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Music Man

I am a New York musician, a New York native, and a passionate reader of fiction. Audible is helping me fill in some serious literary gaps.

ratings
9
REVIEWS
7
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
0
HELPFUL VOTES
3

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Michael Chabon
    • Narrated By David Colacci
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (724)
    Performance
    (632)
    Story
    (645)

    It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat: smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Inspired by their own fantasies, fears, and dreams, they create the Escapist.

    Darwin8u says: "A World I DON'T Ever Want to Escape From."
    "Masterful on every level"
    Overall
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    Story
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay to be better than the print version?

    I am new to audiobooks and am reveling in their power. I'd picked up "Kavalier and Clay" several years ago and gotten bogged down by the sheer size of the volume--a real doorstop of a novel. But I'd always wanted to read it, and am grateful for this superb audio version. In that sense: yes, the audiobook was better for me than the print book.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The historical sweep, the sense of what World War II meant to Americans and Europeans on a personal, experiential level, the complexity and reality of the characters, and (as always with Chabon) the delicacy, respect, and sensuality with which he treats gay characters. I'm not sure where this straight author's fascination with homosexuality comes from, but he is one of the greatest of our "gay" writers. He dramatizes the struggles of Jewish people and the struggles of gay people with an almost uncanny empathy.


    Which character – as performed by David Colacci – was your favorite?

    David Colacci nailed everyone, but his portrayal of Joe Kavalier took my breath away.


    Any additional comments?

    "K & C" has the sweep and depth of a classic nineteenth-century novel--a book of great intelligence, imagination, and depth.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Blind Assassin

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs)
    • By Margaret Atwood
    • Narrated By Margot Dionne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (799)
    Performance
    (250)
    Story
    (248)

    With The Blind Assassin, Atwood proves once again that she is one of the most talented, daring, and exciting writers of the time. Like The Handmaid's Tale, this Book Prize-winner is destined to become a classic.

    Sarah says: "The Best!"
    "Fascinating novel, brilliantly performed"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This novel won the Booker Prize, and I can understand why. It has a very compelling narrative arc--it actually juggles three plot lines simultaneously--and Atwood's command of language is dazzling. Her turns of phrase, metaphors, and descriptions catch you off guard with their out-of-kilter clarity. (This is a book you want to quote.) She is able to paint characters of great complexity, to talk about sexual intimacy with frankness, to engage the reader as both storyteller and social historian. I was drawn in from the very beginning and had that delicious "book sadness" when it was over. Given that there is a story within the story, and another story within the subsidiary story, it might have been a less than ideal candidate for audio presentation. But Margot Dionne is one of the finest readers I have encountered yet, on a par with Prunella Scales and Simon Vance. Utterly fluent with the prose, she is able to give each character an immediately recognizable voice--cadence, timbre, accent. She made this multi-faceted book clear at every point. I have read some complaints about the recorded sound. No, it was not done in a quiet digital studio, but I had no issues with the continuity, the occasional background noises (birds chirping quietly at one point), the bit of hiss in the playback. If anything, it suited the material perfectly. This beautiful novel is in the best possible hands. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A Tale of Two Cities [Tantor]

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Charles Dickens
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (858)
    Performance
    (647)
    Story
    (684)

    A Tale of Two Cities is one of Charles Dickens's most exciting novels. Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, it tells the story of a family threatened by the terrible events of the past. Doctor Manette was wrongly imprisoned in the Bastille for 18 years without trial by the aristocratic authorities.

    Teddy says: "Truly a Classic"
    "A classic, honored."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am a fairly well-read person, yet I'd managed to miss this cornerstone work for my entire life. I am very glad that I encountered it in the voice of Simon Vance. He is a superb reader, with a fine sense of timing and drama. I was riveted by the story and (I admit it) I wept at the end, sobbed like a baby. Maybe it was good that I waited so long to get to this great book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Giovanni's Room

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By James Baldwin
    • Narrated By Dan Butler
    Overall
    (39)
    Performance
    (33)
    Story
    (36)

    Set in the 1950’s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

    Mike Sauerman says: "Great Classic - Can't Go Wrong!"
    "Baldwin: sensational. Butler: great. One caveat."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'd never read any Baldwin and it was high time to fill in the gap. I think "Giovanni's Room" is a good way to get to know this extraordinary author. The writing is filled with beauty, the characters are potent and alive, and Baldwin's ability to evoke time and place (cities, seasons, an entire era) is masterful. The tone is unrelievedly elegiac; the sad ending is announced at the very beginning, and there is precious little joy in the narrative. Every character is at some kind of impasse. But Baldwin describes everyone with such vivid detail that their dead-ends blaze in Technicolor.
    Dan Butler is a fine actor, and he doesn't fight the dolefulness of the book. He lives it. He has good timing, he finds non-stagy ways to evoke the characters, and he turns Baldwin's novel into a subtle, powerful monologue. He has variety and soul.
    What's the catch? Something that could have been avoided, alas. There is a lot of French in this book--most of it takes place in Paris, some in the south of France--and Butler has no idea how to pronounce the many, many French phrases. It's not merely that he has an American accent. Sometimes I simply could not figure out what he was saying at all. He's such a believable, sympathetic reader. I wish he'd taken the time to coach the French and get it right. He doesn't even pronounce the title character's name correctly; sometimes he gets the name "Guillaume" right but in the next paragraph he'll call the man "Zhee-yome." Etc. For me, a distraction and an irritation. For another reader, perhaps less of an issue.
    "Giovanni's Room" is shortish--a manageable length, and I think a beautiful entry into the world of James Baldwin. I am ready for more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Vladimir Nabokov
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, the first novel Nabokov wrote in English, is a tantalizing literary mystery in which a writer’s half brother searches to unravel the enigma of the life of the famous author of Albinos in Black, The Back of the Moon, and Doubtful Asphodel. A characteristically cunning play on identity and deception, the novel concludes “ I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I, or perhaps we both are someone whom neither of us knows.”

    Darwin8u says: "A dry run at big, complex themes"
    "A minor work, not well served"
    Overall
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    Story

    I chose this book because it was recommended by a musician I admire. It is Nabokov's twelfth novel but the first book he wrote in English, and as always his command of the language is breathtaking. But I was very disappointed by "Sebastian Knight," which seems to be a kind of philosophical meditation on identity, creativity, family, mortality, the very nature of biography itself. Big issues, but here presented in a navel-gazing modality that eluded me almost entirely. The book is so turned into itself that there seems to be no entry-point for the reader. I see "Sebastian Knight" as a study for "Pale Fire," which handles the "literary biography with unreliable narrator" with far greater interest and drama--and much more interesting characters.
    Nabokov's work is given a singularly inept reading by Luke Daniels. The tone of his narrative completely misses the color and rhythm of the writing which is the book's great strength. It's a bit like seeing Chekkov acted by, say, John Ritter. The atmosphere is wrong. To make matters worse, Mr. Daniels makes an embarrassing mess of all the French words in the book--of which there are a fair amount. "Tant mieux" comes out as "toned mew." Tone-deaf is more like it.
    I found a copy of "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight" on line and started to read some of the passages I had just listened to. Though I doubt I'll ever truly love this novel, I did feel that I had missed its true colors because of Daniels. My advice: go for the print version this time. Much as I believe in audiobooks, this offering did a big disservice to Nabokov.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Blood of the Lamb: A Novel of Secrets

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Sam Cabot
    • Narrated By Jason Culp
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Father Kelly, a Jesuit priest, is suddenly called to Rome to begin a desperate search for a document that could shatter the church. Meanwhile, Livia Pietro receives instructions: she must find a Jesuit priest recently arrived in Rome, and join his search. Thomas and Livia must race to stop the chaos and destruction that the revelation of this secret would create. Livia, though, has a secret of her own: she and her people are vampires.

    SHEILA says: "enjoyed it up until the end ... how disappointing"
    "A Thriller for Smart Readers"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This book has a very interesting premise--truly thought-provoking, And it is executed by an extraordinarily graceful writer. The story works both as a straight-ahead what-if thriller and also as a metaphor for issues from our current world.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    All of the characters have a vivid individuality. Any recommendations would qualify as spoilers. Sam Cabot (aka S. J. Rozan) evokes personalities quickly and indelibly. Whether good-hearted, manipulative, cruel, desperate, smart, dumb, perceptive, or deluded, the personalities are strong and believable.


    Which character – as performed by Jason Culp – was your favorite?

    Jason Culp has to do a variety of accents in "Blood of the Lamb"--upper and lower class Italian, English, Hungarian, Argentine, German, and Americans from Boston and New York. It's an almost-virtuoso turn by Jason Culp. I was caught up short occasionally by some mispronunciations (I don't think that will bother a lot of other people). The main thing is that I always knew which character was speaking because of Culp's inflection--whether 100% authentic or not. And he keeps the rhythm of the book going quite masterfully. He breathes noiselessly and reads with easy fluency.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I was held by the entire story, but the ending of the novel packs a real punch. I read it two or three times just to savor it again.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rules of Civility: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Amor Towles
    • Narrated By Rebecca Lowman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1761)
    Performance
    (1403)
    Story
    (1387)

    Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising 25-year-old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

    Emily - Audible says: "Like a Country Pastoral for City Rats"
    "First-class first novel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up Rules of Civility in three words, what would they be?

    Smart, engaging, surprising


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Tinker--because we only see him through the other characters, and therefore learn about him slowly. He is a man with many secrets.


    What does Rebecca Lowman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    She captures the rhythm and tempo of every character's speech, and brings each one to life. She is no slowpoke, but she lingers just enough for the listener to absorb the details of Amor Towles's writing, especially the dialogue.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It held my interest and fascinated me from beginning to (almost the) end. I was struck by the way Towles can evoke highly erotic situations without getting graphic. Laugh? Cry? Not exactly. Hang on every word is more like it.


    Any additional comments?

    I think the end of the book--the longish "Rules of Civility"--might be better read off the page, rather narrated by a reader. It was the one disappointment of the novel, and not a serious lapse. The story itself came to a graceful conclusion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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