The Chatham Rats by David Mariner (1969) was an interesting, plunging, hair-raising espionage tale.
It starts out kind of slow--only it's not really slow. It's more the fact that you know no more than the characters, or less actually, and so it's a bit confusing for the first couple of chapters. The story itself, told in third person, but with one main character and about three other sub-main-characters who most of the action is focused around, is intriguing, baffling, and highly terrifying if you were actually there.
Set in the Mediterranean in June of 1941, the entire story covers less than a week in the life of the crew of the ship H.M.S. Wildcat. (Perhaps I ought to add here that the author is British.) Following is the blurb from the inner cover:
They deliberately betrayed the British Mediterranean Fleet, fought a tragic action with unwitting British destroyers, defied the might of the Luftwaffe, the Italian High Command, the Prussian Gestapo, even a crack Wehrmacht paratroop regiment, and all to buy two years of time. They were called the Chatham rats. They wore Italian uniforms, carried cyanide capsules, fought secretly with a fast Italian destroyer they had captured during the Battle of Matapan, and they had one aim - to find and exterminate the men who designed the first guided missile in history - the radio-controlled marine glider bomb.
I had one main issue with the book: language. While definitely not as dicey as it could have been, there was just enough of it for me to really notice. I was able frequently enough to see it coming and kind of skip it, but I still would put a warning out there.
I would also like to allude to certain sexual references that really were not necessary, though, I don't suppose, are entirely unrealistic for a group of fighting men. Also, I would not say that the worldview was overly Christian though there was no denial of God as of such--but then again, even full-blown modern British television still has an element of cultural acknowledgement of God.
Overall then, I enjoyed the story, but would not say, "Y'all! You just have to read this here book!" Particularly since it is a fictional tale...
Burke Davis' 1957 biography on Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart was a fantastic read.
Mr. Davis quotes extensively from first hand accounts of Stuart's life, some of whom were as colorful themselves as was the general. The writing style is highly engaging and keeps one turning the pages.
Through this book, I got a picture of JEB Stuart as a man who was extremely quick on his feet--both in battle and in wit. He had a tremendous sense of humor as these short excepts will demonstrate:
In one skirmish Stuart's troopers captured a Federal captain and took him to headquarters, where Jeb questioned him:
There are multitude of other short one-liners of similar sort that left me laughing and wondering how anyone can be so quick on their feet.
Stuart, for all his flirtation with pretty young ladies, was completely devoted to his wife and children.
Most importantly, the general was a man of firm Christian faith--a faith which rivaled that of Stonewall Jackson and Lee. He was fearless in battle for he confessed that no harm would befall him unless such was God's will.
These are a few of the observations I came away with concerning the man himself.
Mr. Davis naturally spends a deal of time on the actual conflicts that Stuart was engaged in, but never do they become dull or boring. He keeps the reader attached to the narrative...I appreciate how he draws from multiple sources, both Confederate and Union, for different views and perceptions of events. If I am allowed a rabbit trail here, I find it highly amusing at times the vast discrepancies between Southern and Northern battle reports. Both sides frequently claim the victory and tell of the foe's flight and disorganization as though the other were mere cowards. Interesting, but not necessarily surprising, I suppose.
All in all, I would recommend the book; it seems to me to be a very level-headed account, written by a man who perhaps had Southern sympathies (I never could quite tell). Because I enjoyed this one so well, I look forward to reading Burke Davis' biography of General R.E. Lee (which I was recently delighted to find amongst some books I had packed away).
By Lee Duigon
Right up front, I want to say that I believe that there is going to be more...I have read Books 1-5 and at the end of Book 5, I stated emphatically to myself: "That is not the end of the story..."
Bell Mountain, The Cellar Beneath the Cellar, The Thunder King, The Last Banquet, and The Fugitive Prince are by far some of the best children's fantasy around. Written by Lee Duigon, these books definitely held my attention (and caused some amused snickers and giggles).
One of the most fascinating things about the series is that you can see how Mr. Duigon drew from biblical history, as well as the history of the Reformation, (and history in general) in crafting this tale. While not exactly paralleling Scripture and history, and most certainly not an allogory, the story is one that teaches truth about God and man.
I don't know how exactly to cram five books into a paragraph or two without giving away the plot...but I'll try to give you an idea of the story.
It seems hair-brained and crazy when a couple of kids head out across land they have never been across to follow a boy's dream--a dream that scares the daylights out of him, but simply will not give him any peace. This action and the subsequent consquences unleash something like man in Obann has never seen before.
Strange, giant animals roam the world...
The Heathens across the mountains are mobilizing under a solitary commander...
The Temple is corrupt at it's heart...
And Jack and Ellyane are having wild adventures--which culminate in a world changing moment.
From there, the rest of the series roars to life and by the end of The Fugitive Prince, I knew more was coming because of certain foreshadowings that were not fulfilled. (Needless to say, I look forward to more!)
The writing style is easy reading (after all, these are children's books)...if I had any complaint with it, it would be that Mr. Duigon reiterates certain facts multiple times per book. Even then, it isn't much of a problem.
My favorite character is probably Helki...a big man with a crazy patch-work coat...but I won't say more for fear of spoiling your introduction to him!
I definitely recommend these books!
By James Otis
This particular book is copyrighted 1895. As such, being a children's book, there is nothing in the way of langauge or insinuation that would hinder the willingness to let children read it.
The story follows three lads from New Hampshire as they follow their desire to enlist in the Contential army in 1781.
First they head off to join Col. Scammell (a fellow townsman), being chased first by an uncle of one of the lads and later by a couple of Tory spies. From there they are sent to Virginia where they get the dangerous mission of spying for General Lafayette. Finally they are able to actually enlist and prove themselves noble soldiers all during the seige of Yorktown.
Being a book written in the late 1800's the story moves slightly slower than modern stories tend to. (In fact, I thought the author wrote rather like I do--there seemed almost to be mutliple climaxes.) I did enjoy it mostly, but did take some issue with the constant allusion to "luck". It was meant as "luck" and not providence--at least as far as I could descern. That was my really biggest problem with the story. The fact that one of the characters (Josh) held a great deal of animosity towards another (Sim) was less bothersome. This would probably be because 1) Sim is an evil man, not to be trusted and 2) Josh never claims to be a Christain.
I thought the way the author drew quotes from historical books and documents during the later part of the book to detail the situation around about the fall of Yorktown was an interesting tactic.
The fifth book I have read by Robert Ballentyne, Hunted and Harried is a story of the Scottish Covenenters.
The tale follows young Will Wallace, who throws in his lot with the hunted Covenenters, initially because he has little other choice, but later because he embraces their beliefs. Will and his Covenenter friends face the persecution of the "killing times" with loyality and bravery; friendship and love (romance doesn't exactly fit) grow and is strengthened even through the terror and misery around them.
Ballentyne does not go into overly gory details about the torture involved, but he speaks plainly and openly of the brave Convenenter martyrs and what they underwent--men, women, and in some cases children. As with his other books (drawing from the limited number I have read), Ballentyne weaves occasionally lengthly expositions of the history of the era into his tale and does more than just tell the reader what happened. He challenges the reader to learn, understand, and implement that learning. (He differs from Henty in this aspect. Henty's history is worked in a little more sublty--less like he is actually sitting there, eye to eye, talking with you.)
I highly recommend Ballentyne's works for both boys and girls (though they are really addressed more to the young men). He holds up high standards for his reader and is really quite engaging. For a younger reader, they might be a little hard because Ballentyne writes like a man from his era. The Victorian writers used more language, a wider vocabularly, than your average person is used to.
I would definitely recommend this book as a starting place for someone's study of the Scottish Covenenters. I learned several things from this book that I previously did not know (not that I have extensively studied the Convenenters). The only warning I might give does concern the description of torture. Like I said above, it is not overly gory but it is there. (How can one discuss torture without describing it to some extent?)
By Frances Hodgson Burnett
Seeing how much I have enjoyed Frances Burnett's classic tales The Secret Garden and The Little Princess (both at least twice), when I discovered this one, I just had to read it. I wasn't disappointed for the story held me in it's grips.
The hero is a 12 year-old man--for boy does not quite fit the extremely self-disciplined lad. Marco Loristan is the son of his father; which might sound odd, but it is very much a part of this story. Stefan Loristan is an exile from his native country (where in fact he has never actually been), Samavia (a fictious place in east Europe). Throughout his son's life they have always been poor, never staying any one place overly long--hunted almost as it were.
The story of the Lost Prince--practially a god to the people of Samavia--is woven throughout the book and is in fact the driving force behind much of the character's actions.
This is where I find some quibbles with the story. For starters, the practically god-like nature of this 'lost prince' is somewhat disturbing to the Christian who holds that God is the only one who deserves and should get such undying devotion and reverence. (Though on the one hand one could almost say this could be exempletory of how we ought to live and die for our Heavenly King.) The feelings the loyal Samavians have for the Lost Prince are echoed by Marco and his friend "The Rat" towards Marco's father. (The tender, manly love between father and son is very encouraging and lovely to read.) Almost more "disturbing" is the thread throughout the book of some old Buhddist hermit's teachings to Stefan Loristan that he has passed on to his son. God is spoken of reverently throughout the book, but such talk of God is common from literature from the late 1880's and early 1900's because Christianity was so universally believed in the West during that time.
Still, the bravery and self-sacrificing love and loyalty of the characters is both thrilling and encouraging in this day of effeminate men. I enjoyed the story of adventure and intrigue and watching the growth of Marco and The Rat into stronger fellows. Because of the Eastern Mysticism, I would be inclined to not recommend this book for an undiscerning reader--it is amazing how stories teach and how it causes one to desire to emulate the characters. For that matter, there is much to emulate in the characters and little to not recommend them to you as upstanding persons.
A Reformed Presbyterian girl who enjoys a good movie or a good book any ol'
Note: All images picked up online. No copyright infringment intended.