There's been a lot of controversy surrounding this book which seems to me entirely undeserved: there is nothing in this book worth arguing about. The beginning of the book where the authors talk about the last battles of the war and the surrender of Lee is interesting and well done. Unfortunately, after that it is dull.
This book does not proffer any new theories nor add any new historical revelations. As history, it is bland.
As an audio book, it is pretty bad. Bill Reilly is not a good narrator. His voice isn't pleasant and his reading is flat as a pancake. Flatter than a pancake, actually. Celebrity is not enough to make a good narrator.
There are many other books written on this subject that are much better than this one. There are much better analyses of the available materials. If it weren't a Bill O'Reilly project, the book would have been dismissed as inconsequential. But I did enjoy the first couple of chapters ... pity the rest of the book was so dismal.
Similar in general content to Boardwalk Empire, The Northside is a blend of history and memoir with a good deal of nostalgia tossed in for good measure. It is sometimes hard to tell whether the author is speaking from personal experience or those of other people. It isn't by any means a bad book, but it isn't great either.
It is also not easy to keep track of time and place, or for that matter, who is doing what.
This is another one of those books that I really wanted to like a lot, but ended up disappointed. It almost caught fire ... it was almost exciting. But almost wasn't quite enough. In the end, it was interesting, but it never ignited into compelling. The narrator was good, with a lazy drawl that worked well for many of the story's colorful characters. But again, despite being good, she never rose to better than good.
It's a very anecdotal history. Lots of stories within stories. I wish it had been more dynamically read, more energetically told, more focused on history and less on the personal histories of individuals. Or maybe it was that the author tried to do too many things at the same time and wound up with a rather diffuse story that takes a lot of side trips into the politics and culture of the times.Interesting, but kind of disorganized.
Still, you won't feel you've wasted your credit if you buy it.
Are you are vineyard owner? Wine seller? Wine enthusiast? Wine snob? Francophile with alcoholic tendencies? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might possibly find this book interesting. Otherwise, probably not.
I know that this was an epic event in the wine industry and heralded the rise of California wines ... and ultimately, encouraged a flowering of an international wine industry.... but for me, a non-drinker and never much of a wine fancier at any time in my life, this was dull stuff.
The narrator sounded sort of sleepy most of the time, occasionally waking up and actually doing more than droning along. The material isn't thrilling and the narrator doesn't improve it.
So, if you are really interested in this subject, by all means enjoy and have a glass of wine while you are at it. Otherwise, take a pass.
I wanted this to be interesting. I was ready to love it, but alas, it was not to be. Although Michael Prichard did his usual professional job narrating, he was defeated by the dullness of the book. There is far too much focus on the intricate details of Grant's death and dying and way too little about the writing of the book on which the story is supposed to focus.
There is also not nearly enough about Grant's accomplishments, which are mentioned, but never explored. There are hints, without any depth, about his opinions which were, for his time, remarkably egalitarian and unprejudiced. This stuff is important and it was singularly missing.
What information the book contains is often repeated several times and not always consistently. For example, the net worth of Vanderbilt is given three times, each time a different amount. That's bad editing and insufficient proofreading.
This was a man of extraordinary accomplishment: he deserves better than this. Grant's relationship with Mark Twain is mildly interesting, but is almost a post scrpt: there isn't any significant exploration of their interaction. I really WANTED to like this much better than I did.
I have rarely been more conflicted about a book than I am about this one. In many ways it was gripping and sometimes mesmerizing and then again, it was also annoying and at the same time, utterly appalling.
The indifference and callously entrenched anti-Semitism of US State Department officials and their consequent tolerance for the atrocities of the Nazi government is hard to stomach.This is not an image of our government that could make anyone proud to be an American.
The failure of all the western nations to do anything to stop Hitler while they could -- with relative ease -- have done so is difficult to fathom. The feather-headed self-absorption of Dodd's daughter is like a case of hives: the more you scratch, the more you itch.
Most of the people in the book are awful in one way or another. Dodd, the ambassador, ultimately grows to become, in his way, heroic. He, at least, saw what was happening and tried -- within the scope of his position -- to do what he could. That no one listened to him is part of the heartbreak.
Worse is that those who failed to act more often than not did so NOT because they didn't believe him (although some really didn't), but because the majority of them were hardened anti-Semites and/or because they thought Hitler was going to rid Europe of the menace of Communism. Hitler as the lesser of two evils? How revolting is that? And all of this led to the bloodiest war in human history, a conflict wherein more than 30 million people died.
The banality of evil has never been more obvious or more terrifying. Read it and weep.
If the material itself were a little more "audio friendly," this would get 5 stars, but there are just way too many hours of names, dates and places. Some section are virtually just lists of events and who participated ... too much to make this an entirely enthralling listening experience. Regardless, it has much to recommend it and I do highly recommend it.
Michael Boatman does a very credible South African accent, although it slips away and then comes back at odd intervals. However, he puts a a lot of effort into properly pronouncing some difficult names and words in a language most non-Africans can't say at all, much less correctly. Moreover, he has a beautiful voice and does a fine acting job with material which gets very dry for extended periods.
This book is full of contradictions. In sections consisting of "lists," I gave up trying to remember exactly who was who and waited for the story to resume, letting my brain drift through details I could not follow .You may well want to read this book again in print. It is impossible to absorb or remember it all just listening to it.
The overall story is fascinating. Amazing. Nelson Mandela does a beautiful job of explaining this intricate and contradictory ... and crazily complex ... society where nothing is simple and not to be punny, nothing is black and white. There are villains and heroes, but plenty of shades of gray too. Everyone is human and multi-faceted.
Considering his own role in the story, Mandela is relentlessly honest. He does not use his book to excuse his own bad behavior. He is imperfect and takes responsibility for his actions, good and bad. He also takes credit and is not quite the humble fellow portrayed in movies and press. He's a proud man who worked hard and paid a heavy price to accomplish something no one believed possible. While he does not make himself out to be a super hero, he IS a hero ... in my opinion more heroic because of his fallibility and willingness to learn from errors. It is refreshing. Honesty is uncommon in political autobiographies.
So despite the fact that there are sections of material that make pretty dull listening, if you wait, the scene will shift and suddenly, there's tension and excitement. The story of how this strange nation emerged from the darkness into light is probably unique in human history and definitely worth listening to. If you have any interest at all in Africa, or even a mild curiosity, you should read it. I learned so much I will need to read it again. \
It's possibly the strangest combination of social groupings anyone could imagine. Melding them into a nation without the obvious huge obstacle of Apartheid would have been difficult. Given the realities, it is astounding that this is a success story. It boggles the mind.
From the point of view of production, it's very smooth with a nice use of occasional music for punctuation. Very well done all around.
This is a great book with a fantastic narrator. A compelling story that keeps you mesmerized from the first word and won't let you go. I love time travel and I love history. While I am not always a Stephen King fan, he is a great author and knows how to tell a story. And he really tells this one very very well ... and Craig Wasson, the narrator, is as good as they get.
Time travel is not King's usual genre, but he has the skill to do a brilliant job in a form that is extremely demanding. Not only is the form demanding, but readers are demanding: science fiction aficionados are knowledgeable readers. We are a nit-picky audience. To my delight, I was thrilled with this book. King did his homework, both in the history and for the genre.
If you are a fan of time travel fiction where the history is the focus and not the technology (a la Connie Willis), you will love this, If you are looking for a more typical Stephen King horror story, well, you do get a taste of Derry, Maine and there is a creep factor, but this is much more science fiction/ time travel/ history than classic King. If you're looking for horror, this isn't it.
Above all, this is a brilliantly well written, carefully crafted, and well researched novel with excellent narration. Top grades all around.
The material is consistently racist. This is the kind of racism that people display when they are convinced that they are liberals, then wonder what it is they said wrong. It is likely unconscious on the part of the author. Nonetheless, Zuckoff's constant references to the blackness of the skin of the natives when there is no legitimate need to mention skin color at all IS racist and is something that anyone who isn't white will notice very quickly.
Sometimes race or ethnicity is a valid point in context: this was not one of those times. Once the initial description of the native population was concluded, there is NO reason to mention blackness at every opportunity. Really, have we not advanced beyond this yet?
It bothered me a lot and the amount it bothered me grew with each passing hour I listened. I thought maybe he'd lighten up as the book progressed, but he didn't: if anything, he got worse. The racism is there from start to finish and the condescending praise of the simple charming savage and, oh yes, black, natives does nothing to alleviate it. I do not think this is a minor point and I do not feel it should be overlooked, especially in view of the inconsequential nature of the event itself even though it got a lot of press at the time.
As history, I just can't see where this was an event of importance to anyone but the people directly involved. They were NOT in combat; they were sight-seeing to catch a glimpse of the primitive BLACK natives of the island who were rumored to be cannibals and head-hunters and oh yes, naked and BLACK (don't forget that!). It is a point that is pounded into listeners.
Due to pilot error, the plane crashes. A bunch of them get killed, including some women which, in WWII was a big deal because women weren't supposed to get killed in combat, or, more to the point, American women weren't supposed to get killed. Foreign women got killed all the time, but that was apparently of significantly less importance.
The rescue is the most interesting part of the book since the location was not accessible by any ordinary means. It took a lot of planning and a good deal of cleverness. Otherwise, I was really underwhelmed.
The author reads the material just fine. There could have been much more done with it had the narrator possessed the skill to differentiate voices, but the author's reading of his own work was more than adequate. I would not have liked it better even if it had better production values.
I really didn't like the book. The author really needs some serious consciousness-raising.
This is sometimes a great book, sometimes not so great. Sometimes I strongly disagree with the author, other times agree completely. It is informative, if strpngly slanted toward the USA and Boston in particular as the center of all important advances in cancer treatment and research. A huge amount of work being done in other parts of the US and other countries is entirely omitted.
Now for the big big problem: If you, as I do, HAVE cancer, this is a disturbing book and I do NOT recommend it. It is not optimistic. Quite the opposite. I felt significantly worse about my odds of survival before I read. If any book defines "too much information" from the point of view of someone battling any form of this disease or who even knows friends or family battling it ( ... and who doesn't have any of them?) this is too much, too dark, too ugly.
Or so I found it. I actually could not sleep after reading it. I figured I might as well write my will and count my days. The author basically says, in summary, that
(1) we will never conquer cancer because it is part of our basic cellular structure
(2) cancer is as much a part of being human as is birth and growth and thus inescapable.
This is not the kind of positive attitude that one needs to combat the depression that is such a close companion to cancer patients.
If you are, for your own reasons (like, maybe you are a researcher in Boston or an oncologist) fine, for but civilians, you may consider takiing my word: there is no comfort to be found in this book. It will not give you hope. It will not make you feel better. In this particular case, knowledge is NOT power: it is just depressing.
It's well narrated. It's mostly well written. Aside from it's very obvious bias towards the author's own experiences, it contains tons of information.
Note that I actually know quite a lot of about this subject and I do NOT agree with many of the author's conclusions. He is by his own admission, a lab rat, and his dependence on statistics rather than experiences and patient histories is exactly what is wrong with cancer treatment. He and so many doctors like him ARE the problem, not the solution.
The material is arguably exciting, regardless of how you feel about the politics, but the narration is totally flat. He might as well be reading the telephone book. Considering the potential of the material, this is very hard to understand. Read the book in print if you are interested, but don't waste your time on this dreary presentation. It really helps if you are an enthusiastic fan of Ronald Regan.
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