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Amazon Customer

I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

ratings
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  • Zorro Rides Again: A Radio Dramatization

    • ORIGINAL (2 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Johnston McCulley, D. J. Arneson
    • Narrated By Jerry Robbins, Deniz Cordell
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (13)

    Has Zorro gone mad? That's the rumor spreading like wildfire through Reina de Los Angeles. For a dazzling swordsman wearing cape and mask is terrorizing innocent citizens. Riding with the night, he leaves the Mark of Zorro on his cruel deeds. Already the governor has placed a price on Zorro's head, dispatching a cutthroat army led by the ruthless Captain Rocha to hunt him down. But Zorro's loyal band and a gallant Indian tribe refuse to believe the foul lie. Still, only one man can expose the truth - and unmask the evil impostor.

    Amazon Customer says: "Old Style Radio Adventure!"
    "Old Style Radio Adventure!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm a sucker for a well-told pulp / radio adventure, and Zorro rarely disappoints. If you know Zorro in any form or format, you already know what to expect here. Yes, it's over the top, especially in the department of Spanish accents, but the result is 1940s style melodrama. There's really not much to say except... I want more of these. A lot more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Phantom Coach: A Connoisseur's Collection of the Best Victorian Ghost Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Michael Sims
    • Narrated By Matthew Waterson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Ghost stories date back centuries, but those written in the Victorian era have a unique atmosphere and dark beauty. Michael Sims, whose previous Victorian collections Dracula’s Guest (vampires) and The Dead Witness (detectives) have been widely praised, has gathered twelve of the best stories about humanity’s oldest supernatural obsession. The Phantom Coach includes tales by a surprising and often legendary cast, including Charles Dickens, Margaret Oliphant, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as lost gems by forgotten masters such as Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and W. F. Harvey. Amelia B. Edwards’s chilling story gives the collection its title, while Ambrose Bierce ("The Moonlit Road"), Elizabeth Gaskell ("The Old Nurse’s Story"), and W. W. Jacobs ("The Monkey’s Paw") will turn you white as a sheet. With a skillful introduction to the genre and notes on each story by Sims, The Phantom Coach is a spectacular collection of ghostly Victorian thrills.

    Amazon Customer says: "The Classics That Haunt You Forever"
    "The Classics That Haunt You Forever"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Nobody does classic ghost stories like the Victorians. Nobody. These stories aren't necessarily scary, especially by today's standards, but they are beautifully written masterpieces by some of the greatest writers that ever dipped a pen into ink. The variety of authors and prose styles presented here is nothing less than impressive to me. I would love to see an additional anthology or two in this series just on account, because this collection just barely scratches the surface of what I know to be out there.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Andrew Graham-Dixon
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (49)
    Performance
    (46)
    Story
    (46)

    In the tradition of John Richardson's Picasso, a commanding new biography of the Italian master's tumultuous life and mysterious death. For four hundred years Caravaggio's (1571-1610) staggering artistic achievements have thrilled viewers, yet his volatile personal trajectory - the murder of Ranuccio Tomasini, the doubt surrounding Caravaggio's sexuality, the chain of events that began with his imprisonment on Malta and ended with his premature death - has long confounded historians.

    Jean says: "Interesting life"
    "Tries Too Hard To Impress"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Having not seen the printed book itself, I'm hoping it's full of reproductions of Caravaggio's work. Being one who has studied art, I'm familiar with many of the works described herein, but I kept having to reference my personal print library or hit up Google because descriptions of the art (while helpful) are not the art itself.

    On the whole, this was merely an ok book. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either, which seems worse given my love for Caravaggio's paintings. He was an interesting guy, and the book demonstrates that at every turn. The thing is, this book is so much more than a biography, and so much less for the same reasons. The author gives us the known facts of Caravaggio's life, but it's clear that most of what's here works on assumption and extrapolation as well. We're given histories on the Church and Italy of that time, as well as depictions of cultural elements that would have defined Caravaggio in one way or another. This information, then, is applied as fuel for analysis of the given artworks, in which the author tries to glean even more information about who this artist was or wasn't. Interesting? Sure, and it's even well-written and coherent, but it's also overblown. I kept wondering how the author managed to type this book with his pinky finger at full extension. There's enthusiasm for the topic, and then there's the desire to prove you know more than you do. This book has a foot in each camp, but leans more on the latter, and that's with the narrator toning it down to tolerable levels. It might impress a newcomer to the subject matter, but it might also frighten away that same newcomer, much like listening to the overly-scholarly talk about Shakespeare. Without the need to impress (which the artwork does on its own, let's be honest here), the book could easily have been half as long and twice as engaging. Even so, it's still worth the credit if you're interested in the topic and can sift through the author's pretentiousness.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • From Russia with Love: James Bond, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Toby Stephens
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    James Bond is targeted for elimination by SMERSH, and the malevolent Colonel Rosa Klebb has set a trap in Istanbul. The bait is the Spektor decoding machine, which is to be delivered by the irresistible Tatiana Romanova. The assassin is Red Grant, a psychopath who has defected from the West. Bond and Tatiana become pawns in a game of cross and double-cross that reaches its deadly finale on the Orient Express.

    Amazon Customer says: "Fleming Raises the Bar on 007"
    "Fleming Raises the Bar on 007"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Picking up in the wake of events from the more mediocre Diamonds Are Forever, Fleming's next one in the series turns out to be one of the most heralded. It's certainly the one that really got James Bond's name out there to American audiences (thanks, JFK). But is the hype around this one worthy?

    Simply put, yes. From Russia With Love brings us ever closer to the style fans associate with both Fleming and Bond. Even though we're still a few years away from the big screen version, Bond is finally developing the personality that Sean Connery would later refine and make his own. Interestingly, Bond is overshadowed whenever Karim Bey is in the story. Bey is the largest personality in the book, and Fleming had a lot of fun writing him. What's more, this is the first time we really get to spend some time with the villains without Bond being there. Bond doesn't really get any character time until chapter 11, leaving room for Fleming to show us how things are done behind closed doors at SMERSH, creating characters that would be translated more or less accurately for the film later on. The only major difference is that the film has these characters defecting from SMERSH to operate with SPECTRE, an organization that doesn't feature in the books until Thunderball.

    Roger Moore once quipped that Bond was the worst secret agent because everyone knew everything about him. This may be the book that inadvertently set that stereotype into motion. This time SMERSH is out for vengeance, seeking to murder both 007 and his reputation. The setup is a bit hard to swallow, and Fleming knew it too, which is why Bond questions it right from the start. But the story is told with such enthusiasm, you really don't care once things are set into motion. That enthusiasm changes everything. After Diamonds, it's like Fleming found a renewed interest in Bond. Or it could just be that better villains make for better stories.

    Toby Stephens' narration is superb, except for the offending "oh-oh-seven" pronunciation. This still bothers me, and probably always will when both Fleming and the popular culture say "double-oh seven." Even so, I'm learning to accept this is just how it's going to be. A British woman explained it to me like this: I'm an American, so I get no say, regardless of how Fleming did it, and as a Brit, whatever she says is automatically correct. Seriously, how do you argue against that?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Waking Storms

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Sarah Porter
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    After parting ways with her troubled mermaid tribe, Luce just wants to live peacefully on her own. But her tranquility doesn’t last long: She receives news that the tribe is on the verge of collapse and desperately needs her leadership. The tribe’s cruel queen wants Luce dead. Dorian, the boy Luce broke mermaid law to save, is determined to make her pay for her part in the murder of his family. And while the mermaids cling to the idea that humans never suspect their existence, there are suddenly ominous signs to the contrary.

    Amazon Customer says: "Pushing the Boundaries of YA Fiction"
    "Pushing the Boundaries of YA Fiction"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's been over a year since I read the first book in this trilogy (where did that time go?!). When I did my initial review, I remarked that the YA market is overcrowded with generic books dealing with mermaids (and vampires, and angels, and zombies...), and that anything that stood out would be genuinely welcome. With mermaids especially, it's almost like the subject matter leaves every writer and reader with more essence than substance. Such was the case with the first book, but... since then, the siren song started calling.

    As with the first book, the lyrical writing style sets this one apart from others in its class. And just as in the first book, teenage angst is set aside in favor of real tragedy, hope, and actual story. If not for the fact the lead characters are teens, I'd believe this was more than a YA novel. Sarah Porter has tapped something dark and primal with this trilogy. The standard and expected tropes are there for the asking, but this story has pushed the boundaries of the mermaid concept about as far as anyone ever has, insofar as I'm aware. I'm pleased to say that whatever inspired me to pick up book 2 after all this time ensured that I won't wait nearly as long for book 3.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Vincent van Gogh: A Biography

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Julius Meier-Graefe
    • Narrated By Wanda McCaddon
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    The lives of many famous artists have been shrouded in mystery and conjecture, but none have been more controversial than the life of Vincent van Gogh. Remembered for his swirling brushstrokes and burning colors, Vincent van Gogh is today one of the best-known painters. Though his career as a painter spanned less than ten years, he produced a body of work that remains one of the most enduring in all of modern art. In his lifetime, however, he received little recognition. Today his paintings sell for countless millions, yet during his lifetime, van Gogh managed to sell just one painting.

    Douglas says: "More Poetry Than Biography..."
    "Dramatic Narrative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There's a conscious effort to make this more of a dramatic narrative than a biography, but that's probably not a bad way to go considering most of what we know of Van Gogh is drawn from letters between him and his brother Theo. I won't say it's 100% accurate, but the very nature of the book allows you to crawl inside the man's head. Even if you don't agree or even sympathize with him, it's the kind of perspective that allows one to better appreciate the mind behind the artwork.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By A. J. Hartley, David Hewson
    • Narrated By Richard Armitage
    Overall
    (416)
    Performance
    (393)
    Story
    (392)

    It is a tale of ghosts, of madness, of revenge - of old alliances giving way to new intrigues. Denmark is changing, shaking off its medieval past. War with Norway is on the horizon. And Hamlet - son of the old king, nephew of the new - becomes increasingly entangled in a web of deception - and murder. Beautifully performed by actor Richard Armitage ("Thorin Oakenshield" in the Hobbit films), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark takes Shakespeare’s original into unexpected realms, reinventing a story we thought we knew.

    Robert says: "Fantastic whether you like Shakespeare or not!"
    "Wow."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When Hartley and Hewson offered their take on Macbeth, I was all over that, and I was completely enthralled by it. If you didn't know Shakespeare, it was a great in-road to discover the work. If you did, their novel was just that much better because of it. To discover they've decided to tackle Hamlet? That's no small feat, but so help me, they pulled it off admirably, and to the same effect. There are new layers and nuances to the story that Shakespeare gave us, and secondary characters are now every bit as fleshed out as the primary players. Renaissance Denmark comes to life, and subtlety is the name of the game for this version. As with Macbeth, the bard would definitely approve.

    If I have anything negative at all to say about this, it's the inevitable winking and nodding to Shakespeare that's sprinkled throughout. As subtle as the story layers are, the callbacks to the bard are about as subtle as a runaway locomotive. And they aren't that frequent, so it's just a momentary jump out of the story to acknowledge the master before diving right back in. That's literally the worst thing I can claim about this, which is no bad thing.

    Richard Armitage's narration is nothing less than incredible. His performance matches the storytelling in that it's layers and subtle. Hamlet, for example, is capable of being mad one moment and lucid the next, and Armitage makes it work, seemingly without effort. All of his characters are handled with such respect.

    I don't know what Hartley and Hewson are pulling out of the bard's repertoire next, but I'm eagerly awaiting it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Life After Life: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Kate Atkinson
    • Narrated By Fenella Woolgar
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1404)
    Performance
    (1243)
    Story
    (1257)

    On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

    Diane says: "Life after life after life after life after life.."
    "High Concept, Low Execution"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    My lack of "full" enjoyment for this book is probably a combination of factors. I'm well-versed in the idea of parallel universes and multiple versions of the same characters thanks to a lifetime of comic books, and I went through this book on the heels of a James Bond novel, which is himself a character with many different incarnations, so that helps to illustrate my mindset. So why read this one? I try to shake things up and read something "literary" every so often because I do enjoy variety. And nothing says variety quite like parallel dimensions. Imagine my disappointment when the potential of parallel universes in a novel like this is limited to the mundane and boring.

    That's not to say there isn't something about this book to enjoy. As a character study, this is very well done (within its rather limited scope), until you get towards the end, at which point it disintegrates into nonsense because the author clearly hasn't read enough comic books to help her solidify what this idea might be about. High concept is one thing, but if you can't express your idea fully, regardless of medium, the idea comes across as rather pointless. This book is probably for those who aren't immersed in the fantastical and rather gimmicky nature of whatever it is the author is attempting to explore.

    On those lines, I feel like the author is trying to say that this potential for all of us to have multiple versions of ourselves exist, but there is only one version that is "perfect." I find that to be extremely cynical and depressing. It's pretentious. And if I'm misinterpreting that, then Ms. Atkinson has my apologies.

    For me, the shining point of this book is the writing style. Atkinson's prose is lyrical and enjoyable, but it just feels like the most beautiful voice in the world is singing the phone book. The very nature of the story is that it could go quite literally anywhere, and it goes to a great many versions of nowhere instead. This is made worse by the fact that our multiverse protagonist shoots Hitler in the opening scene. After a promising start like that, you'd think there would be something incredible in there. I didn't expect this to be an action novel, but I expected more variety from the concept. Instead, it's shades of bleh. What a letdown.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Diamonds Are Forever: James Bond, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Damian Lewis
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    Diamonds are being smuggled on a formidable scale from Africa to America via Britain. 007's assignment is to break the smuggling ring. It's a dangerous mission that takes him to the racecourse and mud-baths of Saratoga Springs, the gaming tables of Las Vegas, the ghost town of Spectreville, and beyond. The Spangled Mob threatens to be too much even for Bond, but help is at hand in the shape of co-conspirator Tiffany Case.

    Amazon Customer says: "007 vs the Mafia"
    "007 vs the Mafia"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Bond returns to the States, this time to undermine the Italian mafia in a diamond scheme. From horseracing tracks to Vegas casinos, 007 faces off against nearly every bad stereotype you can expect, and Fleming hangs a lantern on it just to illustrate Bond's disgust with it. In some ways it plays out like the Hollywood gangster films of the 30s and 40s (or their Looney Tunes parodies in some scenes), and it will most certainly come across as offensive to more politically correct readers today. If that doesn't bother you, the story itself is fun, but not one of Fleming's best. Ultimately, it's a bit forgettable.

    What makes it better are the other characters. Tiffany Case adds a heavy dose of tough, streetwise talk, which is an interesting counterpoint to Bond's cool British demeanor. She's quite a bit different from her on-screen counterpart, and while no less a stereotype than the mafia that employs her, she does add a little something extra to the story. Also returning is Felix Leiter, now working for the Pinkertons in the wake of his disfigurement in Live and Let Die. Villainous hitmen Wynt and Kidd are considerably less silly and stereotypical than their onscreen versions, which is quite the surprise, all things considered.

    By this point in the series, 007 is developing as a character in spite of Fleming's best attempts to keep him a blank slate for the reader's cohabitation. It's easy to recognize this version of him as something Connery might have read in the early scripts before inhabiting the role. Fleming's love of food, drink, women, and cars are ever present staples of the series.

    Damian Lewis is a quality narrator. He plays up Leiter's Texas accent and those of the mafia to the extreme, pushing the stereotypes about as far as you can take them. He's a bit soft spoken for Bond, which seems odd at first, but it's easy to acclimate to it and ultimately works. I knocked off a star for hitting my pet peeve when he says "oh-oh-seven." Thankfully it's not said anywhere nearly as much as in Moonraker, so it's not that great of an issue. Even so, that drives me bananas. It's "double-oh seven." Always has been, always will be.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • FREE: Mitosis: A Reckoners Story

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 3 mins)
    • By Brandon Sanderson
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews
    Overall
    (1005)
    Performance
    (925)
    Story
    (933)

    Epics still plague Newcago, but David and the Reckoners have vowed to fight back.

    Thomas says: "He is back!"
    "After Steelheart, Not Much Heart"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A short story is not my idea of a worthy follow-up to Steelheart. By its very nature, it doesn't have the drive or the build that made the original a success. That said, I don't think the problem with this is the short story format. The problem is the villain. The epic known as Mitosis is a bad knock-off of Multiple Man, made worse by the character being a former pop icon with a classically-trained chip on his shoulder against the songs his old band made. It's a throwaway villain, in a throwaway story. It's ok as an idea, but it's a letdown after Steelheart. I hope this isn't a glimpse of things to come.

    Nice to have MacLeod Andrews returning to narrate the series. Consistency is welcome. I only wish the story had been worth it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Flipside: A Tourist's Guide on How to Navigate the Afterlife

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Richard Martini
    • Narrated By Richard Martini
    Overall
    (34)
    Performance
    (33)
    Story
    (32)

    Author and award winning filmmaker Richard Martini explores startling new evidence for life after death, via the "life between lives," where we reportedly return to find our loved ones, soul mates and spiritual teachers. Based on the evidence of thousands of people who claim that under deep hypnosis, they saw and experienced the same basic things about the Afterlife, this audiobook documents interviews with hypnotherapists around the world trained in the method.

    Jesse Herbert says: "Outstanding work, & delivery"
    "Transcendant Content, Podcast Quality"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The content in this book is, in a word, beautiful. Most who would seek out a book like this are either already receptive to the message or otherwise open-minded enough to digest it. Naturally, not everyone will believe it or want to. The good news is that's not one of those books about new age crystal chanting or whatever. It's about the common themes learned in past life regression and life between life therapies, which are still controversial but gaining traction in psychological practice. Whether you believe or not, the idea is compelling, and the messages are thought-provoking. Some points in this book are easier to digest than others, which is to be expected from anyone with even a hint of skepticism about them. What will likely be the most difficult thing to wrap your head around is the lack of judgment as a result of immoral action. Such things are explained, and it's on the reader to accept those explanations.

    The audio quality on this title is poor, as though the author recorded this on his personal home setup. It's good enough for podcasting, but hardly professional level. Each chapter seems to have a different volume and/or distance between the speaker and the microphone. Professional filters and edits for lip smacking and tripped over words are non-existent. There are a handful of issues where the sound simply drops out and picks up a few seconds later. If I were to guess, there was one attempt to record each chapter, and the settings had to be readjusted every time. The performance is otherwise heartfelt and honest, but for all intents, this sounds like the audio equivalent of slapdash self-publishing. It's distracting in the extreme, which is a shame on any title, but more so when you feel the content deserves so much better. For spiritual seekers, it's well worth pushing past the problems to hear the messages, for only then can you know how those messages will translate on a personal level.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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