Book Review: In the Reign of Terror

In the Reign of Terror Today’s book review comes complements of my wonderful brother. After a few of you indicated that you would like to see a review of In the Reign of Terror, I asked him if he would re-read the book and do a review for me. And he graciously agreed. I hope you enjoy it!

Organized massacre, I fear, Victor. What seemed incredible, impossible, is going to take place; there is to be a massacre of the prisoners.

Harry Sandwith is an average boy, the son of an English doctor. When he is offered a position as the companion of a French count’s son, he accepts despite the undertones of revolution rumbling in France. His new job is to provide the young man with an understanding of the English ways of government and liberty. At first the count’s family has little respect for him, but after he saves the count’s three daughters and their nurse, and becomes like a brother to the young count, Ernest. When the revolution erupts, Harry finds himself losing those he has come to care for and running for his life.

As an avid G.A. Henty fan, I rarely come across a Henty that I dislike. In the Reign of Terror was no exception. It combines an excellent historical resource with a tale of adventure and courage.

Author: G.A. Henty
Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Classic Adventure
Pages: 238

Read for Free:
Project Gutenberg
Amazon E-Book

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Book Review: Scaramouche

Scaramouche

He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.

When Andre-Louis witnesses the death of a close friend in a grossly mismatched fencing duel, he swears to avenge the young man’s death. In tumultuous pre-evolutionary France, he gives voice to his deceased friend’s revolutionary sentiments. Over the following years, he alternately fans the fire of revolution and hones new skills as he hides from retribution. Whenever possible, he creates difficulty for his friend’s murderer. But what is his true motivation? And what will it take to stay the hand of vengeance?

Last night around nine o’clock I realized that I still had not finished reading this book. I finally reached the last page around midnight. Personally, I find the writing style of many classics to be tedious and, unlike The Scarlet Pimpernel, Scaramouche was no different. However, if you are a classic style enthusiast, you should have no problem. The story itself was excellent. It provides an interesting “other side of the story” when read alongside The Scarlet Pimpernel. Sir Percy and Andre-Louis actually have quite a few similarities. The ending of Scaramouche is hands down the best part. An foreshadowed possibility I had noticed ended up playing out, but not in the way I expected. In conclusion, I found this book to be a great title to add to your classic adventure reading list. Please note that there is some “thematic material” that is tastefully handled but not suitable for young readers.

Author: Raphael Sabatini
Audience: Teens–Adults
Genre: Classic Adventure
Pages: 367

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Book Review: League of the Scarlet Pimpernel + Scarlet Pimpernel Giveaway

League of the Scarlet Pimpernel*Giveaway Closed*
I’ve been looking forward to this giveaway ever since picking up a copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel at Barnes & Nobles two months ago. As usual, the giveaway is open only to residents of the US. I’ll announce the winner next Thursday. In the meantime, leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.

Now, if you will allow me to act as your friend, I will pledge you my word that I will find your son for you.

From rescuing the kidnapped son of a woman cast aside by society to other feats of courage and humanity, this book carries a full dose of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s trademark daring. Instead of a full novel, The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel is made up of several shorter stories. If you’ve enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel, you’ll definitely enjoy these too.

I received this book for Christmas two or three years ago. At first I was disappointed to realize that the book wasn’t a full novel, but after I got into the stories I found that I had no need for regrets. The stories are fast paced and mostly lacking the long expositional passages found in some of the other Scarlet Pimpernel books. They’re perfect for a quick read before you go to bed. 😉

Has anyone not read The Scarlet Pimpernel. For those of you who have read it, have you read any of the sequels? Which Pimpernel book is your favorite?

And…a picture of the giveaway book. Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win!
Scarlet Pimpernel, The

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

Joy C.As you can see by the photo to the right, we have another guest poster today. Joy has written a lovely review of Charles Dicken’s classic, A Tale of Two Cities. I’ll start by giving you Joy’s bio and then we’ll dive into her review. 😉

Joy is a young daughter of the King, a needy sinner saved by His Amazing Grace. The greatest goal of her life is to love and glorify her Heavenly Father, as He guides her on the path of life. Joy is home-educated by her dear parents, and has three amazing sisters who’re her closest friends. She resides in a sunny little corner of Queensland, Australia, which is as lovely as it sounds. Imagination is her favorite cup-of-tea, a world which she traverses daily. Joy wars with words through her pen (and naturally the laptop!) and scribbles stories, plays the violin, sings with her heart, photographs and draws God’s Creation as she sees it, and is an avid lover of books. She also keeps a blog, Fullness of Joy, where she scribbles about faith, writing, music, her family, raindrops on roses and of things in between.

~*~

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Thus wrote Charles Dickens in the opening lines of his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities. In a way that opening paragraph was my introduction to this beautiful story set during the tumultuous era of the French Revolution. I remember from my childhood how my parents used to quote these lines to my sisters and me when we found ourselves discussing topics of faith and politics and the world as it is in the twenty-first century on the dinner table and just how much it intrigued me. For, in a sense, we live even now in the best of times and in the worst of times, and these iconic words written for a different age echo with us all in our own lives. Some years ago, I watched a 1980s movie adaption for A Tale of Two Cities starring Chris Saradon and Alice Kirge (which I shall refer to later on in the review) that really made me fall in love with the tale, and with the characters and with the beautiful, beautiful themes reflected throughout the story’s pages and made me decide that I really wanted to read the actual, unabridged book – and so when Leah asked me if I could review the book here on her lovely blog, I couldn’t help say yes.

a tale of two cities

Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; — the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.*

I first read A Tale of Two Cities when I was about 13, and thus my first novel by Charles Dickens felt like a daunting one – not being very much used to reading those old classics (which I have since then come to love!); also there was Dickens’ frequent wordy description of the state of people in France (both the nobility and the peasants) and of the state of society in general (hence setting the stage for the French Revolution) to reckon with. Besides the opening lines the beginning chapter was quite difficult to get into, but once I came to the scene at the French wine shop, my interest was caught up fully till the end of the book. Actually, A Tale of Two Cities is not so much more daunting or wordy than any other classic I have come across and I would most definitely not find it as arduous to read now as I did then. The descriptive prose though at times slightly dense and complicated is beautiful and poetic, and definitely something worth appreciating :-).

But even when I read it for the first time the difficulty of the book could not detract from my enjoyment of the story. Set with a myriad of fascinating and three-dimensional characters like the beautiful Lucie who evokes the love of those around her through her sweet spirit and loving care for her dear father Dr. Manette, others as their close friends the faithful and very English banker Mr. Jarvis Lorry, his assistant Jerry Cruncher, and Lucie’s fiercely loyal governess the prim and proper Miss Pross – through them every page that deals with the differing characters is a delight. Along with these friends are two gentlemen with remarkable physical similarities (a coincidence that plays out more than once over the course of the story) who each long for the hand and heart of Lucie Manette: the admiringly honest and courageous aristocrat Charles Darnay who owns a past that might cast a dark shadow on his future and on the future of those he loves most and the dissipated English lawyer Sydney Carton, the man who’s unrequited love bestirs him and makes him a selfless hero—by far my most favourite character. Madam Defarge is magnificent as the vengeful villain of the tale, bitter and cold as ice and ruthless in her revenge, followed by her husband Monsieur Defarge. And of course the rich and cruel the Marquis St. Evremonde who is perhaps the disguised cause behind most of the grief and horrors of the story. These, among others, are the heroes and villains, who make up the complex threads of the book and pull on your heartstrings painfully and beautifully.

Like many other classics, the storyline of A Tale of Two Cities is set during era of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. What I loved about Dickens’ portrayal of the times is his unbiased chronicling of both sides of the revolution, showing the ‘best and the worst’ in both the Aristocrats and the Revolutionists: describing the oppression and plight of the peasants, the extreme cruelty and wickedness of the aristocracy and the nobility and finally the horror and terror of the revolution itself, the godlessness of it all, and how these horrific times made beasts of some men and of others the selfless heroes we come to love and admire.

A Tale of Two Cities is a really beautiful story of mystery, love, betrayal, courage, and of sacrifice and redemption. I was near tears in the last two or so chapters that were heart-wrenching and horrifying and yet so touching and beautiful. There are many inspiring and uplifting themes within the pages of the book, Christian themes exemplified i.e. when Charles Darnay courageously kept his promise to a servant despite the danger and cost to himself, or the loving faithfulness Lucie had in her devotion for her father, and of course the most significant of themes is Sydney Carton’s selfless love and sacrifice. I guess if I could say all about him, I’d spoil the book for you, but it is really, really touching and painfully beautiful so all I will say is ‘go and read the book’!

Cons: Being a French Revolution novel, violence is a great part of the story, with people being hanged, stabbed, shot, and beheaded by the Guillotine, but none of it is unnecessarily gory or detailed. There is some romance in the book, but it is mild and classic in style and I did not have any real problems with it, coy as I am about romance generally in novels ^_^.

Movie: As I mentioned earlier, one of my first introductions to the book was a movie adaption of A Tale of Two Cities, a 1980s version for TV, starring Chris Sarandon, Peter Cushing, Alice Krige and Billie Whitelaw. It is a little bit of an old movie, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless and it is well done. The adaption stayed very true to the heart and story of the book, with only slight differences here and there, and it helped bring to life the tale for me as I read the book later on. So, if you can get your hands on the film that would be wonderful. Here is a YouTube link to the film as well if you care to watch it: A Tale of Two Cities.

*Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Book Review: Beautiful Girlhood

Beautiful GirlhoodThanks to Aubrey Hansen’s suggestion I will be reviewing an extra book in at least two of our free Wednesdays. Today, I picked Beautiful Girlhood.

Girlhood is the opening flower of womanhood. It has charms all its own. The wonderful blossoming of young, healthy girlhood, will ever be God’s great miracle in life’s garden. Girlhood is like a half-open rose. We are charmed, both by the beauty of the bud and by the wonderful coloring of the rose. We behold the familiar traits of childhood that have always charmed us and held our affections, but blended with these in ever changing variety are the graces and powers of womanhood.

This book offers good, old-fashioned advice based on the Bible. It emphasizes lessons like the importance of being careful about what we say, how to behave like a lady, and the joy of being cheerful. As the back cover says, “What can be more beautiful than the budding and blossoming of girlhood? Those years of transition from childhood to womanhood are filled with wonderful interest and promise. But young feet that travel this way may be unsteady and unsure. Each could use guidance, a helping hand along the way. To encourage our girls to a nobler life and truer ideals is the task of this book.”

This book is admittedly old-fashioned, yet it was one of the shaping forces of my tween years. I could never bring myself to sit down and read the book cover-to-cover, but I returned to it many times over. When I was little, my parents teasingly called me a ragamuffin because I loved my old clothes and hated brushing my hair. This book is what made me start caring about the way my hair and clothes looked. Every time I opened it, I would put it down determined to work on my home-keeping skills or be a better friend. A very few of the minor points expressed in Beautiful Girlhood are too old-fashioned to be carried out today, but most of the content is timeless advice that every girl should be aware of as she grows up.

Author: Mabel Hale, revised and expanded by Karen Andreola
Audience: Middle-Grade to Teen Girls
Genre: Inspirational Non-Fiction
Pages: 205
Publisher: Great Expectations Book Co.

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Book Review: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas CarolToday marks the last day of our Christmas themed book reviews. And what better book to end with than A Christmas Carol?

Ebeneezer Scrooge is a miserly old man who loves money, hates Christmas, and isn’t too fond of his fellow man. After a ghostly visit from his ex-business partner, Jacob Marley, Scrooge spends the night before Christmas being visited by the spirits of Christmas past, present and future. Each spirit teaches him things about himself and the world around him until Scrooge awakes Christmas morning a changed man.

I must confess that my preferred way of “reading” this story is not in book format. Each year at Christmas time we dig out the Focus on the Family Radio Theater presentation of the story. A Christmas Carol is probably my favorite traditional Christmas story.

As this year’s Christmas season comes to a close, remember the lesson Scrooge learned. In his own word,

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

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Book Review: Little Women

Little WomenJoining us today is Marli Renee from Books|Cuppas and Cause for Joy. Hope you enjoy her review!
————–
I am Meg. Earnest. Sincere. Serious. Loving the little things in this world, yet craving to leave them… “Tomorrow I shall put away my ‘fuss and feathers’ and be desperately good again.”

I am Jo. Passionate. Awkward. Always dreaming. “I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

I am Beth. Loving the simple, the pure. Hoping. Desiring only peace and joy. “’We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,’ said Beth contentedly from her corner.”

I am Amy. Sweet and silly. Determined. Thrilled over lace, and frills. Reveling in the fact that “we’ll all grow up someday, we might as well know what we want.”, but striving with every excited ounce to always be a better person.

Devouring these pages to learn more about myself. Or maybe I have become myself through these pages? Only a handful of books have done as much to shape who I am – these courageous young sisters as beacons of maturity and true femininity, yet oh so relatable beacons. Hopes, dreams and daily dramas within the slow process of sanctification.

The March sisters were so grown-up when I first met them. And now I am among them. “If we are all alive ten years hence, let’s meet, and see how many of us have got our wishes, or how much nearer we are then than now.” It has been ten years. I re-read the book with different eyes. I realize how young the dear characters were, and how far I have to go. But how close I have come – plodding where their gentle steps led.

In a world of quick literature and cheap thrills, it is a joy to read something so careful. So pure. So real, as real women who loved the Lord and lived faithfully day after day. Little Women.

Don’t just let this book be a check on your list of things to read. Don’t just join in the throng of, ‘Oh, such a cute story!’. Let it mean something to you. Let the reality of life, the pain, the joy, the relationships, the partings, the death, the birth, the love and fire mean something. Feel. Grow with these
friends. Live with them. “for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

Author: Louisa May Alcott
Audience: All Ages
Genre: Classic
Pages: Around 500

Book Review: El Dorado

Roll up your sleeves and get ready to dive into another adventure with Sir and Lady Blakeney! As promised, here is a review of a sequel to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Don’t ask me what a Spanish sounding title has to do with a story of the French Revolution. I haven’t figured it out yet. I tried looking up what “El Dorado” means the other day, but Google translate didn’t know. Any ideas? Anyway, here’s the review. The quote should should sound familiar. 😉

“Dear heart,” he murmured, “do not look on me with those dear, scared eyes of yours. If there is aught that puzzles you in what I said, try and trust me a little longer. Remember, I must save the Dauphin at all costs; mine honor is bound with his safety. What happens to me after that matters but little, yet I wish to live for your dear sake.”

Only one thing matters more to Sir Percy Blakeney than his wife, Marguerite. His honor. And his honor is bound to his newest mission. The French revolutionaries hold their young prince captive. The young Dauphin’s life is in danger, and Sir Percy (also known as the Scarlet Pimpernel) determines to rescue the lad. The mission is fraught with danger, especially now that Citizen Chauvelin knows the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite’s love struck brother, Armand, isn’t helping matters either. Are the reckless adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel about come to end?

I haven’t read all of the sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, but this is one of my favorites out of the ones I have read. (I think I might say that about all of them, though.) Sir Percy Blakeney is doing crazy things to rescue people. What’s not to like? 😀 For anyone who hasn’t read The Scarlet Pimpernel, these books can be pretty heavy on the romance, but there’s nothing explicit, and Percy and Marguerite are married, so it’s not inappropriate either. If you’re not big on this period of history, don’t let that stop you from reading these books. I had the same reservations and The Scarlet Pimpernel won me over. Enjoy your reading!

Author: Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Audience: Tweens and Up
Genre: Classic Adventure
Pages: 341
Publisher: My copy is from Dover Publications

What are your expectations for this sequel to The Scarlet Pimpernel? Do you think it can live up to the first book?

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