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Janice

Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

Sugar Land, TX, United States | Member Since 2010

1718
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 187 reviews
  • 241 ratings
  • 433 titles in library
  • 60 purchased in 2014
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439

  • The Book Thief

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Markus Zusak
    • Narrated By Allan Corduner
    Overall
    (9143)
    Performance
    (7218)
    Story
    (7255)

    It's just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books.

    Amazon Customer says: "Word Thief"
    ""I am haunted by humans""
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    The final words of the book, spoken by Death who has been the storyteller, sums up my feelings about this reading experience. The story is so much about the power of words, and the author uses his words so eloquently, visually descriptive in their ability to evoke sensory understanding of the characters' experiences. But beyond the words, the true story is about the souls of the characters - both good and bad. The very best is of course Hans, the father whose kindness, generosity and deep understanding of what is right becomes the guiding star to the devestated orphan who comes to his home. Liesel's life is saved and formed through his influence and she becomes extraordinary as a result. Rosa, Rudy and the others living in this wartorn village become our literary neighbors. I will be haunted by these humans for some time to come.

    A comment - other reviewers have stated their inability to get into the story. It took 3 tries for me to get past the beginning also. The prologue is confusing and the writing style unique, requiring some patience and concentration. Please don't give up. By the first hour when the Storyteller begins the real narrative, you will understand and begin a transforming journey. The narrator is superb, bringing all of these characters to life.

    58 of 64 people found this review helpful
  • Neverwhere [Adaptation]

    • ORIGINAL (3 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By Christopher Lee, James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, and others
    Overall
    (1715)
    Performance
    (1616)
    Story
    (1612)

    A BBC Radio six-part adaptation of Neil Gaiman's best-selling novel, starring James McAvoy as Richard and Natalie Dormer as Door. Beneath the streets of London there is another London. A subterranean labyrinth of sewers and abandoned tube stations. A somewhere that is Neverwhere....

    Gayle says: "Superb"
    "Don't start here"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As you read through reviews for this offering, you'll see that those who already know and love the story through the full book version also enjoyed this dramatisation. I am one of these. But if you have never read or listened to the full book, it would be very hard to understand what's going on as the audioplay is essentially an abridgement of the story, losing a great deal of the character and plot development. That's the reason for the 3 star story mark - it just doesn't stand alone for the uninitiated. This really is a story that deserves a complete hearing. The voice actors are superb, especially McAvoy and Cumberbatch, but I did drop one performance star for the somewhat scratchy quality of the sound effects.

    Neverwhere (the book) was my very first Gaiman experience, and it got me hooked. If you are at all intrigued by the story premise, do yourself a favor and go to the source. Gaiman reads the entire story himself and does his usual remarkable job.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Nobody's Fool

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Richard Russo
    • Narrated By Ron McLarty
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (581)
    Performance
    (204)
    Story
    (207)

    Divorced from his own wife and carrying on halfheartedly with another man's, saddled with a bum knee and friends who make enemies redundant, Sully now has one new problem to cope with: a long-estranged son who is in imminent danger of following in his father's footsteps. With its sly and uproarious humor and a heart that embraces humanity's follies as well as its triumphs, Nobody's Fool is storytelling at its most generous.

    Steve says: "Russo is a genious."
    "A man among men . . . and it is a compliment"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Having seen (and loved) the movie numerous times, I have put off reading the book for a very long time, concerned that it would not live up to my expectations. Having Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy and Bruce Willis permanently etched in my mind’s eye as the main characters, it’s impossible to separate my response to the book from my feelings about the film. To my great delight, Sully in the book is every bit as ironic, rascally and endearing as Newman portrayed him, so my fears were groundless. The other residents of North Bath are fully developed, bringing in more characters than the film did, and significantly changing others.

    This is very much a character study. Don’t look for action, mystery, or broad comedy. What you will get is a well-paced slice of life, saturated with subtle and ironic humor, that illuminates what makes people tick in a small dying town. All of the characters are flawed, many to the point of being unlikable. But Russo gives them enough dimension to allow us at least some sympathy for what has brought them to where they are now. Fully understanding the story behind Sully’s relationship with his dad makes make you wonder why he is merely philosophically dysfunctional instead of stark raving mad. His humor and native intelligence makes him one of the best characters I have read in contemporary American literature. I would give anything to be able to meet him for a beer at the White Horse just to shoot the breeze. I suspect I would fall in love with him. As Toby observed, he’s a man among men. Only unlike her, I mean it as a compliment.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A Breach of Security

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 28 mins)
    • By Susan Hill
    • Narrated By Steven Pacey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (49)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (40)

    When a bunch of neo-fascist thugs named The Bulldogs attack a Gay pride march in the sleepy country town of Lafferton, detective Simon Serrailler moves quickly to find the assailants. He’s already got his hands full making security arrangements for a memorial service to honour soldiers returning from Afghanistan. When anonymous threats come in, Serrailler wonders if the Bulldogs are behind these too - and worries that they know the Prince of Wales will be in attendance.

    connie says: "So glad I found this free story!"
    "Pros and Cons"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm familiar with Susan Hill for some of her ghost stories, and downloaded this free offering because I enjoy her writing. This is not an especially compelling story outside of the context of the main character's detective series. But the writing is very good, the narrator excellent, so based on this snack sized sample, I am interested in looking at more of the series. Thanks for the freebie, Audible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Wayfaring Stranger

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By James Lee Burke
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (718)
    Performance
    (649)
    Story
    (650)

    It is 1934 and the Depression is bearing down when 16-year-old Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A confrontation with the outlaws ends as Weldon puts a bullet through the rear window of Clyde’s stolen automobile. Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escape certain death in the Battle of the Bulge and encounter a beautiful young woman named Rosita Lowenstein hiding in a deserted extermination camp.

    Charles Atkinson says: "Outstanding Addition to the Holland/Texas Saga"
    "Good start, runs out of gas"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Have you ever had a really good meal – satisfying from the appetizer through the entree – but when you get to the dessert it is a huge disappointment. That bad dessert is the last impression of the meal, and in spite of the good stuff that came before, you tend to rate the overall meal based on that last taste, and it’s a downer. That’s my take on “Wayfaring Stranger”. I enjoyed the story right from the beginning, forgiving some minor plot holes, because of the terrific writing, interesting plot-line, and characters that I felt were pretty genuine (I really love Grandfather and Herschel). There are lots of layers to the story, making the connections between events and characters pretty mysterious, but I was sure that Burke had something up his sleeve that would clear everything up. After all of the really nasty goings-on, I wanted to know who was the puppet master and why. I kept hoping that Weldon would finally break loose from his passive anger and kick some serious butt, but he just kept playing it safe. With about ¼ of the book to go, things started to run off the tracks. It was looking less and less likely that shadowy characters would be revealed with their motivations or that all of the dots would be connected. Alas, the ending was abrupt, inconclusive, and unsatisfactory. So a book that was easily a 4.5 for most of the way, dropped to 3 in the final three hours.

    I was sure I was going to give Will Patton a solid 5 for his reading until the Australian movie director came into the story. Sorry Will – your Aussie accent sounds like a poorly attempted Jimmy Cagney imitation. Drop a star.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Watership Down

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Richard Adams
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3025)
    Performance
    (2313)
    Story
    (2327)

    Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren; he felt sure of it. They had to leave immediately. So begins a long and perilous journey of survival for a small band of rabbits. As the rabbits skirt danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band, its humorous characters, and its compelling culture, complete with its own folk history and mythos.

    B. Cable says: "Still one of the best!"
    "A trophy for the mantlepiece"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There are some books that are so wonderfully written and perfectly narrated that they are trophies to be cherished. This is one of those trophies. Too many books start well but seem to have no idea how to follow through to a satisfying conclusion. Many contemporary authors could learn from Adams how to create characters that a reader can believe in and commit to. Few human characters that I have read in recent books can compare in depth and dimension to the rabbits of Watership Down. The creation of a culture and language for the rabbits and other creatures rivals Tolkien’s masterpieces. Trying to choose a favorite is impossible – Hazel is of course the hero, but my heart also belongs to Big Wig, Fiver and Pipkin for their courage, to Blueberry, Blackberry and Dandelion for their lightness of spirit, and to Kehar the gull just for being himself. I loved the fables reminiscent of the Brer Rabbit tales that offered deeper insight into the culture, and the life lessons gently taught through the various adventures in creating the new warren. This may not be a cute bunny story for preschoolers, but school agers and older should be able to understand and handle the dangers of animal enemies and rivalries. Certainly television and movies show greater levels of violence than is found here.

    Though I had thoroughly enjoyed the book in print, never did I have such rich voices in my head as those provided by Ralph Cosham’s superb reading. The toughness of Big Wig and General Woundwort, the brave innocence of Fiver and Pipkin, and the off-beat uniqueness of Kehar are perfectly voiced. Those who have not read it in a long time may be delighted to rediscover an old favorite. I give this wonderful classic my highest recommendation.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Wolf: The Lives of Jack London

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By James L. Haley
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (70)
    Performance
    (50)
    Story
    (51)

    Jack London was born a working-class, fatherless San Franciscan in 1876. In his youth, he was a boundlessly energetic adventurer on the bustling west coast—by and by playing the role of hobo, sailor, and oyster pirate. From his vantage point at the margins of Gilded Age America, he witnessed such iniquity and abuses that he became a life long socialist and advocate for reform. Award-winning western historian James L. Haley paints a vivid portrait of London—adventurer, social reformer, and the most well-known American writer of his generation.

    Danny says: "A life of bright flames to ashes..."
    "Just Ok"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've waited a while to write this review to sort out why I felt let down. I thought I would get to meet an adventurous larger than life character on the scale of Hemingway. What I got was a rather ordinary, insecure guy who changed his personality to meet his perception of others' expectations in order to fit in, and went to sea and to the Klondike for money, not for adventure. I was disappointed to get through the Klondike period to learn only that it was hard work, inhumanly cold, he got sick and came home broke. His socialist convictions seemed tainted by a desire to get back at the capitalist world for his own poverty as much as for general injustice, and his passion to write was his plan to escape the "Work Beast" world he hated. There didn't seem to be an adventurous spirit in the man - he came across as resigned and cynical. I didn't gain hoped for insights into the inspiration behind "The Sea Wolf" and "Call of the Wild".

    So was I disappointed in the book or in the man? I think it's both. In his forward, author Haley states an intent to present the whole man, warts and all, and to avoid the pigeon-holing of previous biographers presenting The Adventurer, The Political Activist, The Drunken Womanizer. In that he succeeded, but I think that by trying to remain steadfastly neutral he ended up writing a work filled with facts but little heart. The facts make it clear that London was a man of many contradictions, but Haley does little to explore and illuminate these contradictions. London never fully came to life for me.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Coroner’s Lunch: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (584)
    Performance
    (480)
    Story
    (480)

    Laos, 1975: The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over this former French colony. Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old Paris-trained doctor, is appointed national coroner. Although he has no training for the job, there is no one else: the rest of the educated class have fled.

    Jane says: "a splendid story"
    "Unexpected Delight"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I would never have even heard of this book without the Daily Deal, but after checking out the reviews I decided that this might be an intriguingly different choice. I was rewarded beyond expectations with a surprisingly witty and unique mystery featuring the most endearing investigator I have ever read. Never did I imagine I would be laughing out loud so often in a murder mystery set in mid 70’s Laos. Dr. Siri’s dry ironic handling of the bureaucracy was priceless, and I actually backed up and replayed one scene in which he took his immediate superior to task, because it so perfectly showed what this little man was made of. Pretty much all of the political sides received a bit of tongue in cheek lampooning.

    Some reviewers complain about the supernatural aspects of the story, some crying foul about ghostly assistance in the murder solving. Personally I loved that part of the story, but will say to any potential readers that if other worldly spirits bug you then don’t go for this series.

    I admit that I only allowed 4 stars for the story because the mysteries being solved were somewhat lightweight. But perfect narration gave tangible personality to Siri and the secondary characters lifting this intelligently written story to a 5 star on the strength of strong character development. I’m going back for more.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Haunting of Hill House

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Shirley Jackson
    • Narrated By Bernadette Dunne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (717)
    Performance
    (631)
    Story
    (639)

    Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House.

    Mark says: "Superb Reading of Horror Classic"
    "A Disappointment"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really wanted to like this story. I enjoy a good ghost story that is more on the psychologically spooky side (as opposed to the slasher, gory side), and thought this would fit the bill nicely. But the handling of the characters consistently got in the way of the atmosphere. The problems:

    • None of the subjects participating in this expedition to the haunted house seemed to be serious about actually trying to discover its secrets. They moved in, experienced the strange phenomena, but afterwards never even discussed among themselves what had happened or even seemed terribly surprised or concerned. We were told they wrote copious notes, but they never seemed to go anywhere.

    • The too-clever, ironic conversations felt contrived and out of place. Perhaps the wry humor was meant to be a sort of whistling-in-the-dark, but it didn't work for me.

    • The crazy bangings and door slammings, voices and wall writings are all sensory events that are difficult to convey in writing with the impact they deserve. Perhaps the impact would have been heightened if the characters themselves had seemed to be more viscerally affected. But they all just got over it a few minutes later, looked for the brandy and made more jokes. I have seen the 1963 film version, and found it satisfyingly spooky, largely because the actors were able to convince me that they were scared themselves.

    • I found Dr. Montague’s wife to be one of the single most irritating characters I have ever read. Worse, her nearly comical militant spiritualist crusade further weakened Dr. Montague’s already weak character, undermining any pretense of scientific authority he held.

    I wish I could recommend this classic, but for me it did not live up to its billing.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Freeze Frame: The Enzo Files, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Peter May
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    Overall
    (51)
    Performance
    (36)
    Story
    (36)

    A promise made to a dying man leads forensics ace Enzo Macleod (a Scot who's been teaching in France for many years) to the study—a place the man's heir has preserved for nearly 20 years. The dead man left several clues there designed to reveal his killer's identity to the man's son, but ironically the son died soon after the father.

    Janice says: "Solid writing, reliable series"
    "Solid writing, reliable series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was another reliable entry in the Enzo series. The mystery is interesting and well strung together. I found the handling of the clues creative and intriguing, allowing me to play along with Enzo’s problem solving process, and even though I had figured out who-dunnit, I didn't mind because the scavenger hunt to get there was worth the trip. Enzo remains an engaging and full-blooded character, in this outing working without the entourage of his daughters and their boyfriends, but that was ok. I enjoyed the atmospheric Breton island location and the people he met there. My only complaint is the subplot involving sometime love interest, Charlotte, who was uncharacteristically surly, leaving a relationship cliffhanger that left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m sure there will be a resolution of sorts in future volumes, but I just didn't like the way this one faded out, but not so much as to lose the recommendation.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Son

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Philipp Meyer
    • Narrated By Will Patton, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Shepherd, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1379)
    Performance
    (1229)
    Story
    (1251)

    Part epic of Texas, part classic coming-of-age story, part unflinching portrait of the bloody price of power, The Son is an utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American West through the lives of the McCulloughs, an ambitious family as resilient and dangerous as the land they claim. Spring, 1849: Eli McCullough is 13 years old when a marauding band of Comanches takes him captive. Brave and clever, Eli quickly adapts to life among the Comanches, learning their ways and waging war against their enemies, including white men - which complicates his sense of loyalty and understanding of who he is.

    Melinda says: "Five Stars for the Lone Star, The Son, & Meyer"
    "Morally bankrupt dynasty"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    “There were people who ate the earth and those that stood around and watched them do it.”

    So said Lillian Hellman in “The Little Foxes”, and the quote is apt for the McCullough dynasty in “The Son”. For all of its ambition to present a sweeping epic of Texas history through the eyes of three generational representatives, these three characters came across as soulless and selfish, with no clear motivations for their lives, simply grasping for what they could acquire no matter the cost or who had to pay it – generally the Mexicans and other family members.

    Eli’s story is admittedly the most colorful, with his abduction by the Comanches, his life with them, and afterwards in the Texas Rangers and the Confederate Army. But none of it ever felt as adventurous as expected. Much of it was just gruesome and murderous, but quite emotionless, even for the victims. The ease with which he changed allegiances, killing without conscience the enemy of the moment, spoke of a man with no soul or direction. Love was just as empty, expressed almost exclusively in sophomoric sexual terms (and too often with barnyard vocabulary).

    Peter (Eli’s son) and Jeannie (Eli’s great granddaughter) each eventually inherit to various degrees the empire, but exist only through the prism of Eli’s life – Peter hating him and Jeannie mythologizing him. Neither ever feel adequate with themselves, so they are weak and inadequate characters, and I found them essentially sterile. Lacking heartfelt emotions, I felt nothing for them. All background characters were just that: background and generally one-dimensional, too often stereotyped.

    Narration – 2/3’s good. Patton and Shepherd did well with Eli and Peter. Kate Mulgrew to my ears was grating and rough, trying too hard to portray a tough Texas gal, which just came across as a whiskey roughened broad, often indistinguishable from the male voices.

    I know this is a dissenting vote – most reviewers loved the book. I felt it was cynical and spoke to the futility of life spent only on building dynasties and not relationships. I'll give it three stars for ambition and many of the well written passages, but I found little inspiring or uplifting to recommend it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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