This is one of those great overview books where you get enough of the story to be engaged, but you're also left wanting more. In short, my kind of history book. I love these kinds of launch pads into deeper research. Without a book like this, the in-depth works keep the reader on the outside. A work like this helps a person to do so much more than tread water; it makes history accessible to everyone. This is not my first dip into the Plantagenet history, but it is the first time I've had it delivered cohesively and linearly. What a difference that makes, putting it all into persective! Now I can read these longer stories about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard I, and so on with a far better understanding of how it all fits together.
Clive Chafer's narration... I have really mixed feelings about. I want so much to give him high marks. The man has an incredibly fantastic voice, the kind of voice you wish you could have so as to impress others. The problem is that his inflection and overall delivery comes across, and I hate to say this, as a parody of a BBC newscaster. Anyone remember those Monty Python skits where Eric Idle would read the news? It's that sort of thing, only with a more authoritative voice and no punchline. His cadence is very similar to this as well, where he's very "radio announcer" instead of being conversational or documentary narrative as it needs to be, and it's repetative. Let me attempt to illustrate this. You remember when your teacher first introduced you to Shakespeare and iambic pentameter, and that rhythm (da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM) was plugged in to stay for the rest of your life? Chafer isn't doing that exactly, but there is a cadence there in regard to his vocal inflection that will make itself known within just a few minutes of listening, and it goes like that to the end of the book. Maybe that's just how I'm hearing it, but if you do pick up this title - and it's well worth your credit to do so - you can judge for yourself and tell me if I'm just way off base. Based on other reviews, it seems I'm in the minority here.
Maybe I'm biased. Like so many others like me, Christopher Reeve has been a role model for me since Superman first hit the big screen. As I grew up, I got to learn about the man behind the Man of Steel, and his "can do" attitude continued to inspire. Between the accident that left him paralyzed and his death years later, Reeve's inner strength proved the title of this book to be true. Nothing is impossible.
So many years later, it's still heart-wrenching to hear him speak about his experiences in his own words, so it's no surprise this book packs quite the punch. At the same time, this is one of those stories that only he could tell with all of the humanity and personal conviction he could bring to bear. There's nothing sugar-coated here; the tragedy and the optimism are both as genuine as the man himself. This audiobook is written and presented in such a way that he's speaking directly to you.
Before the end of his life, Reeve was able to walk again, with assistance, and only a few steps at a time. But it did happen. The force of will to do that is unquestioningly great, and it's something few of us can fathom. This book helps to fill in the picture a bit, and to show that this level of commitment to an idea is not only human, it's within us all. Whatever the situation, whatever the misfortune, we are gifted with untold reserves that help us to adapt and to (as Reeve himself has said) "go forward." This is the legacy of Christopher Reeve. It's a message all of us deserve to hear.
If I had money, I think this is the quest I might undertake for myself. But as I don't have money, I picked up this book instead.
There is a lot of wisdom and a lot of ironic humor packed into this book. There's something about the accounts of personal experience that will always fascinate us, and the idea that happiness is something that can be attained "out there" is one of those great common misconceptions. The quest for personal happiness is different for everyone. Being on this quest myself, I took a lot out of the author's journey. I don't know that I'm any closer to happiness, but I was thoroughly entertained and even a bit enlightened.
As much as this is a book of political monarchs in highly turbulent times, this is also the personal story of siblings and how they related to one another. Once again, Alison Weir has knocked another one out of the park, bringing even the most nuanced aspects of this realm and time period to life in such a way that even a foreigner of the modern world can understand it in a deeply meaningful way. As a narrative history, this excels.
Weir does state that this book is a follow-up to her book The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which I've also given top marks. Indeed, I would agree that in conjunction with that work, Tudor history becomes a very human story, something far beyond a soap opera. Having read her biography of Henry VIII in paperback, I can say that anyone serious in Tudor studies via Weir should start there, proceed to Six Wives, then this. This focuses on the time period between Henry's death and Elizabeth's ascension, spotlighting Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth. Next in line is her Life of Elizabeth, which will no doubt build on all of these other foundations, and which I'll be adding to my reading list soon. It's all dense storytelling, but it's also expert level history made as friendly as if reading a novel, building the layers as an artist does a painting. It's that good.
Simon Prebble is as authoritative and as engaging as ever in his role as narrator. He's just got one of those instantly respectable and friendly voices that's perfect for documentary narratives and lends itself so well to works such as this.
Which is the greater evil perpetuated throughout time: human slavery or human sacrifice? This is question posed when the Pastwatch team learns they can change history. Indeed, they find that a Pastwatch team already has, and now it is perhaps their responsibility to undo the damage.
One part science fiction, one part historical fiction, and three parts philosophy, Pastwatch is at its heart a novel about honor, cruelty, and humanity. It's about individual lives vs. the broad strokes of cultural identification, and the small changes that can have effect beyond measure. It is a novel that succeeds in the tradition of the greatest of sci-fi novels and historical treatises in that it engages the reader and asks larger questions, starting with the most powerful one of all: "What if?"
I'll be the first to admit that, while I love history and actively seek it out, there is very little that I know about the personality of Christopher Columbus. To that end, I can't compare Card's interpretation of Columbus' character with that of the historical man. That said, the character portrait that is painted adds to the depth and nuances of a story that school children are taught in a very straightforward manner. It's a masterclass in the ripple effect of history, how one person can make a difference, and how it's not always possible to judge the past based on the morals and expectations of the present.
At the same time, this book succeeds as a great discussion of the causation of time travel. The tale is so interwoven, I half-expected the Pastwatch team to see a TARDIS in their scrying. This book is truly as thought-provoking as Ender's Game at every level.
Suffice to say, top marks all around. The characters are personable, the gravitas of the story is palpable, and multiple narrators of this audiobook lend that extra level of performance that brings us directly in the middle of all of this. Card is on record as saying that there are two more books proposed for this series, and as of yet he hasn't delivered. This one operates as a standalone, but the possibility for more is quite open.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. It's hard to find really good angel fiction. It's even harder to find a worthy sequel when you do find one. This series has exceeded all of my expectations.
Picking up some 10 years after Angelology, this novel follows Verlaine, giving us more of both Evangeline's story and the story of Nephalim history in the wake of Noah and the flood. Both of these stories are extremely satisfying info dumps, given the foundations laid down in the first book. Equally as impressive is the way the history of some of the lost Faberge Eggs feature into the tale.
When I read Angelology, the question left unanswered for me was, "If God and the angels knew the Nephalim had survived, why did they not do something more to end the threat?" Believe it or not, while this book doesn't come right out and answer that question directly, it does offer a couple of very subtle answers. I won't spoil them, but I did find them worth pondering.
I don't know if book 3 will be the final installment, but it certainly feels like it will based on how this book ended. Regardless, Danielle Trussoni has ensured that I'll be in it to the end. Her writing style and storytelling are top notch, and I can't wait to see what lies in store for the big battle(s) ahead.
Like it says in my bio, I looooooove the golden age of radio, and absolutely nobody defined that era quite like the great Orson Welles. The majority of these performances are from the Mercury Theater and the Campbell's Playhouse. The scripts are based on a variety of novels, historical figures, and such, and showcases what I consider to be not only Welles' finest hours, but also some of his forgotten treasures and even some of the performances that weren't quite up to snuff... which is still a lot of fun in most cases. From "The War of the Worlds" to "A Christmas Carol" to a portrayal of Abraham Lincoln and beyond, this is truly an eclectic mix, as one would expect from the Renaissance Man of Radio.
Experienced listeners will already know what to expect, and odds are that if you're in this camp, you know a great deal of the material. Listeners who are new to these sorts of recordings may find that the age and recording / broadcast quality of some of these are, well, quite terrible by modern standards. Static and distortion are to be expected, but for those with ears to hear, these things may actually lend to the overall charm. Regardless of the quality of the recordings or of the scripts, the performances are a great cross-section not only of Welles, but of his fellow actors and actresses as well, Agnes Moorehead and Frank Readick to name but a couple. This is the stuff that began the empire of large scale entertainment, the stuff of legend.
As Cleopatra herself states within this book, people love an elemental story. What could be more elemental than love, ambition, and power?
I read this book in paper form years ago, and it's a treat to go through it again in audio. The narrator, Donada Peters, sounded familiar to me, and a quick search revealed that I had heard her previously through other pseudonyms, chief amongst them Nadia May. She has an authoritative voice for the historical narratives I've heard her perform, and while she seemed a bit of an odd choice at first for the voice of Egypt's last queen, she quickly won me over for all of the characters. That's important for a story of this scale where character is chief amongst the attributes needed to pull it off.
Margaret George's works never cease to impress me. As an historian, her works are meticulously researched to ensure the known facts are present within the tale. As a storyteller, her pacing is just fast enough to keep things moving, but it's slow and languid enough to really build the details of character and setting. As I said, character is chief amongst the attributes needed to pull off a story like this, and this is where the author's skills truly excel. By the end of this book, you feel like you have spent some quality time with not only Cleopatra, but with Caesar, Antony, and many of the secondary and tertiary characters as well. The humanity of these people are brought to vivid life, to the point where it's understandable why and how the decisions made in their lives unfolded as they did.
Much like with Henry VIII and Helen of Troy, Cleopatra is a subject that Margaret George picked who has little to no voice nor compassion in the realm of public awareness. Most of the stories about her are told by those around her, many of them enemies or political opponents, and in this case, many of those long after she had died. She is largely seen as a powermad opportunist, a political whore, and worse, but rarely is she treated with the respect of a queen and the humanity of a woman. A tale that weaves together the known facts told from her own perspective is immensely satisfying in that the demonized perceptions are lifted like so many veils, one after the next. And in humanizing her, Ms. George has humanized Caesar, Antony, and the rest right along with her. And so, as with Henry VIII, Helen of Troy, and her other novels, this is historical fiction raised to its highest levels, in my own humble estimation. Perhaps I'm biased, already being a fan of hers, and admittedly having been attracted the Cleopatra story some decades ago thanks to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Claudette Colbert. With any truly great story like this where seemingly everyone is a force of nature, the more you learn, the better it gets, and the more difficult it can be to find that one superior telling of the story. For this particular tale, look no further than this book. The only way it could be better is if perhaps Ms. George decided someday to pen a companion book about Caesar, seeing as how his part is only the last part of his story, but his influence on Cleopatra seems boundless.
Alison Weir is one of my favorite British historians. I've read a couple of her books in paper form, and she sold me instantly. Via audio, the tales within her pages come to life. Weir is one of those gifted storytellers who can give you both the broad strokes and the details so as to help the reader easily navigate the political and emotional landscape of a subject matter as charged and as tangled as Tudor history.
With any book on Tudor history, I always recommend to the beginner to start with Henry VIII simply because his story is highly engaging and paints the path backwards and forwards through this period. As such, this book is not one I'd automatically recommend for beginners, but I'd certainly recommend it as supplemental reading to Weir's equally amazing Henry VIII biography. That said, this book's focus keeps Henry at the forefront for obvious reasons, and so a beginner could easily start here too. The material is friendly to the novice despite bringing the queens to the spotlight.
For the more advanced student of Tudor history, it's the details and how they weave together that makes this book a winner. The backgrounds, upbringings, emotional states, intellects, and spirituality of the queens are examined and put into context with their king and his ever-changing political machine. Preconceived notions and common misconceptions about each of them are challenged and clarified. The end result is that the reader walks away not only with a better understanding of who these great women were, but also of the circumstances that forged them.
An eloquently told history deserves and eloquent narrator, and Simon Prebble is well-chosen for the task. He has that perfect "documentary voice" that makes the topic at hand seem even more dignified and polished, even in those moments when the story is clearly anything but. He readily engages the material, making it that much easier for the reader to be drawn in and immersed.
As a superhero fan who is long-jaded with the lack of creativity and heart in the industry these days, I'm always on the lookout to find stories in this genre that will serve either to inspire me or to push the boundaries so far as to break them. I've read several such novels and graphic novels that fit the bill. If you're familiar with V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Kingdom Come, or Soon I Will Be Invincible, then you know instantly the kind of breakthrough story I'm looking for.
Let me just say it outright: Steelheart belongs in that pantheon of greatness. This story begins as a nightmare scenario in which the superhumans, or Epics, have taken over the world and destroyed life as we know it, and they are unopposed by heroes of their own caliber. What Brandon Sanderson has done with this is to give the reader hope where there is none, in the form of an 18 year old who seeks revenge for his father's murder. His father is one who believed that a hero would rise, and that message haunts our protagonist just enough to add a level of humanity to this story. The genius is that the hope to be found here is completely up to the reader. Just because the reminders are there, it doesn't mean the reader is hit over the head with it. This is literally one of those stories where what you get out of it is what you allow yourself to take with you. And without spoiling it, the ending is the kind of thing that will stay with you long after you finish. For those of you out there who know superhero formula, this story abides by it and uses the classics in new and slightly unexpected ways. The pacing is quick; the name of the game is action as much as it is world-building.
The weaknesses of this book are the use of slang created for this story and the overuse of really bad metaphors. Neither of these points are enough to reduce the overall rating because the novel is just that solid in my eyes. Bonus points for the time-honored tradition of naming streets and shops after writers, artists, and actors who've had an impact on the superhero world.
This is billed as the first of a series, and I hope that's true, providing Sanderson keeps his A-level storytelling in place. There's much more to do in the process of saving the world, and it requires a writer like this to tell it.
My understanding is that this book is one of the great early detective / suspense novels. I guess I'll have to agree to disagree with the critics on this one. The performances in this are very well done, and I can certainly find no fault with that. Likewise, the prose is elegantly written, so it's not the writing that kills it. The problem lies in a painfully slow buildup. The payoff is ultimately well executed, but it takes far too long to get there. Normally I can appreciate a slow burn like this, but in this case something just didn't work for me. This is perhaps one of the few times where I can claim that maybe if the storytelling had been reined in by about a third that it might have been a better read. Still, I do appreciate the writing style of good Gothic prose, so it was still worth it.
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.