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Benjamin

Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores.

Silver Spring, MD, United States | Member Since 2010

144
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 51 reviews
  • 55 ratings
  • 281 titles in library
  • 30 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
3
FOLLOWERS
18

  • Aloha from Hell

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Richard Kadrey
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (908)
    Performance
    (832)
    Story
    (822)

    In Sandman Slim Stark came back from hell for revenge. Once again all is not right in L.A. Lucifer is back in Heaven, God is on vacation, and an insane killer mounts a war against both Heaven and Hell. Stark’s got to head back down to his old stomping grounds in Hell to rescue his long lost love, stop an insane serial killer, prevent both Good and Evil from completely destroying each other, and stop the demonic Kissi from ruining the party for everyone. Even for Sandman Slim, that’s a tall order. And it’s only the beginning.

    Ione says: "What a great character --"
    "More of the Same"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As an individual episode, this book is just OK. Sandman Slim spends another novel being a tough guy, treating his friends like garbage, referencing movies, beating up monsters and cracking one-liners. That leitmotiv remains strong. Unfortunately, there is no deepening of the narrative or development of the characters. Throughout the previous book I'd thought it was going somewhere. Jim was learning about his dual nature and hinting at a growing maturity in solving his complex problems. Kadrey appears to have scrapped that sort of character development. It makes this book feel like empty calories. It has some good fight scenes and it has a well described Los Angeles qua Hell setting that will probably appeal to people from that area, but the characters are just meh.

    I understand the whole "root for the bad guy," anti-hero protagonist narrative. These novels are missing two important elements of this. The anti-hero is usually rebelling against a system or a prevailing authority of some sort. For that protagonist to be an anti-hero instead of merely a villain, that system has to be corrupt somehow justifying his or her antithesis. In this series, there is no such system or authority. There are lots of powerful individuals, but there is really no "man" to stick it to. Also the anti-hero has to have some redeeming quality for the audience to admire. Jim is mean, dishonorable, selfish, sociopathic and not particularly smart. He has a lot of power, but he uses it to harm innocents for his own convenience and rebukes those that show him kindness all while failing to grow up.

    He's a thug. There is little to redeem him. I am back to rooting for him to lose. I think this will be the last book of this series for me unless I get really bored.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Furies of Calderon: Codex Alera, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Jim Butcher
    • Narrated By Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4417)
    Performance
    (3066)
    Story
    (3104)

    In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies - elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal - 15-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos - when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies - Tavi's simple courage will turn the tides of war.

    Jim says: "Remastered into chapters from CD."
    "Great Story, Questionable Reading"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I read this book years ago and loved it. I am a sucker for this kind of fantasy, one that follows the boy of great and yet undefined potential through adventure and sorcery. It was reading the Belgariad (Eddings) as a kid that turned me into a reader. This is a book has a similar narrative to Pawn of Prophecy. I am a fan of Butcher from the Dresden Files and this is a departure from urban fantasy to more swords & magic fantasy. He does a solid job. His development of the world and the system of magic is fantastic. This particular quality he shares with Sanderson, however, he is quite different in many other ways. In short, Butcher does a great job of drawing together great elements of fantasy to make for an enjoyable story.

    I generally like Kate Reading. This one is a rare miss for her. I don't get why they made the choice to play British in this novel. She's American and it shows. When she characterizes certain characters that are a departure from her normal speaking voice her British accent goes in and out. Also, one of the advantages of getting a British reader to do British accents is that they don't all have the general standard British accents. Bumpkins will sound like they're from Yorkshire. City dwellers will sound like there from Norf London, that kind of thing. Because she's trying to pass as British, you don't get variation, you get inconsistency.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Age of Iron

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Angus Watson
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    Overall
    (203)
    Performance
    (191)
    Story
    (193)

    Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary traveling south to join up with King Zadar's army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people. First Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar's most fearsome warriors, who has vowed revenge on the king for her sister's execution. Now Dug's on the wrong side of the thousands-strong army he hoped to join - and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side.

    R. J. Thorne says: "Gritty and funny, ASOIF fans stop here"
    "Liked it. Wanted to like it More."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I will be on the lookout for the next in this series. The book is good, but its potential is great. Those that make the Joe Abercrombie association are not far off. Like Abercrombie's, this book is a character-driven novel with abject violence and exploration of the extremes of good and bad in people. The character description is reason enough to read this book. Watson adds spice by toying with a quasi historical fiction of iron age Britain.

    Two places where this book is less than excellent are the pacing of the plot and the description of the setting. The plot doesn't really follow a tempo, and really just collapses into a coherent shape at the end. It feels like the author in the last quarter of the book, crumpled up the paper and wound up with an origami crane. Also, Watson really could have gotten more mileage out of his recreation of Iron Age Britain, he could have better imagined what people ate, wore and built. With the holes in the historical record, he could have really taken the science, engineering, home economics and society for a real spin. I feel like he played it too conservative.

    I think the reader is dead on for the characters, but he didn't blow my mind which is what I reserve a 5 for. Its a tough bar to clear though. He did a respectable job.

    I think there is tons of potential to this series. Worth a credit.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Strategy: A History

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Lawrence Freedman
    • Narrated By Michael Butler Murray
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (51)
    Story
    (51)

    In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world's leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.

    Logical Paradox says: "Comprehensive 'Tour de Force' on Strategy"
    "Academic Writing, Probably Better in Text"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you take nothing else from this review, understand this: this book is a history of theory. They are clear about this in the description, but it bears repetition, thus: A. History. Of. Theory. So the narrative goes from one strategic philosopher to another and as often as not discusses how the philosophy touched the world at large.

    This book does not show how strategy is relevant to you. It also makes a weak case as to how the development of strategic theory was relevant to the history of the world. It is as if the artifact of strategy only barely touches the larger world. The author cannot be accused of overselling the relevance of his subject. Unfortunately, that makes it pretty hard to get interested.

    There are two major items in this book's favor. One, that it keeps a refined focus on strategy and artfully keeps from being drawn down to the level of tactics, which would be an easily understandable digression. And two, the book has a good vision for the analysis the strategies of political movements, though sadly, it is there where it looses thematic focus.

    In the end, I couldn't finish this book. It is an academic text unsuited to audiobook format. It also is written with that academic tendency of never using a fifteen word sentence where a fifty word sentence will do.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Steelheart: Reckoners, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Brandon Sanderson
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7311)
    Performance
    (6820)
    Story
    (6849)

    Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father.

    D says: "He got the idea from a near traffic accident"
    "Still Sanderson, but not Genius"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm a Sanderson fan, but I might not sound like it here. Perhaps I grade him harshly because some of his other work is so good. I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it, particularly for a YA audience, but not-so-Y adults will enjoy it as well.

    Sanderson does well what he always does well:
    -Characters have very cool magical powers.
    -Fight scenes with magic are fast and plentiful.
    -The "all super villain / no super hero" premise is great!
    -The post (ongoing?) - apocalyptic setting is interesting with plenty of room to develop. Though this last is full of anthropological and incentive-based paradoxes that you are better off not thinking too deeply about.

    In my mind, these are enough to carry the book. These alone make it good enough. Unfortunately, there are some issues that are uncharacteristically slapdash. The general narrative is just too convenient. The plot never really derails, the characters have already planned everything out and nearly always find what they are looking for. Any twists are very forseeable. Sanderson drops too many clues. I'm horrible at figuring these things out and even to me it seemed plain as day. The characters are pretty wooden. There are some exceptions. Ok, one. Cody. But the rest are underdeveloped.

    Lastly, the "boy meets girl" piece is achingly contrived. I know Sanderson wanted wanted a young love element. But, come on, of course the crack team of hardened super villain assassins is going to include a pretty girl his own age who resents him at first, and warms to him later when he demonstrates his quality. Of course it does. While I can suspend disbelief to fit a villain-created forever night in a steel-fossilized Chicago, the love interest character is a bit too fantastical.

    The reader was good. Very well cast to do a young man narrator. His accents were ok as were his characterizations.

    NOTE: As of this writing there is a free short story available on Audible as an interlude to the series. The next full novel that has not yet been published.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Magicians: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Lev Grossman
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3237)
    Performance
    (2459)
    Story
    (2479)

    Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

    Kyle says: "Not an average book"
    "I Was Hoping for Better"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book definitely has a good setup. The magic school piece is not an innovation, but the story of it is pleasant enough. That is about the first half of the book. The second half is about seeking and finding a Narnia-like world. It is not merely similar to Narnia, it is an intentional reference. I enjoyed this premise as it has the effect of bringing adult fans of childhood fantasy novels along with the protagonists on their adventure.

    What fantasy reader hasn't wanted to make that trip? This was my favorite element.

    I can't give universal praise though. The trip to Fillory (Narnia) has bad narrative pacing. Someone makes a surprise discovery of a clue; from there, the adventure to get there is a few short pages of magical tinkering. Once they get there, they are given a quest, because that is what you do when you get to a magical land. They make short work of the quest and then it's over.

    It is pretty clear that Grossman is trying to make a statement about the disillusionment of seeing childhood fantasy through an adult's eyes. Grossman is making a parody of children's fantasy by making the same mistakes. That is ok, but he doesn't do it with any kind of wink to the reader. He mocks fantasy with a grimace, not a smirk. It left me feeling like, even though I was a kid, I was such a sucker to love fantasy.

    The other depressing element is the protagonist, Quentin. He's a kid that is basically given everything including brains, magical powers, a busty girlfriend, and the opportunity to live out his childhood dream. He spends the whole book wallowing in self-pity almost to the last sentence. I am not sure whether this is a critique on the near universal upbeat attitude of most fantasy characters. Seems likely, but it also makes it a burden to read. Quentin carries pubescent angst into his late 20s. It is hard to watch a child not grow up. Presumably, significant experiences in a story like this should change a character. Nope.

    The reader was good. He did some good characterizations. One character he voiced, I just wanted to punch in the face. I guess I mean that as a sort of a compliment, The voice was certainly distinctive and that was the case with most in his reading. That one was just nails on a chalkboard for me.

    I probably will not continue with the series. My problem is that I need a character to root for or against. This book didn't really give me one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs)
    • By Matt Taibbi
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (450)
    Performance
    (403)
    Story
    (409)

    Poverty goes up. Crime goes down. The prison population doubles. Fraud by the rich wipes out 40 percent of the world’s wealth. The rich get massively richer. No one goes to jail. In search of a solution, journalist Matt Taibbi discovered the Divide, the seam in American life where our two most troubling trends - growing wealth inequality and mass incarceration - come together, driven by a dramatic shift in American citizenship: Our basic rights are now determined by our wealth or poverty.

    Michael says: "Capitalism and Democracy Collide"
    "Unvarnished, Insightful, a bit Biased"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Taibbi takes the financial industry out behind the wood shed in this book. His anecdotes explain a lot about the mentality that leads to and perpetuates inequity. He has no problem with telling you what he really thinks about this or that financial mogul. The stories and characters go paint vivid pictures of how the law treats people differently in America. I will admit that he managed to be convincing enough to shift my views slightly, though I doubt they had very hard to go.

    I liked the book, though I believe it was telling me what I wanted to hear. I tend to agree with Taibbi when he talks about this or that Wall Street operative as a scumbag and I sympathize with the plight of the poor. The stories are informative, if biased. Taibbi has chosen his side; you get the feeling that he is only telling the anecdotes that support his thesis where minority reports may have been omitted.

    Porter reads the book very well. He worked hard at using sarcasm and emphasis where it is implied by the text.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Monster Hunter Vendetta

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Larry Correia
    • Narrated By Oliver Wyman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5207)
    Performance
    (4648)
    Story
    (4662)

    Accountant turned professional monster hunter, Owen Zastava Pitt, managed to stop the nefarious Old Ones' invasion plans last year, but as a result made an enemy out of one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Now an evil death cult known as the Church of the Temporary Mortal Condition wants to capture Owen in order to gain the favor of the great Old Ones.

    Jason says: "Exciting story, well told, with a great villain"
    "Second Curse, Same as the First"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book was just like its predecessor. On the plus side you get an adventure loaded with action, monsters, and guns (and guns). If you're a sucker for action (and guns), Vendetta might have enough to hold your interest.

    Unfortunately, the story is almost a repeat of the first book. I feel like I could have just read Monster Hunter International twice.

    There was really no deepening of the very superficial characters. His use of stereotypes makes me wonder whether he's ever really met another human. His main character is even less human than the other "humans" in the book. Owen Pitt thinks in taglines and catchphrases. He is a narcissist who knows even better than the reader that the story is about him. He feels guilt for getting his friends into trouble because the bad guys are after him, but he doesn't act on this guilt other than to just "feel" it momentarily every time someone off to his left or right gets killed. The only other emotion he has room for in his ammo pouch is anger and all its synonyms. I forgave this after the first book, but by the end of the sequel, it needs some character development.

    Correia started his series with a "world in the balance" climax so he had nowhere to go except to give us another similar ending. I can't speak for the rest of the series, but I feel a lot of similarities in narrative and main character to Goodkind's, "Wizard's First Rule" series. Ruggedly independent man with powers no one can explain faces unavoidable, world-ending conundrum that he defeats with the timely assistance of a Deus ex Machina all with libertarian undertones. With Goodkind it got old slowly (his characters had personalities), not so with Correia. I think I am done after this.

    The reader, Wyman, stepped up his game in this edition. He went a little bolder with some of the characterizations to good effect. I am not blown away, but I am well satisfied.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Monster Hunter International

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Larry Correia
    • Narrated By Oliver Wyman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7453)
    Performance
    (6593)
    Story
    (6587)

    Five days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a 14th story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer. It turns out that monsters are real. All the things from myth, legend, and B-movies are out there, waiting in the shadows. Some of them are evil, and some are just hungry. Monster Hunter International is the premier eradication company in the business. And now Owen is their newest recruit.

    Mariya says: "Killin’s my business and business is fine"
    "A Fun Read You Just Can't Take Seriously"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Go into it expecting a good bit of fun and monster-infused violent pulp fiction, and it is possible to really like this book. If you are coming to this from the Grimnoir Chronicles, you may be a little disappointed, but you will recognize the fast pace, shoot-em-up style that works well for Correia. Come looking for literature and you'll probably be traumatized.

    Correia serves up action and the supernatural pretty well. If that is why you're reading, you'll be fine. He is great at keeping your interest. It is hard to put down.

    It is also hard not to roll your eyes in places. The characters are stock parts bought right off of the shelves. Except the main character who is basically loaded to his eyeballs with every single trait it takes to make a dime novel hero except a soul.

    Correia uses the rest of the cast to make the book out to be a manifesto for libertarianism. Every good guy is a government-hating, rugged individualist, gun nut. Every bad guy is a bureaucratic, authoritarian. And there's no depth in the story as to why or a description of personal motivation, the characters are like sandwich boards for "evil bureaucrat" or "gun-toting, freedom-loving hero."

    Another thing that some readers may love, and I kind of like to a point (a point, that is, which is exceeded very early), is Correia's in depth - sensual, really - description of gunfights. I feel like it goes way too far and drags on the story, but some readers may love it. Correia's characters do not just draw, aim, and shoot. They will reach for the stained hickory grip of their custom two-tone chrome 1911, pull the well-lubed slide back to chamber a 405 grain .45 caliber bullet, then fall into a standard weaver stance, calm their breathing, focus on the front site post of their, after market, tritium sites, squeeze the trigger to allow the hammer to strike the firing pin which, in turn, strikes the primer at the base of the shell, this primer then ignites the main charge causing the powder to burn and the pressure of that rapid expansion of gasses to propel the led slug down the barrel causing the soft metal of the slug to engage the rifling of the 4" barrel and on, and on, and on. It wouldn't be so bad if it only happened once. Anytime a gun is mentioned it gets the full catalog description. I don't mind guns in real life, and they are certainly appropriate to this story; still, it's like "enough already!" The guns have more personality than the people.

    The reader is ok. He seems to be talking through gritted teeth even when not characterizing a voice, but that is not inappropriate as lots of the characters are tough guys. He does some voice characterizations which work well. The overall effort is less than brilliant. A gentleman's 3/5.

    Despite my focus on its faults, I like the book. The action is tight and plentiful and I am a sucker for that stuff. Planning on continuing the series.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
    • Narrated By Stephen J. Dubner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1442)
    Performance
    (1285)
    Story
    (1288)

    The New York Times best-selling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems. The topics range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain.

    Steve says: "Heard it all before"
    "Good up to a Point"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book encapsulates the manor of thinking that spawned Freakonomics. It does a pretty good job of satisfying the authors' intent which is to show you different ways to address a problem. They expand the definition of economics beyond the standard Micro-Macro science of optimizing use of scarce resources, demonstrating it as a social science to explain human behavior. All well done.

    On the other hand... The authors admit that this may be their last book on the subject because their economics-driven philosophy may dictate that they quit. I submit that they should follow this inclination. They do a good job of showing the need to look at actual incentives and data, but they are not thinking their own examples through. They are not considering or exploring the permutations of their policy prescriptions. They seem to consider them good solutions merely because of their cleverness and unconventional thinking, when previous examples - in this very book - point to disaster. They talk about the importance of data as if they are among the few that are clever enough to see it clearly and make the proper interpretations and then slyly wink at a possible creative solution with out thinking out how it would work. This allows them to sound clever without having to ground their arguments in the data they value so much.

    I feel like they are reaching. They are trying to load the book with the successes of unconventional thinking and that is great, but they have overextended themselves and have mixed bad examples in with the good.

    In short it is a good book that says the right things about how to look at problems through a social-economic lens and then sometimes fails to live up to its ideals.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tower Lord: Raven's Shadow, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Anthony Ryan
    • Narrated By Steven Brand
    Overall
    (1807)
    Performance
    (1710)
    Story
    (1716)

    Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus' vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more. Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus's grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm.

    Jack says: "The Great Swampy Middle!"
    "Solid Sequel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As sequels go, this is a good second effort though I will not say it sure that if you liked the Blood Song one you'll like the second. I very much liked Tower Lord, for its creative narrative rhythm, the focus on relationships and the texture of the characters. However, there are things that could throw you for a loop.

    There are four perspective characters, five if you count the historian who is sort of telling the story. The perspective changes every chapter and is clearly delineated, but four is too many for some people. Also, those who are interested solely in the story of Valen will be disappointed.

    The pattern is the same as the last book where the interludes are the present and the perspective narratives are in the recent past culminating in the present time as marked by the historian's timeline. Unfortunately, this gives the book an air of inevitability. You know after the first chapter where the final battle will be and who will be involved. I think this doesn't spoil the ride, but the outcome doesn't really feel in question.

    This book is dark; lots of rape and murder. It is abject and often creatively done. I applaud Ryan's ability as a dark storyteller he really knows how to twist the knife.

    The narrator is nowhere. He's a blank slate. No characterizations, barely any accents, no tonal differences between genders. It is difficult to tell who is talking. They should replace him. They have nothing to lose.

    I know this sounds like I am mostly down on this book. I am not. I genuinely liked it. It had seldom used elements like characters who were homosexual or dyslexic like people sometimes are and it colors the story without making the whole world about it. This lends it a maturity that fantasy sometimes goes without. Its dark parts are creatively dark and well described and its characters are relateable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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