Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A photographic New Year's Eve toast to Miss Hazel Nina!

Your comments on the arrival of Miss Hazel Nina (see here if you missed it) were so very kind that I wanted to thank you in a special post. The dear baby has been steadily gaining, and now weighs 2 pounds, 15 ounces - only an ounce away from 3 pounds! Addendum - On January 1 she weighed a smidgen over 3 pounds! And so, without further ado, a toast to our bright star, Hazel Nina.

Laughing eyes

The picture of her parents is inside the incubator

Peaceful baby sleeping

Monday, December 30, 2013

December Reading

79. Keeper of the Keys - book 6 in the Charlie Chan series
by Earl Derr Biggers
mystery, 1932
Kindle book
finished 12/27/13

So sadly, Earl Derr Biggers died the year after this was published so there are only six in the series. I have loved every book, and though he may not have planned it to be the last one, it is really quite a fitting end. We learn about the history of the Chinese people in the western United States which of course relates to Charlie Chan himself. Wonderful books.

78. Provence, 1970
by Luke Barr
nonfiction, 2013
finished 12/26/13

As stated in my post, this is one of my ten favorites of the year. And maybe of my reading life. There will be a book report in the new year.

77. Nipped in the Bud - book 14 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1951
Kindle book
finished 12/22/13

When I finish each book in this series, I think, oh that was my favorite. Palmer is a master at locale descriptions, which is one of the many reasons I love these books. This time the reader travels to Tijuana, Mexico. Great characters, and excellent mystery.

76. The Great Cake Mystery - book 3 in the Precious Ramotswe series
by Alexander McCall Smith
middle grade fiction, 2012
Kindle book
library book
finished 12/15/13

Sweet, adorable book about Mma Ramotswe as a child. Just wonderful.

75. The Green Ace - book 13 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1950
Kindle book
finished 12/15/13

Although I enjoy Hildegarde's traveling mysteries, it is fun when she's at home in New York City. I love reading about the city in those times. 

74. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost - 1922
illustrated by Susan Jeffers - 1978, 2001
children's book
finished 12/14/13

I wrote about this here.

73. The Luck Runs Out - book 2 in the Professor Peter Shandy series
by Charlotte MacLeod
mystery, 1979
Kindle book
finished 12/9/13

I enjoyed the second even more than the first in the series, and have bought the third. This is a cozy series that I really enjoy. It is very intelligently written, and is fun at the same time. 

72. Stuck
by Stacey D. Atkinson
fiction, 2013
Kindle book
finished 12/6/13

As I stated in my favorites of the year post, a full book report will appear after the new year. For now, I’ll just say that I loved this book. It is wonderfully written, with a main character this reader was so fond of. 

71. Rest You Merry - book 1 in the Professor Peter Shandy series
by Charlotte MacLeod
mystery, 1978
Kindle book
second reading
finished 12/5/13

I read this many years ago, and had a fond feeling about it. I wondered if I would still enjoy it, and I did. I like the main character and his wife. I like the idea of an agricultural college where young people are really interested in caring for the land and its bounty. The reader is made aware of the claustrophobia that can come from an insular society such as a college community. In this book there is a lot of peer pressure for Peter Shandy to decorate his house and show a little Christmas spirit. He finally over-decorates in spite. There is soon a murder. I really like the way the case was solved, and I like a lot of the other characters in the book, which bodes well for future books in the series. There are two very fine reviews of Rest You Merry here and here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Today's poem by Elizabeth Yates

Post Christmas   

Do not try to hold it overlong,
this day that is the glory of the year.

Love it. Live in it while it lasts,
delight in all its gaiety and cheer.

Then let it pass with other days
into the pattern of the year's full chart,

only, as another in distant time,
keep fast its wonder to ponder in the heart.

Elizabeth Yates (1905-2001)
from Open the Door

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My ten favorite books read in 2013

I thought it would be fun to go through my booklist from this year, and jot down the ones I liked best. I didn’t plan on any particular number and was quite surprised that my top favorites amounted to ten. I’ve added what I originally wrote about them. They are listed in the order in which they were read. 

3. When We Were the Kennedys: a memoir from Mexico, Maine 
by Monica Wood
nonfiction, 2012
Kindle book
library book
finished 1/5/13

This is a book I really loved. Beautifully written, honest story, has some similarities to Rick Bragg's The Most They Ever Had which I wrote about three years ago. It tells of a mill town, and a family trying to make it after the bread-winning father dies. More here. It is written about a time when there weren't very many families lacking one parent. I can't praise it highly enough. Wonderful.

4. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection - book 13 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series 
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction, 2012
Kindle book
library book
finished 1/9/13

I am so happy in the company of Mma Ramotse et al. In this book, the author of Precious' guidebook for her work comes to Botswana. He is surprised at the esteem she feels for his book. Excellent, as always.

12. Daddy-Long-Legs 
by Jean Webster
fiction, 1912
Kindle book
finished 2/10/13

13. Dear Enemy
by Jean Webster
fiction, 1915
Kindle book
finished 2/14/13 

Dear Enemy is a sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs. Both epistolary novels, though with different letter writers. I was so interested reading about life 100 years ago. When I was a girl I read a book about Jane Addams and Hull House. I was so impressed by it that I can still remember where the book was in my library. These books are set during that same Progressive Era in the US. Loved, loved, loved these books. I couldn't stop talking about them. They make one feel that all good things are possible.

29. Stillmeadow Seasons
by Gladys Taber
nonfiction, 1950
second reading
library book
finished 5/25/13 

I first read Stillmeadow Seasons in 2002. My quote book has many offerings from this book, and I've jotted down several more that will appear in my letters at the appropriate time. The book is divided into months, beginning with April and ending with March. Some of her books are divided into seasonal chapters while others are monthly. The monthly ones begin and end variously. She wrote two things in the October chapter, not related to the month especially but interesting to me. One was:
We had two kinds of lettuce when I was growing up. Leaf and store. Now in my salad bowl I may toss two kinds of endive, Oak-leaf lettuce, Bibb, braze beauty, New York 12, and Mayking.
Remembering the book was published in 1950, I was startled to read this. I grew up in the 1950s, and all that was ever on our table was iceberg. It was only in the 1970s that I discovered dark green leafy lettuce that actually had flavor!  As I have said, many a time, this is the wonder of reading old books.

The second noteworthy passage was about fire:
In the dry season we watch the sky anxiously for smoke. Forest fires are the great enemy. … Fires do not start by themselves, and when I think of the devastation a single tossed cigarette can do on a dry roadside, I feel positively murderous. … All modern cars have ash trays, so motorists do not have to fling their glowing stubs to the grassy roadside.
Which got me thinking; now cars do not have ashtrays (notice how the spelling has turned into one word since 1950). And still there are lots of smokers. What do they do with their 'glowing stubs?' Toss them out, I'd guess.

As I finished Stillmeadow Seasons, I wondered if Gladys, wherever she is now, can see me, 63 years after this book was published, living much the same life she was living back then. I hope so.

45. Remembering the Bones 
by Frances Itani
fiction, 2007
library book
finished 8/8/13

I did a full book report on this, and you may read it here.  

48. Up, Back, and Away
by K. Velk
fiction, 2013
finished 8/18/13 

And this one I also did a separate post on here.

52. Old City Hall - book 1 in the Old City Hall series
by Robert Rotenberg
mystery, 2009
Kindle book
finished 9/8/13

A complete book report on this here.

72. Stuck
by Stacey D. Atkinson
fiction, 2013
Kindle book
finished 12/6/13

This is a great book about a young woman living in a fishing village in New Brunswick Canada. Highly recommended, and stay tuned for a book report in the new year.

78. Provence, 1970
by Luke Barr
nonfiction, 2013
finished 12/26/13

One of the few perfect books I’ve ever read. It will also have its own book report coming in 2014.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tom's 2014 Reads

11 in all.

December - 1

The Final Detail - book 6 in the Myron Bolitar series
by Harlan Coben
mystery 1999
finished 12/20/14

November - 2

10. The Woods
by Harlan Coben
fiction 2007
finished 11/28/14

9. Travels in Siberia
by Ian Frazier
nonfiction 2010
finished 11/13/14

May - 2

8. Black Skies - book 8 in the Reykjavik Murder mysteries
by Arnaldur Indridason
translated by Victoria Cribb
mystery 2009
finished 5/14

7. Outrage - book 7 in the Reykjavik Murder mysteries
by Arnaldur Indridason
translated by Anna Yates
mystery 2008
finished 5/14

April - 1

6. Hypothermia - book 6 in the Reykjavik Murder mysteries
by Arnaldur Indridason
translated by Victoria Cribb
mystery 2007
finished 4/12/14

March - 1

5. Arctic Chill - book 5 in the Reykjavik Murder mysteries
by Arnaldur Indridason
translated by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb
mystery 2005
finished 3/21/14

February - 2

4. The Draining Lake - book 4 in the Reykjavik Murder mysteries
by Arnaldur Indridason
translated by Bernard Scudder
mystery 2004
finished 2/11/14

3. Voices - book 3 in the Reykjavik Murder mysteries
translated by Bernard Scudder
by Arnaldur Indridason
mystery 2006
finished 2/5/14

January - 2

2. Last Night at the Lobster
by Stewart O'Nan
fiction 2007
finished 1/27/14

1. American Nations
A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America
by Colin Woodard
nonfiction 2011
finished 1/24/14

Books Read in 2014

Clicking on highlighted titles will bring you to a book report or a book notes post.

December - 7

64. Death of a Swagman - book 9 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1946
finished 12/29/14

63. Bushranger of the Skies - book 8 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1940
finished 12/22/14

62. Spot's First Christmas
by Eric Hill
children's book 1983
finished 12/19/14

61. The Mystery of Swordfish Reef - book 7 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1939
finished 12/18/14

60. The Bone is Pointed - book 6 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1938
finished 12/11/14

59. Winds of Evil - book 5 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1937
finished 12/4/14

58. Mr. Jelly's Business - book 4 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1937
finished 12/1/14

November - 5

57. Wings Above the Diamantina - book 3 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1936
finished 11/24/14

56. The Sands of Windee - book 2 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1931
finished 11/17/14

55. Holiday Buzz - book 12 in the Coffeehouse Mysteries series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery 2012
finished 11/12/14

54. Mystery in White
by Joseph Jefferson Farjeon
mystery 1937
finished 11/9/14

53. The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe - book 15 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction 2014
finished 11/1/14

October - 7

52. The Barrakee Mystery - book 1 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1928
finished 10/30/14

51. The Tale of the Witch Doll - book 1 in the Penny Parker mysteries
by Mildred A. Wirt
young adult mystery 1939
finished 10/25/14

50. Danger at the Drawbridge - book 3 in the Penny Parker mysteries
by Mildred A. Wirt
young adult mystery 1940
finished 10/23/14

49. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds - book 9 in the Isabel Dalhousie series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction 2012
finished 10/18/14

48. The Perils of Morning Coffee - book 8.5 in the Isabel Dalhousie series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction novella 2011
finished 10/13/14

47. The Forgotten Affairs of Youth - book 8 in the Isabel Dalhousie series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction 2011
finished 10/12/14

46. The Charming Quirks of Others - book 7 in the Isabel Dalhousie series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction 2010
finished 10/7/14

September - 3

45. The Singing Bone - book 5 in the Dr. Thorndyke series
by R. Austin Freeman
mystery short stories 1912
finished 9/19/14

44. The Mystery of 31 New Inn - book 4 in the Dr. Thorndyke series
by R. Austin Freeman
mystery 1912
finished 9/14/14

43. The Eye of Osiris - book 3 in the Dr. Thorndyke series
by R. Austin Freeman
mystery 1911
finished 9/2/14

August - 2

42. John Thorndyke's Cases - book 2 in the Dr. Thorndyke series
by R. Austin Freeman
mystery short stories 1909
finished 8/20/14

41. The Red Thumb Mark - book 1 in the Dr. Thorndyke series
by R. Austin Freeman
mystery 1907
finished 8/15/14

July - 7

40. The Scent of Water
by Elizabeth Goudge
fiction 1963
finished 7/27/14

39. Around the World in Eighty Days
by Jules Verne
fiction 1872
finished 7/23/14

38. Sheep Out To Eat - book 4 in the Sheep series
by Nancy E. Shaw
Illustrated by Margot Apple
children's book 1992
finished 7/17/14

37. Marmalade's Nap - book 2 in the Marmalade series
by Cindy Wheeler
children's book 1983
finished 7/16/14

36. Esperanza Rising
by Pam Munoz Ryan
middle grade fiction 2000
finished 7/12/14

35. The Secret Lives of Litterbugs: and Other (True) Stories
by M.A.C. Farrant
nonfiction essays 2009
finished 7/9/14

34. Work Song
by Ivan Doig
fiction 2010
library book
finished 7/8/14

June - 4

33. The Namesake
by Jhumpa Lahiri
fiction 2003
library book
finished 6/29/14

32. Kaaterskill Falls
by Allegra Goodman
fiction 1998
third reading
finished 6/22/14

31. The New House
by Lettice Cooper
fiction 1936
finished 6/16/14

30. Murder by Mocha - book 10 in the Coffeehouse Mysteries series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery 2011
finished 6/6/14

May - 7

29. Roast Mortem - book 9 in the Coffeehouse Mysteries series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery 2010
finished 5/29/14

28. News From Thrush Green - book 3 in the Thrush Green series
by Miss Read
fiction 1970
finished 5/25/14

27. Little Fur Family
by Margaret Wise Brown
children's book 1946
finished 5/19/14

26. Fifty Candles
by Earl Derr Biggers
mystery 1921
finished 5/17/14

25. Border Angels - book 2 in the Inspector Celcius Day series
by Anthony Quinn
mystery 2013
finished 5/14/14

24. Disappeared - book 1 in the Inspector Celcius Day series
by Anthony Quinn
mystery 2012
second reading
finished 5/10/14

23. Summer Lightning
by PG Wodehouse
fiction 1929
finished 5/6/14

April - 6

22. Blandings Castle and Elsewhere
by PG Wodehouse
short stories 1935
finished 4/29/14

21. Nest
by Jorey Hurley
children's book 2014
finished 4/21/14

20. Leave It To Psmith
by PG Wodehouse
fiction 1923
finished 4/21/14

19. Weeds Find a Way
Words by Cindy Jenson-Elliott
Pictures by Carolyn Fisher
children's book 2014
finished 4/10/14

18. The Whistling Season
by Ivan Doig
fiction 2006
library book
finished 4/8/14

17. Miracles on Maple Hill
by Virginia Sorenson
illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush
middle grade fiction 1956
library book
finished 4/6/14

March - 2

16. Deeds Not Words
by Katharine D'Souza
fiction 2013
finished 3/27/14

15. Cold in the Earth - book 1 in the DI Marjory Fleming series
by Aline Templeton
mystery 2005
finished 3/11/14

February - 6

14. The Violets of March
by Sarah Jio
fiction 2011
library book
finished 2/28/14

13. Fancy Nancy
by Jane O'Connor; illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser
children's book 2006
library book
finished 2/24//14

12. Park Life
by Katharine D'Souza
fiction 2012
finished 2/24/14

11. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night - book 2 in the Grantchester Mystery series
by James Runcie
mystery 2013
finished 2/18/14

10. Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death - book 1 in the Grantchester Mystery series
by James Runcie
mystery 2012
finished 2/11/14

9. My Turquoise Years
by M.A.C. Farrant
nonfiction 2004
finished 2/1/14

January - 8

8. The Mysterious Mr. Quin
by Agatha Christie
short stories 1930
finished 1/28/14

7. I'll Never Marry a Farmer
On Life, Learning & Vegetable Gardening
by Lois Hole
nonfiction 1998
finished 1/27/14

6. The Springs of Affection
Stories of Dublin
by Maeve Brennan
short stories (autobiographical and fictional)
published posthumously 1997 from two out-of-print collections:
Christmas Eve 1974 and In and Out of Never-Never Land 1969
finished 1/22/14

5. Cold Poison - book 15 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery 1954
finished 1/17/14

4. The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon - book 14 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction 2013
finished 1/13/14

3. Last Night at the Lobster
by Stewart O'Nan
fiction 2007
library book
finished 1/11/14

2. Mr. Lynch's Holiday
by Catherine O'Flynn
fiction 2013
finished 1/8/14

1. The Lighthearted Quest - book 1 in the Julia Probyn series
by Ann Bridge
fiction 1956
finished 1/5/14

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Today's poem by Edgar Guest

At Christmas

A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season is here;
Then he’s thinking more of others than he’s thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.
He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime.

When it’s Christmas man is bigger and is better in his part;
He is keener for the service that is prompted by the heart.
All the petty thoughts and narrow seem to vanish for awhile
And the true reward he’s seeking is the glory of a smile.
Then for others he is toiling and somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas he is almost what God wanted him to be.

If I had to paint a picture of a man I think I’d wait
Till he’d fought his selfish battles and had put aside his hate.
I’d not catch him at his labors when his thoughts are all of pelf, [money]
On the long days and the dreary when he’s striving for himself.
I’d not take him when he’s sneering, when he’s scornful or depressed,
But I’d look for him at Christmas when he’s shining at his best.

Man is ever in a struggle and he’s oft misunderstood;
There are days the worst that’s in him is the master of the good,
But at Christmas kindness rules him and he puts himself aside
And his petty hates are vanquished and his heart is opened wide.
Oh, I don’t know how to say it, but somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas man is almost what God sent him here to be.

Edgar Guest (1881-1959)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Farm and Garden Report/December 23 - Feeding the birds et al.

After 32 years we have stopped feeding the birds. It would be fine if it were just birds who came. We love the chickadees, blue jays, nuthatches, mourning doves, and woodpeckers. They make for delightful watching. Along with the birds come the chipmunks in the fall, and then the red squirrels. We've accepted them because they really are cute little creatures, even though I'm pretty sure I hear the squirrels running around in the ceilings sometimes. In recent years the deer have been coming to the feeders, and we have loved that. 

Bears are a problem only if the feeders are left up too late in the spring. 

However, the other night we looked out and couldn't believe our eyes when we saw this

Coyotes! We often hear them, but never in all the years we've lived here have we ever seen them. They were happily eating sunflower seeds we had scattered for the ground feeding birds. They stayed a long while that night. A day or two later we had deer visiting the feeders, and two hours later the two coyotes came. Sometimes just one coyote would come. When we saw this was becoming a routine, we began to be worried for Sadie. Yes, she is a big dog, probably outweighing a coyote by 50 pounds, but still, they could team up and go after her. We had begun taking her out on a leash - a leash! We live on 200 acres, and have a large fenced in lawn and field so she doesn't even wear a collar and runs free as she wishes. But our biggest concern was little Piglet, Matt and Margaret's pug who lives just down the road. There are stories of coyotes coming right into a yard and taking a little dog. Their dogs are also used to being free. They never go far from the house, but they are often out without people. 

We have been very concerned, wondering what to do. So last evening I went to the source of all things bird, my state's Audubon Society. I emailed them:
I've been all over the internet asking these questions and have received differing answers. If we stop feeding the birds right now, will they die? Are they dependent upon us for their survival? The birds that come are chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, mourning doves.
You might wonder why I ask. Well, the reason is that we suddenly have two coyotes eating the bird seed. We've had deer around for years, but this is the first time we've ever seen coyotes. Our near neighbors have a small dog, a pug, and we are concerned about the coyotes getting her. We have a dog too, and aren't awfully comfortable letting her out now. We are out in the country on a couple hundred acres of land.
We'd really like to take down the feeders, but don't want to kill the birds.
Any advice is greatly appreciated.
 This morning I was grateful and relieved to read this response:
I am not speaking as one of the experts here, but I can tell you that the conservationists tell me over and over that taking down a bird feeder will not impact the birds in any way. Birds naturally feed in the wild and if someone takes down a feeder, they just go to their sources out in the wild or find a feeder elsewhere. I think you will agree that your safety and the safety of the dogs is of utmost importance. 
So, Tom went out and took down all the feeders. An era has ended. Yes, we will miss seeing them close to the house, but we can still see and hear them in the woods, and the benefits far outweigh the loss. I expect it will take a few days for all the seeds on the ground to be cleaned up, but soon, the coyotes and deer and birds will realize that this particular restaurant has closed forever.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Today's poem (and video) by Susan Cooper

The Shortest Day

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching candles all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Susan Cooper
Note: I read 'beseeching fires' in every print version of the poem I saw, but the author says 'beseeching candles' so I, of course, used her word.

And the writer reading her poem: 

Friday, December 20, 2013

November Reading

These seven books will always hold a special place in my heart because they got me through the weeks of Margaret being in the hospital. I would read at night until I finally fell asleep, and when I woke up afraid and worried, I would start reading and the stories helped divert my mind. 

One of the things I love about ebooks is the accessibility of old books. I have discovered treasures. Books that I love, books that are every bit as fresh and appealing to me as if they were brand new. I’ve always been fond of the Samuel Butler quote: 'The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them.'

64. The Agony Column
by Earl Derr Biggers
fiction, 1916
Kindle book
finished 11/2/13

Do you know the British phrase ‘agony aunt?’ I’ve heard it for ages without really understanding what it meant.

agony aunt(or agony uncle)
nounBrit. informal
a person who answers letters in an agony column.

And then you might ask, what is an agony column?

agony column 
nounBrit. informal
a column in a newspaper or magazine offering advice on personal problems to readers who write in.
• dated - a personal column.

This book has the 'dated' meaning. 

If you are interested there’s a great page about this. 

Agony columns were the Facebook and Twitter and Match dot coms of older days. 
At the Carlton news stand West bought two morning papers- the Times for study and the Mail for entertainment … seated himself at his usual table and, spreading out the Daily Mail, sought his favorite column. … Any one at all familiar with English journalism will recognize at once what department it was that appealed most to West. During his three weeks in London he had been following, with the keenest joy, the daily grist of Personal Notices in the Mail. This string of intimate messages, popularly known as the Agony Column, has long been an honored institution in the English press. In the days of Sherlock Holmes it was in the Times that it flourished, and many a criminal was tracked to earth after he had inserted some alluring mysterious message in it. Later the Telegraph gave it room; but with the advent of halfpenny journalism, the simple souls moved en masse to the Mail.Tragedy and comedy mingle in the Agony Column. Erring ones are urged to return for forgiveness; unwelcome suitors are warned that “Father has warrant prepared; fly, Dearest One!” Loves that would shame by their ardor Abelard and Heloise are frankly published - at ten cents a word - for all the town to smile at. The gentleman in the brown derby states with fervor that the blonde governess who got off the tram at Shepherd’s Bush has quite won his heart. Will she permit his addresses? Answer; this department.
When Geoffrey West becomes enchanted by a girl with violet eyes, who prefers grapefruit to strawberries in the Carlton’s breakfast room, he decides to make use of the Agony Column which he had seen her reading.
CARLTON RESTAURANT: Nine A.M. Friday morning. Will the young woman who preferred grapefruit to strawberries permit the young man who had two plates of the latter to say he will not rest until he discovers some mutual friend, that they may meet and laugh over this column together?
Upon reading it, the girl gets a ‘mischievous smile’ and ‘read, with that smile, to the end of the column.’ And in a few days, Geoffrey is thrilled to read a response.
STRAWBERRY MAN: Only the grapefruit lady’s kind heart and her great fondness for mystery and romance move her to answer. The strawberry-mad one may write one letter a day for seven days - to prove he is an interesting person, worth knowing. Then we shall see. Address: M.A.L., care Sadie Haight, Carlton Hotel.
And with this the reader is off on a delightful, fun adventure which is indeed full of mystery and romance. The book is a bit of an epistolary story with all the letters, which made it even more appealing to me. I absolutely adored this book. As I went searching to find the quotes, I thought to myself that I could happily read this all over again.

65. Seven Keys to Baldpate
by Earl Derr Biggers
fiction, 1913
Kindle book
finished 11/11/13

 This book had such an interesting concept. Billy Magee leaves the high life in New York City for Upper Assquewan Falls. He is a writer of 
Wild thrilling tales for the tired business man’s tired wife - shots in the night, chases after fortunes, Cupid busy with his arrows all over the place! It’s good fun, and I like to do it. There’s money in it. … But now and then I get a longing to do something that will make the critics sit up - the real thing, you know. 
He recalls that 'once a critic advised him to go away for ten years to some quiet spot, and think. I decided to do it. Baldpate Inn is the quiet spot.’

He doesn’t plan to stay for ten years, but for two months. He intends to write a fine piece of literature that will make the world pay attention to him as a serious writer. He decides to go to ‘the lonesomest spot on earth’ so he won’t be distracted. He decides the place to be is a summer resort in the wintertime. There are fireplaces and candles, and a caretaker who will bring in water and food. But the plans go awry when people start showing up. They might or might not be criminals. No one tells a true story about why they have come to this place. 

I was interested in the book, but it wasn’t that great, I didn’t think. Pleasant enough, but no where near as good as The Agony Column or the Charlie Chan books.

I went on a Hildegarde Withers spree for the rest of my November reading. It was so much fun to read one right after the other. I’ve talked about Stuart Palmer’s creation in other posts, and honestly the books don’t pale as they go on in the series. Something I particularly want to mention is that Stuart Palmer seems to have an acute concern for animals that isn’t that common in books of this era. I’ve had to avert my eyes and skip past some short sections in the books that deal with animal cruelty such as bullfighting, and rental horses in New York City. Hildegarde is an animal lover and has two dogs over the course of the series, and it is clear that Palmer loves them. He understands dogs very well. 

There is a terrific article on the author here

66. The Puzzle of the Red Stallion - book 6 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1936
Kindle book
finished 11/16/13

67. The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla - book 7 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1937
Kindle book
finished 11/20/13

68. The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan - book 8 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1941
Kindle book
finished 11/23/13

69. Miss Withers Regrets - book 9 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1947
Kindle book
finished 11/24/13

70. Four Lost Ladies - book 11 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1949
Kindle book
finished 11/28/13

Hildegarde says to her friend Inspector Oscar Piper,
“I was thinking, said the schoolteacher, “about the snowflakes. Oscar, isn’t it a little frightening to realize that a human being can slip away like one of these snowflakes, to disappear forever?” 
She asks him if he happens
to know just how many lonely, middle-aged, unattached women disappear right here in this city every year?” “More than three thousand, according to recent estimates by the YWCA and the Travelers Aid Society.”
She is concerned that no one tries to find them, including the police, because 
they haven’t importance enough to be missed, they haven’t any close friends or near relatives, so nothing is ever done about it.”
I think that’s a pretty amazing thing to find in a book from 64 years ago. Stuart Palmer is not only progressive and ahead of his time in his concern for animals, but also for women. I wonder if he is the only male author who even considered this subject, which I found so very sad. 

These books have humor but also tackle serious subjects, though not in a preaching sort of way. 
Hildegarde seems to take many leaves of absence and vacations and the reader is thus exposed to a variety of settings in addition to New York City. This keeps the series fresh, and gives us a chance to see Hildegarde operate when she is away from home. She and Piper are great friends but also get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes they work together as a team, and other times they are adversaries. As the Cast of Characters says in the one I’m reading just now, Nipped in the BudHildegarde ‘is both the light of Oscar’s life and the bane of his existence.’

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Best Overlooked Books of 2013 - a list heard on the radio

I just heard this on the radio program Word of Mouth and thought many of my readers would be interested in the titles. 

The Best Overlooked Books Of 2013

Credit Dan Klimke via flickr Creative Commons
Well, the holidays are upon us and there’s nothing quite like a well-told story for seeking refuge from the chaos or a little too much quality time with family. A lot of big-name authors had terrific new titles out this year, but we have a fondness for books that don’t get full page ads or window displays – call it the literary equivalent of the island of misfit toys – great books waiting for a good home; you just have to know that they are there. 
With us today are two seasoned purveyors of overlooked books. Michele Filgate is a writer and critic as well as the events coordinator at community bookstore in Brooklyn.Liberty Hardy is events coordinator at Riverrun bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She’s also contributing editor for Book Riot.
Here is a list of the books discussed in the segment:
The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane
White Girls by Hilton Als
Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce
Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet
Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O'Farrell
Reality Boy by A.S. King
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Duplex by Kathryn Davis
Submergence by JM Ledgard
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud 

Addendum: I borrowed the Matt Bell book from the library, read a few pages, and found it weird and awful. Not for me at all!