I thought the first book wasn’t too bad, but this one is, to use a southern expression, rather a hot mess. Three quarters of the way through I found myself wondering when the “mystery” angle was going to kick in? It sort of did after that, but by then that didn’t really matter, more like, “Oh, it was that person.”
Let’s talk about Cherry, whom another reviewer has labeled “narcissistic”; I tend to agree. She spends her time sulking about slights quite a bit, when not outright provoking hostility from others. At one point, she engages in a nasty bit of badinage with the waitress at a dive (an establishment called “The Viper” could be anything else?), which would’ve been avoided had Cherry not deliberately escalated the situation. Later, when she makes a very nasty remark to her “arch enemy” Shawna, she gets punched in the face. When asked what happened afterwards, she admits that she make the remark, but says defensively, “I didn’t think she’d hit me!” Cherry's crack was the kind of remark that even a Philadelphia Main Line society matron would’ve been hard pressed to ignore. Score one for Shawna. At one point, the locals bristle at the idea of being called “country”; okay then … “yokels” perhaps? Almost all of them seem like something out of Jerry Springer to me. My jaw dropped when Cherry referred to someone as trash, and a moment later tells us how she “honored” her grandmother’s passing with a t shirt featuring that lady’s photo “outlined in Swarovski crystals.” Pot-kettle-black, I’d say. Finally, there’s one subplot that I found fascinating, featuring the one character who isn’t at all trashy, Max Avtaikin. I think of it as The Case of the Suspicious Speedos.
Max is an immigrant from the former Soviet bloc, who seems somehow to be involved with illegal gambling, at least in Cherry’s mind. He lives in a mansion, is single, and husky enough to have the nickname “Bear” which Cherry uses (he generally calls her “Artist” in return). In addition to a light-years-beyond-gorgeous boyfriend, Luke, Cherry has a quasi-ex-husband, Todd, from an annulled quickie Vegas marriage (see Jerry Springer above), who’s also H-O-T. We know this about them because Cherry tells us … often. Todd is employed by Max part-time as a bingo caller, when Max lets the Ladies’ Auxiliary use his property for their games. During one bout of snooping to confirm her suspicion that Max is running an illegal high stakes poker operation in his pool house (involving poor Todd in that sordid scheme, so he needs her “rescuing”), Cherry runs across Todd swimming -- in speedos! She is mortified beyond belief. When she (hysterically) demands to know WHY he is wearing speedos, Todd replies that they are not his, but that Max “loaned” them to him. She never actually questions that single, husky middle aged men routinely have speedos that fit young hunks perfectly lying around as a matter of course. One might get the impression that the games played in the poolhouse might be more of the strip poker variety perhaps? At one point, the plot has Max taking Cherry upstairs to see a painting he bought, with the line, “That is my bedroom (behind the closed door); you do not need to see it.” I suppose if she were that curious, she could just ask Todd?
I would be willing to read the next book, on the assumption the series was actually intended to be a campy parody, ‘cause in that sense, it’s a rip-roaring success!
I've seen reviews that state this one can be read as a stand-alone, which is probably true, but I'd still read the others first. Phil Gigante is a great fit as narrator for the series.
As for the story here, frankly I found the first third or so rather boring, with Apelu moping around on a remote island alone, grieving for his young daughter who'd died on cancer; he blames himself for not having insisted she be treated earlier. The wife and kids are in Western Samoa with her family, except for the older boy, Senele, who comes to live with Apelu later in the story. Anyway ... once one of the pahlonghi (white American) associated with the construction crew is murdered, the action picks up, or at least we have something to go on from there. The ending is quite rushed, almost tacked on, so I didn't really get why the victims were killed specifically?
The book filled time, but if I had to describe it in a single word: grim. Between Apelu's morbid moping, and the nasty characters, it was tough to actually like reading this one. I will give Enright credit for the way he so thoroughly coveys a sense of place and culture. On to the next installment, which just came out ... though probably not right away.
Yes, the author does get carried away with his own schtick at times; however, he's usually informative and funny enough to easily carry what could be dry subject matter if handled differently.
Seems my ancient degree in International Relations really paid off here! Those without a very strong interest in foreign relations would find this one rather a slog I'm afraid, beyond the travel narrative aspects. Audio narration is well done.
Good that this was a short book (non-fiction "novella" as it were), as I never got used to the author's rather verbose, corny style. I suppose it may well be the way Victorian sea captains spoke, and I assumed that the narrator faithfully reproduced that effect, but the result just wasn't for me; had this been a full-length work, I doubt I'd have finished it. The final hour (25%) consists of a second-hand tale from the South Seas written by Slocum, based on reports he says he "translated" with the aid of a Polynesian Bible as his Rosetta Stone; I gave that part a pass.
I had my doubts about "Sailing Alone Around the World", which now goes into the Highly Unlikely category.
and liked it, so thought I'd try the audio edition this time. Carole Boyd was a perfect fit as narrator, truly enhancing my enjoyment of the story!
I suppose this one might qualify as chick-lit, although I could easily see a similar story featuring three brothers with the same family dynamics. At first, I didn't really care for the youngest sister, Retta, much at all; she seemed as though she did get far in using her looks. Barb, the oldest, came off as a tad cold, although she had her moments. As the book went on, I did feel for the middle sister, Faye, having to play "double agent" with both Barb (in terms of keeping Retta from officially joining the agency), as well as Retta (maintaining friendly contact in spite of that). By the end, I was left with the feeling that Barb and Retta are just so different that they can't really identify with each other much, rather than any sort of actual clear animosity. As a bit of a spoiler, there's a clue that Retta's involvements will be "tolerated" on an unofficial basis, even if her sisters aren't ready to have her join the agency as a partner; Retta seenms as though she'd be okay with that, so I would be as well.
Three stars instead of four owing to the plot itself, which like many series set-up books isn't the strongest. I lost track a few times of who was where doing what with the rotating narration, feeling that it wasn't worth the time to keep going back.
If possible, I'd strongly recommend listening to the audio edition, where having three narrators with very distinct voices helps the reader get into character. That's not to say that when each has to voice the others as part of dialogue it didn't work. Barb's reader came across successfully as an older, never married attorney; I can relate to her surprise, and slow acceptance, when one of the characters shows an unexpected interest in her. Faye sounded a bit ... flat to me at first, but I came to realize that her life had been much ... quieter (shall we say) than her attorney sister, or more aggressively flamboyant one. Interestingly, she's the only one given a pronounced Michigan accent. Retta's voice came across as the closest to one I might expect for a cozy mystery audio - a bit snarky, though not obnoxious; her persona keeps the book from just plodding along with the more serious voices of her sisters.
I'm quite interested to see how a second adventure would turn out.
over the author's previous book - night and day! I was able to sustain interest in this one fairly effortlessly, and it was just about the right length as by the time he reached Italy I was ready for things to start wrapping up. Hiring a professional narrator made all the difference, even if the fellow bungled a New York accent (though that voice only lasted a few minutes); his pompous, sneering Spanish fellow was a hoot.
Detective Cristina Molen makes a brief appearance at the beginning, and then the novel starts before the crimes and we work our way forward to the discovery of the bodies; I do not like that method much. Had the characters been engaging, that might've been okay, but they weren't. Instead, the first part was a few hours of listening comprehension (vocabulary practice) for me. The crime investigation was more interesting, and I appreciated the Amsterdam setting; although, I kept wondering what the noun "haya" meant, until I twigged that "La Haya" was The Hague.
Audio narration was easy to follow once I got used to the reader's style.
When it was good, I really got into the author's depictions of Russian culture, but when it was not ... we're talking "Rich Peoples' Problems: Moscow" as a reality show, which is just the teensiest bit difficult to identify with. Your Mileage May Vary here, so AYOR as they say (At Your Own Risk).
Author's self-narration worked fairly well here, which isn't usually the case.
An excellent travel narrative of the nation, beyond the tourist zones of Jakarta and Bali. Pisani visits some fairly remote areas, running across ethnicities that even the folks in the cities aren't aware of themselves ("It's all 'tribal' out there ..."). While she does a great job in relating stories that weren't so funny at the time, but she can laugh at them now (such as going back into a quicksand-like mudhole to retrieve a sandal out of sheer determination); however, the sections of the legal system, and ecological problems, were a bit grim.
Definitely recommended for an insight into the country from a westerner who has spent serious time there, speaking the language fluently. Audio narrator was well-matched to the material.
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