Book Review: The Kingdom by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood (Two Stars)

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Book Review: The Kingdom (Fargo Adventure #3) by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood

Two Stars

“Place names are trivial. It’s the meaning we attach to them that counts.”

At some point successful authors conclude they can sell books based on their name rather than the content. Apparently Clive Cussler reached that point when writing this book. It is the kind of fast-paced Indiana-Jones-type adventure readers expect from Cussler, with all the technobabble and product placement appropriate to the genre.

I’m sure Grant Blackwood is a capable person, but someone should have proofread the text. It is rife with howling non sequiturs, of which a few are offered: “razed to the ground,” “cantering slowly,” “a sheaf of blueprints,” and “a scientist by nature and training” (both in 1677). My favorite paragraph included: “The single-engine Piper Cub …. Sitting on opposite sides of the aisle…. The engines began to wind down.” And that doesn’t touch the logical and plot contradictions.

“We won’t stumble into the hands of [redacted], I can assure you.” We know what will happen next.

Book Review: Cokesbury Worship Hymnal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Cokesbury Worship Hymnal by Abingdon Press

Four Stars

It may seem odd to review a book of songs, but I’ve been using it as a daily devotional guide. Works.

I first became aware of this book, originally published over a hundred years ago, sixty years ago. In a small Kansas church which had dozens of old copies. Every Sunday for several years we’d sing these simple songs of the faith accompanied by an old piano. (Okay, everything about this was old then, except me, and I’m old now. You’ve got that.)

I obtained this copy recently and started through it in order: singing (to myself) the hymns I knew, reciting the others as poems. I was surprised that I remembered more than half. Some in this edition weren’t in the 1938 edition we used then.

It has much to recommend itself. Including the responsive scripture readings, which at the time I was so focused on saying the words in unison that I paid no attention to what I was saying.

A window, for me, into my youth and early life.

Book Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

Four Stars

“The unexpected is what makes life possible.”

Excellent. Le Guin demonstrates the verbal prowess that earned her early science fiction honors. Her later stuff reflects her hardening prejudices.

“Almost anything carried to its logical extreme becomes depressing, if not toxic.”

Better introduction than Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter. Read this; not that.

“The whole tendency to dualism that pervades human thinking may be found to be lessened, or changed on Winter. On Winter … one is respected and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience.”

Le Guin reminds us that the issue is not being manly men or feminine women–nor fem men and manly women, or whatever–but being totally human. Modern politics Continue reading

Outlawing Cash?

From the July 12, 2017 Wall Street Journal: “VISA has a new offer for small merchants: take thousands of dollars from the card giant to upgrade their payment technology. In return, the businesses must stop accepting cash.”

Last time I checked cash was “legal tender for all debts, public and private.” How can a business not take cash?

I have a VISA card, but I pay for most of my purchases in cash. Helps keep me from over spending, which would be fine with VISA. They want me to overspend.

Book Review: The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu

(Four Stars)

“No guns in Container Town.”

See? It can be done. Kick off a series with an enjoyable, self-contained story–not a chopped-off cliffhanger. A near future dystopia with aliens, set in the universe of Chu’s Lives of Tao books. Why wasn’t this Hugo Award finalist?

“It was one thing to witness a slum, it was another to see a beautiful city reduced to one before your eyes.”

Even if you haven’t read previous stories in this setting, Chu focuses you on his protagonist and gently fills in the background as the story develops. The data dumps are appropriately placed and paced.

“Stop acting like life is some precious gift from a higher power. Everything dies, Ella. Everything is expendable.”

Totally immerses the reader in the setting. Captures the sights, smells and tastes of a post-modern slum in Continue reading

Book Review: Roma Mater by Poul and Karen Anderson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Roma Mater (King of Ys #1) by Poul and Karen Anderson

Three Stars

“God’s hand touches a man and that man turns into one whom others will follow though it be past the gates of Hell.”

Excellent old-fashioned historical fiction/fantasy. Well-researched fourth century setting. Draws the reader into many aspects life. Invented a religion out of whole cloth, but used it to compare and contrast with existing ones.

“Despair was for afterwards. He still had work to do.”

Punctuation irregularities and errors, perhaps optical scanning glitches.

“Magic is ever a two-edged sword, oft times wounding the wielder.”

Why there’s a Spartan on the cover of the ebook edition is anyone’s guess.

“Had he wandered so far, into such foreignness? Had the God of his fathers no longer heard him?”

Broke oft abruptly. Cost them a star. Won’t try the follow-on volumes.

“Wisdom lies in nobody’s gift. We must each forge it for ourselves, alone. As best we can.”

Book Review: The Women of Harry Potter by Sarah Gailey (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Women of Harry Potter by Sarah Gailey

Four Stars

“Ginny let herself be impressed once … and wound up vulnerable and look where that got her.”

I almost didn’t read this collection of posts. I’m not a Harry Potter fan. I read a couple of the books and saw a few of the films, and never connected. So I figured Gailey would have nothing to say I’d be interested in. Wrong.

“These, I must teach to hate.”

I didn’t even know who one of these characters was, but Gailey creates a cogent, interesting essay on each; exploring who they are, what motivates them, and why we should care. Good job.

These posts are among the finalists in the 2017 Hugo Award Related Works. Now that I’ve read them all, I can affirm I liked this one best. Better than many much more famous names who were, IMHO, trading on their names as excuse for publishing drivel.

Book Review: The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

Three Stars

“Every life is a tragedy. We are all going to die. There is no other ending, no matter the choices you make.”

Given this book’s title, no reader should be surprised to get a both-barrels blast of anger and defensiveness. That said, Hurley expresses herself well, aside from her gratuitous use of adjective and adverb forms of the f-word. There’s the making of two good books here: one focused on writing, the other on feminism. Despite that, I liked this book.

“Who and what is good is highly dependent on who wins, and whose point of view we’re writing from.”

2017 Hugo Award finalist as a “related work.” Like most books in this category, it’s a compilation of old blogs thrown together. In this case, it’s a semi-coherent whole. Also, like most other related works, this work has little to do with Continue reading

Book Review: View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman (Three Stars)

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Book Review: View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

Three Stars

“If you don’t know it’s impossible it’s easier to do.”

A few good insights into art and culture scattered among five hundred plus pages of drivel. When Gaiman writes very good drivel, but it’s still a hodge-podge of introductions, essays and reflections.

“Those of us who write fantasies for a living know that we are doing it best when we tell the truth. Truth is not in what happens but in what it tells us about who we are.”

The best single item was “Make Art Good,” his 2012 commencement address at the University of Arts in Philadelphia. Lots of life lessons for the rest of us.

“It’s time for creators to accept that we are becoming dandelions. Dandelions just let their seeds go to the wind, and do not mourn the seeds that do not make it.”

Another “related work” finalist for a 2017 Hugo Award. This category will be hard to score because all of the entries are mediocre. Apparently related works is Continue reading

Book Review: Hearts of Fire, edited by Voice of the Martyrs Four Stars

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Book Review: Hearts of Fire: eight women in the underground church and their stories of costly faith, edited by Voice of the Martyrs

Four Stars

Incredible stories of women over the last seventy years who faced persecution and death because of their Christian faith. Modern American readers will shrink back from the reality that such treatment is meted to women in this world today. It is.

Most of those featured did not seek attention. They were going about their lives as children or mothers with little concept of the world beyond their village. The world came to them, and it was angry.

Sobering. It’s happening today. In this world. In this country. (See Hiding in the Light)