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Nicole Del Sesto

  • 28
  • reviews
  • 130
  • helpful votes
  • 36
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  • Orchid & the Wasp

  • A Novel
  • By: Caoilinn Hughes
  • Narrated by: Caoilinn Hughes
  • Length: 12 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6

In this dazzlingly original debut novel, award-winning Irish writer Caoilinn Hughes introduces a heroine of mythic proportions in the form of one Gael FoessA tough, thoughtful, and savvy opportunist, Gael is determined to live life on her own terms. Raised in Dublin by single-minded, careerist parents, Gael learns early how a person’s ambitions and ideals can be compromised - and she refuses to let her vulnerable, unwell younger brother, Guthrie, suffer such sacrifices. When Gael’s financier father walks out on them during the economic crash of 2008, her family fractures. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Breathtakingly beautiful prose

  • By Kimberly Hoover on 08-13-18

The "other" Milkman

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

Reviewed: 10-28-18

This book hit my radar as as a possible Man Booker nominee, and it's a shame it wasn't nominated - especially with books like Snap and Sabrina on the list. Though nothing like "Milkman", it was enough like "Milkman" that if both books were on the list it would have been puzzling. If that makes any sense. I'm in the love-camp on "Milkman" by the way.

This is a remarkable novel. Hughes is obviously bright and talented. The writing stellar, the characters (FLAWED) and interesting, and the story kept me enthralled the whole way through. Gael is snarky and at times misguided (or properly guided but mis-actioned), self-absorbed, complicated, loyal, funny - you know ... human. The family dynamic is fraught, dysfunctional, complex, you know ... human.

Music is a central theme in this book - reminding me of another Booker nom, "Do Not Say We Have Nothing." In that book the music aspects really bored me, but in this book I felt they came to life.

I think (and I could be wrong) those who didn't love "Milkman" would like this one better. I feel like there was more going on both with characters and story, and can't imagine this being called "boring." I'd love for one of my non-Milkman-loving friends to read it and let me know.

I ended up doing the audio on this, which was read by the author (immediate inward groan) - she was fantastic. Very talented in many areas. Probably a lot like Gael.

This book wasn't perfect, there was a caricature or two, an annoying plot point here and there, and times when the story felt a bit bogged down, but for me they were easy to overlook and I ended up loving it.

  • Eileen

  • By: Ottessa Moshfegh
  • Narrated by: Alyssa Bresnahan
  • Length: 8 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 675
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 629
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 628

The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father's caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys' prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Strange, unsettling, but engrossing

  • By S. Yates on 01-09-18

Rescue me

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

Reviewed: 10-21-18

I'm really glad I read [book:My Year of Rest and Relaxation|36203391] before I read this. I liked this, but R and R was far superior in my opinion. Moshfegh is a stellar writer. The love the way her mind works and how raw and honest she is.

This is about a woman who is stuck in all aspects of her life, and sort of her inner monologue about being stuck and fantasies about getting unstuck. The way she assigns the role of rescuer to random people and finally realizing perhaps she could save herself.

At this point, if Moshfegh puts it out, I will read it.

  • Strange the Dreamer

  • By: Laini Taylor
  • Narrated by: Steve West
  • Length: 18 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,701
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,518
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,511

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around - and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old, he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Great until the ending

  • By Shane A. McGarry on 10-23-17

Original

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

Reviewed: 10-20-18

When it comes to fantasy, I've read a lot of it so it takes a lot to impress me, and this book really impressed me. I found it to be very original and loved the weaving of dreams into this story in a way that you didn't roll your eyes and go... oh, yeah, a dream.

This is not a full tale - there is a sequel which has just come out, so don't go into this expecting to get the whole story.

I found this book when trying to find a good audio for a road trip (see above) - Audible had noted it as one of their favorites of the year. Audio was pretty good at times the narrator was great, and at times he bugged me.

Definitely recommended, an entertaining fantasy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Mars Room

  • A Novel
  • By: Rachel Kushner
  • Narrated by: Rachel Kushner
  • Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 478
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 441
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 440

Featuring original music by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon! It's 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility, deep in California's Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing novel !

  • By Amazon Customer on 06-08-18

Bleak

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

Reviewed: 08-09-18

What must the Booker judges think of America?  Based on the books I'm reading,  they must have a bleak impression.

I didn't enjoy this book in the slightest.  I can't even say I appreciated it.  I can acknowledge that the book was structurally sound, and it's filled with important topics ones that fiction surely should explore.  Poverty's impact on opportunity, the prison, system, and of course treatment of women because ... always.

The book missed for me in a couple areas - I made no connection with the any of the characters, and I had little sympathy for any of them as individuals.  Second, I found the book to be emotionless.  I know we haven't posted our Sabrina review yet, but I was left with a similar hopelessness as with that book.  Things suck but life goes on.  That's hard for me.  I still have hope.  I want to believe that things are going to get better for people, especially prisoners (and poor people, and women ...)

I really don't need my tough subjects sugar-coated. I just think there was a way to tell this important story in a way that made me want to root for the downtrodden.

The audiobook was read by the author. I think that was a mistake. She sounded like Rosanna Arquette (I listened to another book narrated by her) and the result was not good. Also, the audio made it difficult to understand whose POV was happening in the story.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Changeling

  • A Novel
  • By: Victor LaValle
  • Narrated by: Victor LaValle
  • Length: 14 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 978
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 906
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 902

When Apollo Kagwa's father disappeared, all he left his son were strange recurring dreams and a box of books stamped with the word improbabilia. Now Apollo is a father himself - and as he and his wife, Emma, are settling into their new lives as parents, exhaustion and anxiety start to take their toll. Apollo's old dreams return and Emma begins acting odd.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Fractured Fairytale

  • By Diane on 08-07-17

Started strong.

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

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Mom and I were on a long road trip and hated our audiobook. In an act of desperation I started googling "best audiobooks" and this came up. I'd seen it before so I thought it was worth a shot.

It started really strong and we were totally engaged. A husband disappears, his son has nightmares, he loses himself in books, and as an adult he meets and falls in love with a Librarian. Things took a turn after they had their baby- the book is called "The Changeling" after all.

Mom gave up, and I persevered. It was ... interesting ... I guess. Had a fantasy/horror vibe. It was a well-told story, and the author read the audiobook ably, and ultimately I pretty much liked it. That being said, there's not a person I would recommend this to. Though I found things about it to like, I cannot imagine anybody really "enjoying" it.

  • Milkman

  • By: Anna Burns
  • Narrated by: Bríd Brennan
  • Length: 14 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 65
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 61
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 63

In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous. Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beyond the Pale

  • By Nicole Del Sesto on 07-27-18

Beyond the Pale

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

Reviewed: 07-27-18

What a great start to Booker season!  I loved this book.  I thought the writing clever and the story engrossing.  It's an unnamed time and an unnamed place (actually Northern Ireland during the "troubles") with unnamed characters.  

Through the voice of our narrator ("middle sister" and "maybe girlfriend" and "friend") we explore issues of the time including: politics; feminism; family; individuality, conformity and love.   What it's like to group up in a place where everybody knows you and if you stick out even a little bit, to assume the worst about you.

There's a psychological  element as well, which added a layer of suspense to the whole story which I thought was done extremely well. 

I listened to the audio which only added to my enjoyment.  The narrator was perfect and the parts of the writing which would have been outstanding in the reading of them were really enhanced. 

A top 2018 read for me.   

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Neverworld Wake

  • By: Marisha Pessl
  • Narrated by: Phoebe Strole
  • Length: 8 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 203
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 190
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 188

Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim - their creative genius and Beatrice's boyfriend - changed everything. One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft - the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world - hoping she'll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim's death. But as the night plays out, Beatrice senses she's never going to know what really happened.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful, engaging, and thought provoking

  • By Keri Owen on 06-23-18

And again....

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

Reviewed: 07-10-18

I thought Pessl could do no wrong, but I was wrong. This is a young adult novel, so perhaps they will like it better than I.

Pessl's trademark wordplay was absent from this book, so that was a disappointment, but also it was just plain boring. Sheesh. It was a sort of interesting idea, not totally original, but a unique take. (To explain it would be spoilers.)

Though not a long book, it felt endless. The first half was essentially the same day lived over and over again and not in an interesting way. Unfortunately, I chose this as a "long car ride" book, so we kept at it. I did want to find out what happened. The second half was definitely more interesting than the first, but in such a basic way - the good guy isn't really good, the mean girl isn't really a mean girl and she's doing it all for you, etc.

The mystery, once solved, was overly complex.

Just was not good.

(The narrator, however, was great.)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Hazel Wood

  • By: Melissa Albert
  • Narrated by: Rebecca Soler
  • Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 775
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 714
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 713

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice's life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice's grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away - by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • dark and modern fairytale

  • By Stephanie on 02-02-18

Fun

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

Reviewed: 03-17-18


This was a fun book. Dark fairy tale mishmash which put me in mind of Ready Player One and the Thursday Next books. Some clever ideas and very entertaining.

The narrator on the audio was really good. Nothing obnoxious, which is always a bonus.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

  • A Novel
  • By: Haruki Murakami
  • Narrated by: Rupert Degas
  • Length: 26 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,724
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,486
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,487

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat.... Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid 16-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful book, flawed narration.

  • By REBECCA on 02-08-14

Narrator almost ruined the book

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

Reviewed: 02-19-18

I really messed myself by trying to do this book on audio. The audio was awful, and yet somehow I made it 75% of the way through. The narrator was a British/Australian voicing his Japanese characters with American accents. Worse, there was one (frequent character) who sounded like a South Park character, and the end of the audio for me was a Gilbert Godfrey voice. The guy just overdid every character.

I picked up the print version for the last 25% of the book and I wish I'd read the whole thing.

As far as the story goes, I liked it OK. Didn't love it. So much of it was dreams or dream like. And a lot of those dreams were wet dreams (Sorry.) There's a cat and a wife, a neighbor and a well. Random war stories, a politician brother, and psychic sisters Malta and Creta. I didn't "get it".

I think if this is your first Murakami it could be great and could really grab you because it is unique, but I've read a lot of Murakami and it just didn't do anything for me. I think I'm done with Murakami for now.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Things That Happened Before the Earthquake

  • A Novel
  • By: Chiara Barzini
  • Narrated by: Carlotta Brentan
  • Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 16
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 13

Mere weeks after the 1992 riots that laid waste to Los Angeles, Eugenia, a typical Italian teenager, is rudely yanked from her privileged Roman milieu by her hippie-ish filmmaker parents and transplanted to the strange suburban world of the San Fernando Valley. With only the Virgin Mary to call on for guidance as her parents struggle to make it big, Hollywood fashion, she must navigate her huge new public high school, complete with Crips and Bloods and Persian gang members, and a car-based environment of 99-cent stores.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Nobody walks in LA

  • By Nicole Del Sesto on 01-29-18

Nobody walks in LA

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

Reviewed: 01-29-18

This book was on a number of "best of" lists for 2017.

It caught my attention because I was a young adult in So Cal during the period this book took place. It started pretty strong - a family moves from Italy to the US to "make it" in Hollywood. Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Grandma. The book is told from POV of sister, a high school aged girl. There were some really fun reminders about time and place (and some not some fun reminders ... Rodney King, the Northridge earthquake, the OJ car chase.)

I finished this a couple weeks ago and I can't remember the girls name, but she is trying to find herself, and she makes some really odd decisions. The book just kind of fell apart. I think it may have been autobiographical, not really sure but it just wasn't very good. I was glad when it ended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful