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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

2811
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 387 reviews
  • 1377 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 53 purchased in 2014
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  • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Mark Twain
    • Narrated By Robin Field
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    Regarded by many as the most luminous example of Twain's work, this historical novel chronicles the French heroine's life, as purportedly told by her longtime friend--Sieur Louis de Conte.

    Tad Davis says: "Underrated novel, well worth a listen"
    "Good, if you love Twain and Joan"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is not at all a bad novel, but it is far from my favorite Twain for a number of reasons. Firstly it is a long and quite well known story with many details but limited moving insights. Most of Twain’s work, both the serious and humorous, have insights and perspectives that add great power to the writing. Perhaps, at the time of writing Joan of Arc the insights and perspectives presented may have been fresh and unique, but since then, these concepts have been so deeply associated with Joan of Arc as to seem passe. There is also less of Twain’s humor then he usually works into even his most serious of writings. The characterizations (at which Twain usually excels) are, necessarily, somewhat constrained. The narration is not bad, but is a little stilted.

    All that said, this is still a pretty good listen. I enjoyed some aspects of the book quite a lot. I would not recommend this to everyone, but if you are a fan of Twain or Joan (as I am of both) it is well worth the time.

    4 of 4 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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Chase

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Dean Koontz
    • Narrated By Nick Podehl
    Overall
    (21)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (20)

    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
    (183)
    Performance
    (146)
    Story
    (143)

    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.

    2 of 2 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
    (152)
    Performance
    (140)
    Story
    (139)

    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 5 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
    (95)
    Performance
    (59)
    Story
    (55)

    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
    (30)
    Performance
    (28)
    Story
    (28)

    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
    (22)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (17)

    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.

    5 of 5 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
    (116)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (72)

    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

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