Friday, September 17, 2010

Merry Lewis of the Weather

Undaunted CourageUndaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this to be an engaging, thoroughly researched and very good review of the Lewis & Clark expedition. It taught me a good deal more than I'd expected to learn, and did so without being dull or heavy-handed. N. D. Wilson is rumored to have said that teaching is loving something in the presence of others, and Ambrose does exactly that.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mo Chridh

I recently finished Pawn in Frankincense by Dunnett. I know of one other book that can have the same effect on me, and it was written by Tolkien. The chess game and its horrific ending. How does one subject his character to so great a suffering? And how does the character survive? And how does the author live with himself? I don't know that I could.

In my opinion, one of the most devastating climaxes of prose ever written. "Say goodnight to the dark."

Only Slightly Summoned

The SummonsThe Summons by John Grisham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Holly once complained that some of Wodehouse's books wouldn't exist except for people lying. Well here's another. And, to make matters worse, it's not Wodehouse.

Don't get me wrong: Grisham can construct a sentence, but he's better at constructing plots. However, in this one, his usual nail-biting suspense failed me greatly. About twenty minutes into it, I could have written the ending myself.

Still, it was enjoyable, and if you're even slightly less cynical than I am (do flowers wither as you walk past? When you step outside, do you darken the sun?), you'd probably greatly enjoy it.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Nature and Her Laws Lay Hid in Night...

God said 'Let Newton be,' and all was light." --My favorite little monster.

Isaac Newton (Christian Encounters Series)Isaac Newton by Mitch Stokes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book because my math teacher wrote it, not out of any inherent interest in Newton. That lasted about the first two chapters. From that point on, I was fascinated with the little guy: obsessive, neurotic, reclusive, a genius with a few slight misanthropic tendencies--he really is an astonishing character. Nothing at all like I'd pictured him, and I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in anything at all (though it is somewhat weak on dragons).

Stokes obviously knows what he's talking about, and he does a magnificent job of getting a well rounded review of Newton into so small of a book. Not only do we get the big picture, but we get an enormous amount of personality as well, which is fairly unusual.

My one complaint would have to be the somewhat inconsistent prose: Usually an author has a particular tone that he maintains. You can tell the difference between a paragraph written by Jorge Luis Borges and one written by Oscar Wilde; between Chesterton and Tolkien. Stokes' writing seemed to vary a good deal: none of it was at all bad, but there is a difference between a well researched author, and a well published researcher, and Stokes falls into the latter category. But if you approach his book with that in mind, you will not be disappointed.

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Wodehousian Fun