by Joseph Conrad, originally published in 1903, 2005, Blackstone Audio, read by Frederick Davidson
This is an incredibly good book given that it doesn’t have much of a plot and it was written by a Polish person whose English was a third language for him. The beauty of this book is definitely in the use of the English language. His sentences are terse, the words are sparing, but each additional word he uses is perfect in its cont
As I mentioned, the plot isn’t great. It’s about a sailor, Marlow, who is hired by a company to go into the Congo and find out what’s going on with its agent, Kurtz. Marlow accepts the job, goes in and gets Kurtz, listens to him tell his life story on the way out before he dies, and then returns home. That’s basically it.
The beauty in the story is that Marlow is spinning his yarn to his fellow shipmates as the ship sits on the Thames. The storytelling is absolutely spellbinding. The reader in this production. Frederick Davidson, also does an outstanding job of portraying the storyteller. I felt as if I were sitting there myself listening to Marlow telling his tale and that he was looking right at me while he was talking.
I attended a book lecture this winter in Naples by Elaine Newton where she compared Anne Pachette’s book, State of Wonder to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, implying that some of the same themes were employed in both books. That may be true, but what she missed, I’m afraid, is that Heart of Darkness is a true work of art; State of Wonder is only a pale imitation.
by Wally Lamb, 2009, performed by the author, HarperAudio
This is a refreshing Christmas story about a ten-year-old kid in a parochial school in 1964. The author does a great job in reading, particularly the accent of the Russian girl and her parents. There are some hilarious moments as they perform the Christmas program and the rest of the book is fairly humorous. All the characters were good and the story was enjoyable to listen to.
by Phillip Margolin, 2008, Harper Audio, narrated by Jonathan Davis
We listened to this book on the way from Florida to Rhode Island in the car and we were pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The plot was a bit thin, but the characters were engaging and believable and it was easy to follow. The plot is basically about a President who has a penchant for young girls and has them murdered to cover up his transgressions. The book is quite a contrast from the Vince Flynn books I had been listening to where the here, Mitch Rapp, was always killing or torturing someone. It has evil individuals but the good ones were at least human. The reader was also pretty decent.
If you are looking for a good read at the beach or a way to while the hours away on a long trip, I would recommend it.
by Vince Flynn, 2007, Simon & Shuster Audio, Read by George Guidall
This one is quite a bit better than Honor Bound from 2009, which was pretty boring. This one has a pretty interesting plot and one that is fairly plausible. I still get a bit tired of Mitch Rapp and his heroics, however.
by Gillian Flynn, Crown Publishing, 2012
I had a little trouble getting my arms around this book. The book is very readable and I think the methodology the author employed, which consisted of alternating entries by the husband and then the wife in this unusual marriage, was extremely effective. These texts enabled me to understand the depth of the disconnect between the two individuals.
I can also relate to the effects of each spouse having such different backgrounds, he from a family of modest means from a small town in the Midwest, while she was from a fairly affluent family, growing up in a world of privilege in the East. The differences become really apparent when they move back to his hometown.
There are also some twists and turns in the plot that made it enjoyable to read..
What didn’t I like about the book? The ending, or lack of one. After spending a considerable amount of time reading through the book, I naturally got hooked on where it was headed and where it would end up. I was, to put it mildly, disappointed. I won’t go into the details here, but if you read the book yourself, be prepared for what isn’t coming.
Shakespeare seems to have perfected the concept of ”denouement” which is defined as:
- the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot, as of a drama or novel.
- the place in the plot at which this occurs.
- the outcome or resolution of a doubtful series of occurrences
In addition to the actual definition, an author usually builds excitement and holds interest by building up to the denouement. My issue with this book is that it is absolutely missing anything close to a denouement. I would suggest that Ms. Flynn delve into some of Shakespeare’s plays to see if she could possibly apply this concept to her next book. It would have really helped in the case of Gone Girl.
by Chris Cleave, 2012, Simon & Shuster Audio, Read by Emilia Fox
This is the story of two female velodrome Olympic cyclists and their relationships. The story is somewhat interesting in that it portrays the stresses inherent in the lives of Olympic athletes. The novel, unfortunately, is only somewhat interesting and not really interesting. It just somehow doesn’t seem to rise to the next level of excitement. It’s not a bad story, however.
Persuasion, by Jane Austen, originally published posthumously in 1818, audiobook, 2001, read by Flo Gibson, Recorded Books, LLC, Prince Frederick, MD
I guess I just didn’t get this book. To me it was a redefinition of the word, “dithering.” The heroine, Ann Elliott, is in love with a naval officer, Captain Wentworth, and wants to marry him. Unfortunately, a family friend intervenes and puts the kibosh on the marriage. She encounters Captain Wentworth seven years later and, after many chapters of not much happening, he expresses his love of her again. They become happily engaged. End of story.
This book doesn’t seem to create the same level of tension between two would-be lovers that Pride and Prejudice does. I suspect that Jane Austen was failing in her later years to come up with something fresh and original. I don’t feel that she accomplished that in this, her last, novel.
by Vince Flynn, 2009, Simon & Shuster Audio, Read by George Guidall
I would like to be able to say that I liked this book, but when two days went by after I finished listening to it, I couldn’t remember a single thing about it except for one especially weak chapter. In this particular chapter, the hero of the book, Mitch Rapp, is testifying in a hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the effectiveness of torture. The chairman of the committee is portrayed as a real dolt and when she challenges Rapp on his views regarding torture, he counters by charging that she is hypocritical because she supports abortion. Come on, Vince Flynn! Is this the best that Rapp can come up with? This was an incredibly weak performance on the part of our so-called hero.
Other than that one passage, the whole book is one big mystery to me as to what it was about. Given that it created such a lasting impression for me, I guess I can’t say too much positive about it.
Honor Bound, Terror on the F Train, by Steven R. Roberts, 2012, Rouge River Press, Dearborn, MI
This book is a story about a terrorist plot to blow up subway trains and a black Vietnam veteran, retired from the CIA, who is asked to go on a mission to thwart the plot. The fact that he has terminal cancer plays into his decision to accept this, his final mission.
The book has its good moments. The possibility of terror attacks on our subway system is realistic and the book has an unusual plot twist.
I also feel that the book has some weak points. I found that the physical action described in the passages toward the end of the book was a bit of a stretch for me and I thought that all the dialogue between the hero and villain was somewhat overdone. It reminded me a lot of the dialogue that Dan Brown inserts into some of the action scenes in his novels. This technique apparently is intended to make the reader believe just how evil the villain is, but, for me, it just bogs down the action. (An exception to this situation is the Hannibal Lecter movies where his dialogue really does send chills down my spine.)
The book is fairly well-written but there are some editing errors that occasionally detract from the work. Overall, the book is a pretty good read and is entertaining.
by Ann Patchett, Narrated by Hope Davis, 2011, Audible.com
This book is about a pharmacologist (who happens to be in a relationship with the CEO of the pharmaceutical company where she works). She is asked by her boss to go to the Amazon to find out why the research the company is funding is taking so long. A co-worker who was sent earlier has apparently died and she also wants to find out how he died and where his body was buried. She reluctantly decides to go.
What transpires in the Amazon is pretty far-fetched. The native tribe has found a bark of a tree that allows them to avoid malarial infection and become pregnant even into old age.
I attended a lecture on this book by Elaine Newton at the Naples Philharmonic. Ms. Newton gives a lecture series each year at “The Phil” and, since my wife was not feeling well, I consented to attend. She gushed over the book and its author for about 45 minutes but did not enter into any dialogue with the audience. She also mentioned that the book was a potential Pulitzer Prize award winner, but the Pulitzer committee decided to not make an award selection this year.
I failed to get very excited about this book. I found that it dragged out in several parts. The plot was very thin and predictable, and the end wasn’t very fulfilling. The stereotyped characters seemed somewhat shallow and didn’t seem to grab my interest. Ms. Newton apparently felt otherwise. The rest of the audience seemed to share her appreciation of the book, but I felt that level of praise was not quite warranted. Each to his own, I guess.