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Michael - Audible Editor

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  • 62
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  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf

  • The Dark Star Trilogy, Book 1
  • By: Marlon James
  • Narrated by: Dion Graham
  • Length: 24 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 81
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 79
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 80

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: "He has a nose", people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard. As Tracker follows the boy's scent, he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Opaque. And hard to care about.

  • By Lisa Gray on 02-07-19

A Genre and Perception-Bending Adventure

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

Reviewed: 02-08-19

I reviewed this book for Audible Editors Select, here is that review:

"I’m not claiming any credit for finding this one, as it has already become something of a movement, but I am definitely swept up in the transcendent force that is Marlon James and Dion Graham. I saw Neil Gaiman described the setting as "hallucinatory," and I haven’t heard a more apt description, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is an aimless, vague, or overly literary effort. It is absolutely riveting: My "listening hours per day" have more than tripled since I started listening to Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Word is Marlon James spent a long time researching African languages as well, and Dion Graham just nails all of the different accents. But the merits of Graham’s performance aren’t limited to language or accents. In every minute there is a new threat, a new scheme, and a new astoundingly unique voice; be it beast, witch, demi-god, or amorphous liquid assassin. I can only imagine Graham took a good break after this performance because the sheer number of different voices would put any narrator to the test, and he aced it."

I'm still listening to the book at this point, I have about 5 hours left and it is only getting better so I remain really excited about this series as a whole. Also, it turns out that Michael B Jordan has optioned the story and will produce it as a movie, which tells me this is going to be something really very big.

The first hour or two are admittedly slower than the rest of the book. They introduce the character and setting from a place that is purposefully distant from the core action/plot-line. It's an important introduction though, so just stick with it!

Marlon James has a firmly rooted literary background and his style is as important to the book as the plot. And it definitely does pay off, because the story becomes a holistic experience.

The narration is absolutely top-notch, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better performance than Dion Graham's here. I stand by that statement wholeheartedly.

21 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Circe

  • By: Madeline Miller
  • Narrated by: Perdita Weeks
  • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,296
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 12,440
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,365

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child - not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring, like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power - the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Refined writing with an intimate performance

  • By Michael - Audible Editor on 04-11-18

Refined writing with an intimate performance

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

Reviewed: 04-11-18

I don't know why this book had such a profound effect on me, but it was unlike anything else I've listened to so far. I don't consider myself a mythology nerd, but looking at books I've listened to in the past (Norse Mythology, Fifteen Dogs), I probably am. It wasn't really the mythology that grabbed me though, but way more so the intimate experience of living inside of Circe's mind for 12 hours.

You can tell that Madeline Miller took great care to really dive into and visualize Circe's experience. It's so real!

The self-doubt, the grappling with her identity, her punishment, her privileges, and her mistakes. Circe as a character is so dynamic, and Miller polishes each thought, each minute detail, like a diamond. The dynamic perspective also adds so much to the familiar stories and fables of greek gods and heroes that we see them all in a totally new way.

Odysseus is especially more human than ever. His skill in trickery and leadership turns into something new entirely, and his heroism (and so the very concept of heroism) is illustrated remarkably well.

Yeah maybe I am a little too into mythology, but if anything this book made me realize it more than ever.

Lastly, this audiobook debuts a brilliant new talent to audible. Perdita Weeks. Omg. She is amazing and can do anything. The way she fluctuates between male and female voices is one thing. I didn't even notice it was her at first, narrating the men.

But the raw emotion she pours into Circe's internal struggle nails the point of this story on the head. She turns what is essentially a lonely monologue into a three-dimensional experience.

In the end you have two people Madeline Miller and Perdita Weeks, who wholly and honestly assumed the role and mind of Circe, and lived it for the duration of this story.

I could keep writing about this forever so I'm just gonna end it here, because you probably get the point.

275 of 291 people found this review helpful

  • The House of Impossible Beauties

  • By: Joseph Cassara
  • Narrated by: Christian Barillas
  • Length: 15 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 142
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 137
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 135

It's 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city's glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ball scene, where 17-year-old Angel first comes into her own. Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, new to ball culture, and has a yearning inside of her to help create family for those without. When she falls in love with Hector, a beautiful young man who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the Harlem ball circuit.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • As real as it gets

  • By Michael - Audible Editor on 03-01-18

As real as it gets

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

Reviewed: 03-01-18

The House of Impossible Beauties threw me into a world I knew close to nothing about. The Harlem Ball scene of the 80s and 90s was a culture born of intense, largely unrecognized struggle, and Joseph Cassara’s fictional ode to the time is likewise chock full of character. Pure, undiluted, super-concentrated character. This book is brutal. It is unflinching, and it is as real as it gets.

Like have you ever seen Requiem for a Dream? It’s on the same page of, “Wow, I can’t believe anyone could endure this,” type emotional shock. But where that movie follows a drug addict's bleak downward spiral, Cassara’s characters never fail to demonstrate a life-affirming and indomitable strength that is, simply put, beautiful.

Joseph Cassara clearly vetted narrator Christian Barillas super closely, as this is a book that demands fluidity between languages, genders, and class all at once—I think it would have been an impossible task for nearly anyone else, but Barillas nails it.

**This book is graphic**

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

  • Stories
  • By: Denis Johnson
  • Narrated by: Nick Offerman, Michael Shannon, Dermot Mulroney, and others
  • Length: 5 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 195
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 177
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 179

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson. Written in the luminous prose that made him one of the most beloved and important writers of his generation, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating the ghosts of the past and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • RIP Denis Johnson

  • By Thomas B. Houghton on 01-19-18

A master of fiction--an all-star cast of narrators

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

Reviewed: 01-30-18

Denis Johnson passed last year, but left us with this one last beautiful example of his wonderful writing. His stories are so refined, and transition so effortlessly, that there is often no noticeable distinction between the emotions they elicit. You might find yourself laughing at death, or worried for one of Johnson’s characters' untimely success. In this subtle way Johnson shocks his listeners into what I would guess is awareness, or clarity. At the very least, you can tell a book is good when it gets this many all-star narrators (Nick Offerman, Michael Shannon, Dermot Mulroney, Will Patton, and Liev Schreiber). They leave no stone of Johnson’s lyrical prowess unturned or unpolished.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Dark Dark

  • Stories
  • By: Samantha Hunt
  • Narrated by: Christa Lewis
  • Length: 6 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 26

In these marvelously inventive stories, Samantha Hunt imagines numerous ways in which human lives might be altered by the otherworldly: an FBI agent falls in love with a robot built for a suicide mission; a young woman unintentionally cheats on her husband when she is transformed into a deer; two strangers become lovers and find themselves responsible for the resurrection of a dog; a woman tries to start her life anew after the loss of a child but riddles that new life with lies.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Total Trip

  • By Michael - Audible Editor on 12-01-17

A Total Trip

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

Reviewed: 12-01-17

When you first read about The Dark Dark the inventive concepts draw you in. A woman who cheats on her husband after she turns into a deer? Sounds funky. You think to yourself, and that's what gets you in the door. All of these stories are so inventive and radically interesting that it is really hard not to at least give this book a shot.

What keeps you listening is Hunt's incredible sense of aesthetic. In many ways, as weird as these stories are, they are all about the same thing. A woman struggling with her many internal identities, motherhood, womanhood, and wrestling with herself and her relationships in general. That's I think the the emotion of this book, and it hits you on a real level.

Even though each story has different characters, different situations, they all seem to magically tie together. And though at times Hunt toys with magical realism, which is a dangerous thing to toy with, her thoughts never dive too far into the absurd as to loose their relevance in the real world of human thought.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • All Systems Red

  • By: Martha Wells
  • Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
  • Length: 3 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,018
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,660
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,659

All Systems Red is the tense first science fiction adventure novella in Martha Wells' series The Murderbot Diaries. For fans of Westworld, Ex Machina, Ann Leckie's Imperial Raadch series, or Iain M. Banks' Culture novels. The main character is a deadly security droid that has bucked its restrictive programming and is balanced between contemplative self-discovery and an idle instinct to kill all humans.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I just wish all four stories were one book...

  • By Garrett Stone on 11-05-18

I LOVE MURDERBOT

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

Reviewed: 11-06-17

This book was just what I needed to get my out of a recent listening rut. I had been pouring through longer literary fiction type stuff that was really heady and then I started this on a whim and it was a sheer delight.

The world-building is immaculate, the plot is solid and well-paced, but most importantly MURDERBOT. S/HE is the man. I'm assuming he's a man because of the narrator's voice, but I think he's just an asexual SEC Unit that is supposed to be a killing machine but just wants to watch movies.

So relateable. And I just really love how Martha Wells crafts the environment kind of secondarily, you don't even notice that she is describing and explaining details about the world because it all takes a back seat to Murderbot's sardonic, sarcastic observations.

I had only two issues with this story.

1. It is too short
2. The ending is abrupt! It could have been flushed out a lot more, but just kind of cut off.

Now I'm left hoping for a sequel, hopefully one that has a little more meat, because this stuff is delicious.

85 of 92 people found this review helpful

  • American Wolf

  • A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
  • By: Nate Blakeslee
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall, Nate Blakeslee
  • Length: 9 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,996
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,861
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,848

Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West. With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female named for the year of her birth.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An Epic American Story

  • By Michael - Audible Editor on 10-17-17

An Epic American Story

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

Reviewed: 10-17-17

I never thought a nonfiction book would have me on the edge of tears, but I was totally sideswiped by American Wolf. It has it all: a charismatic (read: badass) female protagonist, fierce action scenes, gripping courtroom drama, a coming of age tale, and last minute political upheavals all served up with sturdy, hard-hitting narration.

You might have seen the viral video about the amazing impact wolf reintroduction has had on the wider ecosystem in Yellowstone, but there is much more to the story. The wolf’s saga touches on nearly every issue in our increasingly complex American narrative—from politics, to economics, to our personal, familial, and social lives. The further you get into this modern-day epic, the more deeply you realize that our story and the wolf’s are one and the same.

I also really appreciated how, especially in our time of increased polarization, Blakeslee did a good job of illustrating both sides of the issue. When it would have been really easy to make this adult version of FernGully, it is really a multi-faceted issue that deserves robust discussion.

62 of 63 people found this review helpful

  • The Handmaid's Tale: Special Edition

  • By: Margaret Atwood, Valerie Martin - essay
  • Narrated by: Claire Danes, full cast, Margaret Atwood
  • Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24,862
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22,865
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22,798

After a violent coup in the United States overthrows the Constitution and ushers in a new government regime, the Republic of Gilead imposes subservient roles on all women. Offred, now a Handmaid tasked with the singular role of procreation in the childless household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost everything, even her own name.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT

  • By ambER on 04-20-17

Powerful Message Wrapped in Adept Characterization

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

Reviewed: 09-01-17

This book's current position in the cultural zeitgeist may persuade first-time listeners to interpret it purely on its political message. While that message is strong, warranted, and supremely well-crafted by Atwood, I think to focus purely on what this story "means" is to miss one of the best characterizations of modern times.

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic literature is, for whatever reason, increasingly popular these days. I think it offers authors the chance to really push their characters to the edge of human endurance in the search of the common truths that outline our nature and behavior. The danger is though, in my opinion, that the situation is too abstract or unreasonable or unredeemable to be realistic or to really matter.

That's what makes The Handmaid's Tale so valuable. Atwood has maintained a explicit, palpable tension in this book that tosses you between all sorts of emotions you'd rather not admit. Outrage? Acceptance? Bartering? Denial? It's all here, and more. The environment is never so physically dangerous that it is physically untenable, but a very real mental anguish and psychological consequence weigh down every minute of this harrowing story. We are following someone through a gauntlet of psychic torture, brought about simply by perverted social attitudes.

I don't know much about Claire Danes--my knowledge of pop culture is nothing to write home about--but it is either her innate talent as an actor or the nature of this story that lends itself perfectly to verbal performance that allows her to add such visceral emotion and tenor to her voice. It is calm, deliberate, and absolutely raw.

Of all the books I've listened to, which is numerous but not much compared to a lot of people I'm sure, it is only Claire Danes performing The Handmaid's Tale that can make a wavering soft voice--a whisper--resonate as strongly as a woman screaming at the top of her lungs for her dear life.

30 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • How to Lead When You're Not in Charge

  • Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority
  • By: Clay Scroggins
  • Narrated by: Clay Scroggins, Gabe Wicks
  • Length: 6 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,812
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,616
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,600

Every leader, young or old, resonates with the dead-end feeling of not being in charge. Too often the lack of authority paralyzes leaders, leaving them believing they must wait to be in charge until they can lead. One of the greatest myths of leadership is that you must be in charge in order to lead. Great leaders don't buy it. Great leaders lead with or without the authority to lead.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Wasn't what I expected, but pleasantly surprised.

  • By Wade on 11-04-18

A Voice Worth Hearing

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

Reviewed: 08-22-17

I am not Christian. By any means. I grew up protestant, but that ended quickly--like age 7. I don't believe in organized religion by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe in spirituality.

I also have read/listened to an ungodly amount of self-dev books.

Those two things being said, this is a great book. It is very Christian, and Mr. Scroggins--who is some kind of pastor at a huge church in Georgia, IIRC--quotes the bible persistently and at length.

Normally when I hear this kind of stuff you've lost me. I'm done. But Scroggins imbues his message with more than enough practical and secular advice that it's easy enough to side-step the Christian message here.

For me, what worked, was simply acknowledging his Christian beliefs as a way of making sense of certain management principles, and it worked for me to listen to the Christian parables without feeling the need to convert back to the religion.

The actual meat of this book is in Scroggins impressive understanding of the attitudes and practices one needs to effect change from any position within an organizational hierarchy. He knows his stuff, and believe it or not, a megachurch is a great example of an organizational hierarchy. It is one that is built, perhaps even more so than a corporation or business, on the strength of community and social connection--so it serves its purpose as an accurate backdrop for professional development.

If you are Christian and looking to make more of a difference from within the organizations that you are a part of, this is a must buy.

If you are secular or of another spiritual persuasion, and looking to learn how to best leverage your influence even when you lack the specific title to seemingly do so directly, this is still a wise purchase. Just don't let the Christian themes overburden you.

321 of 334 people found this review helpful

  • Who Are You, Really?

  • The Surprising Puzzle of Personality
  • By: Brian Little
  • Narrated by: Brian Little
  • Length: 2 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 70
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 58
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 58

This fun, smart listen for anyone eager to better understand (and improve) themselves argues that personality is driven not by nature nor nurture - but instead by the projects we pursue, which ultimately shape the people we become.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderfully Clear and Concise Perspective

  • By Michael - Audible Editor on 08-19-17

Wonderfully Clear and Concise Perspective

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

Reviewed: 08-19-17

This book is short but is chock full of more information that books five times as long. It is a totally different way of looking at individuality and authenticity that is immediately applicable and thought provoking. Highly recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful