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Amazon Customer

I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

ratings
358
REVIEWS
254
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FOLLOWERS
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HELPFUL VOTES
775

  • A Brief History of Life in Victorian Britain

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Michael Paterson
    • Narrated By Mark Meadows
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (43)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (40)

    The Victorian era has dominated the popular imagination like no other period, but these myths and stories also give a very distorted view of the 19th century. The early Victorians were much stranger than we usually imagine, and their world would have felt very different from our own. It was only during the long reign of the Queen that a modern society emerged in unexpected ways.

    Amazon Customer says: "Brief, But Insightful"
    "Brief, But Insightful"
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    The biggest criticism anyone will ever find on a "Brief History Of" book is how much is left out. There are volumes upon volumes of histories of Victorian Britain out there, but this one is a social history. Names, dates, and events are used as touchstones here and nothing more; the real attraction is the Victorian society itself. The etiquette, protocol, fashion, habits, beliefs, attitudes, and lifestyles are put under the spotlight. Everything from bowler hats and hoopskirts to calling cards, curry, technological innovation, and Imperialism are looked at in terms of what it means to have these things as a part of everyday life. The queen herself and her prince consort are given a brief biography with the understanding that their examples set the stage for the transitions that had already begun when Victoria took the throne and seeing them through to the beginnings of the first world war. As an entry point into this era of history, this book is perfect for understanding why things were as they were, and it provides several launching points for further exploration. For those who already have the history under their belts, this book fleshes it all out from a more human perspective than a dry narrative might otherwise provide.

    Mark Meadows is a fantastic narrator for this. His easy-going delivery makes this book even easier to connect with, and the result is the brief time you spend will seem even more brief if you're remotely inclined towards the subject matter.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Ralph D. Sawyer
    • Narrated By James Chen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (44)
    Performance
    (30)
    Story
    (29)

    One of the most profound studies of warfare ever written, The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China presents us with an Eastern tradition of strategic thought that emphasizes outwitting one's opponent through speed, stealth, flexibility, and a minimum of force - an approach very different from that stressed in the West, where the advantages of brute strength have overshadowed more subtle methods.

    Eliberto Villarreal III says: "Seven Great Books In One"
    "Historical Treasures"
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    The books contained in this set are: T’ai Kung Liu-t’ao (Six Secret Teachings), The Methods of Ssu-ma Fa, Sun-tzu Ping-fa (Art of War), Wu-tzu, Wei Liao-tzu, Huang Shih-kung San-lueh (Three Strategies), and Questions and Replies between T'ang T'ai-tsung and Li Wei-kung. The more you understand Confucian thought and its impact on Chinese statecraft, the more incredible and terrifying these works become when you consider what might have been without Confucius.

    For those approaching this book without knowing what to expect, let it be said this tome is not for the faint of heart. It is a heavy-duty slog for scholars and those with heavier levels of enthusiasm for the subject matter. Each book in this set is worthy of deep thought and consideration, and for that reason I would suggest digesting it in bite-size offerings. If you tear through it, it'll run together, and you won't benefit from it. For general audiences, my recommendation is to seek out a copy of The Art of War and see if it holds your interest. If it does, this book is probably for you. Chances are, you likely already know up front, which is why you're looking at this book in the first place.

    The Art of War is the only one of the texts in this collection that has been readily available for English speaking audiences. I'm glad this oversight has been corrected because the other books in this set are every bit as valuable. To compare and contrast these works is to better understand history, people, and yourself on levels you might not expect. It really depends on where your focus lies and how you apply the knowledge. Warriors, philosophers, and businesspeople will use the same ideas in different ways, and some will see no separation at all. Regardless of how you apply it, you will not walk away from this unchanged on some level.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Lords of the Sith: Star Wars

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Paul S. Kemp
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    Overall
    (151)
    Performance
    (137)
    Story
    (137)

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice Darth Vader find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

    Amazon Customer says: "The Power of the Dark Side"
    "The Power of the Dark Side"
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    This is beyond doubt, and without hyperbole, the absolutely best-written characterizations of Vader and the Emperor put in a novel to date.

    Taking place smack in the middle of the Dark Times (8 years after Revenge of the Sith, 11 years before A New Hope), the remnants of the Clone Wars come back to haunt the Sith in the form of Cham Syndulla and his freedom fighters.

    Unlike many books focusing on the Dark Side characters, the heroes in this book matter. Syndulla is the William Wallace of Ryloth, having fought for his world's freedom since before the Clone Wars began. Time and experience has made him formidable enough to pull off a mission that could actually threaten the core of the Empire itself. The Imperial officers at the forefront likewise demonstrate how the Empire has bred corruption and treachery, which play right in to Syndulla's operations. The result is that the Sith are tested at virtually every level.

    Being honest, we have a good idea before this even begins how it'll play out, but a book like this is about the journey, not the destination. And oh what a journey it is! Suffice it to say, the action is unleashed in chapter one, and there is very little downtime as this book's pacing is as relentless as Vader himself. Fans of the original trilogy will recognize our classic villain, while fans of the prequel era and especially of The Clone Wars will have no problem seeing Anakin Skywalker under the breath mask, purified by his anger as a living engine of destruction. The officers hate him, while the stormtrooper corps revere him. We see him behind the lightsaber and behind the controls of his starfighter. It's a seamless incorporation of all aspects of the character, pulling the various threads together and showing us exactly what kind of a monster Vader has become. It meets and exceeds every expectation on that front.

    Sidious, on the other hand... what we saw from him in Revenge of the Sith is but a taste of what this book gives us. By the end of this, it's indisputable why Vader bends the knee. As fearless and intelligent as Vader is demonstrated to be, Sidious remains always one step ahead.

    As narrator, Jonathan Davis is one of the best veterans of the Star Wars line, and it's always good to have him aboard. He doesn't do voice matching, but the spirit of the characters are there, aided where necessary by filters. Mix in the classic sound effects (except for some inferior substitute for Vader's breath mask) and the music of John Williams, and the adventure is ready to unfold.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills - and Leave a Positive Impression!

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Debra Fine
    • Narrated By Debra Fine
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Nationally recognized communication expert, keynote speaker and trainer, and best-selling author Debra Fine reveals the techniques and strategies anyone can use to make small talk - in any situation. Do you spend an abnormal amount of time hiding out in the bathroom or hanging out at the buffet table at social gatherings? Does the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger make your stomach do flip-flops? Do you sit nervously through job interviews waiting for the other person to speak?

    Alix says: "Good book"
    "Exactly What I Expected"
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    I spend a lot of time alone, both at work and at home, so my social skills are dismal to say the least. Every now and again, I feel the need to remind myself that such things are exactly that: skills. They can be improved and practiced. It's just a question of getting the basics fresh in your mind. Building a solid foundation is the always the most important part.

    And that's the entire nature of this book. Most of it is common sense to those who are have built the skill set, and even for people like me, it makes sense. Anything more than what this book covers is going to come down to personality. Some things you just can't get from a book. For what this audiobook offers, it's worth the listen if you're inclined to to give it a go.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nothing Changes Until You Do: A Guide to Self-Compassion and Getting Out of Your Own Way

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Mike Robbins
    • Narrated By Mike Robbins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (11)

    After three years of living his dream as a professional baseball pitcher, Mike Robbins had an arm injury that benched him for good, and when this happened, he had to figure out who he was without the identity of "baseball player" - a process fraught with emotional highs and lows. He quickly realized that the self-criticism and self-doubt he was feeling are epidemic in our culture. Too often we base our value on our external world - our jobs, finances, appearance, or various other factors.

    Amazon Customer says: "20% Inspiration, 80% Biography"
    "20% Inspiration, 80% Biography"
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    Every so often I pick up a book like this just as a reminder on things I should already be constantly aware of, and to find a little inspiration here and there. That's essentially what this book is for about 20% of it. It's a message that boils down to a variation of the Law of Attraction: if you change your perception, you change your world. It's a good message, but... the other 80% consists of personal anecdotes of the author's personal life, and after a while it gets tedious despite the best intentions. It's ironic to me that had he presented this as a biography instead of a self-help title, it might have been better, but it probably wouldn't sell nearly as well.

    Robbins is a decent enough narrator for his own book, but as he's also a public speaker, it could have been better if he'd presented this in such a way as to harness those abilities instead of making it sound like he was just reading his book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Tim Cantopher
    • Narrated By Lynsey Frost
    Overall
    (43)
    Performance
    (25)
    Story
    (25)

    If you suffer from depression you are not alone – it affects 15.5 million in the US, and more than 3 million in the UK – and, you are much stronger than you think. This best-selling book, written by a leading consultant psychiatrist, explains that people with depression do battle with pressures and stresses that other people would run away from, until their bodies can take no more. In this book, depression is placed authoritatively as a physical illness, from which recovery is possible.

    Ronald Albury says: "Just what I needed"
    "You're Kidding, Right?"
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    I'm really curious as to how much Dr. Tim Cantopher actually contributed to this book. I'm sure all of it is based on his research and practice, but as he's constantly addressed in the 3rd person through the whole of this book, it comes across as being authored by someone on his staff. It could be presented that way to help with the disconnect that comes from it being narrated by a woman who is clearly not Dr. Cantopher... perhaps?

    Speaking of the narrator, Lynsey Frost comes across clear and positive for the most part, but the way this book is presented, there are times when it crosses the line to sarcastic and glib, and I can no longer tell if that's the narrator or the way the material is written that causes that. She comes across as patronizing. Any classic Doctor Who fans? She sounds a bit like the 7th Doctor's companion Ace, both in voice and in tone. Again, I can't tell if it's because she's that way, or if it's Dr. Cantopher's own arrogance that's coming across in the written material. Sometimes it's actually funny, even when it's not supposed to be. Most of the time, you just want to smack her on principle, and she makes it feel like it'd be a public service to do so.

    Having said all this, this book is built on a foundation I've not heard addressed very often, the idea that the strong-willed and determined simply keep going until stress breaks their limbic system, causing the chemical imbalance that deals with clinical depression. This book specifically deals with this form of depression, though it states that people suffering from other forms can benefit somewhat from what's listed. Regardless, the diagnosis is that the illness is physical, not mental, and based on his descriptions and explanations, his reasoning is spot-on as near as I can tell from personal experience. That's the good news, and because it makes sense, I give it the extra star up to two from the one it would otherwise deserve.

    It's the treatment options that I question, and I'll try to detail some of the points here. Dr. Cantopher is part of Britain's NHS, and according to the sarcastic narrator, he's not afraid to fly in the face of what they recommend when it comes to making them look bad. He points out that psychotherapies are expensive and not really productive, and his first recommendation is that you'd treat it with drugs like you would a cold or flu, rebuking all major arguments that he's heard over the years. It really makes me wonder how many kickbacks he gets from those pharmaceutical companies. And then supposing you're convinced to take those drugs, this book makes it sound like the recovery phase is far, far worse than the original illness. The bottom line of it is "do as much of nothing as is humanly possible" while using your common sense to tell you when you've had enough.

    If it truly came down to common sense, people wouldn't be in this mess in the first place as common sense tells people suffering in this manner that they can't stop. You power a hundred amps through a 25 amp fuse, it will blow, regardless of the common sense of not powering that many amps through it in the first place. This analogy is used frequently enough to call into question the concepts of common sense and depression as being coexistent qualities.

    But wait! He addresses this very cycle of people taking the drugs, getting the recovery, and then going back to the normal cycle that started this in the first place because modern life simply won't stop, thus resulting in relapse. His solution? Take your personal happiness into your own hands! *head/desk* And you should do this by operating just below peak capacity and avoiding extremes by sticking to the middle path. Really?! I'm so glad this book has come to my rescue! I'd never have come to this conclusion on my own!

    It only gets worse from there. Having a panic attack? Don't panic. You won't die, even if you feel like you're about to. This book actually says it just like that. Don't panic during a panic attack. Your recovery from depression may actually hinge on doing pointless things as badly as you can. Meanwhile, you're supposed to realize that the productive things that led you to depression in the first place are, in fact, pointless. Please, somebody explain to me how this is not a psychological hamster wheel waiting to happen?

    Dr. Cantopher is not a psychotherapist, so of course he covers psychotherapy in the "rare" case that the drugs won't work. He also gives you tips and skills to help you sleep and combat stress that "won't work once you're diagnosed with depression," but can help before you get there. These include meditation and relaxation exercises, which have cumulative effects over time, giving up caffeinated drinks, doing physical exercise, and other such things that he outright says will only make depression worse. More examples include avoiding the following: late night TV, horror movies, thriller novels, and any work you brought home with you. Again, all of these suggestions only help if you follow his advice before you get depressed or after you recover.

    I don't know about you, but I certainly feel empowered to make meaningful choices now. *groan*

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Octopussy and The Living Daylights, and Other Stories: James Bond, Book 14

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Tom Hiddleston, Lucy Fleming
    Overall
    (44)
    Performance
    (42)
    Story
    (39)

    In Octopussy," a talented but wayward British major pays a high price when his wartime past catches up with him, while in The Property of a Lady, a Fabergé egg leads Bond to a KGB spy. In The Living Daylights, Bond has a perilous rendezvous in sniper's alley between East and West Berlin, and 007 in New York (read by Lucy Fleming) sees him sent to America to warn an ex - MI6 operative about a dangerous liaison. All part of the job for 007.

    Dani says: "Enjoyable stories, excellent narration'"
    "The Final Fleming 007 Stories"
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    And so we come to the end of Ian Fleming’s original run of James Bond. This is a short story collection, published post-mortem at the height of the spy craze that was caused as a direct result of the successful 007 film franchise. Sean Connery had been in four Bond films to that point, with a fifth on the way, and by this point it was assumed (rightfully so) that regardless of any legal issues from Thunderball, 007 was going to live on for quite some time. Cashing in with the last of Fleming’s remaining stories would have been an easy call to make, especially since Fleming himself had planned to do so anyway before his untimely death.

    As with For Your Eyes Only, this collection is largely more about Bond's character than big missions against supervillains. There are four stories here: Octopussy, The Property of a Lady, The Living Daylights, and 007 in New York. Each are very different in their tone, but all of them express sides of Bond's character and Fleming's interests in ways that Fleming has given us before, so the result is a comfortable and familiar end to the original canon.

    Tom Hiddleston is a magnificent narrator on the first three of these stories, with his only flaw being that perhaps he's far too charismatic for Fleming's version of Bond. Even so, it's clear he has a great deal of fun with the character voices and performance opportunities. In keeping with my running commentary on how to pronounce "007," Hiddleston proves he's a proper fanboy and gives us a true "double-oh seven" instead of the awkward "oh-oh seven."

    The fourth and final story is narrated by Lucy Fleming. While her range isn't nearly as broad as Hiddleston's, it doesn't need to be as the last story is mostly a fluff piece. Since this these stories are her heritage, and since she's producer of this 007 Reloaded series, it's only right to have her for the final tale.

    All in all, this collection of short stories is a fun and satisfying end to Fleming's writings. It seems strange to come to the end at long last, but all good things...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Abiding in Mindfulness, Volume 1: The Body

    • ORIGINAL (8 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Joseph Goldstein
    • Narrated By Joseph Goldstein
    Overall
    (98)
    Performance
    (83)
    Story
    (79)

    In the words of the Buddha, the four foundations of mindfulness (the four satipatthanas) are "the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of dukkha (suffering) and discontent, for acquiring the true method, for the realization of Nibbana." Within the quintessential discourse called the Satipatthana Sutta, we find the Buddha's seminal teachings about the practice of meditation.

    Robert says: "Not for beginners"
    "Expansion of Ideas"
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    Essentially, this is a lecture series recorded live in front of a group, covering the basic ideas of Buddhism. At my current level, I can only imagine what the well-versed would get out of this. I've only recently really started expanding my understanding of Buddhism as part of my continuing education on the religions of the world, and I found this easy to grasp but still difficult to fully appreciate. I think that's more the nature of the teachings, however, that understanding will unfold in time with practice and repeat exposure. I found the expansion of the ideas presented to be of immense value. To my mind, this might be as easy as it gets, if one can truly say such a thing of this system.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • In Defense of a Liberal Education

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Fareed Zakaria
    • Narrated By Fareed Zakaria
    Overall
    (45)
    Performance
    (33)
    Story
    (34)

    The liberal arts educational system is under attack. Governors in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina have announced that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts. Majors like English and history - which were once very popular and highly respected - are in steep decline, and President Obama has recently advised students to keep in mind that technical training could be more valuable than a degree in art history when deciding on an educational path.

    Howard says: "Almost"
    "Thinking for Yourself Is a Good Thing"
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    Having grown up in Texas, one of the biggest offenders against the idea of the masses thinking for itself as individuals, I can look almost anywhere in my surroundings and directly apply Zakaria's arguments. There is so much practical wisdom here that most will never see or take advantage of that it hurts. Zakaria's thoughts here are well-organized, well-defended, and transparent on every level, and yet, implementing it to its fullest goes beyond the level of the individual. Those in power have very little incentive to change the status quo because that's how they got to power in the first place. Even so, Zakaria makes an excellent case for the practicality and value of liberal arts and the power of a people who can hink for themselves. My personal suggestion would be the one path unthinkable to most: for an individual to continue such studies on their own. There are resources aplenty in the age of information. Play the game, get the degree you think you need, but never stop learning. If someone says a body of knowledge isn't necessary in modern society, there are many good reasons that knowledge should be pursued with enthusiasm.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • I Am America (And So Can You!)

    • ABRIDGED (3 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Stephen Colbert
    • Narrated By Stephen Colbert
    Overall
    (1991)
    Performance
    (603)
    Story
    (602)

    What The Daily Show is to evening news, The Colbert Report is to personality-driven pundit shows. Colbert brings his sarcastic charm to a half-hour report, tackling the important issues of the day and telling his guests why their opinions are just plain wrong. Stephen stands for "truthiness" and his American right to copyright that word and claim ownership of it. The author describes this as a simple audiobook from a simple mind: Stephen Colbert's.

    Ty says: "Funny, but disappointing."
    "For the Colbert Nation!"
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    If you know Colbert's brand of humor, you already know what to expect. Let that be your guide, because this is the self-proclaimed constitution for the Colbert Nation. I've got this in hardcover and on audio, for two very different reasons. The hardcover has a lot of side margin snarkiness and footnotes that you won't find in the audio, as well as stickers, signs, and other visual bits of awesome that you have to see to believe. The audio is narrated by the man himself, so it's all about presentation, which is jazzed up with music and sound effects here and there just because.

    And if you don't know Colbert's brand of humor... what rock have you been living under? The Colbert Report has now ended, but the legacy lives on!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Man with the Golden Gun: James Bond, Book 13

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Kenneth Branagh
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (14)

    If you try to assassinate your boss - even though brainwashed at the time - you must pay the price. To redeem himself James Bond is sent to kill one of the most lethal hit men in the world … Paco "Pistols" Scaramanga. In the sultry heat of Jamaica, 007 infiltrates his target's criminal cooperative - only to find that Scaramanga's bullets are laced with snake venom. When the end comes, every shot will count.

    Calliope says: "Good combination of book and narrator"
    "The Weakest of the Series"
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    Published post-mortem, The Man With the Golden Gun is, for me, the weakest of the original 007 books. For those familiar with the movie, put it out of your mind. In this case, the golden gun is just a gold-plated revolver instead of one of the most iconic gadgets ever conceived for film, and the man wielding it is nowhere near as cool as Christopher Lee. The more Fleming's characters describe Scaramanga, the more laughable he becomes, ultimately coming across as a cheap thug.

    The setup for this novel is interesting. A year after the events of You Only Live Twice, Bond has been missing in action, presumed dead. Now he turns up at MI-6, brainwashed by the KGB into assassinating M. The assassination fails, however, and M believes the best way to get Bond past his brainwashing and to strike back at those who did it is to send the assassin back at them. Bond's assignment is to kill Scaramanga, the freelance assassin who has given many state agencies a problem since the war.

    Bond returns to Fleming's classic stomping grounds of Jamaica, infiltrates Scaramanga's group, and spends much of the novel thinking "it'd be easy to put a bullet in him right here." For as much short as this novel is, and as detailed as it's not by comparison of the other entries in the series, this one suffers from way too much padding. This is likely due to the novel being finished by someone else after Fleming's death. Even so, it's still a good read for the diehard Bond fan. It's just not the greatest. It ultimately comes down to how big of a fan you think you are.

    To offset the story, Kenneth Branagh puts forth his thespian talents to carry this tale about as far as it can go, and he does a remarkable job, all things considered. Some voices are stereotyped, but nothing's over the top. In keeping with the running report on pronunciation, I'm pleased to say Branagh gives us a proper "double-oh seven" instead of saying "oh-oh seven."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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