Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Day and a Life

A Day and a Life by Penelope Wilcock is the ninth and final volume of her Hawk and Dover books. The series has followed the daily life and  is set in a 14th-century Yorkshire abbey, from events significant (the arrival of a new abbot) and mundane (the cook really isn't very good). After coming to know and love so many characters,  I picked up this book with a mixture of eagerness and regret. I was excited to read more, but this was it. There wouldn't be any more stories.
Unlike the short-story format of the first two books, or the slow development in Remember Me, A Day and a Life covers a single day at St. Alcuin's. Featuring most of the characters we've come to know and love--and introducing some new ones as well-- the book is a wonderful example of character-driven storytelling.
As with all the books in this series, I would recommend it for many readers, not just historical fiction fans. It's not a high-stakes, adrenaline-filled story, but the characters are well-written, and the stories wrestle honestly with the messiness of faith in everyday life.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Found families should stay found

Agents of Shield 4x03: Uprising

Honestly, that was just mean. (Okay, I am clearly incapable of rational plot analysis, preferring to bemoan the terrible fate of my fictional friends.) Like, once again, Jemma is not a medical doctor and should not be the one doing all the emergency medical treatment, especially now that they have access to legitimate trauma centers. I get the personal touch thing, but I don't think it's fair to her to make her go through all this. Especially with what they had to do--and like, that seriously could have gone wrong, and the guilt she would have had...

And Yoyo--so her life continues to get worse, poor thing.

And Skye--(Because she's not Daisy, sorry, ignoring that)--getting told to leave again, someone 'confirming' her worst fears about herself, oh honey baby,  Lincoln wasn't your fault, it was his choice, and you are a heroine, you are trying to do the right thing, and you're literally breaking down under the pressure...go back home. May misses you, Coulson misses you, and Fitz has it exactly right--they're all willing to help you get through this, you don't have to go it alone, hurting hero, heroic self depreciation, martyr without a cause, ---go home, you don't need to be a lone wolf. No one's a pollyanna, everyone knows what people can do, but they still have hope, they can still smile....

At this point, I think the only reason Skye would go back to SHIELD is if someone needed her. No, she wouldn't admit to needing help at any cost, but if Phil was captured (if she'd known May was dying), if there was some way to help the team that only she could do, she'd do it.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursday fiction update

TV shows by airdate:
Monday: </Scorpion>  season premiere on NBC. It's not really one of my favorites, but it's okay and my mom likes it. Honestly, I just keep thinking of Gabe as Not-Coulson, because that's basically his job with the team. It was an okay episode, nothing special.

Also Timeless on NBC, which is a new time-travel crime show.  I wasn't terribly impressed with the pilot episode. The main characters have nothing to distinguish them; it's female-historian, black Marine, and white dude who invented the machine. Okay, they did lay out why that team was chosen, but the lady seems way too comfortable with letting people die because it's in the past.
Now, that's not to say I don't understand the whole fixed-points argument, or that I don't like time travel shows (dude, I'm a Whovian), but since it's a blank-slate start (as opposed to Legends of Tomorrow or Doctor Who), there's no immediate hook. (Subnote, yes, I started watching LoT because of Arthur Darvill, but the team was witty and he had to stop something that had already happened for him).
The bigger problem is that time travel (into the past, at least, there's more leeway with the future) that risks changing things (and if time can't be changed at all, there's a different story) should eventually result in an alternate history, but most tv shows/film can't afford the time and setting development that would reflect the butterfly effect. So, yeah, a character was retgone at the end of the episode, but the world went as it had.

Tuesday: No Agents of Shield (Aggh) because of the VP debate. Quite disappointing. Still sulking over the new director. Sure, people can be blinded because of personal feelings, but those same feelings can also be used to help the team function better.  The whole idea that Coulson is too close to May and Skye to help them is bull. It's the exact opposite. Coulson has worked with May, he knows how she reacts, and he is the closest to family Skye's got.  As he told Sif in s2, taking her away from people who care about her doesn't help the situation.

The Flash season 3 premiere: Okay, so I have not seen s2 yet (waiting on the dvd at the library), but all I really needed to know was that Barry changed time so that neither of his parents died. It was disappointing that it got reversed at the end of the episode, but....okay, still mulling this one over.

Film/Audio/TV on dvd
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy tv series (from the 80s). Apart from the weirdness of watching a show that was adapted from a radio series with mostly the same cast (like bad dubbing, but in reverse), it was pretty funny, and the production values just made it funnier. But the 'meet the meat' scene was creepy as all get out. They didn't even attempt to make it look like a cow--just an actor in a costume that looks like slices of clay or fat.  Quite obviously a human in a costume, which is worse in some ways. And then it turned out to be Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor. Eep!

Protect and Survive: A Big Finish Doctor Who audio featuring Hex, Ace, and Seven. Hex and Ace stumble out of the TARDIS into rural 1980s England just as nuclear war breaks out. Fortunately, an elderly couple allows the two travelers to hide in their fallout shelter. But this never happened...right? I've heard this one before, but it's still quite tense, especially when you can't just skip to the next installment.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Fifth Column

Another day, another air raid. For Detective Inspector John Jago,  there's nothing unusual when two men report a body at one of the air raid sites.  However, the initial investigation reveals that the body wasn't at the site the previous night, and no bombs had fallen in the area since. Could it be foul play? Supplies have gone missing from the classified office where the young woman worked; her sister seems indifferent, and not all stories match up.  As Jago investigates the case, it seems everyone has something to hide....

The Fifth Column by Mike Hollow is the first novel in a new series, The Blitz Detective. As the title suggests, the novel focuses on a British detective during WWII.  The historical setting provides both atmosphere and motivation for several plot elements without becoming too dense for causal reading.

Mysteries aren't my usual reading fare, but I'm familiar with the basic genre conventions.  Two writing elements stood out for me in this book. First, the number of characters and perspectives. I'm not sure how common this  tactic is in mysteries (historical or otherwise), but there were at least half a dozen characters/perspectives in the book. While they did overlap to a certain extent, it made it tricky to judge which information would be relevant to the murder. It's not the same as red herrings or false leads, but I'm not quite used to it.

The second aspect I noticed (related if one likes to try solving mysteries ahead of the book) is that some of the motivations would have been inexplicable if they had not been spelled out by characters. For example, 1940s methods of dying hair have a certain relevance, but I didn't even think about it until one of the female characters brings it up to Jago.  It's not the sort of thing a single man would know, but it still seemed ....lecturish?

I would probably still recommend this book, but I doubt I'll reread it,

I was given a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Beautiful Thread

The Beautiful Thread by Penelope Wilcok, picks up where the previous novel, The Breath of Peace, left off. William de Bulmer has returned to St. Alcuins as a layman to help the cellarer manage a big wedding. But in addition to practical concerns and personal issues, the wedding coincides with the regular Bishop's Visitation. Both sets of visitors place additional pressures on Abbot John, and his choice to invite Brother Conradus's mother to help with food brings its own set of problems. However, the biggest problem is that the bishop has heard rumors that Prior William attempted suicide and left the order--both of which are crimes under the law.

While this book can be read on its own, it really makes the most sense with the context of the previous novels, particularly starting with number four in the Hawk and Dove series. The bishop's accusations are correct, but they  are taken out of context--and he shows no interest in learning the situations which led to either choice.

I was given a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series when it comes out.

The Breath of Peace

Reading The Breath of Peace by Penelope Wilcock, the seventh novel in The Hawk and the Dove series, was like receiving a long letter from old friends who you haven't seen in a while. The plot is understandable for new readers, but the characters and plot development mean so much more if the reader knows their history.
(Spoilers for previous books): After a year of marriage, William de Bulmer is still struggling to master common household tasks, such as shutting in the chickens or having a conversation with his wife. Meanwhile, Abbot John is faced with finding a new cellarar and replacing his prior, with no obvious candidates in mind. William was a perfect candidate for the former position, but his broken vows led to a painful departure.  Can John still call on his old friend for help?
One of the things that makes these books so good is the author's willingness to let the characters grow and change over time. William is adamant that he made the right choice to leave the abbey, but that doesn't make his history go away or make married life any easy. A lot of authors would be tempted to have William 'get over' his problems right away, instead of showing how those patterns continue to affect his life.
I was given a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Saints and Sailors

Saints and Sailors by Pam Rhodes is the fourth book in the Dunbridge Chronicle, telling the story of a vicar and his congregation--including an unhappily married couple, a WWII vet and his son and grandson, the choir leader, a senior citizen with dementia, and others-- when they set off for a cruise around the British Isles. Tempers sometimes flair and some people get on each other's nerves, but everyone might just make some new discoveries on the trip.
I have not yet read the other three books in this series, so it was difficult to keep track of the cast of characters. The book includes a cast of characters at the beginning, but I dislike having to flip back and forth to check who I'm reading about, so I mostly ignored it.
I don't read much Christian or contemporary fiction, but I have enjoyed some similar books before, especially the Sisterchicks series. However, I found this novel rather slow and full of too many characters. Regardless of the genre I'm reading, I like stories with plot and character development; this story had too many characters to develop any of them in detail. While there were some points where readers could get an insight into characters, these moments were haphazard, leaving me with only vague memories of each character and his or her relationships.
I'd give it 2/5 stars personally, but maybe a 3/5 for other readers

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to Ashes by Mel Star is the eighth novel in the chronicles of medieval surgeon Hugh de Singlton, bailiff to Lord Gilbert.  (The author has helpfully included a glossary of common medieval jobs and other terms in the beginning of the book, but I would recommend just diving in. Looking back and forth at definitions is too distracting.)
When human bones are discovered in the ashes of the local Midsummer Ever fire, Hugh is called on in his capacity as a bailiff to determine whether the death was accidental or a murder.  At first, it seems a simple enough task--an elderly man whose description seems to fit has been missing from his home. His widow confirms the man's identity and they hold a Christian burial; but the man's drowned corpse is discovered later that day. Who did they bury, then?
I've read the previous book in this series and quite enjoyed it. The author does a good job of keeping a historically accurate mindset and methodology.
I received this book for free from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review .
Four stars