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David

STAMFORD, CT, United States
  • 76
  • reviews
  • 324
  • helpful votes
  • 80
  • ratings
  • The Great Believers

  • By: Rebecca Makkai
  • Narrated by: Michael Crouch
  • Length: 18 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 171
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 163
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 163

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying, and after his friend Nico's funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico's little sister. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Best book for a long time!

  • By jenny b/hudson oh on 07-01-18

Friends in Pain

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

Reviewed: 10-06-18

The two parallel stories in this moving novel deal with friendship, family and the difficulty of maintaining relationships in the face of bad behavior.

The bigger story is a heartbreaking study of a group of gay men in 1980s Chicago, as the AIDS crisis grows. The men have created a tight friendship circle in Boystown, a neighborhood of stylish if not wealthy gay men. Yale Tishman, who works at an art gallery at Northwestern University, watches as one friend after another contracts the disease.

The secondary story, told in alternating chapters, focuses on a mother seeking her estranged daughter in 2013 Paris. Fiona, the mother, was the sister of one of the AIDS victims in the earlier story and a close friend of many of the Boystown men. One of the author’s skills is in how she reveals how a wholly sympathetic character like Fiona can inadvertently alienate and betray her own child.

The narration by Michael Crouch was excellent and just right for this understated, empathetic novel.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Pope Who Would Be King

  • By: David I. Kertzer
  • Narrated by: Will Damron
  • Length: 13 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34

 

David Kertzer is one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of Italy and the Vatican and has a rare ability to bring that history vividly to life. With a combination of gripping, cinematic storytelling and keen historical analysis, rooted in an unprecedented richness of archival sources, The Pope Who Would Be King sheds fascinating new light on the end of rule by divine right in the West and the emergence of modern Europe.  

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting perspective, somewhat confusing

  • By S. Jones on 05-25-18

Like a Suspense Thriller

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

Reviewed: 08-31-18

I had no knowledge of the life of Pope Pius IX (“Pio Nono” to the Romans) or the troubles in Italy during his tenure. So as this history progressed, I found myself wholly absorbed in the car, waiting to see what happened next. There were multiple players in a game of international politics—the French, the Austrians, the other Italian kingdoms, as well as the conservative cardinals and the rebellious Roman liberals. The major issues, primarily the church’s control of state government and the unification of Italy, were fascinating. And after the Pope’s exile from Rome (not a spoiler—it’s disclosed in the first pages), the suspense turned on whether and when he might return to Rome.

David Kertzer has a novelist’s ability to draw characters and create suspense. Characters like Cardinal Antonelli, Alexis de Tocqueville and Garibaldi are well-drawn. The pope himself comes across as somewhat tragic, longing for his people’s affection but suffering because of his own weaknesses and his tendency to be manipulated by others.

The history was well-read. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

  • Warlight

  • By: Michael Ondaatje
  • Narrated by: Steve West
  • Length: 8 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 683
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 630
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 628

In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself - shadowed and luminous at once - we follow the story of 14-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Instant favorite

  • By R. Hughes on 06-10-18

The War is Not Over

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

Reviewed: 07-31-18

Warlight is a novel of mystery and loss. The young narrator, Nathaniel Williams, and his sister Rachel are left in London by their parents at the end of World War II, ostensibly because their parents are relocating to Asia. Nathaniel and Rachel are left at their London house under the care of secretive, potentially unsavory characters they call the Moth and the Darter. But those characters and the others who frequent the Williams’ house are not so bad. They protect the teens and fascinate them as well. By example, they teach them something about grown-up life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the cool, seductive narration by Steve West. The second half of the novel focuses on Nathaniel’s mother’s activities during the war, and that too is an engaging if troubling story. The threads come together with an understanding that actions taken in war have ongoing impact, and that for some the war is never over.

The novel reminded me of “When We Were Orphans,” by Kazuo Ishiguro, another novel with parentless children dealing with war and loss, smoky atmospherics, and with surprising—perhaps shocking--plot turns. (And that’s another excellent audiobook.) Both books are highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The War Between the Tates

  • A Novel
  • By: Alison Lurie
  • Narrated by: Judith West
  • Length: 16 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4

Erica Tate wouldn't mind getting up in the morning if she enjoyed her children more. Until puberty struck, Jeffrey and Matilda were absolute darlings, but in the last year, they have become sullen, insufferable little monsters. Erica's husband, Brian, is so deeply immersed in university life--and the legs of a half-literate flower child named Wendy--that he either doesn't notice his wife's misery or simply doesn't care. Worst of all their pleasant little neighborhood is transforming into a subdivision.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • So Sixties. So Current.

  • By David on 07-20-18

So Sixties. So Current.

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

Reviewed: 07-20-18

The War Between the Tates was written in 1974, and it takes place in the late ‘60s. But its plot and its themes are quite current. The novel turns on issues like the importance of marital fidelity, the right to life, women in the workplace, alternative philosophies, lonely individualism and academic freedom. An attempt by students to shut down a right-wing, conservative professor could have taken place now.

This is a campus novel, focused on Erica Tate and her professor husband Brian. Both are attractive, smart, articulate and unhappy with middle age. Brian acts out with a needy, free-spirited graduate student, while Erica tries to maintain her ordered life. The events are potentially sad and disturbing, but Alison Lurie writes with a light, bemused touch (and she writes beautifully). The novel is frequently comic—a combination of Jane Austen manners and John Updike infidelity.

My only disappointment was the treatment of the Tates’ teenage children, Jeffrey and Matilda. They are never developed beyond a one-note grumpiness. I felt like Lurie was trying to show the generation gap without really understanding it.

The narration by Judith West was excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • 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

Well-Told, Well-Read, So Tragic

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

Reviewed: 06-28-18

Idealistic Americans go to Spain in the 1930s, fighting for the duly elected Republic against the stronger and better equipped army of the Fascist Nationalists. This military coup tends to be overlooked, coming between the two World Wars, but this war was mighty brutal too. “Spain in our Hearts” doesn’t hold back from describing the violence, the torture and gratuitous murders on both sides. And while Adam Hochschild’s sympathies are clearly with the Republic and its international brigade, he doesn’t hesitate to show the problems with Soviet Union support, including political killings of rival Communists and leftists.

“Spain in our Hearts” is the second brilliant book by Hochschild that I’ve read. The first was “King Leopold’s Ghost,” about the brutal colonization of central Africa to exploit its natural resources. This book is equally distressing. Both histories are compelling, dismaying and tragic. Both show the scariest side of humanity, the horrifying acts people commit for bad reasons. But Hochschild is objective, coolly offering his analysis of events and their causes and consequences. The discussion of the benefits and risks of Soviet support, when the Western democracies refused to supply arms to the Republic, was especially well done.

The narration by Henry Strozier was excellent. He read with an avuncular tone, and I appreciated the way he slowed and lowered his voice for the most unhappy moments.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Optimistic Decade

  • By: Heather Abel
  • Narrated by: Tanya Eby
  • Length: 11 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 4

Framed by the oil shale bust and the real estate boom, by protests against Reagan and against the Gulf War, The Optimistic Decade takes us into the lives of five unforgettable characters and is a sweeping novel about idealism, love, class, and a piece of land that changes everyone who lives on it. There is Caleb Silver, the beloved founder of the back-to-the-land camp Llamalo, who is determined to teach others to live simply. There are the ranchers, Don and son Donnie, who gave up their land to Caleb, having run out of options after Exxon came and went and left them bankrupt.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • For Camp and Country

  • By David on 06-09-18

For Camp and Country

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

Reviewed: 06-09-18

Summer camp provides the setting for this busy novel. The central tensions in the book are between affluent kids going back to the land at Llamalo, a quasi-wilderness camp in Colorado ranch country, and the struggling locals whose jobs were lost when the mining company (Exxon!) left town. There’s Caleb, the founder of Llamalo, trying to handle locals Don and Donny, whose ancestors settled the area and who lost their land to Caleb following the shutdown of a mining project. Then there’s Rachel from Berkeley, whose father owns a famous left-wing weekly, and her lifelong crush David, who wants to leave school to live at Llamalo year-round.

The characters tend to lie, to others but mostly to themselves. Caleb sees himself as a heroic land preservationist, but he shamelessly manipulates people. Rachel sees herself as a left-wing revolutionary, but she is still Daddy’s girl. The portrait of Llamalo itself is quite appealing. As the reader, I wanted to visit there myself.

The book has a serious weakness. In the first half, the characters tend to be one-dimensional, closer to stereotypes than to real people. That is bad enough, but the Jewish characters in particular come off as cartoonish—especially the Jewish liberals like Rachel and her father. This changes as the book progresses and the characters deepen, but it left a bad taste. The book is nowhere near as subtle as Meg Wolitzer’s “The Interestings,” another novel about affluent teenagers finding themselves at summer camp.

Having said that, I enjoyed “The Ordinary Decade” and became increasingly engrossed in the characters and the plot. Heather Abel is a talented writer, wrestling with important contemporary issues like class conflict, individualism, environmentalism and the value of protest.

The narrator did a good job, nicely differentiating the many voices.

  • One of the Boys

  • A Novel
  • By: Daniel Magariel
  • Narrated by: Gibson Frazier
  • Length: 3 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 42
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 39
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 37

A riveting and emotionally harrowing debut about two young brothers and their physically and psychologically abusive father - One of the Boys is a stunning work by a major new talent.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Ecxeptional writing and storytelling.

  • By Susan Krigel on 04-05-17

Loyalty beyond Reason

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

Reviewed: 05-30-18

“One of the Boys” was an absorbing novel about two brothers whose father abandons their mother, removing the boys from their family home in Kansas to a small, creepy apartment in Albuquerque, where they are often brutalized, lied to and kept under lockdown. Despite the father’s increasingly violent behavior, the boys remain loyal to him. There are other, minor characters, but the boys’ only relationship appears to be with Dad.

Surprisingly, I found myself more interested in the father’s psychology than that of his sons. He was capable of charm and profound self-deception, something of a sociopath. The boys’ inability to protect themselves was disturbing, something of a Stockholm Syndrome.

The ending was weak—the reader needed more resolution of some of the conflicts. Perhaps Daniel Magariel is planning a sequel, which would be helpful.

The narration was good.

  • Mislaid

  • A Novel
  • By: Nell Zink
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
  • Length: 8 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 183
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 164
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 163

Stillwater College in Virginia, 1966. Freshman Peggy, an ingénue with literary pretensions, falls under the spell of Lee, a blue-blooded poet and professor, and they begin an ill-advised affair that results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. The couple are mismatched from the start - she's a lesbian, he's gay - but it takes a decade of emotional erosion before Peggy runs off with their three-year-old daughter, leaving their nine-year-old son behind.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Misbegotten, mishandled, misfired novel

  • By Julie W. Capell on 02-07-16

Southern Eccentrics

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

Reviewed: 05-06-18

I usually like quirky characters, but not these. I didn’t believe any of them, and mostly I kept wishing for the book to end. The only character I liked was Temple, a black (really, unlike the two white characters who pretend to be black) student who wants a normal successful life. I am sure the book had a lot to say about racial and gender identity, class and corruption, but if you don’t believe in the characters you have trouble engaging with the themes. The book picked up in the last quarter, and the narration was okay.

  • Conspiracy

  • Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue
  • By: Ryan Holiday
  • Narrated by: Ryan Holiday
  • Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,017
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 938
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 933

In 2007, a short blogpost by Gawker Media outed PayPal founder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel as gay. Thiel's sexuality had been known to close friends and family, but he didn't consider himself a public figure, and believed the information was private. This post would be the casus belli for a meticulously plotted conspiracy that would end nearly a decade later with a $140 million dollar judgment against Gawker and its bankruptcy. Only later would the world learn that Gawker's demise was not incidental - it had been masterminded by Thiel.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • I almost couldn’t make it through...

  • By Grant Hall on 04-06-18

Long Night in the Dorm?

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

Reviewed: 04-12-18

Ryan Holiday narrates his tale of the takedown of Gawker like a college senior keeping his younger classmates awake with an all-night monologue in the dorm. He has a world-weary, slightly nasal, slightly condescending voice that sounds like he is keeping himself going with No-Doz (remember that?). He speaks with odd rhythms, pausing every couple of words midsentence, as if to let the listener absorb the points he is making. He casually drops in obscure factoids of history (the Spartans lost an important if forgotten battle through overconfidence), and he quotes repeatedly from smart conspiracy philosophers (Herodotus, Seneca and repeatedly Machiavelli).

I mention the dorm because there is something sophomoric about this entire story. Peter Thiel, the outed billionaire, goes on a vengeance quest that costs millions and smacks of an immature need to boost his self-image by destroying a company—and all the jobs that go with that—that did him wrong. Nick Denton, the arrogant and blinkered owner of Gawker, is stubborn, smug and seemingly incapable of empathizing with the victims of its often pointless gossip. Hulk Hogan, who comes off as a minor character in his own story, has dignity, but he is also the one who could not resist sleeping repeatedly with his best friend’s wife.

There is much to learn from this book. Holiday has a broad knowledge of philosophy, world history and literature, and he doesn’t mind showing it off. This gives his story a little more gravity and oomph than it may deserve. Much of the philosophy focuses on the methods and risks of conspiracies. Peter Thiel’s conspiracy to take down Gawker and Nick Denton is well-planned and well-executed, following a Machiavellian playbook. In light of the damage done by Gawker to so many celebrities, Thiel is almost sympathetic. But he ultimately loses that sympathy because of the implications of his secret vendetta. If Thiel can take down Gawker, will other billionaires with extreme political views use their wealth, secretly, to go after other, more responsible media outlets that may offend with their opinions? Can they destroy these voices merely by financing multiple questionable lawsuits and pursuing them relentlessly? Holiday raises these troubling issues but has no clear solutions.

So this was a thoughtful, surprising and challenging book. I only wish Holiday had engaged a professional narrator who would have focused the listener more on the story and less on his own quirky voice.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • South Pole Station

  • A Novel
  • By: Ashley Shelby
  • Narrated by: Rebecca Gibel
  • Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 16
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 15
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 15

Cooper Gosling has just answered 500 questoins, and her results indicate that she's abnormal enough for polar life. Cooper's not so sure that's an achievement, but she's got nothing left to lose, so she accepts a one-year assignment to the National Science Foundation's Artists and Writers Program in Antarctica. There, she encounters the Polies, a group of misfits that only have in common their conviction that they don't belong anywhere else. But when a fringe scientist arrives, he brings them to the center of a global controversy.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Antarctic Arts and Science

  • By David on 02-14-18

Antarctic Arts and Science

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

Reviewed: 02-14-18

What an unusual book. The first half is a romantic comedy, with a group of likeable misfits working together at the South Pole Station and looking for their “ice wives” and “ice husbands” for the long dark winter. The second half turns philosophical, with a bitter battle between science and religion and a sweet but troubled artist acting as the go-between.

The main character, Cooper Gosling, has come to the South Pole Station to escape her demoralized family. Her twin brother was a suicide, and her parents have turned against each other and, to a degree, Cooper. She fits in well with the South Pole loners, especially Sal, a physicist with issues with his own father. The author gives several of the “Polies” their own chapters, well-done profiles that highlight the psychology of those who are attracted to the desolate station.

I confess that my interest waned in the second half. The science was hard to follow, and the plot became a little strained. Nevertheless, author Ashley Shelby showed ambition and a readiness to wrestle with profound issues of science, religion, politics and relationships. She is off to a great start as a novelist.

The narrator was good with the different characters' voices.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful