LISTENER

Joselo

  • 12
  • reviews
  • 40
  • helpful votes
  • 87
  • ratings
  • The Banished Immortal

  • A Life of Li Bai (Li Po)
  • By: Ha Jin
  • Narrated by: David Shih
  • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5

In his own time (701-762), Li Bai's poems - shaped by Daoist thought and characterized by their passion, romance, and lust for life - were never given their proper due by the official literary gatekeepers. Nonetheless, his lines rang out on the lips of court entertainers, tavern singers, soldiers, and writers throughout the Tang dynasty. The Banished Immortal is an extraordinary portrait of a poet who both transcended his time and was shaped by it and whose ability to live, love, and mourn without reservation produced some of the most enduring verses.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bold and unstoppable, like an overflowing river

  • By Joselo on 02-09-19

Bold and unstoppable, like an overflowing river

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

Reviewed: 02-09-19

The 8th Century poet Li Bai is regarded in China as one of the all-time greats. He is presented here as a force of nature, a charismatic, “free-spirited and unbound” Taoist, who was also an excellent calligrapher and swordsman. Tragically, he spent much of his life struggling to earn a position as an official in a government plagued by intrigue. He was spontaneous, impulsive, irreverent -- everything that was frowned upon in the rigid, bureaucratic structure of that milieu. A flawed hero, he would sometimes come across as arrogant and was often drunk. Yet, he was appreciated as a genius for the inventiveness, immediacy and passion of his poetry:

“Lotus flowers come out of limpid water, / Natural, without any decoration.”

“Bright moonlight comes in straightaway, not allowing the mind to guess.”

This biograhy feels elegant and light, and reads almost like a children’s tale. It would transport me to the Tang dynasty and provide me with a welcome retreat from all the noise of modern day life. Narrator David Shih’s voice is serene and has just the right touch of innocence. (I’m glad that he can speak Chinese. He pronounces proper nouns — such as names of people or places — neutrally, but he uses the tones when he reads certain phrases that refer to Chinese concepts.)

I’m grateful for this audiobook. I got it based on a short article about it in the New York Times and it turned out to be a great find.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

  • By: Imogen Hermes Gowar
  • Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
  • Length: 17 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24

Random House presents the audiobook edition of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar, read by Juliet Stevenson. This voyage is special. It will change everything.... One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah's ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Loved it

  • By Anonymous User on 11-21-18

Wow, what a treat!

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

Reviewed: 10-15-18

This is one of the most enjoyable audiobooks that I’ve come across. The story’s quite magical and flows with natural ease. I found it very moving. The characters are so well rendered, that I felt as though I’d met them in person. I tip my hat to author Imogen Hermes Gowar. She's got massive talent. The narration, too, is pitch perfect. The way Juliet Stevenson brings to life the entire cast is impressive... Really, what a top notch production. I wish all audiobooks were this tight. I don’t want to give away the plot and I suggest that you investigate no further. Just let yourself go and dive into this beautiful fairy tale of sorts. It's a special one.

  • Mercury

  • An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury
  • By: Lesley-Ann Jones
  • Narrated by: Jane Collingwood
  • Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 227
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 206
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 206

As lead vocalist for the iconic rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury's unmatched skills as a songwriter and his flamboyant showmanship made him a superstar and Queen a household name. But despite his worldwide fame, few people ever really glimpsed the man behind the glittering facade. Now, more than 20 years after his death, those closest to Mercury are finally opening up about this pivotal figure in rock 'n' roll. Based on more than a hundred interviews with key figures in his life, Mercury offers the definitive account of one man's legendary life in the spotlight and behind the scenes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Melancholy

  • By S. Roberts on 12-16-16

The show must go on

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

Reviewed: 02-19-18

'Mercury' presents an intimate look at the life of the legendary singer and performer of Queen. It includes interviews with many of the people that were closest to him, including his bandmates and some of his romantic partners. As a fan of the band, I enjoyed getting a sense of what took place behind the scenes, both at work and in daily life. Author Lesley-Ann Jones has focused her journalistic career on the world of celebrities. The book does sometimes feel a little bit like the gossip column of a magazine, but I wouldn't say it's sensationalistic. It's respectful and sympathetic towards its subject. I finished the book feeling like I had a better understanding of the artist, the band and their music.

Unlike most audiobooks that I've listened to, this one is read by several narrators. And it mostly works. The majority of the actors read their quotes in a very naturalistic style, which makes it all sound like a documentary. Only one or two of the characters sound somewhat fake... But over all, I am happy with the narration. It's different and it suits this particular book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Spain

  • The Centre of the World 1519-1682
  • By: Robert Goodwin
  • Narrated by: Jeremy Clyde
  • Length: 21 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 133
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 120
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 118

The Golden Age of the Spanish Empire would establish five centuries of Western supremacy across the globe and usher in an era of transatlantic exploration that eventually gave rise to the modern world. It was a time of discovery and adventure, of great political and social change - it was a time when Spain learned to rule the world.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Dry. but if you're into that sort of thing . . .

  • By Amazon Customer on 10-14-15

Good, but Spanish pronunciation is a disaster

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

Reviewed: 02-03-18

It's a pity that Jeremy Clyde put so little effort into pronouncing Spanish words and names correctly. For anyone who speaks the language, it's a big distraction. It's not just that he doesn't sound like a native speaker (this would be understandable), it's that he mangles nearly every single Spanish word. The book is titled "Spain, Center of the World 1519-1682"... As you can imagine, almost every sentence has Spanish in it. He completely disregards the rules of pronunciation and, more often than not, places the accent on the wrong syllable, beating all odds. Unfortunately, such laziness and negligence take a toll on the enjoyment of the audiobook. In some cases, he even uses different pronunciations for the same word (e.g. "Quevedo"), as if it really didn't matter how one said it. Who was supervising this recording? Clyde is actually an excellent narrator in English and that part, he does very well, but he clearly was the wrong choice for this particular job.

Otherwise, there's a lot to like in the book itself. It depicts the history and culture of the superpower that Spain was during the 16th and 17th centuries. A lot of it is told through the artists and writers of this Golden Age, but much is also said about the monarchs and the people who worked close to them. Personally, I found that some parts dragged on for a little too long, but I was mostly entertained and transported to that era.

  • George Lucas

  • A Life
  • By: Brian Jay Jones
  • Narrated by: Jay Snyder
  • Length: 18 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 369
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 336
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 336

On May 25, 1977, a problem-plagued, budget-straining, independent science-fiction film opened in a mere 32 American movie theatres. Conceived, written, and directed by a little-known filmmaker named George Lucas, Star Wars reinvented the cinematic landscape, ushering in a new way for movies to be made, marketed, and merchandised. Simply put, George Lucas is one of the most influential filmmakers of the past 50 years.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Must for Film and Star Wars Fans

  • By Thomas F Mulligan Jr on 12-15-16

The General in his Labyrinth

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

Reviewed: 09-15-17

Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez said his stories are about the loneliness of power. I can see a little bit of that in George Lucas. Fairly or not, the way he's portrayed in this biography, the man who started out making intriguing art films with a limited audience somehow got lost in his own massive success. Star Wars made him a multibillionaire. As Lucas became increasingly savvy in the technical and business aspects of filmmaking, his work appears to have lost some of its soul. The Star Wars prequels, dazzling as they are, are the classic example. The book convincingly describes him as a creative genius and a pioneer, the rare filmmaker who's managed to gain complete artistic control of his movies. Author Brian Jay Jones applauds his triumphs. And yet, there's a lingering sense of tragedy in the background. Even Francis Ford Coppola wonders out loud what kind of films his close friend would have made, had he not become possessed by the Star Wars franchise. I couldn't help associating Lucas with the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, someone transformed into a man-machine, looking for a heart. Or perhaps even Darth Vader...

Part of the reason why I chose this audiobook is because I enjoyed the author's biography of Jim Henson. Henson, the creator of Sesame Street and The Muppets, also built himself an empire based on entertainment, toys and other merchandise. (He collaborated with Lucas on the Yoda puppet and the film Labyrinth.) Yet, the Henson biography shows a more human side to the entrepreneur. 'George Lucas: A Life' feels colder and is somewhat more focused on the business aspect of the filmmaker's life. It's a very interesting subject, but I have to admit that three quarters of the way into the book, I began to look forward to its ending. Over all, the writing's pretty decent, although I did sense a bit of laziness or carelessness here and there. For example, the phrase 'an offer that he couldn't refuse' is used too many times... Still, I'm very glad that I listened to this audiobook and I recommend it to anyone interested in this bigger-than-life figure who changed cinema and provided the world with one of the most powerful modern mythologies.

Jay Snyder's narration is very clear and professional, if slightly bland and impersonal. It feels a little like a long movie trailer, but maybe that's appropriate in this case. I'm partial to a warmer reading style, but it's probably a matter of taste.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Born to Run

  • By: Bruce Springsteen
  • Narrated by: Bruce Springsteen
  • Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,780
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 7,263
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,229

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl's halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That's how this extraordinary autobiography began. Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to this audio the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Boss demonstrates his strong work ethic and dedication to excellence as he tells his story.

  • By Tim on 12-21-16

A pleasant surprise

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

Reviewed: 08-30-17

When I came into contact with this audiobook, I wasn't a big Springsteen fan. I only liked his album 'Nebraska' and that was enough to make me curious about this memoir. Like everyone else, I'd heard on the radio his greatest hit, 'Born in the USA', but I'd never really paid much attention to the lyrics. Now I realize that I had completely misjudged the song, mistaking it for an ultra-patriotic anthem, rather than a rather harsh critique of the singer's home country. Bruce Springsteen, in general, turned out to be a very different person than I imagined. In his biography, he comes through as a thoughtful, sensitive artist who has no qualms about sharing his experiences in life and the lessons that he's learned from them. He's a very good writer and his narration is quite possibly the best I've ever come across. The sincerity of this audiobook caught me off guard and what a good surprise that was! In the end, I listened to more of his albums and discovered some more music that I like, especially now that I know its background.

  • Rodin

  • A Biography
  • By: Frederic V. Grunfeld
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 27 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 58
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 42
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 42

Augustus Rodin was not only the greatest sculptor but also one of the most remarkable personalities of modern times. Frederic V. Grunfeld's exhaustive biography, the first in over fifty years, documents a lifetime of both artistic and personal struggle against poverty, against the conservative Salon, and against an art establishment that for years denied him recognition.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Too much humor to be a textbook!

  • By Chrissie on 01-15-15

Auguste Rodin, Superstar

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

Reviewed: 08-19-17

Of the dozens of audiobooks that I've listened to, this is by far one of my favorites. I'm surprised that it isn't more popular. For fans of Rodin's work, this biography will prove not only informative, but also very entertaining. It shows Rodin as an eccentric celebrity, loved by many for his raw talent, authenticity and charisma, while despised by the more traditional establishment. He comes off as a force of nature, a self-serving genius whose complete devotion to art is to a great extent fuelled by an obsession with women's sexuality. It's true that there is a lot of detail about his life and at 27-plus hours, it may require some patience for some. But the writing is very accessible and satisfying throughout. I wasn't bored once.

I love the clarity and slight humor that Simon Vance's narration provides and almost gave him 5 stars. English, he does wonderfully. Other languages, however, less so. His pronunciation of French is not very good and there's a lot of it in the book. He even manages to mispronounce simple names, like the Spanish artist Velazquez. For this, I deducted one star. Otherwise, kudos for a job well done!

One serious problem I had (and I will complain to Audible about it) is that the recording itself seems to skip over certain words and sentences during some segments, which is quite frustrating. I tried deleting and downloading again the audiobook from my phone and reinstalling the app, but nothing, it kept happening. I've listened to other audiobooks on my phone since then and I haven't experience that glitch. It's hard to imagine that other people had the same problem and didn't mention it. If it happens to you, you should bring it up as well.

  • The Art of Rivalry

  • Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art
  • By: Sebastian Smee
  • Narrated by: Bob Souer
  • Length: 10 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 133
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 122
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 122

Rivalry is at the heart of some of the most famous and fruitful relationships in history. The Art of Rivalry follows eight celebrated artists, each linked to a counterpart by friendship, admiration, envy, and ambition. All eight are household names today. But to achieve what they did, each needed the influence of a contemporary - one who was equally ambitious but who possessed sharply contrasting strengths and weaknesses.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Living with Genius

  • By David on 11-21-16

Artists are people too.

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

Reviewed: 03-31-17

The book itself:

When we think of artists whose acclaim we now take for granted, some of which completely changed the course of modern art, it's hard to imagine the kind of challenges and periods of great doubt that they experienced before fully developing their work. The author sympathetically looks at a rather human side of these people who became greater than life. He chooses four couples of painters who influenced each other as friends, but also as rivals: Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud, Manet and Degas, Matisse and Picasso, Pollock and de Kooning. The book is very accessible and fascinating from start to finish.

The narration:

I can't say that I'm a fan of Bob Souer's work here. He's competent at reading in English, but makes a mess whenever he reads in other languages, especially French, and there's quite a bit of it. It's nearly comical how unintelligible his pronunciation turns out. He even manages to read incorrectly a simple name like Gonzalez, placing the accent in the last syllable, which is annoying when done repeatedly. Also, although his English is very clear, I find his monotone style very boring. It reminds me of old, black and white documentaries that feel quite dated. I suppose it's a matter of taste. Luckily, the book is interesting enough that I remained engaged despite these issues.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Fall of the Ottomans

  • The Great War in the Middle East
  • By: Eugene Rogan
  • Narrated by: Derek Perkins
  • Length: 17 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,058
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 943
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 932

In The Fall of the Ottomans, award-winning historian Eugene Rogan brings the First World War and its immediate aftermath in the Middle East to vivid life, uncovering the often ignored story of the region's crucial role in the conflict.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Book About A Little Known Part of WWI

  • By IRP on 06-08-15

Fascinating

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

Reviewed: 03-29-16

I found this audiobook fascinating from start to finish. One gets the sense that the author has tried to provide a balanced account of the history. Derek Perkins' performance is just perfect. His narration brings solemnity and an element of humanity to the depiction of the events. I was especially moved by the parts that recount repeated signs of compassion between warring rivals. (Is it me, or does Perkins sound a lot like Alec Guinness, who plays not only Obi Wan in Star Wars, but also Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia?) My only criticism has to do with the conclusion. The author briefly suggests that some of today's current events, like the rise of ISIS, are the direct result of the fall of the Ottoman Empire. I can see the relation, but his final comments seem too brief for a situation so complex. After all, the barbaric, fundamentalist ideology of ISIS wouldn't be compatible either with the more democratic and diverse form of society that the Young Turks initially aimed for. So who's to say that bloodthirsty fanatics like ISIS would have respected their form of government? I'm sure Mr. Rogan has more to say about this and I would have loved to hear it. Anyway, great book. I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in history.

  • Wishing on the Moon

  • The Life and Times of Billie Holiday
  • By: Donald Clarke
  • Narrated by: Anna Fields
  • Length: 17 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 81
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 49
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 48

No singer has been more mythologized and more misunderstood than jazz legend Billie Holiday, who helped to create much of the mystique herself with her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues - and this authentic biography sets the record straight. Donald Clarke was given unrivaled access to a treasure trove of interviews from the 1970s with those who knew Lady Day in all stages of her short, tragic life - from her childhood in the streets and good-time houses of Baltimore, through the early days of success in New York and the years of fame, to her tragic decline.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good Biography, Tedious Discography

  • By Michael on 02-07-06

Grace and abuse

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

Reviewed: 01-23-16

Part of the reason why I chose this audiobook is because it's narrated by Anna Fields. I could listen to her read the phone book! I first heard her narrate The Wizard of Oz and loved her elegant, old-fashioned diction. One user complained that a white narrator shouldn't be reading a book that involves so many quotes from African Americans, including Lady Day. And he's got a point. Ideally, this biography should be read by an African American. Nevertheless, I gave Field's performance the top rating because once again, she did such a stellar job.

Donald Clarke convinces with this fresh, unsentimental account of Billie Holiday as a woman endowed with unique grace, yet sadly caught in a pattern of abuse since an early age. The author speaks of her beauty as a jazz performer and a person, but avoids glorifying her or censoring her life's story. While much is said about her contributions to music and culture, a lot of the biography also details her unhealthy relationship with men and drugs. I found "Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday" a complex, well-informed portrait of the singer and remained fascinated from start to finish.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful