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Rebecca

Daily Dog Walker and LONG Silicon Valley commutes, so I gulp through and love lotsa books, especially literary fiction and Mystery.

brentwood, CA, United States | Member Since 2007

242
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 47 reviews
  • 171 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 16 purchased in 2014
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22

  • The Teahouse Fire

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Ellis Avery
    • Narrated By Barbara Caruso
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (146)
    Performance
    (36)
    Story
    (37)

    The fates of two women, one American, one Japanese, become entwined in this sweeping novel of 19th century Japan on the cusp of radical change and Westernization. The Japanese tea ceremony, steeped in ritual, is at the heart of this story of an American girl adopted by Kyoto's most important tea master and raised as attendant and surrogate younger sister to his privileged daughter, Yukako.

    Pamela says: "Captivating"
    "Frustrating Heroine"
    Overall

    I've been thinking that books that are subtler/character studies aren't always the best for the audio format, and if the books are also immersed in foreign culture, naming conventions that are unfamiliar...perhaps better read. So "TeaHouse Fire" falls into that category, it is a book I think better read unless the listener is familiar enough with Japanese to get a grip on who's who in a book with LOTS of characters. I have to admit that more than once when a character reappeared I wasn't quite sure who he/she was.

    But this is simply my observation regarding best format to read this book in. My complaint about the book at large is that the main character was so hard to bond with -- she was frustrating. She's a child when she inhabits her situation, a caucasian (mistaken for an ugly Japanese or perhaps a mixed race child from the Russian border) who ends up servant girl, adopted by a famous Tea family in 1800's Japan. So of course children have relatively little power to influence such a situation, but she just doesn't have enough spunk -- even meditative spunk -- to make her so very interesting. I love the concept, and I like that as she learns Japanese language and culture very slowly things begin to make sense to her, but she needed more oomph to make her sympathetic. I wondered a bit if the drollness of the readers' voice added to my frustration with her. The narrator is not bad, but doesn't charge the heroine with a special feeling that makes her more lovable, sympathetic or...comprehensible. So...I'd read rather than listen and even at that ended the book wishing for a more lively heroine.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Night over Water

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Ken Follett
    • Narrated By Tom Casaletto
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (557)
    Performance
    (282)
    Story
    (278)

    On a bright September morning in 1939, two days after Britain declares war on Germany, a group of privileged but desperate people gather in Southhampton to board the largest, most luxurious airliner ever built - the Pan American Clipper - bound for New York.

    Daniel Mcafee says: "Fun Listen"
    "A Ship of Fools..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    While I was listening to this, I thought-- I've got t re-read Katherine Anne Porter's "Ship of Fools" because this novel reminded me of "ship" in the air vs. sea. So after I finished listening to this, I did listen to "ship" and it wasn't a very good mental comparison.

    Some of this repeats what I just wrote about "Ship."

    Here's the thing, I've said in reviews before that more literary novels do not always fare so well as "listens." I think of Follet as storyteller, someone like the brilliant Bryce Courtney who puts together a brilliant story, and the story drives all, and the characters are quickly and proficiently sketched and the reader is quickly and professionally sucked in to a compelling narrative, an these books are tailor-madefor Audible. "Ship" is harder to carry off in Audible form -- it's a more psychological novel, and doesn't let you sit back (drive/commute/walk) and relax, you have to REALLY listen (or read). Or listen twice.

    Follet as always is sheer storytelling enjoyment, strong narrative, fun, you'll want to speed-listen. Follet is perfect for Audible (or beach-reading) and is story telling its finest.

    There are other good/legitimate reasons to read/listen as well, and "Ship" is not for the story, it's for the psychological insight. I love that I can honor two world class writers in one review, and encourage listening/reading to both for different reasons.

    "Night Over water" will pull you in and give you great listen/story that you won't want to pause, as I expect from this author and have yet to be disappointed!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Ship of Fools

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Katherine Anne Porter
    • Narrated By Grace Conlin
    Overall
    (20)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (13)

    In the summer of 1931, a cruise ship sails for Bremerhaven, Germany. Among its many diverse passengers are a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests, a number of Germans returning to their homeland from Mexico, and a corrupt, avaricious company of Spanish singers and dancers who scheme to defraud the other passengers of their money.

    Rebecca says: "a literary ship...literally"
    "a literary ship...literally"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I read "Ship of Fools" as a college student and loved it , also have always loved Porter's short stories. I revisited "Ship" because I was listening to a Ken Follet novel-- set in an airplane and chock full of fools and was reminded of this novel, so decided to give it a new listen, was curious how it would compare.

    Here's the thing, I've said in reviews before that more literary novels do not always fare so well as "listens." So my 3 for performance is just an acknowledgement of that, the reader is perfectly fine, but given that much of this novel is psychological/interior it's simply harder to carry off a narration. This is NOT a thriller a la Follet. I think of Follet as storyteller, someone like the brilliant Bryce Courtney who puts together a brilliant story, and the story drives all, and the characters are quickly and proficiently sketched and the reader is quickly and professionally sucked in to a compelling narrative.

    Porter's book is more complex, harder to sift through the characters, the narrative drive is multi-pronged. It's a GREAT book and good to listen to, but if you listen, listen twice OR read and listen. The time is well-spent. I LOVE Follet and Courtney, but their books are more transient, this is a book that you will think about longer, the characters' motivations and actions will stay with you longer. In other words, you can' not commute or walk or beach rest and relax with this one, it's not 100% storytelling entertainment, but will stay with you longer because it drills down deeper.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Inferno: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Dan Brown
    • Narrated By Paul Michael
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8454)
    Performance
    (7686)
    Story
    (7746)

    In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces: Dante’s Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust...before the world is irrevocably altered.

    Livia says: "Formulaic and Hard to Finish...."
    "Under-developed Villainy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I gotta admit -- I was rooting a bit for the "bad" guy here...in other words, he's no so bad. Dan Brown takes on over-population crisis in Inferno, and interestingly tackles Dante (perhaps to one-up Dante's Club...not sure that either author truly succeeds though) . As always the scholarship and art/symbology detail is compellingly rendered to the lay reader.

    BUT the story's got a problem in that the villain isn't really....a villain, and the novel's contrivances are, well...contrived. There's a new TV show on that I don't really much care for called "Motive," and the show doesn't in my mind succeed because it sacrifices character and believability and story telling to....Motive alone-- the moving force. Well, the villain's motives here are not as misguided as they need to be in a thriller. In the back half of the book I was thinking...okay...is this really so bad? The book's faults seem to be to echo the television show's faults --that motive is important but just one dimension of a superb story.

    So the arc of the book falters. What to do? There's a good message there, but the book as a thriller falls flat in the back half. I'd tell people to listen if they like Dan Brown, the wonderful info he unearths about art history is valuable...but Inferno just doesn't reach the level of his previous works in terms of REAL drama and villainy! There are a few quips in the book about the author not getting books out quickly enough for publisher/contracts and I kind of have a feeling that Brown could have spent few more years shaping this one, and that the pressure was on to shove it into print.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jack of Diamonds

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Bryce Courtenay
    • Narrated By Humphrey Bower
    Overall
    (544)
    Performance
    (470)
    Story
    (466)

    Born and raised in a poor, working-class family in Toronto, Jack Spayd is the son of an unhappy marriage. After being taken under the wing of "Miss Frostbite", the owner of a local jazz club, Jack becomes a gifted musician, playing piano and harmonica. Fame and the allure of gambling takes him to Vegas, and prospects of fortune take him to the Belgian Congo, where he's heard it's possible to earn big money working in the most dangerous parts of the local copper mines.

    Brodie says: "On the Day we lost Bryce"
    "A StoryMaster's Finale"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you haven't read/listened to Courtenay and Bower and you crave a good story, start now, but perhaps don't start with this book. Courtenay is an absolute gem and master, and this novel, though strong in concept, seemed so "sketched" and rushed to me-- especially in the last half. Well, being an American and not recipient of the latest news in the Australian arts community, I didn't realize that this was Courtenay's last novel, and that he died last year. That explained all.

    The book is flawed but still saturated with signature Courtenay -- a rags to riches story, messaging around literacy that was a little less subtle in this book but never gets old for those of us who love WORD, a commitment to creating excellent female characters and a true storyteller's understanding of the arc of story and how to deliver upon it.

    So any Courtenay lover should read/listen to this, and his personal after-word will make you cry, but if you do not know Courtenay start earlier in his canon and enjoy a true story telling master at his peak!

    So, so sorry that we shall no have another work from Courtenay, and thank to Humphrey Bower for delivering an exceptional reading once again.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Feast Day of Fools: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By James Lee Burke
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1073)
    Performance
    (887)
    Story
    (873)

    Celebrated crime master and two-time Edgar Award winner James Lee Burke returns with a gorgeously crafted, brutally resonant chronicle of violence along the Texas-Mexico border. Sheriff Hackberry Holland patrols a small Southwest Texas border town, meting out punishment and delivering justice in his small square of this magnificent but lawless land. When an alcoholic ex-boxer named Danny Boy Lorca begs to be locked up after witnessing a man tortured to death by a group of bandits, Hack and his deputy, Pam Tibbs, slowly extract the Indian man’s gruesome tale.

    Melinda says: "Shoot Out at the More-Than-OK Corral"
    "Vintage James Lee Burke + Perfect Pitch Narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've never read or listened to a James Lee Burke book I didn't like, so I come in with that prejudice. This hero, like Dave Robicheaux, is battle-scarred,demon-chased and damaged but not dead yet, still alight with desire for love and justice.

    As always with Burke, a solid story, excellent villains, descriptions of landscape and characters that rival any fine writer's out there, notes of redemption. Burke's language is, as always elegiac and my only gripe in listening to it vs. reading it is....come'on what bad guys speak with such poetic erudition? It works on the page, and it's part of Burke's flow but in narration it's just too gorgeous for the down and out. But I like hearing it enough that it's okay. Burke always provokes thought, he keeps us entertained.

    The narrator is perfectly paired with the material, and the "Feast Day of Fools" metaphor (there's a bit of a lecture by one of the improbably bad guys about metaphors in the book) is wonderfully wrought.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Winds of War

    • UNABRIDGED (45 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Herman Wouk
    • Narrated By Kevin Pariseau
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2398)
    Performance
    (2020)
    Story
    (2023)

    Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events - and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II - as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.

    Arken says: "Great storytelling"
    "Storytelling + History = Worth the time!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you listen to The Winds of War again? Why?

    Probably not! But that's not a slam, it's a saga, but not...an Epic


    What other book might you compare The Winds of War to and why?

    Michener's books


    What about Kevin Pariseau’s performance did you like?

    Excellent command of multiple characters/intonations - superb actor


    If you could rename The Winds of War, what would you call it?

    Wouldn't. It's a good name.


    Any additional comments?

    Brought pre-World War II and beginning of World War II to life through eyes and hearts of one family, making what seems already ancient and long ago deeply personal. An excellent introduction to the era from a very American family/set of eyes.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Ghosts of Belfast

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Stuart Neville
    • Narrated By Gerard Doyle
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1030)
    Performance
    (424)
    Story
    (426)

    Fegan has been a "hard man" - an IRA killer in Northern Ireland. Now that peace has come, he is being haunted day and night by 12 ghosts: a mother and infant, a schoolboy, a butcher, an RUC constable, and seven other of his innocent victims. In order to appease them, he's going to have to kill the men who gave him orders. As he's working his way down the list, he encounters a woman who may offer him redemption; she has borne a child to an RUC officer and is an outsider too.

    David P. McGivern says: "What an unexpected good read!"
    "Perfectly pitched - novel and narrator"
    Overall

    This book would appeal to readers/listeners who like a fine writer who can bundle atmosphere, character development and action -- more like an excellent mystery writer in some ways (Mankell, James Lee Burke) - author has created a haunting/intriguing book. Great delivery by Doyle, and most remarkably-- he pulls off an ending that does the entire book before credit. So many, many books like this end with a whimper, this one does not - the author has crafted a superb ending that does credit to his writing, his characters and the history also envelopes the work. I'm reading more Neville!

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Troubled Man: A Kurt Wallander Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Henning Mankell, Laurie Thompson (translator)
    • Narrated By Robin Sachs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (457)
    Performance
    (222)
    Story
    (230)

    Håkan von Enke, a retired naval officer, disappears during a walk in a forest near Stockholm. Wallander is not officially involved in the investigation, but he is personally affected—von Enke is his daughter’s father-in-law—and Wallander is soon interfering in matters that are not his responsibility. He is confounded by the information he uncovers, which hints at elaborate Cold War espionage.

    Rebecca says: "I'd expect nothing less..."
    "I'd expect nothing less..."
    Overall

    A troubled, troubling, stirring, well-wrought end to the Wallander cycle that has me wanting to read and listen to all of them again. I discovered this author on Audible and have savored each book. In this last novel, Mankell has succeeded in what so few authors seem to be capable of, closing his series subtly, beautifully, remaining true to his characters and yet also exploring his terrain with wonderful intuition and character insights, keeping the book moving with compelling twists and turns. Mankell has turned the book, Wallander, and the reader all on their heads and has the reader/listerner looking at everything within (the pages, the plot, the life) in a new way-- sad and glorious. How I will miss Wallander, and how grateful I am that I met him and his creator!

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • This Body of Death: An Inspector Lynley Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Elizabeth George
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (402)
    Performance
    (153)
    Story
    (155)

    Thomas Lynley is called back to Scotland Yard when the body of a woman is found stabbed and abandoned in an isolated London cemetery. His former team doesn't trust the leadership of their new department chief, Isabelle Ardery, but Lynley may be the sole person who can see beneath his superior officer's hard-as-nails exterior to a hidden and possibly attractive vulnerability.

    Rebecca says: "Interesting Mix for Elizabeth George Fans"
    "Interesting Mix for Elizabeth George Fans"
    Overall

    This book oddly combines the successes and failures of her last two novels-- after hating "What Came Before He Shot Her" and Loving "Careless in Red," I had more than one twinge of fear that this was going down the "What Came Before..." path. It didn't. Tough book to review because I don't want to give any hints of the twists or turns and there are some. Stay with the book, it'll surprise you in good ways, characters we know and love continue to develop too. Some scenes tremble a little too close to the disgusting and I confess fast forwarding through at least three ummm...unpleasantries. But in the end a satisfying read, and when as she often says, the other shoe finally falls and the reader figures out where George is going it's a delight indeed!

    17 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Secret of the Seventh Son

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Glenn Cooper
    • Narrated By Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (743)
    Performance
    (329)
    Story
    (332)

    Nine people have been slain in New York City, nine strangers with nothing in common - the apparent victims of a frighteningly elusive serial killer. Only one thing links the dead: postcards they received, mailed from Las Vegas, announcing the day they would die.

    Rebecca says: "An Ear Burner"
    "An Ear Burner"
    Overall

    What's the equivalent of a page turner in audioland...an ear burner? This one's hard to turn off, you want to listen to it in big gulps, so clear off your calendar for a 18 mile walk or a weekend cleaning frenzy. Author has a really unique premise, the core creative idea that drives the story is novel and ambitious. So in terms of plot, and unique slant I'd give this 5 stars. But I gotta knock it down a bit for very stock characters, the protagonist is cliche, the supporting cast...ditto. Don't let that stop you from listening though, still great entertainment and I'm absolutely on to the next one!

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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