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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 2007

ratings
339
REVIEWS
143
FOLLOWING
15
FOLLOWERS
598
HELPFUL VOTES
1406

  • Beautiful Ruins

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Jess Walter
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5901)
    Performance
    (5113)
    Story
    (5104)

    The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot - searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

    Ella says: "My mind wandered"
    "A beautiful, complicated book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Let me say from the top that the narration of this book has got to be one of the best ever. The voices of the characters are perfect. It deserves something more than 5 stars. Then again, there was a lot to work with. Love and loss, dreams, reality, responsibility, family ... it's all here. It's impossible not to relate to just a little bit of most of the characters - all of whom are deep and flawed and very real. Terrific book club book. Lots to talk about after.

    21 of 24 people found this review helpful
  • Voyager

    • UNABRIDGED (43 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated By Davina Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7810)
    Performance
    (5005)
    Story
    (4974)

    Set in the intriguing Scotland of 200 years ago, the third installment in the romantic adventures of Jamie and Claire is as compelling as the first. Now that Claire knows Jamie survived the slaughter at Culloden, she is faced with the most difficult decision of her life. She aches to travel back through time again to find the love of her life, but, in order to do that, she must leave their daughter behind.

    Kathy says: "Hurry up! I want them all!"
    "An A- instead of an A+"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm now going through the Outlander series again ... the second time listening to them in order. With a few minutes break in between, the differences between the books has become clearer. While I love the series, certain books just hit me the right way.

    I don't disclose spoilers in my reviews and I won't do that here. BUT, my sense is that this book was written to provide a geographic change ... a segue. So while the storyline does go on, there's this thing taking place that feels a little forced.

    It's funny really. Here I am listening to a book that involves time travel - a concept which doesn't seem so far-fetched in Gabaldon's capable hands. The whole thing is wildly inventive and completely addictive -- even for people like me who enjoy non-fiction. I've come to accept all the magical things. Then something happens in this book - which really is just an event - and I throw my hands in the air and exclaim, "Oh, come on! That's completely unrealistic!" As though time travel and magic stones are?

    Diana Gabaldon has incredible power over her readers. We trust her to take us on a journey that stretches the imagination and we go with her willingly. This book proves to me that even the most talented writers can ask a little too much from their readers/listeners.

    That said, it didn't spoil the series. I'm eager to listen to the next one - if only to hear more Davina Porter. She has got to be one of the most talented narrators around. A 5-star rating just isn't enough.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Terry Hayes
    • Narrated By Christopher Ragland
    Overall
    (223)
    Performance
    (208)
    Story
    (211)

    An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.

    W. Perry Hall says: "Smartest Novel I've Heard or Read in Long time"
    "Please let this all be fiction."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Before I downloaded the book, I saw where another reviewer warned that it takes about 9 hours to get into it. That was VERY helpful info. I easily could have put it aside those first hours. I kept at it because of the warning and I'm very glad I did.

    Hayes takes his time setting up the characters and the scenario. The first part of the book sounds and feels like non-fiction. It's interesting - because of the history and insight it provides - but it can be a little dry. It really lays a foundation so you can understand what makes people who they are. And then it turns into a rip-roaring page-turner.

    I normally don't go for thrillers, but this one is exceptional. There's an expert pacing to everything that keeps you engaged even when there's no action. Hayes has a way of foreshadowing that also keeps the ball rolling. The characters are well formed, flawed and interesting. There's enough history thrown in that sometimes the events feel entirely plausible. Perhaps that's what makes it so engaging - and terrifying.

    It all adds up to one thing: this is definitely a credit-worthy summer read.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Harper Lee
    • Narrated By Sissy Spacek
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (639)
    Performance
    (592)
    Story
    (597)

    Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep south - and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred, available now for the first time as a digital audiobook. One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than 40 languages, sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the 20th century by librarians across the country.

    Alan says: "Stunning"
    "...not a rattle left in any sentence."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Like many others, I've read this book a number of times and have always appreciated it as very fine work. Hearing it - rather than reading it - is a completely different experience. Simply said, I fell in love with it.

    In a novel, James Lee Burke writes about his fictional daughter Alafair editing her own work until there isn't a "rattle left in any sentence." That's a perfect description for Harper Lee's writing. Even though I've read it before, I really missed just how perfectly this prose has been crafted. It's so tight. When I slowed down and listened, it became apparent. On that level alone, it's brilliant.

    The issues of race, respect and otherness it raises are just as relevant today as they were in 1960 when it was written and in 1935 where it was set. The characters have a timeless appeal. I have a greater appreciation of the balance between observations by a child and interpretation of those events by a grown woman looking back. For some reason, this too became clearer listening to the book rather than reading it.

    Sissy Spacek does a terrific job with the material. Her narration isn't spectacular in a Will Patton or George Guidall kind of way. Rather, it's understated. She never gets in the way of the story. She's perfect as the older, wiser Scout looking back. I loved listening to her and the subtle way she reads the book and gives voice to its characters. Perhaps another narrator would have given the book a showier treatment. Spacek gives it authenticity.

    There are only three other authors who leave me so awed with their talent: Wallace Stegner, Eudora Welty and Willa Cather. Their books are a pleasure to experience again and again. This is no exception. It doesn't matter how many times you've read this book. Listening to it is a new experience and well worth a credit.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Wayfaring Stranger

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By James Lee Burke
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (318)
    Performance
    (298)
    Story
    (299)

    It is 1934 and the Depression is bearing down when 16-year-old Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A confrontation with the outlaws ends as Weldon puts a bullet through the rear window of Clyde’s stolen automobile. Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escape certain death in the Battle of the Bulge and encounter a beautiful young woman named Rosita Lowenstein hiding in a deserted extermination camp.

    Marci says: "Near perfect. One of Burke's Best."
    "Simply one of the best books of the year."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Over time I've really come to admire James Lee Burke and his writing style. I love his big, flawed characters and their insights about life. The dialogue is crafty and always spot on. In each of his books, I just settle in for the ride and am completely engrossed in the story. This particular book does all that x10.

    He made me care so much about the characters that I'm still thinking about them a day after I finished the book. I can't get started on another because I want to know what's happening with Weldon. I loved the strength and dignity he gave to Rosita and the level of respectfulness with which he told her story. These people came and lived with me while I listened to this book and now I miss them.

    I always love the attention to detail Burke gives to place and time. I don't know that I've ever had a better glimpse of post-WWII Texas and the heady, reckless oil boom. And it's not just that you can see all of it. Rather, you can feel all of it - the heat, the excitement, the hope and the despair.

    I'm not sure this book would have the same impact without Will Patton's impeccable narration. No one does it better. He deserves all the awards there are to give.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Francine Prose
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini, Rosalind Ashford, Geoffrey Cantor, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (73)
    Performance
    (65)
    Story
    (65)

    Paris in the 1920s: It is a city of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club's loyal denizens, including the rising photographer Gabor Tsenyi, the socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol, and the caustic American writer Lionel Maine.

    Melinda says: "A Spectrum of Acceptable Truths"
    "An incredible visit to 1930s Paris"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Francine Prose has created the most vibrant picture of Paris before and during WWII. It's so beautifully written that you can smell the cigarette smoke in the Chameleon Club. It's that way throughout. Whether it's clothing, a car, a person or a place - it's all so real. For me, it's the way historical fiction is supposed to be written. As much as I've read and seen about WWII, I've never really had a good glimpse of the social atmosphere surrounding Hitler. It was new.

    Using varying points of view can be an interesting way of writing. In the wrong hands, it interrupts the flow of the story and can be quite annoying. In this case, it filled out the story with the alternating POV giving reasons for an action or behavior. This author uses the technique to its advantage.

    Now you're wondering why this didn't get 5 stars from me? The whole thing fell down with the narration. It runs the gamut from the fabulous - Edoardo Ballerini, who is perhaps one of the finest narrators around - to something akin to a phony French accent in a high school play. It is SO bad that I began dreading when a few characters would tell their story. I hoped each time it would be the last.

    In my opinion, this is a book that would have worked better with one gifted narrator. If Davina Porter can pull off all the zillion characters in a Gabaldon book with grace, then certainly it could have been done with these 6 characters. The author's good work deserved better than it got with this inconsistent narration.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Death on the Rive Nord

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Adrian Magson
    • Narrated By Roger May
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    Picardie, 1963. A truck drops a group of illegal workers by a deserted stretch of canal in the dead of night, desperate travellers in a pipeline, searching for a better life. Days later, one of them surfaces, stabbed to death. For Inspector Lucas Rocco, finding the victim's fellow travellers presents problems. Most Algerian immigrants are welcome, but trawling for any who aren't is a sensitive issue loaded with threats of civil unrest - something which terrifies his bosses in the Ministry.

    Kathi says: "2nd book in Very Good Series!"
    "A change in narration, but not in writing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The first few hours with this book took some getting used to. I had become so accustomed to Gordon Griffin's impeccable narration in the first book that the change to Roger May was startling. His narration is very good, but not exceptional. It took me a while to get the hang of it and to appreciate his contribution to the story. By the end, I was comfortable with it - though never awed.

    Magson's series is turning out to be terrific with a ton of potential for many books to come. He has a way of holding something back for the future. There's a restrained sense of character introduction. You expect a new character to become a big part of the plot soon like it typically would in a mystery. He's not that obvious. His characters sometimes become part of the book's ensemble cast. You know eventually there will be a story there, but he holds back. Second, while the plot is always compelling, he saves a little back. That understated approach actually makes it more interesting. Third, there's this location appeal. I'm getting such a good feel for rural France in the early 1960s. America almost always dominates any discussion of that era. It's really interesting to get a glimpse of that memorable decade from an entirely different perspective.

    This series has it all: great characters, good solid plots, an interesting look back to the past, a wonderful terroir and excellent narration. I hope Magson can write fast.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Death on the Marais

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Adrian Magson
    • Narrated By Gordon Griffin
    Overall
    (15)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    France, 1963. Taken out of his home town as part of a nationwide “initiative”, Inspector Lucas Rocco finds himself in the village of Poissons-Les-Marais, Picardie – and answerable to his former army CO Francois Massin. On his first day he finds a murdered woman wearing a Gestapo uniform lying in a British military cemetery. When the body is removed from the mortuary before Rocco can finish his investigation, he traces the paperwork to the dead woman’s father, industrialist Philippe Bayer-Berbier.

    Kathi says: "Best crime novel I've read in many years!"
    "A great start to a great series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This first book in the Lucas Rocco series is an absolutely first-rate listen. Here's why:

    Narration: Gordon Griffin's narration simply could not be any better. He is perfect for the book and makes listening a real pleasure. This is exactly what an audio book should be.

    The story: This book completely held my interest for a couple reasons. Magson has created some very believable characters. They are flawed, certainly, but that makes them even more real. Second, this is actually historical fiction in many regards. Though set back only 50 years, in terms of current murder mysteries, it might as well be 200. Since it's pre CSI and cell phones and DNA, the plot relies entirely on facts in evidence and old fashioned sleuthing. Third, the setting in rural France is different and interesting. I love the glimpse of small town life. Finally, WWII is but a decade or so in the past, and consequently enters into the setting and the lives of the characters. It made me think about the lingering impact of war when it's been fought on home soil.

    This might be one of the most perfect summer escape books I've listened to in ages. If you like Louise Penny's Gamache series, this is in the same vein. Excellent.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • This Is Where I Leave You

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Jonathan Tropper
    • Narrated By Ramon de Ocampo
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (940)
    Performance
    (640)
    Story
    (637)

    The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family - including Judd's mother, brothers, and sister - have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd's wife, Jen, whose 14-month affair with Judd's radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch's dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together.

    Jamie says: "Greatly entertaining, not for all audiences."
    "What a stinker!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I made the mistake of thinking this might be like "The Book of Joe" - a Tropper book that I thoroughly enjoyed. However, this particular book is missing the complexity of the characters that made "Joe" such a winner. Tropper's signature sarcasm fills this book, too - but it's not funny.

    I'm not sure what appealed to me less: the flat delivery, the mundane dialogue or the tired themes. It felt much too predictable and very pedestrian.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Written in My Own Heart's Blood: Outlander, Book 8

    • UNABRIDGED (44 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated By Davina Porter
    Overall
    (2384)
    Performance
    (2243)
    Story
    (2234)

    Hurtled back through time more than two hundred years to 1743 Scotland, Claire Randall finds herself caught in the midst of an unfamiliar world torn apart by violence, pestilence, and revolution and haunted by her growing feelings for a young soldier, James Fraser.

    G. House Sr. says: "Eloquent Fabulous Historical - Grand Continuation"
    "Splendid addition to the series."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am a huge fan of this series, so expected to pick up exactly where things left off and immediately live in this created world. It didn't happen that way. I really struggled to get back into the book and the characters for the first few hours. I think it had simply been too long for me to remember details. So, let's begin with a warning: if you're thinking of listening to this book and have not listened to the others, expect to be confused. This really is a series and one book builds for the next.

    Once I was back fully into the book, I had the same awe for Diana Gabaldon that I've had with each of her other books. I'm astounded at the breadth of information she brings into these books. In this one I learned more about the Revolutionary War and its impact on people and cities than I'd ever known. It wasn't just a recitation of battles and dates. I learned about how camps were constructed, the followers, the illnesses and more. It's just such a complete look at a historical event but from an entirely new perspective. I'm sure hard-core history buffs would take exception to some of it, but for someone like me with the most rudimentary understanding of that particular war, it was eye-opening. She made it real.

    Once again, Gabaldon manages to touch on a huge range of topics with incredible authenticity: personal relationships, gardening, love, herbalism, conflict, loss, revenge, surgery, illnesses, time travel, religion ... and more. The level of research that goes into just the medical aspect of each book is amazing. I always learn something new. Granted, I'll ever need to amputate a leg with the tools at hand, but I now have a good idea how to approach it.

    And Davina Porter? I don't think I've ever heard such a perfect match of author and narrator. She does an amazing job with each and every character. (With the chorus of characters, that's no easy feat.) She helps keep things straight and adds color to the dialogue that I would miss if I were reading it in print.

    It is no wonder this book took 5 years to write. It's a complex storyline filled to the brim with details. I cannot wait to see where she will take these characters next. I hate to think it will be another 5 years before I find out.

    15 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • The Dark Vineyard: A Mystery of the French Countryside

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Martin Walker
    • Narrated By Robert Ian Mackenzie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (92)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (74)

    A prolific journalist, Martin Walker has crafted a mystery series that deftly blends the stylings of Peter Mayle and Alexander McCall Smith. Chief Bruno Courreges loves life in his small French village. One day his idyll is disturbed when a local research station for genetically modified crops is burned down. An enclave of environmentalists seems to be the most likely culprit, but soon Bruno uncovers evidence that makes the case infinitely more complicated.

    Cary says: "Another winner...."
    "Three Pines ... but in France."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I discovered this series because of another Audible reviewer. (Thanks, Kathi!) It's certainly not a hardcore police procedural. Rather it has the feel of Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series. The characters are quirky. The town is small. While it's not quite on the same level as Penny's Three Pines series, it's very, very good - provided you're not expecting the grit and depth of Jo Nesbø or Adrian McKinty.

    Food and wine play a big part in things. For some, it might be a distraction but I actually like hearing about making wine and what's on the menu for the evening. I like the French history that's thrown in and details about life in the countryside. It's all been interesting.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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