I don't seek out ghost stories too often -- nothing ever seems to equal Susan Hills's "The Woman in Black" -- the audiobook, not the film. Ghost stores just don't get any better than that. But this one comes close. I'm not sure why I decided to take a chance on it, but I like creepy old houses, especially if a ghost or two might linger, so that was probably it.
Glad I did -- I should have known this would be good. James Herbert also wrote "The Fog" and I remember reading that decades ago, and afterward, that book came to mind every single day when the tule fog overtook the Sacramento Valley and I had to navigate around in it. That's a seriously frightening book, too.
"Secrets" also has none of the things I don't like in a scary story, which is to say, I don't like stories that merge into science fiction. These are actual ghosts in this book -- real ghosts -- ha! -- not alien creatures or dragons or man-made monsters, or any of that sort of thing.
There are truly creepy moments aplenty -- although why people who are already unnerved by odd happenings decide to explore the basement is always beyond me, although I suppose if they didn't, there wouldn't be a book.
Special praise for the narrator, David Rintoul -- he must have burned up a thousand calories an hour narrating this. It's a high-energy narration, but in a good way. Just very well done.
Highly recommended. And three cheers for Chester -- a real trouper!
The first half of the book is great -- I loved it, hung on his every word. He's making great points -- kids are burdening themselves with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, spent on earning college degrees which have no economic value. For most, they will be stuck with these loans and huge interest repayments well into middle age -- and with little real benefit. That's an excellent point, and because Ilgunas' writing style is both addictive and fascinating, it's a great listen. It's like he's talking directly to you, telling you how he got himself into that mess, and how he plans to get out.
Special kudos to narrator Nick Podehl -- the perfect voice for this book. I had to check to see if the author himself was narrating, but no. It's just very well done indeed!
But then you come to the second half....... like all converts to a new lifestyle, Ilgunas decides that what he was forced to do to repay his loans -- extreme off-the-chart thrift and Alaskan wilderness-wandering to save money -- is something that everyone should do. Must do. In fact, in everyone did it, it would cure society's ills.
His notion that everyone should take time to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness -- a much, much colder Walden Pond experience -- is that it would help people refine their life priorities and make them less vulnerable to the world of consumerism. (Ilgunas doesn't delve into the mechanics of how having "everyone" retreat to the Alaskan wilderness alone would actually work out, land-and-space wise, but he's in favor of it, anyway.) Then, without taking a breath, he goes on to pontificate about the need for maintaining -- presumably at taxpayer expense -- world-wide wilderness, so that all this would be possible. And what about the people who are too "infirm" to do such a thing? He implies there would be only a few, but for those, just the idea that the wilderness exists would be enough for them to want to pay for it.
Hypocrisy reigns. In the process of ranting against organized society in general, Ilgunas decries how society "spoiled" the pristine beauty of northern New York, building communities like the one he himself grew up in -- where he still lives, in fact, as a 23-year old moocher off his parents, eating their food, tapping regularly (if reluctantly) into his mothers bank account. All the while, he ridicules the mundane life of those who work at regular jobs to pay for mortgages, who maintain restricting ties to family and friends -- when they could be out exploring the wilderness, finding their "wild" selves. In short, Ilgunas comes off as a quasi-nutcase in his fervor for his new lifestyle.
If there is an upside to that -- I came within a hair of quitting the book, in the midst of all that self-serving arrogant nonsense -- it's that at the end of the book he admits his own hypocrisy. At least he has the capacity for honesty. In that sense, it's a better book than Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America", which has a somewhat similar theme. Both books are fascinating reading, the tales of bleak poverty and extreme making-do, but Ehrenreich is much more strident in advocating her solutions. At least Ilgunas maintains a smidgen of humility.
But here's the bottom line about Ilgunas: in his unbridled passion for extreme penury -- living in a toilet-free van, peeing into a bottle, discarding waste "behind a tree", fretting over a mouse eating his food -- a life in which he literally obsesses over every cent he earns and spends, he's really no different than the people he despises so much, those who are consumed with acquiring. Whether one's obsession is doing without, or with acquiring more, one is still spending one's life consumed with THINGS.
Somehow I don't think that's what he intended.
I've loved all Brian Freeman's books -- I think I've read/listened to them all. So I was prepared to love this one like I loved the others -- I enjoy the Minnesota setting, the real, down-to-earth people, the relatively believable plots, the tension and suspense. But this one? Not so much.
It's a little creepy, y'know? There are all these adults, getting themselves all wrapped up in their teen's love affairs, including the mechanics thereof... so much so, that at times, it seemed like what was probably supposed to come off as "concerned parent" instead looked more like "dirty old man". Maybe it was the narrator reading more into it than was written, but my antenna were wiggling, big time. There were definitely times I wouldn't want those people within ten feet of my own kids. Yuk!
Then too, there's way too much helicopter parenting here. And I'm getting more than a little tired of the "He's my son/daughter. Therefore I know he/she didn't do it" story line. C'mon. Give us some reason WHY the kid didn't do it, something other than genetics.
And the narrator. Well, I AM from that part of the country, and while I appreciate the effort, narrator Joe Barrett laid it on a little thick. There is the distinct Minnesota "o", of course. But not everyone sounds like Ole and Lena.
Bottom line: It was just overdone, the whole thing -- including the laying on of the "I'm a Christian" thing with a trowel. We are repeatedly lectured on all the things "a Christian" wouldn't do. Count me as a cynic, but it seems to me that even some people who claim the "Christian" label have been known to do things that aren't exactly kosher, if you can forgive the mixed metaphor. It's like the "my son/my daughter wouldn't do such a thing" rationale. Some sons and daughters DO do such things. Some Christians don't always toe the line. In this book, there were way too many attempts at categorical exemptions -- it just didn't work for me.
Next time a Brian Freeman book comes up, I'll look a little more closely before clicking "buy".
I love Lucas Davenport -- which is why I don't like this book at all.
The Lucas Davenport I like is the smart, wise-cracking, deucedly clever cop -- I love his city as he describes it, the guys he works for, his friends and family -- this is a little early for Weather, but... I love how he contrives to outwit the most dastardly criminals.
But this book spends at least 80% of the time either in the mind of the the evil guy Bekker, or watching this depraved creature as he goes about his disgustingly way-beyond-gruesome deeds. What makes it worse is that the usually excellent Ferrone interprets Bekker in the most dire, disaster-looming tones -- it gets old, real fast. I want to go take a bath every time I turn off the iPod.
Call me silly, but I don't really want to spend that much time in the mind of pure evil. What I want is the delightful Lucas Davenport as he contriving to catch the guy. Even Davenport, in this book, is depressed, not happy with his life. But even so, I'd much rather live in the mind and the world of Lucas -- not this evil beast. I want the Lucas Davenport of the newer books -- not these first ones.
I don't know what the cut-off line is, at which point in the series Sandford stopped writing the series in the preponderance-of-evil mode, and instead began focusing on the clever and likable Davenport.
At least I know one thing now -- stay away from the early books.
I had things to do, I had things I needed to do. But not so much that I felt compelled to stop listening -- life is short, y'know? And good books like this don't come along every day.
Great book. Likable characters, reasonably unique plot, a really great dog and a totally unforgettable Road Trip From Hell, parts of which were so funny I had to go back and replay them -- problem was, I was laughing so hard I was afraid I might have missed something. Among other points of hilarity, anyone who has ever taken an extremely large, extremely hairy, urban dog on a car ride through the countryside will identify, and yes, I have done that. Miz Moyes must have really done it too, or she couldn't have written it so accurately and so hilariously. Those scenes are simply not to be missed.
It's funny -- this is my second Jojo Moyes book and I loved the first one almost as much as this one. Maybe it's time to admit that this kind of normal "novel" -- ie, not a murder anywhere, not a thriller in any sense -- is something I also enjoy. In that sense, these books remind me a little of the Late Great Maeve Binchy, another author whose books I cherish every time I reread them. Both women have the ability to take relatively normal everyday lives and make them so interesting, so fascinating, occasionally so funny, you just can't get enough.
Bottom line: I just put all of Miz Moyes' other books on my wish list. That says it all.
This book was published in 1994 -- the "war" in question was a race war, which is kind of interesting, because amazingly or not, all the racial issues Lehane highlights are even worse now than they were then. So in that sense, it's an interesting listen. Nothing changes so much as it remains the same.
As for anything else, it just didn't interest me much this time around -- I was off with the fairies time after time, and I'd have to backtrack. I first read this book shortly after it came out, then again a few years ago, not necessarily by choice -- I was living overseas, and would read virtually anything I could get my hands on, so long as it was printed in English. I don't remember being deeply touched or moved or inspired -- let alone "thrilled" or even kept in suspense -- either time.
That didn't change. It just doesn't ring my bells. Listening did give it one new dimension -- the poetic quality of Lehane's writing stands out. But since I don't much value poetry (sorry, just not my thing) and since much of the book deals with still-unresolved racial issues and situations, I didn't care for it much this time either.
Good to know. Now there won't be a fourth read, not in any form.
Great dog -- no question about that. But there were many times I was ready to take Megan the cop, back to the shelter. Sheesh! She is a truly unappealing protagonist. I'm glad she's fictional -- heaven forbid any real cop act out her fury (over what, no one seems to know) against hapless citizens, let alone dogs. How odd, that people think pit bulls are vicious -- but pit bulls are pussy cats as compared to this anger-fueled toots.
The parts having to do with Bridget the dog are great, I admit that -- and they seemed to be spaced at ideal moments. Several times, just when I'd reach the point that I'd had enough, was ready to quit, Bridget would do something clever or funny (very funny -- some great comedy scenes here, that's true) and I'd decide to keep listening again. But the rest? Megan spends her time alternately moaning and caterwauling like a cat in heat over a muscular firefighter (embarrassing) and breathing fire at anyone who gets in her way, so when you couple that with some "kumbaya" political philosophizing, it gets to be quite a mess. But again, Bridget was the one who saved the day, every time. Great dog.
I've read/listened to everyone of the "dog" books that's come along -- maybe a dozen different series, all told. The best -- by far -- is Alan Russell's Gideon and Sirius series, starting with "Burning Man". "Paw Enforcement" clearly falls into the bottom third of the group.
Would I take a chance on another Megan/Bridget book? Depends on how desperate I was... I do like dog books....
If you're single, you need to read this book. If you're thinking of getting married, then you really need to read it. In fact, if you ever think about getting divorced, you need to hear this story. And if you ever should consider marrying a previously-married spouse, then you really really need to read it. In fact, unless you're a nun, you really should read it -- and even if you are a nun, you'd probably still find it fascinating.
I had never heard of the book or the author, but wow -- I lucked out. This a blockbuster, un-put-down-able from the very first page. The premise is so exquisitely simple: Dani wakes up one morning after a party and finds that her husband is not in bed, not in the kitchen, not in the house. Where did he go? That's the whole issue, right there, but because life is so complicated, that's more than enough.
Both Dani and husband Ian had been married before, had cheated with each other, then finally broke away, married and moved to a houseboat in Seattle. There are children involved -- children old enough to know what was going on, but not old enough to be gone from the home. There is the lovable dog Pollux, quite a character by himself. But oy, the complications that arise when a spouse simply disappears...
One thing is for sure, Deb Caletti is not only a very wise woman but an awesomely sensitive observer of human nature. Time after time, I found myself smiling at some observation she made, some quirk of common conduct she mused over, some tidbit of wisdom she revealed. It's not just the story -- it's the writing, too. And the narration? Perfect.
Don't miss this one -- and don't compare it to "Gone Girl", either. I liked 'Gone Girl' -- but this books is ten times better than that one.
I'd never read the book -- I did see the film, of course, but now, decades later, I remembered only two scenes, probably the same ones you remember. But this is a fine novel by any standard -- much more complex and nuanced that I ever expected. Back then, I guess I was too engrossed in the green puke and turning heads to realize that there was a real story here, and a good one. The struggles of Father Damien are really touching. Quite a story.
But really, what made this book among my favorites -- and yes, I will listen to this one again -- is the author's narration. I actually had to go look, to see if William Peter Blatty had acting experience in his background -- and no, apparently not, but wow. He's seriously talented -- famed as a scriptwriter, director and novelist, but apparently he stayed on the other side of the camera. But Blatty as narrator is absolutely excellent -- one of the best narrations of anything I've ever heard. He manages the Irish brogues, the Brooklyn cant, the whole panoply of DC accents with aplomb, worth a listen for that alone, see how a master really interprets a novel. The whole thing, every scene, just comes alive.
Not to be missed, this one.
But still, for at least the first 3/4 of the book, I was totally hooked. I liked the premise -- girl disappears into Mexico when a cruise ship docks, and her sister set out to find her. There are a couple of really neat, even shocking, plot twists I thoroughly enjoyed. But then toward the end, it really went off the tracks, and with Scott Brick's usual over-the-top dramatic reading, it started to verge into melodrama, to the point that it was laughable. I wondered if it was going to end with a rousing rendition of "East Lynne".
Also worth noting is that there really is only one sex scene -- consensual, not rape -- but even at that, it is the among the most disgusting and repulsive things I've ever heard on audiobooks. Way too kinky for me -- and yes, I stay away from "romances" in general and even from books with an excessive amount of kissy-face parts, but this one scene was beyond comment. Truly disgusting. (Now I suppose about half of you will immediately click "buy", while the other half will move along -- ha!) Anyway, be warned -- if you care about such things.
Finding a Joanna Brady book I hadn't read? Wow. And the first one -- really? How did I miss it? But what a happy thing I had missed it -- got to listen to it now for the first time.
I love this series -- I appreciate the whole crowd, not just Joanna, but Jenny (called more formally "Jennifer" in this first book) who's nine years old here, Marianne the minister, Joanna's viper-tongued mother, who reminds me so much of one of my female relatives I listed to those parts over and over, laughing every time. Boy, Miz Jance nails these nasty-mother characters just perfectly. We even meet both dogs, and learn how Tigger came into the family.
And it's here we meet the sadder but wiser Annie Kellogg, too, who plays a big part in several subsequent books. I hadn't realized she'd been there from the start, even her love for birds is shown here. Who knew?
It was fun to see where it all started. And interesting, too, because Jance is unique among authors who have written as many books as she has: this first book and the last ones are equally good. Joanna and the whole crowd age, they go through normal life cycles, but Jance never seems to run out of unique material to occupy them all.
That's unusual. The norm is -- or seems to be -- that after a few books in a series, authors either start to fade away, losing interest in their own characters. Or they struggle to find new situations to mess around with, getting more and more extreme, to the point the books are just no longer interesting. Some authors get better, of course -- like John Sandford. His early Luke Davenport books are very different -- Luke in the beginning is an angry, violent guy, and only over time does he get to be the wisecracking hero, still just as creative and brave, but without the hard edge of anger displayed in the first books. But Joanna? She doesn't change. She's just as smart, dedicated, honest, brave and interesting in the last books as she was in the first.
But now I have indeed read them all. Nothing to do now but wait for new ones!
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