The follow-up to a really great work often pales in comparison to what went before, but The Magician King is, if anything, better than The Magicians. The story is even more riveting, and it is intricately and expertly told, with two plot-lines that appear to have little to do with each other coming together in the end in a surprising way to sum up the whole story. In the first book we learned about how Quentin came by his magic. In this book we learn about Julia, as her magical education is explained in a seemingly unrelated side story that actually climaxes as the main story also climaxes, the two becoming one.
I can't wait until book 3.
I will read nothing else by Jack Whyte. The Skystone started out as an average work of fantasy - perhaps even a bit above average due to the historical detail he provided for the period about which he was writing. But I quickly became weary of the redundant profanity. Seriously, how many times per page should a good writer use the word "whoreson"? But what finally put an end to my listening experience was the bigoted way he treated homosexuality. Introducing a criminally insane and apparently gay character, making sure the reader realized his homosexuality was part and parcel of his evil and hateful nature, was simply too much. I don't expect fantasy writers to utilize human sexuality in ways that our culture currently understands them (though some fantasy writers have done precisely this), but to use one's writings to reïnforce hateful stereotypes and promote one's own bigotry on the subject is unacceptable. Is Mr Whyte free to spread misunderstanding through the books he authors? Sure. But I also have the freedom to avoid him in the future. His treatment of sexuality did nothing to advance the story or help the reader understand the historical era. It simply added to misunderstanding and hate.
Kevin Pariseau is technically a good reader, but his normal reading voice is a bit prim. Unfortunately he over-compensated when changing voices, making many characters sound rather goofy.
This is a great sequel to The Shining, though it could stand alone if the reader hasn't actually read that book. The characters are great, and the narration is top-notch.
This book delivered exactly what I expected: The truth about the life of a man who became a cliché. But it also delivered something unexpected, and that is a clear and sensible look at the causes and course of the First World War. And it's also true to the part of its subtitle that promises an understanding of the making of the modern Middle East.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a typical Gaiman creation. In otherwords, excellent. As is the case with much of his writing, childhood is a central feature. Gaiman beautifully takes the alienation of being different and creates a world in which the outcast becomes a hero - but not in a saccharin sort of way. And since he not only wrote but also narrated it, you can't go wrong with this audiobook.
After seeing the way he handled Fox News ignorance, I was looking forward to reading Aslan's book. I can't say that I was disappointed, but I can't say that I was overly impressed, either. People who have never been exposed to literary/historical biblical criticism, or those who have never looked into the historical Jesus really would benefit from reading Zealot. But for those who are part of mainline churches, there's not too much here that's completely new.
I suppose what underwhelmed me was the author's seeming lack of realization that there are millions of Christians who are continually confronted with the tension between (as he differentiates them) Jesus the Christ and Jesus the Zealot. It is this very tension that causes our faith to grow and thrive, and the doubt it creates forces us to be tolerant of other viewpoints.
As all authors do - even in scholarly works - Aslan manipulates words, research, and data to prove his point. One point in the book stands out, and that is his treatment of the baptism of Jesus. He very cogently examines how this event in the life of Jesus is dealt with in each of the four gospels, moving from an explicit reference to John being the baptizer to no direct connection at all between Jesus' baptism and John. I found it very thoughtful and meaningful until Dr Aslan suddenly referred to Christianity's "frantic" attempt to disassociate John from the baptism of Jesus. Does he not realize that this is nothing new to mainline Christians, that we don't see anything "frantic" about this phenomenon, and that we are well aware of the greater popularity of John and the possibility that Jesus started out as his disciple?
In closing, there's nothing about this work that I find incorrect. After all, Dr Aslan is a greater scholar than I'll ever be. But I would just advise the reader that even excellent scholars can choose subjective words to manipulate the reader's (or listener's) opinions.
Laypersons reading this book would do well to discuss it with their pastor. In so doing, may would discover that much of what the author talks about has already been incorporated into the thinking of their denomination (especially if it's the UCC, ELCA, PCUSA, UMC, ECUSA, ABC etc).
Jake Gyllenhaal does a great job narrating this classic. His voice is smooth and pleasant, and varies according to the character.
The introduction to this book seemed interesting, but then the chapters themselves seemed quite tedious. As it reached its conclusion, however, it proved to be quite good and very surprising. I highly recommend this as a sci-fi read.
Throaty. Distracting. Slurred.
I found Ms. Hart's narration to be sub-par, unfortunately. Her voice has a nice throaty quality, I suppose, but for some reason she is often unable to make normal transitions between words, especially when a word that ends in a voiced stop is followed immediately by another voiced stop. She added a syllable between words that didn't belong there, which made listening to her unpleasant, and rendered many words and phrases incomprehensible. In English we have stops. Speakers of English need to master stops. We even need to insert glottal stops in order to distinguish one word from the next on occasion. I see no reason why the narrator of an audiobook cannot embrace this aspect of the English language.
This is my first experience of this author's work, and I am quite impressed. Moon has a real way with words, and the plot is both unique and interesting. The narration notwithstanding, I highly recommend this audiobook.
This series is just fantastic. The second book is a nice sequel to the first, and the story keeps getting more involved and even more unique.
With most OSC series, things get a bit overwrought in the end, and I can see the seeds for that being planted even now while I'm enjoying practically every word. Only time will tell if the follow-up books get tedious.
But for now, the magic is unique, the characters continue to develop, and the plot thickens. I would like to do nothing more than sit and listen to this stuff for hours on end.
First of all, a disclaimer: Theology is my day job. So I was coming at this book from a very particular angle. I would not normally have read it, but a friend from abroad was asking me about it, and so I sort of did it as a favor for her. I nonetheless feel my time and audible credit were well spent.
Who this book is for: This book is for those who can appreciate and receive sincere accounts of others' experiences without condemning them and without adopting them as one's own. It is also for those who fear death, who are questioning their faith, or who are facing end-of-life issues. Finally, it is also for those who really like good writing read by the one who wrote it. Dr Alexander has a soothing voice, a gentle North Carolina accent, and a deep sincerity. There are a couple of points in the book where his voice breaks, so overcome is he with emotion, and in this context it feels entirely appropriate for him to have done so.
Who should avoid this book: Those who insist upon a specifically Christian view of the afterlife. If you are either looking for affirmation of Christian dogma or proof of any aspect of the Bible, you will be sorely disappointed. If need to be assured that some will go to heaven but that others will be punished, you won't find it here. You probably will not encounter Christ in this book, nor will you encounter in Dr Alexander's account any proof that you will be met/received/guided by someone you knew well in this life but who has died before you.
I was able to receive Proof of Heaven as the author's vision or perhaps as a revelation made to him - a vision recounted in the context of a very interesting life that was already filled with search for meaning, and which was already dealing with its own pain. It includes family history, and even a very interesting and satisfying plot twist in the end. I'm glad I listened to it.
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