Shepherdstown, WV, United States
Juliet Stevenson is simply the best Austen reader out there. Pay more to get her narrations; they are very much worth the extra. I love Austen, and she's one classical author whose books get a whole new dimension in the audible format. As always, the narrator makes so much difference in the enjoyment of audible books. With Stevenson, you simply cannot go wrong. Persuasion may be the best of Austen's books, and this edition is priceless!
This is a good example of what "The Great Courses" do best. There's a lot of information here, clearly and enthusiastically presented. These four religious figures are described in their historical context, religious and ethical significance, and influence on their and our contemporary worlds.
At the outset, the Professor remarks that it is his goal that the listener not be aware of his own religious leanings by the end of the set of lectures - and he delivers on this promise of objectivity. We may argue to ourselves that one or another of these religious icons stands above the others, but this course presents them - quite rightly - as equal, giant figures in the history of religion and thought.
I suppose it could be said that this is pretty basic stuff if you are already well versed in the lives and significance of these men and in the study of world religions. For most of us, however, it seems to me that this is a wonderful overview and well worth the time spent.
If I could, I would have given this book minus ratings. If I dislike a book this much, I usually just either return it or decide not to review. But this time I think I should warn serious readers of psychological thrillers, dark mysteries, or romantic fiction.
The characters here are mere stereotypical ciphers, the dialog is trite and hokey. I could not believe that a woman writer could present women in such a way: there's the nagging scold, the grasping and icy social climber, the cowering battered wife - all without a trace of subtlety or insight. Men are manly men, total abusers, or not very interesting. And, heaven help us, there's even the chattering, gossipy, one-of-the-girls gay man! Seriously?
Add to this a nearly sickening and exploitative degree of graphic violence against women, child abuse, and utterly unimaginative and gratuitous sex scenes.
Even the "mystery" isn't all that good. It doesn't come as any surprise at all who the villain is.
Waste of time, money and/or credit. Skip it!
How strange is it to find yourself in the middle of a traditional Romance Novel wishing for fewer erotic moments. Well, this is a most unusual book, and that is what happens! Stick with me for a moment while I explain.
"Flowers from the Storm" (and where, oh where, does that inadequate title come from??) is very, very good in many ways. It's probably the best I've ever encountered at describing what it must be like to have a stroke and endure its effects. The confusion, frustration, anger, and helplessness of our hero are ours - his scrambled thoughts, feelings, attempts at language are conveyed to the reader/listener in an almost visceral way. It's extraordinary.
Then there's our heroine. Maddie's Quaker beliefs are really honored and explained here - not just shoved in to create contrasting life styles and views for our lovers. All characters, in fact, are wonderfully presented, from the Duke's family and friends to the Quakers to the attendants at the madhouse. There's a real talent here for filling the story with rich and full characters.
So, here's the dilemma: "Flowers" is full of serious, thoughtful, and interesting content. Yet, there's the necessity, in a Romance Novel, for the love scenes in some detail and eroticism. I'm not adverse to these scenes in traditional romances, but they do seem rather out of place here. I actually found myself wanting these diversions to go away and get us back to the real story of the Duke's struggles with his physical disabilities and the desperate need to communicate his mental competence. And Maddie's struggle with her efforts to help him and maintain her values of simplicity and honesty.
Books which present this subject matter so well are usually given credibility - I'm just afraid the book's genre category and the really dumb cover and title will keep its rightful audience away. Too bad!
Nicholas Boulton is a fantastic narrator - especially when conveying the Duke's point of view. It's harrowing to hear the raw confusion, fear, and frustration of a man accustomed to absolute power dealing with the inability to communicate - and we're with him every step of the way.
This seemed a no-brainer bargain buy - classically French trained, Ethiopian chef from Sweden who ended up in Harlem. Sounded fascinating, and so it turned out to be!
I'm neither great cook nor foodie, but I do watch Food Network shows in spare moments, and I've admired Samuelsson's point of view in his various contests and food shows. Turns out he's just as thoughtful and intelligent as he appears on TV.
Nothing is better than a memoir where the author actually has something to say - with honesty and humility. Sometimes our "American Dream" stories get glossed over, without revealing the price that almost always has to be paid for success in business. Samuelsson tells his own interesting life-so-far story without a lot of psychological self-analysis, but with awareness of his flaws - and with refreshing condor and lack of self pity. The people in his life ring true, and the reader/listener finds him/herself taking an interest in each one of them.
Must say I look forward to hearing what he has to say later on in his life. This is a memoir with a difference and well worth the time.
Now this is something fun and different from the venerable "Great Courses." I love them, but they tend to be considerably longer and more scholarly than "Language A to Z".
Not that Professor McWhorter doesn't know his stuff. He is a speaker who helps put the "great" in these courses! I've listened to more than one of his audios and really respect his knowledge and teaching ability.
Whether or not you are interested in linguistics, I would recommend listening to this course. It goes by in a minute (every lecture is only 15 of them!), and there's lots of pop culture references and interesting revelations about the origins of some of our strangest sayings.
This is a great highway listen - and an enjoyable way to learn something in 15 minutes!
Thank you, Charles Todd for this wonderful gift! It's a glimpse of the strong, confident, happy Ian Rutledge we know must have existed before the ravages of war.
Ian is planning his marriage to the young and self-absorbed Jean while becoming more and more involved in an unusual case. The perpetrator is diabolical, and Ian must convince himself and others in law enforcement that his suspicions are real. There's a lot of darting about the countryside and putting together clues from churchyards and archives, but the story emerges in a most intriguing way. Inspector Bowles is just as contrary and vindictive as he will later be, and we get glimpses of Ian's sister and aunt in earlier, more carefree days.
There is, however, another 'villain' in this piece. Just as menacing as any criminal, WWI is relentlessly in the background. Friends and colleagues are already marching off with enthusiasm to serve their country, and the knowledge that Ian Rutledge will soon follow - and will pay dearly - is painful to the listener/reader . It all makes for a bittersweet experience but one which this series fan really appreciates!
I listened to the first three books in this series pretty quickly and enjoyed the writing and the characters. Simon Serrailler and his family are full of surprises and offer real depth to the works. In this book, the family dynamic changes considerably, setting up lots of possibilities for future revelations.
"The Risk of Darkness", I think, has at least one two many plotlines - one in particular could easily have been eliminated altogether without damaging the overall story. Hill is a very serious writer - the gloom factor is pretty high, even for readers who don't much care for a lot of humor in mysteries. In this listen, it's a bit of overkill.
This was satisfying in that some questions from earlier books are answered. So, despite being a bit less impressed by this addition to the series, I am willing to continue to the 4th book - but I need a little break before the plunge.
Steven Pacey is one of the main reasons for pursuing the Simon Serrailler series - his narration is fantastic.
A recent piece in the New York Times Book Review crime section led me to this book. Who could resist an Aussie modern Gothic Suspense/Romance with a reversal of characters?
It's all there - the old mansion, dark hallways with locked doors; there's even an attic full of secrets! But, in "Sweet Damage", the brooding resident is a young woman, and the 'innocent' who happens into situation is a surfer dude!
The setting is modern-day Sydney, the characters have updated issues and phobias, and the romance is a bit hotter than in most traditional Gothic novels. The twists and turns of plot and the surprises keep you listening and are a lot of fun to follow. Dense characters are revealed slowly, and that old sense of suspense, menace, and unanswered questions remains until the end.
Craig Baldwin has a slight accent - the American reader can easily understand him, but there's an appropriate hint of Australia in his voice.
I liked this a lot.
After reading the first book in this series, I had a few reservations. This second entry pretty much resolved all that.
The main character, Simon Serrailler, is much more in evidence here. He turns out to be a complex and interesting personality - frustratingly reserved, uncommunicative and distant; but, at the same time, a caring boss, brother, uncle and son. He and the other characters keep you interested, and the plot is an involving one.
Some reviewers have noted that the resolutions of Susan Hill's plot lines are not very satisfying for many mystery fans. I'd say that her characters and the police actions in the books may rather reflect much of the true nature of police investigations and human motives.
Steven Pacey, like all the best narrators, isn't a distracting performer. Instead, he just quietly personifies all the characters and delivers a natural and comfortable reading. Hard to beat that!
I'm pleased to find this series. Unusual, yes, unexpected, yes. But, from what's in "The Various Haunts of Men," it seems to me that Susan Hill can take her place among the elite of mystery writers. There's nothing cozy or formula about this story, but it's thoughtful, serious about human nature, and it feels true. I was truly hooked and moved by the characters and the emotion of the story.
Other reviews have mentioned the relatively short amount of time actually devoted to the man who is supposedly the "hero" of this series, Simon Serrailler. Let's just say that this book is enough to keep me moving forward in the series to find out more. And I'm happy to be doing so with this wonderful narrator, Steven Pacey.
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