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Amazon Customer

I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

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HELPFUL VOTES
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  • The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution: 1763-1789

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs)
    • By Robert Middlekauff
    • Narrated By Robert Fass
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (311)
    Performance
    (224)
    Story
    (223)

    The first book to appear in the illustrious Oxford History of the United States, this critically-acclaimed volume - a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize - offers an unsurpassed history of the Revolutionary War and the birth of the American republic.

    John says: "Strong History Rich With Behind The Scenes Details"
    "A Full Story for the Enthusiast"
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    In gearing up for the upcoming July 4th holiday, I decided to revisit the Colonial effort for Independence. These days I think the hardest thing about finding a book that covers this subject is that politics often comes into play. Either the Founders can do no wrong, and their mission was ordained by Providence, or the story's focus will shift to spotlight the atrocities of the era such as slavery or the incompetence of command decisions. Fair and balanced is something that's difficult to find sometimes.

    But that's why this book impressed me. The personalities, the triumphs and tragedies, the tactics, the motivations, and the possible x-factors are played out with an emphasis on fact, assessment, and perspective. The character and backgrounds of the people involved are touched upon, but with just the broad strokes so as to keep the narrative going. What was especially invaluable to me was learning of the mindsets and political entanglements that led to the Boston Massacre and other such preliminaries, giving a more holistic look at events otherwise glossed over in most history classes. When the war is engaged, the logistical problems faced by the Continental Army are examined in terms a lay enthusiast can understand, with politics taking a back seat and filling in gaps.

    It could be argued that more detail could go into this book, and while I agree that it does leave a lot to be discovered, this volume is more dense than a simple beginner's history. There is nuance and detail to had here, which makes it an effective overview of the Revolution and its players. Any reader who wants more will be able to know easily what they felt was missing and what they want to delve into further. Again, what impresses me most is the balance. This isn't a dry book of basic facts, even if the battlefield issues occasionally overshadow other parts of the narrative. Where this book excels is by examining the questions and beliefs that we sometimes take for granted, reminding the reader what was at stake in the name of Revolution.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Utopia

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Thomas More, Gilbert Burnet (translator)
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (28)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (22)

    Sir Thomas More's Utopia has spurred debate, reflection, and critical thinking since its original publication in the 16th century. More's fictional island of Utopia provides an exploration of issues that shook him and his contemporaries and that continue to be problematic in the modern day.

    oscar says: "Good re-enacment of a Classic!"
    "An Historical Curiosity"
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    This is an incredibly difficult book to review.

    On it's own merits, it's not great, but it does make you think, given the comparison and contrast between the ills of society as presented in book 1 and the society of the Utopians as presented in book 2. It's a classic discourse of Humanist argument, contrasting the points of view that would have been prominent at the time. As a comparison with our modern society, it's interesting in and of itself, made somewhat ironic in that the Utopians live in the "New World" that had only recently been discovered.

    Taking into account the historical time and place, the new and potentially bright reign of Henry VIII (years before Anne Boleyn entered the picture), and the fact that England was just entering the Renaissance after the rest of the Europe had developed it for 100 years (give or take a decade or two), this book becomes an historical curiosity. This is compounded by the personality, service, and devotion of Thomas More, both to his king and to the Church. History does not record why More wrote the book, and many of the ideas in it are not only alien to Medieval/Renaissance Europe and England, they are in complete contrast with everything we know of More himself. In my eyes, this kicks the book's interest level up a notch. The more you know of the history and the personalities of the age, the more of an anomaly this book becomes, made even more ironic by the infamous events leading to More's execution and the Reformation that swept Europe. The level of how much seriousness vs. how much satire is involved is a topic of debate that continues to this day amongst scholars, and it's easy to see why. The more of an enthusiast or scholar you are for this sort of thing will certainly determine how much you get out of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Angelology: An Overview

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Marilynn Hughes
    • Narrated By Ray Cole
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Angelology presents information from ancient sacred texts about the most significant angels and their function and nature in the cosmological spheres of God. If you want to better know the angelic hierarchies who protect you and your loved ones, angelology will give you a framework from which to begin.

    Amazon Customer says: "A Compilation of Excerpts"
    "A Compilation of Excerpts"
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    If you listen to enough of the truly classic and classical works found on Audible, it's easy to take for granted the narrators that understand how to deliver a performance that Medieval mysticism demands... until you listen to this guy. Then you wish you had one of those professionals. Any one of them would do. My very first thought on hearing Ray Cole's delivery was, "Jeez, I can podcast better than this." It's a clumsy reading, devoid of any understanding, depth, or flow, sort of like if you hand a copy of Shakespeare to an overly enthusiastic teenager trying to cover his lamentable performance skills. It was so distracting, I had to start the book over once I got a handle on how the book was presented. Thank heaven (no pun intended) that I'm already immersed in Medieval thought and angelology, otherwise I'd have stayed lost right at the outset.

    And that brings me to the book itself. If you're looking for the eye-rolling comedy provided ad nauseum by self-proclaimed mediums and new age woo-woo about fluffy winged supermodels (like the one on the book's cover), this is not your book. I was surprised too, given a list of the author's other publications, but sometimes you never can tell from a publishing blurb. If, however, you're a serious student of angelology and all that implies, this one's actually worth looking into, but with caveats. Let me explain.

    This is likely not a book for the novice or the casual enthusiast, unless that person is ready to hit the ground running. The author assumes that the reader either has a considerable amount of religious scholarship, a private esoteric reference library, and/or no problem catching up. This book is a deceptively small, eye-opening tome of just how seriously deep the subject of angelology can be. In a nutshell, this is a collection of excerpts taken from first, second, and even third-hand sources about mysticism, be it Christian, Rabbinic, Hermetic, or other. Ordinarily that would be a good thing, however there is little structure for it. It's like reading a researcher's notes, and I suspect that's exactly what it is. The author may only be a compiler. The information is largely just launched at you, the scholarly equivalent of a food fight or castle siege. It's on you to make sense of the chaos. It dives right in, with few points of grounding, explanation, or perspective. It does say in the description of the book that it "presents information from sacred texts about the most significant angels," but it doesn't go much further than that. If you don't know what those texts are, the references are meaningless up front. These texts are difficult enough for the novice to read, let alone to put together into some kind of comprehensible format. If only somebody would do that, perhaps in a friendly overview format? Oh, right...

    The problem of comprehension is compounded by the very nature of what makes this book interesting, as I can I can almost guarantee the casual enthusiast has never even heard of many of these sources. For Western audiences, the Biblical portions or excerpts from Milton, Dante, or the Book of Enoch will likely be recognized most (and are leaned upon heavily), but the more arcane texts and commentaries are taken so far out of context that having any of it quoted back through secondary sources makes it daunting to fight through once you realize what you're up against. Those sources are cited often (but not always) after they're quoted at length, adding to the dysfunctional quality of this compilation. It takes some doing, but in the end, it actually IS possible to put this together if you engage with the material. This makes it an overview for deeper scholarship, but if you're looking for the on ramps to explain it all, you'll probably be better off pulling the contextual source material, because this book exemplifies the kind of researcher's rabbit hole that is angelology. It's a mess, but in that regard, this book does give you a starting point for further research. Admittedly, the challenge of the rabbit hole is half the fun for me, but I'm guessing that's not what most people are looking for. If you happen to have access to an arcane library with a slant towards angelology, you'll be better prepared to appreciate what's offered here.

    Having said all of that, it may just be that the layout of the book is the biggest problem and just needs some restructuring. Either way, if you are already somewhat-versed in this subject and looking for something that will either challenge your studies to the next level or beat you down mercilessly, it's ultimately worth it if you can navigate it. It does get easier the deeper you go into the book, and there are some truly eyebrow-raising insights to be had if the narrator doesn't kill it for you. Having a collection of excerpts of this nature together in one place can be useful, especially if you get a print copy. And to think, this is just the angels. There's a companion volume by the same author dealing with demonology. I'll try that one at some point too, just because I can, but I'll have to really be in the zone for that.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Crystal Clear Communication: How to Explain Anything Clearly in Speech or Writing

    • ORIGINAL (4 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Gary S Goodman
    • Narrated By Gary S Goodman
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    With this program, you'll have the tools, the techniques, and, just as importantly, the unflinching confidence to influence your readers and listeners decisively - both at work and at home.

    Amazon Customer says: "Largely Sales-Oriented, and Instantly Usable"
    "Largely Sales-Oriented, and Instantly Usable"
    Overall
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    It doesn't tell you up front, but as the tips and tricks are offered and situations are examined, the usable information here becomes oriented towards sales. The idea is that everyone likes to buy, and nobody likes to be sold. Everything in this book is simple, effective, and easily usable, and you get better with practice, but the direct applications in the sales world for me was an unexpected bonus. The means to provide customer service, defuse hostility, and secure future sales most definitely offers a broader application outside of the sales world. Goodman's approaches to communication are timeless and can help you come across as effortless in using them if you're willing to commit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Modern Scholar: How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value

    • ORIGINAL (5 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Professor Michael D. C. Drout
    • Narrated By Professor Michael D. C. Drout
    Overall
    (22)
    Performance
    (19)
    Story
    (19)

    In How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value, Professor Michael D. C. Drout gives an impassioned defense and celebration of the value of the liberal arts. Charting the evolution of the liberal arts from their roots in the educational system of Ancient Rome through the Middle Ages and to the present day, Drout shows how the liberal arts have consistently been "the tools to rule", essential to the education of the leaders of society. Offering a reasoned defense of their continuing value, Drout also provides suggestions for improving the state of the liberal arts in contemporary society.

    Steve Stowers says: "A defense of the Liberal Arts"
    "A Passionate Defense of the Liberal Arts"
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    Prof. Drout is an enthusiastic speaker, and his passion for the liberal arts comes through in this lecture series. His insights on how to connect the past to the modern world are thought-provoking, to say the least. Admittedly, he's already preaching to the converted on this one, but I always welcome a solid, concrete argument for preserving and studying the liberal arts vs. the somewhat ethereal and half-baked ideas I sometimes hear. If this is a topic you're inclined to look into, this series is most definitely worth your time and attention.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Joseph J. Romm
    • Narrated By Drew Birdseye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (25)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (22)

    Joseph Romm, one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top "100 Agents of Change", has focused his talents on helping us all to increase our language intelligence and to better understand the art of persuasion. Romm demonstrates that you don't have to be an expert to vastly improve your ability to communicate. He has pulled together the secrets of the greatest communicators in history to show how you can apply these tools to your writing, speaking, blogging - even your Tweeting.

    Amy Crawford says: "Superb, Awesome, Incredible! yes, all those Words"
    "Politically Biased, But Good Information"
    Overall
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    It's pretty clear that Romm has an axe to grind against the political right and especially against those who don't believe in climate change. It's his stock in trade, which he points out.

    Looking beyond that, however, it's clear he's studied both the messages and the messengers to the point where he has weaponized the methods of rhetoric. The information comes at the reader hard and fast, but it's solid and instantly usable by anyone looking to improve their oratory capabilities.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • For Your Eyes Only, and Other Stories: James Bond, Book 8

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Samuel West
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    When sudden emergencies arise, James Bond is there to meet them. Whether dealing with the assassination of a Cuban thug in America, the destruction of an international heroin ring, or a mysterious death in the Seychelles, 007 gets the job done in his own unmistakable style.

    Amazon Customer says: "Short Stories, Big Character Pieces"
    "Short Stories, Big Character Pieces"
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    As any reader knows, short stories are completely different animals from novels. The questions are: does James Bond work in the short story format, and can Ian Fleming write them?

    The answer is a resounding "yes" to both questions. Turns out, I actually prefer Bond in the short story format so far. Who knew? There are 5 stories in this collection, and each one offers not only an intriguing story, but also offers some serious character development that extends past Bond himself. Fleming's standard fascinations with women, drink, food, cars, and guns are all on display, but there's also a more personal and reflective side offered here that might take readers by surprise. Each of the stories are deliver something different, and even the ones that start a little slow ramp up quickly and draw the reader in.

    As always, Fleming's abrasive manner of reference in regards to women or minorities also comes through. It's a sign of the times that such things are noticed and improved upon, but new readers should always be aware of it.

    The running gag in my reviews of these Bond audios is how the narrator says "007." Some say "double-oh seven," and others say "oh-oh seven." Thankfully, Samuel West says "double-oh seven." Beyond that, West is an excellent narrator and delivers a full performance for all the characters, and the subtle sides of Bond come across as natural.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Early Music: A Very Short Introduction 

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Thomas Forrest Kelly
    • Narrated By Alex Hyde-White
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (3)

    From Gregorian chant to Bach's Brandenburg Concerti, the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods is both beautiful and intriguing, expanding our horizons as it nourishes our souls. In this Very Short Introduction, Thomas Forrest Kelly provides not only a compact overview of the music itself, but also a lively look at the many attempts over the last two centuries to revive it.

    Amazon Customer says: "Not Bad At All, Probably Better in Print"
    "Not Bad At All, Probably Better in Print"
    Overall
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    On the whole, this is a good introduction to early music. It's not quite what I expected, however. I went into this with the definition of early music being limited to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, and while this book did encompass that, it also included Baroque. And that would be even better, save for the fact that most of the material herein was about the Baroque, and thus not the reason for me picking it up in the first place. Still, nothing wasted in that regard. The lessons can be applied all around. The ideas presented here regarding the recreation of early music are fascinating and complex. Once you wrap your head around it, it'll change the way you listen to and appreciate music of any kind. That alone makes this title worth it in my mind.

    Anyone coming to this topic with no background and truly looking for an introduction should probably be aware that the information herein comes rapid fire. Vocabulary is defined, but once an idea is introduced, it's assumed you know it, and information is built from there. Newcomers will probably want a print version of this for that reason, and for the reason that the end of the book comes with a rather hefty list of bands, ensembles, and recording labels.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Dan Jones
    • Narrated By John Curless
    Overall
    (78)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (72)

    The 15th century saw the longest and bloodiest series of civil wars in British history. The crown of England changed hands five times as two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty fought to the death for the right to rule. Now, celebrated historian Dan Jones describes how the longest reigning British royal family tore itself apart until it was finally replaced by the Tudors. Some of the greatest heroes and villains in history were thrown together in these turbulent times.

    Amazon Customer says: "No Need for a Score Card"
    "No Need for a Score Card"
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    Following up on the story and success of The Plantagenets, Dan Jones now offers a book that I consider to be a public service for those just dipping into this subject. The Wars of the Roses is an era of great turmoil and upheaval, which means the players involved are many, and some of them switch sides as opportunity or desperation strikes. Most history books I've read on this subject either keeps it simplistic (in accordance with the propaganda of the Tudor era) or would have you believe it's so overly complex that only an expert can wade into it with any amount of confidence, and even they might need a score card to keep up. Most people I talk to who know anything about the era have learned from historical fiction. Fine and well as a stepping stone, but no novel can ever compete with the real story. The challenge is to find a book that presents it in such a way as to build the layers of intrigue and still keep it simple enough to read like a novel.

    Like The Plantagenents before it, this book fits this bill. The scope and depth of this era are extended out even farther than many other books I've read on this, seeing this entire era as fallout from events in the Hundred Years War. Henry V's victory at Agincourt leads to Joan of Arc's rally of her people, and Henry V's weak and childlike successor to the English throne leads to... this story. Where other books drop the reader right in and let us fend for ourselves, Jones gives us the context and guides us expertly through this time to what will become the reign of the Tudors. The result is a fascinating and satisfying read for those inclined to read a story like this one. While this book stands alone, I personally found it to be a wonderful companion tome to The Plantagenents. I'm hoping Jones is working on a similar project for the Tudors next, being the logical next part of the story.

    On a side note, for fantasy enthusiasts, this is the era that provides much of the historical inspiration for George R. R. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire (i.e., Game of Thrones). While there are no dragons or whitewalkers to be found here, the fact that people keep coming back to this well speaks volumes of how interesting this story can be given even a halfway decent presentation. For even the remotely curious, this is an excellent book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Faith of a Vampire: Sophia's Redemption, The White Swan Series, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Mark A. Sprague
    • Narrated By Susan Saks
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (5)

    Sophia Dobre is a young farm girl living with her family in Weston, Massachusetts. Sara Manori is a member of a powerful and influential vampire clan. In a strange twist of fate, the two meet, become friends, and their lives are filled with adventure and mystery. But unfortunately, a vampire having a human as a companion has consequences, and Sophia unintentionally becomes a vampire. During her transformation, Sophia learns that she has a unique bloodline which gives her special abilities as a vampire.

    Amazon Customer says: "Old Cliches, New Directions"
    "Old Cliches, New Directions"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Most vampire stories tend to stick to the standard tropes and clichés, and most of those try to convince the reader that they're different than the others by pointing out how they don't fall into the classic Stoker formula. This one falls right in line with that. Still, there are very few stories that I'm aware of that deal with a vampire's redemption, which is the entire reason I picked up this title. Curiosity won out.

    As the opening paragraphs of the book suggest, this book is just the backstory for the character of Sophia, and the real story begins as this book ends. It leaves a lot of room for improvement and expansion. I felt like the whole of the story was rushed in the bid to get to the end of this leg of the journey, and there is a lot of it that lacks that professional polish. It feels more like something you'd read on a fanfic site. Even so, for what it is, I was entertained, and it's got enough promise that I'm curious about book 2, whenever it's available.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Shakespeare: The Biography

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Peter Ackroyd
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (121)
    Performance
    (44)
    Story
    (45)

    In a magnificent feat of re-creating sixteenth-century London and Stratford, best-selling biographer and novelist Peter Ackroyd brings William Shakespeare to life in the manner of a contemporary rather than a biographer. Following his magisterial and ingenious re-creations of the lives of Chaucer, Dickens, T. S. Eliot, William Blake, and Sir Thomas More, Ackroyd delivers his crowning achievement with this definitive and imaginative biographical masterpiece.

    Susan says: "Shakespeare by Peter Ackroyd"
    "A Definitive Portrait of the Bard"
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    I got bitten by the Shakespeare bug a while back, and since then I've been working hard to understand the man behind the drama, and thus the drama itself. After several lesser books of background information, I discovered James Shapiro's Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, which put an end in my mind to the authorship debate. Prof. Marc C. Conner's Great Courses lecture series How to Read and Understand Shakespeare peeled back the curtain on the plays. Both of those titles were blessings on this road. This book does the work of both of those indirectly, putting the man in the midst of his setting and using his own work to help illustrate how he and his works developed side by side.

    One of the interesting things about this book is that it calls up all of the points of refute used in the authorship debate and smooths out virtually every wrinkle without trying, in a manner akin to a scholastic aikido. Where little is known, the norms of the time and place are called forth in conjunction with lines and scenes from the plays or the poems, in some cases giving us double and even triple meanings.

    Shakespeare not only emerges from this book as a fully-realized and considerably less romanticized individual, but so too do many of his contemporaries, as well as the locales, and the politics and turmoils of the age. I feel privileged to have found this book after so many fall starts and discouragements.

    As narrator, Simon Vance is the ideal choice. Vance is consistently one of two tied in the #1 spot for my favorite narrator due to his clarity, eloquence, and ability to sound both enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the material. It feels as though he's not reading a book, but rather engaging in personal discourse about it... except, of course, where he reads chapter headings.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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