My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Review: The Anubis Gates

The Anubis Gates The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was billed as a classic 'Steam Punk' story that helped define the genre ... the only problem here was that there was NO steam [tech:] and there was little or no punk either. In fact, the only way it fits here would be to credit the time period as Victorian (IMHO a useless expansion of the term), before mixing in a tremendous amount of magic in what should be more honestly billed as a time-travel fantasy. That said … it WAS a pretty decent time-travel story :)

The story opens with a magical spell gone wrong which tears holes [gates:] in the time-continuum which serves of the principal mechanism for the subsequent time-travel activities. Powers does a masterful job of weaving two intriguing plotlines … one from the future 20th century and one based in the host 19th century … both of which revolve around the protagonist, one Brendan Doyle, a mediocre 20th century scholar specializing in an obscure 19th century poet (whom he hopes to meet). Not long into the tale, Doyle becomes stranded in the past where he struggles to survive in the dark underworld of London beggars while avoiding capture by the local gypsies who fear he may upset their own schemes. Along the way we are introduced to a system of magic that is at once extremely limited when in connection with the earth and tremendously powerful (the ability to make a virtual army of homunculi, or ka’s, is really over the top IMHO). Stir in a body snatching werewolf, an Egyptian god or two, a secret society, a few elemental spirits, and the real story behind the Punch and Judy puppets for an entertaining mix of odds and ends that keep your interest as the mysteries unfold. The main problem with the story is that Powers touches so many things without really going into much detail … making it hard to leave any lasting impression.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Review: The Chimera Code

The Chimera Code The Chimera Code by Wayne Santos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say … this was a fast and fun, cyberpunk/mission impossible style story. World building was pretty much stock, but the author didn’t make any grievous mistakes throwing all of the tech jargon around (major props for that). Editing was also clean, so I never had any “WTF?” moments that sometimes interrupt the flow of the story with grammar or word choice mistakes. Characters were solid and interesting (although development was limited)… with a sub-genre combination you don’t always see: mage (check), cyborg (check), hacker/ai (check), … and it was this cross genre style that I really really enjoyed. So what drives this story? The over the top action of course (and character camaraderie and some interesting mission build-up). The only serious critique I might raise here would be the predictability of the plot … but I had so much fun watching it unfold, that was really a plus for me (sometimes I like low stress stories with happy endings … sue me). In short, this is pure escapism … perfect for a relaxing day poolside or at the beach.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheChimeraCode #NetGalley

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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Review: After Jesus, Before Christianity: A Historical Exploration of the First Two Centuries of Jesus Movements

After Jesus, Before Christianity: A Historical Exploration of the First Two Centuries of Jesus Movements After Jesus, Before Christianity: A Historical Exploration of the First Two Centuries of Jesus Movements by Erin Vearncombe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book comes out of the same organization that gives us the Jesus Seminar (Westar Christianity Seminar) where scholars attempted to identify the Real Jesus within the Gospels with mixed reviews (frequently drawing criticism from the more fundamental wing of Christianity).  This book follows that process with the authors/contributors stating at the very beginning that “One of the core contributions of this book is its rejection of the master narrative.”  So buckle up … controversy awaits us.

What we find over twenty chapters is how [these] scholars put together current research and understanding of the first two centuries after the crucification to build a narrative that an incredibly diverse movement that challenges orthodoxy in 6 areas:

1.    They resisted the Roman Empire by invoking the compassion and mercy of God, while contrasting God’s perfect kingdom with the cruelty and domination  of Rome despite having relatively little power themselves (Not sure how this challenges the prevailing theories, but there you have it)
2.    They were extremely egalitarian with gender roles with women taking a more active leadership role in many of the groups (some even cutting their hair and dressing like men).
3.    They lived in “spiritual” families or communities centered around their beliefs and practices, often disregarding blood family ties.
4.    They were aligned with Israel in nearly everything that they did, regardless of where they were; frequently picking out the traditions of the local jewish communities and adding to them
5.    They had a variety of organization structures, with little to no central control … which translates to a very diverse set of beliefs, many of which would become heretical and lose out to the coming orthodoxy (This is the best part)
6.    Their tradition were mostly transmitted orally; however, they slowing developed what became canon along side the same process where the Jewish canon was created.  (Again … not sure how surprising this really is).

To support these “discovers”, the book opens with a discussion on where we get the word ‘Christian’ and what it actually means.  While this was interesting, I am not sure it deserved all of the ink it received.  After that, it talked about the power and violence of the Roman Empire … again … I don’t see many folks arguing against this, so the big reveal here seems to be that the relatively powerless underclass that made up the bulk of the communities was very passive-aggressive in their resistance to Roman power.  You will find some controversy in the proposed development of the communal meals that would become the Christian communion as it is then also contrasted with common Roman practice with respect to libations for the Emperor.  

It was not until Part II that I found more interesting and potentially surprising information as the book lays out the various characteristics of the Christian Communities (aka Clubs).  There are some terms used that you need to pay very close attention to as they are using them for a specific meaning that is not at all common today, so the potential for misunderstanding is high.  Here we see the Jesus communities experiment with gender roles, national allegiance and family organizations, with the later including a brief exploration of the traditional family/households and how radically different these new "communities" were.  Part III moves into early heresies and how they were ultimately suppressed ... starting with [The Myth of] Gnosticism and its incorrect use to categorize and dismiss a significant number of early Christian writings [such as nearly the entire corpus of the Nag Hammadi documents) ... there by giving a false impression of early uniformity [or orthodox] that did not actually exist.  Next we re-examine Paul ... who was not so influence during his life time as he would become during the establishment of orthodox belief.

Over all I think this brings important scholarship into the understanding of how we got here and I would recommend reading it with an open mind.  Be prepared to be challenged; however, it is important to remember that this is just one view within a wide field and it may not be the end all to how we understand our story … even if you don’t buy into what is being presented here, it should make you think … 

Table of Contents

1.    The Experiment
2.    If Not Christian; What?

Part I: Living with the Empire
3.    Engine of Empire: Violence
4.    Gospel of Empire, Gospel of Jesus
5.    Violence in Stone
6.    The Deaths of Heroes

Part II: Belonging and Community 
7.    Testing Gender, Testing Boundaries
8.    Forming New Identities through Gender
9.    Belonging to Israel 
10.   Experimental Families 
11.   Join the Club
12.   Feasting and Bathing

Part III: Real Variety, Fictional Unity
13.    Inventing Orthodoxy through Heresy
14.    Demolishing Gnosticism
15.    Paul Obscured
16.    Jesus by Many Other Names

Part IV: Falling into Writing    
17.    Hiding in Plain Sight
18.    Romancing the Martyrs
19.    Better Than a New Testament
20.    Conclusion

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#AfterJesusBeforeChristianity #NetGalley.

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: Ashes of the Sun

Ashes of the Sun Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First Impression: The prologue gave me the strong start to a story that I have not encountered in years. Then you find an alternating POV that slowly reveals an incredible world while developing the background of the two main characters. Many of the more recent stories that I have read rely heavily on “info dumps” to jump start the world building and context for the main plot; that is not something I appreciate much. Of course, many other readers have exactly the opposite opinion, which I am sure is why such continues to be popular. If you are somebody who does not enjoy the ambiguity of a slowly revealed world, you can jump to the back and read through the glossary (where IMHO info dumps belong) and then come back to enjoy this remarkable world as it unfolds.

Final Impression: This is an exemplar of the writer’s craft. The author gives us a vivid dystopian world with just a touch of Lovecraftian horror and a built in conflict between the creative powers of elemental magic and life itself … highlighting the corruptive potential of both. Each character encounter revealed just a little bit more of this fascinating world, giving just enough detail to provide the context needed to support the character’s story. Bottomline … I believe the world building here is second to none. Now add the people. Nobody is the villain in their own story. As the author develops the conflict between siblings who suffered a painful separation as children, I find myself empathizing with both of them, which makes the conflict here all the more tragic. By the end, I could see how each of them had developed and grown until the end of their redemptive arc could be seen on the horizon (sequels)? What sets this story apart from many though, is the detail and individuality put into the supporting cast … with whom I could identify as well. All of the characters were flawed. All of the characters had some redeemable value. That all combines to make this story all the more real to me and I absolutely loved it.

The author notes in his acknowledgements that this book was subject to extensive writes and editing, with large portions of it eventually being tossed out … and all of the hard work paid off. This is one of the few books in recent memory that now sits on my favorites shelf while I anxiously await the sequel.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#AshesOfTheSun #NetGalley

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Review: Cloak of Magic

Cloak of Magic Cloak of Magic by S.A. Rule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Cloak of Magic is an entertaining story set in a world of where ‘paradise’ is swept up into the power struggles of a decadent empire against a surprisingly intractable rebellion. Not a bad setting as far as such goes; however, the author’s attempt to paint this primitive agrarian society into the epitome of spirituality quickly begins to grate under the repetition. To be fair, I generally don’t find utopias all that interesting, so the perpetual reminders of how perfect this society was simply made it more difficult for me to identify with the people in the story … they just weren’t ‘real.’ Kierce was the only character I felt had much depth at all. It was through him that the author presents the best part of the story. The most intriguing concept was that of the Lord High Magician, who appears to be the focal point of the sustaining spirit of this otherwise ‘godless’ land. Unfortunately his uniqueness is overshadowed by the author’s attempt to portray the religious fanaticism driving the imperial forces (and with whom they find themselves allied with) as diametrically evil against purity of the ‘Holy Land.’ Here is where the story began to break down for me; I continually had the feeling that I was being preached at while the author tried to emphasize the moral superiority of the one society over the other. It seemed to me that the religion of the empire was a proxy for religion (external to the story) in general and that author was engaging in a little minor axe grinding.

Lest I give the wrong impression completely, I want to restate my opinion that this was a good story. The interplay between the main characters was well done and frequently humorous; in fact, I would have liked more of it (the story pacing was a tad quick). I was especially interested in the imperial commander … who seems posed to make an even greater contribution to the storyline in the future. Even the political intrigue was complex enough to be fairly enjoyable, as well as reasonably plausible. Of course, what sets this story apart from most is the magic; while not well explained, magic appears to be mostly illusion and slight of hand, with the possible exception of the Lord High Magician’s sympathetic connection to spirit of life within his realm. Perhaps this will change as Kierce grows into his power … but I hope not.

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

Review: How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion

How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion by David DeSteno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book looks at the intersection of Science and Religion by digging into the realm of human psychology and sociology to understand the impact of belief/faith, ritual/practice and cognitive dissonance encountered within a religious framework (even removed from the spiritual connections) on general health and wellbeing.  This is an ambitious goal to be sure.  The basic premise is that the relative success of religion through-out human history points to something they must be doing right … and the author calls these "spiritual technologies.”  He then makes a parallel with the bioprospecting of biologics in the early history of modern medicine to argue that we should also be examining these spiritual technologies to see what actually works and why.  

“Recent experiments have shown that even an arbitrary set of actions, when ritualized, can help people … Which rituals - which combinations of elements - work best?  And it’s here that religions have a vast head start.  They’ve ‘debugged’ the technologies that they’ve used through centuries."

DeSteno explores the following:

1.  Infancy: Welcoming and Binding … how communities help from the very beginning of Life

2. The Formative Years: Learning What’s Right and Wrong … how the moral teaching within religions work

3. Coming of Age: Adulting Isn’t Easy … how Rites of Passage work

4. Transcending the Twenties and Thirties: Love, Connection, and (Maybe) Ecstasy … how physical intimacy works ... along with meditation and asceticism (right-handing path) and mysticism (left-hand path) to transcend the mundane into the sacred. (Echos of Dr. Campbell here)

5. The Business of Midlife I: Maintenance for the Body … how the power of belief works (Placebo effects are legit)

6. The Business of Midlife II: Maintenance for the Spirit … getting in touch with our mortality and reflecting on the end (Reconciliation and Detachment) and the midlife transition to service of others

7. Saying Goodbye: All That Lives Must Die … how ‘Last Rites” work and preparing for the End.

While all of this was very interesting and educational, it lacked solid experimental support (generally because of ethical reasons inhibiting such experimentation).  In the end, this was not as illuminating as I was expecting, but still well worth the read.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#HowGodWorks #NetGalley

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

Review: Olympus Prime: Return of the Titans

Olympus Prime: Return of the Titans Olympus Prime: Return of the Titans by J.R. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a fun story which nominally recasts the clash between the original Titans and the new Olympian pantheon in Greek mythology as a struggle between galactic civilizations. What I found most enjoyable about this installment (part one of a series) was the 'realistic' detail given to both the starship armaments and their crew ... sure, there are points that require a bit of a stretch, but the interaction of the various military characters and tactics would be at home on any naval vessel that I have served on (quite unlike MOST Sci-Fi stories that I have encountered) earning the book an extra star and the gratitude of my dentist. Similarly ... The first contact / interaction with present day earth was well done, if perhaps a tad optimistic.

The book itself was well paced, with enough suspense to gently pull you through the whole story to a cliff-hanger ending; thankfully the main conflict was resolved and it appears that each installment will be able to stand on its own. There were few surprises in the story, which lacked a fair amount of intensity giving it more of a history book or clinical feel to it (especially in the beginning). I would have liked to see more grit when the story moved out of the more Spartan military settings (the potential power struggle on Olympus Prime could have been a story unto itself). Over all, the book is a quick, feel-good story that most will enjoy before fading from memory as it takes its place among other pleasant afternoons.

Finally, there were a few distracting editorial mistakes (where the wrong word spelled correctly appears), but not too bad.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Review: The Black Coast

The Black Coast The Black Coast by Mike Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a well balanced fantasy tale where the author the only fault I could find might be with the pacing in places. The story opens with a clan of raiders [aka vikings] fleeing the subjugation of a growing [malevolent] power back home and landing at a coastal backwater outpost of a large and powerful [and somewhat decadent Holy Romanesque] empire. After narrowly avoiding potentially genocidal conflict on the beach with a well timed betrayal, we get to the main plot ... can two disparate groups learn to get along to face the coming dangers together ... and they are huge. The demon leader of the clans has sent his minions in pursuit of the raiders and the Imperial Marshall is just as likely to wipe out this little social experiment once he hears about it.

The author does an awesome job manufacturing little points of conflict by exploring social differences and norms with the obvious solution being the new hybrid community needs to take the best of both worlds (from the author's POV). I found the flash-points to be very relatable and the resolutions to be believable (mostly) and that certainly helped move the plot along driven primarily by two main POV (the leader of the raiders and the leader of the town). While a fair amount of the plot might be predicable, I generally always felt that the author COULD have gone different ways in several situations, and it was fun to try and guess which way the story would go (no real big surprises through if you like those).

The other POV seem to be there for world building and setting the stage for the big finish at the end of the series (fortunately we do see a conclusion to the main plot of this book ... so the story stands on its own should you not wish to continue). If you don't enjoy the world building, the story may drag a bit with these other POVs, but I was so intrigue by the movement of all of the chessmen here that I really liked it ... I am looking forward to reading the sequel.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheBlackCoast #NetGalley

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Sunday, June 12, 2022

Review: The Return of the God Hypothesis: Compelling Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God

The Return of the God Hypothesis: Compelling Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God The Return of the God Hypothesis: Compelling Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God by Stephen C. Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, albeit from the aspect of somebody that didn't need much convincing. It starts with a quick review of the "war" between science and faith, pointing out how religion (specifically Christianity) helped jump start what eventually becomes the scientific method, the foundation of modern science today. Then it moves into a discussion [in Part II] on the improbability of life anywhere in the universe if the conditions for life were not so finely tuned, suggesting the existence of intelligent design (very similar to Schroeder's Science of God, with more detail and better support). 

Unfortunately the bulk of the argument in support of the "God Hypothesis" realistically stops there ... without definitive proof of Divine Creator, the author then advances the idea that Intelligent Design is the most probable hypothesis ... and he does this by developing poorly constructed strawman arguments to undermine materialism/naturalism, pantheism, panspermia (aliens ... which IMHO was never a true contender for intelligent life on earth) in Part III. 

Seriously ... I am already a believer and even I wasn't convinced here and I really had a hard time pushing through this part. Unfortunately it just gets more incoherent as the books goes on. I may not have a PhD; however, I do have formal training in thermodynamics and information theory and I really don't think the author gets these right ... or else he just does an abysmal job with his explanation; either way this makes it difficult to trust his portrayal of the science as accurate. By the end it feels like the author is trying hard to insert a square peg into a round hole ...

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Thursday, June 9, 2022

Review: A Master of Djinn

A Master of Djinn A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first full novel after two (2) preceding short stories/novellas, the book stands on it's own very well, starting strong with the introduction of the murder mystery and the principle protagonist in the first few chapters. I was immediately intrigued by the world building, which had just enough of the exotic (mix of magic, tech and religion) to keep my interest in exploring further. We get genies, angels, [Egyptian] gods, clockwork machines and robots in which we get the traditional "who done it" mystery. Add to that an amazing ability to "set the scene" with just enough description to make it interesting with being an info-dump, and I could totally see myself in that world. The main character was a likable investigator with a sardonic sense of humor that I enjoyed. The writing was concise and easy to read ... until we get to a typical (and completely ridiculous) "there must be some mistake 'cause I drink alone" trope after getting a new partner that spun me up to speed fairly quickly and dropped the book out of consideration as a favorite. Sloppy story craft and totally specious when compared to the straightforward common sense I found as the rest of the story unfolded. I know that's not fair, but now the little things frequently found in advance [uncorrected galley] copies that I could have ignored really started to irritate me (e.g. ... "like lovers in in the late of night" ... "who'd nearly bought New Orleans to its knees"). Although the writing got back on track fairly quickly, it combined with a chaotic jumble for the final resolution that was particularly disappointing ... although not quite top shelf, it is definitely worth a read.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#AMasterOfDjinn #NetGalley

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Review: Machinehood

Machinehood Machinehood by S.B. Divya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting story set nearly 100 years in the future. The world building was pretty good, extending a lot of currently trends to something of an exaggerated evolution. For example, we now have swarms of micro camera drones everywhere that follow people like pig pen’s dust cloud, completely eliminating any expectation of privacy (unless you use more tech to sweep and secure your space). This makes nearly everything you do a public performance … so it is important to always look you best, because the ever present “tip jar” (which seems a lot like a cryptocurrency wallet) doesn’t fill itself. The more extreme the stunt or performance, the better. Sort of like the “Truman Show” but for everybody. News is “curated” by verified experts in something like a reputation economic … combined with a more prevalent “gig” economy for the rest of us. Clothing can dynamically change and Blox (smart metal) can warp into different objects as needed. Bio-Hacks are pretty much routine; although genetic [expression] based pills have replaced the more physical/cyborg modification … in fact, you can cook up most of the pills you need in your kitchen. Then you have rocket clubs, that apparently can launch stuff up into orbit just for fun … or to supply the orbital colonies. Finally, you get to the tech that in the foundation of the story … we all have access have Weak Artificial Intelligence (WAI), with the Holy Grail being a Sentient Artificial Intelligence (SAI). Enter the Machinehood; the AI/Robotic servants that do most of the work now, leaving may people struggling to compete. After the initial assassination, the story settles into a Blade Runner type story while the protagonist tries to figure out who the machined is and how to stop them from shutting down the pill pushers … which apparently leaves humans vulnerable to malicious virus hacks (yes, real viruses). While I won’t want to actually live in it, I found it a lot of fun trying to figure out how the heck we could get there (and for the most part the logic was easy to follow).

The protagonists were all very relatable for me, but nothing really special. They start off pretty jaded and never really change or grow much. The personal drama can be a little off sometimes (and does trend into political issues a bit), but for the most part, I though the drama was limited and didn’t impact the story that much. Over all, I would give the characters a 3.5 and the world building a 4.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#JourneytotheCross #NetGalley

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Sunday, June 5, 2022

Review: The Sinner's Guide

The Sinner's Guide The Sinner's Guide by Louis of Granada
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Narration: Was a good fit for the [academic/religious] text. Recommended Speed 1.25x

This is pretty much what you would expect in something written by a devout religious circa 1567. Ven. Louis presents a number of theological examinations that explore why we should (motive) practice virtue, and what benefits (privilege) we receive when we do so. As perhaps expected, these maxims are intended to guide for christian meditations more than an apologetic, so the "Pretty Prose" probably won't mean much to anyone looking for ration persuasion. It will however, provide points on which the faithful can think about in order to enrich an already existing (even if newly formed) faith. It should come as no surprise that the text has a more Catholic point of view given the time it was written and the affiliation of the author with the Dominican Order of Preachers (which was actually why I was interested in it). In that it does exactly what I expected it to do, it rates well, but not quite earn the top score ... still ... highly recommended for any who wish to explore their own christian faith.

Motives for Practicing Virtue.
• The Perfection of God
• Gratitude for Creation
• Gratitude for Providence
• Gratitude for Redemption
• Gratitude for Justification
• Gratitude for Election
• Thought of Death
• Thought of Judgment
• Thought of Heaven
• Thought of Hell

Privilege of Virtue
• Care of the Father
• Grace of the Holy Spirit
• Knowledge to Virtuous Souls
• Consolations of the Holy Spirit
• Peace of the Conscience
• Confidence of the Just
• Liberty of the Just
• Efficacy of Prayers
• Assistance with Afflictions

• Deferring Conversion
• Trusting in Mercy
• Taking the Easy Path
• Material Attachment

• Resolution against all sin
• Against Pride
• Against Covetousness
• Against Lust
• Against Envy
• Against Gluttony
• Against Anger/Hatred
• Against Sloth

• Venial Sins
• Deadly Sins
• Fullness of Justice
• Duty to Neighbor
• Duty to God
• Obligations of State

I was given this free review copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Thursday, June 2, 2022

Review: Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature

Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature by Angus Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very interesting review of several [25] literary devices that apparently have neurological explanations for why they are so effective. It is this physiological connection that I found most interesting. It opens strong with a quick nod to how the Illiad incorporated a revolutionary version of the paean or battle chorus to replicate an oxytocin boost to provide us with a "connection to the cosmic human community.” Then we move quickly to the story of Job, and how it was rewritten to have such a powerful impact on the human empathy. Some of the “inventions” are more of how previous inventions were combined to make them more effective … most of those seemed to be a stretch or something I just didn’t understand well enough to appreciate it. Regardless, it did give more a different take on a lot of the classic literature that I struggled with in school.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.