LISTENER

S.F.

Chicago, IL USA
  • 13
  • reviews
  • 131
  • helpful votes
  • 79
  • ratings
  • The Sympathizer

  • A Novel
  • By: Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Narrated by: Francois Chau
  • Length: 13 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,302
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,949
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,923

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2016. It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Great Vietnamese Novel(Port)Nguyen's Complaint

  • By Joe Kraus on 03-31-16

Needed a more committed, dynamic narrator

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

Reviewed: 11-17-17

This was such a slog to get through. I mildly dreaded pressing play but continued out of a sense of duty, and felt so relieved when it was over.

This book is so rich, so dense, and gave me so much to think about. A really interesting perspective on the Vietnam war and subsequent fallout that you really don't come into contact with much in Western education.

However, I found it extremely repetitive, while featuring an emotionally-deadened protagonist that I, as a result, felt nothing for. I could have done with less political/philosophical dialectic -- that was also repetitive.

The main issue for me was the narrator. He has a lovely quality of voice, but every single sentence was read with a sense of calm, measured, passive equilibrium that cauterized the drama and intensity. At times I thought it was a choice -- the protagonist is emotionless, so the narrator is doing that too -- until the end of the book, when the protagonist was very much not emotionless and the narration didn't change. I enjoy his voice, but man he made this difficult to get through. A more dynamic narrator would have transformed this experience -- I wish I had read the book instead of listening to it.

  • All the Light We Cannot See

  • A Novel
  • By: Anthony Doerr
  • Narrated by: Zach Appelman
  • Length: 16 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 42,930
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38,336
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38,346

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is 12, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Afraid to Write a "Less-Than-Positive" Review

  • By Elizabeth on 08-06-14

Extremely mediocre

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

Reviewed: 06-16-17

What did you like best about All the Light We Cannot See? What did you like least?

This book was extremely mediocre, aggressively average, strongly blah. It wasn't offensive, but it wasn't particularly original or revelatory. I found the language to be exhausting -- lots of strained similes and metaphors seemingly introduced as a substitute for lack of plot movement or depth of character development. You know you have an author problem when multiple characters have a tendency to make the same incongruous nonsensical metaphorical connections -- then it's not a justifiable character trait, but a crutch that the author relies on, and once I started noticing it I couldn't stop. I guess this book provides a new take on a WWII story -- what was the war like for a blind French girl and a German boy ambivalent about the war's aims and intentions -- but.......I don't know, did we really need that?

What didn’t you like about Zach Appelman’s performance?

Monotonous, slow, & soporific. Lovely tone of voice, but he seemed more preoccupied with beautifully precise articulation than conveying meaning or emotion. I really struggled to pay attention throughout most of the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Nix

  • A Novel
  • By: Nathan Hill
  • Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
  • Length: 21 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,710
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,148
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,125

It's 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson - college professor, stalled writer - has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn't seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she's reappeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the Internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high school sweetheart.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Nathan Hill is an exceptional storyteller.

  • By Bonny on 09-13-16

Yikes

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

Reviewed: 04-06-17

This book is really not good. It's about 300 pages too long. There are many irrelevant, non-plot-related interludes that seem to go on forever. Almost all of the characters share a slant-eyed cynicism about the hypocrisy of the world which seem much more about the author's worldview than the characters' -- it's like he uses his characters to express every irritable thought he's ever had about reality television, airports, social media, food eating competitions, protest movements, modern publishing, academia, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. The worst part is that it ends with a truly stupid plot twist & our protagonists making epiphanic realizations about being your authentic self and the importance of forgiveness. Self-help aisle nonsense.

This book is an exercise in writing 600 pages about characters with very few redeeming or engaging characteristics. I finished it only because I started it, and after investing enough hours, I had to see it through.

The narrator, while I'm sure an excellent actor, just did TOO MUCH. He imposed his performance on the text to an extent that t felt like it was all about him. When he read Laura Pottsdam's passages, for instance, his "I'm so vapid and immature and awful" judgmental take really interfered with my ability to actually comprehend what the author's intentions were, or understand the character as more than a caricature.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Secret Life of Bees

  • By: Sue Monk Kidd
  • Narrated by: Jenna Lamia
  • Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,819
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,118
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,111

Sue Monk Kidd's ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice. Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Awesome narrator

  • By Joey on 05-17-10

Beautiful story, beautifully performed

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

Reviewed: 09-15-16

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I absolutely would. Jenna Lamia is one of the best!

What about Jenna Lamia’s performance did you like?

She is so emotionally present with the material -- she really draws me in as a listener. I felt like I was completely inside the main character's head.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Cooked

  • A Natural History of Transformation
  • By: Michael Pollan
  • Narrated by: Michael Pollan
  • Length: 13 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,704
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,516
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,512

In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements - fire, water, air, and earth - to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world....

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A bit bland

  • By Mark on 12-12-14

Well-trodden ground

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

Reviewed: 09-15-16

Would you try another book from Michael Pollan and/or Michael Pollan?

I have read several of Michael Pollan's books, and though this one has an intriguing conceit at the heart of it, the conclusions he comes to are nothing new. The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food literally changed the my life in the sense that they expanded and transformed my thoughts about food in the modern world. This book....did not. It was same-old same-old from Pollan.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Michael Pollan?

A professional narrator. I could hear him mentally checking out with his own material. You can tell, as a listener, when a narrator gets bored, and it becomes a struggle to listen attentively when it happens. Some writers are able to enliven their own material in a really exciting way (see: Bill Bryson), but Pollan doesn't really.

  • The Story of World War II

  • By: Donald L. Miller, Henry Steele Commager
  • Narrated by: Michael Kramer
  • Length: 24 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,809
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,656
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,646

Drawing on previously unpublished eyewitness accounts, prizewinning historian Donald L. Miller has written what critics are calling one of the most powerful accounts of warfare ever published. Here are the horror and heroism of World War II in the words of the men who fought it, the journalists who covered it, and the civilians who were caught in its fury. Miller gives us an up-close, deeply personal view of a war that was more savagely fought - and whose outcome was in greater doubt - than one might imagine. This is the war that Americans on the home front would have read about had they had access to previously censored testimony.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing Inspiring Thought Provoking

  • By The Zombie Specialist on 06-01-14

Riveting.

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

Reviewed: 05-02-16

Any additional comments?

This listen was not always easy in terms of the subject matter, but it was absolutely riveting, from start to finish. I couldn't stop listening. If all history books were this well written, I would consume no other genre. I learned such an incredible amount! The fact that the narrative relies chiefly on first person accounts made events visceral and tangible, and allowed me to imagine what WWII was really like for those who lived during those times, when an Allied victory was not a foregone conclusion.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Believer

  • My Forty Years in Politics
  • By: David Axelrod
  • Narrated by: David Axelrod
  • Length: 19 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 519
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 451
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 452

The man behind some of the greatest political changes of the last decade, David Axelrod has devoted a lifetime to questioning political certainties and daring to bring fresh thinking into the political landscape. Whether as a child hearing John F. Kennedy stump in New York or as a strategist guiding the first African American to the White House, Axelrod shows in Believer how his own life stands at the center of the tumultuous American century.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent !!!

  • By Mary Jo on 04-24-15

A Retroactive Campaign Ad

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

Reviewed: 04-23-15

Any additional comments?

Parts of this book were interesting. I really enjoyed learning about Axe's rise through politics, and the ups and downs of the campaigns. However, he lacks the self-awareness to make this a good memoir. He seems to be unconscious of the amount of spin he put on everything. Axelrod is a campaigner and has built his career on spin, so it shouldn't be surprising. But at a certain point, it became incredibly frustrating to feel that the entire book was just one long campaign ad for Obama. It doesn't feel at all like a memoir, it feels like a retroactive ad (written for, let's be honest, readers who have already been won over by Obama). He writes in sound bites. He mentions over and over "the cold political calculus" of Washington, without ever acknowledging that HE'S DOING IT TOO. I felt that there were several scenarios he presented throughout the book where he deliberately failed to tell the whole story in a fair and balanced way in order to elicit a specific reaction from the reader. That's the goal of an ad, but it's frankly kind of insulting to the intelligence of a listener when you try to do it in a memoir.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

  • By: Carson McCullers
  • Narrated by: Cherry Jones
  • Length: 12 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,227
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 756
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 757

Carson McCullers was all of 23 when she published her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. She became an overnight literary sensation, and soon such authors as Tennessee Williams were calling her "the greatest prose writer that the South [has] produced." The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter tells an unforgettable tale of moral isolation in a small southern mill town in the 1930s.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautiful Prose and Perfect Narration

  • By Michael on 03-15-15

Not sure why this is considered a classic

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

Reviewed: 01-25-15

Any additional comments?

The title of this book is absolutely accurate. It's a collection of extremely detailed, nuanced character studies various lonely people in a Southern town. There is almost no plot. All of the characters have dreams, but that's about it. There's some interesting dialectic about race & political philosophy, but I found it to be very repetitive and marginally interesting.

Though I am a huge fan of Cherry Jones as an actress, I didn't love her narration. It took me a while to figure out why, especially because she voices the characters very well. It's all of the non-dialogue passages which really bored me, and I think it's because she reads with the cadence of someone speaking to a child. I'm not sure whether anyone else would notice this or be bothered by it, but I sure was. It was a struggle to get through the last 3 hours of the book, especially when I finally came to realize that no, a plot was never, in fact, going to emerge.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Water for Elephants

  • By: Sara Gruen
  • Narrated by: David LeDoux, John Randolph Jones
  • Length: 11 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19,841
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,728
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,807

Why we think it’s a great listen: Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be heard – Water for Elephants falls into the second group, and is one of the best examples we have of how a powerful performance enhances a great story. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Surprisingly Bland

  • By Heather on 01-25-11

Heaps of clichés

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

Reviewed: 11-27-14

Would you try another book from Sara Gruen and/or David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ?

The narrators were both excellent - so yes. Sara Gruen? Absolutely not.

Any additional comments?

This book is a collection of story clichés punctuated by stories of animal abuse. I didn't know it was possible for a woman to write other women so 2-dimensionally. The story hangs on a love affair that isn't compelling -- there is no reason beyond circumstance that the two leads should fall for one another. Not enough detail and too much cloying melodrama to be interesting historical fiction, and not a convincing love story for it to be a romance.

Both narrators do a very good job, and they're the only reason I was able to make it through to the end.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Drums of Autumn

  • By: Diana Gabaldon
  • Narrated by: Davina Porter
  • Length: 44 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 25,817
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 21,638
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 21,565

Twice Claire has used an ancient stone circle to travel back to the 18th century. The first time she found love with a Scottish warrior but had to return to the 1940s to save their unborn child. The second time, 20 years later, she reunited with her lost love but had to leave behind the daughter that he would never see. Now Brianna, from her 1960s vantage point, has found a disturbing obituary and will risk everything in an attempt to change history.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I Can't Get Enough!

  • By Eugenia on 02-15-10

And.....I'm out.

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

Reviewed: 10-31-14

Did Davina Porter do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

For the most part, yes. She's an excellent narrator. But for some inexplicable reason she totally abandons the attempt to do Brianna's American accent. I can't figure out why. Davina Porter bounces between so many different accents effortlessly -- Scottish, Irish, British RP, Cockney, even Chinese.....there is no reason she wouldn't be able to do an American accent. It's especially irritating because other characters comment on Bree's accent so frequently.

Any additional comments?

With this book, I have finally burned out on the Outlander series. The story was so overblown, so meandering, so pointless. All of the plot dilemmas happened because of misunderstandings. Jamie became....kind of an unlikable asshole. Brianna, who started off as a really interesting character when we first met her, became INSUFFERABLE.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful