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John

Seattle, WA, United States | Member Since 2005

ratings
10
REVIEWS
8
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
0
HELPFUL VOTES
19

  • Twelve Drummers Drumming: A Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By C.C. Benison
    • Narrated By Steve West, Jean Gilpin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (37)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (33)

    Tom Christmas came to picturesque Thornford Regis with his young daughter to escape the terrible experience of losing his wife in the city. Her murder sent him packing to the bucolic and charming town, where violent crime isn't supposed to happen and the greatest sin is supposed to be nothing a member of the clergy can't handle. Then, at the town fair, a woman is found murdered. Tom soon learnsthat everyone in Thornford Regis has a secret to hide - infidelity, theft, even past murders. Twelve Drummers Drumming showcases a lovely place to live and/or die....

    connie says: "intelligent cozy with series promise"
    "Main problem: just too long"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I had thought that the first Maisie Dobbs novel seemed dragged out at 10 hours of series setup, with the mystery plot secondary, but this book being 50% longer suffered even more. I didn't find the village setting particularly "charming", nor the characters particularly likeable or interesting. Father Christmas himself seemed slightly on the dopey side, and his daughter a tad precocious. Apparently, Tom had agreed to raise her as a Jew, with the aunt taking on that role after the wife's murder; I would've liked to have heard a bit more on this. As a plus, he does mentioned being taunted at school for having a lesbian couple as parents (his aunt and her partner). A not-so-plus: late in the book Tom asserts medical knowledge, crying "I was married to a doctor!" I wasn't buying that physician spouses generally discuss their work in that much detail. Moreover, I found the author's assertion that "informal" euthanasia is a common practice among British doctors rather a brash statement.

    I'm neither sorry, nor regretful, about having dropped a credit on this one. If Benison can tighten things up next time, there's a future for a Christmas series. Tom's audio voice struck me as a bit posh for a kid who went to state school, though he is an Oxbridge grad (like almost all characters in British books it seems). The housekeeper's "voice" consists entirely of daily letters to her mother, which, although a bit "telling" rather than "showing" worked out okay ... except for the device where she often strikes through words (she's not entirely sure of) to use a simpler one; that might look okay in print, but on audio it grated a bit.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress - Pax Britannica, Volume 1

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Jan Morris
    • Narrated By Roy McMillan
    Overall
    (167)
    Performance
    (131)
    Story
    (130)

    The Pax Britannica trilogy is Jan Morris’s epic story of the British Empire from the accession of Queen Victoria to the death of Winston Churchill. It is a towering achievement: informative, accessible, entertaining and written with all her usual bravura. Heaven’s Command, the first volume, takes us from the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1837 to the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The story moves effortlessly across the world, from the English shores to Fiji, Zululand, the Canadian prairies and beyond. Totally gripping history!

    Wolfpacker says: "Great Vignettes, Good Overall Story"
    "I didn't learn a lot that was new here"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    which is why my overall rating is lower than the others. Morris writes beautifully, in great detail, on a few specific topics (The Rout of Kabul, The Hudson's Bay Company in Canada, Charles Parnell as a figure in Irish history, etc.), which McMillan's enthusiastic narration complements well.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Welcome to the Departure Lounge: Adventures in Mothering Mother

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Meg Federico
    • Narrated By Tamara Marston
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    When Meg Federico's eighty year-old mother and newly minted step-father were finally forced to accept full-time home care, she imagined them settling into a Norman-Rockwellian life of docile dependency. With a family of her own and a full time career - a thousand miles away from her parents - Federico hoped her mother and step-father would be able to take care of themselves for the most part, and call on their children when they really needed them.

    John says: "Great writing and narration, story itself ..."
    "Great writing and narration, story itself ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I give the book a high rating because the story is told so well, backed up by solid narration - I felt as though I were (vicariously) living the events as they unfolded. At the risk of re-hashing the plot (something I frown upon generally), Federico's mother and step-father have managed to "fake" their way along as their mental health deteriorated; her mother was losing her sight as well. On vacation in Florida, however, Addie suffers a traumatic episode, triggering a "crisis" situation, until her death (it wasn't clear to me how much time elapsed, a couple of years perhaps). Addie and Walter had been married and widowed, bringing children to the union, but The Brady Bunch this is not - toleration, not cooperation, best describes the kids' relationship; he had sold his house and moved into hers after the wedding.
    Getting Addie home to New Jersey was a story in itself (Walter's daughter had taken him back alone shortly after the incident). She's placed in a facility, which ... doesn't work out. Various health aides are hired in shifts to look after the couple at home from then on, with the author and her siblings doing their best to "supervise" things long-distance. The step-sister, who lives nearby it seems, is implied to do as little actual work as possible. She's mentioned only a couple of times, once as she had "taken her father to New York for the day in a limo." The implication being that she's lazy and self-centered.
    Meanwhile, he becomes more verbally and physically abusive to everyone in the house, including Addie. The author mentions in a short aside that she was advised having (them) declared incompetent would be too difficult to pursue. Having some experience with such things in New Jersey, she should've moved her mother into a facility, citing the documented problems. Later on, there's a memoir-ish section on Addie and Meg's backgrounds, which was useful in putting the story in perspective.
    Final thoughts ... Meg was either as naive (I hesitate to use the term "clueless") as she maintains, or a bit of a martyr. That may sound harsh, but if I had a physically abusive stepfather like that, I'd have gotten my mother out of there - or at least tried, in spite of the pessimism of those she says consulted. That having been said, I recommend the book for the writing, and narration - one of those cases where I'd say the audio seems preferable to reading the printed version.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Blood River

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Tim Butcher
    • Narrated By Tim Butcher
    Overall
    (35)
    Performance
    (16)
    Story
    (17)

    When Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to cover Africa in 2000, he quickly became obsessed with the idea of recreating H. M. Stanley's famous expedition - and travelling alone. Despite warnings that his plan was suicidal, Butcher set out for the Congo's eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots.

    Dennis says: "This is a story about a great adventure"
    "Leave narration to professionals!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A great chronicle of an astonishing journey that every single person told Butcher was "impossible". The most impressive point to me is his emphasis on how much the country has regressed since independence - he passes through deserted areas where colonial maps show thriving towns. Most everything in place in 1960 is now ruined, if still there. Diseases, which the Belgians had largely controlled, are back. An interesting take on colonialism comes from a disgusted Malaysian aid worker who snorts (paraphrased): "We had a colonial past, and got over it!"

    Recommended, although Butcher's narration at a gazillion words per minute got tiring often. There were times I wanted to stop listening, and had to wait a while for a pause to do so, rather than stop in mid-torrent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Book of Murder

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs)
    • By Guillermo Martinez
    • Narrated By T. Ryder Smith
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (2)

    Hailed as a "clever, chilling novel that takes crime writing to a new level" by London's Sunday Times, this psychological thriller from Guillermo Martínez will captivate mystery lovers and literature buffs alike. An extremely successful author named Kloster and an unnamed, up-andcoming writer have one thing in common - they've both employed a typist named Luciana. Now Luciana claims Kloster is killing off her family, and she desperately needs help.

    John says: "Perhaps I'm not the target audience?"
    "Perhaps I'm not the target audience?"
    Overall

    I guess I prefer stories with more "action" and less dialogue and introspection. The central character, through whom we view the story, gives background, and then the protagonist and antagonist give their lengthy sides of the same story, after which there are new developments, causing the process to start again, until the somewhat unsatisfactory ending.

    The narration was good, though having an American reading the translator's British English was a bit disconcerting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Among the Mad: A Maisie Dobbs Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Jacqueline Winspear
    • Narrated By Orlagh Cassidy
    Overall
    (497)
    Performance
    (264)
    Story
    (265)

    On the way to see a client, Maisie Dobbs witnesses a man commit suicide on a busy London street. The following day, the prime minister's office receives a letter threatening a massive loss of life if certain demands are not met - and the writer mentions Maisie by name. After being questioned and cleared by Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane of Scotland Yard's elite Special Branch, she is drawn into MacFarlane's personal fiefdom as a special adviser on the case.

    Peter says: "Maisie Dobbs Series - Fabulous"
    "Good narration and plotting"
    Overall

    although the story itself proved rather grim. In this one, the point-of-view changes abruptly at times into the head of the villain, which the narrator handles well by giving him a sort of sing-song cadence so as to realize that switch immediately.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Flying Troutmans

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Miriam Toews
    • Narrated By Erin Moon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (28)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (10)

    Winner of the Governor's General Award for fiction, Miriam Toews writes endearing novels that are amusing and full of surprising turns. The Troutman family is facing serious change. With their mother remitted to the mental hospital again, precocious 11-year-old Thebes and rebellious 15-year-old Logan place a call to their aunt Hattie in Paris, who has just been dumped by her boyfriend.

    Jamie says: "The Flying Troutmand"
    "No thanks"
    Overall

    I gave up about two hours into the book - the kids were far too precocious, and the plot seemed to be going nowhere.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Barbara Demick
    • Narrated By Karen White
    Overall
    (1589)
    Performance
    (1000)
    Story
    (1005)

    Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years - a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung and the unchallenged rise to power of his son, Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Taking us into a landscape never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be an average Korean citizen, living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today.

    Gohar says: "The man who wants to be GOD"
    "I don't often give five stars"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    but this is a real breakthrough book on conditions in North Korea. Demick has done a terrific job of creating a gripping narrative, based upon her extensive interviews with the defectors, including transitions between stories - one person arrives, fresh out of the Yalu River border, at a house in China, sees a bowl of rice and meat just sitting there on the doorstep, thinks to herself, "That's more food than I've had at any meal back home in many years!", and then realizes it means there's a potentially fierce dog nearby ... fade to next story.

    Karen White's audio narration is especially noteworthy - obvious that she made an extra effort to pronounce Korean words correctly.

    Highly recommended!

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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