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Diane

Louisville, KY, United States | Member Since 2010

479
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 103 reviews
  • 200 ratings
  • 749 titles in library
  • 23 purchased in 2014
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87

  • Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Candice Millard
    • Narrated By Paul Michael
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2009)
    Performance
    (1751)
    Story
    (1750)

    James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil.

    Melinda says: "Marvelous, Magnificent, Millard"
    "An American tragedy worthy of Shakespeare"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This little remembered episode from American history is thoroughly American in character but also fully worthy of a Shakespearian tragedy.

    From Garfield, an Ohio farm boy who grew up to be a well educated man of deep and noble convictions, to his assassin, Charles Guiteau, a deluded political and religious fanatic, the figures seem larger than life. Then there are the "supporting" characters--Garfield's vice-president, Chester A. Arthur, a man transformed by Garfield's assassination: the political boss, Roscoe Conklin; Garfield's arrogant doctor, Dr. Doctor Bliss; and even Alexander Graham Bell, who struggled over an invention which might help save Garfield's life.

    I was moved by this book and the story it tells holds much relevance for today's world in terms of the pitfalls of political factionalism and the dangers of religious fanaticism. Indeed, it seems shameful that the "Garfield" with which most people are familiar is a cartoon cat.

    Highly recommended.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Visionist: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Rachel Urquhart
    • Narrated By Ellen Archer, Peter Ganim, Ali Ahn
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (49)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (41)

    In this exquisite, transporting debut, 15-year-old Polly Kimball sets fire to the family farm, killing her abusive father. She and her young brother find shelter in a Massachusetts Shaker community called The City of Hope. It is the Era of Manifestations, when young girls in Shaker enclaves all across the Northeast are experiencing extraordinary mystical visions, earning them the honorific of "Visionist" and bringing renown to their settlements.

    Suzn F says: "Insight into the Stark World of the Shakers"
    "Mystery Cult"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Having grown up a few miles from the original Shaker upstate NY settlement in the US and having visited several former Shaker communities in NY, Massachusetts and Kentucky, I was intrigued by the premise of this novel. The book does a great job of exploring the nuances of Shaker life as experienced from both the inside and outside, all in the context of an engaging story. While Shakers tend to be remembered today for their expert hand-craftsmanship, this was only one expression of their belief system, and while many of their beliefs seem bizarre, others have a startlingly modern ring, including the equality of women and a belief in the feminine aspect of God. Well worthwhile.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Smile of a Ghost

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Phil Rickman
    • Narrated By Emma Powell
    Overall
    (25)
    Performance
    (24)
    Story
    (24)

    Ludlow: exquisite medieval streets, an imposing ruined castle and a weight of history and legend. Wealthy, famous people come here to live. A sad teenage boy comes here to die...dramatically, at sunset, in a fall from the ruins. Accident or suicide? Either way, no great mystery. Or is it? Robbie Walsh was the nephew of former Detective Sergeant Andy Mumford, who calls on Merrily Watkins when his ailing mother becomes convinced that she’s still seeing her dead grandson in the town.

    Diane says: "Ghost or Not?"
    "Ghost or Not?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    One of the things I like best about Phil Rickman is his ability to walk the line between the supernatural and the mundane, all in the setting of a bucolic English countryside. He also understands the deep influence religion has upon us, whether or not we are "believers," predisposing us to accept or reject the supernatural, while the truth may lay somewhere in between. Perhaps that is "The Smile of a Ghost" referred to in the title. Another great installment in the Merrily Watkins mystery series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Secret Place: Dublin Murder Squad, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Tana French
    • Narrated By Stephen Hogan, Lara Hutchinson
    Overall
    (345)
    Performance
    (317)
    Story
    (316)

    "The Secret Place", a board where the girls at St Kilda's School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

    Pamela says: "Well...I really liked 50% of it"
    "Boarding School Game of "Clue""
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I keep hoping that Tana French will live up to the promise she showed in her earliest novels, but the last few have been disappointing and this one is no exception. Ms. French continues to write beautifully but the languid pace of this mystery tends to irritate rather than enthrall.

    The drama is set in a girls' boarding school, and much like the board game "Clue," we are placed in a contained environment with a dead body and 8 possible suspects. "Drama" is an appropriate descriptor here, as much of the story revolves around the angst of adolescent life. Even that, however, does not ring particularly true, at least in my opinion--the bad attitude of these teen-age girls, especially towards law-enforcement officials, seems to go way over the top given that a murder has occurred on campus. Occasional allusions to some sort of supernatural influences are intriguing but ultimately go nowhere. The sub-plot involving intra-office police department politics doesn't add much to the story except perhaps laying the foundation for a partnership in Ms. French's next novel.

    In the meantime, I'll keep listening and hoping.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Alexandra Horowitz
    • Narrated By Karen White
    Overall
    (246)
    Performance
    (138)
    Story
    (136)

    With more than 52 million pet dogs in America today, it's clear we are a nation of unabashed dog lovers. Yet the relationship between dogs and humans remains a fascinating mystery, as no one really knows what goes on in the canine mind. Now, in Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz fuses her perspectives as both scientist and dog owner to deliver a fresh look at the world of dogs - as seen from the animal's point of view.

    Chris says: "Not so bad"
    "It's a Dog's World"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book, recommended to me by another dog lover, is an odd combination of relatively dry discussions of the biology and psychology of dogs and treacly anecdotes about the author's dog, "Pump." As such, it does not work very well on either level.

    The book has its moments on topics such as dogs' eyesight and sense of time, and a critique of the skewed (by human assumptions) conclusions of some studies on dog behavior. Notwithstanding these bright spots, much of the material will already be familiar to any dog-lover, and the frequent and cutesy descriptions of Pumps's behavior, while apparently intended to make the book a bit more "personal," came across as an irritating effort on the part of the author to convince us of her own dog's particular specialness.

    The narration is slow (try it at 1.25 speed, at a minimum) which doesn't make the material any easier to get through. I am giving it 3 stars because it does contain a lot of information which may be unfamiliar to some readers. Still, if you're looking for a book to help you better understand your dog, I would recommend "The Wolf in the Parlor" by Jon Franklin.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Ghost Bride: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Yangsze Choo
    • Narrated By Yangsze Choo
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (104)
    Performance
    (96)
    Story
    (95)

    Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lims' handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

    T Higgins says: "Delightful, Original, Well Done!"
    "Frommer's Guide to the Chinese Underworld"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It is the time of year when I find myself in the mood for a good ghost story, but unfortunately, this isn't one of them. The premise is intriguing, involving dead and half-dead characters who exist on their own plane and sometimes interact with the living, most often in dreams. Plenty of potential here for eerie suspense and exploration of dimensions of human existence beyond the worldly. Sadly, this potential is wasted and what we have instead is combination of vapid romance novel and tedious travelogue of the traditional Chinese afterlife. There are aspects of Chinese mythology and culture which are of interest but they can't compensate for the predictable plot, 2-dimensional characters and cloying narrative style. Guess I'll still be searching for a good ghost story.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Love in the Time of Cholera

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Gabriel García Márquez
    • Narrated By Armando Durán
    Overall
    (463)
    Performance
    (404)
    Story
    (408)

    From the Nobel Prize-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude comes a masterly evocation of an unrequited passion so strong that it binds two people's lives together for more than half a century. In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career, he whiles away the years in 622 affairs - yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral....

    Darryl says: "Marquez is great, awaiting 100 Years"
    "Plagued by Love"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book has been sitting on my shelf unread for many years, so I welcomed the chance to listen to this audio version. I usually find classics well-worthy of their reputations as such, but I confess to being disappointed in this one. Perhaps that is the pitfall of having such high expectations.

    The novel is an exploration of the many facets of love from the heterosexual male point of view. The female characters serve mainly as foils--as the objects of male attention, intention and obsession. Even the main female protagonist, Fermina, seems rather 2-dimensional--her actions mainly serving as the impetus for the actions, thoughts and feelings of the men who are drawn to her.

    The cholera of the title is not accidental. Episodes of this plague occur at various points throughout the book, but more important are the parallels drawn between cholera and love. Love is likened to a disease--mercilessly consuming its victims and typically causing far more torment than pleasure. While certainly containing elements of truth, it is a fairly oppressive view of the nature of love.

    The prose is beautiful--evocative of time and place, if at times slow-moving. The translation serves the work well as does the narration. It is certainly a book worth reading once, but I doubt I will want to return to it anytime soon.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Them: Adventures with Extremists

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Jon Ronson
    • Narrated By Jon Ronson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (482)
    Performance
    (444)
    Story
    (440)

    Them began as a book about different kinds of extremists, but after Jon had got to know some of them - Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen - he found that they had one oddly similar belief: that a tiny, shadowy elite rule the world from a secret room. In Them, Jon sets out, with the help of the extremists, to locate that room. The journey is as creepy as it is comic, and along the way Jon is chased by men in dark glasses, unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp, and more.

    aaron says: "Dated but VERY Good... and FUNNY!"
    "Conspiracies R Us"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Although it has been more than a decade since this book was written, it remains as mind-boggling as when it was first published. Here, Ronson delves into Islamic fundamentalists, David Icke with his theories about reptilians in control of the planet, the Bilderberg Group and the shenanigans at Bohemian Grove.
    We are often left wondering who the real extremists are: Is it David Icke who maintains that world leaders are really reptilians in disguise or members of the JDL who insist that "reptilian" is code for "Jewish" ("No, he really means 'reptilian'" Ickes' followers claim)? Is it the Weaver family holed up on Ruby Ridge or the quasi-military force that took them down (a very sad episode)? Part of what makes Ronson's writing (and excellent narration) so compelling is the way he juxtaposes the ordinariness of every-day lives of these people with the often bizarre extremist views they hold.
    A both informative and very enjoyable listen.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • 1Q84

    • UNABRIDGED (46 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (translator), Philip Gabriel (translator)
    • Narrated By Allison Hiroto, Marc Vietor, Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4092)
    Performance
    (3576)
    Story
    (3544)

    The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

    A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver's enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 - "Q" is for "question mark". A world that bears a question....

    Dr. says: "Slow, Strange, and (ultimately) Satisfying"
    "Proust on Acid"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is both very strange and VERY slow (both in content and narration). The allusion to Proust is apt as it originates in the book itself which contains repeated references to Proust’s 7 volume “In Search of Lost Time,” best known for its obsessive preoccupation with even the most trivial minutia of daily life. A variant of Proust's style is employed in this work to describe a parallel fantasy world of 1984 Japan in which there are 2 moons, the world is controlled by undefined "little people" who emerge from the mouths of dead animals and humans to create doppelgangers of existing people, and in which immaculate conceptions can occur. Despite overly frequent references to genitalia, sex, menstruation, etc., erotic is the last thing this book can be described as.

    To be charitable, my guess is that this book does not translate well--either figuratively from a cultural standpoint, or literally, as the language often seems clumsy and stilted. Although there are frequent allusions to Western culture, the feeling of the book is more akin to that of the highly stylized form of Japanese Kabuki theatre--the characters seem to be stand-ins intended to represent concepts or principles rather than real people and it's difficult to empathize with them or care about their fates. There were probably some symbolic references which could have been gleaned from the various facets of the fantasy world, but frankly I was too exhausted from the book’s ponderous verbiage to have the energy to figure them out.

    If you still think this book might appeal to you, I would recommend playing it at 1.5 speed. I did this for the last 3 sections—it helped me keep from tearing my hair out over its excessively slow pace and actually enabled me to finish listening to it.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Madness of Mary Lincoln

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Jason Emerson
    • Narrated By Steven Roy Grimsley
    Overall
    (29)
    Performance
    (25)
    Story
    (25)

    In 2005, historian Jason Emerson discovered a steamer trunk formerly owned by Robert Todd Lincoln's lawyer and stowed in an attic for 40 years. The trunk contained a rare find: 25 letters pertaining to Mary Todd Lincoln's life and insanity case, letters assumed long destroyed by the Lincoln family. Mary wrote 20 of the letters herself, more than half from the insane asylum to which her son Robert had her committed, and many in the months and years after. The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the first examination of Mary Lincoln's mental illness based on the lost letters in 20 years.

    Douglas says: "Long overdue vindication..."
    "And now for the rest of the story..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For those who have a long-standing interest in Lincoln/Civil War history, or for those who saw the film "Lincoln" and wondered what happened to Mary after her husband's assassination, this book provides a fascinating coda to the Lincoln saga.

    There are many accounts which attest to Mary's erratic and tempestuous behavior during the course of her marriage. After her husband's assassination in her presence, she managed to more or less hold things together until the adolescent death of her son,Tad, finally sent her over the edge. Anyone familiar with Lincoln lore knows that Mary, though totally devoted to Abraham, was never the most stable of individuals--but during the course of her life she was subjected to a degree of tragic loss that would unbalance many far less fragile than she.

    My only complaint about the book is that its thrust seems to be a defense and justification of Todd Lincoln's conduct in having his mother involuntarily committed. I don't necessarily disagree with the author's conclusions, but I do think his interest in exonerating Todd does at time skew his analysis. Nevertheless, the book provides a valuable addition to our understanding of the Lincolns, 19th century women's history and the state of 19th century mental health care.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • AFRAID - Tidbits of the Macabre

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Massie
    • Narrated By Rebecca Clark McHugh
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (4)

    AFRAID opens the collection with a new poem, "Afraid," which plays with the question, "Why do we read horror?" The 13 stories that follow include darkly light-hearted tales such as "Donald Meets Arnold," "Sweet Kitty," and "Sink or Swim," the graphically terrifying "Pit Boy" and "Los Penitentes," the darkly sinister "Brazen Bull," "Flip Flap," "Triptych of Terror," "Bargain Basement," "Now I'm With the Invalids," "Next Door Collector," and "Thundersylum," and the other-worldly and introspective "Beggars at Dawn."

    Diane says: "Gallery of Grotesques"
    "Gallery of Grotesques"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A rather disappointing collection with predictable plot-lines and few original ideas. Narration was mediocre at best. Generally left me feeling sleepy rather than creepy.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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