Book Review: Empire of Unreason by J. Gregory Keyes (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Empire of Unreason (Age of Unreason #3) by J. Gregory Keyes

Three Stars

“There is nothing logical about war.”

If you haven’t previously been reading the Age of Unreason series, don’t start here. It will yield little sense or enjoyment. This installation is a mere stepping stone to an increasingly inevitable conclusion. The storytelling is good. Cliffhangers abound.

“This is all an elaborate trap.” “What will you do about it?” “Walk into it, of course.”

As Keyes strays farther from actual history into the speculative, the tale becomes more fantasy. The “angelic” actors get more powerful with each volume, but the heroes manage to keep their heads above water.

“If I wore silk, I would still have all the same faults, with vanity added them, and would have gained nothing but the respect of fools.”

Keyes’ fictional Benjamin Franklin, aphorisms asides, sounds increasingly like John Adams. The other protagonists are sufficiently flawed to maintain reader interest, but Voltaire is thin soup compared to Edward Teach.

“Happiness is not so much the product of rare occurrence as it is of many small and everyday things”

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Looking a Lot Like Christmas Around Here

Thanks.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

As I promised earlier this month in my post about my building’s less than traditional holiday decorating, I managed to snap a few photos of some of my favorite things – and my that I mean Christmas lights, displays and decorations.

In roughly chronological order, starting with Thanksgiving weekend decorating the exterior of our home.

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Followed by a drive by on Grand Avenue past one of the tallest Christmas trees in the country in the heart of Crown Center two days later:

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I started off December right by stopping just before dawn on Broadway to snap this photo of the annual decorations hung at the Kansas City Life Insurance building:

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A week later I made it to work very early, with the sun still below the horizon with the help of some cloud cover and took several photos of the Country Club Plaza Christmas lights from the top floor…

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Movie Review: The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson (Five Stars)

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Movie Review: The Last Jedi (Star Wars Episode VIII), directed by Rian Johnson

Five Stars

“I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.”

These days I go to Stars Wars movies with trepidation. You see, I saw the first (later called Episode IV) in 1977, the first week it opened. I’ve seen each one since. Some were stinkers. The Last Jedi was not. In fact, it’s one of the best of the lot.

“Everything you just said was wrong.”

There’s hardly anything I can say that won’t be a spoiler. Except there’s lots of reversals and unexpected. Leavened with a bit of humor.

“Something inside me has always been there, but now it’s awake and I need help.”

I went in with one big expectation, and they nailed it in the most satisfying way. Not for everyone, but lots of fun.

“I want every gun we have to fire on that man. Do it.”

Book Review: The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear (Two Stars)

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Book Review: The Stone in the Skull (Lotus Kingdoms #1) by Elizabeth Bear

Two Stars

“We’re not the heroes of the story. We’re those guys who wander in during the third act to pick up the dirty work.”

A pleasant excursion into a world analogous to southern Asia before the British spoiled the local fun. Don’t read the blurb; it reveals too much backstory about the cauled sun and other phenomena of this world, robbing the reader of wonder and discovery.

“Duty above anything else. And then the lifetime regret for choices untaken.”

Decent character and world building. Enough strands that, at first, the reader is adrift. Enough point of view characters to bring the reader into the story without Continue reading

Book Review: The Christmas Train by David Baldacci (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Christmas Train by David Baldacci, read by Tim Matheson

Four Stars

A fun, seasonal story. The blurb claims Baldacci is “one of America’s most critically acclaimed storytellers.” Never heard of him. It is a good story–mixing (rail)road trip, mystery, romance, humor and advocacy (for increased Amtrak funding). Has a good heart.

A fun read listen. Perfect tale for whiling away the miles on a road trip of my own.

Concern: Current revelations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood are reflected in one character. What goes on is Hollywood, like Las Vegas, is an open secret which our society has winked and Continue reading

Book Review: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu, and Carlton Abrams (Five Stars)

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Book Review: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu, and Carlton Abrams

Five Stars

“The purpose of life is to find happiness. From the very core of our being, we simply desire joy and contentment.” Dalai Lama

A monumental conversation between two spiritual giants of our age. This book is a four-star treatment of a five-star topic. I rounded up because I am confident readers will sort the gems from the plaster.

“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy.” Desmond Tutu

The reader is invited into a celebration of life by two of the wisest men in the world. They have been friends for decades despite differing world views. Both their friendship and their wisdom shows through.

“Those who say forgiveness is for the weak haven’t tried it.” Desmond Tutu

You expect this book to be full of epigrams; it Continue reading

Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan

Three Stars

“It is said there are no atheists in war; there are lots of pantheists at the edge of the cliff.”

Listened to this as an audio book. The story is Trent’s usual fall-in-mud-and-emerge-smelling-like-a-rose, not to mention saving the day, story.

“Not so lucky as to be an idiot, at least in so far as this is concerned.”

Kate Reading nailed Lady Trent’s Received Pronunciation and several other accents as well. However, while it’s fun to read, it’s a pain to listen to for ten hours. Probably won’t try this again, though this narrative made the miles flash by.

“I cannot be glad for the death of mean, even my enemies.”

Movie Review: Pixar’s Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Pixar’s Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich

Four Stars

A visually and emotionally pleasing original story about a living boy’s visit to his family in the land of the dead. Sympathetic portrayal of Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. Warm relationships. Music and family are big themes.

Before taking children to see it, parents may wish to have an age-appropriate discussion about the afterlife. A lot of it is played for laughs, but issues presented may be unsettling to young children.

 

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.”

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.”