Davina Porter is becoming one of my favorite narrators. This is the third book in the Monk series. This book has more to do with Hester and the attorney Oliver. Some of the new characters in the story are great such as Hester's employer the Major. This book covers a darker problem in peoples behavior and goes into the problem women had in protecting their children when they had no rights as far as the law is concerned. Reading this series makes me realize how far women have come in obtaining equal rights even though their is still more work to be done and a battle to keep the rights we have obtained.
It has been many years since I have read anything about Robert E. Lee. I saw this new biography by Michael Korda and grabbed it. Michael Korda is the son of English actress Gertrude Musgrove and film production designer Vincent Korda. His uncle was Sir Alexander Korda the famous British film producer and director. In 2004 he wrote “Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero” and in 2008 “Ike: An American Hero”.
In this exhaustive study Korda examines the life and times of Robert E. Lee from birth to death, illuminating not just the man, but his extended family and the society which produced him. The book traces Lee’s life from relationship with his father, the famous light cavalry leader light horse Harry Lee to his marriage to Mary Custis and his own relationships to his seven children. Lee’s mother was Ann Hill Carter; she was raised at the famous Shirley Plantation on the James River. Ann was from one of the wealthiest and oldest families of Virginia. Lee graduated second in his class at West Point. He was one of the rare cadets that graduated without a demerit. Lee was commissioned into the engineers and spent several years building coastal fortification. Lee became famous for diverting the course of the Mississippi river at St Louis, improving the port and allowing for river navigation from New Orleans to St Paul.
Korda provides a crisp and concise account of Lee’s major engagements. The author is good at explaining Lee’s strategic thinking, maneuvering of armies and the sometimes crippling limitations imposed by logistics, bad maps and worse roads. Korda has a knack for describing the complex unfolding of Civil War battles in lucid prose. Most of the book consist of gripping, if perhaps, excessively lengthy, accounts of Lee’s military campaigns. Korda clearly has command of the life and times of Lee. All three of Lee’s sons fought for the confederacy and General Lee would run into them periodically on an off the battlefield, including his son Rooney as he was being carried from the field with a serious leg wound. Michael Korda’s mastery of such details adds texture to his account. The reader learns that none of Lee’s four daughters married and his sister sided with the Union for which his nephew fought. Lee lost his two homes, Arlington the Union confiscated and the White House (Martha Curtis Washington home), the Union burned to the ground. Lee’s wife was Martha Washington granddaughter. The war’s devastation did not spare lee’s family.
“Clouds of Glory” is unfortunately marred by more than a few annoying errors of fact that should have been picked up in editing. For example, Northern politicians with Southern leaning were called “doughfaces” not “doughboys”. At the time of the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831, the enslaved population of the United States was two million not four million. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854 not 1845. This is a very long book and it suffers on occasion from redundancy and inadequate organization. The book suffers for the want of good editing.
As its subtitle suggest, one of Michael Korda’s aims in “Clouds of Glory” is disentangling Lee for his myth. In this he mostly succeeds. Although it appears Korda greatly admired Lee, he challenges the image of a man who could do no wrong. Jack Garrett did an excellent job narrating the book.
Harry Sidebottom is a fellow in ancient history at Oxford. His expertise shines though this book of historical fiction. The book is set for the most part during the Sassanid siege of Dura Europos (thinly disguised as the City of Arête. In the third century AD, the Roman Empire was in turmoil as civil war tears Italy apart and emperor follows emperor in rapid succession. The protagonist is Marcus Clodius Ballistra, a barbarian prince. In 255 AD the Persian Sassanid Empire attacks Rome’s eastern territories, Ballistra, now a Roman citizen, is appointed to post as dux Ripae. In charge of the defenses along the banks of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates all land between, he is empowered to hold the lands of the Empire.
The novel is a master class in ancient warfare. The information appears to be historically correct and the story is skillfully constructed. The characters are well defined and realistic and illuminate the different nationalities and passions prevalent in the empire at the time. The siege of Dura Europos was one of the greatest sieges in history. The book was narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
This book is primarily about Robert Koch and his discovery of first Anthrax bacteria and then Tuberculosis. In many ways this is the history of the germ theory and tuberculosis. The middle part of the book is about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle traveled to Berlin to hear Koch present his findings of a cure for tuberculosis. Doyle wrote a newspaper article that exposed the treatment a failure. Goetz pointed out that Doyle’s wife died of TB. The author also covers the battle between Koch and Pasteur, both who won the Noble prize in medicine. Goetz covers the success of hygiene and public education in the control of infectious disease as well as access to clean water and sewage control. The epilogue is about the first success of antibiotics against TB and now the problem of drug resistance TB. It is a reminder that the ancient disease of tuberculosis is still with us and still one of the leading causes of death worldwide. “The Remedy” is well written, well researched, highly entertaining, interesting and thought-provoking book. Donald Corren did a good job narrating the book
Blood shot is book five in the Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski series. V.I. is an attorney turned private investigator in Chicago. In this book Paretsky gives us a tour of Chicago with all the sights, sounds, smells and history of Chicago’s South side. This book was written in 1989 when computers were just starting to be common place but cell phones were rare and expensive. V.I. is hunting for phone booths while searching for change and is using a word processor in her office. Vic returns to the South side to her high school basketball team’s 20th re-union of winning the championship as the current team is on the brink of winning. Carolyn who had lived next door to Vic wants her to find out who her father was. Carolyn’s mother is dying of kidney cancer. She had worked all her life at the local Xerxine plant. In hunting for men her mother knew from work Vic finds many have died of kidney or liver cancer and discovers how toxic Xerxine is. The author juggles wisecracks, tenderness, and grit in a fast pace action filled story. Paretsky always has created great characters and this book is no exception. The book has a great plot and numerous sub plots that keep the readers on their toes. Susan Ericksen does an excellent job narrating the book.
In many ways this book reads like a textbook but it is highly readable. The news from the Middle East recently triggered me to learn more about the history of the area. Giancarlo Casale, a professor of history, proceeds chronologically, weaving together political and intellectual history of the Ottoman Empire throughout the 16th Century. He focuses on a number of high officials among them were the Grand Viziers Ibrahim Pasha, Hadim Suleiman Pasha, Rustem Pasha, the one Grand Vizier opposed to the whole Indian Ocean enterprise, and Sokolla Mehmed Pasha, probably the strongest supporter. They were aware of what advantage a strong Ottoman presence in the Indian Ocean could be to the profitable Spice trade. The Ottoman controlled the area from the Red Sea to Atjeh in Sumatra. In response to the Portuguese global claims the Ottoman declared that the Sultan was the “Caliph of all Muslims”. The Caliphate united all Muslims under the same religious authority, much as the Papacy did for Christendom. The author shows that shifting priorities and bitter personal rivalries at the Ottoman court hampered the development of a long term global policy. Slowly the conviction grew that tax income from land was preferable to the profits made from the government controlled spice trade.
Casale’s aim is to show the achievements of the “Ottoman age of exploration” not only the military and commercial but the intellectual and political ones. He does so in a convincing manner, making both sides, the Ottoman and the Portuguese, come alive in their negotiations, their self views and perception of their opponent. The book is well researched. Casale speaks Turkish, Portuguese and Italian, enabling him to consult all the relevant archives and secondary literature. James Adams narrated the book. I would have given this book a 3 1/2 , there is no halves so I rounded it up.
According to my records I read “QB VII” in 1979 with a comment about how good it was. I have read all of Uris’s books except “Battle Cry”. My favorite Leon Uris books are “Exodus,” “Mila 18” and “QB VII.” It was after I had read QB VII I discovered the book was a fictionalization of a libel suit which grew out of the publication of the book “Exodus”. On page 155 Uris named a Polish physician Wladislaw Dering M.D. whom he asserted performed experimental surgery on human guinea pigs for the Nazi’s in Auschwitz. In “Exodus” Uris states Dering performed castration and removed ovaries that had been subjected to radiation treatment. Uris claimed he did experiments in surgery without anesthetics on 17,000 inmates primarily Jews. The libel trial, Dering v Uris & others, was held in London in 1964. The verdict by the jury was for Dering but only awarded him a half penny the smallest coin in the realm. Uris proved his information was correct with only a slight discrepancy in the number of cases.
Queen’s Bench Courtroom Number Seven (QB VII) is a master fictionalization of the Dering v Uris libel suit. Uris divides the book into four gripping sections. One is the story of Polish physician Adam Kelno, a brief review of his childhood and the anti-Semitism of Poland at the time. Then goes into his capture and life in the Jadwiga concentration camp. The book then goes into his life after the war in England and Borneo and after 20 years his return to England. The next part of the book tells the story of author Abe Cady, his childhood, life as a British pilot during WWII his injuries, marriage and writing career ending with the publication of his big book called “Holocaust”. The next part tells about Cady’s hunt for key people that were in Jadwiga concentration camp. The last and most exciting part tells the blow by blow action of the court trial. Uris explains about the pomp and circumstance of the British Court system and British common law. I found this education about the British legal system not only informative but entertaining. As in the real trial the verdict was for the plaintiff but only a half penny was awarded. I believe I enjoyed the book more in this second reading than in the first, maybe because I now know it was based on a true story. I enjoyed the melodious voice of one of my favorite narrators John Lee, who did his usual great job narrating the book.
The National Archives have an educational component to it duties. As part of the education it sponsored a first time in history discussion by three U. S. Supreme Court Justices on the Constitution and their jobs. Tim Russert, host of NBC’s Meet the Press moderated the panel with Justice Stephen Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Antonin Scalia. It was great to listen to the three Justices discuss their views on the Constitution and various famous cases. Tim Russert who is also an attorney asked some key questions about the separation of powers. O’Connor expressed her desire to see civics to be taught in high schools again. She and Scalia pointed out most people did not understand the role of the legislature, the executive branch and the court. Scalia told of standing in line and asking the people around him “what is the bill of rights” no one knew. In response to a question by Russert Scalia explained the case of Cherokee Nation v Georgia. He said the Supreme Court up held the Federal treaties. Then the Southern states went to President Jackson and the Congress and had the Indian Removal Act of 1830 passed. Then the Southern tribes were removed to Oklahoma. He used this to say the Courts interpret the laws and Constitution but the Congress makes laws. I was amazed at how witty the Justices are. I laughed at some of their stories. Breyer told of how the Chief Justice removed the title Mister Justice to just Justice when O’Connor came on the court. They described a typical day and how they work. Russert asked O’Connor what she did all day and the court. She said I read, read, read, then think and write.
Peter Hart is the oral historian of Britain’s Imperial War Museum. Hart has written a well research book and has dissected the battle in detail. Hart mixes facts and figures with direct quotations from participants to help establish “the face of battle”. This narrative/analytical backdrop contextualizing the personal experiences makes for dramatic reading of the battle. Because of his job at the War Museum Hart has unrivaled access to relevant source material. The author vividly presents the run up to the “big push” expected to end the war, instead resulted in the disaster of the first day July 1, 1916. The British suffered nearly 60,000 casualties, the greatest one day lost in the history of the British Army. Hart does make a point that General Douglas Haig (British Army) wanted to start the 1916 campaign in Belgium but French General Joffre the overall commander insisted on the Somme. The battle lasted for four deadly months.
The British had only a small army as it always relied upon its navy to fight its wars. Prior wars in Europe the British primarily control the ocean and relied on its allies to fight on land. In World War One the British had to quickly build an army so it depended heavily on its colonies to man the army. The 1st Newfoundland Regiment of the Canadian Army was virtually wiped out at Beaumont Hamel on the first day of the battle July 1, 1916. The Canadian army lost 24,713 men at the Somme. Most people have never heard of Delville Wood, but if you mention it in South Africa you will find it is still a place of fame, only 780 out of 3153 men in the South African Regiment survived the battle. A comprehensive study of the battle of the Somme (1916) found that a million combatants were killed/wounded. The British Army learned to fight in the campaign with numerous innovations such as walking artillery fire, and tanks were used for the first time.
The Somme occupies a hallowed place in British memory comparable to Gallipoli for Australians or Gettysburg for Americans, but on a much bigger scale. With just under a half million causalities this was the costliest battle the British Army has ever fought. As I listened to this as an audio book, I used the internet for maps and pictures of the battle of the Somme. I understand the actual book contained many pictures and maps. Mark Ashby did an excellent job narrating the book. This is a must read book for anyone studying the battle of the Somme.
“Nancy Wake: A Biography of our Greatest War Heroine” by Peter FitzSimons was published in 2010. FitzSimons is an Australian journalist. Nancy Wake was the most decorated women from World War II. FitzSimons’ well-paced and compelling biography is well-documented. FitzSimons drew his research from earlier biographies such as Russell Braddon’s “Nancy Wake: the Story of a Very Brave Woman” published in 1956 and Wake’s autobiography “The White Mouse” published in 1985. FitzSimons also had many interviews with Nancy Wake as well as fellow agents, resistance fighters and Colonel Buckmaster. Buckmaster was head of the British Special operations (BSO).
Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1912. The book covers her early childhood in New Zealand and Australia. After she finished school she moved to England where she learned to be a journalist. She obtained a job as a European correspondent for the Hearst Newspaper and was stationed in Paris. In the 1930’s she witnessed the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement. She reports seeing roving Nazi gangs beat Jewish men and women in the streets of Vienna.
In 1937 Wake married wealthy French industrialist Henri Edmond Fiocca (1898-1943). They were living in Marseille, France when Germany invaded. Nancy became a courier for the French Resistance, then help set up the escape network to help escaping allied soldiers and Jews. The Gestapo called her “The White Mouse”. She became the most wanted person by the Gestapo with a reward for her capture. She had to escape to Britain herself where she was recruited by Colonel Buckmaster. She was trained by the British Special Operations and parachuted into Auvergne, France in 1944. She led over 7000 Maquis, equipping them with the latest arms from England, training them and leading them on assigned (BSO) attacks against the Germans. At the end of the war Wake learned her husband was tortured and killed by the Gestapo because he would not reveal her whereabouts.
FitzSimons’ narrative authentically captures the tone and atmosphere of Wake’s hazardous life. He breathtakingly describes her escapades against the Germans. Wake died in a Veterans home in England on 7 August 2011. For those of you who read German, I understand German author Michael Jurgs wrote a biography of Wake called “Nancy Wake and her fight against the Gestapo in France”. It was published October 2012. Stephanie Daniels did a good job narrating the book and pronouncing all the French names. If you are interested in history and women in war you will enjoy this book.
When “Like A Mighty Army” #7 in the Safehold series by David Weber was released on 4 Feb 2014 it hit the New York Times best seller list on the first day. It caught my attention as I had just put the book in my “wish list” on Audible. Anyone who wants to start this series I recommend you begin with book #1 “Off Armageddon Reef” or else you will be lost. The premise of the series is that a powerful and xenophobic alien race, the Gbaba, attacked and destroyed Earth. The survivors fled to planet, they called Safehold, where a faction of religious fanatics, the Church of God Awaiting, seized power and, in the name of keeping humanity hidden, buried all evidence of advanced technology and introduced a repressive medieval regime, complete with the inquisition to deal with dissenters. After about 900 year, a cybernetic avatar, Merlin Athrawes appeared and stealthily began to introduce advanced technology to the Island Empire of Charis, hoping this would lead to a war with the church. Weber has created a complex and fascinating epic about change, identity, and the nature of faith. Fans know Weber’s formula: plenty of rousing battle scenes, characters that gradually, over many pages, come into focus, along with seemingly endless torrent of detail, some rich and illuminating. In this book Merlin realized he cannot be everywhere. So he chooses to create another cybernetic avatar, loaded with a previous instantiation of his personality: the one he had when he first woke up to the world of Safehold, Terran Federation lieutenant-Commander Nimue Alban. The prior book ended with a war in Siddarmark and it is continued in this book with a long winter campaign. The book ends with no end it site to the war in Siddarmark, guess we need to wait for the next book in the series. Oliver Wyman is back narrating the series; he did the first two books of the series. Gave this three stars as it is average.
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