As a man interested in the lessons of history and the code of chivalry for most of my life, to the point of having learned the art of the sword (actual steel, not that foam stuff used for LARP), I was understandably curious about this title and took the plunge to be the first reviewer.
Here's the bottom line of it, up front: the author is a well-intentioned minister, and his aim here is less about chivalry than it is converting you to Christianity. He tells you up front this is so, and he even says he's unapologetic about it. Fine and well, it's his book. To him it's one and the same, and it's just not so. Faith is but one facet of chivalry. That wouldn't be so disappointing given the historical context of knights, except that this book is approached as a Sunday prayer service (seriously, there are numerous prayers for guidance within) and ministry rather than as historical extrapolation for translation to the modern world. He tries both, and he truly believes he can convert those who aren't in the flock already, but... well, you perhaps see where I'm going with this. It's the same imbalanced mistake every would-be converter to the faith makes in that he readily assumes that an open mind is all it'll take to bring you over to their side. The result is that if you're not already a part of the flock, you're likely to be turned off almost immediately.
The views presented within are not so wrong from the perspective of the converted and faithful, but they are incredibly misguided from the standpoint of the code of chivalry. There are a number of historical inaccuracies, but I think in this case the spirit of intent was far more important to the author. The biggest fallacy I found, other than the need to convert everyone, is that he apparently believes there is only one code of chivalry, and his reliance on it to redirect the reader back to Scripture knows no bounds. I guess if that's all you found in your research, that's what you roll with, but I doubt if he knows if his code originates with a Catholic or Protestant order of knights. I know of a handful of historical codes of chivalry, and not all of them are Christian-oriented. I personally follow one that relies heavily on faith and similar points presented here without necessarily being Christian. It can be applied easily to nearly any well-intentioned faith as well as a morally-strong agnostic point of view, much like the code of the Boy Scouts. While I'm certain that would get me burned as a heretic in the Middle Ages, I submit this point as my primary fault with this title and its intent. Personally, I have nothing against Christianity or its precepts, but like any religion or sect out there, the fundamentalists tend to create this unintentional wall between themselves and those they wish to convert. The willingness of the recipient has to be there, and such is the case presented here. The Biblical research may be there, but the historical content simply isn't in many cases. That said, if you buy the message as the author hopes, you can probably apply the rest if you're willing to do the work. This basic building block and the approach the author takes will have its audience, but that audience isn't me. Approaching this from a more generalized angle rather than an everyone-needs-to-be-assimilated perspective would have been far better for my needs.
For those who are inclined to play along, the author will also rattle off Biblical passages at speeds the Flash couldn't keep up with, so you'll either need to pause frequently or find a paper copy of the book.
I'm working under the assumption that if you went through part 1 of this, you already know what to expect, but just in case... this is a military history, not a biographical or political history. That means it's deals with logistical info and battle data such as troops, routes, supplies, equipment, and other such things. Political background is limited, so for those looking for an overview, this is not the place to begin. But for the advanced scholar of this era, this is more suited for war gaming simulations and such.
Where volume 1 of this deals with Edward III's campaigns and has English bias due to a lack of French information from the period, this volume has considerably more to work with on both sides of the fight. There era between Edward III and Henry V is largely glossed over, mostly due to lags between skirmishes, but from the road to Agincourt to the end of the war, it's all here in magnificent detail.
There are few offerings on Audible for this particular set of campaigns, so anyone interested in this really needs to know up front what they're getting into.
The first thing to note is that there are different kinds of historical accounts, and these serve different functions. This account is NOT a political history. It's a military history. That means that, just as the synopsis says, the causes of the war are briefly touched upon, but the bulk of this narrative deals with troop movements, battles, and the overall progress of the armies involved. For the armchair war gamer, this book will be the type that gets people to pull out the old maps and push around plastic markers.
For those not familiar with the time period, please understand that this work isn't targeted for those seeking to learn the basics, and it was never meant to be. In other words, you will not find here an understanding of who these people are and why they're doing any of what they do. This book is targeted for those who are already interested in (and thus have a solid idea of) the biographies and politics of the age and want to dig deeper into the campaigns themselves. Personally, I'd recommend starting with overview histories of Medieval England and France so as to learn who the key players are and to get a sense of the politics. Start broad so you can see how each era molds the next, then start narrowing the focus to this era. Get to know the likes of Edward III, the Black Prince, John of Gaunt, Philip the Fair, Henry V, and Joan of Arc. From there, move to a working knowledge of armor, of castle sieges, and of swords, longbows, and cannon, as these things will inform your understanding of what these troops were dealing with. And then if you decide you absolutely love the idea of a military history, this is the book for you. Most general history enthusiasts never get to this point. It's not a mark against the historian or the audience, it's simply a measure of the specialization involved. Some might take a book such as this as an opportunity to test their personal limits.
If you ARE in this target audience, you might want to know that some details within are compared to battles and movements through the same areas in World War I, and there are even parallels to the American Civil War, so if you know something about those campaigns, even better.
It should also be noted that this is not a fair and balanced account of the war. This is a more British-centric account, by a British historian, for a British audience, using mostly British resources. And while that might also be a big negative for some, it's folly to assume every history has to be a balanced account. There are considerably fewer Muslim-centric accounts of the Crusades available in English, for example, than there are Crusader-oriented accounts by the very nature of the historians. Understanding the strengths and interests of the historian helps to better understand the history being provided. General audiences will have a harder time wrapping their heads around this, but this is common, especially for military histories. It's also important to note that the French forces were largely pounded, especially under Edward III's campaigns, so their records are simply harder to find. That we have anything at all is of value.
Other reviewers have commented on the quality of the narration. I'm predisposed to enjoying Charlton Griffin's work, though admittedly most of what I've heard him narrate up to this point is more literary. For example, he did an amazing job with Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, but you won't find such poetry here. Griffin is clearly aware of it too. He brings some level of drama to this account, but the account doesn't lend itself to melodrama. It's dry and scholarly reading for a niche audience, as you might expect an historian to deliver. Griffin does his best to kick it up a notch, and to my mind he does so admirably. As to his pronunciation of French... I don't know French, so I can't tell how close to the mark he is. I only know that most British speakers have peculiar but consistent ways they mangle the French language as a cultural prerogative that goes all the way back to 1066, and this is probably in keeping with it. All things considered, it sounded good to my ears, but as I say, I don't speak French. My advice is to listen to the sample and judge accordingly.
Having understood up front what to expect, and being interested enough to give it a go anyway, I think my only real gripe is that this title is broken into two parts. For the life of me, I can't imagine why, especially since the physical book is a single volume. If I can get the entirety of the Bible or the original Sherlock Holmes canon spanning dozens of hours for only one credit, why can't I get 20 hours of military audio for the same? Also, it'd be nice if there were maybe some PDF material that gave us some workable military maps. Still, for what it is, I'm rather pleased with it. I'd still love to get some better political overviews of this era on Audible though.
Credited as the very embodiment of chivalry in a time with the concept was just coming into its own, William Marshal was very nearly executed at the age of five yet would go on to serve as the backbone of the Plantagenet dynasty. He would rebel against kings, serve alongside kings, go on Crusade, and become instrumental in the signing of Magna Carta. By any measure, this man is a legend in the annals of knighthood, England, and the whole of the Middle Ages.
This new biography is nothing less than impressive. While it does help to have some background knowledge of the Plantagenet dynasty and its key players (I highly recommend Dan Jones' The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England), the great thing about this book is that it does stand on its own for those who are just dipping their toes into this part of history. This means it works very well as both an introduction to the man and his times and as supplemental reading to other works. It's an easy read, but it's by no means lightweight in its approach. The result is that the Greatest Knight steps out to shine as one of the most respected men in history, fully accessible to modern readers some 800 years later.
Right from the beginning, this series has been a steampunk story flavored with one part James Bond and one part X-Files. This time around it's a bit more 007 (with shades of Skyfall), and we get a little Doctor Who type vibe thrown into the mix. I won't say how, because that would ruin some of the surprises.
Picking up in the immediate aftermath of Dawn's Early Light, our intrepid agents have kindled a romance, but their time to savor it has been cut short by a distress signal that calls them back to London. One of their Ministry Seven, their street urchin informants, is missing. Worse still, the Crown has disavowed the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and its agents are now systematically being picked off by agents of the Department of Imperial Inconveniences. Our heroes must survive the culling, expose the villains, and rescue one of their own. Secrets are revealed! Backstories are explained! And if you pay close attention, there are a few jabs at modern pop culture to be had.
As with the previous entries in this series, it's a light, fun read with all of the humor, pseudo-science, and historical cameos you've come to expect. And as with the previous entries, the further this story goes, the more outlandish it gets. For all of these reasons, this continues to be my favorite steampunk series.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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