Book Review: Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Busman’s Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey #13) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Four Stars

“We can’t pick and choose. Whoever suffers, we must have the truth. Nothing else matters.”

This story opened like a farce compared to the previous serious detective tale, Gaudy Night, however it ends being one of the richest of the series in terms of literary allusions, humor and psychological insights. Sayers returns to the lasting impact of shell shock (World War One’s PTSD) and the personal cost of exposing criminals.

“Come and hold my hand,” he said. “This point of the business always gets me down.”

Sayers loads this book with quotes from all over, as several characters speak in quips. For a change, they identify (to each other and the reader) their sources.

“Earnestly hope we shall not have another war with meat coupons and no sugar and people being killed–ridiculous and unnecessary.” (1937)

Sayers again assumes a high level of literary among her readers; that they are fluent in French and Latin. Also her rendering of rural dialect is occasionally impenetrable.

“There’s no one like the British aristocracy to tell you a good stiff lie without batting an eyelid.”

We are also reminded that English society is, or was, fundamentally different than American. We may talk about class divisions here, but they were never universally accepted.

“Harriet … felt depressed, as one frequently does when one gets what one fancied one wanted.”

For all the loose ends she fastens, one would think this volume closed the series. Indeed, she eventually moved to writing plays. Sayers considered her translation of Dante’s Divina Commedia her best work.

“You’re my corner, and I’ve come to hide.”

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Book Review: Sister Solweig & Mr. Denial by Kameron Hurley (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Sister Solweig & Mr. Denial by Kameron Hurley

Four Stars

“… When the sun hiccuped over the horizon …”

Excellent short story, if a bit gory. Hurley handles words like a master. She draws beautiful (or ugly) pictures with sparse prose. The point of view (“Mr. Denial”) makes it work. Assume this is a tease for a longer work or works.

“What we want rarely intersects with where we are.”

Book Review: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey #12) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Five Stars

“He has been about as protective as a can opener.”

Excellent. Best story of the series. Engaging plot and exposition. Sayers’ voice sounds more authentic when the point-of-view character is Harriet Vane, a writer of murder mysteries. Lord Peter has added depth, including a real purpose, the secrecy about which is also explained. The setting, a fictional woman’s college at Oxford, is drawn with perception.

“… mentally turning the incidents of the last hour into a scene in a book (as is the novelist’s unpleasant habit).”

The Lord Peter stories can be read in any order. If you read no other, read this one. However, if you do you will spoil Continue reading

Book Review: The Nine Tailers by Dorothy L. Sayers (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Nine Tailers (Lord Peter Whimsey #11) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Three Stars

“Probably I’m tryin’ to be too clever.”

I liked it but, by the time you’ve read a dozen books in a series, you’ve not only learned the modus operandi of the protagonist but that of the author as well. The surprises may still surprise, but the way they develop is not a surprise.

“’Nature has marvelous powers of recuperation.’ Which is the medical man’s way of saying that, short of miraculous intervention, you may as well order the coffin.”

A good story, lost in the minutiae of ringing peals (of church bells) in rural England. The church bells get into every aspect of the story, including the murder. Lord Peter at his best as Sherlock Holmes acting as if he’s Bertie Wooster.

“Take care of the knot and the noose will take care of itself.”

Book Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

Four Stars

“Tell just enough of the truth, but never lie.”

Is there anything Tom Hanks can’t do … and do well? Add writing fiction to the list. His prose is compelling, if pedestrian. Great stories, with a lot of heart.

“Every day in Gotham is a little like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and a little like Baggage Claim after a long, crowded flight.”

Somewhere in each story is a cameo (at least) by an old typewriter. Hanks collects them. Occasionally their presence is an intrusion, but mostly they fit right in. At least once it serves as the McGuffin. While some are contemporary stories, many are set mid-twentieth century.

“In a flash as well defined as that from a Speed Graphic camera ringside at a prize fight …”

Best story is “These are the Meditations of my Heart.”

“… as nutty as a can of Planters.”

Book Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Skullsworn (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 0.5) by Brian Staveley

Four Stars

“I couldn’t see inside their heads. I could barely make out what was going on inside my own.”

Don’t let the numerical designation fool you, this is a complete novel, not a short story. Despite expectations triggered by the title, a worthwhile novel about life.

“We are all dying, all the time. Being born is stepping from the cliff’s edge. The only question is what to do while falling.”

An action-adventure fantasy with all the blood and gore expected of the genre, but also an investigation into Continue reading

Book Review: Dauntless by Jack Campbell (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Dauntless (Lost Fleet #1) by Jack Campbell

Three Stars

“For the first time, he wondered if missing the last century had actually been a blessing.”

Good space opera. Protagonist back from a hundred year sleep must save the day. Realistic naval idioms for ship movement, engagement and culture.

“You just didn’t ask whether or not marines would follow orders.”

The protagonist is the reader’s “everyman” in the advanced technology and changed culture of his future. Plenty of adversaries, both friendly and decidedly not, to give the story depth and provide fodder for this and half a dozen follow-on tales.

“If the AI isn’t smart enough to employ a weapon all by itself, you can’t trust it very much in battle. If that AI is smart enough … Continue reading

Book Review: The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter by Michael J. Sullivan (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter (Riyria Chronicles #4) by Michael J, Sullivan

Four Stars

“Are you two always like this?” “He is,” they both said in unison.

Perhaps the best Riyria book yet. Both Royce and Hadrian have more depth. Their relationship is more complex. The storytelling, especially the inner dialogue, is superb. Several distinct and distinctive female characters. Sullivan clearly signals changes in point-of-view character. Why not five stars? See my quibble.

“You just hate being happy.” “I have no idea. What’s it like?”

For those unfamiliar with Riyria (Royce and Hadrian) the fourth book of the second series seems the wrong place to try them out. Not so. Winter’s Daughter is a self-contained, rich Continue reading

Book Review: Solar Express by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Solar Express by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Four Stars

“Too many people get too passionate about too little, and not excited about what matters.”

First contact, sort of. Good, hard science fiction. The type that encourages the reader to reflect on the science, rather than the fiction. Don’t reflect too long, however because there are a few technical groaners. (see quibbles) Wanted to give it five because it’s so good, but between Modesitt’s pontificating and the orbital dynamics, couldn’t. Gets an “A” for effort.

“Human beings talk about sharing knowledge while doing their best to hide it or get it first.”

Both protagonists are well-drawn, engaging people, who have different backgrounds and interest, but who from a chance meeting end up making both a scientific breakthrough and a chance to save mankind as well as themselves.

“Truth is a judgment placed on the facts, not the facts themselves. True scientists try to avoid using the word ‘truth.’”

Quibbles: Way too easy. Decides to intercept Continue reading

Book Review: Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Tyrant’s Throne (Greatcoats #4) by Sebastien de Castell

Three Stars

“The time for preposterous heroics has passed.” “Preposterous heroics were the only thing we were ever good at.”

Good summary and conclusion to the series … maybe. Despite several inconsequential subplots, de Castell brings all the threads together in the end. A Greek-tragedy-like appearance of the gods at the end is turned on its head; good job.

“The best we can hope for is one chance to prove ourselves, to turn our death into a sacrifice for what we believe in rather than a fate that was set upon us.”

Quibble: A face recognized by its reflection in the blade of a rapier? How wide are your rapier blades? (The very presence of rapiers in this medieval fantasy is a non sequitur, but explained in the first book.)

“Why must you always be clever after the fact, Falcio?”

Not Dumas quality, but a fun read.

“Death, like life, cares nothing for poetry.”