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  • Crucible of War

  • The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766
  • By: Fred Anderson
  • Narrated by: Paul Woodson
  • Length: 29 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 102
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 96
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 96

In this vivid and compelling narrative, the Seven Years' War - long seen as a mere backdrop to the American Revolution - takes on a whole new significance. Relating the history of the war as it developed, Anderson shows how the complex array of forces brought into conflict helped both to create Britain's empire and to sow the seeds of its eventual dissolution. Beginning with a skirmish in the Pennsylvania backcountry involving an inexperienced George Washington, the Iroquois chief Tanaghrisson, and the ill-fated French emissary Jumonville, Anderson reveals a chain of events that would lead to world conflagration.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Detailed History

  • By Daniel on 07-15-18

A Detailed History

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

Reviewed: 07-15-18

Fred Anderson remains one of (and there are not many) best writers on the period just prior to the American Revolution. While this is, by the author's admission, a very long book it still stands as one of the better detailed history of the French and Indian War and the run-up to the Revolution. That being said, those looking for a more concise history would be better suited to Anderson's "The War That Made America." I consider myself something of a history nut, especially 18th Century American history, and so this book was exactly what I was looking for.

Positives:
Woodson delivers decent narration.
A detailed history of a forgotten global conflict that would make England the greatest power on the planet since the Empire of Rome and, ironically, sow the seeds of revolution within her colonies.
Anderson is a good author and the work does more than just relate what happened. He takes us "into the weeds" when necessary to gain an understanding of the personalities at work and the repercussions of both good and bad decisions made on the battlefield without losing sight of the bigger picture.

Negatives:
It is a detailed history. Its long and so is probably not what the casual reader/listener is looking for.
Anderson does allow his bias to come through a little more on this work. He is particularly critical of Wolfe and the run-up to the the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. The criticism is not unwarranted but its seems forgotten that a great deal of France's military strategy in North America centered on what they themselves called "savage war."
In many instances, Anderson adheres to the usual interpretation of personalities and events.

Recommendation:
If you are looking for an excellent, detailed overview of the French and Indian War, this is your book. Anderson is right that one cannot properly understand 1776 without understanding the events of 1754-1766.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Romanov Sisters

  • The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
  • By: Helen Rappaport
  • Narrated by: Xe Sands
  • Length: 13 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 540
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 478
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 479

With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive, and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution - the nightmare that would sweep their world away and them along with it. The Romanov Sisters will surprise people, even aficionados.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Made you want to change the ending

  • By MissSusie66 on 01-23-15

From The Beginning You Known The End

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

Reviewed: 07-14-18

The tragic and short lives of Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov is well known to anyone with a passing knowledge of European history. This book, however, does what a lot of histories prior to it have failed to do: it brings the Romanov family, especially the sisters, to life and allows them to be glimpsed as humans, each with their own personalities, flaws and strengths, rather than as remote and tragic historical figures. Their silly antics (particularly those of Anastasia), first loves and frequent struggles with a family plagued by illness are all here and presented to the reader/listener in the context of the time in which they lived with little of the attempts to pass judgement on the culture that is all too common with the offerings of other historical authors.

The narrator also deserves a mention in this review. Xe Sands delivers a calm, sympathetic and melancholy performance that is engaging and fits the overall tone of the book almost perfectly.

Now, a couple of notes of caution:
First, this is a sad story. You will not come away from this book with any sense of uplift other than what can be gleaned from the way the Romanov sisters quietly displayed grace, poise and dignity as their entire lives collapsed along with the health of their mother, brother and oldest sister. From living in some of the grandest palaces in Europe to confinement in a roach infested home in frozen Siberia; from being considered some of the most beautiful princesses in the world to being spied on and humiliated by belligerent guards, the girls showed an uncomplaining resolve and support of each other and a devotion to their family and friends that is without equal in the history of the royal families of Europe.

Second, the author assumes that anyone picking up this book already has a working knowledge of the fall of the Romanov dynasty and the rise of communism in Russia. As a result, this is not an exciting book of international betrayal and intrigue. Characters that took center stage in the events leading up to the revolution are peripheral to this book. Events that produced huge repercussions are referred to only in passing and the focus is entirely on the day-to-day lives of the Romanov family; lives remarkably devoid of power struggles and plots so common in royal history.

Finally, the Russian propensity for nicknames can make following the lives of the tutors, governesses and servants that orbit the lives of the Romanovs for decades. I do think Rapport could have done a better job assisting the reader with keeping track of them and that prevents me giving a 5-star review to this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Dawn

  • Xenogenesis, Book 1
  • By: Octavia E. Butler
  • Narrated by: Aldrich Barrett
  • Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,789
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,531
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,532

In a world devastated by nuclear war with humanity on the edge of extinction, aliens finally make contact. They rescue those humans they can, keeping most survivors in suspended animation while the aliens begin the slow process of rehabilitating the planet. When Lilith Iyapo is "awakened", she finds that she has been chosen to revive her fellow humans in small groups by first preparing them to meet the utterly terrifying aliens, then training them to survive on the wilderness that the planet has become. But the aliens cannot help humanity without altering it forever.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I couldn't tell if I loved it or hated it.

  • By Lindsay on 01-31-16

A bit on the bland side...

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

Reviewed: 03-08-18

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Yes and no. The story line is interesting and the narration is good. The storytelling, however, is nondescript.

What was most disappointing about Octavia E. Butler’s story?

The story line seems original but Butler takes a matter-of-fact approach to describing what is supposed to be completely alien and borderline unbelievable biotechnology. Its likely that this is intentional but, as a listener trying to grasp the emotional and psychological ramifications that such an alien physical and cultural landscape was having on the protagonist, I found it irritating. Furthermore, most of the characters are almost completely one dimensional. Joe is the primary example of this. In spite of the fact that he and the protagonist have next to nothing in common, they fall in love and he ultimately has an enormous impact on the story. Yet, after listening to this entire audiobook, I would be hard-pressed to tell you much of anything about his character or his physical appearance. Like all of the other characters, he is present but almost seems to go about his part in the story line in a mechanical manner devoid of any defining personality traits.

What about Aldrich Barrett’s performance did you like?

The narrator does an excellent job giving each human and alien character a unique voice and attempts to infuse them with some of the personality that the author omitted.

Could you see Dawn being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

This would probably make a better TV show than a book. The book reads more like a script written with the expectation that the actors would give life to the characters through facial expression and vocal inflection. As I said, description of the environment, the alien culture and character development are presented in a minimalistic style that left me feeling as though the universe Butler created is more mundane than fantastic.

Any additional comments?

If you are looking to get lost in a sci-fi tale that, while original, is presented in the most minimalistic form possible you will probably enjoy this book. If you are looking for a classic or a fantastic tale of alien landscapes and imaginative technology, you will probably finish this book feeling a little let down. I can't say that you shouldn't buy it since it certainly wasn't terrible. I don't feel cheated by the purchase but neither am I about to spend money on any other books in the saga.

  • Valiant Ambition

  • George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution
  • By: Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 13 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,028
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 929
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 926

In September 1776 the vulnerable Continental Army, under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle), evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fantastic book that every American should read

  • By Ross on 11-02-16

In need of a part 2...

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

Reviewed: 07-05-16

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes. This book provides an excellent overview of the Revolution from the viewpoints of Washington and Arnold. Additionally, Philbrick does a great job of placing Arnold's treason into perspective and helping the reader understand why such a distinguished hero would betray his country. That being said, the book has one glaring problem...

Do you think Valiant Ambition needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

This book is in desperate need of a follow up. The build up to Arnold's treason is detailed yet readable. However, once Arnold flees to New York, the book abruptly ends with John Andre's execution and Nathaniel Greene's assignment to the southern theater of the war. Nothing is said of Arnold's career in the British Army or his life after the Revolution ends or how he is viewed by the British (other than Henry Clinton). In short, the ending is anti-climactic at best and so I can only give the book 3 stars.