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review 2018-08-15 07:14
Witches Abroad (Discworld)
Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett,Nigel Planer
Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett

An excellent riff on fairy tales.  I'm not actually sure what to say about it beyond that.  If you've read any of the discworld books, this one won't disappoint you.  

 

I listened to the audiobook, and Nigel Planer did an excellent job, though I disliked his Magrat and Ella choices; his voices for them both made them sound dull and stupid. On the other hand, I've also listened to other Pratchett books narrated by Celia Imrie and I really disliked her Granny Weatherwax voice; Planer gets Granny just right - she's the crone without hurting your ear drums. 

 

The plays on words are always my favorite part of Pratchett books and Witches Abroad did not disappoint (Emberella = Cinderella).  I also loved the we finally saw Granny's magic in a very decisive show; I hope it won't be the only time we see it.

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review 2018-08-01 02:33
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

This is my RL's book club selection for August, and seeing as how I skipped the last two (one of which I genuinely forgot about), I felt obliged to give this a chance.  Luckily a friend and fellow BC member loaned me her copy.

 

I actually DNFd it at the end of chapter 2.  Put it down and actually said out loud, 'no, I'm not reading this crap'.  Scenarios of possible book club meeting outcomes played through my head and my inner voice said 'you really haven't read enough to justify your ire'.  So, I made myself pick it up again.

 

Is this a compelling story?  Yes, it absolutely is.  I tore through the book in one sitting yesterday.  There's a lot of talent in the writing and the telling.  

 

There were just two problems for me:  1. I just didn't like a lot of it.  This is subjective, of course; the story just isn't my thing.   2. The story was fundamentally flawed because there were a number of basic inconsistencies to Eleanor's character.  These inconsistencies aren't subjective and can't be explained away by story events, even though the story events are horrific enough to allow for plenty of inconsistent behaviour.

 

Eleanor is, from the beginning, framed as a super-rational, automaton-like woman with a very expansive vocabulary, a formality of speech that approaches legalese, a scrupulously balanced diet, and a perfectly timed, strictly adhered to routine.  She hoards prescription pain meds, and goes through 2 full bottles of vodka every weekend.  Fine so far in terms of consistency.  

 

But then she meets Raymond, who smokes, and she wastes no time telling him in detail why smoking is vile and unhealthy; when he comments on her knowledge, she tells him its because she considered taking up smoking but as she always researches everything before trying anything, she discarded the idea.  Now, if she researches everything, and discarded smoking because it's detrimental to health, then a personality such as Elenor's would also research alcohol and likewise refrain from systematically drinking 2 large bottles every weekend.

 

I understand cracks in the facade, but really, Eleanor is so rigid at the start you question whether she's on the autistic spectrum; it implies a level of personal discipline that doesn't allow for vodka flavoured cracks.

 

Eleanor's past is a dark and pretty horrific one (Trigger warnings for physical and emotional abuse), but she wasn't raised in isolation.  In fact she's in the foster system from the age of 10, so it's stretching the bounds of incredulity when she visits a McDonalds for the first time and describes a filet o' fish sandwich as though she were an alien visitor to this planet, saying it was her very first visit to a fast food establishment and how she finds fast food repellent and unhealthy.  Hard to believe when you've spent 7 years in a Foster care system that you've never experienced fast food, but, ok.  Where the real inconsistency lies is when she goes home and has spaghetti hoops for dinner, which I'm assuming are the British version of spaghetti-o's, a particularly vile nutritional wasteland in a can.  

 

At one point later on, she comments on someone wearing jeans and jean jacket, saying she never knew you could turn denim in to a suit.  A small thing I'd not have noticed, except I was already inclined to rack up inconsistencies.  She grew up in London and she's now living in a large Scottish city and she finds someone wearing jeans and a jean jacket odd?  I'd have said on any random night in any metropolitan city, a denim ensemble would be amongst the least of the outstanding sartorial choices.  There's no way you walk through a major city for 7 years and find jeans and denim jacket weird.

 

At the end - and this is purely an outright editing error - there are two news articles dated about 6 weeks apart.  The first one says something along the lines of "the victim, aged 10, cannot be named because of privacy laws" (she said it better, but I don't have the book at hand).  The very next article proceeds to name her - first and last name - multiple times.  Guess that underage privacy law was repealed in those 6 weeks.

 

There's a massive plot twist (this is a HUGE spoiler - you've been warned):

Sixth-sense style, which I caught early on and had confirmed halfway through when someone asked Eleanor where her mother was and she said "I don't know".

(spoiler show)

 

So it's a compelling story, but a very inconsistent one.  A book that relies as heavily as this one does on emotional extremes deserved to have had a much more pedantic editor, as befits a pedantic character.  Eleanor had a horrific childhood and is broken in more than a few places, but she lived in the world; participated in it, yet we're presented with a character who might as well be a newly arrived visitor to planet Earth.  Even though I liked Eleanor, and found her funny, and agreed with her views on text-speak, I just couldn't buy into her reality.  Like Eleanor, I value consistency, and this story just wasn't.

 

Your mileage may vary.

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review 2018-06-27 08:25
Good Omens
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett,Neil Gaiman

I haven't always had the best luck with BBC full cast dramatisations, but this one worked brilliantly.

 

A demon and an angel set out to thwart the apocalypse.  Chaos ensures.

 

It's Pratchett, so it's almost guaranteed funny.  I haven't read enough Gaiman to comment on what he brings to the story other than to know it's excellent, whatever it is.  Two masters of fantasy having a bit of fun with Armageddon and a small but pointed commentary on the human condition thrown in at the end.  Oh, and a bloopers reel.

 

If that's not enough, the voice actor who does Crowley, the demon, sounds a little bit like Alan Rickman.

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review 2018-02-14 08:46
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection - Carol Burnett

As I said in my recent status update, I loved this book.  The Carol Burnett show was such a staple growing up in the 70's; it wasn't until I started reading/listening to this book that I realised how much I missed the kind of comedy she and her cast served up every week.

 

The book is broken into individual anecdotes that cover her early life and career.  Almost all of them are light, interesting, amusing and often laugh-out-loud hilarious.  A couple towards the end will bring tears as she relates particularly heartbreaking moments, but mostly the tears are from laughing so hard.

 

I don't know how well this book's promise would translate for anyone who hadn't at least watched a few episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, but for those that have and enjoyed it, this is a welcome trip down memory lane.

 

Burnett herself reads the book, and she does an amazing job.  At no point did it ever feel like she was 'reading' anything; her delivery is as natural as if she was right there talking to you.

 

I'm thrilled to find out she released another book last year, In Such Good Company.  All behind the scenes stories from the show.  It's taking all my self control to not check it out and immediately start listening, but I'm going to make myself listen to a book from my shelves first.  

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review 2017-12-23 22:54
Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books
Browsings - Michael Dirda,John Lescault

First, I want to be clear: this 3 star rating is for the audiobook only.  I have a print copy of Browsings, but in an effort to pack more reading in, I borrowed the audiobook from my library to listen while driving to and from work.

 

The narrator, John Lescault, is not great.  He breathes very little, if any, personality into the reading of the essays.  As the book progresses, some life comes out here and there, but mostly there are large swaths of the narration that sound exactly like a computer generated voice is reading the text to you.  Because work ended for the holidays before the book did, I read the last few columns from my print edition.  Once I got Lescault's voice out of my head, I found the essays a lot more lively and enjoyable.  I suspect when I pick this up again some time in the future, when the soulless narration has faded from memory, I'll enjoy the essays a lot more.

 

Browsings is a collection of Dirda's columns, written over the course of a year, for The American Scholar.  He talks about a little of everything book related and his reading tastes are the very definition of eclectic, so there's likely something here for everyone who might enjoy reading about a bookish life.  My only disappointment – aside from the narration –was a lack of solid, factual information about collecting and living with books, but that's the result of my own hopeful expectations, not to any unmet promises on the part of the book itself.

 

An enjoyable book to dip in and out of, but definitely skip the audio version.

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