Member Since 2005
I really liked the characters in this book. We came to know and care about many of the people stuck in the London blitz. There was a lot of excellent history, and I think the author did a fabulous job letting us experience the terror of constant bombing, the privation of constant rationing and the courage shown by much of the population.
The cutting back and forth between different centuries and different locations was a little harder to follow in an audiobook than in print.
What made me subtract a star from the overall score was the constant repetition of the same themes - "I'm stuck, no one can rescue me", "I may have changed history" and "I'm not going to tell my friends what's really going on because I don't want them to worry."
The six parts that make up the two books in this series were probably twice as long as they needed to be.
I'm no stranger to, or enemy of, extremely long books, but I do want the story to keep moving. The same thoughts kept running through the characters' heads, and it was tiresome to hear them over and over.
We also got to hear slightly humorous or sarcastic thoughts, almost never voiced, which was also annoying. One character might say, "That's a dangerous job" and another would think "Not as dangerous as rescuing prisoners from Dunkirk".
I wondered why the characters couldn't occasionally voice their thoughts. It also occurred to me that characters, like people, probably only think interesting thoughts a small percentage of the time. Listening to every boring thought that anyone might have in a day is almost torture.
Perhaps this review is more negative than I intend, but I like Connie Willis' work in general, and I liked the characters and theme of this book. If the redundant thoughts were eliminated, I think this would be a great read for lovers of history, sci-fi fans and those looking for an exciting listen.
I have been attending operas for 40 years. Although I have no musical training, I've always loved going to the opera, particularly Mozart. This course taught me a lot about opera terms, the history of the composers, the history of music and the how language influenced opera (different rhythms in the language require different phrasing in the music). Professor Greenberg tossed many jokes, often in the language of the composer, into the mix, about 2/3 of which amused me. The recordings selected nicely illustrated Prof. Greenberg's points.
Please, I must make one additional observation. If you are attempting to make any changes in your life, in addition to learning about opera, I recommend that you commit yourself to doing so whenever Prof. Greenberg says either "Please!" or "Quickly". If you promise to do 10 pushups, for example, you will likely get 70 to 100 done per lecture with a commitment to "Please!", and 20 to 30 if you go for "Quickly". If you're a drinker, you will be well on your way to alcoholism.
Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed the lectures and the lecturer. If you're curious about or not thoroughly knowledgeable about opera, this is a great place to start learning and (I hope) loving it.
I love a scary book, and this one was plenty scary. Unfortunately, many of the main characters were unlikable. The first victim of the curse (who was the heart of the story) was such a jerk that I was not at all sorry to say goodbye. I was indifferent to Angie, the protagonist, and much more interested in Grandma Marie, about whom we learn relatively little. Most of the victims (other than the first) were far more likeable than Angie's family (Grandma Marie, excepted). The book also had a strange ending, which seemed to come out of nowhere.
If you want to be scared, this book is a good choice. If you want characters you empathize with and a logical ending, you may need to look elsewhere.
I bought this hoping to improve my own storytelling skills. Professor Harvey did have some good suggestions for preparing stories that may prove useful to me. She also had quite a few annoying habits that set my teeth on edge.
In many of the lectures, she asks us to "give ourselves permission to play" by changing the stories around. After the dozenth time of hearing this inane phrase, I wanted to swat her.
She also seems to be sabotaging her own authority by negating her instructions with a concluding snort (as if she is saying "Can you believe I said that?").
I was also annoyed by her frequent use of the word "faery", pronounced "FAEEEE- REEEEE", which she tells us she learned in Scotland is the correct pronunciation. I think actual Scots might beg to differ with her.
This course did provide some ideas worth pursuing, but I think the cost (in time and annoyance) was not worth the benefit (a few good ideas). A list of bullet points would have served me better.
This is (I think) my sixth Great Course, and it is my favorite by far. The range of history covered is remarkable, and I loved getting details about the life of an ordinary person in Babylonia, Rome or (especially) Egypt. Medieval times were far more interesting than I expected. I think I had grown to think the middle ages were a time when the sun didn't shine and old women were constantly being put to the flame as witches. Not so. People were learning, loving and moving forward.
In past Great Courses, the lecturers (who are not the professional readers in most of the Audible selections) frequently annoyed me with verbal tics. Not Professor Garland. This was especially surprising since he has a slight lisp. His selection of stories, detail and occasional glimpses of his own life added to the enjoyment of this course.
I feel I know far more about our distant ancestors and will look for other courses by Professor Garland.
I truly enjoyed this 42 hour, 84 lesson marathon. I enjoyed it so much that I finished it under three weeks. I stayed up late and got up early to learn about a few more authors.
It was fun catching up with old friends from my English Lit college days - Homer, Dostoyevsky, Dante, Wordsworth, Austen - the list goes on. Like a cocktail party, however, our visits were brief.
Nonetheless, I gained insight into many of my old favorites. For the first time, Achilles didn't seem like a sulky boy refusing to play because someone was mean to him. I learned more about Jane Austen's family and romantic life than I knew (or, possibly, I'd forgotten it). The insights into the Divine Comedy were fascinating.
There was not a single lecture when I didn't learn something, and there were probably a dozen authors I knew virtually nothing about. I apparently know virtually nothing about French literature, and look forward to checking out Voltaire, Rabelais and Proust.
There are also some Romans I'd like to check out. (I was a little sorry that the gossip columnist for the ancients, Suetonius, did not merit a lecture, but he did get a couple of shout-outs.)
The reason I didn't give this collection five stars was because listening for so long to speakers who are not actors reading from scripts made their verbal tics very obvious. One of the men (I forget which) would often ask a question, then answer with "It seems to me..." An occasional "I think" would have made a nice change. While this is unexceptionable, say, three times in half an hour (it seemed more like five to ten times per half hour) hearing it over and over on a dozen or so lectures made me want to start drinking every time I heard it.
And it wasn't only one speaker. I think only the final lecturer seemed tic free, but he seemed somewhat smarmy. I imagined him enjoying being surrounded by sweet young co-eds after each lecture. (It's quite likely that I've totally invented the smarminess, but that was my aural impression.)
Although the tics were annoying, the wealth of information about a wide variety of notable writers aroused my desire to return to some of the classic authors, and to listen to more literature courses.
Finally, the applause at the beginning and end of each lecture confused me. I don't recall applauding for anything in my college days. Was this not meant to be a regular college class? Perhaps it was supposed to be a lecture that people paid to attend? I only know that I was always surprised and skeptical that there was a room full of students applauding at the end of each lecture.
When I started this book, I thought I had made a terrible mistake. The protagonist, Helen, seemed like an awful person. She arrives at her parents' house, lets herself in with the key she told them years ago she lost (while secretly holding it "just in case") and announces she's moving in.
Her parents are less than thrilled.
Helen seems to have nothing nice to say about anyone she's ever met.
As the book goes on, serious matters (mental illness) are woven in with a missing boy band member (now age 37), various romantic entanglements, a hilarious depressive's line of paint names, and a lot of detail about the actual work of becoming and surviving as a private eye.
I had no idea what had happened to the boy bander (although the clues were all there), and grew to love and admire Helen.
There were many smiles and a few laughs out loud.
This is apparently one of a series of books about the 5 girls in the family, and I will definitely check out the other books.
This book seemed to be the first draft of a book. There were interesting stories about killers, but there didn't seem to be any connection between the various stories except that all the killers were active in Los Angeles. The opening story, of the so-called Grim Sleeper, was captivating, but the book was not even able to provide a conclusion, as the man arrested had not been convicted by the end of the book.
There were no insights into what made a person "homicidal", nor how the police could easily recognize incipient serial killers.
This book was also very short, reminding me of the joke from Annie Hall, "The food isn't very good...And such small portions!"
I loved this series. Professor Messenger has a wealth of knowledge, a pleasant voice, a trove of old recordings and a cast of musicians and singers on call.
We learned of the origins of musical theater in revues, minstrel shows and musicals.
Many different performers, composers and lyricists are discussed, including Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor and many more. Andrew Lloyd Weber even rates a bit of discussion in the last lecture.
I learned a lot, and I loved listening to the music.
As a person who has never taken any sort of music class, there were parts of two lectures that I didn't fully understand. Professor Messenger discussed phrasing (AABC, AABB, and/or some other patterns that I couldn't hear) and he discussed blue notes, which I think I did understand.
Those were the only even moderately technical discussions. The rest of the series involved history, themes, current events, race relations in the theater and the world, as well as other topics easily understood by anyone.
I am sure that I will listen to this very enjoyable series again.
I have been an opera lover for decades, and Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" is my absolute favorite. I also like "The Magic Flute" and "Don Giovanni" very much. I wanted to know more about Mozart and his operas, and this title did deliver.
Unfortunately, the first third of the series was devoted to "Cosi Fan Tutte". While I did learn a lot about Cosi, I have always disliked the inane story, and the lectures changed my opinion only slightly for the better.
The middle third of the series was devoted to Mozart's early life and early works, and (IIRC) "Don Giovanni". I found the information, and some of the selections, fascinating.
The last third gave very short shrift to "The Marriage of Figaro". I think Marriage might have gotten 1 lecture (45 minutes), possibly 2. The lack of attention paid to "Marriage" is perplexing, since Dr. Greenberg points out its many stellar arias, particularly the sextet when Susanna learns Figaro's parentage. "The Abduction from the Seraglio" is barely mentioned. A lot of time was spent explaining the Masonic origins and meanings in "The Magic Flute". I've always felt "Flute" dragged during the Masonic tests, but Dr. Greenberg's explanation made those sections more interesting to me, as well as explaining why Pamina joined Tamino for the last test, and why Papageno was not punished for his general bad behavior.
In addition to my disappointment in the relative amount of time spent on the various operas, I also found Dr. Greenberg's voice somewhat grating. I did enjoy his enthusiasm for his subject.
In summary, I'd say that this lecture provides excellent information and musical selections, but I wish Mozart's great operas had all gotten equal analysis time.
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