With Sean Barrett's narration and the Wordsworth Classics edition I'm armed and ready for Charles Dickens' first historical novel, the one no one knowWith Sean Barrett's narration and the Wordsworth Classics edition I'm armed and ready for Charles Dickens' first historical novel, the one no one knows about.
Considering that my first Dickens was A Tale of Two Cities, which led to my happy travels through the rest of his books, I'm interested to see how this early historical compares.
I've only read the first four chapters but loved the way it begins with a dark night, a mysterious stranger, a ghost story told by the tavern fire, a kindly locksmith, a murder, and Barnaby Rudge who is (as G.K. Chesterton put it) an idiot. These politically correct days we'd say "mentally challenged." I have to say I was startled by what seems like a bold move, to have such a person as the titular character.
I scored this off of NetGalley. I was unsure how I'd feel about reading a Brene Brown book since I have only watched her TED Talks and listened to TheI scored this off of NetGalley. I was unsure how I'd feel about reading a Brene Brown book since I have only watched her TED Talks and listened to The Power of Vulnerability which is a series of workshop courses she gave.
I shouldn't have wondered. Brown's voice grabbed me from the moment I read the introduction. In fact, this book has already been life changing since her realization that "you can't skip Act 2" (a reference that will be clear when you read the book) was revelatory for my husband and me in a work situation that we're slogging through at the moment. It didn't change our point on the map, so to speak, so much as to point out where we were and that we weren't really lost in the Slough of Despond ... just working our way through it to Act 3.
At any rate, it's already been quite helpful....more
Julie and Scott are appalled at the nudity and questionable parenting skills. What kind of a saint is this? A unique one, it turns out. We discuss SaiJulie and Scott are appalled at the nudity and questionable parenting skills. What kind of a saint is this? A unique one, it turns out. We discuss Saint Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton in episode 108 of A Good Story is Hard to Find....more
What an odd little book. A bit of a fantasy and nightmare all wrapped around books but one where it felt as if the author hasn't the courage to finishWhat an odd little book. A bit of a fantasy and nightmare all wrapped around books but one where it felt as if the author hasn't the courage to finish the story with anything for the reader to grasp at the end. Lovely in its own way but a frippery. Luckily a super fast read....more
This is a simply superb overview of Francis' life, covering everything from the context of his actions in his times, to modern his influence on modernThis is a simply superb overview of Francis' life, covering everything from the context of his actions in his times, to modern his influence on modern times. I especially appreciated their approach to St. Clare as her own person and not just someone who copied St. Francis. ...more
Having seen the movie I was curious about how closely it hewed to the book. It turns out to have been a surprisingly close telling that captured the fHaving seen the movie I was curious about how closely it hewed to the book. It turns out to have been a surprisingly close telling that captured the feel of the book well.
The book itself has the same feel as Cheaper By the Dozen, if that family's father had been an alcoholic, putting them always one contest win away from abject poverty. It is also a look back at small town life in the 1950s and 60s.
Evelyn Ryan's story is woven through the humorous tales of raising ten children. She parlayed her writing skill and determination into enough income to overcome one financial crisis after another. Ryan did this in a way unique to the time, by entering numerous jingle-writing contests, and submitting poems and humorous stories to publications. Many of these are scattered through the text and they almost serve as a mini-history of product contests.
Along the way Ryan taught her family a precious lesson about how to live a full, rich life no matter your economic status. Author Terry Ryan, one of the daughters of the family, pulls off telling a positive, upbeat story without denying the reality and severity of the trials that had to be overcome.
At that moment we knew that as long as we used our brains, we were not victims. By striking out to write our own ticket, we would grow up to be like our mother, winners.
I listened to the audio book and enjoyed it. I've seen people complain about the narration as over the top and too enthusiastic but I don't agree. I thought the straight forward feel perfectly reflected the tone of the book....more
Present tense. Why is it always present tense? (Somehow that line works better with snakes, but you get the idea.)
Present tense bothers me enough thatPresent tense. Why is it always present tense? (Somehow that line works better with snakes, but you get the idea.)
Present tense bothers me enough that I keep longing to stop reading. And yet the story is so gripping, the premise so fascinating, what we aren't being told keeps flickering just out of the corner of my eye ... and so I keep reading despite myself.
If I'm already struggling with how the book is written I've got to have at least one likable character to relate too or I just can't carry on ... and so I'm quitting this one....more
Cross Robert Parker's Spencer with Tony Hillerman's Navajo settings and you'd have Joshua Croft. The mystery and setting were entertaining enough butCross Robert Parker's Spencer with Tony Hillerman's Navajo settings and you'd have Joshua Croft. The mystery and setting were entertaining enough but I spotted the evil doer the second he was introduced, which doesn't ever bode well for a mystery. I'm just not that good at solving mysteries and I'm usually not trying to figure them out that early in the book....more
Somehow this stood up as a solid police thriller while adding in the werewolf element but not being urban fantasy. I really enjoyed all the elements:Somehow this stood up as a solid police thriller while adding in the werewolf element but not being urban fantasy. I really enjoyed all the elements: the drug lord being tracked, the police partner dynamic, the loving husband whose mistake haunts him, the supernatural folklore that comes alive.
I also appreciated that this is clearly a stand alone. No sequels loom on the horizon. It was a fun read that was quick and satisfying without being pop cultural. And that was refreshing....more
This was an excellent overview of the stories that have influenced and shaped our views of Heaven and Hell from ancient times until now. I particularlThis was an excellent overview of the stories that have influenced and shaped our views of Heaven and Hell from ancient times until now. I particularly enjoyed the author's exploration of the chain of influences that have connected all these stories and the way that they've been tweaked to express new ideas in the "journey to the other side" format. For example, I never realized that the rebellious Titans' deepest level of hell (Tartarus) shows up in 2 Peter 2:4 (the only spot in the Bible) by using the word Tartarus to signify Hell:
"God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell [Tartarus]", and delivered them into chains of darkenss, to be reserved unto judgment." What makes the use here of Tartarus quite stunning is that the rebellious Titans of Greek mythology share much in common with the "sons of God" who mate with the "daughters of men" to produce the nephilim (see Gen. 6:1-4) and who are then (according to the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch) put in prison to await judgment. ... just as Hell in the New Testament is linked both to the angelic rebellion of the "sons of God" and to the punishment of sinners, so Tartarus functions as both the prison of the Titans and the place of suffering for such archetypal sinners as Tantalus, Ixion, and Sisyphus: the sinners, that is, whose cries Orpheus hears rising up from the pit below.
Of particular interest to me were the in-depth looks at the Divine Comedy, the hijacking of Milton's Satan by the Romantics (I will never look at William Blake the same way), and how it continues to influence us today via the Byronic hero.
Louis Markos is a Protestant but he has a deep understanding of Catholic theology that would put many a Catholic to shame. His explanation of Purgatory in his preface to Dante's Purgatorio is masterful in explaining both the theology and the way Americans misinterpret it precisely because of their American identity. This is just a bit:
Purgatory is not about "earning our salvation," but, in having already been saved by Christ's sacrifice on the cross, working with the Spirit to present ourselves as clean vessels. Out of pure grace and love, the Prince lifts Cinderella out of the cinders and takes her to his castle. But Cinderella would never think of entering her future home until she had the chance to wash, fix her hair, and put on her finest gown. The American Christian, in his somewhat adolescent way, asks if all of this is "fair." But Purgatory is not about fairness; it is about freedom.
This signals that I can trust Markos to be just as careful in communicating information I am not familiar with. It's nice to be able to trust an author that much.
There is an extensive bibliography, written in a very readable style, with lots of ideas for further exploration of the topic.
I have just begun listening to the audiobook which is read by the author. I was intrigued by the idea of the son who followed in his father's presidenI have just begun listening to the audiobook which is read by the author. I was intrigued by the idea of the son who followed in his father's presidential footsteps giving us the story from his vantage point.
As I began listening I thought of all the people who like the Bush presidents and those who don't. I recalled that both the John Adams' presidencies were also passionately liked or disliked. In that way I felt as if the book was a time capsule, making the beginning of our country's history seem vivid and real. People just don't change and this is a touch of the past making itself felt in my present life.
George W. Bush obviously doesn't read aloud often and that gives it something of the flavor of having one's uncle read a book to you. But with that comes the knowledge that the reader actually means every word he's reading which has a value of its own.
FINAL I don't know that I am actually interested enough in this biography to finish it, but greatly enjoyed what I did read. Hence the nonstar rating - because I didn't finish....more
This was a great book. It was very different from The Scarlet Letter style-wise with lots of description which set mood, tone, and gave layers of addiThis was a great book. It was very different from The Scarlet Letter style-wise with lots of description which set mood, tone, and gave layers of additional meaning. Luckily, I've been reading so much Dickens lately that I was able to recognize when to abandon my usual "don't bore us, get to the chorus" reading style and sink into those layers. Hawthorne also does eccentric characters who you learn to love in a way that is Dickens-worthy also, including (but not limited to) a family of chickens.
It has plenty of mysterious, haunted atmosphere but isn't without comedy. The urchin who comes daily to Hepzibah's shop to buy gingerbread cookies was a delight. Indeed, Hepzibah's efforts to set up her "cent shop" were both humorous and touching in the way that the best writing can be.
Here's the way the back of the book description began: "The House of the Seven Gables is one of Hawthorne's defining works, a vivid depiction of American life and values replete with brilliantly etched characters." And it goes on through "lives caught in the common fire of history."
Wait, were you trying to get me to NOT read it? Luckily I was lured into reading so that I could listen to SFFaudio's discussion of it a year ago. That may not be enough to lure you so I will try to do a little better.
The Pyncheon family lives in a mansion built on land wrested from Matthew Maule after Colonel Pyncheon accuses him of witchcraft. Naturally Maule laid a curse on the Pyncheons before his death, that they would choke on their own blood. And many of them have in the generations since then. The family has dwindled to aged spinster Hepzibah and her mentally disturbed brother Clifford. When they are helped by sprightly, young cousin Phoebe and then threatened by rich, malicious cousin Judge Pyncheon the house's ghosts begin to descend on the cursed family. And there is a mysterious lodger. Also a family of chickens.
Now THAT'S a story I'm going to read. And you should too....more
I heard the audio version reviewed with high praise on Books on the Nightstand and my library had it available to download right then! What luck becauI heard the audio version reviewed with high praise on Books on the Nightstand and my library had it available to download right then! What luck because this is a simply delightful romp, which I do not say about most children's books. I'm only a fourth of the way into it but thus far I love not only the story but the narrator's perfect voicing of the Boov aliens, especially J-Lo.
Twelve-year-old Gratuity "Tip" Tucci is assigned to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for the National Time Capsule contest ... commemorating when alien invaders (the Boov) declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?
Gratuity’s story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo, a futile journey south to find Gratuity’s mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom, a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious, and an outrageous plan to save Earth from yet another alien invasion.
FINAL This was a wonderfully enjoyable book which, given the fact that I'm an adult instead of the intended audience, was greatly enhanced for me by the wonderful narration. The story and characters were imaginative and fun. I especially liked the info-dump at the end which was tangled up in a high-speed chase, walkie talkie failure, and many meows so that you actually were panting for the information instead of settling back to let it wash over you so you could get on with the story. Many authors of adult books could learn from this technique. The book did sag in the last third when Tip is off the road but luckily she soon is in action again and the story picks up to the previous pace.
There were several underlying, not so subtle themes about diversity, colonialism, politics, and so forth which I ignored because the story was so much fun. In this way The True Meaning of Smekday was much like the Narnia books (not in a shared authors' worldview but in the fact that they just couldn't keep it from being fairly obvious). Not every author can be a Tolkien or Roald Dahl who were superior talents in not having to teach you a lesson every time they told a story but Rex tells a wonderful story anyway. Don't let those aspects keep you from listening, just as you should be able to enjoy the Narnia books for the story they tell....more
Listening to the LibriVox audio by Mark Nelson. I have known for some time that this book was a big influence on C.S. Lewis's space trilogy and, now tListening to the LibriVox audio by Mark Nelson. I have known for some time that this book was a big influence on C.S. Lewis's space trilogy and, now that I've read all of those, am finally getting around to this one.
I can see the resemblances already but am intrigued by the story. And, of course, it's fun reading a book that someone else I "know" enjoyed so much.
FINAL I am not actually finished but having read about a third of this book I feel I've gotten what I wanted from it. The story of exploration doesn't really have any action as such as one encounter after another isn't enough to make me want to continue.
I can definitely "feel" the influence on C.S. Lewis whose Space Trilogy I found difficult enough going although he did (thankfully) include interesting stories to go along with the imaginative worlds and new beings....more
We went to see this show, being lucky enough to live about five minutes from the Meadows Museum at SMU. (That museum is the best kept secret in DallasWe went to see this show, being lucky enough to live about five minutes from the Meadows Museum at SMU. (That museum is the best kept secret in Dallas.)
Sorolla is one of my favorite artists and I was thrilled to receive this as a birthday gift after being able to see his work in person. It is a wonderful collection of paintings and the writing echoes what we learned at the exhibit....more
Scott Danielson and I discuss Valley of Bones in Episode 106 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. (While fighting over Twinkies.)
I fScott Danielson and I discuss Valley of Bones in Episode 106 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. (While fighting over Twinkies.)
I first read about it in the July 2005 Crisis magazine. They rarely reviewed fiction and this is a gritty mystery, so my interest was piqued. When the reviewer said it was a really Catholic book, but without the usual trappings found in a mystery I really perked up my ears.
In Miami, a man is hit on the head and thrown from a hotel balcony. When the homicide detective, Paz, goes up to investigate, he finds a woman, Emmylou Dideroff, in the room. She is in a trance, speaking to St. Catherine of Siena, which qualifies her to the detective as both a wacko and a likely murderer. This seems confirmed when they find a bloody weapon on the balcony with Emmylou's fingerprints all over it. She even has a likely motive but denies committing the murder. This is not as open and shut as it seems as Jimmy Paz pursues clues that lead to the international oil market, a FBI watch list, and missionaries in the Sudan.
Aside from the intricate mystery there is the spiritual factor. Emmylou claims to have communion with the devil which leads to her being put in a mental institution where, at the detective's request, she begins writing a confession. However, her confession is more along the lines of St. Augustine's Confessions ... and soon she is filling four notebooks with the story of her life. At this point we meet Lorna Wise, a psychiatrist who is determining Emmylou's fitness for trial. Both Wise and Paz have actual moments of seeing the devil that Emmylou has mentioned but they manage to lie to themselves. Little doubt is left to the reader, though, that what they are experiencing is real. Obviously this is no ordinary mystery.
Along the way we see Wise's various insecurities, Paz's Cuban-American world and how he relates to the "white" world, insights into police detecting, how men and women relate to each other, and much more. Most of all, there is a strong spiritual thread throughout that is interesting in itself as each character responds in their own way.
This all is told through four points of view: the detective, the psychiatrist, Emmylou's confessions, and pages from the book Faithful Unto Death: The Story of the Nursing Sisters of the Blood of Christ by Sr. Benedicta Cooley. These are all showing various ways of conversion, of openness to God. This feeling is intensified when we meet Paz's former partner, a strong evangelical Christian who is not afraid to share his faith. Most unusual for a mystery of this sort from a regular, well reviewed writer.
This may sound like a jumble of information but that is part of what makes this book so very interesting. The author is a masterful writer who makes everything come together naturally.
Make no mistake, it is a gritty, adult mystery and has sexual content that may offend some readers, most of which is in Emmylou's confessions. However, any offensive content has been relayed with such a lack of passion or detail that I didn't find it bothersome....more
Reading the Wordsworth Classics edition and listening to David Horovich's narration.
I knew this focused on horrible Yorkshire schools for boys. (Are tReading the Wordsworth Classics edition and listening to David Horovich's narration.
I knew this focused on horrible Yorkshire schools for boys. (Are they ever horrible.) I thought that Nicholas would be a student there. Imagine my surprise when I found he was a teaching assistant. And imagine my immense relief when he abandons it early in the book. I'm prepared to deal with the horrible schoolmaster Squeers' family any more (Dickens - a genius at names), it being the way Dickens works, but I'm so happy to not have to think about them for the moment.
UPDATE About halfway through: now that I realized this is Dickens third book it gives some perspective to the realization that I'm not loving this book as much as some others. It is only halfway through and I felt that way halfway through Dombey and Son, which I wound up loving. So there is time for redemption. Also I can see the blending of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist in this book and realize that Dickens is working toward a synthesis that will become something new.
FINAL It was a jolly good story about a young man who isn't afraid to fight for right. Not my favorite because you can tell Dickens is feeling his way to writing a novel in a style that will become his own, though it is too much in the picaresque form for me to totally embrace it. Perhaps that is why I have had to take so many tries to read Don Quixote - there is so little character development in picaresque novels that one must do a great deal to unify the "tour" or it becomes just so many sketches.
Anyway, that is besides the point. It was definitely worth reading and my star rating may shift once I've worked my way through all the Dickens novels....more
Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.
Why have I never heard of this magnificent book before?
Thank goodness my mother, 80 years old and
Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.
Why have I never heard of this magnificent book before?
Thank goodness my mother, 80 years old and never afraid of a Kindle Daily Deal, read it and commanded me to do likewise.
In the 25th century all the work is done by robots, the ones that haven't broken down. Mankind stumbles along in a drugged stupor, trained from birth to avoid thinking and that "privacy is supreme." They haven't the basic knowledge to repair anything, much less a complex machine.
One of the last of the great thinking robots, Spofforth is the dean of the university in New York City. Paul from Ohio has taught himself the lost art of reading and wants to teach it at the university. Mary Lou has dropped out of the system only to be tempted into putting herself in harm's way by the lure of "What did you call it? Reading?" These three give us a fascinating and nuanced look at what it means to be human.
I've been jaded by the plethora of recent apocalyptic novels but this one is different. Written in 1980 by the author of such varied works as The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hustler, this book is eerily prescient.
Perhaps the highest tribute I can give this novel is that when I finished I didn't want to read another book. To do so would sully what I'd just read before I'd finished thinking about it, as well as be unfair to anything that followed because it wouldn't be able to compare.
I can only say, as my mother did, "Why haven't we heard of Mockingbird before? Why isn't it a well-known classic?"
I read this some time ago and can't think how I missed mentioning it here.
Halfway through the first story I went to the original inspiration, WilliamI read this some time ago and can't think how I missed mentioning it here.
Halfway through the first story I went to the original inspiration, William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land, to see how similar they were. Wow. Spot on, style-wise but so much more to the point than the original. Unlike Wright I'm not likely to love Hodgson's work. However, there was much to admire in this book and I enjoyed the way Wright was able to be both derivative and original simultaneously. As well as giving us good stories, natch....more