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Michael

I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

Walnut Creek, CA, United States | Member Since 2002

2776
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 382 reviews
  • 1372 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 49 purchased in 2014
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  • Not Quite Dead Enough

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (89)
    Performance
    (53)
    Story
    (49)

    World War II has arrived, and U.S. Army intelligence wants Nero Wolfe urgently. But the arrogant, gourmandizing, sedentary sleuth refuses the call to duty. It takes his perambulatory, confidential assistant, Archie Goodwin, to titillate Wolfe's taste for crime with two malevolent morsels: a corpse that won't rest in peace and a sinister "accident" involving national security. So as Goodwin lays the bait on the wrong side of the law, Wolfe sets the traps to catch a pair of wily killers.

    Michael says: "Odd and Just OK, but a Must Read for Wolfe Buffs"
    "Odd and Just OK, but a Must Read for Wolfe Buffs"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is really two novella, Not Quite Dead Enough and Booby Trap. Both are set during WWII and Archie is a Major in the US Army. These stories both have unique twists making them a must read for any follower of Archie and Nero. These are both quite unusual Nero Wolfe stories. The stories themselves are not the best, but the odd character situation and events make these stories very well worth reading. They should not be among the first read. The narration is excellent as usual.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Pedro G. Ferreira
    • Narrated By Sean Runnette
    Overall
    (24)
    Performance
    (23)
    Story
    (23)

    Physicists have been exploring, debating, and questioning the general theory of relativity ever since Albert Einstein first presented itin 1915. Their work has uncovered a number of the universe's more surprising secrets, and many believe further wonders remain hidden within the theory's tangle of equations, waiting to be exposed. In this sweeping narrative of science and culture, astrophysicist Pedro Ferreira brings general relativity to life through the story of the brilliant physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers who have taken up its challenge.

    Michael says: "A Love Letter to General Relativity"
    "A Love Letter to General Relativity"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is quite an unusual science book, quaint and pleasant. The author’s love of relativity clearly comes through in the rich writing and narration. The book contains yet another history of modern physics, but is unusual in having General Relativity as the focal point of the historical developments. This is unusual because General Relativity wasn’t actually such a focal point, quantum physics and particle physics were at center stage and General Relativity was a side-player at best. Yet, this odd viewpoint is still enjoyable and interesting. This is also one of the least equation burdened book in this genre.

    Unfortunately, General Relativity is not really a perfect theory. We know the theory must be wrong. The theory is non-quantum and stubbornly refuses to quantize. The book was not very thought provoking, as it praised General Relativity instead of delving into its weaknesses. Certainly it is exploring the weaknesses and assumptions of Relativity that will lead to unification.

    Often books with lots of science and math don’t do well in audible format. This book is not about the science or math of the theory, but instead describes the personalities and stories surrounding General Relativity. This works very well in audible format and the narration is excellent, slow, clear and even passionate.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Jordan Ellenberg
    • Narrated By Jordan Ellenberg
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia's views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can't figure out about you, and the existence of God.

    Bonny says: "Mathematics is the extension of common sense..."
    "Great book but better in writing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The title of this book is somewhat misleading (which the author admits). Instead it should have been "how to use math to not feel stupid when you are wrong". The author freely admits the dark truth, most people are not going to use the math they learn. Amazingly this is true even of scientists. Most of the math stuff I learned I don't need, as now I use Excel and Mathematica. Yet this book explains the part of math I do use, and many people don't realize is the important part of math, that is, to extend common sense by other means. This book includes primers of the very basics of calculus and statistics that everyone should know. The stories are humorous, interesting, and make the point that a little math can really help make good decisions.

    Unfortunately, there are some parts of this book that don't translate well to audio. A table of numbers can be compared at a glance, but a bunch of spoken numbers are not easy to compare. If you wonder what good is learning math, this is a great book, but I would recommend the written version. The author's narration is quite good, with a very positive attitude that comes through.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • And Four to Go

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (115)
    Performance
    (64)
    Story
    (61)

    Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin star in these four gems. In "The Christmas Party", Wolfe condescends to uncharacteristic theatrics, which aren't enough to clear him from suspicion of murder. The "Easter Parade" tempts Wolfe to commit larceny for an orchid. "A Fourth of July Picnic" has Wolfe scheduled for to appear as an orator. But his day in the sun is rained out by murder. The last selection, "Murder Is No Joke", is a whodunit in a couturier's salon, where a murderer is dressed to kill and kill again.

    Michael says: "Two of the Best Wolfe Shorts and Two Ok"
    "Two of the Best Wolfe Shorts and Two Ok"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book contains four Nero Wolfe short stories; Christmas Party, Easter Parade, Fourth of July Picnic, and Murder Is No Joke (later expanded into the novel Frame-Up for Murder). Although I love short stories in general, I have not enjoyed the Nero Wolfe short stories as much as the novels. I really like the way Stout develops the story and characters in his novels, while his short stories often are missing something for me and generally seem rushed. Two of these four shorts were pleasurable exceptions. I really liked Christmas Party and Easter Parade. Both of these two stories had limited twists, but what they had were quite good. The other two were not bad. The narration was first-rate at usual.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Curtains for Three

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (115)
    Performance
    (71)
    Story
    (71)

    In these three baffling mysteries of motive and murder, even the great Nero Wolfe finds himself stumped. First there is the case of the two passionate lovebirds who want to make sure that neither is a cold-blooded killer. Then it's off to the races, where Wolfe must choose from a stable of five likely suspects to corral a killer on horseback. And finally the detective finds himself the confidant of a distraught, self-described grifter who claims a murderer is stalking Wolfe's own brownstone.

    Michael says: "Three OK Stories, Homicide Trinity much better"
    "Three OK Stories, Homicide Trinity much better"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book contains three Nero Wolfe short stories; The Gun with Wings, Bullet for One and Disguise for Murder. These are all fine short stories but none are among my favorite Nero Wolfe shorts, and I tend to like the novels substantially more than the shorts. Although these stories have a nice tone and fantastic narration, they all lack second level of surprise which allows a great Nero Wolfe short to overcome the limitation of the short story format for a mystery. These each were a simple little mystery without enough twists or intensity of characters to make the stories outstanding.

    If you want a good collection of shorts as an introduction to Nero Wolfe, try Homicide Trinity, the best of the shorts in this series. Still, this collection is not at all bad and should not be avoided by an avid Nero Wolfe buff.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Dying Earth

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Jack Vance
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    Overall
    (164)
    Performance
    (129)
    Story
    (135)

    The stories in The Dying Earth introduce dozens of seekers of wisom and beauty, lovely lost women, wizards of every shade of eccentricity with their runic amulets and spells. We meet the melancholy deodands, who feed on human flesh and the twk-men, who ride dragonflies and trade information for salt. There are monsters and demons. Each being is morally ambiguous: The evil are charming, the good are dangerous. All are at home.

    Jefferson says: "A Decadent and Hopeful Dying Earth"
    "Pleasant Writing Yet Unsatisfying"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book has many enjoyable aspects yet I found this language dry and stilted and the characters and action uninteresting. The author uses a wide vocabulary and an epic style of narration, but neither rang true to me. There is a lot of action, but the characters don’t seem to change and are not deeply explored, which left me unsatisfied. I tend not to delight in books like The Canterbury Tales for similar reasons. I tent to only enjoy an epic style when it have come from an oral tradition. The Dying Earth reminded me of novels based upon Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. The story moves from one undertaking to another, each a short mission, with a clear goal and obstacle, but with negligible building of relationships or character. In many ways the writing is quite pleasant with evocative imagery, creativity and worthy narration, yet I was really quite bored.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A Family Affair

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (77)
    Performance
    (49)
    Story
    (48)

    Nero Wolfe's last recorded case! Wolfe never works without a well-heeled client and a sizable fee, but when a bomb racks his brownstone, killing his favorite waiter from his favorite restaurant, the world's greatest gourmet takes it as a personal affront. What kind of unsavory killer commits murder within 10 feet of a legendary detective? It's a question Wolfe will go to heroic lengths to answer.

    Michael says: "The Last and One of the Best Nero Wolfe Novels"
    "The Last and One of the Best Nero Wolfe Novels"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This Nero Wolfe novel is the final in the fictional timeline and the last written by Stout. It is set in 1974 with references to Nixon, Ford and Watergate. This is a little weird as I always picture Archie and Wolfe as creatures of the 30s and 40s. If Archie was hired in 1930 and must have been at least 23, then in 1974 Archie would be 67, and the older Fritz and Wolfe are still alive and kicking in 1974? Oh well, you have to suspend disbelief for this timeline. Nevertheless the characters and relationships are at their best, the writing is excellent with lots of wit and detail, and the story is interesting with unexpected twists and a killer ending. The narration, as always, is excellent.

    This is a must read for any lover of Nero Wolfe, but don’t make it your first of the series, or even your tenth. This should be one of the last read, as it will be more enjoyable if you know all the characters really well. This book is one of my all-time favorites of the series.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Homicide Trinity

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (108)
    Performance
    (50)
    Story
    (50)

    The orchid-growing gourmet Nero Wolfe and his onfidential assistant, Archie Goodwin, dine on a three-course feast of murder. The menu in the first case is a double helping of lethal instruments. In the second, an embarassing situation develops when Wolfe's own soup-stained tie becomes a deadly weapon. Finally, a healthy serving of greenbacks and a ham actor lead Archie to an unpleasant discovery.

    Michael says: "Best of the Nero Shorts"
    "Best of the Nero Shorts"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book contains three Nero Wolfe short stories; Eeny Meeny Murder Mo, Death of a Demon, and Counterfeit for Murder. Eeny Meeny Murder Mo was my favorite of these, and is also one of the stories that A&E adapted for TV. I generally prefer longer Nero Wolfe novels to the collections of short stories, but this was the best of the short collections. As usual Michael Prichard’s narration is excellent and audio quality is great. Each of these shorts have a situation or character that is so good, it overcomes the lack of richness I get from Stout’s novels. I thought I had read every Nero Wolfe story long ago, but somehow had missed Counterfeit for Murder, which was a pleasant surprise.

    If you have never read a Nero Wolfe story, this is perhaps the best introduction to the series. The Nero Wolfe stories are funny, stimulating, and touching, developing a cast of character you come to appreciate in relationships that are like a close, clever, cantankerous family. The stories have twists that are unexpected, yet seldom unbelievable. The logic holds together, and even when I have not figured out the mystery, I almost always feel that I had a fair chance, but missed some subtle point, sometimes a single line.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Parties for Death: Nero Wolfe

    • ORIGINAL (8 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Sydney Greenstreet, Wally Maher, Herb Ellis, and others
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (9)

    Nero Wolfe is "a gourmet who never walks when he can sit and never sits when he can lie down." Join Rex Stout's reclusive, overweight, orchid-loving super sleuth as masterfully portrayed by Sydney Greenstreet in this exciting radio series. Ever in search of a perfect meal and a cold bottle of beer, Wolfe often sends Archie Goodwin, his secretary and operative, in his stead. Archie, while trying to keep his well-known weakness for red heads in check, follows up on leads and does the leg work, setting up his brilliant boss to solve the case.

    Michael says: "OK Old Radio but not Rex Stout"
    "OK Old Radio but not Rex Stout"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    These stories are short radio plays *based on* Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe characters and themes. If you really like old time radio plays, you might like these as well. If you are looking for great Nero Wolfe stories, I recommend looking elsewhere. These stories are not written by Rex Stout and lack everything I look for in a Nero Wolfe story. They are too short, the characters lack the depth, subtlety and wit of the originals, Nero Wolfe’s solutions are too simplistic, and the stories lack the twist, turns and surprises of the original. The characters lack the lovable family experience of real Nero Wolfe stories. I really love the Nero Wolfe books narrated by Michael Prichard, and the narration in these radio programs is nowhere close. The sound quality is also that of old radio, which is nostalgic, but I find slightly grating. I like some old radio programs (particularly Orson Wells) but these were not worth the listen. These stories just made me want real Stout with Prichard’s narration.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By John McWhorter
    • Narrated By John McWhorter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (899)
    Performance
    (656)
    Story
    (656)

    A survey of the quirks and quandaries of the English language, focusing on our strange and wonderful grammar. Why do we say "I am reading a catalog" instead of "I read a catalog"? Why do we say "do" at all? Is the way we speak a reflection of our cultural values? Delving into these provocative topics and more, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue distills hundreds of years of fascinating lore into one lively history.

    Cookie says: "Oh the joy!"
    "Interesting and Fun Grammar with Out of the Mainst"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author/narrator’s enthusiasm and humor are among the best parts of this book. The author describes some mildly off-beat theories about the evolution of the English language. I enjoyed hearing these ideas even if I was not completely convinced. There is also a bunch of interesting fun facts about English grammar. This book refreshingly focuses mostly on grammar while most other books in this genre emphasis etymology. The material gets a bit complicated for audio from time to time and the author does not always support his theories well enough to be compelling, but overall this was interesting and fun.

    It seems to me the author mischaracterizes the mainstream linguists’ hesitation to accept his theories. McWhorter repeatedly points out that the alternative to his theories is to believe some language features appeared at random. When there is insufficient evidence to support a theory about a language feature, most mainstream linguists choose to believe the source of the feature is unknown (and thus may have arisen randomly).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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