Rosa Parks was not the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus for a white person. I know, I didn't know this either. It's not our fault....moreRosa Parks was not the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus for a white person. I know, I didn't know this either. It's not our fault. Claudette Colvin had done the same nine months before. She was not considered by African American civil rights leaders to be a suitable symbol for the campaign against segregationist legislation. She was too young (she was fifteen), perceived to be too fiesty and too emotional, and too working class to be an appropriate figurehead to inspire revolution among her fellow African American residents of Montgomery, Alabama. She suffered more at the hands of the police than Ms. Parks (Colvin was jailed, among other things), more scorn from her neighbours and supposed friends than Ms. Parks, and yet she's been conveniently forgotten by the press, the historians and the public.
But she isn't bitter about it. In fact she understands why Rosa was the better choice, she was everything Claudette wasn't - a well respected introvert, a middle class and middle aged woman. Colvin was understandably hurt when she wasn't informed about victories or included in celebrations, and was completely shunned by everyone when she fell pregnant just a few months after she took a stand, by a married - and supposedly white - man. She was a teenager, an unwed mother - a shameful thing. Her parents forced her to keep the name of the father secret so apart from her immediate family she was without support from the community that once revered her for her bravery. The movement took what they wanted from her and then ignored her when she became the object of shame. The irony is astonishing - the movement rallying against unjust persecution while also persecuting a vulnerable member of their community.
Anyway, Colvin never sought fame or criticized the movement's leaders, she quietly tried to rebuild her life. Her dream of becoming a civil rights lawyer shattered once she became pregnant. Her school kicked her out as it did any pregnant teenager and she was forced to bear and raise her son in isolation, constantly looking for work since she was fired every time her employers discovered who she was.
This is an exceptionally well-rounded account of events surrounding the bus boycotts and the reversal of the segregation of schools in Montgomery, Alabama in the mid-1950s. Colvin's point of view and personal history is interspersed with accounts from other sources and there are plenty of detailed explanations of how things worked and were organised and funded. It's quite amazing what the co-operation of a community accomplished, and what they had to sacrifice. There are many examples of unjust events that precipitated Colvin's impromptu decision to make a stand.
The narration is perfect. Not once did I become bored or frustrated. I highly recommend this anyone that wants to know more about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement in Alabama.
ETA: I forgot to add that I was surprised to hear that Colvin stopped straightening her hair while she was in high school because she was proud of her African heritage. Unfortunately her classmates and her boyfriend didn't understand and began to pressurize her on the subject. But she was adamant. Her natural hair was beautiful. She didn't want to spend hours every morning trying to make her hair look like a white woman's. She was African and that was that.
The Shawl is the first book I've read concerning the Holocaust but it's everything one would expect it to be. A horrific, poignant, lyrical, and heart...moreThe Shawl is the first book I've read concerning the Holocaust but it's everything one would expect it to be. A horrific, poignant, lyrical, and heartbreaking narrative of one woman's life before, during and after the traumatizing events for the Jewish during WWII. Listening to Yelena Shmulenson's skillful narration brought Rosa's suffering to life and doesn't fail to evoke heartache for her plight.
The Shawl is a poignant short story, a very short story but is also very unusual for it's ability to pack an emotional punch with so few words. It tells of Rosa's incarcaration inside a Jewish concentration camp in WWII with her 15-month-old baby Magda and her 14-year-old niece Stella. Rosa's approximately 24 years old at this time.
Starved and freezing, Rosa has run out of milk to feed her baby and instead Madga sucks on her protective shawl that Rosa has used to hide her baby's existence from the guards. Stella steals the shawl claiming she was cold and Magda is found and horrifically killed by a German soldier by throwing her into an electric fence in front of her stunned mother, who stuffs the newly found shawl into her mouth to silence her screams.
Rosa is a novella showing a snapshot of Rosa Lublin's life at 59 years old. It's a portrait of a woman with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. She lives in the past, is haunted by it, is so obsessed with it that she writes letters to a not-dead made up version of Magda with a full back-story. Rosa is adamant that Stella is a liar, that Magda isn't dead, that Magda wasn't the product of rape by a German soldier.
Rosa, just a few months before, had had a mental breakdown smashing up her antiques store and is now living in Miami in a cheap hotel for the retired, financially supported by Stella. Her room is bare of decoration and her life is just as bare of friends and social activity.
On a rare visit to the laundrette she meets 71-year-old almost widower Simon Persky, another fellow Polish expat. She doesn't take kindly to his interference in her life, his chatty demeanor or the fact that he isn't easily intimidated as he's used to the not quite sane as his wife is in an asylum. His uncanny perceptiveness and tenacity in pursuing Rosa as a friend softens her up a little though she's adamant that, "My Warsaw is not your Warsaw." He had left Poland before the Nazi occupation. When he tells her to live her life a little, she responds "Thieves took it." She's not wrong. Thieves took her daughter's life and with it Rosa's life as a mother - the only thing she was desperately clinging to in the concentration camp - had died with her. It didn't matter that Magda was mere days away from death by starvation.
Letters from Dr. Tree deeply upset and infuriate Rosa. Despite his polite tone his letters are disrespectful in his request to include her in his psychological study of Holocaust survivors. His language is scientifically dense and inaccessible to anyone but him. She had been a refugee, a survivor and now she was a specimen - she constantly asks why she isn't simply referred to as a human being rather than a thing to be studied and used.
Over and over again Rosa is shocked and dismayed at people's ignorance of the Holocaust and of the concentration camps. At first she believed they had forgotten but she comes to realise that they've never been told of the horrors in the first place. For her, it's as if those events happened just yesterday instead of 30 years ago. She's stuck in that time period and can't move on. She has no friends, only her niece whom she had rescued from the orphanages once the residents of the concentration camps had been liberated.
It's obvious that Stella has also struggled to embrace life as she hasn't managed to fulfil her desires for marriage and a family. Instead, Stella and Rosa appear to be co-dependent. Stella deprives Rosa of the all-important shawl to force Rosa out of the past but Rosa begs and Stella sends it to Miami. Rosa's reaction to it as the most precious thing in the world is deeply sad. It doesn't live up to her expectations at first, in its colour, its smells, that is until it does the one thing she wants the most: catapault her back into the past to be with her beloved baby. (less)
Besides the veritable buffet of Hollywood A-listers from various ethnic backgrounds providing narrations, there's beau...moreDo not read this, listen to it.
Besides the veritable buffet of Hollywood A-listers from various ethnic backgrounds providing narrations, there's beautiful music and songs in the interludes between stories and in the stories themselves. I've derived much enjoyment from the imaginative and enthusiastic performances from the narrators, most of whom possess great skills with accents. Even if you don't recognise a couple of the narrators' names, odds are you'd recognise their faces.
Whoopi Goldberg and Hugh Jackman's performances were outstanding though most were above average.
Urban legends, origin stories, fables, parables, myths, magic, time travel, African versions of well-known fairy tales, clever and devious characters, and emotionally touching stories - what more could you want?
Well, the publisher has donated 100% of its takings from the audio to Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and Artists for New South Africa who work with children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Introduction - Desmond Tutu
★★★☆☆ The Ring of the King (Mythical African kingdom) - Alan Rickman Slightly iffy narration. Very clever story. I laughed at the end.
★★★★☆ Asmodeus and the Bottler of Djinns (South African English) - Whoopi Goldberg Excellent and highly enjoyable narration. Another clever story.
★★★★★ Mpipidi and the Motlopi Tree (Botswana) - Matt Damon Beautiful singing. Heartwarming story of a boy who finds and takes care of an abandoned baby girl.
★★★☆☆ Natiki (Namaqualand, South Africa) - Parminder Nagra An African version of Cinderella.
★★☆☆☆ The Mantis and the Moon (San, South Africa) - Forest Whitaker A mantis tries to capture the moon.
★★☆☆☆ How Hlakanyana Outwitted the Monster (Nguni, South Africa) - Sean Hayes How Hlakanyana outwitted the hare was more interesting than him outwitting the monster.
★★☆☆☆ The Message (Namibia) - Charlize Theron Greed leads to the garbling of a message of comfort and hope into one that compounds grief and desolation.
★★★☆☆ The Wolf Queen (Cape Malay) - Benjamin Bratt A girl requests a silver dress, then a gold one, then a diamond dress to put off having to reject the sultan's marriage proposal as she was already in love with another. She eventually shapeshifts with the help of a wolfskin.
★★★☆☆ The Snake Chief (West Africa/Zululand, South Africa) - Scarlet Johansson Never make bargains you don't intend to fulfil, especially if it involves gifting a family member to a stranger, the snake. Luckily it was a Frog Prince story - the snake turns into a human because a virtuous girl had accepted him.
★★★★☆ King Lion's Gifts (Khoi, Southern Africa) - Ricardo Chavira How the animals came to look and sound the way they do. The King Lion bestowed gifts such as suits and laughs upon them.
★★☆☆☆ Words As Sweet As Honey from Sankhambi (Venda, South Africa) - Debra Messing How monkeys gained their muscular physique.
★★★☆☆ Sakunaka, the Handsome Young Man (Zimbabwe) - LeTanya Richardson Jackson Great narrator. A selfish mother depriving her son of a wife for fear of losing him to another woman. Sad that the mother had to die. Why couldn't she live with or near her son after he'd married?
★★★★☆ Wolf and Jackal and the Barrel of Butter (Cape Dutch) - Hugh Jackman Awesome narration. Poor wolf didn't know he'd been hoodwinked by the Jackal.
★★★★☆ The Guardian of the Pool (Central Africa/Zululand, South Africa) - Gillian Anderson A daughter uses her mother's multiple sacrifices to keep her child alive to give her the strength to take a risk to save her mother's life. Another Frog Prince story.
★★★☆☆ Sannie Langtand and the Visitor (South African English) - C.C.H. Pounder Excellent narration. Time travel. Dragonflight. Flying carpets.
★★★★☆ The Sultan's Daughter (Cape Malay) - Blair Underwood Excellent narrator. Lovely story and moral; doing a kindness when there is no chance of reward.
★★★☆☆ Van Hunks and the Devil (Cape Dutch) - LeVar Burton Urban legend explaining why there's smoke around Table Mountain.
★★☆☆☆ The Clever Snake Charmer (Morocco) - Samuel L. Jackson Great narration. Not as clever as I'd hoped, except for the tiny donkey. He just gives vague answers to riddles and questions posed by the king.
★★☆☆☆ The Enchanting Song of the Magical Bird (Tanzania) - Jurnee Smullett Children sometimes see and hear truths where adults hear only lies.
★★☆☆☆ The Hare and the Tree Spirit (Xhosa, South Africa) - Sophie Okenado A girl is struck dumb after unknowingly she was cursed by an old woman who'd tripped over the girl's rubbish. A hare hoodwinks a man into providing him fresh green meals, until he feels guilty and makes good on the deal he made by helping the girl regain her voice.
★★★★☆ The Mother Who Turned to Dust (Malawi) - Helen Mirren A unique human origin story.
★★★★☆ Fesito Goes to Market (Uganda) - Don Cheadle Telling the difference between those who take advantage of you and those who genuinely need help, and overcoming great difficulty to succeed. Great narration.
Niggling downsides to the audio are: narrators are not introduced nor is the origin of the each tale, the stories are in a radically different order to the paperback and not all of the stories in the paperback are bundled into the audio. Ten are missing, five of which can be found on Audible for which I paid an extra £7:
★★★★☆ The Cat Who Came Indoors (Zimbabwe) - Helen Mirren Even if you're not a cat lover, you'll like this origin story of the cat-human relationship.
★★★★☆ The Lion, the Hare, and the Hyena (Kenya) - Alan Rickman Don't try to break up a relationship in order to befriend one of your victims, it could turn out badly for you.
★★★☆☆ Spider and the Crows (Nigeria) - Don Cheadle Greed can make friends into enemies and leave you rich but without allies.
★★★☆☆ Mmadipetsane (Lesotho) - Alfre Woodard Excellent narration. A disobedient girl dances with danger by encroaching on a monster's territory despite warnings from her mother, until her luck runs out.
★☆☆☆☆ The Cloud Princess (Swaziland) - Matt Damon Stockholm Syndrome. Princess wants to marry her captor. He follows her back to her kingdom where the king tries several times to have him murdered until he decides to return to his home. The princess follows and their gifted with a village of people who worship them.
The others found only in the paperback are:
➛ The Great Thirst (San, South Africa) ➛ Mmutla and Phiri (Botswana) ➛ Kamiyo of the River (Transkei, South Africa) ➛ The Snake with the Seven Heads (Xhosa, South Africa) ➛ The Hare's Revenge (Zambia)
*Read as part of The Dead Writers Society's Around the World challenge.(less)
Okay, so Hannibal isn't in it but there is a mysterious yet creepy girl-child who doesn't mind munch...moreLooks at title.
Hannibal, is that you?
Okay, so Hannibal isn't in it but there is a mysterious yet creepy girl-child who doesn't mind munching on meat of the two-legged, walking, talking variety . . . while they're still alive. (Anyone else thinking of the Eddie Izzard scene in Hannibal when he's forced to eat his own thigh?) The main character really kidnapped the wrong kids. Nothing goes his way.
*Free short story from Audible, perhaps a little too short for me.(less)
Fans of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series may be interested in this one as Stein imagines Adele Stackhouse's (Sookie's grandmother) affair w...moreFans of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series may be interested in this one as Stein imagines Adele Stackhouse's (Sookie's grandmother) affair with Fintan, a fairy, written as extracts of Adele's long-lost diary from that time period.
I found Fintan awkward and strange. I understood why Adele would embark on such an affair - for the prospect of a child in her depressingly childless marriage - but Fintan's motivation is unclear other than easy sex with none of the responsibility for the results. It's been awhile since I've read Harris's books so I can't quite remember Fintan's point of view on this, whether he saw it as altruism or pure lust.
Polar bears in drag. Zombie birds. Pink glass dogs. Baum's politically incorrect fairy tales have them all. Stereotypical Italian criminals aside, I e...morePolar bears in drag. Zombie birds. Pink glass dogs. Baum's politically incorrect fairy tales have them all. Stereotypical Italian criminals aside, I enjoyed these stories of bargains gone wrong and villains reaping what they sow, with morals preaching against the seven deadly sins.
★★★☆☆ The Box of Robbers Think Pandora's Box with the demonisation of female curiosity. Instead of plagues we have Italian robbers who once released, set about doing what they do best.
"It is rather hard to get positions in the gas office," she said, "but you might become politicians."
"No!" cried Beni, with sudden fierceness; "we must not abandon our high calling. Bandits we have always been, and bandits we must remain!"
Haha! Bandit is certainly a more respectable profession than politician.
★★★★★ The Glass Dog Bargaining, how not to do it. And the downside of vanity and greed. A complex tale sparked off by a wizard's animated pink glass dog. My favourite story.
★★★★★ The Queen of Quok A 10-year-old boy king is forced into an arranged marriage when his royal aids auction off the title of Queen to a rich woman to fill the pockets of his greedy, spendthrift hangers-on.
"Can't I marry a mother, instead?" asked the poor little king, who had lost his mother when a baby.
"Certainly not," declared the counselor. "To marry a mother would be illegal; to marry a wife is right and proper."
Aww. Poor child.
The king was so disturbed at the thought that he must marry this hideous creature that he began to wail and weep; whereupon the woman boxed his ears soundly. But the counselor reproved her for punishing her future husband in public, saying:
"You are not married yet. Wait until to-morrow, after the wedding takes place. Then you can abuse him as much as you wish. But at present we prefer to have people think this is a love match."
A love match? Between a decrepit old woman and a 10-year-old boy? I love that this tale swaps stereotypical gender and age expectations. You'd expect an old man to marry a girl-child rather than vice versa.
My second favourite tale.
★★☆☆☆ The Girl Who Owned a Bear Illustrations come to life and leap off the pages of a book opened by a little girl after it was given to her as a revenge gift aimed at her father. One of them, a bear, tries to eat the girl. She claims ownership of him as her name is on the book. If she owns the book, she owns the bear. This uncomfortably brought to mind the horrors of slavery.
★★★☆☆ The Enchanted Types The slavery theme is continued here. Animal cruelty in the name of fashion. Those poor zombie birds. Interfering with alien cultural norms is tricky.
★★★★☆ The Laughing Hippopotamus Slavery again. A man captures a young hippo prince and coerces him into accepting a bargain: release on condition of promising to return to the man when the hippo reaches adulthood, to be slaughtered or enslaved. Bondage doesn't sit well and the slaver faces the same fate he issued to the hippo.
★★★☆☆ The Magic Bon Bons Don't judge someone based on transient unusual behaviour. And don't be careless with what you value as precious.
★☆☆☆☆ The Capture of Father Time Although I didn't enjoy this tale of a child capturing Father Time, effectively stopping time, and then proceeding to engineer pranks for when time starts again, I can see this may have been a new concept back in 1901.
★★★☆☆ The Wonderful Pump Everyone's heard of the crass, ostentatious displays of New Money. By showing off you risk others stealing what you have. Be grateful for what you have and don't be greedy for more.
★☆☆☆☆ The Dummy That Lived A shop mannequin is brought to life at the whim of a fae and is absolutely clueless about the world and everything in it. Again, this was probably a relatively new idea at the time of publication but I didn't enjoy it.
★★★☆☆ The King of the Polar Bears Don't judge polar bears dressed in drag. He's no less a respectable polar bear for covering himself with feathers.
★★☆☆☆ The Mandarin and The Butterfly Karma justly rewards a racist for his actions against children.(less)
Sold is a lyrically beautiful and graphically descriptive story of an innocent 13-year-old Nepalese girl from the mountains, sold by her oppressive ga...moreSold is a lyrically beautiful and graphically descriptive story of an innocent 13-year-old Nepalese girl from the mountains, sold by her oppressive gambling addict step-father and trafficked into India to become a prostitute in a brothel run by a woman with no morals. There, Lakshmi's body is sold for the price of a Coca-Cola - a luxury she'd once cherished as a poor country girl. When she'd left home, she'd believed she was to become a maid in a rich woman's household in the big city where she could save and send money home to her beloved mother and her baby brother. The reality is soul-crushing. She's told so many lies she doesn't know what to believe.
Justine Eyre's narration is wonderful. I truly believed she was from that part of the world, but it turns out she's just great with accents. I was transfixed by her voice. Lakshmi's pain and horror at her situation is palpable. What makes it worse: once a prostitute, always a prostitute. There's no going home to your family if you manage to escape. You'll be shunned for bringing shame and dishonour to them. The only way out is HIV and death. As Lakshmi's fellow prostitutes fall prey to these, she eventually becomes the one to have resided in the brothel the longest. She survives her sexually-transmitted disease and endures the daily humiliations in the hopes of one day being free.
My only criticism: that Americans were Lakshmi's saviours. The white man. Considering the Author's Note at the end, describing how ex-prostitutes patrol the Nepal-India border and the work of various organisations (like this one) who work with the governments of these nations, it would be much easier to infiltrate these despicable places if the 'rescuers' were Indian themselves.
Becoming a chess piece in a weird larger than life chess game is an intriguing concept echoed by a British BBC2 children's TV show (Words and Pictures, I think) about 25 years ago, and later by J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter. Moving to each new square was an adventure into an unknown wilderness never knowing who or what you were going to encounter.
I was surprised at the appearance of Humpty Dumpty of nursery rhyme fame and a bit confused about the Red Queen. There are no red queens in chess, just black and white. And sometimes I mistook the Red Queen for the Queen of Hearts. I guess standard black and white was too bland for Carroll. Or too racist?
But, again, I was troubled by the elaborate nonsense of Alice's dreamworld. Call it what you will - gibberish, balderdash, hooey, malarkey, twaddle, tosh - it's all frustrating nonsense. If there was an English translation of this little girl's dreams perhaps I'd enjoy it more.
Ms. Margolyes is the only reason I listened until the end.
Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) did a brilliant job in voicing the title role of Oedipus in what I found to be an 'easier' to understand translation by...moreMichael Sheen (Masters of Sex) did a brilliant job in voicing the title role of Oedipus in what I found to be an 'easier' to understand translation by Duncan Steen for the full cast audio.
I'm glad I've finally read the famous, fabulously sensational story of incest and patricide about the man who kills his father and marries his mother, after encountering Freud's derivative Oedipus Complex in psychology class a decade ago.
Sophocles showcases the limitations of prophecy in stating the destination without providing details of the journey, and therefore a way to avoid the outcome. Had Oedipus's father not been told of the prophecy, would Oedipus have still fulfilled it? Laius would never have ordered his son to be ripped from his mother and left to die on a hillside had he not not known of the prophecy; and Oedipus would've grown up knowing his parents whereupon the Westermarck effect would come into play. So, is the Delphic oracle at fault here? Should he take some modicum of responsibility for Oedipus's crimes by putting him on the path to committing them? Every cause has an effect and every effect, a cause.
Coincidence or fate? Again, if Oedipus hadn't been informed of the prophecy he wouldn't have met his real father on that crossroads, but as soon as he did, his fate was sealed.
I liked the symbolism of the action at the three-way crossroads. King Laius and his entourage tried to push Oedipus off the road which resulted in a skirmish to the death. Oedipus prevailed by killing all but one of his attackers who escaped. However, the deaths were reported as a robbery homicide - to save face, perhaps? Obviously the king wasn't well guarded if one man could slay him and all of his men. If Oedipus is right and the king's men instigated the incident, was killing them self-defence? Oedipus is presented as an honest and honorable king who takes great pride in his good character. I doubt he'd lower himself to robbery when outnumbered and afterwards feel no guilt over his 'youthful misdeed' when his latter guilt cripples him.
Free will only applies to the control of one's own actions and the ability to influence that of others'. Oedipus is unable to exert enough control over his life to make informed decisions when he'd been lied to about his identity so it's difficult to blame him for crimes he'd committed unwittingly. Rather than a heinous criminal, Oedipus is painted as a pitiable figure. Self-inflicted punishment is meted out instead of the judgement and execution of societal justice, because no can hurt you more than yourself. Self-condemnation, self-mutilation and self-banishment from his home is punishment enough.
Ignorance and an inability to look beyond the superficial is expressed as a disadvantage of the ability to see, while blindness confers insight into the truth of things with a painfully sharp clarity. Oedipus mocks Tiresias for his blindness, claiming it hinders his ability to see the truth. Tiresias hits back, mocking Oedipus with a statement representing the exact opposite. Yet Oedipus, upon realising the truth of his actions, dashes out his own eyes in anguished horror after witnessing the dead swinging body of his shamed wife and mother, his psychological pain seemingly blotting out the physical.
I completely understand why this is a beloved classic. I'm sure I could get more out of it with each listen or read. I have only one complaint: I didn't really understand the Chorus. On the audio, many people spoke those words in unison and I thought this obscured the pronunciation, however, I did seek out a free ebook edition online to re-read those parts and they still made little sense to me.
Surprisingly Miss Marple isn't the protagonist, instead it's a self-deprecating vicar with a dry sense of humour in his middle years who married in ha...moreSurprisingly Miss Marple isn't the protagonist, instead it's a self-deprecating vicar with a dry sense of humour in his middle years who married in haste to his young wife and is repenting at leisure. He proposed to her after knowing her a day. A day! He's so humble he claims his own sermons are dull.
'The sneeze was not a usual kind of sneeze. It was, I presume, a special murderer's sneeze.'
As for the mystery, well, I wasn't fooled by the red herrings so whenever they came up I wanted to do the audio version of skimming by pressing fast-forward because lingering on the irrelevant was frustrating, so my attention occasionally wandered.
It's clear Ms. Christie is a fan of Sherlock Holmes. He's mentioned a few times. She also made some unfortunate word choices. Richard E. Grant said 'He ejaculated'. Wait, what? I paused and rewound, and yep, he said it. As a synonym for 'he said'.
Miss Marple is an arrogant, condescending, know-it-all. How she knows everything that happens in her small community is no mystery.
She's a Peeping Tom. An eavesdropper. And possibly a stalker.
Her little old lady facade and stifling propriety are the only things preventing her neighbours from accusing her of such dastardly antics.
MI5, the NSA and GCHQ have nothing on her intel gathering abilities.
I loved Richard E. Grant's narration, his voices matched each character exactly. Unfortunately he's only narrated two other Marple books.
Overall, other than a few long-winded gossipy conversations and obvious red herrings this wasn't bad.
*Downloaded for free from Audiobooksync's summer event.(less)
If you've never read or seen a comedy of errors or farcical play like those of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, then you might find this more ent...moreIf you've never read or seen a comedy of errors or farcical play like those of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, then you might find this more entertaining than I did. Having studied Wilde's slightly more modern The Importance of Being Earnest in great detail as a teenager and later watching An Ideal Husband, you come to realise this genre is little more than a one-trick pony; if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Besides minimal alterations in events, only the cast and the production values change from play to play, from performance to performance. Originality is harder to come by in these older and somewhat old fashioned, and perhaps less sophisticated, plays. Wilde managed to stand out from the crowd with his tricky witticisms and absurdities. She Stoops to Conquers possesses nothing so unique, as far as I can tell.
The repetitive nature of this sort of play's light humour devices such as the use of puns, wordplay, slapstick and the heavily relied upon mistaken identity trope (which is used here), concluding with the inevitable romantic happy ever after enacted by genteel, upper class main characters making satirical references to gender and class politics before falling in love at the drop of a hat (sometimes literally), tend to leave me a little bored of the predictability while only evoking a chuckle or two at most.
Also repetitive was the use of the word 'impudent'. Unfortunately this was written pre-thesaurus so I'll have to forgive Goldsmith's overuse since he didn't have easy access to synonyms like we do today.
Honestly, the skillful audio portrayal of She Stoops to Conquer by the distinct voices of a full cast, especially SpikeJames Marsters, is solely responsible for capturing and maintaining my attention throughout. I imagined Mr. Marsters in his Buffy persona's pre-vampire days as a less feeble version of the English gentleman William Pratt. You'd never know he's 100% American from his superb upper crust and unrefined British accents. Twice my age and yet I still perk up at the sound of his voice. *smiles*
I am the product of MLK's "dream" as the daughter of a black mother and white father. Who knows, I might not be here if people like him hadn't fought...moreI am the product of MLK's "dream" as the daughter of a black mother and white father. Who knows, I might not be here if people like him hadn't fought for racial equality and against segregation.
Brilliant free BBC audio of "I Have A Dream" read by Maya Angelou, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ndileka Mandela (granddaughter of Nelson Mandela), Stevie Wonder, Doreen Lawrence (mother of murdered British teenager Stephen Lawrence), Malala Yousafzai (sixteen-year-old student from Swat in Pakistan, shot by the Taliban for going to school), and a few others.
Each reader seemed to have read a passage personally relevant to them, bringing new meaning to MLK's eloquent words from his impassioned speech delivered to hundreds of thousands of people in Washington 50 years ago, the anniversary of which was yesterday (28th August 2013).
1st read: 29th Aug 2013 of BBC audio 2nd read: 9th Sep 2013 of Paperback (less)
A Secret Rage made for an uneasy listening experience, not just because of the graphic rape and its aftermath, but the misguided anti-racism and the s...moreA Secret Rage made for an uneasy listening experience, not just because of the graphic rape and its aftermath, but the misguided anti-racism and the shaky writing, had I been reading, may have resulted in a DNF.
Narrator Johanna Parker made Nickie's fear and horror so convincing I struggled to remain calm and continue listening. The rapes and the effect it has on its victims and the Southern community were well done, though you really can't definitively tell someone's skin colour from their voice despite Nickie and Barbara's assertion that you can, marking their rapist as white and not an N-word - that word used a couple of times.
Well, that's yet another of Charlaine Harris's protagonists to be unhappy and abused along with Sookie, Harper and Lily although this time she was an NYC model returning to the South and going back to college whereas the others tried to blend into the background whenever possible.
A Secret Rage doesn't possess all of the telltale qualities of a typical Harris novel, but as I understand it, this is one of the first books she'd ever written.(less)
Critically, the Mystery bookends: murder at opening, closed at ending. Nothing in between. However, Harris's thoroughly great characterisation of Lily...moreCritically, the Mystery bookends: murder at opening, closed at ending. Nothing in between. However, Harris's thoroughly great characterisation of Lily Bard, artfully demonstrating the effects of a traumatic past - her bloody and brutal gang rape - on her present. How she was able to leave her family and move to a town where she could start afresh, no one knowing her history and treating her differently because of it. Her bravery, difficulties with PTSD, and her determination to never be found vulnerable to attack again by learning self-defense / martial arts. Dealing with the challenges in Shakespeare's Landlord made me respect Lily as a person and as a survivor of horrific circumstances that most would struggle to overcome in order to return to some semblance of normality.
That being said, I don't think I'll be continuing with this series as I've read a few reviews and found there's a love triangle - I'm not going there, sorry.(less)
To anyone who downloaded Audiobooksync.com's free William Roberts narration: the end of chapter 4 is cut short and chapter 5 is completely missing. To...moreTo anyone who downloaded Audiobooksync.com's free William Roberts narration: the end of chapter 4 is cut short and chapter 5 is completely missing. To bridge the gap, you can read those parts for free in whatever format here.
Despite the above problem I quite liked The Call of the Wild, though I know that had I read instead of listened to Jack London's words my rating would be lower. In part, this is due to the authoritative voice of William Roberts, reminding me of Iain Glen's (Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey), delivering the story with gravitas - a voice made for the wise man telling stories around the campfire to a rapt audience - overruling the effect of the wordy prose, from which some classics suffer, and stifled any boredom and frustration I may have had.
Saying that, the description of the scenery is above reproach. Although I've never been to Alaska or western Canada, I know it's a rugged, untameable and beautiful terrain where only the hardiest can eke out a living, somewhat echoing Buck's tale.
Buck is a domesticated family dog, half St. Bernard (like Beethoven), half Scotch Shepherd (think Lassie), living a comfortably relaxed life when he's stolen and sold, his will brutally broken, into dog-sled teams, passing through the hands of various masters. Along the way he learns how to survive on little food while doing hard work, how to socialize with other dogs, and how to assert his will, eventually becoming top dog, an alpha.
Once finished, I felt the overall message was this: being comfortable, i.e. fat and happy, or greedy, breeds complacency, and complacency in a world where it's the 'survival of the fittest,' is fatal - the strongest, most intelligent prosper, and the foolish die horrible deaths. A message applicable today as it ever was. Mercedes, her brother, and her husband all deserve Darwin Awards, though I felt for the poor, helpless, starved-almost-to-death dogs that die with them.
Buck conquers every challenge put to him, each one more difficult, bringing him closer to his wild roots, his suppressed instincts surging to the fore. The one time he was unable to overcome his circumstances, in the neglectful and abusive care of Mercedes, and Co. he was granted mercy on two fronts. John Thornton puts a stop to his beating, which could've been fatal on its own, but moments after Thornton takes ownership of a near-dead, starved Buck, his canine comrades and their human masters die foolishly when the thin, spring ice breaks beneath them.
Buck's journey shows him experiencing pain, hunger, anger, happiness, love (for his master John Thornton), and sorrow. Strangely, he doesn't appear to have a sex life until the end, after abandoning civilisation to become his own master and dominant alpha of a wild wolf pack, off-stage implying the next generation share his physical traits.
I highly recommend the audiobook for anyone wishing to read Jack London's timeless classic.(less)
A cleverly written, Tim Burton-eque fast-paced magical mystery with witty dialogue, and a beautifully eye-catching cover.
Mr. Skullduggery Pleasant is...moreA cleverly written, Tim Burton-eque fast-paced magical mystery with witty dialogue, and a beautifully eye-catching cover.
Mr. Skullduggery Pleasant is a vengeful detective, a living skeleton with a wicked way with sarcasm, introducing Stephanie (a.k.a. Valkyrie), an intelligent, resourceful, and inquisitive young girl, into the supernatural world her now deceased uncle was once apart.
The theatrically funny reactions of Stephanie's greedy family members to the reading of her bestselling author uncle's will hooked me into listening to Rupert Degas's masterful narration of Skullduggery Pleasant.
"There's something about you, Valkyrie. I'm not quit sure what it is. I look at you and..." "And you're reminded of yourself when you were my age?" "Hmm? Oh, no, what I was going to say is there's something about you really annoying, and you never do what you're told, and sometimes I question your intelligence, but even so I'm going to train you, because I like having someone follow me around like a puppy. It makes me feel good about myself." She rolled her eyes. "You are such a moron." "Don't be jealous of my genius." "Can you get over yourself for just a moment?" "If only that were possible." "For a guy with no internal organs, you've got quite the ego." "And for a girl who can't stand up without falling over, you're quite the critic." "My leg will be fine." "And my ego will flourish. What a pair we are."
I enjoyed SP and Stephanie's new and easy partnership in the supernatural detective business, saving the world from monstrous and magical bad guys, the first being Nefarian Serpine - the man who killed SP's wife and child, then tortured him to death. You see, he likes to leave a lot of bodies in his wake in his quest to bring back The Faceless Ones.
I wasn't particularly invested in the action, but I liked the way in which Stephanie learned how to navigate this new and interesting world, seizing opportunities, taking risks, and figuring out who she can and can't trust.
While many clichés are criticised by Landy, he still uses a fair few of them in his story, though Stephanie's endearing maturity, unexpected turncoats, the comedic elements, and the more violent and horrific aspects of the novel, do attempt to make up for it.
Whether you've never exercised in your life or you're a professional, competitive sportsperson this is a must read.
Exercise helps depression, reduces...moreWhether you've never exercised in your life or you're a professional, competitive sportsperson this is a must read.
Exercise helps depression, reduces the negative effects of stress, anxiety, and anger, encouraging a calmer and happier disposition, and makes you smarter from better blood flow to the brain, enhances memory and general brain functioning (neurogenesis). A difference can be seen 6-8 weeks after starting regular exercise. It's also the ultimate anti-aging solution, preventing frailty, shrinkage (that includes the gonads!) and age-related damage to your DNA. Even if you're over 60 or obese, it's never too late to start exercising. Just 5 minutes a day is a good start. Years will be added to your life.
Weight loss, marathon running, cycling, swimming, weightlifting, and general aerobic exercises are covered. Distinctions are made between men and women, by age (under and over 40), and advice given to avoid exercise-related injuries. Lookout for the end of chapter key points for great tips and advice. Below are some of the more general things I liked that people should either do or don't do.
✔ 150 minutes of exercise per week. (Sex counts as exercise!) ✔ Increase fitness by increasing intensity or duration by 10% per week. ✔ Keep an exercise diary. ✔ Only short, low intensity warm-ups work otherwise they impede performance. ✔ Eat a banana before exercise and exercise before breakfast, drink low fat chocolate milk after, and eat eggs for breakfast. ✔ Continue normal routine after exercise instead of being less active. ✔ Drink pickle juice (2.5 ounces) as a palliative (takes 85 seconds) for cramping which is due to muscle exhaustion, not dehydration. Vinegar may be the thing in the pickle juice that works. ✔ Interval exercise (e.g. 3 min high intensity, 3 min low intensity) is more efficient, 75 minutes per week max. ✔ Weight / resistance training is incredibly beneficial, especially for people like runners: increases flexibility, strengthens bones, increases reaction and speed times. ✔ More repetitions with lighter weights are more effective than less repetitions with heavier weights. ✔ Increase balance by standing on one leg and closing your eyes while brushing your teeth each day. ✔ 25 squats everyday, they strengthen most of the body. Add a kettlebell for more of a challenge. ✔ 16 pushups for women, 27 for men minimum. Beginners: use counter-top first, move to stairs, then the floor. ✔ Follow the right way to do certain aerobic exercises see the end of chapter 6 (40 mins into 6th audio file). ✔ Moderate exercise while ill improves health. ✔ Stand more than sit, it burns more calories.
✘ Take ibuprofen for sore muscles, it will decrease the effect of the exercise. ✘ Massage sore muscles, it impedes blood flow and gives no physiological benefits regarding performance. ✘ Take ice baths. They cause more soreness after exercise, and don't speed recovery or increase performance. ✘ Do carbo-loading, it doesn't work. It only puts weight on. ✘ Eat more when exercising if you're trying to lose weight. You're replacing what you've burned. ✘ Do crunches or sit-ups until you've researched the right way to do them or you could damage your spine. ✘ Buy tone-up shoes, they only work while doing squats. ✘ Buy individually tailored shoes, they lead to more injuries. Your feet adjust to what they're used to. Barefoot runners run differently to those in shoes, their feet slap the ground with less force and land on the front of the foot. If you want to switch types, do it gradually.
Listen up, women!:
✺ Scientific fact: It's harder for women to lose weight. ✺ But when we stop exercising we'll hang-on to our exercise benefits for longer than men. This is thought to ensure survival during pregnancy -an evolutionary advantage. ✺ We're more likely to be injured while oestrogen is high (i.e. during ovulation). We're more clumsy. ✺ In utero changes to foetuses in response to a good diet and exercise of their mothers, gives babies better starts in life. ✺ We sweat less than men during exercise; overweight and unfit women sweat less than fit women so they're less able to keep cool. Fit people sweat more at lower temperatures as a form of temperature control to avoid overheating.
Parts may be a little too technical and boring for some (perhaps a few too many studies were explained in detail), and it's a little repetitive in places. I've studied biology to degree level, but I was struggling to remember those lessons while listening to the more scientific elements of exercise. However, both the author and some of the scientists had a sense of humour. Reynolds said Paula Radcliffe 'runs like a praying mantis', and one study was called 'Revenge of the Sit.' Honestly, I think the usefulness of the advice given outweighs the more tedious aspects of the book.
Karen Saltus is an excellent narrator. She made this a joy to listen to rather than a chore. I'd definitely recommend The First 20 Minutes to everyone doing any sort of exercise.(less)
Free audiobook of a 12-minute horror story read by the Neil Gaiman himself, available to download through to Halloween from Audible, and for every dow...moreFree audiobook of a 12-minute horror story read by the Neil Gaiman himself, available to download through to Halloween from Audible, and for every download donations will be made to two charities promoting reading. Further details on NG's blog post.(less)
ETA June 2011: Listened to Samuel L. Jackson reading this on YouTube HERE and he narrated it perfectly. Profanity always sounds great when it's comin...moreETA June 2011: Listened to Samuel L. Jackson reading this on YouTube HERE and he narrated it perfectly. Profanity always sounds great when it's coming out of his mouth.
May 28, 2011: The pdf viral is excellent. Funny because it's true. Definitely a bestseller in the making.
From Publishers Weekly: Finally, one book whose buzz began weeks ago and kept rising after its .pdfs went viral, the wildly titled Go the F*** to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, illus. by Ricardo Cortés, from Akashic Books, is still going strong. Consortium president Julie Schaper reports that there are 225,000 copies in print, the pub date has been moved up to mid-June, and almost all the copies are “spoken for.” In addition, movie rights have been optioned and at least six foreign language rights deals have been struck. Dave Mallman, a bookseller at the Next Chapter, called it a “stroke of genius that irreverently expresses the frustrations all parents face when dealing with our beloved but exasperating children.”(less)
I started off reading the book and listening to the audio at the same time but the narrator, Ms. Monotone put me off so I gave up on her and relied on...moreI started off reading the book and listening to the audio at the same time but the narrator, Ms. Monotone put me off so I gave up on her and relied on my own inner voice as I read the rest of the book by myself.
The first half was pretty interesting but at 51% I'd guessed the main murderer and the motive. After that, the book was no longer as interesting as I waited to be proved right or wrong. The violent attempts on Harper's life kept me reading but if it hadn't been for those the rest might've dragged. In the end, I was disappointed to be proved right in my guess.
However, Harper's background with her difficult childhood and family situation together with her intelligent observations and reactions to how others treat her as well as her determination to not be damaged by them, are the reason why I'm awarding this 3 stars instead of 2.
Her relationship with her brother is an odd one and is explained by Tolliver's observation:
"You need to stop reading mysteries for a while. Or get a new sidekick." "Sidekick?" "Yeah, if you're the brilliant sleuth, I must be the slightly denser but brilliant-in-my-own-way sidekick, right?" "Yes, Watson." "More like Sharona." "That'd make me Monk?" "If the shoe fits."
Monk is a TV show in which Sharona is Monk's nurse, handler and personal assistant all rolled into one. Harper was hurt by Tolliver's evaluation of his role in her life because it was a little too close to the truth but just because she was extremely vulnerable without him she managed to survive when she was physically attacked. She fought back with gusto and refused to back down to a pack of teenage bullies surrounding her. I admired Harper for this. She could easily play the role of a typical victim, persecuted for her natural talent for detecting the dead, their names and cause of death after being struck by lightning.
Tolliver, on the other hand, I couldn't get a complete grasp on him. I wasn't enamoured with him at all despite his obvious caring and protectiveness towards his step-sister. They live difficult lives on the road and I sympathised with their way of life, their erratic and depressing sex lives and just a general lack of genuine friends and family whom they can turn to in a crisis.
Overall, the mystery wasn't quite as mysterious as it first appeared but the characterisation and observations of the leading lady made up for this.
In comparison to Harris' other paranormal series, Sookie Stackhouse, this has a much more serious tone and a darker outlook on the realities of life.
I have the next two in the series so I will continue reading.(less)