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Martin

Cork, Ireland | Member Since 2004

90
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 21 reviews
  • 71 ratings
  • 348 titles in library
  • 20 purchased in 2014
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  • The Confusion: Books Four & Five of The Baroque Cycle

    • UNABRIDGED (34 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Neal Stephenson
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble, Katherine Kellgren, Kevin Pariseau, and others
    Overall
    (554)
    Performance
    (346)
    Story
    (357)

    In the year 1689, a cabal of Barbary galley slaves, including one “Half-Cocked Jack” Shaftoe, devises a daring plan to win freedom and fortune. A great adventure ensues that will place the intrepid band at odds with the mighty and the mad, with alchemists, Jesuits, great navies, pirate queens, and vengeful despots across vast oceans and around the globe.

    Mr says: "The Confusion"
    "Maybe a bit too aptly named"
    Overall

    I really enjoyed Quicksilver, originally the first of a trilogy of which this is meant to be the second book. Perhaps there were some warning signs in the fact that it was difficult to make out which book this was and how it fitted in the cycle. To say it is a sprawling novel would be an understatement. It is at times almost infuriatingly pleased with its own cleverness and it could easily have been half the length. And yet the whole thing just carries you along. There is a mordant sense of humour running through it which often saves the day when you feel you have heard one too many tall-tale, battle description or exegesis on economics and physics. The narrators are excellent with great voice characterisations. I docked it one star because it did almost drive me to distraction at times trying to keep up with all the plot twists. I would love to see someone try to bring these books to the big screen - there is a ready-made role there for Johnny Depp.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Marc Morris
    • Narrated By Frazer Douglas
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (85)
    Performance
    (78)
    Story
    (77)

    An upstart French duke who sets out to conquer the most powerful and unified kingdom in Christendom. An invasion force on a scale not seen since the days of the Romans. One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ever fought.

    Jefferson says: "A Balanced, Entertaining, and Informative History"
    "Key Event In English History"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Norman invasion is one of the pivotal moments in English history. However, beyond knowing the date 1066 and the "fact" that Harold died with a arrow to the eye, I did not know a whole lot about it. This book covers the event in pretty exhaustive detail. As another review has noted, the narrator does make listening to the book a little hard going. He has a strange rat-a-tat delivery and reads as if he is using an auto-cue. However, in mitigation, he has a very clear voice and delivery. I cannot speak for whether the material presented is controversial in any great way. The writer does lapse into the slightly irritating style of academic texts such as prefacing an obscure fact or complete conjecture with "Of course .." and using words like "ostensibly" and "arguably". Having said all that, I listened to the finish and felt somewhat more enlightened. I would recommend the book if you are interested in history in general and that period in particular. If not, I would not choose it as a starting point as its style is somewhere between an academic text and a popular history and it may not grab you.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Android's Dream

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3171)
    Performance
    (2802)
    Story
    (2801)

    A human diplomat creates an interstellar incident when he kills an alien diplomat in a most unusual way. To avoid war, Earth's government must find an equally unusual object: A type of sheep ("The Android's Dream"), used in the alien race's coronation ceremony. To find the sheep, the government turns to Harry Creek, ex-cop, war hero and hacker extraordinaire.

    James says: "Philip K Dick meets Douglas Adams"
    "Sheepish"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was lured into spending a credit on this book by the short snippet of a preview for it. The interaction reminded me a bit of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy's ship computer Eddie. Unfortunately, the book never really lived up to that level. On the positive side, there are lots of clever ideas in the plot and a wry sense of humour. So much science fiction and fantasy has been written over the last 50 years that it is an achievement to come up with anything original. It is narrated well by Wil Wheaton, who always seems to do a good job. It just never really sparkled for me - I was happy to listen to it but it didn't completely grab me. One of those books to while away a long journey.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Inferno: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Dan Brown
    • Narrated By Paul Michael
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10632)
    Performance
    (9616)
    Story
    (9701)

    In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces: Dante’s Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust...before the world is irrevocably altered.

    Livia says: "Formulaic and Hard to Finish...."
    "Hellish"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What would have made Inferno better?

    Somebody helping Dan Brown with his writing skills. He has a facility for ripping-yarn style plots but his writing can be quite painful at times. Why does he keep repeating obvious plot points over and over? Why does it feel that he lifted a lot of material from travel guides to Florence and Venice? He is really heavy-handed delivering any kind of explanatory information. Why is there not even a glimmer of a sense of humour in the writing?


    Would you ever listen to anything by Dan Brown again?

    There is a horrible fascination with reading his stuff and trying to work out why his books are so popular so probably, yeah


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The narrator was blameless. There is no way anyone could deliver some of the dialogues in this book in a way that made them sound like them came from real human beings.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    It provided great material for rants during coffee breaks at work.


    Any additional comments?

    Makes Agatha Christie read like James Joyce in comparison.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By A. J. Jacobs
    • Narrated By A. J. Jacobs
    Overall
    (432)
    Performance
    (368)
    Story
    (364)

    A. J. Jacobs tackles his most challenging experiment yet: a yearlong mission to radically improve every element of his body and mind - from his brain to his fingertips to his abs. First, he had to tackle a complicated web of diet and exercise advice, most which is nonsensical, unproven, and contradictory. Second, he had to consult a team of medical advisers. And finally, he had to subject himself, over the course of two years, to a grueling regimen of exercises and a range of diets and nutritional plans.

    Niall says: "A comic tries a little of everything"
    "Work on that speaking voice ......"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    It was a reasonably good listen. I like the whole concept of participatory journalism and, being susceptible to health and fitness fads myself, the core idea of the book was attractive. In the end, it was a little bit too light-weight and insubstantial for me. I know he was not attempting a truly "serious" book on the subject but it ended up feeling like not being one thing or another - not truly satirising the whole health and fitness obsession but not really fully committing to it either. I did like the descriptions of his grandfather and aunt.


    Would you recommend Drop Dead Healthy to your friends? Why or why not?

    I would be slow to recommend it because I did have to force myself to finish it.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    I did not like the narrator's voice at all. Ironically it was not strong or punchy enough in delivering the material. I suspect I would have given a higher rating to the book if someone else had narrated it. I sometimes listen to audiobooks on a cheap docking station and his voice was barely intelligible.


    What else would you have wanted to know about A. J. Jacobs’s life?

    His book is quite personal so I don't think there was much lacking with regard to insights into his personal life.


    Any additional comments?

    Wanted to like it more than I did ....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Brian Christian
    • Narrated By Brian Christian
    Overall
    (323)
    Performance
    (204)
    Story
    (197)

    The Most Human Human is a provocative, exuberant, and profound exploration of the ways in which computers are reshaping our ideas of what it means to be human. Its starting point is the annual Turing Test, which pits artificial intelligence programs against people to determine if computers can "think". Named for computer pioneer Alan Turing, the Turing Test convenes a panel of judges who pose questions - ranging anywhere from celebrity gossip to moral conundrums - to hidden contestants in an attempt to discern which is human and which is a computer.

    Roy says: "A Wedding of Computer Science and Philosophy"
    "You v R2D2"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about The Most Human Human?

    I loved the mix of science and anecdote in this book. As a software engineer with an interest in all areas of science, I found the meditations on what it means to be human and whether machines could ever qualify for the title fascinating. I think the book would appeal to a broad range of people. It is written in a really accessible fashion. The narration is also excellent.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Most Human Human?

    I really liked the story behind the title for the book


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Spoiled Rotten America: Outrages of Everyday Life

    • ABRIDGED (3 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Larry Miller
    • Narrated By Larry Miller
    Overall
    (64)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (14)

    Like Kofi Annan, Larry Miller is one of the most irresistible comic personalities working today. Known for years as an actor, writer, comedian, and sexual pioneer, he's gained a new following as a cultural commentator and frequent guest on political shows. Now, in Spoiled Rotten America, he fixes his gaze on what's funny about our daily lives; which includes, roughly speaking, everything.

    Christopher says: "Larry Miller -- The quickening"
    "Humour Is Relative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    CPR. I wanted to like this. I will give anyone who tries to make me laugh a hall-pass, a mulligan and a get out of jail card. But this book just did not do it for me. I probably like my humour sharper and edgier normally although Bob Newhart's book is one of my favourites and he is not exactly Lenny Bruce. I just found the humour in this border-line uncomfortable, like listening to you stuffy head-master trying to be witty.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Something funnier


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

    He sounds like Bill Maher but with a script written by Bill Cosby.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Annoyance


    Any additional comments?

    The fact that I did not enjoy it probably says more about me than the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Crusades

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Richard A. Newhall
    • Narrated By Charlton Griffin
    Overall
    (117)
    Performance
    (24)
    Story
    (24)

    When the Muslims swept out of the Arabian peninsula in the eighth century, one of the first areas to fall under their power was the Holy Land; it was an event that would have long term consequences for three distinct civilizations.

    Larry says: "Need To Know Basics First"
    "A Load Of Facts"
    Overall

    This, for me, is an example of how to make history boring and inaccessible to non-experts. It is just an array of facts - names, places, events - which assumes background knowledge that I am not even sure a world authority on the subject would have. I must admit to giving up after an hour or so. Maybe it was intended as at text book to blight the days of undergraduates?

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Storm of War

    • UNABRIDGED (28 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Andrew Roberts
    • Narrated By Christian Rodska
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (172)
    Performance
    (57)
    Story
    (55)

    One of the best selling History titles of 2009. Examining the Second World War on every front, Andrew Roberts asks whether, with a different decision-making process and a different strategy, Hitler’s Axis might even have won. Were those German generals who blamed everything on Hitler after the war correct, or were they merely scapegoating their former Führer once he was safely beyond defending himself?

    John says: "Things I had never known!"
    "Strange tone"
    Overall

    I should start by saying that I had only a limited knowledge of the history of the second world war. In that respect, this book serves its purpose in that it gives a pretty straight-forward chronological account of the entire war. It is a huge subject and, even with the long running time, it is no mean task to do justice to the material. I thought the narrator did a good job although let down a bit by being considerably better at some accents than others.
    What I did find increasingly disconcerting about the book was its tone. There seemed to be a little bit too much relish taken in the details and the almost jokey approach taken at times jarred for me. I also found his analysis of Hitler a little strange. It felt like he found him far more worthy of censure for his poor military strategic capabilities than say little details like his organization of the genocide of the jews and other "untermenschen". I am sure this is not the case but the emphasis seemed wrongly placed. In general, once the narrative strayed beyond reasonably cold and hard facts, I was not always convinced by it. For example, if an opinion was given on a debatable area, this was usually done by simply being emphatic, e.g. "of course this is nonsense", without actually giving any support for this opinion.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Candice Millard
    • Narrated By Paul Michael
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1978)
    Performance
    (943)
    Story
    (955)

    At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt's harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.

    Stephen says: "River of Doubt"
    "A Driven Man"
    Overall

    Not being American, I knew little or nothing about Teddy Roosevelt prior to reading this book. It starts with essentially the end of his political career which prompted the expedition described in the book. It certainly gives a compelling portrait of a supremely driven individual. In fact there are number of character studies in it of men compelled by a need to constantly prove themselves. It also gives a vivid snapshot of a period in time which already feels quite remote.
    You get a very good feel for the huge discomforts and dangers of an expedition down the Amazon. People familiar with the writings of travelers such as Redmond O'Hanlon will recognise some of the more gruesome descriptions of the various members of the insect and animal world and how the can make life supremely unpleasant for any human travelling in their domain. I am not sure I entirely warmed to many of the principal characters, even if they were impressive in their achievements - it was hard to feel great sympathy for their plight since they had chosen to put themselves in harm's way.
    The book was well narrated by Paul Michael who has a voice suited to the medium.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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