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Aunt Jane’s Nieces

June 6, 2017

So hey, I’ve spent much of the last month on the Aunt Jane’s Nieces series, written by L. Frank Baum under his Edith Van Dyne pseudonym. It’s always interesting to me to see how far momentum will carry me into a series, because it doesn’t usually get me all the way to the end. I got bogged down about halfway in, but I pushed through, mostly because I never really want to come back to these books.

I have to wonder if Baum purposely lifted the plot of Aunt Jane’s Nieces from Laura E. Richards’ Three Margarets, which also involves three teenage girls being summoned to meet an unknown relative. When both also involve an Uncle John who initially misrepresents himself, they start to look suspiciously similar. Richards’ book is substantially better, and in fact reading Aunt Jane’s Nieces mostly just makes me want to reread all of the Hildegarde-Margaret books.

Anyway. Let’s talk about the work of someone I like much, much less that Laura E. Richards. Our three nieces are, in age order: Read the rest of this entry »

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Patty Blossom

May 18, 2017

For once, we’ve got a reasonably coherent plot in Patty Blossom. Wells uses the advent of a pair of ridiculous Bohemian types to draw out Patty’s feelings about Phil and Bill, and she finally comes to decisions about both of them.

Sam and Alla Blaney don’t call themselves Bohemians — they claim that only fake Bohemians do that. They’re pretty caricaturish, though. Alla wears shapeless cloths in ugly colors and parts her hair in the middle, and Sam has long hair and writes odd poetry. And actually, if there’s something that’s solidly in Carolyn Wells’ skillset, it’s parodying poetry, and I feel like there should be more of that here. I’m not a huge fan of Wells’ verse, and if one of her mysteries entertains me more than in irritates me I count it as a win, but I do like it when Wells’ other selves find their way into the Patty books. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Rest Hollow Mystery

May 9, 2017

When reading a certain kind of novel, it can be helpful to know that there aren’t going to be that many people in it, and that some of the characters who have been referenced are either identical with each other, or will turn out to be related. A dark-haired young man is introduced, but not named. Then someone tells the story of a dark-haired young man who’s estranged from his family. You slot them into one pigeonhole in your head, and that reduces the chaos to the point where you can maintain a tenuous grip on what’s going on.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, The Rest Hollow Mystery is 100% the kind of book that calls for that technique. But there’s too much going on, and too many people involved, for it to work. The first batch of chapters left me completely disoriented, and the next batch introduced more characters than I had pigeonholes for. And then Rebecca Newman Porter threw in a truly excellent twist. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Christmas Bride

May 8, 2017

I don’t actually want to write a review of Grace Livingston Hill’s The Christmas Bride, but I do want to say:

  • Those of you who were like, “okay, but sometimes the religious stuff is way too much”? I didn’t get it before. I get it now.
  • Apparently what’s wrong with the world is that I am not in Israel.
  • The hero will not give any of his vast fortune to charity because it stops people from being self-reliant.
  • GHRHHRA;GHGHDGASDLLGF
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The Story of a Whim

May 5, 2017

I reread The Obsession of Victoria Gracen the other day, and it left me wanting a very specific Grace Livingston Hill thing: Good people doing things, and triumphing over bad people who are overtly small-minded and cruel. Victoria Gracen is firmly in that category, and so is Aunt Crete’s Emancipation, but her other books I’ve read only have it in small quantities.

Anyway, I poked around on Google Books, and chose The Story of a Whim for its title. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted–for one thing, there are no bad people–but it’s a cute religious romance and I enjoyed it. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Room with the Tassels

May 2, 2017

Carolyn Wells’ mysteries are…not very good, in general. The solutions to the mysteries feel like cop-outs. Her detectives and their weird child assistants are entertaining, but because she only ever brings them in for about the last third of the book, they feel like intruders. She’s excessively fond of secret passages, but rarely gets any fun out of them. The characters are inconsistent and usually unappealing, too. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Day of Small Things

May 1, 2017

There doesn’t seem to be much point in describing The Day of Small Things. Do you like Anna Buchan? Have you read The Proper Place? If you can answer yes to both, then yes, you should read The Day of Small Things–if you haven’t already. If you answer no to either, then no, you shouldn’t.

The Day of Small Things picks up and continues in the same mood The Proper Place ended in, three years later. The Rutherfurds are the same. Their friends are the same. It’s nice to see them all again, except perhaps for Barbara. The whole experience is very much like catching up with old friends and sharing gossip about shared acquaintance: probably nothing super exciting has happened to anyone, but talking to your friends feels good, and the stories are interesting because they’re about people you know.