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  • Shadow of the Lions

  • A Novel
  • By: Christopher Swann
  • Narrated by: James Anderson Foster
  • Length: 12 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,049
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 963
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 963

It has been almost 10 years since Matthias graduated from the elite Blackburne School, where his roommate and best friend, Fritz, fled into the woods, never to be heard from again, in the middle of their senior year. Fritz vanished just after an argument over Matthias' breaking of the school's honor code, and Matthias has long been haunted by the idea that his betrayal led to his friend's disappearance. When he is offered the opportunity to return to Blackburne as an English teacher, he sees it as a chance to put his life back together.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One of the finest books I've heard on Audible!

  • By Kathi on 08-07-17

Five star beginning, disappointing conclusion

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

Reviewed: 02-04-18

I rarely write reviews, but I knew after the first couple of chapters that I'd be writing one about this book. I fully expected it to give it five stars and to write nothing but praise. The first half or more was beautifully evocative of prep school life, the intensity of adolescent friendships, the first steps and missteps as boy meets girl. The shifting perspective between Matthias as student and Matthias as teacher ten years later was handled deftly and fluidly, each shift resonating in both worlds and illuminating details we might not otherwise have noticed. The writing is elegant and descriptive. The setting almost becomes a character in itself. The beauty of the story's first half is in its nuance.

And so I was disappointed when the last third's focus turned to an almost cartoonish villainy on various fronts. The resolution was over the top -- and yet it was dealt with only perfunctorily. After making a huge emotional investment in the first part of the book, I'd have liked to experience the characters' emotional resolutions. They aren't there. The very last minutes (I'd guess the last page in the print edition, though I don't have it to check) are pure exposition, explaining to the reader at least in part the emotional place Matthias finds himself in. We're told about it, though, rather than shown, and given the events immediately preceding the last scene, what we're told is unconvincing.

In all, Shadow of the Lions is almost like two books cobbled together, jarringly different in tone, style, in the dimensions of characters and events. The first part holds great promise for subsequent books Christopher Swann might write. I hope to see more, and I hope that he'll trust his gift for creating nuanced characters and relationships to drive his plots.

James Anderson Foster's narration is excellent. I hope to hear him narrate a growing body of literary fiction. His voice is well-suited to it.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • The Memory Illusion

  • Why You May Not Be Who You Think You Are
  • By: Julia Shaw
  • Narrated by: Siri Steinmo
  • Length: 8 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 482
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 431
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 429

Think you have a good memory? Think again. Memories are our most cherished possessions. We rely on them every day of our lives. They make us who we are. And yet the truth is they are far from being the accurate record of the past we like to think they are. True, we can all admit to having suffered occasional memory lapses, such as entering a room and immediately forgetting why or suddenly being unable to recall the name of someone we've met dozens of times. But what if we have the potential for more profound errors of memory?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • All over the place but interesting

  • By Jacob on 11-01-16

Mediocre book made terrible by a poor narrator

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

Reviewed: 12-18-16

Memory is a fascinating topic, and given the author's credentials, this book seemed worth a listen. I'm going to stop where I left off, about five hours in.

I suspect that this book was self-published to begin with. There's a Kindle edition, which was released in June, apparently at the same time as this Audible edition. It won't be published as a physical book until next year.

The text per se needed the benefit of a good editor. And to this point, about two-thirds of the way through, I find the author's conclusions to be poorly supported -- broad generalizations about impossibilities, without sufficient evidence. I am not referring to debunking claimed memories of being in utero or of being born, but to more common memories from older childhood. For example, the physiology of the developing brain may make it rare for an adult to be able to recall day-to-day information from her grade school years, such as being able to identify elementary school classmates in a photo (this is, according to the author, useless information which is shed along the way to streamline the brain's function), but surely it isn't impossible. I can do it well past middle age. Those particular neurons are not universally shed, Dr. Shaw, however dogmatically you wish to present your theories. I'd suggest consistently using qualifiers, such as "often" or "rarely" or "few" or "unusual" to make your conclusions sound like the product of a lively and questioning and open mind.

Still, it would be worth finishing this book, if it weren't for an atrocious narrator. Siri Steinmo sounds like a high school student reading aloud in class without having prepared, getting lost in syntax and mispronouncing words. In the first 30 minutes alone, she mispronounced at least half a dozen words, some of them multiple times. When she read, ". . . some of the most fascinating, sometimes almost unbelievable errors, alterations, and misapprehensions our memories can be subject to," she pronounced "subject" with the stress on the second syllable, as if she began to say "subjected," and only then realized that the last syllable wasn't there. Surely that kind of flub would call for a second take in a carefully produced recording. She's apparently unfamiliar with the word "behemoth," but far worse in this context, she doesn't know how to pronounce "synapse."

Note to Audible Studios: For nonfiction, especially, please find narrators who are at minimum familiar with the subject matter. Otherwise, books lose credibility (and narrators only embarrass themselves). But it would be particularly nice for books such as this one, written in the first person, if the narrator's voice might be congruent with the author's voice. In this case, that would mean a more mature, British woman, not a very young American.

If I'd used a credit or paid full price for this book, I'd have returned it. However, I bought it as a daily deal, and it's worth $2.95 to warn others not to waste a credit on this one. If you're keenly interested in reading it, I'd suggest the Kindle edition. Better yet, wait until next August, and check your local library.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • The Ice Twins

  • A Novel
  • By: S.K. Tremayne
  • Narrated by: Penny Rawlins, Sandra Duncan, Angus King
  • Length: 12 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 292
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 270
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 271

A year after one of their identical twin daughters Lydia dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting Story--Too Much Rumination

  • By EJJ on 06-05-15

Unlikable characters ruin this book

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

Reviewed: 10-31-15

This book's premise and setting were promising. The characters, though, were not simply flawed, but profoundly unlikable. I felt the same way after reading Gone Girl - the plot kept me going, but without any character to make an emotional investment in, the resolution was deeply unsatisfying. I wish I could un-listen to The Ice Twins. The writing is vivid enough to make the book haunting, but what lingers is a queasy sense of sordidness and antipathy toward the characters.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Go Set a Watchman

  • A Novel
  • By: Harper Lee
  • Narrated by: Reese Witherspoon
  • Length: 6 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 13,926
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,769
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 12,734

An historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, best-selling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • To Kill A Mockingbird vs Go Set A Watchman

  • By Sara on 07-15-15

NOT a sequel - a rejected first draft

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

Reviewed: 07-15-15

I so wish people would stop tarnishing Harper Lee's legacy by calling this book a sequel, as if she intended it to follow To Kill a Mockingbird -- as if she intended it to be published at all. Go Set a Watchman's theme and characters were only a starting point.

This was an initial draft, rejected by her publisher. With guidance from an editor, she reworked it and refined it into what ultimately became To Kill a Mockingbird. Thank heaven she did.

This book was deemed unpublishable when it was written. To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize. And rightfully so.

For people who enjoy studying a writer's process, reading or listening to Go Set a Watchman has value. You'll even recognize some longish passages which were used verbatim in To Kill a Mockingbird. That in itself should be a heads-up, though, about Harper Lee's intent regarding this early manuscript. This was raw material from which a gem emerged.

I should make it clear that it was not the racist ideas we hear from Atticus in Watchman that made this first effort unpublishable. His views are all intact in Mockingbird, but given far more subtle expression; Atticus in Mockingbird is just as staunch a guardian of Maycomb's social order, but Harper Lee found ways to show us rather than have him blurt his thoughts in a single scene. It was the writing, the craft that fell short.

Watchman was a fledgling effort. Relative to Mockingbird, its characters are two-dimensional. Its setting lacks the rich and languid detail that makes Maycomb a character in itself in Mockingbird. Watchman's plot is pedestrian, its structure simplistic. There's too much exposition. Remember the edict "show, don't tell"? Ms. Lee had yet to master it.

Appreciate this rare glimpse at an early draft of a classic. Don't mistake it for a more highly evolved book than To Kill a Mockingbird, though, just because Go Set a Watchman takes place a couple of decades later and its protagonist is older. Mockingbird evolved *from* Watchman. Harper Lee's growth as a writer during that process is breathtaking, and it's doing her a grave disservice to dismiss it, to laud her first attempt as superior to the masterpiece she gave us in the end.

12 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • The Good Daughters

  • A Novel
  • By: Joyce Maynard
  • Narrated by: Joyce Maynard, Rebecca Tuttle, Jeff Woodman
  • Length: 8 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 155
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 118
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 118

They were born on the same day, in the same small New Hampshire hospital, into families that could hardly have been less alike. Ruth Plank is an artist and a romantic with a rich, passionate, imaginative life. The last of five girls born to a gentle, caring farmer and his stolid wife, she yearns to soar beyond the confines of the land that has been her family's birthright for generations. Dana Dickerson is a scientist and realist whose faith is firmly planted in the natural world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Loved this book!

  • By DIANE on 03-04-11

Disappointing

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

Reviewed: 01-21-12

The family secret on which this plot hung was obvious after only a few minutes. Even the final twist on the secret was obvious early on. This would have been a far more interesting book if Joyce Maynard had revealed it all to the reader in a prologue and developed the characters within that framework.

That said, the plot was poignant, and the characters were generally likable through most of the book. It seemed a shame, though, to learn near the end that perhaps the most likable character was guilty of making a truly monstrous decision years before, rather than having been as much victim as everyone else. I was left feeling cheated by that revelation after investing too much in a character capable of something so awful. Again, had we known of this character's actions at the outset and seen the flaws, contradictions and complexities developed during the course of the book, I think it might have been possible to come away with affection for the character intact.

Maynard captures the setting and era well. Overall, I think The Good Daughters is worth a listen. I only wish the potential in its premise had been more fully realized.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Sing You Home

  • By: Jodi Picoult
  • Narrated by: Therese Plummer, Brian Hutchison, Mia Barron
  • Length: 17 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,921
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,272
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,279

Music has set the tone for most of Zoe Baxter’s life. And it’s music that brings her back to love. When fertility issues lead to a divorce, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. As an unexpected friendship with a woman slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people - even those she loves and trusts most - don’t want that to happen.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Realistic music quality please...or don't do it.

  • By Springfield Sis on 03-18-11

A Good Listen (except the music)

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-07-11

Unlike other reviewers, I can't say the music spoiled this book, but its mediocrity was embarrassing -- especially in light of the scene in which Vanessa calls Zoe "the next Sheryl Crow."

Other than that, for once I was not infuriated by the ending of a Picoult book. Her premises are invariably too tempting to resist, but her compulsion to kill off characters for no particular reason is something I've found disturbing. Here, at least, she finds a way to resolve a plot without tragedy.

I thought the main characters were reasonably well-drawn. Even Max, despite his many flaws, was not wholly unsympathetic.

Picoult's handling of the legal circus is reminiscent of Grisham's A Time to Kill, though not as deftly handled. The idea works here, though -- the characters' personal struggle lost in their very public exploitation by outsiders who care only about their own agendas. It would have rung a bit more true if there had been an equal amount of exploitation coming from those in Zoe's court. That side is where my own sympathies lie, but I harbor no illusions; in real life there would have been just as many high-profile lawyers and groups grabbing publicity as on the other side.

I'd have preferred fewer courtroom revelations coming out of the blue. They came and went too quickly to serve any real purpose in terms of either plot or character development, especially so late in the book, and they made Zoe's lawyer look extraordinarily inept. By contrast, the plot point on which Zoe's decision rested was wholly predictable. One only wonders why on earth Vanessa did not have sufficient information to foresee, at the very least, a conflict.

Nonetheless, I found this to be a book with an interesting idea at its heart, characters who were likable, and a satisfying resolution.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Tick Tock: Michael Bennett, Book 4

  • By: James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge
  • Narrated by: Bobby Cannavale, Scott Sowers
  • Length: 7 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,756
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,039
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,030

New York City's number-one detective, Michael Bennett, has a huge problem: the Son of Sam, the Werewolf of Wisteria, and the Mad Bomber are all back. The city has never been more terrified. The city calls on Detective Michael Bennett, pulling him away from a seaside retreat with his 10 adopted children, his grandfather, and their beloved nanny, Mary Catherine. Not only does it tear apart their vacation, it leaves the entire family open to attack.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another great listen!

  • By Chris on 02-17-11

Fast-paced and Satisfying

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-25-11

I tended to stay away from James Patterson's co-authored books until I happened to stumble over the first in his Michael Bennett series. I was instantly hooked. Bennett and his family are immensely engaging. I was delighted to see another in the series, and it didn't disappoint. I read the first two and opted to listen to the next two. These audio versions are extremely well done. Bobby Cannavale's narration captures Michael Bennett perfectly in a voice as likable as the written character. Highly recommended.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Then She Found Me

  • By: Elinor Lipman
  • Narrated by: Mia Barron
  • Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 34
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 27
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 27

April Epner teaches high school Latin, wears flannel jumpers, and is used to having her evenings free. Bernice Graverman brandishes designer labels, favors toad-sized earrings, and hosts her own tacky TV talk show: Bernice G! But behind the glitz and glam, Bernice has followed the life of the daughter she gave up for adoption 36 years ago. Now that she's got her act together, she's aiming to be a mom like she always knew she could. And she's hurtling straight for April's quiet little life....

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • An Entertaining Book

  • By CDN on 02-19-11

An Entertaining Book

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-19-11

Then She Found Me is a charming book. It's funny, at times poignant, and its characters are vivid and complex. Elinor Lipman's writing sparkles. I highly recommend it if you're in the mood for something light and entertaining.

Mia Barron's narration is energetic and suits the book's tone, but I'd have liked the characters' voices to be a bit more nuanced and the pacing to be a little more varied. If I could have deducted only half a star for that, I would have.

Note to those who (as I did) found their way here after seeing Helen Hunt's movie adaptation and hoped to delve a little more deeply into some of the movie's themes: You won't find the movie here. The movie's broad premise is the same, Bernice is essentially the same, and the April of the book is vaguely recognizable on film, as if strayed into a parallel universe and driven by different motivations. The movie's plot is entirely different, with most of the other characters either absent, utterly changed, or newly-created for the screenplay. The insights at the end of the movie, which are perhaps what I value most about it, are not drawn from the book.

None of that is to say that the book suffers by comparison, no matter how much you loved the movie. In its own right, it's a lovely book with characters you'd miss if you read the book first and then saw the movie -- just as the movie is a lovely and deeply touching movie, with characters you miss if you see it first. If you're forewarned, if you approach the book as a different story, you won't be disappointed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Siege

  • By: Stephen White
  • Narrated by: Dick Hill
  • Length: 14 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 145
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 83
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 84

As a lovely weekend approaches on the Yale campus it appears that a number of students - including the sons of both the secretary of the army and newest Supreme Court justice - may have gone missing. Kidnapping? Terrorism? The authorities aren't sure. But the high-profile disappearances draw the attention of the CIA and the FBI's vaunted Hostage Rescue Team.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • So-so

  • By Kari on 10-31-09

For the first time, I couldn't finish listening

Overall
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-08-11

I had to stop listening to this book halfway through. It's the first time I've done that. I don't know what possessed Dick Hill to make the choices he did in his narration, but it was unbearably ponderous and articulated with a bizarre sameness, no matter which region a character was supposed to be from. Purdy sounds as if he ended up in Minnesota by way of New York. Poe's accent is simply a toned-down version of Purdy's. I don't know if Hill thinks this quirk of speech is characteristic of law enforcement generally (although he couldn't seem to break out of these speech patterns for any of the characters), but after over seven hours of it, I was ready to jump out of my skin.

I listened to clips of some of the other books Dick Hill narrates, and he's clearly capable of making entirely different choices.

I don't feel as if I've missed much. The book's premise has a lot of promise, but the first half meanders among the personal woes of angst-ridden cops, with little plot development.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Passage

  • The Passage Trilogy, Book 1
  • By: Justin Cronin
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick, Adenrele Ojo, Abby Craden
  • Length: 36 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 15,589
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,357
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,344

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A new type of vampire

  • By Randall on 06-29-18

Derivative

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-05-11

Justin Cronin writes well. His post-apocalyptic world is well-imagined (especially life in the Colony), and the characters are well-realized. Scott Brick's narration is excellent.

What bothered me throughout The Passage is that far too many elements are derived from The Stand -- major plot devices, settings, characters (especially Auntie, but others in subtler ways), even the taunting voice of evil in dreams (certain phrases like "got a little bunski in the ovenski" struck me as a near parody of Stephen King).

King did it better, though. If you're one of his fans, I recommend holding out for an audio version of The Stand.

1 of 6 people found this review helpful