This series only gets better and better...thus far. Although I've heard some mixed reviews about the fifth book, and that makes me a little sad to thi...moreThis series only gets better and better...thus far. Although I've heard some mixed reviews about the fifth book, and that makes me a little sad to think about. But I won't focus on that. I will focus on the fact that I love this story, as I have the first two. That and I think I relate to Isabel Spellman a little too well. I sort of hope that the series goes on and on...as long as they can maintain this level of clever humor. (less)
I think I'm pretty much done with Ms. Picoult. I think I want to read her because I like the way she writes, and I cannot say that her stories aren't...moreI think I'm pretty much done with Ms. Picoult. I think I want to read her because I like the way she writes, and I cannot say that her stories aren't compelling, save The Tenth Circle. I think the lure of her books is just that...that she's capable of telling a captivating story peopled with interesting characters.
However, and you knew the however was coming, she peppers her stories with too much sensationalism. And while this story didn't rise to level that it seemed she was determined to hit in The Tenth Circle, I still feel like she exercised too little restraint.
The central conflict in the story is enough: two teenagers, Chris and Emily, who may or may not have made a suicide pact. Chris and Emily have known each other since birth; they are best friends and have dated for about four years. Understandably, then, their relationship is much more than the typical teenage romance. But when the actual act goes down, only Emily is dead, and Chris has been told not to tell his story, the story of what actually happened that night, now that he's being prosecuted for her murder.
Pretty sensational, am I right?
But then Picoult goes ahead and adds insult to injury. There's the hint of a possible infidelity between two of the grieving parents, a murderously enraged mother mourning for her daughter and bent on revenge, prison conflicts caused by a homicidal inmate, a sister feeling the neglect caused by her brother's incarceration...none of which is developed enough. I would prefer to see more of Kate, for example, Chris's younger sister, and her pain and struggles as she watches her family go to pieces, rather than the possibility of infidelity or the fights in prison. I realized that Picoult wanted to give a fuller picture of all the things that might result from the suicide, including the strain it might cause on a marriage or they way that prison would scar an eighteen-year-old boy. By attempting to include it all, Picoult lost some of the depth that I think is necessary if you are going to tell a story as emotionally charged as this. That or the story needed to be slightly longer. You might think that is crazy since it is pretty long as it is, but I think Picoult is good enough that she could have explored the minor conflicts more. That and she could have left out the sex and focused on the people.
The other problem stems from this: Chris is the only fully fleshed out character. Emily comes close, but there wasn't enough for me to fully sympathize with her state of mind when she decides that she wants to take her life. Picoult comes close to getting me inside her mind. But it wasn't enough for me to say that I completely bought into her actions the night of her death. I will say that I fully sided with Chris at the end, and I DO think that was the point Picoult wanted to make. In any case, when the story was over, I found myself wishing I knew so much more about all of the main characters, the parents, Kate, Jordan (Chris's lawyer).
And then again, here she goes with the gimmicky ending, which is a spoiler so I won't tell you what happens. The problem with this "surprise gotcha" ending is that it wasn't really a surprise at all. I'm not sure if that was what Picoult had in mind because it fell so flat. Was she trying to shock the reader? I don't know. It wasn't shocking.
There was one thing, however, that I do think Picoult does well here. She paints a very ugly picture of what happens after someone commits suicide. I would never condemn someone for committing suicide. Depression and mental diseases are real, and I cannot judge someone who may make a poor choice in a moment of total despair. BUT what comes after is ugly and painful. These families were pulled apart because of what Emily chose to do, and while I've always been aware that suicide is harmful to those left behind, I never really gave the aftermath much thought. Emily hurt Chris, of course, and her parents, obviously. But she pulled those two families apart at the seams. She destroyed their trust in each other and their friendships. She put Chris's future in jeopardy. She put marriages in question. And this thread of the story is what, ironically enough, redeemed it for me. So that, and Picoult's writing ability, were enough to give it three stars. Otherwise, I would have given it two.
In the end would I recommend it? I really don't know. I'm just not sure that the good outweighs the bad. I would like to see if Picoult can tell a story without the surprise/shock ending. (less)
I was listening to this today as I was painting and cleaning, and I got to the point where I had to turn it off because it was so blah. Nothing at all...moreI was listening to this today as I was painting and cleaning, and I got to the point where I had to turn it off because it was so blah. Nothing at all compelling about the characters, really. Instead, Picoult used outrageous teenage party antics to try to get the reader's attention, in my opinion, anyway. I've heard of teenage "sex" parties, but I think, like most things controversial and shocking, such events are rare, and I actually believe that including them in the novel was not only unoriginal, but silly sensationalism to "captivate" an audience. I just don't buy it. Obviously that bothered me, and it was probably the reason I chose to turn this off and listen to music instead.
However, there were other things, too, like a lot of pontificating without any real plot. And the pontificating was about extramarital affairs, past bad behavior, teenage cutting, first love/break ups. I'm fine with some drama, but all of it put together added up to, hmmmm, what's the word? Unauthentic. It felt forced, is what I am saying. All in all, just too much drama-rama without any heart or realism to make me feel connected in anyway to what the characters were experiencing.
I'm disappointed, to say the least. I've read other books by Picoult, and while I do think she tends to use manipulative tactics as a gimmick in general, those books were plot driven and the characters had something to offer. I won't rate this, but I would recommend you read something like My Sister's Keeper or Keeping Faith, both of which I really enjoyed. They were far better and more interesting than this. Picoult is a really good writer, stylistically speaking, but this story just isn't the best sample of her work. (less)
I'm going to get on my soap box for a moment here. And this little soap box really isn't about the story. Consider yourself warned. When one listens t...moreI'm going to get on my soap box for a moment here. And this little soap box really isn't about the story. Consider yourself warned. When one listens to an audio book, the reader really makes ALL the difference. Last year I listened to Juliet by Anne Fortier. I was a bit harsh in my review of certain aspects of the story, and I think a very big part of the harshness was related to the reader and the way she voiced the twin sister of the heroine. It grated on my nerves so so so much. Had I known it would bother me so much, I would have opted to read the book instead of listen to it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jim Dale, the voice of the audio series for Harry Potter, who, in my opinion, is brilliant almost always (once in a while his Hermione is a bit much, but there are soooo many characters he must read with so many different accents and he does the voices so well). After having read that series more than once, I didn't think I would love listening to them the way that I did, but oh they were so good just because having Jim Dale tell me a story was perfect.
Very few readers match up to Mr. Dale's talents, but Michael Beck might come close. All that to say that I loved listening to him tell me this story. I've grown fond of listening to books while completing chores, and this was a great book to listen to.
Enough of that, however, and on to the review.
I wouldn't call The Last Juror a "thriller" in the traditional sense of the word, at least as it applies to Grisham and stories like A Time to Kill or The Firm. In fact, the main character isn't even a lawyer. Instead, he is a news man who owns the small town weekly newspaper in Ford County, Mississippi. Willie Traynor is an unlikely hero, but even with his Southern upbringing in a struggling post-segregation South, he is able to draw his weekly readers into a completely new type of newspaper than the one they are used to.
The novel has two plots, really: the story of a unique black family, the Ruffins, who adopt Willie as one of their own and the contrasting story of Danny Padgitt and the entire Padgitt clan who are all up to no good. Much of Mr. Traynor's paper is dedicated to the tales of both families, and I really like the way that the plot of the novel focuses on both threads through Traynor's news gathering.
This book is, in many ways, classically Grisham, even if it doesn't have the fast paced thrills of The Pelican Brief. I think that's because he's gone back to the South here. Grisham is a regional writer; it's one of his many strengths, and so generally I've really enjoyed those of his novels set in the South because he knows the people, the culture, the dialect. I always walk away feeling like I've somehow been in Mississippi or Alabama or Louisiana after I read one of his books.
That is why I especially liked this...because it reminded me of why I read Grisham so voraciously in the early days of his career. I appreciate that he has branched out, but it's always good to see an author come back home. (less)
I do not know how this guy does it but Justin Cronin is the master of weaving multiple stories together in a way that i...moreYou have got to be kidding me.
I do not know how this guy does it but Justin Cronin is the master of weaving multiple stories together in a way that is not only beautiful but mind boggling. There is a very large cast of characters here along with a lot of action. And yet he writes it so that he is able, somehow, to keep straight for the reader. And just like he did with The Passage, Cronin kept me hanging on the edge the entire time. Besides that, the man can write! His prose is beautiful without being overwrought or sentimental.
And now I have to wait once more. Ugh...until probably 2014??? Oh brother. That is a long time. I'm dying to know what will happen to these people!
So anyway, I am a huge fan and I highly recommend, but I will say that there are a lot of swears...more sensitive readers won't be big fans of this. It's intense, and the violence is sometimes a little...or maybe very...tough to swallow. So you've been warned. (less)
So I'm painting my parents' apartment, and I'm listening to books, and I sort of like that, actually. Maybe I have a new career. Ha! A painter who lis...moreSo I'm painting my parents' apartment, and I'm listening to books, and I sort of like that, actually. Maybe I have a new career. Ha! A painter who listens to books. Sounds good to me. BUT...I am probably NOT going to listen to another Evanovich novel. Because as I read, I can skip over the bits I don't like, and I can substitute "fish" for certain swear words. But you cannot do that when those words and things are being said out loud. Just saying...(less)
I wish that Goodreads had a "listened to" option because I always feel like it is a little misleading to say that I read something when actually I lis...moreI wish that Goodreads had a "listened to" option because I always feel like it is a little misleading to say that I read something when actually I listened to it. Just a little random note.
I am pretty sure that this is the first science fiction novel that I've ever been able to finish. Not that I've tried a whole lot of science fiction, mind you. But it really hasn't been a genre that I've been into. I have read one other Orson Scott Card novel, and I did not like it at all, and I wonder if I had read Ender's Game (as opposed to listening to it) I would have liked it as much. I don't know. I think dramatic readings can inform your opinion of a novel. As in some readers are better than others, and I liked the readers, mostly (the female reader was tooooooo much for me). I'm just saying that I wonder if the readers helped me enjoy the story more than if I had simply read it. Wow, I'm such a rambler.
In any case, I'm not going to say much more here because enough has been said about it already, and almost everyone I know has read this. I'm super behind in the game. But, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story, especially the dystopian themes. In fact, I would say that I liked it more for its dystopian elements than I did for its sci-fi elements.
The ending was a bit odd, though. Perhaps I just had certain expectations because this is a series. Now I'm curious to read more because I do wonder where the rest of the story will go. (less)
She seriously makes me laugh out loud. But I'll say this. If Stephanie is associated with one more car blowing up...just please. Please stop. It's get...moreShe seriously makes me laugh out loud. But I'll say this. If Stephanie is associated with one more car blowing up...just please. Please stop. It's getting old. (less)
So how can something be so good and coherent and yet be so random and rambling? I don't mean random in a negative way at all. In fact, I find the rand...moreSo how can something be so good and coherent and yet be so random and rambling? I don't mean random in a negative way at all. In fact, I find the randomness quite charming, just as I find Isabel Spellman quite charming and funny. Izzy and the entire Spellman clan are a bunch of nut cases, but the stories work for me.
In this, the second installment of the Spellman series, Izzy finds herself busy surveilling the neighbor who is surely up to no good; her teenage sister Rae has run over her "best friend"...a forty-something-year-old inspector named Henry, and Henry, not surprisingly, is fed up; her practically perfect older brother David has lost his razor sharp edge; her mother is sneaking out of the house at all hours; and her father, well, he's secretly on a new found health kick. And there is more...but I'll spare you the run down.
Like I said...random.
What I love about Lutz's story is that everything seems to be happening all at once, and so the novel should feel chaotic. Yet somehow it doesn't. She shifts from subplot to subplot seamlessly, even though she is moving from one conflict to the next quite quickly. I would liken it to a professional race car driver, taking you out for a quick spin on the Autobahn in a Mercedes Benz. Even though you would inevitably be going so very fast, the ride would be perfectly smooth. I think I'd like to try that some day.
And then, of course, there are the "mysteries" that Izzy must solve. I'll go ahead and admit that the central conflict, Izzy's obsession with the man next door's private life, was fairly easy to figure out, but the others are a bit more puzzling, so there was enough tension in the waiting to see what would happen next that I didn't get bored or want to scream "DUH!" the entire time I was reading.
Moreover, these books really aren't about the mysteries and are more about the characters and their ridiculous antics, especially Izzy and Rae...or Rae and Henry, who make quite the comedic team, actually. I'm telling you, the characters here are a breath of fresh air, and so is the story, even if it isn't so mysterious. And this is mostly because of Lutz's wry sense of humor and excellent comedic timing. In fact, I like this one a little more than I liked the first, and I really enjoyed the first.
I'm thrilled to have found these little gems, and I can't wait to read the next in the series. (less)