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First Impressions

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Despite flaws I recommend this story to anyone

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

Reviewed: 22-10-19

Mao’s Last Dancer was published in 2003 and is an astonishing story that combines many absorbing elements - I thoroughly enjoyed it. A movie was made from the book in 2009.

Li Cunxin was the 6th son in a poor family in rural China. He overcomes the challenges of life under Mao's communism, culture shock in America and the incredible demands of the ballet world - to become an award winning dancer. Inspiring and thought provoking stuff.

I am removing half a star from my overall grade because of the simple, plodding writing style - and cool detachment - that might take some of the joy out of the story for some. But it is well-narrated and I suspect this helps. I am also removing another half star because I sense that much has been withheld from this memoir. This isn't a "warts and all" account, it feels diplomatic and censored. I don't blame Li Cunxin as his own family, whole extended family, teachers and at least 3 countries will be reading it [China, America and Australia].

Despite it's flaws, I recommend this story for anyone with even the least interest in ballet, China, politics, romance, travel - or human life in general.

Great reading of an absorbing story

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

Reviewed: 19-02-18

I have watched the TV series, but wasn't sure what to expect in written form. 'The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn' as a book is different, but just as enjoyable. Pleased and have already bought another in the series.

An absorbing story - the plot is improbable (the book's weakness) but fun in a murdery sort of way. Terrific atmosphere. Writing very immediate, like being there.

Beautifully read by Sam West who sensibly decides not to "ham it up" and instead puts in just enough so we can follow everything clearly, but not so much that we are robbed of using our imaginations - just the way I like a reading.

4 people found this helpful

Bleak 'non fiction' but can it really be accurate?

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

Reviewed: 13-11-17

A supposedly non-fiction book written by a Scandinavian who did not speak the local languages and only stayed with the bookseller's family for 3 months and yet we are to believe that she was able to get into the heads of multiple people from a completely different culture. And 100% bleakness? No place for happiness/brightness in this society? There are points of interest in it, however, and the narrator does an excellent job with the matieral available.

1 person found this helpful

Much enjoyed, thou prob for ballet enthusiasts

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

Reviewed: 08-04-17

Would you consider the audio edition of Bolshoi Confidential to be better than the print version?

I have never seen or read the print version, but I imagine this may have been even better. Brought to life by a quality narrator. I cannot tell you if any of the names/words were mispronounced, I don't speak Russian, but it made the story sound more atmospheric to me.

What did you like best about this story?

The variety. The strange beginning, the long history, arson, double suicide, dead cats being thrown, the Soviet Union springing into existence on the Bolshoi stage, the tales of dancers, unshaved armpits, a fine joke about the Soviet culture minister. Bring it on!

What about Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s performance did you like?

Interesting, strong voice - kept up a nice pace. I'd listen to him narrate something else.

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

The extraordinary dedication of those involved with the Bolshoi despite astonishing events and horrors outside (and sometimes inside). It seems "The Show Must Go On".

Any additional comments?

This audiobook is probably something for ballet or theatre enthusiasts, althought I might be wrong - quite a story.

3 people found this helpful

Agony - not for me

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

Reviewed: 08-04-17

Would you try another book written by Caroline Webb or narrated by Caroline Webb?

Absolutely not. The author would have been better served by professional narration, I found it monotone and robot-like. Also - if there was a story, I got lost. Admittedly I only lasted about 25 painful minutes. This is the first time I have ever abandoned an audiobook.

What could Caroline Webb have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Nothing - it was a lost cause for me. To be fair, it wasn't my usual type of audiobook and judging by the reviews many enjoyed it.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Caroline Webb?

Derek Jacobi, Kirsty Young, Helena Bonham Carter, Jeremy Irons. What's the budget?

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment - I had high hopes. It seemed to be aimed at sales staff/middle-managers from the USA. Maybe I should have guessed as "Have a Good Day" is in the title. Not for me, might be for others.

Any additional comments?

Please note - I didn't get far into this audiobook - perhaps it got better.

2 people found this helpful

Near impossible task - decent try - bit personal

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

Reviewed: 22-10-16

If you could sum up Foundations of Western Civilization II: A History of the Modern Western World in three words, what would they be?

Ambitious, intense, subjective.

What other book might you compare Foundations of Western Civilization II: A History of the Modern Western World to, and why?

The prequel. Much enjoyed - I recommended it. Foundations of Western Civilization I [Prof. Noble]. This covers the 4,500 years up to 1600. I found Prof Noble to be more objective and dispassionate than Prof Bucholz. It's also a period I knew less about. Prof Bucholz sometimes appeared to think that history should be a road of inevitable progress and ever more refined morality, and when there is a detour (or back step) it is a matter of personal regret and disappointment to him. I could hear the emotion in his voice. Clearly a decent bloke, but he enjoys amateur dramatics (in front of a "canned audience").

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The narration is usually chronological (from c.1600 to about c.2005), with the pace changing according to whether the period has particular points of importance to discuss. Something is discussed in detail - and then we get something closer to a list [e.g. "I'm now going to be going all around Europe"]. We probably have to have the lists in an ambitious history of this kind, but at times it can be a little tedious (battles, personalities, inventions etc) - especially if you are familiar with the material.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

At nearly 25 hours, probably not. It is broken up into convenient chunks.

Any additional comments?

There is a constant putting of personal views or contemporary morality on to history. When it isn't specific, it is in the voice, e.g. sadness, deep regret, cheering up. I often agree, but it is not necessary. A number of times I found myself muttering "Good grief". Here are some direct quotes:"there were no modern antibiotics in the time of the plague" and ".. at his time there was no internet, radio or television" (as they didn't have electricity, not that surprising)."By modern American standards ... " (judging the Spanish Armada)."If you don't believe this you are either wicked or an idiot" (Prof. - even if you feel the evidence is overwhelmingly one way, always allow the possibility for new information or scholarship, whether it be 10 or 100 years ahead).That said, Prof Bucholz is pleasant company, though a bit over-emotional. He had a very difficult (near impossible) job and gave it a go.

3 people found this helpful

Loved it - I'll be ordering more

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

Reviewed: 21-09-16

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

It's a series of 48 lectures, covering over 5000 years of history. I think it was well suited to me because I have some background knowledge of most of the period. But I'm not an expert, I still learned a lot and it helped connect everything together. If you are fresh to the subject don't be put off - just take it more slowly, perhaps repeat a lecture that you didn't connect with the first time.

What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I was disappointed that it ended at 1600 (Early Modern Period). I would have liked it to continue beyond that. I will move on to "Foundations of Western Civilization II", but it's with a different lecturer. Perhaps that lecturer will be as good. Some people would prefer homework, visual material, study certificates etc. Not something I would want/need - but everyone will have to decide themselves.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I thought Thomas Noble was excellent. He has his mannerisms, of course (asides, chortles, pauses) - perhaps that would bother some people. I found it added charm. It felt like I had a personal guide through history, not some Wiki-bot. I am considering getting his "Late Antiquity: Crisis and Transformation" series.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

A couple of feelings (1) I wish I'd had this overview when I was growing up. When studying more detailed history I would be better able to put everything in context. (2) This series shows that it is possible to creditably cover over 5000 years in 48 short lectures. A complement to, rather than a replacement for, serious study of more focused history.

Any additional comments?

I didn't know if a lengthy lecture series would be for me, but decided it was worth a gamble. It turns out that it suits me very well - indeed, I'm amazed - a whole new method of learning has opened up. This hasn't replaced my reading of books, but it supplements them nicely.

6 people found this helpful

A terrific story, well narrated - what a plot!

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

Reviewed: 03-02-16

Where does The Woman in White rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is only my third, but my favourite. I'm not sure how I missed reading this novel, not talked about enough.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Woman in White?

When Marian visits the private lunatic asylum and, instead of finding Anne Catherick, she finds her (supposedly) deceased half sister, Laura! I also enjoyed the atmospheric first appearance of 'The Woman in White' to a very surprised Walter Hartright. Watch out for the appearances of Count Fosco. He is a fine character - an intriguing villain.

Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No, none of them This had (I think) 6 narrators. This was ideal as the story is told via the accounts of multiple characters. The narrators ranged from very good to excellent.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Good question/s. Laugh *and* cry - and sit on the edge of my seat. It was a roller coaster - it's a sensational "thumping good read", a whodunit with a love element, some tragedy - and a nice bit of social history.

Any additional comments?

Warning: This is an abridged version of The Woman in White at 6 hours 36 mins. I must admit I was disappointed when it came to an end, I wish there was a 10 hour version. There are shorter versions (under 4 hours) and unabridged versions (24 or 25 hours) - but, arguably, the original book was somewhat padded out for serialisation in the Dickens periodical and benefits from some trimming. That said I am now reading the novel - and wouldn't rule out getting hold of an unabridged audiobook version in due course.

Excellent - much enjoyed!

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

Reviewed: 20-01-16

Any additional comments?

It is remarkable that whatever format you experience the Sherlock Holmes stories they are still a thumping good yarn, with bags of atmosphere and character. Will we ever tire of them?!

This is a terrific 58 hour audiobook - and a snip at the price. Simon Vance does a terrific job - and doesn't not over act or "ham up" his performance. However - despite this being called "The complete Sherlock Holmes" I only seem to have 42 short stories and 4 novels - not the 56 short stories and 4 novels that were written. Either my download had a problem - or this isn't really The *Complete* Sherlock Holmes. I am therefore forced to take off one star in the "Overall" category. (Apologies if the explanation for the missing stories was merely a technical problem from my end.)

I much enjoyed this version, but my view, remains that the best audio version ever made was by the BBC, featuring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. Together they recorded all the stories in the canon between 1989 and 1998. Alas, I only have it on cassette tape, so it's very inconvenient for me to listen to these days. This version is a delightful and convenient alternative.

1 person found this helpful