Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: The Middle of Things by J.S. Fletcher

Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.

The Middle of Things by J.S. Fletcher

As I read this mystery, my mind kept thinking about that old TV show “Murder She Wrote”-I was sure the mystery writer’s name was Fletcher. In fact her name was Jessica Fletcher or J. Fletcher! Aha! As prolific a writer that Jessica Fletcher was, J.S. Fletcher has her beat. He wrote over 100 detective stories!

In the Middle of Things, Mr. Richard Viner lives with his maiden aunt, Miss Bethia Penkridge in Markendale Square, Bayswater. She likes it when he reads to her of an evening and her favorites are always crime stories.

“What she loved was a story which began with crime and ended with a detection--a story which kept you wondering who did it, how it was done, and when the doing was going to be laid bare to the light of day. Nothing pleased her better than to go to bed with a brain titivated with the mysteries of the last three chapters; nothing gave her such infinite delight as to find, when the final pages were turned, that all her own theories were wrong, and that the real criminal was somebody quite other than the person she had fancied.”

I totally agree with Miss Penkridge-don’t you?

This fun beginning sets up the story quite nicely. After the evening’s reading and once his aunt had gone off to bed, Mr. Viner enjoyed nothing more than a late evening’s walk about the neighborhood. On the night we first meet him, his walk ends with something terrible. He’s quite near home, by a narrow alley, when suddenly a man comes running out! A man he vaguely recognizes! Mr. Viner enters the alley and there, under the single street light, finds the body of his new neighbor-Mr. John Ashton-dead! Stabbed!

Well, the police come and Police Inspector Drillford asks Viner to go with him to break the news of John Ashton’s death to his young ward, Miss Wickham and her companion. Soon a man is arrested but when Viner goes to court for the hearing to testify to finding the body and he sees the accused he realizes that he does know the man: the fellow attended school with him. He’s certain that he can’t be the real murderer and that there must be some mistake and takes it upon himself to find out the truth. (He is totally in the middle of things!) And yes, he-with the help of his aunt and a broken typewriter letter-does!

I thoroughly enjoyed this 1922 mystery and had a good chuckle at the rather contrived romance at the end but as they say, “All’s well that ends well”!

Read by Kehinde, you can download this free audio-book here or the free e-book in pdf., e-pub or Kindle format here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quilting my jelly roll quilt

I've started machine quilting my jelly roll quilt. I'm happy with the circly vine between the blocks but I'm not sure about the straight lines on the rectangles. Maybe I should try the same thing on another rectangle but with yellow thread?I'm planning on a pebble pattern inside the rectangles-repeating the circles like in the "sashing" but just circles.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: The Poor Little Rich Girl by Eleanor Gates

Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.

The Poor Little Rich Girl by Eleanor Gates

This book was not at all what I was expecting. I knew it had been a Shirley Temple movie and I thought that I remembered that the family loses its money and the poor little rich girl becomes poor. That is not the plot at all! (I now think I mixed it up with another Shirley Temple movie: The Little Princess based on the book by Francis Hodgson Burnett.)

There are actually 2 Poor Little Rich Girl movies: the first starred Mary Pickford and the second Shirley Temple. I love the marketing for the first movie: merging book and movie.

This book is really quite strange.

Little Gwendolyn lives in the nursery. She’s cared for by her nursemaid Jane, her governess Miss Royle and the footman Thomas with a French teacher and music teacher periodically giving her extra lessons. She is sometimes called downstairs to pay a brief visit to her parents in the dining room and to be shown off to their various guests.

Its her seventh birthday and she thinks she’ll now be grown up and she hopes to have dinner with her parents and to go day school. Her fondest memory is of a week spent in the country with her parents where she was allowed to play with a local little boy, Johnnie Blake. They went fishing and he told her that he was all grown up because he was seven.

Frustrated at every turn by Jane, Miss Royle and Thomas and fairly abandoned by her parents (they send a cake up and gifts but don’t even see her on her birthday) she is miserable. She asks Thomas to let her go with him when he walks the dog and he says no and then to quiet her tells that she could be kidnapped! Jane threatens her with “calling the doctor” and “the policeman will come” pretty much whenever Gwendolyn wants to do something other than sit at the window seat and play pretend. When the three hear that she wants to eat dinner with her parents and go to school they watch her even more carefully and as little as she sees her parents they would prefer that she not see them at all so she couldn’t make her requests.

Gwendolyn hears the adults around her and is often confused by the many idioms she hears: ”she’s two faced”, “he’s head over heels”, etc. She constantly asks questions and is constantly rebuffed. (These idioms are rather a theme in this book and it might be fun to actually count them.)

Getting more and more frustrated, Gwendolyn lashes out the only way she can-by crying and tantrums. She’s put to bed where she just cries herself to sleep. The next day, she still doesn’t want to get up and by evening Jane is a bit concerned. She asks Thomas if there is any more of “the quietin’ medicine” but there isn’t. She wants to have the doctor in but Gwendolyn really gets quite hysterical at the very idea (she’s become really quite terrified of the doctor thanks to Jane’s threats) but she agrees that Jane can call him for more medicine.

Now here is where the story gets strange. I’m convinced this medicine is Laudanum-a liquid opium mixture that was very prevalent in the 19th and early 20th century and was given to women and yes, children for nervous complaints. It was even given to infants by their nurses to quiet them.

Jane puts a teaspoonful in a cup for Gwendolyn, gets distracted by the organ grinder outside and goes to the window to shoo him away telling Gwendolyn to drink the medicine. She does-but she puts the spoon in Jane’s coffee cup. Jane, returning to the bed, doesn’t believe Gwendolyn actually drank the medicine and sniffs her coffee cup. Hmm, it smells of the medicine (from the spoon) and despite Gwendolyn’s complaints, gives her another teaspoonful!

Except for the last chapter, the rest of the book is Gwendolyn’s opium induced dream. There’s the organ grinder and Jane, Miss Royle, Thomas, her lost teddy bear, her parents and all those idioms-now explained -with literal meanings. (Some of these are quite enjoyable-one, the King’s English is completely un-understandable!)

Gwendolyn, through her dream, works out to her own satisfaction many of her frustrations and you can just imagine how her illness works on her parents so by the end of the book all is well.

It’s rather hard to believe The Poor Little Rich Girl was meant as a children’s story-it’s more a guide for parents. If any children did read it, I think that they would decide that they didn’t want to be rich!

Perfectly read by Susan Umpleby, you can download the free audio-book here or the free e-book in pdf., e-pub or Kindle format here.

I found the Mary Pickford movie at You-Tube. The first segment is really quite delightful and true to the book. (I peeked at the Shirley Temple movie and immediately I saw it was quite different.) So if you'd like to watch...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: A Woman Who Went to Alaska by May Kellogg Sullivan + photographs

Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.

A Woman Who Went to Alaska by May Kellogg Sullivan

Mrs. Sullivan’s recollections begin in 1899 with her first trip north to Dawson, Canada by ship and train during the Klondike Gold Rush. She traveled alone, on her way to surprise her father and brother. I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for her-she was quite shocked by the sometime drunkenness of the passengers. Like many travelers anxious to arrive, she also does not have very nice things to say about Canadian officialdom. She spent the summer in Dawson but really tells us very little about her time there and is soon back on board ship leaving-though this time with her brother.

Something must have clicked for her because the following spring she’s travelling again-this time to Nome with a group of friends. They’re all planning to find work there. Mrs. Sullivan is by now clearly a much more seasoned traveler

For me, the book really got interesting with Chapter 9 when her true tale begins. She finds work as a kitchen help, first at a mining camp and then at a restaurant run by several Swedish women she met on the steamship. These women become her true friends and when winter approaches, she goes with them to winter at a mission on the Golovin Bay where they know the minister. Alma, Mary and the other ladies become truly alive for the reader and Mrs. Sullivan’s adventures in Chinik are very interesting. She often simply quotes from her journal and so gives a day by day account which gives us a feeling for the rhythm of her life there. One funny story which all sewers will enjoy tells of her trying to make a pattern for footed pajamas! I also enjoyed her recital of the meals that they ate and the temperature! (That actually surprised me-I expected a constant 30 below or so but no, there were often wide fluctuations.) She has some of the men prospectors she met at the mission stake some mining claims for her. (No, we don’t hear how these turn out!) She has some rather harrowing adventures too when she moves from the mission to a nearby hotel to be near a sick child she is teaching.

Perfectly read by Karen Commins you can download this free audio-book here or the free e-book in pdf, e-pub or Kindle format here.

You can also read my review of a fiction work on the Nome Gold Rush here. While fiction (and a rousing good story) the author, Rex Beach, was actually in Nome and partook of the Gold Rush.

Mrs. Sullivan seems to never have been without her camera and so I’m sharing below some of her-as she called them-Kodaks or you can look at all of the book’s photographs here.

Mrs. Sullivan herself in her Alaskan winter clothes.

The Hannah that we hear about.
Nome and its white tents.
The Mission at Chinik including reindeer!
Prospecting in winter...did her hole bear golden fruit?
From her visit to Bonanza just before she left for home the second time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Punch Needle Quilt: Block 8 finished

I just finished another block for my punch needle quilt. I chose this block to do because I wanted one that wasn't symmetrical like most of the blocks are. I used the purple and I like it but I liked it even more with the orange accents in the other block.

One more to go and I'll think about whether I'm happy with 9 blocks or if the quilt needs more-maybe 12.I have to think about sashing or no sashing and I'll have to think more about the border-right now I'm thinking of a punch needled vine with flowers.

It finally cooled off here a little-its been sooo hot.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: The Dragon's Secret by Augusta Huiell Seaman

Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.

The Dragon’s Secret by Augusta Huiell Seaman

Leslie Crane and her Aunt Marcia have rented a cottage on the Jersey Shore-not in the summer as most people do but in the early autumn. Aunt Marcia suffers from nerves and her doctor recommended rest and Leslie has come along to keep her aunt company and to generally “keep house”. She’s missing school but isn’t worried-her friends are sending her all the lessons she is missing.

“Oh the ocean is wonderful in October!” she murmured aloud. I never had any idea how wonderful. I never saw it in this month before. Come, Rags!” A black-and-white English sheep-dog, his name corresponding closely to his appearance, came racing up the beach at her call.”

One very wet and stormy night, Leslie, looking out her window at the wondrous weather, sees a light through the cracks of the shutters at the closed house next door. Could someone be in there? Its just for a second but…

The next day she and Rags walk on the beach amidst all the flotsam and jetsam from the storm.

“There was a new and wonderful fascination to her in examining this ancient wreckage, speculating on the contents of unopened tins, and searching ever farther and farther along the shore for a possible treasure-trove of even greater interest or value.

“Why shouldn’t I find a chest of jewels or a barrel full of golden coins or a pocket-book crammed with bills, Rags?”

But instead Leslie finds a treasure of a different sort-a friend. Walking with her head down looking at the sand, she plows right into someone-Phyllis Kelvin, a girl about her age who is at the Shore with her father and brother Ted.

The girls go off walking down the beach, back towards Leslie’s cottage, calling for Rags all the way. They spot him in the yard of the closed cottage next door.

“There’s Rags! He’s after another hermit-crab!” cried Leslie…They both raced up to him and reached him just as he had apparently attained the end of his quest and backed out of the hole.

“Why, what has he got?” exclaimed Phyllis. “That’s no hermit-crab!”

It was a burlap bag and inside was a beautiful carved box: a box carved with a dragon!

And so begins the girls’ adventure. Who did the box belong to? Why and when was it buried under the tree? How did the box open? What did it contain? And who was sneaking around trying to get it? All these questions are eventually answered of course but a ripping good time is had until they’re all answered.

I thoroughly enjoyed this 1921 young adult mystery. If you’re a fan of Nancy Drew type mysteries, I’m sure you’ll enjoy The Dragon’s Secret too.

Read by J.M. Smallheer, you can download this free audio-book here or the free e-book in pdf., epub, Kindle and more formats here.

If you would like to know more about Augusta Huiell Seaman and the collectability of her books, you’ll enjoy reading this article on bookfever.com.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jelly Roll quilt progress

I finished the blocks-the block includes the side "sashing" on the long sides and thenI sewed all the rows together. The center of the quilt top is finished!
Only borders are left and I have two ideas of what I'm going to do. I do like how this is looking.

Give a Whoop Whoop! Check out Sarah's Can I get a Whoop-Whoop for more terrific Whoops!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: The Green Rust by Edgar Wallace

Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.

The Green Rust by Edgar Wallace

Edgar Wallace with about 200 titles to his name is one the most prolific writers ever and he’s the creator of King Kong!

The Green Rust, written in 1919 (one of 3 novels he published that year) begins with a bang-as all good melodramas should.

We meet Mr. John Millinborn, deathly ill and attended by the local Dr. van Heerden, telling his lawyer about Miss Olivia Predeaux, the niece he has never met. He has just left his entire fortune to her and charges Mr. Kitson with finding her and protecting her from unscrupulous men. Mr. Millinborn has added what he thinks is another protection for Olivia-she is not to inherit until she is married.

Before the first chapter is finished, a hobo has been seen lurking around, we have met the main villain and Mr. Millinborn has been murdered in his bed!

Although the action keeps apace, it doesn’t always make the most sense but that hardly seems to matter: the strength of the book is in the wonderful characters. Olivia Cresswell/ Predeaux is delightful and Mr. Beale, the private detective Mr. Kitson has hired to find and protect Olivia is charming. Dr. van Heerden, a German posing as Dutch, is devious, unscrupulous and revengeful. (He has an evil plan to destroy the Allies wheat crop.)

My favorite part: definitely the window scene in chapter 20. Trust me-this scene gives Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet a run for the money.

Read by Don W. Jenkins (in a hardy Western voice that made me rather surprised to find that this book takes place in England!) you can download this free audio-book here or the free e-book in pdf. or kindle format here.