Bones on Ice by Kathy Reichs

25734320I saw this was available for an e-audio loan from my library system and I grabbed it. Always like Reichs’ Temperance Brenner books.

Stats: Published in 2015, the audio book is 3’28” long, narrated by Katheryn Borowitz (spelling?). The print book is 104 pages. It’s a novella.

Blurb: It is called the “death zone”: the point on Everest, nearly five miles high, above which a climber cannot be rescued. More than 250 souls have lost their lives there. Most of the bodies remain, abandoned, frozen in place. When an earthquake leads to a miraculous recovery, Dr. Temperance Brennan is hired to identify the frozen mummified human corpse. The victim is the daughter of a wealthy Charlotte couple who never got the chance to say goodbye. But far from offering solace and closure, Tempe’s findings only provoke more questions. What happened on Mount Everest? Was the young woman’s death an accident? Why aren’t the other climbers talking? And how far will those hiding the truth go to make sure the past stays buried?

What I liked: Of course, there is something fishy about the death of this young over achiever, but it’s not exactly what you might suspect. As usual, Reichs does her homework and you get to learn a bit about mountain climbing besides being entertained by Brennen’s/Reichs’ quick wit. And the story seemed very plausible. What’s not to like?

What I didn’t like: Can’t really say there was anything. I think that might be a first for me! See Rachel (my daughter), I don’t find fault in every book I’ve read – yes, most, but not every!

Rating: 5/5

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The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

7047094Looked good so I picked it up.

Stats: Audio book is 17 discs, it doesn’t tell me the hours (a lot). Read by Treat Williams, Anne Heche “and a full cast.” Print book is 565 pages, published in 2010.

Blurb: Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.

What I liked: The question behind Robert Oliver’s action in the beginning is well hid, along with the connection of the people around him to this man. The information is doled out slowly. I like how the artwork is an integral part of the story, so much so that I wanted to see it for real. Alas, this is fiction. I imagine some of the artists she mentions in the Washington’s National Gallery are real, so I’ll have to try and find those. The surprise at the end was good. I was expecting something else, of course. The narrators did a fine job.

What I didn’t like: As I mentioned, the information about Robert Oliver is doled out slowly, too slowly at times. And other information is not needed, like stuff about Mary, who is connected to Robert (I won’t say how so as not to give anything away). Kostova tells of Mary’s childhood and life as she grew up, something that really didn’t add anything to the main story, in my opinion. Then there is the question of why doesn’t Robert speak? It’s never really shared and it is the only way the story can be told as it is. And it’s not to realistic to believe his psychiatrist would travel to Jamaica (I think that’s where he went) and France just to find out the mystery, whether it’s for his own curiosity or for his patient, or for both. And low and behold – they find the missing information! Really?! But these things are not enough of a problem to make the story a problem to read.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

61 Hours by Lee Child

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I like Lee Child and the Jack Reacher series so when I saw this audio (#14 in the series) was available online from my library, I checked it “out.”

Stats: Published in 2010, print is 383 pages, the audio was narrated by Dick Hill, who narrators many of the Reacher stories (as far as I can tell). 13′, 13″ for the audio version

Blurb: A tour bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.
Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed–but so is the woman whose life he’ll risk his own to save.
In 61 Hours, Lee Child has written a showdown thriller with an explosive ending that readers will talk about for a long time to come.

What I liked: I liked the writing as usual, and the narration as well. Dick Hill does his usual wonderful job with characters and flow and drama. I actually am not sure how the 61 hours plays into the story other than it’s a count down to an explosive end a writer’s trick to add drama (not sure that exactly worked). I like the setting and the laid back life of the South Dakota town in winter. The setting for the prison was very true to it’s impact on the community. The characters are easily relateable, even the bad guys and Child’s details always make you feel like you are right there. I like what was in the building (though how likely that is is debatable). Child has changed it up a bit, as far as what happens to some of the characters Reacher is supposed to be helping, so that’s a nice twist.

What I didn’t like: It got a little slow after the first prison event (I won’t mention what that was) but it wasn’t enough to want to stop. I’m not sure I like the end. It’s fairly obvious what happened in general, but I would have liked to know specifically what happened to Reacher. Maybe you have to read the next book (#15) to get the answer.

Rating: 4/5

 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

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I was looking for a new audio book through my online library system and this one was available. I hadn’t seen the movie because I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a POW movie (maybe too intense) but I thought listening to the book might work.

Stats: Published in 2010, print is 473 pages, audio is about 14 hours, read by Edward Herrmann.

Blurb: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

What I liked: Like all good non-fiction, it “read” like a fictional story, which is quite the accomplishment with such a long story. It helps that it’s such an amazing story, it keeps your interest the whole time, if you can stomach some of it, that is. What those men endured on the life raft and in the Japanese prison camps was hard to fathom. It was also very interesting learning what happened to some of the survivors – especially Louis Z. Listening to Edward Herrmann was a pleasure.

What I didn’t like: It was a bit long. Could some of the beginning been cut a bit? Perhaps. Even though the time in the camps was hard to listen to at times, it isn’t anything you can (or should) cut. It was frustrating to hear what happened to some of the guards at the prison, most notably “the bird” – the guard out to get Louis. But it is what it is.

Rating: 4/5

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

18143977I had heard of this title, so when I saw the audio version in the library, I picked it up.

Stats: Published in 2014, print is 531 pages, audio is narrated by Zach Appelman, 13 discs

Blurb: Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

What I liked: The writing is good; not too surprising since he’s a multi-award-winning author. Doerr obviously took a lot of time researching his information, which helps to put the reader into the lives of the characters at the time and place – not your typical WWII story. I like that the main character is blind.  It adds an interesting perspective and circumstances to the story. The jewel in the story is a different kind of subplot. Not exactly sure why it’s there but it does work.

What I didn’t like: It’s a bit slow. It took me about 5 discs until I finally cared enough about the characters that I wanted to continue listening. I guess when you’re a famous writer, you are afforded the luxury of taking your time getting your story going. Most authors aren’t given this luxury, but it’s nice that some are. Allows for more diverse reading options. I’m not sure I’d have made it through in the print version. The end drags a bit too, though it is nice to hear where each character ends up – I guess. I didn’t love it like many others did. But that’s what makes the world go round, doesn’t it 🙂

Rating: 3.5/5

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I had heard about this book, so when I saw the audio version at the library, I picked it up.

Stats: Audio is 9 discs – 11 hours. Narrated by Feodor Chin. The print book is 290 pages, published in 2009.

Blurb: In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s—Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel’s basement for the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.

What I liked: The story does a good job of illustrating a sad time in US history, making it more personal. It takes place in Seattle, but must have occurred all along the West Coast. The number of people affected must have been huge. Hard to imagine what happened to the lives of these families. Mr. Chin does a very good job with the narration.

What I didn’t like: Not much. It was well written and using children to portray some of the issues involved made sense, but I guess because I had read other similar books about internment camps, I was a bit bored. It wasn’t because of the story, that is just me. It also was a bit predictable, but not so much that it ruined the story. One thing I thought was a bit unbelievable was that Henry waits over 2 years for Keiko, then just as she’s getting out of the camp, he takes off for China, per his Father’s wish. Why couldn’t he wait a month or so and go after he exhausted all efforts to find her. Just seems a bit unreal after waiting for so long.

Rating: 4/5

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya SisterhoodI had seen the movie and my daughter recommend the book, so I ordered it from the library.

Stats: Published in 2004, print is 383 pages, audio is 13 discs or 15 hours. Narrated by Judith Ivey

Blurb: When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she’s directed, her mother gets described as a “tap-dancing child abuser.” Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.

What I liked: It’s a great story of family and friendship. Rebecca does a wonderful job with the writing, as well. The character are all real and interesting people. That’s what kept me going in the longer sections. I was surprised that the movie people changed the plane scene (when as a child Siddalee misses out on a plane ride and her mother takes her back) from a elephant scene. I suppose plane rides are more exciting to film than a slow ride on an elephant. The narrator, Judith Ivey, does a wonderful job with the accents.

What I didn’t like: It was a bit long in parts. I’m not exactly sure how the love these women had for each other translates to the love between a married couple, since Sidda and her mother working things out and helping Sidda come to terms with herself and her expectations is really the major point of the story. I also would have like to know more about Sidda’s father – he’s painted as an ass in Sidda’s childhood and a good guy later on. And how does he live and deal with all the things Vivi does while they are married?

Rating: 4/5