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Cynthia

Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

Monrovia, California, United States

4458
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 177 reviews
  • 177 ratings
  • 431 titles in library
  • 67 purchased in 2014
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  • The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By H. W. Brands
    • Narrated By Nelson Runger
    Overall
    (285)
    Performance
    (203)
    Story
    (205)

    Many consider Franklin the most fascinating American man who ever lived. A scientist, businessman, diplomat, author, inventor, philosopher and politician, he is America's original Renaissance man. His remarkable and varied accomplishments include the discovery of electricity and the modernization of the postal system. Brilliant and bawdy, a master statesman and a cultural icon, Franklin was so important and popular in his day that, according to the author, "... only Washington mattered as much."

    William says: "History tends to bore but I couldnt stop listening"
    "Franklin in Multi-Dimensions"
    Overall
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    Benjamin Franklin was frozen in time for me, forever wearing wearing breeches; white stockings; leather shoes; a vest with a gold fob; a dark coat; grey hair, tied back with a ribbon; and holding a kite during a storm. I'm sure it's an illustration I saw as a child. I knew he'd done many other things, but what I knew was like reading a resumé and taking an American History I test.

    I was so pleased to read this book, and have the man and his times come alive. Franklin was a polymath and made so many important contributions. He invented the Franklin Stove, still in use today - and never patented it, which could have made him quite wealthy. He established the use of lightening roads, and undoubtedly saved many more lives than can ever been counted. Franklin was a highly regarded scientist and published in subjects such as electricity, ocean currents, and meteorology.

    Franklin began his professional life as a loyal Brittish subject, but eventually changed. This book explains why - and that he was the target for assassination by the British Empire for a time.

    It's hard to think of a "Founding Father" and demi-god as human, which explains the scandal more than 200 years later when Thomas Jefferson's second family was revealed. Franklin was no George Washington - he had his share of dalliances, and his first child was born to a woman he was not married to, and who has never been identified. Rather than hide his son, as so many current politicians try to do (Schwarzenegger, Edwards, etc.), he acknowledged William. Franklin and his common-law wife Deborah raised Williao on m. William eventually becamse the last British governor of New Jersey, leading to a rift between the men that never healed - in part because William helped the English against his father.

    The book's discussion of Franklin's life in the French Court is fascinating. He played an essential part in establishing that important alliance.

    I am embarassed to admit that until I'd read this book, I had been under the misapprehension that Franklin had never been elected to office, only appointed (Postmaster, Ambassador to France). I'd somehow equated that to him not being a good politician. That simply wasn't the case - he was elected President of Pennsylvania before American Independence, which was somewhat similar to a governorship. He ran a skillful campaign and engaged in political tactics that today's political consultants have no doubtedly studied.

    The audio book is very long, and well worth the listen.

    The audio editing on the book wasn't great, though - I was able to hear the narrator take breaths, which I found distracting. Without the editing problem, I would have rated the performance at a 4.

    With respect to the text, from time to time, I found myself confused about how the author had arrived at a certain point. With a text book, I would have looked back a few pages to figure out what the subject was. If Audio Books had chapter names, that would have helped.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5734)
    Performance
    (5347)
    Story
    (5346)

    Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the facts that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces; (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations; and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

    Paige says: "Not his Wheal-house"
    ""Fascinating" - Spock"
    Overall
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    Story

    was too young to watch the 79 episodes of Star Trek in their original run (1966 - 1969). As after school reruns in the late 1970's - well, 'TOS" (as "The Original Series" is now referred as) was on after reruns of "The Brady Bunch (1969 - 1974) and "The Partridge Family" (1970 - 1974). Star Trek:TOS was perfect for winding down after a grueling day in Junior High School, which equaled the TV screen for alien life forms and mysterious rituals.

    Even back then, I remember that the men, women, and telepathic beings that wore 'Redshirts' weren't going to live to the end of the episode, and maybe even to the first commercial break. Unless, of course, James Doohan's "Scotty" was in red - and he was known to wear science blue or command gold from time to time. The 1999 Sci-Fi parody film "Galaxy Quest" illustrated the quintessential Redshirt, "Guy" (Sam Rockwell), killed off on his only appearance on that fictional show, captured the resigned terror perfectly.

    John Scalzi's "Redshirts" (2012) explores an alternate universe where the unnamed writer (adroitly narrated by Wil Wheaton) is literally [reviewer's pun intended] a god to the Redshirts. In our 'real world', a Redshirt goes on an 'away mission' and is cannon fodder, gone by the first commercial break. In Scalzi's alternate universe, Redshirts are working folks who know when to disappear to another level of the ship to avoid a deadly away mission, and who are well aware of the misfortune of a promotion to the bridge or a Deck 6 to 12 assignment.

    I'll guarantee that as someone who remembers Star Trek:TOS; still hasn't seen many of TNG episodes; and is somewhat aware that there are other Star Trek series, but never watched them; and saw a couple of the movies when they got to Netflix, there must have bern a ton of inside references I missed. But that didn't stop me frown enjoying "Redshirts" anyway.

    I did have to listen to the last couple of chapters more than once. Let your mind wander for a few seconds when your Prius is cut off on the 5 North at the end of a day when the Santa Ana winds are relentless, and you'll miss a major plot twist.

    And did I mention Wil Wheaton? Oh, only once. For so many reasons, he was absolutely perfect narrating this book.

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    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Catherine Pelonero
    • Narrated By Dina Pearlman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (59)
    Story
    (62)

    Written in a flowing narrative style, Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences presents the story of the horrific and infamous murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman stalked and stabbed on the street where she lived in Queens, New York in 1964. The case sparked national outrage when the New York Times revealed that dozens of witnesses had seen or heard the attacks on Kitty Genovese and her struggle to reach safety but had failed to come to her aid or even call police until after the killer had fled.

    Linda Lou says: "EXCEPTIONAL TRUE CRIME BOOK"
    "When Indifference becomes Evil"
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    Novelist Stephen King (1947 - present) makes places evil and sometimes sentient characters in his novels. "'Salem's Lot" (1975) was the first chilling fictional King town I read. Later, he created the adjacent, inimical town of Derry, Maine, in "It" (1986). Derry's utter indifference is its most deadly trait.

    In 1964, the chilling indifference of real-life Kew Gardens, NY, met the psychopathic Winston Mosley. The combination was deadly. Mosley slaughtered a screaming, bloody Kitty Genovese in front of at least 37 neighbors who admitted seeing or hearing him over 45 minutes. There were hundreds more neighbors who didn't admit to seeing or hearing Mosley attack her twice outside large apartment buildings.

    I don't remember when I first heard about this murder, but I do know even 50 years later, it's often cited as the ultimate anecdote of apathy, fear, and - as I remember it, contempt for the victim.

    Growing up in the Midwest long before the internet age, I heard stories that Genovese shouldn't have been out as late as she was; that she'd dressed proactively; or that she'd been killed in a domestic dispute with an angry boyfriend and the neighbors thought it was just one of the couple's regular spats. Catherine Pelonero's "Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and Its Private Consequences" (2014) dispelled the myths I'd too readily accepted. Kitty Genovese managed a bar, and was on her way home from work. She wasn't wearing a miniskirt and high heels. She was a lesbian in a loving, committed relationship, and she did not know her murderer, Mosley, a serial killer.

    The 1964 Kew Gardens was complicit in Kitty Genovese' murder, an 'unindicted co-conspirator'. Mosley knew his hunting grounds so well that he counted on the neighbors 'willful blindness' At trial, his attorney unsuccessfully argued that his flagrant attack was proof that he was 'schizophrenic' and should be found "Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Defect". Mosley even managed to terrorize a New York neighborhood 4 years after he was convicted and sentenced to death, escaping from a hospital visit and terrorizing a small town for a week.

    [Reviewer's note: The term "schizophrenic' was used in 1964 to refer to people who have what is now differentiated as the mental diseases bipolar disorder and separately, schizophrenia; and mentally disordered sociopaths and psychopaths. See, for example, Robert Hare, PhD, who developed guidelines for diagnosing psychopathy (someone without conscience) in the late 1980's, publishing the PCL-2 checklist in 1991. Schizophrenia is commonly defined today as a disease, sometimes treatable, where the affected person cannot tell the difference between what's real and what's not real. Mosley does not fit the modern definition of schizophrenia.]

    Kitty Genovese' killing did spur an important change in public safety: it lead to the creation of what is now the 9-1-1 system. In 1964, calling the police meant calling an Operator, and hopefully being transferred to the right police department; or trying to figure out the right department yourself. It took some work, and at least some Kew Garden residents thought it would be a pain, and that anyway, someone else was probably already calling anyway. Surely they were.

    There have been follow up reporting and other books. According to Pelonero and other writers, Kew Gardens in the 21st Century remains defensive, insular, and maintains no interest in 'getting involved'. It's as if the place itself is bad, like the fictional Derry.

    Dina Pearlman's narration was almost robotic in the second section, which distracted me.

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    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Forgetting to Be Afraid: A Memoir

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Wendy Davis
    • Narrated By Hillary Huber
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Wendy Davis has had her share of tough fights. Raised by a single mother with a ninth-grade education, Davis began working after school at age fourteen to contribute to the family finances. By the time she was nineteen, she was living in a trailer park with a baby daughter and holding down two jobs. But rather than succumb to the cycle of poverty that threatened to overwhelm her, Davis managed to attend community college and Texas Christian University, graduate from Harvard Law School, and go on to serve nine years on the Fort Worth City Council. She set her sights on the Texas state senate—and in 2008 defeated a longtime GOP incumbent in a race widely considered one of the biggest recent upsets in Texas politics.

    Cynthia says: "Raise Your Hand, Raise Your Voice"
    "Raise Your Hand, Raise Your Voice"
    Overall
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    June 25, 2013 was an unexpected and thrilling day for my family. That afternoon, I'd idly been scrolling through Twitter and started to see posts about a filibuster of an anti-choice bill in the Texas State Senate. Intrigued, I kept an eye on the feed, #StandwithWendy. My sis, D--, lives in (and loves) Austin, so we started texting each other. NPR mentioned it.

    When I got home, I turned on every CSPAN and news channel I could find. Nothing at all. I knocked urgently on my 16 year old son's door. "I can't find it!" I yelled. "What, what?" he asked. He'd spent the last two years locked in his room, listening to alternafe music and guarding his privacy. I explained, and intrigued, he went to his gaming computer and found the feed on YouTube. We sat together and watched, texting his Aunt D-- I kept screen shots of some of those messages. From me to D--: "Yell as loud as you can it's working" and "Keep yelling they can't take roll". From D-- to me: "Dude I'm deaf and mute" and "No one is leaving here" after rumors of post-midnight arrests.

    My son got to see what a real, live participatory democracy is. I was looking up the Texas Senate Rules and sending them to D-- so we could try and find out if SB 5 had passed, so he got to see how what seems like abstract rules really work. He also got to see the low side of politics like the egregious change of time on records. It might have worked - except for the 200,000 people following it on social media.

    Obviously, I was going to read/listen to "Forgetting to be Afraid" (2014). The actual filibuster is paper Chapter 19/Audible Chapter 20. It answers many questions I had, such as, "Why was that particular bill in front of the Texas Senate on the last day of term?" "What happened to the audio feed?" It wasn't a technical glitch after all. Arse, "How did she make it 13 hours without going to the bathroom?" I know the answer now, and it was almost TMI - but a better solution than the one of thought of.

    There's no surer way to get me to prod me into an immediate read than to have the press argue about what the writer said. It worked for me with Robert Gates' "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" (2014). I wouldn't have read/listened if the pundits hadn't argued about it - and it was fantastic. And Hillary Rodham Clinton's "Hard Choices" (2014) - that I would have listened to eventually, but not as soon as I did. I guess it proves the truism: all publicity is good publicity.

    The book is, in and of itself and aside from the abortion issue, controversial. It wouldn't be if the facts were considered and repeated in context. Yes, Wendy Davis had an abortion. Actually, by medical definition, she had two: one to terminate a never-viable ectopic pregnancy, and the other to stop the agonized suffering of a much wanted and loved daughter, Tate Elise, who was not going to be able to live outside of Senator Davis' uterus. And it is true that she and her husband divorced after he helped put her through law school, but the divorce was more than a decade after she graduated.

    As to the actual story, it's more interesting than most. Davis wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth - it was more like a plastic spork. And the trailer park story - yes, it's true.

    As to writing style - it was more Harvard than Texas. Personally, I prefer the twang. I was about to criticize the narrator's pronounciation of Spanish words, but I decided to check first, and discovered that Texas Spanish isn't necessarily the same as California/Mexican Spamish. Especially when it comes to "San Jacinto".

    The title of this review is from a quote of Leticia Van de Putte, a fellow senator who famously said, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

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    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Megan McArdle
    • Narrated By Mia Barron
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (73)
    Performance
    (63)
    Story
    (64)

    Most new products fail. So do most small businesses. And most of us, if we are honest, have experienced a major setback in our personal or professional lives. So what determines who will bounce back and follow up with a home run? If you want to succeed in business and in life, Megan McArdle argues in this hugely thought-provoking book, you have to learn how to harness the power of failure. McArdle has been one of our most popular business bloggers for more than a decade, covering the rise and fall of some the world' s top companies and challenging us to think differently about how we live, learn, and work.

    Ray says: "Good Book"
    "Successful Failures"
    Overall
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    'm not a 'B-School graduate'. My undergraduate degrees is in Business Administration. It's from a prestigious private university. I could have chosen to go on to get a Master's from the same place. Instead, I chose to get a Juris Doctor, and I've been a litigator ever since.

    Do I want to manage people? Unless it's a trial team assembled on an ad hoc basis, I would rather clean tile grout with a toothbrush. I still love the theory of business management. I've been following it for the last quarter century. I work for a Major Company (you've heard of it) and I get to watch how the theories come and go, from the managed point if view.

    Some trends are a flash, or so radical they won't happen for at least a generation - but it Is fun to watch management try the ideas. Adam Grant's "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success" (2013) is an example. Nice idea, but it didn't work for the Soviet Union (1922 - 1991) and it's not working now. It might eventually - but the world's leading economy, the United States, and it's business leaders aren't at the tacit socialism Grant proposes.

    Megan McArdle's "The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well Drives Our Success" (2014) discusses a "trend" that's working well, from the perspective of the managed worker: learning from failure. I'm using "trend" in quotes because it sounds like a facile lesson, but it's really not. It's also not new - "Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years" (2008) is a wonderful book on the same subject by Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui.

    After discussing Old Coke/New Coke (THE quintessential B-mistake), "The Upside of Down" and "Billion Dollar Lessons" talk about different failures; the ways to approach and analyze them; and their causes.

    McArdle distinguishes an accident as "while there's lots of things you could have done differently, there's nothing you should have done differently" (Chapter 5 on Audible) and "failure" as a "mistake, performing without a safety net." It's a good way to distinguish them. McArdle emphasizes that a lot of mistakes are the result of large, well funded research that carefully asks exactly the wrong questions, or asks the right questions in the wrong situation.

    "The Upside of Down" is thought provoking, but there's an issue that I'd like to see addressed more fully: how to create an atmosphere where employees aren't subtly - or sometimes even overtly - required to hide mistakes, especially those that can compound and result in failure. After all, even one of the world's most successful investors, Warren Buffett, reported an $873,000,000 investing mistake to shareholders May 1, 2014. Referring to a bad investment, Buffett said, "Most of you have never heard" of the company, he wrote. "Consider yourselves lucky; I certainly wish I hadn't." What a no-nonsense way to share a problem without sharing the blame.

    The Audible narrator was fine, but the editing was rough - there were some long pauses.

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    7 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
    • Narrated By Ken Borgers, Sal Giangrasso, Charlton Griffin, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (383)
    Performance
    (92)
    Story
    (89)

    The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9-11 Commission, was created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002. This independent, bipartisan commission had the task of producing a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the attack, including preparedness and immediate response, and providing recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.

    SLP says: "Absolutely Outstanding Historical Document"
    "Still so very relevant"
    Overall
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    At the beginning of every September, A&E takes a few hours away from 'reality' shows like "Duck Dynasty", "Storage Wars" and "Flipping (some American city hit hard by the Great Recession)" and shows actual reality - 9/11 documentaries, or somtimes, sanitized 9/11 docudramas. The History Channel sets aside "Ice Road Truckers" and "Ax Men" and returns to its roots and spends the weekend showing various aspects of 9/11, from a long interview of former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to a three hour show exploring conspiracy theories.

    I don't watch those shows, but it's not out of sense of boredom or a misplaced sense of outrage that basic cable is exploiting the anniversary. 9/11 is history, and just like my father has had a life long fascination with World War II (he was alive for the bombing of Pearl Harbor) I have a fascination for what happened, and why, that beautiful September morning. The reason I don't watch the shows is first, I'm really primarily a reader/listener; second, "The 9/11 Comission Report" (2004) is so thoroughly researched and well written, it was a finalist for a National Book Award, and no non-fiction show compares to it; and, finally, I was watching CNN as the attacks happened. I don't have to see what happened on video again. I remember all too well.

    I read the entire book on line in 2004, and every year since then, I listen to parts of this book. I've been doing this long before I joined Audible. Since the book has always been in the public domain, it's been available through Librivox for years. The Librivox version was read by 19? 20? volunteer readers, the year of its release, and the quality ranges from astoundingly good to mediocre, especially with pronunciation of The Middle Eastern names. After 10 years of war, we are all mich better at Arabi names.

    The question is, isn't whether the book is worth the time. It most definitely is. It's like reading/listening to a Tom Clancy on steroids. So, then, is it worth it to buy on Audible a book you can listen to or read on line for free? It definitely was and is for me. I was able to easily download it to my iPhone, although it's 200 + mB, so make sure you're on WiFi when you do. It's well narrated, and the production quality smooth. The speed of the narration is a bit of an issue - one narrator is much slower than the others. Listen to that narrator at 1.25 speed, and it's fine.

    Which leads me to why I listen or read, year after year. I worry that I'll forget. No, I'll never forget some things - like watching the second plane crash into the other tower, as it happened. But I worry that I'll forget the littler things, like Barbara Olson, the wife of then Solicitor General Theodore Olson, was on Flight 77 when it was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, and she called him during the hijack. Conservative Theodore Olson was fresh from successfully representing George Bush in Bush v Gore (2000). Theodore Olson subsequently turned to Gore's lawyer, David Boies, and together, they were responsible for overturning laws against same sex marriage. I wonder if somejow, that singular assault on democracy on 9/11 made Theodore Olson a formidable champion of civil rights for a group that hadn't been embraced by the political right.

    This book also has the clearest explanation of Islam and the difference between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims that I've found. It explains a Caliphate - which is even more relevant today than it was 10 years ago, when the report was published. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (prosaically nicknamed ISIS) controls far more land than Osama bin Laden ever did.

    I listen to remember; to think of how we all changed; and to keep trying to understand why.

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    7 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Curse of the Pogo Stick: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (72)
    Performance
    (59)
    Story
    (61)

    In Vientiane, Laos, a booby-trapped corpse intended for Dr. Siri, the national coroner, has been delivered to the morgue. In his absence, only Nurse Dtui’s intervention saves the lives of the morgue attendants, visiting doctors, and Madame Daeng, Dr. Siri’s fiancée.

    Cynthia says: "Curse of the Audible Series Addict"
    "Curse of the Audible Series Addict"
    Overall
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    Story

    I'm out of credits for the month. I have at least half-a-dozen Audible books bought on special, waiting for a listen, so I'm not totally bereft of listening options. But Audible, Audible, how about a BOGO on books in a series? I'll have to pause at Book 5 "Curse of the Pogo Stick" (2008) until I can afford last 4 Dr. Siri Paiboun mysteries.

    At the end of the civil war when the communists have assumed power, 72 year old Comrade Dr. Siri Paiboun, a French trained Laotian field doctor longs to quietly retire. Instead, he is pressed into very reluctant service as the National Coroner of Laos. Book 1 "The Coroner's Lunch" introduces Dr. Siri, who's learning to do autopsies with an outdated French textbook. The stunningly green eyed Dr. Siri is a catch for any woman who remembers a time when a radio was an even greater technological sea change than the iPhone. Dr. Siri runs into Madame Daeng on Book 4 - and in Book 5, he marries in a boring bureaucratic exchange of paperwork, followed by a traditional wedding. A pregnant Nurse Dtui and her investigator husband, Posee (spelling, I don't know!) and a cheerful Mr. Gueng are there to celebrate.

    Shortly after their ceremony, a Hmong clan badly in need of supernatural assistance kidnaps Ya Ming. That's a particular problem for Dr. Siri, who is the physical host for the ancient spirit. Ya Ming is able to help the Hmong with their problem; and Dr. Siri solves a more human mystery at the same time. As always with Cotterill, the spiritual is a neat listen and a respectful introduction to non-Western beliefs, but the earthbound mystery isn't solved by 'idolum ex machina'.

    The narrator is smooth, and his British? Australian? English is smooth, and he handles Laotian and Hmong words easily.

    Worth the credit, as always. And my birthday is coming up - now I've got something to ask for.

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    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • Anarchy and Old Dogs: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (78)
    Performance
    (60)
    Story
    (60)

    An elderly man has been run down by a logging truck on the street in Vientiane just opposite the post office. His body is delivered to the morgue of Dr. Siri Paiboun, the official and only coroner of Laos. At the age of 73, Siri is too old to be in awe of the new communist bureaucrats for whom he now works. Before he can identify the corpse, he must decipher a letter in the man’s pocket—it is written in invisible ink and in code.

    Cynthia says: "CSI: Vientiane, Laos"
    "CSI: Vientiane, Laos"
    Overall
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    I used to have a crush on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation's Dr. Gil Grissom, so adeptly played by William Petersen. And Petersen as Will Graham in Michael Mann's "Manhunter" (1986)? Based on Thomas Harris' 1981 "Red Dragon" prequel to the book/film "The Silence of the Lambs" (1988/1991), Petersen as a fictional investigator is tenacious and cooly ironic.

    Gil Grissom/William Petersen, I'm sorry. I will always admire your entomological wizardry - but my forensic adoration had been replaced with the 1977 version of Dr. Siri Paiboun, the 73 year old National Coroner of Laos. Dr. Siri's impossibly green eyes are a tell that he is the host of a millennia-old sprit - but only Buddhists "in the know" recognize the shaman Ya Ming in the Laotian National Coroner.

    In Colin Cotterill's "Anarchy and Old Dogs" (2007), the resourceful Dr. Siri is faced with a puzzle Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret would love. The question wasn't how an elderly man died: it was the result of a marriage of a poorly made Soviet truck with badly designed brakes, and a man blinded by cataracts who couldn't have seen it coming. Dr. Siri's question: who was the man, and why had he just picked up a blank "letter" sent from a town near the Thai border?

    Dr. Siri's sardonic comments about communism and bureaucracy are a wonderful complement to the equally snarky repartee of his oldest friend, Comrade Civilai. Civilai and Dr. Siri are both founding members of the Pathet Lao. Civilai's adept maneuvering has gotten him party respect, a large house, and even access to a plane and pilot. Dr. Siri uses Civilai's privileges to solve the mystery, and to find romance.

    I enjoyed the narration - as always, Clive Chafer's pronunciation of Lao, Hmong, and French words are an easy listen.

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    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • FREE The Gray Man

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Mark Greaney
    • Narrated By Jay Snyder
    Overall
    (1296)
    Performance
    (1145)
    Story
    (1167)

    Court Gentry is known as The Gray Man - a legend in the covert realm, moving silently from job to job, accomplishing the impossible, and then fading away. And he always hits his target. But there are forces more lethal than Gentry in the world. And in their eyes, Gentry has just outlived his usefulness. Now, he is going to prove that for him, there's no gray area between killing for a living-and killing to stay alive.

    Rollin says: "Gripping, unremitting action"
    "WETSU, Gentry, WETSU!"
    Overall
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    Story

    Mark Greaney's 'Gray Man' is Courtland Gentry, the quintessential loan wolf American assassin/hero. Gentry is a patriot and soldier, abandoned by a fickle Central Intelligence Agency he served as a paramilitary soldier. He's not DEVGRU veteran or a Special Forces operative. Gentry's got the same - or even better - training, but with unlimited financial resources and the stamina and speed of an endurance athlete.

    Since "The Gray Man" (2009) is the start of a series, I'm not spoiling the story by mentioning Gentry survives. The plot - and the suspense - is the number of bad guys that end up dead, and in what nearly impossible way Gentry kills them. Why is Gentry being chased by covert assassination organizations from two dozen second and third world countries? Who is the real brains and what is the real reason for what's happening? Does the weaponry/science work? And is it well written, and worth the listen?

    Grearney, of course, answers the first few questions. As to the weaponry/science issue - well, I found one really obvious "no way would that EVER work" scientific scenario (I am a veteran and I do know my armaments) but by the time it happened - well, I was completely hooked. Maybe the particular emptying of cartridges and subsequent explosion could never have worked, but I could have come up with something that did - and I was too enamored of Gentry to let Greaney fail him.

    At the same time I listened to - and really enjoyed - "The Gray Man" I wondered what Audible algorithm or Amazon metric pointed me to this book and this author. I have yet to have a mystery solved by a cat show up as a suggested purchase; I've never read or listened to a book involving aliens, or crystals, or both; and as to romances - well, I listened to one once because the author and I share a last name, and for the first time ever, invoked Audible's "No questions asked" return policy. I realized that as a listener/reader of some fiction and a lot of non-fiction military history, I must fit some psychological/marketing profile. Audible, can you let me know what that is? I'll forward it to my therapist - it will probably save six months of analysis.

    This is not the book the 2007 movie "The Gray Man" was based on. That's about Howard Hamilton "Albert" Fish, one of the first identified psycho-sexual serials in America, who was given that sobriquet before he was executed in 1936. Grearney's Gray Man, with his unshakable sense of right, is the moral opposite of that long ago psychopath.

    The title of this review comes from a response my basic training platoon had to a drill command. It's pronounced 'wet sue' and it means "We Eat This S*** Up".

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    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Disco for the Departed: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (94)
    Performance
    (77)
    Story
    (76)

    Dr. Siri Paiboun is summoned to the mountains of Huaphan Province, where for years the leaders of the current communist government hid in caves, waiting to assume power. Now a major celebration of the new regime is scheduled to take place, but an arm is found protruding from the concrete walk laid from the president’s former cave hideout to his new house beneath the cliffs. Siri must supervise the disinterment of the body attached to the arm, identify it, and determine the cause of death.

    Cynthia says: "It's a Dead Man's Party"
    "It's a Dead Man's Party"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Tony Hillerman (1925 - 2008) introduced me to Navajo culture when I picked up a used paperback copy of "The Blessing Way" (1970), laying between small metal cutouts of boots painted turquoise with magnets glued to the back, and a worn and rusted set of metric wrenches at Peddlers Pass in Prescott, AZ. For a few charmed hours, I was transported into a Native American culture nothing like the Ojibwa I was a little familiar with.

    Before I listened to Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri Paiboun series, Laos merged into Cambodia/Thailand/Vietnam, just like all Native American tribes were somehow lumped together in my mind before Hillerman's books. Thanks to the epic journey from one end of Laos to the other of Siri's morgue assistant, Mr. Geung in "Disco for the Departed" (2006), I know that Laos is (or was) no more homogenized than any other tribal region. "The Coroner's Lunch" (2004) Book 1 introduced Dr. Siri and his resident spirit, Ya Ming ; "Thirty-three Teeth" (2005) Book 2 introduces the kind, sturdy autodidact Nurse Dtui; and this book - Book 3 shows how people with Down syndrome can preserver over incredible odds.

    In "Disco for the Departed", old communist party fighter Dr. Siri solves an old, undiscovered mystery in the caves he and his comrades fought the war from. Deposed Laos royalty continues to play a small, fascinating role in the story. The ghosts that haunt the Disco are a good counterpart to the story, but - in the tradition of all good mysteries - spiritus ex machina does not solve the case.

    I don't actually know if the Lao pronunciations are right, but I assume Cotterill - who lived in Laos for years but was raised In an English speaking country - chose Clive Chafer as a narrator because his Lao and Hmong pronunciation was good. I didn't need an audio version to enjoy Hillerman's books, but I'm around enough native Navajo speakers when I visit Arizona to know how to read what I'm seeing. Since I don't know Lao or Hmong, the Audible worked especially well for me.

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    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, Robert Garland
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Garland
    Overall
    (995)
    Performance
    (897)
    Story
    (888)

    Look beyond the abstract dates and figures, kings and queens, and battles and wars that make up so many historical accounts. Over the course of 48 richly detailed lectures, Professor Garland covers the breadth and depth of human history from the perspective of the so-called ordinary people, from its earliest beginnings through the Middle Ages.

    Mark says: "Tantalizing time trip"
    "When the Mundane makes History Real"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Villa of the Papyri is nestled on the bluffs of the Pacific Palisades in California. Finished in 1974, it was closed for renovations and reopened in 2010 as "The Getty Villa." J. Paul Getty's Villa - and The Getty Center in West Los Angeles are, as Getty promised, free to all.

    Okay, maybe the original Villa dei Papiri was in Herculaneum, which was destroyed in AD 79 - along with Pompeii - when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Pompeii is now temporarily at the California Science Center in Exposition Park, near the LA Coliseum and USC.

    I coincidentally finished listening to Dr. Robert S. J. Garland's "The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World" (2010) just before I took out of town family to the Pompeii exhibit. Garland's lectures were so concise and vivid, I recognized every single artifact and I knew what it was used for - and keep in mind, I listened to the Audible version which doesn't come with books. I knew what kind of artisan made something, the training they had, and whether they were a slave, a manumitted slave, or free born. I looked at a restored fresco, and impressed my sister by telling her that the ancient Romans would have changed the painted scene as fashions changed. Trends and fads are as old as Ancient Greece. Just as the 1980's Laura Ashley overstuffed and frilled pastels and floral wallpaper gave way to furniture and frames various hues of the same color, tailored linens, hardwood floors and painted walls 30 years later, the painted harbor scene popular during one emperor's reign gave way to starkly contrasting blocks of color, proving that abstractionism isn't a modern construct. I even knew when I got to the gift shop which replica jewelry belonged with the exhibit, and the social class of the women who would have worn it. It didn't stop me from buying the regionally misplaced and historically non-existent Sphinx earrings just because I liked anyway.

    The title of this series of lectures is a misnomer, though. Garland's lectures on Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and to a limited extent Ancient Persia, are worth the price and the listen. However, he's missing entire major ancient civilizations: China's written history is more than 4,000 years old; there's the Mayans, who were a civilization for about 3000 years, until the Spanish arrived, with their viruses, in 900 AD; and many other cultures that flourished and vanished or were absorbed by conquerors. These civilizations had writing, so they were historic, not pre-historic.

    If the title had been accurate, I'd give this 4 instead of a 3. It's not higher because some of the lectures are repetitive. I did enjoy Dr. Gardner's voice and his delivery, but I wasn't so excited that I listened to more than one lecture a day.

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    7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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