Tagged: book reviews

London Plague of 1665

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

Many consciences were awakened; many hard hearts melted into tears; many a penitent confession was made of crimes long concealed. It would wound the soul of any Christian to have heard the dying groans of many a despairing creature, and none durst come near to comfort them. Many a robbery, many a murder, was then confessed aloud, and nobody surviving to record the accounts of it. When A Journal of the Plague Year was first published in 1722 as the “Observations and Memorials” of a “citizen” who called himself...

The Trial by Franz Kafka

Classics Club #9: The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial by Franz Kafka is one of the masterpieces of existential literature. Or so it is said. Since I’m not up to date on my existential philosophy, the book was largely wasted on me. It’s always a challenge to read books that come at life from a different world view than one’s own, but to give them a fair chance requires wrestling with their philosophical underpinnings. I’m not at a point in my reading life or my intellectual life where I’m interested in exploring the existential experiences described...

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

The best thing I can say about Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm is that it helped me meet the letter “Z” requirement for my 2017 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge. I forced myself to keep reading this dated satire long after I lost interest in it. From the publisher: Max Beerbohm’s only novel is a comic masterpiece set in the privileged environs of Judas College, Oxford. When beautiful prestidigitator Zuleika Dobson gains admittance to the all-male campus, romance is suddenly in the air. But the smitten undergraduates are out of...

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...

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 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...

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....

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart

“You Peking weaklings call these things flies?” he yelled. “Back in Soochow we have flies so big that we clip their wings, hitch them to plows, and use them for oxen!” It would be hard to find a more original fantasy series than The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart. Set in “an ancient China that never was,” the series is a delicious concoction of Chinese mythology, detective fiction, epic fantasy quests, and ghost stories, sprinkled with generous helpings of ribald humor and...

Illustrated Man and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I have admired Ray Bradbury’s writing for several decades now, so it was natural that I would love Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. Bradbury always writes from the heart, and this collection of writing advice is no exception. Here’s what I’m talking about: You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most...

Pope Francis Pursued: Pilgrimage by Mark Shriver

The subtitle of Mark Shriver’s book Pilgrimage is My Search for the Real Pope Francis. The implication is that there is some confusion, disagreement, or misunderstanding about who Pope Francis is. It’s almost as if Pope Francis is too good to be true. Or perhaps there’s a suspicion that the public persona of Pope Francis is a mask that conceals his real agenda. As Shriver himself writes in the prologue, I kept warning myself not to believe unconditionally in a guy who, I kept reminding myself, headed a...

Black Beauty First Edition Detail

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody’s business to interfere when they see it. Black Beauty, page 74 I knew next to nothing about Black Beauty before I started reading it, and it was very different than I expected. My previous experience with equine stories has been through movies like Secretariat, The Black Stallion, and Hidalgo,  so I was expecting a story about a colt who beats all odds to become a great racehorse. If my Kindle edition would have included the original title,...