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Richard

Reston, VA, USA

13
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 3 reviews
  • 17 ratings
  • 105 titles in library
  • 0 purchased in 2014
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  • Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Michael B. Oren
    • Narrated By Norman Dietz
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (196)
    Performance
    (48)
    Story
    (48)

    From the first cannonballs fired by American warships at North African pirates to the conquest of Falluja by the Marines, and from the early American explorers who probed the sources of the Nile to the diplomats who strove for Arab-Israeli peace, the United States has been dramatically involved in the Middle East. For well over two centuries, American statesmen, merchants, and missionaries, both men and women, have had a profound impact on the shaping of this crucial region.

    Karl says: "Thoughtful and balanced"
    "Had To Give Up"
    Overall

    Don't get me wrong: The book itself is very interesting, full of information that fascinates and intrigues. I bought the book. The audiobook was tedious and boring.

    This is an academic work. It is written in the self-important and frequently pedantic style that goes with textbooks and scholarly works. The author also can't resist showing off his vocabulary -- sometimes with constructions and words that break the flow of the piece, when a much simpler word or construction would have done the job nicely. In some cases, the construction seems to trip up the narrator, and in other cases the narrator's somewhat laborious delivery actually seems to add to the tedium of the more academic parts of the text. (But then again, the narrator is stuck with the text, isn't he?)

    Since the book is pursuing three specific academic themes, examples are frequently retold and anecdotes either referenced or repeated as the author gets to each theme. In the interests of developing his three theses, the author breaks up the chronology in a way that can be very distracting and hard to follow when you are listening (without a way to quickly leaf forward or backwards as you might with pages). You will listen through a segment of history in one theme, only to have it start over again as the author pursues and develops his next thesis. This inevitably results in repetition and disconnects the precedents and antecedents throughout the history.

    All of this adds up to an audio experience that can become tedious and seems to make the book longer than it really is. Since it is an audio experience, one cannot easily skim through sections quickly, as we all learned to do with academic books in high school or college. You must listen to the whole thing or take your chances in skipping ahead.

    In the end, I went out and bought the book. It's a great book. It's not a great listen.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Pillars of the Earth

    • UNABRIDGED (40 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Ken Follett
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13137)
    Performance
    (5480)
    Story
    (5526)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Got 40 hours to kill? You’ll find the time when you start listening to Lee’s take on Follett’s epic – and widely celebrated – novel of 12th-century England. The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known...of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect - a man divided in his soul...and of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame....

    CynNC says: "Captivating"
    "Addictive"
    Overall

    I could not put it down, could not stop. I listened driving to work ... then sat for another half hour in the parking lot, just to hear a little more. I took a book and some necessary work with me on a trip, and ended up just listening to this book on my iPod. I sought opportunities to drive from place to place, so I could listen to this audiobook. I lost track of the news. I forgot where I was.....

    The characters are memorable and terrifically developed. The setting and relationships between them are historically credible. The story flows seamlessly across the characters and the timeline. And, as you listen to a fabulous yarn, you are learning something about life in England during this period, the relationships between the classes at the time, how people advanced in their respective professions (or positions), how buildings were constructed, and how ideas flowed from place to place at the time.

    Fabulous. A tour de force. I was sorry it ended ... and went out and got his next book.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Three Empires on the Nile: The Victorian Jihad, 1869-1899

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Dominic Green
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (109)
    Performance
    (30)
    Story
    (30)

    Three Empires on the Nile tells of the rise of the first modern Islamic state and its fateful encounter with the British Empire of Queen Victoria. Ever since the self-proclaimed Islamic messiah known as the Mahdi gathered an army in the Sudan and besieged and captured Khartoum under its British overlord Charles Gordon, the dream of a new caliphate has haunted modern Islamists. The 19th-century origins of it all were even more dramatic and strange than today's headlines.

    Sean O'Keefe says: "Astoundingly good"
    "Good, not great"
    Overall

    A very interesting history that gives a lot of the background to not only the personal history of some famous figures (like Winston Churchill), but also the origins of some of the greatest issues of our day (the rise of the Islamist fundamentalism underlying al-Qa'ida). The book contains some brilliant descriptions drawn from artfully chosen quotations of the original works and writings from key characters.

    However, this book does not lend itself well to audio. The writing is scattered and it is difficult to follow. The book keeps jumping across timelines and years, with very poor "bridge" passages and almost no signposts to allow the listener to following the relationships between different pieces. It is nearly impossible to keep track of what events were happening when -- which things came first, and which follow. In the end, the audio book is a sometimes facinating collection of stories but does not hold together or flow as a history.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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