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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

ratings
42
REVIEWS
42
FOLLOWING
8
FOLLOWERS
4
HELPFUL VOTES
78

  • Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy
    • Narrated By Johnny Heller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (454)
    Performance
    (405)
    Story
    (406)

    The most fatal virus known to science, rabies kills nearly 100 percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.

    Sparkly says: "My favorite science read this year."
    "Goes Off On Tangents, But Fun"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    "Rabid" starts off with a bang. There are scintillating tidbits of information, swift pacing, and even an instance of rabies being in one of the first jokes, told thousands of years ago (And the reader says, "Stop me if you've heard this one." He follows up with, "It's funnier in the original language." Hilarious!) There's quite a number of anecdotes, plenty of great stories about Louis Pasteur and how his group struggled to get saliva from animals in active states of rabies, just some wonderful stuff.
    But it starts to struggle during the middle, and I was downright bored at one point. That point would be when the authors go off on a huge, and practically ridiculous tangent about vampires. I mean, really? Okay, I kind of get it: vampire bats, the belief that people bitten turned into creatures entirely unlike themselves, etc. But it is a stretch and a half, and it's downright annoying when the Twilight series is brought up. Oh, how "groovy."
    What makes this book so enjoyable, however, once you get past that chapter, is Heller's spectacular narration. He adds so much to the reading: humor, breathlessness, passion, and about every other delightful emotion one could think of that would make this a great and engaging listen.
    Not quite four-stars, but with the narration, very close. I'm glad I got it. Just hearing that Emily Bronte was bitten by a rabid dog and brought a red hot poker to cauterize her own flesh was worth the time spent, as there's plenty more in the book where that came from.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • 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
    (462)
    Performance
    (388)
    Story
    (385)

    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
    Performance
    Story

    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
  • Together Tea

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Marjan Kamali
    • Narrated By Negin Farsad
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    Darya has discovered the perfect gift for her daughter's 25th birthday: an ideal husband. Mina, however, is fed up with her mother's endless matchmaking and grading of Iranian American bachelors. After Darya's last ill-fated attempt to find Mina a husband, mother and daughter embark on a journey to Iran, where the two women gradually begin to understand each other. But after Mina falls for a young man and Darya is tempted by an American musician, will this mother and daughter's appreciation for each other survive?

    Gillian says: "Astonishingly Deep, Intense, Beautiful!"
    "Astonishingly Deep, Intense, Beautiful!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I must admit that I had fairly low expectations going into this book. I thought it'd be one of my shameful treats (Fair warning: Reviews of "Stay" and "Dogs Aren't Men" coming. See? Shameful treats!). I expected light writing, adequately developed characters, and not much in the way of plot.
    How different this turned out to be. A young woman, trapped between the world of Iran she grew up in and the America she seems to be floundering in. A mother who desperately misses her life in Iran and who feels frustration about stagnation, fear that her children are wholly foreign to her, and who misses the life she could've had. Not your usual mother/daughter story.
    What I really enjoyed, if you can call it that, is the second part of the book that deals with their past in Tehran. I was a pup during the whole Iran Revolution/Hostage Crisis/Iran-Iraq War, so this was a history, a painting of life that put faces to the whole thing. It added a sense of fear, horror and heartbreak that we, those far away from any crisis, seem smugly not to notice or think about. It was so well-developed!
    And who gives a narrator, for heaven's sake, 5 stars? I do! Because Negin Farsad was icing on a pretty terrific cake. She doesn't make the mistake of turning men into nothing but low, growly voices. She just reads them, their words, with warmth and emotion.
    This is a wonderful, wonderful book that I'll be using another credit for... 'cause I know my mom would love it. Mothers and Daughters? We're just that way, aren't we?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tobruk

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Peter FitzSimons
    • Narrated By Humphrey Bower
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (203)
    Performance
    (107)
    Story
    (107)

    In the early days of April 1941, the 14,000 Australian forces garrisoned in the Libyan town of Tobruk were told to expect reinforcements and supplies within eight weeks. Eight months later these heroic, gallant, determined "Rats of Tobruk" were rescued by the British Navy having held the fort against the might of Rommel's never-before-defeated Afrika Corps.

    J B Tipton says: "Fair dinkum"
    "'Bloody' Brilliant!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This ain't just for Aussies (though I can see how this book could definitely make them puff their chests out in pride!) What a great book! This covers a battle of World War 2 that I hadn't heard about it, but I must fess up that I'd never been that interested in the war in Africa. I know: Shame on me! And I also confess that at the last minute I changed the Overall to 5-stars. The reason: It was so good that I ran to the computer to use a credit for "Kokoda" because I thought the author was brilliant at making figures of history so real to me and for making the men who fought in the battle men that I desperately wanted the best for.
    This is a seamless narrative, great representation of characters, with a drop-dead thrilling "plot." I do, however, get twitchy about narrators, and while Bower was almost flawless, I thought I had to listen at x1.25 speed to get that sense of breathlessness that I desire in something that needs the swift pacing that the story seems to demand.
    If you're a war buff, or if you just like good action with lots of humor, give this book a try. Definitely credit-worthy.
    My favorite line from the soldiers that I have added to my working dialogue: "If it's stupid and it works... It ain't stupid!"

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tuesdays with Morrie: 10th Anniversary Edition

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Mitch Albom
    • Narrated By Mitch Albom
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (484)
    Performance
    (290)
    Story
    (290)

    Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly 20 years ago.

    J says: "Really meaninful stuff."
    "Hasn't This All Been Said Before?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's hard not to give this a 5-star review. And, in full disclosure, I must admit that I cried for the first part of the book. But I think that had to do with the fact that I was facing a diagnosis that would have been a death sentence. When I got a temporary reprieve, the book just started feeling trite, redundant, and Mitch's place in it felt overblown and melodramatic. And like something I'd heard many, many people say before. Mitch pulls a couple of hangdog lines, feels like a jerk, and Morrie has to lift him up. I mean, for Heaven's sake!
    But I love Morrie! And what the conversations don't bear out, is fully carried by the way he lived his last days. We should all be so lucky, so blessed, so spiritually developed to face our final days, and illnesses, with such dignity, grace, and humor. If the spirit of his words were lacking in wisdom, his actual actions definitely were not. A good read, a good listen, but I think you have to be there.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Michael Lewis
    • Narrated By Dylan Baker
    Overall
    (2152)
    Performance
    (1919)
    Story
    (1935)

    Michael Lewis returns to the financial world to give listeners a ringside seat as the biggest news story in years prepares to hit Wall Street....

    Darwin8u says: "Making the system deliver on its promise."
    "Even For The Ignorant, Enthralling and Captivating"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've got to admit it: I'm one of those people who hand over their money to somebody else to invest, not knowing what the heck happens to it, just receiving statements and feeling baffled. (This causes serious eye rolls from people in the know!) So I was rather hesitant about getting "Flash Boys." Would I be able to follow it? Would it be so far beyond me that I'd be lost?
    But I love a good informative, whistle-blowing book, so I used a credit, hoping for the best.
    Boy, am I thrilled that I did.
    This is about what happens when brilliant minds meld with greed, corruption, lack of conscience and are encouraged to thrive by a distinct silence by those unwilling to say anything, lest they stick their heads out too far. This was absolutely captivating and enlightening. It was easy to follow, but not written simplistically; the reader is assumed to be intelligent enough to grasp complex ideas that are written to grab attention.
    To say this book was frightening and enraging is not saying enough. It reminded me of "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," but unlike that story, "Flash Boys" has honest-to-God heroes. Whether they're driven by a determination to live by their codes of ethics, by obsessive desires to get to the bottom of things, or by a disgust with what people are doing, these are men who really, really inspire. Not to mention that Michael Lewis simply writes them, their dialogue, as is, fleshing them out and making them real and, sometimes, hilarious.
    You'll feel disgust, you'll find yourself biting your nails, you'll cheer and will hope for the best. Truly, I hope IEX does well; it'd be time for the right guys to win

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Salvage the Bones: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Jesmyn Ward
    • Narrated By Cherise Boothe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (126)
    Performance
    (106)
    Story
    (110)

    Best-selling author Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for this poignant and poetic novel. Unfolding over 12 days, the story follows a poor family living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. With Hurricane Katrina bearing down on them, the Batistes struggle to maintain their community and familial bonds amid the storm and the stark poverty surrounding them.

    Gillian says: "Beautiful With No Holds Barred"
    "Beautiful With No Holds Barred"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a story told through the voice of 14 year old Esch, a young motherless girl living in a family of men. And it's a good one.
    Living in poverty, a life with few, if any, options and with little hope, she struggles to find tenderness in a world where there's pretty much no room for it. She gives herself, in the name of love, desperate for love in return, but to the wrong person, someone who doesn't see her as a person. No love there.
    Indeed, this is a brutal book. The only real tenderness and love given without question goes from Esch's brother, Skeetah, to his dog China, a fighting pit bull. And what she does because she loves him is graphically, realistically written in great detail. It's not for the squeamish. But this is part of the culture in Mississippi and thereabouts (when I did animal rescue in New Orleans after Katrina, I swear. I've never seen so many pit bulls in my life!), and people do what they need, or think they need, to do.
    There are so many poor choices, so many circumstances that go fatally awry that it's hard to read this book and keep a stiff upper lip. Things are bad as they are; do they have to get worse? But it is such a good story, layered well, with intense and full character development. Esch is fleshed out, her character added to by her ability to draw parallels between mythology, something she's reading for school, and the circumstances of her own life. It works very, very well.
    The only problem with the writing and the narration I had was that both try too hard. Cherise Boothe really captures the voices and tone of the story, but she has a tendency of reading so slowly that I just felt that: Really, I can see that this is important/well done/ beautiful, I don't need such ponderous reading, such pregnant pauses. Also, Jesmyn Ward writes a whole lot of similes. Everything is like this, like that, as this, etc. The only thing that makes this okay and not irritating beyond belief is that what she likens things to wind up being really thought-provoking, really one of a kind images.
    The end, the aftermath of Katrina, things come together, revelations are made, there are reactions, possible choices. And, though there is personal and environmental devastation, there is, oddly enough, hope. After such brutality throughout the book, you wonder how things can end up so. But really, you look back and find that there were golden threads of beauty all the way through, shining and beckoning to the reader.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Emma

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Jane Austen
    • Narrated By Michael Page
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (105)
    Performance
    (74)
    Story
    (78)

    The funny and heartwarming story of a young lady whose zeal, snobbishness and self-satisfaction lead to several errors in judgment. Emma takes Harriet Smith, a parlour boarder and unknown, under her wing and schemes for advancement through a good marriage. The attempts at finding Harriet a suitor occupy all of Emma's time. However, in the midst of the search she settles on a most unlikely union with her own constant critic: Mr. Knightly.

    Gillian says: "Find A Different Narrator"
    "Find A Different Narrator"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This isn't a review of Emma so much as it is cautionary: Michael Page is a brilliant narrator, but really. Jane Austen should have a woman delivering the dialogue. He simply can't do the assortment of women characters, and even Emma comes of sounding whiny and more manipulative than her character actually is.
    I simply couldn't finish it and have since purchased a different version.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Tom Ryan
    • Narrated By Tom Ryan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (140)
    Performance
    (129)
    Story
    (129)

    A middle-aged, overweight, and acrophobic newspaper editor Tom Ryan and a little dog, Atticus M. Finch, are an unlikely pair of mountaineers, but after a close friend dies of cancer, the two pay tribute to her by attempting to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire's four-thousand-foot peaks twice in one winter. Tom and Atticus set out on an adventure of a lifetime that takes them across hundreds of miles and deep into an enchanting but dangerous winter wonderland. Little did they know that their most difficult test would lie ahead, after they returned home. Following Atticus is ultimately a story of transformation....

    Douglas C. Bates says: "A True Story of Personal Transformation"
    "More Than Just Man/Man's Best Friend!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was so thrilled with this book! I often get a hankering for a good animal story as usually they're so wonderful and inspirational. Following Atticus did not disappoint!
    What I really liked about this book was that yes, it follows Tom and Atticus on their journey, but it also follows Tom as he discovers himself along the way and becomes who he's meant to be. And most of it is because of an adorable little dog, Atticus. (And I really love that one dog started it, Max, a dog that Tom was very leery of taking into his life but who radically changed it and showed him what true love is.)
    This book is also about looking at the past, and realizing that people do the best that they can and that they are who they are. And Tom has to figure out how to love and forgive and live with the wounds that coming from a lonely family, living with an abusive and neglectful parent, have caused. Forget about climbing all those peaks, and those are great, but the real work is done in his heart.
    I bought the kindle version of this also, and I'm very glad that I did because some of the prose is so lovely, so poetic, the descriptions and imagery are so beautiful and written with such insight that I'm looking forward to reading some passages over again. Truly well done.
    This is a touching, wonderful book, well worth the listen, well worth the time. You'll love Atticus, you'll root for Tom. And you'll be tempted to check out their blog. I know, that's cheating, but I really can't wait for the next book!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jaws

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Peter Benchley
    • Narrated By Erik Steele
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (765)
    Performance
    (492)
    Story
    (505)

    Jaws is the classic, blockbuster thriller that inspired the three-time Academy Award-winning Steven Spielberg movie and made millions of beachgoers afraid to go into the water. Experience the thrill of helpless horror again - or for the first time! Jaws was #48 in the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies, and the film earned the coveted #1 spot on the Bravo network's 100 Scariest Movie Moments countdown.

    Tracy says: ""JAWS""
    "Oh, How Disappointing…!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    No review of Jaws could start off without mentioning the movie. I was eight at the time, so, while the rest of the family went to see it, my mom had to take me to Bambi. I remember coming out of the theater to find a woman crying and retching into a Kleenex, so distraught was she by Jaws. (My mom had to take me out of Bambi also: I just lost it when Bambi's mom got blown away by the hunter. Honestly? Between Bambi's mom dying and a freaked out shark, I think I would've handled the shark better.)
    When I finally saw it, I thought it was great. And when I read it, I seem to remember finding it to be a good read.
    So, it was quite disappointing to find that it just didn't age well. And by no means does it follow the movie. Which is just fine. I understand that. But the book has so many, many layers of the personal lives of the characters which, at first I appreciated. It's nice to have character development. It goes overboard though, and starts to drag. One wonders where the shark is. It is called Jaws, isn't it? The shark is supposed to be the main draw. The daily lives of the characters, their small and even large choices start to get in the way of the narrative, drag it down. Especially since the characters make some pretty poor choices that have nothing to do with the story. It just gets annoying. Who needs to know about a petty affair?
    Imagine my surprise, also, when the real action starts, and I looked down and found that there were only six more minutes of the book. Talk about an abrupt ending!
    I also had to listen to this at 1.25 speed as the narrator, Erik Steele, makes each line ponderous, with huge pauses in between sentences and concepts. He also has the voice of an anchorman. To his credit, though, is the fact that his dialogue really, really shines. His characterization of Quint is dead on and so very enjoyable, I could have listened to a book with only Quint all day long, as Steele brings him to life with such wonderful tones and a great accent.
    Ultimately, this was a decent book, with decent writing and great action in sporadic scenes throughout. It left me hungry for more. Which is unfortunate because it really could've given more. A good enough read but unsatisfying when all is said and done.

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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