Thumbs up for Anglican Women Novelists: From Charlotte Brontë to P.D. James edited by Judith Maltby and Alison Shell. Literary criticism.

At the risk of sounding facetious: it is a book of short biographies and literary analyses of Anglican Women Novelists; and it is excellent. Does the topic interest you? Then read it. You will discover interesting things, your literary conversations will expand, and you will discover even more authors you want to read.… >> Read more

Two thumbs up for Moby-Dick: Or, The Whale by Herman Melville. Literature.

I’m not going to review Moby-Dick; you already know if you are the kind of person who will read Moby-Dick or not. If you are interested, but perhaps a little intimidated, I will recommend the free audio version performed by Stewart Wills on LibriVox. I do not enjoy audio books, but Moby-Dick is secretly poetry rather than prose, so I found that it suited walking home from work, as if some elder were recounting an epic in my ear to speed up a necessary expedition.… >> Read more


Thumbs up for A Curious Beginning, A Perilous Undertaking, A Treacherous Curse, A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell series #1 to #4) by Deanna Raybourn. Historical mysteries.

Escapist literature at its best. A series of mysteries set in Victorian England following the exploits of two natural historians: Veronica Speedwell, sexually-emancipated lepidopterist, and Stoker, black-sheep aristocrat and professional taxidermist. (“They fight crime!”) I don’t know about the quality of the mystery plots, in the sense that I don’t care; I’m just here for the banter and smoldering sexual tension.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for All Things Shining: Reading Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly. Philosophy.

This was a very, very strange book. Imagine this: an attempt at constructing a careful, anti-nihilist, (self-named) polytheist, pro-craftsmanship life philosophy that can be practical in the modern age. Okay, that would be an interesting essay and I would read it.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan. Literary criticism.

I will laugh gently over the world “crucial” in the title. Crucial, no. Some of the topics touched upon in these essays are rather silly. But most are illuminating in some way, and when they are good they are very interesting indeed. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of “What Games do Characters Play?” (which refers to cards, not psychological games).… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather. Science Fiction.

In this quick novella, the Sisters (as in nuns) who crew the Our Lady of Impossible Constellations provide ministry to the outer systems. Unfortunately, their Mother Superior is suffering cognitive decline, and their liveship has fixated on a mate. The situation gets vastly (*pun intended*) more complicated as they are pulled into larger events.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Identity Thief by Alex Bryant. All ages fantasy.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I read it pretty much in one sitting, so certainly I found it engaging. And I laughed quite a few times. But did I really find it enjoyable? I’m not sure. What I was thinking, as I read, was: This is a book I would give to a kid as a bang-up fictional example of how discrimination spreads throughout a populace, and what role the media plays in shifting public opinion.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary by Brian Doyle.

Plain-language ecumenical prayers in gratitude for everyday ordinary things. Hard to review, because I think you will either love it or hate it. Test paragraph: the first half of “Prayer for Cashiers and Checkout-Counter Folks”:

Who endure the cold swirls of winter from the sliding doors that are opening and closing every forty seconds; and who endure pomposity and buffoonery and minor madness in their customers; and who gently help the shuffling old lady in the ancient camel coat count out the right change for her load of bread and single sad can of cat food; and cheerfully also disburse stamps and cash along with bagging the groceries and even occasionally carting them out swiftly for the customers they know are frail and wobble; and who must sometimes silently want to scream and shriek in weariness and wondering how it is that they are here for eight hours at a stretch; and who do their jobs with patience and diligence, knowing the price of every single blessed thing in the store;…

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