The Holy Thief (Brother Cadfael #19) ★★★☆½

holythief (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Holy Thief
Series: Brother Cadfael #19
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Medieval Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Two fellow Benedictines from a neighboring enclave come in search of offerings of money, prayers, skilled labor and materials for help in rebuilding their plundered abbey. A great amount of all 4 are raised and sent on back to the abbey while the 2 brothers head to other abbey’s to keep on raising more support. The cart and its inhabitants are waylaid by bandits and while the men escape with their lives, all the materials and money is gone.

At this time, it is discovered that the reliquary supposedly containing the bones of the welsch Saintess has gone missing. Suspicion falls on the younger of the monks from the ruined abbey and a witness is called to prove he did take the reliquary. Said witness ends up dead and discovered by the younger monk. Lots of twistings and turnings later, it all comes out that it was done by the assistant to a travelling musician who had stolen the valuables and then murdered the witness to the stealing of the reliquary on the off chance he had seen the assistant take the gold and jewels.

Said young monk, who has a voice from heaven, runs off to Wales with the slave girl of the travelling musician who also has the gift of singing. The bones of the Saintess are returned safely to Shrewsbury, the murderer is taken and everything works out for the best, with the exception of the murdered shepherd, poor sap.

 

My Thoughts:

It is about phracking time that this series got back to having Cadfael as a main character again. I bumped this up at least half star just for that reason alone!

The other thing I really liked was that brother Jerome, that sniveler, that ass kisser and general sucker upper to Prior Robert, lost control and whacked the shepherd over the head. He thought he killed the guy but sadly, it turned out to be someone else put the finishing kabosh on the poor shepherd. I have to admit, I was hoping it WAS Jerome just so the sheriff, Hugh Beringar, could string him up and hang him dead. Jerome has been a worm since the first book and I want him dead. Oh well.

The whole young love thing is just such a trope in this series at this point that I just shrug my shoulders and think “oh well”. The problem I do have it is that it allows Peters to give voice to her rather ecumenical and unscriptural theology using a monk and so add weight to her thoughts.

I enjoyed this read from start to finish, which is a good change from the last couple of Cadfael books. I only have 2 more to go in this series and I’m really hoping they end strong and not with a whimper.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) ★★★☆½

beastlybonesThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Beastly Bones
Series: Jackaby #2
Author: William Ritter
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 305
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Jackaby solves a case of a shapeshifting creature and when that creature’s owner is killed, ostensibly by a vampire, Jackaby and Abigal Rook are on it. When another victim turns up in Gads Valley, where Charlie Cane is now living and with the promise of dinosaur bones, both of our main characters are anxious to be off.

Once in Gads Valley, along with 2 competing archeologists and a strong willed journalist, Jackaby reveals that the bones belong to a dragon, not a dinosaur and there appears to be a live dragon as well. Carnage and mayhem ensue as the dragon, really a shapeshifter from the litter that Jackaby solved right at the beginning of the book, runs rampant. It violently explodes when Abigal throws a lit torch down its throat.

Jackaby and Abigal realize everything has been a distraction to keep them from the mastermind of it all. Abigal kisses Charlie at the train station and once back in New Fiddleham, both protagonists come to the conclusion that the death of their ghost Jenny is tied to everything. Solve her case and the mastermind of supernatural evil will be revealed.

 

My Thoughts:

A cracking fun read. Everything was a slow build up and I have to admit, I did not see the whole changling thing coming at all. That completely surprised me, in a good way.

Jenny the ghost does some poltergeist’y stuff near the beginning so I did know that her story was going to be important and sure enough, by the end of the book, her case is going to be the case that reveals who this supernatural meddler is.

The 2 archeologists and the journalist, along with a hunter who is a friend of Jackaby all provide nice background noise and are pretty much perfect side characters who are good for one book. Charlie and Abigal and their whole romance thing played a bigger part in this book, but more for various characters to tell Abigal what she should do or feel and for Abigal to finally decide on her own. Very modern young lady * eye roll * It was laid on a little thick, but considering this is YA bordering on middle grade, that is kind of to be expected.

Abigal is a great narrator and I’m glad the author didn’t try to change things from the first book and make somebody else do that. She’s feisty and smart and yet at the same time can be very human with being clumsy or not understanding something blindingly obvious to everyone else.

In many ways these remind me of Patricia Wrede’s Frontier Magic trilogy. The tone is very similar and while Abigal is a little bit older than Eff, Eff had to grow up fast while Abigal had the protection of money. But after this second Jackaby book, I suspect if you like one, you’ll like the other. I sure know I do.

And I have to end this review talking about the cover. I’ve included a large version if you click the pix by the info block. I’m not sure if it is the colors or the simplicity of it or what, but this is just as gorgeous as the first book.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Summer of the Danes (Brother Cadfael #18) ★★☆☆½

summerofthedanes (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Summer of the Danes
Series: Brother Cadfael #18
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A new Bishop/Prelate/Priest/Authority Figure has been invested in an area long neglected along the Welsh border. Brother Mark has been sent with gifts from his boss to let the new guys know he fully supports them. Since Mark doesn’t speak Welsh, Cadfael goes along for the ride.

There are politics galore, as the New Boss isn’t Welsh and there are Welsh issues. Two brothers are fighting and one comes back with a bunch of Danes to take what he wants. The Danes end up with Mark, Cadfael and a young woman named Hellend as hostages. Thngs happen, some people die, money, power, blah, blah, blah.

The hostages are released, the Danes go back to Ireland and Hellend, who was to marry one of the men of the Good Brother, skips out of town to hook up with a big brawny Dane. Cadfael returns to his Abbey and realizes that he hasn’t really left the world behind. He still wants to travel.

 

My Thoughts:

It wasn’t that this was any worse than any of the previous books, but my goodness, I am getting thoroughly tired of these non-Cadfael adventures. Thank goodness there are only 3 more to go.

This book did convince me to NOT start another medieval mystery series when I finish up this one. I was contemplating the Sister Frevisse series but after barely making it through this book, I’ve realized I’ve reached my limit.

This was not bad by any means. It was just more of the same. Cadfael is a witness to the events, not an active participant. I am wondering about trying a completely different genre to replace these when I’m done. I’m already reading “Western” with L’Amours Sackets and I’ve got the SFF side of things more than adequately covered. Crime/Noir is not a genre I enjoy and while I’d like to get into some long running Action/Adventure/Thriller series, I’m not sure where to go. Eh, whatever. I’ll find something.

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Martin Chuzzlewit ★★★★★

martinchuzzlewit (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Martin Chuzzlewit
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 954
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Martin Chuzzlewit, the Elder, has a falling out with his grandson, Martin Chuzzlewit, the younger. It all centers around the Elder’s ward, Mary Graham. Both men being cut from the same cloth, ie, stubborn, they go their separate ways. The Younger to seek his fortune so as to be able to provide for Mary and the Elder amongst his other relatives to see if any of them are worthy of being his heir.

We meet a veritable cornucopia of people along the way.

Mr Pecksniff, a relative of the Chuzzlewit’s. A more self-righteous, moralizing, hypocritical and thoroughly sleezy character you couldn’t ask for. The Elder goes to live with Pecksniff and his 2 daughters. The Elder allows Pecksniff complete control over him so as to see if there is even one drop of selflessness in him. Also living with Mr. Pecksniff is Tom Pinch, a humble character who believes the best of everyone and while talented, always believes that it is the genius in others that makes his doings so good.

We have another branch of the Chuzzlewit family introduced and the father there dies soon after and the son, Jonas, takes over. Jonas is a mean, grasping, simple, villianous fellow. He marries one of his cousins, Pecksniff’s younger daughter, for her dowry and then gets involved in a huge money scam. It is revealed that Jonas murdered his father so he could inherit and he, Jonas, then murders another fellow who knew of this and was the leader of the money scam. Jonas ends up penniless and commits suicide by poison on the way to jail to avoid the gallows.

The Younger meets up with Mark Tapley, a jolly fellow who believes it is his duty to serve under poor conditions so as to “bear up and be jolly”. Martin and Mark head to American, get boonswaggled into buying a swamp, almost die and then come back to Englad. Martin changes and realizes how selfish he has been and begins working on becoming a better man. Mark realizes that he’s going to be jolly no matter what circumstances he’s under, so he marries the widower of a local inn and decides to be a jolly taproom owner.

Tom Pinch, the assistant to Mr. Pecksniff, has always believed that Pecksniff walked on air. However, when he interrupts Pecksniff’s plans to marry Mary Graham so as to get an even greater grasp on the Elder and to hurt the Younger, Tom has his eyes opened. He is secretly in love with Mary himself but knows she loves the Younger and honors that love. He does what he can to protect Mary and is fired by Pecksniff. He makes his way to London to his sister’s and a friends and begins working as a clerk under mysterious circumstances. The friend, John Westlock, a rich young gentleman, falls in love with Ruth Pinch and by the end of the book they are married and Tom is living with them, bringing kindness and gentleness to all he comes into contact with.

Pecksniff is taken in by the money scam that Jonas is involved in and when the masterminds abscond to America with all the money, Pecksniff’s estates became collateral for all the other people involved. The Elder reveals that he knows of his villianous ways concerning Mary and cuts Pecksniff out of his life for good. Pecksniff ends up a drunken hobo.

The Elder and the Younger are reconciled when both realize what asses they have been. The Younger marries Mary with the Elder’s blessing and they live happily ever after.

 

My Thoughts:

It has been 10 years to the month since I last read Martin Chuzzlewit. So this re-read was definitely due. It was also a complete smashing success. Dickens give full reign to his verbosity but this time around, I was able to appreciate the wordsmithing that took place instead of being annoyed by the windy wordiness. Part of it was that Dickens is making his characters fully fleshed out with the long passages, the little, or not so little, passages of dialogue. He is building these characters from the ground up and much like a real person, they have quirks. Dickens gives us his characters, fully quirked!

While this is entitled Martin Chuzzlewit, I found that Tom Pinch was the real hero of this book. Dickens explores Selfishness through his characters, deliberate or otherwise and Tom Pinch is the antidote to that all. While others are sunk in schemes and plots, Mr Pinch is nothing but kindess and love. He seeks out ways to help anyone who comes across his path and takes upon his own back the rod meant for another. There were times where I wanted to just shout “You GO Tom Pinch!”

The rest of the side characters also made this book what it was. From Bailey the little rascal boy to Mrs. Gamp, to the survivors of Eden (the swamp Martin and Mark go to in America), to the politicians in America. Oh man, Martin’s time in America was great. Dickens doesn’t spare his cousins across the Pond one bit. Caricatured and lampooned, Dickens shows us a land that has not yet gone through the fire of its Civil War and it is not a pretty picture. Money, slander and violence were the watchwords then. Which goes to show that not much has really changed here in 175 years.

Now on to the two Martin’s. None of this story would have happened if either of them weren’t such pigheaded boneheads. Thankfully, Dickens doesn’t make them the main focus of the story even while using them as the skeleton upon which the whole book hangs. The various side characters give us flesh, blood, emotion, etc, making for a pleasant read. If it was just a book about the side characters it would have gone “sploosh!” in a bloody, fluidy mess and if it was just a book about the Martins, it would have been Skeleton War, and honestly, who wants THAT in a Charles Dickens book?

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yeah, yeah, I know. Putting in a gratuitous skeleton war picture in a Charles Dickens review. Shameless!

 

I found that I had to almost literally hold myself back from racing through this. Dickens was a wordsmith and I am finding that the goals in reading something from a wordsmith are different from the goals I have when reading something like Forgotten Realms. When I was in the right mind frame, I enjoyed the long, convoluted passages immensely. It was when I got impatient and tried to hurry things along that I ended up wishing that Dickens hadn’t been quite so verbose. I feel that my time reading this was well spent though and that my time was rewarded with some great storytelling and some really good writing. Reading good writing is one of the best ways to learn how to spot bad writing. I also gave this my coveted “Favorite” tag. Now you know I mean serious business!

To end, this first step along my Dickens re-read path was completely successful. I appreciate his skill even more and I find his stories even more universal in touching upon humanity in all its glories and in all its shame. Bravo Mr Dickens!

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

 

The Potter’s Field (Brother Cadfael #17) ★★★☆☆

pottersfield (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Potter’s Field
Series: Brother Cadfael #17
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 248
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Cadfael’s Abbey trades a field with another Abbey and in the process of plowing it, turn up the remains of a woman.

A newly minted monk at Shrewsbury took the vows against his wife’s wishes and she disappeared, thought to have run off to Wales with a lover. Now the suspicion is on him. Until a novitiate turns up with a story about seeing the woman just a couple of weeks ago, with her ring to prove it. Then another woman is shown to have disappeared and her lover is arrested. The same novitiate proves that the woman is alive and sets the scoundrel free.

It all turns out that the woman was the monk’s wife but she died due to the novitiates father and mother. It wasn’t murder and there was no foul play. It was complicated enough that even Hugh Beringar says that God will sort out everyone’s motives.

 

My Thoughts:

I found this to be one of the more complicated mysteries, mainly because of the various motivations and lack of malice aforethought. And yet I certainly can’t agree with the author’s thoughts, presented through Cadfael, Hugh and the Father Abbot, that everything was ok in the end. There was no justice. The mother of the novitiate did cause the death of the wife of the monk, even if hatred wasn’t involved.

These last couple of Cadfael books I have found myself disagreeing with the author more and more about how justice gets carried out and just what is the law. If you cause someone else’s death, even if they agree to it, that is still killing someone. The price of a life is the life of the one who took it or, if there was no forethought and hatred, banishment for life. Someone who pre-meditates and then carries out a killing is not someone who deserves to live. That is a cancer that must be cut out, not a cold that gets treated with soft tissues and extra fluids.

Mercy misplaced or misapplied is as bad as no mercy at all.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

My Antonia ★★★★☆

myantonia (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: My Antonia
Series: ———-
Author: Willa Cather
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Young Jim is orphaned and sent to live with his Grandparents in Nebraska, or one of those big flat states. He meets the Shimerda family, the eldest daughter’s name being Antonia.

Jim grows up with Antonia being just a part of his life and the book ends with him returning 20 years later to meet her family and kids and grandkids.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a great book of growing up but without all the drama that we expect from young people nowadays. Not that there wasn’t drama, but it wasn’t the focus.

This was small vignettes of Jim growing up. Jim meeting his grandparents and Antonia. Jim’s first big snowstorm. Going into town. Playing on the praire. Going to school. Summer vacation. Mr Shimerda committing suicide.Moving from a farm to town. Growing up but as seen through Jim’s eyes as Antonia grows up. Then things begin to speed up as Jim grows older. His college years consist of only 2-3 stories, then bam, 20 years later and going back to his little town and meeting Antonia and her little clan.

Part of what I liked was that there was no romantic drama between Jim and Antonia. He gets jealous a couple of times and she warns off some of her older friends from pursuing Jim, but in both cases it is for the good of the other person, not because they wanted the other. It was a calming influence even when tempestuous occurences happened.

I’m sure this would make a great book to discuss in a book club, as there is a lot of material to make hay with. Even back in highschool, I probably would have enjoyed this quiet book and been glad to write a book report about it. Now though, I simply enjoyed it. Jim at the end of the book is just a little bit older than me now and I was realizing it has been 21 years since I first attended Bibleschool. Jim’s life didn’t turn out how he planned and neither did mine. Jim was never more than friends with Antonia and I was never more than a friend to a little redheaded girl. And yet we’re both solidly content. I like that, I like that a lot in fact.

I would recommend this book if you’re looking to see what the American West was like after the cowboys from Louis L’Amour passed on through. I thoroughly enjoyed my read of this.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

The Heretic’s Apprentice (Brother Cadfael #16) ★★★☆☆

hereticsapprentice (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Heretic’s Apprentice
Series: Brother Cadfael #16
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 256
Format: Digital edition

 

Synopsis:

A young man returns with his dead master from their journey to the Holy Land. There is some question about whether said master can be buried at the Abbey due to some of his statements said many years ago. All is resolved.

However, a jealous man then accuses the young man of heresy so as to get him out of the way of a job. When said jealous man turns up dead, things don’t look good for the young man. Throw in a young woman, a dowry, an Abbot that toes the Church line completely and you have a recipe for a mystery.

Cadfael and Hugh solve the murder mystery side of things and Ellis Peters gets to view her theological views using various Abbots, Bishops, whatevers. If we could only all get along, then it wouldn’t matter what we believe or the words we use to express said beliefs. (My synopsis of Peters’ views, which I vehemently disagree with)

 

My Thoughts:

Every once in a while I am reminded that I am reading about a Catholic monk in the 1100’s. As such, the views expressed by various characters can run very counter to my staunch Protestant beliefs. But it makes for a very interesting read instead of just a dull murder mystery. The biggest thing that I enjoyed seeing was how the characters referenced Scripture very rarely and various Church Fathers quite a lot. You can believe in almost anything if you just go with what men have written ABOUT the Bible instead of reading it for yourself. But even that idea goes against everything that the Catholic Church calls orthodoxy. Thank God I’m a protestant.

The whole mystery part was rather blasé to be honest. The man we’re supposed to think is the main culprit practically has neon signs pointing at him, so I knew it couldn’t possibly be him even while having no other options. I’m not the kind of reader that tries to figure the mystery out before the main character. Besides, arrogant jackasses like Poirot withhold information, so what’s the use? I’m just along for the ride.

On a completely non-review note, I’ve begun using “series” tags on WordPress. I have to admit, I never understood why people did that before, but now that I’m thinking of organizing my WP site to be more user/link/post friendly, I understand. I LOVE how my reviewing style keeps on changing to meet various wants and needs. Still not going to see me on twitter or facebook though.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge