Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes is a charming collection of stories of the South. They range from sweetly sentimental to laugh out loud funny. It is an easy light listen and though I liked some stories better than others I did enjoy all of them. Unfortunately, I did not particularly like Lee Ann Howlett's narration. She wasn't so bad I had to stop listening. I just kept thinking these delightful stories deserved so much better. Despite my criticism of the narration, I do recommend Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes.
A benediction is a blessing and that is exactly what this book is. Kent Haruf writes about the lives of ordinary people in such a way that I'm left feeling I know them and remember them. I wrote a similar comment when reviewing Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. Haruf's ability to look into the soul of his characters reminds me of Stegner.
Benediction is about Dad Lewis who is dying of cancer. The story revolves around his experiences and those of the people who are close to him. It's an unhurried book perfect in it's simplicity. There are no earth shattering twists to the plot. Beautifully written and expertly narrated by Mark Bramhall, it never slides into sentimentality. Ultimately this is an uplifting story that reveals the ways we live and the values we live by. I strongly recommend it and Haruf's other books as well.
Dark Places is the story of Libby Day who, in 1985, helped a jury convict her 15 year-old brother Ben for the brutal murder of her mother and sisters. Now, 25 years later, Ben remains in prison and the money in Libby's trust fund is gone. Unwilling to find a job, Libby accepts an offer from a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. The Kill Society offer to pay Libby to interview Ben and others about the massacre and they are eager to buy family mementos from her.
The story unfolds in alternating chapters between Libby in the present and her family in the hours leading up to the murders. The characters are vivid and believable though not very likable.The chapters play off each other perfectly exposing layer upon layer of ugliness.Gillian Flynn has had the courage to depict the long term damage and consequences of a brutal murder. She almost dares the reader to look away.
This novel succeeds on so many levels. It made me think about what happens to the survivors in the headlines or on the news. In the media limelight they are showered with sympathy, years later they are all but forgotten.
Dark Places is a masterpiece of cold blooded horror. It is not for the squeamish. There is graphic violence to humans and animals. There is sexual content and language that some may find offensive.
If you're looking for a dark (really dark!) mystery that is well crafted and competently narrated, then this is the book for you. I actually enjoyed it more than Gone Girl.
Jodi Picoult fans will be familiar with her usual formula of court-room drama and moral dilemmas. Her endings are never quite spelled out and the ultimate decision about what happens is left for the reader to decide. While still dealing with moral issues, the court-room drama is missing this time. The Storyteller is an historical novel that uses the Holocaust to explore guilt, responsibility and family. Like all Picoult's novels, The Storyteller is exceptionally well researched and the narration is outstanding. However,I did not find the story at all compelling. Vampires? Really? It just did not work for me and yes I did get the analogy Picoult tried to make but it was so unnecessary. All the characters, except the grandmother, felt shallow and contrived. I simply couldn't engage with a disfigured reclusive (not to mention self centered) baker, a 90 year old Nazi who is suddenly overtaken with remorse and a barista who speaks only in haiku (I got distracted counting syllables). Meanwhile, Jesus appears in a loaf of bread, a vampire wrecks havoc in a small village and three sisters are called Sage, Pepper and Saffron. Honestly, it could have been a comedy if it weren't for the grandmother's story. When I was listening to the chapters about Minka growing up in Poland and her time in the concentration camps, I was totally engrossed. It was disturbing and devastating and so unlike the rest of the book. I wanted much more of Minka and much less of everything else.
I used to be Jodi Picoult fan. I have read almost all of her novels but with each new book recently, she tries the same old formula and fails miserably. I miss the days when Picoult wrote novels that I could get lost in and that didn't bore me to death or make me roll my eyes in disbelief.
Between 1854 - 1929 up to 250,000 children whose parents were dead or no longer able to care for them were transported from the East Coast to rural Midwest, Canada and Mexico. Families interested in adoption came to the train station to look them over and placements were often made with little or no attempt to ensure the children's safety or well-being. Unfortunately, many were used as slave labor by those who took them in.
Orphan Train is a fictional account of Vivian who, at 9 years old, was sent on the orphan train to Minnesota. Now 91 years of age, she befriends 17 year old Molly who has been in foster care most her life. The stories of Vivian and Molly run parallel throughout the book and although they seem an unlikely pair a strong bond develops.
Orphan Train is an enjoyable and inspiring listen with enough depth to the characters to keep me invested in their stories.The narration was the only let down for me but it wasn't bad enough to make me want to stop listening. It's a good read that I am happy to recommend.
The View on the Way Down is about the different ways grief and loss affect the lives of the family left behind. The publishers summary makes it clear that one of teenage Emma's brothers has died and part 1 is told from her point of view. Bullied at school, disillusioned with God and becoming ever more miserable at home, she turns to food for comfort. Emma's parents response to the tragedy is to retreat into their own misery barely acknowledging each other or Emma. They are all estranged from the surviving brother.
Put this way, the story sounds simplistic. But don't be fooled by the simple almost gentle way the story unfolds. This book is powerful. It is well researched beautifully written and expertly narrated. I highly recommend this truly amazing story from first time author 25 year old Rebecca Wait. She apparently wrote The View on the Way Down in the evening while working as a teachers assistant. I eagerly await her next novel.
If you liked the movie Sleeping With The Enemy, I believe you will like this book. It is a spine chilling psychological thriller that kept me awake at night and had me checking the door locks. Although some reviewers found the switching between two time periods confusing, I believe Elizabeth Haynes handles the movement between past and present well. The suspense in each period adds to the other, resulting in a story of rising tension. This book is well researched and gives good insight into PTSD and OCD as a result of domestic violence. The strength of the writing and dialogue ensured I found the characters believable. Into The Darkest Corner is a dark and twisted tale. It contains profanity, violence and some moderately graphic sexual content. If these things bother you, then this is not the book for you. The narrators were good, I found them easy on the ear though not the best I've ever heard. I recommend this book and in fact this author. I have since listened to two more of her books and enjoyed both of them.
Believe me when I say, you do not want to read about this book before you actually listen to it. There is absolutely no way to write a review without giving away spoilers..no way at all! All I will say is that it is a poignant story of friendship and survival by turns funny, sad and scary. It is wonderfully written and narrated and it will stay with you long after you have finished listening. In fact, I can almost guarantee it is a book you will listen to a second time.
This book could have been so much better. The format was promising and it is clearly well researched but the central character is irritating and superficial. I became engrossed in the historical fiction which was fascinating. I'd have given the story 4 stars if Brooks had left out the present day nonsense with it's angst and contrived love affair. As for the ending, well, don't get me started on that! The whole thing reads like a screenplay-hence the title of this review. The narration is mediocre. At times, Wren's depiction of the characters is irritating but it wasn't enough to stop me listening.
This is an adult story about the power of words. It is also about children growing up and trying to live a normal life in a time of unbelievable horror. The Book Thief is moving and personal and wonderfully written. I often found myself going back listening to passages a second and even a third time immersing myself in the language. So beautiful and at times so sad. The narration by Dennis Olsen is outstanding. I highly recommend this book and hope it won't get lost in the teen section.
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