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  • Breaking and Entering

  • The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called "Alien"
  • By: Jeremy N. Smith
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Todd Ross
  • Length: 12 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 42
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 40

When she arrived at MIT in the 1990s, Alien wanted to study aerospace engineering, but she was soon drawn to the school’s venerable tradition of high-risk physical trespassing: the original “hacking”. Within a year, one of her hallmates was dead, two others were on trial, and two had been institutionalized. Alien’s adventures were only just beginning.    

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Coming of age story about an attractive hacker.

  • By Eugene on 01-27-19

Coming of age as a hacker

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

Reviewed: 02-05-19

Based on the review in the NY Times, I thought that this would be a techno-thriller like The Cuckoo's Egg which outlines the story of spy vs. spy in the high-stakes espionage of computer hackery. But this was not the case at all. This is more of a literary memoir of a young woman coming of age in the world of computer security. From the youthful indiscretions of a drug-fueled counter-culture of a clique of hackers at MIT to a small businesswoman in Colorado worried about meeting the next payroll.

The technical part of the memoir outlines some of the techniques of "Pen-Testing" -- trying to penetrate computer systems using both technical and social engineering methods. These were interesting to me although I do not think that there was much to learn about how this is done for someone even modestly acquainted with computer security. But, the author does make it seem exciting to deploy a large-scale "phishing" scam and waiting expectantly for the "phishs" to bite -- followed up by a social engineering phone-call. "You won an Ipod. Just download this file for your free gift card."

Along the way, the story is also one of a woman coming of age in a male-dominated field. The heroine recapitulates some of the characteristics of Ellsbeth Salander in Woman with the Dragon Tattoo -- Goth clothing, leather mini-skirts, roller-blades and motor-cycles. By the conclusion, it all ends with business suits, play-dates, day-care centers, and a Subaru Outback. There is also enough sex interwoven with the hacking to keep the reader's attention.

The narration is excellent. Solid and well-paced. I found the first chapters of the book a little slow, but the last two-thirds were captivating driveway listening.

  • The Woman in the Window

  • A Novel
  • By: A. J. Finn
  • Narrated by: Ann Marie Lee
  • Length: 13 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 20,302
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 18,674
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 18,619

Anna Fox lives alone - a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times...and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn't, her world begins to crumble. And its shocking secrets are laid bare.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • STAY AWAY!!!

  • By Susan Olson on 06-02-18

"Novel Noir"

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

Reviewed: 02-01-19

This is a psychological thriller that interweaves the plot with old movies and plays out like a Hitchcock thriller.
The first 80 or so chapters go fairly slowly, and it is the last 20 that pick up the pace and unwind the plot.

For me, the narration kept me attached to the book. Ann Marie Lee dramatizes the book quite well and makes this an easy listen.

The author seems to have a well-founded knowledge of psychiatry and pharmacotherapy as well as classic films. So if you have an interest in these disciplines you will find the background interesting. But this book is not for everyone.

  • How Conversation Works: 6 Lessons for Better Communication

  • By: Anne Curzan, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Anne Curzan
  • Length: 3 hrs and 6 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,033
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,769
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,746

Regardless of age or occupation, conversation can be tricky. But like it or not, it's one of the most important things you do on a daily basis. Successful conversations help you advance professionally and make, maintain, and deepen relationships. Moreover, research shows that talking, when done on a substantive level, is correlated with a feeling of happiness and general well-being.In just six lectures, Professor Curzan teaches you key strategies that can dramatically improve your ability to converse with anyone, from strangers to supervisors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Good Information

  • By Jake on 07-11-14

Anne Curzan is a star

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

Reviewed: 08-26-18

I took up this lecture after completing Dr. Curzan's Grammar Bootcamp lecture series. This is a nice analysis of conversational styles and explains why some conversations (and interviews) seem to go well while other seem to be flat. I am not sure that I am better at engaging in conversations after listening to this book, but I do understand better what underlies individual verbal communications.

  • Stamped from the Beginning

  • The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
  • By: Ibram X. Kendi
  • Narrated by: Christopher Dontrell Piper
  • Length: 19 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 637
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 569
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 567

Some Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America - more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent book, tiring narration.

  • By Jan on 06-21-17

Well researched, provocative

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

Reviewed: 08-26-18

This is a book that gives the historical background that helps explain the historical origins of racism that persists in the United States. The stereotypes of African Americans as "low IQ" or using animal epithets derive from centuries-old beliefs about the origin of races. The extensively researched book also puts forth some provocative opinions such as the subtle role of persistent racism within the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the writings of WEB Dubois, the speeches of MLK, and Barach Obama. Altogether, this is a masterful review of American culture and history seen through the lens of racism and the legacy of slavery and challenges anyone who thinks we have entered a post-racial era.

  • Bad Blood

  • Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
  • By: John Carreyrou
  • Narrated by: Will Damron
  • Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 15,920
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 14,432
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 14,413

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes' worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extreme retaliation against former employees

  • By Eugene on 05-29-18

One of the best in the Business Tragedy genre

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

Reviewed: 05-30-18

This is a fascinating book. I could not put it down. This novel is in the "business tragedy" genre such as "House of Cards", "Smartest Guys in the Room", and "The Big Short".

Elizabeth Holmes, an attractive, charismatic, young women with a faux-baritone voice, captivates Silicon Valley with "the next big thing", disrupting the medical laboratory services industry with a small device that does hundreds of laboratory tests with a single drop of blood and lower price. She adopts the Silicon Valley mantra for entrepreneurs -- "Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast, Break Things." She raises nearly a billion dollars, acquires an all-star board of directors including an ex-senator/physician, cabinet officials, a Stanford University dean, and a four-star Army general. She is is the first self-made female billionaire in Silicon Valley and befriends Chelsea Clinton, gets invited Obama State Dinners, makes the Times 100, Harvard Board of Fellows, and appears on the cover of Fortune, Forbes, and Glamour magazines. She channels Steve Jobs wearing black turtlenecks, drinking Kale smoothies, driving a black car without license plates, maintaining fanatical secrecy, emphasizing design, and bullying the engineers with unrealistic goals and deadlines. The only problem -- it is all a fraud. There is no working technology. It all unravels after a skeptical clinical pathologist reads a New Yorker profile of Elizabeth Holmes and clues in the Wall Street Journal investigative reporter who unraveled the fraud and wrote this book.

There were plenty of warning signs and members of the medical community knew that this was a likely fraud. There were no peer-reviewed articles, no department of regulatory affairs,no clinical pathologists on the board of directors. Moreover, there are biological differences between finger-stick blood vs venipuncture blood that makes the technology implausible for many tests.

The company used aggressive legal tactics to intimidate and silence employee whistle-blowers and doctors who question the tests validity. The legal team is led by super-lawyer and Harvey Weinstein defender David Boies who is perhaps the nastiest and most venal person in the book, paid off with millions of dollars of company stock. Right next to Boies is Sunny Balwani, Holmes' Chief Operating Officer and secret boyfriend who rants and fires dozens of employees on the spot. The good guys are a few former staff who were willing to go on the record despite the threats, motivated by concerns for patient welfare. One, in particular, Trey Schultz, the grandson of George Schultz, revealed the scam but cost his parents $400,000 in legal fees to fend off persecution from Boies' lawyers. His reward -- his elderly grandfather did not invite him to his birthday party but did invite Elizabeth Holmes.

One of the main lessons from this book is that the Silicon Valley ethos does not fit well with medical care innovation. If a cell phone or app does not work as advertised it can inconvenience you. If a medical test or device does not work as advertised it can kill you. For this good reason, medical procedures and devices are among the most heavily regulated activities in the world and the ethos of the medical field should not be "Move Fast and Break Things", but rather "Move Carefully and Do No Harm."

After reading the book, it is very fascinating to go back and look at the TV interviews of Holmes before and during the fall from grace. Particularly, her interactions with Jim Cramer on Mad Money. Even in retrospect, it is hard to believe that she is being deceptive -- she looks you right in the eye and does not blink. I bet she would pass a lie detector test.

Summary: great listen, great story, great narration. Five stars.

  • English Grammar Boot Camp

  • By: Anne Curzan, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Anne Curzan
  • Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,028
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 920
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 907

Grammar! For many of us, the word triggers memories of finger-wagging schoolteachers, and of wrestling with the ambiguous and complicated rules of using formal language. But what is grammar? In fact, it's the integral basis of how we speak and write. As such, a refined awareness of grammar opens a world of possibilities for both your pleasure in the English language and your skill in using it, in both speech and the written word.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Spectacular

  • By Quaker on 09-24-16

Like Wagner Operas -- Better than it Sounds

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

Reviewed: 05-27-18

Who wudda thunk to actually make a course based off of grammar!??

I do a lot of writing in my job, so I thought that it would not hurt me to listen to these lectures. Like eating high-fiber cereal -- how bad could it be? If I did not like it I could not finish it. It turns out that I listened to the entire series of lectures. And then I went back to listen a second time to make sure I got (?had gotten) all (?all of) the details. Boot camp was never like this.

Anne Curzan is a gifted speaker and lecturer who makes this material very/really/super compelling. She comes across as so charismatic and charming that it makes one want to invite her to one of those fantasy dinner parties with Albert Einstein, Che Guevara, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

  • The Hellfire Club

  • By: Jake Tapper
  • Narrated by: Jake Tapper
  • Length: 9 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,067
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 975
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 972

 Charlie Marder is an unlikely Congressman. Thrust into office by his family ties after his predecessor died mysteriously, Charlie is struggling to navigate the dangerous waters of 1950s Washington, DC, alongside his young wife, Margaret, a zoologist with ambitions of her own. Amid the swirl of glamorous and powerful political leaders and deal makers, a mysterious fatal car accident thrusts Charlie and Margaret into an underworld of backroom deals, secret societies, and a plot that could change the course of history. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Could be happening now

  • By Barbara or Jerold Gendler on 05-24-18

Washington Confidential

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

Reviewed: 05-26-18

This is a pretty good story. Political thriller written by Jake Tapper, the CNN reporter. Although the story was a little far-fetched, the book really evoked the Washington DC of the 1950s. I remember this because I grew up in Washington during that period and remember the Army/McCarthy hearings, Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers. Those were the days when senators and congressmen stayed home on the weekends and did some heavy drinking at the regular cocktail parties where all of the political deal-making was done. The book gets 5 stars for nostalgia. As far as the plot is concerned, it looked like Tapper tried to channel Dan Brown and Brad Meltzer with only moderate success. As far as the narration is concerned, it was hard to get past the fact that it was Jake Tapper's voice narrating which was a mild distraction. He obviously has good presence and actually could do some of the accents and gender-switching much better than I would have expected for a non-actor.

Overall, good beach reading for people who have lived inside the beltway.

  • The Escape Artist

  • By: Brad Meltzer
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick, January LaVoy
  • Length: 12 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,727
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,322
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4,295

Who is Nola Brown? Nola is a mystery. Nola is trouble. And Nola is supposed to be dead. Her body was found on a plane that mysteriously fell from the sky as it left a secret military base in the Alaskan wilderness. Her commanding officer verifies she's dead. The US government confirms it. But Jim "Zig" Zigarowski has just found out the truth: Nola is still alive. And on the run.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Not His Best

  • By Amazon Customer on 03-10-18

"Mortician Procedural" Novel

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

Reviewed: 05-13-18

Everyone enjoys a good police procedural novel that goes behind the scenes. This one is a mortician procedural novel that goes behind the scenes at the Dover Air Force base mortuary where all the body-bags from war are repatriated. Frankly, I like the books about the inside workings of the Capital, White House, and Library of Congress better.
I found the plot confusing and non-linear and the characters and their motivations were not at all compelling. I got the impression that Meltzer was trying to combine elements of "My Absolute Darling" (a great listen) with a political thriller.

  • The Butchering Art

  • Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine
  • By: Lindsey Fitzharris
  • Narrated by: Ralph Lister
  • Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,355
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,258
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,257

In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of 19th-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. She conjures up early operating theaters - no place for the squeamish - and surgeons, working before anesthesia, who were lauded for their speed and brute strength. They were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. A young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister would solve the deadly riddle and change the course of history.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Not one boring moment!

  • By WRWF on 12-22-17

Great personal and scientific drama

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

Reviewed: 01-13-18

I thought that I knew the story of Lister until I listened to this book. What I did not know was the interactions between Lister and Pasteur as contemporary scientists, or Lister's Quaker roots that gave him the persistence to pursue his theory, or how the antiseptic method eventually lead to the current aseptic (sterile field) method, the influence of his father who was an amateur microscopist, or the fact that Lister was called upon to treat Queen Victoria for an abscess in her armpit which led to the discovery of the surgical drain!
This is a must for every doctor or surgeon interested in the history of their profession.

  • The Cosmic Serpent

  • DNA and the Origins of Knowledge
  • By: Jeremy Narby
  • Narrated by: James Patrick Cronin
  • Length: 4 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 982
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 889
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 884

This adventure in science and imagination, which the Medical Tribune said might herald "a Copernican revolution for the life sciences", leads the listener through unexplored jungles and uncharted aspects of mind to the heart of knowledge. In a first-person narrative of scientific discovery that opens new perspectives on biology, anthropology, and the limits of rationalism, The Cosmic Serpent reveals how startlingly different the world around us appears when we open our minds to it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very interesting thoughts on the origins of DNA

  • By Bobby Digital on 08-31-16

This is a ridiculous book

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

Reviewed: 08-21-17

The author makes the case that the structure of DNA is somehow embedded in our deepest primordial consciousness and that is related to the hallucinogenic experience of Amazon natives. The argument sounds like he was stoned when he wrote the book.