Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan

Three Stars

“It is said there are no atheists in war; there are lots of pantheists at the edge of the cliff.”

Listened to this as an audio book. The story is Trent’s usual fall-in-mud-and-emerge-smelling-like-a-rose, not to mention saving the day, story.

“Not so lucky as to be an idiot, at least in so far as this is concerned.”

Kate Reading nailed Lady Trent’s Received Pronunciation and several other accents as well. However, while it’s fun to read, it’s a pain to listen to for ten hours. Probably won’t try this again, though this narrative made the miles flash by.

“I cannot be glad for the death of mean, even my enemies.”

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Movie Review: Pixar’s Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Pixar’s Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich

Four Stars

A visually and emotionally pleasing original story about a living boy’s visit to his family in the land of the dead. Sympathetic portrayal of Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. Warm relationships. Music and family are big themes.

Before taking children to see it, parents may wish to have an age-appropriate discussion about the afterlife. A lot of it is played for laughs, but issues presented may be unsettling to young children.

 

Book Review: Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Busman’s Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey #13) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Four Stars

“We can’t pick and choose. Whoever suffers, we must have the truth. Nothing else matters.”

This story opened like a farce compared to the previous serious detective tale, Gaudy Night, however it ends being one of the richest of the series in terms of literary allusions, humor and psychological insights. Sayers returns to the lasting impact of shell shock (World War One’s PTSD) and the personal cost of exposing criminals.

“Come and hold my hand,” he said. “This point of the business always gets me down.”

Sayers loads this book with quotes from all over, as several characters speak in quips. For a change, they identify (to each other and the reader) their sources.

“Earnestly hope we shall not have another war with meat coupons and no sugar and people being killed–ridiculous and unnecessary.” (1937)

Sayers again assumes a high level of literary among her readers; that they are fluent in French and Latin. Also her rendering of rural dialect is occasionally impenetrable.

“There’s no one like the British aristocracy to tell you a good stiff lie without batting an eyelid.”

We are also reminded that English society is, or was, fundamentally different than American. We may talk about class divisions here, but they were never universally accepted.

“Harriet … felt depressed, as one frequently does when one gets what one fancied one wanted.”

For all the loose ends she fastens, one would think this volume closed the series. Indeed, she eventually moved to writing plays. Sayers considered her translation of Dante’s Divina Commedia her best work.

“You’re my corner, and I’ve come to hide.”

Book Review: Sister Solweig & Mr. Denial by Kameron Hurley (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Sister Solweig & Mr. Denial by Kameron Hurley

Four Stars

“… When the sun hiccuped over the horizon …”

Excellent short story, if a bit gory. Hurley handles words like a master. She draws beautiful (or ugly) pictures with sparse prose. The point of view (“Mr. Denial”) makes it work. Assume this is a tease for a longer work or works.

“What we want rarely intersects with where we are.”

Book Review: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey #12) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Five Stars

“He has been about as protective as a can opener.”

Excellent. Best story of the series. Engaging plot and exposition. Sayers’ voice sounds more authentic when the point-of-view character is Harriet Vane, a writer of murder mysteries. Lord Peter has added depth, including a real purpose, the secrecy about which is also explained. The setting, a fictional woman’s college at Oxford, is drawn with perception.

“… mentally turning the incidents of the last hour into a scene in a book (as is the novelist’s unpleasant habit).”

The Lord Peter stories can be read in any order. If you read no other, read this one. However, if you do you will spoil Continue reading

Universal Song Remains the Same and Beyond All the Light We Cannot See

This explains in an understandable way why we only see “back” to CMB, not all the way to the Big Bang. Helpful.

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For such a small chapter, this week’s topic on Cosmology has some large and deep concepts.  I’m attempting to delve into “How did the period of inflation cause the universe to become homogeneous and isotropic?

Definitions

Big Bang ~ Universe began as an extraordinarily hot, dense primordial atom of energy and caused expansion, just like an explosion.  Before that moment, nothing existed, not even space and time.  Rather, the explosion created spacetime, which continues to expand.  (Comins, 446)

Cosmic microwave background (CMB) ~ If the universe began with a hot Big Bang, then calculations indicated the energy remnants should still fill all of space today. The entire universe’s temperature should be only a few kelvins above absolute zero.  This radiation’s blackbody spectrum peak should lie in the microwave section of the radio spectrum.  (Comins, 446)

Isotropy of CMB ~ The cosmic microwave background radiation is almost perfectly isotropic…

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Book Review: The Nine Tailers by Dorothy L. Sayers (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Nine Tailers (Lord Peter Whimsey #11) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Three Stars

“Probably I’m tryin’ to be too clever.”

I liked it but, by the time you’ve read a dozen books in a series, you’ve not only learned the modus operandi of the protagonist but that of the author as well. The surprises may still surprise, but the way they develop is not a surprise.

“’Nature has marvelous powers of recuperation.’ Which is the medical man’s way of saying that, short of miraculous intervention, you may as well order the coffin.”

A good story, lost in the minutiae of ringing peals (of church bells) in rural England. The church bells get into every aspect of the story, including the murder. Lord Peter at his best as Sherlock Holmes acting as if he’s Bertie Wooster.

“Take care of the knot and the noose will take care of itself.”

Book Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

Four Stars

“Tell just enough of the truth, but never lie.”

Is there anything Tom Hanks can’t do … and do well? Add writing fiction to the list. His prose is compelling, if pedestrian. Great stories, with a lot of heart.

“Every day in Gotham is a little like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and a little like Baggage Claim after a long, crowded flight.”

Somewhere in each story is a cameo (at least) by an old typewriter. Hanks collects them. Occasionally their presence is an intrusion, but mostly they fit right in. At least once it serves as the McGuffin. While some are contemporary stories, many are set mid-twentieth century.

“In a flash as well defined as that from a Speed Graphic camera ringside at a prize fight …”

Best story is “These are the Meditations of my Heart.”

“… as nutty as a can of Planters.”

Movie Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas, directed by Bharat Nalluri (Five Stars)

the_man_who_invented_christmasMovie Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas, directed by Bharat Nalluri

Five Stars

“No one is useless in this world,”

Outstanding. A mashup of historical biography and fantasy. Nalluri, Coyne and Standiford take viewers into the soul of Charles Dickens as he almost doesn’t create A Christmas Carol in 1843. The pace and production values exactly match the theme. Dan Stevens is great; Christopher Plummer is incredible.

“We must not disturb the poet when the divine frenzy is upon him.”

Before seeing it, remind yourself of both the story and Dicken’s biography, otherwise nothing that follows will seem quite so wondrous. Before taking children to see this, adults should see it Continue reading

Book Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Skullsworn (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 0.5) by Brian Staveley

Four Stars

“I couldn’t see inside their heads. I could barely make out what was going on inside my own.”

Don’t let the numerical designation fool you, this is a complete novel, not a short story. Despite expectations triggered by the title, a worthwhile novel about life.

“We are all dying, all the time. Being born is stepping from the cliff’s edge. The only question is what to do while falling.”

An action-adventure fantasy with all the blood and gore expected of the genre, but also an investigation into Continue reading