This book just kept getting better. The novel takes place in one day, at one football game. The more I listened, the more surprises and turns of plot. The author has a great feel for 2004 and life in Texas and football and film agents and guys on teams and, yes, young love. The narrator was very strong, good with his characters' voices. I will read The Yellow Birds next, the other highly praised Iraq war novel--but this one was entertaining and insightful. Very sympathetic characters too.
Jonny Valentine is an amazing creation, an 11-year-old pop superstar with a combination of naivete, ambition, sincerity and street smarts--at least about the music business and what it takes to be successful. Teddy Wayne has created a deeply sympathetic character, a boy genius (in his field) surrounded by grown-up handlers who themselves have mixed emotions and motivations, using Jonny while also trying to help him grow. There are touching moments where Jonny's loneliness on his American tour comes through, but also laugh-out-loud moments. Some of the most moving scenes involve Jonny's interactions with kids around his own age, a childhood friend, a budding female singer that could be Jonny's first crush.
After a while, Jonny began to remind me of Huck Finn, another lonely kid traveling the country, trying to handle the world on his own and dealing with manipulative and often selfish adults with humor and increasing maturity. But Huck didn't have video games to distract him.
The narrator has just the right tone, conveying Jonny's longings and his youthful innocence. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and its narration.
This intriguing novel alternates between Seattle in 1962, when the Worlds Fair opened, and Seattle in 2001, when the whiz-kid "father of the fair" resurfaces to run for mayor. The conflict between an aggressive but thoughtful young journalist and the pragmatic, candid civic leader is the heart of the book. While the characters didn't quite come to life for me, the novel presents a realistic look at the ethical dilemmas faced by both ambitious politicians who do what they can for their towns and careful journalists who struggle under deadline and pressure from their editors.
As the novel moves toward its climax, there is real tension over the kind of news story Helen, the reporter, will ultimately write about Roger, the mayoral candidate. Questions linger over the main characters' integrity and drivers--as well as that of potential news sources. Subplots involving the personal lives of the main characters and cameo appearances by celebrity visitors to the fair--LBJ, Elvis, John Glenn, Benny Goodman--provide entertaining diversions.
Richard Poe is my favorite narrator. He brings the right level of drama to his narration, with pauses just when you want to think about what is happening (too many narrators just plow ahead after a startling plot development, and I have to turn off the audio for a while to think about it). He brings the right amount of color to the voices of the characters. A great choice for this enjoyable novel.
I loved this book, about smart teenagers trying to understand their world and get by in Manhattan and Vermont in the late 1980s. The characters are flawed and troubled and sometimes dangerous, but you grow to care about them as the book moves forward. The author successfully shifts to the different points of view of the characters, including their wayward parents. You can always tell that she cares deeply for each of them.
The narration was excellent. I have not experienced this narrator before, but I thought he brought the right note of yearning and wonder to the story. His handling of the different characters' voices was strong without being distracting.
I recently read "A Visit From the Goon Squad," which has similar themes, and I can't say that I preferred one over the other. Both were absorbing and enjoyable novels. But "Goon Squad" was more of a novel composed of short stories (a lot of those these days....), while Ten Thousand Saints was a real novel, focusing on one protagonist with a lot of compelling parallel subplots.
This novel grabs you from the first surprising sentence to the last. The first half of the novel, in which the main character deals with his recollection of how his parents became bank robbers and how that affected his life, is both touching and suspenseful. Del, the main character, just wants to be the geek he is--chess club and raising bees!--but his parents' reckless decisions get in the way. The second half is less compelling, but still well done, as Del tries to adjust to his life as a lonely semi-adult on his own in Canada, surrounded by ambiguous characters.
The narration by Holter Graham is wonderful. He perfectly captures the longing and innocence of Del, as well as his sincerity and sense of character.
This is one of the best novels I have read in a long time. I had read Richard Ford's Independence Day and liked this one much better.
This book was more than a biography of a compelling historic figure. It provided a lively and comprehensive overview of the English religious wars of the early 17th Century and the religious conflicts of early Colonial times in New England, with occasional comparisons to today's similar conflicts.
But the best part was the characterizations. We learned so much about figures like King James and King Charles, Sir Edward Coke and the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Cotton and even leading Narragansett and Mohegan sachems. The book provides a real sense of the day-to-day conflicts that were faced by residents of New England.
Roger Williams was a far more remarkable figure than I had realized. I had always thought of him as a kind of cardboard figure who founded Rhode Island for religious dissidents. But this book brings to life his bravery and his humility, as well as his growing focus on liberty of conscience and toleration of other religions. You can follow the development of his philosophy as the book traces his...well, "adventures" is a good word.
Richard Poe is one of my favorite narrators. I have been listening to him on Recorded Books since something called "The Last Farmer," about an aging but independent midwestern farmer. He does a great job with nonfiction--clear, engaged and likeable.
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