Dombey and Son ★★★★★


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: Dombey and Son
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 876
Words: 357.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story concerns Paul Dombey, the wealthy owner of the shipping company of the book’s title, whose dream is to have a son to continue his business. The book begins when his son is born and Dombey’s wife dies shortly after giving birth. Following the advice of Mrs. Louisa Chick, his sister, Dombey employs a wet nurse named Mrs. Richards (Toodle). Dombey already has a six-year-old daughter Florence, but, bitter at her not having been the desired boy, he neglects her continually. One day, Mrs. Richards, Florence, and her maid, Susan Nipper, secretly pay a visit to Mrs. Richard’s house in Staggs’s Gardens so that Mrs. Richards can see her children. During this trip, Florence becomes separated from them and is kidnapped for a short time by Good Mrs. Brown, before being returned to the streets. She makes her way to Dombey and Son’s offices in the City and there is found and brought home by Walter Gay, an employee of Mr. Dombey, who first introduces her to his uncle, the navigation instrument maker Solomon Gills, at his shop The Wooden Midshipman.

The child, named Paul after his father, is a weak and sickly child, who does not socialise normally with others; adults call him “old fashioned”. He is intensely fond of his sister Florence, who is deliberately neglected by her father as a supposedly irrelevant distraction. Paul is sent to the seaside at Brighton for his health, where he and Florence lodge with the ancient and acidic Mrs. Pipchin. Finding his health beginning to improve there, Mr. Dombey keeps him at Brighton and has him educated there at Dr. and Mrs. Blimber’s school, where he and the other boys undergo both an intense and arduous education under the tutelage of Mr. Feeder, B.A. and Cornelia Blimber. It is here that Paul is befriended by a fellow pupil, the amiable but weak-minded Mr. Toots.

Here, Paul’s health declines even further in this ‘great hothouse’ and he finally dies, still only six years old. Dombey pushes his daughter away from him after the death of his son, while she futilely tries to earn his love. In the meantime, young Walter sent off to fill a junior position in the firm’s counting house in Barbados through the manipulations of Mr Dombey’s confidential manager, Mr James Carker, ‘with his white teeth’, who sees him as a potential rival through his association with Florence. His boat is reported lost and he is presumed drowned. Walter’s uncle leaves to go in search of Walter, leaving his great friend Captain Edward Cuttle in charge of The Midshipman. Meanwhile, Florence is now left alone with few friends to keep her company.

Dombey goes to Leamington Spa with a new friend, Major Joseph B. Bagstock. The Major deliberately sets out to befriend Dombey to spite his neighbour in Princess’s Place, Miss Tox, who has turned cold towards him owing to her hopes – through her close friendship with Mrs Chick – of marrying Mr. Dombey. At the spa, Dombey is introduced via the Major to Mrs. Skewton and her widowed daughter, Mrs. Edith Granger. Mr. Dombey, on the lookout for a new wife since his son’s death, considers Edith a suitable match due to her accomplishments and family connections; he is encouraged by both the Major and her avaricious mother, but obviously feels no affection for her. After they return to London, Dombey remarries, effectively ‘buying’ the beautiful but haughty Edith as she and her mother are in a poor financial state. The marriage is loveless; his wife despises Dombey for his overbearing pride and herself for being shallow and worthless. Her love for Florence initially prevents her from leaving, but finally she conspires with Mr. Carker to ruin Dombey’s public image by running away together to Dijon. They do so after her final argument with Dombey in which he once again attempts to subdue her to his will. When he discovers that she has left him, he blames Florence for siding with her stepmother, striking her on the breast in his anger. Florence is forced to run away from home. Highly distraught, she finally makes her way to The Midshipman where she lodges with Captain Cuttle as he attempts to restore her to health. They are visited frequently by Mr. Toots and his prizefighter companion, the Chicken, since Mr. Toots has been desperately in love with Florence since their time together in Brighton.

Dombey sets out to find his wife. He is helped by Mrs. Brown and her daughter, Alice, who, as it turns out, was a former lover of Mr. Carker. After being transported as a convict for criminal activities, which Mr. Carker had involved her in, she is seeking her revenge against him now that she has returned to England. Going to Mrs. Brown’s house, Dombey overhears the conversation between Rob the Grinder – who is in the employment of Mr. Carker – and the old woman as to the couple’s whereabouts and sets off in pursuit. In the meantime, in Dijon, Mrs. Dombey informs Carker that she sees him in no better a light than she sees Dombey, that she will not stay with him, and she flees their apartment. Distraught, with both his financial and personal hopes lost, Carker flees from his former employer’s pursuit. He seeks refuge back in England, but being greatly overwrought, accidentally falls under a train and is killed.

After Carker’s death, it is discovered that he had been running the firm far beyond its means. This information is gleaned by Carker’s brother and sister, John and Harriet, from Mr. Morfin, the assistant manager at Dombey and Son, who sets out to help John Carker. He often overheard the conversations between the two brothers in which James, the younger, often abused John, the older, who was just a lowly clerk and who is sacked by Dombey because of his filial relationship to the former manager. As his nearest relations, John and Harriet inherit all Carker’s ill-gotten gains, to which they feel they have no right. Consequently, they surreptitiously give the proceeds to Mr. Dombey, through Mr. Morphin, who is instructed to let Dombey believe that they are merely something forgotten from the general wreck of his fortunes. Meanwhile, back at The Midshipman, Walter reappears, having been saved by a passing ship after floating adrift with two other sailors on some wreckage. After some time, he and Florence are finally reunited – not as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ but as lovers, and they marry prior to sailing for China on Walter’s new ship. This is also the time when Sol Gills returns to The Midshipman. As he relates to his friends, he received news whilst in Barbados that a homeward-bound China trader had picked up Walter and so had returned to England immediately. He said he had sent letters whilst in the Caribbean to his friend Ned Cuttle c/o Mrs MacStinger at Cuttle’s former lodgings, and the bemused Captain recounts how he fled the place, thus never receiving them.

Florence and Walter depart and Sol Gills is entrusted with a letter, written by Walter to her father, pleading for him to be reconciled towards them both. A year passes and Alice Brown has slowly been dying despite the tender care of Harriet Carker. One night Alice’s mother reveals that Alice herself is the illegitimate cousin of Edith Dombey (which accounts for their similarity in appearance when they both meet). In a chapter entitled ‘Retribution’, Dombey and Son goes bankrupt. Dombey retires to two rooms in his house and all its contents are put up for sale. Mrs. Pipchin, for some time the housekeeper, dismisses all the servants and she herself returns to Brighton, to be replaced by Mrs. Richards. Dombey spends his days sunk in gloom, seeing no-one and thinking only of his daughter:

He thought of her as she had been that night when he and his bride came home. He thought of her as she had been in all the home events of the abandoned house. He thought, now, that of all around him, she alone had never changed. His boy had faded into dust, his proud wife had sunk into a polluted creature, his flatterer and friend had been transformed into the worst of villains, his riches had melted away, the very walls that sheltered him looked on him as a stranger; she alone had turned the same, mild gentle look upon him always. Yes, to the latest and the last. She had never changed to him – nor had he ever changed to her – and she was lost.

However, one day Florence returns to the house with her baby son, Paul, and is lovingly reunited with her father.

Dombey accompanies his daughter to her and Walter’s house where he slowly starts to decline, cared for by Florence and also Susan Nipper, now Mrs. Toots. They receive a visit from Edith’s Cousin Feenix who takes Florence to Edith for one final time – Feenix sought Edith out in France and she returned to England under his protection. Edith gives Florence a letter, asking Dombey to forgive her her crime before her departure to the South of Italy with her elderly relative. As she says to Florence, ‘I will try, then to forgive him his share of the blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!’

The final chapter (LXII) sees Dombey now a white-haired old man ‘whose face bears heavy marks of care and suffering; but they are traces of a storm that has passed on for ever, and left a clear evening in its track’. Sol Gills and Ned Cuttle are now partners at The Midshipman, a source of great pride to the latter, and Mr and Mrs Toots announce the birth of their third daughter. Walter is doing well in business, having been appointed to a position of great confidence and trust, and Dombey is the proud grandfather of both a grandson and granddaughter whom he dotes on. The book ends with the highly moving lines:

‘Dear grandpapa, why do you cry when you kiss me?
He only answers, ‘Little Florence! Little Florence!’ and smooths away the curls that shade her earnest eyes.

My Thoughts:

This was a book about Luciferian Pride and just how destructive and ruinous such pride is.

While I enjoyed this tremendously while reading, it took me over 2 weeks to get through simply because the subject matter was so tough. Dickens does an admirable job of showing how Florence just wants her father to love her and how he does everything but that.

Even with the semi-happy ending, this was a book simply drenched in meloncholia. While Florence had a greater capacity than I to persevere, she was no bright eyed Pollyana with a song on her lips. She was greatly affected by her father’s treatment.

I also found that I wanted to throttle Captain Cuttle, another of the characters that I mentioned in my currently reading post earlier this month. He was so kind and gentle and at the same time he simply made everything worse. Everything. Even near the end when he finds out that Walter is back in England, he spends the whole day reminding Florence that Walter is drowned and dead:
 ‘Poor Wal’r, aye, aye. Drownded, ain’t he?’ 
I just wanted to throttle him even while laughing at his antics.

This is the book I’ll think of when someone mentions Dickens and run-on sentences and bloviated writing. It was quite noticeable and this is coming from me, who’s been re-reading Dickens for almost the last 3 years, so you know it was “bad”. I suspect that is another reason I took so long reading this. You couldn’t read this quickly or you’d lose yourself in his maze of words and have no clue what he was talking about by the end of a paragraph. This was definitely a book calling for comprehensive reading.

Overall, another great entry but not one I’d recommend to anyone new to Dickens. Save this for once you’ve had some experience. In other words, don’t try to run before you can walk!

★★★★★

Passion and Purity ★★★★★


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: Passion and Purity
Series: ———-
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Counsel
Pages: 192
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Published in 1984 and written by Elisabeth Elliot, is an evangelical Protestant book, part manifesto and part autobiography, on the subject of romantic relationships. The book recounts Elliot’s friendship and romance with missionary Jim Elliot, beginning in the 1940s and ending with his death in 1956. Elliot uses anecdotes from her relationship with Jim to expound on her views concerning “pure, Christian relationships” and the practice of “waiting on God” for romantic timing and direction.

The late Ruth Bell Graham, wife of popular evangelist Billy Graham, wrote the preface.

My Thoughts:

I read this for the first time back in 2000 when I was single and desperately trying to not be single. That was a very different time in my life from now and I read this now to see how things had changed more than because I thought I needed to read this book.

I will say, besides being saved by Jesus Christ, getting married was the best thing that ever happened to me. Books like this helped me stay the course during those tumultuous hormone years when all I wanted was to give way to my baser desires.

So this time around, it was like looking back down a mountain side. This book is written to single people who are dealing with keeping their purity and walk with God while navigating the world of courting/dating. It was a fantastic reminder that I have not always been where I currently am. That in turn gave me hope because it means that I am not always going to be where I currently am either. God has plans for each stage of our lives.

It has spurred me on to go look at some marriage counsel books by Dr. James Dobson to see what advice is given to married couples. While we’re doing just fine, heading off things before they happen is the best way to keep things going just fine.

★★★★★

Cold Fire ★☆☆☆☆


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: Cold Fire
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 495
Words: 134K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Recently retired teacher Jim Ironheart (aptly named) risks his life to save lives. In Portland he saves a young boy from an oblivious drunk driver in a van. In Boston he rescues a child from an underground explosion. In Houston he disarms a man who was trying to shoot his own wife – and he is not just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. He gets “inspirations” and knows he must hurry to wherever prompted. He rushes off to hail a cab or catch a plane, dropping whatever he’s doing at the moment, much to the surprise of those around him. He has no idea where these visions come from or why, but he believes that he must be some sort of God-sent guardian angel with a heavenly gift.

Reporter Holly Thorne was in Portland to write a less than exciting piece on a school teacher who has recently published a book of poetry full of poems which Holly finds are pure transcendental garbage – but such is Holly’s lot in life. She is a fine writer but is failing at her job because she is filled with too much integrity and compassion to be a good reporter. As she is leaving she witnesses Jim rescuing the child from the drunk driver and felt there was something fishy in Jim’s explanations of how he started running for the child before seeing or hearing the van coming. She discovers there have been 12 last-minute rescues reported over the last three months in other newspapers by a mysterious Good Samaritan named Jim with blue eyes.

Holly is intrigued by Jim and his intense but cold blue eyes – eyes which burn with a passionate, cold fire, hence the novel’s title.

Holly decides to follow this humble yet elusive savior on his next “mission.” Unbeknownst to Jim, she rapidly follows him to the airport and boards a United Airlines DC-10 plane bound for Chicago. She decides to confront him and learns about Jim’s strange but extraordinary powers. Jim tells her that he has been sent by God to save a mother and a child on the plane – he does not know why God has chosen these two in particular, but he does know that they must change seats or they will die in the horrific plane crash about which he has been sent a vision. Holly is struck by Jim’s belief that he has some magical power, sent by God no less.

Holly takes a more cynical view on things and decidedly argues how ridiculous such thoughts are. She questions why “God” would choose to let these two people live, and allow 151 other passengers to die, as Jim has foreseen. Surely there are much more worthy people aboard, and why would God even have the plane crash at all? Holly presses Jim to do much more than just tell the couple to move, but that he should warn the pilot and maybe save everyone aboard. Jim initially refuses, and decidedly refuses to question his visions. He tells Holly simply that God sends him, and he only follows the instructions – to do anything beyond that would be to somehow go outside God’s will. Who else, he asks, could be sending him visions to save lives precisely at the right time? Holly reasons with him, and convinces him that there is no good reason for Jim (or God) to let anyone die needlessly. The plane, however, is damaged beyond saving and still crashes, but the number of fatalities reduces from 151 to 47.

After the crash, Holly manages to gain Jim’s confidence. They are attracted to each other, but Holly cannot help but be curious about Jim’s mysterious visions. She decides to discover exactly how, why, and who, just as any reporter would naturally want to know. Yet the more she pries, the stranger things get. Nearly all Jim’s childhood memories are completely missing, except that he knows his parents died when he was 9 at his grandparents’ ranch. He only knows very vague details about everything from his childhood, and gets angry when Holly questions him. She begins to see that his strange abilities are linked to his childhood and lack of memories from then. She hears him whisper in his sleep continuously for several nights, “There is an Enemy. It is coming. It’ll kill us all. It is relentless.” She and Jim start to have identical terrifying nightmares surrounding the old mill from his grandparents’ ranch, and during one of these “nightmares” they are both completely conscious and experience violence while fighting some eerie force coming at them from the walls and ceiling – needless to say, they are convinced the force behind it all is definitely not God, nor is it benign.

Holly unquestionably decides they must go back to the ranch to find the source of everything, though she is fearful of what they will find. Jim is at first reluctant, but as they near the ranch, he becomes more and more convinced that the being is something wholly great and powerful – something not of this world.

Once inside the windmill’s creepy tower room, the alien reveals itself from the adjacent pond, at first through sounds analogous to church bells and then an entrancing display of dancing colors and exploding lights. The being then starts to magically use a pen and paper to make words appear, and later manifests as a voice. It calls itself THE FRIEND who has come to them from ANOTHER WORLD. When asked why, it says, “TO OBSERVE, TO STUDY, TO HELP MANKIND.” Holly asks why, then, it attacked them the previous night, to which THE FRIEND replies that that was the work of its other half: THE ENEMY. When asked about the bells and lights, it says that it does that “FOR DRAMA?” Holly asks why the certain individuals are chosen over others, and THE FRIEND gives replies that one will cure all cancers, one will become a great president, one will become a great spiritual leader, et cetera. While Jim is wholly enthusiastic and pleased, Holly cannot believe the answers, for it does not make any logical sense and the answers seem trite, fantastical and childish to her.

Holly questions THE FRIEND far and deep about Jim while he is out of the room. All the answers continue to be too predictable to believe, and it finally answers her nagging with threats and then, most shockingly, with the words “I,” “MY,” and, “ME.” At that moment, it is discovered that Jim is actually himself the source of both THE FRIEND and THE ENEMY, that it is he who is causing the nightmares and not God or some alien force. After Jim’s parents died, the 9 year old became obsessed with a book about an alien in a pond next to a windmill – he became so obsessed that the child never grew up until one day an adult-in-body Jim ran away and started a presumably normal life. Holly helps Jim deal with his past and the two begin a new life together.

My Thoughts:

If Koontz had stuck to this being his typical thriller, I’d probably have given it 3.5 stars and seriously thought about upping it to 4.

However. There was this quote and several in the same vein:

“If there’s a God, why does He allow suffering?”

Alarmed, Father Geary said, “Are you feeling worse?”

“No, no. Better. I don’t mean my suffering. Just… why does He allow suffering in general?”

“To test us,” the priest said.

“Why do we have to be tested?”

“To determine if we’re worthy.”

“Worthy of what?”

“Worthy of heaven, of course. Salvation. Eternal life.”

“Why didn’t God make us worthy?”

“Yes, he made us perfect, without sin. But then we sinned, and fell from grace.”

“How could we sin if we were perfect?”

“Because we have free will.”

“I don’t understand.”

Father Geary frowned. “I’m not a nimble theologian. Just an ordinary priest. All I can tell you is that it’s part of the divine mystery. We fell from grace, and now heaven must be earned.”

The bolding is mine. Besides this blatant heresy, Koontz makes sure that his readers know that the main character not only studied a variety of religions, but WAS an “X” and believed in them all. A Super Ecumenist as it were.

It has never been clearer that Koontz is not a Christian even while using Christian terminology when it suits him. You don’t get to try to take the benefits of using Christian terminology while denying the strictures. You do not play games with Christ. As such, I’m done with Koontz now.

★☆☆☆☆

Little Dorrit ★★★★★

littledorrit (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: Little Dorrit
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 839
Words: 340K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins in Marseilles “thirty years ago” (c. 1826), with the notorious murderer Rigaud telling his cellmate John Baptist Cavalletto how he killed his wife. Arthur Clennam is detained in Marseilles with a group of travellers in quarantine. He meets new friends in the quarantine. He is returning to London to see his mother after 20 years in China with his father, handling that part of the family business. His father died there. On his deathbed, his father had given him a mysterious message, murmuring “Your mother,” which message and a watch Arthur mails to Mrs Clennam.

Inside the watch casing is an old silk paper with the initials DNF (do not forget) worked in beads. It is a message, but the implacable Mrs Clennam, who now uses a wheelchair, refuses to tell him what it means. The two become estranged.

In London, William Dorrit, imprisoned as a debtor, has been a resident of Marshalsea debtors’ prison for over twenty years. He has three children: Edward, Fanny and Amy. The youngest daughter, Amy, was born in the prison and is affectionately known as Little Dorrit. Their mother died when Amy was eight years old. Fanny lives outside the prison with William’s older brother, Frederick. The adult children are free to pass in and out of the prison as they please. Little Dorrit, devoted to her father, supports them both through her sewing. To the honour of her father, who is embarrassed to acknowledge his financial position, Little Dorrit avoids mentioning her work outside the prison or his inability to leave. Mr Dorrit assumes the role of Father of the Marshalsea, and is held in great respect by its inhabitants, as if he had chosen to live there.

After Arthur tells his mother that he will not continue in the family business, Mrs Clennam chooses her clerk Jeremiah Flintwinch as her partner. When Arthur learns that Mrs Clennam employs Little Dorrit as a seamstress, showing unusual kindness, he wonders whether the young girl might be connected with the mystery of the watch. Arthur follows the girl to the Marshalsea. He tries in vain to enquire about William Dorrit’s debt in the Circumlocution Office, assuming the role of benefactor towards Little Dorrit, her father, and her brother. While at the Circumlocution Office he meets the successful inventor Daniel Doyce. Doyce wants a partner and man of business at his factory and Clennam agrees to fill that role. Little Dorrit falls in love with Arthur, but Arthur fails to recognise Little Dorrit’s feelings.

Arthur is reacquainted with his former fiancée Flora Finching, the reason he was sent away to China, who is now an unattractive widow, and accompanied by the aunt of her late husband. Her father Mr Casby owns many rental properties, and his rent collector is Mr Pancks. The indefatigable Pancks discovers that William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune, enabling him to pay his way out of prison, altering the status of the entire family.

The now wealthy Dorrits decide that they should tour Europe as a newly respectable rich family. They travel over the Alps and take up residence for a time in Venice, and finally in Rome, displaying pride over their new-found wealth and position, unwilling to tell their past to new friends. Little Dorrit finds it difficult to adjust to their wealth and new social position, and slowly comes to appreciate the new places and new sights. Fanny adjusts rapidly to the ways of society, and is sought by the same young man, Edmund Sparkler, who pursued her in her poverty in London, but with a new start that is acceptable to his mother. In Rome, at a party, Mr Dorrit falls ill, and dies at their lodgings. His distraught brother Frederick dies that same night. Little Dorrit, left alone, returns to London to stay with newly married Fanny and her husband, the dim-witted Edmund Sparkler.

The financial house of Merdle, Edmund Sparkler’s stepfather, ends with Merdle’s suicide; the collapse of his bank and investment businesses takes with it the savings of the Dorrits, the firm of Doyce and Clennam, Arthur Clennam, and Pancks. Clennam is now imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he becomes ill. When Little Dorrit arrives in London, she slowly nurses him back to health.

Cavalletto finds the villain Rigaud hiding in London as Blandois, and brings him to Arthur Clennam. Held in the prison, he sends this undesirable man to his mother, who has advertised to find him. As Blandois he tries to blackmail Mrs Clennam with his full knowledge of her past. Mrs Clennam had insisted on bringing up little Arthur and denying his biological mother the right to see him. Mrs Clennam feels this is her right to punish others, because they hurt her. Arthur’s biological mother died about the same time as Arthur went off to China, but lived out of England with Flintwinch’s twin brother. Mr Clennam’s wealthy uncle, stung by remorse, had left a bequest to Arthur’s biological mother and to the youngest daughter of her patron, or if no daughter, the youngest child of his brother. The patron was Frederick Dorrit, the kind musician who had taught and befriended Arthur’s biological mother, and the beneficiary is his niece, Amy Dorrit. Blandois left a copy of the papers he obtained from Jeremiah’s brother at the Marshalsea for Little Dorrit.

Mrs Clennam knows of this inheritance and fails to tell Little Dorrit, or to tell Arthur about his biological mother. Unwilling to yield to blackmail and with some remorse, the rigid woman rises from her chair and totters out of her house to reveal the secret to Little Dorrit at the Marshalsea. Mrs Clennam begs her forgiveness, which the kind-hearted girl freely grants. Returning to home, Mrs Clennam falls in the street, never to recover the use of her speech or limbs, as the house of Clennam literally collapses before her eyes, killing Rigaud. Affery was outdoors seeking her mistress, and Jeremiah had escaped London before the collapse with as much money as he could find. Rather than hurt him, Little Dorrit chooses not to reveal any of this to Arthur; when he is well, she asks him to burn the papers.

Mr Meagles seeks the original papers, stopping to ask Miss Wade. She has them but denies it; Tattycoram slips back to London with the papers and presents them to Mr Meagles, who gives them to Little Dorrit. Mr Meagles then seeks out Arthur’s business partner Daniel Doyce from abroad. He returns a wealthy and successful man, who arranges to clear all debts for Arthur’s release. Arthur is released from the prison with his fortunes revived, his position secure with Doyce, and his health restored. Arthur and Little Dorrit marry.

Little Dorrit contains numerous sub-plots. One concerns Arthur Clennam’s friends, the kind-hearted Meagles family, who are upset when their daughter Pet marries the artist Henry Gowan, and when their servant and foster daughter Tattycoram is lured away from them to the sinister Miss Wade, an acquaintance of the criminal Rigaud. Miss Wade is ruled by her anger, and she was a jilted sweetheart of Gowan. Another subplot concerns the Italian man John Baptist Cavalletto who was the cellmate of Rigaud in Marseilles, though jailed for a minor crime. He makes his way to London, meets up by chance with Clennam, who stands security for him as he builds up his business in wood carving and gains acceptance among the residents of Bleeding Heart Yard. Cavalletto repays this aid by searching for Blandois/Rigaud when Arthur wants him found. This action brings about the revelation of the secrets kept by Mrs Clennam.

The other major subplot is the satire of British bureaucracy, named as the Circumlocution Office, where the expertise is how not to do it.

My Thoughts:

All I can say is thank goodness for wikipedia and the hardy souls who have already put up indepth synopses. I don’t know that I’d even try to do a synopsis on my own anymore for books by Dickens, as he has so many variegated plots and threads running at the same time. Daunting.

Back in ’08 when I had reviewed this for the first time, I called it the most enjoyable Dickens’ I had read to date. You know what? That statement still stands 12 years later. I’m also giving this the “Best Book of the Year” tag to remind me at years end.

There are some things that people need to know going into this. First and foremost, this is VERY florid. In fact, there is a character named Flora who Dickens writes as she speaks, ie, almost no punctuation and paragraph long sentences. It was HARD to read her stuff, as her mind went all over and Dickens gave full vent to that. I have to admit that I ended up skipping a lot of what she said. I don’t feel that I missed much by skimming. And Dickens is just wordy so it’s everywhere. Prepare yourself mentally to just drink in the words and you’ll be fine. If you go in expecting Dickens to get right to the point, you’ll be greatly disappointed.

Characters are Dickens strong point and Little Dorrit is filled to the brim with Character. This time around there aren’t any real villainous characters, it’s more about small minded things between characters. Clennam, the main character and what goes on between him and his estranged mother. Little Dorrit and how her family treats her before and after their succession to riches. Clennam and Little Dorrit, as Clennam slowly comes to realize that Little Dorrit loves him and that being 40 doesn’t mean he’s an old man ready to die. Plus lots and lots and lots and LOTS of other character interactions, all of it engrossing.

I read this while on vacation and that set the perfect pace for me. Read until I wanted to do something else, then toddle off and do that for 5-10 minutes, then come back for another hour or so. It was a low key read and and slotted perfectly into how our vacation was going. I suspect any Dickens I read during that time would have gotten the same treatment and the same praise. But still, this was a fantastic book.

★★★★★

The Great Divorce ★★★★☆


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 Great Divorce
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Allegory
Pages: 113
Words: 30K



Synopsis:

The narrator gets on a bus with a large group of people, many of whom end up never even making it onto the bus. The bus flies to another country which seems to be some sort of hinterlands of Heaven. The narrator overhears many conversations between the occupants of the bus and people come from the main land of Heaven to help them. Most of what he overhears are reasons why the bus occupants don’t want to really go to heaven and why it just makes more sense for them to get back on the bus and go back to the grey town, even though rumors of a final night time fast approaching keep cropping up.

The narrator awakes as C.S. Lewis and he makes it clear no one should use this story as a guide to the afterlife.

My Thoughts:

This is technically a re-read, as I read this in Bibleschool in the late 90’s. While I wasn’t writing reviews or even keeping track of what books I read back then (that didn’t start until April of 2000), this book stuck in my head, mainly because of the disagreement I had with Lewis about the subject matter. That was important because it was the first time I really had a disagreement with Lewis, before this I’d pretty much vacuumed up everything he said. So I knew going into this re-read that I was still going to have that disagreement. While that was the case, I was also able to better appreciate the many other points he made during this short little novel, hence the 4 stars.

So the disagreement mainly centers around 2 things. First, the immortality of the soul and soul sleep. While this wasn’t an issue back in the 90’s, my views have changed over the years and I’ve come into the 7th Day Adventist viewpoint, so that’s something Lewis (and Protestantism in general) and I disagree on. I don’t believe in the immortality of the soul and I believe that when you die you sleep, in some form or other, until the Final Judgement. Lewis believes differently, hence the very idea of the book. Secondly, Lewis seems to be proposing some sort of pseudo-purgatory with the Grey Town and the ability of the occupants of the bus to leave it and go to Heaven. He does directly address this issue and claims that isn’t what he’s doing, but it is really hard to accept any other interpretation. While God is outside of Time, humanity ONLY has its lifetime to make a choice of whether to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and go to heaven or to reject Jesus Christ and go to hell.

To put it plainly, once you die, that is it. You have run out of time to make a choice. While it sounds nice to talk about God being outside of time, blah, blah, blah, the Bible seems pretty clear on the issue of having to make your choice of whether to follow God or not in this life and having that choice in this life alone. Obviously, there are other interpretations and I’m not worried that someone who is a committed Christian is going to suddenly go off the rails and think they can somehow get right with God after they die. What I worry about with the purgatory style doctrine is that puts off the necessity of making a decision NOW. If they’re wrong, then it is too late and they’re going to hell. I’m playing super fast and loose here, but I don’t think this is the place to have a Scripture session about why I think so and backing everything up with specific chapter and verse from the Bible. That type of talk is for someone who is already interested in the issue and has questions, not for a bleeding book review, hahahahaa.

With those issues out of the way, which while I talked about them a bit, were much smaller in my mind this time around, I was really able to focus on the rest of the book. Lewis does a fantastic job of showing a wide variety of reasons why people CHOOSE to not go to Heaven. He makes a real push to show that people are not kept out of Heaven who are clamoring to get it, but that people voluntarily choose not to go in because of Reason A, B or C. God and sin cannot co-exist and hence Heaven must be a place where there is no sin. If people won’t give up their sin, they have in fact chosen their sin over heaven. While that sounds simplistic, it is that easy to spell out.

I didn’t take notes on the various conversations recorded, so I’m not going to go through and talk about each one, but Lewis does an admirable job of showing in layman’s terms, why people hold on to certain things even to their own detriment. He is also able to show the underlying narrative and self-deceptions that people twist themselves into to justify their rejection of God, Jesus and the inability of sin and God co-existing. It wasn’t new or “eye opening”, but it was a timely reminder to me.

I think I will end this by saying that God is Good, God is Great and in the end, every knee will bow to His Sovereignty and acknowledge His Very Rightness. That is really awkwardly phrased but it seems to properly convey the end of the matter.

★★★★☆

David Copperfield ★★★★★

davidcopperfield (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: David Copperfield
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 853
Words: 357.5K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story follows the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity. David was born in Blunderstone, Suffolk, England, six months after the death of his father. David spends his early years in relative happiness with his loving, childish mother and their kindly housekeeper, Clara Peggotty. They call him Davy. When he is seven years old his mother marries Edward Murdstone. To get him out of the way, David is sent to lodge with Peggotty’s family in Yarmouth. Her brother, fisherman Mr Peggotty, lives in a beached barge, with his adopted relatives Emily and Ham, and an elderly widow, Mrs Gummidge. “Little Em’ly” is somewhat spoiled by her fond foster father, and David is in love with her. They call him Master Copperfield.

On his return, David is given good reason to dislike his stepfather, who believes exclusively in firmness, and has similar feelings for Murdstone’s sister Jane, who moves into the house soon afterwards. Between them they tyrannize his poor mother, making her and David’s lives miserable, and when, in consequence, David falls behind in his studies, Murdstone attempts to thrash him – partly to further pain his mother. David bites him and soon afterwards is sent away to Salem House, a boarding school, under a ruthless headmaster named Mr Creakle. There he befriends an older boy, James Steerforth, and Tommy Traddles. He develops an impassioned admiration for Steerforth, perceiving him as someone noble, who could do great things if he would, and one who pays attention to him.

David goes home for the holidays to learn that his mother has given birth to a baby boy. Shortly after David returns to Salem House, his mother and her baby die, and David returns home immediately. Peggotty marries the local carrier, Mr Barkis. Murdstone sends David to work for a wine merchant in London – a business of which Murdstone is a joint owner. David’s landlord, Wilkins Micawber, is arrested for debt and sent to the King’s Bench Prison, where he remains for several months, before being released and moving to Plymouth. No one remains to care for David in London, so he decides to run away, with Micawber advising him to head to Dover, to find his only known remaining relative, his eccentric and kind-hearted great-aunt Betsey Trotwood. She had come to Blunderstone at his birth, only to depart in ire upon learning that he was not a girl. However, she takes pity on him and agrees to raise him, despite Murdstone’s attempt to regain custody of David, on condition that he always try to ‘be as like his sister, Betsey Trotwood’ as he can be, meaning that he is to endeavour to emulate the prospective namesake she was disappointed not to have. David’s great-aunt renames him “Trotwood Copperfield” and addresses him as “Trot”, one of several names David is called by in the novel.

David’s aunt sends him to a better school than the last he attended. It is run by Dr Strong, whose methods inculcate honour and self-reliance in his pupils. During term, David lodges with the lawyer Mr Wickfield, and his daughter Agnes, who becomes David’s friend and confidante. Wickfield’s clerk, Uriah Heep, also lives at the house.

By devious means, Uriah Heep gradually gains a complete ascendancy over the aging and alcoholic Wickfield, to Agnes’s great sorrow. Heep hopes, and maliciously confides to David, that he aspires to marry Agnes. Ultimately with the aid of Micawber, who has been employed by Heep as a secretary, his fraudulent behaviour is revealed. At the end of the book, David encounters him in prison, convicted of attempting to defraud the Bank of England.

After completing school, David apprentices to be a proctor. During this time, due to Heep’s fraudulent activities, his aunt’s fortune has diminished. David toils to make a living. He works mornings and evenings for his former teacher Doctor Strong as a secretary, and also starts to learn shorthand, with the help of his old school-friend Traddles, upon completion reporting parliamentary debate for a newspaper. With considerable moral support from Agnes and his own great diligence and hard work, David ultimately finds fame and fortune as an author, writing fiction.

David’s romantic but self-serving school friend, Steerforth, also re-acquaints himself with David, but then goes on to seduce and dishonour Emily, offering to marry her off to his manservant Littimer before deserting her in Europe. Her uncle Mr Peggotty manages to find her with the help of Martha, who had grown up in their part of England, and then settled in London. Ham, who had been engaged to marry Emily before the tragedy, dies in a fierce storm off the coast in attempting to succour a ship. Steerforth was aboard the ship and also died. Mr Peggotty takes Emily to a new life in Australia, accompanied by Mrs Gummidge and the Micawbers, where all eventually find security and happiness.

David, meanwhile, has fallen completely in love with Dora Spenlow, and then marries her. Their marriage proves troublesome for David in the sense of everyday practical affairs, but he never stops loving her. Dora dies early in their marriage after a miscarriage. After Dora’s death, Agnes encourages David to return to normal life and his profession of writing. While living in Switzerland to dispel his grief over so many losses, David realises that he loves Agnes. Upon returning to England, after a failed attempt to conceal his feelings, David finds that Agnes loves him too. They quickly marry and in this marriage, he finds true happiness. David and Agnes then have at least five children, including a daughter named after his great-aunt, Betsey Trotwood.

 

My Thoughts:

I don’t know how to write this review without resorting to manly beating of my chest and loud hollering of execrations against my enemies in jubilation of their downfall.

Dickens’ strength is in his characters. This book showcases some of his best characters in my opinion. From the titular character of David Copperfield to the child wife Dora to the competent Agnes to the never quite his fault Mr Micawber to the sniveling Uria Heep to the selfishly evil Steersforth. Dickens makes every single one of them a real person that you can think is real.

I also appreciated that Copperfield wasn’t a golden boy. He had a hard life and had some pretty bad things happen to him. But it made the happy ending all the sweeter. I NEED the majority of my books to have happy endings of one sort or another. Or at least the chance for a happy ending. I think that is what I like so much about Dickens’ writing. He knows that people need a happy ending in their stories and he’s not afraid to give it to them.

Dickens also isn’t afraid to face the very nature of human nature. He realizes some people are just downright evil and he writes his characters that way. He doesn’t make excuses for people like Uriah Heep or Steersforth, he simply portrays them as they are. While evil can be abstract in ideas and philosophies, it can also be personified in a character.

And that turns out to be all I have to say. I’ve been staring at the screen for almost 30 minutes and nothing else comes to mind. While I enjoyed Dickens earlier in life, I have never enjoyed him more than now. This only excites me about reading him again in another 10-15 years!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Harrowing the Dragon ★★★★☆

harrowingthedragon (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: Harrowing the Dragon
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 86K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

“The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath” (from Elsewhere, Vol. II, Nov. 1982) – a young dragon harrower and a girl from a mining village clash over whether the land’s long winter is caused by a dragon.

“A Matter of Music” (from Elsewhere, Vol. III, Apr. 1984)

“A Troll and Two Roses” (from Faery!, Jan. 1985)

“Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son” (from Dragons and Dreams: A Collection of New Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories, Apr. 1986)

“The Fellowship of the Dragon” (from After the King: Stories in Honor of J. R. R. Tolkien, Jan. 1992) – Five young women are tasked by their queen with saving her lover, the court harper.

“Lady of the Skulls” (from Strange Dreams, Jul. 1993) – a story of personal transformation requiring a knight to look past what meets the eye.

“The Snow Queen” (from Snow White, Blood Red, Jan. 1993) – retelling the familiar fairy tale in a contemporary setting, highlighting the universality of love, loyalty and desire.

“Ash, Wood, Fire” (from The Women’s Press Book of New Myth and Magic, Nov. 1993) – the story of a cinder-girl who has reduced the people around her to their functions as she sinks into her own essence.

“The Stranger” (from Temporary Walls: An Anthology of Moral Fantasy, Oct. 1993)

“Transmutations” (from Xanadu 2, Jan. 1994)

“The Lion and the Lark” (from The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors, Apr. 1995) – a “beauty and the beast” retelling, in which a young woman loves a shapechanger, loses him, and must prove her love through many tests and trials.

“The Witches of Junket” (from Sisters in Fantasy II, Apr. 1996)

“Star-Crossed” (from Shakespearean Whodunnits, Sep. 1997) – the Verona constabulary investigate the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

“Voyage Into the Heart” (from Voyages: The 25th World Fantasy Convention, Nov. 4, 1999) a heartless hunt to acquire a unicorn’s horn.

“Toad” (from Silver Birch, Blood Moon, Mar. 1999) – a “frog prince” retelling in which the prince is far from innocent.

 

My Thoughts:

It did not feel like it had been 13 years since my previous read of this book. While not quite “just yesterday”, if you had asked me point blank and I had to simply rely on my memory, I would have said from 5-8 years ago. How time flies!

This was a real mixed bag in terms of both interest and writing. Some stories were more interesting than others and some of the writing was much better than others. It also felt like McKillip was really experimenting with stuff and figuring out what worked for her and what didn’t. Considering the stories were written between 1982 and 1999 I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting place for McKillip, as I feel that a familiarity with her style is necessary to be able to appreciate some of the very quirky stories told here. For someone with a couple of her books already under their belt, this would be a solid edition to your reading and to be able to experience some of her writing in shorter form.

This was the last McKillip book I had for this cycle of re-reads. I began back in 2017 with a re-read of The Tower at Stony Wood and now I end in 2020 with Harrowing the Dragon. Three years to read 21 of her books is just a win on every single count. I enjoyed them all, I hopefully praised them enough (I really think I did but covering my bases just in case, you know?) and I trust that I dragged at least one person into McKillip’s sphere of influence.

So while this particular journey has ended, the road is still there and I know I can re-travel it any time I like. Perhaps in another 10-15 years. The question then will be who I am at that point and will you be around?

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Mr Murder ★★★★☆

mrmurder (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: Mr Murder
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 500
Words: 141K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Bestselling mystery writer Marty Stillwater was recording himself one day when he realized that he was saying “I need…” repeatedly. When he rewound the recording he found that he had been unconsciously repeating “I need” for over 7 minutes. Marty was tense that whole day, when he put the kids to bed though he calmed down considerably and was finally consoled.

Meanwhile, the Killer is roaming the streets before his job. He goes into a bar and leaves with a prostitute to go to a motel. He has sex with her and then murders her because she cannot assuage his frustration. He proceeds to kill his targets and returns to his hotel. That night, still restless, he is drawn for some reason towardsTopeka. Suddenly, he starts saying:

“I need… to be… I need to be… I need to be…” As the suburbs and finally the dark prairie flash past on both sides, excitement builds steadily in him. He trembles on the brink of an insight that, he senses, will change his life. “I need to be… to be… I need to be someone.” At once he understands the meaning of what he has said. By “to be someone,” he does not mean what another man might intend to say with those same three words; he does not mean that he needs to be someone famous or rich or important. Just someone. Someone with a real name. Just an ordinary Joe, as they used to say in the movies of the forties.

— Mr. Murder page 48-49

The Killer is attracted like a magnet by some force he doesn’t understand to the Stillwater residence. On his way he kills several people; an old couple for a set of clothes and a gas station clerk to steal food and money. When he breaks into the Stillwater house he sees a picture of Marty and believes it to be himself. He observes books authored by Marty and decides they are his. He sees the pictures of the daughters Emily and Charlotte and Marty’s wife Paige, he then decides he wants to be the father and husband. He attempts to write a book but cannot and in his frustration he destroys the computer.

Marty was quite upset about his fugues (a break in one’s memory) and so went to see a doctor. The doctor attributed it to stress.

When Marty comes home he finds things misplaced and his computer smashed. The Other then enters and accuses him of being an impostor. He menaces Marty who shoots him twice in the chest, but the Other is unfazed. The fight catapults them over the banisters leaving the Other seriously injured but he gets away. Marty’s family returns home, and Marty sends them to their neighbour’s house. Soon after, the police arrive. Cyrus Lowbock, the detective, interrogates Marty and doesn’t believe his story, insinuating it is a publicity stunt. Marty and his wife refuse to cooperate and the police leave.

The Other’s body has rapidly recovered from his injuries but the effort leaves him ravenous. After consuming massive amounts of food he returns to get Paige and the girls back from Marty who he believes has stolen them. He manages to get the daughters from the neighbour’s house, but Marty sees him and gives chase. The car crashes and the girls escape but the Killer flees again.

Drew Oslett and Karl Clocker, two operatives of a clandestine government agency are sent to retrieve the Killer (referred to as “Alfie”) They discover the bodies of the two seniors and Alfie’s tracking device. A message from their agency leads them toward the People magazine article on Marty Stillwater and they discover his connection with the Killer. They meet a contact who might help them find Alfie. To maintain their cover they decide the Stillwaters have to be terminated to look like a murder/suicide and Alfie has to be brought in.

Meanwhile, the Stillwaters flee to a cabin in Mammoth Lakes and prepare to defend themselves against attack by The Other. Paige hides under a rock to ambush The Other, but unpredictably he rams his car through the cabin. The Stillwaters then flee to an abandoned church. Here Marty is shot and Paige and the girls are trapped. As The Other prepares to kill them, Drew and Karl track him down. Drew kills The Other and is then killed by Karl who has turned against the agency. He rescues the Stillwaters, provides them with new identities, a new home and evidence to bring the agency down. He explains that cloning and genetic engineering were used to create a breed of elite assassins, with Marty’s tissue samples accidentally becoming involved in creating Alfie. After a few months Marty mails the evidence to the authorities from an anonymous name and the Stillwaters begin their new lives.

 

My Thoughts:

This is what I was hoping for from Koontz. Pure thriller through and through. I was thinking, when I reached the end, if I enjoyed this or Lightning more. It’s a real tossup and I would recommend either one if you wanted to dip your toes into the Koontz ocean (seriously, this guy has written a bajillion books).

In terms of tension, Koontz did an admirable job of keeping me in suspense even while staying true to his trademark “The Hero Doesn’t Die” platform. I figured the wife and kids were safe as well, but when the girls are kidnapped, I wondered if all bets were off. Thankfully, they were ok. Marty’s parents (Marty being the main character) however, were pure cannon fodder and I almost wished they’d been off’ed nearer the beginning rather in the last 10% so as to provide even more tension about the wife and kids.

I’ve got a quote or two I’m including in this review instead of doing them as separate posts (Gulag is taking up the Quote posts for the whole month, the greedy hog!)

“Standing in his kitchen, holding the loaded Beretta, Marty knew that he and Paige now constituted their own last line of defense.

No one else. No greater authority. No guardian of the public welfare.”

~ Page 248

“She wondered what it was about storytelling that made people want it almost as much as food and water, even more so in bad times than in good.”

~ Page 320

The first quote made me think about the Law and the police, as the embodiment of the Law. The Law does not PREVENT crime from happening. Nor should it. The Law states “X is the Law and if you break the Law you will be punished”. Cops are meant to be an “after the fact” part of the Law. They find and arrest the perpetrators. They don’t sit outside a private citizens house and prevent it from being burgled, that is the responsibility of the home owner. However, that is not the reality of life today. The majority of my fellow countrymen have given up their responsibility to take care of themselves and handed that off to the government. The inevitable outcome of THAT is always tyranny. Just look at how the Governor of the State of New York has acted during this covid19 outbreak to see tyranny in action.

The second quote, and its attendant idea, was much more pleasant to contemplate, thankfully. Koontz, being a writer, talks up storytelling as much as he can. He touches on the idea of stories being an escape but also states he thinks it goes deeper than that; that the need for a story is built into us, like God put it in from the beginning.

So to end this, I thoroughly enjoyed this tense thriller even while knowing the protagonist was going to be ok. That is the kind of story Koontz tells and it is the kind of story I like to read. The Good Guys Win, the Bad Guys Defeated, Evil Vanquished.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Above the Law ★★★☆☆

abovethelaw (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: Above the Law
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 83
Words: 22K

 

Synopsis:

Black Jim is a notorious outlaw known for robbing stage coaches of their payload of gold. Ruthless and a deadshot, several small towns have banded together and offered a big reward for his capture, dead or alive.

An out of work actress conceives a plan to have her partner pretend to be Black Jim, “capture” him, take the reward money and then once she has left, have her partner reveal he really isn’t Black Jim. What could go wrong with that? Of course, the real Black Jim shows up and takes the actress prisoner and also the other actor.

Black Jim is living in a community of outlaws, who are “Above the Law” and when he brings a woman into the mix, things get heated. The actor devolves and fits in with the other outlaws and they plan to kill Black Jim, steal all of his stolen gold and take the Actress for themselve.

Black Jim and the actress are married, make a daring escape and decide to go legit.

 

My Thoughts:

A classic “woman finds out outlaw has a heart of gold”. Not as mawkish as I was afraid it might be at the beginning. However, the short length saved it from becoming tedious.

This is my 3rd foray into the western genre. While L’Amour I would consider a success (in my reading I mean), Zane Grey was a complete flop. Based on this story, ol’ Max Brand is going to fall squarely in the middle.

Honestly, I’m hoping to read as much of his stuff as possible just to change up my reading.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Kingfisher ★★★★½

813bb0ae2cd9d5bf7e732d08597f0bd9This 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: Kingfisher
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 302
Words: 87K

 

Synopsis:

From Tor.com & authored by Alyx Dellamonica

Pierce Oliver lives in a world that fuses our high-tech present day with the top-down political structure of a high fantasy medieval kingdom. It’s the kind of place where limousine-riding kings preside over jousts, where the court magicians argue over the academic citations and feminist interpretations of their ancient texts, and where the bastard princes are doing well if they manage to stay out of the tabloids. The country’s biggest ongoing problem is keeping its surplus of troublesome knights from taking it into their heads to overthrow the government.

When Pierce is a young man this hardly matters, because he lives in a small town far removed from the capital, a backwater whose existence is known to but a few. His home is in fact concealed by magic, an enchantment wielded by Pierce’s somewhat clingy mother, Heloise, a retired witch living incognito as a slow foods restaurateur. One day three knights stumble through town by accident, and by the time they’ve moved on, Pierce has decided to strike out on his own, seeking information on the father he never knew and–perhaps as importantly–cutting the apron strings that have bound him so tightly to his mother’s chosen refuge.

Packing up his car and charging his cell phone, Pierce heads down the road and almost immediately stumbles into–rather surprisingly–another restaurant, this one in a dilapidated hotel called the Kingfisher, a place that has fallen on hard times. There he encounters Carrie, a hard-working chef who also dreams of escaping her particular Nowheresville of a community. Pierce partakes of a peculiarly ritualistic fish fry there, before spending the night in one of their rooms. On his way out the door, he gives in to an irresistible not-quite-whim to filch a cooking knife from the place.

The theft, of course, is less a failure of moral fiber than a magical imperative, and by the time Pierce makes it to the capital, the effects of his minor act of banditry are reverberating throughout the land. The King has decided to declare a nationwide quest for… well, definitely for something. A grail? A relic? A fountain of youth? Whatever the Object in question is, his upstart knights will surely know it when they see it. In the meantime, if their motoring forth and scouring the kingdom keeps them from getting up to revolutionary scale trouble, so much the better.

The problem with this scheme is it isn’t entirely a PR scam. The quest Object is real enough, and the mere idea of seeking it sets off a feud between two major religions, a fight that breaks down more or less on gender lines: there’s a cult with masculine, metal-dominated values and a male god, and a watery, priestess-led faith centered in the ladies’ birthing chamber. Both sides are absolutely, positively sure that the quest’s Object belongs to their patron deity. And for at least some of the men and women on the hunt, this ambiguity is awesome, simply because it means they have a license to stampede around the whole countryside, kicking over lesser shrines, sifting through their relics, and beating on anyone who might object.

Carrie and Pierce have other problems too, in the form of a third restaurant owner, a slippery figure called Stillwater who is almost certainly in the know about whatever it is that has blighted the Kingfisher Inn. Now he has his sights set on Carrie herself, and is tempting her with job offers she definitely ought to refuse.

Publishers Blurb & Me

Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, unexpectedly, strangers pass through town on the way to the legendary capital city. “Look for us,” they tell Pierce, “if you come to Severluna. You might find a place for yourself in King Arden’s court.”

Lured by a future far away from the bleak northern coast, Pierce makes his choice. Heloise, bereft and furious, tells her son the truth: about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen, and Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.

As Pierce journeys to Severluna, his path twists and turns through other lives and mysteries: an inn where ancient rites are celebrated, though no one will speak of them; a legendary local chef whose delicacies leave diners slowly withering from hunger; his mysterious wife, who steals Pierce’s heart; a young woman whose need to escape is even greater than Pierce’s; and finally, in Severluna, King Arden’s youngest son, who is urged by strange and lovely forces to sacrifice his father’s kingdom.

Things are changing in that kingdom. Oldmagic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to its former glory—or destroy it.

In the end, Stillwater is recaptured by the women of Ravenshold, Prince Damion brings peace between Ravenshold and Wyvernshold, the magic is brought back in balance to the Kingfisher and the Holy Grail is revealed to be a magic cooking pot used at the Kingfisher.

My Thoughts:

The reason this still only gets 4.5stars instead of 5 is because of the cover. I’m sorry, but Kinuko Craft covers are the physical embodiment of the stories that McKillip tells. This bland, no-nothing cover is a blot. Now, that is the fault of the publishers, so I don’t blame McKillip one iota but it still plays a part. Penguin, and their imprint Ace, should be heartily ashamed of themselves. In fact, I would gladly volunteer to help them commit seppuku for this disastrous, face shaming act they committed against this great book.

Now, there are some differences from her previous books. This takes place in “modern” times even while magic is in existence. There is also a much larger cast of characters. There are also several concurrent storylines instead of just the one or two. These various differences, while not bad, definitely contributed towards this feeling like a highly embroidered neckerchief instead of a wall scroll with one central picture. Smaller in scope but more “things” going on to keep one occupied.

I was thinking this was the last McKillip I had on my re-read journey and was pretty sad about that. It was coloring this whole read until about half-way through I realized I still had a collection of short stories to go through entitled Harrowing the Dragon. Then the sun came out, the birds began chirping and cherries fell directly into my mouth, already pitted. Life was wonderful again 😀

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)