Along with Still Life, this is one of the best books of the series. It's telling - of a séance in the old abandoned Hadley House - is reminiscent of a campfire thriller. The ambiance is set from the first moment the story begins, and the mystery soon follows. The pacing is fast and engaging, and best of all it features the fun, quirky, and imperfect characters from Three Pines in abundance. Their artistic sides are spotlighted in new and interesting ways - Clara's newfound success with her painting and her husband's silent jealousy; Ruth's biting and witty sarcasm which we find is informed by a deeply felt humanism, one which she can only express through poetry and her love for animals; the struggle of less talented artists to succeed in a nearly impossible field. The themes of the story are jealousy, the measure of success, and the struggle to find belonging in a competitive world.
I have only 2 mild criticisms: 1. Penny's writing follows a definitive pattern which makes it too easy by Book 3 to guess who the murderer is and anticipate how the mystery will unfold. This is not a tragic shortcoming, however, because the characters of Three Pines and their struggles are as important to the story, if not more so, than the mystery itself. 2. There is a scene in the end which is so entirely implausible and ridiculous that it threatened to ruin the book. I don't want to give it away, so I'll just say that it includes Inspector Gamache gathering the entire community together and airing all of their private business in public without their consent. For a man who is supposed to be the ideal moral compass (ironically making him by far the least interesting character in the entire series) this move exhibited a startling disrespect for the feelings and privacy of the inhabitants of a town which he supposedly loves. This scene should have been handled differently.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book - one of the best in the series. A tip: It's best enjoyed in the dark!
The narration of this book was extremely frustrating and blocked me from enjoying it. Maloney melodramatically whispers the majority of the book, so that I found myself constantly tuning the volume instead of taking in the book. After whispering the voice of the main character for an extended period of time, he would suddenly switch to the booming voice of a supporting character, causing me to hurry to re-adjust the volume again. He differentiates the voices well, but he needs to speak up. The whispering melodrama does not benefit this audio in the least.
I strongly suggest reading this book rather than listening to Maloney's narration.
This book surprised me. First, it is important to note that, unlike the Elephant Whisperer, the rhinos in this book are more in the background; they are not all-pervasive and the personalities and personal stories of individual rhinos are not emphasized. Instead, it is much more a story about what happens outside the reserve, really touching on the human issues that help or hurt conservation efforts: politics, economics, social and welfare elements, war. Anthony's involvement in the Juba Peace Talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government provided a huge portion of this book, and with good reason: it emphasized the dueling roles of war and peace in conservation efforts, and also highlighted other not-so-glamorous roadblocks, like mundane paperwork and the absurdities of bureaucracy.
This book is a fitting addition to Anthony's corpus of conservation memoirs, providing new perspectives and highlighting how even the minutiae of human existence play vital roles in saving (or losing) wildlife species like the white rhino.
The topic of this book serves as a satirical commentary on American capitalism and the place that money - and the people who have it - hold within society. It is a theme worthy of exploration, but this book lacks the typical spot-on punch of Vonnegut's best work. The message still gets through and in a fairly entertaining fashion, but it falls short of ensuring a lasting impression.
Summerer's narration irritated me at first, but I soon warmed to him. His voice contains a gleeful irony that is perfect for Eliot Rosewater's particular brand of "madness."
This is more of a parable than a short story. It is concise and to the point and very easy to reproduce orally. For example, after hearing this story just once, I know that I could repeat it easily and quickly to another person in order to illustrate a salient point about the human weakness for greed. Tolstoy does it beautifully all the way to the last line, which is perfectly ironic.
Walter Zimmerman's halting, dispassionate, and monotone narration is all the more ironic for the story's exceptional oral qualities.
This is a marvelous book, and exemplary of the level of achievement that can come out of an author's staggering commitment to the exploration of a specific theme. In this case the theme deals overwhelmingly with religion and morality and in particular Christianity - what might it really look like to be a person of faith in the modern world, and what might be the implications on an individual level? Is a human society capable of supporting non-hypocritical morality; and considering a person is capable of such a feat, how would it impact those around him/her? 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' is John Irving's nuanced by flawed answer to that question, and remarkably his Owen is the type of person whom Irving has said would not be able to survive in the modern world ("modernity" being a secondary theme of the novel) because of the weakness of the human character, the willful ignorance of the masses, and lack of faith of most "people of faith". Yet this fact is not explicitly stated in the book, which instead provides a complex exploration of how such a scenario might play out set against a modern Western backdrop whose forces are opposed to both morality and faith - while purporting to be both. Most religious people would probably not recognize themselves in Owen Meany, a fact which Irving exploits as a consuming, fascinating study of what faith actually means, and how it actually shows up. I am not a Christian, but you don't need to be to enjoy this book or take something from it; the message is complex and transcendent.
John Barrett was an exquisite choice to read this book. The best singular narration I've ever heard.
This is audiobook made me laugh hysterically for a few bits, then bored me to tears for a few bits. But in the end, I really only remember laughing. George Carlin read to me before bed every night for about two weeks, and his extremely enthusiastic (if I can use that word) narration held me rapt, even while listening to long lists of oxymorons and Carlin's pet peeves for minutes at a time (some of them were quite witty).
George Carlin reading to me was a nice change of pace.
I am not opposed to gloomy stories generally, but I found this book so profoundly depressing that it started to affect my quality of life and I was relieved when it was over. Kate Winslet's narration is quite good, but her tone certainly does nothing to relieve any of the darkness from the tale, though I doubt it was supposed to. The book is well written but at times seems directionless and un-anchored, though I think that may have been the point.
If you enjoy some of the more grim classics, this is definitely for you.
I was conflicted on how to rate this memoir. It moves quickly and it is about a a subject matter people rarely hear about, providing a look inside a womens prison and into the how the war on drugs affects women. It is not fabulous writing, but its quick, to-the-point pace makes up for it. Cassandra Campbell's narration was intensely irritating at first, but it improves as other characters are introduced and Campbell has a chance to prove herself with the accents, which she does well, assigning different and distinct voices to each of the women so that they come alive.
The author is hyper aware of her privileged status as an upper class white woman in the prison context, and she makes an effort to integrate a lower-class, minority perspective into her writing. But since the cards are not stacked so fiercely against her as they are against most of her fellow inmates, she can do little in this respect except offer empathy. There are several dialogue scenes between Piper and authority figures in the book, where it is more or less revealed that the drug laws in place are not intended for nice upperclass white people like herself, and she is repeatedly told that she doesn't belong there. This is irritating from a policy perspective, because it implies that the other less privileged women in the prison ARE supposed to be there, despite having similar convictions for drug-related crimes. Though she is undoubtedly writing from a place of privilege, it is to Piper's credit that she does try to shed light on the absurdity of drug policy and its motivations and highlight how devastating the war on drugs is for less privileged women, and how the prison system in the US makes the situation worse.
It is worth the credit.
I've always liked these books despite their flimsy story lines and sappy characterizations. There's something comfortable about them and about Ralph Cosham's voice that keeps me returning to this series and helps me overlook the flaws in writing and conception. But this book surprised me.
This is perhaps the best written and conceived book of the series so far. Penny's confidence is clearly growing as her characters and plot lines gain complexity and depth. The best part is that the ending was entirely a surprise, but not a sloppy one as she is prone to. This ending was clearly thought out, and I'm looking forward to the continued evolution of Penny's writing.
The only other Nora Roberts book I've listened to was "The Witness" which I enjoyed because of the narrator - Julie Whalen - and the suspense in the plot. "The Collector" is the polar opposite. The story and characters are so flat and implausible that it seems almost as if the book was published as a rough draft rather than a finished product. But the larger crime was the lack of suspense. This book leaves nothing to the imagination - Roberts fails to lay groundwork for any of the plot lines to give the reader a reason to feel invested in the story or the characters. They all get exactly what they want and it all happens fairly predictably and quickly, with very little real conflict. In contrast, the main character in "The Witness" was on her own for most of that book, learning her lessons, developing her own personality, depending on herself. When a man was finally added, the reader was granted a lengthy period of suspense where it was entirely plausible that she would rebuff him or find herself happier alone. The story's resolution was not a foregone conclusion.
Bottom line: Don't mistake "The Collector" as being on par with "The Witness". You'll be very disappointed.
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