Thursday, February 26, 2015

Long Summer Day by R. F. Delderfield

Long Summer Day by R.F. DelderfieldOooh I really loved this. *hugs book close* It's going on my favorites shelf for sure. 

Simply put, a young man, Paul Craddock, is invalided out of the Boer war, inherits some money and purchases a large estate in Devonshire, 'playing squire' to the laboring families in the valley.

If you think that sounds dry, it's not. Once the characters are all introduced (which takes some time so consider yourself forewarned) the story gallops along without a lull. Aside from very absorbing family melodrama, there is madness, a grisly murder with a hay knife, a shipwreck, poaching gone wrong, suffragist action and romances aplenty. 

Time covered is roughly twenty years and the characters are varied and three dimentional. I feel like I know them so personally that if I was to travel to Shallowford now, a hundred years later, there would be no "empty chairs at empty tables" but the fields would be alive, ringing with scythes and familiar laughter, the villagers I know putting down their burdens to wave or lend a hand.

Yes, I would be very sad to leave these folks but there's no need for tears yet as I've got two more books in the series to read :)


SEX: A number of non-explicit, but frank encounters, mostly behind closed doors.
VIOLENCE: One murder, a few knock outs, suffragest violence.
PROFANITY: Mild, mostly Ds
PARANORMAL ELEMENTS: One character of gypsy background reads cards to herself


The Morals Of Marcus Ordeyne by William J Locke

The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne, a Novel by William J. LockeWilliam J Locke is one of my "comfort- read" authors. Even books that are not his best are never complete duds, and his plots, while improbable and verbose with the vibrant verbiage of a true verbarian, hit the spot for me. There's no explaining it.

In this story, we have a 40 year old, staid philosopher searching for the Great Meaning. He's a little awkward, very "proper" and not particularly attractive, being described as tall, thin, and hatchet faced.

One day, while walking the Enbankment, he comes upon a girl crying on a bench. She has escaped from an arranged marriage and harem life in Syria and come to London where her male rescuer has henceforth disappeared. 

What's a man to do? If he leaves her there on the bench, some blackguard may take advantage. It seems the only 'moral' thing to do is take her home under the protection of his guardianship. Where she settles in, stretching and purring like a satisfied cat under the scandolous scrutiny of society.

Well I don't want to say too much more but there are twists and turns which none can forsee (ok, I forsaw it but I read Pride and Prejudice and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, but don't think you know what happens cos its not quite like that). 

Anyway, while I was reading I was thinking it was a 3- 3.5 star read but the ending totally kicked it up to 4 stars for me. It is perfect. Like, I-almost-cried-perfect. Its worth reading for the ending alone. But the rest is good too.

SEX: None shown
VIOLENCE: One blow of a fire iron
PROFANITY: Very Mild. A few Ds


Laughing House by Warwick Deeping

Laughing House by Warwick Deeping

This is a story of a house.

We meet John Mortimer as an ageing man. His two sons had been killed in WW1 and his wife followed shortly after. He alone is living in the large ancestral home his great- grandfather built in times past. Its a house with twenty bedrooms, memories and a heartbeat of its own. 

When WW2 gets under way, the home is requisitioned by the army, where it is badly abused and neglected. I wanted to cry seeing this. When the first battalion leaves, the house is in tatters. Bannisters and doors have been pulled down and used for firewood, windows broken, obscene graffiti painted on the walls, fruit trees destroyed etc.

Subsequently, two other billeting units settle there, with less disasterous results. [Armies were, and are, largely a product of their commanding officers.] Nevertheless, by the time the war is over, the great house is but a shadow of its former glory and John Mortimer hasn't the funds, the energy, or the heart to repair it alone.

But it will take more than a war to thwart the "Laughing House". Enter Peter, a one legged ex soldier and his wife to be. With three heads plotting together and a spirit of adventure, there may be a way yet to save the house and bring joy to countless weary survivors.

This is a feel good, gentle story. Well recommended.

SEX: None
PROFANITY: Mild, mostly Ds


Portrait Of A Playboy by Warwick Deeping

Max Tryte was a playboy. A pompous, happy-go-lucky, loose living, crude critic of society and the art world. Everything came easy for him; money, women, and admiration. But as an individual he was immensely unlikable and difficult to root for.

When success is at its zenith, the house of cards falls. An unwise affair of the night lands Max with Cerebral Spinal Meningitis and he fights for his very life. It's when he reaches rock bottom and is but a shadow of himself that he eventually sees the light and has a chance for true happiness.

I enjoyed this but it wasn't my favorite Deeping. I didn't feel much affinity with the main protagonists but preferred a minor side character who was just that, a minor character. 

This is quite a moralistic tale, voicing a warning against the futility of modern, frivolous living. But for someone already "on board", it can be a bit snoozifying. I also really disliked the French housekeeper (but that was intended), I thought she was a little cliched and predictable.

But it's very readable and deserves 3 strong stars

SEX: Off screen


Anthony Ant Goes To Egypt by Julie Bettendorf

Anthony Ant Goes to Egypt by Julie BettendorfI think most kids will love the illustrations in this one. They're vibrant, bold, catchy, and tell the story well.

The story itself is written in poem form and I did have a bit of a problem with this. I love rhyming stories but this one doesn't flow very well. The rhythm is off and the wording sounds a tad clumsy. In my opinion, a simple non-rhyming story would have been more effective. 

But it's a cute story!

Many thanks to the author who provided me with a free book to review.

The Pearl Fishers by Henry De Vere Stacpoole

The Pearl Fishers by Henry de Vere StacpooleI can't think of anyone who paints a picture of remote island life quite like Stacpoole. This one really struck my fancy. Who wouldn't love to bask in the fangipani scented breeze and feel the sun toasting you a golden brown? (Ok the golden brown is a real dream here. Lobster red is more like it). Oh! And while you're exploring the clear azure and turquoise waters in the lagoons, schools of rainbow fish skate around the coral; even a bank of oysters is not without beauty, for where there are oysters, there are...PEARLS!

When Floyd is shipwrecked, he rows to a deserted island where two others (from another wreck) have settled before him; an intelligent, but power hungry German named Schumer and a "fetch it" Kanaka girl, Isbel. Floyd has a dingy and Schumer has a wrecked ship full of provisions, which, thanks to the dingy, they can now access. They settle down to quite the cozy island paradise. Before long, an oyster bank is discovered and they immediately begin diving for pearls.

One day, a ship arrives; native Kanakas without a crew or captain. It seems a godsend for a growing enterprise requiring labor and sails...

What follows is treachery, danger, mutiny and love.

Exciting story with beautiful descriptions; well worth reading and available on public domain.

SEX: None
VIOLENCE: There is a mutiny and people die but it is not gory
PROFANITY: Mild, mostly a few racial slurs

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Undertaker's Wife by Dee Oliver

The Undertaker's Wife by Dee OliverI'm not quite sure what I was expecting when I chose this book, some funny macabre tales I guess, but the story wasn't quite what I expected and in the end it wasn't my style.

The book reads a bit like a diary that's trying to be funny but ends up being at best, a bit silly, and at worse, a boring account of daily life/ dating woes etc with some scriptures flung in higgeldy piggeldy. 

I really hate to only give this 2 stars but

It just didn't work. For me.

* Thanks to Netgalley for a free ebook given for review

Give Em The Ax by A. A. Fair

Give 'Em The Ax by A.A. Fair2.5 Stars

I remember watching old B&W films like this when I was a kid. You know, the kind where you sit through an hour of chain smoking, red herrings and bantering thug slang ("Have you got the dope on that jane, Lover? "), and when the curtain falls and the credits start to roll you turn to your companion, "So what happened?"

Well this was kind of like that. WW2, private eye detective agency, a nightclub, long legged cigarette seller, double crossing, legal cross examining and an ax murder. Lots of people and plots that may or may not mesh together, but while the whole package is mildly entertaining, I can't imagine wanting to reread this to fully understand it. And no, I didn't really understand it. 

Bottom line: If you're a fan of WW2 crime/ detective stories of the "dime novel " variety, you might want to check this out. 

SEX: None
PROFANITY: Liberal sprinklings of D, H, GD, B
VIOLENCE: None shown
MY RATING : PG (for profanity)

Moths by Ouida

The title "Moths" is allegorical for Society's women, who either spend their lives munching on ermine and gravitating to flames of corruption, or, as so rarely happens that it's notable when it does, rising to the stars in innocence and purity.

Vere grew up with her grandmother in the wholesome English air. But when she reached the age of 16, she was sent to the Riviera to live with her mother, Lady Dolly, a well liked but ammoral dame of Society. Having Vere under her roof is a thorn in Dolly's side, making her feel old; and Vere's solemn eyes and disapproving demeanor cramp Dolly's spontaneous frivolity. So on the advice of her shallow friends, Lady Dolly decides to get Vere wedded as soon as possible.

She, in effect, sells Vere off in marriage to the highest bidder; a cruel, selfish, loose-living but immensely rich Russian Count. In his depravity, he attempts to singe "The Moth" into becoming like all other society women. Vere stays true to her principles and to her innocence's true love, a famous opera singer by the name of Correze.

This novel is a real indictment on Society and Society's marriages which were often little more than a matching of names and titles but had no love, respect or honor. Both husbands and wives freely embarked in flirtations and "discreet" affairs while whittling away their time, money and usefulness with travel, castle hopping, gambling and more dress changes than a one-man theatre production.

As is usual with Ouida, the writing is impeccable and rich, but very wordy and at times repetitious. She sometimes bends to the weakness of thinking for her readers even when the meaning is indisputable. I found this a bit frustrating. Also, we are made to wait until the last gasping breath for a whiff of a "happy ever after" and for me it was a case of "too little too late".

Bottom line: Not one I would reread any time soon but still a finely crafted novel

SEX: None shown, frequent talk of mistresses
VIOLENCE: Very mild
PROFANITY: Very mild
MY RATING: PG (for thematic elements)

Our Emily by Mary Jane Staples

Our Emily by Mary Jane StaplesSo in "Our Emily", book 2 in the Adams family chronicles, we have the kids all pretty much grown up.

Boots is back from the war, married and making due with his disability until an operation hopefully gives him his freedom back. 
Ned and Lizzy are building a family, Tommy trying to find work in a depressed economy and Sammy making a killing in his various business ventures. Emily is still very much Emily, excelling in her workplace but feeling a failure as a wife.

The title is a bit of a misnomer as the book dwells equally as much on Sammy and his enterprises (and possible romance) as it does on Emily and Boots. (In fact, the cover picture is of Susie, not Emily at all, although they got the hair color wrong)

I found this book weaker than the the first one (Down Lambeth Way). It seemed to rely too heavily on cheeky banter/ flirting than real happenings and some of the humor was rather off color. I especially didn't like the flirting carried on by married individuals to those not their mates.
It is still a good story but some bits were disappointing to me.

SEX: A few brief, non-explicit-but-still-tmi-moments, (may not be appropriate for young readers); some off color humor and innuendos, frank talk about making love, conception/ contraception, as well as illegitimacy and sowing wild oats.
VIOLENCE: A few get beat up (not described blow for blow)
MY RATING: PG-13 (for sexual content)

Down Lambeth Way by Mary Jane Staples

Down Lambeth Way by Mary Jane Staples"Down Lambeth Way" is the first book in a 29 book series of the Adams saga. The covers in the series look YA but they're really not. By that, I don't mean to say they're neccesarily inappropriate, but it depends on the age of the reader, some subject matter may be a little mature or intense for very young readers. (I'll explain in the content section below).

I think first books in a series are very much like pilot episodes on TV. Some time is by neccesity taken up in the introduction of characters, setting the scenes, the backgrounds, the personalities etc. For the first 80-100 pages you might just assume its a cheeky cockney YA story with lots of playful characters but not much substance. But its so much more. Just give it time.

In this series, we start with a cockney family, fatherless since the Boer war, a mother who makes due with the help of "Uncle" (the pawn broker) and her enterprising children. When the story begins, the children are quite young, the oldest being 14 or 15, but over the course of the book, about five years elapse and everyone is forced to grow up.

The first serious thing (well, aside from getting head lice) that the family experiences, is a murder in the neighborhood, and their good friend and neighbor is being tried. There is a court trial with several characters being cross examined.

Around the same time, war is declared and we experience the reality of life on the front as well as its aftermath.

Between that there is love, courtship, marriage, political intrigue, and plenty of tea and cockney humor.

I always love Mary Jane Staples books (aka Robert Tyler Stevens), he manages to combine just the right amount of serious subject matter with humor and action to keep me engrossed page after page and leaving me with a warm fuzzy feeling. I don't understand why his books never really "made it" in the US but I'm happy they can still be found through online sites.

SEX: Fade to black, mentioned frankly but not explicitly [ for example, one character is taught the "mysteries " by a female ambulance driver on the front. There is also frequent mention of underclothing and particularly breasts being either firm, pouty, perky, overflowing, soft as pillows, nipples showing through, as well as one touch and some cheeky innuendo ]
VIOLENCE: War time violence, nothing gory but people are injured. A woman is murdered.
PROFANITY: Some, mostly British in nature

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Paradise Place by Warwick Deeping

Paradise Place by Warwick DeepingAfter spending some years in prison for manslaughter, John Hallifax disappears. The next news of him is a letter received by his wife, postmarked from Paris, telling of John's death from consumption.

Rachel remarries for so-called stability, this time to a wealthy philisoper, a "secretary bird with trousers"; a passionless man in love with only himself and the applauds of society. 

Meanwhile, a rough, Esau-like man calling himself John Bamfield has taken lodgings in a slum area of London named "Paradise Place" and has tacked up his shingle as an herbalist. He's a hairy, bearded man of the earth, ready with his fists, quick with his wits, and carrying a secret about him...

I loved this. I haven't had the pleasure of a hero like this in some time and I warmed to the "tough softie"; he's stubborn but completely unselfish and very human. Rachel also felt very real, she was sad, she was happy, she was conniving and I rooted for her. 

The ending is satisfying and no part of the story lags. Excellent.

SEX: Yes, but not shown to reader
VIOLENCE: Mild, a couple fisticuff fights

Patsy by Henry De Vere Stacpoole

Patsy by Henry de Vere StacpooleThis is so very different from H.V. Stacpoole's "Beach of Dreams" and "The Man Who Lost Himself" that it took me several chapters to get my bearings and understand just what I held in my hands. I think I know now.

"Patsy" is an Irish comedy. And just so you know, Patsy is not a girl but a boy; a rather enterprising, cheeky, very Irish boy. The language is in the vernacular but just enough to be humorous and not so heavy as to be unreadable.

Ok so the plot...well, at its heart we have a lovelorn couple thwarted in love. The man's uncle disapproves of the match and has arranged a more "suitable" suitor for his ward; a man with money (but alas very tight), much older, no sense of humor and a glass eye. Yes, you heard right. A glass eye. And remember this book is a comedy soooo can we just say that things happen with regard to said glass eye.

And then there's Patsy who has just landed a job in the big house as a sort of "fetch and carry" boy. As was mentioned he's a bit of a Cheeky Charlie with extras. In this case, the extras involve a bandit uncle who is the terror of the countryside along with his accomplice. The baddies have got wind that there's people of "quality" staying at the great house and they smell money. A break-in is arranged...and a trap is set. The results are zany and unpredictable. 

I think this could be a 5 star book depending on the audience. I went into it having no idea what it was about and it was entertaining but not one I'd probably reread. However if I had read it when I was a young adult, I would have loved it to pieces. Give it a go, its free on public domain sites like


The Beach Of Dreams~ A Romance by Henry De Vere Stacpoole

The Beach of Dreams A Romance by Henry de Vere Stacpoole4.5 Stars

This author is amazing. "Beach Of Dreams" is my second book by Stacpoole (the first being "The Man Who Lost Himself") and it is very, very good. Don't let the title mislead you. This isn't some kind of island holiday where romance ensues while people sun themselves and drink tequilas. Thank goodness!

Two ships collide, a steam yacht and a full sail fishing vessel. They sink, not too far from a particularly hostile group of islands with basalt cliffs, caves, bitumen pits and sea elephants. Only a few survive, a wealthy lady and two rough sailors. After some unfortunate events, the lady ends up fighting the elements on her own.

When hope seems farthest away, an illiterate, burly, red bearded fisherman is washed ashore...

And I don't dare say any more for fear of spoiling things, but it gets VERY exciting, and the author's ability to evoke a place with all its wonders and dangers is unparalleled.

Its unfortunate that Henry De Vere Stacpoole's works are so scarce. You can find a few overpriced print on demand paperbacks but only his more famous books. Thankfully, many are available on public domain sites for free download. Yay!

Brief violence, and a few racially derrogative comments directed at the chinese. No sexual situations.

The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy

The Constant Nymph by Margaret KennedyAlbert Sanger was a brilliant composer, English by blood, European by choice; a man of loose morals and unpredictable temperament. Following in his wake (and footsteps) is a managerie of children, both legitimate and not. This story focuses on primarily two of these children, Antonia and Tessa, (Tessa being the Constant Nymph of the title) and a young composer named Lewis Dodd whose intimate ties with the family will have far reaching effects...

So this was pretty fascinating. In some ways I couldn't help but think of the old movie "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" when the bride arrives home only to find instead of a haven, bedlam and destruction with seven men~ her new relatives~ living like animals. This was kind of like that. Sanger's children have had no training other than an intense life-course in music. They enjoy life (or at least accept life) as they find it, but know nothing of traditional education, social graces, culture etc. They live wild and free. That is, until that momentous day when Albert Sanger dies suddenly without a penny and an aunt from England arrives to "rescue" the unfortunate children...

At times, this is a very amusing story; and yet its not a funny book. It has an almost tragic "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" feel to it. We want happiness for the characters and yet shudder to think what that may mean..

FYI: There is a sequel to this called "The Fool of The Family", which focuses on Caryl, the oldest son, a violinist.

SEX: Talk of mistresses and loose living. Nothing intimate shown to reader.
PROFANITY: Mild (D's, B's)