About andreart2013

After thirty plus years of military service, I now reside in rural Hanover County, VA. I write historical and speculative fiction and paint and teach watercolor painting.

Book Review: One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters (Four Stars)

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Book Review: One Corpse Too Many (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #2) by Ellis Peters

(Four Stars)

“Do you know any human creatures who are not strangers, one to another?”

First story in the Main Sequence of Cadfael stories. You may read A Morbid Taste for Bones or A Rare Benedictine first, but you’ll not be disappointed if you start here. (This review falls the third in the current reading.)

“The ugliness that man can do to man might cast a shadow between you and the certainty of the justice and mercy God can do to him hereafter.”

History, in the personage of King Stephen of England comes crashing into twelfth century Shrewsbury and Brother Cadfael’s life will Continue reading

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Book Review: A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters (Four Stars)

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Book Review: A Morbid Taste for Bones (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #1) by Ellis Peters

(Four Stars)

“The uncomfortable feeling that God, nevertheless, required a little help form men, and what he mostly got was hinderance.”

Opening historical fiction set during England’s twelfth century. Peters combines medieval history and a modern who-done-it, starring a crusader turned Benedictine monk.

“Brother Cadfael himself found nothing strange in his wide-ranging career, and had forgotten nothing and regretted nothing. He saw no contradiction in the delight he had taken in battle and adventure and the keen pleasure he now found in quietude.”

Not at all Christian in either intent or style, the story nevertheless accepts that Cadfael and those around them are not beset by the doubts and conflicts over faith which be devils moderns.

“When you have done everything else, perfecting a conventual herb-garden is a fine and satisfying things to do.”

The church and clergy are not spared Peters’ critical pen. On the other hand, wrongly accused innocents and young lovers (often one and the same) get special dispensation. A pattern that will persist through the series.

“He had been scouring the borderlands for a spare saint now for a tear or more, looking hopefully towards Wales, where it was well known that holy men and women had been common as mushrooms in autumn in the past, and as little regarded.”

“God resolves all given time.”

Book Review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

(Three Stars)

“Chaotic crossed with psychotic.”

Disappointed. I read this story fifty years ago and loved it. On re-reading it now, I found it not only trite, but disturbing. This is going to be long, but I must justify dropping a former five-star rating to two. (I gave a star back for literary merit. Heinlein was a great storyteller.)

“He really did think he was Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft … nor would I swear he was not; ‘reality’ is a slippery notion.”

The star of the story is Mike, a “gigantic” self-aware computer.

“I will accept any rules you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules Continue reading

Book Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3) by Ann Leckie

(Four Stars)

“In the end it’s only ever been one step, and then the next.”

Satisfying close to the trilogy. In fact, some readers may simply wish to read books 1 and 3. Little is missed by skipping 2; a lot of swimming in place.

“You really have gotten better, but you can still be an enormously self-involved jerk.”

Leckie develops her characters well. Despite most of the story being told through the point of view of one character, readers have no trouble identifying much of the supporting cast.

“You don’t need to know the odds. You need to know how to do the thing you’re trying to do. And then you need to do it.”

Not surprising that Leckie returns to the Rasch universe in later books, but so far no word of the Provisional Republic of the Two Systems.

“There is always more after the ending.”

Book Review: A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters (Four Stars)

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Book Review: A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #0.5) by Ellis Peters

(Four Stars)

“My son, you are not one of these sinful men?” “Sinful man I am, but not of their company.”

Excellent introduction to Cadfael and to the series. Three novelettes, spread over the career of our monastic sleuth, introduce the reader to Ellis’s style of medieval cozy.

“He had been in the world fifty-five years, and learned to temper his expectations, bad or good.”

Then first story is an origin tale, which readers of the corpus will not wish to miss Continue reading

Book Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie

(Three Stars)

“Betrayer! Long ago we promised/ To exchange equally, gift for gift./ Take this curse: What you destroy will destroy you.”

Not nearly as good as the opening Ancillary Justice. In fact, the reader in a hurry could read that book and skip to the trilogy-concluding Ancillary Mercy and miss very little. Except development of who Breq is and the odd people and events swept along in her wake.

“Water will wear away stone, but it won’t cook supper.”

The writing is good, if repetitive. Way too much recapitulation of what’s gone on before. Breq sounds more like Yoda or Computer as the stories progress.

“Memory is an event horizon. What’s caught in it is gone but it’s always there.”

Movie Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain, directed by Simon Curtis (Five Stars)

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Movie Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain, directed by Simon Curtis

(Five Stars)

“Your car goes where your eyes go.”

I still recommend reading the book first, but the movie was simpler and more powerful. Great story; well told. Mark Bomback’s screenplay is, if anything, better than the book. Kevin Costner was an excellent choice to voice Enzo. Brava performance by Amanda Seyfried. (Rated PG)

“A racer will never let something that has already happened affect what is happening now.”

 

Book Review: Behind the Scenes by Elizabeth Keckley (Four Stars)


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Book Review: Behind the Scenes: Or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House by Elizabeth Keckley

(Four Stars)

“Mrs. Lincoln may have been imprudent, but since here intentions were good, she should be judged more kindly than she has been.”

An extraordinary primary source of the 1860s. Elizabeth Keckley, born into slavery in Virginia, managed to buy her freedom by her skill as a seamstress and the help of friends white and black. She set up business in Washington, D. C., and eventually become modiste and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln.

“Mrs. Lincoln’s foresight in regard to the future was only confined to cast-off clothing, as she owed, at the time of the President’s death, different store bills amounting to seventy thousand dollars.”

“The Republican politicians must pay my debts. Hundreds of them are immensely rich off the patronage of my husband, and it is but fair that they should help me out of my embarrassment.” Mary Todd Lincoln

That Mary Todd Lincoln was the source and embodiment of her own troubles is not denied. Rather Keckley draws attention to those who tried to help the trouble woman, and those who did not.

“I believe that I could then have forgiven everything for the sake of one kind word. But the kind word was not proffered.”

A mirror of an age. Some of her revelations are unexpected. Notice the apparent contradiction between the previous and following quotations.

“You do not know the Southern people as well as I do—how warm is the attachment between master and slave.”

Keckley visited her former owners after the war, in apparent harmony.

“Even I, who was once a slave, who have been punished with the cruel lash, who have experienced the heart and soul tortures of a slave’s life, can say to Mr. Jefferson Davis, “Peace! You have suffered! Go in peace.”

Sadly, after this was published in 1868, Mrs. Lincoln suffered more tragedy, with the death of her youngest son, Tad, in 1871. She never recovered.

“What a sublime picture was this! A ruler of a mighty nation going to the pages of the Bible with simple Christian earnestness for comfort and courage, and finding both in the darkest hours of a nation’s calamity.”

Book Review: Moon Water by Pam Webber (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Moon Water by Pam Webber

(Five Stars)

“Some things must end for others to begin.”

Amazing story. Two sixteen-ish young women come of age in historical fiction set in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in 1969. Nettie gives up the freedom of childhood (see The Wiregrass) and expects certainty in adulthood: love, faith, friendship. Nope.

“Journeys force us to make choices that never leave our lives in the same place.”

Slow start leads to a cataclysm of Biblical portions, which actually happened fifty years ago. Excellent character and plot development and foreshadowing, if occasionally telling too much too soon. Nettie lived in a different world: no computers, camera-equipped cell phones, social media, credit cards. Manners mattered. The focus is local; the moon landings, Vietnam War, and politics are Continue reading

Movie Review: Overcomer, written and directed by Alex Kendrick (Five Stars)

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Movie Review: Overcomer, written and directed by Alex Kendrick

(Five Stars)

“If I asked you who you are, what’s the first thing that comes to mind. Who are you?”

Unabashedly faith-based movie about … well, overcoming, but also redemption and forgiveness.

“When you find your identity in the one who created you, it’ll change your whole perspective.”

The Kendrick Brothers’ movies keep getting better. Hard to say this was better than War Room, but it had more drama and character.

“Your identity will be tied to whatever your heart is tied to.”

The critics hated it, of course.

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:5)