Author Rating: A

Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, or Anthony Hope as he was known to his readers, was born February 9, 1863, a young contemporary of Thomas Hardy. While Hardy is remembered and celebrated today, Hope is largely forgotten as a writer. I only discovered him by chance while looking through Andy Minter‘s Librivox catalog. I am delighted to have discovered Hope. His writing is quick and engaging.

His tenth novel, published in 1893, The Prisoner of Zenda put Hope firmly on his contemporaneous public’s map and then further popularized when it was made into a movie in 1913, again in 1922 and 1937. Even though he’s forgotten as a writer, his storytelling has influenced movies and TV shows well into the late 20th century. Hope published 32 novels by 1925 and died July 8, 1933.

The Prisoner of Zenda: being the history of three months in the life of an English gentleman (Listened 09/2016) Recommended

Rupert of Hentzau: being the sequel to a story by the same writer entitled the Prisoner of Zenda (Listened 11/2016) Recommended

I listened to both of these as audio recordings, read by the wonderful Andy Minter who brings the stories alive with his deft chracterizations.

The two novels are set in the imaginary central European country of Ruritania, where adventure and true love and heartbreak await.

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Author Rating: A+

The Ferryman Institute (Read 11/15/2016) Highly recommended

I absolutely love this book. It is perfect. (Well, there was one typo toward the end but hey).

It’s the story of Charlie Dawson who has labored for 250 years helping people cross over after their death, never failing at his task but heartbroken by the effort. It is well paced, hilarious at times, and utterly convincing in the universe revealed. I won’t give away any more than that because you want to discover it for yourself.

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to read this lovely book and look forward patiently to whatever Colin Gigl comes up with next.

Author Rating: D

Otherland: The Happiest Dead Boy In The World (read 7/24/12) Don’t Bother

This novelette published as one of five by various authors in the Legends II anthology is so bad that I was only able to manage one page before I gave it up as a completely bad job.

Author Rating: A+

The Man In My Basement (read 11/21/09) recommended

What a wonderful book! My only complaint is how well everything works out in the end. Most people like Charles Blakey do not have their lives work out so satisfactorily. I can testify to that. But read this book anyway for the questions it raises about good and evil, justice and morality.

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (read 12/10/09) recommended

Wow. Mosley is a terrific writer. This novel is a group of short stories, many of which were originally published in a variety of magazines and other publications, about a man by the name of Socrates Fortlow who is struggling to make sense of the world and his place in it. Mosley provides the reader insight into what it means to be black in America, but it’s more than that. Fortlow’s journey is that of everyman.

Black Betty (read 3/11/10) recommended

Wow, Walter Mosely does it again. This is a terrific mystery set in Los Angeles in 1961. Easy Rawlins is hired to find a woman who he had known when he was a young kid, but the people who want her found don’t want him asking questions.

As well as being a terrific mystery, this is also historical fiction, providing the reader with some insight into what life was like in the early 1960s.

RL’s Dream (read 4/20/10) recommended

A singular event in a person’s life can make them or break them. Atwood “Soupspoon” Wise has lived a long life, the highlight of which was learning to play the blues with the great Robert Leroy Johnson. He’s been evicted from his apartment because he’s sick and fell behind on his rent but can’t handle living in a shelter so he goes back to his old apartment. The landlord has him and his stuff unceremoniously dumped on the sidewalk on a cold evening, but a young woman Kiki who lives in the same building takes him in and jeopardizes her job at a health insurance company by falsifying records to get him insurance coverage so he can get treatment for what turns out to be cancer. Another delightful and thought-provoking novel from a talented writer.

Fear of the Dark (read 6/11/10) recommended

Another wonderful mystery novel by Mosely, this one featuring Fearless Jones and Paris Minton. Minton’s aunt Three Hearts arrives in LA from Louisiana because her son and Minton’s cousin Ulysses — “Useless” to many — is missing and she wants her nephew to find him. Useless has gotten himself deep into blackmail and someone is murdering many of those with whom he was working. Minton and Fearless have to not just find Useless but figure out who’s behind it all and stop them before Minton’s fear of being murdered himself is realized. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that I reached the last page too soon.

A Little Yellow Dog (read 1/15/11) recommended

This is one of Mosley’s Easy Rawlins mysteries, published in 1996. Although not as compelling as some of his other novels, it’s a good read.

The Long Fall (read 3/10/2013) recommended

Leonid McGill is a New York detective with a lot of problems but he doesn’t let that stop him from getting to the bottom of whatever problem presents itself.

Author Rating: A+

Photo by Robin Mathews

Photo by Robin Mathews

Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. His Discworld novels are especially hilarious and delightful.

This first group are Pratchett’s non-Discworld novels (although some people claim that some of the children’s novels I list here are Discworld):

A Hat Full of Sky (read 7/07) Recommended

Not a Discworld novel. Written for the “juvenile” market, this is a reasonable offering for your ten to twelve-year-old.

The Wee Free Men (not yet read)

For children.

The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents (not yet read)

For children.

Good Omens (read 8/18/07)

I have always been a bit leery of co-authored novels but Pratchett and Neil Gaiman really pull it off.

It is the coming of the End Times: The Apocalypse is near, and Final Judgment will soon descend upon the human race. This comes as a bit of bad news to the angel Aziraphale (who was the angel of the Garden of Eden) and the demon Crowley (who, when he was originally named Crawley, was the serpent who tempted Eve to eat the apple), respectively the representatives of God and Satan on Earth, as they’ve actually gotten quite used to living their cozy, comfortable lives and, in a perverse way, actually have taken a liking to humanity. As such, since they’re both good friends (despite supposedly being polar opposites, representing Good and Evil as they do), they decide to work together and keep an eye on the Antichrist, destined to be the son of a prominent American diplomat stationed in Britain, and thus ensure he grows up in a way that means he can never decide simply between Good and Evil and, therefore, postpone the end of the world.

Nation (read 2/1/10)

Another of Pratchett’s novels for kids, but there is nothing juvenile about it.

Worlds are destroyed and cultures collide when a tsunami hits islands in a vast ocean much like the Pacific. Mau, a boy on his way back home from his initiation period and ready for the ritual that will make him a man, is the only one of his people, the Nation, to survive. Ermintrude, a girl from somewhere like Britain in a time like the 19th century, is on her way to meet her father, the governor of the Mothering Sunday islands. She is the sole survivor of her ship (or so she thinks), which is wrecked on Mau’s island. She reinvents herself as Daphne, and uses her wits and practical sense to help the straggling refugees from nearby islands who start arriving. When raiders land on the island, they are led by a mutineer from the wrecked ship, and Mau must use all of his ingenuity to outsmart him.

* * *

The following are all Discworld, in order:

The Color of Magic (read 5/07) Recommended

Pratchett did not intend to write a series when he wrote this first one but it was so successful that he followed it up with a second.

The Light Fantastic (read 5/07) Recommended

Pratchett understood he was on to something. The rest is history.

Equal Rites (read 5/07) Recommended

Features the witches.

Mort (read 5/07) Recommended

One of my favorites, featuring Death.

Sourcery (not yet read)

Features Rincewind

Wyrd Sisters (read 7/07) Recommended

Pyramids (read 6/07) Recommended

Guards! Guards! (read 6/07) Recommended

Another of my favorites, featuring Captain Sam Vimes.

Eric (read 8/07) Recommended

I love Rincewind and the Luggage!

A variation on the Faust theme. Eric is a singularly inept sorcerer who conjures up an even more inept wizard, Rincewind, and a sentient (also treacherous, vindictive, and unruly) footlocker named, of course, the Luggage. Not having got anything like what he bargained for, Eric is fated to go through the usual zany ordeals of a Pratchett protagonist, until he wishes he’d never been born. Nor do things really all work out in the end, even if Eric is better off than he expected to be through most of the book.

Moving Pictures (read 7/07) Recommended

Reaper Man (read 11/26/08) Recommended

You got to love Death! In this one, Death gets fired and takes a vacation.

Witches Abroad (read 7/07) Recommended

Small Gods (not yet read)

Lords and Ladies (read 7/07) Recommended

Men at Arms (read 7/07) Recommended

Captain Sam Vimes has retired and Corporal Carrot is now in charge but someone wants to make him king.

Not since Stephen King’s “It” have clowns gotten such bad press as in “Men at Arms.” They seem to be the saddest creatures on Discworld. One of them, Beano is murdered and ends up playing ‘Knock Knock – Who’s There?’ with Death, who is trying to develop a sense of humor.

Humor will never be the strong suite of a hooded, seven-foot skeleton with glowing blue eyes, but Death does get in one inadvertently funny line. He tells Beano to think of his newly deceased state as being ‘DIMENSIONALLY DISADVANTAGED.’

Soul Music (not yet read)

Interesting Times (read 7/07) Recommended

This is one of my favorites and features the wizard Rincewind.

Maskerade (read 8/07) Recommended

Feet of Clay (read 8/1/07) Recommended

Another favorite.

Hogfather (read 8/30/07) Recommended

A bit chaotic but Death is an absolutely fabulous character.

Jingo (read 9/9/07) Recommended

This is another revolving around the Night Watch. Yay!

The Last Continent (read 9/29/07) Recommended

You have to read this one. Rincewind is hilarious.

Carpe Jugulum (read 10/4/07) Recommended

This is my favorite of the witch stories.

The Fifth Elephant (read 5/07 and 10/6/07) Recommended

One of Pratchett’s best.

The Truth (read 11/10/07) Recommended

Another Night watch — yay!

Thief of Time (read 11/18/07) Recommended

Not one of the best but still worthwhile.

The Last Hero (read 6/07)

Hilarious.

Night Watch (read 5/07) Recommended

The stories about Sam Vimes and the Night Watch are my favorites.

Monstrous Regiment (not yet read)

Going Postal (read 5/07)

This was the second Discworld novel that I read, features Captain Sam Vimes.

Thud! (read 5/07)

This was the first Discworld novel that I read and features Sam Vimes and the Night Watch.

Making Money (not yet read)

Unseen Academicals (not yet read)

Author Rating: A

Tortilla Flats (read 3/20/09) Recommended

People are most familiar with Steinbeck through Grapes of Wrath but, in my opinion, you haven’t read Steinbeck until you’ve read Tortilla Flats.

First published in 1935, Tortilla Flats explores the trials — and meaning — of friendship and life. Each chapter is a short story which stands independently of the rest.

This is the story of Danny and of Danny’s friends and of Danny’s House. It is a story of how these three became one thing, so that in Tortilla Flat if you speak of Danny’s house you do not mean a structure of wood flaked with old whitewash, overgrown with an ancient untrimmed rose of Castile. No, when you speak of Danny’s house you are understood to mean a unit of which the parts are men, from which came sweetness and joy, philanthropy and, in the end, a mystic sorrow. For Danny’s house was not unlike the Round Table, and Danny’s friends were not unlike the knights of it. And this is the story of how that group came into being, of how it flourished and grew to be an organization beautiful and wise. This story deals with the adventuring of Danny’s friends, with the good they did, with their thoughts and their endeavors. In the end, this story tells how the talisman was lost and how the group disintegrated.

If you don’t read this book, you will miss something wonderful.

Author Rating: C

Atomic Lobster (read 11/08) Recommended

An amusing crime caper set in Florida, Dorsey’s writing style is imitative of Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen (both of whom had cameo appearances in his first book, Florida Roadkill) with the unfortunate difference of a non-linear story line — things that happen later are told first — which I found to be somewhat confusing. I listened to this in the recorded book format and found it to be entertaining and well read by Oliver Wyman.

The Big Bamboo (read 5/23/09) Meh

I listened to the first CD of the recorded book, read by George K. Wilson, and the non-linear story line that bothered me somewhat in the first book became an aggravation. The confused aimlessness gave me no incentive to continue with the next CD. There are better ways to spend your time.