REVIEW: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (2016)

A friend from book club told me her daughter had written her first novel, and as a “collector”of debut novels, I was immediately interested.  I had to wait a couple of months for the book to come out for sale, but the novel was well worth waiting for!

It is the story of the Barbizon , a “proper” and safe hotel, a “suitable” residence for young women searching for fame, careers, and husbands in New York City.  The Dollhouse is set in (and chapters alternate between) the 1950’s and 2016.  It is the  story of Darby (and Sam and Esme, her new friends) in 1950.  Darby is a student at The Gibbs Secretarial School, a “plain girl” hosteled on then same floor of the Glamorous Ford Agency models.

In 2016, Rose, also a Barbizon girl, is employed as a journalist and has a tinge of scandal of her own. Her lover, Griffin, who has political aspirations and Jason, a photographer who helps Rose investigate Darby’s scandal and mystery, also appear in the story.

But, most of all it is the story of The Barbizon .

For me, this was a fascinating read, a real page turner which reveals its mystery  like the peeling of the layers of the cliched onion. I would give this fantastic novel a 5 out of 5 rating .

My Own Little Reading Marathon Report Part II

Reading Log for 24 hours of the marathon

Sunday, Sept. 4th

Noon:Marathon begins:

12:00 p.m. Continued reading Song of Susanna, Book 6 of The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. I’ve never heard of a writer writing himself into a book as a character!

12:35 Houston Chronicle Sunday paper

1:08 snack break

1:10 Back to Song of Susanna

2:00 changed pace by reading children’s chapter book, Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson finished  (delightful/adults will love too)

3:00 Housework “break”

3:30  Sunday School quarterly and lesson notes

4:00 Sunday Houston Chronicle

5:00 Song of Susanna

5:30 Supper break

6:00 Song of Susanna (finished) Can’t wait for Book 7/Book 6 leaves you hanging (on purpose)

7:00 Break to read and reply to book blogs

9:00 Started Library Book, Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

10:00 Sleep Break

Labor Day

1:30 a.m. Resumed Dear Committee Members

2:30 a.m. Coffee and snack Break

2:45 Began Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

4:15 Resumed reading Dear Committee Member

5:00 Finished Dear Committee Member and took ten minute break

5:10 Resumed reading The Dollhouse. (GREAT read, wanted to keep turning pages)

7:30 break and Breakfast (prepared by husband/more coffee)

8:00 Monday morning Houston Chronicle (more coffee)

9:00 Sleep break (coffee didn’t work)

11:00 a.m. New Yorker (Sept. 5th issue) short story “A Gentleman’s Game”

11:20 Lunch Break

12:00 noon End of Marathon

Later that afternoon and evening, Monday, I finished The Family (a book bought from Deadalus Bookstore in NY that has been sitting around unfinished for at least six months) and finished The Dollhouse.

I felt the Marathon was a complete success because my primary goal was to whittle down my TBR stack, and I did. Plus, I finished my library book way before it was due and can now take the non-fiction The Family to Half-Price Books next trip.

 

My Own Little Reading Marathon–Report Part I

Well, it was a long twenty-four hours, but it’s done, and I’ve rested. (some)

Here are the results:

Finished books    3

Read whole book    1

Started and almost finished books    2

Total hours sleep during marathon    3

Good meals eaten (with help from husband) 4

Loads of wash done (with help of husband) 2

Snacks (mostly leftovers left in bags of assorted chips, crackers, candy, etc.)     plenty!

Cups of coffee consumed     approximately 5 (not too bad!)

 

Rating: Success

Thanks for taking an interest!

 

 

 

My Own Little Reading Marathon–Join In

Because my TBR (To Be Read) pile is so high,and…

Because about four books arrived in the mail this past week, and…

Because school started and I had no time to read,

I am having my own, personal Reading-Marathon.  It will run from noon Sunday, Sept. 4th through noon Monday, Labor Day, Sept. 5th. I will read, read read.  If I understand correctly, one of the most important things in a marathon of this sort is having snacks on hand, which I took care of today, for I do not wish to go to any grocery store on the Labor Day weekend. I have also prepared meals ahead, so I can warm up lunches and dinners in thirty minutes (included eating time!) I will report back Monday afternoon on what books which I’ve already started I finished up and what new books I started or read.  Wish me luck, and join me if you do not have family plans for Labor Day. Write here or to my personal e-mail to let me know if I will have company.

Good luck and do lots of reading!     Rae

 

 

 

DOLL HOSPITAL SERIES OF GIRL’S BOOKS byJoan Holub

This children’s series of books is an old-fashioned read for little girls who like and/or collect  dolls. I found the first book of the series, “Tatiana Comes to America: An Ellis Island Story”, at Half-Price Books, and at $1.99 scooped it up for my Little Free Library. At the time of publication (2002, by Scholastic), book two and three of the series had also been published, and books four, five, and six were “promised.”

The story is simple. Mom and Dad, both humanitarian doctors, are off to Africa to help sick people there. Rose, the elder daughter wonders why they “…can’t just help sick people in America instead.” She and Lila, the younger daughter are about to be “parked” at their Nana’s for a year. What the girls discover at Nana’s is that the turret of Nana’s Victorian house is set up as a doll hospital where broken dolls are mended ,”refreshed” and restored to former glory by Nana’s nimble fingers.  Eerily enough, as Nana mends Tatiana, a doll- “patient”, with the girls  listening and learning to help, Nana channels the doll and speaks for Titania, telling her “life’s story.”

There are many humorous moments (What! no TV!  and Nana, herself who first appears to the girls as an aged hippie complete with love beads and lava lamp along with the resident  four cats named after the Beatles), and they are complimented by the delightful, typical Scholastic illustrations. My $1.99 was well spent and make this little paperback the best book investment for my LFL I’ve made in a while.

 

ARF by NY Times Bestselling Author, Spenser Quinn (pub. 2016)

ARF is the latest in the impossibly “cute” (in the good sense of the word) Bowser and Birdie novels, which I predict will be a vey successful series for Quinn. As one blurb on the back of the book says, “Imagine Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird setting out to solve a mystery with the aid of a charming, slobbery dog. ” The “kicker” is the story is told from Bowser’s point of view, which tends to skew the clues, plot, and general denouement.

Here’s a random example of the dog, Bowser speaking after hearing someone say a minor character doesn’t like dogs,”Not fond of dogs? I tried hard to figure out what that meant, couldn’t quite get there.”  Birdie’s voice interrupts, “So…what we need is for the sheriff to…to find out on his own!” She credits Bowser  with the thought that comes to her mind and calls Bowser a genius. Bowser again: “What was this? I was a genius? Sounded good. I hoped to find out what it meant one day.”  Bowser is never anthropomorphic; he is just plain “dog,” distracted from duty by the smell of bacon and spells of losing focus when he smells a big, bad snake under the garage (which has a BIG role in “getting” the bad guy).

This is a delightful read, a bit predictable in places ,but with twists and turns that stop the reader dead in his tracks.  Plenty of pompous, clueless adults and kids- with- issues make up the cast of characters in this page-turning read.

This book sent me into giggling like someone Birdie’s age ,and at the same time left me with an Aaaaawwwww feeling.

Back to School Giveaway Is Over

At the Little Free Library in my yard, ever since last weekend I have been placing free school supplies (animal-themed folders, notebooks, mechanical pencils, pens, markers, erasers etc.) a few at a time in the LFL to entice kids to open the door and see the books inside.  Usually I have a few bright first- readers-books bought from Half Price Books or provided by the across-the-street- elementary school’s book drives; a few really good chapter books for fourth and fifth graders; some YA novels and at least a Debbie McComber or Nicholas Sparks (or good, page-turning mystery) for Moms to read in the car-riders pick up line. I have as many cars stop (We are on the main drag leading into the subdivision.) as I do curious students walking the sidewalks, probably more, for the kids are always looking down at their phones.

Even with the stormy, humid weather, the attempt was a success.  Today marked the end of the first week of school, and there are about six books of various and sundry descriptions left.  All the “prizes” have disappeared.  Even better, three cozy mysteries and a “young person’s” romance have magically appeared.  Thank you neighbors!

I plan to clean down to the bare bones inside and out (It will take clorox) and make a trip to Half Price Books with books contributed from a friend who is downsizing and just wants to get several boxes of older books “out of here.” Then we should be back in business by Monday or Tuesday.

The next big event is Halloween with Trick or Treating in the side yard where the library is located and Halloween decorations and items like fake spiders from the Dollar Store in the LFL for the taking.  I have about twenty-five Goosebumps books, Halloween mysteries, Werewolf and other Monsters books which will be free for the taking.

Last year we had a storm, including a tornado which passed over us on the way to the next town down the highway. Halloween activities around town were cancelled.  Pray for good weather.

 

THE HEART GOES LAST by Margaret Atwood

This book is downright bizarro-funny! It takes place in the future, but it is not the stately, lit-quality of THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE, a classic in Freshman College Anthologies.  Think Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas, sexbots, and The Green Men Group, an ecologically-correct parody of The Blue Men Group. Put all these in a nursing home, a casino, and in the middle of a rescue-kindapping, and you have a furiously fast-paced, laugh-out-loud (even if you shouldn’t!) read.

Charmaine and Stan, her husband are living out of their car when they hear of the too-good-to-be-true offer from the gigantic Positron conglomerate/company to give people a better life.  What the offer involves is living in a wonderful, idyllic, retro-fifties home and lifestyle for six months of the year, then living in prison for the next six.  A couple is not to have any contact with the “other couple” who occupies their home the six months they are in prison…and there’s where the fun begins.

This is Margaret Atwood having fun, yet making points about conformity, corruption of money and/or power on individuals, and the evils of mega-corporations who strive to take over the world.

It was a quick read and made me want to go back and see if Atwood had any short stories in my (paper) back issues of The New Yorker, tucked into my book closet with magic marker notations on the cover, “Have read all but the Fiction section.”

Children’s Classic, THE BIG GREEN BOOK by Robert Graves, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

The Big Green Book literally is a Big. Green. Book. When I picked it up at the Alvin (TX) library, after being intrigued by some drawings from it used in illustrations in the BRAIN PICKINGS column, I hugged it to me, enjoying the look and the “feel” of the book.

Although published in 1962, the text and the illustrations, particularly, have not lost their charm. It is the wonderful story of a young boy who lives with an indifferent aunt and uncle (Move over, Harry Potter.) who finds a big green book hidden under a sack in the attic.  To his amazement, instead of stories, the book is full of magic spells. The book is humorous and reflects spells and magic in a kinder, gentler way, perfect for sensitive children who might be frightened by Harry Potter’s power or who may  not be old  enough to appreciate him.

The book, both text and illustrations, is “sweet”.

TRU AND NELLE by G. Neri

If you liked The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Sherlock Holmes, you’ll love the adventures of Truman Capote (author of In Cold Blood) and Nelle (Ellen spelled backward) Harper Lee (author of To Kill A Mockingbird). As young friends in the tiny town of Monroeville, Alabama, during the Great Depression, Tru and Nelle become acquainted. The novel opens with even less than usual going on in the slow-moving, small town.

This book is written as fiction based on fact, and the author “recasts their time together” in a narrative that is engaging and probably very close to accurate.

Many cases open up to Sherlock Holmes (Truman Capote) and Watson (Harper Lee) who are joined by “Big Boy” as Inspector Lestrade (who never had a clue, according to Nelle), aka Jennings Falk, a real resident and childhood friend of the pair. Jennings adds a section at the end of the fictionalized account as “Tall tales told by Tru and Nelle,” which he recounted.

Foreshadowings of To Kill a Mockingbird in the real persons and events from the kids’ childhood emerge, such as Sonny, a neighbor boy (who is the basis for Boo Radley, and a scene in which the Klu Klux Klan show up at Truman’s going away( costume-dress) Halloween party. The result is hilarious, entertaining reading and just plain fun.

The author’s notes at the end of the narrative deal with the eventual ending of the Capote-Lee friendship.  I felt it was an accurate surmise at what actually caused the dissolution of the friendship and maybe one reason for Harper Lee’s reclusive lifestyle.

The story itself is worth the read, but the whole volume is a good investment of one’s reading time for anyone who follows literary events and is interested in where authors get their “ideas.”

I highly recommend this 2016 publication.