Book Review: Scribbles, Sorrows, and Russet Leather Books

Scribbles, Sorrows, and Russet Leather Boots by Liz Rosenberg

Scribbles, Sorrows, and Russet Leather Boots: The Life of Louisa May Alcott
by Liz Rosenberg (Goodreads Author), Diana Sudyka (Illustrations)
3 out of 5 stars

Louisa May Alcott is best known as the author of the popular classic Little Women. However, her life before she became a famous authoress was full of difficulty. She grew up poor and needy in an unstable though loving home. Her sisters, whom she immortalized as the March sisters, were her closest friends and companions. But it was her parents, Abbey and Bronson Alcott, who had the deepest influence on her life.

Bronson Alcott was insane. He literally had insanity running in his family tree. He told people he was “the Messiah of education”, and thought he would completely reform the American education system. However, all his attempts to start a school failed miserably once the parents found out what nonsense he was teaching their children. He was more interested in his daydreams than in providing for his family’s everyday needs, so it fell to Abby and eventually to Louisa to work and scrape to put food on the table.

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Non Fiction Review: The Mysterious World of Agatha Christie

Mysterious World of Agatha Christie by Jeffrey Feinman

Mysterious World of Agatha Christie
by Jeffrey Feinman
2 out of 5 stars

This book was published in 1975 just before Agatha Christie’s death in January of 1976. It includes a few chapters of biography about Dame Agatha and how she became such a success. There are also chapters about her most famous characters, her theater plays, and movie adaptations of her works. There is an analysis of the components of a good mystery, and whether or not mystery novels can be considered as artistic literature. There is an entire chapter full of quotes from her critics. The last chapter is a Mystery Quiz, where the reader can try to guess which Christie book has some particular factor or item.

I was disappointed in this book. First of all, the author includes several major spoilers for some of her most popular novels, such as the ending of Murder on the Orient Express. I started skipping ahead anytime that I saw the title of one of her books that I haven’t read yet, so that I would not get spoiled!

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Classic NonFiction Review: The Life of Charlotte Bronte

The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Life of Charlotte Bronte
by Elizabeth GaskellAlan Shelston
5 out of 5 stars

Charlotte Bronte was truly an extraordinary individual. This biography written by her friend Elizabeth Gaskell is a powerful history of the tragic life the Bronte sisters led. Their strong personalities and steady faith drew them closer together, and provided the genius for their incredible writing.

I loved reading about the eccentric Bronte family, and the close relationships between the siblings. Their isolated home among the moors of Yorkshire inspired similar vigorous settings for many of their books. It was interesting to see how their personal experiences led to fictional creations like the terrible Lowood School in ‘Jane Eyre’ or the awful governess situation in ‘Agnes Grey’. There are many parallels from their real lives to their writing.

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Non-Fiction Review: Jane Austen

Jane Austen by Claire Tomalin
Jane Austen: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


This biography of Jane Austen does a very thorough job of seizing on every letter, every mention, every tiny detail that can be gleaned about the famous author; unfortunately, that isn’t much. Jane’s sister, Cassandra, destroyed many of her letters after Jane’s death. Jane’s brothers and nephews and nieces didn’t preserve her letters as faithfully as they should have. The result is that there are few original writings left from one of the best-loved authors of all time, and little is known of her day to day life.

However, the author does a wonderful job of piecing together letters from cousins, diary entries of nieces and neighbors, along with the few portraits and tin-type photographs of her family and friends.
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Non-Fiction Review: The Fellowship

The Fellowship by Philip Zaleski
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams 
by Philip Zaleski , Carol Zaleski 

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


I read this book by listening to the audiobook, and really enjoyed the voice of the narrator and the structure of the book. Following a chronological and sometimes topical format, this book covers the lives of four of the most famous members of the Inklings. Starting from their childhoods and following them through both World Wars, their academic careers, and their writing, this book also includes details of their family lives and personal friendships right up until their deaths.

I already know a lot about these men, because Tolkien and Lewis are my two favorite authors, and I’ve already read other biographies about the Inklings. But I was really impressed with the depth of information and careful research in this book. There are some really wonderful details and anecdotes that bring these historical figures close to the reader. Continue reading

Book Review: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women 
by Elena FavilliFrancesca Cavallo

 

1 out of 5 stars on GoodReads
This is difficult to review because, while I loved the artwork and the lovely cover, some of the historic people that were featured in this book are very controversial. Many of them are not fit to be held up as role models for young girls!

Pirates, shady politicians, drug addicts, tyrants from Ancient History, and downright gross people; I counted 19 bios out of 100 that I had serious problems with, and which I would never allow a child to read about.

I liked the bios of the decent people, like Helen Keller, the Bronte sisters, Amelia Earhart, Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, and others. However, I felt that some of those bios left out points that ought to have been emphasized, or emphasized points that I thought were inconsequential, or portrayed a mixed message of the person’s life.

Most of the writing was skewed to a certain political viewpoint that doesn’t give a complete picture of the person’s achievements or what their life meant in influencing history. I could barely enjoy the good parts of this book because of so many misdirections and illusions about what these good people stood for and what made them famous. And I really didn’t enjoy the bios of the people I don’t admire, because the writing covered up the true nature of their corrupt lives.  Continue reading

Book Review: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer Student Edition by Eric Metaxas
Bonhoeffer Student Edition: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy 
by Eric Metaxas


5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
It’s impossible to read anything about the incredible life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and not be inspired by his faith, saddened by his suffering, and full of questions about your own beliefs and faith. Does my life reflect the kind of fearless faith that Bonhoeffer showed? Is my heart filled with joy in the midst of dark circumstances the way Bonhoeffer’s was?
The answer is no. My faith looks rather puny next to his. My life looks pathetic next to his courage and generosity. One will always feel small when compared to giants, but at least we are looking up, striving for greatness, seeking to know God more intimately as they did. Continue reading

Book Review: The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum

The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum
The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum by Rebecca Loncraine

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was too long-winded for me, and every little thing seemed to be drawn out unnecessarily. Some bits about Baum’s history and his writing career were interesting, but mostly I skimmed a lot of a descriptive passages. There was a lot about the history of the times that had nothing to do with Baum, but I guess it was nice to see the historic events and trends that shaped his world. It just made the book longer though. Continue reading

Review: Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden by Angelica Shirley Carpenter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved finding out more about this author’s life! What an interesting character she had! I love that she had such an independent spirit in a time when women didn’t enjoy much freedom. “I do what I want” seems to have been her motto.
She wrote about 60 novels and over a hundred short stories, but most of them are out of print these days. I love her books, and I’m always searching for those obscure out-of-print editions. Continue reading