Phoenix, AZ, United States | Member Since 2010
Seating Arrangements has a large cast of supporting characters, but the focus of the story is Winn Van Meter. Winn is almost 60, well off (although not as well off as he'd like to be) and a Harvard alum. He's also obsessed with looking successful, and desperately lacking in any semblance of self-awareness.
Along with giving away FAR too many plot points, the summary proclaims this novel as "Hilarious". That's not a word I'd use to describe the book. I never laughed out loud, and I'm not even sure if I ever found myself smiling; I did, however, find myself fascinated.
I suspect that most people have known someone like Winn Van Meter. The successful, old-school man that takes himself very seriously, and get's extremely offended if you make the mistake of teasing him good-naturedly. He's overly invested in receiving formal apologies for small or imagined wrongs, while never for a moment suspecting that he may owe someone else an apology. Most of all, he can't figure out why his life isn't going exactly - to the letter - the way he wants it to; after all, it's all about him, and HE certainly didn't do a darn thing wrong.
This isn't a book with a lot of over-the-top drama. It's subtle and smart, and very insightful. As I listened, I kept marveling that I hadn't come across a book about this character before; it seems so obvious there should be one.
The other review I read for this book expressed disappointment with the narration. I understand where that is coming from, although I enjoyed the narration very much. There are two styles of narrators; those that act out the book, with unique voices and lots of emotion, and those that simply serve as the reader. Arthur Morey is the latter, which I found a good fit for the style and content. I enjoyed that his low key style mirrored the tone of the book.
All in all, a breath of fresh air.
I've enjoyed many Joseph Finder books before, but this one was so bad I'm honestly surprised that it made it to press as is. I definitely think that if this had been submitted to publishers without Joseph Finder's name, it would never have been accepted.
The plot is not very original and you know how it will end from the very start, but that's not what disappointed me. The problem was that the author repeated the same unnecessary information over, and over, and over again. How many times in the same story do you have to hear about the fact that the milk is Lactaid when it has no bearing whatsoever on the story? When it states that he received a message to meet at the ihop of x street at 7:30pm, is it really necessary to make the next sentence "The meet had been set. They would meet at the ihop, on x street, at 7:30pm". That's how bad it was, and it was constant. It almost felt like a prank book.
I hate writing negative reviews, but I only do it in the hopes of saving someone a credit they will be sorry to loose.
I love this book. I love this series. Mostly I like the 2 narrators; the format is great, but through the series they will often mispronounce names for many books and then change to the right name, and it can be confusing.
Anyway, I give this book 5 stars for the story, but the editing was all messed up. Over and over again chunks of the story will just loop back to repeat again. It's really irritating. That being said, I'd still 100% recommend the book - I just really hope at some point they fix the editing. It's a popular enough series that I think it's worth doing.
I've read all the other Royal Spyness mysteries, and have enjoyed every one of them. They are my cotton-candy books; meant just for fun fluff, but very good for that purpose. I've looked forward to this book ever since the last one came out, but I could not have been more disappointed. Katherine Kellgren, who I usually enjoy, went so far overboard with the dramatically effusive performance it was painful to listen to. The plot was so bad, and the character's actions so bizarre, that it was insulting to the reader. I'm sorry to say that while I tried to hang on, and listened to quite a bit of it hoping it would get better, I couldn't finish the book. It was just too terrible. I'm going to look into returning it now that I've written the review. If you get it, I really hope you enjoy it; but I could not.
The title of this novel, "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena" was borrowed from a Russian Medical Dictionary; it was the definition listed under the entry for the word "Life". The definition strikes me as inexplicably lyrical and poetic; making it a fitting title to this impressive work.
Marra's book is all about life; not just the lives of the main characters we follow throughout the book, but also of a full constellation of lives that orbit them. The lives of an embittered nurse, once jilted by an oncologist. A six year old in Manchester, England, who desperately wanted to avoid another hand-me-down. A neighbor; an elderly woman who believes she gets daily visitations from "ghosts, angels, prophets and monsters". A swarthy, opportunist smuggler who does good deeds for the doctor who saved her brother's life - explaining that even though the brother in question was most definitely his least favorite of six brothers, had remembered to feed his pet turtle once as a child; so a favor was still owed for his life. From these characters and countless more, the constellation is formed.
The last word of the title, phenomena, is defined as "a fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen". And with that, the story takes form; as we learn how the full constellation of characters came to either be where they are, or end up where they will, based on the vital facts and situations of their lives.
Other reviewers have discussed that the story was depressing, the torture brutal, the characters sad. They definitely have very valid points; but I somehow didn't find the book too depressing. I was struck by the flashes of normalcy despite the terrible circumstances, the unexpected humor, and the strong underlying current of innate goodness and dignity that ran through the main characters we followed.
In an interview, the author Anthony Marra shared, "I knew early on that though the novel was set against a backdrop of war, it would be a book about recovery rather than destruction, about surgeons rather than soldiers." That is the feeling the story left me with.
Having loved Rachel Joyce's original novel "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", I dove into "Perfect" as soon as it was released. After a decent amount of time listening to the story, I had to admit to myself that I wasn't following the narrative at all - so I started over, right back at the beginning. After several more false starts, I decided to go online and find some reviews; was it just me that was confused? Luckily, there was a review on Amazon from a reader with an early release copy of the book, who mentioned that the chapters of the book alternate between the story of the two boys in 1972 (beginning with both the book's preface "The Addition of Time" and the first chapter "Something Terrible") and the story that takes place in our current year - a story of a man nearing 60,(beginning with Chapter Two, entitled "Jim"). From that point on, the chapters switch regularly, with each narrative getting every other chapter.
With that piece of crucial information, I began the book once again; and from that point on, I was entranced. Much like the author's first book, the story is both beautiful and sad; focusing on the cause and effect that relationships, actions, and experiences in our past have on our future lives.
I found this story very touching and honest. Sharing any more about the plot would be a disservice, so I'll leave it at that.
If you enjoyed "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", I believe you'll enjoy this new tale; a very different story, but treated with the same respect and compassion by it's author.
I picked up this book as soon as it came to my attention because there was a time in my life when traveling was my favorite thing, and how I spent every spare penny I could squirrel away. India was always on the wish list, but never came to pass. On average, I tend to enjoy most travel memoirs or stories written by people who have really had the experience of traveling.
The author, William Sutcliffe, did in fact spend about 3 months traveling in India during his gap year, just as the protagonist in this story does. I have no idea if any of the events experienced by the character were shared by the author, but the general spirit of an adventure to a culture really different to your own was certainly very authentic, and told with the humor and affection that I think most people that travel for pleasure look back on their trips with.
Fair warning: there is some discussion/scenes of adult content. None of them are over the top, but it is an aspect of the story. While making the decision on if this selection is a good choice for you, include that in your decision making.
Overall however, I really enjoyed hitching a ride through India with our flawed hero. The level of humor, honesty and accuracy were spot on, and the description of how you look back on the trip after you're back at home could not have rung more true.
It's a quick read (or listen) that left me smiling and remembering my own adventures. The narrator, Tom Lawrence, could not have done a better job and certainly played a huge part in how much I enjoyed this experience.
Night Film was easily one of the best books I've read; not just for 2013, but ever. It has easily made it's way into my top 10 list of all time great books.
While I read Night Film at the end of August, I find it still haunting me as I write this review. This, for me, is one of the true tests of a great book. I can't quite get it out of my head.
Night Film is narrated by the gifted Jake Weber; currently best know for his role on "The Medium", but also credited with countless other movie and television performances. Mr. Weber plays the role of Scott McGrath flawlessly; and as the story is told in first person narrative, it takes on an especially personal tone as he tells the story. He allows the tale to shine through as it slowly, hauntingly, and sometimes terrifyingly weaves it's way through the mystery that is the apparent suicide of Ashley Cordova (the daughter of the legendary, reclusive, cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova) and the rebirth of McGrath's investigation into the director himself; an investigation that years prior ruined both his career and reputation.
Nothing is as it seems - or is everything exactly the way it seems? Does the truth, perhaps, lie somewhere in the middle? Your view may shift, as mine did, back and forth as I repeatedly had to question every assumption and belief I had formed, over and over again, as new information - sometimes truth, sometimes a lie - is layered into the disturbing file of interviews, experiences, and information we gather with McGrath.
The story makes you feel part of this haunting decent into uncertainty you spiral through. By the end, I was uncomfortable, disturbed, fascinated... and satisfied.
The book comes with countless old photographs, magazine articles, and other clippings from the past that make both the investigation and our belief in the mythology of the background all the more real. If you choose to experience the book via the audio version, please note that when you download the book from your library on Audible.com there is also a supplemental PDF Download link offered directly under the title of the book. This will be especially important for your enjoyment of the first small section of the story as it steps you through a New York Times article regarding Ashley's death, and a Time Magazine Photo Spread of historical photos of the Cordova family.
I hope that if you choose to read this book in any form, you enjoy it even a fraction as much as I did. I can tell you that I gave 4 copies as gifts, and all 4 people loved the book as much as I did. Again, I encourage you to experience the story as only Jake Weber can tell it - but no matter what format you choose, prepare to have the experience stay with you for the foreseeable future.
There were aspects to this novel I liked very much, and one I did not like as much. It was a very good thriller/mystery, and provided the reader with many different characters to follow, while always making it easy to keep track of them. The plot moved at a good pace, and always kept my interest.
What I did not expect (as it's not part of the book's synopsis) is that the book is primarily focused on Nazis and the holocaust, with some pretty dark topics and scenes. Some of the things described (types of torture done to the Jews in the concentration camps) are very graphic and dark. Some of it was too much for me, and I wish it hadn't gotten as graphic as it did.
Overall, a good mystery/thriller, as long as you can stomach the topics regarding the holocaust.
I am not a huge Sci-Fi fan. While I have (thanks to some recommendations from my brothers) read a few Sci-Fi stories in the past, it's never been an area I was that comfortable in or drawn to.
When I received notification that my pre-order for Atopia was in my library and ready for download, I was a little stumped; when had I ordered this? Why would I have? I read the synopsis and could see why I may have been drawn to it; dystopian undercurrents, with multiple narrators and points of view... The current senile me thanked the previous, unremembered me for having pre-ordered the story, and I began the book immediately.
As mentioned above, the story is told by multiple points of view with jumping and/or overlapping timelines. You may at times find yourself in the same conversation you've read before, but now from the other character's point of view. Each new section begins with a clear announcement of which character you are about to hear from. In the firsts half of the book, these sections are larger chunks and it takes a while to catch on to the intricate cobweb of shared history that connects all of these people (or perhaps I should instead say sentient beings) together. Then, as you become more comfortable with the format and players, these sections become shorter and faster as the narrative speeds up to it's final conclusion; or at the very least, the conclusion for now.
One of my favorite authors, Michael J. Sullivan, was discussing recently that one of the accepted, identifying qualities of the Science Fiction genre is that it provides us with a forum in which to look at, consider, and discuss moral and ethical ramifications of different choices and ideologies as they are extended into the future. I'd never considered that before, but between his recent Sci-Fi book (Hollow World) and this novel Atopia, I really see what he's talking about. This book gave us a great deal to consider regarding what we call "progress" and "technology" today, asking how far these ideas can be taken before they become something that controls us, rather than something we control.
I believe that for the great majority of people, this is a book that will greatly benefit a second reading; and I am greatly looking forward to mine. Now that I'm more comfortable with the players and the landscape, I believe I'll pick up on a lot of great stuff in the second read that I missed in the first one.
I recommend this book, regardless of what "genres" you typically listen to.
Reconstructing Amelia was an enjoyable book with some a very interesting premise. The chapters go back and forth between the mother's point of view, and the daughter's narration from before her death. We as the readers do finally know the whole truth, but true to life, the mother can only hope to put together enough information to get the basic outline of what happened to her daughter.
I did read a review that compared this book to "Gone Girl", acting like this was the next big thing. While I did find it interesting and enjoyable, I personally would not compare it to Gone Girl. The stories are required to have very different tones since this is a mother/daughter that were close, and it lacks the dark wit and hard edges that made Gone Girl such a great summer read.
There are some issues with the recording towards the beginning; nothing that hinders your ability to hear any words spoken, just a jump in sound quality a few times from an almost echo-y sound to a more dull and muted tone; it made me wonder if anyone listened to the recording before releasing it. It was like bad splicing. Still, this was only a few times towards the beginning; and while it caused some irritation and concern, it did not continue through the book, so don't worry if you notice it towards the beginning.
Speaking as someone who gobbles up a book about every other day, I enjoyed reading this and it was a good selection for me. If that is you also, and you need to find a high volume of selections, I do recommend this. I liked it. If, however, you have less time for your audiobooks and can therefore be super selective in your purchases, then perhaps there are enough books that are even better than this one to read.
Overall, I liked the story. It got a bit far fetched towards the end, but I still enjoyed it overall.
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