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Chris

Glen Allen, VA, United States | Member Since 2003

27
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 4 reviews
  • 8 ratings
  • 434 titles in library
  • 0 purchased in 2014
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  • Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Steven Johnson
    • Narrated By Alan Sklar
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (487)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (73)

    Brilliantly exploring today's cutting edge brain research, Mind Wide Open allows readers to understand themselves and the people in their lives as never before. Using a mix of experiential reportage, personal storytelling, and fresh scientific discovery, Steven Johnson describes how the brain works and how its systems connect to the day-to-day realities of individual lives.

    Chris says: "Fascinating, fascinating... but short"
    "Fascinating, fascinating... but short"
    Overall

    I have always found the brain's inner workings fascinating so I was looking forward to this book, but I didn't want to get lost in medical jargon. Johnson states at the outset that he will only hit the high points, and that was what he did. The jargon was controlled and well explained, and the anecdotes were easy to follow. He repeats himself a lot, and at first I thought this was fluff to fill out the book, but then I realized it helped me remember the concept. Rather than zip from topic to topic, we dwell on one for a while before moving on to the next. This is important because each concept builds on the next.

    Johnson's writing style is smooth and clever, and several times I chuckled out loud. The narrator is also good. At first he spoke in a dry monotone and I thought he was going to be horrible, but he got better once the book was well underway.

    My only complaint is the book was too short! In the end, it doesn't cover a lot of ground. At least the ground it does cover is well done and topical. Recommended for anyone who is interested in a pop-sci version of neuroscience.

    24 of 24 people found this review helpful
  • Stalking Darkness: Nightrunner, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Lynn Flewelling
    • Narrated By Raymond Todd
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (374)
    Performance
    (148)
    Story
    (155)

    A master of subterfuge, a rogue thief with a noble air, Seregil of Rhiminee has taught his young protege, Alec of Kerry, his greatest secrets of the trade. Together they've made their way with thieving jobs large and small, winning friends and enemies, their lives in constant danger and yet charmed by an aura of magic, friendship, and trust.

    Amy says: "Pretty darned good"
    "Pretty good tale, slow beginning"
    Overall

    This book has an amateurish feel like the first in this series. The first half is rather dull, with little happening, except for the syrupy love story growing between the two male leads (yes male, and considering the pages and pages spent carefully setting it up, the author must be making a statement here). There are brief bursts of action but the protagonists quickly resolve them. The book at this point feels more like a showcase for the characters and setting.

    Once the main threat comes in and the real adventure gets going (about the halfway point) the book clips along well. I found the second half of the book hard to put down. The ending is somewhat predictable but satisfying nonetheless, however the denouement goes on far too long with the resolution of the syrupy love story.

    The prose is good overall, but the author uses many fantasy cliches. Not much original in the dialogue either. The characters on the "good" side are excellent and well drawn, but the characters on the "bad" side are simply evil with no redeeming qualities. This is not an issue in fantasy but some authors (e.g. George RR Martin) have been making their villains more three dimensional, which makes the conflicts more interesting. The setting itself is terrific, with a rich background and history, and there are less infodumping problems than in the previous book. I kept thinking this book was rushed through editing. Spice up the beginning and shorten up the ending, cut some of the cliches out of the prose and dialogue, and this book would have been much better.

    The narration is adequate. The narrator's voice is clear but he only has two real voices for the characters. This is not a problem, I'm just rating him against some of the excellent narrators I've heard recently who have a unique and convincing voice for every character.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Life of Pi

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Yann Martel
    • Narrated By Jeff Woodman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11001)
    Performance
    (6194)
    Story
    (6243)

    Pi Patel has been raised in a zoo in India. When his father decides to move the family to Canada and sell the animals to American zoos, everyone boards a Japanese cargo ship. The ship sinks, and 16-year-old Pi finds himself alone on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra with a broken leg, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon it's just Pi, the tiger, and the vast Pacific Ocean - for 227 days. Pi's fear, knowledge, and cunning keep him alive until they reach the coast of Mexico, where the tiger disappears into the jungle.

    Theresa says: "Best audio of the year for me"
    "Best book I have read in a long, long time"
    Overall

    This is by far the best book I have read in years. The opening drew me in immediately. Despite a lot of zoology exposition, it clips along well and I found it fascinating (but then, I find animal behavior fascinating). Martel writes about zoology and zookeeping with authority. Later you realize how important all this discussion is, as it explains how Pi managed to survive with Richard Parker.

    Once the main adventure gets going, it is riveting. Highly suspenseful despite the small setting. Throughout, the prose is excellent. I had a hard time putting this book down and I found excuses to catch snatches of it. The ending is satisfying with a touch of mystery, and it makes a point about doubts and what people prefer to believe. Highly, highly recommended.

    The narrator is also perfect for this material. He has a light Indian accent but his words are clear and he puts the right inflection when needed. He also does the two other accents very well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 1984

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By George Orwell
    • Narrated By Richard Brown
    Overall
    (628)
    Performance
    (81)
    Story
    (86)

    The year 1984 has come and gone, yet George Orwell's prophetic nightmare vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of "Negative Utopia", a startlingly original and powerful novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words.

    Erik says: "Good narrator, great book"
    "A flawed classic"
    Overall

    The first 2/3 or so was excellent. I can see why this book as stuck through peoples' minds and so much of it has entered the public lexicon. (Big Brother is watching you! Thought crimes. Thought police.)

    The vision was tremendous. One could replace Big Brother with Patriot Act and Fox News and it's applicable to present day. The characters were only mildly interesting (perforce as the idea was the humanity was forced out of them) but the situation they were in made for some terrific tension.

    Then the book lapsed into a torture thing that I knew was coming. It went on and on with no apparent purpose. Then there was a long dissertation of party policy and Orwell seemed to be using the book as a political platform. That's not a bad thing, I suppose, if it supports the story, but this went on waaay too long.

    In the end, our hero fails and this is becomes a tragic story. Hopefully I'm not spoiling this for anyone but it's no surprise, really. I was expecting something a little more interesting in the ending but it goes out with a whimper.

    0 of 15 people found this review helpful

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