An all-new Stormlight Archive novella is the crown jewel of Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, the first audiobook of short fiction by New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson. The collection includes eight works in all. Originally published on Tor.com and other websites, or published by the author, these wonderful tales convey the expanse of the Shardworlds and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect.
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I previously read only one of the books in this collection, but even rereading that was enjoyable due to the great narration. That's the main appeal of this collection: the narration. Michael Kramer and Kate Reading do a great job with these stories.
Obviously, some stories were better than others and I didn't base the rating on an average of all of them. Generally, the longer stories were more enjoyable, with only Edgedancer being an exception. I loved Khriss' introductions to each of the worlds that the stories took place in as well as the postscripts by the author after each one. You definitely learn a satisfying amount of new information about the Cosmere from this collection and so I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who's read most, if not all the other books set in this universe.
Four decades after it first shook the nation, then the world, William Peter Blatty's thrilling masterwork of faith and demonic possession returns in an even more powerful form. Raw and profane, shocking and blood-chilling, it remains a modern parable of good and evil and perhaps the most terrifying novel ever written.
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People find this book scary? Is it because they fall asleep while reading and due to some gross imagery being the last thing they thought about, they got some weird nightmares? Yes, it really is that boring and lacking in any actual horror. I've completely forgotten the content of the movie by the time I've read this, so I only had a few scenes left over in my memory, but I'm pretty sure the movie wasn't this slow and repetitive. Gross imagery is not what makes something scary, but I suspect people in the 70's thought otherwise...
I did the audiobook version with the author narrating and unfortunately, he did a pretty awful job of it. He constantly varied the amplitude of his voice, making half of what he said sound mumbled. There was also very little variation to his voice for the various characters, making dialogue scenes excruciating since it was almost impossible to follow who is saying what. I'm sure that's partly due to the writing as well, which was pretty average in any case. There were long stretches of exhausting, unnecessary exposition where I often found my mind wandering. Coupled with the repetitiveness of the possessed girl's actions, made this feel like a never-ending soap opera.
One of the redeeming aspects was how the priest character went about trying to explain the symptoms of the possession scientifically, however, it got a bit absurd once he explained away ESP and telekinesis as "known scientific phenomena". The characters were also surprisingly well done, with most acting quite realistically and appropriately to the circumstances. While the dialogue was fine in general, I found the scenes with the detective character more entertaining due to his somewhat quirky manner. The scenes where the possessed girl is confronted by the priest were also reasonably well done, but they were so much better than everything else going on that I kept wanting to get back to those all the time.
Ultimately, this was boring, repetitive and lacking in any sort of tension or horror. I would recommend watching the movie instead since I'm sure they cut out most of the tedious scenes. This isn't a book I'd be recommending to anyone, especially the audiobook version. I didn't actively hate it, but it really does just barely get that second star due to the decent characters which were especially surprising to find in a horror book.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school - until now. He’s about to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid, then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances? R. J. Palacio has crafted an uplifting novel full of wonderfully realistic family interactions, lively school scenes, and spare emotional power.
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I honestly didn't know this book was aimed towards children because if I did, I probably wouldn't have picked it up, regardless of the high ratings on Goodreads. I generally find children of all ages annoying, so powering through this book, which is told from multiple child perspectives, was quite an effort. That information is quite relevant to this review since people who aren't as averse to those creatures will probably enjoy it more since the story is somewhat geared towards pulling on your heartstrings and telling the story of a kid with a facial deformity going to school for the first time.
Even though it annoyed me, the fact that each perspective uses language that is consistent with the child doing the narrating was a nice touch and went a long way to making the whole story more believable. One issue with the audiobook version was that the narrator who did the protagonist's voice went all out in trying to replicate the gravelly voice the character had, which was especially painful to listen to. Regarding the multiple perspectives, I thought that while it was somewhat interesting to hear the thoughts of some of the fringe characters, those could easily have been left out since they didn't actually add anything to the story.
Now onto the main problem I had with this book. This is obviously aimed at children, so it tries very hard to get some moral lessons across, the main one of which is about being kind, especially to people less fortunate than you since they also have feelings. That's all well and good, but there were some other inadvertent lessons as well which were more disturbing. Firstly there was the case of the parents neglecting their other child because all their attention was spent on the one with all the issues. That can be somewhat forgiven, but not when the neglected child says she's ok with it (which I highly doubt any real child would be) and the parents keep ignoring her anyway when she needs someone to talk to. Then there's the issue of the parents being overprotective and not preparing their kid for the real world. What kind of parent doesn't talk to their child about the hardships they're likely to face due to the child's condition and give him some advice on how to deal with it? I could go on and on about all the dodgy lessons kids would pick up from this book, but I'll just mention one more that got on my nerves: happy endings. It's a bit of a weird one since this kind of book is guaranteed a happy ending, but it's very forced and unrealistic. The issue I have with it is that this could give hope to someone with similar issues that everyone will like them regardless of their deformity if they just keep being kind themselves. This is so implausible it's actually sad.
I suspect most children are probably too stupid to pick up on those inadvertent lessons and will hopefully ignore the ones they can tell are there to make the story have some drama. I honestly can't recommend this to anyone over ten and even then I'd feel the need to explain to them what the phrase "with a pinch of salt" means.
AD 3580. The Intersolar Commonwealth has spread through the galaxy to over a thousand star systems. It is a culture of rich diversity with a place for everyone. A powerful navy protects it from any hostile species that may lurk among the stars. For Commonwealth citizens, even death has been overcome.
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Three stars actually feels a bit harsh considering how vast and imaginative this book is, but seeing as half of it is just descriptions instead of actual plot, I can't really give it any more. I'm actually still a bit blown away how good the sci-fi elements are since it's set in the 36th century and everything feels plausible for that kind of future. Quite a few of the elements are obviously borrowed from other sci-fi works, but considering how much there is and how well it fits into the world that's built up, I can't help but be impressed.
On the topic of the world building, that's what a large portion of the book is dedicated to. I'm sure some people love that kind writing, but I honestly struggled to not only keep all that info in my head but also to keep engaged when an hour long passage essentially has five minutes worth of plot. The dream sequences were the exception in that aspect since we actually get a pretty entertaining mini-story that's not ridiculously bogged down with fine detail. The book is basically multiple sub-plots that combine into a story, with none really being a strong backbone to tie back to. It both works in some aspects and really fails in others, though. The biggest drawback of that approach is that you never really connect with any of the numerous characters, which there are plenty of. It does work in that you get a decent picture of the events unfolding from multiple, varied perspectives.
I realised about halfway through that there's a lot of references to previous events that happened in previous books which I didn't know about since I thought this was the start of a new series. I suspect people who read those previous books will catch on faster to a lot of the technology and have a better picture of how the world is structured. As for someone like me who didn't read those previous books, I did find it a bit daunting to keep up with all the characters, subplots, factions and technologies. I think I was also left a bit disappointed with the main plot line considering how good that dream subplot was.
It's quite a long book, so I'd definitely only recommend it to hardcore sci-fi fans. On top of that, I'd also recommend one read the previous books set in the universe before picking up this series. I wouldn't say it's essential, but I'm sure it will help a lot in the enjoyment aspect. I do somehow feel invested in the world now to carry on the series to its conclusion, although I'll definitely need a break before diving into it again.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful
Do you make your own choices or have circumstances beyond your control already decided your destiny? For thousands of years, this question has intrigued and perplexed philosophers, scientists, and everyone who thinks deliberately about how they choose to live and act. For if free will makes us accountable for our choices, does the opposite hold true, that determinism absolves us of responsibility?
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This was the second great courses audiobook I've done, so I had a decent idea of what to expect on the style and depth of the material. In that respect, it was deep enough to get a good understanding of the topic, but probably not deep enough for someone whose done dedicated research into it before. For me, coming from some philosophy courses at university, I had a decent understanding of the concepts already, but I never delved into it much. Based on that, I really enjoyed this course.
The lectures all had clear points and were well connected to each other and the main topic. The philosophies of each argument seemed well summarised and nicely explained in each case. The narrator/lecturer spoke in a natural and expressive manner which gave me the impression that he was just as excited to be teaching this course as I was about learning the concepts. There were a couple of instances where I lost the train of thought a bit, but those were more from my internal diversions on thinking about the topics and not paying enough attention to what was being said.
I particularly enjoyed how the lectures were structured by going mostly chronologically on when the different concepts were developed. Some of the later lectures weren't quite as interesting since they went more into the legal and moral implications of some of the arguments of each side, but that's not to say they weren't still quite enjoyable and interesting to think about.
Based on the course, I've definitely been swayed to the determinist side. I actually came to that conclusion quite early on and it was fun to have internal arguments with myself based on arguments both against determinism and also interpretations and justifications for determinism that were not in line with my view on it. I honestly can't think of any noteworthy issues regarding the course and therefore I'd highly recommend this course for anyone even mildly curious on the topic.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Why we think it’s a great listen: Never before has an author’s narration of his fiction been so important to fully grasping the book’s impact and global implications. Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of its monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them.
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This book was quite different to the usual type of books I read so I don't have much to compare it to. It's quite emotionally heavy and it's set in a culture I knew very little about. There's a fair amount of native language words used throughout the book, which I surprisingly didn't mind at all and mostly even enjoyed. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author and I thought he did a really good job.
I really liked the writing, which is weird since it was relatively simple. I think I enjoyed it because it felt authentic and suited the book's narrator. The only significant gripe I had with the writing was with the overuse of foreshadowing phrases which at first I didn't mind, but after a while, they got in the way of my enjoyment of the story. The one noteworthy aspect of the writing that I really enjoyed was how accurately biased the story was told from the book's narrator. You experienced his world through his eyes and thoughts, knowing that often he perceived things quite differently from the way they probably were.
I loved how real the characters felt and although I couldn't personally relate to any of them, I still understood all the emotions they went through. Everyone was humanly flawed and the exceptions made sense due to the narrator's bias and guilt he felt towards those particular characters. The setting was nicely detailed and also felt realistically portrayed, with certain areas getting more detail than others, which felt like how one remembers old memories.
While I never felt that the author was being condescending, he did come across as emotionally manipulative a few times, especially with the foreshadowing elements he used to try to build up suspense. I also definitely enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half, since the second half felt like it was trying to live up to and surpass the emotional depths of the first half. As far as gripes go, though, they are admittedly quite nit-picky.
There were a lot of elements that were very well done, from all the little details of the protagonist's childhood that highlighted his naivety and simple needs, to all the symbolism scattered throughout the book. I'm very glad I picked this book up and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to read a good, character-driven story that's not your standard optimistic fare. This book has some flaws, but they're far outweighed by the engrossing characters and heartfelt story which will most likely leave an impression on you long after you've read it.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Zachary Quinto - best known for his role as the Nimoy-approved Spock in the recent Star Trek reboot and the menacing, power-stealing serial killer, Sylar, in Heroes - brings his well-earned sci-fi credentials and simmering intensity to this audio-exclusive novella from master storyteller John Scalzi. One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone - 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don't know.
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Having read a few book by the author, I had a rather high expectation for this one, even though it was just a novella. I definitely wasn't disappointed, though. The book centres around a novel premise, around which there's a who-done-it type mystery. It felt similar in tone to Lock In (another book by the author) and I felt like it worked well for this book. Being such a short book, I wasn't expecting too many answers regarding the causes of the phenomenon and I thought the book handled that aspect really well actually.
The world was easy to get a grip on since it really was just our current one with one new difference. The consequences of that one change, however, meant that there were a few new jobs and activities which felt very plausible and nicely woven into the story. The characters were likeable and believably flawed which was important since the entire plot unfolds through dialogue. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book and the narrator did a really good job at conveying the seriousness as well as the humour of the characters.
It's quite easy to be nit picky about short stories and while there were a few issues, only a couple were significant enough to deny it the fifth star. The most significant one was the plot. It might have been based around an interesting idea, but you could pretty much replace that idea with any other one and only need to change a few details to have the same effect. It really felt like I've seen that plot play out dozens of times already. The other, smaller issue I had was with some of the characters knowledge about the world changing phenomenon. After a decade, it's hard to believe that a police detective wouldn't know about the vast majority of the intricacies of the activities brought on by the change. It just felt like a convenient excuse to have the characters explain everything to the reader.
Despite my few issues, I really enjoyed myself throughout the book. For a short story, it balanced exposition and plot development really well and I think it's definitely worth a listen. I doubt we'll get a proper novel-length book set in the world considering how impossible to explain the phenomenon is, so I'd recommend this even more since you don't come across clever ideas like it often enough.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow's best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday.
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Despite the somewhat average rating, I actually really enjoyed this book overall. It's really well written, so much so that I'd be very keen to read more from this author. The premise is very unique and despite the title, I didn't actually know what to expect. It's also a very genre mixing type of book which makes it difficult to compare it to anything else I've read. There's a lot of quirky weirdness throughout the book and while most of it is the good kind, there are some scenes where it gets a bit much. I loved that it makes you think and I'm sure it'll annoy many people by the fact that a lot of the answers to questions brought up by the book aren't really answered in a straight forward way.
The writing is really the highlight of the book for me. I can't really explain the beautifully nuanced way in which everything is written since my mere mortal brain can only do so much. Nothing felt spoon fed to me and the experience of figuring things out was very rewarding. The characters were all very unique and although somewhat underdeveloped in most cases, I didn't really notice that until after I finished. There's a lot that happens and while some of the events feel unrelated or unimportant, overall, I didn't really mind. I think the foreword by the author describing the book as "meandering" primed me for it and so it didn't really bother me. That relates to the slow pacing as well, which again, I found I didn't really mind that much.
The only real gripes for me were with the meandering style, which made it hard to feel really engaged with the protagonist and his story. I personally loved the protagonist, but he was definitely hard to relate to. The third act also felt a bit underwhelming due to quite a bit of foreshadowing about a war and a lot of build up work done throughout the book which didn't really pay off. I think my general feeling is that it needed something more exciting or mind blowing to finish things off, which is why it got three instead of four stars in the end.
The handful of historical interludes between some chapters were great and gave some interesting context to the story as a whole. I listened to the full-cast audiobook version of the author's preferred text and it was amazing. The production was superb and the narration was really high quality. I really enjoyed the foreword and extra postscripts at the end that added a lot of context and explanation to the content.
It's a difficult book to recommend to many people due to its weird genre mixing, possibly confusing events and the unexplained questions that it brings up. I think people who are prepared to be patient and enjoy letting things unfold without getting too focused on details will appreciate it by the end. There's a lot to think about and I like that there's room for personal interpretations to quite a few of those questions. It's definitely not a perfect book, but it is worth a read if you enjoy good writing and unique premises.
"Are you happy with your life?" Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason's never met smiles down at him and says, "Welcome back, my friend."
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One star is actually being a bit kind to this book. From a purely technical point of view, this is some of the worst sci-fi writing I've ever read. On top of that, the actual "science" in the book is just comically bad, both in terms of underlying understanding and practical implementation. I'm almost entirely sure the author plagiarised the core idea and worked backwards from the only interesting part of the book which was the last act.
So let's get down to the unfortunate details. Right from the start, you're introduced to perfect characters living their perfect lives. I'm not even exaggerating here. The protagonist, who is a teacher, while trying to think of anyone who might want to hurt him, muses that he always treats his students with respect and none of them would have a reason to do anything to him. That's not even going into how his marriage is perfect and their teenage son's most annoying quality is that he isn't overly communicative while he's drawing. However, even with all this perfection, the protagonist thinks and does some of the most stupid things imaginable throughout the book.
Then there are all the sci-fi elements that make absolutely no sense, like how a concept that the human mind can't fathom and experience, being experienced exactly the same way by everyone. The dialogue is beyond horrible, with people interacting like they're in a straight to DVD, horror movie. Even that is being kind to it since at least in those kinds of movies, the emotional reactions of characters tend to make sense. For a sci-fi book, the imagination and creativity were also disappointingly lacking, with cliche's all over the place and scenarios I've seen a fair few times before. What made things somehow even worse is that there are many, many plot holes which the author doesn't even begin to address because he probably knows how ridiculous they are.
The only reason I could get through this book is that through all the nonsense, most of the time I was curious as to what will happen next. The setup was done reasonably well and got me hooked on the idea and the last act was interesting and uncommon enough to keep me guessing on how things would play out. Those are honestly the only redeeming factors for me.
A saying that came to my mind as I was suffering through the second act was: "When you are dead, you don't know that you are dead. It's difficult only for others. It is the same when you are stupid". That's pretty much what I thought of the author while he was trying to be clever in explaining things he clearly didn't understand as you can tell by the title of the book having nothing to do with anything in the book. Not even some clever metaphor or deeper meaning. This is a bad book which you should not spend your money on since it might encourage the author to write more books.
3 of 6 people found this review helpful
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings - merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.
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I'm not sure if my enjoyment of this book was influenced by the fact that I just came off a book that I greatly disliked, but I can't justify taking off any stars for this. This was one of those that I couldn't put down and found excuses to do things where I could listen more. I did the audiobook version, narrated by Micheal Kramer, which was just perfect. It was quite a short read, but that meant there were never any dull moments which contributed to my reluctance in putting it down. If I could, I probably would have done it in one sitting.
I can't properly begin to express how great the world was. The exposition of it was handled so well and I couldn't get over how clever and well-connected everything was. I could write for hours on the details of the world that were merged with the real world, so on that topic, I'll just say: "read it yourself and try not to be impressed". The characters were also so nicely balanced. While a couple of the side characters were a tad cliched, the main characters were really well fleshed out and likeable. Everyone's motivations and actions made sense and I never got the feeling that anyone did anything purely for the sake of the plot. The story was quite simple and felt quite familiar, but that never felt like an issue to me since the fantasy elements made it constantly unpredictable and interesting. Then there was the ending. I can't explain how good it was without spoilers, but trust me, it was the kind of ending you secretly hope for in every book.
I can't even think of things I could nitpick. I mentioned some elements that were a bit on the simple side, but all those worked because of the other elements. The "magic" system was also incredibly creative and the way things play out with it were just so intense. I want more now, dammit! Yes, the protagonist is a teenager, but he's never overly whiny and although it'll technically be grouped into the YA genre, it never really got into all the tropes that books in that genre tend to do. This book far surpassed my expectations and I honestly think anyone would enjoy it. I'll openly admit I'm a Sanderson fanboy at this point and that I'm probably a bit biassed towards his work, so you might want to take this review with a pinch of salt. However, if you don't enjoy this book, I'll be forever suspicious of your tastes in books.