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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

2974
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 389 reviews
  • 1379 ratings
  • 1427 titles in library
  • 56 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
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FOLLOWERS
875

  • Seven Classic Plays

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, and others
    • Narrated By Full Cast
    Overall
    (106)
    Performance
    (26)
    Story
    (27)

    Now, for the first time in audio, Blackstone presents seven great plays in one volume: Euripides' Medea, Shakespeare's The Tempest, Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid, Dumas' Camille, Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, Shaw's Arms and the Man, and Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. These productions illustrate the development of European drama from ancient times to the threshold of the modern theater.

    S. N. C. Siegel says: "Badly Done Plays"
    "Not Great Audible Theater"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Although this is not a bad recording of several good plays, it was far from one of my favorite compilations. From the publisher’s summary they were attempting to produce “lively theatrics enhanced” performances. Hum. For me most of these plays seemed significantly overdone. My favorite of these plays was An Enemy of the People which was pretty good. Still overacted, this play survived the overacting pretty well. Medea was my least favorite. It seemed wildly over acted and did not resonate emotionally at all. The Tempest and Camille were OK, but far from stellar. I found The Imaginary Invalid and Uncle Vanya pretty boring. I had just heard Arms and the Man from the LA Theater Works (LATW) Shaw Collection, and this version blanched in comparison. It did not even seem like the same play. The LATW version was snappy, lively, and witty. This version fell completely flat.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Ready Player One

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Ernest Cline
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10322)
    Performance
    (9613)
    Story
    (9615)

    At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

    Travis says: "ADD TO CART, POWER UP +10000"
    "Virtual Reality Teen Fiction that did not Suck!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I generally dislike virtual reality SF.

    I am not a teen, so teen fiction usually has to be transcendent to interest me.

    I saw 10,000 ratings with an average of 4.7…and thought “how bad could it be for light summer reading?”

    Ready Player One is virtual reality SF teen fiction, is not transcendent, but it majorly did not suck.

    Now, I must admit, I am a geek. I owned and programmed the TRS-80, Amiga, Commodore 64, and had first-hand experience with much of the tech and geek-pop of this novel. My main annoyance with this book was the failure to give the Heathkit EC-1 it’s due (admittedly not the 80’s). Ok, Ok, I am an uber-geek. If you are an uber-geek and lived through the 80’s, you will likely appreciate this book, even if you don’t love it.

    I did not love this book. It made a few geek-annoying mistakes, and was firmly in the first-kiss-goal-teen-fiction genre. The romantic tension is a first kiss, not, well, you know. This is only great fiction if you have spent WAY too much time playing video games. Yet, it is a pleasant little story with a Geekgasm of references that made it well worth the listen. I might even listen to this one again.

    The narration by STNG’s Will Wheaton was spot on throughout.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Gone Girl: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Gillian Flynn
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (16355)
    Performance
    (14533)
    Story
    (14571)

    It is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media - as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents - the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter - but is he really a killer?

    Teddy says: "Demented, twisted, sick and I loved it!"
    "Don’t Risk Reading Reviews of This Book!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A few of the reviews say a bit too much.
    No spoilers below – just the minimum readers should know.

    This book is really worth reading to the end, which was not clear early on.

    The book contains strong adult language, very adult themes, and deviant behavior.

    Kirby Heyborne is a just a bit weak as Nick, Julia Whelan is terrific as Amy, overall the narration is quite good.

    This is not great art, but it is well written and near the top of this genre.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Barnaby Rudge

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Charles Dickens
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (42)
    Performance
    (38)
    Story
    (36)

    For the background to this historical novel, a tale of mystery, suspense and unsolved murder, Dickens chose the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780. Mayhem reigns in the streets of London, vividly described by Dickens, and the innocent Barnaby Rudge is drawn into the thick of it.

    Tad Davis says: "Wonderful"
    "Pleasant but not Great Dickens"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is an early Dickens’ historical novel about the anti-Catholic Gordon riots of 1780 and the doings and loves of a host of country characters. There are some great Dickens characters and moments in this novel; the raven, the villains, Hugh and his dog and, of course, Barnaby. Yet this is not Dickens best work. The novel lacks focus; it is a historical chronical, a mystery, a romance, an adventure and a parable. In each aspect it foreshadows later and better Dickens novels. The novel winds up too predictably and too cleanly. In his later works there is more focus and nuance.

    The narration is quite good throughout, but the voice of Miggs was too annoying even for Miggs (an annoying housemaid). Although this is not Great Dickens, it is still Dickens, which is still quite good.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Death Times Three

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (102)
    Performance
    (63)
    Story
    (61)

    Murder strikes thrice in these three baffling mysteries of crime and detection. First, Stout's great detective, Nero Wolfe, develops an appetite for the sweet taste of revenge when someone slips something most foul into his lunch. Then a couturier's beautiful sister uses Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's man about town, as her ready-made alibi. Finally, Wolfe has a run-in with the law after a mysterious old woman leaves a package at his brownstone that pits him against a cunning criminal and the U.S. government.

    Michael says: "Three Stories All Good, but Two were Repeats"
    "Three Stories All Good, but Two were Repeats"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This collection contains three stories, two of which appear in different versions in other collections. The stories are Bitter End, Frame-Up for Murder (a later version of Murder is No Joke found in And Four to Go), and Assault on a Brownstone (an early version of Counterfeit for Murder found in Homicide Trinity). These were good stories, but two were repeats for me. Counterfeit for Murder is one of my favorite Wolfe stories and is better than Assault on a Brownstone. Frame-Up for Murder is a bit better than Murder is No Joke. Bitter End was quite enjoyable. I generally prefer the novels to short stories, but these are among the better Stout shorts.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Chase

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Dean Koontz
    • Narrated By Nick Podehl
    Overall
    (26)
    Performance
    (26)
    Story
    (25)

    Ben Chase is a war hero, but a reluctant one. He struggles with bitter memories and feels alienated from the culture to which he has returned. When he claims that a psychopath is stalking him, he has by then made such an outsider of himself that no one believes him. He must resurrect the repressed warrior within to save himself and a woman he comes to love. Heroes need monsters to slay, and they can always find them - within if not without.

    Michael says: "Past Imperfect"
    "Past Imperfect"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Chase is a Koontz novella from 1972. I enjoyed the protagonist and a number of story elements, but Chase had less character development and interesting action than the many longer (and better) Koontz novels. The romantic interest (and the protagonist’s only friend) is introduced quite late in the book, with little time left for development. I enjoyed what there was, but it ended far too soon, feeling truncated, and like about one-half of a really good Koontz novel. The narration is very good, clear, clean, and with subtle emotionality that enhance the story. I won’t read this again, but enjoyed what it was.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee
    • Narrated By TBA
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (201)
    Performance
    (160)
    Story
    (159)

    In recent years, Google’s autonomous cars have logged thousands of miles on American highways and IBM’s Watson trounced the best human Jeopardy! players. Digital technologies — with hardware, software, and networks at their core — will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.

    Chris Lunt says: "Good for the periphery"
    "Upbeat but Limited Survey of Exponential Change"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is an upbeat survey of a technical and very rapidly changing field. The field is changing so rapidly some of the technical information in this book was obsolete before it got published. For example there is a section on the Waze GPS mapping system. This was purchased by Google and integrated into Google Maps way back in 2013. As a survey, it provides mostly news stories (computer wins Jeopardy, etc.) and some related statistics, but very little deep thinking or analysis.

    I much preferred The Singularity is Near (which is weird, but thought-provoking) and Race Against the Machine (which is very much like this book, but clearer).

    The authors make a number of policy recommendations all of which seem amazingly short sighted, liberally biased, and basically ignore the authors' own primary hypothesis of an exponential inflection point in technology growth.

    The authors refer to the world being at an exponential inflection point of technical change (that is, the near future is about to be significantly different than the recent past would predict) yet the authors repeatedly indicate while discussing their recommendation, we are not yet on the brink of significant change, pointing out that change in the recent past has not been all that fast. So which is it?

    The authors seem largely to focus on mitigating "spread". Spread is the authors' code-word for income/wealth inequality. Interestingly, the book seems to me to have a strong liberal bias, yet it has been edited carefully so this bias is well cloaked from a casual reader.

    The Authors' make a bunch of policy recommendations:

    Education
    Use technology in education
    MOOCs in particular
    Higher teacher salaries
    Increase teacher accountability
    Increase hours spent in education

    Encourage Entrepreneurship & Start-ups
    Reduce regulation
    Upgrade Infrastructure
    Government support of new technologies with Programs & Prizes
    Use technology to match workers to Start-ups, including foreign workers
    Tax incentives for start-ups

    Raise Taxes
    Raise taxes on the rich and famous
    Increase maximum tax rate
    Increase non-worker tied corporate taxes including VAT
    Increase Pigovian Taxes (taxes on pollution)
    Traffic Congestion Pricing

    Increase Social Support
    Guaranteed Basic Income Cash or vouchers or Negative Income Tax
    Government run mutual fund paying citizens
    Encourage technologies which augment, rather than substitute for, human ability
    Implement Made-By-Humans advertising

    These policy recommendations seem largely unrelated to the technical revolution and include a lot of government control and wealth redistribution. I am somewhat dubious these are great ideas particularly if government uses the new technologies to enhance its already substantial power.

    So many important questions are totally ignored by this book. Is the developed world approaching stuff saturation? If so, how will a new service and entertainment economy work? Will humans be enhanced by technology? Will there be an enhancement backlash? Will nano-technology (or AI, or some other technology) go dangerously wrong? Should we be addressing such risk now? Such questions are raised in other books like The Singularity is Near.

    The narration was OK but not superb.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The City

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Dean Koontz
    • Narrated By Korey Jackson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (249)
    Performance
    (232)
    Story
    (232)

    There are millions of stories in the city - some magical, some tragic, others terror-filled or triumphant. Jonah Kirk’s story is all of those things as he draws listeners into his life in the city as a young boy, introducing his indomitable grandfather, also a "piano man"; his single mother, a struggling singer; and the heroes, villains, and everyday saints and sinners who make up the fabric of the metropolis in which they live - and who will change the course of Jonah’s life forever. Welcome to The City, a place of evergreen dreams where enchantment and malice entwine.

    justin says: "How exactly a 2-star review with 4 hours???"
    "Weak Start, Decent Finish"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a good Koontz, but far from his best work. This seems targeted to young adults more than most Koontz books, thus it is a bit less intense, has less graphic action, has adult themes greatly muted, and even less intricate prose.

    This was so sweet as to severely challenge my suspension of disbelieve (which is always necessary in this genre, yet generally less so with Koontz). I don’t meet many ten year old catholic black jazz prodigies that cross themselves every time they say “geeze”.

    The narration was quite good and augmented the story well.

    I did not at all regret reading this, but I will not read it again, and would not strongly recommend it, even to young readers.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Not Quite Dead Enough

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (97)
    Performance
    (61)
    Story
    (57)

    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
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (36)
    Performance
    (33)
    Story
    (33)

    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.

    1 of 1 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
    (41)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (33)

    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.

    Michael says: "Great book but better in writing"
    "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.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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