Tag Archives: audio book

Review of Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

I somehow ended up with two copies of Ann Patchett‘s Commonwealth. I won one through Goodreads and the other just mysteriously showed up in the mail. Maybe the prize got posted twice, maybe I won a second somewhere else. I’m not actually certain. But obviously the most logical thing to do was then get the audio version from the library to listen to, which is what I did. Though to be honest, I don’t think I would have it I hadn’t also had the physical book on my shelf.

Description from Goodreads:
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Review:
I’ll start by saying that I don’t gravitate toward popular literary fiction of this sort. I’m a dedicated sci-fi/fantasy reader. But every now and again I dip my toe into other waters and Commonwealth seemed a fair place to do so.

It took me a long time to settle into the book. For more than half of it I was afraid it wouldn’t come together and would remain just a series of events in the lives of two random families. But with the introduction of Leo the stories finally wove together and in the end I liked it. It’s definitely one of those books that I wasn’t sure until the end though.

I didn’t like many of the characters. I hated a lot of the decisions that they made. But life is messy and people make choices that have disastrous results all the time. This book centers them and moves forward from there.

Having said that, man can Patchett turn a phrase. The book really is beautifully written. It was a pleasure to listen to and Hope Davis did an excellent job bringing it to life. I can’t say I’m running out to read the next such book. But the next time I feel up to a little literary fiction, maybe I’ll pick up Bel Canto, which has been on my shelf for ages. (I have no idea how it got there.)

Review of Bloodlist (Vampire Files #1), by P.N. Elrod,

I borrowed an audio copy of P. N. Elrod‘s Bloodlist from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Jack Fleming, ace reporter, always had a weak spot for strange ladies. And he certainly should have listened to the one who said she was a vampire! Because when a thug blasts several bullets through Jack’s back, he does not die–and discovers that he is a vampire as well!

Review: 
Well, that was something I listened to. I can’t say I loved it, not that it was actually bad. I was just rather bored with it, having expected more. The vampire aspect was totally pointless, Jack could have just been any prohibition-era gumshoe. (And I say that as someone who loves a good vampire novel.)

I did appreciate that he wasn’t an alpha-asshole. He admitted to fear, cried and cared about his friends. It humanized him.

The book does suffer from the classic lack of female characters though. There is only one female character at all and she, of course, is the sexpot hooker-with-a heart. Cliched beyond mention!

Whitener did a fine job with the narration.

Review of Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie

I borrowed an audio copy of Joe Abercrombie‘s Best Served Cold from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers and priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell, but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employers’ taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Barbarian who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started…

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

Review:
I wasn’t thrilled with this, but I seriously suspect it’s just a style thing. The characters were pleasantly grey, some leaning more towards black even. The writing was good and the narrator (Michael Page) did a great job. I even liked how the author explored the pointlessness of revenge and randomness of death. Plus, that women had agency in the book. I see this far too rarely in fantasy. (I still think of this as fantasy, though there are almost no actual fantasy elements. That’s probably on me.)

However, I got bored with it. It’s a violent book (which I don’t have a problem with in general), but there were just so many descriptions of battles, fights, deaths, etc that it became a blur of sameness. Do I care that one person was drown and another stabbed? No, it’s all just another bloody death. And I’d say 2/3 of the book is just this.

Plus, I found the whole thing painfully predictable on the whole. You know from the very beginning no one is going to come to a good end. (And I don’t even consider that a spoiler, it’s so obvious). Yes, there was a character reveal or two I didn’t see coming. But in terms of plot, very easy to guess.

All in all, I finished this with a shrug and a “Meh.”