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.
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.
For all that I love speculative fiction, I'm not normally a big fan of dystopian tales because I found many to be too preachy, way too depressing, or just plain silly. But there has been SOOO much buzz about Wool - self published novellas go viral and young author is suddenly famous with a film deal maybe coming - that I just had to give it a try. I am really glad I did.This dystopian adventure sidesteps the overly moralistic tone of many, totally avoids the teenage angst and clumsy romance of some recent dystopias, and although sometimes sad and definitely often dark, the book presents a fairly hopeful view of humanity in the end. There is probably not quite enough in-depth science to satisfy the hard core hard science fans, but there is enough working detail to help the listener really visualize the unusual settings and suspend disbelief to become engrossed in the plot. And, the science fiction lover in me found a lot to like.
The book is not perfect, Howey provides more description of the appearance of places than of his characters, the writing is a bit choppy at times, and I was left really wishing I understood better how the world actually got to the "wool times". However, you can hear the writing become smoother and more fluid as the book goes on; physical appearance of the characters is limited, but motivations, behavior, relationships, and personality are well fleshed out and these people ring true; the lack of complete explanation of the evolution to "wool-times" means that there isn't much dull info-dumping going on and there are plenty of surprises left for the sequels :)
In addition to some great characters and very interesting settings, the plot is fabulous. Twisty-turny throughout to the point that it difficult to say much more about the plot than the summary does without committing a "spoiler sin". So I will just say that some of the twists you may see coming, but there were a couple that totally surprised me. Like most dystopian adventures, some of the surprises are shocking and horrific, but a couple of them are just really cool.
Amanda Sayle is OK as the narrator. Her voice in the narrative sections is good, but I found her character voices mostly off-putting and a little distracting.
Wool ends perfectly for a book in a series. It comes to a satisfying conclusion and wraps up most of the immediate plot lines. But it leaves the door wide open for further adventures and left me determined to be first in line to download the next book as soon as Audible brings it to us. Wool is strong enough on good characters and interesting plot to find fans across the genre lines, but most science fiction buffs are sure to enjoy it.
This is a book that packs a lot of emotional punch in less than 8 hours - truly poignant and yet avoids being maudlin or manipulative. I am in awe of the ability of this young author to so clearly convey the feeling of deep depression from the POV of the sufferer while at the same time so skillfully demonstrating the devastating impact this affliction has on anyone who loves someone in the throes of depression. But that's not all - this very insightful view of depression and its painful rippling affects is presented in a beautifully written book that is NOT depressing. It is definitely moving, sometimes quite sad, but there is humor and ultimately a kind of genuine hopefulness that runs through the novel that makes it a book that's good and good for you.
When we meet Emma and her family, it is 5 years after the death of Emma's oldest brother Kit. 14-year-old Emma and her mother and father live under one roof, but barely function as a family; middle brother Jamie is completely estranged from the family. The plot line becomes not so much what happens from there, but how these characters deal with what has already happened and whether they can find a way to move forward together.
The novel is primarily relayed in 3rd person and rotates POV among the primary characters with one epistolary section - Jamie's letters to his father. As the point of view shifts, Wait unobtrusively builds empathy for each character in turn and you realize as you meet each of these people that what looked like unattractive character flaws in each person (overeating, shyness, isolationism, anger, panic, denial, OCD, etc.) when viewed from the outside were, in fact, coping mechanisms of the walking wounded. None of these emotional crutches truly worked toward healing, but they did allow each person to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And when the coping mechanisms begin to fail, the family faces a second crisis which ultimately brings them to the climax of the novel. These characters are brilliant. I not only recognized this people, I've been these people.
Fortunately this lovely book was afforded some lovely narrators; this is a good audio production.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.