Sugar Land, TX, United States | Member Since 2010
I watched Johnny Depp’s “Finding Neverland” on TV the other night and had a craving to revisit this favorite childhood classic. Except that I am one of those poor souls who never read the original story, but was raised first on the Mary Martin TV musical production, then the Disney animation. As other reviewers discovered, there is more in the story for adults than I suspected from the child-focused versions. Filled with social commentary, current day critics of the home-and-child role imposed on Wendy need to remember that this was written at the tail end of the patriarchal family-first Victorian era.
In spite of the unexpected grown up tone of the story, there is no denying the timeless charm and imagination that has endeared Peter Pan to over a century of readers. Suspending my grown up self and experiencing it through my child-self retained the magic. The final chapter, after the return home, touched me the most. It well deserves to be experienced in its original format.
Unlike the majority of listeners I had conflicting feelings about Jim Dale’s reading. As the objective all-knowing narrator he was excellent. But when it came to the character voices, especially the children, I guess I wanted to hear a little more child-like wonder. By focusing on the false bluster of the children trying to be brave and self-sufficient, some of the charm was missing. His voice was just so obviously old-mannish, in my mind a contradiction of the youth oriented tone of the story. But he is still a talented enough reader to rate 4 stars. Listening to the sample may help others to discern if his style works for you.
The book cover fooled me into expecting a more light weight romantic historical fiction. What I found was a heartbreaking portrait of World War 1 occupation, the complex issues of stolen war property, and the solace that a single portrait provided to two women grieving the loss of their husbands 100 years apart. Told in parallel time lines are the stories of Sophie LeFevre, the subject of the painting by her husband, Edouard, now gone to war, and the current story of Liv Halston, the current owner who received the portrait as a wedding present from her husband, now dead. To both women the portrait is far more than an object – it is the only tangible connection to their husbands whose absence breaks their hearts. Both women must make hard decisions about what they value most and why. Repeated more than once is the line “once it is done, it cannot be undone.”
The characters in both timelines are finely drawn, showing the strength, fear, humor and love all of the characters bring to their relationships. Even the Kommandant is more than just a cardboard villain. The dilemma of ownership of the picture is laid out with balance so that both sides are understandable. The narration was good, although the French reader tended to get overly dramatic with some of her characters. The only weakness was how the ending was written, but I won’t comment further to avoid giving too much away. The story was strong enough to hold my undivided attention over the two days it took to listen, and Sophie in particular has become a literary character I will hold onto for a while.
Jackson went a bit out on a limb with this book, creating characters who, compared to her previous books, are a little harder to like, less quirky than puzzling in their motivations. The primary “love story” of the title is the one Shandy is trying to create with William, the hero of the hold-up in the convenience store. But he has his own story, and the question is whether it can get on track with Shandy’s fantasy. If that was the only plot point, the story would have been flat and predictable. But Jackson looks at relationships in general – friendships, parents and children, husbands and wives, even perceptions and assumptions about strangers – exploring how we fill in the blanks with our desires and imaginations when we just don’t have all the information about what’s going on. That exploration was both interesting and frustrating because of the self delusions that drove the decsions made by various characters. Once all was said and done, I did like how it resolved and can say that I enjoyed the story.
One aspect of the story I just didn’t like was the graphic nature of some of the relationships. It’s not unusual for Jackson to include adult situations in her stories, and I really don’t mind that within context and reason. But in this outing she made those situations unnecessarily long and explicit. It stalled the forward movement of the story without adding any value to plot or character development. It reduced my enjoyment of the overall experience enough to drop one star.
I think Paul Collins needed to figure out just what kind of book he was trying to write. It wasn’t a murder mystery because the culprits were fairly obvious and brought to trial before the book was half done. It didn’t really document the beginning of Yellow Journalism, because we were told the term had been tagged before this incident occurred, and the wars between the various newspapers were already well underway. Although we hear most about the Hearst-Pulitzer rivalry, these two potentially colorful characters remained mostly flat and in the background.
What is left is a somewhat disorganized description of a grisly murder committed by very ordinary people for the most mundane of motives. The police are portrayed as inept, but can be forgiven to some degree because of the intrusion of headline greedy journalists who planted false evidence, invented false leads and “witnesses”, making it a miracle that the truth ever came out at all. I kept wishing for someone to step up and tell everyone to knock it off. In the end I came away irritated at the whole thing – sort of how I feel about tabloid reporting today. I guess I got what I asked for.
What a treat to have a snack sized Joshilyn Jackson offering to introduce her newest loveably quirky southern family. As with all of her books, there is humor within the trials of life, and the solid strength that surprises not only the reader, but sometimes the characters themselves. Jackson has proved herself an astute observer of southern behavior and language to continually create characters that are not only believable, but ones I would love to befriend. Now I just have to wait 12 more days before I can get to know the rest of this story.
I see from other reviews that I am among many for whom Persuasion is the favorite of Miss Austen's books. Anne Elliot is my favorite of all her heroines, always evoking my sympathy for her dignity and composure through the trials of her life. Threaded through the story is the theme of not getting what you want the first time around and, for some, a second chance for the golden ring. Whether all these characters get their prize, or even deserve it, is revealed as only Austen can do.
Overall I thought Juliet Stevenson read well, especially conveying Anne's calm exterior and the haughtiness of her father and sister Elizabeth. But at times she overdramatised - making sister Mary sound a bit like Miss Piggy, and at the end, as Mr. Wentworth pours out his heart he sounds more like a distraught female than the hero. Had to downgrade the performance score a bit for those periodic missteps. Still, revisiting this old favorite is as comfortable as a warm cup of tea.
Comparisons to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code are valid, as much of Dry Bones is a scavenger hunt for clues to a murder. In my opinion, Peter May’s writing is stronger, particularly in character development. I never really got Langdon, but Enzo MacLeod – now that’s a flesh and bone character. Middle aged and a little worse for wear, he’s flawed, has made mistakes and has regrets. But he’s smart, intuitive and has a big heart. The supporting characters are also believable, with lives of their own aside from their roles in progressing the plot.
The one weakness in the story is how long it took to get through the scavenger hunt, which did little to suggest motive or possible suspects for the murder. It dragged us around Paris and the surrounding countryside, but the hunt was mostly engaging with unexpected mayhem thrown in along the way so it’s not wasted time. The final third of the story is where the dots get connected and it kicked into a new gear. Although the ultimate motivation for the murder was a little soft, the action was good.
I tuned into this series because I truly loved May’s “Lewis Trilogy” (sadly no longer available to Audible in the US), and wanted more of his writing. I’ve started with this first one and will continue on, definitely cherry picking the ones narrated by Simon Vance. His ability to give credible voice to MacLeod’s Scottish brogue, the various French characters, male, female, young and old, was a significant factor in relating to the entire cast.
Completely defies definition. Not really a thriller, mystery or horror story. No violence or gore, nothing overtly supernatural, and yet from the very beginning you feel unsettled, disturbed. You know something is just wrong, but have no choice but to take the grand tour of the Blackwood’s home and life with Merricat as your tour guide. No other perspective is provided, and as the tour progresses you kind of want to escape, but remain mesmerized in spite of yourself (like one guest who comes to tea uninvited). The family fears the outside world, the villagers fear the family, and the reader watches transfixed as inevitable forces ignite those fears into horrible actions/reactions. Humans really are the scariest of all creatures. Perfectly read by Bernadette Dunne.
Some previous reviews refer to The Alienist as an historical “Criminal Minds” or “CSI”. I agree, but perhaps for a different reason. It struck me as a TV script in the spirit of those shows, just placed in a different time period. In spite of trying to make the dialogue sound dated, the overall sensibilities were too modern, with stock characters now mandatory in episode TV – the plucky feminist ahead of her time, the faithful manservant wise beyond his station, the precocious kid who proves he can hold his own with the grown-ups in times of danger. Social issues such as race, roles and rights of women and children, and homosexuality are handled with a level of tolerance more reflective of today than over 100 years ago. I also question the availability of forensic knowledge and profiling that would make a modern BAU agent proud.
In good historical fiction the history needs to weave seamlessly through the narrative, and not every fact found in the research process needs to be used. Side notes about everything from opera to fashion, to every course in every meal, and the furnishings and history of every building slows down a narrative that should have moved at a more urgent pace. Long passages on various theories of psychology and criminology (was that even a word in 1896?) slowed us even more – over an hour was spent dissecting each line, word, and penmanship of a letter from the killer, covering many points repetitively. Contrived miscommunications and false assumptions abound. The investigators could be unbelievably astute one minute, then oblivious to clues that had been scattered like Easter eggs in the grass, until the “ah-hah” moment when someone looks up and says “we’ve got to go NOW - no time to explain”. Obviously meant to heighten the tension, it was used so often by all team members that it became frustrating and led inevitably to another detailed review of information we had already covered – we got it already. There were many other "give-me-a-break" moments, but in the spirit of no-spoilers, I'll refrain from further comment.
I wish an editor had taken the book in hand to work out these structural problems, because Carr’s plot and concept (basically a reworking of Holmes-Watson-Lestrade chase The Ripper) is well imagined. Had he trusted his readers, Carr might have eliminated the massive redundancy that only added weight, not depth.
This was a selection made because it was on sale and Audible reviewers are nearly unanimous in their praise and assurances that the movie did not do the story justice. They are right. I was not prepared for the intensity and beauty of Dickey’s writing, especially once the guys got to the river. His connection to the wilderness and his ability, through Ed’s musings, to communicate the primal shift in focus, commitment and even self-identity, was eloquence itself. Feeling the transformation Ed made from being content (almost proud) to be a “slider” to becoming a take-charge survivor raised this from a testosterone saturated action script to a rethinking of “The Lord of the Flies”.
The only thing that keeps this from 5 stars for me is the relative weakness of the opening. While it was important to know who Ed was prior to the river, Dickey took too long with the set-up, actually making Ed so unlikeable and apathetic about his own life that the dramatic transformation on the river would be unbelievable if not written so well.
A shout-out has to be given to Will Patton’s astounding narration. Had I tried reading this in print, I’m almost positive I would never have finished. It took Patton to really take me into Ed’s head on the cliff, up in the tree, going through the rapids. The voicing of all the other characters is spot on, natural and unforced. A perfect performance.
As always, Dr. Creasy takes a complex book of scripture and makes it accessible to the listener through context of its time and through the literary design of the writing. In a scholarly yet perfectly understandable introduction, he informs us how to understand prophetic writing at the primary level of the historical context of the day, and also the prophetic (future) message between the lines, often referring to the coming Messiah. Just that much information clarified my former confusion over what has always been mysterious. The four "Suffering Servant songs" in the final third of the book have never been so full of meaning and emotion until this reading. For anyone looking to gain understanding of Biblical scriptures, this series is the best I have ever found.
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