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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

1869
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 191 reviews
  • 247 ratings
  • 442 titles in library
  • 7 purchased in 2015
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FOLLOWERS
456

  • The Orchardist

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Amanda Coplin
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall
    Overall
    (677)
    Performance
    (584)
    Story
    (579)

    At the turn of the 20th century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he's found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit from the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion.

    Marcia says: "Beautiful, rich, sweeping tale, not a fairy tale."
    "Unsentimentally haunting"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The strength of this story is the sparse, unsentimental narrative, unadorned by adjectives, contrived dialogue, or flowery prose. It moves at a slow deliberate pace, not always in a linear direction, sometimes repeating scenes from different characters' points of view. In this way we come to understand the inner thoughts of each and see how they can be fully committed to each other without fully understanding each other. The first half of the book covers many years, switching back and forth between characters and locations, reviewed with little detail, almost as though someone was going through a box of old photographs and explaining what was happening when each was taken, patching together a lifetime of memories without really explaining the life. Remarkably, it is effective in developing the characters and getting to the second half of the book in which the normal routines of life in the orchard are disrupted when history rears its head and must be dealt with.

    Mark Bramhall's reading makes this story remarkable. Because there is little dialogue, he does not have to create vastly different voices. But through subtle changes in tone, pacing and inflection each character does have individual voice. Talmadge in particular becomes palpably real through Bramhall's slow rough voice. This is an Audible book that is truly best listened to.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • My Sunshine Away

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By M.O. Walsh
    • Narrated By Kirby Heybourne
    Overall
    (33)
    Performance
    (32)
    Story
    (32)

    My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when 15-year-old Lindy Simpson - free spirit, track star, and belle of the block - experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

    Melinda says: "'I dreamt I held you in my arms...'"
    "Creepy angst"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I’m afraid I have to throw a wet blanket on the love fest over this book. For me there were just too many problems with how the story was rolled out.

    I was intrigued by the premise of an atmospheric (Louisiana) mystery mixed with coming-of-age in the face of tragic events. This story could have taken place in any upper middle class neighborhood in any city, any state. No atmosphere beyond frequent comments about mosquitos and an essentially irrelevant chapter comparing Baton Rouge to New Orleans that pretty much proved my point by describing Baton Rouge as the normal city compared to New Orleans’ exoticism. Having a narrator without even the hint of a southern accent put the nail in that coffin.

    The majority of the story is taken up with the un-named narrator’s pathetic angst over the object of his obsession. And the obsession goes beyond creepy even within the norms of hormone driven teenage fantasy. Much of his fantasizing is fairly explicit and bears no resemblance to love or even a recognition of right and wrong. A scene at a drunken party nearly made me quit the book altogether. For all of his apparent worship, the boy really just objectifies Lindy, leaving her an empty shell of a character. The first person narrative by a kid who has no insight or empathy means that we see everyone around him through his eyes – mean, selfish and emotionally disconnected.

    I could not buy into the notion that his erratic behavior and the fact that he himself was a suspect in the rape (not a spoiler – we learn that in the first pages) did not prompt more engaged action by his parents. This was a string left dangling by the author – when damning evidence that led to suspecting the boy were discovered, the only response we hear about is his mother constantly crying. No one followed up, nothing was done.

    Finally, the wrap up. Within the last hour of the book, suddenly all of the cookie crumbs are swept together into a pile and questions that should have been investigated years earlier are opened up, doors are unlocked and there’s the answer, and our narrator explains why this has made all the difference and he can see clearly now. I found it unbelievable and manipulative. And I don’t buy for one minute who he turns out to be writing his narrative to.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • A Pleasure and a Calling: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Phil Hogan
    • Narrated By Michael Page
    Overall
    (30)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (27)

    You won't remember Mr. Heming. He was the estate agent who showed you around your comfortable home, suggested a financial package, negotiated a price with the owner, and called you with the good news. The less good news is that, all these years later, he still has the key. That's absurd, you laugh. Of all the many hundreds of houses he has sold, why would he still have the key to mine? The answer is; he has the keys to them all. William Heming's most at home in a stranger's private things.

    Janice says: "The Invisible Man"
    "The Invisible Man"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I enjoyed this selection as a refreshing change from the myriad police procedurals and crime thrillers that recycle the same old characters and the same old plots. William Heming is a true original, remaining completely invisible as he indulges his obsession to exist within the lives of those to whom he has sold homes – searching their photo albums, eating their food, sometimes even creating secret nesting places where he can hide and observe. Sinister and decidedly creepy, there is also surprising and welcome humor as Heming takes care of his community by dishing out his own style of justice to those who are less than model citizens. He cultivates an affable, easygoing but forgettable personality to maintain his invisibility, and it’s easy to be charmed by this façade. But through his first person perspective he reveals the darker side of himself. The flashback sections of his childhood were the most riveting for me, revealing the building of a sociopath through his own eyes – with a few convenient omissions he may or may not remember. This reminds me of the kind of stories seen on the old Alfred Hitchcock Hour – not gory or violent, but seriously twisted and impossible to look away.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Straight Man

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Richard Russo
    • Narrated By Sam Freed
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (494)
    Performance
    (202)
    Story
    (203)

    Russo's protagonist is William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rust belt. In the course of a single week, Devereaux will have his nose mangled by an angry colleague, imagine his wife is having an affair with his dean, wonder if a curvaceous adjunct is trying to seduce him with peach pits, and threaten to execute a goose on local television.

    Jeffrey A. Sherman says: "Shockingly good"
    "Goosed"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Maybe if I didn't have such high expectations for Russo’s writing ability I would have enjoyed Straight Man better. And to be fair, the writing IS good – it’s the story that disappointed. Underachieving academics trying to survive their own mediocrity in an atmosphere of budget cuts and departmental backstabbing had potential and started out well, but the whining and self-pity got old and I just wanted to tell everyone to grow up. The choice of first person viewpoint didn't help, as supporting characters can only be known through the protagonist’s perceptions, leaving them somewhat flat. It seemed that Russo tried to fluff them up a bit through silly quirks, but it didn't work well for me. I much preferred the subtle ironic humor of “Nobody’s Fool” to the forced silliness of “Straight Man”. At one point Devereaux’s mother chided him for his literary laziness saying he had “become a clever man”. That line summarized my feelings about Russo’s effort here.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Jonah Watch

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Jack Cady
    • Narrated By Sean Runnette
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Psychologist Meredith Morgan understands the how and why of dreams. She understands that dreams are how our subconscious mind tells us things we are too busy to notice.

    Janice says: "Not the story in the Editors Summary"
    "Not the story in the Editors Summary"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The editor's summary describing The Jonah Watch is obviously the summary of another book. I have made it through half of this book and so far it bears absolutely no resemblance to the description. What I have been listening to is the story of the crew on a Coast Guard cutter, focusing slightly on a new sailor and his difficulties getting used to ship life. I have jumped ahead in my iPOD and later chapters just continue the sea story. There is no character named Megan, no dreams, nothing that matches the summary. Furthermore, I can't get into the story I'm stuck with because of poor writing and droning narration. I'm returning it today.

    4 of 4 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
    (2111)
    Performance
    (1982)
    Story
    (1976)

    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.

    4 of 4 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
    (594)
    Performance
    (214)
    Story
    (219)

    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
    (87)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (74)

    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.

    2 of 2 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
    (901)
    Performance
    (818)
    Story
    (815)

    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.

    2 of 3 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
    (3219)
    Performance
    (2489)
    Story
    (2501)

    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.

    3 of 3 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
    (76)
    Performance
    (54)
    Story
    (55)

    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.

    Janice says: "Just Ok"
    "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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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