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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

1642
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 183 reviews
  • 235 ratings
  • 418 titles in library
  • 51 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
430

  • The Potato Factory: The Australian Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Bryce Courtenay
    • Narrated By Humphrey Bower
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3442)
    Performance
    (2447)
    Story
    (2451)

    Always leave a little salt on the bread. Ikey Solomon's favorite saying is also his way of doing business, and in the business of thieving he's very successful indeed. Ikey's partner in crime is his mistress, the forthright Mary Abacus, until misfortune befalls them. They are parted and each must make the harsh journey from thriving nineteenth century London to the convict settlement of Van Diemen's Land.

    karen says: "Best audiobook of the year!"
    "Should have believed the cautionary reviews"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Once again I have chosen a book that is very well written and perfectly read, but populated with such unappealing characters that I felt like I needed to take a shower after each listening session. The writing is compared to Dickens in several reviews, appropriately so since the main villian (supposed hero) is the real life inspiration for Fagan. In his preface the author warns us that his characters are "odious", but assures us that we will grow to love them. I did not. Did such violence and depravity really exist in that day and time? I'm sure it did. But that doesn't mean I want to be immersed in the muck. Even Dickens gave us some positive characters.

    So I will add my caution to previous unhappy reviewers: If you do not enjoy very explicitly graphic sexual (and I don't mean romantic) and violent scenes, and if making heroes of villians is not your cup of tea, then pass on this one. The only reason I am allowing a 3 star rating is in acknowledgement of the author's obvious writing skills, but it does not mean that I enjoyed his "odious" characters. I am just grateful that I did not purchase the next two volumes in the series, because I won't be reading them.

    59 of 64 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
    (2895)
    Performance
    (2196)
    Story
    (2209)

    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
    (59)
    Performance
    (40)
    Story
    (40)

    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
    (499)
    Performance
    (418)
    Story
    (417)

    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
    (613)
    Performance
    (533)
    Story
    (541)

    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
    (1328)
    Performance
    (1187)
    Story
    (1209)

    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
  • The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 22 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By Neil Gaiman
    Overall
    (49)
    Performance
    (47)
    Story
    (47)

    You ask me if I can forgive myself? I can forgive myself. And so begins The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, a haunting story of family, the otherworld, and a search for hidden treasure. This audiobook is brought to vivid life by the characters and landscape of Gaiman’s award-winning story. In this volume, the talents and vision of two great creative geniuses come together in a glorious explosion of color and shadow, memory and regret, vengeance and, ultimately, love.

    Janice says: "Dark Quest"
    "Dark Quest"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a dark short story told in first person by an un-named man going on a quest to the Black Mountains. He hires a guide to take him there, disclosing little of himself or his reason for the journey. His tale unfolds slowly, bit by bit as the two travelors encounter challenges along the way, not fully trusting each other, but needing to rely on each other anyway. This slow buildup initially felt like nothing was really going on, but have patience. As pieces of each man's stories are revealed, the tension begins to mount right up to the opening of the mountain cave which is their destination. And then, as the title suggests, there is the truth.

    It pains me to give anyting less than 5 stars to a Gaiman recording, but in this case it's not because of his narration, which is perfection as always. There is a musical score that plays throughout the story that often becomes more than just background. The listener's sample gives you some idea of the music. There are some parts that are more intrusive, but also many parts where the music benefits the atmosphere. But the fact that the score made itself so obvious lost one star.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Graveyard Book

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By Neil Gaiman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6585)
    Performance
    (3360)
    Story
    (3381)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Gaiman’s not just an award-winning author, but a narrator who earns rave reviews – and fields requests from other authors to perform their books, too! Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead....

    Guillermo says: "Masterful Fantasy for the Jaded Heart"
    "The other Boy Who Lived"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    What a wonderful story. Something for everyone – adventure, mystery, humor, creepiness. Enjoyable for adults in the way of the best literature for young people such as Peter Pan, Harry Potter and (not surprisingly) The Jungle Book. Good coming-of-age stories remind us grown-ups of who we once were and of the dreams and hopes we once had for ourselves and our belief that we could accomplish anything - before the "real world" teaches us not to believe in magic anymore. Gaiman is a Pied Piper of storytelling for all ages, and as always gives voice to his creations as no one else could. The added musical interludes enhanced the atmosphere. I long to know what Bod’s life became, but suspect that a sequel would not really be in order. Better to let us imagine.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Garrison Keillor
    • Narrated By Garrison Keillor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (755)
    Performance
    (485)
    Story
    (490)

    Garrison Keillor's latest book is about the wedding of a girl named Dede Ingebretson, who comes home from California with a guy named Brent. Dede has made a fortune in veterinary aromatherapy; Brent bears a strong resemblance to a man wanted for extortion who's pictured on a poster in the town's post office. Then there's the memorial service for Dede's aunt Evelyn, who led a footloose and adventurous life after the death of her husband 17 years previously.

    A User says: "Brillliant but not lighthearted"
    "Geezer-Lit . . . in a good way"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Is there such a category as “geezer-lit”? If not, this book could start a new literary genre as I expect only those over the age of 50 have sufficient life experience to appreciate the humor and insights that make this wonderful tale hilarious, poignant, wise and affectionate all at the same time.

    Introduced to Evelyn on the last evening of her life, enjoying a somewhat raucous dinner with her best friends, I was laughing so hard I had to pee. Then she was gone and her daughter Barbara had to pick up the pieces and plan Evelyn’s unique memorial according to instructions left in a wonderful letter that actually begins Barbara’s awakening (and ours too if we have the ears to hear).

    There are other story lines that are outrageous and revealing in their own ways, but it’s Evelyn’s spirit winding through the tale that keeps some grounded, some inspired, and often both at the same time. As one rapidly reaching geezer-hood, I enjoyed the connection to family and community, and the message of living life to its fullest on your own terms. Life has no dress rehearsal and once the curtain comes down the play is over and regrets are wasted time. That message was Evelyn’s best gift to Barbara.

    GK’s reading has his usual quirky pauses and breaths, and it took at bit to get used to. But really, there is no other voice that can tell a Lake Wobegon tale. It was a perfect match.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Legends of the Fall

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Jim Harrison
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (15)

    Set in the Rocky Mountains, Legends of the Fall is the epic tale of three brothers and their lives of passion, madness, exploration, and danger at the beginning of World War I. In Revenge, love causes the course of a man's life to be savagely and irrevocably altered. And in The Man Who Gave Up His Name, a man named Nordstrom is unable to relinquish his consuming obsessions with women, dancing, and food.

    Janice says: "Cello music"
    "Cello music"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I chose this book because I have watched “Legends of the Fall” movie countless times, and because Mark Bramhall is one of my favorite narrators. Ranking the three novellas, I thought “Legends” was the best overall story, “Revenge” the one that affected me the deepest, and “The Man Who Gave Up His Name” the least relatable (making it 4 stars instead of 5). If you are already familiar with “Legends” and “Revenge” from their movies, know that the source stories told here are not straight repeats, but still wonderfully written. “Revenge” in particular provided strong characters in Cochran and Tibby.

    Strongly masculine tales, there is a common thread of midlife self-doubt and sense of loss that could become depressing if Harrison’s writing was less masterful. If the stories had a soundtrack, it would be the beautiful but melancholy music of the cello – expressing a soulful yearning that communicates to the reader. Bramhall's reading ensures the cello is pitch perfect. I loved the stories, admired the writing, and will likely look for more of Harrison’s offerings.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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