"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Friday, December 2, 2016

61 HOURS (Jack Reacher #14) (audiobook) by Lee Child



Published by Random House Audio in April of 2011.
Read by Dick Hill
Duration: 13 Hours, 43 Minutes
Unabridged

Jack Reacher is on a tour bus with a lot of retired folks who took advantage of a discounted tour price to tour South Dakota in the winter time. Reacher paid the driver to hop on and skip the tour. They are on their way to Mount Rushmore when the bus skids on an icy patch on the interstate and gets hung up. Normally, that is not such a big deal, but a massive series of snowstorms is coming in and the temperature is dropping in a hurry.

Photo by DWD
The tourists, the driver and Reacher are evacuated to a small town with a big problem. A little old lady witnessed a local biker gang member selling meth to a big-time dealer and the trial is quickly approaching. But, the old lady has been threatened and the local police are expecting an outside hit-man to come to town and kill her so she can't testify and they suspect Reacher just may be that man.

Meanwhile, the snow is piling up, the temperature is dropping, the biker gang is acting stranger and stranger, an abandoned military site is suddenly the center of activity and the real hit-man is on the prowl...

There is a lot of action and lot of bone-shaking cold in this Reacher adventure. Ultimately it is a whodunnit and Lee Child does a great job of dropping clues that lead the reader to suspect all sorts of people. In the end, my first suspect was the real culprit, but I did doubt my suspicions from time to time.

Dick Hill is one of my all-time favorite audiobook readers and he does a solid job here. His tone adds to the ominous nature quite well.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.


This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: 61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14).

Monday, November 28, 2016

1944: FDR and the YEAR THAT CHANGED HISTORY (audiobook) by Jay Winik




A Review of the Audiobook

Published in 2015 by Simon and Schuster Audio
Read by Arthur Morey
Duration: 21 Hours, 10 minutes
Unabridged

Josef Stalin (1878-1953), FDR (1882-1945) and Winston
Churchill (1874-1965) at the Tehran Conference in 1943.
The premise of 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History is that 1944 is the most important year of World War II - the year that the Allies grew certain that they were going to win the war, the year that post-War plans were laid out, the year of the D-Day invasion and more.

This effort by Jay Winik is very readable and was an informative and entertaining listen. There are times when he creates fabulous images in the listener's mind that are worthy of any novelist. His description of the extent of anti-Jewish operations throughout Europe and particularly in Auschwitz and other death camps are so vivid and so striking that I can readily recommend this book as a good place to start for anyone who wants a serious look.

The book focuses on FDR, his personality and how he shaped the war effort and post-War institutions like the United Nations. Winik details Roosevelt's health problems and points out how Roosevelt's health affected his efforts and possibly affected his judgment.

However, there is a problem with the book and that is the title - what he wrote about does not match the title.

He has written an excellent book, but I don't think that he proved his assertion of the title that 1944 was THE YEAR. The book covers all of FDR's life and spends a lot of time in every year of the war but 1944. The topics he covered were important and he covers them well. A great deal of the book covers the holocaust and FDR's response to the proof that the "final solution" was underway. I have no problem with this as a topic (I already noted this above) but I do have a problem with a book that purports to talk about the importance of 1944 to world history and goes on to literally spend more time talking about Anne Frank than the entire Pacific Theater of World War II. I am not kidding. Don't get me wrong - Anne Frank's story is compelling, but it is not, in and of itself, worthy of more mention than all of the fighting in Korea, China, the Philippines, the attempted invasion of Australia, the use of the atomic bombs, the war atrocities throughout the theater and the millions of soldiers and sailors involved in fighting throughout the theater.

The reader, Arthur Morey, did an excellent job, even going so far as to mimic the voice of FDR when he read quotes from him.

This is a well-written and immensely informative book that is simply mis-titled. 


I rate this book 4 stars out of 5 because of the misleading title.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: 
1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

THE DUCK COMMANDER FAMILY: HOW FAITH, FAMILY and DUCKS BUILT a DYNASTY by Willie and Korie Robertson with Mark Schlabach



A Review of the Audiobook

Published in 2013 by Simon and Schuster Audio.
Read by the authors, Willie and Korie Robertson.
Duration: 5 hours, 50 minutes
Unabridged

Part of a flock of books from the Robertson family (excuse the pun), this book by the CEO of the family businesses (Duck Commander and Buck Commander), Willie Robertson, and his wife, Korie, looks at how they both got to where they are now and what life is like among the Robertsons.

The book focuses on the much more interesting story of Willie's family, which is appropriate considering their prominence in the hit reality TV show Duck Dynasty. If you have never seen the show, this book will be of little interest to you. I have seen a few episodes, but my carpool partner, my high school-aged daughter, is a fan of the show and has watched multiple seasons. She picked this audiobook for us to hear in the car during our morning commute.



Willie Robertson in 2015. Photo by
Gage Skidmore.
Willie Robertson relates his family's story, starting with his parents and his father's early financial and personal struggles. This is quite interesting and inspiring and takes up approximately the first one-third of the book. Willie and Korie alternate in telling about how they met and their family life. Of course, their religious faith features prominently throughout, including Bible verses that match the theme of the chapter.

The fourth disc of this 5 CD set basically talks about the Duck Commander business and how a series of low-budget duck hunting shows sold on VHS evolved into the Duck Dynasty TV show. He also talks about how their family business really is a family business - many family members and family friends work there.

The last disc tells about how he broadened Duck Commander into the deer hunting business with Buck Commander. Willie tells about baseball players that have appeared in his hunting videos and how he has appeared with various country music stars on stage. The last disc was a difficult listen because I am not a baseball fan or much of a country music fan and, despite Willie's protestations to the contrary as he read, it really was a whole lot of pretty boring name dropping.

At the end of every chapter is a recipe that Willie and his family love. Listening to people read recipes is tedious, at best. If I were the publisher, I would have considered leaving out that part of the text and including the recipes in an insert inside of the box with the CDs. After a while we just skipped over the recipes.

Willie and Korie Robertson read the audiobook. Willie was pretty good, Korie was adequate. It made sense for them to read it, though, since it is told in a first-person voice.

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5.


This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family and Ducks Built a Dynasty.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

NPR AMERICAN CHRONICLES: THE CIVIL WAR (audiobook) by NPR



Published in 2011 by HighBridge Audio
Multicast performance
Duration: 2 hours, 59 minutes

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
NPR has searched through its archives and found 29 stories that make for a very interesting listen if you are a student of the Civil War.

There are interviews with historians, including James McPherson and Shelby Foote and authors like Tony Horwitz, Jay Winik and E.L. Doctorow. Sam Waterston reads the Gettysburg Address (so good!) and Hal Holbrook talks about a project of his about the impact of the Civil War on Iowa.

There are also interviews with regular people, like the African American family that comes to see the original Emancipation Proclamation and turns it into a profound and moving educational event.

None of it is very deep, but all of it is deeply interesting. This is a must-listen for all amateur historians of the Civil War.


I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found here: NPR American Chronicles: The Civil War.

THE BETTER PART of the ROAD (audiobook) by Tom Bodett



Re-published in 2009 by Random House Audio
Read by the author, Tom Bodett

Duration: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Alternate title: The Better Part of the End of the Road

Tom Bodett's "End of the Road" series continues in this edition with Ed Flanigan learning how to get along with just one arm thanks to a horrible accident with heavy equipment. His struggles seem real and Bodett manages to convey them without being patronizing or voyeuristic.

City Manager Emmitt Frank is convinced to move out into a cabin on the edge of town. Emmitt is a former resident of Chicago who came to the End of the Road a city slicker through and through, but is slowly becoming an Alaskan. Calling this cabin rustic would be kind. No running water, no electricity and all of the heating comes from a homemade wood stove and the bathroom is an outhouse. And, sometimes bears show up outside.


Two of the towns older residents find love. This is the best part of the story, by far. Norman Tuttle, the adolescent featured in every episode, has love troubles of his own. Pairing these stories together shows that love is confusing and exciting and potentially embarrassing no matter the age of the participants.

Once again, this is the best series that I have heard all year and I am glad I discovered that they had been re-released in digital format.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: The Better Part of the Road.

Monday, November 21, 2016

NPR LAUGHTER THERAPY: A COMEDY COLLECTION for the CHRONICALLY SERIOUS (audiobook) by NPR



Published in 2013 by HighBridge
Multicast performance

Duration: 2 hours, 19 minutes

As NPR readily acknowledges in the description of this collection, they are hardly known for their humor. NPR tends to run a bit stuffy but, from time to time, they do some funny stuff. Or, to be more accurate, NPR is at its funniest when they interview some funny people and let them be themselves.

This is hardly a CD full of comedy routines. In fact, there are a few tracks that are re-plays of a series of April Fools Day fake news bits that NPR has run over the years and they are mostly cute at best and definitely go on for way too long.

But, the interviews with Drew Carey, Paula Poundstone, Fred Willard with Martin Mull, Eugene Levy and Mel Brooks are simply great. The interviews with Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers are a cut above. Very good stuff from two ground-breaking comic masters.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.


This audiobook can be found here: NPR Laughter Therapy.