"A plate of apples, an open fire, and a 'jolly goode booke' are a fair substitute for heaven", vowed Barney. -L.M. Montgomery, 'The Blue Castle'
Friday, June 26, 2009
Summer of Patrick O'Brian: Post Captain the Condensed Version
JA: Oh no! Treaty of Amiens! No ship! I have no money and I am not any good on land!
JA: Stephen! Stephen! Are you going to desert me now that the war is over and go to Spain?
JA: I know! Let's round up Barrett Bonden and Pullings and Mowatt and Killick and all the people we like and rent Melbury Lodge in the South Downs. We can hoist up rigging, raise halliards and live like we did on the Sophie....'cept on land!!!!! Wanna come? PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE! I have some new Corelli and Boccherini sheet music in my bag!
Stephen and Jack find the South Downs just as a fox hunt is taking place. What?! Is that a woman in a blue riding habit galloping after that fox? Woman in a man's sport! Wowza!
*Enter Diana Villiers to ruin the next 18 and a half books by treating Stephen like a heel*
*enter Mrs. Williams Sophia, Cecilia and Frances*
Mrs Williams: We are the Jane Austen portion of the book! I am a silly, frivolous woman trying to marry my girls off to the handsome bachelors ( well....Stephen isn't THAT handsome ) at Melbry lodge. Oh! And I have to put up with my widowed niece Diana. She has no money.*
JA:*thinks* hmmm. I like Sophia. She has a great complexion. But Diana is fascinating.
SM: * thinks* I am madly in love with Diana and may fall over due to infatuation at any moment but I am going to supress my feelings by taking her numerous blows and calling her by her last name. In turn, she will call me by my last name.
DV: *thinks* Hmmm! Stephen Maturin is like a kind little basset hound that I can toy with and tease who will look up at my mopily. I think I will keep him. But, I also want to keep Jack because he is 6'4 and brawny and that will teach my cousin Sophia and my stupid aunt.
----Lots of balls and hunting and polo and landsports.
---Maturin writes in his diary about Diana
---Jack and Diana have nightly trysts
---hark! Diana plays the piano well!
---look! Sophia has the greatest complexion ever!
---Stephen is jealous but has nothing to say. Nurses morphine addiction
---Diana calls Stephen ugly and he still follows her around like a mangy dog
---Jack is in debt (shock) and mean people come to Melbury to round him up for debtor's prison
---Stephen sneaks him out the back door
JA: where are we going?
SM: I happen to have a castle in spain. It has sheep and lemon groves
JA: La! My dear! you are an old file!
---Stephen and Jack cross France just as war is declared and English are rounded up
JA: I am a 6"4 blonde captain with a missing ear. They will recognize me right away!!!
SM: Where is a bear costume when you need one?
----Stephen sneaks Jack into Spain disguised as bear
----They end up near Diana Villiers again
Canning: Hi! I have a privateer you might want. A Letter of Marque. You can pirate things and make money.
JA: hmmm. Nope. I think I should wiat til the admiralty gives me a commission. I wanna be a post-captain!!
Admiral Harte: I am still mad at you because you had an affair with my wife. Take this soggy little sloop called Polychrest. But be warned. It might sink. Also, I cannot promise you any good officers. You might have to find them off the street.
JA: I have a ship!
SM: *secretly* I don't know if I can come this time. I have *wink* stuff to...erm....stuff to do
(Stephen is now an intelligence agent)
JA: I cannot live without you!
SM: Fine. I'll meet you at the end of the week after I finish *wink* doing *wink* stuff.... *nudge*
---Lt. Parker makes everyone mad ( including Stephen)
---Jack spends way too much time on shore with Diana and Stephen can smell her perfume on his uniform when he gets back to the ship
---Stephen starts to hate Jack
----Polychrest sucks and there is no prize money.
SM: Jack, you suck! You shouldn't keep going on shore to *cough* visit Diana because you will get arrested for debt. After I snuck you 'cross the border in a bear costume and fed you lemon juice. THIS is how you repay me? Just take Sophia and be done with it
JA: *humph* mebbe we aren't friends anymore
SM: Fine! I challenge you to a duel!
JA: NOT ANOTHER ONE!
SM: hmmm ....yep!
---Stephen goes to find duelling pistols
----Jack finds out that Diana is sleeping w. Canning
---Jack goes to the pub and gets drunk:
JA: I cannot fight Stephen. This is stupid. I'm gonna end up just standing there and letting him shoot a bullet in me. And, I think I love Sophie. But, her mum won't let me marry her because she has a dowry and I am in debt. DRAT!!!
SM: hmm. I thought everyone liked me on this ship. Apparently they only liked me because Jack likes me. Damn. I have no friends.... ow!
*Polychresters "accidentally" bump into Stephen
---Stephen overhears talk of mutiny
SM: Erm... Jack. I still don't like you and you smell and I am not your friend but they are planning a mutiny. Oh! and this ship will probably sink.
JA: MUTINY! OH NO!
----To avoid planned mutiny, Jack steers the Polychrest into battle and discovers the mutiny is as a result of the men hating Parker and not him.
----FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT
SM: Oh no! Jack, you're wounded
JA: Aren't you supposed to be mad at me?
SM: Nah! I can't stay mad at you.
JA: I think I'll stick with Sophie. You can have Diana!
----Jack is made Post-Captain
----Jack and Stephen sail away
---Diana continues affair with Canning and continues to ruin Stephen's life
Summer of Patrick O'Brian: love letter to Post- Captain
I know you are just a book ( if anything can ever be just a book ) but I absolutely, ardently, passionately love you.
You are a brilliant novel.
You are enough Jane Austen to make me want to slip into a drawing room and sit like a lady whilst discussing how many couples were at the last ball and people's health and the weather and whist and so forth while listening to the pianoforte.
You are enough CS Forester to make me want to jump aboard and spirit away to the Antipodes atop a 36 gun frigate with the wind in my mainsail and an old ditty about spain and rations in my heart.
You are just a remarkably well-plotted; well-structured work of genius.
I hang on every word of your sparkling dialogue
I laugh at your subtle wit
I forgive the more implausible moments of your outline ( Jack Aubrey disguised as a bear as Stephen sneaks him across France to their destination: Stephen's castle complete with sheep and lemon groves---ha!) and I get infuriated at you ----- and the havoc you wreak on my susceptible emotions. How CAN Diana Villiers be so fascinating and simultaneously so poisonous?
For your dichotomy; your smart turns-of-phrase; your unbelievable narrative and the best editing known to man, I salute you.
For your representation of strong, determined and smart women in a man's world of seamanship and war, I will raise thirteen guns to larboard.
I absolutely adore you.
I know it is a little unorthodox to write a love letter to a book, but I cannot help myself.
Summer of Patrick O'Brian: Master and Commander the Condensed Version
I am re-reading the entire Aubrey/ Maturin canon..... no easy feat. My first read-through took well over a year and was not chronological ( I started reading them during a summer studying in England and would pick them up at used bookstores everywhere just before I boarded trains with my Britrail pass).
Now, I started back at one. Instead of "reviewing" each in the series, I start my homage to some of my favourite literary works of all time ....with the ever popular format of abridgement!
Master and Commander: the condensed version
Port Mahon 1800
Enter Jack Aubrey:
Hi! I'm Jack Aubrey I am at least 15 stone and I love concerts. I am a lieutenant in the navy. I am having an affair with Molly Harte. This does not make Admiral Harte happy. He might wreck my career some day but zounds! Molly plays the harp well---among other things
Some of my ship mates call me goldilocks because my hair is blonde. Later I will be called Lucky Jack Aubrey. But, I am not so lucky now. I owe tons of money. I need a ship. Drat!
I still, however, have time to go to a concert ashore:
I really like music ( especially Corelli) but this Locatelli chamber concert is awesome. They are playing the C major quartet. Music is going to pervade this long, long book series.
I am going to beat my knee cap with my fist in time with the music
Oh look! There is a little, sparse-looking fellow with pale eyes. I think he is angry that I am making noise and humming along at the concert.
Jack Aubrey: hum-hum-hummmm!
Little sparse-looking fellow with pale eyes: Shuddup!
More music “pom pom pom”
Jack Aubrey: I can keep time with the cello part. I am making a lot of noise.
*Chair scuffle. Concert over*
Sparse-looking fellow with pale eyes *angrily*: you ruined the concert you oaf. You made so much noise!
Jack Aubrey: I am thinking I would like to beat you over the head with my chair. But I will not say this aloud. Instead, I will glare at you, you ill-looking cove!
Sparse-looking fellow with pale eyes *angrily*: You cannot beat time! You suck!
Jack Aubrey: Who are you to tell me I can'tbeat time? I challenge thee to a duel! Let’s deke it out!
Sparse-looking fellow with pale eyes.:Name the time and the place. My name is Stephen Maturin and I am staying at Joselito’s coffee house!
Jack Aubrey: You are a sparse looking fellow with pale eyes
--Jack visits Molly Harte( Jack should not do this it is bad for his naval career)
---Jack is given command of the "Sophie" and is set to sail
---Jack is happy.
---Jack runs into Maturin downtown the morning after the concert-- He is no longer angry because he has a ship
JA: Sorry I was so loud and obnoxious at the concert. I have a ship
JA: wanna go on a man date?
SM: I have not eaten since the peace. Be there
SM: Let me buy you some hot chocolate
*drink hot chocolate*
---Jack does important naval things for the next 30 pages and it looks like one of his new shipmates did something inappropriate with a goat.
---Jack and Stephen Maturin go on another man date. Here, they eat boar and sheep and drink lots of wine:
JA: I have a ship!
JA: and look! I have a shiny gold epaulette!
JA: wanna go on another man date?
SM: yah! *distractedly looks out window*
JA: are you paying attention?
SM: there's a bird! I am a naturalist. I like birds. I also speak eighteen different languages, play the cello and am strangely introverted.
JA: I play the violin
SM: let's talk music
play and talk.....play and talk.....
JA: what do you do?
SM: I am a physician. But my rich patient died and I have no money
JA: wanna sail across the world with me? You can see lots of bugs and we can play music!
---Stephen Maturin sleeping under a tree and eating leftover lamb he snuck in his pocket after his dinner the night before: “ I came all the way out here for this patient and he died on me and now I am an overqualified physician ( none of that common surgeon nonsense) and oh look! There’s a bug! I like bugs. I am a naturalist. Now I have nothing to do.
I must go to sea!
JA: I have good people here! I like Barrett Bonden and James Pullings and I like that guy who everyone thinks is gay… but… wait. I am not sure if I like this red-headed guy who is my lieutenant Oh! maybe I do!
Red Headed Guy: My name is James Dillon. I am a lieutenant. I am also Irish. I am also Catholic. But, shhh! You cannot tell ppl in the British navy you are catholic so I will be pouty and secretive.
Stephen Maturin * recognizes James Dillon from his rebel stint as a United Irishman*: I know your secret!
James Dillon: You are a sparse-looking fellow with pale eyes. Go hang out by the water pump.
*Stephen hangs out by the water pump*
---James Dillon sulks for the next three hundred pages
---Stephen Maturin writes in his diary for the next three hundred pages when he is not tripping over things or falling into the sea because he is a landlubber where Jack is a sea-lion ( note dichotomy). He writes about birds and insects and how Jack and James do not get along.
--Jack Aubrey has lots of great victories and lots of wine and gains eight pounds eating soused hog’s face and disguises the Sophie as a whaler to trick the much larger Spanish xebec-frigate the "Cacafuego"
---More music playing
----More nautical terminology
---Stephen becomes introverted and pouts. Jack loses part of his ear.
---Battles and Nautical jargon
---Stephen sees a tree frog
----Jack visits Mrs. Harte again
-----Stephen dissects a dolphin.
-----Jack is put to court martial because he let some prisoners off on an island
----Jack is acquitted but has no commission.
----lots of drinking
---Jack and Stephen sit under the stars and basically declare their undying love for each other ( in a platonic way) and plan to sail again.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
anxiously awaiting: June Bug by Chris Fabry
My favourite novel is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Some people state that they cannot pick a favourite novel. As a bibliophile, I understand the difficulty in choosing from so many wonderful worlds; stories; authors.
Suffice it to say, no other novel has had such a great impact on my life; nor moved me so profoundly emotionally and spiritually.
When I am up to the arduous task, perhaps I will relay its spiritual and theological relevance here as the quintessential work of Christian fiction.
Indeed, with so many testaments to life changing, it far surpasses so many of its ilk.
I am, thus, more than intrigued that Tyndale's Chris Fabry will be modernizing this work for general readership.
Above all, a tale of redemption, forgiveness and grace, I see how Fabry finds this subject suitable for a Christian readership.
I anxiously ( and somewhat skeptically--- as one is wont to do when a favourite piece of literature is re-set in a contemporary vein---) await Fabry's novel.
Please read more about it here and check out Chris Fabry's blog here
(much thanks to Otahyoni for keeping me in the loop
Monday, June 22, 2009
blog recommendation: Deanne Gist
I have a confession to make: I was not a fan of A Bride Most Begrudging: no matter how popular it became. I found it flimsy and implausible and ...well...another post may see my rant at some of its loopholes. I did, however, think Gist had some potential and I sought out The Measure of a Lady which I enjoyed. I remember sitting on vacation, reading it in one sitting, fairly happy at the ending and the strength of its moralistic woman. The lady-on-a-mission motif smacked of Christy ( against Dr. Neil MacNeil in Catherine Marshall's story ) or even Sarah Brown ( in Guys and Dolls).
Courting Trouble and Deep in the Heart of Trouble took some risks that made this thinking girl very happy. Even though Gist reined in when she could have taken a bold step, she was moving in the right direction: for this courage I applaud her.
I have a review copy of A Bride in the Bargain sitting near me and I mean to crack it open soon.
On a slightly unrelated note,I am balancing my Christian fiction dosage with a re-reading of the Aubrey-Maturin canon by Patrick O'Brian and am just starting HMS Surprise ( my favourite in the 20 volume series). Whilst I sail away with Jack and Stephen --- I leave you with Deanne Gist's blog.
Gist is a far superior writer to her most similar contemporary, Cathy Marie Hake, and I urge you to check out The Measure of A Lady at the very least.
To find out more about Deanne Gist and order some books see here.
To read Deanne's blog (which, to my delight, sported a recent entry with a lovely picture of Hugh Jackman when I clicked on it this evening) see here.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Father's Day Blog Tour: Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart by Chuck Black
Sir Dalton has an exciting life as a knight-in-training. As well as fostering the admiration of his fellow knights and the beautiful Lady Brynn, he has numerous adventures at the training camp.
But, something is amiss. The new camp trainer does not pledge his true service to the King and the Prince. When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission and captured by an evil lord, he starts to recognize valour in true knights comes from allegiance to a higher power---shirking the evil of the Shadow Warrior and finding light.
Sort of a Pilgrim's Progress meet Narnia, Chuck Black has created a welcome allegory that will thrill children. A map of the Kingdom of Arrethtrae; an introduction to past installments in the series; discussion questions ( and answers); and a song written for Shadow Heart can be found at the back of the text so children can engage with the story long after the last page is turned.
It won't be hard to decipher the allegorical tenets of the book from the King and the Prince to the Dark Knight Lucius and how they figure into the Gospel, but young readers and their parents can discuss the virtues and characteristics of a true knight and the wiles of the evil doers.
A black and white story, Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart can act as a parable on morality.
I think what makes this a perfect fit for Father's Day is its function as a read-aloud book. A chapter a night as a family will keep the kids pining for more and the parents involved in a wonderful fantasy to shape young minds.
Check out Sir Dalton for your library as well as these other Father's Day offerings from WaterBrook/Multnomah:
Monday, June 15, 2009
Hey Christian Fiction Readers: it is time to tell the truth
It is very fitting that Brandilyn Collins posted this "rant" ( that is self-proclaimed) on her blog this morning because it allowed me to mount my little soap-box and challenge something that has oft bothered me about the Christian reading public and which also led to the beginning of this here l'il book blog ( read more here). Without much further ado, I have re-posted my comment to Brandilyn's post.
note: somehow my link when I commented was faulty ---just so you don't think there is some other Rachel out there too intimidated to state her name. I own up! it was me!
"I find Christian writers take negative reviews far more personally than non-Christian writers. Perhaps because they're agenda or M.O. is for a higher purpose.
That being said, Collins is correct that scathing reviews without proper execution or reason come across as ignorant and mean. On a slightly related topic, I am always surprised at the lack of negative reviews----by authors of other authors and readers--- of Christian fiction.
I feel Christian readership holds back from being truthful because it IS Christian fiction and they do not want to come across as negative.
Books are a very subjective medium and they deserve close scrutiny. In fact, the best, most thought-provoking books will ellicit a balance of negative and positive reviews. I find that testament to the writer's skill.
I think to own up to Collins' stark truth (for which I applaud her )readers should, in turn, be truthful---in an informed and reasonable way.
I would love to read more blogs which critique books written by Christian authors. We OWE it to Chrisian authors to treat them in the same way that we treat secular fiction....after all, they would expect that and respect it as writers regardless of genre.
Thoughfully critical reviews are expected in the literary world and are not personal---personal attacks are quite a different thing.
Authors should have a fairly thick-skin as a result of their agenting out their work to numerous places and perhaps undergoing several rejections.
Whilst some publishing companies are known to edit fiction far less than others, some editors I know take a ruler to each sentence---they can withstand that too!
I appreciate this "rant" because I agree with Collins' statement that readers need to write informed reviews--- she has taken the time to put her craft on the table and it deserves careful and thoughtful appreciation and or critique.
My own rant is to encourage Christian readers to speak out: in their blogs, on amazon.
Not every Christian novel deserves a four or five star average on popular book websites. We don't do it for secular fiction and Christian fiction ( if, as it tries to be , an equal craft ) deserves the same."
Thanks to Brandilyn Collins for igniting some fantastic discussion! I think you should check her out and maybe read some of her books!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Mae Winslow, Kathleen Y'Barbo and the most fun I have had with a book in weeks!
I must confess, I am quite smitten with The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper. It is a rollicking good time with enough spice and witty flirtation to keep me not only engaged but wrinkling my nose in delight.
I am about mid-way through and, even though I can predict how the overall story will end, each page holds some surprise!
I especially love how talented Y'Barbo is at re-creating the vernacular of the dime novels her heroine, Gennie, is so fond of. Mae Winslow's wild west adventures are inserted in snippets which reflect the action that is going to take place. This ephemera is pitch-perfect!
I really love Y'Barbo's easy voice and her sass! Further, she has created one wonderfully flirty scene involving cowboy boots and repartee between a saucy heroine and a dashing british gent.
stetsons off to Y'Barbo --- I am love! love! loving this book!
check out The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper ---here!
check out Kathleen Y'Barbo here
and follow Kathleen on twitter!
Thursday, June 04, 2009
A Vote of Confidence by Robin Lee Hatcher
Gwen Arlington is more than just a pretty face. She is determined to make the best mayoral candidate Bethlehem Springs has ever seen.
And nothing---- not her growing attraction to rival Morgan McKinley or the underhanded plot of a sinister enemy---will keep her from living up to her god-given potential.
Female strength is embodied in a feminine way by Gwen and in a more visceral, tomboyish way by her sister, Cleo.
The two are perfectly matched for each other and provide some of the soul of the novel. The end of the novel allows us a glimpse into Cleo's plot: the focus of Hatcher's next release.
A Vote of Confidence reminded me a lot of Catching Katie, Hatcher's earlier novel about the suffragette movement and an equally determined young woman who must come to terms with the conflict burgeoning romance pits against her inner convictions.
Hatcher did well in both cases addressing the problematic situation which arises when a strong female is forced to submit to a male presence for self-preservation ( this comes literally in A Vote of Confidence in a thrilling rescue scene).
This was a nice bit of confection but I couldn't help but feel it was missing a bit of spark. Perhaps it is Hatcher's busy and prolific writing style but I felt she wrote somewhow disengaged from her characters: as if she were plaintively relaying her story rather than bursting with infectious enthusiasm to bring them to page.
Well worth a glance for summer historical reading.
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