Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Minis! Lucy by Ellen Feldman, How to Live with a Neurotic Cat by S. Baker and Letter from New York by Helene Hanff

One of my goals for 2013 (which I haven't bothered to write about -- just don't feel like writing down my goals, this year) is to attempt to keep my reviews short so I won't spend so much time online. Boy, did I fail on that count with House of Earth!  But, I feel a little more comfortable with brevity when I read off my own shelves, for some reason, so the following are mini reviews of books from my own shelves.


Lucy by Ellen Feldman is a fictionalized account of the love affair between Lucy Mercer and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  I must have had my head in the mud because I'd never heard of Lucy Mercer till recently but I love reading about Roosevelt and my interest was piqued when my friend Paula read Lucy.  She very kindly sent me her copy (so it wasn't on my shelf for long).  

I was terribly impressed with Lucy.  It's told from Lucy's point of view and is quite believable for historical fiction about real-life characters in my opinion, possibly at least in part because the author took her time describing how the relationship developed.  But, the writing also was very well done.  I've read two books by Ellen Feldman, now, and I found Lucy much more sharply drawn, the characters very well-rounded.  There were only a couple moments when I thought she drove home a point a little too fiercely and pulled me out of the story.


The author's note describes her use of letters and other documents and all indications lead to the thought that she did a rocking fine job of research.  Highly recommended.  Lucy was published in 2003 by W. W. Norton & Co. 


How to Live with a Neurotic Cat by Stephen Baker is supposed to be humorous, but it didn't play on my own cats' idiosyncracies. I think we can all agree that they're pretty unusual animals.  They're extremely active, even though they're now 4 and 3 years old, and they come running when I call them by name (unless they're deep in the midst of a nap).  They have been trained to use cardboard and carpet-covered cat scratching surfaces, so they don't rip into the furniture.  And, in the book there was absolutely nothing about cats knocking things off dressers.  Isabel is big into "Knock It Off the Dresser," (usually around 4:00 AM) "Knock it Into the Bathtub" and other similar games.  

I read How to Live with a Neurotic Cat because it's been on my shelves for eons and it's short.  I figured it would be a good book to read quickly and donate.  A friend of mine who has more cats than I do loved How to Live with a Neurotic Cat.  I gave it 2 stars and had to quickly gobble down another short book to cleanse my palette, I disliked it so much.  But, like I said, I think that's got something to do with the fact that my cats are so unique. They're really both more dog than cat, in many ways.  


I love this review of How to Live with a Neurotic Cat at Cinamaetcetera. I think it's a little more fair than what I have to say about the book, a 1985 publication of Gramercy Books (a Random House imprint).  Heh, told you it's been around a while, although I think mine was a reprint and didn't linger that long.



I got my copy of Letter from New York by Helene Hanff after reading 84, Charing Cross Road.  It took a while to acquire this book and another title of hers, since I opted to get them via Paperback Swap, and then probably at least 2-3 years for me to get around to reading Letter from New York.

As you can see from the subtitle at the bottom, "Letter from New York" was a radio spot on the BBC Woman's Hour Broadcasts during which Helene spoke about life in New York.  I think it was broadcast monthly, although I neglected to take notes.  Letter from New York is a collection of all of the writings she could find from her days in radio.  A few went missing.


I absolutely loved this book.  Her writings were just stories from everyday life and, as such, painted an intriguing capsule portrait of life in New York City in the 1970s.  Over the 6 years of her writings, things changed.  A garden that was abandoned for lack of funds was brought back to life by volunteer effort, Christmas concerts that had been free for decades began to cost money, dogs died and new ones were adopted.  Helene Hanff was dog crazy and I absolutely love her stories about the dogs in her building.  Letter from New York is, like her better-known 84, Charing Cross Road, the kind of book that you close thinking, "I'll want to return to this world, some time in the future." 


Highly recommended.  A pleasant afternoon or evening read, quick enough to zip through but enjoyable enough to savor.


And, since I've admitted I'm old because I very well could have bought that neurotic cat book in 1985, although I'm almost positive I didn't, a peek into ancient history . . . 




That's a photo I found tucked into my baby book, during the holiday break.  I am on the right, kissing big sis goodbye on her first day of "big girl school".  I don't have to confess the year, but you can probably figure it out or at least come close.  I was 4 years old; she was 6.  It always irritated her that I was never that far behind her in height.  And, of course, I had great hair.  Haha.  

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

16 comments:

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! Me, too!

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  2. I loved your reviews. I recently added 84, Charring Cross Road to my "want to read" list. It sounded good. Now I will add Letters from New York too. Thanks...

    PS I love the picture. Isn't it fun to stumble across these finds.

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    1. 84, Charing Cross Road is absolutely wonderful. The movie is terrific, too (dated, but still very good). I was surprised that I enjoyed Letter from New York every bit as much as Charing Cross. She made New York sound like such a charming, friendly place and, in fact, there's one essay about crime and how misled people from outside New York are about the place, when it really has a nice community atmosphere. Of course, that was the 70s -- long before people began to bury their faces in electronic devices.

      Thanks! Yes, it is amazing finding photos like that! That one is a real treasure. I don't recall ever seeing it, before. Need to send a copy to my sister.

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  3. That picture is adorable!

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    1. Thanks, Jill! I absolutely love it. Such a treasure.

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  4. What a fun photo. I'm pretty sure my cats issues wouldn't be addressed in this book either.

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    1. Thanks! I don't know . . . you've mentioned that your cat is lazy, right? The book is mostly about seriously lazy cats. But, it's not a self-help book, in spite of the title. It's totally goofy humor. It apparently depends on your cats, whether or not the book resonates.

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  5. I really want to read the Hanff book when I can, because 84, Charing Cross Road is one of my favorites of all time. I am so glad to hear that you loved it!! I also love that picture, and think it's so cute that your sister's outfit matched her lunchbox! That is a truly adorable picture!

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    1. Oh, yes, you must read Letter from New York, Heather. It's a great little escapist read. I felt like I'd been transported to New York City of the 70s.

      Pretty funny about the lunchbox matching her dress, isn't it? There's no date on the photo, but I know the date because I just happened to find a Christmas letter from that year. My mother mentioned big sister going off to school with her brand new, plaid lunchbox. And, then I came across the photo! I absolutely love it. Maybe I'll frame it! :)

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  6. You are off to a good start this year! I hope 2013 is a great reading year for you!

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    1. Those are all 2012 reads. I'm still playing catch-up! Almost done!! Thanks, and I wish you the same in 2013. So far, I'm definitely off to a good start. :)

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  7. I haven't heard of Lucy either.
    Great reviews.
    Ann

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    1. Well, that makes me feel better. :) Thanks, Ann!

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  8. I'm all for brevity this year, too, but it's more difficult than I thought it would be! ;)

    I love Helene Hanff and need to make time to reread her books. I think I have 2 or 3 on my "keeper" shelf.

    I absolutely adore that photo of you and your big sis. I think I may have had a dress just like hers. :)

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    1. Yes, I've found that I have a lot of difficulty with brevity *unless* I'm doing a monthly wrap-up and force myself to keep my comments within a sentence or two. Amazingly, that does the trick.

      Helene Hanff is awesome. I have one more of her books on my shelves. The two I've read are keepers, for sure.

      Thanks! Isn't that a great photo? Funny! I love that dress. Plaid must have been the in thing, that year.

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