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I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

ratings
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REVIEWS
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FOLLOWERS
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HELPFUL VOTES
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  • The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By James Carnac
    • Narrated By Mark Meadows, Christian Rodska
    Overall
    (71)
    Performance
    (67)
    Story
    (68)

    This memoir was recently discovered and appears to have been written in the 1920s by someone who asserts that he was Jack the Ripper. This person is James Willoughby Carnac, and this memoir was written shortly before his death. It is an account of his entire life, including a few short months in 1888 when he became the murderer known to posterity as Jack the Ripper.

    Amazon Customer says: "Absolutely Fascinating"
    "So Much Sinister Fun"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you try another book from James Carnac and/or Mark Meadows and Christian Rodska ?

    I don't know that we could get another book from "James Carnac," could we? The narration on this book is a blast. It's treated with a verisimilitude that just sells it, even when you know it shouldn't work.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    To describe the ending, I have to first explain my thoughts on beginning. I'm not a Ripperologist by any stretch, and I love a good alternate history. This book starts out so convincing that you have to stop yourself from believing it at times. The deeper the book goes, the more wrong it gets in all the best ways. It's by no means a book for the serious Ripperologist, but it's a great character study for those who like the "Sith Lord" mentality.


    What does Mark Meadows and Christian Rodska bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I don't think the text alone would have sold it for me. The performance fills in the rest and provides a suspension of disbelief that's required to get the most of out of this one.


    Was The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper worth the listening time?

    Absolutely. It's probably a better read for those who aren't so attached to the subject matter - you know who you are.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Buddha and the Quantum: Hearing the Voice of Every Cell

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Samuel Avery
    • Narrated By Samuel Avery
    Overall
    (28)
    Performance
    (25)
    Story
    (23)

    Are you seeking a deeper understanding of consciousness? Are you interested in meditation or currently practicing meditation? The Buddha and the Quantum is about the connection between meditation and physics. Many books show parallels between consciousness and physics; a few of these attempt to explain consciousness in terms of the physics of everyday experience. This is the only book that explains physics and the everyday world in terms of consciousness alone.

    private says: "Connects quantum theory to subjective experience"
    "Science and Religion, Brought Together"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Author Samuel Avery says up front that he is neither a Buddhist nor a physicist. Turns out, neither am I, so I take this book as being transmitted from one enthusiast to another. At the same time, it would seem the author knows his stuff. I would love to hear feedback from a Buddhist quantum physicist on this.

    Due to the nature of quantum physics and the explanations required for the author to get his point across, I would recommend active (mindful) listening to this audiobook. While the information presented is done so as simplistically as possible, trying to listen to this title while doing other things will only result in confusion and missed explanations. It requires your whole attention. In that manner, you have to operate like a Buddhist to get the information within. Nice touch. While listening mindfully, I did find the author's explanations to be confusing, but I can see where some might just as easily need to rewind some things and hear them a second time to ensure you really did hear something the way you thought you did. It's just the nature of the beast in this case.

    All in all, I found this book interesting in the extreme, and I recommend it to the curious who like to ponder the higher questions of the cosmos. The author narrates the audio himself, and his manner comes across cool and conversational, as though speaking to a peer.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Michael Walzer
    • Narrated By Gregory St. John
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    From the Athenian attack on Melos to the My Lai Massacre, from the wars in the Balkans through the first war in Iraq, Michael Walzer examines the moral issues surrounding military theory, war crimes, and the spoils of war. He studies a variety of conflicts over the course of history, as well as the testimony of those who have been most directly involved - participants, decision makers, and victims.

    Amazon Customer says: "All's Fair in Love and War?"
    "All's Fair in Love and War?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is an incredibly dense treatise and analysis on the moral hardlines and ambiguities encountered in the midst of war. As a casual audio listen, it's probably a bit much to take in. But taken one chapter at a time and allowing each one to process, this book reveals itself to be of considerable value to historians, philosophers, military enthusiasts, and pretty much anyone for whom this topic weighs heavily. The trick, I think, is to get into the hands of world leaders and military commanders for consideration where it matters most.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Buddhism for Beginners

    • ORIGINAL (9 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Jack Kornfield
    Overall
    (595)
    Performance
    (327)
    Story
    (325)

    Created specifically to address the questions and needs of first-time students, here is Buddhism's vast spiritual legacy, presented by one of America's leading meditation teachers.

    Anna says: "Might be difficult for true beginners..."
    "Excellent Commentary on the Basics"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've encountered Buddhist philosophy at many points over my life, and I've always found it beautiful. But for some reason, I've never actually turned my attention to its foundations. Or if I have, nothing stuck with me for whatever reason. At any rate, I decided I needed a refresher course on what makes this system tick. There are many choices on Audible to choose from in this regard, and I'm glad I picked this one.

    This is a live recording, so there are a few coughing distractions here and there from the otherwise attentive audience, but nothing that would make you lose focus. Jack Kornfield is an amazing ambassador to this faith, engaging his listener with all of the compassion and mercy you'd expect, but also with humor. The result is an experience that transcends what you'd get out of a book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Alexander Rose
    • Narrated By Kevin Pariseau
    Overall
    (69)
    Performance
    (66)
    Story
    (66)

    Based on remarkable new research, acclaimed historian Alexander Rose brings to life the true story of the spy ring that helped America win the Revolutionary War. For the first time, Rose takes us beyond the battlefront and deep into the shadowy underworld of double agents and triple crosses, covert operations and code breaking, and unmasks the courageous, flawed men who inhabited this wilderness of mirrors—including the spymaster at the heart of it all.

    Jean says: "Intrigue at its best"
    "The Story Behind the Story"
    Overall
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    I was only in recent years made aware of the Culper spy ring, and the idea fascinates me. Given the perceptions of what lines could and could not be crossed by certain classes of individuals, this entire story flies right in the face of what the general public would expect. The idea that Washington - the man who would not tell a lie, according to popular legend - was as deceitful as they come to win the war for Independence? That's just priceless.

    The story as presented here is not really for entry-level students of the Revolution. The author gives you the stories and personalities on the new players within the spy ring, but you're expected to know the more prominent figures on both sides, a considerable amount of the politics, and an understanding of the attitudes at different levels. It's completely understandable to make those assumptions of the reader, given that this is more of a story for those already interested and somewhat immersed in the history of the time. The good news is that anyone who finds themselves not up to speed but still willing to dive in head first can get by in the broader view with their Wiki-scholar credentials. Obviously, the more you know about the big picture, the easier it is to appreciate the details of the story told here. I worked from a fairly solid knowledge base, but I'm certainly no expert. I still needed reference points from time to time. The rest worked itself out for me.

    The only real issue I had is that the story does jump around a bit here and there. It's all easy enough to track if you pay heed to the dates and the narrative that unfolds. Others might have difficulties following the details of the coding or the other elements of spycraft, but for me that was part of the selling point of this book. This is geek-level history, and it's fun for me to finally have those details. Considering this is a story that went largely unknown for so long, I applaud the author for putting it all together for the interested reader. Well done.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 50 mins)
    • By Richard Carrier
    • Narrated By Richard Carrier
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (162)
    Performance
    (147)
    Story
    (145)

    Dr. Richard Carrier, world-renowned philosopher and historian, explains the four reasons he does not accept the Christian religion, describing four facts of the world that, had they been different, he would believe. Those four reasons are God's silence, God's inaction, the lack of evidence, and the way the universe looks exactly like a godless universe would, and not at all like a Christian universe would, even down to its very structure. Dr. Carrier addresses all the usual replies to these claims.

    Winston D. Jen says: "Four Foundational Pillars Demolished"
    "Well-Reasoned, Logical Argument"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I love religion. I love to dig into the heart of what makes a given faith tick. I love the discourses of philosophy that support or deny given aspects of it. I love seeing the back and forth of the debated issues, seeing which arguments are the strongest. It's fascinating to me. Because of that, I'm rather surprised I haven't come across Dr. Carrier's work until now.

    This is a solid case for atheism, written as a discourse to be read by Christians. It's well-reasoned. The logic is impeccable, regardless of which perspective you adhere to. Without saying so, it works under Sherlock Holmes' own principle of "When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." In other words, he uses scientific method to seek what's provable. I'm sure there are many of the faith that would have instant negative emotional reactions to this. Regrettably, such is the case when the heart overrides the head. This isn't an argument made to address that.

    I would love to see an equally reasoned argument made in rebuttal to this that accepts provable evidence and explains it with equally provable evidence. I think that'd be an interesting read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Gravity's Rainbow

    • UNABRIDGED (40 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Thomas Pynchon, Frank Miller (cover design)
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    Overall
    (72)
    Performance
    (66)
    Story
    (63)

    Winner of the 1973 National Book Award, Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern epic, a work as exhaustively significant to the second half of the 20th century as Joyce's Ulysses was to the first. Its sprawling, encyclopedic narrative and penetrating analysis of the impact of technology on society make it an intellectual tour de force.

    D says: "Like being belted in the head with a Swiss Alp"
    "Long-Winded Drivel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Thanks to the miracle of audiobooks (because I have more time to "read" via this method and retain things better through sound for some reason, I was able to give this book my full attention and conquer the literary milestone that people seem to think it is. All my life I've heard the same things about this book. I've heard that hardly anyone finishes it, and those who do seldom understand it. But I've also heard that for those who do understand it, it's one of the greatest books ever written.

    That's high praise. And from where I'm sitting, sorry to say it... it's also an over-saturated load of bull butter.

    I've read some bad books in my time. We all have. In my experience, Gravity's Rainbow is one of the worst reads I've ever encountered. I have found zero redeeming qualities in it. None. Zip. Zilch. I give it one star because I can't give it -5 or lower.

    I realize this book has a lot of defenders, and I trust this review will be taken with the understanding that my disdain for this work has nothing to do with attacking those who enjoyed it. If you enjoyed it, great. Glad you did. Clearly, you were the target audience, and I'm sorry that this review might hurt your sensibilities. Not sure why you're still reading what I have to say about it, but that's on you, just as it's on me that I actually bothered to finish Gravity's Rainbow. That said, I am inspired to a level of anger requires an exorcism and/or should have me channeling the powers of the Dark Side like a master. And so, like the author himself, I write this rant of a review because I felt obliged to word vomit about it. The difference, of course, is that I freely admit I'm not literary, I don't try to be, and I can make my point in considerably less time. You're welcome.

    I own up to my biases. I am not that "literary minded" as I've said, although I have read Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and Homer for fun, mixed in with all of the other stuff I enjoy. I also have very little tolerance for the drug culture of the 1970s, from whence this rodent killer of a tome was spawned. It comes down to a matter of taste. I found this book had none, nor was it to mine. I'd find more ready appreciation in a Leonardo or a Monet than in a Pollack. I have a lot better things to do with my time than looking at a canvas spraypainted via firehose or maps drawn by kids with crayons. Give me Beethoven, not the Bee Gees. At the same, though, I did go into this with the idea that there are exceptions to everything, and if so many praise its literary qualities, there had to be something to it. I honestly looked forward to the discovery of what that might be. Having made it to the end and found nothing, I not only feel cheated, I actually feel violated because I'm this angry about it.

    Most tell me that if I don't like the book, it's because I don't understand it. To be honest, it's just not that difficult to figure out. I've encountered and appreciated many "difficult" books before, and I've typically come away the better for the experience. That's not the issue I found here. Instead, I found it to have all of the depth of MAD Magazine, with about the same maturity level, but without the inability to land on a punchline, meaningful or otherwise. I've read Choose Your Own Adventure stories with more plot than this. The overall message of the book is a good one: "make love, not war." Sadly, even that basic positive got pulled down to the level of randy farm animals to the point where anything resembling humanity was lost. I'm certain that was the point too. I'm supposed to applaud this? I got the impression Pynchon thinks he deserves a standing ovation. I object to any writer on moral grounds that says fighting is bad and yet forces the reader to resist epic levels of "HULK SMASH!" urges for the duration of the read.

    The writing style is my largest gripe. People have described it as "crystalline prose," whatever that means. It tries way too hard to impress the idea upon you that it's raw, visceral, and somehow "artsy" without being artsy. Whatever tone he was trying to achieve, I grant that he achieved it, which is quite a feat considering he did it by using the largest amount of semi-coherent babble I've ever ever seen at one time. The readability of this had all of the appeal of watching somebody shave an animal, remove the top layer of its skin, and then feed that skin back to the animal. No, I don't have personal experience with anything like that, but I can imagine quite a bit without the use of drugs that the author clearly needed to achieve the same effect. And it wasn't so much what Pynchon wrote that made me feel the way I do about it. Instead it was more the way he wrote it that caused that reaction. So if that's your benchmark of literary, ok, point Pynchon. He got a bona fide reaction out of me. Good job in making the reader want to turn away from the work in disgust.

    The rest of my issues stem simply from a lack of characters that I cared about or wanted to, and a lack of anything resembling an actual plot beyond the general need of the characters to want to screw everything. It takes absolutely zero talent for anyone to take drugs and get this kind of effect. It boggles the mind that when somebody acts on their visions and writes something down, the "literati" out there prop up both author and book like a pagan idol or a new prophecy or whatever. All it proved to me is that the author was driven to write. There's a fine line between genius and madness, and he crossed it long before the end of his first paragraph. Still, I can't tell anyone not to read it. Everyone makes their own call in that regard. I simply offer my own counterpoint to the choir of would-be angels circling Pynchon's throne in endless hallelujah. I'll be kneeling in reverence over at the altar of Tolkien, if it's all the same. As long-winded as he could be, he at least got to the point and presented it with some manner of coherence. And what do you know... it's the SAME POINT, that war is bad. Tolkien created multiple languages and dialects for his masterpiece. Pynchon spent 1000 pages mangling only one.

    Bottom line: I found this book to be pretentious in the extreme and insulting to the very core of my being. I managed to finish it only because I had an audiobook that could force some kind of forward momentum that the author certainly didn't provide, and I willed myself to do so only because apparently the ending was supposed to make me change my mind and help me to see how brilliant this work is. Calling this literature is like calling FOX News "fair and balanced." At least I can get back my Audible credit and trade it in on something that won't potentially cause an aneurysm. I prefer my reading to be enlightening, educational, entertaining, relaxing, or some combination of any of these factors. This was none of the above. Almost anything would be an improvement over this lamentable mess. Almost.

    More worthy tomes await. I feel better now. I'm done with one.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Chögyam Trungpa, Carolyn Rose Gimian (editor), Pema Chödrön (foreword)
    • Narrated By Gabra Zackman, Karen White, Steven Crossley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (136)
    Performance
    (113)
    Story
    (109)

    Chgyam Trungpa offers us a vision of moving beyond fear to discover the innate bravery, trust, and delight in life that lies at the core of our being. Drawing on the Shambhala Buddhist teachings, he explains how we can each become a spiritual warrior: a person who faces each moment of life with openness and fearlessness. "The ultimate definition of bravery is not being afraid of who you are," writes Chgyam Trungpa. In this audiobook, he offers the insights and strategies to claim victory over fear.

    Sara says: "Essential & Powerful"
    "Abstract, Yet Practical"
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    There is much about Eastern philosophy that I find to be abstract, but I also find that the more I directly engage with it, the more practical it becomes. One of my hobbies is the study of Western (Medieval and Renaissance) martial arts, which relies more on direct application of the system, but not so much on the higher philosophies or mindsets as with the Eastern counterparts. For my part, this is the biggest reason why I find a disconnect between Arthurian chivalry and real world knighthood. Western systems concentrate on "I hit you, you hit the floor," with any strategy directed towards that singular goal. Conversely, any Eastern system embraces the idea of victory of self that leads to victory over situation, which I find most helpful to my own studies, on and off the "battlefield." This book takes that premise and goes even further.

    This book is a real treasure. It defines the idea of the warrior in a way the Western world never truly developed (as a being at one with peace itself through compassion) and applies it both in spiritual terms and in terms of putting a weapon in your hand. The result is a system of thought that not only helps you to evolve as a person, but also a system that evolves with you, leading you to new discoveries that reinforce the lessons. I can't help but knowingly smile when obvious or perceived weaknesses in the Western system are pointed out by comparison of the material presented here. On its own, this is an amazing collection of wisdom. When used in conjunction with or merely compared to Sun Tzu's The Art of War or Morihei Ueshiba's The Art of Peace, the building blocks of enlightenment seem to put themselves together even faster. I'm not sure the Buddhists would appreciate such use of their lessons, but for purposes of my own personal development, I am beyond pleased with the concepts this solidifies and/or opens for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • You Only Live Twice: James Bond, Book 12

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Martin Jarvis
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    James Bond seems unable to function after the death of his wife. Determined to restore 007 to the effective agent he used to be, M sends him on a mission to Japan, to the mysterious "Castle of Death", and into the lair of an old and terrifying enemy. For Bond and Blofeld, this will be their final encounter. Only one of them can survive.

    Amazon Customer says: "Bond's Japanese Adventure"
    "Bond's Japanese Adventure"
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    From a modern perspective, it could be easy to dismiss this novel as offensive and racist. Fleming is not always known for little things like tact and awareness. However, it should be noted that eastern culture wouldn't become truly open or appreciated in the West for a few more years. Add to that, the culture wasn't nearly as "westernized" as it is by comparison of today, so the attitudes of the culture that Fleming is portraying is an honest assessment, if stereotypical, at least insofar as Fleming's personal perception of it. To his credit, he does play it as respectfully as he knows how, though he does drop some rather offensive slurs here and there per the common western lingo of the time. Even so, if you can work past that, the highlight of differences between East and West provide a unique insight, keeping in mind Fleming's own wartime career in intelligence and the contacts he gained as a result. As to be expected, where there's a different culture, Fleming delights in sharing the nuances of it, especially food, drink, and fighting techniques.

    You Only Live Twice was published about the time of Fleming's death, giving the suggested meaning of the title that extra edge. "You only live twice: Once when you're born, And once when you look death in the face." The intended meaning, of course, is in reference to the events of the previous novel, and to this one as well. Taking place nine months after On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond has since become reckless and unreliable, a danger to himself and others, living only for the moment when he can acquire his next drink. To fix his broken agent, M gives him a new assignment designed to appeal to Bond's overdeveloped ego and sense of patriotism, an improbable task that requires him to temporarily shed his 00 number, reassigned to the diplomatic corps as agent 7777. Bond, to his credit and true to form, rises to the challenge. This assignment is precisely what he needs to back on his feet in the wake of the last novel's events.

    Bond's contact in Japan is Tiger Tanaka, who serves as a guide to Bond and to the reader in all things Japanese. In wartime, Tanaka was a spy in London, trained as a kamikaze pilot. His intended fate was interrupted by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and he returned to Japan with a deep respect for the British people he came to know, and with a need to expunge his dishonor as "one of the vanquished." To this end, Bond is given a personal inside education into the ways and means of Japanese culture in order to complete his mission objectives, with limits. In addition to Tanaka's friendship and tutelage, Bond gains from him information involving a Swiss botantist, Dr. Shatterhand, who has built a Garden of Death. Fleming takes particular delight in this invention, listing off the names and origins of the poisonous plants as well as their lethal effects. Shatterhand becomes a player when it becomes known that he has somehow acquired all of information about Tanaka that should be a state secret. As a result, in exchange for Tanaka finally releasing the information Bond needs for his mission, he asks that Bond kill Shatterhand. To accommodate this, he is disguised as a local so as to get close without notice and given a crash course in the use and techniques of ninja equipment. Amongst the intel that Tanaka provides, photos of Shatterhand reveal to Bond the true identity that's of no shock to the reader thanks to spoiler in the book's summary blurb.

    The story's main thrust plays out exactly Fleming readers know it must, but the ending gives us some surprising twists, which I won't spoil here. Suffice it to say, it's interesting to consider the possibilities. All in all, it's a satisfying read for what it is, keeping in mind that the overall story has virtually nothing in common with its big screen counterpart aside from character names and settings.

    As narrator, Martin Jarvis is an interesting choice. I admit I was not familiar with his name, and upon looking up his extensive list of screen and voice acting credits, I realized I've been aware of his work for a number of years. Funny how that works sometimes. In keeping with the running tally of how the narrators pronounce "007," I'm pleased to say he properly gives us a "double-oh-seven" instead of giving us that offending version that I still can't fathom. Character-wise, Jarvis has to do some international acrobatics in regards to his accent, juggling from British to Japanese to Australian to German with an odd character out here and there for a change up. His standard voice sounds to me to be similar to that of Doctor Who's Jon Pertwee, only without the slight lisp. The accents and character voices he uses might seem stereotyped to some, but no less so than the way Fleming writes them (as always), and Jarvis puts his A-game into this, approaching it with professional enthusiasm. The result is that the story is actually more engaging than it might otherwise be in print.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Skin Map: Bright Empires, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Stephen Lawhead
    • Narrated By Simon Bubb
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (195)
    Performance
    (161)
    Story
    (162)

    Kit Livingston's great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds.

    K. Donath says: "Fun Book!"
    "Not Bad, Better Potential"
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    Most of what I've read from Lawhead so far has been historical fiction steeped in Celtic and Christian lore, all of which I've heartily enjoyed without fail. I love his writing style, I love the verisimilitude he brings to the tale, and I love his character development.

    When I happened upon this series, which is a complete departure from everything I know of his work, curiosity got the better of me. This one purported to be "a unique blend of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery." I can't pass up a description like that from an author I respect!

    Sadly... I'm not yet impressed. Part of it may just be that I can imagine quite a bit, so I was led on by this description with higher hopes. And part of it may be that this isn't Lawhead's finest hour. The ideas are grand enough, don't get me wrong, and there is plenty of potential to be had. But so far most of the characters aren't very well developed, especially by comparison of his other work, and the scale of this adventure doesn't seem quite so epic as it's hinting to be. That said, Lawhead hasn't let me down yet, and what he's dropped into place has plenty of room to grow in a wide variety of directions, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. For the first time, I'm not chomping at the bit to burn through the rest of a series by this author, but curiosity and past experience will definitely bring me back soon enough.

    Simon Bubb is a worthy narrator for this series, capturing the flavor of the adventure seemingly with ease. My only complaint is that there are some issues about the audio recording itself that are unprofessional at best. It sounds like the mic is set up in a cave somewhere, so there's a hollowness to Bubb's voice that shouldn't be there. Also, there are a few points here and there where it sounds like somebody's hitting the mic stand or a table or something. It's distracting in the moment, but it doesn't happen so often as to be too annoying. Bubb deserves a better production team, I think. I'd love to hear more of his work on another series.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Great Minds of the Medieval World

    • ORIGINAL (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Dorsey Armstrong
    Overall
    (37)
    Performance
    (37)
    Story
    (34)

    In this gallery of extraordinary minds, you’ll encounter the leading lights of a world-shaping era, including figures such as Maimonides, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Abelard, and Francesco Petrarch. Professor Armstrong goes to great lengths to bring these historic figures to life, revealing both the great intellectual contributions and the personal strivings, challenges, and triumphs of some of history’s most remarkable human beings.

    Sean says: "Discovering new heros"
    "People at the Core of history"
    Overall
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    Story

    When delving into history, it's very easy to forget sometimes that people are at the center of it. People live, love, think, react, and fight, and this is how history unfolds. The current popular trend in history is to forget this idea that one person can make a difference in how that happens and to look instead at the cultural and social trends, implying that events would have happened anyway even if a given person were not present. I submit this is a flawed way to look at it, built under the same premise that everyone gets a gold star. Somebody sets trends. Somebody comes up with new ideas or sees old ideas in a new way. Somebody acts on these thoughts. Somebody reacts to them. And the cycle goes on.

    I burn through a lot of historical overviews, and the downside is that people are name-dropped, but it's sometimes difficult to know what it is they actually contributed in the grand scheme unless you seek out a more narrowly-focused text on a given person or event, or you happen to be reading a biography. Overviews about people who changed the world are, therefore, of immense value for me. This lecture series is precisely what an armchair historian like myself loves to consume. Think of it in similar vein of Plutarch's Lives, but for the Middle Ages. You get a collection of mini-biographies with a direct emphasis of who these people were, what they contributed, and why that mattered. For newcomers to the Middle Ages who still might see this era as "the Dark Ages," this sort of collection will help to break open and dispel that common misperception. Prof. Armstrong keeps the series thoughtful and engaging, drawing connections between these personalities where applicable to prevent them from existing in a proverbial vacuum of disconnected facts. The side effect of this series for me is that I now have a monster list of new items on my reading list. This is a good problem to have.

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