Saturday, 15 July 2017

Review: A Wrinkle in Time (1962)

Despite its popularity in the US, this book isn't particularly well known (as far as I can tell) over here in the UK, so I never came across it as a child. This is a shame, because I think I would have loved it had I read it as a child. However, I still enjoyed it very much, and I'm glad I've finally got around to reading it.
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Summary (Goodreads): It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".

Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
 
This is quite a hard book to review, as it's kind of hard to describe why I liked it. I found it a little odd, but mostly in a good way - the sort of quirkiness that makes you want to find out more. For most of the book I had literally no idea what was going to happen next - it seemed like just about anything could happen. It felt very much like the story told in the book was very much scratching the surface of the world it was set in - that there was a lot that wasn't revealed or explained to us. I liked the sense of mystery that this added. Overall, I found it a very interesting story, dealing with themes of Love over Evil; a common theme, but one which I don't think can be over-done.
 
Personally, I didn't find I was particularly interested in most of the characters; probably this was just due to a lack of time spent developing them, which was probably necessarily the case in a book this length, especially as there is a fair amount of plot to get in. (Although I did like that Meg was good at maths, which is a very underrated skill among book heroines.) However, I think the other aspects of the book made up for this. Mostly, it's left me wanting more; so I am looking forward to reading the sequels.
 
(At the time of posting, I've read A Wind in the Door, which I also enjoyed a lot, though not as much as this.)

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Six in Six 2017

Six in Six is an annual meme hosted by Jo at The Book Jotter. The idea is that you pick six categories which relate to your reading in the first half of the year, and list six things for each category. I enjoyed participating in this last year, so I thought I'd join in again this time.

https://josbookjourney.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/the-sixth-six-in-six-2017-edition/


Six new authors to me
Madeleine L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time; A Wind in the Door)
Anthony Hope (The Prisoner of Zenda)
Mavis Doriel Hay (Death on the Cherwell)
Marguerite de Angeli (Thee, Hannah!)
John Buchan (The Thirty-Nine Steps)
Elisabeth Grace Foley (The Mountain of the Wolf; The Silver Shawl)
 
Six historical novels
The Thunder Omen - Caroline Lawrence
Raider's Tide - Maggie Prince
The Silver Shawl - Elisabeth Grace Foley
A Plague on Both Your Houses - Susanna Gregory
The Little Duke - Charlotte Mary Yonge
St. Peter's Fair - Ellis Peters
 
Six series I read or started
Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters (St. Peter's Fair; The Leper of St. Giles)
Lord Peter Wimsey - Dorothy Sayers (Unnatural Death)
Paddington - Michael Bond (More About Paddington)
Alice-Miranda - Jacqueline Harvey (Alice-Miranda on Holiday; Alice-Miranda Takes the Lead; Alice-Miranda Shows the Way; Alice-Miranda in Paris)
Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew - Susanna Gregory (A Plague on Both Your Houses)
Chalet School - Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (The Princess of the Chalet School; The New Chalet School)
 
Six classics I have read
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
The Prisoner of Zenda - Anthony Hope
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis (re-read)
The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien
Marmion - Walter Scott
The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan
 
Six non-fiction books
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
Fierce Convictions - Karen Swallow Prior
The Year 1000 - Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger
Letters to Malcolm - C.S. Lewis
Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton
The Reason I Jump - Naoki Higashida
 
Six re-reads
Saffy's Angel - Hilary McKay
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
The Tanglewoods' Secret - Patricia St. John
Shocks for the Chalet School - Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
Phyllida in Form III - Evelyn Smith
The Little Duke - Charlotte Mary Yonge

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Recent Highlights

photo from Unsplash

It's been rather a long time since I last posted, so I thought I'd do a recap of some recent reading highlights.

Fiction

I've been enjoying quite a few mystery/detective stories recently. I really enjoyed Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay, a murder mystery set in 1930s Oxford. St Peter's Fair and The Leper of St Giles, books four and five in Ellis Peters' Cadfael series, were also very good. Unnatural Death, the third Lord Peter Wimsey book by Dorothy L. Sayers, didn't quite live up to the others in the series I've read, but it was still enjoyable. A Plague on Both Your Houses by Susanna Gregory, set in medieval Cambridge, was good, but not really to my taste; it was a bit more thriller-y than the other books I've mentioned here, with lots of twists and turns and not knowing who to trust, which is not really my sort of thing, although it kept me reading to find out what would happen.

I've also read several lesser-known vintage novels: I really enjoyed A College Girl by Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey (although the title is slightly misleading, as not much of the story is set at college; it's more a coming-of-age tale); The Girls of St. Wode's by L.T. Meade was also very enjoyable, and The Diary of a Goose Girl by Kate Douglas Wiggin was a quick, entertaining read (although rather lacking in plot).

Other books I enjoyed were A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison, several books in the Alice-Miranda series by Jacqueline Harvey, and The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Non-Fiction

Mere Christianity and Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis were both excellent (as Lewis always is). Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien gave me a lot to think about. Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior, a biography of Hannah More, was a great read; she is a fascinating person to read about.

Currently Reading

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (almost finished)
A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson
North Side of the Tree by Maggie Prince (just started, but really enjoying)
The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding
Charlotte Fairlie by D.E. Stevenson


Anticipating

Death in the Arena, the third books in the Roman Quests series by Caroline Lawrence, which comes out this week. I really enjoyed the first two books, so I'm looking forward to this one.


I've got a few reviews hanging around in my drafts that I'll probably post soon, so hopefully there'll be a rather shorter interval between this and my next post.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Ten Books on My Spring TBR. I'm very much of a mood reader and usually not very good at sticking to lists, so there is a good chance my reading over the next few months will be completely different to what I've listed below! That said, I really do intend to read most of them soon - we'll see!


The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (my Classics Club Spin book)
Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (after I finish The Two Towers, which will hopefully be this week)
Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (for the Old School Kidlit reading challenge)
Once by various authors
A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson
The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
Thalia by Frances Faviell
The Oxford Inklings by Colin Duriez
 
Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think of them? And what are you looking forward to reading soon?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Classics Club Spin #15

It's time for another Classics Club Spin! I've quite enjoyed participating in these so far, and it's definitely a good incentive to get another book crossed off my list. The idea is that I list twenty unread books from my Classics Club list, and then on Friday a number will be announced, which is the book I have to read and post about by May 1st.
  1. The Watsons by Jane Austen
  2. Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
  3. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  4. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  5. The Wisdom of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
  6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  7. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
  10. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
  11. Elizabeth Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin
  12. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  13. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  14. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
  15. Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
  16. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
  17. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  18. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  19. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  20. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I'd like it if #8, #9 or #12 came up, but really I think I'd be quite happy with any of these ... although I am a little intimidated by several of them.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Quote of the Week



"It is the small temptations which undermine integrity, unless we watch and pray, and never think them too small to be resisted." - Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott

Photo from Unsplash

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Book Review: The Tanglewoods' Secret (1948)

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Summary (from Goodreads): Ruth and her beloved brother Philip find solace in the expanse of the Tanglewoods' property. There they escape into bird watching, climbing, and general misadventures with their friend Terry.

But life with their Aunt is harsh, and Ruth suffers from an incorrigible temper. Just when she thinks she can't take it anymore, she learns a very special secret about a very special Shepherd. When a dreadful accident hurts one they love, Ruth and Philip learn that the Tanglewoods' Secret isn't meant to be kept a secret.
 
I read this for the Old School Kidlit challenge: a book you loved in childhood. I read this at the age of about six or seven and enjoyed it, but had never revisited it, so I didn't remember much except for a few details. I found that it didn't quite live up on rereading.
 
I think my main problem was that it was just too simplistic. Of course it was written for quite young children, so that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but rereading it now as an adult I just didn't enjoy it as much. Admittedly, the book does make clear that becoming a Christian doesn't make all your troubles and suffering go away, but the issues faced by Ruth and others in the book (including a pretty major tragedy) seem to be got over pretty quickly. I also found myself getting pretty annoyed with Aunt Margaret in the first half of the book; I'm not surprised Ruth keeps being naughty when her aunt is always telling her how bad she is! I also felt that it was unfair that Ruth was often made to help with the housework whilst her older brother was allowed to go out and play, but I suppose that is a sign of when the book was written.
 
The sections I found most interesting were the parts about Ruth and Philip's lives, such as their interest in bird-watching, the games they play together and their schemes for making money so that they can save up to buy a camera, and I wish that there had been more of these in the book. I also liked their relationship - they have a strong friendship as well as being siblings which  always good to read about. I think the messages in the book were mostly good and I liked that it was pointed out that adults (such as Aunt Margaret) also need Jesus and don't necessarily always have it all figured out or do the right thing. I just found the whole story a bit simplistic and the Christian parts quite heavy-handed. But I still found things to enjoy about it, and I did enjoy it more as a child (although not as much as some of Patricia St. John's other books).