Apparently JL Burke never met a simile he could refuse - I've never seen such an overuse of similes, and to me it's a sign of lazy and heavy-handed writing.; It's a lot more difficult to write a description without a simile than with it, and it's more didactic and heavy handed to write a simile that leaves nothing for the imagination to create or enjoy. While some might say that it results in wonderful description, I say it results in a paint-by-numbers picture rather than a work of art.
And the sloppy plotting......oh, where to begin? Did everyone forget that Sonny has a look alike cousin? Why did the professional assassin make such an amateurish job of trying to kill Dave? What did anyone's recollections of their military past add to the various story lines? And why were there so many subplots?
As for the editing of the audiobook, there were extremely extended pauses - some of 6-7 seconds that made me wonder if the app had stopped working. And at one point, I heard a muted "what's wrong" at the end of the chapter, as if either the mike was still active or the editor had not trimmed out that piece of audio.
I like Mark Hammer's lazy and slow reading pace - it seems very appropriate for a deep south storyline. But he still has problems differentiating voices, and it got confusing sometimes - a really good narrator should allow you to recognize the character without hearing the name spoken.
I never had any intention of reading or listening to this book when it came out. Anything Oprah raves about drops down on my list of experiences I want to partake in.....and then one morning, I looked at Malala's face on the cover and changed my mind. And I was pleased to discover this wasn't the preachy or heavy-handed book about politics and the evils of the Taliban that I was afraid it would be.
Happily, this book is more about a brave young woman than about politics. And it's about her supportive parents, in a place and time when that wasn't always available to girls and young women. I was as much impressed by the life and actions of her father as I was about Malala herself, and I think he and his contributions have been overlooked much of the time. Malala obviously learned a lot from the way he treated his wife and daughter (very different from many others of his culture), the way he fought to build schools and teach children (male and female), and the way he spoke out, organized, and negotiated to make education for all a priority.
It's not surprising that a smart girl from a family like that would also grow up to cherish education and to speak her mind about the importance of everyone having those opportunities. What was surprising (to me) was that it didn't take away from her "normal-ness" as a pre-teen and teenaged girl.....and that comes through in the book. She talks about chatting with school friends about pop music and the Twilight books, and about fighting with her younger brothers over access to toys or a computer. About enjoying going on picnics, and playing cricket. Ordinary stuff that happens to young teenaged girls all over the world.
It's also clear from the book how much Malala loves her home and her country, even while she is saddened by what is going on there (mostly in respect to the rights of women and children, but also that some of her own countrymen have claimed her shooting was either a fake, or an excuse to move to the West). She is also quite clear that her views on Islam have not been changed by the efforts of other groups to instill a fringe fanaticism that is not reflective of true Islam. That while her world has been changed by the Taliban and what has happened to her, she has not.
The narration was wonderful, full of heart and emotion, and sounding young enough to actually be a 16 year old girl (which lends even more realism to the reading).
This is a classic novel of terror, not horror -- it's more about the things that go bump in the night and set off disturbing and paranoid thoughts in people's minds. It's all psychological, no blood-and-guts violence. Still, this story (unlike some other of Jackson's works) doesn't really stand the test of time with respect to the characterizations and dialogue. I didn't like the supposedly witty banter that seemed to take up a lot of time and only made the characters seem superficial and uninteresting. I liked the opening and set up, and I liked the ending, but the middle of the story seemed too lightweight and unfocused.
Yes, this book has a unique point of view and yes, this book has an interesting protagonist, but that doesn't make it a good book, or a well written book. I felt like I was being hit over the head with the same descriptions of that uniqueness (clearly Asperger Syndrome) over and over and over again. Maybe that's the point - that those with Asperger's are very often fixated on something and use phrases or descriptions repetitively? But the author himself has said it's not a book about Asperger's, it's a book about being different and making one's way in the world as an outsider. In that case, I think he wrote a repetitive and overly-long book that made me care less and less about the protagonist as time wore on. Probably would have been a better short story than a short novel.
I've read a couple of Lisa Gardner's DD Warren books before and enjoyed them, but I'm finding this audiobook painful to listen to. I'm only about a tenth of the way through, but I'm writing the review now because I might end up returning this book -- the narration is that bad. I find it slow and unengaged, with limited emotional breadth that does nothing to draw me into the stories or the characters. Still, I'm going to put this book aside and get back to it later. It could be that it pales in comparison to other great audiobooks, and might sound better after a short break.
I've never seen this play produced, but I have seen the movie so I was prepared for the strong language and palpable anger in the dialogue.......and these performers do a wonderful job. The anger and fear is almost palpable among the salesmen of a real estate development as they struggle to sell properties to feed their families and rank higher than their coworkers on the sales board each month, so they can get better sales leads the next month to try and hustle to earn enough to feed their families again.
If you've never listened to a live performance it might take a bit to get used to the sounds of the audience applauding, for instance, but it's worth it to hear this great script and great performers.
In this book, the series takes some significant steps forward - characters are more developed (Ceepak in a relationship, Danny now a full time police officer), and the crime and mystery are more serious and more grisly. That may or may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the light writing style and dialogue are still there. I could have done without the musical accompaniment to the epilogue, though.
Sage is a young woman who befriends an elderly man in her grief support group, and he asks her to kill him as a kind of twisted form of justice for his previous crimes 60+ years before when he was an SS officer..........but that's not really what the book is about. Too bad, because that would have made a more interesting book about justice, forgiveness, sacrifice, self-loathing, and self-doubt.
Instead we get a retrospective story about how Sage's grandmother lived and survived though World War II and internment in Nazi concentration camps, in great part because of her unfinished and ongoing story that she'd written.....the story had captivated an SS officer who helped her survive Auschwitz because he kept wanting to know what happened next in her story. That forms the biggest chunk of the book, and it's mixed with that telling of the story that she (the grandmother) wrote - which bears an unfortunate resemblance to a teen vampire love story. 'I killed for him, isn't that a sign that we were meant to be together?' -- Ugh!
There's a definite undertone of Christian mythology in the book, in spite of the fact that Sage is an atheist and her grandmother was a Jew who survived the holocaust: Mary, Joseph, Adam, and Eve (well, it's actually Eva), all appear and bread is a central thread as the staff of life and livelihood, and the manifestation of the baker's emotions. Overall, I thought it was rather heavy handed in it's symbolism and language.
I think this story pushes the envelope a little too far when it ventures to Hollywood.....had most of the story stayed on the ocean liner crossing the Atlantic, I think it would have been much better. I like the central cast of characters (all except for Queenie - she should have stayed with her new boss), but things reached ridiculous with the wild animals and movie plans. It was a fun romp up to and including New York, and I hope the next installment will stick a little closer to home for the 34th in line to the throne and her Irish beau.
And I hope Queenie gets a job elsewhere and exits from the series!
Katherine Kellgren's narration is always great, but even she was stretched a little too far, especially with the Spanish and Mexican accents. She managed a range of American accents fine, though she was a little over the top with the Western twang too. I'm hoping for a more Euro-centered story next time. Maybe even within the UK. A trip to Darcy's old home, maybe?
If you're captivated by the machinations of wealthy families....well, this might be the book for you. I found the story dragged on and on with predictability, but then the last chapters felt rushed as if Follett felt the need to wrap things up quickly. All the regular suspects are there (the rich snob, the hooker with a heart of gold, the honourable son, the black sheep of the family, the evil foreigner) but they don't add up to anything unexpected and aren't written with much subtlety or imagination. Follett seems to me to write some excellent books and some very average ones, and this is solidly in the second category.
This is my first venture into Russian literature, and I am pleased to say the wonderful narration helped with the difficult nomenclature.......characters are referenced sometimes by their last names, sometimes by their first and middle names, and sometimes by their nicknames - all of which are foreign to my ears. But because of Anthony Heald's narration skills, I could sort out who was whom and keep the story straight. I'm sure it would have been more difficult if I were reading the text.
This is a combination of philosophy, social commentary, and a murder mystery; the murder mystery is the weakest of all the components, I think, and the murder is used mostly as an illustration and as motivation for the rest. That's OK, because the philosophy and moral questions posed by the book are the real meat-and-potatoes of what makes it interesting. This is not an easy book, but it was ultimately worthwhile. Still, it will take some time before I'm ready again to take on another Russian novel that looks at philosophy and society so deeply. I think I need a change of pace now with a bit of fluffy pop fiction - it's good to mix them up.
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