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Michael - Audible Editor

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-11-18

Refined writing with an intimate performance

I don't know why this book had such a profound effect on me, but it was unlike anything else I've listened to so far. I don't consider myself a mythology nerd, but looking at books I've listened to in the past (Norse Mythology, Fifteen Dogs), I probably am. It wasn't really the mythology that grabbed me though, but way more so the intimate experience of living inside of Circe's mind for 12 hours.

You can tell that Madeline Miller took great care to really dive into and visualize Circe's experience. It's so real!

The self-doubt, the grappling with her identity, her punishment, her privileges, and her mistakes. Circe as a character is so dynamic, and Miller polishes each thought, each minute detail, like a diamond. The dynamic perspective also adds so much to the familiar stories and fables of greek gods and heroes that we see them all in a totally new way.

Odysseus is especially more human than ever. His skill in trickery and leadership turns into something new entirely, and his heroism (and so the very concept of heroism) is illustrated remarkably well.

Yeah maybe I am a little too into mythology, but if anything this book made me realize it more than ever.

Lastly, this audiobook debuts a brilliant new talent to audible. Perdita Weeks. Omg. She is amazing and can do anything. The way she fluctuates between male and female voices is one thing. I didn't even notice it was her at first, narrating the men.

But the raw emotion she pours into Circe's internal struggle nails the point of this story on the head. She turns what is essentially a lonely monologue into a three-dimensional experience.

In the end you have two people Madeline Miller and Perdita Weeks, who wholly and honestly assumed the role and mind of Circe, and lived it for the duration of this story.

I could keep writing about this forever so I'm just gonna end it here, because you probably get the point.

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160 of 168 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-01-18

As real as it gets

The House of Impossible Beauties threw me into a world I knew close to nothing about. The Harlem Ball scene of the 80s and 90s was a culture born of intense, largely unrecognized struggle, and Joseph Cassara’s fictional ode to the time is likewise chock full of character. Pure, undiluted, super-concentrated character. This book is brutal. It is unflinching, and it is as real as it gets.

Like have you ever seen Requiem for a Dream? It’s on the same page of, “Wow, I can’t believe anyone could endure this,” type emotional shock. But where that movie follows a drug addict's bleak downward spiral, Cassara’s characters never fail to demonstrate a life-affirming and indomitable strength that is, simply put, beautiful.

Joseph Cassara clearly vetted narrator Christian Barillas super closely, as this is a book that demands fluidity between languages, genders, and class all at once—I think it would have been an impossible task for nearly anyone else, but Barillas nails it.

**This book is graphic**

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12 of 13 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-30-18

A master of fiction--an all-star cast of narrators

Denis Johnson passed last year, but left us with this one last beautiful example of his wonderful writing. His stories are so refined, and transition so effortlessly, that there is often no noticeable distinction between the emotions they elicit. You might find yourself laughing at death, or worried for one of Johnson’s characters' untimely success. In this subtle way Johnson shocks his listeners into what I would guess is awareness, or clarity. At the very least, you can tell a book is good when it gets this many all-star narrators (Nick Offerman, Michael Shannon, Dermot Mulroney, Will Patton, and Liev Schreiber). They leave no stone of Johnson’s lyrical prowess unturned or unpolished.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-01-17

A Total Trip

When you first read about The Dark Dark the inventive concepts draw you in. A woman who cheats on her husband after she turns into a deer? Sounds funky. You think to yourself, and that's what gets you in the door. All of these stories are so inventive and radically interesting that it is really hard not to at least give this book a shot.

What keeps you listening is Hunt's incredible sense of aesthetic. In many ways, as weird as these stories are, they are all about the same thing. A woman struggling with her many internal identities, motherhood, womanhood, and wrestling with herself and her relationships in general. That's I think the the emotion of this book, and it hits you on a real level.

Even though each story has different characters, different situations, they all seem to magically tie together. And though at times Hunt toys with magical realism, which is a dangerous thing to toy with, her thoughts never dive too far into the absurd as to loose their relevance in the real world of human thought.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-06-17

I LOVE MURDERBOT

This book was just what I needed to get my out of a recent listening rut. I had been pouring through longer literary fiction type stuff that was really heady and then I started this on a whim and it was a sheer delight.

The world-building is immaculate, the plot is solid and well-paced, but most importantly MURDERBOT. S/HE is the man. I'm assuming he's a man because of the narrator's voice, but I think he's just an asexual SEC Unit that is supposed to be a killing machine but just wants to watch movies.

So relateable. And I just really love how Martha Wells crafts the environment kind of secondarily, you don't even notice that she is describing and explaining details about the world because it all takes a back seat to Murderbot's sardonic, sarcastic observations.

I had only two issues with this story.

1. It is too short
2. The ending is abrupt! It could have been flushed out a lot more, but just kind of cut off.

Now I'm left hoping for a sequel, hopefully one that has a little more meat, because this stuff is delicious.

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71 of 77 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-17-17

An Epic American Story

I never thought a nonfiction book would have me on the edge of tears, but I was totally sideswiped by American Wolf. It has it all: a charismatic (read: badass) female protagonist, fierce action scenes, gripping courtroom drama, a coming of age tale, and last minute political upheavals all served up with sturdy, hard-hitting narration.

You might have seen the viral video about the amazing impact wolf reintroduction has had on the wider ecosystem in Yellowstone, but there is much more to the story. The wolf’s saga touches on nearly every issue in our increasingly complex American narrative—from politics, to economics, to our personal, familial, and social lives. The further you get into this modern-day epic, the more deeply you realize that our story and the wolf’s are one and the same.

I also really appreciated how, especially in our time of increased polarization, Blakeslee did a good job of illustrating both sides of the issue. When it would have been really easy to make this adult version of FernGully, it is really a multi-faceted issue that deserves robust discussion.

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45 of 45 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-01-17

Powerful Message Wrapped in Adept Characterization

This book's current position in the cultural zeitgeist may persuade first-time listeners to interpret it purely on its political message. While that message is strong, warranted, and supremely well-crafted by Atwood, I think to focus purely on what this story "means" is to miss one of the best characterizations of modern times.

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic literature is, for whatever reason, increasingly popular these days. I think it offers authors the chance to really push their characters to the edge of human endurance in the search of the common truths that outline our nature and behavior. The danger is though, in my opinion, that the situation is too abstract or unreasonable or unredeemable to be realistic or to really matter.

That's what makes The Handmaid's Tale so valuable. Atwood has maintained a explicit, palpable tension in this book that tosses you between all sorts of emotions you'd rather not admit. Outrage? Acceptance? Bartering? Denial? It's all here, and more. The environment is never so physically dangerous that it is physically untenable, but a very real mental anguish and psychological consequence weigh down every minute of this harrowing story. We are following someone through a gauntlet of psychic torture, brought about simply by perverted social attitudes.

I don't know much about Claire Danes--my knowledge of pop culture is nothing to write home about--but it is either her innate talent as an actor or the nature of this story that lends itself perfectly to verbal performance that allows her to add such visceral emotion and tenor to her voice. It is calm, deliberate, and absolutely raw.

Of all the books I've listened to, which is numerous but not much compared to a lot of people I'm sure, it is only Claire Danes performing The Handmaid's Tale that can make a wavering soft voice--a whisper--resonate as strongly as a woman screaming at the top of her lungs for her dear life.

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21 of 24 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-22-17

A Voice Worth Hearing

I am not Christian. By any means. I grew up protestant, but that ended quickly--like age 7. I don't believe in organized religion by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe in spirituality.

I also have read/listened to an ungodly amount of self-dev books.

Those two things being said, this is a great book. It is very Christian, and Mr. Scroggins--who is some kind of pastor at a huge church in Georgia, IIRC--quotes the bible persistently and at length.

Normally when I hear this kind of stuff you've lost me. I'm done. But Scroggins imbues his message with more than enough practical and secular advice that it's easy enough to side-step the Christian message here.

For me, what worked, was simply acknowledging his Christian beliefs as a way of making sense of certain management principles, and it worked for me to listen to the Christian parables without feeling the need to convert back to the religion.

The actual meat of this book is in Scroggins impressive understanding of the attitudes and practices one needs to effect change from any position within an organizational hierarchy. He knows his stuff, and believe it or not, a megachurch is a great example of an organizational hierarchy. It is one that is built, perhaps even more so than a corporation or business, on the strength of community and social connection--so it serves its purpose as an accurate backdrop for professional development.

If you are Christian and looking to make more of a difference from within the organizations that you are a part of, this is a must buy.

If you are secular or of another spiritual persuasion, and looking to learn how to best leverage your influence even when you lack the specific title to seemingly do so directly, this is still a wise purchase. Just don't let the Christian themes overburden you.

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118 of 122 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-19-17

Wonderfully Clear and Concise Perspective

This book is short but is chock full of more information that books five times as long. It is a totally different way of looking at individuality and authenticity that is immediately applicable and thought provoking. Highly recommended.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-07-17

Provocative Social Commentary

My good friend in college introduced me to Tom Perotta with the movie Little Children, which is aaaa doozy. Perotta is an astute and provocative writer, famous for his ability to pierce the moral oddities of modern life with unrivaled technique and grace. His stories can get uncomfortable, but that’s what I love about them: he tackles the gnawing insecurities of his characters head on. Mrs. Fletcher is no exception, and the deep cast of talented narrators do the novel great justice, many of them actors having worked with Mr. Perotta on one of his successful film or TV projects.

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3 of 5 people found this review helpful