Tag Archives: fiction


JRF’s #7 – A Fighting Man of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs


The 7th book in the John Carter of Mars series, this book follows the same pattern as most in the series. That fact bothered me for the first few chapters…until I realized that it is exactly the familiar, simple plot of adventure, romance, and sci-fi fantasy that keeps me coming back for more.

A Fighting Man of Mars only mentions John Carter on the periphery of the story and instead centers around Hadron of Hastor, a young knight in Helium’s army (I realize I have lost most of you already).  He falls in love…his love is kidnapped by an evil king…he goes to rescue her and all manner of intrigue, swashbuckling, romance, and sci-fi excitement ensue.

If you know and like the John Carter series, you will like this solid entry in the canon.


Ron’s #2: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens



Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities is easily in my top ten favorite books list, perhaps even in the top 5. I’ve read this each year for the past three years, and each time the story grows richer, the language more beautiful, and Sydney Carton more courageous.

The story is an excellent portrait of the Gospel in several ways, but I hesitate to comment too much as there are some of you who still have this in the pile of “someday reads.” My recommendation is to find a friend and read this together. It’s a challenging novel, but certainly manageable. You will be glad that you did.

If you are interested in my past review of this book, check out one from 2011 and one from 2012.


JRF’s #5 – Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian

Last year I read Master and Commander, the first in a 21 (!) book series by Patrick O’Brian. I loved it.

Post Captain continues the misadventures of captain Jack Aubrey and his surgeon friend, Stephen Maturin. Picking up right after Master and Commander, it is a brief rare season of peace between England, France, and Spain. As often happens with sailors with too much time on their hands, they quickly fall into debt and love. Jack is enraptured with the young heiress Sophia Williams, and Stephen falls for the unconventional widow Diana Villiers. The first half of the book almost reads like a Jane Austen novel told from the man’s (are there any real men in those books?) perspective.
Thankfully, war breaks out and the boys leave land behind to sink, plunder, and generally harass the French enemy.

As usual Patrick O’Brian’s distinctive writing style, while taking some getting used to, takes the breath away and draws the reader in. The action was bigger, the romance greater, and the development of the often contentious relationship between Aubrey and Maturin was delightful. I also enjoyed the insights on leadership, as Jack learns to maintain discipline and good morale amongst the crew of his ship.

I can’t wait to read the next one!

“It is unjust to provoke a man and then complain he is a satyr if the provocation succeeds.”

“How helpless a man is, against direct attack by a woman.”

“The sailor, at sea (his proper element), lives in the present. There is nothing he can do about the past at all; and having regard to the uncertainty of the omnipotent ocean and the weather, very little about the future.”

“Ever since I was breeched I have pined to see a narwhal.”


Mark’s #5 – Children of Men by P.D. James

Unknown-2Set in 2021, this dystopian tale is about what happens to the world when in 1995, infertility completely covers the globe, for an unknown reason.   This event spawns chaos and societal degradation.  Most of the world’s governments collapse, while England holds out with strict laws, immigration policies, punishments, suicide rituals for the elderly,  and demeaning intrusions into the private lives of its citizens such as force fertility exams and government sponsored pornography shops.

Against this a small band of resistors tries to rise up and restore dignity and hope.  The key to this hope comes in the form of a pregnant woman (the first one over 25 years).

On the plane ride from Tokyo to America I had the opportunity to watch the 2006 movie based on the novel.  In and of itself, the movie was ok, but is often the case, the plot changes only subtracted from the original storyline.  At times, reading the book I got chills as I was terrofied by a phrase or turn in the story.  Furthermore, the culmination of the book was far superior to the movie.

I love a good dystopian future (don’t ask me why). This book ranks up there with some of the best.


JRF’s #51 – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Referred to by some as “Harry Potter and the Holocaust”, this lengthy book came highly recommended from a variety of sectors, so when I found out my library had it, I picked it up.

Narrated by the personification of death, the book tells the story of Leisle, an orphan of communist parents who is taken in as a foster child by a poor German couple living outside of Munich right at the dawn of World War II.  As Liesle struggles to survive she makes many discoveries – friendship, the secret life of her loving foster father, and the wonder and power of books.  As her story progresses it inevitably intertwines with the larger narratives of what is happening around her – Kristallnacht, the Hitler Youth, the Holocaust, and the devastation of World War II.

Overall I enjoyed it.  The story is definitely compelling and the characters are rich.  I thought that telling the story of World War II from the perspective of a poor, orphaned, German girl was helpful in that it provided a portrait of World War II that is not often explored.

While the non-linear narrative told by Death was unique it sometimes got annoying and confusing.  My only other criticism would be that there was an excess of foul language, especially considering this book is from the Young Adult section.


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