Book Review: Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers (Three Stars)


Book Review: Whose Body? (Lord Peter Whimsey #1) by Dorothy Sayers

Three Stars

“It’s a wonderful the ideas these rich men with nothing to do get into their heads.”

First published in 1923, this is a dated but enjoyable detective fiction by the sole female associated with the Inklings. Storytelling is tedious with frequent repetition and long narrative exposition, the tone is light and enjoyable.

“The franker you are with people, the more likely you are to deceive them; so unused is the modern world to the open hand and guileless heart, what?”

The central premise of this tale: whose body is which of a pair–one missing and one found, but clearly not the same person–is justified so poorly in the end, but the reader will have been hooked by then and won’t care.

“I love trifling circumstances; so many men have been hanged by trifling circumstances.”

Beneath the breezy English nobility send up is a darker backstory of “shell shock” (as they called post-traumatic stress after World War One) and changing cultural mores. Sly references to how real investigation differs from fictional, especially Holmesian.

“There’s nothing you can’t prove if your outlook is only sufficiently limited.”

Too Big to Fail?

The Wall Street Journal reports, the Trump administration has decided MetLife is too big to fail.

No one is too big to fail. That is a myth perpetrated by oligarchs seeking to protect themselves from both the market place and from regulation.

We need to let one or two of them crash to demonstrate the resiliency of the American economy. And we need to jail a few of those oligarchs who think they are above the law.

There’s nothing wrong with the American economy that a healthy dose of integrity wouldn’t help.

Movie Review: All Saints, directed by Steve Gomer (Four Stars)


theatrical release poster

Movie Review: All Saints, directed by Steve Gomer

Four Stars

“Pray for God to send help.” “Isn’t that supposed to be you?”

Based-on-a-true-story movie about a failing Episcopal church in Tennessee who took in a population of Karen refugees, who’d fled persecution in Myanmar. The lives of more than the congregation and the Karen were transformed.

Good production values, though it has a made-for-television feel. Good acting and plot points. The faith elements are appropriate to the story.

Many of the Karen refugees were played by themselves.


Book Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Three Stars)


Book Review: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

Three Stars

“All the stories are true,” from a certain point of view.

Don’t read the foreword. It’s one big spoiler.

“The meek may inherit the earth, but at the moment it belongs to the conceited. Like me.”

A fresh approach to urban fantasy–based on magic, disease and genetics, not the supernatural. Lots of Bible allusions, but not related though there is a Paradise Lost vibe. Many mistaken identities; some intended, some not. Enough unrequited love and star-crossed couples to please a Shakespeare.

“To love is to destroy, and to be loved is to be the one destroyed.”

Generally well written. Point of view and speakers shift within paragraphs making it hard for the reader to follow who is saying/doing what. Hokey story-driven plot and strategy points. Kept knocking the reader out of the spell of the story. Lost a star.

“You are young. The past is nothing to you, not even another country as it is to the old, or a nightmare as it is to the guilty.”

Quibbles: Why are teen heroines always emotion-driven idiots? How can Jace be so clueless to pop culture? Something seemed to happen only because they needed to for the story, but because they made any kind of sense.

“You cannot save others until you first save yourself.” “This fortune cookie stuff is getting really old.”

Book Review: Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard (Three Stars)


Book Review: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candace Millard

Three Stars

“I have so long and so often seen the evil effects of presidential fever upon my associates and friends that I am determined it shall not seize me.” JAG

A fascinating excursion into the period of American history largely ignored. Everyone thinks they know, if they care, all about the series of inept Union generals who stumbled through the then-second floor Yellow Oval Room. Millard corrects our misperception with this very human inquiry into the half-year presidency of James A. Garfield. She explores his life and times and provides supporting vignettes of key persons whose paths to fame or infamy crossed that of the ill-fated Garfield, including Chester Arthur, Joseph Lister, Alexander Graham Bell, and Charles Guiteau.

“Future generations would never know the man [Garfield] had been.”

Well-written, but not as good as her later works. Though this book is well-researched history, Millard strays Continue reading

Book Review: Hero of the Empire by Candace Millard (Four Stars)


Book Review: Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, A Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candace Millard

Four Stars

“There is an ambition I cherish so keenly, as to gain a reputation for personal courage.” WC

Winston Churchill wanted a war and after three missed attempts–India, Cuba and Sudan–he got it in South Africa’s Boer War. That it was a miserable shame of a war made no difference to Churchill, he was busy inventing himself and nothing short of public acclaim and military honors would do. He got them, and much more.

“Death stood before me. Grim, sullen Death without his light-hearted companion. Chance.” WC

Millard balances the very personal with the historic. Just enough background history and biography to give context without degenerating into a full-fledged biography. Well-researched and well-written.

“When hope has departed, fear had gone as well.” WC

England, on the verge of the Great War, seems to have learned nothing from the American War of Independence nor her colonial experiences in Asia and Africa. As if frozen in some fairy tale, the British army fought the Boer War as if they were facing Napoleon. The results were devastating to both the soldiery and the populace.

“The first time you meet Winston you see all his faults and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues.” Pamela (Plowden) Bulwer-Lytton

Book Review: Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell (Four Stars)


Book Review: Warriors of the Storm (The Saxon Stories #9) by Bernard Cornwell

Four Stars

“A man does not rid his house of wasps by swatting them one by one, but by finding the nest and burning it.”

As Cornwell delves deeper into the darkness of English history, his stories become more purely fictional. No less fun, but his pattern is clearer. Though these stories necessarily focus on men trying to kill each other, the female characters are realistic and occasionally historical.

“It is not difficult to be a lord … or a king, but it is difficult to be a leader.”

Like Richard Sharp, the hero of Cornwell’s other extended historical fiction series, Uhtred of is something of a Mary Sue. No matter what chances our pagan protagonist takes he always lands on his feet.

“A man who loves his leader will fight better than a man who merely fears him.”

Quibble: Modern phrases sneak into the dialogue occasionally, breaking the spell of the storytelling.

“I will never understand Christians.”

[Spoiler] Gomer’s name betrays her identity.

“For the rest of us the future is a mist and we only see as far as the mist allows.”

Book Review: Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan (Five Stars)


Book Review: Age of Swords (Legends of the First Empire #2) by Michael J. Sullivan

Five Stars

“Some things are unimaginable right up until you are looking at them, and even then, you might not want to believe. Love is that way, so is death.”

If anything, better than the first book, Age of Myths. Superficially Sullivan is not an epic fantasy writer like Rothfuss or Tolkien, but he weaves an excellent story amid afresh, if derivative world. Part of the fun is his tongue-in-cheek homages to classic fantasy.

“I hated my brothers. Dead for three years and they’re still trying to kill me.”

Satisfying conclusion with appropriate hooks into the next stories. Well done. Leavened with humor. Not so much as the Riyria stores, but enough. Waited for second volume for magic school, hooray! And the training was organic, taking the reader inside Continue reading

Book Review: Wizard’s Worlds by Andre Norton (Three Stars)


Book Review: Wizard’s Worlds: A Witch World Collection, by Andre Norton

Three Stars

“…into a sleep so deep that no dreams walked there.”

Better than average collection of unrelated stories. Variable quality but mostly engaging short stories, some felt like prequels or spin offs of story streams which the reader was expected to recognize.

“Egotism such as hers is dangerous, for it leads a man or woman to believe what is wished is right.”

Unfortunately the eponymous story condones rape as an acceptable means for overcoming a female’s opposition to oneself. Totally unacceptable to even suggest it; worse to imply that it was subsequently tolerable to the female. The collection generally featured sympathetic, well-developed female characters, but still …

“Old gods do not tend to be mild when called on to render justice.”

Book Review: Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (Six Stars)


Book Review: Children of God (The Sparrow #2) by Mary Doria Russell

Six Stars

“It wasn’t your fault.” “Tell that to the dead.”

Six? Yes, this is what comes from giving five stars so liberally. This is the best book I’ve read this year (102 and counting), not just the best science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction or biography. Why didn’t it win a cluster of awards? Was it as fun to write as to read?

“Rain fails on everyone; lightning strikes some.”

Not necessary but recommended you read The Sparrow first. Russell skillfully weaves in the backstory when you need it.

“No one was deliberately evil. We all did the best we could. Even so, what a mess we made of everything.”

Each character the protagonist of his or her own story. Russell assures no actors are bad or good in their own eyes. Each point of view character does Continue reading