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Zulfiya

critical book reader

OZARK, AR, United States | Member Since 2012

8
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 7 reviews
  • 50 ratings
  • 366 titles in library
  • 69 purchased in 2014
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  • The Black Bird

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By R. L. McCallum
    • Narrated By Brad Wills
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    England 1888: After forfeiting his wife to the company of other men, Sir James Addison, a notable English poet and gentleman, begins descending into a demented melancholy that prompts him to move from his elaborate estate in Oxfordshire to the London's seedy borough of Soho. Soon after his arrival in Soho, Sir James begins yielding to the intoxicating effects of laudanum and to the whims of his madness, just as his memory begins lapsing and Jack the Ripper begins his campaign of terror.

    Zulfiya says: "A Stylish Victorian Novella"
    "A Stylish Victorian Novella"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Being mired in my chunky and long novels, I have nearly forgotten the pleasures of reading a novella, especially a novella so masterfully written. This novel was again my foray into the world of indie and self-published authors, and overall, I am happy with my choice. The accomplishments of this period piece are complemented by the narrator, Brad Wills, who creates a truly authentic performance - his voice and his inflections sound natural and poised. This voice did a lot to help me visualize the setting of this novelette.
    The novella is a stylish compilation of recognizable moves in the horror genre and allusions to the very foundations of this genre. It is also a deftly written Victorian period piece with the language imitating the famous early ghost stories. The imitation goes beyond the level of wording and vocabulary, but rather successfully attempts to follow the syntax and even ideas and values of this epoch. Some fans of the splatterpunk might consider this a softie, a sub par performance, BUT I FOR ONE really enjoyed its deftly linguistic fabric of the text.
    The author also masterfully used recognizable allusions (allusions to Poe, the crimes committed by Jack the Ripper, and definitely the image of the raven). Ravens conventionally are used to create the unpleasant murky feeling of something sinister but hardly tangible. This raven gains even more power and turns not only into the harbinger of disaster but also the extension of something immeasurably darker.
    Allusions to Jack the Ripper are key if you want to create this dark, Gothic world of Victorian England. The ever-used mystery of the serial killer is also given a new supernatural explanation in this novella. The Gothic setting of the novel is another commendable point. The aura of an old, ramshackle, dilapidated, haunting place perfectly recreates the chilling atmosphere of theWuthering Heights.
    The most important thing is that the horror, experienced by Mr. James, the protagonist, and a famous poet, could have a logical explanation of him being addicted to the laudanum with the subsequent hallucinations and gradual descent into madness. It could be explained, but who would settle for the banal explanation of hallucinations caused by this drug. It is indeed much more exciting to entertain a darker idea of the raven as the embodiment of evil, of a beautiful woman, who is THE killer and whose skin is as cold and cadaverous as of a corpse.
    Dreams and nightmares in this novella are very visionary in their nature, but also very Victorianesque when they were interpreted as a certain affinity bond with the inexplicable part of our nature, our subconscious mind, and our dangerous potential to cross the line of normalcy and madness. I really enjoyed the Victorian interpretation of madness as a dangerous and a dark gift into which Mr. James tapped to create his poems with the eerie and otherworldly feeling.
    Overall, a novella that deserves four stars for its stylish intertextual literary content and a really spooky and eerie atmosphere. A job very well done!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Light at the End

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By John Skipp, Craig Spector
    • Narrated By Chet Williamson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (22)
    Performance
    (22)
    Story
    (22)

    An adrenaline-charged tale of unrelenting suspense that sparks with raw and savage energy... The newspapers scream out headlines that spark terror across the city. Ten murders on the New York City subway. Ten grisly crimes that defy all reason -- no pattern, no m.o., no leads for police to pursue. The press dubs the fiend the “Subway Psycho”; the NYPD desperately seeks their quarry before the city erupts in mass hysteria. But they won't find what they're looking for.

    Zulfiya says: "Expectations and Outcomes"
    "Expectations and Outcomes"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As a voracious reader, I always try to explore fringe genres, but my heart is forever with the well-written books with believable and fleshed-out characters, human drama and serious choices both characters and readers have to make.
    Horror is one of those borderline cases when an exceptionally well-written novel with flawed but interesting characters and an insight into the psyche of a human mind cam enthrall me. Unfortunately, I believe this is not a case. I gave this novel three stars, but this rating is only valid within the frame of splatterpunk fiction (a literary genre characterized by the explicit description of horrific or violent scenes). In the bigger frame of fiction, this novel deserves only two stars.
    The novel is definitely abundant in scenes of violence and gore, and some of them are truly repulsive if you look at them objectively. On the other hand, everyone knows, objectivity in portrayal is not the most laudable adjective. The subjective perception is everything in fiction. The more you can relate to it, the more memorable the writing is. This is what this book lack. Despite the gory and grisly scenes, they did not stir any feelings of fear or repulsion. The setting was a traditional one for a vampire story. I am very well aware that we do not have many choices when it comes to the time of the events in a horror novel, but the nights in the novel, although they harbor ugly scenes of murder, do not create the natural spooky, creepy feeling. Night is just a time when most of the events took place in this novel, and the dark enigma of the wee hours till dawn is totally non-existent.
    The other thing that is only attributable to the zeitgeist, but still quite unpleasant is homophobia. The evolving values of today's world warp my interpretation and leave the tangy, bitter and unpleasant sediment in the wake of the book.
    To counterbalance my negative arguments, I still want to justify my choice for three stars (again only within the frame of this genre). First and foremost, the vampire Rudy is a nasty, ugly being from the very beginning. He does not suffer from the complex of modern vampirism – I am a vampire, but I want to be a good guy, and I am conflicted, and my soul is torn apart by my intentions and true identity. He is rotten through and through. There is not a morsel of goodness in him. This is how monsters should look like.
    Surprisingly, the books also provides an interesting insight into the philosophy of nihilism. Although the premise for this view is interesting and appealing (our world is non-cognizant, and we will never learn what is good and what is evil, and justice is not inherent in our universe; thus there is no point in trying to better the world around us), but the development of this idea leads to acts of terrorism and extremism as well as to the utmost egotism and gratification. This is clearly manifested in Rudy, the human being and the vampire. It is rarely a case when such a complex idea could be clearly explained and put into the appropriate context.
    The most memorable moment in the novel has nothing to do with the imaginary horror, but with our human history. The character with the Holocaust past narrates the story of his experience, and this is the most disturbing moment in the whole books. I find it both enlightening and nonsensical. It is a story that is harrowing in its nature due to our own ability to acquiesce to the dogma and doctrine of ethnic cleansing; a reminder of that kind even in the most grotesque context is always a necessary reading experience. Conversely, the setting for the Holocaust survival story is the most bizarre one – who would anticipate this story in a horror novel about vampires? Consequently, it does contribute to the jarring discrepancy of ideas within the book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Speaks the Nightbird

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Robert McCammon
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3014)
    Performance
    (2691)
    Story
    (2675)

    The Carolinas, 1699: The citizens of Fount Royal believe a witch has cursed their town with inexplicable tragedies -- and they demand that beautiful widow Rachel Howarth be tried and executed for witchcraft. Presiding over the trial is traveling magistrate Issac Woodward, aided by his astute young clerk, Matthew Corbett. Believing in Rachel's innocence, Matthew will soon confront the true evil at work in Fount Royal....

    aaron says: "Dark, Twisted Period Piece with GREAT Characters!"
    "Historical Mystery for a Patient and Thinking Mind"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Speaks the Nightbird, Speaks Robert McCammon! The novel 'Speaks the Nightbird' celebrates McCammons' return to the big publishing game after nearly a decade of silence when his contract with the previous publisher was terminated, and what a lovely celebration it it.
    The novel that is classified as a historical mystery is actually a book that defies and expands the constraints of this genre. This is the third McCammon's novel that I have read, and he is yet to disappoint me. This delightful novel for me reveals McCammon's Southerness. I live in the South, and as an immigrant I do see many things I personally strongly dislike, but the South McCammon loves is the genteel South, the South of a true colonial style. Do not be confused – he does not show the South in the romanticized, biased way – slavery and bigotry, evangelical loud proselytizing and duplicity, humid unbearable climate with the swampy terrain, all these ingredients are there, but the narrative itself and the way people and places are described and shown conveys the unmistakable feeling of finesse and refined gentility of the old Colonial South.

    The mystery per se is not a brilliant mind-boggling puzzle, and the suspect is clearly identified by the narrator quite early in the novel although his guilt and his role of a culprit are questioned throughout the novel. The quest to find the truth, on the other hand, reveals the deeper verity and other ugly discoveries. The seemingly ideal community eventually drops all the pretenses and turns into a nest of wasps. This image is only accentuated by the actual nest of wasps in one of the households with the most vitriolic and poisonous housewives literature has ever offered.

    This plot-forming mystery eventually turns into a gruesome travesty, an orchestrated performance of malicious mind. And again, the troupe of actors underlines and spices up this idea of travesty, performance, duplicity, and double identities. If this is not enough for a doubting reader, the book that is constantly being read by our protagonist, Matthew Corbett, is about theatrical performances in England. The mystery of witchcraft turns into the mystery of murders, greed, and envy. It also challenges many of the characters to question their values and even question God. It also surprisingly forges the goodness in people in whom this goodness is present even if they dislike each other. I think namely this feeling of respect of other people, even disagreeable, gives this books this elusive feeling of gentility.

    As any good book, it is not only an entertaining story, it is a story about painful losses (both present and past), redemption, forgiving love, and an unobtrusive social commentary. The passages about the slaves were among the most powerful ones in the book, and although these passages were not tremendously instrumental in the plot development, they are still very memorable.

    The review would not be complete without the remarks about the narrator. I listen to the audio book, and sound-wise, it was a brilliant performance. Edoardo Bellerini manages to convey the inflections of many characters, both male and female; likewise, he relays the ambiance of multiple settings: the tavern, the official dinners, the jail, the untamed landscape, everything seems virtually tangible in this audio version.

    What's the conclusion – if you read the historical mystery for the sake of the mystery and the brilliance of human deduction, this book might disappoint you. If you look for a read about emotional maturity as a rite of passage for a young gentleman, about the journey of self-discovery, love, and loss, and revaluation of your personal stand, if you want to learn about the multicultural perspective during the early days of colonial life, if you enjoy patient and pleasant reads, this is the book for that occasion. I know one thing for sure - the next book in the series will be purchased as soon as possible

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Needful Things: The Last Castle Rock Story

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Stephen King
    Overall
    (994)
    Performance
    (739)
    Story
    (743)

    A new store has opened in the town of Castle Rock, Maine. It has whatever your heart desires...if you're willing to pay the price. In this chilling novel by one of the most potent imaginations of our time, evil is on a shopping spree and out to scare you witless. Presented unabridged and read by the author.

    Jaimie says: "A good book and narration"
    "Anything you want - for a price ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A wonderfully told eternal story of temptations, desires, and a price we are willing to pay!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • 14

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Peter Clines
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12121)
    Performance
    (11009)
    Story
    (11035)

    There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much. At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

    Magpie says: "Super solid listen!!"
    "Extravaganza of genres"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    That's one weird book. How many genres can you exercise and utilize when you write a novel, and a relatively smallish book? One, two, three? Keep counting.
    The setting is urban that turns into a Gothic one, the characters are definitely somewhat caricaturish and grotesque, but likable and enthusiastic, the social message is poignant and clear, the parallel worlds and other dimensions are bizarre and hereroclite, basically a lovely soup of incompatible things.
    This novel is like a fair when you can find at least something to your liking. Steam punk aficionados will enjoy Victorian ideas of engineering, sci fi fans will appreciate the names of scientific visionaries, the Gothic lover will definitely enjoy the passages describing the dark winding corridors and locked and secret rooms.
    Literature lovers will appreciate Lovecraftian beings and direct allusions to Lovecraft. And do not forget there is still a mystery to solve. Oh, and a love story, and a horror twist, an apocalyptic motif, and a thriller... and a tongue-in-cheek mode!

    Overwhelmed? Well, just read a book (or listen to the book) and explore the panoply of genres. A solid four stars, but let's be honest - the book and its reader have to find each other.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Distant Hours

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Kate Morton
    • Narrated By Caroline Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1571)
    Performance
    (1066)
    Story
    (1073)

    Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

    Simone says: "Right Mood At The Right Time"
    "A redeeming and rewarding end"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Morton's is brilliant with descriptions, exposition, emotions, observations, verbal portraiture, BUT as many people mentioned, she was very slow with the plot and the coherence of the story.
    On the other end, the happy end without the imminent and immediate connection with the past line is a plus. It is quite satisfying to read that people can move on with their lives and pursue their most coveted dreams!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Secret Keeper

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Kate Morton
    • Narrated By Caroline Lee
    Overall
    (3277)
    Performance
    (2815)
    Story
    (2837)

    England, 1959: Laurel Nicolson is 16 years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

    Maria says: "Kate Morton (and Caroline Lee) does it again!"
    "Moving but patient."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    My first book of the year. It is a very patient, but moving novel. The wonderful and bitter-sweet kaleidoscope of lives, passion, love, mysteries, and friendship create a touching and intricate patterns on the rug, called life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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