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New York, NY, United States | Member Since 2002

  • 12 reviews
  • 190 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 9 purchased in 2015

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Michael Chabon
    • Narrated By David Colacci
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat: smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Inspired by their own fantasies, fears, and dreams, they create the Escapist.

    Darwin8u says: "A World I DON'T Ever Want to Escape From."
    "I keed, I keed! It's a brilliant novel."

    Kavalier & Clay is possibly the best modern Bildungsroman I've ever encountered. The story and character development are gloriously nuanced, taking the two main characters from Prague to Brooklyn and then from Manhattan to Antarctica and back again, all the while describing personal evolutions that are neither neat nor linear. It is the sort of book that I plan to re-visit.

    When I do, I'll probably buy the print version. This has everything to do with David Colacci's reading. While he is great at pacing and expression, his voice for Joe Kavalier makes him sound exactly like Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog.

    It's an image I couldn't get out of my head while listening: All I could imagine is Joe as a rubber hand puppet. And frankly, that kind of distraction does a terrible disservice to Chabon's text.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Martian

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Andy Weir
    • Narrated By R. C. Bray
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Macgyver on Mars"
    "Glib, with little character development"

    'The Martian' is a great story--the plot is exciting and very entertaining. But that's where things begin and end. And in a book where there is one character holding the entire work together, that is a serious problem. We spend literally hundreds of days with Mark, the main character, and yet we learn next to nothing about him. Does he have a family? No idea. Is he close with his parents? No idea. What does he miss most about Earth? No idea. All we know is that he considers himself quick-witted and funny and loves to joke around--even with himself. That's all fine and good, but it leads to character development that's a mile wide but an inch deep. Not very satisfying. I really wished Weir had explored Mark's internal life--we have 18 months alone with him on Mars, after all. It's not like there's not enough time to explore that. I want to know what Mark cares about, who he misses on Earth, what motivates him. All we actually learn is this: He wants a bath, to get laid, and a meal other than potatoes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Blackbirds

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Chuck Wendig
    • Narrated By Emily Beresford

    Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days he will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. No matter what she does, she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

    Michael says: "A Story of Fate and the F-word"
    "Too much Palahniuk and Larsson for his own good"

    I imagine Chuck Wendig's pre-writing chats with himself went something like this, "How can I create the hottest, most bad-ass chick and put her into a story? I want to write a lead character that I'd totally want to be with."

    So, with a healthy dose of Chuck Palahniuk's overwritten gross-out style and a basic template for a main character that is essentially nothing more than a potty-mouthed Stieg Larsson protagonist, we get Blackbirds. And with it, Chuck Wendig's dullard dream date, Miriam Black.

    Not that this is only frat boy fiction--Wendig knows the word "macadam," after all, and uses it three times. Yes, this novel has aspirations beyond just giving us a hollow shell of a female lead who does very little other than rob people and talk tough. It courageously takes us into a world of stereotypical secondary characters (nearly all of whom are mawkish and cut-and-pasted from someone's tired rogue's gallery) and even ventures into the taboo territory of sexual violence against women and short, stocky lesbians.

    Blackbirds has it all--including a massive plot gaffe towards the end of the book where Miriam is touched by an assailant and should be able to read his/her death but does not.

    6 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Reamde

    • UNABRIDGED (38 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Neal Stephenson
    • Narrated By Malcolm Hillgartner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Richard Forthrast created T’Rain, a multibillion-dollar, massively multiplayer online role-playing game. But T’Rain’s success has also made it a target. Hackers have struck gold by unleashing REAMDE, a virus that encrypts all of a player’s electronic files and holds them for ransom. They have also unwittingly triggered a deadly war beyond the boundaries of the game’s virtual universe - and Richard is at ground zero.

    ShySusan says: "Not perfect, but worth a listen."
    "It's four, four, four books in one!"

    There is a good book in here. In fact, there are probably three or four of them. What Reamde does well is engage readers with a wide variety of scenes, contexts, characters, and storylines. Quite easily, this book could have been split into component parts and divided into complete novels. Taking that sort of approach would have also required that the slack, too-descriptive scenes be edited or removed and tightened up. Instead, what Stephenson has done with Reamde is create a loose mass of winding and complicated story arcs that move independently and do not resolve until the very end of the book. It's not an intellectual challenge to follow these threads--Stephenson's writing is never lush or even clever enough to demand much active attention--but it is tedious. And tedium is a killer in a book that lasts more than 38 hours in the reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Borrower

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Rebecca Makkai
    • Narrated By Emily Bauer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, is unsure where her life is headed. That becomes more than a figure of speech when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home and Lucy finds herself in the surprise role of chauffeur. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan.

    Andrew says: "Reflective novel--but a distracting reading"
    "Reflective novel--but a distracting reading"

    Makkai's novel is largely about her main character and her inability to figure out what she wants from her life--from small decisions to larger ones, Lucy just cannot seem to make good choices. So she goes along with whatever is easiest at the time--and in the case of the novel's main plot strand, that means getting roped into driving a possibly gay tween across the country in a zany pseudo-kidnapping. It's a good, if not great, read.

    What is less successful is Emily Bauer's little girl narrative tone. Still less successful than that is her Russian accent--a key skill for a reader narrating a book with major characters who hail from Russia. Bauer's Russian sounds more Indian than anything else, and she can't pronounce names that she really ought to have researched in advance: "Sergei" becomes "Seer-JAY" and "Andreev" becomes "AN-dreave," for example. It doesn't take much to pop the ballon and destroy a good reading, but Bauer manages to do it over and over again.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Blackout

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Connie Willis
    • Narrated By Katherine Kellgren, Connie Willis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In her first novel since 2002, Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds - great and small - of ordinary people who shape history. In the hands of this acclaimed storyteller, the past and future collideand the result is at once intriguing, elusive, and frightening.

    Monica says: "Double review - Blackout and All Clear"
    "This won the Nebula Award?"

    If fiction writers have one mantra, it's this: Show, don't tell. Somehow, nobody seems to have shared this with Connie Willis. And as a result, Blackout is full of wooden exposition of character thoughts, motivation, and action. Worst of all, the book is absolutely riddled with jarring two word sentences: "It wasn't." "She didn't." "He was." that kill any inference or subtlety in this book.

    It's sad that our standards for science fiction are lower than they are for literary fiction, but if this was one of the best sci-fi/fantasy novels of 2010, that's a sad statement. I really kept hoping Blackout would get better as the story evolved, but as Connie herself would say: It didn't.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Kevin Roose
    • Narrated By Kevin Roose

    No drinking, no smoking, no cursing, no dancing, no R-rated movies. Kevin roose wasn't used to rules like these. As a sophomore at Brown University, he spent his days drinking fair-trade coffee, singing in an a cappella group, and fitting right in with Brown's free-spirited, ultra-liberal student body. But when Roose leaves his Ivy League confines to spend a semester at Liberty University, a conservative Baptist school in Lynchburg, Virginia, obedience is no longer optional.

    Timothy says: "A good listen"
    "Who says participant observation is dead?"

    Kevin Roose thinks a lot about the ethics of passing himself off as an evangelical Christian at Liberty University--enough at least to work himself up into a lather over the deception. His moral quandary lurks behind most of his account, sometimes peeking its head through the curtains and sometimes just creating uncomfortable contours in the background. Either way, it is this dilemma that produces the novel's most interesting--and at turns, the most annoying--motif: Is lying to people about your identity wrong?

    Roose spends much of his time in full hand-wringing mode, describing his internal agony at deceiving his fellow students. Then, in a flash, he forgives himself, claiming that his falsifications were the only way to get a 'true' picture of life at Liberty. Either way, this book is not about Falwell, Liberty University, or evangelicals, it is about Kevin Roose locked away in a Virginian Elsinore, trying to pass himself off as a born-again Christian. And quite frankly, the schtick gets boring within the first 50 pages.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Augusten Burroughs
    • Narrated By Augusten Burroughs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    You've eaten too much candy at Christmas...but have you ever eaten the face off a six-foot stuffed Santa? You've seen gingerbread houses...but have you ever made your own gingerbread tenement? You've woken up with a hangover...but have you ever woken up next to Kris Kringle himself? Augusten Burroughs has, and in this caustically funny, nostalgic, poignant, and moving collection he recounts Christmases past and present - as only he could.

    jenn says: "For his fans..."
    "Poorly edited, painfully read"

    I really do like Augusten Burroughs. I admire that he has made a mostly original name for himself in a genre that is dominated by David Sedaris, and I admire even more that he has the guts to put out a Christmas book when Sedaris's own holiday writing is so widely praised. But that's where the love ends. 'You Better Not Cry' is full of ponderous, meandering pieces that never really evolve into the gems that some of them really ought to become. Even the best, most memorable images--Burroughs biting off the face of a wax Santa, Burroughs waking up in a hotel room with a jolly old French Santa--get lost in a thicket of dull and pointless prose. But the worst thing about this book is the narration. Burroughs himself reads this book, doing so with a serious poet's stilted cadence that turns the entire audiobook into a completely unlistenable mess. This is the worst narration of any of the hundreds of audiobooks I have listened to, by quite some margin--distractingly slow and stacatto, the delivery here makes you wonder if Burroughs hasn't had a stroke. I was able to make it through the whole book one way: I set my iPhone to double-speed playback and then marveled at how, even at 200% of his original pace, Burroughs still sounded too slow. All I want for Christmas is for Burroughs to get his considerable talent back on track.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Gross: The Hits, the Flops: The Summer That Ate Hollywood

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Peter Bart
    • Narrated By Stuart Langton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    When movies cost hundreds of millions to make and market, the magnitude of the wagers is astonishing. Vast riches rain down on those who gamble wisely, and careers are made and lost in one weekend. But never is this box-office race more feverish than during the summer blockbuster season, when the studios roll out their most expensive, effects-laden pictures in a feverish race to win the box-office derby. Peter Bart here brings us a marvelously entertaining behind-the-scenes portrait of moviemaking.

    DS says: "classic Peter Bart"
    "Fascinating topic, distracting reading"

    It is easy to engage with Bart's fascinating idea--follow 1998's summer movies from inception to release and then tell the story. Brilliant stuff. It's quick and engaging, if a little too journalistic on occasion, but overall a very good read.

    But the audiobook's reader makes mistakes that derail and distract--for example, he can't pronounce "Warren Beatty," one of the book's central figures. He also screws up the name "Jet Li" several times. In a book where pronunciations are flexible (or fictional), this is less of an issue, but here, where we're talking about real people with real names, it's a shame that he couldn't take the time to ask someone.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York

    • ABRIDGED (9 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Adam Gopnik
    • Narrated By Adam Gopnik

    Autumn 2000: After five years in Paris, Adam Gopnik moves his family back to a New York that seems, at first, safer and shinier than ever. Here in the wondrously strange "neighborhood" of Manhattan we observe the triumphs and travails of father, mother, son, and daughter; and of the teachers, coaches, therapists, adversaries, and friends who round out the extended urban family.

    Andrew says: "Rambling and Often Dull"
    "Rambling and Often Dull"

    I'm a big Adam Gopnik fan, but I couldn't really believe this was his work. His essays are often two or three times longer than they ought to be, playing out over the course of months upon months of events, only painfully slowly folding back to return to focus in on a point. That's fine-- even luxurious-- when it works, but in most of the pieces in this book, it doesn't.

    Worse, Gopnik, who reads the book himself, has pronunciation issues with words and phrases like "Elizabethan" and "sine qua non." Stunning for such an educated guy, and it'll stop you dead in mid-listen.

    Perhaps the utter strangeness of Paris is what made Gopnik's writing there so engaging. With that gone, he focuses instead on his children, who for all of their quirks, are nothing but familiar and never very interesting. I want my Gopnik struggling and unmoored, not manifestly wealthy and bourgeois.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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