I'm really good at making analogies - at times very far-fetched ones - check my other reviews if you don't believe me. And this book, although nicely written with some vaguely interesting characters and just a whiff of south Florida atmosphere, Is NOT A BIT LIKE even the dullest Hiaasen, and even less like Dorsey's inspired madness. I got it in a really cheap Whispersync deal, and I got what I paid for, Be warned.
In my opinion this is exactly how history should be handled. The book provides a chronological account of the U.S. Civil War with an emphasis on British-American relations. But it is far from a straight history. What makes it great are the way that various themes weave in, out, and around, as it moves forward. It is a work based on a great deal of research, but more importantly, that research is skillfully woven into a coherent and interesting story.
As Americans, we all know how it all turns out; the various explanations of why it happened; and probably quite a bit about at least the major battles and troop movements. It is less likely that we are aware of the tensions with Great Britain created by the War and the War's place in a large world context.
Although scholarly and apparently accurate, it is true "popular" history in the very best sense of the word. It draws from contemporary letters and communications from people of all levels of society; it avoids the problems of boredom that can occur with straight history by including several strands of the story in each chapter; and perhaps most importantly, it lays out a number of very tempting leads to follow - for me, learning more about tensions with Canada and going back to re-read Tories and other books about the origins of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 that set the context for the British-American relationship are on the list. There are a lot of other tempting strands.
If this book has never been filmed it should be. If I has, I wish I could find it. I've been a Wharton fan since college and periodically re-read House of Mirth and Age of Innocence and the ghost stories. Custom of the Country, with its "female monster of literature" Undine Spragg, is one of my very favorite books. So I was well aware of Wharton's sarcastic humor - how she got away with skewering New York society is hard to believe - but it always had such a hard edge to it. Until I happened on Glimpses of the Moon, I had no idea that Wharton could write romantic comedy with the best of them. There are still some great mocks on moneyed society folks, and plot devices based on attitudes generally don't exist today, but the scheming protagonists are strangely modern - and you might enjoy "casting" them for the movie as you read.
I like revenge stories and had particularly enjoyed Archer's A Prisoner of Birth, but this was very disappointing. So much of it was just name brand dropping in a way that had little or nothing to do with the plot. Some of the Amazon reviews said that the plot was "unbelievable" or "too coincidental" but I expected that, since typically a revenge novel is meant to be a bit over the top. However, nobody hit on the right description: "unnecessarily convoluted;" full of complicated schemes that would make sense in a caper movie but not when you are listening to them, particularly because of the great deal of padding. Not completely awful, some fun parts, but you might want a hard copy for a skim- through beach read instead of an audible version.
Check out the One Star Amazon reviews before deciding to buy this. They say almost everything I had planned to say, and say it better. I'd only like to add that I enjoyed P&P w/ Zombies and S&S with Sea Monsters but there is a great deal of difference between gratuitous violence on imaginary, or at any rate literary, figures, and actual people. I was hoping for a good alternate Christmas story, but this isn't it. If you are looking for one, check out Christopher Moore's "Stupidest Angel". He's got zombies too, but in a far more entertaining context. Or Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather" which has a department store scene as good as the one in the Christmas Story movie.
After reading Safe House, which I highly recommend, I decided to check into whatever else Chris Ewan had written. This Good Thief series looked a bit too cute, and the reviews just a bit too glowing, but I'm very glad that those things didn't stop me. To some extent this was a "cozy" but not in the bad sense of the word - no gratuitous violence or blaring sex (Safe House is a bit more raw); a plot that moves along and keeps to the point, twists and all; characters which, although without depth, are clearly delineated; and a bonus - the hero's problems with his "day job" book. Definitely worth it when on sale; maybe a bit steep at a credit price, but I'm finding myself sorely tested to move on through the series. If you like Westlake's early Dortmunder books, or the BBC's Charles Paris programs, I suggest you go ahead and give this a try. Or if you liked this, try them.
This book sounded like it would be exciting and, in a dark sort of way, fun. When I look back many years to when I was getting out of college into an uncertain future, I think the idea of a harmless, low-budget, kidnap for ransom career may have had a lot of appeal (well yeah, the fact that it was the era of Easy Rider and Bonnie & Clyde may have had something to do with it). I love the Hit Man series, Donald Westlake, even Dexter, and thought that this would be much of the same.. However, I gave it over an hour and found the main characters disorganized, boring, unattractive, and prone to make stupid choices. There seemed to be a backstory that when the action starts they may have already worked a number of their scams - it was hard to imagine how. I'm not going to return it - it was cheap - and maybe I'll try again, but there is so much better out there, that I probably won't waste my time.
I very much enjoy Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller books, which are better than most in the "working lawyer" genre. Although the "tough but soulful PI Lit" genre is not my first choice, I got hooked by the good reviews (and the sales price). However, it was a waste of my time - huge sections of misdirection leading nowhere but giving the hero a lot of opportunity to regret, atone, soul-search, whatever. There are a lot better fish in the sea.
I found Connie Willis because Bellflower was on sale; moved on to To Say Nothing of the Dog - enjoying them both very much - they are definitely in my "2nd listen" category mainly because of their sharp descriptions and quirky characters.
Blackout and All Clear had several interesting characters, suspenseful situations, and a sense of being well-researched which made up for them being somewhat repetitious and a bit too long.
As to Doomsday Book, as I said, go find Mr. Neilson's review. Or trust me and don't waste your credit.
...and then it got its grips in me. If you are a fan of Robert Goddard (many of whose books have mysteriously gone missing from the Audible web site), Charles Todd, Jeffrey Archer, or any of the other, mainly British, writers who feature somewhat flawed and frequently clueless-at-times protagonists; suspension-of-disbelieve-requiring coincidences; and great descriptive writing, give Suspect a chance. A good mystery has you looking over your shoulder.... a great one has you looking over your life.
With so many fine British readers available, including Ian Carmichael who has read several of the LPW books as well as portrayed Lord Peter on BBC radio and BBC/PBS TV, why was a woman ever chosen as the reader? Maybe the $2.95 Kindle price deal had something to do with it? Nadia May is a fine reader, but try as she might, she really was out of her depth in a book with predominantly male characters, and try as I might, it was a struggle to continue to listen all the way to the end.
In spite of Lord Peter's affected manner and the at times jarringly dated attitudes reflected in the books, there is a reason why people are still reading Sayers. If you have never read the LPW books and enjoy Christie, Tey or Marsh, or if you last read them years ago, I recommend you read this one in print only and start your audible experience with a male reader, preferably Carmichael.
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