Returning from a trip abroad, the Van Burnam family enters their New York mansion to find a dead woman on the dining room floor. A curio cabinet has fallen on top of her, crushing her face, and law officers suspect that the victim is the wife of one of the Van Burnam sons. However, the son insists that he does not recognize the victim. How did this woman get into this locked house? Whose are those strange garments she is wearing? What is her hat doing in the closet and a strange, gaudy hat crushed underneath her? Why did the coroner insist that the woman was dead when the curio fell? Continue reading .
Oroonoko is the story of an enslaved African prince. Our narrator recounts the events from Oroonoko’s coming into princedom, his enslavement, and his struggle for love. It took a while to get started but soon I found that I was intrigued, much occurs in this short novel. There are commentaries about slavery and race, social class, gender, colonialism, and religion. The actions and imagery of our hero are reminiscent of Greek mythology. Continue reading .
Anna Katharine Green was noted for her scientific approach to the murder mystery. In The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow she breaks more ground with her in-depth study of the psychological interplay between the murderer, the victim and the witnesses. Although more quietly paced, this mystery presents many elements of a current psychological thriller: blind ambition, narcissism, obsession and betrayal. Green adds a peculiar twist with the fact that two heartbroken relatives of the victim sacrifice virtually everything to protect the murderer. Continue reading .
First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice is the most famous of Jane Austen’s novels. Its manuscript was first written between 1796 and 1797. Initially called First Impressions, it was reworked several years later and published under the title we know today. I know this review will not encompass all that this book means to me and many others. For those who have read and loved this work, take this as my humble opinion and a challenge for you to write a better review than I have done. For those who haven’t read it, I hope this review will at least inspire you to do so. Continue reading .
Admitting my obvious indifference toward cooking, it would seem that the last thing I would want to do is read a memoir by Julia Child. Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, but I could not help buying My Life in France after seeing a picture of Julia Child’s kitchen faithfully re-created for the upcoming movie Julie & Julia. Paul Child’s grandnephew, Alex Prud’Homme collaborated with Julia Child when the latter was in her 90s, to bring this book to life. Together they managed to tell a relaxing, meandering story with the elegance and humor one would expect from Julia Child and the charming style one would expect from a professional writer like Alex Prud’Homme. Continue reading .
In 1873 Isabella Bird embarked on a trip through 800 miles of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, on horseback, alone. In a series of letters originally written to her sister back home in England, Bird gives us a detailed account of her travels. It is part Wild West, part nature journal, part historical document, and part character study of the quirky travelers and mountain folk she encounters. The reader can take away many things from this multi-faceted work, but the author’s point seems to lie in the ephemeral nature of life. Continue reading .
After reviewing women’s lit for two years for Girlebooks, I began to wonder when we might get around to publishing a review of a book written by a man. I had visions of something by Sir Walter Scott, as his books are revered and mimicked at least a dozen of our authors. However, Scott will have to wait while we point you toward a contemporary Science Fiction author–one of my favorites. We publish this review because the subject matter is especially relevant to our line of business: electronic books. Continue reading .
Eight Cousins is a series of vignettes that illustrate the affection of the cousins and their parents, aunts, and uncles for each other. The tales demonstrate that family members can disagree with, and even disappoint, each other yet still hold each other in the highest regard. Rather than a series of conflicts or problems to solve, the novel tells about the ways in which the family works things out before they become conflicts. In spite of its dearth of conflict or challenge, however, the novel does come through with many amusing and satisfying stories. Continue reading .
First published in two parts between 1869 and 1870, An Old Fashioned Girl follows Polly, a simple country girl, during two visits to the big city of Boston. Polly’s stay with the rich and sophisticated Shaw family shows her that flashy clothes and loud personalities are the characteristics by which many frivolous city folk are judged. Polly in turn teaches her city friends that simplicity and honesty are the things that really matter. Continue reading .
First published in 1905, Elizabeth von Arnim no doubt wrote Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight as a fairy tale for her children’s amusement. It tells the story of Priscilla, a popular and celebrated German princess, who grows tired of her lavish and pampered life. Through the instruction of her mentor, Herr Fritzing, she learns there is a wide and varied world outside the castle walls, and she yearns to escape. The marriage proposal of an eligible prince makes Priscilla realize that if she wants to escape the life she secretly detests, now is the time. Continue reading .