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Tad Davis

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  • Desperate Remedies

  • By: Thomas Hardy
  • Narrated by: Anna Bentinck
  • Length: 17 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11

After the untimely death of their parents, Cytheria and Owen Graye must go out into the world and fend for themselves. Cytheria's journey leads her to the dark and mysterious household of Miss Aldclyffe, a capricious and eccentric woman, who steers Cytheria into a love affair with her charismatic steward, Aeneous Manston. All is not what it seems, and Cytheria finds herself entangled in a violent web of lust, murder, deception, and blackmail.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A thriller!

  • By Tad Davis on 02-15-19

A thriller!

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

Reviewed: 02-15-19

Anna Bentinck gives a terrific reading of this early novel by Thomas Hardy. She's becoming one of my favorite narrators.

The chapters in Desperate Remedies are organized by time - nothing unusual about that in a conventional novel. But in this one, the time covered by each chapter is announced loudly and clearly by the chapter title: The Events of Three Weeks, The Events of Ten Months, The Events of One Day: with the date and sometimes the hour of the day precisely named.

At this point it shouldn't be a spoiler to say the book has a mostly happy ending. It gets there by some of the most melodramatically thrilling plot twists Hardy ever wrote. Toward the end it becomes something of a mystery novel, with one professional and several amateur detectives on the case; and it's topped off with not one but two deathbed confessions.

A hugely enjoyable listen for me (and I hope for others as well).

  • Doctor Who - The Chimes of Midnight

  • By: Robert Shearman
  • Narrated by: Paul McGann, India Fisher
  • Length: 1 hr and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 22
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring.... But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight. Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where even the victims don't stay dead.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • deceiving

  • By Ebony on 05-14-17

Intriguing

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

Reviewed: 02-05-19

Loved the story, loved the acting, loved the soundscape, hated what they did with the theme music.

  • Catastrophe 1914

  • Europe Goes to War
  • By: Max Hastings
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 25 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 593
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 534
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 521

From the acclaimed military historian, a new history of the outbreak of World War I - from the breakdown of diplomacy to the dramatic battlesthat occurred before the war bogged down in the trenches.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • outstanding

  • By Jean on 12-13-13

Grim

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

Reviewed: 02-01-19

Max Hastings has a particular gift for blending a birds-eye view of strategic movements with a ground-level view of the suffering imposed on the soldiers and civilians who have to carry them out. In this narrative of the second half of 1914, he manages to convey a sense of the devastation of the Great War as a whole.

It doesn't replace other accounts of the period, like The Guns of August or The War that Ended the Peace. Hastings spends little time on the back room negotiations that led to the mobilization of armies. In his view, Germany is the chief culprit, by giving the infamous “blank check” to Austria. If Germany didn't actually want war, he says, they were at least willing to fight one, and failed to take advantage of the opportunities they had to prevent it. He takes a dim view of the idea that the leaders who started the war were “sleepwalkers” — thereby taking a potshot at another book on the subject.

Once the armies are on the march, it becomes a tale of sweat, blood, and body parts. Hastings writes vividly and quotes extensively from letters and journals. While to some extent he covers both sides, he provides far more detail about the experiences of British soldiers than of French or German; and the Eastern front, though given due space, has nothing like the immediacy of his descriptions of life on the Western front.

It is, however, a brisk and moving narrative, and in the hands of Simon Vance it is a rewarding listen.

  • A Laodicean

  • A Story of To-day
  • By: Thomas Hardy
  • Narrated by: Anna Bentinck
  • Length: 17 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2

Subtitled 'A Story of To-day', A Laodicean occupies a unique place in the Thomas Hardy canon. Departing from pre-industrial Wessex, Hardy brings his themes of social constraint, fate, chance and miscommunication to the very modern world of the 1880s - complete with falsified telegraphs, fake photographs, and perilous train tracks. The story follows the life of Paula Power, heiress of her late father's railroad fortune and the new owner of the medieval Castle Stancy. With the castle in need of restoration, Paula employs architect George Somerset, who soon falls in love with her.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Uncharacteristic

  • By Tad Davis on 01-31-19

Uncharacteristic

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

Reviewed: 01-31-19

Anna Bentinck gives a delightful performance of this unusual novel by Thomas Hardy. I say unusual because the book, though tinged at times with sadness and disappointment, ends more or less happily. I had to keep checking the book details to make sure I wasn’t reading something by George Eliot or even Anthony Trollope instead. The latter part of the book includes a romantic chase sequence worthy of Bridget Jones.

I enjoyed it. I had (as usual) several books going at the same time, but I kept setting others aside to get back to this one.

  • The Odyssey

  • By: Homer, Emily Wilson - translator
  • Narrated by: Claire Danes
  • Length: 13 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 387
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 361
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 356

The first great adventure story in the Western canon, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty, and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home. In this fresh, authoritative version - the first English translation of The Odyssey by a woman - this stirring tale of shipwrecks, monsters, and magic comes alive in an entirely new way. Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, this engrossing translation matches the number of lines in the Greek original, thus striding at Homer’s sprightly pace.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Highly recommended

  • By A. Ketbi on 12-02-18

Unsatisfying

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

Reviewed: 01-28-19

This is a wonderful translation of The Odyssey, crackling with energy. I'm less taken with Claire Danes as the narrator, though. I like her as an actress, and in moments of high tension here, her voice quavers with emotion; but at times her reading emphasizes rhythm over passion. The rhythm is important: Emily Wilson’s decision to adhere to a steady five-beat line is one of the strengths of her translation. But in performance, it can result in occasional sing-song, and to my ears Claire Danes falls into this trap more often than I would like.

I'm struggling a bit to find the right way to describe what I find unsatisfying about her performance. One of my favorite Homeric audiobooks (performed by Anthony Heald) sounds like a story recited around a campfire. And maybe that’s the difference. The best performances of Homer sound like a recitation; Danes sounds like she’s reading a story written by somebody else. Of course that's what she IS doing, like all the other narrators of Homer; but not all of them sound like it.

She does grasp the punch and rapidity of the language, though. This is one of the most accessible and fast-paced performances of The Odyssey available. Wilson disciplined her language to match Homer’s line count, and the 24 books of the poem race by, for the most part, in 20-25 minutes each. And this is without undue hurry on Danes's part: her reading gives room for each word in each line to be heard distinctly. The approach of the translation means that the language is more compressed than in some versions; but there are epithets and wine-dark seas enough to satisfy those who want the occasional flavor of a more literal approach.

For every odd word choice made by Wilson - Odysseus is described straight off as a “complicated” man - there are a dozen choices that illuminate and clarify. Wilson makes clear that the “servants” that populate the poem are really “slaves”; and she also makes clear that while some of the slave girls willingly sleep with the suitors, what is really going on most of the time is rape. This makes the fate of the dozen slave girls hanged by Telemachus even more poignant.

It's definitely worth a listen, but it's not going to become my go-to audio version of The Odyssey.

  • The Plague

  • By: Albert Camus
  • Narrated by: James Jenner
  • Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 686
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 525
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 535

In the small coastal city of Oran, Algeria, rats begin rising up from the filth, only to die as bloody heaps in the streets. Shortly after, an outbreak of the bubonic plague erupts and envelops the human population. Albert Camus' The Plague is a brilliant and haunting rendering of human perseverance and futility in the face of a relentless terror born of nature.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Translator Please!

  • By Plain English on 06-04-11

Disappointing

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

Reviewed: 01-17-19

I missed the boat on this one. I know many people who admire this novel, and one member of my family was profoundly moved by it. But somehow I wasn't able to connect with it.

After several striking scenes in the beginning, the book settles down into a glacial pace. There are a number of key characters in the story, and their viewpoints are effectively represented, but there's no real conflict. Everybody works together to get through the terrible calamity of bubonic plague — evolving later into the far more deadly and contagious pneumonic plague. The city is blocked off from the outside world in an effort to contain the epidemic. The death toll rises; every man — and they are all men — sucks it up and keeps working stoically.

And eventually the plague dies down, goes back into hibernation, and the city is reopened. Nobody knows why the plague erupted; nobody knows why it went away. There's a philosophical point to be made here, but I didn't find the story compelling enough to connect the dots.

James Jenner is an OK narrator, though his very American voice (certainly at least North American) doesn't mix well with the European ambience of the story. (It takes place in North Africa, but it's a French colony, and virtually everyone in the novel is French.) Some of his characters sound like they would feel at home in a Dashiell Hammett story.

It just didn't work for me.

  • The Second World War

  • By: Antony Beevor
  • Narrated by: Sean Barrett
  • Length: 39 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 862
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 780
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 777

Over the past two decades, Antony Beevor has established himself as one of the world's premier historians of World War II. His multi-award winning books have included Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin 1945. Now, in his newest and most ambitious book, he turns his focus to one of the bloodiest and most tragic events of the twentieth century, The Second World War. Thrillingly written and brilliantly researched, Beevor's provocative account is destined to become the definitive work on World War II.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • It Fills in Gaps I Didn't Know Existed

  • By DJM on 07-31-12

Amazing

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

Reviewed: 01-09-19

I came late to the study of World War II. Prior to this, the only thing I'd read on the subject was Andrew Roberts’ book The Storm of War. (I've also used The Historical Atlas of World War II as a reference point.) In some ways that was more clearly organized. But Beevor’s book has a somewhat broader scope and is significantly more detailed when it comes to describing the experiences of people on the ground. It is a well-written and deeply moving narrative. Beevor’s descriptions of Stalingrad, Budapest, and Berlin are devastating.

Both books are useful correctives to the kind of America-centric history I got in high school and college. Who paid the highest price for victory? The USSR, hands down. (The US casualties in the Pacific were a fraction of the deaths sustained by the USSR, and possibly as a result both books tend to shortchange this part of the story, although from a strategic standpoint it was just as important.)

If you want to convey events that are tragic and weighty, Sean Barrett’s voice is the one you want: deep, compassionate, and unflinching. Of the two books, this would have to be the one I would recommend if you're only going to read one.

(By the way, both would benefit from a PDF download including the maps and other illustrations from the print editions.)

  • The Beautiful and Damned

  • By: F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Narrated by: William Dufris
  • Length: 13 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 364
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 258
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 264

Published in 1922, Fitzgerald's second novel chronicles the relationship of Anthony Patch, Harvard-educated, aspiring aesthete, and his beautiful wife, Gloria, as they await to inherit his grandfather's fortune. A devastating satire of the nouveaux rich and New York's nightlife, of reckless ambition and squandered talent, it is also a shattering portrait of a marriage fueled by alcohol and wasted by wealth. The Beautiful and Damned, Fitzgerald wrote to Zelda in 1930, "was all true."

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • i loved it

  • By Emily on 01-20-05

Wonderful

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

Reviewed: 01-04-19

William Dufris gives a wonderful, and to my mind almost perfect, reading of this tragic, and to my mind almost perfect, novel by F Scott Fitzgerald. Every character has a distinctive voice, and coming to the recording as I did with no prior knowledge of the novel, each voice seemed to fit like a glove.

The style of the novel is similar to that of This Side of Paradise. There is a mixture of straight narrative with scripted dialogue, the narrative switching point of view and going from past to present tense as the story requires. The dialogue is razor sharp and utterly convincing.

Is it autobiographical? I don't know enough about Fitzgerald to say. It seems to me it would be hard for someone to consume the gargantuan quantities of alcohol described in the book and still be able to create a work of art of such depth.

I took the novel on as an “assignment” (I often give myself reading assignments), but I found myself captivated by the characters and the world they were trying to inhabit - and by William Dufris’ voice.

  • The Republic for Which It Stands

  • The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896
  • By: Richard White
  • Narrated by: Noah Michael Levine
  • Length: 34 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 88
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 82
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 81

At the end of the Civil War the leaders and citizens of the victorious North envisioned the country's future as a free-labor republic, with a homogenous citizenry, both black and white. The South and West were to be reconstructed in the image of the North. Thirty years later Americans occupied an unimagined world. The unity that the Civil War supposedly secured had proved ephemeral. The country was larger, richer, and more extensive but also more diverse.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Be wary of narrator

  • By Kate on 05-25-18

Outstanding

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

Reviewed: 12-30-18

I have some bones to pick with White about his treatment of Ulysses Grant. White doesn't think much of his Presidency: he seems to be in line with the William McFeely school of thought on this, rather than the more recent views of Ron Chernow (and Ronald White and HW Brands), which are far more sympathetic.

But it would be hard to imagine a more gracefully written, analytically elegant, and detail-studded account of the period than this one. White uses the concept of “home” as a unifying theme: the idea of a nuclear family, with the mother managing home and children and the father supporting and protecting all, served as an ideal across racial and economic lines. “Capital” is another theme, more loosely organized, and White gives a vivid account of this new driving force and the way it used and corrupted the workings of democracy.

Noah Michael Levine does an excellent job with the narration, matching White’s pace and keeping the details flowing. His narration is so good that I *almost* listened to the full two-hour-long bibliographic essay that closes the audiobook.

This is without question one of the finest entries in the Oxford History of the United States series, both as book and as audiobook.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Reconstruction

  • America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877
  • By: Eric Foner
  • Narrated by: Norman Dietz
  • Length: 30 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 195
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 176
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 172

The period following the Civil War was one of the most controversial eras in American history. This comprehensive account of the period captures the drama of those turbulent years that played such an important role in shaping modern America.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Outdated edition!!

  • By Bruce on 11-02-17

Eye-opening

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

Reviewed: 12-23-18

Foner’s account of Reconstruction is a detailed analysis of events beginning with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and ending with the election of James Garfield in 1876. It’s full of surprises, especially for someone like me who grew up in the South with tales of vicious carpetbaggers and scalawags and black-majority legislatures that resembled minstrel shows. Simply put, we were lied to.

As Foner makes clear, slaves in the South did what they could to assume control of their own lives even before the Union armies gave them a place of refuge. The Reconstruction legislatures that rewrote state constitutions were, even when dominated by newly enfranchised blacks, conventional bodies that engaged in dignified, serious debate. (Anyone who doubts this should spend some time reading transcripts of the 1868 South Carolina constitutional debates.) Their goals included black suffrage, hospitals for all, universal access to public facilities and the courts, and universal public education. For that, the leaders were defamed, terrorized, and sometimes murdered.

The scale of white Southern violence against freed slaves was appalling. In one incident, white supremacists broke through windows of a building where black leaders were meeting and opened fire, killing dozens. In another, a small town was decimated and its leaders hung from nearby trees. Women were raped, men were castrated, babies had their brains dashed out on rocks. The Klan began its murderous campaign against black voting rights during this period.

It was a situation that required military intervention, and at first the North supplied this. But it took only a few years for Unionists to lose interest and for the white supremacists in the Democratic Party to gain control of Congress. After the three “Reconstruction amendments” were passed and ratified, even William Lloyd Garrison believed the job was done. The troops were withdrawn, the state constitutions were rewritten to give power back to the plantation owners, and the black codes, which had held sway briefly in 1865 before Congress took over the process, were reinstated in even harsher forms.

The problem was not that Reconstruction was ill-advised. The problem was that it wasn't given a chance to work. At one time I would have said it took another hundred years to complete the job, but it's become clear in recent years that after 150 years the job is still not done. Blacks in America remain disadvantaged, ghettoized, incarcerated, and murdered at shocking rates.

Norman Dietz hasn't gotten a fair shake for his excellent job narrating this audiobook. As one example, he's been criticized for pronouncing “hegemony” with a hard G; but according to Merriam Webster, this is one of the acceptable pronunciations (although it is more typically British). In any case, his occasional mispronunciations have been exaggerated. He is an engaging narrator and is able to keep a good pace through the mass of details.

The audiobook has also been unfairly criticized for not being the most recent edition of the book, the 2014 reissue. But as with many such “revisions,” the new material consists of an additional chapter and bibliography surveying the research done since 1988, when the book first appeared. The bulk of the book remains the same as in the first edition.