Book Reviews
Library Thing reviews, followed by GoodReads, followed by Amazon Reviews
 LIBRARY THING

 My "Scribblings" Review of "The Haunting of Hill House"

Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House"
Cat on Caffeine
May 21st, 4:43
Current Location: Under lamplight. Of Course!
Current Mood: Creeped out just from writing this
Current Music: The shrieking of violin strings--or raw nerves

I'm a member of "Library Thing" and tonight I was browsing discussions like

What Was The Scariest BOOK You've Ever Read and How Did It Affect Your Life And Reading Habit?

No one had mentioned the actual scariest book, so I did.

Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is part ghost story & part psychological thriller, blended so thoroughly even a careful reader may wonder what is reality & what is mental illness.

When I was in 6th grade, I plucked a volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books from a living room shelf. Never steal from your parents. This could happen to you.

Just the first paragraph frightened me, It's also the last paragraph. "...whatever walks there walks alone."

But then there's...
the something knocking on bedroom doors with booms as loud as cannonballs. (never to be seen or described)
The something that isn't there that held Eleanor's hand. (never to be seen or described)
The something in the garden that makes Theo shriek, "Run!" (never to be seen or described).


Jackson knew the secret of creating elemental terror in her v/i/c/t/i/m/s readers. Less is more. Limit description & the reader's imagination will do the rest. And do it better than any author because our imaginations are fine-tuned by our personal experiences.

I didn't sleep for two nights. I pressed my back into one corner of my bedroom and spent the hours staring at the door, hoping that it didn't boom. Staring at each wall in turn, hoping that wallpaper wouldn't appear & then begin sobbing & gibbering to itself...

The Haunting of Hill House

p.s. After reading the book, you may wish to view the film. Be sure it's the 1950-60's(?) B&W version!


See additional commentary at ModernGothic.



SherryThompson's reviews (library Thing)

Showing 26 of 26
I'm a member of "Library Thing" and tonight I was browsing discussions like,
What Was The Scariest BOOK You've Ever Read and How Did It Affect Your Life And Reading Habit?
No one had mentioned the actual scariest book, so I did.
..

The haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is part ghost story & part psychological thriller, blended so thoroughly even a careful reader may wonder what is reality & what is mental illness.

When I was in 6th grade, I plucked a volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books from a living room shelf. Never steal from your parents. This could happen to you.

Just the first paragraph frightened me, It's also the last paragraph. "...whatever walks there walks alone."

But then there's the something knocking on bedroom doors with booms as loud as cannonballs. (never to be seen or described) The something that isn't there that held Eleanor's hand. (never to be seen or described) The something in the garden that makes Theo shriek, "Run!" (never to be seen or described).

Jackson knew the secret of creating elemental terror in her v/i/c/t/i/m/s readers. Less is more. Limit description & the reader's imagination will do the rest.

I didn't sleep for two nights. I pressed my back into one corner of my bedroom and spent the hours staring at the door, hoping that it didn't boom. Staring at each wall in turn, hoping that wallpaper wouldn't appear & then begin sobbing & gibbering to itself... 

The Haunting of Hill House

p.s. After reading the book, you may wish to view the film. Be sure it's the 1950-60's(?) B&W version!  )
    flag151 other reviews | May 21, 2014 | edit | 
I have been reading this book in manuscript on my Kindle and loving it. Ms Heckenbach has created a fantasy world with a couple of extremely cool twists. While truly fantasy, the book is not set on another planet or in Earth's past. Rather little settlements, carefully hidden, exist throughout our world. Most of Finding Angel takes place within one of these "pockets", a small island. 

When we first meet Angel, she is living in Florida , taken in as a foundling several years earlier when she was very small. When she arrived in that mundane part of Earth, she was wearing a charm bracelet with the name Angel on it. Aware that she came from elsewhere but not knowing from where, Angel often wonders about her past and her parents.

Then several events happen all at once. Her young stepbrother finds a strange 4 inch beetle that sings to him. Something or someone seems to be creeping around in Angel's neighborhood. There's a traffic accident within yards of Angel and very close to her house. And finally, the most mysterious and terrifying event of all--something or someone drags her forcibly right through a tree and into another world. A world populated by the Empowered, the land in which she was born and out of which she barely escaped as a toddler from a strange man mad for power .

Between chapters that follow Angel's adventures are small vignettes which focus on conversations between two mysterious people. Who are they? Where are they? And how do they fit into the puzzle that is Angel's life?

Is Angel one of the Empowered? Does the one who chased her right of her world know that she is still alive and back on the island? What are his plans? Do they tie in with a stolen artifact & a book of prophecy? Can Angel's new friends: young Gregor, Mr. Benjamin, and Kalek the elf help her? Or must Angel discover her own particular strength, learn the secret of her bracelet and discern by herself who is friend and who is foe?

Opening "Finding Angel" is like opening a living jigsaw puzzle. Reading it becomes the delight of joining the enchanted pieces even as they change shape into dragons and mushrooms, or whisper clues with the rustle of leaves, or merge of their own into pictures within pictures sparkling with magic. 

"Find" this book and start assembling the puzzle!  )
    flagAug 15, 2011 | edit | 
I read this years ago when it was first published and Straczynski's "Babylon 5", his fabulous "Five year SF novel for TV", was still fresh in my mind. For anyone who watched that show regularly, you will surely remember Morden who was the human rep for the Shadow. He would target people by asking them, "What do you want?" For a few, this seemingly harmless question subtly pushed them closer to their darkest wishes.

Okay, nothing like that scenario happens in this book. Othersyde is definitely not in the same "universe" as the science fiction TV series. For one thing, Othersyde is not science fiction. It's more urban horror and (perhaps) demon possession than anything else. However, for those who have seen the author's Hugo-winning show, little phrases turn up here and there throughout the book which will give the viewer/reader shivers.

And for the person who has never watched the series? Not to worry. You won't know what you're missing. You'll be busy being overwhelmed by subtle horror, moments of disgust, incipient nightmare and the desperate feeling that nothing can stop the evil gripping the town. For me, the most ghastly moment, the one that runs over and over in my mind, involves the mysterious power's drawn-out and brutal destruction of its human tool when they are done with it. My mind plays that long scene over and over and I can't shake it. Yack!

Othersyde is not perfect. Like a couple of other Straczynski stories, the ending just isn't as good as the rest of the tale. Consequently, I give this 4 stars.

I don't actually own a copy of this book. I think I read it courtesy of interlibrary loan. I remembered it just now when I was inputting data for Staczynski's Demon Night, so I put it on my wish list.  )
    flag1 other review | Aug 14, 2011 | edit | 
The information is accurate and appropriate for young adults and children. However the author has created a "granddad" narrator and instructor who treats young girls in a sexist manner. I don't say this lightly--I rarely notice something like this. Here, it was overwhelming and I couldn't finish this small book because of it. Not recommended.  )
    flagAug 2, 2011 | edit | 
(I started reading this back in May. As I progressed through the book, I jotted down impressions of what I had read up to that point.) 
I've only read the first three chapters of this, so I really shouldn't be offering any opinions.
But here's my opinion. ;-) Or my first impression anyway.
Lots & lots of characters for what is supposed to be a very small coastal town that has, presumably, been losing population in recent years. We focus on two families and the servants and staff of a dying lady, and that means we focus on virtually -everyone- in these three disparate groups. Right now, I'm a little overwhelmed by this. I am having considerable trouble keeping people's names straight & am trying to resist actually making a cheat sheet with names and personality quirks. (Suddenly, I sympathize with people who read my books. :0 )

Have finally reached p.60 (I read s-l-o-w-l-y) I want to find out why the bell rings only at sunset and who the mysterious visitor (Ridley) is at the inn. Gwyneth and her tiny garret writing space in her family's house are cool--I'd like to shove my bad writing under the bed too. The snippets from the Aislinn alternate universe or other time-line are fascinating. I loathe the "knights" & have yet to even see them. The crows are menacing but I can't put my finger on why that is.

I've finished. Wow. I mean ... uh, wow. I had forgotten what a great writer McKillip is.

Eventually, I was able to keep all of the characters straight. And then a couple began to ... overlap? In my opinion, the scenes which take place at Aislinn Hose (& its alternate) and at the inn are the best. The Sproule siblings were people I had to bear with in order to get through the story--not unlike poor Gwyneth. I disliked any scene in which they appeared. Emma and Ysabo are marvelous--and so is Ridley if for different reasons.

If you like fantasy, please consider reading this!  )
    flag24 other reviews | Jul 28, 2011 | edit | 
I read the original pb version of "Excaliber" many years ago when it was first published. The beginning is not great but I remember thoroughly enjoying most subsequent scenes. In them, the main characters interact with mythical beings, get swept up into an "alternative reality", and sometimes are involved in what might what be called "spiritual warfare".

One series of scenes in particular is strongly reminiscent of Charles Williams' principle of "substitution". Basically, this involves one person consciously taking on the psychological or spiritual burden currently shouldered by someone else. Williams demonstrated this best in his spiritual thriller novel, "Descent into Hell". 

Laubenthal does a superb job of showing the same transfer & its effects toward the end of this book, as one character aids another who is on a kind of quest.

I ordered and received this revised SFBC edition of "Excalibur" via a used book dealer. (Hard cover -- see the illo above). I've been given to understand that Laubenthal was asked to revise her original manuscript by the new publisher, and I am hoping that she had a chance to fix some of the weaker scenes in the book. After I read the new edition, I may be editing my score for this title. I hope so! )
    flagJul 28, 2011 | edit | 
I always read this first, in preparation for reading Charles Williams' Arthurian poetry, "Taliessin Through Logres" and "The Region of Summer Stars". However, Roger Lancelyn Green's book is great reading on its own account. Perhaps, it's because I'm a Christian--whatever the reason, Green's modern yet faithful accounts of these traditional stories affect me emotionally when I read them.
At which point, I suppose, I'm in the perfect mental state to work through Williams' complex and allusive poetry as I search for even more of the spiritual depth in the Arthurian saga.  )
    flag16 other reviews | Jul 25, 2011 | edit | 
I've loved this book since I was a very young child, particularly the illustrations. I would love to see additional work by the artist, Alice Carsey. Unfortunately I loved the book a little bit too much. I think I was in second grade at the time. Proud of all the words I had learned so far, I circled them (in pencil) in the book. (I've done my best to erase the marks.)

Kingston broke up the story of Robin Hood into a series of short stories, more suitable for young readers. I won't list them all here but they have titles like: The Wedding of Allen-A-Dale; The Rescue of Will Stutely; Who Won the Silver Arrow; A Ride on Friar Tuck's Back; The Queen's Gift; The Knight of Wierysdale; Robin Hood's Last Shot.  )
    flagJul 22, 2011 | edit | 
This is a charming book of unusual tales for young readers. However, the real treasures are the unequaled artwork in the front and back covers and the color illustrations within. I suppose by today's standards some of the images might be a little dark--like the one of the robbers in "Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar. Others are so detailed, intriguing and mysterious that some children may ask their parents not to turn the page just yet. (Okay, that's how I would feel, if I were in second grade again.)

My original copy of this book belonged to my mother. It had gotten a lot of wear over the years. Recently I was able to find a copy in much better shape via Amazon, but the original copy is the one I treasure.  )
    flagJul 22, 2011 | edit | 
I have heard some of these filk songs live at various filk circle, and I'm fortunate to own the original audio tape on which Julia Ecklar collected them. It's very cool to have the words and score as well!  )
    flagJul 20, 2011 | edit | 
Please note! "Seabird an Invitation" is only the first half of the book originally published as just "Seabird" in January 2008. The second half of the book (aka "Seabird...Three Tombs") may possibly be found online at B&N or Smashwords--but I make no promises. As for a review: this part is good as far as it goes, but it stops abruptly, leaving virtually every plot thread dangling.  )
    flagJul 17, 2011 | edit | 
Lovely photographs, chiefly of kittens but also grown cats. Some very useful directories for those who I trying to find a nearby breeder for a particular breed. Articles on: choosing a kitten including rescue cats, feline health and grooming, food, litter, kitten behavior, poisonous plants, and indoor living. The only drawback is the numerous ads.  )
    flagJul 17, 2011 | edit | 
I looked for the smallest Bible I could find at a Borders, and this was it. Well, it's certainly small enough to qualify as "compact". As for "large print", the body of the text is readable; however, the cross-reference footnotes after each chapter and the regular explanatory footnotes at the bottom of the page are microscopic. I admit part of the problem is me. I'm 64 years old and, like most everyone else my age, close reading is beginning to be a challenge

I wish Holman had made the footnote font the same size as the font of the body of the text, even if they had to add a quarter inch or so to both height and width. It would still have been a compact Bible.

I don't normally "rate" Bible, considering them all to be five stars. However, I've given this one four.  )
    flag2 other reviews | Jul 16, 2011 | edit | 
This is the Eerdmans boxed set of four of Charles Williams' best novels, plus his worst one (in my opinion). For some reason--I suppose copyright--Eerdmans only published five of the seven "supernatural thriller" novels that Williams wrote. Missing are The Greater Trumps (my favorite) and All Hallow's Eve, but these are now in print.
Oh, the "worst novel"? Shadows of Ecstasy. I simply don't "get" it.  )
    flagJul 15, 2011 | edit | 
This is one of my favorite fantasy books. Jeff Winston dies at 43 years old in his study, only to wake up in 1963, in his college dorm room. All of the memories from his life are still intact--allowing for the usual fuzziness for detail that creeps in over the years. We follow Jeff through many permutations of his life. In the first, he focuses on becoming wealthy and powerful. Though successful, this 'life' ends in tragedy.

He wakes up back in his study, only to die immediately. (Although he isn't aware of it at first, each "life" begins a bit later in his personal history than the previous iteration did, and each brief return to his original life and his next death also shifts--at a much slower rate, but backwards in time.)

I was struck by the poignancy of his many lives. Attempts to court the same woman, with subtly varying results. "Losing" both his wife and his children with each return to his study, since no two lives are exactly alike, so minute shifts in words and actions make changes in people around him and even result in different children.

In one of the most poignant pair of "replays", Jeff ends up in a version of his life in which someone has created a film which has an immense positive effect on viewers around the world. In the next life, Jeff tries to see that the film is again produced but he is not successful. The chance for a much-changed future for humanity has slipped away.

I think this is a love-or-hate book. And I think for some people it may take some time to settle into the story. I found details of his first iteration during his life on campus a bit dull. Sort of "been there, done that". But I kept reading. I was glad I did. One very good thing: over the course of the book, Grimwood telescopes much of Jeff's early years, skipping virtually unchanged events and details that don't need repeating, while focusing on the aspects where Jeff either tries to make changes in what will happen or inadvertently causes such changes.

Great, great book! I'm always recommending it to others.  )
    flag87 other reviews | Jul 15, 2011 | edit | 
I've read "Voyage" several times since I bought it, and I still don't get it--particularly what the "meaning", if any, of the final scenes. As you can see, I've given it a rank of 3.5. That's really an average of the 2 and the 5 I think it deserves.

I love and am yet repelled by some of the macabre imagery. On the other hand, certain scenes/tableaux stand out clearly in my memory as if I had just read them. Speaking of which, I doubt that I'll try this one again.

From the back cover, "... The message is uncompromising in its purity. The achievement of the book exactly balances the ambition of its intention. This, surely, is rare." ---London Times.

You know, I wonder if the person who wrote that had themselves a clear idea of the "message" or of the "intention". If so, I wish they had divulged them.  )
    flag17 other reviews | Jul 15, 2011 | edit | 
If "The Screwtape Letters" demonstrates various ways that humans may be led toward sin and hell, then "The Great Divorce" is its complement, demonstrating what might happen to these benighted souls if given one more chance after death. A chance that the souls, currently living in the grey town, must choose to attempt by boarding a kind of celestial bus that takes the passengers as far as the outskirts of Heaven. 
Here, instead of being influenced by invisible and inaudible demons, they are approached by bright beings (souls already admitted to Heaven) and even angels intent upon them taking the last few steps to salvation.
The tale is told from Lewis' POV as if he were dead and, finding himself in the grey town, decided to board the bus. His guide, as it turns out, is George MacDonald. I love every one of the encounters on the doorstep of Heaven That Lewis observes. Even though I've read this book many times, I find myself rooting for each of the spirits visiting from the grey town to make the right decision.  )
    flag66 other reviews | Jul 14, 2011 | edit | 
I love virtually every entry in this book, especially the literary essays on stories in general, fairy stories, 3 ways of writing for children and juvenile tastes in stories. Much of this is a great complement to Tolkien's three hour Oxford lecture On Faerie Stories--which is drier but serves as a good grounding for Lewis' essays in this book
I have doubts whether Lewis would have pubbed the accompanying illustrative short stories if left to his own devices. However the book was published three years after his death and edited by Walter Hooper.
Anyway, I pretty much ignored the stories in rating the book.  )
    flag3 other reviews | Jul 14, 2011 | edit | 
This is one of the earlier collections of quotations by C. S. Lewis, published in 1968, or five years after his death. I'm not a big fan of these C. S. Lewis extract books, of which there are many now. I'd rather follow his thoughts as he makes an argument on a particular topic. However, these "anthologies" serve a purpose for readers who are not familiar with Lewis' work but want to get a flavor of his writing. Good for its niche market.  )
    flagJul 14, 2011 | edit | 
I gave this three stars, which is actually an evaluation re my brain when it comes to following this.
I have heard on good authority that this is Lewis' masterwork. I really wanted to like it. However, I found parts of it obtuse. This from someone who used to know both Greek and Roman mythology very well--including Cupid and Psyche.
Perhaps, I should class "Till We Have Faces" as to-be-read, and just start over again? )
    flag98 other reviews | Jul 14, 2011 | edit | 
I've been reading Alice since someone gave me a Golden Book (which left out most of the story). My parents took me to what was probably the first showing of Disney's film which, alas, scared the daylights out of me.
I used to work for a woman, Mrs. Downes, who quoted Alice all day long. Once she suggested I read the -annotated- Alice. Now I would never read any other version. I love being reminded of Dodgson's use of mathematical theory, historical events and scandals, and various bits of Victorian life in his two best-known books.
Alice's dream entry into Wonderland is the only aspect of the book which does not appeal to me. I feel cheated when a children's book purports that its tale was only a dream. 

There is an album of songs based on Carroll's tales, titled "Music of Wonderland" & sung by Meg Davis. Most of the songs are also composed by her while a few are taken directly from Carroll's words. The titles are:
Our Fairy Tale
All my Own Invention
I'm Late
The Snap Dragon Fly
Other People's Children
You Will Remember Me
Queen Alice
Teatime
Just Desserts
Upon a Summer's Sky. 
Most of the songs are gentle and nostalgic, in my view filled with a longing for an idyllic childhood that perhaps never way, even in Carroll's time. I often fall into this same mood when reading the book. However the album lacks Carroll's nonsense.  )
    flag20 other reviews | Jul 14, 2011 | edit | 
With respect and apologies to Lewis:
I love this book--it was one of the first Lewis that I read after the Narnia books and Mere Christianity. Only years later did it occur to me that--in my most humble opinion--Lewis had chosen the wrong word for that illusive feeling so close to the sorrow of loss, which eventually led him to faith. 
In my opinion--and based as much on my own experiences as the pages of this book--Lewis felt a longing for he knew not what, only knowing that without it he was not whole. I know or knew this feeling. To put this in the words of Tolkien, if one is blessed to discover the reality behind or beyond the longing, -then- the person experiences the eucatastrophe of Joy.
Complete joy does not come first as Lewis' words in this book imply repeatedly. Yes, perhaps an ephemeral glimpse or taste of it, but it is blended almost on the instant with its loss. Real joy comes when what is behind the glimpses abides.
I probably shouldn't have written this. As someone said, "Words are hard". Or perhaps stubborn. Never more so than when trying to describe something so ephemeral.  )
    flag25 other reviews | Jul 14, 2011 | edit | 
A series of pseudo faerie tales written by Chris Baty of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) fame. Some of the stories were mildly amusing, but the book is quite small and since the stories are short, there's not much content. It's a good thing I was buying this in order to help their Office of Light and Letters, which in turn helps middle grade children with their writing.  )
    flagJul 12, 2011 | edit | 
Extremely funny if you can handle nonstop puns. Overall, the first few of Asprin's "Myth" series were the funniest. In my opinion, he should have quit while he was ahead.  )
    flag2 other reviews | Jul 12, 2011 | edit | 
I haven't read this in thirty years but I remember being enthralled by it, and then disappointed by Nichols' "A Walk out of the World" and "The Marrow of the World". I don't remember many details. Two come to mind--various quotations enfolded into the narrative from the most fascinating and arcane sources, and my feeling of distress when it was time for Margaret to return. A short book, barely 120 pages.  )
    flag1 other review | Jul 9, 2011 | edit | 
A fascinating premise about Irish cyber-terrorists bringing down the whole web via hacking one set of impregnable computers and consequently everything attached to them. Many interesting characters. Spoiled only by the placid manner in which the populace swiftly manages without computer technology. Perhaps, that last is the author's point.  )
    flagJul 7, 2011 | edit | 
Showing 26 of 26

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 BOOK REVIEWS AT GOODREADS


title author avg rating rating  my rating  review 
 

Alpha Redemption
Baines, P.A.
4 of 5 stars
This science-fiction books was strongly recommended to me by authors/readers whose opinions I greatly respect.
I enjoyed 98 per cent of the book very much. I didn't like one percent of it, which is when the narrations switched from the present time on the spaceship going nearly as fast as light speed and 

the past experiences of the sole human on the ship. In variably, I wanted to stay with whichever story thread I was already in at that moment.
The other one percent which I didn't like involves about the last two pages. I wish the author had stopped writing before those last pages. I really can't say more without spoiling a significant part of the plot.

In any case, I think I'll treat this the way I do the "Alien" films. In that case, for me, the first two films happened as shown. The third and any subsequent films do not exist in my universe. Neither do the last two pages of Alpha Redemption. (Hey! You, too, can do this! Try it sometime!)(less)
May 08, 2011
May 12, 2011


The Bell at Sealey Head
McKillip, Patricia A.
5 of 5 stars
I've only read the first three chapters of this, so I really shouldn't be offering any opinions.
But here's my opinion. ;-) Or my first impression anyway.

Lots & lots of characters for what is supposed to be a very small coastal town that has, presumably been losing population in recent years. We focus on two families and the servants and staff of a dying lady, and that means we focus on virtually -everyone- in these three disparate groups. Right now, I'm a little overwhelmed by this. I am having considerable trouble keeping people's names straight & am trying to resist actually making a cheat sheet with names and personality quirks. (Suddenly, I sympathize with people who read my books. :0 )

Have finally reached p.60 (I read s-l-o-w-l-y) I want to find out why the bell rings only at sunset and who the mysterious visitor (Ridley) is at the inn. Gwyneth and her tiny garret writing space in her family's house are cool--I'd like to shove my bad writing under the bed too. The snippets from the Aislinn alternate universe or other time-line are fascinating. I loathe the "knights" & have yet to even see them. The crows are menacing but I can't put my finger on why that is.

I've finished. Wow. I mean ... uh, wow. I had forgotten what a great writer McKillip is.

Eventually, I was able to keep all of the characters straight. And then a couple began to ... overlap? In my opinion, the scenes which take place at Aislinn Hose and at the inn are the best. The Sproule siblings were people I had to bear with in order to get through the story--not unlike poor Gwyneth. Emma and Ysabo are marvelous, and so is Ridley if for different reasons. 

If you like fantasy, please consider reading this!(less)
May 27, 2011

 

The Children of Hurin/ The Silmarillion/ The Hobbit/ The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien, J.R.R.
5 of 5 stars
I don't have this edition but I own all of these books-several times over. I used to read The Hobbit and LotR once a year--back in the day when I had time for such things. What great epic fantasy!
SherryT(less)
Dec 1969
Oct 24, 2010



Stuff Christians Like
Acuff, Jon
3 of 5 stars
A friend suggested that I read this. He found it consistently hysterical and he thought that I would as well. I found parts of it funny & parts of it had to be explained to me by my friend. The book is very good--don't get me wrong. Just be sure that you're part of the audience for whom it is written. The author has been imbued most of his life in a subset of Christian believers, who are generally Protestant, semi-conservative (socially), and relatively young or who have been part of their church since they were teens. It helps also if the reader attends a fairly large church. 

Otherwise, the reader may find it difficult to relate to some of the situations and experiences in some of the vignettes.

I'm a Christian. I found many micro-chapter descriptions very funny because it could relate to the author's experiences. Others, I could kind of guess about, and smile. But many of the situations were pretty alien to me. I had to find out to what the author was alluding from my friend and, as we all know, a joke is ruined when it has to be explained.

Anyway, some of you will find this hysterical. See above, and decide if you're the kind of Christian who is likely to have had experiences in this type of church and culture. You might also want to find the author's webpage --sorry, I don't have the URL handy-- and read some of the updates there. if they crack you up, this book is for you!
(less)
Feb 12, 2011
Oct 24, 2010


Excalibur
Laubenthal, Sanders Anne
3 of 5 stars
I read the original pb version of "Excaliber" many years ago. The beginning is not great but I remember thoroughly enjoying most subsequent scenes, in which the main characters interact with mythical beings, get swept up into an "alternative reality", and sometimes are involved in what might what be called "spiritual warfare". 

One series of scenes in particular is strongly reminiscent of Charles Williams' principle of "substitution". Basically, this involves one person consciously taking on the burden currently shouldered by someone else. Williams demonstrated this best in his "Descent into Hell". Laubenthal does a superb job of showing the same tranfer & its effects toward the end of this book, as one character aids another who is on a kind of quest.

I have found & ordered the revised SFBC edition of this book via a used book dealer. (Hard cover -- see the illo provided by GoodReads) I've been given to understand that Laubenthal was asked to revise her original manuscript by the new publisher, and I am hoping that she had a chance to fix some of the weaker scenes in the book. 

After I read the new edition, I may be editing my score for this book. I hope so!(less)
May 28, 2011


The Problem of Pain
Lewis, C.S.
4 of 5 stars
I read The Problem of Pain at least twice but many years ago. Recently, I bought a Kindle, and I chose to reread this book first. Maybe I shouldn't have--it's a long haul and now I'm kind of tied into it, whereas I had been expecting to frolic all over my Kindle once I'd loaded it with books.

Okay, that sounds like a bad review is coming up. Not so much. Right now, I'm about halfway through the book. I had forgotten a great deal about it over the years, so in many ways it's like reading it for the first time.

I had forgotten that nearly the whole first half of the book resembles Lewis's "Mere Christianity" but is written on a more erudite level than MC (the latter I believe being envisioned directed to "the man in the street"). "Pain" is little mentioned in this half of PoP, though by no means ignored. Instead, Lewis builds his case for the existence of a higher power, for God and finally for the Christian God. He does this one small step at a time, with a dense and well-documented argument for his case. In places, you'll find a fair number of footnotes. It's all very interesting but a reader new to the book may wonder when Lewis will get to the point of the title. ;)

In any case, I'm essentially at the cusp between Lewis's background foundation and when he actually begins to address the problem of pain. I will write more here when I'm finished.

MORE HERE LATER
I admit I had to put reading this book on hold some time ago. So, technically I've read Lewis's "The Problem of Pain" two & a half times.
(Quick point for those thinking to add "The Problem of Pain" to their to-be-read bookshelf.

If you are going to do so, I strongly suggest that you also add the much shorter & far more personal "A Grief Observed", which Lewis wrote directly after losing his wife to cancer. In it, he touches on his former thoughts about the role of pain in our world and offers some amended opinions, based on his recent painful loss.)(less)
Oct 08, 2013
Sep 01, 2008


Replay by Grimwood, Ken
5 of 5 stars
**spoiler alert** I love this book--something that bears up under or rather, improves, with repeated reading.

What if you died in middle age and had your life to live over from the time you were in college (with all your previous memories in tact)?

Suppose it happened again?

And again?

And again?

(Each time you die a bit earlier than you did in your previous death and you begin your new life some later than you did the previous time.)

And it was happening to a few others you occasionally met in each "life"?

I some "lives" you--and everyone else-- experience uplifting & wonderful events. Can you help those events re-occur next time? More frequently you marry & have children but when that particular "life" ends, those children disappear even if you have the exact same children the next time. Why? You. Your subtle influences on existence can have a great impact, no matter how careful you are about what you say or do.

I've made this sound like a time-travel novel but it really isn't. The focus is on human choice and its far flung impact on everyone and everything. No person is insignificant. No act is without impact.

The book is fiction. What Grimwood tries to help us see is awesome reality.
Oct 24, 2010

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Selected Amazon Reviews

Why selected? I copied reviews  from Goodreads and Library Thing & inserted them at Amazon. Or vice versa.

MY BOOK REVIEWS AT AMAZON

Tree and Leaf: Including "Mythopoeia"

by J. R. R. Tolkien

Edition: Paperback

43 used & new from $7.65

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure, February 8, 2008

This review is from: Tree and Leaf: Including "Mythopoeia" (Paperback)

I regret that this isn't currently in print, and it baffles me that this is so when Christopher and the estate seem to be printing everything else they can lay their hands on. (Not to say that's a bad thing!)

Tolkien's essay reveals the value or role of fairy stories for those who may be fantasy-challenged. Children already know that there are dragons. Fairy tales don't scare children by telling them this terrible secret. The role of the fairy tale is to reveal that dragons can be killed. The dragon is the catastrophe. The slaying of the dragon is the eucatastrophe.

Tolkien also notes that we are all subcreators, that it is a natural role for us. (I think he was writing about other authors but anyone who daydreams a story is creating as well.)

The best part of this book is "Leaf by Niggle." Tolkien wrote several short stories and I love them all, but this is a very special short story. In my opinion, Tolkien was writing about himself during a particularly clear moment of spiritual discernment.

I don't want to give away the plot but suffice it to say that the main character, Niggle, is working on a huge painting of an immense tree, filled with detail that grows in detail the more he paints. He would love to finish the painting but he has a neighbor who interrupts him repeatedly with some very real if down-to-earth needs.

And that's just the premise. The story just gets better and better, and I hope that it is all true. "True", not "real".

Please buy a used copy while you can, and treasure it.

Sherry Thompson (no matter who Amazon thinks I am)


Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by Devin Brown

Edition: Paperback

193 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating ... and often surprising, October 1, 2007

This review is from: Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Paperback)

"Inside Narnia" ia a chapter-by-chapter description and literary analysis of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." That description makes the book sound stuffy but it didn't feel that way reading it.

Like any good scholar, Devin Brown begins his work by addressing why the work is even needed.

"The strongest reason for any new work must be that it

(1) takes an approach not taken before.

Prof. Brown's focus is on providing a literary analysis of TLWW.

Since he is an English professor at Asbury College in Kentucky, my guess is that his personal motivation for writing this book was for use in one of his classes and that some of his classroom notes may have made their way into the original outline for "Inside Narnia". In my opinion, use of a developing non-fiction manuscript in a classroom is great--college students will be only too glad to point out inconsistencies and ask about passages they find bewildering.

Prof. Brown states that the other reason for a new work in non-fiction involves

(2) (covering) ground which has not been covered.

He explains, "I offer a wide selection of comments and opinions from other scholars, here for the first time collected in a single work." To that, I would add that the reader also benefits from Prof. Brown's own comments and opinions. I suspect that some material quoted directly from C. S. Lewis's writings may also be making its first appearance in a scholarly work.


However...


Not long after I started "Inside Narnia", I found myself skimming past the (exhaustive) citations without thinking about them. He might not like hearing this but Prof. Brown's clear prose allowed me to ignore all of his meticulous bibliographic work, and just enjoy.

His literary analysis is fascinating. I've read Lewis's entire "Chronicles of Narnia" so many times I've lost count but the author surprised me repeatedly with pointers to Lewis's literary techniques and new perspectives on plot and description I never noticed before. He also surprised me with the whole Maugrim = Fenris Ulf discussion! Maugrim? Who's that? I have an old copy of TLWW and have never bought another so the wolf villain has always been Fenris Ulf to me.

Brown reveals the structure of individual scenes in such evocative detail that you'll likely close his book either feeling like you just finished rereading Lewis's TLWW or else with the overwhelming desire to do so. When I reached the end of Prof. Brown's study, I wanted to reread "Prince Caspian" but then I'm weird.

(If you haven't read TLWW yet, well first, you should! Second, buy this book at the same time as TLWW but read it afterwards. It'll make a lot more sense.)


CSL's Use of Language (literary technique)

Prof. Brown discusses and analyzes C S Lewis's use of a variety of literary techniques and language in TLWW, as each example appears in the chapters. I was fascinated by his analysis of Lewis's techniques because, frankly, I have been enjoying their "effects" on me as a reader without being aware of how Lewis created them.

Here's a small sample of literary techniques discussed:

gradualness of description built from many concrete details; suggesting rather than explaining to create a sense of mystery; the "interlace" of plot threads; the use of weather as a form of provenance & as a way to set up future plot events; the dream motif; building tension via description; description via senses other than sight; ending chapters one step into the action of the following chapter.

He also analyzes Lewis's characterization of Aslan vs. that of the witch, and his characterization of each of the Pevensie children.

Throughout, he takes care to discuss Lewis's missteps as well as his successes. (example: Where did Tumnus go?)


CSL's Literary, Cultural & Personal Experience

As a indefatigable Lewis scholar and true Lewis fan, Prof. Brown knows about as much about Lewis's life and literary and cultural influences as anyone can hope to, decades after the author's death.

He takes pains to describe the rich combination of traditions Lewis used to people Narnia, and provides citations bringing to life Tolkien's strong objections to what he was doing. Some of those Inklings meetings must have been really lively! In my opinion, and with all due respect to Tolkien and his fabulous work, combinations like Brown's example of dwarves & fauns aren't jarring today although I can see where it would have been to scholars of mythology like Tolkien. For better or worse... Scratch that. For worse, mythological beings now seep into modern culture in distorted forms or not at all.

Even a literary analysis of TLWW has to take into account Lewis's faith to be complete. "Inside Narnia" Ch. 14, 15 & part of 16 are more Christology than literary analysis because Lewis's plot focuses on Aslan's death and return to life.

In other chapters, Prof. Brown highlights passages that hint at Lewis's "longing" from childhood (see "Surprised by Joy") and the manner in which Lewis portrays the Numinous. Brown spends some time recounting via citations how Lewis agreed with Chesterton about seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, and how he used this in TLWW. (After reading his YA "Not Exactly Normal" if Brown -hadn't- mentioned this, I would have been very confused.)

I'm anticipating the second in the series which will be a literary analysis of Lewis's "Prince Caspian". I can't say that I agree with everything that Prof. Brown has written here--I dislike the first person narrator--but I have confidence in Brown's scholarship and I'm sure it's clear by now that I really enjoyed this book.

Sherry Thompson


Not Exactly Normal

by Devin Brown

Edition: Paperback

Price: $7.20

69 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars This is a "shimmery" book., December 27, 2006

This review is from: Not Exactly Normal (Paperback)

I had the curious experience of meeting Devin Brown before I knew much about "Not Exactly Normal". He was one of the authors at a festival showcasing largely YA books. While I knew practically nothing about the others, I knew that Mr. Brown had previously written a book on Narnia so, when I arrived, I went to the B & N tent and purchased "Not Exactly Normal" (plus two other books). I loved the title at once. It reminded me of a friend-therapist who says that no one is "normal" as we think of the word. We're - everyone - just a little bit a-kilter from that abstract center-point of humanity. (That's a very reassuring observation if you consider yourself to be "unconventional".)

According to the blurb on the back cover, the protagonist (Todd Farrel) sounded like an interesting kid. For a start, his best friend is named Nitro & his dog Cathode. He likes swimming and soccer amongst other things but he's also interested in having a mystical experience. The blurb even mentioned "seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary". Mystical experiences? Yowsa! The book sounded like a far cry from the usual one-note "school story" books.

Well, I managed to miss Mr. Brown's talk at the festival but I was curious about him so decided to wait out the autograph line in order to exchange a few words. When it was my turn, I mumbled something about my own experience with the mystical or "numinous" (as Lewis or Tolkien would have termed it). My words elicited a keen look of ... understanding or ... recognition. I realized that Devin Brown had written from personal experience. (Yowsa #2)

I've read the book with slightly different expectations than the other reviewers maybe, For one thing I was looking for any bit of authenticity in the protagonist's search for the mystical. Yes, I found lots of evidence pointing to experiences with the mystical by the author. At the same time, Todd Farrel and his friends, Nitro and Leda, came across as absolutely realistic. Some scenes were thought-provoking but many evoked nostalgia and some were outrageously funny.

I found Todd's family perhaps a touch too close to the extraordinary family in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series and Mr. Phillip's sixth grade class perhaps a trifle close to the class in The Dead Poets' Society. But please don't misunderstand what I'm saying here! I'm not talking about "literary clones" but about an author breathing life into an extraordinary class and family and making them as real as, well, as "normal" ones - whatever they are.

Every word of what I just wrote is backwards, the more I look at it. Really what the author has achieved is showing us the extraordinary in an ordinary classroom teacher and in ordinary family members. He does this throughout the book with various settings and experiences - subtly highlighting brief outdoor scenes, moments of perfect teamwork between soccer players, and encounters between Todd and Leda all of which embody something "other" - something beyond the norm. As Todd says in one case, it was a "shimmery" moment.

This is a "shimmery" book. Maybe I was just lucky, but I found a lot of goofy ordinary school scenes and a lot of shimmery moments long before "the pivotal emergency" near the end of the story.

I hope that you will do so as well. Just keep looking for the extraordinary.

Sherry Thompson

(Oh, take a close look at the moon on the cover. It's not exactly normal. ;)

--

Reality's Ascent

by R L Copple

Edition: Paperback

Price: $11.98

28 used & new from $11.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars And the trilogy gets deeper & more satisfying..., April 12, 2011

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This review is from: Reality's Ascent (Paperback)

And the trilogy gets deeper & more satisfying...

A couple of years ago, R L Copple wrote a series of short stories, all taking place in his fantasy "Reality" universe. Volume one, titled "Reality's Dawn" was almost more of a novel than a short story anthology, since all of the stories had overlapping characters--in particular the main character, Sisko--and the stories were chronological and interconnected.

Mr. Copple has followed the anthology with a second book in a projected trilogy, "Reality's Ascent", which is the subject of this review. You can read this book without having read the first volume, but I think you'll enjoy it more if you read the books in chronological order.

This second volume is a fantasy/spiritual adventure novel, with a strong emphasis on characterization. It is suitable for older young adults and for adults. While there is typical fantasy violence, it's not gruesome, and the language is clean. One brief memory of a non-explicit sexual situation toward the end of the book might be a good chance for an adult-child discussion.

"Ascent" has echoes of the first volume, "Dawn" - Sisko, his wife Gabrielle and several other characters reappear, though now they are twenty years older. A few of the locations are the same. There's a hint of self-contained stories--often punctuated with the fulfillment of a part of the family's quest--within this intricate tale, but probably only if you're looking for that anthology-like pattern like I was.

Sisko is the point of view character in the first third of this novel--just as he was throughout the first volume. Then his daughter, Kaylee, takes over. Mr. Copple provides adequate warning by beginning a new section of the book, and titling it "Kaylee". In spite of the section title, I found this switch disconcerting briefly but I got used to it. In any case, Mr. Copple chose wisely when he made switched POV characters.

In addition to the wonderful characters we followed in "Dawn"--like Josh, Seth and Joel-- we now have the pleasure of meeting Sisko's children. Kaylee and Nathan are about sixteen years old, talented sword-fighters, and devoted to each other. Neither is quite mature yet. Nathan has trouble controlling his anger, he's impulsive, and sometimes he is not perceptive about people. On the other hand, Kaylee still needs to learn that she can't always be in control in every relationship, that she needs to trust people. Meanwhile, Sisko himself is ultimately faced with a critical decision.

The intriguing and mysterious character named Joel returns from "Dawn", much to my delight. He appears off-and-on in virtually the whole second half of the book. Even though he spends a lot of time "on stage", I wanted to see even more of him! (I'm still trying to nail down who/what he is. I have a theory. ;-P )

Near the beginning of the story, Gabrielle, Sisko's wife, is imprisoned in a piece of crystal by a sorcerous demon named Beltrid. This horrible act kicks off the mission taken on by the rest of the family. Gabrielle can only be freed if the family finds seven tiny crystalline keys to open her imprisoning crystal. Each key represents a virtue, though not quite the classic ones. For instance Hospitality and Contentment are two of the virtues here.

Beltrid inflicts this task on the family not only to torment them but because he wants the ring that Sisko has been wearing for the last twenty-plus years. The ring is magical and has healing properties amongst other powers. However, it can only be used if the wielder is doing the will of God. (Beltrid doesn't seem to "get" this.)

Sisko used the ring as he felt led when he was a young man, thereby helping numerous people. Toward the end of the previous book, feverish and near-death, he used the ring improperly to help himself. As a result, he has been unable to use it ever since. Beltrid is convinced that he can make Sisko use the ring for evil purposes or that he can gain possession of it and use it himself to murder people and for other nefarious acts. As if the quest for the crystal keys wasn't difficult and dangerous enough, Beltrid keeps popping up or sending murderous creatures to hunt down the family members.

Well, enough of the plot. I'll tell you the whole story if I'm not careful!

I particularly enjoyed the strange and often wondrous settings for some of their adventures--mazes within mazes, islands floating in the clouds, troll bridges, a return to Sisko's home town of Reol, etc.

Individual story arcs often lead to satisfying resolutions of their own or spotlight self-revelation in one of the characters. The need for trust---in other people and in God---is a thread that weaves through the last half of the novel and really gripped me. While this book is anything but preachy, events in it and the reactions of characters involved inspired me to contemplate a few things and I'm grateful for that.

P.S. Given that the first and second books in the trilogy have been in print previously and are now being revised and republished with new titles, I thought it might help to clarify which new edition title corresponds to which old title. Naturally you will want to buy the new editions rather than the old ones.

Reality's Dawn --was originally Infinite Realities

Reality's Ascent --was originally Transforming Realities

Reality's Glory --due out late 2011, for the first time.


Ethereal Worlds (An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories)

Ethereal Worlds (An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories)

Price: $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

4.0 out of 5 stars A Really Nice Mix of SF & Fantasy, Humor & Adventure, March 4, 2011

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This review is from: Ethereal Worlds (An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories) (Kindle Edition)

This anthology is divided into SF and Fantasy stories. Various lengths and styles or themes (humorous, serious, exciting & plain off-the-wall absurdist) are represented here. No matter what your taste or current mood you will probably find something here to grab your interest.


I happen to be more of a fan of Fantasy but, as it turned out, I really enjoyed more of the SF. Go figure. Some stories deserve 5 stars; however, I reluctantly give the collection 4 stars since not all the stories are up to that standard:


SF Stories:

Spaced Out -- Ah, Starry & Tramal are at it again, as they work under the auspices of POoP (don't ask). At least , I hope they will be at it again. /// Monkey Madness, The Captain's Chair, Cold Truth, & Space Talk -- four short funny pieces with hidden zingers, that may qualify as flash fiction (Or not? probably a tad too long). //// For fans of "Moth Man"(where the heck is the theme music!?!), there's Ship to Ship Rumors. (You remember Rumors--he's a cousin of the Joker, I think.) /// I really -loved- Father Jonah & the Renegade, which reminded me a bit of an alternative universe Star Wars (Ep.4). I hope Mr. Copple returns to this world and these characters, and maybe even develops a novel based on them. /// Justice in the Balance, like Father Jonah, left me wanting more from the characters and the situation. I'd welcome additional stories or even a novel based on the premise. /// I liked Weapons of War, too. Just love it when people mess around with time and space--as long as it's not my time and space.


Fantasy Stories:

Dragon Stew is an intricate and fascinating story, though I got a bit lost occasionally trying to keep the characters straight. No, Mr. Copple, I didn't try your challenge at the end of the tale, though I may give it a shot in the future. Clever idea, though! /// Facing the Cave is an exciting bit of allegory--which is something since much allegory lacks excitement. /// Marvelous Man is great fun, and should appeal to anyone who--when they were young--fantasized that they were someone else or some place else. (Yup. That includes me.) Loved "Henry", an unsung hero. /// Carpool answers the question, How could rush hour be any worse? Well, the answer's in the movie, man! Come on! /// The Peasant's Rule was one of my favorites. It's a kind of strange take on a certain fairy tale, but for a slightly older audience. I like playing over in my thoughts how this one works out. Very satisfying. /// I liked Baby Truth--which is weird since I would really hate the reality. Shiver! /// Can I be the baker in Shake, Rattle and Roll? I'd like to think I could turn out a Peasant's Rule type ending. On the other hand, probably not. Too much pressure. /// I know I've read Clever Love before. I assume Mr. Copple sent me a copy once. Anyway, fun reading it again. The ending is particularly satisfying as should be the case with all good fairy tales.

Nice reads! Please consider trying them--you're bound to find something you like, assuming of course that you like spec fic. (See also his "Reality's Dawn"!)

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Reality's Dawn (The Reality Chronicles Book 1)

Reality's Dawn (The Reality Chronicles Book 1)

Price: $5.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars A Plethora of Courses in This Feast of a Novel, March 4, 2011

This review is from: Reality's Dawn (The Reality Chronicles Book 1) (Kindle Edition)

Reality's Dawn - a review

(Beware: m/i/n/o/r/ major spoilers may be present.)

Reality's Dawn is a fantasy novel constructed of a series of linked stories and introduced with a framing story the events of which occur perhaps ten years later than the rest of the book. The linked novel is suitable for adults and most mature young adults. I put in the caveat, because violence occurs in many of the stories; however, the violence is necessary to the plot since the main character is a kind of healer. There is no foul language and only the most minimal sexual situations.

The author of the novel is a Christian. Many discussions amongst characters and circumstances in the stories involve faith, repentance, charity, service to God and to His creatures, and other Christian truths. A discerning reader can draw spiritual nourishment from virtually every story. On the other hand, it's possible that young readers may not always be cognizant of the spiritual nature of the struggles through which the characters are working, and will read the stories for the sake of the often exciting adventures.

Leaving aside the framing story, we follow a young man named Sisko from the time he is 15 and experiences a strange and life-altering events in the village steam house until he is about 20 years old.

While in this mystical steam house, Sisko observes how its mysterious forces affect a number of people--in some cases seeming to provide "poetic justice" style fates for those who have spiritual failings while more occasionally magically helping those who are decent people but who need help of some sort. Sisko stays longer in the building than most of the others, so he not only observes a lot but he also is moved to try warning some of the steam bathers of their danger. Evidently, his urge to help those around him is partially instrumental in the gift that the steam house gives him--a ring which permits him to heal others--as long as the healing is the will of God.

Sisko comes to realize that he is now "married to God" in some mystical way and that he now has a mission to perform, or a calling if you will. This gift/sacred responsibility ultimately nudges him out of the comfort zone of his family, away from his best friend, and out of his village after evil people attempt to put pressure on him by terrorizing his family.

Naïve and open-hearted at the beginning of the book, Sisko matures via the various exciting adventures and often painful trials he experiences. But the author doesn't take an easy and straight path, showing Sisko growing at the same pace over the years. The young man faces challenges that set him on his heels at times. Without giving away too much, I hope, we watch as Sisko begins to take his gift for granted and watch as he is warned, does a course correction or two, and yet still stumbles with remembering who he is and what his part is in God's great scheme of life.

My only objection to his part in the whole tale was toward the end when, according to the author's interpretation, Sisko messes up while out in the desert. That's all I'll say about it. Who knows? If I went into detail about this, I'd not only ruin an integral part of the story but probably find I'm in a wee small minority amongst readers in my interpretation of what happens. ... So moving on. (Is that mysterious enough for you?)

Sisko also finds love in a fairly unexpected place. While I like the character with whom he falls in love, I do have reservations about how even minimal physical contact between the two is handled. No, it's not even PG-rated, so please don't misinterpret this! The best way I can describe the results of the two principals touching is as a kind of electric charge with a strong case a mind-melding between them. Whoa! Really? Now this is probably mostly a fault in me that I didn't care for it. On the other hand, maybe Mr. Copple is just far and away more of a romantic than I am. If so, good for him!

As I said a series of stories as chapters are taken together to form the novel. Although Reality's Dawn isn't an anthology per se--the stories are chronologically arranged and heavily linked with each other--it does bare many resemblances to an anthology. Because of this, I had the strong temptation to try rating the stories the way I might in a true anthology. I almost succumbed to this, until I realized that I was ranking every story between Very Good and Excellent. Not overly helpful, huh? Besides, even if there were a terrible story or two in the book--which there isn't--you would still need to read them all in order to follow Sisko's experiences and the way he is changed by them.

Instead, let's discuss favorite characters. Josh is Sisko's friend whom he's known since long before the steam house incident. He's an aspiring wizard, who occasionally goofs up his magic, and this creates some of the early humor and exciting adventures for the two. I particularly like the tale which begins with the pair of them trying to dodge the pain at the dentist, only to fall into the clutches of... Well you'll find out. When Sisko realizes that he needs to leave his home village, it's Josh who creates a kind of telepathic link between them. It's a very clever idea, and my only problem with it is that it's under-utilized, especially early in Sisko's adventures when it might have been the springboard for additional humor. Still, no biggie. More importantly, Mr. Copple dodged the bullet of the deus ex machina that lurked because of this magical connection between friends.

In large part, the character of Seth stands in for Josh later in the story--after a particularly rocky beginning to their relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Seth grow and change as he comes to understand why Sisko does what he does, and ultimately Who it is that he works for. Seth is truly a stand-up guy, and it did my heart good to watch him buy a clue.

St Valentine makes an appearance, which was just ducky since I read this book within days of St Valentine's Day. He's not "on stage" for long and while he's a great character, I'm afraid he's upstaged by his surroundings. How could he not be, when he's hanging out on the edge of Paradise? The location and the character together--along with what Sisko is going through at the time--makes for a very cool series of scenes, some of my favorites in the book.

I didn't much care for Fensoow, a wizard lurking deep in the Forever Forest. However, I think that's just me. Something about the combination of Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, Yoda from Star Wars (Ep. 5), the sensei in the original Karate Kid, and a philosophy professor I used to know just didn't work for me. Probably the philosophy professor is at fault. I'm as sure as Dunkin' makes Donuts that other people will just love Fansoow.

On the other hand, I really liked the genie-like Josh, with his heavenly tea and his well-deserved irascibility and the way he drags Sisko into a contest that wasn't such a great idea for either one of them. He is one of the most-rounded characters in the book even though he appears in only one story. I wish we could have seen much more of him.

And, while I'm wishing, I wish there could have been more stories!

(Oh, for more stories, see Mr. Copple's "Ethereal Worlds"!


Ethereal Worlds: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories

by R L Copple

Edition: Paperback

Price: $8.99

12 used & new from $8.36

4.0 out of 5 stars A Really Nice Mix of SF & Fantasy, Humor & Adventure, February 21, 2011

Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: Ethereal Worlds: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (Paperback)

This anthology is divided into SF and Fantasy stories. Various lengths and styles or themes (humorous, serious, exciting & plain off-the-wall absurdist) are represented here. No matter what your taste or current mood you will probably find something here to grab your interest.

I happen to be more of a fan of Fantasy but, as it turned out, I really enjoyed more of the SF. Go figure. Some stories deserve 5 stars; however, I reluctantly give the collection 4 stars since not all the stories are up to that standard:

SF Stories:

Spaced Out -- Ah, Starry & Tramal are at it again, as they work under the auspices of POoP (don't ask). At least , I hope they will be at it again. /// Monkey Madness, The Captain's Chair, Cold Truth, & Space Talk -- four short funny pieces with hidden zingers, that may qualify as flash fiction (Or not? probably a tad too long). //// For fans of "Moth Man"(where the heck is the theme music!?!), there's Ship to Ship Rumors. (You remember Rumors--he's a cousin of the Joker, I think.) /// I really -loved- Father Jonah & the Renegade, which reminded me a bit of an alternative universe Star Wars (Ep.4). I hope Mr. Copple returns to this world and these characters, and maybe even develops a novel based on them. /// Justice in the Balance, like Father Jonah, left me wanting more from the characters and the situation. I'd welcome additional stories or even a novel based on the premise. /// I liked Weapons of War, too. Just love it when people mess around with time and space--as long as it's not my time and space.

Fantasy Stories:

Dragon Stew is an intricate and fascinating story, though I got a bit lost occasionally trying to keep the characters straight. No, Mr. Copple, I didn't try your challenge at the end of the tale, though I may give it a shot in the future. Clever idea, though! /// Facing the Cave is an exciting bit of allegory--which is something since much allegory lacks excitement. /// Marvelous Man is great fun, and should appeal to anyone who--when they were young--fantasized that they were someone else or some place else. (Yup. That includes me.) Loved "Henry", an unsung hero. /// Carpool answers the question, How could rush hour be any worse? Well, the answer's in the movie, man! Come on! /// The Peasant's Rule was one of my favorites. It's a kind of strange take on a certain fairy tale, but for a slightly older audience. I like playing over in my thoughts how this one works out. Very satisfying. /// I liked Baby Truth--which is weird since I would really hate the reality. Shiver! /// Can I be the baker in Shake, Rattle and Roll? I'd like to think I could turn out a Peasant's Rule type ending. On the other hand, probably not. Too much pressure. ///

I know I've read Clever Love before. I assume Mr. Copple sent me a copy once. Anyway, fun reading it again. The ending is particularly satisfying as should be the case with all good fairy tales.

Nice reads! Please consider trying them--you're bound to find something you like, assuming of course that you like speculative fiction.



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