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Saman

Houston, TX, United States
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  • 222
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  • 126
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  • Midnight in Peking

  • How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
  • By: Paul French
  • Narrated by: Erik Singer
  • Length: 8 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 297
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 262
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 262

Peking in 1937 is a heady mix of privilege and scandal, opulence and opium dens, rumors and superstition. The Japanese are encircling the city, and the discovery of Pamela Werner's body sends a shiver through already nervous Peking. Is it the work of a madman? One of the ruthless Japanese soldiers now surrounding the city? With the suspect list growing and clues sparse, two detectives - one British and one Chinese - race against the clock to solve the crime before the Japanese invade and Peking as they know it is gone forever.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Old Murder Still Mysterious

  • By Helen on 06-05-12

Remarkable crime story …

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

Reviewed: 10-09-18

Her story needed to be told. A young, beautiful woman, brutally murdered in a foreign backwater, which time had almost forgotten. But as the author reminds us, the murder was a sensational news story, even eclipsing the dire political situation of Peking in the early days of 1937. In subsequent interviews, he has mentioned the allure of the story and his fascination with the murder victim, 19 year old Pamela Werner. The research completed for the book is quite remarkable.

Every character within the book who is connected to the underlying mystery has a colorful and sordid past. These include nudists, asexual madams, opium addicts, criminals of all sorts, and failed diplomats. They all congregate in the ‘badlands’, the dirty and dark underbelly of Peking. The detectives involved in the case, one Chinese and one British, work under continuous pressure to deliver results and yet are stymied by colonial mandarins. In this state, the answers remain elusive. The murder remains unsolved.

The author ultimately provides his own speculative theory based on the meticulous detective work carried out by the victim’s farther, ETC Werner. On unearthing this volume of work, a reconstruction of the events leading to the murder is proposed. It is totally believable. Yet, it is still a theory. Sadly, only time knows the truth.

Great book.

  • Brave New World

  • By: Aldous Huxley
  • Narrated by: Michael York
  • Length: 8 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 13,451
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 11,712
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11,767

When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.

Cloning, feel-good drugs, anti-aging programs, and total social control through politics, programming, and media: has Aldous Huxley accurately predicted our future? With a storyteller's genius, he weaves these ethical controversies in a compelling narrative that dawns in the year 632 A.F. (After Ford, the deity). When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • “Oh, Ford, Ford Ford, I Wish I Had My Soma!”

  • By Jefferson on 10-03-11

Has not aged well ...

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

Reviewed: 09-26-18

It takes some time to get into this story. Depending on your view, the novel is either based within a dystopian or utopian world. Some of the philosophy and Shakespeare discussed within the pages can be rather laborious and uninteresting. Nevertheless, there are some rather hilarious subject matter towards the middle and latter part of the book. Ultimately, it is a tragedy!

If we compare our present world to the imagined world provided by Aldous Huxley in 1932, we start to see a terrifying resemblance. His world is populated by brainwashed, fully content, drug filled beings who are happy to indulge in daily work assigned by a master authority. There are no free thinkers or subversives as they are all genetically controlled by their test tube births. In this world, technology has triumphed over the human spirit.

The old ways still exist within a fenced concentration camp known as the “Savage Reservation”. The facility is akin to a North America Indian reservation. Two camp residents, John (also known as the “savage”) and his mother Linda are plucked and dropped into the brave new world as an experiment. The experiment brings the interest to the novel.

Due to the book’s age, the science fiction seems a little aged. But its premise remains very clear and real. Let us all hope, the future world imagined in this book is just that, fiction.

  • The Pale Criminal

  • Berlin Noir
  • By: Philip Kerr
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 671
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 511
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 517

The Pale Criminal brings back Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin - until he turned freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and richly detailed, The Pale Criminal is noir writing at its blackest and best.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Esxcellent Historical Fiction; Gripping ...

  • By Old Hippy on 07-02-09

Bernie and Heydrich again ...

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

Reviewed: 09-14-18

The second book of the Berlin Noir trilogy from Phillip Kerr is not as good as the first, March Violets. But we still get the Nazi historical backdrop, culminating in Kristallnacht. Also, there is an interesting closure to a mystery from the first book.

Overall, the book has a captivating storyline built around the grotesque murders of young Aryan girls, homosexuality in the Third Reich, psychotherapy, and murderous Kripo detectives. Even though there is still good writing here, the original allure of Bernard Gunther is sadly missing. The character seems more complex in this novel and more difficult to like as an anti-hero. The smart wise-cracks are also muted and some of the queer jokes are harder to stomach in this present age.

Nevertheless, I will still complete this trilogy by listening to A German Requiem.

  • White Fang

  • By: Jack London
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 7 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,949
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,655
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,656

In the desolate, frozen northwest of Canada, a lone wolf fights a heroic daily fight for life in the wild. But after he is captured and cruelly abused by men, he becomes a force of pure rage. Only one man sees inside the killer to his intelligence and nobility. But can his kindness touch White Fang?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Who's the animal: Man or Wolf?

  • By Erik on 08-14-15

Not for the dog lover …

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

Reviewed: 08-31-18

This was a freebie from Audible. As most freebie books go, they are mostly just average. But White Fang is a well admired novel from the famed author, Jack London published in 1906. As such, the subject matter is truly mysterious and fascinating. A story centered around the life of a wolf that is part dog, must have been celebratory at the time. Apparently, it even stoked controversy.

But once you pass the tense first few chapters where two sled dog drivers fight to survive a hungry wolf pack, the story slows tediously. The remainder of the book meanders through the life of White Fang and his life experiences. There are a lot of blood curdling activities described within where strength overcomes weakness as nature intended. This book is not for the squeamish. Maltreatment of animals are center stage towards the end of the book.

Overall, I am glad that I read it. Not so sure that it is a recommended children's book.

  • Spain in Our Hearts

  • Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939
  • By: Adam Hochschild
  • Narrated by: Henry Strozier
  • Length: 15 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 363
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 333
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 333

For three crucial years in the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War dominated headlines in America and around the world as volunteers flooded to Spain to help its democratic government fight off a fascist uprising led by Francisco Franco and aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Today we're accustomed to remembering the war through Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls and Robert Capa's photographs. But Adam Hochschild has discovered some less familiar yet far more compelling characters who reveal the full tragedy and importance of the war.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great book very well written and narrated

  • By James750 on 05-12-16

“one can be right and yet be beaten”–Albert Camus

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

Reviewed: 08-23-18

This is history at its best. The author excels in telling of the horrific blood bath that spanned 3 years in democratically governed Spain. It was the prelude to the most horrific war that followed. The consequent defeat of the Spanish Republicans by the fascist Nationalists was in part accelerated by the appeasement policies of the grand powers, Britain, France and US. Their doggedness to abstain from providing arms to the Republican cause handed Francisco Franco and his allies, fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, the power to extinguish democracy. Italy provided 80,000 troops for the war effort.

Even though this book centers on the bravery of the 2800 or so American volunteers who fought for the Republicans in the International Brigades, there is much more within its meticulous narrative. Many important left leaning novelists, journalists, poets, and artists provide backdrops to the tragedy. This of course include Hemmingway, Gelhorn, Orwell, Louis Fisher and Herbert Matthews. So many others are also mentioned. Conspicuously absent are Robert Capa and Gerda Taro.

Thoughtfully, a significant piece of the book is dedicated to Robert Hale Merriman and his wife Marion. A true to life hero, Merriman led the Lincoln Battalion and died at the Battle of the Ebro. It must be remembered that almost 800 US volunteers fought and died for their beliefs in the Spanish civil war. So many more foreign volunteers and Spaniards shared their fate. Their blood and bones are now mingled with the soil of Spain. Sadly, only one US grave is visible today. Most were destroyed by Franco.

A tremendous book that is moving and historic. Please read it.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow

  • A Novel
  • By: Amor Towles
  • Narrated by: Nicholas Guy Smith
  • Length: 17 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,537
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 19,043
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18,976

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in an elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant, heartfelt, inspiring

  • By Jon K. Rust on 07-24-17

Lovely book - not so good ending!

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

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Took me a while to write a review for this novel. Listening to other books took my precious time. I remembered clearly that I fell in love with Count Rostov from the first interview and eventual sentencing. Those first few pages are full of humor. To remain forever at the Hotel Metropol in Moscow, till the end of your days was an intriguing premise to any novel.

Soon you are introduced to fine dining at the Boyarsky and drinking fine cocktails at the Shalyapin bar. Within the decades that follow, numerous characters from high to low society are introduced with hilarity, suspense and intrigue. They all play an intricate part of the tumultuous historical narrative. Throughout the book the Count remains a perfect gentleman.

Even though the book was such a pleasure, the ending was atypical to the character of the Count. I felt that it was contrary to his views as a patriot whatever the circumstance of the time. The story then degraded into cold-war propaganda.

  • African Kaiser

  • General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and the Great War in Africa, 1914-1918
  • By: Robert Gaudi
  • Narrated by: Paul Hodgson
  • Length: 18 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 519
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 489
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 487

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the continent of Africa was a hotbed of international trade, colonialism, and political gamesmanship. So when World War I broke out, the European powers were forced to contend with each other not just in the bloody trenches - but in the treacherous jungle. And it was in that unforgiving land that General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck would make history.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Well Written, Well Read, Well Done!

  • By Matthew on 02-25-17

Forgotten history that will expand your mind ..

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

Reviewed: 08-03-18

Remarkable hidden, historical stories still exist today to enlighten our curious minds. I was briefly introduced to Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck in another wonderful book, “Out of Africa” by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). These two adventurers met on a ship sailing for Africa in early 1914. For both, Afrika became their sanctuary and its majestic lure shaped the remainder of their lives.

This book is more than the life of Lettow-Vorbeck during the years between 1914 and 1918. It is also more than the history of German East Africa (GEA) - present day Tanzania and its people. The author provides a detailed historical assessment of the major characters of the colony as well as the prevailing geo-political background of the war period. The campaigns of the British forces chasing the elusive “Lion of Africa” and his Schutztruppe makes for riveting reading. Even more interestingly, we learn of the amazing but unfortunate ‘L 59’ dirigible voyage to Africa as well as the fate of the Imperial German light cruiser, SMS Königsberg.

We must not forget that Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck was an imperialist and a colonialist. During his life, he espoused both activities that is abhorrent to all today. Others have also painted him in a worse light. Yet, he was a remarkable military tactician. He was much admired by his Askari troopers who followed him through the African bush for four bloody and disease ridden years. To remain undefeated in the field against a much greater foe was truly a brilliant feat.

  • Island of the Lost

  • Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
  • By: Joan Druett
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,945
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,720
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,713

Auckland Island is a godforsaken place in the middle of the Southern Ocean, 285 miles south of New Zealand. With year-round freezing rain and howling winds, it is one of the most forbidding places in the world. To be shipwrecked there means almost certain death. In 1864, Captain Thomas Musgrave and his crew of four aboard the schooner Grafton wreck on the southern end of the island. Utterly alone in a dense coastal forest, plagued by stinging blowflies and relentless rain, Captain Musgrave inspires his men to take action.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One of the Best Stories Ever Told!

  • By Tiffany on 04-10-16

Story of two wrecks on the same island at the same

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

Reviewed: 07-26-18

In this marvelous book, we have the story of two ship wrecks in 1864, two castaway groups, and their continual struggle to survive the inhospitable land known as the Auckland Islands. Incredibly, the wrecks occurred mostly at the same time but at different locations of the island. One group was led by two dominant, survivalist characters whereas the other group lacked leadership, and eventually falls into despair and death.

Not surprisingly, the stronger group survive their ordeal by killing and eating seals, birds, and scouring the land for edible vegetation. Remarkably, they even construct a boat to escape their captivity after spending almost two years on the uninhabitable island. Their survival is beautifully explained by the author based on research and memoirs written many years later.

This book reminded me much of the Shackleton and Endurance tail. It is a remarkable story of success and failure in a harsh and extreme environment. Thoroughly recommended.

  • In a Free State

  • By: V. S. Naipaul
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam, Neil Shah, Simon Vance
  • Length: 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11

On a road trip through Africa, two English people - Bobby, a civil servant with a guilty appetite for African boys; and Linda, a supercilious "compound wife" - are driving back to their enclave after a stay in the capital. But in between lies the landscape of an unnamed country whose squalor and ethnic bloodletting suggest Idi Amin's Uganda. And the farther Naipaul's protagonists travel into it, the more they find themselves crossing the line that separates privileged outsiders from horrified victims. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Magical Prose …

  • By Saman on 07-19-18

Magical Prose …

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

Reviewed: 07-19-18

This is a biased review. I love Naipaul and his style of writing, His books are so beautifully threaded, they are impossible to put down. Of course this offering was the 1971 Booker prize winner. As many will know, there was controversy in the selection that year from the committee with many shenanigans. But the author and book won anyways.

The story – well 5 of them actually, are all wonderful. The first and last being a travelogue of sorts with the first leaving a bitter taste due to its subject matter of nauseating bullying. In between are some captivating stories that illuminate the pen strokes of Naipaul. Most revel in the novella that captures an automobile ride of two British nationals across the African plane. Some say in Uganda. I myself preferred the hilariously funny “One Out of Many” short story. In it, a backward Indian servant named Santosh is brought by plane to the USA by his employer with ridiculous results. There is also the short story of two Trinidadian Indian brothers who end up in London, suffering many immigrant disappointments.

This book is unlike any other from the author. Yet each story is vintage Naipaul. Loved them all.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • March Violets

  • By: Philip Kerr
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,125
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 866
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 871

Hailed by Salman Rushdie as a "brilliantly innovative thriller-writer", Philip Kerr is the creator of taut, gripping, noir-tinged mysteries set in Nazi-era Berlin that are nothing short of spellbinding. The first book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, March Violets introduces listeners to Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin - until he turned freelance and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One of the BEST

  • By Armen on 05-27-08

Great detective novel …

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

Reviewed: 06-22-18

I didn’t know about this crime trilogy until the recent death of the author. The positive reviews including one by Salman Rushdie enticed me to listen to this tale. It was a very wise decision.

As many have stated, Bernie Gunther is a German Philip Marlowe. In the same vein, our protagonist is a rough, womanizing, tough talking private eye in the oppressive early days of Nazi Germany. In this historical setting, the author introduces us to some wonderfully evil characters straight out of history. Their demands on Gunther to solve various crimes complicates and enhances the underlying murder mystery. Jesse Owens also makes an entrance.

I loved the writing style of the author. The book contains a lot of dark humor, fascinating historical descriptions, and wonderfully written wise cracks. Overall a very pleasant experience.

Onto the next installment: “The Pale Criminal”.