I almost felt angry listening to this improbable, insipid story, set in small town Texas, 1915. The heroine is an absolute idiot. No credit to her teaching profession. It's a wonder her wounded "outlaw" didn't freeze or starve under her tender care. Also, the relationship developed too fast, in a few days -- and most of that time, the hero was asleep or delirious. Further, the suspense plot simply ... disappeared. No follow up. Who hired the killer? Will he try again?
And this small town has no doctor, no hospital, but a newborn babe -- only a week old -- was carted miles from home, across the snow, to see a Christmas pageant and meet the community -- even though severe, infectious illness and attempted murder has been hitting the streets.
But the narration is pitch perfect.
I have not read Linda Lael Miller's books before. She has quite a following. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's this particular book. I doubt I will try another, though.
Did I mention that Jack Garrett delivered a 5-star performance?
I didn't buy the text, but only listened to the audiobook, narrated by Robert Whitfield, aka Simon Vance. He's simply an amazing reader, bringing characters to life no matter the nationality. In just a few pages, he neatly portrays Scottish, French, German, and British accents.
This "true" historical narrative is sometimes boring and outside my field of interest or expertise, but it's also — and mostly — engrossing, humorous, heartwarming, and suspenseful.
Told in 3rd person, this account covers from 1941-1944, from the origins of the British SAS to the capture of its "Phantom Major" — Lieutenant Colonel David Sterling.
(No worries. Despite his capture, Stirling lived long and prospered, getting up to plenty more mischief along the way.)
Based on original source documents and interviews, the author recounts the 1941 birth of a special forces military unit, the British SAS (called L Division at the time). Cowles tells how a Scot named David Stirling conceived of the idea of a small group of specially trained men going undercover, taking enemy supplies by SURPRISE, destroying planes, fuel dumps, etc. Stirling felt that surprise was the key. He had to sell his idea to the top brass despite derision, lack of imagination, status quo, skepticism. Next, he created and trained his recruits to extremely rigorous standards. Once trained, his men would destroy more Nazi planes on the ground in Northern Africa than any Royal Air Force squadron ever did, at the time.
Officer Jock Lewis was a key member of that first SAS group. He's the inventor of the Lewis bomb, which the SAS put to immediate use. Good scene, that invention.
Favorite parts? Fun stuff, political stuff, clever stuff (inventing the Lewis bomb) or like when David proved the worth of his new brainchild. He made a bet with some head honcho at the Britsh RAF that the SAS could sneak into the RAF airfield at Heliopolis and paper-mark their planes without getting caught.
Quibbles: I found all the raids began to run together in my mind. It grew a bit monotonous. I wanted to know more about the people: David Stirling, Jock Lewes, Patty Mayne, Cooper, Seekings, Fitzroy McLean, etc. I wanted to hear more reactions from the generals of the Eighth Army, and from Winston Churchill himself. Also, I needed a map of Northern Africa, showing all the places the SAS went.
Tip: Look up some of the videos about David Stirling and the original SAS at You Tube.
Good narration, but weak story. The plot is based on Islamist terrorists attempting to bomb New York. Their evil plans are foiled by businesswoman Nicole Pierce, a linguist, and Sam Reston, former SEAL. The POV switches from heroine to hero to terrorist.
Major flaw? At least half the book is composed of internalization. We hear the thoughts and feelings of the heroine, the hero, and even the villain. Boring, especially in audio format, where you cannot skim. So much mooning over physical beauty, ruminating and reflecting, worrying and hoping. The thoughts are repetitive. I mean to say, they're redundant. What I'm saying is, we hear the same thoughts over and over.
Beyond that, the book includes equal parts explicit sex scenes and a thin plot.
On the up side, the protagonists are certainly likable. Good camaraderie between the three men in the security firm. Their bond is heartwarming. I also liked Nicole's dedication to her dying father.
The author narrated the first half. His narration was fine; it felt like Krauthammer was sitting in the car beside us. Newbern, the other narrator, was excellent, too. The essays are short and largely unrelated articles from prior publications. They held my attention, but the whole book felt a little disjointed. Perhaps the most compelling is the opening section, where Krauthammer explains why he cares about politics: The role of government is to facilitate an environment that encourages "the things that matter" like art, music, science, travel, discovery, chess, space, children, etc. He then discusses those very things. It's a cornucopia of topics, all of the essays describing humans giving their all in assorted challenging but enriching endeavors.
Bottom line? Simply lovely, bringing to mind the best of life, whatever is beautiful, honorable, noble, or just plain delightful.
I've never rowed, and knew nothing about the sport before hearing this book, but nonetheless I really "got" the racing strategy employed by Coach Ulbrickson and enacted by the coxswain Bobby Moch, especially during the races at Poughkeepsie, NY, and in Berlin. I grew to also understood the importance of the stroke position, the rower closest to the cox, seated face to face, only 18 inches away. (In this case, the stroke was Don Hume.) Finally, I saw why a dream team is rare indeed — so perfectly attuned that eight row as one to the tune of the cox, creating the perfect "swing" that makes a boat sing.
This turned out to be a solid gold audiobook. Despite the title, the book doesn't portray all the boys in the Olympic boat. Mostly, this was the story of one boy, Joe Rantz. A good choice, since my sympathies were definitely with him, because of the abandonment and cold-stone cruelty he endured from his own family, with a B for a stepmother and a weakling for a father. (Thank goodness for a great girlfriend, Joyce.) I liked all the boys in the boat, though, and wanted to hear more about them. We do find out what happened to all nine boys after the Olympics, including how they stayed bonded as friends for life, which I did appreciate.
Told in 3rd person, the book flashes back and forth between America and Germany, mainly from 1933-1936, even though the book begins in 1899. The author did a good job portraying the huge farce the Nazi party presented to the world at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. He showed Berlin beautified and polished by the propaganda machine and Berlin behind the facial.
There are lots of photos and videos online, to augment the story. It was a major historic moment, when the Washington Huskies won gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. With eight men rowing, plus a coxswain steering and calling the shots, this calls for teamwork almost at the cellular level, because every oar must strike the water simultaneously, with equal pull, and also quickly, as many as an astounding 44 strokes per minute. In front of the smugly self-satisfied Nazis, the boys carried the boat — despite several handicaps — across the finish line for a come-from-behind victory, much like in Seabiscuit: An American Legend (that horse is mentioned a few times in this book).
Set during the same time period, the book also reminded me of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, coming to the big screen this winter.
Quibbles: Not quite five stars, because the author spent just a bit too much time on the mechanics of rowing and described too many races, including some races not involving these boys. He also spent too much time describing the Berkeley rowing team, especially the Cal coach. I wanted to hear more about the nine boys. I wanted to hear how the Washington Huskies came to respect and befriend Joe, and stopped calling him names because he was poverty stricken and always wore the same ragged sweater (Hobo Joe, Ragtime Cowboy Joe, etc).
I did like the parts involving the wise boatbuilder crafting his cedar shells in the second floor of the Shell House, George Yeoman Pocock. Each chapter began with a quote by him. His words are philosophical, wise, and sometimes spiritual.
I liked the glimpses of what Coach Alvin Ulbrickson was thinking. The "Dour Dane" was quiet and noncommittal most of the time, but he played a central role in the book, nonetheless.
But there was nothing...NOTHING...about what Harry was thinking. What was Joe's father feeling and thinking all those years, up through the big win? How could he do that to Joe?
Loved Joe. He has a hugely forgiving heart and a tenacious spirit. No self-pity. Loved his girlfriend, Joyce. Happy for them.
This is a heartwarming story, despite the painful parts.
Award winning audiobook, narrated by Julia Whelan. Excellent performance. However, her voice for Julie's mom sounded exactly like her voice for the hero's mother in The Witness, by Roberts. I mean EXACTLY.
I enjoyed this novel. Is it young adult or new adult? Chick lit? I think NA, since the H/h are in college. Set in current day Boston, it's family-oriented drama. It's a mystery. It's a romance in the old-fashioned sense, with only one hard passionate kiss and no sex at all. The ending felt abrupt — I wanted more "happy ever after" time — and I could do without the swearing and profanity, but the slowly growing relationship was a flat-out treat, especially given it's rarity in contemporary romance novels. The author kept the pace flowing nicely. As for the closely guarded family secret, I guessed some of it, but not all, and certainly not the specifics.
I really liked watching Celeste — a traumatized 13-year-old — gradually overcome her emotional paralysis. Loved seeing her fearfully release her tight grip on Flattened Phineas, or Flat Finn. Julie's mechanically inventive method for prompting a change in Celeste nearly unhinged me.
Loved Matt. A wonderful brother. Nerdy. An MIT geek. But strong and true when his family needed him most. Like his older brother Finn, he's also Prince Charming.
Good portrayal of a dysfunctional family, including the parents, Erin and Roger.
Julie's relationship with her own father was only lightly textured, but I was definitely moved by that scene on New Year's Eve, with multiple lobster plates and the most expensive champagne in the cellars. ;-)
Each chapter starts with a brief but clever Facebook status update from Julie, Matt, and Finn. Sometimes those postings helped me predict the next scene. Other times, they more fully fleshed out the character's reactions to a completed scene. I chuckled at several of the postings.
Two sequels: Flat-Out Matt, Flat-Out Celeste.
A murder mystery, with strong characterization of central characters. The author writes around varied themes: Overcoming anger, long-term ostracism, parental love, second chances, redemption, faith, child abuse, the foster care system, and the ravages of HIV and hepatitis.
Set in Brunswick, Georgia, near the Atlantic coast and in the Buffalo Swamp marshlands. Takes place in current time and in the past. Told in first person POV, by Chase, a journalist.
This story is heartwarming. The portrayal of Uncle Willy's devoted fatherly love for little lost orphan boys -- and girls -- is beautiful. I loved seeing joy come to the little mute boy, so badly abused. However, his trust came too soon, I felt. After so much abuse at the hands of a man, he'd be slow to hold another's hand.
There are several references to the Bible, but the characters didn't feel preachy at all.
I liked the car, a snorkeling Land Cruiser named Vicky. I liked the funeral scene. Enjoyed the midnight hunt through the streets of Atlanta. Interesting resolution to the stolen diamond necklace.
But the story is also frustrating. Some plot holes. Some long info-dumps about the history of St Simons island and Sea Island. There's an info-dump on how terribly painful it is to die of aids.
As for the villain, this plot has a very disappointing resolution.
Also, I sometimes couldn't tell whether the author was describing a past or present scene. The story kept hopping around in time. This time-hopping drew me out of the characters, away from the story. It reduced the emotional impact.
Narration: Anderson portrayed the character voices quite well. He's not in the same league as Simon Vance, but slightly better than average, except for some poorly placed pauses and a few mispronounced words. Dulcinea, the whore esteemed by Don Quixote, for example. Easy enough to find out how to say it. Listen to the soundtrack or watch the movie, Man from La Mancha. The title was stated in the story.
Another book about an abused child who finds joy and love is ** The Good Dream ** set in about 1960 Appalachia. Loved that story, with only a few quibbles. Loved the narration, too. It's here on Audible
I've read the book several times; it's a favorite Regency-era classic by the immortal Georgette Heyer. The dialogue and plot is light and sparkling with humor. The narrator is superbly talented, but I expected a younger voice for the heroine, Arabella. Nash simply doesn't suit a debutante. I'm puzzled at this mismatch.
Fabulous narration by Simon Vance. I've heard the whole series. Was worried this book would be too depressing. Not so. Liked it more than expected. Profound at times, as Laurence deals with ostracism from folks he'd once called friend — or family. But despite the deep injustice and sadness, I often felt good while reading this one. It's heartwarming and mildly amusing in several scenes, offset by desperate bloody battle.
"Colonel Temeraire" of the 81st division steals the show, along with Perscitia the brainiac beast (a mathematically inclined female dragon who plans transportation and battle strategies, despite her personal aversion to warfare). Loved the idea of all these dragons — considered useless — leaving the breeding grounds (old folks home) to serve under Temeraire's command.
I liked the scenes with Lady Allendale and was pleased to see Gong Su again. The fat Lords of the Admiralty were as obtuse and hateful as ever, especially Mulgrave. Wellesley / Wellington seemed fairly realistic. Admiral Jane Roland was in high form throughout the book, too. Her teenage daughter Emily -- always a favorite of mine -- did not disappoint, nor did young Demane and Sipho. Granby and his fire-breathing dragon Iskierka play key roles, as does Tenzin Tharkay. Hoorah for Tharkay!
There are a few battle scenes, most notably the final confrontation with Napoleon, who managed to invade England (a departure from history). The battle formations (squares) felt authentic, despite the surprise (!) in the center, and Wellington's precise timing did not fail. Admiral Lord Nelson plays a key role in the battle, too.
I could have done without the chapter involving Edith and her husband.
The ending is poignant, set during the voyage to New South Wales. Laurence finds peace of mind about his just act of treason and feels nearly overcome with emotion in finding himself surrounded by a few true-blue friends.
This book reminds me of Lord Thomas Cochrane, the historic figure in naval history. The whole series does, in fact.
Now, we wait for the final book. Book 9. League of Dragons, or bust!
Fabulous performance by Simon Vance, who narrated the entire series. Yay for consistent voices! As for the story, about 3 stars. Good to see the crew rejoined, and lots of vivid scenes in the ocean and in South America. We travel from Sydney, Australia to Peru and Brazil: Lake Titicaca, Old Cuzco, and Rio. Lots of action. Battles and duels and dire straights. Surviving on the edge of starvation. Some deaths and some wonderful feasting and glad reunions. Also, the soothing leaves of the coca tree / bush provide for some mildly amusing bits.
One of the best scenes is towards the end, when the British dragon teams capture several French ships and dragons. Nicely detailed, but not too long or drawn out. I loved the way the dragons worked together, ensuring their crew's safety while taking down the French.
However, I couldn't get into the larger plot: Napoleon allies with the Botswana-based Tswana tribe (who travel to Brazil to free their enslaved kinsmen). Napoleon also attempts to ally with the Incan empire.
Still, I do love this juvenile dragon. He tries so hard to be a better beast, for Laurence's sake, despite his innate fascination with shiny bling, his possessiveness, and his easily ruffled pride.
Simon Vance brought Naomi Novik's fantasy to life. I'm learning more about the Napoleonic War from this series, despite the fictional dragons. It's an entertaining alternate history, close enough to the "truth" in some scenes to trigger my interest (so I look things up, comparing the historic account with the fictional).
I liked this 3-part plot, even if the pacing got bogged down in Prussian campaigning (by committee, with outdated strategies). Loved the characters. Here be dragons! Huzzah for the beast-baby Iskierka and for shrewd, swaggering Arkady! We also get a close encounter with Napoleon and threats from Lien, set on avenging her dead captain.
And here we meet the inscrutable Tharkay, half-Nepalese, half-British, fully ostracized. Totally hot.
Hopeful ending, when Team Temeraire finally gets to go home, escaping from besieged Danzig / Gdańsk. They have been away from home a full year. The journey has been fraught with fear, hunger, cold, assassinations, accusations, betrayals, avalanches, bandits, feral dragons, fire, and bloody bloody battles.
"But the sky ahead was opening up to a fierce, deep, cloudless blue, an endless road of wind and water before them. A signal was flying from the mast of the Vanguard: "Fair winds, sir!" Turner said, as they passed the ships by. Laurence leaned into the cold sea wind, bright and biting. It scrubbed into the hollows of Temeraire's sides to clean away the last of the eddies of smoke, spilling away in gray trailers behind them...
Out ahead of them, Arkady began something very like a marching song, chanting lines answered by the other ferals, their voices ringing out across the sky, each to each. Temeraire added his own to the chorus, and little Iskierka began to scrabble at his neck, demanding, "What are they saying? What does it mean?"
"We are flying home," Temeraire said, translating. "We are all flying home."
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