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Go Set a Watchman: A Novel
Go Set a Watchman: A Novel
by Harper Lee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.07
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I love Mockingbird. I'm glad I read this., July 15, 2015
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The answers to your questions: it is not as good as To Kill a Mockingbird. You don’t have to read it. That is not to say you shouldn’t, or you won’t enjoy it – I did – but you don’t HAVE to read it.

It is precisely what it is purported to be: the story of Scout Finch, all – or almost all – grown up. It is also a rough draft of sorts of Mockingbird; there are passages that were taken straight from this book and put into that one, some descriptions of Aunt Alexandra, the history of Maycomb’s founding, that sort of thing. It is not the same book, retold at a different time; it is also not the sequel, as there are several small details that do not mesh with Mockingbird — Cousin Francis is Alexandra’s son, not her grandson; the Radley family is missing entirely, but there is a reference to another boogeyman who sneaks out at night and eats cats.

For someone who has never read To Kill a Mockingbird, this would likely be a good, but probably not a great book. This is me theorizing, of course, because I’m a high school English teacher, and I’ve taught Harper Lee’s masterpiece (It gave me a laugh to look inside the front cover and see “Also by Harper Lee:”) and read it a dozen times. I think the reality, the tangible, concrete weight of the characters and their personalities was already in me from Mockingbird, and I’m not sure it would be present for someone who didn’t read that book. This book’s central conflict climaxes with more speechifying, as if Atticus’s closing argument were moved to the final chapters and combined with the conversations about Boo Radley and Jem: more slow buildup and a longer period of talking through it. But the writing is still Harper Lee, and it is still wonderful: there is the same elegant prose, the same remarkable ability to switch from formal to casual, the same ironic humor, the same incisive understanding of the people and history of the South, and it’s still a joy to read. So I would recommend it.

For those who, like me, have read Mockingbird and loved it, you should think carefully. This book is good, but it is not a masterpiece. The wonder of Mockingbird hinges on the choice to make Scout a child. That simplified the story, and enabled Lee to treat race and hate and human nature with innocence and simplicity – through a child’s eyes. The adult Scout – now Jean Louise, an emblematic change – doesn’t have it so easy. She is much more reflective, thinking about what people say and whether they actually meant it or not; trying to decide whether their words and their character are a match to what she remembers of them from the past; trying to decide for herself where she belongs, and what she loves and what she can’t stand. The characters that were simple are now not, particularly – and most tryingly – Atticus. In Mockingbird, Atticus is the perfect father-hero. But now, Scout is older, and in this book, she finishes growing up. And it hurts to see Atticus the way she is forced to see him. It made this book hard to read. And, to tell the truth, so did Lee’s erudite references to Victorian authors and 1950’s historical and cultural icons, several of which I did not understand.

I would absolutely recommend this book as an exercise in the writer’s craft to those who teach Mockingbird, and to those who write themselves and know Lee’s classic. It is fascinating to see the changes between this earlier book and the later one, to see the author’s choices that made that book great, and this one less so.

For those who love Mockingbird for its own sake? If you think you can handle it, I would highly recommend this book to you, too. Because just like Scout, I think we need to grow up, and see our heroes in a more human light. And even though this book is more complex, more troubling, it is the difference between idyllic, idealized childhood and murky, gray-shaded adulthood; and this is still Scout. It’s still Atticus. It’s still Maycomb. It’s still Harper Lee. It was wonderful to go back and see it all again.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 15, 2015 6:00 PM PDT

Down and Out in Paris and London
Down and Out in Paris and London
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.12
129 used & new from $1.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and disturbing. You know -- Orwell., June 14, 2015
Down and Out in Paris and London
by George Orwell

I was happy with this find: first because I came across it in a lovely bookstore, the kind of shop I want to own someday, a little storefront with ten-foot-high shelves, with only enough space between for one person to pass, and yet a bright and sunny atmosphere, warm and welcoming -- the proprietor had read both books I bought, and praised them both, so I felt both accompanied and intelligent; second because it is an old copy, with genuine cover art and a 35-cent price printed at the top, and a sweet, soft smell to the pages; third because everything I read by George Orwell makes me admire the man more, and fills me with the desire both to read and to write.

It was an excellent read. Orwell has a journalist's eye and a journalist's pen; the prose is clear and straightforward, the detail precise and thorough and fascinating. He creates characters among his acquaintances mostly through simple description of their appearance and actions and words; within the first ten pages you meet one of the more appalling people Orwell knew in Paris, and you know why, based merely on the drunken speech Orwell relates from the man. He makes himself a character, as well, though he creates his own character similarly, through speech and action and description; there is never any explanation given for how he ended up in Paris, so close to destitute, but he quickly joins the ranks of the poorest, being forced to sell his clothing in order to buy food, and spending days at a time starving before he finds employment again.

Orwell also creates a graphic picture of the two great cities at the time, in the 1930's, between the World Wars when the greatest threat to Western society was socialism; there is a constant theme of intolerance running through his interactions with authorities, and though he is frequently harassed for his poverty and the corresponding assumption of lawlessness, he comments that it would be much worse were he suspected of being a Socialist -- which, of course, he was, though not a politically active one at the time. He tells of the slums of Paris and the workhouses of London, and creates an expose of Paris restaurants and hotels worthy of Upton Sinclair.

There are some moments I would change: Orwell reveals his own prejudices, against some races and nationalities and particularly against Jews; there is a presumption that the reader knows French, which I do not; and in this edition, at least, the curse words were blanked out -- which wasn't a problem when Orwell wrote things like "Shut yer ______ mouth and get on with yer bath!" because even if I don't know what he meant (almost certainly "damn"), I can fill it in with my own imagination and be no worse off for it. But then there was a passage when Orwell was expounding on why curse words become curse words, and how they lose their original meaning as soon as they reach common use; and it read like "But ________ is no worse than _______, which was once used less often than _________." Which was obnoxious.

It was also quite disgusting at times, and quite sad; but then, so is the subject. It's a short and largely simple read, and Orwell's insights, offered at the end, are sharp and precise, and leave one with some very interesting thoughts.

Highly recommended.

The Last Unicorn
The Last Unicorn
by Peter S. Beagle
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.04
122 used & new from $3.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully irritating, June 14, 2015
This review is from: The Last Unicorn (Paperback)
I’ve been a lifelong fantasy fan and English guy; yet I’ve never read The Last Unicorn. Clearly there is something missing, a gap in the castle keep built in my mind on a foundation of Tolkien and Piers Anthony and Dr.Seuss, with towers called Robert Jordan and Stephen King (That one’s a dark tower) and Dungeons and Dragons and Harry Potter. I assume it’s the gap where the Red Bull lives — and I wonder if the drink took its name from this book, and if so, why nobody’s creeped out by that.

So I read the book. I’ve owned this copy for years; I don’t even remember when or where I got it. I never felt strongly enough to get into it. Maybe because I don’t really care for unicorns: the idea of preternatural, untouchable beauty just kind of irks me; I much prefer the unicorn in Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, who is captured by Oberon and who bears his many children; or the unicorn in Mary Brown’s excellent book The Unlikely Ones, who lost its horn to an evil witch. Beauty should be real, should be tangible, should be breakable: not because it should be broken, but because it should not be, and that should be a conscious, active choice. How do you love something you can’t protect, because it can’t be hurt?

I also never read it because I saw the movie, and it put some dark images into my psyche at a young age.

But hey: I like dark images. And Peter Beagle clearly feels the same way I do about unicorns, because the whole concept of this book is this question: should perfect immortal beauty exist? Is it better if it is in the world but unseeable, or is it better if you can point to it every day? Or is it better if the beauty is that of a woman who loves you, who you love; a woman you can marry, a woman you can kiss? The villain in the piece is a king who refuses to rule, and the monster is entirely intangible: the Red Bull sleeps and wakes, snorts, rumbles, charges, terrifies — but he quite literally touches nothing at all.

I have to say, now that I’m thinking about it more, I’m liking the thought of this book more than I did while I was reading it.

Okay, so let me say this: the writing is absolutely gorgeous. Lush and captivating without being overcomplicated, this is some of the best wordsmithing I’ve seen in a fantasy novel. I can understand how it managed to become a classic. And the ideas are rather unexpectedly intriguing, and probably bear more thought than I have given it.

But this book ticked me off. Because it’s post-modern. Because it breaks the fourth wall, because it questions its own meaning and message. Because the hero is named Schmendrick. Because the Robin Hood mock-up is waiting for the field researchers to come record his folk songs. Because it’s way too self-referential and smarmy. Maybe Beagle thought that was funny, and maybe he was trying to deconstruct the fantasy tropes — whatever. Fantasy is not for avant garde anti-establishment attacks by people who read too much Sartre. It’s for freaking fantasy. If this book had none of the overly clever parts, I would think it was a beautiful piece of work. But as it is, I find it annoying.

Smells Like Dog
Smells Like Dog
by Suzanne Selfors
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.98
138 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars So Close To Awesome! But not., June 14, 2015
This review is from: Smells Like Dog (Paperback)
Here’s what I love: I love books. I love dogs. I love pirates. How could there be anything more perfect for me than a book about a boy and his dog who go seeking pirate treasure? Well, it could also have secret rooms in a museum (I love both secret rooms and museums), and a secret society! And a goat farm! That would be even better than perfect.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t perfect.

The elements were all there, and parts of it were excellent.There are some twists that were particularly surprising in a young book like this, which are often extremely predictable, though still enjoyable. The main character, Homer, and his relationship with his sister were both nicely done; in the beginning, I wished Homer would stand up for himself a bit more, be a little less passive, and over the course of the book, he becomes able to do that, and that was nice to see — he would have made a good hero for a kid like me, like Homer, who reads a lot, doesn’t have many friends, and has dreams quite apart from what his family expects of him. I liked Homer’s whole family, in fact.

The other characters, though (Apart from Lorelei — Lorelei was fantastic), were a lot less real, and therefore a lot less interesting to me. They seemed too much like they were lifted straight out of A Series of Unfortunate Events, including the freakish grotesqueness of them and the strident imperiousness of the principal villain. Maybe this suits a young book, but I would think that if some characters could be complex and interesting — the secret of Homer’s father, for instance, revealed a whole other side to him, and in one moment, changed my perception of him entirely; that is good writing, and a good character — then they all could. They weren’t. It was too bad.

My biggest complaint about this book, though? It didn’t smell enough like dog. Dog is a lovely fella — though really, that’s a terrible name, even if it does come from children — with a nice uniqueness about him. But there isn’t enough of him: he and Homer bond, and there’s no real reason for it. Maybe that’s the way it works with kids and dogs, they grow to love each other for no reason at all, but I want there to be some affection, some connection, before they are willing to fight and die for each other. There wasn’t. Dog did not have nearly enough of a personality for such a vital character to the story, and one so important to drawing me into the book. He’s just there for Homer to love and protect, and to serve as a plot device at a particular moment.

Overall, good stuff and bad. I liked Lemony Snickett better.

Homeland: The Dark Elf Trilogy, Part 1 (Forgotten Realms: The Legend of Drizzt, Book I) (Bk. 1)
Homeland: The Dark Elf Trilogy, Part 1 (Forgotten Realms: The Legend of Drizzt, Book I) (Bk. 1)
by R. A. Salvatore
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.85
109 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Good D&D Adventure, June 14, 2015
I've never read these books before, though every gaming nerd I've taught English to in the last fifteen years has read and loved and recommended them. Drizzt Do'Urden is one of the most prominent and well-known characters to rise out of the D&D universe, which has run the gamut from role-playing games to countless novels to bad TV shows and worse movies. Drizzt is a Drow, a dark elf, one of the evil races of the D&D universe, like orcs and goblins and the like, and this book takes on the interesting task of making the Drow seem vile and cruel and merciless, while also making Drizzt himself sympathetic.

It's a tough challenge, but Salvatore did it fairly well. I have read better books with a similar concept -- the Elric of Melnibone series by Michael Moorcock are probably the best at this, along with Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar books -- but this one was well done. Drizzt is born into a noble House of the underground kingdom of dark elves called Menzobarranzan; as the third son (the kingdom is both matriarchal and theocratic, with the dark elf women serving as priestesses of an evil goddess named Lloth) he would have been sacrificed at birth, except that one of his elder brothers assassinates the other the same night when Drizzt is born, opening a slot for Drizzt to remain alive. He does, and grows into a hero, the greatest swordsman of the realm, and, most unusual for a Drow, a man with a sense of honor and a conscience.

The world is very well built, internally logical and consistent and in keeping with the larger D&D world; the Drow read like what they are, a universally evil race who worship a spider-demon and loathe kindness and mercy and love and anything else virtuous or good. It was interesting to see the ways Salvatore used elements of fascism in the Drow world: the children are very clearly indoctrinated, taught to hate an external enemy and blame that enemy for all of their own suffering, though that suffering is clearly inherent in their way of life; at the same time, they must obey the dictates of their own unquestioned supreme leader, constantly trying to curry her favor and savagely turning on those who displease her, even though they do not know why she is angry or why she is happy with any particular Drow. I imagine this is much what it was like to live in Hitler's Germany, which I'm sure was Salvatore's intent, or at least his inspiration.

I was a bit less pleased with Drizzt himself. Partly that is because I hadn't read his previous adventures; these books are an origin story for a beloved character from another series, and so there were moments that were supposed to be meaningful for me that weren't -- for instance, the Drizzt character is well known for his companion, a magical black panther named Guenhwyvar; when she was introduced, I should have thought, "Hooray!" but it didn't register at all other than :"Hey look, a magical black panther." More problematic was the author's attempt to make Drizzt a better man than his family: because there was no particular reason why he should have been more decent or honorable or merciful than every other Drow -- he just was. Some of it came from his (not-quite-as) honorable mentor, who trained him; but why was the mentor more honorable then? Well, he just was, too. And sure, that's how it works in D&D, but I think characters in a novel should make more sense.

The action was good, the world was great, the characters were fine. I'll be reading the sequel.

If you liked this book, I would recommend:
Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock (And the rest of the series)
The Fahfrd and Grey Mouser series by Fritz Leiber (Swords and Deviltry, Swords Against Death, Swords in the Mist, etc.)
The Conan books -- I'd recommend the two Roberts, E. Howard who created the character and Jordan who wrote it better than anyone else since.

Skin Game (Dresden Files)
Skin Game (Dresden Files)
by Jim Butcher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.25
239 used & new from $0.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Can I give it more than five stars?, April 25, 2015
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I’ve read lots of book series. I went through a lengthy mystery phase, when I read pretty much every Nero Wolfe book that Rex Stout wrote; I read all the Travis McGee novels of John D. MacDonald — and in both cases I read a few of the knockoffs by imitators, and was unimpressed. I’ve read all of the Wheel of Time, and Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I read twenty or so of Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake books, and every one of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I read all of the Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Bloody Jack Faber series.

I stopped reading the Song of Ice and Fire after Book 4. Because I won’t put up with that kind of nonsense, Mr. Martin. You publish your books before you make the TV series. At the least, work on both concurrently, sir. I’m using up all of my patience with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books; but at least she has to do extensive historical research before she writes each book. You make ’em up, George. I learned from Robert Jordan the risks of waiting too long for a series to end; didn’t you learn, too?

The point is, I enjoy the series. I’ve seen them get better as they go (LOTR) and I’ve seen them get worse (ABVH), I’ve seen them end too soon and too late.

Never — not once — have I enjoyed a series as much and as long as I have enjoyed Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books.

It is extraordinary to me that Butcher is able to keep these books as alive as they are. They are nothing but action: generally 400-500 pages, they cover only a day or two, and the entire time is spent in some form of combat, chase, or intrigue. Harry Dresden must be the tiredest man in the imagined universe. And yet, despite fifteen books with the same general outline, they have never gotten boring, nor repetitive; I have never left the edge of my metaphorical seat. The key is that the book is much, much more than action (despite my prior statement): even though Harry never stops fighting, there are many pauses and lulls in between the knock-down drag-out brouhahas, and in these pauses, Butcher has built not only a world and concept of magic that I find as compelling as any I’ve ever read, but also some of the most completely realized characters that I can imagine finding in an action novel. Dresden is not Man-Compelled-To-Fight-By-Need-For-Justice, though there’s some of that, and he’s not Man-Torn-Between-Good-And-Evil, though there’s some of that. Harry is a man, a complicated, flawed, man, both strong and weak, admirable and despicable. (Part of this is the fact that Butcher has had a canvas fifteen books wide to paint this character on. Some of the less prominent but still important characters — Michael, Thomas — are a bit more one-dimensional. But even those sorts of characters have their hidden sides — think of Bob. Mac. Charity.) On top of all that, Butcher has an ability to weave in philosophical sorts of musings, on what it means to be human, to be mortal, to be powerful; to love, to hate, to fight; along with the best sense of humor since Douglas Adams. And his nerd references are a solid 10.0. Funniest thing in this book is when a character starts quoting Monty Python without even realizing it.

The point is, I love these books, completely, unabashedly. I’ll keep reading them as long as Butcher writes them, and cry when he stops. Then I’ll re-read them all.

This book is a heist story. The tension comes from the fact that Harry has to work with his enemies, yet they remain enemies, regardless of any cooperation (Like the Winter Court, though the Fae are not as prominent in this novel.). Some allies come back, out of semi-retirement from the main plotline, which was wonderful; new villains are introduced, who were excellent; there is a fantastic cameo by a god; there is a hell of a plot twist; there is one of the coolest Ascension scenes (When a character becomes something more than he or she was before — like Molly at the end of Cold Days) ever, with one of the best nerdgasm moments of all time.

Best of all? I can’t wait to read the next book. I have to see what happens with Dresden’s daughter.

No: the other one.

Unpopular Essays (Routledge Classics)
Unpopular Essays (Routledge Classics)
by Bertrand Russell
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.93
59 used & new from $6.79

5.0 out of 5 stars I need to read it again. So do you., April 25, 2015
Unpopular Essays
by Bertrand Russell

I need a new copy of this book; mine is old, and the glue in the spine has failed, allowing the first thirty or so pages to fall out.

I need a new copy because even though I have read this, I want to keep it. I want to read it again.

Partly that is because I want to learn a bit more philosophy; I didn't understand the essays "Philosophy and Politics," "Philosophy for Laymen," or "Philosophy's Ulterior Motives" as well as I would have liked. I followed the logic and the writing, of course, as I think that Lord Russell was possibly the clearest thinker and the clearest writer in the history of English and the history of philosophy; but the references to the large ideas of Kant and Nietzsche and particularly the Greeks, were new to me, and thus no chord was struck.

Mainly it is because I did understand everything Russell was saying in the less-referential pieces. Particularly "The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed" and "What It Means to Be a Teacher." The last resonated with me especially because I am a teacher, and I strive to be one that Lord Russell would have approved. I want my students to think: to weigh evidence, to question assumptions, to come to their own conclusions, and then justify their decisions logically. It's difficult. They don't want to. I myself am much less than perfect as a model of the ideals. If I could, I would have them read Bertrand Russell. (Come to think of it, I'll have them do just that. I am a high school literature teacher, after all. But which essay?) Whether they ever do or not, I plan to read all of his works that I can get my hands on; and I will read this one again. If for no other reason, then because of this, from the introduction: "A word as to the title. In the Preface to my Human Knowledge I said that I was writing not only for professional philosophers, and that 'philosophy proper deals with matters of interest to the general educated public.' Reviewers took me to task, saying they found parts of my book difficult, and implying that my words were such as to mislead purchasers. I do not wish to expose myself again to this charge; I will therefore confess that there are several sentences in the present volume which some unusually stupid children of ten might find a little puzzling. On this ground I do not claim that the essays are popular; and if not popular, then 'unpopular.'"

We Are Pirates
We Are Pirates
by Daniel Handler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.79
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too real to be anything but great., April 4, 2015
This review is from: We Are Pirates (Hardcover)
That's it. I'm never reading a sad book again.

I don't know how people do it. How do you all read literary classics and modern mainstream novels, and enjoy them? How do you read them one after another? I mean, John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors, but how do you go from Of Mice and Men to The Grapes of Wrath without reading, say, The Hobbit in between? I can't do that. I've tried for years, I have a degree in literature, I'm an English teacher, I'm a book reader and reviewer, and an author: I know that there is a certain prestige that attaches to the great novels, and almost every one of them is sad, is tragic. But I just can't do it any more.

I got this book because I loved the Lemony Snickett books, and because I love pirates. Stupid, I know; but why not? The Series of Unfortunate Events (Also sad -- I'm aware that I should have paid more attention to the very obvious clues) was genuinely well written, and pirates are not only fun (But also sad: because the average lifespan for a Caribbean pirate was about two years, before they died of disease, alcoholism, or a "short drop followed by a sudden stop." Like I said: many clues.) but also fascinating, because they represent savagery, and also egalitarianism, among other things. Escape, and rebellion, and a final middle finger to a cruel world.

This book was exactly that. Daniel Handler captured not only the world of the pirate, the anger, the pain, the fight against all conformity and thus against all society and even against humanity itself; he also captured the modern world -- and thus made me long to be the pirate, even while I sorrowed for those following that path, pitied them their rage and their pain. And I raged against those who tried to contain the pirates; and then I felt their pain, as well. Because as Handler points out, with the title and with the entire book: we ARE pirates. We all are. We are.

The book is good, damn good, maybe even brilliant; I just finished it minutes ago and maybe don't have the perspective to really grasp all of its insights and nuances. But I laughed at passages, I recognized people, I loved and hated and felt contempt and pity for the characters and their lives. It's written the way a book should be written, and it's about a great subject -- not only pirates, but also family and children and growing up and careers and ambitions and dreams and, of course, disappointments. It's got a wonderful twist at the end, which changes your understanding of things; more than one, actually. It is multi-layered and complicated, but nonetheless still easy to read, and it has some beautiful flourishes and original creations. This is a very impressive piece of work.

And it's sad. And I'm done.

Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander)
Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander)
by Diana Gabaldon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.80
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost too real. But wonderful, anyway., March 27, 2015
Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

First of all, if you haven't read these books, stop reading this review: go now and find a copy of Outlander. Seriously. Do it now.

After you've read Outlander, fallen in love with this author and these characters and this absolutely lovely series of books, go ahead and read all of the rest of the series, and then come back when you reach the 8th book, which this is. (And while you're at it, be grateful you're coming into the series now, rather than doing what my wife did, and discovering Gabaldon when Outlander was first published -- 25 years ago. It's been a long time, waiting for this series to get this close to the end. A very long time. But she still loves it: every book, every chapter. Worth the wait.)

So for those who are caught up, this is a great book. A great one. This one gets back on track, in some ways; there are more moments of joy than heartbreak, which has not felt true of the last few books, but is one of the reasons why I love the series so: because they are lovely, and loving. It's a true romance, rather than a heartbreaker for the sake of poignancy. And because love is good and great and sublime, there is more joy than sorrow -- and though I don't want to spoil, I will say that there is much more love in this book than just Jamie and Claire.

Of course there are heartbreaking moments. There is more than one death that just tore me up inside. There are frustrating times -- particularly with William. Those damned stubborn Frasers. You understand. There is more than one terrifying moment, particularly those associated with more than one life-threatening injury. But this book does the right things, and goes the right places, and I loved it. I would say I can't wait for the next one -- but I have to wait, don't I?

If I had one complaint, it was this: I always enjoy the historical elements, and the accuracy and detail are remarkable; it's why I'm willing to wait patiently (Well, somewhat patiently) for the next installment, unlike George R.R. Martin, on whom I gave up years ago. But I don't think all of the historicity actually serves the story. Gabaldon went to great lengths to make a few real Revolutionary personages true to their historical selves, even quoting their personal papers for their dialogue. Why? To please the seven people in the world who would recognize a genuine Nathanael Greene Quote from a false one? I appreciate the realism of the British retreat from Philadelphia, and the influence that has on the lives of our heroes; but do we need every single aspect of the Battle of Monmouth to be on the record? I'm really not reading a history book, here. I do understand that every instance when Gabaldon varies from the truth earns her a dozen irate letters from fanatics; but I personally vote she lets that go, and does more things like name Fergus's paper The Onion. Which I just got, by the way. These books are not historically accurate: you can tell by the 20th century doctor in the middle of the Revolution. Verisimilitude is wonderful, and I appreciate all the work that goes into making the books feel and sound real; but they don't actually need to BE real. I'll love them anyway.

If you like the Outlander series, I would also recommend:
The Bloody Jack series by the wondrous L.A. Meyer (Historical adventure and romance)
The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning (Romance and adventure, without history -- but with Irishmen)
The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (Who is not afraid of changing history to include dragons)
Everything by Jeffery Farnol, my favorite historical romance novelist. Check out the pirate books, especially.

Divine Misfortune
Divine Misfortune
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "See this book and pick it up, and all day long you'll have good luck." And a good book to read., March 27, 2015
This review is from: Divine Misfortune (Kindle Edition)
Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez

I liked this book right from the start. From the very first chapter, when the main human character, Phil, goes looking online -- on a divine version of which is one of the funniest things I've read in a while -- for a god to worship, I knew this was the kind of thing I love to read. Funny and irreverent, but with just enough social criticism to give it some bite, and something to ground the silliness. Oh yeah: this is definitely a book about a slacker luck god who looks like a raccoon in sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt, who crashes in your house and orders pizza with anchovies and invites his god buddies over for a party; but it's also a book about the callous and self-serving way that people treat faith and religion. It's a book about the way that religion exploits its own worshipers, as represented by my favorite character, Quetzalcoatl -- "Just call me Quick." It's a book about how having the right credentials, which often includes religion, can make or break your career. And it says some interesting things about all of those topics, which alone would make it worth reading -- because the writing is good, the characters are both fun and genuine, and it's never too heavy nor too light. But when you include the fact that Martinez makes great use of the concept of a luck god, imagining all of the possible benefits of having luck on your side -- you find enough spare change to buy a new microwave; should anyone (Say, the bloodthirsty cultists who worship THAT OTHER god) come by to try to shoot you, their guns will jam and then blow up in their hands; that kind of thing -- then this book becomes something not only worth reading, but worth telling other people that they should read, too.

You should read this book. It's a lot of fun. I haven't even mentioned most of the things that make it amusing and enjoyable: you should check them out yourself.

Are there flaws in the book? Sure. I don't think the human characters are developed enough; they're just "regular folks," there to give the gods somebody to play with or fight over. The final battle was something of an anti-climax, though it does fit the plot perfectly. And as amusing as the pagan gods are walking around in modern America, I think it's been done better, by Christopher Moore, Kevin Hearne, Neil Gaiman, probably others.

But this book was, for me, a lucky find. I'd recommend it.

If you liked this book, I would also recommend:
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne
Coyote Blue, Dirty Job, Practical Demonkeeping and others by Christopher Moore

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