Book Review: H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian

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Book Review: Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian

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This is the second book in the series that began with Master and Commander. It continues to follow the, at times, strained friendship between a brash young Royal Navy officer named Jack Aubrey and the physician, ship’s surgeon, naturalist, and sometime spy named Stephen Maturin. It picks up in 1803, at the end of the short-lived Peace of Amiens that divided Britain’s war against Napoleon in two. As Spain makes up its royal mind whether or ... Read More »

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

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Few books have been recommended to me by more readers, and I guess few books you read this year will provoke as much thought as this multiple-award-winning, futuristic fantasy. Jonas lives in a community that, at first blush, might seem like the ideal future world. No one suffers. There is no war, poverty, or disease. Everyone is kind and courteous, living useful lives in well-adjusted family units. From birth to death, all the stressful decisions ... Read More »

Book Review: The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf

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Translated from Swedish by Velma Swanston Howard In 1909, Selma Lagerlöf became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Three years earlier, she wrote this delicious book that weaves true lessons of the history, geography, and wildlife of Sweden into folk tale or fairy tale episodes. It is sometimes exciting, suspenseful, and scary. Other times it is witty or silly. And now and then, it is so wistful and even tragic that ... Read More »

Book Review: Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

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You may have seen the very excellent film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, a curiously titled film, so named because it is loosely based on two different books by the same author. Patrick O’Brian’s long series of naval novels about a British captain in the Napoleonic Wars begins with this book; the one called The Far Side of the World was the tenth of twenty books, all of them centering on the exploits of ... Read More »

Book Review: The Callender Papers by Cynthia Voigt

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This “gothic novel for young readers” won the Edgar Allan Poe award and comes from the Newbery-medal-winning author of Dicey’s Song. Set in the late 1800’s, it is the tale of a thirteen-year-old girl, raised by a schoolmistress “Aunt” (who actually isn’t a blood relative) who is hired to spend the summer sorting out the family papers of a cold and forbidding widower named Mr. Thiel at his secluded mansion in the New England countryside. Jean ... Read More »

Book Review: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

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All right, I’ve finally done it. After 4,322,845 e-mails begging, bribing, threatening, and demanding that I read something by Tamora Pierce and review it for the Book Trolley, I finally took the hint. Now PLEASE don’t say I never listened to you! And pleeeease believe me when I say that I WILL read more books by Tamora Pierce and review them in due time. So please be patient! I would only make this last promise ... Read More »

Book Review: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

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George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish Congregationalist minister whose tolerant views caused him so much trouble that he switched to a career in writing. Even so, it wasn’’t until late in his career that he began writing stories for children, which are mainly what he is remembered for today. To MacDonald’s eleven fairy-tale-loving children, we owe not only the pleasure of reading their father’s books, but perhaps even Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories, which were read ... Read More »

Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

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The 1981 winner of the Newbery Medal takes its title from a Bible verse that says: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated.” Like the twins of Biblical lore, there is a bitter rivalry between Caroline and Sara Louise——at least, there is in Louise’’s mind. As the nation goes through the anguish of World War II, she is having a rough time of her own. The years of puberty and growing up are full ... Read More »

Book Review: The Witches by Roald Dahl

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The Witches by Roald Dahl A little orphan boy, being raised by his cigar-chomping Norwegian grandmother, comes to an English resort hotel for a seaside cure. While he is training his pet mice (William and Mary) to do tricks, he makes the horrifying discovery that all his Grandma’s stories about witches are true. They really do have square, toeless feet, pointy teeth, claws on their fingers, and eyes that glow purple, and they think children ... Read More »