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  • Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Colonel Joseph H. Alexander United States Marine Corps (Ret.)
    • Narrated By Tom Weiner

    On November 20, 1943, in the first trial by fire of America’s fledgling amphibious assault doctrine, 5,000 men stormed the beaches of Tarawa, a seemingly invincible Japanese island fortress barely the size of the 300-acre Pentagon parking lots. Before the first day ended, one-third of the marines who had crossed Tarawa’s deadly reef under murderous fire were killed, wounded, or missing. In three days of fighting, four Americans would win the Medal of Honor and six thousand combatants would die.

    Iain says: "The Definitive Battle History of Tarawa"
    "Compelling History"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, but only if they were in interested in WW II or history in general. Most people are too wrapped up in their online life to give a book like this a listen. Sad, but true.

    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Not applicable to a book of this type.

    What does Tom Weiner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His narration is among the best. One of my top five favorite narrators. WW II is one of my primary areas of interest, but I actually found this book by searching his name.

    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book didn't evoke emotion such as books like "For Crew and Country", "Neptune's Inferno" or "The Battle of Midway" by Craig Symonds did, but it was nonetheless a book that made me seriously think about the sacrifices made on these islands.

    Any additional comments?

    This is a solid book with good historical information about a battle that I knew little about before. It gives a good amount of biographical detail about the main players without getting too far into the weeds like so many books do. Definitely worth the listen. However, I'm not sure another narrator could have pulled it off. His narration definitely kept me engaged.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Idaho Falls: The Untold Story of America's First Nuclear Accident

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By William McKeown
    • Narrated By Bob Dunsworth
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    When asked to name the world’s first major nuclear accident, most people cite the Three Mile Island incident or the Chernobyl disaster. Revealed in this book is one of American history’s best-kept secrets: the world’s first nuclear reactor accident to claim fatalities happened on United States soil. Chronicled here for the first time is the strange tale of SL-1, a military test reactor located in Idaho’s Lost River Desert that exploded on the night of January 3, 1961, killing the three-man maintenance crew on duty.

    paulb says: "Nuclear noocyuler"
    "A Really Good, but Dreadfully Written Book"

    ‘Idaho Falls’ sat in my wish list for about 9-months gathering digital dust, all but forgotten among other various titles. Then, while listening to ‘Atomic Awakening’ this event was detailed. That reference piqued my interest and, upon finishing that book, I purchased this. I started this book last Friday night and finished it on Sunday morning. That should give some idea of how captivating this story was. I didn’t want to stop listening, which is ironic considering my overall opinion of the book.

    The Writing – In short, it was sloppy. It lacked important scientific background information and details for some of the topics discussed. Because of that and the fact that the author was not clear and consistent with his use of descriptive words a reader who knows nothing about nuclear power or the physics behind it may have trouble following the content. Or, worse yet, if the reader harbors fear or bias about nuclear science this book will likely terrify them and make them feel as though all irrational fears have been confirmed. This is a significant problem because correct application of technical jargon is important for proper context and correct understanding of topics like this.

    The Not So Good – The author wrote the following; “…others thought a sudden rod withdrawal would take the reactor critical destroying the reactor core.” Now, this isn’t ‘technically’ incorrect, it’s just an incomplete explanation even in context and is very misleading to any layperson and it’s frustrating to anyone who understands this subject. He, like so many, makes it sound as though “criticality” is a bad thing when, in fact, it’s a normal function of controlled nuclear fission. Further, some of his analogies were callus in presentation such as when he referred to the three victims of this event becoming “nuclear pioneers” because they were the first people to be killed by this type of incident or when he described retrieving the body of the third victim as a ‘rescue’ when it was clearly a recovery. Minor points? Maybe, but when I say aloud; “wow, that’s a bad way to describe things” I need to put it in my review.

    The Bad – The deadly incident at the SL-1 reactor would properly be described as a ‘criticality accident’ and/or ‘power excursion’ in the reactor core resulting in over pressurization and explosion of the containment vessel. Granted, there’re several ways to accurately describe it, but the author was not consistent in his use of terminology when referring to this event calling it a blast, a nuclear catastrophe, an atomic incident, an excursion, and an explosion. That makes it hard for a layperson to stay on track with the events. Worse yet, he used grossly inaccurate terminology at least twice when referring to this event; once calling it a nuclear explosion, and later a nuclear blast! These two descriptions are so misleading, if not outright biased, as to make my head spin. The use of these two descriptions in this context for this event was sloppy writing and research at best and outright anti-nuclear bias at worst and it calls into question the author’s qualifications on this subject matter and/or the accuracy of other information in the book.

    Narration – Bob Dunsworth’s narration wasn’t ‘bad’ it’s just very inconsistent. I didn’t take issue with the way he pronounced ‘nuclear’, as some did, but I did notice that he changed the way he pronounced it from time-to-time as well as how he pronounced ‘Roentgen’. It was as if he was practicing different ways to pronounce words while he was recording the book? Certain words were simply not pronounced clearly; ‘but’ sounded like ‘bought’, ‘rod’ sounded like ‘rawhd’, and ‘deaths’ sounded like ‘deafs’. When saying the reactor name, SL-1, it sounded like he was saying ‘SO-1’. Taken individually, these are minor points, but cumulatively it makes me not want to listen to his narration again.

    The Editing – Including the information heretofore stated the editing was just bad. On at least one occasion, which I listened to three times to be sure I heard it correctly, the narrator said “nuclear erector” when it should have been “reactor”. I lay this on the writer and/or editor, not the narrator. It’s another sloppy and avoidable mistake.

    The Feel - The feeling this book gave me was that of a mystery novel and it evoked that nostalgic and eerie, yet very entertaining, feeling I would get watching those 1950’s Sci-Fi films. Both of these factors, coupled with the importance of this particular event, made this a very engaging book. If this book were fiction, rather than a real-life tragedy, my rating would be five stars overall.

    Summation – This book presented a conundrum for me in writing this review. While I take some significant umbrage to the book’s writing style, the editing and the narration I still thoroughly enjoyed the telling of the story and I did learn some things. I made 10 bookmarks with notes for later reference as well. All things considered with my aforementioned frustrations I can still recommend this book because it was a good story telling and it kept me captivated and wanting more of it. I recommend this book if for no other reason then the ‘feel’ it gives and the pure entertainment value it affords. If you’re a Sci-Fi fan I think you’ll love this book. I don’t want to be flippant about the true nature of this tragic event, but this book somehow worked for me in all the wrong ways.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Atomic Awakening: A New Look at the History and Future of Nuclear Power

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By James Mahaffey
    • Narrated By John McLain
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The American public's introduction to nuclear technology was manifested in destruction and death. With Hiroshima and the Cold War still ringing in our ears, our perception of all things nuclear is seen through the lens of weapons development. Nuclear power is full of mind-bending theories, deep secrets, and the misdirection of public consciousness - some deliberate, some accidental. The result of this fixation on bombs and fallout is that the development of a non-polluting, renewable energy source stands frozen in time.

    John Rohde Jensen says: "Awesome perspective on nuclear history"
    "Pretty Good, Well Presented Book with Bad Editing"

    This is another book that languished in the wish list until it was on two for one. I had listened to this author's book, ‘Atomic Accidents’, and I was fairly curt in that review. I couldn’t commit to this book because of that, but the sale essentially got me this book for free so, I took it.

    The Good - Atomic Awakening details the history of ‘atomic’ (nuclear) science in a detailed, yet easy to understand, way. From the very beginning, through the major discoveries, to the present day. Any layperson, with basic public education, should comprehend it. The book touches on science fiction and myths that surround this field and it also ties it together with other fields of study such as electricity. If you have no knowledge of nuclear science this book will provide a good foundation. If you have some knowledge it will supplement what you already know. I finished the book feeling satisfied and curios to learn more about some of the specific topics covered in the book. I made a total of 12 bookmarks with notes for later reference. It’s a fairly good book overall, but not a great book.

    The Not So Good – The outline is a bit confusing because it’s broken into parts so you may hear the narrator say “Chapter 2” when you’re halfway through the book because it’s in the second chapter of that part. Also, some dates are slightly confusing because the story jumps ahead and then goes back. I think that’s more the reality of taking a book meant for reading and turning it into an audio book and not the writing however.

    The Bad – There’s one major error in this book where it recounts a meeting of scientist working on the ‘A-Bomb’ before 1945. When citing the location of the meeting, the Bohemian Club, the narrator says “founded in 1972” when, in fact, it was founded in 1872. While I very easily made that determination through simple context this is an example of horrible editing because it takes zero knowledge of the subject matter to catch this error.

    Caveat - I won’t write this entire book off over one error no matter how blatant because I know the bulk of the book is accurate. This was most likely a misreading by the narrator and not an error by the author; I hope? Regardless, the editor/author failed to catch it and coupled with the inconsistency in this author’s other book it does make me question the attention to detail by the editor and the author.

    Narration – John McLain’s narration was good and well suited to this book’s writing style and subject matter, albeit somewhat mechanical in delivery and even slightly annoying, at times, in the way he would trail off at the end of sentences. However, it didn’t take long to grow accustomed to that. His narration didn’t add to, or detract from, the book.

    Summation – Reflecting on the entire work; it left me with the not so surprising impression the author is a supporter of nuclear science and energy. However, I don't think he displayed any unfair bias or mindless predilection toward them. He hides nothing and goes into a fair amount of detail about all the major accidents; devoting large sections to the incidents at Idaho Falls, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl to name a few. He provides facts about these events from a balanced perspective. This book sparked my interest in reading (listening to) other books about those incidents. As a result, instead of switching genres, as I do after finishing a book, I went to the book ‘Idaho Falls’ (see that review too). Even with its faults I wouldn’t steer anyone away from this book because overall it was accurate and it was put together pretty well. That said, I'm still glad I didn't pay full price or drop a full credit for it.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Michael Bar-Zohar, Nissim Mishal
    • Narrated By Benjamin Isaac
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In Mossad, authors MichaelBar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal take us behind the closed curtain with riveting, eye-opening, boots-on-the-ground accounts of the most dangerous, most crucial missions in the agency's 60-year history.

    Jean says: "Reads like a spy novel"
    "What They Did in the Shadows; Sees the Light"

    The Good – I learned a lot of information about things I never knew about and more information about things I knew little about. ‘Mossad' laid out the struggle to survive that Israel has faced since it was born. I was shocked to learn that Israel attempted to trade back all the territory it had conquered in the Six Day War for lasting peace with the Arab nations, but the offer was angrily rejected by those nations.

    The Not So Good – The book gave the sense of a very slight pro-Israel bias, but in light of the rabid hatred they've faced, on a minute-by-minute basis, since 1948 I can’t blame the authors and I forgive and understand whatever slight amount of bias there may have been. That said, it does not detract from the facts or the reality that the book outlines. Also, to their credit the authors are very open about the not so good aspects of this agency as well.

    The Bad – It ended too soon. Aside from that, nothing about this book was bad.

    The Length – Not long enough at 14-hours. It could have gone on for 6 more hours and I would have carried on with fascination. I wanted more.

    The Narration – Benjamin Isaac had the perfect voice for this reading. He had a measured cadence, good inflection and balanced tone. I’m not sure about some of the negative review comments for his narration? I thought he was a very good narrator for this book. Serious and to the point. I don’t speak Hebrew so, perhaps, he didn’t pronounce some of the words correctly? That may be unfortunate, but not everyone will be happy when it comes to pronunciations.

    The Overall – While I only made one bookmark with note I attribute that to the fact that I knew early on that I would listen to it again. This book sat in my wish list for nearly a year until, one day, it was on a special two-for-one credit sale. Ironically, now that I've listened I feel like I got a real steal on this book at half a credit! Don't let that stop you though; it's worth a full credit. I let it sit for so long because I was concerned it would be too biased and I was also concerned about some of the reviews where people said it needed more context. Wrong! I don’t think the book needs more context at all. It can stand alone and it did so very well. In fact, adding more historical context may have actually ruined the book and turned it into one of those ‘in the weeds’ history books that makes you say aloud, "please get to the point". The only context you need to know before listening to this book is that Israel is, and always has been, surrounded by nations that want to kill it. That’s a fairly simple context to help anyone ‘understand’ this book. This was a gripping book that told amazing stories that need to be told. It read like a spy/thriller novel, but it told gut wrenching real life stories. This was a very good book and I will be listening to more works by these authors and this narrator. I would not say it is a “great” book because it didn’t have that “I don’t want to put it down” feel. Hence, the four star overall rating.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By James D. Hornfischer
    • Narrated By Pete Larkin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    One of America's preeminent military historians, James D. Hornfischer has written his most expansive and ambitious book to date. Drawing on new primary sources and personal accounts of Americans and Japanese alike, here is a thrilling narrative of the climactic end stage of the Pacific War, focusing on the US invasion of the Mariana Islands in June 1944 and the momentous events that it triggered.

    adam says: "Outstanding history"
    "A Unique Telling About the War in the Pacific"

    General – ‘The Fleet at Flood Tide' was a very unique look at the war in the Pacific and I really enjoyed the tactic of telling it from the perspective of these three uniquely individual commanders who contributed so much to the effort to defeat Imperial Japan and to exact revenge for Pearl Harbor.

    Content – I bought this book on its release date without any Audible reviews to go by because I knew, from his other works, that James D. Hornfischer would do a decent job and not let me down. I was correct in my assumption. That said, I got so busy working and tied up with listening to multiple books simultaneously that I neglected to write a review and I didn’t make any notes aside from the six bookmarks I made in the book. As a result my memory has lapsed somewhat on details so I’ll just get to the bottom line in a broad manner. This book got to the point without mincing any words and was done very well. I learned more about the war in the Pacific due to the unique perspective of the telling. I do recall that some parts were slightly confusing due to the timeline of events and the manner of the writing. If you multi-task while listening, like I do, you may find yourself having to listen to certain sections for a second time just to be sure you heard what was being said correctly. The book was well done and I didn’t feel the need to listen again upon completion, but I know that I will listen again at some point. While the author does jump around I didn’t find that to be distracting. He laid out good background information on the three commanders in a concise fashion without going too far into miniscule or unnecessary detail. Finally, he explained certain items that made me bookmark them so I could refer back later; the “Sinister Ratio” in regard to the planned invasion of Japan, the events surrounding the U.S.S. Indianapolis and also the development and the use of napalm to name a few.

    Length – Based on when I bought the book and my last bookmark I can say that I finished the book in about 30-days time, which is average for me for a ‘good’ book of this length when I enjoy it, but I don’t feel that urge to listen at every available moment. Looking back while writing this review I was surprised to see this book is 23-plus hours in length. I don’t recall it feeling like it was that long.

    Narration – While somewhat stoic in his tone I think Pete Larkin had the perfect narration for this subject matter and this book. While I wouldn’t say his narration added to the book it certainly didn’t detract from it either.

    Summation – Yes, taking all things into consideration this may not be Hornfischer’s best work, but I doubt that even he could top ‘Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors’. So, if you’re in any way a WW II aficionado you need to have this book in your library. It will add to your level of knowledge.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • African Kaiser: General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and the Great War in Africa, 1914-1918

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Robert Gaudi
    • Narrated By Paul Hodgson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    At the beginning of the twentieth century, the continent of Africa was a hotbed of international trade, colonialism, and political gamesmanship. So when World War I broke out, the European powers were forced to contend with each other not just in the bloody trenches - but in the treacherous jungle. And it was in that unforgiving land that General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck would make history.

    Matthew says: "Well Written, Well Read, Well Done!"
    "Well Written, Well Read, Well Done!"

    General - 'African Kaiser' provided copious amounts of information on a part of World War One I knew little about and a person I knew nothing about. It has a wealth of interesting information about the colonial conflict in Africa and it was told in a very engaging style.

    Content – Robert Gaudi set good background information; first about the history of airships used in the war, then about the conditions the troops faced, in particular the entomology in the area, then about the colonial subjugation of Africa, and finally, about the early life of Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. All of this was done without getting too deep into the weeds like some authors tend to do with books like this. The book evoked some emotions, primarily that ‘creepy-crawly’ feeling down the back when the narrator described some of the bugs, diseases and depravations the troops on both sides suffered during their time in the bush. For the most part this book held my interest to a point where I didn’t want to stop listening. Overall, the book read like a very good novel; being part romance, part war, and part spy-thriller. I don’t mean to make light of this horrific time in human history by saying that, I’m simply trying express the ‘feel’ the book had for me. I made five bookmarks with notes for future reference that, for me, is always a barometer of a really good book.

    Length – This book did not seem like it was 18-plus hours in length. I believe the length was perfect for the subject matter. I finished the book in 12-days, which may seem a long time, but aside from having to work fulltime I was also listening to six books simultaneously. Of those books, this was my go-to every day until I finished it. If an abridged version is ever produced I’d recommend avoiding it unless you’re a person who only wants CliffsNotes; which begs the question, why you’re an Audible member in the first place? In that event, or, if you don’t want to commit the 18-hours, I suggest using Wikipedia; you’ll learn everything the book provides in a quick and efficient, albeit, completely banal manner.

    Narration – Outstanding! Paul Hogston has one of those classic British voices and he can deliver an impeccable German accent, albeit slightly overplayed to the point of being humorous at times. His cadence and pronunciation were perfect throughout. I believe his narration added to the overall experience and enjoyment of this book.

    Summation - If you enjoy historical books, general knowledge, useful details, and precise background information this book should be in your library. I wouldn't say this is a "Great" book, but it is certainly a very, very, good book and I will most assuredly be listening to it again.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • I Will Hold: The Story of USMC Legend Clifton B. Cates from Belleau Wood to Victory in the Great War

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By James Carl Nelson
    • Narrated By Sean Pratt
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The incredible true story of Clifton B. "Lucky" Cates, whose service in World War I and beyond made him a legend in the annals of the Marine Corps. Cates knew that he and his small band of marines were in a desperate spot. Before handing the note over to a runner, he added three words that would resound through Marine Corps history: I WILL HOLD.

    Matthew says: "I Cannot Hold!"
    "I Cannot Hold!"

    As I hit the Submit Review button it appears mine is the first for the Audible format of “I Will Hold”. Based on the sample it’s no wonder why, but I like a challenge so after reading three reviews for the printed format I decided to get the book despite the sample. I was interested in Clifton B. Cates, someone I had never heard of before this book. However, what I really wanted to learn about was the full account of how ferociously the Marines fought at Belleau Wood and how they so terrified the Germans that they earned the nickname ‘Devil Dogs’.

    After holding on for 19 of 32 chapters, with just over 3-hours left, I’ve decided to throw in the towel. Initially I thought my brain was simply not engaged while listening, but after making several conscious efforts to pay particular attention I realized it wasn’t me. The problem with this book is the writing and the narration; together they make this book mind-numbingly boring and completely impossible to follow. The narration itself is not ‘bad’, it’s just lifeless. This, in my opinion, is more related to the writing then the narrator. The writing jumps around so much that there's no common thread to the story so I was totally lost the entire time.

    This is a collection of very loosely or barely connected events within a larger event. I can’t even say it’s a collection of short stories because there’s not enough information given for each event to actually call any of them a ‘story’. It’s as though the author grabbed a bunch of Post-It notes with scribbled thoughts on each and put them together in no particular order to create a book. Furthermore, the title is misleading. This is not told from Belleau Wood to victory. The book starts before the U.S. involvement in the war and it plods on for 18 chapters before finally getting to some sort of a point about the woods, but even then it jumps around so much that I’m not sure what battle or action is actually being described at any given moment. I’ve stayed with it long enough to reach the point where Cates sent the message “I will hold”, but the telling was so anti-climactic I nearly missed it. Lastly, at more than halfway through the book there’s still been no mention of the Devil Dogs nickname. Or, if it was mentioned, I was so catatonic from boredom I missed it.

    From the reviews it appears to be a decent book in print format, but it’s definitely not decent in audio format. I gave this book more of a chance then I normally would simply out of respect for the subject matter, but I’m ending it now feeling very disappointed.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain's Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Ben Macintyre
    • Narrated By Ben Macintyre
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Britain's Special Air Service - or SAS - was the brainchild of David Stirling, a young, gadabout aristocrat whose aimlessness in early life belied a remarkable strategic mind. Where most of his colleagues looked at a battlefield map of World War II's African theater and saw a protracted struggle with Rommel's desert forces, Stirling saw an opportunity: Given a small number of elite, well-trained men, he could parachute behind enemy lines and sabotage their airplanes and war matériel.

    Matthew says: "Those Who Dared, Won!"
    "Those Who Dared, Won!"

    General – I loved this book! So much so that I started writing this review with just over one hour left to go. I was hooked on this title halfway through the audio sample, but the rest of the book blew me away. That should be enough said, but there remain no other reviews on Audible so I'm the first and I’ll touch on the high points to assist in your decision; just in case you’re not hooked by the sample.

    Content - You will not be disappointed by this book if you want to learn a lot about the SAS or even if you already know a lot about the SAS. This is essentially a collection of stories or actions, but they are put together seamlessly and told so well that the book reads like a good suspense novel. Very edge of the seat stuff. I learned a tremendous amount about the history of this elite unit and the writing is so good that I focused on nearly every word finishing it two days after adding it to my library. This is one of those books that you simply don’t want to stop listening to. Each story is interesting on its own merits and each supported the book as a whole. The book evoked several emotions and I dare say that if you’re a loyal Brit you’ll probably shed a tear of sorrow and of pride at some of the events told. These are stories of very brave men doing very dangerous things with full knowledge that they would be ‘left behind’ if seriously wounded and tortured and executed if captured. Yet, they did it anyway. I especially liked how the author managed to inject a good bit of humor throughout the telling. Just enough to lighten the mood, but without being garish or diminishing the seriousness of the subject matter.

    Length – I think the length was just right. The author was able to tell the stories that needed to be told with no filler or useless rhetoric. All of the histories within the history lent something useful to the book overall.

    Narration – Ben Macintyre did a great job on the narration of his book. Although I’ve not read the hardcopy I believe his narration made the book better. However, he is very ‘British’ so pronunciation of certain words may seem a bit odd to some American ears. Macintyre had a wonderful cadence, graceful style and just the right amount of inflection at just the right time. This is what should happen when the author narrates. As a result, I believe no other narrator could have done a better job. Ben Macintyre could easily stand alone as a narrator.

    Summation – If you're a history buff or a connoisseur of all things WW II, or if you enjoy real life stories that read like novels (short stories in this case) then this book is a must have in your library. This is one of the best books I’ve listened to this year and I will listen to it again!

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Neal Bascomb
    • Narrated By Chris Sorensen

    It's 1942 and the Nazis are racing to be the first to build a weapon unlike any known before. They have the physicists, they have the uranium, and now all their plans depend on amassing a single ingredient: heavy water, which is produced in Norway's Vemork, the lone plant in all the world that makes this rare substance. Under threat of death, Vemork's engineers push production into overdrive. For the Allies, the plant must be destroyed.

    Scott says: "Needs a different narrator!!!!"
    "Don’t Dismiss This Book Because of the Narration!"

    General - I surmise that you will listen to the sample and lament aloud; “what on earth do these publishers think when they pick a narrator!?” I thought the very same thing and I really struggled on this title because of that. I left this book in my wish list for weeks; periodically going back and seeing if I could deal with it for 14-hours. Ultimately, the overwhelming urge to listen to this story outweighed my reluctance to hear the narrator and I decided to give it a go. I always had the option to return it after an hour if I found myself trying to gouge out my inner ears.

    Content - I made a spot-on choice by getting this book. The Winter Fortress is fully detailed without getting boring, as often happens with books like this. The moments of combat action, the real guts of the story, are exactly on point as truth becomes stranger than fiction. It does flow like a good thriller novel; yet the reality of what these brave men did was never lost on me as I listened. The book didn’t manage to evoke any emotion, but it did make me reflect on the lives of the people and how they sacrificed for a greater cause.

    Length – It’s a relatively long book, but I think it included every germane fact that was essential to properly and comprehensively tell this story. I did miss some information while listening simply because of the amount of content, but I’ll catch what I missed on a second listen at a later date. The story may have been a bit fat in some areas, but the amount of filler pales in comparison to the entire story.

    Narration – I think even Mr. Sorensen would admit he’s no Simon Vance, but then again who is? After listening to every minute of this book I can honestly say that Mr. Sorensen is not a “bad” narrator, he’s just very different from what I’m accustomed to. I reached a mental truce with his style after about an hour and even though he didn’t add to the book he certainly didn’t detract from it either. He enunciates very clearly and his cadence is pretty good. Yes, his inflection is a bit odd, especially on conclusion of some sentences. His imitations of people's accents are non-existent, but accents can be a double-edged sword; so I appreciate that he didn’t try, simply to fail badly. Even though this book would likely be ‘better’ with a different narrator the story itself is so interesting that the narration was pretty much irrelevant to me.

    Summation – If you are a history or WW II buff, or you enjoy real life stories that read like thriller novels, you will like this book regardless of the narration. I urge you give this book a try even if the narrator is not your cup of tea.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Simon Winchester
    • Narrated By Simon Winchester

    The legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa (the name has since become a by-word for a cataclysmic disaster) was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly 40,000 people. Beyond the purely physical horrors of an event which has only very recently become properly understood, the eruption changed the world in more ways than could possibly be imagined. Dust swirled round the world for years, causing temperatures to plummet and sunsets to turn vivid.

    rwise says: "Great subject, great writing, great voice"
    "On the Fence on This One!"

    This is the second book I’ve listened to by Simon Winchester, which I was prompted to do by his title The Professor and the Madman. This book seemed to be the most interesting of all his other titles beyond that book, but as good as that book was this book simply does not measure up on any level. This book left me feeling flat and unsated. While I did finish the book in a reasonably swift manner I was doing so more in hopes that it would suddenly, and without warning, grab me and pull me in. It never did.

    Krakatoa is overly detailed and it has far too much ancillary filler history about the colonial ambitions of the Europeans, about the location, and the goings on of the people in Batavia; so on and so forth. It reads more like a history text book then what a book like this, by this caliber of writer, should read like. It simply does not focus enough on the event itself in my view. A small glimmer of hope is that Winchester managed to weave enough interesting scientific information into the entire telling that I did learn something and I found those parts particularly good and of value.

    Winchester is a very good narrator, but narration alone cannot invest someone in a book. I have mixed emotions about this book because I judge my books based on how much I learn, how many bookmarks I place for later reference, how I feel about listening to the book again, and if the writer can stick to the facts without bias or embellishment. I definitely learned new things from this book, but I placed only two book marks, I’m not sure about listening again, and I'm not sure how biased some of the story is? So, I sit on the fence wondering what I should do because as I write this I honestly cannot say 'get the book', or, 'avoid the book'. I wish Audible allowed updates to reviews so I could give it another go and if I find I am wrong update this! I regret being of no help in your decision!

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Candice Millard
    • Narrated By Paul Michael
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil.

    Mel says: "Marvelous, Magnificent, Millard"
    "A Fascinating Account of a Remarkable Man"

    The simple fact; Candice Millard is a very good writer and I eagerly await her next book! I wouldn’t call this book ‘great’, but it most assuredly is a very good book that I would rank as her ‘second best’. Alas, I admit my impartiality was arrogated by River of Doubt which I believe to be Millard’s equivalent to a Hat-Trick. That book set the bar so high that I’m not sure it can be topped? Therefore, if you have never listened to any of her books I suggest you start with Hero of the Empire, then to this and then finish with River of Doubt. Good, Better, Great!

    Destiny of the Republic has detailed information about President Garfield and the events that surrounded and precipitated this pivotal event. Prior to this book I knew nothing about this man save the fact that he was the second President to ever be assassinated. The book has good background information on all the historical figures and it thoroughly explained the life of President Garfield and his many accomplishments. So, I learned a tremendous amount about the man and have gained respect for him because of this book. There was some ‘filler’ in the early chapters of the book, but not enough to cause me to lose interest, even though it did make the listening a bit sluggish at that point. From the critical event right to the end it maintained a good pace and was very interesting, albeit graphic at times. If you have a weak constitution you may want to skip over some of the medical details.

    Paul Michael is a very good narrator, in particular for this type of content, and he made the listening very easy. However, he does have some very annoying voice imitations that can be very grating at times. These points are sparse and not too bad in this book though.

    I’ve reached a point of experience on Audible that I give five-stars overall only if book completely blows me away. Therefore, I gave this book four-stars. If you like history to any degree or you just want to learn more about this particular event or the people involved I think you’ll find this book very worthwhile. If you dislike history, but you like mystery or thriller novels this book reads so close to one I think you’ll enjoy it as well. I will keep the book in my library and I will listen again in the future, while I wait for another book by C. Millard!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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