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 booksshouldbefree.com 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    http://etc.usf.edu/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, and...in need of immediate assistance".  He died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

From Whose Bourne

From Whose Bourne  -  1893
Robert Barr
95 pages
genre  - Mystery
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

"The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns"
The Tragedy of Hamlet  Act III Scene 1

To explain the title of the book, the undiscover'd country that Shakespeare was referring to is heaven or hell, and a bourn is an old English word meaning a small stream; a brook.

William Brenton and his wife, Alice, have been married for 6 months now.  They invited some friends and acquaintances over for a Christmas Eve dinner.  During the dinner, Will started feeling unwell.  He decided to go lay down for a while.  A while later, Alice goes upstairs to check on her husband.

"How are you feeling, Will? any better?"

"A little," he answered drowsily. "Don't worry about me; I shall drop off to sleep presently, and shall be all right in the morning. Good night."

But Will isn't okay. 

At a point during the story a famous French detective is called in to investigate a crime.  Monsieur Lecoq is the creation of Émile Gaboriau, a 19th-century French writer and journalist, who is considered to be a pioneer of modern detective fiction.

In the book Lecoq says "attention to trivialities [is] the whole secret of the detective business."

About the author  -

Robert Barr was born on September 16, 1849  in Glasgow, Scotland.  He emigrated with his parents to Canada at age four and was educated in Toronto at Toronto Normal School. Barr became a teacher and eventual headmaster of the Central School of Windsor, Ontario.

While he had that job he began to contribute short stories to the Detroit Free Press. In 1876 Barr quit his teaching position to become a staff member of that publication, in which his contributions were published with the pseudonym "Luke Sharp."  Barr eventually became its news editor.

In 1881 Barr relocated to London, England, to establish there the weekly English edition of the Detroit Free Press.  In 1892 he founded the magazine The Idler, choosing Jerome K. Jerome as his collaborator. 

Robert Barr died from heart disease on October 21, 1912, at his home in Woldingham, a small village to the southeast of London.  Arthur Conan Doyle described Barr as "a volcanic Anglo—or rather Scot-American, with a violent manner, a wealth of strong adjectives, and one of the kindest natures underneath it all."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Story of Leather

The Story of Leather  -  1915
Sara Ware Bassett
246 pages 
genre  -  Young Adult, Educational
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

15-year-old Peter Coddington is a happy, handsome young man.  He excels at sports, has lots of friends, and is failing his classes at school.  At the end of the last term, Mr. Coddington had told Peter that he'd better get his grades up. 

But "instead he had drifted along, studying only enough to keep his head above water and putting all his zeal into tennis or baseball..."  Peter had not passed one of his exams.

Mr. Coddington informs Peter that he is to begin working at his tannery.  "To-morrow morning at eight o’clock you are going to work, and you must make good at the position I’ve found for you, or you will lose your place. If you do I shall not lift a finger to help you to find another.”

This book reminds me of those videos on Sesame Street or Mr. Roger's Neighborhood where we are taken on a tour of a factory to see the process of making crayons or something.  I believe the point of the book is to teach young adults about tanning techniques.  In order to make it interesting, the author inserted the facts of leather making into a story. 

Bassett's educational books include The Story of Lumber, The Story of Wool, The Story of Leather, The Story of Glass, The Story of Sugar, The Story of Porcelain, Paul and the Printing Press, Steve and the Steam Engine, Ted and the Telephone, Walter and the Wireless, and Carl and the Cotton Gin.

About the author  -

Sara Ware Bassett (1872–1968) was a prolific American author. Bassett graduated from the Lowell Institute Of Design at MIT as a textile designer and then studied writing at Radcliffe and Boston University. She taught kindergarten in the Newton Public Schools for twenty years.

Her first novel, Mrs. Christy's Bridge Party, was published in 1907. She subsequently wrote over forty additional novels, continuing to write and publish into the late 1950s. Many of her novels focus on love stories and humorously eccentric characters.

She was an accomplished artist and textile designer, and, with her sister, ran a summer retreat in Princeton, New Jersey for unattached Boston area women who worked in the retail trade.

She cut an unusual figure around town, resembling a character in an English detective novel. She dressed as one would think Miss Marple of Agatha Christie fame would have dressed in tweed skirts, a man's shirt and walking shoes.