Recent Reviews

Clarimonde

by Théophile Gautier

A newly ordained priest dreams of a second life with a beautiful courtesan, sensuous dreams so vivid he cannot tell which is his waking life. Is she a demon, a succubus, a vampire? He doesn't care — he loves her. Haunting imagery and exquisite prose, yet the point of this short story seems to be that priests are too weak to withstand temptation. (Likely true, as recent news has continually demonstrated.)

Reviewed on 2015.04.25
by Leah A. Zeldes

The Shogun's Daughter

by Robert Ames Bennet

Interesting historical adventure set in Japan in the mid-19th century, just at the time when Commodore Perry's warships were pressing the combative and xenophobically insular Japanese to open their ports to world trade.

An adventurous young Nipponese nobleman takes ship for the West in defiance of ancient law forbidding citizens of Japan to leave the island, with death to any who go and return. He's befriended by a young American, a wealthy Southerner with all of the pre-Civil War arrogance of a plantation-born aristocrat. Although Japanese law also declares that any foreigners in Japan will be put to death, he pledges to return with his friend to his homeland in order to convince the Shogun that resting the might of the West will bring dire consequences.

The plot is fairly predictable, but the wealth of detail about Japanese life of the period is fascinating. For example, here's an account of a dinner:

“The meal was odder than any I had eaten even in China—soup, omelet, fishballs, and sponge cake; soup, boiled crawfish, lotus-root salad, and salted plums; thin soup, sweetmeats, pickled bamboo shoots, and stewed cuttlefish; thick soup, sliced duck, and stewed vegetables; sea slugs with soy sauce, loquats stewed with sugar, soup, more soup, and last of all plain boiled rice, without sugar—which is scarce in Japan—and without milk—which is unknown.”

Reviewed on 2015.04.25
by Leah A. Zeldes

Spanish Doubloons

by Camilla Kenyon

Corn, but of a good and satisfying kind.

Virginia stumbles aboard a tramp freighter to rescue her aunt from the clutches of a crew of frauds, only to find herself trapped by circumstances into accompanying them on their hunt. Many thrills and a romance of the more or less typical kind—they hate one another until falling in love.

Reminds me less of Treasure Island than it does of another treasure-seeking adventure with a feisty young red-headed heroine, Hair of Gold.

Reviewed on 2015.04.25
by Dai Alanye

Sir Hilton's Sin

by George Manville Fenn

A jolly tale of English country life in the early 1900s. The shrewish wife is subdued, the much-put-upon husband improves his lot, the two young lovers and the two older lovers overcome obstacles to happiness, and a few villains are trumped.

Reviewed on 2015.04.25
by Dai Alanye

The Snare

by Rafael Sabatini

Sabatini is a prolific author and an excellent writer, though not many of his books are overly romantic and lacking in realism. Of the several I've read, The Snare strikes me as the best, though it also has a shade of a fairy-tale ending.

Exciting throughout with a wonderful heroine and one or two fine heroes, it takes place during the Peninsular Campaign, with Wellington making a meaningful appearance.

[I don't rate by stars.]

Reviewed on 2015.04.24
by Dai Alanye

The Mysterious Card

by Cleveland Moffett

A riddle of a mystery with no solution in this story. The solution is in The Mysterious Card Unveiled, which should be read immediately after this story.
A New York businessman in Paris is given a card with handwriting in French. Every person he asks to translate the writing is horrified by it and treats the businessman as a monster.
The story is quite well done and sets up a puzzle that baffles the reader.

Reviewed on 2015.04.24
by Lisa Carr

The Mysterious Card Unveiled

by Cleveland Moffett

This story explains the first story. Unfortunately, the solution involves mysticism, spiritualism, and bogus technology. It's nice to have a solution to The Mysterious Card, but something more believable would have served better.

Reviewed on 2015.04.24
by Lisa Carr

The Albert Gate Mystery

by Louis Tracy

Foreign emissaries murdered, priceless diamonds stolen, and a high ranking member of the British Foreign Office has gone missing. What does it all mean? Reginald Brett, barrister and detective, is on the case. I liked it - lots of action and very entertaining. Things unravel a bit during a goofy ending, so 4 stars instead of 5.

Reviewed on 2015.04.23
by bhold

Doubloons—and the Girl

by John Maxwell Forbes

A great book - well written, easy to read, romantic, and full of action. I wish the author had written other books.

Reviewed on 2015.04.23
by gibel

The Sea-Hawk

by Rafael Sabatini

A great story full of action, adventure, and romance. This book and Captain Blood are probably his best known because pirate stories are popular, but I also recommend his book Saint Martin's Summer and other romances which are as well written.

Reviewed on 2015.04.23
by gibel

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