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Cassie Melnikow

Member Since 2009

  • 11 reviews
  • 173 ratings
  • 369 titles in library
  • 5 purchased in 2015

  • The Pillars of the Earth

    • UNABRIDGED (40 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Ken Follett
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Got 40 hours to kill? You’ll find the time when you start listening to Lee’s take on Follett’s epic – and widely celebrated – novel of 12th-century England. The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known...of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect - a man divided in his soul...and of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame....

    CynNC says: "Captivating"
    "Not what I'd expected"

    I was searching on Amazon for good historical novels and found this continually referenced. Due to that and its sequel World Without End being on sale, I decided to get both. Ken Follett primarily writes "beach read thrillers" as I call them. While his are revered among those books, that isn't my preferred genre but this book was supposed to be great historical fiction. This book wasn't far above a beach thriller in a historical setting. While the story line was interesting and I found myself drawn in by the characters, much of the story didn't match its setting. Many plot twists and characters seemed more suited to the 21st century than the 12th, as if forcing the story into a historical context somehow made it more intellectual. There were also several plots twists I saw coming from miles away, and had to wait until the book revealed them 2 hours later. Due to all the praise this book received, I was expecting something more thought provoking and memorable. Pillars of the Earth was decent enough for me to listen to the sequel; however if I hadn't already purchased it, I'm not sure I would be.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • House of Sand and Fog

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Andre Dubus III
    • Narrated By Andre Dubus III, Fontaine Dollas Dubus
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In this riveting novel of almost unbearable suspense, three fragile yet determined people become dangerously entangled in a relentlessly escalating crisis. Colonel Behrani, once a wealthy man in Iran, is now a struggling immigrant willing to bet everything he has to restore his family's dignity. Kathy Nicolo is a troubled young woman whose house is all she has left, and who refuses to let her hard-won stability slip away from her. Sheriff Lester Burdon becomes obsessed with helping her fight for justice.

    Lisa says: "Astounding characterizations, and wonderfully read"
    "Far from a favorite"

    I don't even know where to start with this book. A finalist for the National Book Award, an Oprah Book Club selection AND turned into a movie? Either there is something I missed here or the world has gone bananas. I did not like this book, however the narrators did a great job and probably caused me to dislike it less than if I had read it in print. The first half of the book was interesting as the author developed the characters and provided back story. As the story progressed chronologically, however, it got more and more bizarre. The actions of the characters were foreseeable yet illogical at the same time, making for a very odd disconnect. The story started out as realistic, then became increasingly outlandish as it continued. I don't demand all fiction to be realistic, but I would like consistency throughout a novel. I also felt the character of Mrs. Behrani was underdeveloped. She was ignored to such an extent in the first half of the novel, I was shocked when she later became a pivotal character and frustrated that her minimal character development was done through her husband's viewpoint. This book's summary sounds quite bizarre: two people fighting over a house. I was hesitant to pick it up based on that, and wish I'd trusted my instinct.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Junot Diaz
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis, Staci Snell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuku: the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

    Robert says: "Wondrous Book!!!"
    "Alright, but didn't live up to the hype"

    An amusing novel about a sci-fi loving virgin from Jersey, following him on his journey of life and love. For those in the know, it reminded me of a fictional ChrisChan. It does have quite a few Spanish words and phrases (some of which I wasn't able to figure out) and deals heavily with Dominican culture; while knowledge in these areas would enable you to fully appreciate the book, it's not essential. While I didn't find this book as good as advertised, it has a special place in my heart for talking about all the "sexy Dominicanas in Jersey City."

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Fountainhead

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Ayn Rand
    • Narrated By Christopher Hurt
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    One of the 20th century's most challenging novels of ideas, The Fountainhead champions the cause of individualism through the story of a gifted young architect who defies the tyranny of conventional public opinion. The struggle for personal integrity in a world that values conformity above creativity is powerfully illustrated through three characters: Howard Roarke, a genius; Gail Wynand, a newspaper mogul and self-made millionaire; and Dominique Francon, a devastating beauty.

    Zachary says: "The Fountainhead"

    It appears you either love Ayn Rand or hate her; there doesn't seem to be a middle ground. I find myself more on the love side and decided to "read"; this as my first audiobook selection since I had enjoyed another work by her (We, The Living) and this book seemed pertinent to the times. I enjoyed the book a lot and it had a good narrator (which I've come to learn is key). It got me thinking about my perspective on the world and noticing the architecture in NYC, as the main characters are architects. And despite her claim that even though the book is being set in NYC, nothing is meant to represent or elude to any person or place in the City, I can't help but notice that the Castle Hill projects in the Bronx are designed exactly as those envisioned by Rourke. It can get a little tedious at times, but is beyond worth sticking it out.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Hunger Games

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Suzanne Collins
    • Narrated By Carolyn McCormick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

    Teddy says: "The Book Deserves The Hype"
    "A waste of time and a credit"

    A girl is selected by lottery to represent her town in the Hunger Games, an annual Survivor-esque game where the contestants murder each other until one remains. The summary seemed more intellectual than turned out to be the case, as this was a beach read I was duped into buying due to its dystopian aspect. A true disappointment.

    14 of 59 people found this review helpful
  • Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Ben MacIntyre
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Eddie Chapman was a charming criminal, a con man, and a philanderer. He was also one of the most remarkable double agents Britain has ever produced. Inside the traitor was a man of loyalty; inside the villain was a hero. The problem for Chapman, his spymasters, and his lovers was to know where one persona ended and the other began.

    Scott says: "Intrigue and True"
    "Great real life espionage"

    A fascinating true account of a British double agent during World War II. About as close to a real life James Bond as you can get, and possibly inspirational as Ian Fleming was friends with Zigzag before he began writing the 007 series. The availability of the MI5 files results in a great mix of criminal escapades, spy adventures, and personality insights.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • What Is the What

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Dave Eggers
    • Narrated By Dion Graham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Valentino's travels, truly Biblical in scope, bring him in contact with government soldiers, janjaweed-like militias, liberation rebels, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation, and a string of unexpected romances. Ultimately, Valentino finds safety in Kenya and, just after the millennium, is finally resettled in the United States, from where this novel is narrated.

    Susan says: "A Story Aching to be Told"
    "You won't have buyer's remorse!"

    I have (unintentionally) read two books from Oprah's Book Club list, and wasn't impressed by either. So instead of jumping on the bandwagon and reading her selection about the Lost Boys of Sudan, read "What is the What" instead!

    I didn't know anything about the plight of the Lost Boys before reading this book. Not only did I learn a great deal about them and African culture in general, but it was enjoyable doing it through the eyes of the main character Valentino. The story moves between the present and flashbacks, which made it even more interesting because the author could present Valentino the child's emotions and opinions about the event along with Valentino the adult's without strain. I was overwhelmed by the hardship one boy can endure and overcome. While this book is a fictionalized biography, I assume most of the larger events are true, which made it an even more gripping read. The narrator was also fantastic, and I was truly disappointed when it ended.

    The only thing I disliked about this book, however, was the ending. Whether I wanted more finality or something more uplifting, I'm not sure. I just know I wasn't satisfied with the ending. But I'm still giving it 5 stars because it was interesting, engaging, thought-provoking, heartwrenching - everything a great book should be.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Alison Weir
    • Narrated By Stina Nielsen, Davina Porter, Bianca Amato
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The child of a scheming father and ruthless mother, Lady Jane Grey is born during a time when ambition dictates action. Cousin to Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, she is merely a pawn in a political and religious game in which one false step means a certain demise. But Lady Jane has remarkable qualities that help her to withstand the constant pressures of the royal machinery far better than most expect.

    Jt says: "Superior listen!"
    "Narrators bring it to life!"

    I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I am a lover of good historical fiction and this fit the bill. I found the diary format very effective, and the use of different narrators for the characters authoring the diary entries was brilliant. I loved the voices of all the narrators and felt they expertly captured the emotions and spirit of their individual characters.

    The story begins time-wise near the chronological end of the book, therefore about 90 percent of the book is explaining how the characters got to that point. I was worried about this in the beginning, since the suspense of the book's ending is gone and the book will fail miserably if the story isn't engaging. However I was so engulfed in the story, I found myself forgetting I already knew the story's outcome. I also became so attached to the characters that I was hoping for an unrealistic plot twist at the end to change that outcome.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or simply a well executed audiobook.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Road to Wigan Pier

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By George Orwell
    • Narrated By Frederick Davidson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    When Orwell went to England in the 30's to find out how industrial workers lived, he not only observed but shared in their experiences. He stayed in cramped, dreary lodgings and subsisted on the scant, cheerless diet of the poor. He went down into the coal mines and walked crouching, as the miners did, through a one- to three-mile passage too low to stand up in. He watched the back-breaking, dangerous labor of men whose net pay then averaged $575 a year.

    Cassie Melnikow says: "An Interesting Social Commentary"
    "An Interesting Social Commentary"

    I'm a fan of dystopian novels so I decided to give Orwell's nonfiction work a shot. I was pleasantly surprised with his commentary on the state of the English working class and socialism in the 1930s. The description of the work day and home life of the working class was quite interesting and eye opening, as was Orwell's commentary on the ills of society.

    Some of the book was geared toward English society and more applicable to a nation with a long history and more definitive class structure. Other statements still applied to current U.S. society, including some of his foreboding predictions (like eating unhealthy foods becoming the new fatal disease). I was fascinated with his foresight yet appalled at the same time that someone noticed this 70 years ago yet nothing was to head off or solve the problems.

    The narrator had a great accent and made the book come alive. Thoroughly enjoyed the book and the narrator. I will look for more books read by this narrator.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Middlemarch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 1 min)
    • By George Eliot
    • Narrated By Nadia May
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    At the center of Middlemarch is Dorothea Brooke, a thoughtful and idealistic young woman determined to make a difference with her life. Enamored of a man who she believes is setting this example, she traps herself into a loveless marriage. Her parallel is Tertius Lydgate, a young doctor from the city whose passionate ambition to spread the new science of medicine is complicated by his love for the wrong woman.

    Deborah says: "Human nature revealed in all its complexity"
    "Stick It Out To Part 3!"

    I have to admit I almost gave up on this book and based on the first half, it would be likely a 1 star. The first half is 90% introduction and description of a million characters (some of which prove extraneous) but the plot really picks up in the second half and makes it worth the wait! Since the book is about the lives of people in the town of Middlemarch, it has a much greater number of characters than a typical English classic. If you can make it through the first half, the second half is a 5 star...if you ignore the narration.

    The narrator isn't the greatest. There are long pauses between just about every sentence (I'm assuming from recording one sentence at a time) and definitely mispronounces some words. Sometimes you can hear the editing break mid-sentence and occasionally the phone ringing in the background. I'd gotten used to these annoyances by the time the book picked up in Part 3, but this is definitely the worst narration I've listened to so far. I recommend the book overall, but not to anyone who can't get past a bad narration.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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