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  • The Night Circus

  • By: Erin Morgenstern
  • Narrated by: Jim Dale
  • Length: 13 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,150
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18,288
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18,298

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The circus of your dreams

  • By Anonymous User on 09-22-11

A enchanting (if depthless) tale

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-18-19

Many have described this books as the story of a girl and boy who are brought up to challenge each other with their magic and whose battlefield is Le Cirque des Rêves. However, Celia and Marco suffer from a terrible disease: they are the least interesting characters in the book and can be perceived, much like the circus itself, as a mere setting to a much more rich and enchanting story, carried on by the other characters: the twins who are perfectly presented as very mature kids for their ages, the contortionist, the fortune teller...

If Erin Morgenstern's biggest achievement with this book is to create such secondary characters and the circus, her biggest failure is to not pay enough attention to both as the story moves forward and comes to an end. To her credit, the first half of the book is so enchanting and well crafted that this will not make anyone put it down when the second half starts, a little messy and less enchanting.

As for the audiobook version: Jim Dale is probably the main reason why many flaws can be forgiven, since he turns even the dullest sentence into a great one. As the second half of the book arrives, however, the audiobook version makes it harder to keep track of the timeline, since Erin Morgenstern jumps forward and backward a lot.

  • Circe

  • By: Madeline Miller
  • Narrated by: Perdita Weeks
  • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22,367
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 20,883
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,774

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child - not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring, like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power - the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Refined writing with an intimate performance

  • By Michael - Audible Editor on 04-11-18

Boldly original

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-29-19

Circe is one of the many characters that have only "supporting roles" in Greek mythology. As such, she is mostly depicted as a one dimensional being... something that Madeline Miller skilfully corrects while giving herself the permission to update and upgrade some of the more commonly known facts surrounding her main character. In doing so, she manages to bring to life not only Circe, but a handful of other characters in Greek mythology that, all of a sudden, grow much more interesting.

While staying truth to the core of Greek mythology (something highly expected of a scholar on the subject), Madeline Miller succeeds in giving her "Circe" a new life and we are always waiting to see what she will come up with in the next chapter. How will she interwoven her main story and character to more myths - and which ones will she choose? All of this without leaving her main thread, and benefiting from the perfectly tuned narration of Perdita Weeks.

For those who are interested in Greek mythology, this book is a must-read. Just don't expect the usual intrigues and battles lead by the Olympians, who, in this case, are eclipsed by Circe's fascinating story.

  • The Great Believers

  • By: Rebecca Makkai
  • Narrated by: Michael Crouch
  • Length: 18 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,402
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,314
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,309

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying, and after his friend Nico's funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico's little sister. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A story for all time

  • By Amazon Customer on 08-06-18

A pleasant (albeit heavy) surprise

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-29-19

First of all, Rebecca Makkai deserves praise for choosing to stay away from the NY-LA clichés that abound in stories that take place in the early days of AIDS. Just by setting her story in Chicago, she already has an original take on it - and it doesn't hurt that, in the process, she is also able to tell more about how the city itself was being shaped in the 80s.

One of her great accomplishments with "The great believers" is the portrayal of friendships. Again, she avoids the clichés in order to make more complex characters and relationships. It is easy to develop empathy even to the characters you don't necessarily like (with one noticeable exception, but I won't name this character to avoid spoilers). That is a trick that helps a lot when dealing with a subject such as the early days of AIDS.

Because the books has two storylines - one in Chicago, in the 80s, and one in Paris, in the 2010s - it falls into one trap: each story line can appeal to a very different target audience, so it is might be easy to really enjoy one while not caring for the other. Rebecca solves this problem by keeping the connection between the two story lines a mystery, but sometimes that is just not enough.

As for the performance, Michael Crouch does a good job shifting from Chicago to Paris, but that is a certain neutrality in his narration of the Chicago story line that seems out of place. It is not enough to ruin the audiobook, but sometimes it does get a little annoying.

  • Alcestis

  • By: Katharine Beutner
  • Narrated by: Diane Havens
  • Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 14
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 13
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 13

In Greek myth, Alcestis is known as the ideal good wife; she loved her husband so much that she died to save his life and was sent to the underworld in his place. In this poetic and vividly-imagined debut, Katharine Beutner gives voice to the woman behind the ideal, bringing to life the world of Mycenaean Greece, a world peopled by capricious gods, where royal women are confined to the palace grounds and passed as possessions from father to husband.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Boring Narration

  • By Kim on 02-13-14

A failed attempt to give life to a minor myth

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-29-19

There are plenty of authors trying to give female characters in Greek myths their deserved attention. Until recently, just a few of mortal women had been given any attention and even goddesses sometimes are mere pawns in a much more complicated plot. Sadly, just a few authors have succeeded in this - and that is not the case of Katherine Beutner. Her attempt to give more depth to Alcestis, the mortal, and Persephone, the goddess, fails miserably due to a number of reasons - some solely related to the audiobook.

Alcestis is a ghost even before she goes to the underworld: she is so dull and lacks any goal that it is hard to care about her. While other women around her are doing their best (or worst) to get something, the main character is simply observing. The first time she decides she wants something, she sits and waits. When the second time comes, the plot holes are just too many to have been forgiven and you are already wishing she never existed in the first place to even care about what she wants. Perhaps there is a reason that Alcestis was such an obscure character. Or perhaps Katharine Beutner just wasn't the right person to bring her to light, despite some very good and original ideas that sadly just get lost in the mix.

As for the performance: Diane Havens probably could have done better with a different material and different director. It is simply embarrassing to listen to her trying to emulate male voices (specially Hades'). More than embarrassing, it is unnecessary: Alcestis is the narrator and as such, she would reproduce male lines with her own voice. She is not a stand-up comedian, after all.

Also: is it really necessary to announce the end of the chapter? "End of chapter 1"? I'm pretty sure listeners would understand that once "Chapter 2" came along...

  • The Hummingbird's Daughter

  • A Novel
  • By: Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Narrated by: Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Length: 18 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 735
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 552
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 553

It is 1889, and civil war is brewing in Mexico. A 16-year-old girl, Teresita, illegitimate but beloved daughter of the wealthy and powerful rancher Don Tomas Urrea, wakes from the strangest dream, a dream that she has died. Only it was not a dream. This passionate and rebellious young woman has arisen from death with the power to heal, but it will take all her faith to endure the trials that await her and her family now that she has become the "Saint of Cabora".

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Magical Realism at its best!

  • By Angie on 12-26-06

Charming, but utterly ineffective

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-05-19

I know I am going against most reviewers, so let me start by saying this is a very well crafted and written tale that will make you think of stories such as "One hundred years of solitude" and "Pan's Labyrinth". The performance by the author is incredible and gives many layers to the characters, which probably makes the audiobook a great choice.

Unfortunately, even the most charming characters become dull when they lose their purpose and start to pile up. As the story goes on, it starts to suffer from the same problem: it loses its purpose and feels like the rambling accounts of a biographer too enthralled by his subject to do any editing. And editing would've probably saved it from being so ineffective.