Is it still possible to fake your own death in the 21st century? With six figures of student loan debt, Elizabeth Greenwood is tempted to find out. So she sets off on a foray into the world of death fraud, where for $30,000 a consultant can make you disappear - but your suspicious insurance company might hire a private detective to dig up your coffin...only to find it filled with rocks.
I'm not sure what I expected buying this audiobook, and getting it at the 80% off sale, I naively thought, what's there to lose?
This is a flimsy book. It's not in-depth enough to be truly informative, nor is the author comedically adept enough to make it a jaunty flight of fancy. There are a few anecdotes about pseudo-cide and interviews with experts who debunk commonly held myths about faking one's death. If the book stopped there, we'd be left with a mildly interesting, but very short, pamphlet about the phenomenon. But an inordinate amount of time is spent humoring a Michael Jackson fake death conspiracist. An hour or so of filler to make the book seem a bit more substantial. That chapter is seventy minutes, but it seemed interminable. Then a few chapters of purple prose bemoaning the suffering of the friends and family, and tedious philosophizing about life, debt and death, which had led the author to pursuing the project in the first place. Okay, I blew 4 or 5 bucks on a disappointing book, but hey, so it goes.
The only redeeming thing about this book, is that the author didn't read it herself. The introduction was read by her, and it was at least a welcome relief to have a professional, adult voice to read the body of the book.
This newest volume in Oxford's acclaimed Pivotal Moments series offers an unforgettable portrait of the Nez Perce War of 1877, the last great Indian conflict in American history. It was, as Elliott West shows, a tale of courage and ingenuity, of desperate struggle and shattered hope, of short-sighted government action and a doomed flight to freedom.
A solid telling of important part of the history of native peoples in America. It's very detailed and informative about the players, motivations and conflicts which populated this story, for the most part.
I have only one minor issue with the author. While it's clear that European immigrants, white Americans, were clearly not covered in glory in the story, the author stops short of accepting the notion that there was anything like genocidal intent regarding American treatment of native peoples, *at any level* (that last part being the important point). Even by the most generous of definitions of genocide, that's untenable. By the more expansive definition accepted today (which not only includes killing and massacres, but also restricting movement, prohibiting lifestyle, stripping culture and imposing foreign religion, and stifling future generations), it's just flat out wrong. In the same vein, he accounts for the decimation in bison population as merely coincidental to European-American over-hunting and the commerce of exporting hides. While this is certainly a major cause of the drop, the author ignores any official government sanction, the intent of which may have been to render native lifestyles impossible, in an effort to promote agrarianism. That final result being wholeheartedly acknowledged by the author, just not as policy, either official or of the wink-wink variety. It's not a major part of the story, but just a bit odd.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
After 500 years, the world's huge debt to the wisdom of the Indians of the Americas has finally been explored in all its vivid drama by anthropologist Jack Weatherford. He traces the crucial contributions made by the Indians to our federal system of government, our democratic institutions, modern medicine, agriculture, architecture, and ecology, and in this astonishing, ground-breaking book takes a giant step toward recovering a true American history.
I love these kinds of books. The first couple chapters were a bit worrying, in that it seemed to me to focus more on the European, African and Asian adaptations of the pre-American techniques, rather than the people and processes of the new world. But as it proceeded, it did shift focus and gave considerable credit where it was due.
The result is that it was much more balanced in the end, showing both the origins and the spread and adaptations abroad. Though for more specific details on some topics, particularly agriculture, Charles C. Mann's books 1491 and 1493 are great companion books.
My favorite part was the chapter on politics, detailing how current government ideals were derived far more from the Iroquois than from any old world source, contemporaneous or classical.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
It's not every afternoon that an enigmatic, comely blonde named Stilton (like the cheese) walks into the scruffy gin joint where Sammy "Two Toes" Tiffin tends bar. It's love at first sight, but before Sammy can make his move, an air force general named Remy arrives with some urgent business. 'Cause when you need something done, Sammy is the guy to go to; he's got the connections on the street.
What did you love best about Noir?
It's a fantastic work, like Twain sending up Chandler, with a side of Arthur C. Clarke.
The best part is the brilliantly satirical dialogue which is reverential to, and yet still pokes fun at, the hard-boiled detective novel. It starts with the phrase "She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes", and goes from there.
What about Johnny Heller’s performance did you like?
The Jimmy Cagney-esque character, of Eddie Moo Shoes, in Chinatown. At the start, the author makes clear that this story is set in a specific time and place, and modern sensibilities may become unsettled. But he deftly gets around that with a wildly off-the-wall story, which is totally entertaining.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
The headline of this review.
I'd love to see a film of this book, in the spirit of "Murder By Death" and "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid". I even found myself trying to cast the film in my head as it went along.
Any additional comments?
To be honest, it probably goes a little bit longer than necessary. But the whole thing is so madcap and ridiculous, I still didn't want it to end!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
On Thursday, December 15, 1994, Joann Katrinak and her three-month-old son, Alex, went missing from their Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, home. In what would become Pennsylvania's first use of mitochondrial DNA in a criminal case, Patricia Rorrer - a young mother who had never met either victim - was quickly tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. But did the jury make the right decision?
What disappointed you about Convenient Suspect?
Although the author points out early on that her work is not strictly objective, the easy suppositions about prosecutorial misconduct partnered with the just-as-easy dismissals of her subject's contradictions became a bit too much to take. It doesn't help that she later claims to be only supporting the truth, rather than taking a pro or con position.
Would you ever listen to anything by Tammy Mal again?
Doubtful. She provides a kind of bar room or reality show logic to her positions, even relying on a "C'mon, it doesn't work that way. And you know it!" plea in her alternative jury summation. I can't imagine it would have helped her case with a real jury. Which is a shame, since the subject of the book probably deserved better.
Did Suehyla El-Attar do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?
She didn't get much of a chance. The incessant "quote...end quote" staccato necessarily prevented any kind of differentiation of characters. She did capture the snarky nature of the author's intent, particularly in her alternative summation for the jury. So, I guess that's a job well done.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Frustration. As has been noted in several reviews, the author uses quotations repeatedly. Perhaps in the text version, it took up space as dialogue, but as an audiobook it is enormously distracting. The worst thing, however, is that most of it is unnecessary. Only disputed language, keenly relevant wording, or particularly outlandish statements really require such treatment. In this case, meaningless minutiae is "quote...end quote"d. It may have been better is the narrator had been allowed to just speak dialogue, with characterisation.
In addition, another genre convention of fictionalising characters is overdone. An associate of an associate of one of the principals is given a fictional name.... and never is referred to again. What's with all the fake names?
Joe Kenda investigated 387 murder cases during his 23 years with the Colorado Springs Police Department and solved almost all of them. And he is ready to detail the cases that are too gruesome to air on television, cases that still haunt him, and the few cases where the killer got away. These cases are horrifyingly real, and the detail is so mesmerizing you won't be able to turn it off.
What made the experience of listening to I Will Find You the most enjoyable?
For the most part, it was an interesting memoir of a retired detective. It starts slow with his early years, and goes off on a few familial tangents, but overall it's good.
I'm not sure I understand the Kenda-as-supercop love that I read in previous reviews. I saw these and chose this book in the 3-for-2 campaign. It's a good book, but I don't feel I can rate it as great.
What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
I can see why Kenda has attained a decent level of respect amongst viewers of his show (which I have never seen, to be fair). He has a level of confidence and strong delivery that commands the listener's attention. Yes, he's a bit of a blowhard, but he knows it, so it kind of works.
I think the most interesting point was that he is more reasonable and contemplative than the average cop, which is probably more of an indictment of the authoritarian nature of American police forces these days.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
It was virtually in one sitting. To be honest, it got a little repetitive, so stories were repeated. And I wasn't really all that interested in accomplishments of his children.
These 24 spellbinding lectures reveal the full scope of the Arthurian tradition, from its beginnings in post-Roman Britain to its extraordinary trajectory across the centuries and its latest incarnations in modern times. Your pathfinder in this world of mythic adventure and romance, Professor Armstrong, is one of the world's leading Arthurian scholars and the current editor-in-chief of the academic journal Arthuriana.
It was a good, thorough account of construction of the Arthurian legend. It's interesting to hear how the story was built and altered by a vast variety of sources.
One of my earliest childhood memories is watching the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone. As a kid, it was great. But as an adult, tend to prefer human stories and shy away from the magic and fantasy. Unfortunately, particularly with the ubiquity of CGI, I fear there will not be many more adaptations of the Arthur story that focus on humanity, as opposed to the mysticism. These lectures were completed prior to the latest Guy Ritchie film (which the lecturer had high hopes for... had she never seen any of his awful films?).
In The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington write a true story of Southern Gothic horror - of two innocent men wrongly convicted of vicious crimes and the legally condoned failures that allowed it to happen. Balko and Carrington will shine a light on the institutional and professional failures that allowed this tragic, astonishing story to happen, identify where it may have happened elsewhere, and show how to prevent it from happening again.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Absolutely. It may be the best example of the nuts and bolts of institutional racism in the legal system. To be fair, it goes well beyond race, but racist motivation is clearly the most prominent aspect of the criminal abuse of power that these men perpetrated.
Two wretched men, and their bands of enablers, were able to bamboozle a state's judicial system, because they were able to give convenient answers that the people wanted to hear, and kept politicians and judges elected and appointed. And in their minds, who would be harmed really, anyway? It turns out, all of us were.
What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?
The inherent religious bias, such as a prerequisite for state jobs, including the coroner's office, being a declaration of a belief in a (presumably Christian) god, might be expected in the deep South. What was more distressing was that the junk testimony presented by these charlatans, ends up besmirching the good name of honest, objective science. It's already an uphill battle getting Americans to trust science, and the damage these men did was enormous. Science, honestly and objectively conducted, seeks truth, whether one likes the results, or not. These fake scientists, unqualified and unchallenged, did not.
What does Robert Fass bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Good solid reading. No complaints.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I kept having to stop and realize over and over again that this is from the not-too-distant past. I wanted to think this was of a long bygone era, from generations past. Of course there were the over-arching stories of Emmett Till and Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner which reached back to the ghastly era of Mississippi of the 60's. But the story of Hayne and West ran well into the '90s and '00s. That made it all the more infuriating.
Any additional comments?
This is a great book to recommend to anyone who questions the notion of white privilege, and fails to recognize the injustice which has led to movements like Black Lives Matter. As mentioned earlier, it is bigger than just race, it could happen to anyone who is on the "wrong" side of a political system. This was not science. This was not justice.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
This audiobook focuses on the countless theories that have been put forward with regard to the identity of the notorious Victorian serial killer and offers an extensive section presenting all the known facts in the case. It included 30 essays by the most famous, often controversial Ripperologists putting forward their own theories. It remains one of the few audiobooks to offer a series of alternative solutions to Jack the Ripper's identity and the truth behind the Whitechapel murders.
This book is an interesting collection of theories about Jack the Ripper from various sources. It gets slightly repetitive, as the canonical murders are rehashed, as are a few of the disputed killings. But it oddly helps to solidify the basic facts of the story in the listener's mind. At least it did for me.
What is most striking about the book (in its own way, quite entertaining) is the predictable pettiness that is rampant in any "ripperologist" discussion. There is a charming amateurishness to the collection. (Anyone who's listened to the Rippercast podcast, will understand completely).
Numerous essays start by touching on the wilful disdain by other authors regarding the facts of the case, how cocksure they are of their conclusions without any supporting evidence. This is usually followed by how, with their own intensive research, they have uncovered the truth. (Somehow, even though they all have intensive research, they come to wildly different conclusions, and all are confident in their conclusions. Go figure.) Others make sure to note their bona fides, and experience in the field of ripperology. It's kind of like long suffering Cubs fans, who bemoaned bandwagon jumpers in 2016. It's actually fun to hear the sniping though.
The oddest essay is probably the one that is essentially a love letter to Patricia Cornwell. One of the more prominent authors who has engaged in the behaviour mentioned in the previous paragraph, she's defended by one essayist, with no other real point to it.
Fun stuff, but not entirely informative regarding any one solution to the identity of Jack. And full disclosure, for my use, with digestible chapters of an hour or less, and each a separate essay, it's good material for insomnia. This is not a criticism that it's boring, but just convenient.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Being a black woman in America means contending with old prejudices and fresh absurdities every day. Comedian Phoebe Robinson has experienced her fair share over the years: She's been unceremoniously relegated to the role of "the black friend", as if she is somehow the authority on all things racial; she's been questioned about her love of U2 and Billy Joel ("isn't that...white people music?"); she's been called "uppity" for having an opinion in the workplace; and yes, people do ask her whether they can touch her hair all. The. Time.
What did you like best about You Can't Touch My Hair? What did you like least?
Phoebe is obviously a very energetic and witty person. And she certainly sounds like she enjoys what she does. I loved the way she expresses herself and wants to be a badass, yet still holds on to the vulnerability.
The part I loved least was probably, as some other reviewers have mentioned, the use of terms like sounding out "L.O.L." and "hashtag .something. something", but all done with exuberance. Perhaps, it's just my age, by I felt that kind of stuff wore thin after a while. Also, there was a bit of Dennis Miller-esque reliance on pop culture references.
But I loved her enthusiasm, and she's funnier than him anyway.
I think she is genuinely talented and funny. I would love to see and hear what she can do breaking out of those patterns.
What do you think your next listen will be?
I'd never heard any of Phoebe's podcasts, so I may check them out. As for Audible, probably to my favorite genre, Native American histories, Lakota or Nez Perce.
How could the performance have been better?
I really enjoyed the performance, and felt very connected with Phoebe. She brought a warmth to her own material that is often missing with authors who read their own books.
Was You Can't Touch My Hair worth the listening time?
Absolutely, I recognized a few issues and it made me think of some of my own. As a white, American male, I certainly would never compare experiences, but I hope that my perspectives have some ring of truth with people of color, and realize that we are allies against racism. My own experience has been receiving what may be considered "micro-aggressions" on occasions when I have been romantically involved with black women, from black people and white people alike. I've periodically been told (seriously!) that I'd only chosen a dark-skinned women because she's "exotic", or that one girlfriend, who happened to be light-skinned, had "white features" that must have appealed to me. It was stunningly idiotic. I only ever felt amazingly lucky that these fantastic women whom I still care for deeply, or any other women of any ethnicity, would give a goof like me the time of day!
I felt I could connect, at least in a little way, with Phoebe on that one.
Any additional comments?
If I could ask Phoebe one question, it would be, if she chose The Edge, would he have to bring all his electronic accoutrements, to seal the deal?