Book Review: Pile of Bones by Michael J. Sullivan. (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Pile of Bones (Legends of the First Empire, #0.5) by Michael J. Sullivan.

(Three Stars)

“Fear, for the most part, is yer friend. It keeps you alive, and stops you from doing stupid stuff like trying to fly or jumping in a fire. But, when yer scared of sumptin’ you ought not to be, well then, there’s just nothing for it but to grit yer teeth, spit in its eye, and challenge your dread to an arm wrestle.” Tura

A short, painless introduction to the world of Elan and one of the major characters of the greater series.

“So odd was this cautionary thought—as no one who knew her would ever accuse Suri of being prudent—that it caused her to laugh. After striking the [bee] hive several times, Continue reading

Book Review: The Last King’s Amulet by Chris Northern (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Last King’s Amulet (The Price of Freedom #1) by Chris Northern

(Three Stars)

“It’s a lucky commander who has good men.” “It’s lucky men who have a good commander.”

Excellent war fantasy set in a Roman Republic analog with a side of political philosophy. Well written, though the protagonist is not initially attractive.  A tease of romance and magic too. What’s not like?

“It is advantageous to take enemy supplies. The rule of thumb is an enemy wagon of supplies is worth twenty of your own. It hurts them that badly.”

A professional military logistician for most of my working life I’m prejudiced, but logistics really do win wars. As demonstrated in World War Two and the 1991 Gulf War. “Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics.” Tom Peters

“Spank them then give them a hug. Fighting men are like children.” “You were reading my mind.” “Actually I have been reading your books.

Northern lost a star because he ends rather than concludes this first chapter of his epic multi-volume opus. Not quite the Robert Jordan syndrome, but Jordan’s first book was good too. To sell the next book, one must deliver the goods in the current book.

“Self doubt is a cancer that can eat at you if you let it. What I needed, I realized, was to get on with it. To fight an enemy and kill him and be done. Still the thought made me sick inside. I had never killed anyone and to be completely honest I really had no desire to do so.”

#SFFpit

Book Review: Child of the Ghosts by Johnathan Moeller (ThreeStars)

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Book Review: Child of the Ghosts (Ghosts #1) by Johnathan Moeller

(Three Stars)

“The mind is much the same way. It can recover from an injury…but it will retain a scar. And you will carry that scar for the rest of your days. Whether you let it destroy you…that is up to you.”

Fun, if cartoonish, fantasy adventure. Leavened with humor. Fast paced.

“The two of us can’t take a Kindred assassin in a straight fight.” “Of course not. Which is why it’s not going to be a straight fight.”

Everything is too easy. From digging away the iron hinges to a dungeon cell to taking on the baddest bad people in the empire, she succeeds even when she fails.

“You shall be … Marianna, of House Nereide, I think. Yes. House Nereide went extinct during the War of the Fourth Empire.”

Caina cannot pose as a member of an extinct noble house. All the nobles in the capital would know she was an imposter. If there’s one thing nobles do well it’s follow who is who and where they stand in the pecking order.

“First demon-infested corpses, and now necromancers. I should have listened to Mother and become a carpenter.”

#SFFpit

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

(Three Stars)

“It is powerful,” she acknowledged. “But it’s not as powerful as people think—and lately, I’m learning that it’s not as powerful as I think. I’m easily confused by strong faith. If people believe what they say, then my magic can’t tell the difference.”

Entertaining excursion into a land where everyone seems to have some sort of magic. Cast is large and complex, since Dennard seems aiming for a long run.

“Safi had her title to protect her, and Iseult had her heritage to damn her.”

Female buddy story. The usual twits who shouldn’t be trusted out of the nursery without Continue reading

Book Review: The Warrior’s Path by Catherine M. Wilson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Warrior’s Path (When Women Were Warriors #1) by Catherine M. Wilson

(Three Stars)

“There’s no putting spilled blood back.”

More like 3.5 stars. A well-conceived and well-realized epic-style fantasy about a time and place were all (well, most) of the warriors were women. This story follows a young woman on her quest to become a warrior. On the way, she finds value, belonging and love. Not a bad start.

“Tell me later,” she said. “Sit down. Let’s just be quiet for a while.” “I need to tell you — ” “Hush,” she said. “You won’t find the truth in so much talk.” When I stopped talking, my trapped thoughts flew around like dry leaves in a whirlwind.

An iron age culture where all the warriors were women fits modern sensitivities but not historical trends–the Amazons notwithstanding. Not because men are better warriors–though they do tend to have greater upper body strength–but because Continue reading

Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level, directed by Jake Kasdan (Two Stars)

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Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level, directed by Jake Kasdan

(Two Stars)

Disappointing. Had the same wacked-out plot structure as Jumanji: Into the Jungle and much the same cast. Danny DeVito was a welcome addition. Lots of inside jokes and some healthy relationship vibes.

But the tone of the movie is, presumably intentional, grittier. For one thing the offensive language is much more and more noticeable.

Book Review: Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis (Five Stars)

Book Review: Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C. S. Lewis

(Five Stars)

“Why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

The best fiction Lewis wrote. Totally different than both his space trilogy and the Narnia books. Not so much overtly Christian as universal, pondering the deeper questions of life. Setting his story in a pre-Christian time and culture, Lewis forces us outside the comfort of what we think we know: to examine ourselves, even as we judge or sympathize with Orual

“And we said we loved her.” “And we did. She had no more dangerous enemies than us.”

I noted three pages of quotes with which to support this review, but find myself unable to include more than Continue reading

Book Review: Elias and the Legend of Sirok by Edward G. Kardos (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Elias and the Legend of Sirok by Edward G. Kardos

(Three Stars)

“So now what? What do you think I should do?” “Elias, don’t ask me. Ask yourself.”

Published in 2013, this was the seed for The Amulet – Journey to Sirok, published in 2017. Kardos suggests you start with the final story; I agree. Rough and repetitious, but shows promise.

“It is the natural order of things. It is the way of being one. One nature, one heart, and one soul. It is about being who you are.”

An allegory of the Pilgrim’s Progress ilk, though with a muddled message. More about self-actualization than finding truth. Quasi-medieval setting with many cultural and geographic references to Hungary.

“We allow our victim to destroy himself. Most of mankind does not need help from anyone or anything to destroy who they are.”

Kardos touts following one’s heart, but also tries to create a theistic if not Christian work. Hard to have it both ways. The Bible, believe it or not, is ambivalent. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) “Follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22) I’ll leave sorting that to the theologians.

“It is only when you are empty that you may become full.”

Book Review: Amáne of Teravinea by D. Maria Trimble (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Amáne of Teravinea: The Chosen One by D. Maria Trimble

(Three Stars)

“Ever since I can remember, I’d aspired to be brave and strong; to have a mission in life; to be worthy of a quest. But one problem plagued me—I was born a girl.”

A fun fantasy for young readers. Good story with a good heart. Lots of teen angst; little humor. Clunking, amateur writing.

“Gallen anticipated my reaction. He ducked just in time to avoid the spray of tea that spewed from my mouth. ‘Next time you have alarming news to tell her, you could at least refrain from telling her at meal times?’”

If Amáne’s mother and the Healer had any inkling she might be the Chosen One, you’d think they would have trained her and watched her. For who and what they were, they were Continue reading

Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novil (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novil

(Four Stars)

“For a moment I felt her a sister, our lives in the hands of others. She wasn’t likely to have any more choices in the matter than I did.”

Well-constructed fairy tale. Three female protagonists, two of whom had such similar voices that the reader occasionally must seek clues elsewhere. Interesting supporting cast, with enough humanity and inhumanity to compel and thrill.

“I had not known I was strong enough to do any of these things until they were over and I had done them.”

Draws deeply on Russian and Jewish cultures, but tells her own tale. Intricate plot, occasionally overlapping and backtracking to the point that the reader must puzzle out whose view point the story, always first person, is being told from.

“But it was all the same choice, every time. The choice between the one death and all the little ones.”

2019 Best Novel Hugo Award finalist