This is the second Bryce Courtenay and Humphrey Bower combination I have listened to, the other being Four Fires, While I thoroughly enjoyed both books, for my money The Power of One is the better of the two. One reason is the exotic setting of South Africa and its wonderful rhythms and diversity. Another is the powerful personal coming of age story of The Power of One versus the multiple narratives in Four Fires. Both books are excellent and worthy of five stars.
There are some similarities between the two books. Both have boxers and boxing as an important element. Both have women who are good at sewing. Both have central characters who succeed in academics. Courtenay writes about things he knows something about through personal experience and this gives his stories great authenticity. He also has a knack for creating very colorful characters, many of whom are capable of both good and bad. In The Power of One I especially enjoyed Geel Peet, the savvy black prisoner who coaches the protagonist in boxing, and Mrs. Boxall, the philanthropist librarian with a pragmatic understanding of nonprofit marketing.
I can't say enough about the fine narration of Humphrey Bower. His Australian accent in Four Fires was so authentic sounding I never questioned but that he is Australian. Yet here he narrates with a South African accent and it is almost as convincing. I'd bet that the Australian accent is more natural to him but I could be wrong. He also does a fine job of conveying the emotion behind African chanting and music, which can't be easy. There are a few moments in this book having to do with African tribal chants that brought tears to my eyes.
I can recommend The Power of One wholeheartedly. It does end with a few questions unanswered, particularly regarding Peekay's ambitions and whether they are eventually realized. But upon reflection I guess his demons are dealt with in the end, so what happens after that is of less consequence.
I absolutely loved the first two installments: Ender's Game and Speaker For the Dead. But this third book overreaches in both the narrative and the narration. As I was listening to the book I thought that Card was biting off much more than he could chew. There were far too many characters, too many confused themes, many of which were in conflict with one another, and the plot was all over the place and full of obvious holes. For example, if Jane could monitor and control all ancible communications, she had many more options available to her than just the ones considered by the characters in the story.
When I found out that this was actually a book that had nothing to do with Ender Wiggin and that Card had stuck the characters in later, it suddenly became clear to me why this effort was so much less satisfying than the first two.
I don't think I will go on and listen to any of the remaining books in the series. I've had a vision of Card's devolution, and based on the listener ratings of his other books I suspect he never regains the excellence of Ender's game and Speaker For the Dead.
I bought this book because I had been listening to Victorian literature, familiarizing myself with some works that I had neglected earlier in my life, and the reviews were so positive I decided to give The Way We Live Now a try. I had not even heard of Anthony Trollope until now. To say that I am pleasantly surprised would be a terrible understatement. Trollope skewers the money and status-obsessed upper class of late 19th century London in a manner that surpasses Dickens or any other author I am familiar with from that time. He relentlessly exposes the neuroticism, betrayal, greed, jealousy and lack of authenticity that characterize humanity in general, but were especially salient in that highly constrained society.
Unlike Dickens, Trollope does not give the reader any syrupy and lovable characters. He exposes everyone as self-obsessed and challenges the reader to love them in spite of their flaws, and God help us, we do. We empathize with Trollope's rogues and victims because we see a bit of ourselves in them and appreciate the fact that that at bottom each of them is vulnerable.
Much has been said of Timothy West's narration. It is, as previously reviewed, pitch perfect in every way. I particularly liked his take on Mrs. Carberry and her insufferable whining. Also, the narrator's voice had just the right blend of intelligence, wit and irony. I can easily see how this work might be tepid in less skilled hands.
Highly recommend. It's more cynical than Dickens, but also more intelligent, and that is what gives it its tremendous satirical bite.
Not your usual Follett fare, Pillars of the Earth can be classified as a historical novel rather than a thriller. Still, it's rife with pop elements: lots of sex, blood, and hunger for money and power. If you are looking for a realistic sense of the time and place, say something along the lines of a James Michener novel, you'll be disappointed. But if you are looking for a very compelling book with colorful characters, great plot and an urgency that keeps you listening on pins and needles, you'll be very satisfied.
John Lee's narration is excellent. He has a compelling delivery that brings the story to life and complements the author's work beautifully.
This is the second of The Millennium Trilogy and the weakest book of the three. That's not much of a knock since the three books taken together are more entertaining than just about anything written in a pop thriller vein in several years. Simon Vance's narration is excellent, as it is in the other two volumes. There are some lesbian sex scenes and, as in the first installment, violent sex. If you are sensitive to that sort of thing, then take note. The homoeroticism is not pervasive by any means, but the violent sex and other violence is central to the plot, and does get quite a bit of attention, as it does in the movie versions of the books. This book sets up the finale (The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest) beautifully, and that book is worthy of five stars. But you won't enjoy Hornet's Nest nearly as much without hearing this one first, and you certainly will not be bored. All three books are fast-paced and action-packed.
I've heard a few Dickens works in audio form, and other than "A Christmas Carol" (which many amateurs can bring to life) Dickens' works seem much more tedious in this form than they are in written form. In this narration, Beatie Edney and Ronald Pickup do a very good job, but I found my mind wandering quite a bit, and had to rewind now and again to catch up to the story line and characters. If you hate lawyers like I do, you'll enjoy Dickens sharp satire of the British legal system and its parallels to this day and age in which law suits never seem to die. The book is a classic and definitely worth your time, but not as entertaining as some others I have found.
I cannot imagine a better match between material and reader than this one. Lucy Scott is simply brilliant at bringing this wonderful classic to life. Yes, it's a chick book, but it's also a classic of Victorian literature and I found it entirely captivating. There is a lot here for men to enjoy, not the least of which is Scott's accented, lyrical performance in which she demonstrates the art of book reading by a professional actress at the top of her game. This is among the best experiences I have had listening to audio books, and I've heard dozens of them.
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