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Sand

So...you're telling me I can pay people to read books to me whilst I do other things?

Tampa, FL, United States | Member Since 2006

164
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 39 reviews
  • 42 ratings
  • 768 titles in library
  • 96 purchased in 2014
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29

  • The Signature of All Things: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Gilbert
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1238)
    Performance
    (1129)
    Story
    (1136)

    In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the 18th and 19th centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker - a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia.

    Molly-o says: "Don't miss this one"
    "Satisfying overall, but curious about narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    On the whole, I love the premise and execution of this story--the details and historical context were a true pleasure from beginning to end. And, much as I hate to admit it (I'm one of those Eat, Pray, Love eye-rollers), the overall message was pretty inspiring.

    The only thing that bothered me was--excellent as Juliet Stevenson is--why this book was narrated in a British accent. Stevenson's Dutch accents are wonderful, but her American accents seemed all wrong for the period--flat and nasal when educated northeastern Americans like Alma, Prudence, Retta and Ambrose in the early- to late-1800's would arguably have sounded more British than the weird regional twang Stevenson was channeling.
    I'm being very picky here because Stevenson is such a pro--this is definitely not a huge issue with this book, because the actual dialogue-to-narrative ratio is actually pretty miniscule, but this is an ambitious novel and the heroine and setting are distinctly American, so I definitely felt a little dissonance whenever the native-born American characters started talking.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Betty Halbreich, Rebecca Paley
    • Narrated By Jane Curtin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (23)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (23)

    Eighty-six-year-old Betty Halbreich is a true original. A tough broad who could have stepped straight out of Stephen Sondheim's repertoire, she has spent nearly forty years as the legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, where she works with socialites, stars, and ordinary women off the street. She has helped many find their true selves through clothes, frank advice, and her own brand of wisdom. She is trusted by the most discriminating persons - including Hollywood's top stylists - to tell them what looks best.

    Lauren Medina says: "Worth every moment"
    "Inspirational, but not in the way I expected"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    To me, this book was one-third fashion memoir, one-third shopping advice, and one-third personal-evolution confessional.

    Although I came for the fashion and shopping dish, it was actually Halbreich's personal story that resonated with me the most.
    She grew up pampered and privileged, married a fairytale Prince Charming, but (surprise!) didn't live happily ever after. Following the familiar mid-century trajectory, by the early 70's her marriage was over and she was figuring things out with the help of a therapist.
    It was the job at Bergdorf's that resurrected her sense of self back then, and there's no question it's still what keeps her so sharp and relevant at 87 years old.

    If you're a fashion addict, fashion historian, aspiring designer--or all of the above--you really can't pass up this detailed, name-dropping, autobiographical romp through 20th century fashion design.
    There are also some interesting insights into how merchandise in stores like Bergdorf's is manipulated and hidden from regular customers by commissioned salespeople who "hide and hold" prime sale items for their best customers or themselves. (If you really want the best selection in your size, shop a week or two after a big sale or promotion, when everything "on hold" gets returned to the racks.)

    And if you're trying to decide between the print and Audible version of this book, let me tell you: Jane Curtin SO perfectly channels Betty (whom you can watch on several video clips on the web) that the Audible' version's a no-brainer.
    I'm guessing Curtin narrated this because she knows Betty personally (she was quoted as a client in Halbreich's first book), but she is also such a pleasure to listen to--I'm seriously in love with her accent and diction-- that I hope she narrates many more books in the future.





    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Story of Land and Sea

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Katy Simpson Smith
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Drawn to the ocean, 10-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father's stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife, Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

    Sand says: "Grew on me--reminded me of Cold Mountain"
    "Grew on me--reminded me of Cold Mountain"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    With all the advanced hype for this book, I was expecting something more sweeping and detailed than this--more like The Goldfinch or The Signature of All Things. I'd pre-ordered so I didn't know it was only 7.5 hours, which, of course, means this a much smaller, tighter novel--despite it's 30+ year timespan and historical setting.

    Even so, I assumed it would at least grab me from the beginning, which it definitely didn't.
    Yes, the prose is arresting and interesting and full of beautiful phrases, but Edoardo Ballerini's almost singsong pronouncement of every sentence of part 1 (which is almost all narration and inner monologue) made the writing sound almost ridiculously pretentious at times. But maybe I was just feeling a little duped by all the press surrounding this debut novel.
    Or maybe it just took me a while to get into the rhythm of the book.

    Whatever the reason, once I started part 2 (there are 3 parts) I was hooked. And once Ballerini got some dialogue and deeper character development to sink his teeth into, he was excellent. And although the book is about grief and suffering, it--like all really good fiction--ultimately makes you feel closer to what it means to be alive and human, if that makes sense.

    As for the historical aspect, the Revolutionary War setting is more or less just background to what amounts to a story about the personal interactions between a handful of people in that place at that time. The few period details that are included are meticulously chosen and never gratuitous, but there are nonetheless some nice history-nerd-worthy passages, particularly regarding textiles: bolts of silk with floral vine patterns, a packet of yellow thread, and women at a soldier's tea reflexively smoothing their stomachers.

    If I had to compare this with another novel, I would say it's reminiscent of Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Different war and different type of plot (Cold Mountain is more of a quest/journey thing) but similar elegant writing styles that evoke a very specific region and place in American history, as well as equally memorable characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • London Fields

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Martin Amis
    • Narrated By Steven Pacey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (50)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (40)

    The murderee is Nicola Six, a "black hole" of sex and self-loathing who is intent on orchestrating her own extinction. The murderer may be Keith Talent, a violent lowlife whose only passions are pornography and darts; or the rich, honorable, and dimly romantic Guy Clinch. As Nicola leads her suitors towards the precipice, London--and, indeed, the whole world--seems to shamble after them in a corrosively funny novel of complexity and morality.

    Dr. says: "Brilliant book, brilliantly narrated!"
    "Big chewy novel, excellent narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was my first exposure to Martin Amis--I'd seen a couple of references by literary types who'd cited this as one of the top 50 or 100--or whatever--novels of the late 20th century.

    For the close listener, this is definitely a very satisfying, dense work of fiction by a very talented and original writer. And for all its literary merits, it's a surprisingly entertaining and engaging listen.

    Written in 1989 and set in 1999, parts of the book admittedly have a somewhat dated feel. The digressions on pornography and masturbation, for instance--which at the time of publication were still viewed as quite modern and "raw"--seem almost quaint by today's standards.
    Yet other things, like Keith Talent's obsession with TV and video (and even his being featured in an early version of reality TV) are oddly prescient considering their pre-internet context.

    But be prepared to rewind; Amis doesn't spell anything out, and there are enough soliloquies and extended rants (after all, this is 21+ hour download) for you to drift off and miss an essential character detail or plot point.

    Fortunately for such a long book, the audio narration is unbelievably good. Pacey's American accent as the New York-born narrator Samson Young is almost flawless (think a smarter/sarcastic Regis Philbin) although he does give himself away with certain pronunciations (i.e., he pronounces urinal as "yurINEnal" instead of "YURinal", or calf as "koff" instead of "kaff"). But I have yet to hear an English narrator master a totally perfect American accent, so that's a pretty small quibble...
    And it's worth having an English actor reading the novel because where he really shines is in his portrayal of East-ender Keith Talent. As such, this performance alone is worth the audio download, innit?

    I just learned that a 2014 movie version of this is scheduled for release this fall. I have my doubts that a film adaptation could successfully capture the scope and appeal of the novel, but who knows?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A Land Remembered

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Patrick D. Smith
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (177)
    Performance
    (159)
    Story
    (162)

    In this best-selling novel, Patrick D. Smith tells the story of three generations of the MacIveys, a Florida family who battle the hardships of the frontier to rise from a dirt-poor Cracker life to the wealth and standing of real estate tycoons. The story opens in 1858, when Tobias MacIvey arrives in the Florida wilderness to start a new life, and ends in 1968 with Solomon MacIvey, who realizes that the land has been exploited far beyond human need.

    Janice says: "They paved paradise . . ."
    "Great history; corny but wholesome story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As a transplant to Florida, I've long been familiar with the Railroad Baron narrative of Florida's post-Jacksonville development, which pretty much ignores the fact that non-native Americans were already migrating here long before Flagler and Plant (incentivized by government subsidies and competitive zeal) built their railways and snowbird resorts.

    So I found this book to be a welcome and well-researched history of the early Florida settlers who populated the central and rural parts of Florida that most people outside of the state don't ever see. (With the exception of Disney World, of course, which would have been in development as this story ends in 1968).

    It's also a nice depiction of American pioneer/frontier life in the mid-to-late 1800's, which we sometimes forget wasn't just a westward thing.

    But if you're not particularly interested in Florida, Florida history, or pioneer/frontier fiction, there's not a lot of complexity to this story.

    On the plus side, it's an excellent family PG listen--the characters are inspiring and morally admirable (unless they're totally despicable--there's no in-between in this novel). But that's also the downside--this is a classic man v. nature plot, and in this case nature turns out to be much more interesting and unpredictable than the man.

    In fact, the MacIveys are dead-ringers for the denizens of Lake Wobegon (all of the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are above average). The Seminole Indians are consistently wise and other-worldy, with a wonderful habit of appearing at really convenient times. And the depiction of the African-American Skittle feels somehow racist by modern standards as well, although it probably is more historically accurate than Tobias MacIvey's enlightened attitude towards him. (Isn't it amazing how every historical character created in modern popular fiction is always the ONE person in their community who bravely stands up against racial segregation?)

    But the action and dialogue are compelling, and Smith definitely knows how to tell a story.

    Paired with George Guidall's always-perfect narration, this is an enlightening and entertaining listen, especially if you're driving or walking in Florida.




    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • One Plus One: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Jojo Moyes
    • Narrated By Elizabeth Bower, Ben Elliot, Nicola Stanton, and others
    Overall
    (742)
    Performance
    (674)
    Story
    (680)

    Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math-whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can't afford to pay for. That's Jess' life in a nutshell - until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess' knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages...maybe ever.

    Kathy says: "Sometimes I need a book that is just fun to read."
    "Popular Chick Lit"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I would never buy a bag of Doritos, but if someone opened one and handed it to me and I was hungry, I would eat one or two. And then, because they're Doritos, I'd eat a ton more.

    And so it was with this book. I downloaded it based on a flashy Audible top banner promo, thinking it would be smart and sparkly Brit lit. I only later realized I was in the middle of yet another tired Jane Austen retread.
    This novel is a pleasant listen and the plot is skillfully rendered, but it's definitely beach-read/escapist/guilty pleasure material.

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Reading Like a Writer

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Francine Prose
    • Narrated By Nanette Savard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (103)
    Performance
    (40)
    Story
    (43)

    In her entertaining and edifying New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Francine Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters and discover why their work has endured. Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire listeners to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.

    Gare says: "Practical, literate, generous"
    "Well-played, Amazon!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Warning: Listening to this book will compel you to buy/download more books!
    Listening to this one is like being in your favorite literature/writing class in college...only there are so many books covered here your college courses surely never covered them all.
    Prose's analysis and observations only make you thirst for the original text, which is why I recently ordered the "Tales of Chekov" print set and downloaded Stephen Fry's narration of selected Chekov stories.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Transcriptionist

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Amy Rowland
    • Narrated By Xe Sands
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Lena, the transcriptionist, sits alone in a room far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the Record, the big city newspaper for which she works. For years, she has been the ever-present link for reporters calling in stories from around the world. Hooked up to a machine that turns spoken words to print, Lena is the vein that connects the organs of the paper. She is loyal, she is unquestioning, yet technology is dictating that her days there are numbered.

    Sand says: "Like a New Yorker short story"
    "Like a New Yorker short story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a skillfully-written slip of a story, carefully stuffed with semi-obscure literary references and allusions (don't worry--the author spells them all out for you, you dumb --er, I mean Dear-- Reader).

    The narrator/protagonist Lena is likable because she's like what all us close readers imagine ourselves to be: intellectual, introverted, full of quotes from stuff we read and memorized, but also super-sexy and rebellious on the inside.
    Rowland uses such fresh language and narration that, prose-wise there's not a cliche to be found anywhere-- until you get to the basic plot, which is so predictable and corny we have to ask ourselves if it's an ironic literary device, because, seriously, are you kidding me?

    But overall this was a pleasurable listen for me--but then I like New Yorker short stories a lot.
    And Xe Sands narrates this in just the voice I would conjure for Lena--she's well-cast and delivers brilliantly.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Closed Doors

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Lisa O'Donnell
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (10)

    Eleven-year-old Michael Murray is the best at two things: Keepy-uppies and keeping secrets. His family thinks he's too young to hear grown-up stuff, but he listens at doors; it's the only way to find out anything. And Michael's heard a secret, one that might explain the bruises on his mother's face. When the whispers at home and on the street become too loud to ignore, Michael begins to wonder if there is an even bigger secret waiting to be discovered.

    Sand says: "A lovely Audible treat"
    "A lovely Audible treat"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Whatever the format, this is a delightfully well- crafted novel, seen through the lens of an 11 year old male Scottish narrator. But Simon Vance's performance puts this Audible version into a whole 'nother category of great.
    It's funny and touching and wholly satisfying. A truly entertaining listen and totally worth the download!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Near-Death Experience and Journey into the Afterlife

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Eben Alexander
    • Narrated By Eben Alexander
    Overall
    (1778)
    Performance
    (1548)
    Story
    (1560)

    On November 10, 2008, Dr. Eben Alexander was driven into coma by a disease so lethal that only 1 in 10,000,000 survive. Seven days later, he awakened with memories of a fantastic odyssey deep into another realm that were more real than this earthly one - memories that included meeting a deceased birth sister he had never known existed. Dr. Alexander deployed all his knowledge as a scientist to find out whether his mind could have played a trick on him. In its shutdown state, there was no way it could have.

    Kelly says: "Compelling"
    "Not for serious seekers"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I consume a lot of audiobooks and realized I'd only been reviewing books that I felt were worth the commentary, and had been ignoring the ones I'm kind of embarrassed about.
    Which is a disservice to other members who, like me, often rely on reviews to help me decide what to download.

    In my younger years I was fascinated with NDE's, and a recent experience a friend told me about made me want to revisit the literature to see what was new. Alexander's account looked promising, so I downloaded it on a whim.
    It's interesting enough, but nothing distinguishes it from other NDE's--his claim that his brain was dead has been refuted and the truth is, he could have experienced everything during his reboot when he came out of his coma. And the fact that he calls himself a neuroscientist throughout the book (surgeons and scientists are two very different things in my mind) also put me off. There is nothing in this book that remotely "proves" there is an afterlife.

    So while I would love to believe his account and hope it's true, I can't recommend this book to anyone who is seriously searching for answers.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother's Milk

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Edward St. Aubyn
    • Narrated By Alex Jennings
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (88)
    Performance
    (81)
    Story
    (84)

    For more than 20 years, acclaimed author Edward St. Aubyn has chronicled the life of Patrick Melrose, painting an extraordinary portrait of the beleaguered and self-loathing world of privilege. This single volume collects the first four novels Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother's Milk, a Man Booker finalist - to coincide with the publication of At Last, the final installment of this unique novel cycle. By turns harrowing and hilarious, these beautifully written novels dissect the English upper class as we follow Patrick Melrose's story from child abuse to heroin addiction and recovery.

    Sand says: "Exquisitely written and heartwrenching"
    "Exquisitely written and heartwrenching"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I bought the Picador set of the Patrick Melrose novels on Amazon a year or so ago but only got around to reading the first volume a couple of months ago. I got hooked enough to check if there was an Audible version and...so there was.

    If you're considering this download it's important to understand that this series isn't "about" the modern English aristocracy, although the setting--and some of the characters--will definitely please hardcore anglophiles.
    What it IS about is one person's struggle to accept and overcome his inheritance-- in every sense of the word.

    So if you're looking for a "fun glimpse" into the contemporary English upper classes, this probably isn't your cup of tea.

    But if you recognize from the outset the superb quality of this writing--you'll know because you'll be rewinding and bookmarking constantly--you will thoroughly enjoy this exquisite compilation and Patrick Melrose's evolution through life's phases and milestones.

    Throughout, St. Aubyn has a delicious--almost Oscar Wildean-- way of distilling profound human realities into snappy literary soundbites; here is a sampling of my favorites:

    "At the beginning, there had been talk of using some of [my mother's] money to start a home for alcoholics. In a sense they had succeeded."

    "One of the troubles with being an infant was the difficulty of distinguishing incompetence from malice.."

    "At his age he either had to join the resistance or become a collaborator with death..."

    The only reason I gave the performance 4 stars was because, as mentioned in a previous review, Alex Jennings is perfection when it comes to every English language accent EXCEPT American ones. It truly mars an otherwise flawless performance, and should in no way deter you from downloading the book--just be prepared, if you are American, to cringe when the (thankfully rare) American characters speak!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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