These are scratchy radio recordings that give you the nuts and bolts of the classic book straight from the mouth of the author. It's a little repetative in places, but the information is worth repeating. This book has never been about "making money." It's about finding success in all manner of your life by shifting the way you see yourself and the world around you. It's hard to argue with the likes of Carnegie, Edison, Ford, and so many countless others from whom Hill drew his research. All it takes is a willingness to look, consider the possibilities of those who have done it, and apply it. Application is what separates anyone else from the giants who changed the world. What you get out of it is directly related to what you put into it and how open you are to the material. I get a new insight from the book everytime I work through it, and this audio adds another layer to it.
Machiavelli's name has become synonymous with evil and corruption, and it was many years with this understanding that I first encountered this book. Now over 20 years later, I return to it with a far better understanding of the situations he writes about and who the players are, most especially Cesare Borgia, whose successes and ultimate failure were of considerable example to this work.
With this new understanding, I'm able to see the pragmatism behind this book, how as a tool to strengthen the objectives of whoever wields it. That it's become a how-to handbook for the tin pot dictators of history is an unfortunate side effect of its wisdom and simplicity that perhaps Machiavelli foresaw when he opted not to publish it himself. But much like Sun Tzu's The Art of War or the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, this book cannot be judged by those who have taken its instruction in the ages since it was written. This book is truly one for the ages, capable of raising our awareness of both its historical context and of the modern world around us.
Much has been written of Sir Francis Walsingham, both as a hero to the realm and as a Machiavellian puppet master. As with anything in history, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle, and this book does a fine job of navigating the waters of statecraft and espionage that were virtually uncharted at the time. John Cooper paints a nuanced picture of Elizabethan England, explaining how it developed to what we know it to be and what particular threats were faced at the time, and then maps out exactly what Walsingham felt he had to do and why. The end result is that we get a complex look at something that's usually painted as two-dimensional, and Walsingham himself comes across as both hero and villain within the subtext of his era. It's fascinating to see how this compares to other spy/torture setups across other times and places in history as well as how the ramifications continue to affect our modern world.
Champions of Elizabeth may have problems with the notion that the events and attitudes described in this book make the queen look weaker than modern perception might paint her otherwise. I think that assessment is to be expected considering Walsingham's operating procedure was that he only had to be wrong once for Elizabeth to be assassinated, whereas the outside forces had many opportunities to plan and attempt. Personally, I think this fits perfectly with my own understanding of how flighty and prone to tantrums Elizabeth could be at times, which is one of the aspects Walsingham had to work around when positioning his network. But that's just my perception. Regardless of how you want to perceive the queen, the fact remains, she had enemies a-plenty, both within and without, both religious and secular. To protect her was a Herculean job by any standard of the day, and for me it's a treat to peel back the layers and see how it was handled. From the perspective of a post-9/11 world, it rings with familiar echoes.
If you've read the first two books, you know what's coming just by the title: the promised quest to end the life of Thor is at hand... but not without some stops, side trips, upheavals, and character backstory info dumps along the way. It's by no stretch the best world building I've ever seen, but it gets the job done and opens the world considerably in the process. This tale doesn't pretend to be something it's not. Instead, it just gets out of its own way so the fun can continue.
After Fleming's cinematic ramp-up in Thunderball, Fleming does an about-face and gives as a small scale story that's almost completely different from a Bond novel we'd expect. I say almost because there are still all the descriptive hallmarks of food, drink, clothes, vehicles, and weapons. But in this case, Bond isn't the protagonist. In fact, he doesn't even show up until about 2/3rds of the way into the story, and even then, it's by complete happenstance. Our protagonist here is a young woman from Quebec, and we follow her journey to London, Europe, and finally the States, getting to know her in ways that feel realistic... to a noir novelist like Fleming. As always, the little details are there to make it lifelike, and you get the sense that Fleming saw such things in his world. But let's be honest, the entire reason to read a book like this is because Fleming's world is not the "real" world as we understand it, especially given the passage of time into a more socially conscious age.
On one hand, there are lines of narration here and there that will have feminists and most modernly-aware readers cringing. You'll know them when you hear them. On the other hand, the woman we get to know evolves into a strong person who just happens to be in over her head in circumstances that spiraled out of control. Wrong place, wrong time. Enter Fleming's off-white knight, 007, to the rescue. He can save the say, but a flat tire is beneath him. For the sake of our lady, that's probably a good thing. As a bonus, she does get to help him deal with the problem rather than being the too-typical damsel in distress. That should help take the edge off when Fleming has her refer to Bond as her shining knight who rode in to slay the dragons. You were, perhaps, expecting high prose in a Fleming novel?
The Spy Who Loved Me is one of those stories where its on-screen counterpart has virtually nothing in common. We get no megalomaniacal supervillains here, which is an anti-climax after getting Blofeld in the previous book. Instead, Bond is facing down a couple of thugs hired as part of an insurance scam. Interestingly, one of them has steel-capped teeth, clearly the prototype for the character who would appear in the movie that uses this book's title: the iconic henchman known as Jaws. Don't get your expectations up. Jaws is a completely different kind of monster. In fact, it's probably best to dismiss any expectations up front and let our heroine tell you her story, her way.
One of the nice touches I found in this book was that it had that early 60s vibe to it. Fleming makes mention of Jack Kennedy a couple of times, and you can tell that he's convinced the Cold War of the late 40s and 50s, and all of the politics that this engendered, is coming to an end, heralded with a new sense of hope. He couldn't know that such wasn't the case, and he couldn't know the events that would happen over the next few years.
For narrator, it's only right that a Bond girl should take up the microphone. Rosamund Pike's performance here is as varied and nuanced as you'd expect from an award-winning actress of her caliber. She tells you in the interview at the end that she found herself shifting her body postures to suit the characters in addition to changing her voice and accents, and all of her attention to detail comes across beautifully. The character of Vivienne Michel, our protagonist, is French Canadian who spent some time in London, and all of the subtleties of that accent are there. If you stop to notice, you won't be disappointed, otherwise it'll carry across naturally. As my reviews of these 007 Reloaded audios also carry the running gag of the pronunciation of "007," I'll simply point out that it's a non-issue here. After all, Pike's a professional Bond girl, a role that she and most of the others in that exclusive club carry with distinction and pride.
I think, aside from Fleming's obvious un-PC attitudes, the biggest weakness of this book is that it follows Thunderball. On it's own merits, it's actually a good little character drama if you can get past the obvious pitfalls of Fleming's ego.
As with the companion volume on Angelology, this "overview" is less of an overview and more just a compilation of notes, as though the narrator is reading the unorganized journal of some researcher. As scattered and haphazard as it is, there is a lot of interesting things packed inside, much of it delightfully medieval, but beginners will almost assuredly be lost from time to time.
It's a different narrator than on Angelology, and I'm not sure it's a better choice. The recording quality is definitely better, and the guy has a better voice, but he loses all credibility with pronunciation. He keeps putting the wrong emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle, and it borders on the cartoonish at times, as though he were trying to pronounce words using a completely different alphabet. But when he does nail it, he does a decent job, considering the mess he's working with.
As with the companion book, my initial recommendation stands: people with a background on this subject or enthusiasts will be better suited for this materials than beginners, and in all cases, the print version will probably be better.
Picking up 3 weeks or so where book 1 left off, this book pushes forward. So far the series is one part Dresden Files and one part Supernatural with a dash of Highlander thrown in just for grins. This particular book opens up the immortality angle by pitting Atticus against a coven of demon-consorting witches from the WWII era. It's hard not to see the influences, and at the same time, it's so easy to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Putting aside initial reactions to certain ideas presented are mandatory as some things may seem counter-intuitive or outright bonkers. But given some thought, there are plenty of ideas worthy of consideration.
As with The Stress of Her Regard, Tim Powers has created historical fiction where the historical details are as accurate as they can get, and the story he weaves draws those details into something truly macabre. It's one of the hallmarks of Powers that makes me admire him as a writer. When I found about this pseudo-sequel to that other novel, my first question was whether or not he could capture lightning in a bottle twice. The previous novel started slowly and built itself into one of the greatest vampire stories I've ever read to date. For the first third of this novel, I was thinking this was a 3-star book. I shouldn't have doubted him.
Where The Stress of Her Regard deals with Byron, Keats, Shelley, etc., as told through the POV of his character Michael Crawford, this one deals with the next generation of poets and artists, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his sister Christina, via the POV of Crawford's son, now grown and with a life of his own. I say this is a pseudo-sequel for just that reason. The events of the story here are clearly overshadowed by and as a direct result of those in the previous novel, but this does stand on its own as well. On its own, it morphs into a magnificently sinister read. It's only when compared to the original that this one lacks anything. Even so, it's still a 5 star read by the time you hit the halfway point. I know of very few vampire stories that can hold up comparatively. It's because Powers takes the time to set everything into place, and he tells this story as though it were written like the works of the period. It just feels right. As a bonus, because the historical events are there for anyone to verify, the weirdness practically invites the reader to get to know (or to reacquaint with) the Rossettis just as the first one did for Byron and his ilk. It's the perfect on-ramp for (re)discovery of the Romantic era.
Since author Kevin Hearne was tapped for a Star Wars novel (to be released next month), I decided to check out his other work. Further curiosity arose when I learned that his work on this series is being compared to another of my personal favorites, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files.
And now that I've blitzed through this first book, I see why. It has a lot of the same pedigree and hallmarks as Dresden, but it's also very different in the same way superheroes are similar from an outsider's perspective but very different when compared to one another in terms of tone, motive, and abilities. The magic of a druid is very different than the magic of a wizard, which lends to a different style of character and story. But at the same time, this book is still a lot of fun and has the potential to grow into something far bigger like Dresden did. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series, no doubt about it.
I'm glad I got this on Audible. Narrator Luke Daniels does an admirable job of pronouncing the names of Celtic deities that I have no business attempting, and his character acting is a blast, matching the tone of the book extremely well.
This book is quite possibly one of the most beautiful works of literature I've ever had the privilege of encountering. It is at once a murder mystery, a theological and philosophical debate, a coming of age story, and a character study and commentary of monastery life in the middle ages. I've seen the movie many times, and now I truly understand what it means in the opening credits when it claims to be a palimpsest of this book. There was no way to tell this story in two hours without scraping clean the parchment and starting over.
Our lead characters are essentially the medieval teacher and apprentice equivalents of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, with Brother William taking to the Great Detective's methodology in manner possibly superior to anything Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote. Umberto Eco's gifts as a philosopher come shining through at every stage, on every side of any discussion or debate.
The book is a slow read, especially by modern standards, but for me it was anything but boring. Having a personal fascination with the middle ages and theological discourse, being a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, being a bibliophile, and being one to enjoy thoughtful and elegant prose that doesn't try to be too flowery, I feel as though this book was virtually tailor made for me to read. And this doesn't even begin to describe the personal effect it had on me while reading it. I truly wish I'd read this book years ago, and as beautiful as it is, it makes me wish I could read it in the original Italian for a more direct experience.
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