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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
336
REVIEWS
140
FOLLOWING
15
FOLLOWERS
569
HELPFUL VOTES
1325

  • All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Anthony Doerr
    • Narrated By Zach Appelman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (359)
    Performance
    (332)
    Story
    (328)

    Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is 12, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

    Tawney says: "A remarkable listening experience"
    "Solid book, solid narration."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It seems that sometimes the best way to understand how big events impact the world is to get a glimpse of how they impact individual people. That is exactly what happens with this book.

    You can read the summary and know the book is set in WWII and two children are involved. I've read plenty about the war, but this book gave me just a little more insight into kids and what they went through at the time. In addition, Marie-Laure's situation is even more unique. I kept thinking throughout the book about people with disabilities and what they do when the world around them goes upside down.

    About the narration ... I wasn't impressed at first. As the book went on, I really came to appreciate his style of narration. He doesn't inhabit the characters. He reads the story. In this particular case, it worked for me. I think if he'd used a voice appropriate for a 14-year-old French girl, it would have been very odd. A competent reading is all that was necessary.

    14 of 16 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
    (76)
    Performance
    (69)
    Story
    (69)

    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.

    7 of 8 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
    (52)
    Performance
    (45)
    Story
    (45)

    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 1 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
    (10)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    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.

    7 of 9 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
    (867)
    Performance
    (573)
    Story
    (569)

    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 6 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
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1470)
    Performance
    (1382)
    Story
    (1370)

    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.

    12 of 18 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
    (86)
    Performance
    (66)
    Story
    (68)

    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.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Son: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Jo Nesbø
    • Narrated By Gildart Jackson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (378)
    Performance
    (343)
    Story
    (339)

    Sonny Lofthus is a strangely charismatic and complacent young man. Sonny’s been in prison for a dozen years, nearly half his life. The inmates who seek out his uncanny abilities to soothe leave his cell feeling absolved. They don’t know or care that Sonny has a serious heroin habit - or where or how he gets his uninterrupted supply of the drug. Or that he’s serving time for other peoples’ crimes. Sonny took the first steps toward addiction when his father took his own life rather than face exposure as a corrupt cop. Now Sonny is the seemingly malleable center of a whole infrastructure of corruption....

    Mary says: "Much more than I expected!"
    "Another great book from this terrific writer."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jo Nesbø impresses me to no end. I love the Harry Hole series and didn't know what to expect with this one. I thought without Harry it would be second rate. I was SO wrong.

    This is simply an engaging mystery. Yes, again it's dark like his other books. But the characters are so engaging I could over look it. (Yes, they are implausible. That's why it's fiction.)

    There are plenty of reviews on this site with more detail about the book. I don't need to rehash it. What I can tell you is this: if you're a fan of authors like Dennis Lehane, Stieg Larsson, and Adrian McKinty then you need to give Nesbø a listen.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Painted Girls: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Cathy Marie Buchanan
    • Narrated By Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan, Danny Cambell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (220)
    Performance
    (187)
    Story
    (183)

    Paris, 1878: Following the death of their father from overwork, the three van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without their father’s wages, and with what little their mother earns as a laundress disappearing down the absinthe bottle, eviction from their single boarding room seems imminent. With few options for work available for a girl, bookish 14-year-old Marie and her younger sister Charlotte are dispatched to the Paris Opera, where for a scant seven francs a week, the girls will be trained to enter its famous ballet. Their older sister, stubborn and insolent 17-year-old Antoinette, finds herself launched into the orbit of Émile Zola....

    Tango says: "Great concept does not realize its full potential"
    "Really mediocre historical fiction"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When historical fiction is done well, it really transports you to a time in a way that can't be duplicated. I remember reading "The Alienist" for the first time and I could smell the streets of New York in the late 1800s. With many of the rave reviews on this book, I expected the same feel for Paris. It never happened.

    The premise of this story is good ... though certainly not original. "Girl with a Pearl Earring" has the same art-comes-to-life basis. While I appreciated a look at the world of ballet in Paris during the time, it wasn't any more revealing than what one would have guessed.

    This was a book club selection so I had a chance to hear what others thought about it. My feelings about the book put me in the minority - much like the reviews here and elsewhere. There were many others who thought it was terrific and appreciated the story of the sisters. Clearly we have a different view of historical fiction and how it should be written. This was simply not the book for me nor would I recommend it to others.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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