Movie Review: Little Women, written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Three Stars)

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Movie Review: Little Women, written and directed by Greta Gerwig

(Three Stars)

“If the main character is a girl, make sure she is married by the end. Or dead. Either way.” 

Imaginative retelling of Louisa May Alcott classic nineteenth-century coming of age novel. However, the folded timeline assumes—no, depends on the viewer already knowing the story. Otherwise it’s not nearly as marvelous.

“I may not always be right. But I am never wrong.”

Nice Sets and costumes. Good music and photography. Excellent performance by Saoirse Ronan. Other than for poster presence, they wasted their money Continue reading

My Reading List for 2019

1226 to read pile
Click here to see the 204 books I read in 2019. Every year I list my challenge goal on Goodreads.com as 111 books because I’m too lazy to determine a more meaningful goal. I usually make it. In 2019 I almost doubled it.

Not all were books. Some short stories (as short as a single page) which I read in order to vote intelligently for the 2019 Hugo Awards. Well, I read what I voted on. I also read at least two works not listed, one of them over 300 pages long. The shorter was “‘No Pagan ever loved his god’: Tolkien, Thompson, and the beautification of the Gods,” by Megan Fontenot, available here. The longer was the unpublisher (yet) The Girl in the Wall by Dr. Helen Foster, which she honored me by requesting to beta read. A great, based-on-real-events story about World War Two spies and … if I tell you more I’ll spoil it. Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to read it someday.

This year’s list was swelled by my straight-through reading of Ellis Peter‘s twenty Chronicles of Brother Cadfael. I read history, biography, science fiction and fantasy. I found several good works analyzing the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, each reviewed separately.

I am grateful to live at a time and place where I can read pretty much whatever I want. It wasn’t always so; it may not always be so.

Boxing Day in Virginia 2019

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With the mercury hoovering just below freezing, we were treated to a soft, glowing dawn in central Virginia.

1226 to read pile For the first time in quite a while, my “to read” pile is a physical pile. Usually I read e-books on my cell phone and tablet; with a different book open on each. Generally, I read on the tablet at home and on the cell phone when I’m out.

First, I must make pancakes for the visiting grandchildren.

Book Review: “‘No Pagan ever loved his god’: Tolkien, Thompson, and the beautification of the Gods,” by Megan Fontenot (Five Stars)

Review: “‘No Pagan ever loved his god’: Tolkien, Thompson, and the beautification of the Gods,” by Megan Fontenot

(Five Stars)

“We, who love the gods, do not worship them. The ancients, who worshipped the gods, did not love them. Whence is this?” Thompson

An insightful investigation of the influence of Catholic mystic Francis Thompson on the worldview and writings of J. R. R. Tolkien. Because not only the ancient pagans but modern Christians no longer love their god, this investigation reverberates with immediacy. Not that Tolkien agreed with Thompson at every step, but that Thompson may have introduced some themes and conclusions Tolkien spent his life exploring.

“We are grown older and must face the fact. The poetry of these old things remains being immortal, but no longer for us is the intoxication of both poetry and belief.” Tolkien

Fontenot’s award-winning essay is written as if to discourage readers. Eschewing simple, straight-forward wording, she tortures the reader with convoluted sentences common to academia.

“Elves are there (in Tolkien’s tales) to demonstrate the difference” between “the devices and operations of the enemy” (magic), and “those of the Elves,” and that “their ‘magic’ is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effective, more quick, more complete. And its object is Art not Power.”

Read it anyway. It’s worth the effort. Quotes from the essay may give a feel for the scope of the essay, but neither this review nor the excerpts to justice to the richness of the work.

“Absolute Nature not in our life, now yet is lifeless, but lives in the life of God: and in so far, and so far merely, as man himself lives in that life, does he come into sympathy with Nature, and Nature with him.” Thompson

“I think that … he understands his impulse to appropriate pagan stories as the impulse toward redemption. To find the good and true at the heart of paganism, in this framework, is to participate in the work of redemption and evangelium—but throughout time rather than space.” Fontenot

“All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.” Tolkien

Book Review: Questing Beast by Ilona Andrews (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Questing Beast by Ilona Andrews

(Three Stars)

“Sean Kozlov … groped the surface of the desk for a pen. The pen felt moist and cold. Suspiciously like a nose.”

Competent short science fiction about folks in a jam who find a creative—perhaps too creative—solution to an apparently insolvable problem. And the clock is ticking. (Nice, if inaccurate cover art.)

“There are only two ways to break down a third-order AI like Nanny: a chaotic protocol or a goal-oriented protocol.”

Creating a chimera on a newly-discovered—perhaps develop-able, perhaps left as a sanctuary—world would be irresponsible. But it may be the only solution. What could go wrong?

“…sheathed its body. A long silky man flared on its sinuous neck.”

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Second Reading)

(Three Stars)

The following is my 2014 review (with non-spoiler quotes added):

“I’ll try, sir,” Dahl said. “Try’s not good enough,” Abernathy said, and clapped Dahl hard on the shoulder. “I need to hear you say you’ll do it.” He shook Dahl’s shoulder vigorously. “I’ll do it.”

Sometimes the practice of offering early chapters of a book free backfires. I read the first chapters of Redshirts and, assuming I knew what it was all about, decided to pass on the whole novel. Wrong. This book is great, and it’s so much more than a send-up of science fiction television series. I can’t believe I waited to read it.

“If Q’eeng’s leading the away team, someone Continue reading

Movie Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, directed by Marielle Heller (Five Stars)

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Movie Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, directed by Marielle Heller

(Five Stars)

“He’s just about the nicest person I’ve ever met.” “When you say it, it doesn’t sound so good.”

Amazing movie. While the rest of the world watched Frozen 2, we saw this biographical drama about Fred Rogers, inspired by the 1998 Esquire magazine article “Can You Say … Hero?” by Tom Junod. (Get Junod’s take on the movie and mister Rogers here.)

“There’s always something you can do with the anger you feel.”

Appropriately imaginative approach to telling how a journalist assigned to interview Fred Rogers has his life turned upside down—or more correctly, turned right-side up. This is not a children’s movie, not that it’s inappropriate for younger viewers—they aren’t the target audience.

“Why are you vegetarian?” “I can’t imagine eating anything with a mother.”

Movie Review: Born of Hope (4 stars)

“I gave hope to the Dúnedain; I kept none for myself.”
Amazing product for such a small budget. Good show.

Watch the credits: “…and a North London flat.” ?

Misty Midwest Mossiness

Born of Hope movie posterBorn of Hope: The Ring of Barahir

Release date:  December 1, 2009

Director/Producer:  Kate Madison

Office Website:  http://www.bornofhope.com/

Watched: late September 2019

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

I stumbled across this fan film last week while researching (translation: falling down another Tolkien rabbit hole) the backstory of Gilraen, mother of Aragorn.  I am always interested in Tolkien’s female characters because there are so few of them and nearly all of them have surprising agency considering Tolkien’s times.  The Tolkien Gateway article for Gilraen includes a link at the very bottom that delves deeper into her tragic tale, gleaned from The Lord of the Rings Appendices and other Legendarium sources:  The Tragedy of Gilraen, Aragorn’s Mother

Gilraen probably has the saddest epitaph of any of Tolkien’s character (except perhaps Turin and his sister):

Onen i-Estel Edain, ú-chebin estel anim.
“I gave hope to the Dúnedain; I kept…

View original post 136 more words

Book Review: Monk’s Hood by Ellis Peters (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Monk’s Hood (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #3) by Ellis Peters

(Four Stars)

“Every time I come near you I find myself compounding a felony.”

One of the best of the twenty chronicles. I am not one to judge the merits of murder mysteries, but as historical fiction this takes the reader right into the history and culture of twelfth century England and Wales. Improves with subsequent readings.

“What seems to be an easy life in contemplation can be hard enough when it comes to reality.”

Along the way Peters treats us to multiple suspects, blind allies, false trails, officious police and even abbey politics. All peppered with homey aphorisms about Continue reading

Book Review: “When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller (Four Star)

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Book Review: “When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller

(Four Star)

“We were nomads, and we didn’t get to keep things. Not even dreams.”

Excellent and engaging tale of non-humans scavenging and trying to understand human artifacts, long after the humans are gone. Well developed point-of-view character who takes the reader along on her scouting.

“Beyond the darkness, worlds are waiting.”

2019 Hugo Novelette Award finalist. (Clarkesworld Magazine cover has no relation to story.)

“There will always be need of us who find new ways to cross the blackness and dream of the worlds beyond.”