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Kestrel

Oregon
  • 16
  • reviews
  • 220
  • helpful votes
  • 153
  • ratings
  • George's Secret Key to the Universe

  • By: Lucy Hawking, Stephen Hawking
  • Narrated by: Hugh Dancy
  • Length: 5 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 194
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 146
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 149

George's parents, who have always been wary of technology, warn him about their new neighbors: Eric is a scientist and his daughter, Annie, seems to be following in his footsteps. But when George befriends them and Cosmos, their super-computer, he finds himself on a wildly fun adventure, while learning about physics, time, and the universe. With Cosmos' help, he can travel to other planets and a black hole. But what would happen if the wrong people got their hands on Cosmos?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • My girls LOVED this book

  • By David on 10-03-13

My inner eight-year-old was intrigued, but...

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

Reviewed: 07-20-18

I can see why kids may like the book. The plot is lightweight, the villain is villainous but not violent, and there's enough silliness and magical fantasy passed off as science to keep kids entertained while they learn some interesting things about space. But as a critical adult, I'm thinking, "Here's another example of why celebrities should not write children's fiction." In fact, it feels as though this book can't decide if it's fiction or non-fiction. There are long passages of scientific explanation -- at a child's level -- and a very heavy-handed, "Hey, science is great!" theme to the book. Yes, science IS great, but repeating the words over and over while inaccurately painting environmental activists as anti-science wack-a-doodle Luddites is probably not the most convincing way to make the point. The actual plot takes a while to get started -- in fact, for a while I was afraid the entire book would be, "Friendly adult scientist explains the universe to a young boy." Most of the characters, especially the teachers and villains (and there's not a lot of distinction between the two), are shallow clichés. The pig who drives the action in the first few chapters vanishes after that, even though the reader keeps hoping he'll show up to drive off the bullies or something, anything. If the book did not have a famous name on the cover, it would probably never have made it out of the slush pile at the publisher. I hope the rest of the series is better than this first book, but I'm not intrigued enough just now to find out. At least it was read well.

  • Pickpocket's Apprentice

  • By: Sheri Cobb South
  • Narrated by: Joel Froomkin
  • Length: 2 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 235
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 218
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 219

When magistrate Patrick Colquhoun orders a habitual thief and ne'er-do-well transported to Botany Bay, he doesn't realize a 14-year-old boy has been left behind to follow in his father's footsteps - not until young John Pickett is hauled into Bow Street for stealing an apple from the produce market at Covent Garden. Feeling to some extent responsible for the boy, Mr. Colquhoun prevails upon Elias Granger, a prosperous coal merchant, to take him on as an apprentice.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Delicious language, wonderful narrator

  • By korinka on 10-14-16

Not a convincing protagonist

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

Reviewed: 03-24-17

Maybe it was because the last book I listened to was Angela's Ashes, a tale of a real child raised in poverty, that the protagonist of this tale just didn't ring true for me. Too naive by half to have survived on the streets, too good to be true. The writing and narration are fine, but this prequel didn't excite me enough to go on with the series.

  • Why Migraines Strike

  • Scientific American
  • By: David W. Dodick, J. Jay Gargus, Scientific American
  • Narrated by: Mark Moran
  • Length: 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 36
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 21
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 23

Biologists have solved the mystery of one of our most misunderstood, poorly recognized, and inadequately treated medical disorders. This article was published in the August 2008 edition of Scientific American.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • What we know -- and don't know -- about migraines.

  • By Kestrel on 06-10-16

What we know -- and don't know -- about migraines.

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

Reviewed: 06-10-16

This audio is an article from Scientific American magazine summarizing the state of migraine research as it was in 2008 when the article was written. As such it isn't prescriptive -- you won't find advice on what to do about migraines. What it does do, and does well, is describe the current best-supported hypotheses about what a migraine is and what its causes are. Migraine, as any migraineur can tell you, isn't just a headache. It's a brain storm, a whole body response. As it turns out, migraine with aura has some physiological similarities to epilepsy, which might explain why some people get relief from anti-seizure medicine. If you enjoy scientific research, you'll enjoy this article. If you're looking for a diagnosis or cure, get off the internet and go see your doctor.

  • Just One Damned Thing After Another

  • The Chronicles of St Mary's, Book 1
  • By: Jodi Taylor
  • Narrated by: Zara Ramm
  • Length: 9 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,091
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,618
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,614

Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary's, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don't do 'time-travel' - they 'investigate major historical events in contemporary time'. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power - especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet. Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary's Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Action Adventure Time Travel Novel w/ Good Reader

  • By Sires on 04-13-14

Time travel, action, adventure... wait, history?

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

Reviewed: 06-09-15

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll say upfront that 1) I’m having trouble finishing this book, though I eventually will, having gotten through at least 2/3rds of it so I might as well finish, and 2) Connie Willis has spoiled me for time travel novels.

So yes, after finishing Connie Willis’ four lush, richly-depicted time travel books, and being hungry for more, I looked around for others writing in the genre. The reviews of this book sounded good. Time travel? Check. Humor? Sounded like. Action and adventure? Yep.

But… this is definitely a whole different flavor of story. High action? Yes. Sex and violence? In spades. History… weeeellll… a disappointingly small smattering, shallowly researched.

Science? Oh, dear. Oh, dear, dear, dear.

Jodi Taylor sounds like she’s had some experience with high-maintenance academics. Or at least imagines them pretty well. That’s one thing she gets spot on in the novel. Not that every academic is as egotistical, eccentric, and backstabbing as the historians in Mrs. Taylor’s world, but… they exist. The world of St. Mary’s is constructed like a cyberpunk version of Hogwarts, with intensive training for the would-be time-hopping trainee conducted in a well-hidden, secretive school that no one knows about, despite the number of hopefuls who don’t make the cut.

The main character, Madeline Maxwell, or Max as the others begin to call her, is fairly well drawn and fleshed out. She has a difficult past that she rarely talks about, stands up for herself, fights her own fights, makes as many bad decisions as good, owns her mistakes, and can flip from being Woman In Charge to charmingly naive at a moment’s notice. She seems, however — and this may be partly the fault of the narrator’s bland delivery — a bit cold. I found it hard to get into her, to empathize with her.

As for the others — one piece of writerly advice I’ve had is to write the secondary characters as though they believe the story is about them. I’m not seeing that here. In fact, I had trouble telling some of the characters apart from one another. Again, it may be the reader’s delivery, but this is one of those books that, if I had it in hand, I’d be flipping to earlier pages going, “Who is this again?” Too many are mere caricatures (the Uptight Bitchy Friendless Woman Who Can’t Let Her Guard Down For A Moment, for example, and The Eccentric Professor Who Nearly Blows Himself Up With Perfect Aplomb). Some exist merely to move the story along. Others are just… flat.

Strangely, for a time travel book, the passage of time wasn’t well-depicted. I had a hard time following how much time went by in the trainees’ training period. In the narrative, it seemed like months. Only later did I find it had been several years. On an assignment into the past, the narrative seems to suggest the characters have been out for a few days, when in fact weeks or months have gone by. Too much is glossed over — and therein lies one of the deepest disappointments of the book: almost no actual history. If I’m reading about time travel, I want to read about the times in which people are traveling, as well as see fully-fleshed-out characters working to understand and exist in the times where they are working. I want to vicariously live in those times, deeply, richly. That just wasn’t happening in this book.

Instead, there was action. The body count is high in this book, and if it’s ever made into a movie, expect at least an R-rating for the amount of violence, dismemberment, and splattering gore. An X-rating if the sex is depicted just as it’s written in the novel. Characters go at it like rabbits on Viagra, dozens of times in a day in all possible positions. Another place where reality takes a vacation. Do real people do that?

As for the science — if you insist on story science that’s actually grounded in real science, you might find yourself tempted to hurl this story against the wall. For example, I’ve spent enough time as a field biologist to know that just because you settle down by a lakeside doesn’t mean all the animals in the vicinity come running to be photographed, regardless of what time period you’re in. The time period to which the characters travel looks a whole lot like the painted scenes in a picture book I had as a kid, but sadly not very much like the scenes would have actually looked in that time.

I may finish this, as I said. Right now I’m on a hiatus because the level of cruelty to animals inflicted by the villains was not what I needed, and I had to turn it off.

Overall, I’d say if you like action and Time Travel Lite, you may like this book. But for me — not my cup of tea.

  • Lady Fortescue Steps Out

  • The Poor Relation, Book 1
  • By: M. C. Beaton
  • Narrated by: Davina Porter
  • Length: 4 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,595
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,338
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,341

Life is not easy for the poor relations of England’s upper crust, but fate and clever schemes bring them together. Lady Fortescue and Colonel Sandhurst hatch a plan: What if they were to transform her decrepit Bond Street home into a posh hotel, offering their guests the pleasure of being waited upon by nobility? With the help of other down-and-out aristocrats, they do just that, and London’s newest hotel, The Poor Relation, is born. The establishment is an immediate hit with London’s most illustrious citizens, save the Duke of Rowcester....

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Charming Regency Fun - Romance & Adventure

  • By Clare on 05-04-12

Delightful fluff piece of pseudo-Regency fantasy

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

Reviewed: 09-16-13

Any additional comments?

As others have noted, this book is a fluff piece -- short, easily digestible, fine for lolling on the couch at the end of a hard week. Davina Porter is delightful to listen to as always, and the writing draws you right in.

The story opens with a scene not atypical of the Regency era: a woman of good birth but small means, trying to keep her townhouse going with herself and just two servants without having to sell and retrench.

It's when she watches an elderly man faint in the park, and draws it out of him that he's faint from hunger, that we wander astray of Georgian conventions. She invites him to live in her house. True, they set about inviting every other poor relation that they can find in Hyde Park to live with them, too, and it's the collection of characters and the grand decision that they make to support themselves that drives the story, but that very act of inviting complete strangers of mixed genders to live with her tells us that Lady Fortescue is a character of modern sensibilities dressed in Regency costume.

This is the prime weakness of every book in the series: anachronisms abound. The events are anchored somewhere in the Regency, but customs and costumes are plucked from the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras with great liberality.

But do try to forgive all that and accept that this is a candy-like fluff piece of pseudo-Regency fantasy, farcical as a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, because the characters are what make this series. Though a little puppet-like at times, especially when first introduced, the characters do flesh out into people that draw the reader's sympathy. Even when engaged in grand larceny, they delight us enough that we want them to succeed.

Each book in the series highlights one of the Poor Relations, for whom the series is named. Each has a romance (though not necessarily involving the poor relation), and each has a main plot aside from, but intertwined with, the romance. The outcomes are predictable, the good guys win, boy gets girl, but we get the fun of watching the characters overcome obstacles, often in creative ways, while knowing that their efforts will be rewarded in the end.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Flourish

  • A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
  • By: Martin Seligman
  • Narrated by: Jesse Boggs
  • Length: 9 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 543
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 423
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 422

This book will help you flourish. With this unprecedented promise, internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman begins Flourish, his first book in 10 years - and the first to present his dynamic new concept of what well-being really is. Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, which Dr. Seligman has led for 15 years, is different - it’s about actually raising the bar for the human condition.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • A rambling tease.

  • By M. Shults on 04-26-11

Too much sizzle, not enough steak

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

Reviewed: 04-12-13

Any additional comments?

I listened to Authentic Happiness and found it a truly useful book for my own personal development. I saw Flourish advertised as the next great thing. Happiness is not enough, the author says. We need to learn to flourish. Okay, I thought, tell me more. I bought the book to learn more.

The first segment does give us a teaser -- the PERMA concept: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement. However, the author breezes through these, out of order, and while giving us a taste of how these could be achieved. But only a taste. There are a few personal exercises that the reader can try out, but far too few.

Instead, the bulk of the book is a detailed accounting of the many groups that Seligman applied his principals to and all that they achieved. As I listened, I felt first a growing sense of unease, then anger. Each group was made up of elite people: wealthy high-achievers who were carefully selected from a large pool of applicants to take a very expensive course from Seligman and company; more wealthy high-achievers who came to Seligman with their own projects; a boarding school in rural Australia, which sounded promising, until we learn it's an exclusive boarding school for children of the uppermost of upper crust, including English princes. Each group tried out Seligman's Flourish principle, and to no one's surprise, they all flourished.

As I heard story after story of privileged people who paid large sums to be allowed to take part in Seligman's program, I kept thinking, "Lovely, but what about the rest us? What about the poor slobs like me, commuting to work every day, who spent good money on this book? What do you have for us? Are we allowed some part of your program? Some hint of how to improve ourselves beyond a couple of exercises at the start of the book?"Apparently not. We only get to hear how other people, with wealth enough to buy Seligman's time, get the details of this new Flourish program. The rest of us are only allowed to watch from a distance.

While Authentic Happiness is worth picking up, I don't advise spending time or money on Flourish.

I'd also like to issue a challenge to Dr. Seligman: Try your Flourish program on another school. Let's try a tiny rural high school, or an inner city public elementary, or an underfunded community college, or an school on Reservation lands in the U.S. Try this with everyday people struggling to make ends meet in a stagnant economy. Will they flourish, too, Dr. Seligman? Will they ever have the chance to find out?

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Regency Etiquette

  • The Mirror of Graces (1811); or The English Lady's Costume
  • By: A Lady of Distinction
  • Narrated by: Nadia May
  • Length: 4 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 34
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 14
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 14

This book, written by a woman who wished to remain anonymous, covers the social customs and manners of her time, the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the times of Jane Austen and of Napoleon. It is devoted in large part to the "English lady's costume" but also covers deportment, movement, the correct dances, propriety, and aids to beauty and health.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A treasure for scholars and writers

  • By Kestrel on 12-15-07

A treasure for scholars and writers

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-15-07

Those who are hoping for a modern narrative will be disappointed. But for listeners who want to understand the Georgian era, this is a valuable little book from the period, which reveals more about social and religious thought than it does about etiquette and fashion. Like many of the "conduct books" written at the time, this book exhorts women to be modest above all and in all things. The author gives guidelines for young women concerning dress, deportment, and many other aspects of life in the upper classes, all with strong messages about social duty, deeply rooted in religion. Be prepared for a writing style that sounds stuffy and pretentious today, but was a model of refinement in its time.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Magic Study

  • By: Maria V. Snyder
  • Narrated by: Gabra Zackman
  • Length: 11 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,472
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,468
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,480

With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can't help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways, and her newfound friends and relatives don't think it's for the better....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Magic Study

  • By Arnold on 03-07-08

As good as Poison Study, perhaps better

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-13-06

Please tell me there is going to be third book in this series. The story is far from finished, and the end of this book is wide open for another whole story. We need to see Yelena in her new career, and I'm dying to see her take her heart's love to meet her family.

As with Poison Study, the first book in the series, I had a hard time getting out of the car at the end of my commute because I wanted to hear more of the story. Maria Snyder has created a set of fully-realized characters and a twisting plot that remains unpredictable all the way to the end. More! I want more!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Poison Study

  • By: Maria V. Snyder
  • Narrated by: Gabra Zackman
  • Length: 10 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,588
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,241
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,251

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace, and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fantasy, with a touch of romance.

  • By A on 12-03-05

Drew me in

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-29-06

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, and I hoped it wouldn't be yet another romance in a fantasy setting. It wasn't. I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity and of the story and how compelling the plot and characters were. While there were a few characters -- a pair of guards in particular -- that somehow didn't quite ring true, most of the characters were well-developed and engaged the reader's sympathies.

Unlike some female romantic fantasy authors that I could name, this author isn't afraid to let her characters suffer for their mistakes, to allow "bad" people to gain the upper hand, to have dislikable people be on the "good" side or likeable people to be on the "bad" side, or to have even smart people make dumb mistakes. The world she has built is not forgiving of mistakes.

The romantic angle was subtle and developed slowly and convincingly. In fact, there's not so much as a kiss between the two romantic leads until near the of the book. The heroine has a nasty past that she must get over before she's ready for a relationship of any kind.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Stumbling on Happiness

  • By: Daniel Gilbert
  • Narrated by: Daniel Gilbert
  • Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,243
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,770
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,748

A smart and funny book by a prominent Harvard psychologist, which uses groundbreaking research and (often hilarious) anecdotes to show us why we're so lousy at predicting what will make us happy, and what we can do about it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Book!

  • By Jaxx on 06-09-06

A fascinating look at the human psyche

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-09-06

If you're looking for a self-help book about becoming happy, don't bother with this one. It contains very little advice, and what advice it has to offer, you probably won't take. Go find some other books that will tell you how to be happy.

And when they don't work, come back to this book to find out why.

"Stumbling on Happiness" is not a self-help book. It doesn't claim to be a self-help book. Instead, it provides an in-depth look at human character and why we have such a hard time finding happiness, though we are always chasing after it. From the "tomorrow will be pretty much like today, but with rocket cars" ideas about the future, to our own highly fallible memories, Daniel Gilbert takes the reader on a tour of human happiness, self-awareness, metacognition, and memory to explain why the bliss we seek always seems to be just around the corner, but never quite within grasp.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful