The Ghost of Freedom
A History of the Caucasus
Author Charles King
Narrated by Michael Page
Publication date May 23, 2017
Running time 12 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
At 54 and with chronic health conditions, I know I will never have the opportunity to travel to the many wondrous places on our planet I would like. I have found that learning about those far off lands is fascinating and fulfilling. I recently listened to audiobooks on India and Scandinavia. Next up is the Caucasus. Again I was not disappointed in my audiobook adventure.
The Caucasus is still a remote and wild region on the world map. It sits at a crossroad between Europe and Asia, an isthmus between the Black and Caspian seas. The Greeks chained Prometheus up in the Caucasus to have his liver devoured each day by the eagle for giving man fire. Ovid, the Roman poet, had Jason said to the Caucasus, the end of the known world, to steal the Golden Fleece. The regions lends itself well to mythologies with its blend of beauty and danger. It is a land that has been contested and fought over for centuries. The original tribes who settled the area gave dynastic giants like the Russian and Turkish Empires more than they could handle.
The Ghost of Freedom A History of the Caucasus by Charles King and narrated by Michael Page does justice to this incredible region. King starts with a forward which explains the importance of words in the region. “In a part of the world where ethnic, religious, and political categories are hotly contested, being sensitive to labels is particularly crucial.” He then provides a in depth chronology of the history of the area as well as a glossary of words related to the area. The words are influenced by the original tribal languages as well as successive waves of conquerors from Russia, Turkey and others. I want to point out how incredible Mr. Page’s narration is concerning the many, many foreign words. Had I read the book, my eyes would have skimmed over the unpronounceable, for me, and in doing so I would have lost a part of the book. Listening to Mr. Page’s confident pronunciation conveys the rich of the words and helps spin the spell of foreign lands.
The books leads the listener through the history of the Caucasus region from the first recorded Russian foray in the mid sixteenth century to the early twenty first century struggle to emerge from the shadow of the former Soviet Union into individual nations. This is an audiobook I will listen to again. Mr. King’s storytelling on the history of the region is complex, vast and accessible. Coupled with Mr. Page’s incredible narration, the audiobook is a entertaining, educational and fascinating experience.
Gwendy's Button Box
Includes bonus story "The Music Room"
By Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Read by: Maggie Siff
INCLUDES A CONVERSATION BETWEEN STEPHEN KING & RICHARD CHIZMAR
My first visit to Castle Rock was in The Dead Zone, published in 1979. It was one of those towns, like Jerusalem's Lot, that when I made my first trip to Maine in 2006, I made sure were not on the itinerary. Nothing against either town but seriously messed up stuff happened to people there. But Castle Rock has been fairly quiet for a few years. Thanks to Richard Chizmar, Stephen King has woken Castle Rock up.
The box at the heart of this book contains chocolate (yea!), money (useful) and terrible powers. The owner of the box can invoke this powers at a cost to themselves. I cannot really say much more without giving away plot points. I will say had I been given the box I doubt I would have handled it as well as Gwendy. In true Stephen King style, the people are as horrifying as any monsters.
There were so many things I liked about Gwendy's Button Box starting with Gwendy. She is a wonderful character. One who as a teen deals well with the issues of peer pressure and fitting in. She fought her own battles and did not need a male to save her or validate her decisions. I loved the box and I was also terrified of the box. My jury is still out on the giver of the box. I haven't decided if he has cloven hooves or is some type of emissary of the gods.
It is a novella, 164 pages, and a quick read but an immensely satisfying one. In my experience a satisfying Stephen King read is one that pulls you, leaves you breathless, and invites to come back and see what you missed in your first intense read.
The bonus story “The Music Room” was vintage Stephen King. Ordinary people, ordinary lives, everyday objects combined to be completely terrifying. The conversation between King and Chizmar was an interesting lesson in how collaboration works. The bonus story and the author’s conversation are a good incentive for getting the audiobook in addition to or instead of the book.
The audiobook was fantastic. Maggie Siff does a great job narrating. She carries Gwendy’s voice from adolescent to adult. The male voices, including the man with the box, are very well done. This is one I will listen to again and again. Under three hours, a rich and complex story, great narration make it one to return to.
Joe Hill is a fantastic author. His novels have been very unique and not limited to one area. The Heart Shaped Box involved a haunting. Horns was a fantasy with a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie. NOS4A2 I haven’t finished yet because it so completely terrifies me I have only made it halfway through. With The Fireman, Mr. Hill goes into the dystopian genre.
The world is in flames. Not because of a meteor strike or nuclear war. It is burning because of a virus that turns humans into torches. The dragonscale virus spread over the world and was difficult to contain. At first, individuals spontaneously combusted destroying their immediate surroundings. Then groups of people took out entire blocks when they went up. Then the cities were in flames. No one was sure how the virus spread or where it came from. Ignorance loves a vacuum and before long the infected were segregated and then murdered.
Harper, a school nurse before the world went up in flames, is now working at a local hospital. Her husband, Jakob, is an aspiring novelist. He has got to be one of the most unlikeable characters ever written. As their world shrinks, Harper and Jakob are cut off from all their family. When Harper develops the dragonscale, Jakob shows his true ignorant, arrogant, coward colors and it is not pretty.
The Fireman is a great character. He is everything Jakob is not and more. As Harper fights to survive long enough to give birth to her child and see the child safe, he is her main ally. She must fight the dragonscale, the fires, her psychotic husband and extremist in both the healthy and infected camps. The fireman tries to help her and the other infected find a safe haven from the death squads run by the healthy, her husband included.
I read the book as soon as it came out. It was great and I enjoyed it. Then I got the audiobook narrated by Kate Mulgrew. Although I was already familiar with the story, Ms. Mulgrew’s narration kept me engaged. She did a fantastic job on all the different voices, male and female, and accents. She conveyed the emotions well and kept the tension so I could not stop listening. I enjoyed her narration so much I also picked up her narration of Mr. Hill’s NOS4A2. Now I just have to pick up the courage to listen to it.
This review first appeared at The Audiobook Reviewer.
The Radium Girls
The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
by Kate Moore
Courtesy of NetGalley
I had the opportunity to read The Radium Girls by Kate Moore through NetGalley. It was a disturbing and fascinating book. Although the dangerous properties of radium were known to the Curies who discovered it, there was a general denial by the population of its dangers. The companies that used radium to paint watch dials to make them glow in the dark did not give any warnings to their employees. Women would routinely drip paint brushes with radium into their mouths before applying the paint to the dials. When the women were finally examined after years of exposure, radium had penetrated so deeply into their tissues they literally glowed in the dark.
The author lays out a timeline of the commercial use of radium. She introduces the women who worked painting the dails. She details their health and lives before starting to work at the plant. Ms. Moore also explains the process in which different workers in different positions were exposed. As the workers begin to show signs of various illness, they sought help from a medical field that did not understand radiation poisoning. Many girls were unable to work anymore due to illness. The statute of limitations for work related illnesses was only five months. By the point the women began to realize their illness was work related, more than five months had passed since they were employed.
The book is fascinating in the wonderful way Ms. Moore makes the women truly present. The reader begins to care about the women because of the wonderful way Ms. Moore tells their story. You feel their frustration with not being able to find answers as they are suffering greatly. You admire their persistence in pursuing a legal case to stop the company’s negligence.
The book is disturbing in the level of the cover up by the company. The smear campaign included telling the public that the real cause of the illnesses was syphilis. They painted the women as suffering from a venereal disease and ruined their reputations. The legal system was a Goliath that they sick women needed to defeat.
I recommend reading The Radium Girls. Like HIdden Figures, it is a book that tells a story that we need to know. We need to hear about these women who had the presence of mind to document their stories and make sure their stories were shared from generation to generation. Laws now in place to protect employees and give them access to information about dangerous conditions are because of the legal challenges of women. That is their legacy.
The audio version is narrated by Angela Brazil. I obtained it through Hoopla Digital and my local library system. Ms. Brazil does a nice job.