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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

2565
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 370 reviews
  • 1360 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 35 purchased in 2014
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  • Strange Highways

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Dean Koontz
    • Narrated By Jeff Cummings
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (14)

    As he leaves town, he gets a mysterious second chance to relive the night in 1975 when his life began its downward spiral: to both literally and figuratively take the road that he didn't originally take. On this road he is supremely tested by conflict with his successful and charismatic older brother P.J., by conflict between his cynicism and his lost faith, and by conflict between the ultimate good and evil.

    Alicia K. Russell says: "Disappointing Without The Short Stories"
    "OK Koontz but Shorts not Included"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book does not include the short stories originally published under this title.

    The story itself is not the best of Koontz. It has quite a few weakness I don’t usually see in Koontz books. It is among the most blatantly religious of his novels, with characters weaker than usual, a plot that is a bit too straightforward and plot twists that were reminiscent of video games. I very rarely find myself arguing with Koontz’s choices (as I do with most other authors in this genre) but several times I found myself drawn out of the story by the silliness of the action. Yet this is not really a bad book, the prose and imagery is better than most, but I won’t read it again though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Caesar and Christ: The Story of Civilization, Volume 3

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Will Durant
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    Overall
    (15)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (14)

    The third volume of Will Durant's Pulitzer Prize-winning series, Caesar and Christ chronicles the history of Roman civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325.

    Michael says: "Great, but perhaps the least great of the series…"
    "Great, but perhaps the least great of the series…"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really like this series. See my review of the first in the series. I have both read and listened to this series before, and for volume one and two I liked them just as much the third time. This volume is interesting, but covers subjects (Caesar and Christ) that have been covered elsewhere. Thus this volume, for many, will be more of a rehash than any of the other volumes. Nevertheless this is just jam packed with details about Roma and early Christianity. The author is a bit less funny about Christianity than he is about other religions and spend more time on imperial Rome than on republican Rome, but this is not too surprising. I still learned more my third time through than I get from most books.

    I highly recommend this volume and the series.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Fault in Our Stars

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By John Green
    • Narrated By Kate Rudd
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5869)
    Performance
    (5355)
    Story
    (5391)

    Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

    RaisinNut says: "A story about LIFE, not death..."
    "Bright, Funny, Inspiring, Poignant & Powerful"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I generally find Teen/Young-Adult fiction tedious but I laughed more than I cried (I did both, sometimes simultaneously) during this wonderful book. I have not been a teen for several decades (and was never a teenage girl), but I could not put this book down, and sighed when it came to an end. This is decidedly NOT a book about cancer, this is a book about life. The narration was fantastic, depicting subtle and incongruous teen emotions and the breathless panic of oxygen deprivation. The characters are mostly teens, with fledgling self-images yet they are written with nuance and power and grace. I find most books in this genre sappy, boring, and (unintentionally) uninspiring. I found this book deeply inspiring. It is about choice, particularly the choice to love, regardless of the inexorable outcome of pain, or death, or both.

    I really enjoyed sharing many books with my daughter when she was young, in installments on short car trips, or whole books on long trips. Although I would have recommend this book to her, this book has a particularly personal narrative style that I think is better absorbed personally, at least the first time.

    Quite a few reviews say things like “heartbreaking” or “sad”. I did not find this book ever sad or heartbreaking, but instead intensely poignant. This is not a tear-jerker. This is a classic that I expect will be recommended and read for many decades to come.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Carol Dweck
    • Narrated By Marguerite Gavin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (989)
    Performance
    (635)
    Story
    (635)

    Mindset is one of those rare audio books that can help you make positive changes in your life and at the same time see the world in a new way. A leading expert in motivation and personality psychology, Carol Dweck has discovered in more than 20 years of research that our mindset is not a minor personality quirk: it creates our whole mental world. It explains how we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals, our attitude toward work, and ultimately predicts whether or not we will fulfull our potential.

    Peter says: "Gems sparsely scattered throughout a desert"
    "Profiles in Mindset"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am generally unimpressed by self-help books and this is no exception. I strongly agree with the basic premise, but I was not impressed at all by this book. There are hours of profiles of happy successful people (largely sports figures) who the author says have a growth mindset and unhappy people with limited success who the author says lack a growth mindset. This “new” psychology seems quite reminiscent of the deep philosophers of the last century like Norman Vincent Peale.

    I am dubious that anyone starting without a growth mindset will be changed by this book. I am just as dubious anyone already possessing a grown mindset would appreciate these mind numbing profiles. This book felt like it was selling something. I checked out the free sample of the associated Brainology online program. Again, I totally agree with the premise, but found the sample Brainology lesson really weak. I am dubious of new educational fads with weak evidence that charge thousands of dollars for a school program.

    I also found the author’s claim that our society worships talent more than effort and grit weak. Many of the qualities the author attributes to a growth mindset, openness, determination, effort, team-work, overcoming adversity, limiting-ego, are all celebrated in our society. Society holds talent which is wasted or not tempered by team-work and humility in disdain. It seems to me the more critical issue is that our society worships success more than happiness and success more than growth.

    The last forty minutes of the book have a few practical suggestions but I did not find these made up for the many hours of profiles of sporting heroes and villains..

    I much prefer books like Stumbling on Happiness which presumes a growth mindset and focuses more on strategies to be happy.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Love in the Time of Cholera

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Gabriel García Márquez
    • Narrated By Armando Durán
    Overall
    (249)
    Performance
    (214)
    Story
    (220)

    From the Nobel Prize-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude comes a masterly evocation of an unrequited passion so strong that it binds two people's lives together for more than half a century. In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career, he whiles away the years in 622 affairs - yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral....

    Darryl says: "Marquez is great, awaiting 100 Years"
    "Less than I Expected"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was a good book but I never really connected with this writing or with the characters. The narration was excellent, with nice tone and pacing and was wonderfully clear. The writing is not bad, but, other than a few passages near the end of the book, I found very little that was moving or interesting. Perhaps some might find the sexual references titillating. Perhaps some will enjoy the subtle and ambiguous characters. The characters are not unpleasant and are likable enough. The theme of long life and long love was mildly pleasant, but lacked magic or power. I did modestly enjoy the last fifth of the book (particularly the manatee story), but certainly not enough to read this again. The end of the book had a bit of the magical realism I expected from the start, but it was too little and too late to make this book great for me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Book Thief

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Markus Zusak
    • Narrated By Allan Corduner
    Overall
    (6015)
    Performance
    (4371)
    Story
    (4390)

    It's just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books.

    Shannon says: "Word Thief"
    "Light Genocide"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Book Thief is rather light reading considering it is about death and life in Nazi German during WWII. The narrator is a mildly funny and likable Death who is being overworked by the massive carnage of WWII yet is lovingly careful with each of his human consignments and is hauntingly interested in a few of the living. The protagonist is a young girl growing up with a foster family during the horrors of war and adolescence. The Book Thief seems written for young teens, but is good enough for adults to share with their kids. If you start this, do finish it. The ending is, by far, the most powerful aspect of the book and is worth the prior, less powerful, bits. For a young person this is a compelling and heartwarming and heart wrenching, but not overwhelming, story of war and death and genocide. The narration if quite strong and clear, adding an enjoyable expressiveness to the characters. I liked this book, but did not love it.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • East of Eden

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By John Steinbeck
    • Narrated By Richard Poe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (981)
    Performance
    (836)
    Story
    (847)

    This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, follows the intertwined destinies of two families - the Trasks and the Hamiltons - whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

    karen says: "American classic, not to be missed."
    "Good, but not my Favorite Steinbeck"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I love Steinbeck but this is not one of my favorites. The prose were wonderful and there is marvelous imagery and strongly developed characters, yet I found something missing. Most of Steinbeck novels have a structure and flow quite different from most modern American novels. This is strongest in his short story collections and The Grapes of Wrath and To a God Unknown, but is also true of the Cannery Row novels. These all have a bit of a mystical flow and lack formulaic structures. East of Eden, in a few places, becomes slightly preachy and is slightly more formulaic than the best of Steinbeck. It is nevertheless very good and quite well worth reading. I really enjoyed the narration which was clear and had subtleties that enhanced the experience. I give this four stars only relative to the greatest of novels, which one might expect from Steinbeck.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Jim Baggott
    • Narrated By Philip Rose
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (11)

    In this stunning new volume, Jim Baggott argues that there is no observational or experimental evidence for many of the ideas of modern theoretical physics: Super-symmetric particles, super strings, the multiverse, the holographic principle, or the anthropic cosmological principle. These theories are not only untrue; they are not even science. They are fairy-tale physics: Fantastical, bizarre and often outrageous, perhaps even confidence-trickery. This book provides a much-needed antidote.

    Gary says: "Explains better than any other book"
    "Not a Lot of Fun or Anything Else"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author attempts to present some basic principles of science, then explains his Authorized Version of Reality (a history of science), then explains some of the various cutting edge physics theories (multiverse, string theory, mathematic universe) and attempts to demonstrate these theories are unscientific.

    The author presents six principles of science; Reality is a Meta-Physical concept; Facts are inherently based on a Theory; Theory formation is complex and intuitive and often involves hidden assumptions; A scientific theory must be testable, but sometimes failure of a test just leads to adjustment of assumptions; Scientific Truth is transient; and finally Humans are not privileged observers.

    The book presents a history of physics and cosmology in a reasonable but uninspired way. There are a lot of books that present this stuff. I found this version somewhat dry, with no excitement, very little (or amazingly dry) humor, no insightful explanations, and no unifying theme.

    The author, while presenting his Authorized Version of Reality, doesn’t seem to accept it deeply. He makes subtle, yet telling, mistakes. Like the atomic electron wave function giving a probability of where the elector is. That is not what the theory says. Instead the wave function is the probability of an interaction occurring somewhere if we look. This seems similar, but is quite fundamentally different, the first presumes the existence of an electron when it is not observed, the other does not. The author makes several such misstatements, each time subtly and incorrectly assuming the existence of unobserved particles. This is not the Authorized Version. Instead this is a physicist who thinks classically attempting to explain, and persuade about, non-classical physics.

    The author also seems biased when referring to theories he likes as “discovered”, and theories he does not like as “proposed”. Again this seemed telling (and a bit funny).

    Baggott does not seem to like (or understand) the Mathematical Universe of Max Tegmark. He basically calls Tegmark stupid and suggests he shut up. I just finished Tegmark’s book and found Tegmark’s history of physics and descriptions of why physicists feel the need to introduce multiverses significantly more interesting than Baggott’s. Not to mention Tegmark’s theory of a Mathematical Universe which seems both obvious and brilliant. Bagott’s refutation of the Mathematical Universe is that it does not make sense to him.

    I largely agree with Baggott about non-testable aspects of multiuniverses and string-theory, but this was covered better in Smolin’s The Trouble with Physics.

    Baggott seems to fear that a generation of theorists may lose their way on these paths of fairy tale physics. They may. So what? 99.9% of theorist are always on the wrong path 99.9% of the time. The final theory of everything is more likely to come from an outsider (like Einstein) anyway.

    It seems to me Baggott does not realize that sticking with his Authorized Version of Reality and the historical scientific method is unlikely to make progress in our current environment. I believe the world has been poised on the edge of a final theory of everything for nearly a hundred years. Only the abandonment of some absolutely fundamental aspect(s) of his Authorized Version of Reality will lead to progress. Theorist must think outside this box. Which of the fundamental aspects must go? How far is too far? We may be quite surprised when it happens.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Truman Capote
    • Narrated By Michael C. Hall
    Overall
    (245)
    Performance
    (230)
    Story
    (232)

    Golden Globe-winning actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) performs Truman Capote's masterstroke about a young writer's charmed fascination with his unorthodox neighbor, the "American geisha" Holly Golightly. Holly - a World War II-era society girl in her late teens - survives via socialization, attending parties and restaurants with men from the wealthy upper class who also provide her with money and expensive gifts. Over the course of the novella, the seemingly shallow Holly slowly opens up to the curious protagonist.

    FanB14 says: "Michael C. Hall in Your Ear + Capote = Bliss"
    "Subtle yet Extravagant"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Of course I have seen the movie and loved the subtle story and Audrey Hepburn and Moon River, but I never noticed the story was written by Truman Capote. An Audible banner ad pointed this out and got me to order this short novel. It was great. Narrated wonderfully by Michael C Hall (Dexter and Six Feet Under) this novel is more enjoyable than the movie. But this is a rare case where you should see the movie first. Having Audrey Hepburn in your head while reading this is definitely not a bad thing. The writing is beautiful, with full and interesting characters and a story that is subtle yet extravagant. I have always appreciated Capote’s writing, and appreciate it even more now. This is a book I will likely come back to, and share with others.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Anthony Bourdain
    • Narrated By Anthony Bourdain
    Overall
    (3266)
    Performance
    (1191)
    Story
    (1181)

    Last summer, The New Yorker published chef Anthony Bourdain's shocking, "Don't Eat Before Reading This." Now, the author uses the same "take-no-prisoners" attitude in his deliciously funny and shockingly delectable audiobook, sure to delight gourmands and philistines alike.

    Holly says: "Kitchen Confidential"
    "Violent, Dirty, Chef"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you like gossip and seamy stories of wild, violent, dirty, sexual, drug infused behavior with respectful references to wise-guys and some cooking professionals you may be quite entertained by this book. If you are an aspiring chef, don’t waste your time, unless you aspire to make good money as the boss of a huge, good (yet run-of-the-mill) two star NYC restaurant. If you love eating in restaurants (especially swordfish, mussels, bread, or just about anything else) and you are the least bit squeamish or impressionable don’t read this book. Many reviewers seem to find the references to violence, the mob, drugs, crime, and dick jokes colorful. I found it mostly tedious. At one point the author stabs a guy for patting his butt. The whole thing had a weird vibe of intense insecurity, fierce mediocrity, and homophobia.

    There are a few nice bits. These were: The story of Bourdain’s first oyster (sweet); the very brief comments on equipment for the serious home cook (see instead a free trial of Cooks Illustrated dot com); the short bit of does and don’ts of eating out; and the section on Scott Bryan (a successful and truly creative chef that does everything exactly the opposite of Bourdain).

    I love restaurants and chefs as well as home cooking. Give me Scott Bryan, or Jacques Pépin or Julia Childs any day. Bourdain is (I presume deliberately so as to make money) provocative in his writing, which I think is counter-productive. He suggests not eating swordfish, mussels, and some other stuff. Arg. Swordfish is good. Mussels are good. Ten minutes of research would have resolved his issues with swordfish; a nose & sending it back will protect you from bad mussels.

    The writing style is quite approachable and conversational and (at times) passionate but is loaded with clichés and other unpolished bits that drove me nuts. My favorite cliché was “needless to say”. OK if it is needless then don’t waste my time saying it. The writer has a Henry V style youth, but seems never to make the transition to maturity. Instead he changes just barely enough to find a nitch of survival with some achievement but seems not quite happy and does not quite excel. Bourdain (since this writing) seems to have become exactly what, he says in this book, he hates.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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