Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review: Life After Life

Life After Life Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ursula Todd — what a name, what a character. Such immense power to be able to live your life over and over to set things that have gone awry right. But what if in the process of setting things right, they still go awry?

My head spins at the thought.

Good thing Ms. Atkinson is a brilliant storyteller.

Line to remember (from page 198):

"Werde, der du bist...It means become who you are...Nietzsche got that from Pindar...It means – become such as you are, having learned what that is." —Dr. Kellet to Ursula.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 26, 2016

Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just the other day, my friend's daughter asked me about somebody I grew up thinking to be absolutely evil. Did he deserve all the bad rap (**paraphrased from kidspeak), she asked. I told her the explanation was not that simple, and it would probably take two hours for me to tell the whole story (including all the competing narratives).

And then I came upon this book today.

In just a few pages, I found my answer:

“I don’t understand. Who’s the good guy here?” There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between. Conor shook his head. “That’s a terrible story. And a cheat.” It is a true story, the monster said. Many things that are true feel like a cheat. Kingdoms get the princes they deserve, farmers’ daughters die for no reason, and sometimes witches merit saving.

Because humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour? How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right-thinking? How can a parson be wrong-thinking but good-hearted? How can invisible men make themselves more lonely by being seen?

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review: Morning Star

Morning Star Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh I had ambivalent feelings about this last book in the Red Rising trilogy. There were some sappy parts that I just couldn't let go. But I concede that the author could be one hell of a screenwriter, as Morning Star would make a better movie than a book (and I'm not saying this to disparage it in any way, because I finished it, and that's saying something). Golden Son's the best in this trilogy, in my opinion.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: Golden Son

Golden Son Golden Son by Pierce Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I put off reading Golden Son for the longest time because I recall having a hard time wading through Red Rising (although to be fair, I ended up enjoying it and giving it four stars plus a glowing review). I finally summoned the energy to start reading it upon encountering rave reviews on Goodreads—and I wasn't disappointed.

Golden Son provided a much better reading experience that its predecessor because of the improved writing. I still got disoriented by the in-your-face Ancient Roman references, but it got easier in time.

A final word: In this book, Darrow managed to utter one of the most astig (i.e., super-duper-cool-up-there-with-Gladiator's-my-name-is-Maximus-Decimus-Meridius-commander-of-the-Armies-of-the-North...-and-Braveheart's-they-may-take-our-lives-but-they'll-never-take-our-freedom) lines in popular literature I've ever had the pleasure of coming across: "Tell all who will hear, the Reaper sails to Mars. And he calls for an Iron Rain." Just read to appreciate.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Review: Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unforgettable—you could feel the darkness and the menace, the magic and the desperation borne out of doomed love leap off the pages. The writing could have had easily become maudlin in less capable hands.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Blood Eye

Blood Eye Blood Eye by Giles Kristian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Didn't want to compare with B. Cornwell's The Last Kingdom, but I guess it can't be helped. There were some (very forgivable) similarities. Good enough for me to look forward to the rest of the books in this series.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Sword Song

Sword Song
Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are so many things to like about Mr. Cornwell's "Sword Song," but what stood out for me was (decidedly "pagan" and Thor devotee) Uthred's unlikely friendship with two priests: the fierce Welsh warrior Father Pyrlig and King Alfred's adviser and scholar Father Beocca.

Uhtred on choosing Father Pyrlig:
"On one side a kingdom, Viking friends and wealth, and on the other a Briton who was the priest of a religion that sucks joy from this world like dusk swallowing daylight. Yet I did not think. I chose, or fate chose, and I chose friendship. Pyrlig was my friend."

Uhtred on Father Beocca:
"He had a club foot, a squint, and a palsied left hand. He was blind in his wandering eye that had gone as white as his hair, for he was now nearly fifty years old. Children jeered at him in the streets and some folk made the sign of the cross, believing that ugliness was a mark of the devil, but he was as good a Christian as any I have ever known."

Funny repartees involving Uhtred and Beocca...
"Too many people were talking in the church!" Beocca complained. "This was a holy day, Uhtred, a sacred day, a celebration of the sacrament, and people were talking as if they were at market!"
"I was one of them," I (Uhtred) said.
"You were?" he asked, squinting up at me. "Well, you shouldn't have been talking. It's just plain bad manners! And insulting to God! I'm astonished at you, Uhtred, I really am! I'm astonished and disappointed."
"Yes, father," I said, smiling.

...and Uhtred and Pyrlig:
"But I've known Aethelflaed forever!" I exclaimed.
"He fears you know her only too well," Pyrlig said, "and it drives him to madness."
"But that's stupid!" I spoke angrily.
"It's jealousy," Pyrlig said, "and all jealousy is stupid."

More favorite passages from the book:

"It is strange what men talk about before battle. Anything except what faces them. I have stood in a shield wall, staring at an enemy bright with blades and dark with menace, and heard two of my men argue furiously about which tavern brewed the best ale. Fear hovers in the air like a cloud and we talk of nothing to pretend that the cloud is not there." —Uhtred, p.10

"You never, ever, tell others of your crimes, not unless they are so big as to be incapable of concealment, and then you describe them as policy or statecraft." —Uhtred, p.36

"Yet I was sworn to Alfred. I was sworn to defend Wessex. I had given Alfred my oath and without oaths we are no better than beasts." —Uhtred, p.55

"Cowardice is always with us, and bravery, the thing that provokes the poets to make songs about us, is merely the will to overcome the fear." —Uthred, p.136

"You live by obeying the rules. You make a reputation, boy, by breaking them." —Uhtred, p.149

View all my reviews