This powerfully insightful first novel is Joan Didion's finest work. A finely-drawn meditation, it focuses on Lily, a shy and melancholy young matron who yearns for love, but struggles with the challenges of everyday life. Thoughtful but unemotional, Lily and Everett are quintessential Central Valley Californians, strong as the rich soil they till, but unable to confront their personal demons. Leading unexamined lives, they are filled with emotions they cannot express, forever reaching, like their gold-seeking forebears, for the real Eldorado that lies still further on, a mirage just beyond their grasp.
The narrator has a pleasant voice while reading descriptive passages of the book, but her character voices are a disaster. Depressed people are not best represented through high, squeaky, baby voices, like every female character in this audiobook had - Sarah, Martha, Edith, even Lily. The midwestern senator inexplicably had a southern accent. Male voices were unrealistic, exaggeratedly low, without nuance. Lily sings off-key, but the narrator merely recites the lyrics in a stiff monotone, failing the author's purpose of adding authentic layers to the setting and character they were so carefully chosen to reflect. However, while the disappointing narration distracts, it cannot diminish the compelling characters and strong storyline of this fine work.
Thought-provoking, riveting, and memorable, Didion's "Run River" is a quiet masterpiece.
Probably the most exciting book I have ever read. The build-up is gradual and precise. Just when you think you've finally got it worked out, you find yourself in the most terrifying scene of all. And the ride is still not over. I'm new to Nelson De Mille, but will be downloading another of his books, in a hurry, which I doubt will be my last.
John Corey is a comfortably anti-social anti-hero. The NYPD detective is staying at his uncle's Long Island summer home while recuperating from the bullets he took in the line of duty. Hard-edged with few social graces, he's a beer-swilling, wise-cracking, hard-loving guy, a bit like Raymond Chandler's Marlowe, but with a personality all his own.
This book will lead you through multiple mazes of intrigue. The number of glittering clues, red herrings, and dead ends is amazing. I think I solved the mystery four different times before I finally did.
The plot is twisted with switch-backs and blind alleys. Every one is so promising, you're sure you've got it. But there's a game-changing new lead around every corner.. The romance is ever-present and equally complicated. Don't get too attached to any outcome. It will change, repeatedly, before you are safely home.
This adventure has everything: Pirates, robbers, orphans, mysterious strangers, buried treasure, a swimming hole, a ghostly graveyard, a deserted island, a spooky cavern, a sensational murder and more sensational trial, even a brutal and evil villain.
Tom is brash, brave, adventurous, and smart. His mischievous ways are troublesome but endearing. Whether snitching donuts from Aunt Polly's pantry, playing hooky to go swimming, or running away with his friends to Jackson's Island, Tom always has the upper hand. He tricks the Sunday school superintendent, fools his aunt, pranks the schoolmaster, taunts his half-brother, charms the new girl, and teaches his friends an important lesson about whitewashing--and human nature.
Tom is alternately the village darling or the town pariah in this ultimate boyhood tale. His scrapes are sometimes scary, even life-threatening, but he always pulls it off. He is irresistible, and you'll be cheering for him long before he emerges the hero, as you know he will.
Dick Hill's narration is absolutely perfect. He enhances every character through his skillful differentiation, and his accents are authentic to the time and place setting. The shy schoolgirl, the town drunk, the grizzled judge, the "Spaniard," and the kindly widow all come to life through his talented narration.
This is a tale you won't want to end! Just don't be surprised if you find yourself feeling a bit wistful that you didn't grow up on the banks of the Mississippi River in the 1840's, like Tom (and Samuel Clemons, aka Mark Twain) did.
Complex and fascinating characters, layered back story, irresistible setting, and a tightly woven plot make Whiskey Beach one of Ms. Roberts' best. The setting is evocative. Bluff House has a characterization of its own. From Barbie to the beach, every element adds to the beauty of this suspenseful tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat, eager to discover the protagonist, but reluctant for the story to end.
The narrator is awesome. Full differentiation of voices, great resonance, one of the best. His Boston accents are just right, realistic but not overdone. The matriarch's voice reminds me of Rose Kennedy, a quintessential Boston Irish accent.
I tried to listen to this book, for the California setting, and because Steinbeck is so highly regarded. But I had to set it aside, as the themes became too much for me -- people are basically evil; loved ones will betray you; violence is inevitable; self-improvement is futile, as the future is predetermined; eventually, everyone gets hurt. Random people will experience brief glimpses of undeserved happiness/success, for no apparent reason that others could possibly hope to emulate.
A masterpiece of American fiction? While well aware that many readers love this book, the purported greatness eludes me. I hope it gets better after the first several hours. Personally, I could think of absolutely no reason to continue what was, to me, a depressing, degrading, debacle of a book.
Esperanza's privileged childhood in no way prepares her for the brutal reality of the migrant farm worker she abruptly becomes. The unforgettable events that propel Esperanza out of her life of ease and thrust her onto the lowest rung of Depression-era California agricultural work are swift, tragic, and irreversible.
Esperanza's initial attempts to adjust to her new life are inept and unsuccessful, complicated by her anger and arrogance, as she yearns for all she has lost. Slowly, she redefines herself, as she begins to recognize her enduring beliefs and values in unexpected forms in her new circumstances. Her courage and resilience fortify her, and love ultimately lifts her above the perplexing conditions and painful tragedies she must overcome. The fact that "Esperanza" is based on a true story adds considerable emotional depth to this intriguing slice of historical fiction.
The story is enhanced by the truly masterful narration of Trini Alvarado. Ms. Alvarado does not read this book, she performs it, revealing the cultural nuances and inhabiting each character in turn, most especially Esperanza.
If you'd like to hear a neurotic, nasal, New Yorker giving a loooooong, over-the-top monologue about his boyfriends, auditions, therapy sessions, Jewish mother, childhood/ongoing insecurities, drag parties, etc., this is your book.
I wasn't sure I was the right audience for this book, but Seth/Steven dishes it up in a manner both soulful and stylish. He grew on me, I eventually found him iresistable, and I ended up loving this book. Recommended!
Do you live in a country where 110,000 innocent individuals can be taken from their homes at a moments' notice and detained in an isolated location for years with armed guards and no escape? If you're an American, the answer is yes.
In the racist roundup now known as the Japanese Internment, no charges were brought, no appeals were possible, and no due process observed. Families were apprehended without cause, incarcerated in the desert, then unceremoniously "released" three years later, their jobs, homes, and social networks dissolved in the interim.
Jeanne Wakatsuki was 7 years old when her family was forcibly relocated, by the US government, from Long Beach, CA, to the remote, high desert prison camp known as Manzanar. How this unthinkable action affected her, her siblings, and her parents is outlined in this true coming-of-age tale, set in the Japanese internment camp at Manzanar, California.
Through the eyes of a child, but with the wisdom of an adult, Jeanne describes her life in the prison camp, and the impact it had on her family. While she has every reason to be outraged at the injustice, Jeanne tells her story without rancor, focusing on facts, events, and details that let you feel her experience, illuminating a little-known historical series of events. Her memoir is clear-eyed and poignant, an easy listen you won't soon forget.
At the dawn of the great American experiment of democracy, Thomas Jefferson warned us that the price of freedom would be eternal vigilance. Although Jeanne's story happened in WWII, echoes of racism cloaked as national defense again surfaced after 9-11. Those who value freedom need to know Jeanne's story, as a protection against this type of atrocity ever being revisited.
This true story is of a murder that shocked the City of Angels, and became the impetus for dramatic change in police procedure, both in potential hostage situations, and, much later, in recognizing and understanding emotional trauma, PTSD, and survivor's guilt.
The characters are depicted with precision. I feel like I know them, or knew them, as the last of the four recently died (2012). Wambaugh is a master, a former policeman who writes with sensitive eloquence, an understanding of the people and places that makes his work leap off the page and seize your senses.
I first read this book many years ago and have never been free of its spell. The audiobook is even better. The memorable individuals, immortalized in this, Wambaugh's best work, continue to puzzle and fascinate. The onion field is very near what is now Interstate 5 in California's San Joaquin valley, just over the Grapevine from LA. I travel this road frequently, and never pass it without a nod and a prayer for the victims, the fateful events so hauntingly penned here, and the loss of innocence that touched so many people. Thank you, Joseph Wambaugh, for this historical treasure.
Rilla, Anne's most charming child, is on the brink of becoming a woman, full of romantic hopes and dreams, when a far-off war intervenes and changes her life forever. Suddenly, everything familiar is upended, and she is faced with a world unlike any she has ever imagined, even in dear Glen St. Mary, where she has lived all her life. Growing up will require unexpected skills, but Rilla finds her path, laying aside her idle ways as she develops her strengths and selflessly throws herself into tasks far beyond her years. Her joyful nature is tested but not overcome, as she weaves her life with strands familiar as well as unexpected.
I have purchased all three of the audiobooks of this title, and was extremely disappointed with the other two. Although this book is a favorite, the other narrators just ruined it for me. Anna Fields' narration makes this version the only one worth the listen.
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