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Nancy J

Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover

Tornado Alley OK | Member Since 2011

ratings
205
REVIEWS
108
FOLLOWING
16
FOLLOWERS
161
HELPFUL VOTES
467

  • Society's Child: My Autobiography

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Janis Ian
    • Narrated By Janis Ian
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (441)
    Performance
    (408)
    Story
    (408)

    Janis Ian was catapulted into the spotlight in 1966 at the age of 15, when her soul-wrenching song "Society's Child" became a hit. But this was only the beginning of a long and illustrious career. In Society's Child, Janis Ian provides a relentlessly honest account of the successes and failures - and the hopes and dreams - of an extraordinary life.

    Pamela says: "I know why this won the grammy"
    "A Remarkable Life, Recounted with Candor"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Celebrity autobiographies always seem better to me if they are narrated by the celebrity. In Society's Child, Janis Ian reads her own story. While she is not a practiced or dramatic narrator, hearing the book in her own voice increases the listener's personal experience of the events Ian has gone through. As an added bonus, each time the text refers to or discusses a particular song of hers (including at the beginning of each chapter) Ms Ian plays the guitar and sings at least a few bars of the song.

    She has led an interesting, and not always very happy, life. Born in 1951 during the McCarthy Commie-hunting days, she had to move with her family from place to place in the New York/New Jersey area because her parents' left-leaning politics made them targets of the FBI and similar organizations, and her father had to keep changing teaching jobs. When she was 13, she wrote "Society's Child," and was touring with the song by the time she was 15. At many of those performances she was baited and threatened by people in the audience, accused of being a "n____-lover". Hard to take when you're 15.

    Janis Ian went through a number of travails, many of which seem to have been the result of youth and a too-trusting nature. Several times in her adult life, she ended up close to penniless, and had to scramble to make a living. At the age of 27 she married a Portuguese man who turned out to be both emotionally and physically abusive. Getting out of that marriage while dealing with the IRS over taxes that were never paid by her tax accountant was slow and grueling. Eventually she found the woman who has been her partner for many years, and life has become brighter and fulfilling.

    Of course not all of the book is dark. There are many interesting stories, including her meetings and friendships with Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, and the legendary acting coach Stella Adler; and the background and writing of "At Seventeen." And she discusses the happy times in her life.

    A number of times in this book, Ian says that she often did not ask for help or even discuss many of her problems because those matters were too personal and she was very uncomfortable discussing personal things. After a number of years in therapy, she was able in her autobiography to reveal and discuss highly personal matters, and she was able to read them in this recording. In the end, what you get from this book is the story of a strong, brave woman who has been through a lot and has managed to reach a balance in her life. Well worth a listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Silkworm

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Robert Galbraith
    • Narrated By Robert Glenister
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1236)
    Performance
    (1154)
    Story
    (1148)

    When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows.

    Crystal says: "A Yawner"
    "Second in the series even better than the first"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In "The Silkworm," J.K. Rowling, aka Robert Galbraith, proves that she can write and develop characters in adult detective fiction just as magically as she did in YA fiction where the characters themselves were surrounded by magic. She captivated us through a 7-book series in Harry Potter. Now she/he has created detective Cormoran Strike and Robin, his assistant/protege wannabe. In this second book both Cormoran and Robin grow and become stronger, more mature, and more comfortable with themselves.

    Along with the exceptional character development, "Galbraith" provides the reader with lots of characters who are quirky, to say the least, and a great plot which had me keeping up but not able to foresee the twists and turns.

    Robert Glenister takes the story and adds even more magic with his narration. He has settled into these characters and, despite a deep voice, he creates believable female voices. All in all, this was a wonderful listening experience. I can't wait for the next book in the series!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Profiler's Daughter: Sky Stone, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By P. M. Steffen
    • Narrated By Gabrielle de Cuir
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (786)
    Performance
    (712)
    Story
    (709)

    The Profiler's Daughter is a psychologically haunting thriller that combines murder mystery, love triangle, and family intrigue in one satisfying page burner. Sky Stone was born into the wealth and privilege of Boston's oldest Brahmin family but chooses instead to follow in the footsteps of her deceased father, legendary FBI profiler Monk Stone. In the chilly morning hours before the Boston Marathon, when a beautiful university student is found strangled and mutilated, her body left at the base of Heartbreak Hill, Sky returns from self-imposed exile to investigate.

    Irene L. Culkeen says: "What a great find"
    "Some Character Development, Please!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I purchased this Audiobook as a result of some good reviews by other listeners whose reviews I respect. Alas, I was not impressed. At times I felt like I was listening to a poorly-written teenage adventure novel. (My apologies to the many extremely well-written and imaginative young adult novels.) I found the main character, Sky Stone, a one-dimensional character who repeatedly goes off on tangents motivated either by anger or by hormones, often ending up in very uncomfortable situations. Secondary characters were not much better, and that only because they appeared in the story for shorter periods of time.

    I was made even more aware of the lack of development of the characters in this book when I listened to my next book, The Silkworm, written by J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith, and experienced the marvelous, three-dimensional characters which that writer produces.

    That said, the plot of The Profiler's Daughter was fairly engaging, although there were a few too many red herrings. I did enjoy the depiction of the rather stormy relationship of Sky and her Grandmother. I found the narration to be adequate.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Talking Heads

    • ORIGINAL (3 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Alan Bennett
    • Narrated By Alan Bennett, Full Cast
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (16)

    Performed by the author and five of Britain's leading actresses, Alan Bennett's tales are full of quirky, insightful detail that bring the characters vividly to life. From Julie Walters' portrayal of an actress seeking fame to Anna Massey's alcoholic vicar's wife, these individuals are linked by their self-delusion, desperation, and vulnerability.

    hh says: "classic"
    "Quirky, funny and brilliant"
    Overall
    Performance
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    Alan Bennett is my all-time favorite writer of dialogue and monologue. He is a master at showing a character's inner feelings without the character's actually knowing he or she is revealing much of anything. And he has an uncanny knack for creating the talk of women: every line, even when pretty far out, sounds absolutely true to the character.

    These talents make the "Talking Heads" monologues memorable, ironic and funny at the same time that they are moving and powerful. In particular, "A Lady of Letters," with Patricia Routledge, and "Bed Among the Lentils," with Anna Massey demonstrate the quiet lives of desperation lived by many women.

    This is material guaranteed to make you laugh or chuckle and yet be moved by the speakers. Highly recommended!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A Kiss Before Dying

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Ira Levin
    • Narrated By Mauro Hantman
    Overall
    (308)
    Performance
    (272)
    Story
    (273)

    Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing--not even murder--to get where he wants to go. For he has dreams; plans. He also has charm, good looks, sex appeal, intelligence. And he has a problem. Her name is Dorothy; she loves him, and she's pregnant. The solution may demand desperate measures.

    karen says: "Nothing like a classic....."
    "An Exceptional Groundbreaking Crime Drama"
    Overall
    Performance
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    When you listen to this book, it seems as fresh and current as it was when first published in 1953, with a main character psychopath/sociopath who is charming and ruthless, preying on young women and willing to kill to get what he wants.

    Ira Levin was 23 when "A Kiss Before Dying" was published, and I marvel at the taut, complex and frightening plot which he produced. This is especially true when you consider that his other works through his lifetime included "No Time For Sergeants," "The Boys From Brazil," "Rosemary's Baby," and "The Stepford Wives."

    While I had previously seen a movie of this story, I had never read the book. The book is sooo much better at building the suspense and keeping you guessing. The author even manages to keep the reader guessing for a while over which of three possible young men is the culprit.

    The recording also contains an informative introduction about the author and the book, and how the book was received when it was first published.

    Highly recommended to anyone who appreciates taut and careful plotting, and enjoys classic mystery stories.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Secret Vanguard

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Michael Innes
    • Narrated By Matt Addis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    Successful minor poet, Philip Ploss, lives a peaceful existence in ideal surroundings, until his life is upset when he hears verses erroneously quoted as his own. Soon afterwards, he is found dead in the library with a copy of Dante's Purgatory open before him.

    Nancy J says: "Good World War II Espionage Tale"
    "Good World War II Espionage Tale"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In "The Secret Vanguard," the 5th book in the Appleby series, Michael Innes starts the plot with a dead poet, then takes us on a wild ride around the English countryside as it was in 1940. Characters are kidnapped by strange foreigners, escapes are engineered, then escapees have to play desperate games of evasion, only to be caught again. As the story goes along, you are told that these bad guys are German agents, and if you stay alert, you will be told how all of this is tied to the murdered poet. The story is great fun, and reminds me a bit of "The Thirty-nine Steps" by John Buchan, which dealt with World War I spies in England.

    I enjoy Innes's literate writing, his plots and his characters, especially Inspector Appleby, who is ordered by the Government to join in the chase after the Germans. Matt Addis delivers his usual excellent narration in this story, performing in both educated and regional working class accents in a polished and effective manner.

    An excellent way to spend a day or two (or a long drive) listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Pamela Aidan
    • Narrated By George Holmes
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (209)
    Performance
    (88)
    Story
    (91)

    As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley's persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows, as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

    Douglas says: "The Spirit of Austen Enchanted"
    "Well done by both author and narrator - great fun."
    Overall
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    Like other reviewers, I must confess that I have an addiction to all those sequels, variations, and other books which I just call "Austen genre." I have read quite a few and will continue to read more, even if they turn out to be disappointing attempts by writer and/or narrator.

    Pamela Aidan's trilogy ("A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman") is among the very best of the Austen genre. Aidan writes quite well, conveying the atmosphere, culture, and daily life of the English upper class during the Regency Period. In addition, she provides a great deal of information about the politics, foreign affairs, and legal matters of that Period. And she does all this while staying very close to Jane Austen's characters and plot in Pride and Prejudice. I found her suppositions about the true natures of the P&P characters to be completely believable and understandable: her Darcy never puts a foot wrong or betrays his principles (until he sees that his principles are mistaken or no longer valid). I enjoyed seeing the fleshing-out of characters like Georgianna and Mr. Bingley, and the introduction of new characters, especially Fletcher, Darcy's valet.

    As to the narrator, George Holmes, I had no trouble with his reading. While his cadence is a bit different because of pauses between phrases, the pauses are very slight and, to my mind, create a less-hurried cadence, one more suited to the age in which the book is set. It is my understanding from quite a bit of reading that the upper classes in the Regency Period actually did talk slowly, because they seldom had any sort of deadline which required urgency. In addition, I believe that George Holmes' voice is very well-suited to this book -- light, somewhat delicate, and very much like the voice of a Regency aristocrat (as I have imagined them or heard them in BBC productions).

    This was a very enjoyable read, and I have already started volume 2 of the Trilogy.

    RECOMMENDED.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Death Comes to the Village: A Kurland St. Mary Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Catherine Lloyd
    • Narrated By Susannah Tyrrell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (25)
    Performance
    (23)
    Story
    (23)

    A wounded soldier and a rector's daughter discover strange goings-on in the sleepy village of Kurland St. Mary in Catherine Lloyd's charming Regency-set mystery debut. Major Robert Kurland has returned to the quiet vistas of his village home to recuperate from the horrors of Waterloo. However injured his body may be, his mind is as active as ever. Too active, perhaps. When he glimpses a shadowy figure from his bedroom window struggling with a heavy load, the tranquil faade of the village begins to loom sinister....

    Sara says: "A Happy Surprise!"
    "Well-written Regency Mystery with a Twist"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Set in the village of Kurland St. Mary, "Death Comes to the Village" is the first in a projected series. The mystery plot is intriguing, with several twists along the way, featuring two missing maids from two households, and a series of thefts of small items from the houses of each of the wealthier families in the area. The identity of the villains is not who we usually would suspect, and the author keeps the secret well through most of the book.

    The characters are even more intriguing, in my opinion, particularly Miss Lucy Harrington, the oldest daughter of the Rector, considered by some to be an old maid in her early 20's. Unlike the heroines in most Regency Romances I have read, this young woman chafes under the strictures imposed upon her by society. Since her mother died in childbirth when Lucy was 15, Lucy has had to act as nursemaid to her 7-year-old twin brothers and as her father's housekeeper and hostess, fulfilling the duties her mother would have performed. She has no prospect of escaping those duties, since her father views the arrangement as a permanent one and intends to send her beautiful younger sister to London for a coming out season.

    In rebellion, she becomes involved in investigating the disappearance of the maids and the thefts, in an uneasy alliance with Major Robert Kurland, the wealthy local squire, who is bedridden while he recovers from injuries suffered in the battle of Waterloo. He is rude, with a quick temper, and they argue as much as they work together. Both main characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. Other characters, while not as finely drawn, are still interesting and entertaining.

    Narrator Susannah Tyrrell has an unusual voice and delivery which bothered me a bit at the beginning, but I soon grew used to it and decided that it was perfect for this book. Her change of voices and delivery of both high class and low class regional accents sounded wonderful to this American's ear. And she dealt well with scenes of suspense and violence.

    I enjoyed this book a lot, and I look forward to listening to the series as it progresses.

    Well worth a credit!

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Death on Blackheath: A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel, Book 29

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Anne Perry
    • Narrated By Davina Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (104)
    Performance
    (94)
    Story
    (92)

    As commander of the powerful Special Branch, Thomas Pitt has the job of keeping Britain safe from spies and traitors. So there' s no obvious reason why he is suddenly ordered to investigate two minor incidents: the blood, hair, and shards of glass discovered outside the home of naval weapons expert Dudley Kynaston, and the simultaneous disappearance of Mrs. Kynaston' s beautiful lady's maid. But weeks later, when the mutilated body of an unidentified young woman is found near Kynaston' s home, Pitt realizes that this is no ordinary police investigation.

    Nancy J says: "Another great Special Branch tale."
    "Another great Special Branch tale."
    Overall
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    "Death on Blackheath" is the tenth book which portrays Pitt as a member of Special Branch, a government agency concerned with security, espionage and government secrets. When Anne Perry first moved Pitt from the police to Special Branch, I had difficulty adjusting: the espionage and thriller parts just didn't ring true for me. But I hung in there, believing that Perry would get it together so that Special Branch would be as believable and engrossing as the earlier police novels were. And the last few Special Branch books did finally come up to the quality of plot and style that I had so enjoyed in the police stories.

    In this latest installment, Pitt and Stoker of Special Branch are called to investigate matters which would not otherwise come under their jurisdiction, except that they occured at the home of Mr. Kenyston, an important scientist doing secret weapons work for the government. As things progress, bodies are discovered near the same home, all causing Pitt to focus on Kenyston. It turns out that some of those things were intended just to create that focus.

    Anne Perry writes with her usual fine eye for detail, both physical and emotional detail, and describes minute details of her characters that allow the reader to see the faces, and the new lines caused by aging, hard work, fear and other factors.She allows us to understand and feel what the characters are feeling, and the exceptional narration of Davina Porter makes us feel the fear, the happiness, the love and the hatred that the characters experience. Many of Perry's continuing characters appear in this installment. This book may be one of my favorite Pitt books, because it also lets us see, and feel, new love between two of my favorite Perry characters.

    Highly recommended!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Fingersmith

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Sarah Waters
    • Narrated By Juanita McMahon
    Overall
    (360)
    Performance
    (295)
    Story
    (302)

    Orphaned as an infant, Susan Trinder was raised by Mrs. Sucksby, “mother” to a host of pickpockets and con artists. To pay her debt, she joins legendary thief Gentleman in swindling an innocent woman out of her inheritence. But the two women form an unanticipated bond and the events that follow will surprise every listener. Fingersmith was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize, and was chosen as book of the year 2002 by more organizations than any other novel. Sarah Waters was named Author of the Year at the 2003 British Book Awards.

    shopper from Playa del Rey says: "The BEST BOOK I"ve read this year!"
    "Wonderful Settings, Plot and Characters!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story


    "Fingersmith" is the award-winning, masterful exhibition of Sarah Waters' exceptional skills in creating settings so real the reader can see them clearly and characters who are fully developed and who act like real human beings. In this book, the setting created is Dickension London and neighboring areas, and the characters, both lower and upper class, are ones who would feel perfectly comfortable among the characters created in Dickens' various stories.

    Add to that setting and those characters a plot which would outdo even Dickens with its many twists and turns, leading the reader toward an inevitable conclusion, then at the last moment adding one more element and turning toward another inevitable conclusion, and then turning again. Waters keeps you guessing almost up to the end.

    From the first words of "Fingersmith," I was completely engrossed. First because of the exceptional voice of narrator Juanita McMahon, quite low and velvety, speaking in the accents of the London slums. Then I became caught up with the characters and became embroiled in the plot. I remained engrossed right to the very last words of the story, more than 23 hours later. By then, I had laughed and cried at and with these characters, and I didn't want to let them go. I wished for a longer book or a sequel.

    Some people have called this soft lesbian porn because the relationship between the two leading characters, both women, is gradually recognized by each of them as being love.
    There is only one scene which contains a brief physical act between them, and it is described in such euphemistic Victorian terms that our more hardened modern sensibilities might barely notice it. For each woman, it is the love she feels for the other that is important and is almost the only source of joy in her life.

    If you like Dickensian stories or settings, you should enjoy this book. Even if you don't enjoy such things, but do appreciate exceptional writing skill, I would recommend this book to you. There are passages in "Fingersmith" which were so well drawn that they took my breath away. Obviously, I recommend this book very highly.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Broken Homes: A Rivers of London Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Ben Aaronovitch
    • Narrated By Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
    Overall
    (351)
    Performance
    (334)
    Story
    (334)

    My name is Peter Grant, and I am a keeper of the secret flame - whatever that is. Truth be told, there's a lot I still don't know. My superior Nightingale, previously the last of England's wizardly governmental force, is trying to teach me proper schooling for a magician's apprentice. But even he doesn't have all the answers. Mostly I'm just a constable sworn to enforce the Queen’s Peace, with the occasional help from some unusual friends and a well-placed fire blast.

    Cliff says: "Finally, it's out!"
    "Great Series Getting Even Better!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story


    Somehow, I missed the release of Broken Homes, and just happened to see it when browsing a few days ago. I instantly snapped it up and began listening immediately. As you will see from my previous reviews, I love the Peter Grant series, and I think Ben Aaronovitch is the most creative, imaginative and entertaining writer I have run into in a long time.

    I see from the current reviews of this book that there is some difference of opinion about the story of Broken Homes. I am one of those who think this book is as good as the first in the series, and that's saying a lot. This story is different from the previous books, which had pretty linear stories. In Broken Homes, there are numerous story lines going on at the same time, and the reader can't be certain which of those stories (if any) have anything to do with what emerges as the main storyline. So, you are taken along on several roller coasters at once, having to trust that things will come together in the end (at least some things).

    Ordinarily, books like that drive me crazy, but in this case each separate storyline is so amusing and so much fun that I forget to worry about the end. Many characters from previous books in the series appear in Broken Homes, both friend and foe, and not many new characters are presented for you to keep track of. The members of the Folly seem to be getting more settled and together, and are actually able to work together without having huge fights. Arch-villain The Faceless Man remains the primary evil opponent, and is suitably vile both in person and through representatives.

    Then, near the end, there is a huge twist in the plot which puts everything you think you know about this story at a new angle, and I, for one, was left in shock, mouth hanging open.

    As with the previous books, I will say: READ THIS BOOK! But only after you have read the previous books in the Peter Grant series. That is really necessary to get the real flavor of the characters and their relationships.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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