Review Room

Book reviews and miscellanous thoughts

Audiobook Review : The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Written By: amodini - Mar• 16•16


Title : The Good Girl
Author : Mary Kubica
Narrators : Lindy Nettleton, Johnny Heller, Tom Taylorson, Andi Arndt
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Blackstone Audio
Listening Length : 10 hours 38 minutes
Rating : 1/5
Narrator Rating : 2/5

Mia Dennett is the daughter of influential Judge James Dennett. When she is kidnapped, the incident makes headlines, but only one of her parents, her mother, the stunningly beautiful Eve Dennett, is truly distraught. The high priority search has Detective Gabe Hoffman on the case. And with the media and the condescending Judge Dennett watching his every move, he has to get it right.

The book is narrated via 3 voices – Gabe’s, Eve’s, and the kidnapper’s. Each of their narratives is either a “before” or “after” – i.e.; before or after the kidnapping. So we hear the detective’s side of the story, his personal insecurities, the inter-office politics, the fact that Dennett is hobnobbing with Gabe’s boss, the condescending attitude that Dennett supposedly reeks of. We hear Eve’s tale, the cracks in the Dennett marriage, the fact that Judge Dennett is not quite the morally upstanding citizen, and that among his children he has favorites. And then we hear from Colin Thatcher, the poor commoner kidnapper with a hard life. Mia herself is painted only via these narratives.

“The Good Girl” has a pretty good star rating on Amazon, and in the beginning I bought into the hype, because this was going along at a nice pace. However the story soon begins to flag when the romantic angle kicks in. Kubica’s writing is clunky and verbose, but that isn’t enough to sink the book. What does do it is the fact that I don’t like any of the characters, even the kidnapped Mia; she appears to be the poor little rich girl who doth complain too much. And she has major daddy issues; she’s been waiting all her life “to find a man to take care of her”. The characters are thinly sketched, with shades of black or white, no grey in-between. Cliches abound. The romance angle is a tad disgusting.

I was bored with this book. I wanted to get to the end, so I fast-forwarded the audio. The Good Girl is a book which has not been fully thought through, and it shows. It has been compared to Gone Girl, but Gone Girl it definitely is not. I highly de-recommend “The Good Girl”.

This book had multiple narrators, but I didn’t like them too much except for Tom Taylorson, the narrator who did Colin Thatcher’s voice. Nettleton voiced Eve, and she made Eve sound weary, which kinda sounds reasonable. But Eve also sounded affected which didn’t endear her to me any.

Wordless Wednesdays #48

Written By: amodini - Mar• 02•16

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Audiobook Review : The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Written By: amodini - Feb• 17•16

Title : The Girl on the Train
Author : Paula Hawkins
Narrators : Clara Corbett, India Fisher, Louise Brealey
Genre : Mystery
Publisher : Penguin Audio
Listening Length : 10 hours 59 minutes
Rating : 4.5/5
Narrator Rating : 5/5

This book is based on an intriguing premise – woman on passing train sees something shocking in a split-second! That is why I picked this up, and have to say that it does live up to all the hype.

Rachel is a recently divorced alcoholic. Her ex-husband Tom has married again and now has a child, something he couldn’t do with Rachel. The three, Tom, wife and child, now live in the home that used to once be Rachel and Tom’s. Rachel’s train to work skirts through her old neighborhood every day, where she is able to look into the backyard of another home, seeing a handsome couple breakfast together everyday. Rachel fantasizes about this couple as a perfect pair, both so much in love, and even concocts up a name for them – “Jess and Jason”.

One day though, eagerly looking for her “Jess and Jason”, Rachel instead sees something unexpected and shocking. Subsequently when she sees a missing woman’s face on the news, and realizes it is “Jess”, she goes to the police and tells them what she has seen. Rachel is, from then on, embroiled in a mystery that will change her reality as she knows it.

The book is told from three viewpoints – Rachel’s, Anna’s (Tom’s current wife), and Megan’s (the missing woman). Rachel is quite the unreliable narrator – she is an alcoholic with very little will-power, forgets stuff in her post-alcohol episodes, omits the truth when convenient, and generally doesn’t walk the morally upright path. Even when she pours out her story to the police they are loath to take her seriously. Anna, the “other woman” turned wife, considers Rachel to be an anti-social psychopath who wants to poison her happy life with Tom. And Megan or “Jess” has her own little convoluted story to tell. All three women have reason to hide their action and the motives for those actions. So you have a nice little set-up. Who do you believe?

Rachel’s isn’t a pleasant person but you do feel sorry for her, and she, with all her flaws and her unhappy circumstances, seems real. It is Rachel’s narrative that draws me in, and keeps me there. Hawkins paces her novel well, so there is a fresh new twist at every turn. And the end is quite unpredictable. “The Girl on the Train” is a very well-done mystery, and is made even better by the 3 narrators.

Highly recommended.

Wordless Wednesdays #47

Written By: amodini - Feb• 03•16

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Wordless Wednesdays #46

Written By: amodini - Jan• 06•16

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Wordless Wednesdays #45

Written By: amodini - Dec• 16•15

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Audiobook Review : Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

Written By: amodini - Dec• 02•15

Title : Love May Fail
Author : Matthew Quick
Narrators : Cris Dukehart, Jim Meskimen, Lorna Raver, Timothy Fannon, Tonya Campos
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Harper Audio
Listening Length : 12 hours 5 minutes
Rating : 4/5
Narrator Rating : 5/5

Portia Kane is fed up with her false life. She leaves her wealthy, cheating husband and heads back to her mother’s home in the small town she grew up in. Her sense of self is dented but not broken, because of the positivity she received years ago from her high school English teacher Mr. Nathan Vernon. She believes that she can put her life in order, if she saves someone else’s. And that someone is Mr. Vernon, who Portia learns, has become reclusive and just about disappeared after a traumatic incident with one of his students.

Energized, Portia resolves to give Mr. Vernon back all the help and support that he gave her when she most needed it. Mr. Vernon, when Portia tracks him down, throws a spanner in the works by declaring he doesn’t want to be saved. What is Portia to do?

Quirky and feel-good is how I’d describe this book. It is populated by a host of interesting characters – Portia’s pornographer husband, her hoarder mom, an ex-drug-addict, a rock-loving mom-son pair – not to mention Portia herself. Most of the characters are well-sketched, and I especially liked Mr. Vernon’s character, drawn with such goodness and empathy. Mr. Vernon is almost the ideal teacher, who gives selflessly of himself to all the young people he thinks he can infuse with hope and self-worth. I wish every teacher was like him.

This book has a plot, but it not a plot which I can stake out for you very clearly. Things happen, bound together by a bunch of coincidences. It runs along pretty smoothly until about 75% and then it becomes a bit of a mess. Thankfully it recovers, so I can finish it and still get the warm, fuzzy feeling I get from good books/films. I like the coincidences in the book because they give the book this feel-goody vibe. And I like the book because it ponders (in some very poignant moments) about life, it’s ups and downs, goodness and idealism, hope and despair, and that thing which makes us tick.

The title of the book is from Kurt Vonnegut’s quote “Love may fail, but courtesy will prevail”.

The book is narrated by a bunch of people who do a very good job. The narrator who portrays Portia sounds a little like Gillian Flynn (of Gone Girl fame). And the actor who plays Mr. Vernon’s part is fabulous – he gave his character the depth, gravitas and goodness Mr. Vernon’s portrayal deserved. Beautifully done.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Written By: amodini - Nov• 18•15

This is not going to read like a review because it is not one. Because I could not finish this book.

However I feel compelled to tell you why I had to give up on it more than half way in. And before that I must submit to a little ranting. About how I’m having trust issues. With book reviewers. You hear about this book and it’s got glowing reviews and then I can’t even force myself to finish it. It seems like all the books are so overly hyped these days – you are never quite sure whether to actually trust the review. I might have to start using Amazon reviews and judge the book by the naysayers.

This audiobook is long; more than 18 hours of listening time. I gave up sometime after the 10th hour. Not to say that I hated the book or it was atrocious – no. It wasn’t bad. It started with a great premise – that of a young pastor, Peter Leigh, going to another planet to spread his message of religious faith to the indigenous population. He’s been chosen after a rigorous set of interviews (we’re talking days here) by a mysterious corporation called USIC. He’s leaving behind his wife Bea, and their cat Joshua, but we assume that he will return to them.

This new planet, Oasis, is in another galaxy (there is a “jump” involved in the travel) and has a human colony living in sealed bunker-like buildings which keep out the cloyingly humid atmosphere. The native population live in their own settlement, and are short, thin, robed-and-cowled. Sorta humanoid except for their faces which Peter describes as looking like two fetuses, side by side. Peter, impatient to spread the word of God, goes to live among the Oasans, and finds them hungry for religion and scripture from “The Book of Strange New Things” – the Bible.

And that’s as far as I got. At this point the book is fairly slow-paced and plodding. I picked this up because of the sci-fi premise, and while the world-building is interesting, the pace is so slow that it felt more like alien anthropological non-fiction. I just couldn’t take the non-happening and any more of the descriptive detail of the Oasan’s life.

This book sounds similar to Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow”, which I finished and liked. They are very different though, as is the world-building. This one spouted a lot of religion :-). Faber is no doubt a very skilled writer, because even with much of Peter’s inner musing in the throes of philosophical detail, the book is interesting. I’m not sure I’ll listen to his work again though if all his books feature the non-plot like this one.

Audiobook Review : The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Written By: amodini - Nov• 04•15

Title : The Big Sleep
Author : Raymond Chandler
Narrator : Elliott Gould
Genre : Mystery
Publisher : Phoenix Books
Listening Length : 6 hours 11 minutes
Rating : 3/5
Narrator Rating : 4/5

I’m not a big Raymond Chandler fan, but everytime I listen to a not-so-good book, I strive to try something new. And in this case, I thought something classic would do me good. Hence Chandler, circa 1939.

The Big Sleep was Chandler’s first novel featuring detective Philip Marlowe. This is told from Marlowe’s perspective; he speaks in the first person and narrates to us everything as he sees it, and then some. I imagine that Marlowe is the typical detective of the 1930’s – dapper, sardonic with a dry, acerbic wit. The ladies like him, and he likes them in a cool-headed sort of a way, as in, he keep his wits about him. He drawls, and some of that drawling dialog is pretty swashbuckling and a little sexist – machismo of the time, I imagine. Marlowe is street-smart, skeptical and cynical. He makes a good detective.

The novel starts off with Marlowe being summoned to General Sternwood’s large and wealthy home. Sternwood has been contacted by a man called Geiger. Geiger is attempting to collect gambling debts, which he says have been incurred by Sternwood’s younger daughter Carmen. Now Sternwood wants Marlowe to get to the bottom of things and actually figure out who this Geiger character is and what he has on Carmen.

Attached to this mystery are several other mysteries like why the Sternwood girls (there are two – Carmen and Vivian) are always in and around gambling houses, and the mysterious disappearance of Vivan’s husband Rusty Regan. Marlowe’s sleuthing uncovers several surprising facts.

The book moves through the many events pretty fast. There is a lot happening too, because Marlowe tends to get about – he is not the stay-home-and-think type of detective. It does feel dated, like a Bond of old. There is a lot of emphasis on description and atmosphere and you get a good feel for the characters. Eventually this boils down to a neat little story and Chandler connects up the links very believably. Even so, I can’t say I am a fan. This is too much action and too little of an actual mystery to suit my taste.

I did like the narrator. Goulding’s warm, timber-y voice suited the character, and brought interest to the story. I would listen to him again.

Audiobook Review : The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Written By: amodini - Sep• 09•15

The Double Bind (Vintage Contemporaries)Title : The Double Bind
Author : Chris Bohjalian
Narrator : Susan Denaker
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Books On Tape
Listening Length : 11 hours 27 minutes
Rating : 2/5
Narrator Rating : 4/5

You win some, you lose some. This is one of the latter. After Laline Paull’s The Bees which had been on my to-listen list for a very long time, and turned out so well, I took a chance on “The Double Bind”, and am sorely disappointed.

The Double Bind is about Laura Estabrook, a young social worker, who has had a majorly traumatic event in the past. The trauma haunts her to the present day, and when she encounters through her work, a homeless man, who has photographs which could be related to the events of that horrific day, it turns her life upside down.

Bohjalian’s writing is mesmerizing, it sucks you in and doesn’t let go – and this from me, who’s only actually only heard the book, not even read it. I emphasize the distinction, because it is harder to focus on an audiobook than a regular book. While listening to an audiobook, and I listen in the car, amid teeming traffic, it is easier to get distracted and drift off, because the eyes are not focussed on a particular object. An audiobook is a true test of how good the book actually is. In that “were-you-hooked sense, Bohjalian’s book passes with flying colors.

So you wonder – why the 2 stars? I do not wish to give away the book, so all I can say is this – The Double Bind uses a literary trope, which when done well, makes an outstanding, suspense-filled, didn’t-see-that-coming book/film etc. Unfortunately, Bohjalian’s use of this trope is shoddy and fraught with holes. He changes the rules of the game to suit his end, and I as a reader/listener feel like I’ve been taken for a ride. This is especially annoying also because this happens pretty much at the end, when I’ve already listened to most of the book. The Double Bind is humming along nicely, and there are some great plot twists, a nice sense of mystery, and then it all goes splat. That’s 11 hours and 27 minutes of my life I will never get back.

I did like the narrator Susan Denaker. I think she did a great job and I would listen to her again.