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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

1667
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 154 reviews
  • 352 ratings
  • 864 titles in library
  • 10 purchased in 2015
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FOLLOWERS
671

  • A Breath of Snow and Ashes

    • UNABRIDGED (57 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated By Davina Porter
    Overall
    (4773)
    Performance
    (4213)
    Story
    (4190)

    A Breath of Snow and Ashes continues the saga of 18th-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his 20th-century, time-traveling wife, Claire. The year is 1772, and the rift between Britain and its American colonies has put a frightening word into the minds of all concerned: revolution. In the backwoods of North Carolina, violence has already reared its ugly head, as cabins have been burned to the ground. To preserve the colony for King George III, the governor pleads with Jamie to bring the people together and restore peace. But Jamie has the burden of knowing that war cannot be avoided.

    B.J. says: "Another terrific listen."
    "Another terrific listen."
    Overall

    Davina Porter's narration is perfect -- again. She is the voice of Claire for me. When I read the words, I hear Davina Porter. Plus, she handles all the other characters incredibly well, with a superb ability to set them apart and to hold their distinctions from beginning to end and from book to book.


    Once again, I'm at the end of 57 hours of listening and would be just fine if there were more. I marvel at Diana Gabaldon's ability to write with quality and in quantity. If you're a fan, this is one of the most terrific books in the series. If you've not become a fan yet, start at the beginning. The characters are complex and getting the full measure of their lives is one of the most splendid things about this series.

    44 of 44 people found this review helpful
  • Half of a Yellow Sun: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Narrated By Robin Miles
    Overall
    (368)
    Performance
    (330)
    Story
    (325)

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Adichie’s brilliant historical novel follows the fortunes of five characters living through the tumultuous 1960s—a time when the Biafran-Nigerian War raged in southern Africa.

    Alla says: "Horrifyingly human - mandatory reading"
    "A phenomenal merging of history and fiction."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm really in awe of this author. Her ability to craft a compelling story against the backdrop of war - even this particular war - is really impressive. More than that, she helped me understand the historical context while delivering a story. That's an achievement.

    Like many others who were around during the 60s, my knowledge of Biafra is limited to photos of starving children and pleas for help. I knew nothing about what caused the humanitarian catastrophe - only that it existed. The images are seared in my mind. If someone had handed me an historical tome on this particular civil war, I doubt I ever would have read it. That's where Adichie delivers some magic. Her book brought that whole time to life for me and delivered an ugly history in a way I could understand.

    There are times in the book where I was confused as to the sequence of events. The jumping back and forth wasn't always clear. There are also times that the actual writing is a B+ instead of an A. None of that mattered to me. I was completely taken by the whole experience -- diving into Nigerian history, reading about Biafra, examining my own assumptions, and thinking about how vulnerable people can be when superpowers don't do the right thing.

    Robin Miles adds a dimension to this book I never would have experienced if I'd read it in print. Her reading is beautiful - artful, nuanced, and completely one with the characters.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Fourth of July Creek: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Smith Henderson
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews, Jenna Lamia
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (198)
    Performance
    (174)
    Story
    (175)

    After trying to help Benjamin Pearl, an undernourished, nearly feral 11-year-old boy living in the Montana wilderness, social worker Pete Snow comes face-to-face with the boy's profoundly disturbed father, Jeremiah. With courage and caution, Pete slowly earns a measure of trust from this paranoid survivalist itching for a final conflict that will signal the coming End Times. But as Pete's own family spins out of control, Pearl's activities spark the full-blown interest of the FBI, putting Pete at the center of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.

    Peter says: "Intense"
    "One big meh."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    During the long winters we suffer through here in the north, it's really nice to broaden out a bit and discover authors that are new to me. (Anything to break through the boredom.) I have a special admiration for first time authors - the rare breed with the persistence to actually write that debut and get it published. So, I really looked forward to this book. I wanted to love it. I didn't.

    There's an underlying grittiness that normally appeals to me. In this case, it wasn't dark - it was bleak. Let's call it Wyoming, as we heard so often. Second, it just needed to be tighter. Everything wandered ... the dialogue, the characters and the plot. There were times when I was really lost as to what was going on. I was about half-way into it and realized I was ready for it to wrap up so I could move on to the next book. That's never a good sign.

    I'm seeing rave reviews all over the place and am wondering if I missed something. I don't think so. I think it's a distinctive writing style that will appeal to some people and maybe not so much to others. The bleakness may work for some people. The wordiness may work for some - though I vote for a ruthless editor to the benefit of all. I think I can fairly say it just was not my kind of book. To each his own.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Purity of Vengeance: A Department Q Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Jussi Adler-Olsen
    • Narrated By Graeme Malcolm
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (759)
    Performance
    (651)
    Story
    (665)

    International superstar Jussi Adler-Olsen, with more than fourteen million copies of his books sold worldwide, returns with the fourth book in his New York Times best-selling Department Q series, about a perplexing cold case with sinister modern-day consequences. In 1987, Nete Hermansen plans revenge on those who abused her in her youth, including Curt Wad, a charismatic surgeon who was part of a movement to sterilize wayward girls in 1950s Denmark.

    Charles Atkinson says: "It's a 5 Star Story of Revenge"
    "Okay. I'm hooked."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm not sure where the writing ends and the narration begins, but together Adler-Olsen and Malcolm are simply terrific. Malcolm has a way of delivering the wry asides and frustration Carl Mørck has with Assad's language mangling that makes me laugh out loud. It gives me the feeling that I'm along for the ride and observing all of this from the back seat. And what a ride it is.

    I never quite know where Adler-Olsen is going to take the plot and just when I think I've got it figured out, I find out just how wrong I am. I love how cleverly the characters work off each other. He manages to write about daily life events (and body functions) with such wit. Stomach flu? Who knew it could be hilarious.

    This series is a little twisted, sometimes dark and very quirky. (There's always an "ewww!" factor.) It's also first-rate entertainment if you want to bury yourself in a mystery and take a trip into a Denmark you never knew was there.

    I hope Graeme Malcolm is called back to narrate the first two books in the series. Carl Mørck just isn't the same without him.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • A Conspiracy of Faith: Department Q, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Jussi Adler-Olsen
    • Narrated By Graeme Malcolm
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (848)
    Performance
    (750)
    Story
    (762)

    Detective Carl Morck has received a bottle that holds an old and decayed message written in blood. It's a cry for help from two young brothers, tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. After floating in the ocean for years before turning up, the bottle sat forgotten, unopened, on a police department windowsill, before the seal was cracked and the gruesome message, written in Danish, was analyzed. Could it be real? Who are these boys, and why weren't they reported missing? Could they possibly still be alive?

    John S says: "Alternative to Nesbo/Harry Hole Novels"
    "The perfect thriller."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jussi Adler-Olsen's books have been coming up in my suggested list for a long time. I'm not sure what took me so long to give them a try, but I finally took a look and decided to start with this one. The rave reviews were impossible to ignore and after listening, I think it earned every one. Granted it's not literature, but I still had to give it top honors. Here's why:

    This is such a perfectly executed thriller that it should be a "how to" manual for writers. It has an underlying tension that never abates. He ratchets it up a notch from time to time, but it never goes back to zero. There are just enough characters to keep it interesting but not make it a difficult listen. (Meaning, I never had to write anything down to keep them straight.) The characters are quirky with dialogue that's clever and witty. (Meaning, I actually laughed out loud.) It's a thriller, so of course there are horrific things - but this author somehow manages to stay on the psychological side, rather than venturing into the disgusting. When you're not listening and thinking about it, it's the characters that stay with you - not graphic scenes. That's impressive.

    Graeme Malcolm's narration is spot-on. It's absolutely perfect for the author and the characters. The combination makes this escapism listening at its finest. I'm so glad to discover an author I like as much (or more than) Nesbo and McKinty. Kudos to all for a credit-worthy listen.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Final Silence

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Stuart Neville
    • Narrated By Gerard Doyle
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (126)
    Performance
    (113)
    Story
    (113)

    Rea Carlisle has inherited a house from an uncle she never knew. It doesn't take her long to clear out the dead man's remaining possessions, but one room remains stubbornly locked. When Rea finally forces it open, she discovers inside a chair, a table - and a leather-bound book, its pages filled with locks of hair, fingernails: a catalogue of victims. Horrified, Rea wants to go straight to the police but her family intervenes, fearing that scandal will mar her politician father's public image.

    Karen says: "Outstanding all around - story, author, narrator"
    "Very VERY good, but not fabulous."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Before I say anything about the book itself, I have to give the narrator a salute. I cannot imagine anyone better to narrate this book. Doyle makes it all work. Truly great work.

    As to the book, Neville created a tension that's essential for the genre. The characters were believable and flawed. The "gotcha" was there. There was a tautness to the storyline that kept me listening and trying to figure it out. It was there for 85% of the book and then ... not. I'm not sure what happened, but a solid 4-star listen fell down to a 3.5.

    Even though I can't give this a rave review, I'm glad I discovered Stuart Neville and will continue to watch for his books. It's a thoroughly enjoyable listen - undoubtedly due to Doyle's flawless narration. I can't wait to see what else he writes.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Winter of Frankie Machine

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Don Winslow
    • Narrated By Dennis Boutsikaris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (527)
    Performance
    (376)
    Story
    (377)

    Frank Machianno is a late-middle-aged ex-surf bum who runs a bait shack on the San Diego waterfront. An affable Italian with a love of people and life, he's a stand-up businessman, devoted father, and a beloved fixture in the community. He's also a hit man - specifically, a retired hit man. Back in the day when he was one of the most feared members of the West Coast Mafia, he was known as Frankie Machine.

    Surf City Swami says: "The Winter of Frankie Machine is a ray of sunshine"
    "Here's the book you want for a boring car ride*."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I can't give this book 5 stars because it's not quite in the same league as, say, "Winds of War." It's fiction, not literature. But, it is certainly near the top of the list for this genre.

    I'm always amazed when an author can make me cheer for the bad guy. Don Winslow does that and more. Frankie is just a fabulous character. You can see him, hear him. I loved the life Winslow created for him. Not far into the book, I was already solidly in his camp. I heard myself say out loud, "Whack him, Frankie!" I knew right then I was hooked.

    This is a well-crafted story with realistic dialogue, some shady characters and a great star. I never would have found it had it not been a daily deal. I'm glad I did.

    * Let's clarify the headline: a boring car ride with ADULTS. This isn't the book you want for the trip to grandma's house with the kids.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Erik Larson
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2503)
    Performance
    (1852)
    Story
    (1856)

    The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another....

    Chris says: "Frightening, Powerful, Deeply Thought-provoking."
    "Some good background info"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As a glimpse of the politics during the early years of the Roosevelt Administration, this is an interesting book. The old boys club was certainly alive and well in the foreign service arena. I liked hearing about the communication people had - primarily letter-writing - and the way they viewed each other and spoke about each other. Some of the barbs are brutal and quite polished. That kind of writing is gone from our culture except in rare cases and it's fun to hear it.

    As a glimpse of a year during Hitler's rise to power, I was less impressed. There's some good info that helps fill in a few blanks about the fear that swept a nation, but I felt that got lost in all the info about Martha and her behavior. There was not enough detail about the events and personalities that ended up having such a gigantic impact on the world during this critical build-up.

    I like Larson's work and his meticulous attention to research. But in this particular case, I would have appreciated more of the style of writing that Laura Hillenbrand applies to non-fiction. I think I was expecting more ... more tenseness, more drama, more historical detail.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Richard Flanagan
    • Narrated By David Atlas
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (208)
    Performance
    (189)
    Story
    (185)

    >In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thailand - Burma Death Railway in 1943, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from pitiless beatings - until he receives a letter that will change him forever.

    Lee Chemel says: "Exquisite"
    "On a scale of 1 - 5, this is a 10."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm really not sure how to describe this book. The writing is the best I've encountered in a very long time. Every sentence is loaded. Magnificent? I wonder if that actually does it justice. I know that judging it on normal terms simply won't do.

    Though I've read a lot of WWII history, I've never read anything this realistic about the building of the Burma Railway. To say the conditions were horrific doesn't even begin to describe what those men endured. It's heartbreaking on an unimaginable scale.

    So there you have it: the most beautiful writing about the ugliest of conditions. With that contrast, it reaches you in a way few books ever can. But it's more than a book about POWs or the building of an impossible railway. The topics are HUGE - love, war, death, forgiveness, loyalty, obedience, honesty - and that's just for starters. Flanagan made me look at everything in a different light. I was surprised who earned my respect and who earned disdain.

    Every now and again an award-winner surfaces that I think has really earned its praise. This is in that special category. Brutal, yes. But absolutely gorgeous. This really is one very special book.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Nadia Hashimi
    • Narrated By Gin Hammond
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (50)
    Story
    (53)

    Nadia Hashimi's literary debut is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one's own fate that combines the cultural flavor and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See. In Kabul, 2007, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age.

    Jen says: "His Eye Is On The Sparrow"
    "I really wanted to love this book."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I count on books to give me a glimpse of what life is like for other people in environments that are completely different from mine. Settling in with this one, I hoped to get something really insightful about women in Afghanistan. Through the tale of the two main characters, I think I have a better understanding of day-to-day life and the control placed on women. Culturally, it's eye-opening. That's all good - particularly if it's new turf for the reader. My issue had more to do with the writing and the narration.

    I hate saying anything negative about an author's first book. But in this particular book, the dialogue feels so stilted that I have to comment on it. I'm not sure if it's an accurate look at the kinds of conversations people have or a flaw in the writing. I just know that sometimes I felt like I was listening to a YA. It felt choppy and was narrated in a way that exaggerated it.

    This book will likely be on every book club's reading list for 2015. If it brings awareness, then it has done its job. Though the writing isn't nearly as graceful as I'd hoped, it is very functional. It's a book I liked - but could not love.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Paying Guests

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Sarah Waters
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (783)
    Performance
    (703)
    Story
    (706)

    It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

    D says: "I Stuck With It Until the End Hoping For Something"
    "Great pacing, as always, but ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I unfairly thought I would be listening to the same kind of mind-bending book as "Fingersmith" - Waters' book with one of the most surprising plot twists of all time. (The subtitle for that one should be "Gotcha!") In this book, as in others, the author has a terrific way of establishing a kind of tautness that keeps you listening well past when you should have hit the stop button. But I kept waiting for the twist ... and waiting. No spoilers here. Just a warning: this is NOT Fingersmith II.

    If you have an issue with gay relationships, perhaps you should pass on this and choose something else. It is front and center in this book - and in my mind, is treated with more importance in the storyline than anything else.

    20 of 23 people found this review helpful

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