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Linda Lou

Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton.  In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!! 

Cave Creek, AZ USA | Member Since 2014

ratings
1381
REVIEWS
238
FOLLOWING
5
FOLLOWERS
175
HELPFUL VOTES
1556

  • Young Al Capone: The Untold Story of Scarface in New York, 1899-1925

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By John Balsamo, William Balsamo
    • Narrated By Daniel May
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    Many people are familiar with the story of Al Capone, the legendary Chicago gangster best known for orchestrating the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. But few are aware that Capone’s remarkable story began in the Navy Yard section of Brooklyn, New York. Tutored by the likes of infamous mobsters Johnny Torrio and Frankie Yale, young Capone’s disquieting demeanor, combined with the “technical advice” he learned from these shady teachers, contributed to the molding of a brutal criminal....

    Linda Lou says: "A BAD HISTORICAL FICTION EFFORT!"
    "A BAD HISTORICAL FICTION EFFORT!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I get what authors were trying to to here - create a "prequel" to what is widely known about gangster Al Capone, by making up a fictional account of the first 25 years of Capone's life by setting up reasons for Capone's sociopathic behavior later when he took over the Chicago mob. The problem is that the Balsamo's don't have the least sense of what "literary license" means. They just made up things which belie credibility. How are we to believe that a seasoned Mafia leader like Johnny Torrio quaked in the presence of a 15 year-old Capone who was just an errand boy at the time? The episodes of Capone's crude sexual behaviors are more of what is expected of an adolescent - not the lead-in to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre! That's like writing a story about Ted Bundy as a 10 year old killing animals, masterbating, setting fires, and wetting the bed! Who cares? It's just a back-story to the really gory stuff! This could have been a good effort if more time had been spent in research so that the Balsamo's would not found the need to make up things that just don't make sense. Not worth the price of admission! 👎

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Accidental Empress

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Allison Pataki
    • Narrated By Madeleine Maby
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (2)

    The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe's most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

    Linda Lou says: "TOO LONG, TOO SILLY, BAD NARRATION"
    "TOO LONG, TOO SILLY, BAD NARRATION"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I thought this would be a more serious account of Empress Elisabeth but it's like a way too long fairy tale. The narrator is really bad. There are so many characters and accents, male, female and children, that it becomes confusing. Really awful "chick lit".

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A Drink Before the War

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Dennis Lehane
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (426)
    Performance
    (364)
    Story
    (368)

    With novels like Mystic River and Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane has dramatically altered the landscape of the crime thriller—while boldly overstepping the boundaries that have long separated mystery from literature. Now two of his sensational early novels have been combined in a single volume—two gritty and mesmerizing masterworks of suspense featuring the private eye duo of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro.

    L. O. Pardue says: "Great beginning to thriller series"
    "UNREALISTIC"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I expected more from the author of "Shuuter Island" - although, in that case, the movie is the rare example of being much, much better than the book. But this book made no sense at all. It's about a private investigator who somehow gets himself in a war with local black gang members. This is Boston, not South Central, but I have never seen, known, read about or had any knowledge of any black gang - much less black people - who act like we are depicted in Lehane's book. It's as though he's never met a black person in his life, much less a gang member. The interaction, dialogue and speech patterns are so wrong. Is this Lehane's fantasy idea of our people?. Surprisingly, the only likeable (?) and well-developed character in the entire book is an overtly racist redneck guy named Bubba!

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • NYPD Red

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By James Patterson, Marshall Karp
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini, Jay Snyder
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (969)
    Performance
    (817)
    Story
    (823)

    It's the start of Hollywood on Hudson, and New York City is swept up in the glamour. Every night, the red carpet rolls out for movie stars arriving at premieres in limos; the most exclusive restaurants close for private parties for wealthy producers and preeminent directors; and thousands of fans gather with the paparazzi, hoping to catch a glimpse of the most famous and beautiful faces in the world. With this many celebrities in town, special task force NYPD Red is on high alert - and they can't afford to make a single mistake.

    Ann M. Lambert says: "one of the best, if not the best audio books ever"
    "MUCH BETTER THAN I EXPECTED"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Although I've always been a voracious reader, Jame Patterson never did it for me. Maybe because I started with one of the books in the Alex Cross series, "Roses Are Red". It took place in Washington DC and the main character, Cross, is black. I am black - born and raised in DC - a graduate of Howard University. I have a child who is a career police officer. Maybe it was just me, over-thinking it, and having way too much intimate knowledge, combined with the constant hype about the author, which caused me to not really be blown away by my first foray into the Patterson repertoire. But I hung in there and next tried "Violets Are Blue". It was actually worse! So I was done with James Patterson years ago!

    However, I picked up this book in one of Audible's clever "Discover A New Series" promotions (which have cost me HUNDREDS of dollars in the past!). Here, we are presented with a male and female detective team, part of an "elite" task force, NYPD Red. I don't know how ELITE these cops are - they just seem to be doing their jobs, with the focus on the "1%ers" (and I'm not referring to motorcycle gangs). These cops waste much needed resources on the rich and famous in an era where police officers are over-worked and underpaid just trying to keep the peace among regular citizens. But, I digress....over-thinking again! For sheer LIGHT FLUFFY entertainment, this story was pretty good, although implausible in some places - kinda like a Marvel comic book. Nothing too intelligent, just a great ride. The plot line is thin but there are twists, turns, and surpises with well-crafted dialogue. There IS a co-author here, Marshall Karp. Ghostwriter? Protégé? Whatever - he does add a different, albeit subtle, component to the overall effort.

    The narration is good, considering the different races, ethnicities and accents involved. My only complaint is with the head of the team, a black female captain who always talks like she's delivering Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Just imagine Dr. King in line at Starbucks, ordering an expresso con panna, shouting "I'LL HAVE A CREAM!!!" Hey, Rev! We got you! 😄

    This is not a story as exciting as many other police thrillers but if you want a "light meal" with that espresso, this book will satisfy you.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Donald L. Miller
    • Narrated By Johnny Heller
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (4)

    Here, witness Chicago's growth from a desolate fur-trading post in the 1830s to one of the world's most explosively alive cities by 1900. Donald Miller's powerful narrative embraces it all: Chicago's wild beginnings, its reckless growth, its natural calamities (especially the Great Fire of 1871), its raucous politics, its empire-building businessmen, its world-transforming architecture, its rich mix of cultures, its community of young writers and journalists, and its staggering engineering projects.

    Linda Lou says: "A STORY THAT TRIES TOO HARD....AND FAILS"
    "A STORY THAT TRIES TOO HARD....AND FAILS"
    Overall
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    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The author doesn't give us an objective account of the city of Chicago. He spends 24 hours telling us over and over and over again how fantastic, innovative, brave, beautiful, compelling, unique, unsurpassable, incomparable, etc. Chicago's history is, to the point where I just got sick of it. It took him 17 hours and 18 chapters just to get to 1893!


    What could Donald L. Miller have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    I would have liked to hear a more indepth account of the REAL Chicago, i.e., the slums, the immigrant population, the corrupt politicians, the renowned "red light" district, etc. How can you tell the story of Chicago and not have at least 3 hours about the famous high-class brothel, the Everleigh Club and its owners? What about the contributions to the fabric of the from the Polish and African-American communities? This book is all about the money-grabbing white upper-class with no regard for the common people who actually kept that city running every day. Servants, boot-blacks, coachman, ladies maids, streetcar drivers, butchers in the meat-packing district, the black porters in George Pullman's railroad cars, clerks, shop girls - THEY were the true blood of that city, yet each group was mentioned in passing while Heller literally brown-nosed every rich person he could think of.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Johnny Heller?

    He was alright but only because the book is so disappointing. He has the perfect Midwestern twang for a story of a city grown out of the prairie.


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

    Heller totally disrespected the Native Americans who were cheated, raped, murdered and oppressed by whites who also dessimated the buffalo, prairie flora, and other wildlife. However, he did give a small history to the Kaskaskian tribe, ancestors of my husband and our children (they are of black Créole descent - a French Canadian trapper married a Kaskaskian woman, then they eventually settled in New Iberia, Louisiana where their son married his mulatress slave). I learned more about them here than in 10 years of my own research. Even then, Heller only mentioned the great people because of their help to the pioneers and missionaries like Marquette and Joliet. He doesn't tell us how the Kaskaskia and other indigenous Illinois people were wiped out due to not only senseless slaughter but also the diseases carried by the filthy unhygienic white men from which the Natives had no immune system. Heller made the Native Americans look like drunken ignorant savages when it was the whites who introduced liquor and guns to a race who had survived for centuries on their own.


    Any additional comments?

    The real problem with this book is the lack of objectivity, combined with the preening and fawning way the story is written. Chicago IS a great city, yet Heller makes it sound like the the younger child of a second marriage. For example.....Chicago's father's first children are London, Paris, Berlin, Venice, and Florence. His wife dies after those kids are grown so he remarries a younger woman who give him a new family: New York City, Boston, and Washington DC. Right before the father dies, his new wife has one last "change of life" baby that neither expected - Chicago. Poor fatherless Chicago spends his whole life trying to prove that he is as great and successful and good looking as his older siblings. But everyone wants to ignore his bad habits (gambling, whoring, fighting, cheating, corruption, murder) by insisting to everyone around that "Chicago is really a good boy in his heart. Why, this morning he actually picked up the poop dropped in the front parlor by his pack of hunting hounds." REALLY, CHICAGO!?!? Try Erik Larson's "The Devil In The White City" or "Sin In The Second City" by Karen Abbott.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective's Greatest Cases

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By E. J. Wagner
    • Narrated By E. J. Wagner, Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (60)
    Performance
    (36)
    Story
    (35)

    Forensic expert Wagner has crafted a volume that stands out from the plethora of recent memoirs of contemporary scientific detectives. By using the immortal and well-known Sherlock Holmes stories as her starting point, Wagner blends familiar examples from Doyle's accounts into a history of the growth of forensic science, pointing out where fiction strayed from fact.

    A. Yoshida says: "Science in the time of Sherlock Holmes"
    "BOOK RUINED BY AUTHOR NARRATING"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was very disappointed by this book. I thought the great Simon Prebble was narrating. However, once again, a book is ruined by the author narrating her own work.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Elizabeth A. Murray
    Overall
    (107)
    Performance
    (88)
    Story
    (87)

    Modern history is filled with terrible crimes, baffling hoaxes, and seedy scandals. The infamous Jack the Ripper slayings. The alleged survival of Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of the murdered Tsar. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong's public fall from grace. The Chicago Tylenol poisonings and the copycat crimes that followed.

    Rob Stern says: "You'll never want to kill again"
    "REHASH OF EXISTING TV FORENSIC SHOWS"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I thought this book would be about the little known crimes in forensic history, combined with the added insight of an educator. Instead these are the same old stories that have been "done to death" (pun intended) in a century of written material and decades of shows like "Forensic Files" and "Unsolved Mysteries". It starts out with the most chewed on crime of all - Jack The Ripper. WHO CARES ANYMORE!? Even if investigators found a viable suspect, he or she died a long time ago, thereby avoiding earthly justice.

    There are so many other crimes that could have benefited from a in-depth analysis by university professor. Instead she chose criminal events in which she could have done her research and due diligence with her feet up on the sofa, remote control in hand. No need to spend time in now-deserted library stacks when a "Forensic Files' marathon on Netflix or HuluPlus will "get 'er done". This method of classroom teaching is perfect to keep the attention of bored college students, only attending class to receive a barely passing grade. But any real true crime buff will not be satisfied after listening to hours and hours of crimes that we've already seen on television in 4 or 5 different depictions and reenactments. Same old stuff: Black Dahlia, The Brothers Melendez, Anastasia Romanov, the Tylenol poisonings, dirty cops, falsified evidence, police brutality, witness intimidation, coerced confessions, inaccurate eyewitness testimony, shoddy lab work, Russian double agents, etc., etc., etc. BLEH!

    Professor Murray has a pleasant speaking voice but the production of the audiobook is not up to par - her frequent stumbles and stutters are not edited out. In the synopsis, we are promised a "look over the shoulder" of on site investigators. Yet we are given no more than we have all learned by watching "Court TV". Aren't we all now as proficient in pathology and forensics as Drs. Michael Baden, Henry Lee, Cyril Wecht, etc.? Nothing new here - PASS on it!

    8 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Fraternity: In 1968, a visionary priest recruited 20 black men to the College of the Holy Cross and changed their lives and the course of history.

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Diane Brady
    • Narrated By Dominic Hoffman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (17)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (14)

    On April 4, 1968, the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., shocked the nation. Later that month, the Reverend John Brooks, a professor of theology at the College of the Holy Cross who shared Dr. King’s dream of an integrated society, drove up and down the East Coast searching for African American high school students to recruit to the school, young men he felt had the potential to succeed if given an opportunity. Among the twenty students he had a hand in recruiting that year were Clarence Thomas and Theodore Wells....

    Marion L. Carroll says: "Exceptional insight"
    "AMAZING & UPLIFTING ACCOUNT"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a fantastic story about what a black man can accomplish when someone believes in him.. I have a personal insight since I was a high school friend of one of the young men featured here: high profile criminal defense attorney, Theodore V. Wells. Growing up in the 1960s as an honor student with "Tokey" at Coolidge High School in Washington DC, I always knew he would be successful with his great leadership skills and personal charisma. Many of our school mates became top black lawyers and doctors. But I am blown away by Tokey's ultimate career accomplishments.

    This story is a well-researched account of the outstanding journey of 5 young black men recruited by Rev. John Brooks during a racially charged period on U.S. history to achieve the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King. Brooks saw that a select group of black students got scholarships to a top university, kept his foot in their butts during college, and followed their subsequent careers while providing mentoring and support. For once we are not being treated to yet another "rags to riches to rags" story about a black man who was given a chance to do something great only to end up shot dead in a crack house. Tokey, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones and the two others in this book are proud examples of what can be accomplished with the help of people who really care about this country. Well done, Rev. Brooks! And, Tokey, I am so very proud of you!'

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Charles King
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (11)

    At midnight, December 31, 1925, citizens of the newly proclaimed Turkish Republic celebrated the New Year. For the first time ever, they had agreed to use a nationally unified calendar and clock. Yet in Istanbul - an ancient crossroads and Turkey's largest city - people were looking toward an uncertain future. Never purely Turkish, Istanbul was home to generations of Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, as well as Muslims.

    Roger says: "Captivating story of transition to modernity"
    "INTERESTING SUBJECT - CONFUSED WRITING"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There IS a kernel of an interesting subject here but the writing jumps around, making the whole book confusing. Grover Gardner is a great asset but not good enough to save this account. Here, again, Audible would benefit listeners by providing us with PDF downloads of accompanying photographs if available in the print version. With a rare account of a magnificent city like Instanbul, I'm sure the author gave the reader a visual glimpse of this colorful locale, along with vintage prints of Constantinople and its transition into Instanbul.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • No Wind of Blame: Inspector Hemingway, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Georgette Heyer
    • Narrated By Ulli Birvé
    Overall
    (70)
    Performance
    (65)
    Story
    (65)

    The superlatively analytical Inspector Hemingway is confronted by a murder that seems impossible – no one was near the murder weapon at the time the shot was fired. Everyone on the scene seems to have a motive, not to mention the wherewithal to commit murder, and alibis that simply don't hold up.

    Monica says: "Not a good read(er)"
    "ABSOLUTELY HORRENDOUS!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I love Georgette Heyer, owning every Regency and Georgian book she's written. I'd never read a romance novel before until I stumbled on her "Frederica" about 5 years ago on Audible. I was hooked! But this "thriller" is juvenile, confusing, uninteresting, with boring unlikeable characters. The main one, Inspector Hemingway, is a joke. He couldn't get an indictment against a ham sandwich! Heyer surrounds Hemingway with a cadre of dull sargeants and constables who are as inept as he his. Oh, they finally solve the crime but only after the listener is subjected to 7 hours of "Keystone Kops". Hemingway doesn't even appear until 4 hours in. By that time, I was hoping that ALL of the other characters would just die along with the first victim! They are so flat and dull.

    I couldn't figure out why this book was so bad after listening to/reading more than 20 books by this prolific author. The story sounded like someone else had ghostwritten it, with none of Heyer's usual well-defined characters, smart witty dialogue, and intriguing plot. So off to Wikipedia I went. There, I discovered the problem. Heyer's HUSBAND had provided the main protagonists for the thriller, leaving her to put together a story that was not her personal "baby". As a result, the books are cliché, dull, and awful. Her thrillers were never as popular as her romance novels, selling way less and getting lukewarm reception. There's only one Inspector Hemingway book - THANK GOD! I tried one of her Inspector Hannasdyde thrillers a few months back, but returned it to Audible within the first 2 hours. I thought I'd give it another try, listening to this entire mess, only to be equally disappointed. I'm returning this book as soon as this review is published.

    Narrator Ulli Birvé is competent, given the substandard material. Save your money! I chose to reread my Agatha Christe collection again - Hercule Poirot never gets old!

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • The Phantom Army of Alamein: How the Camouflage Unit and Operation Bertram Hoodwinked Rommel

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Rick Stroud
    • Narrated By Steve West
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    In 1940 a group of artists, sculptors, film makers, theatre designers and set painters came together to form the Camouflage Unit. Led by Major Geoffrey Barkas and including among their number the internationally renowned stage magician Jasper Maskelyne, the unit's projects became a crucial battlefield weapon.

    Michael says: "A Good History Book"
    "NOT AS IN DEPTH AS I EXPECTED"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Overall, this book is alright if you know nothing at all about the WWII battles in North Africa. I thought there would be much more about the Camouflage Unit itself. Instead the men and their work is just a "side dish" to Rommel, Montgomery, Churchill, Hitler, Eisenhower, et. al. Even Operation Bertram and the battle at Alamein is relegated to the last 45 minutes of the story. I'm a rabid war buff and had never even heard of this critical and important military unit. So, for that reason, I'm glad that this story was told. But I feel there are so many layers that have yet to be revealed here. Also, Audible really needs to provide listeners with PDFs of photos and/or maps included in the print copies. I don't know if photos of the camouflage work are available in this book but they would go a long way towards helping us really appreciate the misleading tactics used by the Camouflage Unit.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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