I wanted a brief overview of Florence Nightingale's life and this book suited me. It is apparent from the very beginning that this is a biography written for older elementary kids or pre-teens. In the post-script, we learn that the book was written in 1909, so you have to be prepared for curious turns of phrases and other quirks.
The author, an American, seems to have been a family friend; she mentions her father going to England and meeting the Nightingales. The biography is a glowing, almost worshipful look at Miss Florence, and would probably not pass muster as a piece of scholarship. However, it is still useful, informative and entertaining.
Although Nightingale is presented as too-good-to-be-true, Richards does not sanitize the horrors of the Crimean War. Soldiers died of their injuries and died from illness, and Nightingale was forced to make order out of chaos; not only did she succeed at that, she used her knowledge to develop the fundamentals of modern nursing (with lots of assistance from Catholic nuns in France and Lutheran deaconesses in Germany). The book also describes the nightmare of military red tape and inefficiency, which caused hospitalized soldiers to die while medicine and supplies rotted in warehouses. Nightingale is presented in this book as the one person who cut through the red tape and forced leaders to sign papers and open warehouse doors through her dogged determination; I hope all of that is true. And in one case, Miss Florence didn't even bother to ask for permission, which was very interesting.
The author's worldview is very much the kind you would expect from early-20th century writers; there is high praise for proper upper-class British ways and habits, and a bit of condescension toward the poor, the rough, and the foreign. If you can get past that, and also forgive the writer for other eccentries like the insertion of poems and stray observations, you can quite enjoy the overall book.
I've been a Rolling Stones fan since the mid-70s and so was familiar with their history, but it was great to hear it from the man himself. Keith Richards is everything you would expect and also nothing like what you expect -- he has lived the ultimate Rock life and taken all the drugs and lived as a touring pirate, but he is also a thoughtful, intelligent, well-read and impressively disciplined man at the same time. What emerges more than anything is a guy who fell in love with music (American blues and early rock-and-roll) and who seems to have never fallen out of love with it. He takes the entire Rolling Stones experience extremely seriously, from the songwriting to the sound to the touring to the relationships with his bandmates. It was fascinating to hear how the band came together, how Keith, Brian and Mick lived together in poverty and squalor, yet how their rise to fame was pretty rapid. Keith writes at length about how he and Mick emerged as an impressive songwriting team, and how Keith later discovered open-G tuning, which helped the Stones sound like no other band. He has some great insights on Mick, too; he lavishes Jagger with praise over the man's talents as a singer, performer, harmonica player and band spokesman, and also complains about Jagger's personality quirks that have led to divisions between the two men, and in the band overall. By the end, Richards seems to have buried the hatchet and also appears as a settled old man who enjoys the small things in life like family and the odd plate of bangers and mash (even though he lives in Connecticut, of all places).
The narration is very strange, almost as if the publishers had to patch together the voice talent. Johnny Depp narrates the first 25% or so of the book and is quite good. Then, abruptly, Joe Hurley takes over, giving the book a very British, actorly feel (Hurley is almost imitating Richards' slurry, rock star voice). It was alright, I guess. Finally, near the last 25% of the book, Depp comes back! And then, near the very end of the book, another voice takes over, and then on top of that there is another celebrity reader! I won't spoil it, but it makes for a very fun conclusion, so keep listening to the whole thing.
I highly recommend Life for anyone who's a fan of the Stones, rock history, the British invasion, or pop culture in general. It's a remarkable look at an entire era.
"It" is quite good, and in the hands of Steven Weber it is a joy to listen to. Weber is fantastic through all 40-some hours of this book, which is King's second-longest novel (a few pages shorter than the unabridged "The Stand").
The story itself is ambitious, with a large cast of characters and a plot that takes place in two time periods: 1958 and 1985. King basically decided to follow his seven main characters through childhood and adulthood, and to linger over each. If you think this takes a long time, you would be right. At some point you have to decide to ignore the false notes of dialogue (he indulges in Leave it to Beaver nostalgia when he writes about the 50s; the good guys have lots of corny lines), and just enjoy the arc of the story.
Without any spoiling, I will say that I was good with the story until right near the end, and one scene in particular just made me wonder what King was thinking; its unconscionable, frankly. I'm still amazed he thought it was a good idea. But, overall, I think "It" is a solid book, huge and satisfying and a great entertainment as an audio book.
I loved every minute of this excellent book. The comic book scare is a sad little chapter in American history, and the author brings it to life, taking us inside the lives of dozens of comic creators, publishers and fans who were caught up in a bizarre morals crusade. As a fan of comics and comics history, I was predisposed to liking this book, and it didn't disappoint. But even if you are just a fan of American history, I would recommend this title.
The Odyssey was assigned for a grad school class, and I found that following along with the audio version while simultaneously reading the text helped immensely in following the story and getting engaged with the work. The performance is astounding, as you would expect from a first-rate actor.
The story is delightful, and the narrator is quite good. There were some notable differences between the classic Disney animated movie and the book, though for 90 percent of the book the film was quite faithful.
Heaney's version of Beowulf is great, and I was looking forward to the man reading his own book. But it's not the whole thing. Not happy about this! The book is not so long that they couldn't have given us an unabridged version.
I loved this book. It answers those age-old questions of "would you change history if you could go back in time?" And of course, nothing is as easy as it looks, and prices must be paid.
The length of the book is both a blessing and a curse. King is no stranger to long stories, and that allows him to let the situations breathe, and gives him room to fully explore characters, plot possibilities and environments. (It is especially interesting to see Dallas of the early 60s come to life). But King also fills a lot of the pages of 11-22-63 with hefty doses of overly sweet nostalgia; there are malt shops straight out of Happy Days, and the main character's love story is straight out of a Lifetime movie. Sooooo much time is spent on the romance, and there were plenty of times where I felt like rolling my eyes at the sheer silliness of his statements, most of which were variations of "Oh how I loved her." Given this character's history-changing mission, I was a little puzzled by why he let himself get entangled with this person.
There were a few other instances where characters acted in unbelievable ways. The main character had a method of making money in the past (you can guess what that might be if you've ever watched a time travel movie), but despite having an iron-clad system, he consistently overplays his hand, and that gets him in trouble. Why in the world would he expose himself in this way? Also, King's knowledge of NFL history is sketchy; he mentions the "NFC" in the early 60s, and that entity didn't exist until the NFL-AFL merger of 1970. I also think he mentions the Houston Oilers before they existed. Apparently, King's editors don't know their football, either.
Wasson does a very good job as narrator. Good accents, excellent energy.
There is also a very good section after the story concludes where King speaks and discusses his JFK theories, his sources and the writing of the book. Stick around for that.
I've been a King fan for awhile, and this is one of the most enjoyable King stories I've ever read.
There are so many important issues raised in this story, and yet the author avoids preachiness or moralizing. It's no wonder this book has won awards.
The narrator perfectly captures the slacker voice, bringing Stanley and the other boys to life. This is marvelous.
If you are a Hunger Games fanatic, it is probably essential that you read all three books, as the trilogy gives you the fullest possible view of this intricate and rich world that Collins has built. Being a politics junkie and also someone who loves a good dystopian story, I enjoyed Katniss' travels through the Hunger Games, her home district, and the trouble that followed her through all three books.
I have to admit, however, that my alertness tended to decrease with Book Two (Catching Fire), and then decreased a little more with Mockingjay. There's nothing terrible about this book, and in fact it's quite good, but I think Collins started the series with such an exceptional book that the other two can't quite keep up the intensity. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is thrown into a terrible situation as soon as the first chapter, and we learn about her twisted nation only as a backdrop to her gripping journey.
In Books Two and Three, the backdrop is now the main story. And it feels like all the political intrigue becomes a major information dump, as the characters must deal with the fallout of Katniss' performance in the first book. So I would argue that Book One provides the biggest thrills, and the next two books are all fall-out from that, despite Collins' efforts to imbue Two and Three with high-stakes events.
Overall, though, I would definitely suggest all three books as comprising a satisfying story, despite my slight reservations above. And McCormick's performance of all three books is flawless, too.
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