San Francisco | Member Since 2013
This book begins well enough. It is the story of a teacher and writer named Thomas Abbey and his girlfriend Saxony. Tom takes a sabbatical year in which he decides to write a biography of his favorite author, a man named Marshall France. For the first half or so, the book is a well-written story, narrated by the always wonderful Edoardo Ballerini, which makes it a delightful experience just for that. However...(isn't there always a however?)... our heroes drive to the town of Galen, Missouri, and this is where the story escalates into a fable of delusional proportions. If you knew that this was going to be some variety of science fictionish work, that would be one thing. But, not having known that, the book becomes pretty preposterous. I can't help revealing the spoiler here, as it takes up almost half the book, and is, I suppose, the grand idea of Mr. Carroll's. The conceit here is that Marshall France has written a magnum opus in which he has created the entire town: all the people who live in it, precisely what they do, when they die, etc. He (France) also has the superpowers available to himself that he can make people die at his whim, or turn into dogs, etc. At first Tom and Saxony do not believe the tale, but they are fiercely sold on it by Anna, the author's daughter. Soon Tom is sleeping with Anna as well as Saxony. Since science fiction requires us to suspend our usual assumptions about life, the only way to enjoy this experience, I think, is to just not try to think too carefully about the entire conceit, as it will fall down like a house of cards on the briefest examination. France becomes a version of God. He apparently has written so voluminously into the past and the future of Galen that ordinary mortals would have taken lifetimes to do this alone, not to speak of writing work that will be marketed and sold to the public. (France's writing about Galen is a Big Secret.) Some of it has a Wizard of Oz quality: children might be mystified, but the outfits are made of cardboard, and pay no attention to that man...
I love Edoardo Ballerini as I love no other narrator. He does the absolute maximum with this material that he can. However, nothing can protect Tom from being the wimpy, passive academic that he is. He bounces from Saxony to Anna, begging each of them to make the decisions in his life that he is too paralyzed by OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) to make. By the end, you really are considering the possibility that it all really WAS a dream, a thing which worked in literature about 100 years ago.
I would only cautiously recommend this book, primarily for fellow lovers of Ballerini. His skills are so marvelous that they can elevate a lot of writing way above where it actually "deserves" to be. What a guy.
No. Not when you have read as many of his books as I have. His gifts are so outsized that I have come to expect truly marvelous entertainment from him, particularly when he is paired with the remarkable Will Patton. However, the well just has to run dry sooner or later, and I am afraid that in Hack Holland we are seeing the grisly death of Mr. Burke's outlandish writerly talents. When he sinks this low, he becomes compulsively violent. Other readers have commented on this, and it is most certainly true. The violence is relentless and by now pointless. We know that Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell and now Hack Holland have all brought back the horrible nightmares of Korea and Viet Nam, as have minor characters galore, but the piling on is serving to diminish the point here, not to heighten its emphasis. The reader can only listen to so many nightmares about grisly murders, decapitations, etc. etc. etc. before the shock value of these wears off completely. By this time I have lost the point. At first I understood the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that these men bring home and try to cope with in their lives after war, but these thousands of pages cannot serve simply to make those points over and over again. The books, and this one in particular, are so much about conflict in so many relationships across such a broad spectrum of people in Texas that you wonder how it is that they don't just kill each other off and be done with it. There'd be no one left to write about, I spose.
As above, the emphasis on conflict in its multifarious manifestations (sorry; I won't do that again) just begin to make the mind roll over and lose the point completely. Let's see: Texas law enforcement is a rotten, corrupt-to-the-core pigsty; politicians are lying whores who will say and do anything for money and their own despicable personal gain and ambition (gee whiz!), the women are just as nasty as the men, etc. Are we taking notes here?
I do love Will Patton. His voice is delightful, with that gravelly texture that is easy to snuggle up to at night. He is a great selling point for any audiobook.
Like, move to Texas, become oil-rich and run for political office? Uh, no.
No. Time to either retire, or to change the focus, and as the boys at Monte Python would have it, do something completely different. How about exploring some uplifting aspect of human nature? I hear uproarious laughter. Just a thought. Doesn't sell many books.
I don't know how to answer this question, as I never read the print version. I do want to expand on my view of Mr. Burke and his development over the past twenty-five or thirty years of writing. His gifts are remarkable. I never in my life wanted to visit Iberia Parish, Louisiana until Mr. Burke made me smell the bougainvillea. His ability to make you see, smell and taste the environment of his settings is unparalleled among contemporary authors. When Dave Robicheaux began spending his summers in the Bitteroot Mountains of Montana I was delighted to be able to live in that location for the length of those books. I found Dave R. and his sidekick Clete Purcell distinctly complex men, riddled with post-traumatic stresses from Viet Nam, by the ravages of alcoholism, and by their revulsion at how criminals had ruined the lives of the underclasses in Louisiana, and all over the South. Mr. Burke created amazing Southern Gothic characters, drawn from an imagination which apparently had no bottom whatsoever. I laughed and I cried, truly. I felt Dave's shame, his love for his two wives and for his adopted daughter Alafair, who is now in real life an author living in NYC and writing crime novels herself. Dave and Clete tried hard to bootstrap themselves above their personal tragedies, generally with minor triumphs but with the ferocious dark side always lurking in the end, waiting for another stab at Dave's heart.
I seem to have written a fairly long paragraph without even mentioning Hackberry Holland. Backstory, I guess. I was glad to see that Mr. Burke had branched out in such a serious way, particularly after writing twenty Dave Robicheaux novels. What a fountain he is! Hack is a very different guy from Dave, and the structure of this book is quite different. Minus Clete, plus Pam Tibbs. Minus Louisiana, plus the Texas-Mexico border. Unfortunately for us, I think, plus plus plus the relentless violence, as my fellow readers have pointed out. This issue has now gone way overboard and has now reached the baroque. When a particularly bizarre character gets nailed to a cross, then shot through the heart, and then set on fire in his own church by another over-the-top bizarre character: this is just about too too much for me. I understand that Mr. Burke has been exorcising personal demons through thirty years of writing, but, uh, maybe he might try some psychotherapy. Really. There must be a point at which there is just too much of this stuff. I would fully enjoy his books if at least half of the brutal violence were edited out, and maybe more than that. Mr. Burke's writing is still mesmerizing. He has not lost any of his talents. He should lose some of the senseless violence. I, as ad hoc president of his fan club, hereby say, Enough!
Luckily for Mr. Burke, Will Patton is there to pull his feet out of the fire. Literally. Mr. Patton has elevated these books beyond the fantastic to the simply exquisite (I am searching for adjectives here). I love Will Patton. He can do no wrong. I wish HE would tell Mr. Burke that there's too much violence.
You can't possibly do that. It would make you retch. You need some time for your stomach to settle down.
No. The short story form does not lend itself to being rated in a coherent way. While the narrators are listed above, the authors are not! Odd. I am going back over my memory and trying to remember nine or ten stories, with as many authors and narrators... perhaps you can see my problem. It's a perfect nightmare. I remember bits and pieces from here and there, but it is incoherent and disorganized.
Somehow notating the names of the authors and narrators at the beginning or the end of the entire book, not just at the start of each story. So...the story with the alligator in the swimming pool is very memorable, very well written and creative. And, whichever story Jonathan Davis reads is great. And, there are two stories about very nasty men who rape their fourteen-year-old "daughters" and beat them as well: these are vile and repulsive characters about whom I would like to hear much, much less. Etc.
I don't think it makes any sense to try to organize my review into any coherent form due to the problems described above. The stories certainly did give me a sense of the ugly underbelly of the Miami cultures, with none of them having any particularly redeeming human virtues. Reading Carl Hiassen is a better way to learn about the destruction of Florida by the voracious developers and the hurricanes, meanwhile laughing your arse off while you are reading, or listening. William Shames is likewise very funny and endearing. Randy Wayne White is worth listening to, as is Mr. Standiford himself. This platform, though, is not, IMHO, the ideal way to show off the gifts of Florida's great writers.
As above. The really nasty pedophiles would be the first to go. If I were you, I'd give this one a skip.
I certainly will listen to another book that is narrated by Jonathan Davis. Previous to this book I had only heard him read Dennis Lehane books, and those experiences have shown me that Mr. Davis has really marvellous skills. He has a very expressive voice with a lot of range and nuance, and you get very comfortable listening to him. Unfortunately, this kind of material is just not the kind of thing for me.
I am not a naif. I have read and listened to a wealth of information about WWII and the Cold War, plus I've seen many movies on the topics, etc. I certainly knew going in that I wasn't going to be having much fun, Catch 22 and Hogan's Heroes notwithstanding. However, this book is just plain grim. The sample and the blurb made it seem a little bit upbeat, America's greatest triumph and all, but the hours and hours of slogging through the grotesque brutalization of Berlin, rubble rubble rubble, (out here in California the reporters cannot cover an earthquake, no matter how small, without using that key and unsettling word), I mean, I understand. History has never been my long suit, and politics even less so, so, like I said, I have no one but myself to blame. Plus, you have to admit, Spielberg had the final word on the entire topic of World War II, and what he did was so masterful, that unless you are really convinced that you have something even more powerful to say than that, then, please, don't.
I like just about everything Mr. Davis does. Even his little bitty Harry Truman is pretty good.
For other people, who intrinsically appreciate this material in a way that I just don't, maybe. But, as some wise guy once said, history is bunk. I coulnda said it better.
By now the genuinely authoritative voice of Frank Muller has come to represent for me the finest in what audiobooks can do for the listener. This story is true, as the author says in the epilogue, but he has turned it into a novella, which is just a great format, IMHO. There are two interweaving plots. One is the cancer which is slowly killing Clay, the grandfather of John, the young narrator. The "main" plot concerns John's hunt for a deer, which turns into a musing on life and death that is unique and could only be told by a hunter who is stalking his quarry, not as a trophy, but for meat, which his family needs to eat in the preposterously cold winters of northern Minnesota. I won't spoil the end of the plot for you, but will just say that it is worth what comes before it. This is truly a magnificent pairing of a wonderful writer and the greatest of all narrators. Please enjoy yourselves. I can't imagine anyone not having a great time here.
The entire "walking down" of the doe is not just a moment, but is probably the last third of the book. However, the (12-year-old) man is trailing the deer in a way that is careful and knowing, so that he can wear the deer out and finally get the deer to the point at which it simply falls. There is one moment in which the two stare at each other from close distance for about two full seconds, which seems like hours to John, and he does not fire his rifle, which is on his shoulder, with his finger on the trigger. What, he asks, is going on here?
Every single thing. Frank knew everything there was to know about pace, tone, emotional valence of independent voices both male and female, what people of all ages sound like, and so forth. He was such an artist that his death was an unforgivable loss to the world of audiobooks and drama in general. While I listened to this I thought about the role of death in my own life. No other reader could ease me onto that track so gently and yet so firmly. This guy was soooo good.
I am not good at this kind of thing. however, here goes: Life meets Death in Minnesota.
Nope. I'm good.
This is kind of a goofy question. I have almost stopped reading with my eyes, as I have discovered that the audiobook format is so much richer than just words on paper. Therefore, the audio version is always better than the print.
I think that there is a very clear winner here. It is the scene(s) in the quarry where the massive force of the good guys is arrayed against the sneaky power of the bad guys. All are searching for Amanda, who has "gone missing." The setting is wonderful: the quarries are full of water, dark even in the daytime, very cold, full of mysterious channels, etc. Patrick and Angie have joined forces with the good guys, lawmen from all over Massachusetts, in a desperate attempt to trade the missing child for $200K. That is, if the missing child is even alive. The tension is heightened in a way that Mr. Lehane specializes in: anything can happen at any moment, and it frequently does. I will leave it to you to learn whether Amanda is dead or alive, found or kidnapped, etc. This is truly a marvelous mystery, written by a guy who knows his characters well, and who loves them. I am now glad that there is so much of Dennis Lehane to read, although my standing objection still rules: the full-size novels are too long by half. Hard to argue with serious success, though.
Jonathan Davis is truly marvelous, in many ways. The stock answer to this question is probably Patrick and Angie, who have a relationship which has held my interest through several novels. There are a whole bunch of ancillary characters whom Mr. Davis does in a masterly way: the repulsive Cheese Oleman, the slimy Chris Mullen (not the basketball player), the absolutely marvelous Bubba...I could go on. Mr. Davis's talents as a narrator are almost limitless. I would be disappointed to find another Dennis Lehane book that was not narrated by Jonathan Davis.
There are quite a number of scenes in which Patrick and Angie's relationship lifts up off the pages and soars. These two are trying very hard to live sane, sensible lives, but they are surrounded by the worst of Boston thuggery, at every level. Each case draws them into the mesh of those lives, and the palpable tension between wanting to leave to have a simple life versus staying in the Boston they know: they just can't decide.
I am now a confirmed Dennis Lehane fan. It has taken me a few books to fully appreciate the partnership between him and Jonathan Davis, but I do believe I have it now. I hope they keep doing this for a very long time.
I absolutely would, and will. I look forward to every new book by Lawrence Shames. This guy will make you laugh under any circumstance you might be in, no matter how dark or gloomy. I guarantee satisfaction. All his books are set in Key West, which has to be where Mr. Shames lives. He describes it beautifully. The main character is typically a New Yorker. The Mob is always involved. Some of the characters are continuing. Bert the Shirt is my favorite. Bert is now a very old ex-mobster who wears exquisitely tailored shirts, and who carries around his tiny, sickly Mexican Chihuahua everywhere. Richard Ferrone is also an excellent narrator, delivering each chuckle and smile with expert timing and great accents. The plots are all variations on a theme, but somehow Mr. Shames makes them fresh. He does not repeat the jokes, which, when you think about it, after five or six novels set in the same place, is quite an achievement. There is a plot, which is not just an excuse for the humor. Each time I read one of Mr. Shames's books I feel like I have taken a small vacation in Key West. I don't believe I'd like the humidity, but everything else about the place sounds like paradise.
I love the romantic scenes between Jake, the main character, and like Shames an ex-New Yorker who is a writer, and Claire, who is an executive and all-around gofer for a TV program which is aptly called Adrift. Shames can write romance in a gentle way, giving us the small details which ring so true. I liked best the restaurant scene in which Claire and Jake share a tiramisu with a slice of mango. At just the exact same moment, the two put their forks into the dessert, and the tines touch in a small but electric way. I obviously can't write like Mr. Shames does, but read it for yourself. He is a charming and witty guy.
I think I just answered that question. There are many of them. One comes very early in the book, and sets up the whole plot, and I won't ruin it for you.
No. I can't do that. It would involve sitting in one place, or lying down, and devoting all of my attention for many hours. It would resemble how kids devour TV programs they like: they sit there and gorge on twenty episodes, something like Scrubs, for instance. My rear end would get very tired, and I think I would get tired all over. It's nice to have another segment to look forward to.
Buy this book. Have fun. Humor like this needs no justification. It is pure fun, which I believe is exactly what Mr. Shames is going for.
I bought this book because it was recommended by Tim Hallinan, who is one of my very favorite writers. His talents are so far above those of Mr. Lin and Mr. Chin, that there is really no comparison, although I will note a few discrepancies. First, Tim's books are loaded with humor, lovable characters, plots that are written with breakneck speed, and also are full of Tim's love of the Thai people and of many aspects of the Southeast Asian countries. Mr. Lin's book has almost none of these. It begins with a grim murder and then goes quickly downhill from there. The primary character is a dour, pleasure-free man who hates his existence, which involves mainly working in a sidewalk barbecue stand in Taipei. There must be some pleasure, humor and/or adventure to grab the reader's attention. I found none of these in the slog that is trying to get through even a few chapters of this book. Enough said.
All of the above.
Mr. Chin would appear to have virtually zero narrative skills. He speaks in an uninflected monotone. He speaks in exactly one voice. The good and great narrators to whom I have listened over the years have often been trained as actors, and you can hear this in their performances. This audiobook moved me to exactly nowhere, slowly.
All of them.
A waste of your time and money. I still love almost everything Tim Hallinan writes, although I have to say that the Poke Rafferty books are way more to my liking than the Junior Bender series. It is hard to get involved in and attracted to a man who makes his living as a burglar. As for Mr. Lin, he should hold onto his day job, even if he deplores it.
Its length! Can I say that again? Are you really in the mood for six solid hours of courtroom drama? I had a hard time with it. Certainly Mr. Turow and his editors don't care a fig about how I feel here, but something tells me that I have some company here. Ir's just too damn long! The plot is very clever, the writing is smooth and masterful, the narrator does a fine job, but even given all these, they lost me somewhere in the third hour of courtroom back and forth. And, I am interested in the law to begin with. I am a psychologist who has worked (some of my time) with lawyers and judges, and the issues addressed there still interest me. However, I have made my point. As I have said previously, brevity is the soul of wit.
Probably not. I can't see him cutting down the length of his books, as this is the standard length of a novel now. Nonetheless, someone some day (I have a niece in the publishing business; I'll call her) will take a risk and fiddle with this tradition. Mr. Turow does not seem like a fiddler. The world of law is the highest upholder of conventionalism in our society.
They did. I have no complaints about either of them. Mr. Hermann is a well-known actor, and his stage presence, so to speak, is considerable. I have not heard of Ms. Cassidy before, but she, too has a very pleasant voice, very easy to listen to.
I have to say no here. Over twelve hours, most of it spent in a dusty courtroom...Even though the plot is really extremely clever, a bit soap-opera-ish, but still you do want to find out if the judge really did murder his wife. And also who offed Carolyn Polhemus twenty years ago. It's just the mind-numbing details, and the trivia of what gets dissected to no end in a trial (I do know whereof I speak; testifying in a trial makes it clear to you that trials are BORING). It is well-nigh impossible to keep up the suspense over such a long time. I will admit that The Testament, Polar Star, and The Ice Limit are all books that kept me totally involved through the ends, but those three are true masterworks. You just don't find many of those. I will keep looking.
I think I saw another review in which the reviewer said that the Mom did the killing, although I am sure he/she meant the first killing, of Carolyn Polhemus, out of sheer enraged jealousy. She surely didn't kill herself. Or did she?????
It's way up there. Tim's writing is unique. It is hard to make comparisons. Each book is filled with humor. There are several serious chuckles on every page. I guarantee it. In addition, there is the beautiful family that Poke has created: his wife, Rose, their street-urchin daughter, Miaow (if you don't laugh at that name, then there may be no hope for you), a surprise character whom I will not name, as I don't want to be a spoiler; and Miaow's boyfriend, Andrew Nguyen, who is self-conscious, comes from a wealthy family, is a very gawky and awkward adolescent AND has diabetes: this is a well of inventiveness that it is a pleasure to jump into. I believe there is no bottom (not to stretch that analogy too far). The family also includes Poke's best friend, Arthit, a Bangkok policeman, who lets us see the corruption that the BPD is crippled by, as well as the individual well of human kindness that reaches into Arthit's soul. This is quite a band of characters, and Tim keeps us jumping from one scenario to the next. This is writing skill at its highest level. Tim is starting to win awards. The reviews from his colleagues are glittering. The cream has risen to the top. In the thriller/detective/quasi-detective genre (did I really write that?) Tim stands right up there with Thomas Perry. Fine company indeed.
I addressed some of this above. I think that the relationships between Poke and Rose, and the budding relationship between Miaow and Andrew: my interest in these will keep me coming back; that, and almost every other aspect of Tim's books. There is nothing that I didn't like about the book.
Again, hard to pick. The chase scene in which Miaow and Andrew scramble through the heating ducts in the old abandoned hotel: this one is particularly mesmerizing. The use of Andrew's diabetes kit as a weapon is so creative that you just have to tip your hat to him.
I guess I am going to spoil it after all: the moment when Rose tells Poke that she is pregnant...if you don't get all warm and fuzzy here, then you are missing something really deep and astonishingly personal. Remember that Rose was a bar-girl (read: prostitute) for many years, and in this moment she has risen to the ultimate in love, acceptance, belonging, and pure, unadulterated pleasure. I didn't cry, but I coulda. Tim has almost created his own genre here, in the manner of Thomas Perry. I will buy every book that each of them writes until I die.
Report Inappropriate Content