Tag Archives: critical review

Review: The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Beautiful characters and some magical scenes. The only thing that I didn’t like about it was that the story ‘ends’ half-way through, but then continues on and on and on.

A brief account: The story is about an acerbic young girl named Mary who, upon the unexpected death of her parents, is sent to live with her miserable hunchback of an uncle in his prodigious estate. There she learns of a mysterious garden which was locked up long ago because of the death of her effervescent aunt, the hunchback’s wife. By a series of magical events the young girl finds the secret garden and, once inside, begins building a garden of her own. As she builds the garden she gradually changes from being a sour little child to a delightful one and helps heal a few other people’s hearts as well.

My favorite character was Dicken, the boy animal-charmer who plays on a Peter-Pan-esque flute, and it was only in hopes of seeing more scenes with him that I managed to make it through the story.

Among all the scenes, my favorite was the screaming argument that Mary starts in response to Collin’s temper tantrum. It was hilarious to watch the two spoiled children battle each other to see who has the better ‘mean-streak,’ and then watch how they become aware of themselves thereafter and grow to be friends.

I can only give it three stars because of the unending plethora of story-resolutions,  but I can recommend it. My advice would be to stop at or around the scene where Collin gets out of his wheel chair for his first walk, then skip to the last two pages.

Karen Savage––best audiobook narrator in the world for this genre––did a fantastic recording of it which can be downloaded for free at: http://bit.ly/qubGJt

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Review: The Life of Thomas More

The Life of Thomas More
The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Powerful, hopeful, and enlightening: the story of Sir Thomas More is one that everyone should hear.

Thomas More was a remarkable sixteenth-century lawyer who, out of his faith to the Catholic church, refused to swear an oath of spiritual obedience to King Henry the Eighth after the later took it upon himself to seize power from the Catholic Church and form The Church of England.

What was most interesting is that More brilliantly refused to give the reason ‘why’ he would not take the oath of spiritual obedience to the king. Everyone suspected that More was refusing out of his faith to the Catholic Church, but for More to say so specifically would make him vulnerable to accusation of treason under the king’s self-imposed law.

The action of silent refusal by this influential lawyer was so powerful that it was said to be a ‘Silence that bellowed up and down Europe.’

In the end, this silence cost him his life.

More was such a rare individual: he was perhaps the most talented intellectual of his day, yet he never let his abilities inflate his ego. The more he lived, the more he dedicated himself to understanding and teaching by example the passion of Christ.

Peter Ackroyd is the author in this great biography. He captures the most characteristic and interesting elements of More’s life while still maintaining an objective point of view.

Five stars for a terrifically executed biography of a fascinating life story.

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Review: The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, 7 CDs [The Modern Scholar Series]

The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, 7 CDs [The Modern Scholar Series] by Peter Kreeft

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The audiobook lecture series was a terrific introduction to the world and philosophy of theological giant, Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas is renowned for having reconciled the intellectual reasoning of the ancient philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato, with the doctrine of Jesus Christ. He was so prolific at expounding on theological principles that the church ended up assigning several scribes to him so that he could philosophize verbally and allow them to record it for him––thus speeding up the process. In all, he made some one-hundred thousand pages of philosophical thought.

Four stars for such a great introduction!

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Review: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables  (Anne of Green Gables, #1)Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anne is one of the greatest literary characters of all time.

I laughed throughout the whole book. I particularly loved the scene where Anne, still a child, puts flowers in her hat on the way to church, thinking it would be beautiful. She then spent her Sunday day walking around with dilapidated buds drooping above her head. It’s something I could easily see one of my sisters doing at that age.

The voices were each unique in their own way. I thought Montgomery’s handling of Anne’s prideful refusal of Gilbert’s plea for friendship to be a wonderful way of holding out the tension until the last page of the story.

There is a fantastic, free audio recording of it on librivox.org here: http://bit.ly/l4US2f
It’s read by perhaps my favorite librivox reader, Karen Savage.

Five stars for its outstanding character and storyline!
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Review: The Worm Ouroboros

The Worm OuroborosThe Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The literary quality of this book is superb, and the mythopoeic nature is paramount. However, the book lost my interest somewhere in Chapter 4.

The book is about the onset of a war between Demons and Witches. It has received praise from literary masters J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and it was on their recommendation that I began my study of it.

I was a little wary of reading a book that describes demons as heroes, and for me this intuitive thought has accreted into a general dislike for the underlying philosophy.

In Chapter 4, as the witches are plotting a sinister attack on the demons using dark magic my stomach began feeling queasy. I don’t mind seeing evil in a story––it does exist. Yet I hate it when an author engages me in the evil itself.

It confused me at first to feel this way about the story as the works of the authors mentioned above never left me feeling like that at all. While I thought about it, I remembered that another of my favorite authors, George MacDonald, had similar scenes of conjurations of dark magic in “The Light Princess,” yet those didn’t leave me feeling the same way at all.

I felt it unnecessary to continue. After a little more research I discovered that C.S. Lewis praised the sinister nature of the story, while J.R.R. Tolkien felt it to be rather rebarbative.

Three stars for its masterful handling of the Victorian literary style.

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Review: The Light Princess

The Light Princess (Classic Fairy Tale Collection)The Light Princess by George MacDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is arguably the best fairy tale I have ever read. It’s about a Princess who is bewitched at birth by her evil aunt so that she has no gravity and will float away unless tied to the ground.

While MacDonald’s writing often struggles in terms of style and clarity, his understanding of people, virtue, and the redemptive power of Charity are unparalleled.

His poems have an innocence to them that elucidates why we write and read poems and all: coming to know God.

The witch of an aunt was a terrific villain, and one of his best I think. Her simple magical tricks and spells were delightful, all while capturing what is detestable about evil.

My favorite scene or moment was the one on the shore of the Princess’ lake, when the Prince first finds her and accidentally sends her floating away into the air. The image of the Princess gliding over the tops of the trees and grabbing the topmost twigs to pull herself back down was indelible.

Five stars!

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Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this story a lot. There’s a sadness to it that captures the distance that separates us one from another as a human race, and at the same time it keeps alive a glimmer of hope. It’s a hope in that we are still connected by the spirit of charity we each personally have.

For those who haven’t read it, To Kill a Mockingbird is an account of a young girl growing up in a small-town setting. The majority of the book is simply about her trying to understand the way the world works. During the course of the story she witnesses the murder conviction of an innocent African-American man, and because of her family ties to the murder trial her life is put in danger at one point in the story.

What made me feel the sadness was the way Scout (the young girl) always wanted to see the eternally reclusive character, Boo Radley, yet only saw him at the one moment when he saved her life and then never saw him again. It illustrated to me the way innocence and truth (epitomized by Boo Radley) are something that exist on their own, and though we may want to give something back in return, we never will be able –– just as Scout wishes to be able to repay Boo Radley for saving her life, but can only do so by going back to leaving him alone.

I only give it four stars because some of the parts of the book step into a feeling of hopelessness that I did not enjoy. It’s a peccadillo that may only have affected me personally.

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Review: The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful tale!

Every character in this story is distinct, full of life, and their voices leap out of the page.

The scenes are simply beautiful. There’s a dreaminess to the pacing that sets you back a hundred years or more when people in the Americas used to share their food and talk at great length with strangers.

One particular scene that stuck out to me was the one in which Rat and the Mole are searching for the lost otter child, but hear the call of mysterious music, forget what they are doing, and go searching for the source instead. They come to an island and, traveling inwards, come to a cool-green meadow where the music seems to come all around them with no particular source. Rat says, “…surely, this is where we will find Him,” in awe, and both animals take off their hats and stand silently as the sun rises. Suddenly, when the sun does rise, the animals forget what they had just experienced and remember they were looking for the young otter child. The otter turns out to be just a few yards away from them and they take him home, but Mole drags behind a little, trying to remember, but failing to remember what they had experienced.  I think I liked this scene because when we feel a divine presence or have a wonderful dream, we forget thereafter all of it in its details and only have a taste in our mouths to remind us that it happened.

Toad is hilarious –– definitely one of my favorite character portrayals of all time.

I did have one problem with the story, and that was that Toad never really did anything to redeem himself after all his picaresque harassment on society.

Five stars!

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Review: Meditations

MeditationsMeditations by Marcus Aurelius
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the pinnacle of Pagan thought, it definitely deserves the merit which it has received. I enjoyed essentially all of his thinking, though with the understanding that the pagan-religious aspect of his work is something in which I do not believe.

He repeats a consistent theme throughout:
The universe forms a whole, where every part is important and has its place.
We find peace in the universe when we accept our part and seek to fulfill it to its fullest measure.
Our human duty is to give of ourselves to others, however we are called, in order that others might see this principle clearly also.

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Review: An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth

An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with TruthAn Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a record of maintaining a clear political mind and one’s search for strong character I enjoyed this book. Concerning his spiritual searches, I thought they were interesting to read, though I disagreed with him and, often times, found his point of view quite difficult to accept.


I must mention one thing which is not in the book before I continue, Continue reading