I'm a sucker for magical realism and Luanne Rice is one of the best Americans writing in that genre today. Her stories tend to be tightly crafted, her characters masterful and in each book, she creates a world of it's own with new rules for 'the way things work'.
'The Secret Hour' threw me for a loop. The story seemed to uncharacteristically meander. I kept wondering where Rice was going and why certain scenes even existed. I even began to wonder if Rice herself knew where she was going with this dull, uncompelling love story and disappearance mystery. I should have known better: near the end of the book, with one brush stroke in one scene, 'The Secret Hour' pulled itself into a tightly written, enjoyable and very adult fairy tale.
'Oh, duh”, I thought, chiding myself for doubting the author.
Narrator Christina Traister is so very good at narrative passages and so bad at male voices that I thought she was new to her craft and her talent instinctual. With a little vocal training, I thought, she'll be at the top of her game. When I looked her up, I was surprised to find 40 credits to her name and 'The Secret Hour' one of her most recent.
This isn't a book for listeners unfamiliar with Luanne Rice: it's a story that takes patience and trust. You've got to love her work to enjoy 'The Secret Hour'.
I did. In the end.
I absolutely loved Laura Kinsale's 'My Sweet Folly'. It was the most fun I've had listening to an audiobook. Deciding I was ready for another, I researched Kinsale and found 'Flowers from the Storm' to be her most popular.
Yeah: in print.
Flowers is a rollicking love story of malady, madness and misadventure in regency England. Beautifully written with meaty characters and intriguing plot, the audiobook suffers from an insurmountable plot twist; in the first chapter, our hero suffers a stroke that severely impedes thought and speech. Narrator Nicholas Bolton gives a particularly fine vocal performance as the impaired Christian who slowly (almost achingly so) begins to regain his thought process and speech.
Kinsale's integration of Christian's struggle to recover through fragmented speech and thinking is extraordinarily masterful. It is also extraordinarily difficult to understand, commanding the listener's full attention. My listening experience was worn thinner by the necessarily repititous think/speech.
I read for engagement and enjoyment. I listen for distraction. I plan to return this and enjoy a print copy.
I was about to begin this review with" At about three-quarters of the way through this audio book, I find I can't stand another second of it.", then thought I really ought to check how far I am through this interminable story. With almost six hours remaining, I am halfway through. It just felt far longer.
Four Friends is the story of neighboring 'women that run' (as opposed to 'ladies who lunch') experiencing crises in their marriages at the same time. Not far fetched- it happened to me and a few friends about ten years ago and yet- and yet- there is nothing in this book to propel me through the endless analysis and self analysis that are the meat on the bones of a rather thin and uninteresting story.
The story almost seemed a primer for families in crisis; a self help book in disguise, as though the accomplished Ms Carr successfully saved her own marriage and wanted to show people how it's done (and how it's not done).
Of course Four Friends is well written, the characters reasonably three dimensional and narrator Therese Plummer, also quite accomplished, but there is too little story and too much prescriptive literature.
In a chance meeting on a London street, sophisticated Nina encounters old acquaintance and harried new mum Emma. Nina has a much longer memory than Emma and begins to court lonely, forgetful and isolated Emma, 'Her', as Nina thinks of Emma: HER.
Harriet Lane's story is told in two voices, one calculating the other rather oblivious and sweet. There are no real surprises in 'Her', but in the two narratives, Lane makes you care about the finely wrought characters- she makes you hope the inevitable and cataclysmic ending can somehow be averted.
There's no fancy footwork here, no unreliable narrative, misdirection or obstrufication- just taut, excellent storybuilding through two distinct points of view. In fact, 'Her' kind of crept up on me; I was on the fence, thinking it might be a return but after a couple of hours was surprised to find myself utterly engaged.
Narrator Julie Maisey is superb as both characters, but the audio recording of 'Her' needs two distinct voices: a few times I picked up the story in the middle of a chapter and waited or rewound to figure out whether it was Nina or Emma's narrative.
Despite the misjudgment in production, 'Her' ranks somewhere near the top of the 400+ books in my library.
Along with so many other audible listeners, I clamored for the release of One Hundred Years of Solitude in audio version. About a quarter of the way in, I metaphorically slapped myself upside the head, remembering that the character in this book is the family and the town around it. The people of the story are roots, limbs- vingette characters that together grow into a wondrous portrait of a life.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is indeed a great book; it is also an intimate book, a private experience between Marquez and you, his reader. No middleman, not even the best of narrators (and they tried three!) can make it work.
Buy the paperback.
I've really enjoyed SEP's books until now but do not find the act of rape to be an engaging catalyst for a romantic comedy. An unrepentant, mentally ill heroine just doesn't work for me.
Anna Fields was teriffic as usual, but I really don't care to continue with this book.
...and not a very good one at that. After over 14 hours pf painful narrative voice, this dull, drawn out story has absolutely no resolution: the endless budding of a cliched relationship will continue into the next book, the relatively uninteresting detective story will continue into the next book and what of the town- what is with the creepy town? Well- you may find out in the next book.
Which will likely be narrated by Carine Montbertrand, whose male voices sound like the assortment of 'Lollipop Kids' in the Wizard of Oz.
I try to make it a rule not to trash other people's art: a LOT of work goes in the the creation of both the novel and the audio performance but Audible should NEVER have offered this incomplete selection.
Audible uses the word 'classic' to describe The Cuckoo's Calling, but 'intentionally and experimentally hackneyed' might be more appropriate. The phrasing, descriptive writing, dialog, characters and story are a modern exploration of the gumshoe cliche. Sometimes it really works; there is an exciting freshness and ease to the images and dialog created anew from the old style that was a joy to listen to. Sometimes it doesn't; the story and it's characters become bogged down by strict adherence to traditional structure resulting in a predictable and dull ending.
The extraordinary talents of narrator Robert Glenister kept me listening, even after this modern twist on an old cliche lost my interest.
I've forced myself to continue listening to NOS4A2 to the halfway mark and this morning, when I simply couldn't stand the thought of donning headphones wondered "why?".
Why would I continue listening to a story that has nothing to offer the reader? The characters are utterly unengaging, to the point that I could not care less what happens to them next and the story itself is relentlessly dismal and spun out. While I'm leaving this one, I won't write author Joe Hill off- he can REALLY write, bringing scenes and ideas to life as few writers can.
The answer to the question 'why?" lies with Kate Mulgrew's bravura, daring, scenery chewing performance of Hill's words. I've never heard anything like it and although I'm not certain I want to again, in this instance it is a magnificent, outrageous, dialog chomping, scene stomping one woman show.
Do I recommend it? You decide: the audiobook of NOS4A2 is a not-to-be-missed performance of a story in need of serious editing and (as another reviewer wrote) a little heart.
The first 45 minutes of 'The Eyre Affair' amount to a literary Schrodinger's Cat-trick, a paradox I learned from Heinlein in 4 concise minutes of reading when I was 12.
If only one of you, my compatriots, had mentioned Dr Who in the many reviews I read, I'd never have bought this book: I despise Dr Who.....and conversely, someone who enjoys Dr Who is likely to enjoy this book. It is superbly narrated.
Oddly, I think I was warned about this book just two weeks ago, but wasn't given the title. Anybody else read Ian McEwan's 'Sweet Tooth'?
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