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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

135
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 47 reviews
  • 51 ratings
  • 259 titles in library
  • 21 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
18

  • The Mirror of Her Dreams: Volume I of Mordant's Need

    • UNABRIDGED (28 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Stephen R. Donaldson
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (166)
    Performance
    (139)
    Story
    (148)

    The daughter of rich but neglectful parents, Terisa Morgan lives alone in a New York City apartment, a young woman who has grown to doubt her own existence. Surrounded by the flat reassurance of mirrors, she leads an unfulfilled life - until the night a strange man named Geraden comes crashing through one of her mirrors, on a quest to find a champion to save his kingdom of Mordant from a pervasive evil that threatens the land.

    C. Lunde says: "Scott Brick+Donaldson=Winning Combination"
    "Thank Heavens, It's Finally Over!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Some will probably fault this critique because they'll say that all my complaints are reversed in the second book and shame on me for not having the faith to drop a another credit on it. Sorry, he had 22 hours to pique my interest and give me a reason. I'm not going to throw good credits after bad.

    This is a bad audiobook. Do not buy it. If you somehow come to it for free, do not listen to it.

    Why is it bad? The characters are bad. I know many readers may have come here from some piece of Thomas Covenant. I read those books many years ago, and although they weren't my favorite, I did like them. I know it is Donaldson's shtick to have a mentally or physically damaged protagonist. Fine. This protagonist has nothing but her damages, and she doesn't experience any development or growth. She ends the book the same milquetoast, weak-willed, ineffectual, submissive "heroine" she is at the beginning. Oh there are three scenes where she "defies" powerful men (mostly by lying to them), but most of the narrative of those scenes are given over to how she is on the edge of insanity, narrowly keeping herself from devolving into a mass of teary jello.

    The remaining women in the book are as single-trait as she is. Elega is ambitous. Myste is capricious. The maid is licentious. Most of the men are just as shallow with a couple exceptions.

    The Story is bad though not quite as bad. One thing you will have to recognize going into it is that this is not a book. This is half of a book. He's just selling it in two pieces [cha-ching]. Unless you are convinced you're buying both from the outset, do not begin. And I do indeed differentiate this from a two book series as well. This is not that. This book does not stand on its own. That said, there is some intrigue present. You'll have to buy the second book if you want any answers though. The system of magic is ok as well. I would have liked a little more explanation, but there is plenty of potential.

    As for the reading: I did not really like it, but I still feel the voice actor is talented. I kind of get what he was going for. I feel like his wispy, breathy, melodramatic portrayal was an attempt to reflect the personality of the protagonist. If that is the case, the reader nailed it and the reason I didn't like the reading is because I didn't like the protagonist. He also did a good job of characterizing the other voices such that they were recognizable and sympathetic. But for all that it was a coherent portrayal, it was just so grating.

    7 of 10 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
    (2972)
    Performance
    (2215)
    Story
    (2230)

    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
    (386)
    Performance
    (344)
    Story
    (350)

    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
    (4984)
    Performance
    (4441)
    Story
    (4460)

    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.

    0 of 0 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
    (7164)
    Performance
    (6330)
    Story
    (6327)

    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.

    0 of 1 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
    (1221)
    Performance
    (1088)
    Story
    (1091)

    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.

    Nancy says: "Only if you don't listen to the podcast....."
    "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
    (1326)
    Performance
    (1255)
    Story
    (1262)

    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
  • Shattered: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 7

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Kevin Hearne
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2758)
    Performance
    (2598)
    Story
    (2596)

    For nearly 2,000 years, only one Druid has walked the Earth - Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword have kept him alive as he’s been pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company. Atticus’ apprentice, Granuaile, is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy. And Owen has some catching up to do.

    D says: "The third druid"
    "Every Long Series Has an Episode Like This"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When you have a long, episodic series you need one of those books that is kind of a setup book. In "Shattered," Hearne needed to work through a bunch of exposition for the series and could not put as much into pure adventuring. In the previous book, "Hunted," Atticus was on the run the entire time and didn't have much of a chance to draw in new characters and give a greater vision of the larger story arc. That is what this book was for. The pace was a lot slower, but what it lacked in running around kicking butt, it made up for in character development, world-building, and filling in the main story arc.

    Daniels had a lot of heavy lifting in this book in terms of characterizations and accents. He did a good job with a diverse kaleidoscope of genders, ages, accents and personalities. Surely, some will criticize that the accents aren't perfect and maybe a little over the top, but I think he did a good job with a tough field.

    I had complained in previous reviews that Hearne was getting a bit too enthusiastic with his pop culture referencing. In this installment he has cooled it back down to a level that is appropriately clever instead of distracting. Well done there.

    All in all, I would recommend this book, but seriously, if you have read six books and are on the fence about book 7 and are using this review to decide whether or not to continue, I don't know what to tell you. Flip a credit.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • House of Chains: Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (35 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Steven Erikson
    • Narrated By Michael Page
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (326)
    Performance
    (299)
    Story
    (299)

    In Northern Genabackis, a raiding party of savage tribal warriors descends from the mountains into the southern flatlands. Their intention is to wreak havoc amongst the despised lowlanders, but for the one named Karsa Orlong, it marks the beginning of what will prove to be an extraordinary destiny.

    Armand says: "Write Brilliance Audio to get Ralph Lister back!"
    "Slower than Earlier Books; Reader Not the Problem"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am going to go against the grain of most other reviewers and say that the narrator, Michael Page, does not ruin this book. I liked Lister's narration marginally better, but I am also a fan of Page from the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, where he does a much more inspired job. One way to diminish the shock of listening to different pronunciations and different voices to known characters is to do what I did and take some time off from the series before moving on to book 4. It makes the transition easier. Another element that eases the shock is the fact that the major characters of this book had yet to make an appearance in the series or were bit players up until now.

    No, if this book suffers it is on the author. It is still a pretty good book, but I had no trouble putting it down like I did with the others. It took me a long time to get through it. The pacing is much more leisurely than previous books and the climaxes almost feel like non-events.

    Erikson is also painting himself into a corner with the regularity of events that should feel momentous, but aren't. In most stories you would think that a god dying or being cast down to the mortal world and other gods and pantheons rising in his place would be a pretty big deal. No, in this series, that's an average Tuesday.

    Eirkson does a stellar job with character development with a couple caveats. The characters's development is matched well with the exposition and they are well painted as individuals. The major drawbacks to the character slate is that there are just so many of them that it is hard to identify with them as a reader. Also, he moves on from the ones you like to others that you don't care about. Then he has to do the hard work of making you care and that eats up narration and adds to the slow pace. Also, they are all basically superhuman. Everybody is either Chuck Norris or hamburger. It makes you feel like outcomes were never in doubt, you as the reader just didn't know them yet. It feels like any built suspense was all a lie.

    This was my least favorite volume of the series so far. It is still pretty good and I will likely move on to the next book in time, but this edition didn't leave me pining for more.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Black Prism

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Brent Weeks
    • Narrated By Cristofer Jean
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1032)
    Performance
    (809)
    Story
    (817)

    Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals. But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

    Chad says: "Dude . . ."
    "Narrator Does Irreparable Damage"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I cannot rate the story of this book so I gave it a neutral "3." The reader is so distracting, so teeth gratingly bad, that he makes the entire audiobook experience about himself.

    What happens in the book? After seven hours, I don't know. I know I can't stand the narration. That's about all I got out of it.

    I scoffed when I saw the other reviewers describe him as sounding like a surfer dude. I now formally apologize to those reviewers for scoffing. It's just like they said. Particularly when he tries to characterize a person of slow speech or deep voice, you can hear the unspoken, "dude," or, "broseph," at the end of the sentence.

    Not only is poor accent selection a problem for this narrator, he often pauses as if he is encountering a particular word for the first time. The difference between this narration and a train wreck is that I can look away from the former.

    I can only recommend this book to the tone deaf. Maybe not even them.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Joseph E. Stiglitz
    • Narrated By Paul Boehmer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (433)
    Performance
    (364)
    Story
    (366)

    The top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of the nation's wealth. And, as Joseph E. Stiglitz explains, while those at the top enjoy the best health care, education, and benefits of wealth, they fail to realize that "their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live." Stiglitz draws on his deep understanding of economics to show that growing inequality is not inevitable. He examines our current state, then teases out its implications for democracy, for monetary and budgetary policy, and for globalization. He closes with a plan for a more just and prosperous future.

    Grant says: "Dense, but important."
    "Probably Better on Paper"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Books like this one, presumably with charts and tables, are probably better with another medium. However, if you are going to listen to it as I did, it still does a pretty good job. Economic principles are pretty clearly explained, though if it is your first introduction to economics, you will probably want to look a few things up (moral hazard, market failures etc.), but he does't bury you in a mountain of technical language.

    As Stiglitz disclaims early, this is not a work for peer review. It is for popular consumption so if you are looking for some deep explanation as to how he arrived at his claims, you'll be left wanting.

    I am usually frustrated with books that prescribe solutions that we "merely lack the political will," to accomplish. It seems like activist thumb-twiddling. Every book of this type seems to have a portion like that. This one is no exception. I find the repetition of this trope frustrating.

    9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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