Newark, NJ, United States | Member Since 2011
I knew I always liked The Great Gatsby, but having not read it since high school, I couldn’t remember exactly why. After listening to Jake Gyllenhaal’s superb narration, I was reminded of what I found so great about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic. Gyllenhaal strikes the right chord as Nick Carraway, who exists within the hyper-privileged world of Long Island’s upper crust but manages to avoid becoming jaded and swept up by the materialism of his cousin, Daisy, and the titular Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s elegant yet simple prose still holds up, and Gyllenhaal treats it with the utmost respect, allowing the vivid descriptions of mansions, landmarks, and 1920s New York to flow at just the right pace. While ultimately tragic, The Great Gatsby is full of light and beautiful moments that kindle nostalgia for the Roaring Twenties, and I was glad to have been reintroduced to a favorite book this way.
You don’t have to be familiar with the source material that serves as inspiration (Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book) to love Neil Gaiman’s charming collection of creepy bedtime stories. After several heavy listens, I was ready for something fun. We follow Bod (short for "Nobody"), a young boy, who, after his family is murdered, is raised by the denizens of a nearby graveyard until his late teens. The book is a series of self-contained short stories about Bod as he grows up and the different people he meets, both within the graveyard and beyond its rusty gates. He is given the ability to communicate with the dead (who provide many moments of levity throughout) and is given special access and powers within the graveyard itself. Ultimately, it’s a story about growing up and taking care of yourself, and it reminds us all that there is a huge world worth exploring. Gaiman himself skillfully narrates, adding an extra layer of charm and allowing him to fully convey the subtleties of his own words. I would definitely recommend to anyone who is looking for a fun, light listen (with just a touch of the macabre).
Good Omens is a truly excellent listen about the mishaps, follies, and misunderstandings surrounding the forces of good and evil as they head towards the Apocalypse. Co-authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett expertly elevate the mundane and find humor in almost every aspect of life. The book is bolstered not only by the strengths of its dual authors, but also by the talents of narrator Martin Jarvis, who jumps nimbly from character to character, capturing every nuance of each dialect and accent in the UK. There are moments where a longer pause between sections would make everything easier to follow (due to the enormous cast), and there are some periodic lulls in the story that I could have done without. The characters are so well fleshed-out and rich that I found myself rooting for everyone at once (angels and demons alike), and I felt a good level of tension as the book inched closer and closer to the inevitable final battle. Hysterical (in that dry, British sort of way) from start-to-finish.
I like my sci-fi with heavy doses of wit, and Ernest Cline’s video game-centric novel did not disappoint. It also helps if you were born in the 1980s, you like video games, and you find most of the music from that era both hilariously silly and legitimately entertaining. Narrator Wil Wheaton once again brings it as we follow Wade Watts (similar alliteration definitely intended) through The OASIS – a fully immersive, interactive, and nearly-infinite digital world and future cousin of World of Warcraft. One knock on the book is that while I appreciated the references, it at times felt as though Cline was just listing things he hoped would spark a glimmer of recognition from the listener, rather than giving them any real value. Ultimately, this is a fun and entertaining adventure, and I can’t wait to hear the next from the author.
Seeing that this is one of our more popular books, written by one of our more popular authors, narrated by a customer favorite, you could say I had pretty high expectations for Agent to the Stars, and I was not disappointed. It’s a classic human-meets-alien tale, framed in a bit of backstage Hollywood intrigue. If you were a repulsive (yet incredibly intelligent, friendly, and peaceful) alien race, how would you go about introducing yourself to Earth? That’s up to our hero Tom, a movie agent whose confidence and general everyman-ness makes him very easily relateable. Narrator Wil Wheaton does an excellent job and adds both sci-fi and Hollywood credibility in his delivery. There is a heavier undercurrent that runs throughout the book, which gave it a bit more weight than I was expecting, but it pays off in the end and totally works in the grand scheme of things. This book makes me want to listen to more of what Scalzi has to offer.
While I found Insurgent to be an overall enjoyable experience, I think it ultimately suffers from Middle Book Syndrome – the trap a lot of #2-in-a-series books fall into. There’s a lot of moving pieces around the board without much consequence, which allows the author to save the fireworks for the finale. Our heroine, Tris, sheds a lot of what made her such a unique and compelling character in the first book (her independence, her decisiveness, her straightforward approach to problem solving) and spends most of the time wondering what her on-again, off-again, brainwashed-again boyfriend is thinking about her and their relationship. There are some pretty decent main-story-arc reveals throughout, which keep the plot twisting and turning satisfactorily, and narrator Emma Galvin again does a fine job, but apart from a rather surprising and intriguing final chapter, the book didn’t hit the high notes of its predecessor. I do feel invested enough to see how it all pans out in the final book.
...…but way better than both. This book was recommended to me by a fellow editor shortly after I finished The Hunger Games series, and I was skeptical. Could I deal with another YA dystopian fiction? Will this teen protagonist waver and worry and be as clueless as the last one? As it turns out, I COULD deal with it, and our heroine, Tris, is one that I’d prefer to have on my side when the government finally takes over.
Apart from the obligatory love story (Yeah I know: it’s YA, I should have expected it), Divergent is a solid dystopian adventure story. There is a lot of action and violence, which keeps things interesting. Tris is generally a good person who sometimes lets her emotions take over, which strikes a good balance. My favorite thing about her is that when she sees a problem, she acts; she has a lot of courage, and she’s not afraid to put it on display.
The world they inhabit (a divided, worn-down Chicago of the future) is very interesting and well-drawn, though a lot is left mysterious, which I'm sure is all set-up for the remaining books in the trilogy. The narrator is good, but she could have been a bit more dynamic in terms of voicing different characters. I thought this was a great first entry in the series, and I’m looking forward to starting the sequel soon.
While Monster was a fun listen, this book was a little too cute for its own good (Demons use "Blessed" as a curse word! Even ethereal beings have to deal with paperwork! Our hero's name is Monster, and he catches monsters for a living!). There were some good ideas, and human existence was at stake, but the ideas weren't fleshed out enough and the fate of the universe never really seemed in doubt. It felt as though the author was thinking, "Wouldn't it be clever if I threw this in?" as he was writing it, but never stopped long enough on an idea to give it weight. Our protagonist is an overall unlikable guy, and we never really get a good sense of his back-story. The main villain's motivation seemed to be "Just because," which is pretty weak.
The narrator does a pretty good job with the different characters, and he keeps the book moving at a good clip. The 8+ hours absolutely flew by, which makes it great for a week's worth of driving to work. The story is straightforward and uncomplicated, though I'm a little disappointed because it had a lot more to offer and never really got there. Overall, I'd say this is a light, fun book with some very forgettable characters.
In the words of our hero, Sir Richard Francis Burton, “Bismillah!” This book was...not as good as the first two. I hate to say it. It hurts me to say it. I loved the other books so much that I couldn’t imagine where the third could even go. I was giddy. But rather than stomp around England, we spend ~75% of the book traveling from England to the Arabian peninsula to eastern Africa to the mysterious Mountains of the Moon, and maybe 10% dealing with what happens when we actually get there. There’s plenty of action, but also a lot of repetition.
And when we finally get to the end, it just falls a little short. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe the author had a tough time wrapping up his myriad storylines into one discreet package. I was disappointed, because I wanted to love this one as much as the others. All that being said, I would still recommend the trilogy to everyone and anyone. Narrator Gerard Doyle, you are my hero.
Unlike a lot of people I've talked to, I enjoyed the third Hunger Games book the most. Collins, the author, keeps a pretty quick pace with a lot of action and interesting twists. We pick up almost immediately where we left off, and we are right in the thick of the rebellion which was hinted at in the first two books. There's no arena this time, but the invasion of the Capitol is essentially the same thing, as the villains are using the same technology to defend their city. We get almost all the answers we're looking for, there are some really exciting sequences, and you can really hear how the author has improved over the past three books (Except for this: The author inexplicably leaves Katniss out of two of the most important events in the book, which means we don't get to experience them at all. Disappointing). At the end of it all, I think the narration prevented me from liking this trilogy more.
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