Minneapolis, MN, United States | Member Since 2010
When non-fiction really works, for me it's because there's a magical combination of a well-paced great story, good solid characters and a perfect narrator. That is precisely what "The Boys in the Boat" is all about.
I don't need to review the plot. It's all there in the intro. This is the best way I can describe this book: if you couldn't put "Seabiscuit" down, this is your book. It's a wonderful little slice of history that's written and narrated in a compelling way. If you have a long car trip this summer, this is the perfect book for a mixed audience.
During the long winters we suffer through here in the north, it's really nice to broaden out a bit and discover authors that are new to me. (Anything to break through the boredom.) I have a special admiration for first time authors - the rare breed with the persistence to actually write that debut and get it published. So, I really looked forward to this book. I wanted to love it. I didn't.
There's an underlying grittiness that normally appeals to me. In this case, it wasn't dark - it was bleak. Let's call it Wyoming, as we heard so often. Second, it just needed to be tighter. Everything wandered ... the dialogue, the characters and the plot. There were times when I was really lost as to what was going on. I was about half-way into it and realized I was ready for it to wrap up so I could move on to the next book. That's never a good sign.
I'm seeing rave reviews all over the place and am wondering if I missed something. I don't think so. I think it's a distinctive writing style that will appeal to some people and maybe not so much to others. The bleakness may work for some people. The wordiness may work for some - though I vote for a ruthless editor to the benefit of all. I think I can fairly say it just was not my kind of book. To each his own.
I'm not sure where the writing ends and the narration begins, but together Adler-Olsen and Malcolm are simply terrific. Malcolm has a way of delivering the wry asides and frustration Carl Mørck has with Assad's language mangling that makes me laugh out loud. It gives me the feeling that I'm along for the ride and observing all of this from the back seat. And what a ride it is.
I never quite know where Adler-Olsen is going to take the plot and just when I think I've got it figured out, I find out just how wrong I am. I love how cleverly the characters work off each other. He manages to write about daily life events (and body functions) with such wit. Stomach flu? Who knew it could be hilarious.
This series is a little twisted, sometimes dark and very quirky. (There's always an "ewww!" factor.) It's also first-rate entertainment if you want to bury yourself in a mystery and take a trip into a Denmark you never knew was there.
I hope Graeme Malcolm is called back to narrate the first two books in the series. Carl Mørck just isn't the same without him.
Jussi Adler-Olsen's books have been coming up in my suggested list for a long time. I'm not sure what took me so long to give them a try, but I finally took a look and decided to start with this one. The rave reviews were impossible to ignore and after listening, I think it earned every one. Granted it's not literature, but I still had to give it top honors. Here's why:
This is such a perfectly executed thriller that it should be a "how to" manual for writers. It has an underlying tension that never abates. He ratchets it up a notch from time to time, but it never goes back to zero. There are just enough characters to keep it interesting but not make it a difficult listen. (Meaning, I never had to write anything down to keep them straight.) The characters are quirky with dialogue that's clever and witty. (Meaning, I actually laughed out loud.) It's a thriller, so of course there are horrific things - but this author somehow manages to stay on the psychological side, rather than venturing into the disgusting. When you're not listening and thinking about it, it's the characters that stay with you - not graphic scenes. That's impressive.
Graeme Malcolm's narration is spot-on. It's absolutely perfect for the author and the characters. The combination makes this escapism listening at its finest. I'm so glad to discover an author I like as much (or more than) Nesbo and McKinty. Kudos to all for a credit-worthy listen.
Before I say anything about the book itself, I have to give the narrator a salute. I cannot imagine anyone better to narrate this book. Doyle makes it all work. Truly great work.
As to the book, Neville created a tension that's essential for the genre. The characters were believable and flawed. The "gotcha" was there. There was a tautness to the storyline that kept me listening and trying to figure it out. It was there for 85% of the book and then ... not. I'm not sure what happened, but a solid 4-star listen fell down to a 3.5.
Even though I can't give this a rave review, I'm glad I discovered Stuart Neville and will continue to watch for his books. It's a thoroughly enjoyable listen - undoubtedly due to Doyle's flawless narration. I can't wait to see what else he writes.
I can't give this book 5 stars because it's not quite in the same league as, say, "Winds of War." It's fiction, not literature. But, it is certainly near the top of the list for this genre.
I'm always amazed when an author can make me cheer for the bad guy. Don Winslow does that and more. Frankie is just a fabulous character. You can see him, hear him. I loved the life Winslow created for him. Not far into the book, I was already solidly in his camp. I heard myself say out loud, "Whack him, Frankie!" I knew right then I was hooked.
This is a well-crafted story with realistic dialogue, some shady characters and a great star. I never would have found it had it not been a daily deal. I'm glad I did.
* Let's clarify the headline: a boring car ride with ADULTS. This isn't the book you want for the trip to grandma's house with the kids.
As a glimpse of the politics during the early years of the Roosevelt Administration, this is an interesting book. The old boys club was certainly alive and well in the foreign service arena. I liked hearing about the communication people had - primarily letter-writing - and the way they viewed each other and spoke about each other. Some of the barbs are brutal and quite polished. That kind of writing is gone from our culture except in rare cases and it's fun to hear it.
As a glimpse of a year during Hitler's rise to power, I was less impressed. There's some good info that helps fill in a few blanks about the fear that swept a nation, but I felt that got lost in all the info about Martha and her behavior. There was not enough detail about the events and personalities that ended up having such a gigantic impact on the world during this critical build-up.
I like Larson's work and his meticulous attention to research. But in this particular case, I would have appreciated more of the style of writing that Laura Hillenbrand applies to non-fiction. I think I was expecting more ... more tenseness, more drama, more historical detail.
I'm really not sure how to describe this book. The writing is the best I've encountered in a very long time. Every sentence is loaded. Magnificent? I wonder if that actually does it justice. I know that judging it on normal terms simply won't do.
Though I've read a lot of WWII history, I've never read anything this realistic about the building of the Burma Railway. To say the conditions were horrific doesn't even begin to describe what those men endured. It's heartbreaking on an unimaginable scale.
So there you have it: the most beautiful writing about the ugliest of conditions. With that contrast, it reaches you in a way few books ever can. But it's more than a book about POWs or the building of an impossible railway. The topics are HUGE - love, war, death, forgiveness, loyalty, obedience, honesty - and that's just for starters. Flanagan made me look at everything in a different light. I was surprised who earned my respect and who earned disdain.
Every now and again an award-winner surfaces that I think has really earned its praise. This is in that special category. Brutal, yes. But absolutely gorgeous. This really is one very special book.
I count on books to give me a glimpse of what life is like for other people in environments that are completely different from mine. Settling in with this one, I hoped to get something really insightful about women in Afghanistan. Through the tale of the two main characters, I think I have a better understanding of day-to-day life and the control placed on women. Culturally, it's eye-opening. That's all good - particularly if it's new turf for the reader. My issue had more to do with the writing and the narration.
I hate saying anything negative about an author's first book. But in this particular book, the dialogue feels so stilted that I have to comment on it. I'm not sure if it's an accurate look at the kinds of conversations people have or a flaw in the writing. I just know that sometimes I felt like I was listening to a YA. It felt choppy and was narrated in a way that exaggerated it.
This book will likely be on every book club's reading list for 2015. If it brings awareness, then it has done its job. Though the writing isn't nearly as graceful as I'd hoped, it is very functional. It's a book I liked - but could not love.
I unfairly thought I would be listening to the same kind of mind-bending book as "Fingersmith" - Waters' book with one of the most surprising plot twists of all time. (The subtitle for that one should be "Gotcha!") In this book, as in others, the author has a terrific way of establishing a kind of tautness that keeps you listening well past when you should have hit the stop button. But I kept waiting for the twist ... and waiting. No spoilers here. Just a warning: this is NOT Fingersmith II.
If you have an issue with gay relationships, perhaps you should pass on this and choose something else. It is front and center in this book - and in my mind, is treated with more importance in the storyline than anything else.
I've thoroughly enjoyed all of Louise Penny's books and really looked forward to this, the newest one. I had the pleasure of seeing her in person while she was on her book tour and couldn't wait to dig in.
It's hard to say what I didn't like without a spoiler, and I won't do that. Suffice it to say, the book took a departure from the usual pattern and the way the characters participate in the plots. Gamache has some big shoes to fill, and no one else can really do that.
Penny really took all of the conventions and flipped them 180°. Just like the upside down cover on the book. Interesting, yes. But I hope she knows we rely on her for a certain amount of predictability.
One other note ... if you've never listened to any of the books of this series, you're in for a treat with Ralph Cosham. He's perfect. But don't start with this book. Go back to the beginning and start with the earlier ones. While each one can stand alone, they are best in sequence.
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