Ramblings and Ruminations

Best Reads of 2018 – 1st Quarter

Dark House On The Moss (reread)

by Constance Savery

five stars

From the first sentence, I was instantly swept-away. Constance Savery’s vocabulary, softly rhythmic style, gentle humor and steady pace compare to none!  Twist after twists compels us as we discover more and more of the secrets of the Moss and it’s keepers that are spun like delicate and beautiful webs that perfectly connect events and weaving the characters deeply into our hearts.  The characters are utterly amazing. Morville is stupendous; what a beautiful, amazing mind he has – what incredible dreams of the future, what wise foresight – and yet he is so socially awkward! I loved his grim, awkward tenacity and his never-wavering sense of duty. Morville is proud, but he is also an incredibly merciful character without being weak – something we rarely see.  Periwinkle’s wise, girlish but matter-of-fact attitude make her the most adorable and straightforward narrator. Louis is a sarcastic, no-nonsense, heroic brother.  The cast is even larger and more intriguing than that – and Constance Savery moves them effortlessly through the story, perfectly captures the mystique and menace of the Moss and carefully foreshadows the climax with the perfect pay-offs.  This book elicited bursts of laughter, groans of horror and thoughtful contemplation – a rare thing indeed in a book.  And the ending – Oh my heart, that ending – it’s all that you could desire.

 

The Scarecrow and his Servant

by Philip Pullman

five stars

Beautifully and humorously written; this was such a romp!  The Scarecrow’s antics are absolutely priceless.  The author perfectly captured the “foreignness” of his thought process and the misunderstandings that were constantly popping up like flower bulbs throughout the story line.  His servant, Jack, is far from the dull and witless sidekick that could have encumbered this story.  Not a bit of it.  Jack is a sly, charming survivor with a good heart who thinks on his feet, but he is still a young boy barely managing to keep his and the Scarecrow’s heads above water.  The genuine affection between them is so sweet, and perfectly forms the core of the story – everything else is just icing on the cake.  Even the Scarecrows little “romance” will make you laugh and smile over its zany appeal. This book perfectly captures that old 1940s comedy feel of miscommunication, with both MC’s thinking that the other one is slightly off their rocker – but hiding it for politeness sake.  I was afraid at first that the ending would disappoint me.  So many authors have charmed me at the outset, only to betray me at the end.  But the author stayed faithful to the opening premise of a fairy tale and wraps up the adventure in a perfectly satisfying ending that makes you feel as if you are curling up in the glow of a softly burning fire.

 

The Daybreakers

by Louis L’Amour

five stars

This book hooked me on Louis L’Amour and made me anxious to try more!  Louis La’mour’s sparse but colorful style perfectly suited the fast-paced passage of time portrayed in The Daybreakers and he captured the grim, hard, inevitability of this setting and this plot with a steely hand that did not make it in any way depressing.  And as for the protagonist – WELL. Within a few pages, Tyrel Sackett had joined my hallowed halls of favorite characters of all time.  Humorous, humble, quirky, dangerous, ignorant but anxious to learn, shy, mean, kind and hard – Tyrel is a one-in-a-million character.  What a relief to read a book where REAL MEN are portrayed.  I am sick to death of the Byronic, namby-pamby, *sensitive* males.  Tyrel is a man that BUILDS his future and wastes no time in doing it. Tye is the fastest, meanest gunslinger around that can back up his tough reputation without the blink of an eye.  In his spare time, he rounds up cattle, builds a house, saves and protects his new Mexican friends, becomes a sheriff, cleans up a town, outfoxes and outmaneuvers of a myriad of enemies.  This guy is EPIC – and he is based off of real men that tamed our country.

 

Banner In The Sky

James Ramsey Ullman

four stars

A lovely, old-fashioned flow of writing and the very best sort of a coming-of-age story.  Rudi’s arc and the relationships in this book are carefully crafted.  There is a great deal more description than dialogue (not a trial to me) and the author’s ability to paint an immersive picture are on fine display.  Banner in the Sky radiates with an instinctive accuracy, and it is clear the the author’s own adventurous life and mountaineering background serve him well, as he plunges us into a dizzying and frozen world.  W can feel the rock scrapping our palms, feel our toes grasping for footholds. The thin rope cutting into our waist is the only thing that makes the difference between balance – and an endless plunge.  We feel the ice-wind slicing through us, feel the blue sky that is bluest of all in a mountain shining on us, feel the savage storm screaming in our ears . . . feel the victory of the summit beating in our hearts.

Peak

Roland Smith

five stars

Once in a while, there is a piece of YA fiction with a style that is borderline genius – and that would undoubtedly be Peak.  An incredibly strong style and voice utterly captivated me – more specifically I was utterly captivated by it’s narrator – Peak, a fourteen year old climber.  From the very first sentence, I was instantly transported into this boy’s smart mind, hurting heart, and incredible integrity and strength.  Peak was the first person this year to join my Hall of Favorite Characters and he is an utterly amazing edition.  He is impossible to describe – you will have to read it for yourself.  Thematically strong – compelling motifs of forgiveness, sacrifice and maturing are woven amongst a book that portrays the endeavor of surmounting Everest so realistically, it will make make your heart pound and your muscles ache to read it.  The descriptions in this book are gloriously detailed and startlingly pictorial, summing up a frigid and deathly environment that awes and cows the reader.

His Own Good Sword

Amanda McCrina

four stars

Fans of Rosemary Sutcliff will be eager to scoop up this book.  While there is only one Rosemary Sutcliff and there will never be another, this authoress does a fine job imitating Rosemary Sutcliff’s inestimable style.  Full of the flavor and meticulously crafted poetic descriptions that are Sutcliff’s identifying trademark, this book will also satisfy those with the Roman Britain bug as McCrina constructs a world steeped in historical context, but with a fresh and careful fantasy spin that makes this genre truly intriguing.  While it didn’t have quite the shining hopefulness of Sutcliff – this was still wonderfully written, an engaging story and characters and a fine tribute to all fans of Roman Britain and it’s history.

 

The Silver Sword (re-read)

Ian Seraillier

five stars

 

This one will always have special memories for me because I remember my Mom reading aloud to me.  But aside from my fond memories, it is simply a wonderful story and just as good the second time around.  This book is a great introduction to younger readers about the hardships and loss of WW2 without introducing all the fine details on all the horrors and violence.  A story of the every-day heroism of people trying to piece their lives back together in the middle of devastation, this author perfectly captured one of the strengths of humanity, the ability to keep on going, to retain love, humor and strength in the midst of defeat.  Better in many ways, then the perfectly happy ending, I loved that the author still left the reader with some hard things to digest and dealt honestly with his characters. The children  had found their hearts desire in being with their family again, but what they went through left scars.  The scars would be there forever, but they were also a testament to their strength, their will to live, and God’s grace.

 

The Silver Branch (re-read)

Rosemary Sutcliff

five stars

As a book lover, obviously, we love many books. But there are certain books that go beyond that, that radiate within you, touch you to the core and become a part of you.  The Silver Branch is one of those books for me.  There is no possible way to distill The Silver Branch into a mere five lines – it’s an impossibility.  I cannot describe the glorious wonder of this book, the beauty of it’s characters and it’s themes, the shining quality of writing, the immersive descriptions, the compelling plot, and the myriads of emotions and feelings that this book instills in me.  I can’t even try.  Suffice it to say,  it still is one of my favorite reads of all time, and it always shall be.  There will never be another The Silver Branch – every time I read it, it rings and echoes inside of me as sweetly and persistently as Cullen’s silver bells, weaving a story-spell around me that never grows old.  If I could ask you to read any book on this list – it would be this one.  You will read much more than a book, you will read a story, in it’s true sense of the word.  A story that, I hope, will radiate with you as much as it did in me.

 

 

And that wraps up the post?  What about you, my fellow readers?  What are some of your favorite reads of 2018, so far?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

 

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14 thoughts on “Best Reads of 2018 – 1st Quarter

  1. I was pleased to find Constance Savery leading your list of excellent books. After the publication of Dark House on the Moss in the United States, Savery revised the book for a proposed English edition. I have, on loan, her marked up copy. In addition to the correction of misprints and the adoption of English grammar and spelling, she made some other changes. The American editor had removed references to Penelope, Periwinkle’s actual name, and Savery restored these. When Primrose is mentioned, her attitude toward Morville is softened . After Periwinkle affirms that Morville isn’t a coward (p. 185), some lines are added in which she confesses her own fears of the Moss and is comforted by Morville.
    Not a change, but perhaps of interest… Mrs. Lanthorn’s lullaby in Chapter V was originally written for Elizabeth Barker, Savery’s god-daughter.

    1. Mr. Schonblom – thank you for commenting! I thought of you as I posted this, because of Dark House on the Moss.

      Wow – I had actually wondering about Periwinkle’s name; it was a bit unusual! What a treat to find those new tidbits among this amazing book! That IS of interest – I loved that lullaby and wondered if it was a traditional piece. Thank you so much for sharing that bit of background with me, it will make my next reread of Dark House On the Moss even sweeter. 🙂

      I actually have a longer review of Dark House On The Moss on Goodreads for anyone interested! https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1779434286?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

      Really, I didn’t have enough words to express how much I enjoyed this book. It’s a pity it’s out of print and not being printed as Reb and the Redcoats and Enemy Brothers still are. :/

      1. Not sure how many of those who follow your blog can read German, but in 1950, Dark House on the Moss was published in Germany as Das düstere Haus am Moor. This edition has two advantages: it is significantly cheaper on the used book market, and there is a nice black-and-white illustration at the beginning of each chapter. A Google search is more successful if you include the umlaut in düstere.
        Call me Eric, if you will.

        1. Hi Eric! It so happens that my sister (another big Savery fan) reads German! Sadly I don’t. 😀

          But I will put her on the hunt for this copy – thank you so much! The illustrations sound wonderful, and I can at least enjoy those. 🙂

  2. Haven’t read any of these, but they all sound delightful. Haven’t read that many books this year yet, but I did re read Howl’s Moving Castle.

    1. Hi Skye! Thanks for commenting. They are!

      I haven’t read as much as I would have like to this year, myself. :/ I’ve heard a lot about Howl’s Moving Castle and I keep meaning to try it!

  3. Lovely post, Allison!!! Your descriptions of these books are so gorgeous and full of feeling and beauty. It reminds me of my love for several of them and makes me want to experience the rest. I hope you’ll post these great reviews on Goodreads! 🙂

    1. Aww, thank you, Mary! <3 *smiles and blushes* This post made me think of you and how excited (and verbose) we are over books. 😀

      Yes, indeed - I will! I hope to post the reviews to Goodreads over the weekend. 🙂

  4. I’m so glad you enjoyed The Daybreakers. It’s not my favorite Louis L’Amour book, but I do like it a ton, even if it does depress me. Tom Sunday’s descent into darkness ripped my heart to shreds. (And even more so when I discovered he was played in the TV miniseries of the book by one of my very favorite actors.)

    Looks like you’ve been reading some awesome books!

    1. Thank you, I did! Awww! Oddly, enough, I wasn’t attached to Tom inordinately – I was more of admiring the magnificent and organic way L’amour handled his “descent into darkness” and my clinical heart was kicking its heels at the craftsmanship – ha.

      I’m not much of a fan of Glenn Ford either, so… *hides* But like the book, Tye is my favorite character in the movie – I really like that actor, especially in that part. Although Sam Elliott as Dal (whom I did miss in this book!) was awesome.

      1. Oh, I was definitely in awe of L’Amour’s writing skills – I want to write such good characterization some day! But Tom did have my heart as well as my head (that sounds so weird).

        Not a fan of Glenn Ford! Oh, dear. 😉

        1. This one defintely got me hooked to try more of his novels, that’s for sure! I’m already a big fan of his short stories. Haha – awww. Well, I guess all my admiration was wrapped up in Tye. 🙂

          Hehe – soooowwwy. 😛

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