Celebrity autobiographies always seem better to me if they are narrated by the celebrity. In Society's Child, Janis Ian reads her own story. While she is not a practiced or dramatic narrator, hearing the book in her own voice increases the listener's personal experience of the events Ian has gone through. As an added bonus, each time the text refers to or discusses a particular song of hers (including at the beginning of each chapter) Ms Ian plays the guitar and sings at least a few bars of the song.
She has led an interesting, and not always very happy, life. Born in 1951 during the McCarthy Commie-hunting days, she had to move with her family from place to place in the New York/New Jersey area because her parents' left-leaning politics made them targets of the FBI and similar organizations, and her father had to keep changing teaching jobs. When she was 13, she wrote "Society's Child," and was touring with the song by the time she was 15. At many of those performances she was baited and threatened by people in the audience, accused of being a "n____-lover". Hard to take when you're 15.
Janis Ian went through a number of travails, many of which seem to have been the result of youth and a too-trusting nature. Several times in her adult life, she ended up close to penniless, and had to scramble to make a living. At the age of 27 she married a Portuguese man who turned out to be both emotionally and physically abusive. Getting out of that marriage while dealing with the IRS over taxes that were never paid by her tax accountant was slow and grueling. Eventually she found the woman who has been her partner for many years, and life has become brighter and fulfilling.
Of course not all of the book is dark. There are many interesting stories, including her meetings and friendships with Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, and the legendary acting coach Stella Adler; and the background and writing of "At Seventeen." And she discusses the happy times in her life.
A number of times in this book, Ian says that she often did not ask for help or even discuss many of her problems because those matters were too personal and she was very uncomfortable discussing personal things. After a number of years in therapy, she was able in her autobiography to reveal and discuss highly personal matters, and she was able to read them in this recording. In the end, what you get from this book is the story of a strong, brave woman who has been through a lot and has managed to reach a balance in her life. Well worth a listen.
In her "Armand Gamache" series (or "Three Pines" series), Louise Penny has created for her readers beloved characters, most of whom live in a beloved village where most of us would love to live. The enchantment of the village of Three Pines rests both in its size (so small it appeaars on no map) and in the wonderfully eccentric characters who inhabit it.
Penny describes this enchanted place so simply, but so meaningfully, that I for one would move there tomorrow if it really existed. But the real wonder of the Three Pines books is the fully developed, yet still maturing, personality of each and every character. Even secondary characters get a good dose of description so that the reader has a good idea of their characters and emotions. And the primary characters, after nine previous books, are so well known to us in all their strengths, eccentricities, and weaknesses that each of their actions in this 10th book can be interpreted against the background of their characters, their pasts, and their previous actions.
For this reason, I highly recommend that a new reader start with the first book in this series, "Still Life", and read in chronological order up to and including The Long Way Home. Starting with #10 would detract greatly from a reader's enjoyment.
This 10th book is not an action book or thriller, but something more like an old-fashioned murder mystery in which a puzzle must be solved. This type of plot seems to me to perfectly reflect the quieter life being led by Gamache since his retirement. While it may not be the favorite type of plot for some Penny fans, it is immensely satisfying to me, because I have an even greater opportunity to become even more familiar with several of the Three Pines residents.
And of course, Ralph Cosham IS Gamache, and all the other regular characters in these books. His performances are perfect, and make the stories even better than the print books!
Marion Chesney is an extremely prolific author, writing both period and contemporary novels and series of mystery and romance under several names, including Marion Chesney and, probably best known, M.C. Beaton. I have read books from several of her series, including contemporary, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian mysteries. I have enjoyed almost all of them. They are written with a light hand, enjoyable without serious pretension.
I have especially enjoyed her Edwardian series and the Hamish MacBeth series. So when I saw a listing for a Chesney Victorian series, I anticipated the pleasure I had experienced in the Edwardian series. Alas, despite the intriguing underlying concept (a set of sisters who have been raised in, and have adopted, the ideals and goals of women's rights, especially women's suffrage), the book felt flat and uninteresting to me.
This book was missing all the light, humorous touches which I had come to expect from Chesney. The characters, especially the sisters, seemed dull and lifeless despite the fact that the plot contained more than a little action. Finally, many of the occurrences in the plot were simply not believable, and no amount of humor could cover up or diminish that fact. Despite the best efforts of narrator Vanessa Benjamin, she could not give this book enough life to make it enjoyable.
I will continue to read other Chesney books for those times when I just want a light, humorous break, but I doubt that I will continue this Waverly Women series.
In "The Silkworm," J.K. Rowling, aka Robert Galbraith, proves that she can write and develop characters in adult detective fiction just as magically as she did in YA fiction where the characters themselves were surrounded by magic. She captivated us through a 7-book series in Harry Potter. Now she/he has created detective Cormoran Strike and Robin, his assistant/protege wannabe. In this second book both Cormoran and Robin grow and become stronger, more mature, and more comfortable with themselves.
Along with the exceptional character development, "Galbraith" provides the reader with lots of characters who are quirky, to say the least, and a great plot which had me keeping up but not able to foresee the twists and turns.
Robert Glenister takes the story and adds even more magic with his narration. He has settled into these characters and, despite a deep voice, he creates believable female voices. All in all, this was a wonderful listening experience. I can't wait for the next book in the series!
I purchased this Audiobook as a result of some good reviews by other listeners whose reviews I respect. Alas, I was not impressed. At times I felt like I was listening to a poorly-written teenage adventure novel. (My apologies to the many extremely well-written and imaginative young adult novels.) I found the main character, Sky Stone, a one-dimensional character who repeatedly goes off on tangents motivated either by anger or by hormones, often ending up in very uncomfortable situations. Secondary characters were not much better, and that only because they appeared in the story for shorter periods of time.
I was made even more aware of the lack of development of the characters in this book when I listened to my next book, The Silkworm, written by J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith, and experienced the marvelous, three-dimensional characters which that writer produces.
That said, the plot of The Profiler's Daughter was fairly engaging, although there were a few too many red herrings. I did enjoy the depiction of the rather stormy relationship of Sky and her Grandmother. I found the narration to be adequate.
Alan Bennett is my all-time favorite writer of dialogue and monologue. He is a master at showing a character's inner feelings without the character's actually knowing he or she is revealing much of anything. And he has an uncanny knack for creating the talk of women: every line, even when pretty far out, sounds absolutely true to the character.
These talents make the "Talking Heads" monologues memorable, ironic and funny at the same time that they are moving and powerful. In particular, "A Lady of Letters," with Patricia Routledge, and "Bed Among the Lentils," with Anna Massey demonstrate the quiet lives of desperation lived by many women.
This is material guaranteed to make you laugh or chuckle and yet be moved by the speakers. Highly recommended!
When you listen to this book, it seems as fresh and current as it was when first published in 1953, with a main character psychopath/sociopath who is charming and ruthless, preying on young women and willing to kill to get what he wants.
Ira Levin was 23 when "A Kiss Before Dying" was published, and I marvel at the taut, complex and frightening plot which he produced. This is especially true when you consider that his other works through his lifetime included "No Time For Sergeants," "The Boys From Brazil," "Rosemary's Baby," and "The Stepford Wives."
While I had previously seen a movie of this story, I had never read the book. The book is sooo much better at building the suspense and keeping you guessing. The author even manages to keep the reader guessing for a while over which of three possible young men is the culprit.
The recording also contains an informative introduction about the author and the book, and how the book was received when it was first published.
Highly recommended to anyone who appreciates taut and careful plotting, and enjoys classic mystery stories.
In "The Secret Vanguard," the 5th book in the Appleby series, Michael Innes starts the plot with a dead poet, then takes us on a wild ride around the English countryside as it was in 1940. Characters are kidnapped by strange foreigners, escapes are engineered, then escapees have to play desperate games of evasion, only to be caught again. As the story goes along, you are told that these bad guys are German agents, and if you stay alert, you will be told how all of this is tied to the murdered poet. The story is great fun, and reminds me a bit of "The Thirty-nine Steps" by John Buchan, which dealt with World War I spies in England.
I enjoy Innes's literate writing, his plots and his characters, especially Inspector Appleby, who is ordered by the Government to join in the chase after the Germans. Matt Addis delivers his usual excellent narration in this story, performing in both educated and regional working class accents in a polished and effective manner.
An excellent way to spend a day or two (or a long drive) listening.
Like other reviewers, I must confess that I have an addiction to all those sequels, variations, and other books which I just call "Austen genre." I have read quite a few and will continue to read more, even if they turn out to be disappointing attempts by writer and/or narrator.
Pamela Aidan's trilogy ("A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman") is among the very best of the Austen genre. Aidan writes quite well, conveying the atmosphere, culture, and daily life of the English upper class during the Regency Period. In addition, she provides a great deal of information about the politics, foreign affairs, and legal matters of that Period. And she does all this while staying very close to Jane Austen's characters and plot in Pride and Prejudice. I found her suppositions about the true natures of the P&P characters to be completely believable and understandable: her Darcy never puts a foot wrong or betrays his principles (until he sees that his principles are mistaken or no longer valid). I enjoyed seeing the fleshing-out of characters like Georgianna and Mr. Bingley, and the introduction of new characters, especially Fletcher, Darcy's valet.
As to the narrator, George Holmes, I had no trouble with his reading. While his cadence is a bit different because of pauses between phrases, the pauses are very slight and, to my mind, create a less-hurried cadence, one more suited to the age in which the book is set. It is my understanding from quite a bit of reading that the upper classes in the Regency Period actually did talk slowly, because they seldom had any sort of deadline which required urgency. In addition, I believe that George Holmes' voice is very well-suited to this book -- light, somewhat delicate, and very much like the voice of a Regency aristocrat (as I have imagined them or heard them in BBC productions).
This was a very enjoyable read, and I have already started volume 2 of the Trilogy.
Set in the village of Kurland St. Mary, "Death Comes to the Village" is the first in a projected series. The mystery plot is intriguing, with several twists along the way, featuring two missing maids from two households, and a series of thefts of small items from the houses of each of the wealthier families in the area. The identity of the villains is not who we usually would suspect, and the author keeps the secret well through most of the book.
The characters are even more intriguing, in my opinion, particularly Miss Lucy Harrington, the oldest daughter of the Rector, considered by some to be an old maid in her early 20's. Unlike the heroines in most Regency Romances I have read, this young woman chafes under the strictures imposed upon her by society. Since her mother died in childbirth when Lucy was 15, Lucy has had to act as nursemaid to her 7-year-old twin brothers and as her father's housekeeper and hostess, fulfilling the duties her mother would have performed. She has no prospect of escaping those duties, since her father views the arrangement as a permanent one and intends to send her beautiful younger sister to London for a coming out season.
In rebellion, she becomes involved in investigating the disappearance of the maids and the thefts, in an uneasy alliance with Major Robert Kurland, the wealthy local squire, who is bedridden while he recovers from injuries suffered in the battle of Waterloo. He is rude, with a quick temper, and they argue as much as they work together. Both main characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. Other characters, while not as finely drawn, are still interesting and entertaining.
Narrator Susannah Tyrrell has an unusual voice and delivery which bothered me a bit at the beginning, but I soon grew used to it and decided that it was perfect for this book. Her change of voices and delivery of both high class and low class regional accents sounded wonderful to this American's ear. And she dealt well with scenes of suspense and violence.
I enjoyed this book a lot, and I look forward to listening to the series as it progresses.
Well worth a credit!
"Death on Blackheath" is the tenth book which portrays Pitt as a member of Special Branch, a government agency concerned with security, espionage and government secrets. When Anne Perry first moved Pitt from the police to Special Branch, I had difficulty adjusting: the espionage and thriller parts just didn't ring true for me. But I hung in there, believing that Perry would get it together so that Special Branch would be as believable and engrossing as the earlier police novels were. And the last few Special Branch books did finally come up to the quality of plot and style that I had so enjoyed in the police stories.
In this latest installment, Pitt and Stoker of Special Branch are called to investigate matters which would not otherwise come under their jurisdiction, except that they occured at the home of Mr. Kenyston, an important scientist doing secret weapons work for the government. As things progress, bodies are discovered near the same home, all causing Pitt to focus on Kenyston. It turns out that some of those things were intended just to create that focus.
Anne Perry writes with her usual fine eye for detail, both physical and emotional detail, and describes minute details of her characters that allow the reader to see the faces, and the new lines caused by aging, hard work, fear and other factors.She allows us to understand and feel what the characters are feeling, and the exceptional narration of Davina Porter makes us feel the fear, the happiness, the love and the hatred that the characters experience. Many of Perry's continuing characters appear in this installment. This book may be one of my favorite Pitt books, because it also lets us see, and feel, new love between two of my favorite Perry characters.
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