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Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

Monrovia, California, United States | Member Since 2012

  • 165 reviews
  • 165 ratings
  • 413 titles in library
  • 53 purchased in 2014

  • David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs)
    • By Malcolm Gladwell
    • Narrated By Malcolm Gladwell

    In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks. Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago.

    Cynthia says: "The Art of (Unconventional) War"
    "The Art of (Unconventional) War"

    Every few years, Malcolm Gladwell publishes a fascinating, engaging book on an overarching sociological concept. He started in 2000 with "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," defining that point as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." Gladwell isn't creating trends, as the subjects of his 2008 book "Outliers: The Story of Success" do. Gladwell, after extensive research, gives the concepts names and stories everyone can understand.

    "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" (2013) is a collection of stories about people who do things differently, either because they are different or because they have no choice but to ignore 'conventional wisdom' to fight and win. Gladwell provides many examples of underdogs using unconventional warfare: Irish Catholics; a girl's under 12 basketball coached by a dad who'd never played the game; The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and the American Civil Rights Movement . . .

    By illustration, Gladwell tells the story of Emil Freireich, an oncologist and an incredible social misfit in the pediatric oncology ward he worked in. Dr. Freireich's inability to let emotions into his work - and his ability to think beyond common practices - made him instrumental in finding cures for childhood leukemia. Hundreds of thousands of people owe their lives to a man with the bedside manner of a gruff truck driver who has had one too many coffees and still has five hundred miles to go before the sun rises again.

    Gladwell also points out the loss that can happen when someone tries to fit in the wrong place and wrong time. He illustrates that concept using a woman who went to an Ivy League university and lost her passion for science among all the 'big fish' in the competitive shark classes. If she'd gone to a state university, which actually had more qualified, published professors, she would be living her dream now. I have two teenagers, and that resonated with me. My oldest, inculcated by the mantra of 'you must get into A Good College', wonders if I know what I'm talking about when I tell him I want him to find a school that's good for him. Now I've got backup.

    Gladwell's books are occasionally fiercely criticized by the scientific community, because they are too general; or because someone believes he has misinterpreted studies and data. Those are valid points, but Gladwell isn't writing a peer reviewed article for publication in "Evolutionary Behavioral Science". He's writing for everyone, not just PhD's and MD's, and he's writing to start a conversation, not answer all questions.

    I've heard Gladwell in interviews, but this is the first Audible Gladwell book I've listened to. (I have the rest of in hardback, and my favorite is 2005's "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.") Gladwell is a great narrator.

    The Audible comes with a PDF file with a photo Gladwell discusses extensively in the book; charts and graphs; and footnotes.

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    291 of 301 people found this review helpful
  • Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WW II

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Chester Nez, Judith Schiess Avila
    • Narrated By David Colacci
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Chester Nez, the only surviving member of the original twenty-nine Navajo code talkers, shares the fascinating inside story of his life and service during World War II.

    Roxane says: "Interesting Listen for WWII Buffs"
    "The Enemy Way"

    The first time I learned about code talkers was over a hot, humid summer in Missouri, during basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. One of my drill sergeants was part Native American, and he proudly told the story of the unbreakable code Navajos created in World War II.

    Event though Sgt. Duke wasn't one of "the dineh" he was carrying on the Navajo tradition of telling fascinating stories, just as Chester Nez and Judith Schiess Avila do in "Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII" (2012).

    The extended title of the book sounds almost too formal, but it is precise in a way Nez must have insisted on. At the end of WWI, a US Army battalion in France used Choctaw soldiers as ad hoc code talkers. Seminoles served as code talkers in Europe in WWII, while Navajos served in the Pacific.

    Nez was one of the original 29 men, fluent in Navajo and English, recruited from schools and reservations in Arizona and New Mexico, to develop a top secret code. The military was desperate: the Japanese had broken every other code, and machine encryption using a one-use code took hours to encrypt and decrypt. Navajo was ideal: it was rarely written at the time (it was well after WWII that the Navajo Nation even agreed on an alphabet); it was extremely difficult for non-native speakers to learn; and Navajos were raised to memorize long stories.

    "Code Talkers" works exceptionally well as an Audible book, especially with the way this story is told. Nez and Avila weave Navajo customs and traditions, such as a medicine bag, into 'a day in battle life' narrative, Nez served as a code talker at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, Angaur and Peleliu - without ever being allowed to take leave. Nez was about to ship out to Iwo Jima when someone pulled his jacket and realized he'd accumulated enough points to be honorably discharged.

    Nez shipped stateside for a few months of medical care, and then went home to his family and their land. He started to have nightmares, haunted by the 'chindi' (evil remnants) of the hundreds of dead enemy soldiers he'd seen. Nez - and the estimated 400 to 500 other Navajo code talkers - kept their work secret, even when tormented by wicked memories.

    "Code Talkers" has a lengthy description of Navajo sings - including The Enemy Way, a traditional Navajo cure. Nez went through an Enemy Way shortly after his service ended. More than 20 years later, when his work was declassified and he faced too many questions, he went through another Enemy Way ceremony, followed by a Blessing Way. Absolutely fascinating - and, as Nez would have said himself - they worked because he expected them to work.

    David Colacci is an accomplished narrator. Well, that's an understatement after 160+ narrated titles. I don't know if his Navajo pronunciation was correct or not, with the exception of the handful of Navajo words I've heard spoken by native speakers - and those sounded right to me. But, as good as Colacci is in this Audible, I wish Tantor had found a native Navajo speaker to narrate this. The actual language is just that important. This is the first time I'm giving a Colacci audible less than a 5, but it's not a Colacci Issue: it's a producer problem.

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    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Coroner’s Lunch: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Laos, 1975: The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over this former French colony. Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old Paris-trained doctor, is appointed national coroner. Although he has no training for the job, there is no one else: the rest of the educated class have fled.

    Jane says: "a splendid story"
    "Coroner to the Communist Stars"

    Last summer, I developed a short lived passion for Michael Connelly's "Lincoln Lawyer" series. Connelly's Mickey Haller (2005 - present) is an easy love for an old Los Angeles trial attorney like me. I listened to the entire series, one right after another, and was secretly relieved there were only four books in the series at the time. It's an expensive habit.

    This summer, Audible hooked me on Colin Cotterill's "Dr. Siri Paiboun" series. Or maybe one of the ghosts that haunts Dr. Siri (pronounced SiLee, not like the iPhone 5 voice) is haunting me, too - sitting on a wooden chair in my living room, urging me in Hmong (which in my dreams I understand) to keep listening to more Paiboun mysteries.

    Dr. Siri is canny, resourceful and accidentally a detective. He's an old insurgent who fought for Lao communist forces for 40 years. Siri is a colonial French-trained doctor, unexpectedly and unwantedly named as Laotian National Coroner, despite a complete lack of forensic training. Mystery ensues and supernatural forces visit, but Cotterill follows the good mystery writer's custom of not using 'deus ex somnium' as clues. Siri is aptly assisted by sturdy and bored Nurse Dtui and the capable and occasionally comedic Mr. Geung, both unforgettable characters in their own right.

    Now, for the problem: Cotterill's series has 9 books so far, and this is going to get expensive. Audible, what about a 'buy one in a series, get a second one free' deal?

    This book worked so much better listening than reading for me. I would have mentally stumbled over the correct Vietnamese, Lao and Hmong pronunciations, and that would have distracted me from the story.

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    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Hard Choices

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Hillary Rodham Clinton
    • Narrated By Kathleen Chalfant, Hillary Rodham Clinton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Hillary Rodham Clinton's inside account of the crises, choices, and challenges she faced during her four years as America's 67th Secretary of State, and how those experiences drive her view of the future. In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, she expected to return to representing New York in the United States Senate. To her surprise, her former rival for the Democratic Party nomination, newly elected President Barack Obama, asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. This memoir is the story of the four extraordinary and historic years that followed.

    Cynthia says: "Senior Stateswoman in need of Editor"
    "Senior Stateswoman in need of Editor"

    I have often wondered what former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was thinking on May 1, 2011 when that famous photo of her, with her hand over her mouth, was taken in the White House Situation Room as she waited for the results of Operation Neptune Spear. I read/listen to just about everything I can get my hands on about the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden, like Mark Owens and Kevin Maurer's "No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden" (2012) and former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates "Memoirs of a Secretary at War" (2014). I would have listened to HRC's "Hard Choices" (2014) just for her perspective on that mission, but this book has so much more.

    HRC sets forth comprehensive US foreign policy, starting with her husband, Bill (William Jefferson) Clinton, president from 1993 to 2001; George H. Bush, 2001 to 2009; to Barack Obama, 2009 to the present. HRC has been a first hand observer or participant in international politics for more than 20 years, as First Lady; then as a Senator from New York; and then as Secretary of State.

    The book is so current, it talks about Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimea. HRC's position on Russia is hawkish, and Vladimir Putin should count himself fortunate she isn't president right now. I'm not an up-and-coming or current world leader, or rebel general working on being a dictator, but if I were - and wanted to know where I, or my country stood with the current most-likely-next-president of the United States, I'd find out in "Hard Choices".

    If I wanted to know about her husband's infamous dalliance more than 20 years ago, I guess I could read "The National Enquirer" - but I wouldn't waste my I time reading about it and HRC doesn't waste my time writing about it. I would rather know her position on Iran's nuclear enrichment program, Syria's use of chemical weapons, or what might work in patching up international relationships badly damaged by leaks of candid assessments of world leaders in State Department cables. "Hard Choices" talks about those issues, not about whether staying with her husband was a difficult decision.

    HRC has a unique view of countries and their leaders. Some nations - for example, China and India - have national feelings and attributes (inferiority and insecurity) that she does not confuse with the beliefs or actions of their leaders. Other very small nations - such as Qatar, with a population about 20% of that of Los Angeles County - are so closely aligned with their leaders, they can't be distinguished. HRC's ability to separate the nutcase in charge from the population as a whole has been key in the Obama administration's arguable successes in various Arab countries.

    Which brings me to the editor part: "Hard Choices" is 657 pages in print and 27 hours on Audible. Even with 'a long commute' it took me a while to finish the listen, because, well, I got a mired in the details, and sometimes, I got bored. I had the same problem with Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" (2005). I could have used a Playbill, a world map, and a timeline for both books.

    HRC has a great voice, and I would have been happier with her doing the entire narration. She did the introduction, and there's an Easter egg: there's a 15 minute epilogue in her own voice. Kathleen Chalfant is fine, but it's not the same.

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    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Simon Sinek
    • Narrated By Simon Sinek
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their successes over and over? People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why.

    Allan says: "Important Theme - Repetitive Presentation"
    "Manipulate or Inspire?"

    Simon Sinek's 2009 "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action" wasn't what I was expecting, but I hadn't really taken a good look at the summary. I thought I was getting a business process or procedures book that would help identify and design streamlined procedures. I thought I was getting case studies, like : "If a car maker has a goal to sell 100,000 of a certain model of cars in a year, what steps would be taken - and why? What good leaders have done this before? And are there more effective steps - for example, if the maker is selling hybrid cars, should the maker conduct its own survey of green consumers? Or would it be more efficient to buy a marketing list from Whole Foods?

    The book was much more interesting. Sinek, an eternal optimist whose name ironically sounds like 'cynic', isn't talking about that 'why'. His book is about why people and organizations do what they do when they aren't doing it just to make money and satisfy shareholders. Sinek discusses the dream of Sam Walton to bring affordable goods to rural America. That was his "why". Wal-Mart was, for a time, beloved - but Sam died and the corporation is canibalizing its own employees [my words, not Sinek's]. Probably a third of the book is about Apple and Steve Jobs. Jobs was alive when Sinek wrote "Start With Why". I'd agree with Sinek's proposition that Jobs/Apple wanted to change the world, and that was their "why." However, I read Walter Isaacson's authorized biography "Steve Jobs" (2011) and I'd go one step further: I think Jobs "why" was that wanted to control the world, and that Jobs did end up controlling a lot of it. Sam Walton definitely lead by inspiring. Jobs - well - sometimes he inspired, and often he scared people silly.

    I did find it curious that Sinek didn't mention Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway, or its portfolio of successful companies. I don't think Buffet fits Sinek's model, but Buffett is one of the wealthiest, most admired and philanthropical businessmen of our time. The Oracle of Omaha doesn't have the technical know-how of Microsoft's Bill Gates or the artistic genius of Walt Disney, but Buffett is, in a very quiet way, trying to change our world by eliminating income inequality.

    Sinek argues that inspirational leaders are reaching to their limbic brains. I'm sure that is true, but I think that's a vast oversimplification of where inspiration comes from. That particular brain system is so large and so complex, it's like arguing that water comes from the ocean. He's developed a theory of "The Golden Circle" to describe the core of motivation. I'm not sure it's as all encompassing as Sinek believes, but it's a good seed for additional research.

    Sinek did the audible narration himself, and had an interesting accent. He'd be going along, and all of the sudden, an East Coast accent would pop up for a word, and disappear. The answer was he lived all over the place growing up - including New Jersey. The audible could have used an Audible proof. There were a couple of places where a some lines repeated.

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    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Silkworm

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Robert Galbraith
    • Narrated By Robert Glenister
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows.

    Crystal says: "A Yawner"
    "Bombyx mori, Momento mori"

    This is a hard mystery to review because, of course, this is JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. Rowling tried to keep her identity secret, but a lawyer confided in his gossiping wife, and just a few months after "The Cuckoo's Calling" (2013) was released, and much to her ire, Rowling was outed.

    2014's "The Silkworm" is a literary broadside against the fiction writing and publishing industry - and I mean it in the armament sense, not as a printing term. Galbraith takes aim at so called intellectual writers who write highly symbolic fiction with presumably important subtexts, themes, and analogies meant to be studied and analyzed in college literature classes. Or, perhaps, they show up on AP Literature tests. In the meantime, those same tenured English professors with prestigious University positions and many sets of initials after their names make fun of the story tellers like Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, and Rowling herself. Galbraith aims a special cannon at cruel and mocking reviews, noting the profound effect those can have on a starting writer. There's also a subtext of imitation so profound it's an obsequious theft of someone's talent - and sometimes that's all some writers can do.

    What makes "The Silkworm" a good story (instead of a lengthy screed) is Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. Strike is the bastard, barely acknowledged eldest son of a famous musician, a badly wounded Afghanistan veteran, and a well trained, careful and intuitive detective. There'a more of Strike's past here, and oddly - every good friend Strike has is badly physically scarred. Robin, an unexpected temporary solution in "The Cuckoo's Calling" is more fully developed in "The Silkworm". Galbraith hints at an unfortunate episode in University that made Robin leave short of a degree. It's not in this book, but I'm sure it will come. Neither Strike nor Robin is easy to know, or, quite frankly, always likable. But interesting - yes.

    The mystery in this book - well, there is no question of "murder most foul" (Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5). The pool of suspects is limited, kind of a "closed book" mystery in this case. However, for me at least - there was something about the murder scene - and the theme of the underlying book - that reminded me very faintly of the cult classic "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975). Cruel parody is a constant in "The Silkworm", and any resemblance doesn't even rise to pastiche. It's almost certainly entirely coincidental - but it was just enough to give me a Tim Curry and Meat Loaf earworm.

    There's something surprising I learned in the the narrative: Robert Glenister read "xxx" at the end of a text message as "kiss-kiss-kiss". I checked and although I was unhelpfully shunted to Google's US site, I found references that's the correct UK translation. I know some morse code back from my military days and 'xxx' means the end of keying a transmission, at least to some operators. As in "I'm done with what I'm saying." It's not used in American text messages, though. In an American English book, Robin and Strike wouldn't have ended text messages to each other with 'kisses'. 'xxx' is a UK English definition I'm glad to know.

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    11 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Richard Hooker
    • Narrated By Johnny Heller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Before the movie, this is the novel that gave life to Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, Hot Lips Houlihan, Frank Burns, Radar O'Reilly, and the rest of the gang that made the 4077th MASH like no other place in Korea or on earth. The doctors who worked in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) during the Korean War were well trained but, like most soldiers sent to fight a war, too young for the job. In the words of the author, "a few flipped their lids, but most of them just raised hell, in a variety of ways and degrees."

    Trish says: "I Wanted to Love it--and I DID!!"
    "We're the Pros from Dover"

    M*A*S*H - the television show - was a military brass colored thread that ran through my life from 4th grade to my first year in the Army. By the final show, I'd gone from a pudgy, short 4th grader forced to wear rubber bands on her braces to an E-3/PFC in the Army. I could run faster and do more sit-ups then most men; take apart and reassemble an M16 in less than a minute; and, of course, shoot well enough to win prizes even at rigged carnival galleries.

    On February 28, 1983, the date the final M*A*S*H episode aired, the Presidio I was stationed lost power. Channelling my inner Radar O"Reilly, I scrounged up a 6" black and white TV, collected money for a couple of dozen D batteries, and the entire Company watched it in the standing-room only Common Room.

    The 1970 movie "MASH" was based on this book - Richard Hooker's novel "MASH: A Novel about Three Army Doctors" (1968). I'm certain I wouldn't have seen the movie until high school, and then it would have been bowdlerized for network television broadcast. Censored or not, I loved the movie - especially Sally Kellerman as "Hot Lips Houlihan." She was so over the top, she'd rounded the bend and was back to some mysterious manic subtlety.

    I remember reading this MASH book the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I thought the book would complement the movie.

    Unfortunately, didn't understand half of it. The political and military satire - no problem. But the medical stuff - Hooker is the nom de plume of H. Richard Hornberger, MD (deceased), a genuine US Army surgeon who served in the Korean War. I completely lacked the education to understand the anatomy, medical terms, and surgical procedures he was talking about. The Internet was called Arpamet, and a decade away from even the most basic civilian use. The set of Encyclopedia Britanicas Mom and Dad had bought on a monthly installment plan over 4 years didn't have the detail to explain bowel resections, pulmonary embolisms, and the subtleties of neurosurgery. And the public library - well, let's just say - it's really hard to use a card catalog and the Dewey Decimal System when you don't know what you're looking for.

    More than 30 years later, I really enjoyed the book "MASH." The writing and dialog was a bit choppy but I just wish I'd been able to say and do some of the things Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre did when I served. Of course, no one is going to get away with that in an all volunteer Army. Pierce and McIntyre, on the other hand, were drafted from lucrative private practices. And the plot - let's just say it was a huge plot for a relatively short book. The television series put that to good use.

    This is classic war fiction, with a healthy dose of sarcasm and humor.

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    13 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Paper Towns

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By John Green
    • Narrated By Dan John Miller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.

    Jeremy says: "Green is Always Good, But Paper Towns Not Best"
    "Pseudovisions and Wild Imagination"

    John Green's Audibles should be labeled "Warning: Do not drive while listening."

    "The Fault in our Stars" (2012) had me sobbing through an entire chapter. Fortunately, I was in really heavy traffic and I was able to slowly follow brake lights ahead of me

    On the other hand. I laughed to hard through parts of "Paper Towns" (2008) that I forgot to look at my GPS, drove far past my exit, and ended up late for a meeting with a big grin on my face, instead an appropriately contrite look.

    I'm not going to summarize the whole book here. I'm several generations past the target audience, and I'd almost certainly end up condescending and judgmental. Green doesn't deserve that, and neither do his characters Quentin 'Q' Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman.

    So, as a middle aged mom of teenagers, here's what I thought was great about the book:

    I like Green's neologisms. I've worked with developers for more than 20 years in California. There so many named, never built grand dreams on maps. California City. Salton Sea. Elegant community names are given, streets are mapped out and maybe graded, lots are sold - but nothing is ever built. Green calls them "pseudovisions" - and that's really the best word for what they are.

    Green's subtle, clever nod to American photographer Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942 - 1973) added an unexpected dimension to "Paper Towns" that I had fun exploring. I don't think Mountweazel's posthumous contributions, especially to Wikipedia, are recognized often enough.

    I also have a confession to make: I managed to make it through almost half a century without the slightest inclination to read Walt Whitman, much less understand his poetry. Or, to be fair - any poetry not written by Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, or Maya Angelou. So, yes, I'll be listening to Whitman sometime soon. And I'm guessing I'll really like if. (Audible, wouldn't "Leaves of Grass" be a neat Daily Deal???)

    The only problem I'm having now is - well - I keep thinking of great practical jokes. Which, since I'm a litigator and Judges are required to give up all sense of humor when they take the bench, won't ever happen. But at least I can imagine tricks while waiting for my case to be called.

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    13 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • The Currents of Space

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Isaac Asimov
    • Narrated By Kevin T. Collins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    High above the planet Florinia, the Squires of Sark live in unimaginable wealth and comfort. Down in the eternal spring of the planet, however, the native Florinians labor ceaselessly to produce the precious kyrt that brings prosperity to their Sarkite masters. Rebellion is unthinkable and impossible. Living among the workers of Florinia, Rik is a man without a memory or a past. He has been abducted and brainwashed.

    thomas says: "Good Solid Asimov"
    "See the Future from the Past"

    The first moonwalk was July 21, 1969. Apollo 11. Neil Armstrong David Brinkley reporting on NBC on our family's black and white television. What adventure! I was a kindergartener, wondering what the world would hold next. Inter stellar travel at warp speed on the USS Enterprise NC-1701 (Star Trek television series 1967 - 1969)?

    Much to my disappointment, the dream of space destination travel was shelved with the last Apollo moonwalk in 1972, But Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick's 1968 book and movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" - which I didn't discover for another 10 years - made casual space travel seem, well, like a not-too-distant probability.

    Liking Clarke took me to "hard science fiction", a SciFi genre with "an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both." I read Robert C. Heinlein, Poul Anderson. Fredrick Pohl - and of course, Isaac Asimov. I purchased them used at Uncle Hugo's Bookstore in Minneapolis. Or sometimes, depending on the author - new, right after the paperback release. I was making minimum wage and couldn't afford hardback at the time. I never turned them back in for store credit - somehow I thought I'd want them later. 30 years later, my son read them when he was about the same age.

    Asimov is one if my favorites, but he was such a prolific writer, I don't think I've read even half of what he wrote. It sure didn't help that I loved the entire Foundation series so much I read it twice. .

    "The Currents of Space" (1952), part of the Gallactic Empire Series, was new to me. Although Asimov's not known for it now, he was also a well regarded mystery writer - and Currents seamlessly combines the two genres. Rik, a complete stranger whose memory has been wiped, is dumped in a small farming village on the planet Florina. Vilona - Lona for short - a plaintiff, sturdy farmer longing for someone to love, agrees to care for the infantile Rik. As Rik gets better, his memory returns in part and then mostly - and what he knows is both dangerous and life saving. And there's the mystery, with plenty of suspects, plausible motives, and apparent opportunities.

    Kevin T. Collins' 2009 Audible narration adds a complexity to the novel that couldn't have existed in Asimov's writings: the accents of the characters which ranged from American (Rik); rural American South (Lona); Polish, Russian, Scottish, educated English, Cockney, Spanish . . . And all recognizably so. There was a good reason. That was a Faberge Easter Egg for the spoken version. BBC Books holds the copyright and I couldn't find a director or producer. If it was Collins' idea, it was inspired - and the 2009 Audible award was well deserved.

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    6 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By David Boies, Theodore B. Olson
    • Narrated By Mike Chamberlain
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United Statesissued a pair of landmark decisions, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and eliminating California's discriminatory Proposition 8, thereby reinstating the freedom to marry for gays and lesbians in California. Redeeming the Dream is the story of how David Boies and Theodore B. Olson - who argued against each other all the way to the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore - joined forces after that titanic battle to forge the unique legal argument that would carry the day.

    R says: "More than it appears . . ."
    "Living History, Loving History"

    When you live through history, the big picture - if you think of it at all - is elusive. There are parts of the illustrated history you can imagine but can't see because you're painted in another perspective. NPR, FoxNews, Slate, evangelical Christians, liberal pundits and conservative wonks add pieces to a puzzle scattered across a vast nation.

    I was part of the 48% in California who voted 'no' on Prop 8 - which means I supported marriage equality. I mourned for friends who'd married and had their civil rights taken from them. I listened to the live webcast of "8", with so many people Internet traffic slowed down even crashed in a few places. In June of 2013, I changed my Facebook picture and pretty soon, every Facebook friend I had looked the same: = Our avatars stayed that way until DOMA and Prop 8 were overturned.

    And talk about real excitement: SCOTUSBlog! No waiting for NPR's Nina Totenberg to come out of the Courthouse to explain the decisions. I posted SCOTUSBlog's report to FB, and the virtual celebration was on. Not that I didn't make it a special point to listen to Totenberg's reports later: no one explains the Supreme Court better.

    So, I was and am definitely a supporter of same sex marriage, but other than being one of more than 50 million? 100 million now? that support it, I really only had the most rudimentary idea of how it went from whispers to dreams to possibility to reality.

    I understood how and why United States v. Windsor (2013) 570 US 12 ended up in front of the US Supreme Court: that was a federal tax (IRS) question arising out of a federal law - the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

    But Hollingsworth v Perry (2013) 133 S.Ct. 2652? Why wasn't that a California case? Did Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and later, Jerry Brown have the state constitutional authority to refuse to defend a proposition voted on by a majority of the voters, or even an affirmative obligation not to defend Prop 8? How were the Plaintiffs selected? And why now, not later when more people might have accepted the idea? And, just what was actor/director/civil rights activist Rob Reiner's part in this anyway? And why was there a trial, rather than a Motion for Summary Judgment?

    I already had a pretty good idea of why the conservative Theodore Olson and the liberal David Boies were working together: human rights are human rights, not 'isms'. And - especially for us 'Street Lawyers' (as John Grisham might call us), there's no more idealistic attorney than a constitutional law attorney. Unless, of course, it's the President.

    What fascinated me especially is learning how Olson and Boies worked together to map out a plan, from selecting resilient, optimistic Plaintiffs; identifying qualified experts; taking depositions; opening and closing statements; and establishing a strong record for appeal. Their system of constant balances and critical feedback in preparing questions and arguments - well - it was clearly invaluable and crucial to their preparation.

    "Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality" (2014) by David Boies and Theodore Olson answers the procedural (how it got to the Courts it went to) and substantive (what law was used, and why). Absolutely fascinating. And - as someone who aced constitutional law in law school and has hundreds of hours of training in the same, and is admitted to practice before the US Supreme Court - if I were doing law school again, I'd read "Redeeming the Dream" first and last.

    That being said - as a reader/listener Olson and Boies sounded like lawyers who'd swallowed Black's Law Dictionary and were slowly regurgitating it. That's a good thing for the US Supreme Court and law students, but not so good for folks who didn't find Cliff Sloan and David McKean's "The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall and the Battle for the Supreme Court" (2009) edge-of-your-seat fascinating. (That's the history of Marbury v. Madison (1803) 5 U.S. 137.)

    So, my recommendation if the paragraph above doesn't apply to you: start from Chapter 8 on Audible - 7 on paper, and listen to the rest after if you are so inclined. And get "8" on Audible, because it's just that d***ed good.

    I was so tempted - and so wanted - to give this book 5's across the board, because 'What a Great Story!' It's just not that well written or narrated - Rob Reiner, where are you?

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    8 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • The Advocate's Betrayal: The Advocate Series, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Teresa Burrell
    • Narrated By Meghan Kelly

    The Killer left nothing behind but a rosary, a kitchen knife, and a dead man. but the dead man is a friend of Sabre Orin Brown. When his unsuspecting wife is accused of the murder, Sabre will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, even if it means unearthing chilling secrets. From a San Diego jail to the shady Chicago nightlife, Sabre's search for the true killer forces her to face the question: What do you do when the ones you trust the most are the ones with the most to hide?

    Gayle says: "GREAT SECOND IN SERIES"
    "Pretty Darn Good"

    I read - and listened to - Teresa Burrell's "The Advocate" (2009), first in the series, first. It was good, but a little messy: Burrell had a lot of great plot lines and threw them into the same book. It's almost as if Burrell was afraid she wouldn't get the chance to publish another book. The vocabulary was stilted, too: Burrell's a lawyer, and most of her characters sound like they are, too in Book 1.

    Burrell got off to a rocky start, but I liked the character of San Diego kid's lawyer Sabre Orin Brown well enough to sign up for Burrell's mailing list at a Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. And that's how I found out "The Advocate" series is on Audible . . .

    Book 2 - "The Advocate's Betrayal" (2012) is just plain good. I'm really used to figuring our "who dunnit" pretty early in a legal procedural thriller, but I didn't with this book - and it wasn't because the author as deus popped something into the narrative late in the game. It was just that well plotted. And the dialogue: Sobs, as her best friend calls her, still sounds like a lawyer, because she is - but the non-lawyer characters sound like real, actual people.

    The book is set in San Diego, and I know it well enough to know the freeway directions and were on point, as well as the description of the areas in general. It's not a San Diego Zoo/Sea World/Lego Land/Wild Animal Park kind of book, though. It's a working person's San Diego, complete with a description of where to find more than one Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

    The narration on this one was pretty good but - oh, no, please, no sound effects! The first time I heard one, I wondered what had fallen or was falling off my car. That startled and distracted me from what was otherwise a really good experience.

    Recommendation: Start with Book 2 first, and then go to Book 1 for the background.

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    7 of 13 people found this review helpful

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