I’m trying to review at least 100 books this year…9 to go. Toward that end, here is a random assortment of 5 mini-reviews.
Title: Our Kind of Traitor
Author: John LeCarré
Genre: Espionage Thriller
Rating: 2.5 of 5
This tale of an average British couple whose lives become entwined with a Russian mobster/defector started out as one of LeCarré’s better post-Cold War novels (which, honestly, isn’t a very high bar). However, the ending was just stupid. It felt like LeCarré got bored and just quit writing. The final action of the book made sense, but it was absurdly abrupt and left almost all of the plot lines unresolved.
Title: Fearsome Journeys
Editor: Jonathan Strahan
Genre: Dark Fantasy Short Stories
Rating: 3 of 5
I purchased this primarily because it has a Black Company story in it. That story was mediocre…as was the collection as a whole. I have no idea why this anthology is titled Fearsome Journeys as there are few stories that focus on journeying. The unifying theme actually seems to be people with morally ambiguous (at best) professions: mostly mercenaries, thieves, and assassins. It wasn’t bad, but a bit one-note.
Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Russian Fairy Tale Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 of 5
This is ridiculously well-written for a first novel! The fairytale style and 13th century (I think) Russian setting were fascinating. What annoyed me was the “dour, manipulative, fear-mongering Christianity vs. harmonious paganism” narrative that was fairly central to the story. Depending on your particular worldview, your mileage may vary…stylistically it was a well-executed fairy tale (of the original variety, not the the cutesy Disneyfied kind).
Title: Judge Sewall’s Apology:
The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of a Conscience
Author: Richard Francis
Genre: Colonial American History
Rating: 4 of 5
Samuel Sewall was the only judge from the Salem witch trials to publicly apologize for his involvement. While that apology is the source of the book’s title, the book actually covers his entire life as recorded in his journals. The author presents Sewall as charming and ahead of his time in regard to slavery, the treatment of native Americans, etc. He sometimes lays it on a bit thick and seems to read too much between the lines, but overall this is an interesting, informative look at Puritan culture and religion.
Title: The Shakespeare Requirement
Author: Julie Schumacher
Genre: General Fiction / Satire?
Rating: 4.5 of 5
If you’ve ever worked in academia and/or some similar buzz-wordy bureaucratic job, you should really read this book. I would say that it’s satire, but the woes of the new head of the English department trying to wrangle his colleagues into agreeing to a mission statement while fighting off the economics department (and convince the public that he is not anti-Shakespeare) ring all too true. Hilarious!