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…

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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.”

Movie Review: The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang

(Four Stars)

“Based on an actual lie” semi-autobiographical movie about a Chinese American dealing with her paternal grandmother’s terminal illness.

High-quality production despite the obvious small budget and lots of on-site filming in Changchun, China. Much tension and comedy as family gathers from America and Japan for a cousin’s supposed wedding.

Book Review: The Light Princess by George MacDonald (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Light Princess by George MacDonald

(Four Stars)

“He could not tell whether the queen mean light-haired or light-heired; for why might she not aspirate her vowels when she was exasperated herself?”

Fun. Unexpected and untypical (of MacDonald). A trailblazer of modern fantasy, MacDonald’s stories are often deep in meaning and dense with prose. This hundred and fifty year old tale is neither. Light and easy to follow. Raises the suspicion this is a modern paraphrase, yet many of the puns and word plays must stem for the original

“One day he lost sight of his retinue in a great forest. These forests are very useful in delivering princes from their courtiers, like a sieve that keeps back the bran.”

Self-conscious of fairy tale tropes used and abused. MacDonald using and makes fun of standard fairy elements, yet his tale of the redemptive power of self-sacrificial love is typical of his writings.

“She will die if I don’t do it, and life would be nothing to me without her; so I shall lose nothing by doing it.” “Love hath made me strong to go, For thy sake, to realms below.”

Book Review: Doomsday Morning by C. L. Moore (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Doomsday Morning by C. L. Moore

(Four Stars)

“Maybe you don’t know it, but the world is dead.”

A fine example of early science fiction in general and the works of C. L. Moore in particular, though no mention of space travel or aliens. Published in 1957. Set in a post-apocalyptic America ruled by an aging dictator and suffering unrest, all seen through the eyes of a washed up actor. Spies and betrayal abounds.

“When a Comus sampling turns up false, they’ll repeal the law of gravity.” “In California the law of gravity has been repealed.”

Well-conceived and executed. Moore still had the touch she first exhibited in the 1930s. She takes you deep into the mind of her protagonist and deep into his world. Works well.

“When you’re young you never doubt yourself. You never wonder if you’re justified. But as a man gets older he learns to doubt.”

Fewer technical groans than you’d expect for a story written sixty years ago. She managed to create a “modern” world which contains few jarring anachronism–except maybe telephone booths, and even those have video.

Quibble: “The hollow thunder of bomber was beginning to blanket all other sound.” Even in the 50s, you couldn’t hear approaching bombers. (B-52 bombers were already operational then.)

“How do I get out of here?” “Don’t act like that.” “It’s not acting.”

Contains the requisite SF/F cliché phrase: “I had been holding my breath without realizing it.”

“What’s past is prologue. Wait and see.”