What’s in a Name Challenge Summary

What’s In a Name 2 Challenge

hosted by Annie

January 1 to December 31, 2009


  1. A book with a “profession” in its title: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie King
  2. A book with a “time of day” in its title: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith (overlap with 9 for ’09 Challenge)
  3. A book with a “relative” in its title: Dreams from my Father, by Barack Obama
  4. A book with a “body part” in its title: Ankle Deep, by Angela Thirkell
  5. A book with a “building” in its title: The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole
  6. A book with a “medical condition” in its title: Simon the Coldheart, by Georgette Heyer (yes, this one’s a bit of a stretch)

My original posting for the challenge is here. Thanks again to Annie for hosting!  I really enjoyed this challenge and am looking forward to participating again–it was easy to find books to match but quite fun as well.

Published in: on December 31, 2009 at 2:11 pm  Comments (1)  

9 For 09 Challenge Summary

9for9100x5829 For ’09 Challenge

(December 27, 2008-December 27, 2009)

Completed (Almost)

Long: A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

Free: The Green Years, by A.J. Cronin

Dusty: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith (overlap with What’s In a Name 2)

Used: Two Little Women and Treasure House, by Carolyn Wells

Letter: The Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls

Strange: The Major Plays, by Anton Chekov

Distance: Death in Kenya, by M.M. Kaye

Alive or Not: Offshore, by Penelope Fitzgerald

Cover: Murder on a Hot Tin Roof, by Amanda Matetsky

Unfortunately I’m not quite finished with A Prayer for Owen Meany, but otherwise it wasn’t too shabby. Thanks again to Isobel for hosting such a fun grab-bag challenge!

Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lost in Translation Challenge Summary

If there’s one thing I learned from this challenge, it’s that books in translation are actually a lot easier to come across than might be expected–and also much more easier to read, though that depends on the author.

Here are the six books I completed for Lost in Translation, with links to my reviews:

  1. Detective Story, by Imre Kertész (Hungarian)
  2. Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino (Italian)
  3. Murder On the Eiffel Tower, by Claude Izner (French)
  4. The Yellow Dog (Inspector Maigret),by Georges Simenon (French)
  5. The Paris Enigma, by Pablo de Santis (Spanish)
  6. Roseanna, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Swedish)

I also read Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg (Danish) and a book of Chekhov plays (Russian) for other challenges, as well as the Japanese manga Emma by Kaoru Mori.

This is the original post in which I listed my planned books. I changed quite a bit, but I realized I especially enjoyed reading foreign mysteries, and comparing them to the standard American or British fare.

Thanks again to Fran for hosting this challenge!

Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

State of the Nooks

I apologize for the blog’s being a bit cobwebby as of late–I even missed my own blogiversary last week! Unfortunately I expected this would happen. Between subbing full-time and working holiday hours at the mall I’ve found I barely have time to read, let alone blog.

Now with some holiday free time coming up there may be a rash of brief reviews, as I had been near the end of several books and snuck in a few more over a long sick weekend mid-month. I’ll have to refresh my memory a bit on my thoughts, though.

Currently I’m making slow but steady progress through John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, and the Christmas pageant section I’m at right now seems particularly apt. I hope everyone else is enjoying their holiday reading as well!

Published in: on December 22, 2009 at 7:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dear Daughter Dorothy

I took advantage of our snow day today to read a bit. Finishing Fair Tomorrow has put me in the mood for more old books (of which we have plenty), but with the rest of the TBR stack looming I wanted something short. I browsed the shelves and came up with Dear Daughter Dorothy, a children’s book by A.G. Plympton from 1899.

The downside of old books is that they have no summaries (at least, not beyond a line or two), so you never know quite what you’re getting. Dear Daughter Dorothy tells of a widower raising his daughter who finds himself accused of fraudulent bookkeeping. I trust no one is going to run out looking for this, so there are spoilers ahead.

My problem with the book is that it is sickly sweet and completely implausible. Little Dorothy actually manages the household money at age six, even though her father is an accountant by trade. I know children grew up quickly back then, but that’s ridiculous. When Daddy loses his job and they are strapped for cash, she auctions off her possessions to raise funds (but of course her adult friends all buy them and give them back next birthday). The case isn’t looking good, so Dorothy heads off to the judge’s house herself, sprains her ankle falling on the step, and is forced to remain there, winning his fatherly affection. Despite this Dorothy’s father is convicted. Luckily the evil partner in the firm is moved by her tears and confesses to taking the money. He dies beatifically in the end with Dorothy’s forgiveness, while the rest of them live happily ever after.

I like Pollyanna, and Louisa May Alcott, and other semi-sweet children’s books of years past, but this one was just too much. The doting but slightly clueless father was done much better in Jane Abbott’s Keineth, and Little Dorrit is infinitely more likable as a mother-daughter. It’s safe to say I won’t be tracking down the sequel Dorothy and Anton.

Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fair Tomorrow

His sister’s eyes followed his to the maple gate-legged table in front of the long French window which framed a view of a russet-tinged lawn […] Beyond it blue water stretched to the purple haze of the horizon like a sea of sparkling sapphires streaked with malachite, above it thin filaments of fleecy cloud striped a turquoise sky.

I could so easily devour Fair Tomorrow in one sitting. I started it in June, limiting myself to a chapter here and there, and about halfway through I just didn’t pick it up again. Part of the problem may be that I don’t let old books stay in the nightstand pile, but I think it goes a little deeper.

Over the summer I was in a bit of a blue funk; as much as I love being home again, it’s hard that my friends are now scattered around the country. Working weekends and evenings part-time meant that I wasn’t even on the same schedule as the few who are only an hour away. It’s not that I wasn’t happy, just that I felt a little world-weary and jaded now that I was supposed to be an adult. Fairy-tale romance was the last thing in the world I needed at the time.

And yet I kept coming back to it in spurts, wishing I could enjoy it again with an open mind, so that six months later it has finally won me over again. The novel is slightly campy by today’s standards, but I prefer it ever so much to modern books where happily ever after means sex instead of wedding bells.

image from Fanastic Fiction

When Pamela Leigh’s father goes bankrupt and falls ill, she abandons her writing dream and with her brother Terry must try to scrape a living together. Their daily struggles running a Chowder House from their New England cottage are compounded by creditors.  Luckily, two men come to Pam’s rescue: Scott Mallory, a promising lawyer who untangles the family finances, and dashing Phil Carr, who helps build a guest house. Pamela may finally be able to stop putting her family first, but only if her father’s estranged second wife will leave them alone.

As you can tell from the  quote above, Emilie Loring liked to go a bit over the top in her phrasings and descriptions–especially involving colors and gemstones. Wikipedia credits her with always using catchphrases and metaphors to symbolize optimism throughout the book, like the title here, so that spotting them is almost a game. The plot also continues to pile up a series of incidents and coincidences, including a court scene Perry Mason would have been proud of.

I mention the silly things up front, but there’s also a lot to like about Fair Tomorrow. No historical novel can match one actually written in the 1930s, where the Depression is the impetus for Harold Leigh’s bankruptcy. I had to look up that a flivver is a type of car; the fashions and expressions are like a window into the past. The characters are also surprisingly well-rounded with dreams and flaws, with the possible exception of Scott. Pam is realistic instead of selfless, longing for the day when she can return to the city and pursue a writing career. We see her occasionally crack under the struggle and stress, or let her pride and temper get the better of her. It’s a refreshing balance of independence and a need to be taken care of (at least legally).

On another level the story acts as a Cinderella retelling, complete with wicked stepmother and knight in shining armor as Pamela slaves away in the kitchen. I’ve always wondered at the absent real father in the story, and here Emilie Loring explores that a bit with Mr. Leigh.

I want to keep looking for books like this to have on hand when I’m in the mood for fluff. A small part of me is still pushing against fairy tale endings, but I know I’d be more upset without them. I’m hoping this is a step on the road back to rose colored glasses!

(Unfortunately my version is without it’s lovely dust jacket. If I find a good enough picture I might try to make a facsimile based on other Grosset and Dunlap books I have.)

Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 9:28 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Girl Who Married a Lion

The woman asked him to open the bag and he did so, making sure that the bird was unable to fly out of the open neck of the bag. The woman looked in and let out a cry of surprise.

“I have heard of that sort of bird before,” she said. “That is the sort of bird which gives milk.”

I’ve mentioned before my love for Alexander McCall Smith, so when I saw this book of African tales I couldn’t resist. Most of the stories in The Girl Who Married a Lion: and Other Tales from Africa are only a few pages, so it’s perfect to pick up here and there.

They come from the oral traditions of Zimbabwe and Botswana and feature expected elements like talking animals and morals at the end. Some stories punish wickedness while others praise cleverness, even though you pity the one being outsmarted. My favorite, perhaps, tells of a ghost who comes back to help her younger sister struggling alone with the chores. It’s sad, but happy at the same time.

Mr. Smith explains in his introduction that the stories are retellings, as language differences would cause a strict retelling to lose some elements of the original, but that they belong entirely to the people of Africa. I have mixed feelings about this. The cadence is similar to that the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, but now I am unsure if this is the style of African tradition or Alexander McCall Smith himself. I suppose this means I shall have to read more to figure it out.

Published in: on December 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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