ATTENTION CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS

2015 Editions of the Color Coded , Mount TBR and Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenges--as well as Read It Again, Sam (due to popular demand)-- have been posted. I am also introducing my newest brain-child: Super Book Password. Please check it out!

As in the past, I will post sidebar links for sign-up posts as well as review headquarters once the new year begins.


Some of Bev's Favorite Quotes...



Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays


MizB of Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

*Grab your current read.*Open to a random page.
*Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! You don't want to ruin the book for others.
*Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add it to their TBR lists if they like your teaser.

Here's mine from Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis (pp. 56-7):

[about reading on train journeys]
Soon too we gave up the magazines; we made the discovery (some people never make it) that real books can be taken on a journey and that hours of golden reading can so be added to its other delights. (It is important to acquire early in life the power of reading sense wherever you happen to be.)


Monday, July 30, 2012

Challenge Complete: 12 in 2012


12 in '12
2012 Reading Challenge
LibraryThing group
group home page


This was a fairly unstructured challenge hosted on LibraryThing.  I'm not a member of LibraryThing, but one of my fellow bloggers is, so I picked it up from her.  All we had to do was read books from 12 different categories in 2012--any categories we wanted.  We could read as many books in each category as we wanted.  The format was absolutely up to us.  Since I go a little challenge-crazy each year, I decided to just read one book in each category.  I actually finished this one on July 21 with the O. Henry short story collection and just realized that I never posted a wrap-up.  So here it is and below are my 12 categories and the books read for each.

1. Regency Romance
Venetia by Georgette Heyer (4/7/12)
2. Children's Classics
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (5/4/12)
3. Vintage Mystery (you all know I'll read more than one of these)
The Greenwell Mystery by E. C. R. Lorac (3/3/12)
4. Banned/Challenged Books
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (7/12/12)
5. Plays/Drama
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (6/30/12)
6. Cozy Mystery
Silver & Guilt by Cynthia Smith (4/9/12)
7. Biography
From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. McCoy by Terry Lee Rioux (3/14/12)
8. Short Story Collection
The Four Million & Other Stories by O. Henry (7/21/12)

9. Science Fiction
My Name is Legion by Roger Zelazny (1/4/12)

10. Poetry
The Rose Window and Other Verse from New Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (3/22/12)
11. Horror

 Drac­ula by Bram Stoker (4/25/12)
12. Graphic Novel

 The League of Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­men by Alan Moore (4/6/12)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a bookish meme hosted by Book Journey. It's where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It's a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. So hop on over via the link above and join in...and leave a comment here so I can check out what you are reading.
I'm still playing catch-up from not reading while on vacation.  I've also hit a bit of a slump so it's been up-hill work on every book I've picked up so far--no matter how much I'm liking it.

Books Read (click on titles for review):
 Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien 
The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme 
Murder at the Portland Variety by M. J. Zellnik

Currently Reading 
Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis: A candid autobiography that recollects his rational path to God.  An unfailingly honest and perceptive observer of humanity, C. S. Lewis embarked on a spiritual journey that led him from a traditional Christian childhood in Belfast to a youthful atheism and, finally, back to a confident Christianity. With no pretense, Lewis describes his early schooldays, his experiences in the trenches during World War I, and his undergraduate life at Oxford, where he reasoned his way to God. (synopses from Goodreads)
Books that spark my interest:
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (will actually start this one in August for the Austen in August Reading Event)
The Anatomy of Death by Felicity Young
A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar
Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas 


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Murder at the Portland Variety: Review

Took a little ride in a time machine this weekend--back to the 1890s in Portland, Oregon. That's the setting for M. J. Zellnik's Murder at the Portland Variety. The Portland Variety is a theater house where vaudeville acts made up of beautiful dancing girls, magicians, and recycled opera singers entertain Portland audiences.  Libby Seale is a seamstress who works backstage to keep the vaudeville players properly dressed.  Libby has come to Portland from New York City--escaping a past that she wants to forget and that she hopes to keep secret.  She hasn't been at the theater long before the magician's assistant, Vera Carabella, is found murdered in the tunnels that run underneath the city.

Libby is disappointed when the police chalk Vera's death up to the white slave trade and refuse to waste time investigating.  She feels she owes it to her friend to try an find out what really happened.  Libby makes another friend of Peter Eberle, a young reporter with the local newspaper.  Between the two of them, the investigation will reach from the brothels and dockside bars to the house of Portland's mayoral candidate. The clues they find will lead them to one of the key players in the white slave industry, a chase through the underground tunnels, and a surprise confession at a society wedding.

This is a very promising beginning to a new historical mystery series.  The characters are solid and have plenty of depth.  The period detail is just enough to support the story without overwhelming the reader with minutia.  The mystery is fairly well-clued and is generally well-plotted, although it is not an extraordinary page-turner.  I enjoyed the development of the partnerships and relationship between Libby and Peter and look forward to seeing how things progress in future books.  Libby is very clever and a bit forward-thinking for the time period--hopefully Peter will continue to put up with her unorthodox (for the time period) ways.  Three stars for a good, solid mystery.

Quotes: 

With Libby, he never had to search for words, and she seemed to understand what he was going to say before he said it. (p. 70)

She was a good friend of mine...perhaps not a close friend, but a good one....I hadn't known her long, but sometimes acquaintance of short-standing can be more intense for its brevity, rather than less. [Libby Seale] (p. 151)

One can't right all the wrongs of the world, child. There will always be crime, and there will always be innocent victims. [Hatty Matthews] (p. 185)


Going for the Gold!: Olympic Read-A-Thon

The 2012 Olympics are running from July 27th – August 12th and Random House of Canada is sponsoring a reading challenge for those of us who have Olympic-size TBR piles to conquer!
OlympicMedals2

I've got a HUGE TBR pile (think of a whole mountain range of Everests), so I’ll be participating and joining in the fun! @RandomHouseCA will be using the hashtag #OlympicReadathon to chat about progress on Twitter, so be sure to join in the conversation and encourage your friends and family to join our challenge.  I don't have a Twitter account....so I'll be keeping track of my progress here on the blog.  My goal is 1500 pages.

Sign up here and set your Olympic Page Reading Goal! Be sure to keep track of how you’re doing throughout the Olympics!
Grab the button to share with the world that you’ve joined our Olympic Readathon!
Let's see how many gold medals we can bring home!


Thanks to Michelle at The True Book Addict for bringing this one to my attention!


Reading List:
1. Murder at the Portland Variety by M. J. Zellnik (317 pages) [Complete 7/29/12]
2. Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis (238 pages) [Complete 7/31/12] 
3. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (307 pages so far) 
4. The Key by Patricia Wentworth (236 pages) [Complete 8/5/12]
5. Mysterious Incidents at Lone Rock by Rajendra Pillai (248 pages) [8/6/12] 
6. Gideon's Month by J. J. Marric (158 pages) [8/7/12]
7. The Anatomy of Death  by Felicity Young (307 pages) [8/10/12]

1811 pages total: Gold Medal-plus!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Memes


Book Beginnings on Friday is a bookish meme now sponsored by Rose City Reader (who originally inspired the meme). Here's what you do: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section. Include the title and author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line and if you did or did not like that sentence. Link up each week at Gilion's place.

Here's mine from Murder at the Portland Variety by M. J. Zellnik:

From the moment she entered the lobby of Crowther's Portland Variety, Libby Seale could tell something was amiss.

So....what's going on?


The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate. Just grab a book, any book, and turn to page 56. Find a sentence that grabs you and post it.
 
Here's mine from Murder at the Portland Variety by M. J. Zellnik:
 
She hit upon an idea that would make her visit seem more respectable. "I have some information for him regarding a story he is working on."

Theme Thursday: Time



Hosted by Reading Between the Pages

Rules
  • A theme will be posted each week (on Thursday’s)
  • Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from the current book you are reading
  • Mention the author and the title of the book along with your post
  • It is important that the theme is conveyed in the sentence (you don’t necessarily need to have the word)
*Link back to Reading Between the Pages

And this week's theme is Time (Clock, Hours, Minutes, Seconds, etc). 


Here is mine from Murder at the Portland Variety by M. J. Zellnik:
From the moment she entered the lobby of Crowther's Portland Variety, Libby Seale could tell something was amiss. (p. 1) 

Where are those moving men? I must be at my train in five minutes! There are nothing but lazy, no-good people in this city. They must hurry...I will stay in this city not a minute longer than I have to!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Lieutenant's Whistle: Review

The Lieutenant's Whistle is the second of Fred Stemme's historical novels.  Set in the World War I years before America joined in the fray, it follows the lives of Henry "Hoop" Braddock and Kyla Laurens.  Braddock is a young man from Indiana and he, like many Americans, has joined the voluntary ambulance service to assist France in her hour of need.  They risk their lives to transport the wounded from the front lines to hospitals like those at Verdun.  In the beginning chapters he is on his way to his assignment when he meets Kyla, a beautiful Scottish lass who will be working as a nurse at one of the hospitals in Verdun.  It is love at first sight for Braddock.  Kyla is attracted to this personable "Yank," but is recovering from recent heartbreak.  The two will survive bombardment and personal injury....but will their love survive the emotional turmoil and the ravages of war?

Fred Stemme writes in a very straightforward manner.  He tells this very interesting and compelling story with few words, but the details and the descriptions are extremely vivid and give the reader a real feel for what life as medical support personnel--whether an ambulance driver or a nurse--in the Great War was like.  The central characters from "Hoop" and Kyla to the other drivers in Hoop's group to Connie, Kyla's nursing friend, are all very likeable and it is easy to become involved in their stories. The reader will not only be rooting for the drivers as they move through the dangerous terrain to rescue lives, but for the romance between Kyla and Hoop to end happily ever after.

This is one of my favorite time periods and Stemme does it full justice.  A very enjoyable read.  Three and a half stars.


[Disclaimer: This book was sent to me as a review copy by the author. My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate...This review copy was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Location, Location, Location


Top Ten Tuesday is an original bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new top ten topic is posted for followers to write about. This week we are asked to list our Top Ten Most Vivid Book Worlds/Settings.  Here are mine...a day late.

1. The Hundred Acre Wood in the A. A. Milne books:  The house at Pooh Corner, the bridge where you can play "Pooh sticks," the honey tree, Rabbit's house and Pooh getting stuck there.....

2. River Heights: The home town of Nancy Drew--where everyone knows everyone and the bad guys ALWAYS lose.

3. Narnia in the books of C. S. Lewis: From the wardrobe entrance to the lamp post to the queen's sledge to the Stone Table to the castle.  

4. 221 B Baker Street: Home the world's most famous consulting detective.  The shag tobacco in the slipper; the correspondence fixed to the mantle with a knife; the violin; the deal table and equipment for experiments.....


5. The house and countryside in The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright.  I loved that book...and can still picture the house with the cupola on top (making the "fourth" story) and the pond where they swim under the willow tree and Rush getting stranded in the tree during storm.


6. Mars as depicted in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.   May not be accurate...but I vividly remember the stories set on the red planet.


7. The library in The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.  And what a library!  I want it!


8. Arrakis, the desert planet in Dune by Frank Herbert.  The entire story is dependent upon the desert nature of the planet, the worms that live there, and the spice that is produced by the worms.


9.  The New York City of the 1930s-1950s as depicted by Frances & Richard Lockridge in their various mysteries (the North series in particular).  A NYC where a taxi is always waiting and you can always go round the corner to the Charles for a drink or for dinner.

10. Damiem:  a planet on the outer rim of the universe; inhabited by fairy-like creatures.  I haven't read this book in over twenty years (maybe thirty), but it always brings on beautiful images when I think about it.

 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays


MizB of Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

*Grab your current read.*Open to a random page.
*Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.

*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! You don't want to ruin the book for others.
*Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add it to their TBR lists if they like your teaser.

Here's mine from The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme (p. 1):
At zero hour, when the whistles sounded up and down the line, each man would dutifully climb the ladder in his sector. At the top upon entering No Man's Land, a hail of bullets would greet him, and with it, an uncertain fate.


It's Tuesday, Where Are You?


Another edition of the recently resurrected It's Tuesday, Where Are You meme sponsored by raidergirl3.  She hasn't posted this week's yet, but I want to tell you where I am anyway.  So, here we go:
This week, I'm back in France.  It's the beginning of World War I--before America has joined in the fray.  I've traveled with Henry "Hoop" Braddock, a fellow Indiana native, who has joined the American Field Service as a volunteer ambulance driver.  Here are some of our first views of the French countryside:

The morning mist cleared a bit, revealing a snow-covered, rolling terrain that reminded him of Indiana.  Yet the steep roofs, beige- and buff-colored stucco houses, as well as the Fiats at the crossroads, told him he was in a foreign land.

***

With their descent into the valley, he saw the river actually split into three canals, a major one, along with two minor branches. Beautiful arched bridges spanned the ribbons of water. Quais ran alongside the canals, something he had become familiar with in Paris. Large, stately homes, some with red tile roofs, shadowed the canals or appeared amongst the hills. Plebeian cottages and modest homes were clustered along the tracks and in the town's midsection. Yet, throughout the town, gaps appeared where ghostly, charred remnants of buildings poked up into the misty air. Casualties of the Battle of the Marne, Hank reasoned.

{from The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme}

Z for Zachariah: Review

For the record....there aren't a lot of books out there that begin with "Z" that fall into my preferred reading categories and are readily available through the library.  Zombies...oh, man, I could have brought home a boat-load of books on zombies (Zombies, Zombies, Zombies!; Zombies Versus Unicorns; Zombies Versus Nazis; Zombies Don't Cry...you get the idea). Classic-style and/or academic-minded mystery authors, y'all need to step it up a bit.  Just sayin'. It would help out those of us who do alphabetical reading challenges immensely.  Thanks.

That said, after scanning through the online catalog at the local library, I found Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien (winner of the Newberry award for Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH).  Young Adult fiction is on my "not-so-much" list of things to read, but this post-apocalyptic, dystopian story really sounded like a winner.  And so it proved.

Written in 1974 (Small soapbox moment here--I wish all the reviewers on Goodreads, and elsewhere, would pay attention to that little detail.  It makes a LOT of difference to one's perspective if one considers the time and context in which the book one reads has been written.), O'Brien tells us about the aftermath of nuclear war from the perspective of Ann Burden, a 16 year old girl who has survived in a valley protected by hills.  Burden and her family lived in a valley that always seemed to have "its own weather."  Fortunately, this seems to have been true, because its protected nature manages to keep out the air currents which would bring the deadly radiation and fallout into the area.  Initially, Ann's family and neighbors are also among the survivors--but they leave the valley one day to investigate the surrounding area and to search for other survivors and never return.  

Ann soon comes to believe that she is the only survivor in the world and begins to plan accordingly.  Her life in the valley had been a very simple one and she was taught to shoot, fish, and farm.  She settles down to the business of survival and resigns herself to a very lonely existence.  Until the day she spots a column of smoke in the distance...a column that nightly moves closer to her valley.  She wavers between excitement in knowing that she will no longer be alone and fear of the unknown.  What will this person (persons) be like? Will they be friend or foe?  She learns that being alone may not be the worst that can happen.

This is a very thoughtful book.  It examines ideas of control and humanity.  The questions of fear and trust and what makes for a worthwhile existences when everyone and everything you've known is gone.  Using just two characters, O'Brien gives us a very vivid picture of two possible reactions to the horrifying reality that all (or nearly all) of humanity is gone.  What becomes important?  And who has the right to decide?  If you're looking for fast-paced, action-packed adventure, then this may not be the book for you.  There is conflict and danger, but it is played out as a long-thought-out chess match.  Well done for three and a half stars.


Challenge Complete: Vintage Mysteries


Man, I can tell I'm really slipping this year.  Last year I managed to wipe out my commitment to my very own Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge in about two months.  I've been wandering all over the reading map this year, so it's only now that I can post and say: Complete!  Three Vintage Themes didn't add that many books to the commitment! Ah, well...here's the list of conquered books.  Now to start making plans and stacks for next year.....

Here are my chosen Vintage Themes:

Colorful Crime: 8 books with colors in the title

1. The Greenwell Mystery by E. C. R. Lorac (1934) [3/3/12]
2. Strange Murders at Greystones by Elsie N. Wright (1931) [3/16/12]
3. The Red Lamp by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1925) [2/7/12]
4. The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes (1940) [3/24/12]
5. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1945) [2/27/12]
6. The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux (1907/French; 1908/English) [3/19/12]
7. The Black Seven by Carol Kendall (1946) [1/29/12]
8. The Problem of the Green Capsule by John Dickson Carr (1939)
[1/7/12]

Murder by the Numbers: 8 books with a number in the title
1. The Nine Wrong Answers by John Dickson Carr (1952) [7/7/12]
2. Champagne for One by Rex Stout (1958) [3/5/12]
3. The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1909) [5/15/12]
4. And Four to Go by Rex Stout (1956/7) [7/1/12]

5. File No. 113 by Emile Gaboriau (1867) [7/11/12]
6. The 39 Steps by John Buchan (1915) [7/3/12]
7. The House of a Thousand Candles by Meredith Nicholson (1906) [6/17/12]

8. Five Passengers from Lisbon by Mignon G. Eberhart (1946) [3/11/12]
9. The Fifth Man by Manning Coles (1946) [7/22/12]

AND

Dangerous Beasts: 8 books with an animal in the title (The Bat; The Canary Murder Case; etc.)
1. Swan Song by Edmund Crispin (1947) reread [4/3/12]
2. The Case of the Grinning Gorilla by Erle Stanley Gardner (1952) [3/30/12]
3. Hare Sitting Up by Michael Innes (1959) [3/9/12]
4. The Murder in the Stork Club by Vera Caspary (1945/6) [3/10/12]
5. The Golden Scorpion by Sax Rohmer (1920) [4/2/12]
6. Dead as a Dinosaur by Frances & Richard Lockridge (1952) reread [3/8/12]
7. Pearls Before Swine by Margery Allingham (1945) [6/8/12]
8. The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1920/1932) [4/14/12]
9. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902) [2/5/12]
10. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1929) [4/4/12]


Commitment Complete: 7/11/12--BUT I sneaked in an extra book on Murder by the Numbers and being the perfectionist I am I couldn't post until I finished The Fifth Man (an original of the eight books required).


Monday, July 23, 2012

High Summer Read-a-Thon: Wrap-up

Michelle from The True Book Addict hosted one of her seasonal read-a-thons this past weekend.  Her read-a-thons a great because no pressure, no challenges and read as much as you want to.   And it's a good thing there was no pressure--because I didn't read near the amount I planned.  I'd hoped to finish at least four books (but really wanted to complete 5 or 6), but that just simply didn't happen.  We'll see if I can do any better come fall....



Here's the final tally:

1. North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell: begun 7/16 (finisehd 7/18/12) [451 pages]
2. The Four Million & Other Stories by O. Henry: begun 7/18 (finished 7/21/12) [189 pages]
3.The Fifth Man by Manning Coles: begun 7/21/12 (finished 7/21/12) [190 pages

The Fifth Man: Review

The Fifth Man is my first taste of the work of Manning Coles--and I can assure you, it won't be my last.  This is an absolutely delightful Nazi-filled, spy-thriller first published in 1946 by the neighborly writing duo of Adelaide Frances Oke Manning and Cyril Henry Coles.  The duo wrote many of these spy-thrillers using the pseudonym composed of their last names.  Twenty-six of these feature Tommy (Thomas Elphinstone) Hambledon, a British boarding school teacher who winds up working for the Foreign Office.  

In this outing, five British prisoners of war are given the chance to head home--provided they agree to be trained as spies and pledge their service to the Nazi cause.  They all do, but have every intention of hitting British soil and forgetting about their pledge--despite dire warnings of what their fate will be if they double-cross Germany.  One is killed after turning himself in to the British authorities, three more manage to turn themselves in more successfully, and one man remains at large.  Then a man claiming to be Major Alwyn Brampton turns up in the offices of British Intelligence and offers his services as a double-agent.  Brampton is really escaped prisoner Anthony Coleman, but after hearing his story about near-fatal escapes of every sort, multiple assumed identities, and his version of a diabolical Nazi spy ring at work in England, Hambledon is ready to put him to work.  Coleman's extraordinary luck holds through various escapades within the Nazi group until the grand finale when it looks like the double-agent's number may be up. 

This book is great fun.  Lots of British wit and understated humor.  I haven't had such a good time with a spy thriller in a long time.  I love the breezy style and following the adventures of Coleman as he dons his various personas.  I'm sure there's way more happy coincidences than one could possibly expect in real life--but that's why this is fiction.  And really good fiction at that.  Four stars for a rollicking good read that I managed to read in one great gulp Sunday afternoon through night.


Quote:

You are quite mad, but such madness sometimes succeeds when caution fails. (p. 63)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a bookish meme hosted by Book Journey. It's where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It's a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. So hop on over via the link above and join in...and leave a comment here so I can check out what you are reading.
I'm still playing catch-up from not reading while on vacation.  I've also hit a bit of a slump so it's been up-hill work on every book I've picked up so far--no matter how much I'm liking it.

Books Read (click on titles for review):
North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Four Million & Other Stories by O. Henry
The Fifth Man by Manning Coles (finished late last night...review coming soon)

Currently Reading: Z for Zachariah by Robert C O'Brien:
Ann Burden is sixteen years old and completely alone. The world as she once knew it is gone, ravaged by a nuclear war that has taken everyone from her. For the past year, she has lived in a remote valley with no evidence of any other survivors.  But the smoke from a distant campfire shatters Ann's solitude. Someone else is still alive and making his way toward the valley. Who is this man? What does he want? Can he be trusted? Both excited and terrified, Ann soon realizes there may be worse things than being the last person on Earth. - (Simon and Schuster) [written in 1974.  Chosen for the A-Z Reading Challenge. Not a whole lot of tempting choices out there for books with titles that begin with "Z.")
 
 
Books that spark my interest:
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (will actually start this one in August the the Austen in August Reading Event)
Murder at the Portland Variety by Miriam Zellnik
The Anatomy of Death by Felicity Young


Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Four Million: Review

I've mentioned a few times here on the blog and elsewhere that I'm not really an Americanist. I consider myself a Brit Lit girl and my reading lists and tastes generally give proof of that.  But...I love O. Henry.  I've loved him since reading "The Gift of the Magi" in high school.  I just finished up his short story collection The Four Million and Other Stories and I still love him.  He has such a spare style--and yet he says absolutely everything he needs to say and even manages throw in a lovely little twist at the end of each one.  He is witty and uses puns and other wordplay in his stories.  And all in about 10 pages (or less).  He packs more human interest into his short stories than my last read did into 450 pages.  I'll try to give you a run-down of the 29 stories, but they're so short, it will be difficult to do without giving them away.

"Tobin's Palm": Poor Tobin is down-on-his luck.  His girl was supposed to arrive in America and she's nowhere to be found.  He and his go to Coney Island to cheer themselves up--but he gets in a fight and loses his money.  He pins all his hopes on the predictions of a fortune-teller who tells him good luck will come from a man with a crooked nose....

"The Gift of the Magi": Probably Henry's most celebrated story...about a poor couple who gives everything they can to make their partner's Christmas as special as possible.

"A Cosmopolite in a Cafe":The narrator thinks he's met a true child of the world.  Is he right?

"Between Rounds": Mr. & Mrs. McCaskey are fighting it out with the crockery....when an unexpected bell rings to end the round.  But is it the end of the bout?

"The Skylight Room": A young woman gets pleasure from her skylight view....and little else.

"A Service of Love": "When one loves one's Art no service seems too hard."

"The Coming-out of Maggie":  Some girls will go to any lengths to get a date....

"Man About Town": A man goes looking for the "man about town" and discovers that he's closer then he thinks.

"The Cop & the Anthem": All good things come to those who wait....but sometimes after they're no longer wanted.

"An Adjustment of Nature":  Sometimes nature needs a little help in adjusting...

"Memories of a Yellow Dog": When a dog's life isn't all it's cracked up to be...

"The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein": "Love" potions don't always work the way we plan.

"Mammon & the Archer": A millionaire teaches cupid a trick or two.

"Springtime a la Carte": Love is on the menu.

"The Green Door": Does the green door lead to adventure or romance....or neither?

"From the Cabby's Seat": Should the bride have to pay for her ride?

"An Unfinished Story": Dulcie turns down what seems to be the date of a lifetime.

"The Caliph, Cupid, & the Clock": The "Prince" of the park saves a romance.

"Sisters of the Golden Circle": About a unique bridal gift.

"The Romance of a Busy Broker": Just how busy can the broker be....especially when it comes to his own wedding?

"After Twenty Year": It pays to remember what old pals look like....

"Lost on Dress Parade": Cupid's arrow just misses the target.

"By Courier": A street-wise young man helps the course of "true love."  My favorite!  Love how the boy translates the pretty, high-falutin' speeches of the couple.

"The Furnished Room": This is the saddest of the stories.  I don't see how I can even give you a one-liner without telling you what it's about.  You'll just have to read it for yourself. Very well done.

"The Brief Debut of Tildy": A waitress overshadowed by her beautiful friend has her moment in the sun.

*"The Lotus & the Bottle"
*"The Admiral"
*"Shoes"
*"Ships"

*The last four stories are from the previous collection Cabbages & Kings.  They are all about Honduran characters.  I've found that I don't enjoy them near as much as the stories based in NYC.  O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) had a real feel for the New York of his times and wrote exquisite short stories about the City and its inhabitants.  Four stars.

Quotes:
'Tis easy to be a friend to the prosperous, for it pays; 'tis not hard to be a friend to the poor,f or ye get puffed up by gratitude and have your picture printed standing in front of a tenement with a scuttle of coal and an orphan in each hand. But it strains the art of friendship to be true friend to a born fool.  And that's what I'm doing. ["Tobin's Palm"]

...life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. ["The Gift of the Magi"]

Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. ["The Gift of the Magi"]

Spring was in its heyday, with hay fever  soon to follow. ["Between Rounds"]

 But the chief thing at Cypher's was Milly.  Milly was a waitress....She belonged, largely, to waiting. as Minerva did to the art of scrapping, or Venus to the science of serious flirtation. Pedestalled and in bronze she might have stood with the noblest of her heroic sisters as "Liver-and-Bacon Enlivening the World." ["An Adjustment of Nature"]

 As I said, you're a gentleman.  They say it takes three generations to make one. They're off. Money'll do it as slick as soap grease.  It's made you one. By hokey! it's almost made one of me. I'm nearly as impolite and disagreeable and ill-mannered as these two old knickerbocker gents on each side of me that can't sleep of nights because I bought in between 'em. ["Mammon & the Archer"]

Fancy--fluted and droned in a side street. Around the enchanted boundaries of the little park street cars spat and mewed and the stilted trains roared like tigers and lions prowling for a place to enter. ["The Caliph, Cupid, & the Clock"]