characters or their previous stories is necessary to enjoy this short story. So for free and less than an hour it seemed like a good bet to test drive what sounded like interesting new (to me) literary territory. And what a ride. From the first words, thrown top speed into action that had already started and never let up, yet caught the reader up on the events with clean direct writing. To survive, they need to solve a puzzle that reminded me of Indiana Jones having to choose the right cup in the "The Last Crusade". Loved the characters and the narration. If the author hoped to attract new readers, he certainly attracted me. I'm adding to my Wish List now.
For the greater part of this story I was sure I knew where it was going, and felt a bit disappointed that it was going to be another “feisty woman paired with truculent man on a difficult trek across country” kind of western. We all know how it turns out before the credits start rolling. The back stories of the four women whose minds and spirits broke in the face of unbearable hardships and in some cases sorrows, were touching and heartbreaking. But on the journey itself, through the silence of their brokenness (none of them can talk), they have little impact on the narrative, making them nearly invisible. That leaves Mary Bee and Briggs to carry the drama, and for 3/4 of the story, it was pretty standard western movie stuff.
Then with two hours left to read, a wrecking ball hits and all bets are off. Suddenly we are forced to reevaluate our perceptions of both Mary Bee and Briggs, and realize that the clues were there all along. Mary Bee was the more fully created of the two characters – Briggs remains somewhat of an enigma through to the end. But I expect that was the point - perhaps even he didn’t fully understand himself. The twist, as shocking as it is, fits. In my opinion, that’s where this story finally rises above the “off into the sunset” westerns.
The writing throughout is descriptive and visual. The wagon they travel in almost becomes one of the characters. But the dialogue is less effective, feeling stiff and forced. In fairness, that may be more of a factor of the narrator. There was always that hearty frontierswoman sound that failed to capture the more subtle, complex moods and emotions of the characters. I was always aware of being read to. Dropped a point off the overall enjoyment.
When a book has been made into an iconically famous film, and when that film is playing through your head as you listen to the book, your reactions to the book can be a bit confusing. On the one hand, the film got the story all Hollywooded up, fleshing out the narrator character to give him more to do, and adding some artificial sweetener to Holly to make her more palatable the audience. The callousness of the real Holly was a bit disconcerting with dear Audrey in my mind’s eye.
In spite of movie scenes floating through my head, I was able to appreciate the sharpness of Capote’s writing, and the enigma that is Holly Golightly who so carefully hides who she is, possibly even from herself. She expects to be taken care of but also to have things her own way, envisioning herself as a 'wild thing'. Without the Hollywood dressing Holly’s behavior is more consistent with her character, infusing the story with cynicism, poignancy and a sense of lonely inevitability. The outcome is a story much more organic than the film.
There were enough positive Amazon reviews to overcome my skepticism from the negative reviews, and after all, it was free and less than an hour long. How much of a gamble could it be? More than you'd think.
I found this essay incoherently scattered, heavily dependent on comments from other authors, but failing to state a distinct thesis to build an argument on. The result was a failure to explain American Anglophilia, and what came across to me a general contempt of American fans of Masterpiece and BBC America. Not the fun I had hoped it would be.
Wiley Cash set the bar very high with his debut “A Land More Kind than Home”, and as often happens, the highly anticipated follow-up fell just a little short.
Once again Cash uses the 3-voice format, and two of the three work. Easter Quillby sets the tone and tells the largest portion of the story, effectively communicating the very complex emotions that accompany abandonment and the need to grow up way too early. Brady – the court appointed guardian to Easter and her sister, is well written and believable but is essentially utilitarian to the arc of the story. But Pruett, the bad guy pursuing the girls and their father, is a cardboard villain with no more depth or motivation than The Terminator. Because the characters in each storyline don’t actually cross paths with each other in the chase, there is no exploration of their relationships beyond the one dimensional POV of each narrator. I think that was the reason this story lacked the punch in the gut delivered by “A Land More Kind”. That said, I do like the very end of the story – two small surprises that suggest how the story will move forward.
Which takes me to the narration. Again, 2 out of 3 narrators do their job well. Jenna Lamia shows why she is the go-to voice for young southern girls. Eric Bergmann lends Brady the seriousness of a man trying to do right to make up for a past mistake. But Scott Sowers takes an already stereotyped bad guy and caricatures him into a hillbilly Snidely Whiplash. I actually stopped listening to his chapters and ordered the Kindle version to get past his awful narration. (This makes the second time I have abandoned an Audible of his narration in favor of the print version). For overall narration, I can only give 3 stars because of Sowers.
Reviews are generally favorable and I can see why. It is a pleasantly nostalgic read, short anecdotal stories of life in depression era Texas. Each is roughly 10 minutes long, relayed in a straight linear "this is how it happened" style that has no surprises and little emotion or morals to the tales. They just are what they are. It was a middle of the road kind of read - not challenging in the least. I did not like the narrator who seemed to be trying way too hard to be a good ol' Texas boy, and was simply awful with child and women's voices - especially Sister, who he voice in an ear lacerating falsetto. If you are looking for mild nostalgia, consider getting in print.
If you want to capture someone’s attention, don’t shout – whisper. In the midst of so many thrillers that shout – with fast action, chases, violence and gore - The Child Thief is all the more riveting because it is so quiet. Even Bronson Pinchot’s narration is hushed, compelling you to hang onto every word. The search for the kidnapper is quiet in a landscape muffled with deep snow that silences footsteps, but captures footprints, and the chase is a dangerous chess game of “come and get me if you dare”.
While the landscape is vast, the viewpoint is small and detailed, as if even a person’s soul can be seen through the sniper’s scope on Luka’s rifle. A study of good and evil and of individuals struggling to save what is human in themselves through the search to save someone else. To me Luka is heroic in the best sense – someone who stays true to himself and his family in the face of mob madness, danger from the Red Army, and unthinkable evil from the child thief. One of the strongest characters I have read in a very long time.
Some mixed feelings about this one. The writing was wonderful, the plot sufficiently creepy, but in the end it was fairly predictable in its structure and outcome. The front of the book introduced both the problem and the characters in a manner that had me already guessing who was going to be the first victim to go - I was right - and which characters had the greatest chance of surviving - right again. But Cottam was so good at setting the atmosphere, at describing the feelings of the characters and sending a shiver up my spine that in the end I just rolled with it and enjoyed the ride. I loved the bleak Scottish setting and the historic mystery of the vanishing colony. And the ending was handled well in spite of its predictability. I'd love to see what Cottam could do with a more complex storyline.
As a neuroscience nurse with an autistic grandson, I appreciate the insights revealed by young Naoki Higashida. It is most affirming to recognize that within the limitations of verbal and emotional expression, there is intelligence, humor and creativity trying to assert itself. What I found most heartbreaking is the realization that these children feel the burden of their families’ sorrow, frustration, and disappointment, imposing a daunting sense of responsibility to keep the family happy. (Research has shown that this is a common phenomenon among children with any chronic or terminal diagnosis, but I had not thought of it in this context).
While there must be a caveat that the experiences of Naoki may not have universal applicability for those on the spectrum, the revelations of the internal struggles to control emotions and behavior do suggest approaches that families can employ to understand and develop the abilities hidden inside their autistic loved ones. In this respect it is different from books written by those discussing the autistic experience from the caregiver’s POV. What I would love to see now is an update now that Naoki is a young adult, because one of the mysteries we would love to solve is how normal growth and development stages (such as adolescence with all of its hormonal upheavals wreaking havoc with emotional control) affect the behavior and expression of the autistic person as they mature. Anything to better prepare our loved one for his own future.
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