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Chicago, IL, United States | Member Since 2013

  • 10 reviews
  • 60 ratings
  • 582 titles in library
  • 28 purchased in 2018

  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes are overshadowed by the event with which they close - the meeting of the great detective and Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime. When "The Final Problem" was first published, the struggle between Holmes and his arch nemesis, seemingly to the death, left many readers desolate at the loss of Holmes, but it also led to his immortality as a literary figure.

    David says: "Good narrator, Incorrect product description"
    "Good narrator, Incorrect product description"

    The narration provided by Simon Prebble is excellent. He's a good voice actor and manages to make each character distinct no matter how big the cast of a given story.

    I would give this book 4 stars, but there is one critical problem. There is a story missing. "The Final Problem," in which we are first introduced by Doyle to the character of Professor Moriarty, is nowhere to be found.

    This particular production company has seen fit to include it as an extra on their recording of "The Valley of Fear." It makes sense, from a certain point of view. Given the ending of the story and the role of Moriarty in both tales, there is a certain logic to packaging it with "The Valley of Fear." However, the description of this audio book EXPLICITLY STATES THAT IT INCLUDES "The Final Problem," which it does not. Listeners will therefore be surprised when the audiobook ends with, "The Naval Treaty."

    It's a good audiobook, and Prebble's performance is excellent. If you're working your way through the Holmes cannon, this isn't a bad production. But unless you buy "The Valley of Fear" as produced by the same company, you're going to feel a bit cheated.

    36 of 37 people found this review helpful
  • Good Intentions

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Elliott Kay
    • Narrated By Tess Irondale
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    He knew it was a dumb stunt from the start. A midnight run through a cemetery to impress a couple of girls is hardly the stuff of legend, but Alex Carlisle longs to escape the crushing mediocrity of life after high school. Then he stumbles upon the ritual, and the cultists, and two bound and bloodied women. Alex intervenes and the ritual blows up in his face, leaving him bound to them both: Rachel and Lorelei, an angel and a succubus.

    C. Williams says: "Read the Warning Label!"
    "Some of the best erotica I've ever read"

    Have you ever watched porn and thought to yourself, "You know, this could really use a plot. A good one. With interesting characters. Maybe a narrative arc or some kind of larger philosophical issue to wrestle with." No? Fine. Apparently that's just me. But you should still read this book.

    The main thing you need to know about the plot is that Alex interrupts a ritual meant to bind an angel and a demon to a mortal and, in attempting to rescue them from what he believes to be rape and murder, winds up getting hit with the spell, thus binding the two entities to him. Sounds like a kind of Three's Company series of wacky misunderstandings and confusion, complete with catty sniping between the two inhumanly beautiful female leads (in this book, not Three's Company). What you wind up with is a surprisingly moving story of two beings who transcend what they were made to be and discover what they are capable of becoming. At least, when everyone isn't having sex with everyone else.

    Some have criticized this book for being adolescent male wish-fulfillment. Their arguments are not without merit. My initial impression was that the book would be nothing but an orgy (pun intended) of adolescent sexual fantasies. Especially when the characters kept going at it, in pornographic detail, and having endless, universally wonderful, multi-orgasmic sex. So much sex that I often found myself thinking, "Doesn't anyone need to re-hydrate? Or rest? Because I'm fairly certain you should all have friction burns at this point."

    In the interest of confronting this directly, here are several things in the book that are in keeping with the view of the book as adolescent male fantasy: A succubus (the demon in question) can increase her prey/master's stamina and sex drive allowing for almost constant sex. When attached to a succubus, one cannot contract an STD or get anyone pregnant without meaning to, thus eliminating the need for condoms or other barriers. The subject also becomes more attractive to others, in addition to becoming objectively more attractive. As a result, women are lining up (almost but not quite literally) to have sex with him, including the girl he's had a crush on for years.

    There's more, I'm certain, but you can see where this is going and I feel like the point is made. That is an element of this book. That said, after the initial realization that this was happening, I found myself caring less and less. Given the extent to which the paradigm is present in the story, it would take a lot to overwhelm this impression and allow me to enjoy the story. But Elliott Kay manages to pull it off.

    For starters, Alex, as a character, has a lot of ethical concerns when first finding himself in this situation, and makes an effort to ensure that no one gets hurt, either physically or emotionally. Most people, given absolute rule over another, particularly a beautiful sex demon, and the means with which to go about having sex with just about any interested party, would immediately abuse that power. I assume. It's not like I can speak from experience.

    But Alex maintains his humility and humanity throughout the book, frequently expressing the concern that he may one day turn into a womanizing douche bag. He communicates to all of his partners that he is, in fact, seeing someone other than them, that he's not looking for anything exclusive, and that he wants to make sure they're comfortable with that fact. If you're familiar at all with the concept of polyamory or open relationships, you may recognize that this hits all the right ethical notes many (though not all) members of the community hold. FULL DISCLOSURE: I am in an open relationship, and have been for a few years, so my perspective on whether or not it is possible for such an arrangement to be ethical in the first place is likely different than most people's. Nevertheless, if you can accept that ethical polyamory CAN exist, then you shouldn't find yourself too hindered by the way in which the protagonist goes about it.

    In addition, there are a number of female characters who, while introduced as sexual partners for the protagonist, become much more than that, particularly two witches who are not only instrumental in the conflict that develops throughout the story, but who do more to advance the plot and develop the world of the story than the protagonist.

    Please note that I use the term "partners," not "conquests," as there is genuine affection and mutual respect between the parties involved. Neither is using the other or misrepresenting themselves as desiring something more than the assignation to which the two have agreed. This may not make a difference to you, ethically speaking, but it does to me. One could argue that the ethical nature of these encounters is compromised by the succubus's magic, but this is something the book eventually addresses. I can't recall the exact nature of the explanation, but it was something along the lines of confidence being the main difference in Alex, not any kind of psychic Spanish fly. It was something reminiscent of the whole Wizard of Oz, "You had the power to go home all along," rubbish, only instead of forcing the protagonist to risk life and limb only to reveal it after the "good" witch has used the unwitting dupe to bump off her competition, it is here used to assuage the protagonist's own conscience surrounding the lifestyle he's leading.

    I would also argue that Alex's emotional attitude, his feelings and concern for his partners, represents a level of maturity that I think would be lacking in a story that was nothing more than a fantasy about a guy going out and getting laid without consequences. And while they are not the usual ones, there are most definitely consequences.

    Combined with that, the plot, and there is one, is quite interesting, particularly in the way it presents Heaven and Hell, the conflict between their forces, and the limited agency each side has. However, I think the plot is where I would level my greatest criticism of the book. It takes a good half of the book for the plot to get started. Not for the plot to pick up speed, but for it to really start moving forward from the initial setup. Prior to that point, I frequently wondered if the book was going anywhere or if it was intent upon spinning its wheels on a series of largely disconnected sex scenes.

    Speaking of which, the sex scenes are really well written. If you've ever read a letter to Penthouse, you know what a terribly written sex scene sounds like. If you've read anything by Richard K. Morgan, you can probably recall a few very descriptive and well-imagined sex scenes. It's the difference between a pornographic film directed by someone pointing a camera at two people having sex to some redundant dance music and one directed by someone with an artistic flair and sense of timing, someone who teases out the foreplay, displays the emotional lives of the characters, heightens the various climactic moments of the film with close ups on the faces of the participants, dramatic swells of music, a flash of someone's fingernails running down their partner's back, etc. It's this kind of distinction that separates stripping from burlesque. You can see (or in this case hear) a difference between the two, and it is remarkable.

    Or perhaps that's all down to Tess Irondale's amazing performance. Seriously, I cannot, as an actor, imagine having to make all those sexual vocalizations over and over while standing alone in a small, soundproof box. I feel like after a while it would get tiresome or I'd start phoning them in out of my own incredulity. But Irondale is most impressive, particularly the way her reading of the narration would shift subtly depending on the mood of a given scene. I know it'll never happen, but Irondale deserves an embarrassingly prestigious acting award for her performance in this book.

    Ultimately, yes, there is a lot of standard cis hetero male wish fulfillment in the book. That much cannot be ignored. But in spite of its prominence in the narrative, the book is still worth reading and sufficiently engaging that I've purchased the sequel, Natural Consequences, and will be starting that as soon as I'm finished writing this. My only hope for that book would be to dial back on the admittedly enjoyable sex scenes. I'm not saying the author needs to lose them, but there need to be fewer of them so that the plot and the characters have a little more room to breathe.

    If all of this sounds like the sort of racy, funny, and well-told story you'd enjoy, you should not hesitate to pick up this book. If you read this far only so you could justify your personal level of outrage, I'm told Joel Osteen does a great job reading his own pablum. There are over twenty different titles to choose from. Go in peace. To everyone else, have fun, but be sure to practice safe listening. Wear headphones. ;)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Dungeoneers

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Jeffery Russell
    • Narrated By Faust Kells
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    After five years as a city guard, Durham's horizontal career trajectory adds a corkscrew when a mis-delivered order assigns him to caravan duty for an eclectic group of dwarves who hire themselves out as professional dungeoneers. No ruler wants to leave a powerful magical weapon lying about in a dungeon where just any prophesied upstart can stumble across it and use it to overthrow the kingdom. That's where the dungeoneers come in.

    Bill Bucket says: "Get past the narrator and the story is great"
    "Funny & clever but with much room for improvement"

    I won't say I didn't like this book, but I felt like it could have been a lot better.

    First, the cast of dwarves is large enough to be confusing and at no point early on did I feel like I got much in the way of distinction between them. As a result, I was left trying to follow a largely generic group distinguished only by name and little else to tell them apart, with the possible exception of Ruby whose acerbic demeanor did much to set her apart. While the narrator did a lot to distinguish them vocally, their roles and personalities seems fairly interchangeable.

    Second, the reader, while clearly talented and possessed of an excellent voice, narrated the events with a persistently upbeat tone that made it hard to distinguish between positive and negative circumstances. I often found myself wondering if something terrible happening to a character was supposed to be funny or if it wasn't a big deal due to some detail I had missed. Regardless, every problem, every set piece, every event of this story was rendered flat by this uniform tone.

    The book itself is clever, and once I reached the last quarter of the book, I felt somewhat more engaged by the events taking place, though still confused at times for the above mentioned reasons. Russell clearly has a solid grounding in fantasy and D&D-like role playing games. He frequently makes jokes about gaming conventions and tropes that reflect both intelligence and cleverness. But due to the similarities among the dwarves, I found myself largely indifferent to their actions, and prior to their reaching the innermost realms of the dungeon, I felt like the various challenges they faced were less suspenseful or narratively interesting. Instead, they were included so as to demonstrate how an experienced and well-prepared group might make a concerted effort to clear your typical D&D-style dungeon. In fact, it gave me several ideas for any future D&D or Pathfinder campaigns in which I participate that, while now seeming obvious, had never occurred to me before. This is Russell's genius, these observations and puzzle solutions that makes so much sense but never occur to the typical RPG gamer (or at least, not to this gamer or any of his friends).

    Ultimately, I will likely follow Russell's work and, indeed, I have great hopes for his future books. And I would gladly give Kells another shot as a narrator. As I said, he is talented. But I feel this book is one you can skip and miss little. If you have nothing else on your radar and you're jonesing for a fantasy comedy book, this will likely fill that need. However, I would recommend, if you haven't already heard them, that you check out Drew Hayes' book NPC's and, if you like that one, its sequel, Split the Party, which I'm about to listen to for the second time.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Armada: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Ernest Cline
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    It's just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He's daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom - if he can make it that long without getting suspended again. Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.

    Chad says: "Lacked the freshness of Ready Player One"
    "Ready Player One Redux: Still Worth It"

    The elevator speech: Zack is a high school student (much like Ready Player One's Wade) who is into all kinds of scifi nerdery (like Wade), which puts him in a unique position to save the world (just like Wade). If that sentence makes you think I'm going to suggest you skip this book, then you are likely the sort of person who, when they gave you that test in school that said, very pointedly, to read ALL the instructions before starting, actually went through all the complex steps listed before arriving at the final instruction, which told you to ignore all the other instructions.

    Cline is not reinventing the American novel. He's not even reinventing the Ernest Cline-ian novel. But to some extent that's why I like it, even if it is also the thing I'm most willing to criticize him for. It strikes the same chord in me that RPO did. It calls back to all the pop cultural miscellany I grew up with. I need no explanation when the protagonist refers to the voice of the computer in "Flight of the Navigator" or that someone has come to, "kick ass and chew bubble gum." And I immediately know where the protagonist is coming from when he describes the challenge of picking a course and a career before he's even graduated and not particularly liking any of his options. In the normal world, this is how you wind up working a 9-5 office job that doesn't interest you but pays the bills and doesn't require you to show up on weekends. In the writings of Ernest Cline, it's how you become a hero.

    Ernest Cline's writing resonates with an entire generation of people who never found a place in the world that offered them the chance to make a life out of the things that mattered to them. Sure, you could argue that gamers can always learn to code and become game designers, or that Star Wars fans can go into film. Anyone who loved watching Star Trek can learn to make television and create the next Star Trek. Well, not the next one. They've made that. And the two after that. And the one after that that was actually before all of that. You'd have to make the next next next next next Star Trek. *does math on fingers* Yeah. That should be right.

    But that's exactly the kind of suggestion that was made to me when I was Zack's age. And it's the equivalent of telling someone who loves reading books that they can write one. As most people reading this will realize, that's crap. I'm willing to bet some of you could or even have written a book. Or several. Personally, I tried. It didn't go well. By the time I gave up and closed the word processing program I was using, not bothering to save the document containing an indentation and several aborted opening sentences, the little blinking cursor had burned itself into my retinas, and its ghost proceeded to mock me for the rest of the day.

    There is a sense of alienation that comes from feeling as though, despite the fact that you're speaking the same language, the people around you can't begin to fathom what you're saying. Why wouldn't you want to be a game designer? Well, as Zack points out, you might suck at code and have no digital art skills. You may have ideas, but ideas need expression, and at no point in the development of higher education did we ever think to put together a method for finding a comfortable creative outlet.

    We are a generation that fell in love with imagination. Unfortunate rhyme aside, we grew up dreaming of other worlds, of new and strange creatures, and of pivotal moments where the efforts of one person could shift the tide of history. We are Generation Nerd, and Ernest Cline is our Chaucer.

    Throughout Armada, I found a duality of impulses raging inside me, a good fanboy and an evil fanboy. For simplicity, you can imagine them as the archetypal angel and devil that appear on either shoulder in classic cartoons. For instance, Good Fanboy would marvel at the attention given to an argument between two secondary characters over the greatest fantasy weapon of all time (Sting or Mjolnir). Evil Fanboy that no two nerds would ever get into such a stupidly imagined and contrived argument, especially without even considering the glaive from Krull. Yes it's impractical but that just means it takes more skill to wield and is therefore EVEN MORE AWESOME! IT IS A WEAPON SO STUPID IT'S BRILLIANT! Evil Fanboy would start yelling that there is NO WAY that Zack could be the sixth highest ranked player in a global MMO without playing the game for hours a day to the exclusion of all else including sleep and basic bodily functions. Good Fanboy would then counter that, while true of all MMO's WE'VE ever played, that doesn't mean it's how these things SHOULD work. This is an imagined story, so why not imagine a better game?

    There is one thing I will fault Cline for in this book. And like so many criticisms, it has to do with the pop culture references. Yes, they are one of the things I LOVED about the story, but they don't fit quite as well into this story as they did in RPO. Zack never knew his father, who died when he was still an infant, so he's invested a great deal of time rummaging through the stored possessions of the late patriarch, which are loaded with VHS cassettes, mix tapes, and video game miscellany, thus allowing an 18 year-old in the year 2018 to be well versed in the pop culture of a preceding generation. It's a beautiful coat Cline's sewing (complete with a mix tape track listing at the end), but it just doesn't fit on this story. In addition, there are moments when the references get a little heavy-handed. Cline might describe Zack's impressions of a thing, such as a hangar full of combat drones, by referencing Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and The Last Starfighter in quick succession (yes this specific example actually happens). There are also moments when the references feel forced, as if the situation to which they're being applied isn't quite apt, though I can't think of one off the top of my head.

    Despite this rather glaring fault, I can't say I was too put off by it. I enjoyed this story. I'm hoping Cline moves away from stories that essentially function as pop culture delivery vehicles, but for now, I'm still having fun. If you liked Ready Player One, you'll enjoy this book as well. It's not as good as his first novel, but if you're looking some light summer fare, it's a hell of a lot better than any of those paperbacks you're likely to find at the airport, which I'm convinced no one ever actually reads. They just fill space in carry-ons and help you sleep on the flight or the beach. Then again, maybe that's just me. I've listened to Ready Player One several times. While I can't say I'm likely to do that with Armada, I don't regret putting time into it, and I enjoyed that time immensely.

    6 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Iceland Imagined: Nature, Culture, and Storytelling in the North Atlantic: A Weyerhaeuser Environmental Book

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Karen Oslund, William Cronon (foreword)
    • Narrated By Cynthia Wallace
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Iceland, Greenland, Northern Norway, and the Faroe Islands lie on the edges of Western Europe, in an area long portrayed by travelers as remote and exotic - its nature harsh, its people reclusive. Since the middle of the 18th century, however, this marginalized region has gradually become part of modern Europe, a transformation that is narrated in Karen Oslund's Iceland Imagined. This cultural and environmental history sweeps across the dramatic North Atlantic landscape, exploring its unusual geography, saga narratives, language, culture, and politics, and analyzing its emergence as a distinctive and symbolic part of Europe.

    David says: "Good information poorly presented"
    "Good information poorly presented"

    The author, Karen Oslund, clearly knows what she's talking about where Iceland is concerned. There are many facts put forward in this book on a number of different facets of Iceland's history and culture. However the information is presented in such a bland, factual, narrative-free manner as to make the book almost impossible to listen to. This is not helped by the fact that the narrator seems as bored reading the words as I was listening to them. The presentation is as flat on her voice as the words are on the page.

    If you want to know more about Iceland, find something else. I recommend The Modern Scholar: The Norsemen, Understanding Vikings and their Culture. The lecturer is dynamic, funny, and presents a condensed history of Iceland that was so enjoyable I listened to it twice in one weekend, and parts of it three times.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Modern Scholar: The Norsemen - Understanding Vikings and Their Culture

    • ORIGINAL (5 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Professor Professor Michael D.C. Drout
    • Narrated By uncredited

    Professor Michael D.C. Drout of Wheaton College immerses listeners in the extraordinary legacy of Viking civilization, which developed in what is now Scandinavia during the early Middle Ages. During the course of these lectures, Professor Drout explores how these peoples conquered all of Northern Europe, traveled as far as Byzantium in the East and North America in the West, and left a literary legacy that includes numerous works studied and enjoyed to this day.

    Margaret says: "Best download in months!"
    "Great history meets great storytelling"

    Viking stories and history are incredibly complicated. Sagas go on for so many generations it's difficult to follow, especially if, like me, you're really bad with names. Fortunately the stories here are presented with such flair, humor, and insight as to make them all the more accessible.

    A lot of scholars lack the ability to tell a story with any competency. You wind up with very dry recounting of someone who begat someone else and so on with no real feeling for the narrative arc of the story or the ability to communicate the plot in a compelling manner. Prof. Drout, however, is so personable and and honest in his enthusiasm for the material one cannot help but be sucked in by it. He is strongly reminiscent of some of my favorite professors. They were the kind whose unmitigated joy and love for the material would pull you in such that you could not help being carried away along with them.

    In preparing for trip Iceland I listened to a number of books and lectures on the country and its history. From all of them I gained only a small fraction of what I got from this single source. If you had any interest in the stories and history of Scandinavia, I strongly recommend checking out this lecture series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Patient Zero: The Joe Ledger Novels, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Jonathan Maberry
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills - and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills. And that’s both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective who has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new task force created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle....

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "Drop Dead and get back up great."
    "Not a great thriller, not a great zombie book"

    This book is a long series of cliches and stock characters. It never goes anywhere new or does anything particularly interesting withing the two genres it tries to span, spy thrillers and zombie stories.

    As spy books go, it's pretty dull. Standard plot centering on (this is all presented pretty early in the book, so I'm not spoiling anything) Islamic fundamentalists bent on waging jihad with zombies created by a massive drug company that hopes to get crazy rich selling anti-zombie drugs even though it's clearly already very prosperous. But the billionaire owner just has to be a trillionaire, even though that means killing most of the world, because reasons.

    The biggest suspense point in the story was the identity of the traitor in the group of mercenary heroes, but when the reveal came, I didn't care. None of the characters mattered much to me as they were little more fleshed out than the nicknames the protagonist gives them.

    There are some good action sequences that are well described, no easy feat, and Ray Porter does a great job making the various characters distinct. In the end though, it just wasn't worth the time it took to listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Dr. Z on Scoring: How to Pick Up, Seduce, and Hook Up with Hot Women

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Dr. Victoria Zdrok
    • Narrated By Dr. Victoria Zdrok
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Dr. Z grounds her methods in scientific research and field-tested facts, using her years of experience in academia and as one of the world's most popular models to formulate a seduction manual complete with all the secret, sure-fire tips men have always wanted to know (and women hoped they would never find out).

    Geoffrey says: "Pretty good for a naked lady"
    "The worst kind of pop psychology"

    I was hoping for something more interesting given the author's extensive academic credentials and experience as subject of a persistent male gaze. I thought that Dr. Z would have some unique insight into romantic relationships and human sexuality. What I got was a lot of dull, recycled, drivel that, surprisingly, reduced women to automatons that dispensed sex when the correct buttons were pushed in the right order. Completely lacking in any unique insight or sensible advice, it was a waste of my time and money.

    If you want something interesting, read Sex at Dawn. If you want something entertaining, and intermittently helpful*, read anything by Dan Savage. Do not spend your time on this empty, thoughtless pablum.

    I'm trying to imagine who would actually have use for this book. Perhaps, if you've been living in isolation, raised since infancy by monks in a secluded part of the Himalayan mountains, and have never seen a woman before, this might be a good introduction to interacting with them on a social level. Just remember that you will eventually reach a point at which you need to discard its teachings as the lessons taught to a child who cannot fully grasp the complexities of metaphysical conundrums. It's an acolyte's doctrine, but not to be taken as dogma. If that does not describe you, don't buy this book.

    *It's not that Savage isn't generally saying things worth while, but his writing encompasses so many different areas of sexuality, it won't always have direct bearing on the lives of cis hetero males. But it will be well written and thoughtful.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • John Dies at the End

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By David Wong
    • Narrated By Stephen R. Thorne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    STOP. You should not have touched this flyer with your bare hands. NO, don't put it down. It's too late. They're watching you. My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you'll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it's too late. You touched the book. You're in the game. You're under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why?

    Amazon Customer says: "Vulgar Funny. 4.95 Sale Win."
    "Absolutely brilliant!"
    Any additional comments?

    I've been a fan of David Wong's writing for a couple years now. I was a little apprehensive about reading a full length book by an author whose only work I'd read consisted of lists primarily centered around what's wrong with video games. But the articles were always insightful while still being funny, so I decided I might as well try it.

    I was not disappointed. Wong is both hilarious and moving, sometimes in such a short span of time that it can be jarring. One moment, I'm deeply moved by the possible fate of a character, and the next, I'm laughing because, while facing almost certain doom, someone made a dick joke.

    Now, if you were just offended by my use of the phrase "dick joke," you shouldn't buy this book. Because there are a lot of them. Dick jokes, I mean. And you may think that it's vulgar or that it's easy comedy, but the way they come up (I am trying to avoid innuendo here but it's just not possible) they fit the character (John, specifically). It's just how he is.

    And the vulgarity of John's humor often draws a stark counterpoint to the events taking place. By the time the book reaches its climax (really, I am trying) the stakes are the complete obliteration of the world as we know it. But John can still manage to find an opportunity to make some reference to his genitals.On a certain level, it makes the character endearing. The fact that he has no social filter attached to his brain makes him likable for his stark honesty. That's not to say he doesn't lie. He tells several stories that the narrator (David) points out are simply not true. Somehow, that just makes him more charming ad the tales are so grossly exaggerated as to be completely unbelievable. As such, you don't feel you're being deceived, as no one could expect you to buy such garbage.

    Another thing the story has going for it is that the heroes are not heroes. Not the way we typically think of them. They're ordinary guys with ordinary jobs living in a disturbingly ordinary town. But their reaction to the threat their world faces was so honest. No one said, "My god! We have to save the world!" There were no big speeches. Instead, it was more along the lines of, "Oh great. Now there's a monster from another dimension sleeping on my floor and using my couch as a bathroom. I do NOT need this today!" The protagonists will narrowly escape death, then complain that they have to go to work the next day. There's something noble in that. Honestly, if you almost died, would you go to your crappy job the next day? It's refreshing to see someone get annoyed by the proverbial bug-eyed monster, only to tell it to bite them and then kick it in the fork.

    Despite the humor, the story got unnerving at times. Particularly when it came to people going mad and the things David and John see as a result of taking the soy sauce. I don't want to ruin it, but there's a bit where David describes a picture of Ronald McDonald that no one else seems to see and, well...maybe it's just me. I mean, if you had told me, succinctly, what it was a picture of, I wouldn't be bothered. Really. Could care less. But Wong's description of the picture, the way the face was contorted and...ok. Don't want to ruin it. Let me just say it was unsettling.

    Wong has a way of doing that, describing things in a way that makes them unsettling. And I'm someone who watched his own surgery, nonplussed, while it happened. Seriously, I'm not squeamish. There's something about the way he describes things that makes them...psychologically uncomfortable. That's a good phrase for it. Wong can make ordinary things psychologically uncomfortable. I don't mean any of this as criticism. Just the opposite. It's a deliberate act on his part, which is why it's so brilliant. I can be put off by one paragraph, then laughing the next. It's really quite impressive.

    The book was confusing at times, but not without purpose. The story is told from a first person perspective. As such, there are moments when the events taking place are somewhat unclear and it's hard to work out just what's happening. This is due to the fact that the narrator isn't entirely sure himself at that moment. And if you hang in there, all will be explained (well, most of it).

    Finally, let me say that you don't know what's going to happen at any point in the book, save when it's over. You may think you know, think you've got it all worked out and you're certain you know where the story is going. You do not. You are lying to yourself. And lately, it's rare that I find a book that does that. I'm not trying to be egotistical when I say that. I'm no genius. But a lot of authors do one of two things. They either lay out such blatant clues that you know who the killer is well before you're two-thirds through the book, or they withhold vital information to guarantee that you will not figure it out (I'm looking at you British mystery novelists). At no point did I feel Wong was withholding information. And I was genuinely surprised when the end came.

    Stephen R. Thorne's reading was excellent. I had a good sense of the characters and the emotional content was excellent. A fantastic performance. Great book. Great reader. I'm only sorry it's over. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go read, "This Book Is Full of Spiders."

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Cold Days: The Dresden Files, Book 14

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Jim Butcher
    • Narrated By James Marsters
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad - because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard. He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long.

    Ethan M. says: "Thwarts Every Expectation - In a Good Way"
    "Thank you Mr. Marsters!"
    Any additional comments?

    For those who've been through the Dresden Files starting at book one, the voice of James Marsters has become very familiar. I was heartbroken when I picked up book 13 to discover a new narrator.

    John Glover is a talented man. I still remember his Devil character from Brimstone. And his reading of Cold Days was good. If he'd read the twelve books before it, I'd probably be fine with him. But he didn't, and when a new voice comes out of someone's mouth, it's jarring. Harry, Murphy, one sounds the same and the cadence of the narrative voice is a little different as well. Marsters has a rhythm to certain phrases that Butcher uses regularly, such as when Harry sarcastically points out his shortcomings by saying, "(adjective), that's me."

    But the return of James Marsters to narrate the series is like wrapping one's self in an old familiar sweater and settling in by the fireplace in a nice tall chair. It's familiar and comfortable. Returning to Dresden's Chicago with Marsters feels...right. It's as though everything has gone back to the way it's supposed to be. Which is an odd thing given the contents of the story.

    Butcher is in top form. He makes big decisions about the direction a story will take and he sticks to them. As a fan of comic books, nothing annoys me more than when writers decide to ret-con a bold decision out of existence, or rewrite entire back-stories. Ok, technically Butcher had a character come back from the dead, but we all knew that was going to happen. In the end, the early events of the series shape the way later stories will unfold, and while Butcher will sometimes leave a few threads hanging, it is not without reason and he never discards them. For example, while the Black Council does not feature as prominently in this story as it has in others, it's clear that they are still out there and will no doubt feature in future novels.

    Like so many other Dresden Files books, I finished this one and immediately went online to see if there was any release date for the next one. I also thought about starting it over again immediately. Even though they're mysteries and I know what's going to happen, I still love this series. I've been through books 1-13 at least twice (some three times), and I'm one who rarely rereads (re-listens to?) books.

    If you've come this far in the Dresden universe, you will not be disappointed. If you're new to the series, what are you doing reading a review of book 14?! Go back and start at 1. What's wrong with you?

    ...ok I'm starting this one again right now.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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