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Michael Allen

Minneapolis, MN | Member Since 2005

75
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 13 reviews
  • 374 ratings
  • 592 titles in library
  • 33 purchased in 2014
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  • Democracy in America

    • UNABRIDGED (34 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Alexis de Tocqueville
    • Narrated By John Pruden
    Overall
    (116)
    Performance
    (89)
    Story
    (90)

    In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat and civil servant, made a nine-month journey through the eastern United States. The result was Democracy in America, a monumental study of the strengths and weaknesses of the nation’s evolving politics. His insightful work has become one of the most influential political texts ever written on America.

    Michael Allen says: "Most Listenable, if not the Best Translation"
    "Most Listenable, if not the Best Translation"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I got this version, simply because I couldn't tolerate the one narrated by Frederick Davidson. This version is the original translation, by Henry Reeve, which was disliked and criticized by de Tocqueville. The Blackstone Audio version (narrated by Davidson), is of the George Lawrence translation (1966), which is generally more respected.

    One thing that Reeve did in his translation, was in the sections where de Tocqueville quotes from English sources, he translated the French translation back into English - often changing the meaning - instead of inserting the original English sources. Lawrence, in his translation, included the original English sources, thereby preserving de Tocqueville's intent.

    If it weren't for the horrible quality of both the Blackstone recording (excessive noise reduction, which removes all the consonants from the beginnings of words) and the Davidson narration (which is read with an annoyingly laconic, "landed gentry" delivery), I would have chosen the Lawrence translation over the Reeve. If there had been an available recording of either the Mansfield/Winthrop, or the Goldhammer translations, I would have picked one of them over this.

    That said, John Pruden does an exceptional job of bringing this book to life. Even this imperfect translation was lauded as an important work in its own time, and it is easy to see why. De Tocqueville did an amazing job of assessing the American culture. His description of our unique brand of representative democracy clearly explains what set us apart from all other forms of democratic government at the time. His descriptions are so insightful, that much of what he wrote about the character of the American people (both the good and the bad), remains relevant to this day.

    Until a more accurate (and listenable) translation becomes available at Audible, I would recommend this book to other listeners.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • She Effin' Hates Me: A Love Story

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Scarlett Savage
    • Narrated By Emily Durante
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (35)
    Performance
    (33)
    Story
    (33)

    Molly has arrived home from Vassar to reveal that she has an important announcement to make. Her mother, Suzanne, is convinced that Molly’s news is history repeating herself and that she’s about to become a 36-year-old grandmother. Suzanne’s mother, Ava, develops a case of impending great-grandmother fever - that is, when she’s not spying on the new next-door neighbor, Buddy McKinley, who turns out to be a blast from her past.

    Lynne says: "She hated him and I hated this book"
    "Well-Executed, But Shallow and Predictable"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have to admit that I couldn't finish listening to this. The narration is very good, and I think that I will seek out this reader in other books. The writing is well-executed, but the actual story seems shallow and predictable. At first, I was attracted to the light, witty banter between the characters. Then I started to realize that I could predict what the characters were going to say next - and that all of the characters talked the same way (regardless of the voice that the narrator gave them.) Some people might see this as a light summer listen, but I really don't have the time for it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures: A Novel in Two Books

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Walter Moers
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (56)
    Story
    (56)

    Set in the land of Zamonia, this exuberant, highly original fantasy from Walter Moers features an unlikely hero. Rumo is a little Wolperting—a domesticated creature somewhere between a deer and a dog—who will one day become the greatest hero in the history of Zamonia. Armed with Dandelion, his talking sword, he fights his way through the Overworld and the Netherworld.

    Mackenzie says: "Miraculous Indeed"
    "Hard to Listen to in Spots"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The story is quite good, and even though this is apparently part of a series, I feel that the story stands by itself. The narration, however, varied from exceptionally good to exceptionally bad. The characters of Dandelion & Gornab were almost impossible for me to listen to. They were read in such a screeching voice that I often had to turn the volume down so far that I missed subsequent lines by characters who were read in almost a whisper.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Saints

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Orson Scott Card
    • Narrated By Emily Janice Card, Stefan Rudnicki, Paul Boehmer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (114)
    Performance
    (82)
    Story
    (80)

    When 10-year-old Dinah Kirkham saw her father leave their Manchester home in the middle of the night, she asked when he would be back. “Soon,” he replied. But he never came back. On that night in 1829, John Kirkham laid the foundation of his daughter’s certainty that the only person Dinah could ever really trust was herself.

    Joan says: ""A Woman of Destiny""
    "An Epic Story with Indifferent Narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I would have selected a single narrator - one who could invest themselves in each of the characters. Alternatively, I would have had each of the multiple narrators stick to a character, so that each character could have a unique voice.

    Several times in the story, the main character, Dinah Kirkham, is described as having a "Lancashire accent" - although you couldn't prove it from the narration. Each of the narrators who read Dinah's words gave her a different voice & only once or twice did that voice have anything but the narrator's own (American) accent.

    Otherwise, the story was excellent. The book describes what life was like for early Mormons, but makes no attempt to proselytize. The author does a fine job of fleshing out each character. By showing the characters' struggles - physical, emotional & intellectual - the author lets us see them as real people.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Bellwether

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Connie Willis
    • Narrated By Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (830)
    Performance
    (522)
    Story
    (524)

    Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennett O'Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same company. When the two are thrust together due to a misdelivered package and a run of seemingly bad luck, they find a joint project in a flock of sheep. But a series of setbacks and disappointments arise before they are able to find answers to their questions - with the unintended help of the errant, forgetful, and careless office assistant Flip.

    Charles says: "The Lone Naysayer..."
    "Timely Office Satire"
    Overall

    Even though this book is 12 years old, the story is still completely relevant - and hilarious - satire on office life. Even the issue of "second-secondhand smoke" is currently in the news (as "thirdhand smoke"). The idea that when Management returns from a seminar, it means "a new acronym, sensitivity training & more paperwork," certainly still holds true.

    I loved everything about this book, from the references to past fads, to the unfortunately-chosen acronyms, to the 42-page "simplified" forms. The narrator - Kate Reading - captures all the characters perfectly.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Mark Haddon
    • Narrated By Jeff Woodman
    Overall
    (4293)
    Performance
    (1988)
    Story
    (2007)

    Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone has Asperger's Syndrome, a condition similar to autism. He doesn't like to be touched or meet new people, he cannot make small talk, and he hates the colors brown and yellow. He is a math whiz with a very logical brain who loves solving puzzles that have definite answers.

    Robert says: "Endearing. Pathos, humor, reality, and insight."
    "Fabulous!"
    Overall

    I simply loved this book! The narrator really nailed the character of Christopher. The author did a fabulous job of tapping in to the thought processes of a boy with high-functioning autism.

    Everything is in place - except for the lack of pictures. I bought a copy of the book, so that I can read it again with the benefit of the illustrations. This is one time when a supplementary PDF file containing all of Christopher's pictures would have been much appreciated.

    Nevertheless, this audiobook deserves all five stars of my rating.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Friday

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Robert A. Heinlein
    • Narrated By Hillary Huber
    Overall
    (402)
    Performance
    (250)
    Story
    (256)

    Friday, a secret courier, is thrown into an assignment under the command of her employer, a man she knows only as "Boss." She operates from and over a near-future Earth in North America, a vulgar and chaotic land comprised of dozens of independent states. In America's disunion, Friday keeps her balance nimbly with quick, expeditious solutions as she conquers one calamity and scrape after another.

    Eivind says: "Worth the credit"
    "Not Exactly What I Was Expecting"
    Overall

    Robert Heinlein is my favorite author & I've read this particular book several times. When I saw that there was finally an unabridged audio version with a female narrator (don't get me started on male narrators being chosen to read books with first-person female protagonists), I was eager to start listening.

    Unfortunately, the narrator is the reason that I'm unable to give this book five stars. There was just something about her delivery that made Friday & a few other characters sound *too* contemporary (when Heinlein's writing style relies heavily on mannerisms from the last century.) To her credit, she did a good job with "the Boss."

    That isn't to say the narration was bad - she just failed to capture the main character for me. Otherwise, the author's voice comes through loud and clear - and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book as a good representation of RAH's work.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Possession

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By A. S. Byatt
    • Narrated By Virginia Leishman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (316)
    Performance
    (161)
    Story
    (160)

    As a pair of young scholars research the lives of two Victorian poets, they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire - from spiritualist seances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany. What emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passion and ideas.

    Inga E. Calvin says: "audible poetry"
    "Boring"
    Overall

    I normally don't bother to write reviews on books I didn't love, but I feel compelled to make an exception in this case.

    The narrative is beautifully written and I can tell that the author has a real love for the sounds of words - but there is just too much narrative and not enough story for my taste. There didn't seem to be any likable characters - or maybe it was that the narrator's performance kept them from being interesting. I found myself frequently having to go back and listen to sections again in order to tell which character was speaking. I slogged through the entire thing, but I'm not sure why I bothered.

    This may just be one of those books that is better on the printed page than it is as an audio book.

    13 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Lake of Sorrows: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Erin Hart
    • Narrated By Jennifer McMahon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (209)
    Performance
    (86)
    Story
    (85)

    American forensic pathologist Nora Gavin has been called to an archaeological site in the bleak midlands west of Dublin to assist at an excavation where a well-preserved Iron Age body has been found buried in a peat bog. How many hundreds or thousands of years ago was the man killed? Was his a ritual death, some kind of human sacrifice? These academic questions are intriguing, but of much more urgent interest is the second body found nearby, of a man wearing a wristwatch, hardly an Iron Age accessory.

    Kathy says: "Wonderful!!"
    "A Knotty Mystery"
    Overall

    There are many knots to be untangled in this mystery set in the peat bogs of Ireland. The plot is engaging and the characters are interesting and deeply layered.

    I bought this book, hoping that it might follow along similar lines as "Haunted Ground" - moving back and forth between a mystery in the ancient past and one in the modern day. And even though that is not the case, I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author tied the story together with a focus on ancient Celtic folklore & culture.

    The narrator deserves special mention, as she successfully juggles a multitude of characters, keeping them all unique. Her command of the various regional accents is exceptional - as is her American accent for Nora.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Memoirs of a Geisha

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Arthur Golden
    • Narrated By Bernadette Dunne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3726)
    Performance
    (1046)
    Story
    (1057)

    In a voice both haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri describes her life as a geisha. Taken from her home at the age of nine, she is sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. Witness her transformation as you enter a world where appearances are paramount, virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder, women beguile powerful men, and love is scorned as illusion.

    Stephanie says: "Best Book in a while"
    "A Reasonably Good Book"
    Overall

    I appreciate the craft of the author in creating a work of fiction that feels like a real memoir. The descriptions of life in pre- and post-war Japan have the ring of truth to them.

    The narrator gives a very subtle performance. While she doesn't use an accent to portray the characters as Japanese, her cadence and inflections convey a feeling of "foreignness." It's almost as though they are speaking in Japanese and I am hearing them in English.

    I only wish I had been able to identify more with the main character. Instead, by the end of the book, I couldn't help feeling that Sayuri had really turned out to be incredibly shallow - and Nobu would have made a much more interesting protagonist.

    Still, the book had its moments - and overall, I didn't dislike it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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