Review: Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield


We've all heard of the 300 Spartans who held the pass at Thermopylae against the Persians, and who died to the last man. What we mostly don't know is who they were, and why they were fighting. Who don't know who the Persians were, or why they were threatening Greece. Steven Pressfield's novel Gates of Fire makes up for this lack. I'd read a bit about the Spartans over the years, enough to know that they were unusual even for Ancient Greece. By our standards, they were brutal and violent; … [Read more...]

Eusebius’ History of the Church

Constantine and Friends

This post was first posted in August of 2004. When I first ran into The Da Vinci Code I knew it was nonsense; as history buff, I already had enough general historical knowledge under my belt that it smelled really bad. Nevertheless, it prompted me to go out and see what I could find on the specifics, and this book is the first fruits of that. The History of the Church is the earliest history we have of the Christian faith in its first few centuries. Eusebius was born around 260 AD, and … [Read more...]

Review: The Wind in the Willows

Mr. Toad

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows is an acknowledged classic; and I'm somewhat ashamed to say that I only got around to reading it a couple of weeks ago. It's all Walt Disney's fault, his fault and the fault of the other cartoon popularizers of the book, as I explain below. I finally picked it up on the Kindle some while back, as one of their periodic specials; and I finally "picked it up" to read it just recently. I first tried reading The Wind in the Willows when I was in … [Read more...]

What Is Christian Fantasy?


This post was first written in May of 2004. I think it holds up pretty well. I made some minor edits, and fixed a couple of typos. Kudos to Phil Wade, of Brandywine Books; the link below hasn't decayed, even though it's to the old version of the blog. Phil at Brandywine Books has written several posts (most recently here) on the subject of "What is Christian Fiction?" My answer is that there are several things which can go by that name. The first is simply, "Fiction written to be … [Read more...]

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, is a rare bird: an epistolary novel, a form that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. (In this case it does.) It is also a love letter to the island of Guernsey as it existed just after World War II, which is when the book takes place. Juliet Ashton is a writer, a Londoner who made it big during the war with a series of comical newspaper columns under the name of "Izzy Bickerstaff". Now that the war … [Read more...]

Review: The Complete Peanuts, 1950 to 1952


This review was first posted in May of 2004. The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952 (Vol. 1) (The Complete Peanuts), by Charles M. Schulz, is the first of a series of books to be published over the next twelve years, containing the complete run of Peanuts cartoons from October of 1952 until Schulz's retirement, a span of nearly fifty years. I bought it for two reasons. The first is purely nostalgic. During most of my life, the only Peanuts cartoons I read in the newspaper were the Sunday … [Read more...]

Review: Busman’s Honeymoon

Busman's Honeymoon is the last of Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and it's an odd book. In fact, it's three books in one, each with a distinctly different tone. The first book is an extended epistolary novel concerning Lord Peter's nuptials with Harriet Vane, in which we get to hear from everyone involved (and many who are not), from Lord Peter's delightful mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, to Lord Peter's egregious sister-in-law, the current Duchess of Denver; it's all … [Read more...]

Review: The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield

Over President's Day weekend, a friend from college that I hadn't seen in several years recommended that I try an author named Steven Pressfield. "He writes novels about military history. The detail is amazing, and they are really good." We have similar tastes, and so I picked up The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great; and I'm glad I did. Before reading this book, I knew a little about Alexander the Great. He was the son of Philip of Macedon, the greatest conqueror the Greek … [Read more...]

Review: Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers

In Gaudy Night, the penultimate Peter Wimsey novel, Sayers returns her attention to Lord Peter's beloved Harriet Vane—almost to the exclusion of Peter himself. As with Have His Carcase, I first read this under the influence of SRDS (Sleuthly Romance Derangement Syndrome); which is to say, I first read it in order to find out what happens to Lord Peter and Harriet, rather than to enjoy the mystery. On that first reading I found it long, confusing, and full of all manner of extraneous hoohaw … [Read more...]

Review: The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman, hero of Graeme Simsion's novel The Rosie Project, is a professor of genetics at an Australian university. He is also an "Aspie"—a person with Asperger's syndrome. One of the hallmarks of Asperger's syndrome is that certain aspects of social interaction that come naturally to most of us and that we handle without even thinking about it have to be learned and applied explicitly. They observe us, and make hypotheses, and draw conclusions, and (if so minded) try to live … [Read more...]