What a dry subject, nitrogen! It would be hard to write an interesting book about this topic, but the author succeeded. He describes how the planet's population was on the verge of starvation, having consumed nearly all the natural deposits of fixed nitrogen to use as fertiliser, and how nations vied for the last scraps of the chemical in remote outposts of South America.
Nitrogen is, of course, plentiful, in the air we breathe. But in order to be useful as a fertiliser, it must be converted to a solid form. Two German scientists, Haber and Bosch, (excuse any mis-spelling, I never saw these names in written form!) worked tirelessly to solve this tricky problem. Their drama unfolded against the backdrop of a fascinating period of German history, in which nitrogen played an especially important role because of its use in explosives (and hence in warfare).
The theme of antisemitism is also important in the book, because a large proportion of Germany's scientists were Jews.
It is a good story, well narrated, and worth a listen.
I like John Grisham.
As a general rule, when I buy one of his books, I am confident that I am going to be entertained. But this one is an exception. Its the story of a young Ivy League Lawyer grinding her way up the corporate law ladder in New York City who is suddenly laid off when the sub-prime crisis hits. She is forced to find work in 'Discovery' country, a backwater in the Appalachian Mountains where corruption and exploitation of the poor by mining corporations is rife.
She eventually 'discovers' herself by finding fulfillment in helping these victims fight the evil mining companies. The trouble is that the story is disjointed and weak. The heroine is bland and its hard to empathize with her, and the plot never really gets going and then all of a sudden BANG!. Its over and you think. Is that it?
I'm surprised Grisham's advisors didn't get him to revise this one before publication. He must have enough money by now, so you would think that he would value his reputation for quality and his legacy too much to allow second-rate books like this one to tarnish his portfolio.
I have a PC, a laptop, a smartphone, an Ipod and an electronic keyboard. I'm not boasting. Most people in the West who aren't embroiled in poverty probably own a similar range of digital devices. These digital machines have taken over the World and occupy large chunks of our time. And I'm not complaining. I get huge pleasure listening to talking books (a gift of the digital age) and browsing the internet. 25 years ago I got my first computer and it had a hard drive less than 500mb. I hadn't heard of internet or email, There was no Wiki, Google or Facebook. 25 years earlier, when I was a toddler, the only computers were massive creaking mechanical dinosaurs hidden away in military facilities or NASA.
I find this dramatic recent change in our way of life astounding. And I'm not a computer geek at all. I have no idea how they work, I just enjoy the way they present information, entertainment and interactions with my old friends whenever and wherever I want them.
So this book is the story of how that all came about. The visionaries and eccentrics who took the series of steps, starting with adding machines and progressing to the first personal computers, video games, the internet, search engines and social networking. The book presents the Goliaths such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Alan Turing, along with the many Davids with whom they collaborated so productively. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it a fascinating listen.
I listened to this book because I was curious. I listened right to the end because I was determined to give it a chance and maybe discover why it has become a number one bestseller. After finishing it I read the Audible reviews. I was pleased to see that it got completely slammed by most reviewers, who have recognised it as the rubbish that it is. So I suppose the book must have appealed to lots of people to become popular in the first place, and then, afterwards, lots of people have bought it because it is a best-seller. Its interesting that it continues to sell more and more copies to people who find it to be complete trash (me included). The author must be laughing her tits off (all the way to the bank) reading the damning reviews by idiots like me who've given her their cash. I suppose I should have checked the reviews beforehand, but I don't usually do this because a) I don't want to spoil the surprise and b) I don't want to be prejudiced by other people's opinions. At least my curiosity has been satisfied.
This book is phenomenal. I have worked in an acute healthcare setting for nearly 30 years and yet this field is almost entirely new to me. During the course of this book Dr Bland has completely changed my outlook on the causes and management of chronic illness. I have no idea whether I will stick to it, but at the moment I am determined to radically change my diet, because I am now convinced that a careful choice of diet (combined with exercise, which I already do enough of) is the key to staying healthy in the long term and avoiding chronic illness.
At first I thought he was a bit of a quack and I wondered if I was wasting my time and my Audible credit, but as the story unfolded I became completely captivated and convinced by the evidence presented.
I am now going to listen again. I've downloaded the PDF and I'm going to try to implement the lifestyle changes. There are even recipes in the PDF, and I'm going to give those a go!
I’d never read a Stephen King before so I looked it up on Wiki and found that of his 64 books this one is supposedly the best.
I did enjoy it a lot, I liked the characters and the building drama of the super flu and the struggle between good and evil, but I could never quite suspend disbelief about the existence of angels and devils, and that spoilt it for me.
I also thought the final showdown with the villain was a bit of an anti-climax and wasn’t one of those great shocking revelations when you are amazed by something you weren’t expecting (e.g. the final scene in Sixth Sense).
So, yes I’m glad I listened to it but, no, I didn’t think it was as brilliant as other people have.
A terrorist bomb explodes in a New York art gallery, killing many people and destroying priceless art treasures. Theo, the hero of this book, loses his mother in the blast, but before discovering this he is given a famous painting, The Goldfinch, by an old man dying of his wounds, accompanied by a young girl.
The rest of the book describes the effects of this initial trauma on the life of the boy growing into a man. He is taken in by two kind New York families and is eventually reclaimed by his dodgy estranged father, who whisks him off to Las Vegas. Theo still has the painting and has kept it secret all along.
He forms a friendship with a likable Russian-American rogue and they hang out together, getting drunk and experimenting with drugs. His father is then killed as a result of mixing in the wrong circles, and so Theo is alone again. He runs away to avoid Child Custody Services and rejoins the kindly New York antique dealer who had helped him after the bomb blast.
The book then shoots forward a few years to find Theo getting himself into trouble by selling fake antiques, and then he is reunited with his Russian Friend. There is a bit of an adventure at the end and I won't spoil it any more than I have already done.
Overall, I was disappointed by this book. It is well-written and the characters are well-drawn and engaging, but the plot is slow and a bit random. It sort of drifts along and you are thinking 'come on, come on, get on with it', and although it finishes with a dramatic climax you are still thinking 'what was the point of all that?'. It is all a bit shapeless and unsatisfying.
This was mostly an entertaining and educational explanation of what it says on the label: How music works. I enjoyed it and learned a lot.
As for the narrator, what were they thinking? If you made a recording of Huckleberry Finn would you cast actors with posh English accents? No, because that would sound stupid wouldn’t it? Similarly, in this book, the author uses many English expressions about going to pubs and eating chips with gravy, and these sound ridiculous out of the mouth of the American narrator.
Whenever I wasn’t distracted by this conspicuous miscasting, I was enjoying the audiobook.
I don’t read a lot of fiction, and I can count the number of science fiction books I’ve read on the fingers of one hand, so I was quite curious to see how much I would enjoy Dark Eden. The answer was ‘a lot’. Forgive me if I don’t know the genre well enough to judge whether this is truly a good example of sci-fi, but I loved it.
The story takes place some time in the not too distant future, when humans are able to travel into distant space, but they still have some familiar old technology such as radio, television, electricity and police vehicles. We only know this secondhand, however, because we are told about this technology by ancestors of 3 earth colonists who crash landed there and then formed a ‘fee-amily’ of about 500 people by interbreeding with each other.
They have heard about radios and television, but never seen them for themselves.
They are very simple souls who live a hunter-gatherer existence living off the exotic flora and fauna of this dark planet. There is no sun, and the only light comes from trees and animals who generate it through their evolved 'lee-anterns’, supplemented by a little bit of starlight and the light from human fires. There is a high incidence of birth deformities in this community, such as hair-lip ('Bat Face') and claw-foot resulting, presumably, from the interbreeding.
They all believe in a kind of creation story about their ancestors, and harbour a quasi- religious belief that earth will one day return to Dark Eden to fetch them back, even though it is about 150 years since their ancestors landed there. In order not to miss being picked up by earthlings, they all feel obliged to stay close to the original landing spot in a crater on the planet’s surface called ‘Circle Vee-ally’, even though the area has been over-hunted and food is growing too scarce to feed the growing Fee-amily.
But there is one character, John Red-Lee-Antern, who is different to all the rest. He doesn’t believe that the Fee-amily is destined to stay in this one small part of the planet waiting to be picked up. He wants to go on a dangerous trip over the top of ‘Snowy Dark’ in search of richer pastures. He has the courage and the vision to explore this unknown terrain, with exciting consequences for the rest of the story.
It is very appealing the way the fee-amily has evolved its own dialect and customs. They have become quite a primitive community, even though they are descended from advanced humans.
The characterisation and dialogue are very convincing and interesting. I found the book compelling from the beginning to the end and will now be keen to give sci-fi another go.
This audiobook was an enjoyable summary of British Literature from its inception with Beowulf in the dark ages up to the 21st century. As a general rule it was very entertaining, giving the background stories of the authors and describing how their lives and historical circumstances produced their writing. It was fascinating to hear the about the lives of Austen, the Brontes, Dickens and Hardy.
I found myself zoning out a few times when poetry was the topic. I don’t think this is the fault of the lecturer, poetry just doesn’t really do it for me, although I found the lives of Keats and Byron to be interesting and First World War poetry has always seemed more poignant to me than poetry about love or beauty. As for Milton and Paradise Lost, I still don’t get it even now, even after it has been explained to me.
My overall verdict is that this is an interesting audiobook and, at 25 hours duration, well worth the price of the credit.
This audiobook is a series of lectures looking at history's most memorable speeches. It is a good analysis of those speeches and helps us to understand the elements which combine to make great oratory. He helps us to understand the different strategies that should be used for different purposes. So, for example, Ghandi used 'logos' or logic to prove his point when he was on trial for his life, whilst Martin Luther King appealed to the emotions when he gave his iconic 'I have a dream' speech.
Whilst this analysis is interesting, there is a slight conflict of interests within the book which doesn't work so well. The lecturer is supposedly trying to teach us how to be better public speakers, but to this he draws his lessons from speeches made by history's heavyweight orators made at pivotal moments in the World's history, such as Churchill's 'Blood, sweat and tears' speech and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. This is slightly comical, as the average listener buying this self-help lecture series will likely do no more than give a best-man speech at a wedding.
Despite this qualm, the audiobook is interesting and worth a listen.
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