In all honesty I expected very little from Silver Girl. A co-worker had been hounding me to read Elin Hilderbrand (her fictional background being Nantucket and me from Connecticut - now in California for the last 3 decades). Reluctant I was, because I rarely like any of the movies or books this co-worker recommends, and that's awkward, eh? So, I caved on this one, and was so pleasantly surprised.
Yes, it made me homesick for the beach house I loved as a kid, but also the characters very much drew me in. They all started out as the vapid, cliché rich—self observed and useful to no one—but remarkably and believably, they all slowly become self aware and have their eyes open to those around them as well.
The novel's take off on the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, was very thought provoking, with Hilderbrand exposing the kind of character capable of cavalierly ruining so many around him. The author also put her spin on that which has perplexed and puzzled me: how a partner could be so oblivious to the sadistic actions of their spouse.
The women were very well drawn - becoming more complex and sympathetic as the plot evolved. The men, well frankly they were a bit like furniture. But that's fine; women rarely write men well, nor do men create much more than Barbie dolls or Raggedy Ann. So why not just focus on the gender you pen best?
Also explored is what happens when your spouse of many years dies. The suffering was very real. And even if the convenient (always handsome and sensitive) boyfriend appeared right at her door, the fantasy was as fun and entertaining as a book can offer.
It's a very good listen that kept me out in the garden after dark and made me actually look forward to my work commute!
PS - The narrators were very good. Lovely voices, both.
Reading Jojo Moyes is like settling into an English overstuffed chair in front of a roaring fire. Her characters are like old friends, their tales unfold in scattered pieces you're gathering in like jig saw pieces to a puzzle you can't pull yourself away from. Moyes is a brilliant story teller, her tales totally unpredictable and improbable but such exhilarating fantasies one so satisfyingly can vicariously inhabit. Her people grow and fail and digress and learn and toss around the funniest British banter, no matter what their age. This is one of my favorites of Moyes, each novel of hers I read seems more endearing, funny and illuminating. It's akin to a romp in the hay, except you really don't ever want to stomp romping!
Another very strong chapter in the Outlander series. We jump back and forth between Brianna and Roger's family in 20th century Scotland and Jamie and Claire's adventures amidst the Revolutionary War 200 years ago. The futility, confusion and waste of war is so well portrayed as experienced by the common man or woman. Very fun how Gabaldon interweaves interactions with famous historical figures like George Washington or Daniel Webster. Loved to hear how Benjamin Franklin practiced and preached exposing all of ones skin to sunlight and fresh air for at least an hour a day. Equally fascinating is reading about Benedict Arnold, what he was like and why he turned coat on his country.
Thought provoking always when Gabaldon proposes how Claire and Brianna slipped 20th century knowledge into 18th century every day life. From sneaking in the inclusion of greens and fruits in soldiers' diets for teeth and bones to creating ether to enable surgeries. Whether it's penicillin from moldy bread or kiln firing clay pipes for irrigation, always great fodder for imagining how these things came to be known.
Very prescient for present times to read about how families and individuals survive after losing everything, over and over again. How much courage and strength the common man or woman display on a daily basis, though all one usually reads about in history text books are the decisions of the famous and powerful who are often making moves through selfish, self serving motivation at the cost of so many innocent lives.
In this volume particularly I very much admire Gabaldon's portrayal of strong, charismatic characters, both male and female, who can lead with their hearts and wit and not just brute force.
From start to finish you are immersed in a lush, exciting, world of vivid relationships and the reliving of many historical and scientific events. I learn so much from each of the Outlander books, and Written in My Own Heart's Blood topped the rest. The only thing that relieves the sadness of reading the last page, is the knowledge that on 8/9/14 is the premier of the Starz network series of Outlander, the first novel of this Diana Gabaldon saga.
For ardent fans of Elizabeth George, you've no choice but to listen to Just One Evil Act and you will not regret it. The excellent writing is there, as is the intrigue and the continuing saga of Lynley, Havers and the Met. And of course eminently listenable Davina Porter.
If you've never read George before, then listen to ANY of the many many Elizabeth George novels except the last three. Best to start with her first Inspector Lynley mystery, A Great Deliverance.
All that said, Just One Evil Act is indeed a bit of a chaotic mess of plot and characters. Reminiscent of Italy, actually, getting lost at every turn. That well may be her motivation, as much of the story takes place in Tuscany. The characters are thrown in so quickly, with few fleshed out and no one soliciting empathy. Like one's first days in Naples. But after a week, being enthralled with everything, including the clothes on the line.
The second half is more of the Elizabeth George fare her readers expect - that perfect blend of character, engrossing personal drama and gritty UK mystery. And an intriguing peek into the Italian police process. Barbara Havers and Thomas Lynley may start out weak, and almost feeble minded, but apparently this particular crime was the catharsis they both needed, as in the end....ok, no spoilers here. For the seasoned Elizabeth George listener, this is another treat.
Liane Moriarty is one heck of a story teller. And Tamara Lovatt-Smith was an engaging narrator. This dynamite combo made for a funny and touching narrative to which I could not stop listening, sleep be damned! If a detail was missed or a character mis-placed, I rewound back until I heard it all, every word. So well constructed through dreams, thoughts, flash backs and of course present dialogue, the novel is a joy, even to finish! You actually don't yearn for more. She's parceled out a perfect portion of literature. Not easy to do, making me ardently admire her skill.
Having just heard a true story of a woman who had been in a coma after a car accident, who upon waking found she'd lost the last two years' memories, listening to Moriarty's book I felt she very realistically portrayed what goes on in a mind wracked by amnesia. Both the real car accident woman I read about and fictional Alice had to reckon with the woman they'd become from the perspective of their younger selves. And both came to similar conclusions about their lives and whom they wanted to be. And both felt, in the end the amnesia was a rare gift. Found this intriguing; this tale can't help but make you ponder what you might feel faced with a similar situation. Not a bad life exercise?
In What Alice Forgot, Alice comes to after a fall, in her 40 year old body, but with the mind and character of herself at 30. Utterly fascinating how Moriarty has Alice cope with such a situation. Also dealt with, in the novel, from many viewpoints, how women ruled by biological clocks have to maneuver through marriage changes after children, the myriad of job complications and the heartbreak of infertility, older couplings, female relationships and their far reaching impacts on our lives and much more.
These issues are dealt with touching empathy and frankness. Moriarty wove us through a web of many characters of all ages and brought us to a delicious end. No easy task. Bravo Liane. 5 stars for sure.
Alice Hoffman was my first author crush. The woman who turned me on to Hoffman's novels owned a funky eclectic bookstore where I'd have coffee and book chat whenever I could. With bated breath we'd wait for each new Alice Hoffman book, each one a gem.
Hoffman's world is a dreamy, swim through enchanting, eerie and magical adventures with female and male underdogs conquering all obstacles in life and love. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, once you dive in, holds you as a willing captive, swimming effortlessly through the story, in which you learn, in the most intimate way, about two, otherwise obscure, events in NYC history, through the eyes of the victims and their families. Hoffman is an excellent and thorough researcher, and blends the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and Dreamland fires of 1911 seamlessly into her always mesmerizing plots and characters. Her ventures into historical fiction, totally impress me, and this is her very best effort in this genre.
Vividly brought to life are the workers' struggles of the 1900's, and mistreatment and arbitrary abuse to women, minorities and immigrants. Sadly, it all echoes many of the same problems with which we struggle today.
Well done Alice Hoffman! A loyal fan I remain. Thus, so delighted was I to surprisingly find a fascinating conversation between Alice Hoffman and narrator Judith Light come on following the completion of The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Such a wonderful cure for that odd, black hole in which one finds oneself after finishing a long, really good book. The two discussed the novel, their lives, their passions, their methods, and so much more. Very, very satisfying, particularly after such an excellent read!
Just loved this book. It kept me laughing throughout. Her fearless retelling of the myriad of relationships she's lived through was hilarious and illuminating. Her narration fit the material perfectly. Much like a brilliant night at a comedy club, to which I rarely get to go, this was a real treat. Massive collection of perfect one liners in this book. Ah, but there was some collateral damage—dumped the latest guy in my life. One of her tales matched mine exactly. She saved me much unneeded emotional kerfuffle. My heartfelt thanks Julie!
As a fan of Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love and Committed (brilliant investigation into the history and global reality of marriage) I was a bit off put finding this novel fiction. As always, her research was impeccable and thought provoking, but her dialogue a bit flat. The excellent narration of Juliet Stevenson was obviously a challenge, as often the only way to differentiate the different characters was by accents. But as one of her first published books of fiction, that can be easily forgiven, for only the most seasoned of writers can bring dialogue alive and nuanced. Her story was captivating and the people living in this book came quite alive, albeit mostly by description. The strength of the book was how well she portrayed the plight of the 19th century woman, especially in the sciences. As a gardener, I savored the abundant flora and fauna tales. Much I learn from her books, and this one excelled in this aspect. Do look forward to more of her fiction, so well blended with fact and real historical figures.
Oh my. So poorly written, with such flatly drawn, one dimensional characters, that I stopped listening about a third in. Thank goodness it was free.
The only reason I read this book was because my daughter in law gave it to me, you know how family politics go. It was a delightful surprise. As a life long runner and walker, most of it being along the coast of Northern California, I was leery of how one could make a walk involving enough to fill an entire novel. So often these sorts of books are fueled by bragging rights, and spend far too many pages on how tough is the hiker, who is out there due to preferring the wild to people. (Tedium often ensues.)
Cheryl Strayed (yes, she named herself) pens a story infinitely engrossing. Though the sadness surrounding her mother lasted a bit longer than was comfortable, or interesting, the rest of her story was funny and captivating, making a very satisfying read. That it's a true story made it also an inspiring tale. Her creativity and endurance with ill fitting foot wear was wondrously humorous and, well, totally awesome!
As one who loves history but generally finds historical novels a bit dry and too full of battles, the Outlander series has been a magnificent gift.
Just finished listening, for the 2nd time, the entire seven volume series in anticipation of Gabaldon's 8th addition due out in June. Ha! Seven months absorbed in time traveling back 200 years. Delightful! This second listen/read (always more rich to do both at once with Gabaldon) was far more exciting and rewarding than anticipated. Noticed many more fascinating historical details and the characters were more alive to me than ever. Gabaldon's character development over this 20 year period is intimate and dynamic. Claire is now my age in An Echo in the Bone and quite the avatar of my idealized self. Adore her many flaws, echoing my own, as the wisecracking, irreverent, bull in a china shop. If only to have her sexual prowess!
What I especially love about An Echo in the Bone is the depiction of the Revolutionary War through the eyes of ordinary people, allowing me to finally understand the reality of that war. Her writing gets better and more colorful with each novel, astounding as her first volume, Outlander, was brilliant historical fiction, vividly penned with an impeccably crafted plot, surrounding characters whom you either passionately love or totally abhor. And so much humor and philosophical musing.
Why her books are listed as Romance is infuriatingly baffling. They are definitely the finest of Historical Fiction, if not masterfully scribed Literature.
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