Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Finished reading this with Mallory last week. It's the sequel to The False Prince which Mallory and I had read previously. This one was fun as well, but not quite as good as the first. Some decent plot twists but none as good as those from the first book. Also, the way the conflict ended between the main character, Jaron, and the antagonist, Roden, was a letdown. Seemed like the author almost wrote herself into a corner and had only the weak resolution left in her chamber of options. Oh well, I enjoyed the book overall, all things considered.

Mallory liked it but said there was "too much fighting." She doesn't like hearing the word blood or reading about people bleeding and there were a number of instances where she had to squeamishly endure such descriptions.

We'll probably be reading the final book in The Ascendance Trilogy next, except it is unavailable at the library right now and we have had a hold request on it for a few weeks. I'm stalling by having Mallory sit in with Trevor as I am reading him the first book in The Hardy Boys series. Hopefully we can start that third book soon.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Gunga Din and Other Favorite Poems by Rudyard Kipling

I finished reading this last night. It was a Christmas gift from my Dad accompanied with a recording of him reciting two of the poems from memory: "Gunga Din" and "If-". I knew his recitation of the poems would be epic, but it exceeding even my already high expectations. Especially the Gunga Din one. It was awesome.

This book of poems is like most poetry for me lately. A few really solid ones that I can completely appreciate and enjoy, a few ok ones and then a handful of ones that just don't make sense to me. But this is actually an improvement for me since I have read a bit more poetry lately and have been able to change my mindset and enjoy them slightly more than I did previously.

Kipling's poems were interesting as they were written in this interesting style. I'm not sure what the proper term would be, but I pictured a bunch of the poems being chanted and shouted out in unison by a bunch of people in an English pub. The word "bloomin'" appeared it most of the poems, which was awesome. I want to incorporate that word into my everyday vocabulary.

My favorite poems were, in order:

1. Gunga Din: Yes, there is a reason why this one gets named on the title of the book; very, very good poem, and made so much better after watching my Dad's epic performance. There are several great parts to quote, but I only share this one: "An' for all 'is dirty 'ide 'E was white, clear white, inside When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!" After saving a guy, Gunga Din gets shot: "An' just before 'e died: 'I hope you liked your drink,' sez Gunga Din. So I'll meet 'im later on At the place where 'e is gone - Where it's always double drill and no canteen; 'E'll be squattin' on the coals, Givin' drink to poor damned souls, And I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!... Though I've belted you and flayed you, By the living Gawd that made you, You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!" It also reminds me of this soldier in the Battle of Fredericksburg which I learned about during a recent visit: I also recently read an old Thomas S. Monson general conference talk where he shares this story:

2. The Betrothed: This is a fantastic poem about a guy who has to choose between his wife and his cigars. It's really amazing. The guy refers to his cigars as his "harem" and "brides" and there's this hilarious line: "And the Moor and the Mormon shall envy who read of the tale of my brides."

3. If-: A great, great poem about how to carry yourself in life. After listing several "If's" the poem closes with: "Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!" The poem is about Christ as my Dad pointed out in his recording.

4. The Law of the Jungle: I thought this was in Kipling's The Jungle Book (maybe it is?) but its a great poem all the way through, but here's the famous first part: "Now this is the Law of the Jungle - as old and as true as the sky; And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die." After listing several laws the poem ends with: "Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty are they; But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is - Obey!"

5. The Story of Uriah: An interesting little poem that doesn't refer to David and Uriah from the Bible at all in it, but that's what the poem is about. It's about a guy named Jack Barrett being sent to a more dangerous outpost in Quetta: "And, when the Last Great Bugle Call Adown the Hurnai throbs, When the last grim joke is entered In the big black Book of Jobs, and Quetta graveyards give again Their victims to the air, I shouldn't like to be the man, Who sent Jack Barrett there."

6. L'Envoi (To 'The Seven Seas'): Just a short good one.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

I finished reading this today. I read it with my 7-year old girl, Mallory. We both loved it. The story was very entertaining, the plot was interesting, it had good characters, and the main character was fun and easy to root for. There were a bunch of twists throughout the book; and I'm a big fan of a good plot twist. The biggest twist in the entire book was actually predicted by Mallory well in advance. I don't think that I would have seen the twist coming if it wasn't for Mallory and her creative mind. She was very excited that she was right.

This book is in a genre that I normally don't venture into, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It's the perfect type of book for me to read with Mallory and I look forward to reading more of these kind of books with her. In fact, we already started reading the sequel together, The Runaway King.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie

I finished reading this book today. It is my first Agatha Christie book. I heard you could read pretty much any of her books regardless of the order they were published and it wouldn't make a difference. So I went ahead with this one which is the 11th published novel with the Jane Marple character. I was fairly underwhelmed.

It was only a 180-page book and nothing really took place until darn near close to half way through the book. I was also surprised by how little Jane Marple actually appeared in the book and how inconsequential her role actually was in the plot. Not knowing anything about Jane Marple, coming in I thought she would be more Sherlock Holmes-ish. It didn't make the book any worse in any way. I was just surprised and it makes me wonder if this is her typical role in the "Jane Marple" novels. The Chief Inspector Davy character was enjoyable. The Canon Pennyfather character had a lot of potential but felt like his character wasn't fully utilized. That about sums up the book: too many characters doing too little in a book not long enough to properly cover all of the characters and their different stories.

This review ended up being more negative than I intended it to be. I didn't dislike the book. It was decent and had some bright spots for sure. I guess I was just a little let down because I had high hopes and wanted to start reading some Agatha Christie books. I'll still read some other Agatha Christie books in the future, but my expectations will definitely be more tempered.

Here's a fun quote about tipping:

"Henry moved away. Father was left uncertain whether he ought to have offered Henry a tip or not. It was galling to think that Henry knew the answer to that social problem much better than he did."

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

I finished reading this last night. This was my first James Fenimore Cooper book and I must say, I am a fan. I think in a previous post I had mentioned that Hawthorne, to me, was the first great American writer, probably because he so often wrote about Puritans and the early period of American history. But I guess you can make an argument for James Fenimore Cooper to be considered as the first great American writer. His writings came slightly before Hawthorne's and his stories were about America, often involving Native Americans. I guess I shouldn't say who is the first great American writer when I am sure there are even a few other names that should be in the conversation.

But as for The Last of the Mohicans, this was an incredible book. The first chapter was pretty rough and I was nervous that I was set up for disappointment, but you know what they say, "Never judge a book by its first chapter" or something like that. Cooper would refer to characters interchangeably by their first name one time and then their last name another time which was a bit confusing at first as I was trying to figure out the characters. But once I got the names down I was golden. The story was exciting and action-packed all the way until the end and written so well and with such authenticity. There was one odd stretch where a character was dressed in a bear skin and kept fooling everyone that he was a real bear. It seemed like a stretch in the believability department. But other than that, nothing but praise for this book and I look forward to reading more novels in the future from Mr. Cooper.

I wanted to share one exchange for my "Quotes" portion of this post:

"If, however, they take your scalp, as I trust and believe they will not, depend on it, Uncas and I will not forget the deed, but revenge it as becomes true warriors and trusty friends."
"Hold!" said David, perceiving that with this assurance they were about to leave him; "I am an unworthy and humble follower of One who taught not the damnable principle of revenge. Should I fall, therefore, seek no victims to my manes, but rather forgive my destroyers; and if you remember them at all, let it be in prayers for the enlightening of their minds, and for their eternal welfare."
The scout hesitated and appeared to muse.
"There is a principle in that," he said, "different from the law of the woods; and yet it is fair and noble to reflect upon." Then, heaving a heavy sigh, probably among the last he ever drew in pining for a condition he had so long abandoned, he added, "It is what I would wish to practice, myself, as one without a cross of blood, though it is not always easy to deal with an Indian as you would with a fellow Christian. God bless you, friend; I do believe your scent is not greatly wrong, when the matter is duly considered, and keeping eternity before the eyes, though much depends on the natural gifts, and the force of temptation."

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Paradise Lost by John Milton

I finished reading this book today. I really, really liked it. I liked it more than any book that I've read in a while. I didn't expect that I would enjoy it so much. But reading this felt almost like reading scripture in a way. Obviously it's not at the level of scripture, but there was so much about this book, written in the 1600's, that felt inspired. Milton himself at one point in the poem mentions how he feels some higher power is providing him with these words and urging him to continue on with the poem. If only Milton had the full truths of the restored gospel. I would have loved to read what he would have come up with if he would have known that all of us participated in the war in heaven and we were not created only to fill the void from the departed, fallen angels. But still, there is so much truth in this book and it is beautifully portrayed. My only gripe is that there was a bit too much Greek mythology references.

I am going to share a bunch of quotes from the book. You probably won't want to read them all, because there are a lot, but please read my favorite quote, because it is awesome:

"... let it profit thee to have heard, / By terrible example, the reward / Of disobedience; firm they might have stood, / Yet fell. Remember, and fear to transgress."

Now, feel free to read over some of these other great quotes:

"... his doom / Reserv'd him to more wrath: for now the thought / Both of lost happiness and lasting pain / Torments him."

"Heap on himself damnation, while he sought / Evil to others; and enraged might see, / How all his malice served but to bring forth / Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy shown / On man by him seduc'd"

"The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

"Likening his Maker to the grazed ox, / Jehovah, who in one night when he pass'd / From Egypt marching equaled with one stroke / Both her first-born and all her bleating gods."

"Waiting revenge: cruel his eye, but cast / Signs of remorse and passion, to behold / The fellows of his crime, the followers rather, / (Far other once beheld in bliss) condemn'd / For ever now to have their lot in pain; / Millions of spirits, for his fault amerc'd / Of heaven, and from eternal splendours flung / For his revolt; yet faithful how they stood, / Their glory wither'd"

"What force effected not: that he no less / At length from us may find, who overcomes / By force, hath overcome but half his foe."

"Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell. / Not free, what proof could they have given sincere / Of true allegiance, constant faith, or love, / Where only what they needs must do, appear'd; / Not, what they would? What praise could they receive? / What pleasure I from such obedience paid, / When will and reason (reason also is choice) / Useless and vain, of freedom both despoil'd, / Made passive both, had serv'd necessity, / Not me? They therefore, as to right belong'd, / So were created, nor can justly accuse / Their Maker, or their making, or their fate"

"The first sort by their own suggestion fell, / Self-tempted, self-deprav'd: man falls, deceiv'd, / By th'other first: man, therefore, shall find grace, / The other none. In mercy, and justice both, / Through heaven and earth, so shall my glory excel; / But mercy, first and last, shall brightest shine."

"To prayer, repentance, and obedience due, / Though but endeavour'd with sincere intent, / Mine ear shall not be slow, mine eye not shut; / And I will place within them as a guide / My umpire Conscience; whom if they will hear, / Light after light well us'd they shall attain, / And to the end persisting, safe arrive. / This my long sufferance, and my day of grace, / They who neglect and scorn shall never taste; / But hard he harden'd, blind he blinded more, / That they may stumble on, and deeper fall; / And none but such from mercy I exclude. / But yet all is not done: Man disobeying, / Disloyal breaks his fealty, and sins / Against the high supremacy of heaven, / Affecting Godhead, and so losing all, / To expiate his treason hath nought left, / But to destruction, sacred and devote, / He with his whole posterity must die; / Die he or justice must; unless for him / Some other able, and as willing pay / The rigid satisfaction, death for death. / Say, heavenly powers, where shall we find such love? / Which of ye will be mortal to redeem / Man's mortal crime, and just th'unjust to save? / Dwells in all heaven charity so dear?"

"... on me let death wreak all his rage; / Under his gloomy power I shall not long / Lie vanquish'd; thou hast given me to possess / Life in myself for ever"

"Death his death's wound shall then receive, and stoop / Inglorious, of his mortal sting disarm'd."

"... his meek aspect / Silent yet spake, and breath'd immortal love / To mortal men, above which only shone / Filial obedience: as a sacrifice / Glad to be offer'd, he attends the will / Of his great Father. Admiration seiz'd / All heaven"

"And dying rise, and rising with him raise / His brethren, ransom'd with his own dear life. / So heavenly love shall outdo hellish hate, / Giving to death, and dying to redeem, / So dearly to redeem what hellish hate / So easily destroy'd, and still destroys, / In those who, when they may, accept not grace."

"No sooner had th'Almighty ceas'd, but all / The multitude of angels, with a shout / Loud as from numbers without number, sweet, / As from bless'd voices uttering joy, heaven rung / With jubilee, and loud hosannas fill'd / Th'eternal regions."

"... a grateful mind / By owing owes not, but still pays, at once / Indebted and discharg'd"

"Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand? / Thou hadst: whom hast thou then or what to accuse, / But heaven's free love dealt equally to all?"

"... of him thou art, / His flesh, his bone; to give thee being I lent / Out of my side to thee, nearest my heart, / Substantial life, to have thee by my side"

"... these two / Imparadis'd in one another's arms, / (The happier Eden,)"

"... That thou art happy, owe to God; / That thou continuest such, owe to thyself, / That is, to thy obedience; therein stand."

"... freely we serve, / Because we freely love"

"... what if earth / Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein, / Each to other like, more than on earth is thought?"

"Shalt thou give law to God? Shalt thou dispute / With him the points of liberty, who made / Thee what thou art, and form'd the powers of heaven / Such as he pleas'd and circumscrib'd their being?"

" ... though strange to us it seem'd / At first, that angel should with angel war, / And in fierce hosting meet, who wont to meet / So oft in festival of joy and love / Unanimous, as sons of one great sire"

"Reign thou in hell, thy kingdom; let me serve / In heaven God ever bless'd and his divine / Behests obey, worthiest to be obey'd; / Yet chains in hell, not realms expect"

"Of knowledge within bounds; beyond abstain / To ask, nor let thine own inventions hope / Things not reveal'd, which th'invisible King, / Only omniscient, hath suppress'd in night, / To none communicable in earth or heaven: / Enough is left besides to search and know."

"They open to themselves at length the way / Up hither, under long obedience tried"

"... beware, / And govern well thy appetite, lest Sin / Surprise thee, and her black attendant Death."

"In loving thou dost well, in passion not, / Wherein true love consists not; love refines / The thoughts, and heart enlarges, hath his seat / In reason, and is judicious, is the scale / By which to heavenly love thou may'st ascend; / Not sunk in carnal pleasure, for which cause / Among the beasts no mate for thee was found."

"Be strong, live happy, and love; but first of all, / Him whom love is to obey, and keep / His great command"

"... Revenge, at first though sweet, / Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils"

"Subtle he needs must be, who could seduce / Angels"

"... God tow'rds thee hath done his part, do thine."

"For good unknown, sure is not had, or had / And yet unknown, is as not had at all."

"Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck'd, she ate; / Earth felt the wound"

"... innocence, that as a veil / Had shadow'd them from knowing ill, was gone"

"... force upon free will hath here no place."

"... I go to judge / On earth these thy transgressors, but thou know'st, / Whoever judg'd, the worst on me must light, / When time shall be, for so I undertook / Before thee; and not repenting, this obtain / Of right, that I may mitigate their doom / On me deriv'd; yet I shall temper so / Justice with mercy, as may illustrate most / Them fully satisfied, and thee appease."

"... a passage broad, / Smooth, easy, inoffensive, down to hell."

"... miserable it is / To be to others cause of misery"

"... with labour I must earn / My bread; what harm? Idleness had been worse"

"See, Father, what first fruits on earth are sprung / From thy implanted grace in man, these sighs / And prayers, which in this golden censer, mix'd / With incense, I thy priest before thee bring, / Fruits of more pleasing savour from thy seed / Sown with contrition in his heart, than those / Which, his own hand manuring, all the trees / Of Paradise could have produc'd, ere fallen / From innocence."

"... since I sought / By prayer th'offended Deity to appease, / Kneel'd and before him humbled all my heart, / Methought I saw him placable and mild, / Bending his ear; persuasion in me grew / That I was heard with favour; peace return'd / Home to my breast"

"Eve rightly call'd, mother of all mankind, / Mother of all things living, since by thee / Man is to live, and all things live for man."

"... infinite in pardon was my Judge, / That I, who first brought death on all, am grac'd / The source of life"

"Given thee of grace, wherein thou may'st repent, / And one bad act with many deeds well done / May'st cover"

"Thy going is not lonely; with thee goes / Thy husband; him to follow thou art bound; / Where he abides, think there thy native soil."

"... if by prayer / Incessant I could hope to change the will / Of him who all things can, I would not cease / To weary him with my assiduous cries: / But prayer against his absolute decree / No more avails than breath against the wind, / Blown stifling back on him that breathes it forth: / Therefore to his great bidding I submit."

"... what thou liv'st / Live well, how long or short permit to heaven"

"O pity and shame! that they who to live well / Enter'd so fair, should turn aside to tread / Paths indirect, or in the midway faint!"

"... God attributes to place / No sanctity, if none be thither brought / By men who there frequent, or therein dwell."

"The blood of bulls and goats, they may conclude / Some blood more precious must be paid for man, / Just for unjust, that in such righteousness, / To them by faith imputed, they may find / Justification towards God, and peace / Of conscience, which the law by ceremonies / Cannot appease, nor man the moral part / Perform, and, not performing, cannot live. / So law appears imperfect, and but given / With purpose to resign them in full time / Up to a better covenant, disciplin'd / From shadowy types to truth, from flesh to spirit, / From imposition of strict laws to free / Acceptance of large grace, from servile fear / To filial, works of law to works of faith."

"... slain for bringing life; / But to the cross he nails thy enemies, / ... the sins / Of all mankind, with him there crucified"

"His death for man, as many as offer'd life / Neglect not, and the benefit embrace / By faith not void of works."

"... for then the earth / Shall all be Paradise, far happier place / Than this of Eden, and far happier days."

"He to his own a Comforter will send, / The promise of the Father, who shall dwell / His Spirit within them, and the law of faith / Working through love, upon their hearts shall write, / To guide them in all truth, and also arm / With spiritual armour, able to resist / Satan's assaults, and quench his fiery darts"

"... add / Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add faith, / Add virtue, patience, temperance, add love, / By name to come call'd charity, the soul / Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath / To leave this Paradise but shalt possess / A Paradise within thee, happier far."

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I finished reading this to my 7-year old daughter tonight. We both loved it immensely. It was a little touch and go at first as it appeared she was not really into it, Fred Savage style. But the story sucked her in (because it's amazing) and she couldn't get enough of it. I even overheard her recently explaining to her younger brother about how Prince Humperdinck is trying to start a war with Guilder. We're going to watch the movie tomorrow. She can hardly wait.

Speaking of which, I was surprised at how similar the book is to the movie since the movies usually change a bunch of stuff. But the book is pretty much the same thing as the movie, which made me love the book since the movie is perfect as we all know. I guess it helps that the author of the book also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Seems like that should happen more often. The biggest difference, that I could tell, was that Inigo and Fezzik had to fight their way through the "Zoo of Death" to get to where Westley was being tortured by Count Rugen and Prince Humperdinck.

I liked how Goldman pretends that he is abridging a much longer book originally written by an author named S. Morgenstern. It was a nice touch. His intro explaining why he is making an abridgment is pretty genius.

There's also this awesome part where Goldman does an aside (as he does a handful of times throughout the book) during the reunion scene between Westley and Buttercup right after Buttercup shoves Westley down the ravine, realizes it's her Westley, and jumps down into the ravine after him. During his aside, he mentions that S. Morgenstern just moves forward with the story without writing more about the reunion between Westley and Buttercup at the bottom of the ravine. He felt that there should be more and said that he wrote a reunion scene but his publisher would not let him add it to the book because he is abridging S. Morgenstern's book and an abridger is not supposed to add material. So Goldman says that if you want to read the reunion scene then just send a letter to the publisher. He provides an exact address and everything. My daughter really wanted to send in a letter. But since the book was written decades (plural) ago, I figured I'd check the ol' trusty internet to see what the deal is with requesting this reunion scene. You can read here for details on what happened when people sent in such a request:

Anyway, this book was great and my girl and I are very excited to watch the movie tomorrow.