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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

125
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 43 reviews
  • 47 ratings
  • 254 titles in library
  • 18 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
3
FOLLOWERS
17

  • Gardens of the Moon: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Steven Erikson
    • Narrated By Ralph Lister
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1333)
    Performance
    (1188)
    Story
    (1192)

    The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting, and bloody confrontations with ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dreaded Claw assassins. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, their lone surviving mage, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities, yet holds out.

    Adnan says: "An engrossing yet demanding high epic"
    "Complex, Multifaceted, Characters Underdeveloped"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    From the outset, this book seems like a good introduction to a very involved fantasy series. Try this book if you are very open to continuing on with the series. There is a lot that is left unexplained and much that is left incomplete, so if you want perfect understanding and all the characters rounded-out by the end of the first book, you'll be left wanting. However, if what you are wanting is an extended, multi-part fantasy epic, you could do a lot worse.

    The very appealing thing about this book is the interaction of the various characters who, at first, seem very distant from each other, but then eventually collide in, often improbable, but quite entertaining ways. Even with the heavy use of prophecy as a foreshadowing tool, there is little predictability in these interactions. When you combine this fact with the lack of contextual development (i.e. history, mechanics of magic, pantheon etc.), you feel as if you are being swept along in a fast-moving narrative stream.

    On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of character development on the side of the protagonists. There were quite a lot of them and their endeavors were given very egalitarian coverage by the narrator. So maybe the author spread himself a little thin. Where this really needled me was when I was trying to discover a particular character's motivation for their actions. This was lightly explained at best. Often a protagonist was acting as the tool of another through possession or some other kind of influence, but even in those cases, the motivations of the possessors was similarly left unclear.

    I recognize that as the first of a larger series, much of this will likely be explained, but just taking the first book on its own merits, the characters need a little depth and the world they inhabit needs texture.

    The narrator was very competent in developing distinct vocal characteristics for the various dramatis personæ. I would call a few of his characterizations a little odd relative to the way they were described physically. This did not detract from the story at all and most of his work was quite enjoyable.

    NOTE: As of this writing the subsequent novels are not available from Audible.

    2 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
    (931)
    Performance
    (830)
    Story
    (833)

    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
    (737)
    Performance
    (699)
    Story
    (705)

    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
    (2085)
    Performance
    (1983)
    Story
    (1981)

    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 2 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
    (280)
    Performance
    (255)
    Story
    (254)

    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
    (921)
    Performance
    (703)
    Story
    (712)

    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.

    2 of 2 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
    (409)
    Performance
    (345)
    Story
    (347)

    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
  • Brilliance

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Marcus Sakey
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1313)
    Performance
    (1165)
    Story
    (1167)

    In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible. They’re called "brilliants," and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in.

    Benjamin says: "Predictable Thriller"
    "Predictable Thriller"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I generally liked this book. It was well characterized and read by Daniels. It has good pacing, some pretty exciting events, and a good premise. It is easy to follow. The dialogue is not bad and the characters are interesting. The plot twists are a bit weak and predictable, but forgivable. Readers of Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles will recognize the superhumans-among-us, alternate history, premise.

    The major problem, and it is a big one, is the inconsistency of the fictional science. Sakey gives some of his characters superhuman powers of perception. For example, the main character can tell what people are thinking, whether they are lying, and predict what people will do next because of his incredible ability to perceive patterns in their behavior. This is what makes him such a good cop. Sakey makes special mention, numerous times, that he cannot turn his abilities off. That is all well and good until you learn that many characters in the book are lying to him at will.

    I won't spoil the book. It's a thriller, readers should expect plot twists. The problem is the main character's powers. He basically loses his ability when it is convenient to setting up a plot twist. It's just shoddy writing. The main character can tell where you're going to retire by the way you hold your salad fork, but he can't perceive a conspiracy that has been sitting in front of his face for years. A guy who can tell what people are thinking and what they are going to do should not be surprised as often as this guy is. Fix that and the book would be a lot better.

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • Blood Song: Raven's Shadow, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Anthony Ryan
    • Narrated By Steven Brand
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2183)
    Performance
    (2067)
    Story
    (2064)

    The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm. Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of 10 when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

    JPaladin says: "Wonderful Epic! Mature and well-written."
    "Intriguing Series Beginning; Uninspired Narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is a variation on the “kid goes to warrior school” epic fantasy genre. It’s a pretty good one. There are some fresh ideas in storytelling that keep it new and interesting. The main story arc is told as if to a historian, however, you come to learn that the reader is getting a “true,” insiders account, but the historian character to which the story is being recounted, is being told something else. In other words, you get the secrets, but for some reason, the main character is telling his conversation partner something less meaningful. Also, the depth of the features of this world, magic, religion, people, sects, are only being hinted at. The author has so much setting left to fill with story, it keeps you wanting more.

    The story begins a little slow and there are some significant breaks in action. However, it does heat up and progressively becomes more intriguing. Twists and plots aren’t immediately apparent until you realize you’re up to your neck in them.

    Characters are well developed and Ryan fears not killing them off which raises the stakes of the various challenges. The dialogue is neither particularly good nor bad. It is just kind of there.

    This book really suffers because of its narrator. He doesn’t apply himself to characterizations so you often lose who is talking in a particular conversation. He blows the accenting of certain sentences which changes the meaning in odd ways. Overall it feels like what you are hearing is the reader’s first attempt.

    Despite harvesting the old warrior school trope, this book goes in interesting directions. The story leaves off at a good point too. There is an ocean of possibilities at the end, leaving you very interested in what comes next. All in all a good read. I would recommend this to fantasy fans.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Emperor's Blades: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Brian Staveley
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    Overall
    (1083)
    Performance
    (1020)
    Story
    (1024)

    In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

    Ethan M. says: "Of the various new fantasy series, this is... fine"
    "Quickly Addictive. Great First Novel!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This novel starts a little slow and pretty conventional, but heats up quickly. It wasn't long before I was listening to it every free moment I had.

    The early plot involves two royal brothers, each sent away as youths for training, one to a monastery and the other to Air Assault Ninja School. That in itself seems like a pretty derivative beginning, but the brothers are quickly dunked in intrigue when their father dies. The action, plotting and mystery remain pretty thick for the rest of the story. The main characters are put into many different challenging and life-threatening situations which move the story along. Also, since you keep switching back from one brother to the other at suspenseful points in the narrative, it is really difficult to find a good place to put the book down.

    Staveley does an excellent job of keeping you on your toes. You are never allowed to get comfortable in your expectations. There are twists in this book, but the artful part of the twists are that some of them aren't twists at all.

    The supporting characters are very well described. But for a few character traits, the main characters are written a little bit blank. Vance does an excellent job bringing them all to life. He is so good I will make special point of seeking out his narrations in the future.

    I would recommend this book to any fantasy fan. The foibles of being conventional disappear quickly and are easy to forgive when you realize your being drawn into an exciting fantasy mystery.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Way of Kings: Book One of The Stormlight Archive

    • UNABRIDGED (45 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Brandon Sanderson
    • Narrated By Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10193)
    Performance
    (7663)
    Story
    (7709)

    Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter. It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor.

    Lore says: "Wow - 45 hours long and leaves you wanting more!"
    "A Solid Beginning on a Vivid World"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I listened to this book a while ago and now again as its sequel is coming out soon. It is a very good book and fans of Sanderson’s other work will likely enjoy it a great deal. The book highlights the things Sanderson is very good at. His world-building is deep and wide. He seems to want his stories to take place on world that has fully realized ground underneath them, so that if the listener were to question, “Where does this tradition come from? Why do these people always do this or that? What is the origin of this feature?” he has already thought it through and has an explanation and, what’s more, made it significant to the narrative. Sanderson may do this better than anybody and this book is a good example.

    He also makes a complex, but coherent structure to his magic. Importantly, magic, for him, is not the purview of bearded old men who sling bolts of lightning. His magic augments his warriors so they end up like superheroes. This makes his fight scenes as vivid as if they were drawn in comic books.

    His characters are great if a little conventional. I am always a sucker for nobility and honor in my protagonists. I forgive other faults when the hero is a stand-up guy or gal. His certainly are that. Thankfully, he gives backstory to explain why they are the way they are. Other authors often pick their good guy, invest him or her with a nobility of spirit and let that be that. Sanderson builds a character who is noble, but also conflicted and also shows you why. So his people are not very complex, but very relatable.

    The one major complaint I have of this book is that it bogs down in the middle. We are treated to too many cycles of Kaladin being depressed at losing friends, finding his resolve, coming up with a solution, and then having that solution negated by the Man, causing him to lose more friends (repeat, repeat, repeat). It even happens in flashback. The middle of this book abides there a bit too long. Maybe this was intentional to build tension for the last fifth of the book which was really spectacular, but I think they could have pared it down a little.

    The reading was generally good. Kramer did a very good job. Kate Reading was ok. Her characterizations lacked energy. There were some differences in pronunciation that grated. This pair, who have combined for some very good reads in the past, should have known better, but still a solid reading.

    Beware some reviews that overstate the candlepower of this book. It is a solid start, but it is not an instant classic. The book has general appeal for those that like a long series and fans of Sanderson will really like it. I would recommend this book to almost any fantasy reader. I don’t doubt other reviewers’ sincerity, I just think some may be dedicated Sanderson fans and forgive some of the negatives.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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