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R. Campbell

Glastonbury, CT, United States
  • 23
  • reviews
  • 163
  • helpful votes
  • 263
  • ratings
  • The Hemingses of Monticello

  • An American Family
  • By: Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Narrated by: Karen White
  • Length: 30 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 507
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 339
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 337

This epic work tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family's dispersal after Jefferson's death in 1826. It brings to life not only Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson but also their children and Hemings's siblings, who shared a father with Jefferson's wife, Martha.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Worried at first

  • By Phillip on 12-13-08

Jefferson's Woman and Her Family

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

This is the story of the Hemings family whom Thomas Jefferson famously owned for 5 decades. The story begins with Elizabeth Hemings, Sally's mother. Elizabeth was purchased by John Wayles who had several children with her. When Jefferson marries Martha Wayles, her father John gave Jefferson several Hemings family members. When John Wayles dies, Jefferson inherits farms and slaves including the remaining Hemings family members. After the death of his wife, Jefferson becomes involved with one of Elizabeth's children, Sally. This is not historical fiction, it is a straight historical study of documents, diaries, letters and archeology. After 250 years the relationship between Jefferson and his slave Sally Heming are presented in the context of Jefferson's relationship with her whole family - it's complicated.

It is fascinating to learn the details of so many aspects of Jefferson's relationship to slavery and the Hemings family. Sally would have been 3/4 white and the half sister of his dead wife. On a 5 year trip to Paris, Jefferson pays her and her brother salaries, pays for medical expenses including small-pox inoculation as well as education and experiences that would give them a taste of life as international diplomats. Since France had no slavery, Sally and her brother James were legally free, yet they worked with Jefferson to make a deal to return to Virginia. Both received special allowances that made it their choice to live as slaves at Monticello rather than stay in France as free people. Again, it's complicated.

There is no excuse for slavery, but there was nuance this book explores. It is easy to apply political correctness to the knowledge now widely acknowledged that Jefferson not only owned slaves but had 6 children with the poor beleaguered Sally Hemings, but Annette Gordon-Reed doesn't bring political correctness, she brings scholarship and the stories of individuals who made individual decisions. Fascinating, well read and enjoyable.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Once Upon a Haunted Moor

  • The Tyack & Frayne Mysteries, Book 1
  • By: Harper Fox
  • Narrated by: Tim Gilbert
  • Length: 2 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 1,025
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 945
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 950

Gideon Frayne has spent his whole working life as a policeman in the village of Dark on Bodmin Moor. His first missing-child case is eating him alive. When his own boss sends in a psychic to help with the case, he's gutted - he's a level-headed copper who doesn't believe in such things, and he can't help but think that the arrival of clairvoyant Lee Tyack is a comment on his failure to find the little girl. But Lee is hard to hate, no matter how Gideon tries. At first Lee's insights into the case make no sense, but he seems to have a window straight into Gideon's heart.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent start, terrific narration

  • By Annika on 01-26-18

Child Abduction, Supernatural Mystery and Love

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

This is really a novella - barely 80 pages. As I expected, it was atmospheric and entertaining in the tradition of The Hounds of the Baskervilles. However, there is a twist. The love story in this one is between the burly village cop and a psychic who is called in to help find a missing child. I picked this one up as a deal of the day and didn't expected a graphic gay sex scene. I should say that I don't particularly like graphic sex scenes in general, but it didn't take away from the book. I am a teacher and always mention whether a book is appropriate for young people. I wouln't have an issue with same sex couples or a love story, but I always mention that I would recommend any book with graphic sex to a teenage student regardless of the gender of the lovers. This sex is very descriptive. Never the less, the book was compelling. I liked the characters and the mystery. It was somewhat contrived, but well done. This is easily read in a couple of hours and well worth the time. Nothing amazing, just good entertainment. The haunted moor with a supernatural edge and investigators in love! This is also the first in a series. Beautifully read and well worth a few hours.

  • How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)

  • Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution
  • By: Lyudmila Trut, Lee Alan Dugatkin
  • Narrated by: Joe Hempel
  • Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 538
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 499
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 499

Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs - they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken - imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolution into a few decades. In 1959, biologists Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut set out to do just that, by starting with a few dozen silver foxes from fox farms in the USSR and attempting to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Awesome story, fantastic book!

  • By Illyria on 11-21-17

Wolves Became Dogs

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

I love dogs. I've watched several documentaries about how wolves became dogs. I learned that there was an experiment in Siberia involving foxes. This entertaining and amusing book tells the story of the scientists behind the Siberian fox experiment which domesticated foxes over a period of surprisingly few generation.

The USSR was not the easiest place to experiment with the process of domestication in order to answer questions about evolution, but a geneticist found a way to do it. Under the guise of trying to make it easier to raise and harvest valuable fox fur, our hero explores what it would have taken to create domestic dogs out of wolf ancestors by selectively breeding foxes.

The story covers the science, the politics and the joy of the years it took to create domesticated foxes. The story is fascinating, educational, touching and at times, laugh out loud funny. The performance is excellent and overall experience of listening to this was wonderful. Well worth a listen!

  • The Hobbit

  • By: J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Narrated by: Rob Inglis
  • Length: 11 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38,950
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,178
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,400

Like every other hobbit, Bilbo Baggins likes nothing better than a quiet evening in his snug hole in the ground, dining on a sumptuous dinner in front of a fire. But when a wandering wizard captivates him with tales of the unknown, Bilbo becomes restless. Soon he joins the wizard’s band of homeless dwarves in search of giant spiders, savage wolves, and other dangers. Bilbo quickly tires of the quest for adventure and longs for the security of his familiar home. But before he can return to his life of comfort, he must face the greatest threat of all.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Finally! Thank you Audible!

  • By Bryan J. Peterson on 10-20-12

Amazing Adventure!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-14-17

This is a classic hero tale. Bilbo, a hobbit, leaves his cozy home in the Shire to explore the world beyond and finds adventure. There are trolls, giant spiders, a dragon and battles of epic proportion. As a young reader, this may have been the most formative book I read. As an adult listener, this performance brought me back to my childhood. Amazing book, well read, Audible 20 Review Sweepstakes Entry!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

  • By: Al Franken
  • Narrated by: Al Franken
  • Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 15,135
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 13,968
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 13,827

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect. It's a book about what happens when the nation's foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I was reading this when the allegations against Franken came out

  • By Fruitsalad200 on 12-10-17

This One Is Different

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-13-17

I've read everything from Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot to Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. This one is different. While Franken's humor is on the mark, this book is more of an actual biography/memoir. He always puts in details about his life in his books, but this one starts with him as a child, going to school, meeting Tom Davis and so on chronologically through to the present. I love Al Franken and have been a fan since his SNL days. I even saw Franken and Davis live back in the 80s. His performance of this book is hilarious and many of his episodes end with a huge laugh. But again, unlike his other books which were comedy with a political edge, this one is a biography with a comic spin.

Addendum: Since having written this review, Franken resigned his senate seat amid charges of sexual misconduct. Sadly, as open and forthcoming as some public figures and celebrities appear, aspects of their character may be obscured. I am sorry we lost the liberal voice that he clearly was, though much of his criticism of the characters he lampooned was based on hypocrisy. Turns out, he could have been a target of his own brand of political humor. Despite this, in the light of the pre-fallen Franken, this was an entertaining read. However, it would be difficult to bring the goodwill required to indulge the author in his sentimental reflections abundant in this biography knowing what we know now.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Tale of the Body Thief

  • The Vampire Chronicles, Book 4
  • By: Anne Rice
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 18 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,065
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 961
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 961

Lestat speaks. Vampire-hero, enchanter, seducer of mortals - for centuries he has been a courted prince in the dark and flourishing universe of the living dead. Lestat is alone. And suddenly, all his vampire rationale - everything he has come to believe and feel safe with - is called into question. In his overwhelming need to destroy his doubts and his loneliness, Lestat embarks on the most dangerous enterprise he has undertaken in all the danger-haunted years of his long existence.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Rice Turns Toward What It Is To Be Human

  • By R. Campbell on 11-09-15

Rice Turns Toward What It Is To Be Human

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-09-15

In the 4th in the Vampire Chronicle series, Rice returns to the search for meaning that was such a strong theme in the first, Interview with a Vampire. It has always struck me that Rice uses Vampires as metaphor for angels. With all their gifts, they are not the reflection of God capable of creation that humans are. For blood sucking fiends, Rice's vampires spend a great deal of time discussing God, the meaning of their own existence and spirituality.

In the first book, we learn the early story in a dark 18th century New Orleans. In the second we meet Lestat as a sympathetic character. In the 3rd, Lestat is a rock star adventuring in the modern mortal world. In this, the 4th installment, he actually becomes a mortal man. The adventure allows Rice to explores what it means to be human, angel and devil.

I'll confess, I've read ahead in the series, but had skipped this one. I can tell you that this one is not as fast moving or gripping as the first three, but it's still a great story, mystery, adventure... Later books in the series wax very philosophical. It is clear that Rice begins her turn toward the more philosophical in The Tale of the Body Thief. Good book, no foul language or explicitly obscene content, but this is a book for adults.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Belfast Noir

  • By: Adrian McKinty (editor), Stuart Neville (editor)
  • Narrated by: Stephen Bel Davies, Gerard Doyle, John Keating, and others
  • Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 316
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 291
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 286

Reflecting a city still divided, Belfast Noir serves as a record of a city transitioning to normalcy, or perhaps as a warning that underneath the fragile peace darker forces still lurk. Featuring brand-new stories by: Glenn Patterson, Eoin McNamee, Garbhan Downey, Lee Child, Alex Barclay, Brian McGilloway, Ian McDonald, Arlene Hunt, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Claire McGowan, Steve Cavanagh, Lucy Caldwell, Sam Millar, and Gerard Brennan.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Not what I expected

  • By carmen on 04-09-15

The Most Noir City in The World

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-14-15

I love noir films - dark, atmospheric. I was excited to read this one, not sure why Belfast is particularly noir but willing to find out. The first stories in this series of short stories set the scene. Before, during and after "the troubles" in the 80s, Belfast has been a city of ghosts. In struggles against the English, between Catholic and Protestant, Belfast is full of pubs, allies and squares where this one was martyred and those died for no reason or she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Stories are of children whose bombs went off early and simple folks caught in the cross fire. Dark, cold for much of the year and haunted by needless deaths, the editors begin by asserting that Belfast is "The Most Noir City in the World".

As the book progresses, the hard boiled crime dramas that define noir make their appearance. McKinty is rather clever in his arrangement of stories and though it starts slowly, it makes sense in the end.

I'd also like to mention that this was a real education for me. As bad as I was aware Belfast was in the 80s, the stories provide a window into the ongoing struggles of the good people of North Ireland. These stories are raw, direct, quintessentially Irish and gripping. Again, the dark shadows of the genre extent as the stories progress but all are well crafted, entertaining and educational in so far as they communicate the pain of the Irish experience and the legacy of the struggles of the 80s.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Anglo Files

  • A Field Guide to the British
  • By: Sarah Lyall
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
  • Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 167
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 98
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 97

Sarah Lyall, a reporter for the New York Times, moved to London in the mid-1990s and soon became known for her amusing and incisive dispatches on her adopted country. As she came to terms with its eccentric inhabitants, she found that she had a ringside seat at a singular transitional era in British life.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • An American in the U.K.

  • By MT on 03-13-09

Funny, Not Flattering

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-22-13

This is a critical, tongue in cheek look at contemporary British culture. Lyall is an American journalist who has lived in Britain for more than 20 years. She points to the usual stereotypes and attempts, rather unscientifically, to rationalize, justify and explain why they are true. Lyall covers bad teeth, bad weather, sexual dysfunction, the House of Lords debating the existence of UFOs, bad public healthcare, bad public schools, intense class division, economic stagnation, hedgehogs and cricket. While the book isn't laugh out loud funny, it is amusing so long as you are not offended by it or take it too seriously.

My grandparents were immigrants and my father, an only child, is very English in his character. Though his teeth and health are fine, even at 80, I know I inherited many attitudes and ideas that are British. So, while my wife and children look on in confusion as I find Monty Python brilliant, eat anything put in front of me and take bad weather in stride, I know I inherited these qualities from my British father. So, it's fun to read another Americans send up of the good people of our little island.

Again, this is a memoir, a series of stories and reflections on the author's personal experience. While she sights some statistics and no doubt emphasizes the bit of truth in many comic aspects of British society, I know that any 2,000 year old community of several million people are bound to have their issues. Immensely readable, fun, funny, though clearly a send up. I almost didn't make it through the first chapter explaining the homosexuality of most British men quoting P. G. Wodehouse and other expert sources (this is sarcasm). However, I am glad I did. I wanted a light read as a break from a series of heavier non-fiction historical studies of British monarchs. The "Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British", was exactly what was called for. Did I mention you shouldn't take this too seriously?

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII

  • By: Alison Weir
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Length: 22 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,726
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,580
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,568

This acclaimed best seller from popular historian Alison Weir is a fascinating look at the Tudor family dynasty and its most infamous ruler. The Six Wives of Henry VIII brings to life England’s oft-married monarch and the six wildly different but equally fascinating women who married him. Gripping from the first sentence to the last and loaded with fascinating details, Weir’s rich history is a perfect blend of scholarship and entertainment.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Overview AND Sordid Details

  • By Troy on 10-29-13

The Tudors At Their Best

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-22-13

Read from January 21 to February 01, 2013

Excellent read. I have read several books that cover the lives of the Tudors and more specifically Elizabeth, Mary and Henry. However, none had done much with the wives of Henry VIII beyond Jane Seymour having been the mother of Edward VI. So I picked this one up and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Weir has written several first class histories on this period so there is much overlap. The first third of the book was not only familiar, but in some cases a direct re-tracing of steps. However, the details were oriented toward the lives of the wives, not the politics or religion. In the middle of the book the story provides detail on not only the lives of the wives, but of Henry as a husband and private person. Weir creates a portrait of a powerful leader struggling with ruling a nation while growing older, heavier and having massive issues with fatherhood and fathering.

As the book gets to Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr, Weir does not disappoint. In many respects this is the same story I've read from the point of view of the Children of Henry, the Life of Elizabeth and other histories, but from the point of view and experience of these three women. Weir creates portraits of real people which allow the reader a meaningful experience beyond a simple understanding of the facts.

All six of these women had fascinating stories. Having been married to Catherine of Aragon the longest, the largest single portion involves her life. Having been married to Catherine Howard for the shortest interval, the book tells the tale and moves on. I enjoyed Weir's following through with the stories of Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr who outlived Henry. Thus, this was truly the story of the wives from beginning to end.

40 of 42 people found this review helpful

  • The Life of Elizabeth I

  • By: Alison Weir
  • Narrated by: Davina Porter
  • Length: 23 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,513
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,371
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,363

The New York Times best-selling author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII and The War of the Roses, historian Alison Weir crafts fascinating portraits of England’s infamous House of Tudor line. Here Weir focuses on Elizabeth I, also known as the Virgin Queen, who ascended to the throne at age 25 and never married, yet ruled for 44 years and steered England into its Golden Age.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The Golden Age

  • By Jean on 08-03-13

Masterful Historical Narrative

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-22-13

Alison Weir is a master of historical narrative. This is a well written, comprehensive biography of Elizabeth I. The book begins with her Grandfather and quickly sets the stage through the reign of her father and siblings Edward and Mary. After the story of her childhood, the real story begins with the reign of her younger brother.

Elizabeth's story is familiar in broad strokes - Bloody Mary, Mary Queen of Scots, the Spanish Armada, Shakespeare and the English Renaissance. Never the less, the details read like a spy novel, a romance, a treatise on civil government, religion and culture. From Sir Francis Drake raiding Spanish ships to Lord Essex at war in Ireland, the book covers her life and 45 year reign in style.

I particularly like the way Weir quotes her sources in an authoritative manner without disrupting the flow of the narrative. In this way the book reads like historical fiction - which it is not. Weir is simply knowledgeable enough having done adequate research to re-create scenes dramatically with the words of her characters.

Ultimately, there is little revolutionary in her point of view on Elizabeth. As a scholar, I don't think her research brings her to any new or shocking revelations though she clarifies and adds details to many points. Elizabeth was with little doubt a pivotal figure in the history of Europe and defining leader in the development of what was to become Great Britain. I suspect Weir's "The Life of Elizabeth I" is well on it's way to becoming a modern classic on the subject of the life of Elizabeth I. Well worth a read if you have any interest at all. This book is long, but quite accessible.

47 of 49 people found this review helpful