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Raglan, New Zealand | Member Since 2011

  • 54 reviews
  • 54 ratings
  • 188 titles in library
  • 15 purchased in 2014

  • Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Steven Kotler, Peter H. Diamandis
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    We will soon be able to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp. This bold, contrarian view, backed up by exhaustive research, introduces our near-term future, where exponentially growing technologies and three other powerful forces are conspiring to better the lives of billions of people. This book is an antidote to pessimism by tech-entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist Peter H. Diamandis and award-winning science writer Steven Kotler.

    Ryan says: "A catalog of positive innovations on the horizon"
    "The Future - Fantasy or Fact?"

    I have read, or listened to, a lot of very gloomy books over the last few years. Unfortunately, I think most of them have probably been telling the truth, so it is quite a relief to listen to a book that paints an optimistic picture of the future.

    The authors don’t hide from the fact that we are facing an apparently unsustainable world population growth to 9 billion in the next couple of decades, along with an increasing demand for food and water and a continuing of humanity’s destruction of other species and the environment.

    But in this book they do a pretty good job of convincing us that the situation is not as bad as we think, and that we have the ingenuity to solve many of these crushing, dispiriting problems: lack of food, lack of clean water, dependence on fossil fuels, pollution by human and industrial waste, deforestation, destruction of the oceans etc.

    Their first job is to convince us that we are inherently pessimistic for a number of deep-rooted psychological reasons, because a pessimistic, suspicious, over-cautious outlook would have increased our survival chances when we were evolving as hunter-gatherers. A hunter-gatherer’s territory was small and involved only a few people and animals, and we aren’t wired to comprehend systems involving billions of people and countless other variables, so we tend to be over-pessimistic. For example, in 19th century London people believed that the city was being overwhelmed by horse-manure. They couldn’t conceive of a workable solution because they couldn’t imagine that a few years later the city would be dominated by automobiles and we would be worried about air pollution instead. Similarly, in later decades we thought acid rain would decimate the environment, but this problem has now been largely forgotten.

    When we try to predict the future we tend to think of our rate of progress as being linear, but actually, many of our technologies advance at an exponential rate. An example of this is computer chip technology, where each year the number of circuits packed onto a chip increases exponentially. Problems that currently seem to be unsolvable, like the lack of clean drinking water in the world’s poorest countries, can be solved by the invention of water-purifying technologies. These devices are already being produced and are improving at an exponential rate. The knowledge and spread of such technologies is enhanced and compounded by the exponential growth of communication networks in the developing world resulting from the spread of mobile phone technology.

    Similar technological solutions are offered for sanitation (toilets that don’t need water or an outlet pipe, that burn the faeces to generate energy, purify the urine to release fresh water and produce urea as a fertiliser). There are similar solutions offered for many other problems faced by the poor in the modern world. Solar panel technology which increases efficiency exponentially, improved battery technology made from abundant non-toxic chemicals, efficient high rise farms, bacteria that are genetically programmed to manufacture fuels and so on.

    These may seem rather far-fetched, but today’s smartphones would have seemed far-fetched 20 years ago, and now they are affordable to almost everyone.

    One might object that improving the lot of the poorest billion will only increase population further, so that it always remains unsustainable and beyond the reach of technological advances, but the authors point out that the rate of population growth always falls once people have the basic necessities to bring them out of poverty: Food, shelter, clean water, good sanitation, energy for cooking, heating and lighting, health and education.

    It’s a fascinating book, and it offers an optimistic future without the need to radically change the whole global political landscape. I thought the only way to slow the current reckless onslaught towards environmental destruction would be to form some kind of world government which could control and limit emissions, deforestation, overfishing and all the other human activities that are doing so much damage, but this book suggests that we might arrive at a cleaner, better world without the need for drastic government intervention. This view may be overly optimistic, but I have enjoyed the hope.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Adolf Hitler

    • UNABRIDGED (44 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By John Toland
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham

    Based on previously unpublished documents, diaries, notes, photographs, and dramatic interviews with Hitler's colleagues and associates, this is the definitive biography of one of the most despised yet fascinating figures of the 20th century. Painstakingly documented, it is a work that will not soon be forgotten.

    Chris Frenzy says: "Absolutely fascinating, in depth and jarring."
    "Strange Person"

    What can you say about a man who had this much impact on history? How could a person rise from such humble beginnings to mesmerize and captivate a nation, instilling god-like devotion in his followers and inspiring them to wage war on the rest of the world?

    This book provides some of the answers, but the true inner Hitler will always remain something of a mystery. He had an unusual early life: He was born in Austria, not Germany. His father was illegitimate and his grandfather may have been Jewish, no one knows for sure. In early adulthood he aspired to be an artist, but he struggled greatly to make a successful career out of this. His failure resulted in him living, for a time, on the streets, in dire poverty. At this stage there were no obvious signs that he was a monster: He loved and cared greatly for his mother and was heartbroken when she died. Strangely, he greatly respected the Jewish doctor who treated her for cancer.

    In World War One, he miraculously survived four years of trench warfare as a lowly corporal. Germany’s defeat was very painful for him, but he enjoyed and revelled in warfare more than any other activity. From this time onwards he was motivated by two main passions: the rise of Germany and the destruction of the Jews. In order to bring this about he needed to rise to power, and to acquire this power he used his extraordinary talent for oration. He was a brilliant speaker. Despite his unremarkable appearance and diminutive stature, he captivated his audiences wherever he went.

    He used this talent to harness the German people's patriotism, their fear of communism and their anti-Semitism, persuading them to go to war to create a new German Empire. His method of waging war, ‘blitzkrieg’, was innovative and immensely successful. This military success continued for a while, but it nurtured an unrealistic optimism in Hitler. As the tide of war started to turn, when the USSR and USA joined the fight against Germany, he continued attacking, against overwhelming enemy forces, in the mistaken belief that he could repeat his early successes. This approach, which incurred massive loss of life, continued right to Hitler’s end. In his final few days, even as he could hear Russian artillery fire from his bunker in Berlin, he was ordering counterattacks in the deluded belief that the war could still be won. Finally, when he realized that the war was lost, he committed suicide to avoid the humiliation of capture by the Russians.

    Why did he hate Jews and treat them so abominably? I didn't find an answer in this book. The Jews have been persecuted throughout history, so antipathy towards them is not particularly rare, but the extent of Hitler's hatred of the Jews and the appalling cruelty he perpetrated upon them was exceptional and truly shocking. Clearly, he used anti-Semitism as a means of motivating others to fight for his cause, but why he wanted to go as far as to commit genocide is unclear. There doesn't seem to have been an incident in his life where he was badly treated by Jews, so it is hard to identify how this came about.

    Listening, for 44 hours, to the story of the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler was certainly interesting, although there are certain feelings of guilt and self-accusations of morbid fascination associated with it! I wasn’t able to completely solve the puzzle of what formed this man’s character and how he succeeded so spectacularly, but I did gain some valuable insights into his life and times. If you are interested in history, this book is definitely worth listening to.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Gray Mountain

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By John Grisham
    • Narrated By Catherine Taber
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer's career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track - until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the "lucky" associates. She's offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she'd get her old job back. In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about.

    Marci says: "So Disappointing"
    "Not his best"

    I like John Grisham.

    As a general rule, when I buy one of his books, I am confident that I am going to be entertained. But this one is an exception. Its the story of a young Ivy League Lawyer grinding her way up the corporate law ladder in New York City who is suddenly laid off when the sub-prime crisis hits. She is forced to find work in 'Discovery' country, a backwater in the Appalachian Mountains where corruption and exploitation of the poor by mining corporations is rife.

    She eventually 'discovers' herself by finding fulfillment in helping these victims fight the evil mining companies. The trouble is that the story is disjointed and weak. The heroine is bland and its hard to empathize with her, and the plot never really gets going and then all of a sudden BANG!. Its over and you think. Is that it?

    I'm surprised Grisham's advisors didn't get him to revise this one before publication. He must have enough money by now, so you would think that he would value his reputation for quality and his legacy too much to allow second-rate books like this one to tarnish his portfolio.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Walter Isaacson
    • Narrated By Dennis Boutsikaris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens. What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?

    Mark says: "A History of the Ancient Geeks"
    "A History of the Ancient Geeks"

    I have a PC, a laptop, a smartphone, an Ipod and an electronic keyboard. I'm not boasting. Most people in the West who aren't embroiled in poverty probably own a similar range of digital devices. These digital machines have taken over the World and occupy large chunks of our time. And I'm not complaining. I get huge pleasure listening to talking books (a gift of the digital age) and browsing the internet. 25 years ago I got my first computer and it had a hard drive less than 500mb. I hadn't heard of internet or email, There was no Wiki, Google or Facebook. 25 years earlier, when I was a toddler, the only computers were massive creaking mechanical dinosaurs hidden away in military facilities or NASA.

    I find this dramatic recent change in our way of life astounding. And I'm not a computer geek at all. I have no idea how they work, I just enjoy the way they present information, entertainment and interactions with my old friends whenever and wherever I want them.

    So this book is the story of how that all came about. The visionaries and eccentrics who took the series of steps, starting with adding machines and progressing to the first personal computers, video games, the internet, search engines and social networking. The book presents the Goliaths such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Alan Turing, along with the many Davids with whom they collaborated so productively. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it a fascinating listen.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By E. L. James
    • Narrated By Becca Battoe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

    Amazon Customer says: "Holy Crap minus the Holy"
    "Utter toilet"

    I listened to this book because I was curious. I listened right to the end because I was determined to give it a chance and maybe discover why it has become a number one bestseller. After finishing it I read the Audible reviews. I was pleased to see that it got completely slammed by most reviewers, who have recognised it as the rubbish that it is. So I suppose the book must have appealed to lots of people to become popular in the first place, and then, afterwards, lots of people have bought it because it is a best-seller. Its interesting that it continues to sell more and more copies to people who find it to be complete trash (me included). The author must be laughing her tits off (all the way to the bank) reading the damning reviews by idiots like me who've given her their cash. I suppose I should have checked the reviews beforehand, but I don't usually do this because a) I don't want to spoil the surprise and b) I don't want to be prejudiced by other people's opinions. At least my curiosity has been satisfied.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Jeffrey S. Bland, Mark Hyman
    • Narrated By Brett Barry

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, chronic disease is not genetically predetermined but results from a mismatch between our genes and environment and lifestyle. What we call a "disease" is the outcome of an imbalance in one or more of the seven core physiological processes. Leveraging a lifetime on the cutting edge of research and practice, Dr. Jeffrey S. Bland lays out a road map for good health by helping us understand these processes and the root causes of chronic illness.

    Lance says: "Doctors work for the government now"
    "Life changer"

    This book is phenomenal. I have worked in an acute healthcare setting for nearly 30 years and yet this field is almost entirely new to me. During the course of this book Dr Bland has completely changed my outlook on the causes and management of chronic illness. I have no idea whether I will stick to it, but at the moment I am determined to radically change my diet, because I am now convinced that a careful choice of diet (combined with exercise, which I already do enough of) is the key to staying healthy in the long term and avoiding chronic illness.

    At first I thought he was a bit of a quack and I wondered if I was wasting my time and my Audible credit, but as the story unfolded I became completely captivated and convinced by the evidence presented.

    I am now going to listen again. I've downloaded the PDF and I'm going to try to implement the lifestyle changes. There are even recipes in the PDF, and I'm going to give those a go!

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Stand

    • UNABRIDGED (47 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides - or are chosen.

    Keith says: "Worth the wait!"
    "Good but if this is his best…."

    I’d never read a Stephen King before so I looked it up on Wiki and found that of his 64 books this one is supposedly the best.

    I did enjoy it a lot, I liked the characters and the building drama of the super flu and the struggle between good and evil, but I could never quite suspend disbelief about the existence of angels and devils, and that spoilt it for me.

    I also thought the final showdown with the villain was a bit of an anti-climax and wasn’t one of those great shocking revelations when you are amazed by something you weren’t expecting (e.g. the final scene in Sixth Sense).

    So, yes I’m glad I listened to it but, no, I didn’t think it was as brilliant as other people have.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
    "Slow Burner"

    A terrorist bomb explodes in a New York art gallery, killing many people and destroying priceless art treasures. Theo, the hero of this book, loses his mother in the blast, but before discovering this he is given a famous painting, The Goldfinch, by an old man dying of his wounds, accompanied by a young girl.

    The rest of the book describes the effects of this initial trauma on the life of the boy growing into a man. He is taken in by two kind New York families and is eventually reclaimed by his dodgy estranged father, who whisks him off to Las Vegas. Theo still has the painting and has kept it secret all along.

    He forms a friendship with a likable Russian-American rogue and they hang out together, getting drunk and experimenting with drugs. His father is then killed as a result of mixing in the wrong circles, and so Theo is alone again. He runs away to avoid Child Custody Services and rejoins the kindly New York antique dealer who had helped him after the bomb blast.

    The book then shoots forward a few years to find Theo getting himself into trouble by selling fake antiques, and then he is reunited with his Russian Friend. There is a bit of an adventure at the end and I won't spoil it any more than I have already done.

    Overall, I was disappointed by this book. It is well-written and the characters are well-drawn and engaging, but the plot is slow and a bit random. It sort of drifts along and you are thinking 'come on, come on, get on with it', and although it finishes with a dramatic climax you are still thinking 'what was the point of all that?'. It is all a bit shapeless and unsatisfying.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By John Powell
    • Narrated By Walter Dixon

    Have you ever wondered how off-key you are while singing in the shower? Or if your Bob Dylan albums really sound better on vinyl? Or why certain songs make you cry? Now, scientist and musician John Powell invites you on an entertaining journey through the world of music. Discover what distinguishes music from plain old noise, how scales help you memorize songs, what the humble recorder teaches you about timbre (assuming your suffering listeners don’t break it first), and more.

    C. Beaton says: "Great book - wrong narrator"
    "Huckleberry Jeeves"

    This was mostly an entertaining and educational explanation of what it says on the label: How music works. I enjoyed it and learned a lot.

    As for the narrator, what were they thinking? If you made a recording of Huckleberry Finn would you cast actors with posh English accents? No, because that would sound stupid wouldn’t it? Similarly, in this book, the author uses many English expressions about going to pubs and eating chips with gravy, and these sound ridiculous out of the mouth of the American narrator.

    Whenever I wasn’t distracted by this conspicuous miscasting, I was enjoying the audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dark Eden: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Chris Beckett
    • Narrated By Matthew Frow, Jayne Entwistle, Ione Butler, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest's lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say - and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.

    Hollymobu says: "Hope to see a sequel soon"
    "A Ripping Yarn"

    I don’t read a lot of fiction, and I can count the number of science fiction books I’ve read on the fingers of one hand, so I was quite curious to see how much I would enjoy Dark Eden. The answer was ‘a lot’. Forgive me if I don’t know the genre well enough to judge whether this is truly a good example of sci-fi, but I loved it.

    The story takes place some time in the not too distant future, when humans are able to travel into distant space, but they still have some familiar old technology such as radio, television, electricity and police vehicles. We only know this secondhand, however, because we are told about this technology by ancestors of 3 earth colonists who crash landed there and then formed a ‘fee-amily’ of about 500 people by interbreeding with each other.

    They have heard about radios and television, but never seen them for themselves.
    They are very simple souls who live a hunter-gatherer existence living off the exotic flora and fauna of this dark planet. There is no sun, and the only light comes from trees and animals who generate it through their evolved 'lee-anterns’, supplemented by a little bit of starlight and the light from human fires. There is a high incidence of birth deformities in this community, such as hair-lip ('Bat Face') and claw-foot resulting, presumably, from the interbreeding.

    They all believe in a kind of creation story about their ancestors, and harbour a quasi- religious belief that earth will one day return to Dark Eden to fetch them back, even though it is about 150 years since their ancestors landed there. In order not to miss being picked up by earthlings, they all feel obliged to stay close to the original landing spot in a crater on the planet’s surface called ‘Circle Vee-ally’, even though the area has been over-hunted and food is growing too scarce to feed the growing Fee-amily.

    But there is one character, John Red-Lee-Antern, who is different to all the rest. He doesn’t believe that the Fee-amily is destined to stay in this one small part of the planet waiting to be picked up. He wants to go on a dangerous trip over the top of ‘Snowy Dark’ in search of richer pastures. He has the courage and the vision to explore this unknown terrain, with exciting consequences for the rest of the story.

    It is very appealing the way the fee-amily has evolved its own dialect and customs. They have become quite a primitive community, even though they are descended from advanced humans.

    The characterisation and dialogue are very convincing and interesting. I found the book compelling from the beginning to the end and will now be keen to give sci-fi another go.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Classics of British Literature

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor John Sutherland

    For more than 1,500 years, the literature of Great Britain has taught, nurtured, thrilled, outraged, and humbled readers both inside and outside its borders.Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Swift, Conrad, Wilde-the roster of powerful British writers is remarkable. More important, Britain's writers have long challenged readers with new ways of understanding an ever-changing world.This series of 48 fascinating lectures by an award-winning professor.

    Mark says: "The Best of British"
    "The Best of British"

    This audiobook was an enjoyable summary of British Literature from its inception with Beowulf in the dark ages up to the 21st century. As a general rule it was very entertaining, giving the background stories of the authors and describing how their lives and historical circumstances produced their writing. It was fascinating to hear the about the lives of Austen, the Brontes, Dickens and Hardy.

    I found myself zoning out a few times when poetry was the topic. I don’t think this is the fault of the lecturer, poetry just doesn’t really do it for me, although I found the lives of Keats and Byron to be interesting and First World War poetry has always seemed more poignant to me than poetry about love or beauty. As for Milton and Paradise Lost, I still don’t get it even now, even after it has been explained to me.

    My overall verdict is that this is an interesting audiobook and, at 25 hours duration, well worth the price of the credit.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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