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I like to think I’m not a superficial book buyer or reader (I trust you fellow bloggers to tell me about books!), but if I were to buy a book for its cover, I definitely would choose 31 BOND STREET.
Beyond the jacket, the cover language of: “A Novel of Murder, Innocence and Power in New York City” is very compelling. Additionally (like I need another reason), I walk by Bond Street at least once a day, as it’s located between my current apartment in the East Village and just about every other place I go.
Though the house of the “society dentist” in this novel no longer stands, the intersection of Bond Street and Bowery is still a hive of activity, with pedestrians walking and cabs honking all day and well into the night. Though in this novel, the setting of 31 BOND STREET was in many ways a simpler time of horse-drawn carriages, though the simple times didn’t stop evil from rooting.
Based around a murder that stole the newspaper headlines back in 1857, this novel introduces us to the widowed Emma Cunningham, struggling financially while trying to hold her place in society and raise her two daughters (less raising them than trying to rope good husbands). When a summer trip to Saratoga (which sounded like an old-fashioned Hamptons!) introduces Emma to wealthy dentist Harvey Burdell, she thinks her future is accounted for.
Upon moving in to Harvey’s brownstone at (you guessed it) 31 Bond Street, Emma awaits the marriage proposal she thinks is imminent. The short time in this abode, she alienates the servants while making the location more pleasant for her daughter’s suitors. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that while she’s sleeping with Harvey, she may not be next in line to be Mrs. Burdell.
Then Harvey is found brutally murdered, his head almost detached from his neck. With no witnesses, Emma is quickly the only suspect.
Filled with power, corruption and greed, this novel has many strands of historical significance weaving through. From the “good” lawyers to political corruption to issues of slavery and power, it is not only a courtroom drama but a colorful fictional look at a different time.
Beyond the rough-edged paper, my other favorite unique aspect of this book were the fictional clips from The New York Times, which did a wonderful job setting the scene and lending a feeling of legitimacy to the time and place.
While I enjoyed the historical imagery, throughout the book I was disappointed by the lack of emotion felt by all characters. Not once does Emma seem to consider falling in love with Harvey (or anyone else), nor does she seem to have many maternal affections toward her daughters beyond finding them a suitable husband. I found the most feelings to be from the lawyer who seems to accept Emma’s case rather spontaneously and accept the loss of position with a prestigious law firm. I also enjoyed the young character John. Beyond those, I was surprised by how unemotional the book felt, when murder trials typically incite very passionate responses.
This is a wonderful book for readers who appreciate historical details and a setting painted with a talented hand. It really did take me back to a different time period. If you enjoyed Jed Rubenfeld’s THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER you should definitely pick up 31 BOND STREET.
Thank you to TLC Book Blog Tour for planning this tour! Hop over and visit the rest of the tour stops here.
I love book blog tours and the lovely hosts at TLC, so was thrilled and honored (and more than a bit nervous) to join this tour for the recently released novel THE ONE THAT I WANT from beloved woman’s fiction author Allison Winn Scotch (visit her lively and fun blog here: http://www.allisonwinn.com/ask-allison). Though I’ve never read her previous two novels, I’m a dedicated follower of Allison on Twitter (@aswinn) and had been hoping to get my hands on her work.
The gorgeous cover initially drew me in. At first glance, it seems to depict a joyful child… when upon cracking open the spine, I realized the “child” on the front was actually Tilly Farmer, main protagonist and a woman who in her 30s had managed to maintain a childlike innocence and happiness. Married to her high school sweetheart, Tilly was content in her unchallenged, consistent, and mundane small town life.
Being from a small town myself, I understood Tilly’s comfort in her in life – knowing everyone and everything, with very few surprises. However, I related much more to the feelings of her husband Tyler, who felt restricted, as if he had settled too early and was missing out on trying new things and new ventures.
Tilly is similar to many people I knew in high school that were content to settle down and make a life for themselves and their family, on the same street they had always known and continued to go to the same grocery store and walk their dog past the same houses. I found it rather frustrating that it took magic forced upon Tilly by an old friend and fortune teller for her to open her eyes and realize that there may be more to life; that her husband may not be sharing her feelings of simple contentedness and things may not always be as they appear.
I’m not usually a paranormal reader, but the “magic” that allowed Tilly to see the future didn’t turn me off, since it just helped her open her eyes to what was already there. Tilly was a tough character for me to root for. You want people to be happy (and I totally believe in happy endings), but she was only happy in her ignorance – which drives me crazy. Like when yet another person from my small town marries their high school sweetheart without having left the state, I kept on asking myself “This is all you want from life? You’re happy with just this?”
Allison writes very convincingly of life in a small town, which intrigues me, since I know from Twitter that she lives in NYC (which is far from Tilly’s comfort zone). The one day it took me to read this book made me have feelings all over the map – a sense of comradeship with Tilly at the beginning over the comfort she feels in her small town, to disgust that she is unwilling to look at her husband’s dreams, to a feeling of “finally! You get it!” towards the end. I must admit, the ending did surprise me. I don’t think this is a spoiler, but just a warning ending is going to be discussed: I was pleased with THE ONE THAT I WANT not having a cookie-cutter happy ending, but I do wish Tilly had expanded her wings just a little bit more instead of throwing in the towel.
I enjoyed THE ONE THAT I WANT and if you’re looking for a not-totally light hearted but still enjoyable summer read, encourage you to pick this one up! While the storyline has been told before, Allison is talented at weaving in many facets (sisterly relationships, a mother’s death, a father’s drunkenness, high school memories) to make it a fresh tale.
I like to think I’m lucky.
Take me to Vegas, and it’s probably I’ll win you money (really, a Jack and a two is a winning hand for me in Texas Hold ‘Em). I enjoy the thrill of betting, though get just as excited over penny slots as hundred dollar bets (well, maybe that’s a stretch, but not having lots of extra $$ I’d have a heart attack before winning if lots was at stake).
I also love brackets. Wayyyy more than basketball. But year after year, I tend to perform well in brackets knowing nothing about the sport (see above: I’m lucky).
Luckily, in this month o’ brackets, I have more options from which to choose, and on a subject I’m knowledgeable: Books!
The Morning News is at it again with their new Tournament of Books (#ToB for your Tweeters). I’m engaged: THE HELP has already beat LOWBOY, and LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN has overtaken Nami Munn’s lovely debut, MILES FROM NOWHERE (which I read when it first came out in hardcover and found it to be amazing).
Not only are books just as exciting as basketball (or more-so, in some cases), these “competitions” are judged by well-written experts. After reading Rosecran Baldwin’s review of why he chose McCann instead of Munn, I’ve already ordered LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN and am eagerly anticipating its arrival.
On a side note, Baldwin happens to be the author of an upcoming Riverhead title, YOU LOST ME THERE (August 12), which has officially climbed up on my TBR stack after having read, and loved, his thoughts and style.
Now that you’re hooked on the ToB, who do you think will win?
Onto Bracket #2! The fabulous Jen Forbus over at Jen’s Book Thoughts, is hosting a bracket for the “World’s Favorite Detective” tournament!
I tried to revisit the bracket to give you a better rundown, but her techie site seems to think I’m trying to stack the vote (which I may have considered) and won’t let me back in. No worries, as I can about guarantee your favorite detective is included!
From classics like Agatha Christie’s Hercules, to the contemporary and swoon-worthy Elvis Cole, this bracket reads like the “who’s who of crime fiction.” Voting in Round One is occasionally like “Sophie’s Choice” – how can you reasonably choose between Kinsey Millhone (Sue Grafton) and V.I. Warshawski (Sara Paretsky).
But, as you’ve probably noticed, after touting my “lucky” status, I’m not about to jinx myself and share my predictions on the book brackets! I’ll be sure to let you know how my predictions (jotted down in a post-it somewhere) turn out…
The past several days here in NYC have been just glorious, with warm weather and sunshine finally showing up, giving me freedom from tights and the motivation to spend an exorbitant amount of money for spring-y blond highlights. There’s no better way to jaunt off to work than tightless, trenched, coffee in hand and to traipse through Washington Square Park en route.
An iconic spot, the arch at Washington Square park is recognizable and has been featured in many movies (and blown-up in some, like that Zombie, world-ending one with Will Smith). It also graces the jacket, and the title, of Joanne Rendell’s second novel, CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE.
“A charming, witty, and cerebral novel.”
-Nicola Kraus, co-author of The Nanny Diaries
Residing solidly in the chick-lit category, this title offers more than just the expected romantic encounters. Maybe because Rendell has a PhD in English Literature, this book is peppered with references to classics that I felt guilty for not having yet read. Following a likable, English teacher NYC implant from the South (fittingly, a professor of popular women’s literature), readers sympathize with her character while looking back at their own college days.
The perfect light read for a gorgeous spring day! As still a relative newcomer to the city myself, I still find cheap amusement in the awareness I have when reading about NYC. Being able to nod my head and think “yes, yes I know where her apartment is.. that street corner.. that bar” has yet to get old.
Washington Square Park is an iconic, gorgeous attraction not to be missed on your next trip to the city. There are often performers entertaining the crowds, along with sun bathers, young mothers, and readers on the bench. It’s under construction now, so I eagerly await the renovations.
If you’re lucky, you may even see a sun-bather, like the picture I was lucky to have snapped last summer:
Since I’m trying to aggregate multiple loves into one blog (books, brunch, bites and booze), I have a new plan for posting reviews on my City Imbibing page.
- I’m first going to write my review on this main page
- If the experience lends itself to a book, I will make the connection
- I will then add a shortened review to my City Imbibing section
- I know this isn’t all that exciting, but it feels like a personal epiphany
My inaugural post now begins –
“Get drunk by the fire at Shoolbred’s. We did that last winter and Fab Moretti showed up.”
— Chris Baio (Vampire Weekend Guitarist)
Shoolbreds: A neighborhood favorite (East Village – 2nd Ave btwn 12th & 13th), this bar is my go-to hangout on these cold winter evenings (afternoons, mornings…). It boasts four coveted seats by a crackling fireplace (you have to lurk, ready to pounce as soon as the seats are available) as well as a “buy one get a token for another free one” beer and well-drink special from 4-8pm every single day. Though not included in this special, they make a wonderful hot toddy (may beat my own personal recipe), delicious spinach and artichoke dip and lamb sliders. Another advantage to the flocked-velvet decor is the lack of tacky illumination due to flickering TV screens – this is moving-picture-free-zone.
My beloved fireplace experiences with Shoolbred’s does lend itself well to Winter-based novels. Two very different titles immediately come to mind:
- SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson: I reviewed this in greater detail here, but this thrilling noir mystery set in the very cold, snow covered, 24-hours of darkness country of Finland will make you shiver and have a greater appreciation for the fireplace.
- NERD GONE WILD: The antithesis of Thompson’s scary debut, this book is in Vicki Lewis’s humorous Nerd Series. It’s a cozy, quirky romance set in the wildness of Alaska, with endearing character and laughable “enemies.” This is a total guilty indulgence – get your hand out of that cookie jar and give this a try (hold the neon-colored jacket proudly).
- THE GLASS CASTLE: Most of you have probably already read this memoir from Jeanette Walls, that became a bestseller after astounded readers all over told their friends about the author’s horrible childhood. It’s a book that makes you appreciate what you have – and respect those who go without. At the same time, I hated the book and found it hard not to shake it (as a way to reach the characters), since the parents were so capable and made life hell for their children, when it may not have been necessary to suffer…
I’ll leave you with these pictures our assistant took of Central Park yesterday afternoon, of the “SnOwMG” (she was brave to venture into the weather, while I was safely ensconced at, you know this, Shoolbred’s)-
Since I know you’re all dying to know, I’ve successfully brought a healthy lunch in to work three days this week! And since I stayed home sick on Tuesday, that’s actually a 100% success rate. And todayI just zapped leftover Chinese from last night… since I did technically bring it from home, I think I’m going to count that as a “packed lunch” as well – what a way to start the year right!
While I abhor being sick (I really don’t like weakness all that much), it did give me some time to catch up on my reading. So Tuesday I coughed and hacked my way through Jennifer Weiner’s latest bestseller, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, along with the newly released #1 bestseller from Sue Grafton, U IS FOR UNDERTOW. Oddly enough, this chick-lit novel and the crime fiction tale shared similarities…
I’ve read every one of Weiner’s novels and I can’t tell you why. Pressure from society, I believe, because it definitely isn’t due to any overwhelming desire for the characters or relating to the writing. I enjoyed GOOD IN BED and IN HER SHOES enough to give GOODNIGHT NOBODY a try… But GOODNIGHT NOBODY (and now BEST FRIENDS FOREVER) attempt to tie in a crime with the relationships/bonding/family/other “women issues”, which I find unnecessary.
In BFF, the Chief of Police enters a the house of a suspect and smells her pajamas – yes folks, I am not kidding. I don’t find that sweet and sexy – I find it creepy. I want the police I read about to be enforcing the law, not skulking around remniscient of the Ohio Police Officer convicted in the eerily similar case of Sarah Jessica Parker’s surrogate!
U IS FOR UNDERTOW was my first Sue Grafton experience (though I launched into the book trustingly, since Pop Culture Nerd had positively reviewed it), though her 21st book. As I assume you know, Grafton has been working through the alphabet, consistently with Kinsey Millhone as the Private Investigator protagonist. I enjoyed this trip back to the 1980’s – a time before cell phones and the internet, and relished joining Kinsey in the library as she looked through – gasp – telephone books!
I also find Sue Grafton to be an interesting character herself, as she admits she started writing after dreaming of ways to murder her first husband. Also, she and fellow bestselling author Robert B. Parker did a little Q&A on each others Amazon pages, which is rather endearing (not to mention I admit I grabbed this book from a box under my desk – always a bonus)!
So next time you find yourself needing a sick day (though I wish you a plethora of help and happiness in the new year), I encourage you to reach for the nearest Grafton, A-U, and give her a try. I don’t actively dislike Jennifer Weiner – I especially enjoy her on Twitter, but think I need to give up on the reading of her novels as they’re not a match for me. But I welcome any thoughts you may have.
One of my many resolutions for 2010 is to be more consistent about updating my blog!! It falls higher on the list than running the elusive 5k I’ve successfully avoided the last five years, but lower on the list than trying to maintain a budget, part of which is packing my lunch vs. eating out (benefits the waistline and the wallet!).
In mid December, it occurred to me that a mere year had passed since my world was first turned upside down when I was laid off from my advertising gig in Chicago (pink slip rather a symbol of solidarity in the Recession of 2008/2009, yes?). Was I passionate about the job – No. But it could have been worse and the people there were fabulous and are still my friends today. After some indecision and stress over uncertainty, the event ultimately propelled me into my dream publishing job, for which I am undoubtedly grateful.
I look back on 2009 with fond memories, including the arrival of my nephew Alton, who has made me realize I may have more maternal feelings than I thought (which still isn’t saying much) and my move to NYC (a city that I’m really starting to appreciate the intoxication when here).
Looking back upon my, eh, totally nerdy book spreadsheet, I realize 2009 has also been a fabulous year for the written word. I know there are innumerable year-end lists floating around by those far more qualified than me, but just in case anyone is interested in the books that stood out in my eclectic reading list (disclaimer- all were read in 2009, though may have been published in different years):
- THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett: This book has appeared on many “best of” lists, including the Book of the Year (USA TODAY), #1 chosen by book bloggers (BBAW) and more. I can’t recommend it highly enough and find it offers a unique ability to immerse the reader in the time and deilect of the courageous women in the story.
- MY HORIZONTAL LIFE: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler: No literary award winner here, but as I mentioned in my original review, this book had me laughing uncontrollably over Handler’s antics and story telling. Not G-rated, but not completely smutty either.
- THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Deception by Allison Hoover Bartlett: I love books about books. While I tend to shy away from nonfiction, this “cat and mouse tale” set in the world of rare book collecting had me captivated (and seeking the elusive first edition of GONE WITH THE WIND).
- ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Brant: This novel really struck a chord within me and I found the characters compelling and utterly relatable (full review). I’ve recently rediscovered my own Sam Blaine (read the book and you’ll understand!) and have found myself frequently thinking fondly of the story.
- THE BEST OF EVERYTHING by Rona Jaffe: I have attempted to write a full review of this book so many times, but find it impossible to convey my thoughts and feelings. I think a list of the irresistible attributes are appropriate: Publishing, NYC, girlfriends, relationships, trysts, ambition, books and intertwining lives.
Ok those are my top five in no particular order. Surprisingly, all women authors (I swear I read men too – JULIET, NAKED, ROUGH COUNTRY and 13 REASONS WHY would all be in my top ten). Does anyone else have any overlap on their top titles?
Now, back to drinking hot toddies with my roommate as I try to make my sore throat disappear, prepare myself to drift into a peaceful slumber and avoid the potentially bad news I learned today. I wish you all the best in 2010 and hope to see more of you as I keep up with my resolution to be a better blogger!
Cheers & hugs-
I have the (admittedly annoying) tendency to judge people based on their grammar and spelling habits, even over informal channels such as gchat and texting. Some have complained that this practice is unfair; but until recently, I thought it was a fair testament to a person’s overall worth.
I admit, I was wrong (at least in one instance).
I’d like to introduce you all to Max (a real NYC friend!). Not the most grammatically correct gchat or texter (or best Scrabble-er), but good at fixing things and entertaining over a beer. Fed up with my correcting him and assuming he’s incapable of writing, Max recently decided to prove me wrong, with the following that he wrote on his lunch break from solving white collar crimes. Please welcome Max and I’d love to hear your thoughts:
From the desk of Max
It is the dead of winter and I am behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied Russia, 60 kilometers from Leningrad. Bundled up in my Red Army issue parka I have taken up position in a stand of trees, perched high above a clearing on the edge of the enemies’ base.
I can faintly hear what I imagine are the punch lines to jokes about killing Jews,
Something like, “eichenschleimenheimer” or “heishdenjewdemkillier.”
Looking through the scope of my Kalashnikov sniper rifle, I’ve identified six Nazi soldiers standing in a circle, huddled together for warmth. I’ve zeroed in on the Swastika emblazoned on the hat of the soldier whose voice I heard right before the group burst in laughter.
I glance at my watch – only eight minutes left before they report back to their posts among the trees. If I don’t move quickly enough I will surely be discovered and killed. I prepare to fire, switching off the safety while carefully positioning myself to kill all six of them in one burst.
My heart is pounding. My hand trembles. My vision goes in and out of focus. I am exhausted from the long nights in the trees, but there is no room for error.
Adrenaline takes over, and I go to work.
THWAP. THWAP…THWAP. THWAP. THWAP…
“Shit” I whisper. The sole survivor of my barrage dove to the ground after seeing his companions fall dead in front of him. He scrambled into the wooded area and has sought cover behind a large oak. Precious time ticks away, but he hasn’t discovered my position. 30 seconds left. He peaks his head out from behind the tree. THWAP.
I breathe a sigh of relief and lay my #2 pencil down as I return to the reality of my fluorescently lit LSAT testing center in New York City.
“Please stop writing and lay your pencils down.” booms the proctor. “You will now have a fifteen minute break after which you will begin the final two sections of your exam.”
This is only a practice exam, but that was too close for comfort. You see, since reading David Benioff’s sophomore effort “City of Thieves“, I have developed a proprietary test taking strategy for the LSAT, for which I am currently studying despite my lack of desire to go to law school (long story for another post).
At the onset of my campaign towards LSAT domination, during breaks in my studies, I would read Benioff’s novel to break the monotony of the “Logic Games” section. The novel takes place during WWII, and follows the adventures of a trio of unlikely heroes, one of whom is a Russian sniper. I enjoyed these breaks, which made the LSAT study sessions somewhat bearable, but quickly finished the book, and was left with the emptiness that only multiple choice questions can provide. So rather than thinking of each question as a series of logical premises that lead to “the best possible answer”, I started imagining myself as Vika, the sniper, my pencil as my rifle, and the questions as Nazis. Haven’t missed a question since. December 5th, test day, will be a bloodbath.
As an aside. I would recommend the book highly. Like cotton candy, it’s light, fun, and will give you a little rush, like a sugar high. I haven’t read his first book, The 25th Hour, but Benioff’s screen play adaptation was turned into one of my all time favorite movies, it’s a Spike Lee joint starring Edward Norton. If you haven’t seen it, do so. Shhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiit. (You’ll understand once you’ve seen the movie.)
“You will now have 35 minutes to complete this section. If you finish before time is called, you may check over your previous work from this section only. Do not work on any other section, and please do not disturb the other test takers. You may begin.”
I can see my breath again.
Although many argue that there’s a lack of women authors acknowledged in the literary world, I’m consistently surprised, impressed and intrigued by the women protagonists kicking ass in the mystery and thriller genre, written well by authors of both genders.
From the talented hand of Sue Grafton, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has had many bestselling mysteries and is starring in Grafton’s 21st, U IS FOR UNDERTOW out 12/1/09. There’s also V.I. Warshawski written by Sara Paretsky, the Women’s Murder Club series from James Patterson, and I’ve also discovered many strong female characters on both sides of the law in John Sandford’s titles. I’ve found the mystery genre is especially generous with women in important roles (CERTAIN PREY, my favorite Sandford title, features a hit-woman) instead of simply being the victim.
One of the most iconic and recognizable female characters is Kay Scarpetta, penned by the renowned Patricia Cornwell. Cornwell’s latest, THE SCARPETTA FACTOR, hit the NYT bestseller at #2 (behind only Dan Brown). For those rare readers unfamiliar with the series I urge you to give them a try (and I have found they’re not necessary to read in order); not only are they tantalizing and smart mysteries but you’ll want to be ahead of the media storm when, drumroll please, Angelina Jolie appears on the big screen as Kay Scarpetta (watch Cornwell share this information on Good Morning America).
Because I enjoy Scarpetta’s character, when shopping for a new mystery I found the following quote from James Patterson:
“Karen Vail is as compelling a character as any created by Patricia Cornwell, or yours truly…”
I bit it hook, line and sinker and proudly walked away from the register clutching THE 7th VICTIM by Alan Jacobson in my hands.
Some may say my standards were set too high by the Cornwell quote, but whatever the reason my disappointment was genuine. Karen Vail is supposedly a profiler (comparable to Benton), so I find it either too far fetched, or just doubt her skills, that she would be completely clueless as to the background of her own immediate family. Additionally, I understand we as readers are supposed to connect with “flawed characters” – but she was too unrelatable.
Also, I enjoy mysteries with some clues to keep the pages turning and not just assumptions, hints and lucky guessing. This book offered very little to the reader by way of the serial killings taking place and seemed to focus much more on the personal life and happenings of Karen Vail.
Bottom Line: Scarpetta gets a blackberry in her latest, and while SCARPETTA FACTOR may not be my favorite Cornwell title, it’s worth reading. While I suggest avoiding THE 7TH VICTIM for reading purposes, I think the book is very high quality as it’s been keeping my big heavy window open for the last three weeks with hardly a divet in the board of this repurposed hardcover.
**Mark your calendars to join me this Tuesday, November 24, as I guest blog about mysteries (and working on some of the biggest names in the genre) on Meritious Mysteries! **