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Doggy Bird

Glen Ridge, NJ USA | Member Since 2001

ratings
137
REVIEWS
98
FOLLOWING
7
FOLLOWERS
73
HELPFUL VOTES
500

  • Farther Away: Essays

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Jonathan Franzen
    • Narrated By Jonathan Franzen, Scott Shepherd
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (44)
    Performance
    (35)
    Story
    (35)

    In Farther Away, which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him. These pieces deliver on Franzen’s implicit promise to conceal nothing.

    Doggy Bird says: "Two different readers, two different experiences"
    "Two different readers, two different experiences"
    Overall
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    I really liked the first two essays read by the author and felt the book was read poorly by the reader that followed. This was not the case with Franzen's other books of essays which included essays read both by the author and a reader but where the combination was not so mismatched.

    The second reader of FARTHER AWAY does not have a voice suited for a literary text. His voice sounds like Rod Serling or some cowboy story narrator, not like an author of serious reflective essays about literature. He sounds like the Marlboro Man. He reads too fast and without knowledge, including how to pronounce the names of other authors correctly. His words can be understood but the pace is so 'off' one essay sometimes ends and a new one is begun without him even pausing for a breath. You just suddenly realize the topic has changed.

    That said, I enjoyed the essays themselves enough to purchase a hard copy of the book so that I could read it at my own pace and reread things that needed my own reflection. But I would not have needed to do that if the second reader had been more appropriately chosen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Nora Webster: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Colm Toibin
    • Narrated By Fiona Shaw
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    Widowed at forty, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world to which she was born. And now she fears she may be drawn back into it. Wounded, strong-willed, clinging to secrecy in a tiny community where everyone knows your business, Nora is drowning in her own sorrow and blind to the suffering of her young sons, who have lost their father.

    Doggy Bird says: "Very moving portrait, interesting times"
    "Very moving portrait, interesting times"
    Overall
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    I really enjoyed this book which is the first one I have read by Colm Toibin. I also thought the narration was, for the most part, quite good. The only complaint I have about the narration is that a few of the characterizations were a bit over the top - almost cartoonish in tone. In the worst case the character in the book is supposed to be a mean and nasty boss at work and the vocal characterization approached the level of the wicked witch of the west. For the greater part of the book the narrator enhanced the story and did a great deal to locate the novel in place and time. It is a small flaw but a noticeable one.

    The story takes place in a small town in Ireland. It is a narrowly focused portrait of a woman who has lost her husband, and it takes place in the three years following that loss. The lens of the story opens to take in a bit of the era -1969 and the years immediately following, when the troubles between the Catholics and the Protestants exploded. Otherwise, only the technology of the period distinguishes the setting - record players and cars are still luxuries and not everyone has a telephone.

    The writing is very beautiful although much of the story is sad. Each sentence, each word of the book seems specifically chosen - nothing is extra - no descriptions, nothing sloppy. The prose is precise and spare and much of what happens is revealed in dialogue. The main character, Nora Webster, is not the most likable of heroines. She is thoughtful and not sentimental, but a concerned and caring mother despite not making choices that are universally applauded. During her husband's terminal illness, which occurs before the opening of the story, she left the children with her two sisters for quite a while, and she does not question that decision even as she sees the impact it has had on at least one of her children. It is clear that her marriage was the center of her emotional life. Throughout the book much of what she decides is not approved of by those around her, and she is a sort of prickly character who becomes more confident and independent over time.

    The movement in the story is from about six months after her husband's death until 3 years later and traces the passage of her life from grief, resentment and loss towards her redefinition as she navigates parenthood alone and discovers what motivates and defines her in the absence of the circumstances of her younger married self. Though much of what happens in the novel is small the questions addressed by the story - what matters and how to live - are very large ones.

    I was very moved by this book, by the beauty of the prose and by the minute details which made the story resonate for me. I also think despite the flaws I mentioned earlier regarding the narration that the audio version is very powerful in transmitting the character's movement over time. I highly recommend this book for serious readers who value beautiful writing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Brimstone Wedding

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Barbara Vine
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    Overall
    (56)
    Performance
    (31)
    Story
    (31)

    Unlike the other residents of Middleton Hall, Stella is elegant, smart and in control. Only Jenny, her care assistant, knows that she harbours a painful secret, and only she can prevent Stella from carrying it to the grave. As the women talk, Jenny pieces together the answers to many questions that arise: Why has she kept possession of a house that her family don’t know about? What happened there that holds the key to a distant tragedy?

    N. says: "Stevenson + Vine/Rendell = good audiobook"
    "Amazing reader elevates book to a higher level"
    Overall
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    I am a Ruth Rendell (aka Barbara Vine) fan, but this audiobook stands out because of the amazing narration by Juliet Stevenson. The reader takes this book to a higher level and as a result her voice beckoned to me constantly to pick it up and continue after every interruption over the past three days. The story itself begins very well, but it drags on just a little too long to be rated as highly as the narration. The ending was ultimately surprising and neatly tied up the threads of the story but without this fabulous narration I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much. The subjects of the story focus on infidelity, cruelty, how women's lives and social views of marriage and fidelity have changed over the last 70 years - all interesting and engaging topics that carry most of the story along at a very good pace.

    I can't say enough about the power of Stevenson's reading. She adds subtle differentiation to voices through accents and voice coloration that make it impossible to miss which character is speaking, her ability to communicate emotion is unequalled among female readers, and her timing is perfect.

    The story is very interesting and I only rate it a '3' because I felt the pacing of the story stumbled in the second half of the story and made me impatient when there remained three hours left to go. Overall despite this flaw it was one of the better psychological mystery novels I've read in a while.

    Still, I recommend it as highly as I do because I am amazed by what Juliet Stevenson adds to this novel by her tremendous abilities as a narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Children Act

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Ian McEwan
    • Narrated By Lindsay Duncan
    Overall
    (92)
    Performance
    (81)
    Story
    (81)

    Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.

    Bonny says: "McEwan has written perfection in this novel."
    "Very strong narration by Lindsay Duncan"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really enjoyed this book, as I have all of the Ian McEwan novels I have read. His writing is excellent and he examines meaningful subjects without the posturing and self-consciousness I find irritating in much of contemporary literary fiction.

    I rated the narration a "5" because it reminds me of the wonderful Juliet Stevenson narration for 'Sweet Tooth', and 'Middlemarch' and many of the Jane Austen novels. I had not heard Lindsay Duncan before but I will seek out other of her narrations in the future. She enunciates really well and has a very pleasing voice and tone without affectation.

    The focus of this book is the distinction between morality and religious faith and the dilemma of legal justice at the center of these tensions when the court must decide between the arguments of one parent vs. another in a divorce case where the parents have different religious beliefs, where medical decisions counter to a family's religious beliefs on behalf of children are appealed to a court by a hospital and where other weighty decisions of the family courts involve choices made for others based on laws and made by humans in all their imperfections.

    The book itself is fascinating and benefits even more from the excellent narrator. Many other books address some of the topical issues in this book, but many are quite manipulative and sensational. What is appealing about this particular book is the author's attempt to deal with these topics without whipping up the passions of righteousness and emotion but through examining the ways in which a judge attempts to do right by those on whose behalf he/judges.

    I rated the narration better than the overall book because somehow the ending didn't feel like the rest of the book. I am not sure the author was entirely successful at blending the personal life of the judge and her involvement in the life of the child at the center of the novel. I felt that much more tension was built up than actually was resolved by the ending - I don't want to disclose too much but I didn't feel as engaged by the ending as I was by most of the book. That said, I am already thinking about listening again.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Ivan Doig
    • Narrated By Tom Stechschulte
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (52)
    Performance
    (35)
    Story
    (33)

    A nominee for the National Book Award, Ivan Doig's brilliant memoir shares the experiences and culture that shaped his early years and made him fall in love with the West. From his childhood in a family of homesteaders through the death of his mother and his move to Montana to herd sheep, Doig shows his intimate connection with the American West.

    Doggy Bird says: "Early work by a favorite author"
    "Early work by a favorite author"
    Overall
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    This was my first audio version though I have enjoyed reading the books of Ivan Doig for many years. Most of his books take place in the Montana of early to mid-20th century and are as strange and fascinating for me as the stories of medieval knights. They bring me the kind of pleasure that I felt as a child reading the "Little House" books, but with much more mature themes and very beautiful, often poetic language.

    I think Tom Stechschulte does a very good job of reading with a natural but flat drawl that I associate with this region of the country and with an earlier and slower time. This particular book is interesting because it describes Doig's journey in becoming a writer. It is a tribute to his parents and grandparents and to the way of life that his family for generations had known. This way of life had already begun to disappear at the time this book was written and Doig was conscious of chronicling the end of an era in this work. He taped his father's and grandmother's recollections as he progressed, knowing these were memories that held in them a way of life that was disappearing. I was sometimes surprised when modern technology shows its face in a book filled with stories that could not have been much different a hundred years before. The challenges faced, hard weather and stubborn animals, are eternal and help to make the stories timeless and yet there is an aspect of them very bound by time since few Americans today grow up with a childhood like this one that occurred not much before most of us were children.

    I think the emotion in the stories, the connection between the family members who spend a lot of time struggling with one another as well as with nature is another reason I enjoyed the memoir. It demonstrates an intense but unsentimental bond I found very appealing. The stories recount Doig's memories of his life with his father after his mother died, from the age of 6 or 7 until college and Doig's burgeoning conscience of his rejection of this life.

    When his father becomes ill his maternal grandmother joins the journey and the three of end up together -more or less- and the stories of their isolated, hard working lives driving sheep and repairing fences, working in the shadow of awesome mountains and catastrophes make for fascinating reading most of the time. There are a few stories where the memoir slows down in the middle - where the fact that this is Doig's first full length book becomes evident, but that is a small price to pay for this very engaging memoir and story of Montana. Doig's use of language and investigation of memory also distinguish this memoirs from those of many less talented writers that seem to appear more and more frequently these days. Highly recommended for readers who appreciate beautiful writing and stories of other way of life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Age of Innocence

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Edith Wharton
    • Narrated By David Horovitch
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (293)
    Performance
    (234)
    Story
    (237)

    Countess Olenska, separated from her European husband, returns to old New York society. She bears with her an independence and anawareness of life which stirs the educated sensitivity of Newland Archer, engaged to be married to May Welland.

    Ilana says: "Narrated to Perfection"
    "One of the best narrated novels I've heard"
    Overall
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    This is a favorite novel which I am hearing for the first time in audio. The narration is a wonderful surprise and has really enhanced the pleasure of an already beloved text. The reader is British, but uses American consonants and more nasal vowels to distinguish the mostly American dialogue from the narrative text. That distinction, plus his resonant voice and sensitive reading gives an extra level of meaning to the book which focuses on a love triangle in late 19th century New York. The reading illuminates Edith Wharton's particular view of American customs and social distinctions in that period. The characters are rich and well defined by their dialogue, making this perfect as an audiobook. The 'innocence' that characterizes many of the actors in the drama at different moments is a somewhat sarcastic commentary by Edith Wharton whose eye is sharp and whose writing is incisive. This audio is such a pleasure! In an impatient and fretful period when I have been starting books and abandoning them unable to sustain interest, this excellent performance has been like an oasis in the desert. From the moment I sampled the audio I have been unable to put it down. Highly recommended both for the beauty of the prose and its very sensitive reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Sheryl Sandberg
    • Narrated By Elisa Donovan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2598)
    Performance
    (2289)
    Story
    (2302)

    Sheryl Sandberg - Facebook COO, ranked eighth on Fortune's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business - has become one of America's most galvanizing leaders, and an icon for millions of women juggling work and family. In Lean In, she urges women to take risks and seek new challenges, to find work that they love, and to remain passionately engaged with it at the highest levels throughout their lives.

    Claudia says: "Make your life count - no matter what you do"
    "Useful guidance, too long for small number of idea"
    Overall
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    I initially refused to consider reading this because I find business books boring and underwritten -two ideas, two hundred pages. Most would make a reasonable serious business journal article at best. This book is not a lot different, lots of ego and anecdotes, but also some very useful perspectives and ideas that would have made a nice substantive article.

    That said, I agree with much of what Sandberg says and I agree with her general point on how badly things are going for working women in our country relative to their potential to have more fulfilling and more meaningful careers whether at home or at the office depending on their ability to negotiate more manageable work loads in the home and the office. I salute her for standing up and saying so and for her commitment to being a feminist when so many women are willing to take the fruits of the women's movement but unwilling to fight anyone other than themselves.

    I enjoyed the book, but it could have been an article….

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Timothy F. Geithner
    • Narrated By Timothy F. Geithner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (239)
    Performance
    (213)
    Story
    (209)

    On January 26, 2009, during the depth of the financial crisis and having just completed five years as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Timothy F. Geithner was sworn in by President Barack Obama as the 75th Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Now, in a strikingly candid, riveting, and historically illuminating memoir, Geithner takes listeners behind the scenes during the darkest moments of the crisis.

    Jean says: "Gripping"
    "Surprisingly well read and well written account!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First, I am usually loathe to review a book I have not completed. Second, I usually prefer a professional narrator to the author's own reading. Last, my tastes have run towards classical fiction and opera in recent months, perhaps because I work in the bond markets and it isn't all that relaxing to keep on working during my commute as well as during a 12 hour workday.

    All that aside, this is SUCH a fascinating account of Secretary Tim Geithner's life and work experience that I am breaking with habit and writing a review although I am only a few hours into the book.

    Geithner is actually a pretty decent narrator considering what a mediocre public speaker he was, and continues to apologize for. He has a tendency to drop his voice a little at the end of sentences which forced me to repeat some of his reading - but that small flaw is quite manageable and shouldn't discourage even picky listeners.

    The story of his life and experience is quite engaging and well-written. His background is unusual and his perspectives sharp. This audio reveals him to be quite different from person portrayed by the press or even his own public appearances during his tenure in office and he defends his decisions and positions well. I am really impressed by his ability to explain how and why things happened and his own justifications for actions taken.

    As a bond market participant with a front seat on the financial crisis I enjoyed reading TOO BIG TO FAIL. But one of the most frustrating aspects of that book was its strict reportorial nature - it explained what happened minute to minute but provided no real analysis of why and what it all meant. This book exactly goes to the places I found missing in TOO BIG TO FAIL and that is the most satisfying part of the book for me.

    Geithner's willingness to say exactly what he thinks when so much of what he did is politically unpopular with so many on both sides of the US political divide is the most addictive part of this listening adventure. I can only stop listening long enough to write this review. I very highly recommend it to those who value Geithner's perspective on earlier crises as well as the 2008 Financial Crisis and his tenure as the first Secretary of the Treasury for the Obama Administration.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Operas of Mozart

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Greenberg
    Overall
    (20)
    Performance
    (20)
    Story
    (19)

    When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in 1791 at the age of just 35, he nonetheless left behind the defining composition in every available musical genre of his time: symphony, chamber music, masses, and above all - opera. Opera was the prestige genre of the era, and the thought of it, Mozart wrote, made him, "beside myself at once." It was a form he loved dearly, depending on it heavily for personal, professional, artistic, and financial reasons of the greatest weight.

    Doggy Bird says: "One of the best values on Audible!"
    "One of the best values on Audible!"
    Overall
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    First of all, I have several Great Courses for which I paid full price from the Teaching Company - I love the courses and get a lot of pleasure out of listening to them. The value of being able to get Great Courses for one Audible Credit per course is ALONE worth an annual Audible subscription.

    Second, I think Robert Greenberg's Music Courses are terrific and really one of the best uses of the audio book format for university level lectures. You not only hear the discussion of the music but hear music samples as well which makes it far superior to books about music history which can't provide samples of the music discussed. Greenberg's choices of music to illustrate the points he make are always excellent and really make listening to these lectures an enormous pleasure. Like others have said elsewhere, he can be quite corny -if that bothers you this is not the professor you will want to hear. I find his energy and enthusiasm makes the course more interesting and his attempts at humor are rather endearing (it may be that people from New Jersey find corniness less offensive). I appreciate his attempts to liven things up even if some of the jokes are rather silly.

    Third, although I am not particularly knowledgeable about music the more I get to know opera the more I realize how very much I love Mozart's operas. It is true that Greenberg spends a lot of time on Cosi Fan Tutte as another listener noted. I didn't expect this to be exhaustive but rather Greenberg's own view of the most interesting aspects of Mozart's operas since it is still an introductory level course. For someone as prolific as Mozart it didn't surprise me that the professor made a selection based on his views. However, if you are expecting it to be exhaustive you will not be satisfied. Greenberg is very informative but selective, and with me that's OK.

    Lastly, some negative comments have been made on the lack of librettos included with the course - those librettos are not part of the more expensive versions of the course either. You have to get librettos on your own - there are no entire operas included in the course, only excerpts so I don't know why anyone would think a libretto would be needed to follow the lectures. Some of the complaints made by listeners are very picky considering the comparative value of getting these courses so cheaply on Audible.

    Very highly recommended.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • My Life in Middlemarch

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Rebecca Mead
    • Narrated By Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (55)
    Performance
    (47)
    Story
    (48)

    A New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth - Middlemarch - and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories. Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot's Middlemarch,regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage, and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch.

    Doggy Bird says: "A Reader's Pleasure!"
    "A Reader's Pleasure!"
    Overall
    Performance
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    I haven't actually finished this book but I decided to write a review because I am enjoying it so much. I look often to see how many people have left reviews for books while I am reading them because I like to know if others have had the same experience.

    In this case there don't seem to be many Audible readers so far, and I don't find the Amazon reviews very satisfying since the quality of the narrator is such an important part of the experience for me.

    From the minute I read about this book's publication I have wanted to read it. I loved reading 'Middlemarch' many years ago and recently listened to the Juliet Stevenson audible version (highly recommended). For many years the book had intimidated me when I was young - I was afraid I would not be able to get through its density. I was quire surprised one day to pick it up and fall right in. Yet it took me thirty years to return to it. Having heard so recently the wonderful Juliet Stevenson narration It seemed perfect timing to experience someone else's experience of the book.

    I find this sort of literary reflection both interesting and rewarding because I really like to know how others experience books I have loved. I would like so much to discuss these sorts of topics with serious readers and I hope that others will read this book and take the time to reflect on their impressions. As I am listening to Mead's book I feel like I am enclosed in a comfortable armchair, encompassed in my reading the way I was as a child, even though I am in reality sitting on an uncomfortable New Jersey Transit banquette. It's like being able to talk to a good friend about the things you really care about.

    One criticism I have of the performance is that I am fond of Kate Reading's fiction narration, but I find it less satisfying for a non-fiction book. She has a storytelling musicality that lilts at the end of sentences but that just doesn't seem the appropriate rhythm for non-fiction. That said she is an excellent reader who makes the text easy to understand, just not perfect for this particular book.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Don Giovanni: Opera Explained

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 19 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Don Giovanni has long been regarded as Mozart’s supreme theatrical achievement. The subject seems unpromising - the last day in the life of the notorious womanizer Don Juan - but the skill of the librettist allied to the genius of Mozart at the very peak of his powers has created a work which is not only highly entertaining but reflects an incredible understanding of the human condition.

    Doggy Bird says: "Very short introductions to specific operas!"
    "Very short introductions to specific operas!"
    Overall
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    I have recently developed a passion for opera that has found me attending an opera I know little about beforehand. A colleague in London got tickets for Don Giovanni and I decided my first visit to Covent Garden demanded a little investment in preparation ahead of time. This series from Naxos is just perfect to get you ready to attend an opera with a little bit of historical and musical context to make the experience richer.

    The recording is only about 1 hour and 20 minutes long. The narrator is good, he provides not only background for the specific opera in question but also for other operas by the same composer. Clips of the music are part of the 'explanation' - one of the nicest feature of audiobooks vs. reading a regular text.

    So, you get a summary of the story, some musical interludes and some historical and musical context - helpful to allow you to focus more attention on the music and the staging once you get to the opera.

    Highly recommended!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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