Friday, April 30, 2010

The Sign of the Four

Finished The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the second novel published in his Sherlock Holmes series. Unlike the first, A Study in Scarlet, it is mostly set in London. This book has all the nuances that are associated with Holmes' character, chemistry, disguises, boxing, violin and cocaine. It also features the Baker Street Irregulars and poison darts. It was faster paced than the first novel, more exciting and extremely readable. I look forward to reading more.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Solitary Summer

Finished The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim, a follow-up to Elizabeth and Her German Garden. Elizabeth asks her husband, The Man of Wrath, for a summer without the house filled with guests and visitors. He thinks she will be bored, but reluctantly agrees. We are treated to lovely descriptions of the garden, romps with the April, May and June babies and glimpses into village life in the German countryside. Descriptions are at times lush and heavy with scent, at others all gossamer and summer haze. A lovely book to dip in and out of, especially in winter.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Bungalow Mystery

Finished The Bungalow Mystery by Caroline Keene. This edition is the vintage re-issue by Applewood Books. The third book in the series, it was released in 1930. Unlike The Secret of the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase, this book is free of racial stereotypes that make the reader cringe. In each of these first books Nancy sets out to help women in trouble, but in this one she also rescues a man who has been a prisoner for two weeks and has been left to starve. She gets a lot of help from her father, Carson Drew, in this story, but is still considered a hero. This was a quick and exciting read.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

Finished Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan. Finished it in one sitting. I love this book. It's a quick and easy read. Each rule has it's own page. The rules are sensible, practical and very thoughtful about what should be considered food. I highly recommend it to anyone who concerned about their health and the food they choose to eat.

Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women

Finished Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs. It won the Newbery Medal in 1934. For those familiar with Louisa May Alcott, this book is an interesting look at her life and her family members who were models for the characters of Little Women. While the characters of Jo March, her parents and siblings are very clearly drawn from Alcott's family, the inspiration for two of the most intriguing characters, Theodore Lawrence and Professor Bauer, are only vaguely hinted at. This was an interesting read. Although geared for a younger audience, Meigs never talks down to her readers. I think she sometimes makes assumptions about Alcott's feelings in certain situations, but it's clear that she used letters and journals to comprise her biography.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ozma of Oz

Finished Ozma of Oz, the third book in L. Frank Baum's Oz series. Dorothy Gale, who is traveling by boat to Australia with her Uncle Henry, is washed overboard in a storm and finds herself in the Land of Ev. There she meets and frees Tik-Tok, a mechanical man made of copper. They encounter Princess Langwidere, who has 30 heads to choose from in a cabinet. She puts on whatever head she feels like wearing. She decides she likes Dorothy's head, but Dorothy, of course will not give it to her.

It's no surprise that this is a very weird book.

Ozma of Oz learns that the Queen of Ev and her children have been sold to the Nome King by the late King of Ev. She travels over the poisonous desert, with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, the Sawhorse, the Hungry Tiger and a small army, upon a magic carpet that rolls out in front and up in back. They are all surprised to see Dorothy in Ev and band together to rescue the royal family from the Nome King.

John R. Neill's illustrations are wonderful. Most in this book are in color. His rendition of the Nome King seems almost Seussian to me.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Loving Spirit

Finished The Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier. Published in 1931, it was Du Maurier's first novel. Set in Cornwall, it is a family saga ranging over four generations of the Coombs, ship builders in the village of Plyn. Janet Coombe has a tender love for her husband Thomas, but somehow knows that the great love of her life has not come to her yet. When it does it is not romantic love, but an extremely intense love of mother for son. While Janet has six children, it is her son Joseph who she forms this bond with. He embodies all of the wildness she felt as a girl and lives as she has always wanted to, but was unable to as a woman. At times their love and devotion to one another is uncomfortable in it's intensity. The story continues with Joseph, his son Christopher and then Christopher's daughter Jennifer. Each of these characters has their own section of the book. Each section begins with an excerpt of poetry by Emily Bronte. The story is vast, sweeping, dramatic and very engaging. One sees the shadows of obsession and destruction by fire that are played out later in Rebecca. I loved this book. I had to borrow it through an interlibrary loan. However, it is due to be reissued in paperback in May 2010.

Sing in Praise: A Collection of the Best Loved Hymns

Honestly, I did not finish Sing in Praise: A Collection of the Best Loved Hymns. It won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1947. Written by Opal Wheeler and illustrated by Marjorie Torrey, it is a collection of popular hymns. Each has an accompanying story telling of the possible origin of the work, or the childhood of the composer. It seemed a bit contrived to me. Wheeler and Torrey also collaborated on and won the Honor Medal for Sing Mother Goose.