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Pam

Science writer in America's heartland

United States | Member Since 2007

239
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 51 reviews
  • 168 ratings
  • 358 titles in library
  • 30 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
31

  • The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Meryl Gordon
    • Narrated By Bernadette Dunne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (70)
    Performance
    (63)
    Story
    (63)

    Born in 1906, Huguette Clark grew up in her family's 121-room Beaux Arts mansion in New York and was one of the leading celebrities of her day. Her father, William Andrews Clark, was the second richest man in America. Huguette attended the coronation of King George V. And at 22, with a personal fortune of $50 million, she married a Princeton man and childhood friend. Two-years later the couple divorced. After a series of failed romances, Huguette began to withdraw from society. What happened to Huguette that turned a vivacious, young socialite into a recluse?

    Pam says: "The Rich Are Different"
    "The Rich Are Different"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is the story of a wealthy heiress who shunned the spotlight and used her vast resources to maintain the illusions that kept her delicate psychology intact. The Clarks were the Kardashians of their day: famous for being famous, the minutiae of their lives scrutinized by the media. People are as interested to find out what happened to Huguette Clark as they would be if Kourtney or Kim Kardashian suddenly decided to hide from the public eye for decades.

    I have three criticisms of the book: First, in an effort to connect far-flung events and explain why Huguette Clark became a recluse, the book suffers from too many time jumps that don't really add much to the story.

    Second, the quotes from people who knew Huguette don't add much to the story, either. It's possible that, working from historical documents, the author didn't have much choice in regard to quotes. But even the people she interviewed in person come across as not having anything interesting to say.

    Last, too much of the story focuses on the early life of Huguette's father, his first wife, and the children from that marriage. The book doesn't really find its stride until well over halfway through, when it begins to examine the forces in Huguette's young adult life that drove her to become a recluse.

    In summary: this book had the opportunity to delve into Huguette's unusual psychology, and the psychology of recluses in general. There are hints throughout of psychological analyses, but no real focus on them. So, ultimately, the book left me disappointed.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Other Typist

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Suzanne Rindell
    • Narrated By Gretchen Mol
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (201)
    Performance
    (178)
    Story
    (179)

    Rose Baker seals men’s fates. With a few strokes of the keys that sit before her, she can send a person away for life in prison. A typist in a New York City Police Department precinct, Rose is like a high priestess. Confessions are her job. It is 1923, and while she may hear every detail about shootings, knifings, and murders, as soon as she leaves the interrogation room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for filing and making coffee. This is a new era for women, and New York is a confusing place for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. All around her women bob their hair, they smoke, they go to speakeasies.

    Pamela says: "Intriguing, Original Story"
    "Gretchen Mol Brings Something Special"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is an excellent book, and it's hard to review without giving spoilers. It's a story about how crafty people can lead a double life by playing others for fools. But, even more, it's a story about how truly crafty people can actually fool themselves about the double life they are already living.

    Gretchen Moll adds something special to the narration, not just because she's good at giving personality to the different characters, male and female (and she is). The TV characters she plays in Life on Mars and Boardwalk Empire inform her reading here, but her performance is different enough to keep things interesting.

    In short, it's a great book, well-narrated. I highly recommend it, especially for book clubs, where readers will have a lot to discuss afterwards!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Colin Woodard
    • Narrated By Walter Dixon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (532)
    Performance
    (474)
    Story
    (481)

    North America was settled by people with distinct religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics, creating regional cultures that have been at odds with one another ever since. Subsequent immigrants didn't confront or assimilate into an "American" or "Canadian" culture, but rather into one of the 11 distinct regional ones that spread over the continent each staking out mutually exclusive territory. In American Nations, Colin Woodard leads us on a journey through the history of our fractured continent....

    Theo Horesh says: "One of a Kind Masterpiece"
    "Must-Listen Before the 2016 Election"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I started reading this book because I wanted to understand why my home state of Ohio is so important in American elections. As it turns out, Ohio mixes three distinct "nations": Midland, Appalachia, and Yankee, which accounts for the wildly diverging politics of different parts of the state. In that sense, Ohio really is a microcosm of a large swath of the United States.

    Thanks to this book, I have a much better grasp of the foundations of the Republican and Democratic parties. Certain contradictions in behavior now make much more sense.

    The latter portion of the book serves as an excellent primer for the political forces that will shape the 2016 presidential election. It also suggests why American politics is currently stagnating.

    For that reason, I would call it a good companion book to "Maxwell's Demon and the Golden Apple" by Randall L. Schweller, which discusses the importance of chaos in energizing a political system (but is not yet available in audio).

    19 of 22 people found this review helpful
  • Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Michael Nielsen
    • Narrated By Nicholas Tecosky
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (10)

    In Reinventing Discovery, Michael Nielsen argues that we are living at the dawn of the most dramatic change in science in more than 300 years. This change is being driven by powerful new cognitive tools, enabled by the internet, which are greatly accelerating scientific discovery. There are many books about how the internet is changing business or the workplace or government. But this is the first book about how the internet is transforming the nature of our collective intelligence.

    Pam says: "How the Internet is transforming science"
    "How the Internet is transforming science"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you laid out the books "The Tipping Point," "We Are Anonymous" and "Freakonomics," this book would neatly fill the empty space among them. While "Reinventing Discovery" details specific examples of how the Internet is enabling new forms of scientific collaboration today, it draws attention to the cultural aspects of our networked existence, and this is where I found the book most interesting. With so many people willing to participate in large, networked endeavors, maybe we really are on the cusp of finding new ways to fund and perform scientific research. I wish I could read the sequel that's going to come out decades from now, explaining how all these trends played out.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Red Shoes

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 14 mins)
    • By Clarissa Pinkola Estes
    Overall
    (51)
    Performance
    (35)
    Story
    (36)

    The Red Shoes is a dramatic excursion into the realm of the soul with analyst Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Using an ancient tale deeply rooted in our collective psyches, Dr. Estes illuminates how people fall prey to destructive impulses while seeking to balance thier inner lives.

    Pam says: "Origins of self-destructive behavior"
    "Origins of self-destructive behavior"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm a fan of Dr. E., and I've "attended" her live webcasts at Sounds True. I could listen to her voice for hours and hours (and come to think of it, I guess I have!). Here, Dr. E. delves into the issue of why we sometimes sabotage ourselves and how we might begin to change this behavior. This book is on par with the rest of her work, and though it is short, every time I listen to it, I pick up on something I missed the last time. I recommend it for repeat listens.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of Williams Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Thomas Maier
    • Narrated By Dorie Barton
    Overall
    (69)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (56)

    Masters and Johnson began their secret studies in a small Midwest laboratory working with prostitutes and volunteers who performed more than 10,000 sexual acts in the name of science. They soon became the top experts on sex for more than 40 years, explaining the untold mysteries of orgasm, emotional fulfillment, and sexual dysfunction to millions of Americans. Masters and Johnson were America's ideal couple, but they divorced after 20 years amid a clash of ambitions, betrayal, and jealousies.

    Steve says: "Incredibly Bad Narration"
    "Complements the Showtime series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm a fan of the Showtime series and listened to this book (upon which the show is based) following season one. First: the narration is not that bad. The occasional mispronunciations and fatigue in Ms. Barton's voice were slightly distracting, but her reading is pleasant enough. Second: the book gives a deeper background on Virginia Johnson's motivations, and—assuming the series follows the book in season two—I now think I better understand why some of the show's subplots exist. I heard little of William Masters' voice in the book; Mr. Maier interviewed Johnson in person, and had to rely on Masters' unpublished autobiography and other people's interviews for the doctor's perspective. A potential spoiler for the show...so stop reading now if you don't want to know... ... ... is that Johnson denies that Masters ever had a low sperm count. Of course, the show may veer away from the book any number of ways, but I enjoyed reading it and comparing the two.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Doomsday Book

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Connie Willis
    • Narrated By Jenny Sterlin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2211)
    Performance
    (1512)
    Story
    (1534)

    For Oxford student Kivrin, traveling back to the 14th century is more than the culmination of her studies - it's the chance for a wonderful adventure. For Dunworthy, her mentor, it is cause for intense worry about the thousands of things that could go wrong.

    Sara says: "A Haunting First Book in the Series"
    "Great story with a somewhat flawed execution"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really struggled with how to rate this title, because the basic elements of the story are truly spectacular. I'm not giving anything away by saying that the book tells two parallel stories, one set in the Middle Ages and one set in modern times. Both stories connect very well, and every subplot is there for a reason, so it's clear that Connie Willis thought this book through carefully before she wrote it.

    That said, I have two problems with the book. First, it could have been about one third shorter. Certain conversations happen again and again, and little plot development results from them. And Willis offers a little too much detail about the daily activities of people working in a modern hospital and a Medieval household.

    Second, about half of the characters are intensely annoying. I suppose that lends an element of realism to the story, but so many of the characters are so annoying that I felt myself getting frustrated with the story.

    A somewhat related word about the narrator: Jenny Sterlin was very good at conveying just how annoying those annoying characters were. She also does men's voices quite well. But she struggles with speaking in an American accent.

    In sum, I've liked other of Connie Willis' books, and I didn't dislike this one enough to stop reading her work.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • On What Grounds

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Cleo Coyle
    • Narrated By Rebecca Gibel
    Overall
    (750)
    Performance
    (653)
    Story
    (652)

    Clare Cosi used to manage the historic Village Blend coffeehouse…until she opted for quieter pastures and a more suburban life. But after ten years and a little friendly cajoling from the owner (a fresh pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain was all it took), she's back to the grind. With a sprawling rent-free apartment directly above the Village Blend, her cat Java by her side, and plenty of coffeehouse redecorating ideas, Clare is thrilled to return to work. Until she discovers the assistant manager unconscious in the back of the store, coffee grounds strewn everywhere.

    Pam says: "Stands out"
    "Stands out"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I started listening to "On What Grounds" with very low expectations. I was interested in exploring fiction in the mystery sub-genre where activities such as crafts or cooking propel the plot. I've read books where knitting is the focus, and jewelry making, and baking, and now this. Sadly, I have found the writing in some of the others to be lacking. In this one, however, the cafe was central to the plot and the descriptions and dialog were rich and authentic. It stands out from the others in this genre, and I plan to read more of the series.

    31 of 32 people found this review helpful
  • The Shining Girls: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Lauren Beukes
    • Narrated By Khristine Hvam, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (234)
    Performance
    (212)
    Story
    (212)

    Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future. Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times. At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable - until one of his victims survives.

    L. O. Pardue says: "You will either love it or hate it"
    "Gripping sci-fi-meets-slasher novel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book grabbed me from the very beginning, and did not let me go. Driving home and listening in the car, I missed the turn for my house! It's not a mystery... We know from the beginning who the killer is, and how he gets away with murder. The question is, will our heroine figure it out in time to save herself and the people she loves? Lauren Beukes created many different characters for the book, and tells the story from each one's point of view. Coming from a less-skilled author, the frequent changes in time and place and point of view could be confusing, but not here. Perhaps the use of multiple narrators helped—and the narrators were all very good—but this is some seriously good writing! I highly recommend this book.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Chris Guillebeau
    • Narrated By Dan John Miller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (139)
    Performance
    (79)
    Story
    (76)

    If you've ever thought, "There must be more to life than this," The Art of Non-Conformity is for you. Based on Chris Guillebeau's popular online manifesto "A Brief Guide to World Domination," The Art of Non-Conformity defies common assumptions about life and work while arming you with the tools to live differently. You'll discover how to live on your own terms by exploring creative self-employment, radical goal-setting, contrarian travel, and embracing life as a constant adventure.

    Louis says: "Redundant"
    "Good concept; Not the best execution"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author seems to have lived some kind of magical life in which he's done amazing things that most people wouldn't attempt, all without negative consequences. Good for him, really! But I would have liked to have some advice for people like me who want to bring some less dramatic forms of non-conformity into their lives.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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