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Cariola

malfi

Chambersburg, PA USA | Member Since 2005

724
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 161 reviews
  • 334 ratings
  • 539 titles in library
  • 25 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
285

  • Painter of Silence

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Georgina Harding
    • Narrated By Siân Thomas
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (17)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (16)

    Romania, the early 1950s. A nameless man is found on the steps of a hospital. Deaf and mute, he is unable to communicate until a young nurse called Safta brings paper and pencils with which he can draw. Slowly - painstakingly - memories appear on the page. The memories are Safta's also, for the man is Augustin, son of the cook at the manor house which was Safta's family home. Born six months apart, they grew up with a connection that bypassed words.

    Cariola says: "Very Unique Story"
    "Very Unique Story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This very moving, beautifully written novel really SHOULD have won the Orange Prize. Set in Romania in a period covering roughtly the late 1930s to the early 1950s, Painter of Silence focuses on the life of Augustin, a deaf-mute with an astonishing ability for drawing, and Safta, a young nurse. The two formed a friendship as children, despite their differences in class: Augustin's mother worked as a cook in Safta's family's upper class mansion. At the beginning of the book, the young man, in terrible physical condition, arrives in the city of Iasi, looking for Safta, and collapses on the steps of the hospital where she works. When she hears that a deaf and dumb young man has been admitted, she feels certain that it is Augustin. The remainder of the book traces the events of their lives from their first meeting through the horrors of World War II and the Soviet takeover of Romania and, in the end, sets Augustin on his path towards the future.

    This could have been just a typical war story, but it is so much more. It's a story about how we communicate, how we see the world, how we continue to strive for our best when those around us fall short. It's a story that is both unique and identifiable, and it's beautifully written. Harding does an excellent job of depicting the details of the landscape and daily lives of her characters, and she creates a voice that is soft yet powerful, a tone that is melancholic yet hopeful. Very highly recommended.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Accidental Apprentice: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Vikas Swarup
    • Narrated By Sneha Mathan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Sapna Sinha, an ordinary salesgirl in an electronics store in downtown Delhi, is approached by Vinay Mohan Acharya, a billionaire industrialist and one of India's richest men. He offers to make her CEO of his company. There is only one catch - she must pass seven tests from the "textbook of life". Thus begins the most challenging journey Sapna has ever undertaken - one that will test her character, her courage, and her capabilities. Along the way she encounters a host of memorable personalities, from a vain Bollywood superstar to a kleptomaniac Gandhian.

    Cariola says: "Good--But Not as Good as Q & A"
    "Good--But Not as Good as Q & A"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am a big fan of Vikas Swarup's 'Q & A', the book upon which the movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' is very loosely based; in fact, I will be teaching it again this fall in a gen ed lit course. So, naturally, I was eager to read his latest novel. Sadly, it did not live up to his first.

    Like 'Q & A,' Swarup has created a frame around which to build his story. In the former, it was a series of questions the protagonist is asked on a game show; here, it is seven tests that the protagonist must pass in order to be named CEO of a huge company, a prize that will enable her to leave her boring, low-paying job in an electronics store and to provide for her widowed mother and younger sister. Both story lines are a bit fantastic, but this one lacks the delight in coincidence that figured into Q & A. Instead, Sapna is put to a series of grueling tests--without ever knowing until they are over that they actually were tests. Some of them border on downright cruelty. Sapna is warned that the final test will be the most difficult. It certainly is--but it is also way over the top and unbelievable, as is the final resolution.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Janis Cooke Newman
    • Narrated By Anne Buelteman
    Overall
    (17)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (15)

    A fascinating and intimate novel of the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, narrated by the First Lady herself. Mary Todd Lincoln is one of history's most misunderstood and enigmatic women. She was a political strategist, a supporter of emancipation, and a mother who survived the loss of three children and the assassination of her beloved husband. She also ran her family into debt, held séances in the White House, and was committed to an insane asylum - which is where Janis Cooke Newman's debut novel begins.

    RENEE says: "Great performance made book even better!"
    "Somewhat Disappointing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was very interested in the main subject of this book, Mary Todd Lincoln's confinement to Belleview Hospital for the Insane, which was granted by her son Robert's petition to the court. I wondered if being present at her husband's assassination had driven her mad, and I had heard that much of Robert's motivation was to get his hands on her money.

    Newman does a good job of depicting life in the asylum, and, as a reader, I was frustrated by the restrictions put upon Mary. She could not spend a penny, move a foot, have a single visitor, or send a letter without Robert's express permission--a situation that must have been hard on the former first lady. The author takes us back through events in Mary's life that strongly influenced her: the death of her mother and her father's remarriage to an unaffectionate stepmother who sent her off to boarding school; family resistance to her engagement to Lincoln; the death of her sons; newspaper attacks; the assassination; etc. But on the whole, Mary does not come off sympathetically. She's depicted mainly as somewhat of a nymphomaniac; Lincoln complains that her passion is too strong and makes her promise to withhold it, and he is often so repelled by it that he avoids her bed (which of course only makes her more sexually frustrated). Mary later concludes that this suppression is the reason her son Robert is so unaffectionate. In addition, she's a neurotic shopaholic. During the war, when thousands are suffering and dying, she wracks up bills that her husband simply cannot pay, squandering tens of thousands of dollars on jewelry and silver tea services "because they will last." She stashes the goods in the attic and visits them as totems that will keep her husband and sons alive. If that isn't crazy, I don't know what is!

    The thing I hated most about the book was the sex scenes. Don't get me wrong: sex can be good, and I don't mind it in most novels, as long as it's appropriate. But I really, REALLY did not want those detailed graphic descriptions of sex between Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, both in younger days and their middle age. Some things you just do NOT need to visualize! Newman also details a one-night stand Mary has with a New York escort; whether this has any basis in fact, I do not know, but I could have done without it.

    If, like me, you'd like to know more about the subject matter, I'd advise you to skip this one and find a credible biography. It raised a lot of questions for me about Mary's political influence and her confinement that really weren't satisfactorily answered for me here. I'm giving the novel three stars, mainly because it did raise questions, and because the first half or so did keep me engaged.

    The reader was fine enough, but there are a number of glitches in this recording--at least six instances where a line is flubbed and repeated. Very annoying!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Home Girls

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Olga Masters
    • Narrated By Natalie Bate
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    A collection of short stories, The Home Girls quickly established Olga Masters as one of the most powerful and original new Australian writers. Each story is a study of the manifestations of power within the family. Twenty incisive domestic dramas are played out on the stage of poverty-stricken small town rural life where no-one's secrets are safe.

    Cariola says: "Couldn't Finish This One"
    "Couldn't Finish This One"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This collection of short stories by Australian Olga Masters left me very frustrated. I didn't care for the way many of them started by throwing the reader into the middle of the story, and I cared even less for the abrupt, unresolved endings (the stories just stopped, as if the writer had fallen asleep at her desk). Worse still was the overall tone and subject matter. Nearly every story involved child or wife beating, intended, I suppose, the show how tough life was for people trying to scrape a living in small towns and the outback. I just can't get into a father beating his son bloody at the dinner table while all his wife does is offer him brownies in an attempt to distract him, and one of the daughters keeps throwing out more suggestions for why her brother needs to be beaten to ramp up the violence. I got about 2/3 through this one and just couldn't take any more.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Runaway: Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Alice Munro
    • Narrated By Kymberly Dakin
    Overall
    (191)
    Performance
    (148)
    Story
    (142)

    Three stories concern the same woman - in the first, she escapes from teaching at a girls' school into a wild love affair; in the second, she returns with her child to the home of her parents, whose marriage she finally begins to examine; and in the last, her vanished child turns up caught in the grip of a religious cult. In these and other stories Alice Munro's understanding of the people about whom she writes makes their lives as real as our own.

    David says: "Poor Audio Quality"
    "Just Not an Alice Munro Fan"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I know that I am part of a very small minority, but I am not an Alice Munro fan. Her stories aren't bad, but to me, they are just incredibly boring. I will give her credit for writing realistic contemporary dialogue, and I guess it's a talent to be able to write a long story about ordinary people in fairly ordinary situations. And there are brief moments of insight into human nature. But that's about all I have to say. I've now read several of her collections, and I've felt the same way about each. It's never a good sign when you are about halfway through a story and just want it to end . . . For the last 100 pages, I kept thinking about what I will read next. (Hint: It won't be by Alice Munro.) The reader is OK; she has that quiet monotone that is typical of readers of "important" literature that supposedly speaks for itself--the Poetry Reading Voice.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Queen of the Tambourine

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Jane Gardam
    • Narrated By Hollis McCarthy
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    In prose vibrant and witty, The Queen of the Tambourine traces the emotional breakdown - and eventual restoration - of Eliza Peabody, a smart and wildly imaginative woman who has become unbearably isolated in her prosperous London neighborhood. Eliza must reach the depths of her downward spiral before she can once again find health and serenity. This story of a woman's confrontation with the realities of sanity will delight listeners who enjoy the works of Anita Brookner, Sybille Bedford, Muriel Spark, and Sylvia Plath. Winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel of the Year.

    Cariola says: "Rather Disappointing"
    "Rather Disappointing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Sorry to say that, in the end, I'm rather disappointed with this one. Gardam uses an epistolary framework--although it's hard to remember that midway, when the letters become so lengthy and self-absorbed that the reader forgets there is a supposed recipient. The writer/narrator, Eliza Peabody, is a middle-aged know-it-all who initially feels compelled to proffer her superior wisdom--gained a s a hospice volunteer--to her neighbor, Joan, who apparently suffers from debilitating pain in one leg. Eliza has decided that Joan's pain is psychosomatic and advises her to just get over it, offering her own help as an amateur psychotherapist. Surprisingly, after a few more letters, it is discovered that Joan has run off, leaving her leg brace in the marital bed. Although Joan never replies to Eliza's letters, we learn that she has embarked on a new life, travelling to exotic locations and having affairs with much younger foreign men. Periodically, gifts from Joan arrive--but never a letter. In the meantime, Eliza's own life takes a turn for the worst as her husband moves out to take a flat with Joan's abandoned husband. The letters continue, with Eliza portraying herself, narcissistically, as the abandoned spouse, now abandoned as well by any borderline friends she might have had, and making herself out to be the heroine of everyone's lives, from Joan's university-student daughter to Barry, a young man dying of AIDS in the hospice.

    Initially, I was intrigued by Eliza's voice, which Gardam conveyed with much humor. But as the letters dragged on and the descriptions of her own escapades and musings became longer and more self-pitying, I got bored. Yes, I do understand that what Gardam was trying to portray was the sadness and near-madness of a woman who has isolated herself from everyone; it just didn't particularly interest me, and I found the one-sided epistolary device tedious.

    Three stars for the writing and the creation of a complete character, plus the initial humor is Eliza's self-deceptive letters to Joan. But Gardam has written much better novels.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Lost for Words: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Edward St. Aubyn
    • Narrated By Alex Jennings
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (80)
    Performance
    (71)
    Story
    (71)

    Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels were some of the most celebrated works of fiction of the past decade. Now St. Aubyn returns with a hilariously smart send-up of a certain major British literary award. The judges on the panel of the Elysian Prize for Literature must get through hundreds of submissions to find the best book of the year. Meanwhile, a host of writers are desperate for Elysian attention: the brilliant writer and serial heartbreaker Katherine Burns; the lovelorn debut novelist Sam Black; and Bunjee, convinced that his magnum opus, The Mulberry Elephant, will take the literary world by storm.

    Debra B says: "Witty, and the narrator is perfect"
    "Taking Down the Booker Prize"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was my first experience reading Edward St. Aubyn, and I quite enjoyed the ride. Lost for Words is a send-up of the British literary scene--in particular, the Man Booker Prize and all the hubbub surrounding it. St. Aubyn clearly took his inspiration from the controversy of a few years back, when a semi-qualified panel decided to invoke popularity over literary quality. Several of the judges for the Elysian Prize for Literature have spurious qualifications; others unabashedly admit to not planning to read all the submitted books, and each is promoting a particular book because of preference (e.g., one likes nothing better than Scottish historical novels). The hopeful authors have their quirks as well. (My favorite was an Indian writer whose publisher mistakenly submits his aunt's cookbook instead of his own novel, The Mulberry Elephant.) St. Aubyn provides subtle humor in the behind-the-scenes rivalries and passions as well as the public debates. I saw the ending coming, but it was still fun getting there.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By A. J. Hartley, David Hewson
    • Narrated By Richard Armitage
    Overall
    (375)
    Performance
    (354)
    Story
    (354)

    It is a tale of ghosts, of madness, of revenge - of old alliances giving way to new intrigues. Denmark is changing, shaking off its medieval past. War with Norway is on the horizon. And Hamlet - son of the old king, nephew of the new - becomes increasingly entangled in a web of deception - and murder. Beautifully performed by actor Richard Armitage ("Thorin Oakenshield" in the Hobbit films), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark takes Shakespeare’s original into unexpected realms, reinventing a story we thought we knew.

    Robert says: "Fantastic whether you like Shakespeare or not!"
    "Great Play (er, Novel), Great Reader, Great Fun"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is the second adaptation of a Shakespearean play by Hartley and Hewson that I've listened to on audio, and it was just as much fun as the first. In part, this is due to the excellent choice of readers: Alan Cumming for Macbeth and Richard Armitage for Hamlet. If you are a Shakespearean purist who can't abide embellishments to the 1623 Folio, best skip these novelized versions. In the H & H Hamlet, for example, a key character is added: young Yorick, son of the old jester, who tries to knock Hamlet out of his melancholy with more wisdom than foolery and is a constant companion to the prince throughout the novel. You might also be put off by the cruelty of both Old Hamlet and Polonius, the portrait of Fortinbras as a rather bumbling and brooding braggart, the details offered regarding the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia,and the fact that Ophelia's death is not depicted as a suicide here. But if you are willing to suspend what you already know about this cultural icon, you're in for quite an entertaining ride.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Invention of Wings: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Sue Monk Kidd
    • Narrated By Jenna Lamia, Adepero Oduye, Sue Monk Kidd
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6280)
    Performance
    (5704)
    Story
    (5699)

    From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women. Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world - and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection. Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

    Jan says: "Historical Fiction - beautifully quilted!"
    "Fascinating True Story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I had not read any of Sue Monk Kidd's previous books--they sounded too much like the kind of schmaltzy Southern women's fiction that I really do not enjoy.. But this one sounded interesting, so I gave it a try. The main character is based on a real person, Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a Charleston judge and plantation owner. In the nineteenth-century, she shocked her family and community by becoming a Quaker and a noted abolitionist. Coming from a slave-holding family, she was the perfect spokesperson--once she overcame a stammer that she had had since childhood. She was also one of the first to speak in favor of women's rights. Her younger sister Angelina also became a renowned proponent of these causes.

    The story is told in alternating chapters by Sarah and Handful, a slave she was given as a present on her 11th birthday and with whom the author imagines her forging a friendship. Both young women face struggles, Sarah to conform to social expectations that go against her core values, and Handful to survive the brutal realities of slavery.

    At times predictable and also a bit longer than it needed to be, 'The Invention of Wings' is nevertheless an engaging read, particularly because of the unique and realistic voices Kidd creates for her two protagonists and the parallel events in their lives. The two readers are excellent.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Cheating at Canasta: Short Story Collection

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By William Trevor
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley, Gerard Doyle, Heather O'Neill, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    The publication of a new book by William Trevor is a true literary event. One of our finest chroniclers of the human condition, Trevor's precise and unflinching insights into the lives of ordinary people are evidenced once again in this stunning collection of twelve stories. Subtle yet powerful, these exquisitely nuanced tales of regret, deception, adultery, aging, and forgiveness are a rare pleasure, and they confirm Trevor's reputation as a master of the form.

    Cariola says: "Not Trevor's Best"
    "Not Trevor's Best"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    While I did not appreciate this collection quite as much as I have others by Trevor, his usual skill in storytelling and style prevail. The twelve stories here are, if not exactly sad, wistful or regretful. Nearly all involve characters who have experienced the death of a loved one, the death of a relationship, or some other form of longing or loss, and the thin Irish melancholy pervades them all. Trevor is best writing about the 1960s and '70s, and the contemporary stories seem a bit lacking in truth. But, as always, Trevor is well worth the time. The various readers here are all quite good, however.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Claire Tomalin
    • Narrated By Wanda McCaddon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (29)
    Performance
    (23)
    Story
    (24)

    Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan met in 1857; she was 18, a hard-working actress performing in his production of The Frozen Deep, and he was 45, the most lionized writer in England. Out of their meeting came a love affair that lasted 13 years and destroyed Dickens's marriage while effacing Nelly Ternan from the public record.

    Jean says: "Interesting"
    "Dickens the Hypocrite"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have to begin by saying that I am not a Dickens fan, and as I read this book, I began to like him even less. Tomalin focuses on Dickens's relationship with the Ternan family, in particular his presumed affair with the youngest daughter, Ellen, best known as Nelly. She was only 18 at the time their affair began, Dickens 45. The Ternans were an acting family, and Dickens used his prestige first to persuade Mrs. Ternan and the girls to perform in his play 'The Frozen Deep,' then to secure various roles for her with his theatrical friends. Before long, he abandoned his wife (the mother of his 10 children), spreading rumors about her mental health and the ingratitude of her family members for all his assistance. (Wikipedia notes, "Matters came to a head in 1858 when Catherine Dickens opened a packet delivered by a London jeweller which contained a gold bracelet meant for Ternan with a note written by her husband.") Dickens began to lead a double life, leasing and purchasing a series of homes for Nelly, her sisters and her widowed mother--homes deliberately located further and further from the public eye. After all, the man whose works were supposed to be the moral compass of England couldn't be caught with a mistress! His financial and personal arrangements were handled through coded letters to friends who acted as go-betweens, including Wilkie Collins. Nelly was kept such a deep, dark secret that her identity was even hidden when she suffered a serious injury in a train derailment while traveling with Dickens. Tomalin posits that she had at least one, and perhaps two, pregnancies by Dickens but lost both babies shortly after birth. Later in life, long after Dickens's death, Nelly supposedly confessed the affair to her pastor, saying that she greatly regretted it and loathed Dickens in those last years but could not, financially, break away.

    The last section of the book addresses Nelly's life post-Dickens and the history of both the coverup and revelation of the affair.

    I felt sorry for both Catherine, Dickens's long-suffering wife, and for Nelly, a young woman pressured by poverty and impressed by celebrity. As for Dickens, what a pompous, self-righteous hypocrite!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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