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Robert

Masters in Fiction from Johns Hopkins, aspiring science fiction/humor writer. Give me the unexpected with a bit of grit and humor, please.

York, PA, United States | Member Since 2009

17
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 7 reviews
  • 52 ratings
  • 204 titles in library
  • 15 purchased in 2014
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  • River of Stars

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Guy Gavriel Kay
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (159)
    Performance
    (146)
    Story
    (144)

    In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international best-selling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world - a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

    David H. Diamond says: "Masterpiece"
    "Familiarity does not breed contempt."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about River of Stars?

    Kay is one of those writers who is extremely deliberate. Call it meta-writing, but there is so much more to his novels than what is on the page. When he repeats himself, it's not because he's run out of words nor because he's not paying attention, it's for a purpose, whether one realizes it while reading or not.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of River of Stars?

    Every victory of a main character is unexpected, although not because of surprise, but rather that the reader knows that Kay has no problem keeping his characters from "winning." At least, not storybook success, anyway. Oft times it is a spiritual or historical success, not what one would find from a typical narrative. Most fantasy stories are comedies, either ending with a return to the green world or a wedding. Kay does tragedy the way tragedy should be done, wherein it is only when one thinks back upon the original goals of the characters does one realize that they have failed. Failed is the wrong word. Descended? Found a different goal amidst adversity? Anywho, Kay's tragedies are more Shakespearean than sad, and more immersive than escapist. You can get lost in his writing, but not so much in the world he has created but instead within the hearts and minds of his characters. It's not all touchy-feely, though, and there's plenty of blood and guts to remind the reader of the fragility of the human body as well as the timelessness of the human soul.


    Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Yes. Comparable.


    If you could take any character from River of Stars out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    The Fox Woman, for obvious reasons.


    Any additional comments?

    Kay does royal court politics like nobody else. If there's one thing that's hard to believe, it's the idea that one extremely-intelligent character could be oblivious to the machinations of another extremely-intelligent character. Hard, but not impossible. Kay does a great job of explaining motivation from both the characters' point-of-view as well as from that of outside observers.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • 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
    (1516)
    Performance
    (1350)
    Story
    (1359)

    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"
    "I tried. I really tried."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    I returned the book.

    It is so . . . ignorable? I found myself rewinding most passages several times, but the passages were just too mundane despite the subject matter. The characters are easily forgettable and interchangeable (except for Cropper, who is much like Falstaff, a character borrowed from Shakespeare). There are LOTS of characters and lots of names. But, unlike other authors who make each one memorable, most times the name and profession is all we’re given.

    It's like the author is TELLING a story, (SIMPLY telling) and not taking the reader along on the journey. The reader never has a sense of place, never quite knows where he is are or how he got there Things happen, but it's hard to care about the events when the reader has no frame of reference.

    Part of the Hero's Journey is establishing what is at stake and the motivations for the characters. I'm all the way through part one and I still have no idea. People fighting for the sake of fighting. That's it. This book is like reading an instruction manual, with lists of dry details. It reads like part II of a series where the reader is already familiar with the background of the characters so the author has no reason to show depth.

    Here's an example:
    I still don't know what Moonspawn, the floating fortress, looks like. Is it round like an actual moon? Is it a floating hill or a construct of brick? I don't know where I missed it, but looking for a particular description, if one even exists, within an audio book is all-but impossible. I'm leaning toward the assumption that Erikson mentions it in passing long before it had any relevance to the story, as with most of this book. I think it's too much to ask that I memorize irrelevant details in hopes that they may become important later. How am I to tell what’s important and what isn’t?

    Another example:
    In my re-reading while looking for what the heck Moonspawn is, a character mentions, "A sapper named Fiddler took me down" (into the tunnels). Fiddler is a character that is described in some detail MUCH later in part I. How is a reader supposed to reference one un-memorable line, seven chapters ago? In re-reading, I have a frame of reference because now I know who fiddler is, what he looks like, etc. This happened again and again and again with many details. It's like Erikson is writing backward.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Wise Man's Fear: Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2

    • UNABRIDGED (42 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Patrick Rothfuss
    • Narrated By Nick Podehl
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10794)
    Performance
    (9049)
    Story
    (9134)

    "My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep...."

    Joe says: "Excellent, Imaginative, Beautiful, Page Turning!!!"
    "Ignore my first review"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up The Wise Man's Fear in three words, what would they be?

    Keep on listening. The first book starts out so incredibly slowly, it forced me to write a bad review. It gets SOOO much better.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The character has victories and setbacks which get you emotionally invested in him.


    Any additional comments?

    I wrote a really crappy review for the first book, and Audible will not let me go back and edit it. The best I can do is to say to the listener that the first book is worth sticking it out and this book makes you yearn for a third. Sorry, Mr. Rothfuss. I'll finish a book before I review it from now on. Meanwhile GIVE US #3!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Shadow Chaser: Chronicles of Siala, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Alexey Pehov
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (171)
    Performance
    (138)
    Story
    (138)

    Saddened because they have left one of their number in a grave in the wilderness, Harold and his band of outcasts continue their journey toward the dreaded underground palace of Hrad Spein. But before they can reach their goal, they must overcome all manner of obstacles, fight many battles...and evade the frightful enemies on their trail.Once they have breached Hrad Spein, a task entire armies of warriors and wizards have failed to achieve, Harold must venture, alone, into the secret heart of the most dangerous place in his world.

    David says: "Way more entertaining than it has any right to be"
    "Belaboring sarcasm."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What would have made Shadow Chaser better?

    Leave something to the imagination. Everything is explained, then really explained, then revisited with an explanation. We got it. Move on.


    Has Shadow Chaser turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Bickering. The characters get into squabbles, where one character is just the straight-man, saying things like, "what do you mean?" when one knows perfectly well what the character meant, just as a set-up for the next (too long) line of dialogue.

    No one speaks without the reader being told how he said it. IE: morosely, hurtfully, with a nod, arrogantly, discontentedly, etc etc etc

    Arguments among the characters happen despite whatever else might be going on, as if the author enjoys the banter more than the plot. It wouldn't be so bad if it was entertaining. It's not.

    Too much sarcasm without art. For example, a spell that is fired at the heroes and blows up a tree is explained (to the reader) as "something unpleasant." Groan.


    What aspect of MacLeod Andrews’s performance would you have changed?

    Sometimes, it's like he's a 14-year-old girl reading with as much venom as he can, and it's very overdone. The man has a talent for voices, but not inflection.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    I remember enjoying the first book, but I seriously remember it as spooky and exciting. This was a bunch of guys bickering like 9th graders in homeroom punctuated by action scenes that had no emotional investment. There is a really great scene where the hero sneaks through a prison, which had much of the flavor of the first book, then we're back to the fake-sounding dialogue.


    Any additional comments?

    Pehov does a great job of walking the reader through a solo adventure, but the adding of the other characters just makes the book boring, wordy, and slow. Every moment is stretched and everything is debated. I've only made it through the first half, and the last hour was spent on 2X speed to get through it. This is the first time I've ever done that. I dread getting through the second half, and I really hope it's more of what Pehov does well rather than the dialogue he does very, very poorly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Name of the Wind: Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Patrick Rothfuss
    • Narrated By Nick Podehl
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12933)
    Performance
    (10540)
    Story
    (10661)

    This is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man's search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

    Joanna says: "Wow!"
    "Yawn."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm 14 chapters in and there has been no character development, the POV keeps shifting, every five minutes something "seems" to be a certain way (weak writing), and no character "says" anything, they say it with an adverb (enthusiastically, quietly, etc). The reader pauses for no reason. At one point, a character speaks to another character, and then the narrator says "he said TO HIMSELF." How is that even possible? My pet peave: explaining what a character looks like 13 chapters after introducing him!!! We, as readers, get pictures in our minds. After watching a character for several chapters, I don't want to suddenly know he's tall, dark haired, and has strange-colored eyes!!!

    The main character is reciting his story, but the language is that of a child when he is a child, which I have a hard time reconciling. Is the main character acting like a child while he recites? Or, more probable, the author wrote the tale without any thought as to how the source was relating it.

    The action is slow. I've left the room and come back to realize I didn't miss a thing. The author explains things that need no explanation, really spoon-feeds his readers. The story is completely un-noteworthy. He has his gems along the way, but I guess this is bound to happen when you spend hundreds of pages saying very little.

    The world is non-descript and written in a very modern-day manner. (The author uses the term "debunk," a term coined in the US in 1923)

    Essentially, if you're a fantasy snob like me, and enjoy such stuff as Joe Abercrombe, Scott Lynch, George RR Martin, and Guy Gavriel Kay, then this is kid's stuff.

    I wish I had my credit back, I'm bored.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Windup Girl

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Paolo Bacigalupi
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3563)
    Performance
    (1949)
    Story
    (1959)

    Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman.

    Marius says: "Al Gore nightmare meets Blade Runner."
    "How to speak Asian"
    Overall

    Paolo has created a very imaginative world, but it's one with very little explanation. You're tossed into the middle of it, and there are many references you are unfamiliar with. After a few hours, you begin to understand the terminology through force of repetition. Having said that, once you know what's going on THEN he comes back in part II to explain it to you. Thanks, Paolo, but too late. Furthermore, I now know how to pronounce several Asian words, though whether they are Tai, Chinese, or Japanese I have no idea. I also have only an inkling of what they mean. This book needs a glossary for both the science terms and the Asian words. He repeats himself often, so often that you're in the middle of part II before you really feel like anything has happened at all. Still, the characters are deep and the world, though depressing, is extremely fleshed out. It's a good escape, if you like going to a world where you feel a bit lost.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Time Machine

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By H. G. Wells
    • Narrated By Drew Birdseye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (19)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (7)

    The Time Machine is a novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895 and later adapted into feature films of the same name, as well as television versions, and a large number of comic book adaptations. This story is generally credited with the popularization of the concept of time travel using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively.

    Joel D Offenberg says: "A good treatment of a classic"
    "If you don't mind hitting the pause button . . ."
    Overall

    The story, itself, is classic. The reader, however, must have been paid by the job for the way he races through the narrative.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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