Maupin hits stride in his second book with Mary Ann, the archetypal young single woman, continuing to loosen up in San Francisco in the seventies with the help of the residents of the Barbary Lane including the gay but fretful Michael, the slightly lost Mona, the carnally hungry Brian, and the extremely well adjusted but mysterious Anna Madrigal. These characters, their lovers, and friends make for a most realistic, funny, and charming portrait of gay and straight life in the seventies in San Francisco. The overall plot involving a nice guy with serious enigmatic phobias is the least reason for enjoying these books. The real reason to enjoy these books is to see the various character's lives intersect in the most unexpected ways and for them to treat each other with all the respect, dignity, and kindness that nice people of any sort deserve. (which excludes the dastardly Beachamp Day) The narration by Cynthia Nixon is the best so far. (I've heard four of these books now.) Nixon's tender voice is an excellent match for the gentle souls of this series. She reads with the perfect blend of narration and acting skills. Rachel Maddow's (oh and that's... "sweet but all-too-short") preface hits just the right note for this ground-breaking series that, rightly, treats being gay as a perfectly normal preference given to some people at birth. If you are considering this, be sure to buy the first book "Tales of the City" first. The whole thing makes far more sense when experienced in order. Not recommended for the close-minded or prudish with lots of frank sexual discussion.
Having seen the Hollywood film I was very curious to see the exact details documented in print and curious to find if any were changed or dramatized for entertainment purposes.
If you are similarly motivated and that is the sole purpose for getting this book you will be sorely disappointed. This is a very good book. However, nearly every dramatic detail which made the movie so compelling are NOT explained AT ALL in this book! To say the Spielberg film is "based" on this book is more than a bit of false advertising.
It's a GREAT book, that cannot be denied. It is amazingly well researched, brilliantly written, and beautifully narrated. It has amazing details on Lincoln's life and that of all of his staff. A reader will gain an understanding of Lincoln as person and not just a mythical historical figure. It is a good read if you really want to understand Lincoln and to learn far more than you could possibly want to know about his cabinet. Take the title seriously, this book is about the men in his cabinet and their entire careers as much as it is about Lincoln.
That said, it was intensely disappointing to listen to all that and then let the 13th amendment and any politics surrounding it go relatively unmentioned. When the subject finally comes up, late in the 5th file, the amendment's passage is presented as a fait accompli. None of the backroom politics which are shown in the recent movie are described. I finish not knowing which parts of the film are factual nor where the information for the screenplay was obtained. (certainly not from this book)
It's not the author's fault that they chose to imply a film was "based in part" (which part?) on her writing. Still, I must fault the publisher greatly for doing so and, in turn, setting up very precise expectations. The book is great as long as you don't expect it to have anything to do with the film. If you listen expecting to hear even half or a TENTH of what you saw.... then you will be similarly frustrated. (Stars off for misrepresentation on the part of the publisher and because the lives of the cabinet are not as interesting as Lincoln himself)
See previous reviews for discussion of the characters. The big difference in this book is that the subject matter begins to get more serious as the author and our country began to come to grips with the crisis of AIDS. Since the series was originally published in a newspaper is was necessary to follow current events which makes it all that much more realistic. The other big difference in this audiobook is the male narrator which probably seemed appropriate since the series begins to revolve more around Michael and less around Mary Ann. Alan Cummings can be a bit hard to take at first since you are, by now, likely used to the gentler tones of Ms. McDorland or Ms. Nixon narrating. He's not THAT bad, it's just that he takes his voice acting a bit over the top to the point where his voice is grating for brief moments which is why I knocked a star off the performance. He lands solidly on the acting side of the narrator/actor balance but he gives us stereotypes. As the book goes I adjusted and he does excellent British accents which are necessary and appropriate to the story. Still, he gets four stars. Some will give worse but while the narrator may slightly diminish, he will by no means ruin your enjoyment of this book. (He's still a *lot* better than the alternative which was Maupin reading his own work.) Here Mary Ann struggles with trying to balance a career and pressures to be a parent. There isn't as much of a fantastic mystery at the heart of this fourth book as there were in the previous two. It is again recommended that you start with the original Tales of the City before listening to the subsequent tales of Mr. Tolliver, Mary Ann, Brian, et. al. The standard warning is issued against the prudish & close-minded as these books are nothing if not frank about sexual behavior both gay and straight and in-between. If you are eager, as I was, to revisit the original series but with no time to sit and read it, you'll be satisfied with this book which follows Michael to England during the year of the Queen's visit to America back in the Regan era. If you haven't read this series, as Rachel Maddow says, "you lucky dog" you are in for a treat.
Mr. Maupin continues his interwoven tales of life for single people of all genders, sexual preferences, and social classes, in the late seventies in San Francisco. The writing is funny and heartbreakingly sweet. The overall plot regarding one of the great monsters of the age will invariably be regarded by some as contrived but that misses he point. The point of the plot is not to get to the end, but to have an excuse to write about (as Rachel Maddow points out) the "interconnected" normal, healthy lives of the characters both gay and straight. The writing holds up well considering that it is a snap-shot of popular culture nearly thirty years ago. (You may wince at the occasional use of "boogie" to mean dancing.) The narrator has been switched back to the slightly faster reading Frances McDormand who is still perfectly competent. However, she's not quite as tender a narrator as Cynthia Nixon in the second book. It is strongly recommended that you listen to these books in order, especially if discovering them for the first time. They make far more sense when read in order as most series do. If you never had the privilege of living in San Francisco, the Paris of America, this series makes you feel as if you had, while also supplying you with several good friends and one way-cool landlady to boot. If you have any kind of open mind and heart you will fall in love with the characters and feel the appropriate amount of hate for one of the worst real life villains of the modern era.
Connelly's Bosch is a classic of the genre. The narrator really performs the book well going even so far as to simulate the tinny sound of voices over phone or radio. Well done.
Connelly's Bosch is a great detective, human and a bit sad but determined. The narrator really preforms this book well. The author's storytelling is timeless because it's all about the characters and not about technology. Great stuff if you like crime fiction.
No matter how dressed up in semi-science fiction this is ultimately just a vampire/monster story (militarized vampires?) without ANY of the romance typical of the vampire genre. If you are attracted by the length, don't be, there's just a LOT of words. They aren't all necessarily very entertaining. I couldn't make it through once I understood the limitations of the subject matter. The writing is bleak. Everyone is miserable and unhappy from page one giving you no one to root for. Brick gives his usual tremulous- with-tension-style narration which is great for parts of a thriller but just not appropriate for EVERY single scene. While multiple narrators are a bonus, the last two have relatively small parts. My wife made it through this book so it can't be ALL bad. I seldom quit on a book, no matter how crummy. That I couldn't tolerate this is saying something.
Ultimately when you "travel" with with Bill you feel as if you are along for the ride enjoying the sights or puzzling over the oddities of any given location. He describes all the characters or ridiculous situations in which he finds himself in such delightful way that you often feel as if you have stumbled into the fictional word of "The Phantom Tollbooth" (with its odd but well intention inhabitants) but with the thrill of it all having been real. Both history and natural wonders are described with proper perspective to sound quite worthy of one's appreciation. You even enjoy the occasional pause for refreshment, that cup of tea before a day's adventures, or a well earned pint at some colorful pub at the end of a long day. This book allows you to enjoy myriad dangers of Australia's vast and deadly outback without the slightest risk of being reduced to drinking any urine. (a recurring joke only readers of the book will get)
Bryson does his own narration and is one of the few authors for whom this works. His self deprecating tones add humor to the many absurd situations in which finds himself. For example he asks, with the perfectly quizzical note of concern in his voice, "So are you suggesting that I just drown calmly?" after having been advised on how to deal with the dangerous rip currents off Australia's beaches. I had no idea Australia was such a fascinating place. As far as my enjoyment of the audiobook I will quote Bryson who says occasionally if and when appropriate, "I couldn't have been more pleased."
Okay, comparing anyone to Scott Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide is just unfair because that was classic. Rob Reid does come close though. The idea of America's ridiculous copyright law reaching into and affecting the highly refined beings of the cosmos is very funny. You won't laugh on the first page as I did with Hitchhiker, but by the 3rd or 4th I was consistently grinning at pokes at popular culture including social media (including "Flutter" - you have to hear it, I won't ruin the joke and Klippy the annoying mascot for Microsoft Word). Like Hitchiker's Guide there is an important "love interest" that helps keep the story interesting. The narration is an excellent performance of dozens of weird characters with great voices.
The author just stretches my suspension of disbelief (i.e. verisimilitude) to ridiculous proportion with the concept of cloning. To get me to buy it takes a lot more than having a "metal snapshot" of a brain. It IS a fascinating idea but it doesn't really go anywhere except to add a lot of self doubt to a character. The author continues to do a really sketchy job creating settings and bullets will come out of nowhere but what the room looks like in which that could happen is often poorly (or not at all) described. The narrator for the main woman in the story sounds great and unchanged. They changed the male narrator (at least he sounded much different) and most of the time he is fine but not is as consistently in his very cynical and harsh character as in the second book.
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