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E. Smakman

Netherlands | Member Since 2007

111
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 37 reviews
  • 159 ratings
  • 242 titles in library
  • 17 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
3
FOLLOWERS
6

  • Barrayar: A Vorkosigan Adventure

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1159)
    Performance
    (672)
    Story
    (672)

    In the wake of interplanetary war, former commander Cordelia Naismith has deserted her own planet to marry the leader of the defeated enemy, Aral Vorkosigan. On his home planet of Barrayar, two rival factions are eyeing the recently vacated throne, and Aral, recently appointed Regent of Barrayar by the Emperor on his deathbed, must stand between them. Lord and Lady Vorkosigan, Aral and Cordelia struggle to establish stability in a fragile government thrown into confusion by the transition of power.

    Karen S. Coyle says: "Lois Bujold always delivers!"
    "Actionpacked and building human characters"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am listening to the Vorkosigan books in order, as many recommend. So this is my second one, after Shards of Honor. I enjoyed the first book, and like the second one even more.

    While listening to this book on my way to work and back home, I often find myself drive slower or even stay parked in the driveway to hear how the story develops. Particularly the latter part of this book (I won't spoil anything) keeps you on the edge of your seat as the pace picks up and tension mounts to the climax. And then you are still left wondering what happened to certain crucial characters in the book.

    So, the book has plenty of action. Fine and well worth reading for that. Where it exceeds a normal action book is the depth of its characters: Aral, Cordelia and to a lesser extent Piotr, Bothari, Kou and Drou can be understood and up to a point empathise with. The star of course is Cordelia, who almost always seem to keep her nerve and never rises to pure emotional reactions.

    This is maybe the only drawback of this book, and that is where I give it 4 instead of 5 stars. Aral and Cordelia are a bit too perfect for me. Sure, they get mad, and make emotional decisions. But they seem to never be overwhelmed, or too upset to think clearly, even when the world around them is in total chaos. This makes the book a bit too predictable at critical times, because you feel what the right decision would be (for A or C) and that is also what they do in the story.

    Nonetheless, thoroughly enjoyable for readers of soft SF (no robots or aliens) who are also interested in character development.

    Grover Gardner is a fine reader.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Alice in Wonderland

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Lewis Carroll
    • Narrated By David Horovitch, Jo Wyatt
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (16)
    Story
    (17)

    Alice's adventures, funny, inventive and disturbing, have fascinated children and adults alike since their publication. The White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat (and, of course, Alice herself) all have something "Curiouser and curiouser!" to say in this new unabridged multi-cast recording. A delightful fantasy down the rabbit hole.

    Walter says: "Harry Potter led me to this one."
    "Fantastic story! Great show by the narrators"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you listen to Alice in Wonderland again? Why?

    Yes, again and again! Because of the wonderful conversations and the way the actors play with words. Alice is a bit silly, but there are so many weird and funny characters that I never knew were invented by Lewis Carroll, it is simply fantastic fun!


    What did you like best about this story?

    The conversations and events, and the way they are acted by the cast. Very entertaining!


    What does David Horovitch and Jo Wyatt bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Not only David and Jo, but the audiobook has a full cast that brings the story completely to life. I even started to talk like them myself as I got totally into the story. "Off with his head!!"


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

    Yes and no. Yes because of the fun, but sometimes it gets a bit tiring to listen to all the different voices. In two or three sittings however, very good indeed!


    Any additional comments?

    Apparently, this book is also a criticism of Victorian cultural norms. That may be, but I did not read so much in this. That might be my ignorance in the matter. It does not detract from the wonderful story though....:-)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Report from Nuremberg: The International War Crimes Trial

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs)
    • By Harold Burson
    • Narrated By Christian Rummel, Richard McGonagle, Gabrielle De Cuir, and others
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (57)
    Story
    (58)

    Audible brings to life through dramatic performance the 1945-1946 radio broadcast reports covering the greatest courtroom drama of the 20th century - the Nuremberg trials. The original broadcasts have been lost forever, but the verbatim text - written by Harold Burson, founding chairman of one of the world’s leading public relations firms, Burson Marsteller, who at the time was a reporter for the Armed Forces Network - has been newly interpreted by an ensemble of some of our fine actors.

    Peter says: "Now there was radio!"
    "The first war crimes tribunal as experienced then"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Where does Report from Nuremberg rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It is a pretty good book particularly for its content: the tribunal that judged the 23 war criminals of the Nazi era. I was not familiar with the background and that is interesting


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    There are no characters, unless you call the war criminals 'characters'. That would be too much honor for them.


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The narrators read the transcripts of the radio transmissions of American Forces Radio of 1945 and 1946, and provide a very good feel for the mood and sentiments of the day. It is clear that there being a War Crimes Tribunal was not as likely as it might seem today


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    This book is not good for a movie, but a documentary would be fine outlining the sentiments of the day: "kill those f*ing basterds!"


    Any additional comments?

    The reading is good and the interview with an aged Harold Burson at the end is a fitting and welcome addition to the report. However, the 'report' stops after the trial of the first 3 to 5 criminals and does not return to the trial. I would have enjoyed the book more if it would have returned at the final stages of the trial with the sentences of the criminals and their arguments. That would have rounded it off. But maybe those radio transcripts were no longer available...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Shards of Honor

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1324)
    Performance
    (806)
    Story
    (819)

    I>Shards of Honor is the novel in which Lois McMaster Bujold introduced the science-fiction world to Barrayar and Aral Vorkosigan, Beta Colony and Cordelia Naismith. From this beginning the author has created a multigenerational saga spanning time as well as space. Bujold is generally recognized as the current exemplar of the character-based science-fiction adventure story.

    Lifelong Reader says: "First story in the Miles Vorkosigan series"
    "An epic series at its beginning"
    Overall
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    Once in a while I buy a book because I have a credit, not because I have a desire to read it. So this book stayed on my shelf for more than a year. And lucky me! If I would have started it earlier, I would have been hooked to the series much earlier and would have read all 16 of them in the past months! And had read no other books...

    This is the start of the Vorkosigan series, and together with its successor Barrayar outlines the details of how Miles' parents met and came together. I will not spoil anything by saying this. The story is believable and entertaining at the same time. Cordelia and Aral are slowly showing their own character in the various actions that fill this first volume. And some other characters are introduced which become more important in the next episode. Although I rate Barrayar a bit higher due to suspense and story, Shards of Honor does not disappoint and it is a worthwhile introduction to the series.

    If you don't like this book, than you can skip the rest too.
    By the way, the start of the story of Miles Vorkosigan himself is with 'The Warrior's Apprentice'. Some reviewers feel it is better to start with that one.

    Grover Gardner is great as always.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Neil Shubin
    • Narrated By Marc Cashman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (262)
    Performance
    (109)
    Story
    (111)

    To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish.

    Aryn says: "Be entertained and educated"
    "How evolution does not lead to perfection..."
    Overall
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    Your inner fish, what a great book this is!! Neil Shubin is a professor of paleontology, the study of old bones. He has a particular expertise in fish, that's the reason for the title.
    But he could have chosen any animal in the heritage line of mankind to make his point, as long as it was sufficiently far in the past (say 300 million years).

    The gist of the book: evolution does not create entirely new beings that better fit the environment, but rather, repurposes creatures for a changing environment. Evolution in this sense can be compared to a house which has been renovated many times, in which bedrooms become bathrooms but still retain the old plumbing. Doors are used as windows and floors might get strengthened over time, but the basic layout cannot change much. This has benefits (build on what works in the past), but also drawbacks. The main one being that you cannot start anew and throw away unnecessary complexity. Humans are very complex, but some of it is just a burden. For example, the way our nerves twist and turn through the human body is the result of nerve-ends (sensory, muscular or organs) that were in a different place in our ancient ancestor beings. With a more direct route from brain to nerve-ending.

    Shubin explains how certain parts of our body have developed through the main evolutionary steps. Our bone structure, or eyes and ears, our brains itself. And proofs that indeed, we have a fish inside us.

    Just an idea of the kind of evolutionary routes which the book describes:
    - the first hard body parts that developed were teeth. And the first skull is nothing more than a lot of teeth. Re-use what you have and what works
    - ancient meat eaters (sharks) have wide jaws, levered through extra bones in the jaw. These extra bones have mutated over time to the ear, in which certain elements have 2 and humans have 3 bones (hammer, anvil, and another one). The animals with 2 ear bones have an extra jaw bone. In this way, all (I guess) skeletal creatures have a similar basic structure. Same with eyes, where the basic sensor is identical for all 'seeing' creatures.
    This is how evolution re-uses elements of what worked before.

    Shubin is also a good storyteller, so the book is not a dry telling of the facts. I will definitely try Shubin's other book which goes back even further in time.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Christopher McDougall
    • Narrated By Fred Sanders
    Overall
    (4739)
    Performance
    (2489)
    Story
    (2529)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Want to join the “superhumans”? Luckily you don’t have to run to catch up with them, thanks to McDougall’s and Sanders’ inspiring (and motivating) journey through history, science, physiology, health, entertaining characters and unlikely friendships. Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure.

    Corey says: "Amazing read - even for non-runners"
    "Great story, also for non-runners"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    So, what kind of book is this actually? It is part biography, part history, part science and part fun stories about the weird characters in the ultra running-scene. A short outline of each of the parts of the book:

    1. biography: the search of Chris McDougall for how to run injury free, finally culminating in his participation in a 50 mile ultra-marathon in the Copper Canyons with the best racers in the world.
    2. history: how running developed and what it has meant for human beings over time. Also the recent history of running (Nike) and ultra-running. This is really fun stuff, even if you don't like to run yourself. You feel yourself in the excitement of these extreme races that last sometimes more than a day in deserts, over icy mountains and through rugged forests.
    3. science: running causes an amazing amount of injuries, where many people believe it to be healthy. It seems modern runners entertain the entirely wrong running style/method. This sounds strangely true, and other science books confirm this hypothesis.
    4. story: there are about 10 great characters in the book, which are described vividly although almost too fantastic to be true. The main ones are Micah True (Caballo Blanco), Scott Jurek (the greatest ultra-marathoner ever) and the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico.

    Although McDougall has a tendency to exaggerate, the story develops at a good pace and it has both riveting sub-stories as well as many nuggets of knowledge related to running. The most perplexing the one about persistence hunting: the ability of humans to hunt prey by running after them until they die of a stroke. Apparently, this is the very first means of hunting mankind employed, only later abandoned for easier/faster methods.

    I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who knows someone that likes to run, so can empathize a bit with the sport. You don't have to like it yourself, this book will not turn you into a runner (I am still not), but you certainly get a better feel of the thrill that people feel with running long distance and particularly trail and ultras.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Greatest Salesman in the World

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Og Mandino
    • Narrated By Og Mandino
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (508)
    Performance
    (318)
    Story
    (326)

    This is the legend of Hafid, a camel boy 2,000 years ago, and his burning desire to improve his lowly position in life, as told to his apprentice Erasmus. Hafid relates the story of how he became known as the Greatest Salesman in the World. His success lies in the wisdom of ten leather scrolls passed down to him from his master, Pathros.

    Eric says: "Not the greatest book in the world"
    "Still chewing on my evaluation..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Spoiler alert.

    Og Mandino writes a biblical story which is portrayed as a sales book. Or the other way around, I am not quite sure. Anyway, the story is about how the best Salesman in the world around the year 33 AD came by his extraordinary wealth. Apparently, this is due to 10 scrolls with eternal wisdom on it, like do your best every day, live as if this day is the last of your life, love everyone around you, act act act, etc. All good as such, but not new (maybe at the time) and owing homage to Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie.

    But the story is very slow and although the book is short, I felt it dragged on a bit. Also due to the repetition within the scrolls. Mandino says you should do one scroll every week/few weeks and I think he might be right. In one go, it is boring.
    That in the end it is the apostle Peter who receives the scrolls was a bit too much for me.

    Now, the book is not all bad and outdated. Certain scrolls give a fresh perspective on how to behave in life as well as in sales situations. For that, I give it 3 stars. For the limited price and time, it has enough value.

    The reading of Og Mandino takes some getting used to, he has quite a strong accent.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The History of Money

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Jack Weatherford
    • Narrated By Victor Bevine
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (255)
    Performance
    (148)
    Story
    (150)

    From primitive man's cowrie shells to the electronic cash card, from the markets of Timbuktu to the New York Stock Exchange, The History of Money explores how money and the myriad forms of exchange have affected humanity, and how they will continue to shape all aspects of our lives--economic, political, and personal.

    PHIL says: "Wide, deep, thoughtful, colorful"
    "Not bad, but outdated"
    Overall
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    Story

    I made the mistake of buying this book because I liked Weatherford's Genghis Khan so much. Mr. Weatherford is an excellent historian/historic storyteller, and that is where this book succeeds: the telling of the history of money. So the book delivers? Not entirely.

    The book is written in 1998, the dawn of the internet hype. And that is where the problems are. When the writer explains where money is now and where it is going to, it stays too much in the hyperbole of the day. 24 hours non stop everywhere, blink of an eye billions of dollars across the globe hype of the end of the 90's. Although here and there he strikes a hit (currencies less and less in the grip of national governments), for the current reader there is just too much that has happened in the last 15 years for this part to be interesting.

    My recommendation would be to read the book if you are interested in a historic story about the development and meaning of money for society (big, always). And just avoid the stuff about the most 'recent' developments, which is about the last 2 hours.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Zimmermann Telegram

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Barbara W. Tuchman
    • Narrated By Wanda McCaddon
    Overall
    (287)
    Performance
    (202)
    Story
    (204)

    In the dark winter of 1917, as World War I was deadlocked, Britain knew that Europe could be saved only if the United States joined the war. But President Wilson remained unshakable in his neutrality. Then, with a single stroke, the tool to propel America into the war came into a quiet British office. One of countless messages intercepted by the crack team of British decoders, the Zimmermann telegram was a top-secret message from Berlin inviting Mexico to join Japan in an invasion of the United States.

    Mike From Mesa says: "US entry to World War I"
    "The deciding factor in WW I that brought the US in"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Tuchman is one of my favourite history authors and I particularly enjoyed her other WW I book 'the Guns of August'. This book is slightly further down in time, when in 1917 Woodrow Wilson's US is extremely restraint in its actions and still striving for a diplomatic solution to the great war.

    As is usual for Tuchman, she not only outlines the events as they occured (read Wikipedia, and you know them), but she mainly describes the main characters in all their marvelous and sometimes hilarious detail with all their adventures, misunderstandings, hubris and courage.What to think about the german 'Lawrence of Arabia' being chased all over Iraq, or the english spy general. But also the main political figures: the Kaiser, the president, the PM and the Mexican president or his adversaries do not escape Tuchman's sharp pen.

    One of the good things about this book is its relative brevity. It outlines how the British got into the position to get their hands on the poisonous Telegram, and all the mechanisations of the Germans to keep the Americans otherwise occupied which finally led to the sending of the Telegram by Zimmermann in the first place. But it does not delve too deep in the state of the war, as 'Guns' did but which would lead to a longer and less focused book.

    Thus, if you want to know more about a critical moment in the First World War, read this book. And enjoy not only your increased knowledge, but mostly how real history can be so much more entertaining (100 years in retrospect, without the hurt) than a fictional novel.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Narrated By Joe Ochman
    Overall
    (725)
    Performance
    (610)
    Story
    (611)

    In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and in Antifragile he offers a definitive solution: how to gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. For what Taleb calls the "antifragile" is actually beyond the robust, because it benefits from shocks, uncertainty, and stressors, just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension. The antifragile needs disorder in order to survive and flourish. Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner.

    PHIL says: "Some good ideas, smart guy, not smart as HE thinks"
    "How to focus on impact instead of risk"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There are two things to say about this book: one is about the intellectual content, which is brilliant and thought-provoking. The other is its tone and character, which is nauseating at times and simply boring at most others. Enough is said about that in other reviews, suffice to say that he does it even more in this book than in his previous tomes.

    Back to the content then: Taleb asserts that we cannot KNOW the probability or risk of certain events, that is why instead we should focus on its consequences, bad or good. Almost all relevant events are 'non-linear', meaning that the potential benefits far outweigh the potential costs or vice versa. If we focus on reducing the potentially large negative consequences of events and expose ourselves to potentially large positive consequences of others (at little cost) than we are really progressing. He advocates a barbell strategy, of limiting your biggest risks while exposing yourself to the biggest upsides.

    Some interesting elements:
    (1) the 'via negitiva' or subtractive way of doing things. It is easier to predict the things that in the future will no longer be there (the fragile), then the new things that will arise and be successful. The old is more likely to stay around than the new (it has been around longer). (2) The small, decentral is less harmful than the big central which drags everybody along. (3) 'stressors'. Minor stressors (pains, damage) due to volatility are good for strength. Too much stability creates comfort and lack of strength. This is true for humans: no effort, no strength. But also for government monopolies.
    And finally (4) his main point: let us try to intervene less in society, economy and human beings, because practically all intervention has large negative and unknown consequences. Only intervene when not intervening ends most likely very bad. This could be a policy for the military too?

    I for one can recommend the content of this book if you can stomach the tone, and am myself still digesting its consequential conclusions.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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