I have been looking for a balanced history of the time of the Kennedy brothers for a long time. Although I was too young to vote in 1960 when John Kennedy ran for President, I was old enough to be serving in the US military so I remember the Presidential campaign and his Presidency very well. And, like most people who were adults at the time, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about the assassination of John Kennedy in Dallas, Texas as well as the assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles.
I thought that the books about this period written shortly after the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy lacked objectivity and tended to be paeans of praise rather than histories and that those written during the 1980s tended to be revisionist and overly critical focusing on conspiracy theories, long on inuendo but short on facts. I bought this book because I felt that perhaps the 40+ years since the assassinations was enough time for historians to have gained the necessary objectivity to view the events of the period more dispassionately and write in a more balanced fashion.
This book centers on the relationship of the brothers during their time in office and especially during the time of John's Presidency. The central idea of the book, as described in the introduction, is that Robert's actions as Attorney General led directly to the events in Dallas and his brother's death. To describe the events and their linkages to the assassination the book the book covers the details of John's Presidency in a good deal of detail and that seems to be one of the main issues with the Audible version. Meetings between mafia Dons, labor leaders, high level US government officials, Soviet officials, Cuban exiles and the like are described and quotes from these meetings are used liberally. While the events and the quotes may well be accurate, the Audible reader is given no information about where the details come from. Perhaps there are footnotes in the print version of this book but nothing in the Audible version indicates the source of most of these quotes. Mr Mahoney's credentials as the Kennedy Scholar Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts, seem above reproach and so I assume the quotations are valid. Given that, the conclusions one are drawn to are hard to avoid.
This book is dense with facts, meetings, events and quotes and normally I would suggest that such an event rich book would be better understood in print where it is easier for readers to return to the previous paragraph to re-read something. In fact I found myself rewinding 30 seconds or more frequently to make sure I understood who was saying what, but the events themselves are fresh enough in my memory to have compensated for the lack of a print version and I found myself listening to hours at a time when I would normally have been doing something else. In fact I found myself finishing this book in less than 3 full days. Given the length of the book that gives some indication as to how the story and the narration held me.
Both John and Robert Kennedy are presented as real people with both foresight and limitations and the descriptions seem fair and real. While I would like to know the source of some of the quotes I have no doubt as their validity. Given the material being discussed (assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, collusion and communication with the Mafia and the stories behind both the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missle Crisis, among others), what we see is a very different view of Camelot and it both adds to and detracts from the highly burnished view that many people have of the Kennedy Presidency.
The narration by Peter Altschuler is very good and well suited to the contents. The events described in this book may be at variance with many people's current views of the Kennedys but I think the book is very well done and well worth reading. I recommend it although some parts of it may be hard to listen to, especially for those with a view of the period formed by the legend of Camelot.
WEB Griffin is one of the most prolific authors on Audible (the last time I checked he had 53 books available) and there is a reason for that. His stories are interesting, his characters seem real and are engaging and the world he presents is consistent across all of his books. His characters live in the world of the military (or other similar organizations like the police or fire-fighters), with its structure, rules and obligations and those organization, and most of the people presented, are honorable and live within the general constraints of those rules.
This particular book involves the search for a stolen 727 aircraft along with the concern that the aircraft may have been stolen for use in a terrorist attack somewhere in the US. The search involves some of the major branches of the US Government (the CIA, the DIA, Homeland Security) and local police forces and probably presents a likely sequence of events as some organizations make wrong decisions, some make right decision and some concern themselves with their own promotion rather than cooperating with each other. Those familiar with Griffin's other work will have a feel for how things will turn out in the end but the story is immensely satisfying, the characters realistic and likeable and this book, like every other Griffin book I have, seems well worth the time and cost.
I must admit that am a big fan of WEB Griffin and have the complete series of The Brotherhood Of War. I found those books wonderful and this book, the first in a different series, fits into the same mold as the others. That does not make the books boring since the events and the people differ from series to series, but the books are clearly Griffin's writing. The only negative comment I could think of for any of his books is that the people and the organizations presented are somewhat idealized. In his books the Army is presented as a big family with all members looking out for others in the family. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration I can say, after 3 tours of duty in the military, that this is the way those who are career people think of themselves and of the organization they are part of. The picture presented in the book may be somewhat idealized but it represents the way those people see both themselves and the military.
The narration is first class, the writing is first class, the story is interesting and very believable and the characters feel real. There is really nothing nothing negative for me to say about this book. Highly recommended for those who already are, or are willing to become, WEB Griffin fans.
The Enemy is a smart and intelligent mystery with an interesting, if somewhat far-fetched, plot and characters who seem both real and believable. It is the 8th book in the Reacher series but, from the perspective of the calendar, the first and hence a good book as an introduction to the character and the series.
While the plot is far-fetched and hard to credit, the development of the story, the clues, the characters and the situations in which we see all of them together are well drawn and the story as a whole hangs together very well. Since the whole story does not come out until the end it is easy to find yourself up until that point drawn in and I was, at points, unwilling to put the book down to take care of things that needed to be done.
The narration is first class and although I do not think of Jack Reacher so much as an honorable person as a persistent one who is unwilling to be chased off the track, he has admirable and honorable traits. However some of his actions are, in my view, unethical as well as illegal, but the book as a whole is satisfying. Recommended, with reservations.
I first read Clarke's Childhood's End when I was very young. At that time I spent most of my waking hours when out of grade school in the Public Library and I remember reading through this book and feeling that all of my questions about war, cruelty and fate were answered within its pages. I never forgot the book and carried fond memories through my life. Of course when I saw it on Audible and realized that it was a Daily Deal I immediately bought it.
My experience with this book as an adult turned out to be quite different from that when I was a child. What I thought of, as a child, as clear analysis and thoughtful solutions now seem to me to be naivety and silly suggestions. Clarke has presented us with answers that work well for a child but which I, as an adult, can only think of as foolish nostrums and wishful thinking. Some examples of Clarke's ideas in this book:
War and violence solves nothing. Of course I was told that as a child and Clarke's statement of it in this book made perfect sense to me when I was 13 years old, but as an adult I know how silly that statement actually is. Heinlein had the right answer to that statement in Starship Troopers when one of the characters refers to the end of World War II as proving that often violence is the only answer to some problems. All one has to do is think about The American Civil War, The English Civil War, the fate of Napoleon, The Punic Wars, The Battle of Salamis, The Battle of Thermopylae and the list goes on. It is not nice, it is not pretty but it is often true.
Theft and robbery would disappear if everyone had enough to satisfy their basic needs. One only has to look at the crime statistics from the Soviet Union where everyone had about the same level of goods to see that is not true.
A world constitution is easy to create and would satisfy all of the nations. And more ...
Clarke's writing is, of course, wonderful and his characters and control of the story are superb. Clarke was a wonderful writer and a great storyteller. Unfortunately, as an adult, this story strikes me as mostly silly nonsense and my sense of disappointment after re-reading as an adult it is profound. This book is wonderful for a young teenager but not so great for an adult aware of the limitations of the world. Many of the ideas presented are very simplistic and the notion of how humanity would likely react when they finally saw the Overlords seems like a far cry from reality.
Many reviews would probably take issue with my analysis and point out that the core of the book is about what happens after humanity is "reformed" and "changed" but getting past the initial assumptions, which occur somehow painlessly and without violence, is a bridge too far for me.
Of course this is a science fiction book, but I still expect it to reflect a basic level of reality as regards human beings. As well read as this book is I feel I have to differ from many of those reviewing it and say that I can only recommend this book if the reader is willing to suspend common sense. On the bright side the narration is excellent.
An astronaut is accidentally stranded on Mars when his colleagues wrongly believe him to be dead. It is hard to imagine any scenario where someone would feel more alone and less able to cope with his surroundings, but Mark Watney is a game and resourceful fellow and this is the story of his attempt to establish contact with Earth and survive until he can be rescued. It is interesting, funny, tragic and hopeful, all at the same time.
It is also the story of those who left him, believing him to be dead, and those back on Earth who try desperately to save him. All of the characters are interesting, all of the dialog rings true and the motives and hopes of all are presented in a way that makes this story all the more believable.
There is not much more to say here. The storyline is linear with few plot twists and there are no villains, but what could be a boring story of the attempt to stay alive takes a life of its own and is engrossing from start to finish. There is some harsh language but it has the ring of being how people would be reacting in the circumstance and thus is not gratuitous. The whole story feels real, the narration is excellent and it is hard to find a single thing to complain about.
Highly recommended if you are interested in the story of a survival attempt against all odds.I will look for more books by this author.
Mr Dolnick's book is basically about the scientific revolution which took place around the 17th century. It covers the discoveries of Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Hook, Liebnitz, Newton and others. In an attempt to explain the science and the reasons the discoveries were of importance Mr Dolnick does what the reader would expect - he presents the mathematics and science in the simplest possible terms so that they are understandable to those with no scientific training.
In this he does a credable job and, for the most part, the explanations make sense and are presented at a level that can be understood by those not "expert" in the areas involved. Mr Dolnick also tries to present the history of the discoveries in context with the times so that readers can understand how and why the discoveries were of importance.
Some parts of this book work relatively well. Kepler's discoveries (the 3 Laws) are explained in simple terms, Galileo's work is explained in a way that readers can relate to and in a way that makes their importance to those in everyday life understandable. There is an extended section on infinite numbers and why they presented difficulties to early mathematicians and an even more extended section on the tragic, but inevitable, clash between Newton and Liebnitz. Mr Dolnick even mentions the problems this caused the British during the following years, although I believe he should have spent more time explaining why this was a serious problem for British scientists. Still he does make a stab at the issue.
On the other hand I believe that there are issues with the presentation as well. First, Mr Dolnick seems to have a problem with religion in general and with those who are religious in particular. The first part of the book fairly reeks of religious intolerance and those who are "believers" are sometimes treated as fools. Secondly Mr Dolnick sometimes raises issues that he does not bother to finish. For example, what happened to Kepler's mother?
While the book is not intended to be a scientific treatise on the issues I believe that those familiar with the science and mathematics are probably not going to enjoy entire sections of the book. In his attempt to make the issues understandable to the layman Mr Dolnick often uses terminology that is either incorrect or so "dumbed down" that it is difficult for those who know the subject areas to bear with. For example, no one in the Sciences has used the term "imaginary numbers" since I was in High School many, many years ago. The numbers are now referred to as "complex numbers" since they are not "imaginary" at all. And, in spite of Mr Dolnick's book, mathematicians today would almost universally say that they are involved in the discovery of "eternal truths" and that has not changed since the time of Kepler. Armithmetic is not, and never has been, part of modern mathematics past the 5th or 6th grade in school.
I can only review and evalutate this book in the light I see it. If I were a non-scientist I suppose my review might be different but I am not and hence I find this book "off-putting" in entire sections. While I believe it would be of interest to those without much of a scientific background I believe it is of only very limited interest to those who are trained in the "exact sciences". On the plus side I believe that Alan Sklar's narration is very well done.
This book has generally received very good reviews so I must be the odd man out here. I found it to be mostly boring with one of the most dysfunctional families I have every had the displeasure to meet. While the story is supposedly about the search of a boy for the origins of a key linked to his father, there are really 3 main characters in the book; Oscar, the boy, his grandmother and his grandfather.
Oscar, the boy who lost his father in the 9/11 terrorist attack, seems largely normal for a boy his age and reminds me somewhat of myself at that age, although he carries more phobias that any boy I ever met growing up in New York City. Some of that probably is supposed to come from the experience of losing his father but some seem to come from nowhere I can understand and it strains credibility that a boy who lives in New York who is afraid to get on a ferry or ride a subway will plan to walk all over the 5 boroughs of New York looking for the person who knows something about the key he found. It seems even stranger that his mother allows him to do this without being overly concerned. But, even if you can live with that it is even more difficult to understand his grandparents.
His grandmother and grandfather are decidedly strange and, since their story constitutes about 60% of the book, that is not a trivial thing. The stream-of-consciousness writing and the total lack of any relationship between their story and Oscar's makes it difficult for me to understand why it is even part of this book. Add to that the fact that they are not particularly interesting characters and that their relationship strains credulity and you have a recipe for a meaningless book.
Perhaps it is because I worked as an engineer and expect events to bear some relationship to the story that I found this book so disjointed and without purpose. Perhaps those who are more open to the psychology of people rather than the purposeful relationships of events will find this book more interesting and worthwhile. I found it to be boring and it took an effort for me to finish it. On the upside the book is well narrated and there are some interesting surprises but I am unable to give this book more than 3 stars.
C J Sansom has delivered another wonderful Matthew Shardlake mystery. The quality of these mysteries has, for me, varied from book to book with some (like Dissolution) keeping their secrets until the end while others (like Dark Fire) requiring far less effort for the reader to solve. This offering actually contains four distinct mysteries and Matthew has taken on the chore of answering all of them and, as part of solving them, becomes far too obsessed to be healthy. For the first time in all of these books I lost patience with Matthew Shardlake. Readers might expect him to place himself in some danger in trying to solve a mystery but here Matthew willfully ignores advice he knows is best, disobeys his Queen and purposefully antagonizes people who can do him harm. This is not the Matthew I have known throughout these books. He has always seemed well-centered and cautious, but not here.
On the positive side the main mystery, which involves the welfare of a child, is probably the most opaque and the resolution took me completely by surprise. The other mysteries, while less central to the main story line, were also interesting in their own way with some answers being more surprising than others.
Rating this book has been a problem for me. The mysteries are sufficiently interesting and difficult to solve to give this book a high rating but Matthew's behavior, which disturbed me more than it should have, made this book far less enjoyable than it could have been. In the end the wonderful narration by Steven Crossley was enough for me to give it 5 stars in spite of Matthew's erratic and disturbing behavior. One can only hope that the character sees his obsessiveness and returns to the more normal behavior pattern of the previous books.
Perhaps it is me. I have read many books concerning the Second World War and the major heads of government and each book seems to have its own area of concentration and viewpoint. This is, of course, as it should be and why different books about the same subject are likely to yield additional insight into the events for those of us who were not directly involved. The same thing is true of this book. Max Hastings, who also wrote the book Inferno about World War 2, concentrates on Winston Churchill and his direct involvement in the running of the war. This book is not about the war itself but rather about how Churchill directed Britain's efforts in the war, both successfully and unsuccessfully, his interactions with his military chiefs and with leaders of other countries. Those efforts were political as Churchill worked to bring the Americans into the war and convince them of the soundness or lack thereof of various actions as were his relationships with Roosevelt, Stalin and others like Harry Hopkins and Charles de Gaulle.
Hastings is clear in his regard for Churchill and refers to him as the greatest British personality of the 20th century and, perhaps, of all time. The last part of the book is fulsome with praise of Churchill who Hastings clearly regards as the only person who was capable of saving Great Britain at that time. Given those statements it is hard to square the book, with its constant drumbeat of Churchill's failings, with his conclusions about Churchill's leadership. Of all of the books I have read about Churchill and the Second World War this is definitely the most downbeat and perhaps that is why I found it tiresome enough that, toward the end, I had a hard time finishing.
Hastings is a gifted historian and writer and it is hard to take issue with each listed blunder, mistake and failing that he mentions. They are all valid points and documented with letters, memorandums, reports and the like, but the cumulative effect of all of them is to paint Churchill as a muddle-headed war leader full of bizarre and wrong-headed plans and capable of the most stunning strategic blunders. Clearly some of this is true as his continued insistence on attaching "the soft underbelly of Europe" resulted in the only really impossible Allied military operation of the war - the war in Italy. Similarly his attempted defense of Greece, his plan to seize Rhodes and the Dodecanese Islands, his plans for Malta and other similar operations were clearly wrong-headed and tended to put off the Americans and annoy the Russians. But the emphasis of the book seems to be on these poor strategic decisions and to give less credit to those of Churchill's choices which were either correct or the least bad choice and one is left with the idea that Churchill was essential only up until perhaps the end of 1942.
To be sure the book also spends a lot of time discussion how ill prepared the Americans were to fight the war in Europe or even to be partners with the British in preparing to fight the war. Hastings discusses how little coordination there was between the US Army and Navy in discussions with the British, how ill prepared the American chiefs were when meeting with the British at Placentia Bay in Newfoundland and how much personal dislike there was between the two groups and between the people of the two nations. But much more time is spent on Great Britain's helpless situation in the early 1940s and the cynicism of those in power, including Churchill, in dealing with their allies. This book presents a different view of Churchill and a very different view of Great Britain than is normally seen in histories of this period.
At the end of the book I was left with the impression that Churchill's main contributions to the war were his stirring speeches and his defiance of Hitler and, had I not been reading about this period for more than 50 years, I would have been left with the impression that Churchill was over-rated as a statesman. But I know better. It was Churchill that kept Great Britain independent and in the war in 1939 and 1940. Without him the US would never have been able to find a way to help liberate Europe as it would have been impossible to do so from the US mainland. It was Churchill that kept the Americans from directly attacking France in 1942 when such an attack would have been a total and complete disaster. It was Churchill that pointed the way to the Mediterranean as the only place to fight Germans in 1942 and the place where the American Army could become proficient in battle. It was Churchill who helped keep the Russians in the war against the Germans and made it possible to defeat Nazi Germany. It was Churchill who foresaw the subjugation of Eastern Europe. The list goes on. To be sure all of this is covered in the book but I felt that the balance between Churchill's foresight and Churchill's follies was wrong and left one with the wrong impression.
Robin Sachs' narration is well done including a reasonable impression of Churchill's voice. This is a very good book but readers might also want to read another book about the period such as the third volume of William Manchester's Churchill biography "Defender of the Realm" to get a more balanced view of Churchill and the war years.
The main plot of the book seems both simple and transparent from the beginning. A man and a dog, both plagued by the death of a comrade and friend and both in need of healing, find their comfort, solace and the end of their pain with each other. While the plot seems simple the story is engaging, the characters seem real and the writing is first class. Although I felt that I knew what was coming I could not put the book down and, when I could not read it due to other things I had to do, I kept thinking about when I would be able to get back to Scott and Maggie.
In fact there are two intertwined plots in this book. The first, which I mentioned above, tapers down from being the main story line at the beginning to being only a thread toward the end. The second, about the search for the killers of Scott's first partner, expands as the first plot diminishes and, toward the end of the book, becomes a very large presence. Both plots are engaging and while I felt that the plot involving the theft and killing was relatively uninteresting it became more and more gripping as the story progressed and, by the end, became the driving force for the entire story and fully engaged me as a reader. I was so taken by the characters in this book that if I could find another Crais book with these two characters I would buy it in an instant.
An astonishingly good read, well narrated and highly recommended.
The owner of a valuable painting hires Dortmunder and his crew to steal his own painting so he (the owner) can collect on the insurance. What could go wrong? If you are familiar with Dortmunder, his crew and his luck, you already know the answer - just about everything.
The first Dortmunder book I read was Bank Shot which I bought from Audible as a light read. I enjoyed it enough to buy The Hot Rock and, by then, I was hooked on Westlake in general and Dortmunder in particular. For a light and enjoyable read these books are hard to beat.
As with the other Dortmunder books you can count on Dortmunder to plan well, select and interesting (and funny) crew for the job and for something, almost anything, to go wrong. From that point on the book is a fun ride with "laugh out loud" moments, unanticipated plot twists and a perfect ending. I don't know how he does it but Westlake never seems to skip a beat. Enjoyable from start to finish and, since Jeff Woodman is doing the reading, you can expect consistently good narration as well as a terrific story. My only complaint is that Audible is missing all of the Dortmunder books between volume 5 and volume 9 inclusive. Still, what they have is worth the credit (and then some).
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