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The Best Way to Start A New Year

The Children's Bible - By Lydia Millet

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie - By Marie Benedict

The Lions of Fifth Avenue - By Fiona Davis

Happy New Year readers! Can you believe that we survived 2020? We can only hope for better days in 2021. I am so happy to report that my New Year’s Resolution for 2020; to start a book review blog, actually happened and I am thrilled to say that I successfully reviewed 41 books in 2020. Not as many as the 52 that I had hoped for, but still not so bad.


For 2021, I have taken on some new projects so I won’t be able to post as often but I am going to try and do one book review a month and I am thrilled to say that I will start off the year by reviewing three novels! Two of the novels are Historical Fiction, my favorite genre, and one is Fiction. I tried to start the year out in a good relaxing way. Sitting by the fire and curling up with a couple of good books. What could be better? I hope that throughout what could be a long winter for all, you will also take the time to curl up with a good book. These are tough times, but try and make the best of them because once the world reopens for good, you may be wishing for these slower less hectic days.


Here are my three picks to start off your year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


A Children's Bible

By: Lydia Millet


Named one of the New York Times Book Review’s Top Ten Books of 2020, The Children’s Bible is a novel that starts out like any other story. A group of families, old friends from college, have gotten together to rent a massive house for the summer. The children are all bunking up in the attic while the parents spend their days lounging around drinking, and their nights taking it a step further with drinking, dancing, and even recreational drug use. The children, who range in age from 8 years old to 18, have had it with their parents. They look at this older group of adults as pathetic relics who are trying to relive their glory years and who have sadly neglected their children in the process.


The narrator of the story is 16-year-old Evie. Evie accurately describes all of the children, she proclaims that there are simply too many of them. She also vaguely describes the parents. The children have a game they play where they do not admit which parent they belong to. It makes the reader wonder if it’s just because it’s a fun game or because the children are utterly embarrassed by their parent’s behavior.


We know that Evie has a 9-year-old brother named Jack and that she is very overprotective of him and is also his primary caregiver. Evie and Jack come from Brooklyn and are the offspring of a college professor and a very talented and successful artist. Jack is an avid reader and one of the other parents has given him a Children’s Bible to read. Evie and Jack’s family is not at all religious, but even so, Jack is fascinated by the stories, especially the story of Noah’s Arc and The Great Flood. Soon he starts noticing similarities between real life and the biblical stories.


As in Jack’s story of Noah’s Ark, a great storm comes to their gilded summer mansion and floods the entire house and property. Rather than hunker down and prepare for the storm, the parents fall apart and instead partake in an evening of Ecstasy and hedonism much to their children’s disgust. As usual, they choose to pretend a problem doesn’t exist rather than deal with it.


The children decide to leave the property. They simply cannot watch their parents continue to deflect responsibility and act like assholes. They pack food and supplies, load up some of the parents’ cars and leave. Their plan is to drive to a ten-bedroom house in Rye owned by one of the families but when they hit the main road, they realize that the storm has annihilated the entire area and instead they end up on a farm in Pennsylvania somewhere west of Bethlehem. What they soon learn is that the storm is not a local storm but has affected the entire country.


What comes next is a story of survival and revelation. And to Jack, the answer to all of it, can be found in his own Children’s’ Bible. As in the Bible, we question if what was happening is actually real or just something imagined, an explanation of why things are the way they are. If anything, this book will make you think and wonder about the story and its meaning. Millet has put together a wonderfully crafted modern-day biblical story.


Lydia Millet is one of the leading writers of environmental fiction, so it’s no wonder that she wrote a novel about waste, climate change, and species extinction. But what makes this story so special is how she perfectly created a story in modern-day that so easily connects to the Old Testament and still has some wit and humor in it. This novel is a Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award. I had never read any of Millet’s previous works, but I will definitely add them to my list for 2021.


A Children’s Bible

By: Lydia Millet

Publication Date: May 12, 2020

W.W. Norton Company

****



The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

By: Marie Benedict


For those of you who read Lady Clementine, my book pic from last February, you will not be disappointed by Benedict’s latest release about the famous mystery novelist, Agatha Christie. Based on the true story of the eleven days in 1926 when Agatha Christie went missing, this is a mystery that only Agatha Christie herself could conjure up in one of her own whodunits.


In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing and the only clues left behind are her abandoned empty car left haphazardly by the edge of a deep gloomy pond and two mysterious letters that she left behind. The only problem is that one of the letters has been burned to destroy any evidence.


Mrs. Christie’s car is found with a packed suitcase and a mink stole inside of it. Before she left her house, she leaves two notes: one for her daughter’s governess, Charlotte, and the other for her husband Colonel Christie. We immediately learn that Charlotte has received a note, but only the reader knows that Colonel Christie has burned his letter. Why he burned it is something that we don’t find out until the end of the novel.


In both real life and in the novel, Mrs. Christie is found 11 days later, at a hotel/spa in Yorkshire, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations as to how she ended up at the hotel and what had happened. What we want to know is what role her narcissistic and disloyal husband plays in her disappearance. The answer is not at all that you would expect it to be.


If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie novels, this is not to be missed.


The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

By: Marie Benedict

Publications Date: December 29, 2020

Sourcebooks Landmark

****



The Lions of Fifth Avenue

By Fiona Davis


I always love Fiona Davis books. Every book is centered around a historic landmark in New York City. While writing about the creation of the building, Davis ties in a fictional story around the building. She then interweaves the original story to another modern-day fictional story. All of her books have given me some real insight into some iconic buildings in NYC. The Barbizon Hotel (The Dollhouse), The Dakota (The Address), Grand Central Station (The Masterpiece), The Chelsea Hotel (The Chelsea Girls), and now her newest title about The New York Public Library titled The Lions of Fifth Avenue.


This suspense mystery involves the completion of The New York Public Library and the family that once lived within its walls in an apartment made for the superintendent of the Library. The story begins in 1913, two years after the Main Branch of The New York Public Library was completed. Most people know exactly where the Main Branch of the Library is located, right at Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, close to Bryant Park and Grand Central. At the time of its completion, it was the largest marble structure in the United States. The infamous two stone lions that guard the gilded entrance were sculpted by EC Potter and nicknamed Patience and Fortitude. The Library was created by a formed partnership between the city government and private philanthropy. In 1965 the building was declared a National Landmark.


The story is told in two timelines, one narrator is Laura Lyons and is told in 1913, and the second narrator is Sadie Donovan and is told in 1993. In 1913, Laura’s husband is the superintendent of the newly opened Library and she has decided that she wants more than just being a mother of two and housewife. Her husband spends his days running the amazing building while spending his nights writing a novel. Laura longs to write on her own and with the encouragement of her husband she applies to Columbia School of Journalism. While covering stories for her classes, she is exposed to an entirely different world then the one she knows in NYC. It opens her eyes to a life outside of being a wife and mother – something unheard of in 1913.


While Laura is spending so much time outside the Library, some very valuable artifacts go missing from the building. An investigation is opened and her husband is a suspect as he is one of the few people that has access to these valuable artifacts.


Fast forward to 1993 when our second narrator, Sadie Donavan is a Curator at the Library and once again some valuable artifacts go missing. Are these crimes somehow connected? And is there some connection between our two narrators? Will the mystery from 80 years before finally be solved? If mysteries, family secrets, and old New York City appeal to you, then this book is a must-read.



The Lions of Fifth Avenue

By Fiona Davis

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Dutton Books

****






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