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Tara Brach, who has achieved notoriety for her gentle approach to living, primarily through a psychological/Buddhist approach, provides some guidelines for moving through life, using what she refers to as "R.A.I.N." By this, she shows us how to meet challenging situations.
First Recognize the reality of what is occurring.
Then Accept that is it what it is.
Investigate what it means, and then the huge move that brings it all together, is:
"rest in Natural awareness." (in other words, do not be so quick to react, but move to a state of awareness in which we have a different relationship to what is happening).
Tara Brach also wrote "Radical Acceptance," in which she also suggests that we are so quick to run from, or distance ourselves from situations that feel unpleasant, that we may do better in the long run finding a way to move into them, with curiosity, patience and willingness to be present to what is happening.
As happens sometimes, they have chosen someone else to read this book. Although Cassandra Campbell has done an excellent job, Tara Brach has a beautifully soft voice, and I would so have preferred hearing her narrate it herself. However, this book is certainly worth listening to.
This is the first children's book I have reviewed. We often get them for grandchildren, but this is the first one I really felt was so good, I wanted to give it a "shout out." We recently took our 4 & 6 year old grandkids on a trip, and they listened to this. They had recently had an opportunity to get to know a bit about Einstein through another situation, so I thought it possible they might enjoy listening to a little about his life. I am not sure I had expected them to listen to all of it, but they did. Truthfully, I don't think they understood it all (especially parts like how Einstein had to avoid Germany during the war), but they were quite engaged. Given their ages, it helped that they knew a little about Einstein beforehand, but I will say that I also liked the book and its' narration. The book is written for children slightly older I'd say (doubt ours would have liked it without having first heard of him) but every bit is interesting and geared to kids' interest. For instance it (cleverly) began with how Einstein had had trouble learning to talk as a child, and how he found school boring. What kid wouldn't tune it to that? After that, they were hooked and we all found it well worth the credit! Recommend.
This book was written in about 1842 (possibly based on a true story that took place half a century earlier) depicting the basest instincts and behaviors of which people are capable. Annette von Droste-Hülshoff has chosen a plot that focuses on a small group of people living in a deeply wooded and secluded part of Germany, who seem cut off from outsiders by distance. They are thus tightly woven into a community that is close, and reliant on each other for safety.
The main character is Friedrich Mergel. He is the son of an alcoholic, wife-abusing man. who marries a second wife that complements his ungodly ways by her strict religious, virtuous manner. We are invited to view Friedrich as somehow the offspring of good and evil, hinting at the undertones of the plot to come in the story. Early on, the father dies on his way home during a ferocious snow storm, and people quickly designate the part of the woods where he died as frightening, harboring his ghost. There is also an anonymous group of poachers who rob the forest of wood and remain unidentified, which keeps the villagers wary and suspicious. Margreth, the mother, has a brother who appears to be steering young Friedrich toward bad deeds, but we also see what looks like great denial on the part of the mother--if not tacit support for what happens.
This is the background, well designed to set the atmosphere for murders to occur, and they do. The writer has done an excellent job of characterizing aspects of the main characters so as to leave the listener wondering who may have committed the the crimes, and also feeling the eeriness of the woods, the poverty lifestyle of the people, the jealousy and despair that may have supported such events. There is a curious character, John Nobody, whose name invites us to speculate on who he is, what his role in the story will be. One of the murdered men, Aaron the jew, dies beneath a tree that later has a mysterious message carved into it--which will be the central clue to the whole story.
This is a well-written, excellently narrated example of the then novice idea of mystery writing. Although not long, it is deeply engaging, the characters are well-described and the atmosphere itself carries the sense of a foreboding space from which nothing good can come. I did not know the work of this author, but found it to be very compelling. And the narration was, quite simply, excellent.
In yet another spinoff from the Sherlock Holmes classics, MJ Trow has taken the character, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, and fleshed him out as the main detective in this story. When I got this, I had not realized that it is a book well into a series, so I am not sure what the earlier ones are like, but I have found this one delightful.
In a complicated case, Lestrade, capably joined by Constables Bee, Queux and Adams, tackles murders that lead him to different locales and varying classes of suspects and victims, including the military and royalty. Here he is the star of the stories, though not forgetting his Conan Doyle origins by amusedly saying things like, "the game's afoot." The book is peppered with humor in characters, situations and allusions. I felt a bit uncomfortable in some spots where the author chooses to use what would be considered politically incorrect names for ethnic groups, but suppose it fits the historical time of the story.
This is very well read by the author, who undoubtedly knows best how the story and dialogue was intended to be spoken. Sadly, there were times, especially in the very beginning, where either the narration or audio quality was not as clear as I would have wished. This improves quickly into the book. Because I like to read series in order, I am sorry I didn't listen to the first one first, but if you want a light and amusing homage to Sherlock and the fun of having Lestrade come into his own, I recommend this book!
Carol Cassella has written a book, taking place in a medical setting, that is quasi-mystery, and largely a story of people's lives. Dr. Charlotte Reese is on duty when a "Jane Doe" is brought in, in very serious, life-threatened condition, and they have no family to tell them her medical history or her wishes for things like life support. Dr. Reese becomes very invested in what happens to her which is part of the plot.
Around this central part of the story, Cassella has woven the life stories of several people--who, initially seem to have no relationship to each other, and her character development of each of them is very good. The interactions that tell their back story are quite interesting to listen to.
Much of this focuses on medical issues of course, but a great deal is how the mystery (which pretty much stops being mysterious not very far into the book) resolves itself. Even though the listener kind of knows that part, what is engaging is the way the story gradually builds up to reveal certain things that led to what had occurred at the very beginning of the book. There are some really gripping parts to the story.
I was not overly fond of the narration by Mozhan Marno, but it did the job okay. I liked this book and recommend it as a good read--but I feel it did not rise to the level of "5" on any measure.
Nina Siegal has taken one masterpiece painting, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp" by the young 26 year old Rembrandt, and historically and imaginatively brought it to life. And though it states above that she is the narrator, I believe it was done by several other people whose names I don't see listed there.
Siegal has reflected upon this one painting (which it helps the listener to look at in an art book or via googling) and given it a credible story. She has brought to life even the corpse, so the reader/listener can have a greater sense of who the real people posing there might have been. It was well researched and provides insights into the life, mindset, religious views, ideas, artistic approaches, and even superstitions of the 17th century Dutch world.
There is one character, Pia the art restorer, who "dissects" the picture via dictation, as she prepares to clean it, thus giving the listener the opportunity to hear about every detail in it. This is especially interesting as it parallels the way the Rembrandt character goes about creating it in his own mind before beginning to paint it. The painting depicts an autopsy, and she focuses on how the corpse's right hand appears to look as though it has been altered at some point by Rembrandt, which she also cleverly works into the story itself.
I found the characters fascinating, because she excellently provided historical perspective through them. There were Rembrandt and Dr. Tulp, the anatomist, and how they came together for this painting, but also Adrian, the hanged criminal (corpse) and his wife Flora. Rene Descartes was prominently a part, as he searched for the seat of the soul and mind in the body. At that time, they apparently believed the body would reveal the misdeeds of a man's life. Dr. Tulp says that "to know the body is to know God's purpose." One particularly moving point the author weaves in, is the observation that the corpse looks particularly Christlike, itself a frequent topic in art history. She mentions especially another well-known painting, "Lamentations of Christ," comparing the perspective and the emotions aroused in the viewer.
I believe that Siegal has done a good job of bringing not only the characters, but the historical times alive. She has provided a combination of back story to explain how the people arrived where they were in the painting, an exploration of artistic social value, guilds and techniques, philosophical and theological ideas and common mindsets and beliefs that would have guided their daily lives. I think she handles the dissection as carefully for the listener as possible. I did not find it at all upsetting, but I suppose the overall premise of the book could be uncomfortable for some listeners.
I would hope that she will take more paintings and do this sort of imaginative/historical exploration more in future. I love art and art history, often find myself wondering what the story inspiring many old paintings might have been, and so I very much welcome her contribution. I think she gave a good balance to what is known combined with her creation of characters' thoughts and intentions. The narration was wonderful, almost all voices being clearly distinguishable as the particular character at all times. I think the book begins a tad slowly, but looking back, perhaps it had to, to be able to draw the listener in with enough details to understand the whole effort. This is a book that I could listen to again (which I rarely do).
This book was a wonderful surprise. As I am listening my way through all the Agatha Christie books that I read 35-40 years ago, they have so far all been narrated by the great Hugh Fraser. I mean no disloyalty to him when I say that just having listened to "Black Coffee," narrated by the late John Moffatt (one of the actors who played Hercules Poirot over the years) all I can say is, "Wow"!
Agatha Christie originally wrote this as a play, rather than a novel, somewhat of a departure from her usual style, and Charles Osborne has put it into book form. Many years ago I actually saw the play. (Can you tell I have been a life-long Christie devotee?) As well as I recall it, I think this book is quite faithful to the play--I believe it has kept the same plot/characters/development. This is a "classic Poirot" where he actually does line all the family members up at the end to do his wonderful thing of announcing how the murder was committed, and by whom. Very pleasing to old mystery readers like myself.
The premise of the book is that Sir Claud Amory, a scientist who has been working on a secret formula for something that has the potential to become a more powerful weapon than any currently available, has reason to believe that someone in his own household wants to steal it. So he hires Poirot to come to the house and help detect who that is. Unfortunately he arrives just in time for Amory's murder.
This book lays out the plot well, has very good character development, neatly suggests (or leaves the reader guessing) the various possible reasons any person could have killed Sir Claud, and it all flows as well (if not better than) any Christie herself could have written. I think he was largely faithful to Christie's own language and style. My only regret is that I believe he made Poirot a *tiny* bit more pompous and narcissistic than Christie portrayed him, and left me feeling sad with the way Poirot made fun of poor Hastings. I know there was a slight suggestion of that in Christie, but I don't recall it being as strong as Osborne has made it.
But if you listen to this book for no other reason--I would recommend that you do so just to hear the extraordinarily talented John Moffatt read the whole book, but especially the role of Poirot. It was just stupendous! There were opportunities throughout the book to speak English (mostly), French and Italian. And as far as I could tell, he spoke all three with perfection. But mostly he was able to capture the nuances of tone that left no doubt that is was, indeed, Poirot who was the main feature of the book. I'm not planning to abandon listening to Fraser, for whom I have great fondness, but I certainly am planning to listen to more of the Christies read by Moffatt. His narration was the true gem of this book.
Here's what I really, really enjoyed about this book: it was filled with pages of interesting information about art and art history. Loved hearing about artists, and things like debates around the worth of "fakes" and forgeries, and so forth. The story itself was clever.
Here's what I liked less: although interesting, at times it seemed written for about a high school reading level. Sometimes sort of stilted language (but not always).
Here's what I liked even less: the narrator read too fast.
Here's what left me absolutely cringing and needing a bullet to bite on: this book is filled with French words--vocabulary, places, names, even French accents for characters who spoke English. A lot more than the occasional French phrase thrown in here and there. This narrator murdered the French language! It was pretty awful. I might have thought the producer of this book could have found an accomplished bilingual reader to have made it a more credible listen.
This is a challenging book to review. It is unlike almost any I have read--and difficult to classify, though quite satisfying to listen to (after I began to grasp it's process, or non-process).
There is a rather light plot going on--a writer is committing ideas to notebooks--therefore, as we hear them, they lack the continuity of a novel--but seem to be the range of things that capture his attention, the scope of which are enormous. Then there is a story about a Christian church losing it's cross, and having it cruelly show up on the roof of a Jewish synagogue. This gives the sense that the entire book is meant to arouse notions of vexing theological questions, and Doctorow does not disappoint as he brings it to even cosmological questions.
It begins--in parallel with the Bible, with an explanation of one current belief about beginning of the universe, an expanded story about the Big Bang, and thereafter shifts among various ideas, verses, stories, that the writer would like to explore. The priest and the rabbis do some of the story telling, but as the book is not intended to simply be a novel with a linear plot, it is not always clear "who" is speaking--the writer, the other people or possibly the author himself. (It might be different if reading it--since there are sometimes breaks that make those things more clear).
However, not always being certain of whose consciousness is being expressed does not take away from the more important aspects, which seem to be a collection and expression of ideas and events (especially the Holocaust) that permeate the thinking around the latter part of the 20th century and the turn of the century (and still, for that matter). I believe it was originally published in 2000, so I'd say is quite appropriate in it's symbolic timing.
It is dazzling to listen to--I know I could listen many times and always find new things to hear and contemplate. This book defies an easy definition--as at one moment we are hearing about Einstein's ability to hold deeply religious and also scientific ideas in his mind simultaneously--while having a character (the priest) who seems unable to manage the religious ideas that he promotes to his congregation, so many doubts does he have.
I have not done justice to this book in my review--there are so many different aspects that one could comment upon. I will just say that it is fascinating--and though it is necessary to suspend the need for a book to have the typical movement from one point to another, it is quite something to sit back and listen to some of the ideas that are defining our time--in some contrast (implied if not stated) to those which shaped the thinking of others in history. It is a book that relies less on character development and mostly on the exposition of consciousness as it explores the broad and the miniscule in the universe from a theological, philosophical, even poetic point of view. I will have to say it has left an impact on me--and I know that I will listen again.
In most books, I have to listen for a while to get all the characters and situation in my mind. In this one, I was hooked almost from the first sentence. I'd had this in my library for a while, and passed it by, not feeling inspired by the notion of an amnesiac detective trying to solve a separate, different crime. What astonishment I felt when I realized that this is one of the best-crafted, well thought out, engaging and wonderfully narrated mysteries I've encountered in quite a long time.
Anne Perry, who wrote this many years ago,has assembled a challenging story of a double mystery (Monk's own identity and that of a murder) in a way that is neither overly complicated to follow nor challenging to one's belief system. I had thought the premise might have been a bit over the top, so avoided this book. Don't do it! This is a great book--one that I find notable for both it's writing style and it's good mystery.
I believe the beginning, the unfolding of how Monk discovers that he doesn't know who he is, is exceedingly interesting, credible, and works so very well with the story as a whole. His search for his own identity is taking place as a quiet, private matter while he works a very public case for the "Peelers" (newly formed police department in Victorian era London).
Many people have already written reviews about this--I want to echo the ones that praise it. Perry's weaving of the two plots in and out is very skillful and very rarely strayed into a forced conversation or interaction between characters to get to where she was leading the reader (listener). Just for the actual skill of assembling this book I would give it 5 stars. The narration by the excellent Davina Porter is a plus that just put it over the top for me. I only wished it could have been longer--I didn't want it to end! Highly recommend!
I am enjoying listening to the books of Martha Grimes which I read in paper form many years ago. With this book, she has shifted her tone a bit--there is less emphasis on the silliness of some of the characters (though that is there a bit) as she has crafted this mystery around a more serious social/ethical concern--animal abuse.
I think Grimes appropriately down-played the amusing characters (such as Aunt Agatha, Melose Plant's impossibly pompous and irritating relative) so as not to detract from what I presume was her intent to blend the usual good mystery with attention to animal needs and rights.
This book begins with pets mysteriously disappearing and dying, and one of the main characters is a young girl who has dedicated herself to trying to rescue abandoned or injured animals. Against this background, murder occurs in the oddest way--and is discovered by Polly Praed, who calls in Melrose Plant and their friend from Scotland Yard, Richard Jury... and the detecting process begins.
Does this mixture of a mystery for reading enjoyment mix well with commentary on a serious ethical concern? Well, yes and no. Yes, because she has worked the plot around it sufficiently well to have an interesting story, but maybe not totally because (as much as I genuinely believe in and support her message) it felt a little forced. I would have preferred her point to have been a bit more subtle. I hate to make any criticism of Martha Grimes--I so enjoy all she has written, so please don't let that keep you from reading this book. I would say that if her emphasis on the plight of animals was a little heavy-handed, her heart was in the right place. The message is important. The book is good and I quite recommend it.
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