Archive for the ‘Vintage Books’ Category

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12th Blogiversary/Polly of Pebbly Pit

March 4, 2019

I read the first five books in Lillian Elizabeth Roy’s Polly Brewster series in 2007, right around when I started this blog. I had to stop there, because the sixth book wasn’t out of copyright yet, but since then, when I’ve thought about the public domain expanding in 2019, I’ve thought, “Oh, then I’ll be able to read the next Polly and Eleanor book.” 2019 felt really far away in 2007, but it’s finally here, so it feels appropriate to celebrate this blogiversary by revisiting this series.

This is making it sound like these books are really great, and if I recall correctly, they’re not. Polly of Pebbly Pit certainly isn’t, but it’s not bad, either–it’s just a decent girls’ series book for people who like girls’ series books, with an emphasis on sensible parenting and some mean-spirited comic relief. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Philippa

January 18, 2019

I’m always so impressed by Mrs. Molesworth. Not so much by her fantasy-tinged stuff for younger readers — the same grounded-ness that makes her other books so good drags her down there. But her more realistic books — mostly the ones for older girls — are so smart in such a light-handed, careful way, and even when I think I’m expecting it, I’m always a little surprised. They’re didactic — they’re very straightforwardly about learning to exist as a woman in the world — but not in the pejorative sense. They feel like very kind and human instruction manuals. And I have a lot of affection for instruction manuals. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Devil’s Cub

January 14, 2019

I read The Devil’s Cub, by Georgette Heyer, on Friday and Saturday, mostly with my feet up in front of a fire. That felt right, and picturesque, but also necessary, since the heating system was off and the house took a while to get comfortable again after we got it turned back on.

I’m pretty sure this is the third time I’ve read The Devil’s Cub. It’s not one of my favorite Heyers. I wasn’t crazy about it the first time I read it, I liked it a little better the second time, and this time was a different kind of experience because I was reading it knowing I was going to write about it.

The Devil’s Cub is a sequel to These Old Shades, which is a pseudo-sequel to The Black Moth, which I could have sworn I’d posted about, but I guess not. In The Black Moth, the hero and heroine are menaced by Tracy Belmanoir, Duke of Andover, AKA “Devil.” In These Old Shades, Tracy has been transformed into Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, AKA “Satanas,” but he’s the same person, temporarily transported to Paris. There he meets and employs a boy who turns out to be a girl. Eventually he marries her. You know how it goes.

The Devil’s Cub takes place about 25 years later. Justin and Léonie’s son Dominic, Marquis of Vidal, has something of his father’s bad reputation. He eventually makes London too hot to hold him, and his father orders him to flee to the Continent. He makes a pit stop to pick up Sophia Challoner, the girl he’s been planning on making his mistress, but here things go (more) wrong. His letter to Sophia ends up in the hands of her much more virtuous older sister, Mary, and she takes Sophia’s place to save her virtue, assuming Vidal will send her home when he discovers the switch. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Year in Books 2018

January 1, 2019

Meant to do this yesterday, but oops.

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When the Yule Log Burns

December 25, 2018

So, uh, hey. It’s been a while.

I’m really sorry for not posting for so long. I’m really sorry for missing Captain Blood Day. I tried to get something together but I just couldn’t do it. But I didn’t want to let Christmas pass without at least one Christmas story. And I’ve only got one, but, as luck would have it, the one story I read was kind of two.

Leona Dalrymple is pretty good at Christmas stories. Jimsy: The Christmas Kid and In The Heart of the Christmas Pines are exactly what Christmas stories should be. When the Yule Log Burns is…also many things a Christmas story should be, and I’m tempted to say that it’s my own fault I didn’t love it. Maybe I would too anxious to get something read and reviewed. Maybe I’ve read too many of these things before. And, you know, I like a predictable Christmas story. But this one (these ones) left me kind of bored. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Spray on the Windows

July 20, 2018

The thing about Spray on the Windows (by J.E. Buckrose) is that I’ve only just admitted to myself, a month and a half after finishing it, that I don’t like it. I feel guilty about that, because it’s not bad. It’s just that Buckrose’s thesis is that no matter how much life sucks, it’s going to be okay if you’re with the person you love, and to prove that thesis, she has to make life suck pretty bad. For most of the book, things are sort of okay, but you know where it’s going, and “how unhappy is everyone going to be?” is my least favorite kind of suspense.

Our protagonist is Ann Middleton, who has just moved to the seaside town of Wodenscar to work for the wealthy and eccentric Mrs. Barrington. Mrs. Barrington has a nephew who Ann would like to marry, and he likes her, too — but not necessarily enough to offer her marriage. Then there’s Ann’s neighbor Stephen Finlay, poor and disgraced and possibly a bit of an obstacle to Ann marrying for money.

You get to stress through her romantic decisions, stress through her married life, and stress through some possibly supernatural deaths and near-deaths. It’s…not that much fun. But I suspect that if I was a little less prone to anxiety, I would have liked it a lot more.

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Empty Hands

June 22, 2018

Robert Endicott, early in Arthur Stringer’s Empty Hands, compares his employee Shomer Grimshaw to a Diesel engine, efficient and emotionless, and wonders who would win out if Grimshaw had to deal with Endicott’s modern, spoiled daughter Claire. As a reader, you know what this signals: they will meet, and probably fall in love, and we’ll find out just how human Grimshaw can be. And I guess we do, but — and I suspect Stringer didn’t intend this — the answer is “not very.”

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Nina’s Career

June 7, 2018

The bad news is that Nina’s Career isn’t as good as The Story Book Girls. The good news is that it’s still good enough that I want to read everything Christina Gowans Whyte ever wrote.

Nina Wentworth is an orphan being raised in London by three spinster aunts. Their income will die with them, so eventually Nina will have to support herself, and as she’s shown some artistic talent, she’s training to be an artist.

That’s not what the book is about. Read the rest of this entry ?

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An Everyday Girl

June 5, 2018

An Everyday Girl, by Amy Ella Blanchard, is one of those books that wants to be two or three completely unrelated books, but it’s fine. I didn’t mind the structural issues half as much as the casual racism (including blackface and the N-word).  Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Seed of the Righteous

June 3, 2018

The Seed of the Righteous feels like Juliet Wilbor Tompkins’s entry into the subgenre that includes V.V.’s Eyes, The Clarion, and A Poor Wise Man. But those are about wealthy young people coming to terms with the ethical realities of their situations, and this is about a poor one. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tom Slade, Forest Ranger

June 2, 2018

I started Tom Slade, Forest Ranger in January (at a hockey game) but I couldn’t get through it. This kid Henny Vollmer kills someone by accident, and it was stressing me out. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Girl Crusoes

June 1, 2018

I don’t know how I feel about The Girl Crusoes (by Mrs. Herbert Strang, a pseudonym for the same two guys who wrote as Mr. Herbert Strang). I love a good survival story, which I think means this isn’t one. Also I wish people writing about castaways wouldn’t populate their tropical islands; so often it just seems like an excuse to be super racist. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Why Not?

May 25, 2018

It’s funny how much text sources influence my reading. When I want to read Margaret Widdemer, I always go for The Rose-Garden Husband and The Wishing-Ring Man, and that’s mostly because they’re great, and a bit because each one makes me want to read the other, but it’s also a little bit because they’re on Project Gutenberg. If Why Not? was on Gutenberg instead of Google Books, it would go on my list of favorite Widdemer books. Read the rest of this entry ?

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A Safety Match

May 16, 2018

A Safety Match is like if Ian Hay deliberately set out to write a fun he/she fell in love with his/her wife/husband book minus all of the really knotty emotional scenes, and mostly succeeded. In fact, I’m not sure it’s not on purpose. Skipping past Daphne’s early married life seems like a spoilsport move, but I can see him legitimately not finding that interesting. Skipping past most of her estrangement from her husband…well, I can see me not finding that all that interesting. But when Jack Carr’s secretary sends Daphne home and Hay excises only the part of the conversation that convinces her, I began to get annoyed. He does give us the reconciliation scene, but by then everything is a foregone conclusion, so it’s not that exciting. Actually, nothing is that exciting. There are few surprises in this book. Hay knows all the beats this romance plot is supposed to hit, and he hits them.  Read the rest of this entry ?

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Old Valentines

May 11, 2018

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