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John M

Lafayette, CA USA | Member Since 2007

  • 47 reviews
  • 198 ratings
  • 628 titles in library
  • 54 purchased in 2014

  • American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Jon Meacham
    • Narrated By Richard McGondale
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson's election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad.

    John M says: "Unlikable Old Hickory"
    "Unlikable Old Hickory"

    There have been some truly remarkable presidential biographies written fairly recently (including David McCullough's masterful works John Adams and Truman as well as Goodwin's Team of Rivals) but American Lion suffers in comparison - both in the eloquence of the writing and the subject itself.

    The author indicates in his introduction that the book is not intended to be about the "Age of Jackson" but directly about Jackson himself. It is too bad as the changes that happened during Jackson's presidency are incredibly interesting: the election of a "common man" from the West, more popular participation in politics, nullification crisis as a prelude to the Civil War 30 years later, and the evolution of the Office of the President as the most powerful branch of government.

    Unfortunately when one gets too close to Jackson himself it is hard to get too excited about the man given the amount of effort Jackson put into the petty social squabbles of the day, battling the central bank at every turn, his general grumpiness, and his unabashed support of slavery (though it is certainly not uncommon at the time).

    The biography itself was also a bit hard to follow as it was perhaps too tightly constrained to the Jackson presidential years, but still jumped around chronologically. This meant, for example, we got only a limited mention of Jackson's role in the War of 1812 but pages and pages of the Washington social scene. I also felt there was too much reliance on including text from the vast amount of correspondence between the different parties. Obviously you need some first-hand accounts, but the flow of the narrative suffered.

    If you are a dedicated presidential biography reader then this certainly could fill a void in your library, but there are better ones out there. This was the unabridged version - perhaps the abridged version (especially for only one credit!) would be a better bet.

    30 of 32 people found this review helpful
  • Christine

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Holter Graham

    It was love at first sight. From the moment 17-year-old Arnie Cunningham saw Christine, he knew he would do anything to possess her. But Christine is no lady. She is Stephen King's ultimate vehicle of terror.

    marvin says: "excellent novel made better by great narrator"
    "Enjoyable trip back in time"

    This is classic Stephen King and quite an enjoyable listen overall. I heard King interviewed once where he said something like he writes very much in the time of the story. Meaning there are lots and lots of "contemporary" cultural references from 1978 that are wonderful in and of themselves. Growing up as a teen in the '70's wasn't all that easy (being a former '70's teen myself) and King does a masterful job of describing the detail in just the right way. Some of the dialog seems slightly unnatural for teens, but since he wrote the book in 1983 he probably got it pretty right.

    And of course, since this is set in the late 70's, our heroes have to try to solve the mystery/stop the evil without the use of the internet, cell phones, etc. The spend a a fair bit of time getting change for the phone booth and even have to do research in a public library - go figure! As a small example I really loved the descriptions of the typical middle-class food choices of our teen age heroes - Wonder Bread, Twinkies, and everything.

    Yes, the story is fairly scary and I think King did as good a job as anyone possibly good with the story of a possessed car, but there is only so much that one can do with that one plot device (especially as it is revealed early on) and I thought the story bogged down halfway through since the eventual confrontation seemed inevitable one third of the way in. This isn't a short book and the plot could have been resolved in 12 hours vs 19.5 hours, but King's writing is so smooth it is quite OK.

    But at the end of the day, I think it is reasonably easy to hide from a car, so it doesn't rise to the top-tier of King's books, but still worth a listen. Of course throughout the book I kept thinking of all the self-driving cars being tested right now from Google and all the others. My, how time flies!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By David Mills
    • Narrated By David Smalley

    Is there really a God? Or does God exist only in our heads? Is the Bible truly God's Word? Or is it a jumble of fanciful myths? Atheist Universe details why God is unnecessary to explain the universe's diversity, organization, and beauty. Using simple, straightforward logic, this audiobook rebuts every argument that claims to "prove" God's existence.

    John M says: "Terrific, clear, and compelling"
    "Terrific, clear, and compelling"

    David Mills has put together a wonderful book articulating the atheist position. It is mostly about challenging Intelligent Design, but there are several chapters arguing against typical Christian orthodoxy that are very well put together. In the introduction, Mills stresses how much time he spends making his writing clear, concise, and free of jargon and it shows. It is a very tightly organized and efficient book. He covers more in his book than ones twice as long. It also puts him in a solid position to criticize ID and Creation Science advocates for writing in very convoluted ways in order to sound more scientific.

    The narrator was quite good, though there were a few mispronunciations that stood out, but didn't detract from the overall message.

    Also, Mills spends a fair bit of time criticizing Christian Fundamentalists and frequently lumps them in with overall Christian believers. He lives in the southern US so I have no doubt a large percentage of Christians are fundamentalists. Out here in the more liberal West we don't see that many and the Christians are much more "reasonable", but the overall arguments are very sound regardless.

    If you are interested in this kind of book, I definitely would add this to your reading list next to Dawkins and Harris.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • All Our Yesterdays

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Cristin Terrill
    • Narrated By Meredith Mitchell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    "You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain. Only Em can complete the final instruction. She's tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present - imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called "the doctor" while war rages outside.

    Tango says: "Should be classified as Sci-Fi"
    "Probably a pretty good YA book"

    I am a big fan of time travel books and mysteries so I was intrigued by the publisher's summaries and the reviews, but I couldn't take more than 90 minutes of it. This is clearly a Young Adult dystopian book, but that wasn't obvious in any of the descriptions. After dwelling for pages and pages how a geeky 15 year old boy had become a "hot" 17 year old genius I realized I had stumbled into the wrong section. I'm sure it a fine specimen in the genre, but not for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • 1356: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Bernard Cornwell
    • Narrated By Jack Hawkins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    On September 19, 1356, a heavily outnumbered English army faced off against the French in the historic Battle of Poitiers. In 1356, Cornwell resurrects this dramatic and bloody struggle - one that would turn out to be the most decisive and improbable victory of the Hundred Years' War, a clash where the underdog English not only the captured the strategic site of Poitiers, but the French King John II as well.

    Amazon Customer says: "A Classic Story Comes To Life"
    "Only so-so for a Bernard Cornwell Novel"

    First off, I am a huge Bernard Cornwell fan. I have read/listened to all the Sharpe books, the Copperhead books, Winter King series, and many others. But for some reason 1356 seemed uninspired, especially compared with Agincourt, which I just re-listened to in anticipation of this book. Very similar eras, but character development, social history, and a compelling storyline all seemed better in Agincourt. And the narrator for 1356 didn't seem well suited to the role. His English accent was nice, but he sounded congested much of the time and I had a hard time distinguishing between the characters.

    Bottom line - if you like the Grail Quest series and want to see how Thomas of Hookton has progressed, you should give it a listen. Looking for a great medieval historical novel? Check out Agincourt and give 1356 a pass.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joe Ledger: Special Ops

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Jonathan Maberry
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Captain Joe Ledger - former cop, former Army Ranger, and currently the top-kick of Echo Team, an elite squad of first-class shooters who roll out to face down the world's most dangerous terrorists. Not fanatics with explosive vests or political hostage takers. Joe and his team square off against terrorists who have the most advanced and exotic weapons of mass destruction, designer bioweapons, cutting-edge transgenics…real mad-scientist stuff.

    Tracy says: "If you have already read Missing Files"
    "A great way to get your Joe Ledger fix!"

    This book is a series of short stories that take place in timelines around those featured in the novels. While not required, I think these stories are best enjoyed once you have finished all the main novels. There are some "spoilers" in the short stories when the characters refer to events that happened at the conclusions of the different novels.

    Even though the book consists of stand-alone stories, there is some context-setting at the beginning of each that explains when/where each one takes place.

    Each story is substantial enough to be enjoyed in its own right. It actually felt similar to a regular Joe Ledger novel since those tend to be a series of action-packed episodes back to back anyway.

    To me, it was every bit as enjoyable as any of the other novels, which means it was a rocking 5-star listen.

    And there is an awesome bonus story at the end. An interview between Jonathan Maberry (the author) and Ray Porter (the narrator). It offers really terrific insight into how Ray goes about preparing for and recording the novels. It is also clear that Jonathan is as big a Ray Porter fan as I am! Worth the price of a credit all by itself. Enjoy!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • World War II: A Military and Social History

    • ORIGINAL (15 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Thomas Childers

    Between 1937 and 1945, approximately 55 million people perished in the series of interrelated conflicts known as the Second World War. No continent was left untouched, no ocean unaffected. The war led to the eclipse of Europe and the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as global superpowers; ushered in the atomic age; produced, in the Holocaust, the most horrific crime ever committed in the history of Western civilization, and led to the end of Europe's colonial empires around the world.

    John M says: "My favorite Great Courses lecture"
    "My favorite Great Courses lecture"

    I have listened to dozens of "courses" from the Teaching Company over the years and this is one of the best. It was done a while ago but it still very worthwhile. What a treat to be able to listen to it via Audible. Professor Childers is an excellent lecturer and great storyteller who has an infectious enthusiasm for his subject. It is titled "a Military and Social History" but know if that it is about 80% military and 20% social. I wish there would have been more social or political context but I wouldn't have traded any of the military side - they should have just added additional lectures and I would have been quite happy.

    Prof. Childers does a remarkable job telling the story of this literally global catastrophe that is very easy to follow. It is hard to imagine a traditional book brought to audio that could accomplish the same feat.

    This was my first teaching company lecture series I ever listened to (over 10 years ago) and at that time I had only a cursory understanding of WWII. In the intervening years I have been an enthusiastic student of all things WWII and have read at least 15 books on various aspects of the conflict and visited numerous sites/monuments. So I can honestly say the lecture will be equally enjoyable whether you are new to the subject or you are familiar with it. Prepare for time well spent.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Godfather

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Mario Puzo
    • Narrated By Joe Mantegna
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    More than 40 years ago, Mario Puzo wrote his iconic portrait of the Mafia underworld as told through the fictional first family of American crime, the Corleones. The leader, Vito Corleone, is the Godfather. He is a benevolent despot who stops at nothing to gain and hold power. His command post is a fortress on Long Island from which he presides over a vast underground empire that includes the rackets, gambling, bookmaking, and unions. His influence runs through all levels of American society, from the cop on the beat to the nation's mighty.

    Dana says: "Huge fan of the movie, loved this audiobook!"
    "Great book - better than the movie"

    I am probably in the minority that hadn't seen the movie prior to listening to the audiobook. But I did like the audiobook so much I then sat down and watched the movie. It is remarkable how closely the movie adhered to the book - but as with all great books it is hard for any movie to compare with one's imagination properly inspired.

    The book was very enjoyable and the performance was very well done. Women's voices weren't that great, but there are relatively few female characters in the story and it was certainly good enough.

    The book also fills in so many (unavoidable) holes in the movie I can't imagine any Godfather movie fan not thoroughly enjoying revisiting their favorite mafia family again.

    Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • War and Remembrance

    • UNABRIDGED (56 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Herman Wouk
    • Narrated By Kevin Pariseau

    Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues here in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events - and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II - as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.

    aaron says: "What can I say that hasn't already been said??"
    "Epic! A True Masterpiece"
    Would you listen to War and Remembrance again? Why?

    Absolutely. It was a remarkable story brought to life by an amazing narrator. It seemed at the same time unhurried but relentless. This must be listened to after "Winds of War" so together it is a 100+ hour commitment, but it was tremendous. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about WWII and I learned a great deal about the conflict through that most ancient of human skills: storytelling. I look forward to listening to it again.

    What did you like best about this story?

    The way the narrative shifted between the different viewpoints - from a "God's Eye" view of the progress of the war to the more myopic German perspective to the personal American and Jewish experience. In hindsight it really is the only way to tell such a grand and terrible story.

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

    His command of accents and cadence is amazing. He was always clear and easy to understand but it really put you in the thick of the action.

    Any additional comments?

    Listen to this book. It is well worth your time. In this age where we are losing 1000's of WWII vets every day this is perhaps one of the best ways to connect to that time.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Passage: The Passage Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Justin Cronin
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Adenrele Ojo, Abby Craden
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

    Nicole says: "You love it or you hate it..."
    "Epic Story - very enjoyable"

    The Passage was a great read and to me they felt like some of Stephen King's longer works. There is certainly a horror-ish element to it and some fairly intense action sequences, but at the same time it feels unhurried and Scott Brick's terrific narration adds to that feeling. There is a pretty diverse and wide cast of characters but most of them add nicely to the story's mosaic - sometimes in surprising ways.

    Do note that there are jumps in both timeline and perspective of the storyteller (including a couple of alternate narrators) but it works out well, adds to the story, and is not hard to follow.

    Overall I found the story every exciting and unpredictable and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read. Yep, there may be "vampire-ish" elements to it, but they are much more Stephen King than Stephanie Meyer.

    This is actually my second time through the book (in preparation to enjoy the sequel, The Twelve). I loved it the first time but I think the second time may have been better as you can see how seemingly innocuous events early in the story really play out. Enjoy!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Alfred Lansing
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In August of 1914, the British ship Endurance set sail for the South Atlantic. In October, 1915, still half a continent away from its intended base, the ship was trapped, then crushed in the ice. For five months, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men, drifting on ice packs, were castaways in one of the most savage regions of the world.

    Jennie says: "Unbelievably riveting!"

    I thoroughly loved this book. I don't normally seek out these "true-life adventures" but the other reviews were so positive that I decided to give it a try. It was absolutely tremendous. It was so unbelievable that no one would even think of putting half of the things that happened into a novel. I literally spent every night during the time period I was listening to this book reflecting about the trials and tribulations of the men of the Endurance and wondering how I would do in similar circumstances. It was a profoundly emotional experience with this book.

    The writing is quite good and the narrator keeps the story moving along while keeping the "you are there" sense of the book.

    I highly recommend this book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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