Book Review: The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter by Michael J. Sullivan (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter (Riyria Chronicles #4) by Michael J, Sullivan

Four Stars

“Are you two always like this?” “He is,” they both said in unison.

Perhaps the best Riyria book yet. Both Royce and Hadrian have more depth. Their relationship is more complex. The storytelling, especially the inner dialogue, is superb. Several distinct and distinctive female characters. Sullivan clearly signals changes in point-of-view character. Why not five stars? See my quibble.

“You just hate being happy.” “I have no idea. What’s it like?”

For those unfamiliar with Riyria (Royce and Hadrian) the fourth book of the second series seems the wrong place to try them out. Not so. Winter’s Daughter is a self-contained, rich Continue reading

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Book Review: Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Age of Swords (Legends of the First Empire #2) by Michael J. Sullivan

Five Stars

“Some things are unimaginable right up until you are looking at them, and even then, you might not want to believe. Love is that way, so is death.”

If anything, better than the first book, Age of Myths. Superficially Sullivan is not an epic fantasy writer like Rothfuss or Tolkien, but he weaves an excellent story amid afresh, if derivative world. Part of the fun is his tongue-in-cheek homages to classic fantasy.

“I hated my brothers. Dead for three years and they’re still trying to kill me.”

Satisfying conclusion with appropriate hooks into the next stories. Well done. Leavened with humor. Not so much as the Riyria stores, but enough. Waited for second volume for magic school, hooray! And the training was organic, taking the reader inside Continue reading

Book Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Five Stars)

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Book Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Five Stars

“Genius may have its limits but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

Extraordinary writing. A rich blend of science fiction with philosophic inquiry. The casts (there are two stories, tangentially connected) are deeply and realistically developed to clash, promote, love and hate one another. A first-contact story of the best kind. Humor.

“None of you will ever know what it was like and I promise you: you don’t want to know.”

Folded timeline irritates at first, but is gradually revealed to be Continue reading

Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Five Stars)

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Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Five Stars

“How can anyone spend their whole life longing for the day when they become superfluous?”

Incredible portrait of a very credible man. I know him! What can I tell you without giving too much away? A great example of in media res, dropping the reader into the middle of things and letting him sort it out as it zips past him. In the case of Ove, no matter how fast the world zips by, he takes it at a walking pace.

“He’d been a grumpy old man since he started elementary school, they insisted.”

Yeah, it’s PC, but that goes without saying for Right-Thinking people these days. Ove is not an Archie Bunker, however. He’s a finely drawn character.

“It is difficult to admit one is wrong. Particularly when one has been wrong for a very long time.”

Many pithy epigrams; even more signals to stop and consider. Funny, but thought provoking.

“You only need one ray of hope to chase all the shadows away.”

They don’t make men like Ove any more, at least not very many of them. I have had honor of knowing several, one of whom I’m related to.

“Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.”

That business about Saabs and Volvos? Absolutely true. It even played out in America in Minnesota and Michigan at one time. (I have owned one of each, which makes me apostate. To be fair, my first example must have been built on Monday morning in Trollhättan.)

“And that laughter of hers, which, for the rest of his life, would make him feel as if someone was running around barefoot on the inside of his breast.”

Movie Review: Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins

Four Stars

“You have been my greatest love. Today you become my greatest sadness. Be careful, Diana. They do not deserve you.”

I grew up under a rock. I never read a Wonder Woman comic book, nor many others. So I don’t know what’s canonical and what’s blasphemy, but this is a cogent whole. For an action movie it’s pretty good.

“A pair of glasses, and suddenly she’s not the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen?”

Nice fish-out-water sub-theme about Diana in 1917 Europe. And also a moderately funny romantic subplot. Etta, I assume, is comic relief. Steve’s friends are the mixed bag expected of modern storytelling and, in the context, is not less believable than the rest of it. In contrast to other cinema superheros, Diana is positive and self-confident. She is a force for good and happy in that role.

“It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”

 

Book Review: Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2) by Sebastien de Castell

Four Stars

“Yes, I’m trusting our lives to that fat slug, and yes, of course, he’s going to betray us.”

A little grittier than the first in this series. Classic epic fantasy with a side order of humor. Not heavy reading nor great literature, but enjoyable. Interestingly, all the transformational characters are female. The men are who they are, though Falcio’s struggle is being who he really is.

“The truth that makes our courage fail and our hearts surrender. That we fear most is simply ourselves.”

The stakes are higher and the odds lower, and the protagonist has a one-liner for every occasion. Good story telling. Fun interaction between characters.

“Love isn’t a cage.”

Countless epigrams: some witty, some pithy, some memorable. Like the cover art.

“Happiness is … grains of sand spread out in a desert of violence and anguish.”

Book Review: Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland

Four Stars

“I’m not at all sure if you know that I’m alive.”

So she was/is. One hundred years old, and still living in Paris, which was the point when she wrote this book sixty years ago. She was a big Hollywood deal before most of us were born.

This short book is a chatty, personal memoir of her moving to Paris and marrying a Frenchman in the 1950s. Paris then–France then–clutched the tatters of its legacy as the center of the world, politically and in fashion. Though she still lives there; she probably doesn’t recognize today’s Paris.

“If you are loved by the French as a whole, you really feel loved.

Her adjustment to France and the French made for many humorous episodes which she relates in a conversational style. She suffered many of the misconceptions of fellow Americans and committed many gaffes, but no faux pas. (The significant difference is explained therein.)

What does every Frenchman have? A liver. And how he cares for it makes for a humorous tale in itself.

She learned, “The importance of tact, restraint, subtlety, and the avoidance of banality.”

Book Review: Orphan Pirates on the Spanish Main by Dennis Danvers (Three Stars)

Book Review: Orphan Pirates on the Spanish Main by Dennis Danvers

Three Stars

“Our parents were strange, out of step with their culture, and maybe they didn’t prepare us for life in the real world, but I’ve made my peace with them.”

A fun and funny fantasy (?) about life and love and parents. Short and pithy.

“I’ve come to believe all times are good times, each moment wondrous. Everything happens when it should. Even me and my big mouth.”

The coarse language is unnecessary. Lost a star for it.

“Nothing lasts.”

Book Review: A Line in the Sand by K. A. Stewart (Four Stars)

Book Review: A Line in the Sand by K. A. Stewart

Four Stars

“The only reason I’m alive is because I listen when my heebie jeebie alarm goes off.”

The rating is provisional. The Jesse James Dawson novels have a chronology but can  be read independently. In fact, Stewart does a better-than-average job informing the new reader without insulting returnees. This volume, however, explicitly demands another. But, unlike so many others, this book includes a satisfying conclusion to the current work.

“My first defense is always sarcasm.”

Stewart once again proves herself the master of tongue-in-cheek urban fantasy with a soul. (Pun intended; read the book.) Her mix of the banal and the fantastic manages to come down squarely on the side of Continue reading

Book Review: The Oldest Trick by Auston Habershaw (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Oldest Trick (Saga of the Redeemed #1) by Auston Habershaw

Four Stars

“I always have a plan. It just so happens in this instance, it’s not a good plan and subject to change as we go along. Follow me.”

A welcome addition to the fantasy universe. Wise-cracking, know-it-all smugglers have been done, but Habershaw does Tyvian with his tongue so far into his cheek that it must hurt. Good job.

“He may run out of simplistic ethical aphorisms any moment.”

Engaging, multi-thread fantasy adventure set in a typical pseudo-medieval, magic-using universe. It’s the writing and the humor which keep the reader engaged.

“One did not channel the energy of creation without risk.”

Hard to believe this was originally published as two stories. Wouldn’t have worked as well.

“If this is the afterlife, I’m sorely disappointed.”

Extra points for ending the first of the series with a satisfying, self-contained conclusion.

“Rings don’t control people, not even magic ones. Everybody knows that.”