Shepherdstown, WV, United States
"The triumph of the human condition was to face one small defeat after another and to survive them relatively intact."
Minette Walters ranks with wonderful writers who just happen to specialize in mysteries. Her stories are complex, the characters are brilliantly drawn, and the dialogue is crisp and compelling.
"The Ice House" is Walters' first novel. It involves a decent but troubled policeman who must deal with a murder case complicated by history, prejudice, and misperception. Much is learned about the nature of personal betrayal, human cruelty, and determined friendship. Do not miss this!
This is a fascinating listen! You might think map collectors and dealers just couldn't be all that interesting, but you would be wrong.
Anyone who has poured over a map on the fly leaves of a book or noticed the beauty of a colorful map will appreciate the subject matter here. There's a lot of surprisingly enlightening information about the history and artistry of map making around the world. Listening while on road trips, my husband and I found ourselves learning a lot and enjoying the process.
But this is not a book just about maps. It's primarily about people and their odd, odd ways. Forbes Smiley is the map collector, student, dealer, and, finally, thief. He's a complicated man - one who can love maps and the libraries which harbor them while, at the same time, consistently stealing for personal gain from the institutions and people who trust him.
It's also about the incredible lack of records and security in rare book libraries and archives. About the defensiveness of university and public library officials who fear losing prospective donations so much that they fail to report thefts from their collections. About collectors and dealers who eagerly snap up maps which they well know may be stolen. About the distinction between "fine art" and these lovely antique maps and atlases - and the discrepancy between punishments for criminals involved in stealing them.
This book is about a lot. I think just about anyone will like it!
Most of Georgette Heyer's best known romances are set in the fairly sedate English Regency period at the beginning of the 19th century, but "The Masqueraders" takes place a couple of generations before that. The Hanoverian King George I has recently defeated the Stuart line of Bonny Prince Charles, so the politics are more unsettled and dangerous at this point in time. The French Revolution is 50 years in the future, so English aristocrats still emulate their continental counterparts in lavish dress, speech, and exaggerated manners. Duels are common and pretty much tolerated in a fairly permissive society.
Add to this exotic setting a couple of young adventurers, Prudence and Robin, who assume gender-bending disguises to obscure their politically- and socially-suspect past. Confused prospective lovers, a couple of duels and carriage chases, and an oh-so-eccentric father add complications and hijinks galore.
The story and characters are alternately charming and frustrating, as is the somewhat antiquated language assumed by the author. I believe that Ruth Sillers does a wonderful job of presenting this hodgepodge of French-accented and mannered English without often resorting to an overly arch tone.
I still prefer the Regencies, but "The Masqueraders" does offer some memorable characters, stirring action sequences, and a change in style and tone.
Since Neil Gaiman's own excellent reading of this was already in my library, I hesitated before adding the dramatized version of "The Graveyard Book." How glad I am that I went ahead and used a credit!
This man has written lots of memorable books, but "The Graveyard Book" stands out. There's a lot of love in here, and it is wonderful to hear the author explain a little about that at the end of the recording. No one will be surprised to hear that the work is quite important personally to Mr. Gaiman - it shows in every chapter.
There's a lot that is very special in this book regardless of how it's experienced - I have read the hard copy and enjoyed both audios. The characters - living, dead or somewhere in between - are absolutely real and absolutely unforgettable. The episodic nature of the narrative not only reflects its admitted source, Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," but it makes for excellent reading aloud in segments - sharing with children or adults. (I imagine even the cats and dogs listening in during an evening reading will love it.)
The fine actors involved in this production all obviously enjoyed performing this for us. If you've already read it, consider getting this edition as well. "The Graveyard Book" simply cannot read or heard too many times!
One personal note - my young grandchildren live in a house across from an historical cemetery. They play there and ride their bikes and look for angel headstones. Before very long, I hope to introduce them to the world of "The Graveyard Book." I think they will feel quite at home in its pages.
I've never listened to a "Great Courses" on Audible that I didn't find at the very least interesting. This particular set of lectures surprised me a lot! And I loved it!
I was expecting Ulysses and other heroes of classical literature. Not so much was I considering the inclusion of Sherlock Holmes, Frodo Baggins, James Bond and, for heaven's sake, Lizbet Salandar of "Dragon Tattoo" fame! Yet here they are, and Professor Shippey makes an enthusiastic and convincing case for including them all and more.
These heroes and heroines (and Shippey includes an impressive number of female examples) are skillfully contrasted and connected as well as put in the context of their classical origins, their own times, and right now. Each discussion revolves around the nature of the example: what makes him/her a hero? How is she/he like and unlike other heroes? Why has he/she stood the test of time and changing tastes and values?
Taking us from less-likely examples such as Elizabeth Bennett and Uncle Tom (don't scoff - listen to what he has to say! ) up to Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, the content and presentation of this material is timely, fascinating, enlightening, and inspiring.
There's something for everyone here - it's time excellently spent!
I write this as one who had a lovely childhood. Oh, my family had issues and ups and downs, but there was never any doubt about the love, respect, support, and security offered by my parents.
So it should be for all children! I've long admired Alan Cumming as a fearless actor and as a wonderful narrator - now I also admire him as a survivor who shares his painful story with emotion and frankness which can not fail to be an inspiration for us all and especially for those who have also suffered childhood abuse.
The book moves back and forth in time to reveal the fear and confusion of a child dealing with that abuse and the struggle of an adult to comprehend and come to terms with it and the inevitable effects it had on himself and his family. And it's all told within the context of the filming of an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?", a series which explores the family trees of celebrities. We learn a lot about the process of that show and about the life it is focusing on in this case - that of Cumming's troubled grandfather. The two stories seem in ways to be completely different, yet there are striking similarities and the juxtaposition works.
No one but Alan Cumming could have narrated this book. Listening to it is an incredible experience!
"Arabella" is one of Georgette Heyer's earlier books, and it illustrates much of what makes her writing so much fun. The title character is young, spirited and lovely - but what sets her apart is her native intelligence and her exceptional heart. Our hero is experienced and a little jaded (and, OK, to modern audiences, just a shade too patronizing), but he recognizes the quality as well as the physical attributes of the lady. A charming, highly mannered Regency romance ensues.
We might wish for more of the eccentric and funny secondary characters that Heyer so deftly presents in later books ("Sylvester", "Venetia", "A Civil Contract" are excellent examples), but I dare anyone to resist Jemmy the chimney sweep or especially the wonderful Ulysses in "Arabella".
It's a short listen, but, as one of Heyer's characters might say, "highly diverting".
Thank you Great Courses!
I loved this listen! I bought it because I had read about Bill Gates' suggestion that this set of lectures be adapted for High School use. He thought it a brilliant new way of looking at the structure and content of the basic history course.
Well, I think he and Professor Christian are absolutely right. This course begins with the real beginning - progresses through the formation of our universe, our solar system, and our planet to the eruption of life, division of species, and, finally, the development of human civilizations.
It's all here and presented in a fascinating way. The Professor is a wonderful speaker, and his enthusiasm for this material is evident and contagious. My husband and I listened during many drives and found ourselves several times going out of our way to avoid arrival before a lecture ended!
I hope Gates can help encourage more school systems to consider "Big History" as a high school course. It's high time for a more inclusive approach to history.
"Big History" is a long trip, but it's a total pleasure. Embrace it!
Do you ever get the feeling that you've heard or read a book before? Well, "The Invention of Wings" is one of those. There's much to admire: the Grimke sisters offer an excellent and mostly unknown historic starting point; the main characters are well drawn; the narration is excellent throughout.
But there's just nothing new here. We have already pretty much realized that slavery was horrific. That early 19th century society was also confining for intelligent, sympathetic women in general. Not until the author's statement at the end do we learn all that much about the historic sisters' lives - and that an equally important half of the story is entirely fictional.
I was expecting more.
I think I know what Tana French was getting at in this quite different book. She begins with pulling you into this seemingly uniquely banal teenage world. Girls sniping, bickering, bullying in an elite private school - totally unlike the adult world, yeh? Then, slowly and throughout the book, she introduces the parallel, if more subtle, ways in which the police culture is structured. Repeating the same painful scenes: jealous, sniping men and women vying for top dog status!
It's actually very clever, and you have to wade through perhaps too much teenage angst and confusing skips back in time to get there. I found it hard to understand, for instance, why it was so important to emphasize that one story line took place in one day. And why the other storyline was so repetitive. The two-narrator decision is fairly clear - it helps distinguish for the listener just where in time you are at any given moment. But this concept was not helped by the grating, valley-girl accent of the female narrator - or by the strong accents that took really getting used to.
I respect an author who tries different styles, so Tana French will remain, for me, an intriguing voice among young writers. I tend to agree with other reviewers that this work might well have been better experienced in written form.
But I got the point.
How is it that some of the people treated most badly in this country end up being some of the best heroes and patriots?
I know an American woman of Japanese descent who spent years in an interment camp while her two brothers served very honorably in the US Armed Services. She was never bitter, but she has only recently told her story, even to her family.
Here we have Chester Nez, a boy forced to attend an abusive boarding school, which would forbid him his language, change his name, and denigrate his culture. Yet he - and other Navajos - responded to a call to serve this country that so undervalued his people. He performed extraordinary deeds in the Marines and agreed never to divulge the extent of his service. Amazing.
This account is told simply and in a most straightforward style. The war sections are interesting, but the book also includes a fascinating account of the early years of this Navajo boy and then his years after the war. The combination makes for more than a story for WWII buffs; it's a true American tale.
I for one am so glad that Chester Nez finally decided to tell his story. I learned a lot from this book - I recommend it to others.
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