Lorna Doone

R. E. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone is the best book. I’ve read this year so far. A friend of mine chose it as the next book we would read together and later discuss online. We’ve been reading a lot of 19th century novels. I’ve heard of Lorna Doone, but I never knew what it was about. Our last book, which I admit, I chose, was disappointing. I was happy to not have to choose the next book. I was quite surprised when I saw that Lorna Doone was over 700 pages.

However, this chunkster delighted me from the start. The narrator and hero, John Ridd, has an exceptional way of looking at the world, and a great wry sense of humor. I was hooked early on when John Ridd compared the noise in another character’s through to the sound of a snail moving along a window sill.

The plot packs, a lot of adventure into this romance. Young John Ridd (12) and his family have a farm in Exmore, an area dominated by the Doone family, long ago the Doone ‘s were landed gentry. They fell on hard times, and for income, they took to band a tree robbing travelers along the highways. Village people and farmers reported the thievery, and to keep them in their place. The dunes killed everyone in that village. Needless to say, other people never crossed the Doones. To make things worse, the dunes killed John’s father when he resisted their thievery.

As the only son with two sisters, a mother and a farm to look after, John takes his fathers place is the The novel’s wit and adventures delighted me. Although Lorna is stereotypical, John and his family including a ne’er-do-well brother in law were well developed adding zest to the story. I didn’t want this novel to end, which is a rarity for books with 700+ pages.

John meets a beautiful girl and is smitten. As luck or literature would have it, this girl is Lorna Doone, the one woman in the world. he should have nothing to do with. When both are grown up their paths cross again and romance, forbidden love ensues.

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Posted by on May 27, 2023 in fiction


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Remarkably Bright Creatures

I finished Remarkably Bright Creatures and was relieved that I can return to reading better books. Remarkably Bright Creatures tells the story of Tova, an old woman whose son mysteriously died years and years ago. To a works the night shift in an aquarium as a cleaning woman. She’s fascinated by the octopus there who’s remarkably bright like all of his species. The mischievous octopus keeps sneaking out of his tank.

The third major character is Cameron, a man in his twenties who can’t handle responsibility. As a child, his carefree mom abandoned him.

All three cross paths and with the help of the sea creature the humans lives are permanently changed.

Despite all the facts about octopi, the contrived plot and ho hum writing left me cold.

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Posted by on April 22, 2023 in fiction


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The New Deal

Jonathan Case’s The New Deal is a satisfactory graphic novel set in the 1930s at the Waldorf Astoria. A bell hop and housekeeper get entangled in a jewelry heist. The bell hop has piled up gambling debts and the housekeeper is an actress who’s just gotten a part in Orson Welles’ production of Macbeth. So there’s a little character development.

The illustrations aren’t anything to write home about, but perhaps that suffices. The book is a fast read, but forgettable.

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Posted by on April 1, 2023 in fiction, graphic novel


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101 Gothic Reads You Might Enjoy

101 Gothic reads from the 18th century onwards. How many have you read? Disclaimer: This is a list the leans into my expertise (18th and 19th century…

101 Gothic Reads You Might Enjoy
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Posted by on March 6, 2023 in book lovers, fiction


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Caleb Williams

I’d never heard of the 18th century novelist William Godwin until a couple months ago when I read an essay by David Mamet. Mamet mentioned reading Godwin’s Caleb Williams. His mention of the book piqued my interest.

I looked for it at the library and saw that in the whole system of 22 libraries only one had this book. It is available through Penguin Classics, but as I noted, Godwin isn’t a household name.

I have been enthralled by this story. It’s a thrilling page-turner. Caleb Williams is a smart boy from the country who’s lost his family. He is sent to the estate of Mr. Falkland, a wealthy landowner, who’s admired by all who know him. All except Mr. Tyrell, a misanthrope of the first degree. Caleb is grateful to work for such a fine man.

Tyrell detests Falkland. Tyrell is obsessed with his hatred for Falkland and abuses those in his circle who show Falkland any positive regard. A plain-looking relative who’s been orphaned develops a fondness for Falkland and Tyrell abuses her and plans to set her up in a terrible marriage. Hawkins, a farmer, also incurs Tyrell’s wrath. In response Falkland helps these two, which only makes things worse.

Trouble comes to Caleb years after Tyrell is murdered and he accidentally discovers that Falkland isn’t the honorable man everyone believes. When Falkland learns of Caleb’s discovery Falkland is determined to see that Caleb never divulges what he’s learned. He takes this control to a brutal extent and no matter how fervently he begs, Caleb can’t escape Falkland’s control and abuse.

I pitied Caleb and was amazed by his ingenuity to try to escape and his dedication to not let Falkland’s maligning and psychological and legal abuse destroy his outlook.

Caleb Williams is a riveting quest for justice and tale of an innocent man imprisoned. I wish Masterpiece (Theater) would film it.

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Posted by on March 6, 2023 in British Lit, British literature, fiction


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Everyday Sisu

Sisu is a Finnish cultural word that describes a kind of fortitude and resilience that they value in Finland. Since I enjoyed reading The Little Book of Hygge, I thought I’d like this too.

I didn’t. Everyday Sisue should have been a magazine article in my opinion. Instead Katja Pantzar drones on and on about her life and the many steps it takes her to get to one expert or acquaintance who knows a bit about sisu or another. So much is padding here. Zzzzz.

The writing style is average and even if Pantzar felt compelled to talk about her yoga pals or the people she met at a conference, she could tighten up those passages. I acutely felt like she was paid by the word. That’s how it is in some writing work, but here it’s so noticeable.

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Posted by on March 2, 2023 in book review, non-fiction


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A Sublime Video for Bibliophiles

I just discovered this woman’s videos yesterday. What a beautiful,serene life!serene life!

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Posted by on February 15, 2023 in book lovers, fiction


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Mystery at Lilac Inn

One of the first books I read this year is from the Nancy Drew series, Carolyn Keene’s Mystery at Lilac Inn. I picked it up wondering how I’d like a book I read as a child.

While the story was dated, I did enjoy this fast paced detective story. Nancy is curious, kind, brave and likable. In this book, she resolves to find the thief who took the jewels her friend Emily inherited. Emily has no living family and the jewels can help her get a good start in life.

Yet after her guardian Mrs. Willoughby claims the jewels from the bank, she stops off at the Lilac Inn for lunch with a new friend. As you might have guessed, the minute Mrs. Willoughby was distracted, the jewels disappear.

Consulting her father, who’s a sharp lawyer, Nancy springs into action. I was surprised how dangerous the story got. If you’re open to nostalgia and enjoy mysteries, check out Nancy Drew or perhaps Keene’s other series, the Dana Sisters’ Mysteries.

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Posted by on February 1, 2023 in fiction, mystery


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The Librarian of Auschwitz: Graphic Novel

I just finished reading the graphic novel version of the library in a Auschwitz. The Librarian of Auschwitz is a compelling story of 14-year-old Dita, a Jewish teen growing up in Czechoslovakia. During World War II the Nazis her rounded up her family and neighbors and forced them into a concentration camp.

Brave and compassionate, Dita risks taking care of and distributing a tiny cache of books to lend to her fellow prisoners. Reading is prohibited but it transports people from the atrocious situation they find themselves in.

One of the most intriguing parts of the story was the mystery of why the people at the first camp Dita and her parents are taken to were treated better than I expected. Dita and her parents were leery of why people I her side of the camp didn’t get their hair shaved off or why they were allowed to wear their own clothes when on the other side of the fence the prisoners wore striped uniforms and had no hair. It turned out Dita was in the portion of the camp that the Nazis showed human rights inspectors. When the tours were over, cruelty and dehumanization reigned with beatings, inhuman living conditions and for most people back breaking labor.

I recommend this compelling story with its fine illustrations and well crafted characters.

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Posted by on January 29, 2023 in fiction


Lea Ypi’s Free

This was the best book I read in 2022.

Ruled Paper

In her memoir, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, Lea Ypi chronicles her childhood growing up when Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha was in power and through the era of Albania post-Hoxha. With wit and insight Ypi recounts how she trusted Hoxha like a grandpa while questioning her parents’ lack of enthusiasm for the government.

I was pulled in with her stories of her family obtaining and losing a prized possession, an empty Coke can, of how her family talked in code about neighbors and relatives who disappeared, of her best friend who ran off with a neighborhood tough guy.

The book continues through the 1990s when Albania transitioned to a free market economy when her mother got political, her father found himself working for a corporation and having to implement World Bank policies and when it seemed that everyone who could fled to Europe or North…

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Posted by on January 6, 2023 in fiction