Texas | Member Since 2012
There has been much debate about this book since it is fiction, but uses some characters who were real people. I didn't have much trouble with that, but I think there are some flaws in the narrative. Although it's called "The Australian Trilogy" much of this first book takes place in London and truly covers no new ground. Both the London and Australian sections of the book reflect little but the stark brutality of both settings and you get the sense that the only people on the planet in the early 19th century were criminals, prostitutes, and hypocritical aristocracy all lacking any compassion or decency. The story is gripping and I acknowledge that it is a well-told tale, but although much of the detail may be accurate, I don't think there is much of a real historical perspective to the story. In addition, although many of the characters are low class people and vulgarity in their language is in keeping with their character, it seemed to me that the vulgarity in the narrative sections (the book is written in 3rd person) was unnecessary and rather unpleasant to listen to. The book certainly held my attention but it paints such a black picture of humanity especially of the 1/2 of people who are male, that it is kind of depressing. That said, Humphrey Bower is a fabulous narrator. His style is perfect for the form of narration the book takes and he does wonderful characterizations and accents. I would recommend the book but with some caution - it is fairly dark and has several scenes of graphic violence.
I hated the Doomsday Book and I totally hated that I could have been spared this 26 hour agony had I only done what I almost always do - READ THE REVIEWS. I usually read many of a book's reviews before buying and I look especially for the more critical reviews since they tend to tell me more of what I want to know. In the case of Doomsday Book there are MANY negative reviews so even though Audible doesn't make critical reviews easy to find, it would not have been hard with this book. But no - I stupidly assumed a book that won both Nebula and Hugo awards had to be good if not great. I mean really - this book is in the rarefied company of truly stellar sci-fi like Ender's Game, Left Hand of Darkness, and Dune. I read the reviews on this book AFTER slogging through this bloated pig of a book and found they were much more interesting and better written than the book itself. To those of you who might have spared me, thanks for taking the time, sorry I was too stupid to take advantage of your efforts.
I am adding my voice to the chorus just to work out some aggravation over this one. The flaws in Doomsday Book are numerous:
* NO Editing
* Poor Writing - repetitive, cliched, terrible dialog, flat out boring sequences of characters' agonizing internally, cardboard characters, stupid and repeated plot devices, no suspense because the author takes 17 hours to get to the big reveal which is actually on the book's cover and you'd figure out anyway after about the first chapter, etc.
* Unrealistic Settings - you have a time machine and there is no advanced security for the system, the head of the HISTORY dept. is making decisions about the use of the machine, there is only one tech on duty and when he falls ill there seems to be no backup whatsoever. On and on ridiculous beyond anyone's ability to suspend disbelief.
* Terrible Narration - character voices are awful especially the children and Jenny Sterlin can't do an American accent at all. Sterlin is so slow and deliberate in delivery with a book that is already horribly slow.
But in my mind, the cardinal sin of this book is that Connie Willis has NO excuse whatsoever for the total miss on the sci-fi side of this book. She may have researched the 14th century, but she didn't seem to have even noticed technology in her own time! Published in 1992 with futuristic part of the novel set in the 2050's:
* There are no cell phones or any type of portable communication device except something called a "bleeper" which seems to be nothing but a 2050 version of a beeper (oooh - that's creative). C'mon, mobile communications technology has been around since the 40's and the first cell phones hit the scene in 1973! (I had a car phone in 1988.) But our doofus "hero" waits around for a "trunk" call - PUHLEAZE! Willis makes a point to mention that phone calls have video like that's a big advancement - I was installing teleconferencing units in 1984.
* No GPS - GPS was invented in 1974
* No Internet/email - First commercial email service was available in 1976. First host-to-host connection which launched the internet was in 1969 and this connectivity came to be called the Internet by the early 70's.
* Little advancement in medicine or transportation between 1992 and 2050.
Connie Willis must have been living under a rock. None of the technologies like cellular communications, the Internet/email, GPS were top secret in 1992 and a quick skim of any science/technology journal would have told her all about it. I can't understand how she or the Hugo/Nebula voters thought that a society that would have time travel technology would have lost communications technology that was invented in the 1940's!
I don't recommend this book to anyone. I have no idea how it won awards, but it has proven to me that no awards or acclaim guarantees a good book. Live and learn...
The Diamond Age is both amazing and frustrating. The first half of the book is truly brilliant; both science fiction and fantasy woven together with beautiful Victorian-toned prose. The second half of the book is rather irritating with dangling plot points, gratuitous sex (not needed and worse yet, not erotic) and torture scenes, and ultimately a rushed ending.
There are so many interesting sociological themes woven into this book that an English teacher could have a real field day with it. Characters are likable, settings are wonderfully vivid, but the plot gets far more convoluted than necessary. In spite of some flaws, overall, I found the book immensely entertaining, terribly imaginative, and far more literary than many sci-fi novels.
The narrator is superb - lovely voice with excellent character voices. One of the few narrators I have heard that could do a child's voice without making me gag. I wish Audible provided a separate rating category for "audio production" because I have to rate down the performance because the audio has flaws that just shouldn't be there. Jennifer Wiltsie is most definitely a FIVE STAR narrator, but there are several places in the recordings where the sound blurs and the cut at the end of part 1 is terrible. Hence my 4 stars on the performance.
I would recommend The Diamond Age with some caveats - this is definitely an adult novel and you have to be a reader willing to push on through some confusion to enjoy this.
A World Without Heroes is one of those rather rare books that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults. I finished the whole series before writing this review and each of the books is fun and all are mostly G-rated.
This is a fast paced quest type fantasy and unlike many in this vein it is never tedious and includes little graphic violence, no sexual content, and no foul language. The two Beyonders are a little bland as characters, but the inhabitants of Lyrian are universally imaginative and interesting. This would be a great adventure story to share with a child because it is humorous and entertaining enough to engage both kids and adults. The plot is not terribly sophisticated (politics, culture, etc. in Lyrian is fairly minimal) so a child of 8 or 9 is probably old enough to follow the storyline and there are enough twists to keep an older listener engaged as well. Two minor caveats: 1. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and I never found a complete list online like you can for most fantasy novels; 2. A lot of the "good guys" die in the course of completing the quest so this may not be a good choice if you have a very sensitive child.
Jeremy Bobb has a very nicely modulated voice so he is easy to listen to over a series like this. He is a little rough in the first book, but gets better in the 2nd and 3rd. His character voices get better through the series, but much more character differentiation would have been useful with this series that has a huge cast.
This is my first Brandon Mull book, but now that I have listened to The Beyonders series, I hope Audible will make his other books available soon. Even if you don't have a kid to share this with, The Beyonders series is a lot of fun.
I haven't been very convinced that genetically modified food could be harmful and I am quite certain that some of the modifications that allow more production on less land have helped to reduce starvation in the world. However, I just coincidentally listened to this book after just having listened to Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation" where she has a really interesting section about some of the harmful side effects (like rapist roosters - yes, really!) of genetically modified animals. She explains how selecting for one attribute can produce an animal that has some very negative qualities because of the gene-linking that we don't always understand or appreciate in advance. I know from first hand experience as a rescue volunteer that many breed dogs now suffer serious temperament and health problems due to selective breeding to meet AKC standards for the same reasons that selective breeding in livestock can go awry. So when William Davis in Wheat Belly started reviewing the enormous changes that have been made to wheat in the last 60 years, a light bulb kind of went off. Maybe I'm really not eating the same kind of wheat my great grandma did. Maybe my wheat really could be hurting me.
I picked up this book because it was on sale and I was recently diagnosed with lymphocytic colitis. This is not the worst of the diseases that can affect your large intestine, but it's not much fun either and it is very frustrating that the doctors don't have a clue what causes it. Since a lot of people believe that wheat may be at the root of many digestive tract troubles, I snapped up this book when it went on sale just to see what Davis had to say. I am kind of a natural skeptic so I am reserving final judgement - proof is in the (gluten free) pudding, right? But William Davis spelled things out in enough scientific detail to convince me to give it a try.
Not the most entertaining subject, but if you have diabetes, any of the chronic intestinal disorders, or are just fighting "wheat belly", you will probably have enough vested interest in the material to stay tuned in.
Sadly, You could have been so much better, but as it stands, I don't recommend it unless you are really interested in the history of personal gaming computers and games. I picked up the book because someone said it reminded him of Ready Player One which I loved even though I'm not a big gamer. Be warned, You has almost nothing in common with RPO except that video games factor in the story. The plot lines of the two books are not similar at all and YOU is strictly fiction not sci-fi/fantasy fiction.
The plot of You is one of its problems - Russell, the main character, is struggling to find himself and his place in the world. By going to work for a video game company started by his old friends he tries to reconnect to his past and work through his existential questions while exploring the games as part of his job. The title YOU comes from the large sections of the book that are conveyed in second person as Russell works through his questions and problems as an avatar in different games. Example: You are a 14 year old girl, you are on a space ship, you encounter a cave, etc. Its not that the plot is dull, it just sort of seems to wander around and I found the second person sections a little confusing and tiresome after a while. In addition to trying to resolve his own identity crisis, Russell attempts to delve into the mystery of the death of his genius friend, Simon. If Grossman had made the resolution of mystery a larger part of the plot, that might have helped create more tension in the narrative, but ultimately, the mystery takes a back seat and the book leaves many related questions open.
In addition, the characters, although interesting, are difficult to relate to. They don't seem to relate to each other well so maybe its not too surprising that I didn't invest in them much. And there is one character, Don, that I never understood quite where he came from - he seems to have history with the other characters but he isn't part of original friendship. In addition to the human characters, the four central video game avatars are really characters and they are no more relatable than the people. The humans and the avatars all seem a little spacy and not well defined.
Narrative is all first and second person so it isn't a great challenge to a narrator, but Will Collyer was fine.
Ultimately, the book just sort of ends without a clear or satisfying conclusion. The book's summary describes it as thrilling and hilarious and it is neither. I didn't hate it, I was entertained by much of it, but I don't recommend it.
I have no hesitation in recommending Animals in Translation to anyone looking for more insight into animal behavior or perhaps those interested in better understanding the thought processes of the autistic. However, I have to warn companion animal lovers that the author clearly does not have the same sense of sympatico with domesticated predators (cats and dogs) as she seems to have with domesticated prey animals (horses, cows, sheep, pigs, etc.). Although Grandin did provide me some interesting new ways of thinking about my dogs' and cats' reactions, virtually every example she uses for dogs and cats is stated, "my neighbor's cat" or "my good friend's dogs" and many of the conclusions she draws are worded with "so I think", "I am not sure, but", "pretty much" & "it seems to me". When Grandin is discussing horse and cow behavior, she is much more likely to cite scientific studies and personal, first-hand experiences and those sections of the book are much stronger as a result.
I don't have any special expertise with animals other than loving many dogs and cats and working as a volunteer in companion animal rescue for many years, but there were several incorrect statements made about dogs that made me question how closely Grandin has actually looked at dogs in particular. She states that you should avoid white haired dogs because they have white skin and that lack of melanin means they are albino or something close to that and genetically flawed. Well, I've had several white haired dogs and they had pink skin like almost all the dogs I've had of any hair color (and I have every hair color dog). I have had a few dogs with sort of brownish skin, but even the black dogs usually have pinkish skin. And, none of my white haired dogs has had any major genetic problem - white shepherd mix lived to be 12, white cocker mix lived to be 16, and white poodle mix still living at 14. Grandin also says, "A dog's mouth should be mostly black with some white." Hmm, 5 dogs right at hand (mine and a couple of fosters) all mutts but a variety of colors, sizes, breeding and every one of them has a mostly PINK mouth, with some brownish purple on the gums (could call it black), and NO white except for the teeth. Where did she come up with that? I have seen some chows and chow mixes that have a purplish or black mouth, but most dogs have a mostly pink mouth. These were not huge flaws, but it not only made me question the author's expertise, but also made me wonder about her editor. If Grandin hasn't really looked at a dog, I don't know if I can trust that she can "translate a dog" better than I can.
Owners/lovers of bullies and rotties should be particularly aware that Grandin goes on a bit of a rant about these two breeds of dogs. As someone who has worked with many breeds and mixes often coming from bad situations, I am totally convinced that, 1) Bad dogs are made not born, 2) Some breeds are more sensitive to bad handling than other breeds, 3) Some breeds are more likely to be the victims of bad handling than other breeds. Grandin cites some statistics that might make you believe that Rottweilers and Pit Bulls are more dangerous dogs than other breeds, but she does not acknowledge (maybe she doesn't know) that those protection breed dogs are MUCH more likely to be abused or subjected to bad training (and bad breeding) than other breeds. Ultimately, I thought that some of Grandin's discussions on dogs and cats were interesting, but highly opinionated without the data or experience to support her opinions. I certainly would not use her as a source for training guidance for dogs.
On the other hand, Grandin makes a nice transition from an interesting discussion about some weird problems in chickens that came from selective breeding to discussing similar temperament problems in some dog breeds arising from selective breeding for AKC standards. And, she gives a nod to the genetic benefits of mixed breed dogs and encourages people to look at mixes when adopting a dog. She also discusses some of the latest evolutionary theories that propose that people didn't tame wolves to create dogs, but people and wolves evolved in partnership creating not only dogs, but modern man - we changed wolves and they changed us too! It has even been postulated that this partnership with wolves gave us an edge over the Neanderthals.
When Grandin is discussing horses and cows she seems to be in her element. I haven't been around livestock since my long ago FFA days and I'm not likely to be in the future, but I loved these sections. They were totally fascinating and Temple Grandin does seem to have some special understanding of these animals that often seem so foreign and incomprehensible to me. I was not sure from her descriptions of autism and the way an autistic person experiences the world, if her insight truly does come from her autism (could other autistics commune with animals in the same way?) or if she is just especially insightful with livestock animals as some other people (non-autistic) seem to be with dogs and cats. Either way, I found the book to be both entertaining and educational. Grandin quotes some scientific studies, but the book is written in a very simplistic style so the information is accessible and not dry. Andrea Gallo does a nice job with the narration.
Between Two Fires is a well written 14th century period piece that expertly intermingles vivid scenes of plague ravaged France with Christian mythos to provide a fantastical horror story that reads like historical fiction. I am not a great horror fan so to say I "liked" this book wouldn't be quite right, but I was completely captivated by it. Christopher Buehlman is masterful in his writing - his characters are so genuine, the settings so sharply etched, the plot so intricate and imaginative that I was engrossed throughout the book. I felt a bit dazed at the end of the book coming back to the 21st century after this total immersion experience in 1348.
I have to thank Audible and Troy's review for giving me a nudge to look at this book. I'm don't normally read books in the horror genre, but I am a huge fan of good writing and this book ranks right up there with the best. And, it paints such a clear picture of this period of medieval history that it is likely to be appealing to those who like historical fiction as well as those who enjoy a good scary story.
It's not a book for everyone - the book covers a dark period of history when the Black Death rampaged through Europe and many of the characters are rough, vulgar people so it is not surprising that there are graphic scenes of violence and a fair amount of cursing and crude language in the book. I did not think the violence or bad language was gratuitous, but I know I like to know before hand when a book is one I want to listen to in private. (One oddity in regard to the vulgar language, Buehlman seems to have no difficult referring to various parts of female anatomy in very coarse terms, but male anatomy was demurely referred to as "the groin" and "his verge" which struck me as a little strange.)
Steve West does a terrific job with the narration. He pitches his voice just right to maintain the growing tension through the plot progression and does a good job with voices as well. One tiny criticism - scythe, a word used many times in the novel, does not have a K sound in it. Not a big deal, but I do think audio production people could do a better job picking up that sort of thing.
This is not a book for the faint of heart or those with delicate sensibilities, but it is a fascinating and well-written story.
I love fantasy and have been waiting with great anticipation for The Golem and the Jinni. I was not disappointed by this enchanting debut novel by Helen Wecker, but it was not what I expected either. This story is much more an allegory blended with historical fiction than it is a classic fantasy with a magical system driving the plot. It is a difficult story to describe in a meaningful way because the novel has many layers. On the surface it can simply be read as an interesting tale about magical creatures, evil wizards, spells, and the pursuit of immortality. (Aside to parents - this is definitely NOT a children's story.) But, woven throughout the novel are several much deeper themes to ponder long after you finish the book. On one level, this is truly an immigrant story - people throughout time moving to new places out of wanderlust, to escape a threat, or in pursuit of a better life and the challenges of creating community, maintaining cultural identity, and overcoming language barriers and prejudice that come with that. Ultimately, both the Golem and the Jinni end up as accidental immigrants to the wonderful/frightening place that was New York City of 1899 and their adventures as strangers in a strange land provide a fascinating allegory for all immigrants. On another level, The Golem and the Jinni is a study of human nature - the moral and ethical dilemmas, romantic and platonic love, faith, altruism, free will and enslavement, and the meaning of life and death. Wecker's mythical creatures are forced to tackle these big questions of humanity without the benefit of parents, religious training, or schooling that give most of us some foundation and watching them wrestle with those issues is surprisingly entertaining and thought-provoking. I suspect this is a book that could give you a new perspective each time you read it.
Initially, I was so anxious to understand what the big conflict would be (anticipating some type of magical culture clash or something), I almost missed the beautiful view along the way. I started the book over when I finally realized that Wecker is laying down a very intricate pattern that you have to appreciate from start to finish - this is not a book you'd play on double speed or you would miss much of the nuance, some of the deeper questions, and some very nice prose. Wecker takes disparate stories, multiple characters, several historical time periods and weaves them together to create a rather mesmerizing flying carpet of a tale that is part fable, part romance, and part historical fiction. And, when you get right down to what every reader hopes for, The Golem and the Jinni delivers - it has a terrific ending! Helene Wecker is really talented and for a debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni is quite well written - characters are nicely fleshed out, settings are vivid, and there is a nice fluidity moving between settings and different periods of time. In addition, the audio version benefits from the narration of the always fine, George Guidall - his seasoned voice is a great fit for this story.
I have no hesitation in recommending the book. This isn't your average fantasy fare, but most fantasy readers will find a lot to love. In addition, because of the bigger themes, the amazing characters, and the vibrant historical setting most people who enjoy an entertaining and meaningful story independent of genre will like The Golem and the Jinni. I am really looking forward to more from Helene Wecker!
Just finished The Junkie Quatrain - didn't finish the laundry (thanks Peter!) because I was so engaged by these stories - and I am sitting here a bit awe struck. I'm not a huge monster fan especially the zombie type monsters with no individuality. But I picked up The Junkie Quatrain on sale because I enjoyed 14 so much and I am so glad I did. Nothing special about these monsters but there is something pretty special about 4 tightly written monster stories that could each stand alone but each connects to the others in such clever ways. In quick strokes, Peter Clines defines each of the central characters so that you invest in them immediately and each of these shorts then delivers a lot of punch. Mr. Clines can certainly write and Christian Rummel and Therese Plummer each do nice narrator turns with the material. It's not that the stories themselves are too short - each is a perfect length and locks in with the others almost with a "snap". It's just that the "snap" each time is such a "AHA" payoff in the brain you want it to go on and on. It's like watching a great dancer do a few quick amazing moves on the dance floor and then walk away before you can quite grasp what you saw. I totally loved this set of interlocking vignettes!
Don't tell the science fiction purists but I have a special place in my heart, my bookshelves, and now my Audio Library for the rare "sweet" science fiction stories. Hopscotch is right in there with Asimov's "The Ugly Little Boy", Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit Will Travel", Piper's "Little Fuzzy", and more recent addition, Scalzi's "Fuzzy Nation". (Totally loved that Scalzi really kept the "sweetness" of that story.) Most of the time, the sweet sci-fi isn't a writer's best example of science fiction, but I am just a sucker for an emotionally perceptive story with a techie plot/setting. It seems easier to me to do a sweet story in fantasy or some other genres so the truly touching story with a science/technology backdrop just gets me every time.
Kevin Anderson might have made this story more commercially successful if he rewrote it with more emphasis on the sexual exploration afforded by body swapping - there are some sex scenes, but this isn't erotic sci-fi. Or he could have made it a YA dystopian - make the characters younger and dumber, set up a quadrangle romance instead of a friendship, and amp up the Big Brother oppressive aspect of the BTL. Or he could have easily done it as a fantasy with body swapping being a magical quality that needs no scientific explanation and make COM a more mystical realm of gods and goddesses. But Kevin Anderson ultimately wrote a story that is really about deep and abiding friendship and let technology set the scene and drive the plot. Hopscotch is a sweet sci-fi - heavy on poignant/a little light on science.
The science and technology in Hopscotch is interesting, but it doesn't quite hang together. How many millenia would it take for people to evolve the ability to exchange minds and how would that happen anyway? And by the time that did happen we would surely be way past mere hover cars as transport. Both the technology and the politics/culture of the society in Hopscotch are painted with broad strokes - sketched out more than explained. However, the plotting is fast paced, never a boring moment, and the characters are some of my favorites. All the body swapping and misadventures of that ability aside, at its core, Hopscotch is about true friendship. Three boys and a girl who grow up together in what is essentially a futuristic orphanage and become "family". The challenges to their deep commitment to one another begin immediately upon leaving the orphanage and culminate in the climax of the book to provide a really great touching and satisfying ending to this story.
Although I've read the book several times, I picked up the audio version when it was on sale and found it got to me just the same hearing it as reading it. Jim Meskimen is not bad as the narrator - just doesn't rank up there with my favorite narrators.
If you want hard science sci-fi, skip Hopscotch. If you'd like a good adventure with characters you can really love and root for or if, like me, you can appreciate the occasional "sweet sci-fi", you'll probably enjoy Hopscotch.
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