The Official Recommendations Page

Every time I ask for recommendations on a particular subject, you guys come up with many wonderful things. Actually, sometimes you come up with wonderful things totally unprompted. And recently I’ve received several emails from readers suggesting books and authors I might like (If you’ve emailed me and I haven’t responded, I’m sorry! I’m terrible about replying to emails. I probably still mean to write back and haven’t realized how much time has passed since you wrote), which has been very cool

Anyway, I thought it would be cool if there was a place here for people to recommend things to me, and to anyone else who happens to be passing by, and the comments on this post are going to be that place. Be as brief or as long-winded as you like.


  1. I just finished reading an awesome children’s book that I’m pretty sure you would love. It’s the first of three books published so far with the same characters. The title is “The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy”

    It is sort of like a cross between Little Women and The Moffits but set in today’s time period. The Little Women bit is mainly due to the four interesting sisters who lost their mother shortly after the birth of the youngest sister who is four years old with the oldest sister being twelve. The Moffits bit is due to no sad bits as in Little Women but many bits of adventures with their neighbors and their togetherness as a family. It has the feeling of a book that was written during the 1950s or the 1960s at the latest.

    I stumbled across this book while looking up reviews for a different book that was at a rather electic book reading blog “The Ineluctable Bookshelf”. Quite a few interesting reviews there and some books I’ll be checking out because of the reviews!

    Another book that you might find interesting is “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Novel”. It’s about an 11 year old girl who really loves chemistry and poisons who jumps at the chance to investigate a murder. It is set in 1950 England and the character is very British and quite interesting.

    • Those both sound like fun, especially the second one. I don’t buy that many new books, but I’ll keep an eye out for them.

  2. I liked “Cinderella Jane” by Marjorie Benton Cooke rather a lot. It’s a feminist romance novel from 1917 – at least, the heroine is a feminist, and the hero is most emphatically not. I’d love to see your thoughts on it.

    (It’s on Project Gutenberg here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33657/33657-h/33657-h.htm.)

    • That sounds excellent, and I’ll be sure to check it out. I feen like Marjorie Benton Cooke’s name sounds really familiar, but I can’t figure out why.

  3. In the sort of non-fiction side of the house, you might try & snag Marjorie Hillis’s “Live Alone & Like It” and “Orchids on a Budget” (http://thepaintedwoman.blogspot.com/2009/09/live-alone-girl-marjorie-hillis.html). Both are awesome books, although they definitely show their age. The general idea is “Sometimes life sucks, but here’s what you can do about it.”

    In the fiction– you’ve read the Moving Picture Girls books, right? So much fun!

    And, of course, I know you’ve read the awesome, horrifying Elsie books, but they always bear another mention. And the Little Prudy books. And OMG, Slovenly Betsy (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19915/19915-h/19915-h.htm).

  4. Good housekeeping, Volume 69, July 1919
    Kathleen Norris
    Kate Douglas Wiggin
    Gertrude Brooks Hamilton
    William J. Locke
    Dorothy Dix
    James Oliver Curwood
    Rose O’Neill (Kewpies!)
    Zona Gale
    James Montgomery Flagg illustrations
    a Jessie Wilcox Smith on the cover


    • Ooooh.

  5. “Letters of a Woman Homesteader” (1914) and “Letters on an Elk Hunt” (1915) by Elinore Pruitt Stewart. Basically, these books are just made up of the letters this woman sent from her Wyoming homestead to her friend in Denver. Mrs. Stewart was a charming and captivating storyteller, and she was a sharp judge of character with a delicious sense of humor.


  6. Stupid me, I didn’t realize the recommendations page was a place to *make* recommendations, so I left one in the comments section of the About Blog: Long Version. Sorry! But while I’m here … I’d like to suggest “That Affair Next Door” by Anna Katharine Green. Unike her other novels it’s written in the first person, and that person is Amelia Butterworth, whose voice is much terser and more sardonic than Green’s usual narrator. She’s a character I really enjoyed, and I wish Green had used her more.

    • Not a problem — all comments end up in the same place. Mostly I put this page here to encourage people to make more recs.

      I’m probably overdue to give Anna Katherine Green another chance.

  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_C._Lincoln

    I just finished “Galusha the Magnificent”, which was sweet and delightful, and am currently reading “Cap’n Eri: A Story of the Coast”, which is also proving to be funny and interesting. There are a bunch of his books available over at Project Gutenberg, and I foresee being pleasantly entertained for quite a while.

    • Oooh, he sounds really interesting. Thanks for the rec!

  8. Thank you so much for all your interesting reviews. In the past few months I have had a great time picking out some new reads from this site. I have now read the ENTIRE Patty Fairfield series, and I feel enriched! I look forward to reading your reviews if you finish doing the series sometime. I also adored Rose-Garden Husband, and Patricia Brent Spinster, and enjoyed several others to a slightly lesser degree.
    I have now read most of Margaret Widdemer’s public domain books and can recommend them (except for The Boardwalk, which is totally depressing). “The Year of Delight” is another he/she fell in love with his/her wife/husband story. It’s fairly good, although the ending seemed a little anti-climactic. “Why Not” and “The Wishing-Ring Man” are pretty nice.

    Also, have you ever read:
    The First Violin by Jessie Fothergill

    The Rosary
    The Mistress of Shenstone (both by Florence Barclay)

    The Doctor’s Dilemma by Hesba Stretton

    The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

    All of the above are pretty splendid…especially The Shuttle!!! I have done reviews of all of the above on Goodreads.

    Thanks again for writing such entertaining reviews and giving me some new books to treasure.

    • Thanks for reading, and yay Patty Fairfield! Margaret Widdemer is always on my TBR list, and The Wishing-Ring Man, in particular, I’m saving for a rainy day. I like Why Not a lot, too.

      I haven’t read the others your recommend, although I’ve been meaning to read The Shuttle for a while now, and I’ve read a fair amount of Hesba Stretton. The First Violin is an intriguing title — what’s it about?

      • The First Violin is set in the late 1800s, and it’s about a girl named May who lives with her family in England. She is totally repulsed by her neighbor’s attempt to court her (he’s a wicked, creepy, middle-aged man), and so when another neighbor, an eccentric older lady, offers her a chance to be a companion on a trip to Germany and study music, she jumps at it. On the way, she gets separated from this lady at a railway station, and starts to panic. Right then she meets Eugen Courvoisier, and he chivalrously helps her out, since he’s able to translate for her, buy her a new train ticket, and entertain her the whole afternoon while they are waiting for the train. That part is just lovely. Then, when she gets to her destination, they part ways, but only until they realize that they are part of the same orchestra–Eugen has the position of first violin, and May sings. From there on it’s a bit of mystery (Eugen has a sad past that involves him doing Noble Stuff he doesn’t want anyone else to know about), romance (Eugen trying desperately to keep his distance from May, for several reasons), and art (all of these young musicians discovering their craft and falling in love with their music).
        The narrative switches back and forth a few times, from May’s perspective to that of Eugen’s best friend, and you have to realize that’s what is happening because it’s not really spelled out.
        The only thing that might mar this novel is the rather unbelievable coincidence used near the end to help resolve things. But the story is so splendid that I can suspend disbelief without any trouble. It’s a book that is easy for me to lose myself in.

  9. If you haven’t already read it, I suspect you might like “The Fifth Wheel”, by Olive Higgins Prouty. It’s the tale of a young woman who is expected by her family to make a good match, but who instead strikes her own path. Not a classic, by any stretch, but given your predilection for heroines who stick to their own guns, this one might – at least partly – interest you.

    • I mostly like The Fifth Wheel, but I much prefer Bobbie, General Manager, the book to which it’s a sequel.

  10. “Hepsey Burke” (1915), by Frank Noyes Westcott.
    one of my favorite passages:

    “Do you think that I would talk about
    such a delicate matter before others?”

    “Oh no; I suppose not. But you could look wise and foolish at the same
    time when Maxwell’s name was mentioned, with a coy and kittenish air
    which would suggest more than ten volumes of Mary Jane Holmes.”

    “You are not very sympathetic, Mrs. Burke, when I am in deep trouble.
    I want your help, not ridicule and abuse.”

    • This book sounds really familiar to me and I can’t figure out why. Oh well. Going on the reading list.

  11. “The Magnet” by Henry C. Rowland – it might be because I have two brothers, but I absolutely love books about sisters. Not only does it give you several heroines / storylines, but they’re often contrasted against each other (in this case – the flirt, the nice sister, the tomboy).
    It’s also all set on a boat, and the sisters are motherless – again a plot device that I love (purely in fiction, of course!) because they are usually allowed to be far more unconventional that way.

  12. I know one of your posts mentioned that you don’t enjoy many Westerns, but here is one that I think you might:

    • Thanks! Both of your recommendations sound really interesting, and I’m adding them to the TBR list.

    • Definitely seconding this recommendation of BM (Bertha Muzzy) Bower. Her stories are a lot more lighthearted and comedic than the gritty man-vs.-wild Westerns of Zane Grey or Max Brand, and the love interests are charming independent girls rather than tragic victims fleeing Mormon coercion.

      I would recommend Chip of the Flying U, deservedly the most popular book in her series of novels and short stories starring the revolving cast of aw-shucks, salt-of-the-earth cowboys working for the Flying U Ranch. In Chip of the Flying U, the crotchety ranch owner’s sister–a newly fledged doctor–comes to stay for the summer. Sample dialogue:
      “Silver. He broke his leg.”

      “Oh!” There was real horror in her tone. Miss Whitmore knew all about Silver from garrulous Patsy. Chip had rescued a pretty, brown colt from starving on the range, had bought him of the owner, petted and cared for him until he was now one of the best saddle horses on the ranch. He was a dark chestnut, with beautiful white, crinkly mane and tail and white feet. Miss Whitmore had seen Chip riding him down the coulee trail only yesterday, and now—Her heart ached with the pity of it.

      “How did it happen?”

      “I don’t know. He was in the little pasture. Got kicked, maybe.” Chip jerked open the door with a force greatly in excess of the need of it.

      Miss Whitmore started impulsively toward him. Her eyes were not quite clear.

      “Don’t—not yet! Let me go. If it’s a straight break I can set the bone and save him.”

      Chip, savage in his misery, regarded her over one square shoulder.

      “Are you a veterinary surgeon, may I ask?”

      Miss Whitmore felt her cheeks grow hot, but she stood her ground.

      “I am not. But a broken bone is a broken bone, whether it belongs to a man—or some OTHER beast!”


      Chip’s way of saying yes was one of his chief weapons of annihilation. He had a peculiar, taunting inflection which he could give to it, upon occasion, which caused prickles of flesh upon the victim. To say that Miss Whitmore was not utterly quenched argues well for her courage. She only gasped, as though treated to an unexpected dash of cold water, and went on.
      I also think you would like her novel Jean of the Lazy A, about a headstrong cowgirl who becomes a stuntwoman for Western movies to raise money so she can track down the man who framed her father for murder.

      • Those do sound fun — and you’re probably spot on about my liking the one with the stuntwoman. Thanks!

  13. Have you read Cytherea, by Joseph Hergesheimer? http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6847 I’m reading a biography of Frances Marion, and it mentions the book being adapted to film and being too scandalous for the censors. I’m curious!

    • I haven’t but it’s actually been on my TBR list for years — I came across a reference to it in a biography of Lillian Gish, who was apparently the model for one of the characters.

      • Nice! I also just stumbled across The City of Masks, by George Barr McCutcheon. It looks like it has possibilities. :)

        • Let me know — I’m sort of wary of George Barr McCUtcheon, but sometimes he’s awesome.

  14. Have you read “The Corner House Girls” series? I have a feeling that you would really like these books. Turn-of-the-century girl adventures–what’s not to like?

    • I haven’t — thanks for the recommendation. I’ll keep an eye out for these.

  15. From the piece on the blog about “A Woman Named Smith” I saw how much you liked it, but it wasn’t until I read the interview that I realised it had been instrumental in starting the blog itself.
    Anyway, how would you like to read a book featuring a beautiful Colonial – era mansion in the South with a secret built into it, owned by an eccentric old lady, involving two young women, with the solution being linked to historical events in the old lady’s family?
    Sounds familiar, but it’s “The Brass Keys of Kenwick” by Augusta Huiell Seaman, and in terms of language and characterisation there isn’t much comparison. Still, it’s a pleasant read, if spoilt a bit by the denouement involving her usual obsession with the lost Dauphin. What I particularly like about her books is the relationship developed between the (usually two, young, female) protagonists in the current mystery, and it’s well to the front here.

    • Oh, that sounds fun! I would so like to read more Augusta Huiell Seaman, but stuff like this falls into that time period where stuff isn’t yet in the public domain but is old enough and forgotten enough to be pretty hard to find. I’ll keep an eye out for it. I love old house mysteries, and I already know from The Boarded-Up House that Seaman can write a really good one.

  16. Have you read The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery? Her most famous book Anne of Green Gables is also in the public domain, but I had to get Blue Castle through Gutenberg Australia (not sure if it’s accessible in the US): http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200951h.html

    It’s about Valancy Stirling, a 29-year-old who seems doomed to live the rest of her life as a timorous old maid in genteel poverty under the thumb of her snide, bullying relatives–until a doctor diagnoses her with a fatal heart complaint. Early 20th-century bucket list novel! “One year to live” is a pretty common plot device these days, but this is the earliest occurrence that I know of.

    Valancy keeps her diagnosis secret and finally starts living the life she’s always wanted. Hijinks ensue: she sasses her haughty mother, gets a job nursing the scandalous daughter of the town drunk, and caps it off by proposing to a stranger about whom she had fantasized. The snappy retorts she’s been bottling up all her life alone make it worth the time.

    • You seem to have just broken me out of my reading drought. So, uh, thanks!

  17. Have you read any books by Mrs. Georgie Sheldon? If you’re ever in the mood for ridiculous suspense written pre-1900, she’s the one. Linking a couple of my reviews: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18399903-geoffrey-s-victory-or-the-double-deception
    First one’s available for free on Google Books. Second one’s on Project Gutenberg.

    • Those sound kind of delightful. Thanks for the recs!

  18. I just discovered your delightful blog yesterday. Might I suggest one small addition? It would be great if you could also include the links to Librivox recordings, when available. They are free, and many are quite good. I do a lot of my light “reading” while doing chores. I’m in the process of decluttering/packing up a big house after 4 children and 20 years, and I’ll need lots of entertainment to keep me going.

    • That’s a great idea — I’m barely capable of listening to audiobooks, but I know a lot of people get most of their reading done that way. Do you know whether the audiobooks on Project Gutenberg are the same as the Librivox ones?

  19. Oh–and I’ll add one recommendation–the three “Miss Billy” books that are available on Librivox with wonderful readers. The books are by Eleanor Porter, who wrote “Pollyana”. They’re about an orphan who is sent to live with three eccentric bachelor brothers from an old Boston family, who dote on her.

    • I’ve read and agonized over the Miss Billy books — check out the Eleanor H. Porter tag.

  20. Librivox has a much smaller library than Project Gutenberg, although many of their texts do come from there. I think you have a good point about Miss Billy, but the readers are very good. I find that sometimes it’s easier to get through the less accomplished parts of an uneven book if it’s being read to me–perhaps because I can always focus more on the other thing I’m doing till the book gets good again.

    • I was wondering more about the audiobooks on Project Gutenberg itself — I know how their ebooks are produced, but I have no idea where the audiobooks come from.

      I’m about to be doing a bunch of packing, too, so maybe that’s the time for audiobooks. ANd if the Miss Billy books have very good readers, maybe I should revisit them.

  21. I’ve never used the audiobooks at Gutenberg, so I can’t tell you what they’re like. I think that at least some of them are computer-read, which is a real turn off for me. Enjoy Miss Billy!

  22. I “discovered” Mary Jane Holmes’ books a few years ago and have read all 20 or so which are free (and a few which aren’t) on Kindle. Some are better copies than others. I am an English Major and love her writing and style! I think she is better than Jane Austen. I feel like a better person after reading them. My favorites are Marion Grey, Maggie Miller (a switched at birth story), Rose Mather (which is set during the Civil War), The Tracy Diamonds (deals with redemption in a touching and powerful way), Tracy Park, and Edith Lyle’s Secret (because I am a birth-mother). The most recent one I read, Forrest House, I couldn’t put down and finished it in two days.
    Thank you for highlighting these wonderful lost gems of our literary and social history!

    • I really need to read more Mary Jane Holmes, because I love her, too. I wouldn’t say she’s better than Jane Austen, but she appeals really deeply to the id in a way that most canonical authors don’t.

  23. I just finished The Turned-About Girls by Beulah Marie Dix (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/46048/46048-h/46048-h.htm) from 1922 about two girls who switch places. It was wonderful!

    • I feel like this has been recommended to me before. I’ll check it out.

  24. http://manybooks.net/titles/hamiltoncoetext03cares10.html

    “Who Cares” by Cosmo Hamilton is a jolly good read!

    • Yeah, I think that must have been one of the first books I reviewed on this blog. It’s so weird and so entertaining.

  25. I am surprised and grieved to find that no Rosa Nouchette Carey books have been reviewed here. I would personally recommend “Uncle Max” and “Not Like Other Girls.” Amusingly, the latter book gets an extremely catty shout-out from Annie Fellows Johnston in “The Little Colonel’s Chum.”

    • I am one person reading things I happen to come across and occasionally things that are recommended to me. I’m sorry my failure to read this one author grieves you, but maybe telling me that isn’t the best way to get me to remedy the problem.

      • Alas, I’ve forgotten once again that text doesn’t indicate tone.

        Rosa Nouchette Carey is a really good writer. I hope that the way that I introduced her books won’t keep you from reading them.

        • Fair enough, and sorry for snapping at you. I’ve come across Carey’s name a lot, I think. I’ll try to pay closer attention next time that happens.

  26. I have a recommendation you might enjoy:

    “Gold Elsie” by E. Marlitt, published in 1866.


    I read it in German years ago, as a little girl at my grandmother’s house, and I remember that I loved it. I found this excellent English translation on PG recently and I still enjoyed myself immensely – maybe because I can now tell how completely over the top it is.

    It was a bestseller in Germany at the time and features:

    A beautiful and musical girl from a good but impoverished family (the titular “Gold Elsie”), a count or two, a villainous baroness and her evil son, a beautiful “crippled” lady too good for this world, ominous castle ruins, a dark secret generations back and lots and lots of German countryside…

    • That sounds delightful. Thanks for the recommendation!

  27. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20230/20230-h/20230-h.htm

    Jane Journeys On by Ruth Comfort Mitchell

    I enjoyed this immensely.

    Jane (24 years old, smart, pretty) leaves behind her quaint but boring New England home town and the boring suitor that comes with it to make it in New York as a writer. There’s not much plot to speak of, instead Jane… helps people (it took me 10 minutes to settle on this synopsis). The book is sometimes hilarious, sometimes melodramatic, always delightful. It even made me tolerate the dead child scene, which is usually a huge nope for me.

    Much of the book is letters Jane sends to her best friend back home, but not all of it and it is better for it.

    It also did not get boring in the end and the last couple of pages had me laughing in my pillow because it was 1:30 am and I didn’t want to wake the whole house.

    I’d love to get your opinion and to have someone to talk about it with!

    • I’ve had that bookmarked for a while, but Ruth Comfort Mitchell’s Play The Game! kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, so I was a little wary of it. Your recommendation makes it sound pretty great, though.

  28. Hello, this is an anti-recommendation, for a book that is so bad it’s good. “Jacquelina” by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller. Atrocious writing, fantastical plot, cardboard characters, what’s not to love?
    But seriously, loved Janes Job, and Mr. Wycherly’s Wards. And your blog, thanks.

    • People keep telling me to read Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller and I keep…not doing it. I should get on that.

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