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karen

United States

840
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 138 reviews
  • 165 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 82 purchased in 2014
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  • W Is for Wasted: A Kinsey Millhone Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Sue Grafton
    • Narrated By Judy Kaye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1203)
    Performance
    (1059)
    Story
    (1056)

    Two dead bodies changed the course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I'd never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue. The first was a local PI of suspect reputation. He'd been gunned down near the beach at Santa Teresa. It looked like a robbery gone bad. The other was on the beach six weeks later. He'd been sleeping rough. Probably homeless. No identification. A slip of paper with Millhone's name and number was in his pants pocket. The coroner asked her to come to the morgue to see if she could ID him.

    karen says: "Well worth waiting for...."
    "Well worth waiting for...."
    Overall
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    Story

    No need for a plot summary here -- those of us who love Kinsey really don't care about the specifics of what she's gotten herself mixed up in this time. We'll go along for the ride, whatever it is. Suffice it to say that in this 23rd installment, Sue Grafton found yet another unique story line, plowed untilled storylines once again, and turned out a ridiculously good book.

    I just finished listening, still wiping away tears from one of the finest eulogies I've ever heard, this one honoring a man of courage and intelligence, but one who also happened to be homeless, one of those rascally urban dwellers must of us would prefer not to see at all. Many of the main characters in this book were homeless -- some of them obnoxious, some physically or mentally ill, others just down on their luck. What made Grafton's tale unique is the respect she showed them all -- not pious or groveling, not pity, not laden with "it wasn't their fault" excuses, but rather with the simple acknowledgement that they exist, they live among us, that they are, in many ways, no different from the rest of us, and are therefore deserving of respect.

    I greatly appreciated that straightforward treatment. A lesser writer would have turned this plot into a screed against these undesirables for weakness in succumbing to their various addictions, or alternatively into a diatribe against "the rich" who allegedly bear responsibility for the situation. Grafton did neither. She just told a story, without having Kinsey render up any judgments at all, let alone claiming to understand any of their personal situations, and certainly not offering any solution to the whole issue of the "homeless", whatever it might be. In fact, when one character launches into a divisive rant, Kinsey stops him immediately. "Please, keep politics out of this." Very smart -- it kept the book fresh and interesting.

    All that said, "W" is not a heavy book -- in fact, it's a delight to see Kinsey doing something few of us ever thought she'd ever do. Kinsey -- not a warm and cuddly person, by any standard -- falls in love with a cat. And not just Kinsey, either, but Henry also cozies up to the formerly-homeless feline. Fun to see character growth like that -- Kinsey, ready to put her life on the line for an animal? Amazing.

    Another fun thing was that a goodly part of the book takes place in Bakersfield, CA, and of course since the entire series is set in the mid to late 1980's, we get to experience the Bakersfield of that time. I remember Bakersfield in 1986, and obviously so does Sue Grafton. She even remembered to include the Basque restaurants and the country music pubs. Fun to read those parts -- and even more fun to see Grafton capturing the unique Bakersfield population just as I remember it, too. Although they're just three hours apart, Bakersfield is about as different from "Santa Theresa" -- Santa Barbara -- as any two cities can be, but it's obvious both Grafton and Kinsey are at home in either one.

    I'll listen to this book again and again, as I do all of Grafton's 'alphabet' books -- the biggest problem of which is that there are now only three left. The good news is, all of them are now available on Audible, some read by Judy Kaye, some by Mary Peiffer. Both narrators are excellent and make all the books worthy of many listens.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Dead Air: A Sammy Greene Thriller

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs)
    • By Deborah Shlian, Linda Reid
    • Narrated By Barbara Whitesides
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    An outspoken, brash, native New Yorker, Sammy Greene isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers at Ellsford, her ultraconservative New England college. The host of The Hot Line, a talk radio show on campus station WELL, Sammy tackles the toughest, most controversial issues facing Ellsford's student body. When Sammy discovers the body of Dr. Burton Conrad, one of Ellsford's most esteemed professors, her journalistic drive kicks in, and she sets out to find answers to what happened to the beloved professor.

    karen says: "So bad it doesn't merit writing about..."
    "So bad it doesn't merit writing about..."
    Overall
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    An extremely amateur -- written and narrated both -- attempt at, what? A mystery? A diatribe against the religious right? A collection of leftist cliches, thrown unto the pages, in some random order?

    Only redeeming social value: if you wonder what's wrong with American colleges and Universities today, this will help you understand. With kids graduating from institutions like this, maybe it's a wonder the country isn't worse off than it is -- assuming that's possible.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Weight of Silence

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Heather Gudenkauf
    • Narrated By Jim Colby, Eliza Foss, Cassandra Morris, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (492)
    Performance
    (383)
    Story
    (381)

    It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night. Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

    Sara says: "A jewel"
    "Better than I expected."
    Overall
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    Story

    I'm an audiobook purist. In terms of narration, my wants are simple. I simply want someone to read the book to me, straight out -- no requirement for acting out each character, although for those narrators with serious talent (Scott Brick comes to mind, as does Davina Porter among many others) narrators who have the ability to give individual voices to characters without being annoying are especially appreciated. I award bonus points if the narrator pronounces location names correctly and refrains from eating while narrating (as one especially irritating narrator does.) I don't need musical introductions or interludes, and in general I don't think having multiple narrators improves anything.

    So I bought this book - it must have been a Daily Deal -- without paying too much attention. Then when I started to listen, and heard that it was being read by a professional "repertoire company" I almost clicked off, right at that point. Having a book "acted out" doesn't appear at all. To me, audio books are -- as one OTR program famously says -- "the theater of the mind". I'll create my own scenes, in my mind, as we go along. I don't want actors playing the parts, dramatizing the story. If I want actual theater, I'll go to Netflix.

    But I persevered - and I was surprised. It wasn't bad at all -- each of the narrators did a very good job, didn't over-act, basically they just gave individual voices to the several characters. Overall, I don't know that this method improved the book any, but it didn't detract, either. It was fine.

    And the story was good -- suspenseful, believable and kept me listening. I liked it enough that I just bought a second book by Heather Gudenkauf -- which has to be the ultimate compliment. This was a good book -- give it a try!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Suspect

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Robert Crais
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3948)
    Performance
    (3529)
    Story
    (3524)

    LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well, not since a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner, Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode. He is unfit for duty - until he meets his new partner. Maggie is not doing so well, either. The German shepherd survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before she lost her handler to an IED and sniper attack, and her PTSD is as bad as Scott’s. They are each other’s last chance.

    Jacqueline says: "Gripping Page Turner!!"
    "Whew!"
    Overall
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    I know I'll like this book much better the second or third time around... this first time I listened, I was holding my breath during most of it, so I couldn't really concentrate. It's VERY tense -- and if you're a crazy dog lady like I am, you will be scared to death something is going to happen to Maggie.

    "Suspect" is a great book in every respect. I loved Maggie, the damaged, come-from-behind German Shepard -- everybody will love her. It would be impossible not to love a dog with that much heart. Loved Scott James, the equally damaged police officer, trying for a comeback, battling his own demons. The villains were just evil enough, perfectly believable. Crais wisely didn't try to insert a "love interest" or try to turn this into a love story, when the book needed no such thing - it was the love between Maggie and Scott that was important. MacLeod Andrews did a perfect narration -- including narrating Maggie's parts, which he did very well. All in all, just great.

    Interesting that a very similar -- and equally good -- book came out awhile ago, "Burning Man" by Alan Russell, also available on Audible. In that book, the damaged police dog was "Sirius" who'd been seriously burned in the line of duty, and the also wounded police officer trying for the comeback was Michael Gideon. "Burning Man" has a more complex plot, with several "cold cases" going on, whereas Robert Crais spent more time talking about working dogs, how they learn, what they learn, what astonishing capabilities they have. I loved that book too -- they're both well done.

    I'm hoping for sequels to both books -- keep 'em coming!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye: Psychic Eye Mysteries, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Victoria Laurie
    • Narrated By Elizabeth Michaels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1293)
    Performance
    (982)
    Story
    (977)

    Abby Cooper is a P.I., psychic intuitive. But her insight failed her when she didn't foresee the death of one of her clients - or that the lead investigator for the case is the gorgeous blind date she just met. Now, with the police suspicious of her abilities and a killer on the loose, Abby's future looks more uncertain than ever.

    Roger says: "review of Abby Cooper series"
    "Nice change of pace..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This isn't my genre, and normally I'd give any book with the word "psychic" in it a wide berth, but it was a "Daily Deal", and I've had good luck with those, so I went for it.

    I liked it. This isn't great literature, you understand, but as a nice, casual, interesting summer listen, something a little different, it was more than fine. The "psychic" element in the book didn't come off as weird or kooky, but merely as interesting. All in all, it had a well-constructed plot, interesting characters, and was well narrated.

    The ultimate test? If I came across another Abby Cooper book, I'd probably go for it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Manner of Death: Alan Gregory Series, Book 7

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Stephen White
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    Overall
    (36)
    Performance
    (36)
    Story
    (36)

    The deaths of six men and women appeared to be bizarre accidents - until Dr. Alan Gregory discovered the chilling link. Years before, each was involved in the psychology and psychiatry training program at the University of Colorado. And each was the victim of an ingeniously planned, brilliantly executed murder. Now only two alumni survive: Dr. Gregory and Dr. Sawyer Sackett, a woman he once loved.

    karen says: "Really good oldie.."
    "Really good oldie.."
    Overall
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    Listening to "Manner of Death" -- published in 1999 -- now is a delightful reminder of just how good this series was, in the beginning. And how far it fell, before author Stephen White put a merciful end to it a few months ago.

    All the characters are here, Lauren with her Multiple Sclerosis in an early stage, neighbor Adrianne, alive, not married yet, no son on the horizon, and of course Officer Sam, with his homespun wisdom, his diets, not to mention his funny accent, so well replicated by narrator Dick Hill, the very fine voice of Alan Gregory.

    There's a couple of slimy ex-FBI agents who make you wonder, a sizzling hot former classmate, one of Alan's old flames, who looks for a little while like she might give Lauren a run for her money, there's Emily, the Bouvier, plus a list of characters with walk-on parts who prove interesting... and a plot that holds your attention, minute by minute.

    Listening to this book was like a visit with old friends.... I'm sure I'll tune in to it again and again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Critical Mass: VI Warshawski, Book 16

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Sara Paretsky
    • Narrated By Susan Ericksen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (165)
    Performance
    (144)
    Story
    (140)

    V. I. Warshawski’s closest friend in Chicago is the Viennese-born doctor Lotty Herschel, who lost most of her family in the Holocaust. Lotty escaped to London in 1939 on the Kindertransport with a childhood playmate, Kitty Saginor Binder. When Kitty’s daughter finds her life is in danger, she calls Lotty, who in turn summons V. I. to help. The daughter’s troubles turn out to be just the tip of an iceberg of lies, secrets, and silence, whose origins go back to the mad competition among America, Germany, Japan, and England to develop the first atomic bomb.

    S. Sarabasha says: "POWERFUL"
    "Too grim and angry for me"
    Overall
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    I'm about two hours in and I quit. I may come back to it at some time -- I generally enjoy Sara Paretsky's books -- but this one is filled with so much anger and bitterness I just can't take it anymore.

    Justifiable anger and bitterness, most probably, especially the Holocaust victims/scenes. But even the rest is rendered in a harsh Germanic accent, so with everyone shouting at everyone else, making accusations, the bitterness and the bombastic talk everyone affects -- even Mr. Contreras comes off as a shouting old man -- then it's too much.

    I don't know if you want to listen to this when you're in a good frame of mind, and can tolerate it. Or when you're already miserable, in which case it won't make it worse.

    Maybe better read than listened to? Could be.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Jennifer Worth
    • Narrated By Nicola Barber
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1080)
    Performance
    (962)
    Story
    (969)

    At the age of 22, Jennifer Worth left her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in postwar London’s East End slums. The colorful characters she met while delivering babies all over London - from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lived to the woman with 24 children who couldn't speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city’s seedier side - illuminate a fascinating time in history.

    Kathy says: "This is one I didn't want to put down!"
    "Fabulous beyond words...."
    Overall
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    Back in 1961, FCC Chairman Newton Minnow called television a "vast wasteland" -- and he was right, back then. Today, television is in a magnificent resurgence, with exceptional programming like BBC's "The Street", PBS's "Sherlock", and best of all, BBC's
    "Call the Midwife", which I first encountered via Netflix. Seeing that first episode, I was entranced -- and spent the next several evenings watching every episode available. Amazing, the acting, the stories, the history, the clear but soft presentation of moral issues -- no preaching -- not to mention the insights into life in London's East End in the 1950's -- not that long ago, in the scheme of things.

    So it was with some trepidation that I bought the audio book -- which was the exact reverse of a situation for me. Normally I read the book, and then am reluctant to see the film because it's almost never as good. In this case, I'd seen several seasons of the astonishingly good television series, and found myself wondering if the actual book could be anywhere near as fine.

    It was. And then some -- in fact, the TV series follows Jennifer Worth's written memoirs very carefully, at least in the situations and scenes presented. The TV producers added a little more love interest than was in the memoirs -- for several of the young women, not just Jenny -- but otherwise it's all there, the Sisters, with their various eccentricities, Jenny, with all her sincerity, Fred the handyman with all his schemes, and of course "Chummy" -- well, how would anyone describe Chummy? But the book character is very similar to that played by the enormously talented Miranda Hart. I find myself smiling whenever she appears -- whether in the book or in the films.

    There are a few more historical details in the book than in the series, which I found fascinating. Again, 1950 wasn't all that long ago, but it continued to amaze me that so many medical advancements we take for granted now weren't available then.

    The audio book is greatly enhanced by the perfect narration by Nicola Barber. Her very soft voice, perfect enunciation, is absolutely the right choice for this memoir. Well done!

    All in all, highest recommendation possible for this audio book -- and for the BBC series!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rogue Island

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Bruce DeSilva
    • Narrated By Jeff Woodman, Bruce DeSilva
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (759)
    Performance
    (582)
    Story
    (574)

    Liam Mulligan is as old school as a newspaper man gets. His beat is Providence, Rhode Island, and he knows every street and alley. He knows the priests and prostitutes, the cops and street thugs. He knows the mobsters and politicians--who are pretty much one and the same. Someone is systematically burning down the neighborhood Mulligan grew up in, people he knows and loves are perishing in the flames, and the public is on the verge of panic.

    Michael Jacobi says: "Classic Whodunnit"
    "Very good!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A new author to me, happy to have come across this one as a Daily Deal. (So pleased with Audible for offering 'Daily Deals' -- it lets us test run new authors or genres without a major investment. I've found some awfully good listens this way -- new authors I'll be looking for in the future.)

    Like this one: "Rogue Island" is a good solid detective story, lots of fascinating trivia about Rhode Island, which was fun -- who knew?

    Downside? A little too much baseball lore. For those of us who don't either know or care much about professional sports, at times it felt like I was listening to someone else's conversation, most of which was going over my head. The names of players being tossed around were all foreign to me, and I kept wondering of there were clues there, that I was missing. (There may have been -- I still don't know.)

    Another curious thing that puzzled me throughout the entire book: DeSilva has a lawyer character -- a bad apple -- playing a prominent role. He names this character "Brady Coyle", and has him based in Boston. Which is very strange, because the protagonist of the best-selling -- 24 books strong -- legal thriller/detective series by William Tapply is a Boston lawyer named Brady Coyle. Tapply's "Brady Coyle" is a good guy, big time. DeSilva's is a crook.

    Why would a new author do that? Steal the name, profession and even home base of another author's well-known fictional character, but make his new character the exact opposite of the original one?

    What? There aren't enough names to go around?

    Funny, too, because until very recently, there was a triumvirate of detective fiction writers based more or less in Boston, who -- in real life -- were close friends: Tapply, Phillip R. Craig and his Martha's Vineyard series, and Rick Boyer with his Doc Adams tales. Tapply and Craig are now, sadly, deceased, Boyer is still writing. But because all three loved fishing, and because they write the same general genre, set in more or less the same locale, it was common for one writer's characters to appear, playing walk-on parts in another author's book. So Tapply's lawyer Coyle already had a reputation for turning up in Phillip Craig's books, and in those by Rick Boyer. Which meant that when DeSilva introduced his own "Brady Coyle" there was every reason to believe this WAS the same Tapply character -- except that it wasn't. A needless confusion, I'd say. No point to it at all.

    Other than that, it was an enjoyable listen -- great narrator, too. I'll be looking for more by these two.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Rendezvous

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 2 mins)
    • By Nelson DeMille
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (247)
    Performance
    (215)
    Story
    (218)

    In this tense, riveting mind game, New York Times bestselling novelist Nelson DeMille delivers a suspenseful short story in the tradition of his classic military novels The General's Daughter and Word of Honor. A band of soldiers in its last month of service in Vietnam goes out on a patrol through enemy territory with a female sniper in its path. Recounting the mission in shattering and sometimes gruesome detail, DeMille creates a concise masterpiece of moody suspense.

    karen says: "Fabulous -- and a puzzler"
    "Fabulous -- and a puzzler"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Quite possibly one of the best short stories ever written. An amazing little tale, lots of authentic details, unparalleled suspense, an ending... well, no spoilers here. Scott Brick's narration is perfect.

    I listened to it, was so taken by the story I wanted to send a print copy to an elderly friend who only reads paper books, not audio or electronic. Surprisingly, the book is not available. In fact, it's not available as an audiobook from Audible right now, either.

    Not sure what's going on, but I will continue to look for a paper copy -- if you haven't read/heard this one yet, you've missed something. Hope it will be available again soon.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Joan Didion
    • Narrated By Barbara Caruso
    Overall
    (1264)
    Performance
    (399)
    Story
    (402)

    "Life changes fast....You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." These were among the first words Joan Didion wrote in January 2004. Her daughter was lying unconscious in an intensive care unit, a victim of pneumonia and septic shock. Her husband, John Gregory Dunne, was dead. The night before New Year's Eve, while they were sitting down to dinner, he suffered a massive and fatal coronary. The two had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years.

    Darwin8u says: "Sharp, sometimes funny, but always clear & precise"
    "Magnificent. Compelling. Memorable."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Last September my daughter's 41 year old husband lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. As I watched my daughter struggle with her new reality -- single mother, solely responsible, now, for everything, big house, menagerie of animals, not to mention the burden of earning all the income and keeping the family business afloat-- I was seeking ways to help her through a dreadfully painful situation I'd never personally experienced myself. I bought this book to 'preview' for her, hoping that it would turn out to be something she'd take comfort from, too.

    That didn't happen. With the tremendous new demands on her time -- not to mention dealing with her own grief and helping her own children through this most difficult situation -- my poor daughter doesn't have time to read or even listen to much of anything these days. But as for me, I loved this book. I couldn't stop listening, finding it to be so insightful, so interesting, so profound that many parts of it will "stick" with me, forever.

    And in a way, it did help my daughter, too, because while she hasn't read the book, I see her doing, and saying, some of the very same things that Joan Didion reports herself doing and saying. There is indeed a process of grieving, which obviously does differ from person to person, but which apparently includes many commonalities, too.

    Now I understand better what really lies behind some of the things my daughter is doing -- like wanting to keep everything of her husband's just exactly the way he left it, to do everything just the way he did it, to keep everything (it would seem) in readiness -- because there is some lingering, almost unconscious, thought in there somewhere that he just might come back. And yes, as Ms. Didion says, she knows that's not true; that thinking that way makes no sense whatever, and also that this stage isn't permanent, but now I see how a part of the process of grieving plays itself out.

    Would I have read/listened to this book if grief hadn't entered our family? Probably not, I'm not a dedicated fan of Ms. Didion, although now I may see out some of her other books I haven't read, just for the pleasure of absorbing the sheer simplicity and heartfelt clarity with which she writes. Whatever, this is a lovely, not-terribly-sad, but profoundly insightful account of one widow's journey.

    And one more thing: I normally don't care for musical accompaniment or transitional interludes in audiobooks, I tend to want the narrator to just read the book. But there are moments in this recording where an exquisite piano solo eases a transition from one chapter to another that greatly enhances the mood of the book. It's just really well done. The whole thing is well done.

    I highly recommend this perfectly-narrated book to anyone who has an interest, for whatever reason.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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