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Martin

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Member Since 2003

79
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 12 reviews
  • 140 ratings
  • 324 titles in library
  • 7 purchased in 2014
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  • Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Mark Kurlansky
    • Narrated By Josephine Bailey, Ed Begley, Constance Towers Gavin
    Overall
    (42)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    Mark Kurlansky, winner of the James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing, leads us on a mouthwatering culinary tour around the world and through history and culture from the fifth century B.C. to the present day. This wonderful collection contains essays by Plato on the art of cooking, Pablo Neruda on french fries, and many other writers on the passions of cuisine.

    Martin says: "Better on Paper?"
    "Better on Paper?"
    Overall

    Unfortunately, the nature of Kurlansky's book made it difficult for me to enjoy in audio format. The disjointed presentation of many, many short selections of food writing, sometimes preceded by an brief explanatory paragraph from the author, led to a general sense of historical and thematic confusion. Even now, I'm not sure I listened to the entire book. You could easily miss an hour and not realize it. Perhaps more dedicated gourmands will find the chosen selections more gripping, but they often struck me as humourless and trivial. Kurlansky has left the largely unorganized material to speak almost entirely for itself, and the audio version suffers from this decision, as you cannot scan or skip as you might do with a paper copy.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Michael Wex
    • Narrated By Michael Wex
    Overall
    (95)
    Performance
    (25)
    Story
    (24)

    As the main spoken language of the Jews for more than a thousand years, Yiddish has had plenty to lament, plenty to conceal. Its phrases and expressions paint a comprehensive picture of the mind-set that enabled the Jews of Europe to survive persecution: they never stopped kvetching about God, gentiles, children, and everything else.

    Margaret says: "Listened to it twice so far!"
    "Something unusual"
    Overall

    So much is explained in this wry and hilarious book. All the sayings and tones of voice we've heard smatterings of come sharply into focus. The inflection of the author is mildly annoying at first, but I soon got used to it and eventually grew to like it. It matches the content perfectly.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By David Levering Lewis
    • Narrated By Richard Allen
    Overall
    (69)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (12)

    At the beginning of the eighth century, the Arabs brought a momentous revolution in power, religion, and culture to Dark Ages Europe. David Levering Lewis' masterful history begins with the fall of the Persian and Roman Empires, followed by the rise of the prophet Muhammad and the creation of Muslim Spain.

    Larry says: "God's Crucible"
    "Not for the easily distracted"
    Overall

    I wanted to like this book, but a couple of drawbacks ultimately meant I never finished it.

    First, the narration is indeed awkward. The reader always pauses before saying any proper noun, of which there are thousands in the book, which is off-putting. Further, the pronunciation of even common English words is often incorrect. Cavalry, for example, is repeatedly pronounced as "Calvary".

    Second, and less trivial, is the sheer weight of names, dates and personal histories within the text. No doubt the book does explain how Islam influenced Europe, but I was still waiting after 6 hours for something more than a narrative retelling of the exploits of important figures on both sides. Without the Big Picture, the detail gets to be too much.

    I admired the book, but could not finish it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Red Star Rogue

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Kenneth Sewell, Clint Richmond
    • Narrated By Brian Emerson
    Overall
    (116)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (35)

    Early in 1968, a nuclear-armed Soviet submarine sank in the waters off Hawaii, hundreds of miles closer to American shores than it should have been. Compelling evidence strongly suggests that the sub sank while attempting to fire a nuclear missile.

    Bryan says: "Good but too long"
    "Important story, poorly edited"
    Overall

    The real story of the submarine K-129 - as told in this book - is important, startling and deserves to be known. Unfortunately, the available facts of the case can support little more than a long magazine article. As a result, the book is quite repetitive. One can feel the author straining to fill the pages. Further, he mixes fact and 'speculative re-creation' too freely in the first half, leaving it unclear what is Definitely True as opposed to Probably True. Nonetheless, this book tells an amazing story with far-reaching and historic implications. A must-read for enthusiasts of Cold War history.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Margaret MacMillan
    • Narrated By Suzanne Toren
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (438)
    Performance
    (193)
    Story
    (196)

    Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, renowned historian Margaret MacMillan's best-selling Paris 1919 is the story of six remarkable months that changed the world. At the close of WWI, between January and July of 1919, delegates from around the world converged on Paris under the auspices of peace. New countries were created, old empires were dissolved, and for six months, Paris was the center of the world.

    Geekazoid says: "History repeats itself."
    "Excellent History"
    Overall

    Compared with the Second, the First World War receives much less attention in popular history, including here on Audible. Macmillan has done a marvelous job of explaining the personalities and challenges faced at the 1919 peace conference in Paris. She sketches the leaders well and manages to explain the many interlocking issues without excessive detail or repetition. She avoids the conventional wisdom and offers a balanced view. The overall impact is a compelling narrative with humour and quite a few "aha!" moments when the modern outcomes of the peace conference ecome clear. The author might be faulted for an excess of focus on Woodrow Wilson, but the book does not suffer too much for it. An informative picture of moral relativism and Realpolitik emerges, both in the American camp and elsewhere.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Temple Grandin, Catherine Johnson
    • Narrated By Shelly Frasier
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (523)
    Performance
    (160)
    Story
    (165)

    How is Animals in Translation different from every other animal book ever published? Animals in Translation is like no other animal book because of Temple Grandin. As an animal scientist and a person with autism, her professional training and personal history have created a perspective like no other thinker in the field, and this is her exciting, groundbreaking view of the intersection of autism and animal.

    James says: "Perhaps the best non-fiction book on Audible yet!"
    "Truly an unusual and informative book"
    Overall

    A book about animals and autism written by a woman who has autism herself. Despite a slightly wonky structure which jumps around and sometimes repeats itself, the book is truly an eye opener, providing a fresh insight into the age old questions of consciousness and perception. Well worth the read, but be prepared to hear a lot about cattle chutes!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Secret Empire: Eisenhower, CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Philip Taubman
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    Overall
    (68)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (17)

    During the early and most dangerous years of the cold war, a handful of Americans, led by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, revolutionized spying and warfare. In great secrecy and beyond the prying eyes of Congress and the press, they built exotic new machines that opened up the Soviet Union to surveillance and protected the United States from surprise nuclear attack. Secret Empire is the dramatic story of these men and their inventions, told in full for the first time.

    Matrix2020 says: "More people should know what Ike accomplished."
    "Solid and Enjoyable Cold War History"
    Overall

    This is an interesting and balanced account of US espionage and reconnaissance efforts during the first part of the Cold War. The author mixes the personal stories and anecdotes of the people who built the U2 and the Corona satellites with a wealth of interesting technical detail and a solid account of the larger Cold War context. Eisenhower is well drawn and impressive. His concern about needless escalation and provocation shames his more militant advisors and generals and may have prevented a nuclear war.

    This book is likely to be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the Cold War and the technology of reconnaissance.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Linked: The New Science of Networks

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
    • Narrated By Henry Leyva
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (854)
    Performance
    (116)
    Story
    (121)

    Albert-Laszlo Barabasi traces the fascinating history of connected systems. Understanding the structure and behavior of networks will forever alter our world, allowing us to design the "perfect" business or stop a disease outbreak before it goes global.

    Alex says: "Network theory for beginners"
    "Dissenting Voice -"
    Overall

    I found this this book disappointing and repetitive.

    It seemed a classic example of three interesting points spun out into a book-length treatment. The authors seemed unsure whether they were writing an instructional book for business networking, an academic treatise on networking theory, or their own curricula vitae. The result is maddeningly dry and circular.

    The exhaustive explanation, discussion and criticism of obviously flawed and outdated networking theories is nothing but filler and occupies the bulk of book. Their unsupported extrapolations to politics and society are spurious and frequently laughable. Anyone interested in the subject should buy the paper version instead and skim aggressively.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • The Gulag Archipelago: Volume I Section I: The Prison Industry, Perpetual Motion

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    • Narrated By Frederick Davidson
    Overall
    (145)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (18)

    In this masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn has orchestrated thousands of incidents and individual histories into one narrative of unflagging power and momentum. He combines history, autobiography, documentary and political analysis as it examines in its totality the Soviet apparatus of repression from its inception following the October Revolution of 1917. Hear other volumes from The Gulag Archipelago

    Gene says: "Listening to the Gulag A. in Moscow"
    "Message from the past"
    Overall

    There could hardly be a more damning portayal of the Stalinist Soviet State than this gripping book by Solzhenitsyn, brilliantly and clearly read by Frederick Davidson. Nonetheless, this is not solely a book for Cold Warriors - much as they may like it - but for anyone interested in hearing a compelling description of Russian Society and about what happens when things change far too quickly and too much power lands in too few hands. It is a captivating, entertaining depiction of Stalinist atrocities, but also a much wider condemnation of all forms of ideological fanaticism. Be prepared for a commitment, however, as this book is only the first of five parts, and you may find it hard to stop after only one or two.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything

    • ABRIDGED (5 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Bill Bryson
    • Narrated By Bill Bryson
    Overall
    (2319)
    Performance
    (401)
    Story
    (406)

    In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson takes his ultimate journey - into the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer. It's a dazzling quest, as this insatiably curious writer attempts to understand everything that has transpired from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization.

    Brent says: "This audio edition is abridged!"
    "Fantastic"
    Overall

    A wonderful, mind-expanding book which touches on a phenomenal number of subjects. Bryson's style as writer and narrator is very engaging, and the book's organization holds together extremely well, even in the abridged version. His examples and explanations are very well constructed and provide great conversational fodder when you inevitably want to tell others about the book. A "Tour de Force" in the truest sense of the word, Bryson's book will be compelling for any non-specialist interested in the Big Picture.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Persian Wars, Volume 1

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Herodotus
    • Narrated By Charlton Griffin
    Overall
    (119)
    Performance
    (32)
    Story
    (35)

    The Persian Wars is part history, part geography, part anthropology...and completely entertaining. It possesses a charm that is legendary. However, over and above this, Herodotus has succeeded for all time in brilliantly expressing the conflict between the ideal of the free man defending his liberty within a state based on the rule of law, and that of the despot who bases his rule on brute force and whose subjects are considered slaves.

    Benedict says: "Herodotus!"
    "Somewhat Disappointing"
    Overall

    I wanted to love this book. I really did. I was ready to cast off 21st Century expectations and delve into the "legendary charm" of this ancient writer. I wanted to find in Herodotus the "magnificent epic of human triumph over the forces of tyranny" promised by the Publishers. Perhaps the fault is mine, but I found instead a confusing littany of doubtful and frequently uninteresting assertions about long-forgotten tribes and peoples. Not knowing whether his tales are true or fanciful, it is difficult to be either impressed or amused by the accounts of Herodotus. This leaves us to rely on the quality of the writing alone, and Herodotus is certainly charmingly entertaining in this regard, often sounding more like a town gossip than a historian. This book remains a classic with good reason, and I can think of no contemporary writer who wrote with the style and exuberance of Herodotus. But his book's appeal is probably much narrower than the publishers imply. That appeal, unfortunately, largely eluded me.

    14 of 28 people found this review helpful

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