Scott Miller has written a well-researched, in-depth history of a time that seems similar to our own. There are really two (maybe three) books here -- that's a compliment and a criticism. He tells the story of anarchism in the late 1800s, with the Haymarket incident and Emma Goldman, as a way to explain the assassin. And tales of the McKinley administration, with the War of 1812 alone, are rich enough to fill several volumes.
I really have enjoyed the book, so I don't want to discourage anyone from reading it, but listening to the Audible edition, I've found the author's organization of the book jarring at times, moving from the 1870s to the 1890s and back again. That might just be a quibble if you're reading the print version. It isn't too jarring to continue, and I'm not sure how he would've avoided it, but fair warning if you'd like a linear storyline.
I might've preferred the print version, too, just to see footnotes, but I love footnotes, and not everyone is like me (hey, the print version may not even have footnotes, for all I know).
They're all great stories, and if you don't know much about this period of our history, or even if you do, you'll enjoy Miller's take on it. It gave me a much better understanding of Teddy Roosevelt, too, and of why the 20th century proceeded as it did.
But beware if you're not crazy for small, interesting nuggets of history. I love 'em, and I do like this book.
As many others have mentioned, David Kushner tells a great story here and Wil Wheaton is an excellent narrator. If you ever played Doom or Quake or any other computer games in the 1990s, you'll enjoy this book, with its inside look at how a group of young men (and they were almost all men) created a huge cultural industry.
Kushner concentrates on the two Johns, who were the most colorful and the easiest to write about, probably, but it's clear that Id Software was a group undertaking with many characters involved. Kushner introduces these people, but we don't always get to hear what happened to them. That had me online and googling them after I'd been listening for a while.
However, for me the most interesting thing was thinking about the story of Id as a way to look at American culture. Kushner does that a little, when he talks about the worries over video games following the Columbine shootings. Seeing the way this mostly disaffected group of introverts, outcasts and rebels pulled together all kinds of cultural ideas floating around in the 1990s to create these games was really interesting to me.
The line from Doom to Grand Theft Auto becomes more easy to trace once you understand this history, and it's also interesting to watch how John Carmack's hacker ideals of free code and shareware begin to get changed by the influx of a lot of money and access to Ferraris. It's the story of the computer industry overall, really, in the 1990s, and it's illuminating to see this part of it.
The story can't help but drag a bit in the last third, when the guys are all rich and famous and then split up. But Wil Wheaton makes it worth listening until the end.
These mysteries are not for everyone, but if you like the cozy mystery genre, the Royal Spyness series is quite entertaining. Royal Blood advanced the series quite well, adding a fun character, Queenie, Lady Georgiana's new and bumbling maid, to the story and moving Georgiana's relationship with the ever-mysterious but romantic Darcy O'Meara along.
Royal Blood has just enough cleverness to keep the story moving, and the political intrique even led me to look up the complicated history of the Balkan states between the great wars.
The narrator, Katherine Kellgren, makes listening to these books such a pleasure, too, and unlike the last book, I didn't figure out the mystery right away, so I kept on listening eagerly. Kellgren is a major reason to listen to these instead of reading -- she is delightful.
Yes, they're a little silly. Yes, the characters are unlikely and the predicaments are often unbelievable, but Rhys Bowen does a good job setting up a world of Depression-era British royalty where a lot of people --including the royals -- are down on their luck, and Georgianna is a plucky, independent heroine. Sure, they may be empty calories, but indulging now and then won't hurt anyone and can be delicious!
I'll probably read at least one more in this series, but by the time I was nearly through with this one, I have to admit I was just going through the motions of listening. The characters are fairly interesting, but everything is just too pat and predictable. Maisie is astonishingly bright and bizarrely lucky and strangely intuitive, and honestly, that gets old after a while. I just don't believe that someone from her class would've been able to rise quite as far without more trouble in England in the early part of the 20th century. The writing was at times pretty dreadful, too. Too much description and too repetitive. A jarring backwards jump in the middle of everything to explain Maisie's life was simply odd and went on too long. By the time the author got back to the main story, I was bored.
Despite my problems with the book, I am intrigued by Maisie and some of those around her. I hope the author develops the characters more. They're all, including Maisie, pretty one dimensional here. To her credit, the author does provide a harrowing and realistic look at World War I and its toll.
The narrator was good. I will keep trying with this series.
Like another reviewer, I'm not sure I'd read these books, but the narrator, Katherine Kellgren, makes them especially fun to listen to. The characters are well done, too. I thought this second book in the series was better than the first, really. More interesting, and Georgie's character is more developed. If you like British mysteries without a lot of angst or violence, and with a dollop of history thrown in, this series is for you. The romance is just right, too -- not too much, but enough to keep me interested on my commute and walks. And I didn't guess who the killer was early on in this one, unlike the first novel.
I enjoyed it overall, although Jane Lynch's life hasn't really been dramatic or traumatic enough to put this at the level of tell-all Hollywood bio, and she doesn't dish about other stars much, either.
All that's undoubtedly to her credit, but it doesn't exactly make for a page-turner. Still, if you like her work in Glee or anything else she's done, it's a pleasant listen. Not up to the humor in Tina Fey's Bossypants, but interesting enough for listening while driving or walking.
I'm not sure she could have changed it. It was honest, or at least, honest enough.
Her struggles with coming out were probably the most interesting parts of the book.
Overall, yes, but I'm a fan of her work.
This book is great, as all Blount's books are, but I give this version four stars because the unabridged version isn't available. However, what's here is witty and fun, and it will especially amuse you if you are, like me, a liberal Southerner. Roy Blount is wonderful.
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