Rearview Mirror // August 2016

People.  It is SEPTEMBER.  How has this happened?!  I’m not ready!

Overall, I can’t complaint about life.  (I mean, I guess I could, but that would really mean that I’m completely selfish and discontented as a person because I would have to find really tiny, stupid things to complain about!)  Things are going really well around here.  The front porch finally looks like someplace that we want to hang out – only a couple of tiny things to tie up there and it will actually be a FINISHED project!  Today I’m painting shelves that the husband built to go around the television, and I love my little color scheme so I’m excited about getting these finished.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how I get super lazy about details sometimes, and am working on tightening up my prep work and actually doing the job right, so I’ve spent quite a lot of time sanding these shelves and I think they are going to look pretty good.  They’re my main storage for my nonfiction books, so those are all in stacks in the bedroom, but hopefully it will all get put back together over the long weekend coming up!!

I started a new job yesterday, so that is also pretty exciting.  I’m actually working for a local orchard, driving a box truck (!!!!) and delivering their wholesale apples.  How is driving around to all the local schools and dropping off apples not an awesome thing to do?!  It’s only two days a week, so I think it will work out pretty well.  I may pick up some extra hours sorting apples, too.  (What.  So zen.)  But I have to admit that my arms are sore today!  Another job to  make me stronger!  Theoretically, this will balance out my spring-seasonal job at the greenhouse, so perfect!

In the book world, things are also going well.  I’ve read a lot of books this summer and completed Cathy’s #20BooksofSummer Challenge, so that has been great fun.  I’ve started following several other book blogs thanks to this challenge.  I really enjoy the book blogging community, so that’s been pretty  nifty.

Favorite August Read:

md8481236382Honestly, kind of hard to choose.  I read some really good books this month, including the next two installments of the Codex Alera, both of which were fantastic.  But I think that I’m going to go with Wodehouse for this slot – Money in the Bank was genuinely hilarious and I enjoyed every page.

Most Disappointing August Read:

Destination-UnknownWhile The Morning Gift was weird, I think that I’m going with Christie’s Destination Unknownmostly because I’ve come to expect more of her (and I went into The Morning Gift with pretty low expectations lol).  It was a little more disjointed than her usual plots, and while she generally works her philosophies into her stories pretty subtly, she inserted them with flags flying in this one, which disrupted the story quite a bit.

Other August Reads:

  • Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher – 5/5 – this is really one of the best series I’ve read in a long time.
  • My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier – 4/5 – brilliantly haunting, but a miss at the last minute for me as I didn’t care for the way she ended the story.  Still highly recommended!
  • The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson – 3/5 – USE YOUR WORDS, QUIN!
  • Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry – 5/5 – a really delightful children’s book that managed to weave life-lessons through a lovely story and perfect illustrations by Wesley Dennis.
  • Princep’s Fury by Jim Butcher – 5/5 – Please don’t start this series until your doctor has confirmed that your heart is very strong and ready for intense stress because the nonstop action of these books is KILLING ME.

20 Books of Summer Update!

I was able to complete the challenge!!  Many thanks to Cathy for hosting this fantastic event that led me to many other book blogs and brought new visitors to mine.  Such fun!

The final list can be found on its own tab of the main menu.  Hopefully there will be another challenge next summer!!!

TBR Update:

I am super, super behind on reading other people’s posts!  So I’m sure that the TBR will continue to grow at its completely unreasonable rate!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into four different tabs:

  • Stand-Alones:  889 (Up 28 from 861, which is actually pretty restrained on my part… or may due to those like 45 book reviews I haven’t read yet… :-D)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  555 (Up 5 from 550… and this may or may not count the Wodehouse spree I went on on Kindle when I realized that most of his pre-1923 books are no longer under copyright and can be downloaded for free…!!!!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  133 (Up 3 from 130, including the addition of Jim Butcher’s other series, The Dresden Files, which apparently includes about 20 books!?)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  54 (Up 2 from 52)

I have no self-control.  Oh well.  :-D

Awaiting Review:

Only four books in the queue right now:

  • Living as a Christian by A.W. Tozer
  • Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie
  • Stormy, Misty’s Foal by Marguerite Henry
  • So, Anyway by John Cleese

Princeps’ Fury // by Jim Butcher

And here, my friends, is the long-awaited Book #20 for 20 Books of Summer!!!

“But wait!” you say.  “What happened to Book #19?”  For those of you who are crafty and wise will remember that Sea Star was #18.  Well, #19 was The White Flower by Grace Livingston Hill, and, if I’m honest, was so incredibly forgettable that… well… I’ve forgotten most of it.  It was a fine, if boring read, about a Beautiful Girl on a train, and blah blah these Bad Guys are kidnapping her and then this Handsome Young Man rescues her, but the Bad Guys are like totally unwilling to give up on this Beautiful Girl so they continue chasing her around and there are many Narrow Escapes and Harrowing Adventures.  So wildly impractical!  Perfectly fine when I was reading it, but just not enough material to give me a full review.

Princeps-Fury-front

//published 2008//

So…  #20!  This is the fifth book in the Codex Alera series, and I honestly put off starting it, not because I didn’t want to read it… but because I get nothing else done when I am reading these books!  They are completely action-packed, with different stories happening in different places, but all coming together in beautiful harmony.  The Vord are THE CREEPIEST EVIL FORCE OF ALL TIME and it’s all perfect.

The characters in this series are fantastic.  Tavi is just an amazing hero, not perfect, but also not content unless he striving towards perfection, and I love that.  I don’t mind having protagonists who aren’t perfect, but it annoys me when people act like having a character be “flawed” is what makes them a great hero.  No – what you need is a protagonist who is “flawed” but who is also striving to become better, something more than they are.  For me, that’s the difference between a book I enjoy and a book I don’t.  Books where the protagonist just sits around being flawed and whining about how hard their life is (98% of contemporary YA, I am looking at you) just aggravate me to no end.

ANYWAY.  The other characters are also fantastic.  I love Tavi’s girlfriend, his best friends, Bernard and Amara, Isana, and a whole host of other characters who have really, really grown.  In this book, Amara and Isana were especially AMAZING, with both of them totally willing to die for what they believed was right.

This book ended a little more on a cliffhanger than the rest.  While some of the immediate storylines were wrapped up, there is still a lot going on, as this book is really ramping into the final installment.  I was really, really tempted to jump directly into First Lord’s Fury, but if I had done that…  well, we wouldn’t have had any clean clothes, the house would be even more of a disaster, and my husband would begin to wonder if this whole “stay at home for the summer to completely projects around the house” is really just a cover so I can read more books…  shhhhh…

#20 for #20BooksofSummer!!!!20booksfinal

Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague // by Marguerite Henry

s-l300 (1)

//published 1949//

A while back I reread one of my childhood classics, Misty of Chincoteague.  This story, about two children – Paul and Maureen – who raise a pony on an island off the Delmarva Peninsula is probably Henry’s best-known story.  Its rise in popularity led to it being made into a movie, and so Henry returned to Chincoteague and Pony Penning Day.  She says in her afterword,

I had no though of writing another Chincoteague story.  I really did not want to write another.  Misty, I thought, was complete in itself.  Let the boys and girls dream their own wonderful sequels.

And then all my resolves burst in  midair.  Early on the morning after Pony Penning, a lone colt with a crooked star on his forehead was found at Tom’s Cove … except for the sea mews and the striker birds, the colt was quite alone, one little wild thing, helpless against the wild sea.

And there, in that wild moment at Tom’s Cove, the story of Sea Star was born of itself.

Like the story of Misty, the title character of Sea Star doesn’t appear until better than halfway through the book.  The beginning of the story picks up a year or two after Misty ended.  Paul and Maureen love their pony, and she is like a member of the family.  And then, two men appear and offer to buy Misty.  They have read the book about Misty and want to make a movie.  And while they plan to shoot portions of the movie on Chincoteague – namely, the Pony Penning parts – they want to take Misty back to New York with them, not just for the recording of the movie, but –

Because … we’d want to keep her a while after the screen play is made.  We’d want to take her to schools and libraries where boys and girls could meet her.  We’d want to fix a stall for her in the theaters where her picture was showing so they could see the real Misty.  It might be a long time before she could come back … Sometimes when I hear the children in New York talk about Misty, it seems she no longer belongs to a boy and a girl on an island, but to boys and girls everywhere.

While Paul and Maureen initially give a resounding no to the offer, circumstances change when they realize that the money from selling Misty would be enough to send their uncle to college.  It’s a truly beautiful scene, as the children realize that there are things bigger than themselves.  Their uncle’s yearning to go forward with his education so he can become a minister and serve others, the way that Misty has become an important part of the lives of many children whom Paul and Maureen have never met, and through it all the lesson that one reaps what one sows: the knowledge that selfishness is only beneficial in the short run.

This book has a more serious tone than Misty.  Henry does a really wonderful job showing us the many ways that Paul and Maureen mature in just those few weeks (and isn’t that how life happens?  In leaps and bounds?).  She never portrays their decision as easy or flippant: what they are doing is a huge, serious sacrifice.  Any reward they may eventually receive from their choice is far in the future.

There are multiple life-lessons to be learned.  Throughout, Wesley Dennis’s amazing illustrations bring the story to life.  I may or may not have gotten teary-eyed when Paul and Maureen saw Misty off.

While Misty was a happy children’s story, I liked Sea Star better.  There is a bit more drama and depth, and everything pulls together to make a cohesive and engaging story.  While not perfect, it is a really wonderful sequel and definitely recommended.

#18 for #20BooksofSummer!!!

20booksfinal

The Morning Gift // by Eva Ibbotson (+ life updates!)

So, first off, I did completely Princep’s Fury which was my Book 20 for 20 Books of Summer, so I was successful!!!  Totally stoked.

Secondly, things have been quite busy around here.  Somehow, summer is almost over and I still have a lot of things on my list to get done!!  So I have been painting shelves and fence and house trim and the porch, and also trying to learn how to make my own tomato sauce with tomatoes from my garden as well as freezing green beans and also hanging out with my family and trying to train the dog how to not drag me across town when we are taking a walk.  So, life is busy but good.

I have also, weirdly, been selling books.  I have this whole box of books that I keep meaning to donate or something, but there is this funny thing… not everyone reads the same books!  So, much to my surprise, people are buying the books I don’t want??  About half the books are ones random people have given me (another funny thing: people seem to think that if I like to read, it means I like to read… everything, apparently??  Because they literally hand me a pile of books and say, “Hey, I know you like to read so”.  I mean, I appreciate the sentiment but it makes me giggle sometimes).  The point is, this means that I have a little bit of spare cash… to buy books!  Do you think I could eventually make my whole book thing self-sustaining?? (HA!)

ANYWAY on to The Morning Gift.  I approached this book with mixed feelings.  The official synopsis says:

Ibbotson magically recreates pre-World War II Vienna and introduces Ruth Berger, passionate, clever, and wildly in love with Heini Radek, a young prodigy come to study piano at the Conservatoire.

… When Hitler’s forces move into Austria, Englishman Quinton Somerville offers Ruth matrimonium ad morganaticum – marriage based on the morning gift, a present given by a husband wishing to free himself from a new wife.  If she accepts, Quin will bring Ruth with him to England, and safety, as his betrothed.  The consequences of her decision are surprising – and undeniably romantic.

25262210._UY200_

//published 1993//

Now, basically my favorite trope is one in which people are married and then fall in love.  (My favorite, I think, is The Princess by Lori Wick.)  So that’s the reason that I put The Morning Gift on my list to begin with.  HOWEVER my only other experience with Ibbotson was quite negative: A Company of Swanswhich I basically hated because the characters were completely unlikable, the situation mind-blowingly unrealistic, and the couple NEVER had a conversation in which they walked away with the same understanding as to what had just happened – how am I supposed to root for a romance with two people who are literally incapable of communicating?!

Point being – I was leery of The Morning Gift but… romance after marriage…!!!

And what I got was a 3/5 read.  There were a lot of things about this book that I liked, but a lot of negatives as well.

The main positive were the setting and background characters.  These were brilliantly done.  I enjoyed every character who crossed these pages.  They all felt quite real and interesting.  I am always intrigued to hear about various subsets of people and how they were impacted by WWII.  My understanding is that Ibbotson herself left Vienna in the 1930’s, and that a lot of this background information was semi-autobiographical, and I think that that was part of what made this so realistic.

Ruth is a likable heroine.  She is intelligent and kindhearted, studious and fun.  It was easy to see why everyone loved her and wanted the best for her, but at the same time she wasn’t a perfect angel, either.

Ironically, the main problem with this story was… the story.  :-/  Parts of it made sense, but there were long sections in which I found myself wondering what in the world was going on.  About a third of the actual story should have hit the cutting room floor, and the whole thing would have flowed much better.

The beginning is good.  We meet Ruth and her family, happy in Vienna, surrounded by extended family and friends.  Ruth is a smidge spoiled, but has one of those characters that doesn’t seem to be negatively impacted by the spoiling, and is well-loved by everyone.  A distant cousin comes to stay with them, and he is a musical genius.  Ruth, who is very attracted to music, is drawn to Heini (seriously, Heini?!) when they are children, and continues to virtually worship him as they grow older.

This leads to our first hiccup.  Heini is always presented as someone who is completely self-absorbed.  He knows he is a musical prodigy, and takes advantage of everyone in pursuit of his passion.  He takes Ruth for granted and expects her to wait on him hand and foot.  Consequently, I never liked Heini, and never understood why Ruth liked him, either.  He’s never given a single characteristic that makes him likable.  And I realize that this is so that later, when Ruth stays with Quin instead, we won’t feel bad for Heini but… then it ends up feeling like there is no point to Heini’s character at all. He was definitely the last-believable and least-interesting character in the cast, put there solely to create an impractical love triangle.

So anyway, Ruth and Heini are engaged, yadda yadda, Germany is getting really interested in taking over Austria, and many of Ruth’s friends and family start to leave for England because even though they are not orthodox, they are Jewish.  Ruth is going somewhere else in the country to college when her family leaves Austria, believing that Ruth will have no problems leaving on her student visa, but there is an issue and Ruth isn’t allowed to leave.  She returns to Vienna, but everyone is gone – and Hitler invades.

Through a series of coincidences, Quin is in Vienna.  He had met Ruth’s family several years earlier, when Ruth was still a girl.  Running into her again, he feels an obligation to see her to safety.  They try a couple of options, but nothing is successful and time is running out, and so, by page 66, they are married and on their way to England.

Before the wedding, we get this conversation, wherein Quin explains to Ruth that this will be a marriage in name only:

It had been a mistake to introduce the word morganatic into a conversation that was already going badly. …

‘Who is he, this Morgan?’ [Ruth] asked.

‘He isn’t anyone,’ said Quin, sighing.  … ‘The word morganatic comes from the Latin matrimonium ad morganaticum  – a marriage based on the morning gift.  It’s a gift given the morning after the bridal night with which the husband, by bestowing it, frees himself of any liability to the wife.’

Ruth never really seems to grasp the concept of the morning gift, probably because Quin explains it terribly: I didn’t grasp the concept, either.  I was even more confused when I looked it up.  Quin’s explanation goes on to say that the morning gift means that they are basically not married any more, but according to the Wikipedia article (which is obviously correct), the morning gift was actually used in situations where one spouse (usually the husband) marries someone quite beneath him socially.  The morning gift is given because the wife and any children they have will not inherit money, land, or titles from the husband.  But the wife who receives the gift is still quite married – the husband couldn’t go off and marry someone else.  It’s just a little bonus money because that’s all the money she’s going to get.  Consequently, I never understood why Quin was dragging the morning gift into his situation at all, because it didn’t match what was happening with them.  And after this conversation on page 47, we don’t hear about the morning gift again until page 310.  What even.

In between, the story drags on and on and on, full of misunderstandings and misapprehensions.  Quin and Ruth keep their marriage a secret, and are working on getting a divorce, which is quite difficult to do at this time in England, especially since they have to wait until all of her visa stuff is settled first.  Meantime, they spend basically no time together, yet I’m supposed to believe that they are falling in love.  There’s another girl, of course, who is super weird to me.  Like Heini, she is presented as completely unlikable and honestly rather dreadful, so why would Ruth ever perceive her as a threat?  Quin is completely oblivious to the pursuit from the other girl, and consequently sends all sorts of mixed signals.

I honestly got very frustrated with Quin.  When my niece was learning to talk, she would frequently not talk, instead whining or crying because she wasn’t getting what she wanted.  Our response to that was always, “You need to use your words!”  And that’s exactly what I kept wanting to say to Quin.  USE YOUR WORDS, QUIN.  QUIT EXPECTING EVERYONE TO FREAKING READ YOUR MIND.  It was super, super annoying.

I won’t even go into the ending.  Just when it appeared everything should be resolved, that ol’ morning gift reared its ugly head again and I had to drag through another fifty pages of completely impractical and unrealistic filler before finally getting to the actual end.  We’ll just say that if I had been Quin, I would have been genuinely ticked off.  (Although it’s sort of his own fault…USE YOUR WORDS, QUIN.)

If it weren’t for the fantastic background and wonderful secondary characters, this book would have been a low 2/5, but those things really brought the tone of this book up.  I loved Ruth’s parents and all the neighbors and the wonderful women running the tea shop and the other professors and Ruth’s college friends.  The descriptions of everyone trying to adjust to and find a new life in England were really well done, and I loved how everyone jumped right in, trying to find a way to be useful and industrious in their new lives.

On the whole, I definitely plan to give the rest of Ibbotson’s works a miss.  Two books of unlikable and unrealistic situations, wherein all the romantic tension is created solely because the two people involved don’t know how to USE THEIR WORDS is plenty for me!

#17 for #20BooksofSummer!

20booksfinal

Destination Unknown // by Agatha Christie

AKA So Many Steps to Death 

Destination-Unknown

//published 1954//

So this is one of those Christie thrillers that I wasn’t really impressed by.  While I generally enjoy her thrillers, even when they are a little absurd, Destination Unknown feels too serious to be taken in her usual lighthearted vein (think The Secret Adversary and The Man in the Brown Suit).  While I generally feel like Christie is writing her thrillers with tongue in cheek at some level, Destination Unknown lacked that sparkling humor.  There are snippets of it here and there, but not enough to bring up the overall tone of the book.

All over the world, important scientists are disappearing.  Are they going of their own will, or are they being kidnapped?  Either way, the Good Guys suspect that the scientists are being taken behind the Iron Curtain to the Bad Guys.  At the beginning of our book, another scientist, Tom Betterton, has recently disappeared.  His wife claims to know nothing of his disappearance.  Several months after he left, she tells the Good Guys who have been following her case that her doctor has recommended that she go to a warmer climate to recover from the stress and anxiety.  The Good Guys prick up their ears and send someone to follow her to Morocco, hoping that Mrs. Betterton is actually on her way to join her husband.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Betterton’s plane crashes.  She is the only survivor – and lies in a coma in the hospital.  Meanwhile, another English woman has arrived in Morocco.  Hilary’s life has gone through a series of devastating blows, and even the beauty and mild climate of Morocco isn’t enough to lift her spirits: she has decided to commit suicide.  Before she can do so, she is approached by one of the Good Guys, who has a proposition.  Mrs. Betterton is going to die.  Does Hilary want to take her place and attempt to infiltrate the Bad Guys?  And so our story really begins…

It’s not a bad story.  It’s put together well, and if you can get past the whole “the entire world is either Good Guys or Bad Guys” thing, it’s fairly plausible.  But for some reason it just comes across a little heavy.  There are passages of conversation in which characters talk about why the Good Guy concept of the world is the best, and while, on the whole, I do actually agree with them, it sometimes comes across as a little preachy, even when the point is solid:

Why do you decry the world we live in?  There are good people in it.  Isn’t muddle a better breeding ground for kindliness and individuality than a world order that’s imposed, a world order that may be right today and wrong tomorrow?  I would rather have a world of kindly, faulty, human beings, than a world of superior robots who’ve said goodbye to pity and understanding and sympathy.

Me, too!  Except I don’t always it belabored in my fiction.

I think that the other weak point of this book is that there isn’t a lot of action.  It takes a long time for Hilary to even get to the compound, and then it’s still not terribly exciting.  Instead of interspersing her action and humor with some solid insights, this book was more an attempt to give us insights interspersed with a bit of action.  I realize that this book is, in some ways, a product of its time, but still.

A 3/5, but not particularly recommended.

#16 for 20 Books of Summer!  20booksfinal

My Cousin Rachel // by Daphne du Maurier

my-cousin-rachel

//published 1951//

This is one of those reviews that I probably ought to have written as soon as I finished the book, as the story gave me so many feels.  But I’ll try my best to recapture my initial emotions.

Du Maurier is an author that I added to the TBR because I had read one of her books and loved it (Rebeccaof course) but somehow had never read another of her works.  One the whole, while I didn’t love My Cousin Rachel like I did Rebecca (I’ve read Rebecca multiple times, but don’t really picture myself returning to My Cousin Rachel… well… maybe I will), it still did not disappoint.

The story begins much as Rebecca does – with the ending.  Somehow, du Maurier manages to make her first chapter actually be the epilogue of the story, and instead of ruining the ending, it adds to the tension throughout.  Just as in Rebecca we already know that the narrator will never return to Manderley – and thus spend the entire book wondering what has happened to make that so – My Cousin Rachel tells us in the very first chapter –

The point is, life has to be endured, and lived.  But how to live it is the problem.  The work of day by day presents no difficulties.  I shall become Justice of Peace, as Ambrose was, and also be returned, one day, to Parliament.  I shall continue to be honoured and respected, like all my family before me.  Farm the land well, look after the people.  No one will every guess the burden of blame I carry on my shoulders; nor will they know that every day, haunted still be doubt, I ask myself a question which I cannot answer.  Was Rachel innocent or guilty?

And so, from the start, we know that we are not going to know whether or not Rachel is innocent or guilty (of what?  We don’t even know that, yet).  We know that our narrator, Philip, is alone.  And we know that, for some reason, he carries a “burden of blame,” although we do not yet know whether or not it is deserved.  Throughout the entire first chapter, du Maurier introduces us to a narrator who is still young, yet filled with confusion and angst about … something … something that has to do with his cousin Rachel.

Philip is an orphan, and has lived almost his entire life with his bachelor uncle, Ambrose.  Ambrose was known for not really caring for women; not only was he unmarried, he didn’t even employ any women in his household.  One of the primary landowners of the area, Ambrose was the Justice of Peace, and known for being quiet, just, kind, and intelligent.  As Ambrose grew older, his health began to deteriorate.  Philip tells us that Ambrose’s doctor recommended that he begin spending his winters in a warmer climate.  And one of those winters, when Philip was around twenty, Ambrose decided to go to Italy for his winter rest.

And there, in Italy, he met a distant cousin, Rachel, a widow.  He wrote to Philip and told him so.

“I have made the acquaintance of a connection of ours,” he wrote.  “…my cousin Rachel is a sensible woman, good company, and has taken it upon her shoulders to show me the gardens in Florence, and in Rome later, as we shall both be there at the same time.”

Still, despite Ambrose’s warm words about Rachel, Philip is shocked when he receives a letter from Ambrose telling of Ambrose’s marriage to Rachel.  And as the gaps between Ambrose’s letters get lengthier and lengthier, Philip is uneasy – a feeling that is confirmed by Ambrose’s last letters, which speak of Rachel not as a kind and loving wife, but as a gaoler, watching over him in his illness.  Ambrose hints at an even darker possibility – that of poison.  His last letter, a mere scrawl, sent Philip rushing to Italy – “For God’s sake come to me quickly.  She has done for me at last, Rachel my torment.  If you delay, it may be too late.  Ambrose.”

Du Maurier does a brilliant job building this story.  Everything I have given you so far is in the first three chapters, and they are written exquisitely.  The tension is palpable, and we are given subtle looks at Philip’s character through his narration.  Philip is rather jealous when Ambrose is married, and we know from the beginning that he is suspicious of Rachel, but his story seems straightforward enough.  When Philip arrives in Italy, too late for Ambrose, who has died, he is told a different story (although not by Rachel, who has left town) – that Ambrose was suffering from a brain tumor.  His father died that way as well, and Philip is told that all of Ambrose’s paranoia stems from this.

The rest of the book, we are left wondering which it is.  Was Ambrose perfectly sane, and Rachel poisoned him for his money, and so she could marry her lover?  Or was Ambrose delusional and ill, and Rachel loved and nursed him as best she could?  Philip himself sways back and forth between the two possibilities.

Despite the fact that there wasn’t a great deal of action, I found this book entirely engrossing.  Du Maurier has crafted a set of characters who are very real.  The story feels off-kilter the entire time.  You can never find your balance, because every time you reach a decision as to Rachel’s character, you’re given a new fact or incident that throws it all into a new light.

Throughout, Philip came across as incredibly young. I think that du Maurier capture that perfectly, that blend of arrogance and self-consciousness that one has when one is twenty.  That constant swing between complete confidence that one has solved all the world’s problems and that the old are rather ridiculous and hidebound, and the uncertainty and worry about how other people are viewing and judging you and whether or not you’re doing everything the way one ought to.  My early twenties are definitely the least favorite years I’ve lived yet, where you’re expected to be an adult and to make adult decisions, and yet you actually have no earthly idea what you’re doing.  Philip’s voice embodies all of that, blusteringly confident on one page, and agonizingly indecisive on the next.

I personally had a mild beef with the ending, which I’ll put below the cut.  Please only read it if you’ve read the book – because you should all read the book, and you should read it without knowing the ending.  It’s fantastic writing, and has definitely cemented my need to read all of du Maurier’s works.

20booksfinal#15 for #20BooksofSummer!

Continue reading

Captain’s Fury // by Jim Butcher

Captains_fury

//published 2007//

Okay, first off, you know all those old sayings about not being proud and all that?  Well, after patting myself on the back in my July Rearview because I have read 19/20 of my books for 20 Books of Summer, I find that I have really stalled.  My final book is Princep’s Fury, the next book in the Codex Alera series, and I just haven’t picked it up!  While I am absolutely loving these books, it always takes a few chapters to really get into the groove, and then when I do – all I want to do is read more!!!  And I find myself putting off that initial start because I don’t have time to do nothing but read right now!  So in the meantime, I’ve found myself revisiting my non-fiction assignments method, where I give myself a certain number of chapters to read each day, and can’t read anything “fun” (or play mindless games on  my phone!) until they are checked off the list.  However, my non-fiction reads right now are really good, including as they do John Cleese’s autobiography and a collection of Wodehouse letters, plus A.W. Tozer on the book of 1 Peter, and the classic The New Way Things Work.  

Anyway.  All that to say that I still think I will read my official Book #20 before time runs out, but for now I’m finding myself in a bit of a reading drought, possibly because summer is almost over and I still have SO MANY PROJECTS around the house that I want to accomplish!

So!  Captain’s Fury!  In this installment, set two years after Cursor’s FuryTavi is still leading his bit of the army.  They’ve been working to hold off the Canim invasion with the assistance of a newly-created Marat cavalry division, but now a new man has been put in charge of the military.  He doesn’t like the “barbarian” Marat, he doesn’t think that anything can be gained by attempting to negotiate with the Canim, and he doesn’t really like this upstart kid who is leading the First Alera Legion.

Tavi was initially sent to the First Alera under an assumed name in the last book.  His rise to captaincy there was not part of the plan, and it has forced him to continue his fake identity.  He’s not the only one operating under disguise, though, and the book is full of twists and turns as the true names of various characters are revealed.

Meantime, there are always plenty of other things going on.  Tavi’s uncle, Bernard, is helping his wife, the Cursor Armana, and the First Lord as the First Lord sets off on a secret mission to quell the rebellion of one of the other high lords.  Tavi’s aunt Isana is making a journey of her own – to Tavi, to confess a huge secret that she has withheld from him his whole life.  Tavi is desperately trying to protect Alera from the Canim, but believe that the best way to accomplish that may actually be to work with them instead of against them.  Butcher manages to keep the separate stories going at a good pace, and always brings things together in the end.  There is still an over-arching theme throughout the series, but each book concludes its own particular intensity, while managing to set things up for the next round.

One thing I don’t think I’ve particularly mentioned is how Butcher uses our culture from ancient Rome as a basis for the Aleran culture.  Many of the terms and concepts are Roman, and it’s rather intriguing, seeing as how there really aren’t a lot of other ways in which this world looks like ours.

All in all, Captain’s Fury is a solid installment to the series.  And despite my procrastination, I’m actually genuinely excited to delve into Princep’s Fury and see what happens next!

Book #14!!

20booksfinal