Book Review: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman (Five Stars)

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Book Review: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

(Five Stars)

“The meaning of life: Company. Company. And ice cream.” “What kind of ice cream?”

Wonderful. Should be read by everyone who is a grandparent, plans to be one, or has grandparents. A poignant look inside generations–consecutive and skipped. Short; powerful.

“Are we here to learn how to say good-bye, Grandpa?” “I’m afraid we are.”

Backman explains that he didn’t write this book for us, but for his family. I’m so glad he shared it. The relationships and the emotions ring true.

Why do people who don’t believe in heaven assume, if they’re wrong, they’ll go there?

“What can we do to help Grandpa?” “We can walk down the road with him.”

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Book Review: The Four Million by O. Henry (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Four Million by O. Henry

(Four Stars)

“’Tis a weary thing to count your pleasures by summers instead of hours.”

First published in 1906, this collection still resonates with wit and insight. Each story ends with a twist, usually but not always pleasant. Even knowing its coming, the reader is rewarded with a surprise.

“The almanac lied and said spring had come. Spring comes when it comes.”

O. Henry loved New York City every bit as much as Walt Whitman, if not so poetically, though the NYC they heralded may be as distant as the hanging gardens of Babylon.

“Gabriel had played his trump; and those of us who couldn’t follow suit ….”

O. Henry loved words: big words, French words, slang words, puns. His stories are a verbal fuselage. Modern electronic readers will find themselves seeking help deciphering his prose.

“In Soapy’s opinion the law was more benign than Philanthropy.”

Over a hundred year old, this story reflects some attitudes now discarded. O. Henry seemed to love his neighbor, even if he expresses himself in a manner which might set modern teeth on edge. (You’ve been warned.)

“We can’t buy one minute with cash; if we could, rich people would live longer.”

Book Review: War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell (Three Stars)

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Book Review: War of the Wolf (The Saxon Stories #11) by Bernard Cornwell

(Three Stars)

“The rumor was believed because truth is ever feeble against passionate falsehood.”

Bernard Cornwell is my favorite author of historical fiction, but he was off his game with this eleventh installment of his Saxon Stories. All the well-loved elements were there: skilled melding of fact and fiction, conflict, eucatastrophe–all mediated by Uthred’s snarky inner voice.

“Bravery is overcoming fear,” I said. “and I don’t know how you do that. Duty helps a little, and not letting down your comrades helps a lot, but really bravery is a kind of madness.”

But it’s heavily laden with backstory and repetition. Needed another editing to reduce the duplication. Starting near the end of this series is not recommended, but a new reader would have appreciated all the repetition; those who have read the preceding ten, not so much.

“I didn’t say anything like that!” I told the poet. “Well, lord–” “It’s a poem, I know.”

Saved by a smashing closing battle and the happy inclusion of a poet. The dialogue involving the latter recovered a star of rating.

“The world of glory was gone and we were sinking into a darkness of smoke, fire, savagery, and blood.”

Book Review: Defending Middle Earth by Patrick Curry (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Defending Middle Earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity by Patrick Curry

(Two Stars)

“The costs [of modernity] have been horrendous, and are, unlike the benefits, increasing.”

Curry opens defending J. R. R. Tolkien against wrong-minded critics, then shifts to weaponizing Tolkien to beat his own ideological foes. That his foes are mostly English only obscures his bias to American readers. Disappointing. Since he makes several glaring errors on topics I know a little about, I suspect more lurk within.

“It has been asserted … that The Hobbit represents an alliance of the lower-middle class (Bilbo) and skilled workers, especially working class miners (the dwarves), in order to overcome a parasitic capitalist exploiter who ‘lives off the hard work of small people and accumulates wealth without being able to appreciate its value’ (the dragon). This is genuinely interesting … but it says at least as much about Marxism as a fairy [tale] as it does about The Hobbit.”

Tolkien was not a postmodern. If anything he was pre-modern, even pre-Enlightenment, because he believed that good and evil were real. He believed in God, and while there’s no church in Middle Earth, Tolkien based his entire mythos on an all-knowing, all-sufficient God. Those who claim Middle Earth was polytheistic do so from ignorance or guile.

“Modern profit-driven and state-protected science [is] a powerful counter-enchantment, much of whose power stems from being a spell that denies that it is one: a secular religion, literally a bad faith.”

Curry casually tosses Tolkien’s religion aside as irrelevant. Curry admits he judges Christianity by the externals he has witnessed, not from inside as Tolkien experienced it. Curry uses Lord of the Rings (LOTR) the way some atheists use the Bible, as a weapon against those who believe it. Despite Tolkien’s claims to the contrary, Curry asserts that LOTR is fundamentally a “pagan” work with Christianity included. A counter argument is that Tolkien meant for all the pagan myths to be included in the greater Christian mythos, which unlike the rest of them happens also to be true.

“I have been accused of using Tolkien to advance an ecological agenda. But nothing in this book about defending nature does not draw its warrant from the contents of Tolkien’s own work … I believe he himself would have thoroughly approved.”

Apparently others called him on his bias because in his Afterword, published seven years after the original work, Curry claims, “I nowhere argue that Tolkien was himself a postmodernist, nor that ecology is the only or even the most important key to his work.” His original work argues otherwise.

“As Max Weber saw long ago, religion itself becomes an enemy of enchantment when it asserts it [sic] own sole universal truth, and thus becomes entangled in aspirations to complete control and ultimate power.” Curry asserts, “So his defence of Middle-earth is fully as spiritual as it is ecological and cultural. But it is not a journey away from our lives and our home here on Earth; ultimately, and critically, it is a return.”

Does Curry admire Tolkien’s work as much as he says or has just taken them up as a cudgel in his own battles?

“There are no havens in a world where evil is a reality. If you think you live in one, you are probably naïve like the early Frodo, and certainly vulnerable.” J. R. R. Tolkien

Book Review: Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess

(Three Stars)

“Ancient knowledge is still–more ancient than knowledge.”

Mediocre short story; marvelous illustrations.

“When nothing is easy, everything is possible.”

Steam punk, so presumably a different world. Given the tectonic and polar shifts, everyone should be dead, not just frozen. Yes, the poles may now be at the equator, but the equator–not all of it–cannot be at the poles. Where did Wesley store the fuel for his various machines?

“The quest is worth more than the find.”

Book Review: Deeds of Honor by Elizabeth Moon (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Deeds of Honor (Paksennerrion #10.5) by Elizabeth Moon

(Four Stars)

“Something would go wrong; something always did in war.”

Set in the world of the Paksennerrion tales, these short stories as less backstory as background. Each stands alone, concerning some minor or bridge character in the greater timeline. As the number implies, there’s a lot to cross connect.

“You can’t undo what is done or unsay what is said.”

I have only read The Farmer’s Daughter, but missing many connecting threads enhances the quality, if not the enjoyment, of these fragments. In fact, I enjoyed these short stories–because each was a self-contained whole–better than the sluggish longer work.

“Sometimes young men learn only from old men … willing to teach the hardest lessons the hardest way.”

Book Review: A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: A Soldier’s Duty (Theirs is Not to Reason Why #1) by Jean Johnson

(Three Stars)

“… is to place his or her skills, weapons, body and life between all that can harm and all that could be harmed.”

A space opera centered on a superhuman heavy-world half-breed of a super race. Think: all the Avengers in one body, and she’s a Jedi who sees the future. And most of the book she’s still a teen. Good fun, if you ignore the blood and guts, but too easy.

“You are a pawn, little half-child. You are a Game piece we have set in motion.” “Sometimes the pieces direct where the players must play.”

Her prescience is acknowledged to be fuzzy many times, yet she manipulates the actions of others as if she has precise knowledge of Continue reading

Book Review: Peace on Earth by Stanisław Lem (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Peace on Earth (Ijon Tchy #4) by Stanisław Lem

(Four Stars)

“Sadistics: the algebra of conflicts that end fatally for all parties.”

Wish I read this fifty years ago. A cynical, naive but hopeful inquiry into how to end the arms race. Well written with a folded timeline which will leave the inattentive reader confused. Good understanding that man’s most basic urge in any situation is to cheat. Stand alone story.

“Politicians continued business as usual, more concerned about voters than the future.”

Extra star because this story reads so well fifty years after written. Lem nailed nano-technology though he wrote at a time when the first integrated circuits were huge and slow. Correctly posited Continue reading

Book Review: Lincoln’s Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams and David Fisher

(Three Stars)

“Ask yourself: what is the justice in this case?” A. Lincoln

Exhaustive review of a trial transcript with explanatory amplifications. By the authors’ own admission, Lincoln was already headed toward the presidency, and their work gives no indication how it “propelled him to the presidency,” rather how he dodged a bullet that could have killed his dark horse bid at the Republican nomination.

“I must say I do not think myself fit for the presidency.” A. Lincoln (1959)

Based on the recently recovered transcript of Robert Roberts Hitt. Telling the story from Hitt’s point of view saved the author’s from Continue reading

Book Review: Sword of the Storm by David Gemmell. (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Sword of the Storm (The Rigante #1) by David Gemmell.

(Four Stars)

“We are born alone, and we die alone. In between we may be touched by love, but we are still alone.”

A rousing opening to a historical epic fantasy series based on the northern European clash of expanding Rome with the resident Celtic and Germanic populations. Good characterization and storytelling. Deep point of view of main characters shows all to be flawed, driven and occasionally very wrong. Just like us.

“I’m not saying not to fight. I am saying do not hate. It is not war that leads to murderous excuses but hate.”

Celtic and Roman analogs hew close to the history, except Continue reading