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Joel Langenfeld

Member Since 2005

64
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 16 reviews
  • 510 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 53 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
3

  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Ian Mortimer
    • Narrated By Jonathan Keeble
    Overall
    (442)
    Performance
    (321)
    Story
    (320)

    Imagine you could travel back to the 14th century. What would you see? What would you smell? More to the point, where are you going to stay? And what are you going to eat? Ian Mortimer shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. He sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking you to the Middle Ages. The result is the most astonishing social history book you are ever likely to read: evolutionary in its concept, informative and entertaining in its detail.

    Marc-Andr? says: "Detailed, Interesting and Entertaining"
    "Unique Presentation"
    Overall

    Hmmm... History as a travelogue.

    The format works extremely well here. While the actual history is well, pedestrian, that's not the point.

    By framing the exposition as "Here is what you'll find..." or "this might surprise you..." the reader is engaged with the culture on an intuitive level seldom experienced outside the trappings of historical fiction.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Larry Correia
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot
    Overall
    (5264)
    Performance
    (4762)
    Story
    (4775)

    Jake Sullivan is a licensed private eye with a seriously hardboiled attitude. He also possesses raw magical talent and the ability to make objects in his vicinity light as a feather or as heavy as depleted uranium, all with a magical thought. It's no wonder the G-men turn to Jake when they need someoneto go after a suspected killer who has been knocking off banks in a magic-enhanced crime spree.

    Clinton says: "Not what I thought it was going to be."
    "It may not be the Great American Novel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    but when you died and went to audiobook heaven, you'd find this on your ipod.

    Let's face it, this is pure escapism. A pulpy alternate history set in the 1930's, where magic entered the world in the mid 19th Century and humanity is still trying to come to grips with it. The trilogy pits the forces that would exploit those with magic against a shadowy secret society that would protect those with magic. In each book, you find a deeper, more sinister "big bad", and the plucky Grimnoire rise to challenge.

    Cheesy ploy aside, the writing is exceptionally strong. Two of the pivotal characters, Jake Sullivan and especially Faye Vierra among the most memorable and fully realized you'll encounter in a long, long time. There is a lot of action, which can get graphic, though it stays short of indulgent. Good guys and bad guys and guys you aren't sure about will all get punched, kicked, shot, stabbed, burned, frozen, squashed, drowned, dropped from high places, etc - often repeatedly. Many chapters start with an epigram that is a "modified" version of a quote from a well known historical figure. The history buffs will get some chuckles out of these.

    On paper, this would be a fun read. On audio, you need a narrator. Bronson Pinchot's performance is absolutely astonishing. Each main character as a distinctive tone, pitch, cadence, and accent which are spot on. The third person narration is equally as lively and nuanced.

    Net-net, you get an endearing book performed by a master narrator at the peak of his game.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Siegfried Knappe, Ted Brusaw
    • Narrated By John Wray
    Overall
    (327)
    Performance
    (293)
    Story
    (291)

    A German soldier during World War II offers an inside look at the Nazi war machine, using his wartime diaries to describe how a ruthless psychopath motivated an entire generation of ordinary Germans to carry out his monstrous schemes.

    Erik says: "An incredible true story"
    "Deliver us, O Lord, from this publisher!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Here's the Publisher summary:
    A German soldier during World War II offers an inside look at the Nazi war machine, using his wartime diaries to describe how a ruthless psychopath motivated an entire generation of ordinary Germans to carry out his monstrous schemes.

    This book contains the memoirs of a rising German officer and his experiences. He had access to the Fuerherbunker in the last days of Hitler's life. This much is true.

    There is very little "discription of how a ruthless psychopath motivated and entire generation....".

    Knappe had a remarkable story to share, and well worth reading. Like all memoires, what you get is "how I would like others to remember my life", and you have to take the unverifiable with a grain of salt - especially after his boasts of having told is Russian interrogators precisely what would paint himself in the best possible light.

    However, the publisher evidently thought that a simple narrative would not suffice. Note the summary. I'm surprised every third word was not in boldface with multiple exclamation points.

    Cheesy marketing copy would have just ellicited an eyeroll, however it's clear that the publishers interference went far deeper. The book opens with the section covering a couple of months in 1945. Granted, the action was the Battle of Berlin which would probably draw the most readers, but it was clear that this exerpt was simply plucked from the back half of the book and inserted at the front. There is no introduction, people who you would "later" meet in are mentioned by surname only, etc. There is no transition to the next section, which was obviously intended to be the first. Finally, there is also the gap, without transition, from the story leading to the Battle of Berlin across the chasm to Knappe's imprisonment by the Russians following his capture.

    I found the later the most interesting, as Knappe's description of life as a Russian prisoner was much more compelling than his tangential connection with Hitler. Knappe lashes out against the collaborators among the other prisoners, their motivations, etc. He's also doesn't shy away from naming names.

    FInally, there is a continuing thread in which Knappe's disenchantment with Hitler and the high command grows and periodically recalls the prophetic words of the ski resort owner he encountered in 1936 - that Hitler would lead German to ruin. It is up to other readers to sort out how much of that is fact, Knappe's revisionism, or a ham-fisted publisher's demand that it would tie everything together. I couldn't manage it.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Sorcerer of the North: Ranger's Apprentice, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By John Flanagan
    • Narrated By Stuart Blinder
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (360)
    Performance
    (260)
    Story
    (266)

    Time has passed since the apprentice and his master, Will and Halt, led the Araluens to victory against invaders, and Will is now a full-fledged Ranger with his own fief to look after. The fief seems sleepy - boring, even - until the king is poisoned. Joined by his friend Alyss, Will is thrown headfirst into an extraordinary adventure propelled by fears of sorcery, and must determine who is trustworthy to the king and who is trying to take his throne.

    Wayne says: "Buy the other book"
    "Sold into slavery?!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    My family has generally enjoyed the listening to this series on car trips, etc. The dialogue can be shaky and the plot often has some glaring holes, but the story and characters are usually more than enough to compensate.

    However, I was shocked when Will casually sold an inconvenient adversary into slavery. This is something a hero does not do. I haven't finished the book yet, so I do not know there will be significant consequences. I can only hope.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Battle: When US and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Stephen Harding
    • Narrated By Joe Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (24)
    Performance
    (22)
    Story
    (22)

    May 1945. Hitler is dead, and the Third Reich is little more than smoking rubble. No GI wants to be the last man killed in action against the Nazis. But for cigar-chewing, rough-talking, hard-drinking, hard-charging Captain Jack Lee and his men, there is one more mission: rescue 14 prominent French prisoners held in an SS-guarded castle high in the Austrian Alps. It's a dangerous mission, but Lee has help from a decorated German Wehrmacht officer and his men, who voluntarily join the fight.

    Joel Langenfeld says: "Write the book, THEN the screenplay."
    "Write the book, THEN the screenplay."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book as a screenplay, which may have been at the back of the author's mind. There are a couple of themes you could work with - the continuum of loyalism, especially after the death of Hitler is one, how to best arrange for one's personal destiny if you know you're going to be on the losing side is another.

    Ironically, the author spends much more time fleshing out the portrayal of the detainees and various German/Austrian notables. It could be he couldn't resist the thought of forcing the swashbuckling tank commander into a yankee stereotype, best introduced in a headlong rush of action.

    There are the makings of a much better narrative than that which was told. Ultimately disappointing. A popular history written by someone hoping the screenplay gets picked up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Book Thief

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Markus Zusak
    • Narrated By Allan Corduner
    Overall
    (7690)
    Performance
    (5901)
    Story
    (5921)

    It's just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books.

    Shannon says: "Word Thief"
    "I will soon review this book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    and when I do, you will see that the review is as I have foretold, so that afterward you will agree that the review was indeed the review to which I alluded.

    Can we have just a little less breathless foreshadowing?

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By John Flanagan
    • Narrated By John Keating
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1051)
    Performance
    (775)
    Story
    (782)

    Will is an orphan and a ward of the castle. He hopes to someday become a great hero. But he is a small boy, and only the biggest and toughest are selected as warriors. He has other talents though, and they catch the attention of the mysterious Ranger Halt. Will soon masters stealth and accuracy with the bow.

    Deborah says: "YA?"
    "Storyline gleams through rough writing, narrator"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was looking for a book to play during family car trips. I thought this fantasy coming-of-age book would fit the bill.

    There is a gem of a story in here, and paced nicely enough to keep you interested. This isn't the work of a polished author, yet there is real promise. The language can be a little stilted. There are more than a few holes, and some holes which the author evidently could not bridge without resorting to "here a miracle occurs". These are a mild distraction.

    The narrator could use a lesson or two from Simon Vance or Bronson Pinchot... It doesn't seem to matter which character is speaking, you can never seem to picture anything but a British university student desperately trying to land a role in the summer stock production.

    Distractions aside, I was pleased to see a story where the kid (hero) couldn't quite measure up to his own unrealistic expectations, and yet finds he is ideally suited to be a hero in his own right. I was also pleased to see interesting and engaging secondary characters whose aspiration was NOT to storm castles or slay the dragon.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By James D. Hornfischer
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (274)
    Performance
    (193)
    Story
    (194)

    With The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts, James D. Hornfischer created essential and enduring narratives about America’s World War II Navy, works of unique immediacy distinguished by rich portraits of ordinary men in extremis and exclusive new information. Now he does the same for the deadliest, most pivotal naval campaign of the Pacific war: Guadalcanal.

    Thomas says: "Hornfischer does it again."
    "Exceptional History by a Gifted Writer"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm a history buff chose titles based on what I find interesting at the time. I hadn't spent a lot of time on the naval war in the Pacific, after Coral Sea/Midway. From a distance, everything just looks inevitable. This title was chosen by my book club, and they found a real winner.

    Inevitable is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Hornfischer makes a compelling case that the Imperial Navy still had a lot of arrows to loose, and the USN was still had a lot of catching up to do in its forced transition from a peacetime navy to the dominant force on the water it would become.

    This would make a fine history on its own, but Hornfischer's writing is a real treat as well. I'd read his writing if the history of 1960's macrame were the topic.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Melting Stones

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Tamora Pierce
    • Narrated By Grace Kelly
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (191)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (75)

    Evvy, the fierce young stone mage introduced in Street Magic, has accompanied her guardian, Rosethorn, on a mission to study a mysterious plant die-off. With the help of Luvo, who is the living heart of a mountain, Evvy discovers the real source of the threat, which is far greater than anyone had imagined. Preventing a natural disaster may cost Evvy her life.

    Julia says: "Great story, great performance"
    "Melting Stones"
    Overall

    I downloaded this for a road trip with my 12 yr old budding geologist daughter. The characters are the strongest part of this story, along with Pierce's vision of stone magic. The storyline is good as a whole, but can be a little shaky. (dodging spoilers) The party seems to take an inordinately long time to figure out what is going on, and as the climax is approaching we are treated to two or three chapters of pointless argument.

    I guess I'd differ from the rave reviews of the narration - I found it pedestrian at best. The narrators could have brought so much more to the table with some well-chosen emphasis now and again. To be fair, they were hobbled by Pierce's dialog which may have passed on the page, but become labored aloud.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Robert L. O'Connell
    • Narrated By Alan Sklar
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (142)
    Performance
    (62)
    Story
    (63)

    For fans of Victor Davis Hanson, Donald Kagan, and Barry Strauss comes a rich, sweeping account of the most imitated---and vicious---battle in history.

    Douglas says: "Hannibal's Legacy"
    "Hannibal Invents the Internet!"
    Overall

    Sweeping generalization laced with unsupportable assertions, tied together with the theory that if it had something in common with the Second Punic War, it must be a direct result of Cannae.

    Cannae was a very dark day for the Roman Republic to be sure, but many of the trends O'Connell declares were a direct result were already well under way before Hannibal left Iberia.

    Some of data regarding the organization and tactics of the Roman and Carthegean warriors is presented well, but it felt a little like digging through knee-deep mud in search of agates. I eventually gave up.

    0 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Bernard Cornwell
    • Narrated By Robin Bowerman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (118)
    Performance
    (59)
    Story
    (59)

    While the major fighting of the war moves to the south in the summer of 1779, a British force of fewer than a thousand Scottish infantry, backed by three sloops-of-war, sails to the desolate and fog-bound coast of New England. Establishing a garrison and naval base at Penobscot Bay, in the eastern province of Massachusetts that would become Maine, the Scots - the only British troops between Canada and New York - harry rebel privateers and give shelter to American loyalists....

    Clayton says: "I've loved 35 books by Cornwell: this one -- no"
    "Good but not Great"
    Overall

    I've listened to several Cornwell books on Audible. Usually they're compelling, tense and with superb narration. While this one held my interest, the tension was a little forced, the narrator simply "acceptable" and the audio quality suspect in places (at least places other than a school gymnasium).

    I'm not clear on why the characters are a little more shallow than the typical Cornwell - perhaps he's trying to stick closer to the written record of the Penobscot expidition. I'd have to add that I really appreciate the "Author's Notes" Cornwell includes at the end of his novels, wherein he expands somewhat on the historical context and his departures for the purposes of narrative. That was sadly absent in this edition.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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