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Karen

Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty.

Glen Gardner, NJ, United States | Member Since 2014

50
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 102 reviews
  • 102 ratings
  • 284 titles in library
  • 1 purchased in 2015
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5

  • The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Gay Salisbury, Laney Salisbury
    • Narrated By Barrett Whitener
    Overall
    (136)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (35)

    The year is 1925. It is sixty degrees below zero. The wind sweeps tons of snow over the deep-frozen Alaskan landscape. The nearest railhead is seven hundred miles away. Airplanes cannot fly. The way to Nome is blocked by a treacherous frozen sound, an icebound port, and mountains to the west. But there is a diphtheria epidemic in Nome. The children need serum from the outside world if they are to survive. Their only hope is a few chosen Eskimo drivers and their teams of dogs.

    Susan Carter says: "The Cruelest Miles Makes Exciting Reading"
    "Ponderous, but ultimately interesting"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you like best about The Cruelest Miles? What did you like least?

    The book is of course about a journey made by dog sled to bring vaccines to Nome Alaska to save the locals from a diphtheria epidemic. You would certainly expect digressions of the history of dog sledding, or on some local culture, etc. What I did not bargain for was the author pretty much giving the history of the peoples of Alaska from the time that the first human set foot there to the time of the Nome epidemic all at once, so I had back story for maybe 2 hours straight. It isn't that that information wasn't interesting, but I thought I was reading a book about this epidemic and for hours, that is for days of listening, the plot did not advance at all. I think that might have done me in if I was actually reading and not just listening.
    I did finish though. I was so worried about the fates of the two main sled dogs - Togo and Balto. I am sensitive about animals. I needn't have worried, since they both lived to be old dogs. I mention that not as a spoiler but to reassure people sensitive to animal cruelty that they can handle the book. I suppose it is somewhat silly to worry about the dogs anyway since the book is set in the 1920's so the longest living dog would have been long, long dead by now. At the end they tell you how a lot of the humans ended up as well. It amazed me really that the majority of these people, despite living these hard lives in Alaska lived to be very old. Of course I felt all nostalgic reading it and it seemed to me that our modern world is a much duller place. On the other hand, people aren't dropping like flies from diphtheria.
    I do not think I have the ability to even understand minus 60 degrees. It amazes me that anyone can deal with that sort of thing. I just have trouble believing that people have the abilities they would need to survive. For example, they mentioned how if you took off your glove within 30 seconds your hand would freeze (at some temp or other that they were dog sledding in). The quick decisions and reactions required to survive in those conditions just don't strike me as skills possessed by the majority of people. At least not the people I know. Of course I don’t know anyone living in rural Alaska.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • There but for the

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Ali Smith
    • Narrated By Anne Flosnik
    Overall
    (30)
    Performance
    (26)
    Story
    (26)

    At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. Neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and the story of Miles is one told from the points of view of four of them: a woman in her 40s called Anna, a man in his 60s called Mark, a woman in her 80s called May, and a 10-year-old child called Brooke. The thing is... none of these people knows Miles anything more than glancingly.

    Robert says: "Insufferable as a bad house guest"
    "Why I Didn't Like This Book - But You Might"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I normally wouldn't stop reading a book and then review it but I am making an exception here. I want to review it so other people know what I know but I didn't want to spend any more of my life listening to it when there are so many other books. I should listen to samples before buying books too so at least I would have known about the really strong theatrical English accent the narrator uses. I am not a big fan of narrators with accents but sometimes they are OK. This one I found made it hard to understand what was being said. Between the accent and the slang I got lost a lot, and add on to that the content which involves a lot of stream of consciousness and cutesy word play, I have never listened to a book so poorly suited to be an audiobook. If you like these sorts of very British books with clever wording and stories of lives of quiet desperation, maybe this is your book. BUT I suggest you read it rather than listen to it. I am not sure why I picked this out in the first place - something in the description caught my interest but I think I will avoid books like this in the future. The last straw for me was a scene where a man was walking through a park (that much I got) and I thought he was talking to his mother, then he seemed to be talking to his dead father but I wasn't really sure, and I could never tell which comments were said aloud and which just thought. If you can't tell whether someone is talking to themselves, or a live person, or a dead person, I think it is time to move on to a different book. So I will.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Murder of a Botoxed Blonde: A Scumble River Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Denise Swanson
    • Narrated By Christine Leto
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (205)
    Performance
    (138)
    Story
    (139)

    A health spa complete with tofu turkey and "Dress for Sexcess" lectures is the last place school psychologist Skye Denison wants to spend Thanksgiving. But when her best friend Trixie Frayne convinces her to take a complimentary weekend at the new Scumble River Spa, Skye accepts her fate and prepares to be slathered, wrapped, and roasted - until a murder ruins the good time.

    Beatrice says: "A new spa means a new murder in Scrumble River"
    "Typical Fun Scumble River, but voices changed"
    Overall
    Performance
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    Basically I like all the Scumble River mysteries. I very much enjoyed finally seeing some progress in Skye's love life too. The mystery was ok but I confess to enjoying the characters as the primary attraction. So that may be why it bothered me that although most of the voices have not changed, May and Bunny sounded totally different. Was so weird after getting used to everyone to hear Skye sound like she always did than her mother suddenly sound completely unlike herself. I think the previous voices were much better. I hope this resolves by the next book. The story line being set in a spa gives lots of opportunities for various comments to be made about Skye's weight, appearance etc. I confess to be a bit bored having to dwell on her chubbiness all the time. I also remember Skye commenting at some point (might not have been this book) about eating healthy despite no longer dieting. Skye does a lot of eating (even when it is forbidden at the spa) and she is always chowing down McDonald's, or piles of meat potatoes and gravy, or bags of candy and chips. I think she's a little deluded. But in the beginning of the book especially I was getting tired of people being so rude to her. Some unresolved threads from previous books do get wrapped up in the one, which is nice. As usual I plan to go on to the next in the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Jill Stark
    • Narrated By Vannessa Coffey
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    I'm the binge-drinking health reporter. During the week, I write about Australia's booze-soaked culture. At the weekends, I write myself off. Born and raised in Scotland, the home of whisky, Jill Stark had booze in the blood. Alcohol had dominated her social life ever since she had her first sip of lager, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. Then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol.

    Karen says: "Great Book, for the right audience"
    "Great Book, for the right audience"
    Overall
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    I REALLY enjoyed this book. I want to say first off though that anyone with no binge drinking experience just won't get it so they might as well skip it. The perfect audience is what I was, someone who has recently had a bad hangover that led them to wonder - am I just that person who should never drink? And, is that even possible? We follow our formerly binge drinking health reporter through totally relatable, and often funny, sometimes sad, situations. I should mention that I normally hate when narrators have strong accents. I have a horrible time understanding them and find it unnecessary. In this case, while heavily accented the reader is clear and the accent and local slang are more atmospheric than annoying. The book at times can get a little statistics heavy, and I didn't necessarily agree with everything (for example, I never saw an issue with alcohol ads during sporting events) but overall I found the book very interesting. One thing that stuck with me was the comment that not drinking at all was what people did when they found moderate drinking to be too hard. There is also the drama of what our heroine will do when her time is up. Kept me interested all the way through.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ten Years Later

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Hoda Kotb
    • Narrated By Hoda Kotb
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (49)
    Performance
    (41)
    Story
    (41)

    Through years of perseverance, purpose, and passion, Hoda Kotb landed a spot with Kathie Lee on the Today show, won numerous journalism awards, and gained valuable life lessons. Now, after captivating audiences in her blockbuster memoir Hoda, she turns to stories about others who have undergone personal transformation against great odds. In Ten Years Later, Hoda chronicles six amazing stories by identifying a game-changing event in her subjects’ lives and then revisiting those lives a decade later.

    kris says: "Hoda Hits it Out of the Park!"
    "Stories were interesting BUT"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is Hota telling of her interviews with 6 people. I found the stories interesting. However, I did not really get how the stories really belong together. Even the subtitle "Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives" isn't entirely accurate. I really think she just thought these were six good stories so wanted to make a book but any real connection for all six is a stretch. The final story is about a woman who went from choosing to live a subsistence lifestyle to owning a multimillion dollar company. Is the adversity being poor when choosing to live that lifestyle? At any rate, each story on it's own was interesting but a few things did bug me. Our first story deals with a woman who after being in an abusive relationship and losing her kids, leaves the guy, loses hundreds of pounds and regains custody. She later becomes a life coach. This is inspiring except that one question kept popping into my mind while listening and Hota never asked it. The woman after gaining her kids back, moves in with another guy shortly after that, then another guy after that. It seemed to me like she always had to have a man and never got comfortable just being herself. It seemed so crazy after what she put her kids through to move them in with another guy right away. But Hota never asks her about that. After that story was a woman who survived cancer and went on to help cancer patients by getting the medical community to deal with issues of fertility loss differently. Those two made me think our book was about people who suffered something them went on to do something for others. But the next two stories were a little off from that. I was fascinated by the woman who recovered from epilepsy and became an ultra marathoner. (I had never heard of ultramarathons.) I am just not sure how that fits the theme. Similarly there is man who stops doing drugs after his sister is murdered and helps to influence the prosecution of her killer. There is also the man who helped a burn victim on 9/11 only to learn later his sister and niece had died that day. That is certainly a powerful story but I kept waiting to see what he was going to do and that was apparently just be a regular happy guy. So although the stories were interesting, I don't think Hota or her book added anything to them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Murder of a Real Bad Boy: A Scumble River Mystery, Book 8

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Denise Swanson
    • Narrated By Christine Leto
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (90)
    Performance
    (84)
    Story
    (84)

    Still recovering from breaking up with her boyfriend and alienating half the people in town, Skye Denison has sworn off men - but she hires sexy contractor Beau Hamilton to renovate the old house she inherited. After all, who can ignore his qualifications? Golden hair, bronzed chest, muscular thighs - he’s just too good to be true. Sure enough, he has a reputation for conning the ladies. But before the not so nave Skye can fire the hunk, he turns up dead.

    Karen says: "Liked it - But not my favorite"
    "Liked it - But not my favorite"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I enjoy all the Scumble River Mysteries because I have become attached to the characters. The narrator is always great as well. There are a few things that prevent this one from being a favorite. I was very much looking forward to some exciting changes in Skye's love life in this book. I had gotten tired of her previous relationship and was very much looking forward to a new relationship in this book. But it never really makes progress. Skye spends a lot of time being obsessed about "taking it slow" and when she does get about to get close to her new man, something prevents it every time. So that was a letdown. The mystery was okay except that it was the only time that comes to mind where I knew who the guilty party was way before Skye did. She seemed a little clueless this time around.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Coming Clean

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Kimberly Rae Miller
    • Narrated By Kimberly Rae Miller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (265)
    Performance
    (236)
    Story
    (240)

    Kim Miller is an immaculately put-together woman with a great career, a loving boyfriend, and a tidy apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. You would never guess that Kim grew up behind the closed doors of her family’s idyllic Long Island house, navigating between teetering stacks of aging newspapers, broken computers, and boxes upon boxes of unused junk festering in every room - the product of her father’s painful and unending struggle with hoarding. In this moving coming-of-age story, Kim brings to life her rat-infested home and her childhood consumed by concealing her father’s shameful secret from friends.

    Margaret says: "Vicarious Hoarding"
    "Fascinating, and a Quick read"
    Overall
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    Story

    I am one of those people who is fascinated by hoarding and I have watched a ton of shows on TV about it, but this book was so much better than those shows. Getting to know the characters better and seeing them change over time really added dimension that is missing on those TV shows. It was particularly interesting to watch roles within the family change over time as Miller transitions from the child to an almost parental role in dealing with her parents. It is amazing how the background of challenges created such a strong person. I liked too that this was a book about a challenging childhood without being one of the many abuse memoirs. I liked Miller's narration too once I got over wishing she would speak just a little louder.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Murder of a Smart Cookie: A Scumble River Mystery, Book 7

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Denise Swanson
    • Narrated By Christine Leto
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (96)
    Performance
    (89)
    Story
    (88)

    Yard sales can bring out the worst in people. So when Scumble River school psychologist Skye Denison organizes a 100-mile yard sale, otherwise neighborly folk get downright nasty: her own mother creams a woman, and a battle of the sexes breaks out. But when her former boss is found murdered, nobody knows for sure how this cookie will crumble.

    Karen says: "My Favorite Scumble River So Far"
    "My Favorite Scumble River So Far"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For those of you who enjoy Skye and Scumble River but find her and Simon to be a bit goody goody and dull sometimes, this is the book for you. I had gotten bored with Simon, and in this book he isn't around much and Skye seems pretty bored by him too, so finally she was up to some more exciting things in her personal life. There is a lot of relationship drama with various couples in town in this book as well. It also shakes up the status quo because Skye is not in school in this one, she is running an enormous yard sale. As tends to happen there are a number of snooty newcomers in town trying to bully Skye and her small town cohorts. I did not know who the killer was in this one. At any rate I enjoyed a little something different in this one and am looking forward to seeing where it goes in the next book. And not too much Bunny in this one either - she only made me cringe once, though it was a big cringe. Narrator does a great job, voices are all spot on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Murder of a Pink Elephant: A Scumble River Mystery, Book 6

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Denise Swanson
    • Narrated By Christine Leto
    Overall
    (99)
    Performance
    (88)
    Story
    (89)

    When Skye Denison's brother forms a band called Pink Elephant, the town goes wild-maybe too wild. First, a groupie turns stalker, seducing the band members one by one. Then, one of the Pink Elephants winds up murdered. Who's to blame? Everyone seems to think it's the drummer - and now Skye has to clear her brother's name.

    Karen says: "Another Good Small Town Cozy"
    "Another Good Small Town Cozy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am a Scumble River fan and have enjoyed all the books in the series so far to various degrees. (I am not sure these would work well as stand alones - a lot of what I enjoy about them is from getting to know the town and its people in previous installments.) I think this one is definitely a step up from the last one, which was not a favorite. This book gets back to the focus on small town life and a lot is going on. We have a school dance, a mayoral election campaign, a developer trying to buy up farmland for an amusement park, drug dealing, a new bowling alley and of course. murder. Skye has a valid reason (other than her natural nosiness) for getting involved this time around since her brother Vince has managed to get himself in yet another sticky situation. I was getting a bit annoyed for a while with the depiction of all law enforcement though. I mean how likely is it that the police department of this small town has totally failed to notice a sudden meth problem and that they would need to be educated about it by Skye whose knowledge all came from some printouts someone gave her from the internet? Speaking of the internet and technology in general, this book has a dated feel (paperback is from 2004) because Skye doesn't know anything about the internet and cell phones still seem very rare. Emailing the police chief doesn't seem to be a possibility and Skye has to go to his house to reach him. In all fairness I think today's technology makes it harder to write mysteries. At least we don't go through all those elaborate reasons for some character not to be able to use their phone. (I remember a Rita Mae Brown mystery where there were so many unlikely occurrences happening just to explain why things that could have been resolved or avoided quickly by a cell phone call are not.) Swanson has her own quirks. In general I enjoy Skye even if she and Simon are a little too goody goody to be entirely accessible, but I can see why a friend says she is annoyed that Skye has to constantly go over her status as a plus sized woman - there are constant references to her curves, her bulk, her padding, etc. She gets attacked in this one by a mean spirited thin woman for her dessert consumption. Seriously though, Skye does eat a lot of cake! I didn't find Swanson at her most believable in the drug part of the plot, everyone just seemed so naive. But I enjoyed the small town atmosphere and the complex overlapping plot pieces and have already downloaded the next in the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Long Way Home: Chief Inspector Gamache, Book 10

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Louise Penny
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1004)
    Performance
    (904)
    Story
    (900)

    Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he'd only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. "There is a balm in Gilead," his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, "to make the wounded whole." While Gamache doesn't talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache's help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. "There’s power enough in Heaven," he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, "to cure a sin-sick soul." And then he gets up. And joins her.

    David Walker says: "Back in 3 Pines"
    "Happy Gamache is Back, but some issues"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I would think that in general if you have read all the books in this series, that you would want to read this one and that you would enjoy it. Penny really makes you feel connected to these characters. The end of the last book didn't linger on the happy ending so I was happy to return to the peaceful world of Three Pines and get back in touch with our characters in a more relaxed post retirement time. The book is really a search for a missing person rather than a murder investigation. I found it less stressful that the previous books. I have to say that at various times I really wished I remembered some of the past books better particularly A Rule Against Murder and whichever one had the Gilberts in it. You get a lot of what you expect from Penny - long deep discussions about art among other things and you wouldn't have gotten this far in the series without being able to enjoy or at least tolerate that. This is definitely not a stand alone book - none of them really are. I have always found the author to be more interested in Peter Morrow than I was, but he's actually more interesting when you just talk about him rather than have him on screen. There's some touching sadness at the end, and some over the top perhaps not entirely believable aspects of the mystery which may annoy some readers but I was satisfied with it overall.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Murder of a Barbie and Ken: A Scumble River Mystery, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Denise Swanson
    • Narrated By Christine Leto
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (99)
    Performance
    (91)
    Story
    (89)

    In search of a social life in Scumble River, Skye Denison has recently joined the GUMBettes - the ladies auxiliary of the men's Grand Union of the Mighty Bulls. Now she and her boyfriend Simon hobnob with the upwardly mobile professionals in town. But when a seemingly perfect couple is murdered, Skye discovers that success doesn't equal survival....

    Karen says: "Love the series, This one not my favorite"
    "Love the series, This one not my favorite"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I always enjoy a Scumble River mystery. I enjoyed this one as well, but it wasn't my favorite for a few reasons. In this book, Skye and Simon are trying to blend in with other classy couples. The people they end up with aren't the most pleasant pleasant characters and the book takes us to some aspects of life in this small town that definitely turned me off. (I don't want to give anything away, but some people you just don't even want to imagine naked.) We also have the introduction of the character of Simon's mother Bunny, who is especially annoyiong on audio and who brings out two qualities in Skye that are not my favorites either - (1) her wimpiness or is that small town hospitality? and (2) her preachiness - for example, I think it is perfectly ok for someone who had been betrayed and abandoned as a child not to pursue a relationship with that parent. Overall it was one of the more forgettable plots (it took me a few minutes just now to even remember who did it), but I will keep on with the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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