- High Spirits by Robertson Davies
Can't remember where I saw this recommended but these are extremely enjoyable humorous takes on the classic English "Christmas Eve" tellings of subsequent experiences by the first Master of Massey College. Every year he experiences either a ghostly visitation or some other supernatural adventure which luckily happens in time for him to tell it on Christmas Eve. Funny without being over the top. I will probably have to investigate this author's other works after this. (#4-2010)
- The Night's Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars by Elena Maria Vidal (review copy)
A spunky heroine, the Cathar heresy, and some swashes being buckled. I liked this book quite a lot. Vidal managed to combine romance without immodesty, insight into how a truly Catholic girl would have responded to suddenly being confronted by a heresy, and a feel for life back in those long ago times. I especially liked the heroine's confusion over the many similarities of the Cathar heresy and true Catholicism. It is that same confusion that often hits us today when something is not quite right about the philosophy someone is espousing but we can't quite pin it down.
However, this book also felt strangely incomplete in some way which I have pondered a lot, considering I enjoyed the book so much. It finally occurred to me that this book was like a slice taken from a larger one and we weren't told enough of the whole story. This "snapshot" was so good that we want to know more about the heroine's time in the convent, more about her marriage without having just bits given to us. For reference to any who would like to know what came to mind when thinking of fully satisfying book, I give you: historical fiction-Samuel Shellabarger; romance/mystery-Jane Eyre, Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer; overall good fiction-Rumer Godden. Also, the typesetting was gigantic. The book could easily have been 100 normal paperback pages if it had been set in a more normal size. Oh, the pain. However, despite all those things, I still liked it.
Recommended for those who like a pure romance, who want to know more about the Cathar heresy, and who like historical fiction. #6
- Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People by Jeffry Pinyan
Began reading this for a projected project to go in our bulletin per our priest's desire to begin education about the new liturgical translations. Enjoyed it quite well, but the introduction ... Heavens to Betsy, here is the reason people have editors. As far as I can tell this book is self-published and it is good. It is vouched for by the diocese of Metuchen (NJ), but I don't see a professional publisher mentioned which means no professional editor either. The intro is so deep it almost made me skip the entire book, the rest of which is NOT written at that level. Thank goodness. It is not just about the new translation, although I highly recommend it to those who are interested in the reasons for the changes. Pinyan goes deeply into how each part of the Mass is a prayer and that was really enlightening. Highly recommended. #8
- Space Prison by Tom Godwin
I listened to the SciPodBooks reading of this. In many ways this is a unique science fiction book, based largely around a survival story. After pirates hijack an Earth space ship, they dump the "non essential" passengers on a planet on which it seems impossible to survive. The thought of one day attracting and overcoming the pirates keeps the survivors striving to overcome their hostile environment. An absorbing story of several generations and two centuries that is nevertheless fast-paced and interesting. #5
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
How did this author do it? A story about an 11-year-old detective that is a unique blend of Sherlock Holmes, eccentric English country house murder mystery, and Nancy Drew. And it works. Fascinating and wonderful. I say that even though I pegged the murderer the first time there was an appearance. The discovery of why and how and who was entirely enjoyable despite that. (#3)
- The Club of Queer Trades by G.K. Chesterton
At the beginning of the 20th century, in detective fiction there was Sherlock Holmes and that was all. There were other fictional detectives, to be sure, but they were only bad imitations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous consulting detective. The sleuths offered by other writers would try to outdo Holmes in eccentricity and in solving crimes that were evermore contrived and convoluted.
But in 1905 a book of mysteries came along that finally managed to turn the Sherlock Holmes idea on its head. The book was The Club of Queer Trades by G.K. Chesterton. His detective, Rupert Grant, is a Sherlock Holmes-like private eye who investigates crimes and chases crooks with great self-assuredness in his powers of deduction. But he is always wrong. The hero of these stories is not Rupert, but his older brother, Basil Grant, a retired judge. In each case, Basil proves to Rupert hat there has been no crime and no crooks.
Read the entire lecture on this book, of which the above which has been an excerpt, here. This book was a delight from beginning to end, and I'm not really a G.K. Chesterton fan. I listened to the Librivox recording which was wonderfully read by David Barnes. #7.
- Forever Odd by Dean Koontz
A rereading of this book, prompted by the fact that I misplaced Hyperion and needed some fiction for bedtime. Perhaps should have been called MacGyver Odd. Odd tracks down a strange group of villains who are obsessed with the supernatural and have kidnapped a friend of his in order to make Odd show them ghosts. Although Odd can see ghosts he can't make them manifest to others so this is something of a problem. Practically the entire book takes place in an isolated, burned out casino and Odd spends the entire book figuring out ways to outwit them and rescue his friend. Rereading this made me notice the many small points about faith that Koontz muses about and that added value to the already enjoyable story. #9
Most people have probably heard the premise of this movie, which I found fascinating. A huge alien ship suddenly shows up over Johannesburg, South Africa but nothing happens. When the people finally muster the nerve to investigate they find that the aliens aboard are sick and dying because they are simply workers who have been left to die when their leaders ran away. The aliens, called "prawn" are housed in a government camp (District Nine) which soon deteriorates to a ghetto. Shot to look like a documentary, the movie takes place many years later, following a middle manager who has been promoted to lead the effort to move the aliens to a new camp, District Ten, further away from the city. Everyone being interviewed keeps mentioning "before the event" and "before things went wrong" so we are prepared for things to go downhill in some way for the poor fellow. However, I never would have predicted how this manager is caught up in the storyline and the discoveries of the movie.
It is obviously a movie about racism and bigotry, about how we treat the "other," and how the "other" is not as different from us as we would like to think. However, I was very interested by the types of details that were included. For example, the humans and aliens couldn't speak each other's languages but the could definitely understand each other. As we watch this hapless fellow I began to dislike him more and more which was a very odd feeling to have about the movie's protagonist. (I'm trying to write this without giving much away...) However, Hannah said that she found it interesting because she thought that his actions were actually one of the most realistic things about the movie ... that he was acting as a normal human would when caught up in events that were far beyond him. This was an intriguing thought for me. The more I thought about it, the more I saw her point and appreciated the story telling from this point of view. The protagonist is much more of an "everyman" than the usual so-called type we see. He is not too smart, he is something of a bully because he doesn't even know enough to see a larger perspective on his actions, and he is self absorbed ... all somehow in that hapless, nervous way which helps disarm his least likable characteristics. However, he has a true devotion to his wife and he does learn a larger way of seeing the world, both of which lead to his redemption.
I did feel there was a misguided bit of the movie toward the end, an attempt to meld sci-fi action with the rest of the story. However, it did no great harm and overall this is a very good film. Tom hasn't seen it yet and I look forward to viewing it again sometime soon with him.