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Joel D Offenberg

  • 114
  • reviews
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  • helpful votes
  • 183
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  • The Dreyfus Affair

  • The Scandal That Tore France in Two
  • By: Piers Paul Read
  • Narrated by: David Pevsner
  • Length: 16 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 58
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 55
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55

On October 13, 1894, Captain Dreyfus was summoned by the General de Boisdeffre to the Ministry of War. Despite minimal evidence against him he was placed under arrest for the crime of high treason. Not long afterward Dreyfus was incarcerated on Devil's Island. But how did an innocent man come to be convicted? And why was he kept locked up for so long? The Dreyfus Affair uniquely combines a fast-moving mystery story with a snapshot of France at a moment of great social flux and cultural richness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Gripping look at an important moment in history

  • By W. Brian Hall on 10-27-13

Interesting history, but as dry as the Sahara

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

Reviewed: 10-03-18

I've heard a bit about the Dreyfus Affair but never really had a chance to study it in depth. So I decided to gamble a credit on this offering.

The background and context (history of Antisemitism in France, French history after Napoleon) and the background were useful but long and perhaps could have been shortened somewhat. The actual story (Dreyfus' situation, his arrest, the evidence against him, the periodic debates over Dreyfus, how Esterhazy was unmasked and the aftermath) is interesting, but every so often gets broken up with long-winded background material.

I think the writing could be better (maybe a few edits to trim about 10% would liven things up, and maybe a little less scholarly in tone) but the real problem with this book is the narration. David Pevenser is a plodding, slow-pace reader who sounds like he's expecting the listener to be taking notes. I changed the playback speed to 1.25x on my Audible app for some of it, and it improved. Also, I'm not an expert in French, but I suspect his accent is less "Left Bank" and more "US High School."

In summary: Not loving it and definitely not good with the narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The President Is Missing

  • By: Bill Clinton, James Patterson
  • Narrated by: Dennis Quaid, January LaVoy, Peter Ganim, and others
  • Length: 12 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 12,116
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 11,135
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11,089

The White House is the home of the president of the United States, the most guarded, monitored, closely watched person in the world. So how could a US president vanish without a trace? And why would he choose to do so? An unprecedented collaboration between President Bill Clinton and the world's best-selling novelist, James Patterson, The President Is Missing is a breathtaking story from the pinnacle of power.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Wanted it to be so much better

  • By K. Moeller on 06-18-18

Fun but not amazing

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

Reviewed: 07-04-18

I was intrigued by this one and I thought I'd give it a whirl. So, here we go:

The story was fun and it worked as a thriller for most of the way. I don't read a lot of DC politico-thrillers, but this one seemed to be average to above average compared to the ones I've read. Not fantastic, not horrible. At least it kept moving (mostly, there were some bogged down parts of the end).

As far as the narration goes: I got tired of listening to Dennis Quaid's gravelly voice...it got old, it got raspy and there were too many times I had to backtrack 30 seconds to pick up something I couldn't quite hear the first time. Apparently, the idea was to break up the narration with other narrators when someone else was the primary character, but most of it was Quaid with only a few breaks from other narrators interspersed. I realize they were shooting for hard-bitten American tough-guy, but it got old. I was (and still am) curious to hear what would have happened if they had given the lead co-author the chance to read this, but it is what it is.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Novice's Tale

  • Oxford Medieval Mysteries, Book 2
  • By: Ann Swinfen
  • Narrated by: Philip Battley
  • Length: 9 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 262
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 241
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 241

When the novice Emma Thorgold goes missing from Godstow Abbey in the summer of 1353, the hunt is on throughout the Oxfordshire countryside. Bookseller Nicholas Elyot and scholar Jordain Brinkylsworth are anxious to help the girl, but her stepfather has other intentions. Why is he so determined to shut her away for life? Or worse? And will she be found unharmed?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Simply Lovely

  • By M.S. Green on 06-06-17

Not really a mystery

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

Reviewed: 07-04-18

I am a fan of Cadfael, and I became a fan of Shardlake, so when Audible recommended "Oxford Medieval Mysteries" to me, I had to try them.

The style is in line with Cadfael and Shardlake in that Ann Swinfen tries to capture the realities of life in Oxford and in particular the difficulties after the Black Death (which happened 4 years before the start of the story). The characters are interesting and the local color is fun to experience, although it might be a little sanitized.

As far as the "mystery" part of the stories go, those are almost secondary to the tales of the characters and their situations. Yes, someone dies or gets attacked or robbed in most of the books, and the main character (Nicholas Elyot) spends a lot of time trying to right the wrongs, but only a couple of the books are "whodunit" stories in the traditional sense.

For this particular volume, it has relatively few elements of a traditional a mystery story. It is a follow-on to the events of the first in the series ("The Bookseller's Tale"), and it is a fun story and I enjoyed it. But this is primarily a novel about the characters with some "whodunit" elements mixed in, so understand what you are getting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Bookseller's Tale

  • Oxford Medieval Mysteries, Book 1
  • By: Ann Swinfen
  • Narrated by: Philip Battley
  • Length: 9 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 478
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 438
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 435

Oxford, Spring 1353. When young bookseller Nicholas Elyot discovers the body of student William Farringdon floating in the river Cherwell, it looks like a drowning. Soon, however, Nicholas finds evidence of murder. Who could have wanted to kill this promising student? As Nicholas and his scholar friend Jordain try to unravel what lies behind William's death, they learn that he was innocently caught up in a criminal plot.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Held my interest, excellent historical background

  • By Marcheta on 04-07-17

Cadfael-lite and Shardlake-extralite

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

Reviewed: 07-04-18

I am a fan of Cadfael, and I became a fan of Shardlake, so when Audible recommended "Oxford Medieval Mysteries" to me, I had to try them.

The style is in line with Cadfael and Shardlake in that Ann Swinfen tries to capture the realities of life in Oxford and in particular the difficulties after the Black Death (which happened 4 years before the start of the story). The characters are interesting and the local color is fun to experience, although it might be a little sanitized.

As far as the "mystery" part of the stories go, those are almost secondary to the tales of the characters and their situations. Yes, someone dies or gets attacked or robbed in most of the books, and the main character (Nicholas Elyot) spends a lot of time trying to right the wrongs, but only a couple of the books are "whodunit" stories in the traditional sense.

For this particular volume, it is the one with the most of the traditional "whodunit" mystery elements of the first five and it was quite enjoyable. There is a fair amount of time spent introducing some of the characters and talking about their routines and the business of Nicholas Elyot's Oxford bookstore...I figured this was volume 1 of a series, so it made sense to spend time on the characters rather than diving into the mystery...but all of the five books spend a lot of time on the characters at the expense of the mystery. That is not to say that they are bad books...I enjoyed all of them, but realize what you are getting---novels about the lives of an Oxford bookseller, his family and his friends and with mystery stories mixed in (and not hardcore mystery stories with local color added).


  • Sovereign

  • A Matthew Shardlake Mystery
  • By: C. J. Sansom
  • Narrated by: Steven Crossley
  • Length: 20 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 997
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 820
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 816

Barrister Matthew Shardlake is faced with the most terrifying threat in the age of Tudor England: his own imprisonment in the Tower of London. Harsh autumn winds stir the English countryside as King Henry VIII, along with a thousand soldiers and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, make their way from London to York after a violent uprising.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very good mystery

  • By Mike From Mesa on 04-11-13

Better and Better

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

Reviewed: 10-07-17

The Matthew Shardlake stories get better as they go on. I liked "Dissolution" OK, and found "Dark Fire" to be better, but "Sovereign," the third in the series is better yet. I have gone on to finish all 6 of the books currently available, and I recommend the full set.

One of the great things about the Shardlake series is that C.J. Sansom not only placed the mysteries in an accurate historical millieu, but he found real characters and real stories that are almost footnotes to our history and turned them into a believable and interesting story. If you read the historical footnotes and also do some various research, you learn that some of the characters peripheral to the story (and even some who are a direct part of it) are genuine historical figures...the research that went into these books is amazing, and the writing is just compelling. Even if you took out the mystery part of the story, just the historical novel aspect is amazing. But the mysteries are also excellent...

...And Shardlake (along with Barak) is in the middle of it, along with a murder of a York glazier and several conspiracies afoot. In this case, the background of the story is Henry VIII's Royal Progress to the North of England in 1541 and a murder and conspiracy in York that drags Shardlake into the doings of the court and lands him in the worst trouble imaginable.

The narration is very good and fits just right in.

  • Dark Fire

  • A Matthew Shardlake Mystery
  • By: C. J. Sansom
  • Narrated by: Steven Crossley
  • Length: 18 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,210
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 976
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 975

Winner of the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award, Dark Fire revisits acclaimed master of historical fiction C. J. Sansom's colorful and rapier-witted lawyer, Matthew Shardlake. Set in 1540, this beguiling tale of murder and mayhem is set against a rich backdrop of medieval London. Here, hunchbacked Matthew Shardlake is called upon to investigate the peculiar case of a young woman accused of murder.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Murder & Intrigue ~ Lawyers & Psychopaths

  • By Bill on 08-03-12

Historical Mystery...well done!

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

Reviewed: 09-19-16

I listened to "Dissolution," the first Shardlake book and I liked it but thought it was too long. So, I went and downloaded "Dark Fire," the sequel and an even longer book. But it was great!

The setting: It has been several years since Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and Shardlake continues his legal practice while staying out of politics. But Thomas Cromwell, no longer in favor with the king after the Anna of Cleves debacle, needs Shardlake's help in tracking down an ancient (and lost) weapon known as Dark Fire, while Shardlake is also trying to save a young woman, accused of murdering her cousin and refusing to plead her case in court, from an extremely unpleasant judicial death. And the clock is ticking on both of these challenges.

Yes, it's long. But the mystery and various plot-lines are interesting and well connected; the narrative is believable and the plot keeps the story moving. Also, the protagonists seemed a bit more sympathetic...so even though this is the longer book, it felt shorter and is more enjoyable.

The narration is very good and works very well for the story.



  • Protector

  • By: Larry Niven
  • Narrated by: Tom Weiner
  • Length: 7 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 213
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 193
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 194

Phssthpok the Pak had been traveling for most of his thirty-two thousand years. His mission was to save, develop, and protect the group of Pak breeders sent out into space some two and a half million years before.

Brennan was a Belter, the product of a fiercely independent, somewhat anarchic society living in, on, and around an outer asteroid belt. The Belters were rebels, one and all, and Brennan was a smuggler. The Belt worlds had been tracking the Pak ship for days, and Brennan figured to meet that ship first.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • My all time favorite

  • By JerryStarrOR on 07-21-16

Great thought experiment good narrator so-so plot

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

Reviewed: 09-19-16

What if the normal effects of human aging (hair loss, arthritis, tooth loss, supposed loss of sex drive) were really part of a design to create a superhuman "adult" to protect the earlier, more vulnerable stages of humanity? And what if we could discover how to make it work?

These stories (there are really 2 stories combined into a single narrative) were the first time Larry Niven played with his idea of the Pak---an ancestor species to early hominids---and the Protectors who transform into ideal thinking and fighting machines who guard their bloodline. What happens if, in the future, space-faring humans encounter the Pak? What if humans could turn into Protectors?

It was an interesting thought experiment, and it turned into a powerful idea, one that Niven revisits multiple times in some of his later "known space" novels (e.g. Ringworld Engineers and Destroyer of Worlds). If you plan to read these books (or you have and are puzzled by the Pak backstory, this is the place for answers).

While the idea of the Protectors are an interesting one, the story around it is relatively bland. There is a lot of exposition on the nature of the Protectors but the actual action is rather thin.

So, if you like an interesting thought experiment or want more backstory on the Pak, this is worth picking up.

Tom Weiner is a very good narrator and he does a very good job here.

  • 14

  • By: Peter Clines
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter
  • Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39,118
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36,229
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 36,235

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
  • Overrated

  • By David on 04-03-13

Great suspenseful story

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

Reviewed: 09-19-16

This is a great story, full of suspense and twists. It starts out with some odd quirks about the old apartment building (including the padlocked apartment #14). As the protagonists start digging into the odd quirks, they keep finding newer, deeper mysteries...and investigating them leads to even more strangeness. [I don't want to reveal too much because this is the sort of book where it is easy to invoke spoilers which can REALLY ruin it.]

Clines' writing is excellent for this style of story. Clines' "The Fold" (also on Audible and also very good) is very much in the same style, and FWIW, is set in the same universe as 14. (I think nominally "The Fold" is the sequel, but each book stands on its own.)

Ray Porter's narration is great. He not only captures the mood of the story but also does a great job with the multitude of characters, voices and accents.

1 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Battlefield Earth

  • Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi and New York Times Bestseller
  • By: L. Ron Hubbard
  • Narrated by: Josh Clark, Scott Menville, Fred Tatascorie, and others
  • Length: 47 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,667
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,499
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,495

In the year AD 3000, Earth is a barren wasteland, plundered of its natural resources by the millennium-long regime of taloned, gas-breathing, nine-foot alien conquerors from the planet Psychlo. Fewer than 35,000 humans survive in a handful of communities scattered across the face of a postapocalyptic Earth. From a desolate village in the Rocky Mountains near what once was Denver, Colorado, a courageous young man named Jonnie Goodboy Tyler embarks on a hero's journey to challenge the fearful myths of his people.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Pulp Sci-Fi Done Right! More Like This!

  • By Joel D Offenberg on 06-27-16

Pulp Sci-Fi Done Right! More Like This!

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

Reviewed: 06-27-16

The story is fun, simple and escapist pulp sci-fi...a bit old fashioned but enjoyable. But what makes this book worth it is the excellent performance and production values. I hope the producers can do this kind of thing more often.

The performance: Wonderfully done, with multiple voices (a necessity given the large cast of players) not only reading but performing the story. Music, sound effects, and a great cast make this not just an audiobook, but almost a play or an "audio-movie." Battlefield Earth is a fun book, but the brilliant rendering makes a 4-star story into a 5-star audiobook.

Say what you like about L. Ron Hubbard [and there is a lot to say], he could write fun stories of thrills, spills and derring-do with brave heroes who laugh in the face of danger, beautiful damsels in distress and evildoers who seem to be evil because evil is fun. Deep themes? Nope. Subtle messages? Nada. Thought provoking concepts about the present and future of humanity? None here. Adventure, action, rollicking fun!

That is not to say that the story is free of blemishes. The most grating is that the (human) characters are handled via ethnic stereotype (with attitudes that seemed more fitting to the 1930's than the 1980's publication date of the book or the 2010's date of this review).

Be warned: This audiobook clocks in at just under 48 hours [the original book was over 1000 pages]. There are about a dozen places where you figure the story is winding up only to find that you are getting swept along as it continues for many more hours.

Lastly: For those who worry that Battlefield Earth is some sort of propaganda or screed for Hubbard's Church of Scientology: it isn't. Yes, there are a few minor points in there aligned with Scientology's teachings, but they appear rather late and are incidental to the story.

Notes: There is a similar multi-voice production of Dune on Audible (Dune being a much richer and more complex source text than Battlefield Earth). And if you like Hubbard's pulp writing style, you might want to check out Ole Doc Methuselah.

41 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Dark Summit

  • The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season
  • By: Nick Heil
  • Narrated by: David Drummond
  • Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 606
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 428
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 423

In early May 2006, a young British climber named David Sharp lay dying near the top of Mount Everest while forty other climbers walked past him on their way to the summit. A week later, Lincoln Hall, a seasoned Australian climber, was left for dead near the same spot. Hall's death was reported around the world, but the next day he was found alive after spending the night on the upper mountain with no food and no shelter.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Good summary of the 2006 season

  • By Don Lance on 05-30-09

Compelling

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

Reviewed: 06-18-16

Climbing Mount Everest is one of the most challenging---and dangerous---things a human being can do. And 2006 was one of the most controversial climbing seasons.

Nick Heil's account seems to be a fairly balanced account, and ranges from the history of Everest overall, the 2006 season overall, the characters on the mountain, the challenge of climbing Everest and the controversies of that year (especially David Sharp's death). I feel like he (a) gives a great feel for what it means to climb Everest and (b) a fairly balanced take on the controversies.

I enjoyed this immensely.