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Joel Mayer

Richardton, ND
  • 29
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  • 109
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  • 34
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  • The Billion Dollar Spy

  • A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal
  • By: David E. Hoffman
  • Narrated by: Dan Woren
  • Length: 11 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,340
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,119
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,113

While getting into his car on the evening of February 16, 1978, the chief of the CIA's Moscow station was handed an envelope by an unknown Russian. Its contents stunned the Americans: details of top-secret Soviet research and development in military technology that was totally unknown to the United States.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Compelling as historical thriller, character study

  • By Mr. Pointy on 08-25-15

Stranger than Fiction

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

Reviewed: 08-06-18

A well written book that describes the trade-craft of espionage and an engrossing story of one particular spy. The book goes into the spy's rationale for betraying his country and his handling by multiple case officers. It is well-written and fantastic story.

  • Smart Baseball

  • The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball
  • By: Keith Law
  • Narrated by: Mike Chamberlain
  • Length: 9 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 273
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 244
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 243

Predictably Irrational meets Moneyball in ESPN veteran writer and statistical analyst Keith Law's iconoclastic look at the numbers game of baseball, proving why some of the most trusted stats are surprisingly wrong, explaining what numbers actually work, and exploring what the rise of Big Data means for the future of the sport.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great intro for rookies, nice brush up for vets.

  • By Daniel Norman on 05-06-17

A good Sabre-metric glossary

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

Reviewed: 01-24-18

First of all, I am not really a huge Keith Law fan but a friend whose opinion I respect seemed to like it. So I thought I would give it a shot. It was a good book and easy to listen to. Lots of cynical commentary as well as "asides" (He insists on putting "trade mark" after every utterance of "Proven Closer" which I agree with).

But the book is probably best used as a "glossary" of Sabre metrics. It gave a good explanation of the state of the game when it comes to advanced statistical analysis...at least as far as those of us outside of MLB front offices have access to. He gave a good explanation of what different stats measure and how they do it (formulas, etc.).

My main complaint was that this book wasn't so much polemical as it sounded like a book length rant. While I agree with him on most things I couldn't help but think some of his versions he was "disputing" were caricatures or "straw man" type arguments putting other's thoughts into their worst light and then try to come across as the "voice of reason." Again, I agree with him on just about everything--or maybe everything--but it just felt like his version of what those who disagreed with him were saying sounded silly in a way that felt fishy.

  • American Revolutions

  • A Continental History, 1750-1804
  • By: Alan Taylor
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 18 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 192
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 175
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 174

The American Revolution is often portrayed as a high-minded, orderly event whose capstone, the Constitution, provided the ideal framework for a democratic, prosperous nation. Alan Taylor, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, gives us a different creation story in this magisterial history of the nation's founding. Rising out of the continental rivalries of European empires and their native allies, Taylor's Revolution builds like a ground fire overspreading Britain's mainland colonies, fueled by local conditions, destructive, hard to quell.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Best history of American Revolution

  • By philip on 01-12-17

Outstanding history, thick narrative

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

Reviewed: 01-23-17

This is a very solidly written work covering the American REVOLUTIONS (Plural) in the time period covered. It covers the American Revolution from multiple angles. Not just the common "Colonial" and "British" but goes much further into how the situation in France, Spain, Mexico, British Canada, as well as the Indian Tribes of the West. Not just between the Appalachians and the Mississippi but even onto the plains with the Mandan and Arikara (which the Narrator mispronounced as ar-i-KAR-a, it is actually a-RIK-a-ra) in the Dakotas.

He was also very focused on the American Slave experience of the Revolutions. As well as the white-male attempts to deal with it. Even those who owned slaves often saw and acknowledged the contradictions, but were unable to move past them.

My only real problem with this book was that it was "thick." Not in the literal sense but the narrative never really took off. It kind of bogged down at times as the author tried to cover a lot of things and do them justice.

Given my choice I wish he could have gone deeper into things and made this a "trilogy" (1750-1774, 1775-1783, 1784-1804?). To his credit he didn't get bogged down in the details of the Revolutionary War (battles, troop movements, etc.).

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Ronia, the Robber's Daughter

  • By: Astrid Lindgren
  • Narrated by: Khristine Hvam
  • Length: 4 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 131
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 110
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 114

Ronia, who lives with her father and his band of robbers in a castle in the woods, causes trouble when she befriends the son of a rival robber chieftain.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great story for both boys and girls.

  • By Martyna on 09-05-12

One of the best books

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

Reviewed: 12-30-16

My 8-year old daughter LOVES this book. Her mother read it to her in Russian translation first and then I bought it as an audiobook and have listened to it so many times that I can nearly do it from memory.

It doesn't oversimplify things. The characters, ALL of them, have good instances and bad instances. Sometimes I like and agree with what they are doing, other times I am apalled. But for my daughter she loves the characters, though she also disagrees with some of their decisions. It is a story of family relationships, feuds, friendships, sacrifice, etc. Truly one of the best books for a young girl (or boy) to read/hear.

  • The Great Divide

  • The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation
  • By: Thomas Fleming
  • Narrated by: David Rapkin
  • Length: 16 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 349
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 312
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 316

History tends to cast the early years of America in a glow of camaraderie when there were, in fact, many conflicts between the Founding Fathers - none more important than the one between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Their disagreement centered on the highest, most original public office created by the Constitutional Convention: the presidency. It also involved the nation's foreign policy, the role of merchants and farmers in a republic, and the durability of the union.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very Readable

  • By Jean on 05-02-15

Good book, if a little hard on Jefferson

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

Reviewed: 12-30-16

Overall I enjoyed this book. However, I do think it came down pretty hard on Jefferson. It seemed that in EVERY instance Washington was "vindicated" and Jefferson was duplicitous, ignorant, naive, etc. While I suppose this is possible I find it at least implausible. I am not questioning the research or accuracy of what was portrayed. Rather, I am questioning the "balance" of it. While demanding "both sides" can over-simplify things I have a hard time believing that Jefferson was always wrong and Washington (and usually Hamilton) always "right."

I would have preferred that it make all the same points about Washington but also make some positive points about Jefferson and, maybe, explain WHY he believed and behaved as he did. He came across as shallow, uninteresting, scheming, etc. Which seems like an oversimplified way to portray him.

To be clear, I am very much a Washington (and, after reading Chernow's book, Hamilton as well) supporter and have grown suspicious of the praise heaped on Jefferson. I am not looking for another book extolling the impregnable virtues of Jefferson. But I have read books that do a MUCH better job of explaining why he believed what he did and why he acted the way he did,why he said what he did, etc.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Righteous Mind

  • Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
  • By: Jonathan Haidt
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Haidt
  • Length: 11 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,734
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,080
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,012

In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition - the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Required reading... with one caveat.

  • By Amazon Customer on 07-14-13

Transformative

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

Reviewed: 10-24-14

When I plunge into listening to an 11 hour book I expect it to follow a similar pattern. For the first 2 hours I am engrossed in the ideas it describes. Then it is followed by 7 hours of re-hashing things over and over. Finally, the last 2 hours are an act of will ("I WILL get through this book so I can cross it off the list of books I haven't finished!"). This was one of the books that did not do that. While not "too short" it did develop the ideas and move at a comfortable pace. I never felt it was "bogged down" nor did I feel that it was just glossing over things that might refute his claims. Several times he referenced that he was surprised by what he found (and how it refuted his earlier beliefs).

Dr. Haidt has put forth a comprehensible explanation of what is wrong with parts of our society, referencing liberal and conservative ideas, and did so in a way that is not polemical and avoided snarky "cheap shots" that both sides like to use. There were no "straw-man" arguments made. He pointed out where each side is probably right and where that can encourage them to go "too far." This is a book I plan to re-visit as I will likely get more out of it the second time which is not something I say for all books.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in how we come to moral/ethical decisions and their results in politics, religion and society. For instance, while he does not extol religion as the answer to the nations/world's problems, he also refutes that it is the cause of all/many of the problems. Instead, he points out the functions that it can serve in society at large and how that can be helpful. He also then pointed out at what point it becomes a hindrance. He straddled the fence between militant "religionists" and the corresponding militant "atheists." I felt he was even-handed in describing the benefits of my personal beliefs and downfalls of things I disagree with. Since, as he says, we are all blinded to some extent by our beliefs I have to presume he was likely correct about the benefits of those who do not share my beliefs as well as the downfalls of my beliefs. He gave imperical (poll) evidence of his assertions and, as I mentioned earlier, acknowledged when he had to change his beliefs to fit new data he was collecting and finding.

This is not a book written by someone trying to "convert" people to his line of reasoning and demonizing all opposition. It is a thoughtful, reasoned, and helpful guide. It gives a new paradigm to understanding both sides of contentious issues. For this reason this book deserves my highest acclamation.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • My Sister's Keeper

  • By: Jodi Picoult
  • Narrated by: Julia Gibson, Jennifer Ikeda, Richard Poe, and others
  • Length: 13 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,878
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,990
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,998

New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult is widely acclaimed for her keen insights into the hearts and minds of real people. Now she tells the emotionally riveting story of a family torn apart by conflicting needs and a passionate love that triumphs over human weakness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful Book, Very Emotional

  • By Lisa on 08-04-09

OK Book

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

Reviewed: 05-03-14

The story of this book was certainly solid. It had the potential to be riveting. However, it fell short. The main problem was that the author tried (and, I think, failed) to use "first person" from 6 perspectives. This would have worked in an audio book of about 40-50 hours. What she wound up with was getting the worst of both worlds. By splitting it up so often between "voices" of characters none of them wound up getting fleshed out very well. She would have been better off using first person from only 1 or at most 2 perspectives. The even better choice would have been to simply use 3rd person which would have allowed her to simply tell a chronological tale.

The other problem I had was that she had so many "flashback" moments sometimes it was hard to tell what the ages of the 3 children were. It was also not always clear whether the character was actually "talking" or "remembering." This resulted in a disjointed experience for me as a listener. I almost had a similar problem with "The Time Traveler's Wife" but in that book at the beginning of each section the author stated the age of the main characters. Knowing one was progressing chronologically made it possible to place things in time.

After all this bad you may be wondering why I gave it 4 stars. The story is that good. She had lots of issues brought up (but none well developed). The production at least had the sense to give each "voice" its own distinct reader. Had the story not been as good I would have had trouble justifying 2 stars.

  • At the Edge of the Precipice

  • Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union
  • By: Robert V. Remini
  • Narrated by: William Hughes
  • Length: 4 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 10

It has been said that if Henry Clay had been alive in 1860, there would have been no Civil War. Based on his performance in 1850, it may well be true. In that year, the United States faced one of the most dangerous crises in its history, having just acquired a huge parcel of land from the war with Mexico. Northern and Southern politicians fought over whether slavery should be legal on the new American soil. After a Northern congressman introduced a proviso to forbid slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico, Southerners threatened to secede from the Union.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • a very good little history book

  • By D. Littman on 07-31-10

Well worth reading

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

Reviewed: 05-19-13

This is a solid book. It tells the story of Congress trying to come up with a solution to the weighty problem of slavery. The author does a good job of telling all the guises that the debate came under and points out, strongly, that slavery as an institution was pulsing away beneath all the major issues debated and compromised on. He also did a good job of pointing out how "omnibus bills" (a phrase coined during the debates discussed) tend to unite opposition more than solidify support.

My one major criticism of this book is it tends to sugarcoat the failure of the 1830's-1850's Congresses for not addressing slavery more directly. At the end the author tries to argue that the compromises negotiated during this time allowed time for the "north" to solidify itself as the major concentration of population, industry and other advantages that allowed it to win the Civil War. While on the one hand this is likely true it still does not absolve them completely of a significant moral failing in my opinion.

Even with this considered, it is well worth reading as a showing that, even when divisive issues reign if leaders have strong personalities and want badly enough to work it out, they can usually find a way to muddle through.

  • The Extra 2%

  • How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First
  • By: Jonah Keri
  • Narrated by: Lloyd James
  • Length: 9 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 205
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 171
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 172

In The Extra 2%, financial journalist and sportswriter Jonah Keri chronicles the remarkable story of one team's Cinderella journey from divisional doormat to World Series contender. By quantifying the game's intangibles, they were able to deliver to Tampa Bay an American League pennant. This is an informative and entertaining case study for any organization that wants to go from worst to first.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • The book isn't sure what it wants to be

  • By Buster on 05-15-15

Mediocre at best

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

Reviewed: 05-19-13

This is book somehow managed to not be about baseball, business or anything but patting D-Rays execs on the back, but not really giving a reason why. The author spoke of "arbitrage" and how they tried to do that (trading something for more than it was worth for something for less than it is worth) but failed to give an example of it. The storyline was not coherent, the reader mispronounced names (famous manager Lou Piniella is 3 syllables, not 4...ignore the 2nd "i"). Most of the "business" parts of the book had to do with promotions they ran and not the thinking behind them. This is not a good book and I would not recommend it to anyone.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Notorious Benedict Arnold

  • A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery
  • By: Steve Sheinkin
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 6 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 167
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 149
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 152

On a bitter cold day in January 1741, Benedict Arnold was born. Little did anyone know that he would grow up to become the most infamous villain in American history. But first, he would be one of the country's greatest war heroes. Fearless in the line of fire, a genius at strategy and motivating his men, General Arnold was America's first action hero. But his thirst for recognition would ultimately be his undoing.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating History!

  • By Richard L. Rubin on 08-12-12

Slow start, but well worth it by the end.

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

Reviewed: 01-17-13

I came into this book with high hopes to understand Benedict Arnold, a character rarely dealt with in other books beyond the "High School History:" He was a great general, betrayed the American Revolution, and escaped into the British Army. Most books do not spend more than a paragraph or two discussing him so I was hopeful this would give me a fuller fleshing out of the story.

I was very disappointed at the beginning. The author covered his childhood through first marriage (and first widowhood) in about 20 minutes. It was not very in depth at all, almost none of the fun details and anecdotes I have come to expect. His description of the beginning of Arnold's involvement in the Revolution like his attempted invasion of Canada were covered in "connect-a-quote" style with him stringing together long strings of journal entries. At this point I was prepared to give the book 1-2 stars.

Then came the battles at Lake Champlain (particularly Valcour Island). This is where the author really found his stride and it was a FANTASTIC reading after that point. He began paralleling the life of John Andre and Benedict Arnold, even a serendipitous meeting between Andre and Henry Knox. He began to shed light on Arnold's character that, while not justifying what he did, at least attempted to make it understandable.

The rest of the book was full of the anecdotes, insights and stories that I had been expecting and hoping for. Its story of his time at Saratoga and his run-ins with General Gates were well told and interesting. This book shot from being a big disappointment to one of the books I will likely listen to again and again, although probably skipping the first hour or two as I did not find them to be very good.

The only negative I found in the rest of the book was a habit the author sometimes slipped into: editorializing. He would insert sentences like "What was Arnold thinking?" and one can imagine him slapping himself in the forehead. These comments kind of broke up the flow he had established and was, in my opinion, self-indulgent on the part of the author.

Even with this, it could not overshadow the writing and the unbelievable true story of what happened and what nearly happened during Arnold's betrayal. It could have worked at so many points, and had it all come together the Revolution likely would have ended there.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Revolutionary War history. It should be a must read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful