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Aaron

Chicago, IL, United States
  • 19
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  • 39
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  • Failure Is Not an Option

  • Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
  • By: Gene Kranz
  • Narrated by: Danny Campbell
  • Length: 18 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,121
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,952
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,949

Gene Kranz was present at the creation of America's manned space program and was a key player in it for three decades. As a flight director in NASA's Mission Control, Kranz witnessed firsthand the making of history. He participated in the space program from the early days of the Mercury program to the last Apollo mission, and beyond. He endured the disastrous first years when rockets blew up and the United States seemed to fall further behind the Soviet Union in the space race.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A wonderful story told beautifully.

  • By Albert Sjoberg (PA) on 06-05-15

Inspiring and Informative.

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

Reviewed: 01-28-16

Although published 15 years ago, and about events that occurred 30 to 40 years before then, Gene Kranz’s “Failure is Not an Option” continues to inspire. Readers with any interest in space, history, or science, and anyone interested in a fascinating story of human achievement, should place this book high on their reading list.

Kranz’s memoir is not a dashing heroic tale or fodder for the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but neither is it a boring nuts and bolts account of back-stage operations. Kranz touches on each mission in Mercury through Apollo from the perspective of Mission Control, and the recounts of Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 are particularly engaging. Even the non-nail-biting events from the space race and Kranz’s own personal history are described with elegance and purpose, and, I think, will keep any reader interested. Kranz’s epilogue is further inspiring, and it is a shame that the call for future manned space flight appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

The narration by Danny Campell also could not be better.

In sum, this was the best book I read in 2015. Thank you Gene.

Five Stars!

  • Super Sad True Love Story

  • A Novel
  • By: Gary Shteyngart
  • Narrated by: Ali Ahn, Adam Grupper
  • Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 855
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 553
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 561

Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, creates a compelling reality in this tale about an illiterate America in the not-too-distant future. Lenny Abramov may just be penning the world’s last diary. Which is good, because while falling in love with a rather unpleasant woman and witnessing the fall of a great empire, Lenny has a lot to write about.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Dystopia Now

  • By Ryan on 09-19-10

Rate Me!!!

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

Reviewed: 01-27-16

In Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, people are obsessed with being rated and ranked. So where does this book rank?

On the plus side, the writing was well done. The tone and pace of Lenny’s diary entries always flowed well and reminded me of reading Catch-22. The same cannot be said of Eunice’s letters, which were crude and disjointed by comparison. Of course, the author was attempting to juxtapose the fluid, literary mind-set of the older generation with the data-obsessed, illiterate proclivities of youth, which I can appreciate, but still, I didn’t look forward to the Eunice chapters.

On the negative side, although the commentary on self-obsession, social media, overuse of smart phones, disrespect for the elderly (or really anyone with experience), and all sorts of other things were all on point, Shteyngart’s point is not subtle. Even the dullest of readers would find it impossible not to pick up on the social commentary, and I kept waiting for the narrator to move on, but often felt like I had to wait until everyone in the class was caught up, before the story could continue.

Also, the narration struggles at times. Both narrators perform well as Lenny and Eunice, and consistently used the same voices for other characters, which is good. However, the attempt at foreign accents used with secondary characters is at times cringe-worthy.

Overall, the quality of writing combined with poignant social commentary (even if often too obvious) makes Super Sad True Love Story worth a listen, even though the story is depressing, the characters are unsympathetic, and the plot is thin. Super Sad True Love Story deserves a spot on your reading list, just not a high one.

Three stars.

  • Linesman

  • By: S. K. Dunstall
  • Narrated by: Brian Hutchison
  • Length: 12 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 516
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 480
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 485

The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he's crazy.... Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level 10 linesman like Ean. Even if he's part of a small and unethical cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he's certified and working. Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Absolutely Excellent Story - Sci-fi Meets Fantasy

  • By Striker on 07-13-15

The Lines Are Not Strong

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

Reviewed: 07-26-15

“Linesman” is part superhero origin story and part political thriller. As for this first part, without delving into technical details or spoilers, since Ean Lambert is the only person who can really speak to (or rather sing to) the lines, he has a unique power. Although others have the ability push or feel the lines, they do not have quite the same rapport, and as Ean gains confidence and begins to understand his abilities, his character develops, and the reader is along for the ride. As for the second part of the mix, much of “Linesman” is political intrigue. The universe consists of three main political factions, each vying for power, and the reader get a window on the backdoor dealings and maneuverings that occur in the high-stakes game of universal politics.

However, although the concept is interesting, the execution is not. The writing is passable, but not exceptional. Character development is present for Ean Lambert, but feels a little forced, and many of the secondary characters remain one-dimensional throughout. The pace moves in fits and starts, and the story never really evolves into something where reader feels the need to know what happens next. Lastly, a number of continuity errors and plot holes take away from a smooth narrative, and it is difficult to remain engage in the story at all times.

Dunstall deserves credit for inventing a new and imaginative sci-fi universe. The concept of the lines is interesting and really ties everything together (pun intended). Also, the political aspect has potential and reminded me of the good parts of “Dune,” even if Dunstall only really gives you one perspective. The narration is also well-done, but not remarkable. Overall, however, the story is not very engaging or well-told, and although there were many components of “Linesman” I liked, I just cannot recommend the book. Avid sci-fi may want to pick-up the book, but as it lies somewhere between pulp and praise-worthy, “Linesman” is likely destined to be lost in the void.

Three stars for developing a universe I wouldn’t mind visiting again, even if it is extremely unlikely that I ever will.

4 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Dead Wake

  • The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
  • By: Erik Larson
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 13 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,737
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,738
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,721

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Naivety VS Barbarians Of War

  • By Sara on 03-05-16

Interesting Telling of Lusitania Sinking

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

Reviewed: 07-13-15

“Dead Wake” is the story of the sinking of the Lusitania, told only as Larson can tell it. The perspective of the book largely alternates between that of the passenger liner and the German U-boat that sunk her, but Larson also connects the story to the United States’ entry into the war and the British Admiralty’s and British Intelligence’s operations during the war. The main characters, for lack of a better term for describing non-fiction, are Capitan Turner of the Lusitania as well as about six sets of passengers, and Captain Schwieger of the German U-20, but vignettes regarding many others involved are included. President Wilson plays a major role in the first half of the book.

As a whole, “Dead Wake” is spectacular non-fiction. It reads like a novel, but it is obvious that Larson did his research and relied on primary sources. Schweiger’s log is referenced throughout as are letters written by many of the passengers both during and after the voyage. For the most part, the vignettes are interesting and informative, and give the reader a sense of presence.

Where Larson disappoints, however, is in his conclusions. Without giving away any spoilers, if that is possible for a 100 year old story, it seems that when Larson decides to stray from the hard facts, such as evaluating the state-of-mind of Captain Schwieger or adding up the what-if’s for the actual sinking, his conclusions do not seem to follow from the premises. The conclusions, the few that he chooses to draw at least, simply are not that insightful.

Otherwise, the only other criticism is that the book could have benefited from further editing. In particular, President Wilson’s love life plays an unnecessarily large role in the first half of the book, and never really comes back at the end with any purpose. In this, and other parts as well, it seems that Larson, having researched the primary source material, was determined to use it, regardless if it fit with the story. While this adds perhaps an hour or so to the listen, it should not dissuade someone from picking up the audiobook.

As for narration, Scott Brick is an excellent narrator, but this may not be the best book for him to read. The writing includes many short scenes from a variety of perspectives, but Brick tends to end each story with a downward inflection. The shorter the scenes, the more frequent the downward inflections. After a while, a rhythm sets in and it becomes hard to concentrate. This is not so much a criticism of Brick’s performance, which is for the most part well done, but a comment that Larson/Brick may not necessarily be the best writer/narrator combination.

All-in-all, I recommend this book, especially to anyone who liked Larson’s other books or anyone with an interest in this period of history in general. The book and the audio are both well-done, and I recommend listening only at normal speed because 1.25% speed is difficult to follow due to the pacing of the narration. Overall, a worthwhile read or listen.

Four Stars.

  • The Monuments Men

  • Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
  • By: Robert M. Edsel, Bret Witter
  • Narrated by: Jeremy Davidson
  • Length: 14 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,168
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 998
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,012

In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fine book, adequate narration

  • By Paul Bennett on 03-13-10

Enjoyed the Subject, Not the Book.

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

Reviewed: 06-30-15

I really wanted to enjoy this book, and indeed, did find many of the vignettes quite interesting. In particular, as the Allies entered Germany, the interactions with the German people and soon-to-be-ex-nazis piqued my interest.

However, the book as a whole is rather plodding and, for the most part, dull. In particular, the opening and middle chapters contained too much detail about personal lives, and while background would be important if the narrative was driven by the interactions among the Monuments Men (which it isn’t), the background here doesn’t really aid the reader in the stories that are actually told. I found my attention drifting often, which wasn’t helped by the narration, which at times was jarring and other times monotonous.

Overall, I’m glad this book exists and I’m glad to know more about the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section. As a fan of museums and art in general, I’m grateful for the work performed by these men and women. I just cannot recommend this book, and would advise the would-be reader to pass in lieu of another book on the same subject.

Three stars for being poignant at times, even if not particularly well done.

  • 14

  • By: Peter Clines
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter
  • Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38,171
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,357
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 35,361

There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much. At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Read the Reviews!

  • By Stacey D. on 05-25-18

Wait . . . What?!?

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

Reviewed: 06-23-15

I picked up this book because I thought the description of Clines’ newer book “The Fold” sounded worth a credit, but the reviews said that “The Fold” contains spoilers for “14.” Although I’ve passed on “14” in the past, not wanting to have the mystery spoiled in case I really liked the new book, I thought I better listen to them in order. Honestly, I’m not sure I made the right choice.

This being my first book by Clines, I’d give him a solid B to B+ in quality of writing. The narrative could have been more tight, the characters more deep, and the story less predictable (to a point). That being said, I must also say that about 70% of “14” is completely engaging, and at times, I couldn’t put the book down. At other times, however, I was rather indifferent. Fortunately, the former outnumbered the latter. Unfortunately, the least interesting parts are at the end. In a way, and without giving anything away, you could say that the “14” crosses the fine line that sometimes separates spooky and silly.

The narration is spot-on, with Porter consistently using unique voices for each character. The tone and pace are also well done.

I’d say that “14” is worth a listen if you like sci-fi, mysteries, and following breadcrumbs. As for me, I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to pick up “The Fold,” or just move on.

0 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Last Days of the Incas

  • By: Kim MacQuarrie
  • Narrated by: Norman Dietz
  • Length: 21 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 634
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 375
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 381

In 1532, the 54-year-old Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a force of 167 men, including his four brothers, to the shores of Peru. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, the Inca rulers of Peru had just fought a bloody civil war in which the emperor Atahualpa had defeated his brother, Huascar. Pizarro and his men soon clashed with Atahualpa and a huge force of Inca warriors at the Battle of Cajamarca.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fact is more fascinating than fiction

  • By Paul Norwood on 05-02-08

Not a Good Companion for Your Machu Picchu Trip

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

Reviewed: 05-26-15

This book (at least the first half or so) is a detailed account of the Spanish conquest of Peru. The accounts of the battles, betrayals, and other interactions with the Inca during the initial conquest are fascinating. The same, however, cannot be said for the descriptions of the occupation and resistance that followed. Maybe it’s just the circumstances of history, but after about the midpoint of the book, the vignettes start to lose intrigue. The final fifth of the book is devoted to modern discovery of ancient ruins and seems misplaced in the context of the rest of the book.

Although I enjoyed the beginning of “The Last Days of the Incas,” overall I was disappointed. I was hoping for more background information about the Incas’ history, culture, politics, religion, and mythology. Although there is some effort to interject the history and culture of pre-Columbian America, the Spanish are the focus. Since I had picked up this book largely to gain a better appreciation of the Inca before my hike on the Inca trial, it was disappointing that more effort wasn’t taken to describe the peoples that the Spanish were conquering. Perhaps the MacQuarrie considered too much background to be outside the scope of the “Last Days,” but the effect of its limitation is to shift perspective entirely on the Spanish and remove context from the Spanish/Inca interaction described throughout the book.

As for the narration, it was adequate, but dull. This may, however, simply be a function of the material. Nevertheless, I do not intent to go out of my way to listen to other books read by Dietz.

In sum, if you are like me and want to learn more about the Inca before your trip to Peru, skip this book. There must be other, better books out there for this purpose, although I do not have a recommendation. If you are interested in learning about the Spanish conquest of the Inca, then definitely listen to the first half, but do not feel obliged to get to the end.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Man Who Fell to Earth

  • By: Walter Tevis
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 338
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 254
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 259

Thomas Newton is an extraterrestrial, one of only 300 left on his home planet. Using his superior intelligence and skills, Newton amasses a small fortune and a business empire, but soon must battle unexpected foes: the CIA, alcoholism, loneliness, himself. An utterly absorbing psychological study of one man's struggle to survive on 20th-century Earth.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Not uplifting, but a well told story

  • By Paul on 02-24-15

Fell Short

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

Reviewed: 03-03-15

Although I enjoyed listening to “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” I would not classify it as a must read, a classic, or an example of sci-fi at its finest. It is a story of a man--a very intelligent, shy, and awkward man--on a mission. Thomas Newton’s alienness is rather irrelevant because the story is really about everyman’s struggle between excellence and complacency. Will Newton achieve his goals or be overcome by obstacles placed before him by society and his own self-doubt? You must read the book to find out, but don’t expect to be wowed by what you read. Although Tevis sets the stage, develops the characters, progresses the story well to start, in the end, I was disappointed. In other words, the beginning is good, but it peters out about 2/3 the way through.

On the plus side, the narration was excellent, with good pace, timing, inflection, and overall tone. Each character has his or her own voice, which is consistent throughout. Also, the sci-fi elements (especially the somewhat dated sci-fi elements) are quite interesting. From the 21st-century perspective, it’s interesting to see what a person in 1963 thought 1980 would look like.

Overall, it’s worth a listen, but shouldn’t jump to the top of anyone’s reading list.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Clockwork Universe

  • Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World
  • By: Edward Dolnick
  • Narrated by: Alan Sklar
  • Length: 10 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,915
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,473
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,484

The Clockwork Universe is the story of a band of men who lived in a world of dirt and disease but pictured a universe that ran like a perfect machine. A meld of history and science, this book is a group portrait of some of the greatest minds who ever lived as they wrestled with natures most sweeping mysteries. The answers they uncovered still hold the key to how we understand the world.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Calculus Ergo Modernity

  • By Nelson Alexander on 07-09-11

Oddly Dry for a Book About Mathematics

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

Reviewed: 08-23-14

“The Clockwork Universe” is a good book, but it suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It’s not quite a biography of Isaac Newton, nor is it quite a book about the Royal Society, nor is it really a layman’s guide to understanding scientific revelations of the 17th Century, although at various points “Clockwork Universe” tries to be each of these things. For most of the book, it felt like the author repurposed a dissertation comparing Newton with Leibniz in their lives and in their calculus, added some bits about the Royal Society, and slapped a title on it.

This, however, should not discourage anyone from reading “The Clockwork Universe.” There are many parts that are done just right. For example, Dolnick does a really good job setting the scene, given, after all, this was essentially the middle ages or close enough thereto. The life experiences of Newton and others are vastly different from life today. Also, we take for granted many things in this world, many things that someone at some point actually had to figure out, such as, for example, linier graphs. Those portions of the book where various individuals figured things out for the first time were quite inspiring and interesting.

The narration by Sklar is spot on. Trouble is, however, much of the book requires readers to picture graphs and pictures in their mind, and with the narration, it’s easy to get lost. This might be one of those books where it’s better to read long with the hard copy, starting and stopping the audio as needed or desired.

This may be comparing apples to oranges, but for those interested in great thinkers in science, I’d recommend “Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson instead.

  • With the Old Breed

  • At Peleliu and Okinawa
  • By: E. B. Sledge
  • Narrated by: Marc Vietor, Joe Mazzello, Tom Hanks (introduction)
  • Length: 13 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 3,658
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,341
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 3,332

The celebrated 2010 HBO miniseries The Pacific, winner of eight Emmy Awards, was based on two classic books about the War in the Pacific, Helmet for My Pillow and With The Old Breed. Audible Studios, in partnership with Playtone, the production company co-owned by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and creator of the award-winning HBO series Band of Brothers, John Adams, and The Pacific, as well as the HBO movie Game Change, has created new recordings of these memoirs, narrated by the stars of the miniseries.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This is the second audio book of Sledge's work

  • By Richard on 10-21-13

Engaging Account of the War in “The Pacific”

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

Reviewed: 08-13-14

This is a review of two books, “With the Old Breed” and “Helmet for My Pillow.” HBO based its miniseries “The Pacific,” on these books, and Audible Studios and Playtone recently made new recordings of both books. If, like me, you were interested in both, hopefully this will help sort out how they stack up. In short, both are worth the listen, but if you only wish to get one, go with “With the old Breed.”

“With the Old Breed” is the war diary of E.B. Sledge (a.k.a. “Sledgehammer”). Although not an author by trade Sledge is obviously very intelligent and well-spoken. He writes like he was telling the story to his family, which is, in fact, apparently why Sledge wrote the book in the first place. Sledge describes his experiences at the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa, but also describes his training prior to the battles. The scenes are graphic and disturbing at times, but no doubt accurate.

It’s been said before that Sledge’s book is required reading for anyone thinking of joining the Marines, and I think this must be correct. For officers, Sledge’s account as a private depicts and describes the traits of the “good” officers verses the, let’s call them, “not so good” officers. It’s a veritable “how to” earn and command the respect and admiration of your men, which may be useful for any person in a leadership position to know. For the enlisted men, the book is a very real account of the inglorious nature of war. Wars are not fought to win honors, and no-one should join up in search of glory and fame. As Sledge says, often, it’s a “waste.”

As for the narration, Mazzello is a good actor, but a little slow. I’d recommend listening at 1.25% speed at least, or else it just drags on.

“Helmet for my Pillow” is Robert Leckie’s account of his experiences in the war. Leckie fought at Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu, but also writes considerably about his “debauchery” in Australia between the battles. His prose (and even his poetry) are quite well-written, and you get a good sense of what life must have been like in the Pacific when the fighting was not going on.

The book is also well narrated. Dale tells the story with good pacing, tone, and vocal color throughout. (By the way, Tom Hanks phones in his introductions for both books, which is disappointing).

In comparison, although there are many similarities to the realities of war, the books are very different. Leckie’s book is much better written than Sledge’s, but perhaps not as engaging from a story-telling perspective. Also, these two Marines could not be more different in character. Sledge is a boy-scout, whereas Leckie is a rogue, spending it seems more time in the brig, than in battle. This is not likely a fair comparison, given the horrific things both privates had to put up with, but Leckie comes off as less sympathetic than Sledge.

Overall, if you choose only one of these two books, I recommend “With the Old Breed,” but really I’d recommend both books to anyone, even those not interested in history. These are not stale accounts of dates and locations and troop numbers. These are firsthand accounts of the horrors of war, which is something later generations (such as my own) luckily have not experienced to this extreme. The people Sledge and Leckie describe are real people, not just characters. When they died, or were injured, or went crazy, these things really happened, which is, I think, something worth remembering.

Read the book(s), and thank a veteran when you see one.

27 of 27 people found this review helpful