The first part of this book an uncompleted story that follows the events of Hornblower and the "Hotspur". Hornblower is between assignments, yet managThe first part of this book an uncompleted story that follows the events of Hornblower and the "Hotspur". Hornblower is between assignments, yet manages to find himself in action against the French. The extant part of the story ends with him receiving an espionage assignment to Spain. Then, to make the book somewhat thicker, the editors added two short stories. "Hornblower's Temptation" is set during his years as a lieutenant aboard the Renown, while "The Last Encounter" occurs on land, during a stormy evening at Admiral Lord Hornblower's estate. While it's not Mr. Forester's best work, it is all entertaining....more
Bunnies! I can't believe I like a book about bunnies! But that's how it is. My wife's had this book for years and, even though I had heard it was a goBunnies! I can't believe I like a book about bunnies! But that's how it is. My wife's had this book for years and, even though I had heard it was a good book, I never read it. When I heard the protagonists were rabbits, I figured the tale was all soft and fluffy--certainly nothing suitable for a manly man such as myself. I probably would never had read it except that Frederic Durbin had mentioned it as one of his favorites. And that's a powerful recommendation for me.
So read it I did and was suitably impressed. Watership Down is a story about rabbits. But it's also a story about manly things like adventure, a quest, war, and meeting girls. It's the tale of a group of rabbits who leave their warren, fleeing a prophesied disaster. They seek out a new home, facing danger from predators, the elements and even other rabbits. I enjoyed the adventure. Even more so I liked how Mr. Adams created a whole culture for the rabbits. It gave a sense that I was truly reading about an alien people, as much (if not more so) than any science fiction tale I've read.
I'll keep it on my shelf even if my wife should one day change her mind....more
This one's a combo coming of age tale and compilation of Christian war stories. Mr. Ripken tells how he became a missionary and served the people devaThis one's a combo coming of age tale and compilation of Christian war stories. Mr. Ripken tells how he became a missionary and served the people devastated by war in Somalia in the early 1990s. He was overwhelmed by the suffering of the people there and was at a loss as to how to minister to persecuted Christians. This sent him on a quest to research the experiences of Christians in other parts of the world who had gone through persecution. The stories he brought back were powerful. His own story, not so much. His experiences in Somalia are compelling in their own right, as important as the tales he shares second hand. But once he starts telling those stories, I found his account of his own reactions somewhat annoying. I was quite capable of feeling amazed, humbled and thankful by myself, thank you very much. Despite that, it is a book worth checking out...more
I grabbed this tome at the Friends of the Library sale because I had read and enjoyed Mr. Singer's Stories for Children years ago. I was once again trI grabbed this tome at the Friends of the Library sale because I had read and enjoyed Mr. Singer's Stories for Children years ago. I was once again treated to a well-written and entertaining book. This one's a memoir of Mr. Singer's childhood in early 20th Century Poland. His father was a pious, conservative rabbi, which meant a conservative and somewhat impoverished upbringing. But such a life resulted in a wealth of anecdotes from his family, community and his father's Beth din or rabbinic court....more
In 1893, H.G. Wells builds a time machine. Jack the Ripper steals it and travels to 1979 San Francisco. Wells then feels obliged to follow and bring tIn 1893, H.G. Wells builds a time machine. Jack the Ripper steals it and travels to 1979 San Francisco. Wells then feels obliged to follow and bring the escaped killer to justice. It's a dumb concept, but Mr. Alexander makes an entertaining tale of it. He paints a believable picture of a temporal cross-cultural experience as Wells (and to a lesser extent, Jack) attempts to traverse 1979 San Francisco, fraught with 1893 Victorian assumptions and biases....more
This one's a collection of time travel tales featuring Manse Everard, agent of the Time Patrol. It's an unremarkable concept, but the stories stand ouThis one's a collection of time travel tales featuring Manse Everard, agent of the Time Patrol. It's an unremarkable concept, but the stories stand out in that Mr. Anderson avoids all the temporal tourist traps: No Civil War. Nary a Nazi in sight. Manse does visit the Roman Empire, but it's out at the fringes of the Empire. All-in-all, a pleasant collection of tales....more
The author gave me this book this past Christmas. 'Twas a delightful gift. It's a compilation of columns she had written for the Whidbey Island MarketThe author gave me this book this past Christmas. 'Twas a delightful gift. It's a compilation of columns she had written for the Whidbey Island Marketplace from 2002-2005. In her column, she wrestled with the social issues of the day--exposing corruption, speaking truth to power, and advocating for the disenfranchised. ... Just kidding. Actually she just told jokes and made snarky comments about having a weekend home on the island. But it's funny, so that's why I'm keeping the book on my shelf rather than quietly donating it the Goodwill. Pat--I'll call her Pat rather than following my usual practice of using the author's title and surname, because I don't think I could type "Ms. Detmer" with a straight face--Pat does a great job of pulling out the character of the people and places she writes about. Even though it was a world unfamiliar to me, I felt I was laughing with friends rather than laughing at "those weird people over there". And laugh I did. I had to be verrry careful when reading the book over lunch. (Fortunately, no beverage was spewed.) So go ahead and grab a copy of this book. In the meantime, I'll be heading over to her website to see what other writings I can read....more
After reading an article about Out of the Silent Planet over at io9, I decided to pull the book off the shelf for a re-read. It's a tale of a man, RanAfter reading an article about Out of the Silent Planet over at io9, I decided to pull the book off the shelf for a re-read. It's a tale of a man, Ransom, who gets shanghaied onto the world's first spaceship and is taken to the planet Malacandra. Once there, he manages to escape his captors and encounter the native species. Unlike a lot of the commenters on the blog, I was not put off by the religious overtones. Heck, that was the reason I bought it in the first place. But this time through I tried to pay attention to the science fiction of the tale and see how I liked it. Once I got past the obvious scientific errors--it was written by a literature professor in 1943 after all--I found the story enjoyable. I enjoyed Ransom's journey across the Malacandran landscape, and still found the social structures of the natives somewhat interesting. It's far from Professor Lewis' best work, but it offers a nice little escape for a couple hours. ...more
This one's a biography of Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed on the job in Equador back in 1956. Whereas the Woodrow Wilson biography I read precThis one's a biography of Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed on the job in Equador back in 1956. Whereas the Woodrow Wilson biography I read preceding this one was a well crafted story, Shadow is more a collection of diary and correspondence excerpts, weaved together by a bit of narrative. I'm not quite sure how much I like the book. Overall, Jim Elliot came across as a sanctimonious young lad, quick to speak the word of Law to his peers and himself. Of course, I'm not quite sure how much of that negative perspective flows from his youthful attitudes or how much flows from guilt over my own shortcomings. Jim Elliot was more faithful in his lifetime than I've been, even though I've had almost twice as much time to get it right. Lord, have mercy! Anyway, the life of Jim Elliot is a tale that should be told. I just not sure that Shadow of the Almighty is the best way to tell it....more
Set in the 1920s, A Passage to India is a tale of conflict between native Indian and the ruling British people. Having lived overseas, the book struckSet in the 1920s, A Passage to India is a tale of conflict between native Indian and the ruling British people. Having lived overseas, the book struck a cord in me. I certainly sympathized with the Indian nationals, but I realized that as an expatriate I was akin to the British. I hope I was never as big an asshole as the lot in Passage, but I probably had plenty of times when I failed to be a good guest. Quite an uncomfortable thought, that.
One thing that struck me while reading the book was the lack of religion or at least Christian virtues amongst the British. In my own experience overseas, or even hobnobbing with former ex-pats, is that the "missionary" element is part of the culture. My wife cites the antipathy between the British East India Company and missionaries as a possible reason for the culture in Passage. That's possible. Or maybe it's that the colonial era of the 1920s is quite different from the globalization era of the 21st century. Or maybe I just need to broaden my social circles. Who knows? Anyway, I can't say I liked the book, but I wouldn't say it's not worth checking out....more
Chronologically, this is the fourth book in Hornblower series, telling the tale of Horatio Hornblower's command of the Sloop-of-war HMS Hotspur. He spChronologically, this is the fourth book in Hornblower series, telling the tale of Horatio Hornblower's command of the Sloop-of-war HMS Hotspur. He spends over two years on this tour of duty--dealing with espionage, politics, bad weather, homesickness, and, once or twice, actual war. ... That didn't sound too exciting, did it? Well, that was my writing. Mr. Forester made it all quite interesting. It was very easy to put my feet up and lose myself in Hornblower's world of 1803.
As I enjoyed the book, I occasionally mused over Star Trek. (I've read that Horatio Hornblower was part of the inspiration for Captain Kirk.) I think one reason I'd rather pick up this novel rather than one of the multitude of Trek novels out there is that Hotspur shows the challenges of not only fighting a war but the regular hardships of keeping a warship afloat and functioning. It's a depth of setting and character that you don't get in lesser works. Anyway, that's why Hornblower and the "Hotspur" goes on my shelf, and will undoubtedly be followed by the other books in the series. ...more
If I organized books by genre, I think I'd place this one with the horror books. There's nothing supernatural about it, but it creeps me out just theIf I organized books by genre, I think I'd place this one with the horror books. There's nothing supernatural about it, but it creeps me out just the same. Lord of the Flies is a tale about a group of British school boys who survive a plane crash on a deserted island. Whatever adults there were on the plane died. The oldest kids take charge after a fashion, the leader being a boy named Ralph. At first it's kind of cute--even the elder kids are obviously children and it's amusing to see them try and establish a bit of order. But even at this stage in the book there's an aura of death. It's mentioned that the whole reason for the flight was to evacuate the children from a nuclear strike. And while at the start there's no explicit death scenes, it's pretty well established that some of the kids didn't survive the first night on the island. As time passes, the little society falls apart and the infant evil within the kids blossoms into full blown murder. It's a depressing little tale. But also so well written that I had no problem picturing the setting and the characters. While I can't say I enjoyed the book, I'm definitely glad I checked it out....more
Okay, so the last big Friends of the Library book sale was a bit of a letdown for me. I had prior obligations for both the Friday evening preview andOkay, so the last big Friends of the Library book sale was a bit of a letdown for me. I had prior obligations for both the Friday evening preview and the Saturday sale. Somewhat dejected, I headed down on Sunday, sure that everything had been picked over. It was, but since everything was half-price, I lowered my standards and grabbed just about anything that caught my eye. With a picture of a Nazi soldier riding a unicorn on the cover, After the Downfall was one of those books. It's the tale of Hasso Pemsel, a Wehrmacht officer who is mystically snatched from the fall of Berlin in 1945 to another world where magic exists and technology is at the medieval level. Shortly upon his arrival he uses his machine gun to rescue Velona, the human embodiment of a goddess. Through her gratitude he becomes her lover and a welcome guest of the Lenelli, a tall, blond haired, blue eyed race. These particular Lenelli are colonists, having come across the western sea to settle on a new continent. The natives, a shorter, darker skinned race named the Grenye, take exception to this, but what can they do against a master race? As the tale progresses, Hasso's role as an outsider combines with his experiences on the losing side of World War II to make him question the status quo and his own beliefs. It's not a great book, but worth the time to read....more
This one's a collection of tales of Coyote, the trickster in various stories from various Native American peoples. All of the tales are short. Some arThis one's a collection of tales of Coyote, the trickster in various stories from various Native American peoples. All of the tales are short. Some are interesting, some are pretty weak. As the introduction states, these tales were meant to be told by a storyteller, not read in a tome. I suppose I could have tried reading them aloud......more
I found this time travel tale to be a bit disappointing. It's the story of Nicole Gunther-Perrin, a single mom living and working in L.A., who unknowiI found this time travel tale to be a bit disappointing. It's the story of Nicole Gunther-Perrin, a single mom living and working in L.A., who unknowingly makes a wish to the Roman gods Liber and Libera. The gods grant her desire to live back in the simpler days of ancient Rome and she awakens in the body of Umma, a single mom living and working in Carnuntum, a Roman frontier town by the Danube River. Of course, there's culture shock and, of course, the reader gets a history lesson about everyday life in ancient times. The weakness of the book is that there's more of that than there is a story.
The tale starts with a very bad day in 1990's L.A.. After a few pages of well crafted detail, the tsuris goes over the top. Nicole makes her wish and then wakes up to discover the Second Century. She seems to go through every experience on could imagine--the bad hygiene, life without modern technology, gender inequality, slavery, pestilence, famine, and barbarian invasion. There's no real progression of plot or character, save that Nicole realizes that the 20th Century wasn't so bad a place to live after all. Now if the characters were more appealing, I might have been willing to forgive that. But Nicole is rather uninspiring. I might have even liked the book better if she had been killed off earlier and the supporting characters took over the tale. ...more
How was the book? Very good. Fafhrd and the Mouser's adventures are exciting and amusing. Like many sword and sorcery heroes, they are paragons of strHow was the book? Very good. Fafhrd and the Mouser's adventures are exciting and amusing. Like many sword and sorcery heroes, they are paragons of strength and skill, performing mighty deeds. But they also have very human foibles, getting dragged down by things like pride or drunken stupidity. All in all, the tales are a pleasure to read....more
It's always a joy to finish a textbook. No matter how interesting the topic, reading a textbook is an effort and I'm very glad to see the last page. It's always a joy to finish a textbook. No matter how interesting the topic, reading a textbook is an effort and I'm very glad to see the last page. Perspectives is a course on cross cultural mission work that friends have been recommending for years. As interesting as it sounds, I've never taken it--a 15 week course is a time commitment I don't think I can afford at this stage in life. A couple of years ago, however, I happened to see an earlier edition of the textbook at a used book sale. After a few months of letting sit on my shelf, I finally cracked it open and have spent quite some time slowly making my way through the biblical, historical, cultural and strategic perspectives of Christianity. It's been a fascinating and thought provoking ride. I feel vindicated in not trying to squeeze the course into my daily life. But it also pushes me to question my priorities and wonder how I might be a better servant of Jesus here in my own corner of the world. Read this book at your own risk....more
This one's a bit of classic science fiction, a tale set on a future Earth where the chemical composition of the atmosphere has shifted to contain moreThis one's a bit of classic science fiction, a tale set on a future Earth where the chemical composition of the atmosphere has shifted to contain more nitrogen and less oxygen. Humanity is reduced to living indoors, only venturing forth with necessary oxygen masks. The story revolves around a low-caste trading couple and their alien business partner who get wound up with a group of young rebels. The book was entertaining enough, though hardly a page-turner....more
In the days of my youth I had a brief interest in horror movies, often watching Creature Features on channel 9. To me, the big three monsters were DraIn the days of my youth I had a brief interest in horror movies, often watching Creature Features on channel 9. To me, the big three monsters were Dracula, the Frankenstein monster and the Wolfman. (I'm guessing that's because I first saw them all in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, but that's not important.) Well, I read the original Dracula a decade ago, but it's taken me until now to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.You probably know the basic tale: a scientist discovers the secret of reanimating the dead, and proves it by giving life to a patchwork creature made up of parts of various cadavers. But then things go terribly wrong. Anyway, the book didn't fascinate me as much as the movies I saw as a kid. The creature was a very interesting character, and Ms. Shelley did a great job of portraying Victor Frankenstein's guilt and angst over what he had done. I think my biggest problem was the plot. Some bits were a bit hard to swallow. And the plot could have been cut short at many points had the characters acted with a bit more 21st Century American common sense. But then, I haven't written a classic novel that's endured for two centuries, so what do I know? If you have yet to check it out, do so. Don't put it off as long as I did....more
Among the history books on my shelf are works covering general church history (with a strong European focus), Christianity in Asia, Africa, the UnitedAmong the history books on my shelf are works covering general church history (with a strong European focus), Christianity in Asia, Africa, the United States and Canada. Having read all of these, it was inevitable that I should try to read up on what happened in the church in South America.* The uncle and niece team of Justo and Ondina González have put together a wonderful little book which does a good job of covering the past 500+ years of Christianity in Latin America. After presenting the theological and social state of the church in the Iberian peninsula in the late 1400s, the doctors González show how the religion was planted and grew amongst the natives of and immigrants to those areas of the Americas conquered by Spain and Portugal. They also show how the church in turn was affected by the Christians of Latin America. At 310 pages, it's not an exhaustive study. But it does give an excellent overview that's written with a view and respect for believers amongst the rulers and oppressed alike. It's a book that I'll definitely try to add to my collection. __ * Of course, it took my wife to actually obtain such a volume in a timely manner, but we won't go there....more
I first read this book back in high school. My tastes had started to run towards sword & sorcery fantasy and my eye was caught by the Boris VallejI first read this book back in high school. My tastes had started to run towards sword & sorcery fantasy and my eye was caught by the Boris Vallejo illustration on the cover. I read the book and was enchanted by the world of Gor--a world filled with hawk-riding warriors, beautiful women and the mysterious Preist-Kings. I devoured the first seven Del Rey editions, following the adventures of the hero, Tarl Cabot, an earth man transported to the planet. With him I discovered the fascinating world of Gor, as he defeated evil foes, rescued beautiful damsels and unraveled the mystery of the Priest-Kings. The series continued with another publisher--Tor, perhaps? As it progressed the books became filled with less adventure and more philosophy: men are naturally more dominant, women are naturally submissive, blah, blah, blah. I suspect Mr. Norman had never encountered stubborn women of midwestern and/or German descent. (Now there's a book, HausFrau of Gor.)
Anyway, when I finally got around to paring down my library, the Gor books were easily sold off. Years passed and at the most recent Friends of the Library sale, I found a copy of Tarnsman of Gor on the book tables. I had forgotten a lot about the book, so I figured I'd reread it and see how much I'd enjoy it 30+ years later. The story itself was all right, once I got over the bad science and the similarities to A Princess of Mars. I could relate somewhat to Tarl Cabot, a young man learning a new culture, but still hanging on to some of his native values. The plot moves along pretty well and the characters are likable stereotypes. But in the end, I wasn't even slightly tempted to read the next book in the series....more
For my latest history fix, I decided to go way back to the first 300 years after Christ. (Of course, having received this book for Christmas influenceFor my latest history fix, I decided to go way back to the first 300 years after Christ. (Of course, having received this book for Christmas influenced this decision somewhat.) It was interesting and amusing to read about the first centuries of the Christian Church, reading of controversies and heresies that have been revived almost 20 centuries later. Once, Eusebius gets to the years of his life, however, and speaks of the persecutions that some faced, I was reminded that American Christians, at least, live in a very different world....more
This is the second book by Sherman Alexie that I've read. Like the The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, he does a wonderful job of creatinThis is the second book by Sherman Alexie that I've read. Like the The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, he does a wonderful job of creating a whole world and drawing the reader into it. I found that very appealing and was reminded of how I loved reading biographies of the Marx Brothers back in my youth. Guess I must have a ghetto fetish. Weird. Anyway, I didn't enjoy this collection of short stories as much as Diary. It has some beautiful and poignant moments, but I guess I prefer the longer plot and characters. Or maybe Diary had a touch more hope in it? I forget. Perhaps I should re-read both again....more
I love maps, and don't mind wasting time poring over one. However, I've never given much thought about them--how they're made, why they're made, and aI love maps, and don't mind wasting time poring over one. However, I've never given much thought about them--how they're made, why they're made, and all that. So this book ended up being a nice little voyage of discovery for me. As a combination of history and maps, it seemed natural to put it on my reading list. Like Tom Standage's A History of the World in 6 Glasses, Professor Brotton's book takes a single concept, in this case maps of the world, and follows it through history. For each map, he sets up the scene of the society in which the map was created. He looks at why the mapmaker(s) created the peace, and what it tells us about the culture. I'm quite glad I checked it out....more
In one sense, this book is a standard missionary tale, the story of John & Bonnie Nystrom, who came to the Arop people in Papua New Guinea to tranIn one sense, this book is a standard missionary tale, the story of John & Bonnie Nystrom, who came to the Arop people in Papua New Guinea to translate the Bible into the Arop's heart language. In another sense, the Nystrom's are supporting characters in the story of the Arop translators, who translated the Bible into their own heart language. regardless of who gets top billing, the central moment of the tale is the tsunami of 1998. The tsunami devastated the Arop village, along with other communities on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. Before that disaster, the Arop translation project followed the then standard procedures of concentrating on a single language, being carefully checked, revised and rechecked by official translation consultants. Afterwards, the challenges that arose as the Arops tried to rebuild their community and the translators tried to restore their project opened the door for the team to try new techniques and technologies, relying more on the skill and direction of local translators than foreigners. This change led not only to an Arop translation of the book of Luke, but also versions for the Malol, Serra, and Sissano speakers as well. It's a heartening tale of suffering, healing and everyday miracles....more