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Sarah

Member Since 2010

13
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 6 reviews
  • 40 ratings
  • 450 titles in library
  • 41 purchased in 2014
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  • Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Francine Prose
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini, Rosalind Ashford, Geoffrey Cantor, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (106)
    Performance
    (94)
    Story
    (95)

    Paris in the 1920s: It is a city of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club's loyal denizens, including the rising photographer Gabor Tsenyi, the socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol, and the caustic American writer Lionel Maine.

    Melinda says: "A Spectrum of Acceptable Truths"
    "Superb!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    It has been a very long time since I read such a well-written, and well-narrated [or performed] book. I found it riveting from the beginning. The story is a fictionalized retelling, through the voices of several contemporaries, of the life of an extraordinary woman. Google "Violette Morris" if you want to know more]. The technique of giving each person a different narrator, each with a voice sufficiently distinctive that you can easily tell them apart, is used to excellent effect here [I wish someone would arrange for Susan Howatch's "historical" novels to be redone this way]. The main protagonist herself, called Lou Villar in the book, does not give her own viewpoint, but we see her through the eyes of those who are close to her, although, in the end, she remains something of a mystery. Some of the characters are composites ["Lionel Main" seems based on Henry Miller with a touch, maybe, of Hemingway] and others are basically only renamed [check out the photos of Brassai on Google], and yet others are probably fictional. The title is a paraphrasing of the title of a real photograph.Some of the history covered was familiar to me, but most was not. Some commenters think the book is a bit prolix and long; I do not, because describing how a woman like Lou Villar [or, if you will, Morris] became what she became is not something one can do briefly. Francine Prose should be very happy with this audio rendition, which really brings her wonderful book to life. If I have any criticism, I would have liked a note at the end informing listeners who performed which characters.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Aviator's Wife: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Melanie Benjamin
    • Narrated By Lorna Raver
    Overall
    (655)
    Performance
    (573)
    Story
    (581)

    For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

    Audrey says: "The Megalomaniac's Wife"
    "The Story of a Marriage"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    This is the tale of two deeply flawed people, told from the viewpoint of one of them: Anne Morrow Lindbergh. And, it must be remembered, it is a novel, not a biography. Anne would not have felt that her own affair was in the same class as Lindbergh's -- why should it be expected that she would be objective about such a subject? I am sure Lindbergh married Anne because he needed an acolyte to make him feel more secure; repeatedly it is stressed that he only felt really comfortable tinkering with his planes and flying solo. He was uneasy with people. Anne, on the other hand, was, by her own admission, plain, gawky, and shy, and was thrilled that such a celebrity wanted her. Even on their pioneering air trips, she was his "crew", not his "co-pilot". He bolstered his own self-confidence by constantly "teaching" her, attempting to control all aspects of her life, and making sure she was grateful to him for it all. It took her a while, but she does describe him, after years, as a bully -- and bullies are always afraid of their own inadequacies.

    Neither was prepared for the celebrity, which was less common back then [I find myself reminded of Prince Charles and Diana, although the Prince was raised to be a celebrity], with its concomittant complete loss of privacy [although, during the time they lived out of the limelight in Germany, they actually found the cessation of publicity also difficult to live with], and for parenthood -- or for the tragedy they suffered. When you think of it, it was quite remarkable that Anne managed to surmount the pressures on her to the extent she did.

    Lindbergh's social attitudes, it has to be remembered, were not extreme for his time. There was a general assumption that the "white races" represented the best in civilization, and there was a pervasive attitude that Jews were "different". [Just look at an author like Dorothy L. Sayers for her "genteel" anti-semitism, btw]. Politically, he was by no means the only naif of the period, but his pronouncements carried weight because he was in the public eye. It is hard for us now to remember just how much has changed in the past 60+ years.

    A number of reviewers did not like Ms. Raver's narration. I found it very good, precisely because her voice is that of a mature woman, and because she is capable of emotion. Neither did I find the book overwritten. The sense of time and place is well-created; the personalities of both Lindberghs are well-delineated, with all their warts. It is difficult to make dysfunctional people [and relationships] believeable but Ms. Benjamin does so. In my opinion, this is one of the best books I have listened to recently.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Gilded Cages: The Trials of Eleanor of Aquitaine

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Ellen Jones
    • Narrated By Elizabeth Jasicki
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (48)
    Performance
    (48)
    Story
    (48)

    Tumultuous. Passionate. Timeless. The marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry Plantagenet was like no other, born of power, politics, and an all-consuming, fiery love. Within two years of their wedding, Henry conquered England and together they ruled a vast kingdom. At first they worked to unify and repair their war-torn lands - before being torn apart by intrigue, adultery, and deadly revenge.

    Dianne says: "Strong woman, who's story should be better known"
    "Enjoyable Retelling"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Gilded Cages is the second book recounting the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine; the first, Beloved Enemy, tells of her marriage to Louis of France and the beginning of her life with Henry II; this volume completes her biography. The story is well-known; the main difference from some writers' interpretation is that Thomas a Becket is portrayed very negatively.

    Apart from Ms. Jones' excessive fondness for the archaic term "sennight" [a week], which she uses on every occasion she can fit it in, I found this an enjoyable listen, and well read. Falls into the "ripping yarn" category. Recommended, as long as you are not looking for a scholarly work. Some of the episodes are more legendary than documented.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Winter in Madrid

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By C. J. Sansom
    • Narrated By Gordon Gordon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (81)
    Performance
    (38)
    Story
    (40)

    Winter in Madrid is set just after the bloody Spanish Civil War, with World War II looming over Europe. Reluctantly, Harry Brett looks for an old schoolmate who's become a person of interest for British intelligence.

    Annie says: "realistic characters in historical context"
    "Not Sansom's Best"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    I bought this because I like Sansom's Matthew Shardlake stories. This is not as good. Alan Furst does this genre much better.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Ruler of the Sky: A Novel of Genghis Khan

    • UNABRIDGED (29 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Pamela Sargent
    • Narrated By Bernard Clark
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Ruler of the Sky brings to life a time of often unendurable hardship and epic grandeur. From the windswept plains of Mongolia to the opulence and sophistication of the Chinese court, this is an unforgettable story. Set amid the barbaric splendor of the Mongol hordes, Ruler of the Sky tells how a twelfth-century warrior forged one of the greatest and most terrifying armies the world had ever seen, and conquered the world from Peking to Persia.

    Sarah says: "Genghis Khan, from the POV of his Women"
    "Genghis Khan, from the POV of his Women"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    This is an interesting approach to the subject of the Mongol conquerer, Temujin, better known as Genghis Khan, because it is told from the point of view of some of the women in his life. The names of his mother and his first wife are known, and at least one other wife, but I suspect that some of the characters are entirely fictional, and even those persons whose names have come down to us are barely known in reality, so the author has had considerable latitude in the creation of her story. However, Pamela Sargent seems to have done her research. [She does not contradict anything I ever learned about the Mongols from the books of Harold Lamb, a historian of the period]. To be honest, the Mongols don't seem to have been the sort of persons one would want for neighbors -- their lives tended to be nasty, brutish, and short. But Sargent makes them believeable people, not monsters.

    Bernard Clark is a competent reader, but a bit flat at times. Overall, I think 4 to 4 1/2 stars for this audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Tontine

    • UNABRIDGED (41 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Thomas B. Costain
    • Narrated By David Case
    Overall
    (24)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (16)

    Tontine is a form of gambling - part lottery, part insurance. It begins with the Day the Battle of Waterloo was fought and ends at the closing of the 19th century.

    Sarah says: "Sprawls Over Most of a Century"
    "Sprawls Over Most of a Century"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    This is a good book if you like really long novels which encompass [in this case] two families over most of a century. It begins just as the Battle of Waterloo is underway, and ends shortly before the 20th century. Large cast of characters -- sometimes a little hard to remember who is who. Costain is a competent writer, but I must admit that David Case is not one of my favorite readers, although he is somewhat better than usual with this book [the only other book I think he did really well was Margaret George's "Autobiography of Henry VIII"]. He can do accents, but his normal reading voice has a supercilious drawl to it.

    Inevitably, the main characters age, and so there is more emphasis on them in their later years -- the whole plot revolves around who will survive the longest and win the "tontine", a form of gamble where the oldest survivor will get the most money out of the scheme. This means considerable dialogue where voices are quavering [and even rambling].

    Definitely a "big read".

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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