The Knights’ Tales Collection

The Knights' Tales Collection: Book 1: Sir Lancelot the Great; Book 2: Sir Givret the Short; Book 3: Sir Gawain the True; Book 4: Sir Balin the Ill-FatedThe Knights’ Tales Collection: Book 1: Sir Lancelot the Great; Book 2: Sir Givret the Short; Book 3: Sir Gawain the True; Book 4: Sir Balin the Ill-Fated by Gerald Morris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easily 5 out of 5 stars, this is one of the most delightful reads of the year. Arthurian tales for ages 8 and up, told with much tongue in cheek humor, and very capably narrated by Steve West. These four tales are laugh-out-loud funny. Steve’s voices are perfect. I wanted to immediately start over and listen to them all again. Also available as individual stories, the books could be used as a read along for reluctant readers or adult learners. Not just for children!

Many years ago, the storytellers say, the great King Arthur brought justice to England with the help of his gallant Knights of the Round Table.

Sir Lancelot the Great
Of these worthy knights, there was never one so fearless, so chivalrous, so honorable, so…shiny as the dashing Sir Lancelot, who was quite good at defending the helpless and protecting the weak, just as long as he’d had his afternoon nap.

Sir Givret the Short
Poor Givret: his size makes him so easy to overlook. But there’s more to knighthood than height, and before long, Givret’s quick thinking lands him a place at the famous Round Table!

Sir Gawain the True
The knights didn’t always act quite as gallantly as a true knight should. Even King Arthur’s nephew, known at that time as Sir Gawain the Undefeated, was too full of himself to accept a token of thanks from a rescued princess! Someone needed to teach Sir Gawain that courtesy and friendship are just as important as strength and courage.

Sir Balin the Ill-Fated
While most of King Arthur’s knights freely chose a life of duty, for Sir Balin the Ill-Fated, destiny was foretold in a prophecy. Still, no matter how dire the task, a loyal and gallant knight never refuses adventure!

Mrs Queen Takes the Train

Mrs. Queen Takes the TrainMrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a little slow to start, but once I got into it I very much enjoyed the characters. It’s about the Queen, but it’s also about the people around her. A more thoughtful book than Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, I could actually imagine the Queen doing these things, even yoga. Along the way, the author manages to comment on Britain’s class structure, the generation gap, homosexuality, animal abuse, sexual abuse, post-war trauma, physical disabilities, and more. It is humorous without making fun of the monarchy, and maybe even a little poignant as the Queen wrestles with her own identity and wonders if she is just a “useless” figurehead.

Book description: After decades of service and years of watching her family’s troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain’s Queen is beginning to feel her age. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories—the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace and heads for King’s Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a colorful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty’s cheese set out to bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.

Comic and poignant, fast-paced and clever, Mrs Queen Takes the Train tweaks the pomp of the monarchy, going beneath its rigid formality to reveal the human heart of the woman at its center.