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Saturday, January 16, 2021

The George MacDonald Treasury

 The George MacDonald Treasury

Author: George MacDonald 
(Scottish, 1824-1905)
Originally published: 1858-1895
Page count: 650

Dates read: 1/1/21-1/15/21; 
2020 book goal progress: 1 and - out of 37 (counting as 2 due to length)

Back to the Classics category: 
 19th-century classic

Reading category: TBR Shelf, 
Chunkster Reading Challenge (in progress)

Read my other book reviews for my 2021 goal HERE.

This anthology collects 8 of George MacDonald's fantasy and fairy-tale short stories:
Section 1 (330 pages)
     -Phantastes (1858) - 110 pages
     -The Light Princess (1864) - 28 pages
     -The Giant's Heart (1864) - 14 pages
     -The Golden Key (1867) - 18 pages
     -At the Back of the North Wind (1871) - 160 pages
Section 2 (320 pages)
     -The Princess and the Goblin  (1872) - 84 pages
     -The Princess and Curdie (1883) - 84 pages
     -Lilith (1895) - 155 pages

Phantastes (1858) - 110 pages - read 1/1/21-1/3/21
The story centers on a young man who is pulled into a dreamlike world and there hunts for his ideal of female beauty, embodied by the 'Marble Lady.' He lives through many adventures and temptations while in Fairy Land, until he is finally ready to give up his ideals.

First sentence:
"I awoke one morning with the usual perplexity of mind which accompanies the return of consciousness."

Favorite quotes:
"I found cheerfulness to be like life itself - not to be created by any argument. Afterwards I learned, that the best way to manage some kinds of pain-filled thoughts is to dare them to do their worst; to let them lie and gnaw at your heart till they are tired, and you find you still have a residue of life they cannot kill."

"With a fictional book, I took the place of the character who was most like myself, and his story was mine; until grown weary with the life of years condensed into an hour, or arrived at my deathbed, or the end of the volume, I would awake, with a sudden bewilderment, to the consciousness of my present life, recognizing the wall and roof around me, and finding I joyed or sorrowed only in a book."

"It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being loved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 5.9/10 - ⭐⭐⭐/5
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

This started as a cute fairy tale, but there was no clear plot. By the end, I was struggling to put together the pieces of this seemingly directionless and incohesive story. I'm sure there's some meaning or moral behind it all, but it went over my head. It almost reminded me of an attempt at a serious Don Quixote and it just fell short for me. (Thankfully this story is much, much shorter - about 800 pages shorter actually.)

The Light Princess (1864) - 28 pages - read 1/4/21-1/5/21
Drawing on inspiration from Sleeping Beauty, it tells the story of a princess afflicted by a constant weightlessness, unable to get her feet on the ground, both literally and metaphorically, until she finds a love that brings her down to earth.

First sentence:
"Once upon a time, so long ago that I have quite forgotten the date, there lived a king and queen who had no children."

Favorite quotes:
"The hatching of a real hearty laugh requires the incubation gravity."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 7.1/10 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I enjoyed this one. It was a cute, humorous, short fairy tale. I enjoyed the play with words - I even assumed The 'Light' Princess meant she glowed or something, but it actually referred to her weight - she has no gravity. I was a little bummed with the ending. I was hoping for a bittersweet ending, but it ended up being a stereotypical happily-ever-after where everything worked out fine.

The Giant's Heart (1864) - 14 pages - read 1/6/21
When the precocious Tricksey-Wee and Buffy-Bob find themselves in Giantland, the duo finds themselves on an adventure to wreak vengeance on a giant who eats children.

First sentence:
"There was once a giant who lived on the borders of Giantland where it touched on the country of common people."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 4.6/10 - ⭐⭐⭐/5

The was a pretty meh story. The secondary heroes were a bunch of giant spiders - yuck!

The Golden Key (1867) - 18 pages - read 1/7/21
A young boy sets out to find the end of a rainbow in an enchanted forest. As the forest is in Fairyland where everything has an opposite effect, the rainbow only glows brighter when the sun sets. He finds the magical golden key found at the end of a rainbow, then it dawns on him that he does not know where the lock is.

First sentence:
"There was a bot who used to sit in the twilight and listen to his great-aunt's stories."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 7.4/10 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I really liked this one. Instead of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, there's a golden key - but where does it lead to? This story plays with age and time - and the ending is up for interpretation. It is bittersweet if you interpret it as I do, but it is heartwarming.

At the Back of the North Wind (1871) - 160 pages - read 1/8/21-1/15/21
The story is a fantasy centered on a boy named Diamond and his adventures with the North Wind. Diamond travels together with the mysterious Lady North Wind through the nights. He is a very sweet little boy who makes joy everywhere he goes.

First sentence:
"I have been asked to tell you about the back of the north wind."

Favorite quotes:
" 'Well, please, North Wind, you are so beautiful, I am quite ready to go with you.'
'You must not be ready to go with everything beautiful all at once, Diamond.'
'But what's beautiful can't be bad. You're not bad, North Wind?'
'No; I'm not bad. But sometimes beautiful things grow bad by doing bad, and it takes some time for their badness to spoil their beauty. So little boys may be mistaken if they go after things because they are beautiful.' "

"Poverty will not make a man worthless - he may be worth a great deal more when he is poor than he was rich; but dishonesty goes very far indeed to make a man of no value - a thing o be thrown out in the dust-hole of creation, like a bit of a broken basin, or a dirty rag."

"To try to make others comfortable is the only way to get right comfortable ourselves, and that comes partly of not being able to think so much of ourselves when we are helping other people. For our Selves will always do pretty well if we don't pay them too much attention. Our Selves are like some little children who will be happy enough so long as they are left to their own games, but when we begin to interfere with them, and make them presents of too nice playthings, or too many sweet things, they begin at once to fret and spoil."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 6.1/10 - ⭐⭐⭐/5

This was a little better than OK. I liked most of the characters except for the North Wind herself. I wish she was more of an implied, figurative being than a literal character as she is written. I also found the narrator to be annoying and unnecessary. It's also a bit sexist, but one must remember that art is a product of its time. Nonetheless, it's a cute and bittersweet story. Fun side note: It references the short story he published next, which I will review below.

Note: I am currently taking a break from these short stories to read some other books, but I plan to come back and finish the collection later this year.

The Princess and the Goblin  (1872) - 84 pages

The Princess and Curdie (1883) - 84 pages 

Lilith (1895) - 155 pages

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let George MacDonald have the last words:

The below quote is from Phantases. A young man is traveling through a forest and comes upon a cottage. The door is ajar and he peeks in. The cottage is sparse and a woman is reading. He feels urged to enter and, when he does, the woman continues to read and does not acknowledge him.

"In one corner was a door, apparently of a cupboard in the wall, but which might lead to a room beyond. Still the irresistible desire which had made me enter the building urged me: I must open that door, and see what was beyond it. I approached, and laid my hand on the rude latch. Then the woman spoke, but without lifting her head or looking at me: 'You had better not open that door.' This was uttered quite quietly; and she went on with her reading, partly in silence, partly aloud; but both modes seemed equally intended for herself alone. The prohibition, however, only increased my desire to see; and as she took no further notice, I gently opened the door to its full width, and looked in. 

At first, I saw nothing worthy of attention. It seemed a common closet, with shelves on each hand, on which stood various little necessaries for the humble uses of a cottage. In one corner stood one or two brooms, in another a hatchet and other common tools; showing that it was in use every hour of the day for household purposes. But, as I looked, I saw that there were no shelves at the back, and that an empty space went in further; its termination appearing to be a faintly glimmering wall or curtain, somewhat less, however, than the width and height of the doorway where I stood. But, as I continued looking, for a few seconds, towards this faintly luminous limit, my eyes came into true relation with their object. 

All at once, with such a shiver as when one is suddenly conscious of the presence of another in a room where he has, for hours, considered himself alone, I saw that the seemingly luminous extremity was a sky, as of night, beheld through the long perspective of a narrow, dark passage, through what, or built of what, I could not tell. As I gazed, I clearly discerned two or three stars glimmering faintly in the distant blue. But, suddenly, and as if it had been running fast from a far distance for this very point, and had turned the corner without abating its swiftness, a dark figure sped into and along the passage from the blue opening at the remote end. 

I started back and shuddered, but kept looking, for I could not help it. On and on it came, with a speedy approach but delayed arrival; till, at last, through the many gradations of approach, it seemed to come within the sphere of myself, rushed up to me, and passed me into the cottage. All I could tell of its appearance was, that it seemed to be a dark human figure. Its motion was entirely noiseless, and might be called a gliding, were it not that it appeared that of a runner, but with ghostly feet. I had moved back yet a little to let him pass me, and looked round after him instantly. I could not see him.

'Where is he?' I said, in some alarm, to the woman, who still sat reading.

'There, on the floor, behind you,' she said, pointing with her arm half-outstretched, but not lifting her eyes. I turned and looked, but saw nothing. Then with a feeling that there was yet something behind me, I looked round over my shoulder; and there, on the ground, lay a black shadow, the size of a man. It was so dark, that I could see it in the dim light of the lamp, which shone full upon it, apparently without thinning at all the intensity of its hue.

'I told you,' said the woman, 'you had better not look into that closet.'

'What is it?' I said, with a growing sense of horror.

'It is only your shadow that has found you,' she replied. 'Everybody’s shadow is ranging up and down looking for him. I believe you call it by a different name in your world: yours has found you, as every person’s is almost certain to do who looks into that closet.' "

Ok, if you actually read that whole quote, I know it's not particularly meaningful. BUT it possibly inspired 3 other great works. Here were my thoughts as I read that little section of the story:




Monday, December 28, 2020

2021 Reading Goals

I am planning on doing the Back to the Classics reading challenge for the 4th year in a row! For those not familiar with the challenge: There are 12 categories (which are meant to be filled with 12 different books). In order to qualify as a classic, the book has to have been published (or written) 50+ years ago, so 1971 or older. There are several other minor rules (like having to read all the books in 2021), which you can read at the link above. If you are interested in joining the challenge, the deadline to sign up is March 31st. I'd love for others to join me in doing this!

As with previous years, I'm going to add extra challenges on top of it all! I usually make sure to read at least 1 play (which happens to be one of the classic categories this year) and 1 Christmas story. I also am working on 3 author challenges and clearing out my TBR shelf. Here is what I plan to accomplish:
     -finish reading all of the completed Bronte books (2 books left)
     -finish what's published of the Circle Universe by Tamora Pierce (7 books left)
     -read the Arrows Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey (3 books)
          -hopefully, I'll get to read other Valdemar books by Lackey (31 books left after Arrows)
     -read as many books on my TBR shelf as possible (goal: 8 books)

Update 1/6/21: I have always added my own challenges on top of Back to the Classics, but I've never actually joined another blog challenge. This year that's going to change! I have avoided several of the books on my TBR shelf due to their length, so I'm going to join the Chunkster Reading Challenge 2021. The books (whether individual novels, collections of short stories, or a series) must be 450+ pages long to apply to this challenge

Below are my reading lists for 2021. 
I will link my reviews to the book titles below throughout the year.

Chunkster Challenge: (numbered in red throughout)

Back to the Classics Challenge:
1. 19th-century classic (published 1800-1899)
-(1.) The George MacDonald Treasury (1858-1895) - TBR - 650 pages
    -The Princess and the Goblin  (6)
    -The Princess and Curdie (7)
    -The Light Princess (2)
    -Phantastes (1)
    -The Giant's Heart (3)
    -At the Back of the North Wind (5)
    -The Golden Key (4)
    -Lilith (8)
by George MacDonald (Scottish, 1824-1905)

Note: I don't know why this collection is in the order that it is, but I will probably read the short stories in publication order - which are the numbers in parentheses. The hope is to finish the book, but, since it's so long, I will count stories 1-5 (about 330 pages) as a completion for this classic category. Stories 6-8 also total about 330 pages.

2. 20th-century classic (published 1900-1971) 
-The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) - TBR
by GK Chesterton (English, 1874-1936)

3. Classic by a woman author
-Shirley (1848) - Bronte
by Charlotte Bronte (English, 1816-1855)

4. Classic in translation
-Grand Hotel (1929)
by Vicki Baum (Austrian, 1888-1960) - originally written in German
-Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights (1967)
by Ryu Mitsuse (Japanese, 1928-1999) - originally written in Japanese
*could also be BIPOC*

5. Classic by BIPOC author
-Flowers in the Mirror (1827)
by Li Ruzhen (Chinese, 1763-1830) - originally written in Chinese
*could also be translation*
-The Brave African Huntress (1958)
by Amos Tutuola (Nigerian, 1920-1997)

6. Classic by a new-to-you author
-Fahrenheit 451 (1953) - TBR
by Ray Bradbury (American, 1920-2012)

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author
-The Professor (written 1847 - published posthumously 1857) - Bronte
by Charlotte Bronte (English, 1816-1855)

8. Classic about an animal (or with an animal in the title)
-(2.) The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956) - reread for TBR - 1,540 pages
by CS Lewis (British, 1898-1963)

Note: I would like to reread all 7 books before reading the commentary I have on the series. The commentary has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a while. I plan to read in chronological order instead of publication order.

9. Children's classic
-Home for Christmas: Stories for Young and Old - 20 Christmas short stories
(2002; 17 stories first written/published 1841-1966)
by 20 different authors

Note: I searched each short story to find when they were originally written/published: 12 stories 1895-1966, 1 story 1995, and 1 story 1996. Six of the stories I couldn't find a publishing date, so I went off of the author's birth year (plus 10) and year of death: 5 stories 1841-1953 and 1 story 1922-1983. Even after you take the 3 stories from (possibly) after 1971, the book is still about 300 pages, so I will count this category complete, even though the entire book does not fit within the 'classic' time frame.

10. Humorous or satirical classic
-Associated Shades (1895-1901) - quartet omnibus
by John Kendrick Bangs (American, 1862-1922)
-The Carpet People (1971)
by Terry Pratchett (English, 1948-2015)

11. Travel or adventure classic 
-Idylls of the King (1859-1885) - TBR
by Lord Alfred Tennyson (British, 1809–1892)

12. Classic play
-You Never Can Tell (1897) - play
by George Bernard Shaw (Irish, 1856-1950)
-Press Cuttings (1909) - play
by George Bernard Shaw (Irish, 1856-1950)

Note: I can only find the first play in a collection with 3 of his other plays, which, unfortunately, doesn't include the second play. I'm hoping to find them both together...

Finish the Circle Universe by Tamora Pierce (American, 1954- ) - 3 quartets
The Circle of Magic Quartet (1997-1999) - read in 2020

(3.) The Circle Opens Quartet - 1,266 pages
     -Magic Steps (2000) - Sandry - 262 pages
     -Street Magic (2001) - Briar - 292 pages
     -Cold Fire (2002) - Daja - 355 pages
     -Shatterglass (2003) - Tris - 357 pages

The Circle Reforged Quartet (unfinished)
(4.)     -The Will of the Empress (2005) - Sandry - 539 pages
           -Melting Stones (2008) - Daja (312 pages)
(5.)     -Battle Magic (2013) - Briar (Prequel to The Will of the Empress) - 464 pages
          -Untitled Tris Book (TBD) - not yet published

(6.) Arrows Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- ) - 936 pages
 -Arrows of the Queen (1987) - 315 pages
 -Arrow's Flight (1987) - 311 pages
 -Arrow's Fall (1988) - 310 pages
 *Additional Valdemar books by Lackey?

TBR Shelf
(7.) The Complete Father Brown Stories (1911-1936) - 797 pages
by GK Chesterton (English, 1874-1936)
Note: This collects all of the Father Brown stories except for The Mask of Midas, which I plan to read through Project Gutenberg - eventually. This one is pretty long, so I plan to read it slowly throughout the year.

-The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Worldview (2005)
edited by Gregory Bassham (American, 1960s?- ) and Jerry L Walls (American, 1955- )
Note: I want to reread The Chronicles of Narnia before I read this.

-On Stories and Other Essays on Literature (2002; written before 1963)
-The Dark Tower and Other Short Stories (2017; written before 1963)
both by CS Lewis (British, 1898-1963)

If I'm able to read 1 book in each of the 12 categories of the classics challenge AND the other 14 miscellaneous books I hope to read - then I'm looking at reading 26 books for 2021! I've read more than that in previous years, but some of the books I've chosen are pretty lengthy this time around, so we'll see. (If I count the MacDonald anthology as 2 due to length, break Father Brown into the 5 collections it was originally printed as, and Narnia as 7 - instead of 1 for the series - then it's actually 37 books!)  As I said earlier, I hope you consider joining the Back to the Classics 2021 reading challenge with me!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

2020 Reading Wrap-Up

Exile's Honor (2002)
by Mercedes Lackey

#2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
by Anne Bronte

#3. A Singular Life (1895)
by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

#4. Take a Thief (2001)
by Mercedes Lackey

#5. Daja's Book: The Fire in the Forging (1998) – Circle of Magic Quartet, #3
by Tamora Pierce

They say hindsight is 2020, but I think everyone would have appreciated some foresight into 2020 before it began. It was a strange year, but books will always be a constant one can rely upon. I exceeded my goal of reading 20 books this year and actually read 30! First I will link to the 12 books in my dual reading challenges and then I will rank all 30 books from the year together!

I created monthly categories for my own reading challenge and I also participated in the Back to the Classics reading challenge! (The link will bring you to the 2021 categories.) I changed a couple of the books from my original post, but I still read 1 book for each of the dual categories. That means I get 3 entries into the BTTC drawing! (contact: lambertamyaline@aol.com) 

January - Winter (Cold / Dark) 
-Classic by a Women Author
Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
by Ursula K. Le Guin (American, 1929-2018)

February - Black History Month
-Classic by a Person of Color
The Garies and Their Friends (1857)
by Frank J Webb (African-American, 1828-1894)

March - Women’s History Month 
-19th Century Classic (Published in the 1800s)
Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
by Anne Bronte (English, 1820-1849) 

April - Easter / Religion 
-Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title
Doctor Faustus (1592) 
by Christopher Marlowe (English, 1564-1593)

May - Spring (New Beginnings / Children)
-Classic in Translation
Mio, My Son (1956)
by Astrid Lindgren (Swedish, 1907-2002)

June - LGBT Pride Month
-Genre Classic (Science-Fiction)
Babel-17 (1966)
by Samuel R. Delany (African-American, 1942- )

July - American / Patriotic  
-Classic with Nature in the Title
The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
by J. D. Salinger (American, 1919-2010)

August - Summer (Travel / Sun)  
-Classic Adaptation 
Treasure Island (1883) 
by Robert Louis Stevenson (Scottish, 1850-1894)

September - Fall (School / Teachers) 
-Classic with a Place in the Title
Villette (1853)
by Charlotte Bronte (English, 1816-1855)

October - Halloween / Horror
-Abandoned Classic 
Dracula (1897) 
by Bram Stoker (Irish, 1847-1912)

November - Thanksgiving / Family
-Classic About a Family
The Whole Family (1908)
A collaboration of 12 authors edited by: 
Elizabeth Jordan (American, 1865-1947)

December - Christmas / Santa
-20th Century Classic (Published 1900-1970)
Letters From Father Christmas (1920-1943)
by JRR Tolkien (English, 1892-1973)
(NOTE: The Tower Treasure (1927), will count as my 20th-century classic if the Christmas book is disqualified due to being considered a picture book.)

In addition to the 12 books for the reading challenges, I read 18 other books! I also am working on 3 author challenges (Bronte sisters, Tamora Pierce, and Mercedes Lackey) AND I'm trying to get through my TBR shelf. Of the 30 books I read, 6 of them were non-fiction. 
Here are the 24 fiction books ranked:

1. Exile's Honor (2002) - 9.6/10
by Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- )

2. Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) - 9/10
by Anne Bronte (English, 1820-1849)

3. A Singular Life (1895) - 8.7/10
by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward (American, 1844-1911)

4. Take a Thief (2001) - 8.7/10
by Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- )

5. Daja's Book - The Fire in the Forging (1998) – Circle of Magic #3 - 8.7/10
by Tamora Pierce (American, 1954- )

6. Babel-17 (1966) - 8.3/10
by Samuel R. Delany (African-American, 1942- )

7. Sandry's Book - The Magic in the Weaving (1997) – Circle of Magic #1 - 8.3/10
by Tamora Pierce (American, 1954- )

8. Exile's Valor (2003) - 7.9/10
by Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- )

9. Letters From Father Christmas (1920-1943) - 7.9/10
by JRR Tolkien (English, 1892-1973)

10. Left Hand of Darkness (1969) - 7.6/10
by Ursula K. Le Guin (American, 1929-2018)

11. Treasure Island (1883) - 7.6/10
by Robert Louis Stevenson (Scottish, 1850-1894)

12. The Spirit of Christmas (written before 1936) - 7.5/10
by GK Chesterton (English, 1874-1936)

13. Briar's Book - The Healing in the Vine (1999) – Circle of Magic #4 - 7.3/10
by Tamora Pierce (American, 1954- )

14. Tris's Book - The Power in the Storm (1998) – Circle of Magic #2 - 7.1/10
by Tamora Pierce (American, 1954- )

15. The Handmaid's Tale (1985) - 6.9/10
by Margaret Atwood (Canadian, 1939- )

16. The Garies and Their Friends (1857) - 6.7
by Frank J Webb (African-American, 1828-1894)

17. Mio, My Son (1956) - 6.3/10
by Astrid Lindgren (Swedish, 1907-2002)

18. Dracula (1897) - 6.1/10
by Bram Stoker (Irish, 1847-1912)

19. Redwall (1986) - 6/10
by Brian Jacques (English, 1939-2011)

20. The Whole Family (1908) - 5.7/10
A collaboration of 12 authors edited by:
Elizabeth Jordan (American, 1865-1947)

21. Doctor Faustus (1592) - 5.4/10
by Christopher Marlowe (English, 1564-1593)

22. The Tower Treasure (1927) - 5.1/10
by Franklin W. Dixon (Canadian, 1902-1977)

23. Villette (1853) - 4.6/10
by Charlotte Bronte (English, 1816-1855)

24. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) - 1.7/10
by J. D. Salinger (American, 1919-2010)

Reading six non-fiction books is impressive for me! I tend to avoid non-fiction in general, but these had all been sitting on my TBR shelf for a while and I figured it was time to finally read them. I don't have a ranking system for non-fiction books, but half of them I would consider 'good' and the other half 'meh.'

Good non-fiction:
by Jason Morgan (American, ?- ) and Damien Lewis (British, 1966- )

by Jennifer K. Stuller (American, 1975- )

by Mike Madrid (American, 1950s(?)- )

Meh non-fiction:
Complete Guide to Money (2011)
by Dave Ramsey (American, 1960- )

Perfectly Yourself (2006) - couldn't find my copy, so it's not in any photos in this post
by Matthew Kelly (Australian, 1973- )

The Four Purposes of Life (2011)
by Dan Millman (American, 1946- )

Sometimes you start a book and just have no interest to finish it. 
That happened once this year.
Abandoned book:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
by Mark Twain (American, 1835-1910)

I already have a rough idea of what I want to read for the Back to the Classics 2021 reading challenge and I'm hoping to publish that blog post soon! If you like to read books that have been published 50+ years ago, I highly suggest checking out the challenge!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Dog Called Hope by Morgan and Lewis

A Dog Called Hope: A Wounded Warrior and the Service Dog Who Saved Him

Authors: Jason Morgan (American, ?- ) 
and Damien Lewis (British, 1966- )
Originally published: 2016
Page count: 324

Dates read: 12/8/2020-12/23/2020
2020 book goal progress: 30 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
A Dog Called Hope is the incredible story of a service dog who brought a devastated soldier back from the brink and taught him how to be a true father. It is the story of Napal, who built bridges between his wheelchair-bound battle buddy and the rest of able-bodied humankind. It is the story of Jason, who found life's true meaning with the help of his faithful companion. Humorous, intensely moving, and uplifting, Jason and Napal's heartwarming tale will brighten any day and lift every heart.

First sentence:
"The air is slick with moisture yet burning hot all at the same time."

This was a good read. I may have cried several times, but it was inspirational. I have wanted to raise service puppies for a while now and, though it will be hard to give them away after about 18 months, this book has only encouraged me to do so!

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Morgan and Lewis have the last words:

"Even if there was no chance that what I said was true, I still preferred to nurture hope. For without hope, what is there?"

"We define people by the physical, by what we can see. The ability. The physical beauty. The stature of the warrior. But actually what matters is the person inside."

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Letters From Father Christmas

 Letters From Father Christmas

Author: JRR Tolkien (English, 1892-1973)
Penname: Father Christmas
Originally written: 1920-1943
Page count: 203

Dates read: 12/5/2020-12/17/2020
2020 book goal progress: 29 out of 20
Month category: Dec. - Christmas / Santa
Back to the Classics category: 
20th Century Classic

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for JRR Tolkien's children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful drawing. They were from Father Christmas, telling wonderful tales of life at the North Pole.

From the first note to Tolkien's eldest son in 1920 to the final poignant letter to his youngest daughter in 1943, this new edition celebrates the centenary of that first letter with a stockingful of charming letters, pictures, and decorated envelopes.

First letter:
"Christmas House, North Pole
1920 (Love to daddy, mummy, Michael, & auntie Mary)

Dear John,
I heard you ask daddy what I was like and where I lived. I have drawn Me and My House for you. Take care of the picture. I am just off now for Oxford with my bundle of toys - some for you. Hope I shall arrive in time: the snow is very thick at the North Pole tonight.
Your loving Father Christmas"

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 7.9/10 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
Characters      - 10
Atmosphere   - 10
Writing Style - 10
Plot                - 5
Intrigue          - 5
Logic             - 5
Enjoyment     - 10
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

This is such an adorable and wonderful short book! I'm glad I splurged and pre-ordered the new 2020 edition! It has all 34 letters in the 22 years that Father Christmas wrote his letters to the Tolkien children (1920 and 1923-1943). Each year there's a Christmas letter from about Dec 20th to the 25th. Sometimes there's also an early letter from about Oct 31 to early Dec... or sometimes there's a late letter from after Christmas. 

Most letters are addressed to all the children of 'stocking' age, with 2 exceptions. In 1924, Father Christmas wrote a letter addressed to John and another addressed to Michael (Christopher was only 1 month old and Priscilla had not been born). In 1934 (the only year with 3 letters), Father Christmas wrote a letter addressed to Christopher and another addressed to Priscilla (John and Michael were both past 'stocking' age by then). I wish some of the letters from the Tolkien children to Father Christmas were included in the book, too.  

The letters range from a couple of sentences to 7 pages long and most of them include a drawing. It's fun to see the simple writing grow to actual storytelling as his children get older. Father Christmas writes in shaky print (because he's old and cold), Polar Bear writes in thick, bold letters (because of his fat, heavy paw), and Ilbereth, an elf secretary, writes in nice cursive. I enjoyed all the typography of the letters - they are really beautiful. (I am glad the letters were transcribed, though. The originals can be difficult to read.)

You meet many characters throughout the letters: Snow Man (who's the gardener), other elves, gnomes, goblins, polar cubs, snowboys, and more. One particularly fun year is 1937, which was the year The Hobbit was first published. There were references to the book and a blurring of the lines between Santa's elves and the Elves of Middle-earth (which I've always toyed with in my imagination). Ilbereth, the elf secretary, even writes 'A very merry Christmas to you all' in Elvish! (Then Polar Bear feels like he's being shown up, so he writes in runes.)

Starting in 1939, the letters don't have the same spark of joy to them. This might be because her Father (Christmas/Tolkien) is only writing to Priscilla and knows he doesn't have many years left... but more likely it has to do with the war. The last 4 letters all mention the war, either directly or indirectly by talking about having low toy supplies and not being able to find all the children because so many have moved. As I started to read the last letter, I wondered if Tolkien knew this would be his last letter - and he did. He basically is saying goodbye to Priscilla and it's pretty sad. Overall, though, it really is a great and fun book - it just also happened to be written during a significant time in history.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Father Christmas (JRR Tolkein) have the last words (and picture):

"We were beginning to get the first lot of parcels down out of the storerooms into the hall. Polar Bear insisted on taking an enormous pile on his head as well as lots in his arms. Bang Rumble Clatter Crash! Awful moanings and growlings.

I ran out onto the landing and saw he had fallen from top to bottom onto his nose leaving a trail of balls, bundles, parcels, and things all the way down - and had fallen on top of some and smashed them. I hope you got none of these by accident? I have drawn you a picture of it all."
Sample Typography:

Polar Bear

squiggle print
Father Christmas

Ilbereth, elf secretary

Polar Bear


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Spirit of Christmas by GK Chesterton

The Spirit of Christmas: Stories - Poems - Essays

Author: GK Chesterton (English, 1874-1936)
Originally written: before 1936
Page count: 80

Dates read: 11/24/2020-12/1/2020
2020 book goal progress: 28 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
This new edition of Chesterton's writing includes his beautiful Christmas poems and a selection of stories as lively and imaginative as one might expect from the creator of Father Brown, together with penetrating and often hilarious comments on Christmas past and present.

A critic has said that Chesterton was "especially the poet of Christmas, as Charles Dickens was the prose master of Christmas." (My review of Dickens at Christmas.)

Mini-reviews and favorite quotes:
I love fiction, but I struggle through both poetry and non-fiction. Since a large portion of this book consisted of poetry and non-fiction essays, it wasn't an ideal read for me. I knew about the poems and essays before I started to read the book (thanks to the title), but even the heads up didn't make it better - I wish there were more stories in this collection. Overall, I enjoyed the "Christmas Spirit" in the whole book. Much of the reading was humorous in a satirical way, which I appreciated.

When looking at collections like this, I like to know what exactly is included, so I'm going to have the list of contents with mini-reviews and favorite quotes.

I. A Child is Born (Early Poems, 1894- 1900)
-Xmas Day
-The Nativity
-A Christmas Carol
-The Wise Men (My favorite from this section.)

The child that ere worlds begun
(We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone.)
The child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.
(stanza 7 out of 10)

II. Sausages and Stars (Essays, Comment, and a story)
Note: The only difference I can tell between the 'essays' and 'comments' is the length. Together, they range from 2 sentences to 5 pages, with most being a half to a full page.

-Christmas that is Coming
+I found this particularly humorous.
-The Christmas Ballads
-Christmas Pudding
-Dickens' Christmas Tales
+I enjoyed this especially because I read all of Dickens' Christmas books last year. The link is in the description above.
-Mock Turkey
-Sausages and Stars
+This was my favorite, not only of this section but of the whole book! I found it a clever Christmas ghost story. Below are the first several sentences. If you're interested, and I highly suggest the quick read, the title links to the whole story.

Nearly all the best and most precious things in the universe you can get for a halfpenny. I make an exception, of course, of the sun, the moon, the earth, people, stars, thunderstorms, and such trifles. You can get them for nothing. But the general principal will be at once apparent. In the street behind me, for instance, you can now get a ride on an electric tram for a halfpenny. To be on an electric tram is to be on a flying castle in a fairy tale. You can get quite a large number of brightly colored sweets for a halfpenny.

III. The Inn at the End of the World (Poems of Middle Life, 1900-1914)
-A Child of the Snows (favorite)

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.
(stanza 3 out of 4)

-The House of Christmas (favorite)

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.
(stanza 3 out of 5)

-A Word
-The Truce of Christmas
-A Song of Gifts to God

IV. A Feast of Fools (Essays, Comment, and a Story)
-More Thoughts on Christmas
-Dickens Again
-A Christmas Present
-The Theology of Christmas Presents (favorite)

Christmas is something better than a thing for all; it is a thing for everybody. And if anyone finds such phrases aimless or fantastic, or thinks that the distinction has no existence except in a refinements of words, the only test needed is the permanent test of the populace. Take any hundred girls from a board school and see whather they do not make a distinction between a flower for each and a garden for all. 
-Christmas and the Professors (favorite)
-Some Fallacies and Santa Claus
-A Further Thought
-The Modern Scrooge (story)
+This was another heart-warming, Dicksonian Christmas ghost story. I enjoyed the short story, but, even with 'favorites,' a special quote doesn't always jump out to me.

V. The Turkey and the Turk (The Mummer's Play)
-The Turkey and the Turk: The Mummer's Play
+I was looking forward to reading a Christmas play, but it was a great disappointment. It was just a strange tale that could almost be considered sci-fi - which normally would be a good thing, it just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the book. I was not a fan. 
The first lines:

Here am I Father Christmas; well you know it,
Though critics say it fades, my Christmas Tree,
Yet was it Dickens who became my poet
And who the Dickens may the critics be?

VI. The Spirit of Christmas (Essays, a story, and a Comment)
-The Contented Man (favorite)
-Dickens at Christmas
-Christmas Must Go
-Christmas and Geoffrey Chaucer
-The New Christmas (story)
+This was a strange story about a futuristic Nativity from the Wise Men's' perspective. This was not a favorite, despite it being a story.
-Snow in Bethlehem (favorite)
-The Heart of Bethlehem
-The Spirit of Christmas (favorite)
-The Three Gifts (favorite)

There were three things prefigured and promised by the gifts in the cave of Bethlehem concerning the Child who received them; that He should be crowned like a King (gold); that He should be worshipped like a God (frankincense); and that He should die like a man (myrrh). And these things would sound like Eastern flattery, were it not for the third.

VII. Gloria in Profundis (A Last Poem)
-Gloria in Profundis

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate - 
Where the thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for a sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star that has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.
(stanza 4 out of 4)

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let GK Chesterton have the last words:

Our ignorance about fairy tales refers back to that ultimate ignorance about life which makes life itself a fairy tale. Some complain that parents will not tell their children whether Santa Claus exists or not. The parents do not tell them for the excellent reason that the parents do not know.
-'Some Fallacies and Santa Claus' from Section IV. 
The child who doubts about Stanta Claus has insomnia. 
The child who beleieves has a good night's rest.
-'A Further Thought' from Section IV, in it's entirety.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Whole Family by Twelve Authors

 The Whole Family
A collaboration novel written by 12 authors!

Elizabeth Jordan (American, 1865-1947)
Originally published: 1908
Page count: 313

Dates read: 11/1/2020-11/21/2020
2020 book goal progress: 27 out of 20
Month category: 
November - Thanksgiving / Family
Back to the Classics category: 
Classic About a Family

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
One of the most fascinating experiments in American literature resulted in The Whole Family. The idea for this collaborative venture originated with William Dean Howells in 1906. Under the guidance of Elizabeth Jordan, who Howells hired as editor, each of the authors invited was to write a successive chapter in the story. Howells, who wrote the first chapter, envisioned the novel as a definitive depiction of American family life. But the original plan underwent a dramatic reversal with a controversial chapter two by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. From that point, the novel became a more involved story of family misunderstandings and rivalries.

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 5.7/10 - ⭐⭐⭐/5
Characters      - 6
Atmosphere   - 5
Writing Style - 7
Plot                - 4
Intrigue          - 6
Logic             - 5
Enjoyment     - 7
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

Overall Review:
There is a very loose and disorganized plot to this novel. That said, I was expecting it to be more of a series of short stories with little to no connection to each other, other than them all being in the same family. I was pleasantly surprised when the book actually turned out to be a semi-cohesive story.

Rant one: The first chapter, by William Dean Howells, threw me off right away because it was written in the first person by the neighbor who has a conversation with the father. He proceeds to have deep and knowledgeable thoughts about the whole family, even though he doesn't seem very close with any of them. Reading the neighbor's perspective was strange since I was expecting it to be from the perspective of the father himself. All the other chapters are written in the first person from the perspective of the person named in the chapter title.

Rant two: Henry James' chapter is 41 pages long, which is nearly twice as long as 25 page average of all the other chapters. Most of it is just whining about family members instead of moving the plot along. If he had summed up his 33 pages of whining into 10 pages and expanded his 8 pages of actual story into 10-12 pages, then the chapter might have been actually worth something.

Random thoughts: I wish I knew the actual ages of all the characters. Everyone seems to be against co-educational college and I don't understand why. It's an outrageous story with many Dicksonian coincidences.

Here are some quotes and specific thoughts of each chapter and the author who wrote them:

Chp 1. The Father (Cyrus Talbert)
by William Dean Howells (American, 1837-1920)

First sentence: "As soon as we heard the pleasant news - I suppose the news of an engagement ought always to be called pleasant - it was decided that I ought to speak first about it, and speak to the father."

Favorite quote: "A curious thing about it was, that though my arguments seemed to convince them, they didn't convince me. Ever notice, how when another person repeats what you've said, it sounds kind of weak and foolish?"

Mini-review: This chapter was hard to follow, sexist, and very bland. Nothing really happened and it did nothing to help jump-start the plot. The only thing we learn is that Peggy has been recently engaged and no one has met who she's engaged to yet. The father ends up being a minor character in the novel and he doesn't really come up again until the last chapter.

Chp 2. The Old-Maid Aunt (Aunt Elizabeth / Lily, sister of 'Father')
by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (American, 1852-1930)

First sentence: "I am relegated here in Eastridge to the position in which I suppose I properly belong, and I dare say it is for my best spiritual and temporal good. Here I am the old-maid aunt."

Favorite quote: "Since - well, never mind since what time - I have not cared an iota whether I was considered an old maid or not. The situation has seemed to me rather amusing, inasmuch as it has involved a secret willingness to be what everybody has considered me as very unwilling to be. I have regarded it as a sort of joke upon other people."

Mini-review: This was a very forward-thinking and feminist chapter that championed single women living satisfying lives. By 'old-maid,' they mean she's about mid-thirties and not married... which apparently is a travesty at this time in history. The old-maid ends up being a central character that everyone uses as a scapegoat. The 'contraversial' plot twist mentioned in the book description is that Harry Goward, who is engaged to Peggy, is actually more interested in the old-maid aunt.

Chp 3. The Grandmother (Evarts, mother of 'Mother')
by Mary Heaton Vorse (American, 1874-1966)

First sentence: "The position of an older woman in her daughter's house is often difficult."

Favorite quote: "I very seldom open my mouth to anyone in this house, for it is more than ever the fashion for people to disregard the advice of others, and the older I get the more I find it wise to save my breath to cool my porridge - there come times, however, when I feel it my duty to speak."

Mini-review: I appreciated this chapter and how forward-thinking and unprejudiced the grandmother was. It was refreshing to see a break from the stereotypical judgemental elderly character, though she still ragged on the maiden aunt. She sometimes wrote in paragraphs that were over a page long, which was annoying.

Chp 4. The Daughter-In-Law (Lorraine)
by Mary Stewart Cutting (American, 1879-1924)

First sentence: "I  have never identified myself with my husband's family, and Charles-Edward, who is the best sort ever, doesn't expect me to."

Favorite quote: "Maria makes little side digs at me because I haven't been pickling or preserving or cleaning. Once, Maria asked me at dinner what days I had for cleaning. And I said, as innocently as possible, that I hadn't any; that I perfectly loathed cleaning, and that we never cleaned at home! Of course it wasn't true, but we never talk about it, anyway. Charles-Edward said he nearly shrieked with joy to hear me come out like that."

Mini-review: I liked Lorraine's character. She had feminist views and kept her worldview from being affected by her in-laws. She was focused on her own interests and not keeping her house perfect and clean, which everyone seemed to expect.

Chp 5. The School-Girl (Alice)
by Elizabeth Jordan (American, 1865-1947)

First sentence: "Except for Billy, who is a boy and does not count, I am the youngest person in our family; and when I tell you that there are eleven of us - well, you can dimly imagine the kind of time I have."

Favorite quote: "Finally I crept out of the house without saying a word to her or letting her know I was there, and I leaned on the gate to think it over and try to imagine what a girl in a book would do."

Mini-review: She is about fifteen, but is written much younger to me, which was weird. She's a bit of a busybody but is one of the few people who actually likes the maid aunt. The cohesiveness of the plot begins to break down and get confusing.

Chp 6. The Son-In-Law (Tom Price)
by John Kendrick Bangs (American, 1862-1922)

First sentence: "On the whole, I am glad our family is no larger than it is.  It is a very excellent family as families go, but the infinite capacity of each individual in it for making trouble, and adding to complications already sufficiently complex, surpasses anything that has ever before come into my personal or professional experience."

Favorite quote: "We cannot always help ourselves in the matter of our relations. Some are born relatives, some achieve relatives, and others have relatives thrust upon them."

Mini-review: This was quite humorous and probably my favorite chapter. There's a part where he is talking about Adam and Eve and makes a comment that true gentlemen don't use women as a copout or scapegoat - and basically called Adam a coward in blaming Eve for his eating of the forbidden fruit. (That's a paraphrase of several paragraphs, otherwise, I would've done a direct quote.)

Chp 7. The Married Son (Charles-Edward)
by Henry James (American-British, 1843-1916)

First sentence: "It's evidently a great thing in life to have got hold of a convenient expression, and a sign of our inordinate habit of living by words."

Favorite quote: "When you paint a picture with a brush and pigments, that is on a single plane, it can stop at your gilt frame; but when you paint on with a pen and words, that is in all dimensions, how are you to stop?"

Mini-review: I have read Henry James before and did not like The Bostonians at all, but I tried to keep an open mind despite my negative bias. Nope. This was a horrible and quite sexist chapter. Every time he talks about his wife, it is in a very demeaning manner. The sentences are long and complicated and I had a hard time understanding anything.

Chp 8. The Married Daughter (Maria Price)
by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward (American, 1844-1911)

First sentence: "We start in life with the most preposterous of all human claims - that one should be understood. We get bravely over that after a while; but not until the idea has been knocked out of us by the hardest."

Favorite quote: "Perhaps if Fate ever broke him on her wheel it was at that moment. His destiny was still in his own hands."

Mini-review: This had lots of action, which was refreshing after getting through James' drudgery. There was a lot of clever wordplay and several Dicksonian coincidences.

Chp 9. The Mother (Ada)
by Edith Wyatt (American, 1873-1958)

First sentences are my favorite quote: "I am sure I shall surprise no mother of a large family when I say that this hour is the first one I have spent alone for thirty years. I count it, alone. For while I am driving back in the runabout along the six miles of leafy road between the hospital and Eastridge with mother beside me, she is sound asleep and she will sleep until we are home."

Mini-review: This was a confusing chapter with a very abrupt ending.

Chp 10. The School-Boy (Billy)
by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews (American, 1860-1936)

First sentence: "Rabbits. Automobile. (Painted red, with yellow lines.) Automatic reel. (The 3-dollar kind.) New stamp-book. (The puppy chewed my other.) Golly, I forgot. I suppose I mustn't use this, but it's my birthday next month, and I want 'steen things, and I thought I'd better make a list to pin on the dining-room door, where the family could take their pick on what to give me."

Favorite quote: "It wasn't exactly cross-examination, because he wasn't cross, yet he fired the questions at me like a cannon, and I answered quick, you bet."

Mini-review: This was an annoying and repetitive chapter. It was written more like a letter rather than a stream of thought as the other chapters are and it just felt strange. This was the only chapter where the author's gender did not match the character's gender.

Chp 11. Peggy (recently engaged middle daughter)
by Alice Brown (American, 1857-1948)

First sentence: "'Remember,' said Charles-Edward - he had run in for a minute on his way home from the office where he has been clearing out his desk, 'for good and all,' and he tells us - 'remember, next week will see us out of this land of the free and home of the talkative.'"

Favorite quote: "Things are mighty critical. It's as if everybody, the world and the flesh and the Whole Family, had been blundering round and setting their feet down as near as they could to a flower. But the flower isn't trampled yet. We'll build a fence round it."

Mini-review: I feel like she tried to tie up most of the loose ends from everyone else's chapters - but it just got even more confusing and jumbled than it already was. Since Peggy is the central figure in the whole novel, along with the maid aunt, her chapter and thoughts of what's going on should have been sooner in the story - or saved for the very last.

Chp 12. The Friend of the Family (unnamed)
by Henry Van Dyke (American, 1852-1933)

First sentence: "This was the telegram that Peter handed me as I came out of the coat-room at the Universe and stood under the lofty gilded ceiling of the great hall, trying to find myself at home again in the democratic simplicity of the United States."

Favorite quote: "Independence was a sacred tradition in the Talbert family; but interference was a fixed nervous habit, and complication was a chronic social state."

Mini-review: Despite several family friends already being introduced, this author decided to create a whole new character for the last chapter of the book. The 'friend' seems to be mainly a friend of Father and not of the whole family, which is annoying. The unnamed friend has traveled a lot, but he's extremely racist and ethnocentric. The ending is outrageous and abrupt. It's like Van Dyke had a way he wanted it to end and he just forced his way into making it work, even though it didn't really make sense with the rest of the story.

Closing review:
Some chapters were quite feminist, while others were pretty sexist. It was strange never really knowing what to expect from chapter to chapter. Overall, I would say the book is forward-thinking, it just also is a product of its time in history. I appreciate that out of 12 authors, only 4 of them were men. It's interesting to note that, though John Kendrick Bangs wrote my favorite chapter, the other 3 male-written chapters were by far my least favorites.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let two of the authors have the last words:

"I do not care so much what people believe, for I am not bigoted, as that they should believe something, and that with their whole hearts." 
-Grandmother, Chp 3. Grandmother by Mary Heaton Vorse

"Remember, it is the bruised herb that gives out the sweetest odor." 
-Aunt Elizabeth, Chp 11. Peggy by Alice Brown