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This is a book that is about two brothers, Jim and Bob, and a lifetime of agony each has suffered in his own way as a result of a childhood incident. Each has lived with unspeakable memories about a day where a terrible tragedy occurs. However, though this event brings tremendous hurt to an entire family, nobody speaks about it. One brother is sent to a therapist, but for the most part, the family pushes their pain away to get on with life.
This story begins with their nephew Zach committing a hate crime--does he do it from intent or ignorance of what he is doing? This is the central question that underlies the entire first part of the book, and forces the brothers to face what they have run from looking at all this time.
On another level this is such a book for our time! It addresses the question of differentness, of otherness--whether at the level of family who don't know really know each other, or cultural groups who have uneasy relationships as immigration shifts the balance of community and townspeople must come to grips with the presence of people they cannot understand.
This portion of the book explores the way people respond to outsiders, to those who are not like themselves. The author includes the reality that the Somali immigrants who have located in a Maine town are equally suspicious and wary of the Mainers, with whom they now live, after fleeing political horrors and wars in Somalia. The book seems to point out that none of us, at base, even those comfortable with engaging with those different from themselves, are spared the conflict stirred by the challenge of some who find the presence of otherness threatening. Stepping outside the comfort zone of the known and familiar can be so terrifying that people will do all sorts of things to avoid having to adapt to new people and knowledge, even about those they thought they know the best.
This book explores how family must come to terms with the differences, secrets, conflicted emotions and strangeness of their own members, much as the townspeople must find ways to adapt to the changes of having the Somalis enter with their different language, religion and habits.
The author does a masterful job of depicting the intricate tapestry of love, hate, fear, emotions and reactions to having to come to terms with those they find they do not understand. This is a powerfully written book that will stir the reader with emotion as the story unfolds. There were often times when I found myself wondering, "what would I have felt or done in similar circumstances." That is the genius of this book--it engages the reader deeply, and forces us all to examine our own assumptions and beliefs, as well as telling a deeply moving story. I cannot recommend reading it highly enough. I only wish I could give it 6 stars!
Listened to the first book and enjoyed it a lot. This seemed a disappointment by comparison. I had difficulty distinguishing voices of characters in the narration. The story is basically interesting enough for a historical cozy. But I had hoped for more.
I have always loved Eleanor (Alienor) of Aquitaine--she has sort of been one of my favorite historical characters, and I read everything I find about her. So when I saw Elizabeth Chadwick's book featuring her story, I eagerly got it.
So--for me--and this is just my opinion--it's kind of a wavy-hand thing.(had good points and less good ones). It is a well-written and very interesting book. I don't typically read romance novels, and I realized that's what this would be when I got it, but I think in future I'll look for either historical biography or (maybe) a romance novel. I actually found it fun to listen to--even my husband liked it. But I felt that it might have been a little much to turn this exciting woman of history into a romantic/sexy sort of heroine.
So how can I explain this? I really liked the book. I really love reading about the historical Alienor of Aquitaine. I guess I would prefer, at the end of the day, to have read a more strictly biographical account of her. But that's just my taste--I can really say that the book is good. If I just wasn't trying to square it with the Alienor I've held in my imagination for 50 years, I would have liked it better. As a romance novel--I suspect it is superb (I don't read many--but I think so). As a historical one, just missed my personal taste by a little. But I do recommend it--the book is a good story and a good listen, well-narrated.
I noticed that only one person has rated this book before now, and appears not to have liked it at all. If that listener was unfamiliar with the whole series, it would be easy to understand how difficult it might have been to make sense out of this story. I love this series, and I loved this book. But it is perhaps one that most depends upon knowing and understanding the character of Ian Rutledge up till this point, to allow the book to be interesting and meaningful.
Ian Rutledge is a veteran returned from WWI, injured in body, mind and soul. He feels cautious of other people, has been rejected by the woman he had been engaged to before the war, and has come back to work at Scotland Yard, where he seems to be something of a loner, a man who works best by following his own intuititions. Indeed, he is not exactly "alone," because he suffers from Shell Shock (what we would call PTSD today), and carries within him, the haunting voice of an executed war comrade, along with torturous guilt and memories.
This book possibly is the strongest one in the series, in terms of directly and indirectly alluding to the internal ghosts he is struggling with. The book begins on New Year's Eve, where a woman is doing a seance-like sitting, trying to evoke the dead--which so unnerves him that he has to leave early. He finds shell casings there (and other places) which provoke anxious memories for him. And then his job takes him north, to a spirit-ridden area, where tight-lipped people won't go into the woods, nor reveal why to him because of something that occurred in their past.
The writing of this whole series and especially this book is just word-perfect. I never want one to end. I have read each one in paper, and I'm now coming back to listen--which is a very satisfying experience, as I hear details and grasp more of the psychological aspects of this time in history, and the narration is quite good as well. But even though I recommend this book with as many stars as one could give it, I fully believe this is one book best read only after getting a better sense of what the series/character is about. Otherwise, I can easily understand how disappointing it might have been to listen to--might not have made as much sense in many ways. However, I found it as good as when I first read it, and if one follows the series, this book will most likely be greatly enjoyed at many levels--historical, psychological, good mystery and very unique main character.
I think this is my favorite in the Max Tudor series so far. In this book, Father Max Tudor (a former MI-5 agent and now a priest) has had to leave his village and his pregnant love to go to a nunnery where suspicious events have occurred. He is there to look into the poisoning of Lord Lislelivet, who ate fruitcake laced with something that seemed intended to warn him away.
I thought that beginning (of being poisoned with fruitcake) was either meant to be taken a bit lightly or else it was somewhat awkwardly worked out. But it served its purpose--to get Ftr Tudor to the place where all the mysteries are happening. And unfortunately, things will get worse before they get better.
Let me tell you why I love this series & especially this book. GM Malliet has put this into a convent setting--something that I think it could be challenging to keep interesting for some authors. But Malliet writes with a refreshing dose of modern day observations and comments that are delightfully sprinkled throughout, which contrast with this religious setting where time has all but stood still. She moves deftly back and forth between drawing the listener/reader into the depths of a lifestyle that it is even hard to imagine in this busy world, with comments that remind one that it is indeed taking place in the 21st century.
She has done something else that I think is difficult--she has created a fairly large group of characters, and that can be hard to keep up with in some books. But in this one--the cast of characters are read out in the very beginning--so that was a big help, plus they are so well drawn, that I felt no problem following them.
I think the ending was a little bit too much drawn out--but it turned out to be a complicated situation, and probably needed all the time spent on winding it up. I hope, now that the "seasons" are all used up (in the titles of this series) that Ms. Malliet will still write about Max Tudor. I find this a really enjoyable series, and loved every word of this book. I felt so sorry when it had to finally be over.
I have always enjoyed this series. I believe that Deborah Crombie writes very well--and this was nicely narrated by Gerard Doyle.
In this book, Duncan and Gemma are each dealing with different cases, but Duncan has the greater role, as he is trying to trace the people who seem to have been involved with a frightening bombing incident at St Pancras' train station.
What I really like about this series is that it consistently presents very good mysteries to work out, and the main characters are a touching blended family who always manage to make their kids a priority--despite their busy lives policing. Something I'm noticing though, is that there seem to be so many peripheral characters, that it slightly detracts from Gemma, Duncan, their kids & close assistants in a way that feels (to me) as though the good tension that held with the earlier books is loosening a bit.
Nevertheless, in a series of this sort--where one has followed from the beginning, it is difficult to criticize--expanding acquaintances is the way of life--so it makes sense. But I think I did enjoy the earlier ones a bit more. Still recommend!
A young woman, raised by a group of non-law-abiding uncles, trying to go straight, lands a job as the library assistant in the home of Vera Von Alst--the most hated woman in town. Vera is as prickly as a porcupine, wheelchair bound, and perennially brusque with everyone. Despite that, the few people who work for her do care about her. So when Muriel Delgado mysteriously arrives and upsets the entire arrangement of the household, great suspicion arises. As usual, Jordan Bingham has to take matters into her own hands (with some help from the adoring uncles) to unravel the crimes that have taken place and threaten her (now ex) employer.
This is a really fun series so far. Each book has used a well known author as background, and this time it is Rex Stout, as Jordan channels Archie Goodwin in her mind, for guidance in moving forward to solve the mystery. I suppose this would work as a stand alone, but I think it would be better read in order. Recommend!
After listening to many of the selections in Alexander Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, I wondered if he could possibly match that great series in this new one. I was delighted to listen to "44 Scotland Street," in which he again creates a memorable set of characters and a lovely, meandering and engaging story through which to let them reveal themselves. Brought alive by the wonderful narration of Robert Ian Mackenzie, Pat--who has rented a room with Bruce in Edinburgh, finds herself a job in an art gallery (feeling a bit embarrassed because she is on her 2nd "gap year."). Her neighbors are each fascinating (and often humorous), and the book tells their tales as it shifts back and forth between several stories.
Smith slowly moves the reader/listener through various incidents in the days of the people who live in this house, which were increasingly interesting. Everyone is trying as best they can to get their needs met. Pat somewhat falls in love with Bruce, without realizing that his confidence is not all it appears. Her employer is part of a group who meet regularly at "Big Lou's"--and the reader gradually realizes that she not only dispenses food and drink--but also philosophical advice. The neurotic Irene--whose son is struggling to be a normal little boy despite her smothering attempts, and others. The thing that makes this book a gem is the reliance on good character development, description, and the underlying foundation of solid philosophical concepts that peek through at times.
In the very beginning, I wasn't sure if anything was going to happen, wondering if it was going to be boring. Then I realized that its beauty is in the attention to detail that Smith gives it. And even though things "happen" it seems as though the point is more about who they are than what they do. I would like to also say that the narration gives this book a richness that makes it wonderful to listen to. This is different from his other series, but is equally compelling. I really enjoyed listening to it!
Sarah Bird has written a sometimes heartbreaking, yet very moving story of the parallel lives of two teenaged girls living in Okinawa--separated in time, yet connected in surprising ways. The narration is very good--in that several people contribute to this to bring us more authentically into the atmosphere of the novel.
Tamiko is a young girl who has died of suicide at the height of the invasion by Americans during WWII, when Okinawa was surrendered. She tells her part of the story mostly from the perspective of what is happening at that time (leading to her death)--bringing the listener directly into strong family connections, the life on this island before the war, and contrasting it with the initial brave attempts to win the war--where even the youngest among them feels honored to be doing their part to help the Emperor. She is one of the Lily girls--recruited at first to be in school, but quickly shifted to horrifying experiences as these young girls are sent to be nurses to thewounded Japanese men. Now, her spirit is searching for someone to help her complete her journey to be with her beloved ancestors.
Luz is an American girl, whose mother is the head of the Kadena Air Force base police, and whose sister has been recently killed in Afghanistan. She, too, is desperately searching for meaning, and closure, after something has turned her world upside down. She also is struggling in the beginning with wishes to die, to rejoin her sister in the only way she can think of. She is adrift in her efforts--feeling lack of closeness to her mother or anyone else. Newly moved to the base, she doesn't even initially have close friends to help her with this.
Their two stories begin to combine in surprising ways (which it would be a spoiler to comment more on). The strength of this novel lies, I think, in two places. Bird is excellent at evoking the atmosphere, the sense of what people are feeling, reacting to--their levels of joy (at times) and desperation at others, and how connections with others brings courage to face what must be faced.
The other thing she has done, is provide a wealth of information about how the Okinawans relied on their connection with the "kami" (or spirits of ancestors) to find strength, and the need to return to their ancestral place among them. The story provides a gripping sense of what it must have been like to helplessly face the disaster of your entire world about to come to a catastrophic end and yet continuing on, always treasuring Life. The book is beautifully written and filled with fascinating details about life on Okinawa (past and present).
Much of this book addresses the suffering of the main characters, yet I didn't feel pulled down by it--actually the opposite, it was more inspiring and deeply engaging. I have not read Sarah Bird's previous books, but now I think I will seek them out.
Ronald Siegel, PsyD is an inspiring teacher and psychotherapist, who offers a wealth of information about a practice that has been brought to the western world from the east: mindfulness and meditation. We live such busy, conflicted lives that we often do not even dream that slowing down and tuning in to ourselves is a more effective solution than multi-tasking, working harder, or getting caught up in ever more complicated ways to try to manage it all.
I have been privileged to attend several conferences that Dr. Siegel has given, and I found this series of lectures to be fully as exciting and useful as hearing him in "real time." He is a wonderful speaker, and he does a good job of conveying what I think might be unfamiliar to some, but when put into practice, can bring significant change to our lives.
I feel amazed at the sheer amount of information he is able to convey in such a (relatively) short period of time in these lectures. He gives a good introduction to what mindfulness is--it's origins in Buddhist thought, along with scientific studies that are proving how helpful these methods are proving to be in today's busy, often anxious world. He talks about it's uses in daily life, medical situations and even addictions. Now that there is more evidence than ever before that chronic stress is directly connected to many medical and pain conditions, mindfulness is finding it's place especially in the medical world, as it offers an additional way to address chronic conditions.
I like listening to The Great Courses--in fact, I have been buying and listening to them since they were produced on cassette tapes! (Hint: that was a long time ago :-) Although I have never listened to any Course that I didn't like or appreciate, this one is a 5 star winner in my opinion. It is a well-balanced combination of information, interesting anecdotes, useful ways to employ what he is talking about and he maintains a consistent level of excellence in his talks. Speaking of which, Dr. Siegel "talks" a bit rapidly--you may have to listen hard at times to get it all, but he is clearly speaking fast because he has so much information to convey. If you like listening to something that will change your life in positive ways, this is the Course to use your credit on! I *SO* recommend this!
The good news: this book picks and improves somewhat about halfway through-so should you listen to it, have patience. The basic ingredients are all here--interesting young Mick Malone and Alyssa, a young woman who has been treated like a cousin in his family, go to Scotland, where he plans to do his internship for his college degree. They stay with his grandmother who apparently has purchased a small piece of a manor or castle, along with a title of some sort, in return for her influx of money, meant to help make improvements to the property. Some people pretend to be writing a book about walking paths, who are intent on something entirely different, quickly alter the atmosphere, because murder has intruded upon them. Mick, along with Jock Malone, are the Constabulary who have to manage all this. But many players will become part of the story. It is a fairly fast-moving story which is good.
The less good news: I suppose this is not true, but I had the oddest feeling the author had never stepped foot in Scotland, and was maybe writing as a hobby or something. And the narrator was (at least in the beginning) kind of hard to listen to. I so don't want to criticize him--oddly, I had the sense that he was reading as best he could, and though it sounded a bit amateurish, I wanted to give him something for earnestness and effort.
I don't regret buying or listening to this book, but I'm not champing at the bit to purchase another, either. I might. Just depends on how it might be presented in it's writeup. But I would prefer a different narrator.
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