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John S.

Seattle, WA United States | Member Since 2005

ratings
181
REVIEWS
147
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
22
HELPFUL VOTES
338

  • Eternally 21: A Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Linda Joffe Hull
    • Narrated By Tavia Gilbert
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    After Mr. Frank "Finance" Michaels loses the family’s financial nest egg in a Ponzi scheme, his wife Maddie does whatever she can to help keep up the appearance that everything is financially fine. When she starts a bargain hunter’s blog under the alias Mrs. Frugalicious, her website becomes a viral hit with a growing "frugarmy" of budget advice seekers.

    John S. says: "Good choice if you're looking for a new series"
    "Good choice if you're looking for a new series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As a cozy mystery the plotting and characters aren't bad, although I had trouble relating to the twentysomethings working at the mall. The Piggeldys, a pair of retired circus clowns, and the pet monkey (son substitute), Higgledy, broke that up a bit. The savings "hints" seemed more common sense/general knowledge than anything new to me, becoming a bit annoying breaking into the audio format, but I grew used to them after a while.
    Where I had real trouble concerned Maddie's husband, Frank -- talk about your classic narcissistic bullies! She spends much of the book in fear of "upsetting" him, especially in keeping the successful Mrs. Frugalicious site a secret. I wasn't too thrilled with his homophobic disapproval of one of the twins being interested in acting more than football, although Maddie expresses her disapproval of his attitude (to the reader) as well. It was really a dreary pain seeing her cater to his obnoxiousness throughout the book. However ... without a specific spoiler, that's resolved at nearly the end of the story, so that Maddie has the upper hand going forward with a series.
    Tavia Gilbert makes an excellent fit as narrator.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Dead Don't Dance: Jungle Beat Mystery, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By John Enright
    • Narrated By Phil Gigante
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Rumored to hold more spirits than people, the remote tropical paradise To’aga frightens many Samoan locals - but not Detective Apelu Soifua. Reeling from the loss of his young daughter, Apelu retreats to the haunted island for a self-imposed exile. He spends his days drinking, trying to ignore the ghosts in his head, and receives few visitors other than a shamanistic recluse and a pair of dedicated marine biologists conducting research.

    John S. says: "Don't start here"
    "Don't start here"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've seen reviews that state this one can be read as a stand-alone, which is probably true, but I'd still read the others first. Phil Gigante is a great fit as narrator for the series.

    As for the story here, frankly I found the first third or so rather boring, with Apelu moping around on a remote island alone, grieving for his young daughter who'd died on cancer; he blames himself for not having insisted she be treated earlier. The wife and kids are in Western Samoa with her family, except for the older boy, Senele, who comes to live with Apelu later in the story. Anyway ... once one of the pahlonghi (white American) associated with the construction crew is murdered, the action picks up, or at least we have something to go on from there. The ending is quite rushed, almost tacked on, so I didn't really get why the victims were killed specifically?

    The book filled time, but if I had to describe it in a single word: grim. Between Apelu's morbid moping, and the nasty characters, it was tough to actually like reading this one. I will give Enright credit for the way he so thoroughly coveys a sense of place and culture. On to the next installment, which just came out ... though probably not right away.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Language A to Z

    • ORIGINAL (6 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, John McWhorter
    • Narrated By Professor John McWhorter
    Overall
    (543)
    Performance
    (490)
    Story
    (476)

    Linguistics, the study of language, has a reputation for being complex and inaccessible. But here's a secret: There's a lot that's quirky and intriguing about how human language works-and much of it is downright fun to learn about. But with so many potential avenues of exploration, it can often seem daunting to try to understand it. Where does one even start?

    Jacobus says: "A genious Miscelany of linguistic topics"
    "Well worth a credit"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Yes, the author does get carried away with his own schtick at times; however, he's usually informative and funny enough to easily carry what could be dry subject matter if handled differently.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Robert D. Kaplan
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (45)
    Performance
    (43)
    Story
    (42)

    Over the last decade, the center of world power has been quietly shifting from Europe to Asia. With oil reserves of several billion barrels, an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and several centuries' worth of competing territorial claims, the South China Sea in particular is a simmering pot of potential conflict. The underreported military buildup in the area where the Western Pacific meets the Indian Ocean means that it will likely be a hinge point for global war and peace for the foreseeable future.

    Christopher says: "Biggest Challenge for US in Next 50 Years"
    "Not exactly general interest reading"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Seems my ancient degree in International Relations really paid off here! Those without a very strong interest in foreign relations would find this one rather a slog I'm afraid, beyond the travel narrative aspects. Audio narration is well done.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Voyage of the Liberdade

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Joshua Slocum
    • Narrated By Andre Stojka
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    A tall ship is trapped on a sandbar in 1885, broadsided by heavy seas and doomed to destruction on a lonely Brazilian Beach. Thus begins an incredible sea odyssey by a North American sea captain, his wife, and two sons. To return his family to safety, Captain Joshua Slocum builds a new boat out of the wreckage of the old. With his family, he sails along the perilous South American coast, crosses the Caribbean Sea, and navigates up the United States coast to Washington, D.C.

    John S. says: "Glad it was cheap!"
    "Glad it was cheap!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Good that this was a short book (non-fiction "novella" as it were), as I never got used to the author's rather verbose, corny style. I suppose it may well be the way Victorian sea captains spoke, and I assumed that the narrator faithfully reproduced that effect, but the result just wasn't for me; had this been a full-length work, I doubt I'd have finished it. The final hour (25%) consists of a second-hand tale from the South Seas written by Slocum, based on reports he says he "translated" with the aid of a Polynesian Bible as his Rosetta Stone; I gave that part a pass.

    I had my doubts about "Sailing Alone Around the World", which now goes into the Highly Unlikely category.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • One Pair of Hands

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Monica Dickens
    • Narrated By Carole Boyd
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (2)

    Unimpressed by the world of debutante balls, Monica Dickens shocked her family by getting a job. With no experience whatsoever, she gained employment as a cook-general. Monica's cooking and cleaning skills left much to be desired, and her first few positions were short lived, but soon she started to hold her own. Monica discovered the pleasure of daily banter with the milkman and grocer's boy, and the joy of doing an honest day's work, all the while keeping a wry eye on the childish pique of her employers.

    John S. says: "Read the print edition years ago"
    "Read the print edition years ago"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    and liked it, so thought I'd try the audio edition this time. Carole Boyd was a perfect fit as narrator, truly enhancing my enjoyment of the story!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Sleuth Sisters

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Maggie Pill
    • Narrated By Judy Blue, Anne Jacques, Laura Bednarski
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (33)
    Performance
    (30)
    Story
    (30)

    We love our sisters, right? It's just that sometimes we love them because of, and sometimes we love them in spite of. But when murder's the crime and solving's your line, sisters count on sisters. It's a family thing.

    Karen says: "Please, more books like this"
    "Three narrators definitely helped make the book!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I suppose this one might qualify as chick-lit, although I could easily see a similar story featuring three brothers with the same family dynamics. At first, I didn't really care for the youngest sister, Retta, much at all; she seemed as though she did get far in using her looks. Barb, the oldest, came off as a tad cold, although she had her moments. As the book went on, I did feel for the middle sister, Faye, having to play "double agent" with both Barb (in terms of keeping Retta from officially joining the agency), as well as Retta (maintaining friendly contact in spite of that). By the end, I was left with the feeling that Barb and Retta are just so different that they can't really identify with each other much, rather than any sort of actual clear animosity. As a bit of a spoiler, there's a clue that Retta's involvements will be "tolerated" on an unofficial basis, even if her sisters aren't ready to have her join the agency as a partner; Retta seenms as though she'd be okay with that, so I would be as well.

    Three stars instead of four owing to the plot itself, which like many series set-up books isn't the strongest. I lost track a few times of who was where doing what with the rotating narration, feeling that it wasn't worth the time to keep going back.

    If possible, I'd strongly recommend listening to the audio edition, where having three narrators with very distinct voices helps the reader get into character. That's not to say that when each has to voice the others as part of dialogue it didn't work. Barb's reader came across successfully as an older, never married attorney; I can relate to her surprise, and slow acceptance, when one of the characters shows an unexpected interest in her. Faye sounded a bit ... flat to me at first, but I came to realize that her life had been much ... quieter (shall we say) than her attorney sister, or more aggressively flamboyant one. Interestingly, she's the only one given a pronounced Michigan accent. Retta's voice came across as the closest to one I might expect for a cozy mystery audio - a bit snarky, though not obnoxious; her persona keeps the book from just plodding along with the more serious voices of her sisters.

    I'm quite interested to see how a second adventure would turn out.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Like a Tramp, Like a Pilgrim: On Foot, Across Europe to Rome

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Harry Bucknall
    • Narrated By Roger Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (1)

    Watching in disbelief as his computer was struck by lightning in 2007, Harry Bucknall had no idea that the subsequent trail of events would lead him to Rome - five years later, on foot. Following the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrim path that dates back nearly 2,000 years, Harry walks through England, France, Switzerland, and Italy weaving a historical tapestry liberally colored with tales of angels and saints, emperors and kings, and war and revolution.

    John S. says: "Vast improvement"
    "Vast improvement"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    over the author's previous book - night and day! I was able to sustain interest in this one fairly effortlessly, and it was just about the right length as by the time he reached Italy I was ready for things to start wrapping up. Hiring a professional narrator made all the difference, even if the fellow bungled a New York accent (though that voice only lasted a few minutes); his pompous, sneering Spanish fellow was a hoot.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • El ultimo cliente [The Last Customer]

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Jacinto Rey
    • Narrated By Adriana Sananes
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    Una madrugada, una mujer aparece ahorcada en una barcaza en un canal de Ámsterdam. Todo apunta a que se trata de un suicidio. La inspectora Cristina Molen, de la brigada criminal de la ciudad, se hace cargo del caso. Esa misma mañana se descubre el cadáver de una prostituta en una sórdida habitación de hotel. La inspectora intuye que ambas muertes están relacionadas, y que en este caso nada ni nadie es lo que parece.

    John S. says: "Slow build up to the murders themselves"
    "Slow build up to the murders themselves"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Detective Cristina Molen makes a brief appearance at the beginning, and then the novel starts before the crimes and we work our way forward to the discovery of the bodies; I do not like that method much. Had the characters been engaging, that might've been okay, but they weren't. Instead, the first part was a few hours of listening comprehension (vocabulary practice) for me. The crime investigation was more interesting, and I appreciated the Amsterdam setting; although, I kept wondering what the noun "haya" meant, until I twigged that "La Haya" was The Hague.

    Audio narration was easy to follow once I got used to the reader's style.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Jennifer Eremeeva
    • Narrated By Jennifer Eremeeva
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (4)

    Based on Eremeeva's two decades in Russia, Lenin Lives Next Door knits together vignettes of cross-cultural and expatriate life with sharp observation, colorful historical background, and engaging humor. Each thematic chapter is an anecdotal exploration of an aspect of life in today's Russia, told with the help of a recurring cast of eccentric Russian and expat characters. Lenin Lives Next Door introduces readers to Russians in their everyday milieu.

    Trish says: "Jennifer E. is a fabulous writer and narrator!"
    "Recommended? Maybe ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When it was good, I really got into the author's depictions of Russian culture, but when it was not ... we're talking "Rich Peoples' Problems: Moscow" as a reality show, which is just the teensiest bit difficult to identify with. Your Mileage May Vary here, so AYOR as they say (At Your Own Risk).

    Author's self-narration worked fairly well here, which isn't usually the case.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Indonesia, Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Pisani
    • Narrated By Jan Cramer
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Bewitched by Indonesia for twenty-five years, Elizabeth Pisani recently traveled 26,000 miles around the archipelago in search of the links that bind this impossibly disparate nation. Fearless and funny, Pisani shares her deck space with pigs and cows, bunks down in a sulfurous volcano, and takes tea with a corpse. Along the way, she observes Big Men with child brides, debates corruption and cannibalism, and ponders "sticky" traditions that cannot be erased.

    John S. says: "Bill Bryson channels Margaret Mead"
    "Bill Bryson channels Margaret Mead"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    An excellent travel narrative of the nation, beyond the tourist zones of Jakarta and Bali. Pisani visits some fairly remote areas, running across ethnicities that even the folks in the cities aren't aware of themselves ("It's all 'tribal' out there ..."). While she does a great job in relating stories that weren't so funny at the time, but she can laugh at them now (such as going back into a quicksand-like mudhole to retrieve a sandal out of sheer determination); however, the sections of the legal system, and ecological problems, were a bit grim.

    Definitely recommended for an insight into the country from a westerner who has spent serious time there, speaking the language fluently. Audio narrator was well-matched to the material.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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