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From Austen to zombies!

Seattle, WA, United States | Member Since 2005

  • 33 reviews
  • 70 ratings
  • 591 titles in library
  • 10 purchased in 2014

  • Everything That Rises Must Converge

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Flannery O’Connor
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot, Karen White, Mark Bramhall, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    This collection of nine short stories by Flannery O'Connor was published posthumously in 1965. The flawed characters of each story are fully revealed in apocalyptic moments of conflict and violence that are presented with comic detachment.

    Darwin8u says: "A Painful Grace, A Search for the Holy"
    "Beautiful stories, beautifully read"

    Flannery O'Connor was what one of her own characters might call "an intellectual," yet due to her health (she suffered from lupus), she lived on a farm in the country with her mother. This collection is in my opinion her best, because the stories draw directly from that struggle while taking on dozens of other issues such as racial and social equality, gender equality, faith, and mother/child dynamics.

    My favorite story here is "The Lame Shall Enter First," a sly, dry, and ultimately revealing view of what O'Connor believed Jesus had in mind for all His followers. The rest show the world from the perspective of the postwar American South: the old ways still fighting the new. As one character says early on, "...the bottom rail is on the top," and few seem happy about it.

    The resulting gloom could have made these stories depressing, but they're much too funny for that. O'Connor's particular gift was dialogue, a lot of which is still laugh-out-loud hilarious, even when you've read every story multiple times before.

    The narrators here do a fabulous job. Nobody overdoes it on the Southern accents, and the audio quality is great. Flannery O'Connor's work is a national treasure--every American book-lover should experience these stories, and this edition is the perfect way to go.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Three: Legends of the Duskwalker, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Jay Posey
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more.His name is Three, a travelling gun for hire in a dying world. He has no allegiances, no family, no ties.Against his better judgment, he accepts the mantle of protector to a sick woman on the run, and her young son. Together they set out across the plains in search of a mythic oasis, attempting to survive the forces that pursue them, and the creatures of the dark.In these dark times, a hero may yet arise.

    Andrew Stone says: "Fantastic - Fast Moving - Totally Engaged"
    "Fast-moving adventure in a cool future world!"

    I rolled the dice on this one, based on reviews--and I was definitely NOT disappointed!

    In a dystopian future world where remnants of past technology still hang on, Three is a drifter, a scavenger, a hunter, an all-purpose badass. But he's also a little bored. Something's missing--and then, as he sits in a bar, drinking away his latest payoff, a woman and her son appear, begging him for help.

    Their journey takes us through first-time author Jay Posey's intriguing futurescape: blasted cities, frontier villages, safehouse bunkers, all places to hide from the terrifying Weir who walk only at night. Some human badasses also stalk the trio, and the action keeps going from almost the very start as Three and his charges get into and out of one scrape after another.

    Some of those scrapes are standard fare for a SF/apocalyptic novel, but the author kept the tension going through the characters themselves. Each has secrets that can make or break any situation they get into, so even when I was able to guess what might befall the travelers, I couldn't tell how things were going to shake out.

    The world itself was pretty interesting, too, combining elements of a standard post-apocalyptic setting with a Gibson-esque cyberpunk tone. We never find out what happened to the world we know now, but that isn't a big deal, as the details of the future world stand in for a full-on explanation.

    Luke Daniels narrates this competently, with an Eastwood-ish voice for the title character. Overall, exciting and very fun. Looking forward to the rest of this series!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Troop

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Nick Cutter
    • Narrated By Corey Brill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip - a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfre. The boys are a tight-knit crew. There’s Kent, one of the most popular kids in school; Ephraim and Max, also well-liked and easygoing; then there’s Newt the nerd and Shelley the odd duck. For the most part, they all get along and are happy to be there - which makes Scoutmaster Tim’s job a little easier.

    Kim Venatries says: "Seriously Messed Up Gruesome Horror"
    "Horror that's really horrifying"

    Horror fiction is in kind of a weird place right now. There's the old classic stuff, where the horror is all in the mind, and then there's the plain gross-out stuff. A lot of the first type hasn't aged well--the things that scare us now are so different than they were back then. And the gross-out kind, while fun, can get boring after a while: another eyeball falls out, another arm gets torn off, but does anything actually happen?

    Not too many people are hitting the midline these days: psychological exploration of fear mixed with just enough yuck to keep things interesting. But this guy, Nick Cutter--he's right on top of that balance beam in The Troop.

    Scoutmaster Tim and his troop of five boys set off for a remote location off the coast of Prince Edward Island (which itself qualifies as remote!). Everything's going great--for a little while. And then, almost immediately, things begin to unravel when a stranger arrives. A really strange stranger. Suddenly, everything is falling off the edge of normal, especially the scouts themselves.

    Fans of earlier Stephen King novels may recognize the structure: everything's fine and then the Bad Thing shows up, making everyone show their true, ugly colors. But this book reads like a later King actually wrote it, especially in the characterization. The boys start off as templates: bully, nerd, weirdo, kid with issues at home, normal (if confused) kid. And then stereotypes vanish as personalities evolve and blur under the stress of the situation.

    Other reviewers have mentioned that parts of this book are just plain disgusting. I actually yelled out "Oh, gross!" on the bus at one point, causing my fellow passengers to look around cautiously. But even the gross stuff wasn't just there for effect--it was disgusting, squishy, and smelly, yes, but it was also truly horrifying. Suddenly I remembered what "spine-tingling" actually means. Yikes!

    The only issue I had with this edition, and it was a little issue, was the production value. The narrator was fine, but I heard a few page-turns and there were parts where the sound level dropped for a few seconds. But like I said, it was a pretty small issue.

    I can't remember the last time I read a book with virtually no boring parts. This book didn't have any that I noticed. I wandered around with my earbuds on for an entire day, completely glued to the story. I kept listening for "tells" that might point to Stephen King actually writing this book--apparently it's a first novel, but that was hard to believe because it's just so good (I don't think Stephen King wrote this...but I can't be entirely sure!). If you love horror that's really horrifying, and you don't mind some squishy parts, you will love The Troop.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Alas, Babylon

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Pat Frank
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    This true modern masterpiece is built around the two fateful words that make up the title and herald the end - “Alas, Babylon.” When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness....

    Noe says: "Outstanding story of post-apocalyse."
    "One apocalypse--hold the zombies"

    I've read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction in the last few years. Usually zombies show up, or vampires, or else it's like Mad Max where bands of yahoos roam the wasted countryside, bringing destruction and disorder. Pat Frank's "Alas, Babylon" brings us a different scenario--for a dystopia, this is pretty utopian.

    Randy Bragg is a lawyer in Fort Repose, Florida. He's kind of mooching along and drinking too much. Then the bombs fall. The world changes, and Randy changes with it as he finds himself responsible for leading a group of friends and family. Together, they work to survive in the Contaminated Zone. They're lucky--Fort Repose was too far away from the blast zones to get much radiation. With the help of a strong wind on The Day, as they call it, crops and water are spared. It's a matter of working with what they have left.

    It's here that the book's original publication year (1959) becomes evident. Blacks and whites are suddenly desegregated--the significance of that may be a puzzle for younger readers, who may not know of awful stuff like "Colored" drinking fountains. They use the CONELRAD system for getting their information--horribly flawed, CONELRAD was replaced in 1963.

    Perhaps strangest of all, people seem awfully polite. Fights are few, and the Fort Reposians immediately begin to help each other out in a town-picnic, chore-wheel kind of way. Drama is infrequent. Even the yahoos (who do eventually show up) don't use the f-word. I've heard of worse circumstances in a modern-day high school.

    The main lessons of the book are still useful, however. One is, prepare for disaster--physically and mentally; don't expect your hair dryer to work! Another: just because the world changes, it doesn't mean you can't change yourself for the better. And, perhaps most important: stick together and show each other kindness; friends and family are all you really have, especially when the world is a mess.

    I can imagine that this book was pretty scary for the Mad Men-era people who read it first. But as I listened to Will Patton's comfortable Carolina accent describing the fear and devastation, I realized why Pat Frank wrote this book--the Fort Repose survivors aren't scientists or world leaders. They're just regular small-town people, and they make it. You can, too.

    Recommended for anyone interested in history--whether alternate or real.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
    "A lot bigger than one little finch"

    Plenty of novels that offer great truths about the world are rewarding to read, but unfortunately dry as dust. Reviews for The Goldfinch mention its many themes and messages--consequently I was a little nervous putting it in my cart, especially after I read some of the reviews of the narrator.

    My worry was wasted. The Goldfinch really comes through with 32-plus hours of riveting listening.

    Theo Decker is only 13 when he loses his mother in a catastrophe at a museum. He survives, and with him is a tiny painting by a forgotten Dutch master, Carel Fabritius. The painting is always in his thoughts as, over a number of years, he is passed from home to home: with a school friend on Park Avenue in New York, with his father and a wiggy girlfriend in Las Vegas, with a restorer of fine furniture in Greenwich Village.

    In those places, as he tries desperately to put his life back together in spite of a total lack of preparation for such a disaster, Theo meets some of the more interesting and well-drawn characters I've seen in a literary novel. Some books that purport to be about "quirky" people feel a little forced--in less skillful hands, characters can seem like they're trying too hard to be weird and fun.

    But good characters like Tartt's remind you of people you've known in your own life: a frustrating parent, well-meaning school counselors, annoying kids at school, an uncle that's always fussing over you. There are plenty of great examples here, including my favorite, Boris--a guy so crazy and fearless that even a trip to the local Quickie Mart is an epic adventure. (I firmly believe everyone should have at least one person like him in their life at some point!)

    Some sections of the book were a bit long--there were a few conversations that made me squirm with frustration. I wanted to yell out, "Just SAY it!" But to balance it out there's a great wealth of detail that reminded me of the fun parts of anything by Dickens or Stephen King (to non-readers of King--yes, there are fun parts!).

    The detail is particularly worthy when works of art are described. Art history geeks will be in heaven (I was!) but it's pretty easy to find Tartt's references online--I know, because there were a bunch I had to look up. I suggest finding a good picture of The Goldfinch to look at before listening, too--there were places where I wished I had done that myself.

    I had never heard of David Pittu before and like I mentioned, I was a little nervous after I read some of the reviews. But again, the worry was wasted. For the great wealth of characters, he managed to come up with different accents and voices, and I always knew who was talking. His Russian/Ukraine accents were as good as his New York society ladies. At some points he seemed a little breathless, maybe even hammy, but it never lasted long and with the length of this book, I forgive him.

    If you like art, or literature, or humor, or edge-of-the-seat suspense, or even if you just want to see some of the wide selection of weirdos this world has to offer, I recommend The Goldfinch. It's big--but it's worth it.

    33 of 37 people found this review helpful
  • The Wicked Girls

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Alex Marwood
    • Narrated By Anna Bentinck
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    On a fateful summer morning in 1986, two 11-year-old girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town when her investigation leads her to interview carnival cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it's the first time they've seen each other since that dark day so many years ago. Now with new, vastly different lives - and unknowing families to protect - will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?

    Lesley says: "I didn't want to like these girls..."
    "I didn't want to like these girls..."

    ...but somehow, I found myself rooting for them anyway.

    Belle and Jade are notorious for a horrible crime they committed when they were only 11 years old. Now it's twenty years later. One is a journalist writing Sunday Supplement "in depth" pieces. The other is a cleanup crew supervisor at a local amusement park. Both have spouses as well as new names.

    They've moved on--kinda. Neither has told any of the people in her life about the past, and neither wants to. But when a string of murders brings them back together, their deception may have to be revealed.

    This book was definitely a page-turner. With so many lies going around, something is always on the edge of being uncovered! There's also the suspense of finding out what really happened on that horrible day twenty years before--that story is mixed in throughout the book.

    But even such an exciting story can touch on a lot of different themes. Besides deception, you'll find such topics as social inequality, relationships, parenting, and passing judgment on others. Marwood deals with all these competently, without hitting us over the head.

    The most amazing thing about this book, though, is that I ended up liking people I didn't want to like, and hoping they'd come out all right, no matter what they might have done. Only careful character development can do that, and this book has it.

    There are some grisly scenes here, but nothing you wouldn't find in your average crime novel. The narrator is just plain excellent. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but she varied her voice for each. Two characters have changes in social class, and their accents change appropriately according to what time period the book is currently in.

    Overall, a great, suspenseful listen and well worth the credit! Five stars all around.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • The One I Left Behind

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Jennifer McMahon
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The summer of 1985 changes Reggie’s life. An awkward 13-year-old, she finds herself mixed up with the school outcasts. That same summer, a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother, Vera, the most, Vera’s hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there’s no body and Neptune disappears. Now, 25 years later, Reggie is a successful architect who has left her hometown and the horrific memories of that summer behind.

    Amanda says: "Couldn't Stop Listening ~ Sucked Me In!!!"
    "Suspense that won't quit!"

    This came up in my recommendations, and I'm glad I gave it a shot. The author alternates between 2010 and 1985, telling the story of architect Regina "Reggie" Dufrane and her flaky mom, Vera. Vera's a washed-up former model who asks everyone she meets if they knew she was the Aphrodite Cold Cream girl.

    In 1985, Vera disappears, taken by a serial killer. Her body never turns up, least not for a while.

    The alternation between timelines adds to the suspense. It's hard to guess what's going to happen next, no matter which year you're in! I have to admit it didn't keep me guessing all the way until the end--but I was still in the dark for much longer than I would have been with a typical mystery.

    Going back and forth was also the source of my main issue with the book: some of the characters came out a bit cardboardish. It seemed that with their timelines split, none of them had the chance to become whole. That feeling carried over to a few characters who existed only in one of the years, too. It felt like they just didn't get enough page time to fully develop.

    Still, the problem was small in a story that moved so fast, taking so many interesting twists and turns. The ending did not disappoint. And I can't say enough about the narration, expertly provided by Julia Whelan who did such a fabulous job on "Gone Girl."

    Recommended for anyone who enjoys a good, creepy serial killer yarn!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Cloud Atlas

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By David Mitchell
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Cassandra Campbell, Kim Mai Guest, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation: the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history.

    Cynthia says: "Complicated and Not Good for Listening!"
    "Let them tell you a story"

    There are numerous descriptions of the structure of this book, so I'll skip the details and just say there are six different stories, all set in different times, but interconnected, and each is read by a different narrator.

    The narration alone made this book worth a listen. It starts with Scott Brick--one of my favorites, although I know some people don't like him as much as I do. But the other narrators are good too, particularly the one in the middle, longest section (sorry, don't know which one he is), who reads in a futuristic sort of Hawaiian pidgin.

    All the stories are at least engaging, and all but a couple are fun, with humorous moments. In each case it's as if someone is reading to you, or just telling you a story, perhaps to kill time while traveling, or at a boring party, or maybe around a campfire.

    That's the power of this book: there are so many stories in the world, and so many are connected.

    I do wonder if some of the stories could stand well on their own. One or two of these wouldn't have been as good without the framework. Together, though, they make a good experience. All were suspenseful; while I didn't care about every single character I did want to know what happened to them all. And the characters that I did care about stayed with me for days after listening.

    So I wouldn't say this is the greatest novel of all time. But I do recommend it for the light it throws on the messy, sad, funny, happy human experience.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Handmaid's Tale

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs)
    • By Margaret Atwood
    • Narrated By Claire Danes
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name....

    Melinda says: "Not So Far-Fetched -- Still Chilling"
    "If I could give the narrator more than 5 stars..."

    This was my first Audible "A-list" title, and I was not disappointed. Claire Danes was the perfect choice for this book.

    What used to be the United States is now Gilead, a monotheistic regime where women are protected from "too much choice." Like our real-world foremothers of a few hundred years ago, the women of Gilead cannot earn money, own property, or vote. They have few lifestyle options: governess, domestic, prostitute, mother. Females with "viable ovaries" are drafted as "Handmaids," surrogate mothers for sterile women of the elite class.

    For Offred, the Handmaid of the title, life is a chorus of "not allowed." No reading, for women may not read. No fraternization, no conversation, no acknowledgement, no unauthorized possessions like hand lotion. Only fear and loneliness remain as Offred spends her days in a grim little room from which anything she could use to kill herself has been removed.

    Through it all she's starving for human interaction, yet terrified that she'll look in the wrong direction, say a wrong word, and be transferred to the ominous Colonies with the other "UnWomen." Claire Danes reads matter-of-factly, her emotions understated as if she really is Offred, who must hide all longing and pain to stay alive.

    While there are plenty of great narrators to choose from among Audible titles, it's very infrequent that the performance makes the book this much better. The story is as chilling as it was when the book was published, but Danes' reading brings out the suffering, the confusion, the "how-did-I-get-to-this-awful-place" feelings in a way that didn't come out of the printed text.

    This definitely goes on the A-list. Recommended for any woman, any mother, anyone at all.

    25 of 26 people found this review helpful
  • Lords of the North: The Saxon Chronicles, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Bernard Cornwell
    • Narrated By Tom Sellwood
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The year is 878, and the Saxons of Wessex, under King Alfred, have defeated the Danes to keep their kingdom free. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, helped Alfred win that victory, but now he is disgusted by Alfred's lack of generosity. Uhtred flees Wessex, going north to search for his stepsister in the formidable stronghold of Dunholm.

    Thomas says: "Excellent historical fiction"
    "Looks heavy--but it's not!"

    This is the first book of Lords of the North that I've listened to because the first two are available only in the abridged format (Are you listening, Audible? Abridged is yuck!).

    I enjoyed the detail of Cornwell's Agincourt, so I was expecting more of the same for this book, set in my favorite period of British history. I wasn't expecting Lords of the North to be at all humorous, but I was pleasantly surprised. Uhtred is disappointed in Alfred the Great's lack of generosity--Uhtred helped Alfred drive back the invading Danes, but because he was pagan, Uhtred was rewarded only by being made the lord of Five Hides, an estate of questionable value and little prestige.

    He leaves Five Hides to take back Bebbanburgh castle, rightfully his, from his uncle. "And that was when the stupidity began," he says early on. He gets into one crazy mess after another, throwing his lot in with the deluded slave/king Guthred and a band of religious fanatics--that doesn't turn out well, and the craziness keeps on coming.

    Uhtred is looking back on his life through this volume, and as he laughs at the stupidity of his younger self, we laugh with him. This isn't a strictly comic novel, however--we get plenty of political plotting and a great deal of fighting (some of which is quite violent and might be a turn-off for some readers). I also got all the historic detail I was hoping for.

    I see that some other reviewers aren't happy with the narrator. If I'd started with book one and a different narrator, I might feel the same way, but as it is I think Tom Sellwood was a great choice. His Northumbrian accent is spot on (enough so that it might be an issue for readers not used to northern British accents). But the best part is that he's actually acting--I really got a sense of Uhtred being an older man looking back on the follies of his youth.

    Overall, highly recommended for readers who like battles, adventure, and even a few laughs.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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