“The lions of Fifth Avenue” Fiona Davis

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Penguin Random House. To be published July 21, 2020.

The lions of fifth avenueIn 1913 Laura Lyons struggles during a time in history when women were expected to be complacent with their roles as wife and mother.

In 1993 Sadie Donovan hasn’t gotten over her long ago divorce and is insecure about everything in her life. She has sealed herself off from getting hurt again, so the only thing that gives her joy is answering reference questions and working with rare books at her NYPL job.

Laura lived with her superintendent husband Jack and two children in an apartment hidden away in the recently built New York Public Library. Her dream was to go to school to become a reporter, but she soon learned that women who dreamed faced uphill battles. The more she got involved with free thinking women in the Heterodoxy Club, the more she realized it would take great courage to risk everything she held dear to be truly happy.

Sadie’s career and job is in danger when rare books continue to be stolen from under her nose and she becomes a suspect. It doesn’t help matters when her research into her grandmother’s life discovers that her grandfather was accused of stealing rare books from the same library in 1913. Sadie will have to learn to work with others who share similar goals if she wants to clear her name and, in the process, unveils 80-year-old secrets about her own family.

I enjoyed the dual voice narratives of Laura and Sadie, and how Davis tied the stolen books to both of their stories. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the NYPL, its collections, immigrant babies, and free thinking women of the early 20th century. This is a great book for those who enjoy historical fiction, and who want to learn more about what it was like to be a woman who had dreams in 1913.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

“I belong to Vienna: A Jewish family’s story of exile and return” Anna Goldenberg

Rated 3 stars *** Translated from German by Alta L. Price. ARC. ebook. New Vessel Press. To be published June 9, 2020. Includes Period photographs and “Archival sources and references.”

I belong to ViennaIn 2012 Anna Goldenberg moved to New York to attend graduate school and, while there, felt out of place among American Jews for being an Austrian Jew.  As time passed she missed her Viennese family so much she became interested in her family history. Through relatives who had immigrated to New York, Anna pieced together stories about her great-grandparents and grandparents. As she dove into old family letters and did research, she uncovered information about what it was like for them during the Holocaust, and what they had endured during the Nazi occupation of Austria. As Anna uncovers their stories, and their love for Austria, she uncovers her own mixed feelings about her homeland.

I understand and admire Anna’s need to piece together her family’s past so she could honor them through her future. However I felt the many transitions from memories to the present and back again gave the book a disjointed feeling.

Recommended for Adults.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Clap when you land” Elizabeth Acevedo

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Hot Key Books. To be published May 5, 2020.

Clap when you landThis novel of verse is dedicated to the memory of the 265 people killed when AA flight 587, headed to the Dominican Republic, crashed into a Queens neighborhood on November 12, 2001. Over 90% of the passengers were Dominican. I lived in New York at the time, and remember vividly how this loss shocked the city so soon after the losses of September 11th.

Sixteen-year-old Camino lives in the Dominican Republic with her aunt. Her mother died when she was six, and her Papi lives in New York but visits every summer. After he’s killed in a plane crash Camino is beset with grief and worries for her future. Papi paid for private school, but what will happen to them without his monthly checks? When she finds out he has another daughter in New York City Camino is angry because Yahaira had led a rich life while she has to struggle. However, though that girl stole her father, she’s also her sister.

In New York City Yahaira’s father is killed in a plane crash, but sorrow is mixed with anger because she’d found out a year earlier that he had another wife in Santo Domingo. When she finds out he had a daughter there too she’s angry that this girl stole her father, but is happy to have a sister. Against her mother’s wishes she’s determined to travel to the Dominican Republic to meet her new sister, Camino.

In alternating voices, Yahaira and Camino tell their stories of grief, loss, love, discovery and forgiveness as the beauty of the Dominican Republic, and the love its people have for their country, is clearly verbalized. Once again Acevedo weaves a story that will keep readers glued to their seats. I finished it in just a few short hours, feeling a great affinity for all the strong women described in its pages. I won’t be surprised if this book wins a few more awards for its author in the 2021 ALA Youth Media Awards.

Highly recommended for ages 15 and older.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Alexander Hamilton” Ron Chernow

Rated 5 stars ***** 2004. Penguin Books. 818 p. (Includes “Acknowledgements”, “Notes,” “Bibliography,” “Selected Books,” “Pamphlets, and Dissertations,” “Selected articles,” and an “Index.” (Also includes period photographs.)

AlexanderHamiltonAfter almost a month and a half of squeezing in reading during 10 minutes of lunch at work, between doctor appointments, and whenever I could find a few minutes, I FINALLY finished this massive biography. I was inspired to read it after listening to the music of Hamilton for a month in preparation for watching the musical. I loved Lin Manuel Miranda’s version so much, I promptly bought tickets to watch it again a week later. As a result I became hooked on all things “Hamiltonian,” which necessitated reading this massive tome.

Ron Chernow left no stone unturned in his quest to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly about Alexander Hamilton as he follows him from his island home of St. Croix to the American Revolution to his years as Treasury Secretary. Hamilton’s political and personal highs and lows, the love he had for family, and his death by duel with Aaron Burr are all painstakingly detailed. Hamilton’s friendships, and the love/hate relationships he had with his enemies are laid bare, buttressed by words from his own pen taken from primary source material Chernow unearthed from numerous sources.

Of all who had a hand in laying the foundation of our nation, only Hamilton would recognize the United States of America’s commercial rise since those early years, as he seemed to be the sole voice predicting that she would financially rise and grow. Chernow outlines the battles Hamilton endured to ensure that our country would prosper, and the many ways he is remembered today – from Wall Street to Banks, to the Coast Guard to the still running New York Post newspaper and more. Reading “Alexander Hamilton” enlightened me, and helped me see parts of American history that I either didn’t know or hadn’t thought of in years. I know it will do the same for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Dead to you” Lisa McMann

Rated 2 stars ** Simon Pulse. 2012. 243 p.

Dead to youEthan was seven when he was kidnapped, and is reunited with his family nine years later. At first things are strange between him, his parents, younger brother Blake, and little sister Gracie. He’s upset he can’t remember old family photos, relatives or neighbors, but is sure his memories will resurface. Ethan also has to deal with Blake’s jealousy and increasing anger at his presence. After a few months things start to settle, but a ringing doorbell forever changes life for Ethan.

I absolutely DESPISED the ending, and thought it was a complete copout on the author’s part. Why couldn’t she have given a real ending instead of those final three words? I feel like she sold Ethan out, as well as her readers. I was definitely not a happy camper, and took off one star because of the very bad ending.

Though I was EXTREMELY upset with the way the book ended, I will leave it up to you readers, ages 14 and older, to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“Shout” Laurie Halse Anderson

Rated 5 stars ***** Viking (Penguin Random House). 2019. 291 p. (Includes Resources on Sexual Violence and Mental Health for readers.)

ShoutIn free verse, Laurie Halse Anderson tells her story of constantly having to move due to her father’s job, of being poor, of having to attend many different schools, and of being raped by someone she considered a friend at the young age of 13. After her assault Anderson details the many coping mechanisms she used to try to cover the raging anger she now felt, including getting high, cutting classes, and getting drunk. It was only after spending 13 months in Denmark as an exchange student, during her senior year of high school, that Laurie finally began to feel some of the scar tissue within begin to heal.

Anderson’s journey towards healing, and how those healing steps helped her become a writer, are interspersed with outrage towards those who foist themselves on boys and girls, friends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, cousins and anyone who didn’t say “yes” to those advances. She offers strong encouragement and strength towards those who suffer in silence from the pain of sexual assault or rape.

Laurie doesn’t pull punches as she shouts out her outrage, calling out the Principal who cancelled the rest of her appearances at his school, after the first of three sessions “because those things [sex, rape, bodies touching, consent, and violence] don’t ever happen in his school” (p. 187). Censorship of “inappropriate books” also met the steely beam of her eyes, reminding us (and censors) “Censorship is the child of fear, the father of ignorance, and the desperate weapon of fascists everywhere.” (p. 191.)

In short, “Shout” loudly, lovingly and firmly gives victims of sexual assault the strength to stand firm, to speak their pain, and to rise up from the ashes knowing they’re not alone. The #MeToo movement gave voice to that which had had been hiding in the shadows for too long. However, with her memoir, Anderson takes that movement and puts it on an amplifier, giving knowledge and courage to her readers, infusing them with power and strength so they can also #MeToo and shout out their pain as they heal.

“Shout” is raw and truthful; a description of what happens when a slice of life is stolen from unwilling victims. Anderson’s pain from being a victim of sexual assault is your pain. Her fight to rise above her pain is your fight. Her courage to keep going forward is your courage. Her voice to educate others is your voice. Her healing is your healing. Her shout of victory is your shout.

I am going to predict “Shout” will win the 2019 YALSA Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature at the upcoming American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia, along with many other awards. When it wins, remember you read it first on my blog. I will be at that conference, and plan to SHOUT VERY LOUDLY at the ALA Youth Media Awards for Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Shout.”

Highly recommended for teens ages 14 and older, as well as Adults.

 

 

 

“May the road rise up to meet you” by Peter Troy

Rated 5 stars ***** Doubleday. 2012. 386 p.

May the road rise up to meet youMary Wilkens and Micah are southern slaves in 1853; Ethan McOwen survived the great famine of Ireland in 1847, while Marcella Arroyo (Abolitionist and feminist) is a Spanish immigrant living with her rich family in 1860 New York. Spanning the years from 1847 until 1867 the evils of slavery, along with the horrors of the Civil War, are described for readers. All have roles to play in the stories of these four characters as, with losses to endure and tears to cry, their stories eventually intertwine. Readers learn that there are good people in an evil world, and that good can come from bad – especially when you can’t see the whole picture of what’s happening.

This novel is reminiscent of great, sweeping historical dramas like “Roots” and “Gone with the wind.” The storyline jumps from person to person, so can become confusing. For example I’ll read about Ethan for a while then the storyline goes to Marcella for a few chapters. Afterwards I’ll read about Mary for a bit, then it meanders to Micah’s story. By the time the story returns to Ethan I forgot what he was doing.

However the book is interesting, emotional, and has great plot twists. I love historical fiction, so was willing to overlook the back and forth dilemma to give it 5 stars.

Recommended for Adults.