Christopher Buehlman is my new favorite author and oh boy does he know how to deliver a jaw-dropping, stomach-lurching, hair-raising apocalyptic tale of heaven, hell and pure evil! That’s right, this story is not for the faint of heart but if you can handle blasphemy, foul language, outrages monstrosities (both physical and emotional), disturbing descriptions of demons, disease, plague, murder, mutilations and gore then this audiobook is definitely for you.
We follow the trail of a disgraced knight, a damaged priest and a young orphaned girl who travel together to reach Avignon for a purpose not entirely clear until much later. What is clear is that the girl is ‘chosen’ and her visions guide the group through 14th century France’s countryside. Amidst the deadly outbreak of bubonic plague there are other things more sinister and the three face trials that range from the supernatural and celestial to the physical and psychological. Their journey is swamped with deliciously described battle scenes, personal struggles and outrageous horrors. Devils and mythical monsters abound since heaven has failed to answer, while Hell’s minions revel because God has fallen silent. Good vs. evil, dark vs. light, sinner vs. saint and demon vs. angel. There is also redemption, renewal, faith, mercy, sacrifice and love.
“Between Two Fires” is impressively detailed and well-written. The main characters are deeply developed and their adversaries are also well defined…and so maliciously murderous that one can almost smell the carnage. There are masterful passages of supernatural warfare, grotesque cruelty as well as moments of tenderness and lighthearted banter. With Steve West’s pitch-perfect narration, I was hooked and I found it near impossible to stop listening.
I can’t believe I had not heard of Christopher Buehlman but you can bet I will not forget him. In fact I’ve already purchased his book, “Those Across the River”. I need more please...more Buehlman for me!!!
The greatest enemy to the United States is its own military-industrial complex. Add Christian fundamentalism into that brew and if a stupid president is doing the stirring, the mix is sure to lead to our own demise.
This book is not only scary, it is chilling! The author clearly has a liberal slant but it is also clear that he has done his research. He obviously knows what's going on in the world, he's a first-class investigative journalist, a crusader for the truth and I commend him for his knowledge. But and although the story is gripping and more than just a little sinister, I have to honestly say that listening to this book over the course of about a week was more of a burden than a joy. Granted this is not a joyful subject matter, I place partial blame upon the narrator, Tom Weiner, whose cold, monotone voice and nearly flat reading made it hard to get into this already complicated story. The rest of my complaint sits with the author who packed this book with fact upon fact upon fact...reinforced by supporting facts and somewhat long and convoluted digressions of even more facts. I feel the story suffers because of the excessive and never-ending facts.
Suffice is to say, this is an important book. The truth is that it is deeply disturbing how our government is semi-secretly building a corporate army (the new "Praetorian Guard" as the author calls it), to loyally serve the far right; and the fact that this army seems to be impervious to any attempt to hold it accountable for its actions, as if Blackwater is above and beyond the reach of any law. From all the frightening, alarming, horrific things this book touches upon, there is one important question. What incentive does a private, profit-driven mercenary army have to create and maintain peace and democracy, and to eradicate suffering and anarchy? It can only be the same incentive that our current government has, which is NONE...and that is a truly terrifying truth.
In truth, the author couldn't convince me and although I tried, I just couldn't believe this story. Although the narrator was great, I expected a lot more from this book, especially with all the high ratings. I found that very little was done in the way of character development and more focus was put on describing sex scenes and in all truth, that only goes so far.
At the beginning, Braden and Joss felt forced and I could never really figure out what was so special about Jocelyn (Joss) that could cause Braden to drop his gorgeous girlfriend, annoying and materialistic though she was, in order to pursue a sexual ‘contract’ with a girl who is not Braden’s type and proves to be even more annoying. The author fails to make the connection and so the only reason I could surmise is that it is because Jocelyn has big boobs...Double-Ds to be exact. Yes, the author mentions Jocelyn’s big boobs more than once and frankly it's unnecessary.
So we have Joss, who is a 'big-boobed' character that is not friendly and whose personality borders on unbearable. She is indecisive, confusing and ridiculously aggravating. We learn she suffered tragedy and loss earlier in her life but even then her childish, stand-offishness comes across as annoying and immature. Although she is a character who suffered deep levels of pain and loss, Joss lacks any real depth of character or emotion. She states she has feelings "flooding" and "rushing through her" but that is hard to believe because the author fails to convince us of any real or complex feelings Joss might possess. I found most of the drama to be forced and contrived and I think the story fails in providing a deep or worthy reason as to why Braden is attracted to Jocelyn, let alone why he becomes immediately obsessed with her. It just doesn't make sense.
Although many people think Braden is dreamy, I found him to be a jackass. He is condescending, possessive and arrogant. Braden is verbally abusive and often comes across as demeaning. For example he says, “You’ve got great legs, Jocelyn. An amazing smile when you use it on occasion. And fantastic tits. And yeah, I usually date blondes. But you’re a blonde. I think.”
Really? I mean, REALLY!?!...I've never been this turned off by a hero in my life. We even learn Braden has previously ‘dated’ a prostitute whom he didn’t mind to share with his best friend! Yuck! I can’t believe anyone finds that sexy, desirable or even slightly attractive. No, I have to admit this book/audiobook will not go down as one of my favorites.
This is a disturbing subject matter and if you are uncomfortable listening to children being abused, misused and trafficked, or if you don’t want to know about the practices of sex-slavery then this book/audiobook is not for you. That being said, I highly recommend this book. It is an upsetting, unforgettable story and well worth the credit you will spend on it.
The first person narrative is a powerful point of view as it really gives you an insight into Lakshmi’s thoughts and everything she sees and feels. The narrator does as excellent job as well and through her voice I was able to experience Lakshmi’s naivety, her confusion, her horror and hopelessness as Lakshmi’s fading memories of her mother and village are replaced with the torment of customers and the abhorrent sexual services she must provide for them. The author writes well as her style flows and her words are poetic. She uses metaphors and similes to reference the life of Lakshmi, placing the reader/listener into Lakshmi’s shoes and into the world of India and Nepal.
We are first introduced to Lakshmi, a poor 13 year old girl, who is living an impoverished life in a small Nepalese village. It is through her innocent, unworldly eyes that her story unfolds. Life in Lakshmi’s village is hard but she is content. She loves to go to school but ever since her father’s death life has gotten harder. She, her mother and her brother reside with her step-father in his hut and although her mother tells Lakshmi that they are lucky to have a man in the house, Lakshmi’s stepfather is of no help. He neither works nor supports them. Instead he passes his time at the teashops where he gambles and sinks them deeper into debt. Lakshmi longingly explains that the Nepali families who have fathers that work well and don’t gamble, have a tin roof for their house.
Although a child herself, Lakshmi worries and she has many responsibilities. She performs daily chores and she must also labor alongside her mother in the field. The work is grueling but her family’s existence depends upon a good return and her participation is the only way their rice-paddy will get planted and harvested. Lakshmi and her mother daydream about the money they will receive from the harvest but in a cruel twist of fate a disastrous rainfall washes away their crop and forever alters Lakshmi’s life. She is told she will have to go to the city and like her friend Gita, she will have to earn money by working as a maid in a ‘rich woman’s home’.
Lakshmi thinks she is on her way to helping her family as she happily envisions a tin roof for her mother and brother. She is ready to go to the city but this does not happen. Lakshmi is sold into prostitution by her step-father. He sells her for 800 rupees to a woman who leads her to the city where she exchanges hands until she is finally given to a man whom she refers to as Uncle Husband. Uncle Husband brings her to India where he sells her to Mumtaz. Mumtaz is the vile mistress and pimp who runs ‘Happiness House’. It is in this brothel house that Lakshmi is imprisoned, beaten, punished, drugged, raped and continually forced into having sex with any and all customers who choose her. Her worst nightmares are realized as her days are filled with unbearable abuse and cruelty. She eventually befriends some of the girls and Pushpa’s son teaches her how to read and write English. Lakshmi experiences a few moments of happiness but for her, hope is fading...until a complete stranger pays her a visit.
This American asks her many questions but she is afraid to answer. He offers her a life away from the brother but she refuses to respond. He leaves without demanding sex and Lakshmi realizes he is different. She yearns to leave Happiness House but Lakshmi is scared to take a chance on the American because it is rumored that they are even worse than Mumtaz and because she has been fooled too many times before. It will take a lot of courage and a leap of faith for Lakshmi to break free from the chains that bind her. Will she do it or will she succumb to the life she was forced into? Of course it is dangerous and any escape will be complicated, especially when the authorities and police are on Mumtaz’s pay roll.
The author’s final note is chilling, making the reader/listener aware that Lakshmi’s story is not so far from the truth: "Each year, nearly 12,000 Nepali girls are sold by their families, intentionally or unwittingly, into a life of sexual slavery in the brothels of India. Worldwide, the U.S. State Department estimates that nearly half a million children are trafficked into the sex trade annually.”
There is no other way to sum up this book other than 'humbling and awe-inspiring' and what's more is that this story is true. This is an account of one young girl’s struggle, tragedy and her ultimate triumph against a ruthless, irrational and unreasonable enemy. I absolutely loved the descriptive way in which Malala recounted her life in the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. This book opens with a prologue, which is narrated by Malala herself. In spite of the terror she has been through, one can hear the compassion and optimism in her gentle child's voice. Her story is powerful and just as she loves knowledge she uses her book to carefully educate the reader/listener about her beloved land. We are introduced to the beautiful Swat valley as we become familiar with Malala's family and friends, her people, her culture and also the cruel, unreasoning extremists/Taliban who, through fear and terror, force their repressive rules upon her and her townspeople.
Malala is the girl who stood up for what she believed. With her father and family’s support she became known for her activism regarding the rights of girls/women to obtain an education; especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban banned girls from attending school and leaving their homes. Malala's outspokenness made her a target of these local Taliban, which caused her to be shot in the head at point-blank range. She nearly died but her assassin failed. Malala was critically injured but that did not stop her and in spite of the Taliban reiterating its death threats against her and her family, Malala has not faded away. She has not faltered and she has never compromised her dreams.
The crime against Malala was inhumane and horrifying but through it all she remains serenely defiant and optimistic. With wisdom beyond her years this young girl's words inspire and it is this spirit of Malala’s that has captured the hearts of people around the world.
I am so stirred by this gentle, optimistic, slight wisp of a girl who even now holds a book as her only ‘weapon’ against the army of Taliban who want her dead…and she is winning! It has taken a child to remind us once again that the pen is mightier than the sword and the world agrees because Malala was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; the youngest person to accomplish such a feat if she is chosen.
I will tell as many people as I can that they should read/hear this story because this amazing young girl is a rare and precious gift with a very relevant and important message/struggle. So who is Malala?...I am Malala!
Helene Wecker has written an interesting and entertaining first novel. Her main characters are a Golem, Chava, and a Jinni, Ahmad, who are magical beings that look human but are not. The Golem is of Jewish origin and she is recognized for what she is by an old rabbi, who takes her in and continues to help her until he dies. The Jinni is from the ancient Bedouin lands of Syria. When he is unknowingly released from a battered copper container, he immediately accepts a position to do metalwork with a local tinsmith, Boutrous Arbeely. It is 1899 and these two magical creatures are living as immigrants in New York City. Like other immigrants they have to figure out how to survive through regular jobs and by making friends but discovery and violent response to them as monsters is a big danger. For Chava, a special risk lies in going amok in defense of threats to herself or her friends. For Ahmad, his penchant for seducing young women gets him in trouble. They are both trying to fit in and as they navigate their new lives they learn to control their true natures but ultimately nothing seems to give them contentment. Both are lonely and neither is truly happy.
Though the Golem and the Jinni find themselves on opposite ends, once they meet they come to realize they have more in common than might at first be apparent. Since neither sleeps they choose to discover the wonders of the city by night. They realize that because of their strange situations they can talk to each other in ways they can never disclose to others. Through their friendship Ahmad begins to provoke Chava by challenging her submissive nature. He stokes her curiosity but her reaction to his efforts results in disagreements between the two so that they argue often. Their back-and-forth banter is endearing and most entertaining. I couldn't help laughing after their 'hat conversation'. Despite their quarrels Ahmed continues to prod at Chava, daring her to explore and experience her desires and the larger world. Her nature is to serve and please people but Ahmed encourages Chava to be ‘free’.
In the meantime pieces of Ahmad’s lost memories begin to take shape and so he remembers the sins of his ancient past as well as the reason there is a bewitched band of iron around his wrist. The past comes to haunt both our main characters and for both, the biggest threat comes in the form of Chava’s powerful creator, a disgraced rabbi who practices the dark art of Kabbalistic magic and who comes to America caring only about finding the secret of eternal life.
This tale is enchanted with legend, lore and magic. Wecker’s cast of characters are well formed and each plays a unique and crucial part in this story. The action builds slowly and flows effortlessly from past to present and from character to character until suddenly you find yourself propelled into a whirlwind of an ending, which when it hits, it's non-stop until the end. You will find yourself rooting for Chava and Ahmed when inevitably they are forced to confront the evil that men do.
I highly recommend the unabridged audio version as presented from a moderate Muslim’s point of view and read by the author, Mr. Tamim Ansary. His excellent narration and accurate pronunciation of people, places and things only increases the listening experience, which may not have been as enjoyable had another, ‘less-adept’ narrator been chosen for the task. That being said, the information contained in this book deals with 1300 years of human history. True, there are plenty of facts but ‘Destiny Disrupted…’ neither falls into that category of boring text book nor is it a dull book of historic facts. ‘Destiny Disrupted…’ is a kaleidoscope of kingdoms, cultures, campaigns and clashes, ranging from those of Europe, Asia Minor, Persia and ‘Middle World’ (a/k/a Middle East to the West), to the distant lands of India and the Far East.
Through Ansary’s eyes we gain an alternative perspective of the Middle World and as he is equally critical of both Western and Muslim prejudices and dogma, he establishes himself as a trustworthy guide and reporter. This book offers a fulfilling overview, striking the perfect balance between summary and detail, objective reporting and critical analysis; while setting contemporary events and world views into historical context. This is the larger picture most westerners need to hear but unfortunately will never know.
This is important and relevant so if you are ready to put aside the traditional western commentary and you are willing to hear the ‘other side’, then you are ready to be enlightened and so this book is for you.
"If we are to avoid catastrophe, the Muslim and Western worlds must learn not merely to tolerate but to appreciate one another. A good place to start is with the figure of Muhammad: a complex man, who resists facile, ideologically driven categorization, who sometimes did things that were difficult or impossible for us to accept, but who had profound genius and founded a religion and cultural tradition that was not based on the sword but whose name--"Islam"--signified peace and reconciliation" --Karen Armstrong.
There is more historical data on Muhammad's life than on that of the founder of any other major faith and yet his story is little known. Karen Armstrong's work provides a realistic and healthy rebuttal to the many detractions against Islam's Prophet. Even the most stubborn skeptic of the supernatural would find it hard to disagree that Muhammad was a much better man than the times he lived in. He was, as the author demonstrates, a benevolent social reformer who tried to provide a better path forward than the eclectic paganism of his time and the lawless, dog eat dog system of tribal honor. For example, Muhammad made several social reforms that gave women many rights (rights that women in the west did not receive until the late eighteenth century).
Although Armstrong's study does not concern itself greatly with miracles or the supernatural aspects of the Prophet's life, revelations are mentioned but only in passing. The main bulk of the text concerns the intentions and deeds of the Prophet's life. Contrary to the claims of his detractors, Muhammad was a man who abhorred violence, taking to it only as a last resort and even then he did so under a system of rules, which were far more noble and lenient than the other tribes of his time.
Don't be afraid to broaden your mind,,,give this book a try!
Wow! This is the dullest telling of history I have come across in a long time. I'm sorry to say I could not finish listening to this book, which is sad because it's only 4 hours long; and while I really did try, I just couldn't take it anymore. I almost fell asleep at the wheel and I actually did fall asleep listening to it at home. Newhall is a boring writer and his book is neither remarkable nor entertaining. In fact it this book is nothing more than an accumulation of names, dates and events. It will probably take me less time to research this subject online and then read it too.
Yes, I know this is a harsh review but I really mean it! In all honesty, I'm hoping to save the next person so he/she does not make the same mistake I made. Want to avoid falling asleep? Want to make a smarter choice? Then move along listener, because there is nothing worthwhile to purchase here.
This is the first book in the 'Empire of the Moghul' series by Alex Rutherford (pen name of Diana Preston and her husband, Michael Preston). The story begins in 1494 when Babur is 12 year old. He is made king of Ferghana as a result of his father’s accidental and sudden death. Babur feels a strong sense of destiny and he knows there is greatness in his future. He is, after all, the crowned ruler of Ferghana. What also reinforces his resolve is the fact that through his veins pumps the blood of great warriors and kings like Genghis Khan and Timur.
The story moves fairly quickly as the events that follow Babur’s coronation prove to be nothing less than a storm of trials and tribulations. From being sovereign of a small state to the ruler of Samarkhand, to being a king without a throne, Babur is flung into situations which might have crushed another but in his case they prove to be valuable life lessons. The result of Babur’s struggles and often perilous situations mold him into a powerful leader and the founder of the Moghul dynasty, a grand and fabulous destiny even he does not envision.
Overall the author remains true to history but as this is historical fiction, there are a few embellishments as well as fictitious characters, which the author claims were added for the sake of entertainment. We also learn that Rutherford actually traveled to most of the places mentioned in this book. This is well appreciated given that the reader/listener is treated to vivid descriptions of places, battles, executions, ancient culture and other events. From the Shah of Persia and ordinary foot soldiers to family, friends, enemies and rivals. We glimpse the colorful grandeur of the rulers of that age as well as the lives of Babur's loyal advisors and the men who fought along side him. We learn of treachery, betrayal, the gain/loss of kingdoms and the extraordinary man/animal power it took to capture thrones and establish an empire.
With the help of Babur’s own “Baburnama”, the author educated us on the ambitions, passions, emotions and success that was/is Babur’s life. This is an entertaining read/listen and I recommend it, especially to those who are interested in the history of Moghuls but don't want to be bogged down with only cold hard facts. And for those who want more, I highly recommend “Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire” also by Diana Preston and Michael Preston.
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