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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
284
REVIEWS
198
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
64
HELPFUL VOTES
501

  • Steampunk Specs

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Christopher Barzak, Jeffrey Ford, Margo Lanagan, and others
    • Narrated By Tom Dheere, Vanessa Hart, Nancy Linari
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (9)

    This collection of unabridged, spectacular steampunk speculations includes several classics of the genre. These tales will sweep you away with their amazing automata, daring dirigibles, grinding gears, and scintillating steam as days gone by are infused with tech. In "Smoke City," by Christopher Barzak, a woman comes to terms with the loss of her family to the child labor mills of the city. A doctor tries to cope with a strange plague terrorizing the citizens of London in Jeffrey Ford's "Dr. Lash Remembers."

    J. Brand says: "No decent stories"
    "Short Trips into Fun"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The nice thing about anthologies is that they're a great way to explore an unfamiliar genre, learn about authors you might be unfamiliar with, and to get some fun stories that don't require a full-length investment. If it turns out you don't like a story, move on to the next one without feeling like you've wasted your time.

    This particular anthology didn't have any disappointing stories for me, and there were a couple that really stood out for me, so on the whole I'd say this venture was well worth my credit. The stories were well-crafted and well-told, and the performances served largely to improve them. The couple that stood out... they REALLY stood out for me and pushed this from a 3-star to a 4-star rating. There's a lot of fun here, but there are also some decidedly darker twists that I didn't expect, the kind of thing that haunts the reader that lingers on it a bit too long. Sometimes it's surprising how much punch a short story can have.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Kathryn Harrison
    • Narrated By Cassandra Campbell
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (5)

    The profoundly inspiring and fully documented saga of Joan of Arc, the young peasant girl whose "voices" moved her to rally the French nation and a reluctant king against British invaders in 1428, has fascinated artistic figures as diverse as William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Carl Dreyer, and Robert Bresson. Was she a divinely inspired saint? A schizophrenic? A demonically possessed heretic, as her persecutors and captors tried to prove?

    Amazon Customer says: "Where Biography and Legend Collide"
    "Where Biography and Legend Collide"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A straightforward biography of the life and times of Joan of Arc would be interesting enough for me. But 600 years after she was born, the story of the Maid of Orleans has been repeatedly built up and torn down by every perspective imaginable and used to attack or defend any position of thought. This book walks us through each stage of Joan's mission step-by-step. At each step, we're given Joan's situation, the events of history as it played out, the growth of the legend, and the various interpretations of all of it by scholars, psychologists, and Hollywood. At each step, the historical Joan is presented more and more remarkable as a direct result, proving that (yet again) fact is stranger than fiction. In short, much like Joan herself, this book has done the impossible.

    I've mentioned in other reviews of other books about Joan that I share the same weird fascination with her as did Mark Twain. I'm not Christian, I'm not French, I'm not likely to be associated with either faction, and yet... the story of Joan is one that just sucks me right in, assuming it's given a proper presentation. This book does that and so much more. Kathryn Harrison has created in my eyes the best telling of this story since Twain himself.

    As narrator, Cassandra Campbell is a great choice. She has a soft strength to her voice characteristic of the subject matter, and she has a command of the French language that's essential to the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dr. No: James Bond, Book 6

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Hugh Quarshie
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    M thinks he has an easy case for 007. Exactly what’s needed after his latest near-fatal encounter with SMERSH. However, arriving in Jamaica to look for a missing agent and his secretary, Bond learns that the reclusive Dr. Julius No could be connected with their disappearance. When Bond and the exotic Honeychile Rider are imprisoned on Dr. No's private island, they realize that his plans could threaten international security.

    Amazon Customer says: "Only Classic Bond Can Be This Much Goofy Fun"
    "Only Classic Bond Can Be This Much Goofy Fun"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is wacky and wrong in so many ways, and it wouldn't be Fleming's Bond if it were any other way.

    Picking up with the cliffhanger ending of From Russia With Love, M sends Bond on a "rest cure," a routine inquiry at the insistence of the American Audubon Society on behalf of some endangered birds. The location is, naturally, Jamaica and surrounding areas, Fleming's home away from home that features so prominently in the Bond lore. For Fleming, it's a working vacation site, and so it is now for Bond as well. For those readers who are more familiar with the films, it's worth noting that Dr. No is one of rare instances where the movie is largely faithful to the source material. There are a great many differences, certainly (such as the glaring absence of Felix Leiter), but the basics are here for the film to build upon later.

    Since a Bond novel is all about fighting an outlandish foreign villain in the name of British superiority, let's talk about the elephant in the room that Fleming readers know so well by this point: racial stereotypes. Dr. No is largely built on the "Yellow Peril" stereotype that was so familiar to pulp readers in the 30s and 40s (i.e., Fu Manchu or Shi-Wan Khan). This includes inhabiting an island that's home to a "dragon," because... why not. While he's not a moustache-twirling, cape wearing Snydley Whiplash caricature, he does manage to improve on the "tie the girl to the railroad tracks" motif. Like Fleming's other noteworthy villains, Dr. No has the physical maladies that pinpoint his villainous status. In this case, his hands were cut off, and his heart is on the wrong side, allowing him to be shot and survive. This inevitably means he bears a grudge, has something to prove, and is hard to kill. His specialty is torture, and he embraces the fact that he's a maniac. This means that 007 is in for a particularly rough adventure. But then, isn't that supposed to be the point? Suffice it to say, Fleming has ensured that our hero faces a worthy adversary who likes to monologue. His backstory is the stuff of comic book legend. After all, it takes a special kind of crazy to convert guano into gold and use that as your cover story for the real threat.

    While Honey Ryder sets the on-screen standard for the Bond girl, her print counterpart was merely the next in line of Bond's feminine leads. She's introduced without the iconic bikini (or anything else), and then Fleming manages to *ahem* flesh out her character, giving her an in-depth backstory, as though to convince you she's more than just a pretty face. And then Fleming has her throw away that advantage, setting the women's rights movement back a few decades in the process. Bond's responses to her shameless advances are surprisingly gentlemanly. Bonus points for class and character development, Mr. Bond.

    It's interesting to see just how unlike Connery this version of Bond can be. In addition to treating Honey far better than she obviously wants to be treated, Bond is also considerably less brutal in this novel than what we've come to expect. That the book has so much in common with the movie by comparison of other titles in the series makes the differences stand out even more.

    One of the great behind-the-scenes stories tells of how a gun expert named Boothroyd wrote a letter to Fleming, explaining to him that Bond's Beretta pistol was "a ladies' weapon," extolling the virtues of the Walther PPK as a viable alternative. Fleming was so grateful that Boothroyd became the armorer in the story, and Bond was properly outfitted with the weapon of choice that would become synonymous with him in print and on screen. That's when he starts to look like Connery in my head, which as I say, is heavily contrasted with the way he's written for the entirety of the book.

    Hugh Quarshie is a fantastic choice for this book's narrator. I know him best from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Highlander, but that didn't tell me what he would bring to the table for Bond. Right up front, I was given that annoying "oh-oh-seven" pronunciation that's become something of a running gag in these reviews, but he corrected that in short order to "double-oh-seven." I immediately felt better about that, and from there it was easy to just let him run with the diverse characters of this story. He's got a smooth British voice, and he also does a convincing Jamaican accent that's needed for Quarrel. His female and Chinese characters are a bit cartoonish, but then, we've established Fleming writes them tat way too. Even so, it's evident that Quarshie had a great deal of fun performing this one. Always a plus.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Watchers

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Jon Steele
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (216)
    Performance
    (179)
    Story
    (180)

    Beneath Lausanne Cathedral, in Switzerland, there is a secret buried before time began.... Marc Rochat watches over the city at night from the belfry of the cathedral. He lives in a world of shadows and "beforetimes" and imaginary beings. Katherine Taylor, call girl and daydreamer, is about to discover that her real-life fairy tale is too good to be true. Jay Harper, private detective, wakes up in a crummy hotel room with no memory. Three lives, one purpose: save what's left of paradise before all hell breaks loose.

    Amber says: "Interesting Plot and Great Narrator"
    "Too Much Setup, Not Enough Story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really wanted to love this book. I have a weird fascination with angels, and I love to see them in stories that aren't cookie cutter romances. Building a story off the Book of Enoch? You have my attention, but I'm looking to see if you can bring anything new to the table. This one didn't.

    I also don't mind a slow burn with character development when it's done well and pacing is considered. Give me a reason to want to continue. The audiobook for this is nearly 22 hours long, and quite literally nothing happens for two thirds of it. I can't blame the narrator. Jonathan Davis is a narrator I'm quite familiar with, having had him along for the majority of the Star Wars audiobooks over the years. He's fantastic. After that long of a setup, there needs to be more than just atmosphere and setting. As realistic as it feels (which is a selling point), the accompanying choppy writing style should serve to move things along and convey a sense of urgency and storytelling. In this case it was like being stuck in traffic: hit the gas, hit the brake after 20 feet. I experience that twice a day as it is and listen to audiobooks to escape that sensation.

    The other part of the problem is character. Using archetypes is a great idea for storytelling, but when you develop them, that development should actually go somewhere. I got to know these characters. They live and breathe like my next door neighbors. And like my next door neighbors, I didn't really care about any of them because nothing interesting happens for the bulk of the story. By the time the starting gun fires, the audience is too asleep to hear it. To make things worse, I've seen these characters before, all of them written better, by Victor Hugo. It's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with angels. Why didn't it work? Because Victor Hugo is an acknowledged master, and everyone knows the story even if they haven't read it. That I have read it just really makes me want to go back and read it again because (just like with movies) I find most remakes to be lazy and largely intolerable. Don't tell someone else's story. The good ones are there to revisit in all their glory, and the bad ones don't deserve a second chance. Tell your own story.

    Because I do see potential here now that the setup is out of the way, I will likely return for book 2 of this trilogy, someday. I feel like now that the Hunchback section of this story is told poorly, perhaps we can move on to something more worthy. If it proves to be more of the same, I'll just drop it in favor of the next title.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Autopilot: The Art & Science of Doing Nothing

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Andrew Smart
    • Narrated By Kevin Free
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (111)
    Performance
    (101)
    Story
    (100)

    Andrew Smart wants you to sit and do nothing much more often - and he has the science to explain why. At every turn we’re pushed to do more, faster, and more efficiently: That drumbeat resounds throughout our wage-slave society. Multitasking is not only a virtue, it’s a necessity. But Andrew Smart argues that slackers may have the last laugh. The latest neuroscience shows that the “culture of effectiveness” is not only ineffective, it can be harmful to your well-being.

    Oliver says: "One of the best books this year"
    "Less is More"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you're interested in neuroscience, this book is right up your alley. It's short, sweet, and to the point, but it's also dense as a direct result of the subject matter. But as dense as it is, the information is also explained very well. What's interesting is how most of what's found here is almost a reversal of what our culture and society have told us since the Middle Ages. In our modern world of hyper-efficiency and biohacks, this book provides some truly fascinating insight into how the brain really works.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • How to Read and Understand Shakespeare

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Marc C. Conner
    Overall
    (42)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (39)

    Shakespeare's works are among the greatest of humanity's cultural expressions and, as such, demand to be experienced and understood. But, simply put, Shakespeare is difficult. His language and culture - those of Elizabethan England - are greatly different from our own, and his poetry, thick with metaphorical imagery and double meanings, can be hard to penetrate.

    MR says: "understanding the Bard"
    "Shakespeare Made Easy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is the lecture series I wish existed back in high school. Prof. Conner gives us the means by which to understand the Bard on multiple levels, and at no point is he pretentious about it. The richness of the plays, the characters, the themes... it's all demystified and comes alive thanks to the tools that are offered and applied to about 2/3 of Shakespeare's repertoire.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Phantom Coach: A Connoisseur's Collection of the Best Victorian Ghost Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Michael Sims
    • Narrated By Matthew Waterson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Ghost stories date back centuries, but those written in the Victorian era have a unique atmosphere and dark beauty. Michael Sims, whose previous Victorian collections Dracula’s Guest (vampires) and The Dead Witness (detectives) have been widely praised, has gathered twelve of the best stories about humanity’s oldest supernatural obsession. The Phantom Coach includes tales by a surprising and often legendary cast, including Charles Dickens, Margaret Oliphant, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as lost gems by forgotten masters such as Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and W. F. Harvey. Amelia B. Edwards’s chilling story gives the collection its title, while Ambrose Bierce ("The Moonlit Road"), Elizabeth Gaskell ("The Old Nurse’s Story"), and W. W. Jacobs ("The Monkey’s Paw") will turn you white as a sheet. With a skillful introduction to the genre and notes on each story by Sims, The Phantom Coach is a spectacular collection of ghostly Victorian thrills.

    Amazon Customer says: "The Classics That Haunt You Forever"
    "The Classics That Haunt You Forever"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Nobody does classic ghost stories like the Victorians. Nobody. These stories aren't necessarily scary, especially by today's standards, but they are beautifully written masterpieces by some of the greatest writers that ever dipped a pen into ink. The variety of authors and prose styles presented here is nothing less than impressive to me. I would love to see an additional anthology or two in this series just on account, because this collection just barely scratches the surface of what I know to be out there.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Andrew Graham-Dixon
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (50)
    Performance
    (47)
    Story
    (47)

    In the tradition of John Richardson's Picasso, a commanding new biography of the Italian master's tumultuous life and mysterious death. For four hundred years Caravaggio's (1571-1610) staggering artistic achievements have thrilled viewers, yet his volatile personal trajectory - the murder of Ranuccio Tomasini, the doubt surrounding Caravaggio's sexuality, the chain of events that began with his imprisonment on Malta and ended with his premature death - has long confounded historians.

    Jean says: "Interesting life"
    "Tries Too Hard To Impress"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Having not seen the printed book itself, I'm hoping it's full of reproductions of Caravaggio's work. Being one who has studied art, I'm familiar with many of the works described herein, but I kept having to reference my personal print library or hit up Google because descriptions of the art (while helpful) are not the art itself.

    On the whole, this was merely an ok book. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either, which seems worse given my love for Caravaggio's paintings. He was an interesting guy, and the book demonstrates that at every turn. The thing is, this book is so much more than a biography, and so much less for the same reasons. The author gives us the known facts of Caravaggio's life, but it's clear that most of what's here works on assumption and extrapolation as well. We're given histories on the Church and Italy of that time, as well as depictions of cultural elements that would have defined Caravaggio in one way or another. This information, then, is applied as fuel for analysis of the given artworks, in which the author tries to glean even more information about who this artist was or wasn't. Interesting? Sure, and it's even well-written and coherent, but it's also overblown. I kept wondering how the author managed to type this book with his pinky finger at full extension. There's enthusiasm for the topic, and then there's the desire to prove you know more than you do. This book has a foot in each camp, but leans more on the latter, and that's with the narrator toning it down to tolerable levels. It might impress a newcomer to the subject matter, but it might also frighten away that same newcomer, much like listening to the overly-scholarly talk about Shakespeare. Without the need to impress (which the artwork does on its own, let's be honest here), the book could easily have been half as long and twice as engaging. Even so, it's still worth the credit if you're interested in the topic and can sift through the author's pretentiousness.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • From Russia with Love: James Bond, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Toby Stephens
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    James Bond is targeted for elimination by SMERSH, and the malevolent Colonel Rosa Klebb has set a trap in Istanbul. The bait is the Spektor decoding machine, which is to be delivered by the irresistible Tatiana Romanova. The assassin is Red Grant, a psychopath who has defected from the West. Bond and Tatiana become pawns in a game of cross and double-cross that reaches its deadly finale on the Orient Express.

    Amazon Customer says: "Fleming Raises the Bar on 007"
    "Fleming Raises the Bar on 007"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Picking up in the wake of events from the more mediocre Diamonds Are Forever, Fleming's next one in the series turns out to be one of the most heralded. It's certainly the one that really got James Bond's name out there to American audiences (thanks, JFK). But is the hype around this one worthy?

    Simply put, yes. From Russia With Love brings us ever closer to the style fans associate with both Fleming and Bond. Even though we're still a few years away from the big screen version, Bond is finally developing the personality that Sean Connery would later refine and make his own. Interestingly, Bond is overshadowed whenever Karim Bey is in the story. Bey is the largest personality in the book, and Fleming had a lot of fun writing him. What's more, this is the first time we really get to spend some time with the villains without Bond being there. Bond doesn't really get any character time until chapter 11, leaving room for Fleming to show us how things are done behind closed doors at SMERSH, creating characters that would be translated more or less accurately for the film later on. The only major difference is that the film has these characters defecting from SMERSH to operate with SPECTRE, an organization that doesn't feature in the books until Thunderball.

    Roger Moore once quipped that Bond was the worst secret agent because everyone knew everything about him. This may be the book that inadvertently set that stereotype into motion. This time SMERSH is out for vengeance, seeking to murder both 007 and his reputation. The setup is a bit hard to swallow, and Fleming knew it too, which is why Bond questions it right from the start. But the story is told with such enthusiasm, you really don't care once things are set into motion. That enthusiasm changes everything. After Diamonds, it's like Fleming found a renewed interest in Bond. Or it could just be that better villains make for better stories.

    Toby Stephens' narration is superb, except for the offending "oh-oh-seven" pronunciation. This still bothers me, and probably always will when both Fleming and the popular culture say "double-oh seven." Even so, I'm learning to accept this is just how it's going to be. A British woman explained it to me like this: I'm an American, so I get no say, regardless of how Fleming did it, and as a Brit, whatever she says is automatically correct. Seriously, how do you argue against that?

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Waking Storms

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Sarah Porter
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    After parting ways with her troubled mermaid tribe, Luce just wants to live peacefully on her own. But her tranquility doesn’t last long: She receives news that the tribe is on the verge of collapse and desperately needs her leadership. The tribe’s cruel queen wants Luce dead. Dorian, the boy Luce broke mermaid law to save, is determined to make her pay for her part in the murder of his family. And while the mermaids cling to the idea that humans never suspect their existence, there are suddenly ominous signs to the contrary.

    Amazon Customer says: "Pushing the Boundaries of YA Fiction"
    "Pushing the Boundaries of YA Fiction"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's been over a year since I read the first book in this trilogy (where did that time go?!). When I did my initial review, I remarked that the YA market is overcrowded with generic books dealing with mermaids (and vampires, and angels, and zombies...), and that anything that stood out would be genuinely welcome. With mermaids especially, it's almost like the subject matter leaves every writer and reader with more essence than substance. Such was the case with the first book, but... since then, the siren song started calling.

    As with the first book, the lyrical writing style sets this one apart from others in its class. And just as in the first book, teenage angst is set aside in favor of real tragedy, hope, and actual story. If not for the fact the lead characters are teens, I'd believe this was more than a YA novel. Sarah Porter has tapped something dark and primal with this trilogy. The standard and expected tropes are there for the asking, but this story has pushed the boundaries of the mermaid concept about as far as anyone ever has, insofar as I'm aware. I'm pleased to say that whatever inspired me to pick up book 2 after all this time ensured that I won't wait nearly as long for book 3.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Vincent van Gogh: A Biography

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Julius Meier-Graefe
    • Narrated By Wanda McCaddon
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    The lives of many famous artists have been shrouded in mystery and conjecture, but none have been more controversial than the life of Vincent van Gogh. Remembered for his swirling brushstrokes and burning colors, Vincent van Gogh is today one of the best-known painters. Though his career as a painter spanned less than ten years, he produced a body of work that remains one of the most enduring in all of modern art. In his lifetime, however, he received little recognition. Today his paintings sell for countless millions, yet during his lifetime, van Gogh managed to sell just one painting.

    Douglas says: "More Poetry Than Biography..."
    "Dramatic Narrative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There's a conscious effort to make this more of a dramatic narrative than a biography, but that's probably not a bad way to go considering most of what we know of Van Gogh is drawn from letters between him and his brother Theo. I won't say it's 100% accurate, but the very nature of the book allows you to crawl inside the man's head. Even if you don't agree or even sympathize with him, it's the kind of perspective that allows one to better appreciate the mind behind the artwork.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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