If you've never read Jennifer Weiner before, then start with Good In Bed. For Weiner fans The Next Best Thing is an informative saunter through the glitz, glam and gross extravagance of the television industry.
The author does so well with the daily injustices thrust on over-weight women, but her portrayal of one with a disfigured face, with a hot body (of which Weiner is excessively enamored) was off and even grating.
Still, Jennifer Weiner delivers her normal humorous and evocative fare, even with the trite, predictable, pat ending that you generally only see in, well, television sit-coms.
Short and sweet, as satisfying as a perfect fig. Jojo Moyes gives you just enough to taste the brie, smell the baguette and savor the foie gras of 1912 Paris interspersed with 2002 Paris. So well paced, constantly drifting between Sophie and Edouard Lefevre in France during the First World War and 100 years later Liv Halston and her husband David honeymooning in Paris. Moyes scribes vibrant narrative and poignantly paints the passion and pains of those first throws of a relationship. Not simply a love story, Honeymoon in Paris is fascinating historical fiction as well. The ending is amazingly satisfying, which is no easy feat! And yet, there's a novel to which this is actually a prelude - The Girl You Left Behind. Very much looking forward to listening to that now. The narrators, Clare Corbett and Penny Rawlings were excellent. Give this book a solid 10.
Jojo Moyes is quite the story teller—her pace is perfection. Sara, the young horse dancer, is forced to train frustratingly slow. But is pays off big time when it's time to put the horse to the test. So it is with The Horse Dancer. The first scenes were so un-dramatic I wasn't sure I wanted to continue, but then a whole new set of characters take center stage, and the details of the first chapters were invaluable. From then on it was a wild, wrenching extraordinary ride, so well worth it.
I especially love Jojo Moyes' endings. Well timed and satisfying - still I was sad when it was done because the adventure was so amazing. Julia Franklin is a gifted narrator who took on a diverse set of characters and accents with panache, coupling the novel perfectly.
Can't believe that after scribing over 200 novels Nora Roberts has still written such a quality book. I've only read one three-book series of hers, which I infinitely enjoyed, but the writing in this one was eons better. Part of it was due to the excellent narration (her male voices so well done I thought perhaps there were two readers), but her dialogue has matured surprising well since those earlier books. I'm totally impressed with the research she does on her topics. As well as gardening was portrayed in her earlier series, computer hacking and police investigations came alive as if I were watching a documentary. I'm a computer technician, so can vouch for the authenticity of the way she wrote about hacking and programing - it was quite entertaining for me - the law enforcement plot turns I fear are accurate as well, and the Russian mafia, well I've no experience, thank goodness with them, but she's made me quite glad I haven't.
Her main character, Elizabeth was deftly drawn. She grew and changed throughout the story and her possibly unbelievable or even unforgivable actions in the end became totally understandable, even welcomed. So rarely do we get to rectify past wrongs and give the bad guys their comeuppance! That's one of the pleasures good fiction can occasionally offer - the satisfying fantasy!
It's too bad she's relegated to the Romance genre, nothing against that form of novel, but it will deter so many others from reading her books which are so much better written with far more complex characters and plots than most of the other romance novels that I've read (ok only a few sampled, but enough to keep me away from that genre until someone talked me into reading the In The Garden series.)
Roberts wrote so convincingly about law enforcement that I'll probably always question the validity of their actions as reported in the press. As a matter of fact, there was just such a story in the news about an additional possible suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. It so echoed the story line of The Witness, as far as the FBI shooting a suspect during questioning, with no witnesses to the supposed knife attack of agent by the suspect, that I'm now suspicious as to what really went down and why. I'll never be able to take these sorts of headline stories at face value again. And I thank Nora Roberts for that, because we should always question before passing blithe judgement in these situations.
I very much recommend The Witness—fast moving, illuminating, with endearing characters for whom you root until the last page.
Heard so many wonderful things about Elinor Lipman but this was a huge disappointment. I'm not even a quarter of the way through but it's a toss up whether I'll continue with it. there's no perceivable plot and little dialogue, just a narrative by a young girl who is mildly amusing, but not very interesting. Her parents are downright boring and the newest character, the ex-wife is just silly. As to the "discovery" of this first marriage of the narrator's dad, well, it's just not interesting. I really don't care about the details. I really regret wasting my money on this one. Dang! Wish I had read the Amazon reviews and not just the Audible reviews, which turned out to be a bit misleading for me.
These books just get better and better. I immediately dug into Black Rose upon the completion of Nora Roberts' 1st in this series, Blue Dahlia. Black Rose focuses on Roz Harper, the matriarch of the Harper extended family and owner/gardener extraordinaire of In The Garden Nursery - a business about which I might have fantasized had I known it might ever exist. A sprawling garden shop, offering all aspects of floral cultivation on the ancestral homestead (besides the huge and elegant home and warm, cozy cottage where her grown son Harper lives).
Didn't really get enough about Roz in the first book, so I was delighted the second locked in on her trials, tribulations and triumphs - A very feisty, generous and caring women with a green thumb that knows no bounds.
A gardener's delight, an inspiration for those who have never gotten dirt under their nails, a lovely glimpse into Southern culture and a gripping mystery, with a surprising amount of humor thrown in.
A very fun romp of a listen indeed.
Never was drawn to Nora Roberts, but Blue Dahlia tugged at my passion for dahlias and not having ever seen a blue one. The extraordinary landscape designs, the luscious nursery set up, the amazing skills of the gardeners were far more erotic than her sex scenes! (which were pretty steamy.) Oh yeah, the plot was great, the characters, spanning 3 generations, are all folks you root for (pun intended) and there's even a very unpredictable ghost in the magnificent southern ancestral home. Though I'd had two other books lined up, when Blue Dahlia was done I immediately got the next in this series, The Black Rose, because, well, there was no choice. Irrevocably hooked was I.
As talented and sweet to the ears is narrator Susie Breck, the characters, especially the men, confused me at the start. Had to re-wind over and over (actually broke down and bought the paperback). So, here's a list of the characters, that I wish I'd had, to make the first scenes more enjoyable, as this is one delicious series of books:
Setting: In The Garden Nursery at Harper House near Memphis, Tennessee
All the women are gorgeous, the men good looking and the children way beyond average.
STELLA (35ish, widow with two young sons from Minnesota - token Yankee)
ROZ Harper (45ish, matriarch of Harper household, owner/head gardener of Nursery, widow having raised three (?) boys)
HAYLEY (25ish, pregnant with no husband and thus banished from her southern home where she was raised by her father. Distant cousin of Roz)
LOGAN (Late 30's? Landscape designer and gardener, long time employee of Roz, grew up in the area)
DAVID (Late 30's, best buddy of Logan and banished from his family cause he's gay. Manages the Harper House and In The Garden Nursery, family gourmet cook and sage adviser to all.
HARPER (guess he's Harper Harper, haha, she doesn't call him by any other name in the novels. late 20's? Son of Roz, grafter/cultivator extraordinaire)
If you get those folks straight, it's all smooth sailing from there. Excellent muli-dimensional plot and terrific bits about cultivation, grafting and garden design. (Course, it doesn't sound like Tennessee has gophers. Lucky them.)
This is obviously a fantastic place to start with Nora Roberts. Humorous, inspiring female characters, educational with an intriguing mystery—how pleasantly surprised I am to find how well Roberts crafts a story AND sows a seed!
Me Before You is an utterly indescribable book. The publisher's description put me off for quite a long time. But, all the glowing Audible reviews persuaded me to take an aural gander. OMG! Poignant, funny, captivating. Jojo Moyes is a writer to follow. She tackled a subject about which no one really wants to read, and made it an infinitely empathetic, oh so English, witty, inspiring tale of courage, reminding us of the amazing, magical gift another bestows on us when they truly listen and make an effort to understand—really grasp—who we are at our very core.
The narraters were very good, especially Susan Lyons who does the main character. You will finish it, and sigh, and want so much to recommend it to others, but alas, Me Before You totally defies portrayal. All you'll be able to say is, "It's remarkable."
The breakfasts in this book were so savory! Made buttermilk pancakes for the first time in ages!
Elin Hilderbrand's Barefoot: A Novel is the tale of three women, two incidental husbands of opposite character and a young guy's Summer of 42 experience, but this time on Nantucket. It sounds like a formula, but Hilderbrand flushes out the women so well you can forgive her that.
The young dude is Josh, an aspiring writer who grew up on Nantucket but is now on summer break from college. Like the Tarot card The Fool, Josh is instrumental is each woman's quest to survive a sudden upheaval in each of their lives, (that makes your problems seem like mole hills. Though moles have driven me to distraction at times.)
Barefoot in the sand is indeed a cliché but it's spot on for how calming it truly can be. This is how Hilderbrand writes, gently pushing along a plot of oh so human foibles and life's really bad breaks by leaning on friends and family and being there for each other, even if it's awkwardly done. Whether it's grappling with a cheating husband, tossed from one's prestigious academic career because of a sex scandal or enduring the horrifics one must endure with a diagnosis of lung cancer, walking around with sand in one's shoes and pancakes for breakfast do help, although of course it's the people around, and you yourself who have to do most of the heavy lifting. Hilderbrand deftly reminds us why we soldier on, even if the odds suck.
In writing this review I realize I really have no idea why I got so immersed in this story. Perhaps, it was how much all the characters screwed up, but seem to still emerge in one piece, with the strength and wisdom to ignore the ignorant opinions of others. I've always loved listening to other's life tales, and these were exceptionally juicy and ingeniously worked out.
Another reviewer had a hard time with Rachael Warren's narration. But I found her voice very appropriate for the often sharp tongues of the women in the novel and very easy on the ears.
Barefoot is a light read, but a sweet one. I's always a pleasure when everything basically works out. Good grief, life is tough enough; this book provided a lovely reprieve.
In all honesty I expected very little from Silver Girl. A co-worker had been hounding me to read Elin Hilderbrand (her fictional background being Nantucket and me from Connecticut - now in California for the last 3 decades). Reluctant I was, because I rarely like any of the movies or books this co-worker recommends, and that's awkward, eh? So, I caved on this one, and was so pleasantly surprised.
Yes, it made me homesick for the beach house I loved as a kid, but also the characters very much drew me in. They all started out as the vapid, cliché rich—self observed and useful to no one—but remarkably and believably, they all slowly become self aware and have their eyes open to those around them as well.
The novel's take off on the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, was very thought provoking, with Hilderbrand exposing the kind of character capable of cavalierly ruining so many around him. The author also put her spin on that which has perplexed and puzzled me: how a partner could be so oblivious to the sadistic actions of their spouse.
The women were very well drawn - becoming more complex and sympathetic as the plot evolved. The men, well frankly they were a bit like furniture. But that's fine; women rarely write men well, nor do men create much more than Barbie dolls or Raggedy Ann. So why not just focus on the gender you pen best?
Also explored is what happens when your spouse of many years dies. The suffering was very real. And even if the convenient (always handsome and sensitive) boyfriend appeared right at her door, the fantasy was as fun and entertaining as a book can offer.
It's a very good listen that kept me out in the garden after dark and made me actually look forward to my work commute!
PS - The narrators were very good. Lovely voices, both.
Jodi Picoult IS indeed THE Storyteller of our time. All her books grab you at the start, envelope you in intriguing plots and then trash the rest of your life until the inevitable ending, which you put off by reading the last chapter, very, very slowly.
Being a lapsed Jew myself, who has assiduously avoided all things Holocaust (as my Sunday and Hebrew schools filled me to a lifetime capacity of the atrocities,) I've got to admit, Picoult, skillfully brought that dark period of time to life in a way I'd never read before. Admittedly interminable at times, her tale flew by due to the empathy she illicits by drawing such complex, fallible, intelligent characters. The examination of forgiveness was quite fascinating as well. Her dialogue just gets better and better with each novel. Not sure how she manages to elicit a chuckle in the same paragraph that grips your gut.
Since Picoult is such a studious researcher, with each book I learn so much and am of course amply entertained by her excellent dose of low self-esteem female, estranged to men, finding love with the policeman, detective, lawyer or loner. Love the way she weaves in a well crafted mystery, amidst the squabbling siblings and small town eccentrics.
It's interesting to me that another favorite author, Alice Hoffman, also just re-examined the Jewish culture she shed in her youth in a very fine, albeit somber re-telling of the Masada massacre in 70 CE. (hmm…. in The Storyteller the main character, Sage, finds on the bedstead in the apartment of the ex-Nazi "an Alice Hoffman novel.")
Why, in reexamining ones religious roots, would one goes to horrendous genocides instead of looking at the religion itself? Remember, I'm a Jew as well, but still don't see the point of going over and over how we over-came being victims in the past. Where are the novels examining what the Israeli Jews are doing to the Palestinians, and why?
OK, done being a kvetch. Do read The Story Teller because it is indeed an excellent listen and damn fine historical novel as well. (And then answer my question, please?)
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