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Cariola

malfi

Chambersburg, PA USA | Member Since 2005

696
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 158 reviews
  • 331 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 16 purchased in 2014
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  • Joseph Anton: A Memoir

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Salman Rushdie
    • Narrated By Sam Dastor, Salman Rushdie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (205)
    Performance
    (179)
    Story
    (174)

    On February 14, 1989, Valentine's Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been "sentenced to death" by the Ayatollah Khomeini. For the first time he heard the word fatwa. His crime? To have written a novel called The Satanic Verses, which was accused of being "against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran". So begins the extraordinary story of how a writer was forced underground, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of a police protection team.

    Lynn says: "Informative, Timely"
    "Captivating Memoir"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Joseph Anton is Rushdie's memoir of the years he spent, mostly in hiding, under the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa. The fatwa, which was announced on Valentine's Day, 1989, has never been officially revoked; in 1998, the Iranian government proclaimed that it would neither support nor hinder attempts to assassinate the author, but there is still a $3 million-plus bounty on his head. The title of the book is the name Rushdie assumed while in Scotland Yard's protection and is taken from two of his favorite writers: "Joseph" from Conrad and "Anton" from Chekhov. In a recent interview, Rushdie claimed that during this time he felt as if he was watching another person's life from a distance, a person separate from himself--hence the book is written in third person.

    It's hard to imagine what life would be like if you were forced to move at a moment's notice--dozens of times. To live with a squad of armed policemen (one of whom accidentally blew a hole through a wall). To be unable to visit a dying parent, have dinner with friends, attend a memorial or an activity at your child's school, or, as a writer, give public readings of your work. Rushdie details all of this, as well as his efforts to live as normal a life as possible. For this, he credits a cadre of trusted friends, including Christopher Hitchens, Paul Auster, Bill Buford, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, and Bono, among others. Rushdie also engaged in a constant legal battle to get The Satanic Verses distributed worldwide in paperback format.

    Of course, Rushdie's personal life suffered during this time. His greatest regret is the difficulty the fatwa caused for his son Zafar, who was 10 at the time it all began. Although divorced from his first wife, Clarissa Luard, the two remained friendly and strove to maintain as normal a relationship as possible for father and son. Marianne Wiggins, his second wife, to whom he was married when the fatwa was pronounced, does not come off so well; in fact, the American writer is depicted as a selfish, self-promoting wacko. Rushdie met his third wife, Elizabeth West, the mother of his second son, while under protection. Initially, West seems almost saint-like in her patience and devotion, but this image falls apart as the marriage falters due to her depression over not bearing more children and Rushdie's desire to move to the US, where he felt he could live a more open, normal life. Wife Number Four, model, would-be actress, and reality show host Padma Lakshmi,is referred to as "The Illusion," and Rushdie rather shamefacedly admits to falling into a fairly typical mid-life crisis (homely older man, beautiful younger woman), as well as pursuing a somewhat elusive American dream that she came to represent. Lakshmi, like Wiggins, comes off as self-absorbed and ambitious (when he attempts to visit her in LA after a new threat has been announced, she says she is going on a lingerie shoot), and Rushdie makes short shrift of her.

    On the whole, Rushdie's memoir is insightful and engaging. If one thing is made clear, it is that he wouldn't have endured, had it not been for the love, help, and encouragement of his close friends, family, and associates. And it is this humanization of Salman Rushdie, more than his literary achievements or politicized position, that allows readers to relate to his plight.

    The reader, Sam Dastoor, was brilliant, with one caveat: his American accent, which never varied. Whether he was impersonating Bill Clinton, Kurt Vonnegut, George Stephanopoulos, or Susan Sontag, they all sounded like sarcastic cowboys.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Runaway: Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Alice Munro
    • Narrated By Kymberly Dakin
    Overall
    (158)
    Performance
    (120)
    Story
    (115)

    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
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    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
    (8)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    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
    (33)
    Performance
    (30)
    Story
    (29)

    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
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    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.

    2 of 2 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
    (202)
    Performance
    (192)
    Story
    (190)

    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.

    Janice says: "Masterful retelling of a masterpiece"
    "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.

    0 of 0 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
    (4516)
    Performance
    (4112)
    Story
    (4105)

    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
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    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.

    2 of 2 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
    (23)
    Performance
    (19)
    Story
    (20)

    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
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    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!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Last Friends: Old Filth Trilogy, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Jane Gardam
    • Narrated By Roger Watson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (40)
    Performance
    (37)
    Story
    (38)

    This is the third book in the Old Filth trilogy (Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, Last Friends). Last Friends depicts the marriage of Edward Feathers and Betty as seen through the eyes of Edward’s friend and Betty's lover Terry Veneering.

    Cariola says: "Last, and Probably Least"
    "Last, and Probably Least"
    Overall
    Performance
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    This third book in Gardam's Old Filth trilogy is fun, yet not quite as good as the first two installments. Edward and Betty Feathers and Terry Veneering have passed on, and the story continues with the lesser characters in the series, most prominently Fiscal Smith and Dulcie, widow of Pastry Willie, the judge who was Betty's godfather. Much of the novel is flashback telling Terry Veneering's past as the son of an impoverished mother and an Odessan circus performer who ends up making it good. Recommended for fans of this series.

    The biggest problem I had was the change in reader. Graeme Malcom, who read the first two installments, was perfect. Roger Watson makes the characters--especially the females--sound like caricatures.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Man in the Wooden Hat

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Jane Gardam
    • Narrated By Graeme Malcolm
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (204)
    Performance
    (160)
    Story
    (159)

    The New York Times called Sir Edward Feathers one of the most memorable characters in modern literature. A lyrical novel that recalls his fully lived life, Old Filth has been acclaimed as Jane Gardam's masterpiece. And now that novel has been joined by a companion that also bursts with humor and wisdom: The Man in the Wooden Hat. As a portrait of a marriage, with all the bittersweet secrets and surprising fulfillment of the 50-year union of two remarkable people, this novel is a triumph.

    Michele says: "The Other Half"
    "Betty's Point of View"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Another lovely installment in the Old Filth trilogy, this one told from the point of view of Betty Macintosh Feathers, Old Filth's wife. Like Edward Feathers, Betty was raised in the far eastern parts of the British commonwealth, and she, too, had lost her parents at a young age. She understands his loneliness and the pleas that comes with his proposal: "Don't ever leave me." Yet almost as soon as she accepts, Betty has regrets--particularly when she meets Eddie's arch rival, Terry Veneering. But a promise is a promise . . .

    This is the same story we heard in Old Filth, at least from the time that Betty meets Edward Feathers, but here we get her perspective. It's quite intriguing to see how Eddie's interpretation of events differs from the reality that Betty reveals, and to learn of secrets that apparently were never revealed. Like so many women of her day, Betty focused on fulfilling her wifely duties and appeared to lead a rather dull life focused on her tulips, dinner parties, and her husband's career. Gardam lets us see, however, that she has a vibrant inner life, full of secret memories, dreams, and loves. Her relationship with Harry, the Veneerings' young son, is one such secret. Unable to bear children, Betty becomes attached to Harry, a charming and clever boy whom Filth later says is "the only one she ever really loved."

    The Man in the Wooden Hat serves as a reminder that even ordinary lives can be extraordinary.

    I'm looking forward to the last book in the Old Filth series and will be seeking out more novels by Jane Gardam, whose writing is beautiful, original, amusing, and moving. And Graeme Malcolm is the perfect reader. (I just started the third book and am very disappointed in the new reader.)

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Spinning Heart: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Donal Ryan
    • Narrated By Wayne Farrell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    In the aftermath of Ireland's financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds. The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation.

    Cariola says: "21 Distinct Voices Beautifully Crafted"
    "21 Distinct Voices Beautifully Crafted"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you are looking for one of those uplifting stories full of Irish resourcefulness, indomitability, and bleak humor, you had best look elsewhere. While 'The Spinning Heart' has a few bright moments, overall, it's what I'd call a downer. Ryan tells the story of an economically depressed small town through the distinctive voices of 21 of its inhabitants, each of whom is given a chapter of his or her own in which to comment on the neighbors and their business as well as recent events in the town, most notably the collapse of a local building company whose owner first wiped out his workers' pensions, the disappearance of a small child from a care center, and the arrest of the local golden boy, Bobby Mahon, for the murder of his father. Everyone has his or her own point of view, depending in large part upon their own history with the novel's major players, Bobby Mahon, Pokey Burke (the construction business owner), and Realtin (the single mother of the missing child). What they all have in common is an oppressive sadness, tinged with anger, and a prevailing sense that life is just not fair. Added to this, well, these just aren't very nice folks. Fathers mock their children (when they aren't beating them), bosses rip off their employees, husbands cheat on their wives (when they aren't beating them) and beat up the women they cheat with, children are fearful of their parents' constant quarreling, friends confess to being jealous of one another--well, you get the picture. Hence the "downer" label.

    Still and all, I have to give Ryan the technical high marks he has earned. He has created 21 distinctive voices for his 21 characters, ranging from a little girl of about four or five to a number of elderly men and women. And while the town he creates is not one I'd willingly visit, he brings it sharply into view. These stories could veer off into multiple digressions; in fact, sometimes they do. But each returns to the main themes: the essential hopelessness wrought by the economic downturn and, despite their shared experiences, the emotional isolation of the townsfolk. Themes that are depressing, yes; but Ryan skillfully builds his plot around them.

    On the title: some have speculated that the rusty, paint-chipped spinning heart set into the Mahon's gate represents the ongoing love these people have for one another in troubled times. I don't see that. For me, the heart spins as we would say "he's spinning his wheels"--it's furious, agitated, spinning, but it really doesn't move. This isn't Eliot's "still point in the turning world." It's stagnation: hearts skewered, stuck on anger and despair.

    Wayne Farrell was an excellent reader. It's not easy to make each voice unique, especially since they all have Irish accents--but he manages to do just that.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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