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pratalife

imho - ymmv

Singapore | Member Since 2008

5
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 10 reviews
  • 338 ratings
  • 763 titles in library
  • 61 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
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  • Sharp Objects

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Gillian Flynn
    • Narrated By Liza Ross
    Overall
    (53)
    Performance
    (48)
    Story
    (47)

    When two girls are abducted and killed in Missouri, journalist Camille Preaker is sent back to her home town to report on the crimes. Long haunted by a childhood tragedy and estranged from her mother for years, Camille suddenly finds herself installed once again in her family's mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and the half sister she barely knows - a precocious 13-year-old who holds a disquieting grip on the town.

    S. Brown says: "A sharp beginning"
    "disquietingly real"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Despite a flash of insight in chapter 2 that I spied the killer, I was inexorably drawn along - befuddled and misdirected - towards a bitter-sweet conclusion. Great book; unique point of view; queuing the next from Gillian Flynn as I write..

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Gone Girl

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Gillian Flynn
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (337)
    Performance
    (306)
    Story
    (308)

    Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do? Just how well can you ever know the person you love? These are the questions that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren't his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

    Janie says: "Get Gone Girl soon!"
    "Almost the masterpiece I'd hoped for"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The story unfolds in parts, with wonderful narration. The use of two (talented) voice actors is perfect for the book.

    Part 1 is a cracker of a whodunnit. Gillian Flynn has mastered the art of parallel story-lines, a skill honed in Sharp Objects and wielded here to perfection.

    But wait! There's more - a psychological suspense-thriller in the final parts as the protagonists grapple with the consequences. And while Gillian Flynn's second book, Dark Places, fell a bit flat due to improbable coincidences and a largely unsympathetic cast, Gone Girl had me totally sucked in.

    I felt so sure this book would be 5 stars and a heart.

    That is, until the final climax; the final few pages. WTF? I am underwhelmed and unconvinced.

    Perhaps the silver lining is that Gone Girl was almost - but not quite - the ultimate masterpiece in the style that Gillian Flynn has been evolving over three stories to date, so I am left eagerly looking forward to her next. Will that be "The One"?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By George Friedman
    • Narrated By William Hughes
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (832)
    Performance
    (328)
    Story
    (331)

    In The Next 100 Years, Friedman turns his eye on the future. Drawing on a profound understanding of history and geopolitical patterns dating back to the Roman Empire, he shows that we are now, for the first time in half a millennium, experiencing the dawn of a new historical cycle.

    Richard says: "Good Start - slow end"
    "The Futurologist's Greatest Sin"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For the first few chapters I was sold - some fascinating analysis of the forces that shape culture and history.

    Unfortunately these were the ones that largely dealt with the past and present. When it came to discussing the future (most of the rest of the book), it totally jumped the shark.

    At one point the author writes "this may seem like science fiction". Well, yes, but *bad* science fiction - you know, the kind that is unintentionally steampunk because it doesn't recognise just how many anachronistic assumptions it projects into the future?

    It is kind of pointless to delve into a point-by-point rebuttal, as there is no reason why I should be any better than the author at predicting the future. But I can probably summarise my disquiet in a couple of themes:

    1. Technology - The author massively underestimates and seems quite blind to the impact of technology, especially computing. The internet only gets a passing reference and is not linked to any major factors in the author's thesis. Worse yet, some of the author's most important points are founded on assumptions that are already being eroded by technology in 2013. Case in point is the surveillance and command-and-control imperatives that the author believes will lead to the US establishing "battlestars" in space, which in turn will lead to "World War III" .. yet we are already seeing advances in terrestrial drones outstrip even what the author believe battlestars will be capable of in another 30 years.

    2. Sovereign States - there seems to be an underlying assumption that sovereign states are really the only actors on the stage that will shape how history unfolds. It all feels very 18th century - I'm not even sure this is true now, let alone for the next 100 years. It ignores the fact that people are getting harder to control en-masse thanks to globalisation and communications (who predicted the "Arab Spring"?), and it diminishes the influence of other forces, like corporations, or even nature (climate change or not). I'd believe the author's moon settlements more if he cast them as products of private enterprise - lead by the likes of Elon Musk aka Tony Stark - rather than a phoenix-like re-emergence of massive government space programs.

    Rating the book is an unexpected quandary. On the one hand, I was engaged enough to enjoy reading to the end. However it was more with comic relief than any sense that I was exploring what might really happen this century. And for a book that is purportedly to be about the future to leave me totally incredulous is kind of the ultimate sin, hence the 1-star.

    So unless you are an academic who needs to research everything, I think time might be better spent re-watching something like "Terminator", or "The Day After Tomorrow" - far more enjoyable, and probably just as likely visions of the future. Or more constructively, read Black Swan, because they too seem to be missing from this story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Sean Parnell, John Bruning
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (578)
    Performance
    (517)
    Story
    (519)

    At 24 years of age, U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell was named commander of a forty-man elite infantry platoon - a unit that came to be known as the Outlaws - and was tasked with rooting out Pakistan-based insurgents from a mountain valley along Afghanistan's eastern frontier. Parnell and his men assumed they would be facing a ragtag bunch of civilians, but in May 2006 what started out as a routine patrol through the lower mountains of the Hindu Kush became a brutal ambush.

    Chris says: "Great book...Everyone should listen to this book!!"
    "Will join the ranks of the Great Military Classics"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you expect books on contemporary US military history to be all gung ho and righteous posturing, this book will be a stunning surprise.

    Sean Parnell has achieved in this diary something very rarely experienced in military diaries and histories from any era.
    With humble eloquence and intelligent self-reflection, he takes us inside the mind and life of a platoon leader during deployment in one of the most hazardous conflict zones in recent history.
    We get the privilege of sharing in what is unspoken at the time: the doubts, the bonds of brotherly love, the daily psychological battle that all front line soldiers must face but few ever speak of.

    The book brims with insight that civilians and those off the front line would otherwise find impossible to imagine. In a refreshing turn for the genre, it is illuminating to see so much detailed coverage of the non-combat aspects of the mission.
    An early passage tells of a first meeting with a local Afghan leader and we experience the clash of cultures at first hand, and the vast gulf of life experience that leaves Sean feeling way out of his depth despite all the 21st century training and equipment.

    One cannot read this book without finding a deep respect for the men of the platoon.
    There is humor, adrenaline-filled exhilaration, but also intense despair and sadness.
    With grit and loyalty, and the moral courage of their leaders, it is clear they served with honor despite the circumstances into which they were thrown.

    For any soldiers reading this book, I imagine it must inspire a desire to live up to such high standards.
    For civilians, I challenge you not to be thinking: Is there not more we can do
    to make the world a better place, so that in this day and age we no longer need such sacrifice?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Thank You Economy

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Gary Vaynerchuk
    • Narrated By Gary Vaynerchuk
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (580)
    Performance
    (441)
    Story
    (437)

    The Thank You Economy is about something big, something greater than any single revolutionary platform. It isn't some abstract concept or wacky business strategy—it's real, and every one of us is doing business in it every day, whether we choose to recognize it or not. It's the way we communicate, the way we buy and sell, the way businesses and consumers interact online and offline.

    Scott says: "Gary is fun, but the book is a bit shallow"
    "Wall! What are you good for?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Thought-provoking and inspiring vision of a return to humanising business, and looks beyond the trite superficiality of all this social media stuff. "Wall!! What are you good for?"

    Highly recommend the audiobook version over print: it is read by Gary V himself. We already know he is a great speaker, but the frequent off-script moments are priceless.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By E. B. Sledge
    • Narrated By George Wilson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (711)
    Performance
    (386)
    Story
    (397)

    This modern classic of military history has been called "one of the most important personal accounts of war that I have ever read" by distinguished historian John Keegan. Author E.B. Sledge served with the First Marine Division during World War II, and his first-hand narrative is unsurpassed in its sincerity. Sledge’s experience shows in this fascinating account of two of the most harrowing and pivotal island battles of the Pacific theater.

    Kent Valandra says: "The Best"
    "Give this man a medal for just sharing his story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    What can I say? .. I hope that every politician or other invested person who finds themselves in the position of deciding whether to commit their fellow citizens to war or not reads this book first.

    I salute Sledgehammer for all his sacrifices, and more for his courage and selfless insight in bringing this story to generations who can scarcely imagine what true kill-or-be-killed war entails.

    And I note the lack of appeal to a higher power that Sledge exhibits in these pages. For me, it represented a stark contrast to the god-fueled righteousness that permeates so much of more recent war diaries (such as Thunder Run http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0068PUFJ2 ). It really makes me worry that the insane religious bigots of all faiths have so much to answer for in the cause of war - and things are getting worse, not better. And that this trend is in such stark contrast to the generally positive evolution of humankind (see The Better Angels of Our Nature - http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B005PP1ONW )

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By David Zucchino
    • Narrated By Richard M. Davidson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (93)
    Performance
    (85)
    Story
    (86)

    Called “the best account of combat since Black Hawk Down” by Men’s Journal, Thunder Run is a no-holds-barred look at the sweep of Baghdad, Iraq in 2003 by U.S. armed forces. One of the boldest gambles in modern military history, the surprise attack on Baghdad by three battalions of tanks and APCs and less than 1,000 men total was the single stroke that is credited for ending the Iraqi war.

    Dr. Jonathan Newman says: "Good reporting, but not a great book"
    "A timely reminder that war is war, media be damned"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    For most of us, our memories of the two gulf wars are represented by little more than smartbomb camera footage. The awesome power that the USA was able to deploy in Iraq was overwhelming - to the defenders, as well as the global audience. There seemed no doubt that military might would win a clear victory. In this frontline account of the armoured column entering Baghdad, the author brings us a much more harrowing tail of personal bravery, fear and loss.

    It rapidly becomes clear how far the US war machine was stretched, and how close they came to perhaps encountering their "bridge too far".

    And I suspect quite unintentionally, it exposes an unsettling realisation of the degree to which religion - Christianity - plays in the minds of US troops. While no means universal, I was struck by the number of times which religion pops up in this book - or soldiers seeking guidance from Army Chaplains that "what they have to do is allowed by their god", of all the prayers that are offered to save the living or commemorate the dead. The message I took away from this is that the US - like virtually every other country that has ever gone to war - clearly exploited religion both explicitly and implicitly in order to exhort their troops to maximum effect on the battlefield. I do not think this is what the author intended, but the main thought in my head at the end of the book was the surprising similarity this realisation brings to our understanding of the people holding the line on both sides of the war.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs)
    • By Harry Markopolos
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Harry Markopolos, Frank Casey, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1365)
    Performance
    (670)
    Story
    (669)

    No One Would Listen is the exclusive story of the Harry Markopolos-lead investigation into Bernie Madoff and his $65 billion Ponzi scheme. While a lot has been written about Madoff's scam, few actually know how Markopolos and his team - affectionately called "the Fox Hounds" by Markopolos himself - uncovered what Madoff was doing years before this financial disaster reached its pinnacle. Unfortunately, no one listened, until the damage of the world's largest financial fraud ever was irreversible.

    Brendan says: "Shocking, terrific"
    "The scandalous tale everyone should hear"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    The scandalous tale of how Harry Markopolos & his team investigated Bernie Madoff's $50b Ponzi scheme for a decade but no-one would listen - until the scheme imploded during the housing crisis. The willful failure of the SEC in particular to hear and act makes your blood boil.

    Audible's production of this book is excellent - taking full advantage of the medium by mixing in real statements, interviews and congressional hearings to great effect.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Lyndsay Faye
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1384)
    Performance
    (1042)
    Story
    (1035)

    Breathless and painstakingly researched, this is a stunning debut mystery in which Sherlock Holmes unmasks Jack the Ripper. Lyndsay Faye perfectly captures all the color and syntax of Conan Doyle’s distinctive nineteenth-century London.

    connie says: "the best of both Holmes"
    "Classic Holmes and Watson, faithfully reimagined."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Classic Holmes and Watson, faithfully reimagined by Faye, who sets the famous sleuth on the trail of true crime in Victorian London. I haven't enjoyed a period crime mystery so much since Anne Perry's Monk novels.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Longest Day: June 6, 1944

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Cornelius Ryan
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (116)
    Performance
    (109)
    Story
    (107)

    >The Longest Day is Cornelius Ryan’s unsurpassed account of D-day, a book that endures as a masterpiece of military history. In this compelling tale of courage and heroism, glory and tragedy, Ryan painstakingly re-creates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism.

    pratalife says: "Seen the movie? Read the book: it is worth it"
    "Seen the movie? Read the book: it is worth it"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Have you seen the movie? They make such a prominent statement in the opening credits that it is "based on the book by Cornelius Ryan" that I've always had a mind to read it.

    After all, while the story is epic, the movie just "tries too hard" in parts. Isn't the breaching of Fortress Europe enough of a plot? No! Movie-goers also need a schmaltzy love story too. Surely the book can't be that contrived?

    The good news is that it is not. It shares the "tell a story through a mosaic of slice-of-life vignettes" approach, yet does it with compelling integrity. It is gritty and unrelenting; sometimes poignant, but always authentic. The book's most rewarding and fascinating aspect is how it shows in rich detail the diverse impact of action and inaction, decision and indecision - and often just plain luck - in the final outcome of the day.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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