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The Book Conjurer

Lawrence, KS USA | Member Since 2014

  • 5 reviews
  • 136 ratings
  • 542 titles in library
  • 10 purchased in 2015

  • The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower I

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Eerie, dreamlike, set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea in the first volume of The Dark Tower series. Roland, the last gunslinger, is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange single-mindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape of good and evil.

    Karen says: "Not a King fan...BUT"
    "Giy la testa - It's the Gunslinger"

    I'm probably the only person on Earth that dislikes Stephen King and still manages to read one or two of his books a year. He certainly knows how to craft a page-turner and he shows occasional brilliance in character development, but most of his work is chock-full of ham-fisted imagery, ill-fitting pop culture references, and over-moist sex scenes. That said, "The Gunslinger" is Stephen King at his best with little of the mediocrity that plagues many of his other books.

    Roland's relentless pursuit of the man in black echoes events and characters from Browning's Childe Roland. It combines the desperation of Elliott's Waste Land with the imagery and violence of a spaghetti western. But most importantly, it works! The Gunslinger has the gravity of an old myth and is grittily satisfying.
    The other Dark Tower books are nowhere near as subtle or well-crafted. Take for example, the asinine antagonist of the third book: a sentient, evil locomotive ("Blaine the Train is a pain"), or the Wizard of Oz rubbish tacked onto the end of the fourth book. These grotesque elements are garish lipstick smeared on a corpse by an over-eager mortician. How can the Roland we have come to know and love in "The Gunslinger" maintain his dignity in the face of such laughable adversities?

    If you're a fan of King's early work or even if you've tried later Dark Tower books and disliked them, you should absolutely give this book a listen, but I recommend you avoid later books in the series.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Anything

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Daniel Coyle
    • Narrated By John Farrell

    New research has revealed that myelin, once considered an inert form of insulation for brain cells, may be the holy grail of acquiring skill. Journalist Daniel Coyle spent years investigating talent hotbeds, interviewing world-class practitioners (top soccer players, violinists, fighter, pilots, artists, and bank robbers) and neuroscientists. In clear, accessible language, he presents a solid strategy for skill acquisition.

    Stephen says: "Anecdotes presented as data"
    "Step Right Up"

    To attribute mastery of certain skills solely to myelin is reductionism to the point of absurdity and is not backed up by the research (much of which has yet to be been done). After giving a brief description of myelin and myelination, nothing different that I learned in high school biology 20 years ago, he jumps directly to unsubstantiated claims using only a few quotes from neuroscientists in the field, one of which is "wow", as the bridge.

    You can tell this book is targeted less to readers of science popularization and more to the self-help crowd by Coyle's snappy selection of terms like "Ignition" and "Matrix". The music used in the audiobook between chapters provides further evidence.

    At times Coyle talks about myelin as if he invented it and was making it available to you as a special offer on late night television for only 14 easy installments of $19.95.

    This book is at its best when discussing talent "hotbeds" and the teaching strategies used by master coaches. I would have preferred it to be suplemented by an insightful overview of the current literature written for those with a basic education, as Stephen Pinker does for Linguistics. But instead, Coyle sells a worldview mostly of his own invention.

    42 of 47 people found this review helpful
  • A Feast for Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book IV

    • UNABRIDGED (31 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By George R. R. Martin
    • Narrated By John Lee

    It is not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters start to gather, picking over the bones of the dead and fighting for the spoils of the soon-to-be dead. Now in the Seven Kingdoms, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed, while surprising faces, some familiar, others only just appearing, are seen emerging from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges ahead.

    Aaron says: "No Roy Dotrice"

    The choice of narrator can make or break an audiobook. This one is broken.

    Mr. Lee sounds like he's had too many previous engagements overdubbing Japanese anime cartoons; he over-enunciates, over-inflects, and generally overacts. The result is so over-the-top that it made me cringe and put aside the audiobook in favor of the printed text after an hour of listening. This was doubly frustrating because I spent two Audible credits on it.

    If any of the producers of this audiobook series are reading these reviews: We need more crusty old narrators like Mr. Dotrice, who read the previous three books in the series and Mr. Tull, who narrated all 21 books in Patrick O'Brian's excellent Aubrey/Machurin series. We crave subtle and witty readers who have a deep appreciation of the motivations of characters, not declaimers who can turn even the most sublime prose into bombastic blather.

    The reader aside, A Feast for Crows does not meet the high standard set by the previous three books in the series, but it is entertaining and well worth the time.

    19 of 24 people found this review helpful
  • A Carnivore's Inquiry: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Sabina Murray
    • Narrated By Wendy Hoopes

    A gripping literary psychological thriller about a young woman and a peculiar taste for flesh, this is the spellbinding new book from the winner of the 2003 PEN/Faulkner Award.

    Karen says: "creepy, funny and very well written"
    "Entertaining, But Hardly Meaty"

    The publisher's book description and many professional reviews all present this as a novel of ideas. Don't be deceived! It's primarily a suspense novel with the thrilling bits you normally expect in a suspense novel ripped out and replaced by the narrator's musings on cannibalism in Western art, folklore, and history. And, as unlikely as it sounds, this is its main strength.

    While these inner stories of desperate adventurers and hungry gods are themselves quite enjoyable, it's the frame story, Katherine's ramblings around the US and (too briefly) in Mexico, that fall flat. The themes that are purported by some reviewers to tie these reflections together are all but absent in the main storyline, where the majority of events center around the narrator meeting a random man, drinking far too much liquor, then blacking out.

    All of the characters, save perhaps Katherine, Boris, and Anne, seem motiveless and underdeveloped. Of course, since the reader only sees these characters through the lens of the disturbed, solipsistic narrator, one could argue that this is a purposeful technique used by the author to illustrate Katherine's schizoid lack of affect. Intentional or not, these half-formed secondary characters make for drab reading.

    Murray is obviously skilled, and some parts of her story are quite compelling and a bit creepy. However, this book is not a true thriller, since it completely lacks a building tension released by action. Neither is it a novel of ideas, since the only idea that receives rigorous treatment is that some people crave the juicy meat of the long pig. Instead, to its detriment, this book is stuck somewhere in between. In the hands of a less skillful writer this story would have turned out dreadfully. As it is, "A Carnivore's Inquiry" is an entertaining but forgetful read.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Darwin's Children

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Greg Bear
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Eleven years have passed since SHEVA was discovered in human DNA, a retrovirus that caused mutations in the human genome and heralded the arrival of a new wave of genetically enhanced humans. Now these changed children have reached adolescence...and face a world that is outraged about their very existence. For these special youths are also ticking time bombs that could exterminate the "old" human race...

    Jim says: "Serious Science Fiction"
    "A disappointment"

    I've read other Bear (Blood Music, and Forge of God many years ago) and remember them fondly, so I was overjoyed when I found his newer material on Audible. However, despite the fact that the central idea is interesting, I was deeply disappointed by Darwin's Children.

    First, the science is questionable. Bear gets some minor details about retrotransposons wrong, but what really bugged me was the SHEVA-infected women who become virus factories (a hypothesis that's sure to fail the parsimony test). Finally, Bear seems to believe the Victorian notion that evolution is a progression towards perfection.

    Sometimes inconsistencies in Bear's characters are so irritating that they interrupt the flow of the story. For instance, Kaye does nothing by weep in the car outside the house where Stella has been abducted; most mothers would charge in to save their child. And Mitch, who used to be some kind of anthropologist, says that he respects Native Americans so much, he's dug up their sacred gravesites.

    In all, this book was either a hurried or sloppy effort that could have been improved with the help of a good editor and fact checker.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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