This is a novel about Auggie's first year in school - in 5th grade. He had always been home-schooled because of a disease at birth that resulted in a face that horrified many. Auggie gets into a private school, and his parents hope that this will be a safe environment, knowing how cruel children can be to someone who looks so different. Most of the novel is a first person narrative from Auggie's point of view, but some chapters were from the first person perspective of other characters. This novel is moving, funny, and above all else, believable. The adults and children are all portrayed so well - some likeable, some not, and many in that true-to-life gray area. In the years since my own children have grown up, I occasionally listen to juvenile fiction, searching for ones like those I so loved reading to my own kids. I have been invariably disappointed, wondering how books could receive such accolades. This novel was everything I expected, and more. This is so good, it could be read by a child, to a child, or just by an adult (like me). It avoids so many of the predictable plot twists seen so often in youth fiction. I can't say enough about this book.
This police story features two women trying to make it as police officers in Atlanta in the 1970's. A big part of this was about their hurdles in that all-male world of police. I was okay with that, but virtually every male officer we meet is a chauvinistic lout. I could buy that (even as a guy). The women were too naive with a total lack of confidence. Even that I bought, but those women were stupid too often, with me the reader frustrated with their obtuseness. Of course they grow on the job over a very short period of time. It was very predictable. The characters lacked depth and nuance. It is also a book that will appeal more to women, I think. As a guy, I sometimes felt like I was eavesdropping where I was not supposed to be. With all those criticisms, I still gave this three stars because it was a fun engaging cop story where I was rooting for the good guys to beat the bad guys. The writing is good for this genre, and the action sequences are pretty gripping, even if I know where things are going.
I got this book because I have enjoyed many Stephen King novels, and this story seemed similar. The first 15 minutes were great, and then I quickly grew bored. What makes many Stephen King books so good is the way the reader cares about everyday people before the creepiness and supernatural kick in. Thirty years ago, I may have liked this, but I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I had read this before, and I quit halfway through the first part. The novel was too long for me to wait and hope it picked up. Maybe it did, but I didn't care to wait.
This novel had the feel of a true life gritty memoir. It's about trying to fit in during tough high school years. It focuses on three misfit friends and a girlfriend of one. The protagonist deals with the guilt of surviving the death of a brother. Running track is his outlet. The time and place rang true, and as a guy who grew up in the same era, I can say that the author had the language of the times right. There is not too much of a plot line (making it more artsy...), with some themes running through it. You will probably guess the main theme early one, but I won't be a spoiler. The story never engaged me as a whole, yet I enjoyed many parts, and stayed to the end of this short novel.
I have read or listened to many Bill Bryson books, and One Summer is definitely my favorite. It grabbed my interest at the start, and never let go. There were just so many fascinating things that happened in America in 1927. Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, prohibition and gangsters, anarchists, etc.. This book goes deeply enough into the key characters to satisfy, but also has so many fascinating stories. I sometimes look at life today and think with nostalgia about what life must have been like in those simple olden days. Reading this, you see America in 1927 for the good and the bad, and I realize life today is not so bad. If social history has any interest to you, you should try this book. The author narrated it, and it took me a while to get used to his voice. I wish he had left that job to a professional. Still, I loved the book.
In some ways, this was a standard courtroom crime novel. A murder occurs, and we think that the suspect (a former drug dealer who seems to have turned his life around with a degree, a wife, and a child) is innocent, but you never know. I used to love that genre, but too often find myself bored with something I feel I have read too many times. This novel intrigued me because it was written by a judge, with a judge as the protagonist. The novel did not disappoint me. It had a rookie author freshness to it that I enjoyed, and I liked the judge perspective on a capital case. The main characters were believable and the plot moved at a good pace. Only a couple things held this back from being a 5 star book. Some of the secondary characters move in and out of the novel too quickly, and I would forget who they were. The author wanted to share true facts in the local history of capital punishment, but some went on too long. That said, I think that most fans of courtroom fiction will enjoy this. The narrator was especially excellent, differentiating voices so well. One warning - it is clear early on that the author is anti-capital punishment. Most of the reviewers who panned this book were clearly bugged by this, so if that is your political belief, be forewarned.
This biography of Steve Jobs does a great job at capturing the man and the Apple technology he played a big part with. I avoided this book for a long time, thinking that there was no way his story could keep my interest for more than 25 hours. I almost opted for the abridged version, but finally went for the unabridged (if it dragged, I planned to return it and get the abridged). This full book captured my interest from beginning to end. It is well researched and incredibly well written. I credit Jobs for letting the author write whatever he liked. Jobs knew that he was not beloved by all, and wanted an accurate portrayal of his life. This bio captures him in all his brilliance, warts and all. I enjoyed the personal story of this charismatic and irritating man, and I loved reading about the development of so much technology that I know so well. From the Mac computers to the iPods and iPhones, and even the Apple stores with their genius bar, the story of each is fascinating. Even the business end was interesting in this story of a great entrepreneur. I enjoyed this as much as any biography I have listened to. It was also cool that I listened to this on my iPod while using my iPhone for a GPS for a good part of this book. Meanwhile, iTunes organizes my audiobook collection. All thanks to Steve Jobs.
This mystery of a weird rooming house with strange happenings looked like it might be fun at first with a bit of mystery and quirky characters, but those characters never got interesting after the intro, and the plot was very slow moving. I think had I been a 14 year old boy, I might have liked this. The dialog was snappy. After listening to more than half, I found myself thinking more about what I'd listen to next, so I stopped and got a new book.
This is really a one gimmick YA novel. I am a teacher and one of my students said it was her favorite book ever, so I gave it a shot. The gimmick is that a high school girl had committed suicide and left a series of tapes meant to be listened to by the people who caused (in some way) her to take her own life. The novel switches between the girl's tapes and a boy who is listening to them. The boy is not one who treated her poorly, but rather her "almost love." I just never got past the gimmick, and it just sounded to me like someone trying to write a heart-wrenching YA novel. I think a lot of kids, especially girls who like sad romances, will like this. It does touch upon the important issue of teen suicide. As an adult, I was not drawn in, and stopped about an hour from the end.
This mystery-thriller is told as a first person narrative by a woman who was abducted. Each chapter is a one-sided session with a psychiatrist, where Annie, the abductee, does all the talking. The start was compelling, and reminded me of Room (but the start of Room was better). When the story shifted more to the aftermath of Annie's return, the novel reminded me of Prince of Tides, with lots of background on Annie's dysfunctional family (but Prince of Tides was better, with more interesting secondary characters). Unlike Room, which faded in the second half, Still Missing gets better as it shifts to a who-dunnit and post-trauma story. This is not a great novel, but it did manage to keep my interest throughout. A good reader made it easy to listen to, even the parts that were "hard to listen to." Annie calls her abductor "The Freak," and describes many rape scenes in numbing detail, so you should be aware of what you are in for before starting. The protagonist's humanity and strength made it easier to listen to those tough parts.
As a math guy, I was drawn to the novel because it was about a genius girl being taken to a math competition in Scotland. The first two hours did not grab my interest and I was almost ready to stop listening, but then the road trip began, and I was quickly hooked. I really enjoyed the rest of the novel. It's really about a single mother and her two quirky kids trying to scrape by in life. Those characters were great, and the road trip with a virtual stranger was funny and heart-warming, and the rest of the book was great, too. The author found the right balance between interesting and believable (like Anne Tyler usually does), with an energy and sense of humor that made this book a lot of fun.
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