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Benjamin

Silver Spring, MD, United States
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  • Sufficiently Advanced Magic

  • Arcane Ascension, Book 1
  • By: Andrew Rowe
  • Narrated by: Nick Podehl
  • Length: 21 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,817
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 12,064
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,033

Five years ago Corin Cadence's brother entered the Serpent Spire - a colossal tower with ever-shifting rooms, traps, and monsters. Those who survive the spire's trials return home with an attunement: a mark granting the bearer magical powers. According to legend, those few who reach the top of the tower will be granted a boon by the spire's goddess. He never returned. Now it's Corin's turn. He's headed to the top floor, on a mission to meet the goddess.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great beginning to a series

  • By Bee Fisher on 10-23-17

A cliche w/in a worn out trope w/in a derivative.

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

Reviewed: 07-21-17

This book is basically every magic school, coming of age book ever. Magic college? check. introspective hero? painfully check. Parents out of the picture, but somehow looming? check. Female character that outperforms hero? check. Intrigue that's "bigger than a student can handle?" check.

If you liked any of:
Harry Potter Series
The Magicians
The Kingkiller Chronicle

Rowe beats a particular trope to death though. He puts the hero in danger. Hero does something to protect himself. Kind of succeeds, but then gets chewed out by teachers for having done something even more dangerous. It happens roughly once every two chapters. The "teachers" at his school barely teach. The entire premise of this magic school is like turning monkeys loose in a bomb factory. Give the students mountains of power, don't teach them what to do, then be super freaking surprised when they blow something up, then curse them for their ignorance. Over and over and over.

I'm not asking for reality in a fantasy book. I am trying to accept the author's premise, but if I am to do that, I'd have to believe that the entire school would have blown itself to fine powder and bone fragments by the end of the first semester.

Do not play a drinking game triggered by the words "honestly boy, how could you not have known?" I keep wanting to shout at the book, "Maybe, because the faculty in this school is so monumentally disastrous they couldn't teach their way out of a wet paper bag!" Even J.K. Rowling tried to keep "first years" out of the "restricted section." Here, the librarians hand out matches along side of copies of the Anarchists' Cookbook. And then blame the students when things go awry.

I have a bunch of other hangups, but to be fair there are some things that redeem this book a bit. Rowe is able to capture snarky teenagers pretty well. His teenagers actually sound like you would expect. Faux-clever wordplay, shyness, angst, posturing, even distorted self-awareness. The teens sound like teens. I didn't think this would be too hard until I read Card's "The Gate Thief." Rowe definitely clears the bar here.

The book also has quite a few "puzzle rooms" like in the computer game "Myst." These can be interesting. I suppose whether or not this device is overused is up to the reader. I found them interesting.

Podehl has a strong performance. His accents and voice characterizations are well crafted.

94 of 120 people found this review helpful

  • Survival Quest

  • Way of the Shaman Series # 1
  • By: Vasily Mahanenko
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Yen
  • Length: 11 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,423
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,203
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,201

Barliona: a virtual world jam-packed with monsters, battles - and, predictably, players. Millions of them come to Barliona, looking forward to the things they can't get in real life: elves and magic, dragons and princesses, and unforgettable combat. The game has become so popular that players now choose to spend months online without returning home. In Barliona, anything goes: You can assault fellow players, level up, become a mythical hero, a wizard, or a legendary thief.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A Guilty pleasure

  • By Daniel on 12-18-16

Liked it alright, but I'm a forgiving guy

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

Reviewed: 05-27-17

If you are a big fan of the mechanics of MMORPGs you will probably like this book. The specifics are well described with lots of "level up" messages and how that effects the character. Basically, if you played WoW or its analogues and loved chasing stats and reading level up messages, you will also love this book. If you do not, or get bored easily with this stuff, you probably aren't even considering this book enough to read this review. Go with that feeling.

The story and characters are ok. It reads a lot like the early levels of a role playing game. So the characters are a bit contrived and not entirely human, but in the situation, it works ok. The reader does a pretty good job of making the individuals distinct. He's not world class, definitely does journeyman work.

All in all, a novel (or genre) like this is self-selecting. Like RPGs? Try it. If you are unfamiliar with them, or have no interest in them, you will be constantly asking yourself, "what am I reading?"

If you came from a similar genre novel like "Ready Player One," don't be fooled, this book is not that. That book could be read by general audiences. This is more for gamers.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Dawn of Wonder

  • The Wakening, Book 1
  • By: Jonathan Renshaw
  • Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • Length: 29 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 32,775
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 30,808
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30,730

When a high-ranking officer gallops into the quiet Mistyvales, he brings a warning that shakes the countryfolk to their roots. But for Aedan, a scruffy young adventurer with veins full of fire and a head full of ideas, this officer is not what he seems. The events that follow propel Aedan on a journey that only the foolhardy or desperate would risk, leading him to the gates of the nation's royal academy - a whole world of secrets in itself. But this is only the beginning of his discoveries.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Instant Favorite

  • By Joe on 03-21-16

Leisurely but Enjoyable

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

Reviewed: 10-23-16

If you've been a fantasy fan for any amount of time, you're familiar with the coming-of-age, "hero from the country encounters big ol' world" then goes to "the academy" archetype. This is one like that. I'm not trying to knock it. If it wasn't a compelling trope, it wouldn't get used as often as it does. Dawn of Wonder, takes it in a bit of a different direction though, and it is a direction I find appealing.

Often, you encounter a tween that is just so smart, canny, clever, precocious, and powerful that he just has to go out into the world for everything to be yielded to him (See: Jorg Ancrath, Jimmy the Hand, Kaz Brekker, Eragon, Kylar Stern, Tavi, Kvothe, and on and on). I like that well enough, but Dawn of Wonder does a better job. The hero certainly is all those admirable things, but the story never seems to give him more than someone of his age might be able to conceivably handle and does indeed give him plenty of age appropriate issues. Often, with other books of the type, you get 13 year olds acting like 45 year olds. Not here. It seems like Renshaw may have met a 13 year old or two in his life.

This does contribute to a slow pacing for the book. It is a long book for not a ton of main story arc progress. I admit this freely, but the diversions are enjoyable and the prose is jaunty and comical. The author knows how to string words together. As long as you don't need a twist and a falling ax every page or two, it will hold your interest.

Reynolds is strong. Does accents well. Voice characterizations are consistent and relatable. I have come to appreciate him as one of those readers that amplifies the author's work and adds his own flavor.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • A Better World

  • The Brilliance Saga, Book 2
  • By: Marcus Sakey
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 10 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,827
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,544
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,528

The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we'd only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person's most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional...and the rest of us.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Better than the reviews I've read would suggest

  • By Andrew Pollack on 05-02-15

Brilliant and Stupid at the Same Time

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

Reviewed: 08-09-16

There are things to love about this book and series. Then there are things that just don’t make any sense which are very frustrating when you are really rooting for this series to succeed.

I love what Sakey has done to build his premise. I think that his conflict built by social upheaval because of the effects a generation of genius children have on the world is itself genius. It touches on all kinds of things, adjustments to new technologies, psychological effects of estrangement due to different powers and perspectives, bigotry, the national interest, family relationships, that feeling that the normal world is just changing too fast, etc. It is a fantastic and layered premise sprinkled with his interludes that give it color and make it more real to the reader. (If there were a generation of brilliant people, wouldn’t there be a “personals” section focused on them specifically? Yes. Yes there would. Of course!)
Then he has to go and screw it up with one dimensional characters and monkeywrenching the suspension of disbelief he asks of his readers.

First the characters: Most are made of wood. Professorial, wishy-washy President. Ambitious, conniving SecDef. Diabolical, megalomaniacal villain. “Protect my Family!” Hero. Other “Protect my Family!” Hero. Supportive wife. Other supportive (ex) wife. There are a few with human-like motivations, but some characters who were much better fleshed out in the first book became more one dimensional here. Daniels does yeoman-like work fleshing them out, but you can’t make substance out of nothing.

My major gripe is the laziness with which Sakey treats the contract he writes with the reader. I am all for suspension of disbelief in fiction. If the author tells me that Superman is super strong and can basically lift, well, anything, I say ok. If the author tells me then that Kryptonite is the only thing that makes him weak and it makes him weak as a kitten, I say ok. But if the same author tells me that, despite the previous statement, Superman can pick up an entire Island of Kryptonite and throw it into space because he just grits his teeth really hard simply because the author needed something really dramatic (I’m looking at you Bryan Singer), you lost me. In that case as in this one, the author breaks the promise he makes.

Nick Cooper is the greatest profiler in the world, a Brilliant who can look at people’s patterns of behavior and predict pretty much exactly what those people will do next. At the start of the first book he tracked a hacker across country to a specific bar, basically by looking at her rap sheet and her clothes closet. And I say ok. But he goes through most of this book forgetting about his fantastic gift for reading people until the end. This makes me want to scream. Cooper is supposed to be a Brilliant, but only seems to remember his gift after the author has had a chance to build the tension.

This is the problem with trying to write perspective characters who are supposed to be really, really aware. Cooper can read people’s intentions, but he never seems to use it to head off a problem; he just conveniently turns it off when the author needs to create a plot twist. If Cooper is such a brilliant profiler, why isn’t he doing it all the time to stay a step ahead of the bad guys? If you want to put a limitation on a character, you have to do it in the story, you can’t just have him forget he’s brilliant until it’s convenient.

And speaking of forgetting: Ethan Park has no idea why people might be after him or his boss until he just happens to remember halfway into the book that his lab had made the biggest scientific discovery in the last 30 years on an amazingly controversial issue? The author made the choice that it would be better for the drama if the danger was unexpected when any reasonable person would have been paranoid from page 1.

One final hang-up that has to do with poor research: Tanks can’t get “hacked.” Sure you can foul its GPS, or maybe screw with some of its electronic systems, but the breech is loaded by human hands and the tracks are driven by mechanical linkage. And before you say it, no we weren’t waiting around for some Brilliant to invent an auto-loader. That technology has been around since before tanks. We intentionally put the human element in for safety reasons. Hacking a high-tech jet’s avionics and control systems? Ok, but tanks are mechanical; you can lock the turret with a physical lever. The funny thing is, Sakey didn’t even need to do this; the physical threat from guided missiles going off course and jets crashing would have been plenty destructive.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Pawn of Prophecy

  • The Belgariad, Book 1
  • By: David Eddings
  • Narrated by: Cameron Beierle
  • Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,212
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,243
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,269

Long ago, so the Storyteller claimed, the evil god Torak sought dominion and drove men and Gods to war. But Belgrath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe. That was only a story, and Garion did not believe in magic dooms, even though the man without a shadow had haunted him for years.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • My literary "comfort food"

  • By Michael on 07-27-09

Entrancing Story, Weak Reader

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

Reviewed: 08-01-16

I read this book on paper when I was a kid. It is the book that made me a reader. I inhaled Eddings as a kid and a teenager. This book holds magic for me and is difficult for me to evaluate objectively since it was a formative event for me when I was young. I only have this one word: Spellbinding.

Beierle has the potential to be an ok reader. He makes bold choices in voice characterizations which I normally appreciate, and if he makes some choices that are different from how I imagine characters, that is not his fault. But hang it all if he isn't overdoing all the in-book names. There is hardly a world-concept that he doesn't over-pronounce into inscrutability. He manages to over-enunciate and slur his speech all at the same time to make these words, which read pretty easily on paper, into incomprehensible verbal globules. Stop trying so damn hard!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Queen of Fire

  • A Raven's Shadow Novel, Book 3
  • By: Anthony Ryan
  • Narrated by: Steven Brand
  • Length: 26 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 5,970
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,533
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 5,541

After fighting back from the brink of death, Queen Lyrna is determined to repel the invading Volarian army and regain the independence of the Unified Realm. Except to accomplish her goals, she must do more than rally her loyal supporters. She must align herself with forces she once found repugnant - those who possess the strange and varied gifts of the Dark - and take the war to her enemy's doorstep. Victory rests on the shoulders of Vaelin Al Sorna, now named battle lord of the realm. However, his path is riddled with difficulties.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • The Completion of the Collapse of Potential

  • By Joe Chad on 07-14-15

A Solid, but Uninspired Wrap-up

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

Reviewed: 07-16-16

I feel like the first book of the series was its best. This one was about on par with the second. This book has a deeper explanation of the various relationships between the characters that have emerged throughout the series. The characters grow and develop and that speaks well of their texture. Ryan draws his characters pretty well, but Brand adds nothing to them. He reads this book with little inflection or characterization, but if it didn't bother you on the first two, this one is no different.

I did enjoy the directions a lot of the different characters went on their divergent adventures. I never felt annoyed when I left one character's perspective for another's. You know how often there are two or three characters you really like following, but then there's one you always want to speed through to get back to the real action? This is not like that. They're all pretty good.

I had an issue with the predictability of the book. The characters lay out in the beginning what they have planned, and then they go and do it. There is very little in the way of twists. Well... that is to say, there are twists and surprises, but not a one of them keeps the entire adventure from going to plan. The characters face adversity, sure, but nothing they can't handle. It makes it feel scripted. It makes the whole book seem like a wrap-up, an extended epilogue.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • The Last Mortal Bond

  • Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book 3
  • By: Brian Staveley
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 29 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,212
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,869
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,860

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Less Awful than Predecessor

  • By Benjamin on 04-27-16

Less Awful than Predecessor

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

Reviewed: 04-27-16

If you've read the Providence of Fire (book 2 in this series) you're probably wondering whether you should throw a good credit after bad. I managed to overcome my revulsion for the last book and listen all the way through this one. It is not as bad as the last book; I would venture to say that it rises as far as "kind of okay."

I want to give Staveley some credit. The underlying story arc is pretty cool. There is some worthy intrigue. He has built some artifacts into this world that are really interesting particularly the Kettral soldiers and the Skullsworn. There is a hint of some good world building here.

From the last book to this one, Staveley has improved on his male characters. They're no longer crashing around incoherently doing things that don't make sense, even to them. In fact, he even does some really cool things with a few of them (which would take spoilers to explain).

His female characters are half-cooked. They are more like caricatures. Most of them are one dimensional. He makes some silly decisions when he tries to flesh them out. But worst of all is Adare. She doesn't make sense as a person. Staveley uses her to increase the drama artificially. She basically walks into each scene and does something really dramatic that screws everything up for other people to fix. Her motivations are all over the place. It is so prevalent that she bends the entire book around her idiotic misadventures. This makes is significantly less enjoyable.

Vance continues to give strong narration. I took points off as some of his accents are bleeding together.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Staked

  • The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 8
  • By: Kevin Hearne
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 11 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,894
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 9,243
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,216

When a Druid has lived for 2,000 years like Atticus, he's bound to run afoul of a few vampires - make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers - led by power-mad pain-in-the-neck Theophilus - have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It's time to make a stand.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I have to agree. . .

  • By Jessica on 02-04-16

Fun, Exciting, Unfocused

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

Reviewed: 04-21-16

I really like this book as I really like this series. Magical battles, humor, developed characters, vivid characterizations, interesting pantheon politics... This is not unique, I am a Butcher fan as well, but still very good.

If you've read this deep into the series, you probably are just looking for a review to tell you whether Hearne is still killing it or whether he has dropped the ball.

Short version: still killing it.

Longer version: I thought the series was barnstorming til the third book. It started to slide after the battle with the Aesir; it seemed like the individual novels lacked a larger story arc. Books 4 through 7 all kind of felt like the second to last book of a large series where the author wraps up the minor threads so the final book can have the big battle or whatever. This still has a bit of that feel unfortunately, but less of it. Which is generally a good thing.

Interestingly, Hearne has really pulled his other perspective characters to the fore and has given them their own agency and mission. There is more sharing the spotlight now, which I like. This may lead to problems in the future, however, as the three perspective druids are written in "first person, omniscient." This makes the reader feel like each should pretty much have their own book. It is tough to write a bunch of first person characters that interact, I hope he's able to hold it together in the future.

Daniels's performance was strong. I listen to him here, and look for his work elsewhere.

  • Six of Crows

  • By: Leigh Bardugo
  • Narrated by: Jay Snyder, Brandon Rubin, Fred Berman, and others
  • Length: 15 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,634
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,149
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,153

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price - and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This book is everything!

  • By Steele Reviews on 07-21-16

Threes Across the Board

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

Reviewed: 03-26-16

It took me a while to get through this book. It had a slow beginning. The middle and end are pretty lively. I think this is generally a good heist book. It has some twists and turns to keep you engaged. The perspective characters are solid. The world-building is similarly solid. Bardugo manages to insert enough character backstory into the narrative to really flesh out the individuals' motivations. Just the right amount actually. All in all, a well-executed caper.

I get that this book is aimed at the teen demographic so it makes sense that the characters be around that age. The characters in this book think they are in their mid 30s to mid 40s the only one who disagrees is the author. She thinks they are all late teens. They all make perfect sense in manor, personal backstory, and speech, except when their ages are brought up. One character being wise and hardened beyond his or her years, I get. Maybe two. But every single one of them, by the exact same amount? Come on.

It was also quite ambitious for the author to take on so many perspective characters. I feel that this was a mixed blessing. It does add texture, but it also gets overused to keep you ignorant of what is going on so that the author can bring out surprises.

The many readers was also a mixed blessing. Some were good. The female readers were generally very good. The male ones were much more uneven. The man reading the main character, Kaz, sounded like he was telling a vampire story to 4 yr. olds around a campfire. He wouldn't just read the words as much as sing some of them. Too much over-emoting. The one reading Jesper's tone was solid, but had different pronunciations for many of the in-book concepts. You'd figure the editor would just tell them that they pronounce "X" a certain way.

It looks like this series will continue though as of this writing, book 2 has not been published. I might check it out. Maybe. It is not going into my list of ones to watch out for. I could take it or leave it.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Shadows of Self

  • By: Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by: Michael Kramer
  • Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15,057
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 13,942
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,915

With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson surprised listeners with a New York Times best-selling spinoff of his Mistborn audiobooks, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America. The trilogy's heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary lord of House Ladrian.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Thankfully "Mistborn" Continues

  • By Don Gilbert on 10-09-15

Basically another Sanderson Novel

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

Reviewed: 01-26-16

I don't mean to be contemptuous with that heading. I like Sanderson. If you have read him before, and you like his stuff, you will probably like this too. It pretty much follows his style to the letter. You get bombastic, magically powered fights. These fights are very technically described. You get likable heroes that face a present, yet not insurmountable, personal conflict of some sort. In this one, the hero is driven by the memory of a dead past lover, making it a bit of a derivative Mistborn sequel.

However, he does bring in this theme of a benign, but meddling god, which is kind of fun.

My one big gripe is that Wax, is kind of a boring protagonist. Sure his fights are awesome, but all the color is in the people around him. This novel really made me want to see Wayne have his own spin off.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful