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Cletus van Damme

ratings
147
REVIEWS
37
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
5
HELPFUL VOTES
106

  • Second Foundation

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Isaac Asimov
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1014)
    Performance
    (698)
    Story
    (698)

    The fate of the Foundation rests on young Arcadia Darell, only 14 years old and burdened with a terrible secret. As its scientists gird for a final showdown with the Mule, the survivors of the First Foundation begin their desperate search. They too want the Second Foundation destroyed, before it destroys them.

    Shukhrat says: "Culmination point"
    "Very disappointed"
    Overall

    After completing the so-called "Foundation Trilogy," I felt compelled to write this review because I was so disappointed. My comments apply to all three books in the trilogy. I have read excellent reviews of these books from sources I considered credible. I am not an avid sci-fi reader but believed (erroneously, it turns out) that some familiarity with Foundation was necessary for the well-rounded reader. I have no complaint with Scott Brick. He did the best job possible with the material and remains one of my favorite narrators. This review is based entirely on Asimov's writing. The story line is interesting and could have been compelling. The story telling is just awful, based entirely on cliche-laden dialogs between one-dimensional characters and equally cliche-laden soliloquies. All three books in the trilogy consist entirely of characters talking to one another, thereby explaining to the reader events that took place prior to the conversations. There is no action here, no sweep of galactic events, just endless, boring dialog. I have now suffered through nine of the 15 books in Asimov's suggested reading order for his "Galactic Empire" novels (taken from the author's note in "Prelude to Foundation"). I kept hoping for something to hold my interest, but as I progressed, the stories became more boring and the author introduced nothing to hold my attention. Concerning "Second Foundation" specifically, Asimov never explains (or I was never able to grasp from the ceaseless dialog) why the First Foundation felt animosity towards the Second Foundation. The conflict seemed baseless to me. Two thumbs down for Asimov and two thumbs down for the Foundation Trilogy.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance

    • UNABRIDGED (34 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Ron Chernow
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    Overall
    (38)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (33)

    A gripping history of banking and the booms and busts that shaped the world on both sides of the Atlantic, The House of Morgan traces the trajectory of the J. P.Morgan empire from its obscure beginnings in Victorian London to the crash of 1987. Ron Chernow paints a fascinating portrait of the private saga of the Morgans and the rarefied world of the American and British elite in which they moved. Based on extensive interviews and access to the family and business archives, The House of Morgan is an investigative masterpiece.

    Cletus van Damme says: "Superb narration"
    "Superb narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Robertson Dean takes what could have been a dry financial history and turns it into a fascinating tale. I did not catch a single mispronunciation, even on foreign words like "cognoscenti" and "pince-nez." He is one of the best in the business. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, particularly because it confirms the hair-raising truth about central banking described by G. Edward Griffin in "The Creature from Jekyll Island."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 1959: The Year Everything Changed

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Fred Kaplan
    • Narrated By Joe Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (104)
    Performance
    (65)
    Story
    (63)

    Acclaimed national security columnist and noted cultural critic Fred Kaplan looks past the 1960s to the year that really changed AmericaWhile conventional accounts focus on the 60s as the era of pivotal change that swept the nation, Fred Kaplan argues that it was 1959 that ushered in the wave of tremendous cultural, political, and scientific shifts that would play out in the decades that followed.

    James says: "Facinating look at a neglected moment in history"
    "The Arts in New York City in 1959"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    While the opening chapters briefly discuss foreign affairs and the space race, the greater part of the book is devoted to changes in architecture, cinema, literature, music, painting, and photography in New York City. The book's perspective on events in 1959 reminds me of "The New Yorker" magazine cover by Saul Steinberg, skewed to give New York prominence over the rest of the country. The book is interesting in a Don Draper-esque kind of way but hardly lives up to its thesis that the course of world history was changed by events in 1959. Kaplan himself was only five years old in 1959. It is obvious that his true love is jazz (he writes jazz reviews for "Stereophile" magazine) and that he fantasizes about hanging out with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Fans of "Mad Men" will probably enjoy some chapters and may find themselves (like I did) rushing out to buy an album by Ornette Coleman just to see what all the fuss is about. In the end, Kaplan (like Sal Paradise) has "nothing to offer anybody except [his] own confusion."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Third Bullet: Bob Lee Swagger, Book 8

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Stephen Hunter
    • Narrated By Buck Schirner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (203)
    Performance
    (172)
    Story
    (171)

    It’s not even a clue. It’s a whisper, a trace, a ghost echo, drifting down through the decades via chance connections so fragile that they would disintegrate in the puff of a breath. But it’s enough to get legendary former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger interested in the events of November 22, 1963, and the third bullet that so decisively ended the life of John F. Kennedy and set the stage for one of the most enduring controversies of our time. Swagger begins his slow night stalk through a much-traveled landscape. But he’s asking questions that few have asked before....

    lyl says: "Not what reader is anticipating"
    "I had high hopes ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    ... that Hunter might shed some fictional light on the events in Dealey Plaza, much the way James Ellroy did in "American Tabloid." Unfortunately, Hunter admits in the afterword that his research was limited to the Warren Commission Report itself, "Case Closed" by Gerald Posner, and "Reclaiming History" by Vincent Bugliosi. I wish Hunter had done a little more research and stumbled across a now out-of-print book by Craig Roberts titled "Kill Zone: A Sniper Looks at Dealey Plaza." Now THAT would have given him some ideas to work with. The ballistics analysis of the shot from the grassy knoll is flawed, the portrayal of Oswald is way off the mark, and Hugh Meachum (particularly as voiced by Buck Shirner) is obnoxious. "Bob the Nailer" as gumshoe detective is a terrible waste of a good character. The side-trip to modern-day Moscow and the Lubyanka archives was really a stretch. I consider this a reasonably entertaining book consisting mostly of a police procedural with a couple of gunfights thrown in, and a completely unsatisfying resolution of the assassination conspiracy. Not Hunter's best work. He has recently shown himself still a capable of writing a good action thriller, however. See "Soft Target" if you are looking for something on par with "Point of Impact."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Soft Target: Ray Cruz, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Stephen Hunter
    • Narrated By Phil Gigante
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (335)
    Performance
    (288)
    Story
    (285)

    New York Times best-selling author Stephen Hunter is back with another breakneck thriller, in which ex-Marine sniper, Ray Kruz, must outwit a group of murderous Somali terrorists who’ve laid siege to the Mall of America. Recently retired marine sergeant Ray Kruz has been talked into a mall trip by his fiancé, the beautiful Molly Chan. For Ray, Molly represents a way to reconnect with normal life, something his 20 years in the service and five tours in two combat zones have prevented.

    Jean says: "Another Action packed story from Hunter"
    "Hunter's best work in years"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Hunter is at his best writing fast-paced, action thrillers. Regrettably, in the past few years he has gotten off-target (pun intended) with densely-plotted procedurals involving the venerable Bob Lee Swagger. Bob Lee played out years ago and should have been retired following "Time to Hunt." Keeping the character going has induced a form of writer's block displayed in "The 47th Samurai" and "The Third Bullet" among others. With this book, Hunter is back doing what he does best. This action-packed ripper ranks up there with "Point of Impact" for sheer excitement. Perhaps Hunter should drop the entire Swagger family (particularly Nikki, who is simply annoying), forget continuity with past novels, and invent new characters. This one is a definite winner.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By James W. Douglass
    • Narrated By Pete Larkin
    Overall
    (125)
    Performance
    (99)
    Story
    (104)

    At the height of the Cold War, JFK risked committing the greatest crime in human history: starting a nuclear war. Horrified by the specter of nuclear annihilation, Kennedy gradually turned away from his long-held Cold Warrior beliefs and toward a policy of lasting peace. But to the military and intelligence agencies in the United States, who were committed to winning the Cold War at any cost, Kennedy's change of heart was a direct threat to their power and influence.

    Peter says: "One Book EVERY AMERICAN Needs to Read"
    "When the radical priest come to get me relased ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I had high hopes for this book as an up-to-date aggregation of JFK assassination research to replace Jim Marrs' excellent (but dated) "Crossfire." Douglass' book is a huge disappointment, having more to do with the canonization of JFK as a Roman Catholic martyr than with the conspiracy itself.

    Like Joe Friday, all I want are the facts. Douglass performs the specious task of imputing religious motivations to JFK's foreign policy, drawing parallels between that policy and the writings of Thomas Merton. Merton had about as much influence on JFK's foreign policy as Donald Duck.

    I agree with the author that JFK was killed by the "military-industrial complex." The military-industrial complex is a Very Bad Thing that controls our government to this day ("Don't drone me, bro!"). However, the characterization of JFK as a saint strikes me as naive. To quote James Ellroy: "Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He called a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab. Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood."

    The true story has been covered-up and the nation lied-to for 50 years. The full truth needs to be acknowledged by the government and the plotters exposed. This book, focused on Roman Catholic theology rather than the plot itself, does little to advance the cause. If you are an assassination conspiracy buff, better choices available on Audible include "LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination" and "Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Narrated By Joe Ochman
    Overall
    (658)
    Performance
    (558)
    Story
    (558)

    In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and in Antifragile he offers a definitive solution: how to gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. For what Taleb calls the "antifragile" is actually beyond the robust, because it benefits from shocks, uncertainty, and stressors, just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension. The antifragile needs disorder in order to survive and flourish. Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner.

    PHIL says: "Some good ideas, smart guy, not smart as HE thinks"
    "Superb work of scholarship"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I thought this would be a book about investing strategy. It is so much more. I will have to buy the hard copy and re-read it several times. There is a lot of meat to digest. Five-star work all the way. Taleb's comparison of the current state of academic research at publish-or-perish institutions with counterfeit watches is spot-on. I do not know of any practitioners in my field who bother to read any of the "leading journals" of academic research. Joe Ochman's narration is also outstanding. He does an excellent job coping with Taleb's broad vocabulary of unfamiliar English words smattered with foreign words like "flâneur." This book will expand your vocabulary if nothing else! I write mainly to voice my strong objection to the producer's decision to bleep Taleb's occasional use of expletives. Taleb is nothing if not a wordsmith and when he inserts an expletive it is for effect, either to show contempt for the idea he is debunking or to get the reader's attention. There is no excuse for the producer inserting a loud "bleep" over words like "bullsh*t." I listened to this book in the car and the bleeps are higher in volume that the surrounding speech. On several occasions, I thought someone was honking at me! The bleeps are unnecessary and disconcerting. May I suggest revising the recorded book to omit the bleeps? An excellent book that deserves a listen from every thoughtful person who is disturbed by current trends in academic research.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Russ Baker
    • Narrated By Oliver Wyman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (71)
    Performance
    (62)
    Story
    (63)

    French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre said that "words are loaded pistols". In the hands of Russ Baker, they are hydrogen bombs. On each and every page of his masterpiece, Family of Secrets, he explodes the myths and lies that powerful forces have perpetrated on the American consciousness. He digs beneath the surface in a form of journalistic archeology to reveal the hidden history of one of America's most powerful families, leaving no stone unturned.

    Cletus van Damme says: "Still Relevant, Impossible to Put Down"
    "Still Relevant, Impossible to Put Down"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Russ Baker is the only *real* investigative journalist I know who is working today. See WhoWhatWhy dot com for more of his work. This penetrating and insightful book tracks down obscure people and lost papers to pierce the veil of lies and disinformation surrounding the Bush dynasty's ascent to power. The same or similar techniques have their analogs in the current Obama regime. I was astonished at Baker's investigative prowess, firmly establishing Bush the Elder's long association with the CIA, his work in the anti-Castro movement, and use of Zapata off-shore drilling rigs to train anti-Castro rebels. 41's presence in Dallas on November 22 was no historical coincidence, nor was his involvement (at a discreet distance) in Watergate. This book illustrates the exercise of power by the financial elites better than any I have read. The reason I give it four stars rather than five is that the sheer breadth of Baker's discoveries requires many digressions to link disparate persons and incidents. Listening to the audiobook while driving caused me to lose the thread of his reasoning at a few points in the middle of the book. Oliver Wyman is pretty good at voice imitations and does an excellent job of both 41 and 43. I found this book so interesting and well-written that I have purchased the hardcover version so I can re-read sections and cross-reference at my leisure. Great stuff!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Elmer Gantry

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Sinclair Lewis
    • Narrated By Anthony Heald
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (322)
    Performance
    (141)
    Story
    (142)

    A greedy, philandering Baptist minister, Elmer Gantry turns to evangelism and becomes the leader of a large Methodist congregation. Often exposed as a fraud, he is never fully discredited. Elmer Gantry is considered a landmark American novel and one of the most penetrating studies of hypocrisy in modern literature. It portrays the evangelistic activity that was common in 1920s America as well as attitudes toward it.

    Erez says: "Halleluja, Brother Lewis!"
    "Spectacular Book, Superb Narrator"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Anthony Heald brings this nearly 90-year-old story to life, giving the listener full access to the brilliant and acerbic writing of Sinclair Lewis. The story is a timeless and mesmerizing send-up of hypocritical evangelists then and now. Burt Lancaster's role in the 1960 movie does justice to the character but truncates most of the novel. Well worth the listener's time, this book opened up the world of Sinclair Lewis for me. I cannot say enough good things about Anthony Heald's performance. Five-stars all the way.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Robert A. Caro
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (729)
    Performance
    (599)
    Story
    (595)

    The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career - 1958 to 1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet it was, as well, the time in which the presidency, the goal he had always pursued, would be thrust upon him in the moment it took an assassin’s bullet to reach its mark.

    Abdur Abdul-Malik says: "From Powerful to Powerless"
    "Least compelling volume so far"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Grover Gardner did his usual impeccable job of narration, but had one howler repeated several times. Referring to a group of cattle, he pronounced "Hereford heifers" as "HAIRY-ford HIGH-fers." Down on the LBJ Ranch they would say "HUR-ford HEFF-ers." This is not the strongest book in the series; I hope Robert Caro is not wearing out. He dismisses Johnson's possible involvement in either the JFK assassination or the subsequent cover-up in a couple of paragraphs, although the first section of the book provides Johnson with a surfeit of motive, consiglieri Ed Clark could have provided the means, and what better opportunity than a motorcade on Johnson's home turf to "take care of business"? Caro has done detailed research on Johnson's high crimes and misdemeanors (mainly extortion, influence-peddling, and fraud in this volume), but nonetheless adopts a hagiographic tone when referring to Johnson's legislative efforts on behalf of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For the first time in the series, Caro steps out of his role as impartial historian and acknowledges his own political views, writing with fervent approval of Johnson's Great Society programs and the "institutionalization of compassion" (an oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one). Still packed with fascinating details and a host of minutiae on Johnson and his era, this book suffers from an excessive focus on raw policy rather than the personalities and events that influenced policy. The Vietnam fiasco and Johnson's micro-mismanagement of the war should provide more spice in the next volume than the dry legislative issues in this one. I hope Robert Caro can hold on and hold out. He is 76 this year and looks every bit his age in recent photographs. These books are a monumental work and I hope Caro can complete the series and cement his legacy as the greatest biographer of our time.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Best Revenge

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Sol Stein
    • Narrated By Christopher Lane
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    Ben Riller is the most successful producer on Broadway, but his newest production is in danger of closing before it opens. In his stressed-out condition, Ben is hearing the voice of his long-dead father, and they're having a running argument about life, love, and other people's money.

    Cletus van Damme says: "Equally appealing to readers and writers"
    "Equally appealing to readers and writers"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm not sure whether Sol Stein wrote this book to illustrate the principles he espouses in "Stein on Writing," or whether he simply employed the principles while writing this book. "Stein on Writing" draws on this book for many of its examples. What emerges is an entertaining, fast-paced novel with numerous, multi-layered characters just as Stein prescribes in his text on writing. Good story with excellent narration by Christopher Lane (who also narrates "Stein on Writing"). Inclusion of a character long-dead at the time of the events described (in the form of a disembodied voice) was a stroke of creative genius. A dandy little piece of escapist fiction, an exemplar of Stein's recommended writing techniques, or both. Equally appealing to readers looking for a good story and writers looking for examples from a master.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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