Taylor, Sydney. All-of-a-Kind Family. Read by Suzanne Toren. New York: Dell Publishing, 1951.
Reason read: April is the month for Sibling Recognition but I could have read it for Library Week since the first scene is Sarah losing a library book and having to work out a repayment system with the kindhearted librarian.
There are five children to keep track of in All-of-a-Kind Family: Gerdie, Sarah, Henny, Ella, and Charlotte. Each child has a wonderfully illustrated distinct personality. Together they make their way through turn-of-the-century New York City and all it has to offer whether it be a trip to the carnival atmosphere of Coney Island or around the corner to Papa’s shop.
Taylor does a wonderful job including a primer of Jewish customs around the holidays. It does not come across as didactic or religiously heavy. Instead, there is a heartfelt pride in the rituals. It’s not a spoiler to say the children have two surprises at the end of the book.
As an aside, I was transported back to my childhood when two of the sisters were standing before the great candy counter, peering through the glass, trying to decide what to buy with just a penny. I can remember similar days, my nose pressed against the glass, trying to decide how my precious money could be stretched to buy both Swedish fish and Red Hots. Zimmie, with his long folded downy white hair covered arms would stand patiently behind the counter waiting and waiting for me to decide. Probably cursing me all the while.
Author fact: Taylor has written a whole series on the All-of-a-Kind-Family. I wish I had more of them on my list.
Book trivia: my edition was illustrated by Helen John.
Nancy said: Pearl said All-of-a-Kind Family includes a “lovely chapter” on what happens when Sarah loses a library book.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138). To be fair, the library is hardly in the book and the librarian rarely makes an appearance, but her character is essential to the story!
“Live a life steeped in experiences.” That’s what my tea bag therapist said this morning. I’m not sure what to make of that advice, considering I have been passing each day as if waiting for something, but not exactly sure what.
I keep going back to the hospital for x-rays and answering mind-throttling questions like, “when did you break your back? How long have you been having extremity nerve pain?” Nearly passing out from lack of comprehension, I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t, but at that moment I sat there in silence with a stuck-in-dumb expression on my face. Yes, my back hurts from time to time, but broken? Yes, I have been complaining about my hands and feet falling asleep, but pain? I was there to get my protruding rib cage scrutinized. Now they tell me it’s a nodule on my lung and abnormally high white blood cell counts. “Probably a viral infection,” the nurse said of my white blood cell count. This was before the nodule on my left lung (25% malignant cancer) was a reality via CT scan. Are the two related? Am I falling to pieces? Sure feels that way. In the meantime, I have buried myself in books:
Fiction (Lots of books for kids and young adults):
- David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd (AB): a book for children, added in honor of Fantasy Month.
- The Pinballs By Betsy Byars: another kids book added in honor of Adoption month.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.
- Martin Dressler: the Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (EB).
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller.
- She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah.
- Expecting Adam: the Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Magic by Martha Beck (AB)
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett.
Millhauser, Steven. Martin Dressler. New York: Random House, 1996.
Reason read: November is a fascinating time to be in New York City.
Martin Dressler, the ambitious son of a cigar maker, has big dreams even as a young child. He starts by delivering cigars for his father and finds an ingenious way to make profits soar. As a teenager, he starts his career employed as a young hotel bellhop. He catches the eye of the hotel owner and soon becomes his secretary and mentor. As a young man he falls under the spell of a mother and her two grown daughters while building hotels of his own. One daughter becomes his business partner when he delves into opening a chain of diners while the other daughter, Caroline, mystifies him with her silent, elusive personality. She reminds him of a girl he used to know…Strangely enough, he ends up marrying this shadowy, ghostly woman.
This is not a coming of age story. Readers watch as Martin goes through childhood and teenage years to adulthood without exposing friendships; it’s as if he doesn’t have any, puberty, or any other angst-y growing up tribulation. His personality is firmly grounded in business. There is a moment when Martin decides it is time for him to lose his virginity and almost without ceremony or fanfare, he visits a brothel. This becomes a matter of fact, once a week habit he continues into adulthood. Not much is made of sex either way. However, his wedding night is particularly uncomfortable.
What is especially fun to watch is late nineteenth century New York City growing up along side Martin. The street names change over the years. Buildings grow taller. Oil lamps are crowded out by electricity one by one. The Manhattan we know today competes with Martin’s metropolis of his dreams until they are both so large there isn’t room enough for the both of them. But, which New York lives on?
Quotes I found interesting, “She looked like a new painting, all wet and shiny, but already she was fading into the darkness between lamps” (p 138) and “Here in the other world, here in the world beyond the world, anything was possible” (p 292).
Author fact: at the time of publication, Millhauser taught at Skidmore College.
Book trivia: Martin Dressler won a Pulitzer Prize.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Martin Dressler in Book Lust, but in Book Lust To Go she hinted the book takes place in New York, but it’s not the Manhattan we know (Book Lust To Go p 236).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust from the chapter called “New York, New York” (p 170). Also from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travel To Imaginary Places” (p 236).
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:
- Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
- The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
- Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.
- Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring than Bridge.
- Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
- African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.
- The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
- Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.
- We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.
I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.
Rowland, Amy. The Transcriptionist. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2014.
Lena is a transcriptionist for New York’s newspaper, the Record. She sits in a lonely room transcribing stories for reporters who call in with all kinds of different stories. Lena’s personal story centers on the mystery of an unknown woman mauled to death in a lion’s den at the Bronx zoo. Three things capture Lena to the point of obsession: the woman is blind, this was an apparent suicide, and Lena thinks she met this woman before. While Lena is fascinated with the story, no one else is. She is shocked by her employer’s complacency. No one cares why this unknown woman did what she did, so Lena sets out to discover the truth. In the process Lena rattles life as she knows it. The proverbial bars of the cage have been flung open.
My one fault with the book – there were a few unbelievable scenes. I am assuming the lion didn’t maul the woman’s face and her autopsy photo is the one the newspaper used for the article. Here’s why: because if no one knew her identity they couldn’t have used a picture from an earlier time. Another bothersome moment – Once Lena learns the identity of the suicide victim, she knows where she lived and that she had a sister. Lena takes it upon herself to visit the woman’s apartment (walks right in!). There, in the decease’s apartment, is a recording of the truth. Wouldn’t the sister have found that first? Wouldn’t there have been a more thorough investigation? It’s not every day that a blind woman swims across a moat to reach a lion’s sanctuary and then lets one (a lion named Robert) devour her.
The best part of the book is the message it sends. Everyday news stories swirl around us and roll off our consciousness like beads of oil on water. Nothing sinks in or settles on our souls. That goes for the consumers of the news as well as the people who create it. We all need to rattle cages and break free from complacency.
Reason read: I am a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing
Author fact: This is Rowland’s debut novel.
Book trivia: Publish date: May 13th, 2014.
Buchanan, Cathy Marie. The Day the Falls Stood Still. Read by Karen White. Ontario: Tantor, 2009
Bess Heath is a seventeen year old junior at her private boarding school when her father is laid off from the Niagara Electric Company. After returning home for the summer she realizes nothing remains the same. Now that her father is unemployed, her mother must take on seamstress work to make ends meet and Bess and her sister, Isabel learn to chip in. Bess becomes an accomplished seamstress and slowly builds up her own list of customers. Once Bess meets Tom Cole her life takes another drastic turn. The rest of the story is a love story on multiple levels that spans Bess’s formative years. She falls in love, learns about death and the value of family. She also discovers what it means to be torn between two loyalties. Tom, because of his relationship with nature, is in direct conflict with the Niagara Hydra-electric. Bess has a long standing history with the power company and has a love-hate relationship with the whirlpool at the base of the falls. Both have a deep personal history with the temperamental river. Together, theirs is a story of triumph over tragedy.
Even though this was an audio book I could barely “put it down.” I loved Buchanan’s writing style. You can’t help but fall in love with Bess.
Reason read: March 29, 1848: it was cold enough to make Niagara Falls freeze, hence the day the falls stood still.
Author fact: Buchanan has her own website here.
Book trivia: The Day the Falls Stood Still is Cathy Marie Buchanan’s first novel.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Niagara Falls” (p 156). Can’t get any easier than that.