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Alexis☺

U.S.A.
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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-04-18

Wish publishers would publish more intellectual women’s mysteries

For the most part, I have looked forward to Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie installments, though I know there will be maddening segments in which she rants and pronounces self-righteous judgments like an aging Anglo-Saxon Protestant man raised in an African colony. Still, I like Edinburgh and can’t afford to travel there, and as a literature professor and editor who has to publish analyses that include philosophy, this character gives me familiarity with a pleasant level of escapism. Unfortunately, there are times when the author’s masculinity of perspective not only shines through but grates on the story, such as when Isabel used to whine on and on about how lucky she was to be providing an upper class lifestyle for the impoverished musician, Jamie, who is now the henpecked father of her two sons. Some experiences and perspectives simply don’t translate across gender and ethnicity divides in a culture as hierarchical as the British and Anglo-American. This problem arises again in The Quiet Side of Passion. Three young women come precipitately into Isabel’s life and home, where she keeps her lovable little sons and supposedly delectable husband, and all three are sexually incontinent and emotionally dishonest. Yet, the gender indistinct Isabel not only is slow to suspect or condemn the obvious foul plays all three of these women are perpetrating, involving and exposing her innocent sons, but she goes to two men for sympathetic advice or support. Seriously? Does an editor read these Dalhousie mysteries before they are published? Can we strive for just a little verisimilitude ? At some point, even the most determined fan has to speak up for characterization . I am wildly grateful that a mystery series is published with an intelligent female protagonist in a beautiful city following human interest stories with minimal or no blood and guts for readers to slog through. I wish my support of Dalhousie had inspired publishers to publish more series like this, perhaps even written by women (imagine that!), so the characterizations might be refreshing instead of incredibly annoying or even tension-inducing. I will continue to support the concept of Dalhousie because her city is charming, her philosophical musings are engaging even when Eurocentric, and she too is a highly educated woman in a badly misogynistic environment. But how I wish competing publishers would seek to capitalize on Dalhousie’s legacy!

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-17-18

The original tale of alien tentacles on a hybrid human

Octavia Butler gave the sf world this groundbreaking vision of how the earthly apocalypse results in a changed human species at the end of the 1980s. The work was bold, detailed and undeniably original. While the politically required blaming of all human societies for the inventions of racism, classism and atomic warfare remain off-putting and problematic, the author’s overall investment in her rebuilding dream, with all its adventurous nightmares to enliven the three Lilith’s Brood stories and make them credible, is nonetheless extraordinary.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-31-17

Overly Ponderous

For some reason, this addition to Louise Penny's usually engaging series comes across as self conscious, almost pretentious in its navel gazing effort at weightiness. There are plenty of interesting characters, particularly the mysterious genderless child. But the parts crumble under the ponderous slow-going of the whole. Even Ralph Cosham's reading seems to become bogged down in the word-heavy grasping at deeper meaning than an entertaining story. Let this stumble be a lesson to all novelists to remember to entertain first and let the message, if there is one, speak for itself.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-06-17

Heartachingly realistic humor

Alan Bradley's eleven-year-old intrepid chemist sleuth is surprisingly credible, as her adventures escalate into genre-formulaic extravagance. The believably scarred and fallible members of her household and her world are brush-stroked with minimalist impressionism, so that they tug at the reader's sympathetic imagination long after they've exited the scene. And Entwhistle's superbly arch reading is simply not to be missed. Pitch perfect entertainment: lighthearted, thoughtful and thought- provoking.

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1 of 3 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-28-17

Misleading

The title and blurb may lead a reader to think that this book will be about a downsized librarian starting over with a mobile bookstore, which does begin the story. Throughout, however, there is the sense that, for a literary exploration, or for women's fiction, or even a slice-of-life meditation on bibliophilia as a coping tool, something is always off: too melodramatic, too one-dimensional, too contrived, too histrionic. And then, three fourths of the way through the book, the reader realizes that this book is a formulaic "romance": staged misunderstandings, obsessive insecurities, noncommittal sex, and all. The descriptions of the Scottish Highlands are vivid and invigorating, and the book recommendations for certain problems and character types are thought-provoking or just laugh-out-loud fun. But the main character's blithe disregard for other people's feelings, safety, privacy, emotional needs, and vulnerabilities may wear on a reader who doesn't realize all this occasionally aggravating plot is going to be about will be learning to bond through sex. This may be a very good read for romance fans. Unfortunately, I went from loving the narrator's handling of each voice (except the protagonist's) and sharing the excitement about starting over with a bookstore of withdrawn books to hating the thought of slogging through one more minute of the main character's sexual forays and whining self-centeredness.

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72 of 76 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-03-17

Delightful!

Uplifting in unexpected ways, entertaining at every turn, and expertly crafted, if at rare times disappointingly improbable or marred a bit by unlikely twentieth century grammar lapses. Still, wonderfully engaging and fun, even if Regencies are not a reading preference or habit.

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-14-17

Somewhat uneven entertainment

Huber's fourth Lady Darby mystery is notable for family intrigues surrounding her sister's impending childbirth: why is the brother-in-law so distant, what are her sister's thoughts alone in the dark, and will she survive a childbirth she was warned not to undertake? Other mysteries, including the murder of a domestically abused woman, lose immediacy and take a bit of a back seat. But inventive plot twists and turns, along with Wilds' understated, occasionally sensuous reading, make this an overall enjoyable listen. One troublesome plot element is the author's apparent assumption that readers will support the heroine's emotionally aggressive insistence on learning her fiance's painful secret before their wedding. Lady Darby descends into manipulative tyranny to get at her fiance's backstory. I kept thinking, "Accept him as he presents himself, or let him go. Isn't this story about domestic abuse?" Once the supposed mystery is revealed, I kept hoping the heroine might self-scrutinize and realize that emotional insecurity and her own suppressed trauma made her scrape away at her fiancé's soul so voyeuristically. But the story ends with Lady Darby's reminder that her husband can have no secrets, and their agreement to share everything. . . Perhaps if I listened again, that aspect of the story might not be so off-putting, but in the context of a murder mystery tied to marital abuse, I will settle for warning sensitive readers, and move on.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-24-17

Vivid layers of storytelling

This was my first Gamache listen, and I am pleasantly surprised that the third book in the complex series works so well as a standalone. One doesn't expect a book about spring to be so layered with individual tales about hauntings, the destructive cruelties of love, ugliness, and betrayal, but Penny works these together into her ultimate theme of cyclic resurrection. The police procedural ending of the pileup of mysteries strikes me as disappointingly unconvincing and contrived, but, in the overall scheme of ratings, not worth lowering the score. The narrator, too, comes in for his share of praise, particularly for his pronunciation of French names and his indication of female voices by a sensitive change of tone rather than pitch. Well done. Overall, this is a thoughtful and engaging take on springtime, love, art, death, and renewal.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-17-17

French Resistance to WWII Occupation

In the end, without giving away the plot, the reader comes away from this installment in the Father Max series with a somewhat broader understanding of the range of horrors of the Nazi occupation of France. As always, the narrator's voice and pleasantly cultured accent are enjoyable, though I do wish his Max didn't sound quite so harsh, even when he's speaking gently or lovingly. Like many deep-voiced men, his women tend to sound a bit mincing, which is only unavoidably distracting when a supposedly strong-willed, independent character such as Max's girlfriend is speaking at length.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-17-17

Ripping good mystery

Old-fashioned complex series of double-takes and flashbacks makes the reader shakily aware, as the train plunges on, of just how much trouble our plucky protagonist has gotten herself into by discovering her inner lonely core of stubborn integrity at a most inconvenient time. Superb narration, though I occasionally thought the heroine's voice became too aged for the character the author described; but that is a minor quibble about a great read that makes an even better "listen"!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful