Book Review: The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Empty Throne (Saxon Stories #8) by Bernard Cornwell

Four Stars

“It probably did not matter what the Witan thought … or what I thought. I should have thought harder.”

A romp through a historic game of thrones. History may not be quite as exciting as fiction, but that’s why we have historical fiction. And few authors blow the dust off the pages of time better than Bernard Cornwell.

“It probably did not matter what the Witan though … or what I thought. I should have thought harder.”

Uhtred may be on his last legs. His near-fatal wound is festering, his king is dying, his family is threatened, and his dreams are unfulfilled. What’s a man do to? If that man is Uhtred, attack.

“I wanted an end to the pain, to the problems, but I also wanted to know how it would all end. But does it ever end?”

Well written. Good map, though unreadable in the ebook format. Love, death, betrayal, and surprises. A real life strong female leader. Leavened with humor.

“As I said, Father, I am not noisy.” “And I am?” “Very.”

No quibbles, just looking for an excuse to insert another text quote.

“How?” “By killing any bastard who opposes her.” “Oh, by persuasion.” “Exactly.”

 

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Book Review: Through Five Administrations by William H. Crook (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, Body-Guard to President Lincoln by William H. Crook

Four Stars

“The newspaperman, then as now, was on the outlook for a sensation. There was less regard for the truth then ….”

I’m a sucker for primary sources, even when–especially when–the writer reveals more about himself and his stop than he intended. Such is the case with this book. Crook takes you into his mind. You experience six presidents from the perspective of one who worked with them closely and personally, but was not involved in the politics of the day.

“It must be taken as for granted that I am somewhat prejudiced.”

Not surprisingly, Crook sees the best of each man, though some reviled each other. He defends each president, even as he acknowledges that some (especially Andrew Johnson) poured burning coals on their own heads.

“A narrow circle of New England theorists who, with their inheritance of inflated ideals and incomplete sympathies, had come to replace, by way of aristocracy, the social traditions of colonial times.”

Snowflake warning: This was written more than a century ago. Crook’s attitudes and expressions will offend modern sensibilities, even of those who agree with him. But if we are denied his point of view, the whole work would be suspect.

“Speeches in both House and Senate … filled with wild alarm, not for the country, but for [their] party.”

Book Review: A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell (Five Stars)

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Book Review: A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell

Five Stars

“Hand in hand, they sit … all life’s sorrows but one behind them.”

Russell scores again with entertaining historical fiction which teaches without being didactic. Remote northwest Italy may seem an unlikely locale for high drama, but Russell brings war, the holocaust and heroism into a human focus and an immediacy which engages the reader. Fine writing.

“Never underestimate how soothing it is to have someone to blame. If Jews didn’t exist, someone would have to invent us.”

Russell thoroughly researched this, including many eye witness interviews. It shows. Good stuff. Yes, we know, war is hell. But, except for the Nazis, here almost everyone has got a conscience, and it hurts.

“Feeble as a good intention, he …”

Lots of contrary-to-stereotype characterizations. Carabinieri as good guys. Catholic and Jewish clergy cooperating. Remote mountain types sheltering strangers, at the risk to their home and family. Being a “good guy” does not guarantee a good end.

The world is filled with unreasonable hate. What’s wrong with unreasonable love?”

Something Russell does astonishingly well is address issues of faith. Here as well as Dreamers of the Day, she presents the full gamut of faith and non-faith with a sympathy which is unusual in contemporary literature.

“Hell exists. Any combat soldier can tell you that. So, heaven’s real, too! Logic, ja?”

 

Book Review: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell

Five Stars

“To be enjoyed, life must be shared.”

Historical fiction at its best: opens the past as can only be done by fiction; while connecting to the reader’s present in ways that are both entertaining and informative. Neatly melds modern opinion with history. Compare this with James Michener’s Caravans, telling in 1963 how the world was going to lose Afghanistan.

“America, I recalled, were notorious colonial troublemakers.” “As the Arabs promise to be,” Lawrence said quietly.

All of the narrowness and prejudices one would expect of a 1920s American abroad–like Mark Twain’s 1869 Innocents Abroad, but Russell’s protagonist is open to Continue reading

Madame Butterfly from Coast to Coast

Misty Midwest Mossiness

Tonight is opening night for Seattle Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly.  My daughter, Rachelle, is once again a member of the cast.  She appears third from the left in both photos below.

MadameButterflySeattleOperaAug2017RachelleMoss3rdFromLeft [ Philip Newton photo ] MadameButterflySeattleOperaAug2017RachelleMoss3rdFromLeft02 [ Philip Newton photo ] Earlier this year, Rachelle was also a member of the cast of Sarasota Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly. So she really has done this show from coast to coast.

Rachelle as Kate Pinkerton Rachelle as Kate Pinkerton

Now I’m wishing I was in Seattle so I could attend opening night.

Break a leg!

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Book Review: The Women of Harry Potter by Sarah Gailey (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Women of Harry Potter by Sarah Gailey

Four Stars

“Ginny let herself be impressed once … and wound up vulnerable and look where that got her.”

I almost didn’t read this collection of posts. I’m not a Harry Potter fan. I read a couple of the books and saw a few of the films, and never connected. So I figured Gailey would have nothing to say I’d be interested in. Wrong.

“These, I must teach to hate.”

I didn’t even know who one of these characters was, but Gailey creates a cogent, interesting essay on each; exploring who they are, what motivates them, and why we should care. Good job.

These posts are among the finalists in the 2017 Hugo Award Related Works. Now that I’ve read them all, I can affirm I liked this one best. Better than many much more famous names who were, IMHO, trading on their names as excuse for publishing drivel.

Beginning My Deep Dive Into Tolkien

“The road goes ever on.”

Misty Midwest Mossiness

A dear friend of mine sent me off on a wonderful Tolkien tangent last week when she replied to my Podcast Pickup post and directed me to the Prancing Pony Podcast.  I quickly scanned the last half dozen posted episodes and settled on #038, also entitled “I Will Choose Free Will” – which immediately gave me a Rush earworm.  Not one to be daunted by a nearly two hour podcast (we are dealing with ‘epic’ fantasy here), I gave a listen to the ongoing discussion of The Silmarillion, specifically Chapter 21 and Túrin Turambar.  I pulled out my ebook edition and quickly skimmed Chapter 21 to remind myself of the story.  I really enjoyed the insights and the banter of the hosts.  It took me several days to completely listen to the episode, but by the end I was hooked and a plan began to form in…

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You Bet Your Life

Probably a faster read than Pensees itself.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

Cover Image of Making Sense of it all: Pascal and the Meaning of LifeGoodreads SynopsisAn instructive and entertaining book that addresses basic life questions. Relating numerous personal anecdotes, incorporating, intriguing material from the films of Woody Allen and the journals of Leo Tolstoy, and using the writings of the seventeenth-century genius Blaise Pascal as a central guide, Morris explores the nature of faith, reason, and the meaning of life. His lucid reflections provide fresh, fertile insights and perspectives for any thoughtful person journeying through life.

Read the week of May 7, 2017 by the grace of one of the wonders of the modern world: Interlibrary Loan

My Thoughts

Morris did an excellent job of pulling together Pascal’s Thoughts and presenting powerful arguments in support of his famous Wager.  For me, it ended up being a reaffirmation of my personal faith, a honing of my reasoning and renewed focus on my life’s purpose and direction.  This is the first of many tangential…

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Movie Review: Collateral Beauty, directed by David Frankel (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Collateral Beauty, directed by David Frankel

Four Stars

“This doesn’t feel right.” “I know. But when something starts with a six-year-old dying, nothing is gonna feel right.”

A complex, yet satisfying contemplation of love, death and time. Not all morose and weepy, it has its motions of emotion. Clever script by Allan Loeb. Filmed in New York City in winter, it feels both intimate and connected.

“Just make sure you notice the collateral beauty.”

Will Smith can act: who knew? Though this movie drew the lowest opening weekend box office of Smith’s career, it’s a better movie and not all about him. If anything, it’s more like an essemble theater piece, with some players in multiple roles.

“But you never know, nothing’s ever really dead if you look at it right.”