Review of Mr. Miracle (2014)

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By Sister Anne Marie Burton

Looking for a Christmas story that has all the ingredients of what Christmas can be?  Debbie Macomber combines humans with problems and helpful angels to weave a story that helps one to think about the true meaning of Christmas.  Known for her stories about Mrs. Miracle, the author introduces a hero who seems destined to appear in future books.  One of the McNaughton selections, Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Story is ideal for a cozy read on a wintry day.

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Review of the Rainmaker, a novel by John Grisham

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By Christine Iannicelli

Many of John Grisham’s books have been made into movies (Runaway Jury, The Client, and A Time To Kill, to name a few) and I’ve enjoyed most of them.  However, I had never actually read any of his novels.  Would the books be as good as the films?  I decided to find out.

I started with The Rainmaker, a story about a newly graduated law student named Rudy Baylor struggling to make ends meet and prosecute his first real law case.  He is representing a low-income family suing a powerful insurance company for not paying for the bone marrow treatment that could save their son’s life.  The 1997 film version stars Matt Damon as Rudy, Danny Devito as his ambulance-chasing associate, and Jon Voight as the insurance company’s defense attorney.

I loved this story!  It is written in the present tense, allowing the reader to travel along with Rudy as he is forced to deal with job losses, backstabbing, and financial problems.  Rudy gradually becomes disillusioned with the legal system while simultaneously trying to stick to his morals and win his case.

The movie was very enjoyable and the characters were cast perfectly.  However, the novel did a better job of representing the central theme of this story, which is the corruption that exists within the legal profession and the very real issues that face college students once they graduate and try to find their way in the world.

Rudy’s experiences in law school and his supportive relationships with his professors and friends are not mentioned in the film.  These friendships are what keep Rudy grounded, but once he leaves law school and starts to witness firsthand the unethical behavior that exists within his profession, his hopes start to fade away.  It is not a pleasant story, but it is an interesting one all the same.  I highly recommend you read the book and watch the movie and experience this story for yourself!

Favorite Quote:

“I’m alone and outgunned, scared and inexperienced, but I’m right.”

Review of the Road Ends by Mary Larson

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Review By Carla Sands

The Road Ends is a story of journeys — journeys taken by members of a family living in the northern isolated reaches of Ontario in the 1960s. The backdrop of a brutal winter further underscores the hardship and loneliness of this family as they seek to find warmth and protection from both external and internal elements.

As the family implodes, Megan the only daughter of eight children — leaves for England to begin a life of her own. She leaves behind a family isolated from each other and unable to heal from their emotional wounds. Megan, her brother Tom, and her father give voice to their torments as they journey to find redemption, answers, and hope for their lives.

Lawson beautifully layers her story, illuminating the sacrifices we make and the responsibilities we have for each other. The novel is not a happy one, but the journeys’ ends provide us with a testament to the resiliency of love and family ties.

Review of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Book Illustration Depicting Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in a Train Cabin

By Christine Iannicelli

I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes.  He is one of the most fascinating fictional characters ever to be portrayed in film and television and I never miss an opportunity to relish a new version of the classic detective.  Some actors portray him as a socially awkward adventure-seeker (see Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr.), while others focus on his drug addiction and consultant work (see Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary).  The most iconic version, I would venture, is Basil Rathbone’s characterization of the pipe-smoking sleuth in fourteen black-and-white films in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Over seventy-five actors have portrayed the legendary detective (setting a Guinness World Record), but if they all share one thing, it is the source material.  Therefore, I felt I owed a debt to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of this character, to read the stories in its entirety.  This is no small feat, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and 4 novels starring Sherlock Holmes.

I decided to start with the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which includes 12 short stories describing clients whom Sherlock Holmes had assisted along with his friend Dr. Watson.  These cases (with titles such as The Red-Headed League and The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb) include murder, burglary, and even the KKK.  In Sherlock’s own words, most of these are not the “sensational trials in which [he has] figured but rather to those incidents which may have been trivial in themselves, but which have given room for those faculties of deduction” which are characteristic of a Sherlock Holmes tale (Adventure of the Copper Beeches, para. 1).  It is in these stories that Holmes encourages us to reflect on the logic he uses to solve cases rather than on the crimes themselves.  By ignoring the obvious and instead focusing on the intricate details of the case and its players, the answer is almost always unearthed.

My favorite short story in this collection is A Scandal in Bohemia, which tasks Holmes with finding an opera singer named Irene Adler who had in her possession an incriminating photograph of the King of Bohemia (her former lover).  Described by Watson as the only woman who had ever outsmarted Sherlock Holmes, the detective’s affections for her have been analyzed and debated since the story was published.  He meets her briefly and yet when the King offers a substantial reward for his assistance, Holmes only asks for a photograph of “the woman” in return.  Perhaps beneath that cold, calculating exterior beats a kind and gentle heart?  After all, we do get glimpses of Sherlock expressing sadness, disappointment, even anger at a client’s plight, and his dedication to each and every case he takes on is admirable.

Holmes’ powers of perception seem implausible until he explains his methods for solving the case.  It is then that everything becomes clear.  I wish Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have allowed us a glimpse into Sherlock’s mind throughout the investigations instead of making us wait until the end to reveal his thought process.  Still, by being forced to experience Sherlock’s brilliance through the eyes of an outsider, we are afforded the opportunity to experience what it would have been like to be the best friend of a complicated and extremely talented man such as Sherlock Holmes.

While the language is old-fashioned, making it difficult for me to read more than two or three short stories at a time, I did enjoy the beautiful prose that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle weaved into his dialogue.  His exposition transported me to 1890’s London in an instant!  The characters he described nearly jump off the page and beckon you into a world of intrigue, mystery, and mayhem.  Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading the source material that has inspired my favorite television show (BBC’s Sherlock) and cannot wait to read the next story!

You can check out the complete Sherlock Holmes collection from the Gabriele Library or read the stories online for free at www.readsherlock.com

 

Favorite Quote:

“All day the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so that even here in the heart of great, hand-made London we were forced to raise our minds for the instant from the routine of life and to recognize the presence of those great elemental forces which shriek at mankind through the bars of his civilization, like untamed beasts in a cage” (The Five Orange Pips, para. 3).