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The Story Book Girls

January 12, 2018

I’m having an absurdly good run of book luck to start the year: first The Wings of Youth and the less-good-but-not-bad Girl in the Mirror, then Meg’s Friend, and now The Story Book Girls, by Christina Gowans Whyte. I can’t imagine it getting any better than The Story Book Girls, though. I tried to write about the book while I was reading it, but my notes are mostly things like “Elma! and Mabel!” and “I am wildly in love with the whole Leighton family.”

This is one of those books that I liked too much to be able to write about easily. I am at the best of times mostly a seething mass of emotion, and this book had my eyes welling up with (good) tears about twice a chapter. So, where to start? Read the rest of this entry »

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Meg’s Friend

January 11, 2018

Why were Victorians so good at weird kids and so bad at romance? Okay, that’s a very broad generalization, and probably unfair, but it applies to Meg’s Friend, by Alice Abigail Corkran.

Meg is a young girl raised in a boarding house in London. The proprietress, Mrs. Brown, is the only guardian she’s ever known, but somewhere in the background someone is sending money for her keep. She’s a reserved, serious child whose upbringing has given her a lot of worldly wisdom, and she has exactly one friend. This is William Standish, a young journalist who boards at Mrs. Browne’s. He’s clearly more genteel and better educated than the other people Meg knows, and he teaches her and reads to her and improves her speech and manners by example. In return, she keeps his room tidy, holds onto his money so he doesn’t run out before payday, and scolds him when he drinks. It’s his inquiries that draw Meg’s guardian’s attention to the conditions at Mrs. Browne’s and get Meg sent away to school. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Girl in the Mirror

January 9, 2018

Every time I try to explain my feelings about The Girl in the Mirror, I get stuck, so let’s start with the premise instead. This sequel to Elizabeth Jordan’s The Wings of Youth opens with Barbara Devon’s marriage and departure for a months-long honeymoon. That leaves her brother Laurie without a guardian (and now wealthy in his own right) for the first time in his life. And that shouldn’t be dangerous: he’s stopped drinking and gambling, and he has friends and a career. But the folks who are worried about him are right to be. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Wings of Youth

January 3, 2018

I tracked down The Wings of Youth after starting another book by Elizabeth Jordan and realizing it had to be the sequel to something. The sketch of Barbara and Lawrence Devon’s adventures given by a guest at Barbara’s wedding made them sound pretty good, but actually they’re fantastic. My only complaint is that The Wings of Youth is a silly title, which makes me not want to discuss the book out loud. Read the rest of this entry »

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my 2017 in books

December 31, 2017

I haven’t, historically, kept track of what I read. But I started bullet journaling around the end of January, and sometime in February I created a collection for books I was reading.

It’s possible that I forgot to put a few things on here, and I know I left out fanfiction and odds and ends of short stories. Otherwise, this is a pretty accurate representation of what my reading life is like. There were some things I consciously decided not to finish, and some things I just ccidentally stopped reading. It looks like there were only two books I read twice this year: The Career of Katherine Bush, which I’ve written about, and Diantha, which I haven’t. The second time I read Diantha I couldn’t sleep, so I read it in the middle of the night on my phone in one go.

I think it’s pretty clear that I get caught up in particular authors sometimes. Sometimes I have to stop myself, so that I still have more to come back to (Anna Buchan). Sometimes I have to push to finish something (the Aunt Jane’s Nieces series). Sometimes I just feel like stopping (Mrs. Molesworth). I’m not sure I’ve ever stuck with one author like I did with E. Phillips Oppenheim in January and February. Read the rest of this entry »

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Christmas Stories: Angel Unawares

December 19, 2017

I wasn’t sure I was going to manage any Christmas stories this year, but here’s one, at least: Angel Unawares, by Alice Williamson with, I presume, very little help from Charlie. Based on this and the one other Williamsons Christmas story I’ve read, they like spending their Christmases in the South of France.

The story takes place over the course of a single Christmas Eve (the Unity of Christmastimes!) mid-World War I. Dick Odell is doing something at the American Embassy in Paris, and sends his wife Elinor and daughter Angel to Mentone to remove them from danger. Angel wanders off while her governess is distracted, and finds herself in the garden of the Valois family, where she plays with a kitten and overhears some tedious exposition about the state of the Valois finances (not good). Angel decides to help them out, and when her mother disapproves of her first plan, she comes up with a second one.

Angel Unawares has its moments, but they don’t add up to anything particularly good. What ought to be the most exciting part of the story is the most boring, and what ought to be the most affecting passes too quickly. I liked Angel and her mother, but I wanted more from and for them.

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Peter Ruff and The Double Four

December 18, 2017

I’m not going to write about all my recent E. Phillips Oppenheim reads–I’ve read about twenty of his books over the past month and a half, and that’s too many. But the more I read, the better a handle I get on him, and I’m finding most of his short story characters really enjoyable.

The Double Four seems to have been published before Peter Ruff, but Peter Ruff comes first chronologically. (You can find the two volumes in one here. I thought it was going to be a third Peter Ruff book, and was disappointed.) Peter is a nice young master criminal who falls in love with a young woman without anything in particular to recommend her. He’s trying to settle into a dull, middle-class lifestyle (to correspond with hers) when the police catch up with him and he has to leave his identity behind and create a new one.  Read the rest of this entry »