Book Review: The Devil’s Novice by Ellis Peters (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Devil’s Novice (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #8) by Ellis Peters

Four Stars

“There’s many a young man has got his hearts wish, only to curse the day he wished for it.”

Upon my fourth reading, I raise my rating one star because this story compares so well with other historical fiction. In addition to the murder mystery, this tale brings to the reader an understanding of a historical setting which borders on the mythic, an introduction to a medieval craft (in this case, making charcoal), reflections on life then and now, a love story, and the fun of a tale well told.

“He’s innocent enough, God knows, to believe that other men are as honest as he.”

Readers seeking a story grounded closer to fact than the average epic fantasy, which usually loses itself in horses that run forever, swords that never dull, clerics who call down lightning bolts and enough nihilism for a lifetime, Edith Pargeter’s series on the life and times of this former Crusader and now monastic should be welcome. That’s why I’m on my fourth reading of this series.

“Despair is a deadly sin, but worse it is mortal folly.”

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Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Five Stars)

Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Five Stars

“If you go in with fear, fear is what you find.”

Totally awesome. The best science fiction I’ve read this year. Called a science fiction thriller and a romance, it goes beyond many genre expectations. Explores how choices relate to identity. We are who we chose to be.

“I have total control, but only to the extent that I have control over myself.”

Well-conceived, well-developed, well-written.

“I’m not allowed to think I’m crazy. I’m only allowed to solve this problem.”

The title, of course, is a pun. The story only tangentially relates to Continue reading

Book Review: The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters (Five Stars)

Book Review: The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters

Five Stars

“Such as he live with a humility that transcends all possibility of humiliation.”

One of the best of the twenty volume corpus. Ellis Peters has found her pace and strides boldly forward.

“The trouble with things so obviously suspect, after all, is that they may indeed be true.”

These are tales of murder and romance in medieval England. That you get a practical history lesson along the way is a bonus.

“A comely person is no warrant to a comely spirit.”

Formulaic? I suppose, but if there’s a formula it’s that it’s never easy for anyone, least of all for Continue reading

Book Review: Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody (Four Stars)

Book Review: Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody

Four Stars

“Moms are supposed to worry.”

A freshman historical novel. Moody focuses on the exploits of American Army Air Force B-17 bomber crews in World War II. Done partly to commend the experiences of her father and his wartime comrades. And does it well. But she doesn’t just dump the reader into the story at Pearl Harbor. She fashions a touching tale of how a boy in Chicago and a girl in Utrecht (Netherlands) become pen pals. How his brother is at Pearl Harbor. And how the Dutch Resistance battled the Nazi invaders.

“War was necessary … but that sure didn’t make it palatable.”

Historical fiction is a demanding genre, especially when set in an era as recent as World War II. Moody’s aviation and resistance threads ring true and much of her cultural context is sound, but Continue reading

Book Review: The Discovery by Dan Walsh (5 Stars)

The Discovery by Dan Walsh

5 out of 5 stars

Read in February 2014

Outstanding. A World War Two era mystery and romance framed by a contemporary tale of discovering and reacting to the old manuscript. Well-conceived, well-researched and well-written. Good contrast between the peace and plenty in modern America with the fear and struggle of America in the 1940s.

I can’t say enough about how the manuscript transports the reader into that time and place. I’m old enough to know it “feels” right. The military, political, cultural and religious elements are appropriate for that era. (It speaks to the role of women in that day; minority issues are not addressed.)

The Discovery will inevitably be compared to The Notebook and similar tales; it’s at least as good. Hope to see the movie some day (after it’s made 😉 ).

Excellent read. (This review is my first five star rating this year.)