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Mark

Esoth

Secaucus, NJ, United States | Member Since 2011

7
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 8 reviews
  • 11 ratings
  • 159 titles in library
  • 30 purchased in 2014
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  • My Life, Volume II

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Bill Clinton
    • Narrated By Michael Beck
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (204)
    Performance
    (47)
    Story
    (50)

    President Bill Clinton's My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public. It is the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written, and a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals.

    Adam says: "Good book"
    "Nobody Else's, that's for sure!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Where does My Life, Volume II rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Among the best. A very detailed and exhaustive recounting of the Clinton Presidency in Volume II, unmistakably written in WJC's voice, which is well represented in Michael Beck's reading. Its not an impersonation, but Beck nails the enthusiasm, intelligence and unflagging energy of Mr. Clinton. Doubtless, Mr. Clinton's critics would be off-put by the author's point of view and would tire of his relentless drive. But that is his story, his life, and he brings such passion to the writing about the job he clearly loved, that, more than any Presidential memoir I've read, "My Life" conveys something of what it must be like to be in office. Over the course of 2 volumes, you become familiar with Clinton's methods, his likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, and what emerges is a rational account of an irrational period in our history.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The cumulative detail and the sense of the irresistible, unceasing movement of history. There always was another crisis, another budget, another challenge, another trap. Indefatigable, boundless energy and a manic need to engage and connect.


    Which character – as performed by Michael Beck – was your favorite?

    WJC


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

    Mr. Clinton attempts to place his conduct, including his misdeeds, in the context of his upbringing and his background and you can feel his restless nature working toward some self-understanding.


    Any additional comments?

    As long and as detailed as the book is, I was ultimately carried along to the point the President's last fleeting days in the Whitehouse are poignant and full of meaning. It is remarkable to consider that, for all he had been through, his appetite and enthusiasm was undiminished. There may have been better Presidents but I doubt any of them had loved the job so well as Clinton.I was surprised by the prominence he affords the Starr inquest and the Lewinsky scandal which he weaves throughout the second volume. He acknowledges wrongdoing and weakness and self-indulgence and goes further, recognizing what those things say about his character and the consequences and suffering for those around him. The one figure in the book, the one man met and unrelentingly disliked, is Kenneth Starr, whom the President seems to exempt from his personal efforts to be more forgiving in the name of spiritual growth. Mr. Clinton, acknowledges his tendency toward self-pity and blame-avoidance, and then actually demonstrates those weaknesses by letting them all hang out during some of his diatribes against his persecutors. He is nothing if not smart, and this is no editorial or authorial oversight -- what we hear are the thoughts that fought through the complex, sometimes conflicted web of his mind. He allows his true nature to show through at the bare parts, at some cost to himself, for the good of the book, for the telling of the tale. What emerges is a sense of the simmering pressure cooker of his days and nights. Always, the Starr inquest is bracketed by the Nation's business -- the revelations, the indictments, the depositions and trials occur, not against the background of domestic and foreign crises and triumphs, but in the midst of them, providing some sense of what it must have been like to live in the center of those cross-hairs for those 8 years. And another intended aspect emerges in this way -- the triviality, the hypocrisy and the venality of his most fevered accusers and their utter lack of good faith. Clinton repeatedly and heatedly calls Starr on his conflicts of interest and his questionable tactics and ethics, but he is otherwise circumspect in castigating his attackers.Mr. Clinton devotes a lot of time and effort, commensurate with those same proportions during his time in office, to foreign affairs and his traveling around the globe to meet and deal with the world's leaders in its most troubled spots. He also burnishes his reputation for policy wonkery and budgetary deal-making -- no one ever outlasted this President in a negotiation (although the clock ran out in the Middle East during the waning days of his Administration). He formed personal relationships with many of the world's leaders, using these connections as a means to bridge cultural, political and sometimes military divides. It is not mere self-aggrandizement -- it comes to signify one of the central tenants of his worldview -- that our destinies are as shared as our genetic make-up (he repeatedly cites to scientific evidence that we all share more than 99% of the same, identical DNA). Clinton had a remarkable ability to process highly complex information and to synergize ideas and to formulate understandable arguments and then to foresee how they might be brought into practice. He had the trick of relentlessly reducing abstract concepts into human terms, how to get people to accept those ideas and then how they might impact on everyman's life. He combined raw political skill and instinct with a high level of intelligence, if not judgment or soundness of character. He was not above pettiness, self-indulgence and self-pity but those flaws could not extinguish his energy and passion for the process and the life of a President.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Consider Phlebas

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Iain M. Banks
    • Narrated By Peter Kenny
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (512)
    Performance
    (434)
    Story
    (444)

    The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender. Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it....

    Hyacinth says: "The Culture is a magnificent and enticing vision."
    "Banks' Galactic Range"
    Overall
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    What did you love best about Consider Phlebas?

    The use of familiar tropes and archetypes in new and inventive ways


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Horza, the Changer. Horza, a chameleon and potential cipher with questionable if any ethics, despite being in ceaseless peril, emerges as a character worthy of caring about.


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

    Banks' frequently changes point of view, in sometimes jarring ways, yet Kenny doesn't miss a beat. One of my peeves that fell by the wayside as I became engrossed in the tale, was the familiar naming of characters convention of using long and overly alien-sounding names, and I was grateful to have Kenny flawlessly take on this task.


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

    The denouement of the relationship between Horza and his principle rival, the Culture Agent.


    Any additional comments?

    Consider Phlebas is a wonderful introduction to the Culture series, rich in action, characterization and finally, ideas. Banks' euphoric mastery of his material, whether close-observed or spanning the galaxy, is ultimately irresistible. Banks' prodigious imagination almost obscures his insightful understanding of human nature and motivations. Reading "Consider Phlebas" in 2013, it seems as if it must have been written more recently, after 2001. Banks' writing seems prescient even under that mistaken premise in light of recent events. But then as you read on you realize that in attributing our current fractiousness to the Culture War, with its pre-echoes of the Clash of Civilization, or the Cold War if you are given to looking back, you are missing deeper, transcendent lagers.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Twelve: A Novel: The Passage Trilogy, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Justin Cronin
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3058)
    Performance
    (2708)
    Story
    (2712)

    In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as "Last Stand in Denver", has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin.

    Amanda says: "Expanding The Story In Every Direction"
    "Cronin hits his harrowing stride"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Yes, as it delivers what genre demands, and with a level of skill approaching artistry.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Cronin's ability to weave the threads together in a suspenseful and satisfying way, while continuing to surprise.


    Which character – as performed by Scott Brick – was your favorite?

    Peter Jackson, but there are several interesting characters that Brick performs well, antagonists as well as protagonists.


    Do you think The Twelve: A Novel needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Yes, as its the second installment of the Passages trilogy and there remains some messy unfinished business. Cronin has mastered this material and has the confidence to go long and deep and complicated. If there are wholes in his plotting, I was too preoccupied by the horror and spectacle to notice. He is working with well-worn tropes in a well-worn genre, but my raised hackles settled down once it became clear that he was writing his own tale by his lights and rules and not by horror conventions.


    Any additional comments?

    Brick's performance gets off to a slow start, but gains assurance as the author begins to exercise masterful control over the material and confidently defying expectations. Cronin quite frequently juxtaposes scenes of close-on intimacy, such as between a mother and her newborn, with savagery and degraded violence, and Brick oozes his way through it all in an unsettling tone with subtle, cumulative power.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Watership Down

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Richard Adams
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3036)
    Performance
    (2324)
    Story
    (2338)

    Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren; he felt sure of it. They had to leave immediately. So begins a long and perilous journey of survival for a small band of rabbits. As the rabbits skirt danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band, its humorous characters, and its compelling culture, complete with its own folk history and mythos.

    B. Cable says: "Still one of the best!"
    "A favorite tale, beautifully rendered. . . ."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you consider the audio edition of Watership Down to be better than the print version?

    Surprisingly so, given how much I loved reading the book more than 30 years ago. Ralph Cosham brings the right gravity to characters that might otherwise have been dishonored by caricature.


    What other book might you compare Watership Down to and why?

    It is hard for me to compare, because Adams did so masterful a job of avoiding mere anthropomorphic cartooning, while investing his characters with recognizably lapine natures.


    What about Ralph Cosham’s performance did you like?

    There is no hint of foolishness or coyness in Cosham's performance. He delivers the text in a suitably dignified and moving manner.


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

    Many moving moments, when the characters are in great stress, yet exhibit courage and loyalty to one another.


    Any additional comments?

    Watership Down is an experience that defies easy description. It is neither a comic trifle, or a ponderous bore, but instead a lively, moving tale of heroism and brotherhood, of leadership and sacrifice and the value of life. It is a profoundly peaceful and rewarding experience, for reasons that are difficult to articulate. Go ahead and listen for yourself.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Dog Stars

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Peter Heller
    • Narrated By Mark Deakins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1136)
    Performance
    (1008)
    Story
    (1012)

    Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists beyond the airport.

    Melinda says: "Absolutely Stellar!"
    "I wanted to like this book more. . . ."
    Overall
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    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Built to more of a plateau than a climax


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Tough assignment. First person narrative where that first person alternated between halting, clipped, staccato description and then flights of poetic hyperbole. Written that way, I think, to convey the sense that loss and isolation had impinged the narrators ability to communicate, but not killed his poetic soul. So a real challenge for Deakins, who did about as well as could be done under those circumstances.


    Do you think The Dog Stars needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    It certainly sets up that way, and I liked it just well enough to bite for another volume. The story was slow in developing and some of the obvious subplots equally so, to the point where they haven't even been fleshed out by the end of the first book. On the plus side, unless the author decides to simply copy a familiar trope, he has laid out some interesting possible wrinkles for the next volume and I have no clear idea of where it is going, which isn't a bad thing. .


    Any additional comments?

    Different in tone and in characterizations than other books in the apocalyptic genre. The 2 main characters who defend the perimeter are unusual enough to maintain interest, but it's pretty downbeat and at times uninteresting. This appears almost by design, because the characters voice some of these feelings directly. But Heller needs to cover some new ground fast to maintain interest in a volume 2.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Solaris: The Definitive Edition

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Stanislaw Lem, Bill Johnston (translator)
    • Narrated By Alessandro Juliani
    Overall
    (2339)
    Performance
    (1910)
    Story
    (1930)

    At last, one of the world’s greatest works of science fiction is available - just as author Stanislaw Lem intended it. To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Solaris, Audible, in cooperation with the Lem Estate, has commissioned a brand-new translation - complete for the first time, and the first ever directly from the original Polish to English. Beautifully narrated by Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar Galactica), Lem’s provocative novel comes alive for a new generation.

    Burns says: "A comment on negative reviews"
    "Prodigious Work of Imagination"
    Overall
    Performance
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    Would you consider the audio edition of Solaris to be better than the print version?

    No, but given the complexity and abstraction of some of its themes, surprisingly close to the written version. However, in contrast to the 2 filmed versions of "Solaris", this unabridged and entirely new translation (which has the author's approval) contains the entirety of the discourse on the scientific and philosophical concepts and issues. There might be a tendency to skim through such passages, with their references to imagined studies and theories, but Juliani's reading of this material invests it with the power of someone fired by intellectual pursuit.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The oddity of it all, from the perspective of an English-reading listener, with its existential ruminations on science, the meaning of life, consciousness, faith, fate and love. It is nonetheless compelling in its depiction of a future at once recognizable and novel. The intricacies in the descriptions of geology and pathology of the planet Solaris, and the discussions and deconstructions of an entirely imagined history of the science of Solaristics, is an extraordinary demonstration of Lem's ability to imagine a world and universe different than ours. But there are at most 5 active characters in the book, and their interactions and motivations within this wholly alien context (and Lem's writing within the Soviet system at the time it was published which adds to the sense of oppressive strangeness) draw the listener relentlessly into a philosophical discourse about man's place in the universe and his limitations and those of his inventions.


    Any additional comments?

    Lem depicts an alien consciousness, if that is what it can be called, that is impenetrable, unknowable and unreachable. So this is not your ordinary "first contact" story, nor a world-in-peril story, but an examination of deeper' philosophical themes. Part of a man's confronting the reality that he may not be the center of the universe is a need, not easily met, of justifying himself.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Stand

    • UNABRIDGED (47 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7119)
    Performance
    (6321)
    Story
    (6384)

    This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides - or are chosen.

    Keith says: "Worth the wait!"
    "Finally Making "The Stand""
    Overall
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    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    King spins out a good length of yarn, and because "The Stand" was an earlier, less polished King, it was less taxing to listen to than to read. I had read the book about half-way through when it was first published, but someone swiped my copy and I never finished it, so it was good to checkmark this tome off! King had the gift of creating memorable characters and the discipline and vision to see this one through. This is the unabridged, actually expanded version, which is the way i prefer my doorstops. "The Stand" is enormously repetitive, with countless passages describing disturbingly familiar dreams and visions, and the look and feel of traversing dead towns. King used repetition to build a cloying, ominous atmosphere, but it works better read than listened to. And his early art is not as refined as it is today. Some of his scenes are more unpleasant than they are horrific, but it was an overall blast to follow along with King while he taught himself to create a whole new world and to people it with characters to care about. King appreciated the prominence of "The Stand" within his epic catalog to leave it to its length and imperfections.


    What other book might you compare The Stand to and why?

    Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend".


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • P.G. Wodehouse: The Authorized Biography

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Frances Donaldson
    • Narrated By Frederick Davidson
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    Who has not come to know and love the impeccable Jeeves and the inimitable Bertie? Together with Lord Emsworth, his prize sow the Empress of Blandings, Psmith, and a whole host of redoubtable Wooster aunts, they form a cast of characters, immortalized in print and on screen, whose sharply observed antics are as popular now as when they first appeared in 1919.

    Mark says: "An Appreciative Official Biography of Plum"
    "An Appreciative Official Biography of Plum"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about P.G. Wodehouse?

    Well read, fairly honest in its enthusiasm for Wodehouse, and surprisingly objective when it comes to the troublesome aspects of P.G.'s character and difficult periods of his life. The author was a friend of the family who knew PGW, and was also the daughter and biographer of playwright Frederick Lonsdale. This book makes a nice compliment to Robert McCrum's definitive biography of a few years ago. It does provide some greater detail to Plum's interment during WWII, including some lengthy excerpts of his camp journals, and does provide a longer treatment of this period, perhaps more artfully summarized in McCrum's book.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    There is an almost chronological review of PGW's writing and some commentary on books other than those most currently remembered (the Jeeves and Bertie series and the Blandings Castle stories).


    Which character – as performed by Frederick Davidson – was your favorite?

    Ms. Donaldson provides an objective, "insiders" view of PGW, and if she is forgiving of his eccentricities, she does deal with them in an objective, if generally sympathetic manner. The unfortunate episode and its aftermath does cast a kind of pall on the book, which is perhaps proportionate to its impact in PGW's life. But overall, Ms. Donaldson conveys the charmed life of a gifted and rightly celebrated writer. Because of the author's obvious affection for her subject, she does take the time and effort to go through the entirety of his career, including his work for the stage which is sometimes given short shrift.


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

    Like most of the Wodehouse audible releases, the performance is terrific, particularly when reciting excerpts from the Master's work. It was a bit strange at first, to hear a male voice narrating a book authored by a woman, but this worked as well, since there is a lot of recitation from PGW's work and his private correspondences.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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