The Black Cauldron

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by Lloyd Alexander

Published 1965

This is the sequel to The Book of Threea continuation of the Prydain Chronicles, and the adventures of Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper.

One of the things that I love about the Prydain stories is the way that each book is a little deeper and more thoughtful than the one before, while still retaining the light-hearted fun and happiness that make these books so enjoyable.  In each tale, Taran learns a bit more about what it means to be a man, and I love watching him grow.

The Black Cauldron deals a great a deal with pride and honor, as Taran accompanies a host intent on seeking out the black cauldron, which is being used by the arch-enemy to create the feared Cauldron Born.  These living dead are dead men who have been put in the cauldron and emerge without any memory of life, and they cannot be killed.

As the story unwinds, lives are lost in the attempt to find and destroy the cauldron, and Taran learns more about the true meaning of honor.

I can’t stress enough how much I love these books.  Read them!!!!

5/5.

Taken at the Flood (AKA There is a Tide)

003

by Agatha Christie

Published 1948

This particular Christie novel was a mixed bag for me.  The mystery wasn’t that great, in my opinion.  But, some of the characters were, if that makes any sense.

The background of this book is post-war.  People trying to settle back into life.  People readjusting to all the changes.  People relearning who they are and what they’re doing.  And that part of the book was, I think, excellent writing.  Lynn Marchmont has been in the war, in the Women’s Royal Navy Service, and now has returned to the small village where she grew up.  Her fiancee (since before the war), was exempt from service–he and his cousin owned a farm, and only one had to go; the cousin won (or lost, depending on your view) the draw, and went to war.  He was killed there.

So, the background story is about Lynn, trying to settle back into her life in this small village, after she’s seen the world and been all about.  And now she’s coming  home and marrying someone with whom she’s grown up, who never left, who doesn’t understand what she’s seen and where she’s been.  And in the midst of all of that, drop a handsome and dashing young stranger.

I enjoyed that story’s unwinding, and watching Lynn and Rowley (her fiancee) work through their misunderstandings.  But the mystery itself, and, in some ways, the very involvement of Hercule Poirot, seemed almost jarring.  Almost, this story could have just been written as a story about Lynne and Rowley, without any murder or mystery, and I would have liked it.

As a mystery, it was just pretty average, a 3/5.

Fire and Hemlock

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by Diana Wynne Jones

Published: 1985

This book was addictive.  I could not put it down, and I can’t really explain why.  The writing was excellent and the pacing perfect.  The dialogue was believable and the characters personable.  The plot was intriguing and the language was beautiful.

However.

The story was also a bit confusing and convoluted.  And the end–the end was a disappointment to me.  It came abruptly, almost discordantly, and just felt like a cop-out.  As though the whole book had been building, and then the last chapter she was just like, “Oh, wow, I’ve really been rambling on!  Better wrap this up!”  It was very dissatisfying, as I felt there was very little resolution, and that all the little mysteries that had been occurring were very, very poorly resolved.

So, the book would be a 5 if the ending had satisfied me, and it’s still a 4/5 as is.  I’ve checked out another of her books to give it a go.  She was a prolific writer, so I think there be some potential for future reading.

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Authobiography

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by: Lemony Snicket

Published: 2002

So, this book was actually published in the midst of the Unfortunate series, and, while immensely entertaining, is completely useless.  I hoped that it may provide a few clues (you may remember that I was quite dissatisfied with the ending of that series), but no such luck.  Still, for pure entertainment and amusement, the book is delightful.  I found it hilarious, if simultaneously frustrating.

3/5.