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B.J.

I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.

Minneapolis, MN, United States | Member Since 2007

1608
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 151 reviews
  • 348 ratings
  • 839 titles in library
  • 62 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
15
FOLLOWERS
653

  • The Persimmon Tree

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Bryce Courtenay
    • Narrated By Humphrey Bower
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1711)
    Performance
    (1264)
    Story
    (1254)

    The Persimmon Tree opens in Indonesia in 1942 on the cusp of Japanese invasion and the evacuation of Batavia (Jakarta) by the Dutch. Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Duncan is on holiday there, in pursuit of an exotic butterfly known as the Magpie Crow. It's an uncertain, dangerous time to be in Indonesia, and Nick's options of getting out are fast dwindling. Amidst the fear and chaos he falls in love with Anna, the beautiful daughter of a Dutch acquaintance, and she nicknames him 'Mr Butterfly'.

    Corinne says: "An excellent sequel"
    "Beautifully read"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Humphrey Bower is the whole reason this book worked for me. I don't think the storyline would have been nearly as captivating without his skilled narration. This is an excellent use of a credit.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • A Conspiracy of Faith: Department Q, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Jussi Adler-Olsen
    • Narrated By Graeme Malcolm
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (797)
    Performance
    (708)
    Story
    (719)

    Detective Carl Morck has received a bottle that holds an old and decayed message written in blood. It's a cry for help from two young brothers, tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. After floating in the ocean for years before turning up, the bottle sat forgotten, unopened, on a police department windowsill, before the seal was cracked and the gruesome message, written in Danish, was analyzed. Could it be real? Who are these boys, and why weren't they reported missing? Could they possibly still be alive?

    John S says: "Alternative to Nesbo/Harry Hole Novels"
    "The perfect thriller."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jussi Adler-Olsen's books have been coming up in my suggested list for a long time. I'm not sure what took me so long to give them a try, but I finally took a look and decided to start with this one. The rave reviews were impossible to ignore and after listening, I think it earned every one. Granted it's not literature, but I still had to give it top honors. Here's why:

    This is such a perfectly executed thriller that it should be a "how to" manual for writers. It has an underlying tension that never abates. He ratchets it up a notch from time to time, but it never goes back to zero. There are just enough characters to keep it interesting but not make it a difficult listen. (Meaning, I never had to write anything down to keep them straight.) The characters are quirky with dialogue that's clever and witty. (Meaning, I actually laughed out loud.) It's a thriller, so of course there are horrific things - but this author somehow manages to stay on the psychological side, rather than venturing into the disgusting. When you're not listening and thinking about it, it's the characters that stay with you - not graphic scenes. That's impressive.

    Graeme Malcolm's narration is spot-on. It's absolutely perfect for the author and the characters. The combination makes this escapism listening at its finest. I'm so glad to discover an author I like as much (or more than) Nesbo and McKinty. Kudos to all for a credit-worthy listen.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Final Silence

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Stuart Neville
    • Narrated By Gerard Doyle
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (55)
    Performance
    (54)
    Story
    (54)

    Rea Carlisle has inherited a house from an uncle she never knew. It doesn't take her long to clear out the dead man's remaining possessions, but one room remains stubbornly locked. When Rea finally forces it open, she discovers inside a chair, a table - and a leather-bound book, its pages filled with locks of hair, fingernails: a catalogue of victims. Horrified, Rea wants to go straight to the police but her family intervenes, fearing that scandal will mar her politician father's public image.

    Karen says: "Outstanding all around - story, author, narrator"
    "Very VERY good, but not fabulous."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Before I say anything about the book itself, I have to give the narrator a salute. I cannot imagine anyone better to narrate this book. Doyle makes it all work. Truly great work.

    As to the book, Neville created a tension that's essential for the genre. The characters were believable and flawed. The "gotcha" was there. There was a tautness to the storyline that kept me listening and trying to figure it out. It was there for 85% of the book and then ... not. I'm not sure what happened, but a solid 4-star listen fell down to a 3.5.

    Even though I can't give this a rave review, I'm glad I discovered Stuart Neville and will continue to watch for his books. It's a thoroughly enjoyable listen - undoubtedly due to Doyle's flawless narration. I can't wait to see what else he writes.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Winter of Frankie Machine

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Don Winslow
    • Narrated By Dennis Boutsikaris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (296)
    Performance
    (169)
    Story
    (171)

    Frank Machianno is a late-middle-aged ex-surf bum who runs a bait shack on the San Diego waterfront. An affable Italian with a love of people and life, he's a stand-up businessman, devoted father, and a beloved fixture in the community. He's also a hit man - specifically, a retired hit man. Back in the day when he was one of the most feared members of the West Coast Mafia, he was known as Frankie Machine.

    Surf City Swami says: "The Winter of Frankie Machine is a ray of sunshine"
    "Here's the book you want for a boring car ride*."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I can't give this book 5 stars because it's not quite in the same league as, say, "Winds of War." It's fiction, not literature. But, it is certainly near the top of the list for this genre.

    I'm always amazed when an author can make me cheer for the bad guy. Don Winslow does that and more. Frankie is just a fabulous character. You can see him, hear him. I loved the life Winslow created for him. Not far into the book, I was already solidly in his camp. I heard myself say out loud, "Whack him, Frankie!" I knew right then I was hooked.

    This is a well-crafted story with realistic dialogue, some shady characters and a great star. I never would have found it had it not been a daily deal. I'm glad I did.

    * Let's clarify the headline: a boring car ride with ADULTS. This isn't the book you want for the trip to grandma's house with the kids.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Erik Larson
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2441)
    Performance
    (1804)
    Story
    (1807)

    The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another....

    Patrick says: "compelling father-daughter story"
    "Some good background info"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As a glimpse of the politics during the early years of the Roosevelt Administration, this is an interesting book. The old boys club was certainly alive and well in the foreign service arena. I liked hearing about the communication people had - primarily letter-writing - and the way they viewed each other and spoke about each other. Some of the barbs are brutal and quite polished. That kind of writing is gone from our culture except in rare cases and it's fun to hear it.

    As a glimpse of a year during Hitler's rise to power, I was less impressed. There's some good info that helps fill in a few blanks about the fear that swept a nation, but I felt that got lost in all the info about Martha and her behavior. There was not enough detail about the events and personalities that ended up having such a gigantic impact on the world during this critical build-up.

    I like Larson's work and his meticulous attention to research. But in this particular case, I would have appreciated more of the style of writing that Laura Hillenbrand applies to non-fiction. I think I was expecting more ... more tenseness, more drama, more historical detail.

    1 of 1 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
    Overall
    (127)
    Performance
    (117)
    Story
    (113)

    >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"
    "On a scale of 1 - 5, this is a 10."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm really not sure how to describe this book. The writing is the best I've encountered in a very long time. Every sentence is loaded. Magnificent? I wonder if that actually does it justice. I know that judging it on normal terms simply won't do.

    Though I've read a lot of WWII history, I've never read anything this realistic about the building of the Burma Railway. To say the conditions were horrific doesn't even begin to describe what those men endured. It's heartbreaking on an unimaginable scale.

    So there you have it: the most beautiful writing about the ugliest of conditions. With that contrast, it reaches you in a way few books ever can. But it's more than a book about POWs or the building of an impossible railway. The topics are HUGE - love, war, death, forgiveness, loyalty, obedience, honesty - and that's just for starters. Flanagan made me look at everything in a different light. I was surprised who earned my respect and who earned disdain.

    Every now and again an award-winner surfaces that I think has really earned its praise. This is in that special category. Brutal, yes. But absolutely gorgeous. This really is one very special book.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Nadia Hashimi
    • Narrated By Gin Hammond
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (39)
    Performance
    (33)
    Story
    (35)

    Nadia Hashimi's literary debut is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one's own fate that combines the cultural flavor and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See. In Kabul, 2007, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age.

    Jen says: "His Eye Is On The Sparrow"
    "I really wanted to love this book."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I count on books to give me a glimpse of what life is like for other people in environments that are completely different from mine. Settling in with this one, I hoped to get something really insightful about women in Afghanistan. Through the tale of the two main characters, I think I have a better understanding of day-to-day life and the control placed on women. Culturally, it's eye-opening. That's all good - particularly if it's new turf for the reader. My issue had more to do with the writing and the narration.

    I hate saying anything negative about an author's first book. But in this particular book, the dialogue feels so stilted that I have to comment on it. I'm not sure if it's an accurate look at the kinds of conversations people have or a flaw in the writing. I just know that sometimes I felt like I was listening to a YA. It felt choppy and was narrated in a way that exaggerated it.

    This book will likely be on every book club's reading list for 2015. If it brings awareness, then it has done its job. Though the writing isn't nearly as graceful as I'd hoped, it is very functional. It's a book I liked - but could not love.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Paying Guests

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Sarah Waters
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (474)
    Performance
    (433)
    Story
    (435)

    It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

    B.J. says: "Great pacing, as always, but ..."
    "Great pacing, as always, but ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I unfairly thought I would be listening to the same kind of mind-bending book as "Fingersmith" - Waters' book with one of the most surprising plot twists of all time. (The subtitle for that one should be "Gotcha!") In this book, as in others, the author has a terrific way of establishing a kind of tautness that keeps you listening well past when you should have hit the stop button. But I kept waiting for the twist ... and waiting. No spoilers here. Just a warning: this is NOT Fingersmith II.

    If you have an issue with gay relationships, perhaps you should pass on this and choose something else. It is front and center in this book - and in my mind, is treated with more importance in the storyline than anything else.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • The Long Way Home: Chief Inspector Gamache, Book 10

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Louise Penny
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (845)
    Performance
    (769)
    Story
    (764)

    Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he'd only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. "There is a balm in Gilead," his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, "to make the wounded whole." While Gamache doesn't talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache's help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. "There’s power enough in Heaven," he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, "to cure a sin-sick soul." And then he gets up. And joins her.

    David Walker says: "Back in 3 Pines"
    "I wanted to love it."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've thoroughly enjoyed all of Louise Penny's books and really looked forward to this, the newest one. I had the pleasure of seeing her in person while she was on her book tour and couldn't wait to dig in.

    It's hard to say what I didn't like without a spoiler, and I won't do that. Suffice it to say, the book took a departure from the usual pattern and the way the characters participate in the plots. Gamache has some big shoes to fill, and no one else can really do that.

    Penny really took all of the conventions and flipped them 180°. Just like the upside down cover on the book. Interesting, yes. But I hope she knows we rely on her for a certain amount of predictability.

    One other note ... if you've never listened to any of the books of this series, you're in for a treat with Ralph Cosham. He's perfect. But don't start with this book. Go back to the beginning and start with the earlier ones. While each one can stand alone, they are best in sequence.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Voyager

    • UNABRIDGED (43 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated By Davina Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8939)
    Performance
    (6056)
    Story
    (6034)

    Set in the intriguing Scotland of 200 years ago, the third installment in the romantic adventures of Jamie and Claire is as compelling as the first. Now that Claire knows Jamie survived the slaughter at Culloden, she is faced with the most difficult decision of her life. She aches to travel back through time again to find the love of her life, but, in order to do that, she must leave their daughter behind.

    A User says: "7 Stars!! Brilliant!!"
    "An A- instead of an A+"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm now going through the Outlander series again ... the second time listening to them in order. With a few minutes break in between, the differences between the books has become clearer. While I love the series, certain books just hit me the right way.

    I don't disclose spoilers in my reviews and I won't do that here. BUT, my sense is that this book was written to provide a geographic change ... a segue. So while the storyline does go on, there's this thing taking place that feels a little forced.

    It's funny really. Here I am listening to a book that involves time travel - a concept which doesn't seem so far-fetched in Gabaldon's capable hands. The whole thing is wildly inventive and completely addictive -- even for people like me who enjoy non-fiction. I've come to accept all the magical things. Then something happens in this book - which really is just an event - and I throw my hands in the air and exclaim, "Oh, come on! That's completely unrealistic!" As though time travel and magic stones are?

    Diana Gabaldon has incredible power over her readers. We trust her to take us on a journey that stretches the imagination and we go with her willingly. This book proves to me that even the most talented writers can ask a little too much from their readers/listeners.

    That said, it didn't spoil the series. I'm eager to listen to the next one - if only to hear more Davina Porter. She has got to be one of the most talented narrators around. A 5-star rating just isn't enough.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Terry Hayes
    • Narrated By Christopher Ragland
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (471)
    Performance
    (429)
    Story
    (431)

    An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.

    W. Perry Hall says: "Smartest Novel I've Heard or Read in Long time"
    "Please let this all be fiction."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Before I downloaded the book, I saw where another reviewer warned that it takes about 9 hours to get into it. That was VERY helpful info. I easily could have put it aside those first hours. I kept at it because of the warning and I'm very glad I did.

    Hayes takes his time setting up the characters and the scenario. The first part of the book sounds and feels like non-fiction. It's interesting - because of the history and insight it provides - but it can be a little dry. It really lays a foundation so you can understand what makes people who they are. And then it turns into a rip-roaring page-turner.

    I normally don't go for thrillers, but this one is exceptional. There's an expert pacing to everything that keeps you engaged even when there's no action. Hayes has a way of foreshadowing that also keeps the ball rolling. The characters are well formed, flawed and interesting. There's enough history thrown in that sometimes the events feel entirely plausible. Perhaps that's what makes it so engaging - and terrifying.

    It all adds up to one thing: this is definitely a credit-worthy summer read.

    22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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