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John Cunningham

Born with earbuds.

Lincoln, NE United States | Member Since 2003


  • Blowback: A Retrieval Artist Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Kristine Kathryn Rusch
    • Narrated By Jay Snyder
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Moon, shaken by the Anniversary Day tragedies, deals with devastation. The Earth Alliance believes another attack imminent, but no one knows where or when it will strike. Just like no one knows who ordered the attacks in the first place. The Moon’s chief security office, Noelle DeRicci, does her best to hold the United Domes government together. But Retrieval Artist Miles Flint, dissatisfied with the investigation into the Anniversary Day events, begins an investigation of his own.

    John Cunningham says: "Ending Missing--Call a Retrieval Artist?"
    "Ending Missing--Call a Retrieval Artist?"
    What did you love best about Blowback?

    Blowback: Your weapon today might be their weapon tomorrow.

    I have read the previous novels in the series, and this one builds on the others and exceeds them in both plot complexity and depth of characterization. Talia, Police Detective Nyquist, and undercover Earth Alliance Agent Zagrando all get significant time as point-of-view characters in addition to Noelle DeRicci and Miles Flint. Agent Zagrando & Detective Nyquist no longer seem like new characters making their story lines more interesting. Personally, I like DeRicci's gruff character better in small doses, so her reduced roll was appreciated.

    I enjoyed that this book had the feel of a spy novel in addition to the expected police procedural style, heightening suspense and intrigue. In the best tradition of science fiction, Rusch continues to deftly explore the essence of person-hood, individualism, and discrimination using the future as her lens.

    On the downside, this book leaves too many questions unanswered and that is disappointing. When the credits rolled, it seemed like it was three chapters too soon. To be fair, a significant part of the storyline does resolve, but unfortunately, without the all-important "why's" answered. The author has admitted that the story was "too big to fit" with which I can sympathize. The cliffhanger aspect didn't feel manipulative or purposeful. Sadly, fans will have to wait longer for several of the plot threads of this book to come to fruition.

    Additionally, a couple story aspects don't quite ring true (e.g. two characters arguing essentially over nothing) other than as "because the script said so" excuses for conflict. While not too off-putting, there is no doubt in my mind that the author "rushed" this one and continuity suffered. I highly recommend the book even with it's flaws and I am very optimistic that there will be an appropriate payoff in the next novel. If you are new to the series, start with one of the first 3 books. Those who like this series should also enjoy the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Magic of Recluce: Saga of Recluce, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By L. E. Modesitt Jr.
    • Narrated By Kirby Heyborne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Young Lerris is dissatisfied with his life and trade, and yearns to find a place in the world better suited to his skills and temperament. But in Recluce a change in circumstances means taking one of two options: permanent exile from Recluce or braving the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce, with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. Lerris chooses the dangergeld.

    Captain Skurvy says: "Epic Fantasy"
    "Quest=Questions to be Answered"
    What made the experience of listening to The Magic of Recluce the most enjoyable?

    Good characterization and realism made the book easy and interesting to listen too.

    Who was your favorite character and why?

    There was more than one which is a good sign. Some characters could have used more development, but hey there are sequels. The best character is probably the headstrong pony the hero rides.

    Which scene was your favorite?

    There are several scenes tense with danger, and a showdown with the villain.

    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Exiled without explanation. Sent on a mission without instructions.

    Any additional comments?

    The narrator is a bit draggy, but grows on you. The sound effects as other reviews have said are quite jarring, like when a commercial comes on the television much louder and more obnoxious than the regular show.

    If the book has a weakness, it's probably a lack of a cohesive theme or philosophy. It has all of the underpinnings, but somehow the execution is off. Maybe the sequels will provide more support.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
    "A Not So Secret History"
    Any additional comments?

    The good news:
    ∙Easy to read, interesting, and thought-provoking.
    ∙Lots of words for the money, and for the most part, it doesn't drag or seem like filler.
    ∙Called Dickensonian by many (e.g. Stephen King), the book has many of the elements of other accomplished author's works. Obvious ones are "On the Road", "The Catcher in the Rye", "The Painted Bird", "The Great Gatsby", "The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death", "Dark Places", "Snobs", and "The Kite Runner". Most of the Dicken's comparisons mention "Oliver Twist" or "David Copperfield", but I found that it borrows the most from "Great Expectations" if plot is excluded. It's probably pointless to make comparisons to Tartt's classmate, Bret Easton Ellis, but you can't read "Lunar Park" and escape the kinship.
    ∙It has a lot of what made "The Secret History" great.
    ∙The setup is as compelling as any book in recent memory.
    ∙One of the main character's friends is as developed and memorable as any character in popular fiction.

    The bad news:
    ∙The first couple chapters are tedious. I was relieved when the book finally took off. You'd think the editor didn't get a say.
    ∙The painting serves somewhat as a MacGuffin, reducing its impact as a near-character in the novel.
    ∙The 2nd quarter of the book goes on an indulgent interlude. The book is the length of 4 standard novels, so this section could easily have been tightened up with no harm done.
    ∙Toward the end, the novel's themes are reiterated in narrative exposition as if the author doesn't trust the reader to understand them from the story itself.
    ∙At least one important character is very static and woefully underdeveloped.
    ∙It may be personal preference, but I tend to dislike characters that repeatedly behave immorally or amorally, but constantly fret about it. Fine if the character grows over time (or devolves), but frankly, who likes a shit that constantly feels bad that he's such a shit. There's Byronic and there's embryonic. I imagine Tartt might say, "But some people are actually like that". Yes, but perhaps that makes them more bland than a hero or an anti-hero.

    Other thoughts:
    Some movie comparisons might be "Closer", "Good Will Hunting", and "Ordinary People" with a little "True Romance" thrown in for feathers.

    92 of 99 people found this review helpful
  • The Famous and the Dead: Charlie Hood, Book 6

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By T. Jefferson Parker
    • Narrated By David Colacci
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Charlie Hood is attached to the ATF, working undercover on the Iron River that flows across the U.S.-Mexican border. The diamond fillings he wears in his left canine glimmer, distracting the men who sell the illegal firearms that enable the unspeakable violence on both sides of the map. Spotting the sparkle when “Charlie Diamonds” opens his mouth is often their first step toward life behind bars.

    John Cunningham says: "Dead-end for the series . . ."
    "Dead-end for the series . . ."
    Any additional comments?

    I love the author's previous work, but this book was disjointed and uneven. Every so often it would dawn on me that a key character had been ignored for several chapters and that the subplots seemed unrelated. Well-developed characters in previous books became almost caricatures in this book. Maybe the author has become disillusioned with the series or, for whatever reason, simply stopped at draft #2 instead of #3 or #4.

    Ultimately the book tried to do to much and ended up doing nothing as well as I've come to expect from Parker. I'm not unhappy that I bought the book, but it is not nearly as good as others in the series. In the end, a book that was susposed to wrap-up the series sort of just killed it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Six Years

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Harlan Coben
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd. But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for...but she is not Natalie....

    Louise says: "Over the Top - and not in a good way"
    "Gone Girl Sans Sociopaths"
    What did you love best about Six Years?

    The book has some overarching themes (gray versus black & white, keeping promises, fresh starts) and explores these very well--sometimes at the expense of the immediate story.

    What was one of the most memorable moments of Six Years?

    The book really takes off early on when the main character realizes that the husband of the woman he loves has died and he can't wait to get in touch with her again.

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

    Scott brings the main character's love-sick puppy qualities to the surface. This is good for some, and annoying for others. Overall, I think it is the way Coben intended the character to be so don't blame Scott.

    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Coben books always have solid pacing and interesting starting premises so the book was easy to keep listening to. However, at some point, it became a little tedious waiting and waiting for the payoff. The author could have added some side-plots to the story or developed the relatively flat characters further to prevent some readers getting bored. The single plot line also put too much pressure on the ending to live up to expectations. In fairness, Coben has guts to still write one-off novels rather than always writing series books.

    Any additional comments?

    The book is definitely worth reading, and is entertaining despite its flaws. If you have read all Coben's books, you will find this one a bit below par. The negatives are a main character that's only moderately likable and whose actions are only moderately plausible. Most of the main characters best traits seem borrowed from Myron Bolitar such as sarcastic self-talk.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Jim Bernheimer
    • Narrated By Jeffrey Kafer

    Homicide Detective David Bagini awakens in a strange world only to discover that he is, in fact, the 42nd clone of the Bagini line. With no memories of why his Prime entered into a clone contract, he wants answers. The first problem is his Prime is dead and Bagini 42 is in charge of the investigation. The second problem is all the clues point at a clone from his line and they already know all his tricks. How can he solve his own murder when every suspect has his name and face?

    John Cunningham says: "We have met the enemy and they is us."
    "We have met the enemy and they is us."
    Any additional comments?

    This is a clever little SciFi book.

    You're a detective--one of the best--expected to solve a murder. Failure to do so may cost you and everyone related to you their existence. The murder victim is you. The murderer may be you. You may also be an accomplice. The police chief is interfering in the investigation (also you). And there probably isn't any move you can make that the murderer(s) can't anticipate.

    Perhaps the best aspect of the book is it's glimpse into the essence of individuality and self-discovery. It's a nature versus nurture experiment taken to the extreme.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease - and the Statin-Free Plan That Will

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Stephen T. Sinatra, Jonny Bowden
    • Narrated By George K. Wilson

    Emerging science is showing that cholesterol levels are a poor predictor of heart disease and that standard prescriptions for lowering it, such as ineffective low-fat/high-carb diets and serious, side-effect-causing statin drugs, obscure the real causes of heart disease. Even doctors at leading institutions have been misled for years based on creative reporting of research results from pharmaceutical companies intent on supporting the $31-billion-a-year cholesterol-lowering drug industry.

    Z. Karpinski says: "Easy to understand, helpful in practice"
    "As Perfect As A Health Book Can Be"
    If you could sum up The Great Cholesterol Myth in three words, what would they be?

    Pure science, verifiable with references to primary, published, peer reviewed research.

    What did you like best about this story?

    The authors proved their points many different ways to drive their message home.

    What does George K. Wilson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He personifies the authority of the authors.

    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes. There was so much useful information, you wanted it all right-away.

    Any additional comments?

    The authors missed an opportunity to directly address cholesterol's role in making heart disease worse if inflammatory factors are present. They also failed to mention cases where cholesterol does have a primary role in arterial sclerosis as in familial hypercholesterolemia. In addition, they probably should have addressed whether statins that traverse the blood-brain barrier have as large of a cognitive risk as those that don't. I have contacted the authors in hopes that they will address these issues in future additions.

    On the very positive side, they minimize the use of anecdotal evidence to justify points, unlike many new age, pseudoscience books.

    Some complementary topics to look up, not covered in detail in the book:
    Heart-rate variability (HRV)
    Sleep-apnea and cardiac health
    Exercise & Insulin Resistance

    22 of 23 people found this review helpful
  • Ruins: Pathfinder, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Orson Scott Card
    • Narrated By Stefan Rudnicki, Kirby Heyborne, Emily Janice Card
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    When Rigg and his friends crossed the Wall between the only world they knew and a world they could not imagine, he hoped he was leading them to safety. But the dangers in this new wallfold are more difficult to see. Rigg, Umbo, and Param know that they cannot trust the expendable, Vadesh - a machine shaped like a human, created to deceive - but they are no longer certain that they can even trust one another. But they will have little choice. Because although Rigg can decipher the paths of the past, he can’t yet see the horror that lies ahead: A destructive force with deadly intentions is hurtling toward Garden.

    James says: "Story Stretching 101"
    "Groundhog Day Meets SciFi Armageddon"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    I enjoyed listening to the book, but there's lots of filler consisting of characters bickering that added nothing to the story and was actually painful at times. Real conflict is part of great story-telling, but filling pages with characters making the same old hackneyed jabs at each other is the author padding.

    The positives of the book are a variety of interesting characters and a world of wonder and confusion where you don't know who, what, or when to trust. We have time travel, misbehaving human-like robots, dangerous computers, water-people, tree-people, perception-enhancing parasites, and mysterious mice. Somehow the novel combines a quest with the complexities of cold-wars and cast systems. This second book is much more ambitious than the first.

    Are preemptive strikes justified? Where is the line between human and non-human drawn. How can you establish trust? Do the ends justify the means? In the end, our heroes find out just how difficult it can be to stop people from killing you when you don't even know why they want you dead. While the book has an exciting ending, it's hard to say whether the ending is a frustrating cliffhanger, or a reasonable tease for the next book in the series.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Broken Harbor: Dublin Murder Squad, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Tana French
    • Narrated By Stephen Hogan

    In Broken Harbor, all but one member of the Spain family lies dead, and it’s up to Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy to find out why. Mick must piece together why their house is full of cameras pointed at holes in the walls and how a nighttime intruder bypassed all the locks. Meanwhile, the town of Broken Harbor holds something else for Mick: disturbing memories of a childhood summer gone terribly wrong.

    Amazon Customer says: "Best in the Series"
    "Beautiful, Sad, Thoughtful & True"
    What made the experience of listening to Broken Harbor the most enjoyable?

    This novel keeps you guessing as to "who" and "why" as it explores possible explanations for the murders of several members of a once idyllic family. It's more of a WhyDoneIt than a WhoDoneIt in the end. Tana French does an artistic job of showing the psychology of all the characters on a continuum with no one perfectly sane and several not far from losing touch with reality or already over-the-edge. This exploration of the gray areas of psychology is much more true-to-life than the black and white "crazy or normal" stereotypes used in many books and in everyday life.

    Those who have read French's other books may find this one more satisfying in some ways and and less so in others. It has some of the sense of place that Faithful Place possessed and some of the character driven excitement of In the Woods. If there is a criticism of the book, it is that it struggles and drifts in the middle trying to decide just where it is going. I still found it easy enough to listen to even during this meandering. Perhaps the author was struggling to satisfy both the literary and mystery aspects of the novel. Some might find the police procedural style at the beginning more interesting than the later psychological aspects of the book while others will feel the reverse. However, if you have read other French books, you know that she does both of these well and will find them satisfying.

    Thankfully, in a real sense, this novel does not delve directly into the questions of how people could do such terribly things as murdering children. That is to say, possibilities are explored, but the author does not insult the reader by insisting that there is only one answer and she knows it. Some people see such acts as pure evil, others as desperation, and still others as insanity--and most of us aren't likely to change our minds. Whatever, the cause, French seems to say, "These things do happen."

    Some themes of the book are:
    The simplest answer is usually the correct one
    Places and the past are strongly intertwined
    People often invite misfortune into their lives
    Once you compromise your principles, you can't go back
    People doing what they think is right can wreak terrible havoc
    Some questions won't ever be answered to your satisfaction

    What other book might you compare Broken Harbor to and why?

    There are aspects of Janeology, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Devotion of Suspect X. Janeology for the subject matter and the inheritance aspects of psychiatric issues,
    Her Fearful Symmetry for parallels of both wanting the best and worst for a sibling.
    The Devotion of Suspect X explores issues of self-sacrifice.

    There is also resonance with works of Ian Rankin & Harlan Coben. Rankin & French are so good at realism that you seldom doubt there stories. Coben & French both expose the degree to which past is truly prologue.

    What does Stephen Hogan bring to the story that you wouldn???t experience if you just read the book?

    The narration is perfect for both male and female voices. Hogan is brilliant and neither over or under-emotes.

    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    When everyone's a victim, who do you arrest?

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Mindscan

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Robert J. Sawyer
    • Narrated By Peter Ganim
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Jake Sullivan has cheated death: he's discarded his doomed biological body and copied his consciousness into an android form. The new Jake soon finds love, something that eluded him when he was encased in flesh: he falls for the android version of Karen, a woman rediscovering all the joys of life now that she too is no longer constrained by a worn-out body. Karen's son sues her, claiming that by uploading into an immortal body, she has done him out of his inheritance.

    Ripley I says: "great concept not executed"
    "Entertaining, but not Sawyer's Best"
    Would you try another book from Robert J. Sawyer and/or Peter Ganim?

    Robert Sawyer is a talented writer, and has a strong grasp of science. His work is definitely worth reading.

    Would you recommend Mindscan to your friends? Why or why not?

    I can only give this book a lukewarm recommendation. Unlike other books of his, much more of Sawyer's liberal politics creep into this one. I don't have a problem with characters having liberal or conservative politics, but when the author's politics are embedded into the overall fabric of the book, I find it a turn-off. At one point in the book, there is a courtroom trial that is laughable, with both counsels and witnesses given off-topic soliloquies that would never be allowed and seem to have no other purpose than to provide the reader with information that the author wants us to know.

    In many ways this is the most Canadian of Sawyer's works:
    *Toronto is the center of the universe
    *The university of Toronto is Harvard
    *Guns are bad, even to touch
    *Queue jumping or getting better treatment because you have money is wrong
    *Global warming is real and will make Canada uncomfortably hot in just 10-20 years.
    *The collective is more important than the individual

    Sawyer's favorite topics seem recycled in this book:
    *Cellular Automata
    *Quantum Entanglement
    *Turing Machines

    Minor Spoiler:
    The book misses many opportunities to be more interesting and relevant. For example, a character makes a decision based on information that he will die soon. He changes his mind when he finds out he'll live after all. Is it really reasonable that Sawyer treats him like a whiner who's being unreasonable? Also the way things end up seems messy with no clear theme, moral, message, etc. It's a bit like the work of Robin Cook where meaningless conflict is used to give a sense of drama which is rather hollow.It's almost as if Sawyer was on autopilot or lost interest in his story and finished it anyway. Perhaps he retouched some old story he had in a drawer.

    To be clear the premise of the story is very interesting and the setup is quite good. It's after that, that the story disappoints. It does remain listenable and entertaining, but in a very insubstantial, fluffy sort of way.

    What does Peter Ganim bring to the story that you wouldn???t experience if you just read the book?

    The narrator does a great job.

    Was Mindscan worth the listening time?

    While worth listening, I would read other Sawyer titles first. It's not a 4-star read.

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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