Imagine you are a hunter-gatherer some 12,000 years ago. You've got a choice - carry on foraging or plant a few seeds and move to one of those new-fangled settlements down the valley. What you won't know is that urban life is short and riddled with dozens of new diseases; your children will be shorter and sicklier than you are; they'll be plagued with gum disease and stand a decent chance of violent death at the point of a spear. Why would anyone choose this? But choose they did.
I was thrilled when I stumbled upon this book and anticipated a totally enthralling listening experience. The topic fascinates me and the reviews were good on several sites so I had high hopes. Yikes was I dismayed when I started to listen.
The author chose to present the material using such a terrible, flip, almost sarcastic tone that I found it totally off putting or really to be honest almost repellent. To me, the frequent attempts at failed humor and idiotic insider jokes squelched it completely. It was just too embarrassing.
Topping the whole thing off, just to make my day, I dropped the ball and found that it was too late for me to return this dreadful mess of a book. Oh Ugh. Can't recommend.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
England, 1976. Mrs. Creasy is missing, and the Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbors blame her sudden disappearance on the heat wave, but 10-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren't convinced. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, the girls decide to take matters into their own hands. Inspired by the local vicar, they go looking for God - they believe that if they find him they might also find Mrs. Creasy and bring her home.
This is another great example of the difficulties and pitfalls of categorizing books by target age groups and genres. Plunking this book neatly into the teens section is too limiting and confusing. In reality the book is a pot-boiler of neighborhood and family relationships, strife, exclusion and connection. The title refers to a sermon preached by the local vicar about dividing people into groups of those viewed as good or those thought to be bad....or in this case goats or sheep. The key word in understanding the title is the word trouble or really the difficulty in applying labels and dividing people.
Cannon beautifully plays out a community in turmoil with wonderful character studies and a gradual exposure of the shades of gray in life and in people. The storytelling moves between the summer of 1976 and back about ten years earlier to a disaster that occurred in the community. Little by little the reader comes to know the characters and finds that all is not always as it seems. We see that much of life is made up of preconceived judgements or arbitrary likes or dislikes--whether you prefer sheep or goats.
The writing was subtle and at times spare which captured the mysteries of this multilayered story. Wilcox's narration was excellent. She brought such a wide range of people to life that I was amazed by her skill.
Be aware that while we see much of the action in this book through the eyes of two young girls this really isn't a book for or about what the children see or understand. Cannon delves deeply into what makes some people fit in or belong to a group and what excludes others. It's about connection and the things that divide us.
I read several very positive reviews for this book in the US newspapers and on two UK book sites. I'm really glad that I ignored the teen genre here on audible and went with the reviews. While parts of the story are disturbing it really made me think and transported me back to London in the 1970's.
I just spent, or really wasted almost 14 hours listening to the tedious and repetitive thriller The Woman in The Window. Whether Cannon intended it or not she has captured a thriller in the every day life of a community. If you really think about it, this story was terrifying.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules - a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the Lone Star State, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders - a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman - have stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment.
I chose this book because right now I'm reading outside my usual genre to mix things up a little. I've listened to loads of really long but let you down--or really just plain awful books recently. Particularly disheartening of the bunch were The Immortalists and worst of all The Great Alone. So much build up and book hype preceded these titles and so much let down followed that I really wonder if I'm not becoming book shy. At least I borrowed the recorded versions of these books from the library (phew) so no awkward audible return chats required here--thank goodness.
Locke captures her characters vividly using snippets and partial side angled views but we learn so much about these believable and real people through the writing. At times I felt that I had arrived at the movie ten minutes late and missed key information really needed for the story. Several times I stopped and checked to be sure that I wasn't reading book 2 of a series--having missed book one. While sometimes I felt at a loss--at the same time I came away with a palpable vision of East Texas, its people and crime in America.
This book was really scary, calloused in its presentation of violence and terrifying in the way it captured racial prejudice in a small community. The writing had me captivated and researching aspects of the story and finding them all too real. Be aware that there is very little happiness to be found in Bluebird, Bluebird. Love yes, friendship yes, loyalty yes--but happiness--not so much. Only for the strong reader who likes stories about troubled Texas Rangers trying to make all things right in the end.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can't afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can't afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon. Arrogant and adulterous, Quentin can't understand why Lottie is so angry; devastated and humiliated, Lottie feels herself to have been intolerably wounded. Mud, mice and quarrels are one thing - but why is their rent so low?
This has been such a difficult book for me to review because the writing was so perfect, so supremely beautiful and completely spot on in its descriptions of farm life, complex families, end of life care and the mess that can occur in marriage. I absolutely loved the depth and connection between the characters. Even better, the really scary bits were subtly woven into the story. For me, the scariest parts of the book oddly had little to do with the murder mystery.
Craig really captured the realities of farm to table food production in all its horrors and heartbreaks. She got so much right about the back breaking degree of labor required to live the country life. She delved deeply into complicated issues of trust and honesty in relationships. My favorite aspect of the book was the year-in-the-life tone it took in portraying living in the country and the impact that had on each family member. The descriptions of the seasonal changes, the harshness of winter, the beauty of nature and the seaside were evocatively written and wonderful. I really loved so much about this book.
That said, I have to admit that there were things I disliked or really disagreed with about the book. I, for example, hated the ending. I cringed at the factory food production stories and I found that I disagreed with some of the medical info presented. In the end, however, it was precisely these extreme feelings--both positive and negative, that made me choose to rate the book all five stars. The story had real depth and caused such powerful reactions and emotions that it had me fussing and thinking. The sign of really good fiction. Glad I didn't miss this one.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
She'd heard the stories, seen the movies, read the books. But now police Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård has to leave her native Norway and actually go there - to that land across the Atlantic where her missing brother is implicated in the mysterious death of a prominent African-American academic. America. Sigrid is plunged into a United States where race and identity, politics and promise, reverberate in every aspect of daily life.
Miller's book Norwegian By Night was published about 5 years ago and introduced the reader to the powerful character of 82 year old ex-marine Sheldon. This new entry in what appears to be a series picks up just days after the final scene of that first book. In American By Day, Miller continues to explore cultural divides, love, loss, family and most importantly memory.
For me, Sheldon is a tough act to follow and book one had a driving pace that used a complex mix of semi-confused elderly internal dialogue and flash back style memories to tell an edge of your seat story. Book two, to me, had a slower pace and a more circumspect point of view. Don't get me wrong, the characters in book two were easy to connect with, well developed, and believable. Miller tells a good story with another cross cultural adventure but be aware--it's just a little different in style.
I will be really interested in seeing where Miller takes the story in future books and to see more of Sigrid and Irv--both engaging characters. This book was filled with dry humor, deep insights about cultural conflicts within communities and the pitfalls of perspective in love and family. It's best to read book one in the series before starting this title as one builds on the other.
Recommended if you liked Norwegian By Night. I enjoyed this continued storyline and thought the narration was excellent.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful
Their average age was 25. They came from Berkeley, Cambridge, Paris, London, Chicago - and arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret, including what their husbands were doing at the lab. They lived in barely finished houses with P.O. box addresses in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of a project that didn’t exist as far as the public knew.
I am surprised by how effective and by how much I enjoyed the plural point of view used in the writing. Nesbit told the story from the group perspective rather than being centered on or limited to several individual characters. Instead of distancing the reader from the characters I thought it accentuated how Los Alamos and the nuclear program were a group effort involving scientists and their families from around the country and around the world.
The story highlighted a fascinating time in history and effectively put a personal and human face on the project, its dangers and outcomes. I enjoyed hearing about the wild nature and native culture of New Mexico and life in the isolated military compound of Los Alamos.
I thought Gilbert did a good job with the narration. Do be aware that this book offers the day in and day out human experience of this time in the format of a novel. If you are interested in a comprehensive history of the atomic bomb it is best to look to a different book. That said, I enjoyed the textural feeling offered by this work of historic fiction.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Ms. Beatrice Hempel, teacher of seventh grade, is new - new to teaching, new to the school, newly engaged, and newly bereft of her devoted father. Overwhelmed by her newness, she struggles to figure out what is expected of her in life and at work. Is it acceptable to introduce swear words in to the English curriculum, enlist students to write their own report cards, or bring up personal experiences while teaching a sex-education class?
I was completely taken by surprise by this gentle, joyous and insightfully told story of Beatrice, a new exceedingly earnest middle-school teacher. The story was funny, frank, oddball, loving and longingly told. Gilbert's narration was a perfect foil for Bynum's beautifully succinct nail-on-the-head writing style. Complex and often conflicting emotions are rendered palpable and crystalline with this excellent storytelling.
I stumbled upon this wonder years after publication and confess that I was so taken with this book I listened twice. On the surface this is a simple story but somehow it artfully captures the exuberance of young adulthood and the devotion that can occur between a teacher and her students. Bynum also captures a myriad of Beatrice's relationships--some uncomfortable and embarrassing--with her small circle of friends, her co-workers and her family. So much depth is accomplished in such a short period of time that I was amazed.
To me this was a joy filled, occasionally silly but always heartfelt story. I loved it.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful
It's taken Nora three years. With the help of her best friend, she fled New York City for a small resort town, snagged a job as the advice columnist for the local paper, and is cautiously letting a new man into her life. But when Hugh and his perfect new family move into a house nearby, Nora backslides. Coping with jealousy, humiliation, and resentment again is as hard as she feared. It's harder still when Hugh and his wife are shot to death in their home. If only Nora could account for the night of the murders.
I tried this book because a friend told me that if I enjoyed Ann Leary's The Good House I might like this because they had similar moods and settings. After listening I agree that both books captured small communities with clashes between local town people and the wealthy new to the area summer people. The main characters were both completely on the edge and the books were dominated by the inner voices and thoughts of these characters. In the end, The Good House wins as my favorite of the two, but Shafransky's Tips For Living was good and kept me engaged and guessing.
I really like mysteries that are set in distinct locations with lots of texture, local color, good descriptions of the surroundings and strong support characters. This book succeeded in all of these areas and had a well thought out storyline. I will say that the medical treatments in the story made me scratch my head and say What?--but these small issues weren't enough to make me give up on the story being told. I enjoyed the cultural aspects added to the story by the main character Nora's Russian family background. For me, this added depth to the whole picture.
Overall, this was an enjoyable story that held my interest and kept me listening and wondering. I liked it.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
Abigail Adams offers a fresh perspective on the famous events of Adams's life, and along the way, Woody Holton, a renowned historian of the American Revolution, takes on numerous myths about the men and women of the founding era. But the book also demonstrates that domestic dramas---from unplanned pregnancies to untimely deaths---could be just as heartbreaking, significant, and inspiring as the actions of statesmen and soldiers.
I really enjoyed this biography because it makes life in Revolutionary America and the early days of forming the US vivid and alive. The book, drawn from over two thousand of Abigail's letters, lets the reader actually hear a living voice of the times. It literally made me laugh at how outspoken, gossipy and intense these women were. Holton offers a totally different historic perspective because the book is filled with back stories of life at home in the midst of war and post revolution recovery. The stories of Mrs. Washington, cultural protocol, social requirements and the limited rights of women were all fascinating.
I think that this book is the perfect pair-up to be read after David McCullough's excellent bio John Adams. The books have the same story line or trajectory, but very different tones and overall feelings. By reading both books I think I now have a broader picture and a better understanding of life in early America. The book was well written and totally engaging. Campbell's narration was good.
So often history is written about men, with women, if they show up, playing quiet supporting roles. It was refreshing to hear Abigail's clear voice in her own words and to learn about how she saw the world and viewed the events happening around her. To me, she was a formidable powerhouse who lived life boldly in spite of the social constraints of the time. If you love books that bring history to life this is an excellent choice. Abigail Adams leaps right off the page. I loved it.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling's prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn their grandfather's work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer...and it lies in her heart.
I read this book decades ago when it was first published in print and I enjoyed it at the time. I was really excited to find an unabridged version here on audible. Pilcher paints beautiful word images describing the countryside, the garden, the beach, and the kitchen. My problem lies in the repetitive nature of these descriptions--after a few times around it all sounds the same. For example, there were at least four dinners or lunches of roast leg of lamb with baby potatoes. Each time this meal was described I groaned and thought--oh surely they aren't eating lamb again.
Overall, I was depressed by this story. I found the constant family fighting and nastiness tedious to listen to. So much whining and plotting and criticizing--it was just awful. At one point in the book the main character's mother explains that she is sorry she can't help but her own life is the only thing that matters. I guess this self-centered and selfish focus playing out over four generations of a family and the havoc it created was part of Pilcher's plan. To me it just served to make the characters completely unlikeable and the sweeping saga tiresome.
I have almost three hours still to go and I find that I can't finish listening to this book. I couldn't care less what happens next. Part of me wonders if the narration played a role in how awful everyone sounded? It might have helped to drive the negativity over the top. I'm just sorry that I stuck with it as long as I did.
9 of 12 people found this review helpful