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  • 136
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  • A Gentleman in Moscow

  • A Novel
  • By: Amor Towles
  • Narrated by: Nicholas Guy Smith
  • Length: 17 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 23,095
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 21,408
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21,327

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in an elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Reprieve Amidst Ugly News, Relentless Negativity

  • By Cathy Lindhorst on 08-27-17

One of the very best of 2016

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

Reviewed: 12-29-16

Five stars seem utterly inadequate to rate this novel, even crass. A gentleman, after all, does not reduce a dear friend to mere decorations for epaulets. Such behaviour is worse than bourgeois, it is ... common. And A Gentleman in Moscow is not, in the least bit, common. Indeed, Count Alexander Rostov, that former person now begrudged non-entity, is exceptional, so much so that he must live out his life under house arrest in the famed Metropole Hotel, on the Theatre Square across from the Bolshoi Theatre and the Kremlin. Does this phase a gentleman? Certainly not. Does it lead to a life that is dull? Au contraire! In a style that is old-world in its charm and uncompromising in its evocation of period and detail (including, perhaps especially the foods), Amor Towles leads us into the world of evolving communism from the Bolshevik revolution to the 1950's through the little world of the hotel from its lobby and its grand dining rooms, to its back stairs and secret spaces. All the resistance to the blandness of communist comrades in a cast of characters that remind one of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of beauty.
At this time when Russia and the west are sliding into chillier interactions, and when old-world gentility has given way to nouveau-riche boorish, we need to be reminded of the importance of each little gesture, each small act that works to make true acts and lives of greatness.
One of the best novels I have read this year.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Electric Michelangelo

  • By: Sarah Hall
  • Narrated by: Joe Jameson
  • Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11

On the windswept front of Morecambe Bay, Cy Parks spends his childhood years first in a guesthouse for consumptives run by his mother and then as apprentice to alcoholic tattoo artist Eliot Riley. Thirsty for new experiences, he departs for America and finds himself in the riotous world of the Coney Island boardwalk, where he sets up his own business as 'The Electric Michelangelo'.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • So tedious and unfocused

  • By RI in Canada on 11-26-16

So tedious and unfocused

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

Reviewed: 11-26-16

I had hoped that as a book shortlisted for the Booker Prize this would be good.
It's not.
It's tiresome, poorly plotted, and completely overwhelmed by list-like description. The character of Cyril Parks (Cy) is interesting as a child but as the story moves through the next 60 years of his life, it becomes very tedious.

  • Doomsday Book

  • By: Connie Willis
  • Narrated by: Jenny Sterlin
  • Length: 26 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 5,034
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4,133
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4,156

For Oxford student Kivrin, traveling back to the 14th century is more than the culmination of her studies - it's the chance for a wonderful adventure. For Dunworthy, her mentor, it is cause for intense worry about the thousands of things that could go wrong.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Timely, beautiful, terrible and haunting

  • By mudcelt on 11-02-09

Narration is a bit slow, but tale is great

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

Reviewed: 11-16-16

What's not to like about this book? It includes time travel, the middle ages, some engaging characters, an ending that is predictable in some ways, but with sufficient startling turns along the way that it complicates and satisfies. The 24 year old book has some interesting missteps about how technology will advance, which makes her "future" seem quite quaint: imagine waiting in your room to receive a phone call! Other aspects -- the eradication of disease (almost), routine time travel -- create a creative jumble that does not feel too far off where we might be at mid-century. The real brilliance, however, comes in the construction of the middle ages -- specifically the 1300's with the petty religiosity vs. true faith, the tortures of love apparently unrequited, and especially the wonderful depiction of the two girls, Agnes and Rosamund. This is not high literature by any means, but makes for an enjoyable escape to another time.
The narrator is a bit slow, but it's fine at 1.5X speed (I usually listen at 1.25X)

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing

  • By: Madeleine Thien
  • Narrated by: Angela Lin
  • Length: 20 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 292
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 268
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 268

Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition, even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations - those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-20th century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Devastating and complex

  • By Amazon Customer on 02-13-17

Should have won the Booker

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

Reviewed: 10-28-16

At the midpoint of this book, I was more puzzled than impressed. The story begins somewhat disjointed and its cast of characters is difficult to keep track of. However, as the story proceeds into the second half, it comes together, the various threads get unified. The main character in the frame narrative is Marie, who serves as the narrator/investigator trying to piece together a past. But the true story is the story of Sparrow, a gifted composer who is devastated by the Chinese cultural revolution. It weaves together his family's story with that of his brilliant student and friend Kai, who escapes to Canada but does not really escape. The story is somewhat plodding through the details of the cultural revolution, but as it moves inexorably forward toward the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989 the story becomes powerful and compelling. There are some remarkable twists in the plot, some beautifully true portraits of characters who live within the constraints that silence them or cause them to bristle.

Because Sparrow, Kai, and Zhuli are musicians, the story draws on many musical motifs; sometimes I felt like there was more there than I was grasping. I'd love to hear a musician's response to this book. Also, the book goes through 50 years of Chinese history and I know little of that. But that was not an impediment to understanding the story or feeling its fundamental truth.

Having now read two of the Man-Booker nominees, I can say that this would have been a much better selection than the Sell-out. Indeed, I think the jury sold out. This book is beautifully crafted, subtle in its writing, and addressing important global themes.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • February

  • By: Lisa Moore
  • Narrated by: Cyndi Shope
  • Length: 8 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 9

Propelled by a local tragedy, in which an oil rig sinks in a violent storm off the coast of Newfoundland, February follows the life of Helen O'Mara, widowed by the accident, as she continuously spirals from the present day back to that devastating and transformative winter. After overcoming the hardships of raising four children as a single parent, Helen's strength and calculated positivity fool everyone into believing that she's pushed through the paralyzing grief of losing her spouse.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Worthy Winner of Canada Reads

  • By RI in Canada on 10-19-16

Worthy Winner of Canada Reads

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

Reviewed: 10-19-16

The word that kept coming to mind as I read this book is "elegiac", although the main character, Helen, is not dead. The story picks apart the life of Helen, whose husband died aboard the oil platform the Ocean Ranger in 1982, leaving her to raise four children -- one still in the womb. Although it is fiction, it feels so true. The life is like a broken mirror, each shard reflecting the light sometime bright, some dark and tinged with blood. The prose is beautiful, her descriptions of the everyday and the ordinary bring those things into such sparkling focus that at moments it can hurt the eyes.
There is a section in the middle, where the heart of the story seems to drown in her own clever writing, but she pulls back from that toward the end and brings the story into focus. On the whole, a beautiful book. It reminds me somewhat of Colm Toibin's Brooklyn in the sense of tracing a little life, but I think this is better. A worthy winner of Canada Reads 2013.

  • The Nix

  • A Novel
  • By: Nathan Hill
  • Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
  • Length: 21 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,225
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,633
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,608

It's 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson - college professor, stalled writer - has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn't seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she's reappeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the Internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high school sweetheart.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Nathan Hill is an exceptional storyteller.

  • By Bonny on 09-13-16

One of the best this year

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

Reviewed: 10-17-16

The best part of a choose your own adventure book is that if you make the wrong choice, you can go back to where you made the wrong turn of the page and make another choice. The best part of living in a video game is that if you get killed by the dragon, you can just re-animate yourself and try again. Unfortunately, for Samuel Andresen-Anderson is that the same trick does not work "irl" (in real life). So, he slides deeper into his semi-life of online gaming, until jolted out of it by the news that his mother has just been arrested for assaulting a right-wing presidential candidate. Thus, the roller coaster begins. This book is clever without being pretentious, laugh out loud funny at moments, poignant and oh-so-relevant in 2016.
The story weaves together the present, a time at the start of WWII, the Chicago riots of 1968, and the lives in between in a brilliant layering of narratives to tell the story of Faye -- the mother who leaves -- and Samuel and a first-rate cast of minor characters whose stories weave and interleave with the main narratives. The different narrative voices are bang on from the college first-year girl caught for plagiarism to the online Elfscape master whose real life is a spiralling disaster to the 11-year old Samuel and his friend Bishop.
At turns it is satiric, moving, and comic. Brilliant. Among the best I've read in 2016

  • White Noise

  • By: Don DeLillo
  • Narrated by: Michael Prichard
  • Length: 12 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 246
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 216
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 215

When an industrial accident unleashes an "airborne toxic event", a lethal black chemical cloud floats over the Gladneys' lives. The menacing cloud is a more urgent and visible version of the "white noise" engulfing the Gladneys - radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, ultrasonic appliances, and TV murmurings - pulsing with life yet suggesting something ominous.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Narrator is superlative - danke Herr Prichard

  • By Dee on 08-22-17

Designed to be analyzed by an English class

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

Reviewed: 10-15-16

I read this because my daughter had to read it for a course. It is plodding and fairly predictable. It's like Jonathan Franzen's Corrections but without any humour. I realize, I'm reading Americana backwards, but the connections are apt anyway. The themes are fairly bluntly beaten over the head: fear of death, yep we're all going to die, loss of faith, etc. etc. The characters are cardboard caricatures without any apparent irony. Maybe DeLillo was first, but the schtick is so weary that it hardly seems worth the effort.
The narration by Michael Prichard was just as plodding, thank goodness for the ability to listen at 1.5 speed on the Audible app.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Don Quixote

  • Translated by Edith Grossman
  • By: Miguel de Cervantes, Edith Grossman (translator)
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 39 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,091
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,905
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,893

Sixteenth-century Spanish gentleman Don Quixote, fed by his own delusional fantasies, takes to the road in search of chivalrous adventures. But his quest leads to more trouble than triumph. At once humorous, romantic, and sad, Don Quixote is a literary landmark. This fresh edition, by award-winning translator Edith Grossman, brings the tale to life as never before.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Best Ever Written AND Read?

  • By Teadrinker on 02-13-15

A culture explained

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

Reviewed: 10-12-16

Do not trust the historian who wrote the second adventures of Don Quixote, for he is from Aragon and writes of a false Don Quixote, much to the chagrin of the real Don Quixote. But fortunately, Don Andrea has testified that the Don Quixote of the second adventure is not the real Don Quixote. After all, the real Don Quixote never went to Saragoza, but instead went to Barcelona, where misadventures continued to befall him, where indeed, he met his comeuppance.

But do not despair for the noble knight errant, there is a true history of Don Quixote, one that can be found and read. One, indeed, in which the great achievements of the real and authentic Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza are recounted with great élan, not missing the faithful squire's considerable -- if unintentional -- witticisms. Why after all, would one stop at a single inappropriate proverb when a bird in hand is worth two in the bush?

Indeed, for the true historian of Don Quixote has captured not just the many witticisms of the luminous Sancho, but has in fact, anticipated all of the post-modern schtick. Who, after all, made the self referencing writer who questions the veracity of his own narrative, but the noble author of Don Quixote? Indeed, who but the author is so quixotic as to pre-empt the narrative twists of Tristram Shandy? Who, indeed.

For without this playful piece western culture would have been impoverished -- would not, in fact, have been able to tilt at its windmills! Indeed, it might like the hapless hero -- the knight of the sorrowful face -- have been left hanging on the blade rotating skyward. But, I say no more. For, to overpraise a knight errant -- for surely the author of so illustrious a history could be nothing less -- is to cause grievous pain. So, let us temper the praise; for praise tempered by wisdom is like the true tempered steel. And indeed, there are parts of the narrative that languish as if the noble author were given too much length of page, where indeed he should have stopped and blotted his ink rather than run on at length where such length was unwarranted, either because the subject was low-born or overly wrought. It does not matter. Suffice to say, at points it dragged.

Yet, do not for this reason, discount this noble history, for in it one is edified on more counts than one. Indeed, to enumerate so much would be tedious, dear reader, so I will leave it to you to discover the surprise -- like a Quixotian adventure (though hopefully requiring less bruisings for your squire).

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Age of Sustainable Development

  • By: Jeffrey D. Sachs
  • Narrated by: Bob Souer
  • Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 30

Far more than a rhetorical exercise, this book is designed to inform, inspire, and spur action. Based on Sachs' 14 years as director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and as special advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals, The Age of Sustainable Development is a landmark publication and a clarion call for all who care about our planet and global justice.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Audible skips too much

  • By RI in Canada on 10-09-16

Audible skips too much

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

Reviewed: 10-09-16

Although the Audible claims to be "unabridged" it skips all of the discussion of figures. And since the figures and graphs are a large part of this book, audible is missing too much. I know this because I bought the book as well.
Sachs offers a really astute assessment of the global situation. He is optimistic (perhaps delusional) about humanity's capacity to pull back from the brink of self-annihilation. However, he acknowledges that we need some major global changes to make any real progress -- what I don't see is how we can make any of that progress. This is always the climate change problem: the assessment of the situation is accurate and acute, but the idiots who have the power to act are so busy greasing their palms that they don't act. Sigh.
I really like how Sachs puts together economic development, social inclusion, and sustainability. This cluster makes so much sense it almost hurts. He's not the first to do this, of course -- Naomi Klein in her radical left-wing way and Brian McLaren in his theological way have both gone before -- but Sachs has the credibility of the economist (do economists have credibility???) and of someone who has been working to make a significant difference in the lives of the poor.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Maurice

  • By: E.M. Forster
  • Narrated by: Peter Firth
  • Length: 6 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 785
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 684
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 689

'Ah for darkness...not the darkness of a house which coops up a man among furniture, but the darkness where he can be free!' Maurice Hall knows he must choose between living life in the shadows or denying himself a chance at love and fulfilment. Aware of his attraction to the same sex, in a time where it was considered unlawful and immoral to have homosexual desires, Maurice must decide whether to battle or submit to a prejudiced 20th-century English society.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Finally!!! It's past time!

  • By Christopher P. on 11-18-10

a gay coming-out story in Edwardian England

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

Reviewed: 09-30-16

I was initially quite shocked that this story would have been written by Forster, because I knew he wrote in the first decade of the 20th century. It became less surprising when I discovered that it was only published posthumously (I missed completely even the existence of the Merchant-Ivory movie). The story tells of Maurice, a somewhat slow-to-understand-himself boy/young man who falls in love with Clive -- a Cambridge friend. While Clive moves past his homosexual phase (apparently), his Hellenistic attitude gains full traction with Maurice. The self-loathing and the bullying as compensation are really well expressed as Maurice tries to suppress himself. The language and the languor are pure Forster. While it lacks the exotic locales of Passage to India or Room with a View, Maurice does convey the fading country squiredom and the longing and the looks as much as Forster's masterpieces.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful