Classic Review: Martin Chuzzlewit

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
Martin Chuzzlewit 
by Charles Dickens

5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Old Martin Chuzzlewit is disgusted with his greedy relatives who only want his money, so he disinherits everyone, including his grandson, Young Martin, who is named after him. Young Martin falls in love with an orphaned ward, Mary Graham, who acts as Old Martin’s nursemaid. But the two young people are torn apart when the family quarrel causes Young Martin to seek his fortune out in the world.

When he goes to work for a hypocritical architect, Mr. Pecksniff, Young Martin befriends poor Tom Pinch, a lowly clerk with a good and innocent heart. Because of his generosity and humility, Tom is always being taken advantage of and overlooked.

Mr. Pecksniff and his two daughters renew their relationship with their cousin, Jonas Chuzzlewit, a devious man who longs to inherit the family business and be rid of his doddering old father.

This book includes blackmail, murder, hidden identities, and fraud, as well as two sweet romances, hilarious characters, and a compelling redemption story. Continue reading

Classics Review: Peter Simple

Peter Simple by Frederick Marryat
Peter Simple (Heart of Oak Sea Classics Series) 
by Frederick Marryat

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Young Peter Simple is given a place aboard ship as a midshipman, and he tells us his adventures on the high seas. He distinguishes himself in battle, earning the respect and admiration of his fellow officers. He is shipwrecked, imprisoned, and somehow manages to fall in love in the middle of it all. Peter meets a variety of interesting characters all over the world, who play a part in his epic story.

The plot is full of action and intrigue, betrayal and sneaking plots, raging storms and bloody battles, and of course a little romance. I love the setting of the British frigates cruising through the West Indies looking for trouble with the French.

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Classic Review: The Romance of the Forest

The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe
The Romance of the Forest 
by Ann Radcliffe

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Adeline is cast out by her father and finds shelter with her new friends, the La Motte family, who are on the run from the law. The family find a refuge in an old ruined Abbey in the depths of the forest, where they hide from prying eyes, always terrified that they will be discovered and forced from their pitiful home.

The Marquis who owns the dilapidated Abbey, discovers them living on his land, but inexplicably allows them to remain, making a mysterious alliance with Mr. La Motte. Ghoulish skeletons, mysterious manuscripts, and gruesome secret rooms are lying around all over the Abbey, and the dark forest holds secrets of its own.

The friendly Theodore warns Adeline that her life is in danger, but he is called away to his regiment before he can explain or help her. Adeline goes through every kind of disaster and terrifying mishap, fleeing for her life when she is betrayed by those she trusts.

This is Gothic melodrama at its best! I lost count of how many times Adeline fainted, but it must have been more than twenty times. She dissolves into tears, is frozen with terror, collapses under the strain of horror, and is prostrate with grief in every single chapter.

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Book Review: Master Humphrey’s Clock

Master Humphrey's Clock by Charles Dickens
Master Humphrey’s Clock 
by Charles Dickens

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

A collection of stories from a fictitious club of writers, including the hilarious Mr. Pickwick, who share various anecdotes and short stories amongst the members of the club. These lead into the serialized novels of “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop” and “Barnaby Rudge”, serving as an introduction for fictional narrators of those stories.
Some of the anecdotes are creepy and ghostly, some are funny, some are historical. Some have tragic romance, or supernatural witches. Some are just lively tales of everyday life.

They are all certainly interesting and varied, but so disconnected and strangely unfinished that I couldn’t really enjoy them.
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Mystery of Edwin Drood Book Review

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
The Mystery of Edwin Drood 
by Charles Dickens

4 out of 5 stars on GoodREads

Edwin Drood has been engaged to the lovely Rosa Bud since they were children. The engagement was the dearest wish of their deceased parents, and the two have grown used to the idea that when they come of age they will get married despite the lack of real affection between them. But Edwin’s uncle, John Jasper, has a secret passion for Rosa, and she regards him with fear and dread. Edwin sees nothing wrong, and trusts his uncle completely, not knowing that Jasper is an opium addict.

When Edwin goes missing on a stormy Christmas Eve, suspicion falls on an innocent young man, Neville Landless, who had an argument with Edwin weeks before. Jasper vows to bring the murderer to justice, and spends his time spying and searching out his neighbor’s secrets. Frightened by what the impassioned Jasper might do, Rosa flees to her guardian in London and befriends Neville’s sister, Helena. From the opium dens of London to the quiet streets of a country village, the mystery takes many shapes as each character searches for the truth.

It’s amazing to me that even this little fragment of a story still holds such power and interest hundreds of years after it was written!

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Book Review: Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
Jamaica Inn 
by Daphne du Maurier

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads 

After her mother’s death, Mary arrives at Jamaica Inn on the coast of Cornwall to live with her Aunt Patience and the uncle she has never met. He is a man feared through all the country as rumors of smuggling and murder surround Jamaica Inn. Mary is horrified as she discovers the truth about the inn, but it’s too dangerous to go against her vicious uncle, until Mary receives help from an unexpected ally.

The writing is expressive and really paints a picture of the setting amidst the dark moors. The story is certainly striking, even though I found the plot fairly predictable.
Mary’s character has a good balance, since she’s plucky but also vulnerable. The other characters are vivid and interesting too, even the awful villains. Each person has such colorful dialogue, descriptions, and body language that they jump off the page into life! I was truly afraid of the villains, truly sorry for the pathetic Aunt Patience, and absolutely disgusted with the nasty smugglers. I could almost smell them, they were so close to life.

Excellent writing and a good tale of mystery and suspense!

Book Review: The White Company

The White Company
The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Alleyne has had a sheltered up-bringing in a monastery, learning how to read and paint, but knowing very little about normal life in Medieval England. When he ventures out into the world as a young man, he finds a place as squire to the famous knight, Sir Nigel, the leader of the White Company, a band of English archers. They march to war with Spain, and Alleyne is determined to win glory, love, riches, and honor without losing the saintly virtues that the monks taught him as a child.

I loved the adventure, the action, the rousing dialogue, and knightly courage! The plot ran through all these unexpected turns that took me by surprise. Continue reading