A random personal post that you can feel free to skip although it does explain some of the methods to my madness in what order books are reviewed

If any of you are actually reading these posts, you may wonder why they are somewhat out of order–if I’m reading a series, I don’t post Book 1, Book 2, Book 3–I post Book 1, some other random book, something by Agatha Christie, Book 1 of something else, and then Book 2.

The problem is, I have an addiction.  Literally.   I am addicted to reading.  As in, if you told me I had to go the next 24 hours and could either have nothing to eat or drink, or nothing to read, I would think long and hard about the decision.  I read a lot.  So, to help keep myself from just reading nothing but mindless fluff, I have some systems.

First off, I have a pile of non-fiction reading.  I am usually reading 6-10 non-fiction books at a time, and I mostly read them through the week.  I am slowly working my way through twentieth century history (I’m in WWII right now) so that’s why non-fiction books pop up at random points in time.

The weekends, though, are my time for fun reading.  I always have a stack of books from the library.  I’m trying to actually read every book I own (and there are about a thousand of them, so it’s taking some doing).  I have several series of books to read.  I want to read everything Agatha Christie wrote; ditto for P.G. Wodehouse.  So, in order to accomplish these goals, I rotate:

  • library book
  • mystery series
  • series
  • personal book
  • another series

Of course, sometimes I’m waiting for the next book in a series to come from the library or I’m going to be gone somewhere so I just take whichever one is most convenient to have along, but that’s roughly the schedule, and that’s why the books show up rather haphazardly.  As long as I don’t read  books that are super similar at the same time, it works out great (that’s why I usually only read one mystery series at a time).

So yes.  There you have it.  Sarah’s crazy book-reading method.  I actually have one.  :-D



by Shannon Hale

Published 2007

This novel, set in present day, follows the life of Jane Hayes, an average American woman with a secret obsession with Mr. Darcy.  Through a series of events, Jane is given a trip to England to spend three weeks in Austenland–and Jane Austen-era resort where she is able to wear Regency clothes and spends her days embroidering and wandering through the gardens.

This book is incredibly playful and fun, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who has ever had a crush on Mr. Darcy.  ;-)


Jane Fairfax


by Joan Aiken

Published 1990

Jane Fairfax was the second Emma sequel that I wanted to read.  I vaguely remembered reading it a long time ago, but really couldn’t recall any of the details.

I have always liked Jane, and been intrigued with her.  And to me, hardly anything illustrates Emma’s immaturity and selfishness more than her treatment of Jane.  And that poor, poor Jane must be railroaded into a friendship with the dreadful Mrs. Elton…!!!  Such tragedy!

Aiken does a truly wonderful job telling Jane’s story.  Her writing is very plausible, and the story intriguing.  And it is quite nice to be reminded that Emma was not the only heroine who was rewarded with a happy ending.

4/5, and a must-read if you at all enjoyed Emma.

The Clocks


by Agatha Christie

Published 1963

This is another Poirot novel where Poirot spends most of the time lurking in the shadows, if you will.  The story begins promisingly, with a mysterious murder in a blind woman’s house in a room full of clocks that don’t belong, but rambles off into a rather ho-hum kind of ending.  Again, confusing threads of multiple unnecessary stories run together, while Poirot does not much more than pull the conclusion out of a hat.

A fine story, but nothing to get super excited about.  3/5.

Words Unspoken


by Elizabeth Musser

Published 2009

So I randomly picked up this novel at the library, and it turned out to be a good read.  As you may have read earlier, during my review of Danger in the ShadowsI frequently am embarrassed by Christian fiction.  But books like Henderson’s, and like this one, are delightful exceptions to the rule of mediocrity.

Lissa has suffered from a major tragedy–her mother was fatally hit by a car, and Lissa blames herself for the accident.  Several years later, Lissa still isn’t able to drive on her own.  Her college plans have fallen by the wayside, and her relationship with her dad is incredibly rocky and difficult.

Then she starts driving lessons with Ev McAllistair, an elderly man who specializes in giving lessons to people who are struggling to learn how to drive.  Lissa is drawn to the man’s peace and quite confidence, and ultimately to his God.

Meanwhile, the book also follows the stories of several other apparently unrelated individuals.  As the story unwinds, these lives are drawn together as the author explores how God works through tragedy, and how secrets (even good-intentioned ones) can drive us apart.

In some ways, I felt like the ending was a bit overly dramatic, and it wasn’t a huge shock to find out the answers to the little mysteries that had been unraveling.  However, the language throughout is beautiful.  Somehow, the adjective that springs to mind for this book is gentle.  It is not a fast-paced, wild plot.  But the story doesn’t drag, either.  It just meanders gently along.  I really enjoyed this story, and will be looking for other of Musser’s writings soon.


Cat Among the Pigeons


by Agatha Christie

Published 1959

My personal preference is that if Poirot is going to be solving a mystery, he ought to be there all along instead of waltzing in at the last minute when everyone is bamboozled and tying it all in a neat bow.  But this is a late-entry-for-Poirot mystery, entangling gems, espionage, the headmistress position in a prestigious girls’ school, kidnapping, a foreign princess, tennis, and, of course, murder.

The story is good, but the ending a bit weak.  The conclusion comes almost literally out of no where, almost as bad as just saying, “Oh, actually it was the butcher who was barely mentioned on page 56.”  Ah well.


Emma & Knightly


by Rachel Billington

Published 1996

So, part of the reason that I read Emma was so I could read this sequel (and Joan Aiken’s Jane Fairfax).  Frequently, Jane Austen sequels/rewrites are basically pornographic novels, which is quite depressing.  However, Emma & Knightly was a delightful little read.

Billington explores the the most obvious potential pitfall of the marriage between these two characters–the fact that Knightly has grown up regarding Emma as his personal young charge, to admonish and guide.  Through the story, they learn to relate to each other two adults, husband and wife.  Old characters appear, and even Mr. Woodhouse has his opportunity for romance.

I would give this happy story an easy 3/5.  It would be a 4, except for Frank Churchill, whose part in the story spiraled completely out of control–

Continue reading

Danger in the Shadows


by Dee Henderson

Published 1999

Even though I am a Christian, I am not usually impressed by “Christian” fiction.  Too often it is shallow, fluffy kind of writing with band-aid answers to spiritual questions.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing.

But Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series (of which Danger in the Shadows is the prequel) does not fall into that category.  The series is intense, with well-paced stories, good mysteries, likable people, and Christians who are actually wrestling with real problems.  Henderson is not afraid to face real questions about faith–about why bad things happen to good people, how God can be good when so many people who claim to follow Him are jerks, about faith and the resurrection and trust.  And while she doesn’t just brush those questions off, her writing isn’t full of sermons, either.  Just brief, realistic dialogue that raises and addresses questions naturally throughout the story.

My only real beef with these stories is that you have to give Henderson a lot of leeway for the initial set-up, as her stories are about people with rather unusual jobs and situations.  A U.S. Marshall, a hostage negotiator, a forensic investigator, an FBI agent–these books aren’t really about your next-door neighbor.  Still.  It’s fiction.

So.  More on the O’Malleys when their time comes (The Negotiator is technically the first book in the series).  For now, Danger in the Shadows.  

This book is about a young woman, Sara, who is under FBI protection (conveniently lead by her brother, Dave) because, as the daughter of a diplomat, she and her twin sister were kidnapped as children and held hostage; her sister died.  The kidnapper was never caught, and has continued to stalk Sara throughout her life.  In the book, all of these events come together a rather climactic fashion when Sara meets and falls in love with Adam, who happens to be a famous (retired) football player.

The story is exciting and well-paced, and the love story is nice but not annoying.  I will say as a caution that basically all of Henderson’s book involve a Christian falling love with a non-Christian, and then the non-Christian becomes a Christian through various circumstances and then everything ends happily.  However, I would not personally recommend that as a very likely scenario; Christian/non-Christian dating more often results in complications and stress.  Still, because it’s fiction, you know everything is going to end well, so you just go with it.

An enjoyable read if you like suspense, and a book that I think you will enjoy even if you aren’t really into the Christian scene.  4/5.

Dead Man’s Folly


by Agatha Christie

Published 1956

This Poirot novel reintroduces one of my favorite Christie characters, Ariadne Oliver.  Setting aside the fact that I am completely unsure how to pronounce, and can never remember how to spell, Ariadne, this character is delightful to me.  I love her dialogue, her happy personality, her exasperation with fame and her fictional Finnish detective, her love of apples, and her tongue-in-cheek autobiographical references to Christie herself.

In Dead Man’s Folly, Mrs. Oliver is one of the focal points.  She has organized a mystery hunt for a local fete, creating the story for the hunt herself.  Poirot marvels at her ingenuity.  I love this bit of dialogue, wherein she is attempting to explain the hunt’s story to Poirot–

As she spoke the boathouse came into view.  It jutted out onto the river and was a picturesque thatched affair.

“That’s where the Body’s going to be,” said Mrs. Oliver.  “The body for the Murder Hunt, I mean.”

“And who is going to be killed?”

“Oh–a girl hiker, who is really the Yogoslavian first wife of a young Atom Scientist,” said Mrs. Oliver glibly.

Poirot blinked.

“Of course, it looks as though the Atom Scientist had killed–but naturally it’s not as simple as that.”

“Naturally not–since you are concerned–”

Mrs. Oliver accepted the compliment with a wave of the hand.

“Actually,” she said, “she’s killed by the Country Squire–and the motive is rather ingenious–I don’t believe many people will get it–though there’s a perfectly clear pointer in the fifth clue.”

“Your ingenuity leaves me spellbound!  The things you think of!”

“It’s never difficult to think of things,” said Mrs. Oliver.  “The trouble is that you think of too many, and then it all becomes too complicated, so you have to relinquish some of them and that is rather agony.”

Anyway.  So there is a murder and things proceed as they normally do in a mystery novel.  For me, as I was saying in my last review of a Christie book (Hickory, Dickory Death), there is just too much going on, and not enough of it seems realistic.  In this book, the story felt choppy and characters rather flat.  I didn’t feel much sympathy or interest in any of them (except for Mrs. Oliver, of course), and the ending seemed a bit of a stretch.

So while it was a perfectly enjoyable read, it wasn’t a particular favorite, making this a 3/5.