Posts Tagged ‘california’

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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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Books I failed out of last week

January 11, 2016

Four and Twenty Beds, by Nancy Casteel Vogel.

I kind of wanted someone to read this for me so that I didn’t have to, but eventually I decided I didn’t care that much. It’s from the fifties and it’s about a Californian couple who, with their two children, move to a small town to run a motel. I stopped reading just after they took possession of the motel, figuring that at worst there was going to be an endless series of uncomfortable disasters and at best I was going to continue not finding the book particularly funny.

Good References, by E.J. Rath.

So, like. 1921. Stenographer can’t get a job because she has no references. Ends up taking a job under another girl’s name, as social secretary to a young man who has no interest in society. What could be more fun than that? Well, almost anything, as it turns out. The young man is profoundly unsympathetic, and the friend posing as his valet is worse. Everyone is lying to his aunt, and she ended up being the only person I had any sympathy for. I have very little patience for books about people getting themselves in increasingly worse scrapes by lying, and I got through exactly four chapters before getting fed up.

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The Eyes of the World

October 11, 2011

So, The Eyes of the World is pretty bad. There are some mildly entertaining bits, and a lot of really average bits, but mostly there are really terrible bits.

The relationship between the hero, Aaron King, and his mentor Conrad Lagrange was one of the things I sort of liked. Aaron is pretty much a nonentity, but Lagrange is interesting. He’s a famous novelist who hates his work and the people who read it. He hates himself, too. I don’t know why he persists in writing what he believes to be trash when he refuses to be friends with anyone who’s willing to read it–the fortune and fame rationale he puts forward doesn’t really cut it. He’s already famous and wealthy. Why is he continuing to write books he believes to be actively harmful? Anyway, he spends the entire book being bitterly self-deprecating and alternating between deriding Aaron’s attempts to be better and encouraging him to hold on to his ideals. Also, he’s got a cute dog. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Dr. Ellen

July 11, 2011

I really don’t know what to say about Dr. Ellen. Except this: if you read Pleasures and Palaces, also by Juliet Wilbor Tompkins, you will not find it to be anything like that.

Structurally, Dr. Ellen is centered around three women: there’s Ellen Roderick, who lost a husband and a child in quick succession, used her period of mourning to study to become a doctor, and then moved into a mountain cabin and set up as a physician for the locals. Then there’s her younger sister, Ruth Chantry, who lives with Ellen, but doesn’t share her ideals or sense of purpose. Ruth is young and vibrant and wants to be around people all the time, and she’s increasingly resentful  about the way Ellen keeps her in isolation. The third woman is Ruth’s friend Christine O’Hara, shallow, easygoing, and flirtatious, who provides Ruth with a brief respite from her exile when she invites her for a visit.

It’s on that visit that Ruth and Philip Amsden meet. Philip is in his thirties, and architect, and not so much stuck-up as aloof. Also, he’s the person the book is about, really. He’s captivated by Ruth’s enthusiasm, and her naive enjoyment of everything, and lets himself be drawn into the various activities Christine has scheduled for Ruth’s amusement. Read the rest of this entry ?