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James Ball

Nevada, USA | Member Since 2004

19
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 5 reviews
  • 194 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 18 purchased in 2014
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  • An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

    • ABRIDGED (9 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Robert Dallek
    • Narrated By Richard McGonagle
    Overall
    (112)
    Performance
    (28)
    Story
    (29)

    An Unfinished Life is the first authoritative single-volume life of John F. Kennedy to be written by a historian in nearly four decades. Drawing upon firsthand sources, freshly unearthed documents, and never-before-opened archives, prizewinning historian Robert Dallek reveals more than we ever knew about Jack Kennedy forever changing the way we think about his life, his presidency, and his legacy.

    Amazon Customer says: "A Great Biography - Neccessarily Disappointing"
    "Dry as a bone"
    Overall

    Dallek's overview of the Kennedy legacy is a political, not personal one. He stays away from pretty much everything that made Kennedy a compelling figure, focusing on a cut-and-dried political biography. One wishes he'd linger a bit on Kennedy's persona, charm and wit, but he instead plows full steam ahead with a "just the facts" account of JFK's brief White House tenure.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Magic Skin

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Honore de Balzac
    • Narrated By John Bolen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (25)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (6)

    "The possession of power, no matter how enormous, does not bring the knowledge how to use it." Raphael, a failed writer, deep in debt, and unrequited in love, is about to take a suicidal plunge into the Seine River. Just in time, he discovers the "Magic Skin" in an antiquity shop. Its supernatural powers grant every wish but it extracts a terrible toll! This parable depicts the malaise of 19th century France.

    Maria says: "poor reading"
    "He puts the em-PHASIS on the wrong syll-ABLES"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you like best about The Magic Skin? What did you like least?

    Did the real narrator call in sick? Does this narrator not have more than a passing familiarity with the English language? Yes, apparently, on both counts.

    First of all, five stars for Balzac because, well, Balzac. It's a fantastic story, but I'm afraid it's rendered unbearable by this reader.

    Remember when kids would be called upon to read passages of a story out loud by the teacher in grade school? Remember their flat, unremarkable, dispassionate dictations? That's what you get with this reader who can't even pronounce many English words (conjuring becomes con-JUR-ing in his hands), much less the French accents. A computerized LibriVox version would be preferable to this. John Cleese's silly French knight in "Holy Grail" was more believeable.

    Unfortunately, this one is a pass.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Magic Skin?

    That freeing moment when I decided to read the kindle version instead.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Simon Vance or the late Frederick Davidson.


    Could you see The Magic Skin being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Not really.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Dog Stars

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Peter Heller
    • Narrated By Mark Deakins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (974)
    Performance
    (866)
    Story
    (867)

    Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists beyond the airport.

    Melinda says: "Absolutely Stellar!"
    "Airplanes, a dog, post-apocalyptic survival"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What made the experience of listening to The Dog Stars the most enjoyable?

    Heller clearly is a poet and he brings a dreamy, verse-like style to this book, which I'd describe as a mashup of "The Art of Racing in the Rain" with "The Stand." It hit all my buttons: airplanes, dogs, apocalyptic survival, a sap-free romance and middle age. Best thing I've read all year.Also worth noting: I have a hard copy of this book and the physical writing style as it's laid out on the page is a bit jarring. Sort of like looking at e.e. cummings' work for the first time. In this audio format, the book finds it's perfect home. Mark Deakins really is main character Higg.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Probably Pops. I won't say much about him in order to avoid spoilers.


    Which character – as performed by Mark Deakins – was your favorite?

    Higg, the main character.


    If you could rename The Dog Stars, what would you call it?

    "I, Aviator" or "The Omega Pilot" (Not really. It's perfectly named, as is.)


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer

    • ABRIDGED (9 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By James L. Swanson
    • Narrated By Richard Thomas
    Overall
    (963)
    Performance
    (296)
    Story
    (304)

    The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history, the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild 12-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.

    Elizabeth says: "Fascinating!"
    "Spellbinding"
    Overall

    Swanson craftily frames the manhunt for Booth and his co-conspirators as a tale of suspense, relying on witness testimony, trial transcripts and newspaper accounts. He shies away from speculation, and the book is the better for it.

    Although the book focuses on the manhunt, providing thrills and twists at every turn, it's actually a great primer on Booth, giving us a glimpse into the motivation of this complex player in American history.

    The reading is solid and fast-paced, perfectly matching the tone of the written work. You'll want to know more after listening, and that makes this book a smashing success.

    In three years of being an audible subscriber, I've finally found that holy grail book - a pitch-perfect tale that never, ever disappoints and is over way too soon.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Hannibal Rising

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Thomas Harris
    • Narrated By Thomas Harris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (602)
    Performance
    (184)
    Story
    (182)

    Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck. He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him. Hannibal's uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle's beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki.

    Bev says: "Surprised"
    "Harris is a horrible narrator"
    Overall

    In the hands of a skilled narrator, even a mediocre novel can be brought to life in unexpected ways. Sad to say, this is indeed a mediocre novel, despite my high hopes that it would be otherwise.

    With author Thomas Harris narrating, Hannibal Rising becomes almost unbearable. His otherwise charming Southern accent is a mismatch for the European locales of the book and his voice lacks the proper nuance for moments of both tenderness and of gripping evil. The end result is a grating and irritating experience.

    I really wish I could file a positive report here, but this listen is just completely sapped of all life by the author's flat reading.

    15 of 20 people found this review helpful

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