Review Room

Book reviews and miscellanous thoughts

Audiobook Review : The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

Written By: amodini - Dec• 06•17

Title : The Brutal Telling
Series : Inspector Gamache (Book 5)
Author : Louise Penny
Narrators : Ralph Cosham
Genre : Mystery
Publisher : Blackstone Audio
Listening Length : 13 hours 12 minutes
Rating : 1/5
Narrator Rating : 4.5/5

A body has been found in the Three Pines Bistro and antiques shop owned by Olivier and Gabri. No one can identify the body, and Inspector Gamache and his team is called in to investigate.

What unfolds is long and tiresome, and I hate saying this, because I was so looking forward to a good mystery series I could sink my teeth into. In the first book of this series (Still Life), Penny delivers a resoundingly good tale. This book is, by contrast, a massive let-down.

Firstly, the plot is pretty shaky and the denouement just as unbelievable. The book goes into mysticism, and fables, and both seem rather made-up to me. Secondly, this book seemed to be an ode to Inspector Gamache. There was adulatory language praising him to the gills, so he seemed to be the main focus, not the mystery.

Thirdly, is it just me or have the inhabitants of Three Pines gotten more annoying? The banter is so pat. I didn’t see the point of Ruth, her duck or her poetry in this book. The village inhabitants suddenly consider Gamache their friend and moral compass; his opinion is needed on everything (see note on adulation above). Also, I understand that the mysteries are set in Three Pines, but with each mystery do we learn more and more unsavory things about the villagers whom we’ve gotten to feel affection for until now? If so, it’s quite the reverse of feel-good!

All in all, this was a big disappointment. I’m going to try some more of this series, this time in order, and hope for the best.

The book was a let-down; the narrator wasn’t. Cosham is very pleasant on the ears.

Wordless Wednesdays #70

Written By: amodini - Nov• 22•17


Audiobook Review : The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

Written By: amodini - Nov• 08•17

Title : The Mountain Between Us
Author : Charles Martin
Narrators : George Newbern
Genre : Romance
Publisher : Random House Audio
Listening Length : 9 hours 58 minutes
Rating : 1/5
Narrator Rating : 5/5

Two strangers, Dr. Ed Payne and Ashley Knox, stranded at Salt Lake City airport amid bad weather decide to charter a flight to Denver. The pilot dies mid-flight and the plane crashes into snowy wilderness. Ashley suffers a broken leg, Ben has broken ribs, and the chances of rescue are almost zero.

This book was supposed to be a romance, and what a promising premise it had! Alas, it falls very short of the promise. Firstly, the good doctor is married, and Ashley was on her way to marry her boyfriend. Secondly, their characters are unbelievable, and poorly sketched. The doctor is not only a medical professional, who can oh-so-luckily set Ashley’s leg, but also an avid climber and survivalist!

I thought the writing was poor and stilted; too much telling and not enough showing. The ending is incredibly cheesy. I sped through the later chapters of this book, once I realized it couldn’t get any better. The end, when it came, was almost laughable.

I like George Newbern as a narrator (he has also narrated “A Man Called Ove”), and he did as well as the text allowed him to do.


Wordless Wednesdays #69

Written By: amodini - Oct• 25•17

Ugrasen ki Bawli

Audiobook Review : Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Written By: amodini - Oct• 11•17

Title : Commonwealth
Author : Ann Patchett
Narrators : Hope Davis
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Blackstone Audio
Listening Length : 10 hours 33 minutes
Rating : 4/5
Narrator Rating : 4.5/5

Deputy District Attorney Bert Cousins gate-crashes Franny Keating’s christening party in Torrance, California,, with an inappropriate gift – a bottle of gin. Also, he kisses Franny’s mother, the beautiful Beverly Keating. She, apparently, kisses him back. When the divorces happen, Beverly and Bert marry and move to Virginia with Beverly’s two daughters Franny and Caroline. Bert’s ex-wife, Teresa, is left to bring up her four kids single-handedly, and Francis “Fix” Keating, Beverly’s LAPD cop ex-husband moves on with his life stolidly.

The Keating and Cousins children live together every summer when the Cousins kids visit their father in Virginia. Bert, as always, makes himself unavailable, and the children’s responsibility is shouldered, almost unwillingly, for the most part by Beverly. When she balks, which she does often (turning up the air-conditioning in her car and lying down in the back-seat to escape), the six children are left to amuse themselves. One such time, a tragedy occurs, and they carry the weight of it around all their lives.

Patchett spins this domestic drama in a non-linear fashion. We start off at the christening party, jump to a grown-up Franny’s affair with much older, renowned novelist Leo Posen, and then skip back to vignettes of childhood as remembered by any one of the children. From these different perspectives, we piece together the complete story, and so masterful a storyteller is she, that Patchett manages to make us feel for every heart-breaking twist. It is not like she tells us of every single happening, but just the right ones, with enough emphasis on tone and emotional tension so that we can make up our own minds of the unfolding drama.

Commonwealth is poignant, and Patchett wrote much of it to reflect her own experience as the child of divorce. The fact that I, having had a very different childhood, cannot identify with it at all is of no matter; Commonwealth is still a powerful story of all the unnecessary, hand-wringing heartbreak that life ensures.

The last novel I read by Ann Patchett was State Of Wonder. I adored that, partly because of the Indian-American protagonist and partly because of the scientific slant to the story. While Commonwealth delves deeper into relationships than “State of Wonder”, it is a harder read and not as engrossing. Patchett is still fabulous, and if you need familial drama, Commonwealth will give it to you.

Narrator Davis is fantastic. Her voice lends itself to the everyday tragedy that is Commonwealth. Her inflections carry weight, and convey the angst, fear, sadness and humor as Patchett, I imagine, intends it.

Wordless Wednesdays #68

Written By: amodini - Sep• 27•17

Festina Lente, window detail, Lucerne

Book Review : Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Written By: amodini - Sep• 13•17

Title : Big Little Lies
Author : Liane Moriarty
Pages : 512
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Berkley
Rating : 4/5

Big Little Lies is about Jane, Madeline and Celeste and their lives. All three have children going to Pirriwee Public School, and that is how they meet and become friends. Each of them has problems and secrets. While shy Jane’s little boy Ziggy is accused of bullying, extrovert Madeline has ex-husband problems, and gorgeous Celeste needs to face up to some unpleasant truths. Also, when “established” moms Madeline and Celeste take newcomer Jane under their wing, they realize that her troublesome past has unwholesome ties to their little, well-bred community.

Like “The Husband’s Secret”, Big Little Lies is a page turner. It starts off with kindergarteners and their protective, cliquish mothers, hints at a murder at a school event, and then takes us through the days until the fatal event. The three moms are the main characters; their husbands, children, other school parents and the school staff make brief appearances.

Moriarty tells her stories from a female point-of-view. You could call them chick-lit but she goes deeper, having the knack to depict moving, poignant events skillfully; really chick-lit with substance. “Big Little Lies” felt a little lightweight when compared to “The Husband’s Secret”. Some situations felt just a little too pat, and worked through kinda conveniently. Still, this is a great read;I finished it quickly and in a single sitting.

Wordless Wednesdays #67

Written By: amodini - Aug• 30•17

Hofkirche St. Leodegar, Lucerne

Audiobook Review : Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Written By: amodini - Aug• 16•17

Title : Underground Railroad
Author : Colson Whitehead
Narrators : Bahni Turpin
Genre : Historical
Publisher : RandomHouse
Listening Length : 10 hours 44 minutes
Rating : 3.5/5
Narrator Rating : 4/5

This book imagines the underground railroad, to be an actual railroad, instead of what it actually was – a network of secret escape routes for slaves to escape to the north or to Canada. Here we follow Cora, who is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Cora’s cruel master dies and his even crueler brother takes over, which makes living conditions worse. When Caesar, a new slave, broaches the topic of escape, Cora grabs her chance and the two of them make their way up north via the railroad.

This is Cora’s story, and her journey to freedom. Through her eyes, we get to see the horrors of slavery. Extreme cruelty, debasement, humiliation, sexual exploitation is the norm, not the exception. As Cora makes her way through South Carolina and North Carolina, she has slave-catcher Ridgeway nipping at her heels. Her flight to freedom has many ups and downs, when she believes she is safe, but finds later that she is not.

This was a good book, but it got more documentary-like as it progressed. Whitehead sketches his characters well – we get to know Cora, her mother Mabel, the only slave to have escaped the plantation and Ridgeway’s net, and her grandmother Ajarry who was kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery. He does a great job chronicling the cruelties meted out to slaves via this inhuman institution – that to me was the most important part of this book – to realize that breath-taking cruelty wasn’t a one-off punishment, but a way of life, and meted out by the slave-owners just because they could. Whitehead describes the emotional turmoil, the loss of control and dignity the slaves experience, and it was harrowing just to read the descriptions.

Narrator Turpin has a slightly nasally, humid voice. Her sedate and calm reading is excellent, and helped me enjoy this book even more.

Wordless Wednesdays #66

Written By: amodini - Aug• 02•17

St. Peterskapelle, Lucerne