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JoAnn

Boston, MA, United States | Member Since 2013

13
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 32 reviews
  • 34 ratings
  • 73 titles in library
  • 29 purchased in 2014
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  • Big Brother: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Lionel Shriver
    • Narrated By Alice Rosengard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (138)
    Performance
    (126)
    Story
    (127)

    When Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at the airport, she doesn't recognize him. In the four years since the siblings last saw each other, he has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened? Imposing himself on Pandora's world, Edison breaks her husband Fletcher's handcrafted furniture, and entices her stepson to drop out of high school. After the brother-in-law has more than overstayed his welcome, Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum: It's him or me.

    Jacqueline says: "Well worth the credit--"
    "Very Shriver, VERY good!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am a huge Lionel Shriver fan, so this book was a wonderful addition to her collection. As always, I was very impressed with her in-depth character study. She is, almost to a fault, honest, and brings us characters that resonate both in their consistency and in their unique quirks. She never paints a clear "good guy" and "bad guy," but always provides a good story.

    Alice Rosengard did a wonderful job narrating this story. I can still hear Ms. Shriver's characters' idiosyncratic phrases in the narrator's voice ("Panda-bear!").

    If you are not used to Ms. Shriver's work, they are not sunny. They are, however, wonderful works of fiction.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Americanah

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Narrated By Adjoa Andoh
    Overall
    (412)
    Performance
    (378)
    Story
    (386)

    Anna-Bo-Banana says: "Dazzling, Romantic, and Witty"
    "Interesting exploration of race in America"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was a solid read which investigated race relations in America from the viewpoint of an African ex-pat living here and experiencing being categorized as "black" for the first time. The author takes us through her relationships with a white man who views racism as a thing of the past, a black man consumed with the inequities of being a black American, and the ups and downs of daily interactions with black and white people, alike. This novel is much more "Crash" than "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," as the protagonist takes an observational, at times humorous, perspective on what is still a very touchy and real issue in America. As a white woman, I found it gave me valuable insight on the experiences of my black peers as well as offering me opportunities to reflect on my own attitudes and behaviors towards race in America. I only downgraded my rating slightly, as I found the plot to drag at times and some horses felt over-beaten.

    Ms. Andoh has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. Her English and Nigerian accents were melodic and, while her American accents always sounded a bit stilted/southern, I could listen to her read the phone book and fall in love.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • I Know This Much Is True

    • ABRIDGED (6 hrs)
    • By Wally Lamb
    • Narrated By Ken Howard
    Overall
    (244)
    Performance
    (122)
    Story
    (121)

    In the long awaited follow-up to the highly praised novel She's Come Undone, Dominick Birdsey must come to terms with himself, as well as with the schizophrenic twin brother he has spent his life both protecting and resenting.

    Douglas says: "Disappointing"
    "BAD audio"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I had read this book years ago and remember loving it, so when the abridged version was on sale, I purchased it in order to refresh my memory of the story, but not have to commit to re-reading the notoriously verbose Mr. Lamb.

    The story was great- I am always amazed by the depth and truthfulness in Wally Lamb's male characters. I obviously would have probably been more engaged had they chosen to flush out certain parts (impossible when you go abridged), but overall, enjoyable and informative.

    The narration was SIMPLY. HORRIBLE. First of all, this must have been taped eons ago b/c it had the clarity of a 1930s newsreel being projected through a 1980s answering machine. To make matters worse, Mr. Howard's voices were simply distracting. Often, despite the fact the story takes place in Rhode Island, he sounded like an Italian uncle from North Jersey, but then appeared to tire of the affectation, and returned to his normal (non-irritating) speaking voice mid-sentence. Also, the schizophrenic brother's voice was almost identical to Buffalo Bill's famous, "I'd $%^# me" line in Silence of the Lambs, which had the unfortunate affect of dehumanizing the character (which is likely contrary to Mr. Lamb's intention).

    I'd go ahead and read this book, in its entirety, over the abridge audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Book Thief

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Markus Zusak
    • Narrated By Allan Corduner
    Overall
    (8420)
    Performance
    (6563)
    Story
    (6593)

    It's just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books.

    Shannon says: "Word Thief"
    "READ, do not LISTEN to this book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I had very mixed feelings about this book and imagine I would have liked it more had I visually "read" the book, as opposed to listened to it on Audible.

    No one can deny that it has some gripping moments, is VERY well-written, and is accessible and moving enough to become this generation's literary introduction to the Holocaust. As opposed to other tales from this genre, the book does not follow the life of a German Jew; rather, a (questionably) gentile German foster child. Thankfully, it manages to pay due justice to the horrors of the time both for the persecuted populations, while also capturing the difficulty of life for the "Aryan" citizens under Hitler's reign. The author uses some of the most creative sensory descriptions I have ever encountered, often daringly describing the tastes of colors, the sounds of visual perception, or the smell of an emotion.

    THAT BEING SAID... Before you purchase the Audiobook, go to the Amazon.com "Look Inside" feature. The book is divided, rather charmingly, into paragraphs, small vignettes, sub-chapters, and asides. I would not have known to look at this, were it not for the sometimes choppy narration which clued me into investigating further. The listener misses out on illustrations, back referencing, understanding of a side note vs. a plot point, etc., from the text.

    Additionally, to be perfectly honest, for the middle 60%, the story had me a bit bored. I imagine the literary tricks used in the visual text would have prevented my attention from drifting so much, thus increasing my engagement with the very poignant story as a whole.

    What the listener DOES gain from the Audible is the lovely voice of the narrator, Mr. Corduner, who, as Death, shares the book with the conspiratorial yet affectionate tone reminiscent of Clarence Odbody in It's A Wonderful Life. While I wasn't the biggest fan of his (sometimes overdone) German accent in dialogue, his lyrical voice added a sense of majesty to the narrated portions,which I would have missed in the straight text form.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Orphan Train: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Christina Baker Kline
    • Narrated By Jessica Almasy, Suzanne Toren
    Overall
    (3912)
    Performance
    (3485)
    Story
    (3485)

    Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to "aging out" out of the foster care system. A community-service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse.... As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

    Susan says: "Fascinating Journey for Two"
    "Great, tearjerking story!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really enjoyed this book, which followed the parallel lives of a young Irish orphan in the 1920s and a foster teen in the present day. Their paths cross and, customarily, bridges are formed, lessons are learned, and, naturally they realize they're not as different as they once seemed. While I can certainly say the premise wasn't glaringly original, the events that occurred over the 90+ years chronicled in this book were captivating. Sometimes the similarities felt a little forced and I could have done with a bit more development of the present day story, but the plot twists kept me listening and guessing.

    The narration was good, not great- I found the voices to be very grating at first, but eventually acclimated.

    Overall, this was an excellent commuting book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Hector and the Search for Happiness

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By François Lelord
    • Narrated By James Clamp
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (18)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    Hector is very good at treating patients in need of his help. But he can’t do much for those who are simply dissatisfied with life, and that is beginning to depress him. When a patient tells him he looks in need of a vacation, Hector takes a trip around the world to learn what makes people happy—and sad. As he travels from Paris to China to Africa to the United States, he lists his observations about the people he meets. Is there a secret to happiness, and will Hector find it? Hector’s journey ventures around the globe and into the human soul.

    JoAnn says: "Light, cute, but a lost in translation/narration"
    "Light, cute, but a lost in translation/narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was a fun little read, but I definitely felt that there were some challenges along the way.

    First, as a listener, I found it confusing to determine the narrator's country of origin- I assume M. Lelord is a Frenchmen and his protagonist was either coming from Paris or London, though it was difficult to ascertain as the narrator was, I believe, Australian and never dropped his Aussie accent. Part of the charm of this book was clearly intended to be that such details aren't supposed to matter (the lessons are universal), as he never specifically named countries or cities... but as a listener, I couldn't help being distracted as to why he changed the accents of the speakers to reflect their hometown (e.g., giving speakers "from the Land of More" American accents) but I was supposed to believe that an Australian was a European?

    Second, this book is written very much in a French style. If you are not accustomed to French writing, you might find this off-putting. French writing tends to trend "simpler" with very concise, almost elementary, sentences carrying great weight. Compounding this writing style, I found that the translation of this book appeared to be done by a French person who is fluent in English, rather than a native English speaker who is fluent in French. The vocabulary is stiflingly limited and there were many times I felt that the translator, unaccustomed to natural English/American semantics/pragmatics, generated very stilted phrases which did not sound natural.

    As a result of questionable narrator/translator decisions, the book might appear to be written from the point of view of a more literal/borderline autistic person, which is sharply in contrast to the protagonist's character of a debonair and well-educated psychiatrist. Furthermore, the narrator sounds VERY similar to Dan O'Grady who narrated The Rosie Project (a great read written from the POV of a man with Asperger's) and the writing style follows suit. Therefore, I found myself repeatedly surprised when the protagonist would do something with great social graces or casually seduce a woman to "do the things people in love do."

    While this book was clearly intended to be whimsical, I found some of the translator/narrator decisions too distracting to lose myself in the message.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The 19th Wife: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By David Ebershoff
    • Narrated By Kimberly Farr, Rebecca Lowman, Arthur Morey
    Overall
    (432)
    Performance
    (188)
    Story
    (186)

    It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family's polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

    Kenneth says: "Two Mysteries: One Fictional, One Historical"
    "An accessible peek into polygamy, past and present"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was a great account of polygamy, past and present. The author expertly interwove a murder mystery occurring within a polygamous sect of Mormonism with memoirs and documents "written by" historical figures of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Reader note: while they sound legit, these are *all* fictional, but heavily based in research/fact.

    I knew very little about Mormonism and the LDS community before reading this book. By enticing the reader by weaving two characters, stories, and communities together, Mr. Ebershoff successfully gave me a history of the church and explained the spiritual/political/social rise, impact, and fall of polygamy within its confines. It was interesting, although the "murder mystery" part lacked drama or suspense, and, being the only entirely fictional part of the story, felt a little forced and left me disinterested.

    I have to say, I wish I had read (with eyes) this book. The narrators were unoffensive, but their constantly swapping chapters was distracting at best, especially when the chapter titles were announced by someone other than the speaker; therefore, it would always take me a few sentences to figure out if I was past/present/scholarly, etc. I imagine font changes would have eliminated this confusion in written text.

    Overall, if this is a culture you are interested in, give it a read! It's accessible, light, and thorough!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Fault in Our Stars

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By John Green
    • Narrated By Kate Rudd
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11122)
    Performance
    (10210)
    Story
    (10266)

    Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

    FanB14 says: "Sad Premise, Fantastic Story"
    "Worth the hype"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was a little concerned to "read" this book, just given the hype/teen-angst surrounding it, but I thought it was a great listen with a very touching, tender message. John Green is exceptional at capturing the maturity and intelligence in teens, which I would have forgotten in this Cheetah Gurlz generation, had it not been for his astute observations and biting humor.

    Ms. Rudd did a great job narrating- you could hear Hazel's frustrations and even her labored breathing (at appropriate times). She did a great job transitioning between male and female dialogue without doing huge and distracting vocal distortions. A huge bonus was the interview with the author at the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Mohsin Hamid
    • Narrated By Satya Bhabha
    Overall
    (275)
    Performance
    (165)
    Story
    (171)

    At a cafe table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with a suspicious, and possibly armed, American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting. Changez is living an immigrant's dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by Underwood Samson, an elite investment firm. He thrives on the energy of New York. But in the wake of September 11, he finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned.

    Vahe Kassardjian says: "Disappointed"
    "Great, short listen"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was a very interesting book written from the perspective of a Pakistani man who had achieved the "American Dream" before the 9/11 attack on New York. He is a successful, intelligent man who thrives in New York, but faces an existential crisis when his homeland and home are at war with one another. The story is narrated as a mealtime soliloquy between the protagonist and an unnamed American, as we learn the likeable protagonist's difficult but honest journey from Princeton boy wonder to financial wizard to befuddled bystander to outsider to ex-patriot. I am not sure that all of the emotions associated with this time were really flushed out (e.g., fear, racism), so I imagine the novel could have been longer, but it was a tight, concise, and approachable description of a perspective I would have, admittedly, otherwise not considered.

    The narrator is excellent- his Pakistani accent is smooth and velvety, and he transitions to "American finance guy" seamlessly. Listening to the monologue would be much preferred to reading the words, as the narrator is able to illustrate when the protagonist gets "fired up" (the visual reader would only know when, later, he apologizes for his raised voice), and make tangible the protagonist's polite tone (one of the character's defining features).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Pamela Druckerman
    • Narrated By Abby Craden
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (646)
    Performance
    (566)
    Story
    (559)

    The secret behind France's astonishingly well-behaved children is here. When American journalist Pamela Druckerman has a baby in Paris, she doesn't aspire to become a "French parent". French parenting isn't a known thing, like French fashion or French cheese. Even French parents themselves insist they aren't doing anything special. But French children are far better behaved and more in command of themselves than American kids....

    Emily - Audible says: "Inspiring"
    "Must-read for expectant moms"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was one of the best parenting books I've read (and I've read A LOT). Ms. Druckerman clearly and intelligently highlights the alarming overparenting trend I've noticed committed by both my peers and parents of my students (I'm an expectant mom who works in a school) and offers realistic solutions based on her ex-patriot observations of Parisian parents. She by no means degrades her American counterparts and is often self-deprecating in her inability or unwillingness to take the advice of her Parisian friends. After she makes anecdotal observations (generally couched with disclaimers that not all Americans commit the parenting sins she describes, nor do all Parisian mothers make Americans seem like frumpy/frazzled messes with misbehaved children), she consults the research which often supports her points. Need proof? I listened to this book while concurrently reading "Brain Rules for Baby," another excellent parenting book which was written by a PhD- both manuals came to almost identical conclusions on key parenting issues such as sleep, eating, behavior, and setting boundaries. If there was a way to make sure that my future child's parents read these books before deciding to host a playdate, I would do it!

    The narration on this book was fine, although the French pronunciations were a little forced. I prefer a milder accent when quoting non-English speakers, not one that is so strong that I needs to add focused attention to ensure I'm interpreting accurately. For example, the term "education" is pronounced: "edz-ooo-cah-see-o" by quoted Parisians. In sentences like this, I'd prefer to understand the content of the message, rather than be pummeled over the head by the fact that the speaker is French.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Naoki Higashida
    • Narrated By Tom Picasso
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (683)
    Performance
    (609)
    Story
    (611)

    Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, The Reason I Jumpis a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

    Janice says: "Cracking the code"
    "Insightful but left me skeptical"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I work in the field of augmentative communication and with a lot of children with ASD and have been aware of this book.. and the controversy surrounding it... for quite some time. For those unaware, the augmentative communication style used by Mr. Higashida is considered very subject to interpreter suggestion, and therefore, there has been some concern that the words are not entirely the author's.

    As someone who considers herself very knowledgeable about children with ASD I absolutely agreed with many of Mr. Higashida's observations/insights... almost too much so. I found myself thinking, "yeah, that's how I would guess my patients are feeling"-- which made me question if I am either the most insightful person on the planet or if some of the controversial "co-constructors" and translators were perhaps stepping on the author's toes a bit. That being said, there were some portions that I found very surprising and informative (e.g., Mr. Higashida's dislike of visual schedules), but also some where I, unfortunately, found myself questioning the authenticity.

    Mr. Picasso's narration neither enhanced nor detracted from the text.

    Overall, it was an interesting read for someone new to the field of autism who is trying to get a handle on the sensory components; however, if you are looking for a first-hand view of living with ASD, I found "Born on Blue Day" and "Look Me in the Eyes" to be more enjoyable and insightful.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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