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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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REVIEWS
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HELPFUL VOTES
419

  • V Wars: A Chronicle of the Vampire Wars

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Jonathan Maberry, Nancy Holder, John Everson, and others
    • Narrated By Cassandra Campbell, Gabrielle de Cuir, Roxanne Hernadez, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (116)
    Performance
    (100)
    Story
    (101)

    In this sweeping, threaded narrative of the global phenomenon known as the Vampire Wars, mankind is unwittingly infected by a millennia-old bacteria unknowingly exhumed by a scientific expedition in Antarctica. Now, in some rare cases, a person’s so-called junk DNA becomes activated. Depending on their racial and ethnic heritage, they begin to manifest one of the many diverse forms of the "others" that are the true basis for the legends of supernatural creatures. These aren’t your usual vampires and werewolves - it goes much deeper than that.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "You Have to Stick With This One."
    "Where is the War?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The concept for this is pretty cool, and that's what got me to check it out. Basically, this is a set of short stories / novellas, that are loosely connected in that they involve a Patient Zero that sets off a virus turning people into vampires. Typically I prefer the Dracula type gothic horror vampire, but this seemed to me for some reason to be more along the lines of 30 Days of Night modern version. That was my perception going in. Either way, they don't sparkle, so I figured it could be fun. Also assumed that as an anthology of sorts, some stories would be better than others. Such is the case here.

    There is some excellent character development throughout, and some of it is actually worth it. As to the so-called V-Wars... it's mostly build-up and not enough carnage. To be fair, it reads almost realistically in places, like this could happen this way, and there are plenty of social ramifications explored. Other parts, some characters are way too accepting of the changes rather than panicking, and plenty of explanations are left simply to "we don't know why it happens this way, it just does." At a couple of points, I was left wondering if this was still a story about vampire wars. The whole book isn't disappointing, just large chunks of it. But there was enough to feed my imagination in places that I felt it was generally worth it overall, in small doses. Had this been a single-story novel, I probably would declare it a failed attempt, but anthologies tend to be a little more forgiving since each author has their own take on what they want to explore. I just wish they'd focused more on the overall war. In this case, the microcosm of character study didn't reflect the larger picture as a whole. It's there, just not as in-depth as I would have liked.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By George R. R. Martin, Elio Garcia, Linda Antonsson
    • Narrated By Roy Dotrice, Nicholas Guy Smith
    Overall
    (23)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (21)

    If the past is prologue, then George R. R. Martin's masterwork - the most inventive and entertaining fantasy saga of our time - warrants one hell of an introduction. At long last, it has arrived with The World of Ice & Fire. This volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO's Game of Thrones.

    Daniel says: "Calm Down, Fanboys"
    "An In-Universe History Text"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is essentially an in-universe history text, as though you're reading a chronicle that would be available for the master of the Iron Throne to read at his leisure. It's a very different experience from the other Ice & Fire books in that regard as it's definitely not a novel. It reads in style similarly to real world histories, which works well for me because I enjoy the histories (such as the War of the Roses) that inspire Martin's tale.

    While not being as difficult as something like Tolkien's Silmarillion, it's as detailed and dense. For the dedicated fan looking to assimilate the information, it's probably best taken in small doses, and a print version will probably be warranted. Casual fans can be both entertained and overrun by the scope of it via audio.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Borgias: The Hidden History

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs)
    • By G. J. Meyer
    • Narrated By Enn Reitel
    Overall
    (101)
    Performance
    (86)
    Story
    (86)

    The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of The Tudors and A World Undone. Sweeping aside the gossip, slander, and distortion that have shrouded the Borgias for centuries, G. J. Meyer offers an unprecedented portrait of the infamous Renaissance family and their storied milieu.

    Cinders says: "Marvelous !"
    "Mind-Blowing!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author postulates the idea that the legend of the Borgias has trumped scholarship for the last 500 years, and that the real story is far more interesting. That's always a great setup for a good narrative history, isn't it? If any family in history has been the recipient of bad press, it's the Borgia family. Corruption, blackmail, incest... the crimes perpetuated in the Borgia name know no bounds, made more sensational by the fact that the guy pulling the strings sat on the Papal throne. But is that reputation deserved?

    Meyer did such a great job tackling the Tudor dynasty, I couldn't help but be drawn to this one. Admittedly, almost every text I've ever read on the Borgias fits the stereotype of what the author describes as the problem, and I do find his scholarship to be fascinating in the extreme. The book is so carefully laid out that the political backdrop for Rodrigo's rise to power takes up the first 8 hours out of a 20 hour presentation. It's so intricate by comparison of nearly everything else in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and yet so easy to follow with Meyer's expert guidance. It makes me wish I had this book years ago when I first dipped my toes into Renaissance history. Once the dominoes are put in place, the Papal crown is placed on Rodrigo's head, and from there more dominoes are put into place every bit as fast as the ones in play start falling. It's easy to understand why this is one of those stories that gets out of control quickly.

    The Borgias may never escape their legend, but Meyer's account truly is compelling, starting with the claim, supported by recently uncovered Vatican records, that Rodrigo was elected pope fair and square, unanimously. This is the sort of spin you'll find here, and the story only unfolds from there, systematically dispelling myths and verifying truths one by one. If I were making a wish list, I would want Meyer to give us companion volumes for the Medici and Sforza lines. Such tales naturally intersect and are touched upon here, but the Borgia focus of the book does taper the narrative point of view a little bit. That's probably for the best since the total story from all sides would probably be a massive rodent killer of a book. Even so, I want that book. This one is a great start.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain: The Middle Ages Series

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Joseph F. O'Callaghan
    • Narrated By Tim Lundeen
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (11)

    Drawing from both Christian and Islamic sources, Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain demonstrates that the clash of arms between Christians and Muslims in the Iberian peninsula that began in the early eighth century was transformed into a crusade by the papacy during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Successive popes accorded to Christian warriors willing to participate in the peninsular wars against Islam the same crusading benefits offered to those going to the Holy Land.

    Amazon Customer says: "An Overview, But Not For Beginners"
    "An Overview, But Not For Beginners"
    Overall
    Performance
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    I'm fairly well-versed on the Crusades. The thing is, most volumes on that era don't cover the Spanish side of the story because the Reconquest begins centuries before the Crusades "officially" begin. This book seemed to be the perfect companion to fill in that gap.

    And it might be... once I get another book to tell me who's who and explain why they're important. I also apparently need to find an historical map to keep up with where these unknown characters travel. The author is a noted historian and has written several books on this topic, which was part of the appeal for me. But he's apparently forgotten that overviews are supposed to be introductions. Instead of a narrative history with people at the center of causes and effects, this book is that dreaded textbook of names and dates that mean nothing if you don't already have that information in hand.

    Based on what little I could follow (because I know something about El Cid... thank you, Charleton Heston), this book isn't designed for the audio format at all. It pretty much demands that you at least have your Wiki-scholar skills and Google Fu well-honed. But if I wanted to go that route, I wouldn't have picked up this book.

    The narrator is clear enough, which is good when dealing with rapid-fire onslaughts of foreign names, but he butchers some of the French names and reads a bit mechanically for my tastes.

    All in all, not exactly the best possible combination for a book like this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Moonraker: James Bond, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Bill Nighy
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    The Moonraker project has a millionaire backer, the war hero Sir Hugo Drax - a man who, it seems, cheats at cards. With a ballistic rocket at stake, Sir Hugo's exposure could threaten Britain's latest defense system, so James Bond is asked to investigate. Moving from London's most exclusive gambling club to a missile silo on the Channel coast, 007 and his Special Branch assistant, Gala Brand, discover there's more to Drax than meets the eye.

    Amazon Customer says: "Very Different from the Movie"
    "Very Different from the Movie"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you've only seen the movie, you don't know Moonraker. There's virtually nothing in common beyond the name and villain's name, which is understandable given the immediate post-WWII framework. It's also considerably less silly than the movie, which isn't really hard to do. I love Roger Moore, but this is most certainly not the Moore-era 007. In this original version, the Moonraker is a modified V2 rocket with a nuclear warhead, the perfect centerpiece for an early Cold War era novel.

    The first third of the book is Bond battling Hugo Drax at the card table, but unlike in Casino Royale, Bond has rigged the game, we know it, and it's all about watching him unleash his brand of rough justice. There's virtually zero suspense to it, and there doesn't have to be. It's written so well, I just had a stupid grin on my face the whole time. From there, Bond is put in Drax's midst at the last minute to shore up security on the Moonraker, the story unfolding with the hallmarks of Fleming's style. That is to say, Fleming has developed his way of telling the story; Bond himself is still undergoing no development into something resembling his big screen counterpart. We're still books away from that. And yet, it somehow doesn't matter. Bond still manages to come across as the Bond we know. Maybe it's because it's book 3, so I've grown accustomed to Fleming's version, or maybe it's because we've had so many interpretations of the character over the years that slipping into a different version just gets easier.

    Bill Nighy is a good narrator. Not one I would have expected, but he worked well. The only thing that perpetually bugged me was the pronunciation of "00," as in "007" or any of the other numbered agents referred to herein. Fleming spells it out frequently as "double-oh," but when only using the code numbers, Nighy says "oh-oh," as I've heard other narrators and commentators do. If that sort of thing bugs you like it does me, then the good news is it only happens towards the beginning and end of the book. It's a minor point, but it feels so wrong, especially when Fleming points it out in every book. Even in the movies, only one guy says "oh-oh," and he was an enemy agent who clearly didn't know better. Beyond that, Nighy clearly had a good time with this, just as he says in the short interview at the end. I could tell he had quite a bit of fun with Drax and several of the minor roles.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Live and Let Die: James Bond, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Rory Kinnear
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    When 007 goes to Harlem,it's not just for the jazz. This is the kingdom of Mr. Big, master of crime,voodoo baron, and partner in SMERSH's grim company of death. Those Mr. Big cannotpossess he crushes - like his beautiful prisoner, Solitaire, and her would-besaviors James Bond and Agency man Felix Leiter. All three are marked out asvictims in a trail of terror, treachery, and torture that leads from New York'sunderworld to the shark-infested island in the sun that Mr. Big calls his own.

    Amazon Customer says: "Culturally Dated, But Still Fun"
    "Culturally Dated, But Still Fun"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The first thing to know about this book is how racially stereotyped and offensive it is, being a product of its time. On the plus side, Fleming is an equal-opportunity offender. Everyone gets a crack at being insulted, and nobody seems to notice within the confines of the story.

    The books is quite a bit different from the film version, with elements of it being strewn across a handful of films. The main villain, Mr. Big, is a great deal more impressive than his screen counterpart, and his reputation as the zombie of Baron Semadi is actually rather inspired when the Voodoo cult is compared to the superstitions and culture of the Celtic people as Bond points out.

    All in all, it's an uncomfortable read, but if you can square away the modern perceptions of what you find here (good luck with that), then it's still an enjoyable story. Bond is still very much in development here, so some of his character may surprise new readers.

    Rory Kinnear gives an outstanding performance as narrator. Playing up a multicultural character set with so many "problems" might seem difficult, but his delivery is authentic and professional, or at least it was to me. Kudos to him.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Mark W. Muesse
    Overall
    (474)
    Performance
    (416)
    Story
    (405)

    Meditation offers deep and lasting benefits for mental functioning and emotional health, as well as for physical health and well-being. These 24 detailed lectures teach you the principles and techniques of sitting meditation, the related practice of walking meditation, and the highly beneficial use of meditative awareness in many important activities, including eating and driving. You will also learn how to use the skills of meditation in working with thoughts and emotional states.

    Steven says: "Outstanding introduction"
    "A Welcome, Thorough Course"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Meditation is easy to learn and easy to begin... in theory. It's quite possibly the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life, which is why I was eager to have a longer course like this one. I've done this sort of thing off and on for years, and I've seen the benefits of it for myself. But my physical restlessness and my "monkey mind" have always been my worst enemies. This course breaks everything down slowly and thoroughly. Everything you need is here, and there is plenty of advice concerning props or environments to go along with it for those who wish for that that.

    The hard part is still actually meditating. It's just not as daunting as it used to be.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Free: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 15 mins)
    • By Washington Irving
    • Narrated By Tom Mison
    Overall
    (627)
    Performance
    (585)
    Story
    (590)

    In the secluded Dutch territory of Sleepy Hollow, nebbish schoolmaster Ichabod Crane competes with the town hero for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, the 18-year-old daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer. As Crane leaves a party at the Van Tassel's farm one autumn evening, he is pursued by the Headless Horseman, an apparition said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper snuffed out by a stray cannonball.

    robertjm says: "Mison's British accent really drives this one!"
    "A New Retelling of an Old Favorite"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    America's first native fairy tale / ghost story is once again retold, and it's a great way to jumpstart the Halloween season as far as I'm concerned. This version is narrated by Tom Mison, who plays Ichabod Crane on TV's Sleepy Hollow. That version has virtually nothing in common with its source material apart from some names. The classic version has a decidedly much better writer, but I'm biased as this has always been one of my favorites growing up. Mison is an excellent narrator for this, capturing the old world feel of the tale perfectly.

    For those new to the story, the thing to remember is that this is an old ghost story, and all that implies. It's all about setting the mood and leaving you with questions. It's not "complete" by modern standards, but by the standards when it was written, it's just about perfect.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By John Garth
    • Narrated By John Garth
    Overall
    (26)
    Performance
    (24)
    Story
    (24)

    Tolkien and the Great War tells for the first time the full story of how he embarked on the creation of Middle-earth in his youth as the world around him was plunged into catastrophe. This biography reveals the horror and heroism that he experienced as a signals officer in the Battle of the Somme and introduces the circle of friends who spurred his mythology to life.

    Amazon Customer says: "Incredible Scholarship"
    "Incredible Scholarship"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Many a Tolkien fan knows that Middle Earth was forged by the fires of World War I. Some of the Tolkien scholars out there will even know a great deal about what's in this book. But what will separate this book from others is witnessing how Middle Earth evolves in parallel to Tolkien's life and service during the war. Sometimes that evolution is followed line by line, such is the detail level of this volume. Literary geeks, this book's for you.

    Casual fans will likely find this book to be easy to follow, but too in-depth for their tastes. If you're one of the 3% of uber-fans who own, understand, and even recite The Silmarillion, you may be on your way to sharing a drink with the author. I personally fall somewhere in between as someone who appreciates the world and its evolution at all levels, loves the history, but often finds it overwhelming at the same time. That's part of why I love it, precisely because it is challenging and welcoming at the same time. For me, this book offered some incredible insight into the creative process and filled in a number of gaps in what I thought I already knew. Regardless on where you stand in your geekdom, it would be next to impossible to walk away from this book without having learned something new and deeply personal.

    This is one of those books, however, where the narration is average, just average, really average. It's not bad, just lifeless, which is often the biggest criticism I have when an author reads the work themselves. Some can do it well, most can't or simply don't. In a way, it actually fits, seeing as how Tolkien's readings of his own work were equally as lifeless. I can say that because I've actually heard a couple of recordings, and it sounded like he couldn't wait to break away from the audience and return to world-building. Back to the point, a narrator that doesn't sound like a first-time news reporter would be a welcome addition to a work like this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Casino Royale: James Bond, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Dan Stevens
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    For James Bond and the British Secret Service, the stakes couldn't be higher. 007's mission is to neutralize the Russian operative Le Chiffre by ruining him at the baccarat table, forcing his Soviet masters to "retire" him. When Le Chiffre hits a losing streak, Bond discovers his luck is in - that is, until he meets Vesper Lynd, a glamorous agent who might yet prove to be his downfall. This audiobook includes an exclusive bonus interview with Dan Stevens.

    Amazon Customer says: "Bond. James Bond."
    "Bond. James Bond."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When AudioGo first announced this round of new recordings a couple of years ago, I was manic to have them. I own copies of the original Simon Vance recordings from my pre-Audible days, which are phenomenal, but being the Bond fan that I am, I'm always curious to see what others can bring to the table. Then I found out these new recordings weren't available outside of the UK, and my heart sank. I prayed Audible would bring them to me.

    At last, my prayers have been answered, and wouldn't you know, I had to hunt for them. Instead of referring to them by their official series name of "007 Reloaded," they're called "celebrity performances." Well, by any other name, it means my 2 credits a month are dedicated for the next few months (barring Star Wars releases), and not being independently wealthy, I can't afford to spring for them all at once as I'd like to do. Curses, foiled again.

    Be that as it may, I have begun the series, and I'm over the moon impressed with this new performance by Dan Stevens. He impressed me with his work on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and his work here is every bit as nuanced and incredible. I almost wish he could do the rest of them too, but the point is to have a variety of talent for this series, so I'm looking forward to riding that wave. As many times as I've gone through the original novels, I'm still not as familiar with them as I am the films, and this provides the perfect excuse for me to dive in again and live with them for a while.

    For those new to the original Fleming novels, this is a great introduction to the series. You almost have to forget what you've seen on screen and take Bond in his original cold war context, but thanks to the recent Daniel Craig films coming closer to Fleming's work, the in-road to the classic version has never been friendlier. It might take some getting used to Bond using a Beretta instead of the Walther PPK, or driving a Bentley instead of the Aston Martin, but the core of everything that is Bond starts here and evolves into what we've come to know and love throughout the series. Fleming's incredible detail brings these stories to life at every level, from Bond's scoping the room for signs of intrusion and tampering, to food and drink, to the gambling tables, to the torture sequences, and beyond. It's visceral in a way that can only come happen thanks to practical, real world experience. That's what separates Bond from his world of knock-offs and wanna-be copycats. Setting the standard of all that's come before and all that will come to be in the action/spy genre, regardless of medium, there's only one name you need to know. The name's Bond. James Bond.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Grimoire of the Thorn-Blooded Witch: Mastering the Five Arts of Old World Witchery

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Raven Grimassi
    • Narrated By Fred Stella
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (6)

    For the first time in more than a decade, Grimassi introduces listeners to a new system of witchcraft, one that draws upon the old ways and the old days to teach the practitioner how to master all that it is to be a Witch. Chock full of spells and rituals, Grimassi takes listeners deep into the woods to learn the secrets of the Thorned Path. Here we meet the entities that dwell deep within the organic memory of the earth - the devas, the deities, the magical life force behind the surface of the wooded glen.

    Amazon Customer says: "Not Exactly Old World"
    "Not Exactly Old World"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The first question anyone would likely ask is, "Why did you read this book?" A fair question. I like to consider myself open-minded enough to read a great many things. I'm constantly comparing religions and mythologies, both as a spiritually-minded type and as a writer who never knows where the next idea will come from. When I was 8, I found rituals on how to become a werewolf, and I've been looking at stuff like this for the sheer fun of it ever since. That said, I was rather intrigued by the title and book description. Having known my fair share of both old world witches and modern wiccans of a variety of different religious flavors, I feel confident that I'm at least conversational in these circles, and this aroused my curiosity.

    With apologies to the modern practitioners who will buy it completely, and I'm sure some will get plenty out of this, I found the ideas far better than the rituals themselves. It's a personal bias, obviously, but I'm forced to wonder why old world plant spirits would want be summoned through English rhyme given everything that humanity has done to scorch our planet. Offering 3 drops of blood just doesn't really seem enough. Or maybe I've read too many Batman comics featuring Poison Ivy. Who can say? Either way, this is hardly the complex high magick of Solomon and his lesser keys. Is it old world witchery? Not even remotely close, unless your idea of "old world" is 1954. Read enough books on any given topic, and you learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, expert or not. It seems to me that changing the primal points of Gardnerian Wicca to something that seems even more primal (and probably isn't) does not an ancient magickal system make. But it does line up with some of the new age stuff I've seen from the Gardnerian camp. Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting new coat of paint, but that's essentially all it is. The idea behind all of this, being respect of the planet and its bounties, is a good one for spiritual philosophers to ponder. And the rest is a pretty decent grab bag for writing prompts. Having recently gone back through Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, it puts me in mind of the Ents, just on perhaps a smaller scale.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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