Fiction Review: The City Born Great by N. K. Jemisin (Three Stars)

Fiction Review: The City Born Great by N. K. Jemisin

Three Stars

“Tears mean you’re alive.”

It’s got energy. It’s got street cred. But … I can take it or leave it. Really short, so I didn’t waste much time on it. Okay. Better than okay, but I guess you’ve got to be one with a city–any city, but preferably NYC. I’m not. Not into the profanity either, but that’s me.

“Any NYPD you can walk away from, hallelujah.”

Best Home Alarm System: Man’s Best Friend

” … when they’re awake.”

Misty Midwest Mossiness

In my search for different and interesting ‘small screen’ series to sample, I stumbled upon a couple of good ones recently:  Human Target (from 2010 but cancelled after second season) and The Fall (from 2013 with three seasons to date).  I’m still watching Limitless, pausing briefly after watching the pilot to watch the movie that spawned the series, but otherwise continuing with 2-3 episodes per week.

Terry and I have finished two of three DVDs for the first season of Human Target.  I was hooked after the first episode, and not just because Christopher Chance’s pet was a Rottweiler named Carmine.  This show packs a lot of punches into a scant hour of programming and each episode is something completely different.  It’s fun to watch and even has me looking for the original graphic novels to read, but libraries are totally not up to speed in that area. 

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Book Review: The Light and the Glory: Did God have a Plan for America? by Peter Marshall and David Manuel (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Light and the Glory: Did God have a Plan for America? by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

Four Stars

“God would provide grace commensurate with the call.”

An excellent development of one exceptionalist view of the founding of the United States of America. Written in 1977, some cultural references now seem either quaint or prescient. Like Evidence that Demands a Verdict, this book draws heavily from primary sources (eyewitness accounts, letters and journals, not just other histories), in this case to argue for divine participation in the discovery and development of America.

“What if God had conceived a special plan for America?”

This book has Continue reading

Book Review: Every Man his own Doctor by John Tennent (Three Stars)

Book Review: Every Man his own Doctor, or, The Poor Planter’s Physician  by John Tennent

Three Stars

This 1737 guide to home medicine was widely available and followed in colonial times. Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have been among its printers and distributors. The book offered a cure for everything from “vapours” (“Hysterick fits”) to cancer.

Cures feature frequent, repeated bloodletting, teas of herbs, abstinence from meat, horse riding,

Medicine in that century could only deal with symptoms, because true antibiotics–indeed the germ theory of diseases–was in the future. Sometimes getting symptoms under control and letting the body heal itself sufficed, other times not. A disturbing number of treatments including repeated blood letting.

For example: To prevent “consumption” (tuberculosis) “never suffer a cough to dwell upon you; but bleed in time, and purge gently once a week. In the meantime, eat not one morsel of meat, nor drink anything stronger than a little sound cider: And to make the game sure, ride every fair day, and breathe as much as possible in the open air.”

Entertaining, if gruesome. (I read it researching a Revolutionary War historical fiction.) I think our medical care is better now, though some of the home cures you see on Facebook make you wonder. Thank God for antibiotics and vaccines.

Book Review: Outriders (#1) by Jay Posey (Four Stars)

Book Review: Outriders (#1) by Jay Posey

Four Stars

“No matter how far into space humanity got, it would never be far enough to escape its own nature.”

Excellent military science fiction. Better than average space opera; better than Tom Clancy; almost as good as John Scalzi. These characters–good, bad and other–have souls. Mission Impossible meets Starship Troopers but with a soul. Almost five stars.

“He couldn’t remember a time that he’d ever been glad he ignored his gut.”

Introspective main character who is often confused and conflicted without the teen angst most war story heroes wallow in. Thoughtful, three-dimensional characters on all sides. Great depth of story and Continue reading

In Defense of Reading Fiction 104. Expand Your Mind.

public domain image

public domain image

In Defense of Reading Fiction 104. Expand Your Mind.

We’ve discussed how reading helps us live longer, think better, and meet interesting people. Now let’s explore how reading fiction lifts us out of the here and now into realms where the struggle to survive is surpassed by the search for truth, beauty, goodness and the transcendent. A whole different (Technicolor, high definition, surround sound) reality may reside over that rainbow.

Arthur C. Clark wrote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In fact, reality itself may be indistinguishable from magic. M-theory (a dominant school of modern physics) posits the existence of ten, eleven or more dimensions. We experience only four dimensions: height, width and length mediated by time. How Continue reading

Book Review: Way Station by Clifford D. Simak (Three Stars)

Book Review: Way Station by Clifford D. Simak

Three Stars

“Our horizons are so far, and we see so little of them.”

Not quite a first contact story but close enough. The story starts so slowly I almost gave up, but it’s a full, rich tale once it gathers momentum. Almost four stars.

“As if he were a man who had walked away from his own humanity?”

Written in 1963, this story reflects the uncertainty and fear of that time. (How many of you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? Vietnam?) Current Americans can hardly imagine the barely suppressed hysteria of many people living then. Without understanding that context, the immediacy of the story is dulled.

“A man must belong to something. The galaxy was too big a place for a being to stand naked and alone.”

Awarding winning science fiction of the different era. SF/F has different tropes and de rigueur topics now. The sixties were all about the coming Armageddon.

“It doesn’t matter much what any of us are, just so we get along with one another.”

Book Review: Memoir of Benjamin Tallmadge (Four Stars)

Book Review: Memoir of Benjamin Tallmadge by Benjamin Tallmadge

Four Stars

“I soon left the paternal abode and entered the tented field.”

As a student of history I love primary sources. What letters and journals of participants suffer in bias they make up in immediacy. Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge was a Revolutionary War hero, known to viewers of AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies as Washington’s spymaster. (They got that much right.)

His brother along with thousands of other captured Americans “… perished in prison by severe usage, sickness, etc.”

He was also a participant in most major and many minor military actions in and around New York City throughout the war. Though these memoirs were written forty years after the fact, they provide a literate (Tallmadge graduated from Yale in 1773) record of American leadership and battlefield fortunes.

“At this time a very dense fog began to rise … I recollect this particular providential occurrence perfectly well.”

Twice Tallmadge recounts Continue reading

Book Review: Link to the Past, Bridge to the Future by John P. Hunter (Four Stars)

Book Review: Link to the Past, Bridge to the Future: Colonial Williamsburg’s Animals by John P. Hunter

Four Stars

An enjoyable, lavishly-illustrated report on the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s ongoing effort to identify and preserve history animal breeds typical of the Colonial experience.

A good overview of efforts to date with a short narrative of the history of that animal type in colonial America and how the breed selected came to represent that species.

A fine memento of a visit to Colonial Williamsburg. Coffee table book for those who still have coffee tables.

Movie Review: Hillsong – Let Hope Rise (Two Stars)

theatrical release poster

theatrical release poster

Movie Review: Hillsong – Let Hope Rise

Two Stars

I’m ambivalent. Billed as a theater worship experience but it’s a made-for-TV quality infomercial about Hillsong United, the music arm of Hillsong Church of Australia.

Perhaps it was the theater but, even with the help of subtitles, the lyrics were hard to follow. The sound was so loud it was apparently over modulated the theater speakers, especially at the “big” concert at the Los Angeles Forum. (My Bose sound reduction ear buds reduced the sound level, but did not increase the clarity.) Disappointing.

I like Hillsong United music, but …. My advise: don’t waste your money on the movie; go buy one of their CDs.