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wisewoman's 2010 wanderings

Club Read 2010

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Edited: Jan 1, 2010, 5:31pm Top

Greetings from a cosy, snowbound little house in NE Ohio! I'm delighted to join the prestigious company here in Club Read, and look forward to meeting more passionate readers like myself.

My profile tells a little more about myself, but basically, I like classics, mysteries, fantasy, YA fiction, historical fiction, and Christian nonfiction. Those are the types of books I'll be reviewing here.

My 2010 reading plans are a bit nebulous. I have a collection devoted to planning my reads, but half the fun of making plans is subversively reading something completely unplanned and off the radar instead. It gives me such a delightful sense of indulging myself on forbidden fruit :). I expect to read anywhere from 100–120 books in 2010, though really it's more about the pleasure of reading than the number of books read.

My 2009 challenge thread is here. Thanks for joining me in 2010!

Jan 1, 2010, 5:33pm Top

Yellow star! Yellow star! And I just added your thread link to the thread I started in the Salon, too.

Jan 1, 2010, 8:30pm Top

Was wondering where you were! Glad you're here!

Jan 1, 2010, 10:59pm Top

*high five*

Jan 2, 2010, 2:03pm Top

Hey there wisewoman;
Nice to "see" you.
Just a quick fly-by-"hi".
Gotcha starred.

Jan 2, 2010, 3:02pm Top

Dropping by to say Hi. My new 50 Book Challenge thread for 2010 is here,


Jan 3, 2010, 1:08pm Top

Hi guys! Glad to see you all here :). Thanks for the link to your thread, Porua!

I've been kicking off the new year with some "junk food" reads, probably partly as a reaction to reading almost 600 pages of my beloved but very heavy Les Mis in one day last week. We've been basically snowbound for the past three days and it's been perfectly lovely for reading.

I read the first book in Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, Crocodile on the Sandbank. I have a feeling Peters and I would disagree on a lot of things if we ever met, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying her gutsy, bossy heroine and Rochester-ish hero :) Full thoughts here: http://www.librarything.com/review/54215952

A few weeks ago, a friend lent me the fourth Sevenwaters book, Heir to Sevenwaters. It was supposed to be a trilogy and I didn't even know there was a fourth one. I don't like to be one of those people who borrow books and don't return them for months and months, so that's my excuse for rereading the entire series :). I reviewed the first one, Daughter of the Forest, in 2008 but have updated the review and added it to my hardcover copy here: http://www.librarything.com/review/41064573

I finished the second book, Son of the Shadows, yesterday and will review it later. I want to finish the third, Child of the Prophecy, today and maybe start the fourth. After that, I'll probably look for something completely different to change things up a bit.

Jan 3, 2010, 5:38pm Top

Thumb, and thumb! You would start reading the Sevenwaters books just now, right after I bought the first book and added it to me short list. One of those weird psychic reading links, it seems. I have a Peters mystery too, although I don't think it stars Amelia Peabody. One of the ladies in my writing group absolutely loves those books, and has recommended them several times—I think she would have said something if they turned into relentless religion-bashing.

Jan 4, 2010, 12:33pm Top

We are always having weird literary coincidences like this, Nathan :). I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the first one.

Thanks for the tip on Amelia Peabody. I am certainly hoping the stories stay focused on the characters and plot, because both of those were a lot of fun in Crocodile.

I finished and reviewed the second and third Sevenwaters books, Son of the Shadows (http://www.librarything.com/review/23165290) and Child of the Prophecy (http://www.librarything.com/review/32389489). Neither is as good as the first one (though I do enjoy them). I've heard that the fourth, Heir to Sevenwaters, isn't mind-blowingly good either. I still want to read it though. It's next on my list and I will probably start it today.

It's unfortunate about Marillier. Her first book was just so good, and then the rest have petered out. She writes one or more a year; maybe she's just pushing them out too fast.

Jan 4, 2010, 10:20pm Top

WW, do go on with Amelia. I think I have read almost every one. I don't remember there being much about religion, and the adventure and archeaology are fun. She is certainly not a stereotypical mother figure, but as the stories develop, it is clear that she loves her son.

I would not read these thinking they are historical fiction. Peters is a trained egyptologist, (University of Chicago, no less) so I think the discussions of the excavations are pretty accurate. She really just uses the historical settings as background for her stories. I hope you will enjoy the series.

Jan 4, 2010, 10:30pm Top

Amy, I'll second Lisa. I finally tired of the series, but easily read the first nine or so and they were rompin' good fun!

Jan 5, 2010, 5:18pm Top

Wisewoman, just a note about the Amelia Peabody series that you reviewed. At least you reviewed the first of the series. Amelia's child "Walter Peabody(Ramses) Emerson" makes himself equally important and it is proven in subsequent novels athat Amelia is a ferocious mother when her child in in danger. I do want to point out that having children and leaving them in the care of nannies while mom and dad went off to Egypt or touring europe was quite common in this time period. Give Amelia a chance. She is well worth it, and the funniest heroine in a while. I love her inconsistancy. Tatebookie

Jan 5, 2010, 5:24pm Top

Lord help me, but I sound pompous in that message. lol. Please laugh, I did when I reread it. I really like the series, the author has several other books with short series, and she writes as Barbara Michaels. She goes from enchanting fun to serious supernatural. She is a favorite.

Jan 5, 2010, 7:27pm Top

I appreciate everyone weighing in to assure me that Amelia is well worth pursuing! I had a feeling it was so and have gone on a spree requesting the rest of the series over at BookMooch. I don't want to read them all immediately (too much of a good thing all at once can ruin it), but Amelia is definitely going into my mystery rotation, alongside Brother Cadfael and M. M. Kaye :)

I didn't take that as pompous at all, Tatebookie! And good point about the nannies. Does anyone else think it's awesome that they call their son Ramses?

Jan 5, 2010, 9:01pm Top

When you meet him, you will not only think it is awesome, but incredibly appropriate!

And certainly, you don't want to overload on Amelia Peabody. They are such relatively quick reads compared to the classics you have tackled that they make good filler for the times you need something lighter.

Edited: Jan 7, 2010, 8:14pm Top

Looking forward to meeting Ramses :D

I read Heir to Sevenwaters the other day and got my review written. I think it's fairly obvious what author Marillier's been reading in the years between this and her last Sevenwaters novel *coughStephenieMeyercough*. And it's done her work no good whatsoever.

It makes me stop and think about what I read. If I read junk, I'll spout junk. Sobering.

I started Graham Greene's The End of the Affair last night. I'm not sure what it is about this book — I'm only a chapter in — but it's drawing me. It is about adultery, and cynical hopelessness, and is pretty much something I would never read. I put it back down at the library booksale, moved a step away, thought, and went back to it. Maybe it's the title. "The End of the Affair" has a rather sad note to it. Maybe it's the slim little neat paperbackness of it that made me look at it again.

But I will keep reading because of the writing. I'm just a chapter in and it is very good so far. Painful and ugly and not at all what I usually read, but there is something compelling about it. It's like Brideshead Revisited if Charles and Julia continued their affair and then broke off bitterly. I think there are going to be some good quotes in this one.

"Sometimes I see myself reflected too closely in other men for comfort, and then I have an enormous wish to believe in the saints, in heroic virtue."


I am also really enjoying my audiobook of To Kill a Mockingbird, read by Sissy Spacek. She and Harper Lee between them have been immersing me in Scout's world for the past week or so. I love the understated humor and wisdom of this story, and the realism of the plot.

Atticus Finch is probably one of my favorite literary heroes of all time. I'm not a parent yet but I hope to be someday, and I am so impressed with how he is raising his children. It sounds so clichéd to say he leads by example, but it's true. I guess we need an example like him to restore meaning to the cliché.

Jan 7, 2010, 8:34pm Top

Sissy Spacek? Reading To Kill a Mockingbird? Yes please! And your description of restoring meaning to the cliché is amazing; you should definitely fit it into your review when you write it.

I loved the latest Sevenwaters review, especially the bit about the Skilled Supernatural Dude. I will definitely avoid the new book when I come around to reading the trilogy, the same as I will with LeGuin's Earthsea books. Sometimes, trilogies just should not become quartets.

Jan 7, 2010, 9:07pm Top

I haven't read To Kill A Mockingbird since I was in high school, but I did pick up a copy a couple of years back so that I could reread it someday. I loved it when I was in 10th grade.

Jan 7, 2010, 9:32pm Top

Though I've read TKAM countless times, the Sissy Spacek recording of it blew me away. Nathan, get it now! (And he's right about the cliché line!).

Jan 7, 2010, 9:59pm Top

Listening to Sissy Spacek read To Kill a Mockingbird last year was my all-time best audio experience. I can't recommend it highly enough to first time readers of this classic, and would urge anyone who wants to re-read it (as I did) to have a listen. It was the perfect marriage of book and narrator.

Jan 8, 2010, 9:38am Top

Amy, my pc's in trouble! I'm doing this from my cousin's pc. Please pray for the health of my pc! :-(

Jan 12, 2010, 9:23am Top

Is your computer back up yet, Porua?

I'm thoroughly enjoying To Kill a Mockingbird; hearing it told in Spacek's sweet light drawl is really enhancing the experience for me. I agree, NarratorLady, Spacek is PERFECT for the story. There were two different audiobooks on the library shelf. I'm sure the other one is good but I'm glad I went with the Spacek reading.

I finished The End of the Affair and reviewed it over the weekend (http://www.librarything.com/review/53055405). I love when a book surprises me like that. The back cover didn't really mention the predominant theme of spiritual adultery that I found so fascinating. This will probably encourage me to take more risks when browsing library sales.

I also read The Gammage Cup, a 1959 Newbery Honor book (http://www.librarything.com/review/44465523). I really wasn't all that impressed with it. Perhaps it suffered from being read too soon after Graham Greene?

And I read Psmith in the City, which is apparently an earlier Wodehouse novel (http://www.librarything.com/review/47320602). It had hilarious moments but it wasn't a belly-laugher by any means. Wodehouse hadn't quite got to the high pitch of ridiculous situations that he does later with Wooster and Jeeves. Still, I liked it.

I also read Rosemary Sutcliff's last book, Sword Song, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The note from the publisher in the front stated that she always went through three drafts when writing a story, and had finished the second draft of this when she suddenly died in 1992. Her agent and editor got this ready for publication, and I think they did a fair job. It isn't the best of her work, but it's quite good and her characters really do come alive. It's sharpened my appetite for more Sutcliff. She's one of the best authors of historical fiction that I have ever read.

Nathan, have you heard about the movie they're making of Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth? Donald Sutherland is in it. It could be pretty cool... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034389/

Jan 12, 2010, 11:11am Top

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I've started Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. I am just starting to get into the ideas behind the novel with Bazarov's nihilism, after all the characters have been set up. This is my first book by Turgenev and, I'm hoping, a good starting-place for Russian literature.

Jan 12, 2010, 6:40pm Top

I'm glad to see you're reading Father's and Sons. I'm terrible at remembering character's names, but the debate between Bazarov and the young woman at the estate is a marvelous philosophical debate. That's a novel of ideas or ideologies if there ever was one. Does tomcat know you're reading a Russian? I think I can hear him purring all the way across the Pacific!

Jan 12, 2010, 9:31pm Top

re:22, I actually haven't read The Eagle of the Ninth (it's on my reading list, and will be my next Sutcliff), but I did know about the movie, although the cast list has expanded since I last saw it. I love Jamie Bell and Greg Wise, so I'm sure their parts will be quite good. I've not heard great things about Channing Tatum. We'll see how it turns out.

Jan 13, 2010, 10:28am Top

I'll have to let him know, Enrique. He's not kidding about Eugene Onegin being the "source" of all other Russian lit; Turgenev's already mentioned it by name.

I reviewed Sword Song :http://www.librarything.com/review/49763917 and will be reading/rereading more Sutcliff soon. She's just fantastic.

Jan 15, 2010, 8:05am Top

I'm back! Or rather my PC's back. Oh Russian literature! Must remind myself to read more of it.

Edited: Jan 22, 2010, 2:12pm Top

I read a lot last weekend but didn't get a chance to write any reviews until last night. What a week. Thank goodness it's Friday.

Fathers and Sons: A bit of a disappointment, really. http://www.librarything.com/review/21520477

Warrior Scarlet: I couldn't wait to get to another Sutcliff book after Sword Song. This is one of my all-time favorites and what follows is a most unbalanced, gushy, happy review. http://www.librarything.com/review/24168559. I'm not condoning the sexism of Bronze-Age Britain; my appreciation of it is confined to its historical accuracy within the context of the story. What I'm trying to say is that I appreciate Sutcliff's honesty about the period and her refusal to make it over in the image of ours. And her characters are still likeable despite the things we don't like about their culture.

I also finished my audiobook of To Kill a Mockingbird and am working on a review for it. I really loved this experience! It's a little difficult to review, though. There are so many fantastic reviews of it already posted, it's hard to bring anything new.

And I finished my reread of Persuasion. I will never tire of Jane Austen and the complexities of her work. This will be another challenging book to review, I think.

And now I want to watch the 1995 version with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds...

It sounds like I've been reading a lot but I really haven't been. This week has been so crazy with work and social stuff. I have nothing planned for tomorrow, though! :D *eyes her to-read pile*

Edited: Jan 22, 2010, 3:11pm Top

Wonderful Warrior Scarlet review, Amy! You make me want to run out and grab a copy right now. Along with The Eagle of the Ninth (because of the upcoming movie version) and her YA Arthurian trilogy, it's near the top of my to-read list when it comes to Sutcliff. So far my experience with her books has been mixed - I loved her version of Tristan and Iseult, really didn't care for Sword at Sunset, and had mixed feelings about Flame-Colored Taffeta.

Jan 22, 2010, 3:21pm Top

Nice review of Fathers and Sons. I've been meaning to read it but somehow I never get around to doing it. Maybe this year I'll finally take the plunge.

Jan 26, 2010, 3:14pm Top

I finally reviewed To Kill A Mockingbird: http://www.librarything.com/review/54614291. Of course my review only touches on a few things; there is just so much there.

I also just wrote a review for Persuasion: http://www.librarything.com/review/54377716. Apologies to anyone who appreciates the more recent adaptation starring Sally Hawkins...

I'm currently listening to Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera. Do you remember me being rather unimpressed on my first read, Nathan? Well, that hasn't changed so far, and I'm on disc 4. Though I will say that things become more interesting once we start exploring the Ghost's subterranean lair. I just can't connect with Christine or Raoul. They're a bit annoying, to be honest.

I was disappointed because I started listening to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and had to turn it off because the audio was so terrible. The guy's voice was fine, but Tantor must have used cheap equipment because his voice is constantly spiking and distorting, even when he is talking at a normal conversational level. I can't stand the distortion of it. And it's really too bad; I have a feeling that 20,000 Leagues would be a fun audiobook experience.

And I am reading Paradise Lost. I'm really enjoying it but feel out of my depth; therefore, I have nothing profound to say about it. Maybe something interesting will occur to me after I've finished it and had some time to digest.

Jan 26, 2010, 4:56pm Top

The Sally Hawkins' Persuasion? Pffft. But then you already knew that I felt that way:)

Jan 26, 2010, 5:06pm Top

Agreed, ladies. I only watched the first thirty minutes and then the last part, from the running scene (I had heard about it and was morbidly curious) to the end.

Great reviews, as usual, Amy.

Jan 26, 2010, 5:33pm Top

*joins chorus of '07 Persuasion hagglers*

I greatly enjoyed both of your recent reviews, Amy. Sorry you continue to dislike Phantom. Christine and Raoul are a little annoying, yes, but they learn their lessons as the story progresses, and are actually grown-ups by the time it ends. Through his descriptions, Leroux makes it pretty clear that they are both of them little better than children from the standpoint of emotional maturity. That said, I did find them much more sympathetic when I read it unabridged; De Mattos' "translation" excises some of the most brilliant and introspective passages. I meant to ask you what translation you were listening to when I saw you add the audiobook, because it's vitally important—I know it says "Complete & Unabridged" on the cover, but if it's the de Mattos translation, it lies. (See, this is why I should have written my review earlier ... to protect poor mislead souls such as yourself.)

Mmm, I love Paradise Lost. I would have joined the group read, but my copy is a huge coffee-table volume with illustrations by Gustave Dore—not really fitting to haul around during the schoolyear, when I'm constantly on the go. This summer would be a good time to reread, I think.

Jan 26, 2010, 7:57pm Top

31 - Gaaa! I just bought Phantom last week. Sorry to hear you aren't enjoying it.

Jan 27, 2010, 3:37am Top

I love Persuasion! Your review makes me want to read it again! I don't really enjoy watching screen adaptations of books so can't say anything about the Sally Hawkins version but I've heard they've really changed the story. But I did happen watch the early 1990's BBC adaptation of the book and that was pretty faithful to the original.

I don't have much faith in Gaston Leroux's writing anyway. I read his The Mystery of the Yellow Room last year and I don't know if it was the translator's fault or what but the writing seemed extremely amateurish to me. And the protagonist was so childish! I don't plan to read anything else by the author any time soon and that includes The Phantom of the Opera.

Edited: Jan 27, 2010, 2:38pm Top

I think somewhere down that Persuasion thread is a link to the Youtube video titled "The Run of Anne." Somebody went in and added accompaniment music to Anne's run, and the results are quite amusing. "Chariots of Fire" is always a winner :D

I'm glad you liked that BBC production of Persuasion, Porua. It sounds like you saw the one I love with Amanda Root.

Has anyone ever noticed what a fantastic year 1995 was for Austen adaptations? The Emma Thompson Sense & Sensibility, the Firth/Ehle Pride & Prejudice, and the Root/Hinds Persuasion were all made that year, with the Beckinsale and Paltrow versions of Emma both following in 1996. I don't think they will ever stop making new adaptations of Austen's works, and while I'm endlessly loyal to the versions I love, I don't mind all the new ones. Every now and then we might get lucky and get another good one to enjoy! :)

And speaking of Austen adaptations, I'm having a bunch of women from my church over on Saturday to watch one (probably P&P). It's going to be so much fun! — a big crockpot of chili, lots of snacks, PJs, and good company. Come on, weekend!

I actually rather liked Leroux's The Mystery of the Yellow Room when I listened to it on audiobook last year, Porua. Maybe the narrator was able to give the characters a more likeable interpretation, because I thought Rouletabille was fun. Ah well.

Re: Phantom, it seems like the sort of book I would like. Even LibraryThing is "very certain" I will like it. I do like that Christine and Raoul have some kind of pre-existing relationship before falling madly in love. Perhaps it will help if I try to see them as maturing as the story goes on. janepriceestrada (welcome, btw!), maybe it's just me! I do see why it's considered such a classic and so many people like it. I still have to come up with plausible reasons for my aversion to it.

I don't know what translation this audiobook is, but it's very likely the one you dislike, Nathan. It's a bit clunky.

I reviewed Charlotte Bronte's Emma: http://www.librarything.com/review/53796141. I was not overly impressed. It's never a good sign when you look at the spine of your book to figure out how quickly you can get through it. I also found this link, which gives some interesting background information about the Emma fragment: http://www.charlottecory.com/bronte/insearch.htm

Jan 27, 2010, 2:22pm Top

PBS' new teleplay of Emma is very enjoyable. It stars Romola Garai as Emma and Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightly. The first part was on this week with parts two and three over the next two weeks.

Definitely worth watching!

Jan 27, 2010, 2:24pm Top

I love that you inadvertantly combined Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds' names! :P Actually, the result looks mysteriously like the name of the professor for my JA class, who also loves that adaptation ... I'm sure she'd be very amused. And yes, '95-'96 may be fondly remembered by Austen fans as the Years of Great Adaptations. Try as I may, none of the new ones have really struck my fancy ... in fact, my favorite Austen-related film of this decade may very well be Miss Austen Regrets.

I don't know what translation this audiobook is, but it's very likely the one you dislike, Nathan. It's a bit clunky.

A bit clunky, yeah. Disjointed, humorless, and melodramatic as well—not to mention abridged without warning or apology. Granted, this is the one I read when I first grew to love the story, but the Wolf is really so much better, although I like de Mattos' dialogue in places. The version by Leonard Bair looks good as well. A number of comparisons are made at http://www.phantomoftheopera.com/modules/article/view.article.php/c8/25

And yes, Rouletabille is a lot of fun, one of my favorite literary detectives. It is to be suspected that some of his character is based on Leroux's own adventures (he too was an investigative reporter, and included among his escapades sneaking into a wealthy emmisary's house for an interview, and being thrown out by a maid....)

Jan 27, 2010, 2:38pm Top

Ooops! *fixes quickly*

I've heard good and bad things about the new Emma, NL. I'll probably watch it at some point just to satisfy my curiosity :). My mom saw last week's episode and liked it, which is cool because she really hasn't been into JA films at all. Now she's interested in watching all the others *rubs hands together in glee*

Jan 27, 2010, 2:53pm Top

I'm going to try the new Emma again after I read the book. Hopefully I'll like it more the second time; I do love Romola Garai so, and it would be a shame to find yet another project of hers I can't quite bring myself to love.

Jan 29, 2010, 9:36am Top

I forgot to mention in my last post, I really liked Miss Austen Regrets too. It's only available in a box set with the new S&S and Persuasion, however — both of which I did not like. Ah well.

I read and reviewed Peter Pan (http://www.librarything.com/review/14521380) on a whim the other day because the second book in Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter series came to me from PBS, Peter and the Shadow Thieves. I will probably wait for the third one to come before starting those. Has anyone read them? I've heard good and not-so-good things about them, and now that I'm an expert (:-P) on Peter Pan, I'll be able to form an educated opinion.

This is so incredibly anal, but I do love that "Barry" comes right after "Barrie" on my shelves and keeps all the Peter books together. Little things like that just make my prooferly/library-page heart glad, lol.

I'm not sure what I will pick up next. I do have Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair coming in at the library on audiobook. I'm on disc 6 of 7 for Phantom of the Opera (and I have to admit I am enjoying it more now that we've gotten past the tedious parts). I am still in Paradise Lost, but I'm not counting that for fiction.

Oh, and I am still slowly making my way through The Accidental Sorcerer by K. E. Mills. I'm reviewing for SFSite.com, but unfortunately it's an MP3 audiobook rather than audio CDs, which means I can only listen to it on my computer at home. And of course when I'm home and have time to read, I want to get to my print books. At least it's enjoyable. I'm a little more than halfway through.

Edited: Feb 3, 2010, 9:57pm Top

Here are my thoughts on The Phantom of the Opera: http://www.librarything.com/review/55605852. It didn't get any better the second time around, sorry Nathan :(

I also reviewed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: http://www.librarything.com/review/14522715. I liked it more than Phantom but don't see myself ever rereading.

I am still plugging away at Paradise Lost and enjoying it very much. I can see how it influenced C. S. Lewis so profoundly.

I also started a fat tome that has been intimidating me for awhile, Augustine's City of God. Critics can't seem to decide whether it is a theological or a philosophical work, and so I'll play it safe and say it's both. I was expecting it to be heavy and dry, something dutiful to read in between fiction books, but to my surprise it is eminently readable and actually really interesting. So far I've read the parts where Augustine is defending the Christians against the taunts of the pagans. He says that Christian women who are raped are still pure, since purity is a "virtue of the mind" rather than of the body. He is uncompromising on the topic of suicide — "For to kill oneself is to kill a human being" — and connects these two ideas in the story of Lucretia who killed herself after she was raped. Poor Lucretia can't win; if she was a willing party to the adultery, that is a sin, but if she was not, she still sinned by murdering a human being (herself).

Augustine often explores pagan legends and characters through the lens of Christianity. He finds many things to praise, and some to decry.

I think there are going to be some amazing quotes in this:

"Thus the wicked, under pressure of affliction, execrate God and blaspheme; the good, in the same affliction, offer up prayers and praises. This shows that what matters is the nature of the sufferer, not the nature of the suffering. Stir a cesspit, and a foul stench arises; stir a perfume, and a delightful fragrance ascends. But the movement is identical" (p. 14).

"Among the daily chances of this life every man on earth is threatened in the same way by innumerable deaths, and it is uncertain which of them will come to him. And so the question is whether it is better to suffer one in dying or to fear them all in living" (p. 20).

"Now purity is a virtue of the mind. It has courage as its companion, and courage decides to endure evil rather than consent to evil" (p. 27).

Good stuff.

Feb 3, 2010, 6:38pm Top

I'm intending to read Moby Dick for the first time this year, knowing nothing of what happens. And now I know how it ends! *wails* you could have warned meeee!

Never mind, I realise it was actually a great feat of ignorance that allowed me to get this far in life without knowing anything about Moby Dick except that it's a search for a white whale. But maybe adjust the spoilers in your (otherwise awesome) 20,000 Leagues review?

Sounds like the only reason for me to read Phantom of the Opera is simply so I could better appreciate Pratchett's Maskerade.

I like your Augustine quotes.

Feb 4, 2010, 1:55am Top

When I read The City of God years ago, I considered it to be a rethorical work. That was skipping the phil/theo issue a bit, but made sense in the light of Augustine having been teacher of rethoric. His contemporary and correspondent Jerome was so absorbed by rethoric that, according to legend, one day he was admonished in his dreams: "Ciceronianus es, non Christianus".

Feb 4, 2010, 8:23am Top

Lorena, I'm so sorry about that! I thought Moby-Dick was one of those stories that can't be spoilered because it already is so well known. I will see if I can reword that part of my review... again, I'm really sorry :(. I should have put a warning at least.

As for Phantom, I seem to be alone in my dislike of it, and Nathan will be along presently to assure you that on this subject I am strangely deranged, and really it is a worthy book after all ;). And he can be quite persuasive, as you know.

I wonder if I should pick up Maskerade soon, just to read it while the original is fresh in my mind...

Thanks for stopping in, Pim! Jerome has been mentioned a couple times so far (I just started book two), if not by Augustine than in the footnotes, which have been quite good so far. Educate me: what would you say is the core difference between rhetoric and philosophy? I've never formally studied either and have always thought they were almost interchangeable terms. I feel dreadfully ignorant, but that's why I'm asking...

And can anyone clarify for me — is it "City of God" or "the City of God"? Because in the intro to my edition, it is called "the City of God", although the "the" is not italicized as part of the title. And I understand that the original title is "Civitas Dei." I just want to be correct in how I refer to it. I think it's just plain "City of God," but please tell me if it's not.

Feb 4, 2010, 11:22am Top

As for Phantom, I seem to be alone in my dislike of it

It would probably be more accurate to say that I am alone in my liking for it. :p

Really quickly, here are the comments I was going to make leading off of your review. I meant to leave this until tonight or this weekend, as I don't want to put off schoolwork, but while we're discussing this and it's on my mind, I might as well give it a whirl.

You describe the book as stagily melodramatic. This is true—it is a very theatrical book, in all the best sense of the word—but de Mattos definitely pumps up the melodrama to about the nth degree. He seemed to have a liking for short, overly powerful sentences, with a proliferation of exclamation points and ellipses. It's maddeningly bad writing, to be quite honest. Leroux wasn't a great prose stylist by any means, but translators like de Mattos have made him look like absolute dreg.

beauty destroys him because he is incompatible with it.

True (and beautifully worded), but this is an oversimplification. There seems to be an idea in popular culture that the only really objectionable thing about Erik is that he is ugly, when Leroux really pictures him as an out-and-out villain until the last few chapters. He is cruel, exacting, controlling ... of course, whether he or the society that shunned him should be blamed for his flaws would make an interesting debate.

One thing I did appreciate was how Christine and Raoul had a pre-existing relationship as friends before falling madly in love. As a child, he had gone into the sea to rescue her scarf and they were friends all through their childhood years.

Yes, isn't that just beautiful? It's one of my favorite things about the novel. And I really have to give my de Mattos his due here: he translates this line beautifully, much better than Bair. It's one of the high points of his translation, along with the opening lines and the Phantom's final confession. No more comments about Christine and Raoul now—like I've said, it's the development I like more than the initial characterizations. Christine I come to love in the end; Raoul I generally smile and shake my head at, like a loving but unblinded older brother. (That last sentence doesn't make sense at all.)

Parts of the story are very tedious, such as the detailed conversations between the two managers and the blow-by-blow account of their evening when the Phantom steals the 20,000 francs right out of their pocket. No one cares about that!

I do! For me, the book is very much about masks, about the contrast between the surface and the profound. We can't get to the profound depths of the Opera House, the emotional core of the story, without seeing all the surface-level goings-on. Plus, the safety pin incident is so funny! And I love all the extra funny reviews and musical details in the Bair translation.

However, I understand from a friend that this could very well be the fault of the translation.
Yes, the de Mattos translation is very bad, and the Bair is so much better, but I'm not sure it would change your view of the book. Also, recall that I fell in love with the plot and Leroux's craft (in storytelling, not as much writing) while reading the de Mattos translation. The difference in translation is not so much that it makes or ruins the novel, but Bair definitely heightened my appreciation of it.

Your thoughts on true love are rather nice, but I would say undoubtedly that Erik doesn't show it until the end. He lets Christine go because he knows she'll feel compelled to come back; all his actions up until her final release are selfish in nature.

Though really, isn't it a little too much that Erik should die of love at the end? It strikes me as sadly overblown romanticism.

It's probably all those operas he's been listening to. ;)

As much as that is a joke, there is some truth in it: Erik chooses to die for love. He doesn't die from "lovesickness," but after Christine leaves him his whole world is turned upside down, he cannot continue his way of life from before he knows her, and just gives up trying. I can picture him spending his last days living on nothing but an inferno of music, and then, as strength leaves him, something softer and calmer. That's probably melodramatic too, but what can I say?—so am I.

Perhaps I would like the Broadway production better, though I've seen the film version with Emmy Rossum and wasn't impressed.

Meh, there are some people who feel like the differences between the Broadway show and the movie are very great, but I don't. It's the same basic muddled storyline, with a very questionable message and a few beautiful pieces of music that I like better out of context—or in another context. Whenever anyone mentions the musical to my mother, she always says, "Pfff. Go see Les Miserables instead."

I love my mother. :p

Maybe it's just me and not the story at all that is to blame!

Maybe. ;)

Again, though, you're definitely in the majority and I in the minority here. I'm just glad you like the ALW movie even less than the book. At least someone sees the light in that regard.

Wow, that wasn't quick at all. Off to chapel now.

Feb 4, 2010, 3:32pm Top

>46 atimco:

Philosophy is (at least for the ancients) the study of truth.
Rethoric is the art of convincing others of what you think to be the truth (or, worse, what you think they should be thinking).
In Gorgias, Plato states that a rethor compares to a philosopher as a cook to a physician: the cook and the rethor give you what you like, the physician and the philosopher give you what is good for you.

Ideally, you get both.

Augustine is one of those theologicians who knows he's writing for a critical audience - pagans, recent converts - and therefore he is using the full strength of his rethoric.

Feb 5, 2010, 9:16am Top

Great discussion of Phantom.

I saw the play on Broadway years ago and almost bit my tongue off trying not to say what I thought of it, because my brother-in-law thought it was just wonderful and I thought the story made no sense and I couldn't get interested in the characters.

Then a friend insisted we see the movie when it came out a few years ago and I walked out confirmed I was right that the story is ... well, I'll go with muddled.

I understand where both of you are coming from so now I'm actually tempted to read the book to at least see how it is better than the play/movie.

Feb 5, 2010, 10:27am Top

You're not alone in liking Phantom, ncgraham. And thanks for the discussion. I read it years ago and had forgotten some of the details. I must say, tho, that the story is a wee bit contorted. I think I saw it on the stage before I read it, which I very much enjoyed, but you don't get a true sense of Erik from it, his motivations. I think the book does leave you with the question of whether his actions could be in anyway justified, and the shades of grey are kinda missing in the stage production.

Hope y'all don't mind me butting in :-)

Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 11:06am Top

Please "butt in" all you want, citygirl! I'm delighted to have you. And you too, lauranav! Have you started anything by Graham Greene yet, by chance?

And now for Phantom:

Nathan: It would probably be more accurate to say that I am alone in my liking for it. :p

I am not sure I agree with this! There may be a vocal group of readers who dislike the book, but I think its place on the "classic" shelf is pretty much undisputed. It's a book that just won't go away. This is due in large part to the popularity of its adaptations, but still, the result is the same... the book lives on. And really, isn't that a good definition of a classic? A book that people keep reading centuries after its publication? I don't know who it was that said a classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say — same idea.

Nathan wrote: Leroux wasn't a great prose stylist by any means, but translators like de Mattos have made him look like absolute dreg.

Poor de Mattos! He probably thought he was doing Leroux a favor, too, with all his changes.

Nathan wrote: True (and beautifully worded), but this is an oversimplification.

Hmm, good point. I intended a meaning of morally as well as physically beautiful, and I think I'll clarify that in the review. I can definitely see a lot of women swooning for Erik. Why is it that unbalanced passion/love is such a turn-on for the modern woman? It's like it covers over all the murders and other crimes he had committed. He loves Christine SO MUCH — surely that is the only thing she ought to consider? I think we have mistaken obsession for love *coughTwilightcough*

Nathan wrote: For me, the book is very much about masks, about the contrast between the surface and the profound. We can't get to the profound depths of the Opera House, the emotional core of the story, without seeing all the surface-level goings-on.

Great point. I think I will pin the blame for this on de Mattos, poor man. I remember the style being particularly plodding and juvenile in those sections for some reason. Maybe because I wasn't distracted from it as I was in the more exciting parts of the story?

Nathan wrote: He lets Christine go because he knows she'll feel compelled to come back; all his actions up until her final release are selfish in nature.

Oh yes, definitely. I know he lets her go all those other times because he (selfishly) wants to be loved for himself and even he knows that keeping her against her will won't accomplish that.

Nathan wrote:
As much as that is a joke, there is some truth in it: Erik chooses to die for love.

Does he? That did not come through at all to me. He chose to let her go and marry Raoul, of course, but did he know that was going to be the end of him? (Why does it have to be?) Erik sounds so pathetic and broken when he talks to the Deroga at the end. I suppose he has nothing to live for, but does that mean he has to die right away? I guess I'm just looking for a physical cause of death...

I love your mother too. LOL.

I think you would enjoy the book more than its adaptations, Laura, because it *does* have that flavor of a classic. It has endured! As I said in my review, I do see why it has stuck around. And there are some complex things happening in the book that don't on the stage. I'm just repeating citygirl on this point, but Erik is much more tragic and fascinating when he isn't played by someone who actually is kind of good-looking under all the makeup :-P

Feb 5, 2010, 11:13am Top

48: Pim, thank you for the definitions; they are very helpful.

To my surprise (yes, I admit it), I am still highly motivated to keep reading City of God. I have always found Roman culture fascinating, though its decadence and orgies are so repulsive to me. I'm enjoying this little peephole into that culture, that world viewed from a position I would, on the whole, identify as my own. And so many of Augustine's points are still relevant today... people haven't changed.

And it is making me want to reread Quo Vadis for the umpteenth time.

Feb 5, 2010, 3:41pm Top

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Feb 5, 2010, 3:42pm Top

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Feb 5, 2010, 3:43pm Top

Gah, hope it will really let me post this time....

citygirl: I think the book does leave you with the question of whether his actions could be in anyway justified, and the shades of grey are kinda missing in the stage production.

Really? I think the book is much more black-and-white than the musical, and I'm not necessarily sure it's a bad thing! The musical tries a bit too hard to make the very darkness and evilness of Erik attractive (listen to "The Music of the Night" or "Past the Point of No Return") whereas Leroux portrays him as more of a villain—mysterious, fascinating, and repentant in the end, yes, but a villain all the same. And they make Christine out to be in love with him too. Bah! The part that annoys me both about the movie (I can't recall if it happens in the stage production too, but I'm 99% sure it does) is when Christine kisses him full on the mouth, in a very romantic and sensual way. Compare the beautiful description of the on-the-forehead kiss in Leroux, with tears and all. They really mucked that one up, I tell you.

Amy: You make some good points regarding Phantom being a classic. I guess what makes me think it's not beloved is that most people I've met who have read it did so because they loved the musical, and ended up ALW's, erm, creation much more than they did the book.

I can definitely see a lot of women swooning for Erik.

I don't think there was much Phanning and swooning until the 1980s, for reasons you may guess. ;)

Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 3:45pm Top


LT doesn't want me to post the rest of my comments for some reason! Grr. Saved them on e-mail. Will post later.

Feb 5, 2010, 3:55pm Top

I've only been skimming this discussion, and shouldn't even be posting bacause I HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK! Ahem. Nevertheless. This caught my eye: "Erik is much more tragic and fascinating when he isn't played by someone who actually is kind of good-looking under all the makeup :-P I remember my first exposure to Phantom was a movie version from the 50s or possibly early 60s starring character actor Herbert Lom as "The Phantom." I watched it on late night TV when I was probably 9 or 10. Lom was far from a heartthrob and, as I remember it, his obsession was not for Christine per se, but was was to prove something about his art (though feelings for Christine were probably there, too, but that's not what I remember). What I DO remember is that the movies simply slayed me, plowed me under (I was 10 or so let's remember). In my already budding, young dramatic mind it spoke to having a passion for something large and overwhelming. I would hate to see that movie now. I'm sure it's dreck. Oh, but at the time...

So Nathan, is the book anything like that?

Feb 5, 2010, 7:39pm Top

ncgraham said: The musical tries a bit too hard to make the very darkness and evilness of Erik attractive (listen to "The Music of the Night" or "Past the Point of No Return") whereas Leroux portrays him as more of a villain—mysterious, fascinating, and repentant in the end, yes, but a villain all the same. And they make Christine out to be in love with him too. Bah!

"Bah!" I like that. But what you say makes my point. The musical tries to Byronify? Heathcliffize? (well, you get my gist, I hope) Erik. Oh, so dark and misunderstood. If only he had twoo luv he'd be all better. But in the book, there's the question...is this guy all alone because he's a sociopath, or is he a sociopath because he's all alone? (BTW, I also think Heathcliff's a sociopath. But that's another thread.)

Feb 5, 2010, 8:06pm Top

>31 atimco:, great review of Persuasion. Are there ANY fans of the recent adaptation out there to offend? ;)

Feb 5, 2010, 8:44pm Top

Graham Greene is still on the TBR list. But I have made progress on the books actually sitting on my desk.

I've put The End of the Affair on hold at the library - that will get it onto my desk!

Feb 5, 2010, 9:04pm Top

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Feb 5, 2010, 9:14pm Top

Why does LT hate me? I'm going to re-type all of this, because it's not letting me copy it in here.

Amy: I think I will blame the blame for this on de Mattos, poor man. I remember the writing being particularly plodding and juvenile in those sections for some reason.

Yes, poor, deluded de Mattos. I'd have to reread some of those sections in both his translation and the Bair to compare, but I do think they were particular victims of his version's absolute lack of flow. I do remember some of Madame Giry's long speeches being cut down and thus quite difficult to follow. (She's like the Miss Bates of French lit in the complete version!) But in general the writing isn't going to be as lovely to read in these sections, simply because it's dealing with the factual, ugly nature of the managers' lives. There's no denying that the best lines come from or are about Raoul, Christine, and especially Erik. There's a reason most fans of the book pick "Apollo's Lyre" and "The End of the Phantom's Love Story" as their favorite chapters. (Titles vary between translations, obviously.)

Amy: I guess I'm just looking for a physical cause of death...

Again, don't have my copy (or, rather, copies) with me at school, but I believe it does say that he stopped going out for groceries, etc. It's not explicit, though—and again, I'd have to check in order to make sure.

Teresa: So Nathan, is the book anything like that?

Nope, that movie is nothing like the book. But it's still pretty enjoyable. I just try to forget that it's based on the book (which isn't that hard!) and if I do, I find I like it better than the ALW musical and maybe even the Lon Chaney film. It is just a well-told story with great music and a great performance from Herbert Lom. Obviously restricted by budget, but, hey, not bad for a 60s British horror film.

Glad we're on the same page, citygirl!

That's enough for now. I obviously think/know way too much about this book!

Feb 16, 2010, 12:29pm Top

I loved your review of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. I had similar thoughts when I read it last year. I was struck by how it made so obvious for me how the "Fall" really started with the fall of Satan.

I have The Phantom of the Opera and The End of the Affair on my desk. I'm hoping to have some time tonight to get started on one of them.

Edited: Feb 16, 2010, 7:16pm Top

Oh delightful day, I came home to four lovely packages from BookMooch and PaperBackSwap containing a total of seven delectable books — including three by my man Wilkie Collins! And a Wodehouse, and a Pyle! I've been waiting on them and knew they would all come at once :)

Catching up on all the responses I've shamefully ignored ...*blush*... Life's been busy, I know, that's the standard excuse!

59: fanny, thanks. And yes, I do know someone here who loves the 2007 Persuasion and doesn't want to watch the Hinds/Root version because she doesn't care for Hinds as an actor. I think it is a terrible pity, but I'm not going to force my preferences on her. (Even if it WOULD be for her own good... :-P)

Regarding Phantom, I can understand how it could sweep away a young reader/viewer. It does have that extravagant, unapologetic melodrama — which I'm not putting down in the least (I'm a fan of Wilkie Collins, after all!). It just didn't catch me young enough; that is the only explanation I can offer.

*feels old and decrepit* I will be 27 in April!

Thanks for the update, Laura! I'm looking forward to your thoughts on Greene and Phantom. And thanks too for the comment on my Paradise Lost review (link, for the record, is here). I agree, it's very easy to look at the whole drama of the Fall merely from our human perspective and dismiss the rebellion and war in heaven bit as vague, shadowy, and uninteresting simply because we weren't involved!

And isn't it fascinating to see how Milton influenced Lewis? Lewis never copies Milton per se, but he clearly dwelt on the ideas that Milton raises in the poem. I think in some cases he improves upon them; I thought the "unity" of purpose and accord in Milton's Hellish council wasn't a really a true representation of the demons. In his version of the scene, of which we get the merest glimpses in The Screwtape Letters, Lewis depicts the demons as living in utter discord and hatred of one another as well as of God. I thought that was a truer characterization. *rambles*

In other news, I finished The Eyre Affair and loved it! — with just a few small reservations. Review here. I will definitely be making the rest of the series a priority!

I also read Stephanie Barron's A Flaw in the Blood and really didn't care for it. Another reviewer called it "strangely uninvolving," and it's such a comfort to find the perfect phrase for my feelings about it and know that someone else had the exact same response! I disliked it enough to be sure I would never reread, and so it was packed off today to someone on PBS. May he/she enjoy it more than I did.

To get the taste of that book out of my mouth, I reread one of my most beloved childhood favorites, Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess. I have a lovely edition published by David R. Godine and illustrated by Graham Rust (though I will say I was disappointed to notice two typos in it this time around). I just love that story *happy sigh* And now I want to watch the miniseries starring Amelia Shankley, which has recently come out on DVD (finally)! Todd has hinted that it may be making an appearance for my birthday coming up... :)

I have read more of City of God and have some great quotes to post. And I'm more than halfway through a very uncharacteristic read, John Grisham's The Firm. Oh, and I started a new audiobook, Elizabeth Peters' The Curse of the Pharaohs read by Barbara Rosenblatt. It is wonderful so far! I would go into details about all of these, but this post is already getting too long. I need to update more often, I think.

Feb 16, 2010, 10:25pm Top

Yay, which Wodehouse? It'll be your first, won't it?

I am starting to note definite differences in our reading habits. I am NOT a fan of The Eyre Affair. I came to much the same conclusion of it as I did about Cold Comfort Farm which I wrote about in Nathan's thread. I was so disappointed - it's such a great story idea, and as I was reading it I kept thinking 'here's something Fforde can really make something out of'... and then he didn't. Apart from the instant jokes like the character's names, I felt it really fell flat. Great review, anyway.

Soooo, despite our scarily similar tastes, Amy, sometimes there is a glitch. Which makes things more interesting :)

I'm tossing up whether or not to abandon Les Mis as well - but I have invested something like 3 months in pretending or trying to read it, so I might keep going. But I'm not loving it like you did, at all. Yet, it's far from terrible, and while I'm actually in the act of reading it, I'm enjoying the experience. It's mostly the thought that I'm only up to the convent, and there's still SO much more to go... and I wanna read other things! But probably the biggest pull to continue for me is that you loved it. You helped me love LoTR, so now I wanna love Les Mis!


The LibriVox recording of A Little Princess, read by Karen Savage, is excellent (and free). I say that more for other readers of this thread than for Amy.

Feb 17, 2010, 1:41am Top

Amy wrote: It does have that extravagant, unapologetic melodrama — which I'm not putting down in the least (I'm a fan of Wilkie Collins, after all!). It just didn't catch me young enough; that is the only explanation I can offer.

And Collins did? I still need to read The Woman in White and The Moonstone—they're on my list for this year! I'm thinking about plunging into a bunch of Gothic and/or horror literature this autumn, particularly October—Collins, Poe, Stoker..... I'm quite excited for this! A nice switch from my sunny Austen wanderings this Spring.

I've heard the name Barbara Rosenblatt before ... she must have narrated some other books I'm familiar with....

Rena wrote: Yay, which Wodehouse? It'll be your first, won't it?

What??? Amy's an old Wodehouse fan. She was partially responsible for getting me to read him in the first place, and I in turn introduced her to the one book of his I've read. (That's right: Leave it to Psmith.)

Don't force your way through Les Miserables and thereby ruin it for yourself; that would not be acceptable! Have you read Amy's review of it? And it didn't help any? :P

I may have to listen to that LibriVox Little Princess at some point—I've read The Secret Garden more than once but never made it through another Burnett novel, though I've started a few. Her use of Eastern mysticism really weirds me out, though.

Feb 17, 2010, 2:13am Top

Oh okay. I seem to be getting a lot of things wrong lately. I need more sleep. I thought it was Amy who hadn't read Wodehouse and Meddy who had. Is it actually the other way round? Or, um, neither? Sorry.

I have read Amy's excellent review, and no, it isn't helping. But I don't want to give up. It's like a marathon.

I think one needs to have read A Little Princess in childhood. I imagine it would be pretty saccharine to an adult without the memory of being moved and inspired by Sara's bravery and distress when quite young. By all means, still try it! I'd love to be wrong in this instance :)

Feb 17, 2010, 7:15am Top

Oh! A Little Princess was one of my favorite favorites as a child, and I haven't read it in years. You're making me want to pick it up again. I remember finding it quite alarming when I was ten or so. Strangely enough, I could never finish The Secret Garden. Maybe I'll give it a whirl, too, and see if I feel differently.

Edited: Feb 18, 2010, 9:52pm Top

Hey Rena, I may have been the one you're thinking of. Meddy just had a Wodehouse binge, though, so it may have been her. Anywho, I'm reading The Code of the Woosters and loving it! I began it on the plane to visit my folks--perfect traveling book!

Feb 17, 2010, 12:48pm Top

The only thing I've read by Frances Hodgson Burnett is The Secret Garden, which remains a favorite of mine. Maybe I should give The Little Princess a try.

I'm a fan of Collins too and The Woman in White and The Moonstone are pretty melodramatic. But if The Phantom of the Opera is anything like The Mystery of the Yellow Room than Leroux's melodramatic tendencies outstrip Collins by a mile!

#66 "I'm thinking about plunging into a bunch of Gothic and/or horror literature this autumn, particularly October—Collins, Poe, Stoker..... I'm quite excited for this! A nice switch from my sunny Austen wanderings this Spring."

Do it, ncgraham! I hope you love them as much as I do!

Feb 18, 2010, 8:33pm Top

Oh yes, I'm a big Wodehouse fan since I discovered him in mid-2008. My first was Laughing Gas. I found it hilarious but the tiniest bit depressing because I was taking the characters too seriously. I soon fell into the way of things with Wodehouse and have never looked back. So glad you are discovering and enjoying Wodehouse too, Teresa! :)

Chocolate wrote: I am starting to note definite differences in our reading habits.

I know! I'm glad we have some differences though. It keeps things from getting *too* scary and helps me distinguish myself from you :-P

I wonder if my response to The Eyre Affair would have been different if I had read it rather than listening to it on audiobook. Sastre really is a great reader, and she was the only reason I persevered in it rather than dropping the audiobook and picking up the print version.

Look, no Les Mis guilt, okay? Really! I find that if I'm obligated to read a book, I tend to enjoy it less. It's just hard to summon excitement for something that feels assigned. We have so many obligations in our lives, so many areas in which we have to perform... I think it is permissible that we should feel a bit rebellious (even unconsciously?) in our reading habits. I read primarily for pleasure myself, and I understand if you need to put Les Mis down. Maybe you are trying too hard. *hugs*

Nathan wrote: I'm thinking about plunging into a bunch of Gothic and/or horror literature this autumn, particularly October—Collins, Poe, Stoker..... I'm quite excited for this!

*joins Porua in her encouragement for just such a plan*

Speaking of Gothic, I received a Georgette Heyer book in the mail today that purports to be a wholly Gothic story but in a Regency setting, Cousin Kate. Should be interesting!

What, Nathan, Porua, you have never read A Little Princess? *gasps*

Chocolate wrote: I imagine it would be pretty saccharine to an adult without the memory of being moved and inspired by Sara's bravery and distress when quite young.

Oh, I hope this isn't true! But maybe you are right. A Little Princess is a book inextricably entwined with wonderful memories of reading and rereading in my childhood. In fact, even the edition I read is sort of non-negotiable/religious for me. My sister and I had matching copies of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, and I had to buy my own copy of A Little Princess in the same edition for it to feel right when I read it. Weird, I know, but it's just one of those things.

So I hope no one is expecting a calm, unbiased, cerebral review of A Little Princess. Because I am completely incapable of writing one :-P

I'm trying to get it written, but it's hard. I have an old review of it that I'm fixing up, and I just don't feel like I am doing the story justice... Nathan and Porua, you might want to stay away from it when I get it written, to avoid spoilers.

Hmm, that's odd that you couldn't finish The Secret Garden, citygirl. I've never been able to decide which of the two is my favorite! I love how Burnett's young characters are so flawed. Mary and Colin both start out downright nasty.

I also need to review The Firm. I thought it was all right, nothing fantastic. I put it down a couple times in tense scenes and while I did think about it once or twice before I could pick it up again, I wasn't obsessed with it or anything like what all the back-cover blurbs seem to expect. "Taut, riveting, thrilling," etc... not so much. Though I did want to find out what happened. Just not desperately.

I will be starting Collins' The Two Destinies tonight... as soon as I kick myself off the computer.

Feb 18, 2010, 8:43pm Top

I wanted to jot down a few bits from City of God, which continues to be excellent:

"The intelligent are infected by a gross moral disorder which makes them defend the irrational workings of their minds as if they were logic and truth itself, even when the evidence has been put before them as plainly as is humanly possible" (p. 48).

"What use is it to give as an excuse the splendid titles of 'honour' and 'victory'? Take away the screens of such senseless notions and let the crimes be seen, weighed, and judged in all their nakedness" (p. 104).

"We do not subject the life and foreknowledge of God to necessity if we say that it is 'necessary' for God to be eternal and to have complete foreknowledge; nor is his power diminished by saying that he cannot die or make a mistake... It is just because he is all-powerful that there are some things he cannot do" (p. 194).

"As for this mortal life, which ends after a few days' course, what does it matter under whose rule a man lives, being so soon to die, provided that the rulers do not force him to impious and wicked acts?" (p. 205)

"Take away national complacency, and what are all men but simply men?" (p. 206)

"It is God who gives happiness; for he is the true wealth of men's souls" (p. 207).

"Is there anything more loquacious than folly? But it must not be supposed that folly is as powerful as truth, just because it can, if it likes, shout louder and longer than truth" (p. 224).

Feb 18, 2010, 11:08pm Top

With Wodehouse, I think I was thinking of Teresa - sorry to have mixed you all up! It was your Wodehouseness I was confusing, not your personalities!

Amy, I'm in much the same condition with A Little Princess. But Burnett was the same author who wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy, which I can't stand - saintly orphaned children can get nauseating and a little too Victorian. Yet in childhood, A Little Princess practically transformed my little world. To say I loved it is an understatement.

Beware, Amy - Cousin Kate is not one of Heyer's best. Though I'd never connected it to Gothic before, which makes it make a little more sense.

Amy wrote: It keeps things from getting *too* scary and helps me distinguish myself from you

*giggles*. I like that :)

Thanks for your Les Mis permission. I'm afraid that if I abandon it now, I might never go back to it, and that would be a shame. I think the real problem is that this just isn't the right time for me to read it, particularly with that have-to-read chore aspect. My copy is in two volumes, so I think I might just finish vol 1 and leave it there. I haven't read anything else serious since I began it in December, and I really think it's time to leave it and start on something else.

Edited: Feb 21, 2010, 7:34pm Top

I know, isn't it odd that Burnett could write such a masterpiece as A Little Princess and also such a lame story as Little Lord Fauntleroy? (Randomly, I remember how fun it was trying to sound out the name "Fauntleroy" phonetically as a child!)

However, I confess I still want the Godine edition of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Yes, I am inconsistent :-P

Thanks for the tip on Cousin Kate! With my recent influx of Heyer books, I think I'll have to pick one up soon. You talk a lot about The Unknown Ajax; is that a good stand-alone, or is it connected to some of her other books? I know that some of them (like These Old Shades and Devil's Cub are related.

*nods about Les Mis* That sounds reasonable.

I got a couple of review written:

A Little Princess: http://www.librarything.com/review/15353179. Oddly enough, it won't let me delete my old review and post the new one with today's date. So the review is new, but dated from the first time I reviewed it.

The Cross Centered Life: http://www.librarything.com/review/54378325. I read this with our adult Bible fellowship and really got a lot out of it. I never realized how much the Gospel needs to be my focus, that I should never get over it or past it. I would recommend this little book to believers who want to grow in their faith. It's firmly grounded in Scripture and I think everyone in the class benefited from it.

The Firm: http://www.librarything.com/review/23376229. Something different for me, a modern legal thriller. It wasn't terrible and I will probably read another Grisham eventually, but it's no literary masterpiece.

Over the weekend I have also read Wilkie's Collins' The Two Destinies and Howard Pyle's The Book of Pirates. Reviews to come soon.

I think my next read will be Newbery Award winner Up a Road Slowly. I didn't know it won the Newbery until recently; it was a book I read as a teen and always remembered, though there is nothing spectacular about it. I remember it as a sensitive, well-written story about an ordinary girl. I'm looking forward to revisiting.

Feb 21, 2010, 8:00pm Top

If you're going to read another Grisham, may I suggest A Time to Kill. I stopped reading him years ago b/c generally he's too formulaic, but that one stands out as a good book.

Feb 21, 2010, 8:44pm Top

Beautiful review of A Little Princess. I'm always afraid to review books like that, e.g. I reread Rilla of Ingleside the other day and decided to keep it a private read, because I'm sure I would only spend most of the review justifying the fact that I read something with such a 'cutesy' reputation (which is thoroughly unjustified as we know).

The Unknown Ajax is a stand-alone. It works along the same vein as The Talisman Ring and The Toll Gate - a Regency adventure story with a token romance. When a teenager I wasn't impressed, but on subsequent rereads it's gone up there among my favourites. It has some very funny bits, and Heyerian characterisation.

Feb 23, 2010, 2:56pm Top

Burnet's biography is much more interesting than most of her books. She was born in England, moved to Tennessee when she was ~15. She lived quite close to my home base. Her family lived in extreme poverty until she began writing at the age of 18. From then on, she supported her family through her writing. She married several times, romanticized children but in reality was an terrible mother. She ruined one of her son's lives (the other was dead) by forcing him to pose for photo-ops in those dread Fauntleroy clothes. Ironically, she saw herself primarily as a writer of books for adults. Of her children's books, her favorite was Little Lord Fauntleroy. After her death a monument was erected which featured characters from The Secret Garden, a work she did not rank among her best but which is her best known work today. Her books for adults are not widely know. Persephone has published a few, but they are terribly saccharine.

Feb 24, 2010, 9:42am Top

Thanks for that, urania. I'd never have guessed. A terrible mother. Now that is irony.

Feb 24, 2010, 3:15pm Top

Thanks, citygirl. Another Grisham fan has recommended A Time to Kill as one of his best books, so that will certainly be the next of his that I pick up. I'm thinking a beach read when we go to NC in May...

Thanks Lorena. I did have a lot of trouble getting that review right, mostly because the book feels like part of myself... I read it so constantly at a young age. I know what you mean, although sometimes it's fun to be an unabashed, unapologetic fan of something not wholly approved by the literati :)

I'm looking forward to The Unknown Ajax! I'll keep you posted, of course.

Oh, and Rena, you'll be happy to hear that I received the first five books of GRRM's scarily long and involved "Song of Ice and Fire" series yesterday via BookMooch. They look so invitingly fat and replete with good things... I have been reminding myself that I'm not starting the series till the man finishes it!

urania, thanks for dropping by! I was aware of most of that about Burnett. I only recently discovered that she wrote anything besides her big three children's books. I've mooched a couple of them, *scans library*, T. Tembarom and Robin (ignore that touchstone). So they're pretty saccharine, you say? Pity.

One thing I found interesting when I was scanning the Wiki article was that Burnett actually did discover a secret garden herself at one point in her life. I can never decide if The Secret Garden or A Little Princess is my favorite.

Isn't it interesting how authors are not always the best judges of their own work? I've heard that Tchaikovsky didn't much care for that little thing he wrote called "The Nutcracker." He thought his best work was one of his now-obscure pieces (that I can't remember the name of...).

I thought I would try something out of character and write a halfway-short review *winks at Chocolate*. The Two Destinies: http://www.librarything.com/review/56720949

Feb 24, 2010, 7:36pm Top

Song of Ice and Fire! YAY!! It's the only fantasy besides LoTR I've read that I'd be inclined to call 'literature'. I predict you will be waiting a LONG time for that series to finish. If ever. Maybe you could read them and think of them as like reading one of Jane Austen's unfinished books (hah, this stuff could hardly be less like Austen than it is!) and think of them as being as finished as they're ever going to get. With the bonus of there being a small possibility that they one day might miraculously be finished... maybe.

Your halfway short review is up to your usual high standard. Clearly, Amy, you are a woman of many talents... long reviews, halfway short reviews... you nail em all. :)

Mar 1, 2010, 7:56pm Top

I've been enjoying your recent reviews, Amy. I think that forward of your really gives Pyle short shrift. Was he one of the greatest writers of all time? Hardly. But I think him more than passable as a children's fantasy/adventure writer. The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, etc., are all written in a very archaic style, and at times it does become rather wooden, but that's made up for through the passages that simply blossom forth with beauty. I well remember writing down quotes from those books as I read through them, and I'm pretty sure I still have that particular notebook lying around somewhere back home. As for Irene Hunt, I remember reading and enjoying both Across Five Aprils and No Promises in the Wind years ago. I should definitely revisit that author.

Jumping into the discussion(s) for just a wee bit:

Porua wrote: if The Phantom of the Opera is anything like The Mystery of the Yellow Room than Leroux's melodramatic tendencies outstrip Collins by a mile!

See, I don't remember The Yellow Room being melodramatic at all. Maybe I've just been deadened to melodrama ... it's all this French fiction and Italian opera getting to me! (Not to mention my life itself, but that's an entirely different matter. :P)

Amy wrote: I received a Georgette Heyer book in the mail today that purports to be a wholly Gothic story but in a Regency setting, Cousin Kate.

Isn't it an anti-Gothic, though? I've heard it likened to Northanger Abbey.

Rena wrote: Beware, Amy - Cousin Kate is not one of Heyer's best.

This seems to be a recurring statement for you, Rena. If you keep using, I think you should draw up a list and title it something along the lines of "ChocolateMuse's Definitive and Inarguable List of Georgette Heyer's Best Regency Romances."

Enough for now.

Mar 1, 2010, 8:15pm Top

*giggle* but I think we all agree that Heyer did write an awful lot of filler fluff. I like the idea of that list, I might just do it...

:-D the ChocMuse Literary Syllabus of The Definitive Works of Georgette Heyer! Hmm.

Edited: Mar 1, 2010, 9:39pm Top

Choc wrote: Maybe you could read them and think of them as like reading one of Jane Austen's unfinished books...

Ooh, that's an excellent notion. Indeed it is. Hmm...

Thanks for anticipating me, Nathan! I know I'm not good about posting here regularly, and usually end up dumping a ton of info at once. But my time is only available in chunks nowadays, I'm finding.

For the record, here is my review of Howard Pyle's The Book of Pirates. I agree that Pyle's prose is a bit more than merely serviceable. The passages I quote in my review are very nice, I thought.

And here is my review for Up A Road Slowly. Lovely, honest, gentle book, just as I remembered it. Without intending the slightest criticism of the Anne books, I would recommend Up A Road Slowly to readers who find Montgomery a little too idealistic and flowery.

I see I'll have to bump Cousin Kate to the front of my Heyer line to determine its Gothicness or anti-Gothicness.

*would love a compendium of Heyer reviews written by our very own Chocolate!* Which reminds me, I read The Unknown Ajax over the weekend and liked it! But I'll save it for my review :)

Mar 1, 2010, 9:43pm Top

And I completely forgot to mention the Austen biography I just reviewed here. Good stuff, as I pontificate in my review...

...Except for the typos I found. The worst was when the author used "Frank Churchill" instead of "Henry Crawford."

*cringe cringe cringe*

Mar 1, 2010, 9:50pm Top

Is it terrible that I prefer Henry Crawford to Frank Churchill? I think it is. But I do nevertheless.

Not that I like either of them much, of course.

Mar 1, 2010, 9:54pm Top

No, it isn't terrible. It is a great tribute to Austen's ability to create complex characters we can never entirely dismiss.

Mar 3, 2010, 10:08am Top

Question: do you think the rating might've been higher if you weren't so bothered by the audition? You would recommend Sylvester and The Foundling over it?

Mar 3, 2010, 11:09am Top

Hmm, good question. I think The Unknown Ajax is one of those books that I'll enjoy even more on subsequent readings. Hugh is so very different from the usual Regency leading man that I spent much of this read trying to figure him out (and being tricked, lol). Next time I'll be able to relax more and savor the story.

I do think the edition affected my rating somewhat... it made the book feel cheaper and more — I don't know — mass-produced?

At the moment I do think I would recommend Sylvester over The Unknown Ajax, but only by a slim margin. And that will probably change with time. The Foundling was a lot of fun, but I would say it's probably equal to or just below The Unknown Ajax. Again, all these ratings are subject to change!

Mar 3, 2010, 12:02pm Top

Thanks for the response. I realize that ratings are often arbitrary, and I too generally change them on rereads. (Usually the case is that they go up, but there are exceptions—e.g., as a preteen I far preferred Lloyd Alexander's The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian to Elizabeth Winthrop's The Castle in the Attic, whereas now it's opposite.) I'm just always interested in seeing which Heyers other people think are the best, so I know what to look for at sales and such.

Mar 3, 2010, 7:52pm Top

For the record, I think Sylvester has a more complex interaction between hero and heroine (for want of better terms) and better exploration of their relationship, which in The Unknown Ajax is fairly surface. But in Ajax, the focus is more on Hugo himself as a single character, and also on dear, annoying, hilarious Claud (also the less interesting Richmond and the heroine whose name I forget right now). The Foundling is more of a straightforward comedy, though all three are great for humour.

I think if I did a 'syllabus' for Heyer, I'd get awfully discursive. It would be more of a rambling essay.

Mar 3, 2010, 9:11pm Top

Yay for discursiveness and rambling! I still say you write it, Rena. 'Twould (T'would?) be grand.

And yeah, you know the heroine isn't A class when you can't remember her name.

Mar 6, 2010, 8:31am Top

I agree with your thoughts in #91, Chocolate. Her name is Anthea. And what's wrong with rambling essays, pray? I think they are otherwise known as Amy's reviews :-P

I finished The Curse of the Pharaohs on audiobook last night. It was a lot of fun! My review will be forthcoming, but I have to say that Barbara Rosenblatt is an exceptional narrator. Her different voices and accents are wonderful! I believe she read the rest of the series and I will certainly be scouring my libraries for them :)

I also started Nicholas Nickleby (the touchstone for which just drops off completely when I hit submit). As I was saying in the monthly author group, I'm a hundred pages in and struck by both Dickens' humor ("Mr. Squeers's appearance was not prepossessing. He had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favour of two.") and the heavy themes he is exploring. I'm also really liking Nicholas; he seems to have a good sense of humor despite his callow greenness. I hope to get a good chunk of that read today.

Edited: Mar 8, 2010, 1:08pm Top

Well, I finished Nicholas Nickleby and enjoyed every word of it! My review is here. Nicholas is a great hero and I loved all the characters, as usual. Here are a couple choice quotes I didn't include in my review:

"Now, Mrs Curdle was supposed, by those who were best informed on such points, to possess quite the London taste in matters relating to literature and the drama; and as to Mr Curdle, he had written a pamphlet of sixty-four pages, post octavo, on the character of the Nurse's deceased husband in Romeo and Juliet, with an inquiry whether he really had been a 'merry man' in his lifetime, or whether it was merely his widow's affectionate partiality that induced her so to report him. He had likewise proved, that by altering the received mode of punctuation, any one of Shakespeare's plays could be made quite different, and the sense completely changed; it is needless to say, therefore, that he was a great critic, and a very profound and most original thinker."

Mr Curdle sounds like some critics I could mention...*ahem*

"...let it be remembered that most men live in a world of their own, and that in that limited circle alone are they ambitious for distinction and applause. Sir Mulberry's world was peopled with profligates, and he acted accordingly.

Thus, cases of injustice, and oppression, and tyranny, and the most extravagant bigotry, are in constant occurrence among us every day. It is the custom to trumpet forth much wonder and astonishment at the chief actors therein setting at defiance so completely the opinion of the world; but there is no greater fallacy; it is precisely because they do consult the opinion of their own little world that such things take place at all, and strike the great world dumb with amazement."

We really enjoyed the 2002 film version that I picked up at a sale (the purchase of which prompted this read). It was funny; as the opening credits were rolling with Rachel Portman's score, I remarked that it reminded me of the Paltrow Emma. With good reason — Douglas McGrath, who wrote the Emma screenplay, also wrote and directed Nicholas Nickleby. We didn't realize that until we watched the special features. I like his style!

And it was fun to see Alan Cummings (Mr Elton) play the jealous Mr Folair, and Mrs Elton (Juliet Stevenson) play Mrs Squeers.

Mar 8, 2010, 2:27pm Top

Oh my ... you want me to pick up a Dickens novel so badly! The only books of his currently on my reading list are Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, mostly because those are stories I've known since I was a kid, and with them I'll complete my reading of his five most popular yarns (along with A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, and A Christmas Carol). But because of the various recommendations I've received, I also want to try Bleak House, The Pickwick Papers, Our Mutual Friend, Little Dorrit, and now, Nicholas Nickleby.

Overall, great review. But please, coul you unspoilerfy the last paragraph? I was somewhat familiar with the plot and characters, but had no idea about what happened to Smike.

What did you think of Barry Humphries/Dame Edna as Mrs. Crummles? I would have thought that would have been out-of-place in a Dickens film; however, I'm sure to watch it once I read the book, as I'll watch pretty much anything that has Christopher Plummer and Romola Garai in it.

Mar 8, 2010, 2:35pm Top

I did give a warning about spoilers in my first paragraph, Nathan, but for you... *goes to unspoilerify* :)

I wasn't a fan of the casting for Mrs. Crummles and found it more distracting than anything else. But the part was fairly brief so it did not impair the rest of the film.

And yes, Garai was very good. She must have had a strong director reining her in because there was none of the over-the-top expressions you mention in the latest Emma.

Mar 8, 2010, 3:02pm Top

Garai's one of my favorite actresses: I love her in Amazing Grace and Daniel Deronda, so I don't know what was up with her in Emma. Glad to hear she does a good job in Nickleby as well.

Mar 8, 2010, 6:59pm Top

I was getting all enthusiastic about reading Nicholas Nickleby on reading your review... and then you go and say Dickens is like Victor Hugo!! Noooo, I don't want that association!

But an awesome review nevertheless :)

Mar 8, 2010, 8:28pm Top

Hugo >>> Dickens.

At least as far as I'm concerned.

Mar 8, 2010, 10:29pm Top


Mar 9, 2010, 9:41am Top

I’m steering clear of your oh so hot review of Nicholas Nickleby as I haven’t read the book yet. But seeing the buzz around your review makes me really want to read it!

Mar 10, 2010, 10:09am Top

Hey - loved your review of The Curse of the Pharaohs. I love seeing the differences between the first book and the rest. There's only a break of about 6 years I guess, but I remember reading somewhere that she wrote the first one just as a single book. Then a few years later came back and built it into an ongoing series.

Mar 11, 2010, 10:17am Top

I will not decide between Hugo and Dickens. I love them both too much.

Porua, isn't it lovely knowing that you have more Dickens to read, that you haven't yet reached the end of him? I have that happiness with many of my favorite authors, bless their prolific hearts!

Thanks Laura! Yes, I read somewhere that the first book was not intended to kick off a series. Peters said that Amelia did the unthinkable for a character in a series and *actually* revealed her age in the first book, 32! Which of course causes huge continuity problems later, as Peters decided to make Amelia functionally much younger. I like the direction things are taking in this second book... fun stuff.

The review, for the record, is here.

Some of you are no doubt aware that the fourth book in Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series, A Conspiracy of Kings, is due out this month. And I have done what I NEVER do by pre-ordering it on Amazon. What can I say? The spirit is weak right along with the flesh on this one.

I'm planning on rereading the first three books (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia) in preparation for the latest installment. I am so looking forward to this! If you've never read the series and have any proclivities toward fantasy at all, you need to read them! Don't read reviews, as there are huge spoilers that you simply must be innocent of before you start the story.

But for the initiated, there is a sneak peek here.

*sigh of happiness*

Mar 11, 2010, 12:37pm Top

I hope you don't mind me popping in your thread to comment on The Queen's Thief. I just recently finished reading the first three and loved them and am, like you, looking forward to the fourth. Had a question about these, though. In the author's notes, Turner mentions that she inserted a line from "Howl's Moving Castle" in the first book. Did anyone find it? It's been too long since I've read that one. I'm not sure I'd be able to find it without re-reading Howl and The Thief. I did, however, recognize immediately the description of a certain artifact from Rosemary Sutcliff's books. Inquiring minds want to know!

Mar 12, 2010, 10:58pm Top

Hey, Amy, have missed you over on the 75 book challenge thread but finally found you here. I just read Cold Comfort Farm and found your review, which expressed exactly how I felt about the book.

You've been doing some great reading this year. A Little Princess is one of my favorite children's books, and I still love to reread it. The Eyre Affair and the whole series is a big favorite of mine and I think that reading it in print really makes the profanity fade into the background--sometimes I missed it altogether.

The Unknown Ajax is one of my favorite Heyers and has stood up to rereads better than Sylvester for me, although the latter made me laugh out loud several times in my first reading of it. Cousin Kate is not one of my favorites, although it is definitely meant to echo the Gothic style--probably one of the reasons I don't care for it.

I have acquired the first three volumes of The Thief series, although I haven't read them yet. I hope to do so this year.

Mar 13, 2010, 11:28am Top

103 - Thanks for the recommendation for the Attolia series. I put The Thief on my wishlist.

Edited: Mar 16, 2010, 9:54am Top

Welcome, ludmillalotaria, ronincats, and janepriceestrada! Thanks for stopping by.

Regarding Turner's Attolia books, I have to admit I haven't read much of Diana Wynne Jones, who influenced Turner so strongly. I've read her Dalemark Quartet and her Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and enjoyed them. But I see I need to make her more of a priority! I'll try to get a copy of Howl's Moving Castle soon.

The artifact from Rosemary Sutcliff's books... don't tell me I missed the flawed emerald ring somewhere!!! I will be on the lookout as I reread the Attolia books in the coming week. Thanks for the heads-up, lud! If you find that Jones line before I do, please post it here!

ronincats, it's wonderful to hear someone who had the same reaction to Cold Comfort Farm! It really is. Everyone else seems to adore the book and though I do appreciate the little quirks of humor and characterization, I just couldn't warm to the story as a whole. It is *Cold* Comfort Farm, after all! :-P Though I do wonder if I might like it more on a reread, now that I'm more familiar with all it is (and isn't).

Also, I did pick up a film version at a sale last week, in the hopes that it might be fun. Nathan, you'd probably be all over this one; it has Kate Beckinsale as Flora Poste. The IMDB page is here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112701/. It does have some big names, doesn't it? Ian McKellan, Miriam Margolyes, Rufus Sewell, Stephen Fry... hmm. This raises my hopes a bit!

(Where is your 2010 thread, ronincats? I didn't see it on your profile.)

Yes, I'm looking forward to the other books in the Thursday Next series. I definitely want to get to them this year.

In other news, I started Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy on audiobook last night. It's read by John Lee for Tantor Media and I'm enjoying it so far. Hardy really takes the time to describe his characters... authors just don't do that nowadays, it seems. Already I can see some themes emerging. The title is taken from Paradise Lost and Hardy has already compared Gabriel Oak to Milton's Satan. And I can't help but remember that Paradise Lost opens with Satan's perspective, just as Madding Crowd is opening with Gabriel's. Where exactly is Hardy going with this? Hmm.

Also, I started Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl for Early Reviewers. I'm afraid the writing is showing itself true to the stereotypes of the genre — Christian fiction — by being positively abysmal in places. If she calls their tutor "tired-eyed" one more time, I think I will snort. And there's just this strange awkwardness in some passages, though nothing grammatically incorrect. Just stylistically weak. Stengl would benefit greatly from an editor with an eye for phrasing.

However, despite the flawed execution, the story itself is rather engaging so far, and I find myself wanting to get back to it. Silly day job!

Edit: Oops, I almost forgot to mention I finished The Country of the Pointed Firs and wrote a review for it. I liked it very much! I think I got that recommendation from the Anne of Green Gables book page; someone added it there. Good stuff.

Mar 16, 2010, 9:59am Top

I'll try to post my thread link when I have more time to figure it out.

I got Heartless also, and my heart sank when I got it and saw the comparison to Donita Paul, who I've also tried and immediately mooched. I'm several chapters in, working on giving it a fair chance and hoping it won't be hackneyed prose serving an agenda.

Mar 16, 2010, 10:09am Top

I've never tried Donita Paul. I did think it funny that Stengl's series is said to be "in the tradition" of Paul's work; I didn't know there was such a tradition already!

I don't see too much of an agenda thus far, but we'll see. I'm not a fan of preachiness either.

Edited: Mar 16, 2010, 2:34pm Top

The film version of Cold Comfort is great! If nothing else, you'll enjoy Ian McKellan as Amos—he's absolutely brilliant in that role. Just wait for his delivery of the famous "There'll be no butter in hell!" line. The scene where Seth heads off to Hollywood is priceless as well. Pretty much the only thing I didn't like about the movie was the casting of Flora's love interest - he seemed like such a dimwit!

I'm surprised you're reading another Hardy after your relative disappointment with The Mayor of Casterbridge. But I'm glad you are too! Hmmm, I need to read some more of him as well....

Edited: Mar 16, 2010, 8:00pm Top

I like your review for country of the pointed firs very much! Especially your surmises about the author.

Mar 17, 2010, 12:46pm Top

#103 Porua, isn't it lovely knowing that you have more Dickens to read, that you haven't yet reached the end of him? I have that happiness with many of my favorite authors, bless their prolific hearts!

Oh so true! It is good to know that there are more Dickens books to read. Another one of my favorite authors, Agatha Christie also wrote many books but I've still managed to finish nearly all of them. I do wish there were more of her Marple mysteries to read though. They are the best!

Edited: Mar 22, 2010, 7:03pm Top

I know you're offline for a bit, Nathan, but for when you come back... it's not that I disliked The Mayor of Casterbridge. It just didn't resonate with me as other classics have. My choice of Far From the Madding Crowd as my next audiobook is the result of me running into the library and not having a lot of time to browse. And I'm not minding it at all, actually. Hardy has some excellent character sketches going on, and I'm perking up at every hint of Paradise Lost. He's already mentioned it outright a couple times. What is he up to?

I reread the Attolia books over the weekend (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia). They are just so good! Her dialogue is so witty and fun, and her characters have real depth.

And Amazon informs me that my copy of Conspiracy of Kings was sent today. *happy* :D

ludmillataria, you were right about the famous emerald ring of Sutcliff's stories showing up in The Thief:

There was one ring that held a large green emerald engraved with a design I couldn't make it in the dim light. It was too big for my finger. I slipped it over my thumb.


I looked down at the ring still hung around my left thumb. He looked as well and whistled. In the sunlight I could see that the emerald was flawed, milky white on one side. The seal engraved in it was a curving fish, maybe a dolphin. The white flaw was a breaking wave.

The magus leaned over me to lift it off my thumb. "The writing on the ring itself is in the old style, pre-invader. Whoever wore it must have had it in his family for many generations."
"Or he lost it here a long, long time ago."
The magus agreed. "Or that. I'll put it in my bag, so that it doesn't get lost."
"You will not," I said. The ring didn't belong in a bag; it belonged on a finger. My finger.

(pages 137, 139–40)

Can't believe I missed it before! Thanks for pointing that out :)

In other news, I finished and reviewed my Early Reviewer copy of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Heartless, here. It had a lot of potential and I did enjoy it, but the prose needed some work. ronincats, how's it coming for you? Any thoughts on it?

Mar 22, 2010, 7:54pm Top

I agree that Heartless had potential. I read right through it in two sittings. But there were some problems. Clunky prose. Stereotypes a mile wide. Dropped stitches. By which I mean plot points that go nowhere, like how unattractive Una looks in the "fashionable" dress. Never addressed again until her wedding. The plot seems to skip around a lot. Felix and Fidel have no common sense at all. Do you really have any sense at all of why Aethelbald is even there, much less why he professes to love this rather immature and shallow princess? I think it's a cop-out that we don't know what Faery is like because everything is invisible to human eyes. Do we have any inklings about the Duke's ambitions before the attack?

That said, there is a pull to the story. She does doom and gloom really well, better than love. There are some powerful images and scenes. But she needs to pull it together more. This is supposed to be the first of a series--I think it does better as a singleton because I have no idea of what direction it could go in.

Mar 23, 2010, 9:16am Top

Thanks for supplying the quote, Wisewoman. In case anyone is interested, I found the line from Howl's Moving Castle that Turner pays homage to in Thief (things like this will drive me batty until I find them!). The quote from Howl is:

"What a lie that was!" Howl remarked as he walked into the wall. "My shining dishonesty will be the salvation of me."

If you'll remember a scene in Thief where they stop to get food and a woman tells Eugenides that her son is in prison and he reassures her that the prison wasn't so bad, he later says under his breath, "What a lie that was!"

I'm glad I looked it up. My shining dishonesty will be the salvation of me is a famous line from Howl, and I had totally forgotten about it, but it wonderfully applies to Eugenides as well.

I've also pre-ordered Conspiracy ... hoping it arrives in time to read this weekend.

Mar 31, 2010, 5:50pm Top

*reappears after an absence occasioned by too much going on in offline life*

ronin, it sounds like you have your Heartless review pretty much ready to post!

I agree that Aethalbald's motivations are pretty obscure, but Stengl does have him say at the end that he loves Una because he made up his mind to love her before he even met her. This is unrealistic, of course, but I do like the emphasis on love as a choice rather than as a mere feeling that sweeps over you and takes over your life (until it disappears and you "fall out" of love...). I like the sense of commitment and devotion there.

Una is a pill though. I know Stengl was trying to make her fallible and relatable, but she was more annoying than anything else.

I think there's definitely room for more stories of Goldstone Wood. What about the lady whose name I forget, who took care of Felix? What's her story? What will happen to Felix — will he go back and be fully healed, or will he put it off again?

ludmilla, now I really, really want to read Howl's Moving Castle! Turner also uses that line ("What a lie that was") in The King of Attolia, when Attolia says that Gen has always been kind to her. Heehee.

Well... I read A Conspiracy of Kings last Thursday night and have been digesting it ever since. I think I need a reread to fully appreciate it, but here are my initial thoughts.

I also finally finished and reviewed The Accidental Sorcerer for SFSite.com (review here). I enjoyed it very much! It reminds me of both Pratchett and Rowling, though I wouldn't say Mills is better than either of them. There are just some similarities. I'm going to keep an eye out for the next two books in the series.

I'm still listening to Far From the Madding Crowd on audiobook. I'm starting to lose patience with it, and with the characters.

My next reads will include:

• Another book from the Christian Encounters series on the life of Winston Churchill, courtesy of Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program

Our Sufficiency in Christ by John MacArthur, for our church's Book-of-the Month (or, more accurately, Book-of-the-Two-Months :P)

The Sword: Chiveis Trilogy by Bryan Litfin, which I just found out today that I won through Early Reviewers

These will keep me busy for awhile.

Apr 1, 2010, 5:56am Top

Sorry you are not enjoying Far from the Madding Crowd, Amy. Which character are you losing your patience with? Bathsheba, Troy, Boldwood or Oak? They are all exasperating in their own way, although Bathsheba more so than the others. I liked the narrative but that maybe because I read it as opposed to listening to it. I imagine listening to it being read could be a major drone!

Apr 1, 2010, 9:10am Top

I finished ACoK, too... and liked it as well (though not as much as KoA, which would be very hard to top). I think it was important to catch us up with Sophos for what is going to happen in the future (and not just because of the Medes threat). I liked your comment in your review about Gen acting like his gods... yes, very interesting.

Apr 22, 2010, 6:54pm Top

116: I hope you'll pick up Howl's Moving Castle soon because I just dove into my copy and so far it is very good. The friend that recommended it to me told me that she re-read it three times in a row because she loves it so much. I don't know if I could go that crazy, but it has given me high hopes for this book and so far, so good!

Apr 23, 2010, 9:14am Top

Oh yes, you should definitely read Howl's Moving Castle. I really want to reread it now myself...I wasn't sure why after rereading the Attolia series I had this overwhelming desire to read it, until I looked back over my reading journal and realized they were books that I read close together every time. That being said, I can't believe I didn't pick up on the lifted line! I love the "favorite a post" feature so I can always find ludmilla's (#115) note of which quote it is.

Apr 23, 2010, 7:49pm Top

I'm reading Howl's Moving Castle with my children now. They love the movie version and have watched it more times than I thought possible and they are equally excited about the book, which is very different. I'm enjoying it too.

Apr 30, 2010, 3:18pm Top

Sorry I have been MIA lately. Things have just been so busy lately. I'm enjoying an afternoon with some pockets of free time... it's quite the novelty!

Okay, so Howl's Moving Castle is definitely moving up the to-read list! mihess, have you finished it? What do you think?

Attolia fans will appreciate this... I was at a library booksale a week ago and found ex-library copies of The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, which I will keep on hand to press upon unsuspecting friends. I already have a few victims — I mean, friends — in mind.

Oh, and in case I missed any Attolia fans when I was sending out invitations, I started a group here for the series. If you haven't read the books yet but want to, come join us! But be careful because there are huge spoilers everywhere.

To catch up on reviews:

Christian Encounters: Winston Churchill was pretty good, though I'm not sure that Churchill can really be categorized as Christian. Review here.

Flesh And Fire was a nice fantasy that ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Despite some issues with the prose, I'm interested enough to keep an eye out for the next book in the series. Review here.

Far From the Madding Crowd, which I listened to on audiobook, turned out better than I thought when I was languishing in the middle of it. Hardy is definitely misogynistic though, and I still don't really care much for his characters. Review here.

A Town Like Alice was a book I started and didn't pick up again for a week, which made the division of the action (first in Malaysia, then Australia) feel even more pronounced. I enjoyed this story though there was a bit of a meandering, drifting feel once we got to Australia. But it has made me want to read more of Shute. Review here.

Jezebel's Daughter by Wilkie Collins was pretty good, better than my last Collins novel (The Two Destinies). Nowhere near his best, but certainly not his worst, and it kept my attention. Review here.

The Sword (Chiveis Trilogy) was an Early Reviewer book and I wasn't very impressed. Review here.

I'm still reading City of God and have hit the 700-page mark. Just 500 more or so to go. I can do it! I have a notebook with quotes that I write down as I'm reading, but it's at home. I know you all feel so deprived! :-P

I'm also still working on Our Sufficiency in Christ. I haven't had a lot of reading time lately, and when that happens it's always my nonfiction that suffers the most.

I found out yesterday that I won Juliet by Anne Fortier through the Early Reviewers program, so I'll be reading that soon. I might try to sneak in the play beforehand just as a refresher!

Apr 30, 2010, 3:59pm Top

Oh, and I forgot to mention... I finished The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie on audiobook and enjoyed it very much! Review to come.

And I'm now listening to the unabridged audiobook of Great Expectations read by Simon Vance, who is doing a brilliant job of it. Dickens is just amazing.

Apr 30, 2010, 4:25pm Top

Hi Amy,

I have not finished Howl's Moving Castle just yet, but I am about 75 pages away from being done. I'm glad you are moving it up on the list because so far I have enjoyed it very much. It's such a cute little fantasy novel and after hearing that it's a great movie, I may just have to add it to my Netflix list.

And you may have convinced me to add Megan Whalen Turner's series to my wishlist!

Apr 30, 2010, 4:29pm Top

Yay! If you lived anywhere near me, you'd be in line for my lending copies of TT and QoA :)

Apr 30, 2010, 5:40pm Top

Ha ha, thanks, I'll let you know the next time I'm in Ohio or you can just tell me when you're coming down to sunny Arizona. :)

May 6, 2010, 11:10am Top

I reviewed The Body in the Library audiobook here. Good stuff, and thanks Porua for the push to spend some quality time with Agatha Christie :)

I was pushing Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, one of my all-time favorite fantasy works, on a friend recently and my excited explanations of its brilliance convinced ME to reread. It's my third time and every bit as good as my first. It's Jane Austen's humor and prose with Charles Dickens' characters, treating a dark and gripping fantasy.

I don't have time to be rereading a 700+ page book right now... I should be "achieving" new things, new authors, right? — heaven knows my bookshelves are groaning under Mount TBR. But I decided to reread anyways, in direct defiance of all my 2010 goals and really the whole idea that reading is something I have to work at. No. Reading is something I love!

Randomly, the little bird for Early Reviewers always reminds me of the ravens that serve the Raven King.

May 19, 2010, 8:16pm Top

Playing some catch-up here, after my long hiatus (best thing about being gone: I have an opportunity to use the word hiatus—such a good word).

Your review of Heartless fascinates me ... I may have to keep my eyes open for this one, even if it is stylistically awkward. Parts of it do sound a bit like a subject McKillip might tackle—the concept of love as a choice/commitment reminds me of Morgon and Raederlae in Riddle-Master, and I can actually see her taking a "mischievous little brother" character and doing something original with him. And, of course, Goldstone Wood just sounds McKillipesque. As for your overview of Christian authors and the fantasy genre, it's just brilliant. An easy thumb for me.

Wait, you haven't read the Howl books? I mean, I haven't either, but I assumed you had for some reason.

I suppose you and Hardy are just never meant to be. A pity. I really enjoyed The Mayor of Casterbridge, and plan to read Far from the Madding Crowd too, although I think I'll read Tess first.

How many times have you read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by now? I probably need to reread too, but there are so many other things....

Edited: Jun 7, 2010, 8:48pm Top

I'm long, long overdue to post in here. We went on vacation in the middle of May and I just haven't been able to get in here since.

The vacation was wonderful, so relaxing and lazy! I read a lot (but of course, not as much as I would have liked). Here are my vacation books:

(Click to enlarge)

The second pile is what I didn't get to. I knew I was being too ambitious :). The first pile is what I did manage to finish:

• Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This is one of my all-time favorites and I've read it three times. Basically it's about the practice of English magic in regency England, with lots of subplots and characters in the tradition of Dickens, written in the closest imitation of Jane Austen that I've ever read! There have also been comparisons to Tolkien. Full review (updated from when I first posted it) here.

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey. This is her first mystery and it was a good one! Full review here.

Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt. I wanted to know what the fuss was about this author and was somewhat disappointed. She's all right but the writing is weak and the characters very much borrowed from better books. Full review here.

Service with a Smile by P.G. Wodehouse. This one is not as uproariously funny as some of his other books, but is certainly diverting. Full review here.

Our Sufficiency in Christ by John MacArthur. As I say in my review, I don't often go in for blanket recommendations but this is a book I'd recommend to every Christian. Full review here.

A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer. This is my first book by Schaeffer and one that I am still pondering. It's all about being a Christian in our secular, humanistic culture, and the justification for civil disobedience to governmental authority when that authority contradicts God's law. One thing I appreciated was how Schaeffer notes that the problems Christians face in our society are also faced by members of other religions such as Judaism and Islam. Full review here.

Interstellar Pig by William Sleator — how's that for a change of pace after Schaeffer?? This is a kids' book about a sci-fi boardgame that turns out to be real. Fun and light. Full review here.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. The closest thing I can think of to compare this to is To Kill A Mockingbird. It's a story that raises questions of miracles, faith, vigilante justice, and family loyalties. Full review here.

Please forgive me for dumping all these reviews so late here! I'll discuss my current reads in another post soon.

(edited to make the picture a thumbnail rather than a huge honking page-stretching monster)

Jun 7, 2010, 8:35pm Top

Ooh, a list of books means so much more when you see the actual spines sitting in a pile!

I read your Strange and Norrel review with interest; I've been playing with the idea of reading it for a while now. (May I respectfully point out that you have a typo on 'the' in paragraph three?) Sounds like it'd be a great break from the heavy classics I've been reading - only it's so long for a 'break'!

You get in there and read Something Fresh, Amy! You'll adore it. Well, I did, anyway. I'm listening again to the librivox recording, read by an American, which I balked at at first and then ended up loving. http://librivox.org/something-new-by-pg-wodehouse/

Jun 7, 2010, 11:18pm Top

Thanks for letting us know that you'd updated your JS&MH review, Amy; otherwise I'd have missed it. (I'd read all the others before.) Great thoughts! As you know, I too love the book, and will probably reread next year. I'd forgotten your idea of Hollander for Drawlight—he'd be perfect.

Jun 9, 2010, 9:28am Top

Aargh! I just lost a long post I was typing up here. My computer told me it was going to shut itself down for some updates, but I didn't think that meant it would close everything instantly and not even give me a chance to snag what I was doing. Grr.

Anyways... I've added Something Fresh to my 2010 to-reads and it will be my next Wodehouse.

Thanks for catching that typo! I think you will like Strange & Norrell, Rena, but I'm hesitant to talk it up too much :). So I'll restrain myself from any further comments.

My current reads are varied and many! I've been reading (what is for me) a lot of nonfiction and it's been really good.

City of God — As of last night, I'm on page eight-hundred-and-something, which makes me verrrry happy! Overall, I am still enjoying the slog very much, but in the middle sections Augustine gets very involved with tracing biblical genealogies and explaining what seem to be inconsistencies in the biblical record. All probably valuable in some way, but some of it is, admittedly, tedious. But we seem to be out of those sections now and moving more into broad theology again.

I read a really interesting passage last night, in which Augustine writes that although we grieve deeply at the death of those we love, still it's better to see them die in that way than to be degraded or to fall in a moral conflict, "that is, to see them die in their very soul." This idea is the crux of C. S. Lewis' brilliant novel Till We Have Faces, and it is a powerful concept. There are many things worse than physical death!

I am also reading When People Are Big And God Is Small by Edward Welch, as part of a summer study with some young women from my church. It is, in a word, excellent. Welch examines our fear of man from a biblical perspective, pointing out all the ways in which we are controlled by other people because we need them more than we love them. I knew I was something of a people-pleaser before I started the book, but I never realized how much my fear of other people dominates my thinking. What will they think if I do this? How will this look? Will they understand what I really mean, or will they think I'm inane? How will I be punished if I don't cooperate with something?

The thing is, we are only big enough to worship one thing at a time, and if we are fearing man we are not fearing God rightly. As usual, the secular perspective clashes noisily with that of the Word. Welch discusses such books as Beattie's bestseller Codependent No More, which teaches that to overcome codependency all we need to do is love ourselves more than we love other people. (What a glorified, sanitized presentation of a selfish manifesto!) The thing is, this still leaves us dependent on others because if we are loving ourselves more than we love others, we will see other people as something to be used for our own gratification. This still leaves us needing them in some way. And what we need controls us.

Another interesting thing that Welch brings up is the self-defeating practices of secular therapy. When dealing with people who have low self-esteem, secular therapists (with the best intentions) try to counteract the negative messages that person has absorbed and internalized by replacing those messages with positive ones ("you're not a bad person, you are special, you are great, etc."). But look... this isn't addressing the person's core need of codependency, because the therapist is reinforcing the idea that that person's worth is dependent on what other people (in this case, the therapist) say! The real problem is never addressed.

I'm finding all of this incredibly interesting and challenging. I want to grow in this area of my thinking and fear God instead of people. It's going to be a process, for sure.

I haven't started it yet, but my youngest sister and I are going to read Passion And Purity by Elisabeth Elliot this summer. I haven't read anything of hers yet so I'm excited to read it.

Our adult Bible fellowship that meets on Sunday mornings before service is going to be reading Pilgrim's Progress over the summer — how cool is that? I can't wait to delve into it as both a literary and a spiritual exercise. The class is reading a version with modernized language, but I'm going to read the original. It should be a great read.

On the fiction side of things, I'm reading my Early Reviewer book Juliet by Anne Fortier. It's... all right so far. Not badly written, but there are some overly convenient happenings and the characters aren't all that engaging. We'll see.

I also started the second Thursday Next story, Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde, on audiobook read by Elizabeth Sastre. I'm one disc in and it's good, but why does Fforde have to name his bad guys with functional swear words? It jolts me every time Sastre says it :(

Limbo reads (read but not yet reviewed): Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer; the FotF Radio Theatre Screwtape Letters production starring Andy Serkis as Screwtape; and the audiobook of Dickens' Great Expectations.

Jun 9, 2010, 9:37am Top

Definitely holding tight for those reviews! Great Expectations is on my would-like-to-read list for this year, and of course, I'm always interested in what you think of FotF radio ... and Georgette Heyer.

Jun 9, 2010, 8:38pm Top

I'll be intererested in your take on Pilgrim's Progress; it hardly needs translation. I read it with a book group at a Unitarian church. If yours is a more Christian church I think your take will be interestingly different from mine. I loved it.

I'm going to take a closer look at When People are Big and God is Small. The points you have cited look like they could be important to me.

Thank you,


Edited: Jun 14, 2010, 3:00pm Top

Here is my review of Great Expectations. I really enjoyed it. Dickens is still so relevant and so entertaining! I saw Oliver Twist on the audiobook shelf last time I was in the library and had a hard time restraining myself. But I don't want to gobble every Dickens all at once. I savor the idea that I have some more still to discover as an adult reader.

We start Pilgrim's Progress this week. We're supposed to read a chapter a week but I don't think I want to spread it out that long. John Bunyan's life story is just incredible: Pilgrim's Progress was written in prison and Bunyan and his family endured so much persecution from the Catholic government. He really earns his right to be heard, regardless of whether or not we agree with him.

Mr. Durick, I can't recommend When People Are Big And God Is Small enough. I'm through chapter seven (of thirteen) and we are just starting to get into how to fix the problem now that we've diagnosed it. There's no magic trick to instantly changing our thought patterns and habits to remove our fear and/or need of people. I compare it to losing weight and getting in shape — the only real ways to accomplish that are diet and exercise. Changing our fear of man into a right fear of God is also a discipline. I have been praying about this issue and meditating on the Psalms that focus on the Lord as enthroned and ruling (as Welch recommends), and I have seen some growth. I'm excited about the next few chapters that cite biblical examples and also our "felt needs." Really fascinating stuff, and so applicable.

I finished Juliet this weekend and all I have to say about that is "meh." Well, actually I will have more to say since I have to review it for Early Reviewers, but I didn't really like the book and found its 400+ pages tedious.

Jun 15, 2010, 9:37pm Top

Great review! I especially like the Wodehouse connections.

Jun 16, 2010, 11:11am Top

Lots of good reading here, wisewoman!

Jun 22, 2010, 11:52am Top

I don't have time for a real post on it, but I just wanted to announce that I FINALLY finished City of God last night! It's been a long haul; I started it in February. Lots of good quotes and hopefully a nice fat review coming soon.

Jun 22, 2010, 5:19pm Top

Yay for finishing long-term reads! I just did the same, actually. Also, I read an abridged City of God in high school—it was good, but I can't imagine reading the whole thing!

Jun 22, 2010, 9:10pm Top

>138 atimco:: wisewoman,

Congrats! That book deserves a good, in-depth review on LT.

Jul 3, 2010, 6:35pm Top

Okay, I finally finished my reviews of The Screwtape Letters (here) and City of God (here). Whew! Why were those so difficult to write? I've gotten out of my groove, I think.

In other book news (and quickly, because we should have left to go grocery shopping an hour ago), I started a reread of Till We Have Faces to help lead a reading group online. I finished my May Early Reviewer book on the Moghul Empire, Raiders From The North, this afternoon. It was... okay, but not great. Rutherford really tries to make the medieval mind accessible and believable for modern readers, but it just didn't work for me. Review forthcoming.

Oh, and here's my review of April's Early Reviewer book, Juliet by Anne Fortier. Not too impressed.

Still reading Pilgrim's Progress and When People Are Big And God Is Small, and thoroughly enjoying both. Can't wait to finish and review; they're both such fantastic and biblical books, but in such different ways.

Jul 3, 2010, 9:10pm Top

I've gotten out of my groove, I think.

Don't worry, I have too! We'll get back in there, we will. I enjoyed both of your reviews ... but is "to snark" really a verb? :P

Jul 4, 2010, 2:45am Top

>141 atimco:: wisewoman,

Based on what you wrote of City of God, I think you'd find St. Augustine's Confessions much more "worshipful" (as it's written in the form of a prayer) and relevant. I highly recommend it :)

Jul 15, 2010, 11:46pm Top

Hi there. I read your review of the Screwtape Letters. Thanks for the impetus to slide that up the reading list. It's one of those odd books that I felt I should have in a nice library. It sits right with Paradise Lost, Don Quixote and a Portable Dante, all of which I really need to read in the next year or two, as well as a major examination of the Tolkien Lost Histories and all that stuff. I look forward to reading your thread here over the next few days. Right now I'm neck deep in the Dune series, which is even more awesome than I was expecting.

I have a 50 BC thread here, so we don't bog down Porua's neighborhood. The profile page is pretty obscure and I enjoy it when other people join a conversation.

Jul 21, 2010, 9:26am Top

Hmm, yes, I've seen "snark" used as a verb. I like the word so I'm going to use it that way too. It's just so wonderfully descriptive.

Thanks for the encouragement on review-writing, Nathan. They haven't started flowing yet and I have a bit of a backlog, but part of that could just be my schedule at the moment, which is insane. Our church is having vacation Bible school this week, so every day this week I go straight to the church from work and gobble a quick dinner there. Then we practice that evening's skit, which we then perform at the end of the night's festivities.

Thanks for the recommendation, booksontrial. Confessions is definitely one that I want to read. Augustine is just brilliant, and so eloquent. I look forward to learning more about him and being encouraged by his testimony.

Welcome, DP! I'd love to hear your thoughts on Screwtape when you get to it. It's one of the more unique books I've ever read, and one that only gets better each time I revisit it. I read Paradise Lost in January, I think it was, and really loved it. As for Tolkien, I'm coming up on my yearly Tolkien read in September. I might listen to The Silmarillion on audiobook, or maybe pick up one of the Histories. We'll see. Last year I listened to The Lord of the Rings on audiobook read by Ron Inglis. It was fantastic (but it did take me three months to get through it!).

Okay, current reads and reviews. I finished my Early Reviewer book Raiders From The North by Alex Rutherford, and was not impressed. My ER books have not been great lately! Though my current read from the ER program, Dracula's Guest, is actually turning out to be pretty good. It's a collection of Victorian vampire stories compiled by Michael Sims, and I'm enjoying it. Sims' intro wasn't bad either; he avoids the usual scholarly tone of condescension toward religious people though he is apparently not religious himself, and I appreciated his point that vampire stories make us contemplate our own mortality.

I'm also still reading Till We Have Faces for the reading group. I finished the first part of Pilgrim's Progress and am partway through the second detailing Christiana's journey. My initial thought is that the second part isn't nearly so good as the first, but we'll see what happens as the story progresses.

Oh, and I finished an ARC sent to me to review for a Narnia fansite I help moderate, The Wolf of Tebron by C. S. Lakin. It's really too bad they want me to review it and post it on the site, as I really didn't care for it. Lakin quotes Scripture, poetry, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and probably others in the course of her story, but instead of being brilliant it just reads like she was trying to rip off their genius and make it her own. Plus with the way she named herself as author, in a close echo of C. S. Lewis' name — I don't know, it was a real put-off for me. He real initials aren't even C. S. The writing isn't good either, stuffed to bursting with adjectives that are completely unnecessary. I want to be nice in this review because they offered me the book and I know Lakin will read it, but I don't want to gloss over these problems. I'll have to ponder that review.

For nonfiction, I finished (and reviewed) When People Are Big And God Is Small by Edward Welch. What a great book. I will definitely be rereading it.

Partly because of a friend's struggles with OCD, I picked up a brochure on the topic by Michael Emlet titled OCD: Freedom for the Obsessive-Compulsive. It's very short and therefore very basic, but I appreciate Emlet's biblical presuppositions. I'll write a review shortly.

I also started another book by Edward Welch titled Blame It On The Brain?. I'm only 40 pages in, but it's really good so far. With the advances in the brain sciences, it's imperative for Christians to understand these issues from a grounded worldview. Right now Welch is discussing the view that everything we are, all our consciousness, everything is just molecules and chemicals in our brains; self is an illusion (monism). This is obviously not the Christian view, so I'm intrigued when Welch says there appears to be some evidence for this position. This book is also related to the OCD issue, as my friend (a Christian) is probably going to have brain surgery to help her cope with the incredible pressure of the OCD symptoms in her life.

In the audiobook arena, I finished Lost In A Good Book and moved on to Louis L'Amour's Lando, my first Western. Reviews on both to come. Lando was short and I'm now listening to another library audiobook, C. S. Forester's Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. It's great fun so far and I'm enjoying Forester's little asides on the characters.

So that's where I'm at right now. Not getting as much fiction in as I would like, but that's okay.

Jul 21, 2010, 10:16am Top

Edited: Jul 21, 2010, 3:22pm Top

Congratulations on the No.1 Hot Review! :)

ETA: Come to think of it, I shouldn't have congratulated you, so you won't be craving approval from people. :)

Jul 29, 2010, 1:08pm Top

Heehee, I love the irony. Hmm... I don't "need" thumbs, but maybe I can love them?

I have finished a bunch of books but have only had time to review one so far, The Wolf of Tebron. This was an ARC sent to me to review for NarniaWeb.com (where I am on staff). Unfortunately, I did not like the book and emailed the author to let her know that we wouldn't post my review because it was negative and I don't want to hurt the book's success. She wrote back and was pretty defensive, but had some good clarifications that I did make to the review. Things are more amicable now, but it did give me pause to think about how really negative reviews can hurt an author. Not that I will just write positive ones from now on if I truly do not like a book, but I'm sure I can word my objections better.

So here's the final review. I tried very hard to be gracious while not compromising my meaning. This is one review that I wouldn't mind not being thumbed, to be honest. I stand by what I say, but don't see any need to publicize my dislike any further than the standard review that I do for every book I read.

Jul 29, 2010, 5:52pm Top

Thumbed! Sorry, I couldn't help it. :(

Hmm, I can see how I would get defensive, too, if my work was referred to as "near-plagiarism and opportunism." Otherwise, I think you were pretty fair. And IMO, it really isn't the author's place to respond to reviews. The only reason you wrote her was to let her know that you wouldn't post the review and why—a very gracious thing to do, I think. If you had contacted her just to tell her you didn't like the book, that would be different.

What's unfortunate is that she probably didn't hear these critiques before publication. That's happened to me before with short stories. I end up thinking, "Gah, why didn't someone tell me that back when I could do something about it?" My strategy: if the critique seems to miss the point, I ignore it; if it hits home, I file it away for later enlightenment.

Jul 29, 2010, 6:59pm Top

Wow. You've got to love someone who is offended by comma usage (from above review). I'm no grammarian but I cannot stand either sloppy or excessive use of anything grammar related. It invariably makes reading something tough as it makes an internal mental narrative choppy. The best authors (for me) are concise and each word is measured for a perfect fit. For me, this means Robert E. Howard, Asimov, Tolkien, Lawhead, James Blish and Tad Williams. I could list ten more, but those are basically my favorites. Frank Herbert has moved right in there as well.

I have made some comments elsewhere specifically about R.E. Howard's Conan books being the epitome of perfect simplicity. There is a scene where Conan is being crushed by a giant serpent. He has one last gasp left and, paraphrasing, '...with a grin he plucked the dagger from his boot.' You can guess what he does with it, but the use of 'plucked' as opposed to drew or pulled or whatever gives me images of plucking a grape or an apple to be enjoyed. Not so much plucking a chicken, but still it conveys meaning without adding a single extra word to the story. That's the key to good writing on a technical level. Add a great story and off we go, be it fiction or non-fiction.

Jul 30, 2010, 11:43am Top

Very honest review, Amy. I’ll thumb it whether you like it or not! ;-)

#150 Great thoughts, DP! The whole R.E. Howard's Conan example is very good. I totally get it.

Jul 30, 2010, 2:11pm Top

Hmm. So I mention that I don't particularly want thumbs and the review ends up Hot. Go figure :-P

Perhaps I should clarify what I meant by "near-plagiarism." Lakin constantly lifts sentences from random works and inserts them into her dialogue, without any attribution except a mention of Mere Christianity in the back. Not that I want footnotes, but maybe a reference by page number at the end of the book would be fitting. Something to indicate where all her cherry-picked ideas came from!

But even that wouldn't really fix the problem, which is the excessive borrowing and quoting. I like that Lakin tried to include theological and philosophical ideas in the novel, but to string them in so clumsily, and so many at a time, was just not a good choice. I think when you borrow ideas from another author (and all authors do; what we produce is always influenced by what we consume), you need to do something to expand upon those ideas. You need to think about them in a new way, or apply them creatively to your characters. All Lakin did was throw in five or six direct and unattributed quotes per conversation — never rephrasing them, never adding anything to them, never doing anything interesting or creative with them. That's why it seems plagiaristic to me.

And as for the opportunism, that comes from what I perceive as an attempt to piggyback on the works of far superior artists and use their work to promote one's own. Kind of like what Frank Beddor does in his books that tell the supposed "real story" of Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

One thing that was in the first draft of my review was a comment on her initials. She goes by "Susanne Lakin" everywhere but on the cover of her books, where the use of "C. S. Lakin" is a deliberate attempt to remind the reader of C. S. Lewis. Even though she did clarify that those initials truly are hers, I find the choice to use them a bit... arrogant. Like she is the heir to Lewis' legacy and her work is on the same level as his. This arrogance is magnified when you look at Lewis' writing and hers; there is just no comparison. This doesn't really have anything to do with the quality of the book and so I took this comment out of my review, but it's interesting.

Lakin also compares her prose to that of Patricia McKillip, who she says is her favorite fantasy author. I want to be respectful but I just don't see a valid comparison there whatsoever.

Another thing that bothers me the more I think about it is the character of Ruyah, who is supposed to demonstrate the qualities of Christ as Aslan does in Lewis' Narnia books. But the portrayal is deeply flawed (even though it isn't meant to be exact). One of the famous descriptions of Aslan is that he isn't a tame lion... but Ruyah sure is a tame wolf. He seems to exist just to serve Joran. I think it is a true disservice to Christ to focus so much on one aspect of His character — say, the loving/sacrificial side — at the cost of His other qualities like power and majesty and holiness. The way that Lewis shows all of these traits in the Lion is why Aslan is such a powerful character. Ruyah is nowhere near that.

The author is also on LibraryThing as CSLakin, but it appears that she is only here to promote her books and not really use the site (which is fine). Sadly, the more I think about this book the less I like it. It hasn't improved upon reflection.

And yes, DP — I can't stand sloppy commas. I'm an editor and these things really do bug me far more than they might other readers. I know it's nitpicky. I like your example; that's a really memorable line that says everything the reader needs to know. Good stuff :D

In other book news, I finished my review for my first foray into the genre of Westerns, Lando by Louis L'Amour. I really liked the book, to my surprise! All I knew about Westerns before now was that when I was a shelver, the Amish boys gobbled them up like crazy and I was constantly in that section putting them back :). Now I can see why. I'll be on the lookout for more L'Amour books, especially in the Sackett saga.

I might have some time today to churn out some more reviews. I love slow days at work!

Jul 30, 2010, 2:17pm Top

I didn't thumb the review since you didn't want the "publicity" but I did think it was well done and just what a reader would be looking for.

Glad to hear you enjoyed Lando. I have a bag of westerns that I got from my grandfather and then my dad and I was debating reading them first or just giving them to the library. I think your experience has encouraged me to keep them around a little while longer and dip into them. A western would certainly fit the TIOLI genre I seldom visit.

Edited: Jul 30, 2010, 5:01pm Top

I edited the Tebron review a bit to expand on some of my thoughts that I posted above. I am DONE editing it now! I don't know how many times I went back in there to tweak things.

Anyhow, moving on... that's great, lauranav! I'm glad you aren't writing off Westerns completely (as I did for so long). I don't think it will ever be a favorite genre of mine, but it's fun to leap out of character for awhile and read something really different. And now I feel that I understand the Amish young men of my shelving days so much better. A priceless insight, no doubt :)

I managed to finish another review (you were right, Nathan — I seem to be out of my review-writing rut!). This review is on OCD: Freedom for the Obsessive-Compulsive written by Michael Emlet. It's a short pamphlet I borrowed from the church library and read in one sitting. I wanted to learn more about OCD because the daughter of a dear friend of mine struggles with an unusually severe form of the disorder that has, so far, not responded well to even the most intense therapy. While this pamphlet didn't give me all the answers and only sketched the most basic outlines of the disorder and our response to it, I found it helpful. It's a great starting-point to understanding the disorder and how Christians should deal with it in their own lives and counsel those who are suffering from it.

Jul 31, 2010, 9:22am Top

While I do feel for authors, and I have a great deal of sympathy for how difficult it must be to have strangers disparage one's work, I do feel that it comes with the territory.

You write the book, you get it published, and you have to accept that people will have a range of reactions to your work. They will even discuss these reactions on the internet, and I think that this is a good thing for reading and books in general.

I don't think that many authors approach Pope's claim of his own negative reviews that "if wrong, I smiled; if right, I kissed the rod", but it's something to which we can aspire.

Me, I'd probably never read my reviews, but if they do, they take their chances. They might even learn something.

Jul 31, 2010, 9:31am Top

See, that's just weird ... why would you ever deliberately compare your prose with another author's? It's fine when a critic or a friend does so, but when the author does, it just looks arrogant. I'm sorry, but just because you love Lewis or McKillip doesn't mean you can write like them.

I do wonder when Lakin adopted the use of her first two initials for her "writing name." It could be opportunism, but I must admit that I do the same, and have since I was a child, as an homage to Lewis and Tolkien. But I suppose the problem is that this isn't the only place where she's borrowing!

I'm glad you enjoyed Lando. I need to try some more L'amour, because the novella I read, Riders of the Dawn, seems not to be one of his best—and I certainly found it cliche in a way that genre fiction need not be.

Edited: Aug 4, 2010, 10:48am Top

Thanks for dropping by, Cynara. I agree with your thoughts on authors and reviews. What a great quote from Pope! Nobody kisses the rod any more these days.

I have no problem with authors using their initials. It's just that Lakin goes by her name, Susanne Lakin, everywhere but the cover of her book. She uses her initials in a deliberate attempt to remind people of Lewis ("look, I'm just like him! I even have a similar name! that means my books are as good as his!"). *sigh*

We've had some slow days at work that have given me time to write more reviews, yay! I finished and reviewed Ed Welch's Blame It On The Brain?; what a great resource for Christians trying to figure out what's going on in the brain sciences these days.

I finished and reviewed the first book in the Hornblower series by C. S. Forester, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. I've been wanting to start the series for awhile and am glad I saw this audiobook at the library.

I also reviewed my latest Early Reviewers book, Dracula's Guest. I really enjoyed this compilation of Victorian vampire stories. Somehow vampire fiction feels so much more respectable when it can be docketed in the Victorian period :)

I am currently listening to Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, read by Anthony Heald (who is fantastic). I've never read this classic and am really liking it so far. But I can see it falling off a lot of lists in the years to come; it's not very politically correct. Several blatant references to God helping our protagonist (!), and very little mercy for the coons he hunts with his dogs. And the family relationships are so healthy! I noticed something sad: I keep waiting for the adults to betray Billy or hurt him in some way. I am continually surprised by how loving and good they are. Sad commentary on what I'm used to in fiction.

I was going to start Thomas Á Kempis' The Imitation of Christ for my next nonfiction title, but discovered that my copy is an "updated" translation with modern English. No thanks! So I started Fear And Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard instead, all about Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac and the whole concept of faith. The introduction alone set my head spinning. I am not sure about Kierkegaard. He seems to have a lot of good things to say, but there are things I am questioning. We can take individuality and self-reliance too far.

Oh, and I started James Michener's Chesapeake at the urging of my sister who's been after me for quite some time to read her favorite author. It's much better than I was expecting! But definitely horrific in parts; graphic descriptions of torture, especially those that are true and historical, always haunt me.

Aug 4, 2010, 1:02pm Top

Your touchstone leads to a book also called Dracula's Guest but it is by Bram Stoker. And funnily enough now I want to read the wrong touchstone book! :-)

Oh and good review of Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories by Michael Sims. Thumbs!

Aug 4, 2010, 3:19pm Top

I haven't read enough of Kierkegaard, but I have read substantially about him. I think he means to be challenging. There is a tremendous tension in a lot of what he writes that tries to resolve itself by the leap of faith, and I think he knows that though that is right for him it can seem not right. I hope you let us know more about your ongoing reaction to him.


Edited: Aug 11, 2010, 4:38pm Top

Thanks Porua! :)

I finished Fear and Trembling and am still pondering it. Kierkegaard left me far, far behind on so many points. I will need to chew over this review a bit before committing.

I did finish and review Pilgrim's Progress (here). I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed this book! I think I have been slightly prejudiced against it all these years because it's straight allegory and Lewis makes the distinction that his Narnia books are not; they contain parallels, not one-to-one substitutions. It was wonderful to rediscover it and see why it is such a classic. It was published in 1678 but there was something relevant and fresh on every page. It's a truly timeless work.

I am plowing through Chesapeake at record speed, getting up to page 800 or so last night. Just a little under 300 pages to go! I'm in the middle of the Civil War right now and it's gripping.

I want to glory a little in my recent booksale finds... I swept through a sale in record time because I had somewhere else to be, and found a slew of goodies. Namely:

Wildwood Dancing (okay Nathan, I know I didn't LOVE this one, but it wasn't terrible... and I couldn't resist. No crowing, please ;))

Presumption by Julia Barrett: A Jane Austen sequel to Pride & Prejudice. I don't know...

Mansfield Revisited by Joan Aiken: another one I was just credulous enough to buy, but skeptical enough to be glad it was fifty cents.

A Visit to Highbury: yes, another JA sequel! We shall see if it's dross.

The Amulet of Samarkand and The Golem's Eye, the first two books of Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy. I bought the third book a couple years ago at a sale and have been waiting to find the first two. I love finding the missing pieces of a series!

The Sackett Companion: perfect for this new and tentative L'Amour fan.

The Lion Hunter by Elizabeth Wein: one of those books that never seems to pop up on bookswap sites. I'm looking forward to discovering this author; she's been highly recommended by readers whose taste I trust.

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust: okay, I admit I positively snatched this one off the table. It's another that never shows up on swap sites.

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay: this is an author I've heard nothing but praise for. I'm looking forward to reading this tome of a fantasy novel.

And then yesterday I stopped at the thrift and found an ex-library, 1959 hardcover, first American edition of Rosemary Sutcliff's The Silver Branch. It even has that lovely oldish-book smell. *happiness*

*edited to fix grammar and wonky touchstones

Aug 11, 2010, 7:21pm Top

Nothing beats the satisfaction of a used book sale. I'm glad you found some treasures. I have one planned for the 21st--which I go to as soon as the last guest has left from my son's birthday sleepover party.

And probably better to have a time limit; the times I've been free to spend hours I have.

Aug 12, 2010, 9:33pm Top

Ooh...the Bartimaeus Trilogy! I can't wait to see what you think. If you enjoy them, a prequel The Ring of Solomon is due to come out later this year.

Aug 13, 2010, 8:10am Top

Have fun at your sale on the 21st, RidgewayGirl! It's kind of funny that you are leaving as soon as your son's birthday guests do. Hope it doesn't make you too impatient ;). I would be chomping at the bit. And yes... time limits are probably good, but that doesn't make them fun! I would much rather linger.

I'm glad to get a recommendation for the Bartimaeus trilogy from someone with similar tastes, bell7! Which brings me to an interesting decision. I am proctoring all day tomorrow and will need to bring along some good books. I always bring way too many, more than I can finish, but it is so lovely to have options. So what should I bring?

I want to finish Chesapeake, so that will be a good chunk of time. I've been itching to pick up a Sutcliff since finding The Silver Branch the other day. Perhaps I will bring the first Bartimaeus book? And I really should read The Castle in the Attic after promising Nathan I would. Hmm.

I reviewed Fear and Trembling (review here). Kierkegaard was probably brilliant, but we don't speak the same language. I find authors like Chesterton much more congenial. But that doesn't mean I won't pick up more books by Kierkegaard if I see them at booksales. Now I can use big phrases like "the teleological suspension of the ethical," woots.

Last night I wanted something light after trudging through that review, so I started a fun little book on Roald Dahl, D is for Dahl. I am delighted to finally know the proper pronunciation of his first name! (It's Norwegian, pronounced "roo-all.") It's a cute little book and Dahl is a fascinating author to learn about. I'm up to "O" and hope to finish it today.

Aug 13, 2010, 8:37am Top

You'd definitely be able to eat up The Castle in the Attic (and its sequel too, given how quickly you read!) in that period of time, and I think you'd enjoy it, but don't feel pressured. I haven't read any of your suggestions yet. If we don't make it through all four this year, then they can simply be shifted over to the next.

(Although at some point I think we should do this again—next time with YA hi-fi!)

Aug 13, 2010, 9:14am Top

Of your bunch, the only ones I've read are the Bartimaeus Trilogy. I would love to recommend bringing The Amulet of Samarkand, but if you're going to be interrupted at various points in proctoring, it might be hard to keep track of the footnotes, though come to think of it they tend to be much shorter than those in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Aug 18, 2010, 8:37am Top

I did eat up The Castle in the Attic, but it was late and I was tired. I will have to skim again before I can review it. I enjoyed it and I can see why it would cast a spell over a young reader. It will be interesting to explore its similarities to Lynne Reid Banks' Indian in the Cupboard series. I've started The Battle for the Castle and there are some Narnia parallels as well. Good stuff. Now you have to read one of the books I assigned to you, Nathan :)

I did not have time to get to The Amulet of Samarkand, sadly! But it's high on the list. I did finish D is for Dahl and will be reviewing that soon.

Well, I managed to finish Chesapeake Saturday and was very happy to be done with it. It was very good historical fiction and I enjoyed it, but I was ready to move on to something else. My review is here.

I also reviewed Passion and Purity (here). It had a lot of good concepts, but I found it to be too autobiographical (I wasn't expecting her story to take center stage so constantly in the book) and not very well organized.

I reviewed my latest audiobook, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (here). It was excellent! Heald's reading was great and I thoroughly entered into the world of the book. I find myself giving fewer and fewer high ratings lately; four stars is pretty high for me nowadays.

I'm almost done with my reread of Till We Have Faces for the reading group I am helping to lead, and have started the audiobook of Georgette Heyer's Simon the Coldheart, which I am simply loving.

Edited: Aug 18, 2010, 11:31am Top

Yay! I had a dream last night that you hated the Castle books, or at least one of them. Glad to hear it's not so.

And I'm thrilled that Simon the Coldheart is actually good. So many Heyer fans seem to dislike it, and Heyer herself tried to have it not be republished, I believe. If you like it, I will feel somewhat justified in my overwhelming desire to read it.

EDIT: I don't remember any Narnia parallels in Battle for the Castle. I'll certainly be interested in hearing more about this! And don't worry; I'll be getting to those before the end of the year. Right now, I have a few I *have* to finish before Rena and I start The Woman in White. Then I may intersperse your "assigned reading" with the heftier books I plan to read this fall.

Aug 18, 2010, 8:23pm Top

I'm one of those Heyer fans who don't much like our coldhearted friend. I think it's just because it's unlike Heyer, so it feels wrong. I'm glad you love it Amy, and look forward to your review.

Nathan, I've taken up The Same River Twice now, and I'm reading that at home, and Anna Karenina abroad, so I don't foresee these being finished terribly soon. But it's definitely early spring here, so your "fall" must be just about upon you. And we know what that means... :)

Edited: Aug 19, 2010, 8:51am Top

No, Nathan, I didn't hate the Castle books! I finished The Battle for the Castle last night. I will review both soon (and yes, I did see several parallels between Narnia and the Castle's medieval world in both books, but they are fairly loose connections in most cases).

I'm glad I didn't know about Heyer not liking Simon the Coldheart; it might have negatively predisposed me toward the book. I'm on the fifth disc (of nine) and am really enjoying it. Simon is a lot of fun to read about and Heyer paints him and the people around him so deftly. It doesn't feel un-Heyerish to me somehow, at least not yet. I'm liking it much more than Royal Escape, which admittedly became something of a chore to finish.

The actor reading the book is pretty good, though he has a slight habit of saying a character's lines and then saying "he said" in the same voice. Also, there is a lot of distortion on the recording whenever he raises his voice. It must be an older production.

Rena, did you know about the month-long celebration of Heyer that is happening over at the Austenprose blog?

I reviewed D is for Dahl (here). Good stuff. I enjoyed learning more about him as a person and an author.

Next up is probably Mary Stewart's The Ivy Tree (does anyone know if that is a good place to start with her work?). After that I think I will try another Trollope book (after my failed attempt at Can You Forgive Her? a couple years ago). The experts in the Trollope group have advised The Warden and Barchester Towers to start with.

When I'm finished with Simon the Coldheart I think my next audiobook will be Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. And I need to pick up another nonfiction title... hmm.

Aug 19, 2010, 9:31am Top

Haha, I sometimes catch myself doing that too—reading the dialogue tag in the character's voice. Usually my sister doesn't notice.

I've not read The Ivy Tree, but I do have it lying around. I hope some of Stewart's Gothic romances are better than This Rough Magic, because I didn't like that at all. Don't give up on Stewart until you read the Merlin Trilogy, though!

Aug 19, 2010, 12:36pm Top

I'm eager to read your thoughts on The Ivy Tree. Her Merlin Trilogy plus the fourth Merlin book, The Wicked Day, are among the best retellings of the Merlin and Arthur saga out there. There is a fifth Merlin book The Prince and the Pilgrim that she wrote much later that I have not gotten to. I enjoyed them so much that I randomly grabbed the Ivy Tree at my local used book store, but have not worked up the gumption to read it yet.

'Fate has more than one arrow.' A great line from The Last Enchantment (I think, maybe The Wicked Day. Not sure which)

Aug 19, 2010, 1:09pm Top

The Ivy Tree was one of the first Stewart books I ever read, which may be why it remains one of my sentimental favorites. I would probably rate Nine Coaches Waiting, My Brother Michael and The Ivy Tree as my top three favorites, but all of her romantic suspense novels are enjoyable to read (though the romances are often rushed and her characters date to the time in which the books were written in the 50s & 60s). I don't think it matters which one you start with.

I also enjoyed Simon the Coldheart because it reminded me a bit of some of those old-fashioned swashbuckling type adventure novels that just aren't written anymore, though I would concede it's not one of Heyer's best.

What are your thoughts on Till We Have Faces? I've always had a fascination for it because the Cupid & Psyche myth is one of my favorites.

Aug 19, 2010, 1:34pm Top

Nathan, don't worry — one of these days I will pick up her Arthurian trilogy! I own it already. I love that line you quoted, DP.

Thanks for your thoughts on Stewart, ludmilla! I'm looking forward to starting The Ivy Tree on my lunch break today.

Have you read Till We Have Faces? It's just... scarily brilliant, the work of a mature and powerful writer at his apex. Lewis thought it was his best work, and I might just have to agree with him. There is not a word misplaced. I reviewed it when I first read it in 2008, but I'm picking up so much more this time, little subtleties like an unreliable narrator who believes she is perfectly reliable, the way that Orual slowly becomes like the gods she despises, etc.

One thing I am still marveling at is how Lewis was able to write a female character's first-person narration with such uncanny insight. If I didn't know who the author was, I would have assumed without question that it was a woman. There's one line near the end in which Orual says that "the one crime for which the gods never forgive us is that of being born a woman." I've read about the impact that Lewis' wife Joy had on this book, and it's fascinating to look for her influence.

Aug 19, 2010, 2:03pm Top

Yes, Till We Have Faces is an utterly surprising work; before I read it I would have thought it was beyond even Lewis' estimable powers, but boy was I wrong. And as a writer, I can't tell you how hard it is to write from the point of view of the opposite sex. To do so convincingly is an accomplishment in and of itself.

DirtPriest, I tried to read The Prince and the Pilgrim but could not finish it. It's not on a level with the other four, that's for sure.

Aug 20, 2010, 9:53am Top

Well, I polished off the last two books in my review queue, The Castle in the Attic (review here) and The Battle for the Castle (review here). I enjoyed them both, though I think I would have liked them more had I read them younger.

We are super slow at work this week. I got about halfway through The Ivy Tree yesterday and I am certainly enjoying it despite a couple glaring flaws (some comments about women not being "reasonable human beings" and a tendency to overuse ellipses...). So far Stewart is reminding me of Victoria Holt, but Stewart is a much better writer. We'll see how it turns out.

Aug 20, 2010, 10:34am Top

*wishes he could time-travel back to give the young Amy copies of the "Castle" books*

Although, I should mention that while I read and enjoyed the books when I was younger, it wasn't until I rediscovered them as an adult that I simply fell in love with them. These are the kind of stories that grow with you, I think.

Aug 23, 2010, 3:52am Top

Amy, thanks for the link to the Heyer thing at Austenprose. Awesome.

Aug 24, 2010, 12:56pm Top

Just dropping by to say hi!

Aug 24, 2010, 1:15pm Top

You're welcome, Lorena!

Hi Porua! I was just popping in to give an update. I finished The Warden, the first of Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire novels, and liked it quite a bit (review). Many thanks to the Trollope group for their suggestions for a good place to start with his books!

I also reviewed my first Mary Stewart book, The Ivy Tree. I liked it, but I think I would like it even more on a reread. It was quite gripping. I'll definitely be revisiting Stewart.

I've had oodles of time lately at work and have polished off the first two books Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand and The Golem's Eye. What a strange series. The best description I can think of is Screwtape meets Artemis Fowl meets Harry Potter. Crazy combination! Reviews will be forthcoming. I'm moving right on to the third, Ptolemy's Gate.

Aug 24, 2010, 8:54pm Top

How fascinating that you designate Dr Grantly a villain! I think my thinking must have been completely influenced by Barchester Towers, where he is exactly the same character, but not a villain at all. But then, in BT, some REAL villains arrive, which sorts out the good from the bad more clearly than in The Warden.

I'm so glad you liked it! They only get better from here! (Says me, who's only read BT besides currently listening to Dr Thorne from LibriVox). Porius is the resident Trollope expert, I believe.

Aug 26, 2010, 1:40pm Top

Great review of The Warden! My heart still bleeds when I think of the time I could have bought the entire set of Chronicles of Barsetshire books but was too broke to do so. :-(

Aug 27, 2010, 9:13am Top

That's funny, Lorena, another person also thought it was odd that I would see Dr. Grantly as a villain. I guess he really isn't, but I was so determined that Mr. Harding should get his way and not be bullied that perhaps it made me a little bitter toward his well-meaning oppressor. Another problem I have with Grantly is how his children are turning out, not that parents are 100% responsible for their children's choices, but parents are supposed to provide discipline along with love and it seems Grantly doesn't do much as a father. He's more concerned with the church than he is with his own family, it seems. However, I look forward to getting to know him better and perhaps revising that opinion in the next book :)

Oh Porua. Don't you hate book regrets? I've got a few of my own :(

I finished and reviewed Simon the Coldheart. It was so good at the end that I created work for myself (ie, some mending I'd been putting off) so I could sit and finish it Saturday.

I also blazed through the Bartimaeus Trilogy this past week... wow. It's been awhile since I've enjoyed a YA fantasy series so much. My review of the first book is here. I read the last two books in a day apiece... fun stuff.

Aug 27, 2010, 11:10am Top

Something about Simon the Coldheart reminded me of Rafael Sabatini's Bellarion -- two characters cut from the same mold in my way of thinking.

Aug 27, 2010, 4:27pm Top

#182 I so hate having book regrets! But unfortunately, I've got a quite a few of them.

Aug 31, 2010, 3:01pm Top

I've never read Bellarion, but I have read Sabatini's Scaramouche and the protagonist in that one certainly has Coldheart-esque tendencies too. I think that comparison is a good one.

I reviewed the second two Bartimaeus books, The Golem's Eye (here) and Ptolemy's Gate (here). I have to admit it feels a little odd to be so enthusiastic; I haven't enjoyed a fantasy series like this for a long time. I mention this in my PG review, but reading this series made me feel like a teenager again (in a good way!). I will definitely be rereading this series.

I picked up Lady Audley's Secret over the weekend and finished it last night. It was my introduction to another Victorian sensationalist author, Mary Elizabeth Braddon. It was pretty good. Review will be forthcoming.

I've also started The Big Sleep on audiobook, read by Elliott Gould. It's good, if a bit gritty in some of the details. But I guess that comes with the turf when you read hardboiled detective fiction.

I'm also enjoying my first John Piper book, The Pleasures of God. It's very good so far.

Aug 31, 2010, 3:34pm Top

You’re reading Raymond Chandler. I’ve thought of reading his books. I made a foray in to the noir genre earlier this year with The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson, which I really enjoyed. But the genre is a little sexist. And from what I know about The Big Sleep it is kind of misogynistic. I don't know if I'd like it. I'd like to know your opinion about the book, Amy.

Aug 31, 2010, 9:33pm Top

Porua, you might try Megan Abbott, who writes old-fashioned hard-boileds from a feminist perspective. Queenpin is her newest novel.

Sep 1, 2010, 1:56pm Top

#187 Thank you for your recommendation, RidgewayGirl. I've heard about Megan Abbott's books. A fellow LT'er read Queenpin earlier this year and she enjoyed it too.

Sep 8, 2010, 1:03pm Top

I'm on disc 5 of 6 of The Big Sleep. It's gritty and oddly... ungritty at the same time. Like some of the stuff that happens is fairly graphic, but then Chandler uses a blank for the swear words and apparently pornography was still illegal back then. I'm enjoying it, but cautiously. I see why there are allegations of misogyny aimed at the genre. Maybe I'll try an Abbott book sometime too, thanks RG.

Well, I was sick with a nasty headcold all weekend so I spent two days on the couch. I read four books (and we also watched the sixth season of LOST. So nice to be done and to have our lives back!). A friend emailed me about the movie adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth; it was supposed to come out in November but has been moved to February. So that inspired my Sutcliff binge. I reread The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, and The Lantern Bearers, all set at various periods in Britain's ancient history. There's no one like Rosemary Sutcliff for intelligent historical fiction; her characters are so true to their period and yet so relatable. It was great to read them back to back like that.

I also read my first Edmund Crispin book, The Case of the Gilded Fly, which is the first mystery featuring Gervase Fen. It was all right. I wasn't overly impressed. Review forthcoming.

And I finally got around to reviewing Lady Audley's Secret (here). I wouldn't rush out to buy more of Braddon's work, but I would snatch it rather snatchily if I saw it at a booksale.

Speaking of which, I have one tonight. Life is good!

Sep 8, 2010, 1:48pm Top

Glad to know that you're now well enough to go to a booksale after a weekend of illness. :-)

Sep 8, 2010, 2:00pm Top

I'm always well enough for a booksale! :D Well, unless I'm on my deathbed or something.

I reviewed The Case of the Gilded Fly (here). It's a short review, for once!

Sep 8, 2010, 8:59pm Top

>189 atimco: Yay for LOST! Though I'm not sure it's quite what I'd choose if I was sick. Too much going on, too much to think about... Also, glad to see you enjoyed the Bartimaeus Trilogy. I'm waiting with bated breath for The Ring of Solomon, which is a prequel, apparently, and coming out on November 2.

Hmm...I have Lantern Bearers in my library and have been thinking about reading the series. Looks like I should move The Eagle of the Ninth and the rest up on the TBR pile.

Sep 10, 2010, 2:17pm Top

Found this when I was copy-pasting reviews from my 50BC to the review pages where they belong. This is from my review from early spring this year. You made a comment above somewhere about a pet peeve involving excess commas.

"A last note, The Rise of the Greeks is filled, quite singularly, with huge, complex, comma filled, (with stuff here (and sub-ideas in brackets) and finishing a thought over here), yet, somehow, the idea, such as it is, gets across to the reader, in spite of, or maybe because of, all the commas, but I, however, doubt it. Maybe it's a British thing, but it was blatant in the beginning and tapered off as the book continued along. Just an observation on the subtleties of editing."

Thought you might get a laugh out of it.

Sep 10, 2010, 3:03pm Top

Nice one, DP! :-P

Yes, I was a little boggled by LOST but isn't that just part of the fun? I like to see how confused they can make me. I'm not sure what I think of the ending yet... *SPOILERS* I definitely don't like that stained-glass window and all its implications, and the fact that everyone gets a happy ending just sort of cheapens their deaths and previous experiences. And so many questions remain unanswered. Ah well.

I know about The Ring of Solomon and I'm really looking forward to it as well! We'll have to exchange opinions when it comes out.

bell7, I can't recommend Sutcliff enough. Have you ever read anything of hers? She's superb. I labored a bit over the reviews for my recent Sutcliff reads, The Eagle of the Ninth (review), The Silver Branch (review), and The Lantern Bearers (review). I think I've got them how I want them. It's hard to do justice to her skill.

My booksale was fairly good the other night, though the hardback prices were ridiculous. $2 for a battered ex-library hardcover? I don't think so! It was a pity too because I found a matching set of Barbara Pym novels that would look so nice ranged together on the shelf. But that would be upwards of $16 — eep! Plus all the other books I found. So I took a deep breath and left them along with a few other hardcovers I'd picked up. I ended up with eight paperbacks and those were priced all right at fifty cents apiece. Notable finds were three Diana Wynne Jones titles (Dark Lord of Derkholm, Year of the Griffin, and the second volume of her Chronicles of Chrestomanci), Rosemary Sutcliff's The Shining Company, John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga, and The Hounds of the Morrigan, a gamble on an unknown author, Pat O'Shea.

Sep 10, 2010, 3:20pm Top

#193 "(and sub-ideas in brackets)"

Hey I do that! It's not that bad (or is it?).

#194 Glad you had a productive book sale, Amy. Too bad about the high priced hardbacks.

Sep 10, 2010, 3:50pm Top

Subdividing brackets are fine with me, but my algebra skills might surpass my language skills believe it or not, so I am biased. They are good enough to consider myself bilingual. My friend's daughters are both taking higher maths and French in school right now and they loved my old 'Learning algebra is easier than learning French' joke.

Sep 10, 2010, 5:55pm Top

Oh, good work with the DWJ books! Those are some of her very best, IMHO.

Sep 10, 2010, 6:04pm Top

>194 atimco: I will have to watch the finale again, methinks. I don't remember the specifics of what you mention, though overall I was very happy with the ending and didn't think they left any of the more important threads hanging.

I admit (rather shamefacedly) that I have never yet read a book by Rosemary Sutcliff. It's really very sad, considering how long she's been on my radar and how long I've owned one of her books. In your opinion could I read Lantern Bearers first (this is what I own), or should I really start at the beginning of the series and work up to it?

Sep 13, 2010, 10:09am Top

Loved all the Sutcliff reviews, and was glad to see them go head-to-head in the Hot Reviews column. Especially liked all the talk of "oldish first editions." :P My Sutcliff experience is limited, consisting merely of Black Ships Before Troy, Sword at Sunset, Tristan and Iseult, and Flame-Colored Taffeta. I have Warrior Scarlet and The Eagle of the Ninth on my shelves: which would you suggest reading first?

Sep 13, 2010, 11:53am Top

Ah, slow connection here, and the touchstones are being, well, touchy. Would edit but fear I would just lose more instead of gaining them.

Sep 13, 2010, 12:06pm Top

ronin, thanks for the enthusiastic recommendation for Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin! I've enjoyed her Dalemark Quartet and have wanted to read more of her work for awhile now. Those two are moving up the to-read pile quickly.

bell7, I envy your first time reading a Sutcliff book! You could start with The Lantern Bearers, but while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I'm not sure it's very representative of the bulk of her work. I would recommend Warrior Scarlet or The Eagle of the Ninth as your first, but it's up to you. The Lantern Bearers is excellent and each book of the series is only loosely connected to the others, so you could start there if you wanted. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you do pick one up!

Nathan, The Eagle of the Ninth is probably her most famous novel, but I really, really love Warrior Scarlet. It's one of those books that shaped me as a young reader (I am thankful it is such a technically brilliant novel; how many readers have been misformed by poorly written books they read as youngsters?). But really, both are so good it's just personal preference to decide between them. What would you rather read about — the Bronze Age about 900 years BC, or Roman Britain circa AD 130?

Sep 14, 2010, 4:23pm Top

I meant to celebrate my 400th review (The Silver Branch), but I forgot. Uh, here's to 402 reviews, woohoo! :)

I've tossed out some thoughts on Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, which I recently finished on audiobook. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's definitely different from my usual reads, but I found it oddly engaging and will probably look for more by Chandler. But the LT reviews seem to agree that Dashiell Hammett is better. Anyone have an opinion on that point?

My current audiobook is the first in a planned ten-volume series *gulp*, Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. It's a whopping 36 CDs unabridged and so far I'm enjoying it (only one and a half discs in). It's so unashamedly genre fantasy; Sanderson makes no apology or allowance for anyone skeptical of the usual medieval-esque fantasy conventions. I'm reviewing this for SFSite.com, but I'll be working on this one for awhile.

In other news, I finally finished Christian Encounters: St. Francis from Thomas Nelson publishers. Francis's life leaves me conflicted. I think his theology is demonstrably unbiblical in places, but his sincerity and devotion can't be questioned. And I'm not sure what to do with all the miracles he is said to have performed (including being the first person to manifest stigmata). As a Christian (Protestant) I believe in the miracles recounted in the Bible, but I have a hard time with the ones supposedly performed by saints. Some of them seem so frivolous and silly. Also, what can we make of the unnatural devotion that so many animals showed Francis? Is it biblical to preach to animals and fields? I need to think about this a bit more before committing myself in a review.

I was planning on starting Patricia Wrede's Dealing with Dragons next, but it seemed so fluffy after the bio on Francis so I took out a few more chapters of The Pleasures of God. The chapter on prayer was incredibly convicting and I think I need to reread it before I move on in the book. "Prayer is a wartime walkie talkie for spiritual warfare, not a domestic intercom to increase the comforts of the saints." Ouch. Between that and Francis's incredibly sacrificial, self-denying life, I was feeling kind of spiritually flabby last night. It's good for me.

Sep 14, 2010, 4:42pm Top

#202 Congrats on your 400+ reviews! I've managed to write 70 so far. :-)

Sep 14, 2010, 6:25pm Top

On Raymond Chandler vs. Dashiell Hammett: from what I understand, Chandler is generally considered to be the greater prose stylist of the two, while Hammett was slightly more varied in his output.

Have you checked out the film version of The Big Sleep yet?

Sep 17, 2010, 10:54am Top

Congratulations on the 400 reviews milestone! Not only the quantity but the quality of your output are amazing!

Sep 23, 2010, 4:12pm Top

Thanks guys for your congrats! :)

Nathan, I just picked up the film from the library yesterday. We'll probably watch it this weekend.

Okay, so here is my review of Christian Encounters: Saint Francis. I'm still rather perplexed about some things, notably the issue of stigmata. That's pretty crazy stuff! If it's legitimate, how did we go twelve centuries with no reported cases? Don't tell me there was no one as dedicated to Christ as Francis in all that time. And that implies that stigmata is brought about by the person's devotion, not necessarily by supernatural means. Wikipedia was no help either.

And theologically the notion of stigmata is so sketchy. There's that verse in Galatians 6 where Paul says he bears in his body the marks of Jesus, but that is commonly understood to refer to his scars from his whippings and stonings, not to a manifestation of Christ's wounds. And as I sort of mention in my review, the whole point of Jesus's wounds was so that we would not have to suffer the punishment we deserve. He took the nails so we wouldn't. What does it say about our understanding of grace if we think we can add to Christ's payment for our sin?

Sep 23, 2010, 4:21pm Top

I felt the same sense of inappropriateness as in post 202 when I did not want to juxtapose Wrede's fluffy fantasy with a serious religious bio, so I'm doubleposting. My reviews basically say it all (here is the collective review, with individual links, on my one-volume edition). I really should trust myself as a child more... I wasn't so dumb after all!

And I have started my annual Tolkien reread as of yesterday — happy birthday Bilbo and Frodo :). This year I am reading the two-volume The Book of Lost Tales. Christopher Tolkien's notes are absolutely amazing. I'm not very far in but it's incredible so far. Heavy reading, to be sure, but so beautiful.

I'm still enjoying Sanderson's The Way of Kings, but seriously, why does every female character have to be described as wearing a dress that is tight around her breasts and slim waist with a full skirt below? It's getting so repetitive. And Kaladin's windspren is forever "cocking" her head. Repetitive descriptions like that bug me like crazy and are even more noticeable in an audiobook! I'm enjoying the world-building and all the various cultures, but these little things are so irritating because they could have been so easily fixed.

I'm on disc 7 and still slogging away. At this rate I won't get done until the end of the year! Sanderson is awfully wordy. It really makes me appreciate fantasy authors who can delineate a world for their readers in just a paragraph or two. Those are the ones I'd model myself on if I ever attempted a novel.

Edited: Sep 23, 2010, 4:56pm Top

#207 "...but seriously, why does every female character have to be described as wearing a dress that is tight around her breasts and slim waist with a full skirt below? It's getting so repetitive."

This sounds kind of like the descriptions in The Pillars of the Earth. Every woman (or rather their bodies) is described in great detail. Of course, that book has much worse things in it than that. But this comes pretty close. That one was a huge book too.

Sep 23, 2010, 4:57pm Top

Oooooh, it seems I need to get a magic sword, so that even little passive, ineffective me can woo a butt-kicking feminist heroine. Preferably one who wears a dress tight across the brest, with a slim waist and a full skirt below.

Yessss. So much to glean from these fantasy novels.

Edited: Sep 23, 2010, 8:43pm Top

Are the men's outfits described in terms of how they fit around the various body parts?

edited to add:

Your comments on stigmata were very well expressed.

Edited: Oct 5, 2010, 9:04am Top

Re: tight women's clothing in The Way of Kings: No, I don't think the men's clothing is described that way (unless there are descriptions of their armor or shirts fitting tightly across their chests, I don't remember). Good question, RG. I am still slogging through this audiobook and just put in disc 10 (of 32!) yesterday. Unless I cheat and pick up a print version somewhere, this is going to be a really long haul...

Thanks also for your comment on my stigmata musings. I think they are more muddy than anything else, but I'm pretty sure I come down on the side of skepticism.

I've finished the first volume of The Book of Lost Tales and enjoyed it quite a bit, even the scholarly tone in Christopher Tolkien's notes at the end of each chapter. It is fascinating to see the evolution of history and legend in Middle-earth; Tolkien was forever going back and changing what we would think of as insignificant details like names and roles. Christopher remarks at one point that the way the stories evolved actually seems to reflect the way that history changes and is perceived in our real world. Interesting stuff. I'm halfway through the second volume now and have just finished the early tale of Turambar. Tragic doesn't begin to cover it.

In other reading news, I finished and reviewed some books:

The Pleasures of God by John Piper (review here): Very, very good, and my review doesn't begin to touch on all the topics Piper tackles. I really love how he doesn't hesitate to go deeply intellectual/theological on us; he gets into some very complicated questions in the notes and brings clarity to so many issues. It is also fascinating to watch him debate back and forth with theologians of different opinions. But all this is secondary to the rich biblical truth of our joyful God. Everything that He does pleases Him; He is never constrained in any way. I love it.

The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark (review here): This review took so long because I really did try to make myself pick this book up again after my initial read. I wanted to read all of it before reviewing it. But I just couldn't make myself! Clark was too much of a egotist to permit me to enjoy his work. And I hate politics... don't bring them into a book about grammar! One star from me and he was lucky to get that.

Grace: God's Unmerited Favor by C. H. Spurgeon (actually not by him; see the review): This is my rant against all meddlesome publishers who rewrite/abridge an author's works and then expect to sell the butchered results on the strength of the author's name. Whitaker House, thy design upon this work art vile.

Oct 5, 2010, 9:15am Top

Oh! I almost forgot to report on all the books I found at the booksale last week. It was an excellent one! I found:

Roverandom and Bilbo's Last Song (the latter illustrated by Pauline Baynes!) by J. R. R. Tolkien
God of the Fairy Tale by Jim Ware
• a lovely new Sourcebooks edition of Georgette Heyer's The Unfinished Clue
The Charwoman's Shadow by Lord Dunsany
• the fourth Temeraire book (an ARC), Empire of Ivory, by Naomi Novik
• Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin
• a bunch of Stephen Lawhead titles
Ombria in Shadow and The Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia McKillip
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
The Oxford Book of English Detective Stories
Shadow of the Moon by M. M. Kaye
Sword Song by Rosemary Sutcliff
• and various other goodies

Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. I had to start double-shelving my YA fiction to get some of the piles cleared off the floor.

Oct 5, 2010, 9:38am Top

*Started* double shelving? I swear, over half my books are double-shelved! I should post pictures of my shelves sometime. It's truly miraculous that I can fit 458 books into my little room and closet, with I think about 250 of them in said closet.

What is it about grammar/comp book writers and tangential rants? I had one like that in my Advanced Composition class last year; I don't remember if his tangents were political in nature or not (and if they were, they would have gone the opposite way from Clark's, I'm fairly sure), but he thought himself amazingly clever and it was definitely wearing after a while. All my classmates loved it, though. I much preferred Rhetorical Grammar by Martha Kolln.

Oct 5, 2010, 9:46am Top

Well, I have serious double-shelving going on everywhere else but I had hoped, with an entire wall dedicated to YA fiction, that I wouldn't have to do it there. Ha, not a chance.

Oct 5, 2010, 10:04am Top

>221 Great review of The Glamour of Grammar. I had thought the premise sounded interesting, but honestly I got enough political-rants-as-tangents from my professors at college. I prefer to skip them in my literature when I can help it.

Oct 5, 2010, 1:04pm Top

Wonderful haul of books from the sale, Amy! The bookcase in my room is threatening to give way. Got to find more space!

Oct 5, 2010, 8:14pm Top

Most of my books are in boxes and crates :( I'm waiting to find The Perfect Bookcase for my living room, and haven't stumbled across it yet. Of course, by the time I do find it, I'll need about ten more.

Brandon Sanderson isn't the world's best fantasy author, but he does a great podcast with two other genre writers here: http://www.writingexcuses.com/

Oct 6, 2010, 8:42am Top

Thanks bell7. I really don't mind reading authors whose views differ from my own, but when they start making fun of people who hold different beliefs, I'm done. There are too many good books out there to waste time on the nasty ones.

I'll have to check out that podcast, thanks Rena. I have another friend who likes Sanderson's stuff and apparently he seems like a humble guy and is all about the fans. I might just cave and borrow the print version of The Way of Kings from this friend... being on disc 10 of 32, and feeling like I've been in the book forever already, is not fun.

I forgot to mention earlier — Sunday I had a crazy desire to reread Jane Eyre and so I did. In one sitting. I didn't realize until afterward that I hadn't gotten up once throughout the entire afternoon. Ahh, good stuff. And now I want to watch the Timothy Dalton miniseries again... good thing my husband like it too!

Oct 6, 2010, 3:10pm Top

218 - I'll be interested to hear what you think about The Way of Kings when you finish. I read his Warbreaker and Mistborn trilogy this year and quite enjoyed them. Though I don't know if I could make it though audiobooks of any fantsy really.

Jane Eyre is one of my favorites. Last year I bought a second copy because my original was falling to pieces.

Oct 6, 2010, 8:30pm Top

>218 atimco: I'd agree with you there. Well-thought out arguments by authors with different beliefs, great. I like having something to chew on from time to time. But jokes or rants about issues that assume that the opposing party is an idiot (regardless of whether or not I happen to agree with the author's position), I definitely prefer to pass by.

By the way, I finally have The Eagle of Ninth out from the library. I might read my first Sutcliff book over the weekend!

Edited: Oct 7, 2010, 11:16am Top

219: I've heard good things about the Mistborn books. I think I would be enjoying this more if I were reading it rather than listening to it. Sanderson does have a great imagination and his world-building is effective. I just wish he were able to accomplish all this in fewer words.

I was surprised to realize I only have two copies of Jane Eyre. I'm waiting for a nice hardback copy to show up in my various booksale perusals.

bell7: w00t! Though I do hope I haven't overhyped Sutcliff for you. Sometimes that happens with glowing recommendations. The film version of The Eagle of the Ninth is coming out in February and I'm looking forward to it (despite ominous hints on Wikipedia of the director making it "relevant").

I finished a very short collection of Martin Luther's writings the other day and reviewed it here. I am really starting to love these old theologians.

Oct 25, 2010, 3:45pm Top

I haven't had much reading time lately, but I did finally manage to finish The Book of Lost Tales (review here). What do you guys think about the posthumous publication of an author's drafts and outlines? I never really considered the question before...

I'm still in The Way of Kings but will be finishing it in print. So I've started A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs. Between Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegles, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. The Feegles are hilarious! (And I don't mind Pratchett staying a bit more G-rated either.)

I'm also reading Trollope's Barchester Towers. It almost feels like a duty that I read a classic after all the YA and fantasy stuff I've been indulging in lately. Perhaps for that reason things are rather slow going in Barsetshire at the moment — though I can see drama looming. I do love Trollope's narrative voice. On author's devices to heighten suspense and/or mislead the reader, he says,

"Our doctrine is that the author and reader should move along together in full confidence with each other" (127).

Oh yes, I like him.

Of course sometimes I do enjoy tricksy dramatic authors too (Wilkie Collins, I'm looking at you). But Trollope's philosophy makes for a nice change.

Oct 25, 2010, 4:18pm Top

# 222 "It almost feels like a duty that I read a classic after all the YA and fantasy stuff I've been indulging in lately."

I’m feeling that way too. I have been reading way too many mysteries lately. After I finish my latest for my Monthly Author Reads Group, I’m going to try to get in a classic or two.

Oct 28, 2010, 1:40pm Top

I put down some thoughts on Barchester Towers in my review here. It started getting much more engaging after my last post and I became quite absorbed in the latter half. So much so that when I was having my oil changed the other night, the blaring reality/game shows on the TV in the waiting area were very easy to tune out.

The Way of Kings is far less burdensome in print than on audiobook, though I still wish Sanderson wasn't so wordy. Ah well.

Oct 28, 2010, 9:00pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Oct 29, 2010, 2:09pm Top

# 224 Avoiding your review of Barchester Towers for the time being as I hope to read it soon. Glad you liked it.

# 225 How about a spoiler alert, Muse? ;-)

Oct 29, 2010, 2:23pm Top

Trollope tells you right off the bat about the suitors, Porua, as soon as they are introduced. So I guess he's the worst spoiler of us all :)

Oct 29, 2010, 2:42pm Top

# 227 An author is totally allowed to spoil his/her own book! I'd rather find out from him/her. ;-)

Oct 31, 2010, 9:01pm Top

Awww, sorry Porua. I'll delete the post. :(

Nov 2, 2010, 4:00pm Top

# 229 Oh no I totally understand. It was unintentional on your part my dear! Thanks for being so considerate. :-)

Nov 5, 2010, 3:36pm Top

I finished and reviewed The Way of Kings (here). Thanks RidgewayGirl for your comment about how Sanderson describes the clothing of the women versus that of the men — hope you don't mind that I borrowed it for my review :)

I have a bunch of books to review, including the audiobook of Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky, Howl's Moving Castle, Something Fresh, and Can God Bless America?. I'm hoping for some time this weekend to knock these out.

And I've started Oliver Twist on audiobook, read by Nadia May (who is turning out to be an exceptional reader). I've also started the Bartimaeus book that just came out, The Ring of Solomon. As a prequel, I don't think it can match the brilliance of the last two in terms of emotional depth, but for high jinks and djinni jokes it's hard to find better.

I will also be starting Is God Just a Human Invention? soon... should be a fascinating read.

Nov 5, 2010, 4:29pm Top

Oh, and I forgot to mention a book I read for work, The Art of Client Service (reviewed here). Not nearly as interesting as fiction, but I thought about it for awhile afterwards.

Nov 9, 2010, 4:38pm Top

I finished The Ring of Solomon and I was right in my prediction for it in message 231. Good stuff and very entertaining, but lacking resonance. It doesn't help that Stroud gets a bit preachy either.

I reviewed Howl's Moving Castle (here). Three stars; can't say I loved it.

I also reviewed A Hat Full of Sky (here). I wonder if the library has The Wee Free Men and I Shall Wear Midnight on audiobook. Stephen Briggs did a wonderful job narrating.

Nov 9, 2010, 6:35pm Top

Sounds like you've been dealing with a lot of literary preachifying recently, poor dear. Have a chocolate.

Nov 10, 2010, 4:27pm Top

# 233 Enjoyed your review of Howls Moving Castle. Thumbs!

Nov 11, 2010, 1:10am Top

>234 ncgraham: Lols, Nathan :)

Amy, nice review of A Hat full of Sky. Interesting comparison with Narnia, and its inverse message. I think you've got a good point there. I think it's the intention that really gets to people - no one likes to be preached at in fiction, whatever the message may be.

Nov 11, 2010, 3:18pm Top

If only that chocolate was real, I would undergo double the preachifying if I could munch on it betimes :)

Thanks Porua! I've put the animated film on hold at the library. It's anime, a genre I am completely unfamiliar with. We'll see how it is. I hear the movie is quite a bit different from the book.

Lorena, yeah. I was listening as Pratchett gets up quite a sermon in favor of his views and hating it when I suddenly realized that this was how some people may feel when reading the Chronicles (not that I think Lewis is ever quite that preachy and explicit). Honestly, I don't mind "preaching" (meaning the exploration of a belief system) if it's done well, is part of the philosophy undergirding the story, and (of course) if I agree with it :). Not that I can't enjoy books that promote opposing belief systems (I did give A Hat Full of Sky quite a high rating, after all, and liked it quite a bit). I think the annoyance comes in when 1.) the preaching overtakes and dominates the story, 2.) the preaching is contradictory to the reader's belief system, and/or 3.) the work itself is brilliantly done and therefore makes that opposing belief system look good.


I really hate disappointing people, but DirtPriest, you will have to forgive me for not loving Byzantium. I'm on page 328 of 870 and I just can't do it. There is something about Lawhead's prose that I just don't like. Maybe it's the attempts to sound Irish (every now and then prefacing a statement with "Sure, and") or just the way the story is dragging, I don't know. I'm seriously considering dropping it, so unless there's something wildly different and great that happens soon, I probably will. When a book starts feeling like a chore to pick up, it's time to put it down. Sorry :(

Oliver Twist continues to be wonderful on audiobook.

I'm considering a reread of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows before part 1 of 7 comes out in theaters. Todd and I and some friends are going to have an HP movie marathon that weekend and then go see it together. Can't wait! :)

Nov 11, 2010, 4:59pm Top

Isn't it the most scrumptious looking chocolate? Mmmm.

That's sort of disappointing about Lawhead, but not entirely surprising. I started Taliesin when I was younger and had much the same impression as you: odd prose and a story that dragged. I also heard that he tried to justify the Crusades ... ? But my best friend loves him and names Merlin as one of his favorite books, so I'm going to give Lawhead another chance or two at some point.

Maybe, in reference to the new Harry Potter movie, you should write "part 1 of #7," 'cause for a moment I was confused and thought you were referring to Sorcerer's Stone.... :P

Edited: Nov 17, 2010, 3:30pm Top

I'm not too disappointed. In a similar vein, I have a biography of Winston Churchill that I would dearly like to read but the language is so flowery and overdone that I just can't do it, even for one of what I consider to be the most fascinating people in history. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so. From a review here on LT, "It's an excellent book as far as content is concerned, but I find some of the writing rather dense. Jenkins has a tendency to hide the main clause at the end of a long and convoluted sentence after so many qualifying clauses that you've forgotten what it was all about by the time you get there. He also uses some rather obscure words." And this as well, "An extra bonus is that one comes to know from Jenkins' book such unusual but neat words as psephology and resile."

As an editor I thought you'd appreciate that, and I've also been on a strict comma diet.
Churchill: A Biography (in case you are interested in the LT page.)

Dec 20, 2010, 10:41pm Top

Amy, just a note to let you know I've set up a thread for "Future Women: Explorations and Aspirations" in the 2011 group. This is for the readings we talked about after reading The Postman in October, with post-apocalyptic or otherwise future views of women's role in societies. I'm not scheduling reading to start until February 1, but am letting people know so that they can star it and start acquiring books if they so choose.


Dec 31, 2010, 3:38pm Top


I've been incredibly busy lately and haven't had time to keep up here. Here is a quick list of what I've been reading lately (newest on top):

The Abolition of Man: Review forthcoming, if I can gather my thoughts. Lewis is hard to reduce to a review.

The Thirty-Nine Steps: Review forthcoming... I was a little underwhelmed.

The Wood Beyond the World: Review forthcoming — I loved the facsimile edition I read of the 1894 printing.

The Christmas Box: Review forthcoming.

The Eye of the World: Read this for a group I've joined that is going to read/reread the Wheel of Time series, one book a month, starting in January (yes, I'm early on this one because I don't want to fall behind). Review forthcoming.

A Christmas Carol: This was the Focus on the Family radio drama. I'm not sure I will review it, as I've reviewed the real story here already.

The Valley of Vision: I'm currently reading this as part of my devotional reading. What an amazing book! The prayers are almost like poems and I am reveling in the rich theology that undergirds every prayer. I love the first four opening lines of the title poem/prayer:

‎"Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory."

This just says it. Beautiful.

A friend lent me the book and after reading the first couple prayers, I knew I had to have my own copy. I bought a lovely leatherbound edition and I think it's going to be one of those constantly-read books for me. Forget My Utmost for His HighestThe Valley of Vision is so much better. It's too bad that "Puritan" has such negative connotations today. From what I've read of their work, I share most of their theological positions and find their devotion inspiring.

The Woman in White: Reviewed here. I have ncgraham's dad to blame/thank for this reread. Apparently he is reading/has read it recently and it sparked an impulse for me to pick up the book again. Such a good read!

My Family And Other Animals: Reviewed here. This was a fun diversion and has whetted my appetite to reread Herriot.

Is God Just a Human Invention?: I really am making my way through this Early Reviewer book! It's very good so far, but I find I have to be in a certain mood to read apologetic works. I get too riled :)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Reread this the week before the film came out. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I'm not sure I will take the time to review it. It has so many reviews already; what can I add?

Oliver Twist: Reviewed here. This was read by Nadia May and I really enjoyed her narration.

Old Friends And New Fancies: Reviewed here. This was the first attempted Jane Austen sequel (published 1913) and one that leaves me with conflicted feelings.

Can God Bless America?: Reviewed here. This is a very quick read, but MacArthur makes a lot of great points. We aren't entitled to special divine preference because we're Americans!

The Ring of Solomon: Reviewed here. A bit of a disappointment after the first three Bartimaeus books.

Something Fresh: Reviewed here. Wodehouse is always good!

Happily, I made my reading goal for 2010: 120 books. And that's not counting the ones I started and dropped (for the record, those were Byzantium (review here), The Chessmen of Doom (review here), and a dreadfully edited edition of Spurgeon's Grace: God's Unmerited Favor (review here)).

I haven't given much thought yet to my 2011 reading goals, but I think I want to steer clear of a numerical goal. Despite the feeling of accomplishment it gives this perfectionist, a numerical goal really misses the point of why I read. It isn't how many novels I can gorge on, but the quality of the reading experience. Maybe I need to just not make any goals for 2011 and see what happens in my reading.

Jan 4, 2011, 1:33pm Top

Group: Club Read 2010

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