This little book packs a big punch thanks to Michael Dirda's trademark enthusiasm for not only Arthur Conan Doyle but for excellent stories of all sorThis little book packs a big punch thanks to Michael Dirda's trademark enthusiasm for not only Arthur Conan Doyle but for excellent stories of all sorts. Interwoven with his own discoveries of Doyle's writing, we get Doyle's biography, looks at the whys and wherefore's of his work, and the context of the times in which they were written. We also get an inside look at the Baker Street Irregulars, in which I was less interested but which was charmingly written about.
In particular this is good for those who think that the only thing Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about was Sherlock Holmes. I've long had a liking for Professor Challenger, Doyle's weird fiction, and The White Company. I discovered, reading this, that I've missed Doyle's tall tales told at the club about Brigadier Gerard.
As always with Michael Dirda's writing, read this with a notepad and pen nearby. His eagerness to share many wonderful sounding books leaves the reader with much more to explore....more
This earnest, well-meaning tale shows how difficult it is for authors to switch gracefully between nonfiction and fiction. Author James Martin is a taThis earnest, well-meaning tale shows how difficult it is for authors to switch gracefully between nonfiction and fiction. Author James Martin is a talented nonfiction writer but one wishes he weren't so well known that The Abbey was given the green light without someone wondering where an actual story was.
Handyman Mark and divorced mom Ann are both struggling to find meaning in their lives until various encounters at a nearby abbey provoke thought and spiritual awareness. All the action is internal with very little taking place in their real lives. This may be exactly what the author intended since most of us live fairly uneventful lives while still striving to find God and meaning. However, is that what we want to read about in a novel?
I contend that we also need an engaging storyline. I can take sweet and simple. I read many of the Mitford novels by Jan Karon. However, even Karon included unlikable people, moments of genuine tension, and the possibility that things might not work out. There is no such trace of that in this book.
I liked the themes of spiritual discernment and finding God in everyday life. However, The Abbey is more properly a novella than a novel and, considering the lack of story development, really just a vignette of instructions on prayer and how to live the spiritual life. If Jesus told long parables, explaining carefully along the way, then this is the sort of modern parable he might have told. Luckily, he usually liked to build in a little suspense and leave something for us to chew on, like any good story teller. Will that woman find her lost coin? How will the eldest son respond to the father's pleading after the prodigal son returns?
It will be appreciated by people who want a sweet spiritual pick-me-up and nothing more.
[NOTE: this book did make me think of several other books which readers might appreciate. For a story inspired by a dream, try Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien. For a look at life inside a religious order, try either In This House of Brede or Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy, both by Rumer Godden. For an early piece of religious fiction by a nonfiction writer, try either The Great Divorce or Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. For homey, sweet inspiration try the Mitford series by Jan Karon. For questioning God when disaster strikes, try The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. For excellent development of questioning God, prayer, and balancing everyday life, try either A Jesuit Off-Broadway or Jesus: A Pilgrimage, both by James Martin.]...more
The first book was such a surprising treat that, when my Audible credit came up this month, Post Captain was the inevitable selection. Patrick Tull naThe first book was such a surprising treat that, when my Audible credit came up this month, Post Captain was the inevitable selection. Patrick Tull narrates. What could be better?...more
This personal ad in The Times brings a series of interesting cases to Parker Pyne's door in this colle
Are you happy? If not, consult Mr. Parker Pyne.
This personal ad in The Times brings a series of interesting cases to Parker Pyne's door in this collection of short stories. I enjoyed all the stories although the ones that were actual mysteries were more satisfying than those in which we saw the labyrinth ways Mr. Pyne had to make his clients happy. I especially enjoyed the second half of the book when Mr. Pyne goes abroad on vacation only to find himself continually recognized and asked to make myriad people happy. Eventually he goes incognito only to often find he can't help himself when observing the miserable people around him.
I love Robert Louis Stevenson and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is one of my favorites. We'll be discussing this on A Good Story is HaI love Robert Louis Stevenson and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is one of my favorites. We'll be discussing this on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast as our October book....more
Hercule Poirot, on the brink of retirement, decides to take twelve final cases which will correspond to the twelve labors of Hercules. The way AgathaHercule Poirot, on the brink of retirement, decides to take twelve final cases which will correspond to the twelve labors of Hercules. The way Agatha Christie links the mysteries in these short stories to the classical labors of Hercules is both charming and clever. I thoroughly enjoyed this set of short stories. It doesn't quite reach the heights of The Mysterious Mr. Quin, but it isn't far off....more
Haven't read these for many years but they were always among my favorite collection of Agatha Christie stories.
Mr. Satterthwaite is a dried up littleHaven't read these for many years but they were always among my favorite collection of Agatha Christie stories.
Mr. Satterthwaite is a dried up little old man whose main gift seems to be noticing details. Every so often, Mr. Quin appears mysteriously (but coincidentally) in situations where trouble is brewing (or murder has occurred). His observations seem to be just the thing to prompt Mr. Satterthwaite to put it all the pieces together. These stories have Christie's trademark ability to mystify and a touch of the supernatural wafting about. Until this rereading I never really grasped before how unusual these stories were for Christie. Highly recommended....more
This is the beginning of a new Jim Butcher series. People live in city-state spires well above a hostileI got an audiobook review copy from SFFaudio.
This is the beginning of a new Jim Butcher series. People live in city-state spires well above a hostile world, using crystals for energy. A likable group of heroes come together when their spire is attacked by a rival. It's got a steampunk feel and a bit of naval emphasis that is intriguing since I'm about halfway through Master and Commander. Oh, and talking cats. Actually with some people who can "speak" cat. It's a different thing altogether and, at this point, pulled off fairly well.
Although there are goggles and airships and everyone is very polite, this is really space opera rather than steampunk. Butcher is using standard space opera-esque characterizations and motivations but the tale that is unfolding is anything but predictable. This is helped along by a superb narrator who would entice me to listen to just about anything he read.
I like the people, especially the aetherialists (spelling is variable here since I listened and haven't seen the print version). Their likable zaniness makes a weird kind of sense. I especially like the subtle flashes of humor throughout, such as Bridget always calling Gwen's attention to the fact that her actions weren't so much heroic as rashly putting them all in danger. And thus Butcher undoes the standard space opera trope at that point by making us realize we were all agreed with Gwen originally because it was just what we expected.
This book is what might happen if Joss Whedon handed Jim Butcher the reins and said, "Dude. The people want more. Pretend Firefly had a half-sibling. Now author a new book series and blow them away."
That is essentially right except unfortunately Firefly had more depth than this book gives us. The last third seems to be one battle after another with barely enough room to catch one's breath before the next one is forced upon our heroes. Ultimately one wearies of continual excitement and longs for slower moments, if only for contrast. Those would have been nice chances for Butcher to give his characters a bit more depth.
There are also odd moments where uncharacteristic or illogical behavior pushed me out of the story wondering what happened. For example, a character will be pushed to one side (via a dire wound or some such device) and when they reappear everyone just acts as if they are returned from having a nice cuppa. And as much as I am willing to let fantasy define the rules, it was certainly odd when a young lady uninitiated in the ways of the aeronauts is allowed to stay on deck during a fierce aerial battle asking the captain and his mate basic questions that elucidate the ways of this sort of war. (Surely there were more graceful ways to give us that information.)
These aren't big enough problems to make me dislike the book and I will look forward to the sequel, but they are odd from an experienced author like Jim Butcher.
Overall, recommended as a rollicking good adventure in an interesting new world....more
Slighter than The Maltese Falcon, yet still enjoyable. I listened to William Dufris' excellent narration which was almost as good as listening to a muSlighter than The Maltese Falcon, yet still enjoyable. I listened to William Dufris' excellent narration which was almost as good as listening to a multi-person cast.
I will say that no one human being could possibly drink as much as Nick Charles and be able to solve mysteries that well!...more
All the Naomi Novik dragon and Napoleonic battle books (Temeraire series) made me think of trying the Patrick O'Brian books again. I'd tried a coupleAll the Naomi Novik dragon and Napoleonic battle books (Temeraire series) made me think of trying the Patrick O'Brian books again. I'd tried a couple of times to read this but with little interest. Now, however, I must be primed for the tales because the beginning has captured my interest. I am finding Captain Aubrey hilarious in how much he doesn't know about foreign languages, how he got his command, and so forth.
I picked up the audio book under the theory that listening usually eases me into books I've found troublesome. Patrick Tull is the narrator and he is simply fantastic. It's like listening to your wise old uncle tell you a good story.
I didn't expect this book to be so funny. It all seems to go toward the idea that one needn't be a genius to be good at one's job. Captain Jack Aubrey is lacking in a lot of areas, but when it comes to his ship he knows his stuff. It is really interesting seeing the ways he tests his ship and men after he takes command. The author has the knack of keeping the reader in the loop even when the naval lingo is flying fast right over my head.
I grew very fond of Captain Jack, Stephen Maturin, and James Dillon in the course of this book. The author drew me into the British naval culture so much that I became intensely interested in the descriptions of ship handling and what different maneuvers meant to the outcome of battles. (Believe me, that's a hard sell.) I was also impressed by the author's willingness to do a "Joss Whedon" (as I call it) and kill off characters because it was important to the story's integrity. Though distressing at times, it made me trust his willingness to tell an honest tale, regardless of the consequences.
I'll be reading the second book as soon as the library can get it to my local branch....more
I liked the beginning of this but it soon settled into what I think of as the Australian pattern from the last book. On the flimsiest of excuses, we mI liked the beginning of this but it soon settled into what I think of as the Australian pattern from the last book. On the flimsiest of excuses, we must go trundling around the continent (in this case South America) encountering various cultural patterns of dragons and people, occasionally fighting of attacks. I did like Hammond's adoption by the South American dragon who eagerly keeps asking after his big family and offering him many wives if he'd just have lots of kids. But that's not enough to make me enjoy what now seems self indulgent and lazy plotting.
I'll see what the next book is like because I've already borrowed it from the library but I am not too hopeful at this point....more
Slogging through the Australian interior was rather tiring. Eventually I felt as if I myself were carrying everyone around. However, what they found aSlogging through the Australian interior was rather tiring. Eventually I felt as if I myself were carrying everyone around. However, what they found at the end of their journey certainly was a game changer and overall I enjoyed this well enough....more
"Please - I never made horror films. They're fairy tales for adults." — Terence Fisher, London Daily Telegraph, Nov. 27, 1976
This book is simply fanta"Please - I never made horror films. They're fairy tales for adults." — Terence Fisher, London Daily Telegraph, Nov. 27, 1976
This book is simply fantastic as well as being extremely easy to read. Not only am I coming away with a new list of films to watch but in considering Terence Fisher's work one also learns what to look for in all horror films. How are good and evil defined? Are all supernatural influences considered equal or are some superior to others? Does science trump everything or is there an acknowledgment of other forces at work?
In fact, this book could be considered a primer in looking at all films with such a lens. That is, if one wants to read about horror, Christianity, and movies.
I was filled with a kind of wild glee at Temeraire's peremptory actions on behalf of the nation. It never occurred to me to consider his fate once LauI was filled with a kind of wild glee at Temeraire's peremptory actions on behalf of the nation. It never occurred to me to consider his fate once Laurence had been condemned for treason or that each might be held as hostage for the other's good behavior. Temeraire on his own gives us a better look at dragon priorities, natural behavior, and capability for adaptation.
Here, too, we get down to brass tacks as Bonaparte invades England. Unlike many of the battle oriented parts of the previous books I really was engaged by this entire story, battles and all....more
In the heart of deepest Africa Novik flirts delightfully with the shades of H. Rider Haggard and Zulu. That's the middle of the story, however, with tIn the heart of deepest Africa Novik flirts delightfully with the shades of H. Rider Haggard and Zulu. That's the middle of the story, however, with the beginning and end solidly holding down the Napoleonic war setting.
By this point in the series the abolitionist movement is as much of a theme as the Napoleonic threat. What makes an individual a person instead of a thing just can't be avoided (as my beloved Uncle Tom's Cabin reminds us). I read a review where someone remarked that Novik "like all modern authors" couldn't resist including 1960s style civil rights topics. To read the book this way is to do a real injustice to the actual history of the abolition movement in England.
Novik does explore the topic from a range of views, which is something the dragons allows most interestingly since most people believe them to be something like well trained dogs. But it is well done and adds some needed depth to the story, in my opinion....more
On the way back from China, Laurence and Temeraire are ordered to swing through the Ottoman Empire to pick up some unhatched dragon eggs to bring homeOn the way back from China, Laurence and Temeraire are ordered to swing through the Ottoman Empire to pick up some unhatched dragon eggs to bring home to Britain. The Silk Road! Istanbul (harems!).
On the road back through Prussia, they are diverted to help with the war and for the first time I enjoyed reading the battle scenes. Maybe it's because I have a crush on the King and Queen. Can they be my rulers?
Of course, the nemesis is wreaking as much trouble as possible. Grrrrr....more
Laurence and Temeraire are part of a diplomatic mission the court of the Chinese emperor. Huzzah! China (and Chinese dragons) in 1800. It's hard to geLaurence and Temeraire are part of a diplomatic mission the court of the Chinese emperor. Huzzah! China (and Chinese dragons) in 1800. It's hard to get more exotic than that. And a nemesis is acquired.
On the way, Temeraire is exposed to human slavery and this takes his philosophical musings on an unexpected path which opens up the whole abolition conversation, which was in full swing in Great Britain at the time. Very interesting....more
His Majesty's Dragon welcomes us into the world of dragons and Napoleonic battle. Captain Laurence of the HMS Reliant captures a French frigate whichHis Majesty's Dragon welcomes us into the world of dragons and Napoleonic battle. Captain Laurence of the HMS Reliant captures a French frigate which has an unexpected treasure aboard: an unhatched dragon egg. You don't even need to guess who the dragonet picks for his partner. We knew that going in.
Laurence is removed from his orderly naval career and thrust into the Aerial Corps to learn airborne battle. Just how flexible is Laurence? Because these airboys aren't much good with formality. Good thing he's got Temeraire which more than makes up for anything he suffers. This is a ripping good yarn.
The series takes the idea of "what if" there were dragons during the Napoleonic Wars.
I'm tired of alternate histories. I'm tired of dragons. I never cared much for the Napoleonic war. So you may understand why I was avoiding the books. The part that made me sample this book, however, was Sigler saying that the author tells the story absolutely from the 18th century sensibility that the people would have had back then. Because another thing I'm tired of is people using alternate histories to push their own ideas of how our swingin' modern times would've made everything better if only they'd have been more enlightened in the past.
Novik perfectly juggles all those elements while telling a great adventure story. The dragon part is handled really well (no telepathy, for example). Though they can talk it isn't weird. They just become characters.
The idea of how air battles would have changed the war is interesting. (Not that I know about that particular war, but I can tell things are being changed around.) I also really like the ingenuity shown in having the dragons not only fight but carry their crew, who have rifles and bombs to do their own damage. I admit, I tend to skim the battle scenes but there is plenty to read about besides the war.
Novik is not only good at historical realism but she has logically extended the concept of how dragons would change things in a lot of directions. For example there are all sorts of dragons from small to huge, stupid to smart, pleasant to cunning. Different breeds of dragons have different skills, many of which reflect bits of our folk stories about dragons.
As our heroes travel on diplomatic journeys and get caught up in battles, we see that the ways the dragons are treated reflects the societies they encounter. Novik's got the British Empire to work with and she uses it to good purpose.
Best of all is the relationship between Captain Laurence and Temeraire. It allows the author to explore ideas and society as the experienced naval captain is forced to learn the ropes in the Aerial Corps and also explain the world to his quickly growing young dragon partner. We learn to love both of them.
Plus Novik is just darned good at writing exciting yarns.
The library has these available as ebooks and I've been tossing them back like popcorn. There are eight books in the series, with seven published and the last one due out next year....more
I'd give this 3-1/2 if GoodReads had that capability.
In many ways this book seems like a companion to The City, which I liked more than this one. InnoI'd give this 3-1/2 if GoodReads had that capability.
In many ways this book seems like a companion to The City, which I liked more than this one. Innocence is also set in a city where there are mysterious influences afoot. However, this book is more given over to the supernatural and fairy tale, especially with the Beauty and the Beast riff that plays through most of it. My main problem was in setting aside disbelief over the idea that a person could be so repulsive that the midwife would want to kill him the second she laid eyes on him. (A pattern that continues throughout the book.) I was hooked on the story by about halfway through but that first half was tough for that reason. There's no reason, really to say more about the plot than the book jacket describes. If you like Dean Koontz's recent books you'll like this. If not, then probably not....more
Recommended by my daughter, the voice in this book reminds me of Odd Thomas in its sweetness and innocence. However, this is narrated by a 10 year oldRecommended by my daughter, the voice in this book reminds me of Odd Thomas in its sweetness and innocence. However, this is narrated by a 10 year old instead of a grown man.
The 10-year-old is a skinny, black, musical prodigy named Jonah Kirk. The time is the mid-1960's when chaos reigns in America. The place is a mysterious City which, as far as I can recall, is never named. Unless you want to call it Pearl, after the mysterious woman who appears and disappears mysteriously in Jonah's life and who tells him that she is the soul of the City.
This story, written last year, looks at how we respond when it seems that the world is an unstable, chaotic place where unexpected evil can drop on you at any moment. Sound like any other time period you know? Such as the one we're living in right now? Koontz's story has a subtle supernatural gloss and doesn't focus on horror nearly as much as other books. Instead it focuses on coming of age, the power of community, the power of kindness, and overcoming adversity. As always, there is a strong theme of good versus evil but it is mostly kept in the real world.
A lot of the charm of this book comes from Koontz's ability to remind us what it is like to interpret the world as a supernatural, magical place because of youth's sheer inexperience. The relationship between Jonah and his upstairs neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka was especially interesting to watch flowering. And if you like jazz, big band, and swing, there are enough references to send you to start up your own soundtrack while you read.
It's not what I think of as typical Dean Koontz fiction, but I greatly enjoyed it....more
Mom read the introduction to this as a Kindle sample and liked it so much she called me up to talk about it.
Luckily I found my library had it availablMom read the introduction to this as a Kindle sample and liked it so much she called me up to talk about it.
Luckily I found my library had it available as an e-book. Am enjoying it fairly well especially since I wisely opted against the audio version which wouldn't have allowed me to skim the considerable violence contained therein.
FINAL It was good but felt really long. Perhaps it was all the details that we had to be dragged through in the solving of the mystery. Perhaps it was that I had figured out halfway through who the 10th man was. And who was in danger. Also, as my mom said when we were discussing the book before either of us had finished it, "We don't even have to guess that the romance won't work out. From the moment they both got involved we KNEW it wouldn't work out. The only question is if she dies in the process." Yes, there are some life experiences that a man like Jack Reacher aren't allowed or he changes too much (as we know from reading Robert Parker's Spenser novels). One of those is a steady girlfriend.
Anyway, I enjoyed it fairly well but probably won't be looking for another....more