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"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^

Mesa, AZ, United States


  • The Hobbit

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By J. R. R. Tolkien
    • Narrated By Rob Inglis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Like every other hobbit, Bilbo Baggins likes nothing better than a quiet evening in his snug hole in the ground, dining on a sumptuous dinner in front of a fire. But when a wandering wizard captivates him with tales of the unknown, Bilbo becomes restless. Soon he joins the wizard’s band of homeless dwarves in search of giant spiders, savage wolves, and other dangers. Bilbo quickly tires of the quest for adventure and longs for the security of his familiar home. But before he can return to his life of comfort, he must face the greatest threat of all.

    Derek B. says: "A grand literary adventure!"
    "Victory after all, I suppose!"

    There are a rare handful of children's books and fantasy novels that definitely deserve to be experienced in different ways (books, movies, audio) and at different times (youth, middle age, etc). I remember my first exposure to this wonderful piece of high fantasy as a child. I loved the world Tolkien created and the way he was able to balance fantasy, poetry, humor and drama. I read it again during the whole 'Lord of the Rings' (LOTR) movie period, and now I've just listened to it on Audible with my own kids in anticipation of taking them to the movie. Wow!

    When judging 'the Hobbit', it is tempting to grade it straight against the LOTR trilogy. There is a trap, however, in reading 'the Hobbit' AFTER reading the LOTR. While these works by Tolkien are obviously related, they are very, very different. Tolkien's approach, tone, style and intended audience was a different. If you separate LOTR from 'the Hobbit', gently, it is easier to see the greatness of 'the Hobbit' on its own.

    As an adult, I now view 'the Hobbit' more as a Bildungsroman rather than a traditional quest novel. Listening and reading this with my kids, I found myself once more transported not just to middle-earth, but back to my own youth and innocence.

    93 of 103 people found this review helpful
  • The Zap Gun

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Philip K. Dick
    • Narrated By Mel Foster
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In this biting satire, the Cold War may have ended, but the eastern and western governments never told their citizens. Instead they created an elaborate ruse wherein each side comes up with increasingly outlandish doomsday weapons - weapons that don’t work. But when aliens invade, the top designers of both sides have to come together to make a real doomsday device - if they don’t kill each other first. With its combination of romance, espionage, and alien invasion, The Zap Gun skewers the military-industrial complex in a way that’s as relevant today as it was at the height of the Cold War.

    Darwin8u says: "Project Plowshare, or don't touch my Love Gun"
    "Project Plowshare, or don't touch my Love Gun"

    I ended up liking this one way more than I thought I might. I started reading thinking 'Zap Gun' was going to simply be one of PKD's early, pulpy sic-fi novels. Look. The guy wrote over 44 novels (and hundreds of short-stories). Not every book is going to be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Ubik, but I had a copy, so...

    Yes. I read it because it was there. Was it pulpy? Hell yes, even pulpier than I could have imagined. I'm not sure everything was fully realized in this novel. I'm sure he padded this novel with some unnecessary words simply because he was being paid by the word. It may have been written fast and lose, but there is clean, mad logic to it all. The book feels like a strange combination of Orwell's 1984 mixed with Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle but finished with a bit of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. For me, thus far, it is the funniest of Dick's novels. And no, it wasn't as good as '1984' or 'Cat's Cradle'.

    The book also seems to have early seeds of Dick's later religious explorations. It isn't as heavy as his Valis (or Gnosis) trilogy, but it is hard to escape the feeling that already in the early 60s Dick's mind is working over some of his God/gnosis/divinity ideas. Looking at a timeline for Dick, I notice this novel was written right after The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. This makes sense, because they seem very similar (not identical twins, but Irish twins at least). Anyway, if you are a PKD fan, this one should definitely be on your list.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Jason Selk
    • Narrated By John Haag

    People with inborn talent may be good at what they do—but only the mentally tough reach the highest plateaus in their field. And here’s the best news of all: mental toughness is something anyone can learn.

    Darwin8u says: "Orwellian-Level Mind Slaughter (OLMS?)"
    "Orwellian-Level Mind Slaughter (OLMS?)"

    I normally avoid (like a prose plague) ALL business, leadership, self-help, and strategy books, etc., because I find them universally to be poorly written and filled with an almost boundless and unbearable number of cliches, hyperbole, etc..

    I was given this book by a co-worker and felt compelled to read it. I also felt a need to at least recognize my own deep cynicism and bias about the whole genre. Maybe, my fear/gag-reflex was misplaced. Perhaps, I had judged the whole genre by a couple really, really bad apples.

    Nope. It was everything I feared. I knew it was bad when I was underlining the parts that made me laugh. I needed another pen for all the parts that made me squirm.

    Here is an example from his chapter on scripts:

    "Scripts can be equally useful to meet your nonword goals. For example, you may have a script like the following to use with one of your children when he or she is having a difficult day:

    How about if you tell me what is going on, and I will promise to help. [Pause while listening to the problem.] I can understand why you are upset. Life is sometimes tough, isn't it? I know I have said it a thousand times, but I am going to say it again I love you. I think I can help. Let's see if we can come up with a couple of solutions to the problem -- anything that can make your situation a little bit better. I'll even go first: what do you think about [quick solution]? Your turn for the next one ..."

    Seriously? My kids would eat me alive (devour me clothes and all) if I attempted to script them like that. I can't even imagine what my wife would do. The horror. The horror.

    Anyway, I could go on and on, but I still gave it a two stars because there actually were a handful of useful strategies buried in there, but ye gads ... I had to wade through a tremendous amount of Orwellian-level mind slaughter to find those nuggets.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Sheltering Sky

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Paul Bowles
    • Narrated By Jennifer Connelly
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Sheltering Sky is a landmark of 20th-century literature, a novel of existential despair that examines the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness of the desert. Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Requiem for a Dream) gives masterful voice to this American classic.

    Darwin8u says: "Sentenced by a composer's sentences"
    "Sentenced by a composer's sentences"

    Paul Bowles masterpiece reminds me of some alternate, trippy, version of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night, but instead we see the other side of the Mediterranean. Tangier and the deserts of North Africa take the place of the South of France. A different love triangle exposes different forms of loneliness, madness, love, and existential expats.

    The thing I love about Bowles is he brings a composer's mind to writing. His novel isn't propelled forward by a strong plot (although it has plot) or attractive characters (none of the characters are very attractive), but the music of his language itself pushes and pulls, tugs and compels the reader page after page. It felt very much like I was floating limp and languid in Bowles prose as his hypnotic sentences washed over me and drifted me slowly toward the inevitable end.

    Connelly captures the mood, the magic, the sadness and the tension of the book perfectly.

    Most days, I don't feel a real need to read/listen to a book twice. But I might need to make an exception for 'The Sheltering Sky'.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Anthony Bourdain
    • Narrated By Anthony Bourdain

    Last summer, The New Yorker published chef Anthony Bourdain's shocking, "Don't Eat Before Reading This." Now, the author uses the same "take-no-prisoners" attitude in his deliciously funny and shockingly delectable audiobook, sure to delight gourmands and philistines alike.

    Holly says: "Kitchen Confidential"
    "A Crazy, Hyper Dance From the Kitchen to the Table."

    There is a certain thrill to being the first person to reach the top of a mountain, the first to eat at a soon-to-be famous restaurant, the first to discover an author, a band, a new food or experience. Well friend, the thrill of a late discovery (even when you are 15 years late to the party) is still pretty damn sweet. I might have seen Bourdain's books as I wandered through a bookstore. I might have seen him on CNN, the Travel Channel or the Food Network while searching for another show on another station. I didn't hardly notice him. He was, like that girl you know in class, but have never given much real attention to (only later to discover she is witty, wicked, and everything you want in a lover and fear in a daughter.

    Over Christmas, while visiting and bonding my foodie brother in Arkansas, he introduces me to Parts Unknown on CNN. I am hooked. I love Bourdain. I'm addicted to the show. It mixes things that mix well: my love for travel, my love for food, my love for a good damn story with interesting characters. So, I figure, I might need to actually read his book. Yeah this one. The one that put him on the map. The one that turned him from an executive chef with personality to THE chef with personality.

    The book is a quick read. It dances. It seems to operate with a certain mechanical, hyper-caffeinated efficiency. Whatever money it made Bourdain, he probably deserved even more. Right now, I've muted my desire to put it on the bookshelf next to my other just reads. I want my wife to read it first. Oh, I've got a friend who would love it too. My initial reaction to finishing this book is the same I get when I discover a fantastic new restaurant (Republica Empanada in Mesa, AZ) -- I want to take friends and family to it. I become not just a disciple, but a crazy-eyed evangelist.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Anthony Everitt
    • Narrated By John Curless

    In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life here as a witty and cunning political operator.

    Darwin8u says: "An eloquent man, and a patriot"
    "An eloquent man, and a patriot"

    Not as good as Everitt's biography of Augustus, but better than his biography of Hadrian. Everitt is clearly passionate and good at classical narratives. His biographies are quick, easy, and summarize the subjects well. He doesn't add much new to the history. He isn't challenging or overthrowing assumptions about Cicero or the other major players, but he weaves a nice story and makes Classical history approachable.

    Everitt does a fine job of balancing the different aspects of Cicero. His skill as an orator, his hits and misses as a politician, his defense of the Republic, his rationality all get their time and moment. Everitt also blends in Cicero's weaknesses: his vanity, his missteps/vacillation in politics, his zeal in persecuting Mark Anthony, and his cowardice.

    The weakness of this biography is while Everitt might be aiming at a form of mild historical rehabilitation, I'm not sure Cicero was ever really in need of rehabilitation. While he was often unlucky during his life (unlike Julius Caesar the birds never seemed to be on Cicero's side) after his 'good death' Cicero seems to have flourished.

    The volume and quality of Cicero's writings that survived the fall of Rome have made Cicero into one of the hero/gods of the Roman Republic. His genius survives. Cicero will always be known more now for what he wrote and thought than for what he did. Caesar may have been deified by decree of the Roman Senate on 1 January 42 BC, but Cicero's own writings have made him immortal. He lives on in Machiavelli, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. As Emperor Augustus observed to one of his grandsons upon seeing him reading a book by Cicero: "An eloquent man, my child, an eloquent man, and a patriot." Not a bad epitaph from the Caesar who had you killed.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Song of Kali

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Dan Simmons
    • Narrated By Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Blood will curdle in Calcutta. In the most crime-ridden city, nightmares become real and evil is defined by frightening occurrences. When an American family finds themselves encircled by the terrors of this land, lurid events befall them and life takes on a new meaning - death. Winner of the World Fantasy Award, Song of Kali will chill the blood and frighten even the most jaded of horror fans.

    Darwin8u says: "All Violence is an Exercise in Power"
    "All Violence is an Exercise in Power"

    Horror is not my normal territory. It isn't my alternate either. As far as genre fiction goes I probably reach for a horror novel as often as I reach for a fantasy novel. But this is Dan Simmons we are talking about. After reading Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, I was intrigued. How poetic could Simmons make horror? How literate?

    I liked the 'Song of Kali'. It was a good story. I'm just not sure I'd count it as great horror. It wasn't that scary. It was definitely more psychological and mental than most. It seemed like a strange mixture of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, all with a big glob of Calcutta madness and poetic mysticism.

    Anyway, I liked it. I'll keep reading Simmons when I want a vacation from the classics or an escape into literary genre fiction, but I don't think I will need to steel my nerves with any tonics or leave the lights on to go to sleep after I close the book at night. I might, however, rethink vacation plans to Kolkata and West Bengal. Screw THAT.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov

    • UNABRIDGED (31 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Vladimir Nabokov
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    From Vladimir Nabokov, the writer who shocked and delighted the world with his novels Lolita, Pale Fire, and Ada, or Ardor, comes a magnificent collection of stories. Written between the 1920s and the 1950s, these 68 tales — 14 of which have been translated into English for the first time - display all the shades of Nabokov’s imagination.

    Madelaine says: "No discernable beginning or end to the stories."
    "A Kaleidoscope of Nabokov Bábochkas"

    In someways reading/listening to Nabokov's stories is like swimming in a turbulent river of all his great themes (doppelgängers, the creative process, loss, nostalgia for Russia, the individual, obsession, dreams/reality, etc).

    While there were some stories that were masterpieces, the strength of this book really is the ability it gives the Nabokov enthusiast to easily see the development of a great writer from the early 20s to the late 50s.

    One only needs to read 'Terra Incognita' to see the seeds of his novel 'Ada: or Ardor'. This collection is a must for those who adore Nabokov, but also an interesting introduction to Nabokov for those whose only exposure may be "Lolita'.

    Here are the stories as they appear in this collection:


    "The Wood-Sprite"
    "Russian Spoken Here"
    "A Matter of Chance"
    "The Seaport"
    "Details of a Sunset"
    "The Thunderstorm"
    "La Veneziana"
    "The Dragon"
    "A Letter That Never Reached Russia"
    "The Fight"
    "The Return of Chorb"
    "A Guide to Berlin"
    "A Nursery Tale"
    "The Passenger"
    "The Doorbell"
    "An Affair of Honor"
    "The Christmas Story"
    "The Potato Elf"
    "The Aurelian"
    "A Dashing Fellow"
    "A Bad Day"
    "The Visit to the Museum"
    "A Busy Man"
    "Terra Incognita"
    "The Reunion"
    "Lips to Lips"
    "The Admiralty Spire"
    "The Leonardo"
    "In Memory of L. I. Shigaev"
    "The Circle"
    "A Russian Beauty"
    "Breaking the News"
    "Torpid Smoke"
    "A Slice of Life"
    "Spring in Fialta"
    "Cloud, Castle, Lake"
    "Tyrants Destroyed"
    "Vasiliy Shishkov"
    "Ultima Thule"
    "Solus Rex"


    "Mademoiselle O"


    "The Assistant Producer"
    "That in Aleppo Once…"
    "A Forgotten Poet"
    "Time and Ebb"
    "Conversation Piece, 1945"
    "Signs and Symbols"
    "First Love"
    "Scenes from the Life of a Double Monster"
    "The Vane Sisters"

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • A Room of One's Own

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Virginia Woolf
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    A Room of One's Own, based on a lecture given at Girton College Cambridge, is one of the great feminist polemics. Woolf's blazing polemic on female creativity, the role of the writer, and the silent fate of Shakespeare's imaginary sister remains a powerful reminder of a woman's need for financial independence and intellectual freedom.

    Darwin8u says: "An important piece on women and literature."
    "An important piece on women and literature."

    An important piece on women and literature. But more than that. ARoO'sO is a piece on education and literature, money and literature, space and literature. Woolf explores how money and space are essential to a person being able to have the things needed for art.

    It isn't a complicated book, but it is revolutionary in its way. I loved it. It was, like almost everything Woolf writes, a river filled with diamonds. It carries you and occasionally drops luxury into your lap.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • You Have to F--king Eat

    • UNABRIDGED (4 mins)
    • By Adam Mansbach
    • Narrated By Bryan Cranston

    Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcom in the Middle) follows in the exasperated footsteps of Samuel L. Jackson, giving voice to the long-suffering father whose indifferent child will just not eat in this hilarious follow-up to Adam Mansbach's international best seller, Go the F--k to Sleep.

    Darren says: "Another role that Bryan Cranston plays to a T."
    "Not with a bang, but a F--king Whimper"

    Adam Mansbach first book, "Go the F--K To Sleep' was brilliant because it was shocking, funny, original, and the meter worked. This one has Bryan Cranston, but that is just about it. IT wasn't nearly as good and the novelty is gone. It just doesn't work. Unless you are a die-hard eater, or love the F--k out of Adam Mansbach, I wouldn't buy this. But since it is free, sure down load the F--ker.

    14 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Michael Shaara
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    After 30 years and with three million copies in print, Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War classic, The Killer Angels, remains as vivid and powerful as the day it was originally published.

    Gene says: "Almost a Perfect Audiobook"
    "A Killer War Novel"

    One of my favorite historical fiction novels of ALL TIME. I read this with my 13 year-old son and 12 year-old daughter and it was amazing. My kids loved it just as much as I did. It was tight, character-driven, and dramatic. Imagine my surprise when my kids are discussing the virtues of Team Chamberlain (smart, honorable, thoughtful, a natural leader) VS Team Longstreet (brilliant, ahead of his time, brooding, quiet).

    The Civil War is one of those historical periods that is a bit anachronistic to me. It has elements of romance, chivalry, honor, gentility mixed in with the horrible stench of a modern, brutal war. There are characters like Lee, Chamberlain, Pickett, Stuart, etc., who seem to belong in some Arthurian myth/melodrama next to Longstreet and Hancock who could easily have been cast in some post-apocalyptic Battle Royale. Add to this, the fact that these were real men, with real failings, fighting real friends and the book almost seems to narrate itself.

    Anyway, this is a top-shelf war novel -- it educates, it entertains (as much as a war novel can be called entertainment) and it is beautiful. There were some paragraphs I wanted Terence Malick to film.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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