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Jessica M. Merbler

Gaithersburg, Maryland United States | Member Since 2009

21
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 11 reviews
  • 15 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 18 purchased in 2014
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  • The Enchantment Emporium

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Tanya Huff
    • Narrated By Teri Clark Linden
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (193)
    Performance
    (109)
    Story
    (114)

    The Gale family can change the world with the charms they cast, and they like to keep this in the family. Alysha Gale is tired of having all her aunts try to run her life, both personally and magically. So when the letter from her Gran arrives willing her a "junk" shop in Calgary, Alysha jumps at the chance. It isn't until she gets there that she realizes her customers are fey. And no one told her there's trouble brewing in Calgary - trouble so big that even calling in the family may not save the day.

    HealingMaven says: "A good fun listen, but an uneven reader"
    "Enjoyable enough"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story, although I found some of it a bit uncomfortable (the relationships between everyone - although, maybe if you go with the theory that the Gales aren't human, it works a bit better.) Nothing really complicated or twisty about the plot, but enjoyable nonetheless.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Spider's Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Jennifer Estep
    • Narrated By Lauren Fortgang
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2584)
    Performance
    (1962)
    Story
    (1972)

    They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South -- when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

    Tony says: "Very Disappointed"
    "Poorly written and lackluster"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    While the narrator gave it her best go, you can't turn a pig's ear into a silk purse. While this might be a cliche to use, the kind of writing contained within only deserves a cliche. In a word: Yawn. Next?

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Year Zero: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Rob Reid
    • Narrated By John Hodgman
    Overall
    (1031)
    Performance
    (941)
    Story
    (940)

    Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it's a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news. The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity's music ever since "Year Zero" (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang.

    Robert says: "Fantastic Performance by Hodgman"
    "When aliens decide humanity has the best music"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Rating: 4 paws

    One quote from the book that I particularly cared for: "More like 'involuntary assisted suicide.'"

    Summary of the book in one sentence: What happens when aliens decide humanity has the best possible music and bankrupts the universe because of copywrite laws.
    --------------
    First paw consists of the writing style - basically, this is the technical aspect of the book. This book is going for two genres: sci-fi and humor. The humor is coming off every page, but even then, he doesn't get slapstick or gimmicky, which I very much approve of. He also doesn't have puerile fart jokes or other gross "humor." He does have some very topical and date specific jokes in it, so the humor might not be as relevant in ten years, but that isn't the majority of the humor, so I won't hold that against him. As for the sci-fi, it's about *aliens* and has alien technology in it. You don't get much more sci-fi. But wait! Where some sci-fi humorists overlook trying to do what more serious sci-fi writers do and explain their technology, HE ACTUALLY DOES explain some. I was actually really impressed with that. He very much met this category.

    The second paw is "emotional connection" - basically, was I *interested* in what I was reading? I don't think there was one instant of reading this that I *wasn't* interested in what he was writing. I loved the characters, I was engaged in the plot, I enjoyed his word choices. The connection was strong for this one.

    Third paw is plot - akin to writing style, but purely about The Story. In a lot of sci-fi stories, you get deus ex machina solutions, which can get quite irritating after reading the umpteenth novel with such. Reid apparently shares my frustration with that cliche of writing, as every possible DEM solution the characters try, it either fizzles before working or actually makes the situation worse. While it could be argued that the ending was a big DEM solution, *I* was entertained enough by it that I found it satisfying even knowing that it was one. While I can't say that I found the plot to be at all twisty, and the characters didn't really have much development, it was still a satisfying story. This isn't a strong paw, but he does have it.

    The last paw is "Other Stuff," which is pretty much anything that doesn't go into another category but is still note-worthy. I have a confession to make: when I read Douglas Adams, I don't end up laughing out loud very often. I find his books delightfully funny, but not bursting-a-gut laughing funny. It's the same with Monty Python. Or with Ernst Cline's Ready Player One. All of these are great fun, but none really get me rolling over laughing. It's the same with this book. Reid is funny and often witty (which are vastly different things, in case you didn't know,) but he didn't inspire any great guffaws of laughter from me. And, you know what? That's okay. He was going for humor, and he achieved it. So, for those critics wondering how this book could possibly be compared to Douglas Adams? Have you READ The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul? This is very much in that vein of humor. Having said that, I give this paw to the book, purely for reminding me of one of my favorite authors, while still being completely unique and having it's own voice.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • In Session: Dr. Morgan Snow with Steve Berry's Cotton Malone, Lee Child's Jack Reacher & Barry Eisler's John Rain

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 44 mins)
    • By M. J. Rose
    • Narrated By Natalie Ross, Phil Gigante, Scott Brick, and others
    Overall
    (1027)
    Performance
    (836)
    Story
    (859)

    As a therapist specializing in sexual issues, psychiatrist Dr. Morgan Snow isn't easily shocked, or shaken, as readers of the popular "Butterfield Institute" novels know. There are times, however, when the need for her services leads her out of the office... and into unfamiliar worlds. In these stories, the therapist matches her wits -and her training - against three men of mystery: Jack Reacher, John Rain, and Cotton Malone.

    Rose says: "Thank you for the free story, however........"
    "Sex Therapy Session"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Rating: 3 paws

    One quote from the book that I particularly cared for, so, here's the quote: "My whole life is a wrong decision. One more one way or the other there is a statistical rounding error."

    Summary of the book in one sentence: "What a sex therapist discusses with professional assassins/spies in a therapy session."
    --------------
    So, I honestly had no idea what this book was to be about, and I really only got it because Audible was offering it for cheap and I enjoy the novels the different spy-characters are in. I had no previous experience with M.J. Rose's works, and I had no idea what I was getting in to. It was an interesting experience.

    First paw consists of the writing style - basically, this is the technical aspect of the book. A short story anthology is a bit difficult to judge on technical merit, at least, it is for me. The writing is just too short for a real sample. But, Rose does well in this area, even in the brief moments that we're with her in the stories, and, while it's not stunning writing, there aren't any glaring, irritating mishaps that she takes, either. She earns this paw on the pure basis that I can't *not* give it to her.

    The second paw is "emotional connection" - basically, was I *interested* in what I was reading? Even in these brief forays into the different scenes, Rose *did* make me interested. I Wanted More. I think that that's probably one of the signs of a GOOD short story - I'm left wishing these were actual novels, so I can revel in the emotional connection with the story. Rose more than earns this paw.

    Third paw is plot - akin to writing style, but purely about The Story. I think my biggest complaint about this book comes with this topic. In any short story, suspension of disbelief is probably more important than ever, to Make Things Make Sense. Even so, the first story has be really questioning the ethics of this doctor and makes me highly uncomfortable. The other stories don't have this problem *quite* as badly, but then, the other stories don't really have much *plot.* They're far more akin to vignettes than anything else. They also didn't contain much *suspense,* which is what I thought they would, considering the characters involved. It was pretty much just dialogue. So, while I enjoyed the various stories and the writing, and so on, I really can't give this paw.

    The last paw is "Other Stuff," which is pretty much anything that doesn't go into another category but is still note-worthy. So, let me gush about the narrators. I *adore* Scott Brick's voice and I think he really should read erotica. I'd buy that RIGHT up. And, I enjoy Dick Hill's voice, for a totally different aesthetic value. Hearing their voices in this made it more enjoyable. So, if you're looking for something purely on the audiophile level, I'd say go with this. The performances were great. Obviously, this is a free paw for this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5433)
    Performance
    (5065)
    Story
    (5061)

    Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the facts that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces; (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations; and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

    Ken says: "It's all about the codas"
    "Not his best work"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As in most, if not all, Scalzi books, I found the plot absolutely spell binding. Which was a really good thing, as the writing was very much not. Seriously, Scalzi is one of those authors who needs to obtain a thesaurus. The repetition of the word "said" almost made me stop reading the book. Which would have been a shame, as, like I said, the plot was fantastic. Writing might have gotten a "C" in any college Creative Writing course, but the plot might have made a professor "grade kindly." There was definite character development, which is almost unheard of, in a Scalzi character. Except, possibly, with the Old Man's War saga.

    The only problem I had (aside from the thesaurus issue) with this book was the ending. Or series of endings. The whole code part of the title made sense at the end of the book, but honestly, I almost wish he hadn't put those series of endings in. Yes, it wrapped up story lines that otherwise wouldn't have been wrapped up, but as they were tangential arcs, I'm not entirely convinced they were important for the story. Unless it was a statement that reached back to the existential issues the book was talking about. In which case, thank you Scalzi for not hitting us over the head with the point, but I think a little more clarity that that's what you were doing would have been nice. I rarely do this with books but, I would suggest that, if you were to read this, stop at the end of the first ending. Because, while the rest is not likely to hurt your eyes to read, it's certainly not going to leave you with any Lasting Impressions, if you're anything like me. And, if you're NOT anything like me, then this entire review is sort of meaningless anyway.

    I would recommend it to other Scalzi fans, but I certainly wouldn't want this to be anyone's intro to him. Due to the repetition and ending(s,) I would have to say that this is a two out of four paw book.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Being There

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Jerzy Kosinski
    • Narrated By Dustin Hoffman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (212)
    Performance
    (190)
    Story
    (195)

    Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman gives an understated and exemplary performance of this satiric look at the unreality of American media culture. Chance, the enigmatic gardener, becomes Chauncey Gardiner after getting hit by a limo belonging to a Wall Street tycoon. The whirlwind that follows brings Chance to his new status of political policy advisor and possible vice presidential candidate. His garden-variety political responses, inspired by television, become heralded as visionary, and he is soon a media icon.

    Ilana says: "Darkly Funny"
    "Not even Dustin Hoffman was interested in this one"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Just finished Being There by Jerzy Kosinski. It was like looking at modern art, where the artist is clearly trying to Be Artistic instead of, say, painting (or, in this case, telling a story.) About the only thing I really took away from it was 1) "here's another 60s/70s story I don't enjoy due to needless emphasis on sex," and 2) Kosinski obviously feels that people take away whatever they want to from an exchange instead of what's actually there. Which, while I agree with that, I felt that the message was clumsily presented. I don't understand why this is considered such an important work.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Going Mutant: The Bat Boy Exposed

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Neil McGinness, Barry Leed, The Editors of the Weekly World News
    • Narrated By Patrick Lawlor
    Overall
    (15)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    The Weekly World News team uncovers the definitive and faux-tastic story of Bat Boy, from his hardscrabble origins in the caves of West Virginia to his global influence in the 21st century. Going Mutant reveals how Bat Boy has heeded a call to service that has embarrassed less forthcoming mutants.

    Jessica M. Merbler says: "Even Worse Than Christopher Moore"
    "Even Worse Than Christopher Moore"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    So, if possible, this book is actually *worse* than a Christopher Moore novel. Only not as dated (possibly because it was written more recently) but that will change in a few years, so, if dated books turn you off, I would highly suggest *not* reading this. I'm glad I only spent $5 on this. Had I paid anything more, I'd probably want to slam my head against my desk, for wasting my money. Not even worth a star.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Long Earth: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter
    • Narrated By Michael Fenton-Stevens
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (648)
    Performance
    (570)
    Story
    (578)

    The Western Front, 1916. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong and the wind in the leaves. Where have the mud, blood, and blasted landscape of no-man's-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone? Madison, Wisconsin, 2015. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive - some say mad, others allege dangerous - scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson find a curious gadget.

    colleen says: "A Different Pratchett"
    "Terry Pratchett's First Flop"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I don't think that I've been more disappointed in a Terry Pratchett book than I was with The Long Earth. Seriously? If you were thinking of getting this, don't bother. There's no real plot, the ending was abrupt and without resolution, the characters were flat and one dimensional without any kind of development and the different scenes were without any kind of meaning whatsoever in a cohesive storytelling kind of way. They made sense in and of themselves, but they didn't make up a story or have any real interaction with the other scenes. In short, the book sucked.

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Truth of Valor: A Confederation Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Tanya Huff
    • Narrated By Marguerite Gavin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (140)
    Performance
    (82)
    Story
    (82)

    Former Marine gunnery sergeant Torin Kerr is attempting to build a new life with salvage operator Craig Ryder on his ship, the Promise. Turns out civilian life is a lot rougher than she'd imagined - salvage operators are losing both cargo and lives to pirates. And when they attack the Promise, Craig is taken prisoner and Torin is left for dead. When Torin finds out why the pirates needed Craig, she calls in the Marines to get him back....

    Martha says: "Love a kick butt female!"
    "Just wasn't as good"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    So, I've read all of the books in the series, and have been VASTLY impressed and happy and squee about them. Until this one. Kerr just ... wasn't herself (which, I think, was the point) and the book just didn't have the immediacy and awesomeness the others did. I couldn't connect to it - couldn't bring myself to care overly much about what happened. I think, if this is going to be the last book, that I'll just consider the series to have ended with Valor's Trial. Of course, if a new book in the series were to be written, I'd still get it, in hopes that it would be as wonderful as the others were.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Valor's Trial: A Confederation Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Tanya Huff
    • Narrated By Marguerite Gavin
    Overall
    (169)
    Performance
    (95)
    Story
    (96)

    Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is a Confederation Marine's marine. She has survived more deadly encounters---and kept more of her officers and enlistees alive---than anyone else in the Corps. Unexpectedly pulled from battle, Torin finds herself in an underground POW camp that shouldn't exist, where her fellow marine prisoners seem to have lost all will to escape.

    DJM says: "Just outstanding"
    "Awesome book, awesome series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It seems like "a strong female lead" is something that most writers are trying to give their audience these days, and yet, so many of them just manage to provide irritating, not-thinking, "even if it makes more sense to have the male lead to do this task, I'm going to do it, because I'm female and RAWR," Marysues. Huff delivers an ACTUAL strong female lead.

    Kerr is a Marine. No two ways about it, in this character we enter the mind and spirit of what it means to be a Marine. Maybe my high school experience with Marine JROTC makes me appreciate this series more than I would otherwise, but every time I put down one of these books, I always feel like shouting "Oorah!" If you want to know why it is men and women don the uniform and serve, read this series.

    Obviously, I love the main character. But there are other characters in this series who are equally great. If you like character-driven books, read this series.

    But what about the plot, you say? It's a fast book, and the action scenes are in-your-face and might jump out at any moment - just like in a real battle. So, saying that, sometimes the transitions are a bit muddled and it's hard to follow when "down time" and "action time" changed. That's about the *only* thing that I can say is wrong with the plot. Otherwise, it's everything one could ask for in a sci-mil story.

    My only regret about reading this series? Is that it's coming so close to the end. This is one that's going to be hard to replace.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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