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Howard

Concord, MA, United States | Member Since 2011

95
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 29 reviews
  • 43 ratings
  • 554 titles in library
  • 23 purchased in 2015
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39

  • A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (49 hrs)
    • By George R. R. Martin
    • Narrated By Roy Dotrice
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (16304)
    Performance
    (14258)
    Story
    (14307)

    Dubbed the American Tolkien by Time magazine, George R. R. Martin has earned international acclaim for his monumental cycle of epic fantasy. Now the number-one New York Times best-selling author delivers the fifth book in his spellbinding landmark series - as both familiar faces and surprising new forces vie for a foothold in a fragmented empire.

    Dianne Houston says: "OH NO ROY!!!! NOT DENARIS!!!!!!!"
    "Should be entitled "Dances with Snails""
    Overall

    If it were any other writer I would rate this book four stars...but I have higher expectations of Mr. Martin. The writing is vintage Martini- perfect pitch- sparse but beautiful- sometimes his prose is poetry. BUT...the plot moves (at least I think it moved) at the pace of a wounded snail- NOTHING happens- no resolution to anything. The book reminids me of the cul de sac that Robert Jordan got himself into in Volumes 8 and 9 of the Wheel of Time Series...worthless. Mr. Martin needs an editor- at least one who will let him know when he has so many characters stuck in place doing nothing but wandering, withdrawing and dithering. I expect more from Mr. Marting. Perhaps he should draft Brandon Sanderson to finish the last two books of this series. Mr Sanderson has delivered two volumes of the WOT in the last two years- beautifully written (as close as possible to Jordan) but much more fast paced. Seriously- it took Mr. Martin five years to write this morass of confused plot lines.

    Okay enough ranting- I feel the way I did as I slogged through the middle of Robert Jordans WOT series- I was to invested to turn back. Please- will someone please tap Jordan on the shoulder and tell him that plot lines should MOVE occasionally! What a disappointment. The first three books in this series were spectacular - better than Tolkien- the fourth slipped a little- and now this?

    31 of 32 people found this review helpful
  • The Dog Stars

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Peter Heller
    • Narrated By Mark Deakins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1450)
    Performance
    (1278)
    Story
    (1279)

    Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists beyond the airport.

    Mike Naka says: "beautifully written and narrated!"
    "A lovely & cruel story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    and worth reading even if you are not a fan of typical dystopian fiction. It is really a love story- well about how human love can survive in the cruel conditions. Even though the plot centers around the struggle for survival in a world gone to pot- the struggle of the characters to retain some humanity is what makes this work.

    There is a plot twist at the end- but it is about redemption and the surprising and unexpected resiliency of human kindness in the face of a world that requires cruelty to survive.

    A compelling world has been created and populated, however sparsely, with three dimensional characters. Well narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • No Easy Hope: Surviving the Dead, Volume 1

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By James N. Cook
    • Narrated By Guy Williams
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (636)
    Performance
    (596)
    Story
    (596)

    Eric Riordan was once a wealthy man leading a comfortable, easy life. Until one day Gabriel, his oldest friend, Marine Corps veteran, and a former mercenary, told him how the world was going to end. He did his best to prepare. He thought he was ready for anything. He was wrong. As the dead rise up to devour the living, one man finds himself struggling to survive in the ruins of a shattered world. Alone, isolated, and facing starvation, his only chance is to flee to the Appalachians and join forces with Gabriel.

    Amanda says: "Not bad, Not unique, but well written!"
    "Not easy to keep going"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    T

    I am not a writer- so I give credit to cook for having the stamina to churn this series out. But the story telling is uneven- okay I am being kind- that is like saying the Grand Canyon is uneven but- if you are a gun nut you will love it- but for me after the 20th description of the protagonist's armament (guns guns guns grenades grenade grenades zombies zombies zombies) it starts to wear... I mean water faucet dripping at 2 in the morning kind of wear.

    As for the set up and plot: There are WAY to many coinkydinks in this book. Look most good books have a few things in them that we KNOW cannot happen (okay Zombie books start with a silly premise that can never happen- as an example). But when we layer on these coincidences it makes suspension of disbelief (a key ingredient for a good work of fiction) very hard. Like this guy happens to befriend a Special Forces guy, who not only provides him with guns and survivalist training but also HAPPENS to be in on the "secret work" that will release the Zombie virus.
    And the protagonist happens to have a kabillion dollars he inherited from a dead grandmother so he can build a survival compound in the mountains... well you get the picture- just to unbelievable. It has the non salutary affect of making you care less about any of the characters since it is obvious that they are not real. And I mean other than being hungry, scared and wanting sex (and occasionally being really really exhausted) they have no human emotions. Maybe the book is about the fact that in this world everyone is a zombie even those unaffected.

    Having said that I made it through the first book, somewhat satisfied- sort of like when you eat and entire plate of chocolate brownies- they taste good, but are not really satisfying and after awhile you start to fill sick. Like a dummy, who cannot stop, I bought the second book in the series but half way through I said "why am I doing this to myself" and proceeded to delete the book.

    And just to pile on- one card board character after another- all of them are simply pawns, queens and rooks on a chessboard for some purpose- perhaps to just write about guys shooting guns to kill zombies. That pretty much is the plot- oh I forgot the main plot twist- the he- men with guns get to rescue helpless but sexy and beautiful women from killer zombies.

    Two stars for the author knowing his way around the gun shop.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Girl with All the Gifts

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By M. R. Carey
    • Narrated By Finty Williams
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4209)
    Performance
    (3781)
    Story
    (3780)

    Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius". Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

    Amazon Customer says: "Spoiler-free review below - Amazing book!"
    "I did not want it to END!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you are looking for a true Killer Zombie novel this is not for you. And if you despise Killer Zombie Novels but love a great read, compelling characters and a hell of a good plot then buy this now.

    One of the reasons I like this book is the author does not make the mistake of explaining thing. Little by little, learning along with Melanie, we begin to understand the how and then finally the why of this world.

    Well written- it is really a love story between a little girl who idolizes her teacher- a 8 year old with a crush on her wonderful and kind third grade teacher. I will not give away the plot but will only say that the world shifts for everyone as the story progresses

    I must say that Melanie is the most compelling protagonist since I encountered Jorge in the Prince of Thorns series by Mark Lawrence. Completely different than Jorge- Melanie, with her kindness and sweetness stands in contrast to the post apocalyptic world and its inevitable cruelty. The plot twist and end caught this long time reader off guard. Usually about 75% of the way through the book I can figure things out- not this time. And that is another thing this book has in common with Mark Lawrence's Opus Magnus the Prince of Thorns series- the end of the book is surprising and compelling

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Girl on the Train: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Paula Hawkins
    • Narrated By Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (23596)
    Performance
    (19610)
    Story
    (19595)

    Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. "Jess and Jason," she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

    L. O. Pardue says: ""Rear Window" Meets "Gone Girl""
    "Enthralling"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    is just one of the words I could use to describe this book. Compelling would be another as in this book has a number of compellingly developed characters with the narration of each character performed splendidly by the trio of narrators.

    More than a great murder mystery (although it is a great one with clues that in retrospect slap you in the face) or a superb suspense thriller (and that it is) the book explores how, as humans, we tend to see what we want to see and how, as we work our way through the problems of our own day to day lives, we tend to think that everyone else "has it better".

    We developed characters, a well paced story line and the use of the three first person perspectives make this book superb. Well done Ms. Hawkins- please write some more!!!

    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
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2756)
    Performance
    (2561)
    Story
    (2567)

    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!"
    "Another Masterpiece from Anthony Ryan. One"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    of th"e best pieces of fiction, never mind Fantasy, I have read. It may be difficult to believe but The Tower Lord" is an improvement over the superbly written first volume "Blood Song."

    Told in the third person using multi- view points (differing from Blood Song which is primarily told from Vaelin's view point) the book expands the characters (some briefly met) in "Blood Song": Frentis, and Princess Lyrna. We are also introduced to Reva: a seeming secondary character who mushrooms into one of the central figures of this volume. The role of the Blood Song, one of the dark gifts, barely explored in the volume baring its name is expanded on. Dark Gifts such as the Blood Song require sacrifice, and Vaelin's pledge to forego killing and war is one such sacrifice.

    Ryan continues to explore the role of religion in society- its role in conflict and providing a rallying symbol and a symbol of hope amongst people enduring hardship. Given the central role of religion in "real life" today it is refreshing to see it embedded so deeply in a fantasy novel and without condescension.

    The book flows in a flawless fashion from one view (and story line) to another- from one crisis point to another. I was so enthralled I can say that I shed an additional three to four pounds whilst listening to the story- as I could not bear to end my workout on the treadmill mid story and found myself staying on the treadmill for an additional 5-10 minutes to hear what would happen next.

    Thank you Anthony Ryan- this cannot possible be your first multivolume work. It is a true masterpiece that any fan of fantasy should listen to or read.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter than You Think

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods
    • Narrated By Fred Sanders
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (102)
    Performance
    (89)
    Story
    (90)

    Brian Hare, dog researcher, evolutionary anthropologist, and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, and Vanessa Woods offer revolutionary new insights into dog intelligence and the interior lives of our smartest pets. In the past decade, we have learned more about how dogs think than in the last century. Breakthroughs in cognitive science, pioneered by Brian Hare, have proven dogs have a kind of genius for getting along with people that is unique in the animal kingdom.

    N. Rogers says: "Wonderful Overview of the Latest Research on Dogs"
    "Misleading title- My guess is that the Published"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    knew a title such as "Evolutionary Anthropology" would probably NOT sell as well as a title like the "Genius of Dogs".
    Let me be clear - it is a solid book- really focused on the theory that "Self" domestication accounts for the biological and behavioral traits seen in Chimps, Bonobos, Wolves, Dogs and Humans and is well told- weaving these theories and experiments around stories from the author's child hood and his "on the ground" experiences and experiments with various animals.
    Although "cognition" and his dog "Oreo" play a central part in this book- it is decidedly NOT a book about the Genius of Dogs. I probably would have given it a four or five had it been appropriately titled- but had it been appropriately titled I would not have purchased it- so the published was correct.

    If you are looking for a book on the evolutionary impact of aggression or non aggression on certain species and some interesting theories (one of which is that human evolution and survival was dependent on dogs- not the other way around) then buy this.
    But if you are looking for a book focused tightly on dogs and how they think and their behavior- go else where.

    Having said that I am not going to ask for my money back- I enjoyed the book and learned much from it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Red Rising

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Pierce Brown
    • Narrated By Tim Gerard Reynolds
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3169)
    Performance
    (2887)
    Story
    (2896)

    Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet.

    Charles says: "It Got Better and Left Me Wanting More."
    "Rip Roaring Good Tale"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Starts off a bit slow but gains momentum. Darrow the protagonist starts life as a Red- the proles of Human Race set some 7 centuries after Mars has been colonized. This book is a mixture of 1984 meets Lord of the Flies- some thoughts of Hunger Game as I read it = but far deeper and more "adult" than the Hunger games (which frankly I found to be an angst ridden teenybopper book disguised as dystopian fiction).
    Red Rising is much more than that- but I believe can be read on many different levels- plain old action thriller, Sci-Fi- Dystopian, or a commentary of the evil inherent in man's nature and the struggle against such.
    An intricate social world constructed in the future the author does not get entangled in the "must explain the tech" jargon that destroys so many stories set in the future.
    Darrow takes his place with the protagonist of 1984, Jalon of the "Prince of Thorns Series" and even Frodo Baggins of the LOTR.
    It is difficult to believe that this author is but 23 years old and this is his first novel. But it is apparently- and a block buster in the best sense. More violent and graphic than Lord of the Flies be warned that the are off stage rape scenes and gory fights described- but all with a purpose.
    A must read or listen!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Prince of Fools: The Red Queen's War, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Mark Lawrence
    • Narrated By Tim Gerard Reynolds
    Overall
    (307)
    Performance
    (283)
    Story
    (283)

    The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister - unseen by most and unspoken of by all. The Red Queen's grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth - drinker, gambler, seducer of women - is one who can see The Silent Sister.

    Ron says: "M. Lawrence does it again, but differently."
    "Warning! Warning! There is only ONE Jorg Ancraft."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    So now that we have established that Jorg Ancraft is gone for good... except for a very funny scene where we glimpse him and his BROTHERS briefly (Red Kent appearance is especially funny).

    Prince of Fools is as far removed (excepting for the World) from Thorns as day is from night. And that is a good thing. Trying to redo Jorg in a new character (one of my all time favorites) would be like Tolkien trying to redo Frodo.

    Jalan is everything Jorg is not. Jalan is a coward, and a self aware coward. He is a play boy and admittedly loves it. He is maneuvered (I assume it was on purpose but who knows the ways of the Blind Sister) into a quest with his counterpart Snorri- a giant of a Viking who is everything Jalon is not. The book is riveting but in differing ways than the Thorns Series was. The real question is "how in the hell will a wimp like Jalon survive the quest" and a related "How can a coward like Jalon not be offed by a man like Snori?"

    Everything else, in my view, serves these two questions. And the answers That Lawrence gives are funny, interesting and wild. When I say funny, the author has accomplished something that no one else has done. Making me LAUGH ALOUD whilst listening. Imagine being on an elliptical workout machine next to guy working out and sweating, listening to his iPhone (thanks audible!) and then having that guy burst out into laughter. That would be me laughing at Jalon saying to the dwarf in the circus who says to Jalon (referring to Snori) "No need to apply we already have a strong man. And Jalon quips "There you go hurting Sally's feelings- she is a bearded man- got one of those/"

    THis happened at least three times whilst listening- about the same number of laughs per book in the Thorns series.

    Bravo Mark. Well done.

    Narration is especially good. Plotting outstanding- alas it has to stand in contrast to Thorns (poor Mark for having his first series do DAMNED GOOD) so it suffers only in comparison to Thorns. Which is like saying Lincoln suffers in comparison to Washington to my Yank friends!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Martian

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Andy Weir
    • Narrated By R. C. Bray
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (24268)
    Performance
    (22282)
    Story
    (22291)

    Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Macgyver on Mars"
    "If you like space shots & follow the Mars Rovers"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    & NASA this is cream in your coffee. The Martian Adventure is an epic nerd story that literally opens with a bang. Chock full of engineering calculations it manages not to become to serious and plodding because the a well rounded,funny, wise cracking, engineer/botanist Mark Whatney. Overlooking the plot ploy that Whatney is both botanist and Mr fix-it for the mission - this is one plausible and incredible tale- even though it is laced with enough engineering jargon to give me flashbacks to my college thermodynamics courses!
    Whatney's drive and spunk combined with his "never say die" (literally) attitude when confronted with one challenge after another thrown at him by Mars, by his own mistakes and by random equipment failure make this a real treat. Through him we learn how one could grow food on Mars (again a plot device has the crew bring fresh potatoes on board), how equipment (all of it available now I think) can be twisted and used in ways no one imagine to survive in an environment harsher that Antartica at it's coldest.

    The book never gets to Nerdy, nor does it soar to high (about the possibilities of Space and Mankind) rather it is told from the perspective of a workaday brilliant engineer/botanist from Nasa with an incredible dry sense of humor.

    This book is certainly aimed at showing what is possible (a manned mission to Mars using pre-positioned fuel making equipment)- but manages to be loads of fun in the reading.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (48 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Brandon Sanderson
    • Narrated By Michael Kramer, Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11072)
    Performance
    (10354)
    Story
    (10381)

    In that first volume, we were introduced to the remarkable world of Roshar, a world both alien and magical, where gigantic hurricane-like storms scour the surface every few days and life has adapted accordingly. Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war.

    D says: "Book !!; no let down- "Words of Radieance" shines"
    "Wow! Sanderson delivers..."
    Overall
    Performance
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    In his second MASSIVE installment of the Storm Light Archive Sanderson delivers and even tops the first book in the series. It is, I must say, a bit strange to hear my old friends Michael Kramer and Kate Reading portraying male and female characters (respectively) just like in the old days when I listened to the WOT Series by Jordan on CD pre-audible.

    Sanderson was determined from the first to deliver a fantasy world completely unique and different from any other multi-series fantasy. It is easy to see Jordan's influence on Sanderson- his wide sweep, huge and long existing world (with glimpses and partial explanations - sometime NO explanation of long past events and myths- this is a compliment). This is HIGH fantasy all the way around- if you are a Martin addict or can only read the dark low fantasy Black Company series or something like the Prince of Thorns Series then this is not for you.

    StormLight Archives, despite is unique setting (and I mean unique SF "other worldly" like setting) is a the son of Wheel of Time and a grandson of LOTR. Told from a multi character perspective- SLA incorporates long flowing narratives offset with rapid and well paced action scenes reinforce. Be forewarned that "Good is Good" ala Tolkien/Jordan- if a good character is doing something bad it is because a) we don't understand then or b) they made a mistake from which they will repent. Hardly any shades of gray- you are either one of Kalladan's stalworts that ends up worshipping him- or you are a scum evil doer. I exaggerate to some degree- but this is so in the main.
    To be clear : I am not complaining- a good vs evil, black vs. white story is just the thing occasionally and the SLA is that simply that. Take it or leave it.

    The plot revolves around four main characters- and I like all four of them- they are great. Jordan excels in plotting mysteries- and setting clues- the chapter heads were leading me around in circles but at the end they all circle home- along with the many plot lines for one of the best climaxes in fantasy. The ending is superb-and outdoes the great one in the previous book. I must say the scenes and story lines with Kalladan fighting his way back without Storm Light were some of the best written by any fantasy reader anywhere. I listen to these books whilst working our and running- and there were a few times I just kept going at my work out long past quitting time so a scene would resolve itself.

    Note I did have to go back and listen to book one- which was a pleasure after three years absence. My guess is trying Words without a warmup from Book 1 would not be a good idea. Three years is simply to long. The set up for book three is there- and the characters are well done and crafted.

    Despite his debt to Jordan Sanderson does not meander aimlessly- well at least not for long. Occasional cul de sacs do occur-but they are enjoyable.

    A great series and a great start! One can only hope that he does not suffer from George Martin Syndrome (no sign of it in any of his books so far) whereby he just starts writing aimless pages of rubbish for some reason- and we can only hope that Sanderson does not start wandering aimlessly for books and books like Jordan did in books 7.5-10 in the WOT series whereby he hopelessly lost the mojo of the original 6 books.

    I can only hope now that he has the final WOT completed that Sanderson will start releasing a book every 12 -18 months. PLEASE!

    But at this point- this is the WOT of the 21st Century...even better perhaps. Well done Mr Sanderson.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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