Mandrake's Cabinet of Readables & Curiosities

Mandrake's Cabinet of Readables & Curiosities

Welcome my Cabinet of Readables and Curiosities. Here you will find an ever-growing collection of tomes, nonfictionals, reviews and other such fascinations. Please enjoy your visit, but enter with caution. You will likely be awe-inspired by the experience and wander with delight through the corridors indefinitely. - SBD 

4 Stars
Spiritually Correct Bedtime Stories
Spiritually Correct Bedtime Stories: Parables of Faith for the Modern Reader - Chris Fabry

This is the third time I have read Spiritually Correct Bedtime Stories by Chris Fabry. This is a delightful little book and will be thoroughly enjoyed by any Christian who has a sense of humour and is not afraid to laugh at him/herself and some of the here-today-gone-tomorrow fads of Christendom.


Chris Fabry has taken twelve of the world’s classic fairy tales and has re-written them as satirical allegories of faith and life. Often sarcastic, brutally honest, though  always hilarious, this collection of short stories often hits the mark with the perfect balance of humor and much-needed teaching.


Here is an excerpt from my favorite story in the book: Beauty and the Mark Of The Beast, which pokes fun at how we often jump on the bandwagon of the latest and greatest ‘new’ Christian teaching:


“Beast” said Beauty, “Ive’ been down to the Christian bookstore and have purchased several titles about relationships. Don’t you think we need to improve our communication?”
“What do you mean?” said the beast.
“Well, you’re a microwave and I’m a crock-pot. You think visually and I think with my emotions…
Let me understand what you are saying,” the Beast learned to say.  And then he would state his version of what she had said.


Spiritually Correct Bedtime Stories is a short read at just 91 pages, with the length of each story being around 7-8 pages.  Therein lies the book’s flaw.  Often the stories finish abruptly leaving the reader disappointed with the anti-climax.


Most of the stories were great but sadly some felt like page-fillers.  Still a much-needed and rewarding break from my favourite genre of suspense/thriller.


One last comment, any book that makes the reader laugh out loud multiple times is a winner in my opinion.

3.5 Stars
Darlington Woods
Darlington Woods - Mike Dellosso

Rob Shields has just lost his wife and son. Battling depression, denial, and an irrational fear of darkness, Rob travels to the small town of Mayfield, MD to check out a house he has inherited from his great aunt Wilda, a woman he has never even met. There in Mayfield strange things begin to happen that lead Rob to believe his son, Jimmy, is not really dead.


After a restless night and eerie dream, Rob is convinced the answer to the mystery surrounding Jimmy’s disappearance and alleged death is to be found in a village called Darlington, a town found on no map.

Teaming up with a quirky local waitress who insists she has been there, Shields begins his quest to find the truth about the town—and his son. In Darlington, Rob and Juli come face to face with the town’s secret, creatures called Darklings inhabit the night and instill paralyzing fear in Darlington’s citizens. Their search for Jimmy leads them into the woods surrounding Darlington where, once in, there seems to be no way out.


I sat down on the sofa this afternoon and read the last half of the book in a couple of hours – I didn't even get distracted by the kids, the TV, or my boisterous parrot, which can only mean one thing: Darlington Woods is good…. real good.


This is Mike Dellosso’s third published novel and his best yet.  If you want to get an idea of the tone of this book, think ‘I am Legend’ meets ‘The Gremlins’ in a creepy forest.


Dellosso has a very unique style of weaving faith themes through his books – not preachy, clinched or familiar, but still punchy and profound.  Darlington Woods’ grand theme is about facing and overcoming fear and it achieves it’s message on a number of levels.  Not an obvious allegory, but the more I think about it  – a very powerful, and personal one.


4 Stars
The Breach
The Breach - Patrick  Lee

I've just finished The Breach by Patrick Lee and I loved it. 


The book doesn't fit neatly into any one genre.   At it's core it is a fast paced action/adventure with very strong thriller elements wrapped up in an original science fiction plot.


Comparing it to television/movies, the closest would be: Bourne trilogy meets X-files meets 24.


The action scenes are extremely visceral.  It is a violent read without being gratuitous.  The characters are complex, which is fairly uncommon when it comes to the action/adventure genre, and the storyline is the most original I have read since 'Search for the Buried Bomber'.


I love a fast-paced action-thriller with and intelligent plot with incredible twists and the Breach has them all.


One thing to remember... The Breach is the first book of a three-book overarching story, but I can assure you, you will want to read the second book as soon as you finish this.


4 out of 5 stars which for me means this book is a must read for fans of this genre-fusion.

3 Stars
Cabinet of Curiousities
The Cabinet of Curiosities - Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

In the 19th century, New Yorkers flocked to collections of strange and grotesque oddities called "cabinets of curiosities." Now, in lower Manhattan, excavators uncover the remains of 36 people murdered and gruesomely dismembered over 130 years ago by an unknown serial killer... and similar killings are happening again.

This is the third book in the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, following on from their debut work 'Relic' and its sequel 'Reliquary'.

I enjoyed CoC most out of the three, and in my opinion Preston and Childs' writing and the stories are getting better each time.

Cabinet of Curiosities is regarded by many Pendergast fans to be one of the best of the stories. I shall reserve my opinion until I have read more in the series.

Agent Pendergast is an awesomely unique protagonist and one of my favorites, my only negative point about him is that his skills border on being almost superhero-like at times.

One word of wisdom from reading the first three in the series: Although each novel is a 'stand-alone' story, I recommend reading them in order of writing as each book refers to events which happened in the previous stories. The reading experience will be richer overall, if read in order.

One more thing is that as a Christian, I do not appreciate the amount of times certain characters use Jesus' name as a cuss word.

Cabinet of Curiosities: Good but not great... 3 stars.

4 Stars
Immanuel's Veins
Immanuel's Veins - Ted Dekker

I read this book in a few solid hours, which is proof in itself that this book is good (understatement). This is also the first novel I've read where I didn't read the back cover, nor knew any hint of the plot beforehand. I intend to do this more often.

For the sake of not giving any of the mystery away, I shall give away only two plot hints: Sensuality and vampires.

I personally thought that Immanuel’s Veins was much tamer than other recent works by Dekker, and was not offended in the slightest by its content. I actually thought Ted could have been more descriptive in parts (the vampire parts, not the sensual ones :-)).

Is any of you readers getting sick of me stating the obvious? That No one, NO ONE writes Christian fiction like Ted Dekker. Immanuel’s Veins is a delectable tale of darkness, light, betrayal, redemption, hate and love.

One reviewer has written:
“Within five days I had read “Immanuel’s Veins” three times, and two weeks later I was reading it for the seventh time.”

Not my favorite Dekker novel, but an excellent, excellent read… and one which will find a special place in the hearts of all Circle fans.

I have often found it true that the louder a person speaks, the less they have to say.

Agent Pendergast (from Reliquary by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child)

2 Stars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs
I loved the first 3 books but was unpleasantly surprised with the staleness of Book 4. It just seemed flat and devoid of all that I loved about the previous 3 stories. I've heard that Book 5: Chessmen is one of the best in the series... so I will prevail ;-)
4 Stars
Search for the Buried Bomber
Search for the Buried Bomber - Lei  Xu
Absolutely awesome. It has been a long time since I read a book as consuming as this. Beware though, the book ends with a cliff hanger ;-) and the story continues as a series. Hanging out for the next book! 4.5 stars.
3 Stars
Killing Floor
Killing Floor  - Lee Child
After watching the movie I was keen to delve into the Reacher books. While the plot was great, I was bored for most of the 500+ pages and the action sequences were few and far between. 2.5 stars.
2 Stars
House of Leaves
House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski
Loved everything about Zampano's story, his footnotes and the design. (5 stars)
Hated everything about Truant's story. (0 stars)
3 Stars
Salem's Lot
Salem's Lot - Stephen King
This is the first SK book I have read.

Enjoyed the fact that the vampires were good old fashioned evil.

Loved the scene where the king vampire challenged the Catholic Priest to confront him with faith in God alone and not faith in religious trinkets. Great lesson there.
3 Stars
Pines - Blake Crouch
Think 'Lost' TV show set in small town USA. Quick and enjoyable plot-twister but don't think too hard or expect too much.
1 Stars
Night Of The Crabs
Night Of The Crabs - Guy N. Smith
I bought a book in this series as a kid because the cover art was so awesome. I never got around to reading it, so while in a nostalgic mood recently I bought it cheap on kindle.

I realise that this book has gained cult statis by pulp horror fiction connoisseurs (oxymoron?) but I mustn't be one of them because I thought it was plain awful... in every way imaginable.

The ONLY redeeming thing about 'Night of the Crabs' is the cover art. After 36 years it still rocks.
3 Stars
The Queen
The Queen - Steven James
Good but the least enjoyed (by me) of the 5 Bower books so far
3 Stars
The 5 Greatest Warriors
The Five Greatest Warriors - Matthew Reilly
Enjoyable overall, but rediculously unbelievable and unrealistic action sequences became a little tedious after a while. Also, as I Christian I did not appreciate the sub-plot of the body of Jesus Christ being discovered. Obviously Matthew Reilly and I don't share the same world-view. Jesus is alive Matty!
2 Stars
Brimstone - Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
Enjoyed the story, but did not enjoy the fairly frequent missuse of God's name.