Shepherdstown, WV, United States
Everyone has reviewed this book. It is as excellent as everyone says! I'm only writing yet another review because I believe there is a real difference between this and other great Presidential and civil war tomes - the perspective of a few, very interesting woman.
Don't get me wrong - the stars here are Lincoln and his "rivals", but a female historian just naturally carries her interest a little farther - into the lives and motives of the women who love and inspire them. Mary Lincoln becomes real here, but I also appreciate the fascinating details about lesser-known wives and daughters like Kate Chase and Frances Seward. Doris Kearns Goodwin's inclusion of these women adds yet another dimension to an already exemplary historical effort. It's an element which many fine male historians have overlooked.
A long course, this is absolutely worth every moment spent. In fact, the variety and amount of content warrant a second listen to the entire 18 hours or so.
The first two-thirds of the sessions contain a real wealth of detail and analysis of the backgrounds and theories of conservative leaders, writers and philosophers in the English and American traditions. These lectures are a very valuable and, it seems to me, objective education.
It's hard to listen to the last third of the lectures without some sort of bias, whatever your political persuasion, as most of the content here is too recent for real historical perspective. It certainly is enlightening, however, for any listener who has lived through, studied, or heard about the Thatcher and Reagan years, the religious right and/or the neo-conservatives. So much becomes a lot clearer.
It amazes me that I came out of this, as I went in, with no really good guess about the political leaning of Professor Patrick N. Allitt! He deserves great credit for that, and for his exhaustive command of and enthusiasm for the subject. Next, I'd like to hear his 18 hours on Liberalism!
Another complete winner from The Great Courses.
Mary Balogh has been writing historical romances for many years - some of them quite good. So I saw this on sale and took a chance. And was very disappointed.
Our hero is one of a tediously saintly group of Napoleon War survivors - admirable men and a woman who have overcome terrible physical and mental injuries in battle but who lack just about any realistic human qualities. And our heroine is a supremely put-upon widow whose trials seem to be based mostly on her partial gypsy origins. So the two make a determinedly brave pair.
As the romance slowly develops, we are introduced to mean and horrible family members and eventually to an idyllic time spent by our lovers in Wales. Suddenly quite lovely and utterly surprising family attachments appear, and our heroine is now rich and appreciated by villagers who care not that a torrid love affair is being conducted by their recently bereaved new neighbor.
Things work out in the end, of course, and our lovely couple face a future of happiness together as the Industrial Revolution promises to make them even richer and more beloved by the happily singing Welsh people who are increasingly being put to work down the family's coal mines.
I know this is meant to be light entertainment, but the complete disregard of the social and moral rules of the time is startling. Evidently Balogh believes readers no longer care (or, worse, don't know) about historical accuracy. And never to even hint at the less positive side of the emerging industries which she introduces into this plot line is a real distraction.
I was constantly thinking of repressive Victorian morals and of the black skies and dangerous working conditions in early mining towns. Just not real conducive to happily-ever-after!
Ian Caldwell is definitely a better writer than Dan Brown. He creates here a Vatican that breathes reality, and a Church that is rich in its beliefs and in its complexity. The characters have sincerity and could inhabit such a rarefied atmosphere. Church officials are especially well drawn and there are moments of great feeling.
Also, this is one of those books that takes you immediately to reviews of the work, details of the author's research, and wikipedia - loved being introduced to ancient manuscripts, unfamiliar branches of the Catholic Church, and new "evidence" about controversies like that surrounding the Shroud of Turin.
But there's no denying that there is much of the "deja vu" feeling about "The Fifth Gospel." Intriguing and thoughtful it may be, but it has been done before.
So a recommendation here is tricky. If you like religious and literary mysteries (with or without the conspiracy theories), then I'm pretty sure you'll like this. I went along quite willingly with the story and with the really wonderful narration of Jack Davenport.
If, like me, you remember this craze well, I think you'll find this book fascinating, appalling, and a bit unnerving. If you're too young to recall the time, then consider it a cautionary tale.
Never a fan or collector, I do remember being shoved around in line at McDonald's during the frenzy for "teenie beanies". I was there for a fish sandwich and quickly gave up in the wake of shrieking people grabbing Happy Meals they would throw into trash bins outside the store.
So, what is the benefit of listening to this sad tale? Well, it does give whatever insight can be given into the brain and motives of a worthless, hollow billionaire. He's a freakish, intriguing case, but of more interest to me, at least, is the story of the "delusion" mentioned in the title. Beanie Babies may have been a particularly intense example of the boom/bust cycle, but the human psychology behind such phenomena remains forever with us.
Those of us not attracted to that particular plush toy (at least not in adulthood) can still recognize the all too human tendency to be swayed by salesmanship, media hype, mass hysteria and general greed. And to the lies and excuses we are prone to use in justifying rash behavior after we come to our senses. The fact that the one undeniable huge fortune accumulated during the Beanie Baby bubble was that of Ty Warner, a man so insensitive and lacking in gratitude or generosity, pretty much sums up the result of most of the not-infrequent financial bubbles in history. Few benefit, most lose, then we start all over again.
We shake our heads and laugh at the folly of the fans of Ty and his babies, but there's a lesson here for all of us! And it's a lesson interestingly presented and very well narrated. Listen and marvel!
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!
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.