The Christmas Angel by Abbie Farwell Brown

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Christmas Angel by Abbie Farwell Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“You are so unimaginative!… You judge the tale finished while the best has yet to be told.”

Those are two of my favorite lines from the classic, Christmas-Carol-esque tale The Christmas Angel by author Abbie Farwell Brown. Here we find a bitter, lonely old woman occupying herself on Christmas Eve with earnest tasks: burning toys in her fireplace and conducting covert little experiments on the public to prove to herself that the Christmas spirit is a humbug.

Oh, I didn’t eat it up quite like the Dickens classic this fantastical work resembles in different ways, but I still found it worth the time. I got a little nervous at the appearance of two Jewish boys in the story, wondering how the author would handle them in this tale from 1910—and a Christmas tale at that. But I breathed easier after while. What’s more, my heart nodded in agreement with one character’s sentiments about people who supposedly know so much better than others and wind up miserable.

This old-fashioned read is a fairy tale, but its messages ring true, and not just for Christmas.

 

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Karana is twelve years old when her people leave their island, but circumstances leave her behind. Her story of years of survival on her own unfolds in Island of the Blue Dolphins by author Scott O’Dell.

After recently reading and becoming engrossed in Sing Down the Moon by the same author, I decided to revisit this Newbery Medal-winning children’s classic based on true events. I remember listening to the reading of it back when I was eleven or so, but the author’s writing style didn’t do much for me back then.

So I tried again, curious to see if adulthood would give me a new appreciation for this book. As I read, it reminded me of the movie Cast Away at times, what with a lone human being fending for herself on an island: building shelter, hunting and gathering food, facing the elements and hostile wild animals, etc. And some parts here and there moved me, particularly near the beginning.

On the whole, though, this still wasn’t the most interesting book for me. Lots of solitude, very little dialogue, and although the heroine is a brave, self-reliant girl-turned-woman, I wouldn’t have stuck with this understated account about living in nature if I didn’t know it would be a quick read.

Still, because I have enjoyed one book by this author, I plan on trying at least one more.

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Here’s my review of the sequel to Karana’s story, Zia.

 

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“But it is better to follow even the shadow of the best than to remain content with the worst. And those who would see wonderful things must often be ready to travel alone.”

Artaban is all prepared to join three of his Magi companions to go and present gifts to a new King whose coming is declared by the heavens. But Artaban’s trip encounters delays, profoundly altering his quest in The Story of the Other Wise Man by author Henry van Dyke.

I’d never heard of this classic before I came across it some weeks ago. No, it didn’t hold groundbreaking revelations or unimaginable surprises for me.

But even having a good idea ahead of time about where such a tale would go didn’t stop the tale from being beautiful to me. Beautiful in its atmospheric detail as well as in its compelling message about what’s important to the King. Yes, the story has some old-fashioned quirks, like the fact that some of the characters speak in “King James” now and then, but the message itself is timeless.

Not at all hard to see why this tale is indeed a classic.

 

The Case of the Missing Will by Agatha Christie

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Case of the Missing Will by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

The late Andrew Marsh, who never agreed with his niece’s academic aspirations, has left all of his wealth to his niece in his will—but only if she can locate the deliberately hidden document within a year’s time. So she employs the help of Detective Hercule Poirot in The Case of the Missing Will by author Agatha Christie.

High-five to young Miss Violet Marsh for knowing her gifts and having the courage to use them, even when her uncle (as well as the narrator of the story and Poirot’s sidekick, Captain Arthur Hastings) doesn’t believe her scholastic pursuits to be becoming of a woman.

My interest in this short story slackened somewhat during the middle. But as I headed toward the end, I should’ve known it was getting too easy, that there would be a twist coming. And it came, despite my having gotten lax in my anticipation. What’s more, even with Poirot’s being rather puffed-up about himself, I couldn’t argue with his conclusion about Miss Marsh in the end.

It turned out to be well worth the fifteen minutes or so it took me to read this short and fun little mystery.