Monday, February 24, 2014

Barty Crusoe and His Man Saturday  -  1908
Frances Hodgson Burnett
248 pages
genre  -  Children's Literature, picture book
my rating  - 3 out of 5 stars

The first line in the book is: "I hope you remember that I told you that the story of Barty and the Good Wolf was the kind of story which could go on and on, and that when it stopped it could begin again."  A very big hint that this story is not the first in a series. 

I did some checking, and Burnett published a book called The Good Wolf a year before Barty Crusoe and His Man Saturday was released.  While I enjoyed reading Barty Crusoe and His Man Saturday, I would strongly suggest you read The Good Wolf first.  There were a few parts in the book where I was puzzled.  I'm sure those would be cleared up with information from The Good Wolf.

One rainy day Barty is up in the attic and he finds a book. "It was a rather fat book, and it had been read so much that it was falling to pieces. On the first page there was a picture of a very queer looking man. He was dressed in clothes made of goat skin; he carried a gun on one shoulder and a parrot on the other, and his name was printed under the picture and it was—Robinson Crusoe."

Barty reads the book and decides that he wants his own adventure on a deserted island.  He calls for the Good Wolf, who arranges the trip.  They have a wonderful time.

The book never mentions Barty's age, but in the illustrations, it looks like he is about 5 or 6-years-old.  Speaking of illustrations, be sure to find a copy of this book with all the pictures and drawings, especially if you are going to read this to a child.  They are wonderful. has a pdf version with all the illustrations and drawings.

About the author  -

I have previously reviewed a book by this author.  Please see my post on June 14, 2013 for the biography about Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Hills of Refuge  -  1918
Will N. Harben
440 pages
genre  -  General Fiction (with some romance)
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

My favorite thing to do when I read a book is to look for 'words of wisdom'. By 'words of wisdom' I mean thoughts or ideas that express a truth.  This book is loaded with them. Here's a few:

1. "Was there really such a thing as a new birth in which, under stress of some rare spiritual experience, a man was completely changed?  It might really be so..."

2. "'Oh, it doesn't make any difference what you once were...It is what you are now that counts.'"

3. "It is a great thing to trample an old weakness underfoot and rise up on it."

4. "It isn't one's body that feels the greatest pain, it is the mind, the soul, the memory.  The pain comes from the futility of hoping."

The Hills of Refuge is about two brothers, William and Charles, and their struggles to overcome weakness.  The story is also about love, redemption, and learning to taking responsibility. 

One of the interesting facets about this story is that it felt like it was written as a serial.  There were several denouements towards the last 20% of the book.  I would read what seemed like the end, but then I would realize I still had a ways to go.  And then I would read another conclusion, but still had 10% left on my Kindle.  The true ending was very well written. 

I will definitely look for other books by this author.

About the author  - 

William Nathaniel Harben was born on July 5, 1858, to Myra Richardson and Nathaniel Parks Harben, in the small town of Dalton, Georgia. Harben was a bright, fun-loving youth who showed an interest in writing at an early age.

At the age of thirty, he decided to take his chances on writing as a profession. After several successful short stories, he made his first mark on the literary scene in 1889 with a melodramatic but extremely popular novel entitled White Marie.

He married the South Carolina socialite Maybelle Chandler in 1896. They had three children.

Almost Persuaded (1890), a religious novel, was so well received that Queen Victoria of England requested an autographed copy.

Harben wrote until his death in New York City on August 7, 1919, and was buried in his beloved Dalton, Georgia.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Her Season in Bath  A Story of Bygone Days  -  1889
Emma Marshall
204 pages
genre  -  Historical Fiction
my rating  -  2 out of 5 stars

"It was the height of the Bath season in 1779, and there was scarcely any part of the city which did not feel the effect of the great tide of amusement and pleasure..."  Young Griselda Mainwaring, an orphan and ward of her aunt, was not amused nor pleased with the pressure of accepting the suit of Sir Maxwell Danby.  He was repugnant!  How could she get away from him?

The author tried so hard for this one book to be so many things.  It seemed like it was intended to be an educational historical fiction, part romance (with gothic tendencies) and an inspirational story, to boot!  Included in all this, the author wrote in an awkward style meant to be the common speech of the late 1700's.  In my opinion, it just didn't work.

All that being said, the story did keep my attention throughout the whole.  The plot was well defined, if somewhat predicable. And I learned something in the process.  Evidently, Emma Marshall was well-known for taking a real person and inserting them into her fictional tale.

In Her Season in Bath, the Hanoverian-born British astronomer, William Herschel and his sister Caroline, are neighbors to the young heroine.  Herschel built his own reflecting telescopes. He "began to look at the planets and the stars" in May 1773 and on 1 March 1774 began an astronomical journal by noting his observations of Saturn's rings. 

In March 1781, Herschel noticed an object appearing as a nonstellar disk. It must be a planet beyond the orbit of Saturn. He called the new planet the 'Georgian star' after King George III.  The name did not stick. In France, where reference to the British king was to be avoided if possible, the planet was known as 'Herschel' until the name 'Uranus' was adopted.

About the author  -

Emma Martin was born in 1830, in Norfolk, England and was the youngest daughter of Simon Martin and Hannah Ransome.  Miss Martin has depicted her early childhood in one of her first stories, The Dawn of Life. She was educated at a private school until the age of sixteen.

When as a girl she read Longfellow's Evangeline, she was so much impressed with it that she wrote to the poet, and thus began a correspondence that lasted until her death.

In 1854, she married Hugh Graham Marshall, a banker. They had three sons and four daughters.

Her first story, Happy Days at Fernbank, was published in 1861. Between that date and her death she wrote over two hundred stories.

Marshall died at home on 4 May, 1899, from pneumonia.