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alan

north wales, PA, United States | Member Since 2007

ratings
17
REVIEWS
8
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
0
HELPFUL VOTES
4

  • The Free World

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By David Bezmozgis
    • Narrated By Stefan Rudnicki
    Overall
    (100)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (57)

    Summer 1978. Brezhnev sits like a stone in the Kremlin, Israel and Egypt are inching towards peace, and in the bustling, polyglot streets of Rome, strange new creatures have appeared: Soviet Jews who have escaped to freedom through a crack in the Iron Curtain. Among the thousands who have landed in Italy to secure visas for new lives in the West are the members of the Krasnansky family - three generations of Russian Jews.

    Janet says: "Excellent Character study -don't expect a plot"
    "Insightfullness overcomes crude dialect narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you listen to The Free World again? Why?

    It hurts to join characters suffering through the immigration process, but worth it, once, for the insights into modern Soviet Jewish feelings and attitudes.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    This is a story about refugees in the modern world - not in danger, not wanting for food or shelter, but truly lost, and inventorying their values for direction as they try to find their place in the world, literally and metaphorically; here their refugee status a painful externalization of their inner lostness. The narrator counters the universalism of this quest, and the particulars of each character, by having each character speak in the same generic Jewish-Russian lilt, as though this were one long Jewish joke.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Free World and why?

    The old Communists, immensely sympathetic as they lose faith in a system they worshipped, realize they were dupes thinking themselves skeptics, and wonder how to can go on and be useful in this new world; and the young, trying to find their own place.


    Any additional comments?

    Bezmozgis is a fine portratist, depicting people in their contexts.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Decoded: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Mai Jia, Olivia Milburn (translator), Christopher Payne (translator)
    • Narrated By Ryan Gesell
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    In his gripping debut novel, Mai Jia reveals the mysterious world of Unit 701, a top-secret Chinese intelligence agency whose sole purpose is counterespionage and code breaking. Rong Jinzhen, an autistic math genius with a past shrouded in myth, is forced to abandon his academic pursuits when he is recruited into Unit 701. As China's greatest cryptographer, Rong discovers that the mastermind behind the maddeningly difficult Purple Code is his former teacher and best friend, who is now working for China's enemy - but this is only the first of many betrayals.

    alan says: "racist and offensive narration"
    "racist and offensive narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    End the book 60% of the way through. I wish I did.


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

    The biographical first third of the book is an enjoyable multigenerational family story. The second third narrows down to our protagonist, bringing him up to his present crisis. The last third is interminable repeated lamentations; they don't seem to progress. It's not often I abandon a book after reading 80%, but this time I had suffered enough, and decided to spare myself further pain.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Recites English in a childish sing-song mockery of Chinese-American diction. As the action flags, the narrator increasingly ends every sentence with an exclamation point, expressing ceaseless, infantile, patronising wide-eyed wonder in a futile effort to keep the listener awake and keep the story alive.


    Any additional comments?

    its the job of the editor to squelch narrators who go over the top

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5378)
    Performance
    (5015)
    Story
    (5010)

    Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the facts that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces; (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations; and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

    Ken says: "It's all about the codas"
    "Clunker plot full of holes, puerile wit"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    If you like frat-boy humor, this book is for you.


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

    "I bought you that drink, so now I own you"


    Any additional comments?

    Time travel into the past always generates an incoherent and impossible story, and this is no exception. The flat characters and sophomoric humor makes this especially insufferable. Someone should tell Wil Wheaton to not recite the redundant "... he said" 's in the text.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Quicksilver: Book One of The Baroque Cycle

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Neal Stephenson
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble, Kevin Pariseau, Neal Stephenson
    Overall
    (1598)
    Performance
    (874)
    Story
    (899)

    In which Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and courageous Puritan, pursues knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe -- in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.

    David says: "Be aware of what you're getting into"
    "Brilliant rich historical (science?) fiction"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What made the experience of listening to Quicksilver the most enjoyable?

    A very generous helping of period details, this book makes sense of the Pilgrims, the crypto-Catholics, the origins of British science in the Royal Society, Newton, Leibnitz, the fourteenth Louis, Oliver Cromwell, John Churchill, Hanging Judge Jeffries; the London Black Death of 1665, and the Great Fire of 1666


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Quicksilver?

    The explosive extraction of phosphorous by the unbearably foul distillation of vast quantities of urine; the production of wooten steel; how an Irishman with a stick kills an armored nobleman as though he were an insect; the encampment of the Turks at the Battle of Vienna, with Jan Sobieski;


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I often cheered


    Any additional comments?

    This is the first volume (of 8? 11?) of The Baroque Cycle, the best thing ever written by Neal Stephenson, who is a wonderful author. This is a slow start for the Cycle; if you're not sure if you want to read the whole cycle, start instead with Book 2 (Odalisque) or Book 3, volumes that provide more early action.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Michael Pollan
    • Narrated By Michael Pollan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (596)
    Performance
    (529)
    Story
    (529)

    In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements - fire, water, air, and earth - to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world....

    Matt says: "Michael Pollan Fans Will Love It."
    "Too full of himself"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Edit out the howlingly ignorant prononouncements from anthrolopology and quotes-from-the-classics


    What was most disappointing about Michael Pollan’s story?

    Too much fluff obscures his tales of adventures among the foodies.
    His observations on how we eat are interesting the first time around, but can not withstand his hectoring repetitions


    Any additional comments?

    audio is the wrong format - this should be skimmed page by page, not audited from start to finish

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Isles: A History

    • ABRIDGED (9 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Norman Davies
    • Narrated By Andrew Sachs
    Overall
    (54)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (17)

    Here is the best-selling and controversial history of the British Isles, including Ireland, from the author of Europe: A History. Emphasizing long-standing European connections and positing a possible break-up of the United Kingdom, this agenda-setting work is destined to become a classic.

    David says: "Good if you know what you're getting"
    "Self-satisfied jingoist history"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What was most disappointing about Norman Davies’s story?

    Davies has done brilliant work in the past, and relishes in debunking complacent opinion. Here, instead, he has written a history for BBC TV. Britain emerges Great, triumphant, only improved by its travails. All the imperial losses - US independence, the millions dead in the partition of India, Soros (alternately "an American" and then "a Hungarian") breaking the Bank of England) are attributed to individuals' errors, none of these catastrophes sprung from social forces, economics, the national arrogance, etc.
    Half the book is the standard monarchical history of who begat and supplanted whom, alternating England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland to show their equivalence, but there is no sense of why and next to nothing in the way of geographical, geological, economic explanation of developments, nor any other explaining. The royal ties to Europe are cited repeatedly, with little mention of European machinations in Britain beyond the invasion attempts.
    Speaking for the new British everyman, now worldly enough to enjoy Indian food, European beaches, and the Irish, Davies even brings Princess Di onstage, to warn the royals that their high-handedness will not be tolerated, in the name of the people.


    What about Andrew Sachs’s performance did you like?

    foreign words pronounced without ironic pause


    Any additional comments?

    Read Davies' wonderful history of Europe, instead

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Chinese Chef

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Nicole Mones
    • Narrated By Elisabeth Rodgers, James Chen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (483)
    Performance
    (333)
    Story
    (336)

    When recently widowed Maggie McElroy is called to China to settle a claim against her late husbands estate, she is blindsided by the discovery that he may have led a double life. Since work is all that will keep her sane, her magazine editor assigns her to profile Sam, a half-Chinese American who is the last in a line of gifted chefs tracing back to the imperial palace. As she watches Sam gear up for Chinas Olympic culinary competition by planning the banquet of a lifetime, she begins to see past the cuisines artistry to glimpse its coherent expression of Chinese civilization.

    Dr. says: "Totally Satisfying - highly recommended"
    "Read it for Imperial cuisine and Chinese people"
    Overall

    A pleasant car listen, very relaxing. The food is succulent, but the descriptions of Imperial cuisine, its philosophy, symbolic load, referents, etc. showed I’d never want to eat this stuff or learn the 3000 years of Chinese social/political/literary history necessary to appreciate it. Consider, for example, cooking down 30 crabs (and their shells), and absorbing the puree into tofu, just so it can masquerade as a humble dish and surprise jaded diners. All in all, a great explanation of the Imperial approach to food - and thereby a justification of the Chinese revolution and the revival of antiquarian interest in this genre of historical cookery.
    Much better as food/philosophy than as shallow romance. The American narrator protagonist is a clueless space cadet who can do nothing but gush admiration for her man's achievement and for an uncomprehended culture. The man, an appealing sensitive Chinese-American chef who is determined to be traditional Chinese, nonetheless spurns Chinese women, as though only a Westerner will do... In the end, is there any more reason to accept these prejudicial stereotypes in romance novels, than in mystery novels, etc? As always, stereotypes testify to the author's limitations, but it is saddening to see these propagated.
    The intertwined lines unfolding the plot are a great technical achievement. Most impressive, though, is the seamless integration of food, history, and attitudes. I hope the author will serve out more of this from the regional cuisines of China, where she’s lived for close to two decades. I am hungry for more of her cooking.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Pioneers

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By James Fenimore Cooper
    • Narrated By Jim Killavey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (20)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    While portraying life in a new settlement on New York's Lake Otsego in the final years of the 18th century, Cooper deftly explores the cultural and philosophical underpinnings of the American experience. He contrasts the natural codes of the hunter and woodsman, Natty Bumppo, and his Indian friend John Mokegan with the more rigid structure of law required by a more complex society.

    Louise M says: "Excellent and Insightful"
    "Painfully bad reading of a 1790's country tale"
    Overall

    An interesting account of social rituals and the invasions of government into rural life in the 1790's, nearly ruined by the worst reader who has ever massacred a book. Does he pause after every four words hallucinating nonexistent commas, or is he short-winded? Does he accent the wrong words in every sentence because he is reading the text for the first time? The mispronounciations are the least of his sins. This would be a charming comedy of up-country manners, frontier politics, and Revolution-era diction, but the tour is made painful by the halting, spavined nag we are forced to ride. The book is worth the time if you're interested in American history or the old age of Natty and Chingatchcook - but find a version read by anybody else.

    4 of 11 people found this review helpful

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