I'm supposing that most book lovers have already come across Angela's Ashes by this time -- so many prizes, so many awards, so much well-deserved international acclaim. I read the book when it first came out, loved it so much I then bought the audiotapes -- on cassette -- and listened to them several times over. One time, I remember listening on the long drive from Sacramento to Southern California, and I recall driving into urban Los Angeles crying so hard I could hardly see the road. It's that kind of book -- one that will have you both laughing and crying within the same minute. It's just priceless.
Somewhere along the way the cassettes got lost, so when I saw the book again on Audible, I was delighted. I haven't listened to it for maybe ten years, so it was new to me all over again. One of the delights of this book is seeing yourself reflected in what McCourt writes. My background is about as radically different from his as is possible to to be, for two English-speakers, anyway, but still, there are parts that resonate personally with me so much. When he's talking about his school days, there are time when I feel myself saying, "I remember that!" although of course I don't. Not exactly. But McCourt's book is like that -- it draws you in, and makes his story resonate in your own mind.
Author-read books are always the best, and in this case, McCourt is exceptional. No one can tell his own stories like he can, and you feel you're in the same room with him, listening as he tells you what it was like.
If you haven't read or listened to Angela's Ashes in a while, it's time to do it again. And if you've never come across it before, wow -- are you lucky! To listen to this book for the first time is really a wonderful thing.
In fact, I love it so much I've bought it three times -- first as a paperback, then as an audible book, then again as a paperback, after I loaned out my first copy then never got it back. No problem: if any leisure reading is worth buying three times, this one is.
"Mary Kay Andrews" is Kathy Hogan Trocheck when she's at home -- I got hooked on her after hearing her interviewed on a Canadian radio station while driving home from Vancouver BC late one night, and was impressed with her versatility as a writer, publishing in several different genres. I'd never read any of her numerous books -- 17 novels, 10 of them mysteries -- but this one is my favorite. First of all, I like make-overs, whether it's hairstyles, makeup, dresses or houses. There are several "I got fired, but inherited an old house, so I may as well fix it up" books -- see the "Orchard Mysteries" series by Sheila Connolly, also available on Audible, not to mention a whole fixer-upper series by Sarah Graves. They're all good -- but there's more "meat" in this one than most, since there's a parallel story running about how protagonist Dempsey Killebrew got taken by a clever lobbyist boss in Washington, and found herself on the front pages of the Washington Post, hung out to dry for her boss's misdeeds. And then there's Ella Kate, the irascible 80-year old termagant who's been squatting in the house, adding an extra layer of interesting oddball Southern characters who populate Guthrie, Georgia, the wide spot in the road where "Birdsong", the dilapidated mansion, sits.
Lots of things get "fixed up" in "The Fixer Upper" -- not just the house, but just about everyone involved. And if you've been putting off doing some painting, tiling or floor refinishing yourself, it works as an inspiration, too. After listening to "Jimmy" - a real estate agent who paints houses for fun -- wax lyrical about the ethereal grace involved in applying a new coat of paint to an old room, I called a painter and set about doing some 'fix-it' work myself.
Good book. But I guess I said that.
A "Daily Deal", knew nothing about the author or the book before listening.... which was probably my mistake. There are a series of books by this author, and I don't know where this one fits in, but it was obvious there was a lot of back-story about these much-wounded, bodies-covered-with-scars characters. The past was alluded to, but I never got over the feeling that I'd walked into the middle of a play.
It was well read and parts were interesting -- I could see the attraction -- but when I was an hour from the end, and had just listened to yet another set of paragraphs enthusing over Dani's body parts, most frequently extolling her exquisite legs, her "thin little arms" and her "tiny little feet", I decided I'd had enough. There's more to writing a "thriller" than endless descriptions of her body -- and everyone else's, come to think of it. Much ink was spend on defining, over and over again, everyone's body type, very very big, little teeny tiny, and in between. Seemed very strange.
So I never did really get into it -- it had great potential. I liked the location. But way too thin a story line to be compelling, and the characters never emerged from two-dimensional.
It was thanks to this book that I got all the windows in the house washed -- inside and out -- the garage floor swept and both the linen closet and the sewing room reorganized. I couldn't stop listening -- I had to find some way to justify taking the time to keep listening.
This was my first exposure to Jojo Moyes -- never heard of her before, never come across any of her books before this one, when I rolled the dice on yet another really great Daily Deal. "Night Music" won't be the last -- except that I expect I'll listen to this one a few more times before I'm finished with it.
It's funny, I see other reviewers saying that this isn't Moyes best book, which just blows my mind. Can't quite see how any of them could be better than this, but... hey, I'm willing to try.
Maybe it's just me, but there's something about a battle over a house that attracts me. Another of my favorite books (not the film) is Andre Dubus III's "House of Sand and Fog" which also involves a house everyone wants, and the emotional pull such an embattled dwelling can bring about. "Night Music" is very different from that book -- maybe even better -- but I felt the same compulsion to keep listening until it all got worked out. Of course "Night Music" is really about the people -- the fragile, wounded, too-trusting professional violinist who inherits it, the corrupt builder who pretends to help restore it, but has evil plans of his own, the children caught in the middle of it, the guy who's camping out, unknown, in the boiler room... and the rabbits. Can't forget the rabbits.
What can I say? Don't miss this one. Your own house will be a whole lot cleaner by the time you finish!
A low-key mystery set in Berlin -- and a great listen by any standard. There's murder afoot here -- but Dr, Felix Hoffman works with geriatric patients, and some of the normal end-of-life situations he encounters might be natural, others clearly not so. But this is not a "thriller", rather a really interesting look into the world of seriously ill old people and one doctor who serves them.
And their pets. The following is not really a "spoiler", but... "Trixie", described as an 'ugly mutt' was owned by Dr. Hoffman's elderly aunt, so when the aunt herself dies, Trixie is adopted by Dr. Hoffman and figures prominently in the tale. What's interesting -- as a side note in the story -- is that Dr, Hoffman recognizes the important part that pets play in the lives of the elderly, and so he uses a legacy to create an adjunct to their hospital, a kennel for patient's pets, where the patients can go to visit any time they're able -- they even installed a few hospital beds, so a patient can even spend the night with their pet if they wish. Not surprisingly for us pet lovers, but Dr. Hoffman notes that after this facility is established, the demand for pain medication and anti-depressants in his ward drops by half. I believe that -- and an interesting idea. I wonder if this really exists in Germany.
All in all, this a really good book. I'd never heard of the book or the author before -- thank you Daily Deal! -- but now I'll definitely seek out more "Dr. Hoffman" books on Audible. Very enjoyable -- I was sad to finish it.
Three hours in, and I began to realize what a colossal mistake I've been making with audiobooks. I've been giving five stars to lots of books, books I really enjoyed, books that kept me listening way beyond time to quit, well-narrated books, all of them the kind of thing I knew I'd remember for a long time. All those were good books, great books, maybe. But now, what do I do with this book? "Bonfire of the Vanities"? This book -- as written and narrated -- is so far beyond all those other books I've loved, what do I do now? Only five stars are available!
The other thing is, I could easily write a book setting forth all the reasons why this is the best audiobook I've ever listened to -- well, on a par with my other all-time favorite, "Angela's Ashes", which - up until now -- I'd decided was the only other PERFECT audiobook I'd come across. Now there are two.
I won't write a book about it, I won't even say much more, except for one thing: if you've read this far, and decide NOT to buy this book, you're a damn fool. This is the experience of a lifetime, an experience that will draw you in, wrap you up, and then spit you out 27 hours later, exhausted, limp with emotion, and knowing only one thing: you've got to listen to it again.
And as to Joe Barrett, the narrator, there should be a lifetime uber-superior award for his interpretation of this book -- he handled everything with perfection, the gazillions of New York accents, of every possible ethnicity, he slam-dunked the various complicated medical terms, not even Yiddish threw him off his stride. This book is worth it for the narration alone.
Buy it. Download, and click it on. You're gonna be missing the experience of a lifetime if you don't.
Too bad, too. Having read almost all the Tess Monaghan books and at least a couple of the stand-alones, I was greatly looking forward to this one. Laura Lippman is a fine writer, by any standard. But not this time. I didn't connect with this one at all.
It doesn't really fit into any genre -- it's not really a mystery, or if it is, it's so slow moving and tedious that if that's what you wanted, you'd give up early. (I nearly did, many different times.) It could be chic lit of some kind, what with all the women and their inner monologues, fighting over what this criminal they loved had left them as he fled -- "the women" including a wife, mistresses, various female children, various extended family. It could be just a straight novel, maybe, but it's just not good enough. The 'who cares?' factor is way too high. In fact, if anyone other than an established author like Lippman had written this, it would never have sold.
All the way through, I was wondering if the narration was a part of the problem. Narrator Linda Emond has a very pleasant, easy to listen to voice, but as the story jumps back and forth in time, with several different women talking about what they were thinking, what they did, what they wore, what others had done to them, what they should have done, etc etc it was extremely difficult to keep track of who was talking, and where in time they were. Emond didn't make any serious attempt at differentiating the voices, nor did she sometimes even pause, when leaping from an historical accounting into the present or back again. In fact, I started/restarted this book three different times -- never would have done that, if it had been anyone but Lippman -- but in the early pages, I couldn't figure out who was talking, when it was taking place, or who was talking next. Not to mention that it was boring, right off the block. I couldn't find a way to care.
Toward the end, I found myself wondering if this was a fleshed-out true Baltimore story of some kind -- a criminal, flush with assets, runs off to parts unknown, forever, thus avoiding conviction, while the women he leaves behind fight over his left-behind spoils. The "cold case" investigation never seems to be a real part of the story -- just something shuffled in, here and there, so it could sort-of qualify as detective fiction.
Best advice? Skip this one. Virtually any other book by Miss Lippman will be better. Oh, and another piece of advice? If you're going to name your protagonist "Bambi", you darn well better be writing a literary masterpiece, because we all harbor too many cutesy associations with that name to tolerate anything short of genius.
Yet another bargain book success! Never heard of either the book or the author, but decided to roll the dice and take a chance -- and once again, that was a good idea.
It's funny, they say there are only four basic plots in all of fiction, but I'm not sure how that accounts for this one. As the story evolves, a pretty unique situation reveals itself -- although in today's crazy world I suppose it isn't quite as unique as I think it is. Even so, this was like nothing I'd ever read before. I loved the freshness of the whole thing.
Karen MacInerny has created interesting, likable characters and structured a truly unique plot but what makes this book a real delight is how funny it is. One of the side-stories deals with how Margie, formerly a stay at home mother, now a new, untrained, part-time private eye, is forced to deal with the head of her daughter's day care center. My kids are grown now, but it seems to me I had some of those same inane discussions with a similar Witch in Power when they were little -- you know, the "Solve (this issue with your child) by tomorrow, or we're expelling her." No, my daughter hadn't decided that she was a dog -- with all that entails, including eating on the floor, barking, biting, etc -- but I seem to recall similar disputes and similar chaos. And I also recall spending some evenings with one kid or the other, explaining just how important to Life As We Know it, that they amend their conduct by tomorrow morning, or all hell was going to break loose. Like Margie, I simply could not deal with having to find new child care arrangements. I'm sure most other working mothers will have had similar experiences. Odd how much more fun it is to remember those situations than was dealing with them in the first place!
Also odd was that so many readers compared this book to those of Janet Evanovitch. I don't get that at all. I've read/tried to read a couple of Evanovitch's books, and didn't enjoy them at all -- I've stopped even looking at her series. To me, the Evanovitch books came across as downright silly, whereas this one was genuinely funny. All in the eyes of the beholder, I suppose.
So? All in all, a good book and a great narrator. I'll be looking for more.
I listened to "The Weight of Silence", also by -- then unknown to me -- author Heather Gudenkauf and generally liked it -- I liked it well enough to try another. Who knew that this second book would ultimately rank among my all-time favorites? All through the whole book, I kept making mental lists of everyone I had to pester, to get them to read/listen to 'Little Mercies'. It's a stunner, by any standard. Wish I had someone to discuss it with.
There's a dual plot: in one segment, Ellen Moore is a first-class social worker, the kind of passionate, caring, dedicated social worker we wish all of them were. But by a freaky communication error with her husband on a hot and hectic morning, Ellen doesn't realize that her husband has already put baby Avery in Ellen's car. Ellen rushes off to a client emergency, not knowing her one-year-old is in the back seat. Not until she returns to her car hours later and finds people breaking the windows to free her unconscious child does she realize what happened.
In a parallel story, a gutsy little ten year old Jenny Baird finds herself alone on a bus, heading to a strange town, after her ne'er-do-well father gets himself into a fight and arrested as he's just about to board. it's a heartbreaking tale, as this little girl tries to seek out first her grandmother, whom she's never met, and then her mother, who's never cared two bits about her, and finds herself lost and alone, each time - except, that is, for the 'little mercies' of total strangers who lovingly take her in and try to help.....
In a way, 'Little Mercies' reminds me of the best of Jodi Picault's books. With the two parallel stories, each told by an excellent narrator, you experience two compelling tales as they intertwine. in Jenny's story, we wish we all had the kindness of some of the people Jenny meets. And in Ellen's story, virtually all of us who are mothers won't have too much trouble seeing this terrible chain of events as happening to any one of us. One of my friends -- mother of seven children herself -- is adamant that any parent who "forgets" his/her child in a locked car should simply be taken out and shot, no further questions asked. No caring parent, she contends, could ever be so mindless. This friend is at the top of my list to get her to read this book. It CAN happen. Innocently, and in spite of every safeguard -- well almost every safeguard -- it does happen. And what follows compounds the tragedy.
Warning: once you start listening, you'd better clear your schedule. There are times when you simply can't stop listening, you just have to push on. It's that good.
I've been seeing these books by Rhys Bowen for years, but always avoided them. "Spyness" it says, and espionage isn't one of my favored genres. But then came a Daily Deal, and an affordable way to see what the books were all about, because indeed, most of these books were getting great reviews.
I loved it! As it turns out, the "spying" involved isn't international cloak and dagger stuff -- more like cape-and-butter knife social affairs, ferreting out juicy bits of gossip for "HRM" -- and in her service, but of course! The "spying" leads to some dangerous situations for several people, some of whom survive, others who don't, but whatever, it's a worthy tale and a pleasure throughout.
Bowen's characters were uniquely interesting, and there was a very credible mystery at the heart of the plot. Not a simpering heroine in sight, but rather a spunky down-on-her-luck member of the royal family -- somewhat distant, but not THAT distant -- who takes charge in a rather admirable way. Several "real" people were scattered among the fictional ones -- I loved the characterization of Wallace Simpson -- I have no idea if this portrayal is accurate or not, but in Rhys Bowen's hands, she comes off as slightly wacky, irreverent, outrageous and seriously funny. Same with the protagonist, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie -- and especially her much-married mother, who's equally flamboyant and not the least bit ashamed of it. Who would imagine that the stiff-upper-lip English gentry could be so funny behind doors?
Very good book -- unfortunately, most of them are too short for me to spend a credit on, so I'll have to look for more bargains, or find them in print. But I'll definitely be looking.
Confession: I love detective fiction, murder mysteries, suspense plots of all kinds, but what I mostly appreciate about them are the characters, the location, occasionally an interesting plot or subplot that deals with something that interests me. In spite of it all, I don't particularly care who "done" it. Occasionally, I will skip the last 20-30 pages of a book entirely -- I'd like to know who actually DID it, but when the explanation of how they did it, or why, gets too long and tiresome, I tune out. I really don't care.
This is one such book. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 5.5 hours of this book -- I like the main anti-hero character -- okay, he's no George Ripley, but still, as a witty, sophisticated and delightfully droll thief, he was just fine. I liked the Amsterdam location. I thought I was enjoying the plot.
But then the denouement started, waaaaaaay too early -- and it went on, and on and on and on. Explanation after explanation.... good grief. For a book that's slightly over 7 hours long, if it takes 1.5 hours to explain how it all happened, that's too much. Too complex. I no longer cared -- I wanted to move along to something else.
I quit listening with 48 minutes left.... way too much explanation for me. Good book, though, up to that point.
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