Walter Isaacson weaves an engaging almost fanciful story of the life of an American icon.
As Isaacson points out, each generation recasts Franklin in its own image. After reading this I came away impressed with how diverse and talented Ben Franklin was. From writer to inventor, Franklin was the very image of genius. We all know of his electricity experiments and his role in the founding of the United States, but Walter Isaacson introduces us to a whole new 3D image of the famous printer. Who knew of Franklin's involvement in the invention of refrigeration, for example, or of his observations of a seminal moment in the development of flight?
This book convincingly sweeps aside the sensational popular idea of Franklin as a womanizer, while at the same time, painting a picture of a man who quite probably was a bigamist. His complex family life comprises much of the book as surely it did Franklin's life. We explore William Franklin's possible maternal connections as well as the complicated and tortured relationship Benjamin had with his son.
Some of the finest moments for me came when we glimpse his interactions with the other founding fathers, specifically, John and Abigail Adams. Through his own words and those of his contemporaries, we come to know a man who is at once wise, naive, grandfatherly, lecherous, pious, lewd, humorous, serious, friendly, and cantankerous.
In addition to the engaging content, Nelson Runger's read is superb. He is a pleasure to listen to and he makes the time fly by. I completely enjoyed this book both for its content and the performance.
I like Clancy, I think. However, this book was implausible at so many levels. It contains a good core story, but is degraded by the reader's performance, subplots that should have been omitted, and offensive undertones.
First the multiple assassination attempts, could have been interesting, but they weren't all developed. The Mountain Men subplot was the worst. When I completed the book, I came to the conclusion that someone demanded this subplot be added. It was not completely thought out. The characters were flat and the story only popped up here and there and ended in a dull thud, never having any climax. I am convinced a publisher demanded it so the book wasn't all about evil Muslims. Seemed like a balancing act.
Now I really did like the Iraqi Ebola plague. Great story there and the war was interesting as well. Had the story concentrated on this and the VP conflict and not chased bunnies down dark holes I would have been happier.
I think Mr. Clancy has much more faith in the press than I do. At one point, he has a reporter confessing to dishonest reporting and apologizing not once, but twice! Even before the writing of this book, reporters were political operatives who put more importance on making political points than getting facts right. No reporter would apologize unless pressured to do so and certainly not twice. In fact, I would expect a reporter who's proven wrong might react like a scorned lover and become even more aggressive and hostile. But that's one personal opinion.
The way Clancy writes sometimes makes me uncomfortable. When he was covering the Mountain Men even the narrative took on the character's voice. The racist verbiage didn't end when the characters stopped speaking or thinking and I found this offensive. I also noticed he peppered in a lot of racist sentiments even into Ryan's interactions with staff. I didn't like this at all.
The narrator. Michael Prichard was just awful reading this one. His cadence was boringly slow, even at 1.5X he sounded slow. His portrayal of different characters was so monotone that at times I wasn't sure who was speaking. His women sounded no different from the males. This book required a ton of accents (like any Clancy book) and I didn't feel he always got them right. Perhaps he was off his game. I listened to the next book and Mr. Prichard was much better, if still slow.
I rated this book overall at 2 stars somewhat out of personal preference but when the good story elements are balanced against the poor, the racial tones, and the poor read, I feel I rated this book correctly. At least in this listener's opinion.
After a few faulty gas tanks resulted in 6 deaths, the US government leaps at the chance to engage Japan in a trade war, to which Japan responds with a shooting war. This story written even as Free Trade Agreements were coming into force in America and beyond.
I found the plot hard to swallow and in general the story flow to be weak for a Clancy thriller. As the story concluded I was shocked by the grand and dramatic ending. It made me wonder if Osama bin Laden had perhaps read this book. The conclusion is surprisingly prophetic and if only for this, worth the listen.
MacDonald's performance was fair, not great, but not bad. My opinion was worse until I began listening to the robotic performance of "Executive Orders". I think I've just been spoiled by a spat of extremely good performances in other audible books.
O'Reilly's followup to Killing Lincoln, was refreshing. My knowledge of this era in history is much lower and this book brought several new facts to my attention.
I felt O'Reilly explored Oswald much more than he had Booth. If anything was lacking it was a better understanding of why Oswald killed Kennedy. I concluded the book still not fully appreciating that.
When it came to the assassination of the President, O'Reilly became a bit more graphic than I felt necessary. His attention to detail went beyond reasonable, in my humble opinion. However, the story was well told.
More attention might have been given to Ruby and some of the conspiracy theories, as he had given alternative conspiracy theories in the Lincoln book. He really glazes over the wild conspiracies and sticks to the known facts. I don't criticize that other than I am always interested in rebuttals to those theories.
Again O'Reilly reads like everything is a commentary, however, something is different in this book from his last. I think the difference is his personal knowledge and experience. Lincoln was a page from a history book, but Kennedy is someone O'Reilly was aware of as a child. O'Reilly seems to be a bit more passionate in his performance as a result.
As an enthusiast of 19th century America and specifically of the Lincoln era, I found nothing new or fresh in this book. It is a nice overview of the assassination and for those who's sole knowledge of the killing comes from high school it could be enlightening. For example, if you didn't understand Lincoln was murdered as part of a broad conspiracy, this book is for you.
I found O'Reilly's handling of the conspiracy flat. He does not adequately explore the interactions and events of the conspirators as I felt they should have been covered. Personally, I thought his attribution of Booth's motives a bit off, but then such speculation is just that.
As for performance, O'Reilly reads this book like he does his TV show. One can tell he was rushing through it at times and we hear minor flubs and inflection errors that are characteristically O'Reilly. Often I felt like I was listening to a news commentary rather than nonfiction history. Is that a negative? Not necessarily. It would have been very strange for O'Reilly to have morphed into another person for the reading of his book.
Overall, I found the information generally correct, if lacking in details. I would recommend this book to High Schoolers and people with an average interest in history. He does reveal much more about the Lincoln Conspiracy than you will get from High School or even some College courses. If you really want to dig deep into the assassination plot, I recommend American Brutus by Michael W. Kauffman.
War and Remembrance is a story that follows a family as they fight through the second world war. On its own the story is riveting and an emotional experience. We squirm for Natalie and her uncle, all the while feeling we know their fate, yet hoping for them to make better decisions. Victor Henry is at the same time, a caricature of the classic WWII war commander and a conflicted man.
If you are looking for a combat book, move on. This is a character study. We are examining people and their experiences in the midst of world turmoil. World events are discussed and battles are featured, but our heroes are studied as people dealing with and surviving a world at war.
The personal conflicts and sexual affairs surrounding the Henry family seem almost modern yet are cast in a bygone era. Almost in contrast are the Jastrows, whose conflicts and troubles are far more serious life and death issues. The variety of minor characters and situations are equally engaging.
As the story progresses, Wouk makes certain we are current with the events surrounding the story. He breaks into the fiction with factual historical information from perspectives of both sides of the war, American Victor Henry's and the fictional Nazi General, Armin von Roon.
Perhaps most interesting to me is Wouk's handling of the Jewish plight in Nazi Germany. Through the use of several characters, Wouk is able to demonstrate their sufferings and their delusions. As a relative, of a survivor, it rang true to my understandings of those times. Shocking and educational.
If the story has a weakness it is the Pacific and African theaters. While Wouk does visit these area of the world, the stories there are thin. However, this is more than compensated for by the richness of the European stories.
Had this story not been as compelling as it was, it would still have been a pleasant listen as the narrator, Kevin Pariseau, is incredible. His performance is nearly indescribable. He reads effortlessly in a wide variety of accents, all of which he seems to do very well, and performs female parts convincingly. The latter is no easy task and many an audible book has become humorous when the narrator over-acts or badly reads the role of the opposite sex. However, this is not the case for Pariseau, his performance is flawless. I would listen to him read the newspaper if he happened to.
I highly recommend this book.
Atlas Shugged is an amazing piece of literature. Ms. Rand seems to have accurately foreseen the evolution of America political thinking. Her characters sometimes even utter some of the same empty political rhetoric we hear today. The laws they enact do not seem that far fetched from what the far left aim for today. While her America plunges into third-world status, critics may scoff but one must understand Rand saw these things happen in real life.
Born in Russia, she was a 12 when Lenin took control of Russia. Nearly 50 years of corrupt government and increasingly lower standards of living erupted in revolution that nationalized everything in the utopian dream that things would get better. They did not.
Ayn Rand understood why. She understood that people are motivated by the hope that they can control their future and that their efforts will be rewarded. The leftwing mindset is that those who work hard should be robbed of their rewards and those rewards should be distributed to the less-fortunate. A noble aim to be certain, but people learn that they will be rewarded for failure and that success will be punished, so the nature response for most is to put forth less effort. This is the central theme in Atlas Shrugged.
She hit upon a concept most don't understand. Greed is not confined to the rich. People who see the wealthy as a source to be plundered are in fact acting upon greed. Rand felt this was much more evil than those who produced a product and profited from it's success. She expresses absolute contempt throughout the book for those who expect something for nothing by taking their need from the successful.
Her sexual scenes are a bit soap opera-like and much of the dialogue is preachy. At times this book is quiet tedious. Rand seems intent upon hitting readers over the head with her "profit is good" messaging, sometimes at the cost of not moving the story along. Additionally, her contempt for religion comes through in a sometimes offensive tone. None of her characters are religious yet many spew insults and blame in God's direction.
The performance is average however. I found the voice acting less than stellar and the pace too slow for such a long book. Finally, I think Scott Brick was miscast. A female reader would have been more appropriate since the lead is female as is the author.
The narrator was fantastic and eased the hell of listening to this. I like sci-fi but this short story was confusing, and it seemed the author was trying to impress me with his fine ability to make up quasi-scientific sounding words that often appeared to have little if any meaning.
In short, not my cup of tea.
If you don't like statistics this book isn't for you. That said, "Losing Ground" is a very compelling sociology book and a great argument against big government programs that make liberals feel good but do little to improve the plight of the poor and under-privileged. However, as an audiobook it falls short. Mostly because it lacks the graphs making it difficult to digest the data being analysed, but also due to distractions in the performance. Robert Morris reads this books as though he is completely bored with it. At times he shows inflection but overall it is a flat read.
Mr. Morris' read, however, is quite tolerable compared to his sound engineer. Throughout the book we can hear the engineer answering the phone or conversing with visitors and perhaps giving Morris cues. At some points I could understand some of what he was saying, especially when he answers the phone (no ring just, "hello"). He is never silent for more than a few minutes, I think I timed a 30 minute stretch where his voice was not heard. This I found to be an intolerable situation and the reason I could not enjoy the book.
Now I enjoyed this since I love BTS information. This is a 3-part raw recording of an interview with RFK. It gives one a very personal view into the workings of the JFK administration at critical points, specifically on civil rights.
I don't recommend this to casual listeners because it is sloppy, at times difficult to understand, takes meaningless asides (like lunch arriving, getting a drink, and messing with the recorder.) Also there are references to less important people that might confuse listeners.
At times we get off-the-record comments that are insightful and sometimes surprising. Like RFK pining that a dictatorship would have been more effective at changing the racial problems in America. (Some things in the Democrat party never change.) Then letting us know he sees the pitfalls in that solution.
I was left wondering why CSPAN decided to redact somethings while leaving in long pieces of dishes clacking and RFK asking for a drink, ect.
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