Journey to the Stars

If you’re within flying, driving, walking or crawling distance of the Hayden Planetarium, this is a must see. Terrific writing, amazing graphics, and narration by Whoopi Goldberg. Even the pre-show is great. Did you know, for instance, that a galactic year is 250 million earth years? And that one galactic year ago dinosaurs roamed the…

Read more Journey to the Stars

Good characterization and good period detail make Judith Rock's The Rhetoric of Death an engaging read. It's France, 1686, in the middle of Louis XIV's secretly continued persecution of the Protestant Huguenots. Jesuit father-in-training Charles du Lac connives at the escape to Protestant Switzerland of Huguenot cousin (and childhood love) Pernelle. For his -- and their -- own safety fearful relatives hustle him out of southern France to Paris, where he takes up a position at the Jesuit college Louis Le Grand. Trouble follows him, however -- a student is murdered, the student's brother attacked, and Charles is caught up in a power-play between religion and politics that reaches as high as the Sun King's own court, and he must navigate it safely and see the guilty brought to justice if he and his family are to survive.

In the author's note Rock says, "I have tried to make the story's people true to their own century, and not just us in costume." She succeeded.

# Permanent link to Jesuits in Love (and Murder)

Wolf HallWolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Mantel has given a wonderful voice to Thomas Cromwell in this novel of an eyewitness perspective on Henry VIII's split from the Church of Rome. All the usual suspects are present, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, along with a wonderful supporting cast of fully realized minor characters, whether fictional or historical. I don't know which is more painful to watch, Thomas More being viciously abusive to his wife and daughters over lunch, or Cromwell as a child watching a Lollard burned at the stake. Unless it's the progress of Henry's relationship with Anne.

What gives me the most writer envy is that the book is written in third person present tense, which normally leaves me cold. This time I was so mesmerized after the first page that I barely noticed. A must read for anyone who loves good writing and/or this period in history.

Click here to see all my reviews on Goodreads.

# Permanent link to Hatchet Man to Hero

Old Home TownOld Home Town by Rose Wilder Lane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lane really, really didn't like the small town America in which she was raised, and in particular she didn't like the lifestyle it forced upon the women living it.

The first chapter is a beautifully written indictment of the nameless Midwestern town in which the story is set. Parochial, insular, stuffy, middle-brow, Lane's old home town is obsessed with what is proper and especially what isn't.

The rest of the chapters are stories told by a young girl named Ernestine about other women who live there, and most of them are pretty easily identifiable as wish fulfillment on the part of the author. The old maid escaping seduction by town ne'er-do-well by her own pluck and the timely appearance of a new suitor. The hired girl forced by gossip to marry the husband when the wife dies, which ends about as well as you might expect. A wife who leaves her husband and goes on to become a couturier. The selfish old woman who lies about her daughter being fast to her daughter's suitor so he'll jilt her and she'll have someone at home to take care of her. Ernestine's "fast friend" Elsie falls for a traveling man with disastrous results. The town beauty elopes with a hayseed, and a mother sells her beautiful daughter to the highest bidder, with homicidal results.

In the last chapter, Ernestine has finally had enough (and so have we) and against the wishes of her parents leaves home for school in NYC. You don't so much as cheer as think, "What took you so long?"

Lane writes

...there were two clear ways to flaunt one's loss of modesty and virtue; one was to wear red, the other was to be seen needlessly gadding around uptown.

Makes me want to put on my reddest outfit and prance right up town. I'm certain that was exactly how she meant me to feel.

Click here to read all my reviews on Goodreads.


# Permanent link to The Old Home Town Don’t Look the Same

Writers’ Police Academy

The worst thing about the Writers’ Police Academy is that you can’t split yourself into quadruplets so you can see and do everything on offer. Shallow grave burial site? or jail searches? or Krimesite Imager hands-on workshop? or search and rescue? or ambulance tour? And that’s just the first hour of the first day. Event…

Read more Writers’ Police Academy

It is a quite staggering reflection that when Cook left Canada for the last time in 1767, he was still a non-commissioned officer. It is also a staggering reflection on the Lords of the Admiralty of the time that, because of their innate snobbish conviction that officers and gentlemen are born and not made, Cook did not quite qualify for a commission. He had been in the despised Merchant Service, he had sailed before the mast in the Navy, he was poor and his origins were obscure. There could have been little doubt left in the Admiralty by that time that in Cook they had the greatest seaman, navigator and cartographer of the generation. But a commission? Hardly. Hardly, that is, until they realised that to send a naval vessel to circumnavigate the globe, in the greatest exploratory voyage ever undertaken, under the command of a non-commissioned officer wouldn't be quite the thing to do. For one thing, it would redound most dreadfully upon the alleged competence of those who did hold commissions, and, for another, it would not look good in the history books. So, belatedly, they made him a lieutenant.

# Permanent link to Captain Cook, the Alistair MacLean version

'Fat smiles on the faces of the husbandmen,' said Hugh Beringar, fresh from his own harvest in the north of the shire, and burned nut-brown from his work in the fields, 'and chaos among the kings. If they had to grow their own corn, mill their own flour and bake their own bread they might have no time left for all the squabbling and killing.'

# Permanent link to Brother Cadfael