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Tad Davis

ratings
1885
REVIEWS
370
FOLLOWING
11
FOLLOWERS
2514
HELPFUL VOTES
5536

  • A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Amy S. Greenberg
    • Narrated By Caroline Shaffer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (108)
    Performance
    (98)
    Story
    (100)

    A Wicked War presents the definitive history of the 1846 war between the United States and Mexico - a conflict that turned America into a continental power. Amy Greenberg describes the battles between American and Mexican armies, but also delineates the political battles between Democrats and Whigs - the former led by the ruthless Polk, the latter by the charismatic Henry Clay and a young representative from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln. Greenberg brilliantly recounts this key chapter in the creation of the United States authority and narrative flair.

    Tad Davis says: "The politics of the Mexican war"
    "The politics of the Mexican war"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Greenberg has written a lively political history of the Mexican war and the substantial but disorganized opposition to it. Key players include Henry Clay, James K. Polk, Nicholas Trist, and Abraham Lincoln: all deftly characterized with a few well-chosen anecdotes. The military history is covered in broad strokes - for more detail on that, a better choice would be Martin Dugard's Training Ground. But if you want a clear and vivid picture of the machinations that led to the war and to its ultimate conclusion, this is the book for you.

    There are obvious parallels with more recent wars, some of them opposed by many in the US, but Greenberg doesn't hit us over the head with that. Apart from a few somewhat anachronistic references to "embedded journalists," she leaves us to our own conclusions. This is political history, not politicized history.

    Caroline Shaffer's narration is equally lively. At first it seemed discordantly "peppy" to me, but as I got used to her style of delivery, I realized her unflagging energy was keeping me drawn to the story. All in all, I really enjoyed it.

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Felix Holt, The Radical

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By George Eliot
    • Narrated By Nadia May
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (84)
    Performance
    (52)
    Story
    (51)

    Relinquishing thoughts of a materially rewarding life, the respectably educated Felix Holt returns to his native village in North Loamshire and becomes an artisan. He is a forceful young man of honor, integrity, and idealism, burning to participate in political life so that he may improve the lot of his fellow artisans.

    connie says: "four and a half stars"
    "Rewarding"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Although there’s an insanely complicated legal situation at the heart of this novel, I found it to be one of Eliot’s more agreeable and rewarding works. All characters (except the truly worst) are treated with a broad and humane sympathy, and there are touches of humor - something that her novels often lack. Despite the title, Felix Holt is not the most interesting character in the book. That would have to be Esther, daughter of the local curate, and someone who begins with a shallow love of appearances and ends with love and courage - and a delightful sense of flirtatiousness.

    As always, Nadia May gives a sterling performance.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Waverley

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Sir Walter Scott
    • Narrated By David Rintoul
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    Waverley by Sir Walter Scott is an enthralling tale of love, war and divided loyalties. Taking place during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, the novel tells the story of proud English officer Edward Waverley. After being posted to Dundee, Edward eventually befriends chieftain of the Highland Clan Mac-Ivor and falls in love with his beautiful sister Flora. He then renounces his former loyalties in order actively to support Scotland in open rebellion against the Union with England. The book depicts stunning, romantic panoramas of the Highlands.

    Tad Davis says: "Loved it"
    "Loved it"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I love Walter Scott as a writer, and I love David Rintoul as a narrator, so my reaction to this delightful recording was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Scott’s story is a swashbuckler with a conscience, and one whose mostly happy ending is tinged with sadness at the tremendous losses that have been sustained. Edward Waverley is a dashing hero with a tendency to dither and bumble, which only makes him that much more likable. Some background on the 1745 revolt of Bonnie Prince Charlie is helpful and readily available from Wikipedia and elsewhere.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination: The Definitive Account of the Most Controversial Crime of the Twentieth Century

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Lamar Waldron
    • Narrated By Paul Heitsch
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (23)
    Performance
    (20)
    Story
    (21)

    November 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the tragedy that has haunted America ever since. For the first time, this concise and compelling book pierces the veil of secrecy to fully document the small, tightly-held conspiracy that killed President John F. Kennedy. It explains why he was murdered, and how it was done in a way that forced many records to remain secret for almost 50 years. The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination draws on exclusive interviews with more than two dozen associates of John and Robert Kennedy.

    Julian Haro says: "A must read for everyone"
    "Lost me on the single bullet theory"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The single-bullet theory can be criticized on many points. But it's really time to retire the old chestnut about the path being impossible because Connelly wasn't in the direct line of fire. Anybody who still brings that up, as Waldron does, immediately loses credibility.

    Connelly was sitting in a small collapsible seat that was to the left of and quite a bit lower than Kennedy; a bullet that exited Kennedy's neck on a downward path could easily have entered Connelly's back at the point where his first wound occurred. (What the bullet supposedly did after that point, and where it ended up, are the points where the theory is vulnerable.) This has been demonstrated repeatedly in computer analyses of the assassination; Waldron dismisses them in a single sentence and never mentions the effect of the seating.

    Debunking the single-bullet path was a memorable scene in Oliver Stone's film. But it's bogus: the stand-in for Connelly is sitting directly in front of the stand-in for Kennedy and at the same height. And that simply isn't how it happened.

    And while debunking this theory makes the job of debunking the Warren Report easier, it isn't necessary. Oswald could have been the lone gunman AND there could have been a conspiracy. It's not an either/or situation.

    For all that, Waldron may be right in his analysis of the motive, means, and opportunity. His argument supports the most recent official government conclusion (the House Assassinations Committee report): that Kennedy was probably killed as part of a conspiracy in which the Mafia figured heavily.

    But when he started to argue that Oswald wasn't involved in the shooting at all, I lost interest and stopped listening. It should be noted that that same House report concludes that Oswald was the only gunman whose bullets actually found their target; and it presented considerable evidence as to his political motives in trying to kill Kennedy. I'll go back to Waldron's book someday, when I'm in the mood for a detective novel.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Charles Dickens BBC Radio Drama Collection

    • ORIGINAL (71 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Charles Dickens
    • Narrated By Andrew Scott, Robert Glenister, Tim McInnerny, and others
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (3)

    Riveting radio dramatisations of Charles Dickens' 15 full-length novels. Charles Dickens is one of the most renowned authors of all time, and this digital volume of the dramatised canon of his work includes 15 of his most popular novels.This collection includes the episodic adventure Nicholas Nickleby, comic tale The Pickwick Papers, poignant melodrama The Old Curiosity Shop and the much-loved Oliver Twist. Plus, the gripping historical novel Barnaby Rudge, picaresque comedy Martin Chuzzlewit and bittersweet tale of family relationships Dombey and Son. Also included is the epic masterpiece David Copperfield, described by Dickens as his ‘favourite child’; suspenseful mystery Bleak House; Dickens’ most openly political novel, Hard Times; and Little Dorrit, a sweeping tale of imprisonment, poverty and riches. Plus A Tale of Two Cities, set during the French Revolution; coming-of-age novel Great Expectations; sweeping satire of wealth and corruption Our Mutual Friend; and Dickens’ final, unfinished story, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

    Tad Davis says: "Brilliant but badly assembled"
    "Brilliant but badly assembled"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'll start off by saying that I hope this review (written in early March 2018) becomes obsolete, and that the problems identified here are corrected in a revised release. If this happens, my overall rating will change from its initial one star. (Since Audible doesn't allow reviews to be modified, even after substantial changes are made to an audiobook, there is no other way to indicate the change.)

    How can I give Performance and Story 5 stars and give an overall rating of 1 star? Because as brilliantly as these adaptations are written and acted, they have been assembled into one of the worst audiobook packages of all time.

    The production is long enough to get broken into multiple files - in fact, it's almost as long as complete recordings of the Bible. But there is no correspondence - none - between book and file. Some files have multiple books and some books cross multiple files. I've included a breakdown at the end of this review that shows how bizarrely this is put together.

    It doesn't end there. Only a couple of the books have a title segment. Within the same file, you can end one book and begin the next one with no indication - apart from a change in theme music - that you've started a different book. Along the same lines, most of the books are missing a narrated cast list. (This is actually a common sin in older BBC dramatizations.)

    And to add insult to injury.... each file begins with a 30-second track announcing... The Pickwick Papers. When I first started browsing the files, I thought The Pickwick Papers extended through the first three files. Then I realized that the only way to find out where each book began and ended was to listen to the beginning and end of every track.

    There is NO WAY to tell from the files (or anything else about the presentation or organization) which file contains the book you're looking for. I've seen badly organized audiobooks before, but nothing as atrocious as this. There is simply no excuse for it.

    All complaints could be addressed with an accompanying PDF containing a track breakdown and cast list.

    Breakdown (first number is the file, second number, after the period, is the track):

    1.1-1.6: Pickwick Papers
    1.7-1.12: Oliver Twist
    1.13-2.11: Nicholas Nickleby
    2.12-2.36: Curiosity Shop
    2.37-3.2: Barnaby Rudge
    3.3-3.12: Martin Chuzzlewit
    4.2-4.21: Dombey & Son
    4.22-4-41: David Copperfield
    4.42-5.5: Bleak House
    5.6-5.9: Hard Times
    5.10-6.3: Little Dorrit
    6.4-6.8: Tale of Two Cities
    6.9-7.2: Great Expectations
    7.3-7.22: Our Mutual Friend
    7.23-7.27: Edwin Drood [completed]

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Doctor Who - The Marian Conspiracy

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 56 mins)
    • By Jacqueline Rayner
    • Narrated By Colin Baker, Maggie Stables
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    Tracking a nexus point in time, the Doctor meets Dr. Evelyn Smythe, a history lecturer whose own history seems to be rapidly vanishing. The Doctor must travel back to Tudor times to stabilise the nexus and save Evelyn's life. But there he meets the Queen of England and uses all his skills of diplomacy to avoid ending up on the headman's block.... Written by: Jacqueline Rayner. Directed by: Gary Russell.

    Tad Davis says: "Good Colin Baker story"
    "Good Colin Baker story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    An interesting historical tale, and a good outing for Colin Baker. My only complaint is that like so many other audio dramas, the credits are missing or woefully incomplete. It would be nice if there were at least a downloadable PDF with more details. But otherwise it’s a good old 4-part serial.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Life of Samuel Johnson

    • UNABRIDGED (51 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By James Boswell
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    Charming, vibrant, witty and edifying, The Life of Samuel Johnson is a work of great obsession and boundless reverence. The literary critic Samuel Johnson was 54 when he first encountered Boswell; the friendship that developed spawned one of the greatest biographies in the history of world literature. The book is full of humorous anecdote and rich characterization, and paints a vivid picture of 18th-century London, peopled by prominent personalities of the time.

    Tad Davis says: "Wonderful!"
    "Wonderful!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I usually try to wait till I’ve finished listening to a book to write a review. I have to make an exception in this case. David Timson is the perfect narrator for Boswell’s Life of Johnson, and he carries it off with lightness and charm (and the slightest of Scottish accents). I took a point off on the story because I dislike Boswell - it’s irrational, but despite his charm and his devotion to Johnson, I can’t help feeling he’s not a very nice person. Fortunately the effect of the book is of spending many hours in Johnson’s company rather than Boswell’s.

    There is one other recording of the complete Life available on Audible. While both are excellent, Timson’s delivery is more engaging and the sound quality of this recording is better.

    Don’t think of it as a mammoth undertaking. Think of it as something to listen to for an hour a day - at that rate you’ll have gone through the whole thing in less than two months. You can even take weekends off.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • This Side of Paradise (AmazonClassics Edition)

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    Young midwesterner Amory Blaine is certain he is destined for greatness. On his quest, he enrolls in Princeton, finds an ephemeral first love, fulfills his duty in war, and becomes enraptured by debutante Rosalind Connage, who defines all that Amory has desired and everything he could lose. As conventions, romance, and money fail him, Amory's restless pursuit of enlightenment takes him down a dark path, but closer to understanding himself and his place in the world.

    Tad Davis says: "Passionate "
    "Passionate "
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Dick Hill gives a passionate and powerful reading of Fitzgerald’s first novel. I came late to Fitzgerald, and I wasn’t expecting the range of emotions and genres packed into this small space. Besides the expected prose, there are generous helpings of poetry (and stirringly poetic prose) and even part of a playscript. The narrative is peppered with subheadings, like a textbook - or like the Aeolus episode in Joyce’s Ulysses, but two years before Ulysses was published.

    Amory Blaine is a Princeton undergraduate trying to find himself. Gargantuan quantities of alcohol are consumed; late night bull sessions diagnose all the problems of society; the women Amory falls in love with (or at least falls in sex with) are impossibly beautiful and flirtatious. The Great War, after rumbling in the background for four years, finally impinges directly on his life (and takes away forever a number of his college buddies).

    I’m not sure the ending of the novel really clicked for me. There’s not much of a plot; it’s more of an impressionistic survey of significant moments in a young man’s growing up. But there’s plenty of emotion and plenty of beauty, and Hill’s narration sings and soars.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • King Arthur: History and Legend

    • ORIGINAL (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, Dorsey Armstrong
    • Narrated By Professor Dorsey Armstrong Ph.D Duke University
    Overall
    (777)
    Performance
    (710)
    Story
    (702)

    These 24 spellbinding lectures reveal the full scope of the Arthurian tradition, from its beginnings in post-Roman Britain to its extraordinary trajectory across the centuries and its latest incarnations in modern times. Your pathfinder in this world of mythic adventure and romance, Professor Armstrong, is one of the world's leading Arthurian scholars and the current editor-in-chief of the academic journal Arthuriana.

    C. Telfair says: "Twelve Hours in Camelot"
    "Loved it!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Several years ago I happened on a copy of Dorsey Armstrong’s excellent rendering of Malory into modern English. It hasn’t achieved the widespread availability it deserves. So it was a special treat to find this entry in the Great Courses series. I loved it. Her lectures are deeply informed and wide-ranging, covering Welsh, Norman, French, German, and even Dutch and Italian representations of Arthur. She clearly outlines the successive layers of the legend: one author adds the round table, another adds Lancelot, another adds the Grail. And she carries it forward into the 21st century, including a number of films on Arthur - her favorite being Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Her delivery is direct and engaging; some of her personal anecdotes are especially amusing. Good job all around.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Wrong Box

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Robert L. Stevenson
    • Narrated By Peter Newcombe Joyce
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    Victorian humour generally doesn't translate well across time. The Wrong Box is one of the exceptions. The plot revolves around the supposed death of Joseph Finsbury who, as a youth, with his brother Masterman joined a tontine - a scheme whereby each entrant pays a fixed amount and the sum total, with interest, is given to the one who lives the longest. At the beginning of the story there are three survivors and then two - the Finsbury brothers.

    Tad Davis says: "A dark, brilliant farce"
    "A dark, brilliant farce"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Wrong Box is one of the most darkly funny stories I've ever read. And for it to have been written by Robert Louis Stevenson seems nearly a miracle. Of course Stevenson was far more than the author of "boy's books" like Treasure Island and Kidnapped. (I'm not knocking those: I re-read them nearly every year and wonder anew at their brilliant characters and swashbuckling plots.) He wrote many serious and adult-oriented stories, like The Suicide Club and his South Sea Tales, which I'm only now beginning to read. But nothing prepared me for The Wrong Box.

    The humor is as close to the gallows as it can get. Much of the action involves a badly mauled body that keeps getting moved from one container to another. There are cousins, hilariously distinct in personality, who scheme against each other for a large fortune either may inherit (but not both). Or, maybe more accurately, one of them schemes, and the other, a cheerful and high-functioning drunk, counter-schemes in self-defense. It's all played out at breakneck speed and with plot twists worthy of the most over-the-top farce.

    Peter Joyce reads it with delightful brio, getting heaps of mileage out of the vividly contrasting characters. I listened to it with great pleasure, and it expanded my awareness of what Stevenson was capable of.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Possessed

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Constance Garnett - translator
    • Narrated By Constantine Gregory
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (13)

    Also known as Demons, The Possessed is a powerful socio-political novel about revolutionary ideas and the radicals behind them. It follows the career of Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky, a political terrorist who leads a group of nihilists on a demonic quest for societal breakdown. They are consumed by their desires and ideals, and have surrendered themselves fully to the darkness of their "demons". This possession leads them to engulf a quiet provincial town and subject it to a storm of violence.

    Tad Davis says: "Womderful"
    "Womderful"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I’ve tried for years to read this novel but was never able to get through it. There are several dozen characters - more even than usual for Dostoevsky (I think) - and the Russian names, always a daunting task to keep straight, are overwhelming. The novel takes a very long time introducing the characters and setting up the main action. to get started.

    Constantine Gregory’s reading (of Constance Garnett’s translation) somehow made most of those problems go away. I had the benefit of my list of names from previous attempts, and maybe that helped. The main story still takes awhile to get moving, but Gregory infuses both narration and dialogue with a liveliness and humor that had escaped me earlier. Some of the scenes that confused me earlier now seem hilariously over the top - in a good way.

    Many of the characters suffer from a claustrophobic self-consciousness - practically a trademark of Dostoevsky’s. The narrator is a little odd, partly in and partly out of the action: a member of the community, a friend of Stepan Verkovensky, but sometimes omniscient, and possibly unreliable. Three men in particular dominate the action: Stepan Verkovensky, an aging writer, philosopher, and poseur; his son Pyotr; and Pyotr’s cohort and erstwhile friend Nikolai Stavrogin, an aristocrat whose actions always tend toward the unexpected.

    Pyotr Verkovensky is a particularly complex and nasty character. He babbles on endlessly, in the most obnoxious way; yet in his babbling he manages to brutally insult his father, threaten Nikolai Stavrogin, and humiliate the local governor, who claims an awareness of his subversive activities. While he turns out NOT to be the main character, Pyotr is in fact the man who sets most of the action in motion. That action expands to include several murders, arson, a woman beaten to death by a mob, a duel, and several suicides. It’s all in the service of misguided youthful nihilism.

    There is an appendix, which is difficult to listen to but should not be skipped. It’s a chapter that Dostoevsky was forced by his publisher to omit because it describes a descent into horror, on the part of Stavrogin, that is no less horrible for its omission of any explicit detail. Dostoevsky was right that it’s essential to an understanding of Stavrogin’s character - thief, poisoner, and child rapist that he is. Omitting it would be like omitting the Grand Inquisitor chapter from the Brothers Karamazov.

    Constantine Gregory is a wonderful narrator, always finding what seems to me exactly the right tone to strike in a given scene, and keeping all the characters straight with clear distinctions in pitch and accent. I look forward to hearing his other Naxos readings of Dostoevsky.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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