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Brussels, Belgium | Member Since 2014

  • 85 reviews
  • 242 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 9 purchased in 2015

  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich: A Leo Tolstoy Short Story

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Leo Tolstoy
    • Narrated By Bill DeWees
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The brilliance of this story is in how a normal bureaucrat, a judge in this case, has a small accident that winds up gradually taking his life. As he deals with this incident, with hope at first and then despair, he comes to terms with his family, his life, and the mediocrities that we all suffer with, except for the exceptional few. This story rings a particularly poignant note for those in early middle age facing the next part of their lives. This story is considered Tolstoy's best.

    Michael says: "Great Book, Great Price, Good Narration"

    So this was a Tolstoy...... Hmph, the story doesn't say much except to reiterate how difficult and painful death can be, both physically and emotionally. The story is way too short to establish empathy for Ivan Ilyich! He was a judge. A game of bridge was his favorite amusement. All his life he conformed to proper decorum, becoming with age aloof and irascible. What was the point of life - both he and the readers may ask?!

    The narration by Walter Zimmerman was certainly not bad, but it didn't add anything.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rodin: A Biography

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Frederic V. Grunfeld
    • Narrated By Simon Vance

    Augustus Rodin was not only the greatest sculptor but also one of the most remarkable personalities of modern times. Frederic V. Grunfeld's exhaustive biography, the first in over fifty years, documents a lifetime of both artistic and personal struggle against poverty, against the conservative Salon, and against an art establishment that for years denied him recognition.

    Chrissie says: "Too much humor to be a textbook!"
    "Too much humor to be a textbook!"

    ETA:I always forget something!!! So, I am adding this. There is more humor than just that of the different opinions of Rodin's artwork, its sexuality, its cut morceaux and interchanged titles. In one of the studios Rodin had no doors on the apprentices' rooms. Pets were free to come and go. What about a Newfoundland sleeping next to you in your bed?! This was a huge surprise to one new apprentice. There is no way this book can be judged as a textbook, even if it is chock-full of details. These details are what make the book good. You see I am still thinking about this delightful and informative book.


    I picked up this book because I wanted to understand the personality of the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). I definitely got that from this book. I also got a comprehensive study of all his busts, monuments, drawings and sculptures. The book is filled with quotes, which are extensively noted. (In the audiobook these notes are read as they come up.) You hear both complimentary and negative views on the artist and his artwork. The story moves forward chronologically, thus you see how his personality changed with time. You see how his artwork changed and how the world around him changed. You learn what it was that made Rodin Rodin and which aspects of his personality never changed.

    There is humor, particularly when you listen to the different views voiced. Night and day. Lovers and haters. The author rarely comments on what others say, but both positive and negative views are voiced.

    I don't know where to start. It seems hopeless to say in a few words what makes Rodin Rodin. He was a man that saw the beauty of women and he appreciated their sexuality, though the word “appreciate” is just so lacking in passion! Rodin further convinces me that although artists are wonderful, they are impossible to live with. All his life he had affairs with numerous women, but he never left his first love Rose. He married her on his deathbed..... and within a year both were dead. He never acknowledged their son.

    The techniques Rodin employed in producing his artwork is also discussed. When he drew his eyes never looked at the paper; they were glued to that being drawn. He added pieces of clay more often than extracting pieces. He constantly altered. He wouldn’t stop until he was satisfied. He loved nature and saw it in a finger, a hand, an arm, in movement and stillness; in shadow and sun. And the names of his artwork, he changed them over and over again. The name was not the essential.

    This book is for me a clear four star book. I don't see it as a text book; it is too interesting and too amusing. Parts are scandalous, and the uproar that ensues is exciting! BUT, the book is extremely comprehensive and much is illustrated through copious quotes. The book not only teaches about Rodin but also the entire art world of the latter 19th Century and the first 17 years of the 20th. Very many artists and musicians and authors are covered - just about all the ones you can possibly think of and then add many, many more which you have never heard of! At times I got lost, when I didn't recognize enough of the names. As usual, the more you know before picking up a book, the more you will enjoy the details. You have something to fasten on to.

    Now a word about the narration by the famed Simon Vance. I thought Vance could read anything. Here his narration was a total disappointment. In fact I was often extremely annoyed. His French just plain sucks. Sorry for being so darn blunt, but there is the truth. He mispronounces French words, and there are lots of them. I would have to try and guess what he could possibly be trying to say. Cities and known artists are almost unrecognizable. Maybe I would have recognized more of the artists if I had been given proper pronunciations. Reims sounds like "reams" rhyming with "seams". The correct pronunciation is closer to "ranse". I am just mentioning ONE example! Rodin spent seven years in Brussels. Vance's pronunciations are so incorrect it totally threw me. I know Brussels! I have lived there. He also uses different pronunciations for the very same word, so it is difficult to "translate" what he could possible mean. I absolutely hated the lousy narration. I will never listen to another book by Vance if he has to speak French words. Never. Do you hear how annoyed I am? IF you want to make an audiobook version of a written book that has many French words, then get someone who speaks French properly! Four stars is for the written book, not the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Waiting for Sunrise

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By William Boyd
    • Narrated By Roger May

    Vienna. 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor, walks through the city to his first appointment with the eminent psychiatrist, Dr. Bensimon. He is sitting anxiously in the waiting room when an extraordinary woman enters.... Moving from Vienna to London's West End, the battlefields of France, and hotel rooms in Geneva, Waiting for Sunrise is a feverish and mesmerising journey into the human psyche, and a beautifully observed portrait of wartime Europe.

    Chrissie says: "Too complicated"
    "Too complicated"

    Too complicated. Too unclear. It is pretty meaningless to say that life is totally subjective.

    Narration by Roger May fine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jerusalem: The Biography

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Simon Sebag Montefiore
    • Narrated By John Lee

    Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of three thousand years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice - in heaven and on earth.

    Ethan M. says: "In-depth and gripping history of 3,000 years"
    "A history book with little about ordinary people"

    Let me explain my rating. This book was extremely hard for me - all the way through. I knew if I took a break with another book, I would never pick it up again. Nevertheless, the book IS informative and I AM glad I read it, but:

    -Books of non-fiction do NOT have to be this hard to get through. It is non-fiction books like this that make people think the genre is difficult. I protest. It need not be so, and say this with my one star rating! (Later changed to two because I did learn about the city's history. It was not a total waste of time.)

    -The book is extremely dense and portions should have been cut by the editor. One example: the very end, the “lyrical” ending of the epilog, which otherwise rapidly recounts all the historical events from the Six Days War to the present.

    -There are numerous derogatory statements that are completely unnecessary. These sweeping judgments are not suitable. Just one example: Truman is introduced as the "mediocre senator" from Missouri.

    -The author's personal relationship to characters of history should have been better clarified and irrelevant people with family connections to the author removed. I am not reading this book to learn about the author's family.

    -History's violence is on the verge of being graphically depicted in the book.

    -Even though this book is so extensive, it is best understood if you know a lot before you even open its covers.

    A word about the audiobook's narration by John Lee. I have absolutely loved Lee's narration of other books, but his narration here was a huge disappointment. The pacing is wrong, and by that I mean that the words in a sentence are not correctly emphasized. It is easy to follow, yes, but it is almost sung! So strange and so inappropriate for a book of non-fiction. In that every single sentence holds so much information, it is a book hard to listen to. I didn't need the pictures or maps included in the paper book since such is easily found on the internet. You do need access to internet when listening to the audiobook.

    It seems to me that the book's presentation of the three religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) is balanced. Perhaps I am not the best judge since I read this book to learn.

    Yes, you have to be a martyr to get through the whole book. It is over. Thank God, which ever one you happen to choose. I personally adhere to no religion. Look at the problems they cause.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • History of the Rain

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Niall Williams
    • Narrated By Jennifer McGrath

    We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. In Faha, County Clare, everyone is a long story...Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces, and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to her father.

    Mrs says: "Soul scarifyingly beautiful"
    "DEPRESSING and flashing of famed books"

    This book is d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g! Must it be SO depressing? It doesn't help that the end tries to close with a hopeful note.

    The book is about death and illness and how some people demand so much of themselves that they are doomed to fail. It is also about the importance of stories, our stories. There lies the wisp of hope embedded in the book.

    There are some beautiful lines, lines that perceptively reveal human relationships and some of descriptive beauty. I did feel the drumming of the rain on the skylight above Ruth's bed.

    The book is written for bibliophiles....maybe. I love books, and I have read a large number of the many referred to, but still this book was not for me. The central character, Ruth, is a bedridden girl of 19. She has decided to read all her father's books, the point being to discover who her father really was. A person's books do say who you are, don't they? She refers to these books by their number in her father's library. Yep, they are all numbered, and they are in the thousands. Poetry and classics. Mythology and history. Dickens and Edith Wharton and Faulkner. Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy too, of course. I objected to how she refers to characters/events in theses famous books as quick explanations for events and characters in her story. (The book we are reading is Ruth's story.) But you can't do that. The situations are not the same; the details are not the same, and it is the details that make a story. It all becomes superficial and cursory. For me this was a disservice to the original literature. In addition, the numerous references to the books' titles, date and city of publication made the writing disjointed.

    I didn't feel engaged in the lives of her father, her mother, her grandparents or great grandparents. All are quickly covered. There is too much in too few pages. Her relationship with her twin brother, yes, there the story came alive. Only here did I feel the love that bound these two.

    There is humor. Maybe half of it made me laugh.

    The setting is Clare, Ireland, after the bust, but the stories of her ancestors go back to the First World War.

    The narration of the audiobook by Jennifer McGrath was lovely. Her Irish dialect is beautiful, lilting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bertie: A Life of Edward VII

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Jane Ridley
    • Narrated By Carole Boyd

    Entertaining and different, this is an enjoyable study of a flawed yet characterful Prince of Wales seen through the eyes of the women in his life. Edward Vll, who gave his name to the Edwardian Age and died in 1911, was King of England for the final 10 years of his life. He was 59 when at last he came to the throne. Known as Bertie, the eldest son of Victoria and Albert, he was bullied by both his parents.

    Robyn says: "cannot fault this audiobook"
    "Well researched but gossipy in tone"

    The gossip drove me crazy. A good book, but you have to be interested in all the gossip that always surrounded Bertie. The narration enhances the gossipy tone.

    Don't make the mistake I did when choosing the book. There are two Berties. One was the great grandson of Queen Victoria, but this one is her son!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Hunger: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Knut Hamsun
    • Narrated By Kevin Foley

    Knut Hamsun's Hunger, first published in 1890 and hailed as the literary beginning of the 20th century, is a masterpiece of psychologically driven fiction. The story of a struggling artist living on the edge of starvation, the novel portrays the unnamed first-person narrator's descent into paranoia, despair, and madness as hunger overtakes him. As the protagonist loses his grip on reality, Hamsun brilliantly portrays the disturbing and irrational recesses of the human mind through increasingly disjointed and urgent prose.

    Erez says: "Book quite good; wrong narrator"
    "Crazy? Hungry? Both?"

    The basic problem for me was that the central character, an author in Christiania (Oslo), Norway, just didn't convince me he was really hungry. I guess he was, because his hair was falling out in clumps. At the same time he had such pride and this stopped him from accepting any help offered him. If you are really starving do you refuse food? One thing is clear. He was ether hallucinating, due to a lack of food, or he was quite simply crazy. I couldn't figure out which.

    The author, the Norwegian Knut Hamsun, was one of the first to use stream of consciousness writing, but since the central character's thoughts are so delusional I wasn't interested in getting inside his head. His thoughts are confusing. I hardly even felt pity for this guy, who seemed more worried about what others would think of him than figuring out how to solve his problems. I am being harsh.... Virginia Woolf claims one needs a room of one's own to write. Well, first you need some food and a bed and a lamp to write by. A brain does not function without glucose! This book will appeal most to those who are interested in reading about the delusional. I simply wasn't convinced he was really starving.

    You don't get a feel for Christiania either.

    The narrator of the audiobook was Kevin Foley. I have no complaints with that. He does women’s voices remarkably well.

    The ending annoyed me -he finally does something constructive. At least he was on the verge of doing something. My response was: “Why didn't you do that earlier!” Hamsun did not make me feel for this poor, starving author! THAT is the biggest problem of the book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Down and Out in Paris and London

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By George Orwell
    • Narrated By Jeremy Northam
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    An autobiographical study, Down and Out in Paris and London follows Orwell as he tramps around both Paris and London. Pawning his belongings to buy food, unemployment, drinking heavily and jostling for a place in homeless hostels are but a few of the experiences related with candour and insight in this unabridged exclusive audiobook. Orwell was arguably one of the first 'gonzo' journalists.

    Paul says: "A Superb Writer"
    "Report, Memoir or Novel?"

    OK, here is why I did not like this book:

    This is touted as a book of fiction with strong autobiographical elements. So if Orwell is presenting a book of fiction I want characters who engage me. I want a bit of a story. I want good descriptive writing. This novel fails on these points. It reads as a report. It is instead the direct retelling of Orwell’s experiences when he was down and out trying to survive in the slums first of Paris and then later in London. Probably the 1920s.. He had no money – at times, not even a few centimes. No job, no home, no clothes, no sleep – only hunger and cold and bugs. I am telling you his situation was m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e! He delivers a minute by minute account of his days as a dishwasher and as a homeless bum when he didn’t even have dishwashing. I do sympathize with him and his comrades’ plight, but if Orwell wanted to present this as a novel then the characters should draw me in. This is not the nature of the book; it is a report of what he saw and experienced.

    So, if this is a report then I must judge how that report is delivered. I disliked elements of this report:
    -the author’s anti-Semitic views
    -the concluding analysis of how the homeless’ situation should be improved
    -and in a report one need not include numerous verbatim emotional outbursts filled with expletives.

    I do believe Orwell’s experiences could have been turned into a novel about the life of people working in restaurants, cooks and waiters and yes the dishwashers too. The homeless and the foreign exiles. It could have made a marvelous novel, but what is delivered here is half novel and half memoir, neither one nor the other.

    Jeremy Northam narrated the audiobook I listened to. Set in the slums of both London and Paris there are numerous foreign exiles and thus numerous dialects. The only dialects that felt genuine were the British ones. The Russian dialect was ridiculously fake. The French was off too, and half of the book is set in Paris!

    Really, I did want to give this at least two stars because the plight of the lowest of low in the slums of Paris and London is clearly depicted, but my honest feeling toward this book is one of dislike. So one star it is.

    Read Homage to Catalonia or Animal Farm instead. They are better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Red and the Black

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Stendhal
    • Narrated By Bill Homewood

    Young Julien Sorel, the son of a country timber merchant, carries a portrait of his hero Napoleon Bonaparte and dreams of military glory. A brilliant career in the Church leads him into Parisian high society, where, 'mounted upon the finest horse in Alsace', he gains high military office and wins the heart of the aristocratic Mlle Mathilde de la Mole. Julien's cunning and ambition lead him into all sorts of scrapes.

    Chrissie says: "Slow and wordy"
    "Slow and wordy"

    No, I did not like this book. I disliked the intertwining of its two central themes, one being a criticism of French Bourbon society after the fall of Napoleon and the crazy, unbelievable love affairs. The writing becomes more and more absurd the further you progress into the novel. The language is old-fashioned, formal, complicated and wordy. I was bugged to no end by the excessive use of etcetera and etcetera over and over again. Perhaps that was a translation problem? I am not sure.

    The book is extremely slow, even if it does pick speed as it nears the end only to fall again to turtle velocity at the conclusion.

    This is a book of satire and by the end the author's "message" has been pounded into you. Events become absurdly ridiculous. I preferred the more subtle humor at the beginning. The question is - did I ever really laugh? No.

    I must repeat my earlier statement found below: if this is a book that is supposed to offer a psychological study of characters, why are my feelings toward Julien, the main character, only lukewarm?

    The famed actor Bill Homewood narrated the audiobook I listened to. The French pronunciation was fine but I disliked his added dramatics, even if perhaps he was merely exaggerating what the author intended to be exaggerated.

    So I did not enjoy the humor, or the wordy writing, or the incredible romances. I will neither be listening to Homewood again nor reading more books by Stendhal.


    Two-thirds through the audiobook:

    This is v-e-r-y slow.

    Be prepared for a multitude of pontificating old men.

    The language is old-fashioned and formal; it was written in 1830 and is concerned with the upper-classes of French society after the defeat of Napoleon.

    What is important above all else is your class. Will Julien Sorel be able to escape his class? He is intelligent. He is ambitious.

    And then there are scandalous love affairs....involving not only Julien but an older woman who really ought to know better because she at least has the experience of age! More importantly, the author's lines do not make me feel either Julien's or her passion.

    I do not empathize with any character. I do not dislike Julien, but I dislike what he is aspiring to. In addition, if this is a book that is supposed to offer a psychological study of characters why are my feelings toward Julien only lukewarm?

    I am not done, and I will continue, but.....

    Keep in mind when you look at the rating that MANY people close the book before completion and thus do not rate it.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Empire Falls

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Richard Russo
    • Narrated By Ron McLarty

    Dexter County, Maine, and specifically the town of Empire Falls, has seen better days, and for decades, in fact, only a succession from bad to worse. One by one, its logging and textile enterprises have gone belly-up, and the once vast holdings of the Whiting clan (presided over by the last scion’s widow) now mostly amount to decrepit real estate. The working classes, meanwhile, continue to eke out whatever meager promise isn’t already boarded up. Miles Roby gazes over this ruined kingdom from the Empire Grill, an opportunity of his youth that has become the albatross of his life.

    margaret says: "Hugely Enjoyable"
    "Sit-com dialogs and snide humor"

    After a bit more than four chapters:

    I continue to have a hard time with this. I find it extremely depressing. There is humor, but it is not the kind I like. It is sarcastic, mean humor where you are supposed to laugh at the stupidity or crude behavior of people. I protest; I like to laugh with people in happiness, not at people for our weaknesses. There is a priest that is demented and he wants to hear confessionals so he can hear what is going on and then he tells others. Now I don't think that is nice. Sure it might happen in the real world but how often? There is Miles' alcoholic father who continually throws out cruel, snide criticisms of his son and others. Miles' mother has died of cancer and her death was painful and horrible for all. I find this depressing. I am not avoiding the reality of life, but what is the purpose of sinking myself into the worst of man's behavior.

    Mid-life crises kind of bore me.

    None of this is a spoiler since I have not gone far into the book.

    Neither have I even mentioned the prologue which was utterly disgusting. I don't find it appetizing to read about a decomposing moose, even if it leads C.B. to make a foolish decision - BTW, here I am just guessing. Let me point out that I never shy away from gruesome events in history, but what is the point here in reading about how people behave so cruelly to one another? What does that teach me?

    There is absolutely nothing exceptional about the writing; the author's ability to depict an emotion, a place or an event is just plain ordinary.

    This received a Pulitzer. Would somebody who loves this book explain to me why I should continue reading. I just do not understand. SHOULD I continue? I need advice.


    After 14 chapters (about half of the book):

    So I continued; several said that Tick is a fabulous character. She plays a larger and larger role starting in Part Two. She cannot save this book for me. I find the humor not to my taste. I find the characters black or white - cardboard characters. It is simple to make two piles, the good ones and the bad ones. I cannot accept such characterization. People are complicated; they cannot be sorted in this manner. And the dialogs sound like those perfect for a popular weekly television series. Perfect sitcom dialogs.

    In desperation I went and read spoiler reviews...... No, what is coming is not up my alley either. Enough is enough. I will be reading no more books by Richard Russo. This is my third and last try.

    I listened to the audiobook narrated by Ron Mclarty. That was the only thing that was exceptional. Great narration. His intonation perfectly matched the lines. So if you want to read this book don't hesitate to choose the audio format and this narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David Copperfield

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Charles Dickens
    • Narrated By Peter Batchelor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Dickens called David Copperfield his "favourite child," and many critics consider the novel to be one of his best depictions of childhood. Set in early Victorian England against a backdrop of great social change, Dickens acutely observed the phenomena of the Industrial Revolution and used them as the canvas on which he painted the novel. Many consider David Copperfield to be the author’s finest work.

    Richard says: "Delightful Dickens listening"

    Peter Batchelor narrates my audiobook! There are at least ten or twelve characters that return over and over again. He narrates each of them with a different voice so you can hear who is speaking. However in places the recording isn't the best; here the words were difficult to decipher.

    Dickens is disappointing AGAIN. I have recently tried Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol. I will give this a fair try, all through to the end, but I believe it will be my last Dickens.

    Everyone gushes over Dickens so maybe an alternate view is good to hear occasionally too. I find it wordy, alternately cute or sentimental or downright drippy. The characters are simply not complex enough for my taste.

    I can conclude that I liked this one better than the others I have read by Dickens. Why? Because by the end I had come to care for the characters. I knew who they were; I could guess how they would behave given a particular situation. Some I disliked immensely, with others I chuckled over their peculiarities and others I alternately ached with them and smiled with them. The variety of characters presented was wide; this was entertaining. I cannot deny that Dickens wove a story of a group of individuals that became a close knit group, and the reader comes to know all of them well. All are important for the story, and all are different.

    You do see how life was for those of the lover classes in Victorian England. A struggle.

    But the story is extremely predictable. When Agnes enters the story at the beginning of the book I knew immediately where she was going to end up at the end. And Uriah Heap! You know when he enters the scene what role he will play, not the specific details of course, but almost. He is so very slimy.

    There is another serious problem with this book. David Copperfield is looking back and telling us of his life. So guess what, much of the action is told rather than shown. Isn't that a widely acknowledged no-no?!

    If I had to pick one word to describe the book? It would be CUTE I think it reads like a fairy tale. You are alternately supposed to feel a wide gamut of emotions - anger, happiness, fear, satisfaction. And how must it end? Don't expect a story that will get you thinking.

    By the book's end I was happy. So very cute. How can you not smile? Through much of it however I was alternately bored, wished there had been a better editor and was successfully predicting what would happen next. So I am afraid I can only give this two stars. It was OK. Sure, read it if you are in the mood for a cute story, a long cute story. I didn't waste my time. I know now clearly why I feel as I do about Dickens' writing.

    This is partially autobiographical, but how accurate is the relationship with his wife?!

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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