Moneyball: How to Become Obsessed

Although I like attending the occasional professional game and spent much of my childhood waiting on my brothers’ Little League games to end, I’ve never been that into baseball. What I have liked a lot over the years are the movies like A League of Their Own, Angels in the Outfield, and more recently, Moneyball, and even more recently the Korean drama Stove League. Something about baseball is romantic, what exactly about it is romantic, I’m not sure, but it definitely has a completely illogical, dreamer side to it that other sports just don’t have.

Standing in the middle of right field with a too big glove on my right hand and a too big hat falling over my eyes. The sweet grass, the beautiful sky above, and wham! there comes a ball into my territory. My own experience playing softball I just never understood why the game had to interrupt my daydreaming in the outfield.

But I digress. Moneyball is a good movie and the book is an excellent read if you don’t mind skimming over a lot of statistics. The statistic, the number have an eerie draw in that if one does understand them, one might become obsessed. Michael Lewis takes a rather dry topic and makes some magic out of it. While the book isn’t quite as plot propelled as the movie starring Brad Pitt is, one can see why some screenwriter thought this story would make a good movie. Billy Beans sounds like an amazing person, and maybe a little scary. But those who see things others don’t are all a little scary to some degree.

Although Beane and what he accomplished with the Oakland A’s is the focus of the book, Lewis also delves into the obsession, the romantic obsession that so many have with the game and especially with the statistics and picking the players. He presents the intriguing Bill James, who turned writing about baseball into an art form and first started hashing out the idea that the scouts had it wrong. That how players were picked for the league teams was all wrong.

Lewis follows one obsession to another, as James picks up readers and those readers come up with new ideas and then people are obsessed not only with the game of baseball, but the metrics of it, the statistics. Sabermetrics. It’s a sad tale how these smart, genuine fans come across brilliance, but that the big league teams just don’t see it, as they are blinded both by money and just how it’s always been done. “How it’s always been done” is a curse on the world sometimes and how good it is to shake things up. More than half our stories are about this very thing and this is the great appeal of Beane’s story, except it’s backwards almost. Usually throwing off how things have been done before means getting to know people better not increasing the technology and metrics and measuring of the people. But, here, that’s what’s done, and here it works. Here, the numbers tell more of the story of a player’s worth than do the scouts who are all too often looking at the superficial.

Beane isn’t presented as some kind of saint, and neither is his assistant manager Paul DePodesta. Although both see amazing potential through the number for certain otherwise overlooked players, they are constantly moving on and moving on to the next one. It’s not about the people, it’s about getting wins, getting walks, getting on base. Or is it? A great majority of Moneyball is about the debate: Number vs. Numbers. Which statistics really tell the truth about a player and his potential? One could get obsessed.

The Afterward is the saddest and most interesting part. Writing about real people has real consequences. Even if you’re presenting everything as you see, presenting a whole person, still the readers can misunderstand. In this case, the “readers” are those involved in professional baseball. Lewis insulted them with this work and it seems like they took it out on Beane. No one likes to be told they are wrong, and it is a royal pain trying to convince anyone they are wrong. Often, they take their ire out on the messenger, and in this case, although the messenger was Lewis, they decided to take it out on Beane. Sad for him, but I’m sure he wasn’t surprised and I’m sure he used it to further his very smart antics with the Oakland A’s. I’m sorry the scouts built him up so much for baseball and it didn’t work out, but because it didn’t work out, he and the Oakland A’s changed how the game is done.

Moneyball was a good read and almost pulled me into the obsession. Someday I would like to read Bill James’s writings on the sport and I now have a much better understanding of the people in my life who are rather obsessed with baseball: They are romantics and dreamers, and maybe number people too.

Book review: The Devil in the Dark Water


As I very much enjoyed The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I was super excited to read Stuart Turton’s next book. Okay, to be fair, the ending of 7 1/2 Deaths wasn’t ideal, but it’s a story in which whatever explanations comes up it will sound hokey. It’s just that kind of story. The Devil in the Dark Water, however, is different, more of straightforward whodunnit and set in an interesting period of time, the 1600s and on the high seas to boot.

The first half or so of the book was great, very good set up, etc., but I was disappointed that this very famous detective Samuel Pipps was barely a part of the story. The two characters who end up being the detectives, as Sammy is imprisoned, were sorta bland, if good people. There was some vibrancy lacking in their characters. The ending explained just why Sammy couldn’t be the detective in the mystery and that reveal was actually okay.

I don’t know much about sailing on the ocean, much less at that time in history, but it strained credulity to me that they ended up shipwrecked on just the island they were supposed to be shipwrecked on. This after a very long storm that the culprits couldn’t have known was coming. Also, I struggled picturing the world of the boat in my head. Some of the descriptions were fine, but I didn’t quite get how or where all the other passengers who weren’t the main nobles fit onto the boat. Perhaps in my head the ship was smaller than it actually is in the book. Also, by the end of the story, I was thinking more of the show Lost than that time period. The atmosphere had disappeared.

The ending ending. The answers to the mystery all made sense to some degree, but what did not make sense is that our upright heroes agree to form a secret society with the murderers to supposedly bring judgement on “bad” nobles. These people had just been betrayed by who they thought were their best friends. The “friends” they are going to collaborate in the future are untrustworthy to the extreme, and are also violent and dangerous. They have no problem harming the innocent in their desire to deal out “justice.” I found the ending bizarre and lacking in morality. Repulsive, even. Suddenly the main characters no longer seemed good, or any good. A society like this would be something to be afraid of. On the one hand we can all understand the idea of vigilante justice, but on the other, the reality of a world run that way would be terrifying. Robin Hood or Batman are fictional also, but these guys have rules. To some degree they do their stuff within the bounds of law and morality. With the people in this book, however, I shudder. It clearly struck me in reading the ending how much I did not care for any of the characters.

Sometimes it would be far better to simply end on a cliffhanger. And now I really want a smashing good detective story about Samuel Pipps, a good Sammy Pipps who’s like Sherlock, just in a different century.

Turton’s definitely got talent, but I think it’s difficult on the next book when the first one’s such a success. It’s like poor, M. Night Shyamalan trying to comeback after The Sixth Sense. Expectations are next to impossible. That being said, the ending was terrible and unlike, 7 1/2 Deaths, I do not recommend this book and it will not stay on my bookshelves.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 7: The Last Battle

What a timely title that is: The Last Battle. So many people, including Christians, think we are in the last days, the battle(s) before the end of the world. Maybe that’s true, but who knows? The world’s gone through some pretty bad times before now and still went on. Our times now are projected to get tougher, but, hey, we get tougher with it.

This is my least favorite book in The Chronicles of Narnia. I realized I’d never actually read the whole thing, because Puzzle and Shift and the wearing of the lion skin made me sick to my stomach. No different this time. Ugh. Really, I only liked the very end, when everyone, all the children now grown up, now young again, who had ever visited Narnia get to go to heaven or Aslan’s country.

I so admire Tirian’s bravery and also that of Eustace and Jill. No lack of fighting here. However, I was kind of bored by it and just sad about the false Aslan, the false god. Perhaps it was just too gloomy for me. I also wasn’t sure what to make of Lewis’s including of a character who did not believe in Aslan in Aslan’s country. Going by allegory, it is not theology in line with the Bible, for the Bible says faith in Jesus is what one must have for salvation. But, perhaps this young man always believed in Aslan, or Jesus, and just didn’t know his name? Certainly people before Jesus was born on earth still believed in him, in God’s promise of a Savior, and were saved, so maybe Lewis is getting at something like that. It was perplexing, though, and not clarified well.

The very end is great, Lewis’s vision of heaven is pretty neat, although it is sad that the Pevensies all died in a train accident. Fortunately they don’t care and are on to bigger and better adventures. How great it was to have all the characters of all the stories together. What fun they will have!

Maybe someday I will read The Last Battle again and appreciate it more. I know a lot of fans of the series really like this one.

To conclude: My favorite is still The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though it was fun reading all seven books. I realize that in many ways I have grown up and maybe can’t appreciate the series the same way in which I did as a child. Being grown up isn’t so bad, though, we have our adventures too.

Vitamin D3 Miracle: Book Review

First of all, this self-published book is a complete mess. This is one of those books that definitely give self-publishing a bad rap. In interviews, the author seems far more coherent and knowledgeable, so it could just be he isn’t a writer, but, wow, could this book have used an outline, a focus, and an editor! The knowledge, however, is sound, and I think worth the time to consider.

The Miraculous Results of Extremely High Doses of the Sunshine Hormone Vitamin D3: My Experiment with Huge Doses of D3 from 25,000 to 50,000 to 100,000 IU a Day Over a One Year Period by Jeff T. Bowles. Wow, the title, I can’t even. The book is more a stream of consciousness, not really a detailed description of how taking high doses of D3 affected this man. Bowles is clearly very smart, as most readers are, but it’s as if he was thinking too fast when he wrote this and while there’s some useful information in the book, he has updated it periodically and frequently contradicts himself. It’s clear that he is onto something with Vitamin D and kudos to him encouraging everyone to do their own research, but this isn’t a book I would recommend spending money on. If you do, purchase the ebook, which the author himself recommends in the published book. Bowles has a few theories and ideas of why D3 works, especially the idea that if we don’t get enough vitamin D3 that we, like other mammals, go into a winter hibernation mode in which our body is just trying to stay alive and keep from freezing. Thus, we gain weight and have a great lack of energy.

I bought this book because I listened to a great interview that Bowles did, and I can now say, just watch/listen to the interview on YouTube: See also the interview by Dr. Somerville on D3 as well: Both these men are outside-the-box thinkers as so many are having to become today and finally a light is being shed on just how ineffective modern medicine and doctors are at actually healing people of disease. If you have a broken leg and need heart surgery, it’s not so bad, but for most chronic ailments and illnesses, doctors simply only have one tool: pharmaceutical drugs. From cancer to rheumatoid arthritis, all they can do is “manage” your illness for life, they can’t cure it. That doesn’t mean there are no cures, however, there are a plethora of natural ways to cure a variety of illnesses, but they require patience, perseverance, and endurance, something that modern man just isn’t all about. We want a quick pill to make it better. Trouble is, those quick pills come with a cost we are only just beginning to realize: even more chronic health conditions. (I also lump vaccines into this category, but won’t go into that today).

Bowles largely got a lot of his information from simply reading medical journals, studies, abstracts, etc., many on, which anybody can search, and he encourages his readers to do just that, touting the wealth of information there that just needs to be put together. I cannot get behind his dismissal of the actual data in the studies, however. The data is vital. Sometimes the scientists come to conclusions that do not hold up to the data and their study still gets published. He’s also very into the theory of evolution and for me as a Christian it just makes more sense to go with a Creator who designed us. Our bodies are designed to adapt to our environment. My light skin likely came due to my ancestors living for many years in the North, where there’s little sun, just as those who have dark sun have ancestors coming from very sunny, hot climates. Anyway, a lot of Bowles’ ideas and theories are largely available for free online and also touted by others. He certainly doesn’t mind that and seems to be just a man who really likes learning, finding things out, and experimenting. He definitely has a scientist heart, even if he’s a poor writer.

So, Vitamin D. Well, it’s actually a hormone, something our bodies produce in sunlight, but since we all refer to it as a vitamin, I will, too. Is it a “miraculous” substance? A year and a half ago I heard from somewhere that we actually produce 10,000+ IUs of D3 with 20 minutes to a half hour in the sun. It gave me pause, because I realize the recommended daily allowance is low, severely low. It’s now 1,000 to 4,000 IUs a day, but I think was even lower when I was growing up. This is the case with other vitamins, like vitamin C and magnesium: The recommended daily allowance is just enough to keep one alive, not in optimal health. Is this a purposeful misinforming of the public? For money? Is is so that the pharmaceutical companies and doctors can all just keep making money as drug dealers “managing” all of our chronic conditions and illnesses? I don’t know the answer for sure, and neither does Bowles, but in this day and age it certainly appear wicked and nefarious.

For about a year and a half, I have been taking 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D3. In all that time, I haven’t had a respiratory illness, not a cold, not the flu, not covid. My allergies are better, and my health is generally better. After listening to Bowles and Dr. Somerville, I have decided to try 20,000 IUs a day, split up morning and night. After a few days, I can tell you my sleep is a lot better, and my skin and hair are softer. A sebaceous cyst I’ve had for almost a year appears to be healing faster now. I am also supplementing magnesium and Vitamin K2, both of which Bowles would recommend. Although I do have a few other sort of major health things I want to fix, at this time I am content just to increase the D3 a bit at a time and will maybe just still with the 20,000 and then go back down to 10,000 again when summer comes and plan to get a lot more sun time. I think healing needs to be thought of in the long term. Is D3 miraculous? Maybe, but it’s not an instant miracle even at high doses. From the testimonies in the book, people still have to take the high doses for several weeks/months to be healed. Bowles highly recommends testing your blood beforehand and also supplementing other vitamins as D3 uses those, such as magnesium and K2, to repair your body. It’s a fascinating concept and I applaud him for latching upon it.

Although in some ways this book isn’t worth the cost or the read, the information certainly is, but that info can be found for free elsewhere. It can, however, be important to financially support these outside-the-box thinkers, however, for their curiosity and persistence will surely lead to more studies being done on Vitamin D and other health aspects. Bowles mentions little about one’s diet and I wonder how supplementing Vitamin D3 fares with people on, say, a keto or carnivore diet. Those diets, too, people have touted as miracles. It’s clear to me our bodies are complicated and made by a designer, a Creator, who meant us to spend some time outdoors and in the sun, and who meant for us to eat natural foods.

Is Vitamin D the answer, the cure, for so many of our ailments? From personal experience, I think the lack of it is definitely why we get so many respiratory illnesses in the winter months. It also may be why we have so many seasonal and other allergies. My allergies, although not gone, are definitely better after increasing my D3. The healing of bones, we’ll see over time. The healing of tumors, we’ll see over time. The biggest part of this book is that modern medicine and doctors are really only taught what they are taught. If they are not curious and don’t have time, they will know little about the possible healing powers of Vitamin D, other vitamins, and proper nutrition. Fat and cholesterol, for example are now bringing people to better health as well as cutting their sugar and carb intake. Will modern medicine catch up to this? Well, it better, or it may find itself soon extinct, or at least relegated back to casting broken legs and open heart surgery. Really, I don’t think that would be such a bad thing. I’ve always thought it a bit silly that we run to our local clinic for colds and things like that, because rest and proper nutrition largely heal one within a week. Even with antibiotics or medicine, again, it’s usually a week and people are back to normal. It is only if one is already in poor, poor health that a cold becomes a scary cause for concern.

Am I glad I bought this book? Yes, and no. I am happy to support the author, but it’s just not a coherent enough book to pass along. It’s an extremely frustrating read and I skimmed much of it. Bowles also appears to contradict himself much in the book, and so it’s just better to look at the concept: Vitamin D3 can heal you, and take it from there. It may be worthwhile trying for yourself and certainly worthwhile looking up the numerous testimonies and discussions about the substance and considering that our society, since being encouraged to run away from the sun at every turn, has not been healthier. No, it’s been the opposite. For me, this is just one more lie in a growing list and I’ve come to think it’s malicious. Big Pharma and Big Medicine don’t want to heal us. They want to have power and make money. It could also just be stupidity, but I think not, not after reading and hearing so much about the sordid history of vaccines about which lies were told from the start. The sun is good for you, vitamins and nutrients are good for you. Fat and cholesterol are good for you. Meat and animal products are good for you. Sunshine and a change in diet will do far more for your health even than exercise will. In fact, you will feel like moving, like exercising more, and it will just be natural. No expensive gym memberships needed. But, as Bowles says, don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself. Three months, give it a shot. What have you got to lose? But be smart about it, do your own reading and research. If you begin and your body protests, listen to it. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Happy New Year and I pray you have a blessed and healthy 2022 and be a slave to lies no more.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 6, The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair is definitely still in my top 3 Narnia books. For some reason I always forget and think the story has Prince Caspian in it, when really it’s his son. This story also says Lord of the Rings more to me than the other ones. Perhaps it’s the marshes and Puddleglum, or the great caverns they eventually find themselves in. Maybe it’s the owls, but that makes me think more of Harry Potter.

In this story, we are introduced to a girl named Jill Pole who goes to a school with Eustace Scrubb. It’s a horrible school that doesn’t really teach them anything–gee, how could we ever relate?–and where they get bullied. Jill is pretty fun and how great to have Eustace back! They end up first in Aslan’s country, then in Narnia, and all set to complete a quest Aslan gives them, but of course everything goes wrong. They are off to save Prince Rillian, King Caspian’s son, and keep forgetting their quest, much due to the evil machinations of the, well, evil witch who has Rillian under her spell.

Puddleglum is the standout character in The Silver Chair, and what a character he is! He is a pessimist who’s almost always wrong. What fun. He’s something called a marsh-wiggle and helps the two leads get to their destination: Giant country. Everyone almost gets eaten by the giants and then they find their way underground to where Prince Rillian is being held.

In Lewisian fashion, they get to fight a bloody battle at the end and also get to be part of a Narnian romp of a party. And I hated the part where Caspian died and loved it when Aslan brought him back to live in Aslan’s country, or heaven. First thing he says to Eustace is: “Oh, don’t be such an ass!” Heh, heh. Even better, Caspian requests to see the children’s world. Aslan takes them there and they all have a magnificent time scaring off the bullies, and after that time, the children’s school is better, and Polly and Eustace are always friends. How wonderful.

Now it’s just The Last Battle, and, well, that one I really don’t care for, despite liking some things in it. But I’ll tell you about that next time.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Happy Birthday, Jesus, our Savior!

Elantris: The Cursed City

Elantris is the second book I’ve read by Brandon Sanderson (third one I’ve tried–the main character and the writing in Steelheart got on my nerves). Although I don’t find it quite as awesome as The Emperor’s Soul, this was a very good, if long, read. Sanderson is a great world builder and clearly a deep thinker as well.

In the land of Arelon there is a city called Elantris, a dead and crumbling city that was cursed ten years ago. Before that, Elantris was powerful, gorgeous, and full of magic, as were it’s citizens, the Elantrians, who were much like superheroes or gods on the earth, using special ruins or Aons to access the Dor, or the “Force” of the universe and using that power to do great things. One day, suddenly, the magic stopped working, the Elantrian’s silver skin and white hair disappeared and they found their appearance changed to that of diseased corpses instead. For the neighboring city of Kae, Elantris is now a place condemned. Whereas before, any person taken by the power and made into an Elantrian lived in splendor, now those taken by the same power are thrown into the same place to rot and likely die.

Elantris follows three main characters: Prince Raoden, who is heir to the Arelon throne, wakes up one day to find he is a cursed Elantrian. He is thrown into the city which dwarfs his own, to rot and to starve. His family and nations considers him as dead. Princess Sarene is a princess from the nearby country across the water, Toed, and arrives in Arelon to marry Prince Raoden, but finds that he is now dead and that per Arelon law she cannot marry another and will just remain a widowed court lady. Hrathen is a priest of the country of Fjordell. He has come to convert Arelon to his religion, Shu Dereth, and convert him he must, or they will all die as Fjordell plans to attack and invade them for their unbelief.

This book, like many high fantasy books, is long and so takes awhile to get going. But much world building needs to be done for the reader and Sanderson is great at that. We get to follow Raoden as he finds a new life in Elantris and even works for the good of his country despite his circumstances. We follow Sarene in her disappointment and then watch her rally as she forays into political intrigue in the Kae court. We see Hrathen confident, then continually thwarted in his plan to convert the city of Kae and Arelon. We learn more and more about what Elantris was before and what it is now.

The biggest theme that stood out to me in the story was the power of positive thinking. Raoden takes grime and decay and in his own way makes it beautiful and useable. Sarene does the same, making the best of her circumstances. Although there isn’t a lot of their romance in the book, it is neat to see how they work together for the good of their country as a couple, even if neither really know they are still a couple. They two are indeed kindred spirits and how in tune their minds and objectives are despite the distance is romantic. Even more exciting is when Raoden realizes who she is, but Sarene doesn’t know who he is. What fun.

The parts with Hrathen I found interesting, but also tedious. There are a lot of religious themes going on, but it is never clear what his religion, Shu Dereth, really teaches. The biggest message is basically convert or die. For the opposite religion, Shu Korath, there is a general feeling of kindness, but few specifics. Obviously the author left the religions purposefully vague, which on one level I found irritating, but on another level worked: By the end of the book, Hrathan has a full on questioning of his faith in Shu Dereth, and that is essentially the point of his character. He is bent on converting those to a religion in which he doesn’t really believe. However, he keeps faith in the god both religions share.

Sorry, that was a spoiler, but it’s pretty easy from the beginning of the story to see where his character arc is going. His battle with Sarene is amusing as she continually thwarts his efforts to convert the masses. She and her country of Toed are followers of the kinder religion, Shu Korath.

The religious aspects were fascinating to me because all the characters clearly had some matter of faith, but it was also as if they didn’t fully understand or know what they were believing in. Here, the vagueness didn’t quite work for me, for even believing children will know specifics. It just wasn’t flattering to any of the characters. Yet, can we say in the real world, those of us religious believers, that we really and truly understand specifically what we believe in? For me, yes and no. It depends how far I have pulled away from God at any given moment.

The magic of the world is similar to the stamps in The Emperor’s Soul and makes sense and both worlds are in the same universe. I was very much rooting for Raoden to figure out what went wrong in Elantris, why the magic suddenly stopped working. And although he does figure it out, it’s almost by mere chance that it works, and after I wondered just how he would manage to keep the magic permanent in the future. The Aons are beautiful things, both artistic and powerful, and the entire world of the story is built around them. Good world building, indeed.

Elantris is great on many levels, but Sanderson really found his stride here especially with family and friend relationships. They are all warm, real people one could imagine meeting in real life, with strengths and flaws all on display throughout the story. Maybe it’s just me being a woman, as we tend to be more interested in relationships, but I was so glad there was very little battle time and that I as a reader just got to, well, “live” in the world of Arelon. There is quite a lot of politics in the book, so if one isn’t interested in that, that or the religion, that could be a turn off. Somehow Sanderson manages to write about the most controversial topics in the real world, but in this story they are things to be pursued and studied, rather than avoided in conversation at all costs. Again, the vagueness helped in this, allowing him largely to avoid offence to the readers, while getting them interested in the story.

This was a great, if long, read and enjoyed almost all of it. It is definitely a book I’d like to read again someday and of course has made me more interested in Sanderson’s other books set in the same universe. The magic he uses in his books is very specific, a science, almost. Looking forward to reading more of him in the future.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 5, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

As a kid this was the Narnia book for me. None of the other books came close to the adventure in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. After having reread it as an adult, my opinion is the same: This is the best of the lot.

So, what makes it so special? Nothing spells adventure like a ship, plus its a ship with a quest, carrying quite a few characters we’ve already met in the series and an important new one. The quest is twofold, Prince Caspian wishes to track down 7 Narnian lords that were banished long ago and never returned, and he wants to reach the end of the world, which is Aslan’s country, or heaven, if one is keeping close to the Christian allegory.

Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are stuck visiting their horrible, annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb. Things go wrong from the start as they start arguing about a painting and end up smack dab in the middle of the sea in Narnia. Fortunately, The Dawn Treader is close at hand and soon all three are brought up on deck to be greeted by Prince Caspian, his men, and the mouse Reepicheep. This entrance to Narnia isn’t quite as iconic as the wardrobe, but it’s close.

Everyone is happy to see each other and be in Narnia except for Eustace, but then, he’s never been there before. And then, the ship is off on the quest to find the lords. Each island they pass too, it just gets better and better and I like this end of the world stuff and the whole poking at the flat earth idea. So many of the characters get challenged: Lucy, Caspian, and Reepicheep particularly. Eustace has the most dynamic change, and we quietly acknowledge along with himself that he does belong in Narnia and that he may be back. I also like all the unexpected turns in the plot–so often there appears to be danger, but then they find things aren’t as they seem and sometimes the more dangerous things are closer to the heart, like Lucy and Caspian longing for things they cannot have.

Basically, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has it all: sword fighting, sailing, a quest, a dragon, gold, princesses, water people, unending feast, a wizard, storms, a sea monster, and a teensy bit of romance thrown in. It’s a great read and if I kept any of the Narnia books on my shelf it would be this one. For me, the other ones just still don’t compare.

RRR: Books That Should Not Be

After struggling through The Cassandra Knot by Rebecca Baldwin, I am so, so thankful for those romances that actually, well, romantic. Ouch. Published in 1979, this book is adequately Regency, the author clearly knows her time period, and the potential of the plot isn’t half bad, but like so many things in life, it is the execution of things that makes all the difference, and the timing. And it’s hard to get right, but one knows when they’ve struck gold and this story is merely a knot barely worth picking at. In essence, it is a book that should not be. At some point it should have been rewritten or even discarded entirely.

Arranged marriages can often be a good catalyst for romance, and, here, things are promising. The Duke of Woodland, Edward Talbot, is happy with his mistress, and content in life, although generally he is out of funds and really only has a title and maybe some good looks to offer a lady. He is reintroduced to a childhood friend, Cassandra Russell, or Cassie. Cassie is in dire straights, living with an oppressive family that torments her and will force her into a marriage with a horrible man. She flings herself upon Edward, begging him to marry her instead. She is rich, having a great inheritance, and she will leave him be and let him live his life the way he wants. He can even keep his mistress. Edward has compassion on her and agrees to rescue her in this manner. Little does he know, however, that Cassie has actually been in love with him for a few years now.

What follows after that is continual miscommunication and conflict between the couple that is not entertaining whatsoever. Too make matters worse, the pair rarely have “screen time” together, if you will, and little of what time they had is anything leading towards romance. A good editor should have caught this long before publication. Neither main character is very likable, and neither try to win each other’s affection except in the most superficial of ways. The two have no chemistry; indeed, Edward has more chemistry with his scheming mistress than with his wife. Not really the makings of a romantic hero.

In addition to that, a strange robbery intrigue is inserted in the latter half. And the villain ends up being the only consistent and interesting character in the story–except him being the villain is not consistent at all. I was, in fact, hoping that he would steal Cassie away from Edward at many points.

How do writers and storytellers get romance so wrong? Cookie cutter plots are perhaps to blame, but it is a lack of thinking about the relationships between men and women and especially–readers of romance being primarily women–what makes women’s hearts flutter. Edward has little character. At no point in the story does he begin to rally and use the enormous funds he now has from his wife to bring his dukedom back to greatness. He aspires to nothing. As a woman, I can’t think of anything less attractive than a man with no interests, no adventures, and no ambition. Women are built to support their men. Indeed, we often lose ourselves in supporting our men. That’s not to say women have no interests of their own–Cassie clearly has fun partying apart from her husband in the story–But she’s clearly not happy, and has no foothold on which to build a relationship with her husband. Yes, he rescued her from an awful situation, but it’s one and done. It reality, Cassie would have likely been swept off her feet by another man with ambition eventually. Her girlish love for Edward would not have withstood a driven man who knows what he wants.

The Cassandra Knot is a good lesson: A marriage in which either or both parties do not love the other is a raw deal for both of them. Convenience never makes up for the lack of love and affection. Amazingly, by the end of the story, the two are in love and now have a promising happy marriage to look forward too, but how they fell in love or why. I’m not sure. The couple has no spark. With a reworked plot and some actual character and relationship development, this would have been a much better story. If it was told first person from Cassandra’s perspective, I think it could be riveting, especially since she’s in love with her husband and he doesn’t know it. All those feelings, all that angst at being thrown into physical contact with one’s heart’s desire. That would have been something. For a far, far better story involving a husband and wife who pretend not to love each other, but desperately do, try out the French Revolution and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Now that hero is a man with drive.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book Four, Prince Caspian

This review will be a bit short as I don’t have a lot to say about this story. First off, I enjoyed it, but aside from the beginning chapters, I didn’t find much memorable about it. Here we have the Pevensies, Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy on their second visit to Narnia. This takes place about a year later (in the real world) to their time in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Prince Caspian gets its start in a railway station where suddenly the four children are whisked away to Narnia. The Harry Potter series, too, makes use of a train station to get the kids to the magical world. And what could be more logical than a place of transportation? Anyway, it’s a great opening that flows well into an even better scene: All the children find their former castle where they ruled as kings and queens for so many Narnian years. At Cair Paravel, they start to remember the lives in Narnia that they once had and also find their old weapons and gifts given to them by Father Christmas so long ago. Then they meet a new dwarf and are off to help Prince Caspian save his kingdom.

I did get a kick out of Lucy sticking it to her brother when Edmund’s grumbling about girls: “That’s the worst of girls. They never carry a map in their heads.” And Lucy responds: “That’s because our heads have something inside them.” Ouch. Turns out the map in the boys’ heads of no use as its hundreds of years later that they are trying to navigate through Narnia. Lucy ends up saving the day by trusting in Aslan and her brothers’ pride is humbled. At first the three older siblings do not believe her, even though they themselves have seen Aslan before and Lucy would have no reason to make it up. C.S. Lewis is very much getting at one having faith like a little child, as Lucy is the youngest and her faith wins out on the path in which to take. It’s not so much that Lucy doesn’t have a map in her head, but she has space and room for imagination and the possibility that Aslan is there to show them the way. As adults our heads are certainly crowded with many things, many useful of them in the real world, but having a head full of faith, we can see what’s really important. Or the correct path to take in life, and so on. It’s interesting just how long the older kids persist in not believing Lucy. I see this in the real world so, so often, especially today. So many obvious signs that people just don’t see until finally they are forced to wake up to the fact that they or their thinking is on the wrong path and they must turn around and consider that all those other ideas or conspiracy theories or what have you may be valid or true or both. How easily our grown up pride gets in the way of seeing clearly sometimes.

The interaction between the Pevensies and Prince Caspian really is not a big part of the book. The largest part is simply getting them all in the same place. Lewis includes a wild, uniquely Narnian romp, and then the boys get to do some fighting and killing. As the High King, Peter trumps Caspian and ends up fighting Caspian’s uncle Miraz in combat. It ends up in a big fight, Narnians against the Telmarines who abused Caspian, and it’s thrilling to see the mouse Reepicheep enter the fray only to have Peter yell at him: “Come back, Reepicheep, you little ass! You’ll only be killed! This is no place for mice.” Of course the valiant mouse ignores him.

They all waltz through Narnia and watch as Aslan changes people, or gives them the courage to throw off their bonds. Miraz and the Telmarines have done their best to make Narnia more like a regular world, and everyone is bored and has not been having a good time. That is all stopped. Prince Caspian is crowned king of Narnia and he gives his fealty to Aslan as any Narnian king should. It’s also great to see the persistence of Reepicheep and the mice, who beg Aslan to give him a new tail as it’s been cut off in battle. Persistence is definitely part of Christianity and in asking for things we need or want. God wants us to be persistent. But it is not merely persistence, but the love of the mice for their fellow mice that really moves Aslan to grant his request.

After an amazing, again, uniquely Narnian feast, we find out from Aslan that the Telmarines aren’t from there at all, but from the real world. No wonder they ended up trying to stamp out anything wonderful and magical in Narnia. In any case, it makes Caspian a son of Adam and daughter of Eve, so he is truly fit to be a king of Narnia. Aslan makes a door back into the real world and the kids go back to their regular lives. Sadly, Lucy and Edmund find out from Peter and Susan that their older siblings won’t be coming back to Narnia as they will be too grown up. The very end is great as Edmund realized he left his new torch, or, in American, flashlight back in Narnia. What fun.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book Three, The Horse and His Boy

In reading this book, I realized that, no, I’ve never actually read the whole thing before. For many, this is their favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia series. It was an enjoyable read, and pretty funny in parts, although I though the latter part dragged a bit, but then I always tend to think that about many stories.

The story largely takes place in Calormen, a neighboring country to Narnia with a strip of a country called Archenland between them. If Narnia represents English/Western culture, Calormen represent Arabia or Middle Eastern culture. As Narnia is our hero country, its culture is of course portrayed as superior to Calormen’s. This essentially connects to C.S. Lewis’s allegory that runs throughout the series that the lion Aslan who created Narnia is a stand in for Jesus. Because Calormen doesn’t follow Aslan, their culture is thus inferior. As a Christian, I can agree with then. Generally, cultures rooted in Christianity have more regard for human life, for example. Sadly, my own county and culture has been in hot pursuit of ungodly things for a long time.

The whole clash of countries and cultures really stood out to me in this book, as we have both our hero, Shasta, and his friend, Aravis, trying to espcape the country and culture they grew up in, desiring the peace and freedom that Narnia offers. We eventually find that Shasta is from Archenland by birth, and is royalty to boot. Although Archenland isn’t Narnia, their culture is closer to Narnia than Calormen’s and Aslan walks there. Calormen revolves around tyrants and slaves, forcing people to do things, etc., so it’s not surprising that those enslaved or forced to do things against their will would want to escape. Also, got a kick out of the Calormen’s referring to Narnian King Edmund as the “White Barbarian King,” and the ridiculous way Edmund and Susan talk.

The names in this book are spot on, especially Shasta–kept thinking of the soft drink–and the villain Rabadash. I had sympathy for the latter, the handsome, young prince, who for once couldn’t get his way. Aravis was great as well, smart and athletic, and of course she becomes BFFs with Lucy. Yes, that is the really cool part of The Horse and His Boy – we get to see Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy in their time as the reigning kings and queens of Narnia. It’s great to see them as young adults and to think eventually they will go back to England and become children again. It’s great also to see Aslan show up at the end and see how defiant Rabadash is to the end, even against the great lion. He is to be pitied.

The talking horses Bree and Hwin were great and, for me, a lot more interesting than some of the talking animals in Narnia thus far. Their interactions and statements were often hilarious. And how clever to frame the story with the title The Horse and His Boy, rather than the Boy and His Horse. Gives us great insight into the talking horses and how they view themselves.

The desert trek was great, as was the mixup with Shasta and Corin, as was the whole thing with Queen Susan being wooed by Rabadash. She must have been so disappointed to find he wasn’t someone she could marry and only wanted to get control of Narnia. I suppose that’s a major drawback of being royalty, you’re not wanted for yourself much of the time. The whole journey through Archenland was where I kind of lost interest, and I didn’t quite get the purpose of the Hermit. Perhaps I will have to read it again sometime and start in the middle and keep my focus going. Again, the ending was great with Rabadash and Aslan and I love how Shasta and Aravis quarrel so much they end up getting married. Some couples really find enjoyment in arguing with each other.

All in all, I can see why for some this is their favorite Chronicles of Narnia book. It has a lot of adventure involved and we get to see many familiar faces. It’s also full of humor that both kids and adults can grasp and enjoy, and the allegory isn’t too overbearing.