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Houston, TX, United States | Member Since 2001

  • 14 reviews
  • 186 ratings
  • 936 titles in library
  • 8 purchased in 2015

  • A Fine Balance

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Rohinton Mistry
    • Narrated By John Lee

    In the India of the mid-1970s, Indira Gandhi's government has just come to power. It institutionalizes corruption and arbitrary force, most oppressive to the poorest and weakest people under its sway. Against this backdrop, in an unnamed city by the sea, four people struggle to survive. Dina, Maneck, and two tailors, the Untouchables Om and Ishvar, who are sewing in Dina's service, undergo a series of reversals.

    JOHN says: "Nearly a perfect book"
    "A Dickens for India: Rohinton Mistry"

    It's a big panorama of a novel that reminds me of Dickens: the intricate plot with lots of coincidences and characters than come back a convenient (or inconvenient) times, colorful secondary characters with names like Worm, Monkey Man, and Beggarmaster--and damning social criticism.

    The novel takes places mostly in 1976, with lots of backstory on the characters and an epilogue from 1984. Those are the years of Indira Ghandi, a period called in the novel "the emergency", when social programs intended to modernized the behemoth country turned into terror for ordinary citizens, mostly poor people. A "beautification" program causes those who had built illegal shacks on waste ground and rented them at exorbitant rates to turn into government workers who collect the "homeless" and take them--no questions asked--to a hard labor camp, after bulldozing the shacks. A "birth control" program in the hands of local inforcers turns into forced sterilization at camps set up outside of town where surgeons are forced to operate on men and women against their will, even with sanitary conditions are compromised.

    In the midst of the colorful and busy scene--in fictional places--four characters dominate: Dina who was terrorized by a well-meaning older brother, widowed after 3 years of marriage and who was then determined to support herself and remain independent; Maneck, a young college student from a Northern hill station, who can't stand the filthy college hostel and rents a room from Dina who was a school friend of his mothers; and Ishvar and Om, uncle and nephew, tailors who came from a small village where the family had already experienced much tragedy as a result of ancient persecution of those from the untouchable caste. These four slowly learn to trust and love each other and find happiness in a most unusual household--for awhile before additional tragedy befalls them.

    The enfolding of the story and the development of the characters was nothing less than masterful.

    21 of 23 people found this review helpful
  • The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Chris Ewan
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Charlie Howard travels the globe writing suspense novels for a living. To supplement his income - and keep his hand in - Charlie has a small side business: stealing for a very discreet clientele on commission. When a mysterious American offers Charlie 20,000 euros to steal two small monkey figurines to match the one he already has, Charlie is suspicious; the job seems too good to be true, and of course, it is. He soon finds the American beaten nearly to death, while the third figurine has disappeared.

    adrienne says: "A delightful surprise!"
    "Loved it but think I'd get tired of a whole series"

    The reader is perfect: understated, deadpan voIce which suits the character perfectly. There is no hard-boiled detective here. Very civilized.

    The main character is a writer of mystery books, a Brit, currently stuck on a significant detail of his latest MS . And he's also a thief. He meets an American in Amsterdam who asks him to steal two statues (2 of the 3 monkey see no evil trio) from the homes of two men he's just been talking to. He gives our hero the addresses and exact locations in the domicile. Has to be done immediately. Our guy hesitates but does it, chatting comfortably with the reader as he does so.

    But of course things go wrong. The man who hired him turns up dead and our hero is arrested for his murder. He gets a very helpful lawyer from the Embassy, who eventually turns out not to be as he seems. Other characters are not who they seem either. The plot twists and turns agreeably.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1: 1884-1933

    • ABRIDGED (6 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Blanche Wiesen Cook
    • Narrated By Blanche Wiesen Cook

    Blanche Wiesen Cook recreates Eleanor Roosevelt in all of her roles -- as a visionary, an activist, a political wife, and a woman far more independent than we knew. No other First Lady has had a greater influence in the course of democracy in this century, and no other book about Eleanor Roosevelt captures the complexity of her character - her wit, her passion, her boldness, and her commitment to greater dignity and security for all women and men.

    Veronika says: "Can't rate content, can't listen to this voice"
    "It's read too fast and it's a confusing abridgment"

    It's the rare author who is even a passable reader of his or her own work and even those who do a good job (like Barbara Kingsolver ) fall short of a professional reader. Cook reads way too fast—it's too fast when I crank it down to half time—and her voIce is grating.

    I have read thie 2 volumes of this book and liked it so much I suggested it for a bookgroup (vol I only) so I'm listening to this abridged version to refresh my memory. But I think the abridgment is poor too. The time sequence isn't clear ( she missed when FDR ran for VP) and really important parts of ER's life are given short shrift (eg. Allenwood and Madame Souvestre who was so influential, the details of Franklin's initial illness, the roles of the aunts in her life). These are critical to understanding ER, more critical than all the detail of her political life. I haven't quite finished it, but she left out Louie Howe coaching her to speak in public too.

    I heartily recommend this book, but not this recording and not this abridgment.

    To audible editors: surely you realize that "story" is an inappropriate term in nonfiction.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 1Q84

    • UNABRIDGED (46 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (translator), Philip Gabriel (translator)
    • Narrated By Allison Hiroto, Marc Vietor, Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

    A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver's enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 - "Q" is for "question mark". A world that bears a question....

    Dr. says: "Slow, Strange, and (ultimately) Satisfying"
    "Escaping Orwell"

    1Q84 s a book about parallel universes. Not in the SCIFI sense so much as in the moral and a human sense (though there are SCIFI elements). A book about what happens to people (in this case, Aomame and also Tengo) who get off the track in their lives and have to go through some scary stuff in order to get back. It starts with Aomame in a taxi on a freeway in a traffic jam (listening to Janacek's Sinfonetta--which becomes a theme) choosing to get out of the cab and climb down an emergency access stairs to the surface. When she leaves, the cab driver tells her to remember that appearances to the contrary there is just one reality.

    But soon it appears that's not true and the world she climbs down into seems different. Her first clue is that the police have different uniforms and are carrying heavier fire power than she remembers. Eventually the icon of the "alternative world" dubbed 1Q84 instead of 1984 (references to Orwell intended) is the second moon in the sky, smaller than the "real" moon, slightly lopsided and green.

    Aomame is a serial killer ... of sorts. She happened into that line of work though an elderly rich woman who becomes a client (Aomame is a physical therapist and trainer). Together they target men whose crimes (often but not always crimes against women) that seem not likely to be addressed by the legal system. Aomame's work with the body has put her on to a spot on the back of the neck where she can kill someone instantly leaving no marks. Her job often calls her out to use her skills to help busy people relax which gives her opportunity. She's devised a weapon--a thin needle she keeps in a pouch in her purse. The Dowager identifies the targets and arranges access. Aomame is convinced once the Dowager coaxes her that the men they target deserve to die.

    Tengo was a math prodigy in school but has lost interest in math and is playing around with being a writer. He's not published anything yet, but he writes on his days off from the cram school where he teaches math, though on one day a week he frolics with his married lover. He as no friends and few others he sees or talks to. He lives in a old, slightly run down apartment building, cooks for himself and writes in his spare time. When the novel opens, he has been working with Komatsu, the literary editor of a periodical that awards a prize for young and new writers. Tengo has contributed in the past and impressed Komatsu but has never won a prize. This time Komatsu shows Tengo an unusual manuscript which has caught his attention and which he thinks might win not only this prize but a bigger, more prestigious award if it's edited some (actually re-written). The author is a 17-year old girl. Komatsu wants to make into a "star" out of her which will bring money to his publishing house--and to himself and Tengo. Tengo is more that a little skeptical--after all it will be fraud--but he's a relatively passive young man and Komatsu is compelling. Besides Tengo is fascinated by the manuscript of Air Chrysalis.

    So we have two basically decent 30-year-olds who have been drifting and two determined and manipulative adults who influence them. It's important that neither Komatsu nor the Dowager is particularly evil. Each has a strong sense of morality and a determination to take matters into their own hands. Both demand (and in most ways deserve) loyalty. Both are loyal in return.

    Finally, there's a religious cult called Sakigaki that professes just to be a farming community in the countryside. No one knows much about them, but we learn from Professor Ebbesuno, who's informal guardian to the girl who wrote the manuscript, that she evidently ran away from Sakigaki at age 10 and came to live with the professor who was a friend to her parents. She will not talk about Sakigaki or her parents who have never tried to contact her.

    The major portion of the novel consists of sections devoted to Aomame and Tengo alternately. Not exactly first person narratives, mostly third person with the first person (thoughts mainly) printed in italics. We assume after the early chapters that there's some connection between the two but it's a long way into the novel before we learn that Tengo once held her hand when Aomame was a 10-year old girl ostracized in school because her family was associated with a strict religious group. Neither has ever forgotten that. Both somehow assume that the other (if they can find the person after 20 years) is the only person they can be close too, can love. And we learn that Aomame left her parents and their strict Seven-Day-Adventist-type religion at age 10. Tengo believes his strict father is not his real father and has only one enigmatic memory of his mother.

    Both eventually discover that they are living in an alternative world, one with two moons and a few others things askew. What happens in this alternative world (in 1Q84) can be impossible in the reality that we know and that they have known. Aomame first and then Tengo seem to recognize that they must meet in the present before either can escape back to the "real world".

    It's a multi-layered story which is at once a page turner and a story to contemplate.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Winds of Marble Arch

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 56 mins)
    • By Connie Willis
    • Narrated By Dennis Boutsikaris

    Tom, an American, is in London for a conference when he begins to experience unusual forces in the Underground. Is it an easily-explained phenomenon - or ghosts from Britain's past?

    Ellen says: "Love Willis' books"

    I've been looking for this everywhere, but was disappointed. It was repetitive and tedious and the uplifting ending was not justified by what went before. I guess I was expecting time travel rather than a wishy-washy "influence" from the past.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Blackout

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Connie Willis
    • Narrated By Katherine Kellgren, Connie Willis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In her first novel since 2002, Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds - great and small - of ordinary people who shape history. In the hands of this acclaimed storyteller, the past and future collideand the result is at once intriguing, elusive, and frightening.

    Monica says: "Double review - Blackout and All Clear"

    This is a good book. I'm fascinated by London during the Blitz so read everything--fiction or nonfiction--I can find about it. I also read Doomsday Book years ago (and bought a paperback recently to reread it) and was fascinated by the vision of historical research done by actually visiting the past. BUT this book leaves the reader totally up in the air. Clearly the situation is resolved in the follow-up book, All Clear, but novels need to have some internal integrity which this one does not, ending as it does--or not ending as it does. As it is, it reeks of the marketplace--how to ensure that the reader buys the second book. Even serial novels written for kids have more internal integrity in each novel. That said, I just put All Clear in my cart....

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68

    • ABRIDGED (9 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Taylor Branch
    • Narrated By Joe Morton

    At Canaan's Edge concludes America in the King Years, a three-volume history that will endure as a masterpiece of storytelling on American race, violence, and democracy. Pulitzer Prize-winner and best-selling author Taylor Branch makes clear in this magisterial account of the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King, Jr., earned a place next to James Madison and Abraham Lincoln in the pantheon of American history.

    Susan says: "I hate abridged books"
    "I hate abridged books"

    I listened to unabridged versions of the first two volumes of this work and loved every word. This was got very confusing and I missed the detail. I have the book and I guess I'll have to read it. Never again will I try abridged versions.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Oscar Wilde
    • Narrated By Alec Sand
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    A young man commits all types of sin, but only his portrait shows the ravages of his life. Oscar Wilde’s Faustian classic. Gothic horror at it's best.

    Name withheld because stalkers Google me and I find it annoying says: "Disappointed"

    I'd have been more impressed when I was younger, but somehow this escaped me and I'd never read it. Of course, I knew basically what is was all about. Now it seems awfully contrived--interesting as a moral tale but not so much as a novel. What I liked best: the wonderfully witty dialog. What I like least: the narrator. He hadn't a clue how to pronounce anything English--names of people and places were wrong and the pacing was off too.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Khaled Hosseini
    • Narrated By Atossa Leoni
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss, and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them, in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul, they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.

    David says: "Somber but gripping"

    The narrator is excellent, sounds Afghani, but I hated the book. I'll grant the author has a talent for story telling but for this one I can only assume that he made a list of all the horrible things that could happen to a female in Afghanistan and then outlined a novel to include every one of them. It feels like propoganda to me. I've read personal accounts by Afgani women where the story is what happened to them. That's honest. I've read articles about woman under the Taliban with some egegious examples. That's honest. But this novel is dishonest. It takes advantages of people's desire to read about atrocity after atrocity and it assumes that readers in English are so uninformed that they can't get information except when it's also entertainment.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Martha Raddatz
    • Narrated By Joyce Bean
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In April 2004, soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division were on a routine patrol in Sadr City, Iraq, when they came under surprise attack. Eight Americans would be killed and more than 70 wounded. Back home, as news of the attack began filtering in, the families of these same men feared the worst. This intimate portrait of the close-knit community of families Stateside, the unsung heroes of the military, distinguishes The Long Road Home from other stories of modern warfare.

    Ron says: "Well Done Martha!"
    "Narrator spoils this one"

    I liked the book a lot but hated the narrator. I agree with the last reviewer than a male reader would have been better. But in addition, this reader dragged on--I wished I had a control to speed her up. I will not choose this reader again.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The God Delusion

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Discover magazine recently called Richard Dawkins "Darwin's Rottweiler" for his fierce and effective defense of evolution. Prospect magazine voted him among the top three public intellectuals in the world (along with Umberto Eco and Noam Chomsky). Now Dawkins turns his considerable intellect on religion, denouncing its faulty logic and the suffering it causes.

    Rick Just says: "Dangerous Religion"
    "The idea of religion"

    I am reading a lot of books about the negative effect of religion these days. I started out with no intention to read any of them, but first tackled Sam Harris’ The End of Faith because an online discussion was just too interesting not to participate. I found the Harris book an eye opener. The number one idea I took away from it was that it doesn’t make sense to exempt religious ideas from any sort of logical argument. Our culture tacitly agrees that anyone can believe anything they want and the result is often that once someone interjects a religious sentiment into the argument or discussion, the debaters silently slink off, whether they agree or not, on the theory that the person is “entitled to his belief”. Believe it or not it had not occurred to me that that practice was not exactly correct. It was tolerant and humane. Harris convinced me it was also dangerous. I think he also convinced me that religion was dangerous when it was “moderate”. Then I read Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy which was notable primarily for the statistics on the numbers of Americans who believe literally in the Bible and the growth of fundamentalist believers and churches—at the expense of the mainline protestant denominations like the one I was raised in. In the interim I read several articles and speeches such as the one by Bill Moyers on why Christians in thrall to The Rapture don’t care about conservation because they expect the world to end soon anyway. (I see he’s even published a short book on the subject called Welcome to Doomsday). The God Delusion is my third read on this topic in less than a year, despite the fact that I would not say that religion is one of my priority topics.

    I must say that while my response to Dawkins’ book was a series of "buts", in all honesty I must stay that he had anticipated my responses and gave answers that satisfied me. Which is not the same thing as saying I loved the book.

    19 of 28 people found this review helpful

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