Spice of My Shelves: #4 Boys Read Too Edition

Yes, I realize that boys read too.

But growing up with three brothers, I realized that we had different ideas of what makes a good story.  Sometimes, we all enjoyed the same books!  Often, however, my Mom would ask me to recommend a story that my younger brothers would enjoy, and I couldn’t come up with anything, because apparently my siblings don’t enjoy gothic romance (Wuthering Heights) rom coms (Pride and Prejudice) or any kind of book that features too much description, relational drama, or elderly Episcopalian priests…. (yeah, I read some strange books.  Does any one else reading this love the Mitford series?).

 

Anyway, the point is, there are quality books that boys can enjoy.  And in case there are any hungry male minds out there who want an adventure book to read, or sisters who need to find a book recommendation, or maybe someone just wants a pure adventure story… well, this post is for those people.  Most of these books I loved myself, I’ve read all of them or parts of them to my younger brothers, and they are full of intrigue, action, and humor… which anybody, boy or girl, enjoys!   I just prefer it when the author throws a Mister Darcy and a Miss Bennett into the mix… or at least a cup of tea!

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#1 The Hobbit

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

My synopsis of the book:  12 Dwarves drag a home-loving curly haired hobbit out of his cozy hole and into a terrifying world of trolls, goblins, bear-men, and dragons; after a number of mistakes that could have been avoided if they simply followed instructions (why would you not pay attention to the wizard accompanying you in the first place?) they triumph over the dragon who stole their home and their money.

Ok, so that was a little facetious.  I adore anything Tolkien writes, and there is so much funny English humor in this book! In case you didn’t know, the Hobbit is the prequel to Lord of the Rings.  It also used to be my little brother Christian’s favorite book (it may still be, I haven’t asked him in a while), and for good reason:  Tolkien is a master of the tale of the quest, and Bilbo in particular is wonderfully characterized.  This is a fabulous story, and a must read if you just have a hankering for a good adventure!  (And thanks to the movies, now I have ‘I See Fire’ stuck in my head)….

 

Quote: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.’

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#2  The Sherlock Holmes series

Author:  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes (who yes, of course, looks exactly like Benedict Cumberbatch) is the world’s only consulting private detective, and so even though he can be difficult to work with, enigmatic, and is addicted to drugs, the local police turn to him and his psychic-like skills when they are out of their depth, which, according to Sherlock, is ‘always’.

My brother Jonathan LOVES the Sherlock stories (and my whole family did watch the BBC Sherlock series 🙂 and he actually did a research paper on the author Doyle, the real life inspiration for Holmes, and how this fictional character has actually influenced the field of criminology.  I love the books too, but mostly because of Watson, who was a long-suffering business partner and friend with this unusual, genius detective.  He humanizes the books.

Quote: ‘I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the convention and humdrum routine of everyday life.’  (To which I , Shannon, reply, ‘yes, he does, Sherlock.  And the bizarrest thing he is fascinated by is you!’)

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#3 The Lightning Thief

Author: Rick Riordan

Synopsis: After discovering the Greek myths his Latin teacher taught him (really?  His LATIN teacher taught him the names of Greek gods and Greek root words? Plot hole…) Percy Jackson, a boy who loves blue food, sets out to save the world.  And consequently, a new young adult fiction series is born.

Honestly, I think these books are pure genius.

The characterization is spot on and consistent, the plot is appropriately twisty and high-stakes, and surprises you till the very end of the book, the setting of modern day Greek gods and heroes makes for an incredibly comprehensive alternate world complete with its own history, there are hilarious sarcastic quips on every page, and the book’s even TOUCHING sometimes, for heaven’s sake.  I really identified with the main character, Percy, who seemed like a normal kid always making mistakes and finding a way to come back, yet getting the really important things like loyalty, and courage, exactly right.  I read the entire ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ series out loud to my brothers, and we laughed so hard so many times!  I think this first book is the most solid of the entire series, so if you dare to venture into the world of Camp Half-Blood, be my guest. You will become addicted. This is a world where Poseidon wears Hawaiian print shirts, Ares rides a motorcycle, and an ordinary looking kid may have the future of a hero – and unfortunately, as those who read Greek myths know, usually that future turns out to be tragic.

 

Quote: ‘ “Gods – the forces you call the Greek gods – are very much alive.”

I stared at the others around the table. 

I waited for somebody to yell, NOT! But all I got was Mr. D yelling, “Oh, a royal marriage.  Trick!  Trick! ”  He cackled as he tallied up his points.

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#4 Three Blind Mice and Other Stories

Author:  Agatha Christie

This is a volume of short stories by the queen of mystery, and I read the first one, the longest, out loud to my brothers.  We’ve also read Death on the Nile together, and once again, BBC brought to life one of our favorite sleuths –   the man of the little grey cells, the man who is Belgian, NOT French: Hercule Poirot.  I love the way Christie develops her characters, and keeps you guessing till the big reveal at the end of every story.  The reason I love this collection of short stories that I have, is because they feature not just Poirot, but also Miss Marple, Christie’s other main hero, and even some stories in which someone other than Marple or Poirot solves the case.  I can’t say enough good things about Agatha Christie’s books – just be careful if you read them at night!  Your spine may tingle a little if you hear your old house creaking and making odd noises!

Quote: ‘Enter – a murderer.’


‘ “Women are very unsound on food as a rule.  There’s many a woman if she goes out with a fellow she fancies – won’t even notice what she eats.  She’ll just order the first thing she sees.”

Hercule Poirot shook his head. 

“C’est terrible.” ‘

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#5 The Book of Three, Installment 1 of the Chronicles of Prydain

Author: Lloyd Alexander

Synopsis: After the oracle pig Hen Wen of Caer Dalben goes running in a state of shock, the Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran sets out to find her, narrowly escapes death at the hands of a Horned King and an enchantress, and expands his social circle to include a bard prone to exaggeration, a monkey-man prone to hunger, a dwarf who should have been cast as Grumpy in Snow White, the heroic Prince Gwydion, and an outspoken young princess who cannot comprehend what occurs in an Assistant Pig-Keeper’s brain.

 

I have such a soft spot for this series in my heart.  All the names are reminiscent of the Welsh language, and the characters just become so real – this is one of those highly underrated children’s fantasy books.  Perhaps not as well written as Chronicles of Narnia, or as epic as Lord of the Rings – yet a delightful world, an exciting tale, and a compelling read.  Again, I read the entire series, except for one book, aloud to my little brothers, and they loved it!  We laughed so much.  And today, as I skimmed back through this magical story, I found little quotes that still provoke me to think, dream, and laugh.  I will end this post with a few quotes from ‘The Book of Three’ :

‘If you grow up with any kind of sense – which you sometimes make me doubt – you will very likely reach your on conclusions. 

They will probably be wrong,” he added.  “However, since they will be yours, you will feel a little more satisfied with them.”


“It makes me wonder,” Gwydion went on, with a laugh that was not unkind,  “is there a destiny laid on me that an Assistant Pig-Keeper should help me in my quest?”  He hesitated.  “Or,” he mused, “is it perhaps the other way around?”


“It would be a shame if you were killed.  I should be very sorry.  I know I wouldn’t like it to happen to me…”


‘Neither refuse to give help when it is needed, ”  Medwyn continued, “nor refuse to accept it when it is offered.”




“Once you have the courage to look upon evil, seeing it for what it is and naming it by its true name, it is powerless against you, and you can destroy it.


“I asked for nothing better than to be at home, and my heart rejoices.  Yet it is a curious feeling.  I have returned to the chamber I slept in and found it smaller than I remember.  The fields are beautiful, yet not quite as I recalled them.  And I am troubled, for I wonder now if I am to be a stranger in my own home.”


Excerpt from Author’s Note:

‘The chronicle of Prydain is a fantasy.   Such thing never happen in real life.  Or do they? Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do.  Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared.  To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.’

 


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