Chaotically paced, but lovers of the genre will enjoy this good-vs.-evil tale with all the traditional accoutrements.

THE BRAZEN SERPENT CHRONICLES

TALON OF LIGHT

To rescue his captured mother in a multirealm universe, Widseth must use his newfound powers to defeat an evil ruler and his dragons of darkness.

Nearly 18-year-old Widseth is ready for his mother, Vandria, to stop treating him like a boy. Yearning for her trust, he hopes she’ll share the shadowy truth that their simple millworking lives conceal. When Vandria disappears, Widseth finally learns his family’s magical, dangerous history: Vandria is actually a 132-year-old royal Aelfene—the race of a wealthy, hidden kingdom. She’s an expert warrior with powerful mental abilities, but the ancient, long-thought-fabled, evil Lord Ruga has managed to take her prisoner. With his ability to control dragons, Ruga intends to use secrecy and fear to rule multiple worlds. Widseth, equipped with knowledge of his heritage, some new friends and a mysterious key, takes off on a quest to stop the evil leader’s nefarious plans. Baird’s first in a trilogy includes princes, swords, spells and otherworldly creatures—all the typical ingredients of an epic fantasy—as well as well-crafted figurative language. Action proceeds rapidly, so much so that readers may need to take notes in order to keep track of characters, locations and the strategy behind the quest. More details would have benefited the vaguely defined folklore and worldbuilding rules that fuel Baird’s setting. In fact, the compelling but hastily recounted back story regarding Widseth’s parents could sustain an entire prequel if duly elaborated. Also, the moralizing lessons are often too obvious: Symbols of light and darkness contrast honorable and corrupt societies and characters as part of the novel’s unoriginal duality.

Chaotically paced, but lovers of the genre will enjoy this good-vs.-evil tale with all the traditional accoutrements.

Pub Date: April 28, 2004

ISBN: 978-1410758354

Page Count: 284

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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