Tag Archives: NYC

Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle

This is the fourth and final of L’Engle’s Crosswick Journals. I skipped the third one (The Irrational Season) because it focuses on L’Engle’s relationship to Christianity, and I’m just not interested in that topic, even if it is L’Engle writing.

Published: 1988

Genre: nonfiction memoir

Length: 232 pages

Setting: Crosswicks in 1987, NYC in the 1960s Continue reading

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Valiant by Holly Black

I’m pulling books off my reading lists that fill letters I’m missing on my alphabet challenge. This book fit the bill. I originally put it on my reading list after reading a post about strong female characters in books at The Hub.

Subtitle: A Modern Faerie Tale (there’s a whole series of modern faerie tales by Holly Black)

Published: 2005

Genre: urban fantasy

Length: 313 pages (although the book dimensions were small, so it read faster than usual)

Setting: NYC, present day Continue reading

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When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Audiobooks have been our saving grace as we drove 20 minutes to rehearsal four times a week. I was first introduced to this book by The Modern Mrs. Darcy and it caught my eye because A Wrinkle in Time is a major plot point. I’ve heard it made a good read aloud, and was excited to see the audiobook was available from our library.

Published: 2009

Genre: YA time travel fiction

Length: 199 pages

Setting: New York City, 1978 Continue reading

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Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Published: 1976

Genre: fiction

Length: 562 pages

Setting: 1970s New York City, and WWII in Aushweitz

Interest: It’s one of the Time Top 100 books of the century Continue reading

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The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon

Published: 1960

Genre: middle grade talking animal fiction

Length: 176 pages

Setting: Times Square, NYC, late 1950s (present day for when the book was written)

Interest: I’ve heard it was a good read aloud, so it was our bedtime story for a while. Continue reading

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The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

Published: 1989

Genre: historical fiction

Length: 407 pages

Setting: Cuba and NYC, 1950s-1980s

Interest: It won a Pulitzer Prize

Summary: We follow the life of Cesar Castillo. In the book, he’s an old man who’s checked himself into a hotel room to drink himself to death. He’s reminiscing about his life as a Cuban mambo player. Cesar was originally from Cuba. He and his brother, Nestor, left their farm to become musicians, first in Havana, then in Miami, and finally moving to NYC. While their group, the Mambo Kings, never made it huge, they enjoyed moderate levels of fame. Nestor eventually settled down (although was never truly happy), but Cesar continued to party his way through life. Cesar was always looking for the next gig, drink, or lady to forget his troubles with.

Final thoughts: This book did a great job describing a particular ethnic scene I didn’t know much about – Cuban exiles. That being said, the amount of sex described throughout the book took away a lot of the enjoyment I might have gotten from the book. Cesar was always on the prowl for the latest hook-up, and he liked to remember the many sexual encounters he had. It made him seem like more of a man. Not bad enough to give up on, but not one I particularly enjoyed or would have finished if it hadn’t been for the Pulitzer Prize associated with it. It was also one of those books I just keep reading to see if it got better, but no. The end is very similar to the beginning. We just hear about different parts of Cesar’s life, but he didn’t change too much as he got older.

Title comes from: The Mambo Kings was the name of the group Cesar headlined, and one of their albums was THe Mambo Kings Play Song of Love.

Awards won: Pulitzer Prize in 1990

Reading challenges fulfilled: 6/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, an H in my Author Alphabet Challenge, and 3/12 in my Award Winning Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Hour of the Cat by Peter Quinn

Published: 2005

Genre: historical fiction/noir

Length: 400 pages

Setting: NYC and Berlin, 1938

Interest: I chose it because it seemed half-way interesting and the author’s name filled a hole in my reading challenge

Summary: There are two stories with only minor ties to each other. In NYC, Fintan Dunne, a private investigator, gets sucked into a case against his better judgement. He’s looking to prove that a man on death row was framed for a murder. Turns out, the woman was murdered by a Nazi agent to cover up the fact there was a sanitorium in NYC killing the feeble-minded. Over in Berlin, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris is the head of Military Intelligence and he’s watching Germany spiral into a pit of racial “integrity” and war-mongering.

Final thoughts: I wasn’t very impressed. I suppose it’s what I get for just picking a random book off the shelf. Every once in a while I find something great, though, so I take the duds when I get them.

I don’t like mysteries very much, so it has to be high quality to jump the bar for me. This one had a very strong noir feeling, which I’m not against, but didn’t do much for me. I also didn’t find the author’s attempt to link the NYC and Berlin stories to be very effective. That meant every time he jumped from one place to another, I found it very jarring. This is the first in a trilogy featuring Fintan Dunne, but I won’t be looking for any others.

What the author did well was provide a feeling for pre-war America and Germany and how easily eugenics were implemented. So many people found those with mental or physical disabilities to be a drain on the state, until they had a family member that fit that classification. I’ve read quite a few stories set in WWII, but the pre-war vibe is different that the during the war vibe. That was interesting.

Title comes from: I honestly don’t know – usually there’s something I can figure out, but I’ve got nothing on this one.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 45/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, and a Q in my author Alphabet Soup Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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