This novel is made up of what at first seem like merely interlocking stories. The underlying theme is music and authenticity, and the way people in modern life cling to music as a way to hold onto what feels genuine. Some stories are set in the early 1980s, some are set in the future. In time, you come to see how the characters are more closely connected that they seemed initially. But each chapter still stands on its own, except maybe for one that's written in PowerPoint (yes!), and that one works a bit better in print. The narrator is fine, nothing special, but the novel really sneaks up on you, and it ends up feeling like it's about everything, in the way really great novels do.
A clockwork repair guy trying to live a quiet, below-the-radar life in an alternate-present London gets embroiled in a quest to save the world from a doomsday device that works by causing people to experience existential despair.
This is a swashbuckling, steampunkish story, with a lot (but not too much) complexity and Daniel Weyman performs it very well. It's a little like a Neal Stephenson novel, but not nearly so thoughtful. That's why I've given the story three stars. It seemed like too intelligent of a construction to end by romanticizing gangsters and a climax that's an explosion of gleeful violence. Harkaway tries to fudge the issue by making the villain ridiculously evil and his minions a sort of automaton, but you can't have your cake and eat it, too. Either you're smarter than the average action movie, or you're not, and ultimately, Angelmaker isn't. Still, I enjoyed it.
I have a feeling I'd take this novel more seriously if it were read by someone who didn't feel compelled to overact. Phil Gigante seems popular, but I found him often nearly painful to listen to. His conceptions of the characters are cartoonish -- each one has only one mood as far as he's concerned. Since the Bedouin girl is initially angry and snappish, she always sounds angry and snappish, even when she's supposed to be talking about tender feelings. I might try another Saladin Ahmed novel in the future. I like the Middle Eastern context, and I have hopes he'll get past the modified superhero storyline, but I'll stay away from Gigante narrations from now on.
All Jeeves stories are pretty much the same, so I won't go into any detail about the various scrapes Bertie gets into. Suffice to say that Jonathan Cecil is my preferred delivery mechanism for this inimitably funny material.
The various narrators do the best they can with this material, but they don't have much that's good to work with. The central situation -- the dilemma of a child who was conceived to be a tissue donor for her cancer-stricken sister -- is interesting, if potentially sensational. Unfortunately, it's very contrived, particularly the ridiculous ending.
Every character is constantly dispensing little metaphorical homilies and maxims where they compare various emotional situations to the stars, fire, hockey, law, etc. I think they're meant to be underlined by the kind of readers who go, "Oh, what a wise and funny life lesson!" It is incredibly irritating and pat to anyone else. Everyone talks in more or less the same way, with tepid wisecracks that are meant to make them endearing and then super-articulate expressions of their feelings that most real human beings could never produce. Everything they say is on-the-nose, like dialogue from a TV movie. The set-ups are oppressively obvious: The father is a fireman, so of course the acting-out teenage son is a pyromaniac! Duh.
This is the first, and I expect the last, Jodi Picoult novel I'll ever try.
I think this is one of the Librivox recordings made by volunteers and available for free elsewhere on the web. Don't buy it. The narrator, while no doubt well-meaning, isn't able to read the 19C text in a way that matches the actual sense. You'll find it much more difficult to follow than it should be. This sort of amateur production should not be sold, for however little, on Audible.
At this point, I'm as happy to read about Sookie making a casserole for her friend with a new baby as anything else. It's a lot like visiting an old friend. Some long-running story lines get wrapped up in fairly satisfying ways and there's the usual humor, which is so well handled by Johanna Parker. The Sookie-Eric relationship never seemed that tenable to me, so I'm happy to see that Harris is handling their problems realistically. And I like that Sookie is becoming more than "just a waitress" because she could use some more financial and career security.
While I can understand why some long-time listeners are bothered that there isn't more drama or action, I actually think this book is far more fulfilling on that level than the one before. It's not very steamy, though, if that's an issue for you. To me, this is the ultimate comfort listen, and with the exception of the opening scene in a ladies-night strip club (tacky), I found it really pleasing no matter what was going on.
The story is told by Lyman Ward, a grumpy historian pushing 60 who has been disabled by a serious joint problem during the 1970s. To occupy his hours, he is researching the story of his grandparents' marriage, mostly from the perspective of his grandmother, Susan, a "lady" from good Massachusetts stock, shoulder-rubber with writers and artists like Louisa May Alcott and Emerson. Her husband, Oliver Ward, is a mining engineer, and his (very rocky) career takes them all over the West in mid-1800s. This is alternately exhilarating and devastating for her, as their fortunes and hopes go up and down and she feels she's in "exile" from almost anyone who could understand her.
Meanwhile, Lyman hires the caretaker's daughter, a free-spirited counterculture type, and they talk about the differences between the new ways of seeing life and love and his grandmother's. (He mostly gets the best of these discussions.)
The novel won a bunch of prizes when it came out years ago -- well deserved. It's one of the greatest American novel's I've ever read. There were times when, listening to it on my headset, I just had to stop whatever I was doing and just allow the story to happen because I could not do or think of anything else.
Some other notes: This also has to be one of the best novels written by a man from a (mostly) woman's perspective that I've ever read as well, and the narrator, Mark Bramhall, handles this SO well. He has to go from taciturn Western men, to cranky gruff Lyman, to genteel Susan and not make any of them sound like caricatures: Bravo!
Also, finally, what a moving, sad, joyful, compassionate, wise depiction this is of a long marriage, one of the most commonplace and yet mysterious of human experiences.
Just cannot recommend this more highly.
What the many Stieg Larsson imitators don't understand is that it's all about Salander, and while Hand's Cass Neary is older and less moral, she's cut from similar cloth. Her tattoo, Too Tough To Die, says it all. She's unabashedly selfish, and while you might think this would make her unsympathetic, for some reason it's a ton of fun. I love that whenever someone leaves her alone for a minute, she goes to look in their medicine cabinet. It doesn't even occur to her to be ashamed of it!
In this book, the second, after Generation Loss, Cass goes to Iceland and gets mixed up with creepy photograph collectors and Scandinavian black metal bands. She solves a couple of murders somehow (well, with the help of some chemical friends!). This is such a wonderfully written depiction of 1) the Icelandic setting and 2) the magical quality that makes a photograph great rather than just good. Spotting the latter is what Cass is so good at -- she has an eye. I guess it makes her a good detective, too. That and the fact that she's a magnet for trouble.
The narrator of this novel does it just right. Cass is a wisecracker, like Philip Marlowe, but to pull it off you can't try to sound too tough or smart alecky. So if you'd like to read about another Salander-like heroine, only with a mouth on her, look no further
This is a YA adventure story set in the 1950s featuring an American girl (14, I believe), whose screenwriter parents have to leave the US due to the blacklist and relocate to London. She has the usual adjustment troubles, until she gets involved with a group of underground apothecaries who can make potions with magical powers and who are trying to rein in the nuclear arms race. There are chases, a lot of colorful characters, a small dash of romance and wistful ending. I think there will be a sequel, to which I look forward eagerly.
Meloy is a renowned author of adult fiction, and one plus of THE APOTHECARY is that it is exceptionally well-written for a children's book.
Late in WWII, a small plane of US troops went down in a remote part of what was then Dutch New Guinea. Only three survived the crash, including a beautiful, feisty WAC. The area was populated by Stone Age tribes who had had no contact with outsiders. They thought the Americans were spirits. Because the region was impossible to land in for any of the aircraft of the time, paratroopers were dropped in to help the survivors get out -- a group of Filipino-American soldiers who, as was often the case in those days, never got the credit they deserved.
This is a great story, and very well-researched. The author even managed to find some of the original tribesmen who'd met the Americans and got their side of the story. (There were some comical cultural misunderstandings.) The author narrates the book, which made me hesitant, but he does a fine job. Maybe a professional actor could have done a little bit better, but a lot of times they're worse because they don't really understand the material. This is one case of author narration that works very well.
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