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Davis, CA, United States | Member Since 2012

  • 16 reviews
  • 30 ratings
  • 36 titles in library
  • 0 purchased in 2015

  • Catching Fire: Hunger Games, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Suzanne Collins
    • Narrated By Carolyn McCormick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Katniss Everdeen continues to struggle to protect herself and her family from the Capitol in this second novel from the best-selling Hunger Games trilogy.

    FanB14 says: "Dissent Rules"
    "Maintains the tension, but ends in a cliffhanger"

    If you liked the first book, "The Hunger Games," you will like the sequel. It keeps up the gut-wrenching tension despite its predictability, just like the first book. Although most of the new characters introduced are not as engaging as those we met in book one, you will grow to like some of the returning characters even more.

    Katniss continues to be a bit slow to figure out things that will be immediately obvious to the reader, and the ending is easy to see coming. However, it's hardly an ending at all; the last sentence may as well have been "To be continued..."

    I still think Carolyn McCormick's narration is a bit too chipper at times, and Katniss in particular sounds entirely too breathlessly girlish when she's fighting for her life.

    26 of 32 people found this review helpful
  • Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Nick Reding
    • Narrated By Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland tells the story of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), which, like thousands of other small towns across the country, has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people.

    Sean says: "Interesting, then not."
    "Another book about the Worst! Drug! Ever!"

    Nick Reding's style is fine and readable, and the narration is fine. The book was interesting but frankly didn't really bring that much insight to the table. Okay, meth is bad, we all know that. And drug addiction is horrible, drug cartels are evil and dangerous, and poverty tends to breed despair and thus drug use. These are all well-known facts and true of every addictive drug and every drug "epidemic." But color me skeptical when I'm told that this generation's drug is yet another incarnation of the WORST DRUG EVER IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND!

    Reding goes into the history of meth and traces the rise of meth as a small town drug that is symbolic of the woes of Middle America by tying it to one town in particular: Oelwein, Iowa. He takes a sample of individual real-life characters -- the optimistic but beleaguered mayor, the pragmatic and cynical prosecutor, the alcoholic doctor, and of course, various dealers and addicts -- to personalize the effects of meth on this town. The stories are interesting but nothing we haven't heard before. Likewise, the rise of the Mexican Mafia is just a reprise of the Colombian cocaine cartels in the 80s. Once again, ham-handed legislation tainted by lobbyist influence managed only to strengthen the hold that organized crime has on the trade.

    The connection to globalization and poverty is there, but I think it's a weaker part of Reding's narrative, particularly when he veers into agribusiness consolidation. This represents a whole host of problems afflicting the American heartland, and meth is just one piece of it, more a side effect than a root cause.

    It seemed like there was quite a bit of filler to pad it out to a full-length book. The Oelwein sections themselves were only part of the book.

    This isn't a bad book or even a particularly flawed one, and certainly it increases understanding of the specifics of the drug methamphetamine. But I didn't find it to be ground-breaking, nor wholly convincing in its thesis.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Grendel

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By John Gardner
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    World renowned critic John Gardner has received prestigious awards for his wide range of literary achievements including short stories, novels, and essays. When he turns his talents to retelling Beowulf, the earliest epic in British literature, the result is a work that combines extensive knowledge with a marvelous strain of pure fun. In Gardner's version of the epic, instead of lauding the helmeted hero, Beowulf, the spotlight shines on Grendel.

    David says: "The dragon's speech is the best part"
    "The monster's point of view"

    This is a retelling of the Beowulf epic from Grendel's point of view. Grendel, as represented by Gardner, is an interesting character -- sometimes petulant and childish, sometimes witty and droll, sometimes a raging monster, sometimes an earnest seeker of enlightenment. There are parts that become a bit tedious (Grendel whines A LOT), but it's certainly a new way to look at the ancient tale, and Gardner, who was a noted literary author, does not even try to mimic the style of the original. The narration by George Guidall was good; I especially liked the dragon.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Passage: The Passage Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Justin Cronin
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Adenrele Ojo, Abby Craden
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

    Nicole says: "You love it or you hate it..."
    "Vampire apocalypse for those who liked The Stand"

    If you liked Stephen King's "The Stand," you'll probably like this book, which shares many of The Stand's qualities and flaws. The Passage is a big summer read/listen, meandering in places and with some notable plot holes, but none of this really detracted from my enjoyment of the story. It spans two eras, the modern world (a slightly alternate near-future America), and then the post-apocalypse world a hundred years hence. I thought the second part was better, as part one is mostly just leading up to the real story in part two, and most of the characters in part one are just bit players whom you know are doomed to die. But if you like grand epics with big casts of characters and a story that just goes on and on, this is an enjoyable book. Be warned, though, that it's part one of a planned trilogy, as the ending makes very clear.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • I Am Legend

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Richard Matheson
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In I Am Legend, a plague has decimated the world, and those unfortunate enough to survive are transformed into blood-thirsty creatures of the night. Robert Neville is the last living man on earth. Everyone else has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville's blood. By day, he stalks the sleeping undead, by night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn.

    Amazon Customer says: "Superb!"
    "A classic that has aged well, great narration"

    This is a great story and the narrator captures Robert Neville's mood shifts splendidly. Surprisingly for a novel written in 1954, very little seems dated. Far more entertaining than the movie, much more thoughtful, and it's easy to see why it influenced a generation of horror and sci-fi writers. A short listen that's well worth the time.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Barbara Demick
    • Narrated By Karen White
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years - a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung and the unchallenged rise to power of his son, Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Taking us into a landscape never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be an average Korean citizen, living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today.

    Gohar says: "The man who wants to be GOD"
    "Bleak, Fascinating, Heartbreaking"

    This story of the lives of several ordinary North Korean citizens, put together from interviews over a period of several years with defectors who made it to South Korea, gives a grim and fascinating look at what it's really like inside this isolated, almost hermetically-sealed dictatorship. Although much of it is what you'd expect from the little we can see from outside -- the cult of personality around the "Dear Leader," the bankrupt economy that pumps money into nuclear weapons and the military while the citizens starve -- you really cannot appreciate just how impoverished the people of North Korea are until you read these stories. Particularly heartbreaking is the story of the famine that killed millions in the 1990s. Every person interviewed for this book was literally watching friends and family drop dead of starvation all around them, while the government continued denying a problem and forbidding them even to grow gardens. The book covers the time period up until late 2009, when Kim Jong Il is still in power, could easily live for decades yet, and there is no telling just how much longer this regime can continue. For North Koreans, the future seems bleak no matter what.

    18 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Pump Six and Other Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Paolo Bacigalupi
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis, Eileen Stevens, James Chen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Paolo Bacigalupi's debut collection demonstrates the power and reach of the science-fiction short story. Social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of Paolo's work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.

    Noah says: "Unrelentingly brutal, brilliantly imaginative"
    "Good, but not as good as Windup Girl"

    These short stories are some of Bacigalupi's earlier work, including two stories from the same world as the Windup Girl. They are almost all near-future dystopian, and while most were quite good individually, I found the collection as a whole felt a bit redundant after the first half. The variety of narrator voices made it a little more entertaining,and I found all the narrators to be pretty good.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Alchemist and the Executioness

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias S. Buckell
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis, Katherine Kellgren

    It is a world where magic is forbidden – yet practiced in secret every day. But each small act of magic exacts a dreadful price – for it brings the bramble, which chokes farmland, destroys villages, and kills with its deadly thorns. In this world an alchemist believes he’s found a solution to the curse. But will the cure be worse than the disease? And a woman is forced to take up the mantle of her father, the Executioner. But it will not be the only death that she faces.

    Rand says: "Not What I Expected..."
    "Great contemporary fantasy for a great price"

    Despite being fantasy instead of SF, this novella echoes Bacigalupi's other works with familiar themes: magic is something that makes life easier at the cost of environmental catastrophe and eventual destruction, and while some greedily seek to control it all for themselves, others fanatically destroy anyone who uses it at all. The novella is actually two short stories set in the same world. "The Alchemist" is about a man who devises a solution to the destructive Brambles threatening to swallow civilization, only to learn that their rulers don't really want the Brambles destroyed. "The Executioness" starts out as a story of a woman trying to recover her lost children, but she becomes a warrior, and then a legend. All the characters are complex and there are no simple resolutions; these are two great tales.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Quantum of Solace: The Complete James Bond Short Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Simon Vance

    Bringing together all of the James Bond short stories in one volume for the first time, this is the ultimate celebration of suave and deadly secret agent 007. Whether he's making an unexpected discovery in the Bahamas, hunting down a Cuban hit man in wild country, smashing an international drug ring in Rome, or on the trail of a murderous assassin in Berlin's sniper alley, dangerous missions and beautiful women come with the job for James Bond. And this agent is always a consummate professional.

    Gregory says: "Top Notch"
    "Not your movie James Bond"

    Fleming's writing is lush and detailed, and each of these stories is a quick, fun listen. The proper British narrator sounds perfect, except when he's reading lines from American and Canadian characters, when they sound like they're talking while trying to swallow a lump of chewing tobacco. The stories have very little to do with the movies, and being written almost fifty years ago, keep in mind that they're pretty dated, and blatantly sexist.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Windup Girl

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Paolo Bacigalupi
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman.

    Marius says: "Al Gore nightmare meets Blade Runner."
    "Brilliant new sci-fi voice, superb narration"

    This book deserves its Nebula. Set in Thailand in a post-petroleum future where Western "calorie companies" unleash genetically engineered plagues to force the rest of the world to buy their seeds, The Windup Girl tells the story of Thailand's struggle to remain free of the grasp of greedy farang (foreigners), from the POV of several characters. Although the multiple POvs are sometimes annoying (especially since most of the characters aren't very likeable), each one has a compelling story in the end. The narrator does an excellent job of giving each character a distinct voice and pronouncing the Thai words which are unfamiliar to most English-speakers' ears.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Road

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Cormac McCarthy
    • Narrated By Tom Stechschulte
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    America is a barren landscape of smoldering ashes, devoid of life except for those people still struggling to scratch out some type of existence. Amidst this destruction, a father and his young son walk, always toward the coast, but with no real understanding that circumstances will improve once they arrive. Still, they persevere, and their relationship comes to represent goodness in a world of utter devastation.

    Darwin8u says: "My wife says he's that Cold Desert Writer I love."
    "Post-Apocalyptic Yawn"

    This is a story for lovers of finely-crafted literary prose: unfortunately, I'm a lover of finely-crafted stories, and this is just a long meandering journey across a post-apocalyptic landscape with repetitive dialogs between a man and his son (who sounds particularly whiny as read by this narrator). I know I'm judging what's really a finely written book harshly, but I found myself listening to the end just to get through it - at no point did I really care about the characters or wonder what was going to happen next. I appreciated the prose, but it wasn't enough to wow me.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful

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