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W Perry Hall

  • 408
  • reviews
  • 3,124
  • helpful votes
  • 1,004
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  • The Hobbit

  • By: J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Narrated by: Rob Inglis
  • Length: 11 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34,286
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30,936
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31,149

Like every other hobbit, Bilbo Baggins likes nothing better than a quiet evening in his snug hole in the ground, dining on a sumptuous dinner in front of a fire. But when a wandering wizard captivates him with tales of the unknown, Bilbo becomes restless. Soon he joins the wizard’s band of homeless dwarves in search of giant spiders, savage wolves, and other dangers. Bilbo quickly tires of the quest for adventure and longs for the security of his familiar home. But before he can return to his life of comfort, he must face the greatest threat of all.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Finally! Thank you Audible!

  • By Bryan J. Peterson on 10-20-12

Go Go Bilbo!

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

Reviewed: 07-01-18


A spectacular adventure in Middle Earth. Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit--a small humanlike creature with furry feet--comes into possession of a magic ring that he uses to help the Wildlings defeat the Night King and the White Walkers.

Really good stuff.

  • Beware of Pity

  • By: Stefan Zweig
  • Narrated by: Nicholas Boulton
  • Length: 14 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 41
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 36
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 36

In the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a young cavalry officer is invited to a dance at the home of a rich landowner. There - with a small act of attempted charity - he commits a simple faux pas. But from this seemingly insignificant blunder comes a tale of catastrophe arising from kindness and of honour poisoned by self-regard. Beware of Pity has all the intensity and the formidable sense of torment and of character of the very best of Zweig's work. Definitive translation by the award-winning Anthea Bell.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One of my favorite authors

  • By Zaubermond on 03-21-18

Pick up a bee from kindness, and learn....

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

Reviewed: 07-01-18


'Pick up a bee from kindness, and learn the limitations of kindness.'
Sufi Proverb

Upon finishing this, Stefan Zweig's only completed novel, after having already read his memoir, The World of Yesterday, I've found that this Austrian author was one of those singularly gifted observers of the human condition, that come along maybe only once a generation, able to regularly discern the profound in the mundane as if such a talent came like riding a bicycle.

Beware of Pity sated my love for an exploration of human emotions I've not yet encountered in a story but have experienced in the real world. First was pity, and the negative that can flow therefrom. Second is the feeling of having someone in love with you at a time in youth when you want nothing to do with her/him.

Though I'd of course encountered the emotion of pity in other novels, none had made it a central theme and covered it like this novel did.

As for the second--see Zweig's brilliant quote below--I look back with deep regret at how mean and callous I was to the girl, and think how I'd have handled it differently. I'd not seen this fleshed out in a story from the viewpoint of the *unloving beloved* before this one.

The surface moral of this novel is laid out by its title: pity, as an emotion, can result in disaster. The deeper message seems the old maxim, you cannot judge a book by its cover. Hofmiller may wear the medal of the Military Order of Maria Theresa--the highest military decoration Austria could offer, equivalent to the Victoria Cross in Great Britain and the U.S.'s Medal of Honor--but he is plagued by his knowledge that his badge of 'courage' actually came from a colossal act of cowardice.

The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's popularity seems to be making a bit of a comeback, with the new publication of a number of his novellas and his memoir The World of Yesterday in which his writing shines. According to a number of sources, when this novel was published in 1939, Zweig was likely the most popular author in the world, for his short stories, novellas and biographies of famous people.

This was, again, the only novel he completed. He wrote it, as a Jewish refugee from Nazi persecution, in the U.S. (where he arrived in 1935) and then England (1938). He and his wife moved to Brazil in 1942 and shortly thereafter committed suicide together.

The story is set in Austria, mostly as it was on the brink of World War I. The tale is told though through a framing narrator (presumably Zweig) who meets the famously decorated cavalry lieutenant Anton Hofmiller at a social function. The narrator asks about the lieutenant's decoration as a hero of WW I, the Military Order of Maria Theresa, which Hofmiller disdains.

To explain why, he must take the narrator (and readers) back to the time he was invited to the castle of an immensely wealthy Hungarian named Lajos Kekesfalva. There, he asked the old man's crippled daughter to dance. A spoiled girl in her late teens, she throws a fit. Feeling pity for the girl, Hofmiller makes trips to see the Kekesfalvas nearly every day for an extended period. He is a man who gets nearly everything wrong: his gaffe that ultimately leads to awful consequences, believing Kekesfalva was a nobleman, and thinking the girl's doctor was incompetent, and leading the girl to believe she and he were engaged to be married only to deny it later in the evening, fearful of what his peers may think of him.



From BEWARE OF PITY, on the 'Torment' of Being "Loved Against Your Will

'a worse torment, perhaps, than feeling love and desire...is to be loved against your will, when you cannot defend yourself against the passion thrust upon you. It is worse to see someone beside herself, burning with the flames of desire, and stand by powerless, unable to find the strength to snatch her from the fire.

If you are unhappily in love yourself, you may sometimes be able to tame your passion because you are the author of your own unhappiness, not just its creature. If a lover can't control his passion then at least his suffering is his own fault. But there is nothing someone who is loved and does not love in return can do about it since it is beyond his own power to determine the extent and limits of that love and no willpower of his own can keep someone else from loving him.'

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • A House for Mr. Biswas

  • By: V.S. Naipaul
  • Narrated by: Sam Dastor
  • Length: 21 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 92
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 87
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 87

A House for Mr. Biswas, by Nobel and Booker Prize-winning author V. S. Naipaul, is a powerful novel about one man's struggle for identity and belonging. Born into poverty, then trapped in the shackles of charity and gratitude, Mr. Biswas longs for a house he can call his own. He loathes his wife and her wealthy family, upon whom he is dependent. Finding himself a mere accessory on their estate, his constant rebellion is motivated by the one thing that can symbolize his independence.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Charming prose. Lovely book.

  • By Saman on 12-11-17

Grating: Linda Richman, Fran Drescher & Sponge Bob

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

Reviewed: 07-01-18


I expected more. While I'm certain the novel is deeper than I was able to read and listen to, I'd like to think it's difficult to fault someone (me) for being so distracted by the protagonist Mr. Biswas' narrative voice, which is undoubtedly one of the most annoying, cringe-inducing in all of literature.

Think: SNL's 'Coffee Talk' with special guests Fran Drescher and Sponge Bob Squarepants.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Last Stories

  • By: William Trevor
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 4 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

With a career that spanned more than half a century, William Trevor is regarded as one of the best writers of short stories in the English language. Now, in Last Stories, the master storyteller delivers ten exquisitely rendered tales - nine of which have never been published in book form - that illuminate the human condition and will surely linger in the listener's mind. This final and special collection is a gift to lovers of literature and Trevor's many admirers, and affirms his place as one of the world's greatest storytellers. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • William Trevor's Last Literary Gems

  • By W Perry Hall on 07-01-18

William Trevor's Last Literary Gems

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

Reviewed: 07-01-18


Trevor's mastery is not in prose or 'structure' in the literary sense of the word. He is a maestro in constructing a story that reveals some human emotion or ice-shattering effects of our homocentric interactions. One way to describe this might be that he erects a Jenga tower of some human condition nudging the reader toward an ending that takes her breath away like a) pulling out the wrong block and all falls down, or b) removing just the right one, leaving her in awe at Trevor's perfection.

Trevor's final focus, in his Last Stories, seems primarily on the deception and various varieties of betrayal, and its short- and long-term adverse effects on betrayer, betrayed and those collaterally damaged, and the harm done by one's inability to cope with disappointments flowing from high expectations. As examples, a father's betrayal by deception of a daughter who in turn attempts to betray herself by self-deception; a betrayal borne of pity of a woman without a family or friends; out of pity arises a man's betrayal of his family and an ironic lesson in the pain and cost of unrequited love; how a double betrayal by husband and best friend leads to a betrayal of self and humanity in the black heart of vengeance.

In 'Giotto's Angels,' which overlies a Dante Eighth Circle special betrayal, Trevor captures the reader with a tale (a bit allegorical possibly) of good versus evil, beauty versus ugliness.

Probably the best of the brilliant bunch is 'An Idyll in Winter,' in which a married man visits the farm estate of a girl who had fallen head over heels for him when he tutored her maybe ten years in the past. The story delves into the devastating fallout from adultery, but moreso from the girl's inability to accept that love cannot be perfect (maybe especially so for love once unrequited and for love on which a betrayal of another is built), it will not stay a winter white idyll, which leads to the biting and ironic self-rationalization: '...she only wishes the men could know that love unchanged is as it was, is there for him among her shadows, for her in rooms and places as familiar to him as they are to her. She wishes they could know it will not wither, that there'll be no long slow dying, or love made ordinary.'

Highly recommended. The literary world has lost a great one.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Golden Hill

  • A Novel of Old New York
  • By: Francis Spufford
  • Narrated by: Sarah Borges
  • Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 258
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 237
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 240

The spectacular first novel from acclaimed nonfiction author Francis Spufford follows the adventures of a mysterious young man in mid-18th century Manhattan, 30 years before the American Revolution.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • So Much Potential But A Failure Of Execution

  • By Sara on 12-01-17

Food, Fruit and Anti-Feminism

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

Reviewed: 07-01-18


This is a well-done, enjoyable novel which is creative in a way I cannot disclose without spoiling it. Some might find it gimmicky. I liked its tribute by similarities to the English novels of the late 18th century.

I was struck by the below passage and started thinking how females have been subtly and not so subtly denigrated, demeaned and objectified by repeated (and mostly accepted) comparisons to fruits and foods--as well as foliage, geography. Yes.... I am male so I don't know first hand how gender discrimination and prejudice feels. But I have two 18-year-old daughters so I think I'm of a right to be offended.

Passage:
'How hard it is to describe a desirable woman without running into geography or the barnyard or the resources of the fruit bowl, as if flesh itself, bare vulnerable flesh out of flesh were not enough, considered merely as itself, as if we could not account for its power without fetching away into similes.' [narrator is despairing in describing a voluptuous older married woman with large breasts who repeatedly makes passes at our young hero).

While many of the terms are used endearingly by loved ones and suitors, sometimes they can be employed by even these friendlies--and, for that matter, by other women--to demean a girl or woman, her intelligence, her abilities and accomplishments, her opinions and so on.

Below is a list of some of what I found, limiting myself mostly to the food, fruit and foliage categories of cuts and cuddlies, and not listing those also used for men, such as honey, dish, baby cakes, sweetie (pie). I won't list similar euphemisms for men though I will point out that it is tiny in comparison.

cheesecake
cookie
crumpet
baby cake(s)
bunny cake(s)
cupcake
poundcake
pumpkin
tart
angel cake, angel food
brown sugar
bun in the oven
chocolate bunny
cinnamon girl
cream puff
croissant
dumpling
gum drop
hot chocolate
hot tamale
hot tomato
jam
jelly
juicy
kumquat
lollipop
love muffin
meringue
morsel
muffin
apples, cantaloupes, casabas, grapefruits, lemons, mangoes, melons;
cherries, raspberries, strawberries;
pancake
peach(es)
pear-shaped
pudding
sugar pie, sugar-pie-honey-bun, sugar plum, sugar britches, sugar dumpling, sugar lips;
sweet potato pie, sweet thing, sweet meat, sweet chocolate;
tootsie roll

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Montpelier Parade

  • A Novel
  • By: Karl Geary
  • Narrated by: Karl Geary
  • Length: 5 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 5

Montpelier Parade is just across town, but to Sonny it might as well be a different world. Working with his father in the garden of one of its handsome homes one Saturday, he sees a back door easing open and a beautiful woman coming down the path toward him. This is Vera, the sort of person who seems destined to remain forever out of his reach. Hoping to cast off his loneliness and a restless sense of not belonging - at high school, in his part-time job, and in the increasingly suffocating company of his own family - Sonny drifts into dreams of a different kind of life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Painfully Gorgeous Rendering

  • By W Perry Hall on 07-01-18

Painfully Gorgeous Rendering

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

Reviewed: 07-01-18


The story of 16-year-old Dubliner Sonny Knolls' short affair with Vera, a posh and single English lady twenty years his senior, really resonated with me.

Montpelier Parade explores the human need for love, human contact, for the attention that contributes to our self-worth. In the universal sense, the novel shows how the hunger transcends class and time, but what makes the story so compelling is its portrayal of the alchemy in this unlikely affair.

Not until near the novel's end--due to the choice in narration--is the reader given the key to understanding the enigma of the depressive, suicidal Vera, which brings into recall all the little things leading to it.

The unlikely romance in 1980s Dublin is drawn so convincingly. Geary has a knack for keenly setting scenes, in a cadenced rhythm and with great economy. This seems to me a great feat given that the narration is second person which can have a tendency to get carried away with excitement or agitation. I typically avoid second person narration. This is the first novel I can recall reading in which I enjoyed the second person narration and thought it the best and perfect choice, and carried off brilliantly.

Montpelier Parade is Vera's upper scale neighborhood where Sonny becomes acquainted with her while helping his father, a day laborer, with repairs on her townhouse one weekend. In stark contrast, Sonny's homelife is bleak with eight others in his house, including his stay-at-home mom who is irretrievably embittered by his dad with a gambling problem and six scantly employed older brothers whose most significant contributions seem to be to household strife.

Sonny Knolls attends (and often skips class) at an across-town parochial school where he doesn't fit in, and where steals/collects parts off his schoolmates' bicycles and ultimately gets expelled. He has no real friends except a 16-year-old dropout who will do anything to get boys to like her.

His view of the world around him changes dramatically after he begins an affair with Vera who opens new worlds to him in literature, art, talks of travel and sexual and sensual rapture. His jour de ma vie.

Geary sensitively embraces the 20+ year age difference and smartly avoids what must have been a huge temptation to dive into the salacious details. Voyeurism would not have worked here for a couple of reasons. One, the relationship seems completely convincing in the circumstances leading up to its inception and the enigma of Vera is resolved by novel's end. More significantly, Sonny's narration in the second person, which Geary paces flawlessly, shows a teen who is trying to make sense of things as they happen or shortly thereafter, learning as he goes, and naive of this whole different universe of pleasure and culture.

An ultimately doomed affair--sad but transformative and redemptive. Definitely recommended.

  • You Think It, I'll Say It

  • Stories
  • By: Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Narrated by: Emily Rankin, Mark Deakins
  • Length: 7 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 454
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 396
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 397

Throughout the 10 stories in You Think It, I'll Say It, Sittenfeld upends assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided. With moving insight and uncanny precision, Curtis Sittenfeld pinpoints the questionable decisions, missed connections, and sometimes extraordinary coincidences that make up a life. Indeed, she writes what we're all thinking - if only we could express it with the wit of a master satirist, the storytelling gifts of an old-fashioned raconteur, and the vision of an American original.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Like Potato Chips, You Can’t Read Just One

  • By Gretchen SLP on 08-04-18

Middle age wife is ... existential crisis

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

Reviewed: 07-01-18


Curtis Sittenfeld has a near perfect bead on the earlier stages of middle age in present days; most if not all of her stories revolve about a primary character who is or would now be mid-30s to mid-40s and suffering the preliminary throes, at least, of existentialism.

Two of the stories were such empathic thwacks each left me breathless with how dead-on it captured soulful pains recently experienced. Besides the briefest one, with breastfeeding its pivot ("Bad Latch"), I identified with and thoroughly enjoyed all the splendid stories, despite most being female-centric and slanted--justly so--against men.

I was tickled to discover Sittenfeld's mordant wit and sense of humor, the finest of any female author in my recent memory, e.g., husband responding to wife asking whether he found woman attractive, 'She's hot, but in a cheesy way. You know, what she looks like is a pharmaceutical rep. '

This collection deserves a finalist slot on all the prestigious book award nominations in the coming months. The best collection I have read since the tremendous trifecta a few years back of Fortune Smiles, The Tsar of Love and Techno, and Thirteen Ways of Looking.

Highly recommended.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Vile Bodies

  • By: Evelyn Waugh
  • Narrated by: Emilia Fox, Tobias Menzies, Nathaniel Parker
  • Length: 4 hrs and 42 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 46
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 39

A unique three-person reading. Vile Bodies is both a celebration of the hedonism of the young and a warning to those who believe that their licence to indulge is infinite and unquestionable.

A whole host of characters are introduced throughout Waugh's thought-provoking and often highly satirical story, which follows protagonist Adam through the perils and pitfalls of securing his marriage to Nina Blount, his fiancée.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Vortex of Vapid Rubbish Devolves into Nothingness

  • By W Perry Hall on 05-29-18

Vortex of Vapid Rubbish Devolves into Nothingness

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

Reviewed: 05-29-18


On each successive play of this audiobook, the question vexed me: how could it be that the same author who wrote the brilliant Brideshead Revisited also composed this doggerel volcano of vice and vileness, devoid of characters, dialogue and plot of any substance, value or virtue?

This short novel comes across as either a manic pervert's puerile idea of high-brow humor and wit or his successful stab at literary sadism.

Setting down the book was like walking away from a vortex of vapid rubbish that, in the end, devolved into nothingness.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Executioner's Song

  • By: Norman Mailer
  • Narrated by: Maxwell Hamilton
  • Length: 42 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 32
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33

Norman Mailer's Pulitzer Prize-winning and unforgettable classic about convicted killer Gary Gilmore now in audio. Arguably the greatest book from America's most heroically ambitious writer, The Executioner's Song follows the short, blighted life of Gary Gilmore who became famous after he robbed two men in 1976 and killed them in cold blood. After being tried and convicted, he immediately insisted on being executed for his crime. To do so, he fought a system that seemed intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Pulitzer-winner spoiled by numskulled narration

  • By W Perry Hall on 05-21-18

Pulitzer-winner spoiled by numskulled narration

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

Reviewed: 05-21-18

I'm not going to waste my time or yours with another rant about yet another case of an audiobook publisher's clear disregard for the greatness of a book--such as THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG--in refusing to hire a narrator who would rate even a decent job in the reading.

The mispronunciations in this audiobook are staggering. The last straws, ironically for me, came 23 hours in with SEVERAL references to the blowhard self-promoter Geraldo Rivera--using a hard G as with the word "gist" or "joke," as in Jeraldo Rivera, instead of the silent G for Geraldo. Unbelievable!

The ignorance of the narrator and the audiobook's director of the correct pronunciation of such simple words is stupefying. What a shame!

Writing a real review of the book's substance would, to my mind, countenance this type of callousness toward, and insult to the intelligence of, other Audible customers and me.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

  • A Novel
  • By: Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Narrated by: Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, Robin Miles
  • Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,413
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,244
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,238

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Five Out of Seven Ain't Bad

  • By Dubi on 12-31-17

Glucose Gluttony

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

Reviewed: 03-17-18


Paraphrasing a quote attributed to Abe Lincoln: 'For those who like this kind of a book, it is just about the kind of a book they would like.'

This was a significant failure in my vetting process, plain and simple.

While reading this novel, over and over I winced or rolled my eyes at the soppy prose that brought to mind the picture of one being force-fed a huge jar of crystallized honey (left in the pantry for the past year plus). I love honey, but crystallized...no, no way. E.g.,

'I loved you so much, that I thought you were the meaning of my life... I thought that people were put on Earth to find other people, and I was put on Earth to find you. To find you, and touch your skin, and smell your breath, and hear all your thoughts....'

The book is also a sugary trove of cliched gems, such as:

'Sometimes reality comes crashing down on you.'

'When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. '

'It felt like water in the desert.'


And schmaltzy advice like, 'You have to find a job that makes your heart feel big instead of one that makes it feel small.'


You shouldn't need any advice if you read the quotes above.


9 of 12 people found this review helpful