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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.

 

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The Guests of Hercules

April 26, 2017

I love Alice Williamson, but I don’t trust her at all, so when she was like, “Here, check out Mary Grant. She was brought up in a convent in Scotland and she has ‘wild blood.’ I’m going to take her to Monte Carlo!” I was worried.

A.M. and C.N. Williamson, collectively (and probably also individually), loved Monte Carlo, but I normally avoid their stories set there because reading about gambling makes me extremely anxious. I was excited when The Guests of Hercules opened with a wealthy young girl going out into the world after deciding at the last moment not to be a nun–but only for about a minute, because Alice Williamson isn’t, say, Margaret Widdemer, and when her heroines go out into the world alone, it isn’t always kind to them. Also I’ve, you know, read books before, so from the first mention of Monte Carlo, my brain was shouting, “No, stop, she’s going to get addicted to gambling and lose all her money.” Then a little later I began to wonder whether everything was leading up to an attempted murder. I’m actually not sure how I managed to get through the book.

The things I feared happen roughly as I expected them to happen (I have read books before) but Alice Williamson makes it alright. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Career of Claudia

April 19, 2017

I raced through Frances Mary Peard’s The Career of Claudia, but not because I liked it. Actually, I can only think of one scene I’m fairly sure I enjoyed.

Claudia is a wealthy young woman who’s just graduated from college. She’s emerged a Socialist and a landscape gardener, and those are the only things she wants to talk about. When she moves in with some spinster cousins, she expects to use their house mostly as a home base between landscaping jobs. She meets a nice young man named Harry Hilton at her cousins’ house, and he invites her to come do some landscaping at his estate, mostly because he’s falling in love with her. Read the rest of this entry »

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Young Stowaways in Space

April 17, 2017

Young Stowaways in Space, by Richard M. Elam, is bad, and also very boring. It was published in 1960, but it’s set in a future where space travel is common and a robot maid is possible but you have to program it by hand. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Professional Rider

April 12, 2017

So, A Professional Rider is…a book. It’s by Mrs. Edward Kennard, who wrote Pretty Kitty Herrick, and it’s sort of like that, but weirder and more upsetting. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Slipper Point Mystery

April 11, 2017

The Slipper Point Mystery is typical Augusta Huiell Seaman: two girls, Doris and Sally, make friends one summer on a town on the New Jersey coast. They find a mysterious room built into a hillside, and set out in search of buried treasure. What they find instead is some local history–but from a recent enough past that someone is around to remember it.

It’s fun, and mostly satisfying, in the way that all of Seaman’s books are fun, and mostly satisfying. It’s a little better than The Vanderlyn Silhouette, maybe, and a little worse than The Boarded-Up House. But it also has what may be my favorite part of any book of hers I’ve read. In one of the final chapters, Seaman switches to a close third person narration from the point of view of Sally’s sister Genevieve, who is about three. Sally and Doris have been carting Genevieve around with them all summer, leaving her with picture books and candy while they hang out in holes in the ground. It’s been clear that Genevieve isn’t too happy about that, but the attitude Seaman gives Genevieve in this chapter is unexpected and amazing. She changes her language a little, and the added formality makes Genevieve seem sort of superior and unimpressed with her elders. Check it out:

True, they had left her eatables in generous quantities, but she had already disposed of these, and as for the picture-books of many attractive descriptions, given her to while away the weary hours, they were an old story now, and the afternoon was growing late. She longed to go down to the shore and play in the rowboat, and dabble her bare toes in the water, and indulge in the eternally fascinating experiment of catching crabs with a piece of meat tied to a string and her father’s old crab-net. What was the use of living when one was doomed to drag out a wonderful afternoon on a tiny, hopelessly uninteresting porch out in the backwoods? Existence was nothing but a burden.

I’m pretty sure Genevieve’s internal rebellion is worth reading the entire 177 humdrum preceding pages.