Posts Tagged ‘stuff’


Year in Books 2019, slightly belated

January 7, 2020


Trying to find a book…

April 19, 2018

…About which I remember very little.

There was a girl who designed spoons. I think there were other girls (who possibly lived in the same building with her) with other artistic endeavors. I’m pretty sure it took place in London. Does that ring any bells for anyone?

ETA: After some strategic googling, I found it: Helen Vardon’s Confession, one of R. Austin Freeman’s Doctor Thorndyke mysteries. The part I remembered is not central to the plot, and the main storyline is amping up my anxiety, so I may not finish it.


Interview with Ayisha Synnestvedt

February 9, 2016

Obviously I’m pretty excited about the idea of a miniseries of The Amazing Interlude, but we’ve all been burned by bad adaptations, and I thought it would be cool to have the creator of the project tell us a little more about how she went about adapting the book. I also wanted to give her a platform to talk about it more for an audience that’s read this book and others like than for one that has to be convinced that this is a good story.

Melody: Let’s start by talking about the book. What’s your favorite bit? Was there a scene that first made you start thinking about the story as a movie?

Ayisha: My favourite bit when I first read it as a young teen is the scene where, (not to give too much away, as it’s a pivotal scene), Sara Lee has put two and two together, and is crying face-down on her bed.  I remember figuring out the blocking for it as if I were a director working with actors.  I didn’t at that point think as far as realistically making it into a movie–that’s just what I’ve always done with books I like. This scene was definitely in my mind when I approached the book again a few years ago to see if it would work as a movie. These days, because I know the book well enough that if I listen to it I know which sentence comes next, my appreciation for different parts has evened out.  I have several favourite threads: the interaction of the King of the Belgians with others in the story, the mutual appreciation of men for women and women for men, Sara Lee’s cute attempts to learn and copy languages, the friendship between Jean and Henri. Read the rest of this entry ?


Happy Captain Blood Day!

September 19, 2014

This is a formal apology for not having anything special to post.

But here, check out some of Sabatini’s early short stories. It’s fun to guess beforehand a) whether or not it will be terrible, b) whether or not he recycled the story into a novel later, and c) whether the hero will have a lean sardonic countenance.


Soliciting opinions on things

July 21, 2014

First of all, I had a “wow, the banner i created in 2007 using my minimal Photoshop skills is kind of terrible-looking” moment this morning. Is that just me, or…?

The other thing is that I’ve been looking through one of my many lists of books to read, and it’s kind of overwhelming. So, regular readers of this blog, what’s the one book you feel like I should have reviewed, but haven’t?


Just in case anyone’s wondering what I’ve been up to…

June 11, 2014

I tried to read the first Game of Thrones book last month (maybe last month? it seems like longer ago) and failed out of it 80% of the way through. I’ve been recovering by reading Georgette Heyer, and I’m not done yet.


Anyone interested in a message board/mailing list?

April 30, 2014

Nell S. and I have been talking about the possibility of a place to discuss…whatever it is I  write about and we talk about here. I usually refer to it as “outdated popular fiction.” We were initially talking about a message board, but message boards intimidate me, so now we’re also talking about a Google/Yahoo group-style mailing list.

My thoughts are basically as follows: I’ve moderated Google Groups, and they’re super easy to use and allow you to participate in discussions via email but don’t really let you organize or preserve information in any useful way (although GG does have tagging and categories). And if you do participate via email, it’s hard to avoid spoilers.

Message boards let you organize things via category, which is nice, but I find them inherently kind of clunky. And it’s hard to read everything on a message board the way you can when you’ve got everything on a mailing list coming to your inbox.

It seems like there’s a lot more discussion going on here lately, and that’s awesome, but blog comments aren’t the best place to talk. So: are you guys interested in some kind of discussion space? Any preferences on type?


What would your ideal early 20th century novel be like?

April 7, 2014

I’m in a mood where I want to read something like The Blue Castle or Gertrude Haviland’s Divorce or A Woman Named Smith, but with less nature imagery and more domesticity and no mummies. Something with a spinster defying her horrible family somehow, and making friends with a cranky guy with a secret insane wife. I would like them to get along really well as friends before they fall in love, and for there to be a happy ending without the secret insane wife having to die. Actually, I’d like for the heroine to make friends with the secret insane wife.

Or, wait. This would be super cool: The heroine is the secret insane wife, but she’s not all that insane, and she runs off and takes a job somewhere and slowly learns to be awesome at it. That is the book I would like to read. If there could also be a lot of detail about exactly how much money she’s making, and what she does with it, as well as a lot of descriptions of really excellent clothing, that would be great. Wherever the heroine lands there would be a lot of museum-quality furniture and a library for me to be jealous of, and sympathetic people for her to make friends with, and eventually her awful family and/or husband would have their noses rubbed in her excellent new life. There doesn’t even have to be romance, although it would be a plus.

If you could concoct an late 19th or early 20th century novel to suit your tastes, what would it be about? And does anyone have a spinster-remaking-herself story to recommend?


Updates, or a lack thereof.

June 5, 2013

So, here’s a cool thing: Tasha from Truth, Beauty Freedom and Books and a couple of her book blogging cohorts have this project called Book Bloggers International, where they post interviews with book bloggers around the world, as well as general book blogging tips and things. It’s a nifty idea, the interviews are super enjoyable, and the latest featured blogger is me. So, check that out for a bit of rambling about my childhood reading and…nothing that should come as a surprise to anyone, actually.

As for new content here…I’m in a bit of a reading drought at the moment. This is a thing that happens, I know, but it always makes me feel kind of guilty and bereft. Like, reading is so easy; why don’t I just do it. And what else am I going to do, anyway?

I probably should have known this was coming, because I hadn’t wanted to read anything but fanfiction for a few weeks, and that’s a pretty good sign of incipient reading fatigue. Oh well. I’m alternating between trying to power through it and waiting it out, and eventually one of those things will work.


Book sale haul, 5.11.13

May 11, 2013

This is the weekend of my favorite book sale. It’s  held by a small library upstate, very few books are over a dollar, and if you buy a $10 tote bag, you can take home as many books as will fit in it. And that, of course, is what I did.


It's hard to tell in the picture, but this is a really big tote bag.

I usually limit myself to as many books as I can carry in my hands, so when my arms started to hurt, I went to check out. But once I’d gotten my books into my bag, the woman at the counter said, “you know, there are more books in the other building.” That was my downfall.

Anyway, here are the things I got, in reverse order as I unpack.


I didn’t buy all the Nero Wolfe books — just the cuter, older paperbacks and In the Best Families because it’s In the Best Families. Apparently my cat likes Nero Wolfe too.


Not the Felix Salten one with the deer, but the Marjorie Benton Cooke one with the people. The woman who helped me check out said she heard it was pretty racy, which seems unlikely, but I told her I would be pleased if that turned out to be the case.


I keep meaning to try Mary Stewart. And at this point I had well over $10 worth of books, so these were basically free.


Some miscellaneous paperbacks–One Hundred  and One Dalmatians  because my copy is missing pages, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold because I can’t find my mom’s copy, and a romance by Meredith Duran for no reason at all.


This is the Mary Roberts Rinehart portion of the haul. All of these books are more battered than all of the other books, but who cares? I own a copy of K


This is the Ethel M. Dell portion of the haul. I…own a copy of The Way of an Eagle now. So, uh, that’s a thing.


The last few miscellaneous things: Rose in Bloom, my favorite Alcott book I’ve never owned; Trustee from the Toolroom, which I buy whenever I find it so I can give it as a gift; and Brat Farrar, which I own a couple of times over, because this copy is super cute. I assume the girl in the sheet on the cover is Eleanor, but I don’t understand why.


Fun with the New York Public Library

April 17, 2013

Yesterday I took a day off from work and spent the afternoon at the library. It’s been a while since I did that, but last time I was unemployed I used to go once a week. I don’t remember whether I’ve described this before, but it’s great. I go to the main branch of the New York Public Library — the building with the lions out front and rotating exhibitions inside — and go up to the third floor, where the Rose Main Reading Room is. The Rose Main Reading Room is really two big, long rooms with rows of wooden tables and bookshelves all along the walls. The way they have it set up right now, you go into one of these rooms, consult one of the catalog computers, and fill out little paper slips indicating which books you want. You can hand in three of these slips every fifteen minutes.

When you hand in your slips, you get a number. Then you go to the other room and wait while people go find your book and send it up to the reading room in what’s basically a big dumbwaiter. There’s an big screen there showing all of the numbers that have books waiting. When your number comes up, you go up to the desk, show them your library card and get to take your books to a table, where you can read and gaze raptly at the ceiling every once in a while. The ceiling looks like this.

This is how you get access to all of the popular fiction that’s no longer in circulation. You used to be able to get pretty much anything on no notice, but now they store a lot of the books off-site. Look things up in the online catalog before you show up. What you’re looking for is things that say “In-library use only” and specify the item’s location as “Schwarzman Building – Main Reading Room 315”. The ones stored off-site are labeled “Available by request”. They only started moving stuff off-site recently, so I haven’t tried requesting yet.

I meant to start this post with something more along the lines of, “Yesterday I want to the library and read kind of a delightful book by Samuel Hopkins Adams,” but I guess I got a little carried away. Perhaps Adams’ venture into the world of 1920s beauty parlors is a subject for another post.


March 4th, 2013

March 4, 2013

As of today, Redeeming Qualities has been around for 6 years. I know I was better at posting regularly when I was a student, or when I was unemployed, but even when I haven’t posted for months at a time, Redeeming Qualities has always been a source of good feelings and I’ve never considered abandoning it. So if you’re reading this — and especially if you read RQ regularly, thanks for being around and for sharing opinions and recommendations and for enjoying ridiculous books with me. Some of you are as important to this blog as the Williamsons, and none of you are less important to it than John Kendrick Bangs. Read the rest of this entry ?


I invented a game.

January 28, 2013

The Redeeming Qualities Bookshelf is, for once, relatively up to date, which is nice. I’m so enamored of the tagging system that I’ve been making a game out of it — I look through the tag list, pick out a few, and come up with a story synopsis to match. For bonus points (although I can’t really claim to have any points system worked out at all) I add an author or time period tag and try to fit my description to it.

I’d love it if people would come play this game with me! Give me a short list of tags, or write something to fit one of these:

artists, bigamy, missingjewels, Arabia, spies

socialandclassissues, Massachusetts, hypnotism, gardening, 1880s

friendship, DepartmentStores, amnesia, MargaretWiddemer, nature

pirates, phoneticspelling, sequel, teenagers, travelogue


Happy 5th Anniversary to Redeeming Qualities

March 4, 2012

Five years ago today, I was hanging out in my dorm room thinking about how all I wanted to do was talk about A Woman Named Smith and nobody cared. Obviously the only thing to do was to start a blog.

So, if you’re reading this, thank you for being the kind of person who cares about books like A Woman Named Smith. Thanks for being here and reading Redeeming Qualities and recommending things and making me feel like it’s not that weird to love forgotten popular fiction.

I usually forget to commemorate Redeeming Qualities’ anniversaries, but I wanted to do something cool for the fifth one, so I’ve created a sort of virtual bookshelf over at Pinboard.  There you’ll find almost all of the books I’ve reviewed here (excepting a few era-inappropriate ones that have crept in by accident) and some I haven’t, sortable by author, decade, and a whole lot of more ridiculous categories. Looking for books featuring vehicular accidents, or Boy Scouts, or bears? How about naughty and uncontrollable children? Or Cinderella stories? Or complicated families where everyone seems to have the same name? You can even sort by source if, say, you only want to read things from Project Gutenberg.

This is a work in progress, and it’s entirely possible that I forgot a tag while bookmarking something, or overlooked creating a tag altogether. It took kind of a while to bookmark everything, even with some much-appreciated assistance from my brother. So if I failed to add the ‘servants‘ tag to something you think ought to have it, or if you really wish I had a category for smart-aleck orphans from New York, or whatever, let me know.


New Link: The Project Gutenberg Project

February 15, 2012

The Project Gutenberg Project is a new group-run book blog that only reviews books in the public domain. Which, you know, seems like something you folks might be into. They’ve got their first review up now: an Elizabeth Gaskell novel about an unwed mother. Check it out!