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Book Review: “The Prisoner of Zenda,” by Anthony Hope

2636473Genre: classic; adventure

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] “Anthony Hope’s swashbuckling romance transports his English gentleman hero, Rudolf Rassendyll, from a comfortable life in London to fast-moving adventures in Ruritania, a mythical land steeped in political intrigue. Rassendyll bears a striking resemblance to Rudolf Elphberg who is about to be crowned King of Ruritania. When the rival to the throne, Black Michael of Strelsau, attempts to seize power by imprisoning Elphberg in the Castle of Zenda, Rassendyll is obliged to impersonate the King to uphold the rightful sovereignty and ensure political stability.”

My Book Review: This story became an immediate favorite years ago when I first saw the old 1952 film version (starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr) when I was 15 years old.  I was staying at my grandpa’s and watched it over and over.  There was something about the swashbuckling adventure full of danger, intrigue, cloak and dagger, and romance that really had me at hello.  In fact, I believe it was one of the first titles I ever entered into my To-Read notebook that I wanted to make sure I read the novel of someday.  It’s been years for me to get around to it, and I was a little bit afraid that the book would let me down in comparison.

This book is not terribly long or hard to get through. I found that the movie version I loved from the first followed the plot pretty well, except for maybe some scenes removed to make for better film-length comprehension.  The book was exciting and fun to read, though I probably would have enjoyed it a little more had I read it first before the movie.  Some parts, such as the Granger-Kerr chemistry is better than the book.  But it’s a great adventure in a vintagey, old-fashioned sort of way.  I’m always in the mood for impersonation stories, intrigue, and suspense.  And I think the tale’s a bit of a classic in that a hard, bittersweet decision is made at the end that leaves you sighing and wishing…  Sort of like Casablanca.

If this sounds like a story you would enjoy diving into, just know that it is actually the second in the Ruritania Trilogy.  I’ve read the first book The Heart of Princess Osra (see book review here), but the two novels are more standalone than anything.  In fact, The Prisoner… is much more of an interesting read than the first.  I will be reading the third in the series, Rupert of Hentzau at some point in time, and I understand that particular one is a better connected sequel to PoZ.

So grab this book if you want an escape to the mountains of the fictional country of Ruritania, where old castle walls, heraldry, and swordfights await you!

“This is movie magic at its mightiest!…” Ha, ha! 😀

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Posted by on August 24, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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How Biblical is the Fantasy Genre?

Someone recently approached my mom and asked her if she liked fantasy.  Sure, she said; some of it.

What constitutes fantasy that is good as opposed to fantasy that is bad?  Is there a difference?  Is there something about it that should make one hesitant from a Christian perspective, or are they all just good fiction stories?  As Christians, we may sometimes be reserved when approaching the fantasy genre because different reasons.  Too much unreality may not be beneficial, or maybe the magical elements are of a corrupting influence.  Then, I have known other Christians who seem to practice no discernment, and devour anything because none of it is true so what’s the problem?

I first discovered author Gene Edward Veith while helping out in the church library.  I still have yet to read his books, but a growing number of his titles are on my TBR list.  I stumbled upon this article written by him, entitled Good Fantasy & Bad Fantasy.  I thought it was an excellent piece that approached the subject in an well-rounded way.  Though perhaps written a few years ago, it’s content is still classic for today’s audience as well.

What are your thoughts on the fantasy genre?

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Review: “Nightbringer,” by James Byron Huggins

untitledGenre: suspense; Christian fiction, fantasy

Plot Summary: A group of tourists are stranded at a reclusive monastery high up in the Italian Alps.  But that’s the least of their worries.  A hair-raising screech in the dead of night lets them know they and the monks are not the only ones at the ancient abbey.  What is out there and what is it looking for?  And who is the mysterious hero in their midst who seems to know more than he’s telling?

My Book Review: I became interested in reading another book by author James Byron Huggins after I finished his novel, “Rora” (see my review of it here).  I hunkered down with this adventure in the winter and prepared to be entertained.

This was an easier read than Rora.  The latter dealt with the hard historical account of the Calvinist martyrs in Italy, while Nightbringer was more in the fantasy/supernatural genre.  Although this isn’t the first or the last Christian novel to deal with the subject of the Nephilim, it was the first I’ve read, and I was entertained with the ‘what if’ of what would happen if the descendants of Anak were still on earth.  Of course, if this were truly the case it would very unsettling, but in fiction it makes for great adventure!

The first third of the story was the most interesting to me, as it was able to keep my interest with it’s mystery. But once that mystery was revealed (too early on), the suspense was dropped.  Unfortunately, I felt the author got himself into a rut in the middle of his story.  I was quickly bored reading about one battle after another with the Nephilim beasts and the descriptions that went on page after page.  In every episode, it seemed Cassius (our hero) was severely wounded worse than he ever had before, then quickly recovered and preparing for his next battle, where he was wounded worse than ever before that… and the cycle would go on chapter after chapter.

I can see guys liking this story perhaps more than I did. It has the action, the battles, the hero that may appeal to them.  But it is not a serious work of fiction, and definitely not literary.  If you are looking for something exciting and light, this is for you.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Mid Year Reading Goals

Although it may seem like I’ve been getting into a blogging rut of recent months, I’m actually pretty proud of myself for keeping on and not quitting.  I don’t want to quit even if things have been busy and hectic sometimes.

And I still have new blogging goals.  Some I will not be making public yet for a while with them, and others I will start during now during the mid year.  This revamping is not so much a revamp of the blog, as it is of my reading routines, but the routines will be showing a little difference here on the blog.

So, without further ado, I unmask my newest reading goal, and that is to join The Classics Club.  This is where I make a list of 50+ classics I plan on reading at least within the next five years and blog about them, then link them to The Classics Club blog.  I have decided to do this because 1) the goal was doable; 2) I read classics anyway; 3) I’ve discovered some really lovely book blogs out there that I didn’t know existed through TCC; 4) I would love to meet and interact with some other like-minded book lovers out there!

Below I will be sharing my curated list of classics I plan on reading.  Let it be known that I am using the word ‘classic’ loosely to suit my own tastes, which tend to be a lot of vintage dime thrillers.  I still have no desire to jump into War and Peace.   But I believe that if a book is an oldie and has at least stood the test of time well enough for me to have an interest in reading it, it must be a classic, right?  I also have many children’s classics, but that was in no way meant to cheat.  I appreciate any good story!  And lest anyone shouts my list is ‘No fair!”, I will refer you to the several below that are more ‘serious’ works of literature.  I avoided repeating authors or books from the same series in order to keep the variety.

The list may be subject to change:

Main 50 Classics Club List:

The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery

The Borrowers Afield, by Mary Norton

Miss Billy, by Eleanor H. Porter

The Seven Conundrums, by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Return to Gone-Away, by Elizabeth Enright

The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade

The Brass Bottle, by F. Anstey

The Shaving of Shagpat, by George Meredith

The Film Mystery, by Arthur B. Reeve

The Phoenix and the Carpet, by Edith Nesbit

The Flaming Forest, by James Oliver Curwood

Captain Blood Returns, by Rafael Sabatini

King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard

Dead Men’s Money, by J. S. Fletcher

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope

John Jago’s Ghost, by Wilkie Collins

The Passenger from Calais, by Arthur Griffiths

The Rosary, by Florence L. Barclay

Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief, by Maurice LeBlanc

The Amazing Interlude, by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Alice in Blunderland, by John Kendrick Bangs

At the Appointed Time, by Anna Maynard Barbour

Wired Love, by Ella Cheever Thayer

The Heart’s Kingdom, by Maria Thompson Davies

Basil Howe, by G. K. Chesterton

Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake

The Fisherman’s Lady, by George MacDonald

The Maid of Sker, by R. D. Blackmore

Miss Cayley’s Adventures, by Grant Allen

Down the Garden Path, by Beverley Nichols

The Willows, by Algernon Blackwood

The Mystery of the Blue Train, by Agatha Christie

Mr. Harrison’s Confessions, by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Man Who Lost Himself, by H. de Vere Stacpoole

The Laughing Cavalier, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The Green Rust, by Edgar Wallace

A Fair Barbarian, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte

Villette, by Charlotte Bronte

The New Chronicles of Rebecca, by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Blessing of Pan, by Lord Dunsany

The Palace in the Garden, by Mary Louisa Molesworth

A Spinner in the Sun, by Myrtle Reed

Trent’s Last Case, by E. C. Bentley

The Forsaken Inn, by Anna Katharine Green

Paradise Lost, by James Milton

Nothing So Strange, by James Hilton

Love Insurance, by Earl derr Biggers

The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

 

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2017 in Reading Habits

 

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Do you read long books?

Do you read long books? I confess that I tend to shy away from them.  I think it just seems like too big a commitment for me.  I prefer variety or else I get bored, and tackling a 400+ page novel leaves me exhausting just thinking about it.

It’s ironic but I think I had more patience when I was younger (teenage years). I had more time and I attempted just about any classic in the quest to say I’d read them all.  My tastes and goals have changed over the years.  But some of the longer fictional books I have accomplished in the past include “Little Women (age 12); “Ivanhoe” (which I converted into a 75 page play for my sister and myself); and more recently, “Titus Groan,” by Mervyn Peake.  There are a few others on my TBR that I don’t know when I’ll get to.  “The Maid of Sker,” by Richard D. Blackmore, “The Cloister and the Hearth,” by Charles Reade, and “Glastonbury,” by Donna Fletcher Crowe.

I think some of the reasons why I often shy away from the longer tomes these days is because I don’t feel I have the emotional or mental energy to undertake it. A couple of years ago I ordered a book on interlibrary loan, and then promptly sent it back upon seeing how thick the book and how tiny the print was.  I was going through a rough time and needed something lighter and faster paced.  Recently I also passed on an Edward Rutherfurd novel, when 15 years ago I probably would have checked it out.  Another plausible theory could be due to the fact that I have more eyestrain than I used to and it taints my desire for long, involved reads.

When searching out new additions for my TBR on goodreads, I try to thoughtfully evaluate whether I will realistically want to read a particular title or if I would just feel burdened and dread opening the cover. That sounds sort of funny now that I have that typed down.  Why would I want to read anything I’d dread?  Am I such a glutton for self-torture?  I want to read good, meaty, beneficial books.  But the word and page count of a book does not necessarily make it beneficial.  A proverb can be more wisely read than a full assortment of “Grey” romance.

Yet some of the world’s best epics have been told through long-drawn out prose. (Those French and Russian novels for instance…)  But usually their stories are too familiar told through other mediums for me to care to devote so much time to reading.  Maybe one day my interests will change again and I’ll be a reader of “Moby Dick” but I’m not so much a fan of whale blubber right now.

What does constitute me attempting a big fiction book? Just like any other book, it is usually a creative plotline and the adventure that draws me in.  If it has my attention in these areas, I can perhaps forget I’ve spent the last 3 months in this world.  It’s what kept me going through “Titus Groan”, and is what has me interested in someday trying “Shogun,” by James Clavell.

I came to ponder all of this after reading this article entitled “Never Ending Stories.”

What about you? If you’re a reader of long tales, what attracts you to them?

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in Reading Habits, Uncategorized

 

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Book Review: “The Club of Queer Trades,” by G. K. Chesterton

18834844Genre: mystery; classic

Plot Summary: [from Wikipedia:] “The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of stories by G. K. Chesterton first published in 1905.  Each story in the collection is centered on a person who is making his living by some novel and extraordinary means…  To gain admittance one must have invented a unique means of earning a living and the subsequent trade being the main source of income.”

My Book Review: If you’ve come to this blog post thinking you were going to read something on sexual identities, sorry to disappoint.  Once upon a time the word ‘queer’ was used to mean ‘peculiar’.  (I suppose ‘peculiar’ means something else now, too.  We’re so creative as to assign a double meaning to every word that already exists.)

There are ordinary men who lead ordinary lives with their chosen ordinary careers. And then there are others who take a different route in life.  They are the eccentrics, the colorful, and the crazy.  …Or are we, as ordinary citizens, the crazies?

If someone asked you to invent a whole new career that had never been thought of before, do you think you could do it and make money from it? Not merely recycling an existing career, substituting one thing for another, but actually coming up with a line of trade that’s never been done before.  It’s harder than it at first seems.  Of course, there would have to be a market for it.  And in the case of many of the extraordinary tradesmen in this collection of short stories, their careers are kept secret either because of the nature of their work, or because they would be thought insane.

As one would guess, this leads to many bizarre circumstances of ordinaries encountering these oddbodies (or geniuses) in society. The facts are there in front of their noses, but they can’t make sense of them.  It takes a remarkable fellow straddling the best of both worlds to make sense of the mysterious cases brought before him.  It makes for a curious read.

4b4f62db81ff23d0d0a99f7b0870ecddAlthough I usually dislike short story collections, I was glad this was written as it was. I didn’t particularly feel in the mood for a novel-length Chesterton at the time.  Sometimes he’s best taken in ‘doses’ because he can be so thick in his nonsense.  🙂  Really, G.K. was such a Mad Hatter!  Chesterton is never for those wanting a nice little story.  And it definitely isn’t my favorite book of all time.  But I enjoyed reading it anyway, because he picks you out of the mundane and makes you view the world at a different angle.  It gives the brain a good exercise!

I would say my favorite chapter story was “The Adventures of Major Brown”, in which a man is caught in an awfully good escapade, but doesn’t realize how much fun it was until it was over! How often are we the same in life?  We read novels for “escape” or to pseudo-live other “experiences”, but when some adventure happens in real life we are too overwhelmed to enjoy it in the moment.  Then of course, there’s the debate over modern-day video games.  Guys are so eager to play at fantasy games because it feeds something deep in their souls- the need for adventure.  But what happened to living real life?  Life is full of exciting experiences if only we accept its opportunities.

You can listen to the audiobook on Librivox by clicking here.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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On Librivox: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

I hope everyone had a great Easter!

Is anyone in the mood for great adventures full of mystical maidens and chivalrous knights?  Librivox just recently catalogued a new narrated project by the author Howard Pyle: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. This is a story that never ceases to interest people because of it’s classic characters.  Along with some other great readers, I got to take part in reading these tales (Sections 22-24).  My sections particularly documented the downfall of Merlin.  I had originally hoped to narrate the whole story of Merlin but the commitment became a little daunting and I passed it on to reader dominictreas.  However, it was fun to have flexibility in reading different character voices which is something I feel I’m good at.

I am currently in the process of narrating and editing my first solo!  Title to be revealed in due time…

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in LibriVox

 

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