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Michael

Mill Valley, CA, United States | Member Since 2009

13
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 10 reviews
  • 15 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 14 purchased in 2014
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  • Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Jeff Ryan
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (336)
    Performance
    (307)
    Story
    (306)

    Nintendo has continually set the standard for video game innovation in America, starting in 1981 with a plucky hero who jumped over barrels to save a girl from an ape.

    Steve says: "Great read! Very informative."
    "Good light reading for fans of gaming"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I grew up in the eighties and played loads of Nintendo games. This book is a straightforward look at the founding and rise of the game company, which was actually founded in the late 1880’s as a card company in Japan but made its first big splash in the U.S. with the 1981 release of Donkey Kong (a mistranslated title that the designers originally intended to be something along the lines of “Stubborn Ape”).

    This book is not intended to have Pulitzer-level writing, so yes: as some reviewers have pointed out, the author uses awkward and frequent metaphors. Take, for example, the following excerpt in which the author explains that Shigeru Miyamoto, the game designer who created Mario, generally avoided complex storylines while his engineers sometimes “snuck” them into his games: “All Miyamoto wants from [Mario] is a connection to gamers. He’s at one end of a tug-of-war, pulling for Mario to be recreational, away from the half-hour cut scenes of the storytellers on the other end of the rope. But Miyamoto is only one man, and thus some very clever story sometimes sneaks in under the portcullis.”

    The book focuses on describing the design, marketing, gameplay, and ideas behind many of Nintendo’s most- and least-popular titles and game systems. Readers will no doubt remember many of these with great fondness. The book covers far less detail about the personal politics between the people involved in the game company itself... you hear scattered stories about how people arrived at or left the company, but there is nothing earth-shattering or extremely controversial. (If you’re looking for a saga about the internal politics at Nintendo, this story will give you a very cursory overview; look elsewhere.)

    I wasn't a big fan of the audiobook narration, but it's passable and not the most critical aspect of a book like this. Ray Porter's voice sounds, remarkably, like a perfect combination of Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd. His reading reminded me of the way a sportscaster speaks, which lends itself somewhat to the tone of the book.

    Overall, the book is a light and engaging read. If you grew up in the eighties and played Nintendo games and are even slightly passionate about gaming, this book is probably a good choice for you.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Archangel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Robert Harris
    • Narrated By Michael Kitchen
    Overall
    (82)
    Performance
    (47)
    Story
    (48)

    Whilst attending a conference on newly-opened Soviet archives, Fluke Kelso is approached by an old NKVD officer who knows where Beria hid Stalin's private papers. What begins as an academic curiosity turns into a murderous chase across Russia.

    Michael says: "Uneven thriller and recording, great performance"
    "Uneven thriller and recording, great performance"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I decided to try Archangel because I loved Robert Harris’s Fatherland as well as the first two books from the Cicero trilogy, Imperium and Lustrum (the latter called Conspirata in the U.S.). I did not enjoy Archangel as much.

    In the story, British historian Fluke Kelso (yes, that's the bizarre moniker of the protagonist) is attending a conference in Boris Yeltsin’s Moscow in the 90s. He learns of the possible existence of a black oilskin notebook owned by Joseph Stalin. From there, the book is a sort of chase that involves a race to find this MacGuffin and the meaning behind it, between Kelso and ex-KGB heavies, new Russian intelligence/police, an extremely annoying American reporter, and a morose femme fatale.

    It’s fascinating to see the way Harris has weaved his fictional world with actual elements of history, but there is something about the story that seems off. Where Fatherland and the Cicero books are expertly plotted, Archangel moves along in a clumsy fashion. Also, the contrivance of the name Fluke Kelso distracted me, and was a constant reminder of the unwieldiness of the plot.

    The story picks up momentum as it moves toward the conclusion. Harris’s vivid descriptions of snow are some of the best I’ve seen. I agree with those who find the ending implausible.

    I've listened to over fifty audiobooks, and this is one of the most uneven I've heard. Michael Kitchen (who plays Detective Foyle in Masterpiece Theatre’s Foyle’s War) does a masterful job narrating, but the recording engineer made a number of amateurish mistakes. For example, the volume periodically increases or decreases arbitrarily, forcing you to turn the volume up or down to compensate. Also, it is very apparent and distracting where one recording session left off and another one picked up.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Devil in the White City

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Erik Larson
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4435)
    Performance
    (2128)
    Story
    (2153)

    In a thrilling narrative showcasing his gifts as storyteller and researcher, Erik Larson recounts the spellbinding tale of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Also available abridged.

    D says: "A Rich Read!"
    "Impossible to stop listening"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Of the 30+ books I've listened to since 2009, The Devil in the White City is one of the best experiences. Erik Larson's writing is sublime. He conjures the Chicago of the late nineteenth century so clearly that he might be documenting events that occurred yesterday. The stories about the design, organization, and construction of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair as well as the personalities involved are all utterly fascinating. The macabre portions that deal with serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes are so bizarre as to almost be unbelievable. While listening to this book, I found myself continually thinking, "Truth truly is stranger than fiction."

    Prior to my listen I was apprehensive about the narrator, Scott Brick, who had also done Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life. I felt that Brick's reading of that book was slightly stilted, but his performance of Devil in the White City is pitch perfect.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • An Object of Beauty: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Steve Martin
    • Narrated By Campbell Scott
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (699)
    Performance
    (338)
    Story
    (343)

    Lacey Yeager is young, captivating, and ambitious enough to take the New York art world by storm. Groomed at Sotheby's and hungry to keep climbing the social and career ladders put before her, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich and even richer with her magnetic charisma and liveliness. Her ascension to the highest tiers of the city parallel the soaring heights - and, at times, the dark lows - of the art world and the country from the late 1990s through today.

    L says: "Gifted writer, characters and context feel true"
    "Not Steve Martin's best work"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I love Steve Martin's comedy, and I moderately enjoyed the novel Shopgirl. He's a talented writer when it comes to the actual prose, but I found this novel difficult to get into or even care about.

    First of all, the main character (Lacey Yeager) is hardly likeable and terribly hard to identify with. I just didn't care about her. In fact, I just didn't care period. She's a self-serving narcissist who really doesn't have many redeeming qualities other than the fact that nearly every heterosexual man she meets wants to sleep with her. (She is not, by the way, a cardboard character; just seriously dull.)

    The best thing about this book is that it delves deeply into the pretentiousness of the art world of New York City. If that's what you're looking for, the book is for you. But if you're looking for a novel with captivating characters that you might care deeply about, I wouldn't recommend it.

    On the plus side, Campbell Scott does a wonderful job, deadpanning his entire way through. (In some ways, I realize that Scott and Martin have similar-sounding voices.)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

    • ABRIDGED (18 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Vincent Bugliosi
    • Narrated By Edward Herrmann
    Overall
    (382)
    Performance
    (178)
    Story
    (179)

    Polls reveal that 85 percent of Americans believe there was a conspiracy behind Lee Harvey Oswald. Some even believe Oswald was entirely innocent. In this encyclopedic, absorbing audiobook, Vincent Bugliosi shows how the public has come to believe such lies about the day that changed the course of history. Bugliosi has devoted almost 20 years of his life to this project, and is determined to show that, despite the overwhelming popular perception, Oswald killed Kennedy and acted alone.

    Lawrence D. Clayton says: "On an equal footing with Helter Skelter"
    "Expert deconstruction of JFK conspiracy theories"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book effectively demonstrate once and for all that Oswald acted alone. This is the abridged version of the book (the unabridged one is 1,632 pages), and is brilliantly narrated by the Edward Hermann.

    Among books that concern the JFK assassination, this one is particularly notable and difficult to ignore because of its author: Vincent Bugliosi. Known primarily as the attorney famous for prosecuting Charles Manson, Bugliosi also acted as the prosecutor in a mock trial for Oswald staged and filmed by a British television station in 1986. Serving as Oswald’s attorney in the trial was Gerry Spence (also well-known for many high profile cases, among them his success with the Karen Silkwood verdict).

    The book has two distinct sections: the first is a narrative of the days just before the assassination and leading up to Oswald’s burial. It reads like an exciting police procedural (and was in fact published as a separate book a year later ("Five Days in November"). The rest of the book serves as Bugliosi’s arguments that Oswald acted alone. Bugliosi summarizes all of the most famous conspiracy theories, many of the minor ones, and picks them apart, one by one, with the surgical precision of a brilliant attorney.

    For me, it was difficult to stop listening to this book. I was riveted.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Life and Death in the Third Reich

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Peter Fritzsche
    • Narrated By David Zinn
    Overall
    (63)
    Performance
    (31)
    Story
    (29)

    Fritzsche deciphers the puzzle of Nazism's ideological grip. Its basic appeal lay in the Volksgemeinschaft - people's community - that appealed to Germans to be part of a great project to redress the wrongs of the Versailles treaty, make the country strong and vital, and rid the body politic of unhealthy elements. Diaries and letters reveal Germans' fears, desires, and reservations, while showing how Nazi concepts saturated everyday life.

    Starlet says: "Interesting from Beginning to End"
    "Life as a citizen in the Third Reich"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Sometimes fascinating and always detailed account of what it was like to live in the Third Reich, for all walks of life.

    The reader is somewhat stilted, and the production values of this work are sub-standard. For example, there are numerous occurrences in which the reader repeats a sentence or paragraph, or stops in the middle of a sentence to start over. These are normally edited out, of course, in the post-production process. Clearly, whoever did the work on this recording did not do their job well.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Fatherland

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Robert Harris
    • Narrated By Michael Jayston
    Overall
    (325)
    Performance
    (212)
    Story
    (213)

    Fatherland is set in an alternative world where Hitler has won the Second World War. It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler’s 75th birthday. Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin’s most prestigious suburb. As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich.

    Mike From Mesa says: "Gripping from start to finish"
    "Nearly perfect thriller with a fascinating twist"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was a nearly perfect thriller. Harris's writing style is, as always, evocative and descriptive while maintaining a certain succinctness. He expertly brings out his characters, and everything is more or less very believable. The plot draws you in.

    I thought that Michael Jayston's performance was flawless. He narrates most of the book in his native British accent (including the characters), and enunciates German words with faithful accuracy.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Christopher McDougall
    • Narrated By Fred Sanders
    Overall
    (4735)
    Performance
    (2485)
    Story
    (2525)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Want to join the “superhumans”? Luckily you don’t have to run to catch up with them, thanks to McDougall’s and Sanders’ inspiring (and motivating) journey through history, science, physiology, health, entertaining characters and unlikely friendships. Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure.

    Corey says: "Amazing read - even for non-runners"
    "Unlike anything you've ever heard"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The human achievements recounted in this book are overall absolutely amazing and sometimes even difficult to believe or comprehend.

    I thought certain portions dragged a little bit, but overall I found this an engaging and informative piece. If you are a runner or at all interested in running, the stories in this book will thrill you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 1984: New Classic Edition

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By George Orwell
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3938)
    Performance
    (2493)
    Story
    (2523)

    George Orwell depicts a gray, totalitarian world dominated by Big Brother and its vast network of agents, including the Thought Police - a world in which news is manufactured according to the authorities' will and people live tepid lives by rote. Winston Smith, a hero with no heroic qualities, longs only for truth and decency. But living in a social system in which privacy does not exist and where those with unorthodox ideas are brainwashed or put to death, he knows there is no hope for him.

    Mehra says: "A must read!"
    "Narrator and novel perfectly narrated"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I decided to listen to the audiobook version of 1984 because I hadn’t read it in a while. I have never heard a more perfect rendition of a novel... Prebble’s narration is sublime. A powerful performance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Karl Marlantes
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4284)
    Performance
    (2445)
    Story
    (2446)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: A performance so poignant, we gave Bronson Pinchot (yes, Balki from Perfect Strangers) our inaugural Narrator of the Year award.... In the monsoon season of 1968-69 at a fire support base called Matterhorn, located in the remote mountains of Vietnam, a young and ambitious Marine lieutenant wants to command a company to further his civilian political ambitions. But two people stand in his way.

    Zachary says: "Matterhorn"
    "Great novel, amazing performance"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you consider the audio edition of Matterhorn to be better than the print version?

    Somewhere like 30 years in the writing, this novel really brings out the horrors of the Vietnam war and war in general; the performance by Bronson Pinchot (Balky in the TV show Perfect Strangers) is one of the best audio performances I’ve heard of a book, and other listeners seem to agree; this is not your typical Vietnam story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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