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Die Falknerin

Painter, musician, bibliophile...

Member Since 2008

ratings
570
REVIEWS
105
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
28
HELPFUL VOTES
297

  • The Innocence of Father Brown

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By G. K. Chesterton
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (29)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (14)

    Father Brown is an eccentric priest with his own particular ways of dealing with crime. David Timson, having completed the whole of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes canon, a remarkable achievement, turns his hand to the genial but certainly not innocent priest! This collection contains a group of stories from the Innocence of Father Brown, told unabridged.

    Die Falknerin says: "Nostalgic, charming stories"
    "Nostalgic, charming stories"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I enjoyed both volumes of THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN. David Timson is always an amazing narrator, but here he surpasses himself as he renders innocents and villains with equal aplomb. Father Brown himself is unique and unforgettable, as are many of the ancillary characters, and the settings are varied and delightfully rendered. I recommend the two volumes to those who love a good short story collection, classic mysteries, or just long for a little trip back into a world forever lost to us. Enjoy them.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Birthday Present

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Barbara Vine
    • Narrated By Ruth Sillers, Paul Blake
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (40)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    It's late spring of 1990 and a love affair is flourishing: between Ivor Tesham, an ardent womanizer and rising star of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, and Hebe Furnal, a stunning North London housewife stuck in a dull marriage. On the eve of her birthday, Tesham gives Hebe a present to remember: a man arranges for his unsuspecting, but otherwise willing, girlfriend to be snatched from the street, bound and gagged, and then delivered to him.

    Louise Tremblay Cole says: "Atypical Vine"
    "Did she really write this boring book?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I find it hard to believe that Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) wrote this tedious, long-winded novel. Louche, vulgar, and pathetic are not adjectives I would ever think to apply to her work, but this story is all three. Contrasting this with THE MINOTAUR and many other excellent titles, this one feels as if it were outsourced to an underling. I found the story predictable and the narrators hard on the nerves. The book ends with every little detail explained, every loose end tied up, and some living all too happily ever after. Who reads this author for that kind of nonsense? If you haven't read her before, don't start here. And if you have, skip this title as it is likely to disappoint.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Headlong

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Michael Frayn
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (1)

    Celebrated for his playwriting, British author Michael Frayn has also written screenplays and several acclaimed novels. Headlong, a Booker Prize finalist, combines a heavy dose of humor with a fascinating glimpse into the world of priceless art.

    Die Falknerin says: "For art history junkies only"
    "For art history junkies only"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Frayn has written a novel that is pure joy for those of us who geek out on art history. For others, the long expositions may be information overload of the worst and most tedious kind! So if you suspect you won't enjoy so much of that, do skip this and find another. But if you love every delicious detail of art history, iconography, and painting, you're likely to have a great time with this one.

    With his background in theatre, Frayn knows how to keep a scene moving and the dialogue snappy. His research is prodigious and I was impressed with his breadth of artistic knowledge. I was never bored and enjoyed both the serious art historical aspects and the elements of absurdity, comedy, and farce.

    Steven Crossley is a great narrator, always pleasing to the ear, and perfectly suited to this title.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Man in the Picture

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Susan Hill
    • Narrated By Paul Andsell, Jessica Rushton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (35)
    Performance
    (24)
    Story
    (25)

    A mysterious depiction of masked revellers at the Venice carnival hangs in the college rooms of Oliver's old professor in Cambridge. On this cold winter's night, its eerie secret is revealed by the ageing don. The dark art of the Venetian scene, instead of imitating life, has the power to entrap it. To stare into the painting is to play dangerously with the unseen demons it hides, and become the victim of its macabre beauty....

    Janice says: "Fun spine tingler"
    "Haunting and evocative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I love Susan HIll's writing. She has many gifts, but the one I most enjoy is her ability to create a haunting, suspense-filled atmosphere full of sensory detail. THE MAN IN THE PICTURE is a jewel of a ghost story in the tradition of M.R. James and I loved every minute of it. The narration was superb. You may never again regard a painting of masqued Venetian revelers without awe...

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Portrait

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Iain Pears
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (44)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    An influential art critic in the early years of the 20th century journeys from London to the rustic, remote island of Houat, off France's northwest coast, to sit for a portrait painted by an old friend, a gifted but tormented artist living in self-imposed exile.

    Cranberry says: "Good, but tedious"
    "Even Simon Vance couldn't save this one"
    Overall
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    Story

    There are four reasons I believe this book is one of the worst I have ever read:

    (1) The artist is the narrator of the book and he is tedious and aggravating. Part of this is because the entire book is a monologue filled with cant and cliche. Many of the trite phrases from the artist are little better than what one might hear during a drunken undergrad revel. Also, the unending opinions about Scotland and the Scottish people are ludicrous.

    (2) Portrait painting is the passion of my life, so when I read a book that is ostensibly about a portrait painter, I expect the author to have done his research. Sadly, Pears does not seem to have any concept of what a working artist does. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but this book demands total suspension of intelligence.

    (3) During all of the ranting and canting, the artist attempts to instill a sense of foreboding. Sadly we see what he's trying to pull from the beginning. There is no sense of suspense, only of failure to interest the reader in what happens next.

    (4) Finally, we are supposed to believe that the sitter for this portrait is patient enough, and apparently stupid enough, to sit and listen to this garbage the whole time. Anyone with the character Pears attempts to give the sitter --- that of a strong-willed and powerful man with great intelligence --- would have walked out early on. But then Pears wouldn't have his captive audience to endure the painful contrivance.

    I've never read anything else by Pears, so I cannot compare it to his popular series. I can only say that with this book as my only introduction to him, I have no reason to believe he would improve on further acquaintance.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Jack El-Hai
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (50)
    Performance
    (46)
    Story
    (49)

    >In 1945, after his capture at the end of the Second World War, Hermann Göring arrived at an American-run detention center in war-torn Luxembourg, accompanied by 16 suitcases and a red hatbox. The suitcases contained all manner of paraphernalia: medals, gems, two cigar cutters, silk underwear, a hot water bottle, and the equivalent of $100,000,000 in cash. Hidden in a coffee can, a set of brass vials housed glass capsules containing a clear liquid and a white precipitate: potassium cyanide. Joining Göring in the detention center were the elite of the captured Nazi regime....

    Douglas says: "I Don't Understand The Complaints..."
    ""Between the admirable and the sinister""
    Overall
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    Story

    This book might have been a riveting story, but it lacks essential editing and direction. Additionally, the research on Göring is slapdash and many errors made it through to publication, which is unfortunate.

    I've read many biographies of Göring in English, German, and Swedish, and recently, Kersaudy's biography in French. These range from those written at the time of his ascendancy in Germany to those of recent days. Without a doubt, he is the most compelling figure in the Nazi regime and remains something of an enigma. In fact, the more I read, the more I want to know who the real Göring is. As this book says, he exists somewhere "between the admirable and the sinister."

    I believe El-Hai sees Göring's relationship to his first wife incorrectly. This is important because of the profound effect she had on the direction of his life. Carin von Fock-Kantzow was not, as he says "a glamorous blonde singer," but the non-working wife of a Swedish Army captain. When Göring met her in 1920, he was an unsettled veteran pilot looking to make his way in the world. Her ambition for him was immense, and as many writers have said, she was as vehement a Nazi as ever there was. Even on her deathbed she pushed Göring to return to Germany because Hitler needed him. Without her ambition, support, and help, it is highly unlikely Göring would have been as successful as he was. El-Hai, on the other hand, glosses over the effect she had on his life, and as the only woman Göring ever allowed to influence him and his decision taking, that is a critical misunderstanding.

    Furthermore, there is little if any mention of the profound personality changes that can and do take place after extended periods of opiate abuse. Megalomania is the most extreme result. If one takes an already over-confident, not to say conceited, personality such as
    Göring had, the exacerbation of these tendencies shouldn't be glossed over.

    The section on Nuremberg provides nothing new, and may be tedious to those who have read a great deal about it already. For those who haven't, it may be of some interest.

    I could go on and on, but suffice to say, those familiar with Göring's life will find many errors and laborings under misapprehension. I believe all of these would have been put to right if deeper research had been done.

    As for Kelley, I knew nothing of him. He is certainly an unforgettable, somewhat bizarre, character. However, El-Hai seems to be making a case that the way in which Kelley committed suicide was directly related to his interactions with Göring at Nuremberg. In my opinion, he fails to make his case. Psychiatrists do have an unusually high, and perhaps understandable, rate of suicide. I felt very sorry for Kelley's family and what they endured. Clearly Kelley was deeply troubled and it is tragic that he could not find the help he needed before it was too late.

    Overall, I would not recommend this book. El-Hai can certainly write, but I think this book was rushed. If he took the time to deeply research his subject, I think his work could be stunning. On the other hand, three of us read it and we all disagreed about what we thought. So that means the work has some level of vitality. You decide for yourself.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Days Without Number

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Robert Goddard
    • Narrated By Gordon Griffin
    Overall
    (24)
    Performance
    (22)
    Story
    (22)

    Nick Paleologus is summoned to the unyielding bosom of his family to help resolve a dispute which threatens to set his brothers and sisters against their aged and irascible father. Michael Paleologus, retired archaeologist and supposed descendant of the last Emperors of Byzantium, lives alone at Trennor, a remote and rambling house on the Cornish bank of the Tamar. A ridiculously generous offer has been made for the house, but he refuses to sell despite the urgings of his children, for whom the proceeds would solve a variety of problems.

    Die Falknerin says: "A modern writer worth reading"
    "A modern writer worth reading"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In "Days Without Number," the Paleologus children gather for a birthday celebration for the eldest at the Cornish home of their rather beastly father. They have received a generous offer from a wealthy man who is ostensibly interested in the father's house for archaeological and historical reasons. The gathering ends badly, with the father's refusal of the offer, as well as his usual voicing of complaints about how each of his children has disappointed him. The next day, he is found dead, apparently of an accident. But was it an accident? That, and many more mysteries, are at the heart of this compelling story.

    Gordon Griffin is a new narrator for me, but an intriguing one. He really brought this story to life and gave distinct voices to each character. I'd love to listen to something else from him.

    Having just finished Goddard's "Painting the Darkness," performed by the incomparable Michael Kitchen, I wanted to leave a review but found that the title is "unavailable." I highly recommend it also. In it Goddard shows himself to be a brilliant master in complete control of his medium. It has been interesting to see how his already excellent writing has been refined and perfected. He just gets better and better. Long may he write.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Miranda Carter
    • Narrated By Rosalyn Landor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (125)
    Performance
    (77)
    Story
    (78)

    In the years before the First World War, the great European powers were ruled by three first cousins: King George V of Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Together, they presided over the last years of dynastic Europe and the outbreak of the most destructive war the world had ever seen, a war that set 20th-century Europe on course to be the most violent continent in the history of the world.

    D. Littman says: "interesting and entertaining work of history"
    "Essential history in the centennial year"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    One hundred years ago this July, events began to unfold which would change the world forever. This book examines of some of the factors which led up to them as they relate to three of Queen Victoria's grandchildren.

    Miranda Carter is outstanding and her book is likely to appeal to many. It is not that there is anything particularly new here in the way of information, but that she tells the story beautifully and with great attention to detail, which makes the book a welcome addition.

    Those who have an interest in the era or enjoy biographies will love the detail and careful rendering of setting and time period. Characterization is skillful, descriptions apt, and the story unfolds with perfect timing and holds one's interest to the final pages as we witness the vicissitudes of royal lives.

    For those with an interest in the foundations of World War I, the view from the monarchies, as it were, is of great importance. Without hesitation, I recommend it to anyone who shares my obsession with the Great War, or who would like to understand its foundations better.

    I read the book long ago but returned for a re-listen this week. I think I liked it even more the second time around.

    Rosalyn Landor was, as ever, superb. What a lovely voice that actress has!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Barbara Ehrenreich
    • Narrated By Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (241)
    Performance
    (94)
    Story
    (94)

    Americans are a "positive" people - cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity. In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal 19th-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude.

    Susan says: "Finally an Answer to "The Secret""
    "Waking up to reality"
    Overall
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    Story

    This review is personal and not as objective as I like my writing to be under normal circumstances. I've watched as several friends and family members attempt to follow positive thinking philosophies, both New Age and Judeo-Christian. Invariably, the attempt has come to a bad end.

    Barbara Ehrenreich learned how pervasive the belief in positive thinking is, and just what this may mean to you when you're in crisis, through her experience with cancer treatment. While she didn't hold with positive thinking, but rather had it thrust upon her, others who do believe in positive thinking have had no less shocking encounters with its pervasive influence and the limits of its belief system.

    My closest friend was deeply involved in a New Age group whose main tenet was of the positive thinking "You create your own reality" variety. When her young son was killed in a car accident, she was told a number of things. "He manifested his death," and "You chose this experience for your growth." I watched in horror as her group of "friends" and fellow believers responded with coldness and trite phrases, indeed anything but support or understanding.

    Another friend allowed her terminal illness to grow worse without treatment because she believed she brought it on herself with her "negative thinking." Still another followed "The Secret" religiously, only to find herself less productive and deeper than ever in debt. It has been heartbreaking to watch and left me with much anger.

    Sadly, the positive thinking mindset is difficult to penetrate with logic. As when you deny a tenet of Freudianism and you are told, "You are in denial," in positive thinking philosophies, you may be told, "It's not working because you don't believe in it," or some other variation, such as "You don't have enough faith." Whatever the case, it's your fault and you may be ostracized for your questioning and disbelief.

    Why people "wishful think" there is an easy way through life is difficult to understand, but Ehrenreich's work is a meaningful contribution toward deeper understanding. The fact is, your body may very well "betray you" despite your care of it, death is certain, and before any of that happens, hard work is required to achieve anything worthwhile in this world. For some reason, no one wants to hear that.

    The narrator was extremely annoying and sounded condescending. Rarely do I think an author should read her own work, but this is an exception. Had I not been pressed for time, I would have returned this and read it on a Kindle.

    If you enjoy this book, I'd also highly recommend another take on the subject, Oliver Burkeman's "The Antidote."

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A Collection of Ghost Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By E. F. Benson
    • Narrated By Greg Wagland
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    E. F. Benson's (1867-1940) ghost and supernatural stories are marvellous jewels, that combine elegant writing with moments of blood-curdling horror. This collection comprises thirteen of his finest stories: The Man Who Went Too Far; The Horror Horn; The Other Bed; Gavon's Eve; The Room in the Tower; Ali Abdul's Grave; How Fear departed from the Long Gallery; The Shootings of Achnaleish; The Dust-Cloud; The Confession of Charles Linkworth; Caterpillars; At the Farmhouse; The Bus-Conductor.

    Die Falknerin says: "A baker's dozen from Benson"
    "A baker's dozen from Benson"
    Overall
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    Story

    Those who are familiar with E.F. Benson only through his "Mapp and Lucia" series may not realize he wrote just short of five dozen supernatural stories, of which we have thirteen here.

    Benson's world is very much like that of Saki. One gets the impression that, before the Great War at least, the most dreadful thing that befell these gentlemen was finding the contents of a soda siphon empty and no servant at hand to attend the disaster. It is not a world in which ghosts and spectral horrors figure prominently. But they do here, and this is what you can expect:

    (1) An artist makes a summer visit to an old friend with whom he used to share a studio. Stunned by the friend's youthful appearance and serenity, he attempts to understand the way he lives in THE MAN WHO WENT TOO FAR.

    (2) On holiday in the Engadine, an English gentleman hears the local legend of a mountain known as THE HORROR-HORN and has an experience which might put him off winter sports.

    (3) During another winter visit to Switzerland, we meet a psychic waiter who may hold the key to the mystery of THE OTHER BED.

    (4) GAVON'S EVE finds us heading north into Sutherlandshire toward Gavon Loch, Pictish ruins, and hauntings.

    (5) THE ROOM IN THE TOWER is a story of a nightmare come true. For many years, the narrator dreamed of being shown to a room in a tower "where horror dwelt." This story of a malevolent self-portrait shows Benson at his best.

    (6) When travel tales were very much in fashion, and the world not quite so small, a story like ALI ABDUL'S GRAVE and its description of black magic in Luxor might have been more exotic than it seems today.

    (7) HOW FEAR DEPARTED FROM THE LONG GALLERY is a classic English ghost story which takes place in the stately residence of Church-Peveril.

    (8) THE SHOOTINGS OF ACHNALEISH is another story of Sutherlandshire and, this time, of its hares.

    (9) THE DUST-CLOUD is a true period piece that will interest those who are fascinated by the "machines" of the early days of "motoring."

    (10) THE CONFESSION OF CHARLES LINKWORTH centers on a man condemned to death.

    (11) Reading the Villa Cascana had recently been pulled down causes our narrator to reflect on events which he remembers with a special kind of horror in CATERPILLARS.

    (12) AT THE FARMHOUSE finds a man desperate to rid himself of his wife.

    (13) The narrator's friend Hugh tells him of a strange hallucination in THE BUS CONDUCTOR.

    Sadly, with a few exceptions, these are not Benson's best stories. There is an unfortunate tendency that Benson had to tie up every loose end, as if to explain things neatly away. So as ghost stories, some of these fall flat. But as period pieces of a vanished world, they are charming and quaint.

    I hope Mr. Wagland will bring us the rest of Benson's stories, including "Mrs. Amworth," "Naboth's Vineyard," and others which are scarier. He has a pleasant, calm British voice well-suited to classic stories and I enjoy him very much.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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