Category: Books and Reading

Far from the Madding Crowd

Classics Club #8: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd is 10th on the The Guardian’s poll of greatest love stories of all time. I did not find it as great as that. Yes, Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak are well realized characters, and Hardy’s descriptions are evocative and detailed, but the plot did not grab me at all. I can appreciate a good classic romance now and then, but for some reason Far from the Madding Crowd lost my interest fairly quickly. Maybe it was the fact that Bathsheba kept shooting herself in the foot, so...

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos

The short answer is that if you love the novel or the musical Les Misérables, then yes, you should run right out and buy a copy of The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos. If you are what Cameron Mackintosh calls a “Les Mis freak,” then this book is definitely for you. But it is also for those who love literature in general, who love a good “behind-the-scenes” documentary, who are fascinated by literary history, or who love reading about how authors work. I couldn’t...

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

I wasn’t planning on reading Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, but when our daughter Teresa was recently cast in the role of Elizabeth for her final high school play, I wanted to reacquaint myself with the story. I’m pretty sure it was assigned reading for me in high school, but I don’t remember if I actually read it or not. Now that I’ve finished it, I can’t wait to see it performed on stage. I was caught up in the story from beginning to end, and found it both...

Tolkien Reading Day

Tolkien Reading Day 2017

It’s almost Tolkien Reading Day! Held annually on March 25th, Tolkien Reading Day is an annual event to celebrate works of author J.R.R Tolkien. According to the Tolkien Society, Tolkien Reading Day is held on the 25th of March each year. It has been organised by the Tolkien Society since 2003 to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages. We particularly encourage schools, museums and libraries to host their own Tolkien Reading Day events. Why 25 March? The...

The Sapphire Rose Banner

The Sapphire Rose by David Eddings

The Sapphire Rose is the final book in the David Eddings fantasy trilogy The Elenium, and overall it provides a satisfactory conclusion. There were even a few twists I wasn’t expecting. Rather than summarize the book and give away some of the events of the earlier two books, I will simply say that The Sapphire Rose continues to tell the story of Sparhawk’s quest to save his queen from death, while at the same time trying to prevent the evil god Azash from getting loose and wreaking havoc on the...

The Lord of the Rings and Lent

  It’s March 1st which means it’s time to begin reading The Fellowship of the Ring for Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong. In yet another interesting coincidence, today also happens to be the beginning of Lent. The synchronicity of those two events is too intriguing to ignore, and as I reflect on both The Fellowship of the Ring and Lent, I find several significant ways they are related. Both Are Journeys First, journey is at the heart of them both. Frodo and Sam set out on a long journey,...

The Ruby Knight, detail

The Ruby Knight by David Eddings

The Ruby Knight is the second book in The Elenium by David Eddings, and it improves slightly on its predecessor, The Diamond Throne.  Sparhawk and his companions continue their quest to save Queen Ehlana from the poison that is slowly killing both her and the knights whose life forces are keeping her alive. The story is a little more focused than the first book, and the light-hearted humor doesn’t seem as forced. Eddings has never had a problem creating likable characters, and his ensemble from The Diamond Throne really come into their...

Diamond Throne

The Diamond Throne by David Eddings

I’ve had David Eddings’ three-book series The Elenium on my bookshelf since about 1995, and for one reason or another have never gotten around to reading it. So when I was putting together a list of books for my 2017 Reading Challenges, I decided it was time to finally knock it off my To Be Read list. The series is comprised of The Diamond Throne (1989), The Ruby Knight (1991), and The Sapphire Rose (1992). After finishing The Diamond Throne, I’m a bit disappointed. Not that it was bad, but it wasn’t as...

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

“Don’t go,” said Cedric. “Murder has made you practically one of the family.” I haven’t picked up an Agatha Christie book quite a while, but reading 4:50 from Paddington was like easing into a comfortable pair of slippers. It has all the elements I like in a mystery: a startling murder, multiple suspects with interesting back stories, a plot twist or two, and a creepy old English manor thrown in as a bonus. If you’ve enjoyed Agatha Christie before, you’ll like what  you find here. If you’ve never read anything by...

Welsh Valley

Classics Club Book #7: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come. How Green Was My Valley is a gem of a novel. It took me a while to warm up to it, since it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but instead is a coming-of-age story that unfolds the way life does. It’s the story of a coal mining community in South Wales as told through the...

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe

What a thing is the heart of man! Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther In The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe opens a window into the soul of his young protagonist, allowing the reader to witness first hand his tragic destiny. Young Werther suffers from a hopeless love for the enchanting Charlotte who is engaged to an older man. In a series of letters to his friend Wilhelm, Werther reveals the depths of his anguish. The Sorrows of Young Werther is a beautifully told tale of the interior of...

Unexpected Party

Cooperating with Grace: The Luck of Bilbo Baggins

“Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal.” When Gandalf tells the dwarves in The Hobbit that he has chosen Bilbo Baggins as their lucky number, Tolkien has introduced his readers to one of the most important themes of all of his works. This theme that begins with the story of Bilbo Baggins comes to full fruition in The Lord of the...

Rivendell, detail by J.R.R. Tolkien

At the Last Homely House The Hobbit Becomes a Classic

I’ve just finished chapter four of The Hobbit, “Over Hill and Under Hill,” for Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, and for me this is where the story really begins to pick up (Minor spoilers of the first four chapters ahead). I especially love the book’s opening opening chapter, in which the story feels like a tale told by a grandfather to his grandchildren, with its authorial intrusions: …what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits needs some description nowadays… Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what...

The Hobbit - Ballantine Silver Jubilee Edition

There and Back Again – Rereading The Hobbit

Today is the first day of Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, and I’m happy to be rereading The Hobbit during the month of February. As I’ve written elsewhere, The Hobbit has been a part of my life since my early teens, and I’ve always enjoyed revisiting The Shire and accompanying Bilbo on his adventures. A wonderful gift of Providence has me rereading The Hobbit at the age of 50, precisely the age of Bilbo Baggins when his adventures begin. Bringing a Walking Stick Like many, I used to think of The...

The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu has all the weaknesses of the typical pulp stories of its era. It perpetuates racial and gender stereotypes, it relies too much on melodrama, and it overuses hyperbole. And yet, with all that, it still manages to entertain. The two protagonists, Petrie and Nayland Smith, are out to save the world from the evil genius Dr....