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Margaret

Alameda, CA, United States | Member Since 2008

809
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 73 reviews
  • 96 ratings
  • 462 titles in library
  • 40 purchased in 2014
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  • Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired 'Upstairs, Downstairs' and 'Downton Abbey'

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Margaret Powell
    • Narrated By Mary Wells
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (145)
    Performance
    (126)
    Story
    (133)

    Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell’s classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high. Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s. As a kitchen maid - the lowest of the low - she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed.

    Margaret says: "Less than I was expecting..."
    "Less than I was expecting..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you are a fan of Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs, be warned: this memoir is nothing like them. Nor is it particularly well written. I almost couldn't get through the first seven chapters because of the constant reiteration of the phrases "back then" "back in those days" and "back in the old days." It's relentless, kind of verbal Chinese water torture. Eventually, it either lessened or I got used to it.

    As to content, this isn't a novel or an expose of any kind. There isn't much that struck me as shocking as the author seemed to expect (for example, some servants liked to read) , but that may be because I am an American reading this in the twenty-first century. Or that "them upstairs" expected those below to be grateful to them. There was some interesting detail about the mechanics of housekeeping and how Margaret learned to cook. The news that fresh food made from scratch tastes way better than what we have today just didn't strike me as amazing news.

    Since this was an impulse download done at a time I was trying to distract myself, the book really didn't suit my purposes. I wish I'd kept searching, but not terrible. Just terribly bland.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By James Lasdun
    • Narrated By Robin Sachs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (14)

    A true story of obsessive love turning to obsessive hate, Give Me Everything You Have chronicles the author's strange and harrowing ordeal at the hands of a former student, a self-styled "verbal terrorist", who began trying, in her words, to "ruin him". Hate mail, online postings, and public accusations of plagiarism and sexual misconduct were her weapons of choice, and as with more conventional terrorist weapons, proved remarkably difficult to combat.

    Margaret says: "Understanding insanity via literature..."
    "Understanding insanity via literature..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was an original approach to the experience of being stalked by an anti-semetic lunatic set on ruining him - via literary analysis.

    Not to say I found Lasdun cold. I really felt his anxiety as it grew and how it wore him down. And he does well exposing the humiliation he felt as someone who was innocent but accused (of arranging a rape before he even met her, for example.)

    There were times I caught myself rolling my eyes at the way that Lasdun tried to understand "Nasreen" (whose real identity has been outed on the Internet and is easily findable with a cursory google) through literature, starting with Gawain, the Green Knight, I kid you not. But Lasdun is a poet, so I guess Sylvia Plath, D.H. Lawrence and even ol' Gawain is where his thoughts naturally turn. (Patricia Highsmith too. I haven't thought of her in ages.) If he were a plumber, a more natural comparison might have occurred to him.

    But still, worth the read.

    Recommend.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A Son of the Circus

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By John Irving
    • Narrated By David Colacci
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (493)
    Performance
    (224)
    Story
    (229)

    Born a Parsi in Bombay, sent to university and medical school in Vienna, Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla is a 59-year-old orthopedic surgeon and a Canadian citizen who lives in Toronto. Once, 20 years ago, Dr. Daruwalla was the examining physician of two murder victims in Goa, India. Now, 20 years later, he will be reacquainted with the murderer.

    connie says: "If you liked "Q+A"..."
    "Irving's most difficult novel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Listening to A Son of the Circus is like going for a very long, meandering walk with a crazy uncle. Lots of stories of the past, woven only slightly together, driven by insane coincidences, following spur of the moment tangents to other distant places -- and yet, when the crazy uncle is John Irving, with his unmistakeable warmth and humor at full force, it's a walk worth taking.

    This is a novel I've failed to read all the way through for eighteen years (I'm ashamed to admit this) and I'm a devoted Irving fan. It takes perseverance. But listening to it did help me connect the characters (and keep them all straight) for the first time. Definitely better listened to in audio format than read.

    For Irving fans (and I think you have to be or I don't think you'll make it through this one): Recommend.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Dominion

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By C.J. Sansom
    • Narrated By Daniel Weyman
    Overall
    (62)
    Performance
    (58)
    Story
    (58)

    1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The global economy strains against the weight of the long German war against Russia still raging in the east. The British people find themselves under increasingly authoritarian rule - the press, radio, and television tightly controlled, the British Jews facing ever greater constraints.

    J. says: "Interesting Alternitive History"
    "Not Shardlake, but pretty good..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am a huge fan of C.J. Sansom's historical mysteries, with the Matthew Shardlake series ranking among my all-time favorites. So, it was an easy decision to see what CJS would make of an alternate history where the British signed a peace treaty with the Nazi's in 1940 instead of going to war as they did.

    I found, as I listened, that though all the characters were well realized and though each had some sort of secret, I missed the "mystery" that I'm used to in a Sansom novel. The narrative is split between several main characters, including the Gestapo agent chasing our band of resistance fighters so Dominion was tense all the way through. I wished that the author had split the narrative one more time and shown us more of Winston Churchill leading the resistance. He does finally, but I was waiting most of the book to hear that.

    I think to get all the nuances of the story, it helps to have a working knowledge of Britain before, during and after the Second World War. But I'm guessing most fans of historical fiction have that. I liked the book, but didn't love it as I do earlier Sansom books.

    Recommend.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Serpent and the Pearl: Borgias, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Kate Quinn
    • Narrated By Leila Birch, Maria Elena Infantino, Ronan Vibert
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (92)
    Performance
    (83)
    Story
    (83)

    Rome, 1492: The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous - or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web.... Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham.

    Rachelle says: "This was a pleasant surprise!"
    "Half a book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I listened to all of Kate Quinn's The Serpent and the Pearl and I'd have liked to have found out how it ended. Yes, yes, I listened to the entire thing, but the story just stops with the heroes in grave danger and no resolution to any of the stories I've been following for sixteen hours.While it is true that the title includes a "Book 1" after a very strategic colon, I took that to mean the first one in a series - not act one of a story.

    I might listen to the next one if I can't find anything good (want to bet it won't resolve anything either?) but I feel a little ripped off.

    Besides the non-ending, this is a historic melodrama with characters and dialogue that are alright, but in no way memorable. The writer has an annoying tendency to harp on specific characterizations over and over again: Julia has long hair, the dwarf character is short and the cook is thin. Alright to pass the idle hour, but don't get your hopes up that you'll find out how it ends without spending more credits. Bah.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Me Before You: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Jojo Moyes
    • Narrated By Susan Lyons, Anna Bentink, Steven Crossley, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3268)
    Performance
    (2970)
    Story
    (2982)

    Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life - steady boyfriend, close family - who has never been farther afield than her tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life - big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel - and now he's pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy - but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected.

    Michael says: "Who or What defines Quality of Life?"
    "I laughed, I cried"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is the first book I've read by Jojo Moyes and I'll be on the look-out for more. The characters sprang vividly to life, their voices and personalities unique to themselves. And they are memorable. It will be a long time before I forget Louisa Clark and Will Trainer. The pacing was intense too. The story grabbed me on page one and never let go.

    The one cautionary note I have to add is that looking at the cover design, this book looks to me like a fairy tale romance. It's not. In my opinion, it's so much more. But I think if you are looking for a formula American romance, you may be disappointed.

    In these reviews, I always try to think of another writer to whom I can compare the style of the work. Moyes reminded me a little of Liane Moriarty, a little of George Elliot and a little of Kurt Vonnegut. But really, she's in a class all her own.

    Recommend.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Pigeon Pie Mystery: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Julia Stuart
    • Narrated By Hannah Curtis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (76)
    Performance
    (65)
    Story
    (63)

    When Indian Princess Alexandrina is left penniless by the sudden death of her father, the Maharaja of Brindor, Queen Victoria grants her a grace-and-favor home in Hampton Court Palace. Though rumored to be haunted, Alexandrina and her lady's maid, Pooki, have no choice but to take the Queen up on her offer. Aside from the ghost sightings, Hampton Court doesn't seem so bad. The princess is soon befriended by three eccentric widows who invite her to a picnic with all the palace's inhabitants, for which Pooki bakes a pigeon pie. But General-Major Bagshot dies after eating said pie....

    Yvette says: "The best thing I've heard for ages!!!"
    "Not as good as earlier books"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As a big fan of two earlier Julia Stuart books (The Matchmaker and The Tower one), Pigeon Pie Mystery came as a significant let down. It felt like a rehash of The Tortoise and the Tower with the same fascination with exotic animals, historic properties and many mustachioed characters. A rehash that lacked the emotional weight that the earlier book had because of Milo's death, let me add. I spent almost the entire time wishing I was listening to it wishing I'd saved my credit and just re-read either of the earlier books.

    The other problem I had was the reader got a kind of "knowing" edge to her voice when a line was meant to be funny. It drove me nuts! I understand that farce is the most difficult genre to read aloud (see the Tarquin Hall books or The Rosie Project to hear it done correctly) but it still grated. For that reason alone, grab the written form if you must. If you are already a fan of Julia Stuart, I think you're about to be disappointed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Shaman

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Kim Stanley Robinson
    • Narrated By Graeme Malcolm
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (108)
    Performance
    (99)
    Story
    (99)

    There is Thorn, a shaman himself. He lives to pass down his wisdom and his stories - to teach those who would follow in his footsteps. There is Heather, the healer who, in many ways, holds the clan together. There is Elga, an outsider and the bringer of change. And then there is Loon, the next shaman, who is determined to find his own path. But in a world so treacherous, that journey is never simple - and where it may lead is never certain.

    Shellbin says: "His Best Since the Mars Trilogy"
    "Slow until it gets you!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I admit, I almost didn't finish listening to Shaman. The first third of the book is very slow-going. Hours of description, both of the exterior world and Loon's thoughts about his environment and his body (ahem), almost defeated me. It was kind of like hanging around a thirteen year-old who has one topic of discussion: him or herself. For hours.

    But, I slogged on and by the break between parts one and two, you couldn't have pried my iPod out of my clutching fingers. I was hooked. This is not a fast read, but it is good - if you can make it that far.

    Recommend.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Lost Christianities: The Battles of Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Bart D. Ehrman
    • Narrated By Matthew Kugler
    Overall
    (61)
    Performance
    (54)
    Story
    (53)

    The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs. Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. Some believed that the world had not been created by God but by a lesser, ignorant deity. Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human.

    Margaret says: "The Early Church(es)"
    "The Early Church(es)"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    While I enjoyed Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, I think I like this one was even better.

    Here we are taken through a tour of the first generations following the death of Jesus and the many forms of Christianity that they practiced. He discusses why some flourished (able to claim ties to the antiquity of the Hebrew scriptures) and why some sects floundered (disagreements over the role of women.) It was very easy to follow along and see how each event contributed to the scripture and the forms of Christianity that have been handed down to us today.

    I was just as fascinated with the stuff that almost made it into the New Testament (letters from Clement, Titus for example) as those that did.

    Ehrman goes on to provide a clear context to understand the books of the Apocrypha as well. A lot of verses I never understood before suddenly made perfect sense when I was oriented in the right cultural beliefs. For example, in the Gospel of Thomas (alleged to have been written by Didamus Judas Thomas, Jesus's twin, but debunked by scholars) it says that women must become men to reach the Kingdom of God, Ehrman explains that Neo Platonists did not see the human race as having two genders, but only one. Ancients believed that women were males who never developed properly! Needless to say, that had never occurred to me. Suddenly, all became clear.

    While this book may be too introductory for experts, it was fascinating to a lay person like me. Recommend.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The First Phone Call from Heaven: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Mitch Albom
    • Narrated By Mitch Albom
    Overall
    (459)
    Performance
    (406)
    Story
    (412)

    The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief - and a page-turner that will touch your soul - Albom's masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

    Marci says: "Every Character is Great"
    "Suspense... sort of."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have to confess so that you know when you're evaluating this review and deciding how much weight to give it, I'm a fan of Mitch Albom's earlier work. His writing, that is. I had my doubts when I saw that he was narrating The First Phone Call from Heaven. But those doubts quickly evaporated. He's a great reader and enhanced the listen. So, kudos there.

    The other question that came quickly into my mind is what happens when a sympathetic writer (Albom) portrays an unsympathetic character (Sully) behaving unsympathetically? The answer, it turned out, was subtle, but unmistakable suspense. I fell for Sully and was really intrigued to find out where the phone calls were coming from. Heaven or hoax? The telling was skillful enough that several times I wasn't sure which answer I was hoping would turn out to be true and found myself changing sides.

    Since I'm writing this review to encourage you to listen to the book (well worth the credit, though a departure from Mitch Albom's earlier books, in content though the Albom pathos lingers...) I won't spoil the ending. I can say that it kept me engaged right through the end and, in the end, I was satisfied. I won't be surprised if I revisit this book in my library again.

    Recommend.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • The Rosie Project: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Graeme Simsion
    • Narrated By Dan O'Grady
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1737)
    Performance
    (1584)
    Story
    (1585)

    Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a "wonderful" husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical - most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent - and on a quest of her own....

    Margaret says: "A fun listen"
    "Truly A Comic Novel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    After so much chick lit, The Rosie Project took me by surprise. It's not chick lit. It reminded me of the Adrian Mole diaries, by Sue Townsend in the 80's and 90's, and is in that much rarer and much more traditional genre - the comic novel.

    The protagonist, Professor Don Tillman, has a flaw, as all great comic protagonists must, that has prevented him ever getting a second date with a woman. So he embarks on "The Wife Project" to find a compatible woman and instead meets Rosie, a completely incompatible barmaid/Ph.D candidate, on a quest to find the identity of her father.

    I laughed and winced and rooted for Don as he fell under Rosie's spell, against his own better judgment (which he analyzes in agonizing detail) and the hours flew by.

    I can't remember the last five star rating I gave a book. I usually top out at four. But I listened to this book straight through and have to say if it isn't five stars, then I don't know what is.

    Highly recommend.

    22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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