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Jay Cook

Spreadhead and Biblioholic.

Nashville, TN, United States | Member Since 2004

  • 8 reviews
  • 14 ratings
  • 655 titles in library
  • 43 purchased in 2014

  • Roots: The Saga of an American Family

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Alex Haley
    • Narrated By Avery Brooks

    Why we think it’s a great listen: A masterpiece like none other, Brooks’ powerful performance of Haley’s words has been known to leave listeners in tears. It begins with a birth in an African village in 1750, and ends two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. And in that time span, an unforgettable cast of men, women, and children come to life, many of them based on the people from Alex Haley's own family tree.

    Kevin says: "Powerful"
    "AMAZED By How Much I Dug This Book"

    I'm not sure what finally got me to read this. As a white southerner, I went into this with the expectation of being hit in the head again and again with the injustices of my ancestors. In this I was correct. And yet...

    The story itself is first-rate. I have never read anything else by Haley (the Playboy interviews were published long before I was interested in any of the written material ), but the plot and the prose were both sufficient to keep me interested and make the endeavor feel more literary than mere popular fiction. The only part I felt dragged on a bit was the initial portion, when Kunta is in Africa and has not been captured yet. The subsequent story moves with relative speed across several hundred years of American history.

    The white "masters" are not single dimensional. There are random and touching acts of kindness by them, mixed up with random acts of cruelty and the constant systemic injustice. At no point is the utter wrongness of the peculiar institution downplayed, but there are some touching scenes of basic human compassion breaking through the societal and legal norms. Perhaps most poignant is the scene where the white nabobs of Lauderdale County ask Haley's grandfather to assume ownership of the town lumber mill with their financial backing.

    The narration is excellent. Avery Brooks sounds a lot like James Earl Jones and has the perfect voice for this story. I would pay to hear him read the telephone book out loud.

    I was a little disappointed to read, after finishing the book, assertions that Haley had fabricated certain key elements of the story which had been presented as true. And yet even if he made the whole thing up, it is still an interesting and compelling read.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Carrion Comfort

    • UNABRIDGED (39 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Dan Simmons
    • Narrated By Mel Foster, Laural Merlington
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Past...Caught behind the lines of Hitler’s Final Solution, Saul Laski is one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp. Until he rises to meet his fate and finds himself face-to-face with an evil far older, and far greater, than the Nazis themselves...

    Robert says: "Simmons at his best"

    This is a great read about a small group of malevolent friends who use their psychic abilities to control others in an annual contest to see who can create the most spectacular murders. The combination of blue-blood gentility and sociopathic vigor make "Miss Melanie" a great villain.

    The narrators also did a great job, especially the first-person narrative of Melanie.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Walking Dead: Rise of The Governor

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Robert Kirkman, Jay Bonansinga
    • Narrated By Fred Berman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Following in the footsteps of the New York Times best-selling graphic novels and the record-breaking new television show, this debut novel in a trilogy of original Walking Dead books chronicles the back story of the comic book series greatest villain, The Governor.

    David says: "Well....okay...I guess"
    "It'll Help Get You By Until the Series Resumes"

    Okay, so this isn't Tolstoy by any means, or even Stephen King. But it was a diverting read and allows me to cryptically make comments to other Walking Dead fans indicating I know more than they do about The Governor. I had meant this as a temporary break from what I consider more worthwhile reading, but downloaded the second book in the series as soon as I finished the first. I'm trying to space it out since the TV series does not resume til October (would that I had I their work schedule), but I keep hitting the second book like it's a crack pipe.
    In summary, if you aren't a fan of the show OR the genre, steer clear. If you like the genre but have never seen the show, (once you come out of your cave) give this book a try. If you like the genre and the show, I think you'll love the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Master and Margarita

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Mikhail Bulgakov
    • Narrated By Julian Rhind-Tutt

    The Devil comes to Moscow, but he isn't all bad; Pontius Pilate sentences a charismatic leader to his death, but yearns for redemption; and a writer tries to destroy his greatest tale, but discovers that manuscripts don't burn. Multi-layered and entrancing, blending sharp satire with glorious fantasy, The Master and Margarita is ceaselessly inventive and profoundly moving. In its imaginative freedom and raising of eternal human concerns, it is one of the world's great novels.

    beatrice says: "Baffling and original"
    "No Wonder Stalin Suppressed Bulgakov's Works"

    The Master and Margarita consists of two different story tracks: one involves Satan and his companions arriving in 1930's Moscow, the other involving the crucifixion from Pontius Pilate’s point of view. These two narrative threads are intertwined throughout the novel.

    The adventures of the Devil and his retainers in Moscow are delightfully absurd. Their brief sojourn in the city is a direct affront to the Stalinist order as they confront corrupt bureaucrats at every turn. This is (I believe) the only classic of Russian literature in which a huge black cat attacks the NKVD with a machine gun. In retrospect, it is a great example of Stalin's caprice (especially when it came to artists) that Bulgakov was allowed to continue breathing, much less working. Not surprisingly, this work was not allowed to be published after well after the deaths of both men.

    The passages dealing with Pilate are beautiful. One almost feels sympathy for the Procurator and the sticky situation he finds himself in, trapped between his desire to administer Roman justice and his need to keep the local population mollified. The part concerning the initial trial of Christ is particularly well written.

    Even though this is generally regarded as one of the best novels of the twentieth century by many intellectual types, it was a satisfying read and did not feel like "culture". It is depressing to think what other great works might have come out of Russia during the last century if the Soviets had not suppressed all art that did not support their concept of Socialist Realism.

    The narration on this was PERFECT. The author's change of tones between the two tracks of the story and his different voices for the characters, especially the devil's retainers, were superb.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Anne Applebaum
    • Narrated By Cassandra Campbell

    At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In Iron Curtain, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete.

    jackifus says: "Important story, imperfectly executed"
    "From Stetin in the Baltic...."

    I had looked forward to listening to this and was a tad disappointed, but my expectations had been in the wrong direction. I had expected a much more detailed discussion of the policies crafted by Stalin and Zhdanov for the overlordship of their new satrapies. Instead this concentrated much more on the puppet governments themselves, and on the social movements that fulminated in their respective countries as the USSR felt its way through the first years of occupation, slowly strengthening its grip.

    The book spends a fair amount of time on the backgrounds and policies of the "little Stalins", such as Ulbrecht in the DDR. Their local struggles in implementing the policies handed down by the Kremlin are discussed in depth, particularly in East Germany, Hungary and Poland. Their difficult positions - essentially acting as the local representatives of the USSR - might almost be pitiable were they not typically willing accomplices of the NKVD.

    The narration was, to my ear, bland. It may be that I'm used to having my European History read to me by a male with a British accent, but I found the reader to be lacking.

    As a companion piece to this, I would highly recommend "Revolution 1989" by Victor Sebestyen. After hearing about the establishment of these dystopias, a few hours listening to the story of their dismantlement will make you feel that some wrongs, in the end, are inevitably reversed.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Zombie Fallout: Zombie Fallout, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Mark Tufo
    • Narrated By Sean Runnette
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    This is the story of Michael Talbot, his family, and his friends: a band of ordinary people trying to get by in extraordinary times. When disaster strikes, Mike, a self-proclaimed survivalist, does his best to ensure the safety and security of those he cares for. Book one of the Zombie Fallout Trilogy follows our lead character at his self-deprecating, sarcastic best. What he encounters along the way leads him down a long dark road, always skirting the edge of insanity.

    Mike Naka says: "bucket full of zombie juice"
    "Disclaimer: I DID NOT Finish this Book"

    I just couldn't. Within the space of about an hour I came to loathe the protagonist of the story. I'm not sure if it was the narrator, who has (to my ear) a sneering, condescending voice, or the actual character himself, who I found to be an insufferable jackass. Probably a combination of both.

    That said, perhaps the voice acting was spot-on (it's this possibility that made me up the performance rating from 1 to 2 stars). Perhaps he perfectly captured the tones and nuances of the first person narrator of the book, who came across as the kind of person you would jump out a window to get away from at a cocktail party. It's hard to enjoy a zombie story when you feel that. were you in the shoes of one of the other characters, you'd prefer the company of the zombies.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Nobody's Fool

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Richard Russo
    • Narrated By Ron McLarty
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Divorced from his own wife and carrying on halfheartedly with another man's, saddled with a bum knee and friends who make enemies redundant, Sully now has one new problem to cope with: a long-estranged son who is in imminent danger of following in his father's footsteps. With its sly and uproarious humor and a heart that embraces humanity's follies as well as its triumphs, Nobody's Fool is storytelling at its most generous.

    Steve says: "Russo is a genious."
    "Even Better Than The Movie"

    This is one of the best books I listened to this year. I had thoroughly enjoyed the movie and was worried that Ron McLarty's Sully would not equal up to Paul Newman's. This was a needless fear. McLarty came through as he always does, offering up Sully in a voice that conveys the same witty, resigned gruffness so central to the character of John Sullivan. Another element of the movie I loved, the full tableaux of interesting characters in the town of North Bath, is (not surprisingly) more fully and deeply explored in the novel. Add to this a few key events in the novel that were either left out of the movie or drastically altered and the experience is fresh even for someone who has seen the film multiple times. Bravo!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 11-22-63: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Craig Wasson

    On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King - who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer - takes listeners on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.

    Kelly says: "I Owe Stephen King An Apology"
    "Back in Black"

    I am a huge fan of Stephen King's older works but had not really kept up with anything he wrote after about 1994. Deciding to return to the ranks of "Constant Readers" this year, I began working my way through the backlog that had built up in the almost twenty years since I had read any of his works. My opinion of what I read during this catch-up exercise was that while almost all of the "newer" stuff were good reads, nothing stood up to the glory days of "The Stand" and "Salem's Lot".
    "11-22-1963" is the exception. Its place in the King pantheon is not based on chill factor - there is very little of that in this book. Yet it stands with his best because of the narrative quality and - I hate to say it - the great love story between Jake and Sadie.
    Another great surprise was finding myself back in Derry, Maine after an absence of some years. Fans of a certain previous work will enjoy returning and running into some old acquaintances.
    Craig Wasson is perfect as the narrator. There have been some books where I really loved his performance - "The Mothman Prophecies" in particular - and others where I did not. This is definitely a win for Wasson.
    Yes, this listen requires a substantial commitment and yes, “Lisey's Story” and “Cell” and certain other later works might not have been up to what constant readers expect. But take the chance on this one, it is well worth it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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