Tagged: book reviews

Classics Club #16: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The house was a sepulcher, our fear and suffering lay buried in the ruins. There would be no resurrection. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a masterpiece of suspense that should not be missed by anyone who loves atmospheric settings, classic mysteries, or gorgeous prose. Ranked as the 9th greatest mystery novel of all time by the Mystery Writers of America, Rebecca entrances the reader with its lyrical sentences as the story slowly unfolds, picks up speed, and then builds into a page-turning climax. I enjoyed every sentence of this haunting...

Alfred Hitchcock’s Hard Day at the Scaffold

Hard Day at the Scaffold is a solid collection of short stories edited by Alfred Hitchcock that I read over the course of a year for the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge. Hitchcock’s anthologies always feature darkly humorous stories with a generous dose of creepiness, and this one was no different. Though this collection had fewer memorable stories than others I’ve read, it was still enjoyable. My favorite was “One on a Desert Island” by Donald Westlake, the tragicomic story of what can happen to a man’s...

Classics Club #15: Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol reaffirmed one thing for me: I really don’t like classic satires. From Candide to Gulliver’s Travels to Zuleika Dobson, they hold very little interest for me. I’ve had a bit more success with modern satires like the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, but in general satire is not a genre I appreciate. Dead Souls is an episodic story in which the main character Chichikov travels to various Russian estates trying to purchase “dead souls.” It’s not as creepy as it sounds. Dead souls are peasants that...

The Violent Land by Wayne D. Overholser

The Violent Land by Wayne D. Overholser

I had thought of this country as the big range, but now, I told myself, I would rename it the violent land. That was it, a violent, savage land. It had changed me since I had come into it. The Violent Land by Wayne D. Overholser is a classic of western fiction, but it would be a mistake to limit its value to a single genre. Part adventure, part romance, part Bildungsroman, Overholser’s award-winning novel is outstanding in every respect. The plot is tight, the characters are believable and...

M. R. James Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James

All this time a growing feeling of discomfort had been creeping over him—nervous reaction, perhaps, after the delight of his discovery. Whatever it was, it resulted in a conviction that there was someone behind him, and that he was far more comfortable with his back to the wall. I read Ghost Stories of an Antiquary over the course of this past year as part of the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge. Each week I would draw a card from a deck of playing cards, and if it...

The Worm Ouroboros detail

Classics Club Book #14: The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

Abase thee and serve me, worm of the pit. Else will I by and by summon out of ancient night intelligences and dominations mightier far than thou, and they shall serve my ends, and thee shall they chain with chains of quenchless fire and drag thee from torment to torment through the deep. The Worm Ouroboros might be called world-building fantasy in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings but for two details: it was published 22 years before Tolkien’s trilogy, and it is much darker. In fact, though Tolkien himself...

The Story Knife by Fr. Brad Reynolds, S.J.

Late last year when I was trying to find books for the What’s in a Name Reading Challenge, the hardest to find was a book whose title included “an item of cutlery.” After a lot of searching I finally settled on a book I had last read in 1996 when it first came out, The Story Knife, a mystery by Fr. Brad Reynolds, SJ. Fr. Reynolds is a Jesuit priest (like Pope Francis), and he happens to have grown up right here in Spokane, Washington, where I live. I...

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

What’s a clergyman to do when murder is committed in his home? Start investigating, that’s what, especially when Miss Marple lives next door. Leonard Clement is the vicar in St. Mary Mead, a small English village. He’s also the narrator of The Murder at the Vicarage, the first full length novel to feature Agatha’s Christie’s elderly sleuth Miss Jane Marple. When Colonel Protheroe is murdered in Clement’s study, the difficulty is not in finding a suspect, but in sorting through all the people who wanted him dead–including the vicar...

The Last Queen of England by Steve Robinson

If you love genealogy, mysteries, or stories set in contemporary London, then you will likely enjoy The Last Queen of England by Steve Robinson. Main character Jefferson Tayte is an American genealogist on a brief visit to London when he gets embroiled in an elaborate (and confusing) plot to topple the British monarchy. They key to the mystery lies in the genealogical records of the House of Stuart, but Tayte has to survive long enough to be able to solve it. This genealogical thriller is a quick and...

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

I had no idea when I began reading The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly that it was such a highly regarded mystery novel. I had heard of the movie starring Matthew McMcConaughey, so when the ebook went on sale for $2.99 I figured it was a pretty safe bet to be entertaining. It was all that and more. It’s no wonder that in 2006 it was awarded the Shamus Award and the Macavity Award for best mystery novel and, in 2010 was nominated for the Best Mystery Novel of...

Florence, Italy

Classics Club Book #13: Romola by George Eliot

Under every guilty secret there is hidden a brood of guilty wishes, whose unwholesome infecting life is cherished by the darkness. I chose to read Romola for the 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge as my “Classic set in a place you’d like to visit.” The story takes place in Florence, Italy, which is one of my bucket-list destinations. Written by George Eliot in 1863, Romola transports the reader to Florence in 1492, where the main characters rub elbows with Niccolo Machiavelli, Girolamo Savonarola, members of the Medici family,...

The Man Who Was Poe by Avi

I recently took a detour from my 2017 Reading Challenges to read The Man Who Was Poe by Avi. My daughter’s seventh grade class is reading it together and my wife and I wanted to share the experience with her. Plus, I find Poe a fascinating writer and I was looking forward to seeing him as a character in historical fiction. The story takes place in Providence, Rhode Island in 1848, when Edgar Allen Poe is reluctantly drawn into helping a young boy find his missing mother, sister, and...

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

The Man in the Brown Suit is a mystery novel, but it also reads like a grand adventure. There’s a murder to be solved for sure, but there’s also espionage, a perilous sea voyage, diamond smuggling, kidnapping, a journey across Africa, and romance. Looking back, I’m amazed at how much Agatha Christie was able to fit into the novel. And yet, it didn’t seemed forced or crammed in. Here’s how the publisher describes the book: Pretty, young Anne came to London looking for adventure. In fact, adventure comes...

Ewan McGregor and Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma

Classics Club Book #12: Emma by Jane Austen

The last time I read Jane Austen’s Emma was long before I had seen the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow. Since then I’ve seen the movie maybe half a dozen times, as it’s become one of my girls’ favorites. Because I’ve seen it so many times, the movie has overshadowed the book in my memory. So as I picked up my Kindle to read the novel for my Classics Club Challenge I was curious about how different the two might be and how the movie would stand up next to the...

Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen

Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen

One of the things I love most about reading on a Kindle is rediscovering books and authors I haven’t read in a long, long time. As I come across bargain books from my youth through ebook discount services like BookBub and Early Bird Books, I purchase them and put them on my ever-growing To-Be-Read list. That’s how I ended up re-reading one of my favorite books from the past, Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen. Empire of the East blends science fiction and fantasy in post-apocalyptic America.The story has...