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Essleigh Ekstrom

Ashland, OR, USA
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  • The Last Cruise

  • A Novel
  • By: Kate Christensen
  • Narrated by: Rob Shapiro
  • Length: 10 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 108
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 101
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 101

The 1950s vintage ocean liner Queen Isabella is making her final voyage before heading to the scrapyard. For the guests on board, among them Christine Thorne, a former journalist turned Maine farmer, it's a chance to experience the bygone mid-20th century era of decadent luxury cruising. The Isabella sets sail from Long Beach, California, into calm seas on a two-week retro cruise to Hawaii and back. When a time of crisis begins, Christine and other characters find themselves facing the unknown together in an unexpected and startling test of their characters. 

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • cheesy

  • By HIDHO on 10-11-18

Luxury's sharp edge plus even sharper love stories

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

Reviewed: 11-30-18

Such a compelling portrait of beautiful, brutal America! What would happen if you got to luxuriate in a one-percenter's little folly, but weren't one of them? Who do you, and your integrity, become when something goes wrong? The newest novel from the fiercely intelligent Kate Christensen (one of this country's most consistently interesting writers) gives us several unlikely heroes who are just like us: smart, talented women and men struggling to survive in the new America and the turbulent wake of international corporate power.

The turquoise waters are delightful, but like anything in excess they also hide danger and despair. The tension here is not mortal: it is, like all of Christensen's books, moral. And so wonderfully complex. She refuses to deal in easy stereotypes: no one is simply good or bad. She lures us into this cruise with a delightfully stylish premise, all exquisite food and glamorous settings and vivid characters. Then she turns it all on its head to follow the money. And while chaos threatens, she deftly develops two of the most memorable romances I've ever enjoyed.



The narrator is very good, for male voices. I've given only 4 stars simply because there were so many interesting female characters, of all ages, that I found myself longing for a female voice, or at least a less rumbly male voice.

  • Kristin Lavransdatter

  • By: Tiina Nunnally - translator, Sigrid Undset
  • Narrated by: Erin Bennett
  • Length: 45 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,508
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,396
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,391

As a young girl in 14th-century Norway, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, Lavrans, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A grand listen

  • By Chicago & Indiana Scientist/Gardener/Hiker on 07-05-17

Ever wondered what it takes to be a Saint?

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

Reviewed: 07-02-17

What did you love best about Kristin Lavransdatter?

Being consistently surprised at how every character who initially seemed to be predictable became in the long run a fascinating and sometimes exasperating portrait of temperament and complexity. This is a writer who plays the long game masterfully; her Nobel made total sense to me after finishing. I very much enjoy being surprised as a reader, whether by an unusual interpretation (such as a female Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet Women), unexpectedly touching friendships in the midst of a romp (Gail Carriger's Soulless series), or now this Norwegian "Catholic novel" of the 1920s, which my non-religious self found ultimately quite fascinating.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Do I really need to even wonder about a favorite? No, the book is far too complex for such a simplistic question. There is a wide cast of alternately interesting and maddening characters. No one was either all good or all evil. A reader could find that Kristin herself is either flawed and saintly; or martyr-like in the most annoying way. Above all, the writer sees and loves humanity in all its complexity, and took the time to write about them in such intriguing depth. She probably took years or even decades to do so, with patience and without judging them for their failings (or at least offering other explanations for their failings).

What about Erin Bennett’s performance did you like?

Like the author, Ms. Bennet plays an amazing long game. 48 hours of consistently measured but passionate narration. She never overwhelmed the story, and her voices never made me cringe; on the contary, they often were very appealing. Her voicing of Kristin came the closest to being annoying, but I think that was intentional: the character is so self-consciously pious that Bennet's rendition was spot-on, if sometimes a little off-putting.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

So many. These people are so filled with human failings, and do sometimes outrageous things, and yet they overwhelmingly struggle to find their way back towards a moral center. If that sounds pretentious, it really isn't in the book. They struggle the same way Sherlock Holmes struggles, or Zadie Smith's characters struggle, or even "zany" Christopher Moore's characters try not to go completely off whatever edge they're teetering on.

Any additional comments?

When I recommended this book to my spiritual but 20-something friend, he laughed and said he would never read it, too many negatives: Norwegian, 14th century, Catholic, LONG, etc. I think if he ever gave it a good try (say, 20 hours or so) he might change his mind and find it fascinating. First, as the overwhelming popularity of TV series implies, few of us want to see a good story end. And so much of Kristin Lavransdatter is relevant to 2017 (men responding almost mystically to men who act like "Chieftains", for example); it is a wonderful, patient writer's deep look into a patriarchal Scandinavian world through the eyes of a stubborn woman who never manages to disengage from her bloody, chaotic world, even as she tries to give it up entirely while still living (through a path clearly laid out by one religion's sometimes almost unbelievably harsh guidelines).

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • A God in Ruins

  • A Novel
  • By: Kate Atkinson
  • Narrated by: Alex Jennings
  • Length: 16 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,838
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,675
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,672

A God in Ruins tells the dramatic story of the 20th century through Ursula's beloved younger brother, Teddy - would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather - as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • FRUSTRATING BUT GOOD

  • By Janna Wong Healy on 10-27-15

Inexplicable sequel to a truly phenomenal book

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

Reviewed: 07-31-15

Would you try another book from Kate Atkinson and/or Alex Jennings?

I was stunned by the slow-building deep philosophical questions in Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (a very accurate title). It was not a shallowly exciting novel; rather, it gradually drew me in and captured my allegiance and my admiration. When I saw there was a sequel I immediately downloaded it. The story was too much of the quite boring life of a charming side character in LAL. And the reader, I have to say, really poisoned the tone of the novel, delivering much of the character's voices as whiny or just false, and much of the narration as snide. If you desire a novel which seems to paint all people other than well-educated but pure-at-heart English men and women as simpletons, this would be a good one for you to enjoy. I am frankly puzzled by both the novel and the positive reviews. I wish I could recapture the glow of Life After Life and leave it at that.

Has A God in Ruins turned you off from other books in this genre?

Definitely not.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Alex Jennings?

Someone who knows the difference between confident and snide.

What character would you cut from A God in Ruins?

not applicable

4 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • The Help

  • By: Kathryn Stockett
  • Narrated by: Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and others
  • Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 38,210
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 24,059
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 24,074

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • What a great surprise!

  • By Jan on 12-02-09

So Subtly Menacing it's Almost a Thriller

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

Reviewed: 05-18-10

The tension in this wonderful novel builds exquisitely slowly. The writer never once hits the reader over the head with a conclusion, but always allows us to feel it ourselves. This is the best evocation of 1960s Southern America I've ever read, because it focuses on the completely unspoken rules that govern every aspect of behavior between the races. And unspoken rules, of course, cannot be legislated away. Stockett's characters are heartbreaking in their everyday compassion, frustration, mercy and cruelty. How does change really begin to happen? Listen to this beautifully narrated story and find out.