I love Elmore Leonard, and his books are almost more fun to listen to than to read, especially when the narration is as superb as Frank Muller's. These are not sophisticated, serpentine whodunits. They are really more character driven than plot oriented. But Leonard has such an engaging and economical way of characterization that you feel these people really exist -- a feeling enhanced by a narrator who makes each character come alive.
As a big fan of Anne Tyler, I was disappointed that I couldn't wait for this book to end. I simply did not find the characters as engaging as I am accustomed to with Tyler's novels and did not find the story compelling either. For the first time, I felt the pace dragged, the story meandered, and the characterization uneven.
The narration didn't help; if anything it reinforced the plodding tempo of the book. Worse, the narrator sounded like a third grade teacher reading to her students.
There are a few Tyler tales I have yet to read, and although I won't delete her from my reading list, I may be a bit more cautious in my next selection.
I typically listen to mysteries or thrillers because they engage my attention more than literary fiction, which can be easy to stray from while driving, etc. But The Interestings thoroughly engaged my attention no matter where I was when I listened. In fact, I looked forward to driving, exercising, whatever and whenever I could just to be able to get back into the story.
What I liked:
• The writing. Wolitzer is a master of the meaningful metaphor. Her analogies are pitch perfect.
• The characters. Wonderfully drawn, fully human, the characters come to life, and you feel you really get to know them as people -- sometimes that's good, sometimes not so much.
• The narration. Well paced and engagingly delivered. Jen Tullock reads like she enjoyed what she was doing.
• The story. The tale explores the lives of 8 young people who meet at a summer camp for the arts, and traces their lives into middle age. We discover through them what it means to have dreams dashed and dreams fulfilled -- and that sometimes it is difficult to determine which is best.
This is a great book and a terrific listen.
This is an excellent story -- a mural in its comprehensiveness, a portrait in its richness of detail.
WARNING: if you are a starchly conservative, closed-minded, tea party zealot, you will NOT like this book. All others should thoroughly enjoy the vastness of the historical scope and the crisp analysis of Jonathan Alter.
The author is not unbiased, and at times inappropriately and unnecessarily subjective. But for the most part, he presents a balanced, thorough, and well-documented account of the 2012 election. But not just the election. One of the book's major strengths is the author's ability to place the campaign in a much larger context, thus giving us a broader and deeper understanding of events, personalities, strategies, and outcomes. For example, he goes to the roots of Republican animus -- what he calls "Obama Derangement Syndrome" -- toward President Obama, the tea party movement, and the congressional gridlock resulting from the attitude of Republican leaders to sacrifice the nation to the aim of making Obama a one-term president.
All the key events are, of course, expertly covered -- the GOP primaries, the 47% remark, the first debate (and subsequent ones), etc. -- but in a way that puts the reader inside the campaign, and helps you to think: Oh, that's why he did that, or, what were they thinking?
I particularly enjoyed Alter's description of the Obama field operation and the technical apparatus behind -- simply masterful.
Finally, and most importantly, this is not just a book of insider politics, or simply those devout followers of Politico. It bears a message, and one that is crucial for politicians and citizens alike.
Just a brief word about the narration, which is done by the author. I generally think authors should not narrate their books (which may seem counterintuitive because, after all, who knows better how the story should be heard?). But just as Jonathan Alter would not turn to an actor to write his book, he would have been better off to turn to an actor to read his book. He doesn't do a poor job, except perhaps for the passages that sound like he's having an asthma attack, but my preference is for a professional to narrate the story as I rely on a professional to write it.
Narration is superb.
Davenport is not only my favorite character, he is my hero. Well, that's hyperbole, but Lucas is unromanticized as a cop and a human being. He has some rough edges, but they don't dominate his character, rather they round out his character.
This is a book that is hard to put down.
This series, and the burgeoning one with that f***king Flowers, is my favorite. I've been trying to analyze how Sandford does it, and I keep coming back to character. Even the minor characters are well developed, believable, and instrumental to understanding the chief character, Davenport. It is more than a collection of well-wrought scenes; it is a compelling story.
He is awesome. He uses a pitch perfect inflection to convey shades or irony, bemusement, and sarcasm, not to mention a full range of other emotions.
This is a wonderful book, particuarly if you lived through Watergate, and even if you didn't. Mallon tackles the whole affairs from the viewpoint of richly drawn characters who come right out of the pages of newspapers -- E. Howard Hunt, Mrs. Nixon, Alice Longworth Roosevelt, Magruder, Dean, Woods, and of course Nixon himself. Though the story is imagined, at least from the inner thoughts of the characters, Mallon's imagination is as sharp and plausible as a scapel. You come to think: Oh, so that's why Mitchell did that, or: Well, now we know what Rosemary Woods was doing. And Mallon's scapel slices deep -- poor Tricia, poor Elliott Richardson.
If you lived through Watergate, it's fun to be the fly on the imaginative wall of Thomas Mallon. If not, here's a better window into Washington than any civics textbook.
Read this book! Please.
I enjoy reading/listening to novels for many reasons, but two come to mind with this book: 1. I like an intriguing story, and 2. I enjoy learning about real world problems, issues, conditions, etc. from characters who can teach me something I don't know. Darkest Corner scores on both those points.
Case in point: I probably would never read a nonfiction book (maybe not even an article) about OCD. But I learned so much from Catherine, not only about the behavior of those who suffer but the backstory that adds the causal dimension, not to mention the remedies that help someone escape the clutches of OCD. You can feel her anguish, grasp her (sometimes bizarre) behavior, even sympathesize with the impatience of her psychologist/boyfriend. You also learn (as Catherine does as well) why a woman finds it difficult to impossible to escape an abusive relationship.
Elizabeth Haynes has done an effective job of organizing the story by switching back and forth between two time periods, four years apart, to explore how Catherine gets drawn into a relationship that turns (almost) deadly, and how she copes with its aftermath. (I am also a sucker for the quaint and generally more accurate language and idioms of the British, which makes this a more enjoyable listen than a read.) Even when the story drags occasionally, you get the sense that it's supposed to drag because the pace reinforces the endless "checking" Catherine must undertake to feel safe.
This is a winner!
In the top five
A truly gifted writer who tells a fascinating story of the Roberts court and the chief justice's strategic brilliance. Interesting takes on all the sitting justices, and insights as well into Obama's judicial philosophy. There is a noticeable tilt to the left, but Toobin is fair to all and generally balanced. You'll never view the Supreme Court in same way after reading this book.
This is mostly a compelling read/listen. The story and subplots are captivating and the characters are well-drawn. As always, Wolfe is a provocative thinker and writer who has a fresh way of looking at old, seemingly settled aspects of American life and culture. So, definitely would recommend.
My only hesitation is a growing impatience with Wolfe's writing style -- the Electric Kool-Aid schtick that was innovative in the '70s, and still refreshing in the '90s, but now is more distracting and annoying than illuminating, like a monotonous drumbeat. Perhaps that comment simply shows my age, but Wolfe's stories with, say, Elmore Leonard's sparse story-telling would be a terrific combination.
Ignatius does a very credible job of crafting and telling his story, with characters who are believable and who matter. But the narration of this book detracted from the story rather than enhancing it. His attempt to alter his voice for different characters, while appreciated from a more skilled narrator, here was annoying, very off-key. And his voice was tuned to hyper-dramatic, which was irritating enough as his default persona, but was even worse in that he made even scene-setting or background explaining narrative sound breathless and urgent. Like an actor trying to perform stage directions.
The story is worth reading, but in this instance, not worth listening to.
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