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James Messelbeck

Member Since 2005

  • 7 reviews
  • 18 ratings
  • 599 titles in library
  • 17 purchased in 2015

  • A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century

    • UNABRIDGED (28 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Barbara W. Tuchman
    • Narrated By Nadia May
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering time of crusades and castles, cathedrals and chivalry, and the exquisitely decorated Books of Hours; and on the other, a time of ferocity and spiritual agony, a world of chaos and the plague.

    E. Smakman says: "Gripping, once you get into it"
    "Fruits of Tuchman's labor as good ad it gets"

    Tuchman has done an excellent job of researching all that was written about the 14th century in Europe then distilling that through the life of an extraordinary man, Enguerrand VII, Sire de Coucy. The editing task must have been enormous. Then to have introduced relevant political and public health dynamics (plague) made this book exceptional.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alexander Hamilton

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Ron Chernow
    • Narrated By Scott Brick

    Ron Chernow, whom the New York Times called "as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decades", now brings to startling life the man who was arguably the most important figure in American history, who never attained the presidency, but who had a far more lasting impact than many who did.

    Robert says: "Captivating & Fluid Bio Unique American immigrant"
    "What a great surprise."
    If you could sum up Alexander Hamilton in three words, what would they be?


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Alexander of course

    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The life after Hamilton's death of his devoted wife Elisa

    Any additional comments?

    Hamilton was so polemic his style would be durable in today's political world

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Island Beneath the Sea: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Isabel Allende
    • Narrated By S. Epatha Merkerson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarit - known as Tt - is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tt finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.

    Madelaine says: "good story, ok narration"
    "An enchanting listen"

    Allende clearly did a thorough job researching this story. I learned much while being entertained and caring about some of the people in the story. The women are more richly described and heroic than the men. I'm guessing there were other women between the pathetic and heroic during that time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Steppenwolf

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Hermann Hesse
    • Narrated By Peter Weller

    Harry Haller is a sad and lonely figure, a reclusive intellectual for whom life holds no joy. He struggles to reconcile the wild primeval wolf and the rational man within himself without surrendering to the bourgeois values he despises. His life changes dramatically when he meets a woman who is his opposite, the carefree and elusive Hermine.

    Darwin8u says: "Save this Hesse novel for your midlife crisis."
    "I quickly returned to my youth"

    I was instantly transported to the time I read this as a kid and recall why I loved Hesse's books so much. Wonderfully read. An important book for the intellectually curious.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Alison Weir
    • Narrated By Rosalyn Landor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Renowned for her highly acclaimed and bestselling British histories, Alison Weir has in recent years made a major impact on the fiction scene with her novels about Queen Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey. In this latest offering, she imagines the world of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the beautiful twelfth-century woman who was queen of France until she abandoned her royal husband for the younger man who would become king of England.

    E. Willaims says: "Why the Negativity?"
    "A dime-store paperback experience"

    I found myself fast forwarding the early parts that reminded me of "romance novels" affection-starved people read. I totally wasted my $$ believing I would learn something about this important person in European history. Since the early story was so incredulous (how could the author pretend to know anything that happened in bed) even the historically accurate stuff I found myself Wikipeding to verify.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • St. Augustine: The Giants of Philosophy

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Robert O'Connell
    • Narrated By Charlton Heston

    St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) was the first great systematic Christian philosopher. He attempted to combine the philosophical insights of Plato with the faith explicated in the Bible. Augustine thought of Plato's eternal forms as ideas in the mind of God; he believed that the Eternal Christ provides the light of knowledge to the human mind.

    Risdon W. Hankinson says: "St. Augustine (unabridged)"
    "Seemed superficial"

    Such little time devoted to such an icon to the Catholic church? I was seeking a more thorough study - especially of Augustine's impact on the church going forward.
    Did enjoy hearing Heston's voice!

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Rape of Nanking

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Iris Chang
    • Narrated By Anna Fields

    In December 1937, in the capital of China, one of the most brutal massacres in the long annals of wartime barbarity occurred. The Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking and within weeks not only looted and burned the defenseless city but systematically raped, tortured and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. Amazingly, the story of this atrocity- one of the worst in world history- continues to be denied by the Japanese government.

    Douglas says: "Powerful"
    "A little goes a long way"

    Less of ghastly statistics on cruelty of Japanese invaders and more vignettes of those who experienced the event. I was seeking more historical context about Nanking.
    But I appreciate what Iris did to expose the outrage.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful

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