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.