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David

Indiscriminate Reader

Member Since 2012

1247
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 255 reviews
  • 259 ratings
  • 530 titles in library
  • 4 purchased in 2015
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  • The Jungle: A Signature Performance by Casey Affleck

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Upton Sinclair
    • Narrated By Casey Affleck
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (237)
    Performance
    (175)
    Story
    (173)

    A Signature Performance: Oscar nominee and passionate vegan Casey Affleck highlights the more-relevant-than-ever issues of business ethics and food production in Upton Sinclair’s meatpacking industry bombshell.

    Kamigaeru says: "Caveat emptor: Powerful book, subpar narration"
    "It might make you a vegetarian, if not a socialist"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    With a hundred years of hindsight, we've learned so little.

    Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is famous for disgusting America with its tales of meat packing workers falling into vats and rendered into lard, and all the things that went into sausages and tinned beef. (Cigar butts and poisoned rats not even being the most disgusting ingredients...) But as Sinclair said about his most famous book, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." The Jungle is not primarily about the problems of an unregulated meat industry. It's about the crushing brutality of capitalism, and the problems of unregulated accumulation of wealth. No wonder that Americans prefer the less political vegetarian version.

    Although Sinclair was a muckraking socialist with an obvious agenda, The Jungle is still a compelling novel in its own right. Jurgis Rudkus is a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to America with his young wife Ona and his extended family of in-laws. Initially believing they have found the promised land of opportunity and plenty, they are quickly taken in by various schemes meant to impoverish, indebt, and enslave immigrants like them. At first only Jurgis has to work in Chicago's meatpacking district. He is young and strong and believes hard work will be rewarded, and those who warn him of how the meatpackers will use him up and dispose of him are lazy whiners. Of course, he soon discovers otherwise. The family undergoes one mishap after another, until within a year, even the children are reduced to selling newspapers on the street and still they are all barely staying alive.

    Then things get worse, and worse, and worse. Jurgis is a modern-day Job, with no God to blame his troubles on, only capitalism. He has several ups and downs, but every time he catches a break, it's quickly followed by yet another brutal smackdown. Sinclair was trying to make the reader feel sorry for Jurgis and his poor family, all of whom end up dead, prostituted, or beggars by the end of the book, and you will. The poor man just cannot win, and if he makes mistakes and chooses the less noble path when given a choice, it's pretty hard to judge him if you've never been homeless on the streets of Chicago in the wintertime.

    The Jungle is a grimly detailed look at early 20th century America. Sinclair was muckraking, so obviously he's showing the ugliest bits of America he can, but history proved that most of what he was alleging was true, even if his conclusions were questionable. Even if you are strongly anti-socialist, The Jungle is an eye-opening story, and still relevant after all these years. If you think that the horrors depicted in this book are relics of a previous era, just remember that to the extent that the very worst of these abuses are now curbed (somewhat) by government regulations, those government regulations are exactly what "free market" advocates hate and want to abolish.

    4 stars. Knocking one star off because while Sinclair mostly kept his didacticism in check throughout the book, using gripping drama and only a little bit of exposition to arouse the horror he intended, the last chapter was nothing but socialist sermonizing, making it less a climax than the author climbing onto a soapbox to deliver his moral.

    I have to ding this version for the unfortunate choice of narrator: I've enjoyed several of Audible's Signature Performances, but Casey Affleck's reading was monotonous and completely lacking in passion. His voice lacked distinction, and he sounded like a schoolboy reading a book aloud to the class. Not every celebrity actor makes a good audiobook narrator.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Caliban's War: The Expanse, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By James S. A. Corey
    • Narrated By Jefferson Mays
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1280)
    Performance
    (1170)
    Story
    (1173)

    James S.A. Corey’s best-selling hit Leviathan Wakes earned Hugo and Locus Award nominations. In Caliban’s War, the second chapter of Corey’s Expanse series, a desperate Earth politician works tirelessly to prevent war from reigniting. Meanwhile, upheaval takes root on Venus and Ganymede. And amidst this tumult, James Holden and his crew on the Rocinante are charged with the impossible task of saving humanity from a terrifying fate.

    Ethan M. says: "No sophmore slump as both plot and writing improve"
    "Expanse series heads into the black"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In the second book in pseudonymous authorial duo James S.A. Corey's Expanse series, the Rocinante, captained by James Holden, takes on a much stronger Firefly vibe. Holden and his crew begin the book still working for the Outer Planets Alliance, hunting pirates. The alien protomolecule that crashed into Venus last book is still doing....something down there. And a giant Polynesian space marine encounters monsters on Ganymede.

    After that, the book alternates between the viewpoints of Holden, angsty idealistic captain who has a knack for getting himself twisted over moral dilemmas where the usual answer is "Shoot the SOB," Bobbie, Martian marine who increasingly finds it hard to tell what side she's on, and is happiest when the solution is "Shoot the SOB," Avasarala, a foul-mouthed grandmotherly UN official who will convince you that politicians aren't always useless, and Prax, whose quest to rescue his daughter, abducted by Evil Scientists for Evil Science, humanizes the Rocinante's political/action space shoot'em-up quest.

    Basically, you have a small group of people trying to chase clues and bad guys around the solar system to stop an all-out interplanetary war from breaking out over an alien biological superweapon.

    I found Caliban's War to be better than the first book, as the scope is expanded somewhat (and clearly by the end, it's going to expand a lot more) and there isn't so much time spent with "vomit zombies" in space, though the alien horror does still seem to borrow a lot from Alien and other cinematic precursors.

    It's not very hard science fiction — it's high adventure, bad marine chicks, alien monsters, space combat, and Firefly-esque banter. A fine series; I'm going straight into the third book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Wicked Girls

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Alex Marwood
    • Narrated By Anna Bentinck
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1244)
    Performance
    (1109)
    Story
    (1102)

    On a fateful summer morning in 1986, two 11-year-old girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town when her investigation leads her to interview carnival cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it's the first time they've seen each other since that dark day so many years ago. Now with new, vastly different lives - and unknowing families to protect - will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?

    Tina says: "Really my rating is 4 1/2 stars."
    "A notorious pair of child-killers meet again"
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    Story

    This is one of those books with a fairly straightforward plot that's a vehicle to say a lot of things about a lot of topics: how much of one's fate is set in childhood, parenting, relationships, the seemingly inescapable crucible of environment, class differences, the media, emotional and physical abuse, stalkers, and of course, child murderers.

    The Wicked Girls is set in England, and seems to have been inspired by the murder of James Bulger, a three-year-old boy who was abducted, tortured, and murdered by a pair of ten-year-olds. In The Wicked Girls, the victim and the perpetrators are all girls, and of course, there's more to the story.

    Annabel Oldacre and Jade Walker come from opposite sides of the tracks; Annabel's family is upper-class and wealthy, while the Walkers are known throughout their community as the British equivalent of trailer trash. Annabel and Jade by chance strike up a friendship one day, but by the end of the day, a little girl is dead and the two of them soon become the most notorious and hated eleven-year-olds in England.

    Twenty-five years later, the two of them are both living under new identities, but under lifelong probationary conditions which include monthly check-ins, and an absolute prohibition against contacting one another ever again.

    Jade is now "Kirsty," a journalist, and Annabel is "Amber," a cleaner at a seedy amusement park in a seaside resort town. This reversal in expected outcomes — the girl from the bad family is now an educated, middle-class career woman with a family, while the girl from the posh family is now a weary, friendless cleaning woman — is the first statement the book makes about how the circumstances of one's childhood do not predetermine the outcome.

    It turns out that Jade, the girl without a future, was sent to a relatively progressive institution where she was actually given an education, and when she was released on parole, was able to make a life for herself. Meanwhile, Annabel, whom the media had labeled the "dominant" member of the pair, on the assumption that the rich girl must have been pure evil while one could only expect the poor girl to have a broken moral compass, spent her years in juvenile detention in a hellhole. She emerges basically broken and hopeless.

    When a serial killer begins killing tourists in Amber's home town, Kirsty comes to cover the story. The two of them run into each other, recognize one another, and the secrets the two of them have kept hidden their entire lives immediately threaten to spill out, no matter how hard they try to avoid each other.

    The Wicked Girls has a nicely twisting plot and a range of secondary characters, each of them bringing up other issues, from Amber's emotionally manipulative boyfriend to Kirsty's struggles to support their family with her husband "excessed" out of a job in his mid-40s, the minimum wage workers at the amusement park that Amber has been put in charge of, the abused girl she takes in only to be betrayed, and of course, the media, which just like twenty-five years ago, seizes on lurid details and interviews with unreliable people to construct a narrative that will sell papers and generate moral outrage, whether or not it actually bears any resemblance to the truth.

    Watching two women whose lives were destroyed as children try to reconstruct an existence under the constant fear of discovery, even by their own families, and then see it all come unraveled once again, makes this book both a suspenseful psychological thriller and a tragedy even before the climax.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ark Royal

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Christopher G. Nuttall
    • Narrated By Ralph Lister
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1276)
    Performance
    (1183)
    Story
    (1188)

    Seventy years ago, the interstellar supercarrier Ark Royal was the pride of the Royal Navy. But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull. She floats in permanent orbit near Earth, a dumping ground for the officers and crew the Royal Navy wishes to keep out of the public eye. But when a deadly alien threat appears, the modern starships built by humanity are no match for the powerful alien weapons.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Riveting military sci-fi"
    "Battlestar Galactica in the British Royal Navy"
    Overall
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    Many reviews of this book refer to Battlestar Galactica, and it's pretty obvious why. A great big obsolete starship has been sitting around collecting the dregs of the fleet, with a washed out alcoholic captain, and then suddenly aliens attack and it turns out the Ark Royal is the only ship that can fight them. Christopher Nuttall obviously really loved BSG. He also seems to really love strategic space combat games and the British Royal Navy, and really hate reporters.

    There isn't much fleshed out in this future universe. All the countries of the early 21st century seem to be pretty much intact and similar in their relative power and politics in the future, even though they've all begun colonizing other planets. Humans have yet to encounter intelligent aliens. Then suddenly aliens attack a colony world and wipe it out. The alien ships are armed with plasma cannons, which the shields of all the newer starships cannot withstand, so a multinational defensive fleet is quickly wiped out.

    The admiralty decides to send the 70-year-old carrier Ark Royal on a crucial mission because they hope its heavy armor plating, built for a previous era of space warfare, will do better against the alien weapons. This despite the fact that they know the captain of the Ark Royal is a drunkard.

    Needless to say, the Ark Royal flies into glorious battle, there is much space combat, Captain Ted proves himself to be a great officer once he puts the bottle down, and also every single female officer about the Ark Royal is apparently sleeping around. (I don't think any woman had a scene without her breasts being described.)

    Ark Royal is reasonably entertaining candy for those who like military SF. Accept the premise that starships are just like naval craft, and the British Royal Navy once again rules the "waves," and it's fun to visualize ship counters moving across a hex map as the battles are described. (At times, I could almost hear dice rolling.)

    The writing is okay, though like a lot of self-published novels, the lack of polish is evident. Facts are repeated, heck, everything is repeated, and there are a lot of contradictory plot points. The worldbuilding is scant; just as much as is needed to put those ships counters on the map. Being a true SF fan, I don't just want starship combat, I want to know about the aliens, and by the end of this book, even though they have captured a few of them, they still know absolutely nothing about them or why they attacked.

    This was not a bad book, but it didn't stand out from the many similar series. If you like space combat, and the idea of an "old school" British navy fighting aliens, or anything Battlestar Galactica-themed, you'll probably like it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Red Seas Under Red Skies

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Scott Lynch
    • Narrated By Michael Page
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2433)
    Performance
    (1957)
    Story
    (1959)

    After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke Lamora and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can't rest for long - and they are soon back doing what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.

    Anthony says: "This is how you write a series!"
    "Thieves, Pirates, and Cats"
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    The Lies of Locke Lamora was a fun bit of thieving and rogueing in a crapsack fantasy world. Red Seas Under Red Skies is more of the same, plus pirates. I actually enjoyed it more than the first book, not necessarily because of the pirates.

    Locke Lamora is a thief, the sort of thief who makes people want to play the thief class in AD&D, and then find out that even if you reach 15th level you're still not going to be able to pull off epic fantasy novel stunts. Locke prides himself on being able to steal anything from anyone, and quite often Lynch will have him pull off audacious stunts offscreen, like waltzing into a nobleman's heavily-guarded mansion and stealing a prize piece of jewelry from around his mistress's neck while they are in bed together. But the plots that drive these books are capers — as is pointed out several times, if Locke and Jean just wanted to be rich, they could make off with a nice haul and retire whenever they like. But they always have to find a big, difficult, dangerous score, preferably one that involves pissing off powerful people. Then of course in the process of setting up a long game, they end up crossing even more powerful people, get screwed over every which way, and have to pull off a spectacular triple-plus-cross to get out of it.

    Following the events of book one, Locke Lamora, the Thorn of Camorr, and his bruiser best friend Jean, flee Camorr to lick their wounds. Locke goes into an alcoholic pity party while Jean starts building up a new gang of thieves in the small town they've wound up in, until in an effort to stir him from his depression, Jean provokes Locke into an overly audacious bit of thievery to demonstrate that he's still the most cunning bastard ever. This causes them to flee, and the whole subplot with Jean's little gang of teenage thieves is dropped, never to be mentioned again. I have noticed that Scott Lynch leaves lots of loose threads dangling, like the ancient race that left the Elderglass ruins, and the lost love that Locke has been moaning about for two books now. Either he's planning to wrap this all up spectacularly in a future volume, or he is just one of those authors who gets nifty ideas, doesn't know what to do with them, and forgets about them.

    Lynch's plotting is great, though — grant his main characters the sort of epic talents they are credited with, and their scheming is clever and entertaining enough to allow the reader to cross that bridge suspended over disbelief.

    Anyway — pirates. They don't really show up until about halfway in.

    Jean and Locke travel to Tal Verrar and spend two years preparing to steal from the Sinspire, a grand casino with successively higher levels one can only ascend with a combination of wealth, status, and game play. The Sinspire's vaults are, of course, supposedly unbreachable, and the Sinspire is run by yet another evil mastermind, so that's Locke and Jean's target. In the process of planning their con, however, they come to the attention of the Archon of Tal Verrar, who is a rival of the master of the Sinspire and a politician with a problem familiar to historical monarchs — he commands Tal Verrar's army and navy, but Tal Verrar's "priori," or ruling council, controls the purse strings. He needs a threat to materialize and convince the priori to loosen up their purses. Another pirate attack like that one seven or eight years ago would do nicely. Once he gets Locke and Jean in his power, he assigns them to... go recruit a bunch of pirates and attack Tal Verrar so the Archon can defeat the pirates and have a well-funded navy again. So Locke and Jean have to satisfy both the Archon and the master of Sinspire, convincing each that they are a double-agent for them working against the other. Meanwhile they've been poisoned, the bondsmagi they pissed off in the first book are after them, the Archon's right-hand woman is actually working for some unknown third power, and that's before Locke and Jean even get out to sea and meet the pirates they have to convince to attack Tal Verrar so they can all be hunted down and killed.

    Juggling so many knives, Lynch does a pretty good job of grounding them without cutting off too many fingers. The piracy was entertaining, as he introduces a single mother pirate captain and a pleasantly silly bit of seagoing tradition in this world in which ships must always sail with women officers and cats and women.

    The world remains an almost unrelentingly dark one — some of the characters, including Locke and Jean, show streaks of nobility, and Locke in particular seems to be planning some sort of grand strike against the wantonly cruel upper classes. That said, this is a grimdark fantasy world. Casual cruelty, creative atrocities, humiliation and oppression and torture as sport, not to mention everyone being reliably treacherous at all levels, is par for the course.

    Lynch follows other predictable cliches as well, like as soon as Jean and his new pirate honey exchanged "I love you"s, I knew she couldn't have been more dead if she already had a sword through her neck.

    Despite following a few standard fantasy tropes, this was rollicking good fun, one of those books that is most entertaining not for the swashbuckling or the fantasy bits, but for the impossible situations the author puts the characters in, so the reader is forced to turn pages to find out "How the hell are they going to get out of this one?"

    Definitely elevated my desire to read the next book in the series, though I hope Lynch is going to eventually incorporate some larger meta-plot into the story, rather than just continuing to spin yarns about ever-greater heists.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Lost Fleet: Dauntless

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Jack Campbell
    • Narrated By Christian Rummel, Jack Campbell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5192)
    Performance
    (3674)
    Story
    (3707)

    Captain John "Black Jack" Geary's legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic "last stand" in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survival hibernation and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.

    Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance's one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic "Black Jack" legend.

    Justin says: "Kinda boring, mostly tedious, and frustrating"
    "Good space opera for RTS gamers"
    Overall
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    Story

    The first book in a series set up to allow the author to keep churning out more books as long as they sell, the premise is a "long retreat" as Captain Geary leads his Alliance fleet away from a devastating defeat in the Syndic homeworlds.

    The ingredients are all standard military SF, with an untested commander having to deal with discipline problems, subordinates who don't trust him, and an implacable, two-dimensional enemy.

    The battles are described in great detail, and you can almost picture pieces moving across the screen as the narrator describes ship components, weapons options, and strategy and tactics.

    Worldbuilding and characterization is sparse, but for fans of space combat stories, this is a decent listen.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 1 min)
    • By Edgar Allan Poe
    • Narrated By Earl Hammond
    Overall
    (138)
    Performance
    (123)
    Story
    (121)

    A collection featuring three classic horror stories, read by actor Earl Hammond: "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Cask of Amontillado", and "The Black Cat".

    M.A. Wilson says: "Excellent Narrator Brought The Story To Life"
    "Perfect Halloween listening"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This collection has three tales: The Telltale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Black Cat.

    If you are unfamiliar with these classics, you should really read them. They are old-school horror, served chilled.

    They're all creepy as hell - Poe depicted narrators going completely mad better than just about anyone else, including florid ol' Lovecraft. This would be fine listening on a dark Halloween night.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Richard Wolfson
    Overall
    (439)
    Performance
    (389)
    Story
    (377)

    "It doesn't take an Einstein to understand modern physics," says Professor Wolfson at the outset of these 24 lectures on what may be the most important subjects in the universe: relativity and quantum physics. Both have reputations for complexity. But the basic ideas behind them are, in fact, simple and comprehensible by anyone. These dynamic and illuminating lectures begin with a brief overview of theories of physical reality starting with Aristotle and culminating in Newtonian or "classical" physics.

    Brady says: "I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would"
    "Great primer for hard SF fans and physics laymen"
    Overall
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    I was a little ambivalent about trying one of these "Great Courses" on audio, especially with references to diagrams and such, but the instructor promised at the beginning that you could follow along at home without needing the pictures, and he was right, though there are points at which it might benefit a listener to pause the the lecture long enough to look up the diagram if you are having trouble visualizing what he describes.

    This is a course on advanced physics for people who are not physics students. All that high-level stuff like General and Special Relativity, the three fundamental forces, quantum mechanics, why nothing can go faster than light, how time dilation works, what is really going on with black holes and whether "wormholes" really exist (answer: there is currently no actual evidence of them, we just know that the math supporting the possibility of their existence works) and a dozen other topics for any long-time science fiction reader.

    And that is why I downloaded this course, because I haven't had a physics class since high school, and I've had only a brief survey course on quantum mathematics, but I wanted to understand the physics behind relativistic travel and the formation of the universe and quantum theory and all that jazz well enough to feel educated when I read science fiction that tries to be "hard" (and even to have a better grounding for any SF I might write myself...).

    I would say this course works very well for that purpose. The professor promises that the math is minimal, so at several points he handwaves the formulas, saying "Trust me (but go look it up if you want to really understand it)" but assures us that the concepts he explains require no more than high school algebra, for the most part, and this was also true. So this is a very "math light" physics course for non-physicists, and thus for someone who is a veteran of hard SF there won't be much here in the way of new concepts - you have probably read Heinlein's Time for the Stars in which a pair of telepathic twins conduct the famous "twin experiment" with one twin staying on Earth getting old while the other twin sets off on a journey in a spaceship traveling at near-lightspeed. And you've read lots of stories about black holes and how they "slow time" as you approach the event horizon. (Go see Interstellar - it's a fantastic movie.) And you know that pure matter-energy conversion would be a billion times more efficient than nuclear fusion, if we could do it. And you've heard of Schroedinger's Cat and how supposedly we could use paired qubits to achieve faster-than-light communication (we can't). And gravity warps time and space, and light is a particle and a wave (and in fact so is all matter, really), and Einstein refused to believe God rolled dice with the universe.

    All that is covered here, and at the end of it, you'll understand it better, conceptually, but obviously this cannot replace an actual physics course and if you want to really, really understand it, you'd have to actually get deeper into the math. I now have a better understanding of what physics says about General and Special Relativity and black holes and time travel and quantum entanglement. Do I really, thoroughly understand it? You'll probably find several points Professor Wolfson covers need to sit with you awhile, and some stuff you'll really have to read more deeply to fully "get it." But you can get the gist adequately from this course.

    So, this course will not work as a substitute for taking an actual physics class. It probably won't even work very well as a primer. But if you're just a layman who already has some idea of the stuff you've been reading about in science fiction but you want to know more about it, you'll find this course quite valuable, and if you actually don't know any of this stuff, it will probably blow your mind.

    The lecturer builds up his topics very carefully, starting with what ancient astronomers and physicists knew, all the way back to Aristotle. There is a lot of physics history here, so you'll get your Copernicus and Galileo and Newton and Maxwell and Bohr and of course Einstein, and that part is also quite interesting, as there is just a little bit of biographical information about each person, but more importantly, what exactly they figured out and how and how it changed what was known up to that point in time.

    Overall, well worth the investment in listening to.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A Kiss Before Dying

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Ira Levin
    • Narrated By Mauro Hantman
    Overall
    (457)
    Performance
    (409)
    Story
    (412)

    Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing--not even murder--to get where he wants to go. For he has dreams; plans. He also has charm, good looks, sex appeal, intelligence. And he has a problem. Her name is Dorothy; she loves him, and she's pregnant. The solution may demand desperate measures.

    karen says: "Nothing like a classic....."
    "Pacey, suspenseful thriller"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If at first you don't succeed, get rid of the girl and move on to the next sister.

    A Kiss Before Dying is a taut little thriller about a sociopath who conceives an ingenuous plan to seduce the daughter of a wealthy copper baron. Except she goes and gets pregnant before his plan can come to fruition. Since Daddy is the moralistic disinheriting type, he figures a kid before they are properly married and he's had time to work his charms and soften the old man up will just ruin everything. When he can't persuade her to get rid of it, he's left with only one option - a well-planned murder in which he manages to make it look like a suicide, and then avoid any connection between him and the dead girl.

    Which allows him to move on to daughter #2.

    But daughter #2 proves a little too intuitive — she starts putting clues together and realizing her sister didn't commit suicide, and wants to find out who murdered her. She figures everything out just a little too late.

    And our boy, as long on audacity as he is short on scruples, decides third time's the charm: the rich industrialist had three daughters, and after all that research he did to seduce the first two, he knows the oldest sister pretty well...

    As improbable as this story may sound, I couldn't really spot any plot holes. Sure, our protagonist needed a bit of luck here and there, but nothing so overwhelmingly coincidental as to be completely implausible. He's just a meticulous, cold-blooded schemer with a knack for manipulation.

    A lot of people want books with "relocatable" protagonists. Well, the protagonist of this book is a murderous, gold-digging sociopath. You want him to trip up and get caught, and you want his victims to get away, and at the same time, the exciting part is finding out how he's going to get away with it.

    This book is dated now — it was written in 1954 and it's set in the early fifties, so the campus life described, and the so-visible class distinctions are not the same as now, but that just makes this suspenseful novel a period piece as well. In fact, some of the period details are what made it interesting. For example, there is surprisingly little moralizing about the proposed abortion — she doesn't want to do it, but it seems more for emotional reasons than any real ethical or religious qualms. And it struck me that in some ways, the "boy from the wrong side of the tracks" was a thing that would be even harder to envision today — nowadays, we like to pretend that American society is less class-stratified, but that's because the rich are increasingly distant and out of sight. Working class people just don't socialize, at all, with the very wealthy, which makes it easier for us to pretend that there is no such thing as class.

    Ira Levin also wrote other thrillers, like Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives, and with this pacey, suspenseful novel, it's easy to see how readily his stories became a part of pop culture. Definitely worth reading, and motivated me to read more by him someday.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Boule De Suif, The Necklace, and Other Stories: 382

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Guy De Maupassant
    • Narrated By John Pether
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (4)

    Guy De Maupassant is considered one of the fathers of the modern short story and one of the form's finest exponents. The story "Boule de Suif", written in 1880, is his masterpiece. A protege of Flaubert, Maupassant's stories are characterized by their economy of style and efficient, effortless dénouements. Many of the stories are set during the Franco-Prussian War of the 1870s and several describe the futility of war and the innocent civilians who, caught in the conflict, emerge changed. He authored some 300 short stories.

    David says: "Fantastic collection of Maupassant"
    "Fantastic collection of Maupassant"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you are considering a collection of Maupassant short stories on Audible, you should grab this one as Audible is practically giving it away, and it contains several of Maupassant's popular stories which are selling individually for several times the price of this collection!

    Since the description does not tell you which stories are included, I will list them below. There are thirteen:

    "The Moribund"
    "The Gamekeeper"
    "The Story of a Farm Girl"
    "The Wreck"
    "Theodule Sabot's Confession"
    "The Necklace"
    "The Wrong House"
    "The Marquis De Fumerol"
    "The Trip of Le Horla"
    "Farewell"
    "The Wolf"
    "The Inn"
    "Boule de Suif"

    The stories are all enjoyable and interesting, ranging from fireside tales about hunting and farming and jilted lovers and poor peasants and debauched soldiers, to a few, like The Inn, that take the form of a ghost story even if no actual supernatural apparitions appear.

    Definitely worth reading these, and I wouldn't hesitate to try some more Maupassant. John Pether's narration is clear and cultured and a perfect English tone for this translation of Maupassant's French.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Snow Queen

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 14 mins)
    • By Hans Christian Andersen
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan
    Overall
    (3562)
    Performance
    (3118)
    Story
    (3142)

    This classic tale is a fantastical fable of two dear friends - one of whom goes astray and is literally lost to the north woods, while the other undertakes an epic journey to rescue him. This charming, strange, and wonderful story is a timeless allegory about growing up and the challenges of staying true to one's self, and it served as the wintry inspiration for the blockbuster hit Frozen.

    Sara says: "Strange & Fascinating"
    "Charming children's fable"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This Audible freebie is a nice way to hear the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. It's not a particularly thrilling fable - boys meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back - though really, it's the girl who does the getting.

    The story starts with an evil hobgoblin (also referred to as a demon) who goes to magic school (why did Rowling not find a way to hook this into her mythology?) and creates a magic mirror which shows "reality" in the harshest, ugliest way possible. It is shattered into a million pieces, and spread around the world, where it becomes smaller mirrors, spectacles, or tiny specks of glass getting caught in peoples' eyes, creating mischief and cold-hearted misunderstanding.

    One such shard gets in the eye of a little boy named Kai, who then spurns his childhood sweetheart, Gerda. One day he goes wandering in the woods and is picked up by the Snow Queen. Gerda, convinced that he is not dead, goes on a quest to find him.

    There are talking flowers, talking crows, and a not-really-evil witch, and of course, the Snow Queen herself.

    A cute story with perhaps a few too many elements thrown in for the fantasy-minded modern reader, but it would certainly entertain children. Anderson does wrap this tale up with a rather saccharine Christian moral, but it's a story to please those in search of adventuresome girls and magical talking animals.

    Now maybe I should go see Frozen.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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