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The Enchanted Barn

April 24, 2014

Cloudy Jewel isn’t on the shelf I thought it might be on, which means it’s in a box at my mom’s house, waiting to be moved to my apartment. So I continued my exploration of the work of Grace Livingston Hill with The Enchanted Barn. The Enchanted Barn is the story of a young secretary, Shirley Hollister, who needs to find a cheap home for her family for the summer, and ends up renting a stone barn.

First things first: at one point in this book, Shirley is reading  From the Car Behind. I’m not trying to cast aspersions on The Enchanted Barn when I say that that was genuinely the most exciting moment for me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aunt Crete’s Emancipation

April 15, 2014

When I get in a certain kind of mood, there’s nothing that I want more than stories about downtrodden people being showered with care and nice things and the people who have been metaphorically treading on them having that shoved in their faces. And Aunt Crete’s Emancipation, by Grace Livingston Hill, is the distilled essence of that. And you guys know me pretty well, I guess, because a number of you have recommended it to me over the past few years. It’s my own fault for not giving in and reading it sooner. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Year of Delight

April 14, 2014

Mel happened to be reading this one when I said I wanted a Cinderella book, and something that was like The Blue Castle but wasn’t The Blue Castle, and recommended it. And Margaret Widdemer’s The Year of Delight is very definitely both of those things, and if Margaret Widdemer can’t stop her characters from coercing each other into being married…well, it bothers me a lot less when the person being coerced is the man. Read the rest of this entry »

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Peter the Brazen

April 9, 2014

I’m finally done with Peter the Brazen, and I feel I can say definitively now that it is the worst. The worst. I hardly know what else to say about it, or how to catalog its various failings.

I thought I was going to enjoy this book. Peter Moore is a wireless operator, and he’s the best wireless operator. He can hear things no one else can hear, and other wireless operator recognize…I don’t know, the inflections of his Morse code, or something. And he doesn’t have a lean, sardonic countenance, but he does have a tendency to smile inappropriately, which practically amounts to the same thing. So, all of that boded well. And I was prepared for some racism, because this is the kind of book where the existence of actual Asian people is completely irrelevant to the glamour of Asia. But in general I thought that this book wouldn’t be very good, but that I would enjoy it.

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

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What would your ideal early 20th century novel be like?

April 7, 2014

I’m in a mood where I want to read something like The Blue Castle or Gertrude Haviland’s Divorce or A Woman Named Smith, but with less nature imagery and more domesticity and no mummies. Something with a spinster defying her horrible family somehow, and making friends with a cranky guy with a secret insane wife. I would like them to get along really well as friends before they fall in love, and for there to be a happy ending without the secret insane wife having to die. Actually, I’d like for the heroine to make friends with the secret insane wife.

Or, wait. This would be super cool: The heroine is the secret insane wife, but she’s not all that insane, and she runs off and takes a job somewhere and slowly learns to be awesome at it. That is the book I would like to read. If there could also be a lot of detail about exactly how much money she’s making, and what she does with it, as well as a lot of descriptions of really excellent clothing, that would be great. Wherever the heroine lands there would be a lot of museum-quality furniture and a library for me to be jealous of, and sympathetic people for her to make friends with, and eventually her awful family and/or husband would have their noses rubbed in her excellent new life. There doesn’t even have to be romance, although it would be a plus.

If you could concoct an late 19th or early 20th century novel to suit your tastes, what would it be about? And does anyone have a spinster-remaking-herself story to recommend?

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The Dorrance Domain

April 3, 2014

Cathlin recommended The Dorrance Domain, and I was frustrated enough with Peter the Brazen (which I’m still reading, bit by excruciatingly awful bit) that I started it almost immediately. It’s by Carolyn Wells, and it’s about a family consisting of four kids and their grandmother, who sick of life in New York boarding houses, decide to try living in a defunct hotel.

It’s a good concept, and it’s Carolyn Wells, so the execution should be good, too. But instead the whole thing just feels kind of halfhearted. I hear “kids living in an empty hotel” and yeah, I think, “oh cool, everyone can choose whichever room they want” and “they can spread out all across the hotel dining room.” And Wells provides that. But I also think I’m going to get kids biting off more than they can chew at first, and making mistakes, and slowly becoming more competent, and there’s barely any of that. Saying “barely any” instead of “none” is really nice of me, actually. Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy 7th, blog.

March 4, 2014

WordPress has kindly reminded me that today is the 7th anniversary of Redeeming Qualities. So, you know, happy birthday to my blog, which I’ve been neglecting shamefully. Normally I’d try to do something special for today, but between the vast amount of work stress I’m experiencing at the moment, and also the NHL trade deadline, I don’t really have the capacity.

I’m currently in the first third of a hilariously terrible adventure novel set in China, which I will report back on when I’ve finished. Meanwhile, what are you folks reading? Comment with recommendations — or, better yet, with anti-recommendations. Is there a word for that? I basically haven’t had a full night’s sleep in three weeks, so I can’t be expected to remember words.

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