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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

1449
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 175 reviews
  • 222 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 39 purchased in 2014
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  • The Violent Bear It Away

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Flannery O’ Connor
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (135)
    Performance
    (99)
    Story
    (97)

    The orphaned Francis Marion Tarwater and his cousin, Rayber, defy the prophecy of their dead uncle - that Tarwater will become a prophet and will baptize Rayber's young son, Bishop. A series of struggles ensue, as Tarwater fights an internal battle against his innate faith and the voices calling him to be a prophet, while Rayber tries to draw Tarwater into a more “reasonable” modern world. Both wrestle with the legacy of their dead relatives and lay claim to Bishop's soul.

    Darwin8u says: "Biblical, American and Absolutely Brutal"
    "Magnificently written misery"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I downloadred this book on sale because O'Connor is an author I feel I should know better, even though I have struggled with her writings in the past. What convinced me to try again was that Mark Bramhall is the narrator, and I have admired his reading in previous downloads. Bramhall did not disappoint, but I think I'm going to give up on O'Connor.

    I get that Southern Gothic writing generally contains characters who are "grotesque" in the sense of being misfits with sympathetic characteristics. I just had a hard time with the unrelenting miserable natures of the main characters, finding it hard to detect the sympathetic parts. Ironically, because O'Connor writes so beautifully, the ugliness comes through with enhanced power. Perhaps that was her point, but it did not make the experience any more pleasant. Having the book read by Bramhall made it easier to consume - as in the past, I would have had a mighty struggle to read it in print.

    2 of 4 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
    (554)
    Performance
    (305)
    Story
    (306)

    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.

    Michele 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.

    2 of 3 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
    (10)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Watching You

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Michael Robotham
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    Overall
    (288)
    Performance
    (260)
    Story
    (260)

    Marnie Logan often feels like she's being watched: A warm breath on the back of her neck, or a shadow in the corner of her eye that vanishes when she turns her head. She has reason to be frightened. Her husband Daniel has inexplicably vanished, and the police have no leads in the case. Without proof of death or evidence of foul play, she can't access his bank accounts or his life insurance. Depressed and increasingly desperate, she seeks the help of clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin.

    bernadette says: "Wow!"
    "Something missing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The mystery/thriller genre can be fairly forgiving as long as the characters have dimension and the plot is suspenseful with twists that play fair with readers willing to suspend disbelief. “Watching You” does pretty well with the plot end of the bargain, but not so well with the characters.

    On the positive side, there is plenty of suspense, the solution to the mystery not being obvious. In the interest of no spoilers, I can’t say much about the plot points, but thought and creativity have been put into the story structure. Don’t assume that your first impressions will hold up to the end. I like a story that can surprise me.

    Oddly, in spite of the suspense I felt more curiosity than urgency about solving the mystery. Perhaps because this is my first outing with the O’Laughlin series I have missed the character build-up of Joe and Ruiz, who were not well defined. Regarding Joe, for a psychologist concerned about sharing confidential patient information, he sure spilled it out easily enough to Ruiz. And I found his Parkinson’s disease to be a gimmick that added nothing to who he is or to this story. As for the rest of the cast, often personality felt more governed by plot needs than by realistic responses.

    So bottom line, this was a credible mystery with twists that were interesting if not edge-of-my-seat compelling. I just felt the characters were kept too far at a distance to get my adrenaline running for them.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Lillian and Dash: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Sam Toperoff
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall, Lorna Raver, Bernadette Dunne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    This exciting novel about Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, and Lillian Hellman, author of The Children’s Hour, reintroduces their larger-than-life personalities and the vicissitudes of their affair that spanned three decades.

    Janice says: "Talented but flawed"
    "Talented but flawed"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I chose this book to get some insight into the creative minds behind stories I know best through the Hollywood renditions of their best works – Watch on the Rhine, The Little Foxes, The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon. I got background stories, but for most of the book there was an unexpected distance that kept the writers from becoming flesh and blood. Part of the problem was that for much of the book they remained apart from each other, their stories told in parallel. That may have been unavoidable since their relationship did have long separations, but life was not well infused even when they came together. The other part of the problem had to do with the narration.

    I have enjoyed all three of these readers in previous selections, and their presence influenced me to download this book. But the producers made a curious choice about the narration assignments. The wonderful Mark Bramhall gave Hammett his voice and was by far the best part of the listening. But Bernadette Dunn as Lillian, and Lorna Raver as the overall narrator sounded too much alike to let Hellman sound distinctive. And because Raver narrated the largely third person voice, the sections dealing with Hammett’s life were read in the voice of an elderly woman. Raver is a very talented reader, and I have loved her in other outings, but her voice made it impossible to hear Lillian as a young woman in her 20’s and 30’s, and Hammett was just lost until Bramhall read his own words. It has been hard to choose a rating for the narration because all three read extremely well. The problems were in the production choices.

    The very end of the book, the final years of their devotion to each other finally brought Dash and Lily to life for me. The voices finally matched their ages, and the lovers were finally together. It raised the book from being mediocre to good if a bit flawed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Those Who Wish Me Dead

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Michael Koryta
    • Narrated By Robert Petkoff
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (70)
    Performance
    (66)
    Story
    (66)

    When 13-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he's plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare. The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him.

    Janice says: "Fire on the Mountain"
    "Fire on the Mountain"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As a genre thrillers too often favor action and plot over character development, resulting in a library full of books populated by cardboard heroes and villains. Koryta consistently defies that norm and creates characters that we can invest in emotionally, simultaneously placing them in nail-biting situations. “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is one of his finest with an opening scene that informs us immediately of the deadly seriousness of young Jace’s situation. From that scene forward, the rest of the cast is introduced, and every one of them, good or bad, are drawn with a fine touch. My stomach clenched every time the Blackwell brothers appeared, knowing the cold blooded violence they brought with them. The wilderness instructor and his wife are very good but very human and vulnerable because, in spite of knowing of Jace’s danger, they underestimated the level of evil they faced. Fire on the mountain both compounds their problems and offers unforeseen hope.

    The pace is non-stop, and I actually didn’t stop, listening in one long sitting. Koryta never shies away from letting some bad things happen to some of his characters, disdaining improbably coincidental saves. So you never know what’s coming, the tension never lets up. In true Koryta fashion, the ultimate hero of the story will hold your heart. A strong place to start for readers who have not read this author before.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Jonas Jonasson, Rachel Willson-Broyles (translator)
    • Narrated By uncredited
    Overall
    (64)
    Performance
    (60)
    Story
    (59)

    In a tiny shack in the largest township in South Africa, Nombeko Mayeki is born. Put to work at five years old and orphaned at 10, she quickly learns that the world expects nothing more from her than to die young, be it from drugs, alcohol, or just plain despair. But Nombeko has grander plans. She learns to read and write, and at just 15, using her cunning and fearlessness, she makes it out of Soweto with millions of smuggled diamonds in her possession. Then things take a turn for the worse....

    Diana says: "Cheeky, Clever and Current story + great narrator"
    "When it was good . . ."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    . . . it was very, very good. But sometimes it wasn't.
    In the same style of "The 100 Year-Old Man" Jonasson has created a quirky absurdist piece of satire. The center of the story is Nombeko, the girl of the title, and as long as she is on stage there are sharp observations and laughs. Sparkling with wit and inate intelligence, she is the star of the production and provides the bulk of the enjoyment. ("Let me get my scissors") Unfortunately when the focus shifts to other story threads, the sparkle fades, matching the dullness of the the brother who is The Idiot and his Angry Young Woman girlfriend. I suspect that one needs a stronger insight into European politics in general and Swedish politics specifically if some of the inside jokes are to be fully appreciated. More than once too often everything that can go wrong does, thereby preventing Nombeko and her young man from saving the King and living happily ever after. While amusing for a while, these mishaps stopped being quite so funny, actually stalling the story progression instead of adding substance to the plot. Perhaps because I had already read "The 100 Year-Old Man", I was prepared for the wrap-up connecting all the dots. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read, narrated well, especially Nombeko's voice. Recommended for those who enjoyed the humor and absurdity of "The 100-Year-Old Man".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Heirloom Collection

    • UNABRIDGED (58 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Arthur Conan Doyle
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    Overall
    (202)
    Performance
    (187)
    Story
    (192)

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales are rightly ranked among the seminal works of mystery and detective fiction. Included in this collection are all four full-length Holmes novels and more than forty short masterpieces - from the inaugural adventure A Study in Scarlet to timeless favorites like “The Speckled Band” and more. At the center of each stands the iconic figure of Holmes - brilliant, eccentric, and capable of amazing feats of deductive reasoning.

    Santa Fe Painter says: "A Table of Contents & Audible Part/Chapter Notes"
    "I'm in heaven"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Can you ask for anything better than the complete Sherlock Holmes collection narrated by Simon Vance and for just one credit. When I found this selection it went immediately into my wish list and downloaded as soon as my new credit came up. I have not had time to listen to all 58 hours yet, but have been skipping around, sampling old favorites, starting with "A Scandal in Bohemia". Holmes has never sounded so good. For Sherlock fans this is a must.

    As other reviewers have noted, the downloads do not give the names of the selections - just chapter numbers. But thanks to reviewer "Santa Fe Painter" the table of contents for each download part is listed. I did a cut-and-paste and printed out this list for reference. I did note that the numbering on his list is slightly different from how my download appears - for each download part, where his list says Chapter 2, make it Chapter 1 and adjust the numbering from there. Then off you go - the game's afoot!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By A. J. Hartley, David Hewson
    • Narrated By Richard Armitage
    Overall
    (202)
    Performance
    (192)
    Story
    (190)

    It is a tale of ghosts, of madness, of revenge - of old alliances giving way to new intrigues. Denmark is changing, shaking off its medieval past. War with Norway is on the horizon. And Hamlet - son of the old king, nephew of the new - becomes increasingly entangled in a web of deception - and murder. Beautifully performed by actor Richard Armitage ("Thorin Oakenshield" in the Hobbit films), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark takes Shakespeare’s original into unexpected realms, reinventing a story we thought we knew.

    Janice says: "Masterful retelling of a masterpiece"
    "Masterful retelling of a masterpiece"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    "Complex" is an adjective found in most reviews of this retelling of Shakespeare's classic. So I'm not unique in finding new depth to the characters - Ophelia, Hamlet himself, and (for me) especially Claudius. Is Hamlet mad or acting? Is Claudius evil or caught in the one act he committed (perhaps) through the evil manipulations of another? By adding back stories to the major and secondary characters, the story moves beyond the dramatic (and melodramatic) familiarity of Shakespeare's speeches into a tragedy of real people's lives. The reading is near perfection, providing personality to the characters without intruding upon the action. I am inspired now to return to the original source, reading the poetry again with the characters newly revealed.

    To Hartley and Hewson - Is Lear next?

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Days Without Number

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Robert Goddard
    • Narrated By Gordon Griffin
    Overall
    (23)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (21)

    Nick Paleologus is summoned to the unyielding bosom of his family to help resolve a dispute which threatens to set his brothers and sisters against their aged and irascible father. Michael Paleologus, retired archaeologist and supposed descendant of the last Emperors of Byzantium, lives alone at Trennor, a remote and rambling house on the Cornish bank of the Tamar. A ridiculously generous offer has been made for the house, but he refuses to sell despite the urgings of his children, for whom the proceeds would solve a variety of problems.

    Die Falknerin says: "A modern writer worth reading"
    "The secret is that there is no secret"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I love Robert Goddard’s writing. In my three previous outings with him I have been impressed with his ability to weave complex suspense stories around characters that had depth and believability. His plot twists were always delightfully surprising, yet remained within context, avoiding the “give me a break” groan.

    Sadly “Days Without Number” failed on almost every level of his usual excellence. For me the fatal flaw was Goddard’s failure to define just what the mystery was. Over and over we hear the phrase “the secret is, that there is no secret”. The result is a whole lot of running around, a growing body count, and still no defined reason for any of this to be happening. As with other Goddard books, events that occurred in the past rear up in the present presenting unforeseen consequences for our current characters. Usually Goddard takes us via flashbacks to the relevant past where we experience the events that have set the current chaos in motion. This time however we are merely fed history lessons on the Templars and on the destruction of churches during Cromwell’s Civil War, and given tidbits on archaeological investigations in the area. There is a huge cast of secondary characters, many of whom we never meet because they are names from the father’s past, who are given mighty importance but feel more like red herrings because their relevance is just not made clear. I’m not usually confused by multiple character plots, but for this one I really did feel the need for a scorecard. By the time the whole affair was wrapped up, I was hopelessly lost as to what was going on and the solution still left me scratching my head. All of the Goddard elements were there, but just not smoothly knitted together.

    A final note of disappointment, not the fault of the author – I REALLY missed the elegant narration of Michael Kitchen. Griffin was ok, except that he made the fortyish aged characters sound so old - especially Basil, who came off as in his seventies. Made it impossible to get a mind’s eye picture of them. For those new to Goddard, don’t start here – try “Painting the Darkness” or “Caught in the Light” first.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Theft of Swords: Riyria Revelations, Volume 1

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Michael J. Sullivan
    • Narrated By Tim Gerard Reynolds
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4660)
    Performance
    (4281)
    Story
    (4281)

    Acclaimed author Michael J. Sullivan created instant best sellers with his spellbinding Riyria Revelations series. This first volume introduces Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, two enterprising thieves who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the death of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy bigger than they can imagine, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery - before it’s too late.

    Magpie says: "Two books in one - keep listening!!"
    "Monty Python Meets Tolkien"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First of all, I’d like to thank the Audible reviewers who urged patience and persistence in getting past the first book in favor of the stronger story in the second book. I gave me hope during the slow passages, and I did indeed find the second part an improvement.

    Unfortunately I remained disappointed in the overall work. I enjoyed the two main characters immensely, but the supporting cast was less well developed. I know it’s fantasy so the author can make it anything he wants to, but for a world built so similar to medieval Europe, the tone is too modern for my taste. The relentless anachronisms pulled me out of the story too often to feel truly connected. The narration enhanced this disconnect. In spite of the reader’s wide range of voices, his style was overly dramatic, almost cartoonic in many cases. I could just see the villains gnashing their teeth as they twirled the end of their mustaches. It was like hearing John Cleese reading Tolkien. This may have been what made the story enjoyable for the majority of readers rating it 5 stars, but it just didn't work as well for me. I am rounding up to 4 stars for what was really more of a 3.5, but extra credit is given for enthusiastic effort. But I don’t think I’m interested enough to push through the remainder of the series.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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