In the Bookcase


Book Review: Macbeth

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (4 star review)


by William Shakespeare

246 pages // published in 1606 // classic play


One night on the heath, the brave and respected general Macbeth encounters three witches who foretell that he will become king of Scotland. At first sceptical, he’s urged on by the ruthless, single-minded ambitions of Lady Macbeth, who suffers none of her husband’s doubt. But seeing the prophecy through to the bloody end leads them both spiralling into paranoia, tyranny, madness, and murder. This shocking tragedy - a violent caution to those seeking power for its own sake - is, to this day, one of Shakespeare’s most popular and influential masterpieces.

My Review

4 Star Rating

My first venture into Shakespeare's world... And I ended up with the dark tragedy, The Scottish Play itself. Macbeth. I think I like it.

A story of man's (and woman's) selfish desires to be powerful and leader over all; of the sinful and murderous natures that humans have; of the effects of guilt and shame that take a toll on a person who has committed horrible actions...

This play is an interesting study of human nature to contrast Macbeth's actions with that of his wife's. The one, who cannot secretly harbor the evil deed in his heart, the other who has the mental calmness to plot, theorize, and coordinating the whole scheme to get to her desired destination: the royal throne of Scotland. What opposites they are, yet this couple still works out one of the sneakiest assassinations ever known -- fictionally, of course.

Now, it's really not a long play to read. (I was glad for that, as I was just wanting to test the waters of the Bard. I feel like I could read more from him in the future and not feel daunted by the task.) The Old English phrasings may be something you have to adjust to while reading, but I personally felt like I was able to understand the scenes fairly well.

Minimum age to read: 16 and up.

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Book #5 completed // Classic Play

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I've been interviewed! + GIVEAWAY

Trix Wilkins, author and blogger, has INTERVIEWED ME-- about one of our mutually favorite authors (Louisa May Alcott), about my graphic design business, and my literature-themed art. Visit her blog, Much Ado About Little Women.

In other related news, I've released a new art piece this week -- it's AVAILABLE IN MY SHOP  at 20% off until the end of the month!

But to sweeten the deal even more, Trix is running a GIVEAWAY for someone to win the new design. Get yourself entered in the contest -- and quick!

Part 2 of my interview will be up later in the week, so check back for more!
While you're waiting, go grab your copy of Trix Wilkins' book >>>


Book Review: Almost Perfect

Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning  (5 star review)

Almost Perfect

by Diane Daniels Manning

340 pages // published in 2014 // animal fiction


An old woman who has given up hope and a boy who believes the impossible wonder if life would be perfect at the Westminster Dog Show.

Seventy-year old Bess Rutledge has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as one of America’s top Standard Poodle breeders, she has decided she’s too old to hold on to her foolish dream. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and his mischievous, handsome son Breaker. Part of her senses they might have been the ones to take her to Westminster, if only she’d dared to try.

Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .

My Review

5 Star Rating

I was immediately completely sold when I read this paragraph in the first chapter:

"His dad wouldn't let him have a dog -- period! -- but especially not a poodle. His dad said poodles were sissy dogs, and his dad was right. He had a book with pictures of every kind of dog in the world and had already picked out his favorite: a brown and white beagle like Snoopy. He wouldn't mind a collie like Lassie either."

(At this point I knew that me and Benny would get along great in this story, since we are on the same page when it comes to dog breeds.)

The story takes place in the 1990s. (I didn't quite catch on to the decade gap for a while.) Herein we find an aging woman snatching at a final chance to accomplish the unrealized dream of a lifetime. A young boy growing up, broken dreams shattering around him, until he finds a calling. A dog calling out for him.

I enjoyed the storyline quite a bit! However, in the author's writing style, I found a few dozen too many similes (for my personal taste).

Contains some allusions to adult content, although not detailed. Also includes topics related to dog breeding.

Minimum age to read: 16 and up.

Overall? If you're interested in any of the related topics, such as poodles, dog shows, mentally challenged kids, complicated family relationships, and unique friendship bonds, you'll probably like this novel.

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Book #7 completed

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Book Review: The Wizard of Oz FAQ

The Wizard of Oz FAQ by David J. Hogan (4 star review)

The Wizard of Oz FAQ
All That's Left to Know about Life, According to Oz

by David J. Hogan

472 pages // published in 2014 // cinema non-fiction


The Wizard of Oz FAQ is a fact-filled celebration of the beloved 1939 fantasy masterpiece starring Judy Garland. It's all here - from L. Frank Baum and his Oz novels to the complete background story of the movie's conception, development, and shoot, with special attention given to the little-known parade of uncredited directors, casting difficulties, and on-set accidents and gaffes, as well as more than 75 sidebars devoted to key cast members, directors, and other behind-the-scenes personnel. You'll find a wealth of fun facts: How MGM overworked Judy Garland before, during, and after Oz; why director Victor Fleming had his hands full with the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy's other friends; what it was about Toto that really bothered Judy; the physical horrors of filming in Technicolor; the racial Oz gag that was scripted but never shot; when the Wicked Witch was going to be beautiful; why The Wizard of Oz owes a lot to silent-screen star Mary Pickford; the story of deleted scenes, and a full two weeks of shooting that had to be scrapped; why MGM star Mickey Rooney was part of the movie's traveling publicity blitz; how the Wicked Witch was literally blown off her broomstick one day; the place where lions, tigers, and bears really do live together; singers you hear but never see; the day MGM fired Judy Garland; and much more. Just follow the yellow brick road!

My Review

4 Star Rating

This immense FAQ volume paints a picture for us that shows the gritty details behind the scenes of those gigantic green curtains -- the dark side of Oz. It's like an encyclopedia; it has the last word on everything The Wizard of Oz. This book is vast.

"MGM product had gloss."
Everything they touched was basically golden, but there's a reason for that; they hired the best, and they pushed for quality entertainment. MGM was rather like a city in itself, containing every amenity needed, and had a need for every type of career.

You can open the book to any page and find some interesting tidbits. I found it hard to continuously read for an extended time though. You do end up learning all sorts of things about how the movie came together -- including fine details such as how much Terry (Toto) was paid per week! My favorite part is in chapter 18, where it speeds through several rumors concerning Oz and attempts to relay its validity.

Although The Wizard of Oz movie made millions, it didn't make actual profit until 10 years later when a re-release took place. Can you imagine?! I was also surprised to hear that the beloved song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" almost didn't squeeze through the final cut. Would we have even remembered the film half so well if that song was omitted?! I ended up learning some shocking "secrets" about the making of the movie, about Judy Garland, and ALL the rest of the cast too. There is simply so much packed into this volume, it's crazy.

- - - - -
Language level: 3 out of 5. Mild language/cursing.

Content level: 3 out of 5. A variety of adult themes are at least alluded to, but not too detailed.

Minimum age to read: 18 and up.

Overall? It's an exhaustive source that would make for a good coffee table book in the home of an Oz fan.

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Book #8 completed

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Book Review: Light in My Darkest Night

Light in My Darkest Night by Catherine Marshall (5 star review)

Light in My Darkest Night

by Catherine Marshall

255 pages // published in 1989 // Christian memoir


This is the story of the intense despair and spiritual emptiness that threatened Catherine Marshall's marriage, her health, and her life--and of the devastating discovery that ultimately brought her peace through a new and greater appreciation of God's love and will.

My Review

5 Star Rating

This book is unique compared to Catherine Marshall's other books; this one was published after her death, a collaborative effort from her husband, Len LeSourd, who uses written/recorded material from Catherine herself, and other viewpoints are collected from friends and family. Several people wrote this book together; each person is heard from individually. (I did have to stay on my toes to keep up with who was talking, and to not cross the viewpoints.)

Herein we find that the famed Catherine Marshall had her share of troubles, including the ups and downs of hearing God's voice. She put her full strength into a prayer project for her grandbaby's life. When the situation didn't pan out as she had set it forth in her mind, Catherine spun into depression and a bleak period of life. Haven't we all found ourselves in a similar position at some point? (Most likely when we've been relying on human thinking too much, instead of God's.)

At one point she uses the phrase "Faith overcomes fear" -- several times a day she has to tell herself that phrase just to get through. Catherine, while a Godly woman, was just like the rest of us... And I rather like that phrase she chose. That's one I'm going to remember for a day when I might need it.

What she missed seeing during this tough family time was the miraculous ways that God was shining His light for all to see. What amazing stories! The Almighty's plan wasn't done Catherine's way -- but His way. That's a lesson I can takeaway something from.

"Healing is truly a divine mystery.... Healing remains in the hands of the One who triumphed over man's sin and sicknesses on the cross..."
- Peter John Marshall

If you're familiar with Catherine's other writings, or perhaps with Peter Marshall's story, you'll want to read this one too. If you need a good book that covers topics such as grief, loss, prayer, miracles, healing or even silence from our Heavenly Father... you may find what you need here.

"We can wallow in misery, separated from God. Or we can tell Him, 'I need Your presence in my life more than I need understanding. I choose You, Lord.'"
- Catherine Marshall

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Book #6 completed

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Book Review: Doc Susie

Doc Susie by Virginia Cornell (4 star review)

Doc Susie

by Virginia Cornell

256 pages // published in 1991 // biographical story


The bestselling true story of a woman doctor at the turn of the century and her triumph over prejudice, poverty, and even her own illness. When she arrived in Colorado in 1907, Dr. Susan Anderson had a broken heart and a bad case of tuberculosis. But she stayed to heal the sick, tend to the dying, fight the exploitative railway management, and live a colorful, rewarding life.

My Review

4 Star Rating

Ever since I watched "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman", I have wanted so badly to read a good story about a lady doctor in past history. If she lived in Colorado, all the better. So Doc Susie's story is close enough to what I wanted. It's real and raw though. This woman lived a hard lifestyle, but she led a good life.

This book is partly a biography, and partly a story. The author explains that she has pieced together how conversations might have happened, and created a setting that resembles the feel of a novel -- all while restricting herself to the boundaries of accurate information (or fairly close) as presented in a biography. It's not strictly textbook reading -- instead it has an extra flair of rugged adventure and makes the reader feel real emotion for these mountain people whose lives crossed paths with Doc Susie's.

Language level: Mild language. (1 instance in particular, I would rate as a level 4 out of 5 for foul language -- just for the one word.)

Content level: 4 out of 5. Contains some sensitive topics such as childbirth and purity, but isn't very detailed. However, there is 1 lewd act in particular, taking place close to the end.

Minimum age to read: 16 and up.

Intrepid and complex, Susan Anderson is a woman I can glean many lessons from. She was a hard worker, knew how to wield wit (not a virtue per se, but certainly enjoyable to me as a reader), and didn't take "no" for an answer... She persevered and somehow prospered, even if never monetarily wealthy. Now that's a wonderful type of lady.

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hardcover // paperback

Book #5 completed

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