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Gillian

Austin, TX, United States | Member Since 2018

10527
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 337 reviews
  • 337 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 232 purchased in 2018
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  • Hiroshima Nagasaki

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Paul Ham
    • Narrated By Robert Meldrum
    Overall
    (67)
    Performance
    (58)
    Story
    (59)

    The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more than 100,000 instantly, mostly women, children, and the elderly. Many hundreds of thousands more succumbed to their horrific injuries later, or slowly perished of radiation-related sickness. Yet the bombs were "our least abhorrent choice", American leaders claimed at the time - and still today most people believe they ended the Pacific War and saved millions of American and Japanese lives. Ham challenges this view, arguing that the bombings, when Japan was on its knees, were the culmination of a strategic Allied air war on enemy civilians that began in Germany.

    Gillian says: "While extraordinary, I can only give it 3 stars"
    "While extraordinary, I can only give it 3 stars"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This only rates a three because it drags, and it's so repetitive, I damned near cried a few times. It's a truly emotionally charged issue, and up front, let me just say it: I was one of those strident mouthy types who, without thought, pointed out that, after someone said, quite harshly, that the US was the only country to have used atomic weapons, we used them on a country, Japan, that was nowhere near the happy, pappy, anime loving people they are now. At the time of the use of atomic weaponry, there was some unspeakable brutality going on: in China, in the camps, in their very ideas on how life should be lived, in their code that it was better to spread death and die, than, well, here, suffice it to say: blah, blah, heinous, blah.
    But Ham has made me rethink this with very indepth reporting of what was going on from all angles.
    And therein lies the problem.
    The humanity is lost.
    You want the horror? You want to realize that what happened was wrong and that it happened to people who were just as misguided as any people who happened to follow leaders who led them astray? Read/listen to "Hiroshima Diary."
    But skip the eeeeeeendlessssss politics that Ham wallows in. Brilliantly researched, yes. Well-narrated, without a doubt. Boring, holy cow, I'm off to take a nap!

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Gilbert King
    • Narrated By Kimberly Farr
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    In January 1957, which brings a rare killing freeze to Florida's orange groves, Blanche Bosanquet Knowles, the wealthy, young wife of a citrus baron, is raped in her home while her husband is away. She says a "husky Negro" did it, and Lake County's infamously racist sheriff, Willis McCall, has no hesitation in rounding up a herd of suspects matching that description, alibis be damned. But within days, they are released, and instead, the crime is pinned on Jesse Daniels, a slight, white 19-year-old with the mental capacity of a six-year-old.

    Gillian says: "As In The Beginning, So GoethThe Entire Book"
    "As In The Beginning, So GoethThe Entire Book"
    Overall
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    Story

    And by that I mean: We start the book off with Jesse, our victim/hero, and get a sense of whom he is, his childlike ways and mental capacities. Then we digress like crazy to the weather, citrus princes, Blanche's childhood, the love who was shot down during the war, some of the culture of the area and Florida in general. Really, it takes quite a while before we get back to the main story.
    That's how all of Beneath a Ruthless Sun is. Main story, digressions to various civil rights members, civil rights activities, the sheriff department's ruthless ways, atrocities committed against the civil rights movement, a little about Mabel, some about Jesse and his mother Pearl, more atrocities, and on it goes.
    Fortunately, King is such a good writer, writes in such an emotionally evocative manner, that I was engaged throughout, barely noticing I'd gone down a rabbit hole with him until he brought the story back to the main people, the main point. (Also, I've never read/listened to Devil in the Grove so I can't tell just how much is lifted from it per se, but that crime, those victims are covered in GREAT detail here too).
    Farr does a decent job with the narration--doesn't strive overmuch to make verbal/vocal distinctions between genders, so no growly men, no high-pitched women to distract from it all.
    All in all, I spent 14+ hours interested in the subject matter and really, really interested in the people. It is shocking; it's outrageous, and in the end, I wonder if justice truly was served and if lost years were made up for.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Son of a Midnight Land

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Atz Kilcher
    • Narrated By Atz Kilcher
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (14)

    Atz Kilcher learned many vital skills while helping his parents carve a homestead out of the Alaskan wilderness: how to work hard, think on his feet, make do, invent, and use what was on hand to accomplish whatever task was in front of him. He also learned how to lie in order to please his often volatile father and put himself in harm's way to protect his mother and younger, weaker members of the family. Much later in life, as Atz began to reflect on his upbringing, seek to understand his father, and heal his emotional scars, he discovered that the work of pioneering the frontier of the soul is an infinitely more difficult task.

    Gillian says: "Wallowing In The Past, Abusing In The Present"
    "Wallowing In The Past, Abusing In The Present"
    Overall
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    Story

    I had every intention of loving Son of a Midnight Land. After all it gathers all my favorites: adventure, living off the land, memoir, resilience after hardship, courage to face the past, present, and future.
    And the book does indeed have some of that. But not much. Mostly, it's a book about Atz telling us over and over and over, "The reason I'm so abusive is, well, it's my dad's fault. All of it!"
    I did expect hard memories, but who hasn't had a rough childhood? Atz treats his wives, each of his children (and oh my, is he proud that he's Jewel's father, or what?) so abusively it's horrible. My husband told me that the man is showing courage for owning up to what he did, who he is, in such a public way, so I started cutting Atz some slack. But the more the book went on, the more whining I endured. He wasn't abusive, his "hand was filled with the devil". His children had a hard time when he was beating them, and he didn't want to be like his own father, so he stopped beating and started grabbing them by their shirts, shaking them until they chattered and shook. And so he stopped that, sometimes, and stuck to shaming and berating. And in an open letter to his kids as a whole, he apologizes for hitting them (not the rest) but then says, "Oh I failed; I was supposed to make you see your failings."
    Yeesh!
    Yes, there's some strength in the writing, some sheer poetry. He is, after all, a master storyteller. And when he describes butchering at an age when he was far too young to see it, it's the harshest, most honestly brutal thing I've ever heard. VERY strongly and well-written.
    But for the most part, Atz is a man who says, "I've done wrong, it was my dad's fault."
    He does show some insight. I only hope it's come early enough so that his grandson feels the honest love that's there.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory, and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By James Reston
    • Narrated By Jeff Cummings
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    A Rift in the Earth tells the remarkable story of the ferocious "art war" that raged between 1979 and 1984 over what kind of memorial should be built to honor the men and women who died in the Vietnam War. The story intertwines art, politics, historical memory, patriotism, racism, and a fascinating set of characters, from those who fought in the conflict and those who resisted it to politicians at the highest level.

    Gillian says: "Touching, Hard-Hitting--Not To Be Missed"
    "Touching, Hard-Hitting--Not To Be Missed"
    Overall
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    Story

    If you have any interest in history, wars back at home, humanity at its worst and best, you'll not want to miss A Rift in the Earth. Reston writes with great warmth and sensitivity about a troubling war, a troubled nation, all that is confused and passionate following the loss of the Vietnam War.
    Though Hart's statue comes off as being an interloping compromise, I still want to see it (Up front: I've never had the honor of actually seeing the memorial(s) in person). To me, just a pup during Vietnam, the soldiers and POWs were my heroes, and I want to see it all--Maya Lin's wall, Hart's depiction of youth, fearful and tired. Both together are sure to astound.
    This book covers the birth of an idea, the backlash, compromises that are hard to swallow all around. Lin, whom an outraged and insensitive Ross Perot referred to as Egg Roll due to her Asian heritage, is contentious and sometimes outrageous, grows to become thoughtful and reflective as Reston follows her through the years after the fight to get the memorial made. I didn't like her at first, but one always respects her as she navigates through a labyrinth of the political, of the emotional, of the hard memories that a nation is learning to deal with. (And by the way, Reagan doesn't wind up looking so good: Though Reston writes without acrimony, the man's actions and choices speak for themselves, and he could've done more to heal a hurting nation).
    Expect even-handed writing, heavy on the thoughts, emotions, deeds and misdeeds, of all sides of the aisle, all sides of the conflict. Even the thoughts of those living post-war in Vietnam are expressed as Reston journeys there to find answers and a sense of closure. He lost a good friend at Hue, and he grieves as much as the soldiers, as much as the protesters (he has since written much on granting amnesty to all who left the country), as much as any mother or family member has.
    A Rift in the Earth has none of the dryness that sometimes marks books on history. It's not a lesson but a hands-on experience sure to enlighten and sure to make you feel something.
    Just looking at the picture on the book's cover says it all: All war is horrible; all war comes with grief and sacrifice that is hard to bear.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Dai Sijie
    • Narrated By B.D. Wong
    Overall
    (481)
    Performance
    (213)
    Story
    (215)

    From within the hopelessness and terror of China's Cultural Revolution, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening, and the magical power of storytelling. "An unexpected miracle," raves the Los Angeles Times Book Review, "a delicate, and often hilarious, tale."

    Kelli says: "Culture Shock"
    "Lovely But Reads More As YA "
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    While Balzac and the Little Seamstress has hard-hitting themes and truly poetical language, it comes off more as for Young Adults than anything else. Maybe it's BD Wong's narration--even though the boys grow into young men during the course of the story, his tones are those of an overgrown boy--which, judging from their actions, they most certainly are.
    They can be harsh and judgmental of those around them; they could perform acts of rebellious cruelty; they can look down upon the little seamstress as though they're gods from on high.
    Don't get me wrong: it's not a bad book, it's just that the boys, sent to be re-educated can come off as lacking in empathy. What they do, whom they trick and torment to get the stash of classic books, bears this out.
    One thing--their intelligence and sense of lyricism can make them spot the beauty in their environment and makes the prose sometimes lovely, sometimes harsh. Really well-written.
    Still, at just over 4-hours, it's not a hard listen, and it can add to awareness of Chinese history, of Mao's conduct within the country.
    A decent way to spend a few hours, but unless you're into a sense of fables for young adults, I'd wait for a Credit-Bundle or Daily Deal.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By James Comey
    • Narrated By James Comey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6531)
    Performance
    (5991)
    Story
    (5966)

    In his audiobook, A Higher Loyalty, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of powe, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

    Gillian says: "More Than Trump: All Comey's Life/Working Years--"
    "More Than Trump: All Comey's Life/Working Years--"
    Overall
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    Story

    Actually, this is a really, really good book by a man who winds up coming off as someone who has walked a fine non-partisan line for a long, long time.
    I truly expected to come away from listening to A Higher Loyalty, rolling my eyes. Not because I'm a big Trump fan or anything, but coming so soon after his high-profile firing, I thought it would be bashing and filled with self-sanctimonious tirades. And it's anything but.
    Wow. Comey has been through it all: From Martha Stewart, through surveillance and torture programs; from coming from an agency that borders on almost totally white, through keeping a memo authorizing the surveillance of MLK (okayed by Robert Kennedy) as a reminder that that which is not looked at carefully could lead good people far, far astray.
    Cheney comes off as hideous, Hillary is a piece of work, Obama could be vastly over-confident but was willing to listen and learn (which surprised Comey; he thought that, coming as an appointment from a Republican president, a Democrat would dislike him grievously).
    And yes, there's the utter outrage that happened with the Russians, and quite a bit to do with Trump.
    Just don't come into this book thinking it's a vast tell-all about Trump with bashing thrown in for good measure. This is about a kid who avoided bullies (tho' he once joined their ranks to his forever shame), a young man who lost an infant son, a hard worker who tried to give Alberto Gonzales a backbone, somebody who has tried to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the black citizens who are unfairly targeted.
    To someone who is raising a red flag about what went on and what continues to go on today. Sprinkled throughout it a touch of ribald language with a heavy dose of humor.
    Another reviewer expressed that they couldn't multitask whilst listening to this, and I found that to be true for me as well. I was up all night.

    202 of 252 people found this review helpful
  • The Lost Airman: A True Story of Escape from Nazi Occupied France

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Seth Meyerowitz, Peter F. Stevens
    • Narrated By Jonathan Todd Ross
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (564)
    Performance
    (527)
    Story
    (520)

    Bronx-born top turret-gunner Arthur Meyerowitz was on his second mission when he was shot down in 1943. He was one of only two men on the B-24 Liberator known as Harmful Lil Armful who escaped death or immediate capture on the ground. After fleeing the wreck, Arthur knocked on the door of an isolated farmhouse, whose owners hastily took him in. Fortunately, his hosts not only despised the Nazis but had a tight connection to the French resistance group Morhange and its founder, Marcel Taillandier.

    Gillian says: "Wow--The French Come Out Looking Good!"
    "Wow--The French Come Out Looking Good!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Sorry, rude review title, but I've got a lot (I mean A LOT) of audiobooks on WWII and, especially if you've listened to those concerning Dunkirk and the period thereabouts, it's easy to sometimes forget that there were French not only devoted enough to fight bravely, but to die and sacrifice for others with the utmost of courage. In The Lost Airmen, you'll meet those very people, the regular people, the Resistance.
    Seth Meyerowitz is moved to travel over ground his grandfather traversed, a story he's only heard secondhand as his grandfather died ten years before his birth, and this book is the result.
    While some of it does read rather dryly, hence less than a 5-star rating, for the most part it's fairly exciting. After all, the place is crawling with Nazis and Arthur Meyerowitz's journey is a long and arduous one. There's the covert; there's the hiding in plain sight (which rather struck me as a dumb move, but it worked).
    Most of all, there are truly dedicated people.
    One reviewer couldn't stand the voice of Jonathan Todd Ross, but I didn't mind. Yes, he doesn't have one of your deeper toned voices, but the slightly higher pitch adds to excitement where it builds. So I dunno: Listen closely to the sample and see whether you can stand 9 1/2 hours of it?
    Worth the time, worth the credit. And I do so love war heroes!

    60 of 65 people found this review helpful
  • Circe

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Madeline Miller
    • Narrated By Perdita Weeks
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (612)
    Performance
    (574)
    Story
    (574)

    In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child - not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring, like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power - the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

    Michael - Audible says: "Refined writing with an intimate performance"
    "Filled With Grace, Action, Humor--Unforgettable"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    To say that Circe proves Madeline Miller to be an excellent writer, capable of capturing setting, time, characters, and essence, is an absolute understatement. I haven't been so entranced by a book since City of Thieves.
    Though they are entirely different forms of work, both books have unforgettable characters, and Miller's writing places you, the reader, right in the midst of gorgeous places, living with the larger than life, whether gods or mortals.
    Here you'll find Circe, someone who was shaped by an early act of grace given to Prometheus, living amongst the likes of Daedalus and Icarus, Jason and Medea, Odysseus and Penelope. Then too, she butts heads with Hermes and Athena, with Helios himself. She moves among them all.
    She is moved by terrible violation and the tenderest of pity. She grows into a woman of strength and independence, and finds that, through generation after generation of life, there's a difference between immortality and actual living. It's a beautiful tale, elegantly written, with act after act of the unbelievable, the unforgettable. Truly, this is a story written from the divine for us, mere mortals.
    And Perdita Weeks! Though at times I had trouble with the volume, as she goes from quiet thoughts to daring and outspoken declarations, Weeks has wonderful tones, carries dialogue, carries action with grace, ease, and power. What a find she is as a narrator.
    I can't vouch for how closely Circe follows mythology; what I found (in Wikipedia, I admit--not from Edith Hamilton), is quite different, but I can say with complete sincerity, that this story as written is truly a find.
    A cover-to-cover listen (what is mere sleep, after all? a trip to the underworld?), filled with gods and mortals, lionesses and wolves, swine and nymphs.
    Really, quite remarkable.

    28 of 33 people found this review helpful
  • The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Barbara K. Lipska, Elaine McArdle - contributor
    • Narrated By Emma Powell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (65)
    Performance
    (59)
    Story
    (59)

    In 2015, Barbara Lipska - a leading expert on the neuroscience of mental illness - was diagnosed with melanoma that had spread to her brain. Within months, her frontal lobe, the seat of cognition, began shutting down. She descended into madness, exhibiting dementia- and schizophrenia-like symptoms that terrified her family and coworkers. But miraculously, the immunotherapy her doctors had prescribed worked quickly. Just eight weeks after her nightmare began, Lipska returned to normal. With one difference: she remembered her brush with madness with exquisite clarity.

    Gillian says: "Be Prepared To Feel Insane--"
    "Be Prepared To Feel Insane--"
    Overall
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    Story

    After all, Emma Powell narrates this with such brilliance that you will writhe and cringe as Lipska navigates her newly unsound world, her deeply unsound mind and traumatized brain. She seethes, she snipes, she shrieks at times at those who love her and see only that she has become the worst version of herself. They have no idea it's because the part of her brain that controls empathy, controls impulses, has been damaged by tumors.
    Lipska is frustrated by sounds that are interpreted as too loud and shrill, an environment which should be familiar has no discernible landmarks she can use, people who don't seem to understand that by God, she has been incredibly wronged by a train running late. She has no idea that one shouldn't urinate on oneself in public, or otherwise; one shouldn't jog miles and miles with the gore of hair dye running down ones face.
    The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind gives a vividly drawn, perfectly imaged glimpse into what it's like to be the person with dementia, the person who is schizophrenic. And even, while she's on massive doses of steroids to control the swelling of her brain, the person in the grip of a manic psychotic break.
    It's a listen I won't be forgetting any time soon. And a family member with Alzheimer's? I'll be looking at her, treating the crises that arise with such an illness, in a far different manner...

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Danielle Krysa
    • Narrated By Danielle Krysa
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (335)
    Performance
    (311)
    Story
    (308)

    This book is duct tape for the mouth of every artist's inner critic. Silencing that stifling voice once and for all, this salve for creatives introduces 10 truths they must face in order to defeat self-doubt. Each encouraging chapter deconstructs a pivotal moment on the path to success - fear of the blank page, the dangers of jealousy, sharing work with others - and explains how to navigate roadblock.

    Susie says: "Kick Your Inner Critic to the Curb"
    "A Lot Covered In Less Than 3 Hours But--"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    You may have heard it all before if you've done the whole Oh-my-god-I'm-Stuck book hunt thing. Which I have. I have dozens of books on how to try to get out there and create (because listening to a book means I don't have to actually do anything... I know... I'm sorry...), and a lot of what I've heard before in Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk is kinda sorta old news. The main thing is:
    Choice! We have choices about whether we want to turn our creative impulses into hard work, or fun play. We can shackle ourselves to the idea that we need more/advanced schooling, or just realize that by doing, we're getting better. We can go it alone, or we can find community with other artists, people who inspire us. We can be frozen by our seething jealousy, or we can turn it into rocket-fuel inspiration. We can stare at a blank page, a blank canvas, or we can work on something already scribbled upon, maybe build from there.
    So choice, my friend!
    That's what's here, and you may've heard it all before, but really. Less than 3 hours? You might need the hope, the snippets, the gentle and courageous prodding.
    God knows, I do...!

    68 of 73 people found this review helpful
  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Sonia Purnell
    • Narrated By Susan Lyons
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (414)
    Performance
    (385)
    Story
    (381)

    By Winston Churchill's own admission, victory in the Second World War would have been "impossible without her". Until now, however, the only existing biography of Churchill's wife, Clementine, was written by her daughter. Sonia Purnell finally gives Clementine her due with a deeply researched account that tells her life story, revealing how she was instrumental in softening FDR's initial dislike of her husband and paving the way for Britain's close relationship with America.

    Go Steelers says: "Well told history of inspirational unsung heroine "
    "Exasperating At Times But Very Good--"
    Overall
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    Story

    If you keep Clementine in context, this is a very good book. Clementine was a woman ahead of her times, when women were still almost second class citizens, not really thought of as good as men. She did more as the wife of a Prime Minister than any before than and most after Churchill. If you can keep that in mind, you're in for an interesting ride.
    But there's a lot here about her being, yes, the reason Winston didn't become a full-blown tyrant--but that's because she devoted a whoooole lot of her energy to keeping him in check, his towering rages, his excessive alcohol consumption, his tendencies towards self-grandiosity. What time and energy she had which could've been used a tad, just a tad, towards her children, was otherwise consumed. To say that her son was darned near a sociopath might be going a bit far, but not by much. Her daughters could've used some maternal guidance and nurturing too, but Clementine just didn't have it for them.
    Clementine is a book about the family, the historical and political era, being a woman in a different time. Yes, I quibble about her ability to sacrifice her family for the sake of Churchill, but if you get past that, the exasperating, then perhaps you'll see that that everyone during that time of upheaval had to sacrifice a lot.
    It's hard to swim against the tide, but to be able to hold back the whole of the tsunami that was Winston Churchill, and a world war? That's saying a lot about the strength of the woman.

    128 of 137 people found this review helpful

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