Revolutionary Summer by Joseph Ellis – Audiobook Review

revolutionarysummer zpsbbc333c4 pictureRevolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence by Joseph J. Ellis, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Knopf, both imprints of Random House

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them. In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.

Thoughts on the story:

I am seriously impressed by Revolutionary Summer. It is a relatively brief book, just about seven hours in audio, but Ellis conveys a lot of information – including much that is glossed over in most accounts – in a very clear manner. He intertwines both the political and the military happenings of that summer, showing readers how they interrelate and influence one another. It is well-organized and informative, really a top-notch history.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Rudnicki has a wonderfully resonant voice and presents Revolutionary Summer clearly, adding just the right amount of audible interest.

soundbytes pictureOverall:

A wonderful audiobook and a wonderful look at American history. A great listen for 4th of July weekend.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

 



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Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale – Audiobook Review

mrsrobinson zps341eeed1 pictureMrs. Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale, narrated by Wanda McCaddon
Published in audio by Tantor Audio, published in print by Bloomsbury USA

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age 31 in 1844. Her first husband had died suddenly, leaving his estate to a son from a previous marriage, so she inherited nothing. A successful civil engineer, Henry moved them, by then with two sons, to Edinburgh’s elegant society in 1850. But Henry traveled often and was cold and remote when home, leaving Isabella to her fantasies.

No doubt thousands of Victorian women faced the same circumstances, but Isabella chose to record her innermost thoughts—and especially her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane—in her diary. Over five years the entries mounted—passionate, sensual, suggestive. One fateful day in 1858 Henry chanced on the diary and, broaching its privacy, read Isabella’s intimate entries. Aghast at his wife’s perceived infidelity, Henry petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Until that year, divorce had been illegal in England, the marital bond being a cornerstone of English life. Their trial would be a cause celebre, threatening the foundations of Victorian society with the specter of “a new and disturbing figure: a middle class wife who was restless, unhappy, avid for arousal.” Her diary, read in court, was as explosive as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, just published in France but considered too scandalous to be translated into English until the 1880s.

Thoughts on the story:

Kate Summerscale clearly knows both her subject and her time period well. Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace is a rich tapestry of a book that tells the story of much more than just one woman’s scandalous diary. Summerscale goes into great detail about a number of elements of period culture, including medical theories such as hydropathy and phrenology. It does seem at times that Isabella’s story is overshadowed by all the other things that Summerscale wants to share about mid-19th century Britain, but she does manage to bring it all back together again and create what is, overall, a very edifying story.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Wanda McCaddon does a very admirable job narrating Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, but it is a difficult task. McCaddon has good inflection and tone to keep the listener interested, but this book simply doesn’t seem to translate very well into audio. Summerscale goes into so much detail about so many different topics, and there are so many people involved in this whole affair, that it is simply difficult to keep track of everything in audio, despite the skill of the narrator.

soundbytes pictureOverall:

A very interesting book, but if I were starting it over again I would choose print.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

Source: Personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

 



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Jungleland by Christopher S. Stewart – Audiobook Review

jungeland zps5458ea9a pictureJungleland by Christopher S. Stewart, narrated by Jef Brick
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by Harper Books, both imprints of HarperCollins

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

On April 6, 1940, explorer and future World War II spy Theodore Morde (who would one day attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler), anxious about the perilous journey that lay ahead of him, struggled to fall asleep at the Paris Hotel in La Ceiba, Honduras.

Nearly seventy years later, in the same hotel, acclaimed journalist Christopher S. Stewart wonders what he’s gotten himself into. Stewart and Morde seek the same answer on their quests: the solution to the riddle of the whereabouts of Ciudad Blanca, buried somewhere deep in the rain forest on the Mosquito Coast. Imagining an immense and immaculate El Dorado–like city made entirely of gold, explorers as far back as the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés have tried to find the fabled White City. Others have gone looking for tall white cliffs and gigantic stone temples—no one found a trace.

Legends, like the jungle, are dense and captivating. Many have sought their fortune or fame down the Río Patuca—from Christopher Columbus to present-day college professors—and many have died or disappeared. What begins as a passing interest slowly turns into an obsession as Stewart pieces together the whirlwind life and mysterious death of Morde, a man who had sailed around the world five times before he was thirty and claimed to have discovered what he called the Lost City of the Monkey God.

Armed with Morde’s personal notebooks and the enigmatic coordinates etched on his well-worn walking stick, Stewart sets out to test the jungle himself—and to test himself in the jungle. As we follow the parallel journeys of Morde and Stewart, the ultimate destination morphs with their every twist and turn. Are they walking in circles? Or are they running from their own shadows? Jungleland is part detective story, part classic tale of man versus wild in the tradition of The Lost City of Z and Lost in Shangri-La. A story of young fatherhood as well as the timeless call of adventure, this is an epic search for answers in a place where nothing is guaranteed, least of all survival.

Thoughts on the story:

I’m not always keen on authors inserting themselves into stories, but Stewart’s combination memoir/history is extremely effective. I’m not sure that either his own story or Morde’s would have been enough to fully interest me, but combined they definitely kept me listening. Morde’s story provides the background, as well as some interesting spy games – including a plot to assassinate Hitler. Stewart’s story provides the heart, the human interest. I mean, this guy misses his daughter’s fourth birthday to gallivant around the jungle! It is his drive and his need to find the lost city that keeps the reader going, and then Morde’s story that provides the color and interest enough to break things up.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Jef Brick does a really great job, I generally had no problem discerning whether we were listening to Stewart’s story or Morde’s. There was one odd moment where I wondered whether I had been confused and there had really been two narrators the whole time because he sounded so different for one of Morde’s sections, but that seems to have been an odd bit of stray editing, or a different recording venue, or perhaps a trick of my ears and not an issue with Brick’s narration.

Overall:

I found Jungleland to be a nice change of pace and an enjoyable audiobook. I think I would have liked the print, but am fairly certain that I enjoyed it more in audio than I would have in print. Recommended.

soundbytes pictureBuy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

 

 



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Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman – Audiobook Review

eightydays zps3b31a5e7 pictureEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman, narrated by Kathe Mazur
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, both imprints of Random House

Synopsis:

November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly set off to travel around the world in less than eighty days, an attempt to break the record set by Jules Verne’s fictional character Phileas Fogg from the novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Bly’s travel was paid for by the paper she worked for, Joseph Pulitzer’s World paper in New York. Although the idea originated with her, by the end of the day Nellie Bly was not the only young woman traveling around the world. The publishers of The Cosmopolitan decided to send Elizabeth Bisland, who wrote a books column for the magazine, on her own journey heading west instead of east, in at attempt to beat not only Phileas Fogg, but Nellie Bly as well.

Thoughts on the story:

I love it when authors find fascinating historical events about which I know nothing and tell it really well. I knew a bit about Nellie Bly before Eighty Days, but interestingly not about her race around the world. My knowledge was limited to her expose on the insane asylum on Blackwell Island, a reference it is possible I learned from my massive The West Wing marathon earlier this year. Goodman lays his story out very clearly, alternating between the two women’s stories in a way that is faithful to the timeline while still maintaining a good flow. While the book itself is rather long, it has a good pace and is continually interesting.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Kathe Mazur does a wonderful job narrating. Like Goodman’s writing itself, she maintains a good pace and, while she doesn’t do much vocal differentiation between the stories, it isn’t really necessary or called for here, and there is no problem keeping the narrative straight.

For more, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

soundbytes pictureOverall:

A long book, but well worth the read. Fascinating and highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

 



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Smuggler Nation by Peter Andreas – Mini Book Review

smugglernation 1 zps7fdf7bb5 pictureSmuggler Nation by Peter Andreas
Published by Oxford University Press

From the publisher:

America is a smuggler nation. Our long history of illicit imports has ranged from West Indies molasses and Dutch gunpowder in the 18th century, to British industrial technologies and African slaves in the 19th century, to French condoms and Canadian booze in the early 20th century, to Mexican workers and Colombian cocaine in the modern era. Contraband capitalism, it turns out, has been an integral part of American capitalism.

Providing a sweeping narrative history from colonial times to the present, Smuggler Nation is the first book to retell the story of America–and of its engagement with its neighbors and the rest of the world–as a series of highly contentious battles over clandestine commerce.

If you’re a fan of American history, Peter Andreas provides a fascinating new way to look at it with his Smuggler Nation. Andreas makes a very convincing argument that America’s history is, by definition, a history of smuggling, from to intellectual property, to drugs and other material goods, to people. How long would the Confederacy have lasted without the blockade runners, for example?

In addition to being informative and convincing, Andreas is also an engaging writer. He has a good sense of flow and reader attention span, balancing good, meaty information with the knowledge of when to change the subject at least a little to keep things interesting.

Smuggler Nation is not only a new way to look at our history, but also a new way to look at our present. Politicians and policy makers bemoaning our porous borders would do well to learn from the lessons of our smuggling past before proposing solutions that only rehash past failures. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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