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Book Blog (S. Thomas Kaza)

Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg

Lord Valentine's Castle - Robert Silverberg

** spoiler alert ** I know there are some silly scenes. But I like Majipoor. It's an adventure story. And I can't help getting that good feeling when Lord Valentine climbs up Castle Mount to regain his throne. I would read this book again.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island is to pirate stories what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. R.L.Stevenson created the pirate character as we know it in literature and pop culture today in a very similar way to how J.R. Tolkien defined elves, dwarves, and halflings. Then Stevenson took it a step further by creating Long John Silver, one of the most fascinating characters to come out of 19th century literature. Long John is a lying, cheating, conniving, murderous, and greedy pirate, the same as all the other pirates in the story. But he is also clever, diplomatic, and capable of working both sides of the fence when it serves his purposes. This puts him in a class of his own. He is not a super pirate. He is a super villain for his day. I have always thought that Treasure Island should be called "The Tale of Long John Silver" in the same way that my father always used to say the 70's t.v. show, Lost in Space, should be called "The Doctor Smith Show". Long John Silver is really the central figure of the story. He sets the tempo, and more than any other character, he makes Treasure Island a great story. One thing I wondered this time as I read Treasure Island was- is this the first YA story? For although LJS makes the story in my mind, the story is really about Jim Hawkins, a boy, who narrates most of the story. By Jim's cleverness, gutsiness, and sheer luck he manages to outsmart pirates and save the day. Jim is the hero, and I am curious to know if there were many young heros in literature before Treasure Island. In summary I consider Treasure Island as by Robert Louis Stevenson as one of my personal classics. I have read this story several times, and each time it is as fresh as the last time. I cannot help feeling the excitement of actually setting out on an adventure. For this reason I give it 5 stars.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island is to pirate stories what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. R.L.Stevenson created the pirate character as we know it in literature and pop culture today in a very similar way to how J.R. Tolkien defined elves, dwarves, and halflings. Then Stevenson took it a step further by creating Long John Silver, one of the most fascinating characters to come out of 19th century literature. Long John is a lying, cheating, conniving, murderous, and greedy pirate, the same as all the other pirates in the story. But he is also clever, diplomatic, and capable of working both sides of the fence when it serves his purposes. This puts him in a class of his own. He is not a super pirate. He is a super villain for his day. I have always thought that Treasure Island should be called "The Tale of Long John Silver" in the same way that my father always used to say the 70's t.v. show, Lost in Space, should be called "The Doctor Smith Show". Long John Silver is really the central figure of the story. He sets the tempo, and more than any other character, he makes Treasure Island a great story. One thing I wondered this time as I read Treasure Island was- is this the first YA story? For although LJS makes the story in my mind, the story is really about Jim Hawkins, a boy, who narrates most of the story. By Jim's cleverness, gutsiness, and sheer luck he manages to outsmart pirates and save the day. Jim is the hero, and I am curious to know if there were many young heros in literature before Treasure Island. In summary I consider Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson as one of my personal classics. I have read this story several times, and each time it is as fresh as the last time. I cannot help feeling the excitement of actually setting out on an adventure. For this reason I give it 5 stars.

The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler

The Witch of Hebron - James Howard Kunstler

The Witch of Hebron is a little like Little House on the Prairie meets the world of Mad Max. It's part two, picking up where part one left off, but it is also a stand-alone. You got the same characters from the first story- Robert Earle, a carpenter turned mayor, Loren Holder, a minister who has lost his faith, Stephen Bullock, a post-apocalyptic lord of a manor, and Brother Jobe, a car salesman turned religious leader. But Kunstler finds ways to dig deeper to reinvent these characters and make them new again. He also introduces new characters including a runaway, the bandit Billy Bones, and the witch of Hebron herself. Then somehow he manages to take all these characters in their divergent lives and tie them together by the end of the story. It is wonderful.

The Witch of Hebron is a coming-of-age story filled with sorrow, revenge, sex, violence, death, loneliness, despair, hope, redemption, and a quiet humanity. I loved the short chapters. As with the first book, I loved the detail about food, clothes, music, things that would matter much more in an apocalyptic world than we can imagine. And maybe I am reading too much into it, but I get the feeling that Kunstler has more in store for the little town of Union Grove. By the end of the book it seems that the town that looked like it was tottering and about to fall over has now found its balance. But I suspect there are greater challenges ahead.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune - Frank Herbert

It is an absolute classic. I lost myself in it when I was a teenager. It still continues to live up to its reputation. The story brings so many themes and characters together. There are politics, low drama, high drama, battles, ecological discussions, philosophical discourses, religion, spirituality.... I think others have listed them better than me. And there are so many powerful scenes in this story. I am surprised and entertained every time I read Dune.

Tehanu by K. Ursula Le Guin

Tehanu - Ursula K. Le Guin

In Tehanu, Le Guin finds adventure in the lives of mundaneness, she brings exquisite depth to her characters, and in the process she breaks new ground for the fantasy genre. Some say Tehanu is the author's statement on feminism and her criticism of a male-dominated society. I say people will always find politics when they want to find them. They will hijack the meaning of stories and characters to make them go where they want them to go. If anything I see Tehanu as Le Guin's statement that she will not let her characters go quietly into the night. She takes the heroic characters from her past books and develops them into exceptional characters, but not by showing us their exceptional qualities. This time she shows them as ordinary people. She shows how time has taken a toll on them, how they now have regrets, and how their weaknesses have become accented with age. In the end we see the humanity of her heroes, something fantasy with all its action and adventure doesn't always find time to do. And we cringe because we know they cannot stand up to the evil that seeks to destroy them.

 

I enjoyed reading Tehanu very much. I wanted to start re-reading it as soon as I finished. For this reason I give Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin five stars and make it one of my few classic, all-time favorites.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Kim (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) - Rudyard  Kipling

If you are willing to put aside the hyper-sensitive, arrogant, post-20th century viewpoint that this book is a racist treatise on the superiority of the white man, if you are willing to dig deeper into the text and work at understanding the non-English words and religious concepts, if you are able to look for the deeper meanings, shades of meanings, and hints of meanings, then you are in for a treat.

 

In Rudyard Kipling’s Kim I experienced colonial India of over a century ago rising up around me. I became immersed in the sights and sounds of a rich land filled with colorful people, a blend of races and creeds that I cannot imagine being contained on a single canvas. I felt a sudden longing for India which I had never felt before. And I felt the desire to spend just one day with Kim, a courageous and streetwise boy, as he travels the dusty roads with his beloved master, begging a meal, winning a smile and a favor, helping a fellow poor soul.

 

I may or may not read any other Rudyard Kipling books, but I will definitely read Kim again. I consider it a masterpiece of literature that requires a fair amount of hard work to unlock its breadth and its beauty. And although I read the whole book, I feel as if I did not read some parts well. I think everybody who reads this book will take something different away.

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

With the many fantasy books on the market these days, it is easy to forget where it all started. Reading Tolkien for me is like going home. The Hobbit was one of the first fantasy stories I read, so it may have an unfair advantage on my sensibilities. But I believe the characters, the action, the details of the world Tolkien created- all still hold up against the best that has been written in the field. For this and many other reasons, I include The Hobbit as one of my classics.

World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler

World Made by Hand - James Howard Kunstler

I think a lot of people don't realize how precarious our lifestyles, our philosophies, and our convictions really are, how much they depend on the society we live in. And if our society were to come tumbling down, how a lot of us would go crashing down with it. I think "World Made By Hand" shows this and makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

 

Personally I found a lot to like in this story. The main character, Robert Earle, is no hero, and yet this ex-salary man finds himself doing some pretty heroic things during the course of the story. I loved the New Faithers. It is interesting that Kunstler chose a sect-like religious group to be the breath of fresh air. But I found they were the right lever to move the little town of Union Grove in upstate New York. I also really appreciated that in this post-apocalyptic story Kunstler chose to make the bad guys other men, not zombies, not radiation-enhanced monsters, just plain, old ordinary guys that became mean and nasty along the way. I think that making a villain our of an ordinary man is one of the hardest things a writer can do.

 

I found a few places in the story which needed more explanation. But I felt I could be forgiving, because I enjoyed the story so much, the characters were so endearing, the details of daily life were so compelling, and there was just the right mix of light and darkness. It is simply the best post-apocalyptic story I have read. I have to admit I was a little surprised to realize this, because I had never read this story before, and I had never even heard of Kunstler before. I am definitely going to get a copy of "World Made By Hand" for my bookshelf at home.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr., E.B. White

The Elements of Style - William Strunk Jr., E.B. White

There are many, many books out there giving advice on writing. But if I could have only one book, this would be it. The language is a little dated, but for me that is part of the charm. I constantly read and reread this book to find ways to improve my writing.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables Novels #1 - L M Montgomery

Yes, it is the same old story used over and over about an orphan. But Anne Shirley is no ordinary literary creation. In my opinion she is a masterpiece. And the author's attention to the details of life and the world around Anne is spellbinding. This story not only brings to life a lost era, but it also portrays a writing style that we may also have lost. This book is easily one of my classics. I have already read it several times in the past twenty years, but I have never read any of the books that follow in the series.