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Sparkly

interested in history, science, and pulp fiction

SF, CA, United States | Member Since 2008

105
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 24 reviews
  • 33 ratings
  • 395 titles in library
  • 29 purchased in 2014
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32

  • Will the Boat Sink the Water: The Life of China's Peasants

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Chen Guidi, Wu Chuntao
    • Narrated By James Chen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (24)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (15)

    The Chinese Economic miracle is happening despite, not because of, China's 900 million peasants. They are missing from the portraits of booming Shanghai, or Beijing. Many of China's underclass live under a feudalistic system unchanged since the 15th century. Wu Chuntao and Chen Guidi undertook a three-year survey of what had happened to the peasants in one of the poorest provinces, Anhui, asking the question: have the peasants been betrayed by the revolution undertaken in their name by Mao and his successors?

    Delano says: "Essential"
    "Shines Light on the Powerless"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Corruption and extortion run amok, and as is customary, the poorest people are the most frequent victims. The individual stories in this book are similar enough to make a credible argument, yet each has detail and tragedy of its own. The majority of China's population still live in the countryside right now, and are subject to completely different rules, tax law, social services, and mobility restrictions than folks in cities. There is such a paucity of this kind of material in English right now, yet it is so important. While much of the book has to do with extortion, there are glimpses of other issues (like population policy abuse and repercussions) that appear as well, and point to more questions, more to explore.

    I echo reviewer Delano: "by listening to this book, you're eavesdropping on what people in China are saying to each other." This book is essential reading for the informed global citizen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Rogue Island

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Bruce DeSilva
    • Narrated By Jeff Woodman, Bruce DeSilva
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (633)
    Performance
    (479)
    Story
    (472)

    Liam Mulligan is as old school as a newspaper man gets. His beat is Providence, Rhode Island, and he knows every street and alley. He knows the priests and prostitutes, the cops and street thugs. He knows the mobsters and politicians--who are pretty much one and the same. Someone is systematically burning down the neighborhood Mulligan grew up in, people he knows and loves are perishing in the flames, and the public is on the verge of panic.

    Michael Jacobi says: "Classic Whodunnit"
    "Excellent regional mystery."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a great update on the reporter as crime fighter trope - this isn't 'His Girl Friday,' it's a depressed newsroom with layoffs and budget cuts, and has a more unvarnished view of the journalism industry. The protagonist, Mulligan, has issues, of course, but also has an entertaining cast of acquaintances and sources, in varying shades of unsavory. The author does a great job of creating the look and feel of this town. This first is an excellent book, with a lot of heart. I recommend 'Cliff Walk' as well, a solid follow up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Final Account: An Inspector Banks Novel #7

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Peter Robinson
    • Narrated By James Langton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (102)
    Performance
    (73)
    Story
    (74)

    There's more than blood and bone beneath the skin... The victim, a nondescript "numbers cruncher," died horribly just yards away from his terrified wife and daughter, murdered by men who clearly enjoyed their work.

    Snoodely says: "Inspector Banks goes international"
    "More Murders in Yorkshire!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I find the books in the Inspector Alan Banks series to be reliable and plentiful procedurals. I discovered this series after exhausting all of the Dalziel books, the rest of the Reginald Hill catalogue, all the Ian Rankin, the M.C. Beaton, the Tana French, and in between Louise Penny's annual installments. I recommend them as entertaining mysteries with an interesting detective who has enough trouble with the ladies to keep it unpredictable. I really liked 'Final Account,' as it uses one of my favorite literary devices (though I can't be more specific without spoiling), and takes place in the purview of white collar crime.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Paleofantasy

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Marlene Zuk
    • Narrated By Laura Darrell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (60)
    Story
    (58)

    We evolved to eat berries rather than bagels, to live in mud huts rather than condos, to sprint barefoot rather than play football - or did we? Are our bodies and brains truly at odds with modern life? Although it may seem as though we have barely had time to shed our hunter-gatherer legacy, biologist Marlene Zuk reveals that the story is not so simple. Popular theories about how our ancestors lived - and why we should emulate them - are often based on speculation, not scientific evidence. Armed with a razor-sharp wit and brilliant, eye-opening research, Zuk takes us to the cutting edge of biology to show that evolution can work much faster than was previously realized.

    Kali says: "Dropping some evolution knowledge!"
    "Very Entertaining Strawman"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I picked this up so impulsively that I didn't read the description carefully. Thus, I was surprised to find that the author organized the book to take on and refute the 'urban paleo diet' movement. Since I have never found the 'urban paleo diet' movement credible anyway, this approach would not have appealed to me. I might never have read it, and that would have been my loss. It's a good book, and the author takes a glee in noting grim details and bursting myths. The details about human anatomy and running were interesting; her take on continuing evolution with respect to human diet, illness, and microbes was fascinating. I hope that in her next book she foregoes the artifice of taking down online commenters, though - she doesn't need that shtick, her science writing is engaging as it is.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Robert Penn
    • Narrated By Jonathan Cowley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (31)
    Performance
    (28)
    Story
    (28)

    Robert Penn has saddled up nearly every day of his adult life. In his late 20s, he pedaled 25,000 miles around the world. Today he rides to get to work, sometimes for work, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, and to skip bath time with his kids. He's no Sunday pedal pusher. So when the time came for a new bike, he decided to pull out all the stops. He would build his dream bike, the bike he would ride for the rest of his life; a customized machine that reflects the joy of cycling.

    D. Littman says: "terrific book about bikes & history"
    "File Enthusiastically under 'History'"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    An orgy of minutiae about cycling and the history of manufactury! I heard Robert Penn interviewed by Jack Thurston on The Bike Show, and I was excited to see the book listed here. History buffs of any stripe will enjoy it - Penn takes us from present to past, and across the globe, expertly weaving together technology, social movements, and vivid characters. For example, a visit to Chris King Headsets diverges seamlessly into a reverie about the nature of the child hood experience of learning to ride; Mark Twain's essay Taming the Bicycle; and 20 years of urban planning and tattoos in Portland, Oregon. I enjoyed hearing about the "glory days" of cycling, when cheap fast transportation changed lives in unpredictable ways. I loved Penn's take on the title - which he doesn't acknowledge until late in the book - as a reclamation of the elegance of the bicycle, a most enduring invention. This is one of the few books I have listened to twice. I recommend it heartily.

    (The narrator is affable, but may make a listener cringe with his unfortunate mispronunciations of European names - the great cyclist Hinault does not rhyme with "salt," for example.)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Dave Barter
    • Narrated By Simon Whistler
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (21)
    Performance
    (19)
    Story
    (19)

    Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder is an anthology of 30 articles written by an amateur cyclist over a period of 10 years. The collection exhibits the madness that engulfs those who descend into cycling obsession, celebrating the average cyclist living in a world defined by the pros. The writings range from fanciful musings concerning the Tao of singlespeeding to lengthy descriptions of end-to-end rides in Britain and Ireland.

    Maciej says: "Great one!"
    "Adventures of a Serial Amateur"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Personal essays, mostly essay-length, about the author's travails as a late blooming cycling fanatic. These 'inner voice' stories are quite humorous, especially the author's ping-ponging between hubris and humiliation at the club rides. My favorite sections were the introduction, when the author makes the life-changing decision to get fit during an awkward elevator incident, and his ride of The Étape in France, a cyclo-sportive event in which amateurs may ride a Tour de France stage on the rest day during the 'real' Tour. In the essayist tradition, the best stories emerge when things go wrong, and the author has plenty of things go wrong. My one criticism - occasionally attitude gets the better of the author. For example, he makes a point to single out and mock fellow cycling essayist Elden, of Fat Cyclist blog. Why do that? The two are cut from the same chamois, so to speak, and Elden is a much beloved figure in cycling blogs. Still, this was great to listen to while trapped in the carpool wishing I were cycling.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Official Treasures of the Tour de France

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Serge Laget, Luke Edwardes-Evans, Andy McGrath
    • Narrated By Clive Mantle
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    The Official Treasures of the Tour de France is a celebration of the 100th edition of one of the world's most famed annual events. Generally considered to be the greatest test of endurance in the sporting world, the Tour de France covers more than 2,200 miles in just over three weeks, climbing high into both the Alps and Pyrenees on a circular journey around France and briefly into neighbouring countries before ending on Paris' iconic Champs-Elysees. This brand-new edition comprises an authoritative narrative account of each major era in the sport, up to and including the 2012 Tour.

    Sparkly says: "To tide you over until next July."
    "To tide you over until next July."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I enjoyed this book quite a bit, despite its obvious shortfalls (rather brief; no photos in an audiobook; somewhat tame thesis). Listeners who are new to the history of this great race may enjoy the wonderful backstory of how the Tour came to be, and the crazy stories of its early iterations. The history of the race is, of course, inseparable to the histories of both 20th Century Europe and the Industrial Revolution, which makes for an intriguing perspective. For full disclosure, I am already a fan of the Tour de France, so I never tire of hearing the old familiar stories. There are not enough cycling audiobooks, and so we fans will listen to almost any of them. I was curious to hear the official viewpoint on the post-Armstrong era. The authors give an awkward "pass" to Miguel Indurain (whose name the narrator pronounces delightfully!), but otherwise they pull together a credible context for appreciating the race with a view to the long term.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Rider

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Tim Krabbé
    • Narrated By Mark Meadows
    Overall
    (19)
    Performance
    (16)
    Story
    (16)

    With The Rider, Tim Krabbé has created a book unique in the ranks of sporting literature. He describes one 150-kilometre race in just 150 pages. In the course of the narrative, we get to know the forceful, bumbling Lebusque, the aesthete Barthelemy, the Young Turk Reilhan, and the mysterious rider from Cycles Goff'. Krabbé battles with and against each of them in turn, failing on the descents, shining on the climbs, suffering on the (false) flats.

    Sparkly says: "Ah, the beautiful words..."
    "Ah, the beautiful words..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    One of my favorite quotes from the book: "Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are. A man shouts: ‘Faster!’ He probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast." Part memoir, part rant, part poetry, it is the story of a bike race in the subjective voice of one racer. The fictional 150 km 'Tour de Mont Aigoual' is the scene, and the characters are the fellow riders and the unforgiving terrain. I love how Krabbe so accurately renders the ceaseless inner monologues that occur while cycling. This book is perfectly suited to the audio format, and wonderfully performed by narrator Mark Meadows. The words, the language, are so beautifully crafted, so incisive, witty, and economical… I am so pleased that Krabbe turned his copious literary gifts toward cycling. This book has earned its status as a classic of sport writing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Man on Mao's Right: From Harvard Yard to Tiananmen Square, My Life Inside China's Foreign Ministry

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Ji Chaozhu
    • Narrated By Norman Dietz
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (56)
    Performance
    (29)
    Story
    (27)

    No other narrative from within the corridors of power has offered as frank and intimate an account of the making of the modern Chinese nation as Ji Chaozhu's The Man on Mao's Right. Having served Chairman Mao Zedong and the Communist leadership for two decades, and having become a key figure in China's foreign policy, Ji now provides an honest, detailed account of the personalities and events that shaped today's People's Republic.

    Adam says: "Very enlightening"
    "Captivating, Strangely Optimistic."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I found this book to be enchanting. I couldn't put it down. My tween son is listening right now, even. Ji Chaozhu is certainly a witness to history, but he is also clearly a thoughtful, self-deprecating, charming person and an eloquent writer. Ji's vivid storytelling takes us to Manhattan and Harvard in the 1930's and 40's, sharing details of his playful and humorous boyhood that show his deep connections with the U.S. Ji goes through many highs and lows as the political winds change throughout the decades, for sure, but he maintains an optimism and a faith in the overall project of Communism that is weirdly refreshing.

    In Norman Dietz's performance, I grew to love my one-sided conversations with "Little Ji." We disagreed on many things (Ji complains of being treated as a spy in America when, in fact, his father and brother were spies in America, for example), and we part company regarding the incidents of Tiananmen Square (Ji could not seem to fathom why people would complain "now," when finally things were better than they ever were). But I think you will enjoy the repartee. And it will shed light on the stature Premier Zhou En-Lai has in China, as the years go by.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Henry Pu Yi, Paul Kramer
    • Narrated By Gildart Jackson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    In 1908, at the age of two, Henry Pu Yi ascended to become the last emperor of the centuries-old Manchu dynasty. After revolutionaries forced Pu Yi to abdicate in 1911, the young emperor lived for 13 years in Peking’s Forbidden City, but with none of the power his birth afforded him. The remainder of Pu Yi’s life was lived out in a topsy-turvy fashion: fleeing from a Chinese warlord, becoming head of a Japanese puppet state, being confined to a Russian prison in Siberia, and enduring taxing labor.

    Sparkly says: "A Marvelous and Ultimately Sad Memoir"
    "A Marvelous and Ultimately Sad Memoir"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This relatively short but detailed memoir covers the epic events of the last hundred years, told by Henry Pu Yi, the last appointed emperor of the Q'ing Dynasty. Pu Yi clearly underwent enough psychological trauma for several lifetimes - complete lack of childhood boundaries; virtual imprisonment after the birth of the Republic of China; collaboration and betrayal with the Japanese in Manchukuo; incarceration by the Soviet Union; ideological re-education by Communist authorities. I found his perspective to be startling. How can a person be simultaneously so pitiable and yet insufferable? Both helpless and haughty? Fascinating. Much of the emotional impact of the memoir comes from the fact that we readers know that he was being taken advantage of by many sides - yet Pu Yi seems tragically oblivious. I surmise that this memoir emerges from the massive "confessions" generated in the re-education camp - it definitely has mea culpa overtones.

    It is a useful companion to the Bertolucci film, incidentally, which seems to follow this memoir fairly closely (with a few extra characters here and there for drama). The narrator does a remarkable job of interpreting Pu Yi's persona (cool, and with little affect) and does pretty well on the Chinese pronunciations. Bravo!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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