LISTENER

J Hawkins

  • 14
  • reviews
  • 15
  • helpful votes
  • 72
  • ratings
Ghostwalker audiobook cover art

I Don't Even Know How to Feel

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

Reviewed: 04-10-17

What did you like best about Ghostwalker? What did you like least?

So, de Bie combined some Ghostrider with some Batman and some Crow. He even gives a nod to Drizzt. And he uses his word choice to troll (e.g. there's an Earth Genasi whose expression is described as "stony"). It's exactly the kind of trolling I have done as a writer and would do if asked to write an official Forgotten Realms novel. I can't even complain. But then he introduces this "strong" female character who is a Knight in Silver and has this whole thing about rejecting being a soft noblewoman and being respected (etc etc) - yet she CONSTANTLY needs to be saved. And even the once or twice that de Bie lets her fight and maybe she's going to do well / be badass - she still nearly gets raped and needs saving. I can look past some of the "people trusting their instincts" in order to fast-establish relationships and keep things moving and any other complaint someone could come up with - but really? The "strong" Knight in Silver never actually gets to be strong and successful on her own in this novel. That's messed up de Bie. And it got so bad by the middle that I almost gave up... but then de Bie introduced this convoluted "who is actually related to who and who actually killed who and why" plot line that I needed to see the ending of. It was actually really good and had me piecing together clues to see who was related to who and who killed who and why. That part was well worth the read. Plus, I love his trolling. So, there's some really good stuff in here, but turning a Knight in Silver into a perpetual damsel in distress? I'm not sure I can forgive that.

The Horror Stories of H. P. Lovecraft audiobook cover art

Exceptional Stories, Wrong Narrator

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

Reviewed: 01-13-16

Any additional comments?

This is an excellent collection of Lovecraft's shorter, yet powerful works. However, Cathy Dobson was not a good choice of narrator for this particular collection. While she does a great job (no stumbling, great voices, etc), she has a British accent. Since Lovecraft is such an icon of American literature, it's just weird to not have an American narrator. More than that, maybe a "generic" British accent would be fine, but this was a very Dickens-sounding accent that takes some of the scariness from the stories. It's not her fault and maybe it's not even a fair thing to think (How many British people suffer through American renditions of Shakespeare?), but it just struck me the entire time.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

White Man's Problems: Stories audiobook cover art

Don't Know How I Feel About This One...

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

Reviewed: 08-21-15

Would you try another book from Kevin Morris and/or the narrators?

No

Any additional comments?

I got this book because Audible was hyping it so much, the free sample seemed like it was going somewhere, there were famous narrators, and - of course - the title is very provocative.
Then I read the whole thing so that I could give a fully informed opinion:

1. The book is not "crazy racist." That's what I searched the summary and reviews for before even getting it and nothing seemed to address this point. While there are racial slurs used and minority characters that don't receive the best of treatment, these are always in the context of giving an honest portrayal of protagonist. In other words, you can go ahead and get this book without worrying that your money is secretly going to the Klan or anything.

2. The book (probably) isn't an attempt to actually explore Euro American culture or to create awareness that everyone's suffering matters (what may be a small thing to one person is a big thing to another - regardless of anyone's race). This is really disappointing to me (I do believe that everyone matters and that we aren't going to deal with the issue of race in the US until we all acknowledge that Euro Americans do have a culture and are capable of experiencing hardship, etc - it's part of a larger conversation that needs to be had).

3. The book isn't making light of actual problems that Euro Americans can encounter. The stories often touch on the loss (death, illness, divorce) of loved ones, depression / work-life balance, etc. So Euro Americans can also feel free to get this book without worrying that it's an attack on your very real problems or anything.

So what is the book...?
A series of short stories that Morris somehow got famous people to narrate. All have White male protagonists. Most of these protagonists grow up in the 70s. There's also a motif of true belief in Christianity of various denominations. Most of the men are relatively well-to-do businessmen / lawyers.

I can't lie - you can tell this is a self publish / no editor collection because every story in the collection needs some polishing. With some edits, they could have been a lot more entertaining and powerful. Period. In fact, some leave you asking questions - in a bad way. Morris employs a type of "magical realism" (like you'd find a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel) at one point and... he just shouldn't have. Some, you have no clue why he titled them the way he did or where he was going or why he stopped where he did.

This said, there's a couple of interesting stories. (I'm trying to avoid spoilers) I enjoyed the one about holding a girl's hand, the one about Mike, the one about the wife who had a stroke and is deaf, the one about that poor dog... if you read it, you'll figure out the ones I'm talking about. Each one has an aspect that makes it particularly charming - if still troubled by a lack of editing.

Going in (because of the title) I expected this book to have some kind of agenda. It seems like it wants to express something - but I still don't know quite what. It's a bunch of stories. It's worth reading once, but I'm honestly probably going to return it (not worth re-reading).


***

I happen to be a minority in multiple ways. Reading this was honestly kind of a painful experience. This wasn't because of who the protagonists were, but because it reminded me that I have never had access to the kinds of jobs those protagonists have. I am a skilled, college educated person, but my parents didn't have the money to put me in a good college or to make the kinds of friends who could hook me up with one of those jobs. I didn't have powerful friends because the kind of guys who could get me those types of jobs (the guys who are the protagonists of these stories) don't make friends with young minorities and offer them the jobs that they offer to the kids of their country club friends. It's just a fact.

And then, there's all the negative talk when they don't think anyone's listening or when the protagonists ignore the suffering of minority characters (e.g. "Black women are always mean until you say hi to them" and when an Asian American kid sees the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, he talks about how "they forced the family to forget" suggesting that he lived in a dictatorship or something before) - it's honest. But as a minority, it's painful to hear. It's painful to be reminded that when someone sees me, his first thought is that I"m going to be mean or ignores me entirely.

It's honest and it's good to be honest about these things. But it still hurt to listen to it. I'm just putting that out there.


***

Overall, it's not the best thing ever written, but it does share some stories that we don't hear often in our modern age - and in a way that is very painfully honest about how some Euro Americans interact with the world.

It was a good effort and we need more like it - just a bit more focused and with a good editor.

Not bad, but not good. Worth a listen - once.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

At the Mountains of Madness audiobook cover art

You'll want to listen to this again and again

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

Reviewed: 05-10-15

Where does At the Mountains of Madness rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This isn't a fair question... I've listened to some amazing works. But this book is definitely average or above average.

What was one of the most memorable moments of At the Mountains of Madness?

I really enjoyed chapters 8 and 9, which focused on history. (I don't want to spoil anything by saying more.)

Have you listened to any of Felbrigg Napoleon Herriot’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I haven't, but I loved his accent and the realistic expression of hesitance that he lent to the work.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It was a bit hard to get into for the first quarter or half, but after that, I did want to listen all the way to the end.

Any additional comments?

As always, I enjoyed how Lovecraft tried to make his story seem plausible. It makes strong references to real geography and biological science (at times, using terminology that is a bit too technical for casual readers though). There's also some twists that you probably won't see coming, which is always a thrill for someone who can usually guess plot twists in advance. The chapters on "history" were a favorite for me (don't want to spoil anything though) and there were lots of gory bits that you can sit down and ask yourself, "What if this was real and actually happened to me," freak yourself out.

However, the story does have a slow start and Lovecraft's unusual descriptive style (e.g. describing a sunset as "grotesque." It also continues his habit of uncomfortable ideas on race, but at least this time it's not talking about literal, human races.

Overall, it's a great read with great narration - just wish it had a bit less music.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

The Diamond Sutra Sung in English audiobook cover art

I learned something and enjoyed the chant

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

Reviewed: 04-30-15

Would you listen to The Diamond Sutra Sung in English again? Why?

Yes. The first time I listened, it was hard for me to really retain what I heard although the chanting got very enthralling. Also, the message of the Diamond Sutra (essentially that even the ideas of Buddhism must be let go) are a bit "advanced" compared to where I am in my practice. I'm not ready for the Diamond Sutra yet, but I will be. When the time comes, I'll revisit this work.

What does Sharon "Kumuda" Janis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

This is the main draw of this work. "Kumuda" translated the Sutra from Pali in such a way as to be able to chant it in English. At first, it is exceedingly strange to listen to, but then it really grabs hold of you. It is the most relaxing read possible, in my honest opinion, and just as in the original Pali, the chanting will help many people to really remember the work.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Not yet.

Any additional comments?

It's strange, but give it a try. You may not be ready for the Diamond Sutra (a more "advanced" Buddhist work), but there's still much to be gained by relaxing and listening.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Tales of H. P. Lovecraft audiobook cover art

From the "Meh" to the "Actually Kind of Scary"

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

Reviewed: 04-30-15

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely! Lovecraft is a seminal work for those who love sci fi/fantasy and has inspired many much-loved modern works. This collection is a good introduction to him and some of the pieces were actually a bit scary.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Tales of H. P. Lovecraft?

When Lovecraft made you really feel how trapped and dead that man lost in the cave was.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Anything involving primates

Any additional comments?

This collection has some of his more obscure works (which are kind of "meh" - they aren't particularly scary and the endings are almost nonsensical even by Lovecraftian standards) and a few that are actually a bit scary when you think about them. There's a bit too much "spooky music" in between stories, but I'd still recommend this short collection. That last hour to 1.5 hours was amazing.

Zen Buddhism Stories audiobook cover art

Relaxing Entertainment

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

Reviewed: 04-23-15

Would you consider the audio edition of Zen Buddhism Stories to be better than the print version?

No, but only because they kept inserting music between stories. It took away from the experience instead of adding to it.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Zengetsu, a Chinese master of the T'ang dynasty, wrote the following advice for his pupils:

Living in the world yet not forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen student.

When witnessing the good action of another encourage yourself to follow his example. Hearing of the mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it.

Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest. Express your feelings, but become no more expressive than your true nature.

Poverty is your treasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.

A person may appear a fool and yet not be one. He may only be guarding his wisdom carefully.

Virtues are the fruit of self-discipline and do not drop from heaven of themselves as does rain or snow.

Modesty is the foundation of all virtues. Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known to them.

A noble heart never forces itself forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.

To a sincere student, every day is a fortunate day. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move him.

Censure yourself, never another. Do not discuss right and wrong.

Some things, though right, were considered wrong for generations. Since the value of righteousness may be recognized after centuries, there is no need to crave an immediate appreciation.

Live with cause and leave results to the great law of the universe. Pass each day in peaceful contemplation.

Any additional comments?

I'm a Secular Buddhist, so I searched for general Buddhist works in Audible (I was hoping for sutta readings, but there aren't any). I found this collection of Zen stories and got curious. I'm glad I got it. The stories are highly entertaining (even to non-Buddhists) and a relaxing read (as opposed to a novel - if your attention lapses for a moment, you'll get lost). I wouldn't say that there was anything particularly "enlightening" in there for me except for the above quote that I have found inspirational for my own practice. I was surprised to find the last 45 minutes were Japanese music (I bought this a long time ago and forgot what the description said). It's definitely enjoyable and relaxing. The "dueling" flutes always surprise you (the next note is always a bit different from you would expect) and almost "dissonate," but not quite. It's interesting to reflect on. A good read and listen.

The Curse of the Yig audiobook cover art

Above Average Lovecraft

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

Reviewed: 04-19-15

Would you consider the audio edition of The Curse of the Yig to be better than the print version?

Yes

Who was the most memorable character of The Curse of the Yig and why?

The creature in the asylum, of course

Any additional comments?

As usual, this short story has the characteristic Lovecraftian racism (even towards different types of Euro-Americans). That said, it did a great job of misdirecting the reader and leaving you questioning just what happened at the end. It's one of his better works (in my honest opinion) and definitely worth the 45 minutes.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Classic Love Poems audiobook cover art

Something Short and Light-hearted

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

Reviewed: 04-18-15

What did you love best about Classic Love Poems?

It was a short, light-hearted read for when I wasn't quite in the mood for a longer work.

Any additional comments?

It was a free gift for members and worthwhile to download and read for when you're in the right mood for something short, light, fun.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Skulls in the Stars audiobook cover art

Not the best of Howard, but still good

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

Reviewed: 04-18-15

Would you consider the audio edition of Skulls in the Stars to be better than the print version?

Yes

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

Any additional comments?

The description of how the fight between Solomon and the creature left me wanting a bit more explanation and the addition of the "skulls in the stars" line (as one of Howard's references to his stories being set in the Lovecraftian universe - you'd never guess if you didn't know a bit about Howard himself) was just a random, one off line. There wasn't a lot of other supernatural (in a Lovecraft sense of the word) foreshadowing, and it certainly shouldn't have been a title. Yet, this is one of the Solomon stories, and I'm such a fan of Howard's other writing that I don't mind a bit. It's still worth a read. It's short and a bit "dreary / spooky."