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  • The Clarity

  • A Novel
  • By: Keith Thomas
  • Narrated by: Robin Eller
  • Length: 10 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 11

Dr. Matilda Deacon is a psychologist researching how memories are made and stored when she meets a strange 11-year-old girl named Ashanique. Ashanique claims to harbor the memories of the last soldier killed in World War I and Matilda is at first very interested but skeptical. However, when Ashanique starts talking about being chased by the Night Doctors - a term also used by an unstable patient who was later found dead - Matilda can't deny that the girl might be telling the truth.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Clumsy first novel with disappointing narration

  • By Andrew on 11-15-18

Clumsy first novel with disappointing narration

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

The Clarity is written like a screenplay. It is so much like a screenplay, I wondered with each new section if I weren't just listening to Keith Thomas's reject pile.

So if you're looking for deep character development and gorgeous description, you won't either of them here. There are problems with under-motivated plot points throughout, like the main adversary, whose hatred makes no sense at all, not even at the end of the book, when the first attempt to explain his motivation occurs. Or two characters inexplicably falling in love with one another, one literally minutes after her serious boyfriend is murdered in front of her eyes.

There's also a heavy, heavy reliance on thick exposition and stopping action to allow for convoluted, often nonsensical explanations of what's going on. Yet there are still plot holes.

The author doesn't really have a good grasp on how doctorate-level education or academic science works, either. The main character seems to be a PhD chemist *and* psychologist *and* a working social worker, all at the same time. Oh, and on the side she's investigating past life experiences, not to mention giving open lectures and teaching undergraduates as the hottest faculty member at her university.

The diversity of the cast is interesting, but it frequently feels perfunctory when the person's identity is the most salient feature of the character. It's as if the author is ticking off categories on a list: a Hispanic cop, a Hmong research subject, a transgender lab assistant, an African-American cop and his Ghanaian babysitter, a Korean doctor, a gay psychology researcher, etc.

Robin Eller's performance also hinders this audio book. She over-enunciates to a distracting extent, pronouncing t's hard and slowing her cadence in odd places in a sentence, making it difficult to follow the natural flow of what she's saying.

She also mispronounces many words, some difficult, like 'beneficent' and 'Caucasus' as well as some common words like 'alcoholism,' 'typo,' and even 'Ms.' (which she mangles into 'Mrs.' when referring to a pre-teen). Early in the book, she struggles with the word 'Clark's,' turning it into 'Clarkses' several times during a high-tension scene.

Both the novel itself and the audio version needed another edit. There's something interesting here, but it's frustratingly half-baked in its current form.

  • Version Control

  • A Novel
  • By: Dexter Palmer
  • Narrated by: January LaVoy
  • Length: 18 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 636
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 593
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 593

Rebecca Wright has reclaimed her life, finding her way out of her grief and depression following a personal tragedy years ago. She spends her days working in customer support for the Internet dating site where she first met her husband. But she has a strange, persistent sense that everything around her is somewhat off-kilter: She constantly feels as if she has walked into a room and forgotten what she intended to do there; on TV, the president seems to be the wrong person in the wrong place; her dreams are full of disquiet.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Phildickian World and More

  • By serialnumber55 on 03-06-16

Slow-burning, not sci-fi or fantasy

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-17

Version Control is a glacially slow character novel, despite what you might guess from the blurb or Audible description. There is a plot, but it unspools at an agonzing pace that might just lead you to put the book down before you get halfway through.

Worse, it is sometimes not a very good character novel. Woody (Rebecca's father) is a complete waste, an excrescence. Alicia is drawn in such broad strokes that she might as well be a caricature--even Palmer's attempt at giving her some quirks (like her taste in 1990s popular hip-hop) doesn't do much to humanize such a flat character.

Still, there's an interesting idea here somewhere. I only wish the book had been half its length.

  • The Mandibles

  • A Family, 2029-2047
  • By: Lionel Shriver
  • Narrated by: George Newbern
  • Length: 13 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 329
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 291
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 293

In 2029 the United States is engaged in a bloodless world war that will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Overnight, on the international currency exchange, the "almighty dollar" plummets in value, to be replaced by a new global currency: the "bancor". In retaliation the president declares that America will default on its loans. With "Deadbeat Nation" being unable to borrow, the government prints money to cover its bills. What little remains for savers is rapidly eaten away by runaway inflation.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • So that's what the left and the right have in common!!!

  • By Moe on 06-30-16

Great first two acts and a few reading issues

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-28-16

The Mandibles is fantastic from the start until about two-thirds of the way through the book, when the story shifts forward in time for the last time. At that stage, plot slips away and exposition takes over, with characters doing a lot of telling-not-showing. Things pick up again in the final chapter, but even then, there's just way too much thick description and world building without a purpose to it.

Another strike against it: The narrator has lots of jarring pronunciation issues that derail the flow of the story.

Overall, this isn't as good as "We Need to Talk About Kevin," but its premise is fascinating enough to make it worth a listen.

  • Furiously Happy

  • A Funny Book About Horrible Things
  • By: Jenny Lawson
  • Narrated by: Jenny Lawson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,462
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,718
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,695

Audie Award, Humor, 2016. In Furiously Happy, number-one New York Times best-selling author Jenny Lawson explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Small doses.

  • By Shawna on 10-18-15

She's TRYING SO HARD, everyone.

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-23-15

This is just seven hours of the author playing up her many quirks, turning every story into a showcase of what she considers to be her oddball status. It's annoying, frustrating, and just genuinely neither weird enough or interesting enough to offer much pleasure to a reader.

Worse, you can see through the overwritten jokes just how hard she is trying to be humorous and insightful. But her affect just comes off as self-conscious, as desperate to be different and unusual. She name-drops David Sedaris here, commenting that he makes writing humor seem so easy--the exact opposite of what Jenny Lawson does throughout this effortful slog.

  • Armada

  • A Novel
  • By: Ernest Cline
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33,966
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31,871
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 31,808

It's just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He's daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom - if he can make it that long without getting suspended again. Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Lacked the freshness of Ready Player One

  • By Chad on 01-08-16

It's an awful, awful book.

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-26-15

Ready Player One was a charming, well-plotted, fun comic novel that did so many things right. Yes, there were missteps, but the good things about the novel far outweighed the bad.

For Armada, it's almost as if Ernest Cline took the list of missteps and crafted an entire book around them. The whole book feels like one awkwardly-delivered litany of references to 1980s movies, video games, and science fiction television shows. It's painful to listen to some of the references, partly because it's hard to imagine anyone who would think they were funny, clever, interesting, or an important part of the story.

The worst part is the plot. It feels like an afterthought, and not even more than a fleeting one. The concept isn't a bad one, and could have made for a brilliant book (or even series), but the broad, ham-fisted approach to plotting that Cline takes makes me totally apathetic about what happens in this universe next. Sodality? Who cares?

  • The Fold

  • By: Peter Clines
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter
  • Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30,006
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28,005
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 27,958

The folks in Mike Erikson's small New England town would say he's just your average, everyday guy. And that's exactly how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he's chosen isn't much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but he's content with his quiet and peaceful existence. That is, until an old friend presents him with an irresistible mystery, one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Fun premise, great performance, weak story

  • By J. Klinghoffer on 08-06-15

Entertaining but a bit glib. Mediocre voice acting

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-23-15

This is a very well-plotted story, with several unusual and unexpected twists and divergences, which is great. I thought the novel was going to turn into a more internal story about Mike and his eidetic memory, which would have been a different and maybe more interesting approach, but I'm not disappointed with the direction the story did take.

The characters are a mixed bag: Mike and Arthur are the two most fully-formed, while the women, even his love interest, are flat and mostly undifferentiated from one another.

There are also serious science errors. Clines gets details around eidetic memory wrong in several places, conflating it with other abnormalities. And of course, liquid nitrogen is absolutely not explosive. Generally though, the science is pretty good here.

One real annoyance is the many references to Game of Thrones (the HBO version), which will not only date the novel, but makes the author come off as a little bit fawning. In every single case, Clines could have chosen a different, more evergreen reference, and been better off for it--especially at the very start of the novel. If you haven't watched the program, you won't really understand the conversation that begins the entire book. And while it doesn't foreclose understanding the plot, it is distancing--a bad thing to start a book.

If you're after a character novel masquerading as a genre novel, this is not it. This is a very plot-driven genre novel with plenty of unrealized potential.

**Ray Porter's narration is also iffy. He reads women as nasal and a little screechy. All the female characters at the facility sound identical. Moreover, the one character with an accent vacillates between sounding German and Indian throughout the book--there is a good stretch where Olaf (with a Swedish accent) sounds more Mangalore than Malmo.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Martian

  • By: Andy Weir
  • Narrated by: R. C. Bray
  • Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 157,672
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 145,499
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 145,344

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive - and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plainold "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Worth it even if you've seen the movie

  • By R. MCRACKAN on 12-08-17

Glib, with little character development

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-08-14

'The Martian' is a great story--the plot is exciting and very entertaining. But that's where things begin and end. And in a book where there is one character holding the entire work together, that is a serious problem. We spend literally hundreds of days with Mark, the main character, and yet we learn next to nothing about him. Does he have a family? No idea. Is he close with his parents? No idea. What does he miss most about Earth? No idea. All we know is that he considers himself quick-witted and funny and loves to joke around--even with himself. That's all fine and good, but it leads to character development that's a mile wide but an inch deep. Not very satisfying. I really wished Weir had explored Mark's internal life--we have 18 months alone with him on Mars, after all. It's not like there's not enough time to explore that. I want to know what Mark cares about, who he misses on Earth, what motivates him. All we actually learn is this: He wants a bath, to get laid, and a meal other than potatoes.

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

  • By: Michael Chabon
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 26 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,527
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,195
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,218

It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat: smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Inspired by their own fantasies, fears, and dreams, they create the Escapist.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Escape From Reality is a Worthy Challenge

  • By Dave on 07-11-12

I keed, I keed! It's a brilliant novel.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-16-12

Kavalier & Clay is possibly the best modern Bildungsroman I've ever encountered. The story and character development are gloriously nuanced, taking the two main characters from Prague to Brooklyn and then from Manhattan to Antarctica and back again, all the while describing personal evolutions that are neither neat nor linear. It is the sort of book that I plan to re-visit.

When I do, I'll probably buy the print version. This has everything to do with David Colacci's reading. While he is great at pacing and expression, his voice for Joe Kavalier makes him sound exactly like Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog.

It's an image I couldn't get out of my head while listening: All I could imagine is Joe as a rubber hand puppet. And frankly, that kind of distraction does a terrible disservice to Chabon's text.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Blackbirds

  • By: Chuck Wendig
  • Narrated by: Emily Beresford
  • Length: 8 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 264
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 244
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 241

Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days he will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. No matter what she does, she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Story of Fate and the F-word

  • By Michael on 05-19-12

Too much Palahniuk and Larsson for his own good

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-25-12

I imagine Chuck Wendig's pre-writing chats with himself went something like this, "How can I create the hottest, most bad-ass chick and put her into a story? I want to write a lead character that I'd totally want to be with."

So, with a healthy dose of Chuck Palahniuk's overwritten gross-out style and a basic template for a main character that is essentially nothing more than a potty-mouthed Stieg Larsson protagonist, we get Blackbirds. And with it, Chuck Wendig's dullard dream date, Miriam Black.

Not that this is only frat boy fiction--Wendig knows the word "macadam," after all, and uses it three times. Yes, this novel has aspirations beyond just giving us a hollow shell of a female lead who does very little other than rob people and talk tough. It courageously takes us into a world of stereotypical secondary characters (nearly all of whom are mawkish and cut-and-pasted from someone's tired rogue's gallery) and even ventures into the taboo territory of sexual violence against women and short, stocky lesbians.

Blackbirds has it all--including a massive plot gaffe towards the end of the book where Miriam is touched by an assailant and should be able to read his/her death but does not.

8 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Reamde

  • By: Neal Stephenson
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
  • Length: 38 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,948
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,114
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,157

Richard Forthrast created T’Rain, a multibillion-dollar, massively multiplayer online role-playing game. But T’Rain’s success has also made it a target. Hackers have struck gold by unleashing REAMDE, a virus that encrypts all of a player’s electronic files and holds them for ransom. They have also unwittingly triggered a deadly war beyond the boundaries of the game’s virtual universe - and Richard is at ground zero.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Not perfect, but worth a listen.

  • By ShySusan on 10-01-11

It's four, four, four books in one!

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-07-12

There is a good book in here. In fact, there are probably three or four of them. What Reamde does well is engage readers with a wide variety of scenes, contexts, characters, and storylines. Quite easily, this book could have been split into component parts and divided into complete novels. Taking that sort of approach would have also required that the slack, too-descriptive scenes be edited or removed and tightened up. Instead, what Stephenson has done with Reamde is create a loose mass of winding and complicated story arcs that move independently and do not resolve until the very end of the book. It's not an intellectual challenge to follow these threads--Stephenson's writing is never lush or even clever enough to demand much active attention--but it is tedious. And tedium is a killer in a book that lasts more than 38 hours in the reading.