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20-Mar-2016
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The following are mini-reviews of books I read in 2005.
Also see the full index of books I've read.


  [Frances Hodgson Burnett]

T. Tembarom

by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1913)
Gee! Gee! Hully gee! Gee! Gee! By gee! Gee! Gee! Gee Whiz!
Okay, I'm making fun of all the "Gees!" flying around in this novel. If you like Burnett's other characters, Sara Crewe and Little Lord Fauntleroy, you'll like Temple Tembarom. Tembarom is a poor young man in New York who inherits a wealthy English estate. The story brings to mind Little Lord Fauntleroy, but there is an interesting twist at the end (which you begin to suspect halfway into the book).
His English valet's early misgivings (unfounded) about Tembarom would be no less apropos today:
And ten to one he'd be American enough to swagger and bluster and pretend he knew everything better than anyone else, and lose his temper frightfully when he made mistakes, and try to make other people seem to blame.
And you've got to love the elderly Duke of Stone:
"When I am comfortable and entertained," Moffat, the house steward, had quoted his master as saying, "you may mention it if the castle is in flames; but do not annoy me with excitement and flurry. Ring the bell in the courtyard, and call up the servants to pass buckets; but until the lawn catches fire, I must insist on being left alone."
Project Gutenberg eBook: T. Tembarom
 

Diana Tempest

by Mary Cholmondeley (1859-1925) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1893)
(The author's last name, incidentally, is pronounced "Chum-lee".)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Diana Tempest Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3
  [Book Cover]

Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders

by John Mortimer (1923-2009) (Wikipedia) (pub. 2004)
...
 

A Noble Life

by Dinah Mulock Craik (1826-1887) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1866)
That self-absorption of loss, which follows all great anguish; that shrinking up unto one's self, which is the first and most natural instinct of a creature smitten with a sorrow not unmingled with cruel wrong, is, with most high natures, only temporary. By-and-by comes the merciful touch which says to the lame, "Arise and walk;" to the sick, "Take up thy bed and go into thine house." And the whisper of peace is, almost invariably, a whisper of labor and effort: there is not only something to be suffered, but something to be done.
Project Gutenberg eBook: A Noble Life
 

The Brown Mask

by Percy James Brebner (1864-1922) (pub. 1911)
A somewhat lengthy, but gradually riveting, adventure/romance set in the time of the Monmouth rebellion (1685) during the reign of James II.
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Brown Mask
 

Saved at Sea: A Lighthouse Story

by Amy Catherine (Deck) Walton (Mrs. O. F. Walton) (1849-1939) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1879)
A brief evangelical tract about a lighthouse, a storm, and a shipwreck.
Project Gutenberg eBook: Saved at Sea
 

Blindfolded

by Earle Ashley Walcott (1859-1931) (Wikisource) (pub. 1906)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Blindfolded
 

The Four Faces

by William Le Queux (1864-1927) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1914)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Four Faces
 

Demons of the Mind: A Memoir of an Obsessive-Compulsive

by Christine A. Marriott
...
Who was the real person who looked out through these eyes every waking day?
The book is available on-line in various formats at OCD-Plus.
 

The Flood

by Émile Zola (1840-1902) (Wikipedia) (translation by Mary Jane Serrano) (pub. 1880, original French)
Thomas Hardy-like in a nutshell - short and tragic.
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Flood
 

The White Moll

by Frank L. Packard (1877-1942) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1920)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: The White Moll
 

The Crime of the French Café and Other Stories

by Nicholas Carter (Wikipedia) (pub. 1900)
Nick Carter, America's greatest detective. Three great stories written by ... I don't know who! The Nick Carter stories were ghost-written by a number of authors.
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Crime of the French Café and Other Stories
 

The Miracle Man

by Frank L. Packard (1877-1942) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1914)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Miracle Man
 

The Tracer of Lost Persons

by Robert W. Chambers (1865-1933) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1906)
A combination of adventure, romance, and comedy. Various gentleman ask the omniscient Mr. Keen of "KEEN & CO. - TRACERS OF LOST PERSONS" to find the women who match their ideas of the perfect wife.
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Tracer of Lost Persons
 

The Mystery of Monastery Farm

by H. R. Naylor (pub. 1908)
(I've been unable to find any biographical information on H. R. Taylor, not even what his initials stand for!)
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Mystery of Monastery Farm
  [Book Cover]

Why I Am a Catholic

by Garry Wills (Wikipedia) (pub. 2002)
...
 

The Stowmarket Mystery

by Louis Tracy (1863-1928) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1904)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Stowmarket Mystery
 

The Devil's Admiral

by Frederick Ferdinand Moore (1877-????) (Possibly married to Eleanor Gates) (pub. 1913)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Devil's Admiral
  [Anna Katharine Green]

The Woman in the Alcove

by Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1906)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Woman in the Alcove
  [Scene]

The Turn of the Screw

by Henry James (1843-1916) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1898)
A psychological thriller that gets nowhere fast. I was getting bored out of my mind, so I gave up about halfway through the book.
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Turn of the Screw
  [Book Cover]

Parnassus on Wheels

by Christopher Morley (1890-1957) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1917)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Parnassus on Wheels
  [Book Cover]

The Golden Snare

by James Oliver Curwood (1878-1927) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1921)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Golden Snare
 

Christian's Mistake

by Dinah Mulock Craik (1826-1887) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1865)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Christian's Mistake
  [Book Cover]

The Measure Of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World

by Ken Alder
...
 

OCD: A Survival Guide for a Life Among Secrets

by Steven Diamond
Steve Diamond is a professional Las Vegas magician who suffered from OCD for many years. This autobiography is available through the Be Happy For Life web site. At the time I signed up for the site's newsletter, I received a free PDF copy of the first three chapters of the book. Unfortunately, that only covers his rather depressing childhood; his writing and his story are very interesting, so I plan to order a complete copy soon. Be forewarned: the lengthy list of acknowledgements to all these famous people Diamond knows is daunting!
  [Book Cover]

Nothing's Sacred

by Lewis Black (Wikipedia) (pub. 2005)
...
 

The Talleyrand Maxim

The Middle Temple Murder

Scarhaven Keep

[Book Cover]

Dead Men's Money

The Middle of Things

The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation

The Orange-Yellow Diamond

The Paradise Mystery

by Joseph S. Fletcher (1863-1935) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1919-1922)
I read these mystery stories on my PDA - interspersed with books listed above - from some time in the spring through the end of August. I really enjoyed them: long enough to have something to look forward to reading at night, but not too long to take forever. With each story clocking in at 70,000-80,000 words, the plots seemed a little formulaic. Still, they were different enough to keep me interested and Fletcher does an excellent job of letting you escape into the atmosphere of turn-of-the-century Britain.
Project Gutenberg eBooks:
 

A Room with a View

by E. M. Forster (1879-1970) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1908)
Not bad, but nothing to write home about. The first 40% of the book drags on in Italy; the remaining 60% takes place in England and was a little more compelling. The only characters that seemed to show some worth - in my opinion - were old Mr. Emerson and, in a surprising twist left to the end, Charlotte. The phrase, "room with a view", has a concrete meaning at the beginning of the story, but is given an abstract turn later in the book.
Project Gutenberg eBook: A Room with a View
 

The Diamond Cross Mystery

The Mansion of Mystery

by Chester K. Steele (Pseudonym for various authors) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1918 and 1911, respectively)
More turn-of-the-century mysteries ...
Project Gutenberg eBooks:
 

The Lost Stradivarius

Moonfleet

by John Meade Falkner (1858-1932) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1895 and 1898, respectively)
The Lost Stradivarius is a horror story that struck me as a cross between A Room With a View and Ghostbusters II. An enjoyable read, but some non-trivial aspects of the story were not disclosed until a poorly fitted wrap-up at the end.
Moonfleet is Falkner's better-known novel and rightly so. An excellent story: sort of a Treasure Island (which I haven't read in decades) with rum runners, romance, and a diamond.
Project Gutenberg eBooks:
 

In the Sargasso Sea

by Thomas A. Janvier (1849-1913) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1898)
A young man on his way to Africa aboard a sailing ship of shady repute is tossed overboard and ends up stranded in the dreaded Sargasso Sea, doomed to roam the ancient vessels searching for food and a means of escape. A fun story!
Project Gutenberg eBook: In the Sargasso Sea
 

Where Angels Fear to Tread

by E. M. Forster (1879-1970) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1905)
...
For a wonderful physical tie binds the parents the children; and -- by some sad, strange irony -- it does not bind us children to our parents. For if it did, if we could answer their love not with gratitude but with equal love, life would lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor, and we might be wonderfully happy.
Project Gutenberg eBook: Where Angels Fear to Tread
 

Pollyanna

by Eleanor H. Porter (1868-1920) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1913)
To quote Cream performing Skip James: "I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad." Shortly into the book, I felt like Aunt Polly slowly being driven crazy by the incessant glad-this, glad-that from Pollyanna!
Project Gutenberg eBook: Pollyanna
  [Anne Shirley]

Anne of Green Gables

by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1908)
What we have here is a failure to communicate, a lack of "scope for imagination"! This story is similar to Pollyanna in some ways: where Pollyanna lets her gladness run wild, Anne Shirley lets her imagination run wild. Although the Library of Congress classifies both Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna as "Juvenile belles lettres" (according to Project Gutenberg), the former seems especially aimed at young girls, while the latter has a broader appeal. My impression is probably due to Anne of Green Gables being nearly twice as long as Pollyanna, with endless fussing over clothes, etc., seeming to make up the difference in length!
Anne's adoptive parents, Marilla and Matthew, are wonderful characters. Anne's imagination and the trouble it gets her into will drive you crazy, as they nearly did Marilla. Fortunately, Anne settles down as she gets older.
The descriptions of nature in the book are breathtaking. I was reminded of my mother. When she was young, her grandmother (who lived on a farm) used to take her on walks and teach her about wildflowers and so on. Another day and another age ...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Anne of Green Gables
 

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder

by James De Mille (1833-1880) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1888)
After finishing Janvier's In the Sargasso Sea, I was in the mood for more naval adventures. This story started out well enough at sea, but gradually turned into a The Land that Time Forgot at the South Pole. Lots of philsophical ponderings on a civilization that values "unselfishness" above all else and how this turns society on its head - the unconvincing point being that our selfish society is really a good thing.
Project Gutenberg eBook: A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder
  [Sister Carrie]

Sister Carrie

by Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1900)
One of the longest novels (over 150,000 words) I've read on my Palm Pilot! This may not seem like much, but trying to read a lengthy book a few lines at a time on a dim black-and-green screen (using Bill Clagett's free E-text reader, CSpotRun) can feel like a daunting, if not endless task:
[Palm Pilot Screen]
Sister Carrie is a classic American novel, exploring poverty, riches, and poverty again in the late 1800's. The story of the first years in New York City gets a little tedious, but it is worthwhile to keep plugging along until the excellent - although not totally satisfying - closing chapters of the book.
Can a heart ever be happy?
Oh, Carrie, Carrie! Oh, blind strivings of the human heart! Onward onward, it saith, and where beauty leads, there it follows. Whether it be the tinkle of a lone sheep bell o'er some quiet landscape, or the glimmer of beauty in sylvan places, or the show of soul in some passing eye, the heart knows and makes answer, following. It is when the feet weary and hope seems vain that the heartaches and the longings arise. Know, then, that for you is neither surfeit nor content. In your rocking-chair, by your window dreaming, shall you long, alone. In your rocking-chair, by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel.
Project Gutenberg eBook: Sister Carrie (the other version has numerous errors!)
 

Cord and Creese

by James De Mille (1833-1880) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1869)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Cord and Creese
  [C. E. Brock Illustration]

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen (1775-1817) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1813)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Pride and Prejudice
  [Illustration]

Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austen (1775-1817) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1811)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Sense and Sensbility
  [Book Cover]

Howards End

by E. M. Forster (1879-1970) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1910)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Howards End
  [Harriet's Portrait]

Emma

by Jane Austen (1775-1817) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1815)
...
Project Gutenberg eBook: Emma
  [Harriet's Portrait]

Mr. Trunnell, Mate of the Ship "Pirate"

by T. Jenkins Hains (1866-1953) (Wikipedia) (Searchable Sea Literature) (pub. 1900)
(Interestingly, Hains Point in Washington, D.C. is named for the author's father. I don't remember the book.)
Project Gutenberg eBook: Mr. Trunnell, Mate of the Ship "Pirate"
  [Book Cover]

The Brother of Daphne

by Dornford Yates (1885-1960) (Wikipedia) (pub. 1914)
Throughout the past year, I've been fitfully reading and enjoying this collection of 15 humorous episodes in the lives of Daphne and her brother, "Boy". If you like P. G. Wodehouse's Bertie and Jeeves characters, I'll think you'll like these stories. Unlike Bertie, the more sensible Boy usually manages to land on his feet without the help of a Jeeves and, sometimes, despite the "help" of his down-to-earth sister, family, and friends.
Everyone is related, so, if you get confused, G. A. Michael Sims' "A Book for all Reasons" lists the main characters of the stories:
Berry Pleydell
Daphne Pleydell, his wife (and cousin)
Boy Pleydell (Daphne's brother and narrator of the books)
Jonathan (Jonah) Mansel (cousin to all the above)
Jill Mansel (Jonah's sister)
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Brother of Daphne

Alex Measday  /  E-mail