Book Review: War Lord (The Last Kingdom #13) by Bernard Cornwell (five stars)

Book Review: War Lord (The Last Kingdom #13) by Bernard Cornwell (five stars)

“Why,” I asked, “am I always fighting for the wrong side?” “Even you can’t escape fate, Lord Uhtred. You must do God’s work whether you wish it or not.” 

A fitting close to Cornwell’s thirteen volume saga of Uhtred and the birth of England. Climaxes with a detailed description of Brunanburh, the most important battle in English history prior to 1066.

‘So many dead. They were the ghosts of Bebbanburg, drifting through the smoke-sifted night to fill me with remorse.’ 

Cornwell at his best. He is a master of weaving a fiction person into the history of a time to at once bring the history alive and to give an everyman point of view deep into the events and culture of that day. He boasts direct descent of the historic Uhtred the Bold, who lived a hundred years after his fictional namesake. (Do read the historical notes)

‘I might never know what would happen, might never know whether Constantine sought revenge, or whether Anlaf would bring his fleet across the sea, or whether my son could hold Bebbanburg against all that the world could throw against it.’ 

Book Review: Glide Path by Arthur C. Clark (Five Stars)

Book Review: Glide Path by Arthur C. Clark (Five Stars)

“Co-operate with the inevitable.”

Best Clark story ever, and it’s not science fiction. Yes, better than either the Space Odyssey or Rama series. Relatable protagonist in a quasi-scientific environment. Much less proselytizing than usual. More human-sized, yet scientifically compelled, not to mention the urgency of World War II.

It was a pity that there was no radar to guide one across the trackless seas of life. Every man had to find his own way, steered by some secret compass of the soul. And sometimes, late or early, the compass lost its power and spun aimlessly on its bearings.

The plot revolves around the wartime development of radar-based ground-controlled approach in England, on which Clark worked. The science is there, but Clark focuses on the people, who are less unpredictable and therefore more interesting.

Perhaps it had been unfair, but the whole operation was symbolic of modern war. Skill and courage and resolution were no longer enough; the time was fast approaching when only machines could fight machines.

Published in 1963, the story still resonates with readers. If you like Clark as I do, you’d love this book.

If one looked too long into the past, it seemed to Alan, the result was always sadness.

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


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: Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers (Four Stars)


Book Review: Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey #3) by Dorothy Sayers

Four Stars

“I’ve seen enough to know that nothing is a certainty.”

Perhaps the best of the series to date. Sayer opens with Winsey guessing there’s been a murder and who done it, and then follows his investigation through many by-ways and dead ends. In the meantime, the body count rises.

“I have no use for men. They always look on women as sort of pets or playthings.”

Almost a century ago, Sayer investigated with insight and sensitivity gender, race and class issues, which we think are the purview of modern advocacy groups. That her conclusions would not please everyone is a given. She uses the term epicene in a relevant way.

“… with the cheerful brutality of the man who has never in his life been short of money.”

A distinguishing feature of the Wimsey stories is Wimsey’s sensitivity to the consequences of Continue reading

My Seven Wonders of the World, #2

The second in a series of seven articles about the seven man-made objects/sites I found most amazing. You mileage is sure to vary.

My #2 is Stonehenge.

stonehenge image

Equally old, evocative and challenging as the Giza Pyramid group is the Stonehenge of Wiltshire, England. Stonehenge is a series of concentric circular monuments started as early as 8000 B. C. Most visible today are the remains of Stonehenge designated 3aII, built during the twenty-sixth century B. C., about the same time as Khufu’s Pyramid.

Stonehenge is best seen on quiet days without the crazies. (Like the Pyramids, Stonehenge was built long before Continue reading

Book Review: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Five Stars)

Book Review: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Five Stars

“There’s things worse than bombs.”

A deep, honest look at life on the cusp of a great war and the end of childhood. Told penetratingly deep from the perspective of a young girl whose life is turned upside down by the evacuation of children from wartime London.

“The house looked asleep.”

Writing that may not appeal to adult readers has a simplicity and directness that sounds authentic. Despite the many decades elapsed since I was ten, I can attest that it comes uncomfortably close to how I sometimes felt during that awful and wonderful time of life.

“You’re in luck, then because I’m not a nice person at all.”

Winner of numerous awards for young readers.

“Saying something stupid doesn’t make you stupid. Luckily for all of us.”

Bought it for our granddaughter. (Don’t tell her.)

“I had so much. I felt so sad.”