Professor Drout gives an evocative, fast-paced, and very interesting tour through the history, places, language, people and events of the Anglo-Saxon period in England. I'm a history buff, but this was a new period to me. Well worth a listen, if you're at all interested in a rich but obscure era in English history.
I bought this book when Audible offered it for $3.95, and while I did finish listening all the way to the end, I'm glad that I didn't pay full price for it, or use up one of my credits.
It wasn't a bad book, and had a very interesting premise, but after an amusing first chapter when the alien Hollus shows up at the ROM, the bulk of the novel was basically a long philosophical discourse on evolution, intelligent design, religion, mortality, and ethics.
Which is fine for a work of non-fiction, but as a novel, this book definitely fell flat for me, mostly because the hero's journey from disbelief to grudging belief in a god proceeded at an absolutely glacial pace.
There was a rather clumsy attempt at creating some action via the introduction of two American Christian fundamentalist terrorists, but that came fairly late in the book and felt tacked-on rather than an integral part of the story (probably because the story switches POV to a police officer who is around for two brief scenes, then completely disappears from the narrative). Also adding to the tacked-on impression is the fact that the terrorists are targeting the museum's fossil exhibition, not the visiting aliens, and the main characters are caught up in the events purely by coincidence.
In between the alien's arrival and the terrorist attack, most of the chapters involve either long discourses between the alien and the paleontologist Thomas Jericho, or Jericho arguing with himself about whether he can accept the possibility of intelligent design, and worrying about his terminal cancer.
Honestly, this book felt like several episodes of COSMOS sandwiched in between a couple of chapters of actual science fiction.
Loved Juliani's skillful narration of this book, but I had a hard time caring about Corwin, the book's narrator. Written in a style frequently reminiscent of hard-boiled detective novels, awkwardly combined with the occasional bit of pseudo-Elizabethan dialog, this very short book follows the adventures of a man who wakes up, amnesiac, in a private hospital, and makes a daring escape, followed by the eventual revelation of his true identity as a royal price of Amber, a kingdom located in a alternate universe.
Once he discovers who he is (and that he's part of a large brood of seemingly-immortal, mostly-amoral siblings), he reveals himself to be mostly self-centered, ambitious, and ruthless, with occasional flashes of decency and compassion (though not enough to make him a very sympathetic character). His goal--to prevail against his other brothers, and seize the throne of his late father.
To do this, he forms and breaks alliances with various of his other brothers and sisters, and recruits a huge army of gullible aliens who believe him a god, to use as cannon-fodder. He promptly gets every last one of his followers killed in an ill-advised attack upon Amber, and his own life is in grave peril.
Where the book failed to spark my interest in listening to subsequent volumes is that I simply didn't care whether Corwin became king, or one of his other brothers. They all seemed equally arrogant and awful to me, the entitled, privileged scions who considered all those not of royal blood to be mere pawns in their game of thrones.
I grew up watching Attenborough's wildlife documentaries on PBS, and found this book an absolute joy to listen to--fascinating and frequently-hilarious anecdotes of his globetrotting adventures, skillfully-narrated by the man himself.
He's a man who loves animals and people, and his joy in his experiences and discoveries, as well as his deep respect for the various people he met, really came across in this memoir.
One of the best books I've listened to this year--I was actually disappointed on the days when my commute ran smoothly, because it meant less time with David Attenborough in Africa, or Australia, or South America, or Tonga, or...
Love the narrator for this series. He's got one of those plummy "Royal Shakespeare Theatre" voices, and is doing a fabulous job performing the different characters. His performance definitely adds a lot to the entertainment value of the story.
This sequel to the inventive and witty LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA proved to be just as entertaining as the first book in the series. In the wake of the events in the first novel, Locke and his best friend Jean arrive in a new city. They've managed to triumph over overwhelming odds, but the two young con-men did not escape unscarred from their experiences in their home city. Locke especially is a mess, and it takes a while before he can take an interest in the unscrupulous activities he used to revel in. But once Locke and Jean get back into the game, they are quickly pulled into a bigger, darker game by a puppet-master whose reach and skills may exceed theirs. I enjoyed watching these two brash, clever characters foiled at every turn, and forced into adventures on the high seas. Be warned that the story ends on quite a cliffhanger, and I am eagerly awaiting the release of the third volume in October. As before, Scott Lynch does some very interesting world-building...not your usual Tolkien-derived medievalesque fantasy, but reminiscent of Dickens' London hybridized with Machievelli's Renaissance Italy, set on an planet littered with the ruins of alien cities made of a strange, indestructible glass-like substance.All in all, a highly entertaining tale enlivened by an outstanding performance by a skilled narrator.
What a fun story! In a world littered with the mysterious buildings and artifacts of an alien civilization, master con-man Lock Lamora and his band of sworn brothers set out to swindle the nobility, Robin Hood-style, in a setting that mingles Renaissance Italy and Dickensian London.
An orphan sold to a notorious thief-master, and trained as a pickpocket and petty thief, Locke is a born troublemaker, a restless genius with a knack for biting off more than he can chew, and leaving chaos and unintended destruction in his wake. Along with Jean Tannen, warrior and intellectual, a young thief nicknamed 'Bug,' and a set of larcenous twin brothers, Carlo and Galdo, Locke is later adopted by a priest determined to train a select group of thieves to prey upon the city's upper classes, and ultimately to break the power of the city's Capo, the master of all the criminal gangs.
Unfortunately for Locke and his gang, a new and mysterious criminal figure, nicknamed The Gray King, is also determined to take over the city's criminal underworld...and the Gray King has a frightening and powerful sorcerer at his bidding. What follows catapults Locke into a complex scheme of revenge and bloody conflict as he finds himself cast into the role of the city's unwilling savior.
Loved the high-spirited plot and the sharp dialogue, enhanced by a wonderful performance from narrator Michael Page, who gives each character a distinctive voice and characterization. I've already downloaded the sequel, RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES, and am looking forward the publication of the third book in the series in October 2013.
I loved this story about Thom, a 17-year-old boy who has two big secrets. The first: he's the son of a disgraced superhero, growing up in a household where the topic of superheroes is absolutely verboten...and, so of course, he starts developing superpowers.
And the second secret, that he's absolutely terrified of his factory-worker father (or anyone, actually) discovering, is that he's also gay.
I love the main character--he's a really nice kid despite his insecurities, and he's got a very interesting and authentic-feeling relationship with his Dad, who's also basically a decent and loving man, despite his homophobia. The tensions in his home are nicely described--Thom's desire to be a hero and help people, and his terror of having his secrets discovered...and thereby disappointing the father he loves and worships.
The reader for this book is really good, and I'm finding the story very engaging. (I'm at the halfway point, and I'm finding that I really want to keep listening after I finish my daily commute. That's usually the mark of a excellent book for me.)
By turns horrific, fascinating, maddening, and thought-provoking, this book chronicles the rise and spread of a global pandemic in 1917-18 that killed millions of people, wiping out entire communities in some places, but which is little-known today.
THE GREAT INFLUENZA is not only a suspenseful account of the spread of a deadly disease to almost every nation on Earth, but also a searing indictment of how the American war effort under Woodrow Wilson's leadership helped spread the disease across the world.
Determined to send American troops over to Europe to fight, the influenza spread across America from military bases and training camps by ignoring the pleas of military medical professionals to quarantine the ill. The situation was then worsened when authorities used the strict wartime censorship laws to prevent accurate reporting, which was intended to bolster morale but had the opposite effect as people in affected cities and towns learned to distrust newspaper reports that contradicted the devastation and horror they experienced as bodies piled up in the streets and in houses, and hospitals were hopelessly overwhelmed by the numbers of the sick and dying, and the high death rates among nurses and doctors.
The book concludes with a somber look at modern efforts to chart each new wave of influenza, and what the inevitable pandemic might look like, in an era of hospital cutbacks and outsourcing of pharmaceutical manufacture.
I can't say this was an "enjoyable" book, but it was definitely very interesting and educational!
Far from being a dry account of dates and battles, CAESAR'S LEGION brings this ancient Roman military force to vivid life by chronicling the lives and adventures individual commanders, centurions, and ordinary soldiers.
Filled with fascinating details about how soldiers were recruited and trained, and how they lived while on the march, the book focuses on three major periods in the legion's history: the conquest of Gaul and Britain under the leadership of Julius Caesar; the legion's role in the civil wars that ended the Roman Republic and ushered in the reign of the emperors; and the Jewish rebellion and siege of Jerusalem under Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus.
All three of these campaigns, as narrated by Dando-Collins, are rife with intrigue, political maneuvering, betrayal, battles, and heroism. It made for a very interesting listening experience, and I'm looking forward to listening to another book in this series.
Beginning with a gripping account of Augustus's death in AD 14 (the author speculates that Livia may have participated in an assisted suicide so that timeline for the transfer of power to Tiberius would go exactly as planned), this fascinating account of the life of the first Roman emperor covers both the personal and political life of Augustus, who was shrewd and ruthless, cruel yet loyal to his friends, a master manipulator of public opinion, and a consummate propagandist who maintained the facade of being merely the "first citizen" in a republic, while holding sole power for forty years.
In addition to vividly sketching Augustus's famous contemporaries--Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, among others--the author also presents a lively picture of life in ancient Rome, from weddings to funerals, from food to sexual mores.
A very enjoyable and informative book. I'm definitely going to be downloading the Everitt's biography of Emperor Hadrian next!
I've just spent the past six weeks immersed in this book while driving to and from work every day. After downloading SHANTARAM during one of Audible's special sales last years, on the basis of all the rave reviews, I put off listening to it for a while because I thought it might be a depressing read.
Not so. By turns suspenseful, funny, interesting, and philosophical, Roberts brings Mumbai/Bombay of the early 1980's alive with vivid descriptions and memorable characterizations. International fugitive Lin's journey through the heart of his adopted city take him from the slums to five-star hotels, from brothels to mosques and temples, from a comfortable apartment near the beach to the Purgatory of the notorious Arthur Road Prison. Likewise, the section of the book dealing with Lin's adventures smuggling guns and antibiotics into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan makes for fascinating, if grim, reading.
And the narrator! This is honestly one of the finest audiobook performances I've ever heard, as Humprey Bower moves effortlessly between Australian, North American, Indian, Iranian, Afghani, and German accents. (Kudo on his flawless German pronunciation, as well, for the brief passages in the book with German dialogue.) His voice and his skill in telling Lin's story made for an utterly compelling listening experience.
I understand that the sequel is forthcoming, and you bet I'll be listening to that, as well!
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