This is an excellent, occasionally whimsical retelling of the beginning of the King Arthur legend. Outstanding narrator captures many different characters. I look forward to hearing more of the legend told from this perspective.
Starts with a high school tennis player freaking out in college interview, segues to a Marijuana addict in Boston, Arab doctor in Boston, pro football kicker in Phoenix, beauty from Kentucky, cycling back to family running a tennis academy in Boston, father an expert on optics and dabbling in perfecting an engrossing video entertainment, sought by Canadian Quebec separatists, all interacting with substance abusers (12 steppers, obsessives). Absolutely brilliant with many threads, many entertaining (!) and insightful themes and interactions. It does not coalesce well at the end, not surprisingly given the huge ambition, but well worth the time. Absolutely amazing narrator.
Superb, data-based discussion of the most important political and social topics: income and wealth disparity and how to afford a modern social state. I was a little surprised how engaging it is. The historical background, enlivened by references to literary characters of Balzac and Austen and others, is convincing. It is only slightly weakened in the last half by a relatively superficial treatment of social utility (unequal is inequity) though there is a limit the scope of any book.
A "novel" of the CIA… very long, sweeping, and very engaging, starting just post WWII involving real people: e.g., James Angleton, Richard Helms, JFK, Reagan, et al. even William Sloan Coffin briefly then on as late as Vladimir Putin. Follows a couple new recruits but not linear timing, from the 1970s to '50s and back before settling down. Superbly -- outstandingly -- spoken with many accents and emotions. Narrator's voices are almost uniformly superb, his Kennedy is not entirely convincing but his Reagan is great. I enjoyed this very much.
Rich Russian émigré in 1946 fears creeping socialism and atomic war, so he builds a city on the sea bottom off Iceland. Remarkable in the beginning for making Ayn Rand's screeds seem relatively well written. Mercifully, this author is not so long-winded, nor as monomaniacal, and is much more creative. Subversive doubts, greed, cynicism, and good old-fashioned criminality enter the picture. DNA and genes in 1950 is about 30 years ahead of history, the plasmids conferring superpowers (fire balls from fingers, telekinesis) is of course ridiculous. Weird mix of retro politics and super-powers fascination.
A Korean war vet, lawyer, and new Democratic candidate for Congress from Austin TX in the '70s, the protagonist "Hack" is bitter, estranged from his wife, brother, others, self. Though he holds himself to a high standard, he also questions his own worth just a little less than he discounts the motives of those around him. He has the attractive sensibilities of a hippie (open-minded and anti-bigotry) together with the appetites of a good ol' boy (drinking, driving fast, and whoring). His deep secret - which forms the spine of the narrative - is sufficiently important and well presented. The reading by Will Patton is outstanding, a great pleasure with perfectly fitting voices. The story is just a little less than compelling, too much of a great guy with a deep soul...who is righteous and drinks way too much.
This is a superb history of the momentous era from before Henry VIII to after Elizabeth. The author also presents other historians' views, which changed sometimes dramatically over time based on the latest scholarship and trends. Religion and finance (economy) are two important areas that benefit greatly from balanced perspectives. This clear combination of current and historical scholarship is very interesting and helps the reader understand also how history is analyzed.
This story provides a good historical perspective from a personal and family level but largely fails in its aim to do more. The title is a mining or geological term meaning the slope of a hill resulting from falling matter, here applied to a retired academic working on a bio of his grandmother, mostly, who was a minor writer and sketch artist in late-19th Century New York and New England, and his capable, even inventive and ambitious but flawed westerner grandfather. His voice is a little prissy and the grandmother comes across as a bit of a whiner, when not defensive (to her friends). Some nice connections between his Victorian Grandparents and the crassness and loose morals of his son, divorced wife, and the hippy daughter of his helper. The narrator does a good job assuming the author's voice, sometimes annoyingly so.
This is a journal of his trip in 1867 to France, Italy, and the Holy land, missing a few due to plague and quarantine. Twain is sometimes surprisingly biased and it's often not clever or funny. He is unfailingly credulous about Christianity, albeit critical of Roman Catholicism, and dismissive of all Arabs, most Italians, and many other foreigners. His cleverness surfaces describing himself and fellow travelers, but too rarely. Overlong.
observation, comprehension, re/evolution (cheating a little on that last "word")
The awareness that the earth was much older and dynamic than previously supposed is the crux, and the author does an excellent job placing the key observations within the economic setting of mining coal and digging canal, which he relates to one another very logically and clearly. The less interesting aspect was the class and personal rivalries that slowed acceptance (a little) but mostly threatened the credit due to Smith.
The author takes too much time at the beginning telling us, repeatedly, that the findings were important without actually telling us how or why. Maybe that is necessary in popularized science. He also expects the readers to know English geography better than I do. His personal experience on the beaches during school contribute only marginally to the main story. But the main story is (actually, finally) so important that these amount to quibbles.
Probably best at dramatizing the very rough nature of life in big cities then, focusing on the extra strains in NYC caused by the immigration of so many poor Irish and the anti-Catholic zealots who opposed them. The drama and crime around which the setting is described is itself not so compelling, though refreshingly open minded and liberal (in the old sense). Narrator is superb.
This provides good historical atmosphere for fans of NYC (I am one).
The widow baker is a minor character but provides a nice touchstone for the society.
The author makes a few of the characters a little too heroic (or deeply villainous)... the striving social worker/writer, the priest, the doctor, the new "cops" on the nascent police force. The strength of the story is the atmosphere, the setting of a burgeoning new city filled with people striving, with success and failure.
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