Johannesburg, South Africa | Member Since 2009
I was pleasantly surprised to come across this Audible Inc. production of Prof. Peter Brown's newest book "Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD. Brown, the author of the best biography of Augustine of Hippo, is a careful meticulous and and well-respected historian of the late Roman Empire. He writes with authority.
In "Through the Eye of the Needle" Brown uses different sources (artefacts, catacombs, archaeological insights, written texts etc.) to reconstruct what has traditionally been seen as the time of the Roman Empire's decline. Already in the awkward dates that he uses in the sub-title of his book 350-550 AD and not for instance 324 (when Constantine was became emperor over the whole Roman Empire), Brown distances himself from traditional top-down historiography that focus important persons and places. While using important figures, like Maxentius, Augustine and others, he aims to document and interpret the way the not-so-important people of the late Western Roman Empire understood wealth.
He uses wealth at the key to sketch a different but more believable picture of late Roman Empire and its different churches' rise to prominence in its society. I found his take on the Pelagian controversy very interesting and enlightening.
Fleet Cooper did a fair job in reading the book. I am not sure if it is Brown's writing style or Cooper's way of reading, but it felt that some sentences were often to long and Cooper would break for breath making it difficult to comprehend a whole idea as a thought unit. That said, Cooper's pronunciation of foreign languages and the general ease of his reading made it pleasant to listen to.
Not everybody would like this book. At times it is very technical and might even be too thorough to some people's taste. It is an academic work and probably a trendsetter that cannot be ignored by historians reflecting on this part of history in future. Yet it might not be to the taste of someone who wants a light read.
It comes highly recommended. I hope Audible will see their way open to publish more of Prof. Brown's books in audio format.
I admire Orson Scott Card's (OSC) bravery in bringing together various strands of time together in one big bang. Building on the previous two novels OSC Rigg and his friends successfully stops the visitors from destroying the planet Garden, but only after failing in some time-lines.
OSC explores in this novel with developing the same character in different ways at different times and bringing the different versions of the same character together to join forces against the enemy. While I admire this approach, I got lost in al the entanglements and time-streams that the characters felt a bit shallow at times. It is as if they developed but still stayed too much the same.
I am not sure who will find this book enjoyable, maybe die-hard fans of OSC. I do believe that it might not be everybody's cup of tea. For me, having so much time-travel back and forth in time, ensured that I got lost.
I think this book is a far cry from Ender's Game.
Kirby Heyborne, Emily Rankin and Stefan Rudnicki did a great job of narrating the story.
If you have nothing to do and a lot of time to kill, are not so much worried about a good plot, maybe this could be one of the books you might consider listening too.
In a world called Erna seemingly hostile to human dreams and thoughts an unusual story draws to a close. Has the fallen prophet an vampire-like creature of the religion in the one god, the God of Earth and Erna, done enough to be redeemed out of his centuries of hunting women as prey? Will the priest Reverend Damien Canon Vrice done enough to save his friend? How will he choose between his religion and his loyalty to a very dark person?
C.S. Friedman ends a successful trilogy with a good ending. While I thought she was totally against religion - almost like Philip Pullman - she was debating the value of religion throughout the story. I found her approach interesting and refreshing.
R.C. Bray did an excellent job of reading the book. It is very much in the same line as the other two books he read in the trilogy.
If you want a relaxing well put together fantasy story, why not give this trilogy a go?
In “The Industrial Revolution” lecture series Prof Patrick N. Allitt (professor of American History at Emory University) introduces the listener in 36 half hour lectures packed with information, to those technologies which - according to him - we all take for granted and never think about until it is lacking. Then we react with annoyance.
Ironically enough, while listening to this series, South Africa was forced into load shedding (the switching off of power grids for a certain amount of time) due to a coal silo that collapsed at one of the coal power plantations. This followed an event where Rand Water couldn’t provide water to great areas of the Gauteng Province because of some pump failures. I therefore can say, Prof Allitt’s argument hit home!
He also argues in this course that the early industrialists were seen as people with big fat purses who extorted the working labour class to live in luxury. While this might be the case in some instances the legacy of the Industrial Revolution are the upliftment of the living standard of the peasant population partaking in the project. He makes a striking statement in the beginning of the course that the kings of old were poorer than the peasants of today. The Industrial Revolution came up with the idea of continuous improvement.
If you want to know how and why things have changed so drastically over the last 250 years, this course seems a good place to start. While half of the lectures are focussed on the Industrial Revolution as it began and progress in 18th century Britain, the rest of the lectures are split up in the Industrialisation of the United States of America, Europe, Russia, Japan, India, Taiwan and China. I thought Prof Allitt’s focus on technology and how it impacted on who won the Second World War was very informative and interesting.
I was amazed that he thought of Sub-Saharan Africa as backwards and not yet there (my words). I am not completely convinced that he knows what is happening in Africa. Maybe his statement is too sweeping.
I was intrigued by the idea that different political systems saw the need for industrialisation, though it failed miserably if the state was too authoritarian. Though not mentioned by him, it seems to me that Apartheid in South Africa also had industrialisation as its driving force - another odd marriage partner of the Industrial Revolution.
With his British accent and all, Prof Allitt is an excellent presenter and has compiled a very informative, thought-provoking course. Generally he seems to be neutral in his presentation and comes to an appreciation of the progress of humanity through industrialisation. (One thing that bothered me, was when he talked about the Protestant groupings as sects. I wonder if he is Anglican or Roman Catholic?)
In general this is an excellent well-prepared and researched course that covers a vast array of subjects relating to the Industrial Revolution (as Fredrik Engels dubbed it). Any listener will be challenged by the amount of information that needs to be thought through. I can almost guarantee that it will help you to orientate yourself in terms of your own biases and blind spots towards technology and progress.
Celia S. Friedman appears to be an established American fantasy writer. The Coldfire Trilogy the first trilogy she ever published. ‘Black Sun Rising’ is the first book of the trilogy, though she has later written a prequel to the trilogy in the form of a novella called ‘Dominion’ (+/-30 pages, guessing by the length of the audio recording). It was the latter that draw me into this trilogy.
It is an excellent introduction to the planet of Erna, a planet which in substance is very different from earth and also consists out of a mysterious substance called Fae (think of an animistic reality which really comes true) that makes people’s dreams come to life and gain substance. In ‘Dominion’ we are introduced to Gerralt Tarrant a seemingly undead vampire and fallen prophet of the Faith in the One God, creator of Earth and Erna who seems to have made some dark covenant to yield and bend the Fae to his purposes. He seems evil to his core, but maybe there could be some goodness left in him… somewhere. These were the two concepts that I found quite original and that draw me to ‘Black Sun Rising.’
‘Black Sun Rising’ introduces the listener to the Reverend Damien Canon Vrice, whom is a Jesuit-like warrior priest fighting the evil conjured up by the Fae through human dreams. He has just arrived in the great city of Jaggonath, the seat of the Eastern Patriarchy from the Western Matriarchy. (I wondered if there is not a play on the Latin Western (Roman Catholic) Church and the Eastern (Orthodox) Church.) Falling in love with a heathen ‘adept’ (a person who has assimilated with Erna and can yield some natural power over the Fae), Vrice is summersaulted into an adventure when some mysterious creatures from the Rakh lands (a place inhabited by an indigenous species of Erna called the Rakh which seems to have evolved into something maybe more human) steals her ‘adept’-powers. Besotted by love Vrice sets out with Ciani, the ‘adept’ and his lover, to get her powers back.
However, as they travel to these mysterious lands, they meet a dark and threatening stranger, seemingly one of the dark minions of the Hunter, the fallen prophet of Vrice’s church, Gerralt Tarrent.
Friedman explores themes of good and evil, truth and lies, corruption and purity within this novel. I think that she successfully shows that a diamond has many sides, while entertaining the reader/ listener with wit and misdirection. Though I sometimes felt that some of her characters are too predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and went on to listen to “When True Night Falls” and “Crown of Shadows.” In many ways the books stays within the classical style of the hero’s journey. Yet there is enough suspense and intrigue to give a satisfactory listening experience. The trilogy is a worthwhile buy.
R.C. Bray is an established audio book narrator, though I see some reviewers complained about his reading. Though his American accent came over more pronounced at some places in the audio book than other, I found his narration quite enjoyable. He did especially a good job with the demon voice of Calista.
If you are looking for a fantasy trilogy with some interesting concepts, enough intrigue to hold you and keep you guessing and with a good ending, this trilogy comes highly recommended.
If you are looking for something short and to the point and how to start or participate in a conversation, you might find this short course just right. Prof. Anne Curzan teaches English at the University of Michigan and is an excellent Linguist. In this course you will not only learn more about conversations, you will also receive some useful tips that will allow you to read a conversation better. I found, for instance, the way that one uses and phrases questions in different contexts very interesting.
So why don't I give it a five... The course though it even contains excellent role plays and is well presented, is in certain ways very basic. It is an appetiser that might be the starting point, but one needs to dig deeper. Still it comes highly recommended.
It's seldom that a collection of short stories and novellas of such a vast array of authors pulls a listener time after time into its narrative worlds. While I bought the book because of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire Novella, I was pleasantly surprised by the 20 other stories.
Though not sticking to only fantasy and SciFi the various authors are seasoned and upcoming writers who have staked their claim in the SciFi/Fantasy world. My favourite stories in this anthology are: Joe Abercrombie's “Some Desperado” (when chasing a 'cow girl' the danger is immanent), Megan Lindholm's “Neighbors” (danger lurks in the woman with Altzheimers), Sharon Key Penman's “A Queen in Exile” (when a queen refuses to be just a queen), Diana Gabaldon's "Virgins" (a feline take on Jamie Fraser) and George R.R. Martin's "the Blacks and the Greens" (a war prequel to the Game of Thrones). However there are many more that is probably just as good.
This anthology is like a full box of chocolates, the novellas and short stories might not all be to your taste... but they are delicious and worthwhile to listen too.
I don't think that you can go wrong. In "Dangerous Women" the adjective 'dangerous' is explored in depth. Almost every time you are challenged by the idea of what could be dangerous in a woman.
I really enjoyed it. It is one of a very few anthologies where you cannot go wrong. It is especially worth your while if you are seeking for new authors to listen too. It comes highly recommended!
I don't know CS Friedman's work at all. Yet, for some or other reason I enjoyed 'Dominion.' I think it has to do with the concepts that she plays with. I haven't come across the idea of fae being an impersonal substance that can mould and shape things to its nature. For me this concept is quite original.
I have therefore been successfully lured into the Dominion trap. I have bought the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy to find out how the undead sorcerer Gerald Tarrant or his descendants will make it on a planet called Erna. The story rings gothic and vampires seem to be vampires, not rehabilitated citizens of the world.
I didn't think that RC Bray's performance was dull or bad. I thought it appropriate to the type of story told.
If you need a no-brainer gothic thriller to pass the time, this might just be the book for you. I don't know how it fits in with the Coldfire Trilogy. I do suspect that with this writer you might find some originality that is often, sadly to say, absent in a lot of fantasy these days.
Vivian Vande Velde begins with a pithy critical assessment of the traditional Red Riding Hood story as known through the Brothers Grimm. She then re-imagines the story focussing on each character in the traditional story, thus telling and re-telling the story in various short stories. I think the idea is brilliant.
So why not give her 5 out of 5? Well, when it comes to collections of short stories, you always get better stories and lesser stories. This collection is no exception. Generally I enjoyed it... I can especially recommend the last story about the smart cloak, but there were a few very dull stories. Furthermore I expected the writer to understand the traditional Red Riding Hood story within its context. There is hidden eroticism, the idea of coming of age, chastity etc. that hides behind some of the elements in the story, at least that is what many scholars agree on. Where are those elements? It seems that Vivian Vande Velde missed them completely. Red Riding Hood is mostly a silly spoiled brat in her.
That said, Vande Velde came up with a few excellent tongue in the cheek moments filled with good humour. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to see the story in a different light and is in search for light reading.
I think Laural Merlington does a splendid job in reading the audio book. If you just want to relax and not think too much or need something to kill the time, this book might just be for you.
It has happened more than once that I had to consider either buying the ‘Audible’ audio version of a ‘Great Courses’ course or the downloadable video version of the same course. What was I thinking not buying this a course on writing in video format with an accompanying .pdf guide!? The content of Prof Marc Zender’s ‘Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity’ is so gripping, it left me spellbound. (That said, I do have a thorough background in Semitic and Classical Languages… but he was able to broaden my understanding of writing systems.)
He takes the listener through a journey of writing signs and systems in 24 lectures which are intricately connected and completely mesmerising! I think this course is probably one of the best structured courses I have listened yet. Starting with the basic concept of writing, dispelling myths surrounding Futhark (the runic alphabet), he proceeds to more difficult scripts such as that of the Chinese. Subsequently the listener is introduced to the decipherment of different ancient writing systems, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Cuneiform and later on Mayan hieroglyphs. By comparing the properties of different systems of writing, he is able to illustrate some fascinating universal aspects of writing. (He convincingly argues and illustrates that writing systems were invented at different times in different places, but also that some peoples borrowed their writings from others.) Prof Zender discusses failed attempts of decipherment, the reasons thereto, as wells as invented scripts and languages such as those of JRR Tolkien.
This course is a highly accessible as well as an excellent overview of writing over the ages. It is presented professionally. Yet I refrain from giving it 5 stars under ‘story’ and overall because not being able to see the examples that Prof Zender used, kept me an outsider to complete insights. While I do understand that Audible does not provide the accompanying .pdf guide to any of ‘The Great Courses’ not being able to follow the Mayan or Egyptian hieroglyphic examples in the course felt utterly frustrating. I believe that a shortened .pdf file without all the contents of the regular guide could be made available to give the listener the best value for his/her money.
All said, ‘Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity’ is a brilliant course, splendidly arranged, highly engaging, well presented and highly relevant for anyone interested in languages and its writing systems.
Deon Meyer, master thriller writer is at it again. Once again I stand amazed at the amount of research that went into his new book 'Kobra.' He gives a true and believable sketch of the South African Police Service, the railways between Cape Town and Stellenbosch (with one exception), the current perceived state of South Africa as a country and to an extend Interpol and some lesser important things in the novel.
Capt. Bennie Griesel is at it again... doing his bit to make the world a better place. But is he drinking again or is he still fighting the temptation of the bottle? Why is he sleeping in his office? This is the backdrop against which quite a few people are murdered and the Hawks must deliver. But these murders are all committed with bullets marked with a cobra on the shell. Who is this Cobra? What has brought a hired assassin known in Europe to South Africa? Why is the British, American and seemingly South African government on edge?
These are questions that will be asked and answered during this book. Meyer has an excellent ability to bring the rich and the poor together in his books. In Kobra he does it really well. It is where these two worlds meet that the sparks fly.
I think Nic de Jager has the right voice for reading Deon Meyer's books. Fortunately Deon Meyer is not using so many swear words - maybe it is because I don't understand the French swear words - as usual, thus it doesn't detract so much from a really good story and De Jager can read with more confidence. I thought De Jager read the Cape Afrikaans also very convincingly.
If you can read Afrikaans or Dutch, I strongly recommend that you listen to this book. It is mostly even paced and clear. But maybe it is better to wait for the English translation to be available in audio format, especially if you don't understand Afrikaans.
[Afrikaans: Ek dink nie 'n mens kan verkeerd gaan met hierdie boek nie. Dit is 'n spannende ontspan misdaad-riller. Die soort boek waarvan Deon Meyer die meester is. Ek dink Bennie Griesel is 'n karakter wat nou in die Afrikaanse literêre landskap ingeburger geword het, amper soos Sherlock Holmes in die Engelse landskap.]
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