5.31.2011

What do Punch and Judy, a Black Cat, and Spaghetti Have in Common? The Magicians of Caprona, Of Course!

The Magicians of Caprona (Chrestomanci, #4)The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been enjoying this book tremendously since the first page. Tonino is born into a famous spell-making family in the Italian kingdom of Caprona (although there is no unified Italy in this story). Although he can't do spells well he does have his own special talent which his large, loving family appreciates very much. They have many other things to bother them though, such as their ancient rivals (the Petrocchi family), the war that threatens their kingdom, and a hostile enchanter who is said to hate both families. And more.

This is an engaging adventure which I absolutely couldn't predict the path of ... other than the identity of Rosa's fiance and the identity of the evil enchanter. In typical Diana Wynne Jones style, this book is both enchanting and completely imaginative. I hesitate to say more other than any review can do no more than touch the tip of this rich iceberg.

Don't let the age limit put on it by library groups make you hesitate. Any age who enjoys a good story will enjoy this book.

View all my Goodreads reviews

5.29.2011

Episode 156: Genesis, chapter 27

In which Isaac's family shows full-blown dysfunction.

Episode 156, chapter 27
(download or listen via this link)
Book Information
  • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
  • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
  • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
Mentioned Links
My Huffduffer Feed
(where you can easily download sample episodes of the podcast highlight or other various podcasts I want to share)

5.24.2011

The Ogre Downstairs

The Ogre DownstairsThe Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Casper, Johnny, and Gwinny are quite unhappy when their mother marries Jack, whose dour nature and heavy handed approach to discipline lead them to dub him The Ogre. Adding to their unhappiness are their two new stepbrothers, Malcolm and Douglas, who are every bit as unappealing as The Ogre, albeit in different ways. When Jack gives each group of children a chemistry set, everyone is surprised, but no one expects magical results. However, they soon discover that some combinations of ingredients lead to such fantastic results as being literally lighter than air ... or to having inanimate objects come to life. This leads not only to great fun but opens the door to greater understanding between the children as their magical misadventures force them out of their comfortable roles of resenting others who they have not made any attempt to understand.

As with many of the books written for younger readers, this one was less interesting to me than other Wynne Jones wrote. However, also as with others of this stripe, anything by this author winds up being compelling, or such is my experience. If the reader hangs on until the last fourth of the book, the action ratchets up and the book becomes quite compelling. I would have liked to see the Ogre's character developed more, as well as his relationship with Sally. We are never shown a reason for her to be so fond of him, at least from the children's point of view. That is what keeps this book from being better than it is. However, it does end on a note of new beginnings and the beginning of everyone's attempt to understand each other better is probably the reason these characters are left fairly undeveloped.

I especially enjoyed the toffee bars, the pipe, and the dust bunnies. Confused? Read the book and you'll know what I'm talking about.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Lagniappe 46: Kitchen Diaries

Kitchen Diaries
(listen or download from link above)
In which we hear a bit of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries.

Get the book here: Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries

According to Webster
la·gniappe \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
Function:
noun
Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
Date: 1844
: a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

5.23.2011

Mystery on an International Level: Reviewing Mystery at Geneva

Mystery at Geneva: An Improbable Tale of Singular Happenings by Macaulay, Rose, Dame

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Henry Beechtree, a newspaper correspondent for the British Bolshevist, is covering the latest otherwise sleepy session of the League of Nations in Geneva, when the newly elected President – a member of the Norwegian delegation – disappears mysteriously, adding some badly needed ‘spice’ to Henry's assignment. 
I was quickly hooked by the humorous tone of this 1922 book with the naive young reporter learning his way around the League of Nations meeting when the president disappears, leaving foul play suspected. The book is moving quickly with many short chapters taking the reader rapidly from scene to scene, often changing points of view in the process. It is not difficult to keep up with and the wit and intelligence of the writing left me unwilling to listen to anything else.

This is a Librivox free audiobook. Cathy Barratt narrates a bit too quickly for my taste, but just right (probably) for those who like to put their audiobook speed on fast. Her narration seems flawless when it comes to reeling off the many foreign phrases which the book is larded with, due to the international flavor of the setting. She has a pleasant voice, good expression, and is easy on the ear.

In the end, the author surprised me with two different plot twists out of the blue. Overall, she amused me greatly with her astute, cleverly put observations about politics and human nature. Perhaps it says more than she intended at the time, when I reflect that world politics are still recognizable enough to keep her observations still timely.

Short, quick, and recommended.

View all my Goodreads reviews

5.21.2011

Book Review: A Sci-Fi Classic - The Time Traders

The Time TradersThe Time Traders by Andre Norton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Read this on vacation since I ran out of the books I brought with me and this was on my Kindle. As entertaining as I remembered from those long ago days when I first read it as a teenager.

Ross Murdoch is a bad egg and given the chance to choose either military service or prison, he takes the military. What he doesn't know is that he's been evaluated as the type of adventurous soul who would do well in a very dangerous new venture. Time travel. Going back in time to both study history and also combat any actions they find taken by the "Reds" (yes, written during the Cold War) who have also discovered time travel. What no one knows is that a dangerous new element is being added to the mix ... you'll have to read the book to find out what that is.



View all my reviews

5.18.2011

He won! He won!

My movie and book podcasting buddy Scott at A Good Story is Hard to Find ... ran for School Board and won the hotly contested three-way race.
Oneida County School District #351 Board of Trustees: Zone 3 
Scott Danielson 108 votes 
Deborah F. Horsley 73 votes
Arne Jones 79 votes
Congratulations, Scott!

They're lucky to get you!

5.11.2011

Lagniappe 45: Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Bible

Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Bible
(listen or download from link above)
In which we hear a bit of Isaac Asimov's nonfiction writing.

Get the book here: Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Bible


According to Webster
la·gniappe \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
Function:
noun
Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
Date: 1844
: a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

5.08.2011

Gone Fishin'

Out of town until Tuesday, May 17, and am leaving my computer at home (!). Will I survive?

We shall see!

Turning off comments in the meantime to keep things easy around here.

Back in a week, y'all!

Episode 155: Genesis, chapter 26

In which we resume our acquaintance with Isaac and Rebecca.

Episode 155, chapter 26
(download or listen via this link)
Book Information
  • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
  • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
  • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
Podcast Highlight
Other Mentioned Links
My Huffduffer Feed
(where you can easily download sample episodes of the podcast highlight or other various podcasts I want to share)

5.03.2011

Lagniappe 44: Just So - How The Rhinoceros Got His Skin

... the Parsee lived by the Red Sea with nothing but his hat and his knife
and a cooking-stove of the kind that you must particularly never touch.

How The Rhinoceros Got His Skin
(listen or download from link above)
In which we are treated to another of Rudyard Kipling's lesser known Just So Stories,
one that is a particular favorite of mine.

See the story, the song of the Cake-Parsee, and all the illustrations with Kipling's captions.
As always, thank you to Will Duquette for his wonderful narration.

According to Webster
la·gniappe \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
Function:
noun
Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
Date: 1844
: a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure