Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hard Luck Horse

I walked over to a stack of books and grabbed the one in top without looking. Which book was it? The one I’m doing a blog-post on.

Hard Luck Horse is another one of my many former library books, so it’s got a cute sticker on the binding of a galloping horse. Ah, how I used to keep my eye out for those books at the library. But the Altadena Library that I grew up with put all the horse books in one little section so I wouldn’t have to search so hard. I loved that.

Hard Luck Horse, by Fern G. Brown is one of the few horse stories that takes place at a Western barn, as opposed to an English stable. It seems that most horse barn stories are at English barns, so I was pleased to find this one, preferring Western myself.

Cristi Barrett is delighted with the new horse at White Owl Barn, where she works. He’s a sharp little sorrel that seem to be a perfect barrel horse. (for non-horsey readers, that is a sport where riders see who can run their horse around three barrels the fastest. It’s quite poplar and many riders make money doing it. I personally have issues with it, but this book is completely fiction, so it’s okay.) Cristi has high hopes of buying the sorrel, who she names “Woody Dip” because of his habit of chewing wood and dipping his head. Her friend, Jeff, who’s also the owner’s son, hopes she get the horse as well. However, there are two problems: Cristi and her family don’t have much money, and her rival at the barn, who she calls “yukky Allison” is going to be getting a horse for her birthday, bought for her by her parents, and Allison has eyes on Woody Dip.

Cristi gets to keep Woody Dip for the riding club, though, and he’s hers until after the big show. She goes to practice with him and all goes well… until he begins making mistakes, and Allison decides that she likes Woody better than the other horse she was thinking about getting. The vet comes to check out Woody Dip before Allison buys him (it’s standard procedure to have a vet check out a horse before buying). Cristi takes another blow as the vet discovers cancer in the horse’s eye. Sorry, but unwilling to go through the expense of surgery, the barn owner decides that they’ll have to put Woody to sleep, but Cristi convinces him, and her parents to let her pay for the cost. She’ll do anything for the horse. All goes well, and Woody begins to recover. Then trouble with Allison surfaces; a new horse is in Woody’s stall at the barn, and all Cristi can guess is that Allison bought Woody and moved him to the border’s area. She and Allison have a verbal fight and both leave angry.

Everyone is practicing hard for the Junior Rodeo that is coming, and Cristi is less than happy with the replacement horse, Princess, that she has to use for the rodeo in place of dear Woody. Allison had not bought Woody, Cristi found out later, she’d bought Butterscotch. But a farmer, who lived a couple hours away had bought Woody. The girls patch it up during practice, and do well in the rodeo. As the dust settles at the end of the day, a truck comes in with a little sorrel horse: Woody Dip! The farmer brought him back, due to his kids forgetting to take care of the horse, and it becoming too much of a burden. Cristi is ecstatic to have Woody back, and they find a place for him at the barn.

“No!” yelled Dakota. “Leave him! He’s sacred. He’ll run himself out.”

Dakota was right. Breathing hard, the little sorrel soon slowed to a jog. Then he sauntered over to the log pile. Opening his mouth wide, he bit off a huge chunk of wood.

Cristi laughed. Still chewing, the little sorrel nuzzled up to her. She patted his neck and hugged him. For Cristi, it was instant love.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beyond the Picket Fence

I’ve finally gotten around to posting about one of Lori Wick’s books! Yes!

Lori Wick writes Christian Romance, both historical and modern day, and I love both kinds. I found her books while searching through the library’s online catalog, looking for something that looked like I might like. I discovered the The Yellow Rose Trilogy , but started out reading the third book before I realized that it was a trilogy. The Yellow Rose Trilogy is certainly my favorite set so far; I’ve not read all the other ones in the library. I’ll review them another time. Today I’m reviewing Beyond the Picket Fence, and Other Short Stories.

Beyond the Picket Fence has eight short stories in it:
1. "Be Careful with my Heart",
2. "Christmas for Two"
3. The Haircut"
4. "Beyond the Picket Fence"
5. "An Intense Man"
6. "The Camping Trip"
7. "The Christmas Gift", and
8. "The Rancher’s Lady"

They are a varied lot of stories, all unrelated, but wonderfully sweet. The first one brings two people, who’ve lost their first spouses, together in a musical band at a summer camp. The third one is a retelling of an incident in Lori’s husband’s childhood. The fourth one, the title chapter, is the longest (I think) and an authoress moves to a small town, and falls in love. In the sixth one, a widowed coach reaches out to encourage one of the boys on him, a boy who doesn’t have a father, and finds himself reaching out to the boy’s hurting mother as well. The last chapter, “The Rancher’s Lady” is probably my favorite; a young Australian woman leaves the sheep ranch Australia and sad memories behind and goes to Northern California to work for a friend of her former boss’s.

I like Lori Wick’s books very much. They have such endearing characters in them, as well as good plots. I especially like reading the series, because I get to keep getting glimpses of the people in the previous books. I love the men in her stories; they are such nice guys! (Too bad they aren’t real, huh?) And the women are great, as well; such sweet women, but they aren’t pathetic limp people. The books are similar to Janette Oke’s books where religion is concerned; it isn’t overdone. And I like really appreciate it that Lori Wick doesn’t have anything more than kissing and hugging in her books; I like a romance, but not a bedroom scene.

I always smile when I read Lori Wick's books. I even smile when I just see them sitting waiting for me to read them. :)

Shasta blinked and said softly, “No, sir. I’m sorry, but I don’t know a thing about office work. Morgan said you needed a jackeroo.”

“A what?” It was Kyle’s turn to blink.

“Oh, uhm, a jackeroo, a ranch hand.”

Kyle nodded slowly. Outside of a brief conversation a few weeks ago, it had been years since he’d talked to Morgan Clark, and he’d completely forgotten the little differences in their speech. He had to say one thing concerning Miss Shasta McGregor –that accent of hers was real easy on the ears.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


So, I really did end up reading a book instead of doing a blog post on one. I'm most of the way through with Lori Wick's White Chocolate Moments. I do so love her writing. :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

Instead of doing a blog post on Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, I think I’ll just sit here reading it while the computer hibernates. . .

I guess not.

I saw Gregory Peck playing in Captain Horatio Hornblower so many years ago that I forgot just about everything about. I was too young to give this movie any thought. In fact, I don’t think I even liked it. I found it recently on youtube and watched it again, enjoying it more at twenty than I did as a kid, and judicially comparing it to the books it was made after. That is where I first “met” Hornblower, and it made no impression that first time. I now this the movie is interesting for comparisons.

My second “meeting” of Hornblower came when I was in my teens, and he was played by cute Ioann Grufford, and he had cute Jamie Bamber fighting bad guys at his side. This definitely made an impression. This was the TV mini-series that A&E had made out of the first Hornblower book, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. It was spectacular. –espcially compared to old Gregory Peck’s Hornblower movie. It was not a chick flick, as Peck’s Hornblower was. It was not in “TECNICOLOR” (don’t get me wrong, I think Technicolor is cool, but it just isn’t as good as what we have nowdays), and everything looked like it was real, not on a Hollywood set. The British sounded British, the French sounded French, and the Spaniards sound Spanish. I intensely liked the shows, but winced at the brutality that was portrayed for accuracy. “I love these shows!!! …minus some parts…” (happily the remote has a fast-forward button and a mute button). Presently, though, a part in the opening credits caught my eye: Based on the books by C.S. Forester. Oh, boy! Books!!! I had to see if they were good. Books are usually better than the movies made after them, I’ve found, so this was exciting.

I started out with a copy from the library, but I now have a copy of my own.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower takes place in 1794, during the Napoleonic Wars, in the British Navy. Horatio Hornblower (who hates his name) is only seventeen when he comes about the HMS Justinian as midshipman, in the first chapter. (The book is a series of short stories chronicling some of his exploits as Midshipman, each story a chapter.) He is shy and reclusive, and also pretty seasick. He grows accustomed to life aboard; however a bully, Simpson, also a midshipman, comes aboard, and begins to torment everybody in his rank or lower, and Hornblower becomes his specific target because of his withdrawn nature. Hornblower endures in misery, but bids his time. One evening at cards, the Simpson accuses Hornblower of cheating.

Now, Hornblower has an incredibly logical mind, and thus is an extraordinary card-player, Simpson, on the other hand, was simply not a good card-player at all, and he’d been drinking. Hornblower takes this chance, and he demands satisfaction, a duel. And with only one of the guns loaded, while the other is empty, and no-one will know which. Either he will die, or Simpson will die; either way, his problem would be solved. Forester does an amazing job of writing out Hornblower’s inner battle, the doubts and fears that assail him, and the cool, logical reasoning he goes through the night before the duel. It’s just amazing.

Obviously, Hornblower lives, but it’s still pretty harrowing until the end of the chapter. And then the next adventure begins, Hornblower is transferred to a frigate, the Indefatigable, and life gets better. “The Cargo of Rice”, where he is taking a captured French ship back to England; “The Man Who Felt Queer”, where Hornblower is part of a boarding party, capturing another French ship; “The Man who Saw God” where he finds some of the sailors making trouble and also has to work with a slightly senile, but harmless sailor, “The Frogs, and the Lobsters”, “The Examination for Lieutenant”, where fireships come and threaten the ships while he’s failing the exam; “Noah’s Ark”, where I grin… ; and “The Duchess, and the Devil” are some of the other stories/chapters in Mr. Midshipman Hornblower.

Forester has an amazing knowledge of what he writes. He actually does a play by play of the card game (not that easy to read, but impressive nonetheless). His descriptions of the weather and the ships, the movement and the men’s actions and reactions are just fantastic; I come out of his books feeling almost as if I’d actually been there. …sort of like the thrilled and overpowered feeling that I get when I go to the movie theater (I only go about once a year, so it’s pretty awesome for me).

Hornblower is a unique and complex character, one who I cannot do justice to in trying to describe. Forester’s portrayal of him is very real and shows a deep study of human character.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower is certainly the best historical fiction I’ve read, and undoubtedly the best regarding the French Revolution. It’s almost more historical than it is fiction, for how much attention Forester pays to the facts and details of that era.

Note: It has violence and bloodshed, but not too much, as well as a little profanity. I’d say it’s pretty accurate for the time without being grotesque. (Ah, and there aren’t any intimacies, shall I say, for those who mind reading such things.)

And I must say that it taught me far more about the Napoleonic Wars and several historical figures that all my years of school did.

Now…which quote shall I do? Honestly, there are so many awesome parts, it’s hard to choose… Okay, here’s a section from chapter one.

“The rest are mine,” said Hornblower, laying down his cards.

“What do you mean?” said Simpson, with the king of diamonds in his hand.

“Five tricks,” said Chalk, briskly. “Game and rubber.”

“But don’t I take another?” persisted Simpson.

“I trump a lead of diamonds or hearts and make three more clubs,” explained Hornblower. To him the situation was as simple as two and two, a most ordinary finish to a hand; it was hard for him to realize that foggy-mind players like Simpson could find difficulty in keeping tally of fifty two cards. Simpson flung down his hand.

“You know too much about the game,” he said. “You know the backs of the cards as well as the fronts.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Horse that Had Everything

After watching Errol Flynn in Seahawk, I now want to do a post about a book with ships in it. That would be one of the books in C.S. Forester’s Hornblower Series. However, I don’t feel like I could do such an exceptionally written book much justice right now, so I’ll do a simpler book.

There are basically four categories of horse books (and then countless sub-categories). There are horse books that are so completely horsey that even horse-lovers feel a little nauseous reading them. Then there are horse books that claim to be horse books, but are really just teenage stories with a horse thrown in to attract a couple more girls, ones with horse posters taped on their walls. Worst of all there are the horse books that are absolutely horrible books where a horse gets killed, sold, turned loose, or some other disaster happens; these I rate “X”. Finally, and fortunately, there are good horse books with a balance of horse and life, and everyone lives fairly happily ever after. My sister calls them “B Horse Books” after the “B Westerns” where the good guy always wins, gets his girl and rides off into the sunset, and she rolls her eyes when I read them.

Wait, make that five. There are horse stories that are balanced with horse and life, but the girls are really, really silly. That would be Bonnie Bryant’s writings. I’m not a fan. (But no offense to anybody who does like them. It’s okay.)

I’ve read all five kinds, and the good ones I go back and read again. Walter Farley, with his Black Stallion, is one of these, as well as Mary O’Hara with her My Friend Flicka. C.W. Anderson also does quality books (and they have beautiful illustrations), but sometimes they can be a little too “eqqus-centric”.

Another good horse story is by a lesser known author, Newlin B. Wildes, and it’s entitled The Horse that had Everything. My copy is an ex-library book, I have many ex-library books, actually, and it’s a nice hardcover (hardcover books always seem better and more substantial to me than paperbacks do) and it’s copyright 1966. I usually like books with older copy rights. (that’s not to say that people born in the sixties are old though!)

Most horse books are written for a female audience and have female protagonists, I’ve found, but this one features a boy as the main character, Rick Ballou. Rick lives out in the country, not too far from a Thoroughbred farm, in Vermont, and regularly visits the horses there. The owner, Slade Corcoran, is a hard man (could you guess from the name? no duh.), but the stable manager, Darwin Mears in kindly and understands the boy. When Rick’s favorite mare gives birth to a colt, he calls Rick so he can see the colt first thing; Rick heads over with all eagerness. But when he comes, he finds that the colt was born with a crippled hind leg.

Slade Corcoran is far less than pleased that a misshaped colt has been born in his barn, and if the colt’s leg doesn’t show improvement, he’ll have it put down. The colt’s leg doesn’t improve enough, but Mears convinces Slade to let Rick take the colt home and raise it.
Over the summer, Rick and the neighbor girl, Suzi, raise the colt, feeding him and leading him around, taking him swimming in the swimming pond, and all sorts of fun things. The colt, now named Sans Per, follows them around like a dog. As he grows, his leg heals, and he becomes a perfectly shaped and very swift horse.

By and by Slade comes around, regretting having given the colt away, but he doesn’t take him back. Instead, he tries to convince Rick to race the colt. Rick decides to give Sans Per a chance at racing, after all that’s what the horse had been bred for, but in the end, Sans’ interest in swimming in a pond overrules his training to reach the finish line.

The Horse that had Everything is a nice, wholesome horse book. It’s clean and idealistic. The boy is respectful to his elders, even though he’s in high-school. Suzi becomes his girlfriend, but there is NOT any smooching or other such things going from there –ahem!- . And Sans Per is a really sweet horse. It’s not a hard to read book, the words aren’t thick, but I get a lot of enjoyment from reading it.

It was at the pond that Rick and San and Suzi had their best times. It wasn’t long until the colt was towing them about the pond as they clung to his withers. Sometimes he dove under them, coming up to lift them out of the water amid shouts and screams. On rally hot days they spent the whole afternoons in the water, with breaks of lying on the grassy banks in the sun, San grazing and drying off nearby.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day, Little House books

I was pondering over which book to write about last night couldn’t decide which one to do… a horse story? The story I just finished? an adventure book? Then today while I was working with some photos to generate a truck themed Father’s Day card, the idea came to me.

As today is Father’s Day, I thought I should do something in honor of the occasion. I could do a book with a good father in it. Hmm… not many of those around, unless it’s in a book written by Lori Wick, Janette Oke, or a few others who write similar stuff. Then what about doing a book that my dad had read to me? But he read lots of books to my sister and me when we were little. I could do the most memorable book then…?

The most memorable book, or rather books, were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. But practically everybody who I know has already read them repeatedly, and probably everybody else has at least heard about them if not read them once or twice…, and there about 1,400,000 results if one types in “Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House Series” in the Google Search-bar. So it would be a little redundant for me to peck out yet another review for an already well known and much reviewed book.

What I can do however, is write about my memories of it. My younger sister and I would get ready for bed, brush teeth, don night gowns and such, and then our dad would read to us. My mom had, and still has, a complete and beautiful set of hard-cover set of the Little House books, and my dad started with the first one and read a chapter or two each night to us until we finished the whole set. Sometimes we’d sit on my bed or my sister’s bed, but the time I remember most clearly was when we were sitting on the couch in the living-room.

That couch was perhaps the ugliest of the three couches we’ve owned. It was very blocky, and it was this neutral shade of gray checked with a darker gray, and my mom put a pretty afghan thing over it to make it more acceptable, but was still slightly uncomfortable. Anyway. We had a fabulous living-room in that house, though. It had a nice fireplace with a heater insert that my granddad made and it kept the house warm during the few times it got cold in Southern California.

I remember sitting on one side of my dad, with my sister on his other side, and we had gotten to the sixth book, The Long Winter. It was cozy in our house, so it must have been during the cooler part of the year, and the heater may have been blowing with its soothing purr. We had a Trader Joe’s grocery store not far away, and we’d gotten a tub of those animal-shaped ginger cookies. Lions and elephants, tigers, and all those, but I think they’ve been discontinued. I remember eating those cookies while my dad read to us, and we were at the chapter “Where There’s a Will”, where Pa and Laura were twisting hay into tight little sticks to burn so they wouldn’t freeze during the blizzard. That chapter had a picture, not every chapter did, and to this day, every time I see the picture of Pa and Laura twisting hay, I remember those ginger cookies and that couch and the heater in the living-room.

I really enjoyed that series. If someday I ever have a family and children, I hope that my children will get to have the stories read aloud to them.

“Bend your twist a little to loosen it,” said Pa. “Then slip the ends in between the kinks and let it twist itself back tight. That’s the way!”

Laura’s stick of hay was uneven and raggedy, not smooth and hard like Pa’s. But Pa told her that it was well done for the first one; she would do better next time.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Aunt Crete's Emancipation

I only have time for a short post today; it's been a busy, yet very good day. I'm reading Lori Wick's book Beyond the Picket Fence, a collection of short stories, and I'm enjoying it very much. I shall write about it once I've finished reading it.

For a short blog post I must select a short subject. I'm not even going to do a whole book, but a short story by Grace Livingston Hill, whose stories were introduced to me by my mom. This particular story is one that I've read, and reread, a number of times, because it is just so sweet, and so charming. The title is Aunt Crete's Emancipation.

Lucretia Ward lives with her sister and niece, Carrie and Luella. Carrie and Luella are selfish, short tempered women, but somehow Lucretia, called Crete, is still a sweet and loving person. They receive a telegram one morning from Crete and Carrie's nephew, Donald Grant who has been out West. Carrie and Luella hurry off to their beach vacation to avoid this young man, who they are sure is a bumbling, coarse backwoodsman, leaving poor Crete, with house-work and canning and sewing, to entertain the young man.

When Donald Grant comes, he is gentle and caring, a delightful nephew to dear Crete who has spent her years in toil. He is tenderly attentive to her. Donald picks up the phone one afternoon while Crete is napping, and Luella is on the other end, calling to Aunt Crete. Luella, unaware of who is on the other end, gives her lengthy diatribe, then gets mad and hangs up when she receives no reply. Donald is moved with righteous anger, and a plan crystallizes in his head.

What follows is an endearing Cinderella-type story. Donald spends some of his great fortune buying presents for his Aunt Crete, and then her takes her to the fine beach resort when Carrie and Luella are staying. By and by Carrie and Luella are furious once they find out that the fine lady who reminds them of Crete at a distance, actually IS Crete. Yet Donald swoops down and protects Crete, and ends up coaxing her to come and keep house for him while he is at university.

I love this story, and go read read it when I want something sweet that makes me smile. It has all the wonderful qualities of a long story wrapped up into one bundle that can be read in a short -but not too short- time.

His blood boiled over the tone which his invisible cousin at the other end of the wire had ordered Aunt Crete about. ...He felt strongly impelled to do something in the matter. A rebuke of some sort should be administered. How could it best be done?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Simon the Coldheart

Simon the Coldheart was the first book that I read by Georgette Heyer, and it became one of my favorite books while she quickly became one of my favorite authors. The majority of Georgette Heyer’s books are regency novels; however, this one takes place in the early 1400’s.

Simon comes to my Lord of Montlice at the age of fourteen, yet he is a man already, and he is seeking employment. Montlice, known as "the Lion", chooses to give him employment because he likes something about the stubborn, firm lad who refuses to be turned away. Simon’s motto is, “I have not, yet I still hold.” He is determined and unshakeable.

Simon is first page to Montlice’s son, a boy around his age, then page to Montlice himself, and finally he becomes squire to Montlice. Simon is curt with his dealings, strong and cool-headed. Montlice grows fond of him, being more pleased with this lordly youth than his own son, Alan, who prefers courting young ladies and playing a harp. Yet Alan is not jealous, for he looks up to Simon as an older cousin, and this amuses the seemingly feelingless Simon.

There are battles to be fought for England, battles which Montlice takes part in, and he takes Simon with him, for Simon is an excellent and skilled one in battle, fearless and level. As the years pass Simon gains a name for himself, knighthood and lands.

Part Two of Simon the Coldheart takes place some little while after the first part, and Simon is well established as a soldier and good friend of the King. “Simon was all a soldier, dauntless and cool, born to rule and to lead.” He fights loyally under the king, accompanied by his half-brother Geoffrey Malvellet, and Alan Montlice. Alan is still a quite a poet, but he goes along Simon, and the King calls the threesome “My Soldier, my Knight, and my Poet", while another man calls them “Iron, Flame, and Silver.” Simon is said to be second only to the king, well known for his generalship, either loved or hated –but never ignored- and no one was more readily obeyed than he.

“Yet something he seemed to lack, for with all his assets and attainments, he was as cold as stone, almost as though some humanizing part of him had been left out in his fashioning.”

And I really cannot tell you what else happens, or I’ll give away spoilers! –But it has a fabulous ending.

Georgette Heyer is truly a splendid writer, and I think one of my favorite things about her writing is the dialogue that she comes up with. It is thoroughly enjoyable. Her regency novels have some riotously funny dialogue, and this 15th century novel has superb dialogue. Sometimes I’ll pick up this book and just read some of the conversations between the characters. (I love it!) Georgette Heyer also describes people and actions with a perfectly delightful style, and her writing really comes to life in my head as I read it.

Google Books has it. But of course, it doesn't have all the pages. *groan* However, it seems to be pretty common in libraries, at least the ones I've been to.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bookmobiles and Doodle Bugs

I live out in the country. It’s not the complete boonies, but it certainly isn’t the city area I grew up in. I grew up with a fantastic little library that made up for lack of size by stocking its shelves with the best books. And then we, my family and I, moved.

Now out here we have five tiny county libraries, widespread in places a ways away were we rarely ever go. For a while I was sad about my lack of a library, and sought to content myself with the books we already owned, but then a neighbor told us about the Bookmobile.

A Bookmobile? Such a thing had been heard of before, but only in a fictional horse book. Yet this one was real, and it came to a house within walking distance of our house (for some reason, though, we’ve never walked to it). It comes every month, a white van with specially made shelves that are laden with books, and we meet it every month. It is inter-connected with the five little county libraries, so a week before it comes, I search through the country library catalog and send in a book request to the wonderful outreach people. And they bring me the books!

This month I came off the Bookmobile with thirteen books. Sometimes I leave with more, though occasionally I leave with less. We get movies and CDs from the Bookmobile as well, and we get to keep them for the whole month. Right now I’m going through all the Lori Wick books the system has, four or five a month at a time. I do believe she is one of my favorite authors.

Now that I’ve covered the Bookmobile, I’ll go on to Doodle Bugs.

Everyone has seen a Volkswagen. –unless I miss my guess-. And a number of people have been in them. I personally love them. (but I’ve never driven one). One of my childhood heroes that I knew had both a VW Bug and a horse, and I thought that was incredibly amazing, and that she was so lucky. (And I fancied myself the most fortunate horse-crazy pre-teen in the world when she drove me out to the horse farm in her VW and then let me ride her horse.)

My Volkswagen love came along when I watched Herbie Rides Again. That movie sparked a VW collection, and the incessant road game of calling out “DOODLE-BUG!” every time I saw one. And my mom also ended up buying a couple books on VW Bugs.

The first one is called Small Wonder, by Walter Henry Nelson, and I remember my dad reading it to my sister and me each night before we went to bed. And it is subtitled, The Amazing Story of the Volkswagen. It is non-fiction, yet I don’t remember being bored by it. It tells all about how the little car came to be, in full detail, starting at “The Years of Preparation”, and going through Hitler and the Nazi’s, the War, improvisation, “The Years of Fulfillment”, introducing the VW to the USA, “A Matter of Taste”, “Volkslore”(which is my favorite chapter), on to the final chapter, “Postscript 1970: Transition Toward Tomorrow” (yeah, it’s copyright 1970). It is most thorough, and definitely a good book for anyone who wants to know all about the VW Bug’s beginnings and its history through to 1970.

“Volkslore” is the most fun chapter of the book, having to do with floating Beetles and racing VW’s, pranks (like college kids burying them under leaves in Autumn)and sentiments for the little car, along with other humorous stories and anecdotes about it and several jokes. …One VW owner says to another, “My engine is missing,” and the other replies, “Are you in luck! They gave me a spare one in my truck.”

The second VW book is Beetle: Volkswagen’s Little Giant: From old Reliable to New Sensation, by the Auto Editor’s of Consumer Guide. It covers the Bug’s history with much less detail than Small Wonder, it’s main characteristic being stunning pictures (most of them color) of VW’s through the years. It also points out the various different details of the Bug during the different year, like the chrome being here, and the lights being this way, the hubcaps being flatter this year and such. It’s a beautiful coffee-table book. I love the pictures in it… (*starts paging through and gets distracted….*)

One more VW book. My most recent one. It’s a children’s book published by “Little Golden Book”, called The Love Bug: Herbie’s Special Friend. It’s a cute little story starring Herbie, and I can read it to my cousins in a few minutes, and enjoy every bit of it.”

“Did you have to do that, Herbie?” Bill groaned. “Now I’ll never get to meet her!”

The VW books, along with a small selection of my Bug collection. The new blue bug second from the right is my very favorite (his name is William), and a painting that a good friend of mine did for me of Herbie.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Scarlet Pimpernel

For my first blog post, I decided that I should do one of my favorite books. Having a number of favorite books, it took me a little while to decide which one. But I have found a perfect one: The Scarlet Pimpernel.

I first came across The Scarlet Pimpernel in the form of a movie starring Anthony Andrews; however, no movie has yet done The Scarlet Pimpernel much justice. Baroness Orczy, the authoress of the book, spins together a riveting tale with the perfect balance of romance and adventure with deep, full characters. The movies fall a little short, especially on the ‘deep, full characters’ part. That criticism given, I must add that the Anthony Andrews movie was not bad, and the black and white movie with Leslie Howard was pretty good. Now on to the book -for which I only have good things to say.

The Scarlet Pimpernel
takes place during the French Revolution, yet with the exception of the first chapter, it has very little gore and bloodshed in it. I like adventure and French historical fiction, but I greatly dislike anything that is over graphic. The Baroness does an excellent job of creating a realistic setting without being macabre. The story’s pace is quick, yet not lacking emotion or feeling. Indeed how could it lack emotion when a beautiful Frenchwoman, Marguerite, is married to an Englishman who once loved her passionately but now has drawn a mask of inanity around himself and no longer seems care for her while she still desires his love?

Along with that, there is a daring English hero, known as “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, who risks his life to rescue French aristocrats from the guillotine, incurring all kinds of rage from the revolutionists. When a French agent, Chauvelin, comes to spy out the hero’s true identity, he forces Marguerite to help him; either she aids him in finding the Pimpernel, or her brother dies.

I could go on and on about the book, but then I would spoil it for future readers.

There is enough angst in it to have you gripping the book tightly (and wailing when people interrupt you), yet it has uproariously funny parts, and in the end it is quite a happily after book. And then there lots of sequels!

To my great sorrow, I do not have a copy of this volume of my own. However, when I do find one at some store, you may be sure - aye and very, very sure!- that I will do my best to procure it for my already crowded book shelves.

Now if your library happens to be inept at stocking its shelves with great books, or it is “ept” but has overlooked The Scarlet Pimpernel, don’t despair! There are two online ways you can enjoy it: Librivox and Blakeney Manor. is a fabulous place. It’s just like a “book-on-tape” library at your finger-tips. Just click and there is the whole book, chapter by chapter. You can listen to the whole thing, and it’s perfectly free.
is another great place, and it has the complete e-text of The Scarlet Pimpernel (it’s free, too). It also has all her other Scarlet Pimpernel books in e-text as well.

"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?--Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel