A busy month is December, but I have nevertheless managed to fit in three books between the cooking and cleaning, not to mention long moments admiring our snow out of the window.
It's gone now and mild weather is supposed to come in over the next day or two but it was lovely and wintery while it lasted - about a week all told as it's been really cold here in the UK.
Anyway, books. I shall talk about the three as briefly as I can manage. First up, The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake.
Clara is Danish but is having an extended touring holiday in the UK, hiding from something that happened in Denmark. She lands up, mid-autumn, in a village called Yulethorpe which has been steadily declining since most of the shops shut. The last shop, a toyshop, is in danger of shutting too because the owner is fed up and has had enough. She's off to Spain but not before Clara suggests she run the shop for her while she's away and live in her flat above the shop. Said flat has a foul-mouthed parrot already in residence plus it's a mess so Clara sets about Hygge-fying the whole place. She also transforms the toyshop with some really good ideas. Enter stage left the owner's son, Joe, a high-flyer in The City, who cannot believe Clara has no hidden agenda but is doing all this for nothing. Sparks fly. So, I was slightly underwhelmed by this. It wasn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, it was just a bit ordinary. I presume most people know what 'Hygge' means these days, the Danish idea of being cosy and comfortable in winter, real fires, candles, that sort of thing. And the sense of that was quite nice, but not quite enough somehow, I wanted a bit more. But it was fine and I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.
Next, The Vanderbeekers of 141st. Street by Karina Yan Glaser.
The Vanderbeekers, Mum and Dad, twelve year old twins Isa and Jessie, nine year old Oliver, six year old Hyacinth and four year old Laney, live happily on 141st. Street in Harlem. Except that that happiness is shattered when the children's parents tell them that the owner of the brownstone they live in is not renewing the lease for their apt. It seems their exuberance is too much for Mr. Beiderman and he wants quieter tenants. And so begins a campaign by the children to win the house owner over, which is not easy because he never leaves his top floor apt. Neighbours talk secretly about something that happened a few years ago but the children can't discover the secret. They're to be out by Christmas so they don't have long to fulfil their mission. Can they do it? This is of course a children's book (middle grade would it be called?) but don't let that put you off, it is utterly charming and a really delightful Christmas read. The children are all very different with their own personalities and interests - Oliver reads, Hyacinth is a crafter, Isa plays violin, Jessie is a scientist etc. I loved the neighbours, and the neighbourhood, the house, all of it. This is a book set in recent years but I would say that it does have the feel of something from the 1950s or 60s. The internet is rarely mentioned and the children are allowed to roam fairly free in Harlem. I wondered if that was realistic. No matter, I really did love this charming book with its very strong sense of New York city and there are three if not four sequels. Five stars on Goodreads.
If anyone knows of any more books set in New York with a strong sense of the city I would love recommendations. In exchange I'll suggest one of my own and that is, Forever by Pete Hamill about an Irishman who moves to New York in 1741 and doesn't die, so lives throughout the city's history. I thought it was wonderful. Oh, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is fantastic too.
So, the last book is Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley.
I hope you're all well, finding some good books and are not too crazy busy to read them!
I keep meaning to read the Vanderbeekers - thank you for the reminder!
What are my favorite books with a real sense of New York? The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by Konigsburg. The Dinosaur Club by William Heffernan. Time and Again by Jack Finney. The Big Killing by Annette Meyers, a fun mystery author. China Trade by S.J. Rozan is one of Tracy's favorites.
I think you'll like The Vanderbeekers, Constance! I definitely plan to read more.
And thanks for all the New York recs, I've started a New York page in my book recs notebook and they've all gone in. Delighted with those. The Saturdays and The Mixed-up Files 'definitely' appeal as does Time and Again.
I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, too, Cath! How lovely to be reminded of it here. And The Vanderbeekers does sound good. In general, I've liked the Berkeley work I've read, although I admit I've not read that one. I may try it at some point. It's good to see you weren't really disappointed in any of your reads!
The Vanderbeekers does sound like a charming and fun read. And it's too bad The Hygge Holiday wasn't a bit more engaging...I liked the premise. So, are you ready for Christmas? I can't believe it's in less than a week. I'm just glad I get some time off from work. Hope you have a lovely week! :D
I have been curious about The Vanderbeekers series for a long while.
Might want to check this one out soon!
I haven't read anything from Berkeley, his seems not the crime-novel type I'd enjoy.
Mmm! I think the first two from your selection might not be for me, although from time to time a do enjoy a good dose of 'feel good' storylines, so I might bear the Rosie Blake book in mind.
My young great-nephew is so far ahead of his expected reading potential in school that the 'Vanderbeeker' series might appeal to him, unless you think it might lean a bit too heavily towards the female reader? According to FF there are now 6 titles in this series, so you have a bit of catching up to do!
Once again, according to trusty FF 'Jumping Jenny' AKA 'Dead Mrs Stratton' (A most unappealing title), is book #8 in the Roger Sherringham series. If I were to give the author a try, I might therefore start with one of his stand-alone novels. I know that one has to take into account the style of novel writing of the times, but just from reading some of the premises, I do think his style is a bit sexist maybe? - I'm tempted, but not rushing to add him to my 'wish list'!
I can't believe you have managed to fit in three books with reviews already!! :)
Margot: It's a gorgeous book, isn't it? I read it about ten years ago so maybe it's time for a reread. The Berkeley book wasn't terrible by any means but it seemed to lack feelings and felt rather clinical. No, I wasn't actually disappointed with any of my December reads so far but the trouble with trying to read in December is that there are so many distractions. I'm actually looking forward to January.
Lark: I think I would recommend The Vanderbeekers to you because I know we have similar reading tastes. :-) Not quite ready for Christmas but getting there thankfully!
Fanda: I can heartily recommend The Vanderbeekers if you like a family orientated Christmas read. It's an easy read at this time of year. I don't think I'll be trying any more Berkeley books.
Yvonne: The Rosie Blake wasn't bad to be honest, and I got to the end so there's that. LOL
Hmmm, that's a good question. No, I don't think The Vanderbeeker book is too heavily slanted towards girls. And it features a boy who loves reading so that might be a good role-model for your great nephew, and he also loves basketball. It's great that your great nephew is so far ahead of his reading potential!
I think perhaps 'sexist' was fairly normal back in the 30s so that didn't bother me too much. It was just that they spoke about this woman in a horrible manner, 'waste of space' that sort of thing, when she clearly had mental issues. I know they weren't up on that sort of thing in the 30s but it felt like a clinical and cold way to refer to someone who they thought had committed suicide. To be honest it's probably just me although I gather Berkeley's writing can be a bit of an acquired taste.
I will have to think about what books I have read have a strong sense of New York. I like series set in New York but then you have to read a good bit of them sometimes to get much sense of the city.
The Nero Wolfe books are mostly set there and Archie walks through New York a lots; the setting would be between the 1930s and the 1960s. Constance mentioned the series by S. J. Rozan, which is set partly in China Town and other times in other parts of the city and is more contemporary. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is New York City circa 1938.
I have not read anything by Berkeley, maybe because the books haven't been easy to find until recently?
Tracy: I've just started The Maid (I think we talked about that elsewhere) which is New York, so that's a start. I'll make a note of the other books and series you mention. Thanks for that.
Cath, last night I realized that the current book I am reading, A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks, is set in New York, in 1910, and I think it is a pretty good depiction of the city at that time. I noted that it contrasts the various neighborhoods and living circumstances of the rich and the poor in that city. The story is told from the point of view of a maid for a very rich family in New York.
I was sure The Maid was set in NYC but then I read Tracy's review and decided she was right, that it was probably Toronto. We'll see what you think!
By the way, did the snow last? It is freezing here; I am about to go to bed to keep warm but only rain forecast for Christmas which is just fine with me.
Tracy : Oh excellent, I'll make a note of the book you're reading, it sounds like a perfect read for New York. Thanks very much!
Constance: I don't know why I assumed The Maid was set in New York. Possibly because it doesn't say and I just assumed, silly me. I'll go back and read Tracy's review when I've finished the book.
Our snow stayed for about a week as it got quite cold and didn't melt. I gather you have a huge storm approaching... take care.
Cath, when I was reading The Maid, I assumed the setting was New York City. Then I read something that assumed the setting was a big city in Canada, and I realized that could be true. So that was basically what I said in my review. I don't know where I read that, and I still can't think of anything in the book that verifies that one or the other. Possibly the author intended it to be that way.
And I meant to include this... An Amazon editor describes Molly as "a twenty-something maid working in a New York hotel".
The snow is so pretty! I miss the wintry loveliness of it, but not the shoveling, scraping it off car windows, walking through it, etc. My poor parents have been snowed in in Washington State and I don't envy them that.
I can't think of any good New York books other than A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. Hmmm...
Tracy: I don't think there was anything in the book which hinted at where it was set. I just assumed New York but I think the author is Canadian so it could easily be Toronto. Perhaps the author was deliberately obtuse so that we can set the hotel wherever we fancy.
Susan: Well quite, snow is really pretty to look out on but not so much fun when you have go out in it and get somewhere.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a wonderful book.
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