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

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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

The Wanted by Robert Crais

The Wanted (Elvis Cole, #17; Joe Pike, #6)This was a new audio book at the New Glarus Library – my library – so I picked it up.

Stats: Was published 2017, print is 320 pages, audio book is 6 discs. The cover didn’t give me the narrator.

Blurb: When single mother Devon Connor hires private investigator Elvis Cole, it’s because her troubled teenage son Tyson is flashing cash and she’s afraid he’s dealing drugs. But the truth is devastatingly different. With two other partners in crime, he’s been responsible for a string of high-end burglaries, a crime spree that takes a deadly turn when one of them is murdered and Tyson and his girlfriend disappear.

They stole the wrong thing from the wrong man. Determined to get it back, he has hired a team that is smart and brutal, and to even the odds, Cole calls in his friends Joe Pike and Jon Stone. But even they may be overmatched. The hired killers are leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. A few more won’t make any difference.

What I liked: It was a good story, well written, good dialogue. Kept my interest. I didn’t realize it was #17 in the Elvis Cole series. Not bad for book so far into a series. The like the PI’s name too. The narrator was good. Sorry I don’t remember his name.

What I didn’t like: There was a weird piece toward the end about the bad guys being good guys (kind of) with a Hispanic boy in a foreign country. Crais went on and on about this event in their history and the point wasn’t brought back into the story at hand. If his point was to show the softer side of these very bad men, he had already done this now and again in the story. This longer bit seems overboard. Just a odd burp in a otherwise regular good story.

Rating: 4/5

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New WorldI know this is famous book so I thought I should read it. It’s definitely dated but the concepts are still something to talk about. I didn’t study this in school so I don’t know the history behind it.

Stats: First published in 1932, this unabridged audio book is narrated by Michael York and is 8 hours in length, printed book is 288 pages.

Blurb: Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

What I liked: Not really sure. As a mental exercise, I guess the story would be interesting to talk about – how the new world is set up and seems to work focused on sex and lack of any distress. But as I mention below, the world and it’s characters didn’t really interest me so it was hard to enjoy it as a story. And maybe that was the point.

What I didn’t like: It all seemed kind of silly to me – a engineered “perfect” world – which I’m sure was at least one of the points Huxley was trying to make. But it was so much so that I couldn’t believe in it as a “real” world and thus interested me less then other dsytopean worlds I’ve read about. It is an early version of such a book, so that might be part of it. It seemed like intially the story is going to focus on Bernard, but then the “Savage” is brought into the story and takes it in a slightly different direction – I suppose to more easily illustrate the silliness of the present world. Why the Controllers allow this old, imperfect world to exsist is hard to understand. You would think they would just kill people that don’t conform or fit in the new world. I think Fahrenheit 451 created a more believeable world with more likeable characters.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of WingsI knew the author so I wanted to check this book out.

Stats: I listened to the audio book, 12 discs, narrated by Jenna Lamina (Sarah) and Adepero Oduye (Handful), Published January 2014, Print is 384 pages.

Blurb: Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

What I liked: I didn’t read the blurb before I listened to the book, so I didn’t know it was based on real people, but as the story went on, it was a bit longer than it seemed like it needed to be, so it occurred to me that is was probably based on real people. I didn’t know who until the end, where Kidd tells of some of the background information, which I really enjoyed. Handful – the made-up character – was a bit more interesting than her white counterpart – Sarah – until Sarah finally gets away from home and starts to forge her own path. Sarah and her sister were very before their time: speaking for abolition and women’s right in the early to mid-1800s. The beginning does give you a good feel for life in Charleston at that time. Lamia and Oduye do a good job narrating.

What I didn’t like: The beginning was a bit slow and overall a bit long, but if you can make it past those things, it’s an interesting story, made more so by knowing it is based on a couple real women.

Rating: 4/5

The Winter Ghost by Kate Mosse – book review

6450212Another blink library pick.

Stats: Published in 2009, print is 253 pages, audio book is 5 discs – 5.5 hours, narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Blurb: In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation.
Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.

What I liked: After you get into it a bit, it’s an interesting story about love and loss. I like how Mosse makes the seemingly unbelieveable, believeable (Freddie joining a feast and meeting a woman he shouldn’t be able to meet. – I won’t give it away by giving any details). I also like the how the letter in the beginning ties the story together.  Julian Rhind-Tutt’s narration is spot on for the women and the men. I forgot I was listening to a narrator and thought I was listening to the character’s themselves!

What I didn’t like: The beginning is too long. Mosse draws out Freddie’s loss (his brother in WWI) and his breakdown for too long. We get the point, move on already. I think it’s convenient how some of the characters don’t answer questions given to them by Freddie that would help him understand what’s happening or Freddie doesn’t keep asking questions until he understands what’s going on, but the story wouldn’t work if those things happened so I tried to let those things slide. It didn’t take away from the story enough to hinder my enjoyment.

Rating: 4/5

At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie

I’m on an Agatha Christie kick so I picked this up at the library.

At Bertram's Hotel (Miss Marple, #11) Stats: The books was first published in January, 1965 (she died in 1971). In print it’s 223 pages. In audio form it’s only 2 discs – 2’20”. I listened to the BBC version, which is a dramatization, so there are multiple people involved, all playing their own character and sound effects – like a radion drama. Always enjoyable to listen to.

Blurb: An old-fashioned London Hotel is not quite as reputable as it makes out! When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer. Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day!

What I like: Mostly I liked the presentation of the story in drama form. I didn’t figure out who was the mastermind behind the chain of robberies, but Christie makes it easy to see who is at least partially involved. She has her usual trick of having many people involved in the story itself to keep you guessing on how they all fit in.

What I didn’t like: Miss Marple is hardly part of the story. I read another of Christie’s Miss Marple stories that was the same way. I suppose an old lady can only be in the center of so many murders, but when she isn’t, the stories just aren’t as enjoyable to me. You don’t get a feel for the other characters in a way that you care enough what is going on. And this was very short too.

Rating: 3/5  Not one of her better stories. I would rate the drama a 4/5.