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review 2018-06-27 08:25
Good Omens
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett,Neil Gaiman

I haven't always had the best luck with BBC full cast dramatisations, but this one worked brilliantly.


A demon and an angel set out to thwart the apocalypse.  Chaos ensures.


It's Pratchett, so it's almost guaranteed funny.  I haven't read enough Gaiman to comment on what he brings to the story other than to know it's excellent, whatever it is.  Two masters of fantasy having a bit of fun with Armageddon and a small but pointed commentary on the human condition thrown in at the end.  Oh, and a bloopers reel.


If that's not enough, the voice actor who does Crowley, the demon, sounds a little bit like Alan Rickman.

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review 2018-06-13 09:29
At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails
At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails - Sarah Bakewell,Antonia Beamish
At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails - Sarah Bakewell

The upside to the 90 minutes I spent in a traffic jam with a top speed of 7km/h this afternoon is that I was able to finish this most excellent book.


At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails is a comprehensive look at the overall existentialist movement and its major players from the 1920's through the 1950's and 60's.  Part biographical, part exploration of the different facets of phenomenology and existentialism as advocated by Sartre, de Beauvoir, Aron, Camus, Heidegger, Husserl et. al, the book and narrative both are outstanding.


I am at best a dabbler in philosophy, and considering how easy it is to tie one's brain into knots musing over the philosophical aspects of life, Bakewell had her work cut out for her making such dense material comprehensible - and she did.  Most of the time when I got bogged down trying to follow, it was when she was relating concepts that are widely acknowledged to be amongst the most labyrinthine.  


My takeaways after finishing this is that I am, by and large, an existentialist (though I'm interested in learning more about Epicurean philosophy), but there were many areas where I diverge, especially if we're talking about Heidegger's existentialism.  That man ... I swear he just made stuff up just to see how inaccessible he could get and still be considered a genius.  Also, Bakewell makes a pretty convincing argument that he was a nazi.  I also was left with a distaste for Sartre in spite of his profound early-career work, although I give him credit for living a "good faith" life until the very end.  The existentialist whose work I most connected with was Husserl; he felt the most rational and accessible, and his life the one that seemed the most authentic.


I listened to this on audio, as narrated by Antonia Beamish and I cannot say enough good things about her narration.  She read this like she wrote it, understood it and lived it, with a voice I just wanted to listen to no matter what she was reading.  Imagine the best, most engaging, professor you've ever had the pleasure of listening to and learning from, and you'll have a good idea of what this book, and this narration, holds in store for you.


Needless to say, I'll be chewing on this book and its contents for a very long time to come.

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review 2018-06-02 18:11
(Audiobook) Classic Love Poems
FREE: Classic Love Poems - William Shakespeare,Edgar Allan Poe,Elizabeth Barrett Browning,Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage reading classic poetry. I mean, how can you go wrong, right?


The only thing that kept it from a 5-star rating was it wasn't long enough to suit me.

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review 2018-05-01 01:21
Wyrd Sisters (Discworld Witches, #2)
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett,Celia Imrie
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett

I've been listening to the audio for the past month, as narrated by Celia Imrie, but either my copy, or the production as a whole was so horribly done - 90% of the thing sounds like it was recorded from underneath a feather pillow - that towards the end I finally cracked and last night picked up my hardcover edition and finished it off.


That's not to say Celia Imrie did a bad job - she didn't, she was excellent (although her Nanny Ogg voice was too shaky and sometimes made her difficult to understand).  If you're tempted to listen to this book on audio, and you see this particular edition, listen to a sample first and make sure you're edition is not muffled under a pillow.


As for the story - taken at face value, it was ok.  But you can't take any Pratchett at face value, and the veiled subtext upgraded it, for me, to good (with bonus points for the mugging scene).  I love Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg.  I wasn't quite getting the appeal of Greebo, until the scene with the Fool - that moment where he looks down at the Fool from atop of his head was sublime, (and Celia did it perfectly).  As for the Fool himself, I think I liked him more for having heard him narrated, than I would have had I read him from the start; Celia infused an intelligence in him I'm not sure I'd have given him, given the repetitious nature of his speech.


I think I failed to receive the characters of the Lord and Lady Felmut the way the author intended them.  If satirically humorous is what he was aiming for, I definitely failed.  These two just came across bitter, twisted and creepy - I should say Lord Felmut did; Lady Felmut just seemed to me a straight caricature.  And since I'm complaining (not really) I'll add that while I loved the element of The Land, I wish Pratchett had not been quite so vague about it and it's connection to the throne.  I understood it well enough but would have enjoyed it more with a tiny pinch more detail.  And I understood the dynamic at the end, between the two brothers, until Granny, Nanny and Magrat got through with me.  And how old is Magrat supposed to be anyway?


Overall, even though it doesn't sound like it, I did enjoy the story - it's Pratchett after all, and even his weak books are better than a lot of best efforts.  I'm going to try Witches Abroad on audio too, because even though this edition's sound quality sucked, I think I get more enjoyment out of the stories when they're read by someone who obviously understands Pratchett's writing.  But I'm definitely checking out the samples first.

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review 2018-03-14 06:41
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness - Peter Godfrey-Smith
Other Minds - Peter Godfrey-Smith

I don't know quite how to rate this one, so I went for 4 stars.  This is likely to be more a collection of disparate thoughts rather than a cohesive review of any kind.


Most people are not going to find Other Minds a 'popular' science book.  It's not dry, but it is dense.  The author merges what is currently known in evolutionary science with philosophy, and has written what is largely a thought experiment on the concept of consciousness and it's origins, and not just for the octopus; this covers all life.  Octopuses get more page time than other creatures, but still only make up about ... 40%, maybe 50%?  Not quite what I was expecting, but I was willing to go with it.


I listened to the audiobook, although I have the hardcover as well.  The narrator, Peter Noble, does an excellent job with the narration; his voice is crisp and clear and he reads it as though he has a thorough grasp of the material. 


But ... I don't know if it was me or if the title of the book was too open to interpretation, but I did not realise how deeply philosophical the material was - this made the audiobook very challenging for me; I'm not a fan of other people's thought experiments in general, so I really struggled with a wandering mind as I listened to this book.  I understood the general concepts he covered, but whole sections of the narration would just wash right over me before I'd realise my consciousness checked out.  


Conclusion: I'd have been better off reading the physical edition, I think.  It's a very well written book, but it's heavy material for someone like me, for whom listening requires a conscience effort.  I'll likely re-read my hardcover sometime soon, so I can determine how much I missed, and give my mind a chance to reinforce some of the points I found most interesting.

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