Need a light read to entertain you for a few hours? You do do much worse than this short, entertaining view into the dangerous, scandalous and adventurous life of Phryne Fisher. Phryne must be the cause of many grey hairs and sleepless nights for her parents, but I would love to tag along on her next impulsive journey.
If you long for books where the chaste, demure woman and righteous man prevail, this one is not for you. If you think a story should be edifying and have a moral, this book may not be your cup of tea. But if you think a heroine can have fun while sinning and still be able to do the right thing, albeit with verve and style, Phryne may belong in your pantheon of favorite leading characters.
I doubt any of the narrator's accents are accurate, but she keeps the book moving right along with a great pace and plenty of personality.
This is my first Kerry Greenwood novel and will not be my last.
The most amusing part of this edition is an introduction by Hugh Walpole stating that this book (originally published in 1920) is destined to become a classic of children's literature, unlike the pale imitations such as Wind in the Willows. Doolittle does not hold up well to aging, and even for its time there are disturbing patterns in the story.
Racism is prevalent and unlike stories such as Tom Sawyer, there are no cultural references here to provide a springboard for discussion with children. The book professes to take place in the time of our grandfathers but there are no surrounding clues. Even in 1920 I hope that terms such as nigger and blackie were on their way out of children's literature. A major plot point involves an African prince whose greatest wish is to be a white man. Along with the other Africans, he is easily fooled by the superior white man.
There is only one female character, Dolittle's sister Sarah, who acts as his housekeeper. When she tires of his antics she threatens to leave him and the poverty she has endured to get married. And that is all we hear from her. Oh, she was made happy by a new dress earlier in the story.
The apparently Arab pirate, Ben Ali is all evil, and no even a good Muslim as he craves the meat of Dolittle's pig pet Gub-Gub. But he and his band agree to give up their pirating way and become farmers after stupidly losing their ship to Dolittle.
The animals capture and hold captive the pushmi-pullyu to entice him to go on tour in England to make money for Dolittle. He is brainwashed for three days before he finally relents and agrees to go. He is told how wonderful it will be, but the same monkeys who captured him stay behind in Africa since it is their home.
The superiority of the English man is an overriding message here - one I am not comfortable with. I do not think everything has to be politically correct but this book made me cringe more than once.
The narrator is pretty good overall but his pig grunts bothered me. It effectively communicated "pig" but they are not in the book and to my ear quite unnecessary.
The two primary characters are small time robbers (grocery stores, liquor stores, bars) who ride out their luck until they fall in with some serious guys. They were not particularly appealing personalities to me. I appreciate that they did not intend to hurt anyone, but they are so careless and thoughtless that the inevitable happens.
The women are not as one-dimensional as some reviewers believe - there are a few women who really move the story forward. The "career girls" by the pool were a 1970s reality - looking for a bit of fun until they had to settle down. Teachers, clerks, models and other career girls were the ones who could afford to live independently in a singles apartment complex. They were as superficial in their relationships as the guy next door, even if that guy was a petty criminal.
These two guys, however, are not suave and slickly charming; they are insecure, whiny and weak. No one in the book was interesting enough for me to care what happened to them. Many much better Elmore Leonard novels out there (Get Shorty and Pronto come to mind)
This is clearly a classic of the horror / sci-fi genre but it did not age well to my ear. Not only is the story itself incredible knowing what we do today, but they way the story plays out to stereotypes and prejudice is disturbing. Characters who have physical or mental features different than the "normal" are mistrusted and treated with fear. In all cases that fear is well placed - as if simply being an albino or having large hairy hands makes you much more likely to murder your family.
That said, this is an author who broke fresh ground and inspired many well respected authors of the last several decades. In that context, it is worth reading (or listening to) for the foundation Lovecraft establishes.
The narrator is excellent for this book.
Yes, this is a Great American Novel, a classic of its time. The story of a back country crusader who becomes the powerful governor of an unnamed state (which is, of course, Louisiana) carries, at its core, important messages about America, politics and mankind.
But they are buried under mountains of words. There are intricate descriptions of people who we only glimpse once and never return to the story (anyone remember the man at the California gas station? you listened to 10 minutes about him). Peoples' actions are described multiple times with only slightly different phrases. Nothing is left to the imagination. And that is what I missed most in this book - the way good writing sends my mind reaching for images and stories beyond the words on the page.
It was also difficult for me to continue with a 20 hour book when I actively dislike the first person character. Yes, he does exhibit strong racist and sexist attitudes, but this was written in the 1940s and takes place in the South, so that is not the problem. But he is amoral man with no beliefs of his own. He is not even interesting - he simply observes interesting things.
Literature is often complimented for its spare writing, with the bones of the story expressed and the rest only alluded to - a style exemplified by Ernest Hemingway. If the opposite of that style is flowery and overgrown as in Ayn Rand, this story clearly falls into the second group. Too much for my tastes; I do not prefer being smothered by the vines and tendrils of a book.
I have mixed feelings about this book. In the context of an adventure story that every boy dreams of, Time Pirate is hard to beat. But if consistency within a story and within the historical context it takes place is important to you, Time Pirate falls far short.
Our young hero is resourceful and brave. Great military and political leaders look to him for advice. His foolish exploits always end in success. Victory over the dastardly bad guys is a foregone conclusion. There is not a whiff of nuance or equivocation here.
But he consistently makes decisions that anyone can see are wrong - and those same great leaders do not challenge him. He does not take action that will clearly further his cause, but may eliminate a few chances for excitement in the book. He has intricate detailed knowledge of military battles and maneuvers in some cases and in others does not demonstrate the most basic understanding of the principles of battle.
In once scene, a great military leader passes triumphantly through a town, recognized by every soldier he passes. Moments later, he presses the man he has come to see into keeping his presence a closely guarded secret as knowledge of his presence could ruin great plans. Huh? On the occasions he is captured, he is put into custody with all of his worldly possessions, including firearms, knives and the time traveling orb. This does not make sense even to an eight year old.
But the story does move along and the adventures never stop. John Shea is an excellent narrator for this book although he does exhibit some odd narrative techniques. His pacing is far from steady and some of his voices are caricatures. But, his style seems to work well for this story of pirates, generals, airplanes and ships.
As did many other listeners, I had a very difficult time with this narrator. He is not a bad reader - this is simply NOT the series for him. He loses all of the Venetian personality of the story for me. The recurring female characters especially grated on my ear (Signorina Elettra, Paola Brunetti and Chiara Brunetti). Paola's aristocrat father was also way off the mark; to my ear he sounded like a weak, sniveling husk trying to live off the glories of the past (not the man we know from other books in the series).
I will not give complete blame to the narrator though, as I was shocked at one passage that refereed to Signorina Elettra responding "girlishly" - something we have not seem before or since from the sophisticated, elegant assistant.
The story was well developed and we met more colorful characters from Guido's past. The tale of trade in illicit artwork is perfect for the machinations of the rusty and ponderous Italian legal system. There are surprise discoveries and sad realizations. Guido makes mistakes and has to compromise justice - something that always breaks his heart. This book is a good addition to the series.
I, for one, would be happy to buy another copy and listen again if we could have David David Colacci narrate.
And that is not a compliment! The author "documents" the thoughts of the characters, even moments before they die. I know there are diaries and manuscripts, but they would never give the detailed level of dialogue and internal observations that are present here. If this had been sold as a fictionalized account of three characters, I would have been satisfied.
This is a "tale of the Yukon" and is interesting as that. It is NOT the story of the Yukon and if you come to it expecting a broader view of how and why the Klondike gold rush happened, you will be disappointed. Given those warnings however, it is an amazing story that gives a taste of the character of the times. It is about 30% too long for the subject, but the story moves along and kept me listening.
With scant knowledge of where they are headed or how the world will change while they are en route, two bands of intrepid men head for the Pacific Northwest to assert their dominion over the land and, more importantly, the fur trade.
Cultural differences between the partners (who have the most to gain financially), voyageurs (French Canadians who are expert boatmen), trappers and the Native Americans lead to ghastly mistakes with deadly consequences. The arrogance of the European mindset is difficult to overcome and the primary barrier a successful expedition.
Although I have spent much of my life in the Pacific Northwest, this is a story I had never heard. Perhaps that is because their motives were completely financial - no superficial talk about Manifest Destiny or God's will to give a patina of morality. The men were brave and often heroic but they were also stupid, indecisive and foolish. They were so far from home that the only choice was to go on, whatever lay ahead.
Running two stories along parallel paths can sometimes be difficult to follow, but this book does a good job with both the over-land and sea expeditions. At the very beginning of the book, there is a chapter which actually takes place at almost the close of the story. It comes across as a bit of a gimmick to me - and this story does not need any tricks to keep your interest. The rescue ship in that first chapter is actually one of the least engaging parts of the story.
Other than that one, admittedly minor, complaint, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned a great deal. The reader was good, no distracting tics to bother me. The pace is appropriate to the material.
Yes, I love this series and the narrator is perfect. This story is the most recent I have read or listened to and the characters continue to evolve. I missed having more about the Brunetti family - those scenes are almost always my favorite in the books.
Not this time. It was apparent to me fairly early on what the motive for the crime was and the likely murderer. I still enjoyed watching the unraveling.
Favorite scene was the funeral very near the end. It brought a tear of compassion to my eye. It was a lovely and fitting tribute to the departed.
On the flip side, it was very difficult for me to get though the scene at the slaughter house. I am not sure why Brunetti felt they needed the complete tour - perhaps the author wanted to ensure she drove a few readers to become vegetarians.
If you have an idiot boss or work with well intentioned but incompetent colleagues, you will recognize the world of Guido Brunetti, even if you are not a commissario in the Venetian police. If you are as elegant, smart and clever as Signorina Elettra, well, I am simply envious beyond words!
Why can not history be taught like this? Through the means of an amazing tale we learn about Spanish colonization, navigation, clashes of empires and how our beliefs (religious or otherwise) affect the way we view and interact with different cultures.
As other reviewers note, Resendez is working with very little documentation and a lot of hearsay and supposition. Only rarely does he push my buttons and jump to unwarranted conclusions: does he really think it is just a likely that these men performed miracles as that the placebo effect or regression to the mean explains the "healings"? The story is rather thin and even a short book like this one is padded in spots with unnecessary background information, but it is worth it to hear this little-known story.
I believe this is my first listen to Jonathan Davis and I was very pleased with his pronunciation of Spanish names and places. Too often it seems narrators do not take the trouble to learn the appropriate pronunciation.
Nothing to do with the recording, but I wonder why the cover of the book says "An extraordinary tale of a shipwrecked Spaniard who walked across America" although the book tells the tale of four men - three Spaniards and a black slave and it was not really a shipwreck as we think of one.
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