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Melissa

Atlanta, GA, United States | Member Since 2011

17
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 9 reviews
  • 9 ratings
  • 155 titles in library
  • 6 purchased in 2014
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  • The Red House: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Mark Haddon
    • Narrated By Maxwell Caulfield
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (67)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (53)

    The set-up of Mark Haddon's brilliant new novel is simple: Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister Angela and her family to join his for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Richard has just re-married and inherited a willful stepdaughter in the process; Angela has a feckless husband and three children who sometimes seem alien to her. The stage is set for seven days of resentment and guilt, a staple of family gatherings the world over.

    Sheryl says: "Great Listen but not for everyone."
    "Have to weigh in on this one...."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Having read most of the previous reviews of Audible listerners, which range widely, I feel compelled to add my view. Haddon shows in this book an uncannily billiant talent for writing about families' inner workings, most of which never see the light of day, but instead go on in our heads, contributing to all the unfair assumptions and misunderstandings that arise among family members. Each of the characters in The Red House is a very real, flawed (that is, recognizable) human being, and I marvelled at the way the author gave life to them, made each of them likable and unlikeable at the same time, made me ache for them and shout in frustration at them, and ultimately reached a credible ending that doesn't tie up all the loose ends, much like real life. Haddon is equally adept at giving voice to the private thoughts of a middle-aged self-questioning doctor with no children of his own and a teenage girl who is feeling alienated and confused about her own identity. Yes, his style is a tad inaccessible at times (he loves lists...for example, of the various items for sale in a second-hand store -- not sure what the point there was), and I wished the narrator had taken longer pauses to mark the sometimes unexpected switches between one character's perspective and another, so I could catch up with him; however, the tone and pace of the book felt much like I imagine a week in the country, thrown together with a lot of relatives one hasn't seen in a long time, would feel -- the disconnectedness, the boredom, the insecurity, the sense that you have to accomplish something before the week is over, and the occasional moments of love and understanding. If you like to escape into novels, this may not be the best book for you, but if you appreciate writers who can bring the real world, with all of its imperfections, to you in achingly poignant prose and have you nodding your head in recognition, then I highly recommend The Red House. I'm very glad I listened to it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Crossing to Safety

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Wallace Stegner
    • Narrated By Richard Poe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (244)
    Performance
    (176)
    Story
    (181)

    One of the finest American authors of the 20th century, Wallace Stegner compiled an impressive collection of accolades during his lifetime, including a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a National Book Award, and three O. Henry Awards. His final novel, Crossing to Safety is the quiet yet stirring tale of two couples that meet during the Great Depression and form a lifelong bond.

    Barbara says: "Real characters dealing with life & death."
    "This is life"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There is a certain nakedness to Stegner's storytelling, in the sense that it doesn't shy away from uncomfortable subjects like death and troubled marriages. His characters are not always likeable, but they are very real and may even remind you of people you know. This is a book about the life of a friendship between two couples over many years. Stegner explores the joy and excitement of the young friendship, but he recognizes that friendships can die away to almost nothing for long periods of time, only to be reignited by a major event. Stegner's appeal (for me anyway) is in his ability to develop his characters as they age and deal with life's challenges -- as well as to describe their surroundings lovingly and vividly. This story is not predictable, nor does it offer any particular shocks or surprises. However, it is gut-wrenching in its honesty about human beings and the institutions of marriage and friendship.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Greg Grandin
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (74)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (37)

    Fordlandia by National Book Award finalist Greg Grandin tells the enthralling tale of Henry Ford’s failed attempts to transform a Connecticut-sized chunk of Brazilian rainforest into a homespun slice of American utopia.

    Melissa says: "An eye-opening account of an arrogant man's folly"
    "An eye-opening account of an arrogant man's folly"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Suffice it to say that they don't say anything about this chapter of Henry Ford's life in his hometown of Dearborn, where I spent a lot of time in my childhood. Grandin depicts a man filled with hubris who seemed to think he couldn't fail at anything he tried. Yet, he failed miserably with Fordlandia, his attempt to build a worker's paradise in the Amazon -- not least because he couldn't be bothered to visit the place himelf - not even once - and was incredibly short-sighted about the realities of transferring Dearborn to the jungle. What is perhaps even more disturbing is that much of the ignorance that characterized his decisions about Fordlandia was also present in the way he ran his operations back home and saw his own place in the world. It's a tribute to the men and women that came after him that Ford Motor Co. itself has not gone the way of Fordlandia.
    A short note aobut the narrator -- although his reading is a bit slow and halting, as some reviewers have noted, his pronunciation of the Brazilian words and place names is impressive and really enhanced my listening experience.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Beautiful Ruins

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Jess Walter
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5312)
    Performance
    (4601)
    Story
    (4596)

    The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot - searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

    Ella says: "My mind wandered"
    "Not perfect but entertaining"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I find myself agreeing with the review written by "Ella." Ballerini is an excellent narrator, but the story is lacking. I enjoyed the young Pasquale scenes much more then the modern-day scenes -- I felt that the story line went off-track when it settled into the modern day. The sections I enjoyed most involved the villagers and their humorous observations, as well as Pasquale's determination to do right by Dee. Not bad for a light summer read, but I am not enthusiastically recommending it to my friends.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Chaperone

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Laura Moriarty
    • Narrated By Elizabeth McGovern
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1996)
    Performance
    (1761)
    Story
    (1747)

    >The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922, and the summer that would change them both. Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon for her generation, a 15-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita to make it big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip.

    Amanda says: "Perfection."
    "Wonderful!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It seems so rare today that authors take the time to follow a character's development and show it to the reader through actions and reactions that feel nothing but natural in the circumstances. In this book, Cora undergoes remarkable but very believable changes, triggered by her natural instinct at the beginning of the story to leave her Wichita home for a summer in New York City as the chaperone of Louise Brooks. Although she does not fully realize it at first, her life in Wichita has become suffocating and depressing to her soul. In New York, where she is free from the wagging tongues and well-meaning judgments of her Wichita peers, Cora begins to see herself in a new way and takes very definite steps to change her life for the better -- and she stays true to this path (as well as to those she loves) for the rest of her life.

    What an uplifting and meaningful gem of a book, read perfectly by Elizabeth McGovern.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Shanghai Girls: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Lisa See
    • Narrated By Janet Song
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1290)
    Performance
    (532)
    Story
    (540)

    Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl's parents arrange for their daughters to "Gold Mountain men" who have come from Los Angeles to find brides. But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel's Island (the Ellis Island of the West, where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months) they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she's pregnant, the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know.

    Frances says: "Touching, sad, and enjoyable"
    "Dive in to Chinese-American history & culture"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I read and loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by the same author. I remember thinking at the time that Ms. See did a remarkable job of vividly describing the surroundings of her characters, while also making them seem like real and sympathetic people -- people I could almost recognize, despite the time and place of the story. I feel even more strongly about this book. Pearl and May start out as privileged young Chinese women in Shanghai in 1937 and end up 2 decades later in post-World War II California, both - but particularly Pearl - greatly changed. No spoilers here, but I was riveted by the perspective of this story, from China during the Japanese invasion to the Chinatown of Los Angeles before the second world war to Chinese-American life during and after the Communist takeover of mainland China. But the book is not simply a history of this period from the characters' viewpoints. It is also a richly developed character study, with very real dialogue, passions, conflicts and misunderstandings. Janet Song is an excellent reader, with her slight accent and excellent pronunciation of Chinese words. Her steadily prevailing tempo and control is very suggestive of Pearl herself.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • West with the Night

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Beryl Markham
    • Narrated By Julie Harris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (531)
    Performance
    (333)
    Story
    (331)

    West with the Night is the story of a remarkable woman molded and shaped by many things: the African jungle, a certain dog, horses, airplanes, friendships with white men and black. There is no life, no story quite like it.

    Michael Moore says: "Top Notch Writing; Riveting Stories"
    "The mysterious Beryl Markham"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I confess to becoming completely caught up in this story, so I was a bit dismayed to read that some believe Ms. Markham did not actually write it. If she did, she certainly had a gift for beautiful prose -- in addition to living a grand adventure. There are passages of this book, starting with the first page, that are simply transporting. Julie Harris was an excellent choice to read it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Paris Wife: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Paula McLain
    • Narrated By Carrington MacDuffie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1742)
    Performance
    (1180)
    Story
    (1178)

    Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet 28eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

    Pris says: "Delighted in Del Mar"
    "Hemingway comes to life"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Before I read this book, I knew nothing about Ernest Hemingway's early adult life, and this was a great way to discover it. I particularly enjoyed the point of view from which the story is told (Hemingway's first wife) and thought the narrator's voice suited Hadley well. Early in the book, it was easy to understand the mutual attraction, and I realized that I too could have fallen in love with the young writer, so it was with dread that I recognized the early signs of his decline as the book progressed. This was a fascinating time in American literary history, and McLain did an excellent job of bringing it to life.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Susan Vreeland
    • Narrated By Kimberly Farr
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (122)
    Performance
    (68)
    Story
    (69)

    It’s 1893, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained-glass windows, which he hopes will honor his family business and earn him a place on the international artistic stage. But behind the scenes in his New York studio is the freethinking Clara Driscoll. Publicly unrecognized by Tiffany, Clara conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which he is long remembered.

    Melissa says: "Good read with a few problems"
    "Good read with a few problems"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Overall, I'm glad I listened to this book and learned about Clara Driscoll. It was gratifying to find out, through a little Internet research, that the story is based heavily on the real Clara's letters and actual stained glass pieces she is believed to have designed. The narrative, however, does drag on a bit, as other reviewers have noted, and there are a number of barely-developed characters of whom it is hard to keep track. Perhaps most importantly for me, the narrator's voice very often was unconvincing. I found her English accents unrealistic and her tone frequently sarcastic when sarcasm did not seem appropriate. The strength of this book is in the life and character of the real person, Clara Driscoll, who produced incredible works of decorative art (for which, until very recently, she received no recognition), while also managing a large department of mostly immigrant working women during a time when a workplace like Tiffany Studios was almost unheard of for women. Susan Vreeland unquestionably has a knack for bringing art to life.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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