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Schoolgirl Reporter: Constance M. White, Hutchinson, this edition 1969

I rated the last book by White that I read, The Ballet School Mystery and made a mental note to look out for more books by her, but Read more... )
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Deborah’s Secret Quest: Cecilia Falcon The Thames Publishing Co.

This is a reread – I was uncertain as to whether I already owned this book, but the copy before me was lovely and irresistible. I didn’t really remember the story, anyhow. It has a little of the feel of a serial story brought together within covers of its very own: occasionally chapters start with an unnecessary recap and it stretches a little beyond most book length school stories in terms of genre. Read more... )
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Assignment in Brittany is an early book by Helen MacInnes, set in occupied France during world war two, with one of her very competent heroes, although the challenges he has to face keep mounting. It’s a different setting to her usual Cold War stories, but certainly suspenseful.

Rules by Jane Beaton is the second in the Dorney House series, (I reviewed the first book Class here). It ends with a cliffhanger for the main character, which left me wondering where all the other books in the series the writer claims to have planned in the afterword are. This was published in 2009.

Read more... )

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley is the latest Flavie de Luce book that I read. Looking back, I see that I haven’t posted anything about the previous books that I read. Flavia’s a rummy girl, isn’t she!? I kept putting this book down, which isn’t like me and I don’t remember finding the other books in the series such a slog. Apart from stumbling across crime scenes and ruining dresses with her intrepid investigating, Flavia has to deal with a lot of family drama - her relationship with her older sisters is particularly twisted - and her dead mother Harriet seems to be much more of a presence, and naturally (or supernaturally), a mysterious one, than in the previous books.

I see that I read much more traditional girls own books over last Easter. Hmm.
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There were some mysteries: one featuring bored redheaded twins in Rhodesia in Monica Marsden’s A Matter of Clues. The first Rhodesian-set story I’ve read in a while, it's extremely silly. I then read Out of the Past by Patricia Wentworth, a (late) Miss Silver mystery that features many familiar elements, but there is an attempt to reorder them.

There were two family adventures off the Irish coast, both featuring some extraordinary modes of transportation and Irish clichés, plus the handy deaths of some of those Irishmen who were only mourned for a chapter at best. The Golden Galleon by Eileen Heming Read more... )

Then there was Jonquil, Test Pilot by Eileen Marsh, about Jonquil and her brother Jack and sister Belinda, who love flying aeroplanes. Read more... ) This book featured a lot of illustrations, most of which I didn’t like at all.

Then finally, unseasonally, there was The Merryfield Mystery by Marjorie Cleves about a group of schoolgirls, two mistresses and staff who stay behind at their school over the Christmas holidays. They’re snowed in and ‘haunted’. I wished that the whole mystery angle, in which everyone was a part-time ghost hunter and sleuth, had been dropped by the author just to tell the story of how this mixed group had got on and entertained themselves.

Oh dear, that’s a grumpy overview, and the truth is, the fact that I managed to nearly burn three toasts this morning has nothing to do with it. I had a relaxing break! (A fuller review of a book that I enjoyed more will be coming next.)
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This is the last of the reviews of books that I read over my Easter holidays:

The Secret of Magnolia Manor: Helen Wells Grosset & Dunlap 1949.

This is part of the Vicki Barr Flight Stewardess Series – one of those career girl mystery story series that the Cherry Ames books epitomise. Vicki is ‘just out’ of her teens, loves her job, but is very pretty and attractive, makes friends wherever she goes, including male ones who pay her compliments and provide transport or back up as she solves cases, but aren’t to be taken too seriously. Being a flight stewardess means that she travels a lot (as does her later and fabulously named British equivalent Shirley Flight).

In this story, Vicki’s given the route from New Orleans, via Merida, to Guatemala City. She’s thrilled to get a chance to visit ‘Crescent City’, and we get a colourful, travel-booky feel for it, with Vicki staying at a Creole pension (the secret of the title is linked to her ‘host’ family) and meeting barefooted Cajuns, eating square-shaped donuts and visiting the bayou. (The other end of her route doesn’t get a look in.)

Magnolia Mansion used to belong to the Breaux family, but was recently sold. News of the new owner’s planned alterations make Monsieur Paul Breaux, Vicki's host, act extremely strangely. Vicki was already dubious about him for treating his niece Marie as if they were living in the eighteenth century – she may be about to turn eighteen and get engaged (to practically the first man she’s met, but he’s a nice man) but she has to ask permission to do anything and is treated in a somewhat Cinderellaish fashion. Vicki eventually deduces why, but in the meantime, a man goes missing, everyone takes a while to figure that out (and nobody except Marie seems particularly worried, and her concerns are easily calmed) or to do anything about clues that are screaming for attention. There is a fancy dress party for Vicki to attend first of all, you see. Anyhow, she manages to get her act together before no more than a couple of concussions are doled out (none to her) and all is well. Vicki even gets to rejoin her family in corn field country for a break afterwards.

I generally like the detail about nursing in Helen Wells’ Cherry Ames book, although that is usually subsumed in the mystery. Vicki isn’t quite such a memorable character, feeling like more of a representative of ‘the modern girl’ than her own person (especially in this book where she's contrasted with Marie Breaux).
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Cherry Ames at Spencer

Some other time, I will do the research and write something more considered about Cherry Ames - both girl detective and career girl and surely the poster girl for the hybrid-type series, usually published by World Distributors. She takes on a different nursing job in each book, which seems to involve a child-appropriate mystery and good-looking young doctors who would sure like to know rosy-cheeked Cherry better. Unlike the heroines of other nursing books, she must always disappoint them, because she always loves Dr Joe* the most.

Cherry Ames at Spencer by Julie Tatham. World Distibutors 1958

The book certainly hits all the things I expected to see. Read more... )
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To break up the blanket Wimbledon talk, here's a review of a book I read last week.

Red Herrings Unlimited: Winifred Norling
I'm too lazy to check the publishers, and I suspect no date was given).

Most of the Winifred Norling books, if not all, that I've read have been school stories of a certain ype. This is a mystery that a gang of village children solve, led by a girl named Lyntie, who came together to solve a previous mystery. All I could find out from Google was that Winifred Norling was a pseudonym of Winifred Mary Jakobsson (1905-1979).

Read more... )
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Over the holidays, I made the most of the opportunity to just sit down and read books from cover to cover. I started off with The Big Six by Arthur Ransome, which I really don't think I'd read before. Read more... )

I worked my way through The Woman in White - I believe I called every character a ninny at some junction.

I should have said the same thing about Family Playbill by Pamela Brown, Read more... )

I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which was recommended by [livejournal.com profile] callmemadam among others.

And then I read a Bessie Marchant, A Girl of the Northland, Read more... )

The latter was an interesting precursor to reading A Cousin from Canada by May Wynne, Read more... )
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Film review: Nancy Drew (2007)

Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Written by: Andrew Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen
Based on the Nancy Drew series written by 'Carolyn Keene'
Starring: Emma Roberts,
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0479500/

The Riddle of Reinventing Nancy Drew Read more... )
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This is what happens when you don't do your googling before posting an overview of a subgenre. You have to do a follow-up post.

Here's an informative overview of the Sally Baxter series.

Article: Not Just for Children Anymore: Girls' Series Books
What many girls' juvenile series seem to have in common is that they posit the existence of a safe, orderly world, a world where right and wrong are clearly defined, and where right eventually triumphs. The protagonists face dilemmas, but few moral ambiguities. They are secure, fulfilled, and happy--and they never forget to be "feminine," to act like ladies, even when they are being their most adventurous and liberated.

More info on this subgenre at a comprehensive site - it has info on the Susan Sand mysteries (I have three of them). This is the related blog.

The Cherry Ames page.
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I'm not quite sure what to call the subgenre that Sally Baxter and her ilk belong to (grandmother: Cherry Ames), which is part career girl story, part mystery tale. They're nearly always published by World Distributors, so they have a similar 'look', especially if the dust jacket is intact. Other examples are Vicky Barr, Shirley Flight and Sara Gay. These series feature unmarried girls, but usually from traditional families, with jobs that take them all over the world (Cherry does almost every kind of nursing she can, Sally is a reporter, Vicky and Shirley flight attendants and Sara a model). They're part-time sleuths, as they come across mysteries wherever they go and because they feature in serial stories, they need to do well at their careers for a long time, even if their attention is sometimes divided.

The heroines of straight-up career girl stories, may feature a mystery subplot, but they are much more about depicting the demands of a job for their readers. 'Kate in Advertising' by Ann Barton, Joanna in Advertising by Stella Dawson, and Marjorie Riddell's 'A Model Beginning' and 'Press Story' are some examples from my bookshelves. Somewhat unrealistically, they usually end with the heroine getting engaged and the likely outcome is that she will give up her job for marriage and motherhood. So why do I call them career girl stories? Well, they still work as an intro to the career rather than being about the romance. And I may be over-generalising there. Not all end like that.

However, the serial stories subvert this, most interestingly in the Cherry Ames series, and they're somewhat anti-romantic. The heroines are shown as attractive and likeable, and with plenty of dates on call, but they never say yes to proposals. The audience for these stories is slightly older than 'A Crime for Caroline', obviously, although, again, who am I to talk, still reading them, many years after I came across my first Cherry Ames? And that doesn't even consider the influence of Nancy Drew, although sleuthing is her hobby-career (she doesn't need the money, but she does need the challenge). But in the days when the series started, why, going to college was what boys do! (It'll be interesting to see how the new movie handles this).

Sally Baxter, like Shirley and Sara (oh, they all start with S's) is a very English character. (As is nurse Jean, who has four books and two authors to tell her tale, but she isn't published by World distributors). The book which brought this on, Sally Baxter--Girl Reporter and the Holiday Family by Sylvia Edwards, starts off when Sally gets sent on a summer stunt to improve the circulation of her paper, the Evening Cry. The paper pays for a family already visiting a seaside resort (how very British) and voted for democratically to have their dream holiday. This upgraded holiday is then covered by Sally. Of course what she ends up reporting is a series of catastrophes for the first holiday family, who turn against her and go back home until she can uncover who is behind the ir misfortunes and why. (Let us just say that the story is really of its time and leave it there.)

ETA: Related links can be found here.
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A Crime for Caroline: Pamela Mansbridge, Dent, 1962
'I don't want to be a woman police officer and I certainly don't want to be a store detective! I want to solve real crimes--nothing else. I want to be a private detective.' Read more... )

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