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Joel R. Gerring

Michigan
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  • The Road to Little Dribbling

  • Adventures of an American in Britain
  • By: Bill Bryson
  • Narrated by: Nathan Osgood
  • Length: 14 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,233
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,120
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,111

In 1995, Bill Bryson got into his car and took a weeks-long farewell motoring trip about England before moving his family back to the United States. The book about that trip, Notes from a Small Island, is uproarious and endlessly endearing, one of the most acute and affectionate portrayals of England in all its glorious eccentricity ever written. Two decades later, he set out again to rediscover that country, and the result is The Road to Little Dribbling.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • No Bryson?? Alas, another disappointed fan

  • By Richard on 01-25-16

An interesting read, but Bryson is getting pissy

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

Reviewed: 02-09-16

Would you consider the audio edition of The Road to Little Dribbling to be better than the print version?

I only have the audio version, and I prefer to have Bryson read his own novels. His voice, while not a pro, is soothing and takes the edge off of some of his more pointed criticisms. Nathan Osgood, while an excellent narrator, gave a "bite" to some of Bryson's words that Bryson himself would have softened. This made the book feel "bitchier" than it may have otherwise.

What did you like best about this story?

I'm a HUGE Bill Bryson fan. A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home, One Summer and the Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid are among my very favorite. He manages to make so many things genuine, humorous, and interesting all at once. Here, his critique of Britain and modern British life, is informative and, generally good natured, if not always intellectually honest.

What does Nathan Osgood bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Nathan Osgood's reading was well done... but I always prefer Bryson to read his material himself. When an author has the talent to be their own narrator, there is nothing better. The jokes hit just right and, with Bryson's easy going voice, its always a joy to sit back and take in the scene. There simply is no way for a professional narrator to recreate the pleasantness that Bryson's own voice brings; his voice also serves to soften some of the perceived harshness.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The more things change, the more they stay the same... and either way they get it wrong.

Any additional comments?

As this is a 20 year follow up to Notes from a Small Island, I listened to that first. I found that book to be much more harsh and "get off my lawn" than any other Bryson tale (which is to be expected given that England really is Bryson's home). This follow up, of course, is even more curmudgeonly as Bill is now in his 60's.

The Road to Little Dribbling is interesting, and funny, with just enough detail... everything you expect a Bryson book to be, but I found myself thinking "Christ you're getting old Bill" often. Many of his rants just feel like the classic "back in my day..." speech that Dana Carvey made famous on SNL. Occasionally he admits that something has actually improved over the past 20 years, or has improved since his first arrival in the country in the 70's, but the overall theme has a very "I'm surrounded by idiots" vibe going on.

I have no doubt that in 1973, when Bill first arrived in England, there was a 65 year old man running around complaining about how 1930's Britain was the best of times and observing that the damn hippies were letting everything go to hell in a hand basket. Fast forward 40 years and that man is Bill Bryson. None-the-less, he makes some keen observations, has some entertaining rants, and manages to keep things fun.

  • Battle Cruiser

  • Lost Colonies, Book 1
  • By: B. V. Larson
  • Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
  • Length: 13 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,299
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,018
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4,011

One starship will either save Earth or destroy her. A century ago our star erupted, destroying Earth's wormhole network and closing off trade with her colonized planets. After being out of contact with the younger worlds for so many years, humanity is shocked when a huge ship appears at the edge of the solar system. Our outdated navy investigates, both curious and fearful. What they learn from the massive vessel shocks the planet.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • An Unlikely Hero

  • By Don Gilbert on 12-26-15

A war-hawk morality tale

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

Reviewed: 02-09-16

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Depends. This wouldn't be a bad sci-fi introductory book, it's easy to grasp and moves along briskly, but for those who are deep into the genre, this will feel a bit "paint-by-numbers" (and yet oddly off-kilter at the same time) and won't hold your attention so well.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The concept of an undermanned military coming across a massive battle cruiser, built by a forgotten earth colony, is intriguing and has some awesome possibilities... none of which are are really explored here.
The dialogue is stilted and only occasionally moves into something that feels natural. The author is trying to set a tone that feels different from modern speech in order to give it a formal, futuristic feel, but the result is that I simply didn't "connect" with any of the characters.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The narration was melodramatic, vacillating between wistful and forlorn. Not quite the right tone for a sci-fi, shoot 'em up, space ship fantasy. Every line is read in this reflective, sometimes mournful voice; even when all the main character is doing is describing how his coffee tastes.

Could you see Battle Cruiser being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

On my list of "books that should be made into movies" this wouldn't be found... but given what Hollywood seems to be looking for these days (i.e. EASY) I wouldn't doubt that this book would have a shot at becoming a movie before something like Seven Eves or The Darwin Elevator.

Any additional comments?

This book reads like Pentagon propaganda disguised as a space adventure. A war-hawk morality tale of what would happen if the hippies took over. It even seems to take veiled shots at socialized medicine.

If Bill O'Reilly ever decides to write sci-fi (instead of the fiction he currently peddles) THIS is what it would look like.

  • A Crucible of Souls

  • The Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, Book 1
  • By: Mitchell Hogan
  • Narrated by: Oliver Wyman
  • Length: 18 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,243
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,822
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,817

When Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, he is raised by monks and taught the arcane mysteries of sorcery. Vowing to discover for himself who his parents really were, and what led to their violent end, he is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to earn an apprenticeship with a guild of sorcerers. But he soon learns the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths. As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that brings the world to the edge of destruction.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Took a chance, hit a home run!

  • By Mike on 01-14-15

A Rothfus ripoff

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

Reviewed: 07-13-15

Would you try another book from Mitchell Hogan and/or Oliver Wyman?

I would try another book by Mitchell Hogan, but this one was too ponderous and derivative. I kept checking the cover to see if I'd picked up some kind of teen fiction book by mistake.

What three words best describe Oliver Wyman’s performance?

The voice performance was fine. The story... not so much.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointed with the constant spoon feeding of plot via drawn out, ponderous dialogue.

Any additional comments?

This was a poor imitation of Patrick Rothfus's Kingkiller Chronicles. All it did was make me want to go back and listen to those again. The main character is... BORING. I quit with about 4 hours left. Couldn't take the meandering dialogue anymore. It takes 20 minutes just to get the main character to go find a jail key and unlock someone. The whole time you're thinking, "he's really building to something here, otherwise this rather mundane task wouldn't be such a focus." Then, another 10 minutes later... NOPE. It just took that much writing to get him to find a key and turn it. Nothing else happening. Just a run of the mill jail break that he turned into a half hour back and forth:

"Where are you going?"
"to get the key to get you out."
"please don't go."
"but I must"
"but you can't"
"I have to get you out!"
"Promise me you'll come back"
"I promise, it'll only be a moment"

in the end he unlocks her cell without incident. WTF?!?! a taste of that is fine, establishes her apprehension and all of that, but it goes ON AND ON AND ON well past the point of meaningfulness.

Parts of it were too delicate, too tame, other parts felt forced. The author is trying to bring several separate stories together, ala GRRM, but I found myself simply not caring about any of them, least of all the main protagonist, Caldan, who just doesn't have a whole lot of personality to care much about. Maybe the guy will become interesting at some point down the road, but it wasn't soon enough for my tastes.

54 of 60 people found this review helpful

Sapiens audiobook cover art
  • Sapiens

  • A Brief History of Humankind
  • By: Yuval Noah Harari
  • Narrated by: Derek Perkins
  • Length: 15 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17,626
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15,688
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15,596

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six human species inhabited the Earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations, and human rights; to trust money, books, and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables, and consumerism?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Sums it up nicely

  • By Mark on 05-15-15

Thought provoking and mesmerizing

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

Reviewed: 04-07-15

Whether or not the author's theories regarding our past and future ultimately prove true, his insights are exceptionally deep and he manages to weave together several seemingly disparate disciplines into a fascinating hypothesis.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Professor and the Madman

  • By: Simon Winchester
  • Narrated by: Simon Winchester
  • Length: 7 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,089
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,076
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 3,092

Part history, part true-crime, and entirely entertaining, listen to the story of how the behemoth Oxford English Dictionary was made. You'll hang on every word as you discover that the dictionary's greatest contributor was also an insane murderer working from the confines of an asylum.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Perfect example of a quality audible book.

  • By Jerry on 07-07-03

Interesting and fascinating.

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

Reviewed: 02-22-15

Exceeded expectations. The author reading it himself is wonderful. The story is heartbreaking at certain points but with some redemption that Winchester highlights very well.

  • Steelheart

  • The Reckoners, Book 1
  • By: Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
  • Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28,174
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26,053
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26,098

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will. Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • He got the idea from a near traffic accident

  • By Don Gilbert on 09-26-13

A very "Sanderson" book

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

Reviewed: 01-20-15

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

If you like your sci-fi/fiction a little on the "lite" side, Sanderson is your man. For those coming from a GRRM or Joe Abercrombie type of series, this will almost feel like something you'd pick up in the young adult aisle. If you want some grit, but not too much brutality and hardly any corse language, Sanderson's got you covered.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I've read the Mistborn trilogy as well as the first two books of Sanderson's Stormlight Archive and there's something about his style that feels just slightly pedestrian. Entertaining, but pedestrian. It's hard to put my finger on... it could be that his stuff just feels like it skews young. I actually once joked to a friend that his books "feel like they we're written by a Mormon" before finding out that he IS, in fact, a member of the LDS church.

Beyond the fact that he keeps things (relatively) clean for the genre, he also has a penchant, in my opinion, for over explaining. His "reveals" go on a sentence or two longer than they need to. His plot twists will "click" in my mind in a very satisfying way, but he will proceed to explain them for another paragraph, spoon feeding the reader flash backs that you've already put together. I often find myself thinking "okay, OKAY! I get it. Cool twist there, but we can move on now." He also loves to invent home spun slang for his characters; I didn't mind this so much in the other series' because those took place, ostensibly, in other worlds, but "Steelheart" is set in a 10 year post-apocalyptic modern Earth. I had a hard time buying into the fact that these people would have adopted the word "sparks" as the equivalent of "damn" or the word "slonce" to stand in for "dumbass" or "idiot" or "noob." It's a touch lame and feels forced.

What does MacLeod Andrews bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

MacLeod Andrews is quite good here. He really captures the main character's angst and innocence, and covers the other characters quite well. Although, I will say that his portrayal of the 18 year old protagonist; playing up his inner dialogue insecurities with a heightened "why am I so stupid!" teenage voice, may have served to emphasize the "young adult" feel.

Was Steelheart worth the listening time?

No other stories are really jumping out at me right now in the sci-fi realm... and I did enjoy Mistborn and Stormlight, so I thought I'd give this a try. Sanderson comes up with amazing concepts, and really goes the distance with making his concepts well understood so they hold up under scrutiny. That part of his writing is very satisfying. It's not like Harry Potter where you find yourself thinking "wait... if he could just cast that spell the whole time, why didn't he do it way back at the start and save himself all this trouble?!" Sanderson doesn't let that happen. However, as I said, in the course of giving great detail concerning the abilities and limitations of the characters and their powers, he will also over-explain plot points and spoon feed the reader with flashbacks; as if he's trying to make sure that the reader appreciates every once of work he put into creating the misdirection. This detracts from that sense of satisfaction you get as a reader (listener) when you put it all together yourself.

  • American Sniper

  • The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
  • By: Chris Kyle, Scott McEwan, Jim DeFelice
  • Narrated by: John Pruden
  • Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 23,788
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,870
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,880

From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of Kyles kills (the previous American record was 109), but it has declined to verify the astonishing total number for this book. Iraqi insurgents feared Kyle so much they named him al-Shaitan ("the devil") and placed a bounty on his head.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • It's been censored by the publisher

  • By K9NSP on 10-21-17

Heavy on jingoism, light on reflection.

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

Reviewed: 01-09-15

What would have made American Sniper better?

I chose this book because the movie trailer was masterfully done; gripping and suspenseful in less than 30 seconds. I knew going in that the writing was simplistic, I'd been warned about that, but I was hoping for some first-hand introspection on war, invasion and the line between innocent and enemy from a combatant's perspective. Instead, what you get is a series of short war anecdotes. If you prefer your war autobiographies to be more "'Muuurica!!" and less "Tolstoy" than this is the book for you.

Would you ever listen to anything by the authors again?

Unfortunately, the author was murdered in February, 2013 while trying to help a fellow veteran with PTSD. I would have liked to have seen whether or not the passage of time may have broadened his perspective and made him a bit more reflective on our involvement in Iraq.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator elected, or was instructed, to read the book with a "good 'ol boy" twang that was, apparently, indicative of the author's own accent. Sometimes this lent a sense of authenticity, other times it was grating. The narrator's choice to vocally emphasize, and sometimes over emphasize, particularly eye-raising opinions held by the author only served to highlight Mr. Kyle's rather jingoistic world view.[I'm probably lucky, he seems like the kind of guy who would hunt me down and beat the crap out of me for daring to question his sense of morality, all while explaining to me that he's just a "silent professional" who wouldn't normally do that kind of thing... followed up by a story of how he and his buddies once beat the crap out of a guy for being a wuss.]

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Somewhat entertained, mostly disappointed. The author's explanations of tactics and weaponry were fascinating, but his opinions of war and the righteousness of America struck me as simplistic at best and borderline psychotic at worst. To the author, the individuals he encountered in Iraq can be summed up as follows; they were either "the enemy," "worthless," or "in the way." He didn't even bother to pay lip service to the notion that somewhere, among "the savages," their might have been a few innocent people who deserved some thought. Mr. Kyle was openly dismissive of the idea that winning the hearts and minds of the country was of value. To him, killing "bad guys" was the only answer to saving American lives, and the All-American hero pulling the trigger was the only one qualified to discern between innocent and enemy. He also made no bones about the fact that, if he had his way, it would be shoot first and ask questions later. In his world, only wussies and fat bureaucrats care about things like collateral damage and being held accountable for the lives of non-combatants. Rules of engagement simply got in the way of Chris Kyle doing his job... which was to kill anyone who, in his sole discretion, was a "bad guy." The author fully admitted that, to him, the world was pretty much black and white and through his writing it becomes clear that a person is either a "bad-ass" or not worth his time. Such an outlook might serve a Navy SEAL well in combat, but it makes for a lot of grimaces for a listener who was hoping for something more thought provoking than CALL OF DUTY: THE NOVEL. After listening to the book I doubt I'll see the movie.

9 of 15 people found this review helpful