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John S.

Seattle, WA United States | Member Since 2013

360
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 154 reviews
  • 188 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 10 purchased in 2015
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FOLLOWERS
23

  • Civilization: The West and the Rest

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Niall Ferguson
    • Narrated By Niall Ferguson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (959)
    Performance
    (802)
    Story
    (797)

    The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations.

    Amazon Customer says: "Guns, Germs, and Steel is History 101, this is 201"
    "I like to think I'm intelligent"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    and am well-educated, but failed to get whatever "point" Ferguson was making here - just lots and lots (and lots!) of historical stories/anecdotes/facts for 14 hours. His reading wasn't a problem for me; although the sections where he read quoted passages in the speakers' accented English seemed weird at times, that did serve to set them off from the "story" itself.

    If I had the choice again, I'd read (skim) the print version instead. I tried breaking it down to listening no more than an hour per day, and even that left me looking at the time-elapsed counter frequently.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • The Curse of the House of Foskett: The Gower Street Detective, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs)
    • By M. R. C. Kasasian
    • Narrated By Lindy Nettleton
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    125 Gower Street, 1882. Sidney Grice once had a reputation as London's most perspicacious personal detective. But since his last case led an innocent man to the gallows, business has been light. Listless and depressed, Grice has taken to lying in the bath for hours, emerging in the evenings for a little dry toast and a lot of tea. Usually a voracious reader, he will pick up neither book nor newspaper. He has not even gathered the strength to reinsert his glass eye. His ward, March Middleton, has been left to dine alone.

    John S. says: "Read "The Mangle Street Murders" first"
    "Read "The Mangle Street Murders" first"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's needed for context, otherwise you'll miss a lot here.

    That having been said, this book proves a good sequel, though my fourth star includes Lindy Nettleton's awesome narration; the plot itself is really three stars, especially as there are regular flashbacks to March's time in India that detracted for me, especially in audio where they appeared almost randomly without any notice. Still, it's great to see Sidney and March's characters grow (though Sidney does his best to hide that). One of the best scenes was March (who had been raised in India) bravely facing an English dish of "curried vegetables" that bore as much relation to the original as passing off a can of Dinty Moore beef stew as "homemade Russian stroganoff."

    Shocker of an ending makes the next book a Must Read!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Walking Home: A Poet's Journey

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Simon Armitage
    • Narrated By Graeme Malcolm
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    The wandering poet has always been a feature of our cultural imagination. Odysseus journeys home, his famous flair for storytelling seducing friend and foe. The Romantic poets tramped all over the Lake District searching for inspiration. Now Simon Armitage, with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation, as well as a wry humor all his own, has taken on Britain’s version of our Appalachian Trail: the Pennine Way.

    John S. says: "Not necessarily what you might imagine"
    "Not necessarily what you might imagine"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, as I'm not a poetry guy at all, nor am I into extensive descriptions of nature. Well, neither of those were a problem here. There are some poems in the book, but only a few, so that I appreciated the poetry readings he gave along the way. Book is especially recommended for poetry fans, as well as those with a string interest in the English countryside. Audio narration a terrific fit - I kept forgetting Armitage wasn't reading this himself.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Campari For Breakfast

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Sara Crowe
    • Narrated By Sara Crowe
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    In 1987, Sue Bowl's world changes for ever. Her mother dies, leaving her feeling like she’s lost a vital part of herself. And then her father shacks up with an awful golddigger called Ivana. But Sue’s mother always told her to make the most of what she’s got - and what she’s got is a love of writing and some interesting relatives.

    John S. says: "Not quite what I'd expected"
    "Not quite what I'd expected"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I hadn't realized this was such a YA book. Sue, the 17 year old protagonist, came off as closer to 14 to me, very immature.

    As a bit if plot re-hashing, which I normally avoid, her mother's just committed suicide, and she hates her dad's fiancée, so she's off to her Aunt Coral at her mother's family estate, or at least manse. At that point, some of the story is told in flashback form over Coral's lifetime from her journals; I liked that as an alternative to Sue mooning over a boy she can't have in the present. Coral's the best part of the story, although she's rather immature herself, at her best when leading the weekly writing seminars. Naturally, there's a villain as well, who becomes the girlfriend of the object of Sue's obsession. Never fear, by the end she's contrite, Sue learns that the truth about her parents wasn't what she'd assumed, her life is on track, and Coral is left with a rehabilitated manse, formerly a money pit, to run as a sort of guest house. Sorry for the spoilers, but most readers would see all that coming in a book where everything's tied up very neatly.

    One of the few audiobooks where the author's own narration is probably better than a professional would have done.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mad Mouse

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Chris Grabenstein
    • Narrated By Jeff Woodman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (815)
    Performance
    (421)
    Story
    (417)

    Young Danny Boyle, the part-time summer cop "down the shore" in Sea Haven, New Jersey, gets taken on a wild ride when he and his longtime beach buddies become the unwitting targets of a madman's twisted scheme for revenge. Fortunately, John Ceepak, the cop with a soldier's unshakable code of honor, stays at Danny's side to help him negotiate the quick twists and turns that threaten to destroy his life, his friends, and everything about the world he loves.

    John says: "Whack a Mole"
    "Read the series in order!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's tough for a sequel to equal a strong first book, and this series is no exception. The plot takes an awfully long time to get going as there's no actual murder for quite a while. Also, I didn't really relate to Danny and his young friends all that much; to be brutally honest, they seemed a bit boring to me. But, okay ....

    I give the book a fourth star as the villain was actually quite interesting, complete with an ending that one cannot reasonably expect, even if it's rather over-the-top. More importantly, the author makes the point that a) bullying can have consequences later, even if seems "fun" at the time, and b) so can rejecting your kids for not being what you deem "successful" early on. There's also an angle regarding Ceepak's discovering talent in a young man who seems anything but a success on the surface.

    Wanted to throw in that while there's nothing gory or grisly here, one scene did fill me with complete horror: Danny stumbles across a young kid, around 5 in a wheelchair (presumably with developmental issues or Downs Syndrome, not really gone into), being bullied by a group of young men in their late teens who are going to have "fun" pushing the " 'tard" down a steep ramp (the kid is absolutely terrified). Call me a wuss if you'd like, but I was incredibly rattled for quite a while that such an event was even possible in real life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Bucholz
    Overall
    (132)
    Performance
    (118)
    Story
    (119)

    During the 229-year period from 1485 to 1714, England transformed itself from a minor feudal state into what has been called "the first modern society" and emerged as the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world.Those years hold a huge and captivating story. The English survived repeated epidemics and famines, one failed invasion and two successful ones, two civil wars, a series of violent religious reformations and counter-reformations, and confrontations with two of the most powerful monarchs on earth.

    E. Stein says: "Old-fashioned and inaccurate"
    "Not bad"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    He does a good job with presenting new (to me) points of view regarding well-trodden ground. Wasn't a great fan of his style of dramatic reading though.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • This House Is Haunted

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By John Boyne
    • Narrated By Alison Larkin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (84)
    Performance
    (77)
    Story
    (78)

    When she arrives at the hall, shaken by an unsettling disturbance that occurred during her travels, she is greeted by the two children now in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There is no adult present to represent her mysterious employer, and the children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, another terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong. From the moment Eliza rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within Gaudlin's walls.

    Dorothy says: "Well Read - Not Very Scary, Had Promise"
    "Scary? No"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    So-So Victorian period piece, but no thriller. Author was trying for "Turn of the Screw" but ended up with something closer to a Movie of the Week script instead.

    Narrator did the best she could with the material, so no knock on her performance here.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Tilt-a-Whirl

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Chris Grabenstein
    • Narrated By Jeff Woodman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1569)
    Performance
    (956)
    Story
    (951)

    There isn't much fun in the sun when a billionaire real estate tycoon is found murdered on the Tilt-a-Whirl at a seedy seaside amusement park in the otherwise quiet summer tourist town of Sea Haven. John Ceepak, a former MP just back from Iraq, has just joined the Sea Haven police department. The job offer came from an old Army buddy who hoped to give Ceepak at least a summer's worth of rest and relaxation to help him forget the horrors of war. Instead, Ceepak will head up the murder investigation.

    Bryan says: "A Guilty Pleasure"
    "I really liked this one ... a lot!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Where to begin after saying that ... I spent a few decades in the Garden State (ages 2 - 35), though have only been Down the Shore a few times for day trips; still, I've heard enough stories to know that instead of laying things on thick here, the author's portrayal was actually understated, if anything.

    I'll start with the plot, where the only "fault" I really found was in believing that municipal cops would end up having any say in investigating such a high-profile crime. Once the state (and, in this case, FBI, as well) became involved, their presence would be distinctly unwelcome. Grabenstein manages to introduce a red herring, which I fell for along with Danny, which really shifted the tone considerably. All in all, the plot worked fine for me.

    So, let's talk about Ceepak. He really did turn out almost Holmes-like in his attention to detail. Yes, he is a bit Dudley-Do-Right, but rather than seeming goody-goody, it's just who he is. His Springsteen obsession made him appear a bit Asperger-ish, although analyzing the personality of a fictional character only goes so far. Sufficed to say, he turns out to be a "totally awesome" character. The final scene would be incredibly corny in any other situation, but because it's Ceepak, I found myself making a thumbs up gesture.

    Perhaps Grabenstein decided that Watson-describing-Holmes worked so well that he'ddo that, too. Or. maybe he tried writing a Ceepak point-of-view story, realizing that was just too ... awkward (difficult). In any event, this is really Danny's story. He grows from a "kid" with a summer job (he seemed a bit younger than 24 to me), taking a seasonal job involving parking tickets, and other minor offenses, to someone who goes through a lot (it is a murder case after all), and learns more about where he'd like to go (no spoiler really that he's actually a pretty good potential cop himself). In other words, the draw of this as a series is seeing Danny's point-of-view as he gains experience.

    And, part of the draw is Jeff Woodman's narration. He's one of the three best narrator-material fits I've run across in eons of audio listening. (For the record, the others are George Guidall reading Hillerman's Jim Chee series and the late Frank Mueller reading the novel Motherless Brooklyn).

    Now, someone stop me before I rant again!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Dead Don't Dance: Jungle Beat Mystery, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By John Enright
    • Narrated By Phil Gigante
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Rumored to hold more spirits than people, the remote tropical paradise To’aga frightens many Samoan locals - but not Detective Apelu Soifua. Reeling from the loss of his young daughter, Apelu retreats to the haunted island for a self-imposed exile. He spends his days drinking, trying to ignore the ghosts in his head, and receives few visitors other than a shamanistic recluse and a pair of dedicated marine biologists conducting research.

    John S. says: "Don't start here"
    "Don't start here"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've seen reviews that state this one can be read as a stand-alone, which is probably true, but I'd still read the others first. Phil Gigante is a great fit as narrator for the series.

    As for the story here, frankly I found the first third or so rather boring, with Apelu moping around on a remote island alone, grieving for his young daughter who'd died on cancer; he blames himself for not having insisted she be treated earlier. The wife and kids are in Western Samoa with her family, except for the older boy, Senele, who comes to live with Apelu later in the story. Anyway ... once one of the pahlonghi (white American) associated with the construction crew is murdered, the action picks up, or at least we have something to go on from there. The ending is quite rushed, almost tacked on, so I didn't really get why the victims were killed specifically?

    The book filled time, but if I had to describe it in a single word: grim. Between Apelu's morbid moping, and the nasty characters, it was tough to actually like reading this one. I will give Enright credit for the way he so thoroughly coveys a sense of place and culture. On to the next installment, which just came out ... though probably not right away.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Language A to Z

    • ORIGINAL (6 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, John McWhorter
    • Narrated By Professor John McWhorter
    Overall
    (642)
    Performance
    (581)
    Story
    (566)

    Linguistics, the study of language, has a reputation for being complex and inaccessible. But here's a secret: There's a lot that's quirky and intriguing about how human language works-and much of it is downright fun to learn about. But with so many potential avenues of exploration, it can often seem daunting to try to understand it. Where does one even start?

    Jacobus says: "A genious Miscelany of linguistic topics"
    "Well worth a credit"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Yes, the author does get carried away with his own schtick at times; however, he's usually informative and funny enough to easily carry what could be dry subject matter if handled differently.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Robert D. Kaplan
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (61)
    Performance
    (56)
    Story
    (55)

    Over the last decade, the center of world power has been quietly shifting from Europe to Asia. With oil reserves of several billion barrels, an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and several centuries' worth of competing territorial claims, the South China Sea in particular is a simmering pot of potential conflict. The underreported military buildup in the area where the Western Pacific meets the Indian Ocean means that it will likely be a hinge point for global war and peace for the foreseeable future.

    Christopher says: "Biggest Challenge for US in Next 50 Years"
    "Not exactly general interest reading"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Seems my ancient degree in International Relations really paid off here! Those without a very strong interest in foreign relations would find this one rather a slog I'm afraid, beyond the travel narrative aspects. Audio narration is well done.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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