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Richard D. Shewman

Erie, PA United States
  • 51
  • reviews
  • 297
  • helpful votes
  • 70
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  • Origin

  • A Novel
  • By: Dan Brown
  • Narrated by: Paul Michael
  • Length: 18 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36,707
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33,571
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 33,475

In keeping with his trademark style, Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, interweaves codes, science, religion, history, art, and architecture in this new novel. Origin thrusts Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon into the dangerous intersection of humankind's two most enduring questions - and the earthshaking discovery that will answer them.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Formula over fiction

  • By Evan M Carlson on 11-01-17

Action, Adventure, Science and Religion!

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

Reviewed: 10-27-17

I’ve read all of Dan Brown’s “Robert Langdon” books. There is usually something about the books that irritates me but I love the quest that Langdon and the female lead are always undertaking and I keep coming back for more with each new book. I’ve just finished “Origin” and must confess that it is my favorite book in the series. The quest is as good as any in Brown’s other books. The characters are engaging; driving the story more than in some of his other books. The narration is excellent.

The underlying theme of the book is the relationship between science and religion. The first part of the book plays to stereotypes with which everyone is familiar; the atheistic scientist, the literalist religious believer, behind the scenes power players. The stereotypes help to set up the action in the story and set Langdon and company off on their adventure. Later in the book Brown adds some shading and texture that makes the stereotypes less stark. Over all, I enjoyed the book.

My only frustration with the book was its reliance on stereotypical caricatures of the relationship between science and religion. It lacked depth and subtlety, which was probably necessary, given that this is a novel and not a text book on the topic. I taught a graduate level course on the topic several years ago, so my criteria for a good discussion of the relationship between science and religion may be more demanding than what can be addressed in a novel. All of the major religious traditions represent a wide range of thinking on the relationship between science and religion. While there are fundamentalists in each tradition that interpret classic religious texts in ways that resist reason and science, each major religion also has traditions that have contributed greatly to the development of scientific method and thought. At least Brown introduced a character toward the end of the book that represented this aspect of the relationship

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Hike

  • By: Drew Magary
  • Narrated by: Christopher Lane
  • Length: 8 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,580
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,367
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 3,354

When Ben, a suburban family man, takes a business trip to rural Pennsylvania, he decides to spend the afternoon before his dinner meeting on a short hike. Once he sets out into the woods behind his hotel, he quickly comes to realize that the path he has chosen cannot be given up easily. With no choice but to move forward, Ben finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a world of man-eating giants, bizarre demons, and colossal insects.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Confusing. Terrifying. Oddly enlightening.

  • By The Super-duper Amazing Silver Golem on 02-17-17

Kafkaesque certainly and my new favorite

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

Reviewed: 02-23-17

The book is a Kafkaesque contemporary telling of the Odyssey myth. The protagonist is a bit whiney at times but he is going through a process of growth and the whiney character at the beginning of the story hardens into a much wiser character by the end of the book. I enjoyed the book and was sorry to see it come to an end.

The narration was very well done.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • 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 6,210
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,731
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,724

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

I'm normally not a binge readr/listener but...

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

Reviewed: 11-21-16

Normally I am not a binge reader/listener. However, a few weeks back I read the first of Jodi Taylor’s St. Mary’s Chronicles and I was hooked. I’ve been pounding through the entire series the past few weeks and enjoying every minute of it. The series is addictive. There is plenty of drama, yet sufficient comedy to make the listen enjoyable. The characters get under your skin and over the arc of the entire series they are well fleshed out. They are the best part of the series.

The concept of an organization dedicated to time travel is not unique. There are at least two TV series at present that use the concept (Timeless and Legends of Tomorrow), though I like Jodi Taylor’s take on the concept better than the TV series. In fact, St. Mary’s Chronicles would make a good series, with enough material from the books to run for several seasons.

If there is any weakness in the series, it is that the adventures in time are a bit formulaic. The time travelers go off on their adventure. It begins well. At some point the situation goes bad, then it gets worse. People are in danger of death –sometimes they die or are seriously injured—then, at the last minute, they escape. It’s a fairly standard plot line for the adventure episodes. You know what is going to happen because it always does, yet it is still fun to watch it unfold on that particular adventure

  • The Sex Lives of Cannibals

  • Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
  • By: J. Maarten Troost
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,053
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 701
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 698

At age 26, Maarten Troost decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to a remote South Pacific island. The idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. But he should have known better.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • HILARIOUS

  • By Elizabeth on 08-17-08

A true Monty Pythonesque South Pacific adventure

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

Reviewed: 05-29-16

Back in the mid-70's I was sent to the Pacific Islands as a Peace Corps Volunteer and ended up staying there for the next twenty-five years. I mention this because "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" was a hilarious flashback experience as I listened to the audiobook. To someone who is not familiar with the islands the book is a comical adventure with serious overtones of Monty Python. To someone who actually lived in the islands, it is a true life adventure in all of its absurdity. Just about everything that Troost describes about his island experience is literally real, as I had many of the exact same experiences...from the island dogs, to ocean going misadventures, and on to encounters with "Half-dead Fred"! I loved the audiobook and will joyfully listen to his further adventures.

  • How Great Science Fiction Works

  • By: Gary K. Wolfe, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Gary K. Wolfe
  • Length: 12 hrs and 31 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,581
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,415
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,385

Robots, spaceships, futuristic megacities, planets orbiting distant stars. These icons of science fiction are now in our daily news. Science fiction, once maligned as mere pulp, has motivated cutting-edge scientific research, inspired new technologies, and changed how we view everyday life - and its themes and questions permeate popular culture. Take an unparalleled look at the influence, history, and greatest works of science fiction with illuminating insights and fascinating facts about this wide-ranging genre.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Deserves a Hugo of Its Own

  • By Carol on 02-01-16

Good overview of Syfy

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

Reviewed: 05-03-16

I'm a Syfy buff from way back and pretty familiar with the history and development of the genre. I listened to this introductory course on science fiction as a refresher and to see what the author had to say about more recent developments in science fiction.

I was not disappointed. It was a good review of the genre and did an especially nice job in the last few lectures of bringing me up to speed on current developments in the genre. But then that is what I have come to expect from any of the topics in the Great Courses series.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Lisey's Story

  • By: Stephen King
  • Narrated by: Mare Winningham
  • Length: 18 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,409
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,297
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,298

Lisey Debusher Landon lost her husband, Scott, two years ago, after a 25-year marriage of the most profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, best-selling novelist, and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey had to learn from him about books and blood and "bools". Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went, a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive, or give him the ideas he needed in order to live.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Vintage, Mature SK

  • By A. Jack on 07-03-07

dive into the Pool of Words...imagination

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

Reviewed: 04-11-16

As so many other reviewers have noted, Lisey’s Story is Stephen King at his best. It blends in the supernatural, dark places of the imagination and the murky depths of insane horror with an engaging love story, rich beauty and characters that come alive. Like many of King’s works it is a long tale but I like King’s stories to be long because once I enter into his world I have little desire to leave. King expands our perception of reality with this book and allows us to enter into his imagination along with Lisey, the wife of King’s alter ego, who does so literally. He also ties up all the loose ends of the story, so that in the end you have a neat literary package that makes sense in its own strange way.

This story works at many levels. Not only is it an engaging story but it challenges your brain as well. There are many allusions and references to other works and authors, which adds to the richness of the story.

The narrator, Mare Winningham, does a superb job of translating the written word into an audio performance that brings the story alive. Each of the characters was vocally unique and believable, even when she was voicing the part of children.

This is a story that I enjoyed very much and recommend to anyone who has a taste for a tale by Stephen King.

  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

  • By: Claire North
  • Narrated by: Peter Kenny
  • Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,899
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,466
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,466

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now.As Harry nears the end of his 11th life, a little girl appears at his bedside. "I nearly missed you, Doctor August," she says. "I need to send a message." This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An unexpected treasure

  • By Stefanie on 08-24-15

Groundhog Day on steroids!

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

Reviewed: 11-09-15

"The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August" by Claire North is a complex, well written tale that requires fifteen lives to play out in all of its glory. It reminds me of "Groundhog Day", only on steroids. Rather than the same day repeating each morning to be lived anew, Harry August’s entire life is played out again and again when ever he dies. While the basic structure of his life remains each time through, there is enough flexibility that the details of each life can be quite different from the lives that came before it. He retains the memories of his previous lives in intricate detail, so that he can carry out projects that might span several lifetimes.

I enjoy long and intricate stories that are well crafted. Though they face the danger of getting bogged down in details that may add to the texture and color of the story but don’t necessarily serve the plot line. While long and complex, every detail of this story serves the unfolding plot. There is one twist and turn after another, each a necessary part of the machine that brings us to the conclusion of the tale. I will certainly check out some of the author’s other works.

Peter Kenny is the narrator for the book and is excellent. There are dozens of characters in the story, each with his or her unique voice. There are accents reflecting many different nationalities and all of them are believable. While there is only one narrator the final effect is that of a full cast performance of the story.

2 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • The Golem and the Jinni

  • A Novel
  • By: Helene Wecker
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 19 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,974
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,056
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,047

Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Enchanting Debut Novel - Delicious!

  • By Tango on 04-26-13

turn of the 20th century NYC comes alive!

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

Reviewed: 10-20-15

Back when I was a college student many years ago one weekend my roommate wanted to visit his girlfriend who went to school several states away. I had a car and he didn’t. After a bit of negotiation, we went on a road trip to visit his girlfriend. When we arrived she suggested we visit an elderly friend with her, as was her routine. A few hours later we were in the home of a woman in her mid-80s. She was a gracious lady and a wonderful storyteller. As we sat listening to her, she unfolded a tale of her youth at the turn of the 20th century in New York City. It was a magical tale that totally engaged us and seemed to transport us to that distant time and place.

I was reminded of that experience as I listened to "The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker. The author weaves an engaging tale that makes that same time period come alive for the listener. The characters are full-blooded, complex and believable. Of course, it is a very long story, some 19 hours of listening time, but rather than drag out the tale its length provides enough space in which to allow the characters to come alive. I honestly enjoyed the book with its mix of fantasy and realism. It also works as an allegory for anyone who is on the margins of society because they are different.

George Guidall is the narrator. He is a master narrator and does an excellent job of bringing "The Golem and the Jinni" to life. I have never been disappointed with a book read by him. His contribution to this tale is significant.

  • Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes

  • Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
  • By: Brandon J. O'Brien, E. Randolph Richards
  • Narrated by: Allan Robertson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,248
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,125
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,108

Drawing on their own cross cultural experience in global mission, O'Brien and Richards show how better self-awareness and understanding of cultural differences in language, time, and social mores allow us to see the Bible in fresh and unexpected ways. Getting beyond our own cultural assumptions is increasingly important for being Christians in our interconnected and globalized world. Learn to read Scripture as a member of the global body of Christ.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Culture and assumptions matter

  • By Adam Shields on 04-21-15

Important read for anyone who preaches, teaches...

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

Reviewed: 09-22-15

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Brandon O'Brien and Randolph Richards it a healthy reminder to any Christian preacher or teacher that the task of exegesis is necessary if one wants to get at what is actually in Scripture and not just preach on one's favorite prejudice or cultural stereotype. They point out that Scripture comes from a cultural context that is far removed from 21st century Western thinking. The assumptions made by the human authors of Scripture and the assumptions we make are profoundly different and can influence how we read and interpret the meaning of Scripture. If we are not careful, our understanding of what the authors are saying can be radically different from what they were trying to say when they first put pen to paper.

The authors identify a variety of ways in which grave errors of understanding can be made and then spend several chapters trying to explain and illustrate how such errors can be made. The authors are pastors, seminary teachers and have spent a number of years as missionaries and pastors in very different cultures from contemporary America. These cross-cultural experiences help to enrich their discussion with illustrations that bring the discussion from the abstract to the concrete. Factors such as individualistic versus collectivist cultures, what behaviors are considered virtue or vice in one culture or another, as well as what aspects of the Bible text stands out as more or less important all relate to cultural differences and how Scripture is understood. In the end the authors offer no easy list of do's and don'ts. Such a list is too "Western" and misses the point that an cross-cultural interaction demands careful attention to the assumptions and mindset that we bring to the interaction. Reading and understanding Scripture is very much a cross-cultural experience. The best way to approach this challenge is to apply the challenge of solid exegesis to the task of understanding Scripture.

I spent about 25 years of my adult life in the Western Pacific Islands in cultures quite different from mainland America. Much of that time was spent in one form of ministry or another and currently I am involved in the formation of men for ministry as permanent deacons in the Catholic Church. Thus, my background is similar to that of the authors. I also did graduate work in anthropology. The book resonated with my experience. Frequently I would say to myself, "Yes, they got that right!"

The narrator did a good job in keeping the listener engaged and in speaking clearly.

If I have any critique of the book is that toward the end it seemed to drag a bit. The authors had made their point but continued on with the discussion. This may be a function of my familiarity with the topic more than their writing or editing. Someone less familiar with the material may have benefited from the additional discussion.

It is a book well worth reading/hearing and should be required reading for anyone ministering in a cross-cultural context or who desires to be sensitive to the cross-cultural implications of interpreting Scripture.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • The Book of Strange New Things

  • By: Michel Faber
  • Narrated by: Josh Cohen
  • Length: 19 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 575
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 514
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 518

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter's teachings - his Bible is their "book of strange new things."

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Unusual.

  • By Bellows Water on 04-22-15

both enjoyable and frustrating

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

Reviewed: 08-09-15

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber is one of the most difficult audio book I’ve attempted to review. Usually I enjoy a book or I get really irritated by it because the book falls short of what I know the author can do. This book I both enjoyed and found irritating.

It is the story of a Christian missionary who is hired by a major corporation to travel to Oasis, a distant planet, where he is to minister to the local non-human population. He was unable to bring his wife to Oasis, which causes a good deal of personal stress both for him and his wife. There is very little real action in the story. The book is primarily a study of the relationships among the minister, his wife, his fellow humans on Oasis and the non-humans to whom he ministers.

The author does a good job of developing characters that are three dimensional and relatable. Surprisingly, even several of the non-human characters were credible without overly compromising their non-human nature. The sense of culture shock experienced by the minister is credible, as is his reaction. Having spent a lot of time in other parts of the world myself I could relate to this part of the book.

What bothered me the most was the premise that a married missionary would be sent millions of miles from home without his wife. It is an obvious recipe for disaster and no respectable missionary organization would do such a thing nowadays. Even a cost conscious corporation would have researched the literature to take this into account.

It is difficult to understand the non-human interest in Christianity, as there is too little context for the non-human community. There is almost nothing about the native religious beliefs and what they saw in an alien religion from Earth. At least that would have provided a context for understanding their desire for a missionary.

This is a story that if you focus just on the development of characters and relationships it is quite enjoyable, however there are so many questions left unanswered by the end of the book that it is also frustrating, not to mention the gaps in credibility.

Perhaps this was meant to be the first in a trilogy of books. If it is, I’m not sure I’ll try the subsequent books.

The narrator did a fine job.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful