by Barrett Tillman
In this biography from the Great Generals Series, we learn about the life of Curtis LeMay. I was expecting this book to be an incredibly dull account of the general who bombed Japan during WWII, but it was actually a fascinating read about a man who did so much with his life that we were already through WWII within the first third of the book.
I was also gratified to learn that LeMay is an Ohio native. Always good to find a fellow Ohioan out making history. :-D
But in all seriousness, this was an interesting book, if nothing else than for LeMay’s opinions on defense and nuclear weapons. He was a strong and uncompromising man who determined what he believed to be the best course of action and then followed it. While not everyone may agree with his views, one cannot help but admire his intelligent determination.
by Agatha Christie
In this Poirot case, our intrepid hero is once again called into action by his friend Mrs. Oliver. However, this novel follows one of my least-favorite types of Christie’s mysteries–a mystery from the Past. As Poirot and Mrs. Oliver do their research (mostly by interviewing ‘elephants’–people who were around at the time of suspected murder), the plot becomes to become entangled with loads of extraneous and contradictory information. As with most of Christie’s novels that focus on a past history, it is difficult to relate to the individuals involved, mostly because most of them are dead, or we hear of them only through hearsay. Also, Christie spent a lot of this novel complaining about modern society (much as she did in Hallowe’en Party) through the voices of her characters, and that gets rather dull after a while.
All in all, while it was a fine mystery, it is not up to the caliber I expect from Christie. 3/5.
by Shannon Hale
So I discovered this sequel to The Princess Academy at the library, and I was super excited because I really enjoyed the first book. In this sequel, Miri and her friends are traveling to the capital city to attend the royal wedding. The girls are to stay the whole winter, and possibly an entire year. Miri is excited about an opportunity to attend a real school, and Peter is traveling along with the girls in order to apprentice himself to a stonecarver in the city. When they arrive, though, the girls discover that there is much unrest in the city and the surrounding countryside.
I really enjoyed this book; I think that it had more depth than the first. Miri befriends some rebels who are full of grand-sounding ideals, and it is interesting to watch her learn that there is no Utopia; change can bring good for some, but will always bring pain and difficulty to others.
Also, I was really scared of the love-triangle aspect of the story, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Actually, it was exactly as big of a deal as it should be, which basically never happens, so that was exciting, too.
This was definitely a 4/5 and a strongly recommended read.
by Susan Cooper
This is the first in a series of Arthurian tales set in modern (well, modern at the time of writing) times. In this book, we meet the Drew children and, more importantly, their Great-Uncle Merry. In this book, the children set off on a quest to find the Holy Grail, fighting the powers of darkness along the way.
It is a good book. The pacing is excellent, the story is gripping, and the characters likable (or unlikable, as the case may be). However, for me, there are two kinds of fantasy tales. The first simply avoid the mention of religion completely (Harry Potter, actually, is an excellent example of this). The second express disdain and scorn for religious beliefs has just another (and inferior) fantasy. Unfortunately, Cooper’s stories fall into the latter category. While it is not as blatant in this first book, I have read the rest of the series in the past, and the concept that, basically, King Arthur is the savior of the world, and Jesus merely an echoing myth of King Arthur, is disturbing.
So while this book is, itself, a 3/5, I would not personally recommend the rest of the series.
by Richard B. Frank
So, I’ve recently read several books in this Great Generals Series. I like the layout of the books, and they have just about the right amount of detail for me; I like to know about people’s lives but don’t always need a 600+ page dissertation.
MacArthur’s life and personality made for an interesting read, and Frank’s writing was easy to follow. However, the entire final chapter of the book was devoted to how MacArthur would have viewed all major foreign policy since his death. And it wasn’t even couched in terms of “perhaps MacArthur would have…” Nope, the author would say things like, “MacArthur would most certainly have disagree with the handling of…” and it just really annoyed me that this random dude thinks that he has the right to make MacArthur’s decisions for him.
Anyway. Otherwise a good read.
by Shannon Hale
I actually read this book just a year ago, but I wanted to read it again before reading the new sequel Hale published last year. I really like this little book. The story is happy, and I love the way that the heroine realizes the beauty of home and the value of family. 4/5.
by Betty Cavanna
When I was a little girl, we went to a nearby library that was in a castle-like building. Made of stone, with flagstone floors and stained-glass windows, little nooks and crannies and hidden places to curl up with a book. The children’s library was bright and happy, full of color and chairs just the right size. I loved that library.
And I remember checking out this book. It’s the old library binding–that printed hardcover. They don’t seem to bother making special library editions of books any more, but I have so many discards in my personal collection that are bound this way; they’re perfect. This book’s pages are soft and so worn down on the edges that sometimes it’s hard to turn the page. Sixty years of reading will do that to a book, I suppose.
Years after I first read it, I found this book–the same copy I’d read as a child–at the library discard sale for a quarter. And so The Black Spaniel Mystery became a permanent part of my collection. And even those book is not brilliant literature, it is a happy and innocent story, where honesty, integrity, hard work, and friendship, are rewarded. 4/5.
by Agatha Christie
Mrs. Oliver and Hercule Poirot team up again in Third Girl. Poirot is approached by a young woman who thinks she “may have murdered someone.” She then leaves his flat and disappears.
The story is a bit unusual in that it does not center around a murder–Poirot spends a great deal of the book trying to find a death, any death, to understand the girl’s enigmatic statement.
I was personally not a huge fan of Third Girl, as I didn’t really like any of the characters, and thus was ambivalent towards the identification of the murderer. The lack of a victim made the story feel rather aimless at times. And there was a great deal of complaining about “modern” young people to the point that it felt almost as though Christie had written the book just so she could complain about the way young people dressed, lived, and smelled.
A 3/5 for a meh kind of book from an author who has definitely done much better.
by Diane Ackerman
This is actually a nonfiction account of a young Polish couple who helped protect, smuggle, and house Jews in Warsaw during World War II. Prior to the war, they owned and operated Warsaw’s zoo (hence the title) and throughout the war still worked with animals for different reasons, giving the flexibility and cover stories that were useful to their cause.
The story is an interesting one, but Ackerman’s writing style is rather bland for me. Instead of telling the story in a linear fashion, she just sort of recounts various vignettes. Despite the fact that these people lived intense, focused, dangerous lives, Ackerman’s book never once made my pulse race. There was none of the connection to people and their lives as in, say, Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.
And I think that she was writing this as non-fiction, and she wanted to be very true to the people and accurate with their story, which is why there isn’t a lot of dialogue or “and then she thought” or anything like that, and that’s fine. While it made for an interesting one-time read, it possessed none of the drama and real-life-ness needed to make it a book I would want to add to my personal collection.
by Georgette Heyer
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.