I bought this series on cassette when my library was getting rid of all their cassettes. The material was excellent but the quality of the used cassettes was awful, I had to stop less than halfway through because it was so frustrating, I thought of purchasing the set on CD but the price was pretty high. Now I can hear it all in perfect condition at a great price!
Robert Greenberg is smart and funny and presents the material in a way that is accessible to anyone. I'm delighted that we now get access to The Great Courses at our regular credit price!
When I first heard about this book, I thought "I can't handle ANOTHER story from WWII. But the reviews said it was "luminous", "extraordinary", and that it dealt with the relationship of two young people during the war. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that their intersection takes up maybe 5 minutes of the book. And I wish I had listened to my original concerns.
One theme of the book is the spiral as seen in shells, drains, etc. and the book structured in the form of a spiral. A number of elements start out far apart and as the story circles around and repeatedly comes back to them, they get closer and closer together until they reach the point of connection. A clever idea, but I think it would have been more effective if the author hadn't started the book with a scene from almost the end, then gone back to show how the characters got to that point, while sometimes interspersing scenes from the "present". I don't mind that the book isn't linear, though some readers did get confused, especially in audio. But since we know the direction the story will go, and we know how WWII turned out, there's not much suspense. I felt more dread - which manifestations of the evils of war will these particular characters have to suffer through before they arrive at the scene that opened the book? (cold, hunger, betrayal, illness, loss?)
There are a number of big questions addressed and they aren't subtle. What is free will? What is courage? What is the power of human communication, human knowledge, and human imagination? What is guilt and what is innocence? The more the book went on, the less its characters seemed like real people to me and the more they were symbols.
The narration was fine, and the narrator handled the French and German pretty well but it was so slow that I ended up using the double speed on my iPod, which I've never done before. Sometimes I wished I could have speeded up even more. That's an indication that the book was not grabbing me. For audiobooks I usually want them to last and I want to savor the performance rather than get through in a hurry.
Please check out other reviews as most people loved this book and its writing. Maybe I just need a longer break from any book involving Nazis!
As a Midwesterner I enjoyed the setting of prairie and small town. Someone said the subject was the angst of 30-somethings, but I'd say it's more about the universal experience of never being content with what we have, envying someone else, not knowing they are envying you. It's about the age when people look around and wonder if this is how their lives are supposed to turn out. And it's about figuring out what is really important in life.
I usually don't care for books with multiple narrators because I will hate at least one of them but in this book I thought all the narrators were excellently matched with their characters. The one female character may have been less effective, but I think that's because the male author didn't give her as much depth as he did to the men he created.
It may be unrealistic the way some of the characters described the land in such poetic terms, but I thought it fit in just fine.
A large part of the book is comprised of emails between Jennifer and Beth. I assume they are supposed to have different personalities, but the narrator made them sound exactly alike, at least to me. I'm not sure why I didn't pick up on this with the sample as it annoyed me in the first 5 minutes of the book.
It wasn't awful, but only mildly amusing. It wasn't the mail format that was the problem for me. I loved The Boy Next Door narrated by the inimitable Barbara Rosenblatt and also the Shopaholic books which contain a fair number of letters, emails, etc. Those made me laugh out loud and I'm sure this one could have with a more versatile narrator.
This is an excellent example of a book I would never have read without Audible and all the great reviews. I'm not really interested in science, engineering or space BUT in my opinion that's not what this book is about. It's about human beings and the human spirit.
I would have listened to this in one sitting if I could have. I couldn't tear myself away! The narration was perfect! I saw a couple of reviews online that found the hero's journal entries to be silly. I can see that written out, they may look that way, but on audio they are exactly right. Kudos to R. C. Bray who totally was our hero Mark.
The story is gripping and exciting, but also heartwarming. It would make a great movie. And if I were to be stranded anywhere, this is the guy I would want with me.
Remember how I said above that I wasn't interested in space? This week while I was in the middle of the book, there was a newspaper article on Mars and I read every word! That is the power of great fiction, to expand our interests and our horizons.
It takes some rather odd circumstances to get Jacky into close proximity with Napoleon himself. But the upshot is that the reader is forced to consider that war is not simple with good guys all on one side and glory as the reward.
Several characters remark that our heroine has 9 lives, it's probably more like 20, I've lost track of the many times she is at the point of dying when. . . something happens and she is saved! Ah well, that's the genre after all.
Kellgren continues to surpass all expectations. In this book, she has to indicate that Jacky is speaking French with an American accent, while continuing to narrate in her original Cockney. She also gets to do German and Russian accents for a change. Without her, I probably would never have picked up this series written for a younger audience and wouldn't have gone past one or two volumes. I only wish I had children the right age to appreciate these books.
I listened to this because I loved Michael Page reading the Locke Lamora fantasy series. After all, medieval history isn't that different from fantasy. The narration was excellent, There are many characters and some of the speeches are challenging. The flowery language is pretty hard for us to accept (knights speaking in long complex sentences with classical allusions while bashing each other.)
The funny thing is that Ivanhoe himself is rather a minor character. Good thing too, since he's pretty boring. Much more interesting are the mysterious black knight, the merry forest men in green (if I had known they were in this book, I would have read it long ago), the hearty Saxons, the persecuted Jews, and even the pig farmer and jester.
As far as the storytelling, you have to remember that Walter Scott was inventing the genre. The stereotypes were new then, and although some plot developments are predictable, there were a couple of surprises.
Amusing office/academic/cultural satire, a bit dated but still entertaining. Narration is excellent and contributes a lot to the humor. Since I grew up on a sheep farm, I really enjoyed the part played by the sheep!
I bought this book because it was on special and because John Scalzi is one of the authors. It turned out that was the only one of the stories I really enjoyed. It was partly because I'm not a fan of dystopias or a techie person, and partly because stories and novellas rarely grab me. I like big, meaty books with a lot of character development and emotional content. The first story just left me thinking, "huh?" Some reviews said the last story was the best but I ran out of patience by then. I did like Scalzi, who is not capable of writing a grim or boring story. I thought all the narrators were quite good.
I adored all Sullivan's Riyria books partly because they don't take things too seriously. But this book seems to have a lot of themes which you can practically see in Capital Letters - The Individual vs Society, The Role of Religion, The Future of Humankind, Love and Forgiveness, Good vs. Evil (including lengthy diatribes from the Evil side, in case it wasn't obvious enough which is which.)
On the plus side, there are some surprising plot points and a kind of James Bond scene complete with timer ticking down to disaster. I did keep listening straight through about the last 2 hours. Also the description of the world itself is creative. The narration was good, but it must have been challenging for the narrator because part of the plot has to do with characters sounding alike.
I am a sucker for stories that take place in England or France from about 1700 to 1900 and I also enjoy a clever detective story. So I liked this very much. I was hoping it would be a series but apparently not. This book spans the period of the French revolution and it helps to have a little knowledge. But I appreciated that the author didn't spend a long time explaining the history, just let it emerge naturally.
There were some plot twists I didn't expect, which kept my attention, but the most interesting character to me was the detective Vidocq. Possessed of a criminal past, an iron nerve, and an incredible talent for disguise, he was constantly fascinating. In comparison the narrator is rather colorless. Simon Vance did a good job with the different voice and pronounced the French excellently.
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