Sunday, November 11, 2018

"An Hour Unspent" by Roseanna M. White.

TODAY is the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I.  Or, the Great War, as they called it then.  Perfect time to review this book, as it takes place during WWI.  In fact, I tried to hold off on finishing this book until today, but the truth is, I finished it a couple days ago because I couldn't stop reading it.  However, I did manage to hold off on reviewing it until today so I could mark this very important day in a special way on my blog!

I would have finished it even faster if this book had come in at the library for me a little sooner.  And if, right after it came in, I hadn't gone to my parents' for a week and left it behind.  In fact, I started reading it almost two weeks after I got it from the library, and then it came due when I was only ten chapters in, and I couldn't renew it because other people had holds on it too.  What's a girl to do?

A girl is to know, ten chapters in, that she loves this book so much, she must own a copy of it, and order one from Amazon, and finish reading it once it arrives on her doorstep, obviously.  Hurrah for Prime shipping.

So.  This book focuses on Barclay Pearce, older "brother" of the women featured in A Name Unknown and A Song Unheard.  I kind of wish he'd been on the cover, but I guess the publishers wanted the books to be all matchy and feature only women or something.  And there IS a woman who's a major part of the book, but... but... Barclay is the center of it, and they should have put him on the cover, so there.

I'm not reviewing this very well.  So, basically, it's about former thief Barclay Pearce walking literally into the muddled life of Evelina Manning, an upper-middle-class London clockmaker's daughter who is reeling from a broken engagement.  Really, Barclay is there to help her father with an important gizmo that will revolutionize air warfare.  She decides to flirt with him to prove to herself that she is independent and desirable and mistress of her fate.  And then she falls in love with him, and there's a middle section where everything went wrong and I wanted to shake her.

But like I said, this is Barclay's story, really.  He is such a glorious character, struggling with his own private issues, trying to reconnect with his past, but all the while opening his home and his heart to those in need.  Wonderful guy.

The ending has a few thrilling heroics tossed in for good measure, much like the endings of the previous two books in the trilogy.  And it all ends satisfactorily, so yay!

Particularly Good Bits:

Blast it all.  Why had she made friends with these people?  They didn't follow the rules, didn't ever grant her the comfort of her preconceived notions.  Even before she'd known the whole truth about them, she'd recognized that, so why had she become so attached? (p. 306)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate it:  PG for some peril and violence.  No bad language or questionable content.  There's some kissing, though.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"Return to Gone-Away" by Elizabeth Enright

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.  I would have LOVED this book as a kid!  Not that I didn't love it now, cuz I did, but I would have read it over and over and over and over as a kid, just like I did the book that preceeds it, Gone-Away Lake.  

This book picks up where that one left off, with Portia's family renovating the abandoned mansion that her parents bought the previous summer.  It's all about fixing an old house, and I have ALWAYS wanted to fix up an old house (in theory, anyway -- my adult self realizes that would be a LOT of work).  Plus, you get to spend another whole book hanging out with Portia and Julian and all their friends, young and old, and hanging out with fictional friends is one of my favorite pastimes.  

There are adventures and surprises and discoveries and treasure hunts, and it is altogether jolly good fun.  I read this aloud to my kids, which was awesome, and I fully intend to re-read it in a few years.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  There's one part where kids get stuck in a dumbwaiter that's a little tense, and very little kids might find that freaky.  But it's clean as a whistle.

This is my 9th book read and reviewed for the OldSchool Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018.  I need to read one more, and I'll have reached my goal for this challenge!

Friday, November 2, 2018

"Soldier On" by Vanessa Rasanen -- Guest Review on SDMW

Wow.  This book is intense.  It deals with the struggles faced by a married couple who are separated when the husband is deployed to the Middle East.  I love how it gives a clear picture of two Christians with mature faith who still struggle to live out their faith in their daily life.  

There are no easy answers provided here -- simply reading the Bible and praying and going to church don't fix every problem, though turning your back on Word and Sacrament certainly exacerbate troubles at times.  Depression and doubt are depicted realistically, but shown to be survivable, not the end of life or faith.

I've reviewed this book fully here on Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife, if you want to know more.  You'll also have a chance to enter a giveaway there!

Particularly Good Bits:

Church wasn't a place to go only when life was going well.

They might not be like other couples, attached at the hip and sickeningly cute, but this was them, with their own brand of marriage and love, however odd it might seem to the outside world.

She looked down into her mug, wishing she could disappear into the abyss, drown herself in coffee.  That would be a weird way to go.  Very Lutheran of you.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for scenes of war violence and danger, soldiers using occasional crass language and making jokes about people's mothers, a realistic depiction of more than one kind of depression, and discussions of child neglect and a suspected suicide attempt.  Gritty, but not gruesome or gross.

I received a complimentary advance copy from the author, and in no way did I agree to provide a positive review in exchange.  These are my honest opinions.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"The Hound of the Baskervilles" by A. Conan Doyle

I've read this book 4 times since I started this blog in 2013.  I read it in 2013, led a read-along of it in 2014, read it again in 2016 but didn't review it, and now I've read it again.  Can you tell I love it?  It is, in fact, my favorite Sherlock Holmes story, and I get in the mood for it every October.  Some years I read it, some years I watch a filmed adaptation of it, kind of depends on what I've got going on.

This year, I'm teaching it to several homeschooled high schoolers, which is so much fun.  I love teaching others about books I love!  

What draws me to this book?  The characters, of course.  Hanging out with Holmes and Watson is one of my dearest fictional joys.  The mystery is solid, though because I know how it goes, it doesn't surprise me anymore.  But it's such a strong story that it still sucks me in, and I get all caught up in running around the moor in pursuit of justice.  

This is one of the most atmospheric books I've ever read.  The whole thing oozes eerieness, all foggy and damp and dark and ghastly.  I love trying to figure out how Doyle captured that feeling and sustained it for so many chapters.  The pacing in general is absolutely perfect, pulling us inexorably forward, but never rushing.  Brilliant.

Because I counted this for my first go-round with the Classics Club, I'm not counting it this time.  Just so you know.  

Particularly Good Bits:

There, outlined as black as an ebony statue on that shining background, I saw the figure of a man upon the tor... He stood with his legs a little separated, his arms folded, his head bowed, as if he were brooding over that enormous wilderness of peat and granite which lay before him.  He might have been the very spirit of that terrible place (p. 98).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for suspense and scary images.

This is my fourth and final book read for the Reams of Rereads event.  Yay!  I met my goal!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: 'Tis Now the Very Witching Time of Night

This week, That Artsy Reader Girl gave us a bit of a freebie.  It's supposed to be something Halloween-themed, but the exact prompt is up to us.  I decided to focus on dark, macabre, or eerie books.  Now, the truth is that I don't like scary books.  Or scary movies.  At all.  Unless they involve vampires; then, I'm okay.  So none of these are especially scary or horrifying, except maybe Dracula (cuz vampires).  But they ARE dark.

I'm sharing a dark or eerie passage from each just to give you a taste of what they contain.  As always, if I've reviewed this book here, I'll link the title to my review.  Without further ado, here are my ten favorite dark reads

1.  Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
"'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breaths out
Contagion to this world.  Now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on."

2.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
What crime was this, that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner? What mystery that broke out, now in the fire and now in the blood, at the deadest hours of the night? What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of prey?

3.  The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle
A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame.

4.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The road to Manderley lay ahead. There was no moon. The sky above our heads was inky black. But the sky on the horizon was not dark at all. It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.

5.  The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Despite the care which she took to look behind her at every moment, she failed to see a shadow which followed her like her own shadow, which stopped when she stopped, which started again when she did and which made no more noise than a well-conducted shadow should.

6.  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
It was a wild, cold seasonable night of March, with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and a flying wrack of the most diaphanous and lawny texture.

7.  From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury
"I have no name," he whispered. "A thousand fogs have visited my family plot. A thousand rains have drenched my tombstone. The chisel marks were erased by mist and water and sun. My name has vanished with the flowers and the grass and the marble dust."

8.  Bloodlines by Jan Burke
If the blonde had not put her hand on Jack Corrigan's thigh, he might have awakened in his own bed, rather than facedown on the side of a farm road in the middle of the night.  Then he would have missed the burial.

9.  Dracula by Bram Stoker
Never did tombs look so ghastly white. Never did cypress, or yew, or juniper so seem the embodiment of funeral gloom. Never did tree or grass wave or rustle so ominously. Never did bough creak so mysteriously, and never did the far-away howling of dogs send such a woeful presage through the night.

10.  The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one -- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

Have you read any of these?  Did you like them too?  Did you post your own TTT list this week?  Please share!

Monday, October 29, 2018

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

Every time I read something by Ray Bradbury, I think, "Why don't I read more Ray Bradbury?"  I really need to remedy that and just... read more of his stuff.  I mean, I've read 3 of his novels and 2 collections of short stories, but I know he wrote a lot more than that.  Vanessa Rasanen has me convinced I need to try Something Wicked This Way Comes, so that's going on my TBR list.

I love this book.  I loved it the first time I read it, between freshman and sophomore years of college.  I've loved it every time I've reread it, and this is probably the fifth time I've read it.  It's fantastic.  The storytelling, the writing, the plot, the imagery, the characters, just everything.  I don't generally enjoy dystopian fiction, but this book hits so many of my buttons that I can't help but love it.  Loner protagonist?  Deep discussions about the value of books?  Characters who stand up against oppression?  Burning buildings?  People living on the fringes of society?  Check and check and check again. 

(From my Instagram)

If you don't know about this book, it's about a future society where everyone is obsessed with interactive television shows and spends their days and nights listening to music piped into their heads through little earbuds called seashells, and if that sounds eerily like today's society... yeah.  Bradbury wrote this in the 1950s, and wow, our world right now resembles his a lot.  Except that in this book, firemen set fires.  Specifically, they burn books.  All books, all the time.  Doesn't matter what they are, they must be burned. 

One fireman, Guy Montag, meets up with a quirky and unusual girl one evening, and her perspective on life changes his worldview forever.  Instead of burning books, he tries reading one, and... I don't want to spoil the book, so let's just say nothing is ever the same for him again.  It's fabulous, and everyone should read it, okay?  It has so much to say about the power of words.

I had the great pleasure of attending a reading given by the late, great Ray Bradbury when I was in college.  I brought along my copy of Fahrenheit, 451, which he signed for me.  I treasure it.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  a hard PG-13 for bad language, scary moments, violence, and discussion of things like suicide.

This is my 23rd book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club and my 3rd for the Reams of Rereads event.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C. S. Lewis

Is it weird that I liked this book WAY BETTER when I read it now, as an adult, than I did as a kid?  I'm thinking that maybe I'm old enough to read fairy tales again, like the dedication to this book says.  I read the series when I was in my early teens and just didn't care for them.  I've never been a huge fan of allegory, so that was part of it.  But I think I was just in the wrong time of life for them, like I was for The Hobbit.  

Anyway, I totally dug this book this time through!  I think I spent less time trying to "solve" the allegory and figure out who represented what, and so on, which I remember getting hung up on as a teen.  Instead, I enjoyed the characters and their arcs, and appreciated the artistry of Lewis' storytelling.  I didn't expect to say this, but I intend to reread the rest of the series over the next few months.  

I did read this one and The Horse and His Boy at least twice when I was younger, and when I was in my twenties, I went to see the movies.  So it's not like I was anti-Narnia so much as just not into Narnia.  But maybe I'm finally ready to be into it.

I was interested to discover that, as an adult, I still like Edmund best of the Pevensies.  I like Lucy too, but she's almost too good to be realistic, you know?  And so is Peter.  Susan is okay, but not someone I want to be friends with, really.  But Edmund... I understand Edmund.  I love his character arc, how he stumbles and falls and repents and finds forgiveness -- which is also a big part of why I love Boromir in The Lord of the Rings, actually.  I love how both of them are so relatable -- we all are tempted, we all sin, we all need forgiveness.  (I also love Boromir because he's wonderful, but that's another post from another time.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some violence and scary moments.  Squeaky clean in all other respects.

This is my 22nd book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club, and my 8th book for the OldSchool Kidlit Reading Challenge.

And this is my second book read for the Reams of Rereads event!