I was excited (and convinced) by the author's thesis that Old English was influenced by Welsh. It's a revolutionary idea, since most scholars who study Germanic languages ONLY study Germanic languages, but it's a very convincing explanation of one of English's peculiar quirks.
Whereas many "history of the language" titles deal mostly with etymologies of words and phrases, McWhorter is concerned mostly with grammar--notably, the differences in grammar that set English apart from other Germanic languages. For that reason, it might be heavy going for people with a casual interest and little knowledge of linguistic terminology. But the author's tone and wit help to keep it interesting. My husband, who has no background in linguistics but is curious about many topics, enjoyed it and got something out of it.
A fascinating tale that combines the beginnings of forensic medicine in this country (which, in the early 20th century, lagged behind the science that was available in Europe), political corruption in New York during the Tammany Hall era, and some interesting sidelights on Prohibition. I hadn't known, for instance, that the government deliberately mandated wood alcohol spiked with additional toxins for industrial use--on the theory that, if it was used to make illicit liquor, the imbibers would get what was coming to them for breaking the law. Put simply, the US government was actively seeking to do in the taxpayers. (And lest one be tempted to think that this proves that government cannot be trusted to do anything right, the tales of poisons sold by the unregulated chemical and drug industries are every bit as hair-raising; you'll never again question why we need an FDA.) Throw in a few sensational murders, a couple of thoroughly admirable investigators, and details that you never knew about the Roaring Twenties, and you've got the makings of a good little listen.
My husband and I like to listen to history books on road trips, since our tastes in fiction do not agree, and we both gave this one high marks.
A wonderful historical novel with a mystery at its heart. Told in flashbacks by an old woman who had been a maid in an English country house during World War I, and later a lady's maid to a Bright Young Thing in the 1920's, the novel opens with a mystery, and the solution is only revealed after layer upon layer of character and history has been meticulously laid down. It's beautifully structured--the gradual revelation of character is as compelling as the plot contrivances of any potboiler, and there is a twist at the end that is worthy of de Maupassant.
Anyone who comes to the novel after enjoying "Downton Abbey" on TV, as I did, will enjoy the complex relationship between mistress and maid, which leads inexorably to the final tragedy.
This book is the autobiography of one of the original Navajo code-talkers--the original group who invented the code that baffled Japanese cryptographers during World War II. Because the code remained classified until 1968, it's only recently that these men have received due credit for their remarkable achievement.
From life near the reservation in New Mexico, through a boarding school experience that can only be described as Dickensian, the story highlights the remarkable toughness and generosity of spirit of these young Navajo men. It's hard for most of us to imagine a childhood that involved being shipped away to boarding school--and at the end of the year, at the age of 8, with a 5-year-old sister in tow, having to walk home for three days with only a bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and being expected to find water along the way. But this toughness would stand Nez and his comrades in good stead during the war.
It's not surprising that these young men actually expressed delight at the quantity and quality of military rations.
I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the Pacific war, in the Native American experience, or in codes and cryptography. It could only have happened because a rather cruel experience produced people with just the right skills, who had the generosity of spirit to fight for a country that hadn't treated them well. Nez is in his 90's now, and is the last survivor of the original group. I'm glad that his story got written down.
I always look forward to the latest Alan Bradley audiobook, and this one does not disappoint.
Jayne Entwistle perfectly captures the eccentric Flavia, who reminds me of a talented-and-gifted version of Wednesday Addams from the Addams Family cartoons--an eleven-year-old chemistry nerd loaded to the gills with irony.
. . . this is perhaps not one of Sayers's most memorable mysteries, but one of the few that is available. I wish that Audible carried more of her titles.
The charm of this mystery lies in its refreshing sleuth--a cold-blooded, brilliantly precocious eleven-year-old girl named Flavia de Luce, who reminded me more than a little of Wednesday Addams. I am glad to discover that there has been a sequel.
I've always loved this book, and have read it several times since seeing the BBC televised version years ago. An eminent classical scholar, Graves re-imagines the early Caesars as the ultimate dysfunctional British extended family, and having read his story, one finds it almost impossible to imagine them any other way.
I downgraded this reading by one point for a completely unfair reason: Nelson Runger doesn't do a bad job, but he isn't Derek Jacobi. (If you want Jacobi, you have to get the abridged version--a cruel choice that cost me a considerable amount of agonizing.) But once you start thinking of the ancient Romans as a dysfunctional British family, it's jarring to hear the story in an American accent.
If you already know and love Neil Gaiman, you need this. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, what better way to check him out?
As a fan of "The Golden Age of British Mysteries," I had read frequent allusions to this book as one of the founding works of the genre, but had never come across a copy. So I was thrilled to find this version read by Simon Vance, whom I think is one of the most reliably good readers in the business.
And the book lived up to the hype--it contains foreshadowings of everyone from Sayers to Tey, and is a very satisfying and well-written tale in its own right.
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