Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Little City of Hope  -  1907
F. Marion Crawford
214 pages
genre  -  General Fiction, Christmas
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

John Henry Overholt is an inventor. His first invention was considered very successful, and John Henry is now working an a new idea, an 'air-motor'.

Quite a bit a money has already been invested, with the 'air-motor' no where near completion. John Henry is running out of money, time and hope.

John Henry and their 13-year-old son, Newton, are staying in a run-down house in Connecticut while he works on this new invention. And on the theory that two can live cheaper than three, Mrs. Overholt has taken a job as a governess and is with that family in Germany.

I love the names of the nine chapters:

I.   How John Henry Overholt Sat on Pandora's Box
II.  How a Man and a Boy Founded the Little City of Hope
III.  How They Made Bricks Without Straw
IV.  How There Was a Famine in the City
V.  How the City Was Besieged and the Lid of Pandora's Box Came Off
VI.  How a Small Boy Did a Big Thing and Nailed Down the Lid of the Box
VII.  How a Little Woman Did a great Deed to Save the City
VIII.  How the Wheels Went Round at Last
IX.  How the King of Hearts Made a Feast in the City of Hope

The title of the story refers to a model of the town that Newton is building. "It was entirely made of bits of cardboard, chips of wood, the sides of match-boxes, and odds and ends of all sorts..." Or maybe the title could signify the Overholt family and their little circle of support and love. A wonderful story full of perseverance and sacrifice.

About the Author  -

Francis Marion Crawford was born on August 2, 1854, in Bagni di Lucca, Italy, the only son of the American sculptor Thomas Crawford and Louisa Cutler Ward. He studied successively at St Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire; Cambridge University; University of Heidelberg; and the University of Rome.

In 1879 he went to India, where he studied Sanskrit and edited in Allahabad The Indian Herald. Returning to America in February 1881, he continued to study Sanskrit at Harvard University for a year and for two years contributed to various periodicals, mainly The Critic.

In December 1882 he produced his first novel, Mr. Isaacs, a brilliant sketch of modern Anglo-Indian life mingled with a touch of Oriental mystery. This book had an immediate success, and its author's promise was confirmed by the publication of Dr. Claudius (1883).

In May 1883 he returned to Italy, where he made his permanent home.  In October 1884 he married Elizabeth Berdan, the daughter of the American Civil War Union Gen. Hiram Berdan. They had two sons and two daughters.

Crawford died on April 9, 1909 at home in Sant' Agnello, Italy of a heart attack.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Bells  - 1863
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
7 stanzas, 35 lines
genre  -  poetry
my rating  - 4 out of 5 stars

I have sung this hymn at Church every December for as long as I can remember.  I didn't realize until today that there were two stanzas missing.

See if you recognize the song by those missing lines:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
          And with the sound
          The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
          And made forlorn
          The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

During the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. "I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer".

Charles was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write "Christmas Bells".

It's nice to hear 'the rest of the story'.  While I really liked the hymn, and could relate to the words, it always seemed as if the 4th verse of the song came out of nowhere.  Now I understand.  And we are promised "The Wrong will fail, the Right prevail."

About the author  - 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, to Stephen and Zilpah (Wadsworth) Longfellow.  He was the second of eight children. 

In the fall of 1822, Longfellow enrolled at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. His grandfather was a founder of the college. There, Longfellow met Nathaniel Hawthorne, who would later become his lifelong friend.

After graduating in 1825, he was offered a job as professor of modern languages at Bowdoin.  He accepted the position after traveling abroad for several years. 

On September 14, 1831, Longfellow married Mary Storer Potter, a childhood friend from Portland. In October 1835, Mary had a miscarriage about six months into her pregnancy. She did not recover and died after several weeks of illness.

In 1836, Longfellow took up a professorship at Harvard. 

In 1839, Longfellow began courting Frances "Fanny" Appleton.  On May 10, 1843, after seven years, Longfellow received a letter from Fanny Appleton agreeing to marry him. They were soon married. They had six children.

In March 1882, Longfellow went to bed with severe stomach pain. He endured the pain for several days with the help of opium before he died surrounded by family on Friday, March 24, 1882.  He is buried with both of his wives at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Colonel Crockett's Co-operative Christmas  -  1906
Rupert Hughes
66 pages
genre  - Humor, Christmas
my rating  - 4 out of 5 stars

If you were away from your family on Christmas Day, what would you do?

Well, the first year this happened to Colonel D. Austen Crockett, he moped around feeling sorry for himself. In his own words, it was "the miserablest night I ever spent in all my born days".

But the next year when it happens again, Colonel Crockett comes up with a very clever idea.

This short story is actually two letters from Colonel Crockett's to his wife with a commentary from an 'editor' in-between the letters.

I loved reading the Texan slang, and I'm purdy sure there was some exaggeration somewheres, especially when Col. Crockett reports that "the fire department was called and played the hose on the crowd. This thinned 'em off a bit on the outsquirts". 

The first time I read this, it was just an ebook I got from Amazon.  I really enjoyed it, and told my family all about it.  Then my husband found a pdf version, which included all the wonderful pictures in colors.  If you decide to read this book, I highly suggest you take the time to find a copy with the illustrations.  Each page of the book has a border with drawings inside, and then there are six pictures.

About the Author  -

Rupert Hughes was born on January 31, 1872 in Lancaster, Missouri. Rupert spent his early years there until age seven when the family moved to Keokuk, Iowa. He was the brother of Howard R. Hughes, Sr. and uncle of billionaire Howard R. Hughes, Jr.

After receiving his basic public education in Keokuk and at a private military academy near St. Charles, Missouri, Hughes attended Adelbert College in Ohio. Hughes later attended Yale University, earning a second degree in 1899.

Hughes worked at various times as a reporter for the New York Journal and editor for various magazines including Current Literature, all the while continuing to write short stories, poetry, and plays.

Some of Rupert Hughes most notable early writing involved music. Hughes was a musician and composed several songs including ones for his first venture as a playwright, the musical comedy The Bathing Girl (1895).

Hughes was married three times: Agnes Wheeler Hedge in 1893 (ended in divorce in 1903), Adelaide Bissell in 1908 (she died in 1923), Elizabeth Patterson Dial in 1924.

Rupert Hughes health began to fail in the late 1940s, leading to a non-fatal stroke in 1953. He suffered a fatal heart attack while working at his desk on September 9, 1956.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miss Santa Claus of the Pullman  -  1913
Annie Fellows Johnston
196 pages
genre - Young Adult, Christmas
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

William (age 4) and his sister Libby (age 7) have been living with Grandma Neal in Junction.  Their mother "went off to heaven" a couple of years ago and Papa has been too busy to care for them. 

But now Papa has married and the children will be traveling to the city to join their father and stepmother on the train that goes through their town at least once a day. 

The journey was made extra exciting when the train makes a special stop to pick up a young lady.  "She was not more than sixteen...her hair was tucked up under her little fur cap with its scarlet quill, and the long, fur-bordered red coat she wore, reached her ankles. One hand was thrust through a row of holly wreaths, and she was carrying all the bundles both arms could carry."

Miss Santa Claus!  And she tells them a secret: "You must always get the right kind of start. It's like hooking up a dress, you know. If you start crooked it will keep on being crooked all the way down to the bottom..."

I really enjoyed reading this story.  It keep my attention the whole way through.  I could tell that the book was meant to inspire certain virtues in children, but the promptings were subtle enough not be annoying.

About the author  -

Born on May 15, 1863, Annie Julia Fellows grew up on a farm in McCutchanville, Indiana.  Her father, who was a Methodist minister, died when she was only two, but left his influences through his theological books. 

Annie began writing as a girl, producing poems and stories.  She was known to have read every book in her Sunday school library.  She attended district school, and taught a year when she was seventeen.  

Annie attended the University of Iowa for one year (1881-82), then returned to Indiana to teach for three years, and later to work as a private secretary.  She traveled for several months through New England and Europe.

When she returned, Annie married William L. Johnston (a cousin and a widower with three young children.)  He encouraged her to write, and she began contributing stories to periodicals.  William died in 1892, leaving Annie a widow with his children to support.  It was at that time that Annie began her career as a writer.

Johnston wrote The Little Colonel in 1895, and it quickly became a success.  Twelve more volumes of the Little Colonel series would appear over the next thirty years

In 1910, Johnston moved to Pewee Valley, Kentucky, and lived there until her death on Oct. 5, 1931.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wired Love A Romance of Dots and Dashes  -  1880
Ella Cheever Thayer
173 pages
genre  -  Romance
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

19-year-old Miss Nathalie Rogers, "...or Nattie, as she was usually abbreviated..." was at work one afternoon at a telegraph office when " a noise caused her to lay aside her book, and jump up hastily, exclaiming, 'Somebody always 'calls' me in the middle of every entertaining chapter!'"

The operator signaling the other end of the wire was incredibly fast, and quite rude.  But funny, and interesting, and a man, too, if Nattie's not mistaken.  They quickly strike up a friendship.  

What follows is a wonderfully cute romance, with a certain amount of comedy of errors.  The supporting characters were well fleshed out.  There were a number of times I chuckled out loud at the antics of Quimby.  

This story could easily have been written recently with the two people meeting online.  It's amazing how times really don't change, just circumstances.

My favorite line in the book:  "There certainly is something romantic in talking to a mysterious person, unseen, and miles away!"

About the author  -

I couldn't find much about this author.

Ella Cheever Thayer (September 14, 1849 – 1925) was a playwright and novelist.  She was a former telegraph operator at the Brunswick Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.

Thayer was a resident of Saugus, Massachusetts.

Monday, November 25, 2013

John Inglefield's Thanksgiving - 1852
Nathaniel Hawthorne
6 pages
genre  - short story
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

Of the few works I have read of Hawthorne's, none of them have been particularly cheerful. I hope one day that I will be pleasantly surprised to read an uplifting and happy story of his writing.  'John Inglefield's Thanksgiving' is from Hawthorne's anthology The Snow-Image and Other Twice Told Tales.

There are four people sitting around John Inglefield's table on that Thanksgiving night.  John, his son (who is home from college), his 16-year-old daughter, and John's journeyman.  There is an empty chair at the table for John's wife who had died a few months ago.

"Within the past year another member of his household had gone from him, but not to the grave. Yet they kept no vacant chair for her."

Everyone is astonished when Prudence Inglefield walks in the door. 

I have to admit that there were a few ideas in the tale that I will have to consider.  And that's what I like best about books: when I am given points to ponder.

About the author -

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. After the death of his father in 1808, young Nathaniel, his mother and two sisters lived with relatives.

William Hathorne, the author's great-great-great-grandfather, a Puritan, was the first of the family to emigrate from England.  William's son, John Hathorne, was one of the judges who oversaw the Salem witch trials. Having learned about this, the author may have added the "w" to his surname in his early twenties, in an effort to dissociate himself from his notorious forebears.

Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody on July 9, 1842. The couple moved to Concord, Massachusetts. His neighbor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, invited him into his social circle, but Hawthorne was almost pathologically shy and stayed silent when at gatherings.

Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter in mid-March 1850. One of the first mass-produced books in America, it sold 2,500 volumes within ten days and earned Hawthorne $1,500 over 14 years.

Hawthorne met Herman Melville at a picnic hosted by a mutual friend. Melville had just read Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse. Melville, who was composing Moby-Dick at the time, wrote that these stories revealed a dark side to Hawthorne, "shrouded in blackness, ten times black". Melville dedicated Moby-Dick  to Hawthorne: "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne."

Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Brass Bowl  - 1907
Louis Joseph Vance
137 pages
genre  -  Adventure
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

The hero of the story is Daniel Maitland,"whose somewhat somber but sincere and whole-hearted participation in the wildest of conceivable escapades had earned him the affectionate regard of the younger set, together with the sobriquet of 'Mad Maitland'."

Dan and some friends have just arrived back in New York City after being gone for several weeks.  The friends have planned out the activities for the evening, and Dan isn't thrilled.  In fact, he knows it will be quite boring. 

When Dan's friends drop him off at his apartment building, someone catches his eye - "a young and attractive woman coming out of a home for confirmed bachelors."  And upstairs in his own flat, he finds a handprint on his dusty desk, just the size he would expect from that young and attractive woman's hand.

So begins a fantastic couple of days for Dan.  He encounters burglars, pushes a car out a creek, engages in some fisticuffs, meets an imposter, lies to the police, speeds through the New York streets, hotwires an elevator and then gets in a shoot out.  A cracking good time for "Mad Maitland'. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  It would make an awesome movie.  Hmmm, who would I cast as 'Handsome Dan' (as he was known during his college years)?  In fact, it was made into a movie back in 1924.  It's time for a new one.  This one will have sound and be in color!

Amazon says its ebook is only 137 pages.  I think it was much longer than that.  The original hardback was 380 pages.  It felt like what I read was around 250 pages. 

About the author  - 

Louis Joseph Vance was born in Washington, D. C. on September 19th, 1879.  Vance was educated at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. He wrote short stories and verse after 1901, then composed many popular novels.

His character "Michael Lanyard", also known as "The Lone Wolf", was featured in eight books and 24 films between 1914 and 1949, and also appeared in radio and television series.

Vance was found dead in a burnt armchair inside his New York apartment on December 16th, 1933; a cigarette had ignited some benzene (used for cleaning his clothes or for his broken jaw) that he had on his body and he was intoxicated at the time. The death was ruled accidental.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Books and I  -  1917
Edgar Guest
genre  -  poetry
3 stanzas  -  24 lines
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

What authors or books do you reach for when you are in a particular mood?  There have been times when I stand in front of my bookshelf for a few moments contemplating my choices and my state of mind.  I definitely have my favorites that I turn to in those times.

In his book of poetry called Just Folks, Edgar Guest shares his go-to authors:

"Just suited for my merry moods
     When I am wont to play.
______   ______ comes down to joke with me..."

"When I am in a thoughtful mood,
     With __________________ I sit..."

"And should my soul be torn with grief
     Upon my shelf I find
A little volume, torn and thumbled,
     For comfort just designed.
I take ____  ________   ________ down..."

How would you fill in those blanks?

About the author  - 
Edgar Albert Guest was born on the 20th of August 1881, in Birmingham, England.

In 1891, Guest came with his family to the United States from England. After he began at the Detroit Free Press as a copy boy and then a reporter, his first poem appeared 11 December 1898. He became a naturalized citizen in 1902.

From his first published work in the Detroit Free Press until his death in 1959, Guest penned some 11,000 poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books.

Guest was made Poet Laureate of Michigan, the only poet to have been awarded the title.

His popularity led to a weekly Detroit radio show which he hosted from 1931 until 1942, followed by a 1951 NBC television series, A Guest in Your Home.

Guest died on August 5th, 1959.   He was buried in Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Palace in the Garden  - 1887
Mrs. Molesworth
314 pages
genre  -  Young Adult
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

Three orphan siblings get a tremendous surprise one morning when their grandfather announces that he is closing up their London home.  Grandpapa will live at his club, and Tib (age 11), Gussie (age 10) and Gerald (age 7) will move out to the countryside to live in a cottage by the name of 'Rosebuds'.

Gerald says, "I don't like cottages with roses growing over them.  There are always witches living in cottages like that, in the fairy tales.  There is in Snow-white and Rose-red."

Grandpapa gives them three rules that they must obey.
       1 - Do not make any friends.
       2 - Do not go into other people's houses.
       3 - Do not chatter to strangers.

In the gardens around the lovely cottage, the children find a locked door in a garden wall. Gussie has found a mystery.

I can't decide which line is my favorite, so you're going to get both:

"If [Tib] were going to write a story, she would make it like poetry, very difficult to understand, and awfully long words, and lots about feelings and sorrow and mysteries."

"We can't help our minds wondering - they're made to wonder."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It was very well written.  I completely understand why the author was called "the Jane Austen of the nursery".   In Agatha Christie's book Postern of Fate, Tommy and Tuppence say that two of Molesworth's books to be their childhood favorites.             

About the author  -

Mary Louisa Stewart was born on 29th of May, 1839, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.  She was a daughter of Charles Augustus Stewart and Agnes Janet Wilson. Mary had three brothers and two sisters.

She was educated in Great Britain and Switzerland, though much of her girlhood was spent in Manchester, England. In 1861 she married Major R. Molesworth; they separated legally in 1879.

Molesworth is best known as a writer of books for the young.  She also took an interest in supernatural fiction. In 1888, she published a collection of supernatural tales under the title Four Ghost Stories, and in 1896 a similar collection of six tales under the title Uncanny Stories.

Molesworth died in 1921 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Under the Liberty Tree A Story of the "Boston Massacre"  -  1896
James Otis
126 pages
genre  -  Historical Fiction, Young Adult
my rating  -  2 out of 5 stars

Sometimes the best way to learn about history is to read about the events in a fictional setting.  I believe that is what the author intended to do with this book.

At the beginning of the story, a group of boys have gathered together to discuss the newest outrage.  One of the shopkeepers "had failed to keep the promise not to import British goods...[he] has openly declared it was his intention to sell whatsoever he pleased."

The boys decide to erect an effigy in front of the store with a sign naming all the shopkeepers so far who have gone back on their promise.  It is to be a warning. 

Events quickly escalate, and the 'Bloody Massacre' or the 'State Street Massacre' occurs.

I would have given this book a 3-star rating, but the author changed the names of some of the real participants.  Why would he do that? 

Hardy Baker was really Edward Garrick
Chris Snyder was really Christopher Seider
Lt. Draper was really Captain-Lieutenant John Goldfinch

It makes me wonder what else was changed. 

About the author -

James Otis Kaler was born on March 19, 1848, in Winterport, Maine. He attended public schools, then got a job with the Boston Journal at 13, and three years later was providing coverage of the American Civil War. Later, he went on to work for various newspapers, superintendent at schools, and a publicity man at a circus.

In 1880 Kaler authored his first, and still most famous book, Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus, a story about an orphan who runs away to join the circus. Following the book's success he went on to author numerous other children’s books, mostly historical and adventure novels.

Like most writers of his era, Kaler was astonishingly prolific, and a total of nearly 200 books by him have been identified. Most were signed with the Otis name, but he also used the pen names Walter Morris, Lt. James K. Orton, Harry Prentice, and Amy Prentice.

After spending several years in the southeastern states, he returned to Maine in 1898 to become the first superintendent of schools in South Portland.  He married Amy L. Scamman on March 19 of that year, and they had two sons, Stephen and Otis.

Kaler died on December 11, 1912, in Portland, Maine.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Way of the Wind  -  1911
Zoe Anderson Norris
134 pages
genre  -  Literary Fiction
my rating  -  5 out of 5 stars

I have been contemplating how to approach writing a review that would come close to giving the praise and consideration that this work deserves. I am VERY surprised that I have not heard of this book before, if not in a high school English class, then I should have read it in one of my college literature classes! It is that good.

From the beautiful hills of Kentucky, a scared young bride travels to barren unpopulated Kansas to join her husband, who has been preparing their future home. To her dismay, there is only a dugout for a house and the constant repressive winds.

"The wind seemed to make sport of her, to laugh at her.  It treated her as it would a tenderfoot.  It tried to frighten her...It shrieked maniacally as if rejoicing in her discomfort.  At times it seemed to hoot at her."

Although there was little conversation, it is relatively easy to read. The imagery of the wind, the tall tales of the 'cyclones' in Kansas, the mystery of the wise men from the East, and waiting to see if the young husband would prevail more than kept my attention.

This book inspired quite a conversation between my husband, teenage daughter and me. Is it man vs. himself or man vs. nature? Is there a greater significance to the wind? Who are the wise men from the East who would come a build a magic city there where the rivers meet? I would encourage any teacher to include this marvelous work in their curriculum.

As far as I can tell, Ms. Norris only wrote two other books. She was also a newspaper reporter. I would strongly suggest that you look up her "Interview with Mark Twain's Cat". Very cute!

About the author  - 

Here is a newspaper article reporting her death:

Kentucky Woman Predicted Death in the Last Issue of Her Magazine

Harrodsburg, KY.  -  In the last issue of the little New York magazine, "East Side", Zoe Anderson Norris wrote: "I am going to take the journey to the undiscovered country very, very soon." Word had just been received that she is dead; that she died as she dreamed and predicted, "very, very soon".  Mrs. Norris was Miss Zoe Anderson. She was born 47 years ago in this city. She was married to S. W. Norris, by whom she had one daughter, Mrs. Fletcher Chelf, who lives in Harrodsburg. Mr. Norris died several years ago. On the East Side, where she lived in a little five-room flat, Zoe Anderson Norris was beloved by many whose names are known in the social and literary registers of New York, and by hundreds whose condition in life led them by the narrow little ghetto world.
Mrs. Norris had been a contributor to magazines, she had done active newspaper work, and five years ago she began the publication of the little magazine. She was best known of recent years by writers and newspaper people generally as the founder and spirit of the Ragged Edge club.

Zoe Anderson Norris died 

Feb. 13, 1914.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Old Man in the Corner  -  1909
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
186 pages
genre  -  Mystery
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

Miss Polly Burton is at her favorite café, reading a newspaper when a man sits at her table and declares, "There is no such thing as a mystery in connection with any crime, providing intelligence is brought to bear upon its investigation."

Polly "had never seen any one so pale, so thin, with such funny light-coloured hair...he looked so timid and nervous...he fidgeted incessantly with a piece of string..."

The man proceeds to relate the facts of a recent crime, and how he was able to solve the mystery just by gathering information at the courtroom and from the newspapers.  Polly is curious enough about the man and his ability to solve these cold cases that she continues to meet him at the café eleven more times. 

The 'old man in the corner' first appeared in The Royal Magazine in 1901 in a series of six "Mysteries of London". The following year he returned in seven "Mysteries of Great Cities" set in large provincial centers of the British Isles. The stories are told by an unnamed lady journalist who reports the conversation of the 'man in the corner' who sits at the same table in a teashop. For the book, twelve were rewritten in the third person, with the lady journalist now named Polly Burton.

The Fenchurch Street Mystery
The Robbery in Phillimore Terrace
The York Mystery
The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railroad
The Liverpool Mystery
The Edinburgh Mystery
The Theft at the English Provident Bank
The Dublin Mystery
An Unparalleled Outrage
The Regent's Park Murder
The De Genneville Peerage
The Mysterious Death in Percy Street

About the author  - 

Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála "Emmuska" Orczy de Orczi  was born in Tarnaörs, Hungary, and was the daughter of  Baron Felix Orczy de Orczi and Countess Emma Wass von Szentegyed und Czege. Her parents left Hungary in 1868.

In 1880, the family moved to London. Orczy attended West London School of Art and then Heatherley's School of Fine Art.  It was at art school that she met a young illustrator named Montague MacLean Barstow, the son of an English clergyman; they married in 1894.

They had very little money, and Orczy started to work as a translator and an illustrator to supplement her husband's low earnings. John Montague Orczy-Barstow, their only child, was born on 25 February 1899. She started writing soon after his birth.

In 1903, Orczy and her husband wrote a play based on one of her short stories about an English aristocrat, Sir Percy Blakeney, who rescued French aristocrats from the French Revolution: The Scarlet Pimpernel. She submitted her novelization of the story under the same title to 12 publishers. While waiting for the decisions of these publishers, the play was performed in the West End. Initially, it drew small audiences, but the play ran four years in London. This theatrical success generated huge sales for the novel.

Orczy died in Henley-on-Thames on 12 November 1947.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Prince or Chauffeur?  A Story of Newport  -  1911
Lawrence Perry
176 pages
genre  -  Adventure
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

Usually when I read a book with the intent of reviewing for this blog, I take lots of notes: names, ages, descriptions, facts, and interesting quotations.  After a few pages into the story, I became so engrossed in the tale, I forgot to do this.  I consider that a good sign.

The first words of the book are:  "John Armitage, Lieutanant U. S. N., followed the porter into the rear car of the midnight express for Boston..."  Lt. Armitage talks to the porter to pass the time until the train is ready to leave.  When the porter tells John that there was a man asking after him, he gets a description of the stranger and goes searching for him.  John sees the man just as he is getting into a taxi cab.

"'Missed him,' he said in answer to the porter's look of inquiry.

'Friend of yo's, suh?'

'Well,' said the officer, smiling grimly, 'I should have liked to shake hands with him.'

His desire would have been keener could he in any way have known the nature of the message which the curious stranger had sent to a squalid little house on William Street in Newport:

A. leave here to torpedo station on midnight train."

So begins this wonderful tale of train and boat rides, a pretty young lady, a Russian prince, a missing torpedo control, disguises, spies and some romance through it all.

About the author  - 

I could very little about the author on the internet. 

Lawrence Perry (1874-1954) was a sports reporter and drama critic for several newspapers, and for the North American Newspaper Alliance, and he also became an author of novels, plays, articles, short stories, and poems.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Domestic Tragedy  -  1921
Robert W. Service
3 stanzas  -  24 lines
genre  -  poetry
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

Robert Service was 41 when World War I broke out; he enlisted, but was turned down "due to varicose veins." He briefly covered the war for the Toronto Star, then worked as a stretcher bearer and ambulance driver with the Ambulance Corps of the American Red Cross, until his health broke.

With the end of the war, Service "settled down to being a rich man in Paris.... During the day he would promenade in the best suits, with a monocle. At night he went out in old clothes with the company of his doorman, a retired policeman, to visit the lowest dives of the city.".

During his time in Paris he was reputedly the wealthiest author living in the city, yet was known to dress as a working man and walk the streets, blending in and observing everything around him. Those experiences would be used in his next book of poetry, Ballads of a Bohemian.

A poem called " A Domestic Tragedy" was included in that book.

Clorinda met me on the way
As I came from the train;
Her face was anything but gay,
In fact, suggested pain.
"Oh hubby, hubby dear!" she cried,
 "I've awful news to tell. . . ."

Yes, I know I'm leaving you hanging.  You'll just have to read the poem to find out what the horrible disaster was.  Don't worry; you'll smile when you read the ending.

About the author  - 

Robert W. Service was born in Preston, Lancashire, England, the first of ten children. His father, also Robert Service, was a banker from Kilwinning, Scotland, who had been transferred to England. At five years old Robert W. Service went to live in Kilwinning with his three aunts and his paternal grandfather.

At nine, Service rejoined his parents who had moved to Glasgow. He attended Glasgow's Hillhead High School. After leaving school, Service joined the Commercial Bank of Scotland which would later become the Royal Bank of Scotland. He was writing at this time and reportedly already "selling his verses".

Service moved to Canada at the age of 21.  Service was hired by a Canadian Bank of Commerce branch in Victoria, British Columbia.  In 1909, he decided to resign to devote his time to writing.

After World War I, Service married a French woman, Germaine Bougeoin, and the two lived in Europe, mainly in the south of France, until the poet’s death in 1958.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Blue-Bird Weather  -  1912
Robert W. Chambers
152 pages
genre  - Romance
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

John Marche's doctor has told him that he better "go somewhere for a rest or ultimately be carried, kicking, into...the 'funny house'."

So John heads to the Foam Island Duck Club for some down time, and maybe get in a little duck hunting.  It is an 11-year-old boy by the name of Jim that picks John up from the railroad station and drives him out to the clubhouse in a rickety wagon.  And it's Jim's older sister, Molly, that is the cook and housekeeper for the lodge. 

Molly also volunteers to act as John's bayman.  And that means they spend lots of time together in the duck blind waiting for the waterfowl to show up. 

But it's very odd that John never sees their father, who is the manager of the clubhouse, while he is there.  And why does the handwriting in Jim's school book have "a vague sensation of familiarity" about it?

I especially enjoy books where the author takes the time to use lots of adjectives.  This book is a good example of that practice.  For example, here is a description of John's first meal at the clubhouse:  "she...placed before him...his steaming soup, a platter of fried bass and smoking sweet potatoes, then the inevitable broiled canvas-back duck with rice, and finally home-made preserves - wild grapes, exquisitely fragrant in their thin, golden syrup."

About the author  - 

Robert William Chambers was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 26, 1865 to William P. Chambers, a famous lawyer, and Caroline Boughton Chambers, a direct descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, Rhode Island.

Robert was first educated at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute,and then entered the Art Students' League at around the age of twenty.  Chambers studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and at Académie Julian, in Paris from 1886 to 1893.  On his return to New York, he succeeded in selling his illustrations to Life, Truth, and Vogue magazines.

Then, for reasons unclear, Chambers devoted his time to writing. His most famous, and perhaps most meritorious, effort is The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories published in 1895.

On July 12, 1898, he married Elsa Vaughn Moller. They had a son, Robert Edward Stuart Chambers.

Chambers died on December 16, 1933 after having undergone intestinal surgery three days earlier.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Good Luck  -  1896
Mrs. L. T. Meade
141 pages
genre  -  Inspirational Fiction, Young Adult
my rating  -  2 out of 5 stars

Patience Reed was "an old cherry-cheeked woman.  She had bright blue eyes and firm, kindly lips...She was wonderfully pretty.  Her little face looked something like a russet apple...Her hair was snow-white, and rather fluffy in texture..."

And Mrs. Reed was at the Out-Patients' Department of the London Hospital that foggy morning.  Her right hand had been hurting "awful - right up to the shoulder."  The doctor's verdict is the equivalent of writer's cramp.  That means no more needlework. How will she support her six orphan grandchildren now?

Alison, the eldest girl, was now seventeen and working in a clothing shop.  Harry, the eldest boy, is somewhat of a scamp and a real concern to his grandmother.  David was fifteen and was doing something for himself.  The youngest three are Polly, Susie, and Kitty, and they are all attending school.

The story revolves around a series of events that brings great concern to the family.  How will they survive without Mrs. Reed's income from her needleworking?

Although I enjoyed the story, there were a few inconsistencies that bothered me.  The author didn't keep straight which boy was older, which girls shared which bedrooms, and how long they lasted on the money they had.  There were quite a few loose ends at the conclusion of the story, and there was a bit too much preaching for my taste. 

About the author  -

L. T. Meade was the pseudonym of Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith (1844–1914), a prolific writer of girls' stories. She was born in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland, daughter of Rev. R. T. Meade, of Nohoval, County Cork.

She later moved to London, where she married Alfred Toulmin Smith in September, 1879.

She began writing at 17 and produced over 300 books in her lifetime. She was primarily known for her books for young people. However, she also wrote "sentimental" and "sensational" stories, religious stories, historical novels, adventure, romances, and mysteries, including several with male co-authors.

Meade was also the editor of a popular girls' magazine, Atalanta from 1887-93. She was a feminist and a member of the Pioneer Club.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Red House Mystery  -  1922
A. A. Milne
216 pages
genre  - Mystery
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

It took me three times to get past the beginning of this book.  It seemed slow and confusing.  But I'm glad I persevered.   It's a great story.

Mr. Antony Gillingham "had come to Waldheim [which is somewhere in England] for a holiday".  Antony was an thirty-year-old attractive man, with "a clean-cut, clean-shaven face", and "a pair of grey eyes which seemed to be absorbing every detail".

When Antony hears that The Red House is only a mile away from his inn, he decides to go visit his good friend Bill Beverley, who he knows is staying at The Red House. 

As Antony approaches the open front door of the house, he sees a man in the hall "banging at a locked door, and shouting 'Open the door, I say; open the door!' "  The man tells Antony that he had heard a loud bang come from inside the study.  When they finally manage to get into the room, they find a man shot between the eyes. 

Later that evening as Antony was pondering the day's disturbing events, "He laughed suddenly, and lit his pipe.  'I was wanting a new profession,' he thought, 'and now I've found it.  Antony Gillingham, our own private sleuthhound.  I shall begin today.' "

Antony recruits his friend Bill to be his 'Watson' and together they solve the mystery.

About the author  - 

Alan Alexander Milne was born in Hampstead, London to parents Vince Milne and Sarah Marie Heginbotham and grew up at Henley House School, a small public school run by his father. One of his teachers was H. G. Wells, who taught there in 1889–90.  Milne attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied on a mathematics scholarship.

While at Cambridge, he edited and wrote for Granta, a student magazine. Milne's work came to the attention of the leading British humor magazine Punch, where he was to become a contributor and later, an assistant editor.

Milne married Dorothy de Sélincourt in 1913, and their only son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920. In 1925, A. A. Milne bought a country home in Hartfield, East Sussex.  He retired to the farm after a stroke and brain surgery in 1952.  Milne died in January 1956, at the age of 74.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Three Margarets  -  1897
Laura E. Richards
106 pages
genre  -  Young Adult
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

Three cousins are asked to spend the summer at their uncle's house on Long Island, NY.  These three young ladies have never met each other, and their lives are completely different from the others.  But they are cousins and they all have the same name:  Margaret Montfort. (They have been named after their grandmother.)

Rita is the oldest and comes from Cuba.  Her mother was Spanish, and Rita's temperament is as fiery as you can imagine.  Margaret is next in age, is from the American Northeast, is an only child and a recent orphan.  Peggy is the youngest, is from the wild, wild West, lives on a ranch and is one of nine children.

While it was interesting to see how Margaret managed her two cousins, nothing too exciting happens, except for some drama in the end.  And it ended just how I thought it would.  According to Wikipedia, Three Margarets is the first of six books:

  • Three Margarets (1897)
  • Margaret Montfort (1898)
  • Peggy (1899)
  • Rita (1900)
  • Fernley House (1901)
  • The Merryweathers (1904)

  • My favorite line in the book?  "...during the clear, calm days and years...we ought to be, laying by, as it were; storing up light and strength and happiness for the dark days when we may so deeply need them."

    About the author  -

    Laura Elizabeth Howe Richards (February 27, 1850 – January 14, 1943) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a high-profile family. During her life, she wrote over 90 books, including children's, biographies, poetry, and others. Her father was Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. Julia Ward Howe, Laura's mother, was famous for writing the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

    In 1871, Laura married Henry Richards. He would accept a management position in 1876 at his family's paper mill at Gardiner, Maine, where the couple moved with their three children.

    In 1917, Laura won a Pulitzer Prize for Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910, a biography, which she co-authored with her sister, Maud Howe Elliott.

    Monday, September 23, 2013

    The Height of the Ridiculous  -  1830
    Oliver Wendell Holmes
    8 stanzas, 32 lines
    genre  -  poetry
    my rating  -  5 out of 5 stars

    What would the result be if you could write as funny as you could?  I imagine that it wouldn't be as powerful and dramatic as what happens in this Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem.

    "I wrote some lines once on a time
    In wondrous merry mood,
    And thought, as usual, men would say
    They were exceeding good.

    "I called my servant, and he came...

    "He took the paper, and I watched,
    And saw him peep within;
    At the first line he read, his face
    Was all upon the grin."

    You'll have to read the poem to find out what happened to that poor, poor man.

    1830 proved to be an important year for Holmes as a poet.  He began writing poetry for his own amusement. Before the end of the year, he had produced over fifty poems, contributing twenty-five of them to The Collegian, a short-lived publication started by friends from Harvard.

    About the author  -

    Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1809.  He was the first son of Abiel Holmes and Sarah Wendell.  Holmes attended Phillips Academy at the age of 15.  Shortly after his sixteenth birthday, Holmes was accepted at Harvard College. 

    Holmes intended to go into the legal profession.  By January 1830, however, he was disenchanted with legal studies.  Holmes switched to medicine.  He was awarded his M.D. from Harvard in 1836.

    On June 15, 1840, Holmes married Amelia Lee Jackson. They had three children: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Amelia Jackson Holmes, and Edward Jackson Holmes.

    Holmes died quietly after falling asleep in the afternoon of Sunday, October 7, 1894. As his son Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., wrote, "His death was as peaceful as one could wish for those one loves. He simply ceased to breathe."

    Monday, September 16, 2013

    Lizzie Leigh  -  1855
    Elizabeth Gaskell
    54 pages
    genre  -  General Fiction
    my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

    "James Leigh died just as the far-away bells...were ringing for morning service on Christmas Day, 1836.  A few minutes before his death, he opened his...eyes, and made a sign to his wife...She stooped close down, and caught the broken whisper, 'I forgive her, Annie!  May God forgive me!'"

    James Leigh has been "hard, stern and inflexible", so when Lizzie, their only daughter, makes a serious mistake, she is declared dead to them, and her name is not to be spoken.

    But now the master of the house is dead, and Mrs. Leigh is determined to find her prodigal daughter.  She must still be alive.  Mrs. Leigh convinces her two sons to leave their home and move to Manchester where Lizzie was last known to be and begin the search.

    This illustration by George du Maurier is for an 1865 edition of Lizzie Leigh.

    Elizabeth Gaskell tells a wonderful story of love, compassion and redemption.  The reason for only giving the story only 3 stars was the dialect used by the people.  It was at times difficult to understand their speech, and there were a few times I had to guess the meaning of the words. 

    About the author  - 

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson was born on 29 September 1810 at 93 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. She was the youngest of eight children; only she and her brother John survived infancy. Her father, William Stevenson, was a Scottish Unitarian minister at Failsworth, Lancashire, but resigned his orders on conscientious grounds in 1806.  (Does that sound similar to North and South?)

    From 1821 to 1826 she attended a school run by the Miss Byerlys at Barford House, and after that Avonbank in Stratford-on-Avon where she received the traditional education in arts, the classics, decorum and propriety given to young ladies.

    On 30 August 1832 Elizabeth married a Unitarian minister, William Gaskell.  The Gaskells then settled in Manchester, where William was the minister at Cross Street Unitarian Chapel.  They had six children, though only four lived.

    The Gaskells' social circle included writers, religious dissenters and social reformers such as William and Mary Howitt. Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Eliot Norton. Her close friend Charlotte Brontë stayed with them three times, and on one occasion hid behind the drawing room curtains as she was too shy to meet the Gaskells' other visitors.

    Gaskell died suddenly of a heart attack in 1865 at the age of 55.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Bookworm  -  the game of reading and remembering
    an illustrated game
    for 3 or more players or teams
    designed and produced by Oxford Games LTD

    Last Saturday morning, I went to a nearby Goodwill thrift store to see if I could find any treasures.  Sure enough, I did.

    As soon as I got home from Goodwill, I enlisted my 18-year-old daughter to help me figure out the rules and play through a quick game.  Since there were only two of us, we modified the rules a bit.

    Bookworm is a board game that you play by listening to one of your opponents read an excerpt of a children's book.  You then can move your token spaces by answering questions concerning that excerpt. Examples of these books are:  The Swiss Family Robinson, King Solomon's Mines, Heidi, The Naughtiest Girl in the School, Rip Van Winkle,  The Scarlet Pimpernel, Granny's Wonderful Chair, The Ship That Flew, Daddy-Long-Legs, The Cuckoo Clock, The Hound of the Baskervilles and Black Beauty.

    One of the best things about the game is the booklet that comes with it.  Of course it includes the rules, but that's only two pages.  The rest of the booklet is a list of the books selected to be part of the game.  Each book has its publication date, the author's name,  his or her birth and death years, and then  a synopsis of the book. There were many books I recognized and had read, but there many I had never heard of.  I look forward to finding some of these books.

    Friday, September 6, 2013

    Masterpieces of Mystery: Riddle Stories  - 1920
    Joseph Lewis French (editor)
    276 pages
    genre  -  Mystery, Anthology
    my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

    In 1920, Joseph Lewis French gathered together some tales that he called 'riddle stories'. In the preface it identifies a riddle story as "the most naive form of the mystery story. It may contain a certain element of the supernatural - be tinged with mysticism - but its motive and the revelation thereof must be frankly materialistic - of the earth, earthy."

    In my opinion, his definition of a riddle story is a riddle.

    The short stories included in this anthology are:
    The Mysterious Card by Cleveland Moffett - Couldn't wait to see what the card actually said.
    The Great Valdez Sapphire by Anonymous - Just okay, but has a good ending.
    The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe - It's Poe; of course it's good. Is the movie on DVD?
    The Birth Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne - Typical Hawthorne. Sad, sad, sad.
    A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins - Very clever bad guys with very clever tools.
    The Torture by Hope by Villiers de l'Isle Adam - Good thing we have the Geneva Convention now.
    The Box with the Iron Clamps by Florence Marryat - Gruesome.
    My Fascinating Friend by William Archer - Truly a fascinating story. Surprising ending.
    The Lost Room by Fitz-James O'Brien - Odd. Not sure how to explain the happenings.

    Over all, a wonderful collection of stories.

    About the editor  - 

    Joseph Lewis French (1858–1936) was a novelist, editor, poet and newspaper man. The New York Times noted in 1925 that he may be "the most industrious anthologist of his time." He is known for his popular themed collections and released over twenty-five books between 1918 and his death in 1936.

    He founded two magazines, The New West (circa 1887) and The Wave (circa 1890).  Afterwards he worked for newspapers contributing poetry and articles.

    He struggled financially and in 1927 New York Graphic, a daily tabloid, published an autobiographical article they convinced him to write, titled "I'm Starving--Yet I'm in Who's Who as the Author of 27 Famous Books."

    Tuesday, September 3, 2013

    The Diary of a Nobody  -  1892 (in book form)
    George and Weedon Smith
    140 pages
    genre  -  Humor, Epistolary
    my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

    Charles Pooter and his wife Carrie have been in their new home for a week when Mr. Pooter decides to keep a diary.  "I have often seen reminiscences of people I never even heard of, and I fail to see...why my diary should not be interesting."  He writes in his journal from April 3 through July 11 of the next year.

    The following is a collection of humorous recitations of their everyday lives:  the troublesome boot scraper that everyone trips over; what happens when you take a extremely hot bath in a newly painted tub; the joys of raising a teenage son; dealings with the laundress, the butcher, the butterman, the next-door-neighbors and encounters with the upper class. 

    In all those wonderful, subtle, and silly examples of British humor, there are some clear points of normal humanity.  In other words, Charles Pooter is just like you and me.

    My favorite line in the book:  "...half the pleasures of life [are] derived from the little struggles and small privations that one had to endure at the beginning of one's married life.  Such struggles [are] generally occasioned by want of means, and often helped to make loving couples stand together all the firmer."

    About the authors  - 

    George Grossmith (9 December 1847 – 1 March 1912) was an English comedian, writer, composer, actor, and singer.  In 1873, George married Emmeline Rosa Noyce, the daughter of a physician. The couple had four children. Grossmith died at his home at the age of 64.

     Weedon Grossmith (9 June 1854 – 14 June 1919) was an English writer, painter, actor and playwright.  Weedon illustrated The Diary of a Nobody. In 1895, he married the actress May Lever Palfrey. They had one child, a daughter, Nancy. He died in London at the age of 65.

    Friday, August 30, 2013

    The Thing From the Lake  -  1921
    Eleanor Maria Ingram
    192 pages
    genre  -  Light Horror
    my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

    The story begins with this: "The house cried out to me for help...this is not the story of a haunted house. It is, or was, a beleaguered house; strangely sieged..."

    Wanting to avoid the miserable summer months in New York City, 32-year-old Roger Locke has just purchased a neglected farmhouse in Connecticut. The first time Locke sees the lake on his property, he feels "a shock of violent dislike." And his first night in the house, he surprises an intruder. An intruder that leaves behind a braid of thick, auburn hair!

    But Locke is not in danger from the intruder. It is the malevolence that lurks in the lake, that spills over to the house, enveloping the structure with its "hungry malignance". The story is very well told. I was instantly captivated, and my attention was held all the way 'til the end. And I REALLY liked the ending! This would make an awesome movie!

    There are no formatting issues with Amazon's ebook.  (But I may have been too engrossed in the story!) The book was copyrighted in 1921, so I assume the story occurs in that time period. Locke drives a roadster, uses a flashlight, telephones are common and there was a reference to Armistice Day just occurring.

    About the author  - 

    I found very little about Ms. Ingram (1886 - 1921) on the internet, so I will mention a few things about two of her books.

    The September 28, 1922 issue of The Christian Century refers to The Thing as “a strange tale that almost suggests Poe,” high praise indeed.

    A 1921 issue of the literary magazine Long Lines says “there are passages that bring the hair on the back of your neck straight up to attention.”

    Ingram's novel The Unafraid (1913) was made into a silent movie by the same name.  It was directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starred Rita Jolivet.  Just after filming The Unafraid, Ms. Jolivet sailed on and survived the last voyage of the Lusitania when the ship was torpedoed on 7 May 1915.


    Monday, August 26, 2013

    A Night in the Snow or, A Struggle For Life  -  1866
    Rev. E. Donald Carr
    68 pages
    genre  -  Memoir
    my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

    On the afternoon of January 29th, the Rev. E. Donald Carr begins his 4-mile walk home after conducting a service in the village of Ratlinghope. It had been snowing heavily, but since he had walked this way nearly 2500 times, Carr admits he thought that he would have no difficulty finding his way.

    Rev. Carr begins his story describing the terrain of Long Mynd, Shropshire England so that we understand what type of obstacles he would have to cross. He says that "the aspect of the south-eastern or Stretton side [of Long Mynd mountain] is wild in the extreme, the whole face of the mountain being broken up into deep ravines, with precipitous sides, where purple rocks project boldly through the turf".

    Rev. Carr tells his story quite calmly. I was amazed at how coolly he talked about frost bite and snow blindness. He describes crawling through snow drifts, falling down numerous hillsides, the gales literally blowing him off his feet and "masses of ice (that) developed into a long crystal beard." Rev. Carr's endurance was astounding.

    Considering that this story was published 147 years ago, it was remarkably easy to read. The only formatting problem I saw was page numbers in the middle of sentences of Amazon's ebook. Luckily this only happens 6 times. Very interesting story. Would make a wonderful movie.

    About the author  -

    Edmund Donald Carr, B.A. Emmanuel College, Cambridge.  Rector of Woolstaston 1865-1900.  Died June, 1900.

    For more information on this beautiful area of England, and for more information on Rev. Carr, check out this website:

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Martha By-The-Day  -  1912
    Julie M. Lippmann
    136 pages
    genre  -  Romance
    my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

    "Claire Lang had been standing in the drenching wet at the street-crossing for fully ten minutes.  The badgering crowd had been shouldering her one way, pushing her the other..."  Suddenly Claire finds herself out in the street and then, just as suddenly ..."she was back again in her old place on the curbstone."

    Claire was rescued by Martha Slawson.  Martha is a "...woman of masculine proportions, towering, deep-chested, large-limbed, but with a face which belied all these..." 

    The above picture is what Google eBook uses for their cover. 

    Martha has an interesting philosophy:  "I don't believe in lyin' awake, thinkin' about the future, when a body can put in good licks o' sleep, restin' from the past.  It's against my principles.  I'm by the day.  I work by the day, an' I live by the day."

    The book is about Martha and how she manages to care for the people around her; her husband, children, mother-in-law, the other tenants in her apartment building, and especially her new young friend, Claire. 

    My favorite line in the book?  Martha says to her husband:  "I wisht you'd be good to yourself an' have a shave.  Them prickles o' beard reminds me o' the insides o' Mrs. Sherman's big music box.  I wonder what tune you'd play if I run your chin in."

    About the author  - 

    Julie Mathilde Lippman (1864-1952) was an author of novels and plays and was a political activist. Best known for her novel Martha-By-The-Day, which she successfully adapted to the stage in 1919, Lippman came to know Louisa May Alcott while still a teenager, and later became friends with Mark Twain, Charles Dudley Warner, actor and playwright William Gillette, and other writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    Lippmann was a fervent supporter of Theodore Roosevelt, took part in the womens' suffrage movement, and also wrote propaganda for the Allied cause during the First World War.

    After many years of residence in New York City Lippman moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of eighty-five, to live with her niece, and died in that city three years later.

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    The Gold That Glitters The Mistakes of Jenny Lavender  -  1896
    Emily Sarah Holt
    60 pages
    genre  -  Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction
    my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

    I learned a lot reading this short story. The author manages to teach us about Charles II and life in 1651, while reminding her readers of Christian values. That's quite a bit packed into a few pages.

    I especially enjoyed the sermon given by a strange preacher in Chapter 5. He spoke about blessings, desiring salvation, and wants vs. needs.

    I ended up doing some research about 'Will Jackson', if a common family would have had their own Bible to study back then, and if 'unequally yoked' was a concept known at least when this story was written (1896) much less in the year 1651.

    Go ahead and read this, and then if you want to know more about a certain character in the story experiencing ordinary life, read Georgette Heyer's Royal Escape.

    About the author  - 

    Emily Sarah Holt (1836-1893) was an English novelist.  She wrote about fifty books, mainly for children. Most of her work can be classified as historical novels. Her work has a Protestant religious theme.

    Monday, August 12, 2013

    A Song -  1786
    Helen Maria Williams
    6 stanzas, 24 lines
    genre  -  poetry
    my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

    Yesterday I was reading a fanfic of Austen's Emma called Jane and the Bow Street Runner by Sarah Waldock.  In the book it mentions a poetess named ..."Helen Maria Williams, a lady of great literary energy and a penchant for making up fancifully romantic names for her heroines..." I wondered if the poetess was a real person.  She sure is. 

    In 1786 Williams published a book titled Poems.  In this book is a short piece called "A Song".  The poem is short and to the point: would you rather have your lover with you and be poor or him wandering the world trying to become rich so you both can live an easy life?

    Considering the poem was written over 227 years ago, it was remarkably easy to read.  You can find Williams' entire book on or for free from Amazon.  I found the poem itself on

    About the author  - 

    Helen Maria Williams was born to a Scottish mother, Helen Hay, and a Welsh army officer father, Charles Williams. Sources variously give her birth as 1761 or 1762.  She  was a British novelist, poet, and translator of French-language works. 

    A controversial figure in her own time, the young Williams was favorably portrayed in a 1787 poem by William Wordsworth.

    In the context of the Revolution Controversy, she came down on the side of the revolutionaries in her 1790 novel Julia and defied convention by traveling alone to revolutionary France.  She briefly visited England in 1792, but only to persuade her mother and her sisters to join her in France just as the country was moving toward the more violent phases of its revolution.

    After the Bourbon Restoration, she became a naturalized French citizen in 1818; nonetheless, in 1819 she moved to Amsterdam to live with a nephew she had helped raise. However, she was unhappy in Amsterdam and soon returned to Paris until her death in 1827.

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013

    The Ghost of Jerry Bundler  -  1908
    William Wymark Jacobs
    32 pages
    genre  -  play
    my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

    This one-act play was first performed in London, 1899 at the St. James Theatre. It was revived in 1902 where it was performed 138 times at two different theaters.

    The play is adapted from a short story called 'Jerry Bundler', which was published in a book by Jacobs called Light Freights in 1901.

    Six gentlemen are spending the night at a hotel in a small country town. At the beginning of the play, the men have just heard a story about a supposed ghost inhabiting the hotel. One of the travelers loves theatricals, and when a few of the others are out of the room, he wagers that he can scare someone if he dresses up as the ghost.

    The stage directions are quite thorough. You know exactly where each actor is to move, sit and stand, and what he is to do. There are two endings to the play, in case "the above tragic termination would be too serious."

    About the author  -

    William Wymark Jacobs was born in Wapping, London on the 8th of September, 1863. His father was wharf manager at the South Devon wharf at Lower East Smithfield. The Jacobs were a large family and poor. W.W. (as he came to be called by his friends) was shy and quiet with a fair complexion.

    Jacobs was educated at a private school in London and later at Birkbeck College.

    In 1879, Jacobs began work as a clerk in the Post Office Savings Bank, and by 1885 he had his first short story published. The majority of his output was humorous in tone. By 1899 Jacobs was confident enough to resign from the civil service to devote his full time to writing.

    Jacobs is now remembered for his macabre tale 'The Monkey's Paw'.  Numerous movie adaptations have been made of this short story.  In fact, there is one scheduled for release this October, which stars Stephen Lang, Corbin Bleu, and Charles S. Dutton.

    In 1900 Jacobs married suffragette Agnes Eleanor Williams, with whom he had two sons and three daughters.  He died on Sept. 1, 1943 in London.

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013

    Ruth Fielding Of the Red Mill Or, Jasper Parloe's Secret  -  1913
    Alice B. Emerson
    148 pages
    genre  -  Mystery, Young Adult
    my rating  - 4 out of 5 stars

    The Ruth Fielding stories is a 30 volume series that was published from 1913 through 1934. Three authors wrote the series under the pseudonym of Alice B. Emerson. W. Bert Foster wrote books 1 - 19; Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward wrote books 20 - 22; and Mildred A. Wirt Benson wrote books 23 - 30.  Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill Or, Jasper Parloe's Secret is the first in this series.

    Ruth Fielding reminds me of a cross between Anne Shirley and Nancy Drew. When we are introduced to Ruth, she is an orphan on a train traveling to Upper New York State to live with her miserly and dour great-uncle. Before she can arrive at the train station of her new hometown, the train stops because there is a large dog on the tracks with a lantern fixed to its collar. The dog leads the train engineer, a doctor, Ruth and a few others to his injured owner. Hmm, a mystery. Who forced the young man (who was riding a bike) off the road and down the ravine?

    In my opinion, Ruth resembles Anne more now, but will slowly become a teenage sleuth like Nancy. This book reads a lot like "Anne of Green Gables". Ruth struggles with fitting into her new home, coming to terms with her great-uncle, catching up with her schoolwork and meets new friends. The mystery was not well defined, but she and her friends did solve a puzzle. Definitely worth reading.

    About the author  -

    I could find very little about Foster on the internet.

    Walter Bertram Foster (1869-1929) was an American author.  He wrote several books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate including for the Clint Webb, Ralph of the Railroad, Campfire Girls, and the Radio Girls series.  He also wrote for several magazines including:  The Argosy, Western Story Magazine, Tiptop Semi-Monthly, The All-Story Magazine, The Popular Magazine and others.

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    Capt'n Davy's Honeymoon  -  1893
    Sir Hall Caine
    166 pages
    genre  - Romance
    my rating  - 3 out of 5 stars

    This is a wonderful story about an Scottish (Isle of Man) orphan teenage boy who is sent to live with a farmer and his family. Davy soon falls in love with the farmer's pretty daughter; they are caught kissing and Davy is cast out of the house. Davy promises Nell that he will come back for her as soon as he makes his fortune. Ten years later Davy returns to claim his bride, and they are married within a week.

    And they promptly have a fight and separate.

    This story is a good example of how love is not enough to sustain a relationship. Davy and Nell really did not know each other. They had changed over the years. They should have spent a month or three to renew their friendship, work through any insecurities, learn how to communicate with each other and make plans for the future.

    No formatting problems with the Amazon ebook. But at times it was difficult to understand Davy with his Scottish speech and slang, which is why I gave the book a rating of 3 stars.

    About the author  - 

    Thomas Henry Hall Caine was born 14 May 1853 in Runcorn, England.  His father came from the Isle of Man, but emigrated to Liverpool looking for work. Hall Caine was educated at the Hope Street British Schools until he was 14. 

    After leaving school Caine was articled as an architect and surveyor. He developed a passion for books and spent much time in Liverpool's Free Library.  He started writing at this time, and contributed articles to a trade paper The Builder, which also carried literary articles, and to local newspapers, particularly the Liverpool Mercury.  Caine also acted as a freelance theatre critic.

    Caine met Bram Stoker and they became good friends. Stoker was subsequently to dedicate his famous novel Dracula to Caine, under the nickname "Hommy-Beg.

    In 1897 Caine's The Christian was published. It was the first novel in Britain to sell over a million copies.  Caine was an enormously popular and best-selling author in his time. Crowds would gather outside his houses hoping to get a glimpse of him.

    Caine and his wife, Mary Chandler, had two sons, Ralph and Derwent.  Hall's illegitimate daughter, Elin, was brought up as Caine and Mary's child.

    In August 1931 at age 78 Caine slipped into a coma and died. On his death certificate was the diagnosis of "cardiac syncope". He is buried at Kirk Maughold's churchyard.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    The Lady of the Basement Flat  -  1917
    Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey
    200 pages
    genre  -  Romance
    my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

    The opening lines of a book are very important for catching the attention of the reader.  Some well known examples are:  "Call me Ishmael."  "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."  "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

    The Lady of the Basement Flat could be added to this list:

    "At three o'clock this afternoon Evelyn Wastneys died.  I am Evelyn Wastneys, and I died, standing at the door of an old country home in Ireland...a trembling treble voice whispering in my ear - 'Oh, Evelyn, promise you will not be unhappy!'"

    Twenty-six-year-old Evelyn and her younger sister are orphans, with only a pair of elderly aunts as family.  When Evelyn's sister marries and leaves for Canada, Evelyn is at a loss with what to do with her life.  Living with those aunts is not an option!

    Then Evelyn has a wonderful idea.  All she needs now is the courage to carry out her plan.

    I have a number of favorite lines from the book.  The one that doesn't give away any spoilers is:  "Oh, how many mysteries there are around us!  How wonderful, how absorbingly interesting it will be, when the time comes, to hear the explanation of all that seems so tangled to our present understanding!"

    About the author  - 

    Jessie Bell was born in 1856, in Liverpool, England. She was the daughter of Scots insurance broker David Bell, and his wife, Elizabeth Morris Barton, and had six siblings.

    She married cotton broker Henry Mansergh in 1883.  A number of her books were originally published under the name "Jessie Mansergh." After the death of Henry Mansergh in 1894, her work began to be published in magazines.

    Jessie was married again in 1898, to George de Horne Vaizey, a man she met while on a cruise won through a story competition. Her son George Vaizey, born in 1900, was also to become a writer.

    Vaizey wrote 33 books, as well as numerous short stories and magazine articles.

    Contracting typhoid in the early years of the twentieth century, she developed rheumatoid arthritis, and was confined to a wheelchair until her death in 1917.

    Friday, July 12, 2013

    The Indiscreet Letter  -  1915
    Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
    60 pages
    genre  -  General Fiction
    my rating  - 4 out of 5 stars

    "The Railroad Journey was very long and slow.  The Traveling Salesman was rather short and quick.  And the Young Electrician...was neither one length nor another..."

    The two men were talking about an indiscreet letter that was found in a dead friend's pocket that was giving the widow no end of worry.  "'Every man has written one indiscreet letter during his lifetime!' affirmed the Traveling Salesman." 

    A Youngish Girl in the seat behind the Traveling Salesman reached forward then and touched him very gently on the shoulder.  "Oh, please, may I listen?...If you will persist in saying interesting things in trains, you must take the consequences!"

    What follows is a interesting discussion on life,  the possibility of missed opportunities, learning to love and taking chances.

    I like the cover that made for their ebook.

    My favorite line in the book?  "...a fellow's a fool when he marries who don't go to work deliberately to study and understand his wife.  Women are awfully understandable if you only go at it right."

    About the author  - 

    Eleanor Hallowell Abbott was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 22, 1872.  She was the daughter of clergyman Edward Abbott, who edited the journal Literary World; and the granddaughter of noted children's author Jacob Abbott. She attended Radcliffe College, and after completing her studies worked as a secretary and teacher at Lowell State Normal School.

    In 1908 Abbott married Dr. Fordyce Coburn and relocated with him to Wilton, New Hampshire. 

    Soon after moving, Abbott began submitting her work to several widely read magazines for publication. Two of her poems were accepted by Harper’s Monthly Magazine in 1909. She went on to publish seventy-five short stories and fourteen romantic novels.

    Abbott had no children. She died in 1958 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    The Village Street  - 1903
    Edgar Allan Poe
    12 stanzas, 72 lines
    genre  -  poetry
    my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

    In 1903, P. F Collier & Son published a five volume collection of Poe's work.  Included in the 5th book is the poem The Village Street.   

    A young man takes a walk one evening with a "gentle, silent maiden" at his side.  "Pallidly the moon was shining" and "the elm-leaves whispered" during the stroll.  All was fine until the gentleman "told his love". 

    It's a lovely, descriptive poem.  I had no trouble visualizing the scene, smelling the flowers and hearing the distant music of the sea.  Poe was definitely a master at writing.

    I was pleased to find a reading of the poem on Lit2Go

    About the author  -

    Edgar Poe in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809, the second child of English-born actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe, Jr. His grandfather, David Poe, Sr., had emigrated from Ireland, to America around the year 1750.

    His father abandoned their family in 1810, and his mother died a year later from consumption. Poe was taken into the home of John Allan, a successful Scottish merchant. The Allans served as a foster family and gave him the name "Edgar Allan Poe",though they never formally adopted him.

    In 1827, Poe released his first book, a 40-page collection of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems.  After his early attempts at poetry, Poe turned his attention to prose.  The Baltimore Saturday Visiter awarded Poe a prize in October 1833 for his short story "MS. Found in a Bottle". 

    Poe became assistant editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in August 1835.  The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was published in 1838. In the summer of 1839, Poe became assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He published numerous articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing his reputation as a trenchant critic that he had established at the Southern Literary Messenger.

    On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, "in great distress, need of immediate assistance".  He died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning.