Book Review: A Deadly Education (Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik (four stars)
Well, too bad for the losers who couldn’t stay afloat without his help. We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow.
Excellent young adult fantasy. Read despite it being another school of magic novel. Novik turns all those nice academies upside down. Focus is restricted to inside the school. And no faculty, advisors, professors of this and that. Kids struggling to stay alive. Yeah, it’s that kind of school.
Of course they’d be scared of me. I could see that now with perfect clarity, despite the pathetic dreams that I’d hung on to all these years, because I was scared of me, too.
Protagonist is sharp-tongued loner, but shares her inner pain and doubts with reader. Loved the last sentence. Successfully closed this story with plenty of hooks into the next. Gratuitous profanity cast Novik a star.
Hope is good strong drink, especially when you can get someone else to buy it for you.
Book Review: Hogfather (Death #4) by Terry Pratchett (three stars)
“You a witch or something?” moaned the bogeyman. “I’m just . . . something.
A several bubbles off straight-and-level look at Christmas, except in Discworld it’s Hogwatch and the fat guy in the Santa suit is … well, it’s Pratchett’s zany take on all things remotely Yule. If you’ve read the blurb you know what … or, who is up. Full of cynicism and snarky takes on everything and everyone.
“I just want to make sure I’ve got this clear,” said the oh god [of hangovers] in a reasonable tone of voice. “You think your grandfather is Death and you think he’s acting strange?”
Pratchett is an acquired taste, which I never acquired. This is my fourth attempt. The ping pong progress is familiar to his fans; disorientating to the rest. Some excellent zingers, but no substance.
“Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (five stars)
(Duke Classics version, similar cover) 2008 review:
‘When men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.’
Having re-read it again after so many years, I’m surprised how pure and simple the story is–very much unlike typical Dickens fare. Not his best writing, perhaps, but probably his greatest contribution to western culture.
“The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
If you haven’t–or haven’t recently–do read the original again. Well worth the effort, especially during December. If your heart isn’t warmed, perhaps it needs sterner therapy . . . such as a trio of nocturnal visitations.
“That which promised happiness when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that we are two.”
2022 addendum: A simple tale, simply told, yet most modern adaptations stray from the original. Do read it; all of it.
‘Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!’
Book Review: “Fairy Godmother Advice Column” (published in Lightspeed, issue 143, APR 2022) by Leah Cypess (four stars)
“If you are able to gain quick access to an affordable therapist, that would be your best option. If not, maybe next time the apple-seller comes knocking, consider letting her in and listening to what she has to say.”
Hilarious column which springs off well-known fairy tales with modern (dare we call it woke) advice to said troubled characters. Short, fast, funny. Enjoy.
“Long-term, I agree that “Tired” must find a way to extricate herself from her family. As soon as she gets back from the ball, she should look into finding a support group.”
Book Review: A Lot Like Christmas by Connie Willis (three stars)
“He’s an animal-rights activist. He’s not dangerous.” “That doesn’t necessarily follow,”
Hard core Willis fans will adore this collection of Christmas-related shorter stories. Your mileage may vary. Connie does distracted really well. In fact that’s what she does. Almost every story, all the time. It fits some of these short stories; others it ruins.
“Of course she can act. What do you think she was doing in here for the last hour? Mimicking emotions one doesn’t have—I believe that’s the definition of acting.”
“Newsletter” is my favorite. Quibble: “The only place in the U.S. where it’s never snowed is the Florida Keys. And Hawaii, of course.” Wrong. It snows on Mauna Kea on Hawaii. Enough to ski. Skip the introduction. Many spoilers. Do read it after you’ve read all the stories. I also liked, and occasionally violently disagreed with, her list of favorite Christmas books, movies, and stories.
“Where’d you get that?” “It was in the hotel room.” “You stole a Gideon Bible?” “They put them there for people who need them. And I’d say we qualify.”
Book Review: A Noble Cunning: The Countess and the Tower by Patricia Bernstein (four stars)
“I would see acres of valiant man slaughtered and young King James drowned in the English Channel if it meant you would come back to me.”
Excellent historical fiction; especially for Bernstein’s first novel. Extraordinary and extraordinarily literate characters. Many historical and cultural connections pull the reader deeply into that time and place.
“I have absolute faith that we can save you, but if you have already given up, we can do nothing for you. All I ask is that you fight for yourself!”
That era’s anti-Catholic sentiment is the warp of the tale. The weft the true story of the historic Winifred Herbert Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale. In most particulars the narrative follows the actual history, even to some details. Why then, did Bernstein change the lady’s identity? (Don’t read her story; it tells all.)
“All other things to their destruction draw, Only our love hath no decay.” John Dunne
Appropriate epigrams open each chapter. Awkward Italics font impedes reading.
“It was all so long ago and far away and had possibly happened to some ancestor of mine, in a previous era.”
(Full disclosure: Got ARC free in exchange for an honest review.)
Book Review: The Wandering Earth by Liu Cixin (three stars)
‘The Earth is a cosmic soap bubble. One pop, and it’s gone. So what is there to be afraid of?’
An anthology of early writings. Titular work among the stupidest SF premise by one of the best SF authors today. Written in 2000, long before he reached his stride. No, he didn’t redeem the premise.
‘The spaceship’s gravity will puncture the upper layers of the atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere will be like a pricked balloon, its air escaping through that puncture, right into space! All of Earth’s atmosphere will disappear!’
Many erroneous ideas about physics and geography. Some humorous. Later offerings are better. The last work is the best. Serious readers may be misled to misjudge the author by these works; someday scholars will mine these works for clues of his coming mastery.
‘Any civilization that stays on her birth world is committing suicide! You must go into the universe and find new worlds and new homes, and spread your descendants across the galaxy like drops of spring rain.’
Each week in this place two additional chapters will be published from the Young Adult speculative fiction novel The Dragon and the Dove. The chapters will alternate point of view between the protagonists, so readers will receive the next step in each character’s story.
Bookmark this page and return each week on Wednesdays: The Dragon and the Dove