The Talisman Ring

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by Georgette Heyer

Published: 1936

This is another delightful book by Georgette Heyer, and although I did not love it quite as much as Friday’s Childit may be a close second.  This one was fun because of the mystery.  The characters interacted wonderfully, and, as usual, even the villain was a bit likable.  The pacing of this story was excellent as well.

For me, the only strange part was that this was a completely third-person  narration.  I don’t know how else to say it.  Heyer basically never told us what anyone was thinking or feeling; that was left to be inferred by her descriptions of expressions, reactions, and conversations.  It was interesting, but not very personal.

Still, this was an overall wonderfully fun story, and one that I will probably add to my collection soon.  5/5.

Target: Switzerland

By: Stephen Halbrook

Published: 1998

Sorry, I forgot to take a picture before loaning this book to my sister.

Anyway, this fascinating non-fiction piece is about the role Switzerland played in World War II as a neutral state, and as the only oasis of democracy in a Europe swallowed by totalitarianism.  It was a fantastic book, and made me want to move to Switzerland.  I am intrigued to continue studying the country to see how it has evolved over the last 70 years.

The book was well-written and interesting.  Informative, without  being dry.  I enjoyed it.

Baby Island

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by Carol Ryrie Brink

Published: 1937

As I may have mentioned, I love Carol Ryrie Brink.  Her children’s books are everything a child’s book should be.  A happy story with just the right amount of tension, wonderful read-aloud quality, quirky characters, family values, and happy endings.

In Baby Island, two sisters, ages 12 and 10,  are shipwrecked on a (supposedly) deserted island with three toddlers and a baby.  How the survive, and befriend the island’s “Man Friday,” is an adorable tale.

I’m not sure that two modern-day girls of the same age could accomplish the same thing.  So many children these days seem disinterested in babies, and so many families only have one or two children.  In 1937, babies were, perhaps, far more important.  I love Brink’s foreword:

When I was a small girl, it was the fashion in our circle to borrow the neighbors’ babies.  I myself was never a very accomplished nursemaid, although I had many happy hours pushing the perambulator of a young cousin; but some of my friends had a positive genius for taking care of and amusing babies.  They never thought of receiving pay for this delightful pastime.  Minding a baby was its own reward.

It is more difficult to borrow babies now, I understand.  Whether this is due to a scarcity of babies or to more particular mothers, I am unable to say.  But I am quite sure of this: there are just as many little girls who love babies as there ever were, and it is especially for them that I have written the story of Baby Island.

This is a very, very happy little tale, and definite read for any little girls who love babies.

4/5.

Inheritance

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by Christopher Paolini

Published: 2011

So, here we have the final book in Paolini’s series.  In Book #4, Eragon and Saphria finally meet their nemesis, after much gory battling across the countryside, plus a little side journey to an island, and lots of gossip with the ancient dragons.

As I mentioned in my review of Brisingrthis series just really began to drag for me.  It was so serious and intense.  Four 800-page books, and not a SINGLE line that made me smile.  Nothing.  That is an awful lot of time spent without a spark of fun.  Throughout, and especially in the last two books, they read more like non-fiction than fiction, just non-fiction of a fictional place, if that makes sense.  I really did not enjoy this book at all; I just wanted to see how everything ended.  I’ll rant about that in the spoiler-filled ‘read more’ section.  Suffice to say for now, this series wasn’t worth the effort for me.  I would never read them again, and I wouldn’t ever recommend them to someone else.  I experienced basically no emotion from them.  I never particularly bonded with the characters, never really cared about their fate or was inspired to any kind of passion for their goals.  For me, the story was incredibly neutral.  If they’d gotten to the end and lost, I really wouldn’t have been that upset.

This book, and the series as a whole: 2/5.

Below: spoiler-filled rant about the way this book ended…

Continue reading

Murder in Retrospect

by Agatha Christie

Published: 1942

Sorry, I don’t have a pic of this one.  The copy I own is in a small collection of Christie mysteries entitled Murder Preferred.  I think that this title is hilarious, because who actually prefers murder?  Ah well.

This mystery is exactly what the title says.  Poirot is asked to reexamine a murder that occurred sixteen years previously.  I actually really enjoy this mystery because you have access to all the same information as Poirot, making it (theoretically) possible for you to solve the mystery as well.  This story lacks the feeling of urgency; one never feels that the killer is going to strike again as he so often does in other mysteries.  Still, I found it to be a very good read.

4/5.

Tiger’s Curse

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by Colleen Houck

Published: 2011

So this was on some list on GoodReads so I thought that I would give it a whirl.  About halfway through I realized that it was the first book in a series (whoops) and was momentarily afraid that the sequel(s) would not yet be published, since this is copyrighted 2011, but lo! Houck managed to write three more books in less than two years after this book was published.  So.  All four are available.  Lucky me.

Anyway.  I enjoyed most of this book.  It started well.  I liked the narrator/heroine just fine, and who doesn’t wish that they could fall in love with a magical tiger?  At the age of 18, it was delightful to have a heroine who was actually the right age to be falling in love and wandering all over the world and making important life-altering decisions.

However, I fear for the rest of the series.  At this point, our heroine has fallen in love with her original tiger.  However, it turns out that this enchanted tiger has a brother who is also an enchanted tiger!  So I’m afraid that this whole thing is just going to devolve into an incredibly dull love triangle (WHICH I HATE), and that’s a shame,  because there is a lot of potential with these characters and their story.

Most of the story takes place in India, and the characters are attempting to appease an Indian goddess so she will lift their curse.  That also gets a bit confusing because there are loads of gods and goddesses in ruinous temples.  I also personally prefer my fantasy to be firmly separate from real life, e.g. I would rather have these characters working with magical entities instead of religious beings.

Still, this was a strong 3-almost-4/5, and I have the other three books on reserve at the library.

Brisingr

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by Christopher Paolini

Published: 2008

This is Book #3 in Paolini’s Inheritance series, and in many ways it is a ramp-up to the big conclusion in Book #4 (Inheritance).

I have to admit that by about a third of the way through this book, my interest in the entire series was beginning to wane.  Eragon and Saphria spend so much time wandering from place to place, trying to figure out what is going on, trying to understand what is happening.  The magic gets progressively more complicated and convoluted, and there is TOO MUCH description of battle scenes.  I just don’t need to hear for the umpteenth time that so-and-so’s sword is capable of slicing through a man’s armor, flesh, and bone like a hot knife through butter.  I get the idea.

I’ve already finished the final book, and will be writing that review shortly, so let me suffice to say here that at this point, the series seems to drag a bit, and by Book #4 it was more of a grueling marathon than anything resembling enjoyable fictional reading for me.  Brisingr is a 2/5.

Hitler

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by Albert Marrin

Published: 1987

Allow me to begin by saying that I love Albert Marrin!  I read his biography of Stalin not long ago, and have a list of his books so that I can read the ones applicable to my current study.  Marrin writes concisely and well, with just the right amount of detail.

Hitler is really more of an overview of World War II.  While the beginning chapters deal with Hitler’s youth and coming of age, once he is in charge of Germany, Marrin does not concern himself as much with Hitler as a man as he does with Germany’s role in WWII.  Although, in a sense, since Hitler was personally in charge of every aspect of Germany’s WWII actions, perhaps it is one and the same.

Evil Under the Sun

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by Agatha Christie

Published: 1940

This Poirot mystery started with a setup almost exactly like one in a short story that I read recently (although I can’t remember which collection it was–perhaps Murder in the Mews?) wherein there are two couples: one comprised of a rich and beautiful woman and a reticent, long-suffering husband; the other comprised of a quiet and faithful woman and her star-struck (by the wife of the first couple) husband.  Rich and beautiful woman dies.

From here, the stories diverge completely, continuing and ending quite differently, but because the initial situation was so similar to the short story, I had trouble separating their plots in my mind; I kept expecting it to end as the other had.  So.

Overall, it was a so-so book of hers anyway, not one I particularly enjoyed.  When adultery is the main premise of the plot, it usually is not one that I enjoy as well, but that’s just me personally.  Overall, a 2/5 for this one.

The Moorchild

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by Eloise McGraw

Published: 1996

So basically I’ve been browsing Goodreads using various key search words to see what I can find to read, and The Moorchild appeared under the fairy tale tag, I think, or something along those lines.  It is the story of about a changeling.  While most stories involving changelings follow the adventures of the stolen (human) child, this follows the tale of the changeling herself, and unwilling mix of faery and human.

It was an interesting and well-written story, and Saaki is a character with whom it is easy to sympathize, trapped as she is between worlds.

But overall, this story is simply sad.  No one really loves Saaki, or wants her, and it is through no fault of her own.  And she never really finds peace.  While I can appreciate the beauty and artistry of the tale, it is  not one that I would read again, or even recommend.  It left me feeling distraught and sad.  Instead of being a redemptive tale, wherein the people of Saaki’s village learn to love and accept her, it is a story where prejudice and ignorance win out over the finer feelings, leaving Saaki an outcast forever from all sides.

For  me, this was a 2/5.  Soooo sad.