The Man Who Invented Florida

by Randy Wayne White, audiobook narrated by Dick Hill, book originally published 1997, Audiobook released 2010 by Tantor Audio

This is the third Doc Ford novel and not one of Randy Wayne White’s best efforts.  The plot seemed dull and the pace dragged significantly.  The ending has a bit of a twist but not enough to redeem the book.  Ordinarily White’s books are fun to listen to but this one was a bit of a chore.2 stars

A Green Journey

by Jon Hassler, 1985, Ballentine Books, New York

I picked this book up as I had run out of books to read, so I started looking around for something light to read in the bookcases in our condo in RI.  I seemed to recall that I had read something by Hassler in the distant past that I had really liked.  After looking at other books that he wrote it turned out that it was North of Hope that I had read many years ago.

It turned out that this book wasn’t much to my liking other that it was an easy read.  Hassler intersperses references to The Troubles that were occurring in Ireland into a tale about a soon to be retired school teacher and her visit to Ireland to connect with a pen-pal with whom she had been corresponding for some time.

The story was okay as were the characters, but not much more than okay.  The book just wasn’t compelling, and, as it is one book of a series, it wasn’t a complete story in and of itself.  The ending seemed as if it was just a convenient place to leave off so the reader could run out and purchase the next book to find out what the heck happened to the characters after the interlude depicted in this one.  I think the following book might be still on the shelf of the bookcase where I found this one.  Who knows?  Maybe I will find myself in the same situation in the future … roaming around looking for something to read that strikes my fancy at that particular moment and then I pick up the sequel.  Not a likely scenario at the present time, but I can’t predict the future.

Nonetheless, this book was somewhat enjoyable to read so it served its purpose.

2 1/2 stars

The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett, 1930, 1st Vintage Books Edition

This book is a selection of our men’s book club for the coming season.  It has some interesting aspects and a very involved plot but it is certainly dated.  It has the alluring fem fatale character was so popular back in those times as well as the hoodlums, a punk, and, of course the somewhat shady private eye.  This last character, Sam Shade, is the most unusual.  Hammett depicts him as a not very attractive individual with slumped shoulders, a face that probably his mother didn’t even love, and a condescending attitude to the police and every woman he encounters.  Despite his physical shortcomings and lack of manners, he seems to be a magnet for most of the women in the book.  It feels quite different from more modern adventures such as Indiana Jones where the hero is at least an attractive individual.

Hammett’s writing style is sparse but it also seems awkward at times as it often doesn’t seem to flow.  Probably the best attribute of this novel is the plot, which is convoluted and interesting even if somewhat unbelievable at times.2 1/2 stars

The Lowland

by Jhumpa Lahari, Audiobook read by Sunil Maholtra, 2013,

This is a story about two brothers who grew up in India and the very different paths that they took in their lives.  The book attempts to tie the directions that each took to the lives of their family members, but, unfortunately, in my opinion, fails in that endeavor.  The two brothers seem so different that it is hard to reconcile their two different fates.  Also, as a warning, the book just seems to end with no resolution and without imparting any real message.

I also didn’t quite get attached to any of the characters.  They seemed to be somewhat real, but the author didn’t really provide anything that I really could grab onto.

The plot was interesting at times and I learned a lot about the politics and recent history of India that I didn’t know.  The passages referring to Rhode Island were very relevant to me as I spend five months of each year precisely in the area where the novel takes place.  Most of those passages, however, were somewhat boring as the characters seemed to plod from day to day with nothing particularly interesting or noteworthy happening.  I sometimes dreaded continuing to listen.

The references to German philosophy in some of the passages seemed shallow and actually got to the point of name dropping.  They seemed to detract from the story.

The reader did a nice job.  The accents were appropriate as was the tone.

All-in-all, it was interesting about some individuals who came to America and settled in areas that I am very familiar with, but the book certainly didn’t light my fire.2 1/2 stars

An Irish Country Girl

by Patrick Taylor, Audiobook read by Terry Donnelly, 2010, Midwest Tape, LLC, Holland, OH

This book started out pretty well with an Irish ghost story but the second part, which was consisted of the narrator’s life, was a bit dull.  The audiobook did, however, help pass some time on a long road trip vacation.2 stars

Washington Square

by Henry James, originally published in 1880 as a magazine serial, Audiobook read by Lorna Raver, 2008, Tantor Media, Inc.

This is a novel about a young girl living in New York City about 1830 and her affair with an unworthy suitor.  The novel itself is a bit dull but the reading by Lorna Raver is well done.  Her portrayal of Catherine’s aunt as a nosy busybody is superb!

I was hoping that the novel would give a little bit more insight into New York’s culture and society in those times, but the novel was so focused on Catherine and her relationships with her father, her aunt, and her suitor that it didn’t leave much opportunity to dwell on other aspects of life in New York at those times.

I think the novel would have been a bit dull to read, but I really enjoyed the audiobook.4 stars

The Private Patient

by P.D. James Unabridged CD Audiobook (An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery) Audio CD, 2008, read by Rosalyn Landor

This book is a murder mystery about some murders that take place at an estate that has been converted to a plastic surgery clinic.  It is beautifully written but that might be it’s major flaw.  P.D. James tends to be overly wordy in this novel and, while the prose is very well done and the characters are convincing, the plot is thin and the book suffers as it plods along.  There are absolutely no twists or turns as it goes from beginning to end.  Additionally, the reader has a very nice voice and does the characters well, but her voice is soft and soporific which also takes away from any excitement that a murder mystery should generate.  I have rated it a bit higher than it probably deserves because of James’ good writing, but, for a murder mystery, this is a not very suspenseful. 3 stars

A Blaze of Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh

by Jeff Shaara, Audiobook, 2012, Narrated by Paul Michael, Random House Audio

We listened to this audiobook on our semi-annual trip from Florida to Rhode Island.  The audiobook was 18 CD’s so it consumed about 2 1/2 days of our three-day trip.  Even though it was long and, at times, seemed even longer than it was, the author made it interesting.  By writing this in novel format he made the individuals seem to come to life.  At the same time, however, the historical contents were well-researched and accurate.  The narration was also very good.

We had no prior knowledge of the battle or the circumstances that brought the two armies together and this was a much more enjoyable means to gain that knowledge compared to a dry, blow-by-blow history of the battle.  I would recommend this book. 4 stars

Me Before You

by Jojo Moyes, 2012, Audiobook narrated by Susan Lyons, Anna Bentink, Steven Crossley, Alex Tregear, and Owen Lindsey, Penguin Audio

An interesting story about a young lady who doesn’t have much going for her in her life takes on a caregiver job for a paraplegic who is intent on committing suicide.

The characters in this novel are interesting although sometimes a bit stereotyped. The primary character has qualities that far exceed her background and upbringing, allowing her to do amazing things.  Her sister is much more sophisticated and smarter, but she has made bad choices in her life.  The patient’s mother is unemotional in her dealings with others.  The father is a womanizer.

The story is interesting, the writing is good, the reading is excellent.  Altogether, not a bad experience.

3 1/2 stars

Arctic Chill

by Arnaldur Indridason, 2005, Audiobook narrated by George Guidall, 2011, Recorded Books, LLC

This is a run of the mill detective story whose only redeeming value was that it took place in Iceland.  The mood and the background gave me a little insight into the culture and living conditions in Iceland.  It is a typical murder mystery, the only twist being that the murder was of a young immigrant boy.  It does provide a bit of background about how the immigrant population fares vis-a-vis the native Icelandic population and the tugs and pulls of assimilation versus isolation.  The plot itself is pedantic and the characters are a bit hard to distinguish because of the similarity and unfamiliarity of their names (especially in audiobook format).

The reading by George Guidall was very good as usual, but the material was lacking.

I don’t think I will be reading additional volumes in this series.2 stars