So far this year, I've listened to about 50 books, and this has been the best of them. I don't read much non-fiction, I'm a guy, I'm an American, and I don't have any children, so a book of memoirs from a midwife in 1950's London shouldn't logically resonate with me at all. I can't explain it, but I thought this book was wonderful.
I read a few other reviews that disliked the narrator, but I thought she did a great job. She subtly captures different voices without making it into a big deal. The recording mix was a little strange, though, so if you have headphones that really accentuate bass tones, you might have a little trouble with the sound.
The book is a series of stories about different people that the author interacts with during her time studying nursing at a convent in London. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, most of them incorporate interesting historical points about women's health, and all of them are amazing.
I wish I was a better reviewer so I could give a better picture of how great this book is. I'd feel a little silly just writing "this book is awesome" until I hit Audible's character limit, but that would about sum it up.
This book had a slow start. It drops you right into the middle of things, and fills in some details with flashbacks. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to be invested in the world and the story at the very beginning, where you have very little to work with.
If you give it two or three chapters, though, it turns out to be a pretty good story. The concept of zombies in a world with super-heroes is a good twist. The characters have enough depth to be interesting, but not so much that you get bogged down and lose the cool story.
This book did not go where I expected at all.
I really liked Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel series, so I decided to try this one. It's a good story but it's also very different from that series.
The strongest part of this book is the characters. They're well written and realistic. There's also a good mystery about what's actually going on with the near-death experiences that the main character has.
My only criticism is that the book starts to drag around the halfway mark, and doesn't really pick back up until about three quarters of the way through. The last quarter is good, but the book could use a little trimming so that you get there faster.
This book talks about some of the fringes of scientific understanding. Specifically, it talks about 13 different instances of observed data that either contradict the predictions of currently accepted theories, or simply don't have solid theories to explain them yet. That description might make you think that this book is anti-science, or that it caters to fans of pseudoscience, but that isn't the case. The tone supports rigorous application of the scientific method to refine our understanding of the data in every instance.
This is definitely a book written for the average person. The author does a good job of explaining the concepts that he covers so that they are understandable. Since the fields he covers range from physics, to medicine, to neuroscience, that's a good thing; It would take an exceptional person to be well-versed in all of the fields that this book touches on.
Here's a simple way to tell if you'll like this book. If I say to you "the 'cold fusion' results that basically ruined Stanley Pons' and Martin Fleischmann's careers weren't necessarily all that crazy," do you want to know why? If you do, then this book is probably the kind of material you'll find interesting. (It will also elaborate on that particular statement in one of its chapters.)
I hoped that this would be a series of lectures that talked about C.S. Lewis' life and the major themes in his writing. I already knew that most of what Lewis wrote is either an allegory of Christianity or directly apologetic of Christianity. I'm fine with that, and I expected that it would be a major recurring theme in this course. Unfortunately, this isn't a series of lectures, it's a series of sermons. Essentially, every lecture boils down to "here is one of the Truths of Christianity" (notice the capital "T") and a few quotes from one or two of C.S. Lewis' works on that theme. I'm a practicing Christian, and the problem wasn't that I was offended by the professor's sharing of his faith (he and I are probably 80% faith-compatible, if that's even a thing). The problem was that I wanted a literature review mixed with some biography, but I got twelve sermons with passing references to C.S. Lewis. If you want twelve sermons with references to C.S. Lewis, then this course is a good choice. Unfortunately, the description implies that it's something very different.
Older sci-fi has a certain tone. I find that most sci-fi written before about 1950 reads like an adventure story that occurs in a strange setting. If you've read Lewis' "That Hideous Strength," Burroughs' mars series, or Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," you probably know what I'm talking about. This book falls right in line with that particular tone, despite being written in the 70's.
I have come across this book (and the series as a whole) several times on lists of important sci-fi works. I frankly don't understand why it merits mentioning.
The story just isn't that compelling. The main character is Sir Richard Francis Burton, who is an actual historical figure. If you're a big fan of his, maybe you'll like this book more than I did. Since I had barely heard of him, and basically couldn't care less about him, this just seems like a weird story about a guy who acts like kind of a jerk.
Perhaps someone doing an academic exploration of this novel would call it a "Fish-out-of-water story exploring the limits and eventual breakdown of Victorian manners." I just thought it was dull.
Tony Danza does a pretty good job collecting stories about his year of teaching. There are plenty of interesting anecdotes in this book about the various difficult students he teaches at a low-income school in Pennsylvania. Overall, it's a well done book, but there's nothing in here that's going to really impress you. The insights about teaching, students, and public education are all pretty standard. You could pick up any number of similar memoirs from teachers and find exactly the same opinions expressed.
Mr. Danza has put out a decent book and he narrates it well. If you're interested in education, or just memoirs in general, you'll probably like this book. If this kind of book isn't something you'd usually read, then this one probably won't make a convert out of you.
If you asked me what I thought of this book, I'd probably tell you I didn't like it. On the other hand, I'm currently listening to the second book in this series, so the story obviously gripped me. (For what it's worth, I'm having the exact same reaction to the second book, too).
This story isn't really science fiction in the strict sense. It's really more of a spy thriller with a sci-fi coating. There's lots of intrigue and plenty of action, with a couple of alien ships throwing technology all over the place to make the fighting and computer hacking a little flashier. It's a pretty good story, but if you're hoping that there's going to be some epic space battle, you're going to be disappointed. If you like the idea of James Bond with ramped-up technology, this story is going to sit well with you.
My main problem with the book is that the protagonists are extremely frustrating. There's a lot of what I call "bad decision theater." Basically, the characters will make strings of stupid decisions with little or no explanation about WHY someone who's smart enough to tie their shoes in the morning would think any of those decisions were a good idea. I turned off the recording many times because I couldn't believe that someone could be as stupid as the characters in this book.
There are also two minor annoyances that keep yanking me out of the story. First, the narrator mispronounces "SIPRnet." It drives me crazy. Second, about 25% of the "hacker jargon" in the book is computer/networking terms that the author is mis-using. It's really distracting if you actually know what the terms mean.
Even with those problems, though, I'm still continuing with the series. That's why I'm giving this book three stars instead of the two that I would otherwise give it.
This is a good book. The narrator does a decent job, and the story is gripping. If you like mysterious sci-fi, you'll probably like this book. I certainly did. There was only one disappointment. I read review after review saying that I'd never guess the "surprise" ending. Well, I say that unless you're kind of dim you're going to know what the big secret is about a third of the way through the book. I kept thinking "Everyone said it was a big surprise, so it can't possibly be THAT." It was THAT.
It's OK, though. The big super-secret suprise wasn't really the reason why this is a good book. It's the journey along the way that makes it. There are some pretty cool characters, some great action, and some tight suspense (even if you've figured out the secret already). You'll notice I gave it four stars.
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