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Karen L.

  • 16
  • reviews
  • 23
  • helpful votes
  • 17
  • ratings
  • Kidnapped

  • By: Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Narrated by: Frederick Davidson
  • Length: 7 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 178
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 117
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 121

In this spirited and romantic saga, a young heir named David Balfour meets his miserly uncle Ebenezer, who has illegally taken control of the Balfour estate. Ebenezer kidnaps David and plots to have him seized and sold into slavery on a ship to the Carolinas. A couple of days into the voyage, a shipwreck throws David together with David Break, a Scotsman returning from political exile in France, and the two of them journey together.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great story, great reader.

  • By Kappavpi on 02-06-06

I love this Highland adventure!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-02-16

A drunken murder at sea, a shipwreck, Highland clans (Campbells, McGregors, even Stuarts), some Gaelic speak (with parenthetical definitions voiced), Highland chieftains and real places, hiding in the heather from English dragoons--what an adventure for young David Balfour! It truly is as exciting as Outlander without the sex!

It is after 1745, so English law forbids the wearin' o' the plaid, except that some poor folk make their kilts pass for French culottes with a few stitches separating the legs. The Highland theme alone is reason enough to read this novel, and some details correspond to what we've learned in English history. I love the plot, setting, characters, and narration; however, I wished at the beginning that Frederick Davidson could make his booming voice sound more like that of a timid young lad who has just lost his father and knows little of the world. As our Balfour gets wise and assertive fast, this is not a problem long. But, if your device is connected to a tuner, turn down your volume for Davidson.

Forget the misguided notion that this book is for kids. Drunkenness and gambling are for adults, too. Get the book and the Kindle copy, too, so that you can see the Gaelic spellings and the short spurts of Latin the lawyer tortures us with near the end. I'll listen again.

Oh, gosh, I'm descended from the Lowland Campells--not the good guys in this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • A Doll House

  • By: Henrik Ibsen
  • Narrated by: Calista Flockhart, Tony Abatemarco, Tim Dekay, and others
  • Length: 2 hrs and 10 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,035
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 947
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 942

A new recording of Henrik Ibsen's masterpiece, starring Calista Flockhart. Nora Helmer has everything a young housewife could want: beautiful children, an adoring husband, and a bright future. But when a carelessly buried secret rises from the past, Nora's well-calibrated domestic ideal starts to crumble. Ibsen's play is as fresh today as it was when it first stormed the stages of 19th-century Europe.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Independence

  • By Renee on 01-24-15

Ibsen's plays are always multidimensional with a strain of myth.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-31-16

The code of courtly love was evidently still alive in 1879, but needed eradicated. Ibsen must silence all its proponents--for the good of society, both men and women.

The beautiful damsel--who would look good and graceful (even in cheap clothes), especially to her star-dazed lover--must dance and sing, preferably a lively folk dance (tarantella) and a pastoral ditty with a troubadour's instrument (tambourine). And, her lover (lovers, including the doctor) must be willing to foolishly sacrifice himself, either by languishing away for want of her love (the doctor) or otherwise obliterating himself so that his beloved might live. Both of our main characters demonstrate that the code of courtly love is well engrained in their minds.

What's next? Circumvent the law? No, not that law, but the laws of courtly love. How appropriate that the lawyer shows us the way to transition from an outmoded patriarchal, pastoral society to a modern world of The State, the new world view so analyzed by 19th Century intellectuals. Ibsen is never just about individual characters, but always deep in multiple layers, and anthropologists of his day were hot on the trail of the myths that pervade our lives. For all drama for many decades following Ibsen, I always look for this underlying strain of myth, more prominent in drama than perhaps any other literary genre.

Most prominent among these anthropologists was Sir James Frazer, whose first publication in 1890 of The Golden Bough rocked the literary world more than any other book of its time--and was quoted more in my professors' lectures on drama. Audible has a copy of the 1894 edition for $10.95. The sample narration sounds great.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Wives and Daughters

  • By: Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Narrated by: Nadia May
  • Length: 25 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 471
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 350
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 349

Set in English society before the 1832 Reform Bill, Wives and Daughters centers on the story of youthful Molly Gibson, brought up from childhood by her father. When he remarries, a new stepsister enters Molly's quiet life, the loveable, but worldly and troubling, Cynthia. The narrative traces the development of the two girls into womanhood within the gossiping and watchful society of Hollingford.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • It's not about the ending!

  • By Sandra on 07-25-05

Impressive narration with many voices!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-29-16

Nadia May assumes "a slight Scottish accent" as described by the author for Dr. Gibson and appropriate voices for all the other characters of all ages, social classes, and personalities.

The major characters (the family of father, daughter, stepmother, and stepdaughter) are somewhat flat characters, not changing much in the course of the story. The stepmother has only one mode of operation--to glorify herself at the expense of others--and she accomplishes this, in her own mind at least, by editing history with little lies and fictitious credits, slyly insulting others and depriving them of their credits. She somewhat resembles Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, but less humorous, more underhanded. After dozens of her unjust criticisms of her own daughter and her perfectly behaved stepdaughter, this reader wanted more literary justice for her than her husband's one minor scolding. I can be appeased only by imagining that the entire fictional community must see through her, divine her motives, and discount everything she says. Some do.

Other characters are also interesting, but for the two most admired characters, readers must supply their rewards. There is no question as to what they will be; we only don't get the pleasure of reading about them within the novel, since Gaskell didn't finish it. The editor's concluding remarks (included) assure us that little could be added (one chapter perhaps), and it could contain only what we already know will happen. The omission of the one last chapter does not, then, ruin this novel or frustrate readers or keep them surmising how it should end, as with The Mystery of Edwin Drood. We can be satisfied with this ending.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Sons and Lovers

  • By: D. H. Lawrence
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 16 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 245
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 207
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 209

Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence's first major novel, was also the first in the English language to explore ordinary working-class life from the inside. No writer before or since has written so well about the intimacies enforced by a tightly knit mining community and by a family where feelings are never hidden for long. When the marriage between Walter Morel and his sensitive, high-minded wife begins to break down, the bitterness of their frustration seeps into their children's lives.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Momma's Boy (The Dangers of Overbearing Parenting)

  • By W Perry Hall on 02-01-14

Perfect narration, but what is Lawrence really doing?

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-27-16

Considering that The Rainbow and Women in Love are about lesbian love, and considering that homosexuality (primarily male) was still punishable with imprisonment in England in the 1950's (we learn in the film The Imitation Game), one must consider that Lawrence was attempting to depict a cause for male homosexuality. Then his characterization of the overbearing mother, though a good portrayal, is a gross oversimplification.

As for our hero, Paul Morel, he loves Miriam/he doesn't. He wants to marry her/he doesn't. He loves Clair/he doesn't. Then he loves Miriam again/he doesn't. He wants to marry her/he doesn't. This vacillation continues until readers are saying "Choose, already!" He becomes a tiresome character. Finally, readers must imagine where his unsteady character leads him.

As for narration, Simon Vance has a different voice for each character, easy to discern, and even different voices for Mrs. Morel as she ages. Indeed, this narration makes listening a pleasure, even for those who aren't extremely fond of the novel.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Villette

  • By: Charlotte Brontë
  • Narrated by: Davina Porter
  • Length: 22 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 314
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 277
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 277

Hailed as Charlotte Brontë’s “finest novel” by Virginia Woolf, Villette is the timeless semi-autobiographical tale of Lucy Snowe. Left with no family and no money, Lucy goes against her own timid nature and travels to the small city of Villette, France, where she becomes a school teacher in Madame Beck’s school for girls. During her stay, she falls in love—twice—and discovers an independent, inner strength rarely seen in women of her time.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • You need to be a Bronte fan to enjoy this story

  • By Kristin on 09-07-14

Good book, memorable characters, perfect narration.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-16-16

Picture this: a tiny young girl, regarded by some as a pest, likes to crawl up onto the lap of a sixteen-year-old boy she isn't related to--while he is studying--and he lets her! Endearing characters! You're hooked right here in one of the first chapters. You know you'll encounter these characters again later, but focus shifts to Lucy, not as endearing, but a sympathetic character, nevertheless. Through her, we get accounts and judgements of other characters: teachers, students, priests, a doctor, and a school administrator. Also, we watch her search for her voice, her self, and finally, her place.

I'm glad I also got the Kindle for two reasons. First, it helps to have the French in text. Davina Porter's French is perfect, but I like to have the spelling, just in case I need to consult my French dictionary--and an English one, too, since Bronte's vocab can stump anyone. A second use for the text is to flip through a few pages at a time to get past metaphors that go on and on to describe the weather in terms of some shenanegans of Apollo and other celestials. (Bronte is much better with imagery than with figurative language.)

I don't always like ambiguous endings. The reader shouldn't expect literary justice, not for all the characters. As in life, some never learn--because they never have to.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Tales of Troy and Greece

  • By: Andrew Lang
  • Narrated by: Frederick Davidson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 13
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 9

Andrew Lang drew upon his classical learning to recreate the Greek myths for children. He follows Ulysses from his boyhood, thorugh the Trojan Wars, to his voyage to seek the son of Achilles. The story of Helen of Troy, and the Trojan Horse, is told with the pace of a modern adventure. Lang's collection of retold myths includes Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece, and recounts the lives and heroic deeds of two other major figures: Theseus, who slew the Minotaur; and Perseus, who freed the princess Andromeda as one of his many tests, with the helo of the gorgon's head. Perseus, Andromeda, and her parents, Cephus and Cassiopeia, are remembered in the constellations of the summer sky. Not only will theres tales bring to life for children of all ages the quest for good and the struggle against eveil embodied in the myths, they also reveal the roots of characters referenced throughout Western litereature from Shakespeare's time to the present day. In the true spirit of adventure, Lang dedicated his book to H. Rider Haggard.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I'm on my second immersion reading,

  • By Karen L. on 03-09-16

I'm on my second immersion reading,

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-09-16

and find this book a wonderful review of the Greek stories. I will continue to review this book until there isn't a character whose actions and relationships to others I don't know well enough to answer all trivia questions about Greek mythology.

I like that the stories here are simple, without too much worthless detail. I sent back an edition of Ovid because details ruined the story for me. (I don't need to know the names of all of Actaeon's dogs or what body part each one bit into--only that they ate him! Also, that narrator, Charlton Griffin, used a rasping voice to try to sound so ominous or devilish.)

Davidson's voice is even-tempered and clear. I've listened to enough British and French novels that I'm not used to hearing final "r" anyway, and that omission seems to me the most pronounced "British" characteristic of his reading.

Now I can't wait to see the film "Troy" again, because even minor characters will be familiar. I'll recognize Diomedes and know what he's about to do, and when Odysseus steals the luck of Troy, I'll chuckle, remembering his relationship to Antilocus. This is what a clear, organized, uncluttered storytelling has given me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Scarlet and Black

  • By: Stendhal
  • Narrated by: Martin Jarvis
  • Length: 2 hrs and 59 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars 1

Young Julien Sorel, one of the greatest characters in European literature, tries to rise above his humble peasant origins through a combination of talent and hard work - but also seduction, deception, and hypocrisy. The story is set in 19th-century France and is filled with sex, violence, romance, and humour.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Distracting performance. especially during female

  • By Deborah Reback on 07-25-17

One of my two favorite audio books ever!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-02-16

I can't believe some of the negative listener reviews of other editions of this masterpiece! This abridged version is fabulous. I bought it about ten years ago and went to bed with it every night. Even after I bought other audio books, I continued with this one and left others unopened for a good while. I have not listened to a word of it since, but witness here how well I remember it.

Julien Sorel is a scheming genius. He doesn't miss a trick, reads others like a book, and manages them for his purpose of getting ahead. He is the epitome of native peasant intelligence, with an incompatible dream: to possess a fine Parisian lady. He practices on a local mayor's wife while he tutors her children in Latin. The local priest has recommended him to the woman's husband as a fine Latin scholar, and he impresses the family with his ability to recite the entire Bible. There is nothing this peasant can't do.

Eventually, he wins his fine lady, impresses her father, manages the older rman's business, travels to London to present a plan for restoring the old aristocratic order, and establishes a reputation for himself in battle. He is a man for all seasons and a Leonardo, too. A wonder--and the reader wonders at the incredible intrigue Stendhal has created. This peasant is flying high, and no matter that he must be undone, the reader is left with admiration for him and only a few chuckles at his gumption and daring.

The narration couldn't be better. I haven't sampled the unabridged editions, but have read some uncomplimentary reviews of them, so perhaps this abridged version is the one that will please. Just don't miss this book! Oh, the other one of my two favorites is The Vicar of Wakefield.

  • Resurrection

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Neville Jason
  • Length: 20 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 184
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 171
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 171

When Prince Dmitri Nekhludov is called for jury duty on a murder case, he little knows how the experience will change his life. Faced with the accused, a prostitute, he recognizes Katusha, the young girl he seduced and abandoned many years before, and realizes his responsibility for the life of degradation she has been forced to lead. His determination to make amends leads him into the darkest reaches of the Tsarist prison system, and to the beginning of his spiritual regeneration.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing wisdom and insight

  • By Catherine York on 12-31-16

A must-read with impeccable narration

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-02-16

First, a note about the Kindle edition for immersion--there is none that I could find, but I must admit that I checked only the cheaper ones. So, I chose the free green one and tried to follow along. (My miserable experience is described in my Kindle review.). Text is especially necessary for Russian novels with 4-word character names and words with 4 consecutive consonants. I take notes only of characters' names and relations to other characters the first time I encounter them. I need to see the print for this and must say that I couldn't follow many foreign novels without this practice. Surely a serious reading keeps track of the characters, so I hope we find more immersion editions, at least of Russian and French novels in future.

My experience with the lousy Kindle edition makes me wonder how much of any historic novel is authentic in this century's renditions of it, but I have no other reason to doubt this audio edition. I do wish narrators would include footnotes, though, and repeat French phrases in English as an aside. The characters here speak French often, entire paragraphs of it. I understand most of it, but not all unless I can see it in print. We can't even consult a French dictionary without the spelling. It's a difficult language for me to get by sound alone, even though I studied it for 3 years and can read it well. (Just imagine a non-English speaker hearing "ah dunno." What to look for in the dictionary?)

As always, Tolstoy's characters are complex, and I appreciate that they engage in philosophical debates and story-telling a little less than Dostoevsky's. However, denouement consists mostly of reading from the biblical Matthew and attempts to design from it laws we would not want to live by in this century--we'd have all criminals running free! (Was Tolstoy, like Shelley, the "ineffectual angle"?) A few chapters remind us of Tolstoy's actual experiments with peasant farming cooperatives, but these chapters are not very detailed.

I respect the author's unambiguous assertion that armed service + alcohol = crime. Likewise, his treatment of rape (isn't it?) without really mentioning it, and his always surprising responses of other females toward the victims. Think of what he would make of violence today when he would factor in heroin "among the peasantry," automatic weapons, and perversion of two of the world's most prominent religions. (I exempt Hinduism.) And, I turn to Updike for the update.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

  • By: James Joyce
  • Narrated by: Michael Orenstein
  • Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 212
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 190
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 189

The intellectual and religio-philosophical awakening of young Stephen Dedalus as he begins to question and rebel against the Catholic and Irish conventions with which he has been raised. He finally leaves for abroad to pursue his ambitions as an artist. The work is an early example of some of Joyce's modernist techniques that would later be represented in a more developed manner by Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. The novel, which has had a "huge influence on novelists across the world", was ranked by Modern Library as the third greatest English-language novel of the 20th century.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I don't understand the hate...

  • By J. Grablowski on 01-05-18

I love the beginning with the little boy.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-26-16

I first read this book forty years ago. Recently, I realized that all I remembered of it was "auntie's skirts." (They are at eye level for the little tot following around after the grownups.) Now after carefully listening to the audio a few weeks ago, I remember the little boy getting hurt and then quickly turning his attention to something to eat. I was reminded of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales, so endearing in its cuteness.

But there isn't much interest for me in Steven Daedalus as a grown man. Is this Daedalus also a builder of a maze? The maze of ideas he attempts to find his way through is boring, especially since we know that the real artist rejected those ideas and the city where he encountered them and vowed never to return to the provincial city of Dublin. I think it is reasonable for the reader to skip over some of the religious ramblings, for we get it! And surely more creativity will follow!

As for the narration, I was willing to wade my way through the Irish brogue to experience the novel in a more authentic manner, but that may be masochistic.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Idiot [Tantor]

  • By: Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Narrated by: Norman Dietz
  • Length: 26 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 86
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 72
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 70

Just two years after completing Crime and Punishment, which explored the mind of a murderer, Fyodor Dostoevsky produced another masterpiece: The Idiot. This time the author portrays a truly beautiful soul and one of Dostoevsky's greatest characters---Prince Muishkin, a saintly, Christ-like, yet deeply human figure. The story begins when Muishkin arrives on Russian soil after a stay in a Swiss sanatorium.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Awesome book horribly read

  • By Bobby on 01-29-17

Characters lacking identity and creativity--that's the point!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-26-16

Dostoevsky's characters are confused and confusing, because they have no national identity to relate to. They aren't even hypocrites, because they haven't the motivation to be. Yet they contradict themselves from one moment to the next, even to the extent that they love one minute and hate the same person the next. Politically, morally, and socially, they "try on for size" any idea that they whiff in the breeze. When a problem needs solving, they grapple at ineffectual, fanciful, childish solutions, much like some of Chekhov's ineffectual characters. In The Idiot, characterization isn't simply a matter of good-versus-evil, a theme Dostoevsky is famous for mastering, but it is a matter of depicting a crisis in the Russian mind or education. Many characters in this novel make Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice seem like a superb intellect.

Approaching the novel with this orientation certainly helps readers to appreciate the masterful characterization. Norman Dietz's narration is great. The moment I began to listen to him, I knew this was a good choice.

Now that i reflect on the story, I am reminded that the Prince has been educated outside of Russia, as are many characters in all of Russian literature. In fact, English, French, and German universities were favorite choices for the sons of Russians with money, a fact that tied their experiences to other European cultures--and confused their own with a smattering of foreign words and ideas. Think of it! What use had a Russian for the ramblings of Rousseau? Voltaire? Madame Pompadour? Yet Dostoevsky's characters are fond of quoting "Apres moi me deluge," a fatalistic expectation--if they get the sense of it. Dostoevsky did.