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Ilinca

Romania | Member Since 2010

ratings
155
REVIEWS
47
FOLLOWING
1
FOLLOWERS
9
HELPFUL VOTES
75

  • Sweet Tooth

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Ian McEwan
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (119)
    Performance
    (104)
    Story
    (102)

    Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence services. The year is 1972. Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency.

    Christopher says: "Superb and surprising"
    "MI5 romance"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It starts off as an interesting promise of a story of literature and espionage, just as the blurbs advertise. Halfway through you realize it's neither; it's really a story of relationships (one in particular) and the power games that go into them. Which might be interesting in itself, if it weren't, well, not very interesting. A character who's not particularly bright falls for a character who's utterly unlikable. Then half the book is spent waiting for something terrible to happen, some major disgrace that is mentioned at the beginning. Then the book ends.
    I, for one, though I liked other books by McEwan, found it difficult to be interested in these characters and felt cheated in many promises, of plot or depth, that they can't fulfill. I did find it easy to read through (listen to, in fact) to the end. But it should advertise as an intelligent soapy story incidentally set within MI5.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A Tale for the Time Being

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Ruth Ozeki
    • Narrated By Ruth Ozeki
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (423)
    Performance
    (380)
    Story
    (379)

    In Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace - and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox - possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami.

    Karen says: "Engaging story beautifully read"
    "late to the postmodernist party"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Ruth Ozeki is about 20 years late to the postmodernist party.
    Sure, you have to go two thirds into the book to realize that's what it is, but once you get there, it can't be undone.

    ***Spoiler alert:

    The reader writing the book she's reading, zen Buddhism and quantum philosophy, it's all a bit silly after John Hawkes and Pynchon and Alasdair Gray all that.
    She is, however, a good writer - and a very good reader (on Audible). Hence the three stars.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7392)
    Performance
    (6778)
    Story
    (6782)

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
    "pseudo-philosophical fluff meets humorless Dickens"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If the reviewers have been so unanimous in comparing The Goldfinch to a Dickens novel, it's because it obviously tries to be one. Either that or Fielding, I'm not sure. (Though she lacks the humor of both.) The segues between stations are sometimes as subtle as if Tartt had actually said "and thus Theo stepped out of the party and into what was to be the next station along his journey". The wide-encompassing view of society is almost too all over the place, from WASP to white trash to art dealer to shady Europeans, drug dealers and mobsters and what not.

    My feeling: Donna Tartt does not have a very good grasp of real life and real people. She is also not interested in endowing her main character with agency (or, arguably, intelligence). Theo is amazingly inert throughout his life; the only bit of agency he displays is grabbing the painting - which at same time renders him implausible from the outset, and renders the novel a rather clumsy literary artefact.
    Others have pointed out the implausible bits in the novel, and it is painful to even remember them - starting with the pseudo-shakespearian moment of a character discoursing on Everything as he is dying, to the helpful gypsy-like character of Boris, which is like something out of Dickens or like the reindeer gypsy girl in an Andersen fairy tale, only with drugs instead of reindeer.
    Also, with the last chapter Donna Tartt displays a very distressing inclination to just gush out a stream of words and sentences with some semblance of depth, but which turn out, upon closer inspection, to be fluff and pseudo-philosophical nonsense (Music is the space between notes? Beauty changes the grain of reality?) that seem to make sense when you're 16 and falling in love with The Important Things In Life, but then you grow up and realize the best literature is not made up of Important Sounding Sentences.

    More to the point, this is a novel that leaves you with nothing. It's not bad, it's not badly written, it's just one more novel that wants to be more than it can be.
    I, for one, think Donna Tart needs to live a little, go out more, understand agency, and narrow her writing down to things she actually knows and understands: less showy, more real.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Husband's Secret

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Liane Moriarty
    • Narrated By Caroline Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2642)
    Performance
    (2359)
    Story
    (2379)

    Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret - something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive....

    FanB14 says: "Soap Opera Digest"
    "simple, not in a very good way"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jodi Picoult fans will love it. I'm not a Jodi Picoult fan, so I didn't love it, or even like it, really. But I did finish it, and admit it may possibly be a bit better than Picoult's tearjerkers. It does have a few insights - not on a grand scale, not when it comes to the thick threads of the novel - which are woven in with a very heavy hand, maddeningly predictable coincidences and plot lines and all - but small ones, on a small scale. Other than that, everyone is doing well at home, in school, in bed, at their jobs - except for their own private hybris which must be expunged, on a smaller or larger scale. Who knew it was so simple.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Circle

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Dave Eggers
    • Narrated By Dion Graham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (853)
    Performance
    (777)
    Story
    (787)

    When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users' personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company's modernity and activity.

    Darwin8u says: "A solid, just not great social network dystopia"
    "silly one-trick pony"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There is no reward to reading this silly, silly book. It has the intellectual depth of a puddle of water. I can't begin to explain the ways it fails its readers. Imagine someone with very little understanding of society, the human mind, civilization or technology (something like a cross between a 12 year-old boy raised by overbearing aunts and an 80 year-old recluse who reads fringe American socialist newsletters in a dingy kitchen) take up the Google scare and run away with it. Then turn it into a novel.
    I could not believe this novel was written by the guy who wrote A Heartbreaking Work. And I didn't even like that one that much. But it sure was not a uni-dimensional piece of silliness.
    Here's the gist of it: Dave Eggers is building a straw man (Mae) in order to make a point about the dangers of interconnectedness and visibility in the digital age.
    The problem is, you can't build an argument by using a straw man. Why is Mae special? Why is she, despite consistent proof of silliness, singled out for anything - climbing through the ranks, having millions of followers, doing presentations of programs to which she did not contribute, being a sex object, being the potential cog in the wheel, being a point of interest for anyone inside the novel, let alone outside? The answer is, she is singled out because Dave Eggers had just one silly idea for this novel, and this was it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Stephen Greenblatt
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (847)
    Performance
    (725)
    Story
    (721)

    Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late 30s took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic by Lucretius—a beautiful poem containing the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles.

    Ethan M. says: "Very compelling history, a less compelling thesis"
    "well worth reading"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The story of how, in the early 15th century, former papal secretary Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini found the lost text of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura might not seem like a riveting read. I hesitated before buying it, thinking that I knew how it was going to go: Lucretius's text would be lost for about 1450 years, then Poggio would find it and then the poem would be influential in promoting non-Christian, perhaps even atheist thinking in the very Christian Western world.
    That's pretty much how it does go, too. The only thing is, it's still very interesting. Poggio himself is just an instrument with little actual importance, though Greenblatt makes much of his origins and career. This bit is, to be honest, fluff - but it does give some ingisht into the period. More interesting, though somewhat shoved in through the back door, were the stories of Bruno and Galileo and their face-offs with the Inquisition. Also very interesting is the discussion of ancient philosophy and the Epicurean tradition and Lucretius himself, though there is so very little to say about him that not even Greenblatt manages to summon up a plausible, flesh-and-bone historical figure.
    However, the most interesting bit is the actual applied discussion of the actual text. I haven't read De Rerum Natura, except perhaps a couple of lines in high school or college when discussing world literature or something. Now I'm discovering an amazing poet.
    I'm not buying Greenblatt's thesis wholesale (that the world was "made modern" through the discovery of this one poem), but I was compelled by his obvious pleasure in the text (and I'm still moved by his love for Shakespeare, which I absolutely share, but that's by the way). And so, no regrets: this little book is absolutely worth reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Foundations of Western Civilization II: A History of the Modern Western World

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Bucholz
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (53)
    Story
    (53)

    Beginning with the Renaissance, the culture of the West exploded. Over the next 600 years, rapid innovations in philosophy, technology, economics, military affairs, and politics allowed what had once been a cultural backwater left by the collapse of the Roman Empire to dominate the world. This comprehensive series of 48 lectures by an award-winning teacher and captivating lecturer will show you how - and why - this extraordinary transformation took place.

    Ilinca says: "good intro"
    "good intro"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Quite a good intro. Heavy on some topics, rather light on others, but overall very enjoyable. Except for the last chapter, where all the philosophizing on the meaning of civilization left me cold.
    Other than that, and up to that point, it does the job very well.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Professor and the Madman

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Simon Winchester
    • Narrated By Simon Winchester
    Overall
    (1457)
    Performance
    (655)
    Story
    (663)

    Part history, part true-crime, and entirely entertaining, listen to the story of how the behemoth Oxford English Dictionary was made. You'll hang on every word as you discover that the dictionary's greatest contributor was also an insane murderer working from the confines of an asylum.

    Jerry says: "Perfect example of a quality audible book."
    "fascinating little thing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    **some spoilers ahead**
    It's a rather flimsy, but thoroughly enjoyable little incursion into the story of William Chester Minor, one of the most important contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary. The relevant arc starts with him as a surgeon in the Union Army and ends with his death back in the States.
    I call it flimsy because it's only interesting or important in the sense that we all like to pry into the hidden lives of celebrities, and this touches that exact chord.
    It is, nevertheless, fascinating. Minor served during the Civil War and, the theory goes, had a crucial moment when he was forced to brand an Irish deserter. We don't know that this is what caused his sexual obsessions (wouldn't it be weird if it did), but it was almost certainly what caused his belief that Irish men were constantly after him, invading his room at night and performing strange rituals on him. Increasingly erratic, sexually obsessed and paranoid, he was admitted to a lunatic asylum, which - as happened more often than not in those days - did nothing to cure or improve his condition. He left for England, where, one might almost say "in due course", he shot a man and was then incarcerated, in a modern move, at the Broadmoor asylum. And here he was to stay for over 30 years, settling into very comfortable quarters and carrying on with the exact same paranoid delusions about Irish men springing up from the floorboards at night and taking him to various brothels where he was forced to perform shameful sexual acts on girls. Nighttime delusions notwithstanding, he also managed to accumulate an impressive collection of books and contribute a huge number of entries and quotations to the OED, while at some point also cutting off his penis to punish himself for compulsive masturbation.
    The book is also interesting in its tangential details about Broadmoor and the making of the OED. All in all, as I said, flimsy but interesting.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Dinner

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Herman Koch
    • Narrated By Clive Mantle
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (35)
    Performance
    (31)
    Story
    (32)

    A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son.

    Ilinca says: "excellent novel, excellent narration"
    "excellent novel, excellent narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Dinner is a spectacular book about family and society, among other things as well. This is not a cute book. It's heavy because it's about heavy things, and because it doesn't take heavy things lightly.

    I liked the progression from bland dinner table conversation, pigmented with hints of a couple of mysterious incidents (something found in the phone of Paul's teenage son; Paul's sister-in-law arriving for dinner with traces of tears in her eyes), to the unfolding of the drama behind the dinner. The drama that started years before with instances of personal drama and of parenting; the drama that spikes in a horrific incident, then again in discussing it at home, then again at the dinner table.

    The fact that this is a Dutch novel is extremely relevant, since Dutch society struggles with a very tolerant front which sometimes comes up to kick itself in the teeth. It is amazing what torments hide behind the blandness of equality and tolerance - not that they always turn violent, but that fear of speaking up against indiscriminate equality becomes oppressive in itself.

    "The Dinner" is a painful analysis of society and family, delivered not from a high moral standpoint, but with a subtle understanding of nuances, of small things that make up or break up lives and relationships.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Andrew C. Fix
    Overall
    (79)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (70)

    Between 1348 and 1715, western Europe was fraught with turmoil, beset by the Black Plague, numerous and bitter religious wars, and frequent political revolutions and upheavals. Yet the Europe that emerged from this was vastly different from the Europe that entered it. By the start of the 18th century, Europe had been revitalized and reborn in a radical break with the past that would have untold ramifications for human civilization.

    Carlos Perry says: "Excellent! (...but the ending could be improved)"
    "very good"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Informative and easy to read, indeed. Little in-depth analysis, but with the sheer amount of data, no wonder. I felt it failed to tie a few knots, but overall a good read.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Fear in the Sunlight: Josephine Tey Series, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Nicola Upson
    • Narrated By Sandra Duncan
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    Summer, 1936: Writer Josephine Tey joins her friends in Portmeirion, meeting with Alfred Hitchcock to sign a film deal. Hitchcock has a few tricks planned to keep the party entertained, but things get out of hand when a Hollywood actress is brutally murdered. As fear and suspicion take over, Chief Inspector Archie Penrose becomes unsatisfied with the investigation. Several years later another horrific murder drives Penrose back to Portmeirion to uncover the shocking truth.

    Ilinca says: "still great"
    "still great"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've read the previous Tey novels and will read the new one soon, but here's the thing. I keep thinking I'm going to give each of them five stars as I read, and then, once I'm done, I can't in full honesty give them more than four.
    I got to Nicola Upson by searching for Agatha Christie-like novels. Someone recommended her as similar on some forum. With Fear in the Sunlight, it all started like a Christie mystery - not the "later" part of the '50s, but the setting, the hotel, the guests, the two parties being gathered together. But what Christie does schematically, in twenty-five pages, Upson does in - well, it was an audiobook so I don't know exactly how many, but it felt like half of the book. She does it extremely well, no question: the people and circumstances come alive, and it does capture your attention.
    The problem is what happens afterwards: so much energy is spent on creating the backdrop of the murders, that very little is left for the actual mystery. And the solutions to her mysteries, though not bad, are never quite as clever or plausible as everything else in the book. Other than that, they're great, and the narrator is excellent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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