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J. D. Portnoy

  • 22
  • reviews
  • 79
  • helpful votes
  • 23
  • ratings
  • Only Yesterday

  • An Informal History of the 1920s
  • By: Frederick Lewis Allen
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 11 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 110
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 73
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 71

In this span between armistice and depression, Americans were kicking up their heels, but they were also bringing about major changes in the social and political structure of their country. Only Yesterday is a fond, witty, penetrating biography of this restless decade, a delightful reminiscence for those who can remember and a fascinating firsthand look for those who've only heard.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Loved this book

  • By Matthew M. Kayes on 06-11-07

Escape the Now

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

Reviewed: 01-26-18

If you’re sick of politics now, this wonderful book is for you. The title suggests nostalgia, but it’s really political, social, and cultural history, written in a very accessible way. I had no idea there were so many similarities between the 20’s and the present, so much political skulduggery, so much sex and fashion, so much media hype. My only quibble is that there are lots of statistics thrown in, but there’s plenty of plain colorful information and good gossip too.How much do you know about President Harding and his wife? Listen and learn! I absolutely loved almost every minute, and the narrator does a good job, except for an occasional mispronounciation. If you enjoy mental time travel, take this trip.

  • Zelda Fitzgerald

  • The Tragic, Meticulously Researched Biography of the Jazz Age's High Priestess
  • By: Sally Cline
  • Narrated by: Coleen Marlo
  • Length: 17 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 56
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 50
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 50

Zelda Fitzgerald was the mythical American Dream Girl of the Roaring Twenties who became, in the words of her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, "the first American flapper." Their romance transformed a symbol of glamour and spectacle of the Jazz Age. When Zelda cracked up, not long after the stock market crash of 1929, Scott remained loyal to her through a nightmare of later breakdowns and final madness.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • The Beautiful and the Bungled

  • By J. D. Portnoy on 12-08-17

The Beautiful and the Bungled

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

Reviewed: 12-08-17

Meticulously researched though it claims to be, this book is no great literary achievement, appears to need basic editing, and is thoroughly mangled by its narrator to almost comedic proportions. The two earlier biographies, one by Kendall Taylor and the older one by Nancy Milford, have an elegance of style and are literary achievements in their own right. This is more on the level of a young adult work, not too deep and easy to understand. Some judicious cutting would have improved it too. The narrator outdoes herself with her inability to pronounce the word "row,"( meaning argument,), continuously saying "row," as in what one does with a boat. I guess it's the spelling that defeats her. She seems only capable of pronouncing words used in daily speech and to have no discernible reading vocabulary. Together with her staccato, machine-gun delivery, she races without apparent comprehension of the material from one word-massacre to the next, names of persons and places not spared. Any author deserves better than this, even a second-rate one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Carol - The Price of Salt

  • By: Patricia Highsmith
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
  • Length: 10 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,656
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,507
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,505

A chance encounter between two lonely women leads to a passionate romance in this lesbian cult classic. Therese, a struggling young sales clerk, and Carol, a homemaker in the midst of a bitter divorce, abandon their oppressive daily routines for the freedom of the open road, where their love can blossom. But their newly discovered bliss is shattered when Carol is forced to choose between her child and her lover.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I can't stop thinking about this book...

  • By Shelley S. on 10-13-15

Compare and Contrast

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

Reviewed: 12-01-17

I got this book to compare it with the excellent film made two years ago. The film is far superior, I think, but the comparison is well worth making for fans of Highsmith and Phyllis Nagy, the woman who wrote the screenplay. But the narration was torture. Both leading characters sounded exactly the same, and the way of speaking did not match the meaning. Everything sounded like banter and sarcasm, regardless of who was speaking or what they were saying. I would do this comparison exercise on a Kindle if I wanted to repeat it, and never get another audiobook read by this narrator. This is a pathbreaking book by an important writer: it deserves better.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Jumping at Shadows

  • The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream
  • By: Sasha Abramsky
  • Narrated by: Matthew Waterson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6

Jumping at Shadows is Sasha Abramsky's searing account of America's most dangerous epidemic: irrational fear. Taking listeners on a dramatic journey through a divided nation, where everything from immigration to disease, gun control to health care has become fodder for fearmongers and conspiracists, he delivers an eye-popping analysis of our misconceptions about risk and threats. What emerges is a shocking portrait of a political and cultural landscape that is, increasingly, defined by our worst fears and rampant anxieties.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Preaching to the Choir

  • By J. D. Portnoy on 10-22-17

Preaching to the Choir

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

Reviewed: 10-22-17

If you want a book about psychology, this isn't it. Apart from tossing in a few words like amygdala and hypothalamus, it's all about politics. If you're not a leftist, you won't like it and you won't agree. If you are a leftist, you've heard it all before and already believe. All in all, there's not much reason to listen to this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Dark Flood Rises

  • A Novel
  • By: Dame Margaret Drabble
  • Narrated by: Anna Bentinck
  • Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 86
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 80
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 81

Francesca Stubbs has a very full life. A highly regarded expert on housing for the elderly who is herself getting on in age, she drives restlessly round England. Amid the professional conferences she attends, she fits in visits to old friends, brings home-cooked dinners to her ex-husband, texts her son, who is grieving over the sudden death of his girlfriend, and drops in on her daughter, a quirky young woman who lives in a floodplain in the West Country.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Life Observed By An Exceptional Writer

  • By Sara on 03-22-17

A Work of Genius

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

Reviewed: 06-04-17

This is a magical book, its magic rising from the genius of Margaret Drabble. Here she addresses the event that dares not speak its name in the trash heap of American culture--death. This is not a book for everyone: it's literature, with a rich vocabulary and numerous references to other writers, times, books, music, and art. Nothing much happens by way of plot, but the characters are complex, rich, and deeply drawn. And the portrayal of the ending of days, for the individual and the planet itself, is incomparable in its interweaving. A book for grownups, flawlessly narrated in just the right voice, an experience of the novel not to be missed.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • This Close to Happy

  • A Reckoning with Depression
  • By: Daphne Merkin
  • Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
  • Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 53
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 44
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 45

This Close to Happy is the rare, vividly personal account of what it feels like to suffer from clinical depression, written from a woman's perspective and informed by an acute understanding of the implications of this disease over a lifetime. Taking off from essays on depression she has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, Daphne Merkin casts her eye back to her beginnings to try to sort out the root causes of her affliction.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I should be the last person to recommend this book

  • By Mariaposa on 03-04-17

Enough!

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

Reviewed: 03-29-17

Daphne Merkin is a good writer, a truly literary and literate person. She is also a huge pain. Although I detest the fashion for "positive thinking," as I made my way laboriously through Daphne's endless preoccupation with suicide, I heard myself saying, "Do it already!" I can only imagine how terrible a task it must be to live with someone who fantasizes about suicide day after day, year after year. Let alone to be such a person. And, of course, it's all her parents' fault, especially Mom, who after all, was only a Holocaust survivor. How could she be expected to understand real needs? But if you can tolerate the author's ceaseless, selfish preoccupation, this is a good book about depression, and the narration is very well done. Toren has a pleasant voice, a good pace and pronunciation, and makes Merkin almost bearable.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • A House Full of Daughters

  • A Memoir of Seven Generations
  • By: Juliet Nicolson
  • Narrated by: Julie Teal
  • Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 23
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21

All families have their myths and legends. For many years Juliet Nicolson accepted hers: the dangerous beauty of her flamenco dancing great-great-grandmother, Pepita; the flirty manipulation of her great-grandmother, Victoria; the infamous eccentricity of her grandmother, Vita Sackville-West; her mother's Tory-conventional background. But then Juliet, a distinguished historian, started to question. As she did so, she sifted fact from fiction, uncovering details and secrets long held just out of sight.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Mirror of Time

  • By J. D. Portnoy on 01-15-17

A Mirror of Time

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

Reviewed: 01-15-17

In this book, Juliet Nicolson presents a panorama of personalities that reflect perfectly the eras that they inhabited. Seven generations of women, starting with Pepita, the fiery Flamenco dancer who lived in splendid sin, and ending with herself, the author, child of a more prosaic age, who sobers herself in AA and commits to the unexceptionality of one day at a time. Entertaining and diverting, the book can be enjoyed on many levels and doesn't require any prior knowledge of any of these women, one of whom (Vita Sackville-West) is quite notorious and has been much written about before. Each woman lived as her setting in time and place required, right down to the definition of wicked her surroundings dictated. The narrator is pleasant and pretty good, except for some mispronunciations here and there. She suits the material quite well. I certainly recommend this biography to those who want to be entertained intelligently.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Kennedy Wives

  • Triumph and Tragedy in America’s Most Public Family
  • By: Amber Hunt, David Batcher
  • Narrated by: Hillary Huber
  • Length: 11 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 144
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 130
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 128

The Kennedy wives saw history up close - and made history in some cases. They knew wealth and privilege, but we are bonded to them by losses that are our losses, too. The Kennedy women - fierce, intelligent, and very private - belong to us. Not because of their glamour but because of their grief and misfortunes. The Kennedy Wives takes an unflinching look at the women who married into the Kennedy family and their distinct roles.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Book

  • By Lori on 08-25-16

Royalty, American style

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

Reviewed: 06-22-16

I've listened to several books about the Kennedys, and this one is pretty good. There's lots of detail and the writing is literate. It's not in the gossipy, tell-all mode, but reads like a serious, fairly scholarly attempt. You feel informed. The weak point is the narrator, who has an old schoolmarmish voice and makes a quite a few mistakes in pronunciation of names and words many of us know. Jacqui would be pained by the mistakes, Ethel wouldn't care, Joan would be too drunk to notice, and Vickie would hear and remain silent. Rose would certainly know, but say nothing and go to her room to pray. Now you know in a nutshell what the book will make plain. It's worth the listen.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Dietland

  • By: Sarai Walker
  • Narrated by: Tara Sands
  • Length: 10 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 638
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 572
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 573

Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed because when you're fat, to be noticed is to be judged. She is biding her time at a job answering fan mail for a popular teen girls' magazine until she can afford weight-loss surgery. But lately she is being followed by a girl in outlandish clothes and combat boots.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • funny and thought provoking

  • By Sandy Toes on 01-28-16

Androphobia Trumps Talent

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

Reviewed: 05-10-16

This author can really write well. She can be very funny and very wise about the diet industry and the devastation being wrought on women who don't conform to media propaganda on female looks and behavior. Her mastery of language is strong, and I loved the first half of the book, could barely put it down. But then she goes too far into the realm of hatred for men and violent revenge. It's not likely most women readers will want to follow her there. But this is only her first novel, and I think she will do better next time. The narrator does a good job, but the content obliterates her talent too. Get a grip, Sarai, you've got a really good mind going for you.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Blue Nights

  • By: Joan Didion
  • Narrated by: Kimberly Farr
  • Length: 4 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 288
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 252
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 253

From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extremely moving memoir, well-narrated

  • By Doggy Bird on 12-16-11

Not for Sissies

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

Reviewed: 11-22-15

As a screenwriter, Joan Didion and her husband wrote the script for "Play it as it Lays." As a widow, she tells it like it is in her memoir of loss and aging, "Blue Nights." This is not an easy book to read, and not for those who decry negative thinking and believe in the magic of medicine. Didion knows better, and in her spare, carefully chosen words describes the process of unrecoverable diminishment and death in a way no one else has dared. No sentimentality, no upbeat insistence, just the truth. Those who enjoyed Didion in her prime, and in theirs, will find that this book speaks to them with stunning honesty.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful