Not far from Washington, D.C., in a wooded area of Northern Virginia, a small house at the end of a gravel road serves a secret purpose. With its sophisticated security apparatus and hidden miniaturized cameras, it is being used by the FBI to interview one of the most important witnesses the agency has ever had, a young woman with an incredible story to tell. But a few people know about the secret meeting. And for them, a violent drama is about to begin.
I'm writing a review only in response to some of the negative comments on Michael Kramer, the reader.
Admittedly, there is in this book a problem of Kramer's breathing. However, he is not nearly as bad as some reviewers make him out to be. Contrary to those who never want to hear him again, I am quite fond of him, and his name is among those that make me inclined to buy a book. I like his deep voice, and find that he reads well on the whole: I think of Thomas Perry's novels, for instance, which benefit from Kramer's performances.
Some reviewers observe that this is not Baldacci's best. I would say it is not his worst (e.g. True Blue). At least it contains a few elements that make it entertaining, even if, as so often, the writing make me grimace with its clichés and hackneyed images, and its strain on credibility.. Why do I listen to it then? For distraction when I'm too tired to listen to better things (of which there is plenty). I give a generous three stars because the idea of a lobbyist using his amassed fortune to bribe politicians into funnelling American aid to children in Africa or very poor countries has a quirky appeal.
In his commencement address to the graduating class of 2016, James E. Ryan, dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, offered remarkable advice to the crowd of hopeful men and women eager to make their marks on the world. The key to achieving emotional connections and social progress, he told them, can be found in five essential questions.
This being based on a graduation speech, I got this thinking of my daughter, but it turned out to be extremely enriching for myself and, I think, to anyone who listens to it. Gently, unobtrusively, it brings us back to what counts. I thought I might be ‘above it’ at this point in my life, after all I’ve read and experienced, but the book showed me I was not, and I will be eternally grateful.
We all know the dangers of sugar and salt: but the danger attributed to the second white crystal has more to do with getting too little of it, not too much. Too little salt can shift the body into semi-starvation mode, causing insulin resistance, and may even cause twice as much fat to be absorbed for every gram that's consumed. Too little salt in certain populations can also actually increase blood pressure as well as resting heart rate.
This is one of the essential books of our day. I instantly notified my friends about it, even before I had finished listening, so important did I consider it to be to some of them.
To sum up my evaluation of the book: I would gladly pay ten times its price JUST TO HAVE LISTENED TO IT 4 MONTHS EARLIER, when it came out on June 6th.
Rejecting fragmented histories of nations in the making, this bold revision surveys the shared institutions that bridged difference and distance to bring stability and meaning to the far-flung empire. By supporting new schools, law courts, and railroads along with scientific and artistic advances, the Habsburg monarchs sought to anchor their authority in the cultures and economies of Central Europe. A rising standard of living throughout the empire deepened the legitimacy of Habsburg rule.
What made the experience of listening to The Habsburg Empire the most enjoyable?
It constantly presents details that add up to a new understanding of the Habsburg Empire. And of history and historiography.
What does Michael Page bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Well read. Though he does not speak German like a native (no reason he should), he pronounces names and other words in a comprehensible and non-distorting way, something I highly appreciate.
Any additional comments?
I was most struck by the negative side of nationalism and 'self-determination'. In the case of the Austro-Hungarian empire, many individuals were better off under the rule of a universal distant bureaucracy than of smaller, ethnically biased governments. Self-determination meant that those who formed minorities became subjected to more constraints than under the Hapsburg and their more tolerant policies; whereas individuals could choose what language school they attended, suddenly the choice was made for them by the government which had a nationalistic agenda.
We are used to thinking of the Austro-Hungarian empire as backwards, repressive, and mired in bureaucratic apathy (think Metternich, Kafka, Musil...), but the picture that emerges from the pages of this book is quite different, far more nuanced and often going against common conception.
I found the plethora of details fascinating; the French adage "the good lord is in the detail" has never been more true than here.
To me, the book is a godsend, as it opened up new perspectives on any number of topics. And it makes me wonder what similar books on other times and places might do to change the ideas I have of these! A wonderful book that must not be missed, for anyone interested in European history and/or in history in general.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
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.
What did you love best about No One Would Listen?
It conveys the plight of a whistleblower whose efforts are repeatedly frustrated by incompetence, obtuseness, and indifference. And that plight touches every one of us, so it is importance to know about it.
What about the narrators’s performance did you like?
An excellent narrator
Any additional comments?
This book alerts us to something more worrisome than even a colossal fraud like Madoff, namely the terrifying and disgraceful indifference, incompetence, and bureaucratic apathy of SEC officials (along with the special interests that motivate some of them). The attitude of these officials leads one to wonder about other government agencies supposed to protect the public's interests. Markopolos' book goes well beyond the Madoff case to point to serious systemic problems in the financial world as well as to some of the reasons why agencies like the SEC often cannot be relied upon.
In my book, SEC officials such as Megan Chang who unconscionably refused to consider Markopolos' amply documented warnings bear a very significant part of the responsibility for the suffering of Madoff's victims.
Free for a limited time. Ponzi Supernova is an original audio series that profiles Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street financier sent to prison for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history. The series, hosted by journalist Steve Fishman, includes hours of unheard conversations with Madoff behind bars, as well as interviews with law enforcement and the victims.
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
Yes, I learned a few things
Any additional comments?
I cannot understand why no mention is made of Harry Markopolos who warned the SEC numerous times to no avail; I took a star off for this important omission. In Fishman's presentation, we gain more insight into how Madoff was able to keep up his game, but the SEC comes off in a far better light than it should (see Markopolos' excellent account 'No One Would Listen' which alerts us to something more worrisome than even a con man on the colossal scale of Madoff, namely the terrifying and disgraceful indifference, incompetence, and bureaucratic apathy of SEC officials (along with the special interests that motivate some of them) — and we might suppose of other government officials supposed to protect the public's interests. Markopolos' book goes well beyond the Madoff case to point to serious systemic problems in the financial world as well as to some of the obstacles that keep agencies like the SEC from doing what they should.
In my book, SEC officials such as Megan Chang who unconscionably refused to consider Markopolos' amply documented warnings bear a part of the responsibility for the suffering of Madoff's victims.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
A riveting thriller of corporate intrigue and cutthroat competition between American and Japanese business interests. On the forty-fifth floor of the Nakamoto tower in downtown Los Angeles - the new American headquarters of the immense Japanese conglomerate - a grand opening celebration is in full swing. On the forty-sixth floor, in an empty conference room, the corpse of a beautiful young woman is discovered.
What did you love best about Rising Sun?
All that it teaches about Japan and the Japanese. Even though world economy is no longer as it was at the time of writing.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Connor, who has insight and smarts. If there were a series featuring him, I would immediately buy every book!
Which character – as performed by MacLeod Andrews – was your favorite?
MacLeod Andrews is wonderful, and he pronounces the many Japanese words and phrases in a convincing way! He is also excellent at distinguishing between different characters. A delightful performance.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Any additional comments?
I particularly like mysteries that are not only well written but from which I also learn something (e.g., Daniel Silva's books, or Henning Mankell, Don Winslow, Jacquline Winspear, Franck Thilliers).
In this short book, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz invite you to join an urgently needed conversation: Is Islam a religion of peace or war? Is it amenable to reform? Why do so many Muslims seem drawn to extremism? What do words like Islamism, jihadism, and fundamentalism mean in today's world? Remarkable for the breadth and depth of its analysis, this dialogue between a famous atheist and a former radical is all the more startling for its decorum. Harris and Nawaz have produced something genuinely new: they engage one of the most polarizing issues of our time - fearlessly and fully - and actually make progress.
Would you listen to Islam and the Future of Tolerance again? Why?
Yes, to remember its contents more clearly so that I can communicate them to other people.
What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?
Nawaz brings the only ray of hope I've ever encountered regarding the future of Islam (and by extension to the future of all of us). It is all the more compelling in the light of Harris' lucid criticism of Islam (not just of Islamism).
I have always wondered why no Islamic religious authority has issued a fatwa against terrorists, and I took that as an indication that there is something wrong with the religion. However, I learned from this book that there is one against ISIS, and that there IS a way for Muslims to think about their religion in a different direction from the fundamentalists'. This is quite new to me and most heartening.
Have you listened to any of Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Both are articulate and lucid. A pleasure to listen to.
Any additional comments?
I think this is one book that everyone living today ought to read or be familiar with. Without exception.
When a Serbian-backed assassin gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in late June 1914, the world seemed unmoved. Even Ferdinand’s own uncle, Franz Josef I, was notably ambivalent about the death of the Hapsburg heir, saying simply, "It is God’s will." Certainly, there was nothing to suggest that the episode would lead to conflictmuch less a world war of such massive and horrific proportions that it would fundamentally reshape the course of human events.
If you could sum up July 1914: Countdown to War in three words, what would they be?
Illuminating, convincing, important
Who was your favorite character and why?
Istvan Tisza, the Hunagrian prime minister. He was one of the very few clear-sighted players, and an admirable man (he resigned in 1917 and joined the army to experience what it is like on the front lines; assassinated by Soviet collaborators in 1918, none of whom came to a good end — one, József Pogány, aka John Pepper, ended up tortured and executed by Stalin after agitating in the U.S.). Unfortunately, his efforts to stave off aggression toward Serbia only stalled it and made impossible a contained war against Serbia, which might not have led to a world war.
Have you listened to any of Steve Coulter’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
His reading is not nearly as bad as some reviewers pretend. I found it good in general. It is true that he mispronounces some foreign words, e.g. Caillaux should sound like Ka yo (as in yoyo), not Kay yo, because the 'i' forms a phonic unit with 'll' that follows and not with the preceding 'ca'; the German word Kriegsgefahrzustand should have the accent on Krieg with a secondary accent on "zu" (pronounced 'tzoo'), and not on -fahr). But such instances, though annoying, are few enough not to bo overly distracting, and I have alas come across few audiobooks where foreign names are pronounced well or even correctly. Here most names come out correctly, and I can think of none that is unrecognizable (contrary to one reviewer's objection, the name Moltke is properly pronounced).
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
A Tragedy of Errors
Any additional comments?
I have long thought that Germany deserved the punishment the Versailles treaty imposed (which however does not justify the treaty's lack of insight and foresight). This book, by providing a precise blow by blow account of the days leading up to the outbreak of war, shows clearly that Germany did not plan or intend this war but ended up appearing to have started it through Russian (and to some extent French) trickery together with its own minister Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg's ineptitude. McMeekin's account elucidates (by being sufficiently detailed, and by incorporating evidence that has come to light in recent years) how such a monstrous war came about and the responsibility each player bore.However, if I can no longer think of Germany as responsible for starting the war, I do think Germany bears the blame for the atrocities in Belgium, and above all, for continuing the war after the slaughter took on monstrous proportions (9 million soldiers killed with as many civilians): the Germany army was in France after all, which means Germany could have decided to pull out (as the French could not). Russia pulling out in 1917 could have ended the war if Germany had been willing to use the opportunity. But there the 'logic' of war prevailed, not concern for humanity or even the good of the country and its people. From the French point of view, it was certainly just (though not exactly smart) to make Germany pay for the monumental damage France suffered. Of course it looked different from the viewpoint of Germans, especially those who knew how Germany had been drawn into war. The tricky and/or obtuse players who brought about the war did more than bring ruin and death to their countries and citizens; their short-sighted gamesmanship and ineptitude were ultimately responsible for Hitler, possibly the Bolshevik revolution, and the subsequent hell whose flames flared terrifyingly twenty years later and are still singeing us today.
Grammar! For many of us, the word triggers memories of finger-wagging schoolteachers, and of wrestling with the ambiguous and complicated rules of using formal language. But what is grammar? In fact, it's the integral basis of how we speak and write. As such, a refined awareness of grammar opens a world of possibilities for both your pleasure in the English language and your skill in using it, in both speech and the written word.
If you could sum up English Grammar Boot Camp in three words, what would they be?
Informative, stimulating, delightful (but you do have to be interested in the English language to feel delighted).
What did you like best about this story?
I thoroughly enjoyed this update to my knowledge of English grammar and usage.
What does Professor Anne Curzan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Lectures are very different from a book. I recommend listening at a faster speed.
Any additional comments?
There are a couple of places where I do not follow Prof.Curzan:
1. I have a less charitable interpretation of the now common "between you and I": I am convinced that this became (in the last few years) common usage through misguided inversion of the common 'uncouth' nominative use of "you and me" (or "Jim and me", etc). In compensating for their uncertainty regarding correct usage, people overcorrected and ended up using "you and I" even when it is not nominative and should be "you and me".
2. I don't think the use of 'at' in "where we're at" should be understood in the same way as in "where's the library at?". In the "where X is at" construction, X is a person not a thing, and 'at' conveys a sense of movement (X having at a certain place that generally is non-material as opposed to a physical location). Hence, "where's the library at" is poor usage because redundant, whereas "that's where we're at" is justified and hard to rephrase differently.
(3). One of my pet peeves is not mentioned (rightly so, as it is not a grammatical issue): that is the totally illogical phrase "I could care less" in place of "I couldn't care less". This started as a joke (I forget who the instigator was who parodied academic explanation with a tongue in cheek argument that "I couldn't care less" really should be "I COULD care less"), and somehow it caught on with people who were really taken in by fallacious reasoning. The phrase means to express total indifference, but "I could care less" implies a certain degree of caring, which is precisely what the speaker wants to negate.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful