Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Books for Kansas Day

January 29, 1861 is the date that Kansas became a member of the United States of America. In honor of my native home, I recommend three interesting reads:

Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton

This is probably the very first adult nonfiction title I read as a child. I have always been fascinated by the history of the West, and this book satisfied my desire to read accounts from people who were "really there". My young eyes devoured the horrifying tales of John Brown and Quantrill's raiders, as well as the more mundane stories of everyday life. This collection of first-hand accounts of Kansas' early days is well worth a peak.

The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement by Otto Scott

Otto Scott is one of my favorite historians. I enjoy his blunt style and no-nonsense approach to history. It has been several years since I read this particular volume, so rather than try to dredge up my impressions, I will say only that after I read this, I realized John Brown wasn't the hero I'd thought he was!

The Secret Six is part of the Sacred Fools Quartet, books about men who "created conflagrations but were revered despite their mischief." Here's what Mr. Scott said about John Brown and the subjects of this book:
The more I looked at him, the less there was to write a book about. A low-level swindler was all Brown was -- a Bible quoter, true, but everyone quoted the Bible in his time. The main story turned out to be the six men who put him up to it, who put him on their payroll, who hired him to do what he did. Nobody wrote or talked about that.

Curious? Read the book to find out about some of the origins of the War Between the States, as well as the life of an American terrorist.

And lastly, I recommend an old favorite, Little House on the Prairie, a fictionalized account of Laura Ingalls Wilder's life as a child on the Kansas prairie. I am reading the series to my little brother and discovering again the joy of these masterfully written tales.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians) by Agatha Christie

Someone has said that we read mystery stories because for a brief time we can lose ourselves in a world where every question has an answer and where all the wrongdoers are brought to their just deserts. None of that solace is found in this book. Justice is not served—it is usurped.

It is a closed-room mystery. Ten people are invited to a private island by a mysterious host. They arrive expecting to enjoy a brief holiday from day to day life, only to find that someone has a much more sinister plan: a permanent holiday for each from life itself.

There may be some literary merit to the book. I didn’t take the time to find out. The whole situation was too horrible to dwell on. Instead, I read as fast as I could to find out “what happened”. I found no satisfaction in the ending, and I can’t think of a thing to recommend the creepy volume. Unless you need nightmare fodder.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Try This!

A quote from my current read:

Go ahead and throw another log on the fire. Read like reading is supposed to be done, not with a hand on a mouse, not slogging your way through hyperlinks that only serve to make you hyper, but simply. Sit back with the drink of your choice--as long as it is not some industrial sludge--and have a nice read, remembering that real change comes when real people have real conversations about really important things.
--R.C. Sproul, Jr., Eternity in our Hearts

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Following of the Star by Florence Barclay

I've been reading The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. One of her pieces of advice to writers is to break free of the endless round of niggling: “To constantly print out, reread, and perfect your prose is usually a trap: after a month of writing, you often have perfectly laid out phrases that say very little, because you paid attention to their sound far more than their purpose."

I'm very prone to fall into such a trap: this particular piece is nearly a year old, and has no less than 3 very different versions running around loose. So here's to a more productive writing life!

The Following of the Star

I’m afraid my attitude towards Christian fiction is rather cynical. I’m tired of reading dull, pietistic, shallow and saccharine stories. I want to read something that shows Christianity as a real, vibrant, and victorious way of life. And I wouldn’t mind a high level of literary quality, either. Yet stories like these seem few and far between. And so I look upon any new find with a jaundiced eye, cynically wondering whether I will once again be wasting my time.

This book is different. Tainted with an omnipresent 19th century sentimentalism, yes, but still different. For in The Following of the Star I've found a story that takes Christianity away from the sermons and applies it to the perplexing problems of life. Here I've found characters who struggle, make bad decisions, learn from them, and ultimately come to see the Providence of God working in their lives.

The Following of the Star was published in 1911 by Florence Barclay, a pastor's wife and invalid author distantly related to the founder of the Salvation Army. The story is built around a Christmas sermon given in the 3rd chapter, in which the gifts of the wise men are applied to the Christian life as symbolizing giving, worship, and death. How these gifts are lived out in the lives of the preacher and the “Lady of Mystery” makes a very fascinating story of growth, love and devotion to God.

I am at a loss on how further to describe the plot without completely giving away the story. Let me just warn my readers to refrain from reading the ending prematurely. This is the voice of impatient experience speaking!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Three Sackett Novels by Louis L’Amour

  • Mustang Man
  • Ride the River
  • Man from the Broken Hills

    Whenever a friend highly recommends a book or an author, those names go down on my "to read" list. Not only because I might like them as well, but also because I need to be able to talk intelligently with my friend about her passion. So when my friend Tiffany started reading Louis L'Amour, I knew my time was coming.

    Western novels have never really been an interest of mine. I don't know why, since for most of my childhood I was enamored of horses and cowboys. I read every book about horses I could get my hands on, and devoured every title Dale Evans (wife of famous cowboy actor Roy Rogers) published. Yet it never occurred to me to read a Western. Until now.

    Louis L'Amour is a storyteller. He considered himself to be a "troubadour of the West". And that is his greatest talent. His stories paint an exciting picture of life during the early days of America's history. But as a writer, he can be a bit sloppy. Both Mustang Man and Ride the River were at times painfully repetitive and gave the impression of being dashed off quickly without a backward glance. I wondered as I read if an editor's eyes had ever perused their pages—they were that bad.

    Man from the Broken Hills supports my theory that perhaps L'Amour fell into the trap that many successful, prolific writers have fallen into: that of becoming careless in the latter years of their careers. Written 10 years previous to the above titles, the book is of considerably better quality. The story is captivating, with far less of the slap-dash effect. So while my first impressions weren't entirely favorable, I'll not shelve this author yet!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Friday, January 04, 2008

2007 Books: The Complete List

I wanted to publish a list of all the new-to-me books I read last year...but thought it was a thing that just wasn't done. Until I read Carmon's Blog. So thanks to her initiative, here is a list for your amusement. I have not commented on any of the books; that would make it TOO long. So if you want to know about a particular one, just ask. I have linked to any reviews I've already published on Biblio-File.

This list is in order of will probably notice a pattern or two. When I get on a roll, I just keep going!

  1. The Liberty of Obedience-Elisabeth Elliot
  2. In Style Weddings-Hilary Sterne
  3. The Perfect Wedding Details-Maria McBride
  4. Discipline: The Glad Surrender-Elisabeth Elliot
  5. Battling for the Modern Mind: A Beginner’s Chesterton-Thomas C. Peters
  6. The Man Who Was Chesterton-Raymond T. Bond
  7. Digital Art Photography for Dummies-Matthew Banber, MA
  8. 100 Ways to Take Better Photographs-Michael Busselle
  9. Techniques of natural Light Photography-Jim Zuckerman
  10. Digital Family Album Basics-Janine Warner
  11. Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters-Marilyn and Sheila Brass
  12. Hamburgers and Fries, an American Story-John T. Edge
  13. The Regatta Mystery and other stories- Agatha Christie
  14. The Perfect Wedding Dress-Philip Delamore
  15. A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove-Laura Schenone
  16. The Clocks-Agatha Christie
  17. A Serrated Edge-Douglas Wilson
  18. Getting Serious About Getting Married-Debbie Maken
  19. Manners-Kate Spade
  20. The Body in the Library-Agatha Christie
  21. The Mirror Crack’d-Agatha Christie
  22. A Caribbean Mystery-Agatha Christie
  23. What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!-Agatha Christie
  24. Nemesis-Agatha Christie
  25. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club-Dorothy L. Sayers
  26. The Five Red Herrings-Dorothy L. Sayers
  27. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd-Agatha Christie
  28. Pebble in a Pool-Elizabeth Yates
  29. Murder on the Orient Express-Agatha Christie
  30. Mansfield Park-Jane Austen
  31. Thrones and Dominations-Sayers/Jill Paton Walsh
  32. Till We Have Faces-C.S. Lewis
  33. Glory and Honor: The Musical and Artistic Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach-Gregory Wilbur
  34. With Pipe, Paddle, and Song- Elizabeth Yates
  35. The Elements of Style-William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
  36. Who Should We Then Read?-Jan Bloom
  37. The Phantom Tollbooth-Norton Juster
  38. All Creatures Great and Small-James Herriot
  39. Poirot Investigates-Agatha Christie
  40. All Things Bright and Beautiful-James Herriot
  41. All Things Wise and Wonderful-James Herriot
  42. Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style-Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
  43. I, Isaac, take thee, Rebekah-Ravi Zacharias
  44. The High School Handbook-Mary Scholfield
  45. Knitting Pretty-Kris Perciva
  46. lLast Minute Knitted Gifts-Joelle Hoverson
  47. The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary-Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner
  48. Thirteen at Dinner-Agatha Christie
  49. The ABC Murders-Agatha Christie
  50. Cards on the Table-Agatha Christie
  51. Death on the Nile-Agatha Christie
  52. The Deafening Sound of Silent Tears: The Story of Caring for Life-Juliet Barker
  53. Dorothy L. Sayers: A Careless Rage for Life-David Coomes
  54. Somebody is going to die if Lily Beth doesn’t catch that bouquet: The Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding-Gayden Metcalf and Charlotte Hays
  55. Dorothy L. Sayers: A Pilgrim Soul-Nancy M. Tischler
  56. Death in the Stocks-Georgette Heyer
  57. Three Men in a Boat-Jerome K. Jerome
  58. Blog-Hugh Hewitt
  59. Mustang Man-Louis L’Amour
  60. Ride the River-Louis L’Amour
  61. The Man from the Broken Hills-Louis L’Amour
  62. Beloved Bondage-Elizabeth Yates
  63. The Performance Horse, A Photographic Tribute-David R. Stoeklein
  64. Horses of the World, from the desert to the racetrack-Jacqueline Ripart

New on the Shelf

Gifts and Goodwill....

From my trip to England....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 Reading Goals

Happy New Year! (I just had the pleasure of hearing Big Ben bong, via Classic FM)

Here's another list, this time of the books I hope to read within the next year. I've been making these lists for several years now, and have found them to be a fun way to make sure I get some "serious" books in my otherwise somewhat random literary diet.

Something by Dickens (probably Nicholas Nickelby)

Does anyone out there like Dickens?

A Shakespeare play (most likely an historical one)

Any recommendations?

The Silmarillion by Tolkien

I tried this once and gave up. It won't happen again!

Paradise Lost by Milton

There are so many major poetical works to study. I think I'll begin with this.

1984 by George Orwell Finished 2/08

I don't expect to "enjoy" this necessarily; I plan on reading it because of its far-reaching influence on later literature.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

So many rave about this; I must read it for myself.

The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter Finished 6/08

His bio of Tolkien is superb; I expect no less from this! I bought it in London for way-too-much (no, I will not tell!)...but I really wanted it. I WILL splurge on a book once in a blue moon... ;)

Unpopular Opinions by Dorothy L. Sayers

Probably my best buy from my book search while in England. I found a first edition on a charity shop shelf for half-price!