I'm giving up on the audio at 4 parts into a 10-part book. I truly can't stand these characters and I've decided life is too short. I had the same reaI'm giving up on the audio at 4 parts into a 10-part book. I truly can't stand these characters and I've decided life is too short. I had the same reaction to Gone Girl so there must be something to all of the comparisons between the two books....more
Henry, Lee, Ronny, and Kip have been friends for ages. Even as Henry has stayed home in tiny Little Wing, Wisconsin to take over his parents' farm, RoHenry, Lee, Ronny, and Kip have been friends for ages. Even as Henry has stayed home in tiny Little Wing, Wisconsin to take over his parents' farm, Ronny hit the rodeo circuit, Kip moved to Chicago and started raking in money, and Lee hit the big time with his music, they've remained tight. Over the year or two chronicled in Shotgun Lovesongs, their lives hit roller coasters as marriages and breakups occur, arguments flare up, and their friendship is put to the test.
I'm sitting here thinking about what it was, exactly, that I liked about this book. I can't really say that it was about much of anything. It's just a slice of everyday life. But I think what stands out to me most is that this is a book about male friendship. Not "good buddies" or even battle-forged bonds. These guys just like and genuinely care about each other. They always have, more or less, as is true with friendships of any real length. When is the last time you read a book about male friendship? I'm sure they're out there, but I personally haven't come across many, if any. I like it.
The group really is put through the fire in this period of their lives though. They're all starting to kind of settle down now. Henry and his wife Beth, also a member of this tight group of friends, have been settled for a while. But now the others are coming home to settle too. So they're adjusting to having a more prominent position in each others' lives again. It takes some getting used to. Everybody pretty much fights with everybody else but then they settle down. And then the serious disagreement happens.
The ending sounds a bit far-fetched at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I wonder if this is based on an incident in the author's own life. It's so bizarre, it has to be true. And then I tried to picture my husband and his best friend getting up to mischief like that and I absolutely could. Well, up to a point. I just had to laugh.
I pretty much liked the characters. Solid Henry appealed to me most. I related to him. He's maybe not the most exciting guy in the group but he's the rock. Lee is world famous but he mostly hasn't let that change him. He knows that this landscape is what has shaped his music and his soul. He knows that he needs his friends to anchor him. Ronny isn't quite the same after a head injury years ago, but he's learned to appreciate the moment even while yearning for more. Kip is the weak link. He doesn't quite fit in with the others but he knows it. He tries too hard and manages to always do the wrong thing, even with the best of intentions. He has the most growing up to do.
I've kind of left Beth out of everything. I really liked her but I don't feel that she was necessarily any sort of real focus. She was the, well, not the outsider, but not one of the guys either. She gave us a different perspective on the group, both in their younger years and currently. She also added some tension and a whole other set of dynamics to the group.
And then there's small-town, Midwest America. Lee says something late in the book about how this is his America. Not the excesses and selfishness, but the sense of community and even the sense of connection to the land. Little Wing could be Every Town, USA. If you're lucky, you grew up in a place like this. If you're really lucky, you know how lucky you are to have roots there.
I really enjoyed the narrators who read the parts of Henry and Beth. Even Kip did pretty well. I didn't enjoy the narration for Lee and Ronny quite as much. It's still definitely a good choice in audio format but I wish the cast had all been equally strong.
I highly recommend Shotgun Lovesongs. It's one of those books that will sink into your bones and linger with you for a long time to come....more
Winter wraps up The Lunar Chronicles with the story of Snow White. Princess Winter is beautiful and sweet and kind and batty and the people love her.Winter wraps up The Lunar Chronicles with the story of Snow White. Princess Winter is beautiful and sweet and kind and batty and the people love her. Which, of course, means that her evil stepmother, Queen Levana, hates her. She eventually finds herself joining Cinder and the rest of the group in an effort to overthrow the tyrant queen and win better lives for the people of Luna.
I'm exhausted. Emotionally and physically exhausted.
Because of my library's policies, I had two weeks to listen to a 21-part audio book, when it normally takes me that long to listen to about 10 parts. Because I love this series, I buckled down and did it. This can't have been good for my blood pressure.
I only thought that I despised Levana before this book. I was raging against her as I drove around town. I raged against her when I wasn't even listening to the book! My husband will be glad that I've stopped shouting about her now and he can have his peaceful evenings back.
I love this series and this book did wrap everything up nicely, but I do feel that it was entirely too long. It took forever and a day to listen to this! Events kept happening! Plans kept going awry! Not one character that I liked came through this book unscathed and it pissed me off!
But mostly I was upset because Levana just kept winning. And winning. And winning! When was she going to get the justice that she deserved?!? When was someone going to stop talking to her and giving her time to seize control of his or her mind or someone else's, and JUST FREAKING KILL HER ALREADY!?!? Villains are supposed to delay the ending with endless prattle about how smart they are. It irritates me beyond all reason when the good guys do it! I got so ridiculously angry at about part 18 or 19 that I walked in the door and told my husband that I was giving up. This book was never going to end and the good guys were never going to get their act together, and I was broken. I just couldn't do it anymore. He laughed at me, pointed me toward the shower (I'd just gotten home from the gym), started the book back up on my phone and told me to stop being dramatic and keep listening. Which I obviously did. But for about five minutes there I really was that over it.
Aside from all the drama of my personal overreactions....
I still adore the characters that I'm supposed to. Snow White isn't my favorite fairy tale but it was actually a good choice as the final book in the series. It brought the action closer to home for Levana, which is where everything had to be.
Speaking of closer to home...
I liked seeing more of Luna. When I wasn't deeply angry at something Levana had done. This book shows more of life in the outer sectors and how bad conditions are for the average Lunar. It also shows more of their technology and everyday lives.
Rebecca Soler's narration was almost too good in this book. She's done a fabulous job with the entire series. She does a perfect condescending sneer for all the bad guys that just had me wanting to reach through my speakers and smack somebody. She's probably most of the reason I was so pissed at Levana.
This isn't my favorite book from the series but I did actually like it. And feel strongly about it. Obviously. But I do love the entire Lunar Chronicles and recommend it to fans of fairy tale retellings.
Edit: I hate to revise my review because of someone else's but this is something that truly bothered me as I listened and I forgot to mention it until I started scrolling through other GoodReads reviews. How to say it without spoilers? Physical beauty and being good or evil were linked here. I know this happens in fairy tales, but they originated hundreds of years ago. In 2016, we're trying to move past it. It's nice when our arts can lead the way on this. There is some sort of effort to make it sound not-so-bad very late in the book but I already had a bad taste in my mouth at that point. I can't imagine how I would have felt if I had the same condition that is described here and then read the characters' reactions to it. I would be beyond crushed. And there are a lot of people out there who really do have this. (view spoiler)[I'm talking about the fact that everyone seems to finally hate Levana enough to revolt after they see her without her glamour, with all the scars from her horrible burns on display. I despise her because she's a tyrant. Shouldn't that be the reason everyone else despises her too? (hide spoiler)] Physical appearance is something that no one has real control over. Someone's character cannot be judged based on his or her appearance, no matter how often we all make the same mistake over and over again. That part was not cool. I'm knocking my rating down a star....more
Brighton's Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is called to the train station where a dead body has been found in the "left luggage" area. Well, two-thBrighton's Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is called to the train station where a dead body has been found in the "left luggage" area. Well, two-thirds of a body, anyway. With each third in a separate trunk. When the missing third is delivered to the police station, addressed to "Captain" Edgar Stephens, his rank when he left the army, the inspector starts to think this might be a bit personal. The murder reminds him of a magic trick that his old friend Max Mephisto used to do as part of his show. The two men served together in WWII in a secret unit known as "The Magic Men." Edgar calls on Max, who just happens to be in Brighton for the week, and the two set about solving the mystery together.
I've never read any of Elly Griffiths' other mysteries but this one was good. I had a vague guess as to "whodunnit" but I didn't really know why or how. There was a more personal twist at the end that did surprise me quite a bit. I like surprises.
But somehow the whole novel felt a bit gray. DI Stephens seems to have PTSD and he's not really happy with anything in his life. He's a smart guy but he doesn't seem to be all that great at detective work. His heart was broken during the war and he's never gotten over it. He's living in a ratty flat and doesn't really seem to do much that he enjoys. He's just existing. He seems like a genuinely nice guy so I wanted him to snap out of it and start doing something--anything!--that made him happy.
Max's character takes a bit of a back seat to Edgar, which was unfortunate because he's the more entertaining one. He's a born magician even though he was actually born to the aristocracy. He's a charming womanizer who tries to pretend that he's heartless. He does have a big heart though and he goes out of his way to help his friends and acquaintances. I don't even remember how he was described in the book but I honestly kept picturing him as Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride movie, a character I adore, so that helped I'm sure!
I mostly liked James Langton's narration. The voices he used for females were breathy and made all the women sound like airheads even though they weren't. Otherwise he was solid.
All in all, I enjoyed this mystery but I don't think I'll be chomping at the bit to continue the series. Readers who are bigger mystery buffs than I am should enjoy it more....more
I was looking for a book featuring a private investigator to complete a reading challenge, so when I saw this was available (and that it was short--itI was looking for a book featuring a private investigator to complete a reading challenge, so when I saw this was available (and that it was short--it's the end of the year and time was running out), I jumped on it. I've never seen the movie and didn't really have any idea what it was about.
Eh. It was decent enough. Sam Spade, the stereotypical man's man, is hired by Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the stereotypical femme fatale, under false pretenses. She feeds him a line about saving her teenage sister from a married man who will destroy her reputation. When Spade's partner and the man in question both turn up murdered, Sam starts to delve deeper into Brigid's life and lies.
I know I'm not being fair. I know (or assume) that this book is the one upon which all other noir PI novels are based. What seems stereotypical and overdone to me in 2015 was groundbreaking in 1930. But the whole thing did come across as stereotypical and overdone.
Aside from that, the book was irritating to me as a female reader. Again, I know it was a sign of the times, but I hated the way Spade spoke to Brigid and his secretary Effie. "Precious," "Honey," "Darlin." Not meaning a word of it as far as I could tell. He just called them that because he had to call them something. Heaven forbid he should use a woman's name.
The insta-love was laughable! I was wrapping Christmas gifts as I listened, so there's a possibility I missed something, but I truly believe the book took place in just a few days. The crushed feelings! The disbelief! The proclamations of eternal...remembrance! Holy cow, they moved fast back in the day. And speaking of moving fast--sexytimes! There's a discreet fade-to-black, but still--this was published in 1930!
I didn't follow the mystery itself very well. I'm sure that's because I was distracted. But Brigid's constant lying didn't help. I lost track of what the truth actually was, if it was ever even laid out there. I found the resolution to be unsatisfying.
I'm being harsh because the book is still pretty fresh. I'm honestly probably going to forget about it in a few days, hence the forgettable 3 stars. Rating it lower would imply a memorable dislike and I can't say that I felt that strongly about it. If anything, I'll remember that I had fun bashing it in this review.
I haven't had great luck with books narrated by a full cast, but this one was pretty good. I liked the characterizations/voices overall.
The Maltese Falcon is a classic of the crime noir genre, so it's worth reading for that fact alone. I can't say that I found much to recommend it, but it is short so it's not much of a time investment....more
I'm about to write a huge sweeping statement that I really shouldn't but here goes.
I just don't do well with South American authors.
That's not fair. II'm about to write a huge sweeping statement that I really shouldn't but here goes.
I just don't do well with South American authors.
That's not fair. I've only read three or four, I think. But I never have a clue what's actually going on. What's real, what's not, what the "not real" things are supposed to represent--I'm just lost. I'm sure it's not them, it's me. But my brain and understanding is all I have to work with, and I just don't get it.
I read this for a reading challenge last year. I did better than I expected but I still have questions.
The "discreet hero" of the title is Felícito Yanaqué. He owns a transportation/trucking business that he built from the ground up. He becomes a hero of the little people when he refuses to bow to the gang that is trying to extort "protection" money from him. Instead of paying the money for the gang to protect his business (i.e., not burn it to the ground themselves), he complains to the police and makes a stand. I could follow Felícito's story and even enjoyed it. He's a feisty little guy who's worked hard all his life and tried his best to do the right thing.
There are two other storylines here, both featuring Don Rigoberto. Don Rigoberto is drawn into the family drama centering around his boss and friend, Ismael Carrera. Ismael has decided to marry his housekeeper and disinherit his worthless sons. Of course the sons fight this decision with every means, legal and illegal, at their disposal. They even make Don Rigoberto's life miserable just because he was a witness at the wedding. As all this is going on, Don Rigoberto is also dealing with his son, Fonchito, and the mysterious man who keeps appearing to him. No one else has ever seen this mysterious stranger. Don Rigoberto doesn't know if his teenage son is losing his mind or having visitations from the devil.
I don't know if he's losing his mind or having visitations from the devil! This is the kind of thing that just loses me. It's just there. I can't make sense of it. I can't see how it relates to one other thing in the novel.
Felícito and Don Rigoberto are in different cities and their stories don't overlap at all. It was like I was reading two completely different books at the same time. I was about to give up hope when there was finally a connection! A straightforward connection that I could understand!
I did enjoy each man's story individually. Well, not the stuff about Fonchito's mysterious visitor, but other than that, I was interested to see whether Felícito would be able to stand firm and hold on to what was his. The same could be said of Don Rigoberto. He's practically under siege but he tries his best to remain loyal to his friend.
The two cities did come to life in these pages, I have to say. I could smell the food cooking, the unsavory smells in the heat of the day, picture Don Rigoberto's house overlooking the beach and imagine the hang gliders floating past his windows. Peru itself is a character in this novel.
This was well-written and well-translated. It was interesting enough but I do prefer my narratives to be a little more straightforward. If you do understand magical realism more than I do, by all means give The Discreet Hero a try. If you're more like me and just want a linear, concrete story, you might want to pass on this one....more
In an unnamed South American country, the government is hosting a birthday party for a powerful Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa. Mr. Hosokawa has nIn an unnamed South American country, the government is hosting a birthday party for a powerful Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa. Mr. Hosokawa has no intention of building a factory in the poor country, but when they told him that his favorite opera soprano, Roxanne Coss, would be performing for him, he had to accept the invitation. Just as Roxanne finishes her last song, armed revolutionaries take the entire party hostage.
I liked this a lot more than I expected to. That description makes the book sound like something it isn't. It isn't about the politics of the country or anything like that; it's about the people and the possibilities within them. There isn't much action but there is a lot of character development and relationship building.
The revolutionaries consist of three "generals" and a group of teenagers they've found and trained in the jungle. The teenagers are mostly uneducated and they've never been given a real chance at life. As time passes, it turns out that there are some amazingly talented youngsters in the group. Even the group of businessmen and politicians discover and nurture their hidden talents and passions now that they have time away from their everyday responsibilities.
The relationships that grow among these groups who should be enemies are amazing. They all come from wildly different backgrounds but they come together and find their common ground. The elders, even among the hostages, come to view the young revolutionaries fondly, almost as younger family members or children. Among the adults, the timid priest, the opera singer, the translator, the businessmen, all bond in unforeseen ways.
The narrator, Anna Fields, did an amazing job. She didn't worry too much about different voices for different characters, but she did give the impossible accents a phenomenal try. She didn't only have to tackle straightforward Spanish or Japanese accents, she tackled the accents of a Swiss man speaking Spanish or a Spanish-speaker attempting Japanese. I was hugely impressed.
I highly recommend this if you enjoy character-driven books but don't go into it expecting a lot of action....more
Frances Reardon and Bernard Eliot meet by chance at a writers' workshop. They have one memorable lunch there and agree to begin a correspondence. TheyFrances Reardon and Bernard Eliot meet by chance at a writers' workshop. They have one memorable lunch there and agree to begin a correspondence. They write each other their deepest thoughts on faith and their personal joys and trials. They occasionally write other friends about the events they experience together.
This is another desperate end-of-year reading challenge grab that paid off. I'd never even heard of this book but I started trolling through an "Epistolary novel" list, comparing it to what was available as an audio download from my library, and landed on this.
I loved it.
I don't know exactly what my reaction would have been to the novel in print, but I fell in love with both these characters on audio. Angela Brazil reads the female parts and Stephen R. Thorne obviously narrates the male voices. I shouldn't even write reads or narrates; they both perform this novel. I felt like Frances and Bernard were old friends. Their personalities leaped off the page for me. Or whatever the equivalent would be with an audio book.
I have a tendency to spell out every little detail of the books I'm reading to my husband, whether he wants to hear them or not. I try, mostly successfully, to curtail this but when a book excites me, I just can't help it; out it all comes. I think my husband got daily updates as I listened to this one. We'd be doing something completely unrelated and out of the blue I'd announce, "I'm really worried about Bernard."
"Bernard. You know. From my book."
"Things aren't looking good. I'm worried about the happily ever after."
"That's nice, dear."
He never promised to actually listen to all my bookish rattling, but at least he lets me get it out of my system!
At first, Frances and Bernard came dangerously close to seeming pretentious to me. They begin their correspondence with their thoughts on religion. I don't really discuss religion at all. The thought of sharing my deepest feelings with someone, much less a near-stranger, just shrivels up my insides. These two carry it off well though, and before things got too caught up in faith and spirituality, they had moved on to other topics. Faith did always remain a touchstone of their correspondence though.
Their letters were hilarious, intelligent, heart-felt, insightful, sarcastic, touching, heart-breaking, and caring. I truly felt like I went through years of the lives of real people.
I highly recommend this book, especially on audio. The emotion may wring you out but you'll be so glad you got to meet Frances and Bernard....more