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Cassandra

Member Since 2010

10
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 7 reviews
  • 22 ratings
  • 373 titles in library
  • 31 purchased in 2014
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  • The Magus

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By John Fowles
    • Narrated By Nicholas Boulton
    Overall
    (134)
    Performance
    (115)
    Story
    (119)

    John Fowles’s The Magus was a literary landmark of the 1960s. Nicholas Urfe goes to a Greek island to teach at a private school and becomes enmeshed in curious happenings at the home of a mysterious Greek recluse, Maurice Conchis. Are these events, involving attractive young English sisters, just psychological games, or an elaborate joke, or more? Reality shifts as the story unfolds. The Magus reflected the issues of the 1960s perfectly, and it continues to create tension and concern today.

    Darwin8u says: "One of the best novels that I really think I hate."
    "I hated it, then it intrigued me"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up The Magus in three words, what would they be?

    Read the whole thing. Yes, I know, 4 words.


    What about Nicholas Boulton’s performance did you like?

    Wonderful voices, male and female, different accents, brings the book alive.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Absolutely not.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a hard book to review without being a spoiler, so I'll limit myself to the process of the reader/listener. I spent at least the first third of the book developing a thorough dislike for the protagonist, as Fowles intended. I hated him so completely that I asked myself why I was still listening. This is not a women's novel, no surprise considering the author penned The French Lieutenant's Woman, and more's the pity: Fowles advanced about 85% to where he needed to go. Still, not bad, in the scheme of things, i.e., judged from the perspective of 2013.The remainder of the book builds the major theme, an examination of... individual ethics (now called "personal responsibility") ... in a modern way, considering the book was written in the 60's. That's a poor summary but all I'm willing to give away. It reads and feels like a 60's period piece to one who lived through the era. Don't worry, it's not preachy. A reader who likes to anticipate plot twists will have plenty of material to work with. Ultimately, this is not a novel about plot. That's all I can say. Finish it.

    I do have a quibble about the production of this reading. It included numerous quotations in foreign languages without translations. My understanding, not to mention my enjoyment, would have improved with translations!

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Prince of Tides

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Pat Conroy
    • Narrated By Frank Muller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2192)
    Performance
    (1351)
    Story
    (1355)

    Spanning 40 years, this is the story of turbulent Tom Wingo, his gifted and troubled twin sister Savannah, and their struggle to triumph over the dark and tragic legacy of the extraordinary family into which they were born.

    Ella says: "A "Prince" amongst novels"
    "Nicely constructed but over-written novel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Coming from a Southern family a couple of generations back, I can't agree The Prince of Tides captures the southern soul. It does capture an interesting and dysfunctional family whose generations seem wholly disconnected from one another until the very end. I do wish more modern novelists crafted their endings as well at Pat Conroy did.

    Frank Muller's narration usually gets high marks from me, but this was an exception. His (or the producer's) interpretation and rendition of Tom Wingo annoyed me enough that I had to slog through it to finish the book, re-narrating key scenes in my minds eye (to mix metaphors), changing intonations and thus emphasis.

    Yes, the novel is dated, and Frank Muller's rendition of Tom Wingo accenuates it. Tom Wingo could have been interpreted with more subtlety. Granted, there's only so much you can do when the protagonist rhapsodizes over American football and the author indulges about 30% more adjectives than he should have. The poetic flights were nicely handled, Savannah's poetry excellent.

    Bottom line: a good listen despite a problematic narration by a gifted narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (9862)
    Performance
    (9026)
    Story
    (9040)

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    Cynthia says: "What a slog"
    "The first draft of a very good book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Where's the rating for editing? The Goldfinch deserves one star.

    Author Donna Tartt is obviously talented enough to have produced a much better book. As it stands, The Goldfinch distinguishes itself by the absence of effective editing instead of by its rich, often poetic language, its unique characters, its imaginative plot and its almost-insightful message. I, for one, insist that a book that requires such an investment of a reader's time supply me with the whole package. Still, the component parts are good enough to deserve 4 ½ stars, the withheld ½ star representing my protest.

    Do the very significant flaws destroy the value of Tartt's work? No. The plot advances, if slowly at first, with good twists. The protagonist, Theo, is less interesting to me than the characters around him, especially Boris, who measures up favorably against the lovable scoundrels of great literature.

    Dickensian? Yes, but in an annoying way: little pawns smacked down by evil /random/ omniscient forces, little pawns never to to transcend their circumstances or their own flaws. The question becomes....why should I care? It's old news. The exposition on the psychic causes of Theo's behavior is almost a throw-away eclipsed by Tartt's preachy exposition. The greatest annoyance is that the editorial flaws accumulate and multiply, like slush on a snow plow.

    Narrator David Pittu does excellent work here, especially conveying Theo's perspective on the world as he sees it underwater from the bottom of a deep well. I admired his handling of difficult vocabulary and accents, and I was sorry to leave him.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Valley of Amazement

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Amy Tan
    • Narrated By Nancy Wu, Joyce Bean, Amy Tan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1162)
    Performance
    (1027)
    Story
    (1043)

    Shanghai, 1912. Violet Minturn is the privileged daughter of the American madam of the city's most exclusive courtesan house. But when the Ching dynasty is overturned, Violet is separated from her mother in a cruel act of chicanery and forced to become a "virgin courtesan." Half-Chinese and half-American, Violet grapples with her place in the worlds of East and West - until she is able to merge her two halves, empowering her to become a shrewd courtesan who excels in the business of seduction and illusion, though she still struggles to understand who she is.

    Pamela J says: "Just could NOT get past the ugliness"
    "You won't miss much if you skip it"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    I've read an enjoyed four of Amy Tan's earlier books. Maybe it's me moving on. Maybe it's Ms Tan moving on. Whatever the cause, my enjoyment has diminished with each successive book. I'm at the point of wondering if it's time to reread The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife to reevaluate my strong affinity for those works.

    This is the first Tan novel I've listened to on tape. I despised the stilted narration in the early chapters in Violet's voice. I barely hung in to finish the book. The only chapter I thought was acceptably narrated was close to the end, the chapter describing Lucretia's later life. I still can't tell if the narration destroyed my enjoyment of the story or if narration and character development equally disappointed. Fundamentally, I didn't feel much connection to the characters and their struggles, didn't understand and accept their reactions to life events, and couldn't sympathize deeply with their plights because their actions didn't feel authentic. The Valley of Amazement was entirely too much of a soap opera, where the characters repeat stupid life mistakes and wallow in the misery that results.

    The background material about life in a Shanghai courtesan house was interesting as far as it went, which wasn't far enough. Autobiography of a Geisha did a marginally better job of describing the life of a courtesan and the individual's acceptance and reaction to that life. Yes, I know, that was an autobiography about a geisha in Japan, not a novel. It felt so much more authentic to me without sacrificing my sympathy for the geisha.

    The final indignity was the ending. The story just stopped. Grrr.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Allegiant: Divergent Trilogy, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Veronica Roth
    • Narrated By Emma Galvin, Aaron Stanford
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8684)
    Performance
    (7942)
    Story
    (8027)

    What if your whole world was a lie? What if a single revelation - like a single choice - changed everything? What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected? The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times best-selling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of listeners in Divergent and Insurgent.

    Judy says: "What a let down!"
    "Preachy, slow and lackluster"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you try another book from Veronica Roth and/or Emma Galvin and Aaron Stanford ?

    Someone else is going to be the beta tester on future Roth novels. Allegiant had the feel of a hurry-up production patched together at the last minute to meet a deadline for an advance, a first draft.


    Has Allegiant turned you off from other books in this genre?

    I like a good teen angst novel as much as the next reader. I also like my dystopia raw. Sadly, Book 3 tracks a steady decline in quality that started in the middle of Book 2. Tris and Tobias' internal conflicts are narrated rather than illustrated. That's just plain dull, but then, how could it not be, given the plot and central venue? The plot was uninspired in contrast to Divergent. Overall, I give it a C- or D as creative writing.


    Any additional comments?

    I hammered the overall rating because Book 3 ruined what could have been a good series. The final plot twist was predictable, disturbing and unsatisfying. The whole experience was a big thumbs down.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Conquistadora

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Esmeralda Santiago
    • Narrated By Esmeralda Santiago
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (55)
    Performance
    (40)
    Story
    (41)

    As a young girl growing up in Spain, Ana Larragoity Cubillas is powerfully drawn to Puerto Rico by the diaries of an ancestor who traveled there with Ponce de León. And in handsome twin brothers Ramón and Inocente - both in love with Ana - she finds a way to get there. She marries Ramón, and in 1844, just 18, she travels across the ocean to a remote sugar plantation the brothers have inherited on the island. Ana faces unrelenting heat, disease and isolation, and the dangers of the untamed countryside....

    janice says: "Conquuistadora"
    "A Soap Opera Set In Colonial Puerto Rico"
    Overall

    I sometimes read historical novels to pick up little of the feel of a place. This one doesn't ring true. Conquistadora is written like a soap opera. The narrator, who is the author, reads like my 3rd grade teacher. I initially thought I'd picked up juvenile fiction by mistake. But descriptions of unconventional sexual conduct put that impression to rest. It's full of anachronisms ("infrastructure" in 1840?) that ruin the tone. And...it's a cliff hanger at the end. Nope, not my cuppa tea, but I did finish it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (49 hrs)
    • By George R. R. Martin
    • Narrated By Roy Dotrice
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13267)
    Performance
    (11644)
    Story
    (11690)

    Dubbed the American Tolkien by Time magazine, George R. R. Martin has earned international acclaim for his monumental cycle of epic fantasy. Now the number-one New York Times best-selling author delivers the fifth book in his spellbinding landmark series - as both familiar faces and surprising new forces vie for a foothold in a fragmented empire.

    Ryan says: "Enjoyable, but a lot of setup"
    "Glad Roy Dotrice is reading"
    Overall

    After John Lee's narration of A Feast For Crows, it was a relief to find Roy Dotrice as narrator again in A Dance With Dragons. I'm no happier than anyone else about the voice changes, but I'm grateful I didn't have to suffer any more of John Lee's interpretation. It almost turned me into a hard copy reader. Yes, it feels like the series has become formulaic, but I'll say the obvious: we're hooked.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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