I’ve read quite extensively on the Tudors, especially Elizabeth I. She has always fascinated me. I found The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir one of the best, perhaps my favorite so far. The book covers the period from Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne at the age of 25 until her death as an old woman at 69 with just a brief overview of her earlier life to provide context. The major events of the period were woven into background information on the culture and society of England during the later part of the 16th century. The book was an excellent narrative that never bogged down, at least not for me. The narrator, Davina Porter was perfect.
Alison Weir is a highly respected historian of the Tudors as well as an accomplished writer. I enjoy her books and learn from them, but this one stood out for me. I recommend it highly as an introduction to Elizabeth I or as a pleasant way to revisit the life of this remarkable woman for those already acquainted with her from previous study.
I needed to read this book. None of the history classes I took in high school or college ever discussed World War II; I’ve had to learn everything about it on my own over the years. After retiring for good five years ago, I decided to focus heavily on this major 20th century event through biographies, histories, and well-researched historical fiction. I also watched a number of documentaries which included "The War," "Band of Brothers," "The World at War," and "The Pacific" as well as all of the Extras found on the DVD sets. However, nothing I had previously seen, listened to, or read adequately covered the Italian theater. It appeared to be a rather neglected aspect of World War II, or at least it seemed so to me.
When Rick Atkinson completed his The Liberation Trilogy on the war in Europe, I knew I had to read them all in order to piece together the European aspect of World War II. I discovered from "An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943" just how totally unprepared the United States had been when we entered this ongoing conflict--how we sent untrained troops and officers into the fray, and how much we learned through fighting with the British, against the Germans. But what of Sicily and Italy? What of the Italian Campaign?
In this second volume, "The Day of Battle: the War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1945" I found out more than I had expected. The arrogance, huge tactical errors, and misjudgments of many of the generals caused unbelievable suffering and unnecessary death for our troops and those of our allies in this corner of the war. I knew it had been bad, but it’s hard to conceive just how horrendous it really was. No wonder this isn’t the part of WWII we hear much about! Of course we trumpet the successful landings at Normandy in 1944 rather than those that were so nearly repelled with terrible losses at Salerno in 1943. While the courage and perseverance of the men themselves was admirable, much that they were asked to do was stupid and hopeless to the point of being shameful. It was hard to listen to, really it was.
The author provides intricate detail, often using just the precise word, to convey the taste, smell, and misery of this time and place. He portrays the major players as he sees them from from his thorough research of the archives, and sometimes it’s not flattering. He clearly admires Eisenhower, but is certainly less impressed with Clark and Montgomery. In the end this ultimate question looms large: Was the Italian Campaign necessary? Did it further the cause of victory in Europe by occupying a significant portion of Hitler’s resources? Or was it instead a colossal, pointless waste of men and material? Atkinson poses these questions at the end of this volume, leaving it to the reader for final judgement. I’m still pondering...these are not simple questions and perhaps they are unanswerable...
...but I needed to read this excellent and difficult book. It taught me much that is important for me to know. It also posed additional questions that will require more reading and rumination. I am certainly motivated to soon begin the last of this trilogy, "The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945." First, though, I think I’ll listen to some lighter, less intense fiction in order to clear my palate before taking another plunge into WWII.
I loved this second in a long series of historical novels placed in northern England near York! It continued the saga of the Morland family from 1501 into the reign of young King Edward after the death of his father, Henry VIII. I love this period of English history so following the Morlands through it was especially enjoyable. I hope the next in the series will continue with Elizabeth I since she is my very favorite of all the English monarchs.
Others have summarized the plot of this novel so I will not repeat their efforts. This is a long book, a little over 21 hours on the audiobook, but I finished listening to it in less than 4 days. Although I do have a life, I found it difficult to take off my earphones and stop this story. I guess it’s a good thing that batteries do need to be recharged occasionally. I was even happy with the ending. I read the preceding book, but this one could stand on it’s own without losing much.
This book profoundly influenced much of my life. I first read it while in high school and then again some time later. Now, after a lifetime, I listened to the audiobook. What struck me most from this most recent experience with the novel is the complete decency and sense of duty its characters displayed as they waited for a deadly inevitable cloud of radiation from nuclear war in the Northern Hemisphere to reach them in southern Australia. They clung to, or discovered, what meant most to them in their lives and continued to carry on in the face of the certain destruction of the human species. Contemporary readers may find their behavior implausible, but having grown up in the post WW II era, I see this as congruent with the values and character of that period.
I was in college at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and vividly remember the sense of urgency I felt after President Kennedy’s now-famous speech where everything--my future and that of the entire world--was on the line. Afterwards I soberly rode the elevator up to my room from the dorm lounge where so many girls had watched and listened to grave and frightening announcements. Many of my companions were openly crying and beginning to despair. One of them turned to me and asked with great urgency, “What are you going to do?” I answered that I was going to study for the Sociology exam I was scheduled to take in the morning. She looked at me incredulously and exclaimed, “But we may be at war tomorrow!! We may all be dead!” I thought about her question and replied, “But we may NOT be at war, and if we are not, I will certainly have to take that exam. I can’t change anything out there, but I CAN continue with what I am here to do. I can be prepared for that test.”
In retrospect, we all know what happened: there was no war, I took that exam, and I did pretty well on it. I learned from On the Beach, and from that Missile Crisis experience, that I needed to do my job, whatever that might be, and to do it to the best of my ability for the rest of my life regardless of what whirlwinds of craziness were swirling about me. The characters in this book knew they were going to die, and they knew when--a truly terrifying concept. Yet, as the book points out, we all know that that our condition is terminal. Our time here is finite; we each need to make ours the best, most productive, life we can, for ourselves and for those around us. There is so much that we cannot control, but we can govern ourselves. We can be true to our values as so many of Shute’s people were in this novel.
Because I had grown up with air raid drills, “duck and cover,” under a constant threat of nuclear annihilation, this book spoke directly to me. It frightened me tremendously, but it also taught me some very important lessons that have remained an integral part of everything I have done since. Each day of life dawned with a strong sense of urgency, causing me to grasp exciting experiences and opportunities as they offered themselves. I never felt the luxury of letting them pass by perhaps for another time.
Over these many years, I have experienced much change, both loss and gain. Some events and situations I could influence, while others I was utterly impotent to affect. I learned from this book, and from life, to direct most of my energy and efforts into those spheres where I could actually have impact, and to let the rest go by. For me this is the major lesson of On the Beach.
The novel certainly may have also influenced those with the power to change global politics, leading them to actions which effectively avoided nuclear war and total annihilation of life as we know it on earth. That is unknowable. I only understand that, unlike the characters in On the Beach, I was granted a full life--basically a wonderful and somewhat unexpected gift.
This is truly a very weird book!! I usually don’t read things like “14,” but it appealed to me after I had listened to more than 40 hours of “Far From the Tree” which was pretty serious and often sad. By contrast this book is a fantasy/science fiction type, something I occasionally enjoy as a change. It certainly WAS a break from my norm, and I’m now more than ready to return to reality again, even in my choice of fiction--at least until George R.R. Martin manages to finish his sixth book in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series.
There are a number summaries and analyses of the plot of “14” so won’t add another. It’s enough to say that I rather enjoyed the first three-quarters of the novel, but I only endured the ending. It just got too strange for me, and I couldn’t relate to either the characters or the story by then. It is like the TV series “Lost” in some ways. I found both compelling long enough that I stuck with them all the way, including their rather disappointing endings.
In order for me to give a book more than three stars, I have to feel that I learned something proportional to the time I invested in it. Unfortunately this was not the case with “14”. However, unless I really dislike a book or hate it enough to not finish it, I rarely give less than three stars. So three stars it is for a fairly entertaining first three-quarters but a rather numbing last section and ending.
The Eighty-Dollar Champion is a book for anyone who loves horses or enjoys a true story of improbable success in the face of tremendous odds. I spent my summers as a child on my grandparents’ pony farm and was simply wild about horses so I expected to enjoy this book. I wasn’t prepared to love it so much and recommend it to nearly everyone! (Except perhaps people who REALLY hate animals.) After completing the book I doubted its veracity and assumed that the author had selectively chosen and embellished her facts for effect. However, when I checked, I found that indeed most, if not all, of it actually happened as related. If this were a fiction book, it would be considered something of a fairy tale or fantasy, but as nonfiction, it appears to hold up.
Harry do Leyer, who immigrated from Holland after World War II with is wife and a single suitcase of belongings, purchased a broken-down gray horse from a truck headed for the slaughter house. His children named the gelding Snowman and Harry cleaned him up, fed him well, and began using him to teach girls in a local private school to ride. Through a fluke observation, Harry discovered that Snowman could jump, and jump very well. He and the horse trained rigorously, and with the support of his family, they eventually achieved the highest honors of the Show Jumping World in 1958 and beyond.
But that is not what makes this story such a memorable one. The greatness of Harry and Snowball is the unique bond that formed between this man and this horse: the nearly silent communication, complete trust, and intense loyalty that existed between them. In addition, I learned a great deal about horses, the sport of jumping, and the culture of the 1950s and ‘60s when this all happened. I was compelled to listen, even knowing the final outcome. I can only credit Elizabeth Letts and her excellent craftsmanship with bringing this story back to life in 2011. I’d give it 10 stars if I could. I understand that a documentary movie will be coming out in 2014. I can hardly wait!
I loved The Genius of Dogs. It provided a wonderful overview of the latest research on dogs--their evolution, intelligence, training, and status in human societies. I am interested in evolutionary biology so I enjoyed Brian Hare’s discussion of dogs and humans from his perspective as an evolutionary anthropologist. I was familiar with a lot of the material from other sources, but this book presented it in a unified format and created an updated image of dogs and our relationship with them.
The author credits an observation of his his boyhood dog, Oreo, with deciding the course of his academic and professional career. Yet he avoids the pitfalls of anthropomorphism common with many authors of dog books. He adored Oreo and his other dogs, but he loved them as dogs, not as furry human beings. He discusses canine talents, but also explains some of the shortcomings of their unique cognitive abilities. For example, dogs are excellent at reading our intentions, and “a dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” But dogs are not capable of feeling guilt when they steal food or mess in the house. We humans often perceive their affect and behavior as guilt, but experiments have shown that is not the case; they are sensing our displeasure and reacting in a submissive way to it. It is important in living and working with dogs that we understand what they are and what they are not.This book is helpful in providing that insight.
I listened to the audiobook, but I intend to take a very close look at the print version as well. There are studies cited that I want to read and points made that will require additional reflection than is possible with audio alone. Clearly I found this book very worthwhile. It presents recent scholarly information on domestic dogs clearly and in a manner easily accessible to the layperson. However, for readers seeking a feel-good, happy pet dog story, this is probably not the one to pick up. For all others, I highly recommend it!
I love dogs and also a good dog tale so I really enjoyed this book. It’s the story of Maggie, German shepherd and former Military Working Dog and her new handler, Scott James, an LAPD police officer who has recently transferred to the K9 division. Both dog and man have recently lost their partners in “battle” and are suffering from the physical and emotional results of these traumas along with multiple gun shot wounds. The two bond into a “pack” as they search for the people who killed Scott’s partner.
What most impressed me about this book is the accuracy of Robert Crasis’ description of dogs, working dogs especially. He is clearly familiar not only with German Shepherds but also with Belgian Malinois, the other primary breed used for military and police work. He knew the similarities as well as the significant differences between the breeds. Maggie's physical, intellectual, and psychological gifts unfold with the plot, and training methods are correctly incorporated. I am somewhat familiar with these amazing animals since we have been fostering Military Working Dog puppies from the DoD Breeding Program at Lackland and presently live with two gorgeous adopted Mals. I know little about police procedures and cannot judge the validity of these in the book, but what pertained to dogs rang true.
This was my first Robert Crasis book. I’m not a fan of police or crime novels, and purchased this one only because of the working dog/law enforcement connection--and the audiobook was on special sale. However, it was a good choice for me. I had difficulty putting it down and consider my time listening to this novel well-spent. For me Suspect turned out to be far more engaging than other books I have read in this genre. The relationship that developed between Maggie and Scott elevated this from a typical thriller to something significantly more.
This was a useful book for me. I wouldn’t call it enjoyable, but it was useful. Andrew Mellen clearly presented an organized, elaborate set of steps for getting rid of excess “stuff” and organizing the rest so that it can be useful again, no longer lost in the jumble of daily living. This is not something I have ever been good at, and my husband is at least as bad, so having a blueprint of ideas to follow will be helpful to both of us. It took me longer to complete this audiobook than most of the same length because I stopped to actually work on some of the tasks recommended. I also downloaded lists of tasks from his website.
Mellen makes an excellent case for unloading many of our belongings and then putting what remains in order; while I will not follow his plan to the letter, I do intend to incorporate a lot of it into my life. I will definitely listen to specific chapters again as I attack each room of the house, the car, the carport, etc. I may even buy the print version of this book as we progress, if that seems like a good idea.
This book has caused me to change my behavior for the better already. This morning, for example, I found some Pre-Cambrian pizza in the freezer. I had been saving it for “some day” even though we didn’t like it when we choked down the first two in a package of three. Instead of putting it back in the freezer (as I had previously done a number of times), I decided to get it out of our lives forever. I cooked and cut it up to be used as dog training treats. As I put the containers into the refrigerator, I actually labeled each so they could be found and used before they spoil. I know it’s a small step, but I felt good about it, which means I will continue to work on the detritus in my life in small steps and larger ones. (And the dogs thoroughly approve!)
Considering the positive influence Unstuff Your Life has already had on us, why did I give it 4 stars rather than 5? It’s because I nearly stopped listening to this audiobook during the first two chapters when Mellen insisted that I answer a huge list of probing questions clearly aimed at getting to the bottom of my slovenliness. It was truly tiresome, and I would never have continued past page 10 of the print book. I know what my problem is: I have too many interests that interfere with maintaining order, and once things get out of control, it is too enormous a job to undertake--considering how much I truly hate this kind of thing. Some of his lecturing was needed in order to get me going, to make it OK for me to throw out or repurpose broken or useless items (old pizza, for example). But for me, at least, all that introspection was overdone.
Still, I highly recommend this book if you can’t always find your car keys or if there are times you spend way too much time looking through packed closets for something to wear that actually fits. It’s all common sense, and we’ve heard most of it before, but having a workable plan laid out just might make it easier to tackle “unstuffing” your life.
Fair and Tender Ladies was pure pleasure to listen to as an audiobook. The mountain dialect and soft tones performed exquisitely by narrator, Kate Forbes, brought this gentle, captivating story to life, literally transporting me to a world that existed from early 20th century Appalachia through the 1970s. I vicariously experienced some of the immense changes in American society during this time period and was able to glimpse the profound impacts that two major wars and the growth of the coal industry had on these proud mountain people. Their life was hard, but for the first time I began to understand their fierce loyalty to this beautiful but inhospitable land. I watched as their unique culture was disrupted and ultimately destroyed by “progress.”
This is a character-driven novel. It flows lazily through the long life of Ivy Rowe and is written entirely in her letters to various family members and friends. Her tone and language develop as she grows from a very young child into an old “mountain woman.” Yet throughout it all, Ivy retains her deep love of home and family. She never loses that basic core of who she is and what Sugar Fork and its people mean to her. I respected her tremendously, and listening to her story enriched me.
Fair and Tender Ladies is not an adventure story, and it will be a disappointment to readers expecting fast-moving plot. I’m not sure how most men will relate to it since this story is told entirely through Ivy’s unabashed perspective, and she is most definitely a woman; there is no narrator to filter and objectify Ivy’s observations and remarks. But for me that was the charm of this book; Ivy is wonderful if the reader can accept her as she is. She is funny, foolish, courageous, and wise--a delightful combination of them all. I wish she were a real person so I could spend more time listening to her and learning from her. I am extremely happy that I purchased this audiobook and took the time to hear Ivy’s story. I am better for the experience and somehow feel uplifted.
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