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Joe

HOOVER, AL, United States | Member Since 2013

8
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 13 reviews
  • 19 ratings
  • 46 titles in library
  • 14 purchased in 2014
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  • The Screwtape Letters

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By C. S. Lewis
    • Narrated By Joss Ackland
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (477)
    Performance
    (434)
    Story
    (442)

    A masterpiece of satire, this classic has entertained and enlightened readers the world over with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to "Our Father Below". At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C. S. Lewis gives us the correspondence of the worldly-wise old devil to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man. The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging and humorous account of temptation - and triumph over it - ever written.

    James says: "This is the Best Audio Screwtape, a Masterpiece"
    "Memoirs of a Devil"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up The Screwtape Letters in three words, what would they be?

    Real - As a Christian, my beliefs incorporate the subjects of CS Lewis's masterpiece and while I honestly haven't given "that side" much thought, I couldn't help but be impressed by the feeling of realness it gave me. When I first began reading I felt it a bit silly, but as I continued some of the letters really resonated with my life and the gravity of its implications grew very heavy.

    Frightening - This was my first word as I was indeed frightened by the whole thought of it.

    Surprising - I came into this book almost completely ignorant to the subject matter. My only clue was that it was CS Lewis and that it likely had some religious undertones.....and that turned out to be an underestimation.


    What other book might you compare The Screwtape Letters to and why?

    At first I wanted to say no book is comparable but then I thought of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Both books describe the journey in life when walking in the faith of Christ.


    Which character – as performed by Joss Ackland – was your favorite?

    He played one actor, Screwtape, and he was masterful.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Screwtape Letters and why?

    Again, there was only Screwtape, a bureaucrat in Hell's Collection Department, and I simply would rather not think too long at his character. Evil has a new name, and its name is Screwtape.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a must read for any Christian. An open mind is necessary but that is also essential to be Christian.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Odyssey

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Homer (translated by Robert Fagles)
    • Narrated By Ian McKellen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (674)
    Performance
    (497)
    Story
    (491)

    McGrath-Muniz says: "Beautiful recording marred by audio problems!"
    "Epic? Sure, I guess."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Odyssey is famous for its survival from antiquity but also as one of the great original pieces of literature and poetry of humanity. Nothing is more astounding about the Odyssey than the fact that it exists and for that alone it is worth anyone's time to read or listen. Regardless of the story, its presentation provides a glimpse of Greek culture around 800 B.C. which also cannot be overvalued.

    However, the story of Odysseus is not my favorite and requires a greater than novice-level appreciation for Greek mythology. Without this prerequisite, the character of the gods are largely untranslated to the reader. Even still, the inclusion of the gods (or some of them) is annoying since they seem so inconsistent and juvenile, not to mention categorically misogynistic - but that's a whole different debate. The whole time I read/listened to The Odyssey I was constantly wondering how many Greeks really bought into the story of the gods and how many of them just went through the motions due to social pressures. For me, this tenant of the poem was too much to get around.

    The editing of this recording was simply atrocious. There are 24 books in the Odyssey and the audiobook from audible.com broke it up into 24 chapters which would seem to correlate. However, the majority of the books ended in the middle of the chapters, if you catch my meaning. Moreover, it felt as if the sound levels and quality were different from chapter to chapter (not from book to book). And finally, despite his immense popularity, I felt Sir Ian McKellen's performance was lacking in imagination. All-in-all, I felt the audiobook was rather disappointing and would recommend an inquiring listener to choose a different version.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich: A Leo Tolstoy Short Story

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Leo Tolstoy
    • Narrated By Bill DeWees
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (93)
    Performance
    (84)
    Story
    (83)

    The brilliance of this story is in how a normal bureaucrat, a judge in this case, has a small accident that winds up gradually taking his life. As he deals with this incident, with hope at first and then despair, he comes to terms with his family, his life, and the mediocrities that we all suffer with, except for the exceptional few. This story rings a particularly poignant note for those in early middle age facing the next part of their lives. This story is considered Tolstoy's best.

    Michael says: "Great Book, Great Price, Good Narration"
    "The Egotist Looks At A Mirror"
    Overall
    Performance
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    What did you like best about The Death of Ivan Ilyich? What did you like least?

    Ironically, the answer to both questions is Ivan's conversion at the end of his life. The humanity of facing ones death is an inevitability for all and our vision of Ivan is a window into that psychology. For 99.99%+ of the population, we can only truly understand the death experience when we die. I only give nominal deference to those who have "experienced" being brain dead but have been revived. Even still, they did not die completely. Tolstoy's attempt is ambitious but it rings plausible enough for a honest rendering of my own end (several decades from now, I hope). What most disappointed me was the ending which described a conversion that was anything besides a factual existence. Ivan began his long path of terminal diagnosis in a state of disbelief. How could he be dying since he lived so well? But in the end, his pain goes away only when he accepted that he lived selfishly. This realization perpetuates the mythology that our sufferings are directly proportional to our "goodness". At one point, all the people around Ivan, including the doctors, accept the inevitable because Ivan's ailments are beyond their reach and understanding - why cannot man accept that the world in all of its glory and good things is made for their sole benefit? This ego-centrism is frustrating to witness first hand but perhaps can be somewhat forgiven as this was written in the 1886 when religion was still a principle source of scientific knowledge.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    See question above.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bill DeWees?

    I'm keeping my 2-star rating but it's probably unfair. I DID feel the performance was a bit mechanical but so was the writing. Still, I can not offer an alternate narrator.


    Do you think The Death of Ivan Ilyich needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No, this book is not open ended and nor should it be. This book is intended to efface self-reflection regarding death and I think it's sufficiently accomplished.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Hiroshima

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By John Hersey
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    Overall
    (54)
    Performance
    (46)
    Story
    (46)

    A journalistic masterpiece. John Hersey transports us back to the streets of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945—the day the city was destroyed by the first atomic bomb. Told through the memories of six survivors, Hiroshima is a timeless, powerful classic that will awaken your heart and your compassion. In this newedition, Hersey returns to Hiroshima to find the survivors—and to tell their fates in an eloquent and moving final chapter.

    Joe says: "Required Reading for a Reason"
    "Required Reading for a Reason"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's the story of 6 survivors of the A-bomb at Hiroshima. It reflects on the atrocity of a "total war" strategy but also in the surprising paradigm of the Japanese. I was supposed to read it in middle school but I did not.

    The book itself is pretty simple; a narrative that groups each subject "bomb affected person" in somewhat-defined chaptered spans of time. The descriptions are concise and laregly unembellished. Simply one fact or event to the next. The culmination of these pictures provides a dynamic portrait of the Japanese population both at the time of the attack and later in life.

    I don't like to say I "like" books where the subject matter is so terrible, particularly a book of non-fiction, but it is interesting and I hope, for a variety of reasons, it stays on required reading lists.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By John Boyne
    • Narrated By Michael Maloney
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (460)
    Performance
    (252)
    Story
    (255)

    The story of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some information about the audiobook, but in this case we think that would spoil the listening. We think it's important that you start to listen without knowing what it is about.

    Jennifer says: "Absolutely Phenomenal!!!"
    "Auschwitz: A Boys perspective - Eh...No."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No, I don't think I would. I didn't much appreciate the characterization of the young Nazi boy. I feel that some things require reverence and fictionalizing a piece of history in such a way that was presented here, in a way, diminishes the truth. I suppose there was some karmic value in the irony of the plot but I think it falls flat considering that fact is much more awful than fiction.


    Would you ever listen to anything by John Boyne again?

    Yes, I have not discarded Mr. Boyne as an author even if I'm not want to recommend this title.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    The performance was just fine and perhaps even provided some added value. The different portrayal of the young boys felt mostly genuine and in the spirit of the novel.


    Could you see The Boy in the Striped Pajamas being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Yes, definitely....it may be already, I'm not sure. I don't know enough stars names to answer the second question.


    Any additional comments?

    I felt the story to be compelling and served a good purpose. Bruno never accepted his father's viewpoint that the people in striped pajamas weren't human. In fact, Bruno saw his friend Shmuel as his best human contact in this terrible new home even though he couldn't touch or play with him. And from this perspective, perhaps the character of Bruno had to be so behind-the-curve naive.

    There are some critics who challenge that the story is not honest about the cruel conditions of Nazi concentration camps and I think that is certainly valid. Any descriptions are censored by Bruno's untainted child's mind - a technique that I thought was cute in the first few weeks at Auschwitz but felt needed to be undraped as Bruno who surely have experienced. Bruno was there for over a year with a bedroom 50 feet from the fence where men would fall to the ground suddenly and need soldiers to carry them away. Even so, I don't think the purpose of the book was to bring the audience into Auschwitz, but for the audience to accept that there are fences, however small, that separate us from one another, and are we looking at the people on the other side of the fence with the same humanism that Bruno did with Shmuel? I suppose that's my greatest criticism of this book. The purpose is great, but to use a place like Auschwitz as the vehicle for the message doesn't feel particularly right to me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Paper Towns

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By John Green
    • Narrated By Dan John Miller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1101)
    Performance
    (920)
    Story
    (935)

    Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.

    Jeremy says: "Green is Always Good, But Paper Towns Not Best"
    "Looking for Alaska, Version 3"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    It's a John Green book so yes, yes, I do recommend Paper Towns.

    But I will say that I was disappointed with


    Would you be willing to try another book from John Green? Why or why not?

    Yes. Because it's John Green.

    I first met John Green like most people meet John Green, through YouTube. He doesn't know me but I certainly feel like he's a friend of mine. In truth, he's the only "celebrity" I would even consider meeting on purpose, but I digress. When I watched John and his brother Hank on their YouTube channel, vlogbrothers, I was compelled to love them by their awesomeness. It sounds cliche but these guys are awesome and they are filled with awesomeness. When I found out John was an author I knew I was going to read him and I knew I was going to like him. And I do.

    But seriously, prior to this book I read Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherine's and both, despite their similar characters which is further mirrored in Paper Towns, I liked quite a bit. After reading Paper Towns, I've read Will Grayson, Will Grayson which was really good. Now, I'm looking forward to reading the acclaimed The Fault In Our Stars. So, yes, I think I'm very willing to get John Green another shot even if I find Paper Towns my least favorite.


    What three words best describe Dan John Miller’s voice?

    Can I get another question?


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Yes.


    Any additional comments?

    Nope, I've said my peace.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The House of Mirth

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Edith Wharton
    • Narrated By Emma Messenger
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (34)
    Performance
    (31)
    Story
    (33)

    In 1905 New York City, Lily Bart is a young, witty and beautiful socialite. Through a series of unfortunate events, she learns of the bitter consequences for a single woman without wealth, living in an uncaring society.

    Joe says: "The Novel of Manners = Blech!"
    "The Novel of Manners = Blech!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Well-spent? Probably not. I have come to appreciate Edith Wharton but I am not a fan of the Novels of Manners.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Edith Wharton? Why or why not?

    Yes. I very much liked Ethan Frome and, despite it being a Novel of Manners, the Age of Innocence. Wharton knows what she's doing and I would not give up on her based on my ho-hum take on House of Mirth.


    What does Emma Messenger bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I don't mean this maliciously, but not much. Messenger did a great job with her performance and I liked her portrayals very much. But the narrator, in my opinion, has little ability to improve the book experience but has a lot of power to diminish it. Ms. Messenger delivers a wholly adequate and enjoyable experience.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Yes.


    Any additional comments?

    None at this time.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Boys Adrift: Factors Driving the Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Leonard Sax
    • Narrated By Malcolm Hillgartner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (882)
    Performance
    (506)
    Story
    (505)

    Something scary is happening to boys today. From kindergarten to college, they are less resilient and less ambitious than they were a mere 20 years ago. Fully one-third of men ages 22 to 34 are still living at home with their parents, about a 100 percent increase in the past 20 years. Boys nationwide are increasingly dropping out of school; fewer are going to college. Family physician and research psychologist Dr. Leonard Sax presents practical solutions.

    neil says: "A Must Read If You Have A Son Under 30."
    "Interesting read for anyone responsible for a boy."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    No...but this is a silly question, IMHO.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Again, no.....it's not a story.


    What about Malcolm Hillgartner’s performance did you like?

    He did just fine.


    Did Boys Adrift inspire you to do anything?

    It has given me many things to think about should I ever have a boy. I don't think Sax is off base with its conclusions and its an increasingly disturbing issue today.


    Any additional comments?

    In general, Dr. Sax makes several valid points and packages it into a neat pentagon shaped box. I would recommend any parent of a son to read Boys Adrift. I am surprised that there was very little mention regarding homosexuality but perhaps he put that discussion in with his book Gender Matters....he'll only tell you about it a dozen times throughout your read. That also bothers me. Still, I'd recommend Boys Adrift.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Robert M. Hazen
    • Narrated By Walter Dixon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (438)
    Performance
    (381)
    Story
    (378)

    Earth evolves. From first atom to molecule, mineral to magma, granite crust to single cell to verdant living landscape, ours is a planet constantly in flux. In this radical new approach to Earth’s biography, senior Carnegie Institution researcher and national best-selling author Robert M. Hazen reveals how the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere - of rocks and living matter - has shaped our planet into the only one of its kind in the Solar System, if not the entire cosmos.

    Gary says: "Makes minerals interesting"
    "Nerdy Geology at its finest?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you like best about The Story of Earth? What did you like least?

    I liked that the Story of Earth is interesting.....if also boring. It's easy to be intrigued by the (many) things I didn't know about the history of our planet but it's also just as easy to back away from. There was certainly a limit to the amount of detailed knowledge I was willing to quickly accept at a given sitting.


    Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?

    Depends. At times I was on board with Hazen but others I got lost in details. I think this has a lot to do with the numbers of it all. Throughout the book, Hazen describes geological facts in terms of a timeline. For me, it became increasingly difficult to keep that timeline straight. In the first place, it's a massive timeline on a scale which the entirety of human history is but a tiny speck at the end, indistinguishable and unimportant. Secondly, 530 millions years ago sounds and feels just as remote as 350 million years ago. The numbers are just so large and the pace of reading so fast that it is no small task to process the wheres and whens of all the different ideas Hazen discusses. On that note, Hazen tends to jump to other eons and for a complete novice like me, this become confusing quickly. I effectively disregarded the detail of age and concentrated on the overall issue Hazen was attempting to explain. In this way, the book became easier to read and easier to process while maintaining the essence of Hazen's narration. I'm sure I missed some details on the way, but my sanity is still intact.

    Also, for a listen, I was probably even more handicapped. A visual representation of a number has a different value than a heard number.


    Which character – as performed by Walter Dixon – was your favorite?

    Mother Earth :)


    Did The Story of Earth inspire you to do anything?

    Nope.


    Any additional comments?

    I have rated this 3-stars principally because the subject didn't hold my interest enough. This is just an issue of personal preference. There were definite moments where I was presented ideas that I never heard prior and concepts that were utterly foreign to my preconceptions to the subject. But these moments of surprise, intrigue, and awe were not the majority but were enough to fuel the engine to continue the book until the end. I imagine those more interested in geology, the Earth, or other life/earth science would be more connected to The Story of Earth. As for me, I'm glad I read it but I'm equally glad it's over.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Carol Dweck
    • Narrated By Marguerite Gavin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1324)
    Performance
    (919)
    Story
    (912)

    Mindset is one of those rare audio books that can help you make positive changes in your life and at the same time see the world in a new way. A leading expert in motivation and personality psychology, Carol Dweck has discovered in more than 20 years of research that our mindset is not a minor personality quirk: it creates our whole mental world. It explains how we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals, our attitude toward work, and ultimately predicts whether or not we will fulfull our potential.

    Peter says: "Gems sparsely scattered throughout a desert"
    "Better Title: Case Study in Selling Books"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Honestly, noone. The concept is too simplistic and, quite frankly, it's too obvious. It is clear from the testimonials and other reviewers that I'm not 100% correct. Dweck has clearly reached people and I am sincerely glad that she's helped others but I remain stubbornly optimistic that most adults would find this book unhelpful.


    What was most disappointing about Carol Dweck’s story?

    I perfectly accept Dweck major idea but I am also thoroughly disappointed that she offered nothing else. For 276 pages....or the audiobook time equivalent...Dweck drones on applying the one concept to specific scenarios. She telling her readers how to be emotional mature, a concept that only emotionally mature people will really get.

    Her only contribution, if any, is the explanation that mindsets need not be fixed.


    Did Marguerite Gavin do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Ms. Gavin did a fine job. I have no comments for her.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Mindset?

    I would edit the tone of the presentation. To me, the book read as a direct criticism, which is comically ironic because only people of fixed mindsets are apt to judge, according to Dweck. Her tone expressed that those imploring a fixed mindset are wasting their lives, unlike the wonderfully creative, productive, successful, exemplary persons that take HER advice of using a growth mindset.

    The reader also gets the sense that she OWNS this idea, like it's something so novel. "If I use the Dweck Thereom, I'll have a growth mindset and be perfect!"...said noone ever.


    Any additional comments?

    If I may be so arrogant - and I'm admitting as such - I can boil this whole book down to one paragraph:

    In a nutshell, Dr. Dweck believes that all people fall into one of two categories: ones with a growth mindset and ones with a fixed mindset. Those with a growth mindset do not see obstacles as barriers but as challenges to overcome that ultimately make them better. Conversely, those of a fixed mindset walk away from these obstacles either content with the status quo or afraid of the failure. Although the idea can be used in a general sense, the mindsets can also be used for specific situations. How do I approach sports? How do I approach relationships? How do I approach politics? We will inevitable find we are a mosaic of mindsets fixed in certain areas and open in others. What's important is the knowledge that we can change our mindset toward anything if we want to.

    The ONLY reason I am giving this 2-stars is because I believe her major idea is something that should be discussed and talked about. A person's mindset, I believer, is a major contributor to success, but certainly not the only one and, unlike Dweck, I am not eager to suggest that it is the principal driver for success.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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