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John S.

Seattle, WA United States | Member Since 2005

312
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 132 reviews
  • 166 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 33 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
20

  • Civilization: The West and the Rest

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Niall Ferguson
    • Narrated By Niall Ferguson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (753)
    Performance
    (631)
    Story
    (625)

    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.

    F. Ribeiro says: "Niall Ferguson's Most Enjoyable Book"
    "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
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Sphinx Collection: Three Sherlock Holmes Mysteries in One Book

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 32 mins)
    • By Pennie Mae Cartawick
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    Three compelling Sherlock Holmes mysteries in one book. Story one: "The Mystery of the Poisoned Tomb" Story two: "The Case of the Cracked Mirror" Story three: "The Mystery of the Faceless Bride" Set in the late 19th century, no fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes.

    John S. says: "Nothing special"
    "Nothing special"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Simon Prebble's narration was fine, but didn't make these stories stand out at all ... they were just sort of ... there. Final one I found a bit creepy, and hard to believe.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Eccentric Painter (A Sherlock Holmes Uncovered Tale)

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 8 mins)
    • By Steven Ehrman
    • Narrated By John Patrick Conn
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (11)

    Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are called in on the murder of a wealthy English country squire. The deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes are on full display as he flushes the killer from a group of suspects with perfect alibis.

    John S. says: "Has promise, but ..."
    "Has promise, but ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First of all, many listeners will find the American narrator's voice a complete deal-breaker; however, that wasn't a problem for me. I did notice at one point Holmes calling their young female client "My dear", something ACD's Holmes would never have done. The story itself was okay, though as others have mentioned, brief with a beginning and end, but no real middle section. So, I'm open to reading another, but not in any hurry at all about doing so.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Hairy Hikers: A Coast-to-Coast Trek Along the French Pyrenees

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By David Le Vay
    • Narrated By Rupert Farley
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Fuelled by a degree of mid-life crisis and the need to escape, albeit temporarily, the dull routine of modern life, David and Rob set out to walk from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, taking in French villages, beautiful scenery, and one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Europe. Just about perfect – if you can put aside the inevitable conflict, drama, and unexpected tedium that results from two men spending over seven solid weeks in each other’s company!

    John S. says: "Recommended with limited enthusiasm"
    "Recommended with limited enthusiasm"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have to agree with a reviewer who said he found the author's regular "We're not a 'couple'!" protestations a bit off-putting; moreover, the audio narration came of as a bit effete to me, which didn't help in that regard.

    As a travel narrative, it was okay, although there was a fair amount of emphasis on the other hikers they met as part of the story; that aspect didn't fully work for me. There's much juvenile humor, unfortunately made worse by the narration as well. I suspect the print version might be a full three stars, with 2.5 for the audio edition. I will say the writing itself is fairly good in terms of flow, so it's not a matter of needing "editing" as such.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Double Down: Game Change 2012

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Mark Halperin, John Heilemann
    • Narrated By Robert Fass
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (448)
    Performance
    (400)
    Story
    (404)

    Drawing on hundreds of interviews with the people who lived the story, Heilemann and Halperin deliver another reportorial tour de force that reads like a fast-paced novel. Character driven and dialogue rich, replete with extravagantly detailed scenes, Double Down offers a panoramic account of a campaign at once intensely hard fought and lastingly consequential. For Obama, the victory he achieved meant even more to him than the one he had pulled off four years earlier.

    Tony says: "Game Change 2.0"
    "Slow start"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was concerned that the book wouldn't tell me much I didn't already know, but I had a hard time putting it down. The first section, between the 2010 mid-terms and the Republican race was a bit boring, but not mind-numbingly so. The primary coverage was fascinating, and took up over a third of the story -- I had no idea that the establishment had been working so frantically behind the scenes to get Christie into the race, to avoid being stuck with Mitt. The final part on the general was largely focused on the debates I felt, with some reference to Hurricane Sandy and other events, seeming a bit tacked-on/rushed in that regard. In the final post-mortem, it was obvious that Mitt and his team failed to acknowledge that they lost because they were out-of-step with the American people, blaming the loss (pretty much) solely on higher-than-predicted Dem turnout (by the infamous 47%).

    Audio narration was very good, a few minor quibbles aside.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A Brief History of Life in Victorian Britain

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Michael Paterson
    • Narrated By Mark Meadows
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (29)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (28)

    The Victorian era has dominated the popular imagination like no other period, but these myths and stories also give a very distorted view of the 19th century. The early Victorians were much stranger than we usually imagine, and their world would have felt very different from our own. It was only during the long reign of the Queen that a modern society emerged in unexpected ways.

    Troy says: "Brief, But Insightful"
    "Glad I bought it"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A good overview of how much things changed during the reign, as well as a good comparison of how much technology changed society in a lifetime, similar to modern history.

    Good narration - recommended

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Michael Rosen
    • Narrated By Michael Rosen
    Overall
    (39)
    Performance
    (35)
    Story
    (34)

    From minding your Ps and Qs to wondering why X should mark the spot, Alphabetical is a book for everyone who loves words and language. Whether it's how letters are arranged on keyboards or Viking runes, textspeak or zip codes, this book will change the way you think about letters forever. How on earth did we fix upon our 26 letters? What do they really mean? And how did we come to write them down in the first place? Michael Rosen takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the history of the alphabet in 26 vivid chapters, fizzing with personal anecdotes and fascinating facts.

    Andy says: "delightfully entertaining"
    "PDF not essential"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Twenty-six entries each starting with a brief overview of a letter of the alphabet (historical background, phonetics, etc.), used as a jumping off point for a digression of a specific linguistic (for lack of a better term) aspect. Some were (at least mildly) interesting, while others (often having to do with the author's own life) weren't. Overall, the book worked to pass time when I needed to fill short periods with background noise. Rosen's reading was okay as author-narrated books go, but I might've preferred to skim the print book I think if I had to go back and decide again.

    One point that irritated me more as the book went on was the incredibly U. K. centric focus. I accept that Rosen is English himself, but as most folks for whom English is their primary language are NOT British, the short shrift he gives in passing to that fact seemed a bit ... patronizing - with a "zee"!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman's Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Loreen Niewenhuis
    • Narrated By Loreen Niewenhuis
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    In 2009, Loreen Niewenhuis walked completely around Lake Michigan. This audiobook chronicles that journey, a 1,000-mile walk around the world's fifth-largest lake. The audiobook explores both the geology of the lake and the measure of a person - a woman, married, mother of two sons (who joined her for portions of the walk). But most of the walk was done solo, an adventure in discovery of self and place. Niewenhuis conveys a sense of the magnitude of the lake she loves, a place so elemental to the four Midwestern states that form its shores.

    John S. says: "Impulse purchase that paid off"
    "Impulse purchase that paid off"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I liked the book quite a lot as a travel narrative, and the author does a good job narrating her own work. My issue was that I found her a bit of a downer regarding the ecological problems of the lake, which are well known, and being addressed; still, I'd definitely recommend the book to those who feel the topic might be of interest.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Still Life in Brunswick Stew: A Cherry Tucker Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Larissa Reinhart
    • Narrated By Erin Clark
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    Cherry Tucker’s in a stew. Desperate and broke, Cherry and her friend, Eloise, spend a sultry summer weekend hawking their art at the Sidewinder Annual Brunswick Stew Cook-Off. When a bad case of food poisoning breaks out and Eloise dies, the police brush off her death as accidental. However, Cherry suspects someone spiked the stew and killed her friend. As Cherry calls on cook-off competitors, bitter rivals, and crooked judges, the police get steamed while the killer prepares to cook Cherry’s goose.

    Shaynalyn says: "Super Poor Narration"
    "Poor clueless Cherry"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I thought the first book wasn’t too bad, but this one is, to use a southern expression, rather a hot mess. Three quarters of the way through I found myself wondering when the “mystery” angle was going to kick in? It sort of did after that, but by then that didn’t really matter, more like, “Oh, it was that person.”
    Let’s talk about Cherry, whom another reviewer has labeled “narcissistic”; I tend to agree. She spends her time sulking about slights quite a bit, when not outright provoking hostility from others. At one point, she engages in a nasty bit of badinage with the waitress at a dive (an establishment called “The Viper” could be anything else?), which would’ve been avoided had Cherry not deliberately escalated the situation. Later, when she makes a very nasty remark to her “arch enemy” Shawna, she gets punched in the face. When asked what happened afterwards, she admits that she make the remark, but says defensively, “I didn’t think she’d hit me!” Cherry's crack was the kind of remark that even a Philadelphia Main Line society matron would’ve been hard pressed to ignore. Score one for Shawna. At one point, the locals bristle at the idea of being called “country”; okay then … “yokels” perhaps? Almost all of them seem like something out of Jerry Springer to me. My jaw dropped when Cherry referred to someone as trash, and a moment later tells us how she “honored” her grandmother’s passing with a t shirt featuring that lady’s photo “outlined in Swarovski crystals.” Pot-kettle-black, I’d say. Finally, there’s one subplot that I found fascinating, featuring the one character who isn’t at all trashy, Max Avtaikin. I think of it as The Case of the Suspicious Speedos.
    Max is an immigrant from the former Soviet bloc, who seems somehow to be involved with illegal gambling, at least in Cherry’s mind. He lives in a mansion, is single, and husky enough to have the nickname “Bear” which Cherry uses (he generally calls her “Artist” in return). In addition to a light-years-beyond-gorgeous boyfriend, Luke, Cherry has a quasi-ex-husband, Todd, from an annulled quickie Vegas marriage (see Jerry Springer above), who’s also H-O-T. We know this about them because Cherry tells us … often. Todd is employed by Max part-time as a bingo caller, when Max lets the Ladies’ Auxiliary use his property for their games. During one bout of snooping to confirm her suspicion that Max is running an illegal high stakes poker operation in his pool house (involving poor Todd in that sordid scheme, so he needs her “rescuing”), Cherry runs across Todd swimming -- in speedos! She is mortified beyond belief. When she (hysterically) demands to know WHY he is wearing speedos, Todd replies that they are not his, but that Max “loaned” them to him. She never actually questions that single, husky middle aged men routinely have speedos that fit young hunks perfectly lying around as a matter of course. One might get the impression that the games played in the poolhouse might be more of the strip poker variety perhaps? At one point, the plot has Max taking Cherry upstairs to see a painting he bought, with the line, “That is my bedroom (behind the closed door); you do not need to see it.” I suppose if she were that curious, she could just ask Todd?
    I would be willing to read the next book, on the assumption the series was actually intended to be a campy parody, ‘cause in that sense, it’s a rip-roaring success!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Foreign Faces

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By V. S. Pritchett
    • Narrated By James Langton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    I am,' writes Mr. Pritchett, 'an offensive traveller'-meaning not that he is rude to porters, but that his praise of a country has sometimes been taken by its inhabitants as abuse or ridicule. Be that as it may, his book, which is based upon sojourns in Spain, Turkey, Persia, and the Iron Curtain countries, will delight every English reader. Pritchett's alert eye and relaxed manner, his flair for meeting new places and people without any warping preoccupations, produce the most felicitous results.

    John S. says: "Great snapshot of an era"
    "Great snapshot of an era"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This collection of travel essays, many from Cold War-era eastern Europe, I found "right up my street" (as our British friends would say). Narration seemed a good fit, too.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Tecate Journals: Seventy Days on the Rio Grande

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Keith Bowden
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    The Rio Grande is simultaneously one of the most watched and least understood rivers in the world. Some stretches of the Rio pass for endless miles through remote wilderness, boxed in by canyons hundreds of feet high and inhabited by only the hardiest animals and humans. That's why journalist Keith Bowden decided to become the first person to travel the entire length of the Rio as it forms the border between America and Mexico.

    John S. says: "Story of a unique trip"
    "Story of a unique trip"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I couldn't put my finger exactly on why I didn't like the book more, deciding it was his style of ingratiating himself with Hispanics he met as "such a cool Anglo" (which he had the honesty to report actually backfired on him at least once).

    The first part is rather slow going with backstory of his life, finally getting in the water at El Paso, and then canoeing down to Laredo, where the author lives. A couple of friends join him for stretches, and he meets up with others along the way. This section isn't very populated, and there's only so much description to go on about, so he "profiles" the folks I've just mentioned, which fell into a "you had to be there" mode for me.

    Still, on balance, that was marginally better than the second part from Laredo to the Gulf of Mexico. Here, he spends a great deal of time charming initially-unfriendly border patrol agents, between beer runs in local towns. At one point, he marvels that he was able to stroll through a (prosperous) winter retirement community ... "because I'm white!" That was back-to-back with an encounter with a Mexican who was pleased that his countrymen had treated Bowden so kindly (he had bopped back and forth between the countries in a sort of zig-zag fashion); his delight in telling the reader of that fellow's follow up remark "and how would I be treated as a stranger in your country?" to which Bowden gives the expected answer of "not well!" had my eyes rolling. If that politics wouldn't bother you, you'll like the book more than I did.

    Finally, the narration was outstanding - perfect fit!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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