The basic premise explored by Dan Brown in the DaVinci Code had been set forth some 20 years earlier in books such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail. This premise of The DaVinci Code was not a surprise to those familiar with Henry Lincoln and his associates. A minor spate of books exploring the same or closely related topics have been published over the last 20 years. All these books are written from the perspective that the life and death of Jesus was significantly different from hundreds of years of Church teachings. The cryptic essence of the Holy Grail and the secret society that is the keeper of the "Grail Knowledge" provide the principal theme on which the plot hangs.
I say this, not to detract from Brown's efforts, but rather to point out that the major ideas that Brown weaves into this engrossing story are not unique to Brown. However, it is the novelization of these ideas for which Brown is to be commended. The DaVinci Code is a novel that takes these ideas and presents them in an exciting and overall well-crafted story. It holds your attention throughout. In the process, he introduces many new tidbits and topics of arcane interest, prior books not withstanding. Readers unfamiliar with the prior works will find The DaVinci Code full of esoterica and plot twists that will cause them take a more critical look at the religious dogma that have been carefully perpetuated and guarded by the Catholic Church and most of its off shoots for nearly two millennia.
On a negative note, Brown has a slight tendency to occasionally over explain and overkill a topic. However, on balance, I found the novel to be entertaining, informative and a technically satisfying read (listen).
As one who thoroughly loves George Carlin's live stand-up, I found Pork Chops to be lacking the spontaneous, intellectual and irreverent humor that makes Carlin Carlin. The irreverence and intelligence were there at times, but I simply did not find it humorous. I didn't finish the book. I gave it about half way through hoping for something to make me laugh. After all, this was the first of Carlin's books to which I had listened, so I was hoping I just needed to acclimate to the medium. Even with Carlin reading, it didn't happen for me.
Dan Brown in Angels and Demons introduces us to a secret ancient brotherhood dedicated to destroying the Catholic Church. Not withstanding its pronounced demise, the Illuminati make a modern day appearance, embodied in advocates within the Church leadership, and nearly complete their mission during a conclave of the College of Cardinals. The idea is very interesting, but that is just about as far as Angels and Demons gets. The plot is weak, at points actually incredible and on occasion Brown gets his physics wrong. The walk through the halls of the Vatican and the insight given to the machinations of the College of Cardinals, the Swiss Guard and other activities attendant upon the election of a Pope provides almost redeeming qualities. But nonetheless, the plot is so slow moving and lacking in real tension that is becomes difficult to slog through it. (Unpredictable, it is not.)
There is a terribly handled, totally superfluous sex scene at the end of the book. Brown could have spared us these details, because the story had long since come to its end.
?Lies? is a succinct expos? of what Franken sees as the brazen and callous calumny that exudes from the self-?righteous? right. It is a welcomed complement to ?Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot.? In ?Lies? Franken takes on the entire pantheon of conservative icons with no holds barred. Based on fully researched and well-documented sources, Franken cleverly, systematically and satirically takes apart these automatons of the big, boldfaced lie. Using their own words against them, Franken punctures their hyperbolic, rhetorical balloons and shows the ?Lying Liars? to be nothing more than hot air lacking substance. His well-honed use of satire quickly reduces the pompous arguments of the right-wing standard bearers to absurd inarticulate whines.
Franken has an exceptional depth and breadth of political knowledge. This is not a book for those who march in lock-step to the tam-tam of the conservative drum beat. They won?t even begin to understand what Franken is saying. For those who see the current conservative movement as antithetical to their own political beliefs, they will delight in seeing their villains gored. And for those in the middle of the political spectrum, it can be a truly enlightening experience.
Franken?s reading of his own material added authenticity and enhanced the humor. Recorded material was inserted into the audio book from time to time which further added unimpeachable authenticity to the presentation.
It is a technically very well-crafted audio book. The logic is easy to follow and the humor is biting.
A Red Bird Christmas is a Christmas tale for those who still have the spirit of wonder and awe. Even jaded demeanors will be softened by the experience of A Red Bird Christmas. When you listen to A Red Bird Christmas, expect a miracle because you get one -- a big one and several others for good measure.
The author reads the story in her own personal and intimate style. It is warm. It is homey. It is a story of miracles, love and redemption. The characters are real and special. They are people you know or wished you knew. It is story for the season. We all long, just a little, to be in Lost River.
After reading the story, Ms. Flagg talks about her own growing up, small towns and how she incorporates people she has known into her characters. This added a special insight into how Red Bird Christmas came about. I found it to be an edifying addition to the production.
This is an excellently produced audio book.
'Tis is the final chapter of a story begun with Angela's Ashes. In this book Frank McCourt, like many of us, struggled with much of the banality of life. This seemed so more evident in 'Tis than in Angela's Ashes. 'Tis lacks the vivid imagery, the depths of pathos and the unmitigated joy and anticipation of childhood dreams unfulfilled. But McCourt's lilting Irish voice is still there adding to 'Tis that same quality of intimacy and authenticity. By much of 'Tis, McCourt has overcome the real impediments in his life. It doesn't matter that not as much happens in 'Tis. He has made it back to America, after all. (In how many cases do our adult lives measure up to our childhood fantacies, anyway?) 'Tis is the needed punctuation to complete his story. McCourt's often inability to know what to do is only obvious to us because we are viewing from the outside with the benefit of his 20/20 hindsight. If most of us did what McCourt did and penned our own lives as openly and honestly, we would see that in this sense Frank McCourt is truly Everyman.
It is a book that affirms the beauty of being human with all its dreams, hopes, banalities, failures and successes.
The book is less an exploration of the Gospel of Thomas than an exploration of the competing movements and ideas that were present in the early Christian Church. It begins by comparing the gospels of John and Thomas using a unique, to this listener anyway, hypothesis but moves quickly to a broader view of the first three centuries of Christianity. It is none the less an excellent representation of the impeccable research and sensitivity of Elaine Pagels.
The listener is brought to see the importance of the Nag Hammadi texts to the understanding of First-Third Century "Gnosticism" and what would have been lost had these documents not been hidden some 1600 years ago. The question occurs: What documents might not have been preserved and thus lost from these formative years of Christianity? Based on the importance of the Nag Hammadi texts, we are intellectually poorer for any that might have been lost.
The book is very easy to follow. The narrator does an excellent job in reading the text with authority and understanding. It is, technically speaking, a very good presentation.
I certainly recommend it to those who have interests in this area of historical research.
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