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Brian Quaranta

Member Since 2005

ratings
46
REVIEWS
9
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
0
HELPFUL VOTES
24

  • Symposium

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Plato
    • Narrated By Full Cast
    Overall
    (93)
    Performance
    (46)
    Story
    (47)

    The Greek word sumposion means a drinking party (a fact shamefully ignored by the organizers of modern symposia), and the party described in Plato's Symposium is one supposedly given in the year 416 BC by the playwright Agathon to celebrate his victory in the dramatic festival of the Lenaea. He has already given one party, the previous evening; this second party is for a select group of friends, and host and guests alike are feeling a little frail.

    Brian Quaranta says: "Cast brings this great dialogue to life"
    "Cast brings this great dialogue to life"
    Overall

    I have read the Symposium 4 or 5 times previously, but the excellent cast brought this to life in an entirely new way for me. I learned new things and laughed out loud at places. The dialogue starts off a little slow, warms up with Aristophanes' speech, and then kicks into high gear when Socrates speaks with Diotima (both are excellent). And Alcibiades steals the show, just as is intended. A great performance. Brilliant stuff. I will listen to this many more times, and I hope that this cast can be assembled to perform some of Plato's other dialogues (Gorgias, Meno, Phaedo, Republic). This is one of my favorite audiobooks of all time.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By John Vaillant
    • Narrated By John Vaillant
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (250)
    Performance
    (133)
    Story
    (133)

    It’s December 1997, and a man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East. The tiger isn’t just killing people, it’s annihilating them, and a team of men and their dogs must hunt it on foot through the forest in the brutal cold. As the trackers sift through the gruesome remains of the victims, they discover that these attacks aren’t random: the tiger is apparently engaged in a vendetta. Injured, starving, and extremely dangerous, the tiger must be found before it strikes again.

    Richard says: "Very well written and a must for Big Cat fans"
    "Suffers in comparison to other similar books"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was led to this book by audible's recommendations, and it sounded interesting enough. It looked like it would fit the mold of three books I have really enjoyed recently; Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand, and Destiny of the Republic and River of Doubt by Candice Millard. These were all notable for taking historical episodes that are little known now, but naturally incredibly interesting stories, and applying the skills of a gifted storyteller to them. The result in each case was a page-turning and edifying read, and I thought I'd get the same thing here. A brave band of intrepid hunters chasing down a vengeful man-eating tiger in the freezing forests of Russia? How can that not be riveting? I expected therefore to like the book, but ended up being disappointed. I made it through but only with considerable effort.

    Vaillant's writing style is well-suited for this work, and it is obvious he did extensive research. The effort involved shows through. It almost seems, though, as if he went out there intending to write a book on an incredible story, and then discovered, after a great deal of time and effort, that the story was just not as interesting as he thought, but decided he'd done the work and had to go through with the book anyway.

    Previous reviewers are correct that there is a much material covering the history and sociology of post-Perestroika Russia. Too much, in my opinion; I could have enjoyed some of that but there was more here than I needed. The information on Tiger biology and behavior, and on the hunting of tigers, held my interest better.

    Valliant's format is in fact very similar to the one Millard employs in her books. Begin In Media Res; then go back to the beginning; then alternate chunks of relevant background material with chunks of story advancement. The main problem in The Tiger, I believe, is that the protagonist, antagonist, and events are just not big enough. When Candice Millard goes off on a backstory tangent about Teddy Roosevelt or the early Amazon explorers or James Garfield or Alexander Graham Bell, the material there is gripping. These are big people who did big things. The hunters described by Vaillant were rugged and determined and all that, but Teddy Roosevelt they were not.

    The tiger itself suffers in comparison to the antagonists that come to mind when approaching a book like this; Moby Dick, Jaws, or the Lions in The Ghost and the Darkness. These animal villains are larger than life, they terrify us but win our respect, and the protagonists are elevated by defeating them (or just trying). Vaillant is limited by the constraints of real life - of the events that actually happened, but without wanting to give any spoilers, the titular tiger will not inspire the nightmares that Jaws did.

    So I'm tempted to give Vaillant a break and say that the events just weren't incredible enough to provide the material for a great read. But then I think again of Millard's description of the protagonist Bell against the antagonist "bullet lodged in Garfield," and how I couldn't wait to read about it, even though I knew full well what happened in advance. So, maybe there was enough material here.

    Take it for what it's worth, many of the other reviewers clearly liked it, but for me it fell short of the other books of its type that I'd read recently. I will say that Vaillant was quite good as the narrator of his own book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nine Princes in Amber: The Chronicles of Amber, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Roger Zelazny
    • Narrated By Alessandro Juliani
    Overall
    (1520)
    Performance
    (1366)
    Story
    (1382)

    Amber is the one real world, of which all others including our own Earth are but Shadows. Amber burns in Corwin's blood. Exiled on Shadow Earth for centuries, the prince is about to return to Amber to make a mad and desperate rush upon the throne.

    Robert says: "Great book, lame deal!"
    "As good as I remembered"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I revisited a number of books this year that I had previously read in my youth. The experiences have been a mixed bag. When I saw The Chronicles of Amber pop up on audible, it brought back fond remembrances and I thought I'd give it a try. Let this review stand as a review of the entire first five books, since they are parts of a whole.

    The best fantasy novels, like all of the best novels, explore classic themes in new and revealing ways. I believe The Chronicles of Amber does this. All of Shakespeare's biggest hits are here: "appearance vs. reality," "the question of identity," "the question of madness," etc. The books explore the questions of what's real, what's important, and how should we live. The plot elements are familiar as well; a usurped throne/disputed succession, mistaken/disguised identity, betrayal, hidden motivations, shifting alliances, feigned madness, etc. And yet, it's done well and it all seems new, takes on a life of its own, because Zelazny knows how to write. Corwin is a strong protagonist; I wanted to follow him to Amber myself. His relatives are three dimensional and complex. Backstory and solutions to mysteries are revealed at the perfect pace and all make sense in retrospect. And like any quality fantasy novel, the fantastic elements are both original and archetypal; Julian the hunter leading his hounds through the forest of Arden in pursuit of two men in a Mercedes; Amber, the immortal city, with its labyrinth and its shadow self.

    On top of that there is plenty of action and adventure and unexpected twists, and well-written swordfights.

    Alessandro Juliani as narrator is masterful. Each character is recognizable and the choice of voices is perfect, I didn't find a single one that didn't fit. I particularly enjoyed Benedict's Robert E. Lee accent. Here is another set of books I won't read again because the narration is far more enjoyable. Juliani was very good in Solaris as well, I will look for more of his work in the future.

    Eerily: The book I was reading on my kindle at the same time that I listened to this was "A Soldier of the Great War" by Mark Helprin, and the main character's name was...Alessandro Giuliani.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cloud Atlas

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By David Mitchell
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Cassandra Campbell, Kim Mai Guest, and others
    Overall
    (3176)
    Performance
    (2376)
    Story
    (2387)

    A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation: the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history.

    Elizabeth says: "thoroughly enjoyed"
    "Enjoyed this tremendously."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Others have commented on the unusual structure of this novel, and explained its many virtues. I have little to add other than "I agree, it was great." I particularly enjoyed "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish," which I found hilarious, and an amazing contrast with the closely following "An Orison of Sonmi 451." It's incredible that Mitchell can write so convincingly in such different styles and in such close proximity.

    I will have to listen to this again because I am sure that I missed much that is important. But, that's what makes a book great - when you read it, think about it, go back and look at something, read it again, think about it again, make connections you didn't make before.

    The only justification for writing this brief review is to praise in the highest possible terms the narration for this book. Each section had its own narrator which was an excellent decision, and every one did very well, particularly John Lee as Timothy Cavendish. Having excellent professional actors read a novel like this brings even more to the story. Audible, please: more like this!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Susannah Cahalan
    • Narrated By Heather Henderson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1063)
    Performance
    (948)
    Story
    (955)

    In 2009, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room strapped to a bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records - from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory - reported psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four-year-old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter

    Eric Schurr says: "Very scary, real story, superbly written and rea"
    "For those interested in neurology & psychology"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a well-written and interesting memoir by a young woman who suffered through a period of time in which she experienced a form of "madness." Since she doesn't give away the particular disease in the title, I won't give a spoiler here; I have some background in the relevant fields and did not expect the answer. Her look back at this time in her life is thoughtful, and I found her ability to explain her medical condition and its details to be friendly to a general reader but not condescending. In general, the prose reads easily and well. I suspect that this book will be (has been) a very useful vehicle for spreading information about her illness, and will do considerable good. Glad to learn that she has recovered well and wish her the best. The narrator did a fine job of capturing the author's various moods and did some interpretation of the family members' voices as well.

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Watership Down

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Richard Adams
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2704)
    Performance
    (2026)
    Story
    (2039)

    Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren; he felt sure of it. They had to leave immediately. So begins a long and perilous journey of survival for a small band of rabbits. As the rabbits skirt danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band, its humorous characters, and its compelling culture, complete with its own folk history and mythos.

    B. Cable says: "Still one of the best!"
    "Never gets old"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    My first memory of Watership Down is of being terrified, as a young child, by General Woundwort in the cartoon version that came out in the 1970s. The story stuck with me and I read it while in school, then again when I was about 28, and then this year (substantially older) I listened to this version. The book never gets old for me, I seem to enjoy it more every time I listen. It is a classic adventure story in the truest sense of the word, as it draws inspiration from The Iliad, The Odyssey, Hamlet, and probably numerous other classics that I missed or just can't recall right now. The characters are incredibly likable, the story is fast-moving and compelling, and I can honestly say that as an adult, driving from one medical clinic to another, I found myself genuinely concerned about the fate of clan of fictional rabbits. Adams' technique is brilliant; a hallmark in my opinion of a well written novel is when you find yourself caring about even extremely minor characters.

    The two books that come to mind as most comparable to this one are The Lord of the Rings and Steven King's The Stand. Epic adventure stories with a core group of characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and contributing in their own way, facing a series of dramatic and varied challenges of existential importance. If you liked either of those, you'll probably like this. Considering the true "classics," certainly Hazel calls to mind Odysseus in many ways, with his propensity to solve problems through cleverness and deception rather than force; the structure of the book is more like the Aeneid, in that it combines an Odyssey-like section with an Illiad-like section, and in the same order as in Vergil's book.

    The introduction is a hilarious bit of misdirection. The story Adams tells of how he just sat down out of nowhere and wrote the book after dinners with family in order to please his daughters strains credulity. He makes it seem so easy! But I am made more suspicious of that by the obviously, 100% certified untruth of his assertion that it is foolish to look for meaning in the book, because "It's just a story about rabbits." Meaningless stories about rabbits rarely introduce chapters with quotes from Homer, Aeschylus, and Shakespeare. Adams gives us his thoughts on friendship, on government, on freedom, on what it is important to value in life. I believe he poured his heart into this work and I'm grateful for the result.

    A final note on the narrator, Ralph Cosham, who did an excellent job. The perfect choice for this book, he brought every character to life in a unique way. Keehar's accent was delightful. This audio version is now my preferred vehicle for this enchanting story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Douglas Adams
    • Narrated By Stephen Fry
    Overall
    (5565)
    Performance
    (3172)
    Story
    (3195)

    Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last 15 years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

    John says: "HHTGH - Lightly Fried"
    "Geek classic holds up well"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Like most junior high school kids inclined toward geek enthusiasms in the early 1980s, I was a huge fan of this book and its sequels, and tried to copy Adams' writing style (in 1983, not in this review). The book holds up well, if its not quite as brilliant as I remembered. Having discovered P.G. Wodehouse in the interval, I realize how much Adams emulated his writing style, particularly the hilarious descriptive analogy. If you like one, you'll probably like the other; Arthur Dent and Bertie Wooster inhabited very different physical environments, but the way in which they are swept through life, with the protagonist as primarily a reactor to events as opposed to an initiator of them, and their reliance on others to get them out of scrapes, is similar. Both authors are very funny although at this point I give the edge to Wodehouse. On the other hand, while both have ridiculous plot twists, there is more "stuff" going on - points being made, philosophy explored, etc - in Adams' work (at least that's my take). The book is a classic now of course so the real point of this is to commend Stephen Fry as the narrator, who does a wonderful job.

    It's very odd that audible has the first book done by Fry, and the second by Martin Freeman. Both are incredible pros and do a great job, but I would have preferred that they pick one or the other! I thought Fry nailed Zaphod Beeblebrox, then Freeman came in with a totally different take that wasn't necessarily any less valid, but was a jarring contrast. I got used to it and it seems that they stick with Freeman for the rest of the books. For what its worth both men do a very fine job with the material.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By A. Lee Martinez
    • Narrated By Scott Aiello
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1133)
    Performance
    (1057)
    Story
    (1058)

    Emperor Mollusk. Intergalactic Menace. Destroyer of Worlds. Conqueror of Other Worlds. Mad Genius. Ex-Warlord of Earth. Not bad for a guy without a spine. But what's a villain to do after he's done... everything. With no new ambitions, he's happy to pitch in and solve the energy crisis or repel aliens invaders should the need arise, but if he had his way, he'd prefer to be left alone to explore the boundaries of dangerous science. Just as a hobby, of course. Retirement isn't easy though.

    Kat Hooper says: "Hilariously wacky!"
    ""Entertaining.""
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I thought I would end the year's listening with some lighthearted fare. Revisited the Hitchhiker's Guide series for the first time in 20 years, and I was directed to this as a recommendation based on that decision. Took a chance and was pleased. It is not groundbreaking but there are a few surprises, and the characters are likable. Mollusk was an interesting protagonist. The non-linear storytelling was easy to follow and worked well. Was slightly disappointed by the end but overall well satisfied, it was worth my time, not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny but enjoyable. Several reviewers said "If you like Hitchhiker's, you'll love this" which may well be true but be warned it's not a copy of Hitchhiker's. Much less analogy-based humor, it reads more like a well-written action movie. I do want to give an enthusiastic five-star review for the narrator, who brought Mollusk to life beautifully and created clearly distinguishable voices for the other characters that rang true; I definitely think the audio version enhanced the experience.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Oedipus the King

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 40 mins)
    • By Sophocles
    • Narrated By Michael Sheen, full cast
    Overall
    (75)
    Performance
    (22)
    Story
    (20)

    In the hands of Sophocles, the master dramatist, the anguished tale of a man fated to kill his father and marry his mother retains its power to shock and move beyond any Freudian reference.

    Aaron says: "Crackles with Fire"
    "Outstanding audiobook"
    Overall

    This is one of my favorite audiobooks. I was enthralled for the duration. The translation was modern but appropriate and expressive, and the performances were very well done. Listening to the play as performed by these fine actors brought a life to it that simply reading it never did. I will agree with one reviewer who said "some voices could be better amplified"; the voice of Tiresias was too quiet so I had to turn it up until Oedipus was practically yelling. That's my only negative; other than that small complaint, this was perfect. Please make more!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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