The Patternmaster

Olivia Butler


If I understand it correctly, the four books in this series were written from oldest to new. That means that this book, number four in the series, was written first. If that is so, it would explains why the first book was the best. Not that there is anything wrong with this volume, it’s just that they became more interesting at the first.

By the time we arrive at the fourth book, their powers have fully matured, and the characters are terrible in their power. The hold literal life and death power over the people without the mental powers they have.

There is one rebel who refuses to bend to the will of the dominant man. He and a healer make a run for freedom.

Butler’s world-building is supurb, and the characters moving in this world brilliantly inhabit it. It isn’t pleasant, but it is put together in an entirely plausible way.

The Splendour Falls

Susanna Kearsley

I really like Susanna Kearsley. It isn’t the plot so much as the characters. I don’t remember much of the plot, but I really like her heroines. They are sensible, not silly. I guess most of books fall into the romantic suspense category. She reminds me a lot of Mary Stewart, an author I loved when I was in high school, but don’t care much for now.

Her heroines don’t do stupid things, but still find themselves in danger. And then they get themselves out, instead of waiting to be rescued by the hero. I like their independence and resiliency. They use their heads to figure things out.

This book has the bonus of being set in Chinon, France, with a medieval castle, legends of a hidden treasure, and a mysterious vintner for lagniappe. I enjoyed the fruits of her research she must have put into the book.

A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Mothers and Sons

Colm Toibin


I don’t usually care for short stories. I prefer the length of a novel to get to know a character, but Toibin is so skilled at delineating his characters that it requires only a few paragraphs to know them.

I remember two of the stories, the longest and the shortest, best of all. The short one is about the tensions between a folk-singing mother, who wants to forget her past,¬† and her son, who wants to revive it. In the other story, almost novella-length, the mother is absent. Lost in the snowy landscape, she doesn’t appear at all, as her son and husband search for her.

All of these stories portray the importance of a mother in a son’s life, his maturing and the role she plays in the man he becomes.

Colm Toibin is a master.

The White Monkey

John Galsworthy



In this, the fourth of nine novels in the Forsyte Saga, the focus shifts from Soames to his daughter Fleur. I wish I could like Fleur more, but I find her as unsympathetic as her father. Completely selfish, she feels¬† injured because she can’t have the man she wants, so she settles for Michael Mont, a decent, hardworking man who loves her completely.

Bored and restless, she decides to have a child. It will please Michael, and she might find it amusing. Like the white monkey of the title (an oil painting acquired by Soames to put into his growing collection), Fleur sucks the goodness out of the current moment and discards the rind. As a picture of the post-WWI twenties, she lives for pleasure.