Book Review: Pride’s Children: Netherworld by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt (five stars)

Book Review: Pride’s Children: Netherworld (Book #2) by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt (five stars)

Time to act like a grownup. Time to be an adult. Depressing thought.

Growing up is hard, especially when you’re an adult. And a success. Visibly so. Complex, believable inner dialogue. Who needs saving and how do they get it? Three point of view characters, folded timeline, occasional flashes back and forward. Insights into writing, movies, friends, family, and agents. Very cerebral, dare I say literary?

You can start rumors, but you can’t control them.

Talk about in media res. The book opens a third of the way into the story, literally. Being a single story cut in thirds by the publisher, this second installment tosses the reader into the flow with no character introduction or background. Read Pride’s Children: Purgatory first. The closing, by no means the end, is sufficiently satisfying to keep readers hooked until the conclusion is published. A really big train wreck assured.

This is what writers did: they had imaginary conversations in their heads where they played all the parts.

Notes: One character’s accent borders on caricature, while everyone else has none. Both female characters are surrounded by support while the male is alone against the world. Even his agent hates him. Too many epigrams opening each chapter.

It’s always hard to balance reality with what people think they know.”

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (five stars)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (five stars)

(Duke Classics version, similar cover) 2008 review:

‘When men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.’ 

Having re-read it again after so many years, I’m surprised how pure and simple the story is–very much unlike typical Dickens fare. Not his best writing, perhaps, but probably his greatest contribution to western culture.


“The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.” 

If you haven’t–or haven’t recently–do read the original again. Well worth the effort, especially during December. If your heart isn’t warmed, perhaps it needs sterner therapy . . . such as a trio of nocturnal visitations.

“That which promised happiness when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that we are two.” 

2022 addendum: A simple tale, simply told, yet most modern adaptations stray from the original. Do read it; all of it.

‘Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!’ 

The Dragon and The Dove Continued Release

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Each week in this place two additional chapters will be published from the Young Adult speculative fiction novel The Dragon and the Dove. The chapters will alternate point of view between the protagonists, so readers will receive the next step in each character’s story.

Bookmark this page and return each week on Wednesdays: The Dragon and the Dove

Book Review: The Queen of Hearts by Wilkie Collins (three stars)

Book Review: The Queen of Hearts by Wilkie Collins (three stars)

‘It was impossible to reform the “Queen of Hearts,” and equally impossible not to love her. Such, in few words, was my fellow-guardian’s report of his experience of our handsome young ward.’ 

Published in 1859. Scheherazade without the interlocking stories. The framing story is simple and obvious. Interesting rather than enjoyable.

‘It is not wonderful that the public should rarely know how to estimate the vast service which is done to them by the production of a good book, seeing that they are, for the most part, utterly ignorant of the immense difficulty of writing even a bad one.’ 

Mostly mysteries, but a pleasant mix of female protagonists, humor, and surprise climaxes leaven thew nineteenth century English fare.

‘In the course of my wanderings I had learned to speak French as fluently as most Englishmen.’

Which, of course, means not at all. Like most Americans. Reflects the prejudices and mores of its time.

‘We most of us soon arrive at a knowledge of the extent of our strength, but we may pass a lifetime and be still ignorant of the extent of our weakness.’

Book Review: A Damsel in Distress by P. G. Wodehouse (Three Stars)

Book Review: A Damsel in Distress by P. G. Wodehouse (Three Stars)

Trouble sharpens the vision. In our moments of distress we can see clearly that what is wrong with this world of ours is the fact that Misery loves company and seldom gets it.

An enjoyable standalone comedy by the creator of Jeeves. The plot is mad-cap and convoluted. Enjoyable, if lightweight fare.

“What’s all this?” A vast policeman had materialized from nowhere.

Lampooning English nobility as a matter of course, Wodehouse inserts an American hero, who may be slightly autobiographical. One character bears a striking resemblance to Bertie Wooster.

“Between ourselves, laddie, and meaning no disrespect to the dear soul, when the mater is moved and begins to talk, she uses up most of the language.” “Outspoken, is she?” “I should hate to meet the person who could out-speak her.”

Book Review: A Live Coal in the Sea by Madeleine L’Engle (Four Stars)

Book Review: A Live Coal in the Sea: A Novel by Madeleine L’Engle (Four Stars)

‘But all the wickedness in the world which man may do or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea.’ William Langland

This is the quality story one expects from a master. L’Engle displays the height of her storytelling in this very adult tale about the reverberations secrets and lies can cause those protected and those who think they are protecting.

‘Well, it seems very peculiar that God or evolution should make creatures that see upside down and then have to reverse everything. Is there a reason?’ ‘It’s just the way it is.’ ‘Like life. Upside down.’

Decidedly non-linear. Convoluted sequel to Camilla, written thirty years earlier. Few authors have L’Engle’s gift for segueing through time and point of view. Numerous shifts between numerous point-of-view characters and timeline without losing the attentive reader. (The casual reader is hereby forewarned.)

‘When two people, lovers, or sometimes friends, have an enduring care for each other, allow each other to be human, faulted, flawed, but real, then being human becomes a glorious thing to be.’

Camilla’s voice is that of a Ph.D. who is more at home at a lectern than with her own family. Didactic. Many sermons on just about every subject. Many autobiographical references, though the reader need know nothing about L’Engle. Not even necessary to have read Camilla.

‘Once upon a time we used to be so happy.’ ‘That time is gone, my darling. We have to live where we are now, somehow trying to clean up the mess.’

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 Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves #2) by P. G. Wodehouse (Three Stars)

“Jeeves is a master mind and all that, but, dash it, a fellow must call his soul his own. You can’t be a serf to your valet.”

Tales of the idle rich told with tongue firmly in cheek. British humor is, I am told, lost on the colonials. These tales support that theory. Without a thorough grounding in class distinction and idle riches, and gentleman’s gentleman much of the humor is lost on us Yanks.

‘Bit of a snob, what?’ ‘He is somewhat acutely alive to the existence of class distinction, sir’

Having seen neither Jeeves and Wooster nor By Jeeves, I am free of the taint of interpreting the books through the eyes of others. I have no trouble imaging Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie butchering their roles, and I mean that in the kindest possible way.

‘A dashed pretty and lively and attractive girl, mind you, but full of ideals and all that. I may be wronging her, but I have an idea that she’s the sort of girl who would want a fellow to carve out a career and what not. I know I’ve heard her speak favourably of Napoleon. I think she’s a topper, and she thinks me next door to a looney, so everything’s nice and matey.’

Quaint, in the worst sense of that word. Hopelessly dated. Don’t waste your time. It stems from a time when upper-class London was thought to be all the best of English culture, just as we used to believe New York City the best of American culture.

‘Burnish the old brain and be alert and vigilant. I suspect that Mr Little will be calling round shortly for sympathy and assistance.’
‘Is Mr Little in trouble, sir?’
‘Well, you might call it that. He’s in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?’
‘Mr Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.’
‘Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests.’

Book Review: The Inimitable Jeeves by J. P. Wodehouse (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Inimitable Jeeves by J. P. Wodehouse

(Three Stars)

“Jeeves is a master mind and all that, but, dash it, a fellow must call his soul his own. You can’t be a serf to your valet.”

Tales of the idle rich told with tongue firmly in cheek. British humor is, I am told, lost on the colonials. These tales support that theory. Without a thorough grounding in class distinction and idle riches, and gentlemen’s gentleman much of the humor is lost on us Yanks.

‘Bit of a snob, what?’ ‘He is somewhat acutely alive to the existence of class distinction, sir’

Having seen neither Jeeves and Wooster nor By Jeeves, I am free of the taint of interpreting the books through the eyes of others. I have no trouble imaging Continue reading

Book Review: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (five stars)

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Book Review: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

(five stars)

“The authorities still have nothing to say about your girl? Here the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Emergency Situations have been looking for these Russian sisters tirelessly.” “It wasn’t that way with us.”

War and Peace meets Murder She Wrote. Unsolved crimes; parental anguish; ineffectual police; racial, familial, economic, and immigrant issues weave into this complex but tight tale of near-contemporary Russian Kamchatka, which is as close as the modern world gets to terra incognita. Not quite five stars, but close enough.

“You haven’t noticed by now that you can’t trust them? They don’t care about us the same way they care about themselves.”

Readers are propelled deep into not one but two disappearances in places and cultures totally foreign to American readers. No Jessica Fletcher. Despite that, whether intentionally or accidentally, the plot and people feel familiar.

“She spent her youth in the brief reckless period between the Communists’ rigidity and Putin’s strength, and though she had grown into a boundary enforcer … within herself there remained a post-Soviet child. Some part of her did crave the wild.”

The culprit’s identity is apparent halfway through, but not how Phillips will close the story. She does in a very satisfying denouement manner. That issues remain is merely real.

“This is how it went: the closer you were to someone, the more you lied. Telling the truth was a thrill not found with her mother, who needed Olya to take merry care of their household, or with Diana, who made Olya measure herself out by request.”

Readers unfamiliar with Russian naming conventions may be confused, despite Phillips’ helpful list of principal characters. Many characters have three or four names, depending on who is talking. However, it also helps convey the complexity of relationships.

“It hurts too much to break your own heart out of stupidity, to leave a door unlocked or a child untended and return to discover that whatever you value most has disappeared. No. You want to be intentional about the destruction. Be a witness. You want to watch how your life will shatter.”

#SFFpit