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E. A. Lovitt "starmoth" RSS Feed (Gladwin, MI USA)
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The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox
The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An eccentric and wonderful fantasy trilogy of old China, May 29, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Reclusive author Barry Hughart wrote a trilogy of 'Master Li' fantasies, and as far as I can determine, never published anything else. But what a trilogy this is! The first installment, "Bridge of Birds" was co-winner (with Robert Holdstock's "Mythago Wood") of the 1994 World Fantasy Award, and also won the 1986 Mythopoeic Award. The final two books in the 'Master Li' trilogy are "The Story of the Stone," and "Eight Skilled Gentlemen."

This fantasy of an ancient China that (alas) never was could almost have been written by Patricia McKillip, except for the dollops of raucous humor that spice up the shining fairy tale. But the beauty and wonder of McKillip's fantasies are here, as viewed through the smoke of an opium dream.

Here are the two main characters in their own words:

"My family is quite undistinguished, and since I am the tenth of my father's sons and rather strong I am usually referred to as Number Ten Ox."

"My surname is Li and my personal name is Kao, and there is a slight flaw in my character," says the drunken old man who, seventy-eight years past "had been awarded first place among all the scholars of China."

(In the first draft of "Bridge of Birds," Master Li was nineteen years old, and Number Ten Ox only made a brief appearance as a village idiot!)

This unlikely pair sets out to rescue a village of children who lie in poisoned comas brought about by the greedy village pawnbrokers, Fang and Ma the Grub.

Master Li and Number Ten Ox learn that they must find the Great Root of Power (the Mother of All Ginseng) in order to save the children, but as with all quests, there are many obstacles along the way, including murderous monks, a bandit called Cut-Off-Their-Balls Wang, and an ex-Imperial concubine called The Ancestress, who poisoned the emperor and bankrupted the empire "by decreeing that every leaf that fell in her imperial pleasure garden must be replaced by an artificial leaf fashioned from the costliest silk." But they are all minor villains compared to the tiger-masked, immortal Duke of Ch'in. He is so evil he manages to upset the balance of Heaven, which Master Li and Number Ten Ox must restore before they can save poisoned children.

This might sound like a complicated plot, but your imagination will be so happily reveling in the exotic settings, the oddball characters, and the stories within stories, that it will seem like you're skimming through this book, as easily as Master Li and Number Ten Ox skim across the ancient Chinese landscape (that never was) in their Bamboo Dragonfly.

"The Story of the Stone" has been described as "an oriental Holmes and Watson plunked down in an Indiana Jones movie." Pretty decent summary, actually, although I'd also throw a little Puccini into the mix (the author is incredibly hard on his heroines), along with Dante Alighieri. The ancient ("Ah, if I were only ninety again...") Master Li and his faithful sidekick and beast of burden, Number Ten Ox set out to investigate the brutal death of a monk in the Valley of Sorrows in this second volume of Hughart's fantasy trilogy.

The monk appears to have died of fright in the monastery library, a scrap of forged manuscript clutched in his hand, and a very unmonkish dinner of thousand-year-old eggs and other expensive delicacies in his belly (Master Li performs an autopsy that would make Dr. G. proud).

The chief suspect is the infamous Laughing Prince. Unfortunately (actually, fortunately for the peasants whom he murdered in droves) the sadistic prince has been dead for over 700 years. Master Li and Number Ten Ox descend into the tomb of the evil prince, along with his painterly descendent, Prince Liu Pao where they find jade-encased mummies, mad Monks of Mirth, a water slide that wouldn't be out of place at Disney World, and of course, treasure and torture chambers. The one thing they don't find is the corpse of the Laughing Prince.

At least, not right away.

Master Li must call upon his friends, old, new, dead, immortal, and immoral to solve the mystery of the Laughing Prince and the Stone of Immortality. You will meet characters in this book who are to be found nowhere else in fiction, including the beautiful Moon Boy who sings and buggers his way through the ten principal Hells and the great Wheel of Reincarnation, acting as a sort of Virgil to Master Li's Dante.

The plot is complicated, but the characters and the mythical scenery of an ancient China that never was make "The Story of the Stone" a fantasy to read and reread in those dark hours when you don't think you can stand another page of the noble Frodo. Plus Barbarian readers like myself who have only a "rudimentary concept of Hell" will be exposed to the two most incredible fallacies of our educational system: "that Hell is reserved for the damned, and that the world is flat."

The execrable villain, Sixth Degree Hosteler Tu (who appeared in Book 2, "The Story of the Stone") is on the execution block at the beginning of "Eight Skilled Gentlemen." The executioner, who is going for the record in cleanly-performed beheadings by sword, botches this particular job for a very peculiar reason--a vampire ghoul crashes into the crowd around the execution block in pursuit of a band of frightened soldiers.

This is just the beginning of a bizarre monster-fest (in case you were wondering who the eight skilled gentlemen were.) These are demons like you've never seen before. For instance, the first demon-deity "resembles a three-year-old child with red eyes, long ears, and beautiful hair, and it kills by forcing its victims to strangle themselves."

Luckily Master Li happens upon Number Ten Ox before he finishes choking himself to death.

The plot is quite complicated, but the exotic settings and oddball characters kept this reader mightily entertained. In addition to the 'Eight Skilled Gentlemen,' there is a very old, partially deaf Celestial Master and saint who has some of the best lines in the book: at the funeral of a demon-slain high muckety-muck minister of state, he glares at a row of tight-lipped mandarins, and shouts, "Damn fools!...If you'd given Ma's corpse an enema you could have buried what remained in a walnut shell!"

Chinese saints seem to be much more opinionated and interesting than their European counterparts.

Master Li and Number Ten Ox join up with a puppeteer and his beautiful daughter to break up a ring of mandarin smugglers who are using mysterious cages to communicate with one another. The story finally resolves itself in a wild end-of-the-world dragon boat race that pits our two heroes against the gods.

I only wish Barry Hughart had continued on with this eccentric and wonderful myth of old China.


MAGLITE S2D036 Heavy-Duty 2-D Cell Flashlight, Red
MAGLITE S2D036 Heavy-Duty 2-D Cell Flashlight, Red
Price: $21.27
68 used & new from $16.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Clonk someone over the head with this Maglite and he stays clonked., May 29, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is my third Maglite--the first two both had leaking batteries, although I don't think that was the fault of the flashlight. Anyway, I keep this flashlight on my bed table in case of one of our numerous power outages. It is nice and hefty and doesn't get knocked over easily, and is a cinch to find in the dark. If someone breaks into the bedroom, I can clonk him over the head with it and he'll stay clonked.

The beam is powerful enough so that I can shine it out the bedroom window and check on which particular wild animal is munching the flowers in my garden. I've seen bear, opossums, raccoons, deer, and flying squirrels caught in the beam of this Maglite.

When my second Maglite bit the dust because of leaky batteries, my husband got me one of those small, effeminate bluelight specials, which I soon lost. That's when I bought number three from this website, and I'm never going to be without a Maglite again.


Thud Discworld 30
Thud Discworld 30
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover
7 used & new from $14.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Trolls, Dwarfs gonna rumble tonight, May 24, 2015
This review is from: Thud Discworld 30 (Hardcover)
Terry Pratchett just gets better every time he returns to Discworld. Most authors stall out or repeat themselves after about six books, but not Pratchett. He just keeps rolling on, emitting sparks and funny noises, and creating new characters who will tweak your heartstrings and twang your funny-bone.

Actually, I'm the one who emits funny noises while reading his Discworld books.

In "Thud" the age-old enmity between trolls and dwarfs is about to go ballistic right in the middle of Commander-of-the-Watch Sam Vimes's home turf, that is to say the city of Ankh-Morpork. Starting a rumble in this city is a little like grabbing your fishing spear and jumping naked into a tank of hungry sharks. For sharks, substitute Sergeant Detritus, the troll, the Colon-Nobbs Brain Trust (in "Thud" these two constables spend most of their time investigating the Pink PussyCat Club, where the dancers' costumes consist of "two sequins and a bootlace"), Sergeant Angua, the werewolf, Corporal Ringfounder, the dwarf, Igor, the igor, Constable Dorfl, the golem, and Lance-Constable von Humpeding, the vampire (new to this series).

Sam Vimes must not only control the incipient inter-species riot and discover who murdered the rabble-rousing dwarf, Hamcrusher, he must also be home by six o'clock every evening to read "Where's My Cow?" to young Sam.

"Where's My Cow?" also serves as an eerily effective war cry when Commander Vimes is trapped underground beneath the dread Koom Valley, along with hordes of dead and alive dwarfs and mineralized trolls.

"Thud" is a game of troll versus dwarf. It is also "the noise a troll club makes when crushing in a dwarf skull, or when a dwarfish axe cleaves a trollish cranium."

Let's hope the Watch and its brilliant commander can prevent history from repeating itself in Koom Valley.

This addition to Discworld is one of Pratchett's best, even if it doesn't feature my favorite witches, and the Unseen University only gets a minor walk-on.


By Terry Pratchett Snuff: A Novel of Discworld (Book Club (BCE/BOMC))
By Terry Pratchett Snuff: A Novel of Discworld (Book Club (BCE/BOMC))
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover
7 used & new from $13.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Sam Vimes and the gnomes, May 24, 2015
I love Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels so much, I reread them every year—with the exception of "Making Money" (2008), "Unseen Academicals" (2010), and "I Shall Wear Midnight" (2010). In these last three novels, some of my favorite characters seemed to have developed logorrhea, i.e. they can't stop talking. Even Ankh-Morpork’s Patrician, Lord Vetinari, once a tyrant of few words (“Thank you for coming to see me. Don’t hesitate to leave.”) is waxing verbose. And Sam Vimes, the epitome of a man of action is now chatting up criminals like some effusive talk-show hostess—he seems to be turning into the Nancy Grace of Discworld.

C'mon Sam, go back to bopping the bad guys instead of lecturing them on their sins!

The plot of "Snuff" is fairly lean. Lord Vetinari and Sam's wife, the redoubtable Lady Sybil conspire to get Sam, who is now Lord Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, to take a well-deserved holiday on Lady Sybil's ancestral country estate. Sam is a city boy and to him the countryside is full of strange noises and even stranger smells. Luckily, the boonies aren't precisely free of crime, and Commander Vimes is soon in full pursuit, especially after the local constable tries to arrest him for murder.

One of the ongoing themes threading the Discworld City Watch novels is the growth of Sam's character from a red-neck speciesist, who only allowed humans (well, with the exception of Nobby Nobbs) to serve in his City Watch, to a multi-cultural commander who was even talked into enlisting a vampire (although reluctantly), and a certified public accountant. "Snuff" develops his relationship with the most maligned, ugliest, smelliest creatures on Discworld: the gnomes.

Terry Pratchett has been compared to Charles Dickens (Pratchett is better), Chaucer, "J.R.R. Tolkien with a sharper, more satiric edge," and P.G. Wodehouse. I think any author who garners comparisons with such wildly disparate writers must be in a category by himself. Heck, Pratchett IS a category by himself and the City Watch novels (with the exception of "Snuff") are among his best works.

If you'd like to read the Sam Vimes/City Watch books in order of publication, they are: "Guards! Guards!" (1989); "Men at Arms" (1993); "Feet of Clay" (1996); "Jingo" (1997); "The Fifth Elephant" (2000); "Night Watch" (2002); "Thud!" (2005); and "Snuff" (2011).


Mort: A Novel of Discworld by Pratchett, Terry Reissue Edition [MassMarket(2013/1/29)]
Mort: A Novel of Discworld by Pratchett, Terry Reissue Edition [MassMarket(2013/1/29)]
32 used & new from $9.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Of course Death's assistant is named Mort, May 24, 2015
Mort is apprenticed to Death at a job fair, because frankly he's so klutzy no one else wants him, not even his farmer father.

Now Death has a voice like "lead slabs dropped on granite" and He strides toward Mort, "black cloak billowing and feet making little clicking sounds on the cobbles."

Unfortunately He spoils His entrance by slipping on a patch of ice, and collapsing at His would-be apprentice's feet.

For some reason, Mort is not afraid of Death. He thinks He's weird and fascinating. Plus his father has told him that some hard-working apprentices inherit their master's business. Ummm...

Maybe not if your Master is immortal.

Mort is soon sent out on his own to 'release' dying souls from their bodies, and (this is the best part) he gets to ride Death's big white horse, Binky. He gallops to his first location, a small cottage, and finds a bundle of hay by the door with an attached note: "FOR THEE HORS."

Someone is expecting him.

"Mort" is full of strange and hilarious encounters between the world's most naÔve apprentice and his sometimes unwilling customers. And just when he's beginning to get the swing of things, i.e. his sythe, he meets Princess Keli who is about to be assassinated in her own royal bedroom.

Mort saves her life--a huge no-no on the list of things Death's apprentice should never do. He and Princess Keli have got to work on her not-really-dead-but-not-really-alive predicament together, even if it means that Mort will have to fight a life-or-Death duel with his master.

Luckily, Death's daughter, Ysabell (Disworld's first goth, although a bit chubby for the part) has taken a liking to Mort. With Binky, Ysabell, and Albert (Death's valet) on his side, will Mort have a chance against the Destroyer of Worlds?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? HA HA HA HA HA!


Small Gods (Discworld Novels)
Small Gods (Discworld Novels)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from $6.37

5.0 out of 5 stars How Om got his believers back, May 24, 2015
The Great God Om wakes up in tortoise-form just as an eagle hurls him into a compost pile. If you're the type of person who worries about being struck by lightning while reading the wrong kind of book, stay away from "Small Gods." Terry Pratchett blasphemes against (or maybe I should say 'explains') religion in this book, and most philosophies too. This is one of his more seriously comic Discworld books, although only Pratchett (and Monty Python) would even consider an attempt at a comedy about the Grand Inquisition

If Galileo had muttered, "Eppur si muove!" to the Inquisition on Discworld, he no doubt would have been referring to the gigantic turtle that carries the world on its back. He would have burned too, old as he was, if Vorbis the exquisitor had overheard him blaspheming against the perfect sphere of Discworld, which orbits around the Sun "as Man orbits the central truth of Om."

Meanwhile Om scrabbles out of the compost heap and discovers Brutha, a young novice who is hoeing melons in the temple garden. Brutha is the only person left on Discworld who truly believes in Om, and really bad things happen to gods who lose all of their believers.

However, Brutha almost loses his god. Vorbis the exquisitor discovers the small tortoise hissing at him and doesn't recognize it as his God, Om. He flips it over, inserts a couple of pebbles into its shell so it can't right itself, then sticks Om on the garden wall to broil in the sun.

Vorbis is a bad 'un.

After this temporary setback (setback, get it?), "Small Gods" carries on with the tale of Om and Brutha and their adventures as Om tries to figure out why he ended up as a tortoise, and Brutha attempts to discover truth in religion. This book is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. However if you read very carefully, you may spot coincidental resemblances to Tomás de Torquemada, Jesus, any number of classical Greek philosophers, early Christian saints, Old Testament prophets, and Galileo Galilei.


Witches Abroad: A Discworld Novel by Pratchett. Terry ( 1992 ) Paperback
Witches Abroad: A Discworld Novel by Pratchett. Terry ( 1992 ) Paperback
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Paperback
4 used & new from $25.63

5.0 out of 5 stars "Tempers fuggit", May 24, 2015
When witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, and Nanny's cat Greebo journey abroad, the resulting travel guide is a Pratchettesque version of 'Dave Barry Does Oz in Drag.'

And speaking of Oz and witches, it's a good idea to be wearing a wicker-reinforced pointy hat if a house does happen to fall on your head. Even Dorothy and Glinda the Good might shy away from stealing the red boots of the witch that the farmhouse did to land on. This particular witch writes home:

"PS the privies here are DESGUSTING, they have them INDORES, so much for HIGEINE."

Genua, the witches' destination, resembles a Dismal Swamp version of Disney World. You'll be humming Disney tunes all the way through "Witches Abroad," when you're not humming tunes from "The Wizard of Oz," or laughing hysterically. You won't be able to stop yourself.

This book is even dedicated to song, or more precisely to all those people "who, after the publication of 'Wyrd Sisters,' deluged the author with their version of the words of 'The Hedgehog Song.' Deary deary me..."

Along with the above-mentioned Wyrd Sisters, this tale has a fairy godmother who believes in, nay _orchestrates_ happy endings even if it means chopping off the hands and heads of folks who are inclined to be grumpy. (Doesn't that sound like something Walt Disney might have done?) So when Granny, Nanny, Magrat, and Greebo make a splash landing in Genua, already tempery after a journey involving grandma-munching wolves, falling farmhouses, and larcenous riverboat gamblers---well, there's bound to be a confrontation.

You might want to read "Wyrd Sisters" before launching into "Witches Abroad," although time doesn't exactly flow in a straight line on Pratchett's Discworld. (It flows over the edge of the world and down onto the elephants who are standing on top of the turtle.) "Lords and Ladies" sort of loop-de-loops along after "Witches Abroad," and then Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg pop up again in "Maskerade." I just read them in the order I get them, and ignore sequence. As Nanny Ogg once said, "tempers fuggit."

If you're hung up on sequence, you probably won't care for Discworld, anyway.


By Terry Pratchett Soul Music: A Novel of Discworld (Reprint)
By Terry Pratchett Soul Music: A Novel of Discworld (Reprint)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
18 used & new from $11.86

5.0 out of 5 stars A near miss in the Mended Drum or the Buddy Holly of Discworld, May 24, 2015
Death's daughter, Ysabell and His former apprentice, Mort have a daughter, Susan Sto Helit who is packed off to boarding school with only faint memories of a Grandfather with bony knees and a friendly white horse named Binky. However, when Death abandons His duties in an effort to forget His past, the fabric of reality forces adolescent Susan into her Grandfather's profession (somebody has to do it), and she reluctantly takes up the scythe, Binky, and Death's obnoxious old cook, Albert.

Then a budding young musician of 'music with rocks in it' is scheduled to die in Ankh-Morpork's sleaziest bar, and Susan decides to save his life (shades of her father, Mort!). The rock star who is still alive after he was scheduled to die is driving a hole through the fabric of reality, so Albert, Death's cook sets out to find his missing Master.

"Soul Music" is packed with sly references to rock and roll stars of another reality, and Death's attempt to find happiness as a short-order cook bring this Discworld fantasy to a satisfying end. If you'd like to read other books about Pratchett's scythe-wielding, seven-foot skeleton, try "Reaper Man," "Mort," "Hogsfather," and "Thief of Time." Actually, Death makes an appearance in almost every single Discworld volume, but sometimes it's just in a cameo role.


By Terry Pratchett Monstrous Regiment: A Novel of Discworld (1st First Edition) [Hardcover]
By Terry Pratchett Monstrous Regiment: A Novel of Discworld (1st First Edition) [Hardcover]
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from $7.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Pratchett, May 24, 2015
Polly Perks disguises herself as a boy and enlists in the Army of the Duchess Annagovia in order to find her beloved brother, Paul. Not only does she have to cut off her long, blonde hair (which is an abomination unto the local god, Nuggan), she also has to learn how to pick her nose, scratch her crotch, and fart loudly in public.

So far the Borogravian army very much resembles a major league baseball team.

By the time she has been enlisted for a day in the Tenth Foot (also known as the 'Ins-and-Outs') under the command of the sadistic Corporal Strappi, Polly is cursing every folksong she ever heard on the romance of disguising herself as a boy and following the drum. Her fellow recruits, including a troll, an igor, a vampire, and a religious nut, fare no better, although the corporal goes easy on the vampire.

Then Corporal Strappi learns that he himself is going to be sent to the front, along with his band of raw recruits, and steals off into the night. Now fat, jolly Sergeant Jackrum is in charge.

Anyone who has ever read a fantasy or gone to a movie where a cunning, experienced sergeant takes charge, will know that the new recruits are now in for the ride of their short lives. Polly's life perks up (sorry) when a shadowy figure in the privy hands her a pair of socks and advises her to stuff them into her trousers. The advice that comes with the socks:

"'It's a funny thing," said the voice, 'but they notice what's missing more than they notice what's there. Just one pair, mark you. Don't get ambitious.'"

Polly follows her mysterious friend's recommendation, and the rest of "Monstrous Regiment" is a jolly-but-serious series of Terry Pratchett-falls as the recruits capture their first prisoners-of-war, visit their first tent-of-ill-repute, and generally learn how to survive in a war that their country is definitely losing.

But if Borogravia is losing, why are the recruits being stalked by newshounds from Ankh-Morpork, who insist they're war heroes? Why has 'Butcher' Vimes put a werewolf on their trail?

And why, oh why did Private Polly have to kick the presumed Heir of Duchess Annagovia right in his sock drawer?

"Monstrous Regiment" is vintage Pratchett and if I ever decide to cross-dress and take the Queen's shilling, here is the book that will guide me.


By Terry Pratchett - The Wee Free Men (Discworld) (7/16/06)
By Terry Pratchett - The Wee Free Men (Discworld) (7/16/06)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
32 used & new from $5.02

5.0 out of 5 stars The first book in a trilogy starring Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegle, May 24, 2015
Grown-ups, don’t be fooled like I was, and avoid “The Wee Free Men” because it is labeled YA (young adult). This book has got one of Discworld’s greatest heroines AND some old favorites like the Nac Mac Feegle (the sheep-stealing, kilt-wearing little blue men), Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg.

Pratchett brings his usual weird energy to the story of Tiffany Aching, a nine-year-old sheep-herder’s daughter, who might also be a witch. This Discworld fantasy starts off with a clang when Tiffany baits a trap with her own sticky young brother (brilliant!), then wallops the slobbering Jenny Green-Teeth with her iron frying pan, when the monster goes for her bait.

There is something else in the river—two little blue men in kilts, in a boat the size of a coconut shell who had tried to warn her about the water creature:

“Crivens! Gang awa’ oot o’here, ye daft wee hinny! ‘Ware the green heid!’”

Other than the above encounter with the Nac Mac Feegle and Jenny Green-Teeth, Tiffany seems like an ordinary farm girl with a talent for making butter and cheese. Whenever a band of gypsy teachers travels to her small village on the Chalk, Tiffany walks into town and swaps some of her dairy products for a few hours of education. One afternoon, she trades an egg for some learning from an old woman with a toad on her hat.

The toad talks, and the hat looks like an ordinary black hat with paper flowers, but it is spring-operated:

“’I like operating the spring,’ said the toad, crawling around to the back of the hat. There was a click, and a slow ‘thwap-thwap’ noise, and the center of the hat rose slowly and jerkily up out of the paper flowers, which fell away.”

Pointy black hats mean witches on the Chalk, and these magical hags are not well-treated. Miss Tick, the traveling teacher is really a witch-in-disguise.

Tiffany wants to be a witch, too but Miss Tick (‘mystic’ get it?) thinks chalk country is too soft to grow a good witch.

Teacher and pupil temporarily part ways, but the sticky little brother (“I wanna go-a toy-lut!”) is kidnapped by the Queen of Faerie, and Tiffany must call upon witches, the clan of little blue men, and her own Granny Aching’s special sheep liniment to get him back again.

“The Wee Free Men” is the first book in a trilogy starring Tiffany and the Nac Mac Feegle. Read their continuing adventures in “A Hat Full of Sky” and “Wintersmith.” I can truly say these books changed me forever—at least, they changed my vocabulary—“Ach, crivens, ye daft loonies, don’t just sit there and watch yer life gae doon the cludgie. Read these books!”


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