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Susan H. Taft

Cleveland, Ohio
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  • reviews
  • 1
  • helpful vote
  • 116
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  • The Great Alone

  • By: Kristin Hannah
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan
  • Length: 15 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24,797
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22,605
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22,500

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: He will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • ✫✫✫✫✫ 5 Stars ✫✫✫✫✫

  • By Cyndi on 09-12-18

This book dug deep

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

Reviewed: 04-22-19

I agree with all the positive reviews of this book - the writing, narration, storyline, renditions of the power of community, and learning about survival in Alaska. But I can say that no other book has brought me as much pain as I this one did. Poisonwood Bible and Educated came close, but this was more than a page-turner and tale of abuse.
As another reviewer noted, I could sense the potential train wreck coming. To myself I whispered, "please don't let this character ..." My wish was not accepted.
If you're an empathetic person, this story can stab, repeatedly. If you're considering reading this book, and you tend to immerse yourself in the experiences of the characters, I just want to warn you: Kristin Hannah is a brilliant writer, and she can be merciless. I read fiction for many reasons; confronting the worst of human nature as a book theme doesn't scare me away, but start this read understanding that senses of emotional assault might grab you along the way.

  • The Great Believers

  • By: Rebecca Makkai
  • Narrated by: Michael Crouch
  • Length: 18 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 961
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 903
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 896

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying, and after his friend Nico's funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico's little sister. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A story for all time

  • By Amazon Customer on 08-06-18

Agree with all the kudos and 5+ star ratings

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

Reviewed: 03-24-19

Other reviewers have fully described the beauty and richness of this book and the expert narration. I have just finished, and it does and will continue to linger inside me. I have a question for other readers, however: Does anyone understand why this book is entitled The Great Believers? what does this refer to?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Likeness

  • A Novel
  • By: Tana French
  • Narrated by: Heather O'Neill
  • Length: 22 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,548
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,428
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,420

In the "compelling" and "pitch perfect" follow up to Tana French's runaway best-seller In the Woods, it's six months later and Cassie Maddox has transferred out of the Dublin Murder squad. But an urgent telephone call beckons Cassie to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used as an undercover cop. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more importantly, who is this girl?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • "This is a re-issue of a great book.

  • By Nancy on 02-15-18

Immersed

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

Reviewed: 02-03-19

I read this book because I recently heard David Leonhardt of the New York Times praise the author. Thank you David!
A suspenseful, engaging, well-written, beautifully-narrated murder mystery and the widespread damage visited upon those directly affected by violent crime. NOT your normal, tired, semi-predictable plot-driven mystery. Two murders of children propel parallel narratives, one involving the central character many years earlier and the other a recent murder of a pre-pubescent girl with ballet dancing promise. Loved the full character development, even though the central figure, Ryan, repeatedly pisses off the reader (and his closest colleagues). The story is great, intricate, but the character development and relationships are the strength of this book. Intriguing psychopathology woven throughout both narratives. Great for patient readers who enjoy well-fleshed-out characters and slow plot development. I'm now a Tana French fan planning to read the rest of her books through Audible.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Sing, Unburied, Sing

  • A Novel
  • By: Jesmyn Ward
  • Narrated by: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chris Chalk, Rutina Wesley
  • Length: 8 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,375
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,111
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,096

In Jesmyn Ward's first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural 21st-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi's past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power - and limitations - of family bonds.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 3.9 Stars

  • By j phillips on 01-09-18

Doesn't "go" anywhere

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

Reviewed: 06-13-18

JoJo is the main character of this story, a teenage boy living with his unloving black mother, white dad (who is in and out of prison), sweet 2 year old sister, who is more like his own child than a sister, staunch and wise but dying grandmother, and mighty grandfather, a man of character bearing life's wisdom as well as scars from racist southern American practices. The story includes some supernatural appearances by an uncle killed by white racists, and a 13-year-old boy who was imprisoned while young with JoJo's grandfather. Beautiful lyrical writing in different voices, lovely imagery. The theme of "home" was central to the structure of the story.
The different narrators/voices were great in this book - except for the mother, Leoni, who sounds altogether more soft and caring than her character suggests. There was also a disconnect between the woman Leoni became and the mothering she had received from "Mam," who is portrayed as a wise and loving woman at the end of her life.
JoJo is a beacon absorbing life's lessons and, potentially, rising above the situation he's given, but he alone was not enough to give me satisfaction from reading the book. Except for Leoni, the authenticity of the characters is well-grounded in the the different narrators' stories. This is a book about strife, societal wrongs, racial injustice, family dys/function, the importance of a pivotal male role model (the grandfather), and good/bad choices, but ultimately the story didn't "take me anywhere" that offered hope or new understandings.

  • Landline

  • By: Rainbow Rowell
  • Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman
  • Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,414
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,273
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 1,278

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply - but that almost seems beside the point now. Maybe that was always beside the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her - Neal is always a little upset with Georgie - but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Relationships are hard

  • By Valeria on 01-26-15

Kinda boring, main character not very likeable

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

Reviewed: 03-09-18

I listened to this book all the way through, but it became a bit of a struggle. It primarily focuses on the main character, Georgie, who is worried that her awesome husband Neal (he was far and away the best character in the book) is drifting away from being married to her because she has a career (he doesn't, he's a stay-at-home Dad), Neal's day-to-day life is to take care of Georgie and their two girls, and she is not very appreciative of him and all his efforts (my opinion). Georgie is totally herself all the time and I found her personality to be somewhat off-putting - she's pretty much non-empathetic toward others. She unapologetically leaves her co-writer stranded without her while a career-making deadline comes due/overdue. Thus it was a bit hard to stay with her and have much sympathy through the many hours of her self-inflicted angst over Neal.
I've read other Rowell stories, felt mediocre about them, and think this will be my last. I generally like "relationship" stories that are well-developed and filled with nuance (Jonathan Safran Foer comes to mind as a good model), but I really don't like some of Rowell's writing tics, such as repetitiously using the same greeting between people of, "hey;" response, "hey." Over and over again. In this book there's also "gawd" [god] strung out, and "Neal Neal Neal" repeatedly in Georgie's mental handwringing. It gets wearing. And, other characters in the story, such as Georgie's half-sister Heather, have potentially interesting storylines that are given short shrift, which I've found to be a shortcoming as well in other Rowell stories.

  • Little Fires Everywhere

  • By: Celeste Ng
  • Narrated by: Jennifer Lim
  • Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28,619
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25,842
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25,810

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Some fire, a little ice

  • By Elese Newman on 06-03-18

Little Fires Everywhere a perfect title for book

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

Reviewed: 02-21-18

A previous reviewer wrote, "It was simply a story of the life of different families and their struggles. ...," and this is accurate. If you don't like this kind of story, then don't choose to read the book.
I live in Cleveland and know Shaker Heights extremely well. Ng describes the community, its well-planned layout, attractions, schools, local haunts, streets and shops, with verisimilitude. She doesn't fully capture the considerable diversity within its boundaries, perhaps because diversity has not changed its overall character, except by including supporting characters who are African- and Asian-Americans. I found this to be a low-profile and fair way to provide some hints that the town is not all lily-white.
I totally enjoyed this story and couldn't wait to get back to it at the end of my day when I do my pleasure reading. Character development of the main figures, including teenagers, is reasonably strong and includes unveiling new information about many of them as the story develops. The book was not inspirational, dramatic, or earth-shaking but it is crafted well to keep readers who like understanding other people and their complicated identities interesting. Main themes are conventionality vs. idiosyncrasy, variations in life patterns and circumstances, the power of tribal assumptions, and instrumentality vs. compassion. As with her previous work, a Chinese character or two keeps ethnicity present in the story line.
I liked this book much better than Everything I Never Told You - it is a more mature work, not trite, and the characters are more nuanced and believable. She didn't end this book or Everything I Never Told You with a "happy-ever-after" conclusion, but the reader does participate in the characters' self-development and deepening understanding of self and other.

  • Eleanor & Park

  • By: Rainbow Rowell
  • Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra
  • Length: 8 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,561
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,032
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,052

Set over the course of one school year, in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love - and just how hard it pulled you under.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • E + P 4-ever!

  • By FanB14 on 04-27-14

Eleanor and Park didn't do it for me

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

Reviewed: 01-05-18

Disappointing. The young love relationship between E & P, while kind and caring and developing over time, was too vapid for me. Lots of teen talk on subjects they're interested in, but not very satisfying for me. The author's narrative, to build suspense, follows tricks like E not telling P about things that are happening to her, and I found much of that to be lame; or creating E's mother's character as someone so totally accepting of abuse of herself and her children that she wasn't believable. Also got very tired of E & P saying "Hey" to each other in greeting. This book could have had more substance and more character development than it did, so I felt it might have been a good start to a book but, as is, ultimately didn't interest me much.
The two narrators were excellent; their separate voices added to the value of reading the book, but they alone couldn't carry an under-developed story.
I'm planning to read one more Rainbow Rowell story and if it's not better than this, will put her aside as an author I seek out.

  • The Devil and Webster

  • By: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Narrated by: Kate Burton
  • Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 70
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 64
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 65

Naomi Roth is the first female president of Webster College, a once-conservative school now known for producing fired-up progressive graduates. So Naomi isn't surprised or unduly alarmed when Webster students begin the fall semester with an outdoor encampment around "The Stump" - a traditional campus gathering place for generations of student activists - to protest a popular professor's denial of tenure.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Disappointing!

  • By Roxanne on 07-12-17

The Devil and Webster

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

Reviewed: 11-01-17

If you like the academic world and the complexity of scholarly, political, historical, and social dynamics, this is a great read! The narrator is supremely accomplished in her use of inflection as it informs the reader of the lead character's (the Webster College president) varying perspectives. Full of range and nuance. My only criticism of the story is the too-easily-passed-over reality of tenure decision confidentiality which, if fully highlighted by the college president, would have calmed the waters. Yet this flaw in plotting enables the unfolding of a dramatic story of campus life that would otherwise not have been told.

  • Me Before You

  • A Novel
  • By: Jojo Moyes
  • Narrated by: Susan Lyons, Anna Bentink, Steven Crossley, and others
  • Length: 14 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31,534
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28,068
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28,012

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life - steady boyfriend, close family - who has never been farther afield than her tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life - big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel - and now he's pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy - but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Journey Into the Unknown

  • By Pamela Harvey on 01-13-13

Protagonist Louisa

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

Reviewed: 07-07-17

What did you like best about Me Before You? What did you like least?

Good insight into the "cage" a quadriplegic has to live in.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I would have enjoyed this book much more had the lead character, Louisa, been a more substantial figure. It was impossible for me to respect or even like her because of her vacuity, i.e. no life goals, no higher education, minimal self-insight, no knowledge of really anything, lack of intellectual curiosity, fear of speaking of anything real (e.g. any emotion), poor understanding of other people, and profound absence of empathy. Even in her job taking care of Will, she lacked the motivation to read information about him and his condition.
She often worried that she sounded or appeared stupid, and for good reason.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Loved the English accents of the narrators.

Do you think Me Before You needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No. I wouldn't choose to read anything else that takes Louisa's point of view. She is just too boring.