I've never been to England before, but the details of Harold's walk were so detailed that I could follow his journey on Google Maps. It was a great way to enjoy this book. I loved the complicated relationships, even though I guessed the big twist about an hour into the book. It still didn't ruin the moment it was revealed towards the end. I say towards the end because it wasn't really close enough for the end. Do you remember those wavy plot lines that your literature teacher drew on the chalkboard in grade school? The plot builds up slowly, slowly, slowly, until you reach the top of the mountain, then it quickly goes back down and the book ends. I have a feeling Miss Joyce never saw that wavy line, because after the big shocking twist, she continues to plod on. And on. And on. I found myself zoning out.
Overall, however, this was a great book. And for her first book, outstanding! I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
For anyone who has read my other reviews on Audible, it will come as no surprise when I open this review by saying that I love art. I keep reading fiction about art, hoping that I will come across something lovely, but am usually stuck with a big steaming turd. Not so with this book. It's like 32 hours of Catcher In The Rye with an art twist.
Since it's a very long book, let me break it down a little, starting at the beginning.
The first part, where he talks about his relationship with his mother, is beautiful. I'm the single mother of a little boy (now not so little) and our relationship is very much like the one in the book. It made me a little teary eyed, and I can only hope that my own son thinks of me with such loving tenderness, even though I drag him to all sorts of boring museums that I'm sure he would rather not go to.
After she dies and Theo's future is uncertain, it does get a bit uncomfortable to listen to. But that's what great books do. They make you feel, even if that feeling is unpleasant at times.
Later on, when he's back in NY, he does some rather shady things. I completely understood why he did what he did, how he felt about it and how he coped with his situation. Not only does he have untreated PTSD, but he's also self-medicating. That combination will produce sad outcomes every time.
After he is reunited with a long lost friend, we hear about his past from a different voice and realize what an unreliable narrator we have been listing to up to that point, and it brings into question everything we think we know about Theo and everything else.
The situation with the art is well done. It didn't feel like she was stretching to tell the story. The art work fit into the plot quite well. I loved listening to the characters speak so lovingly of art and antiques. And also being made to understand how owning an illegal/stolen piece of art would be an unbelievable burden and not a great adventure. (It puts me in mind of The Pearl.)
The end is a bit wordy. I still felt like Theo was an unreliable narrator, but maybe a bit less so after unburdening himself of some of his worries.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book.
I don't buy into trends or hype. I don't want to read a book that everyone loved, because honestly, everyone's tastes aren't the same as mine. I like books that challenge, that awe and astound, that push me to think in a way I haven't before. I won't read a book just because it won an award.
That being said, after reading the synopsis of this book, I decided to read it anyway. It sounded new and different. But I was disheartened by all of the negative reviews. Again, I decided to read it anyway. And I'm glad I did.
The characters are rich and well developed. And although there are a lot of them, it's not difficult to keep them all straight because of their individuality.
Something that everyone is talking about is the astrological formula Ms. Catton used. While I agree that it does sound like a creative writing class prompt, I do not consider that a bad thing. What does it matter how you get there? It only matters that what you have when you get there is something you're proud of, and, hopefully, something that people want to read. I think she has been successful on both counts. To me, the astrological aspect didn't matter a great deal over all. That is to say, it neither added nor subtracted from the story.
I'm happy with the time I spent listening to this book. It allowed me to look at a time and place I generally would have to reason to consider.
I have listened to several lectures in this series and loved every one. Not so much this one, though. I keep rereading the title to see if it might give me some indication where I went wrong. But, no. That's no help.
Going into the lecture, I was expecting Professor Novella to instruct us on ways to use the scientific method to think about things in a critical way. That's not what this lecture is about at all. Instead, it is about how to think critically about science.
In the first two or three sessions he does touch on some practical uses of critical thinking, and then again in the final session. The rest of the time he spends talking about scientists who have made mistakes and people who believe in kooky ideas, like cult teachings.
I initially chose this lecture over, say, Important Pharaohs of Egypt, because of something I recently heard on the news. The White House held a press conference to let people know that the government healthcare website was safe and had not been hacked. Normally I don't pay much attention to White House press conferences, but this one struck me because there was no news report before hand to indicate that the website was unsafe. This, therefore, led me to think that this was the result of a logical fallacy. Someone was poisoning the well. Someone who is opposed to government healthcare started a rumor, and people who weren't using their critical thinking skills spread it around, thus causing the White House to address a problem that did not exist.
Because of this, I wanted to know more about how our brains work, and why people let themselves get carried away by things they haven't fully thought through. Not about the drudgery of scientific proof.
There is one thing about this lecture that I did like, however. While I was sitting there listening, trying very hard to learn something new, I realized that my level of critical thinking is above normal. Learning by not learning. Hmm...
I'm not saying this is a bad lecture. It will be very interesting to someone who has never heard this information before. It's very important to learn how to call BS when it needs to be called. But I didn't find this lecture helpful. Perhaps I am just to skeptical about everything already.
I saw Simon Sinek's TED talk two weeks before I started my own business. It greatly influenced the way I thought about my business strategy and how I worded my intent on my website. A few weeks after I had started my business, I saw his book on sale on Audible. Great timing! This book is an extended version of his TED talk.
So far, I have had great success by using his strategy of starting with why. Of course, I've done other things to ensure my companies success, but I always ask myself why I'm making the choices I make. By doing this, it helps keep my on track and focused on my original goals.
This book isn't just about how to be successful in business. It's also I good way to analyze yourself in daily life by keeping in mind why you are doing things and behaving in certain ways. There are a couple parts I keep coming back to. The biggest one is, how we make decisions. I am the sort that makes quick decisions and is usually happy with those choices, even if I find out later that I could have saved money if I had done a little more research. My husband is the kind of person that over-researches every decision and is more dissatisfied because he feels he could have saved even more money if he had taken even longer to research. This used to infuriate me, but now I understand that it is just the difference in the way our minds work.
Like all self-help books, this book will not solve all your problems. But it is informative and insightful. I would recommend it to everyone. Simon Sinek is also a very good narrator and easy to listen to.
Everyone comes into books from different places and at different points in their lives. If I had read this in my early twenties, I would have loved it. That was before I had gone to see the Impressionist's work in its birthplace, before I had taken 3 art history classes, and before I had found my own voice as an artist.
Art history is a fairly dry subject, only interesting to those who truly love art. Therefore, it stands to reason that it's difficult to write a really good art history book, fictitious or not. I know that most real art lovers hate The Da Vinci Code. But you must admit, it had some real entertainment value, even if it was mostly ridiculous. This book didn't even come close to being as thought provoking, or as enjoyable as The DVC. The storyline was formulaic and predictable, the characters were underdeveloped, and the imagined history was silly.
***This part might contain spoilers. You should stop reading here if you don't want to know some specific details.***
The main character, Claire, was a sniveling little brat. Most artists are neurotic, egotistical and self deprecating. Not tattle-telling, whiny nitwits. Her famous artist boyfriend makes a name for himself by passing off her painting as his own, which she encouraged, by the way. Then, when he breaks up with her to go back to his wife, she rats him out. She acts all noble, saying that she just wants the truth to come out. I call BS. If you're going to be spiteful about something, don't make it worse by lying about it. Hold your head high while ruining someone's life and career. At least then you're not a liar and a jerk.
Then there's Aiden. He was her ex-boyfriend's art rep. But now he's the devil on her shoulder, and her lover. Not to say that doesn't happen in the art world. There's plenty of lasciviousness going on. But you know what everyone calls the girl that tries to ruin her ex's career, then gets a show of her very own at his former art rep's gallery, that, oh by the way, she's sleeping with now? You know the word I'm looking for. Anyway, Aiden is so silky smooth that he is an unbelievable character. He owns a successful art gallery, a large historic home decked out in priceless art, he grows his own food in his backyard, he cooks gourmet meals after working all day, and he's thoughtful and considerate. This would send up red flags for almost any woman. The first thing that comes to my mind is serial killer. But maybe I'm being a bit harsh. Maybe he's just a creep.
There are some halfhearted sex scenes thrown in there to appeal to the froo-froo sensibilities of the general female population, that don't add anything to the book. In fact, I was sort of put off by the whole thing. Claire sort of, kind of, puts off his advances, while secretly wanting to rip his clothes off. Then when she finally does give in, it's because he cooked for her, was nice to her, and after being rejected by her, stands with his hand pressed against the window watching her leave. Blech! This is the sort of thing that ruins real romance. If that's what women are told to expect, then they will be forever disappointed with the slob that is sitting on their couch all day, smelling of corn chips and playing X-Box.
Having ripped this book a new one, I suppose I can say something nice to finish off this review. The art. I get it. When I was in art school, I lived in a city with the best free museum in the country. It wasn't like I had never seen really good art before. But then I went to Europe. When I walked into those museums, it was like I had never really breathed before. Sure, somehow I was maintaining enough oxygen in my body to support life. But this was different. It was like my lungs were filled full for the first time ever. Right then and there I knew I could never live another day without the amazing beauty of man's creations surrounding me. And you can tell that the author has had a similar experience through art. She loves it. She loves it so much she just had to write a book about it. Too bad she had to pander to people who don't know what that kind of passion feels like. But a girl's gotta make a living I suppose.
I was so excited when I got the email from Audible about The Great Courses series. I love lectures and there's a lot to choose from in this collection. I was a little bit overwhelmed by the prices, though. So I decided to pick something that I love, but would like to know more about.
As an art student in college, I learned about ancient civilizations through beautiful works they created. But I've always wanted to know more. I want to know what they wore, what they talked about, what they worried about, how they lived and what they held sacred. This lecture promised to tell me all of those things. And it did.
In the first few lectures, Scott MacEachern talks about archeological theory. It's boring and interesting at the same time. It's a tedious topic, but something that I was previously unaware of. He talks about getting away from researching grand structures and, instead, looking at how commoners lived. That's very much what I wanted to know. He also stressed that we make a mistake when we compare ancient cultures to modern. They lived and thought in completely different ways than we do. I'm not sure why, but it's very hard for me to think of it in that way, as I'm sure it is for many others, including those that study such things.
There were some things that I didn't like about this lecture series, and one thing I absolutely loved. First, dislikes. Professor MacEachern is from Canada, so I expected him to say things in a "Canadian" way, and I was willing to overlook it. What bothered me about the way he spoke is that he often used words improperly and in the wrong context. (It's been awhile since I finished listening to these lectures, so I can't think of any specifics.) If you're looking up to someone as an expert, it's disappointing when they misuse grammar in such a fundamental way. Another thing that bothered me is something that has bothered me about other lectures that I've taken in the past. Namely, lack of enthusiasm. One of my art history professors in college was soooo.... boring that no one wanted to take her class. In fact, art is the thing I love most in life, and I could barely stay awake in her class. But, if you spoke to her one on one, her passion for art was clear. She lit up. I've always wondered why people who obviously love what they're talking about, and want you to love it too, can't make the subject more enjoyable. There was a point in this lecture, near the end, when Professor MacEachern got fired up. But it was too, little too late.
Now for what I did love about it. I think that experts are often too certain of themselves and what they think. They present their ideas and things that are currently known as hard, solid fact. But the truth is, facts are relative and constantly changing as we discover new and wonderful things. It's rare and refreshing to hear someone in authority say, "This is what we know right now, but it might change as we research this topic further." I really appreciated that aspect of this lecture.
Overall, I'm satisfied with this lecture series. I learned quite a few things. But, I may wait awhile to listen to another of these lectures. Even though it didn't cost as much as an actual college course, and I could listen to them in my pajamas, they are still rather expensive.
I listen to this podcast every week. I've found some amazing books, and listened to some great authors. It was a shock when Kim Alexander announced at the end of this episode that this is the last one. What? Where will I hear all these awesome interviews? And get the top ten count down? Amazon, is this your fault?
I did not give the story three stars because I didn't enjoy it. I gave it three stars because I would need to be a genius, and probably an Indian Historian, to be able to understand it all.
I did like the book though, and for many reasons. The most important being that Salman Rushdie can turn words inside out and upside down and form them into something beautiful that you've never seen before. This book made me feel like what I imagine it would feel like to be in India. The smells, the traffic , the poor people hanging onto buses and trains. He doesn't make things picturesque. He makes things real. Not only the good, but the bad as well. The narrator of the story, Saleem Sinai, doesn't hold back from telling us how things really are. He tells us about his snot, accidentally seeing his mother's woohoo, fighting on the wrong side of things and falling in love with his sister. He is the kind of narrator that most of us are. He forgets things, backtracks, skips ahead, gets muddled. But through it all you learn about his whole family and history, and how the history of India is a part of everything. My favorite character is the grandmother, Reverend Mother. She is absurd, and yet, somehow quite likable. Every time she said "what's his name" it made me smile.
I found Midnight's Children easier to understand than The Satanic Verses. Even though it doesn't flow in chronological order, and the story is often interrupted by Padma, it is not as fantastical or as dreamlike as SV. But there are some similar themes in both books. Rushdie seems to be fond of the good/evil, God/Satan dynamic. Also, reality and non-reality play an equal part.
If you like books that push you, that expand you, that make you question things and look at the world in new ways, then you will like this book. It's not easy, but it is worth it.
I've had this book on my to-read list for years, but I kept putting it off because it's described as a horror novel. Horror books and movies give me freaky dreams, so I usually stay away from them. But this book isn't scary at all. (At least it wasn't for me, and I'm a big sissy.)
This was Bram Stoker's second novel, published in 1897. For a second novel he really showed that he knew what he was doing. The characters all have unique and well developed personalities. His descriptions of the settings are perfect and not as flowery as some would have done during that time period. The epistolary format adds to the believability of an otherwise preposterous situation. And I enjoyed the inclusion of popular psychology and medical practices of the Victorian Era. You can really see how far we've come in 120+ years. The only thing about this novel that I disliked was his description of women. They were swooning, helpless messes that would be lost without men by their sides. But, at the same time, Mina is one of the strongest and smartest characters. Without her this book, and the men in it, would have been lost. It just irritated me when she would push aside her own feelings and desires because her husband, or some other man, told her it would be for the best, and of course men know better than women. Ugh. So, I kept reminding myself that it was the accepted ideas of the time, and then tried to let it go.
Also, the narrators were fantastic! They brought the characters to life. I agree with other reviewers , the whole cast should have been listed during the end credits.
I have enjoyed all of Christopher Moore's books, except for this one. It felt clumsy and heavy handed. Some of the characters were interesting, but none were well developed. The story became muddle and difficult to understand.
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