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  • Blonde

  • By: Joyce Carol Oates
  • Narrated by: Jayne Atkinson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 19 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 204
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 128
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 128

She was an all-American girl who became a legend of unparalleled stature. She inspired the adoration of millions, and her life has beguiled generations of fans and fellow artists. The story of Norma Jeane Baker, better known by her studio name, Marilyn Monroe, has been dissected for more than three decades, but never has it been captured in a narrative as breathtaking and transforming as Blonde.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Why not "unabridged"

  • By Tia on 06-10-15

Always Beware the Abridged Version

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

Reviewed: 03-17-19

I assiduously avoid abridged versions but somehow I accidentally bought this one, which meant I had to get the text and read it to get the full story.

As a novel: I think JCO's novel is way too long and could definitely have used some cutting. But one thing that wasn't included were any of MM's female friendships after the age of 17. The author freely admits she takes liberty with the real life of MM but why cut out female relationships and give us another story about Marilyn that makes her entire existence all about the men in her life? Haven't we seen Monroe through that lens often enough? Some parts of it are very well done--MM's insecurity, her attempts to fit in with others, her struggles to live up to her public image. But I don't really "get" why JCO wrote this fiction-not-fiction novel and in some ways it feels like yet another person trying to imprint their own narrative on this human being, facts be damned and that human being's consent be damned.

As an audio book: like I said, I think the regular book was too long and could have used cutting. On the other hand, I didn't care for what they cut to make the audio book more manageable. There were pieces I listened to in the audio book where I thought "why on earth didn't they take this out?" and pieces I read where I thought "how could they possibly take this out?" The last section of the book, in which Marilyn is involved with JFK, was so abridged in the audio version that it felt like it didn't belong to the narrative at all. Which is extra weird considering the end of the book, which entertains a JFK/CIA conspiracy theory (I have quibbles with that too).

All in all, I was mildly entertained and I learned an important lesson about checking for the words "UNABRIDGED" under everything I buy.

  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

  • By: Kurt Vonnegut
  • Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
  • Length: 5 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,323
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,117
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,132

Eliot Rosewater, a drunk volunteer fireman and president of the fabulously rich Rosewater Foundation, is about to attempt a noble experiment with human nature, with a little help from writer Kilgore Trout. The result is Kurt Vonnegut's funniest satire, an etched-in-acid portrayal of the greed, hypocrisy, and follies of the flesh we are all heir to.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth.

  • By Darwin8u on 03-27-14

Dark comedy, less "bro" than I feared

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

Reviewed: 03-10-19

This was my first Kurt Vonnegut. There's a certain kind of dude who can't shut up about how brilliant Vonnegut is and over the years I've sort of absorbed from them a feeling like maybe I should stay away.

But it's not 100% fair to judge a writer by his fans. This particular novel was a mildly amusing dark comedy about money and power and the abuse of booth. The performance was good, although the voices for some of the townspeople who call Mr. Rosewater on his phone got to be a bit much for me. Almost vaudevillian.

  • American Pharoah

  • The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner's Legendary Rise
  • By: Joe Drape
  • Narrated by: Aaron Abano
  • Length: 8 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,639
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 3,307
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 3,304

History was made at the 2015 Belmont Stakes when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, the first since Affirmed in 1978. As magnificent as the champion is, the team behind him has been all too human while on the road to immortality.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Glad I didn't buy it, free download

  • By Amazon Customer on 05-14-18

Not exactly Seabiscuit

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

Reviewed: 03-04-19

Quick listen, probably best for people already interested in horse racing. Definitely not the "Seabiscuit" kind of book that will pull non-racing fans into an interest in horses and horse racing. Despite the author;s attempts to add suspense, we already know that the horse wins the triple crown (it's in the title!) and his journey to doing so doesn't seem all that remarkable. We keep hearing that this is just a spectacular horse almost destined to do what, sure enough, he does. Also, sometimes I felt like I was reading a math book there were so many prices and stats and #s, including how many people were in the stands at the racetrack, which got tedious.

  • The Gray House

  • By: Mariam Petrosyan, Yuri Machkasov - translator
  • Narrated by: Scott Merriman
  • Length: 36 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 80
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 72
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 70

Bound to wheelchairs and dependent on prosthetic limbs, the physically disabled students living in the House are overlooked by the Outsides. Not that it matters to anyone living in the House, a hulking old structure that its residents know is alive. From the corridors and crawl spaces to the classrooms and dorms, the House is full of tribes, tinctures, scared teachers, and laws - all seen and understood through a prismatic array of teenagers' eyes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Collective consciousness, budding sociopathy

  • By Jessica H. on 06-19-17

Thrilled to be done

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

Reviewed: 03-03-19

Did I really read this? I kept trying but ultimately to get through it I was forced into more of a skim, in combined audio and ebook form. I'd sharpen my attention when some interesting parts came up but then would get bored and realize I just couldn't keep re-listening to try to better pay attention or I'd never finish. I just wasn't remotely interested in these characters and maybe am not the best audience for magical realism. And while written by a woman, the girls in the novel are only there are accessories to the boy characters. I also got confused a few times how the author wove a very "out of place and time" narrative and then would mention Led Zeppelin or some other specific time and place marker. It was jarring.

I wonder if I would have liked it better if I'd had it in physical book form. Sometimes I am influenced by the physical heft of a book. It feels like an accomplishment. Having it in audio and ebook just made it feel like a slog.

The narration was fine but given the different characters I could have probably used a little more "something" to differentiate the voices. But with all the names and alliances that change, it might just be better as a physical book where you can more easily track some of this stuff.

Truly, I don't know if I have ever been happier to be done with a book and I never want to return to it.

  • Atomic Marriage

  • By: Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Narrated by: Diane Lane
  • Length: 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 9,632
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 8,695
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 8,665

All marriages are hard. Many of them fail. Brock Lewis, an evangelical businessman turned self-published author, has the answer. Follow his international bestselling book’s 12-point “Atomic Doctrine” - make eye contact with your spouse? Always! Use the bathroom in front of them? Never! - and you, too, can build a marriage that thrives.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • More BS making southerners seem inferior to “refined” Hollywood types

  • By Michael on 01-28-19

For dedicated Sittenfeld fans.

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

Reviewed: 02-25-19

I usually like this author but would definitely file this one as "if I'd paid for this I'd be returning it." But as it was a monthly freebie I guess I'm keeping it. It wavered between a takedown and an apology for weird Christian marriage manuals and because it was so short I didn't really have a chance to get invested in the characters in any way. The author of the marriage manual was relatively sympathetic and I know this is fiction but I didn't buy his whole "I don't really hate gays, I just know my brand" shtick. Let's not underplay the real hate that exists out there. And the main character's attraction to him I also found baffling. Fortunately, it's a pretty short time investment. If you feel like you must read everything by Curtis Sittenfeld, go ahead. Otherwise, I'd give it a pass.

  • The Diary of a Hounslow Girl

  • An Audible Original
  • By: Ambreen Razia
  • Narrated by: Ambreen Razia
  • Length: 1 hr and 36 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 2,688
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 2,462
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 2,450

You’ve heard of an Essex Girl or even a Chelsea Girl, but what about a Hounslow Girl? Definition of a Hounslow Girl: a young Muslim woman who wears hooped earrings with her headscarf and grapples with traditional values while hustling her way through urban London. The Diary of a Hounslow Girl is a bold and provocative one-person play, written and performed by Ambreen Razia. From the joys of traditional Pakistani weddings to fights on the night bus, this is a comic story of dreams, aspirations and coming of age, told through the eyes of a 16-year-old British Muslim girl. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Standard coming of age with Islamic slant

  • By Kingsley on 12-07-18

Interesting story, messy audio

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

Reviewed: 02-13-19

This was adapted from a stage play (one woman I think) and in the adaptation they use a lot of sound effects that make for difficult listening outside of a theater. Walking? Riding the bus? At the gym? There will be chunks of dialogue/monologue that are difficult to hear. As someone who does not listen to podcasts and audio books while sitting quietly in a silent room, I found this frustrating. That being said, I enjoyed both the story and the interview with the author/performer.

  • Tarka the Otter

  • By: Henry Williamson
  • Narrated by: Michael Maloney
  • Length: 6 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 4

This is the tale of Tarka the Otter's growth to adulthood in the country of the Two Rivers. It is also the story of his life in the wild and how he is hunted by his enemy, the great hound Deadlock.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Very British nature story

  • By TiffanyD on 02-08-19

Very British nature story

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

Reviewed: 02-08-19

There's a certain kind of nature writing that I really associate with Britain (England specifically), and this is exactly it. Sort of for children but sort of not, very realistic and trying hard not to anthropomorphize. And maybe that's not my favorite kind of British writing because I just didn't love this.

I can't totally get why. I'm not particularly prudish about language but as a woman I don't love to hear the word bitch all the time (yes I KNOW it is a technical term. But words' meanings evolve and it's not an easy word to hear over and over). It's also a pretty violent book with all the hunting and while that's totally realistic, I just don't personally love it. If you're thinking about reading/listening with a child, just make sure they're cool with the violence. If you're reading/listening for yourself, if you are into nature writing, this is probably a good pick.

  • The Ghost Road

  • The Regeneration Trilogy, Book 3
  • By: Pat Barker
  • Narrated by: Peter Firth
  • Length: 5 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 140
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 102
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 101

This novel challenges our assumptions about relationships between the classes, doctors and patients, men and women, and men and men. It completes the author's exploration of the First World War, and is a timeless depiction of humanity in extremis. Winner of the 1995 Booker Prize.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Man Booker Prize Winner

  • By Jean on 01-12-16

Final part of a staggering indictment against WWI

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

Reviewed: 02-02-19

The Regeneration trilogy is a remarkable work and I highly recommend the entire trilogy. That being said, now that I have read them all I think the first one was the strongest. This final book, in which we finally visit the battle fields, makes some narrative shifts that took some getting used to. First of all was Billy Prior's first person narration, via his journal. If memory serves this was Barker's first move away from the third person. The other jarring narrative shift was the sudden introduction of flashbacks to Rivers' time in the Solomon Islands and his friendship with a local healer. At first I called foul--the introduction of this back story seemed out of place. But as it turns out, it was part of the real Rivers' own back story so not a clumsy invention after all.

As audio books go, this series was well narrated by Peter Firth. I do wish that Book 3 had been broken up into individual chapters that matched the text, as Book 2 was. Instead, it was just chopped into six chunks. Otherwise, well done!

  • The Eye in the Door: The Regeneration Trilogy, Book 2

  • By: Pat Barker
  • Narrated by: Peter Firth
  • Length: 6 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 120
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 88
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 90

It is 1918, and Prior is in London working as an intelligence officer. His concern is the enemy within � though a clear definition of who exactly the enemy is proves harder to come by than he might have imagined.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Moving On . . .

  • By Cariola on 07-28-09

Continuing Barker's Devastating Look at WWI

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

Reviewed: 01-28-19

The action here isn't on the battlefields or the trenches. It's back in England, as soldiers struggle to recover and, possibly, return to war. This is the second in the trilogy so read #1 first. If you have read Regeneration, you may feel that The Eye in the Door is not quite as gut-punching about the horrors of WWI. But it's still an excellent read. In this one we are still mostly focused on the soldiers who are at home for mental or physical injury, but we also get to look at the conditions for those who refused to fight and instead declared themselves conscientious objectors.

  • The Day of the Triffids

  • By: John Wyndham
  • Narrated by: Graeme Malcolm
  • Length: 7 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 734
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 639
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 639

Bill Masen, bandages over his wounded eyes, misses the most spectacular meteorite shower England has ever seen. Removing his bandages the next morning, he finds masses of sightless people wandering the city. He soon meets Josella, another lucky person who has retained her sight, and together they leave the city, aware that the safe, familiar world they knew a mere 24 hours before is gone forever.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • NOT unabridged.

  • By Dave Cole on 05-12-14

Able-ism and gender norms survive the apocalypse

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

Reviewed: 01-14-19

A rather silly book when it isn't downright offensive. Honestly, given the title, I was expecting the triffids to be more of an issue than they were. They mostly remained a background menace while the main character went about the business of hooking up with his lady love and justifying how all the blind people probably needed to die.

The gender norms were the silly part. It's amazing how these tales of imagination about wild and exciting futures can't seem to break free of ridiculous social conventions of their time. I guess this novel has some excuse because it was written as if it was occurring in the near future so the author was just recreating his own world. Less funny and more horrifying was the able-ism. The main character has near zero use for blind people.

He has a whole section where he justifies his inhumanity and "logically" lays out why they can't really save many of them because the burden would be too great and humanity would never be rebuilt. Even if you accept that logic, the way the blind people are portrayed is as if they are nothing. When one young woman tries to bribe him with sex he says of her later that he never even knew her name. Well, he never even asked for it. And when he meets up with some blind people, whose farm he essentially takes over and with whom he lives for several years, we never learn anything about them other than their names. They are not characters at all but just stand ins for all the others left blinded. He acknowledges they can sometimes be useful members of society in very specific cases. If there had been one moment introspection where our hero maybe thought hard about how he at least wished he could have saved more people, maybe I would have forgiven the anti-disability screeds that came earlier in the book. But the final message we are left with is that they did right to abandon their fellow human beings.

If you are interested in cold war science fiction and can stomach the main character, the narration is well done