I'm developing a healthy respect for the Colonial Radio Theatre players. Rafael Sabatini's works are already amongst my favorites just because they're swashbuckling fun, and I'm a sucker for that. I'm also a sucker for a quality full-cast radio drama, and these actors bring the melodrama up to full. It actually feels a lot like they stripped the audio track from an Errol Flynn movie. I'd love to hear this group do a version of Scaramouche.
As with Plotkin's Opera 101 (which I reviewed earlier), this book is an invaluable insight into this subject matter. As with Opera 101, it's clear from the beginning that Plotkin loves classical music, and his objective is to help you to love it too. His book is designed as a launch pad for discovery, not a textbook of facts. Plotkin is an accredited and acknowledged expert in the field, and while it's expected for his audience to keep up with him, he does his best to bring his expertise to a level where general audiences can do just that. Again, as with Opera 101, the author assumes that the audience has had some exposure to the music and wants to catapult beyond the beginner level to a realm of true appreciation. This book covers history, anecdotal tales, musical theory, analysis, and even an overview of the various instruments in the orchestra. For the true novice, there is a section that outlines the expectations of attending a concert performance.
Many other reviews I've seen lamented that the music itself wasn't a part of this audiobook, and while that's a hindrance, such a thing would likely have been a licensing nightmare as many of the performances are not in the public domain. He does outline, however, exactly which performances he's referencing, and suggests that if you can't find them at a library (or perhaps online these days), then other recordings will suffice in most cases.
If there is a true negative to be found in this book, it's the author's own performance. He reads as though he's not reading his own work, and the recording is semi-professional at best. What I mean by that is that every time he takes a breath or smacks his lips, you hear it. There's no post-production to cover up that distraction. Even so, the breadth of his knowledge that's offered here more than makes up for it in my humble opinion, and he does it without talking down to you. If you engage the material, there's no reason this book shouldn't open up a new level of appreciation.
I had a blast with Verily, A New Hope, and multiple listens gave me something new to appreciate in that venerable old tale. I'm guessing you did too, otherwise why would you be seeking this one out? The Empire Striketh Back proves to hit the same marks. On the surface, it's just fun. The actors clearly had as much fun performing it as I did listening. Combine that with the John Williams music and the classic sound effects, it's hard not to love this. Where else will you hear dialogue for a wampa, a space slug, and an AT-AT walker?
As with the original, I want very much to see this performed on a stage in an all-out production. A work like this just demands the full treatment.
I've been following "Benny the Irish Polyglot" at his blog for a few months now, and this book is essentially all of his great hints and tips in one place, put together so you don't have to hunt for them. He's living proof that learning to speak multiple languages CAN happen, but he'll also tell you that fluency in 3 months requires 3 or more hours per day. If you don't need "mastery" or don't have that kind of time commitment, a slower pace will still get you where you're looking to be with dedication in the time frame you do have. If nothing else, dispelling the myths, addressing concerns, and providing a positive platform for beginners are what Benny does best. That's what this book is all about.
There is an old saying, "When the student is ready, the master will appear." That's how this book is setup, with the author's teacher showing up to teach a professional bass player how to play music, and that's how this book found its way to me. It was the right message at the right time, and there is simply not enough I can say about it that will sing its praises properly.
There are a great many self-help books out there, just as there are a great many musical instruction books and books on fundamental spirituality. This book is all three at once - a masterpiece in its own right - and so much more. Sometimes for a message that's always been with us to be heard properly is for it to be presented in a new way, providing that shift in focus that clicks everything into place. Being musically inclined, that's precisely what this audiobook did for me.
As a narrator, Wooten is superb. He tells the story in such a way that we are learning right along with him at the feet of a teacher who will show us "nothing." Indeed, that's the whole message of the story, that we already know everything we need to know. From another person, this message might seem unbelievable or completely trite, but Wooten's tale makes you believe it. If I have one regret about this book, it's that it sat in my wish list for far too long... but then, perhaps I wasn't ready for it until now.
As far as overviews of the Middle Ages go, I would rank this book in my top 3. History is so much more than names and dates; it's cause and effect, action and reaction spurred by motivation and belief systems. The religious and geopolitical minefield of the Medieval era can be incredibly difficult to navigate. Where some overviews are far too simple to be of any use, and others are far too detailed to be effective as overviews, this book serves that perfect middle ground for both beginners and scholars alike. It's an excellent read that serves to pull all lines of thinking together and highlights some of the giants of the age in the process.
Like so many, I grew up reading the tales of Arthur, and though it's been years since I've read this particular version of it, it's always stood out to me as one of the best versions. Let it be said that it's still a fantastic version, but it's nowhere near as straightforward as I remember it.
The knights and their lineages are given rapidly (it's good to have Wiki or some other resource with you), and many of the story points are told out of order or given through prophecy. I realize that spoilers are a bit of a non-issue for a story like this, but for a first-timer, it's not the most friendly version. Then again, they do kind of give you all the spoilers in the book's description, don't they? Even so, it doesn't detract from the magic of the tales.
This particular reading... skip it. Unless you're already predisposed as liking Frederick Davidson's narrating style, let this be a warning. Like so many other reviewers, I find his voice to be ok, but his tone and presentation make him come across like a British Tommy Lee Jones: bored, annoyed, and otherwise disgusted with the material. I have an abridged version on cassette narrated by Derek Jacobi that I bought some 20+ years ago, and it's a far, far superior reading. I'd love to find an unabridged version by him or someone with equal enthusiasm for the material.
Blame Indiana Jones, but I have a fascination with art and artifacts. That's where this book comes in. This one recounts the recovery of treasures in the wake of the German surrender in 1945, including the reasons why the team was given only 3 weeks to do so, and some background on the stories behind the artifacts. By necessity, the author also discusses the reasons why these treasures were taken in the first place, which put in the context of history makes for interesting reading.
The author has made the Herculean decision of trying to cover this topic from as many directions as possible in an extremely limited time, and there is plenty of personal speculation to go along with massive info dump. Such will inevitably be the nature of the beast when dealing with subject matter of this sort. In spite of this, the narrative somehow manages to not become the tangled train wreck in could potentially be. It's not a straight line, but the meandering does have points to make if the reader can stay on the same page with what the author is trying to put forth. Most books of this kind are more than an little "out there," and this one stays reigned in and more scholarly by comparison. For those who like their history in one place, even if it's not nice and tidy, this one is worth the read for anyone so inclined towards the topic.
When you read the longer history tomes, be they about a specific period or maybe a larger overview, the minutae of what goes into siege warefare is usually glossed over with broad strokes. This book is for all of you armchair historians and fantasy gamers out there who want details. This book talks about everything from the weapons and baggage train to the roles of women and the digging of underground tunnels. The more you know about the general history and politics of a given era, the more you'll appreciate the details, but ultimately it's really not necessary as those broad strokes are provided as a reverse of most other history books.
The setup for this book is a good one. Discovered in the act of leading a "normal" life, the legendary Kvothe is coaxed into telling his complete story to a Chronicler. What follows is one of the most detailed fictional autobiographies I've ever had the pleasure to read.
I've read some opposing reviews on this, which stands to reason as the level of minutae will either make or break the story for most readers. To me, that's what makes this story that much more real. Kvothe and his world feel alive. The storytelling is as compelling as anything you'd find from Sanderson or other contemporaries without dipping into the gore and perversity found in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. At least, not yet. Book 2 is still out there, and this story has planted its seeds of darkness and despair. Likewise, the characters work for the right reasons. Many of them are very much the stenciled template archetypes as so many fantasy characters are, but the way they're written makes you forget that very quickly. The world around them is built in five senses, base needs, and realistic motivations. They interact with that world and each other in the same way.
As a surprise, when Rothfuss ventures into the poetic, it's as rich as Tolkien, which is something I rarely see. Most prose writers don't feel they can write poetry, so they don't try, but for Kvothe's beginnings as a bard in a nomadic troupe, it's not only believable, it's necessary. It's part of what gives the world the feeling of depth and history, through culture. I don't know if Rothfuss studied theater and music, but based on what I'm reading, I'd be surprised if he didn't. If he didn't, he certainly knows people who did. Either way, you can't fake the experience he writes when it comes to the musical performances. There's a line from Mr. Holland's Opus where he instructs his student to "play the sunset." Rothfuss is able to describe that experience in a way that will make you feel it. For me, this is what truly makes this novel a literary treasure. If he can do that, imagine what happens when the pendulum swings the other way into the realm of dread.
When Hines wrote this sequel, I think he understood that the basic fun of the first one wouldn't be enough to sustain more. As any quality sequel should do, this one opens the world a bit more, asking questions not only about the nature of libriomancy as introduced in the first book, but also about the characters. Lena's character is the focal point as our primary characters are expanded upon, and the end result makes this story more satisfying. Even so, the basic fun that made the first one work is still here, and it's safe to say that if you liked the first, you'll like this one as well. I'm looking forward to seeing where the next book takes us.
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