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: Pile of Bones by Michael J. Sullivan. (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Pile of Bones (Legends of the First Empire, #0.5) by Michael J. Sullivan.

(Three Stars)

“Fear, for the most part, is yer friend. It keeps you alive, and stops you from doing stupid stuff like trying to fly or jumping in a fire. But, when yer scared of sumptin’ you ought not to be, well then, there’s just nothing for it but to grit yer teeth, spit in its eye, and challenge your dread to an arm wrestle.” Tura

A short, painless introduction to the world of Elan and one of the major characters of the greater series.

“So odd was this cautionary thought—as no one who knew her would ever accuse Suri of being prudent—that it caused her to laugh. After striking the [bee] hive several times, Continue reading

Book Review: Age of Death by Michael J. Sullivan (Four Stars)

Book Review: Age of Death (Book Five of the Legends of the First Empire) by Michael J. Sullivan

(Four Stars)

“You see, Persephone, I sent them to—” “Their deaths. You killed them!” “True.” He held up a finger. “But I’m sending help.”

Another chronicle of the first empire in the world of Elan. This tale is rich in deep backstory as Sullivan starts connecting the dots for the coming climax. There’s no ending, no closure, just a big fat cliffhanger at the end. No, several cliffhangers.

“I thought life was misery because of the unending succession of trials and tribulations. But now, I see that challenges are what life is all about.”

I’m good with Sullivan’s decision to expand Continue reading

Book Review: Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware

(Four Stars)

“God can and does find us almost anywhere—that He seeks us in the most unlikely places and draws us to Himself even when we’re not looking for Him.”

A competent review of how a Christian reader may find divine content in J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous book. Basically a Christian commentary on the text by topic, not page-by-page.

“The world is a bigger place than I realized, Gandalf. I see now that it contains many things beyond the grasp of my puny imagination.” Gandalf laughed. “If that is your view, then I would suggest that your imagination is Continue reading

Book Review: A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay (Four Stars)

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Book Review: A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

(Four Stars)

“We like to believe, or pretend, we know what we are doing in our lives. It can be a lie. We stand up, as best we can…. We move forward as best we can, hoping for light, kindness, mercy, for ourselves and those we love.”

Perhaps Kay’s best book yet. Historical fiction set in a world not quite our own, but parallel to Renaissance Italy. With just a touch of the supernatural.

“The lessons you extracted from history were yours to choose, weren’t they?”

Deep insight into the history and motives of many primary characters. Kay respects the readers ability comprehend things he doesn’t detail.

Younger readers may not comprehend Continue reading

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Five Stars)

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

(Five Stars)

“He has a right to be proud.” “That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”

Despite having seen and enjoyed three or four film versions of this tale, the original is vastly superior. Austin deftly takes us just deeply enough into her characters that we get glimpses of their internal dialogue, especially Elizabeth.

“Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of her father’s behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not overlook.”

Those who have only seen the screen adaptations have missed the depth of Austen’s understanding or and presentation of people at their most intimate. That she was much like the protected females who are here her protagonists makes her achievement all the more amazing.

“It is distressing. One does not know what to think.” “I beg your pardon; one knows exactly what to think.”

Jane Austin sure could write.

“By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.”

Book Review: Tau Zero by Poul Anderson (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Tau Zero by Poul Anderson

(Four Stars)

“Nature is turning too alien for that. In honesty, I agree that our chances look poor. But I don’t think they are zero, either.”

Excellent hard Science Fiction based on a 1967 short story. Lots of science (some overcome by later science), well told. On the other hand, it is HARD SF: Anderson felt compelled to insert a formula for Tau at one point because he couldn’t explain a concept. (Many readers won’t understand the formula, let alone what it signifies.)

Leonora Christine spent most of a year getting within one percent of light velocity. The time aboard was about the same, because the value of tau only began to drop sharply when she was quite near c. During that initial period, she covered half a light-year of space, approximately five trillion kilometers.”

Modern science fiction writers could take lessons from Anderson. Melded into the gripping, but dry tale of exploration gone wrong are a variety of humans with a variety of reactions. The 1960s culture will seem like fantasy to current readers. (Spoiler: sex (very discrete, off stage) solves almost everything.)

“Your trouble is, you think a combination of acrophobia, sensory deprivation, and nervous strain is a metaphysical crisis. Myself, I don’t despise our lobsterish instinct to survive. I’m glad we have one.”

Anderson ignored black holes and radiation. Either would have killed his crew, if not his story. His “hydromagnetic forces” approximate gravity but allow him to bend it to his will. “Otherwise the Doppler effect might present us with more gamma radiation than our material shielding can handle.” He doesn’t identify that shielding but, where they go, even several meters of lead would not suffice.  And, “We might pass through a star at our current velocity and not be harmed. We can scarcely pass through the primordial nucleon. My personal suggestion is that we cultivate serenity.”

“Did you ever read Moby Dick?” she whispered. “That’s us. We’ve pursued the White Whale. To the end of time. And now … that question.  What is man, that he should outlive his God?”

#SFFpit

Book Review: The Last King’s Amulet by Chris Northern (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Last King’s Amulet (The Price of Freedom #1) by Chris Northern

(Three Stars)

“It’s a lucky commander who has good men.” “It’s lucky men who have a good commander.”

Excellent war fantasy set in a Roman Republic analog with a side of political philosophy. Well written, though the protagonist is not initially attractive.  A tease of romance and magic too. What’s not like?

“It is advantageous to take enemy supplies. The rule of thumb is an enemy wagon of supplies is worth twenty of your own. It hurts them that badly.”

A professional military logistician for most of my working life I’m prejudiced, but logistics really do win wars. As demonstrated in World War Two and the 1991 Gulf War. “Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics.” Tom Peters

“Spank them then give them a hug. Fighting men are like children.” “You were reading my mind.” “Actually I have been reading your books.

Northern lost a star because he ends rather than concludes this first chapter of his epic multi-volume opus. Not quite the Robert Jordan syndrome, but Jordan’s first book was good too. To sell the next book, one must deliver the goods in the current book.

“Self doubt is a cancer that can eat at you if you let it. What I needed, I realized, was to get on with it. To fight an enemy and kill him and be done. Still the thought made me sick inside. I had never killed anyone and to be completely honest I really had no desire to do so.”

#SFFpit

Book Review: Child of the Ghosts by Johnathan Moeller (ThreeStars)

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Book Review: Child of the Ghosts (Ghosts #1) by Johnathan Moeller

(Three Stars)

“The mind is much the same way. It can recover from an injury…but it will retain a scar. And you will carry that scar for the rest of your days. Whether you let it destroy you…that is up to you.”

Fun, if cartoonish, fantasy adventure. Leavened with humor. Fast paced.

“The two of us can’t take a Kindred assassin in a straight fight.” “Of course not. Which is why it’s not going to be a straight fight.”

Everything is too easy. From digging away the iron hinges to a dungeon cell to taking on the baddest bad people in the empire, she succeeds even when she fails.

“You shall be … Marianna, of House Nereide, I think. Yes. House Nereide went extinct during the War of the Fourth Empire.”

Caina cannot pose as a member of an extinct noble house. All the nobles in the capital would know she was an imposter. If there’s one thing nobles do well it’s follow who is who and where they stand in the pecking order.

“First demon-infested corpses, and now necromancers. I should have listened to Mother and become a carpenter.”

#SFFpit

Book Review: The Coming by Joe Haldeman (Three Star)

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Book Review: The Coming by Joe Haldeman

(Three Star)

“If you took all of the energy that all of the world produces in one year, and put it all into a space drive … we couldn’t make a golf ball go that fast. If it’s an invasion, we’ve had it Perdido.”

Not-too-distant-future first-contact story. First published in 2000. Focus is on the reaction and interaction of players in Gainesville, Florida. Multilanguage vocabulary.

“But in more than twenty years of analysis, we haven’t gotten any clear semantic content from the three suspect sources. This one is as plain as a slap in the face.” “And as aggressive?”
“That’s not clear. If they were attacking us, why announce that they were on their way? Why not just sneak up?” “On the other hand, if their intent is benevolent, why don’t they say more than ‘ready or not, here we come’?”

Heavy handed, as are most Haldeman stories, but better than his average. A pornographic subplot unrelated to the plot cost him a star. Haldeman apparently flunked anatomy and physiology 101. Humor lurks just beneath the surface.

“There were the usual riots in the usual countries, controlled by the usual methods, which provoked the usual responses. But even the most coolheaded and rational looked toward Christmas and the New Year, and wondered if there would be a January, after the first of the month.”

Daisy-chain point of view shifts changes characters without losing the reader. Several timeline inconsistencies. Several huge unanswered questions, at least one of which potentially undoes the whole story. (If I tell, it’s spoil things horribly.) Plot gaps diminish the fun, but fun it is.

We use administrative procedures long before we resort to supernatural weapons.” “You once told me there was no such thing as ‘supernatural.’ If something happened, it was part of Allah’s design, and therefore natural.” “Touché.”

#SFFpit

Book Review: Miracle of Miracles by Mina Nevisa with Jim Croft. (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Miracle of Miracles by Mina Nevisa with Jim Croft.

(Four Stars)

“At this juncture, I now realize the Holy Spirit was quickening my soul to be dissatisfied with Islam.”

The thrilling and alarming true story of an Iranian Muslim who converted to Christianity, was forced to flee her home, and continued true to her calling through twenty years of trials and opportunities in Western Europe and the United States of America.

“‘Joy, sorrow, wife, children and all of life are to be treasured as long as they do not trespass Islam and adherence to the sharia.’ (the rules and laws of Islam).” Nevisa’s father

Nevisa comes off as honest, straight-forward and incredibly naïve, as appropriate for the protected daughter of Continue reading