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B.J.

I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.

Minneapolis, MN, United States | Member Since 2010

1944
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 165 reviews
  • 387 ratings
  • 904 titles in library
  • 30 purchased in 2015
FOLLOWING
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FOLLOWERS
720

  • Imperial Life in the Emerald City

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    Overall
    (641)
    Performance
    (315)
    Story
    (318)

    The Washington Post's former Baghdad bureau chief, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, takes us into the Green Zone, headquarters for the American occupation in Iraq. In this bubble separated from wartime realities, the task of reconstructing Iraq is in the hands of 20-somethings chosen for their Republican Party loyalty. They pursue irrelevant neoconservative solutions and pie-in-the-sky policies instead of rebuilding looted buildings and restoring electricity, angering the locals and fueling the insurgency.

    Rick Grant says: "A stunning work and performance"
    "Emerald City aka Audacity"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I need to say two quick things about this book before I comment on content. #1: Ray Porter is amazing as a narrator. #2: The author does a great job with "just the facts, ma'am" even though his opinions are clear. Look up any number of the things he talks about and you will find supporting facts. I value that with non-fiction.

    This is NOT a feel-good book about America's export of democracy or freeing the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. It is a harsh look at the mechanical parts of occupation and the responsibility you assume when you decide to take over another country. It's too bad the word "hubris" has already been used by another book. This could have been titled the same way.

    There are many things I do not understand and this book didn't help. How could we as a country allow bridges to fall into rivers due to infrastructure neglect yet support the billions of dollars it took when we decided to rebuild Iraq? How do lawmakers justify their support of the billions of dollars for this and not for education and health care in our own country? When you look for skills during a crisis, why would political party even matter? And what does it take to put down your political party affiliation and just do the right thing?

    There are two particular people in the book who are incredibly effective at carrying out their tasks. Their effectiveness has nothing to do with politics and all to do with pure competence. Reading about them and their M.O. is a great lesson in how to get things done. I was impressed at the odds against them and what they achieved.

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Preparation for the Next Life

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Atticus Lish
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    Overall
    (26)
    Performance
    (25)
    Story
    (23)

    Zou Lei, orphan of the desert, migrates to work in America and finds herself slaving in New York's kitchens. She falls in love with a young man whose heart has been broken in another desert. A new life may be possible if together they can survive homelessness, lockup, and the young man's nightmares, which may be more prophecy than madness.

    Joanna says: "do not miss this one"
    "Incredible craftsmanship."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Sometimes you see a house in a magazine that makes you stop and stare. It's true to itself down to the finest detail - a real architectural feat. Even though you may not love the style, you admire the craftsmanship and the level of precision and craftsmanship that went into creating it. That is precisely how I would describe this book.

    It's covers some tough topics - like immigration and PTSD - just for starters. That's not new. What's new is the actual writing style. It's SO unique. There's a spareness to it that feels like everything has been boiled down to its most basic elements. The sights and sounds just come at you and it's up to you to interpret them. The way it's written makes you feel like you're seeing it for yourself and deciding what has emotional value.

    This book gave me an understanding of a life I will never experience. I know it's been described as a love story, but I just didn't see it that way. For me, it was a book of survival and hope.

    I really wondered about the narrator during the first few minutes. He sounds like an automaton. Then I understood it. He delivered this exactly the way it was written. Great choice in the end.

    Though I can't say I loved this book - it made me too uncomfortable for that - I really admire the achievement. It is stunning. I think I'll just stop and stare a while.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Hans von Luck, Stephen E. Ambrose (introduction)
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (452)
    Performance
    (417)
    Story
    (419)

    A stunning look at World War II from the other side.... From the turret of a German tank, Colonel Hans von Luck commanded Rommel's 7th and then 21st Panzer Division. El Alamein, Kasserine Pass, Poland, Belgium, Normandy on D-Day, the disastrous Russian front - von Luck fought there with some of the best soldiers in the world. German soldiers. Awarded the German Cross in Gold and the Knight's Cross, von Luck writes as an officer and a gentleman.

    Jean says: "Eminently Readable"
    "What an honorable man!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I stumbled on this book quite by accident. I had sworn off WWII books for a while but made an exception of this one when I read the brief description. Seeing the war from an entirely different perspective seemed like the right thing to do.

    I really can't add anything that's not already been said in both the description and the many rave reviews. From a historical perspective, this added to my understanding of what things looked like from the German side. Not the official party line or the propaganda, but from the battlefield - real men, fighting day in and day out under horrific conditions. That is precisely what this is. That the story is being told by a man with an extraordinary sense of fairness - a true gentleman - makes it all the more interesting.

    A quick word about the narration... I could have done without the fake German accent. I got used to it, but most of the time it annoyed me. Von Luck's story is so compelling that I would not have put the book down because of it. But I wondered just how good it could have been without it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Anthony Marra
    • Narrated By Colette Whitaker
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (428)
    Performance
    (385)
    Story
    (387)

    Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya, where eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across the road their lifelong neighbor and family friend Akhmed has also been watching, fearing the worst when the soldiers set fire to Havaa’s house. But when he finds her hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

    Ryan says: "A bleak, beautiful debut"
    "Gorgeous, heartbreaking and confusing."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First the gorgeous: There are some phrases and sentences in this book that are so impeccably written that I had to stop and listen to them again. Marra's writing skills are absolutely first rate. The complexity of the relationships and the way he foreshadows events is artfully done. It's brilliant, really. There's nothing about this that feels like a first book. It's really beautifully crafted.

    The heartbreaking: It's impossible to put a child in the midst of a brutal war and have anything but heartbreak. But it goes beyond that. There just isn't a part of this story that doesn't have an element of profound loss. I didn't find any of it uplifting as others have mentioned in reviews.

    And now about the confusing part: I had a terrible time keeping up with the changes in time. The complexity of the relationships is difficult to track in and of itself. I listened twice simply because I missed too much the first time. I am a hardcore book listener and rarely do I think a book would be better in print - but this is that rare exception. I needed to be able to flip between pages sometimes and I couldn't.

    Now the narration ... I won't call it awful, but it is so uninspired. This book deserved something better than that. It's competent, but adds nothing to the experience and may even make it more difficult to track.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Buried Giant: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Kazuo Ishiguro
    • Narrated By David Horovitch
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (364)
    Performance
    (318)
    Story
    (315)

    "You've long set your heart against it, Axl, I know. But it's time now to think on it anew. There's a journey we must go on, and no more delay..."The Buried Giant begins as a couple set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen in years. Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel in nearly a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge, and war.

    Pete says: "The beauty of the reveal"
    "No rave review from me on this one."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really looked forward to this book by Ishiguro. Though I really can't expect anything to come up to the level of "The Remains of the Day," I really expected it to come close. For me, it wasn't even in the same league. But looking at all the raves, I am definitely in the minority.

    It's not that I didn't love it - I didn't even like it. I thought it was boring. I'm not crazy about fantasy as a genre, but gave it a shot because it was Ishiguro. It didn't work work for me. Nothing about it that made me eager to pick up the iPod and listen at every chance. I didn't care about any of it. I thought it was dull.

    I still like Ishiguro. A lot, actually. I just didn't like this book or anything about it. My best suggestion is to really read the summary by the publisher and understand what you're getting into. If the fantasy - allegory - myth book is your thing, you may just love this one.

    21 of 23 people found this review helpful
  • Gun Street Girl: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel, The Troubles, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Adrian McKinty
    • Narrated By Gerard Doyle
    Overall
    (333)
    Performance
    (303)
    Story
    (303)

    Belfast, 1985. Amid the Troubles, Detective Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, struggles with burnout as he investigates a brutal double murder and suicide. Did Michael Kelly really shoot his parents at point-blank range and then jump off a nearby cliff? A suicide note points to this conclusion, but Duffy suspects even more sinister circumstances.

    Top of Mind says: "Another McKinty Gem"
    "What do you call the 4th book in a trilogy?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Not sure why or where it's headed, but clearly "The Troubles Trilogy" has grown. I guess you could call it a quadrilogy now - though the one word I'd use to describe it is "excellent."

    Adrian McKinty has a bit of a formula - but that's not really a bad thing. I don't know how much you could write about "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland without getting a bit repetitive. What saves it from boredom is that his writing is always clever and the characters just keep getting better. Sean Duffy is terribly flawed and very likeable. When I thought the series was over, I was disappointed and knew I'd miss him. I'm glad he's back.

    McKinty has a way of immersing his books in the culture of the time - partially through political references, but more so through music. It's really a terrific addition and adds even more personality to Duffy's character.

    I can't do a review on this without commenting on Gerard Doyle. He is the voice of Sean Duffy. He makes this series work for me. I love listening to him.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Alphabet House

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Jussi Adler-Olsen
    • Narrated By Graeme Malcolm
    Overall
    (402)
    Performance
    (360)
    Story
    (360)

    British pilots James Teasdale and Bryan Young have been chosen to conduct a special photo-reconnaissance mission near Dresden, Germany. Intelligence believes the Nazis are building new factories that could turn the tide of the war. When their plane is shot down, James and Bryan know they will be executed if captured. With an enemy patrol in pursuit, they manage to jump aboard a train reserved for senior SS soldiers wounded on the eastern front.

    John S says: "Leaped before I looked. Happy I did."
    "Smart fiction with pitch-perfect narration."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm a Department Q fan - the series of more well-known books by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I was curious about how he would approach this one - a standalone - with its completely new cast of characters. I wondered if he could pull it off with the same level of mastery.

    Short answer: yes, most definitely. In my opinion, he's one of the most skillful contemporary fiction writers around. Here he shows he can also write historical fiction with a deft hand. He just has it. He has a natural way of character interaction that rings true. This book held my interest from beginning to end. I thought about it when I wasn't listening.

    And Graeme Malcom? What can I say. He has become one of my very favorite narrators. I never tire of listening to him. He's perfectly suited to this book just as he is to the Department Q series. It makes me think he could read anything and I'd listen to it - right there with Edoardo Ballerini and George Guidall.

    There you have a perfect combo: Malcom's narration and Adler-Olsen's writing. For me this particular book was a great, credit-worthy selection ... exactly what you hope every book will be.

    19 of 22 people found this review helpful
  • In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Hampton Sides
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (719)
    Performance
    (647)
    Story
    (647)

    In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: The North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of "Arctic Fever." The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship.

    Dennis Hinkamp says: "Great found story"
    "An absolutely fascinating story."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Every now and again you hit a book that's so addictive you just can't stop listening. This was exactly that for me.

    I knew nothing about this voyage. I'd never heard of George DeLong or the USS Jeannette. I expected a good historical account - something I'd listen to a few hours at a time. Instead I found myself buried in the story, the characters, the land, and their entire experience.

    Hampton Sides does a great job of bringing together a ton of detail into a coherent storyline. Some reviews are a little hard on that aspect, but I thought it added to the whole experience. These were very competent people. The level of preparation was stunning. That they left behind such a complete record of the voyage is a testament to how seriously they took this endeavor. All the detail made it more real for me.

    As to the narration ... I thought it was adequate. Morey doesn't get it the way, but he doesn't add anything either.

    Word of warning: while I was listening, I was so taken with the book that I started looking up maps and other details about that area of the arctic. Until that time, I really didn't know how this was going to end. I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I had stayed off the Google machine until I was done. It was impossible to avoid details and it spoiled the suspense.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Vicki Constantine Croke
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (47)
    Story
    (49)

    At the onset of World War II, Williams formed Elephant Company and was instrumental in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving refugees, including on his own "Hannibal Trek." Billy Williams became a media sensation during the war, telling reporters that the elephants did more for him than he was ever able to do for them, but his story has since been forgotten.

    Angela says: "Fascinating"
    "A wonderful book about magnificent beasts."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The greatness of this audio book is not in the writing or narration. Both are adequate but not noteworthy. The real beauty lies in the subject(s) - the elephants. In a way, this ends up being a love story to them.

    Though I've always wanted to know an elephant personally, I likely never will. This gave me a glimpse of what that might be like. I was impressed, once again, by their intelligence, uniqueness, and bravery. Again, as with many other books, it filled in a piece of WWII history that was new to me.

    It's interesting to see where events have taken people in life - especially during the first half of the 20th century. I don't think anyone could have predicted how Billy Williams' decision to become a teak man in Burma would actually turn out or what a difference he might make. By virtue of place, the book shines some light on British colonialism - and it's not pretty.

    This is a lovely look at what happens when people have a passion and heart. And though that's interesting, for me the unforgettable stars of this book are really the elephants themselves. Here's to you, Bandoola.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Turning Angel

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Greg Iles
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (839)
    Performance
    (640)
    Story
    (635)

    As two of the most prominent citizens of Natchez, Drew Elliott and Penn Cage sit on the school board of their alma mater, St. Stephen's Prep. When the nude body of a young female student is found near the Mississippi River, the entire community is shocked - but no one more than Penn, who discovers that his best friend was entangled in a passionate relationship with the girl and may be accused of her murder.

    Sharon says: "Boring, too long and drawn out"
    "I really like Greg Iles. Usually."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    But this book doesn't come close to his others. First, it's WAY too long. The plot drags. Usually his books are longish, but they need the time for a plot that keeps turning and twisting. Second, it's just too graphic. I'm okay with details, but this one went too far for me. Third, it was just too predictable.

    If this is your first Greg Iles book, I hope you don't judge him but it. There are plenty of others that are absolutely terrific. This one is mediocre by comparison.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Bloomsday Dead

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs)
    • By Adrian McKinty
    • Narrated By Gerard Doyle
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (904)
    Performance
    (437)
    Story
    (421)

    Michael Forsythe is contacted by his former lover, Bridget, a New York Irish Mob boss, whose fiancé he killed. Bridget, calling from Dublin, says that her 11-year-old daughter has been kidnapped. Michael's choice is to fly to Dublin and help her find the girl, or be executed at the hands of Bridget's goons, who are holding him at gunpoint. He agrees to nothing, but is soon on the way to Dublin, leaving the first two of many dead bodies in his wake.

    Johnnie Walker says: "SIX STARS ******"
    "One of the best bad guys ever."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a dark book - the final in an inky black trilogy. And it is fabulous.

    Adrian McKinty has a talent for bringing characters to life with the written word. Then Gerard Doyle picks it up and does the best Michael Forsythe I could possibly imagine. There isn't a better fit between book and narrator.

    This is murder and mayhem. It's not gentle. The dialogue is rough and so are the scenes. Expect that. You can also expect a tightly written mystery that keeps you listening.

    I think it would be disappointing to start with this book rather than the first one in the trilogy. Listen to all three in order and you'll be rewarded with some superb character development. McKinty is at the top of his game.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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