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Joseph

Austin, TX, United States | Member Since 2007

879
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 87 reviews
  • 244 ratings
  • 472 titles in library
  • 22 purchased in 2014
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99

  • Without Fail

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Lee Child
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2580)
    Performance
    (1893)
    Story
    (1877)

    Jack Reacher is approached by a Secret Service agent who needs a favor. "I want to hire you to assassinate the Vice President of the United States," she asks. She is the newly appointed head of the VP's security detail and wants Reacher to try to penetrate her team's shield. He has the skills and the stealth and no one knows him. How else can she be sure her protection is truly effective?

    Joseph says: "Series is getting better."
    "Series is getting better."
    Overall

    I'm listening to the books in order, so I don't know what's coming, only what's come before, but this is a better novel than the ones before it. Jack Reacher is a wandering hero with an absolutist, but not always convincing, sense of justice, who somehow always finds trouble. He's a fun hero without a lot of complexity, so you're unlikely to find yourself changed by this novel, or staying awake nights working out the ethical connundrums or processing the intellectual insights you've learned. Just a fun listen. It's more John Wayne than Martin Scorcesse, in other words.

    This story gets more complicated and less dramatically unbelievable than his previous works, and Reacher, while still retaining his superhero status, loses some of the invincible omniscience of Child's earlier novels. That's not to say he is any less heroic or more ambiguous, just that the story itself is a little more believably written--once past the unlikely premise of an outsider becoming part of the Secret Service's inner sanctum, that is.

    The plotting is better, the mystery more hidden and intriguing, and the characters a little harder to get a firm grip on, than in previous novels. In short, Child is becoming a better writer. He still relies on his detailed descriptions of weapons or plots or strategies to add credibility and stretch out suspense, and from the reviews it seems some people hate this. I think it adds to the story and gives it more weight.

    Overall, a good book for thriller/adventure serial fiction. The writing itself is better than average without pretension, the storytelling is always engaging and suspenseful, and the emotional ride is satisfying. Not a bad place to dive into the series if you are new, either--it doesn't rely on past knowledge to make the story work.

    The reader is okay. Terrible with female characters. Makes them whiny even when the story doesn't. He's good with the flow of the story, though. Good travel listening.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Live to Tell: A Detective D. D. Warren Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Lisa Gardner
    • Narrated By Kirsten Potter, Rebecca Lowman, Ann Marie Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (937)
    Performance
    (533)
    Story
    (541)

    On a warm summer night in one of Boston’s working-class neighborhoods, an unthinkable crime has been committed: Four members of a family have been brutally murdered. The father—and possible suspect—now lies clinging to life in the ICU. Murder-suicide? Or something worse? Veteran police detective D. D. Warren is certain of only one thing: There’s more to this case than meets the eye.

    Erin says: "Live To Tell - 3.5 stars"
    "Powerfully emotional, complex mystery."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is emotionally powerful and probably will trigger a lot of readers. It deals with mental illness in children in a very blunt, yet well-informed and tender, way, and if you have experiences with that, it can be very hard to take. The mysteries put young children in very brutal situations, and that may not be for everyone, either.

    The mystery is engaging and broad, the events are personal and relevant, and the scenes are brutal and emotional. It's a very good read. I wouldn't exactly call it fun--it's too strong on the heartbreak for that. But it is satisfying, and unlike a lot of detective stories, this one will probably linger with you for a while. On the other hand, you may see the world around you a little differently when you finish it. Well worth the listen. The readers do an excellent job, too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Emperor's Tomb

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Steve Berry
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1146)
    Performance
    (450)
    Story
    (446)

    The tomb of China’s First Emperor, guarded by an underground army of terra-cotta warriors, has remained sealed for more than 2,000 years. Though it’s regarded as one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, the Chinese government won’t allow anyone to open it. Why? That question is at the heart of a dilemma faced by former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone, whose life is shattered when he receives an anonymous note carrying an unfamiliar Web address.

    Jackie says: "Fascinating Ride!"
    "Solid, intricate, but very western perspective"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For those who don't know the Cotton Malone series, he's a super-agent who investigates modern crimes that involve historical mysteries of the conspiracy variety. Steve Berry is much better than Dan Brown at working the historical premise into the plot, and he's much better at explaining the historical detail, but he's not as exciting at creating the modern day action. He doesn't fail at it, but he's not as suspenseful as Brown.

    Overall, this is a complex mystery and intriguing political thriller that will illuminate the basic themes of Chinese history as the story works its way through the modern world. Berry does that well. He falls short in two areas, though. The history is a very westernized opinion of Chinese history, and the premise of the mystery is just silly. The biggest question you will have at the end of this book is "Why were they fighting over that?"

    But it's a reasonably good mystery with a good primer of Chinese history and a weird little science conspiracy theory woven in. The characters are good, the reading is good, and it's entertaining. If you like history. If you don't, it probably wouldn't be worth the listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Tom Franklin
    • Narrated By Kevin Kenerly
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1302)
    Performance
    (720)
    Story
    (729)

    Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were unlikely boyhood friends. Larry was the child of lower middle-class white parents, Silas the son of a poor, single, black mother - their worlds as different as night and day. Yet a special bond developed between them in Chabot, Mississippi. But within a few years, tragedy struck. In high school, a girl who lived up the road from Larry had gone to the drive-in movie with him and nobody had seen her again.

    Ann says: "Excellent story, terrific narrator."
    "Good story, excellent reader."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I grew up near the area this book was set (the settings are fictional, but the bigger towns, like Hattiesburg and Meridian, are real). From just a Mississippi standpoint, it does a good job of representing some elements of the region. Maybe it's a little darker and more isolated than the exact region is, but that hardly matters to the novel.

    The story is very good. It starts as a bit of a mystery, then turns into more of a story about relationships and culture and personal history of the region. The racial dynamics struck me as very real, which is unusual for a story set in Mississippi in the 80s (the history parts of the story). Either the racism is too extreme or not visible, usually, but this story nails it just perfectly. The racial tensions are there, but they are also weakening, and they don't create conflict, so much as they influence conflict when it happens.

    The characters are good. Larry is hard to get a read on, in a good way, and the rest of the characters have their good and bad sides, interwoven believably. The plot develops smoothly, with tension and suspense but without an artificial formulaic feel. The relationships feel genuine, sometimes pathetic, sometimes touching.

    Overall, I really liked the book. It's not a tense thriller or a cliff-hanging mystery, but more of a story of relationships within a mystery. It's dark and brooding and a wonderful moody setting that felt real to me.

    The reader is fantastic, and fits the tone of the writing perfectly. He creates distinct voices, crosses subtle accent and dialogue and even racial distinctions without caricature, and generally just feels like the story.

    So I'd recommend it as a good story, a great mood setting, and a great narration.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Return of the Dancing Master

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Henning Mankell
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (431)
    Performance
    (253)
    Story
    (250)

    Stefan Lindman, a young police officer recently diagnosed with mouth cancer, decides to investigate the murder of his former colleague, but is soon enmeshed in a mystifying case with no witnesses and no apparent motives. Terrified of the disease that could take his life, Lindman becomes more and more reckless as he unearths the chilling links between Molin's death and an underground neo-Nazi network that runs further and deeper than he could ever have imagined.

    Richard Delman says: "Plodding. Ponderous. Heavy. Slow."
    "Excellent"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Henning Mankell is just one of the best detective writers in the genre. This book is exceptional. The main character isn't quite as fascinating as Kurt Wallander, but he is fascinating for his own reasons. From the tension of a human trying to figure out his own life while solving crimes, to the horrific nature of the crimes and the incredible stories behind them, this is just worth the read.

    Mankell's new hero is troubled, flawed, likable, and at times not very nice. The villain is sympathetic, and all the side characters have their own flaws and virtues. There are almost no points where it feels like the writer is padding the story just to make it longer. It's a well-told story with excellent characters and a disturbing premise.

    The translation seems to have been more for the UK's version of English than the US's, but anyone who watched Harry Potter will follow it. There are some places a phrase sounds awkwardly translated. Not enough to distract, but enough to notice.

    Overall, I love this writer and this book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • A Wanted Man: A Jack Reacher Novel, Book 17

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Lee Child
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2357)
    Performance
    (2014)
    Story
    (2004)

    Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning. An hour behind them, a man lies stabbed to death in an old pumping station. He was seen going in with two others, but he never came out. He has been executed, the knife work professional, the killers vanished. Within minutes, the police are notified. Within hours, the FBI descends, laying claim to the victim without ever saying who he was or why he was there. All Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia. All he did was stick out his thumb. But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride.

    Bill says: "Wanted Man is Wanting ~ And I Want 14 Hours Back"
    "Good, but some disappointing elements"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Lee Child's Reacher series started off with decent writing, improbable coincidences, and unpredictable stories that pulled the reader along. Over the series, the writing has improved steadily, the improbably coincidences have gotten more probable, and the stories have generally stayed unpredictable, with the resolution just out of reach of the reader until the end.

    This book is no exception to the above summary. The writing is downright superb for serial thrillers. The probability factor is extremely low here at the beginning, but once over the central coincidence, the story flows smoothly. And the story for most of it drags the reader along on the edge of understanding but not quite getting it. Child has become very good at having Reacher get some of it right and some wrong from the beginning, and showing him work it out as the story moves. He's also good at revealing just enough of the bad guy's perspective to build tension without giving it away.

    My only complaint is that the endings are becoming trite and cartoonish. Reacher has become invincible, the enemies have become mindless and faceless, and the heroic deeds have become simplistic and repetitive, and plain old violent. The ending seemed, basically, lazy, like a writer filling out a formula.

    The reading was exceptional, as always when Dick Hill reads Lee Child. Early on in the series, Hill's reading of female dialogue was annoying, but he has gotten better. Child writes strong female characters, mostly, and Hill has gotten better at reading them.

    I liked the book. The ending got monotonous and troubling, but the rest of the story was good. I hope Child gets away from his current ending formula, though.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Riptide

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (1753)
    Performance
    (1059)
    Story
    (1055)

    A centuries-old, cursed pirate's treasure, valued at over $2 billion, lies deep within the treacherous waters off the coast of Maine. Men who have attempted to unearth the fortune have suffered gruesome deaths. Will a high-tech expedition meet the same fate?

    Allan says: "very cinematic. high tech meets pirate treasure."
    "Good treasure story."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The action and plotting in the story are very good. There are some rough places where characters act ridiculously obtuse or change motivations without warning, and sometimes you wonder if the medicine and science has any basis in fact. Mostly, though, it's a fun story with a fun premise and basic but interesting characters. It's a good book to keep you alert on a long drive.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Snuff

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Stephen Briggs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1737)
    Performance
    (1539)
    Story
    (1548)

    Sam Vimes is on a well-deserved holiday. But for the commander of the City Watch, a vacation in the country is anything but relaxing. The balls, the teas, the muck - not to mention all that fresh air and birdsong - are more than a bit taxing on a cynical city-born and -bred copper. Yet a policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough, and it’s not long before a body is discovered, and Sam - out of his jurisdiction, out of his element, and out of bacon sandwiches (thanks to his well-meaning wife) - must rely on his instincts, guile, and street smarts to see justice done.

    Tim says: "Perfect Pratchett"
    "Very good."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Pratchett's sense of humor makes every line worth the read, but the story in this book builds from a pointless character sketch to a brilliant, satirical work about prejudice and cultural bias before you realize it is doing it. Well worth the read, both for the story and for Pratchett's inimitable writing. The reader is amusing, too.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Atlas Shrugged

    • UNABRIDGED (63 hrs)
    • By Ayn Rand
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (5434)
    Performance
    (3389)
    Story
    (3409)

    In a scrap heap within an abandoned factory, the greatest invention in history lies dormant and unused. By what fatal error of judgment has its value gone unrecognized, its brilliant inventor punished rather than rewarded for his efforts? In defense of those greatest of human qualities that have made civilization possible, one man sets out to show what would happen to the world if all the heroes of innovation and industry went on strike.

    Mica says: "Hurt version decidedly superior"
    "Great reading of significant book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a book with a brilliant plot and silly premise by a mediocre thinker who can tell a story with the best of them. The train ride scene with Hank and D'agny is worth the listen in itself, and Scott Brick reads that scene beautifully. The characters and actions in this book are thrilling and well created, with a couple of exceptions--but any book this long will have dull parts. It's a shame that this novel is linked so firmly in people's minds to Rand's ideology, because the story itself is worth the read. There are parts where the writer pontificates for far too long--one speech lasted about three hours, and really said the same thing it said in the first three minutes over and over and over and over--and parts that just don't seem believable--like one prominent suicide. But even some of her ramblings will yield gems--like Francisco's theories of romance. Other parts are stunningly sexist, even for the 50s.

    Overall, though, it's like James Bond. You know it's fantasy, but it's still a good story, even if Ayn Rand's political ideology isn't your thing (and for disclosure, it isn't mine).

    And I can't compare Scott Brick to the other reader--Hurt--because I haven't heard the other one, but I found Brick's reading to be impressive, especially for such a long work. He manages to make unmanageable speeches flow smoothly, although sometimes the longer speeches are a bit melodramatic. Maybe Hurt is better, I can't say, but this one is excellent.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Insomnia

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Eli Wallach
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1065)
    Performance
    (723)
    Story
    (727)

    Ralph Roberts has an incurable case of insomnia, but lack of sleep is the least of his worries. Each night he stays awake, Ralph witnesses more of the odd activity taking place in Derry after dark than he wants to know. The nice young chemist up the street beats his wife and has delusions about beings he calls "The Centurions".

    KB says: "King lover very disappointed - NO Spoilers"
    "Good book, terrible music effects"
    Overall

    Yeah, everyone is right about the music. They need to reissue this book. The music is loud, random, and sometimes drowns out the words. It suddenly flairs to a crescendo at times, so if you are listening quietly it disturbs others. It adds nothing to the reading except a headache when it occurs.

    The book is a good one. King gets you involved in the mystery right away, then leaves it for a while to develop his characters, with his usual magic of keeping the reader charmed and intrigued. The story goes places you don't fully expect, and keeps you listening.

    A few flaws. Some of the political arguments might upset some people, even though King covers all sides somewhat neutrally. A couple of deaths seemed not only gratuitous, but somehow vengeful on King's part--maybe that was just me. And King's usual way of digressing to maximize the suspense gets way too carried away near the end of this one. One of the ways King loses me is when he seems to be intruding into the story--I like my novels to have distance between the writer and the narrator. This one has a little too much of that sloppiness.

    But not enough to ruin it. It's a good, suspenseful, and at times impressive novel. It's not a groundbreaker for King, but it's not derivative of his other works, either. Enjoyable novel.

    The reader is good. The music is horrible, and it was enough to almost make me stop listening. That's unusual for me, too, so for some, I imagine it will be too much.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Glass Rainbow: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By James Lee Burke
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    Overall
    (2217)
    Performance
    (829)
    Story
    (835)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: When it comes to author/narrator pairings, nobody tops James Lee Burke and Will Patton in the Robicheaux thrillers. Beloved Burke hero Detective Dave Robicheaux here returns to New Iberia to solve a series of grisly murders. Seven young women in neighboring Jefferson Davis Parish have been brutally murdered. While the crimes have all the telltale signs of a serial killer, the death of Bernadette Latiolais, a high-school honor student, doesn’t fit.

    Gardner says: "Best Yet... Almost"
    "Best written, but weirdest."
    Overall

    First, I have to say it--Will Patton, visit Louisiana. No one says "Pe-CAN." People from the Irish Channel don't sound like hyperactive gutter junkies. It's not Georgia or Kentucky or wherever that accent is from.

    I had mixed feelings on this book. On the one hand, Burke's prose has never been better. His descriptions, insights, metaphors, and most everything else is almost breathtaking. It's easily worth the read for that alone. The plot is solid, though unfulfilled at points, and the themes, while starting to sound familiar, are explored well, and it moves along at a clip that will prevent you from putting it down through the last quarter of the novel.

    On the other hand, some of it is just weird. The supernatural self-indulgences almost cross the line into science fiction, while serving little purpose that couldn't have been accomplished through metaphor. It's not crippling, it's just distracting in a book that is bent on exposing the gritty reality of evil. Some of the cliche phrases are getting tired--how does everyone in the known universe know what "Take the mashed potatoes out of your mouth" means, and how and when to use it, anyway? All characters, no matter the background, sound like Dave. You will recognize every type of character and every profile from his past books, too.

    And at the end I felt like there were unresolved issues, so that Burke needed to either write a little more or a little less.

    But in the end, who cares? Burke is a beautiful writer who should be experienced and enjoyed. This book is the darkest and most introspective he's written, exploring emotions and fears that Burke seems to have rare insight into. You have to read it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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