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Sara

  • 433
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  • Whistle in the Dark

  • A Novel
  • By: Emma Healey
  • Narrated by: Julia Deakin, Laura Aikman
  • Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 25

Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare. They sit by the hospital bedside of their 15-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a vacation. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself. 

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • A Dreadful Misery

  • By Sara on 10-05-18

A Dreadful Misery

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

Reviewed: 10-05-18

First, this title should come with a warning. If you happen to be a parent struggling with a child/teen having problems with depression and self harm this book might be just too much to handle. I am completely bored and absolutely sick of how the writing dances around, circles back on, and vaguely retraces every single thing that happens in the story. We never seem to come to the point (any point) or are ever presented with a fact to hold on to or build from. There isn't anything we haven't heard time and time again. Even worse, none of this makes any sense or offers any sort of insight. Repetitive, neurotic and tedious. I have two hours to go and I feel like I'm stuck in a huge depressing loop. I give up, I can't finish the book--I just want it to stop.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Meet Me at the Museum

  • A Novel
  • By: Anne Youngson
  • Narrated by: Helen Lloyd, Lars Knudsen
  • Length: 6 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 82
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 76
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 75

Brought together by a shared fascination with the Tollund Man, subject of Seamus Heaney’s famous poem, Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, and Tina Hopgood begin writing letters to one another. And from their vastly different worlds, they find they have more in common than they could have imagined. As they open up to one another about their lives, an unexpected friendship blooms. But then Tina’s letters stop coming, and Anders is thrown into despair. How far are they willing to go to write a new story for themselves?  

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Regret and Sacrifice

  • By Sara on 09-16-18

Regret and Sacrifice

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

Reviewed: 09-16-18

This epistolary novel was made up of alternating letters exchanged between the two main characters. These letters provide the reader with partial glimpses or small windows into the individual lives of these two very different people . Gradually the reader comes to know bits and pieces and to witness the characters struggle as they try to break free from the bonds of duty and loneliness. While the writing and narration were both good, I never really felt I connected with or knew the characters. Further, listening as these people lived out their limited lives locked in cages of their own making was completely frustrating. The ancient bog man from the museum served as a heavy handed reminder and symbol of sacrifice. Is it true that we are doomed to repeat the same behaviors, choices and mistakes? I wonder. To me, this book was very sad and in the end terribly depressing.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Silent Hearts

  • By: Gwen Florio
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
  • Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6

In 2001, Kabul is suddenly a place of possibility as people fling off years of repressive Taliban rule. This hopeful chaos brings together American aid worker Liv Stoellner and Farida Basra, an educated Pakistani woman still adjusting to her arranged marriage to Gul, the son of an Afghan strongman whose family spent years of exile in Pakistan before returning to Kabul. Both Liv and her husband take positions at an NGO that helps Afghan women recover from the Taliban years. But for Farida and Gul, the move to Kabul is fraught, severing all ties with Farida’s family and her former world....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Silenced Hearts Adrift

  • By Sara on 09-15-18

Silenced Hearts Adrift

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

Reviewed: 09-15-18

I read this book in conjunction with the book The Yellow Birds written by Iraqi war veteran Kevin Powers. This combination of books made for a complex, layered and multi dimensional look at Afghanistan recovering from the Taliban in 2001 and Iraq during the war in 2004-05. Both books were filled with raw emotion, heartbreak and world events roiling beyond individual control. While set in different locations, to me, each book looked at two sides of what might be considered the same problem.

I may have a deeper connection with these stories because I spent a great deal of time in the Middle East and Central Asia between 2001-2006. I visited the areas depicted in Silent Hearts in the Spring of 2001 before the 9/11 attacks and then in December of 2001 I walked in New York City to the Twin Towers site and stood in shock at the crater's edge watching as it still burned. I have strong memories of sitting and talking with US soldiers returning home from Iraq as they shivered next to me in the air-conditioning on flights from Istanbul. Images of women in burkas filling the streets, young students flocking to me wanting to practice their English, silk weaving factory visits and tea gatherings in small rural villages all fill my mind with complex feelings about that time.

Silent Hearts poignantly captured the gulf between the lives of Afghan women after the Taliban and the unimaginable freedom considered the norm by most American women. It contrasted concepts of marriage, children and family between our very different cultures. Florio painted a vibrant living picture with her writing and once again Cassandra Campbell's narration was nuanced and did the author justice with her performance. The story was well developed and the characters were easy to know and care about.

The Yellow Birds was a terrifying and beautifully written narrative that truly captured the horrors of war both for soldiers in the field and for parents, with emphasis on mothers, waiting and worrying at home. It delved into the damage and toll war takes on all involved and the difficult almost impossible recovery experience of many returning vets. This book strips away all the bravado and leaves behind the bare bones of horror. It was writing that transported the reader into the lives of others and a story that stuck with me long after the last word.

Be aware that both of these powerful books are filled with contradiction, double standards, deception and extreme violence. I am glad I listened to each one and can't choose a favorite. If you do go ahead and try these excellent recordings, be prepared to feel haunted long after the readings are over. There are no simple answers.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • The Lido

  • By: Libby Page
  • Narrated by: Clare Corbett
  • Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 49
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 47
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 47

Kate is a 26-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she's assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an 86-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Good Grief

  • By Sara on 07-30-18

Good Grief

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

Reviewed: 07-30-18

I can't force myself to finish listening to this sad, repetitive and endlessly tedious book. The characters are thinly developed and the story just seems to keep covering the same ground and making the same point--over and over again. I usually love books that involve storylines centered on character wholeness and healing through community. However, in the end I think the writing lacked the sparks (or maybe sparkle) needed to help the reader make a true connection to the characters as people.

I also had trouble with the narration. A Lido is an outdoor swimming area--whether it be a beach, a swimming pool or the deck on a cruise boat with pools. The word comes from the Italian and MOST all of the world pronounces it in the Italian manner......LEE-Doh....NOT the way Corbett chose to pronounce this key word. It absolutely was like fingernails on a blackboard. Golly. What an irritating bore this turned out to be.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Etta and Otto and Russell and James

  • A Novel
  • By: Emma Hooper
  • Narrated by: Robert G. Slade
  • Length: 8 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 413
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 371
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 373

Eighty-two-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean. So early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 3,232 kilometers from rural Canada eastward to the coast. Her husband Otto wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. "I will try to remember to come back," Etta writes to him. Otto has seen the ocean, having crossed the Atlantic years ago to fight in a far-away war. He understands. But with Etta gone, the memories come crowding in and Otto struggles to keep them at bay.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Richly Evocative Storytelling

  • By Sara on 07-16-18

Richly Evocative Storytelling

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

Reviewed: 07-16-18

This book was a time and space bending jaunt through Canada and introduced the reader to a wonderful collection of completely engaging characters. I thought Slade's narration was terrific. He captured so many different voices and textures in the writing that it really helped propel the story forward.

I agree with other reviewers that there was a strong feeling of the magical woven into the book. It reminded me in some ways of The House of the Spirits in the way it added the "out of body" tone to the writing. Definitely this was at times strange and even occasionally confusing but in the end a powerful story of love, connection, community and family.

I was simply stunned by the ending and I am still pondering the multiple messages in the writing. I plan on waiting a bit and then listening to the whole thing a second time. Original and fascinating.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • I Am Watching You

  • By: Teresa Driscoll
  • Narrated by: Elizabeth Knowelden
  • Length: 8 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,439
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,012
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 3,011

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it - until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she's decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls - beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard - has disappeared.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Creepy Thriller With Depth

  • By Sara on 07-15-18

Creepy Thriller With Depth

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

Reviewed: 07-15-18

This mystery accomplishes something many thrillers are unable to do by adding a sense of reality to the storytelling and a genuine expression of feeling for the victims of crime. What's more, the story places the listener in the scary position of suspecting almost everyone at different points in the book. There are so many back stories, twists and dark secrets that the ending sneaks up and really surprises. Unlike other reviews I've read elsewhere, I liked hearing all the personal details of life--managing a farm, complex families, raising teens and the daily running of a flower shop. I thought all this information made the book and the story much more firmly grounded in a strong sense of plausibility. In the end, this was a scary, sad and believable story. A powerful combo if you enjoy thrillers that immerse the reader deeply into the lives of the characters and story as it plays out. However, do be warned--it's creepy.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Dear Mrs. Bird

  • By: AJ Pearce
  • Narrated by: Anna Popplewell
  • Length: 9 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 260
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 245
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 248

London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Felt more like a children's book...

  • By carole thorn on 08-29-18

A Happy Romp Through The Blitz

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

Reviewed: 07-06-18

I absolutely hated every aspect of this inane representation of life in London during WWII. The narration was so false and forced I was sure it was an American doing a phony over the top British accent. After some research I found that Popplewell was indeed an English actress and had played the role of Susan in The Chronicles of Narnia. Go figure. Not sure what happened here but the narration, in my opinion, was overblown.

Further research produced quotes such as the one used in the title of this review. This picture of WWII London as "delightful" and "charming", to me, felt fake and stylized. It just rang completely untrue. My beloved great-aunt, survivor of the London Blitz, is without question rolling in her grave. Hogwash.

12 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Guiltless

  • Sandhamn Murders, Book 3
  • By: Viveca Sten
  • Narrated by: Angela Dawe
  • Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 210
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 181
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 179

The tiny Swedish island of Sandhamn has always been a haven for lawyer Nora Linde. With trouble brewing in her marriage, she finds its comforts more welcome than ever, even in the depths of winter. That is, until her two young sons trip across a severed arm in the woods. The boys' gruesome discovery will once again connect Nora with her childhood friend Thomas Andreasson, now a local police detective.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Series Bogs Down

  • By Sara on 07-05-18

Series Bogs Down

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

Reviewed: 07-05-18

On the up side the narrator has really improved from the choppy robotic quality of the earlier books. Dawe is even able to do different voices for the characters now. This make it much better for listening.

On the other hand I think I'm giving up on this series. It has become too plodding and on the edge of tedious for me. I hated all the graphic child abuse depicted in the flashback chapters. Then if you add in the odd and abrupt cliffhanger ending the whole thing just lost me.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Hearts and Minds

  • By: Amanda Craig
  • Narrated by: Sian Thomas
  • Length: 13 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 13
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10

Hidden by London’s wealth, energy and need for cheap labour, the city’s immigrant population is powerless, despised and often illegal. So when a young woman’s body is discovered on Hampstead Heath one cold morning, she could be anyone...Rich or poor, outsider or insider, five strangers are connected in undreamed-of ways as greed, courage, murder and kindness link their lives.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Timely Look At Immigration

  • By Sara on 07-02-18

A Timely Look At Immigration

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

Reviewed: 07-02-18

It makes me balk that by giving this book five stars it means that "I love it". In reality, this is a stark look at the underbelly of London 2002-2008 and presents what seemed to me to be the "what's in it for me" way of living. Craig, is fast becoming a disturbing, albeit compelling favorite author for me. She stirs me up and has me fuming with her throw you under the trolley style of writing. Insightful, gritty and at the same time beautifully composed.

In this book five lives are woven together, using a hodgepodge style with frequent holes; many open loops and lots of loose ends. Nothing here is neat and tidy, but the story is drawn directly from today's reality. It forces the reader to look at the current immigration trouble from multiple angles and perspectives. Rather than the hearts and minds approach, Craig presents the use or be used reality, and it is disturbing. The book embraces so many wounded, needy souls--but--oddly enough left me not feeling sorry for anyone. Instead, I felt that the writing presented how we each need to meet "the other" or "the stranger" in immigration as a human equal and then to work together from there.

Thomas' narration was excellent and done seamlessly what with all the transitions between accents and characters. It added to the experience by not overwhelming the characters, but at the same time bringing them each to life.

There was a quote in the book where a character derides America for being idiotic in that we believe that we have the "right" to be happy. The American character points out that we Americans don't believe we have the right to be happy but the right to pursue happiness. I would like to believe that all humans all over the world have that same right, in addition to the chance to live in safety and peace. I think we have a way to go on that front. That said, I guess in the end I did love the book.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • No Cry for Help

  • By: Grant McKenzie
  • Narrated by: Noah Michael Levine
  • Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 109
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 88
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 90

During a cross border shopping trip, a family vanishes. No reason. No ransom. No cry for help. Bus driver Wallace Carver fears the worst when his family fails to meet him at the Bellingham, Washington mall. His anxiety is justifiably heightened when security cameras unexplainably show that he crossed the Peace Arch border alone. Now, all Wallace wants to do is get his wife and sons back. But first he has to work out why they were taken and by whom.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Extreme Violence

  • By Sara on 06-25-18

Extreme Violence

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

Reviewed: 06-25-18

This book was absolutely not for me. It was to my mind one of the most callously violent books I have ever read. I have about three horrible hours to go and I can't bring myself to finish listening. The whole story is riddled with profanity, torture, obscenity and gratuitous over the top violence. Be aware, this title should come with a listener warning.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful