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Lee J. Pelletier

New Hampshire, USA
  • 12
  • reviews
  • 40
  • helpful votes
  • 13
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American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition (A Full Cast Production) audiobook cover art

This is not the Neil Gaiman I came for.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-13-17

Any additional comments?

I've listened to and loved several Neil Gaiman books. They are creepy but playful, and the books I really enjoyed were Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere, and Stardust.

American Gods lacks the playfulness of these other books. It exhibits both extreme violence as well as grossly, lewd sexuality. While it could have had a theme, nothing in the book developed the obvious theme that was touched upon. The story could have been interesting, but ultimately was not. It dragged in places. The story appeared to be a patchwork that was poorly connected, and lacked emotion.

Spoiler Alert: If I was to summarize what this book was about. It was about new gods (internet, television, technology) and old gods (Zeus, etc) that are going to have a big battle, but then they don't. You can see how this could easily be developed into something delicious, particularly how people now worship these "new" gods. But it just never came to be. The story just fell flat.

Love Neil Gaiman. Do NOT love this book.

Turning Points in Middle Eastern History audiobook cover art

Excellent Information. Not perfect.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-15-17

What did you love best about Turning Points in Middle Eastern History?


Any additional comments?

There is a LOT of information packed into this course. Given that this is an 18 hour course broken down into 36 lectures, we expect a lot of information. But we also don't expect that there is enough time to cover each topic in intimate detail. The course is an overview, and it is an excellent overview.

First, the title does not tell you everything you need to know. Specifically, this course covers turning points in Middle Eastern history from Mohammed and the start of Islam until about 1924. There are a few mentions in the last two lectures that go past 1924, but that's about it. Certainly, there are many, many more turning points in Middle Eastern history that are not covered, including ancient Egypt, Alexander the Great (and Hellenistic Egypt), the Roman Empire, etc. And there are other major turning points that come later, such as the forced creation of Israel by the U.N. Again, the title does not indicate that these very major turning points are not covered because they fall outside of the range of dates this course covers.

Second, you'd do well to have a map to keep track of where each lecture is taking place. While you may have a good idea where many things are, a map really helps to keep tabs on distances. Before the modern age, distance was a major factor in how large an empire could grow, and how difficult a military campaign might be to conduct.

Third, not being a speaker of Arabic, it can be very difficult to keep track of the many names that are coming at you just because the names are unfamiliar. I'll need to give this course a second listen just to pick up some more of the many names that didn't stick on the first listen.

Fourth, the lecturer is quite engaging. There were just a few lectures that seemed to drag, but most were quite engaging. And they got better the further into the course we got.

I recommend this course. I learned a lot from this course that helped put today's Middle East in perspective.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

Victorian Britain audiobook cover art

So fascinating, I finished it in record time.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-10-17

Any additional comments?

This 36 lecture course was so fascinating, I couldn't stop listening to it. I finished it in record time.

Professor Allitt is quite knowledgeable. There was no "I guess" or "I suppose" in this series, as I have heard from other historians. He is extremely well educated on his subject matter and it shows in his presentation, which is presented with confidence and authority.

Allitt is also quite fair in that he presents both positive and negative sides of Victorian Britain. And there were many, many negative sides, and he never flinched from presenting the unpleasant.

The really good: Any course which teaches me something that I didn't know before is excellent. As an American, I confess to having a lot of preconceived notions of life in Victorian Britain based on movies, British literature, and so forth. Those notions were quickly corrected by this course. And I love it. No one should live in ignorance when such excellent courses are available.

The Graveyard Book: Full-Cast Production audiobook cover art

Great Fun from Neil Gaiman

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-12-17

Any additional comments?

What a fun book! It is creepy and scary, but not in an extreme way. While there are some intense areas, this book is suitable for teens as well as adults.

The cast was convincing, the story engaging, and the pace just fast enough. Each chapter left you yearning for more.

I continue to be amazed by Gaiman's creativity and originality. His works appear to stand alone as I can think of no other author that has mastered such a niche in playful, creepy stories.

Death Without Company audiobook cover art

Entertaining, but . . .

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-18-16

Any additional comments?

The Walt Longmire books are entertaining, and George Guidall is an excellent narrator. So if you are looking for some entertainment, this is a great series.

Don't expect great literature though. Longmire is the sheriff in an allegedly sparsely populated area in Wyoming. Already, the murders are piling up. It doesn't make sense that this sleepy area where everyone knows everyone else has a regular dose of murder. There is no epiphany, no moral, no theme. These are stories. That's all. They'll entertain you, and then they are gone.

Having said that, not everything must reach the upper echelon of literary work to be worthwhile. I enjoy these books. Just don't expect Jane Austen or Joseph Conrad. Buckle your seat belt, and enjoy a story.

The Early Middle Ages audiobook cover art

700 Years Told In 12 Hours.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-17-16

Would you listen to The Early Middle Ages again? Why?

Yes. I came to the Middle Ages knowing nearly nothing about them. Professor Daileader presents excellent information that is well organized.

Any additional comments?

The course covers many areas that may be difficult to tie together cohesively. Professor Daileader gets top marks for his ability to tie together separate subjects into one course that makes sense.

However when you are covering about 700 years of history in 12 hours, something is going to be left out. That only makes sense. We dipped our feet in the waters of King Charlemagne for instance, but realize that this course is not a biography of King Charlemagne and the course will give you hundreds of different avenues to explore in more depth.

What is a huge failing, which is shared by so many history courses, is this course covers the middle ages . . . in Europe only. The Americas? They don't exist. Africa? It hardly exists. Asia? Mentioned once or twice in passing. In other words, most of the world is glossed over as though it is completely unimportant. Yes, it does mention the Islamic revolution. But this is covered only in its relationship to Europe. Perhaps a better title would be "The Early Middle Ages in Europe". Seriously, that is all it takes to maintain accuracy. And when we are discussing history, I think accuracy is important.

In any case, I had a suspicion the course would have this weakness because so much history suffers this same flaw. Given that, I hesitate to mark this course down very much as Middle Ages almost implies Europe as there is no corresponding "Dark Ages" in other parts of the world.

This course does an excellent job in so many other areas. I really left with an understanding of how the Roman Empire ended (and began the Middle ages), not with a single cataclysmic event, but through gradual change that may have been difficult for someone living through that time to understand.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Lost Worlds of South America audiobook cover art

What's there is great. But a lot is missing.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-27-16

Any additional comments?

Let's start with Professor Barnhart. Barnhart is actually a Mayanist and his course on Mesoamerica is incredibly detailed. For some reason, people have this belief that someone who knows about one part of the America's will be knowledgeable about all parts of the America's. Like expecting someone who specializes in French History to know a lot about Romanian history because they are both in Europe.

As it turns out, Barnhart actually DOES know quite a bit about South America. So he is definitely a qualified candidate to speak on ancient South America. Nevertheless, his knowledge is primarily in the area from Peru to the Amazon, and it mainly covers Peru and Bolivia. That leaves a huge portion of South America uncovered by this course.

What IS covered is covered quite well. Barnhart is enjoyable to listen to, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. This course is definitely worth listening to, and I rate it highly. It's just that we'd like to know what happens in the rest of South America. When you title a course with "South America" in the title, you expect it to cover South America, and not one portion of South America.

My main purpose in acquiring the course was to learn more about the Inca's (Quechua), and this course did cover that. So for me, it was a great course. Still, I'm left wondering about the ancient people in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, etc. So I need to seek out additional sources of information to learn about those areas.

Perhaps the course is just fine the way it is, and needs to be titled more accurately?

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

The Mystery of the Yellow Room audiobook cover art

Too Far Fetched.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-27-16

Any additional comments?

Suspension of disbelief. It's required for all good works of fiction, and especially for a locked room mystery. It allows us to enjoy the fanciful world of Hobbits, life aboard an as yet fictitious star cruiser, magic, and much more. And even though we know that Hobbits and star cruisers aren't real, for the moment, we are transported there.

But there is a point at which suspension of disbelief goes from enjoyment to "this is just stupid". That's this book. In part, this book is a victim of it's age. The story did not age well, and audiences had lower standards back in the day. It IS a classic, and was well received when it was published.

And I have to say I did enjoy the beginning part of the book. But somewhere about midway through, I started losing interest as the plot became more and more implausible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed audiobook cover art

WOW! I learned SO MUCH!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-27-16

Where does Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This course is tops for how much I learned, right after the course on Ancient Egypt which is also excellent.

What did you like best about this story?

Between kindergarten, grade school, high school, and college I have 17 years of schooling plus lots of post-graduate learning. And during all those years, I learned NOTHING about the ancient America's. So little, in fact, that I was really interested in learning about the Inca. I saw the title and thought this would include information about the Inca. Nope.

I had to laugh at my own naivete. The very fact that I made that mistake meant that I very much needed this course. I knew NOTHING about Mesoamerica. All that schooling, and even though I live in the America's, we never once in all those years discussed anything substantive about ancient America. It's a travesty of our educational system.

But this course set things right.

Any additional comments?

This is a fun and enjoyable course. But it is not an easy course. I found it very difficult to keep track of the names of places and people because they were so strange to me. So just be forewarned that you will really need to pay attention to names. It helps to have a map so you can find these places and have a better idea of how everything fits together.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

The History of Ancient Egypt audiobook cover art

Wow! Just wow. Such a great course.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-02-16

Any additional comments?

Many people have praised professor Brier for his outstanding (and lengthy) course on ancient Egypt. It truly is an amazing work.

The history of ancient Egypt lasts so long, and covers so many dynasties, that it is easy to lose track of all the Pharaoh's. But there is no other way to cover it. What is the alternative? To skip them all? You'd just be skipping the very subject matter you were attempting to cover. That's the only part of the course that was a little tedious. Other than that, I couldn't stop listening!

I thought I'd spend a little time discussing some of the other reviews that were critical towards Brier and his course, as I feel it will help others better interpret these reviews.

First, several have criticized Brier for presenting too much archaeology (others, not enough, LOL) and for presenting nothing but "theories" without facts. My response is ancient Egypt is . . . ancient. There are no movies, no photographs, and no audio recordings that date back to ancient Egypt. Our knowledge is based on archaeological records and what is written on papyrus and stone. So for those who were hoping to see "real photographs" or some such thing, you are incredibly naive. There is no such thing. Theories are based on what we observe in the archaeological record and what we read. What we read are not "facts". They include fanciful myths about Osiris. Even what may appear factual, could be made up or exaggerated. Professor Brier does a very good job of discussing exactly that. And the archaeological record is pertinent because it is the very basis by which we know as much as we do about ancient Egypt.

For those who were turned off by the lecture that delved into whether the story of Moses in the Old Testament was based on real events or not, I don't think you really listened to the lecture critically. Brier discusses several reasons why the story might not be factual. And he discusses several reasons that back up that it might be factual. So what does this have to do with the history of Egypt, one might ask? Simple. It provides a written record of Egypt other than that provided by Egyptians, who often glossed over unpleasant events (such as reporting military victory after military victory, but each "victory" occurs closer and closer to the capital). Therefore, any other written record can help us better understand Egypt. The observations of Herodotus provide an additional written record besides the Egyptian record. Ironically, those who are upset at using an ancient Biblical record, did not complain about using an ancient secular record. So I think the issue is not that the Biblical record is not valid, but that some people just hate anything that hints at religion.

"This is a Christian Course for Christians". Says one reviewer about a Jewish lecturer. Irony.

And for those that criticize Brier for not going with the bandwagon "Egyptians are black" craze, I have to say that Brier treats people more as an anthropologist. An anthropologist does not see white and black. They see beige, tan, brown, black, etc. If you look at brown and say it's black, you will never see things clearly. Brown is brown. And brown is how the Egyptians portrayed themselves in their own paintings. They portrayed Nubians as black in those paintings, so we know they perceived a difference and we also know that it was not a lack of black paint pigment that caused them to portray themselves as brown. An anthropologist must use evidence, and not what is politically fashionable. The best evidence comes from the Egyptians themselves.