Friday, September 29, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities

I'm having a hard time with this book. So far I'm finding it boring and dull to the max. My husband thinks I'm not giving it a chance as this was a book he really loved. I'm slothful in my approach to reading it.

However, *ahem*, given the fact that I've given 3 out of 4 of the book reviews this month, I think its someone else's turn to give a report. =) I'm hopeful that one of you have read this book and can offer some commentary and, perhaps, some motivation for me to keep plugging away.

Be my guest! =)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

This was a Rose pick and I was happy for the selection as it was a book I had never read. Touted as a great children's classic, I had always avoided the book, in truth, because of the title. Growing up I skipped many a book with the title of "witch" in it. Sometimes justifiably so and in some cases, such as this one, not. This book, of course, is given its title from the fictional Quaker character, Hannah, whom the Puritans in the early American colony suspect of being a witch.

I have vague memories of studying the early American witch trials and unfortunately cannot remember many of the details. I found it to be a fascinating topic in high school, mostly because the "religious" people of the day were so superstitious. It was hard for me to believe that Christians - of which I believe there were - would fall prey to the idea that a person could be proved to be a witch by attempted drowning. If they could swim, they were a witch. If not, they weren't. And then it was too late. Thank goodness for The Common Laws of England is all I have to say. We are quite blessed to live under our current judiciary system, even though it seems (and proves) frustrating at times. Considering the alternative, we have much to be grateful for!

My memory being what it is, I also have only the vaguest of recollections as to what the Puritans really believed. I do recall them being excessively pious by nature and generally expressed disinterest (to abhorance) over anything remotely festive. There was a constant threat of sin in their midst which they were overly careful to avoid, in my opinion. It brings to mind the Pharasees and Sadducees of the NT era who imposed ridiculous laws which were more harmful than helpful in curtailing the possibility of sin in any person's life. Too much law and not enough grace.

Spear's book re-sparked an interest for me in early American history. The topics she deals with in The Witch of Blackbird Pond are quite fascinating.

However, I rather disliked the character of Kit Tyler. While I appreciated her distaste for the strict Puritan lifestyle, I thought Spear used her to express only what was bad about it without acknowledging any of the good. The Puritans were also hard workers, people of integrity and commitment and strove to follow after God and His will for their lives. True, I think they were a bit off the mark and rather excessive, but I wouldn't dismiss them so quickly as Spear does with Kit. Instead of appreciating the balance and virtue of the Puritans, she mocks them through Kit and brings charm to Kit's free spirit of independence. At the same time I longed for Kit to be free of the rules and regulations of the colony (and in particular, her uncle) I also wish she had showed a little more emotional respect. There's a bit too much of an Island Girl mindset for me to enjoy the character of Kit to the max.

Nevertheless, I would heartily recommend this book to anyone. I fully intend to have my own kids read it in conjunction with their studies of early America. I think this book can be used as a valuable tool to spark imagination in school studies. Imagination, in my opinion, is a wonderful thing and I think Spear has a good dose of it. Highly enjoyable read on the whole. Thanks, Rose, for the recommendation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Piccadilly Jim

What ho! Another Wodehouse classic.

I get tired of the Jeeves & Wooster hype and like to "get away" into some of Wodehouse's other stories from time to time. Don't get me wrong, Jeeves is classic! But variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Piccadilly Jim is some mighty fine spice.

Per usual, Wodehouse has great word play. The way he says things leaves you giggling or laughing out loud. Too many passages to quote and not enough space. Wodehouse is, or should be, on everyone's reading list at least once or twice in their life. However, I'm happy to report that among my social circles he's almost commonplace. I didn't feel a strong urge to include a Wodehouse work in Bookfest 2006's reading list. Why? Because everyone has read at least one Wodehouse story. It verges on triteness to say, "if you've read one, you've read them all!" The names vary in silliness but ....well....Wodehouse is Wodehouse. His style is unchanging although the plots do, thank goodness. Otherwise I don't suppose he would have gotten away with writing over 100 books and stories. (Does anyone have an exact count? I couldn't find one online.) Then again, maybe he would have. It's hard to say "Enough already!" to a good snicker.

Wodehouse is candy reading at its finest. Clean, straightforward and rather honest if you think about it. He likes to make fun of the same things I like to make fun of in other people: behaviorisms. His characters have quirks that he preys upon and that holds definite appeal for this girl's funny bone.

My reason for liking Piccadilly Jim, in particular, is the character of Ann (this time without an 'e'). The feisty red-head who suffered the drama of a poetic youth yet blossomed into a wiley "press other people's buttons to get the response she wanted" young lady. I rather admired conniving persistent pursuit of her down to the closing scene in the library where he argues he is the man for her. He says:

"To a girl with your ardent nature someone with whom you can quarrel is an absolute necessity of life. You and I are affinities. Our will be an ideally happy marriage. You would be miserable if you had to go through life with a human doormat with Welcome written on him."

Etc., etc.

Reminds me of The Horse and His Boy where Lewis informs us that Aravis and Cor ". . . were so used to quarrelling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently." I shall not reveal whether or not Jimmy wins his appeal with Ann but if you know Wodehouse you can make an educated guess as to the the end of the story.

Ukridge still holds the lead as my favorite Non-Jeeves Story, however, Piccadilly Jim is quite amusing on its own. Just for different reasons (like all of Wodehouse's books). They are all meant to be enjoyed and, most often, thoroughly are! Thanks, Karen, for sticking a Wodehouse out there. I was wrong about not wanting to include one on the original list. It helps to make our list complete.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Count of Monte Cristo

I was very glad that Lisa picked this book to read this month. Jonathan had read it years ago and was telling me how I needed to read it. Let's just say, I've never been one very keen on the classics. Until recently. Perhaps I avoided them before because they were "school work" and that, of course, was to be avoided at all cost. I much preferred to read my own books, away from the curriculum suggestion list. However, I now have to admit that I missed out. The good news is -- there is time to catch up. My husband, being an avid classics fan, seems to have read just about everything I haven't. Now is the time to even the score.

Years ago I had tried reading The Three Musketeers by Dumas but was unable to finish it. I don't remember the exact reason I stopped reading, but the subject matter was beginning to bother me. I wasn't sure what to expect with The Count, but I happily sped through the pages.

I hardly know where to begin on a review of this book because the story line was so indepth and the characters all so complex. Yet, despite the events and occasional name/title changes, it was very easy to follow. Jonathan had told me that we weren't allowed to watch the movie version (2002) until I had finished reading the book precisely because the book was much more complex and he didn't want me to miss out on anything important. We watched the movie upon completion of the book and now I understand what he meant. Now, I suppose, the only way I know of to review the book is to compare it to the movie.

Where the book presents Edmond Dantes as a rather naive character until Abbe Faria, Dantes' fellow prisoner, sparked connections in Dantes' mind regarding how it is that he ended up in prison. The movie just makes Dantes out to be an idiot (who stupidly accepts a letter from Bonaparte himself!) and only realizes his stupidity after it is too late. And although Faria's part in the book lasts but a moment (when you consider the actual length of the tale) you can feel his presence throughout. Faria's character,encouraging Dante to learn and to grow in prison and not to seek vengeance for himself when out, can be felt through the entire book. The movie makes Faira out to be little more than a treasure map to the future Count's riches instead of a deeply loved and respected friend.

The book does not separate Dantes' faith in God from his actions for a moment. Although at times misguided, he keeps God in the forefront of his mind. In the movie, he curses God (and you'd almost wish he'd die). The book offers redemption and a future beyond the pain of Dantes' past. The movie leaves you with a longing towards the two hours you lost while watching it. (Except if you are just enjoying down time with your husband, of course.)

The "good guy" characters in the book are noble, to the point where you desperately wish Dantes' life hadn't taken the turn that it did early on. Yet it leaves you feeling satisfied that all that can be made right, has been made right. The movie is deplete of nobility (in the true sense of the word). But then that's Hollywood for you. I made the decision following the movie that someone, somewhere needs to change the rules for allowing a movie to be "based on the story by..." and instead relabeled, "based loosely on the story by..."

I thought the book was wonderful. I enjoyed the way that Dumas was able to tie together about five different tales and show how they were all intertwined beyond a brief glance at any individual character. The way he wove his character's pasts in and around each other was amazing. While on the surface his story appears complex, in reality its a simplistic "It's a Small World After All" piece of work. But you'd never know it while in the middle of reading. Each revelation leaves you racing forward in the book to see how everything will play out. The movie? Skip it. The book will entertain you far better.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Hey all,

Per e-mail discussions it has been written and decreed that we shall continue Bookfest into next year. However, to accommodate busy schedules related to work, family, children, too many books to read, etc., we will be limiting our reads to 1-2 books a month instead of the current 4. I'm presently working out a system by which we can select our titles and have something going that everyone has suggested. Should be very fun.

In the meantime, if you have a friend or know of someone who might like to join us for the coming year, please let me know. Thus far I have convinced a few people to try joining us and you may find their name/profile on the sidebar here very shortly. (Newbies are welcome to post and comment whenever they'd like!) The three new people to introduce are:

1. Katie (Bonnie's sister);
2. Karen (guest reader, suggestor and blogger extraordinaire);
3. Lisa (T. Who stalks and comments. Check out her comments on Blue Like Jazz. I'm particularly partial to the opening quote.)

I have a few others in mind that I'll be asking but let me know if you have someone in your back pocket that you've been waiting to whip out and unleash upon us all!

Monday, September 04, 2006

For she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fellow....



Here I am in a land far far away (feels like) celebrating the day you were born !


May God smile upon you and give you peace!

Lots of Love!


Post script;
Please tell me you had chocolate cake for your birthday!?!?!?!?!?!?!??????

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Official List

Behold! I bring you glad tidings of great joy! We have our book selection lists in for the remainder of the year. Hightail it to libraries and bookstores to make sure you get a copy by the time story time rolls around. =D Thanks for the recommendations. I think we'll finish off this year well.


1. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (Sky);
2. Any book from the Mitford series, by Jan Karon (Carrie);
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (Anneke); and
4. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh (Bonnie).


1. Foundation, by Isaac Asimov (Rose);
2. Absolution by Murder, by Peter Tremayne (Sky);
3. A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters (Bonnie); and
4. Hank the Cowdog, by John R. Erickson (Carrie)*.

*Note: I had a murder mystery picked for November as well but thought 3 might prove overkill. ;) ha!


1. Innside Nantucket, by Frank Gilbreath, Jr. (Anneke)*;
2. The Family Nobody Wanted, by Helen Doss (Rose)*;
3. My Friend Flicka, by Mary O'Hara (Sky); and
4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo (Carrie)

*Innside Nantucket seems to be out of print. It was published in 1954. Same author as Cheaper by the Dozen. (I anticipate a good story!) This one may require some tracking down. The Family Nobody Wanted was first published in 1945 and may be difficult as well, although Amazon had a new 2001 edition at an outrageous price for a paperback.

Looks like fun! Thanks again!