I'm not sure if I would listen again. I love listening to Stephen Fry, regardless of what he's reading, really. But the tone of this collection of short stories left me in a peculiar mood. I was not very familiar with much of Wilde's work, I have read one or two plays, but never his stories like these. They were fable-like, contained lots of moral lessons...but not in your usual bedtime story or fairytale manner. They were portrayed in a very cynical, pessimistic, sometimes almost defeated sounding way. If the author wrote them intending a commentary on the degradation of society and drowning out of innocent good in the world, lost to pompery and selfishness, he succeeded in sharing his disillusionment.
They were interesting to me because they made me experience a new emotional reaction, and a memorable one because it defied my expectations. Every one of the stories had incredible imagery, and painted scenes more real and often more heart-wrenching than your average short-story. Though they contained vivid characters, both noble and ridiculous, and good stories, they left me feeling a little unfulfilled in their conclusions because though the plots formed and progressed and ended, for the most part they don't follow a satisfying pattern of problems being solved, protagonists succeeding, antagonists becoming enlightened and changing their ways, and good triumphing over evil.
Really, every story moved me, but the two that have struck me the most and pulled at my heart-strings still, days and days after listening, were the moments of the self-sacrifice of the birds in both "The Happy Prince" and "The Nightingale and The Rose", both for the good of a man/mankind, and both unappreciated by the world.
I didn't love this course. Some parts were good, and I learned a *couple* of new things, but overall it seemed slow and not unfamiliar. It was a good premise, to explore history from the perspective of your average ancient Greek craftsman, Roman wife, or medieval nun, but I found much of it intuitive and even redundant. Professor Gardner was clearly enthused and enthralled by his topics, and loved telling his story in a first or second person as if actually in ancient Egypt touring Alexandria, or watching a chariot race... But I was not as invested.
I would have been interested to hear a bit more, in fact, on some of the periods and peoples which he covered quickly - Babylon, Persia, pre-Roman Britain... And what about the folks not in the greater European region during those times? He mentions the Saracens in the crusades lecture, but we get very little on them and the Arabic culture that's been developing while we were preoccupied with the Battle of Hastings... Not to mention the other folks beyond the Western World... I understand that he could elaborate more and greater varieties of folks when there was more info from archaeology to give evidence, but I think his discussions of the lives of women and slaves, of the poor and infirm, were all so similar that they might have been combined somehow.
Even when it wasn't redundant feeling, I felt familiar with a lot of the material already. I think I got 98% of what he discusses on Egypt from the Great Course devoted to Ancient Egypt. And I felt like little was new in Greece and Rome - though perhaps I just had a good high school history teacher. And I did have the advantage too of having traveled to many of the Hellenistic sites mentioned on a school sponsored trip - so having been to Olympia, Epidurous, Athens, and Delphi, I was familiar with those stories if the healers, the games, the temples, and the oracles, etc. On that trip too, we visited Rome and Pompeii, so I have imagined the Gladiators, the forum, the baths, etc. so not much was new to me in that era of topics either. Actually, some of the only unfamiliar material was in his more detailed discussions of the death practices. I took a class too, during my study abroad in Scotland, on the Celts and wrote papers on Boudicca and Roman architecture in Britain, so nothing new to speak of from those lectures. Most of what he discussed in the Medieval section I knew from having read the really great historical fiction Katherine by Anya Seaton - that book had everything from Chaucer himself and the royal court, knights, the peasants, the plague, the castles, the heretics, and more...
I did like that he put being a knight and a crusader into better perspective, that is so very romanticized generally. The penultimate lecture on relaxing - sports and music etc was good too.
Basically, I have reaffirmed that I would not have wanted to live in any of those times or places. If I had, I'd have likely been abused if I lived past childhood at all, and would have likely have died in childbirth by now, and if not, I still can't expect to live more than another ten years and will likely do so in poverty. And thank goodness for modern medicine!
Oh, and I can't forget to mention this cause it bugged me the whole 24+ hours : Prof Garland is a good lecturer and really into his stuff, but his lisp drove me nuts. He sounds completely normal, even stereotypical British classicist -until he pronounces the letter "s"... Having studied some articulatory phonetics, I think I can say fairly that his sibilants were overly lateralized, creating a big messy "shh" sound amidst otherwise good elocution. I don't mean to hold it against him, but it Drove me nuts. Listen to the sample before buying, in case that's a deal breaker for you.
This was another interesting subject, but I found this course to be lacking overall... Perhaps it is partly because I expected a full course on the origins and evolution of English - in fact what it is is half a course on introductory linguistics and the history of language in general, and then half of a course on English more specifically. Being familiar as I am with linguistics (my undergraduate minor), the first six lectures was much like getting my several semesters of ling summed up in a 3 hour survey course. And thus I was disappointed also that there was not as much time spent on English, and it felt cursory much of the time.
I think he might have found a way to work the course without the extended primer on linguistics, but he built on the basics and used them to give better explanations on the development and evolution of language (which are not just applicable to English).
What I did like was when he took the time to give examples of text from Gothic, Old English, and Chaucer's English. It helped demonstrate the developments and alterations being discussed, and gave a point of reference for comparison (since, most of us don't encounter untranslated Old English and Medieval texts on a regular basis, after all). It was a good series, and Drout is a good lecturer (whose course on the Anglo-Saxon world I enjoyed), it just wasn't what I had expected or hoped for.
But for someone new to the topics, and not requiring as much in depth discussion, this is a great introduction with a variety of interesting highlights. (I find professor McWhorter's Great Courses series and published works more in my line and depth of interest.)
I'm waffling on whether or not I liked this lecture series... Perhaps it is because I have become accustomed to history books of greater detail, but this just seemed very abridged. The profiles of the important figures Ellis highlights were sometimes cursory, and the key events were named but not always discussed to any extent. Two weeks ago I might have complained on the density of the Glorious Cause and its over-glut of info, but this series made me appreciate it.
Not that that means this is not good - but it is a survey course, I'd say - better suited for those who want to dip their toes in and get a basic grasp of the times, important figures, and highlights as the new nation emerged. This will give that, some interesting discussions, and doesn't get dense or overbearing. As someone interested in more than that, I was disappointed.
I liked Ellis' approach though, and his voice was entertaining - constantly made me think I was listening to Jimmy Stewart. I may revisit his book Founding Brothers... (I got this in fact because I knew his name as the author - I still have a copy on my bookshelf from those high school days of AP US History!) Hopefully that will give me more of the meat I hoped for and was missing from this quick lecture series.
At first I wasn't sure if I'd like this, a combination crime suspense and romance, but it turns out that in the hands of Roberts, it's my ideal kind of novel. I get impatient when the whole conflict of a romance rides on one or both characters' pride or stubbornness or some other frustrating point. And I often need other story-line components to soften suspense and crime thrillers, or they can be too dark and scary for me to take. This story was the perfect blend - crime suspense to kick it off, romance develops and the suspense and past danger acts as the obstacle and challenge for the couple to overcome. And the stakes were high, with none other than the Russian mob and the law (both dirty and not) posing a threat.
The characters were composed very well. It was shocking to be presented with a figure like Dr. Fitch, but she was well defined. Elizabeth was difficult to identify with, but that was the nature of who she was, extraordinary genius social outcast - but both from her own thoughts and others' observations, you could still feel for her, come to know her and predict how she would respond to things. Her manner of speaking, sometimes abrupt, always precise and very often literal, and always polite, was unique and endearing. All of the locals in the Ozarks were warm, instantly felt friendly, and comfortable, charming. Especially Brooks and Sunny. Good folks. Between them and the imagery of the town itself, I longed to belong to such a community and live in a quiet beautiful place like theirs. It was the perfect kind of setting for Abigail, to feel safe and at home, and to try new things and a new kind of life. She deserves peace. And found best kind of man.
I was worried for a while that she would sabotage their relationship, sacrifice her chance of happiness to her fear for her security. But I never doubted him for a minute, and loved how they were able to plan and work together. But boy, I can say without spoilers, as much confidence as I had in Brooks being there for her, I was still worried and sometimes on the edge of my seat when anything threatened their plan, related or not. And I will add too that was worried about his local cases involving the Blakes. Almost more about them than the Russians at certain points! I won't give away plot details, but just say that I loved how their plan developed and played out.
Narration was great. Sounds and intimations were always well suited to personalities. I loved the southern accents. Whelan does pretty good voices for men - masculine enough to distinguish, varied enough to differentiate individuals, but never over-the-line gruff or forced sounding. She made me feel hugged by Sunny. She made me feel Brooks' love and wonder. And as good as she was at the good, she was just as good at the bad - the cold Volkovs and the raging Blakes were just as well played.
Brilliant book. Definitely among my latest favorites!
Comprehensive history of the birth of the United States. Includes all of the unrest, events and skirmishes leading to the Revolutionary War; details of the progression of the war including congressional activities, civilian attitudes, and the movements of both the British and American armies; and the aftermath including the forging of the Constitution and a new national government. It had a good progression, and included looks at the lives of colonists in several circumstances, the soldiers, and their leaders.
Rather more detail in battle tactics and movements than I have ever read before or care to; even some of the descriptions of terrain were beyond me to visualize, not to mention the troop arrangements. Require pictures. But other than that, good.
Was typical of nonfiction history books in many ways, but I liked the storytelling voice used to carry the narration throughout. The narrator was very good and had an appropriate voice - not monotone or sleep inducing. In fact, his intonation and manner of speaking made me think of Neil Patrick Harris quite often (does he have an audiobook pseudonym for history books? Heh)!
Overall good, would be worth revisiting if in need of a refresher, but otherwise satisfied with once.
This lecture series was alright... I liked some sections more than others. Particularly, I liked the discussions on the nature of money, the history of money in the US, and some of the other early lectures on fundamentals like how banks work and kinds of financial investments.
It lost my interest somewhat in the details of calculating present value and yields. One major disadvantage was the lack of visual aids, especially when it came to those calculations and the many graphs and charts used in discussions of interest rates. I made up for this with a quick google search and found a PDF of course guide, but it didn't include every figure (maybe 80%). Definitely helped me get more than I would have without them.
I was only sort of interested in the discussion of regulation and the recent subprime mortgage crisis - partly because by that stage in the series I was able to figure out most of what he said about it just based on previous lectures and a few Wall Street Journal articles. I did appreciate though that he steered clear of politicizing the discussion. And, for that, he always noted specifically when a view or adherence to a theory was his own, and gave multiple perspectives.
My interest went back up at the end of the series when he zoomed out to the international financial stage and discussed exchange rates, the IMF, ECB policy, etc. I liked being able to expand all the previously learned points to the global scale and see how different economies effect and interact with each other. I was particularly interested in his points about the challenges facing the Euro and the potential future of the Eurozone, and what may happen to the US given its high sustained deficits and trade deficits.
I think Salemi's lecture style was a little slow for my tastes. Both in the sense of his topic/lecture delineation, and in his speaking delivery. He also has a tendency to merge words at the beginning of a phrase, like his mind jumped to word two while he was still trying to get out word one, resulting in smashing the two together and causing brief stutters and re-starting his thought. I'd even call this pervasive. It wasn't overly annoying, I'd have understood him 99% of the time had he not corrected, but it was just so often it was noticeable. I wonder why there was no sound editing, but I gather they just didn't bother in grabbing the audio from the video version which I'm sure this began as.
I will henceforward be more in tune when I hear news about the fed and banking regulations, though the practical knowledge gained on stocks and bonds and the like doesn't get me much further than I am. Solid 3-3.5 stars out of 5. I'd be interested in a sequel, the next level of lectures, to apply these basics and get into the good stuff, but for now all I've got in the vicinity to turn to is the Economics lecture series, also intro level content.
I feel as if I had always meant to read this, but for ten years just never could get around to it. Had I read it some years ago though, I think I should not have enjoyed it. It was sweet, and a good-hearted story, though at times it did break my heart. But it does preach and moralize so very often. It's as if it is a little instruction book for girls like the sisters, to teach virtue and piety - and it does present them quite plainly most of the time. And I was never one for being preached at. I am sure I could take a lesson and enjoy a story that was not so blatantly doing so, but this really does revolve around them so plainly, I'd likely have dropped off reading it before finishing more than a few chapters. But I was determined to see the story through and try not to mind it when they reflected on their burdens and sins and their pilgrim's progress.
It took me longer to finish than it should have. The story was not gripping, but I did hope to see happy ends for the girls. Though I was at times bored with tales of their poverty and homemaking, I did like Jo's poems and adventures with Laurie. I have heard many critics/reviewers say that those two should have fallen in love, but I think things turned out just as they ought. The concluding few chapters did brighten my mood after a mostly ambivalent (when not distressed by tragedy) feeling overall. It was a very pleasant scene to end on. Not at all the kind of life I live nor ever envisioned (for, even though it is set over 100 years ago, in many ways life is just the same, and some families do live as the Marches did).
Narration was well done, she had a good narrative voice, and adopted good voices for the various characters. I loved some of Jo and Laurie's little emotional outbursts and enthusiasms.
Sweet and mostly pleasing, but not my style. Good, but not good enough to return to. I'd give 3.5 stars if audible allowed fractions...
Comedic timing and chemistry were great. Some jokes were really simple and silly, a few were more clever. Plenty of ridiculous situations and schemes. It was almost like a good comedy tv show, just with audio only! Harkened back to ye not-so-old days of radio sitcoms. Some of it was patently British style humor, some was more general. I loved it all! And best of all, I can't think of anything else I've listened to quite like it.
Lots of fun and laughs, the whole way through! Each episode brought on a new crazy adventure. And the cast was fantastic. Really brightened my afternoon!
How can I describe this book... Tragic. Pastoral. The end of an era, and a way of life. It was written as a memoir, decades after the action described, and because of that, and the author's melancholy tone, you could tell that things would not be all right in the small seaside community. There was so much sad foreshadowing hiding in the nostalgic and sad passages, that really nothing that happened came as a surprise, but it all still hurt. It was crushing too see a family torn, a love lost, the centuries of tradition and life brought to a halt...
The story, in addition to the subdued tone throughout, was pretty slow-paced. Many passages describing the details of the landscape, the many flowers and birds, the architecture and features of the manor house... but even the actual action was often just a smooth mellow flow - with a few breaks of quick successive events, like a sudden rush to haul in mackerel, or the tizzy at the birthday party, or her outburst and sulking with the viola near the end... It was the slow cadence and progression that influenced me to take longer to read it it think. That, and I needed to pause to read something more cheery before bed.
I liked a few scenes though, which enabled a pause from being so depressed. I was happy whenever Elise/Alice danced. I could not be happy for her and Kit, because I just knew it would not end well. It was clear from the very start, in how she spoke about him in her reflections that that relationship was ill-fated, in several ways, from the start. But he was a fun and easy to love man-boy. I was furious at Lady Diana, the b****. But thank heavens for Molly, spreading a little fun and adventure, a little girl time every so often. Mr. Rivers was a good pillar of strength for her, throughout.
I can't even imagine how lonely it must have been, to be without your family and everything familiar, thrust into a new world where you don't really fit either upstairs or downstairs... By the way, I don't know what it is about some of the reviews and descriptions I've read, but just because the story and characters happen to encompass both the gentry and servants of a country house does not make it in any way comparable to Downton Abbey. Though, I will admit that the butler did exude a lot of Carsen. But that is the end of character parallels, as far as I was concerned. And, Downton is about the *beginning* of the end of the English country manorhouse way of life... rather, this was the *end* of it.
**SPOILERS this paragraph**
I was not at all surprised at the developments with Mr. Rivers... that was foreshadowed from her arrival there. and there were subtle signs as they grew closer after Dunkirk. I can't be outraged or anything by it (as i read of one reviewer who thought it was horrible to marry a. the dead sweetheart's father and b. someone so much older... but in the story, it wasn't something bad.) It seemed almost natural even, that they find happiness with each other, after all they'd been through and been to one another. And I liked the nice bow on the end, reuniting with family at the opera in Vienna.
The narration was beautiful. The foreign and myriad British accents were done well, and Ms. Eyre adapted some of the best male voices I've heard from a female narrator. I remarked not a single dialogue mishap or editing error throughout. She had a way of really pulling you in, so you felt like you were on that cliff overlooking the bay, or in the fields as each detail of flora and fauna were described and marveled at. She was the method by which Solomons cast Tyneford's spell on the reader.
But regardless, the whole situation and war and events that brought the end of Tyneford were just tragic and I am glad to be done with it so I can find something to read that won't keep me so sad. It was touching, moving, even, but I just don't want to be so depressed!
Quite a story... Multiple threads following multiple threats from multiple directions! I liked how the threads were woven together, where each was only revealed bit by bit as the plot progressed.
Maggie certainly is an impressive and intelligent young woman - I nearly yelled with her at the injustice she faced, and I loved her outbursts. Not afraid to speak her mind. She had some good friends too, I liked John and David right away.
Hard to imagine what life was like then though, even though MacNeal describes all of the wartime conditions, it almost doesn't sound real from this distance... the rations and threat of bombs falling, not to mention those from the IRA.
Without giving spoilers, I can say that while I sensed the direction of developments, I did not see some of the twists coming. I expected her finding the code wouldn't get a great reception, but what a thrilling sequence followed from there! It was high tension action, and it just kept coming and coming as more pieces to the puzzle were revealed. I caught myself holding my breath at least a few times. After everything, I laughed when Maggie expressed the same thought I had had for some time - what a story to tell her aunt!
I don't know much about Churchill, but I think he was written well, I got the impression he was portrayed fairly accurately, and his private comments to Maggie amused me. Seemed fitting, given his style of thinking and communicating, with just "KOP" and "kicking!", heh. Such insight tucked in with the rest of the mystery was interesting, and kept it firmly rooted.
Narration was really good. Multiple accents, done well for both women and men. Someone who can voice Churchill and the 'Dingbells' (and several other folks in between) certainly gets my kudos. First time I think I've ever encountered the case of a British-narrated book with an American-accented protagonist. Only noted one slip or two where John had Maggie's/ narration voice, but it was made clear from context. The only thing which I would have asked to make this top notch would have been to add a vocal distinction for Maggie's thoughts, as we were often given them in tandem with dialogue, so they often sounded as if said aloud.
Wonderful story. Look forward to reading further books where Maggie can use her talents in a more appropriate setting and contribute more than she could as a typist.
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