I have a dilemma when evaluating the Machiavelli in Context series: the content is fantastic, but the delivery verges into repetitive. I've found this problem to be endemic in The Great Courses books that I've bought; the lecturer tells you something interesting, then rephrases it several times, with decreasing levels of subtlety.
I listen to audio books when I run, to help the miles go by faster, and really wanted to love Machiavelli in Context. I've gotten a lot out of the book, so hopefully I'll have time to finish the lecture series. In the meanwhile, the pace is just too slow.
I was initially worried that the "Shakespeare appreciated" series would dumb the play down. However, after listening to their production of King Lear, I am very enthusiastic about the project. I especially appreciate that the guide doesn't stick to only explaining archaic terminology, but also notes many of the more subtle themes that run through the play and describes how specific passages advance these undercurrents. The addition then-contemporary references and allusions to then-topical events and scandals is a nice touch.
The guide's relatively frequent interjections and scene analysis was helpful even beyond their informative content, as they made it much easier to follow which characters are active in a given scene. Otherwise, you have to remember fairly subtle voice differentiations - difficult if you are listening to the play in moderate intervals.
I appreciate that the file seems to have both annotated and non-annotated readings.
These stories are sometimes difficult to listen to, particularly as we are socialized these days to expect a happy ending from our entertainment. However, if you stick with it through a few, they act as somewhat of a mental palette cleanser, and help provide a fresh perspective on other stories and events.
The book is fine- which is the problem. It is an essentially mediocre urban fantasy novel in the currently-trendy vampire/kick-ass female protagonist subgenre.
The protagonist is fine to listen to, but nothing really sets her apart as particularly compelling to follow and the plot does also suffer from the tendency for her problems to magically resolve themselves. Not quite Deus-ex-Machina level (well, except for one instance), but the type of situation - sadly prevalent in this sub-genre - in which a weaker protagonist magically vanquishes the (much stronger) opponent of the moment...because she just sort of wanted it badly.
I might continue reading/listening to see if the series to see if there is anything interesting that builds after the introductory book. There are almost ten books in the series, so that should give Stein enough room to reveal a multi-layered environment. Although, one narrative tic that makes me wonder if this will ever happen is that the protagonist evidenced almost no curiosity about being dragged from a normal life into a supernatural word that she claimed not to have known about at all.
Pearlman was adequate. She did differentiate the characters, but I have certainly listened to more gifted performers.
One particularly irritating aspect of her performance is her tendency to emphasize the word
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