Tagged: book reviews

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...

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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,...

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To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

There is a mythical element to our childhood, it seems, that stays with us always. When we are young, we consume the world in great gulps, and it consumes us, and everything is mysterious and alive and fills us with desire and wonder, fear, and guilt. With the passing of the years, however, those memories become distant and malleable, and we shape them into the stories of who we are. We are brave, or we are cowardly. We are loving, or we are cruel. To the Bright Edge...

Classics Club Book #6: Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

Because I graduated from high school in 1984, I’ve always had a connection with both the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell and the rock album 1984 by Van Halen. Over the years, the former has grown in my estimation and the latter has declined. The album by Van Halen is something you outgrow. The novel by Orwell is something that grows with you. I put Nineteen Eighty-four on my Classics Club list because I knew my daughter would be reading it in her senior high school literature class,...

The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux

I have no ambition to be an author. An author is always something of a romancer, and God knows, the mystery of The Yellow Room is quite full enough of real tragic horror to require no aid from literary effects. Gaston Leroux, The Mystery of the Yellow Room 2017 is here, and I’ve kicked off a new year of reading with The Mystery of the Yellow Room. This early twentieth century novel is a classic locked-room mystery by Gaston Leroux. Leroux is probably best known as the author of The Phantom...

Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard

Think of the ‘Star Wars’ sagas and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ mix in the triumph of ‘Rocky I,’ ‘Rocky II,’ and ‘Rocky III,’ and you have captured the exuberance, style and glory of ‘BATTLEFIELD EARTH.’ It was the above blurb from The Evening Sun in 1984 that convinced me to take a chance on a 1,000-page science fiction novel, and I have never regretted it. It’s been over twenty years since I last read Battlefield Earth, and it’s still as much fun as I remembered. It remains one...

Here There Be Dragons

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

Geared for young adult readers, Here, There Be Dragons is an excellent read for anyone who is a fan of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. Literary allusions abound, and part of my enjoyment came from the way Owen connected various classic works with his plot. Here, There Be Dragons is for a more literate teen reader, someone who prefers authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Austen, Alcott rather than series like the Twilight saga or The Hunger Games. Not that readers of those books won’t like it, but it moves at...

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The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr

The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr is one of those books you come back to time and again. Like most of Rohr’s books, it challenges the reader to stretch and grow in faith and maturity. In The Divine Dance, Rohr takes on the topic of the Trinity, drawing on theologians (Augustine, Aquinas, Rahner), mystics (Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart), philosophers (Aristotle, Boethius, Duns Scotus) scientists (Kuhn, Oppenheimer), and poets (Hopkins, Eliot, Roethke) to help make his point that the idea...

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Classics Club Book #5: Conan – The Definitive Collection by Robert E. Howard

I first read the stories of Conan the Barbarian over thirty years ago, in the Lancer/Ace paperback versions that included stories by his creator Robert E. Howard as well as new tales by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. The Lancer/Ace editions presented the Conan stories in the order of the fictional barbarian’s life, and traced his progress from thief to king. For my Classics Challenge, I wanted to read only the original stories by Howard, and in the order they were first published, so I chose...