I like memoirs, and I'm usually attracted to somewhat dysfunctional storylines (like "The Glass Castle," "Beautiful Boy," "Wild," etc.) but this one made me realize what made those other books special: the writing. Apparently I'm not just interested in a trainwreck of a story - it needs to be well constructed and skillfully told. I'm not saying this author doesn't have talent - perhaps she does - but it felt like she was still too closely tied to the events in her story to approach them as a writer rather than simply a grieving sister.
Potentially. She may be a good writer, but she needs to write about something less freshly personal - or employ a better editor to keep it on the rails.
melodramatic, unsympathetic, personal
I was prepared to love this book. So many elements hit me precisely the right way: The language was great; the premise was alluring; the idea of wooden model villages appealed to the quirky collector in me; the details about the radio transmissions fascinated me; and the characters were all intriguing. And yet, I found my brain wandering as I listened. Even though I loved this book on many levels, I struggled to stay focused on it, which is rare for me. I'm not sure if that's because it toggled between different storylines and timelines so quickly, or if the same quirkiness that I loved about it left me feeling a bit scattered, but for whatever reason, I never felt like I really LANDED in this story.
Don't get me wrong - it's well written, a jewel of a premise, and rather well executed. It just fell flat for me. Because so many elements were right, I plan to re-listen to it in a year and see if it was simply a case of bad timing on my part. Despite my reservations, I encourage you to check it out and see what you think. There's a lot to love here.
Color me impressed. I went in with low expectations because this was a first-time author, but I was quickly hooked. The writing was solid, the story well-told and the characters well-developed. There were a couple chapters about 3/4 of the way through when I felt like I'd been duped and it was a book with an agenda (trying to help adopted children stop asking questions about their birth families), but that was fleeting and then quickly dismissed. This was engaging and a fast listen, yet I found myself teary-eyed at the end, which means I cared about the characters. If all debuts could be this solid, we'd be spoiled. I plan to recommend this to my book club, because it's great fodder for discussion.
Disclosure: I'm not a pure Stephen King fan. I haven't read any of his long series and sometimes he loses me when things get a bit too other-worldly. That said, in recent years he's cranked out some books that I'm unable to put down, that I anticipate with the same salivation I normally reserve for fried ice cream. Mr. Mercedes falls into that category.
When King dies, I hope he leaves his body to science so they can autopsy his brain because I'd like to know how someone can have such a dark imagination without being a sociopath himself. In this book, he does a fantastic job writing from the perspective of a killer who takes joy in mowing down innocent civilians waiting in line for a job fair, then plots a very dark game of cat and mouse with a retired detective.
The thing that made this book different than some of his others is that the crimes seemed like they were pulled from the headlines. Unlike my challenge with some of King's other books, this plot line and characters were very much of this world. As it turns out, we just happen to live in scary times.
Definitely recommend this if you're looking for a good summer suspense.
This book had a lot of darkness to it, which I enjoyed. And the author is a solid writer with a big imagination. And who can argue with a murder mystery set at an amusement park?
And yet, something prevented me from really getting into it. It might be that the characters didn't come to life for me, or that there was too much "coincidence" in terms of the crossing of paths, or that there was really only one fully sympathetic character in the lot, or that the ending could've been so much more powerful.
I really wanted to like this. I was hoping for an adult version of Harriet the Spy, told from a boy's perspective. Instead, I got a front seat for the end of a marriage told through one boy's love for his mother. The story itself would be fine if the title didn't gear me up for a sleuth-like tale. The spying felt a bit forced, as if it were an after-thought or a device introduced to filter the narrative. Don't get me wrong - the book gathers steam as it goes and the second-half is better than the first, though I think part of that was my willingness to shift focus and accept the story for what it was rather than what I wanted it to be.
So in summary: it's a fine story if you're looking for a book about the complexity of relationships. If you're only buying it because you liked the cover or title - skip it.
This was my first Kate Morton book, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Bottomline: Based on this one, I'll check out another. If you're looking for great literature, you'll be disappointed. But if you're looking for a mystery that doesn't follow the traditional mold, then you'll enjoy this. I would call it a beach read, but it's a bit longer than your typical vacation book. The story toggles between WWII, the early 1960s and present day, and between narrators - yet it isn't confusing and the pacing doesn't feel contrived or annoying. This is a story of loss, love, second chances, deception and atonement. The narration seems simplistic at times, but it's easily forgiven if you allow yourself to go with the fun of the mystery.
If you've ever been curious about space travel and all the work that goes into it, then you'll find this to be a well-written, interesting true story by a recently retired astronaut. Hadfield is at his best when he's describing the experience since it's as close as I'll ever come to space. The "life lessons" imparted throughout don't really strengthen the story and make it a bit preachy. I think he would've been better served if he'd simply focused on his bio without the take-aways. That said, it's still a great read. It made this week's launch of the Soyuz (and its delay in connecting with ISS) really come to life for me. He seems like a solid human, and I was glad to see that he realized his life's dream.
If Bill Bryson wrote history textbooks, my knowledge on the topic would likely be improved ten-fold. He’s such a great storyteller, he’s able to suss out the interesting details that make people, places and times come to life.
In One Summer, he specifically focuses on the events of 1927, though - in honesty - it seems like that’s kind of an excuse for him to write about whatever he found interesting in the first quarter of the century, since he often backtracks to provide back-story leading up to the events of 1927. Regardless, it’s a great ride. One of the reviews I read criticized the book for being disjointed because Bryson hops from topic to topic without a clear plan. That might bother some people, but I didn’t find it distracting.
This book touches on:
* Babe Ruth
* Lou Gerhig
* Charles Lindbergh
* Henry Ford (in general, but also the Model T, the Model A and - most interestingly - Fordlandia)
* The mafia (specifically Chicago and Al Capone)
This was my first Nora Roberts book. I've long avoided her because I thought she primarily penned formulaic romances. So when this popped up as the Daily Deal, I read the reviews and the majority of them focused on the mystery-aspect of the plot, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to check her out.
I swear, I really did go in with an open mind. But I couldn't even make it half-way through the book before abandoning. The premise was interesting enough and the writing wasn't horrible... but I just find romance/bodice rippers to be lame. Eventually that part of the story outweighed the good and I felt I was wasting my time listening to trash. (Lest you think I'm prudish or anti-sex - I'm not. I just appreciate it being a thin vein of the story as opposed to its main artery.)
Whenever I start a book of historical fiction, I find often get frustrated because the author is so busy trying to construct the setting, that s/he neglects the characters and delivers two-dimensional paper dolls. Not Sue Monk Kidd. This book did a great job establishing very vivid characters and using their personal plights to illuminate the reality of that time period. While it's certainly an exploration of slavery and the morality of "owning" other humans, the real theme is independence - both what it means for slaves, and what it means to the daughter of a prominent southern family. This book doesn't resonate as emotionally as "The Secret Life of Bees," but it's well-written and thought provoking, with characters you can't help but root for.
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