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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

150
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 54 reviews
  • 58 ratings
  • 288 titles in library
  • 2 purchased in 2015
FOLLOWING
3
FOLLOWERS
19

  • 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
    (182)
    Performance
    (152)
    Story
    (160)

    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.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Providence of Fire

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Brian Staveley
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (207)
    Performance
    (188)
    Story
    (188)

    Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

    G. Trappmama says: "So far the best"
    "A Big Step Back"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was so hopeful after the first book. This was going to be one of those series where I actually put books on pre-order. I really liked where it was going. And then this happened. I don't know if Staveley was rushed to publication, or if he was told to cram a lot more stuff into the book to keep it lively, but this book doesn't make much sense.

    Oh, there are some redeeming pieces. Staveley can check most of the blocks that go along with your basic fantasy novels. He has good fights, readable banter, surprises, and colorful atmosphere. I don't want to give him zero credit. He does those parts pretty well.

    His major problem is that his characters are broken in a way that makes the story not make sense. I am not saying that he writes damaged characters intentionally like an alcoholic who acts perversely yet humanly. No, his characters are constantly doing things for no reason or for reasons they know to be false or just completely stupid. Sure, the scenes and outcomes are more dramatic, and what they do may fit for that scene, but they don't make sense to the rest of the story. I get it that characters often act contrary to their interests, it can build drama. This is understandable and completely forgivable in stories. It happens in real life all the time, but when every major character makes decisions like the drunkest freshman at a college party just to make that individual scene as striking as it can be, their motivations in the larger narrative fall apart. That is the problem with this installment. The author gets dramatic scenes that don't make sense when you try to string them together.

    As this could be the sophomore doldrums, I might swing back around for the third book. But I won't be waiting breathlessly. I could just as well give this series up.

    I consistently enjoy Simon Vance's readings. This narration was also strong.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cursor's Fury: Codex Alera, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Jim Butcher
    • Narrated By Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3285)
    Performance
    (2255)
    Story
    (2260)

    The power-hungry High Lord of Kalare has launched a rebellion against the aging First Lord, Gaius Sextus, who with the loyal forces of Alera must fight beside the unlikeliest of allies - the equally contentious High Lord of Aquitaine. Meanwhile, young Tavi of Calderon joins a newly formed legion under an assumed name even as the ruthless Kalare unites with the Canim, bestial enemies of the realm whose vast numbers spell certain doom for Alera.

    Readalot says: "Great series"
    "From Spy to Soldier"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The books in this series are shaping up to mark individual, chapters, or episodes in the development of Tavi of Calderon. The titles, beginning with book 2, pretty much lay that out. This installment has lots of spycraft and a big battle at the end. I think what I enjoy most is that the main character uses his wits to get himself in and out of trouble. In his world, he is basically handicapped. That doesn't even come close to stopping him though. He experiences the humiliation of not being able to do what everyone else can, but he is also not bound by their blinkered thinking and limitations. Tavi is a great character for perseverance and cleverness. He is a well-crafted character.

    I am not going to go on about the reading and the horns as I did in my reviews in the previous two books. It is enough to say that Reading's characterizations are solid and her pacing is good. There seem to be some editing flubs where one word runs right into another, but other than that, pretty clean.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Academ's Fury: Codex Alera, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Jim Butcher
    • Narrated By Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3541)
    Performance
    (2456)
    Story
    (2462)

    For 1,000 years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the Furies - elementals of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Metal. But now, the unity of the Alerians hangs in precarious balance.

    Eric says: "Wonderful series"
    "Plot Thickens"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book moves Tavi's story out of the country and into the city. As opposed to book 1, Academ's Fury is where the story arc has it's true beginning. It kind of makes Furies of Calderon seem like a pilot episode where the writers knew mostly what they wanted but then decided to take the rest of the story in a slightly different direction. And I do mean "slightly" here.

    This book has a lot more intrigue, more politics and about the same amount of magic combat. It's a really good read, enough twists to keep you on your toes and enough explosions and sword fights to keep your inner 15 yr. old boy engaged. Character introduction and development is solid too.

    I am still not entirely pleased by Reading's accent in this audiobook. I don't get why the producers felt the need for her to go British. I normally like her a lot. Despite the contrived accent, her characterizations are firming up. She has obvious talent.

    I still don't understand what is up with the random horn fanfares. Is that there because the book was originally split into multiple files to speed up downloads?

    I would recommend this book to fans of fantasy. Well worth a credit.

    0 of 0 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
    (4551)
    Performance
    (3188)
    Story
    (3227)

    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
    (258)
    Performance
    (242)
    Story
    (242)

    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.

    2 of 2 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
    (65)
    Performance
    (58)
    Story
    (58)

    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.

    2 of 2 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
    (8630)
    Performance
    (8009)
    Story
    (8035)

    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
    (3483)
    Performance
    (2681)
    Story
    (2700)

    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
    (499)
    Performance
    (446)
    Story
    (454)

    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
    (5397)
    Performance
    (4818)
    Story
    (4831)

    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

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