The Little White Horse

 

by Elizabeth Goudge

1946

Some fellow reader on tumblr recommended this book to me.  I wish that I could remember who, so that I could heartily thank them, because I loved every page of this book.  I really have no idea how to describe this book.  It was like a flower–beautiful, delicate, fragrant, old-fashioned, simple yet complex, uplifting.  Okay, so that’s a bit sappy, but still true.  This book was just wonderful.

I don’t really want to go into the storyline for fear of giving too much away, but I would like to note that I do not usually enjoy books that mix religion with magic.  But this book did it just perfectly–magic somehow became miracles, and the beauty of believing in God was not at all belittled or mocked; in fact, it was an important part of the tale.

By all means, find and read this book.  I will definitely be looking up more books by Elizabeth Goudge in the future!

5/5.

An Unfortunate Series of Events, Books 1-8

Lately, I have also been reading Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Series.  Overall, I have been enjoying the tales, but to  me they just drrrrrrrrraggggggg.  It’s as though all of the books could have been just one book about the same size as they each are now.  And, as the name implies, they are not particularly happy stories.  Bad things are constantly dogging the steps of the young orphans, so it’s not exactly uplifting reading.

I like the overarching story and the bit of mystery there, and am interested to see how things eventually end.  But at this point, the books are just SO slow to me.  I’ll let you know how I feel when I finish them.  ;-)

Caddie Woodlawn

 

by Carol Ryrie Brink

Published: 1935

This story, set during the 1860’s in the west, is based on the author’s grandmother’s life.  The book is anecdotes from  a year of Caddie’s life and is full of interesting history and a glimpse into everyday life during the time.  The book is a lot of fun, although sometimes the jumps in the story seem a bit abrupt.  There isn’t much of an overall plot tying things together, which can make the book seem a bit choppy at times.  Still, it’s a happy story and very readable.  3/5.

Friday’s Child

 

by Georgette Heyer

Published: 1944

I loved this book!  I actually will probably end up purchasing it; it may be my favorite Heyer book that I have read to date (and I have read several!).

And it could be because I really enjoy stories that begin with the wedding instead of ending with it.  The characters of this tale are just sweet and endearing and I loved reading about them.  The dialogue is so much fun, and the plot has just enough friction between the characters without being annoying.  The title comes from the poem about the characteristics of children born on various days of the week–

Friday’s child is loving and giving…

And the young heroine of the story is just that.  The love and patience she shows to her husband is lovely to behold, and watching Sherry learn to cherish and appreciate his wife is beautiful.  If you’ve never read a Heyer book, Friday’s Child is a wonderful place to start.  5/5.

The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, & Revenge

 

by Paul Preston

Published: 2006

I’ve been working my way through this book slowly for the last several weeks, and I came into it with absolutely NO prior knowledge of the Spanish Civil War.  In fact, I didn’t even know they had a Civil War in the 1930’s.

The book was a good read.  Preston writes knowledgeably and readably, in an informative but not overly-scholarly way.  While his writing doesn’t quite compare to Richard Pipes (see Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime), it trends in that direction in its accessibility, and the ability to be interesting and useful for a non-expert like myself.

I was drawn to this book when I began to realize that I have no idea what Spain was doing during World War II.  It’s a pretty big piece of Europe to just be sitting there, so I decided to start with some pre-WWII background.  And lo, Spain has quite the pre-WWII background!  Almost a decade of a brutal, bloody, desperate Civil War, led by the Fascist rebels (and eventually, their leader, soon-to-be evil dictator Franco).  Without rambling on about Spanish history (because I am still definitely no expert), I will say that this was a very interesting read.  I feel that Preston did a good job balancing various perspectives on a historical event that is still being vigorously debated eighty years later.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

 

by Agatha Christie

Published: 1938

As an aside, the picture on the cover of this book is a hearth with a fire burning in the grate.

Anyway, this story takes place around Christmas, and, as in Appointment with Death, the victim is a Very Unpleasant Person.

Still, the story is clever, although, again, I sometimes feel that Christie has to stretch to find a conclusion.  3/5.

Two Are Better Than One

 

by Carol Ryrie Brink

Published: 1968

This is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors.  Carol Ryrie Brink creates the happiest little stories.  While not long on plot, they are full of just delightful, knowable characters.

Two Are Better Than One is about two girls who are best friends, and many of the adventures in which they become involved.  Throughout the book, they are writing a story of their own (“The Romantical Perils of Lester and Lynette”), which adds to the fun.

I love this book.  :-)  5/5.

Sunset at Blandings

 

by P.G. Wodehouse; editorial notes by Richard Usborne

Published: 1977

This book was Wodehouse’s final work, and was not quite completed at the time of his death.  In this story, Wodehouse brought back all of the old favorite characters to Blandings Castle, for yet another adventure of ill-fated love, impostors, and irate sisters.  Richard Usborne arranged and published the nearly-completed first 3/4 of the book, and then gives the outline of the rest of the story.  The end of the book includes the actual working notes that Wodehouse was using to write the story.  Throughout the roughly-finished first part of the book, Usborne includes useful little notes to aid the reader through areas which would have more than likely been more thoroughly fleshed out and explained in Wodehouse’s final copy.

If nothing else, the book is worth checking out of the library just so you can make a copy of the floor plan of Blandings Castle, and the lay-out of its estate.  I wish I had had these tools whilst reading all the other Blandings Castle books!

This story was enjoyable, and even in its unfinished state, Wodehouse’s genius is obvious.

Appointment with Death

 

by Agatha Christie

Published: 1937

I have no idea what kind of writing schedule Agatha Christie was on, but she had to be publishing a LOT of books every year.  The last three I’ve read were all copyrighted 1937, and I am just working my way through the ones starring Hercule Poirot!

Anyway.

Appointment with Death is one of those mysteries where no one is very sorry that the victim has been murdered; in fact, most people would consider said murder to be overall beneficial to society at large, and the victim’s family in particular.  But, as Poirot has said many times, he does not approve of murder.  He is a strong believer in the idea that human life–all of it, not just the parts we like–is sacred.  And so, he pursues the murderer of a very unpleasant woman.

The story is good, although a bit far-fetched to me.  But Poirot is in fine form, and the book is an easy 3/5.

The Far West

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by Patricia Wrede

Published: 2012

This book is the third in its series; the first two are Thirteenth Child and Across the Great Barrier.  Supposedly, this is the final book in a trilogy, but I will be very sad if this is true, because it feels as though Wrede is just getting into her stride with this particular world.

I greatly enjoyed this book, as I did the first two.  My only problem with it, really, is actually the same as I had with those other two books.  It feels as though the author spends the entire book building and building and then just abruptly concludes everything in the last chapter.  It’s the same sort of feeling that you get when you’re climbing and climbing and climbing in a rollercoaster, and then suddenly drop.  Except imagine that you dropped and then just stopped at the bottom and that’s the end of it.

Still, until the end, the story moves along well.  I like the characters; I like the world that has been created; I like the animals.  It’s all great fun.  I do get slightly irritated because these books are set in this sort of alternate reality of the post-Civil War west, and Wrede uses the names of large cities to mark where things are happening, but at the same time has changed the names of the continents and many countries.  For some reason, this seems confusing to me, but it’s probably just my brain being weird.

Overall, I definitely recommend these books.  The Far West  can be read as an individual story, but I would suggest reading the other two first to really get the full concept of what is going on in the final book.  I give this book a 4/5.