Prince Charles The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
by Sally Bedell Smith
Random House Publishing Group - Random House
Biographies & Memoirs
Pub Date 04 Apr 2017
I am a fan of royalty but from the 16th century and older. The modern royalty has not crossed my radar except for Masterpiece theater. When I saw a new biography on Prince Charles, I decided to pick it up from Netgalley. The likelihood of Prince Charles being crowned King grows with each year. It seemed like a good idea to learn about the man who literally would be king.
The childhood of Charles was a textbook case in how not to raise a healthy child. It really is sad. He was forced into a mold. His father tried to force the young prince to fit to his own interests, forced him to attend a school that the prince’s own grandmother stated would not be good for him. All of this without any of the usual signs of affection, either emotional or physical. Rarely a “good job” or a hug. The prince’s mother, the Queen, seems to be strangling part of the scenery instead of an active participant.
Charles seems to come into his own as he hit college. What is fascinating about this biography is not only Charles's evolution into his own man but the multiple disasters that occurred when his parents’ tried to manage him. Best example of this mismanaging is his marriage to Diana Spencer. Although Charles had found a woman who shared his interests and passions, she did not meet the requirements for inclusion in the royal family. After years of relationships that did not remotely meet those standards, he quickly selected and proposed to Diana Spencer.
This is where the book lost me. It was very critical, seriously critical, of Diana. She is painted by the author as being manipulative, having serious control issues, and being totally uninterested in Charles’s passions. She is portrayed as a good mother. She is also made use of the media to bolster her position as the “wronged” woman. Charles was involved in his sons’ lives. He did spend time with them and did not repeat the mistakes of his own father. But the media never photographed him with his sons. The media discussed Diana’s clothing, not Charles's speeches in favor of environmental causes.
Despite the author’s bias towards Charles, I would still recommend Prince Charles
The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. It is a wonderful look at a very complex man who will someday be King of England. It is an opportunity to get to know a man who will certainly shape events when he takes his place on the world stage.
Warren Adler is the author of more than forty published novels, the most famous being “The War of the Roses”, made into a very successful movie. This was my first occasion to read any of his work. I really enjoyed it and am contemplating which book to tackle next.
The plot of the book revolves around a family, Richard who works for the foreign service and is stationed in Egypt, his wife Maria and their five year old son. When this book was written in the mid 1980’s, 1986, the USSR was still intact and terrorism was starting to rise. The PLA and Arafat were the main group but others were popping up in Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Egypt. Mr. Adler was eerily ahead of his time in how he portrays this world of terrorism, each with their own agendas.
As the novel begins, Maria is sitting in her car with her not so patient son waiting to pick up her husband. He is already an hour late. He is part of the group giving the Under Secretary of State a tour of the museum. Also in the same parking lot are six men waiting to kidnap the Under Secretary to ransom in exchange for prisoner releases. When Maria’s son can wait no longer, she walks him towards the museum entrance to use the restroom, just as the dignitaries come out. The terrorist plan goes sideways quickly. In an attempt to gain something out of the botched plan Maria and her son are snatched instead.
This is where the novel excels in the dichotomy of power and how it is used. American policy is not to negotiate with terrorist. Maria and her son will most likely suffer torture and die. Except for one small fact unknown but to Maria, her husband and a few others. Maria’s father is a businessman in Brooklyn. The kind of business that Mario Puzo wrote so well about in his novels. Maria’s father is a Don, a Godfather, a mafia king. He does not play by the same rules as the government especially when his only surviving child and only grandson are involved.
His plan is simple. If the President will not negotiate with terrorist for hostages, take the President hostage. Here the book shows some dating. The mafia get into the White House relatively easy. There is only one computer involved for the CIA Director to use to contact operatives. Once the reader accepts the existence of the USSR and lack of computers and tight security, the story flows nicely. It really was a compelling listen.
Mr. Moore does a great job narrating. The overt menace of the terrorist leader is nicely contrasted with the calm danger of the mafia don. All the accents are well done. Mr. Moore infuses the emotion into the narration without overdoing it. He really made the audiobook a “must listen just a little bit longer” that turned into hours. The production values were great.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
In this, the twenty-first century, we take for granted that our planet has been thoroughly explored. Douglas Preston has brought us the tale of a hidden civilization that takes a horrendous toll on it’s explorers. It is a journey not to be missed, especially since the reader is not the one suffering the trials and pains the explorers did. Douglas Preston is a well-known author as part of the team, with Lincoln Childs, that writes the Pendergast mystery series. He also has his own books, both fiction and nonfiction that are worth checking out.
The first recorded reference to the White City is in the writing of Cortez. He was told by a guide that there was a civilization that rivaled the Aztecs and Incas located in what is modern-day Honduras. Cortez passed this information on to Spanish authorities but was never able to follow up on it. As the decades went by the legend of the White City persisted. Claims of finding the city were not accompanied by proof. The author does a good job of detailing the tantalizing clues that kept the legend alive.
Preston first heard of the White City while doing a story for National Geographic on Angkor Wat in 1996. He was told about new technology that can penetrate the thick jungle canopy to help determine if man-made structures existed. Preston was fascinated by the story and contacted the researchers to request joining the study. Steve Elkins, heading the project, accepted Preston into the group. After securing the financing, the search for the White City finally began in 2012. The preliminary work of selecting the possible sites, planning the expedition, and gathering a team of experts, not only in archaeology but also in navigating the jungle. The area of Honduras that the White City was believed to be was an isolated valley, uninhabited by man but full of danger like the fer-de-lance snake, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. The expedition finally started for the valley where the White City in 2015.
This is where the book becomes addictive. The snakes, the mosquitos, the jungle itself challenged the explorers day and night. The discoveries came quickly. The team had to decide whether to announce their finds and risk it all. Although they had accessed the site by helicopter, they knew once it was announced, others would attempt to rob the site of it’s priceless artifacts. Preston describes all of this, the danger, the hard choices, in detail that keeps the reader turning pages (in my case late into the night). Once the expedition ended, the danger did not. The worst was what many of the exhibition members unknowingly carried home with them. Despite the mosquito nets and liberal use of DEET, many members of the team became ill and had mosquito bites that did not heal. When the team compared bites and symptoms through email, they knew they needed expert medical help. Naively believing malaria was the worst, the team was shocked to find they had contracted leishmaniasis also called White Leprosy. The final discussion of this third world disease and it’s spread to first world countries was fascination and frightening.
The production values of the audiobook are fantastic. There are no issues with either the sound quality or the narrator’s clarity. Bill Mumy did a good job as a narrator. This was my first audiobook narrated by Mr. Mumy. He has a pleasant voice. As Preston is an American, it made sense to have the audiobook narrated by an American. While I did enjoy the audio and Mr. Mumy spoke clearly, I just felt there was something missing. I found myself wondering how it would have sounded narrated by James Foster, R. C. Bray, or Bronson Pinchot. I think Mr. Pinchot would have done an exceptional job as he did with The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million.
When I was in middle school, around 1973, I had a book about lost civilizations. It included the Mayan and Angkor Wat to name a few. I was fascinated with the thought that a culture could so completely disappear for hundreds of years. I remember thinking that book I read as a young teen was the last that would be written, that all lost civilizations had been discovered. The Lost City of the Monkey God rekindled all the amazement and wonder I felt many, many years ago reading about other lost cities. This is an amazing audiobook in it’s detailing of the legend itself, the preparation for and the expedition itself as well as the horrifying aftereffects on the team.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
Heaven Help Us: Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter, Book 7
Written by: John G. Hartness
Narrated by: James Foster
Length: 3 hrs and 43 mins
Series: Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter, Book 7
Publisher: Falstaff Books
Courtesy Audiobook Blast
I have had a couple of trying days lately. Trying to do taxes for my husband and I, our adult daughter and our son's one friend. Trying to untangle the insurance deductible mess. And finally have some idiot charge $980 to my Visa. Thank Heaven for a new Quincy Harker! As I spent the day dealing with all this adult crap, I listened to the latest installment in the Quincy Harker Demon Hunter Series: Heaven Help Us. It was a delight to listen to and really brightened up my day.
When last we saw Quincy, in Book 6, he was in a world of trouble and not just because he had fallen in love. Book 7 deals with the fallout of said love and the situation that ended Book 6. Quincy has to leave his home in Charlotte, NC, and lay low for awhile. Killing a Homeland Security Agent will lead to just that consequence. Quincy chooses Lockton, Ohio for his hideout specifically because it is far off the “usual suspects” grid. Using an assumed name, he plans on laying low and trying to clear his name while Rebecca, his fiancee, and a Charlotte police officer, does the same. Quincy's plan is good and last all of five minutes. Five minutes in Lockton and Quincy meets a werewolf who cares enough about his clothes to go nude before changing to his wolf form, a witch who thinks he is a demon and a demon who fixes football games. He is also a substitute social studies teacher for one day. That scene alone is the fulfillment of the fantasy of every substitute teacher who has ever dealt with a room full of moody, mouthy teenagers.
Not to let Quincy have all the fun, Rebecca has been introduced to new friends. Quincy's Uncle Luke and Abraham Van Helsing's decedent Gabby, bring along Dr. John Watson, the descendant of THAT Watson, and Jo. I'll let you read the book to find out her connection. I am not entirely sure of it myself. There are a few tantalizing clues but not enough of a reveal to answer all my questions.
One of the things I enjoy most about the Harker novels is the humor. Certain lines, heck whole paragraphs, had me laughing out loud. Listening to the book today while no one else was home, I was free to laugh out loud. And I did, loudly. Some of the best lines:
"Mort was a demon, and country music bars are a special kind of Hell, so it only made sense that he wanted to be there."
"Nah, I'm crazy, but it's a really fun crazy. Kind like Harley Quinn, without the abusive relationship."
Quincy Harker books are fantastic. From Book 1 to Book 7 there has not been a drop in the quality of writing. Each book answers some questions raised in the books before but also creates a new one. The characters have continued to grow and evolve through each book. New characters, once introduced, do the same. The humor is great. Very well written dialogue. The main characters are people I would enjoy having a beer with and watching a Steelers football game. They are, despite their supernatural origins, real people.The plots of the books are almost like carrots dangled in front of you. You almost reach the carrot but not quite. Finally several books
later when you do, you realize the carrot was not just a carrot. It was of a greater magnitude than you ever imagined.
As much as I enjoy reading the Harker books, that joy is magnified exponentially by James Foster's narration of the series. He makes it so much more enjoyable. The difference between reading and hearing a Quincy Harker is almost like the switch from 3 to 4 or 5 dimensions. Foster’s narration brings so much of the attitude, which is a huge part of Quincy’s character, to life. The lines I quoted above as examples of humor are even funnier when Foster does then in character. Kind of like you telling a joke and Eddie Murphy telling the same joke. Both funny but Murphy’s is going to take the funny to a whole new level. To me that is what Foster’s narration adds to the Quincy Harker series, it takes the story to a new, better level.
Book 8 soon? Please?
Lincoln in the Bardo A Novel
by George Saunders
Random House Publishing Group General Fiction (Adult)
Pub Date 14 Feb 2017
Several months ago, Lincoln in the Bardo showed up in many of the social media platforms or blogs I read. I was curious about what type of book would need over 150 different voices to translate it to an audiobook. I was also curious about Lincoln and his son, Willie. I read a book a long time ago where a researcher is trying to figure out where Willie was buried before being moved to Springfield when Lincoln’s body was moved there. There was somewhat a mystery surrounding it. In any case, Lincoln in the Bardo has my curiosity aroused before I even read the first page.
The book is written in a very unusual style. Every paragraph, whether one line or several pages, has an attribution listed, in lowercase letters. The majority of the characters, Willie included, are all dead and residents of the cemetery. There are a few who are living and breathing. The book opens with the reception the Lincoln’s gave the night Willie died. They had been told he was doing better and it was fine to go ahead with the party. Both President and Mrs. Lincoln went upstairs to check on him several times during the party. Now here is the tricky part, some of the characters are factual as is their description of events. The others are fictional. It would take considerable time and energy to sort out which was which. But Saunders’ writing is so good it is not apparent without the research.
In some ways, it is not an easy book to read. The constant changes in narrator and the usual style of indicating the narrator of the moment is difficult at first. The language is that of the middle 1800’s. It is floral and different than modern speech. It is well worth the effort to stick with the book. The loss Lincoln felt at the dead of his young son is made very, very real. The confusion of Willie to why his father is not taking him home with him is caused by the adult ghosts unwillingness to be the bearer of bad news and tell the child he is, in fact, dead.
Lincoln in the Bardo is one of the most unusual books I have read. It was also one of the most challenging. All and all, I would recommend Lincoln in the Bardo for the unique experience and story it creates.
Shirley Jackson : A Rather Haunted Life
By: Ruth Franklin
Read by: Bernadette Dunne
Runtime: 19.4 Hours
Release date: 9.27.2016
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin is a major biography of one of the most famous writers of the twentieth century. While I have not read all of her work, her short story “The Lottery” is one of my favorites and one of these best short stories ever written. The Haunting of Hill House is THE haunted house story that all others are measured against and found wanting. Not only did she write perfect thrillers and horror, she also wrote a very popular pair of comedic looks at motherhood, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. Her talent also extended to children’s books. It is mind boggling that it has been more than thirty years since the last major biography of her was written.
Ruth Franklin does a fantastic job of covering Jackson’s life in detail without getting bogged down in minutia or losing the reader's attention. She begins with a look at Jackson’s family. There is a freaky coincidence in her fascination with houses. Three generations of the men in her family dating from her grandfather and back were architects. They built some of the top show houses in the San Francisco area. Unfortunately many did not survive the great quake. When Jackson was looking for a physical embodiment of her Hill House, she asked her mother to find her pictures of millionaire houses that were no longer standing. In one of those ironic moments, the picture Jackson picked was found to be built by her ancestors.
Jackson’s family was about as WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) as could be. Their prejudices were a product not only of their time but their socio economic set. In 1933, the moved from California to Rochester, NY due to Jackson’s father’s job. They settled into the best neighborhood, sent Jackson to the best schools, and the future was set. There were several holes in Jackson’s parent’s plans. Number one was Shirley Jackson never did what she was commanded to do. Number two was worse than any fiction Jackson could event.
Jackson’s mother was an evil woman. That is my opinion, not the author Ruth Franklin’s. Franklin relates the facts. I made the judgement just as Jackson’s mother judged her each day. Jackson was told on consistent basis that she was fat, unattractive, unintelligent and would not amount to anything. She fought back by not accepting her parent’s positions on social issues, education or life in general. But toxicity, no matter how hard you try to combat it, has a cumulative effect. Jackson she suffered from depression and did attempt suicide more than once.
Jackson was fortunate in that her life turned around in some aspects when she attended Syracuse after dropping out of University of Rochester. She found people like her for the first time in her life. She also met her future partner, in marriage and creativity, Stanley Hyman. While Hyman was Jackson’s chief critic and editor, he was not a true partner in marriage. He habitually cheated on her even while dating in college and continued to do so during their marriage. He assured Jackson that he only loved her and his sexual wanderings meant nothing but they did to Jackson.
The picture Franklin paints of Jackson is a woman capable of empathy, love, and humor but injured by those who should have loved and protected her. If you ever wondered how Jackson’s characters seemed so real or her stories so horrifying about simple things like a house or a village, Franklin’s wonderful biography holds the answers.
Bernadette Dunne, as usual, does a fantastic job narrating the book. While she never “performs” in the sense of creating different voices or adding drama, she conveys Franklin’s work faithfully. It was listening to a passage about Jackson’s mother’s never ending criticism of her that created my opinion of her mother as evil. Another listener may hear that same passage and not come to the same conclusion. That is a great nonfiction narrator and author’s gift, to present the facts and let the reader decide for themselves. Read Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. Then reread Jackson’s work with your eyes opened.
by Rita Stradling
New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 18 Dec 2017
I first came across Rita Stradling's Ensnared through the Kindle Scout program. I liked the description enough to nominate it. If you have not checked out the Scout program, I suggest you do. It has introduced me several new authors. Then I saw it available for review at Netgalley. It was an enjoyable and quick read.
The story is a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in the future. The future and the technology in it are an important part of the story. The curse is not what the reader normally associates with fairy tales. And this is one hell of a wicked witch. Trust me on this. This witch will make your skin crawl.
The main characters are Alainn, the young adult daughter of an important AI inventor Connor Murphy. Both Connor and Alainn's older brother, Colby, are both geniuses. Alainn is not. What she is, is a very direct and caring person. Caring enough to give up her freedom to save her father from jail. Lorccan Garbhan is an extremely (like Bill Gates wealthy) client of Connor Murphy's. Connor has designed AIs for Lorccan. Connor also has a gambling problem which he fuels with his client's money. When he cannot deliver his latest project, already paid for, Lorccan threatens to press charges and send him to jail.
While the story does have some of the traditional elements of The Beauty and the Beast, the girl putting herself at risk to save her father, the updated elements are well done. My only complaint is I was left unanswered questions about the curse itself. With the couple of f-words and descriptive sex, I would not give to a teen unless it was a mature teen and the parent read it first. This listed as New Adult and I would keep it in that category.