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Rochelle

  • 71
  • reviews
  • 203
  • helpful votes
  • 565
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  • Split Tooth

  • By: Tanya Tagaq
  • Narrated by: Tanya Tagaq
  • Length: 5 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10

A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy and friendship and parents' love. She knows boredom and listlessness and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust. She sees the spirits that surround her and the immense power that dwarfs all of us. When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all this.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Deep and wild

  • By Anonymous User on 10-08-18

Confronting, Captivating

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

Reviewed: 09-26-18

This audio edition includes vocal performances by Tanya Tagaq. She also narrates the audio & her artistic vocal performance is used with full effect. I can't help thinking that anyone reading the print edition is missing out.

I'm a sucker for a novel written with rhythm & rhyme. When an author has put that level of thought into their construction & when it works, it is a beautiful thing. This novel is a beautiful thing.

It is also horrible, terrible, confronting, magical, captivating, punishing and generous. It destroys and creates. And destroys & creates.

Split Tooth may fall into the category of "auto fiction". It's part memoir, part fiction & Tagaq isn't telling which is which.

I'm not sure what to reveal about the content otherwise. Do readers want to know that they will be confronted with terrible child abuse? With terrifying childhood exploits? It's a coming of age tale but not as you know it. It is folkloric but there are no fairytales here. I loved the revenge fantasy (can I hope this part is real? I want to believe it is real). I loved the character as Earth, despoiled & birthing. All things.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Party Wall

  • By: Catherine Leroux, Lazer Lederhendler - translator
  • Narrated by: Brianna Morgan
  • Length: 7 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 1

Catherine Leroux's first novel, translated into English brilliantly by Lazer Lederhendler, ties together stories about siblings joined in surprising ways. A woman learns that she absorbed her twin sister's body in the womb and that she has two sets of DNA; a girl in the deep South pushes her sister out of the way of a speeding train, losing her legs; and a political couple learn that they are nonidentical twins separated at birth. The Party Wall establishes Leroux as one of North America's most intelligent and innovative young authors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • It turned me inside out and back again

  • By Rochelle on 04-14-18

It turned me inside out and back again

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

Reviewed: 04-14-18

The first thing that stands out about this novel is the format. It might take a few chapters before you are convinced it is indeed a novel and not a series of short stories. It's definitely a novel, I promise, but the stories could indeed stand alone - they are beautifully crafted, and each is compelling.

In fact there are four separate storylines in the book. Angie and Margot are two young sisters who are on their way from their home to the store. The chapters devoted to the journey the sisters make are short, each approximately 5-10 minutes. They are the first characters met in the novel & their story introduces the theme of the novel: complicated sibling relationships.

Apart from the two sisters, the other characters are a mother & son, a married couple, and a brother and sister. In each, sibling relationships play a critical role. Angie and Margot get short segments, and we meet them in chapters 1, 3, 5, 7 & so on. The other pairs get longer chapters, less frequently. The longer chapters give a good amount of time to "bed in" those stories, but I have to admit that Angie & Margot claimed my heart from the beginning.

Novels in the format of stories that are interconnected aren't new, but this one is something very, very special. The prose is divine. It is dark, and if you haven't read the synopsis some of the revealed connections can be devastating. In chapter 8, after one revelation, I shouted "no!" at my phone, and quickly paused the story, to desperately try and undo what I thought had just happened. I hadn't read the publisher's synopsis - if I had, I might have kept my cool - although, even thinking about that part of the story now gives me shivers. I spent the rest of my evening repeating the mantra "these are all fictional characters, none of this actually happened". It didn't help.

It is brilliant, it turned me inside out and back again, partly for the prose, and partly for the stories. The connections between characters in different stories also turn out to be critical, even if they don't always seem it in the moment of revelation. I kept notes of characters names - it wasn't necessary, but some people might find it useful to have. It's worth going back over at the end of the book to see how each character is connected to the others.

It's fantastic that Audible Studios have backed this novel as an audiobook. It's one of those gems that really make me grateful for having read it. If the audio had come out when the novel was short listed for the Giller Prize it might have got more attention, but hopefully it will still find a lot of readers.

The audiobook is read, rather than performed, which means that dialogue is not characterised & it can take a moment to register which character is speaking. A reading also misses the additional context a performance brings, such as emphasis and punctuation. In this case the reading felt a little perfunctory to me, and I was disappointed that changes in scene weren't given a pause which meant I had to rewind a few times to take in that I was reading a new scene. Overall, the narration was underwhelming, particularly because I loved the book so much & feel it deserved better. The production quality was otherwise high and the reading was clear.

I think the translation was spectacular. To get the prose to sing the way it does Lenderhendler must've spent a lot of time finding just the right turn of phrase or word. I had a couple of niggles, in particular the use of the term "handicapped" to describe a character who has had amputations. "Handicapped" is an old fashioned and negative term and the setting was contemporary enough that (as a disabled person) I thought "disabled" would have been a better word choice. It's a minor issue but...still.

Hands down, this is a gorgeous weave of stories, brilliant characters and the prose is some of the best I have read. Even if you don't mind plot spoilers I recommend you don't read the publisher's synopsis; if you do I guarantee you'll still enjoy the novel, even knowing some of the major plot points. I can't guarantee you'll have your heart ripped from your chest the way that I did, but if you love style this has it in buckets.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Wall

  • By: Marlen Haushofer
  • Narrated by: Kathe Mazur
  • Length: 9 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 52
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 48
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 48

“I can allow myself to write the truth; all the people for whom I have lied throughout my life are dead....” writes the heroine of Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall, a quite ordinary, unnamed middle-aged woman who awakens to find she is the last living human being. Surmising her solitude is the result of a military experiment gone awry, she begins the terrifying work of not only survival but also self-renewal.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Stunningly Gorgeous Once Past the Grief

  • By Gillian on 09-11-15

TERRIFIC!

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

Reviewed: 04-14-18

The biggest differences between The Wall and other solo survival stories are that the main character is a woman, and she is an ordinary woman, not an explorer or a scientist with any survival skills that will help her during the ordeal of finding herself alive, alone, cut off from the rest of the world.

Haushofer's (unnamed) survivor is staying at a friends hunting lodge in rural Austria when she discover her companions haven't returned from a night out. She finds that between the lodge and the village where her friends went the last evening an invisible wall has manifested. Every being she can see on the outside of the wall is immobile. There's no suggestion of any recognisable disaster, but there's also no evidence that anything remaining outside the wall is alive.

The friend at whose lodge our survivor has been holidaying believed catastrophic disaster was likely and has stocked his hunting lodge accordingly. She has food - for a little while at least. But without survival knowledge her story boils down to a lot of very hard physical labour and some occasional good luck.

The wall remains largely unexplained. It is invisible, so she is able to observe the lack of goings on outside. Weather passes across it, and she endures powerful storms. Water from a creek passes through the wall but she herself is unable to breach it.

It is a simple, classic storyline but Haushofer's is an all class example. It's excellent storytelling, brilliant pacing, and utterly compelling. It was a difficult one to press pause on - I just wanted to read further.

The translation is solid throughout. In spite of the book being originally published in 1963 it was only in 1990 that Shaun Whiteside translated it from German into English.

Kathe Mazur's audio performance is spot on throughout. All around this is an excellent audiobook. If you've got as far as checking out this book it's definitely one for your virtual audio bookshelf. I loved it and it's an easy one to recommend.

When I finished the book I bought my husband a print copy, which he got through in a day. It's that sort of book - one you want to share with all of your reader friends, regardless of format. It's a very entertaining, enjoyable read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • These Are the Names

  • By: Tommy Wieringa, Sam Garrett - translator
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 10

In one story we follow a group of starving, near-feral Eurasian refugees on a harrowing quest for survival; in the other we follow Pontus Beg, a policeman from a small border town on the steppe, as he investigates the death of a rabbi, one of the town's two remaining Jews. What follows is a gripping saga in which the two stories race toward each other, and Beg will be shaken to his core by what each one reveals about man's dark nature and the possibility - or impossibility - of his own redemption.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 6 stars each for the author, translator & narrator

  • By Rochelle on 12-10-16

6 stars each for the author, translator & narrator

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

Reviewed: 12-10-16

There's a quality of magic about this novel. It started with Wieringa's story. From start to finish, through translation and narration the magic has remained.

You know the sort of book you didn't think much about but when you picked it up you couldn't put it down again until it was finished, absorbed, dwelt upon and teased apart? This is that book.

There are two stories to this book. One is that of Pontus Beg, the Police Commissioner of a town near the border of the Steppes. It's a town full of darkly satirical circumstances. It is very funny and at times not a little disturbing.

The second story is of a group of migrants travelling through the Steppes. They were taken to the border, pointed in a direction & told if they walk in that direction, in a short time they would arrive at a city. The city never materialises and they are left wandering without food or shelter.

When the two plots meet someone is dead It's left to Commissioner Beg to investigate who the migrants are, where they've come from & who killed the dead man.

This story has a feeling about it distinct from all other authors. The only near comparison I can make is with fellow Dutch author Cees Nooteboom. Wieringa's chosen subject is very close to home in 2016 and for all the feel of magic the story has its feet are firmly on solid ground.

I loved the translation. Without knowing what the original Dutch version was like I feel that Garrett's translation captured an incredible atmosphere.

As for the narration - Arthur Morley was very well cast. He maintains & builds the atmosphere suggested by Wieringa & Garrett. On top of that he's great to listen to, through the humour and through the darkness. It's another great performance from Morley.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Love Poems

  • By: Pablo Neruda
  • Narrated by: Armando Durán
  • Length: 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 6

Charged with sensuality and passion, Pablo Neruda's love poems are the most celebrated of the Nobel Prize winner's oeuvre, captivating listeners with earthbound images and reveling in a fiery reimagining of the world. Mostly written on the island paradise of Capri (the idyllic setting of the Oscar-winning movie Il Postino), Love Poems embraces the seascapes surrounding the poet and his love, Matilde Urrutia, their waves and shores saturated with a new, yearning eroticism.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Durán exceptional as voice of Neruda

  • By Rochelle on 11-02-16

Durán exceptional as voice of Neruda

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

Reviewed: 11-02-16

I haven't ventured into poetry before, apart from a bit of Shakespeare, but this is awesome & was a great place to start. It's beautiful, often heart-melting and occasionally very funny (check out The Insect). It's a very accessible introduction to poetry from the pen of a Nobel Laureate.

I have no idea how one translates poetry into another language while retaining the meaning, the meter and the rhyme. Donald D Walsh has worked a kind of magic here.

Meanwhile Durán's performance is outstanding. His understanding of the flow of each poem makes it easy for a first time reader to consume and he's an absolute pleasure to listen to. As much as Neruda's writing & Walsh's translation, Durán makes this collection an unforgettable joy.

I'm definitely going to re-read this again, more than once.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Babette's Feast and Sorrow-Acre

  • By: Isak Dinesen
  • Narrated by: Colleen Dewhurst
  • Length: 2 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 92
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 63
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 67

"Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: give me leave to do my utmost." This line from "Babette's Feast" lends itself to both of the stories in this audio collection, which tell of unbreakable human spirit and total commitment to life choices. "Babette's Feast," now an award-winning film, takes a humorous look at a pure-spirited community in which love, lost youth, self-denial, and creative urges contribute to making the right choices. And "Sorrow-Acre," the most anthologized of Isak Dinesen's stories, challenges the most profound choice of all. Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Colleen Dewhurst's warm, sensitive interpretation reveals the subtle beauty of Dinesen's prose.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant writing, beautifully read

  • By Rose on 04-24-05

Marred by poor production quality

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

Reviewed: 10-17-16

Two wonderful folk-tale-like stories from the pen of an incredibly talented author. These two stories are superb.

The audio, however, is of extremely poor quality. It isn't anywhere near to the quality of most books sold by Audible. It's a shame as the stories themselves are beautiful.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Mortifications

  • A Novel
  • By: Derek Palacio
  • Narrated by: William DeMeritt
  • Length: 9 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 9

In 1980 a rural Cuban family is torn apart during the Mariel Boatlift. Uxbal Encarnación - father, husband, political insurgent - refuses to leave behind the revolutionary ideals and lush tomato farms of his sun-soaked homeland. His wife, Soledad, takes young Isabel and Ulises hostage and flees with them to America, leaving behind Uxbal for the promise of a better life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One of my favourites of 2016

  • By Rochelle on 10-11-16

One of my favourites of 2016

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

Reviewed: 10-11-16

In a modern magical realist style all his own Derek Palacio's debut novel is a brilliant story.

It's hard to know what to expect from a debut novel, though Palacio has produced short stories and a novella in the past, so he's no novice. This debut novel blew my mind.

Right from the first sentences I was aware this was going to be a good one. I'd seen reviews elsewhere giving high star ratings but the reviews suggesting there were faults. I kept waiting for something to go wrong - nothing ever did. It's a beautiful story and Palacio doesn't miss a beat.

The style is simple and I find it hard to put my finger on exactly what makes this book so great but the simple prose is part of it. Palacio's style follows in the steps of great Latin American magical realist authors before him, though this lands more on the realist side of the scale. If you've read and enjoyed magical realist authors in the past I'm confident you'll enjoy this one as well. It's a compact version of the style, not winding out into generations as some do, and it's set in a more modern era than most, beginning in the 1980s.

I also have a great deal of praise for William DeMerritt's narration. Spot on. It's always wonderful to have a truly great narrator paired with a truly great book. More than icing on a cake, the narrator can make or break a novel. DeMerritt makes it.

If you enjoy magical realism, if you enjoy literary fiction this is for you. Don't be put off if you don't usually read either of these categories. A story with a Cuban setting (it moves between the US & Cuba) is a rare find and if it piques your interest, dive right in. It's a very accessible novel and a highly enjoyable one.

This is one of my favourite reads of 2016.

If you're interested in some of my other favourites for this year I recommend Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Denis-Benn, Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell and The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club)

  • A Novel
  • By: Imbolo Mbue
  • Narrated by: Prentice Onayemi
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,930
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 2,697
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,683

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself; his wife, Neni; and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty - and Jende is eager to please. Clark's wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses' summer home in the Hamptons.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Just okay...

  • By LuckyLindsi83 on 09-09-16

Overhyped

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

Reviewed: 08-27-16

Prentice Oyemi's narration is stunning. He does such an incredible job moving between African, American, male and female characters. His performance is just beautiful.

I am a reader who prefers description and character development over plot. Unfortunately the writing is very flat, the story never gets going and it's message was lost in artificiality. Every time the I thought the story would pick up it fell away again. Overall I was very disappointed.

Neni is the best developed of the characters and the one scene, too far toward the end of the book, where we see her passion for her education was too little too late. That was the highlight of the book for me, but it wasn't nearly enough.

Jende was never developed enough, neither was his son, his employers or friends.

The book has been massively overhyped with Buzzfeed calling it a must read book of the summer. There are many, much better books that have been published in 2016 (I recommend Here Comes the Sun, by Nicole Denis-Benn) or by authors who are originally from African countries (try Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as one of the best).

For people who have been interested to read this book having seen the hype over it I would instead recommend authors such as Adichie, or to Jhumpa Lahiri, Khaled Hosseini, Zadie Smith, and to the lesser known, emerging authors such as Nicole Dennis-Benn and Chigozi Obiama. All of these authors have written better examinations of topics similar to what has been attempted here by Imbolo Mbue.

48 of 56 people found this review helpful

  • Death and the Seaside

  • By: Alison Moore
  • Narrated by: Imogen Church
  • Length: 5 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4

With an abandoned degree behind her and a 30th birthday approaching, amateur writer Bonnie Falls moves out of her parents' home into a nearby flat. Her landlady, Sylvia Slythe, takes an interest in Bonnie, encouraging her to finish one of her stories, in which a young woman moves to the seaside, where she comes under strange influences. As summer approaches, Sylvia suggests to Bonnie that, as neither of them has anyone else to go on holiday with, they should go away together - to the seaside, perhaps.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Entertaining but forgettable

  • By Rochelle on 08-24-16

Entertaining but forgettable

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

Reviewed: 08-24-16

If you are looking for something light, attention grabbing, and slightly unusual don't pass this by. It has high entertainment value and is very difficult to put down.

The characters are beautifully written. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Bonnie. She's painfully suggestible. And her parents (her father especially) are absolutely awful people! Moore did a reasonably good job of keeping us in the dark about Sylvia Slythe's history, only giving us information on a drip feed.

Imogen Church really sells this one. Her narration is spectacular. The accent she gives each character in the novel is gorgeous - she's absolutely nailed them, giving them a comedic value they deserve. I suspect it's a far more compelling book in audio than it would be in print.

Some reviews I've seen suggest the novel has psychological and/or literary depth. Don't expect much of either here. The literary references are from Bonnie's unwritten dissertation. In a more literary read these would form the bones of something greater. Here they are just a list. And the psychological references form Sylvia's motivation, but they aren't taken to any depth.

It's a lovely distraction, though not a memorable book. I expected something a little more literary but in all it's a good read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • What Belongs to You

  • By: Garth Greenwell
  • Narrated by: Piter Marek
  • Length: 6 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 208
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 195
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 193

On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia's National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Intimate Narration of a Powerful Novel

  • By Rochelle on 08-05-16

Intimate Narration of a Powerful Novel

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

Reviewed: 08-05-16

Garth Greenwell's quiet but urgent style is superb and this, his debut, is stunning in every respect. His novel is a profound dissection of a character caught between desire and morality.

A young American man is working as a teacher in Bulgaria. There he meets and becomes infatuated with a young man named Mitko. Initially the two develop an intense relationship that exists at the axes of shame and desire.

Thereafter follows a period of self reflection which includes recollections shameful, humiliating, and alienating. Greenwell fearlessly confronts the difficulties of a young gay man coming to know himself with a genuineness that is humbling to the reader.

Lately, poet-novelists such as Garth Greenwell are forming the base of my favourite contemporary storytellers. They often bring a lyricism to their storytelling that weaves well with the audio form. Audio seems the perfect format in which to experience these authors. I'm deeply fond of Garth Greenwell's creation as told by Piter Marek, whose narration is intimate, sincere and perfect.

There has been much praise calling Greenwell's book "The Great Gay Novel". I think it stands with E. M. Forster's "Maurice", and with the novels of Alan Hollinghurst and David Leavitt. I'm very surprised to see it left off the Man Booker long list for this year; to me it's definitely one of the highlights of the past year and won't soon be forgotten.

This is a must read for people interested in LGBT fiction or anyone interested in fine literature.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful