Book Review: The Sinless, Sickless, Deathless Life by Frank Neiman Riale (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Sinless, Sickless, Deathless Life: God’s Glory-Goal for All by Frank Neiman Riale

(Three Stars)

“Man was not made to die … but to be ‘clothed upon’ with glory that cometh down from on high.”

A seminal work in modern Christian mysticism, published in 1913. Riale argues that the hereafter begins now for the believer and that not only is sin forgiven, but sickness and death defeated. (Riale died in 1935.)

“The second coming of the Lord has already begun in me the moment I have accepted by faith that by his indwelling and outworking Spirit I will, by God’s Spirit, be over all the great race foes forever triumphant.”

Many contemporary Christian movements hark back to Riale’s thesis, if not his writings. Like moderns, he quoted from then-contemporary secular works to buttress his arguments.

“The Spirit of life that raised Christ from the dead swells in us to life us into the same almighty triumph also.”

Quibble: Understandable that Riale quotes from the King James Version of the Bible, less excusable that he occasionally writes as if he lived in the seventeenth century.

“All that I desire I shall have. God withholds nothing from the child of his likeness and the child of his love.”

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Book Review: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Here Be Dragons (Welsh Prince’s #1) by Sharon Kay Penman

(Five Stars)

“Poor Wales, so far from Heaven, so close to England.”

Excellent historical fiction. A critical time of Welsh and English history brought to life through Llewelyn ab Iorwerth and Joanna, daughter of John Plantagenet. Inaccuracies and anachronisms are few.

“If sunlight were not silent, she thought, it would sound much like Llewelyn’s laughter.”

Gives even minor characters enough depth. In the inevitable tension between accuracy and a good story, Penman usually goes with the story. And what a story it is.

“The true significance of this charter is that it changes privileges to rights.” “A pity it will be as short-lived Continue reading

Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

(Three Stars)

“All the true things I’m about to tell you are shameless lies.”

Hardly science fiction, except for the MacGuffin: Ice-Nine. Humorous.

“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?” “Guilty as charged.”

Enjoyable interleaved stories of an improbably group of people saving or destroying the world. Vonnegut’s economical, cynical prose entertains and pushes for reflection. It worked better fifty years ago when it was fresh.

“Busy, busy, busy.”

Book Review: Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories #5) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“Perhaps she could paint me with a halo.” “Nothing so explicit. Simply a ray of light emanating from heaven, as if you are favored by God.” “Ah, for that, I only need you seated at my right hand.”

Fitting end to the series: Jane and Vincent must deal with family, that most Austenian of plot movers. But Austen–even glamour–gradually recedes for center stage as our protagonists move far from the shores of England into physical, political and social situations as outside their experience as being impoverished in Venice, to Antiqua in the Caribbean.

“She held his gaze and waited. If there was one thing that a young lady learned, it was how to wait with a tranquil expression.”

Kowal tries to maintain a Jane Austen tone–to the point that the grammar is often stilted–but her subjects are far beyond the cloistered existence of Regency England. Kowal enjoys, and makes good use of, resources far beyond anything Austen could imagine.

“It was difficult to avoid noticing how many times Julian had been whipped. Jane ground her teeth together as they worked.” This was not England, but England was responsible.”

That other cultures may understand and use glamour differently than Europeans might seem obvious, but Jane like us occasionally misses what is right before her. Kowal does a credible job defining these alternate approaches–remembering Jane as many Americans seem unaware that Africa is a huge and diverse place–and imagining a credible response for Jane to it.

“His eyes were wide and serious with the slightly troubled expression unique to newborns, as if he had come into the world knowing how to right all the troubles but could no longer quite remember how.”

Book Review: Vaour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories #4) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“But true love will always triumph. Is that not what the novels says?” “Yes, but we are in the land of Romeo and Juliet.” “What a happy thought that is.”

This glamour history eschews the usual Regency England setting for a more exotic locale: Venice after the dissolution of the Republic by Napoleon. Kowal likewise confronts our protagonists with new threats and new antagonists. The story has been compared to Ocean’s 11, but Kowal’s task was more difficult because she maintains a single point of view throughout, where modern swindler-the-swindler stories depend on multiple, rapid shift of POV.

“Allow me to offer one exceedingly simple reason to not remove to Lord Byron’s.” He raised his eyebrows in question. Jane placed a hand to her bosom and sighed over-dramatically. “I fear for my virtue.”

Kowal demonstrates her virtuosity by melding Lord Byron into a story which had not originally included him, but Kowal’s research discovered the notorious poet in residence in Venice at the very time of her plot. Too good a character to shun.

“Times are hard. I shouldn’t have … you used to be a lady, didn’t you?” “Yes.”

Jane and Vincent’s brief excursion into poverty broadens their characters and increases the stakes. In the process they deal with isolation, deceit and a most unconventional convent.

“Prayer provided only the illusion of control, but Jane was too accomplished a glamourist to deny that illusions could provoke emotions. The same perception allowed her to see beyond the curtain of bravery to the fear in her husband’s eyes.”

 

Book Review: Earth’s Last Citadel by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Earth’s Last Citadel by  C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner

(Two Stars)

“They were from — outside. They wore light like a garment, and to them humans were–vermin. They cleansed the earth of them.”

Classic, but not all that good science fiction. Eligible for 2019 retro Hugo Award consideration, but not up to snuff. Liberal borrowings from H. G. WellsTime Machine.

“How great a man this was, who could speak so coolly while death marched down upon him!”

Old fashioned, manly men who acted more than thought. Female supporting cast not well developed.

“Fighting it was like defying the lightning.”

We know now that the moon is gradually getting farther, not closer, to Earth, but the image of the moon looming large and huge tides is a good one. The hotter sun, a real trend, leads to a desiccated landscape.

“Far back in Alan’s mind, behind the helpless horror, the terrible revulsion, the more terrible taint of kinship with this being whose dreams he had known–lay one small corner of detached awareness.”

Book Review: Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“Vincent’s jaw tightened. ‘Jane. Stay in the carriage.’ She did not.”

This series keeps getting better. Kowal confidently draws the reader into a historical London and the summer that wasn’t.  Readers continue to follow Jane Vincent, now Lady Jane, into the deprivation and politics of that time. And sometimes the biggest threat to the happiness of herself and those she loves are her own assumptions.

“She comes from good English stock on her father’s side. It is not as though she were Irish.”

Kowal addresses a time when some people of color were accepted in the upper reaches of English society and some were barred–when Irish were considered not white. When myth and rumor are more readily believed than truth.

“They cannot think that coldmongers are responsible for the weather. It flies in the face of science.” “Superstition rarely troubles with facts.”

The pretty girl on the cover may be Melody, but shouldn’t the gentlemen then have red hair?

“I know that I should not feel sorry for myself because I am pretty, but sometimes it is nice to have someone speak to me as though I am not.”

Book Review: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“Jane had made the plan as simple as possible, believing that–as with glamour–the fewer threads there were to tangle, the more robust the illusion.”

Better than Shades of Milk and Honey. Kowal strikes out on her own, with a clearer voice, former roots in history, and less mimicking of Jane Austen. Good job. Since this book is firmly rooted in history, the reader can detect that the universe with glamour is parallel, not the same as, our own. Newlyweds, Jane and David Vincent stumble into the crisis of their era, and ….  Continue reading

Book Review: British Forts in the Age of Arthur by Angus Konstam (Three Stars)

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Book Review: British Forts in the Age of Arthur by Angus Konstam

(Three Stars)

In his History of the English Speaking Peoples, Winston Churchill described this period as night falling on Britain, followed by hundreds of years of darkness, then dawn rising on England with everything changed. Konstam’s survey of recent archology and study of fortifications built or renewed during that obscure time casts a bit of light into the gloom.

This book is part of a series by Osprey Publishing related to ancient and medieval warfare. Some overlap to previous Konstam/Osprey volumes.

Excellent illustrations by Peter Dennis. I have visited several of these sites. Both the photographs and illustrations bring out the nature of the “Age of Arthur” efforts better than seeing them. That said, if you have the chance, do visit them.

Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Three Stars)

“There are few things in this world that can simultaneously delight and dismay in the same manner as a formal dinner party.”

Disappointing. I like Jane Austen; I like structured magic; I like historical fiction; I like the writing of Mary Robinette Kowal. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a bit. Kowal follows too closely in the footsteps of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, even to the characters and plot. What Austen lacked in horizon she made up in clarity of describing the world of rural Regency daughters. This book rings false because it is too self-conscious. (Subsequent Glamourist Histories, more properly historical fantasy, are richer and more enjoyable.)

“Jane plucked the fold [of glamour] from the shelf and held it out to Miss Dunkirk, the light dripping in strands of gold that would have made Rumpelstiltskin proud.”

If Jane is so plain, who are Continue reading