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Mike is a national communications professional whose firm, Mike Collins Public Relations, has offices in Tampa and Washington, DC


  • Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Matt Taibbi
    • Narrated By Patrick Egan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The financial crisis that exploded in 2008 isn’t past but prologue. The stunning rise, fall, and rescue of Wall Street in the bubble-and-bailout era was the coming-out party for the network of looters who sit at the nexus of American political and economic power. The grifter class - made up of the largest players in the financial industry and the politicians who do their bidding - has been growing in power for a generation.

    Jerome says: "News In America"
    "Razor-sharp wit cuts through the clutter"

    I've enjoyed Matt Taibbi's appearances on television and some of his Rolling Stone writing, but had not had the chance to read his books. I looked forward to the release of this one, and wasn't disappointed, ordering it the day it was released and listening to it in long installments thanks to the Washington traffic.

    Taibbi skewers both political parties and the entire media establishment for the mindlessness of what passes for discussion of what's happened to our economy since September, 2008, and before.

    We're treated to a hysterical Taibbi review of the maiden voyage of USS Sarah Palin at the GOP National Convention (her hair in a bumpup that looked like a Flight Attendant for Piedmont, in a dress that screamed Wal-Mart Halloween Costume for angry white middle-aged female), then introduced to the events that were even then unfolding, without our knowledge, as our economic system was forever changed.

    He actually got me to understand what a credit default swap is! It's a simple, easy-to-understand guide through the impenetrable gobbledeegook of Wall Street, and an indictment of all the media who haven't told us much of anything -- and of the politicians in both T-Shirts who want to keep it that way.

    Read it. I enjoyed it very much. Congratulations, Matt Taibbi, and thank you for helping us understand.

    27 of 29 people found this review helpful
  • Sycamore Row

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By John Grisham
    • Narrated By Michael Beck
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County's most notorious citizens, just three years earlier. The second will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly?

    Brock says: "Grisham at his best (again)"
    "Powerful story, compelling narration"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Sycamore Row to be better than the print version?

    Grisham uses a lot of quotes to move a story forward, and this narrator uses slightly different accents and tones to differentiate the many memorable characters. His quality of reading is what keeps me coming back to Audible.

    What was one of the most memorable moments of Sycamore Row?

    The playing of the testimony of Seth Hubbard's long-lost brother.

    What about Michael Beck’s performance did you like?

    He delivered it like an actor. Really entertaining.

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

    It took a great storyteller like John Grisham to write a page-turner about a WILL CONTEST of all things -- but he did. It's a great story, with memorable characters and an unforgettable climax.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Jonathan Alter
    • Narrated By Jonathan Alter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, Jonathan Alter uses his unmatched access and deep knowledge of politics and history to produce the first full account of America at the crossroads. He pierces the bubble of the White House and of the presidential campaigns with exclusive reporting and rare historical insight. More than a campaign book, this is the epic story of an embattled president facing a historic moment he considered more pivotal than 2008.

    Mike says: "The Best Telling of the 2012 Campaign So Far"
    "The Best Telling of the 2012 Campaign So Far"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Center Holds to be better than the print version?

    By way of full disclosure, I was head writer for the Committee on Arrangements for the 2012 GOP Convention in Tampa (no, I did *NOT* write for Clint Eastwood -- or for the chair!) and have been a GOP communications operative for over two decades. I've met and spoken to Jonathan Alter several times over the years, so my opinions here might be influenced by that.Politics aside, I've always enjoyed Alter's writing in Newsweek and now Bloomberg and his frequent NBC appearances. He's thorough and has always treated me and my clients fairly. As an audio book addict, I usually prefer the spoken version, and Jonathan does an excellent job on this one.

    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Alter's book is a panorama of the famous and not-so-famous names of the 2012 campaign, some of whom I've been privileged to know personally. By far the most interesting individual in Alter's recounting was Scott Prouty, the bartender who secretly recorded the Romney "47 percent" video at a high-dollar fundraiser in south Florida.Alter goes into great (and, to me, previously unknown) detail about Prouty's elaborate efforts to shield his identity, explores his motivations -- and even tells us what became of him (he's working for Steelworkers' President Leo Gerard on international working conditions; not surprising since, according to Alter's telling, Prouty was angered by Romney's descriptions of conditions at a Chinese factory he'd acquired. It was this a portion of the gaffe-laden tape that Prouty thought would be most explosive - not the "47 percent" references.)

    What about Jonathan Alter’s performance did you like?

    His delivery this time is much better than it was in his earlier audiobook, "The Promise." He seems more at ease, there's better affect -- and he even occasionally mimics accents and speaking patterns. Most authors shouldn't try to read their own text, and non-fiction is especially challenging. I was impressed with Alter's reading this time.

    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I nearly did, using it as entertainment on my two-day drive from Florida to Washington late last week. I enjoyed every minute of every one of the 800 miles!

    Any additional comments?

    I've recommended "The Center Holds" to a number of friends - Republicans and Democrats alike. It's a must-read for those interested in how the 2012 election was decided -- and a critical analysis of the first campaign in which detailed electronic voter data and outreach replaced old-fashioned precinct-level campaigning and fundraising. Republicans especially will benefit from it: Alter explores in great detail my party's inability to catch up with the Obama campaign's lead in technology and data, but more importantly gets to the real heart of Mitt Romney's defeat : the inability of the GOP in 2012 to communicate its concerns for the middle class and to accommodate the great demographic shifts in this country over the last 20 years. A great book, Jonathan. Congratulations!

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Blaine Harden
    • Narrated By Blaine Harden

    North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped - but Shin Dong-hyuk did.

    Amanda says: "Worthwhile, but difficult on many levels."
    "Great Story, HORRIBLE Narration"
    Would you try another book from Blaine Harden and/or Blaine Harden?

    Blaine Harden is a superb journalist whose account is compelling; his narration proves that authors and publishers should hire professional voice talent. His metronome-like pedantic delivery (and the frequent obvious edits) made me wish I'd bought the text instead of the audio version.

    It's a pity, because this story needs to be told. It is the account of the only person known to have escaped from a North Korean labor camp (where 50,000 are believed to be imprisoned) to the United States. The subject of his story was actually "bred" to be a prisoner, since the North Korean "justice" system punishes guilt by association: in other words, the wrongdoer, his parents and his children alike are forced to "wash away" the guilt of the accused.

    The regime forces this young man's parents into a marriage, then pits mother against child for food. When the mother assists a brother in an escape, all four family members are subjected to torture (including, in this case, hanging a 10-year-old boy over hot coals and lowering him into the heat until he passed out from the pain and smell of his burning skin). He and his father are forced to watch as the mother and his brother are hanged and shot.
    His escape is harrowing -- but Harden's listless delivery makes the story difficult to follow.

    I urge everyone to read "Escape from Camp 14" -- just don't buy the audio version read by the author.

    Who was your favorite character and why?

    No doubt, it was the central character himself : a deeply disturbing example of North Korean repression.

    Would you be willing to try another one of Blaine Harden’s performances?

    Never. I will continue to read his work in the newspaper, and will read his books. But he should never, ever, attempt to narrate again. Mistake.

    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The story itself is powerful and should be read by all freedom-loving people everywhere.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Renegade: The Making of a President

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Richard Wolffe
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    This book is the previously untold and epic story of how a political newcomer with no money and an alien name grew into the world's most powerful leader. But it is also a uniquely intimate portrait of the person behind the iconic posters and the Secret Service code name Renegade. Drawing on a dozen unplugged interviews, as well as 21 months covering his campaign as it traveled from coast to coast, Richard Wolffe answers the simple yet enduring question about Barack Obama: Who is he?

    Carl says: "Insights into the greatest Presidential Campaign"
    "I Enjoyed Richard Wolffe's "Renegade""

    Richard Wolffe's access to the Obama inner circle from the earliest days of the Iowa campaign combines with his great talent as a journalist and storyteller to make for a great read. His research and writing contributes to our knowledge of the new President in a very entertaining way. The narration was excellent as well. Good book, good production!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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