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Gillian

SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!

Austin, TX, United States | Member Since 2015

ratings
89
REVIEWS
89
FOLLOWING
7
FOLLOWERS
13
HELPFUL VOTES
362

  • The Coroner’s Lunch: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (674)
    Performance
    (559)
    Story
    (560)

    Laos, 1975: The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over this former French colony. Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old Paris-trained doctor, is appointed national coroner. Although he has no training for the job, there is no one else: the rest of the educated class have fled.

    Jane says: "a splendid story"
    "Wonderful Story, Dreadful Narration"
    Overall
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    I wanted to love this, really I did. I've read most of this series, and I purchased this audiobook as part of a Kindle bundle. Which is a good thing as the thought of paying full price makes me shudder. The narrator, Clive Chafer, just kills what is a really, really good book. There is so much cheeky humor in the text, quandaries, character development. Really, the book itself is a delight, especially as it's not your usual run of the mill coroner/detection story but has history (Which I love!) and research in it, that makes it full and well fleshed-out. Siri is a wonderful character, stubborn, funny, views the world in a one-of-a-kind way, and gets befuddled over the oddest things.
    But, oh, the narration! Sooo serious, so flat. Where on earth did the humor go, the lightness, the richness of description?
    This is a really good book, but I don't think it's worth a credit. Perhaps a half-credit, or a Daily Deal. But see if you can stomach the narration.
    It's a pity because this could've been a joyful ride!

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Brian David Burrell, Dr. Allan H. Ropper
    • Narrated By Paul Boehmer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (19)
    Performance
    (19)
    Story
    (19)

    How does one begin to treat such cases, to counsel people whose lives may be changed forever? How does one train the next generation of clinicians to deal with the moral and medical aspects of brain disease? Dr. Ropper and his colleague answer these questions by taking the listener into a rarified world where lives and minds hang in the balance.

    Gillian says: "What An Absolute Surprise!"
    "What An Absolute Surprise!"
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    I'd been ready to give this book 3-stars as, for 4-stars, a book has to be an engrossing cover-to-cover listen, and this wasn't. It'd been... too folksy? or something with its narration? But as I was kinda zipping through it again to get some stories for my review, well, talk about engrossed! One would've thought I'd never heard it before! It was so engaging! The things I liked about it before, I loved: people faking blindness and neurologists catching them out by sticking notes on their foreheads that read, "F- You," or by waving $100 bills around were there. The things I disliked, I passionately hated (hey, passion's a good thing!): glib mea culpas for what is really heinous malpractice--yup, still there, pretty cool. Emotionally evocative stories about two people facing the horrors of ALS in entirely different ways, and a man making a difficult, difficult decision that turns out to have a devastating outcome despite everyone's best efforts. These are all things a neurologist sees day in day out, and it's utterly fascinating.
    And heartbreaking.
    Yeah, sometimes the narration is quaint and folksy, but this book is really interesting, really a treat.
    Credit-worthy!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Mark Forsyth
    • Narrated By Don Hagen
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (55)

    In his inimitably entertaining and wonderfully witty style, he takes apart famous phrases and shows how you too can write like Shakespeare or quip like Oscar Wilde. Whether you’re aiming to achieve literary immortality or just hoping to deliver the perfect one-liner, The Elements of Eloquence proves that you don’t need to have anything important to say - you simply need to say it well.

    PHIL says: "Who knew rhetoric could be so much fun?"
    "Quick! Answer This:"
    Overall
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    What do Jesus and John Lennon have in common? Shakespeare and Sting? The greatest fun of "The Elements of Eloquence" is finding out. Sure Shakespeare gets the lion's share of coverage, along with some Austen, Dumas, and other classics. But here you'll find references to Quentin Tarantino, Snoop Dogg, quotes from modern politicians.
    This is a hilarious work covering elements I'd never known the names of, and some I'd never heard of. It's enlightening, and like I said, the examples are so much fun. I learned so much (the most important thing being: You actually CAN end a sentence with a preposition! So take THAT Mrs. Bryson!).
    I suggest listening to it at x1.25 speed, as even then it flows casually.
    This is so enjoyable for both readers and writers. For readers: You can listen in one sitting. For writers: You'll want to come back to this again and again!

    19 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • An Absent Mind

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Eric Rill
    • Narrated By Sandra Burr, Mel Foster
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    Seventy-one and a man used to controlling those around him, Saul finds himself slipping into what he describes as his slow dance with death. His ramblings, humor, emotions, lucid moments, and confusion are laid bare as well as the thoughts and feelings of his loved ones: his wife, Monique, conflicted and depressed, caring yet angry; his daughter, Florence, compassionate yet proper and reserved; his son, Joey, self-centered and narcissistic, seemingly indifferent to his family's challenges.

    Gillian says: "Ambitious but Falls Short"
    "Ambitious but Falls Short"
    Overall
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    I think "An Absent Mind" tries a little too hard and goes too many places with too little focus. The character's emotions and personality traits are all over the map, they are who they are, either gracious or resentful with little rhyme or reason and it gets annoying. You can't really care for any of them. Alzheimer's was presented well enough with the long term memory being far more readily apparent than short term, but it seemed to cause the family more annoyance than agony. As someone who has it in the family right now, I've gotta say, I was expecting a lot more.
    Maybe to those unschooled and just looking for a light read/listen, this'll be good enough, but really, I don't think the character's are developed enough to carry the 4+ hours, short as they may be. Unpopular, maybe, but there you go. My two cents.
    Further, the performances are downright annoying. Maybe a daily deal or something? Just make sure you can tolerate the narration...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By John Hargrove, Howard Chua-Eoan
    • Narrated By John Hargrove
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (91)
    Performance
    (78)
    Story
    (78)

    Over the course of two decades, John Hargrove worked with 20 different whales on two continents and at two of SeaWorld's U.S. facilities. For Hargrove, becoming an orca trainer fulfilled a childhood dream. However, as his experience with the whales deepened, Hargrove came to doubt that their needs could ever be met in captivity.

    mickywop says: "Incredible!"
    "Tragic, Brutal"
    Overall
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    I remember my sister and I went whale watching once over in the Pacific Northwest. From our boat, we could see another one almost tipping over because everyone was crowded on one side, oohing and ahhing at a multitude of orcas who were watching the humans just as intently, "smiles" on their faces. It was hilarious, and they were, and are, the most precious, gentle creatures imaginable.
    So this book is a real kick in the gut, and some of it is so brutal that it's downright painful to hear. But it needs to be listened to because only public awareness and action will stop it. I've always believed that by turning away to spare myself pain, I'm only perpetuating the pain and suffering of others.
    Hargrove spares nothing here as he spent countless years at SeaWorld and, he admits, was a believer for so long. These animals were denied food as punishment, were put in pens with other whales who would attack. Captivity caused almost constant aggression, illnesses, neurotic behavior (like eating paint and sand): all unheard of in the wild. And this is what the whales live with year after year, one agonizing day at a time.
    The separation of mothers and calves caused me grief, and SeaWorld's artificial insemination program is so graphically described that I can't help but think of it as one of the grossest violations possible.
    This is an extraordinary book, and though I've listed only the things that incensed me, there are other enlightening and inspiring things. (Phew, right?) It drags a bit at the beginning, but it's well worth the credit.
    If killer whales and man are the two "apex predators," man is by far the more brutal of the two...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Little Prince

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs)
    • By Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    • Narrated By Humphrey Bower
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (855)
    Performance
    (660)
    Story
    (661)

    A pilot stranded in the desert awakes one morning to see, standing before him, the most extraordinary little fellow. "Please," asks the stranger, "draw me a sheep." And the pilot realizes that when life's events are too difficult to understand, there is no choice but to succumb to their mysteries. He pulls out pencil and paper... And thus begins this wise and enchanting fable that, in teaching the secret of what is really important in life, has changed forever the world for its readers.

    Heather says: "A children's story for adults"
    "Beauty's Not Just for Youngsters, You Know—"
    Overall
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    These are two of the most graceful two hours ever written or recorded. How can't "The Little Prince" be for grownups also?
    It sings to the imagination and reminds us of the excitement we felt as children, when we had dreams, when we saw pictures in our heads and our hearts soared with the desire to draw them, to share them. It also reminds us, as adults, of where pettiness can get us, bitterness, a lack of drive to move even though we have big dreams of what's out there.
    The little prince speaks of his travels, tells the tales of his heart to the narrator and we the readers/listeners get to experience the wonders in tandem. Friendship with a lonely fox, longing to find meaning in his life. The love of a single rose.
    Don't deny yourself this tiny bit of beauty in a sometimes gray, always maddeningly quick world.
    Even though he cried when the Little Prince left, the fox wanted to be tamed.
    He wanted to be tamed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • So You've Been Publicly Shamed

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Jon Ronson
    • Narrated By Jon Ronson
    Overall
    (655)
    Performance
    (552)
    Story
    (549)

    From the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world's most underappreciated forces: shame. 'It's about the terror, isn't it?' 'The terror of what?' I said. 'The terror of being found out.' For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us - people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work.

    Megan says: "You'll never look at public shaming the same way"
    "The Crowd Can Be Vicious"
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    The only reason this isn't a full-on 5-star review is because Jon Ronson, damn him, believes in brevity, I guess! I could have listened to many hours more of this subject as reported with his insight and pathos, as delivered in his own neurotic style (He yells, he shrieks, he staggers!).
    This all starts for Ronson when he feels personally violated by a spambot that has been given "his" identity and a Jon Ronson twitter account. Ronson then feels the savage thrill when the crowd supports him in having the spambot removed from the twitter sphere (tho' he does get a bit worried with some of the responses supporting him. He worries people might get hurt...)
    And people do get hurt. Not in his case. But in the other public shamings (which have taken place since all the men in America were named Nathaniel). Some people bring it on themselves: self-playgiarism/bad or made up facts. Others have made jokes that they later really, really, REALLY regret.
    Because the world is huge out there, and people are looking. Looking hard. The cruelty, the vindictiveness with which they go after others—they've smelled blood in the water and they won't stop the churning until lives are destroyed.
    This is a wonderful, wonderful book and as usual Jon Ronson brings the right amount of humor and self-deprecating hubris with him as he walks with these people, even helps them as they try to rebuild their lives.
    Definitely credit-worthy, and you will never, ever tweet or blog or Facebook... or plagiarize so blithely again...

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Andersonville

    • UNABRIDGED (37 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By MacKinlay Kantor
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    Overall
    (105)
    Performance
    (92)
    Story
    (91)

    Acclaimed as the greatest novel ever written about the War Between the States, this searing Pulitzer Prize-winning book captures all the glory and shame of America's most tragic conflict in the vivid, crowded world of Andersonville, and the people who lived outside its barricades. Based on the author's extensive research and nearly 25 years in the making, MacKinlay Kantor's best-selling masterwork tells the heartbreaking story of the notorious Georgia prison where 50,000 Northern soldiers suffered.

    Gillian says: "Worthy of the Pulitzer"
    "Worthy of the Pulitzer"
    Overall
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    One thing—Worthy of the Pulitzer sometimes means: A Tad Overwrought and Could Use Editing At Points. Okay, there, I said it. This book definitely fits the bill.
    But it's a brilliant book.
    I bought "Andersonville" back when I was researching Civil War atrocities for a book, and holy cow! If Andersonville wasn't a horrorshow, a blight during an unholy time, I don't know what was. Kantor writes it with such savagery, and with such an eye for detail, you'll be haunted (Let yourself be haunted by some of the imagery. That's part of the treat of reading), and you'll be amazed by his skill. There is some truly unsparing prose here.
    The whole book is deftly crafted, with memorable characters (and there are a lot of them; we're talking epic here) who are described with one-of-a-kind details that make you wrinkle your nose, but always, always make you tip your hat to the author. Besides which, 'taint all brutality...
    While I found myself most definitely transported to the time, I'm neither a Civil War historian, nor am I even a Civil War buff extraordinaire, so I can't guarantee that all things run authentic to the period. I actually purchased this instead of delving into Shelby Foote's work. But I found it to be profoundly satisfying. Where else am I going to hear (glorified) slave chants? (And by the end, I was so fascinated, I purchased "This Republic of Suffering" because there were so many, too many things the book brought up that I just want to know!)
    One problem I thought I'd have was with Grover Gardner. I respect the man, I really do. But as much as I enjoy WWII history (and, really: I AM a military history buff), if I ever need to sleep, all I have to do is listen to Grover Gardner start in with the Third Reich and I'm out like a light. But, I'm surprised to say that he shines in "Andersonville." He has just the right twang/nasal/country quality and carries off the accents well. Further, the energy he has during Hour One of his performance is the same as it is for Hour Ten, Hour Twenty, Hour Thirty.
    This is a looooong book. And oddly enough, twitchy as I get, I didn't listen to it at x1.25 speed. It was fine as is.
    You up for the long haul?

    20 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • Live It!: Achieve Success by Living with Purpose

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Jairek Robbins
    • Narrated By Jairek Robbins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (138)
    Performance
    (120)
    Story
    (120)

    Jairek Robbins, decorated performance coach and lifestyle entrepreneur, guides you through his proven, step-by-step process for filling the gap between where you are today and where you want to be. In reassuring and easy-to-understand language, Robbins helps you build a strong foundation for authentic happiness. Each chapter is strategically designed to engage you with personal reflections and challenges that will encourage you to make immediate improvements to your everyday behavior.

    Gillian says: "Well, I Respect Jairek Robbins"
    "Well, I Respect Jairek Robbins"
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    Part One starts with the usual self-help stuff that you've heard before. You know. You want to change your life? Well, how are you living each day? Imagine each day, the perfect day. Then live it. Every aspect of it. Make those changes. ACTION, action, action. The fuel for change that will keep you going? Discover The Big Why behind what you'd like to do.
    Please don't get me wrong, I'm not (totally) knocking it. Dissatisfaction abounds in our society and these things really help. Imagine thinking long and hard about what you'd like from your day: power over your maddening emotions, being kinder to the animals who love you, being kinder to the people who love you, appreciating the stillness of the sun as it sets as you sit in the daily traffic jam. There's a lot of peace to be had.
    It's just that it's been said a lot of places before. However, this book, I must admit, has it all collected in one place.
    Part Two: And there's more, and this is simply that I respect Jairek Robbins. I don't know why, after spending the first part of the book working with run of the mill people, plus already successful business types, and such, he finally gets to traveling the world and talking about how little most people in the world have. He makes plans to go to Uganda to teach organic farming in a place that has no electricity, running water. Is over the moon to be able to give back. (Of course, it's kind of a diatribe against people who aren't supportive of him until he FINALLY comes to terms with everyone who dissed him)
    And Suddenly Part Three: MALARIA! (No, I'm not giving anything away). I just think that, okay, this, as a turning point and inspiration to Robbins, stands out, but it brings "Live It!" firmly back into the fold of general self-help, biography.
    So here it is. You want a self-help book that will help you appreciate each day? The first part of the book is probably what you'll appreciate it (or Joseph Clough's "Be Your Potential" on audible). But if you think you're going to change your whole life from this book? Well, you might, actually (you'd be a far better person than I, but that wouldn't be a stretch). I got this as a kindle bundle so it was cheap. I suggest you do the same, or a half credit, or a Daily Deal.
    (Uhm, better yet? If you're serious about change? "Be Your Change" is $6.95 >nudge, nudge, wink, wink< )

    35 of 40 people found this review helpful
  • On Immunity: An Inoculation

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Eula Biss
    • Narrated By Tamara Marston
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (196)
    Performance
    (163)
    Story
    (163)

    In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America, and the world, both historically and in the present moment.

    Debbie says: "More than I Expected"
    "A Mother's Search For Peace of Mind"
    Overall
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    "On Immunity" is far more than a book about vaccines. Rather, Biss takes us on a journey as she tries to navigate motherhood and modern medicine. Excessive use of antibiotics that is leading to resistance. Extreme allergies. Modern plagues. So much here that, honestly. How anyone raises children nowadays without living in terror 24/7 is beyond me.
    But don't get me wrong. The gist is indeed about inoculations: history, studies, reports, responses. (To me, one of the most fascinating bits of history was of people lancing boils with needles and then "injecting/sewing" the pus into the flesh of loved ones. Truly, quite interesting.) It's a fairly even-handed review of all that's out there, with interviews of a variety of experts, mothers/parents, and it's quite enlightening and thought-provoking. It tackles the hysteria, it tackles the facts.
    (And by the way? There's one part, I won't spoil it, that goes into the consequences of the U.S. attempting to start a faux inoculation campaign in Pakistan that is heartbreaking.)
    This isn't a dry listen, at x1.25 speed. It reads like some of the best creative non-fiction, and Tamara Marston gives a wonderful performance that held my attention.
    I come from a state where our ex-governor tried to make it mandatory for girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus.
    Jeez! And here I thought I was outraged before "On Immunity: An Inoculation."

    17 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • Be Your Potential

    • ORIGINAL (8 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Joseph Clough
    • Narrated By Joseph Clough
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    Hi, my name is Joseph Clough. Before I became a master hypnotist at the age of 18, life was a real struggle for me. I struggled with social isolation and intense blushing in public. For the last decade, I've strived to get my message out to as many people as possible. I've have done this through my popular free podcast, free mobile apps and online programmes. These have reached more than 2 million people around the globe in under two years. My mission is simple: to help as many people as possible.

    Gillian says: "One of the Best of Its Kind!"
    "One of the Best of Its Kind!"
    Overall
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    It's difficult reviewing self-development books because what works for one person might be total balderdash for another. So let me just describe "Be Your Potential" and why I've found it to be so helpful.
    It was positive and simple. There were concepts on ways to live your life where "bad habits" weren't broken but were just discarded in favor of living in a manner that brought joy and positivity. This was new to me, exhilarating, and, quite frankly, a little scary. But it worked.
    I have problems with severe depression, and the above helped me from getting caught in some of the more despondent loops that I frequently find myself in. Also, and this has been a big one for me, Clough has two methods that have really changed the way I live my day: End each day grateful for ten things (I keep track of them, with joy, throughout the day), and take ten minutes before getting up to visualize how your day is going to go. For someone with depression, having a set, and positive, hopeful outlook can be motivating and even exhilarating.
    There's an extensive section on "Knowing your outcome" which is extremely helpful and inspiring, but it goes beyond creative visualization as what follows is "Taking inspired action."
    Too much is in this book to get into in a review but suffice it to say that it is motivating, practical, inspirational, and, hey! You simply can't beat the price. It is definitely worth the money, and the time (I've listened to it three times so far). This has been a happy surprise.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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