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Sand

So...you're telling me I can pay people to read books to me whilst I do other things?

Tampa, FL, United States | Member Since 2006

ratings
39
REVIEWS
36
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
28
HELPFUL VOTES
144

  • The Love Song of Jonny Valentine: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Teddy Wayne
    • Narrated By Kirby Heyborne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (27)
    Performance
    (26)
    Story
    (27)

    Megastar Jonny Valentine, 11-year-old icon of bubblegum pop, knows that the fans don’t love him for who he is. His image, his voice, and even his hairdo have been packaged - by his LA label and by his hard-partying manager-mother - into bite-size pieces for easy digestion, sliding down the gullet of mass culture, the biggest appeal to the widest demographic. But somewhere inside the relentless marketing machine is still a little boy, devoted to his mother and determined to find his absent father among the countless, faceless fans - isn’t there?

    Sand says: "Witty & entertaining commentary on pop culture"
    "Witty & entertaining commentary on pop culture"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about The Love Song of Jonny Valentine?

    I was reluctant to try this one--the subject didn't thrill me--but a NYT book review convinced me to take a chance and I'm so glad I did. Writing from the point of view of a fictional Justin Bieber-type tween idol, the author is able to gleefully skewer the entertainment industry at every turn (his take on music reviewers had me laughing out loud) while still managing to make you care--very much-- about everyone involved.


    What other book might you compare The Love Song of Jonny Valentine to and why?

    I also recently listened to A Hologram for the King and The Financial Lives of poets, both of which, like Jonny V, were excellently crafted and well-narrated fictionalized commentaries on contemporary life.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    While Jonny is pretty easy to love, I found the portrayal of his mother to be unexpectedly moving. There's a lot to dislike about her (and her real-life counterparts), but as her flaws and circumstances are revealed, it's hard not to admire her initiative and innate business sense.


    Any additional comments?

    If you're looking for enjoyable/listenable well-written contemporary fiction, I highly recommend this one.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A Land Remembered

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Patrick D. Smith
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (155)
    Performance
    (139)
    Story
    (141)

    In this best-selling novel, Patrick D. Smith tells the story of three generations of the MacIveys, a Florida family who battle the hardships of the frontier to rise from a dirt-poor Cracker life to the wealth and standing of real estate tycoons. The story opens in 1858, when Tobias MacIvey arrives in the Florida wilderness to start a new life, and ends in 1968 with Solomon MacIvey, who realizes that the land has been exploited far beyond human need.

    Janice says: "They paved paradise . . ."
    "Great history; corny but wholesome story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As a transplant to Florida, I've long been familiar with the Railroad Baron narrative of Florida's post-Jacksonville development, which pretty much ignores the fact that non-native Americans were already migrating here long before Flagler and Plant (incentivized by government subsidies and competitive zeal) built their railways and snowbird resorts.

    So I found this book to be a welcome and well-researched history of the early Florida settlers who populated the central and rural parts of Florida that most people outside of the state don't ever see. (With the exception of Disney World, of course, which would have been in development as this story ends in 1968).

    It's also a nice depiction of American pioneer/frontier life in the mid-to-late 1800's, which we sometimes forget wasn't just a westward thing.

    But if you're not particularly interested in Florida, Florida history, or pioneer/frontier fiction, there's not a lot of complexity to this story.

    On the plus side, it's an excellent family PG listen--the characters are inspiring and morally admirable (unless they're totally despicable--there's no in-between in this novel). But that's also the downside--this is a classic man v. nature plot, and in this case nature turns out to be much more interesting and unpredictable than the man.

    In fact, the MacIveys are dead-ringers for the denizens of Lake Wobegon (all of the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are above average). The Seminole Indians are consistently wise and other-worldy, with a wonderful habit of appearing at really convenient times. And the depiction of the African-American Skittle feels somehow racist by modern standards as well, although it probably is more historically accurate than Tobias MacIvey's enlightened attitude towards him. (Isn't it amazing how every historical character created in modern popular fiction is always the ONE person in their community who bravely stands up against racial segregation?)

    But the action and dialogue are compelling, and Smith definitely knows how to tell a story.

    Paired with George Guidall's always-perfect narration, this is an enlightening and entertaining listen, especially if you're driving or walking in Florida.




    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • One Plus One: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Jojo Moyes
    • Narrated By Elizabeth Bower, Ben Elliot, Nicola Stanton, and others
    Overall
    (333)
    Performance
    (308)
    Story
    (310)

    Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math-whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can't afford to pay for. That's Jess' life in a nutshell - until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess' knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages...maybe ever.

    Kathy says: "Sometimes I need a book that is just fun to read."
    "Popular Chick Lit"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I would never buy a bag of Doritos, but if someone opened one and handed it to me and I was hungry, I would eat one or two. And then, because they're Doritos, I'd eat a ton more.

    And so it was with this book. I downloaded it based on a flashy Audible top banner promo, thinking it would be smart and sparkly Brit lit. I only later realized I was in the middle of yet another tired Jane Austen retread.
    This novel is a pleasant listen and the plot is skillfully rendered, but it's definitely beach-read/escapist/guilty pleasure material.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Reading Like a Writer

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Francine Prose
    • Narrated By Nanette Savard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (100)
    Performance
    (37)
    Story
    (40)

    In her entertaining and edifying New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Francine Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters and discover why their work has endured. Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire listeners to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.

    Gare says: "Practical, literate, generous"
    "Well-played, Amazon!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Warning: Listening to this book will compel you to buy/download more books!
    Listening to this one is like being in your favorite literature/writing class in college...only there are so many books covered here your college courses surely never covered them all.
    Prose's analysis and observations only make you thirst for the original text, which is why I recently ordered the "Tales of Chekov" print set and downloaded Stephen Fry's narration of selected Chekov stories.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Transcriptionist

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Amy Rowland
    • Narrated By Xe Sands
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    Lena, the transcriptionist, sits alone in a room far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the Record, the big city newspaper for which she works. For years, she has been the ever-present link for reporters calling in stories from around the world. Hooked up to a machine that turns spoken words to print, Lena is the vein that connects the organs of the paper. She is loyal, she is unquestioning, yet technology is dictating that her days there are numbered.

    Sand says: "Like a New Yorker short story"
    "Like a New Yorker short story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a skillfully-written slip of a story, carefully stuffed with semi-obscure literary references and allusions (don't worry--the author spells them all out for you, you dumb --er, I mean Dear-- Reader).

    The narrator/protagonist Lena is likable because she's like what all us close readers imagine ourselves to be: intellectual, introverted, full of quotes from stuff we read and memorized, but also super-sexy and rebellious on the inside.
    Rowland uses such fresh language and narration that, prose-wise there's not a cliche to be found anywhere-- until you get to the basic plot, which is so predictable and corny we have to ask ourselves if it's an ironic literary device, because, seriously, are you kidding me?

    But overall this was a pleasurable listen for me--but then I like New Yorker short stories a lot.
    And Xe Sands narrates this in just the voice I would conjure for Lena--she's well-cast and delivers brilliantly.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Closed Doors

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Lisa O'Donnell
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    Eleven-year-old Michael Murray is the best at two things: Keepy-uppies and keeping secrets. His family thinks he's too young to hear grown-up stuff, but he listens at doors; it's the only way to find out anything. And Michael's heard a secret, one that might explain the bruises on his mother's face. When the whispers at home and on the street become too loud to ignore, Michael begins to wonder if there is an even bigger secret waiting to be discovered.

    Sand says: "A lovely Audible treat"
    "A lovely Audible treat"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Whatever the format, this is a delightfully well- crafted novel, seen through the lens of an 11 year old male Scottish narrator. But Simon Vance's performance puts this Audible version into a whole 'nother category of great.
    It's funny and touching and wholly satisfying. A truly entertaining listen and totally worth the download!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Near-Death Experience and Journey into the Afterlife

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Eben Alexander
    • Narrated By Eben Alexander
    Overall
    (1696)
    Performance
    (1478)
    Story
    (1491)

    On November 10, 2008, Dr. Eben Alexander was driven into coma by a disease so lethal that only 1 in 10,000,000 survive. Seven days later, he awakened with memories of a fantastic odyssey deep into another realm that were more real than this earthly one - memories that included meeting a deceased birth sister he had never known existed. Dr. Alexander deployed all his knowledge as a scientist to find out whether his mind could have played a trick on him. In its shutdown state, there was no way it could have.

    Kelly says: "Compelling"
    "Not for serious seekers"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I consume a lot of audiobooks and realized I'd only been reviewing books that I felt were worth the commentary, and had been ignoring the ones I'm kind of embarrassed about.
    Which is a disservice to other members who, like me, often rely on reviews to help me decide what to download.

    In my younger years I was fascinated with NDE's, and a recent experience a friend told me about made me want to revisit the literature to see what was new. Alexander's account looked promising, so I downloaded it on a whim.
    It's interesting enough, but nothing distinguishes it from other NDE's--his claim that his brain was dead has been refuted and the truth is, he could have experienced everything during his reboot when he came out of his coma. And the fact that he calls himself a neuroscientist throughout the book (surgeons and scientists are two very different things in my mind) also put me off. There is nothing in this book that remotely "proves" there is an afterlife.

    So while I would love to believe his account and hope it's true, I can't recommend this book to anyone who is seriously searching for answers.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother's Milk

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Edward St. Aubyn
    • Narrated By Alex Jennings
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (56)
    Performance
    (53)
    Story
    (55)

    For more than 20 years, acclaimed author Edward St. Aubyn has chronicled the life of Patrick Melrose, painting an extraordinary portrait of the beleaguered and self-loathing world of privilege. This single volume collects the first four novels Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother's Milk, a Man Booker finalist - to coincide with the publication of At Last, the final installment of this unique novel cycle. By turns harrowing and hilarious, these beautifully written novels dissect the English upper class as we follow Patrick Melrose's story from child abuse to heroin addiction and recovery.

    Sand says: "Exquisitely written and heartwrenching"
    "Exquisitely written and heartwrenching"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I bought the Picador set of the Patrick Melrose novels on Amazon a year or so ago but only got around to reading the first volume a couple of months ago. I got hooked enough to check if there was an Audible version and...so there was.

    If you're considering this download it's important to understand that this series isn't "about" the modern English aristocracy, although the setting--and some of the characters--will definitely please hardcore anglophiles.
    What it IS about is one person's struggle to accept and overcome his inheritance-- in every sense of the word.

    So if you're looking for a "fun glimpse" into the contemporary English upper classes, this probably isn't your cup of tea.

    But if you recognize from the outset the superb quality of this writing--you'll know because you'll be rewinding and bookmarking constantly--you will thoroughly enjoy this exquisite compilation and Patrick Melrose's evolution through life's phases and milestones.

    Throughout, St. Aubyn has a delicious--almost Oscar Wildean-- way of distilling profound human realities into snappy literary soundbites; here is a sampling of my favorites:

    "At the beginning, there had been talk of using some of [my mother's] money to start a home for alcoholics. In a sense they had succeeded."

    "One of the troubles with being an infant was the difficulty of distinguishing incompetence from malice.."

    "At his age he either had to join the resistance or become a collaborator with death..."

    The only reason I gave the performance 4 stars was because, as mentioned in a previous review, Alex Jennings is perfection when it comes to every English language accent EXCEPT American ones. It truly mars an otherwise flawless performance, and should in no way deter you from downloading the book--just be prepared, if you are American, to cringe when the (thankfully rare) American characters speak!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Sarah Churchwell
    • Narrated By Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (30)
    Performance
    (24)
    Story
    (23)

    Since its publication in 1925, The Great Gatsby has become one of the world's best-loved books, delighting audiences across the world. Careless People tells the true story behind F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, exploring in newly rich detail the relation of Fitzgerald's classic to the chaotic world he in which he lived. Fitzgerald set his novel in 1922, and Careless People carefully reconstructs the crucial months during which Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald returned to New York in the autumn of 1922.

    Sand says: "Fascinating study of the Fitzgeralds and Jazz Age"
    "Fascinating study of the Fitzgeralds and Jazz Age"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A sensational true crime story, historical anecdotes, weird facts and celebrity scoops--all from the year 1922--what more could an American history nerd want?

    Add to that an insightful re-examination of The Great Gatsby in the context of these things, and you have a fascinating account of the height of the Jazz Age, and why F. Scott Fitzgerald captured its zeitgeist so perfectly that most contemporary critics dismissed the novel as being too "of the moment" to have any lasting resonance.

    I'm not an American Lit scholar and it had been years since I'd re-read The Great Gatsby, so I can only judge this book from a lay reader's perspective, but I found it to be a true pleasure from start to finish.

    While it's true that the overlying theme of this book--namely the exploration of the connection between the much-publicized Hall-Mills double-murder and how it informed the plot of Gatsby--becomes a little heavy-handed at times, at the very least it functions as a tidy framework for Churchwell to organize her narrative, allowing her to deftly zoom in and out between the Fitzgerald’s insular world and the bigger world around them.
    The murder case, along with other news stories and commentaries Churchwell culls from that year, reinforces how truly modern Fitzgerald’s novels were. Vehicular homicides, “publicity hounds”, public intoxication, trial by the press, “spicy” poplular novels romanticizing infidelity--not to mention the unprecedented liberation of women on every front--were all still alarming new trends, the symptoms of a world turned upside-down and inside-out by rapid technical change and the Great War. The reckless behavior of both the Gatsby characters and the-real life Fitzgeralds reflected a national identity crisis that, arguably, we’re still trying to resolve.

    It was fun to revisit the novel and be reminded of why no movie adaptation has been able--and probably never will be--to capture it's underlying brilliance.

    Last but not least, Kate Reading's silky-smooth narration is a true delight--her reading of Zelda's voice is particularly mesmerizing--and the production is flawless. I will definitely be actively be seeking more of Reading's performances!




    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Seating Arrangements

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Maggie Shipstead
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (117)
    Performance
    (101)
    Story
    (99)

    Winn Van Meter is heading for his family's retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff. Winn's wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne's sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn.

    Anastasia Burke says: "A Great Authorial Debut"
    "Nice wasp lit if you like this sort of thing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Arguably the most interesting thing about this book is how polarized the listener reviews are...people either liked/loved the book, or were truly bored and annoyed with everything about it.
    So if you're considering whether or not to download this, you need to figure out into which camp you fall.
    To help you, I've constructed the following handy quiz:

    John Cheever was:
    a: genius
    b: a pretentious asshole
    c: who?

    Wasps are:
    a: tragically anachronistic self-identified delusional isolationists
    b: pretentious assholes
    c: scary poisonous insects

    I plan to listen to this book:
    a: on the beach half-drunk
    b: commuting on a shitty subway train while my pretentious asshole boss is at the beach probably half-drunk
    c: what do you mean by plan?

    In a book about a family with issues, an exploding dead whale is:
    a: a finely-crafted literary representation of building family resentments
    b a ridiculously obvious metaphor for a bunch of pretentious assholes
    c: super gross

    When if comes to Audible narrators, I prefer
    a: whomever fits the tone of the book best
    b: whomever feels like a comfortable old shoe and isn't a pretentious asshole
    c: someone who doesn't sound like my rabbi

    I identify with characters who:
    a: are revealed slowly and have interesting backstories
    b: get my interest and sympathy right away and don't bore me to sleep
    c: exhibit poor judgement

    ANSWER KEY: If you had mostly a's or c's, you will probably like this book, but if you had any b answers, this probably isn't your cup of tea.

    A note on the narration: I think Arthur Morey--much as I love him--was seriously miscast here. His narration isn't waspy enough to be the voice of Winn (sorry but there's just too much New York Borough/LES in his diction) and his substandard raspy-lispy-falsetto female voices don't contribute much to a novel in which most of the characters are, in fact, female.
    I'm not in the biz but for what it's worth if I could cast any narrator for this it would be Dylan Baker....

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Lost for Words: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Edward St. Aubyn
    • Narrated By Alex Jennings
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (52)
    Performance
    (46)
    Story
    (45)

    Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels were some of the most celebrated works of fiction of the past decade. Now St. Aubyn returns with a hilariously smart send-up of a certain major British literary award. The judges on the panel of the Elysian Prize for Literature must get through hundreds of submissions to find the best book of the year. Meanwhile, a host of writers are desperate for Elysian attention: the brilliant writer and serial heartbreaker Katherine Burns; the lovelorn debut novelist Sam Black; and Bunjee, convinced that his magnum opus, The Mulberry Elephant, will take the literary world by storm.

    Debra B says: "Witty, and the narrator is perfect"
    "Delectable satire, ALMOST perfect narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If anyone can poke fun at contemporary literature and the machinations behind one of its major prizes, it's Edward St. Aubyn.
    His send-ups of the various gimmicky sub-genres that seem to be perennial fixtures on literary "buzz" lists are laugh-out-loud funny, perhaps made all the more so by Alex Jennings's spot-on reading of the affectedly authentic narratives (which range from a gutteral Irwin Welsh-style Scottish to a wincingly stagey Elizabethan English).

    Indeed, far as the narration goes, it's hard to imagine that reading the print version of the book could be nearly as enjoyable as hearing Jenning's portrayal of Sonny Bunjee, the delusional Brahmin snob, or of the French intellectual Didiot, with his non-sequitur rants and comically formulaic writing process.
    In fact, all of Jennings's character's accents are exquisite except the American ones, which are such a weird mashup of regional accents--flattened midwestern/ rounded southern vowels, hyper-rhotacization and dropped word endings--that it's almost uncanny how alien it is to any actual existing American speech pattern.
    Fortunately the two American characters in the novel appear only very briefly, but when they do, the listening is painful enough to be a noticeable departure from an otherwise flawless performance, which was the only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars. (Of course this is a completely US-centric opinion--Jennings's Indian and Scottish accents could be just as inaccurate to their native's ears--but there you have it.)

    Compared to the rest St. Aubyn's work, this little book is mostly just silly fun--you certainly won't find more than the occasional glimpse of the depth and subtlety of the Patrick Melrose novels. But St. Aubyn Lite is still, well, St. Aubyn--no less brilliantly tight and crisp for the subject matter. And there's enough underlying commentary about art is and how it's recognized (i.e. a work of great art should, by definition, be original enough to defy the kind of comparison that an art award/competition requires) to give some welcome substance to the satire.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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