For an introductory course on the subject of Qigong, you could do worse than this book. It's informative, and the opening meditations are about as simple as it can get. Even guided, that's not to say they're simple - everyone has their own blocks to work past when it comes to learning how to meditate - but this is definitely a "no fear" approach for those who are curious to begin and aren't sure how to do so.
This book is nothing less than astounding. It's got thieves pulling off capers, masterminds, mages, alchemists, assassins... shark-fighting gladiators; whatever you're looking for, it's probably got it here. Not only is the world itself not a Tolkien / Martin knock-off, the writing style is just laugh-out-loud funny and equally cringe-worthy when those moments arise. Honestly, I have trouble describing how incredible this is - if you got this far to where you're reading a review, trust me when I say this book is for you. Grab it.
Michael Page is new to me, and now he's instantly one of my all-time favorite narrators. This guy goes from meek and sniveling to bombastic and pompous in the blink of an eye, and everywhere in between. This book is a performance of the highest caliber, and he clearly had way too much fun with it.
For something that pretty much bills itself as CSI: Ancient Britannia, it goes nowhere fast. The characters are well-developed quickly, but the plot... well, it plods. Slowly. Brutally slow to the point where I'm yawning. The author's descriptions and dialogue and everything else are top notch, she just has zero sense of pacing. I had high hopes based on other reviews and gave it a quarter of the book, but finally just gave up.
Simon Vance is the reason I got as far as I did in this title. His performance is, as per always, amazing. His talents are wasted on this one.
I'm not entirely sure why I was drawn to this book. As much as I'm fascinated by angels, most fiction about them tends to be fairly limited. Many have remarked they are this generation's vampire, and that's true to a certain extent. Like zombies and vampires, there are just too many of the same stories, many of them trying desperately to stand out by being different, and failing precisely because these beings aren't supposed to be different from what they're meant to be.
With this in mind, I went through this story anyway. The first 2/3 or so is pretty basic. The "rules" of angelkind are honored, which is a plus for me. It means that nephalim are the big warning about what happens if there's an angelic romance with a human, and it means the characters in the story are abhorred by this idea. Also, they have reason enough not to trust one another, so it makes for a far more believable story. There's very little about this story that's particularly earth-shattering. If you're familiar with the Christopher Walken Prophecy movies, you'll be right at home here.
There are two standout moments for me. The first is the (no pun intended) that this whole thing is kicked off when Gabriel comes to earth and is shot by the fearful humans. I've never seen this approach before, and I totally buy it. It's something we monkeys would do. The second is the climax when we find out what the angels are doing with the humans they capture. I think this is supposed to be a nod to Clive Barker's rather disturbing prose style and twisted imagination. Most can't pull it off, and while the author is outclassed by this example (who isn't, let's be honest), she is successful enough to make you squirm with her descriptions. Kudos on that.
On the whole, I'm not drawn in enough to want the rest of the series right now, but this was a fun read all the same. I may eventually come back to it, but I'm not that invested. That's probably because I could care less about post-apocalyptic stories, although to be fair, this story works better precisely because of that setup. The characters are solid enough to be believable, though we could see the archangel Raphael a mile away the moment the name was mentioned, so there wasn't much of a reveal there. I love the concept of the insane mother fighting her own inner demons in the middle of all this. I feel like there were some missed opportunities here as well, and some inadequate explanations about a great many things. Maybe that's left for the sequels? Time will tell.
One point of mention... this is a self-published title, and that rarely works out this well. This writer understands something about editing, story pacing, and such, and has paid attention to examples she's studied and enjoyed. You just don't see that much. So, more kudos. On the whole, far better than expected from angelic YA fiction, but still not as powerful as the potential of the genre could be. It's early in the series, so we'll see what happens.
Exactly as my title announces, there is less history to be had in this work than there is literary extrapolation. Some of it is very much historical, as this extrapolation comes from earlier tribes and traditions, keeping in mind there are hundreds of years between the Trojan War and Homer's Iliad. If you're looking for pure history, you won't find it here. There is history to be had, but it's more breakdown of the characters and themes that make The Iliad the great work that it is. As a literary analysis, this book is a home run. Having read both prose and poetic verse translations of the classic epic, this book operates more like a college thesis on Homer's tale. For the scholastically-inclined, this isn't a bad thing. I might even suggest that for those who couldn't finish The Iliad (you know who you are), this book might be the catalyst for higher appreciation that's needed.
Vampires are, and have been for a long time, a staple of pop culture. They're everywhere, so much so that, like zombies, they're practically a beating for those not complete enamored with their glut. Vampire fans know that you often have to go through several hundred books and movies before you find a truly good story, and few - if anyone - seem to want to go backwards and experience the classics.
Everyone thinks they know the story of Dracula. There have been more versions, translations, reboots, sequels, etc., of this story than there are of any other character in all of popular fiction, up to and including the great Sherlock Holmes. I submit that if you've never read Bram Stoker's original, you don't know Dracula even half as well as you might think.
Whether you have actually read this story or if you're ready to take the plunge, I would strongly suggest that this Audible Edition is perhaps the absolute best treatment of the story I've ever encountered. Forget all you know - or think you know - and allow the story to unfold through a truly magnificent experience. As Stoker's tale is told through journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings, this format makes it a rare treasure for the audio format in that it can utilize and benefit from a full cast without having to change the original prose in the slightest. The result is astounding, and I can't say that lightly. Dracula has always been one of my favorites, with few iterations ever living up to the original version, and to hear this version... wow!
It's easy to praise the likes of Tim Curry, Alan Cumming, and Simon Vance, for they are consistently turning out A-level audio work. You won't find them slacking off here either. But to compliment them, there's not one single voice in this story that seems out of place. For audio, it's a dream team performance. Special kudos to Katherine Kellgren for her turn as Mina. There is a lot of subtlety in her performance where you can tell this woman is both distraught to the point of emotional breakdown and trying to keep it together for the sake of appearance. None of the performances are over the top; they are true to the voices of their characters instead of what popular culture has turned them into. That one point alone is worthy of thundrous applause in my book.
If I had anything negative to say, it would be to say that the caliber of the performance almost demands a musical score that could enhance it further, but I admit that might be going too far. Regardless, this is a must-have. Audible is to be congratulated for putting this together.
If you've ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time, you know that sometimes for a story to work, you have to suspend disbelief and just let the magic unfold. That's what you have to do here. The author will try to help you along the way with characters telling you why the setup actually has a logical sense to it, and if you choose to believe for the duration of the book, it seems to work.
The idea of the protagonist as historical romance novelist was actually pretty interesting. I'm a fan of the creative process, and I wondered if the author mirrored her character in regards to the process of writing her tales... with the possible exception of genetic memory. All of the characters in this story, in both time periods, are three-dimensional people, and that's the kind of thing that helps to sell their stories. The settings and situations are likewise fully formed in all senses; Kearsley's writing style is geared perfectly for this, neither over-explaining nor under-explaining as many writers are apt to do. There's enough there to form an image in your mind, and not enough to beat you over the head with it.
The flaws with the novel are exactly the ones you'd expect to find in any romance novel. If this is your chosen genre, they're not necessarily flaws. The tropes are the same, and the possible endings are constrained to a select few (I won't spoil which of the handful she uses here). The author even has her characters hang a lantern on the stereotypes of the historical fiction genre, pointing out that if a man writes it, the book is bloody, whereas if a woman writes it, it ends with a kiss. While this is true to an extent, Kearsley toes that line between playing up to the stereotype and flinging it aside. In the end, it's still a romance novel and all that implies, but the history still shapes it into something worth reading, giving the characters motivation and limitations within the scope of the lives they lead.
This book is a slow read, but it doesn't plod haplessly. It's more like a stroll through the lives of these characters. You get to know them, and you find yourself liking them. This keeps you coming back to finish the story. I've seen some reviews where people find the history to get in the way, and where the author force feeds it to you. My argument would be to address the idea that this is historical fiction, that history is what gives this story its depth, and if that's not for you, why would you read it? The history presented herein is a bit of an info dump at times, but that's how the research goes when digging into the past; you find a new avenue to pursue, then the knowledge is unlocked in fragments. I think it comes across very well here.
Rosalyn Landor's performance here is stellar. She has accents down, and even her male characters are believable. She ensures that you can relate to the story, which is always necessary for the fullest enjoyment.
Rather than a direct translation of Shakespeare, the authors have done what he did: tell the most exciting bits and make it relevant to the audience of the day. If I have any criticism of Shakespeare's work, it's that many of his stories are told in fast forward. Such is the nature of a stage play. In this case, the story is expanded so as to tell what a stage play cannot, delving deeper into character that dialogue can, and depicting battles that might otherwise get glossed over. The result is a wonderfully told story of which I daresay the bard would approve.
Another point worth mentioning: the biggest issue I have with modern performances of Shakespeare is the incessant need to modernize the story and take characters out of their historical context. This version places the story in Medieval Scotland and makes it feel real. There is a verisimilitude to it that draws you in and makes you believe it.
The narration by Alan Cummings is, as always, a top notch performance, so much so that it seems criminal to call it a narration. The man is a master of his craft, serving the story in ways that need to be experienced.
It's been said that Eleanor is the queen who inspired the concepts of Courtly Love and inspired chivalry in her passing. True or not, Norah Lofts makes you believe it. Eleanor's story is told more or less in fast forward, and there's not much here beyond the basics of history in terms of names, dates and facts. Such is the nature of such a short novel written so many decades ago. That said, the reason to read this account is for the story and for Eleanor's strength of character. It's difficult not to admire her through this telling. Norah Lofts is one of the most underrated historical novelists, and this novel would make a great introduction to her work.
Nicolette McKenzie is an impressive narrator. She conveys the personalities of all of these characters with an honest performance that only lends to the story. Through her, Eleanor shines.
I'd always heard this book was "the gold standard" for history books on the Middle Ages. It's been on my radar for years, and for some reason, it kept getting backburnered. Now that I've gone through it, I can honest say that it's earned the high praise. As an overview of a single century, it provides both a microcosm of the Middle Ages as a whole and a fascinating storyscape of the events that defined the 14th century. There is nothing in this book that's overly difficult to consume, making it an ideal read for both enthusiast and expert alike. Tuchman knows her stuff, and she presents it in a way that speaks to the audience at their own level without insulting either end of the spectrum. That's so hard to do.
Not only is this book fair and balanced in regards to the distaster, drama, and people involved, it makes it a point of telling you so and demonstrating it at every turn by comparing the information to some of the more grandiose fallacies that are often believed. And as balanced as it is, it's still pretty clear that this is a century you wouldn't want to visit, let alone be a part of. It's the kind of book that, the deeper it goes, the more you will appreciate living in your own day and time, with all of the modern comforts to which you've grown accustomed.
Nadia May is superb as the narrator. Her French is spot-on, which is necessary for any book that discusses this era, and her tone is lively and engaging throughout. She reads this material in a way that says, "I'm interested in this, and you should be too."
I had heard whispers that this book was nothing short of amazing. Turns out, the rumors are true! This book delivers profound Eastern thought in the form of Winnie the Pooh, as told in the style of Milne's classic tale and referencing it heavily. I was amused and sent gliding into sheer appreciation of this work that, quite frankly, words can't really do justice. This book has to be experienced.
As always, Simon Vance delivers a performance, and while I'm continually impressed by the dignity he brings to his narrations, I feel like he captured most of the voices dead-on perfectly right out of my childhood, and for those few he didn't, he came really close. His performance as Pooh is otherworldly good, and all of his characters help to drive the messages home in a way that is guaranteed to live in your heart for a long time to come.
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