For some reason this book didn't pique my interest when it was first available. It didn't sound remotely interesting. I kept hearing great things about the book but I had no motivation to read it. I eventually bought it when it was on sale, thinking that some day it might be worth reading.
When I finally read the book, I realized that the praise I kept hearing was well deserved. Elizabeth McGovern did a great job with the narration. She matched the period and the main characters perfectly. The characters were extremely well developed and the author did a great job of laying out a complex and multi-staged lifetime in a little over 13 hours. Not that long of book - when compared to other life-spanning fictional sagas. The plot was never predictable. I was continually surprised by the unexpected twists and turns taken.
I assume it is difficult to write about a real person who has a somewhat mythical persona, someone considered "larger than life" through at least a portion of their life. It must be even more difficult when you are attempting to write about them as just a person, not a myth. The author brings Louise Brooks to life, not as a movie star, but as a young lady and then a middle aged woman with the same problems and issues as they rest of us face daily. She made Louise more human and so more likeable.
I am extremely glad I finally read this book. I found it terribly gratifying and satisfying and recommend it heartily.
I knew going in that this was not a light Regency like so many of Heyer's best books. But I found Heyer's account of the Battle of Waterloo in An Infamous Army not only entertaining but educational, so thought I would give this a try as well. And if you like your historical fiction heavy on history and light on plot, you will like this book.
Interestingly, unlike An Infamous Army, where the main characters were fictional but surrounded by real historical figures, in this book, even the main characters were real people. And it sounds like they were fascinating people, or at least they led a fascinating life together. Sir Harry Smith seems to be a real life Forest Gump or Zelig. He somehow managed to be on every continent and just in time to be in every major battle over the course of 30 years. He must have spent half his life on ships. And while I am sure Heyer embellished Lady Smith's character somewhat, the fact that she was a 14 year old war orphan just out of a Spanish convent when she met and married Harry Smith, that she followed Harry throughout his soldier's career and that there are so many towns named after her in Africa makes her a fascinating creature.
It gets a little dry as we slog through battle after battle in Portugal, Spain and France during the Peninsula war, but Heyer infused the journey with humor and graphic descriptions of the conditions.
I did not enjoy this as much as my favorite Heyer novels, but I found it very readable. I recommend.
Barbara O'Neal (Samuel) does a great job of telling relate-able stories of women with very damaged souls. All of her heroines are sympathetic and Elena Alverez may be her most damaged, both physically and emotionally.
There is definitely a romantic aspect to this story and it takes up quite a bit of the book. But all of her relationships are important and we learn as much about Elena and her demons from her relationships with her co-workers and friends as we do from her relationship with the man she ultimately falls in love with. One of the aspects about Elena that made her seem more human to me was her coldness to an old friend who disappointed her. It was an unattractive quality that made her more endearing.
By making these secondary relationships important, the author needs to make the secondary characters interesting in their own right. She does that in this book.
There are always animals in this author's books and they usually play a very important part. I think the dog in this book, probably the most empathetic dog ever, is my favorite. There is also always just a little bit of magic in her books. Not enough to make them too silly. That aspect of the book was handled well. Finally this book, like most of her books , also addresses subjects of importance to the people who live and work in this part of the country. She is sympathetic to both the native and imported ethnic groups that co-exist in this part of the country.
The narration was perfect. I highly recommend this book.
First let me say that Barbara Samuel places most of her books in the same part of the country as this - New Mexico or Colorado and it is evident that she knows the area and the different ethnic groups native to the area very well. She is able to bring a distinct voice to each group of very distinct people that inhabit this area in a way that brings the people and the region alive.
The plot of this novel, an alcoholic mother who lost her marriage, her child and her career and is slowly rebuilding her life could have become maudlin and melodramatic. But the author doesn't focus on the tragedies of Luna's life, she focuses on her rebuilding of her life and that makes a big difference.
If I understand Ms. Samuel and all of her pseudonyms, this book is more of a romance than a women's fiction book, but I actually thought that the romance, while it does take up considerable space in the plot, isn't the main focus of the book. Emphasis is placed on all of her primary relationships, both the good ones and the bad ones, so we get to know Luna as a well rounded character, not just a woman falling in love. There is also considerable attention paid to the relationships of secondary characters in the book, some that Luna has no direct connection to. And yet, even if they are only on the periphery of Luna's life, they also help explain a part of her complex past.
I found this book very compelling. I loved watching all of the characters, if not grow, at least gain in their understanding of themselves. I thought parts of it were terribly poignant and parts had universal applicability. It was essentially a novel of growth and acceptance. It had no highly dramatic climax. It seemed much more like the course of real life.
Bernadette Dunne is one of my favorite narrators. She voices Samuel's characters beautifully.
I highly recommend this book.
I am really tired of books where the entire plot is based upon the fact that the characters are vampires, werewolves and witches. If the book has an interesting premise, well developed characters, a plot that actually requires you to think or introduces you to new ideas and pulls you in emotionally either through humor, sympathy or in some other way AND some of the characters just happen to be vampires, werewolves or witches, then that is fine.
I liked this book because while the plot focuses on the beings themselves, rather than on some larger worldly issue or event, the author introduces a new being that made this book different from the 900,000 other books covering the exact same plot. The main character is a Null, and when otherworldly characters are in her range, they loose all of their power and become human. I don't know if this plot device is enough to sustain multiple books, but it is enough to set at least this first book apart.
One of the pluses of this new character is by her very nature, she is kind of a non-entity. Her importance isn't in what she does, it is in what she makes others "not" do. As a non-entity, then the author doesn't have to spend a lot of time developing Scarlett's character and personality. In fact most of this book seems to reenforce that she has very little character or personality beyond her ability to cancel others out just by her presence. She is certainly not emotionally connected to other characters.
This was obviously an introduction to a series. When I read it, I realized that there were the beginnings of some interesting characters and some interesting story-lines waiting to be developed down the road. For the first book in a series, I think the author did a good job of piquing our interest to learn more. It remains to be seen if she can keep that interest as the series progresses.
The narrator was OK. Occasionally slipping into the annoying category.
This is my first Beth Harbison book. I am not sure I will try her other books. Ms. Harbison creates very interesting characters and the dialog is often witty and humorous. Several critical components necessary to a good book are there. But the interesting characters were unfortunately the secondary characters and they were not utilized fully. This was one of those books that when you finished it, you had no interest in learning what happened next to the main characters, but felt a mild curiosity about some of the secondary ones' futures.
There were three critical flaws with the plot. First, the first half of the book meanders along with basically no plot. She introduces eccentric characters, has some funny dialog, but there is really no story there. Then once she gets to the main relationship of the book, she rushes through it so rapidly, it makes absolutely no sense. She spends so little time on the budding relationship between Gemma and Mac it is hard for the reader to accept that in the last 30 minutes of the audiobook they realize they are madly in love, willing to make major changes in their lives and he accepts what she has been hiding as if it is no big deal. They were virtual strangers. There was no relationship there one minute and the next, they were soul mates who lived happily ever after.
The second flaw was that she did create sympathetic secondary characters and Gemma makes some pretty strong commitments to some of them. Commitments that she evidently abandons, based on the epilogue. That makes Gemma unsympathetic and dislike-able to me. Other characters you become interested in either just disappear or you get a rushed update on them in the epilogue that doesn't bring closure to the characters, and actually seem so out of character you wonder if she forgot what she had written about them previously.
Finally, plots based on coincidences, poor timing, and a characters inability to clear things up when they first get the chance are almost always weak. This was no exception. It was so obvious who the mysterious Mac was it was hard to accept that Gemma really couldn't figure it out. This book would have been much more entertaining if the focus was on building the relationship between the two characters, not on the number of times they "almost" figured it out. It all seemed artificial and contrived.
I finished this book with a sense that the author sat down to write a book that could be narrated in 7 hours and 55 minutes. Shed dilly dallied along with her characters until she looked at the clock, realized she had already written 7 hours and 25 minutes of content and spent the remaining 30 minutes developing and adding an actual plot, bringing it to a conclusion and writing an epilogue.
I've read enough "Chick Lit" to know that they often spend more time on the main characters "inner thoughts" than an actual plot. That can work if the main character's "inner thoughts" are remotely interesting. In this book, they weren't.
The narration was very good. If it had not been I would not have finished this book.
I will start by saying this is a Category Romance written by Barbara Samuel about 20 years ago, so the fact that is sounds terribly dated isn't surprising. When I read historical fiction I expect it to not include modern conveniences, but it is difficult for me to listen to something considered "contemporary" fiction that sounds like it might as well have been set 200 years ago.
I have recently become a fan of Barbara Samuel/Barbara O'Neal's books, so thought I should at least try some of her early works when she wrote under the name Ruth Wind. And if I get past the "dated" issue and the obvious traditional format for books in this genre, the plot itself was fairly interesting.
However, the narration was so poor I barely made it through the book. Mr. Oliver had a pleasant speaking voice and would probably be fine reading a book that didn't require he speak with any type of accent or dialect or include any children characters. But his "Spanish" accent was terrible and his kids' voices were worse. His female voice wasn't great, but probably no worse than most male narrators, and it didn't bother me as much.
The problem went beyond that however. This book was edited terribly. There were at least 10 instances where words or phrases were repeated and you could tell that the editor had inserted the word or phrase without deleting the original.
I am still a Barbara Samuel/Barbara O'Neal fan. And my expectations of her earlier work weren't all that high, so this disappointment won't put me off of her work. But I cannot recommend listening to this audiobook. If you insist on reading this author's early works, read the e-book or paperback instead.
This was not a bad book. Parts of it were enjoyable. It just didn't last. The narration was very good. But I listened to this author's debut book Ain't Misbehavin and thought it was an incredibly well written, entertaining, unique book. The characters were all well developed and quite eccentric. While they were easily recognizable as a certain type of character - a proud, native Texan from a small town, they weren't stereotypical or a caricature of the species.
I don't usually like books that focus on characters from a specific region or heritage. The author usually goes into overkill making the characters the epitome of the obnoxious Texan, or New Jerseyian or Italian, or whatever. That just makes the characters sound stupid and should be insulting to someone who comes from that region or shares that heritage. The author avoided this in Ain't Misbehavin. She doesn't in Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
I felt the characters in this book were not nearly as well developed. And when their actions seemed unbelievable, they weren't just quirky - they really were unbelievable. And they were just too Texan, from good ole boy name of the hero to the fact that every other scene takes place in the same honky tonk. Even the narrator, who is a favorite of mine seemed to spread the Texas a little too thickly. I never understood why Donny Joe was a partner with Etta's grandmother in the B&B. And I certainly didn't understand why everyone seemed to think of Etta's sister's desertion of her only child as only irritating. It went beyond irritating. It not only made Etta's sister Belle a completely unlikeable character with no redeeming qualities, it made Etta less likeable. Her reaction to her sister's actions was so mild it made me think almost as poorly of Etta as it did Belle.
Finally, this book lacked the humor and warmth of Ain't MIsbehavin. I didn't find the characters funny, engaging or particularly likeable. It is hard to like a book if you don't like the characters.
Every so often Heyer wrote a novel that was essentially about a journey, usually dealing with a serious but misunderstood hero who comes across as aloof but is really a hopeless romantic and a scatterbrained heroine who is wise beyond her years and is exactly who the hero has always wanted, even if they didn't know it. Or the scatterbrained female is young and she leads our hero to back to his faithful one true love. Sprig Muslin and the Foundling are two examples. This is another. It was just so formulaic I was frustrated reading it. If it was the first time I read this plot, I would have enjoyed it. But I've read it too many times before.
I am not sure why this author made reading this series so confusing. I enjoyed quite a bit about this book but the entire time I was reading it I knew that there was a great deal of background fact that I knew nothing about, so chunks of this story made very little sense. The gaping holes meant I had difficulty following the plot and understanding the characters.
So I went to her website hoping there would be a FAQ or some other section that would explain what I clearly didn't get. That made it even more confusing. I discovered that the book I was listening to, which Audible labeled Malcom and Suzanne Rannoch Book 1, was originally written as Charles and Melanie Fraser Book 3, although chronologically it was Book 1, except for a new prequel that was just released. There was an attempt to address the character name change - some publisher issue, but that really didn't help, since it seems she continues to refer to Charles and Melanie on the website. The website has "letters" written between Charles and Melanie and a few other characters. I thought they might fill in some of the background, but like the books, they are not published in chronological order and it looks like many are no longer available. I then read the prequel about how Malcom and Suzanne or Charles and Melanie met and married, but it was written after Vienna Waltz and the explanation in the prequel doesn't match the information in Vienna Waltz.
I finished this book and started the next book in the series. But I don't know that I will finish it. I enjoyed Vienna Waltz, but there was just too much I didn't understand, it was too difficult to follow and the writer seems intent on intentionally keeping the series confusing. I think it will take way too much effort to read this series and it isn't well enough written to go through the hassle.
This was a fairly strong debut. The series has promise. It seemed slightly disorganized at the beginning, as if the author thought the reader already had quite a bit of background knowledge. But eventually it made sense. Then the climax got a little jumbled. But while it seemed pretty obvious that Mercy's sister wasn't was saintly as we were led to believe, the author did surprise me with the other villain. If there were a lot of clues, I missed them. And some of his actions prior to the big reveal didn't make much sense in hindsight. But the fact that I was surprised at the big reveal, shows the author has some promise. I am not dying to get my hands on the next book in the series. But I will definitely read it. And I expect it to be an even better experience. The narration was kind of a non-issue and that is a good thing. It didn't overpower the book.
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