'Chiefs' completely blew me away -- who knew? I've read several of Stuart Woods other books, the Stone Barrington and Ed Eagle series in particular, and they were fine, nothing to really write home about. So I wasn't too excited when I saw this one on Audible. But? It was on sale, and it was long -- a prime requirement for me -- so what the heck? Why not?
Boy, was I wrong. "Chiefs" grabs you from the very first minutes and doesn't let go -- I literally cancelled two appointments this afternoon -- no way was I going to stop listening until I finished it. This was Katherine Stockett's "The Help" meets Robert Penn Warren's classic "All the King's Men", although arguably better than either. As a novel of southern culture, spanning three generations, as viewed through three very different men who served as chief of police in a small southern town, it's hard to imagine anything better than this one.
Few books draw you so completely into the character's lives as does "Chiefs". This is consummate storytelling. As each of the three segments finished, I was sad to see it end, figuring the next segment surely wouldn't be as good as the one I'd just finished. But I was never disappointed. Each was compelling in its own way.
It's really too bad it's being advertised as a "serial killer" book. Yes, that's an element, but that's sort of like saying that chocolate cake is about the sugar. Yes, that's an element, but that misses the point. This is a novel, not really detective fiction, as such. It's a story of courage and cowardice, of home and running away, of race, black and white, good men and evil scattered throughout. True, it's the 'killer' angle that ties the three administrations together, but that's really not the focus of the story.
I couldn't help comparing the whole situation to that of John Grisham. This was Stuart Woods first book -- written long before he published any of the more traditional detective fiction books he's more famous for. Yet "Chiefs" is so far above and beyond anything that Woods has written since, it's sometimes hard to believe it's the same author.
Same with Grisham. The first book he wrote -- "A Time To Kill" -- wasn't published until he'd already written and sold several other more traditional legal thrillers. Similarly, "A Time to Kill" is by far Grisham's finest work, although I'd admit "A Painted House" comes close in terms of literary merit. And also similarly, 'A Time to Kill" isn't really about rape and punishment, it's about the life and times of the people involved, the society in which these things happened. So it is with "Chiefs".
I know I will listen to this book again and again. If you haven't read or listened to it yet, you've got a real treat ahead of you. Don't miss this one. It's a classic.
Last September my daughter's 41 year old husband lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. As I watched my daughter struggle with her new reality -- single mother, solely responsible, now, for everything, big house, menagerie of animals, not to mention the burden of earning all the income and keeping the family business afloat-- I was seeking ways to help her through a dreadfully painful situation I'd never personally experienced myself. I bought this book to 'preview' for her, hoping that it would turn out to be something she'd take comfort from, too.
That didn't happen. With the tremendous new demands on her time -- not to mention dealing with her own grief and helping her own children through this most difficult situation -- my poor daughter doesn't have time to read or even listen to much of anything these days. But as for me, I loved this book. I couldn't stop listening, finding it to be so insightful, so interesting, so profound that many parts of it will "stick" with me, forever.
And in a way, it did help my daughter, too, because while she hasn't read the book, I see her doing, and saying, some of the very same things that Joan Didion reports herself doing and saying. There is indeed a process of grieving, which obviously does differ from person to person, but which apparently includes many commonalities, too.
Now I understand better what really lies behind some of the things my daughter is doing -- like wanting to keep everything of her husband's just exactly the way he left it, to do everything just the way he did it, to keep everything (it would seem) in readiness -- because there is some lingering, almost unconscious, thought in there somewhere that he just might come back. And yes, as Ms. Didion says, she knows that's not true; that thinking that way makes no sense whatever, and also that this stage isn't permanent, but now I see how a part of the process of grieving plays itself out.
Would I have read/listened to this book if grief hadn't entered our family? Probably not, I'm not a dedicated fan of Ms. Didion, although now I may see out some of her other books I haven't read, just for the pleasure of absorbing the sheer simplicity and heartfelt clarity with which she writes. Whatever, this is a lovely, not-terribly-sad, but profoundly insightful account of one widow's journey.
And one more thing: I normally don't care for musical accompaniment or transitional interludes in audiobooks, I tend to want the narrator to just read the book. But there are moments in this recording where an exquisite piano solo eases a transition from one chapter to another that greatly enhances the mood of the book. It's just really well done. The whole thing is well done.
I highly recommend this perfectly-narrated book to anyone who has an interest, for whatever reason.
I've loved every other Greg Hurwitz book I've read or listened to, so I actually 'saved' this one for a time when I really needed distraction. That was not a wise decision.
If you like lurking and prowling along the edges of endless group therapy sessions with a bunch of really low-life people, then this is for you. However interesting the first hour or two of it might be, as you see the techniques the protagonist-therapist uses to make headway with some of them, it gets supremely boring going into hours six, seven and eight. I started to think I should get paid to listen to all this. (Okay, there's SOME other plot points in between, but not much. Clearly Hurwitz has chosen this vehicle to tell the story.)
That's one thing you can say about Steve White's Dr. Alan Gregory -- also a psychologist: he knows when to stop with the coverage of therapy sessions. There's a limit as to how much the non-psychologists among us are willing to listen to.
Yes, it picked up toward the end, but if you're considering this book, think about how many hours of group therapy -- much of it rendered in Ebonics by narrator Scott Brick, who does a fine job of staying awake through it all. Unless you're a psychologist who can get continuing education points for this, I'd suggest moving on to some other Greg Hurwitz book.
Normally I stay away from legal thrillers, and those that involve politics? Never. But I saw this book listed, and remembered that many years ago, I'd gone to a book signing by Phillip Margolin in Palo Alto. Funny things is, I still remember many of the things Margolin said that night -- it was one of the best author signings I've ever been to.
Unlike many authors who seem to have their main objective as getting done with this event and getting out of there, Margolin seemed to enjoy chatting with readers. Much more than most authors, he talked about himself, offering personal details, how several of his books came to be, how he worked, and more. Then someone asked him what his favorite book was, and noting that he -- like most of us -- had many favorites, he named "Stone City" by Mitchell Smith. I walked out of that bookstore that night not only with several of Margolin's books, but also 'Stone City', which is indeed a very good book.
I'm not sure why, but at some point I didn't keep up with Margolin's books, but now, seeing the Audible edition of 'Executive Privilege'. it was time to jump back in. Glad I did. I listened to this book in just two days -- I should have quit on that second day, done something else, but decided to keep doing household tasks so I could keep listening. There was never a good time to quit.
Anybody who reads these kinds of thrillers knows how it's going to end -- the bad guys (or girls) are caught, the little-guy (or girl) lawyer comes out on top, the perpetrators of evil get their just deserts, and the world is a better place. The interesting factor in this book is that you really don't know who the bad guy is -- or at least, I didn't see it coming until it was right in front of me. Today, with an abundance of sleazy politicians, ruthless aides, big money law firms and other corrupt denizens of the DC ruling class, sexual shenanigans abound -- together with the need to cover it all up. The story rings true on many counts.
The only fiction is that the bad guys got caught. In today's world, I think we're seeing that they almost always get away with it.
Anyway, great book. Thoroughly enjoyable, flawless narrator, just great entertainment.
This is one of Lisa Scottoline's older books -- 2004. I've read at least ten of these books and enjoyed them all. This was my first audible Scottoline, and I was really looking forward to it -- this is one of the books I hadn't read.
I don't know if Barbara Rosenblat narrates them all -- I'll have to check -- but she had problems with this one. First of all, she's eating something throughout the whole book. That's so unprofessional I can't get my mind around it -- okay, so maybe it was just a lozenge or mint or chewing gum or something, but it ranges from merely annoying to downright disgusting. And of course its one of those things that when you've noticed it, you become aware of nothing else.
Or almost nothing. The thing is, in the books, lawyer Judy Carter comes across as merely young, inexperienced and a wee bit naive about her profession -- it's kind of charming, actually. Endearing. She reminds you of one of the characters is Scott Turow's, "One L" chronicling the lives of first-year law students, when one shouted, "Gd, I love the law!" That's sort of funny, you know? The thing is, almost everyone gets over that by the time they finish law school -- but Judy Carter clings to it, even in her first years of practice. Still, in the books, it doesn't really come off as offensive or dumb -- just sort of hopelessly young, something all of us were, back when.....
But not so in the audio edition. Here, the narrator turns Judy's gushing enthusiasm into something that become embarrassing. Most adults don't have such unparalleled faith in, and devotion to, the law, as such. Most of us are all too aware of its shortcomings. So hearing Judy endlessly wax lyrical over the nobility of the whole thing, in such worshipful tones, comes across as borderline stupid. It's not pleasant.
Scottoline's books frequently deal with Italian Americans -- another thing I like about them, for obvious reasons. She gets the culture exact right -- I hear my relatives in her words, I picture the scenes, recall my own family. It's something I really love about her books. But here, the way the narrator portrays "Pigeon Tony", a frail, elderly ethnic Italian, the Italian-American thing becomes painful, patronizing at best, humiliating at worst. Constantly referring to him as "cute" -- something I probably wouldn't notice in the written version -- but here, with Rosenblat's special emphasis -- "cute" grates on my nerves. He's a grown man, for crying out loud. A man who has survived horrors few of us can even imagine and yet he still managed to escape, to live and survive in a very foreign country, living a productive and worthy life. Now in his old age, he shouldn't be dismissed as "cute" -- the same word that's also applied (with exactly the same emphasis) to Judy's new puppy. That's not nice -- and the whole thing is made worse by Rosenblat's over-the-top Italian accent. Sheesh -- it's a disrespectful caricature that starts to hurt after a while. Do Italians really sound that stupid?
An hour in, I decided that I need to go find a paper copy of this book and read it, and see if it was Scottoline who missed the mark in this one, or if it was all the narrator. I think the latter, because the story line is excellent and worthy of attention.
I may try another Audible Scottoline, if I can find one read by someone other than this narrator. That "eating" thing just drives me nuts -- I won't willingly put up with another book read by a narrator talking with her mouth full.
It's almost impossible to ruin one of J A Jance's Joanna Brady books -- I'm an unabashed fan, read them all the instant they appear, and am now buying them, one by one, as audiobooks. So I love the characters, the stories, the plots... everything. But the narration? Not always the best.
For whatever reason, out of about 14 unabridged Joanna Brady books available, there are at least six different narrators. Why would a publisher do that? Why isn't there just one -- or two, at the most -- official "voices" of Joanna Brady? We know what Kinsey Millhone sounds like, right? Judy Kaye brings Kinsey to life -- we hear that voice, that's Kinsey! We know what Lucas Davenport sounds like, too -- Richard Ferrone alone gives voice to the character. Anyone else reading those books would be committing lilterary heresy.
For the Joanna Brady books, 'Rattlesnake Crossing' represents the worst of the narrations. Understand, I've listened to any number of other books narrated by C. J. Critt, and have no generalized dislike for her abilities. But why, oh why, did she choose to make both Sheriff Joanna and her 15 year old daughter speak with the same bored, whiny, nasal quality more typical of a California Valley Girl? The ineffable Miss Jance didn't see fit -- thank Gd -- to write the 'gag me with a spoon' line, but we hear it, anyway. Moon Unit Zappa lurks behind every spoken phrase.
Bottom line: It's unthinkable! It's insulting! Okay, maybe a 15 year old girl in Arizona might possibly pick up that irritating vocabulary and voice tone, but her law-officer mother, too? Joanna Brady, one of the most clear-headed, decisive, courageous, dedicated, logical law officers in all of fictiondom, sounding tentative, indulging in 'upspeak', ending every sentence with a question mark? Speaking as though she's so worldly-wise, she's just sooooooo bored with all the world has to offer? Like, is THAT Joanna Brady? Never. Off to the dungeons with anyone who makes Sheriff Joanna Brady sound like she just got off the bus from Encino.
Simply put, Miz Critt is a serious detraction from an otherwise totally enjoyable book. If you're new to the series as audiobooks, seek out those narrated by Stephanie Brush. As narrator, she's by far the best -- she knows exactly how Joanna (and her daughter) would actually sound. In fact, start with 'Dead Wrong' -- I just finished listening to that one (again) and appreciate it more every time. In Miss Brush's excellent interpretation, Joanna Brady comes off as a sheriff, not an airhead.
I don't seek out ghost stories too often -- nothing ever seems to equal Susan Hills's "The Woman in Black" -- the audiobook, not the film. Ghost stores just don't get any better than that. But this one comes close. I'm not sure why I decided to take a chance on it, but I like creepy old houses, especially if a ghost or two might linger, so that was probably it.
Glad I did -- I should have known this would be good. James Herbert also wrote "The Fog" and I remember reading that decades ago, and afterward, that book came to mind every single day when the tule fog overtook the Sacramento Valley and I had to navigate around in it. That's a seriously frightening book, too.
"Secrets" also has none of the things I don't like in a scary story, which is to say, I don't like stories that merge into science fiction. These are actual ghosts in this book -- real ghosts -- ha! -- not alien creatures or dragons or man-made monsters, or any of that sort of thing.
There are truly creepy moments aplenty -- although why people who are already unnerved by odd happenings decide to explore the basement is always beyond me, although I suppose if they didn't, there wouldn't be a book.
Special praise for the narrator, David Rintoul -- he must have burned up a thousand calories an hour narrating this. It's a high-energy narration, but in a good way. Just very well done.
Highly recommended. And three cheers for Chester -- a real trouper!
Exquisite timing, in releasing this book. As the US is torn apart by political scandals, here's a fictional take on the political process that exposes any number of the problems, but offering none of the solutions -- assuming there are any. This is politics in America today. Are you happy with the system? How it works?
A week before a tight election the family-values Republican candidate becomes the target of dirty tricks by Democrat operatives, loading his personal campaign office computer with child porn, suggesting that he had been viewing the material, was called away from the computer, and had forgotten to hide it, A young female staffer uncovered the computer screen by accident -- and then all hell broke loose.
A sociopathic, self-obsessed, nothing-I-could-ever-do-is-wrong, the-end-justify-the-means totally ruthless Democrat candidate, a wealthy photogenic woman who's recently taken a fancy to politics, is the obvious beneficiary.
Watch how all the players in this tightly-contested US Senate race are -- as Lucas Davenport observes -- wealthy. In fact, everyone involved is loaded -- including Davenport himself, of course, although that isn't a part of the plot. Nonetheless, watch all these wealthy people fight to the death (literally) over a job that pays $174,000 annually -- probably about half what any of them spend on clothes in any given year.
Watch the press assume the high moral ground, taking exquisite delight in the Republican's likely downfall. When, after Davenport reveals information showing that the Republican hadn't done it -- watch the press continue to beat up on him, saying that after all, nothing is ever proved with absolute certainty (shades of the OJ jury), and anyway, even if he hadn't done it, he COULD have, so therefore their obsession with his "child porn habit" is fair commentary.
Watch a whole bunch of innocents -- well meaning, idealistic campaign workers on both sides -- get taken to the cleaners. Watch corrupt schemers, campaign managers, lobbyists, other elected officials all go into high gear to protect each other, all with the blissful complicity of the press.
Watch the voters of the United States get turned off, wondering why it is they even bother to vote anymore. There's no honor out there, no bright shining candidates, no one with integrity who could ever win. When year after year, decade after decade, voters find themselves relegated to voting for the lesser of the evils, watch them tune out -- leaving the playing field completely open to all these Machiavellian operatives seeking absolute power over their subjects, the American public.
A painful book, but a great one. Sandford joins my short list of mega-popular authors who keep getting better and better as time goes by, and who never seem to run out of interesting plot ideas. As usual, narrator Richard Ferrone outdoes himself in excellence.
All this makes Silken Prey one of my favorite books of the year -- I will definitely listen again. And for those of you who've already read it, let me join your ranks and say I too am desperately hoping for a sequel. You'll know what I mean.
Like many other readers, I've greatly enjoyed Lisa Unger's newer books. I wasn't aware that this one was a very early effort, the third she'd written, originally published under her maiden name, Lisa Miscione. Would I have bought it, if I'd known? Probably, I wouldn't have known. Some early works by other writers have been just fine.
In her introduction, Ms. Unger tells us how she "met" her main character and couldn't get her out of her mind. The backstory is interesting enough, but I'd prefer the way Harlan Coben did it, in reintroducing his first book -- "Play Dead" -- republished many years after he'd become very successful. Coben averred as how parts of his first book make him squirm now, too, seeing his own immaturity, but still, there were good things about the book, and he was offering to his readers for what it was worth. (For the record, it's a great book.)
This one? Not so much. If you like Lisa Unger, you might want to skip it.
What's the problem? Just an immature writer, lots of high-handed preaching, too many lofty idealistic notions set into the plot, all of which gets tiresome after a while. One example: Part of the plot revolves around a community of homeless people who live in the tunnels and channels underneath New York City. The history of all those subsurface dwelling places -- and the people who live there -- is interesting, and has been explored in other books by other writers. Unger does fine in the history department. But as many young writers tend to do, she over-endows those homeless characters with way too much honor and virtue. Time and time again, we're informed that in THIS community -- underground -- "everyone gets a chance." Everyone will be left in peace, we're told, so long as they "obey the rules, don't hurt anyone and don't cause trouble."
So tell me: how exactly does that differ from the regular world upstairs?
If these homeless and disaffected (and many of them mentally ill) could have followed those three simple rules, wouldn't they now be living in a nice 3/2 bungalow with a picket fence in Poughkeepsie?
Bottom line: too much preaching, too much lavishing of praise on the virtues of the homeless and disaffected. It makes you wanna growl after a while.
The narrator has her own annoying habits -- that's about the worst Brooklyn accent I've ever heard. But not even a great narrator could have made this heaping dose of moral high-grounding go down pleasantly
When "14" first came out on Audible, I read the both the publishers blurbs and customer comments, and on the basis of that, put it on my wish list. I'd never heard of the author or the book, so I tend to rely mostly on customer reviews -- of which there weren't many, in the beginning. More to the point, there weren't any that said, openly and clearly, that this was a book of science fiction -- or maybe fantasy, a distinction I won't discuss any further for fear of spoiling the story for someone who does likes that sort of thing.
I don't. Or at least I haven't liked science fiction since I was about 9. I'd read ALL of the SF books in that impoverished little school library we had, and I loved them -- until I found myself totally blown away by the fact that I'd read a whole book -- an entire ADULT book -- about the dastardly doings in the world "Urth" without ever realizing, up to the very end, that it was EARTH they were talking about. Jeepers!
It's not nice to fool either me or Mother Nature about things like that, so I promptly dropped the genre.
The problem for me was, all the customer reviews referenced only a "mystery" behind that secret closed door. None of them hinted -- nor will I -- what actually lay behind it. Given that I'm totally consumed by detective fiction, my mental image focused on a room full of dead bodies, say, or maybe a few million in stolen loot. What actually WAS behind the green door -- no, wait, it wasn't really green, was it? -- was something very different, and not my cup of tea, so to speak.
When "14" appeared as a "Daily Deal" I didn't investigate it any more, I just snapped it up, which wasn't a bad thing at all. I loved the first three-quarters of the book. Peter Climes assembled a delightfully diverse and eccentric group of adventurers, people I greatly enjoyed reading about. The way Climes worked in their back stories, each of them in turn, was just great. Loved the early adventures, the run-ins with Oscar, the nasty building manager, Nate's story, the times and trials of being a data entry clerk at a magazine -- who knew? -- and about all the beer consumed on that scenic roof top. Sounded like fun, actually. I enjoyed it.
Then it went weird on me. I got to the heart of the book, and suddenly it wasn't about eccentric women who sunbathed in the nude -- in public -- a habit the lady tossed it off with "Oh for crying out loud. It's just BOOBIES! Haven't you ever seen any before?" which made me laugh out loud. "14" got serious, with lions and tigers and dragons and things, and my mind started to drift.
I quit an hour before the end -- tick tock, tick tock, tempus fugit and all that -- and I decided not to waste any more of it on this book, which had already gone way beyond my tolerance level for non-reality-based fiction. I quit.
Still -- good book, and I'm glad I listened to the first part. Special kudos to narrator Ray Porter. He mastered a strange assembly of characters of varying ethnicities -- listening to him, I could picture every one of them.
If you like well-written weird, this one's for you.
Like a dancing bear, the key issue concerning "The Storyteller" isn't how well it's done, but that fact that it's done at all.
The fact that a book like this, with so much excellent and accurate information about not just the Shoah, but also about the people involved and the culture in Europe at the time, is simply amazing. The fact that an awesome number of readers not only read or listened to it, but reported liking or even loving it, is even more amazing. It's reaffirming, in some simple way. In a world where way too many people, on too many continents, are openly saying they wished Hitler had succeeded, it's good to know that opinion isn't shared by everyone.
I'm also astonished at the amount of research Ms. Picoult -- or her research assistants -- did. Although the main story line -- the writing of the story about the vampire or golem -- is fictional, virtually all of the stories that comprise Minka's experiences before and after her incarceration in the camps are factual and written about by actual survivors. In order to come up with all these little stories, someone did a whale of a lot of reading to find them all. That's impressive.
Also unusual is the fact that several times, Ms. Picoult manages to make the very clear distinction between Jewish "forgiveness" and that of the Christians. That was brave -- and much appreciated, at least by this Jew. This is a theme that almost never appears as a plot point -- at least not favorably -- in contemporary fiction, and it blew me away, how well she did it. Kol hakavod!
... which made it disappointing, I have to admit, that when Leo decides to take Sage to a shul in a subtle attempt to reconnect her to her roots, that he took her to a reform synagogue. That was a major false note and very disappointing. What that meant was that as Sage sat there, contemplating that her grandmother in her youth had said these same prayers, attended these same services, that simply wasn't true. Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat services at an orthodox shul would have been 100% familiar to her grandmother -- orthodox services haven't changed -- but in a reform organization, an awful lot would be different to Minka I'd guess that she would have been shocked. What a bummer! Since Ms. Picoult goes go far to be accurate in her Shoah history, why fall apart over that issue?
Even so, I greatly enjoyed the book. I'm delighted that it's out there, that a lot of people who would never think of picking up and reading a book on the Holocaust can get so much accurate history from a contemporary and compelling novel like this.
Unfortunately, I can't tell which of the narrators read the part of Leo, but he was absolutely excellent. Great voice, and perfect timing for Leo's many funny lines. Whichever of them it was, he was great.
On the whole? Great book. Very well done.
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