Book Review: The Riyria Sampler by Michael Sullivan (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Riyria Sampler by Michael Sullivan

Four Stars out of Five

For Riyria aficionados this collection of short stories includes only seven pages of new material, but it is an excellent introduction to Royce and Hadrian (or Hadrian and Royce, depending on your proclivities). The byplay between this pair is the leitmotif of every Riyria book. (They are Riyria; it means “two” in the elfish tongue of their world.)

Never fear, each Riyria novel has a genuine plot and a basso continuo of the struggle of good versus evil in their world. As thieves, they would automatically seem enlisted on the dark side. Not so. (That shouldn’t be a spoiler.) But telling you why not and how it works out would be telling. So … I won’t.

If you’re intrigued, read this. It’s short, obvious, and fun. The price is right: free. (For a limited time.)


The Sky this Week: June 26–July 5, 2015 |

Easy to see.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

Look west for the next few evenings after sunset to catch Venus and Jupiter passing very near to each other.

Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon

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Book Review: God’s Daughter by Heather Day Gilbert (Four Stars)

Book Review: God’s Daughter: Vikings of the New World Saga #1 by Heather Day Gilbert

Four Stars out of Five

Good historical fiction-romance. Excellent first novel. Authors of historical fiction, especially of obscure eras, such as the Viking settlement of Greenland and North America, have a choice: stick close to whatever source is available or invent. Gilbert chose to follow the Icelandic sagas. The result is a rich, engaging story.

Gilbert also chose to intersperse modern phraseology with traditional terms and practices. The result is less satisfying. For example, “medicinal practices” knocked me right out of the story. (I’ve lectured about verisimilitude often enough that you don’t need another dose.) “Medicinal” is jarringly modern. “Healing” or “cures” would have been a better word. Likewise, “curvy” to describe a female’s body sounds modern. Full-bodied or even plump would convey the idea better.

I don’t know enough about Viking lore or herbal medicine to critique the specifics, but some practices seem Continue reading

Book Review: Can Long Endure by John Scalzi (Four Stars)

Book Review: Can Long Endure: The End of All Things By John Scalzi

Four Stars out of Five

This is how it’s done: under the surface of a shoot-em up space opera, Scalzi develops a intimate tale of personal crisis. Without telling the reader, he just lets it unfold. The ending is a surprise that’s no surprise; it seems inevitable even though it’s a shock.

Good job! Can’t wait for the last episode, though if the name of the book means anything … .

Book Review: This Hollow Union by John Scalzi (Three Stars)

Book Review: This Hollow Union by John Scalzi

Three Stars out of Five

Even the masters miss occasionally. This second installment of Scalzi’s larger work, The End of All Things, advances the story but little else. A lot of “as your know, Bob” conversations intersperse with precious little activity. Good story telling, just not much story.

Scalzi obliquely deals with the same issue as the last book I reviewed, Uprooted, that being dealing with uncertainty in making decisions. Large or small, many of life’s decisions are usually bounded by unreliable data. In this case both the data and the sources are not to be trusted. Given the varying motives of the varying actors, it’s a wonder otherwise intelligent species aren’t at war with each other (and among themselves) all the time.

What’s a leader to do? If I told you, you wouldn’t need to read the book.

Movie Review: Inside Out (Two Stars)

Movie Review: Inside Out

Two Stars out of Five

This will admittedly be a minority report: “I can’t believe we wasted money seeing that.”

While a technical tour de force and perhaps a great introspective experience for adults, this is not a children’s movie. Some parts may entertain them, but for the most part they will have no idea what was going on.

I understood, and kept asking myself, “Why?”

A warning to parents: See it by yourselves before taking your children.

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Four Stars)

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Four Stars out of Five.

An extraordinary tale from a capable storyteller. Excellent feeling of time and place, even though it is foreign to everything we think we know. Well constructed and well told.

Novik dramatizes how both the official and folk records of history often differ from what really happened. People then adopt their preferred mix of “facts.” Such a choice requires humility and caution in acting on our choice of reality.

Only two criticisms. (One involves a spoiler; so stop here if you don’t want your fun spoiled. In fact, if you know what you’re looking for, there’s a spoiler in the cover illustration.)

First, for a book that would otherwise be an outstanding choice for young adult readers there’s an unnecessarily graphic sex scene, which contributes nothing to the story. Second, the heroine’s final victory over evil isn’t. Yes, we’d received hints throughout the story that she was going over to the Green side—in fact, that she’d been sympathetic with it throughout the story—and that the bad guys weren’t really, despite their long and total campaign against humanity. Still, this reader was left feeling slightly cheated. It’s a good ending, it’s just not satisfying. Judge for yourself.

Nice cover art.

If you like medieval swords-and-sorcery fantasy, do read it. Definite twist on the genre.

Boiling the Economy

As sluggish as the economy has been, it’s tempting as Jellen suggest to “overheat” the economy before cooling it. Such a tactic risks killing the patient to get rid of a cold.

Who would benefit and who would be hurt? For sure Wall Street will benefit. For reasons I can’t fathom, this administration has bent over backward to feed the bankers and speculators. Even more amazing, no one has called them on it.

What happens on Main Street? America hasn’t experienced really high inflation since the late 70s. When prices grow more the ten percent a year, investments grow but savings are wiped out. Some values jump; others stagnate.

We’re not half as smart as we think we are. We’re trying to fine tune something akin to a force of nature. As we can, fertilize, dam, seed, and what not. But a lot of what makes an economy work is the perceptions of people. Lots of people. And we really don’t understand what motivates and dissuades people individually or collectively. The more we think we do, the greater we’re tempted to do something really stupid.

In the late 40s and again in the late 70s money, and everything valued in fixed dollars, lost half its value in a few years. The thirty years has been a good run.

Why do we contemplate playing Russian roulette with the nation’s economy?

American Jitney?

Amazon and Uber are copying the pizza delivery model of deliveries. Works for them, but what about the deliverers?

These impromptu jitneys endanger their vehicles (if they read their insurance policies, they’ll note commercial use is not covered), burning their gas and tires, to earn less than minimum wage with no benefits. Not to mention all the known hazards of pizza delivery. (Presumably FedEx and UPS pay these costs for their drivers, that’s why Amazon and Uber seek to bypass them.)

Will customers be shaken down for tips on these jitney deliveries?

What a rip off. American business has discovered a new way to impoverish the folks who work for them.

Yet hundreds will jump at the chance and think it’s a good deal.