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Mel

Member Since 2009

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HELPFUL VOTES
  • 392 reviews
  • 840 ratings
  • 823 titles in library
  • 32 purchased in 2018
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  • The Lion Is In

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Delia Ephron
    • Narrated By Natasha Lyonne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    Tracee is a runaway bride and kleptomaniac. Lana's an audacious beauty and a recovering alcoholic. Rita is a holy-roller minister's wife, desperate to escape her marriage and discover whether she actually has a mind of her own.

    One warm summer's night, these three women go on the lam together. Their car breaks down on a rural highway in North Carolina, and they're forced to seek shelter in a seemingly abandoned nightclub - which is where they meet Marcel. And soon everything changes.

    Mel says: "Bad Logic On My Part"
    "Bad Logic On My Part"
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    I've been waiting for other reviews to show up, hoping someone would encourage me to go on, that perhaps I just didn't get it with this one. But a month later and nothing.

    It was an impulse purchase - my reasoning (or thought flow) went something like this:

    "I need a light fun read; two women on the run, in a convertible with a lion!? What great whimsy; I like lions; I loved Richard Parker (tiger in Life of Pi); I liked Thelma and Louise; 'learning to salsa with the king of the jungle?!'; sounds like fantastic fun!"

    ...never got to the salsa lesson. After about 2 hours, in an almost dazed state, I realized that I had picked such a light piece of fluff that it had floated right in one ear and out the other. So, I researched this one, and found out people loved it! It was "moving" and "heartfelt" and a "hilarious must read"! Isn't that how it goes...one man's trash is another man's treasure. I'm glad people liked it. I really liked the cover picture, so I gave it an extra star for that reason. (Ouch)

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • The Italian Teacher

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Tom Rachman
    • Narrated By Sam Alexander
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    Rome, 1955. The artists gather for a picture at a party in an ancient villa. Bear Bavinsky, creator of vast canvases, larger than life, is at the center of the picture. His wife, Natalie, edges out of the shot. From the side of the room watches little Pinch - their son. At five years old he loves Bear almost as much as he fears him. After Bear abandons their family, Pinch will still worship him, striving to live up to the Bavinsky name.

    Mel says: "A douche of a man, but a hell of an artist"
    "A douche of a man, but a hell of an artist"
    Overall
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    I remember reading Loving Picasso, then seeing Surviving Picasso, and then Experiencing Picasso...that is...trying not to let my new found perspective of his soul-sucking ego affect my appreciation of his paintings when I saw them. At first, I didn't picture the battered women or recall their shattered spirits, the suicides, the depression...not while looking at such unworldly talent . But, I wondered about Francoise Gilot, a beautiful young woman and an accomplished artist herself, to whom Picasso said when Gilot told him she was also a painter, [quote]That is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Girls who look like you could never be painters.[end quote] She was 21, and the great Picasso was over 60.

    How did she survive Picasso?
    In the huge shadow cast by such staggering greatness, how does anyone catch and hold enough sunshine to thrive, and not just fade out and blow away?

    Rachman, adeptly captures that struggle from the perspective of a child living with a father that is an artist as big as his reputation, a charismatic expressionist known as much for his womanizing persona as his art, Bear Bavinsky. Reminded me a little of Picasso, with all of the narcissism, but without the intentional cruelty. Bear is a better artist than father and a better father than he is a husband, but he is a great painter. Is that enough? The characters in The Italian Teacher will either find a way out of Bear's shadow, or be swallowed into him.

    The story begins in Rome where the artist lives with his current delicate-artist-wife, Natalie, and their 5 yr. old son, Pinch. Little Pinch adores his Papa, always experiencing him in the incandescence of his fame. The mother makes pottery under such encouragement from Bear as, *Not everyone is an artist,* and other supportive bon mots. [All those cuts sound so pretty when said with a pat on the shoulder and a wink.] Pinch learns to pity his poor mother, seeing her and her clumsy art only through Bear's disapproving eyes as he brushes by her, off on his way to some opening or gala in his honor, and into the arms of another adoring young sycophant, with cute little Pinch by his side, performing like a well-trained parrot. And so Pinch grows up, an unnourished seedling without individual context or safe harbor, thinking his mother weak and his father nothing less than a god. But Bear quickly moves on to the next event, the next woman he fancies, the next canvas, spreading his charms (and his seed) and eventually totaling a dozen or so wives and 17 children; all whom he loves, skittering about his feet, calling him Papa -- until he doesn't. Once the littles are grown and with needs or wants, Bear moves on abandoning responsibilities to chase fame, leaving another broken family struggling in the wake of his ego.

    Pinch stays in the closest orbit to Bear through the years of changing sceneries and families.
    As if unable to stand on his own, he bends himself and his life to fit into a relationship with his father, twisting and turning further from his own desires and needs to fit into Bear's. From a child, he had dreamed of following in his father's steps and being a painter -- until his father ridiculed his work. Like a puppy kicked aside, he gathers himself up and settles on the next closest thing he can think of, being a writer/art major, with dreams of writing about his father and his illustrious career. Bear scoffs, giving a hardy laugh at this modified ambition. After telling Pinch his writing is no better than the painting he attempted, he finally growls at the young man, *You work for ME!*

    This is the novel's pivotal point and Rachman handles this moment with the turn toward a clever benevolence. *Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep,* said Milton. Seeds have been planted and Bear will continue to finally encourage something in Pinch. I wasn't a big fan of The Imperfectionists, but I recall the talent of the author. The Italian Teacher struck me as Rachman's better book, even feeling a bit Shakespearean at times. There are weaknesses, plausibility, characters or events that are close to something you recall in history or literature that weaken a strong narrative into an echo, or caricature. But those are teeny little personal gripes that didn't affect my overall satisfaction and enjoyment.

    In an interview, the author said he has always been fascinated by art and the artists, [quote] What is the nature of creativity? How do they come up with these ideas? Do they have a separate sort of vision? Are they people who deserve to have a different set of rules than the rest of us? [end quote] Who of us haven't entertained that discussion after an art gallery stroll and a few nibbles of cheese chased by copious glasses of free cheap Pinot? This book offers some exploration of that inquiry, but tilts that focus more toward whether or not that *different set of rules* translates to family and accountability. I believe Rachman gives us his answer as to whether or not *any people deserve a different set of rules than the rest of us* by serving up one of the tastiest and most satisfying dishes of revenge I've come across in a while. Subtle but with the slightest undertones of sarcasm, finishing with a bitter bite.

    It's a satisfying, intelligently written novel that gifts a reader with avenues of possible mental meandering, and what more can you ask of an author than to trust his reader's and give them something excellent to chew on. BTW: *Can you separate an artist from their art? I can look at a Picasso (love doing so), but I can't watch House of Cards, I wouldn't eat a jello pudding pop with a gun against my head, and if the Pope kicked my dog, there would be a rumble. And, I would personally knit Ms. Gilot one of those dreadful but wonderful P*ssy Hats.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sometimes I Lie

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Alice Feeney
    • Narrated By Stephanie Racine
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1190)
    Performance
    (1103)
    Story
    (1106)

    Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can't move. She can't speak. She can't open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn't remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from 20 years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller audiobook asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it's the truth?

    ZoeysMom says: "Wow!!! "
    "Bad Seed X2"
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    Three things you should know.
    First: Sometimes, I find little holes in the most tightly woven plots and don't say anything because the book still kept me jumping up and down with my head spinning.
    Second: Sometimes I have to backtrack to stay on track...and backtrack...and then realize that NO; I really did get it the first time. [Outrageous!] And move on.
    Three: Unreliable narrators are fun; they *might* live lives full of blackmail, imaginary friends, arson, and possible genetic evilness coursing through their veins...and they might not (but here they kinda do).

    Don't believe a thing this Amber chicky says in any of her successive approximations, just listen and enjoy -- but do keep track of where she is in her prevarication-packed tale. The book begins with Amber in a coma where she informs you of the 3 things you should know about her. 1. I'm in a coma. 2. My husband doesn't love me anymore. 3. Sometimes I lie. (She often lists trivia in groups of three. Listen for them because they are fun little bits of insight into a very sick little mind.) BTW, one of those 3 statements is true.

    The coma monologues are the *Now* parts of the book; the prior to the accident parts are titled *Then;* and the *Before* parts are chilling excerpts from her childhood diaries. It'll have you wondering about inherited traits because one so young would have to live a horribly demented life under the tutelage of demonic beings to acquire such a malevolent personality so early on. Think of Damien smashing his tricycle into his *mother,* sending her cartwheeling over the upstairs railing down three floors onto the hardwood. Personally, I immediately thought of the movie The Bad Seed and little Rhoda and her tap shoes. And what a bonus...Amber has an adorable little sister...and that's all I'm saying about any of this!

    As far as my rating, I thought this was a blast to listen to, maybe a bit of mental whiplash lingering from the back and forth, and I have a buzz-kill penchant of figuring out pretty intricate plots early; one of my few useless talents. Just don't read too much about it from reviews and enjoy -- think of the price you paid for this as admission to a wickedly fun ride.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Educated: A Memoir

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Tara Westover
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3088)
    Performance
    (2850)
    Story
    (2833)

    Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard. Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism.

    Mel says: "Gripping Read "
    "Gripping Read "
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    There is no doubting that Tara Westover's survival and achievement is nothing short of an amazing feat and she is to be applauded for her strength and determination. You don't have to read between the lines to know very early in this book that this young girl (the author) is being neglected and abused on many levels, in the home of seemingly well-intentioned, loving parents. It creeps in and feels as blatantly incongruent and ugly as a blot on a peaceful bucolic scene. All the more insidious as a wide range of mental disorders throughout the family become obvious and are dismissed and justified -- denial.

    I've had to sit back and reflect on this book and the author, as well as allow myself to read the reviews of other readers in order to be objective with Educated. True, it is a story of a miraculous survival and achievement by the author. It is also a sad account, to add to hundreds of accounts we've had to hear, about the destructive effects of abuse and mental illness. I've mentioned before in my reviews I worked with patients that sadly have had very similar stories and they are all heartbreaking so it is nice to read that Ms. Westover is on top of her ordeal. Healing and recovery is a challenging process and I felt Westover, at times, compartmentalized her experiences, speaking from the authority of her academic status.

    Her voice in this narrative seems to waiver a bit between assuredness and doubt, which is natural for a recovering person. I could not help wondering -- which is why I waited to read other's reviews to see if I was being too clinical -- if this story was premature in that it felt like the road still reaches out far in front of her journey. It is my hope that in telling her story, feeling the support of readers that themselves gain strength from her fight and acknowledge her accomplishment, Ms. Westover can continue her fight with courage and grace.

    *In spite of its capacity to foster compassion, humanness, and understanding, throughout the ages religion has at times been a source of abuse, persecution, terrorism, and genocide. These problems continue today across the world, as illustrated by religiously-based terrorism, clergy sexual abuse, and religiously-supported genocide.* Ms. Westover makes the distinction that her family is Fundamentalist Mormons, which are sects that have separated themselves from the LDS Church. This is a very interesting time in the world culture, and I suspect that by giving voice to abuse on so many different levels, Ms. Westover has added her voice to a brave force that is demanding long needed positive change in all areas where there has been abuse.

    .



    .

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Lost World

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Arthur Conan Doyle
    • Narrated By Glen McCready
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1647)
    Performance
    (1489)
    Story
    (1491)

    Here is the precursor to Jurassic Park. Victorian explorers have heard there is a remote plateau where dinosaurs still survive, and a group set outs on a dangerous mission to find out more about it.

    Simon Fraser says: "Wit and Drama"
    "How you like me now, Gladys?"
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    *I have a presentiment that you are going to propose, Ned. I do wish you wouldn't; for things are so much nicer as they are.*[Gladys]

    Poor (Edward Malone) Neddy, a lowly reporter for the Daily Gazette finds out the night he plans to propose to the love of his life that he doesn't cut the mustard. Her dreams: *what I should like to be,--envied for my man....If I marry, I do want to marry a famous man! He must be a man who could do, who could act, who could look Death in the face and have no fear of him, a man of great deeds and strange experiences. It is never a man that I should love, but always the glories he had won; for they would be reflected upon me.*

    Thus begins Ned's search in earnest for an adventure that will make him worthy of Gladys's love. He meets Professor George Edward Challenger, who claims to have been part of an earlier expedition that found a world that has been lost to civilization, a world where dinosaurs still exist. After a heated town meeting with other scientists and explorers where Challenger is laughed at and called a charlatan, he decides to return to the secret plateau in South America and bring back proof, and invites the young reporter along.

    As you might have noticed from the passages I quoted above, Doyle's story feels a little dated (published 1912), but the language used reflects a time when blustering *adventurers* crowded into smoke-filled rooms to discuss various manly things, a few years after the Victorian era (and H.G. Wells' The Time Machine). Doyle's words take you back to another time and that was the charm of the book for me (since Spielberg already took our imaginings of a dinosaur and brought it to movie screens). Narrator Glen McCready does a beautiful job capturing the dialogue from a time when conversation was an art that required finesse and refinement.

    I doubt there are any spoilers still undisclosed since 1912. You can't help but snicker a little when the young reporter returns a famous explorer, welcomed back with a grand procession -- a hero. Alas, Gladys who yearned for her famous man has settled down with a simple clerk. She tells Ned, *I am so sorry about it. But it couldn't have been so very deep, could it, if you could go off to the other end of the world and leave me here alone.* Doyle wraps up with a wink to readers; Ned/Edward escapes Gladys and gladly chooses to return again to the secret plateau in the Amazon.

    NOTE: A big disappointment was the PDF! While it has a good piece on Doyle [*Notes by Roy McMillan*], it doesn't contain the original illustrations included in the book when *it was originally published serially in the popular Strand Magazine and illustrated by New-Zealand-born artist Harry Rountree during the months of April–November 1912.* The pictures add another dimension to Doyle's story and are worth searching out.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Hag-Seed

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Margaret Atwood
    • Narrated By R.H. Thompson
    Overall
    (291)
    Performance
    (264)
    Story
    (264)

    Felix is at the top of his game as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he's staging a Tempest like no other: Not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And brewing revenge.

    Mel says: "The play on the Play's the thing"
    "The play on the Play's the thing"
    Overall
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    Felix Phillips, Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival, is having a run of unfortunate events these days. Having lost his wife, then shortly thereafter his young daughter, he had thrown himself into a very ambitious and avant-garde production of his favorite Shakespeare play, The Tempest, only to have been betrayed by an alliance of plotting so-called friends to have him removed from his position. Felix storms off the set, and seems to disappear from the theater scene, all the while sheltering in his home (with the spirit of his dead daughter) and planning his big come back, and his revenge. Atwood sets up a Shakespearean revenge plot with subtle bits of comedy, the supernatural, and some reconciliation all worthy of the Bard's The Tempest.

    Ten years later, Felix's former colleagues have lost connection with the man they double-crossed, but Felix has been watching them, noting every move meticulously. Now he resurfaces as Mr. Duke, the new Artistic Director of The Fletcher County Correctional Institute in Ontario, courtesy of the Literacy Through Literature program, financed by a city official that once conspired to take his job at the Makeshiweg. Of course, his project is to be The Tempest. He plans on doing his version and inviting the unsuspecting traitors to the opening performance. He casts himself as the play's Duke (Duke of Milan) that has been living in exile, Prospero, a powerful magician that has worked up some nasty tricks tucked up his sleeves. He'll have his revenge and he'll have his Tempest. But, Shakespeare and Atwood would never let such a plot go forth so smoothly, or predictably...double, double toil and trouble...

    The real story and the best part of the novel take place at the prison. Duke's professionalism and love of the theater shine through his interactions with the prisoners in spite of his vengeful plan. Aware of the population's histories, he allows them only swear words they can pull from the play they are doing (Hagseed=the witches son Caliban; Poisonous bunch-backed toad!; scurvy companion; abortive, rooting hog! ). Profanity not directly from Shakespeare earns them penalty points. It makes for imagining some funny scenes. Unforeseen by Mr. Duke when he conjured up his plan was how Shakespeare's writing would positively affect the inmates. The more they participate, the more they begin to understand his times and his themes and to respect him and his writing. Under the spell of the Bard, they begin writing their own takes on the play, mostly rap, which are at times both profound and profane. It's brutally clever, wild and tightly strung.

    As with The Tempest, Hag-Seed contains multiple storylines within storylines and multiple lessons that softened the sting of revenge and dark intentions. Trying to summarize Atwood's distinctive style is a ridiculous endeavor. While her strong political themes and parallels clearly steer her stories, without quoting her it's impossible to grasp the effectiveness of her imagination and emotions in each scene. Atwood always demands a good hard bit of reexamination, to adjust the focus from dystopia or fiction into the present real moment. It is usually in retrospect that the full vision of Atwood's novels comes into view, at least for me. (This wasn't like her dystopian The Handmaid's Tale, but it does deserve a good look back.) Hag-Seed wasn't my favorite Atwood novel, though I do recognize the brilliance (and I love The Tempest). I personally prefer her more dystopian and political novels, and I know that I could not have gotten through this if I had tried to read the text.

    The play's the thing, and here it is clearly outlined and explained as Mr. Duke redirect's his own version. Even if you aren't familiar with Shakespeare's play you'll be kept on course (but a quick Wiki look would be a great help). In the case of Hag-Seed, the play may not be the thing -- it may be the narration of Atwood's writing. R.H. Thompson is a-maz-ing! He raps the lyrics of the prisoners with complete conviction and jaw-dropping talent. How he did it so perfectly, I don't know, but this is a case where he could quit his day job. This is the performance of the year in audiobooks!


    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Rising Sun: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Michael Crichton
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2264)
    Performance
    (2079)
    Story
    (2074)

    A riveting thriller of corporate intrigue and cutthroat competition between American and Japanese business interests. On the forty-fifth floor of the Nakamoto tower in downtown Los Angeles - the new American headquarters of the immense Japanese conglomerate - a grand opening celebration is in full swing. On the forty-sixth floor, in an empty conference room, the corpse of a beautiful young woman is discovered.

    Jeremie F Pettit says: "Great Book!"
    "Wasn't expecting this to be so interesting!"
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    I have to have an audio book going every day, I'm addicted, and I don't watch TV. With this last sale, I picked up as many as I could to add to the regular-priced 6 - 9 books I buy each month -- which gets expensive. A lot of the book were larks, titles not on my wishlist and many I'd never heard of. I chose according to the Audible reviews, what listeners liked the best. There have been only a couple I couldn't make it through, but I have to say, *Wow! You guys are good!* I've liked most of them and it was fun to read outside my usual aisles. Rising Sun was one of those surprises. I expected Crichton to pack a lot of suspense and thrills into a good story, but I was concerned whether this book would be relevant to today, or if it would be too dated. Well, surprise surprise! This was a winner with a lot of political relevance 25 yrs. after the original novel was written. Thoroughly enjoyed and recommend. Thanks for the great reviews that led me to this one.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Need to Know: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Karen Cleveland
    • Narrated By Mia Barron
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (511)
    Performance
    (479)
    Story
    (478)

    Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she's developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight. After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America's borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her - her job, her husband, even her four children - are threatened.

    pacience says: "Complete waste of time "
    "Mr. and Mrs. Smith -- Not"
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    Arrrggh...Can we talk? We've come so far lately. And then, along comes supposedly intelligent Vivian Miller, *dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst,* Mother of the Year, and possibly the worst thing to ever happen concerning our female representatives in the Intelligence Community. Authors love to give us beautiful, supposedly smart women that make incredibly dumb decisions, I get it--movie producers are probably thumbing through their index cards of beautiful sexy leading ladies as I write this. I know most of you will like this one; I liked it -- a little bit. But, every now and then I have to kick myself while reading, and Need to Know gave me that opportunity, to exercise my acrobatic moves while reading.

    I'm not going to nitpick and lambast, and don't mean to dissuade anyone interested in this book because I was mindlessly entertained, while I pulled my hair out. I did stick it out through to the finish, which I don't do if I am offended or absolutely hate a book. However, I won't be picking up the obvious sequel (and Jason Matthews need not worry about any competition). Let me stress, it moved along well, kept me wondering, and would probably be a decent TV movie. Though most of the dialogue is Vivian's emotional distress, the crux of the story comes down to what we would do for our children -- or what impossible extremes we would face to keep our vision of a loving happy family together, especially when that ideology conflicts with the ideology of our profession.

    The problem is the implausibilities far far outweigh the plausibilities, and you end up wondering how anyone that missed so many red flags at home got passed the first job interview with the CIA. It's difficult to explain my ire without giving away the major spoiler. Let's just say that if the Russian Provocateur had been a snake, Vivian would have died from venom and the Miller children would be without a mother.

    The plot is flimsy, the details very vague and improbable, and the bulk of the book undermines Vivian's validity (as well as the security of our nation). If you are looking for a good spy thriller, a smart novel of espionage on the homefront, pass. If you want a book about a troubled marriage, sit down with Vivian, and a box of Kleenex.


    15 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • The Immortalists

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Chloe Benjamin
    • Narrated By Maggie Hoffman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1047)
    Performance
    (961)
    Story
    (959)

    It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children - four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness - sneak out to hear their fortunes. A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next.

    jaylee says: " Inaudible unfortunately "
    "Mysticism vs. the Self-fulfilling Prophecy"
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    As the summary says, during the summer of 1969, four siblings in New York, Varya - 13, Daniel -11, Klara - 9, and Simon - 7, are contemplating another boring, miserably humid day on the Lower East Side when Daniel tells them he heard about a lady, a psychic, claiming the power *to tell fortunes and something else...she can say when you'll die.* Varya argues she doesn't want to know, Klara and Simon agree to go, and gradually the four make a pact to combine their savings and make a secret visit to the lady on Hester St.

    Varya is the last to meet with the woman. After manipulating the young girl's palm she tells Varya she'll die in 2044, at the age of 88. *How do you know?* Varya asks. The woman says everything is contained in the hand, quoting the Greek philosopher, Heroclitus: *A man's character is his destiny.* (Personally, I'm not sure how the author has tied destiny to longevity.) When she reunites with her siblings outside, Danny is stony, Klara's cheeks are streaked with tears, and Simon is quiet and distant then refuses to eat dinner. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the author is throwing us a glimpse into the future. Potato, potahto...the first little manipulation by the author, in my opinion, a step at setting into motion the prophecies. The author is essentially asking, if you knew when you were to die, how and would you live your life differently, and, at the same time inserting the phenomenon of the self-fulfilling prophecy i.e.: an expectation about a subject, such as a person or event, can affect our behavior towards that subject, which causes the expectation to be realized.
    If Tom Hank's character in Big, 12 yr. old Josh, would have known how it would all go, would he have dropped that quarter into Zoltar's gaping mouth and said to those flashing red eyes, *I wish I were big?"

    The rest of the novel is divided into sections, each dealing with one of the siblings. Young Simon leaves for San Francisco ten years later, becomes a dancer in a gay nightclub. It's the early 80's, and after a string of boa feathers and gay affairs, he contracts AIDS. The sexual encounters the author describes are a bit graphic, which may be an issue for some readers. Simon has been reckless and irresponsible, obviously living very conscious of his death sentence.The once little quiet, distant Simon that couldn't eat his dinner, passes away the very day foretold by the fortune teller. ...And then there were three.

    And, so it goes, minor characters slip in and out of the story, perfunctory visits to the Jewish mother in New York regroups the siblings and feel like little more than mile markers to show how the family dynamics have shifted. But, you can't yet sell Ms. Benjamin short. There are also other factors afflicting the siblings as they live out their lives. How do depression, addictions, mental disorders, disease, and family problems fit into each person's trajectory?

    Haven't most of us felt that jab of self-doubt while reading a book? Sat in the corner at Book Club listening to unanimous accolades, too busy swallowing your intended declaration of *poopoo* regarding your reading experience to enjoy the coffee cake. That's how I've felt since I read this novel and the corresponding rave reviews. I waited and tried to re-evaluate my experience, but I wasn't able to find myself engaged with the book. And I really didn't like any of the siblings. The author writes intelligently, beautifully, and almost convinced me this was deserving the starred reviews. I didn't feel it, so I'll sit back and eat my coffee cake and realize that a book can have an interesting premise, wonderful sentences, a page full of recommendations, and still be a disappointment.

    20 of 24 people found this review helpful
  • City of Endless Night

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
    • Narrated By Rene Auberjonois
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2232)
    Performance
    (2048)
    Story
    (2043)

    When Grace Ozmian, the beautiful and reckless daughter of a wealthy tech billionaire, first goes missing, the NYPD assumes she has simply sped off on another wild adventure. Until the young woman's body is discovered in an abandoned warehouse in Queens, the head nowhere to be found. Lieutenant CDS Vincent D'Agosta quickly takes the lead. He knows his investigation will attract fierce scrutiny, so D'Agosta is delighted when FBI Special Agent A. X. L. Pendergast shows up at the crime scene assigned to the case.

    shelley says: "The allusive Pendergast..,"
    "If Pleasure remains, does it remain a Pleasure?"
    Overall
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    I became a fan in 1995 with Relic and realized by the third or fourth Aloysius Pendergast novel that I was a devoted follower. In my 24 yrs. of guilty pleasuring with Preston-Child-Pendergast, I've ranted some, raved some, sworn them off then pre-ordered the next in the series with the same breath. The plotlines of these books are nonsensical: bloodthirsty monsters in the museum of natural history, Nazi experiments gone amok in the jungles of Brazil, crazed killer grizzlies raiding the ski cabins in Colorado (we won't even start on Constance Greene) blood relatives that seem straight out of the rogue's gallery. I've been all over the scale rating this series. Even the worst books in this 17 book series aren't really bad...they're just not excellent; they're what I call *ungood.* But always 100% captivating is Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, that tall cool, pale, Southern aristocrat that seems to balance so comfortably on the thin line between the earthly and the supernatural.

    These authors usually play pretty fast and loose with reality so City of Endless Night might be a good place to start if you need to ease into the far-fetched literary exploits of these authors and their Aloysius Pendergast; it feels uncommonly normal for the series. The downside to jumping in here is you've missed all the fun. Aloysius is what keeps me coming back and this is a paler than usual Aloysius. He may have met his match with a murderer picking off some of New York's 1%ers, leaving their decapitated bodies and not the slightest clues.

    This wasn't my favorite in the series. It rambled, it was dark, lacked some excitement, and a lot of Pendergast's endearing quirks seemed absent, the guy seemed preoccupied. I'm just hoping that had something to do with the epilogue (no spoilers here). I'm trying to be objective and view this through fresh eyes, which is hard to do after spending so much time with this threesome. I'm not disenchanted, but possibly a little worn out. I introduced my daughter to the series and she has the same enthusiasm that I once had in following the Pendergast canon. She also is more current with the history and can answer all my questions (except about Constance).

    There are 3 elements that are consistently excellent with this series, and present in this novel: 1) Aloysius, a unique character that still intrigues me; 2) when these two authors stick out their pinkies and do their highbrow (Aloysius) writing...I've looked up so many hoity-toity words (his receptionist is his amanuensis) and it's Southern snobbery at its best; 3) Rene Auberjonois narrating Pendergast..nothing short of visual. So I'm just settling on 3*'s for the story and 5* for perfect narration, and that's all I'm going to say about this one,

    Whether you are a devoted follower, new to the series, or just considering, I hope that you experience the pleasure of Pendergast and that it remains from #1 to #17 and so on.
    [Now as far as some of the other books by this duo...I haven't been so charmed lately.]

    34 of 39 people found this review helpful
  • The Woman in the Window: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By A. J. Finn
    • Narrated By Ann Marie Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8483)
    Performance
    (7841)
    Story
    (7811)

    Anna Fox lives alone - a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times...and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn't, her world begins to crumble. And its shocking secrets are laid bare.

    Debra says: "An excruciating listen."
    "Surprising -- not so much the book as the reviews!"
    Overall
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    When first considering this purchase I looked at the reviews posted here and noticed how heavily weighted those reviews were on both ends of the spectrum. It was either *Wow,* *Best of the Year,* or *Horrible,* *Couldn't Finish,* *Worst,* -- not much likemindedness or midsection. Jump to: I bought, I listened, then I tried to balance those incongruities with my own experience with this book.

    In my opinion, this is a solid middle ground read that requires a commitment to stick with the first 1/2 of the book and pay close attention to the groundwork being put down. This book begins not at the beginning of this story, but somewhere in the middle, the literary term *in media res.* With this approach, expect that the author is going to fill in the backstory as the novel progresses. Attention! What some listeners may have thought was slow or boring is the current lattice-like foundation that is constantly being filled in, so it's important to listen and fill in behind you, as well as keep an eye forward. You could say that the story literally sneaks up on you. Another factor in this novel: the narrator's reliability... let's just say it's impaired. The listener needs to THINK about what is going on with our narrator; take her observations with her condition(s) in mind. She's not exactly giving us misinformation -- you just need to be an investigative listener. You need to see through her *condition* and not dismiss this wounded narrator as unreliable. Let's just say she's NUI...narrating under the influence or NWI, narrating while intoxicated.

    Anna Fox, our narrator, is a former child psychologist that has recently suffered a severe trauma. What we know for certain is that because of the trauma she has PTSD and additionally has developed acute agoraphobia, seriously restricting her connections to the outside world. Even an open door or window sets her off. The author has used a formidable backdrop for the story, setting Anna in an affluent area of the city in a 5 story multi-million dollar home that she once shared with her ex-husband and young daughter Olivia -- both of whom she still speaks to regularly on her phone. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Fielding, and a friendly physical therapist visit Anna in her home once a week. Her meals and groceries are routinely delivered to her, as are a bushel basket of prescription medications, and a standing order from the liquor store for an impressive amount of wine. She has also recently taken in a nice looking male tenant that occupies the lower floor of her sprawling home.

    Anna/Dr. Fox moves through her dark house mindlessly, usually wandering about in her robe with uncombed hair and the soundtrack from a constant stream of old black and white movies (specifically thrillers) plugged into her TV. Seated at a window, she looks out at the surrounding neighborhood from behind her camera and zoom lens. She focuses in on a home where a ladies' book club meets, following along with the monthly reads. She is particularly interested in watching a beautiful home across the park that has had several owners lately. She watches them come and go, daily routines, a woman doing yoga, a husband approaching the front door while the wife's lover goes out the back, the cost of the home each time as the housing market rises. [Are you possibly thinking Rear Window right now?] When she's caught observing (*spying is such a harsh word) she puts down her camera and goes to her computer. She connects with a support group (her name is *thedoctorisin*), she studies French, and she plays online chess. But in her safe cocoon, it's her movies that she uses to escape her thoughts, repeatedly watching favorites in her vast collection while she guzzles bottles of red wine and gulps handfuls of the medications she keeps on the table in front of the TV. You'd think a doctor would know better, but she forgets.
    The author skillfully uses the noir movies to blur the lines of reality for both Anna and the reader. Bits of dialogue slip into Anna's conversations and thoughts. When she catches herself she wonders if those are her own reflections or something from the scene in a movie. ??Isn't that what Bogie said to Bacall in To Have and Have Not? Wasn't that a line from Dial M for Murder, or Rebecca?? Then one day, an unknown teenager rings her doorbell.

    Unfortunately, the author takes several hundred pages filling the listener in. But, if you can hang in there and really participate in this listen, it is enjoyable and more than averagely clever. The author has an impressive knowledge of old films and uses the references to color the story with an atmosphere that is really unique and fun. He might try a little too hard to shake you off track, and if you've figured it out, the ending might feel a little anemic, but overall I found the journey entertaining, and this an intelligent debut novel from the author.
    Fans of old B & W movies will have a leg up on other listeners and might especially enjoy this.

    You just might find yourself asking, *Which woman, and from what window,* instead of relying on what you assumed was a given from the title of this novel. Nothing here should be assumed, nor is anything exactly *reliable.*

    368 of 404 people found this review helpful

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