Cantor's lack of perception regarding the Medieval period shines through! The "facts" that he presents are a hodge-podge of mostly old scholarship firmly entrenched in the "horrible Dark Ages" mentality. Further, the presentation of the factual material rarely breaks the surface and is more misleading than informative. Cantor's attempts at humor and shock tactics might work well in a classromm of freshmen or sophmores in a compulsory course, but provide no relief for someone choosing to read, or hear, the book.
Unfortunately, I also found the reader's voice and intonation nerve-scratching.
Read Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror" instead (I don't recommend trying to listen to it) for an informative, well researched, and well written account of the 14th century horrors (and there certainly were horrors!). John Hatcher's "The Black Death: A Personal History" presents the impact of the plague in another highly readable book. For more scholarly coverage, try Ziegler's classic, "Black Death," or Aberth's more recent "On the Brink of the Apocalypse."
A plot. Development of characters - new or old.
1. Paid some attention to the mystery (nobody seemed to do anything about it or even much care until the last couple of chapters).
2. Avoided the "isn't life in the South wonderful" commentary.
3. Avoided social commentary that doesn't advance plot or characterization.
4. Included plot and character development.
Nothing at all wrong with the reading - only what was being read.
I really enjoyed this series - even with the far-fetched animal bits - until the last few entries. I decided to give it one last try. My mistake! The book should never have been published. I realize that a successful series must be hard to give up. Nevertheless, the publisher and the author should have the strenght of mind to bury the dead rather than cheat their fans.
Previous reviewers understated the degree of bias by the author; I quit listening relatively early due to it. In his introduction, the author states that new views of the Tudors refute the classic view of them as strong, capable rulers concerned with the welfare of their kingdom as a whole. I've read quite a bit about the Tudors, and I don't think any serious authors painted any Tudor as a benevelent monarch. Henry VIII was undeniably the worst, while Mary was not as bad as tradition paints her (in my opinion). Elizabeth was certainly her father's daughter, but never reached his extremes self-centered willfulness and viciousness. Then the author says he wants to present the lesser Tutors, such as Edward and Lady Jane Grey as well as Henry, Mary, and Elizabeth. Edward never ruled independently; his reign reflects Bolyns more than Tudors. Lady Jane's brief ascendany was completely under the control of others, and so brief, that she hardly counts as a monarch. Nor was she a Tudor. That much said, the author attempts no comparison of the Tudors to other contemporary rulers. Kings ruled by Divine Right; monarchs considered themselves divinely appointed and opposition tended to be seen as treason, which merited vicious punishment. Religious tolerance in the period was virtually nonexistant. Those who were not "us" (whoever that was among the many Protestant sects as well as Protestants vs Roman Catholics) were heretics and whichever side had the power to do so meted out "justice" - generally a cruel death. As for the background chapters, you will find much that is old, little new. On the plus side, the book is reasonable well written if you can overlook the content, and the reading isn't bad. I have read and listened to worse, but even good reading and writing can't overcome the content flaws. Don't waste your credits or your money.
Parts of this novel were very, very slow. It wasn't the reader - the reading was quite good. I never could decide whether the characters were meant to be taken seriously or if they were meant to be caricatures. Certainly, it does portray a stereotype of the British in India very different from the romantic. Whether it was meant to be a sardonic condemnation of the British Raj or a serious attempt at character analysis in crisis, it failed. Maybe I missed something. I kept wanting to like it, but never quite managed the trick. Indeed, it gave me a craving for Kipling.
I read most of Georgette Heyer's romantic novels when in my late teens and early twenties. They're almost all light hearted fun, with some seriously funny bits thrown in. This one doesn't have as much hilarity as some, but it is an excellently crafted story of adventure and romance in regency England.
Well written, insightful analysis of two of history's key figures. Well worth your time if you have any interest in the history of Great Britain.
I used to enjoy this series by Rita Mae Brown. Never great mysteries, it's true, but enjoyable, light reading with mostly sympathetic characters and decent plots. The animal characters could strain one's ability to suspend reality, but they mostly "fit," providing amusing alternate perspectives to the tale. My complaint with this entry doesn't concern any of the characters, animal or human. Halfway through, there's precious little plot, no suspense, no character development, and all too much socio-economic/political/religious commentary. I read most mysteries for entertainment. I have no interest in Ms Brown's pronouncements on the evils of the 21st century. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much else to this entry.
I've loved Georgette Heyer's books since I first ran into them in London in the mid-60s. I still love them, and reread the ones I bought in the 60s and 70s. Some of those copies are getting quite worn! Ms Heyer's books are not demanding, not stirring, nor prickly for the conscience. They are simply good fun.
The Quiet Gentleman is one of my favorites, maybe because the heroine isn't beautiful, ultra-talented, or otherwise daunting. Mostly, it's just a book with characters I'd love to count as friends.
My review has 4 stars rather than 5 because I found the "voices" not what I expected. I suppose I "know" the voices already and no reader would quite have the right tone. I mean no disparagement - the book was very well read - I just don't think the narrator quite caught the characters.
Excellently written, well read, I'd give this book 5 stars except for it's length. There's probably too much detail, but I don't know what I'd take out. Still, if you know nothing about the money and power grabbing of the later 19th and early 20th century, this may be too long for a beginning.
If you get angry easily, you might want to skip this one, too. To give you an idea of the impact of this book on me - it made me wish I believed in hell. Carnegie belongs there. I've never thought that Carnegie, or any of his "peers" were generous, warm hearted people, even when they were doling money out to good causes. It surprised me, but Carnegie was even worse than I had previously thought.
David Nasaw paints a vivid picture of this self-made man as he rose to the level of "the richest man in the world." Nasaw describes the early insider deals, hustling sales of bonds and securities, the conspicous consumption in an increasingly luxurious life (especially overseas beyond the sight of the American press), and the strategies to wring profits from his steel interests while demanding 12-hour workdays and decreasing income for his workers. Nasaw also details the force employed by this friend of the working man to keep those men working long hours in dangerous tasks, breaking strikes at the cost of workmen's lives.
It's a sorry tale, but a fascinating one.
I did listen to this to the end, but wouldn't recommend buying to any one interested in the story of the survival of the four Russians the book is supposed to about. The book is really about writing the book, or rather, the author's dismal attempts to research the event. What IS in the book could have been cut to about half its length and much improved thereby.
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