Posted by melydia on December 4, 2012
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (unabridged audiobook read by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner; 15.75 hrs on 13 discs): Vida Winter, an author of Agatha Christie-level fame and popularity, is old and ailing and finally ready to tell the truth about her life after fifty years of telling each would-be biographer a different, obviously fabricated version of her childhood. She chooses Margaret Lea, a young woman with painful secrets of her own, to record the tale. Lea becomes entranced with the story, as did I. It is about twins, and ghosts, and madness, and love. The characters are at once repellent and oddly compelling. I would advise a strong stomach for parts, but by and large I absolutely loved this story. The ending was so satisfying I had a goofy grin on my face for quite a bit of the last couple chapters. My only confusion was that I couldn’t figure out what time period it was supposed to take place in. Lea uses pencil and paper to write, and relies on almanacs and handwritten letters to genealogists for her research. But cars and trains and telephones are commonplace items. Winter’s tale, which begins with the birth of her mother, spans nearly a century, but never once is there a single mention of either World War. No matter where you were in England at the time, surely the wars were something that impacted everyone. So that was a bit of a mystery, but quite a small one. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Setterfield’s next novel.
A note on the audio: Both readers were excellent. I listened to Amato Her Fearful Symmetry, which was also about twins and ghosts. Kind of an odd coincidence. (Evidently I also listened to Tanner read Atonement – I thought I recognized her voice!)
Posted by melydia on November 30, 2012
The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte: Lucas Corso is a book detective – that is, he finds and authenticates various rare volumes for wealthy collectors. In this tale, he finds both an original manuscript of a chapter from The Three Musketeers, as well as The Nine Doors, a manual for summoning the devil that was supposedly burned some four hundred years ago. While verifying both texts, Corso comes across some unusual differences between the engravings of the three existing copies of The Nine Doors. People start dying, and Corso keeps running into characters from The Three Musketeers come to life, and the whole thing gets pretty weird. When I was about two thirds of the way through, I was describing the plot to my husband, who commented that it sounded quite a bit like The Ninth Gate. Sure enough, that film is based on the book, except all the Dumas bits are removed and the ending changed. I hated the ending to the movie. The book is better in that respect, but while I was completely rapt up until the last couple chapters, the Big Reveal left me a little cold. But hey, loving an entire book save two chapters is better than I can say about many others.
Also posted on BookCrossing.
Posted by melydia on November 16, 2012
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (unabridged audiobook read by Jeff Woodman; 7 hours on 6 discs): I came into this expecting to love it, as I have loved every other John Green book I’ve read. And I did, though there were parts that hit uncomfortably close to home. Colin is a prodigy – that is, he learns and retains information extremely well and quickly. He is not necessarily, he maintains, a genius (someone who comes up with truly original ideas). When the 19th Katherine in a row dumps him right after high school graduation, his hilarious friend Hassan takes him on a road trip that ultimately lands them in Gutshot, Tennessee. I picked out the love interest in about three nanoseconds, which was kind of annoying, but the characters themselves were so much fun it didn’t really matter. I fell a little bit in love with Hassan, but that seems par for the course with me and Green’s secondary characters. This book says a lot about self-centeredness and being special, lessons I took a long time to learn. In short, I wish I’d read this, like, fifteen years ago. Too bad Green is almost my same age, and probably hadn’t learned these lessons yet fifteen years ago either. Oh well. I’ll get a TARDIS and remedy this at some point, I’m sure.
Also posted on BookCrossing.
Posted by melydia on November 13, 2012
Angelica by Arthur Phillips (unabridged audiobook read by Susan Lyons; 13 hours on 11 discs): Constance Barton has had enough miscarriages that the doctors now forbid her to have intercourse with her husband, for one more pregnancy will likely kill her. She begins to fear his every touch, but when a strange spirit seems to be attacking their daughter, she starts to see connections between it and her husband’s behavior. She hires a spiritualist, but it may already be too late. The story is told from four points of view, one after the other, each adding a new layer to the confusion. Is there really a ghost or is it hokum? Is the spiritualist a charlatan or can she really help? Much of the drama stems from the Victorian mores and inability to discuss anything frankly, which is kind of annoying to my modern sensibilities. I kept hoping for something truly interesting to happen, but in the end, it really didn’t. I was kind of meh about the whole thing, hoping for something a little bit more epic. Ah well.
Posted by melydia on November 2, 2012
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith: Tom Ripley is sent to Europe to find Dickie Greenleaf and convince him to come home to his parents. The men were acquaintances once upon a time, and Dickie’s father, at the end of his rope, finances Ripley’s trip. Instead of admitting that the two barely remember each other, Ripley slowly inserts himself into Dickie’s life, ultimately deciding that he, Tom Ripley, is more deserving of such a life. The ensuing series of close calls and further deceptions makes for quite the suspenseful read. I kept turning the page, wanting to see how Ripley would get out of this particular scrape, and whether, in the end, his caper would succeed. Definitely recommended if you like (somewhat disturbing) psychological thrillers.
Also posted on BookCrossing.
Posted by melydia on October 30, 2012
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: Thank goodness there’s going to be a sequel. I devoured this book quite quickly, desperate to know what happens next, and the story felt like it ended kind of in the middle. I mean, I suppose it could technically be thought of as “open-ended” but I cannot wait to hear the rest of the story. I love the characters. Basically, this is a tale written around olde-timey photographs. Jacob grew up hearing his grandfather’s fantastic tales of the children he knew when staying in a Welsh orphanage during World War II. After his grandfather’s death and mysterious last words, Jacob journeys to Wales to see if he can find any of these people still living. The photographs were a great addition, though all of them were (somewhat needlessly) intricately described in the text as well. This book, full of abandoned houses and time travel and unlikely companions really captured my imagination. I’ll definitely be reading it again someday.
Posted by melydia on September 25, 2012
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid: I’m not sure how to describe this book, really. It’s told almost in second person, with the narrator telling you, the reader/his American dinner companion, the story of his time in America. It’s even interrupted frequently with references to the waiter, the food, and the other patrons of the cafe. This adds to the realism but on the whole the experience was rather strange. The narrator, Changez, attends Princeton and lands a fabulous job immediately after graduation. Then on September 11 his world turns upside down and suddenly he’s focusing more on his Pakistani heritage than his American future. The tale was rather engaging, and I read it quickly, but I still have absolutely no idea what happened at the end. I even re-read the last chapter to see if I missed anything, but I’m still confused. Oh well.
Also posted on BookCrossing.
Posted by melydia on August 21, 2012
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 20 hrs 18 min on 16 discs): This final installment of the Millennium Trilogy finds Lisbeth Salander in the hospital recovering from severe gunshot wounds as Mikael Blomkvist scrambles to uncover the conspiracy that has been quietly ruining her life for the last fifteen years. Unlike the previous two books, this is more of a legal and political thriller, culminating in a gripping and often maddening trial. There is quite a lot of commentary on women’s rights and journalistic integrity as well, making for some thought-provoking passages. The ending was satisfying but realistic. Lisbeth will always be Lisbeth, after all. The side story about Erika Berger’s stalker seemed a bit unnecessary, but it didn’t overshadow the primary plot. This is one of those series I want to go back and read again now that I know how it all turns out, to see if I can spot any clues. Great stuff.
Posted by melydia on July 31, 2012
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 18.5 hrs on 15 discs): Oh Lisbeth, how I’ve missed you. This second installment of the Millennium Trilogy finds two of Mikael Blomkvist’s friends murdered and Lisbeth’s fingerprints on the gun. Thus begins a complicated story of Lisbeth’s past, prostitution, and Swedish government secrets. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the various people Lisbeth has touched and who line up to be in her corner during this her darkest hour. When I think of “strong female characters” I don’t think about Buffy the Vampire Slayer; I think of people like Lisbeth. She’s fascinating and flawed and wonderful to read about. I doubt she’d be all that impressed with me were we to meet, but I’ve enjoyed witnessing her adventures so far. In fact, the very last couple lines of the book had me laughing with joy. Can’t wait to read the third book, but part of me is a little reluctant because I don’t want to say goodbye.
A note on the audio: Something about Vance’s voice makes me picture Liam Neeson as Mikael Blomkvist, as opposed to Daniel Craig. Also, I sometime confuse Daniel Craig with Christopher Eccleston. My brain does not work.
Posted by melydia on June 5, 2012
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (unabridged audiobook read by Michael Page; 24 hrs on 20 discs): My familiarity with this story was limited to the Disney film and the sort-of sequel, neither of which have much to do with anything. Our hero, the young d’Artagnan, longs to become a Musketeer. While he is proving his worth, he befriends the titular Three Musketeers: Athos, Portos, and Aramis. I had not realized that most of the characters in this book are based (however loosely) on real people, but considering I knew pretty much nothing about any of them going in, it didn’t really matter. Most of this story deals with tracking down and defeating Milady de Winter, a character of uncertain origin and indubitable evil. I was surprised by two things, mostly: first, that the Musketeers’ taking on married women as lovers and financiers was a totally ordinary thing, and second, how often I laughed. This is, quite simply, an adventure story. People tend to be either wholly good or wholly evil, anyone the good guys kill is justified and anyone the bad guys killed is an outrage. In short, it’s a lot of fun, but don’t put too much thought into it.
A note on the audio: A lot of classics are no fun to listen to on audio because most of them were recorded before people figured out that voice actors are the better way to go when reading books for people. Thus, your chance of horrendous monotone is higher the older and more famous the book. So I was quite pleasantly surprised (thrilled, actually) to discover that this reader was just great. It made listening a real pleasure.
Also posted on BookCrossing.