Johannesburg, South Africa
Stonefather and Sandmagic are two short stories of Orson Scott Card set in the same world as his new book "The Lost Gate." In Stonefather we meet a boy, called Runnel, who was the family misfit, frequently beaten by his father, just because of his proud face. Card plays with opposites, irony and gullibility to weave a very strong story around Runnel.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Emily Janice Card does justice to it in her narration.
I don't know CS Friedman's work at all. Yet, for some or other reason I enjoyed 'Dominion.' I think it has to do with the concepts that she plays with. I haven't come across the idea of fae being an impersonal substance that can mould and shape things to its nature. For me this concept is quite original.
I have therefore been successfully lured into the Dominion trap. I have bought the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy to find out how the undead sorcerer Gerald Tarrant or his descendants will make it on a planet called Erna. The story rings gothic and vampires seem to be vampires, not rehabilitated citizens of the world.
I didn't think that RC Bray's performance was dull or bad. I thought it appropriate to the type of story told.
If you need a no-brainer gothic thriller to pass the time, this might just be the book for you. I don't know how it fits in with the Coldfire Trilogy. I do suspect that with this writer you might find some originality that is often, sadly to say, absent in a lot of fantasy these days.
Vivian Vande Velde begins with a pithy critical assessment of the traditional Red Riding Hood story as known through the Brothers Grimm. She then re-imagines the story focussing on each character in the traditional story, thus telling and re-telling the story in various short stories. I think the idea is brilliant.
So why not give her 5 out of 5? Well, when it comes to collections of short stories, you always get better stories and lesser stories. This collection is no exception. Generally I enjoyed it... I can especially recommend the last story about the smart cloak, but there were a few very dull stories. Furthermore I expected the writer to understand the traditional Red Riding Hood story within its context. There is hidden eroticism, the idea of coming of age, chastity etc. that hides behind some of the elements in the story, at least that is what many scholars agree on. Where are those elements? It seems that Vivian Vande Velde missed them completely. Red Riding Hood is mostly a silly spoiled brat in her.
That said, Vande Velde came up with a few excellent tongue in the cheek moments filled with good humour. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to see the story in a different light and is in search for light reading.
I think Laural Merlington does a splendid job in reading the audio book. If you just want to relax and not think too much or need something to kill the time, this book might just be for you.
It has happened more than once that I had to consider either buying the ‘Audible’ audio version of a ‘Great Courses’ course or the downloadable video version of the same course. What was I thinking not buying this a course on writing in video format with an accompanying .pdf guide!? The content of Prof Marc Zender’s ‘Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity’ is so gripping, it left me spellbound. (That said, I do have a thorough background in Semitic and Classical Languages… but he was able to broaden my understanding of writing systems.)
He takes the listener through a journey of writing signs and systems in 24 lectures which are intricately connected and completely mesmerising! I think this course is probably one of the best structured courses I have listened yet. Starting with the basic concept of writing, dispelling myths surrounding Futhark (the runic alphabet), he proceeds to more difficult scripts such as that of the Chinese. Subsequently the listener is introduced to the decipherment of different ancient writing systems, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Cuneiform and later on Mayan hieroglyphs. By comparing the properties of different systems of writing, he is able to illustrate some fascinating universal aspects of writing. (He convincingly argues and illustrates that writing systems were invented at different times in different places, but also that some peoples borrowed their writings from others.) Prof Zender discusses failed attempts of decipherment, the reasons thereto, as wells as invented scripts and languages such as those of JRR Tolkien.
This course is a highly accessible as well as an excellent overview of writing over the ages. It is presented professionally. Yet I refrain from giving it 5 stars under ‘story’ and overall because not being able to see the examples that Prof Zender used, kept me an outsider to complete insights. While I do understand that Audible does not provide the accompanying .pdf guide to any of ‘The Great Courses’ not being able to follow the Mayan or Egyptian hieroglyphic examples in the course felt utterly frustrating. I believe that a shortened .pdf file without all the contents of the regular guide could be made available to give the listener the best value for his/her money.
All said, ‘Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity’ is a brilliant course, splendidly arranged, highly engaging, well presented and highly relevant for anyone interested in languages and its writing systems.
Deon Meyer, master thriller writer is at it again. Once again I stand amazed at the amount of research that went into his new book 'Kobra.' He gives a true and believable sketch of the South African Police Service, the railways between Cape Town and Stellenbosch (with one exception), the current perceived state of South Africa as a country and to an extend Interpol and some lesser important things in the novel.
Capt. Bennie Griesel is at it again... doing his bit to make the world a better place. But is he drinking again or is he still fighting the temptation of the bottle? Why is he sleeping in his office? This is the backdrop against which quite a few people are murdered and the Hawks must deliver. But these murders are all committed with bullets marked with a cobra on the shell. Who is this Cobra? What has brought a hired assassin known in Europe to South Africa? Why is the British, American and seemingly South African government on edge?
These are questions that will be asked and answered during this book. Meyer has an excellent ability to bring the rich and the poor together in his books. In Kobra he does it really well. It is where these two worlds meet that the sparks fly.
I think Nic de Jager has the right voice for reading Deon Meyer's books. Fortunately Deon Meyer is not using so many swear words - maybe it is because I don't understand the French swear words - as usual, thus it doesn't detract so much from a really good story and De Jager can read with more confidence. I thought De Jager read the Cape Afrikaans also very convincingly.
If you can read Afrikaans or Dutch, I strongly recommend that you listen to this book. It is mostly even paced and clear. But maybe it is better to wait for the English translation to be available in audio format, especially if you don't understand Afrikaans.
[Afrikaans: Ek dink nie 'n mens kan verkeerd gaan met hierdie boek nie. Dit is 'n spannende ontspan misdaad-riller. Die soort boek waarvan Deon Meyer die meester is. Ek dink Bennie Griesel is 'n karakter wat nou in die Afrikaanse literêre landskap ingeburger geword het, amper soos Sherlock Holmes in die Engelse landskap.]
The 'Joy of Ancient History' is a fruit salad of the best lectures from a vast array of courses on Ancient History by 'The Great Courses.' As an anthology it gives you a taste of everything, without expecting you to finish every fruit. Unfortunately this collection also suffers the shortcomings of anthologies in general. While a tremendous job was done to try and establish cohesion it didn't always work. Listening to the lectures I couldn't help to sometime wish that I could hear a previous lecture just to get into the picture. It spans a vast array of subjects, times and topics. That said, I am grateful for listening to it, because I was introduced to the Terracotta Army, and Prof. J Rufus Ferus' biographical sketches on Julius Caesar (from 'Famous Romans') and Solon (from 'Famous Greeks') made two figures I found boring come alive. Prof. Glen S Holland's lecture on 'Mesopotamian Creation Stories' (from 'Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World') was very interesting. The lost civilisation of the Amazons introduced by Prof. Edwin Barnhart was absolutely fascinating.
You will have difficulty in not gaining something you never knew from these lectures. 36 of the best lectures by professors of the Great Courses is not something you should just pass by. While I didn't like one or two lectures and I felt it sometimes suffered continuity, I thought the choices was generally excellent, intriguing, gripping and awe-inspiring. A must have for anyone interested in some or other aspect of ancient history.
These days it feels as if Trudi Canavan is shooting very straight arrows. A hero (in this case Tyen) sets out on a journey in which he realises that the institution where he studies has been keeping secrets (in this case 'The Academy'). His loyalties are severely challenged and he will become another person. There is also a heroine who finds herself in a very similar situation (in this case Rielle). She discovers basically the same as the hero, but it is more implicit.
It is as if Canavan's foreshadowing technique has become blatant. In the case of Rielle for instance, she is first harassed by a person with a tarnished soul... thereafter the wheels start rolling and guess what she will become... !
The parallels between the two main characters are so obvious, they even end up in more or less the same situation at the end of the book.
What is new? Well magic is not plentiful, it leaves stains in both people's worlds. They live in a multiverse with different worlds. (It makes me think of Orson Scott Card's Gate Thief in some way.) The thing that is new is 'Vella' (probably from the Latin, vellum, which is a page in a manuscript usually made from animal skin) a magic book that was a human being before... guess... the mightiest sorcerer changed her into a book. She is a 'truth'-saying book.
With so much predictability, I can just anxiously hope that Canavan will be able to steer the story to an interesting and unpredictable place. I hope the magic is still coming...
This book is recommended for anyone who want the depth of a Mills & Boon in a fantasy universe... but at this point without the romance. (Funnily the one thing absent is a homosexual character, but then it is not the last book.)
More or less three years ago I opened a facsimile edition of the oldest codex of the complete Christian bible, the fourth century Codex Sinaiticus. I remember thinking while being awed by it that except for the Dead Sea Scrolls, this is the oldest text of the Bible we have - and it is in Greek! This realisation took me on a personal journey to reassess the Greek Old Testament, better known as the Septuagint. When Audible Studios published, Alexander Von Humboldt Fellow & Junior Research Fellow at Oxford, Dr. Timothy Michael Law’s book “When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible” (OUP) I bought it almost immediately.
This is - as far as I know - the only popular introduction aimed at ‘lay’ persons. Most books on the Septuagint are written for scholars and postgraduates, though some like Jennifer M Dines’ “The Septuagint” (T & T Clark) can also be considered for everyone as it is clear and easy to read. That said, Timothy Law’s book comes at the right time, almost six years after “A New English Translation of the Septuagint” (NETS) was published. Readers and listeners of Law’s book who cannot read Greek, can access the text of the Septuagint through an excellent translation when necessary. (However, if you just want to follow his argument, remember to download the PDF file that accompanies the audio book.)
Law writes from a Christian perspective. He begins his book by sketching the effects of the Hellenisation of the Ancient Mediterranean world and how it created the necessity for a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Fairly soon it becomes clear that he wants to venerate the Septuagint as the original bible of the early Church. It has become popular in Septuagint scholarly circles to make out a plea for returning to the Septuagint as the bible of the Church. To an extent it seems that he does it also. (Yet the same plea could be made out for the Latin Vulgate.) But Law has a point, the Septuagint was indeed the preferred text used by the New Testament writers, including Paul and Matthew. It also contains important variant readings that differs from the Masoretic text (the Mediaeval Hebrew Text of the Old Testament provided with vowel marks by the Ben Asher family or Masoretes) which he claims has been downplayed due to conservative theological agendas for too long. I think that this is one of things I found of value in Law’s book, he convincingly illustrates that the Septuagint - through a translation of an often lost Hebrew text - bears witness to alternative textual traditions. Together with that, he offers a different approach to textual authority than the limiting doctrine of “in-errancy.” Highlighting Origen, Augustine and other church fathers’ views he shows how the early Church accommodated different texts of the Bible.
I found Law’s critical and honest approach to the legends surrounding the creation and translation of the Septuagint, of great value. Having read various books that would touch on letter of Aristeas which tells about how it came to be that the Septuagint was translated, I now realise that various scholars may have reported only what other scholars had to say about it. It is clear to me now that the letter of Aristeas doesn’t say explicitly that 70 scholars translated the Septuagint over a certain period in seclusion where after they compared their translations to that of each other, finding them to be exactly the same. This is a later interpretation of the story.
Another issue that Law made me think about was the order of the Decalogue (ten commandments) and how it differs (especially in order) between the scrolls from the Dead Sea, the Septuagint and the Gospels. One cannot just presume that the Hebrew text’s order is the correct order, which has an influence on how one should evaluate Jesus quoting of the commandments.
This brings me to the one thing that I have been wondering about Law’s study. While he illustrates how complex it can be when dealing with quotations of the Septuagint texts and its revisions in the New Testament, he seems to assume that the New Testament writers didn’t adjust the text of the Septuagint to make a point. All differences between the Septuagint and the New Testament can therefore be explained in terms of different layers of Septuagint texts that were used by the New Testament writers. If I take his argument a bit further it would mean that theoretically one should be able to date various books in the New Testament according to the revisions and type of Septuagint text that they used. I am a bit sceptical about his assumption that the Septuagint’s text was almost mechanically used by the New Testament writers.
All that said, I think that Dr. Law’s “When God spoke Greek” is a very timely introduction to the Septuagint. I admire him for writing a popular introduction on a highly technical topic. It is a tremendously important work which - I hope - will bring a new appreciation for the Septuagint. Maybe a new generation of seminary students will buy the ‘Biblia Graeca’ of the German Bible Society which contains both the critical texts of the New Testament and the Septuagint and not just the New Testament and ‘Biblia Hebraica.’
“When God spoke Greek” is an up to date, engaging work of which every Christian and Jew should take note. It illuminates the two religious traditions through the Sacred Scriptures of the Hellenistic Jew and the story of how it became the Scriptures of the Christian Church until it was replaced in the West with the Vulgate. It definitely challenges long-held perceptions on theology, the Bible and its text.
I wish I could say that I enjoyed Stephen F. McLaughlin narration as much as the content of the book. He is an established audio book narrator with more than 20 books up his sleeve. His pronunciation of word and sentences is clear and easy to follow. His accent is quite neutral. Having listened to other samples of his interpretative reading, I cannot say that this was his best reading. I suspect that he read the book slower than most of his other productions. Furthermore I really got the idea that he doesn’t know Greek, Hebrew or Latin, especially because of accent placed wrongly on words. However McLaughlin gave a decent performance that shouldn’t hinder you to buy the audio book.
“When God spoke Greek” is a must-have for anyone interested in the story of the Bible.
Focussing on Everyman throughout history, Dr. Robert Garland, Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics at Colgate University, USA, attempts to put you, the listener, in the everyday sandals of different people of the Ancient World. Cladding the listener with the respective identities of a Palaeolithic human (1 lecture), a Mesopotamian (1 lecture), an Egyptian (4 lectures), a Greek (11 lectures), a Roman (11 lectures), the different ancestors of the British (4 lectures) and that of a Medieval person (7 lectures), he confronts you with the lives of ordinary humans. This is probably the reason why the material presented is so interesting.
The comparisons with our own day and age makes it fascinating. Dr. Garland is a tour guide that takes you through the proverbial looking-glass to show you the other side of history. This metaphor he uses in various way throughout the course hence he is able to bind 48 30 minute lectures together in a whole. I admire the way he carefully compiled and structured the course. He kept me with him even though I am not British or American. (I was acutely aware of his Western bias during the course. It is probably also the reason for its popularity.)
Throughout the lectures, Dr. Garland was engaging. I didn’t count any ‘uhm’ or ‘ah.’ The course is highly polished and tremendously informative. So if you are interested in history or just everyday life, recline at this table the cuisine is ready to be enjoyed.
‘Medical School for Everyone: Grand Rounds’ starts with a disclaimer which boils down to something sounding like “This course is not supposed to make you a medical doctor.” After such a disclaimer one might feel hesitant to continue listening, but I am glad that I did. The course’s actual aim is to make one a better patient by introducing you to the way doctors think and function to make a diagnosis. However I just bought it out of pure curiosity.
The course consists out of twenty four 30 minutes lectures by Prof. Roy Benaroch from Emory University School of Medicine where he specialised in Paediatrics. He seems to be well-known in the USA through his blog and his books ‘A Guide to Getting the Best Healthcare for Your Child’ and ‘Solving Health and Behavioral Problems from Birth Through Preschool: A Parent’s Guide.’ He also writes Science Fiction.
The listener is invited to imagine him-/herself to be a doctor that goes on rounds visiting various patients. You get the chance to be the sidekick of a sort of Medical Sherlock Holmes, thus you may be a highly opinionated Watson. By looking at different patients presenting diseases and using the steps doctors take to diagnose them, Prof. Benaroch introduces listeners to the world of a doctor as well as to many (mostly common) illnesses. For me the most interesting round was the Antarctic appendectomy on myself.
The course falls in the same category as Prof. Robert Garland’s course, “The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World,” in the sense that it use make-believe to make you understand important concepts. Prof. Benaroch has an excellent voice and it was quite easy to follow his lectures, though some of the medical terminology kept me at times in the dark.
I would recommend this course to anyone inclined to solve mysteries, thrive on puzzles and clues. While you will not be a qualified doctor hereafter, it can help you in understanding the framework within which doctors ‘operate.’ It comes highly recommended.
Before Prof. Ehrman became a real celebrity with works like "Misquoting Jesus," "Jesus Interrupted," "God's Problem" and "Did Jesus Exist?" or more recently "How did Jesus become God", he wrote a book called "Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium" (OUP: 1999). For me, this book towers above the others. "The Historical Jesus" course in the Great Courses series is based on this book.
Much of Prof. Ehrman's ideas seems somehow still fresh. So while it is one of the older courses in the Great Courses series, it is excellent and of great value. The lecture series starts of with the various ways in which people depict and think of Jesus, where after it looks at its sources to get to know something about Jesus. He discuss the historical criteria used by critical scholars and historians to discern who Jesus was. He then gives his own reconstruction of Jesus which include his early life, the context within which he lived, his apocalyptic message, his words and deeds and his last hours.
As an ancient historian he limits his understanding of Jesus to the natural phenomena that could take place, while Ehrman leaves the rest to 'theologians.' He follows in the German Albert Sweitzer's thesis that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet.
What I like about this course, is that Prof. Ehrman gives a thorough and honest overview of the current state of Jesus research while he is empowering listeners to do their own investigation. But be warned, he might not be everyone's cup of tea. If you are a committed Evangelical for instance, you might find is lectures offensive.
Still, it is an excellent place to start if you want to find out more about the historical Jesus.
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