A Cozy Nook to Read In  Book Vignette

A     B O O K L O V E R S '     P L A C E


Books, books, books!
Is there anything better than losing yourself in a good book,
whether fluffy novel or scholarly tome?
This blog is for long and short reviews of books read,
essays about book series, memories of books,
quotations, and anything else with a literary bent.
 

29 September 2008

Found on Google Books

Four bound volumes (at least) of St. Nicholas magazine have been "digitized" and placed online at Google Books!

November 1878 through November 1879

November 1893 through April 1894

November 1914 through April 1915 (with vintage ads!)

May 1921 through October 1921

Also, here are a couple of bound volumes of other vintage children's magazines:

Wide Awake, June though December 1888 (Volume AA)

Our Young Folks for the year 1873

As for what adults were reading while their kids were having fun with St. Nicholas:

Century May 1899-October 1899 (with vintage ads!)

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22 September 2008

Books Read Since August 22

• The Other End of the Leash, Patricia B. McConnell
This one should have been on the list months ago, but I handed it over to James to read and forgot to add it to the queue. McConnell, an animal behaviorist (as she mentions quite a bit), discusses the difference between human/primate body language and the body language of dogs. If I have claimed at times that Willow was driving me crazy, I can see after reading this book that we are both driving Willow crazy by saying one thing with our voice and another with our body stance. I'm trying to correct myself and the dog does seem more responsive when I remember. Anyway, an interesting read with many illustrative behavior tales about McConnell's own dogs.

• A Poisoned Season, Tasha Alexander
Lady Emily Ashton, the young Victorian widow who has astonished society by being genuinely interested in Greek antiquities and text (and who drinks port rather than the more ladylike sherry), returns in this outing that revolves around thefts of relics of Marie Antoinette and the appearance of a man who may be the heir to the French throne. While Emily helps two of her friends with their very different relationship problems, not to mention deals with her mother about her unorthodox lifestyle, she also contends with a mysterious correspondent who seems to know her every move, while her romance with her late husband's best friend procedes afresh. An enjoyable narrative which supplies seamless period detail.

• Silent in the Grave, Deanna Raybourn
Lady Julia Grey first meets Nicholas Brisbane over the dying body of her husband, whose weak heart finally fails in the opening pages of the book. From Brisbane, Julia later learns that someone has sent her husband threatening letters, but refuses to believe him. It is only when, a year later, Julia finds one of the letters herself that she asks Brisbane to look into the now-cold mystery. An heady mixture of Victorian novel of manners, mystery tale, and gothic novel (Brisbane, with his dark, powerful looks and mysterious mein—which of course begin to attract Julia—comes directly out of the Wuthering Heights mould), this is an absorbing narrative if one has the patience to stick with it. Julia's unconventional family and servants provide a great deal of color to the novel.

• September Surprises, Ann M. Martin
It's back-to-school time for Flora Northrup, Nikki Sherman, and Olivia Walter, and this time it's a big step: from their elementary school to the big comprehensive junior/senior high school. Olivia, who has skipped a grade, is afraid she'll be bullied or ignored, and sure enough, a classmate begins demanding Olivia let her copy her homework. In the meantime, Ruby Northrup's class becomes pen pals/benefactors for a school in Florida destroyed by a hurricane, Min and Mr. Pendleton see more of each other (to Flora's dismay), Mr. Willet makes preparations to leave the Row Houses, and the girls' Aunt Allie has a disturbing secret. Yet another good story from Martin. What? There's not another until spring? Egad!

• About Time, The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who, 1985-1989, Tat Wood
The sixth and final volume in the volumnous Mad Norwegian Press episode guide/commentary to Doctor Who. I've discovered after reading this that I hardly remember any of the Colin Baker stories, so much was my dislike of his tenure, yet Wood makes them sound appealing. Almost. :-) I'll leave to your imagination what Wood said about the Paul McGann movie, or, as he refers to it, Grace: 1999. The movies Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth, as well as "Dimensions in Time" are covered here.

• The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan
You can look at the horrifying photos of "dusters" from the photo archives, or the pictures or newsreels of those affected, you can read the statistics about the land destroyed during the Dust Bowl—but nothing will quite equal the stories woven by Egan in this narrative of the dry times on the prairies that should have never been broken by the plow to such an extreme extent. Through the lives of the people who endured dust-choked homes, cattle dead with dirt in their stomachs, children with dust pneumonia, withered crops, blasted landscapes, and final defeat, Egan brings the Dust Bowl years to heartbreaking life. You will cry with these people and wonder how on earth they endured. Stunning.

• The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, Lauren Willig
Mary Alsworthy, once the belle of the ball and now a failed "relic" of several Seasons after her intended marries her sister (and even falls in love with her!), cannot face accepting payment from said sister to finance another Season and instead accepts the darkly seductive Lord Vaughn's business proposition: he is planning to use the tall, dark-haired beauty to bait the villainous Black Tulip, who tries to recruit ladies of her appearance. What starts out as a business relationship turns into more—this is a "Pink Carnation" book, after all!—as Mary and Vaughn's delicious verbal duels bring them closer together while circumstances contrive to drive them apart. But what is behind Vaughn's distance from the world? And what of the interested eyes Mr. St. George keeps casting Mary's way?

• From the Crash to the Blitz: 1929-1939, Cabell Phillips
This is subtitled "The New York Times Chronicle of American Life," but as far as I can tell this was the only volume produced in the "series," if one ever existed. This is a dense but readable overview of the decade between stock market disaster and invasion of Europe, with much emphasis on Government policies, broken occasionally by what was going on in the lives of everyday folks, chronicling their entertainment and means of living. What's really fascinating about this particular history, however, are the wealth of photographs and clippings scattered liberally throughout the book: famous people and events, record labels, menus, newspaper advertisements for stores, ice cream cup lids, fan magazines, baseball cards, sheet music covers, photos of radio performers, playbills, and other epherma that represent the everyday events of the era.

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How Can So Many Memories Fit Into One Little Book? #2

LOL...this is #2 because I began it last year...
My mother asked me, "Now that you're working, what are you going to do with 'all that money'?

It was, for 1978, quite a good deal of money, considering I was only working in a factory! I was living at home, paying $25/week rent, $5/week for gas, $5/week as an allowance I gave myself (since paperback books were then about $1.50, this seemed a great deal). The rest (as of the time I was laid off in 1981, about $90) went into the bank. A "big treat" back then was grabbing a book at Waldenbooks and then going to the Roast House at Lincoln Mall for "the turkey sandwich special": an all dark meat turkey sandwich on a Kaiser roll with gravy, a bowl of turkey soup, and a large coffee milk, all for about a dollar and a half. I had to pack jewelry to earn it, but there were much worse jobs (like retail and fast food) and the company was nice.

Still, now that I had money, I wanted to do something special. I wanted to go to a Star Trek convention. Ever since I'd read about them in TV Guide, it had become a dream. Specifically, I wanted to go to a Star Trek convention in New York City.

Dad was not the one to ask about this. Our vacations, now that Mom was working and we could afford it, were myriad and varied, but we never went into cities on our own. The one trip to Washington, D.C. was as part of a Colette bus tour. Dad had enough with cities driving my grandfather to Boston occasionally when Papá took his yearly trip to Italy "on the boat."

Mom said she would go with me. This was the first of three trips we took to New York City together, twice for Trek conventions and once at Christmas. To those who goggle in amazement at anyone over the age of twelve who goes somewhere willingly with their mother: Nyah! Mom and I always had a great time together, even in the so-called "difficult teens." (Did we argue? Um, sure. Lots. But we still had fun together.)

I hadn't ridden a train since I was three years old, so the entire first experience was awesome from beginning to end. We boarded the train at 6 a.m. and swayed through the length of Rhode Island and into Connecticut before the train stopped for the ten-minute-layover in the dark where they switched the engine from diesel to electricity. We passed the suburban commuter platforms that I'd only seen in movies, then descended into dark tunnels, not seeing New York until we climbed from the depths of the platform at Penn Station with our suitcases and emerged out the front door—and looked up, and up, and up! Wow, talk about the little country girl going to the city for the first time—and I was only from the suburbs!

The hotel for the convention was directly across the street from Penn Station: what was then the Statler Hilton, having previously been—and is now again—the Hotel Pennsylvania, made famous by the Glenn Miller song about its phone number, Pennsylvania 6-5000. Compared to its most recent facelift, it was pretty dowdy back then, but I was impressed, as it was the first time I was in a real hotel. The ballroom and convention floor were starting to become downtrodden, but to me the red carpets and straight-backed plush convention chairs were like something out of a fairy tale. On the stage of the ballroom I watched people I'd only read about appear in real life, including the famous Dr. Isaac Asimov, who could talk...and talk...and talk.

One of the speakers we saw at the convention was a lady named Joan Winston, who, with others, formed the original "Committee" that threw the first few Star Trek conventions. (The ones we attended were professionally run, but someone named Townsley, who didn't seem very revered.) Ms. Winston had written a book about her experiences helping with throwing the original conventions, and she was so amusing and her tales so compelling that I told my mom, "I really want to buy this book!" Alas, all the copies she had bought to the convention had been sold!

So Mom and I consulted a telephone directory and walked all the way down (or rather up!) to the Doubleday bookstore on Fifth Avenue, with me trying not to gape at the canyons of the NYC streets. We passed some of the grand old stores on the way: Gimbels, Macys, Korvettes. And when we reached Joan Winston's autograph table after her second panel, I was able to proudly say, "We walked all the way to Doubleday's for this," and she scribbed one of the best autographs ever: "Linda, I've heard of going to the ends of the earth for something...but MY book?"

When I open the book now it's as if I get two stories, the one that Joan Winston wrote and the one Mom and I wrote, from the Union Station platform to the hotel ballroom to the "sidewalks of New York" and then back again. In a rush it all comes back: the heavy scent of the train tunnels and the New York tarmac, the savory odors of Chinatown Express and La Trattoria across 33rd Street (I recall shouting out during the Penn Station scene in Moscow on the Hudson, "Look, there's La Trattoria!"), the wooden-stepped escalator and the embellished red carpet, the narrow aisles of the dealer's room and the spotlights on the guests, and that one wonderful meeting room with the fanzines for sale that, quite unknown to me then, started me for better or worse on a whole new life. How that little book doesn't burst apart from the memories I don't know!

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