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Joel D Offenberg

Member Since 2015

372
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 97 reviews
  • 158 ratings
  • 347 titles in library
  • 19 purchased in 2015
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45

  • The Mauritius Command: Aubrey/Maturin Series, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Patrick O'Brian
    • Narrated By Patrick Tull
    Overall
    (619)
    Performance
    (312)
    Story
    (311)

    Lucky Jack Aubrey escapes the burdens of domesticity when he is appointed to the post of Admiral for an expedition to the coast of Madagascar where French frigates are threatening one of England's valued trade routes.

    Constance says: "Twists Turns and A Great Story"
    "Another Fun Novel in the Royal Navy"
    Overall

    The Mauritius Command tells the story of an historical Royal Navy campaign, set in the "Aubrey/Maturin" universe.

    At story's open, Jack is grounded on half-pay, living with his wife, their twin daughters and his mother-in-law. Jack longs to return to sea, and he gets his chance as the Commodore of a squadron of ships sent to disrupt the French bases and privateering in the Indian Ocean. Stephen Maturin accompanies as both medical man and intelligence agent. In addition to the actual effort of stopping the French, Jack and Stephen must finesse their relationships with the other officers and men in the squad.

    This is almost a purely nautical and military adventure. Jack's domestic life is pretty settled, and Stephen's on-again-off-again romantic life is not referenced, so "home life" isn't a major theme in the story.

    Patrick Tull's narrative style is lively and has a very "nautical" feel. However, his regional accent, gravelly voice and early-1990's production may be hard on American (and other) ears. There is a second version narrated by Simon Vance; I happen to prefer Tull's version.

    Customary disclaimers:
    1. Loads of nautical talk, no translation provided. Wikipedia can be a helpful reference (it was for me).
    2. Although this is fourth in the Aubrey/Maturin series, you can appreciate this one without being familiar with the previous ones.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Talents Incorporated

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Murray Leinster
    • Narrated By Harry Shaw
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    The remorseless aggressors had everything in the galaxy on their side - except the little idiosyncrasies of the human mind. The brutal Mekinese have launched a surprise attack on the helpless planet Kandar. The only hope: the unusual abilities of Talents, Incorporated. Science meets psi in this classic tale by Murray Leinster.

    Joel D Offenberg says: "Fun Space Opera, Poorly read"
    "Fun Space Opera, Poorly read"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Space Opera by one of the classic authors of early sci-fi. Perhaps not the greatest story ever written, but an amusing story in a light beach-reading kind of way...if you like your stories fairly mindless and plots pretty straightforward, this is your book.

    However, I found Harry Shaw's reading rather irritating. Kind of like a car salesman...maybe the style might be fitting for the work, but it grew monotonous over 6 hours.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Randall Munroe
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    Overall
    (928)
    Performance
    (856)
    Story
    (847)

    Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe's iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent of the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there were a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

    Charles says: "Good in Smaller Chunks"
    "Loved It"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you like playing around with over-the-top thought experiments and truly strange ideas, with realistic science, this a great book for you.

    The best comparison I have is Mary Roach...if you like her works, then you will truly enjoy "What if?"

    Wil Wheaton is a great narrator for this book, he captures the geeky science and Randall's wry humor exceedingly well. And I always give kudos to narrators of scienc-y works when they don't stumble over or mispronounce obscure technical words...and he handled it extremely well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Star Wars: Heir to the Empire (20th Anniversary Edition), The Thrawn Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Timothy Zahn
    • Narrated By Marc Thompson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3437)
    Performance
    (3213)
    Story
    (3229)

    Five years after the Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated, the galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights. But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords - the brilliant and deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn - has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic....

    Ryan says: "It's about time!"
    "Great book, amazing adaptation"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I read the Thrawn trilogy a couple of times years ago (in paper edition). I remembered them as being really good books...but I forgot just how totally fantastic they are. Until now.

    The story is great---Timothy Zahn really captured the world of Star Wars, the feel for the stories and the characters (now 5 years after the events in Return of the Jedi) as they build the New Republic and still war with the remnant of the Empire. The new characters he added fit into the Star Wars universe perfectly. Zahn's pacing, story elements and writing just make them fun books. On top of that, Zahn wrote these books in the early 1990's, so they are not contaminated by the prequel trilogy.

    I would give Marc Thompson's narration 6 or even 7 stars if I could. He managed to catch many of the voices so sound much like the original actors from the films. Maybe not perfectly, but quite good given that it all came from one larynx...I assume the post-production played some games to enhance that, but even so. Amazing.

    The post-production also added music and background sound effects to try to enhance the effect. In general, I liked that, although I think it got distracting on occasion.

    The Thrawn series is published as a trilogy, but really it is one, large 3-part novel. You will need to commit to finishing the whole thing...especially since you will have a hard time putting it down once you start.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Proof: The Science of Booze

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Adam Rogers
    • Narrated By Sean Runnette
    Overall
    (302)
    Performance
    (265)
    Story
    (261)

    A spirited narrative on the fascinating art and science of alcohol, sure to inspire cocktail party chats on making booze, tasting it, and its effects on our bodies and brains. Drinking gets a lot more interesting when you know what's actually inside your glass of microbrewed ale, single-malt whisky, or Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. All of them begin with fermentation, where a fungus called yeast binges on sugar molecules and poops out ethanol. Humans have been drinking the results for 10,000 years. Distillation is a 2,000-year-old technology - invented by a woman - that we're still perfecting today.

    Atila says: "Great listening to all about booze"
    "Loved it!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The science of booze---fermentation, distillation, flavoring. It's all here in a friendly, narrative format. It is wonderfully done, like a great whisky.

    Starting with the basics of fermentation and the history and science of distillation, Rogers delves into why we drink, what we drink and how we create our drinks. He even dives into the topics of intoxication and hangovers.

    Sean Runnette's narration is perfect for this material...his voice is a smooth single-malt companion to the book.

    If you liked this book, I also found a good companion to this one in "A History of the World in 6 Glasses," by Tom Standage, and also narrated by Sean Runnette.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Lady of Devices: A Steampunk Adventure Novel: Magnificent Devices, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Shelley Adina
    • Narrated By Fiona Hardingham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (755)
    Performance
    (689)
    Story
    (690)

    At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire's talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It's not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices...

    Kitty Lagorio says: "Was it really just one book divided into four?"
    "Slow start...never recovers"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Shelley Adina tries to enter into the "strong-willed female in a steampunk Victorian Britain" space...a space occupied by many other writers. Because this is a crowded space, Adina would need to deliver a heck of a story to stand out from the crowd. And she didn't.

    The characters and setting are somewhat interesting, and the author managed to hit a believable steampunk atmosphere---and I liked the fact that she did not shy away from the issue of the extreme poverty that existed in Victorian London.

    ...but...

    I kept waiting for the story to begin...and I guess it did, but not until the book was 2/3 finished. Clearly, this is intended to be a series, since this book really reads almost like the first couple of chapters of a larger book...mostly setting and set-up and introductions rather than true plot. And once there was a story that seemed to be moving, it wasn't that compelling.

    Later books in the series might go better, but I don't feel compelled to find out.

    If I were to compare this with the Parasol Protectorate series (as some other reviewers have done), I strongly favor the Parasol Protectorate over this series.

    The narrator did a good job with this story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy
    • Narrated By Johnny Heller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (625)
    Performance
    (556)
    Story
    (556)

    The most fatal virus known to science, rabies kills nearly 100 percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.

    Sparkly says: "My favorite science read this year."
    "Interesting (mostly) but audio cleanup needed"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In general, an interesting look at the history of rabies in human history. A bit gross in places, but this does address a real medical issue and it does get a bit anatomical out of necessity. Although the narrative was interesting and well done, it is rather dry and academic in tone (not a bad thing). I did find that some of the semi-off-topic excursions got a bit long but in general the story was well done.

    The narration was OK. I'm always glad with medical/technical audiobooks when the narrator actually pronounces the jargon properly, and that was done here.

    However, there is some pretty cruddy editing. The audio goes snap, crackle and pop every so often...as if the audiobook was transcribed from a well-loved LP in need of cleaning. It would be really good if someone could spend the time to eliminate, or at least reduce, the pops and snaps.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Gail Carriger
    • Narrated By Moira Quirk
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1514)
    Performance
    (1378)
    Story
    (1384)

    Fourteen-year old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. More interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea - and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy - Mrs. Temminnick is desperate her daughter become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

    But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish all right - but it's a different kind of finishing.

    MissSusie66 says: "Fun beginning to a new series"
    "A slow but not terrible start"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really enjoyed Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. I found the characters charming, the setting interesting and the stories fun. But I was hesitant to start this prequel series.

    And I'm of somewhat mixed minds about this, book 1. I'm glad that this story, while set in the same milieu as the first series, isn't quite as focused on vampires and werewolves (they are there but not the focus), so get a different flavour...some of the characters (but only a few) are from the original series...Carriger's wry humor is present, albeit in smaller doses than before.

    But the story in this case was a bit weak. And, setting the story amongst teenagers in a school setting invites comparisons to Harry Potter...whether spoof, satire or just similar setting. I also get the feeling this one was aimed at a younger audience than the first series.

    I'll probably carry on with this series, but so far, I enjoyed the Parasol Protectorate more.

    I'm a little less thrilled with Moira Quirk's reading. In general, she does well (definitely better than the narrator of the first series with respect to French and Scottish accents), but she disagreed with the first narrator about how to pronounce some of the proper names, etc. I have nothing against her reading...just not thrilled with it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Stanislaw Lem
    • Narrated By Scott Aiello
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (43)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (39)

    Trurl and Klaupacius are constructor robots who try to out-invent each other. Over the course of their adventures in The Cyberiad, they travel to the far corners of the cosmos to take on freelance problem-solving jobs, with dire consequences for their unsuspecting employers.

    Joel D Offenberg says: "Robotic Fun"
    "Robotic Fun"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Stanislaw Lem wrote many serious novels and essays, with deep literary impact about communication, aliens and idealized societies.

    The Cyberiad isn't one of those.

    A collection of mostly humorous (if more than slightly geeky) tales about the famous "constructors" Trurl and Klapaucius living in a robotic/cybernetic world. Despite the technological society, the setting is somewhat Medieval...kings, knights, pirates, the occasional dragon, even a few (robotic) princesses. In this context, Trurl and Klapaucius are knights-errant, using their skills to solve problems, meet challenges and occasionally mess things up royally.

    It's a fun set of stories, keying on the friendship-cum-rivalry of the two constructors.

    Scott Aiello's narration was very good.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Ringworld's Children

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Larry Niven
    • Narrated By Barrett Whitener
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (491)
    Performance
    (243)
    Story
    (248)

    The Ringworld is a landmark engineering achievement, a flat band 3-million-times the surface area of Earth, encircling a distant star. Home to trillions of inhabitants, not all of which are human, and host to amazing technological wonders, the Ringworld is unique in all of the universe.

    Ausbin says: "Great Sci-Fi"
    "Fairly good windup, but..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Larry Niven's Ringworld saga/extended thought experiment comes to a conclusion.

    In the foreword, the author reveals that he never really intended for Ringworld to be more than a one-off story and interesting thought experiment. However, it captured the imagination, and so he returned for 3 more novels, adding the concept of Pak Protectors, another thought-experiment-turned-saga from his Known Space universe for novels 2 through 4.

    We're at the final chapter, and there is now a burgeoning "fringe" war among the species of Known Space (mostly Humans and Kzinti) while the protector Tunesmith, Louis and their companions try to keep the Ringworld safe from invaders. The story is a pretty good windup to the saga...although it is now getting somewhat long in the tooth, and it is good that this is the last one.

    However, I find the narrator pretty irritating. He makes Tunesmith sound like an overly cheery salesman (rather than a ghoul-turned-wizard) and Acolyte sound like a mentally subnormal child rather than an (adolescent) 7-foot tall feline predator. Especially a come-down after listening to the excellent narration of the previous book in the cycle, The Ringworld Throne.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Timeless: The Parasol Protectorate, the Fifth

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Gail Carriger
    • Narrated By Emily Gray
    Overall
    (1224)
    Performance
    (1113)
    Story
    (1106)

    Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

    Leanna says: "So long but not goodbye?"
    "The denouement arrives"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've enjoyed the Parasol Protectorate stories, and we finally get many of the loose ends tied up together and the story most emphatically ends. [The author's blog indicates she is working on a sequel series centering around the next generation, but Alexia's saga is clearly wrapped up.]

    Alexia and Conall now have a toddler on their hands, and what a handful. Legally, she is being raised by Lord Akeldama and his drones, but the birth parents are always on hand (as foretold in the 4th book). Then a comes a summons for little Prudence to attend an ancient vampire hive queen in Egypt...and Ivy Tonstil comes along as the cover story. There is a separate storyline with the werewolf pack back in England, mostly focused on Biffy and Prof. Lyall.

    There are a couple of unexpected twists, and it is clear that Gail Carriger is tying up many of the loose ends from the earlier books. The story itself is enjoyable and the ending is amusing and worth waiting for. My biggest regret is that there is not nearly enough Lord Akeldama in this story, but we can't always have everything.

    I'm still mixed on Emily Gray's reading. Some voices clearly pose a challenge to her, but that doesn't seem to interfere with this particular story. Her narration did not detract from this story, but I don't know that it added all that much, either.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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