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USA | Member Since 2009

  • 257 reviews
  • 607 ratings
  • 1068 titles in library
  • 30 purchased in 2015

  • The Round House: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Louise Erdrich
    • Narrated By Gary Farmer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and 13-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

    "Heavy in My Heart"

    This book has been heavy in my head. Had I written a knee-jerk review 3 days ago from that thick head, I would have misinformed you. I hadn't synthesized the weight of all that is between the words: the legend and mythology that give eloquence to the silly ramblings of an old sleeping man; the traditions that guided the daily activities of the Native American characters; the history of duplicity that corralled a people into reservations and snuffed out their cultural identity. Heavy in my head because this book is structured so beautifully that much of it speaks to us from the spaces between the words--a language we grasp in our core consciousness. Now translated...the story is heavy in my heart.

    The *Heads I win, Tails you lose* treaties that made a story like this possible, (virtually creating a Free Rape Zone) are in the words of this story's narrator, "a gut kick," that compounds an already tragic event. The characters are vividly written and fondly familiar as a family member or good neighbor. Especially compelling is the young Joe. (The story is recalled by an older Joe.) The violent hate crime perpetrated against his mother skins him of his innocence and naivete, catapulting him prematurely into a foreign adult world. His group of friends, their teenage rites of passages and proclivities, tentatively anchor him to his youthful life, and reminded me of the group of friends in Stand By Me (The Body).

    There are many themes in this intricate and tense novel, some rooted generations deep. (Reading Native American literature sometimes makes me feel like a person with the same surname as a horrendous criminal must feel each time the name is broadcast.) Erdrich writing is stunning - almost painfully beautiful as she combines the contrasting elements that make up this profound story. I would say more profound, because of her craftsmanship, than *depresssing* of the words in reviews that kept me from listening before...

    I have considered this book since it was published and passed for different reasons. The asides, or the stories told by the elders of the tribes, may seem like irrelevant ramblings, humorous or raunchy stories. Look passed the old Mooshum's dream-talking, and the aunts and grandmothers intent on embarassing the young boys with their youthful recollections--these stories are crucial to the heart of this story--they are the history, the scripture, the culture ties, the logic, and cleverly placed by Erdrich to keep the suspense in the forefront while adding perspective. Addressing the narrator: Gary Farmer is a Native American that has many acting credits and obviously has experience with script. His reading hit me as authentic rather than disruptive and added a necessary discomfort to the rhythm of words--because they should be a little uncomfortable in this context, and the story should sit heavy in our hearts.

    I read that this novel is the middle of a trilogy (the first volume being Plague of Doves). I love finding an author that is new to me and I can't wait to read everything Erdrich has written. Very deserving of the the National Book Award.

    40 of 44 people found this review helpful
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Tom Franklin
    • Narrated By Kevin Kenerly
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were unlikely boyhood friends. Larry was the child of lower middle-class white parents, Silas the son of a poor, single, black mother - their worlds as different as night and day. Yet a special bond developed between them in Chabot, Mississippi. But within a few years, tragedy struck. In high school, a girl who lived up the road from Larry had gone to the drive-in movie with him and nobody had seen her again.

    Jami E. Nettles says: "Fantastic story in the south I know"

    It's been great being able to pick up books at such easy-on-the-wallet prices through the Audible Daily Deal. Thanks! Audible, and I hope it's an on-going feature. I'm able to pick up a couple of books I've wanted to *maybe* read; I'm always willing to shell out a couple of dollars on a *maybe*...$20-plus?...not so much. Crooked Letter was one of those I wanted to read when it was first published in 2010, but I had mixed feelings. I wasn't getting the same 5 star reviews from people I talked with.

    Having finally listened, I enjoyed the book. Franklin is a good story-teller that keeps his story tight and moving forward -- no dangling little complications lost along the way, and no padding needed to juice it up. He is also a very fine writer. His descriptions are succinct and detailed without flourish. The plot, as outlined in detail throughout the many reviews, is believable, entertaining, and well thought out. I will probably browse through Franklin's other books for those times I just want someone to tell me a story.

    The plot was a little predictable to me -- I hate when that happens, it takes away the enjoyment of having to continuing on when you've already figured it out. Kevin Kenerly was a good narrator for this, entertaining with his different accents and immersion into the story.
    Overall a very entertaining (albeit predictable) story for a pleasant day of multi-tasking (between inside spring cleaning, and outside yard clean-up!).

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Michael Shaara
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    After 30 years and with three million copies in print, Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War classic, The Killer Angels, remains as vivid and powerful as the day it was originally published.

    Robert says: "One of my all time favorites"
    "A book felt in the gut"

    “I used to command those boys,” Longstreet said. “Difficult thing to fight men you used to command.” Lee said nothing.

    I just finished reading this great book and realized that it was 150 years ago this year, this month, that the Civil War ended after 4 years of fighting. This watershed event had me thinking a little more deeply about what I'd read, and why this book felt significant.

    While sticking to researched history, author Shaara stays true to the facts as we know them, but has the characters tell their own part of the story. This unique format creates an intimacy
    between the narrators and the listener. Whether they are commanding their men in the role of a leader, or alone in reflection, pouring out heart-sick confessions and doubts, you feel connected to them, a part of the events. It was spellbinding, hearing General James Longstreet's quiet doubts about Robert E. Lee's insistence to attack, and his turmoil as he ordered his men up the hill to what he felt would be certain death...the many conflicts are felt in your gut, and tear at your heart.

    We learn the names of the battles and commanders, as well as the numbers in school. Some of the information we retained and regurgitated for tests: Antietam - 26,134 casualties, Chickamauga - 34,624 casualties, Gettysburg - 51,112 casualties, a total of 620,000 died. This is the first book on this subject that has made me understand the immensity of those numbers and facts by emphasizing that these were men willing to give up their own lives for the freedom of other men.

    I can't give you comparisons to many books on the subject, so far I've read fewer than I intend to. This book was an experience the author allowed me to share with the past, and for that reason it stands out.

    The epistolary history of the Civil War shows us that the speech of the time was flowery, emotional and dramatic; therefore, the dialogue reflects that well and not overly so. My opinion is that Stephen Hoye did a very good job interpreting the dialogue in the context of the times. I don't know if all versions of this book have this fantastic introduction (?) but I would certainly make sure! I thought the introduction, read by the author, was exceptionally interesting and set the tone of importance to the content to follow. Very highly recommend.

    * I recall my grandfather watching the series Johnny Yuma on TV -- I can still remember, "Johnny Yuma was a rebel, he rode through the West"...a catchy little song. I was memorizing The Gettysburg Address for some elementary school grade; he told me Johnny Yuma was about The Gettysburg Address (at least that's how my young brain understood his comments). I can still recite The Gettysburg Address after all these years (but I can't remember my kids birthdays). I now understand a little more clearly the weight of those words, the many sacrifices that were made.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Zora Neale Hurston
    • Narrated By Ruby Dee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel begs to be read aloud, and Ruby Dee answers the challenge with utter perfection, capturing the wide range of characters and their diverse accents with grace and power. Their Eyes Were Watching God is the luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern Black woman in the 1930s, whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance has inspired writers and readers for close to 70 years.

    Leslie says: "a pleasure"

    My sister-in-law and I share books, since we have similar tastes. In our latest conversation I suggested a few I'd just finished -- she gave me Their Eyes Were Watching God.

    Uhhh...I have to admit, it was not one I wanted to read, and had in fact removed it from my TBR list. Why? Because I tried to watch the Harpo Production in 2005 and didn't feel it (hated it; nod to Sandy's review). The production felt like a piece extrapolated from art twisted for a motive. There was a sense of arrogance to the production, like that you feel when someone thinks they can improve on great art, and goes on to disprove that haughtiness by giving Mona Lisa a bigger smile. I feel vindicated for my harsh opinion -- I don't like to feel like a meany -- by the reviews I just read concerning that debacle:
    "Catering to its TV audience, the film largely avoided the more controversial themes of race, gender, and power. "[Wikipedia]
    Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly comments, "While the book chews on meaty questions of race and identity, the movie largely resigns itself to the realm of sudsy romance."
    New York Times critic Virginia Heffernan writes, "the film is less a literary tribute than a visual fix of Harlequin Romance: Black Southern Series—all sensual soft-core scenes and contemporary, accessible language."
    *ouch-ouch-ouch* My purpose in bringing this up is that I had been so turned against this book I was never going to read it, and what a shame. Maybe this will change someone else's mind that turned the channel that day back in 2005.

    But, when my sis-in-law said it was her favorite book of all time, I'm always excited to get a recommendation that someone is passionate about. Oh; not Proust, Nabokov, etc., those tomes that intellectuals can discuss together for years...I know they are great gifted writers. I've read them, I get it. But, I can't help but have an affection for the rare humble books that seem to be less about an author's abilities, and more a revelation from their heart. The kind of book so beautiful in its simplicity that it's a piece of the writer's soul that resonates in the reader. Those are the gems you find just once in a while; TEWWG is one of those rarities.

    I'm not going to even attempt to describe the book; it would all feel like hyperbole that would cheapen my experience. 10 people can stand in front of a painting and see it differently; read a book and give a different * rating; sip a wine and give you everything from sooty, woodsy, to fruity. If I would have missed this book, I'd have missed one of the best *reading* experiences I've ever had. My caveat here is: I listened to Ruby Dee read this and that made all the difference in the world. Hurston's words come through Dee, and it was amazing. When I think back, I could almost swear my memories are from being in this place with these people -- not just listening to a book. I'll warn that in some spots it's hard to understand Miss Dee, just because she is speaking in the vernacular of another time, another culture (1937) and I don't hear well with one ear.
    *FYI: I never did figure out the's Tea Cake, yes it is.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Richard Flanagan
    • Narrated By David Atlas
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    >In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thailand - Burma Death Railway in 1943, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from pitiless beatings - until he receives a letter that will change him forever.

    Lee Chemel says: "Exquisite"
    "Engrossing piece of history"

    2014 Winner of the Man Booker Prize. Flanagan wrote The Narrow Road to the Deep North, inspired to do so by his father, who was a Japanese POW. The book tells the story of the building of a 258 mi. railway connecting Burma and Thailand through terrain that the British government had declared impossible when the land was under their reign prior to the Japanese invasion. In addition to the almost impenetrable jungles, oppressive heat and humidity, the route would require over 600 bridges. After the Japanese invaded and seized Burma, they needed a new route that would eliminate the 2,000 mi sea route that left their supply ships vulnerable to attacks from the Allied Forces, and the Burma Death Rail project began. Flanagan's father survived the brutal forced labor on the Death Railway, but sadly died at age 98 on the day the novel was finished.

    The story focuses primarily on Dr. Dorrigo Evans beginning with his early string of affairs until he meets the love of his life, his uncle's new wife, whom he is tragically separated from by the beginning of the war. Early in the listening, I thought it a little confusing following Dorrigo's liasons, and on occasion, even disturbing because of his objectification of women. This is the early, young Doctor who still is to be tempered by his experiences in the war camps.

    I had to do a little research, that ended up helping me understand the Dr.'s role at the camp. He was the officer that communicated with the Japanese and Korean soldiers, the angel of life and death that was responsible to choose the prisoners he thought capable of working each day. Lined up in their tattered clothing, near starvation, suffering from ailments that were just waiting to claim their host's life, they waited to be chosen, then dragged into the jungle and beaten to work faster, harder. He was also the doctor that tried to save their lives, working with nothing but stolen and contributed items: pieces of cloth, a little fuel, a piece of string, a dull blade, a saved ball of sour rice, a stolen egg. I thought the following information fascinating and in this context, appalling:
    From the Geneva Convention 1929, co-undersigned by HRH The Emperor of Japan
    CHAPTER 2. Organization of the Labor: Labor furnished by prisoners of war shall have no direct relation with war operations.
    ARTICLE 29: No prisoner of war may be employed at labors for which he is physically unfit.
    ARTICLE 30: The length of the day's work of prisoners of war, including therein the trip going and returning, shall not be excessive....
    As blatant as they disregarded these concessions, it doesn't compare to the atrocities the Japanese committed against the POWs.

    Even in it's unflinching detail of the brutalities, there is a powerful and beautiful feel to this book achieved without flourish. Flanagan with an artful talent, lets us recognize a bit of ourselves in these characters as they endure on the very edge. Amidst the torture, cruelty, death, hunger, the dazzling little acts of fellowship are heartwarming miracles in his hands. Flanagan honors these men that accomplished an awful ordeal. It was enlightening and haunting.

    I found the conclusion of the book redemptive -- after I fought back my own vengeful feelings. We hear from the guards and commanders of the camp themselves. Their voices appear throughout the book in bit pieces, and are always powerful looks into the minds of an enemy that saw us as nothing more than *expendable,* but their struggles after the war are fascinating insights to the human psyche. Removed from the role of superiors righteously carrying out their "noble cause", we see the man removed from the evil. Some of them justify their actions, some fear the repercussions, and some come face to face with their deeds and find life unbearable.

    Dorrigo is a difficult character; in his war-time role, as a doctor and fellow prisoner, he personifies bravery, strength and compassion. In his civilian life, in the role of man, husband and father, he failed miserably and I struggled with these sections of the book. The narration added a the right touch to a novel deserving of the awards and praise it has received.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • At the Water's Edge: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Sara Gruen
    • Narrated By Justine Eyre
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year's Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the colonel's favor is to succeed where the colonel very publicly failed - by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster.

    Steve says: "Listen to reader before you buy"
    "Putting it nicely -- Not what I expected"

    A surprisingly disappointing book on about every level. My first thought, at about the 3 minute mark, was this must be a case of different authors with the same name...this can't be the same person that wrote one of my favorites, Water for Elephants, a beautiful and intelligent novel.

    This might not have been such a kick to the head if I had read a summary or a review. But blindly ordering (when I saw the *Pre-Order At the Waters Edge by the author of Water for Elephants*), my thought process went something like this: "Awesome! Water for Elephants was one of my favorite books! I liked good old Jake, and I loved Rosie the elephant! Another Sara Gruen?? I'm in!" Even afterwards, seeing the cover and the light watermark of Nessie's tail coiling over Maddie's neck, I thought, or hoped, I was in for a good period piece, Scottish moors and all, from an excellent storyteller.

    This is an everybody-in-the-pool kind of book...a red bearded hunky Scottsmen; red-haired bar wenches that make haggis and spell whiskey without an "e"; a female ghost that rises from the Loch; the Bean Nighe (the Scottish version of the Irish banshee) seen wailing and washing the bloodstained clothes of those who are about to die; the beautiful castle secretly owned (wink*wink); and the Loch Ness monster. Representing the United States: the poor little rich socialite, drunk draft-dodging frat boys, the inheritance, lobotomies, ration books, and air-raids. It's a full kettle that boils down to a concoction that's as hard to swallow as Nessie herself. Sara Gruen just might be the good author I thought she was -- but you couldn't tell with this kind of predictable story and clichéd characters, so very different from the well-drawn cast and story of WFE.

    This is as close as I've ever come to a Harlequin Romance, or care to (though I do like some of the Harlequin cover art work). And even though it's been a long while since I was in Jr. High, I remember Victoria Holt telling a superior similar kind of story (Bride of Pendorric, anyone?).

    Personally, I didn't think Justine Eyre was that bad (I don't know how she read some of this without busting up). My small complaints would be that too often she sounded on the verge of hysterics, and she was inconsistent. She could do a great Scottish brogue/burr, though sometimes it ran away with her into the next character's voice. I'm willing to give her another go. She didn't ruin the story for me -- the story ruined the story for me. If you are expecting another WFE, or anything on that level, I wouldn't bother with this.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Hampton Sides
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: The North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of "Arctic Fever." The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship.

    Dennis Hinkamp says: "Great found story"
    "Superb tale that unravels at an iceburg's pace"

    Pretend for a moment that this is a forum for ALL opinions, and that sometimes a person is trying to be *helpful* by sharing their personal experience of the book even when they know it probably won't be popular. Hey, that takes guts. I know this will be an unpopular view (WTH...I am getting hammered with the No Help button lately no matter what I write). It's possible to like a book, recommend it, and yet see some areas that may be problematic for some readers. [Ones like me that sometimes have the attention span of Daffy Duck.]

    I'm a fan of historic exploration novels -- from Alone on the Ice, Astoria, Dead Wake, Endurance, Savage Harvest, The Last Place on Earth, even this author's very good Blood and Thunder, just to name a few -- and this is a grand one. My only slight complaint (or should I say warning) is that it took 15 1/2 hrs. to gain 2 hrs. of momentum. The details were for the most part necessary and fascinating, but were at times, just more details, 20-30 more pages. The ice of the Arctic sea simply made quick work of all preparations that went on for pages and pages. That's not to say it isn't a terrific listen, and well worth the purchase (and 2/3's the time).

    6 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Erik Larson
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic.

    L. O. Pardue says: "What a Ride!"
    "'A Deed for Which a Hun Would Blush'"

    On May 1, 1915, the Lusitania departed from New York on the return leg of her 101st voyage. Six days later, 11 miles off the coast of Ireland, the Lusitania was struck by a German torpedo at 2:10 p.m. and within 18 minutes (the Titanic took 2 hr. 40 min.) the Lusitania slid into the water. A NY newspaper's headline read “A Deed for Which a Hun Would Blush, a Turk Be Ashamed, and a Barbary Pirate Apologize.”

    The seeds of disaster may have been sown before the Lusitania even left NY when the Cunard Line and the passengers chose to brush aside the official warnings from the German Embassy. Kaiser Wilhelm had declared 8 months earlier that the North Sea was now a war zone, in which all merchant ships, including those from neutral countries, were liable to be sunk without warning. Adding heft to the facts that Larson presents, are the damning little mistakes and coincidences, plus the what-if's. He strategically lays out the pending disaster and shows how relevant it all is -- how 5 min. either way could have changed history. And, at times it felt like everything conspired against the Lusitania.

    Historians have flirted with the notion of a conspiracy orchestrated by Winston Churchill to prod a neutral United States into the war in Europe. While Larsen doesn't set out to prove or disprove that notion, the information he gives does push the reader in one of those directions. Citing comments by King George V: “Suppose they should sink the Lusitania with American passengers aboard?” and Churchill: “For our part, we want the traffic [from America] - the more the better; and if some of it gets into trouble, better still.” And naval historian, the late Patrick Beesly's interview with the Imperial War Museum in London: “there was indeed a plot, however imperfect, to endanger the Lusitania in order to involve the United States in the war.” I suppose a conclusion here calls for a higher form of deductive reasoning than if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck.

    Balancing the facts with the human elements and the political theater, Larson keeps the integrity of history, but gives it an easily held timeline and some pizazz -- even though we know what's coming, Larson's signature is skillful telling that builds anticipation. (Though his talent can occasionally be an impediment, as in having to read over pages of the ship's manifest. The minutiae at times is more a curiosity than it is interesting.)

    What happened adds up to more than just a series of horrible coincidences. : Why wasn't there a military escort into the Channel; why was a boat responding to the mayday ordered to turn around; why did *Room 40* not let the Lusitania know the information they had decoded; and...why were approximately four million rounds of U.S.manufactured Remington .303 bullets in the Lusitania's hold? Larsen puts the questions in your mouth, but don't expect him to give any answers. Not a lot of new information, but it's still history like only Larsen does history.

    Scott Brick's talents seem well suited reading this kind of book.

    22 of 36 people found this review helpful
  • The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Gabrielle Zevin
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The irascible A. J. Fikry, owner of Island Books - the only bookstore on Alice Island - has already lost his wife. Now his most prized possession, a rare book, has been stolen from right under his nose in the most embarrassing of circumstances. The store itself, it seems, will be next to go. One night upon closing, he discovers a toddler in his children’s section with a note from her mother pinned to her Elmo doll: I want Maya to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about such kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her.

    Trish says: "Loved, Loved, Loved It!!"
    "A Big Dose of Feel Good"

    Bookstore Proprietor A.J. Fikry has definite tastes in books:

    “I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic
    realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices…genre mash-ups. Literary
    fiction about the Holocaust [is] distasteful -- non-fiction only, please. Literature should be
    literature, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything
    satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer to not
    clutter my shelves with Young Adult. I do not like anything over 400 pages, or under 150

    He goes on to despise: ghostwritten novels, celebrity memoirs, debuts, chick-lit, poetry, or translations..."this goes without saying--vampires." But, he says, he likes "everything else."

    Fikry is a delightfully cantankerous man, a widower, satisfied with drinking his days away while the bookstore withers and dies. That is, until his nest egg, a rare copy of Poe's poetry, is stolen and he realizes he'll be making a living at selling books longer than he had intended. The theft sets off a series of events that broadens his lonely world, and tastes in books. It's like watching the Grinch's heart grow three sizes. Much of his personality is dispensed through his comments on known works of literature, and through little pearls of wisdom he passes along. We find out that in spite of his reading discriminations, Fikry is no misanthropic curmudgeon at all.

    The setting for this easy-breezy-love-song-to-reading is the kind of endangered species that is the destination find for any traveling bibliophile, a book-peruser's fantasy -- and very fitting because the book has a fantasy, fairy-tale like quality to it. Fikry's store is the lower floor of the little home he used to share with his wife, located on Alice island. I imagined: a charming cottage type with wood floors and braid rugs, a fireplace with overstuffed chairs to curl up in and test run a few books, a little bell over the front door. The sign over the shop reads:
    "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World" and I think most avid readers agree with the sentiment.

    At one point, Fikry offers this bit of wisdom:

    “You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?” -- I'm still trying to choose just one.

    For anyone that loves to read, can't imagine ever being without a book, lists reading as their favorite pastime, this might be your answer (or at least one of them) to Fikry's question.

    Scott Brick's narration is a (controversial) matter of taste, like oysters or mushrooms or like it, or you really really don't. I've listened to books where his voice was well suited for the narration, but here it didn't convey the kind of warmth and charm needed to tell this story.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Code Name Verity

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Wein
    • Narrated By Morven Christie, Lucy Gaskell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Code Name Verity is a compelling, emotionally rich story with universal themes of friendship and loyalty, heroism and bravery. Two young women from totally different backgrounds are thrown together during World War II: one a working-class girl from Manchester, the other a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a wireless operator. Yet whenever their paths cross, they complement each other perfectly and before long become devoted friends. But then a vital mission goes wrong....

    Suzn F says: "Haunting, Beautiful, Exquisite, Special Book"
    "'Like A Girl'...Fräulein Power"

    IF you've wondered about this book, thought about purchasing it when Audible highlighted it a month ago...just do it. *Like a girl*, like a boy, like a YA or an OF, just download it and prepare yourself for a fantastic read, a brilliant experience; but, one you may have to, may want to, take twice. Even those savvy readers who can follow a twisting plot like a hungry cat on a mouse are going to be tossed in a special way. That's why all these reviews let you know right off that they can't tell you a thing (except you'll probably need a tissue.)
    [Did you see the movie "The Usual Suspects;" do you remember the shocking end where everything you thought you knew was turned on its head? When Keyser Söze straightens his limp and walks erectly across the street, letting you know that everything was hiding in plain sight all along? And you watched the whole movie again just to shake your head and see it in a new light? That's this experience.] We can't tell you more or we'd have to kill you...
    The book is constructed so cleverly with such elegance that you won't see the end coming, though it was always there over you like a sledge hammer. And when it hits you, and it will, you'll realize the force of the story and the talent of this author. You'll realize this is a more fiendishly complex and riveting story than you already thought it was.

    A piece of historical fiction that is an espionage thriller, impressively capable of standing up to even the most sophisticated of the genre, not just limited to YA, although none of them could match the heart of this adventure. The themes of courage and friendship are both heartbreaking and uplifting, and the basis of the story, but the history is remarkable. By describing the air raids, the tensions felt by the civilians, and finally the torture endured by the captured spy, Wein brings the terror of war to life. [Imagine how terrifying: Captured by an SS officer for something so simple as looking the wrong way before crossing the street...she looked left, like the British, instead of right, like the French.] Hiding behind the narrator's allusions to J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” Kipling's "Kim," Shakespeare, and other literary works, the daily horrors take on a fairytale-like quality that add to the overall masquerade. These two great characters/narrators will grab your heart and burrow in, so make room. I want to see the movie; make T-shirts with their names emblazoned on the front; join their fan clubs.

    Yea for the girls...I love that the contribution of females is portrayed so wonderfully by this book. These two friends have all the power, bravery, and loyalty of the females in The Hunger Games or Divergent, etc., but these are human characters created from history, not from fantasy or science fiction. The similar acts of bravery during WWII and other wars are well documented. Women weren't only helpful Rosie the Riveters -- they were soldiers, spies, pilots; they fought, they were tortured and they died.

    My little sis reads for a living; over all YA and Children's books for libraries in another state. When Code Name Verity was published, she told me it was great, the new favorite of her Young Writers Group, which is comprised of people ages 14-23. She also told me she thought I'd like it. So, I purchased this in 2013 per her recommendation, foolishly put it in my TBR file thinking YA would be good, but not big-girl good...stupid mistake. I read a couple hundred books between downloading this and finally listening. Code Name Verity is one of the most impressive.

    And, the narration...I'm so surprised the book hasn't been nominated for an award for the narration. It was outstanding. A Scottish brogue, French, German, English -- every accent spot on, clear, and animated. They both give spectacular performances.
    Just fantastic in everyway. I hope this helps you decide if this is a book you'd enjoy.

    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • The Nightingale

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Kristin Hannah
    • Narrated By Polly Stone
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes Kristin Hannah’s next novel. It is an epic love story and family drama set at the dawn of World War II. She is the author of twenty-one novels. Her previous novels include Home Front, Night Road, Firefly Lane, Fly Away, and Winter Garden.

    "A bird that roared"

    After reading the publisher's summary in Audible's *Featured Pre-Orders,* I was drawn to The Nightingale -- I have an obsession with the history of early twentieth century France, particularly the Inter War period and the few years after WWII. Unfamiliar with Hannah's body of work, I read that her oeuvre was *female fiction,* repeatedly compared to other authors I have chosen not to read. That translated to concern that I would be disappointed with the author, and by a book that inaccurately used history to piggy back on a saccharine love story. Not what I was looking for.

    It was this line from the Kirkus Review that perfectly addressed my worries and sold me on this book: "Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II." Hannah's skillful writing, and forceful story telling ability quickly became apparent and convinced me The Nightingale was a perfect choice.

    As the story begins, the reader knows only that the novel is about two disparate sisters during the WWII Nazi occupation of France. From one of those sisters, now placed in a nursing home in Oregon, USA, the tale of survival is unraveled, but which surviving sister narrates the history remains unknown until the novel's end...and I hung onto the book until that ending and wished the story could've gone on.

    Sisters Vianne and Isabelle are polar opposites, even in their individual strengths: Vianne is compassionate with the strengths we know as *a mother's-love,* wise and thoughtful; while the younger Isabelle is defiant, fearless, and recklessly brave -- opposites, but equally formidable. Each of their paths are harrowing and absorbing. On the home-front, Vianne must protect her daughter while fighting starvation, freezing winters, and the degradation from German soldiers. In silent horror, she watches as her friends and neighbors are branded with the Jewish star, then gathered into wagons and trains, often leaving infants behind alone. Even a rumor started from jealousy, or a false accusation can be deathly under the brutal Gestapo's presence. Young and compulsive, Isabelle defies the occupation openly until an event brings soldiers too close to their home. She realizes that for the protection of Vianne and her daughter, she must flee. She joins the Resistance and becomes a guide secretly transporting injured Allied airmen over the Pyrenees into Spain. [Isabelle's surname, Rossignol, is the French word for nightingale.]

    Having read my share of French history, I was impressed with the historical accuracy of the story (though this was in part a love story that added little more than some quasi-romance). Many of the events were echoes of history books I've read and it was gratifying to see that Hannah did not treat the civilians as *landscape* and marginalize those poor souls caught in the crossfire of war. This was a riveting story, excellently told and narrated well (I will leave the accuracy of the French accent to those more knowledgeable than my HS French; it did not impede the story for me). It is worth mentioning that though this is fiction, Hannah said her idea for the story was ignited by a real incident she read about...and there are too many real incidents out there, both historical and current.

    **It is estimated that 350,00 French civilians died during the German occupation, not from bombs or fighting, but from: crimes against humanity, famine, disease and "military acting out." This war preceded Article 27 of the Geneva Convention; females were considered *carnal booty.* Since 1949 Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits wartime rape and enforced prostitution. In a speech to the United nations Security Council in 2008, Retired Major General Patrick Cammart stated,
    “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.” Sadly, we haven't made much progress.

    34 of 40 people found this review helpful

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