Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Chapter 11

Chapter 11, Mrs. Poppy’s Party

Preparing for Christmas is big in the Ray household and there are many secrets in the mix.  Everyone is waiting to see Margaret’s face when she gets a talking doll on Christmas morning.  In addition to her new English bob, she has big eyes in a serious face.  The long black lashes seemed not so much to shade them as to make them bigger and brighter (foreshadowing!).  The Rays trim the tree on Christmas Eve just like my family.   Betsy hangs her new red ball.  They add strings of popcorn and cranberries.  Finally, the candles are lighted.  Bits of live flame danced all over the tree, and it’s a Christmas miracle that the house doesn’t burn down.  They read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
The next day there are stockings and gifts and the first appearance of joke presents.  Betsy got one of her own much-chewed pencils “With Sympathy from William Shakespeare.”  Betsy receives a copy of Little Men.  It is a happy day, and there is no post-Christmas letdown because the following day is Mrs. Poppy’s party.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - June 26, 2020

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Bookwanderers (Pages and Co. #1) - imagine if you could wander into your favorite book

Title: The Bookwanderers (Pages and Co. #1)
Author:  Anna James
Publication: Philomel Books, hardcover, 2019
Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction/Fantasy/Series
Plot: Eleven-year-old Tilly Pages has taken refuge in the books at her grandparents’ bookstore since the loss of her mother. But when her favorite characters “wander” into the shop, Tilly learns she can follow them into their stories and her adventures begin. Can she use Bookwandering to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance?

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Chapter 10

Chapter 10, Christmas Shopping

Wondering about her story, Flossie’s Accident (which I keep wanting to call Flossie’s Head – I think that must be how it has been colloquially discussed over the years), Betsy asks her father how long it takes a letter to go to Philadelphia.   He says two or three days.   Except that Betsy waits and waits and The Ladies Home Journal does not send her $100.  Julia is curious about who Betsy knows in Philadelphia.  As an older sister, I know that feeling of wondering what on earth your sibling is up to now!

“The King of Spain maybe,” said her father.  He was teasing.  For when Betsy, Tacy and Tib were only ten years old and didn’t know any better, they had written a letter to the King of Spain.  They had received an answer, too.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - June 20, 2020

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books.  Yes, I have hundreds of unread books in this house but hearing some of my library holds were ready made me do a little jig!
I was so excited to drive to Newton for Library-to-go curbside pickup yesterday!  In addition, as I drove past a small library in a nearby town, I saw a rack of books they had put outside, presumably as discards to compensate for not having their curbside pickup up and running. Naturally, I stopped to investigate! I helped myself to copies of An Old-Fashioned Girl (one of my favorite Alcotts) and an entertaining YA I read several years ago called The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You (a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing) which I think my nieces would enjoy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sorting Author Mail

Most of my publishing career was in sales but I spent about a year as an editor at Penguin USA.   I learned many things during that time, of which the oddest was the snobbish rivalry between editors of literary fiction and popular fiction, also sometimes manifested as hardcover books vs. paperback books.   The latter sometimes occurred on the sales side too but that is another story.  Or three.

One day I heard the editorial assistants had been told to spend a Friday afternoon dealing with fan mail.  They were bribed with pizza and soda to do this about twice a year.  I offered to help which surprised them (hierarchy) but won me a few friends.
Several huge boxes of mail appeared and were dumped onto a conference room table.  We each took a handful and started to go through it.   It was completely amazing the way people addressed/sent letters and, based on how they were addressed, even more surprising they actually reached us at Hudson Street.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Chapters 8 and 9

Chapter 8, Mrs. Poppy

Betsy is thoroughly enjoying her adventure at the Melborn Hotel, as is her rescuer, Mrs. Poppy, who telephones Mr. Ray for permission so Betsy can stay.  “There’s time for a real party,” she tells Betsy and asks if she would like to take the elevator or the stairs.  Betsy hesitates although not for my usual reason of a reproachful faux-Fitbit.   She has never ridden in an elevator but the grand staircase of the Melborn Hotel is very impressive!  “The stairs,” she said.  “And the elevator coming down.”  They pass a statue of the Winged Victory as they ascend.  Headless.  Mrs. Poppy explains that it is Greek.   Betsy takes it in stride, feeling well prepared by her Greek mythology reading earlier in the day.
At the top of the stairs is the hotel’s two-story dining room, overlooking the river.  This is where Deep Valley’s elegant dances with orchestras take place (foreshadowing!).  Mrs. Poppy asks a maid for hot chocolate but they continue to her private apartment which has parlor, den, bedroom and bathroom but no kitchen or dining room as the Poppys dine in the hotel dining room or have food delivered.    Betsy notices a small rocking chair with a doll in it.  When she asks if the doll belonged to Mrs. Poppy as a child, Mrs. Poppy tells Betsy it belonged to her daughter who died.  Betsy feels sad but doesn’t know how to respond.  Mrs. Poppy explains that is why she enjoys other people’s children and asks Betsy about Tacy and Tib.  Betsy guesses from what Mrs. Poppy says that she is lonesome.  Mrs. Poppy admits it is hard to make friends, living in a hotel.   She gave up her career in musical comedy to marry Mr. Poppy.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - June 13, 2020

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves, and this bottom shelf is truly a mixture of books read and unread.
My mother read The Sword in the Stone to my sister and me when we were about 6 and 9, and I read the rest of The Once and Future King as a teen, finding a copy identical to hers at the Barnes & Noble buying office around 2000.   It was like a treasure trove there and I rarely left empty-handed.  Back in the day, the B&N bookstore buyers received a copy of nearly every book published, most of which they didn’t want, so would pile them on shelves in the hall.  Even after budgets got cut, we still sent copies of books we thought someone would like or should see.   However, once with great difficulty, I got Ken Dryden’s memoir autographed for the sports buyer and on my next visit I saw it discarded on a shelf.   “Lisa!  Did you even notice it was inscribed to you?!” I said with annoyance, forgetting the client is always right.   The freebies were really not meant for the publishers’ sales reps but if we saw something we wanted we would either grab it or ask for permission to grab it!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Five Things

1.     I ordered the new Jane Casey from the UK in February for my sister’s birthday and it finally arrived on Sunday night.  In June!   Wasn’t it nice of me to wrap and deliver it the next day instead of reading it myself first?   If you have not read this suspense author, start with book 1 about feisty Maeve Kerrigan.  
2.     Did you ever think you would hear about a Nascar driver named Bubba who wants to rid the sport of the Confederate flag?   Brave guy!   Maybe the world is changing!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte - a deaf girl reveals the blindness of others

Title: Show Me a Sign
Author:  Ann Clare LeZotte
Publication: Scholastic Press, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction
Setting: Massachusetts, 1805
Plot: Mary Lambert has grown up on Martha’s Vineyard in a community that has consisted of deaf and hearing individuals for generations. Mary is deaf but has never felt isolated because nearly everyone she knows uses sign language.  However, lately, she has felt sad and lonely; her family is still grieving the unexpected loss of her older brother George, and Mary’s grief is intensified by her belief she caused his accident.   When a researcher comes to the Island to investigate the Island’s deaf culture, he assumes she is not intelligent and it is the first time Mary has been treated as having a disability.  When he decides to use her as an experiment, Mary must rely on her own skills to save herself.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: from Normal People to Over Sea, Under Stone (Modern Dublin to the Holy Grail)

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where one ends up.   This month’s starting point is Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018):
I read Rooney’s first book Conversations with Friends last year but found the lack of quotation marks pretentious and the characters unlikable.  I doubt I would have finished if it hadn’t been for my book group.  However, this one seems more interesting and the new miniseries is getting great reviews (except from the Bishop!) so I suspect I will try it some time. 

Can you think of instances where a movie or miniseries is significantly better than the book? 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - June 5, 2020

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves, and this week I have been visiting my Lorna Hill collection, which usually means traveling to the north of England or London.   I realized last weekend there are several of her books I never got around to reading, and I have been rectifying that omission.  I like her determined heroines, usually obsessed with career aspirations, who are charming but imperfect and lose their tempers regularly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Chapters 6 and 7

Chapter 6, Betsy’s Desk

Now that she has been to the theatre to see Uncle Tom's Cabin, Betsy is curious about her actor uncle.  Mrs. Ray clearly misses her brother very much since he ran away from home.   She describes how he looked like her with red wavy hair and had Julia’s skill with singing and piano but also wrote stories like Betsy.  Betsy absorbs every word.