Oradell, NJ, United States | Member Since 2005
Until Beautiful Ruins, I had never read any of Jess Walter’s work, nor listened to any of Edoardo Ballerini’s performances. But when I started listening to their masterful collaboration I got the same feeling I did when listening to Water for Elephants and The Help for the first time. There’s something special here, without a doubt. Ballerini caught my attention right away, as the novel starts out with a description of the Cinque Terre along Italy’s coast and is made even more beautiful by his impeccable Italian. Walter speaks of intersecting lives and flips back and forth between present-day Hollywood and the Italian Riviera of the 1960s, telling a captivating story of love, disillusionment, friendship, and the realities of responsibility that I won’t soon forget (and won’t stop recommending until everyone I know has a similar soft spot in their heart for Pasquale Tursi!).
Next up...everything else that Jess Walter has written and Edoardo Ballerini has narrated!
I found Hildy Good – lifelong resident of a quaint seaside town, successful real estate agent, "wine lover", and descendant of one of the Salem witches – to be an absolutely fascinating protagonist. Her behavior alternates between hilarious and sobering in a novel where secrets are kept and demons are battled. Through it all you’ve got the masterful Mary Beth Hurt’s performance anchoring you to this very original story. I didn’t want it to end!
The gorgeous cover of this book drew me in, but it was the unique plot that kept me hooked. Bernadette Fox is a certified genius in this novel, and author Maria Semple just might be too - in addition to keeping this story fresh and funny, she also has writing credits for the ridiculously wonderful show Arrested Development. Win-win!
And while it took me some time to warm up to Kathleen Wilhoite's performance - I feared her precocious reading of 15-year-old Bee would last all nine hours - I did get there, and was floored by her beautiful singing voice, which made a surprising (but delightful) appearance late in the story.
While the descriptions of food and all of its pleasures in this memoir are just lovely, I am more impressed by Marcus Samuelsson's storytelling abilities and his brutal honesty. Here is a hard-working chef who traveled all over the world and faced some pretty significant challenges to master his craft, and, in doing so, admittedly neglected some responsibilities in other areas of his life. Samuelsson's background and story are unique, and his passion and determination refreshing. But by far, the best part of this fascinating memoir is the fact that Samuelsson himself narrates it. His voice does take some getting used to - he sometimes emphasizes syllables that a native English speaker wouldn't, and pauses in unexpected places of his narration - but it makes the book truly come alive and it's wonderful to hear him speak in the many different languages he's learned from all the kitchens he's been in.
It doesn’t matter that John Green’s target audience is teenagers – his characters are smart, honest, and funny no matter how old you are, and the universal themes captured in this book are, well, universal. Terminal cancer may not be the most uplifting of plotlines, but don’t let that stop you from listening to this wonderful story. Though I’ve listened to John Green before (Will Grayson, Will Grayson was also really good!), this was the first time I heard narrator Kate Rudd, and I was most impressed with how she handled all the male and female characters – young and old, American and Dutch. I will definitely be looking for more of her performances in the future!
I read Blood, Bones & Butter last year and loved it so much that I recently listened to it for the chance to re-visit Gabrielle Hamilton's world (and hear her story in her own voice). The author's childhood was not an easy one - and the beginning of this book reminded me very much of The Glass Castle, another memoir of a successful woman with an unorthodox upbringing. But Hamilton is unflinching in telling her life story - and I appreciate her guts and her honesty, as well as her ability to write beautifully and cook masterfully. And speaking of the food... The wonderful, decadent descriptions of the food and Hamilton's cooking experiences (especially in Italy with her mother-in-law) make this a truly worthwhile experience.
I can't decide if I'm more impressed by the fact that this is Tom Rob Smith's first book, or by Dennis Boutsikaris' performance. Either way - it's a win all around. This is a very chilling literary thriller, both in story and in setting, but absolutely captivating. You can feel the fear and the paranoia in Boutsikaris' characterizations, and it comes as no surprise that Child 44 won a few debut fiction awards when it first came out and quickly became a listener favorite.
My colleague Emily recommended Delirium to me - it was one of her picks for the Best of 2011, and she raves about the book at every opportunity. While I didn't love the book as much as she does, I did find it entertaining. I was impressed with the concept - that love is a disease that everyone needs to be cured of - but found myself growing a bit impatient with our heroine, Lena, who took a little too long to put together that the government's restrictions were not in her best interest. And while the pace picked up in the last hour or so, which was exciting, it also accelerated Lena's transition from a young, naive girl to a mature enemy of the government in a forced way.
Despite these criticisms, I did enjoy the book - and, more importantly, I loved Sarah Drew's performance. She was able to channel all the different nuances of this full cast, and was especially chilling as Lena's already cured sister. Drew's performance alone might get me to check out the rest of this trilogy...
I absolutely loved being in Olive's world - learning about her husband, students, grown son, and neighbors. She's not necessarily a likeable character all the time, but I really appreciated that she owned her crankiness. She is authentic in her bluntness and exposing her flaws, and Sandra Burr completes the portrait of Olive with a Maine accent that is spot-on.
Yes, this is a sad story, but it is so lovingly told by Rosenblatt that it's worth the listen. The author handles the heavy topics of death and grief gracefully, weaving daily household tasks into this memoir of survival in the face of a family tragedy. I may be a bit partial to this story because I can relate to it more than I'd like, but found this tribute to Rosenblatt's daughter and her children very moving.
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