Sugar Land, TX, United States | Member Since 2010
The final words of the book, spoken by Death who has been the storyteller, sums up my feelings about this reading experience. The story is so much about the power of words, and the author uses his words so eloquently, visually descriptive in their ability to evoke sensory understanding of the characters' experiences. But beyond the words, the true story is about the souls of the characters - both good and bad. The very best is of course Hans, the father whose kindness, generosity and deep understanding of what is right becomes the guiding star to the devestated orphan who comes to his home. Liesel's life is saved and formed through his influence and she becomes extraordinary as a result. Rosa, Rudy and the others living in this wartorn village become our literary neighbors. I will be haunted by these humans for some time to come.
A comment - other reviewers have stated their inability to get into the story. It took 3 tries for me to get past the beginning also. The prologue is confusing and the writing style unique, requiring some patience and concentration. Please don't give up. By the first hour when the Storyteller begins the real narrative, you will understand and begin a transforming journey. The narrator is superb, bringing all of these characters to life.
Is there such a category as “geezer-lit”? If not, this book could start a new literary genre as I expect only those over the age of 50 have sufficient life experience to appreciate the humor and insights that make this wonderful tale hilarious, poignant, wise and affectionate all at the same time.
Introduced to Evelyn on the last evening of her life, enjoying a somewhat raucous dinner with her best friends, I was laughing so hard I had to pee. Then she was gone and her daughter Barbara had to pick up the pieces and plan Evelyn’s unique memorial according to instructions left in a wonderful letter that actually begins Barbara’s awakening (and ours too if we have the ears to hear).
There are other story lines that are outrageous and revealing in their own ways, but it’s Evelyn’s spirit winding through the tale that keeps some grounded, some inspired, and often both at the same time. As one rapidly reaching geezer-hood, I enjoyed the connection to family and community, and the message of living life to its fullest on your own terms. Life has no dress rehearsal and once the curtain comes down the play is over and regrets are wasted time. That message was Evelyn’s best gift to Barbara.
GK’s reading has his usual quirky pauses and breaths, and it took at bit to get used to. But really, there is no other voice that can tell a Lake Wobegon tale. It was a perfect match.
I chose this book because I have watched “Legends of the Fall” movie countless times, and because Mark Bramhall is one of my favorite narrators. Ranking the three novellas, I thought “Legends” was the best overall story, “Revenge” the one that affected me the deepest, and “The Man Who Gave Up His Name” the least relatable (making it 4 stars instead of 5). If you are already familiar with “Legends” and “Revenge” from their movies, know that the source stories told here are not straight repeats, but still wonderfully written. “Revenge” in particular provided strong characters in Cochran and Tibby.
Strongly masculine tales, there is a common thread of midlife self-doubt and sense of loss that could become depressing if Harrison’s writing was less masterful. If the stories had a soundtrack, it would be the beautiful but melancholy music of the cello – expressing a soulful yearning that communicates to the reader. Bramhall's reading ensures the cello is pitch perfect. I loved the stories, admired the writing, and will likely look for more of Harrison’s offerings.
The mystery/thriller genre can be fairly forgiving as long as the characters have dimension and the plot is suspenseful with twists that play fair with readers willing to suspend disbelief. “Watching You” does pretty well with the plot end of the bargain, but not so well with the characters.
On the positive side, there is plenty of suspense, the solution to the mystery not being obvious. In the interest of no spoilers, I can’t say much about the plot points, but thought and creativity have been put into the story structure. Don’t assume that your first impressions will hold up to the end. I like a story that can surprise me.
Oddly, in spite of the suspense I felt more curiosity than urgency about solving the mystery. Perhaps because this is my first outing with the O’Laughlin series I have missed the character build-up of Joe and Ruiz, who were not well defined. Regarding Joe, for a psychologist concerned about sharing confidential patient information, he sure spilled it out easily enough to Ruiz. And I found his Parkinson’s disease to be a gimmick that added nothing to who he is or to this story. As for the rest of the cast, often personality felt more governed by plot needs than by realistic responses.
So bottom line, this was a credible mystery with twists that were interesting if not edge-of-my-seat compelling. I just felt the characters were kept too far at a distance to get my adrenaline running for them.
I chose this book to get some insight into the creative minds behind stories I know best through the Hollywood renditions of their best works – Watch on the Rhine, The Little Foxes, The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon. I got background stories, but for most of the book there was an unexpected distance that kept the writers from becoming flesh and blood. Part of the problem was that for much of the book they remained apart from each other, their stories told in parallel. That may have been unavoidable since their relationship did have long separations, but life was not well infused even when they came together. The other part of the problem had to do with the narration.
I have enjoyed all three of these readers in previous selections, and their presence influenced me to download this book. But the producers made a curious choice about the narration assignments. The wonderful Mark Bramhall gave Hammett his voice and was by far the best part of the listening. But Bernadette Dunn as Lillian, and Lorna Raver as the overall narrator sounded too much alike to let Hellman sound distinctive. And because Raver narrated the largely third person voice, the sections dealing with Hammett’s life were read in the voice of an elderly woman. Raver is a very talented reader, and I have loved her in other outings, but her voice made it impossible to hear Lillian as a young woman in her 20’s and 30’s, and Hammett was just lost until Bramhall read his own words. It has been hard to choose a rating for the narration because all three read extremely well. The problems were in the production choices.
The very end of the book, the final years of their devotion to each other finally brought Dash and Lily to life for me. The voices finally matched their ages, and the lovers were finally together. It raised the book from being mediocre to good if a bit flawed.
As a genre thrillers too often favor action and plot over character development, resulting in a library full of books populated by cardboard heroes and villains. Koryta consistently defies that norm and creates characters that we can invest in emotionally, simultaneously placing them in nail-biting situations. “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is one of his finest with an opening scene that informs us immediately of the deadly seriousness of young Jace’s situation. From that scene forward, the rest of the cast is introduced, and every one of them, good or bad, are drawn with a fine touch. My stomach clenched every time the Blackwell brothers appeared, knowing the cold blooded violence they brought with them. The wilderness instructor and his wife are very good but very human and vulnerable because, in spite of knowing of Jace’s danger, they underestimated the level of evil they faced. Fire on the mountain both compounds their problems and offers unforeseen hope.
The pace is non-stop, and I actually didn’t stop, listening in one long sitting. Koryta never shies away from letting some bad things happen to some of his characters, disdaining improbably coincidental saves. So you never know what’s coming, the tension never lets up. In true Koryta fashion, the ultimate hero of the story will hold your heart. A strong place to start for readers who have not read this author before.
. . . it was very, very good. But sometimes it wasn't.
In the same style of "The 100 Year-Old Man" Jonasson has created a quirky absurdist piece of satire. The center of the story is Nombeko, the girl of the title, and as long as she is on stage there are sharp observations and laughs. Sparkling with wit and inate intelligence, she is the star of the production and provides the bulk of the enjoyment. ("Let me get my scissors") Unfortunately when the focus shifts to other story threads, the sparkle fades, matching the dullness of the the brother who is The Idiot and his Angry Young Woman girlfriend. I suspect that one needs a stronger insight into European politics in general and Swedish politics specifically if some of the inside jokes are to be fully appreciated. More than once too often everything that can go wrong does, thereby preventing Nombeko and her young man from saving the King and living happily ever after. While amusing for a while, these mishaps stopped being quite so funny, actually stalling the story progression instead of adding substance to the plot. Perhaps because I had already read "The 100 Year-Old Man", I was prepared for the wrap-up connecting all the dots. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read, narrated well, especially Nombeko's voice. Recommended for those who enjoyed the humor and absurdity of "The 100-Year-Old Man".
Can you ask for anything better than the complete Sherlock Holmes collection narrated by Simon Vance and for just one credit. When I found this selection it went immediately into my wish list and downloaded as soon as my new credit came up. I have not had time to listen to all 58 hours yet, but have been skipping around, sampling old favorites, starting with "A Scandal in Bohemia". Holmes has never sounded so good. For Sherlock fans this is a must.
As other reviewers have noted, the downloads do not give the names of the selections - just chapter numbers. But thanks to reviewer "Santa Fe Painter" the table of contents for each download part is listed. I did a cut-and-paste and printed out this list for reference. I did note that the numbering on his list is slightly different from how my download appears - for each download part, where his list says Chapter 2, make it Chapter 1 and adjust the numbering from there. Then off you go - the game's afoot!
"Complex" is an adjective found in most reviews of this retelling of Shakespeare's classic. So I'm not unique in finding new depth to the characters - Ophelia, Hamlet himself, and (for me) especially Claudius. Is Hamlet mad or acting? Is Claudius evil or caught in the one act he committed (perhaps) through the evil manipulations of another? By adding back stories to the major and secondary characters, the story moves beyond the dramatic (and melodramatic) familiarity of Shakespeare's speeches into a tragedy of real people's lives. The reading is near perfection, providing personality to the characters without intruding upon the action. I am inspired now to return to the original source, reading the poetry again with the characters newly revealed.
To Hartley and Hewson - Is Lear next?
I love Robert Goddard’s writing. In my three previous outings with him I have been impressed with his ability to weave complex suspense stories around characters that had depth and believability. His plot twists were always delightfully surprising, yet remained within context, avoiding the “give me a break” groan.
Sadly “Days Without Number” failed on almost every level of his usual excellence. For me the fatal flaw was Goddard’s failure to define just what the mystery was. Over and over we hear the phrase “the secret is, that there is no secret”. The result is a whole lot of running around, a growing body count, and still no defined reason for any of this to be happening. As with other Goddard books, events that occurred in the past rear up in the present presenting unforeseen consequences for our current characters. Usually Goddard takes us via flashbacks to the relevant past where we experience the events that have set the current chaos in motion. This time however we are merely fed history lessons on the Templars and on the destruction of churches during Cromwell’s Civil War, and given tidbits on archaeological investigations in the area. There is a huge cast of secondary characters, many of whom we never meet because they are names from the father’s past, who are given mighty importance but feel more like red herrings because their relevance is just not made clear. I’m not usually confused by multiple character plots, but for this one I really did feel the need for a scorecard. By the time the whole affair was wrapped up, I was hopelessly lost as to what was going on and the solution still left me scratching my head. All of the Goddard elements were there, but just not smoothly knitted together.
A final note of disappointment, not the fault of the author – I REALLY missed the elegant narration of Michael Kitchen. Griffin was ok, except that he made the fortyish aged characters sound so old - especially Basil, who came off as in his seventies. Made it impossible to get a mind’s eye picture of them. For those new to Goddard, don’t start here – try “Painting the Darkness” or “Caught in the Light” first.
First of all, I’d like to thank the Audible reviewers who urged patience and persistence in getting past the first book in favor of the stronger story in the second book. I gave me hope during the slow passages, and I did indeed find the second part an improvement.
Unfortunately I remained disappointed in the overall work. I enjoyed the two main characters immensely, but the supporting cast was less well developed. I know it’s fantasy so the author can make it anything he wants to, but for a world built so similar to medieval Europe, the tone is too modern for my taste. The relentless anachronisms pulled me out of the story too often to feel truly connected. The narration enhanced this disconnect. In spite of the reader’s wide range of voices, his style was overly dramatic, almost cartoonic in many cases. I could just see the villains gnashing their teeth as they twirled the end of their mustaches. It was like hearing John Cleese reading Tolkien. This may have been what made the story enjoyable for the majority of readers rating it 5 stars, but it just didn't work as well for me. I am rounding up to 4 stars for what was really more of a 3.5, but extra credit is given for enthusiastic effort. But I don’t think I’m interested enough to push through the remainder of the series.
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