I'm not entirely sure why I was drawn to this book. As much as I'm fascinated by angels, most fiction about them tends to be fairly limited. Many have remarked they are this generation's vampire, and that's true to a certain extent. Like zombies and vampires, there are just too many of the same stories, many of them trying desperately to stand out by being different, and failing precisely because these beings aren't supposed to be different from what they're meant to be.
With this in mind, I went through this story anyway. The first 2/3 or so is pretty basic. The "rules" of angelkind are honored, which is a plus for me. It means that nephalim are the big warning about what happens if there's an angelic romance with a human, and it means the characters in the story are abhorred by this idea. Also, they have reason enough not to trust one another, so it makes for a far more believable story. There's very little about this story that's particularly earth-shattering. If you're familiar with the Christopher Walken Prophecy movies, you'll be right at home here.
There are two standout moments for me. The first is the (no pun intended) that this whole thing is kicked off when Gabriel comes to earth and is shot by the fearful humans. I've never seen this approach before, and I totally buy it. It's something we monkeys would do. The second is the climax when we find out what the angels are doing with the humans they capture. I think this is supposed to be a nod to Clive Barker's rather disturbing prose style and twisted imagination. Most can't pull it off, and while the author is outclassed by this example (who isn't, let's be honest), she is successful enough to make you squirm with her descriptions. Kudos on that.
On the whole, I'm not drawn in enough to want the rest of the series right now, but this was a fun read all the same. I may eventually come back to it, but I'm not that invested. That's probably because I could care less about post-apocalyptic stories, although to be fair, this story works better precisely because of that setup. The characters are solid enough to be believable, though we could see the archangel Raphael a mile away the moment the name was mentioned, so there wasn't much of a reveal there. I love the concept of the insane mother fighting her own inner demons in the middle of all this. I feel like there were some missed opportunities here as well, and some inadequate explanations about a great many things. Maybe that's left for the sequels? Time will tell.
One point of mention... this is a self-published title, and that rarely works out this well. This writer understands something about editing, story pacing, and such, and has paid attention to examples she's studied and enjoyed. You just don't see that much. So, more kudos. On the whole, far better than expected from angelic YA fiction, but still not as powerful as the potential of the genre could be. It's early in the series, so we'll see what happens.
When I got my paws on this book, I was hoping--but not expecting--that it would dig a little deeper than some of the bigger books on the Crusades by virtue of being focused on just the Templars. Turns out, I got what I hoped for and then some. While this book is a good one for beginners that want to hit the ground running, I think it does help to have some background knowledge on the Crusades and a general idea of who the Templars were before diving in. The more you know, the better prepared you'll be for the more detailed parts of this book. It makes for a richer experience.
There are few books on the Templars that have made it to audiobook format that really dig in and give you some of the details. When it comes to tracking something like this down in paper format, most of the books out there seem to be either really basic and sometimes insulting, or they are written for the academic sect. That's what I love about this book, specifically. Nicholson tells you up front this isn't written for her colleagues in academia, but for the layperson with an interest. I am exactly her target audience as I have the scholarly enthusiasm for the subject matter, but my dedication is generally interrupted by other shiny objects. Still, I keep coming back.
There are a lot of names and dates, and at times you'll need to break out the scorecard, especially if you're preparing for deeper research. But for the most part, this book covers things such as the culture of the Templars, how outsiders reacted to them, and other bits of interest that it seems like most other books tend to avoid. Where other books lean on the "there's little actual information surviving" crutch, Nicholson comes right out and says there's actually quite a bit, and breaks it down in a way that's easy to understand.
Not being familiar with Nicholson's work before now, I can tell you her name is definitely on my radar where this subject is concerned. I am truly impressed with this book. I'm hoping to find companion books on the Hospitalers or the Teutonic order that aren't here on Audible, and also an even more expanded writings on the Templars.
This is an incredibly difficult book to review.
On it's own merits, it's not great, but it does make you think, given the comparison and contrast between the ills of society as presented in book 1 and the society of the Utopians as presented in book 2. It's a classic discourse of Humanist argument, contrasting the points of view that would have been prominent at the time. As a comparison with our modern society, it's interesting in and of itself, made somewhat ironic in that the Utopians live in the "New World" that had only recently been discovered.
Taking into account the historical time and place, the new and potentially bright reign of Henry VIII (years before Anne Boleyn entered the picture), and the fact that England was just entering the Renaissance after the rest of the Europe had developed it for 100 years (give or take a decade or two), this book becomes an historical curiosity. This is compounded by the personality, service, and devotion of Thomas More, both to his king and to the Church. History does not record why More wrote the book, and many of the ideas in it are not only alien to Medieval/Renaissance Europe and England, they are in complete contrast with everything we know of More himself. In my eyes, this kicks the book's interest level up a notch. The more you know of the history and the personalities of the age, the more of an anomaly this book becomes, made even more ironic by the infamous events leading to More's execution and the Reformation that swept Europe. The level of how much seriousness vs. how much satire is involved is a topic of debate that continues to this day amongst scholars, and it's easy to see why. The more of an enthusiast or scholar you are for this sort of thing will certainly determine how much you get out of it.
If you listen to enough of the truly classic and classical works found on Audible, it's easy to take for granted the narrators that understand how to deliver a performance that Medieval mysticism demands... until you listen to this guy. Then you wish you had one of those professionals. Any one of them would do. My very first thought on hearing Ray Cole's delivery was, "Jeez, I can podcast better than this." It's a clumsy reading, devoid of any understanding, depth, or flow, sort of like if you hand a copy of Shakespeare to an overly enthusiastic teenager trying to cover his lamentable performance skills. It was so distracting, I had to start the book over once I got a handle on how the book was presented. Thank heaven (no pun intended) that I'm already immersed in Medieval thought and angelology, otherwise I'd have stayed lost right at the outset.
And that brings me to the book itself. If you're looking for the eye-rolling comedy provided ad nauseum by self-proclaimed mediums and new age woo-woo about fluffy winged supermodels (like the one on the book's cover), this is not your book. I was surprised too, given a list of the author's other publications, but sometimes you never can tell from a publishing blurb. If, however, you're a serious student of angelology and all that implies, this one's actually worth looking into, but with caveats. Let me explain.
This is likely not a book for the novice or the casual enthusiast, unless that person is ready to hit the ground running. The author assumes that the reader either has a considerable amount of religious scholarship, a private esoteric reference library, and/or no problem catching up. This book is a deceptively small, eye-opening tome of just how seriously deep the subject of angelology can be. In a nutshell, this is a collection of excerpts taken from first, second, and even third-hand sources about mysticism, be it Christian, Rabbinic, Hermetic, or other. Ordinarily that would be a good thing, however there is little structure for it. It's like reading a researcher's notes, and I suspect that's exactly what it is. The author may only be a compiler. The information is largely just launched at you, the scholarly equivalent of a food fight or castle siege. It's on you to make sense of the chaos. It dives right in, with few points of grounding, explanation, or perspective. It does say in the description of the book that it "presents information from sacred texts about the most significant angels," but it doesn't go much further than that. If you don't know what those texts are, the references are meaningless up front. These texts are difficult enough for the novice to read, let alone to put together into some kind of comprehensible format. If only somebody would do that, perhaps in a friendly overview format? Oh, right...
The problem of comprehension is compounded by the very nature of what makes this book interesting, as I can I can almost guarantee the casual enthusiast has never even heard of many of these sources. For Western audiences, the Biblical portions or excerpts from Milton, Dante, or the Book of Enoch will likely be recognized most (and are leaned upon heavily), but the more arcane texts and commentaries are taken so far out of context that having any of it quoted back through secondary sources makes it daunting to fight through once you realize what you're up against. Those sources are cited often (but not always) after they're quoted at length, adding to the dysfunctional quality of this compilation. It takes some doing, but in the end, it actually IS possible to put this together if you engage with the material. This makes it an overview for deeper scholarship, but if you're looking for the on ramps to explain it all, you'll probably be better off pulling the contextual source material, because this book exemplifies the kind of researcher's rabbit hole that is angelology. It's a mess, but in that regard, this book does give you a starting point for further research. Admittedly, the challenge of the rabbit hole is half the fun for me, but I'm guessing that's not what most people are looking for. If you happen to have access to an arcane library with a slant towards angelology, you'll be better prepared to appreciate what's offered here.
Having said all of that, it may just be that the layout of the book is the biggest problem and just needs some restructuring. Either way, if you are already somewhat-versed in this subject and looking for something that will either challenge your studies to the next level or beat you down mercilessly, it's ultimately worth it if you can navigate it. It does get easier the deeper you go into the book, and there are some truly eyebrow-raising insights to be had if the narrator doesn't kill it for you. Having a collection of excerpts of this nature together in one place can be useful, especially if you get a print copy. And to think, this is just the angels. There's a companion volume by the same author dealing with demonology. I'll try that one at some point too, just because I can, but I'll have to really be in the zone for that.
It doesn't tell you up front, but as the tips and tricks are offered and situations are examined, the usable information here becomes oriented towards sales. The idea is that everyone likes to buy, and nobody likes to be sold. Everything in this book is simple, effective, and easily usable, and you get better with practice, but the direct applications in the sales world for me was an unexpected bonus. The means to provide customer service, defuse hostility, and secure future sales most definitely offers a broader application outside of the sales world. Goodman's approaches to communication are timeless and can help you come across as effortless in using them if you're willing to commit.
Prof. Drout is an enthusiastic speaker, and his passion for the liberal arts comes through in this lecture series. His insights on how to connect the past to the modern world are thought-provoking, to say the least. Admittedly, he's already preaching to the converted on this one, but I always welcome a solid, concrete argument for preserving and studying the liberal arts vs. the somewhat ethereal and half-baked ideas I sometimes hear. If this is a topic you're inclined to look into, this series is most definitely worth your time and attention.
It's pretty clear that Romm has an axe to grind against the political right and especially against those who don't believe in climate change. It's his stock in trade, which he points out.
Looking beyond that, however, it's clear he's studied both the messages and the messengers to the point where he has weaponized the methods of rhetoric. The information comes at the reader hard and fast, but it's solid and instantly usable by anyone looking to improve their oratory capabilities.
As any reader knows, short stories are completely different animals from novels. The questions are: does James Bond work in the short story format, and can Ian Fleming write them?
The answer is a resounding "yes" to both questions. Turns out, I actually prefer Bond in the short story format so far. Who knew? There are 5 stories in this collection, and each one offers not only an intriguing story, but also offers some serious character development that extends past Bond himself. Fleming's standard fascinations with women, drink, food, cars, and guns are all on display, but there's also a more personal and reflective side offered here that might take readers by surprise. Each of the stories are deliver something different, and even the ones that start a little slow ramp up quickly and draw the reader in.
As always, Fleming's abrasive manner of reference in regards to women or minorities also comes through. It's a sign of the times that such things are noticed and improved upon, but new readers should always be aware of it.
The running gag in my reviews of these Bond audios is how the narrator says "007." Some say "double-oh seven," and others say "oh-oh seven." Thankfully, Samuel West says "double-oh seven." Beyond that, West is an excellent narrator and delivers a full performance for all the characters, and the subtle sides of Bond come across as natural.
On the whole, this is a good introduction to early music. It's not quite what I expected, however. I went into this with the definition of early music being limited to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, and while this book did encompass that, it also included Baroque. And that would be even better, save for the fact that most of the material herein was about the Baroque, and thus not the reason for me picking it up in the first place. Still, nothing wasted in that regard. The lessons can be applied all around. The ideas presented here regarding the recreation of early music are fascinating and complex. Once you wrap your head around it, it'll change the way you listen to and appreciate music of any kind. That alone makes this title worth it in my mind.
Anyone coming to this topic with no background and truly looking for an introduction should probably be aware that the information herein comes rapid fire. Vocabulary is defined, but once an idea is introduced, it's assumed you know it, and information is built from there. Newcomers will probably want a print version of this for that reason, and for the reason that the end of the book comes with a rather hefty list of bands, ensembles, and recording labels.
Following up on the story and success of The Plantagenets, Dan Jones now offers a book that I consider to be a public service for those just dipping into this subject. The Wars of the Roses is an era of great turmoil and upheaval, which means the players involved are many, and some of them switch sides as opportunity or desperation strikes. Most history books I've read on this subject either keeps it simplistic (in accordance with the propaganda of the Tudor era) or would have you believe it's so overly complex that only an expert can wade into it with any amount of confidence, and even they might need a score card to keep up. Most people I talk to who know anything about the era have learned from historical fiction. Fine and well as a stepping stone, but no novel can ever compete with the real story. The challenge is to find a book that presents it in such a way as to build the layers of intrigue and still keep it simple enough to read like a novel.
Like The Plantagenents before it, this book fits this bill. The scope and depth of this era are extended out even farther than many other books I've read on this, seeing this entire era as fallout from events in the Hundred Years War. Henry V's victory at Agincourt leads to Joan of Arc's rally of her people, and Henry V's weak and childlike successor to the English throne leads to... this story. Where other books drop the reader right in and let us fend for ourselves, Jones gives us the context and guides us expertly through this time to what will become the reign of the Tudors. The result is a fascinating and satisfying read for those inclined to read a story like this one. While this book stands alone, I personally found it to be a wonderful companion tome to The Plantagenents. I'm hoping Jones is working on a similar project for the Tudors next, being the logical next part of the story.
On a side note, for fantasy enthusiasts, this is the era that provides much of the historical inspiration for George R. R. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire (i.e., Game of Thrones). While there are no dragons or whitewalkers to be found here, the fact that people keep coming back to this well speaks volumes of how interesting this story can be given even a halfway decent presentation. For even the remotely curious, this is an excellent book.
Most vampire stories tend to stick to the standard tropes and clichés, and most of those try to convince the reader that they're different than the others by pointing out how they don't fall into the classic Stoker formula. This one falls right in line with that. Still, there are very few stories that I'm aware of that deal with a vampire's redemption, which is the entire reason I picked up this title. Curiosity won out.
As the opening paragraphs of the book suggest, this book is just the backstory for the character of Sophia, and the real story begins as this book ends. It leaves a lot of room for improvement and expansion. I felt like the whole of the story was rushed in the bid to get to the end of this leg of the journey, and there is a lot of it that lacks that professional polish. It feels more like something you'd read on a fanfic site. Even so, for what it is, I was entertained, and it's got enough promise that I'm curious about book 2, whenever it's available.
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