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JJ

San Francisco, CA
  • 9
  • reviews
  • 193
  • helpful votes
  • 60
  • ratings
  • Boom Town

  • The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding... its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis
  • By: Sam Anderson
  • Narrated by: Sam Anderson
  • Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 327
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 299
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 297

Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stake their claims. Since then, it has been a city torn between the wild energy that drives its outsize ambitions and the forces of order that seek sustainable progress.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • OKC’s Past & Present Weaved Together

  • By dan on 09-09-18
  • Boom Town
  • The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding... its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis
  • By: Sam Anderson
  • Narrated by: Sam Anderson

Pretentious egotistism ruins a great premise

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-09-18

I'm usually a sucker for this kind of deep dive into overlooked yet poignant places, and I got very excited about the book after hearing Sam on 99% Invisible, but my attitude soon changed. Anderson, unfortunately, seems too interested in his own voice and writing ability, often getting in the way of his own storytelling. I would love to read a version of this book that treated the place with enough respect so as not to constantly remind the reader of the writer's aloof intellectually superior perspective. It reminds me of David Foster Wallace's essay on the Iowa State Fair without Wallace's underlying love for a place where he grew up.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Hillbilly Elegy

  • A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  • By: J. D. Vance
  • Narrated by: J. D. Vance
  • Length: 6 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39,785
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,788
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,726

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis - that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over 40 years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Enlightening!

  • By Gotta Tellya on 09-11-16

Good story, questionable politics

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-02-17

It gets weird when Vance blames small town working poor for their own problems. I too come from a town with very little opportunity for upward mobility. I'm from Kansas, but identify with a lot of this story. Later in the book I start to cringe as Vance falls into the same old tired bootstrap criticisms that do little but perpetuate poor people stereotypes. Those stereotypes allow people to look at the poor, shake their heads and say, "look what they've done to themselves" while people who "got out" write memoirs about beating the odds.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • The Grip of It

  • By: Jac Jemc
  • Narrated by: Amy McFadden, Michael David Axtell
  • Length: 6 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 120
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 115
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 116

Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move - prompted by James' penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check - is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between lake and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Julie's narrator was awful but the book was good

  • By veronica e on 08-29-17

Intimate haunted house story that digs deep

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-14-17

Jac Jemc masterfully dives into the twin psyches of a married couple confronted with a haunting that tugs hard on the threads of their unraveling marriage. Imagine the Amityville Horror but playing with the insecurities and anxieties of 21st century life. Jemc takes a deep breath and lays her characters bare, and it's easy to see yourself reflected in them.

  • Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

  • A Book by Patton Oswalt
  • By: Patton Oswalt
  • Narrated by: Patton Oswalt
  • Length: 3 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,374
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,075
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,073

Oswalt combines memoir with uproarious humor, from snow forts to Dungeons & Dragons to gifts from Grandma that had to be explained. He remem­bers his teen summers spent working in a movie Cineplex and his early years doing stand-up. Readers are also treated to several graphic elements, includ­ing a vampire tale for the rest of us and some greeting cards with a special touch.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • An interesting peek into the mind of Oswalt

  • By Cliff on 11-01-13

Lots of fun. Wish it was longer.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-12

Patton Oswalt has been one of my favorite comedians for a long time, and I'm probably exactly the target audience he had in mind while writing this book (nerdy, literate, and into R.E.M.), so yeah it won me over. But clocking in 3 hrs, 31 min, this felt more like an extended comedy album than a book, especially since Patton narrates it.

Patton is really on top of his game when he's on the biographical stuff. All the material about growing up in his hometown is brilliant. He knows what matters, and why it's poignant, and he brings it home in a way that's just enormously disarming and even touching. He lost me a little bit on some of the comedy bits he throws between the chapters, but I sort of count those as bonus material anyway, so it didn't bother me much. Speaking of bonus material, getting Michael Stipe to read his own lyrics was a nice little touch for the audio book.

The book is a series of essays that sort of kind of all connect together, and I wish there was more to it. By the time it ends it feels like it was just getting started, so it would be great if there was about twice as much material.

The Great Gatsby
    
    
        By:
        












    





    





    
        
            
            
                
            
        
        F. Scott Fitzgerald
    
    


    
    
        Narrated by:
        












    





    





    
        
            
            
                
            
        
        Tim Robbins
    
    


    
    Length: 5 hrs and 44 mins
    1,727 ratings
    Overall 4.1
  • The Great Gatsby

  • By: F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Narrated by: Tim Robbins
  • Length: 5 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,727
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,094
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,108

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's portrait of the Jazz Age in all its decadence and excess, is, as editor Maxwell Perkins praised it in 1924, "a wonder". It remains one of the most widely read, translated, admired, imitated, and studied 20th-century works of American fiction.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Something you won't fall asleep to...

  • By Mrs. Jewell on 01-18-05

Classic story, not crazy about the voice work

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-12

I bought this, as I'm sure many will, just to listen to Tim Robbins read it. As a longtime fan of "The Great Gatsby," I'm very familiar with the book, and thought this would make for a fun way to revisit the material.

Robbins is wholly at home in the role of Nick Carraway, and he's wonderful when he's reading for Tom Buchanan, but I had a hard time with his characterizations of any of the women, and, most importantly, with Gatsby himself. Robbins slips into a lazy sort of disconnected voice for Gatsby, as if he's constantly existing on another plane, never fully present. While that's arguably true to the character's mindset, it comes off as distracting and contrived. His Daisy and Jordan are worse, every word bent into an equally lazy lilt that made me want to fast forward every time I heard it.

The saving grace is the story itself of course. And Robbins' narration does help bring to life some of the descriptions of Gatsby's parties, and Nick's outsider perception of the entire ordeal. I would never warn anyone away from this book, but you might go with a different narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Team of Rivals

  • The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
  • By: Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
  • Length: 41 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,704
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,970
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 5,991

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry. Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautiful, Heartbreaking, and Informative

  • By JJ on 09-10-12

Beautiful, Heartbreaking, and Informative

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-12

"Team of Rivals" surprised me in so many ways. I was surprised by how much I didn't know about Abraham Lincoln. I was surprised by how beautifully told this story is. And I was surprised by how moved I was by a story that I, essentially, already knew.

Strange to say, but by the time Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theater, I had almost willed myself into thinking Lincoln was a character who could figure out the trap, and avoid it somehow. I really didn't want him to die.

Narrator Suzanne Toren breathes life into the story, and even into the nearly all-male cast of characters. I could listen to her talk all day, and she made some of the dull spots easier to get through.

Readers/Listeners will be surprised at how well they'll come to know Lincoln's cabinet and family, and how heartbreaking it is to consider the untimely deaths of three of his four children, not to mention the tragic histories that haunted both Salmon P. Chase and Edwin M. Stanton.

I listened to this shortly after listening to "1861: The Civil War Awakening" (Adam Goodheart) which makes a fascinating companion piece to "Rivals" for its more colorful descriptions of the times, and its different perspective on figures such as Gustavus Fox.

"Rivals" is destined to go down as one of the definitive accounts of Lincoln's life, and any reader with even the most fleeting interesting in the 16th president would do well to delve into it.

142 of 147 people found this review helpful

  • Gone Girl

  • A Novel
  • By: Gillian Flynn
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
  • Length: 19 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 50,134
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44,654
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44,747

It is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media - as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents - the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter - but is he really a killer?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Demented, twisted, sick and I loved it!

  • By Theodore on 01-20-13

So much fun! (even if it's been spoiled)

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-12

Before I listened to "Gone Girl," I read several reviews that carefully tiptoed around any potential spoilers, and I also read several user reviews complaining they "figured out" the book within the first couple of chapters. (I kind of chalk this latter up to the backlash that inevitably accompanies such a massively hyped book.)

Well even if you weren't as fortunate as me and the book has been partially spoiled for you, or even if you find you've got a good feel for what's going to happen shortly after starting "Gone Girl," you're still in for a very fun ride. The story is so tightly constructed, and the characters so fully realized that only the most jaded reader/listener would dismiss Gillian Flynn's latest as nothing but hype.

The book is about the disappearance of a woman, and on one hand it's a book about her relationship with her husband, and on the other it's sort of a mystery that hits all those police procedural beats we know so well from "Law & Order." It's told from the perspective of the husband starting the day of her disappearance, and from the wife (through her diary) starting seven years ago, when they first met. These interlocking narratives are so incredibly well-constructed it's a master class in (if nothing else) continuity.

The voice acting fully matches the tone of the book, but as I've seen noted elsewhere, Julia Whelan (as Amy) is excellent where Kirby Heyborne (as Nick) is just really good.

This is a long one, but stick with it. It's worth it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Unfamiliar Fishes

  • By: Sarah Vowell
  • Narrated by: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, John Hodgman, and others
  • Length: 7 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,939
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,483
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,479

In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as crucial to our nation's identity, a year when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded Cuba and then the Philippines, becoming a meddling, self-serving, militaristic international superpower practically overnight. Of all the countries the United States invaded or colonized in 1898, Vowell considers the story of the Americanization of Hawaii to be the most intriguing.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Enjoyable, but celeb narrations are distracting

  • By darrin class on 05-02-11

Too Many Voice Actors, Not Enough Story

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-09-12

I adore Sarah Vowell, but this audiobook could have used less A-list talent, and more details. While it sounds awesome to have Fred Armisen, Edward Norton, and Catherine Keener all voicing characters in an audiobook, it's actually jarring.

Vowell tends to favor brief quotes and orphan quotes in her work (that's when part of the sentence is prose, and another part is a quote). That means you often find four or five word quotes in her work that in an audiobook are spoken by a different voice actor. So you go Vowell for half the sentence, John Slattery for five words, then Vowell again. It takes me out of the experience.

"Unfamiliar Fishes" is an awesome starting point for Hawaiian history, but Vowell is arguably too judicious here with the economy of her words and story. We learn about King Kamehameha and his children, but I found myself reading their Wikipedia entries just so I could fully follow along.

Where "Assassination Vacation" felt like it had just the right mix of quick pace, personal detail, and actual history, "Fishes" moves so fast I had a hard time keeping track of the characters, each of which pops up as a brand new voice from Vowell's cadre of famous fans.

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

  • By: Edmund Morris
  • Narrated by: Mark Deakins
  • Length: 26 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,420
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,125
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,121

Described by the Chicago Tribune as "a classic," The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt stands as one of the greatest biographies of our time. The publication of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt on September 14th, 2001, marked the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt becoming president.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent book, excellent narrator.

  • By Chris M on 11-11-10

Fun as "Game of Thrones," much more informative

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-09-12

Before reading this book I had no inkling Theodore Roosevelt's pre-presidential life would be so interesting or so entertaining!

From tracking down criminals in the old west to rooting out corruption in the NYPD to leading the charge at the Battle of San Juan Hill, Roosevelt's life was literally full of adventure. Yes, this romantic view of the 26th president arguably threatens to gloss over his bullying and what some might even call warmongering, but Edmund Morris applies an even hand to the material that allows the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about Roosevelt the man. (This evenhandedness becomes more evident and more important in the second of his three Roosevelt biographies, "Theodore Rex.")

I've listened to all the "Game of Thrones" books, and if you enjoyed the pace and intrigue of those thick tomes, then you'll probably also be able to lose yourself in this brilliantly crafted biography. This is top-shelf, A-list stuff, and Morris' place as one of our greatest historical writers has rightly been cemented since he published "Rise" in 1979.

The vocal performance in this book is equally engaging. I would place Mark Deakins' work here on the same level as Roy Dotrice's narrative mastery in the "Game of Thrones" series. Deakins' ability to slip into Roosevelt's clipped cadence adds a whole other level to the book.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful