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Madeleine

Audiobook addict.

London, United Kingdom | Member Since 2008

ratings
224
REVIEWS
88
FOLLOWING
9
FOLLOWERS
150
HELPFUL VOTES
644

  • No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Mark Owen, Kevin Maurer
    • Narrated By Holter Graham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3473)
    Performance
    (3108)
    Story
    (3138)

    From the streets of Iraq to the mountaintops of Afghanistan and to the third floor of Osama Bin Laden's compound, operator Mark Owen of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group - commonly known as SEAL Team Six - has been a part of some of the most memorable special operations in history, as well as countless missions that never made headlines. No Easy Day puts listeners alongside Owen and the other handpicked members of the 24-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives.

    Darwin8u says: "Gripping, first-hand narrative of Op Neptune Spear"
    "I'm Reviewing the Book, not the Writer"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I feel I have to title my review this way because although I'm very glad this event happened, and I have boundless admiration for the people who participated in the raid, including the author, I can't honestly say it was a great book.

    To be fair to 'Mark Owen', his ghostwriter, Kevin Maurer, does bear some responsibility for taking a tired, pseudo military thriller approach to the story. The first half of the book is a very mediocre, dramatized 'montage' approach to what it takes to be a Navy Seal and rise up through the ranks to do the type of special operations detailed in the book. As heart-pounding action-thrillers go, it's lacking in the kind of tangible, humanizing elements that elevate good stories of this kind out of the G.I. Joe stereotype.

    The second half of the book deals with the raid itself in a very dry, accurate and factual way. It paints a clear picture of the anti-climactic demise of Osama Bin Laden. It probably would have taken a ghost writer with superior skills to Maurer's to forge the rising anticipation, the fear, the frustrations into a more gripping read/listen.

    I need to make it clear that I'm not dissing the Navy Seal. I'm just saying a better ghost writer might have done more to bring his story to life.

    Many critics have questioned this author's motives for writing the book, and I think the end of the story really exposes them. He's clearly not in it for the money - since most of the profits from this book are going to veteran's charities. I think he's a man who is bitter about the 'spin' the media and the administration gave the killing of Bin Laden, because having been an eye-witness to it, he feels the factual truth was good enough and didn't require embellishment.

    But he's also a man, like many in front line positions, who holds tremendous animosity towards anyone with a say in military policy and decision-making who isn't sitting beside him in combat gear, holding a firearm. I think most people who experience war on the front lines feel this way. But it sours the end of the book rather badly. Because the author is clearly not a fan of Obama, and says so often and, at times, in disparaging ways.

    This book is a) a first hand account of the raid, b) a portrait of what these admirable and brave people go through to serve their country and c) a concerted effort on the part of the author to deny the present administration any share in the glory of Bin Laden's final demise.
    (Note to future administrations: If you say you're going to have a beer with the guys your pinning medals on, you'd better keep your promise. Otherwise they end up bitter and write books like this one.)

    And although I thoroughly commiserate with the author's 'walk a mile in my shoes' feelings, I also think it does damage to the nobility of an account of what was a brave, courageous and well-implemented military action. I wouldn't want to walk in Owen's shoes, nor would I want to be responsible for making decisions about the fate of a whole country, its security, its economy and its place as superpower.

    I think it may be a central flaw in attempting to write a first person account of this sort of experience too close to the actual event, without the distance of some time and consideration to put the events in proportion. There have been some outstanding first-person accounts of war, but rarely are they written so soon after the event.

    The narration by Holter Graham was perfect for the material.

    35 of 47 people found this review helpful
  • The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Catherine Bailey
    • Narrated By Stephen Rashbrook
    Overall
    (76)
    Performance
    (69)
    Story
    (68)

    In April 1940, the ninth Duke of Rutland died in mysterious circumstances in one of the rooms of his family estate, Belvoir Castle. The mystery surrounding these rooms holds the key to a tragic story that is played out on the brutal battlefields of the Western Front and in the exclusive salons of Mayfair and Belgravia in the dying years of la belle époque. Uncovered is a dark and disturbing period in the history of the Rutland family, and one which they were determined to keep hidden for over 60 years. Sixty years on, The Secret Rooms is the true story of family secrets and one man’s determination to keep the past hidden at any cost.

    EJJ says: "Well Worth A Listen"
    "A Mystery Unravelled in a Mediocre Way"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First, I have to say that the narration was superb on this audiobook and it made what was a nice little mystery with a poorly structured narrative bearable. Researchers are, understandably, in love with their own process and so they should be. But it's a mistake to believe this automatically translates into a compelling story structure.

    There were a number of ways to go about using what is a very interesting set of factual events to construct a novel: you can simply dramatize the facts and weave them into a historical novel (with either the research subject as the narrator or a secondary character as narrator); you can construct the whole piece as a collection of found documents, the way Dracula is constructed, in epistolary form; or you can take the contemporary discovery approach by having the researcher there in the story as a quasi-detective (as was done here). The mistake that researchers who try to turn their research into prose often make is to present themselves as an inert figure. No entity in a story is ever inert and attempting to present them that way is always a mistake in anything but academic writing which is why I agree with an earlier reviewer that this reads slightly like someone's PhD thesis.

    Another problem with the story is repetition. This could have used an editor with a firmer hand. Repeating research findings is perfectly acceptable in academic writing, but it's just irritating in what needs to have a more fluid approach. Trust your reader to remember what you wrote three chapters ago. They usually do.

    Finally, this this was irritating, the author telegraphs important discovery events by hyping what she's found before she tells you what it is. This really spoils the a-ha moment for a prose-reader. If anything, the opposite approach is more effective. To downplay the advent before a really surprising discovery is revealed.

    Sounds like a really unsatisfactory audiobook, but it wasn't. Admittedly, this isn't a book of startling and shocking revelations. It's a gentle, poignant and almost literary unfolding of a man's life. But the core of it is an intriguing story. And, as I said at the beginning, the narration is outstanding, and mitigates a lot of the structural flaws.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Desert Bleeds Red: A Novel of the East

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Jason S. Hornsby
    • Narrated By James Chen
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    Logan Solomon is a Southern gentleman who has lived in Beijing far too long. Aside from the shady business deals, surveillance jobs, and the often decadent lifestyle of the jaded foreigner, he has also managed to alienate his wife Li Na while associating himself with very rough characters - some who might not even be human. Following a seemingly chance encounter aboard a train, a chain of events is set in motion that will change Logan's destiny forever, and leave a trail of dead in the wake.

    Madeleine says: "Really Fresh, Very Strange"
    "Really Fresh, Very Strange"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a very compelling story and I think I'm going to have to listen to it again because there's more to be gotten out of it. Although not set in the future, it reminded me in terms of cross-cultural speculative fiction, of Bachigalupi's Wind Up Girl.

    The writing is excellent and the non-linear storyline, which can sometimes be a little hard to cope with in audiobook form, works fluidly and well. The characters are well fleshed out, especially the main character who is flawed and juicy.

    There is a lot of very graphic violence in the novel, and it is painstakingly and viscerally described, so if you have a problem with that, you might want to steer clear of it, but I felt it was right for the story, and served it well.

    The performance is good, although I found that the male voices, with southern accents, got a tiny bit muddled. But not enough to spoil the experience of the book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Third Floor

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By C. Dennis Moore
    • Narrated By Gary Tiedemann
    Overall
    (76)
    Performance
    (68)
    Story
    (69)

    Welcome to Angel Hill, Missouri, a town that shot blood from the ground at its own groundbreaking. There are only two roads in or out of town, and everything within those borders is subject to the whims of reality. Those who grew up here are immune to the town's peculiarities. But Jack and Liz have just moved here, and for their young son, Joey, it's almost like coming home again.

    J. Dugan says: "Great Scary Story"
    "Not Again!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's not that this was a terrible story, it just wasn't a very good one and certainly not a particularly fresh or well-told one.

    I can see that other people loved it, but I felt it dragged, pace-wise. And if I read another horror story where the conflict centers around a couple where the husband keeps flatly denying there is anything supernatural going on, for 5 hours, I'm going to scream.

    That particular plot device has worn very thin with me.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • To the Lighthouse

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Virginia Woolf
    • Narrated By Nicole Kidman
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    To the Lighthouse is Virginia Woolf’s arresting analysis of domestic family life, centering on the Ramseys and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the early 1900s. Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge, Eyes Wide Shut), who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Woolf in the film adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours, brings the impressionistic prose of this classic to vibrant life.

    ESK says: "Stream of consciousness interpreted differently"
    "Hard to find fault with this reading"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    You need to have some patience to listen to this novella. The language is exquisite, the sense of place and time and mood are engrossing. If you listen to audiobooks for plot and excitement, this is not the book for you.

    But as a novel that explores character, relationships, the extreme subjectivity of human perception and how time acts upon those things, then this may be one of the most eloquent examinations of those things ever written.

    Although I did not give Kidman's narration a full five stars, there is nothing wrong with it. However, two things bothered me. Her pace of reading is quite fast, and this is a problem when the point of view changes from one character to another within a scene. I'm assuming there are scene breaks in the original text version which make clear whose point of view is being used, but in audio form, a slightly slower read, with more pauses between scenes would have been helpful. Secondly, I found her Aussie accent slightly jarring for this particular novel. I think it might have suited a more neutral English or American accent better - just because I have a better capacity for overlooking those accents. It's an entirely culturally subjective view, but then narrators affect us at that level.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Zodiac Station

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Tom Harper
    • Narrated By Piers Wehener
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (52)
    Story
    (53)

    "An extraordinary thriller set at the frozen edge of the world, perfect for fans of Kate Mosse, Michael Crichton and Dan Brown.In the Arctic Ocean, the US Coast Guard icebreaker Terra Nova batters its way through the pack ice. There shouldn't be anyone near them for hundreds of miles. But then a lone skier, half-dead with cold, emerges out of the snow. His name is Tom Anderson, and he is the only survivor of a disaster at Zodiac Station, a scientific research base deep in the Arctic Circle.

    Richard Delman says: "Starts very well...and then bores."
    "Good plot, interestingly told"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I enjoyed the story. It's got a very twisty plot with a bit of an homage to one of literature's greatest horror novels (I won't say which, because that will give away the story). The setting is well described, eerie and tension-filled. It's a tale narrated through a number of different character's POVs and documents, which makes the pacing slightly odd, but helps to keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing.

    The one part of the story I thought was a big of a let-down was the rather superficial, convenient characterizations. There are some really intriguing characters in the story and I thought they could have been better fleshed out. I got the feeling they were left tenuous in order to allow the plot more flexibility. When I can see that in a story, it bothers me a little.

    Nonetheless, as a thriller/murder mystery, it makes for good listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Refuge

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Craig Robertson
    • Narrated By Tim Gerard Reynolds
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    When John Callum arrives on the wild and desolate Faroe Islands, he vows to sever all ties with his previous life. He desperately wants to make a new start, and is surprised by how quickly he is welcomed into the close-knit community. But still, the terrifying, debilitating nightmares just won't stop. Then the solitude is shattered by an almost unheard of crime on the islands: murder.

    Renae says: "Cut to the chase!"
    "Intriguing but a little slow"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a very interior novel. It has some lovely literary elements to it and I did enjoy it. The atmosphere is seductive and gripping, and the character is nicely developed.

    However, I found the narration hard to cope with. The Scottish brogue is thick and unremitting and, to my ears, somewhat artificial. Reynolds does Irish and Northern English accents very well, but his Scottish burr leaves something to be desired.

    I suggest you listen to the audio sample provided to see if it works for you.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By A. J. Hartley, David Hewson
    • Narrated By Richard Armitage
    Overall
    (308)
    Performance
    (289)
    Story
    (289)

    It is a tale of ghosts, of madness, of revenge - of old alliances giving way to new intrigues. Denmark is changing, shaking off its medieval past. War with Norway is on the horizon. And Hamlet - son of the old king, nephew of the new - becomes increasingly entangled in a web of deception - and murder. Beautifully performed by actor Richard Armitage ("Thorin Oakenshield" in the Hobbit films), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark takes Shakespeare’s original into unexpected realms, reinventing a story we thought we knew.

    Robert says: "Fantastic whether you like Shakespeare or not!"
    "The Devil's In the Details"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling and restructuring of Hamlet. I began listening with moderate expectations, knowing the play well and expecting it would just be a fleshing out of the original, but it was so much more than that.

    The authors have done a wonderfully creative job of approaching the tale from a fresh, very lateral perspective. Lesser events and characters in the play are brought to the fore, and a wonderful layer of Machiavellian political intrigue suffuses the story. The same is true of the play's original paranormal elements. The authors have developed it into a lush political and psychological thriller.

    I didn't give the story five stars only because I found the villain of the piece (I won't tell you who it is because that would be a huge spoiler) a little underdeveloped and cardboardish. That being said, this was more than a retelling of the play. If you like historical mysteries or alternate histories, you'll love this. It's rich and atmospheric and wonderful.

    The narration was outstanding.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Solitary Man's Refuge

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Ron Foster
    • Narrated By Duane Sharp
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (19)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (18)

    This audiobook combines the three postapocalyptic adventure books of the Solitary Man Series. Look around. Millions of preppers are working feverishly every day to get prepared for what they fear is a disaster about to happen in America. The motivation for preparing differs for each person. Donald is getting his farmstead prepared in case a predicted solar storm takes out the electrical grid. Some folks might call what Donald is trying to create as a bug-out location. Other people consider his little rural house as an effort to become more self-sufficient, like a homesteader.

    Madeleine says: "Badly Constructed Narrative"
    "Badly Constructed Narrative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I do owe Foster a thanks for introducing me to the world of 'preppers', and giving me something to chew over when it comes to why there are so many people looking forward to the apocalypse. However, as a novel, this is poorly constructed.

    As with many fetishists, Foster makes the common mistake of believing his readers will share his obsession with preparing for the looming apocalypse. Consequently, he offers no insight for the mainstream reader into the hows or whys of people who have caught the 'prepping' bug. There's no context to the characters. In fact, there is very little effort to examine any of the characters' motivations. The plot flits around, clumsily interrupted with recipes, hints on prepping, and long digressions on different types of ammunition. The whole novel is dripping with a curious sort of schadenfreude towards the non-prepping majority, and there is no sense that the author was even aware of this.

    Consequently, I was relieved when it was over.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Thomas Piketty, Arthur Goldhammer (translator)
    • Narrated By L. J. Ganser
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (297)
    Performance
    (256)
    Story
    (255)

    What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories.

    Kazuhiko says: "Audio format still useful to get the gist of it"
    "The Financial Times' Critique Doesn't Detract"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It is a deep shame that the Financial Times' critique of Piketty's data is going to put some people off from buying and listening to this book, because a few quibbles about a very small amount of the data (on the UK only) doesn't detract from the validity of this detailed piece of analysis. It won't matter that many other well-respected economists defend Piketty's use of the data, or the robustness of his argument. For the readers of the FT, for those who represent the top 10% of weathholders, or those who aspire to be one of them, this book is a fundamental threat to their plans.

    It's a long book, and it takes some concentration to listen to. Looking at the linked PDFs help to bring the stats and numbers to life. But I found it incredibly worthwhile. The central argument - that R>G (capital always trumps growth) is successfully and persuasively argued six ways from Sunday. And that is something not even Piketty's most vehement detractors can argue against.

    Nor did I find Piketty's conclusions and suggestions even close to being the 'radical marxist' ones that he's been accused of holding by the press. He's conscious of the fundamental value of entrepreneurship, of a vibrant market.

    When all is said and done, this book will polarize its readers along ideological lines. Because ultimately he's asking the question: what do we want our society to look like? He argues very persuasively that many of the ways we have sought to establish fairness and meritocracy in society have been ineffective in the long run.

    This book threatens those who continue to perpetuate the myth that there are even playing fields: that financial success is based on merit, that opportunity is available to everyone, that trickle-down economics works, that education is the great leveler. There are good reasons why certain groups find this book threatening. It erodes the very thin veneer that the free market is truly free.

    But it is also a very optimistic book. Piketty offers some very 'unradical' solutions for how to mitigate the problem of rapidly accelerating wealth concentration. It's not a 'downer' at all.

    The narration is good for such a long and complex book. Well chosen to be easy on the ears but still engage the concentration. I found it well worth the credit and the time I spent on it.

    33 of 36 people found this review helpful
  • Pure Instinct: Instinct Thriller Series

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Robert W. Walker
    • Narrated By Ted Brooks
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    A new horror is stalking New Orleans. He is the "Queen of Hearts" killer, removing the hearts of his young male victims. He is savage. He is unstoppable. And the New Orleans Police commissioner has requested - by name - the aid of Dr. Jessica Coran. But another horror is stalking Jessica. The man known as "The Vampire Killer" has escaped from prison, leaving a trail of blood-drained bodies in his wake. No one knows where he is - but they do know that he's coming for Jessica, the woman that put him behind bars.

    Madeleine says: "Great Premise, Badly Written"
    "Great Premise, Badly Written"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I loved the premise of this novel: serial killers, psychic investigators, forensics. As a fan of detective fiction, murder mysteries and a bit of the paranormal, I was so looking forward to reading this, especially since it was the first in a series. I really wanted to like it.

    I found Walker's writing very hard to stomach. He head-hops in mid-scene (switches from the POV of one character to another), which is disorienting enough in text form and almost vertiginous in audiobook form.

    There are incredibly long passages of diegetic (telling) narrative in which we are told rather than shown the story. I'm not opposed to 'telling' and enjoy stories with a certain amount of interior dialogue and reflection to add an emotional dimension to the story, but this goes on and on, making the story feel sluggish, claustrophobic and boring.

    I was also not terribly crazy about Ted Brooks' narration. He's fine when he's not trying to do women's voices. But when he does, they sound so much like a man trying to sound like a women, it becomes comedic and distracting.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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