I'm not sure why I got this book in the first place. Like much of the rest of the world, I watched this train-wreck of a true-crime story as it unfolded (derailed?) on live TV, and I was tired of the whole sordid mess by the time the verdict came in. Then I saw this book on Audible, and the true-crime fan in me must have overcome the tired-of-Casey-Anthony-watcher, because I bought it and dropped it into my playlist, where it sat ignored for weeks. When I finally got around to trying it out, I quickly found myself intrigued despite myself, and before I knew it I was sucked right back into it and enjoying every minute of the story. Unlike the case itself, the book flew by in no time.
Although there were some fascinating insights throughout, I can't say that there was a whole lot of new information, particularly if you followed the story in real time. But the author (who also happens to be the prosecutor who lost the trial) does such a good job telling the story and fleshing out the characters and their motivations, I found myself fascinated even by the re-telling of facts I already knew and people I was tired of hearing about. Plus, he's very good at reading his own writing, which isn't surprising given that he's a trial attorney who has to exactly that day in and day out in court.
I was also impressed with how little whining Ashton did about the outcome or unfairness of the trial, which isn't always the case when losing attorneys write their account of a big trial. You sort of expect "How It Wasn't My Fault That a Murderer Went Free," but while this book doesn't shy away from exposing the author's dislike for opposing counsel, it didn't wallow in constant finger-pointing or blame-shifting, which I very much appreciated.
In closing, your honor, I went into both the real-life case and the reading of this book skeptical and unconvinced. Jeff Ashton convinced me at the trial, and many months later he convinced me to keep reading his book even though I wasn't sure I wanted to. If only he had convinced that jury as effectively as he did me, a certain narcissistic baby-killer would be living the "good life" in jail right now where she belongs.
This book started well --- interesting story, excellent writing, compelling mystery -- and it made me really want to find out what happened. But after a few hours it seemed to get mired in so many details that it lost the larger thread of the story for me. Eventually I just gave up. I'm guessing there was more substance to all the narrative details than what I took with me, and all the details in the middle probably had a storytelling purpose. But the end result for me was a feeling of too much setup and not enough payoff.
This was one of the better True Crime books I've listened to in a while, and I thought it was Fanning's best work as well. The facts of the case are truly horrifying, and Tommy Lynn Sells' casual, almost nonchalant evil is hard to accept, but the book is all the more compelling for it. Fanning does a good job adding some backstory to each of the victims, and she recreates the monstrous details of the crimes without sensationalizing them. It's a bit difficult to keep track of all of the characters, in part because this guy took so many lives and affected so many more. You can't tell his story without telling all of theirs, and all the names do get a little lost in the crowd of ruined lives. Perhaps the author could have done a little better job adding context or recurring memory markers of some kind so listeners who aren't keeping score on a notepad can keep up with the catalog of horrors. But that's nit-picking ----- this was well-researched, -written and -narrated account that lovers of True Crime should enjoy immensely.
There is no stone left unturned --- and no chad left hanging --- in this detailed, fast-paced account of the 2008 Bush/Gore election and its disturbing aftermath. The author, a Washington Times reporter, is clearly not a fan of Mr. Gore, but I appreciated the fact that he makes no attempt to pretend otherwise. You know where he's coming from, and he does a good job of showing the reader what caused him to feel that way. But it's no caustic political screed, either. The author uses facts and first-hand accounts to tell the tale, and it works. The very real characters and their actions are so interesting on their own that that they don't need any additional puffery or authorial elaboration.
Admitedly, conservatives and libertarians will probably appreciate this book more than their counterparts on the left. The Gore team comes off looking extremely petty and political, and nobody wants to think their guy is THAT guy. I've looked, but I haven't been able to find an equally well-researched, fact-based account taken from the former Vice-President's perspective, which is regretful. I'm sure there are some mitigating factors and untold details that might soften the unflattering portrait of the Gore Team's actions, and there are probably some skeletons in the Right's closet as well. I'd like to hear both sides before cementing my own opinions on the matter. But if this was a trial and the facts in this book were the evidence at hand, the verdict would be unanimous: the right guy won. Pun intended.
I have always enjoyed Delingpole's writing and commentary -- particularly the dry, informed wit he brings as an English Conservative commenting on issues just now facing Americans -- but this one falls short. Unlike most everything else he's written, it's neither all that funny or particularly incisive. In tone, it feels a bit like a Conservative version of one of those monumentally unfunny Al Franken "I Hate Republicans" books. For a better sense of Delingpole's normally clever and intelligent writing, try "Welcome to Obamaland."
This is a fascinating story, and I had followed it over the past 10 years or so via the series of 3 excellent film documentaries (i.e. "Paradist Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"). I was hoping this book would fill in some of the missing details that a short-form filmed documentary simply can't cover, or at least retell the story in a more nuanced way. But I'm 3 hours into the audiobook and it just hasn't given me a reason to keep listening.
If you have never heard the story of the West Memphis 3 you might find this book fascinating because the story and characters are so compelling. It's a mind-blowing human drama, to say the least. But for someone who has seen the documentaries this audiobook had very little to offer, at least for me. The narration was pretty good, although her voice sometimes got grating. To be honest, I can't tell if the narration suffered a bit because of the storytelling or if the story suffered because of the narration, but the net effect was to cause an interested reader to walk away from the audiobook halfway through.
It's one thing for a non-fiction author to have a point of view, but this author seems to have an axe to grind. She starts out really well, but about halfway through the author turns so biased and snarky it actually took me right out of the narrative. Part of what's so mind-blowing and fascinating about this story is how impossible it is to know whether Peterson is a multiple murderer or a tragic victim of coincidence and prosecutorial over-reach. I can't think of another case where BOTH sides have such strong circumstantial arguments and neither side has any real proof. So when the author starts sounding like a scornful opposition politican instead of a credible reporter of facts, all I could think of was "why the obvious agenda?" Worse, I kept wondering what REALLY happened, because it didn't feel like I was getting it straight. Ultimately, she didn't convince me of his guilt. If anything her obvious bias made me question her point of view more than it made me question Peterson's innocence.
With all that said, I still finished it. The narration was very good, and there was never a moment when I didn't want to know more. She has a lot of interesting facts and anecdotes, and this truly is one of the most fascinating true stories I've ever come across. But I think she torpedoes herself by making those facts feel like opinions and the fascinating story feel like a closing argument.
If you have never read about this amazing case (or if you have never seen the excellent multi-part documentary on the case called "The Staircase"), you might want to pick up this book despite all that. It's a great read, even if it isn't great factual reporting.
This was a fascinating book on a subject I had no idea I was interested in. I probably wouldn't have bought it if Audible hadn't offered a free chapter, but it grabbed me right away and the pace never let up after I bought the entire audiobook. I love history, but this one sounded a little dry, to be honest. Many enjoyable hours later, I was thrilled to be proven wrong.
"Destiny of the Republic" covers a part of both presidential and medical history that is rarely told, and never in a single book written in such a compelling, accessible style. The author weaves a number of apparently unrelated storylines together seamlessly, much like "Devil in the White City," and with equally thrilling results. The narrator was perfect --- credible, erudite and believable but never "teachy" or stiff --- and that rare combination of engaging narrator and fascinating, well-researched historical tale made this one of my favorite listens of 2011. And I'm saying that about a book that would have never even made my Wish List initially. So if you read the book's description and think it sounds fascinating, go for it --- you'll probably love this book. If, like me, you aren't intrigued by the subject matter at first but enjoy being pleasantly surprised, just try the first chapter. I'm guessing you'll love it too. Highly recommended, in either case.
This book does as good a job as any I've read at identifying the issues, investigating the substantive facts and drawing reasoned conclusions without jumping to the same politically-driven, pre-determined positions that we've heard ad nauseum in the pet media of both sides. It seems the more I learn about these often complex scientific issues, the more I have come to realize that both sides have some truth in their positions, but both are substantially wrong in the rigidity, dogmatism and simplistic jingoism of their stances and solutions. And that uninformed rigidity seems like a bigger obstacle to finding a workable solution to these problems than just about anything else.
In other words, there's way too much politics and not nearly enough science in the Green debate these days, in part because the science is often more complex and nuanced than a factoid on a flyer or a talking point on some pundit's cable TV show. But the authors of "Trashing the Planet" do a phenomenal job making the science not only understandable, but genuinely intriguing, and that alone should recommend it for wide consumption. I really enjoyed reading this book, and was pleasantly surprised at the way it pulled me through the chapters.
That said, I would not recommend this book if all you want is to have your existing views validated, whatever they may be. This book changed my perspective on a few things I thought I understood better than I actually did, and gave me a deeper perspective on many others. To me, that's the sign of a truly well-written, well-argued book. There will surely be folks on both sides of the debate who will find simplistic, politically-sanctioned ways to trash "Trashing the Planet." But to anyone with even a shred of doubt, a flicker of curiosity or a glimmer of desire to learn more about subjects that should transcend politics but rarely do, this book is a treasure.
I've read a lot of Thomas Sowell's writing, and I found this to be the most interesting yet. It's full of pithy, intelligent shorts on a variety of subjects, but they are all unified by the clarity of his thinking. I've always found Sowell to be compelling, but this particular book actually changed my views on a couple of issues. If you already know and like Sowell, this is a great addition. If you've never read his work, this is a great place to start.
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