Faro’s Daughter


by Georgette Heyer

Published 1941

Whoever it is that republished all of these books has no concept of matching covers with stories, just so you know.  The apparently just choose some random picture that has a Regency lady in it, and then throw it on the book.  Ah well.

I really enjoyed this Heyer tale.  Deb’s family has fallen on hard times, and she now helps her aunt run a genteel gaming house.  A young man, whose name I can’t remember, falls “in love” with Deb and is determined to marry her.  The young fellow’s cousin, Max, is equally determined to prevent him from making such a dreadful connection.  Max visits the gaming house to meet Deb for himself, and, completely misreading her character, offers to pay her off to prevent her from marrying the young cousin.  Deb, who is completely offended that anyone would think that she would take advantage of the cousin in such a way, immediately fires up, refuses Max’s  money, and tells the cousin that she will marry him, so long as he keeps their engagement a secret!

Throughout the course of the story, Deb and the cousin end up rescuing a damsel in distress (the cousin eventually marries her instead, making everyone very  happy), and many other adventures ensue.  Of course, Deb and Max fall in love (Heyer’s books are nothing if not predictable) and all ends well, as Max realizes Deb’s true worth.

The plot was happy and skipped merrily along with Heyer’s usual delightful dialogue and character development, making it an easy 4/5.

Forest Born


by Shannon Hale

Published 2009

In this fourth and final (so far anyway) book in the Bayern series, all of our favorite characters are back.  However, this story focuses on Razo’s youngest sister, Rin.

This is my favorite of the Bayern books, actually.  I love the way that Hale addresses the idea that Dumbledore famously presents to Harry–“It is our choices that show what we really are, not our abilities.”  In this book, Rin has abilities that could very easily be used for evil, but she chooses to work for the good.

Forest Born is a 5/5 for me, more details on that opinion below, complete with some spoilers–

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Hickory, Dickory, Death


by Agatha Christie

Published 1955

Also titled Hickory, Dickory, Dock

In this Poirot novel, the famous detective is called to the aid of the sister of his most efficient secretary, Miss Lemon.  Miss Lemon’s sister runs (but does not own) a boarding house/hostel that is usually the home to transient students and young foreigners.  Mrs. Hubbard, Miss Lemon’s sister, is concerned because certain random items have been disappearing from the boarding house.  Poirot, intrigued by the unusual list of stolen items, begins to investigate.

As seems to be typical of these later Poirot novels, there is just too much going on–kleptomania, murder, love triangles, drugs, alcohol, love affairs, smuggling–and consequently, the solution seems rather convoluted to me.  It’s not that hard to come up with a solution if we can choose any random crime to blame.  Many of Christie’s earlier novels are clever and intriguing because they are so possible.  The people involved are normal people; one gets the feeling that this murder could have happened in the house next door, and that is what gives them there personal creepy factor.  But these later novels are just over the top–I have no sense of connection with this story.  While it is entertaining, it doesn’t pack that more personal punch that many of the earlier stories do.

Still, a fun read with some interesting characters, 3/5.

The High King


by Lloyd Alexander

Published 1968

In this final installment of the Prydain books, Taran and his friends face an epic battle against the Annuvin, the Death Lord.  I don’t feel that I’m giving away any secrets to say that good prevails.  However, Alexander does place before his characters a difficult choice after the battle is won, and provides a satisfactory ending to this epic series.

I really love these books (in case you haven’t picked up on that) and strongly recommend them.  The characters are very real and funny, and everything comes together in the end beautifully.


River Secrets


by Shannon Hale

Published 2006

This is the third of the Bayern books, and an excellent addition.  I love the way that Hale started with a known fairy tale (the Goose Girl), and manages to expand and embroider it into four books, creating a fascinating kingdom and a whole new realm of magic.  It’s fantastic.

River Secrets focuses on one of my favorite characters, Razo.  It’s fun to see the perspective of a guy for a change, and Razo is great fun.

Another easy 4/5.  More details on my thoughts below–

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After the Funeral


by Agatha Christie

Published 1953

In this Poirot novel, Hercule is called into the mystery by a lawyer friend, Mr. Entwhistle.  An old man (and long-time friend of Entwhistle) has died.  After the funeral, during the reading of the will, one of the daughters makes a comment about how nice it is that they are keeping the man’s murder quiet.  A few days later, the woman is dead, too.

The story was good, and quite gripping, although the conclusion seemed a bit far-fetched to me.  The overall tone of the book was a downer, too.  The grind and difficulty of post-war life in England is strong in this book, and the usual glint of humor that Christie flashes is somehow lacking.

A fine mystery, but nothing to get terribly excited about.  3/5.

Taran Wanderer

Somehow, I am lacking a picture for this book, so sorry about that.

It’s ironic, because I think that this, the fourth (out of five), is my favorite of the Prydain tales.

In this book, Taran, Assistant-Pig Keeper of Caer Dallben, yearns to ask for the hand of Princess Eilonwy in marriage, but hesitates to do so because he does not know who he is. So, with the blessing of Dallben, Taran sets off to try to find the truth of his parentage.

I love this book.  Taran travels all over Prydain, and learns much  more about himself than his parents.  During his travels, Taran spends a great deal of time in the Free Commots.  There, as he stays with various independent farmers and crafters, he learns a different lesson from each one.

“If I fret over tomorrow, I’ll have little joy today,” says Llonio, a man who raises his large family on the riverbank, living by their wits and ability to see a use in everything that comes their way.  Llonio keeps nets in the river to catch the flotsam and uses what appears with enthusiasm and gratitude.  He calls it luck, but Taran can see that it is much more.  “My luck is no greater than any other man’s,” Llonio tells him.  “You need only sharpen your eyes to se your luck when it comes, and sharpen your wits to use what falls into your hands …  Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer.  But don’t forget to put out your nets!”

Hevydd the blacksmith teaches Taran his art, and many lessons are learned as Taran strives to forge his own sword.  “Life’s a forge!”  Hevydd tells Taran.  “Face the pounding; don’t fear the proving; and you’ll stand well against any hammer and anvil!”

Throughout the tale, Taran learns much of himself and of life, and returns to Caer Dallben a man.

I know that I haven’t really done a good job describing this book, but it’s one of my favorites, and I highly recommend it.  5/5.

Enna Burning


by Shannon  Hale

Published 2004

First off, I really like this cover art.

Secondly, this book is the sequel to The Goose Girland the second in the Bayern books.  While the focus is on a different heroine, many old friends reappear.  This book is an easy 4/5.  The story is excellent and well-paced.  The characters are easy to relate to and endearing.  The friendship between Enna and Isi is a beautiful thing.

More thoughts, but they do involve some spoilers–

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by Richard Pipes

published 2001

Okay, so, confession: I’m in love with a Polish man in his 90’s.  Seriously.  I love Richard Pipes.  I can’t explain why.  But his books are just fantastic to me.  They are so very readable and insightful.  (I reviewed Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime on my tumblr blog a while back if you’re interested.)

This was actually a slender, easy read, looking at the basics of Communist history, governments that have attempted (or claimed to attempt) Communism, and the influences of Communism on modern culture.  As always, Pipes is brilliantly insightful, logical, and clearly-spoken.  I strongly recommend reading his books if you are studying Communism or Russia.

5/5.  I love this guy.

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead


by Agatha Christie

Published 1952

I have to admit, the later Poirot novels are not my favorites of Christie’s work.  The last several that I’ve read are just not at the same level as the earlier works.  In this particular book, an old woman is murdered.  All evidence points to a young man who was boarding in her home, and he is duly arrested.  However, the police superintendent in charge of the case has a niggling doubt that he cannot explain or justify, and so he comes to Poirot and asks him to investigate.

Part of the reason that this book was hard to like was due to the fact that the accused is completely unlikable.  Poirot doesn’t even like him.  The guy doesn’t even like himself! And that’s part of the story, I guess, but still.  You just don’t really care whether or not he gets hanged.

Secondly, the plot gets quite convoluted (in my mind).  A newspaper article has been published, talking about four women who were involved in murders back in the day, a sort of retro “where are they now,” and Poirot believes that somewhere Mrs. McGinty (who was a cleaning woman) saw the original photograph, and that was why she was murdered.  So now there are four possible women involved, but he doesn’t know which one, and it could not only be one of the woman, it could be someone related to one of the women, or someone related to one of the women’s victims, and, I don’t know, it’s just all very vague and haphazard in my mind: somehow, the whole story is just a bit too coincidental.

The only bright part in this book is the appearance of Ariadne Oliver, whom I love.  Loosely based on Christie herself, Ariadne is an absent-minded writer of mystery novels who happened to write a mystery with a Finnish detective.  Her book was wildly popular, and so she has to keep writing about him, even though she knows nothing about Finns.  Her tongue-in-cheek references to Christie’s own difficulties with writing are always delightful.  She’s one of my very favorite fictional characters of all time, and I am super happy whenever she appears.

Overall, this was a 3/5.  Too many gaps in the plot for me, but some of the characters are just great fun, and Poirot’s complaints of his dreadful boarding house are also delightful.