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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

1325
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 165 reviews
  • 209 ratings
  • 373 titles in library
  • 23 purchased in 2014
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  • The Great Gatsby

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Narrated By Jake Gyllenhaal
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2658)
    Performance
    (2440)
    Story
    (2449)

    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel of the Roaring Twenties is beloved by generations of readers and stands as his crowning work. This new audio edition, authorized by the Fitzgerald estate, is narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain). Gyllenhaal's performance is a faithful delivery in the voice of Nick Carraway, the Midwesterner turned New York bond salesman, who rents a small house next door to the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby....

    Darwin8u says: "Simple, Beautiful, and Exquisitely Textured"
    "Bracing myself for the negative votes"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There's good news and bad news.
    First the good news: As expected, Fitzgerald writes beautifully and has clearly communicated the decadent and dissolute atmosphere of the time and people of whom he writes.

    The bad news: I just didn't like any of the people of whom he writes. Reviewer Melinda has cheerfully offered a 21st century version of Gatsby, and I totally agree with her "then vs now" comparison. Fitzgerald's characters have the depth of the Kardashians and the moral compass of Lindsey Lohan. Gatsby himself is little more than a celebrity worshipping groupie trying to sell himself as one of the beautiful people in his effort to make his delusional fantasy of love and riches with Daisy come true. I found nothing authentic or admirable about any of the supposed loves, as every one of them is self-serving at the core. The single honorable act was Gatsby trying to protect Daisy, but even that reveals a basic contempt for another person's life. Nothing "Great" in that.

    I know this is a classic. I acknowledge Fitzgerald's use of words. As a reflection of the "lost generation" of which he was a key member, this is a literary reality show. I just didn't enjoy the show very much.

    41 of 55 people found this review helpful
  • Blacklight Blue: The Enzo Files, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Peter May
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    Overall
    (61)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (35)

    Enzo MacLeod, a Scot teaching in southwest France, has confidently bet that he can crack seven notorious murders described in a book on cold cases. He has, in fact, solved the first two crimes, but the third is far from his mind right now. He's just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and he's become the victim of someone who seems intent on destroying his credit and his relationships - and getting him arrested for murder.

    Dave says: "Absorbing!"
    "Ready for the next in the series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The most definitive comment I can make about this book and its series is that Peter May knows how to write a damn good story. I devoured his Lewis Trilogy and am impressed with his Enzo series, this one better than the first. May has perfected the character driven thriller, creating characters that drive the action rather than action that defines the characters. Enzo himself is a marvelous creation – a very smart man who is ruled far more by his heart than his head where his loved ones are concerned. In this outing his worries are for himself as well as for his daughters and friends, obscuring the truth and keeping the villain in the lead for much of the story. I admit that I found holes in the plot that helped push the story on the path the author had constructed. But when scoring the overall experience, one thing trumped all – I stayed in the parking garage at work and in the driveway at home to prolong the listening. That’s worth 5 stars.

    Simon Vance deserves a huge measure of the credit for the quality of this series. Not only does he work magic with the myriad voices and accents, but he strikes exactly the right emotional note throughout the narrative, knowing when to be subtle and when to heat things up. I can’t imagine any other voice for Enzo.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Psalms

    • ORIGINAL (16 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Dr. Bill Creasy
    • Narrated By uncredited
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (12)

    The Psalms have been the prayer book of Israel for the past 3,000 years and the prayer book of the church for the past 2,000 years. The Psalms explore every possible response we can have to God, from the highest awe to the deepest love, from the darkest despair to icy anger. In the Psalms, we join David as we plumb the very depths of our hearts in our relationship with God. Join Logos Bible Study as Dr. Bill Creasy explores the Psalms, a journey through the poetry of experience.

    Charles says: "I love the PSALMS!"
    "The stories behind the songs"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As familiar as so many of the Psalms are, this study enhanced both their beauty and meaning by telling the backstories of who wrote each, and in many cases (especially those by David) the historical context that inspired them. Dr. Creasy also broke down the poetic structure of some of the more elegantly written ones, revealing a new perspective what it took to create these spiritual works of art. Old favorites shine brighter, lesser knowns have been elevated. Great study.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The War of the Worlds

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By H. G. Wells
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (210)
    Performance
    (161)
    Story
    (162)

    First published by H. G. Wells in 1898, The War of the Worlds is the granddaddy of all alien invasion stories. The novel begins ominously, as the lone voice of a narrator intones, "No one would have believed in the last years of the 19th century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's."

    Katherine says: "So much for the modern SF reader to enjoy"
    "Ants"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Since scifi is not my preferred genre, I’m rarely tempted to use a valuable credit for space invasions. But the Daily Deal encouraged my curiosity about this classic and I was very well rewarded.

    I haven’t seen any of the movie adaptations, but I suspect that any updating of the story to modern times would take away one of the things that made this story so chilling to me, and that was the slow dawning of realization that came over the humans as they faced the unimaginable. Such an invasion today would be instantly blasted from phone to phone around the world in seconds. The tension builds as the understanding of the danger occurs to the residents of the English countryside – blooming from amused interest to disbelief, blustery bravado and finally outright panic as the impersonal ruthlessness of the tripod warriors destroys all hope of escape. The description of man wiping out ants was chillingly apt.

    Well’s acute understanding of human nature comes through as he vividly describes the heroics and villainy of panicked mobs, the reliance on or loss of faith, and the strength of will and resourcefulness to survive. And for anyone who has tried to actually wipe out ants – it’s never been done. This human insight makes the story timeless though written well over a century ago. Vance’s reading made it all the more personal and wonderful.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Weight of Blood: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Laura McHugh
    • Narrated By Dorothy Dillingham Blue, Shannon McManus, Sofia Willingham
    Overall
    (180)
    Performance
    (168)
    Story
    (166)

    The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane's mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see.

    John S says: "Not too bad but you have to pay attention."
    "Nancy Drew in the Ozarks"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author had an interesting premise for a mystery with a potentially atmospheric setting. But she failed to fulfill that promise through uneven pacing and mediocre character development. Using the mother-daughter narrative lines to relate two separate disappearances allowed us to experience the mysteries of both, but also formed a relentlessly symmetric feel to the whole, right down to the father-boyfriend connections. These four characters were so similar as to be interchangeable, and all of the supporting characters remained flat. There was no sense of time passing because the two story lines sounded exactly alike. Clues dropped too early placed the reader so far ahead in the plot that the effect was of impatience for the characters to catch up rather than feeling the tension of a plot thickening.

    There should have been a much darker tone to a story filled with such nasty goings-on in a region that is close minded and superstitious. Especially since the community supposedly thought of the first vanished woman as a witch, just because she appeared from the exotic planet of Iowa. But the tone was not dark, and the residents of the small town just came across as rude, not fearfully superstitious. At one point as Lucy is digging into her mother’s mystery, she made a “Nancy Drew” reference to herself, and that encapsulated what I found wrong with this story – a YA level plot trying to be grown up. I pushed through to the end, but it felt like a push with an ultimately disappointing ending.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Shotgun Lovesongs: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Nickolas Butler
    • Narrated By Scott Shepherd, Ari Fliakos, Maggie Hoffman, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (43)
    Performance
    (42)
    Story
    (40)

    It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friends—all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town—it is home. And now they are men, coming into their own, or struggling to do so. One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.

    Janice says: "Thirty-Something angst"
    "Thirty-Something angst"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I think our mid-thirties may be the time of our lives (other than our teens) when we are most likely to take ourselves too seriously. Worried about how we have defined and sought success, wondering if we made mistakes and if it’s too late to take them back and start over. That seems to be where the five friends of Shotgun Lovesongs are in their lives. Probably because I am two decades older than they are and have already been through the twenty year college reunion that proved that we all grew older if not wiser, that I was able to find many gentle smiles of recognition as these friends work through the beginnings of their mid-life angst. I did like all of them because they seemed nicely and not so nicely real. There was plenty of humor along with the worries, and Butler was able to infuse small town sensibilities into the narrative as if Little Wing was another character. Sometimes the prose got a bit overdone - like too much frosting on a cake - but I was willing to forgive.

    This love song was fine up to the point of The Conflict, when a secret is accidently let out, putting two friends at odds with each other in a way that may be impossible to repair. How Butler chose to resolve The Conflict lost the authenticity of the story. The final scenes, essentially in the final hour of the book, he went a bit off the tracks and I turned off my IPod kind of shaking my head. Perhaps guys really would behave that way and as a woman I just don’t get it. But I’m doubtful. Anyway, a star fell off the rating as the final credits rolled.

    3/5s of the narration was excellent – Henry, Leland and Kip being very real and natural. Beth and Ronny tried too hard, like catching an actor in a movie working at staying in character. The harder they try, the more you are aware of the acting. Not awful, but broke the spell enough to drop from 5 to 4 stars.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Worst Ideas Ever: A Celebration of Embarrassment

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Daniel Kline, Jason Tomaszewski
    • Narrated By Patrick Lawlor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (355)
    Performance
    (328)
    Story
    (329)

    From memorable disasters such as New Coke, the XFL, and Tiger Woods’ marriage to less-remembered failures such as Yugo, Cop Rock, and Microsoft’s BOB, Worst Ideas Ever revisits history’s biggest blunders. Whether it’s a pop culture failure or a political one, Worst Ideas Ever uncovers the ridiculous stories behind mistakes so huge, you’ll have to constantly remind yourself that they actually happened.

    Peter says: "This book was one of the worst ideas every"
    "Factoids better suited for a bathroom book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Dry narration of anecdotal stories of ideas that maybe really weren't as bad as they tried to portray. The New Coke story is predictable and has been worn into a cliché. Other stories are of variable interest, but absolutely nothing laugh-out-loud funny. Not entertaining to listen to, perhaps of mild interest to keep the book in the bathroom to grab a couple of factoids in short sessions.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • We Used to Be Kings

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Stewart Foster
    • Narrated By Tom Lawrence
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    Six years ago Tom's brother died. The next day he came back. It's Tom and Jack's 18th birthday, but it isn't a cause for celebration. For the past three years they've been in a care home for troubled children, a place where Dr Smith tries to silence the voice of Jack in Tom's head. But Tom doesn't want that. He's already lost his brother once, he's not going to lose him again. And so, when they go in front of the review board, they will have to pretend Jack has gone so they won't be sent to the Young Men's Institution or they'll have to escape.

    Janice says: "A gathering storm"
    "A gathering storm"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have had a very hard time finding the words to review this book. It is so well written with characters that travel in your head even when you’re not listening. Traveling with Tom who carries Jack in his head as they get away from their care home to try to find their dad. And, through Tom’s thoughts, going back to the times before everything went wrong, seeing a warm and close family where the young boys felt safe and loved, but with a shadow already gathering overhead. Throughout the story you have the inescapable dread of how that shadow would spread, of how well intentioned decisions to shield the boys from sad, hard truths actually set disastrous events in motion that could never be taken back.

    The narration could have been very tricky, but was handled brilliantly. Shifting constantly between Tom’s 18 year old voice and Jack’s 10 year old voice as they competed to tell the story, and as Jack tried so hard to be heard in spite of Tom’s efforts to restrain him. Their interactions defined Tom’s struggle between maintaining old delusions and facing tragic truths. This is not a light story. It has weighed on me over the several days since I finished it. But if I can’t say I enjoyed it in the entertaining sense, I can say that I admire its bravery and uniqueness.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • FREE: The Jester (A Riyria Chronicles Tale)

    • UNABRIDGED (54 mins)
    • By Michael J. Sullivan
    • Narrated By Tim Gerard Reynolds
    Overall
    (604)
    Performance
    (548)
    Story
    (555)

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A thief, a candlemaker, an ex-mercenary, and a pig farmer walk into a trap…and what happens to them is no joke. When Riyria is hired to retrieve a jester’s treasure, Royce and Hadrian must match wits with a dwarf who proves to be anything but a fool. Difficult choices will need to be made, and in the end those who laugh last do so because they are the only ones to survive.

    Robin says: "Short story with no shortage of events"
    "You have chosen wisely"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The write-up for The Jester assured me that no prior knowledge of the characters or their previous stories is necessary to enjoy this short story. So for free and less than an hour it seemed like a good bet to test drive what sounded like interesting new (to me) literary territory. And what a ride. From the first words, thrown top speed into action that had already started and never let up, yet caught the reader up on the events with clean direct writing. To survive, they need to solve a puzzle that reminded me of Indiana Jones having to choose the right cup in the "The Last Crusade". Loved the characters and the narration. If the author hoped to attract new readers, he certainly attracted me. I'm adding to my Wish List now.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Homesman: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Glendon Swarthout
    • Narrated By Candace Thaxton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (55)
    Performance
    (53)
    Story
    (53)

    Soon to be a major motion picture directed by Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman is a devastating story of early pioneers in 1850s American West. It celebrates the ones we hear nothing of: the brave women whose hearts and minds were broken by a life of bitter hardship. A "homesman" must be found to escort a handful of them back East to a sanitarium. When none of the county’s men steps up, the job falls to Mary Bee Cuddy - ex-teacher, spinster, indomitable and resourceful.

    Kathi says: "Tribute to the sacrifices of pioneer women"
    "Riding into a different sunset"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For the greater part of this story I was sure I knew where it was going, and felt a bit disappointed that it was going to be another “feisty woman paired with truculent man on a difficult trek across country” kind of western. We all know how it turns out before the credits start rolling. The back stories of the four women whose minds and spirits broke in the face of unbearable hardships and in some cases sorrows, were touching and heartbreaking. But on the journey itself, through the silence of their brokenness (none of them can talk), they have little impact on the narrative, making them nearly invisible. That leaves Mary Bee and Briggs to carry the drama, and for 3/4 of the story, it was pretty standard western movie stuff.

    Then with two hours left to read, a wrecking ball hits and all bets are off. Suddenly we are forced to reevaluate our perceptions of both Mary Bee and Briggs, and realize that the clues were there all along. Mary Bee was the more fully created of the two characters – Briggs remains somewhat of an enigma through to the end. But I expect that was the point - perhaps even he didn’t fully understand himself. The twist, as shocking as it is, fits. In my opinion, that’s where this story finally rises above the “off into the sunset” westerns.

    The writing throughout is descriptive and visual. The wagon they travel in almost becomes one of the characters. But the dialogue is less effective, feeling stiff and forced. In fairness, that may be more of a factor of the narrator. There was always that hearty frontierswoman sound that failed to capture the more subtle, complex moods and emotions of the characters. I was always aware of being read to. Dropped a point off the overall enjoyment.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Truman Capote
    • Narrated By Michael C. Hall
    Overall
    (239)
    Performance
    (225)
    Story
    (227)

    Golden Globe-winning actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) performs Truman Capote's masterstroke about a young writer's charmed fascination with his unorthodox neighbor, the "American geisha" Holly Golightly. Holly - a World War II-era society girl in her late teens - survives via socialization, attending parties and restaurants with men from the wealthy upper class who also provide her with money and expensive gifts. Over the course of the novella, the seemingly shallow Holly slowly opens up to the curious protagonist.

    FanB14 says: "Michael C. Hall in Your Ear + Capote = Bliss"
    "Never love a wild thing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When a book has been made into an iconically famous film, and when that film is playing through your head as you listen to the book, your reactions to the book can be a bit confusing. On the one hand, the film got the story all Hollywooded up, fleshing out the narrator character to give him more to do, and adding some artificial sweetener to Holly to make her more palatable the audience. The callousness of the real Holly was a bit disconcerting with dear Audrey in my mind’s eye.

    In spite of movie scenes floating through my head, I was able to appreciate the sharpness of Capote’s writing, and the enigma that is Holly Golightly who so carefully hides who she is, possibly even from herself. She expects to be taken care of but also to have things her own way, envisioning herself as a 'wild thing'. Without the Hollywood dressing Holly’s behavior is more consistent with her character, infusing the story with cynicism, poignancy and a sense of lonely inevitability. The outcome is a story much more organic than the film.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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