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Darwin8u

A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

Mesa, AZ, United States

ratings
404
REVIEWS
400
FOLLOWING
15
FOLLOWERS
1291
HELPFUL VOTES
7678

  • The Great Gatsby

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Narrated By Jake Gyllenhaal
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3190)
    Performance
    (2919)
    Story
    (2943)

    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel of the Roaring Twenties is beloved by generations of readers and stands as his crowning work. This new audio edition, authorized by the Fitzgerald estate, is narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain). Gyllenhaal's performance is a faithful delivery in the voice of Nick Carraway, the Midwesterner turned New York bond salesman, who rents a small house next door to the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby....

    Darwin8u says: "Simple, Beautiful, and Exquisitely Textured"
    "Simple, Beautiful, and Exquisitely Textured"
    Overall
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    Story

    I am a ravenous reader. I consume books (audio, electronic, and paper) by the pound and byte. I RARELY go back and reread a novel I've read before. It just seems a waste of time, a waste of an opportunity for another book, another story. The Great Gatsby, however, is one of those handful of books, those rare literary jewels, where this rule of thumb is consistently bent and re-broken. For readers of good literature, this novel is like scripture. IT is something you read to enjoy the page, the paragraphs, the sentences, the words. It draws you back. It haunts future books you read. It invades you.

    For American Literature, The Great Gatsby stands with 'Moby-Dick' and 'Huckleberry Finn' as a monument of not just literature but the uniquely American experience. It captures the excess, the energy, and the decadence of the 'Lost Generation'. Other Fitzgerald books are amazing, but Gatsby is one of those novels that seems to have surprised everyone, even Fitzgerald.

    Finding the right narrator for any book is an art form (often misunderstood, almost always ignored). Certain books require a certain type of reader. Gyllenhaal was an inspired pick for the Great Gatsby. He has the range to subtly capture the different characters, but the charisma and the energy to embody the dialogue of Gatsby and the easygoing narrator Nick.

    106 of 109 people found this review helpful
  • A Princess of Mars

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Edgar Rice Burroughs
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (173)
    Performance
    (167)
    Story
    (163)

    “The green warrior decided to close in and end the battle; just as he rushed me, a blinding light struck full in my eyes, so that I could not see Zad’s approach and could only leap blindly to one side to avoid his mighty blade...." Suddenly projected to Mars, John Carter finds himself the captive of the savage green men of Thark. With him is the lovely Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. And between them and rescue lay a thousand miles of deadly enemies and unknown dangers.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "Wish Upon a Star"
    "Everyman Civil Warrior = Martian Hercules"
    Overall
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    Edgar Rice Burrough's popular John Carter/Barsoom novels started with 'A Princess of Mars'. I can only imagine reading this cowboy in space novel when it was first published. It was absolute pulp (violent fights, naked women), but like all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels it can't be contained by any simple labels. Burroughs is able to explore ideas of eugenics and race, war and peace, love and family, all layered into a fast-paced, violent Martian travelogue. Burroughs loves supermen. The idea of John Carter having amazing strength because of the different gravities of Earth and Mars allows an everyman Virginian Civil Warrior to become a singular Martian Hercules.

    Obviously, this is an extraordinarily influential sic-fi novel. It influenced everybody from Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon) to George Lucas (Star Wars) to James Cameron (Avatar). It is hard to watch Han Solo walk without thinking of John Carter's swagger or dream about Princess Leah in chains without my subconscious somehow floating back into visions of Princess Dejah Thoris in -- yes -- chains. It is a shame that Disney's John Carter movie didn't do better. I would love to see further efforts to make films out of the Barsoom series. It is a strange world where a movie that makes $200M+ globally and is still judged a failure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tarzan of the Apes

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Edgar Rice Burroughs
    • Narrated By David Ian Davies
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (143)
    Performance
    (42)
    Story
    (42)

    Why has this classic been so popular over the years with its presence in films, books, radio, and television? It is the mythology of the primordial steps of man's advancement. David Ian Davies has achieved great success in capturing each character with their own unique sound.

    Benedict says: "I did not know that!"
    "Burroughs' Noble Savage"
    Overall
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    Story

    Tarzan is one of those characters who came out of the post-Victorian, pre-WWI age that seem almost to exhibit a place larger than the actual book(s) he was born in. Like Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan is both a type and a rejection of type. It is amazing to see the arc this character has taken over the last century. From the actual books written by Burroughs to the various movies, comics, cartoons, and the eventual Disneyfication of the story.

    I read this book shortly after getting LOA's 100 year anniversary edition of both Tarzan and Princess of Mars. It was classic pulp. Like other magazine stories told during this time (the Most Dangerous Game, etc) it points to a certain level of supple, straight, superman that exists beneath the clothes of civilization. There must be some base-level appeal for us modern men where we feel compelled to dream we could, with only a knife and a rope, if put in the right situation, conquer the wilderness. There is a king of the jungle/nobel savage in all of us. It is the same impulse that drives viewers to watch 'Man Vs. Wild' and 'Naked and Afraid', etc. Civilization provides us with many comforts, but it also robs us of something. Burroughs recognized this missing treasure. His Tarzan novels (and to a degree his Mars novels) exploits and explores this missing link to our past. He is able to illustrate that underneath our jackets and ties there might be a bit of the savage inside this actuary and a beast inside that accountant, just waiting an opportunity to break free.

    This recording's narration was good, but the recording's overall quality was poor.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The God Delusion

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4520)
    Performance
    (1909)
    Story
    (1887)

    Discover magazine recently called Richard Dawkins "Darwin's Rottweiler" for his fierce and effective defense of evolution. Prospect magazine voted him among the top three public intellectuals in the world (along with Umberto Eco and Noam Chomsky). Now Dawkins turns his considerable intellect on religion, denouncing its faulty logic and the suffering it causes.

    Rick Just says: "Dangerous Religion"
    "A Tone Lifted from Fundamentalists"
    Overall
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    I always enjoyed that line between humanist and believer. I remember when I was a Mormon missionary reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. After finishing it, I immediately felt I needed to read Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. I don't have a real problem with agnostics, atheists, humanists, etc. I think the competitive nature of belief is important. I think religion NEEDS to be able to thrive under scrutiny. It can't be comfortable. It can't be too protected. It needs to offer something if it is going to continue to be relevant. But I just can't get too excited by Dawkins, Harris, and Maher's forms of Atheism. While I like and respect their ability and desire to look at facts, adore skepticism and the scientific method, etc., their tone seems to have been lifted from Fundamentalist Christians.

    Perhaps, it is their evangelical nature I am rejecting. But it can't be that exactly. I loved Christopher Hitchens. It wasn't like he was just soft and kind. But he came off more like a drunk rationalist than I pious prig. Perhaps that is my main beef with Dawkins. When he is in positivist mode, he is exciting. I love reading his stuff about evolution and science and the scientific method. I just don't think he is very good and criticism. He seems to smug. Too cocky. To be fair to Dawkins I felt the same way about overly smug members of my own belief system, or Christians who seem more interested in bashing other's beliefs than showing the benefits of their own. Don't smash Buddhists, SHOW me what you have to offer. Don't smash belief, show me what skepticism has to offer.

    As far as the narration, the back-and-forth narration between Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward was a bit distracting. The male/female, twisting narration helixes through the entire book, but I can't quite see the point of it. Perhaps it was just so that Dawkins didn't have to narrate the whole book himself. But why, in the middle of a paragraph, would you switch narrators. It was odd.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Bone Clocks

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By David Mitchell
    • Narrated By Jessica Ball, Leon Williams, Colin Mace, and others
    Overall
    (45)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (39)

    Following a scalding row with her mother, 15-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as "the radio people," Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

    Darwin8u says: "Brilliant at ventriloquism and style-jumping"
    "Brilliant at ventriloquism and style-jumping"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It is hard to not like David Mitchell. He is literary, just not too literary. He is funky, just not too funky. He is hip, just not too hip. He is political, just not too political. He is spiritual, but also seems to leave room for a bit of humanist doubt. I can't think of another writer who captures the energy or direction of the slick, urban, cosmopolitan, educated, 21st century global zeitgeist.

    David Mitchell is brilliant at ventriloquism and style-jumping. His books are filled with multiple narrative and style incarnations (the stacking-doll Cloud Atlas, or narrative leaping number9dream, or his most recent The Bone Clocks), but sometime I feel like he is starting to eat his own tail here. I want to see Mitchell do a Peter Carey and jump out of his slick, crowd-pleasing novels into something a bit different.

    Do I know exactly what I want? No. I just see this author who I've liked enough to read everything he's ever published, and fear that we might just get two or three more of these books. I like them. Don't get me wrong. I liked 'The Bone Clocks' enough to give it four stars and review and read it. I just don't want to see Mitchell begin to get so comfortable in his archipelago of interconnected narratives that he doesn't push his talent into dark, rough, and uncomfortable places.

    Anyway, Mitchell hasn't written a novel YET that I'm very disappointed with and Bone Clocks is no exception. There might be a couple slower chapters and the ending might have been a bit predictable, but I had a hard time putting the novel down while reading and was sad to put it down when I finished. That isn't rare for me, but it is a pretty good indication that the novel is on solid ground. People keep claiming to see the death of the novel around the corner, but Mitchell's talent and narrative slickness is at least one star that keeps consistently reappearing.

    A point on the narration. A couple of the narrations (Jessica Ball, etc) were a tad difficult for me. They worked, but they were so heavily accented that I couldn't listen to it faster than 1.5 speed without losing the thread of what was being said. Not a huge critique, but just my two pence.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • Uncommon Carriers

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By John McPhee
    • Narrated By John McPhee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (86)
    Performance
    (36)
    Story
    (36)

    From Pulitzer Prize-winner John McPhee, author of The Founding Fish, comes the fascinating story of an often overlooked, yet vitally important part of America. This first-hand account of the transportation sector features evocative portraits of the men and women who deliver our consumer and industrial goods.

    Darwin8u says: "A Geologist's Curiosity/Patience and a Poet's Pen"
    "A Geologist's Curiosity/Patience and a Poet's Pen"
    Overall
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    McPhee is one of my favorites. I think his strongest form is the long-essay and I love his collections that are thematic. 'Uncommon Carriers' delivered exactly what I wanted with a bunch of surprises. Like always, McPhee is able to mix together great characters, fantastic observations, and a real sense of space and place and tell a story that illuminates some place or time that you have probably driven past without noticing a hundred times before.

    McPhee has a a geologist's curiosity and patience (and a poet's pen) that allows him to spend an inordinate amount of time with a story to get that one detail that turns a good essay about boats into a fantastic essay about the craft of work, the beauty of place, the magnificence of the ordinary. The magic of McPhee isn't just that he writes new journalism almost better than anyone else on the planet, it is that he does more of it than almost anyone else. Up McPhee's other sleeve is his ability to make you want to follow him on his explorations. He isn't going to chase down your interests (rock stars, movies, money). Instead, McPhee is going to carefully let you follow him down his rabbit holes and help you onto his hobby-horses.

    I would also be remiss if I didn't include a part of one of my favorite paragraphs. A barge McPhee is on, is flashed by a woman on a pleasure boat on the Missouri river. Here is McPhee's response:

    ...She has golden hair. She has the sort of body you go to see in marble. She holds her poise without retreat. In her ample presentation there is a defiance of gravity. There is no angle of repose. She is a siren and these are her songs. She is Henry Moore's "Oval with Points".

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The Twenty-Seventh City

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Jonathan Franzen
    • Narrated By Meetu Chilana
    Overall
    (15)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (15)

    St. Louis, Missouri, is a quietly dying river city until it hires a new police chief: a charismatic young woman from Bombay, India, named S. Jammu. No sooner has Jammu been installed, though, than the city's leading citizens become embroiled in an all-pervasive political conspiracy. A classic of contemporary fiction, The Twenty-Seventh City shows us an ordinary metropolis turned inside out, and the American dream unraveling into terror and dark comedy.

    Darwin8u says: "A messy, ambitious, prognostic American novel"
    "A messy, ambitious, prognostic American novel"
    Overall
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    Franzen's freshman effort is striking. First, just gazing at the picture of Franzen on the back of the original novel and it makes me think this kid must have been gnawing on ideas for this book in his mother's womb. Seriously, he looks like he might be wearing the same deodorant his dad gave him at puberty.

    Anyway, I was inspired to read this book because I was heading to St. Louis for a couple days and figured given the recent Ferguson-inspired race tensions, there might never be a more appropriate time to crack Franzen's novel about an Indian woman who takes over as the St. Louis chief of police. There is sex, violence, politics, intrigue, etc.. It is a thriller that aspires to be literary, or a thriller written by someone who is simply writing in the wrong genre.

    The book is ambitious, messy (plot threads abandoned all over the place), inventive, cracked in places, but destined to stick around. I say that knowing that there are some serious Franzen haters out there. I also say that knowing this isn't his best work (by far). But in 1988, Franzen wrote a novel that seems to have almost perfectly captured the paranoid, xenophobic, social and race conflict that surrounds President Obama (birth certificate, etc). Imagine while reading this novel that Obama is Jammu and the United States is St. Louis and let the details slide from Ferguson to the Gateway Arch and there you are.

    Franzen's fixation on the American family (both in its function and disfunction) is in pupae form here. Family dinners, tensions between spouses, extra-marital encounters, spoiled children, holiday tensions, they all germ here. His prose is great, if a bit uneven (brilliant in parts and boring in others). His plot is complicated. His setting masterful. Again, this isn't a masterpiece, but it was a clear indication of his future ambition and trajectory.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life

    • UNABRIDGED (57 mins)
    • By Michael Lewis
    • Narrated By Michael Lewis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (78)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (26)

    There was a turning point in Michael Lewis' life, in a baseball game when he was 14 years old. The irascible and often terrifying Coach Fitz put the ball in his hand with the game on the line and managed to convey such confident trust in Lewis's ability that the boy had no choice but to live up to it. "I didn't have words for it then, but I do now: I am about to show the world, and myself, what I can do."

    Darwin8u says: "A Nostalgia Tour of a Great Man"
    "A Nostalgia Tour of a Great Man"
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    More of a tribute/essay/paean than a book, Coach is a relic. It is a reflection on Billy "Fitz" Fitzgerald, one of those influential and transformative men who through their character, courage and strength affect a large number of boys. Lewis recalls his memories of Coach Fitz and details the way both parents and children have changed (at least in the milieu of New Orleans and the Isidore Newman School). At heart it is a nostalgia tour of a great man and how lessons about adversity, strength, practice, resolve, respect and focus taught the right way to the right children can help children concur both fear and failure on the road to adulthood.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (translator)
    • Narrated By Bruce Locke
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (95)
    Performance
    (89)
    Story
    (87)

    The new novel - a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan - from the internationally acclaimed author, his first since IQ84. Here he gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.

    Pamela says: "We're all victims of our youth"
    "Just below the Surface"
    Overall
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    A slow soak in a bath of music, color, friends, loneliness, philosophy, creation and death. Murakami is a genius at writing with emotions swirling beneath the text. He gets the importance of the notes AND the silence of prose; of the unsaid, dreamy place that is both recognized and strange.

    This isn't his most exciting work, but it is clearly not a throw-away either. It brings all the usual suspects to the Murakami table. Murakami writes best when he makes the reader feel like they are just near the surface of wakefulness. He bends the reader into a zone where it feels like a strange contractive tendency of the surface between sleep and wakefulness between musical, lucid dreams and surreal, philosophical nightmares.

    It feels like you are balancing blind on the edge of a train platform; you feel the sound of the train and feel the compression of his words, but don't know if the Murakami train is going to hit you from the left or the right.

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • The Decameron

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Giovanni Boccaccio
    • Narrated By Frederick Davidson
    Overall
    (56)
    Performance
    (25)
    Story
    (25)

    Giovanni Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarch were the leading lights in a century that is considered the beginning of the Italian Renaissance. The Decameron, or Ten Days' Entertainment, is his most famous work, a collection of stories considered representative of the Middle Ages, as well as a product of the Renaissance.

    Darwin8u says: "Everyone is dying: Let's bawdy!"
    "Everyone is dying: Let's bawdy!"
    Overall
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    Story

    Like 'The Canterbury Tales', 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman', 'The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights', etc., 'The Decameron' is an early masterpiece of European literature. It is one of those books I've previously avoided because I thought it would be stilted and boring. Hells NASTY Bells was I wrong. Boccaccio is funny, flippant, irreverent, libidinous, provocative, inspiring, insulting, crazy and always -- always entertaining.

    100 stories told during the the summer of 1348 as the Black Death is ravaging Florence (and Europe). Ten aristocratic youths take to the country to escape the death, stink and bodies of the City and to hang out and amuse themselves on stories of love and adventure and sex and trickery. Bad priests, evil princes, saints, sinners, and various twists and turns paints a detailed picture of Italy from over 660 years ago that seems just as modern and funky as today. Things have certainly changed, but lords and ladies it is incredible just how many things have stayed the same.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • The Metamorphoses

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Ovid
    • Narrated By Charlton Griffin
    Overall
    (228)
    Performance
    (108)
    Story
    (111)

    An undeniable masterpiece of Western Civilization, The Metamorphoses is a continuous narrative that covers all the Olympian legends, seamlessly moving from one story to another in a splendid panorama of savage beauty, charm, and wit. All of the gods and heroes familiar to us are represented. Such familiar legends as Hercules, Perseus and Medusa, Daedelus and Icarus, Diana and Actaeon, and many others, are breathtakingly recreated.

    J. J. Kuzma says: "Desert Island Download"
    "Cha-cha-cha-Changes"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Ovid -- the David Bowie of Latin literature. I chewed on this book of myth-poems the entire time I was tramping around Rome. I was looking for the right words to describe my feelings about it. It isn't that I didn't like it. It is an unequivocal masterpiece. I'm amazed by it. I see Ovid's genes in everything (paintings, sculptures, poems and prose). He is both modern and classic, reverent and wicked, lovely and obscene all at once. It is just hard to wrestle him down. To pin my thoughts about 'the Metamorphoses' into words. Structure really fails me.

    That I guess is the sign for me of a book's depth or success with me. It makes me wish I could read it in the original form. I'm not satisfied with Dante in English. I want him in Italian. I'm not satisfied with Ovid in English. I want to experience his poetry, his playfulness, his wit in Latin.

    I still prefer the poetry of Homer and Dante, but Ovid isn't embarrassed by the company of the greats; so not Zeus or Neptune, but maybe Apollo.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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