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Archive for the ‘Manhattan’ Category

What are the chances of reading two consecutive books with a character named Trent as a prominent character? Well, that is neither here nor there.

Mardi and Molly, sixteen year old twins, beautiful, spoiled, rich witches used to clubbing in Manhattan’s TripleMoonhot spots have been banished by their father, Troy, to the sedate little East End hamlet of North Hampton for the summer when their names become linked with the deaths of two students, Parker and Samantha, after a penthouse party. In an attempt to rein in their use of magic and to teach them ‘values’, the girls are babysitting Troy’s friend, Ingrid’s two children and are forced to get summer jobs like ‘normal’ kids. However, that’s like putting the fox in the chicken coup because they are exposed to two gorgeous guys who happen to be warlocks.

As the summer progresses, things get worse instead of better. The White Council of witches is seeking to censure (or worse) the two teens because of their visible use of magic which will cause attention by mortals to the existence of witches. The use of magic has been curtailed for the past ten years when mortals became suspicious of witches’ existence. In addition, there are witnesses who have come forward to say that Mardi and Molly actually pushed Parker and Sam in front of the oncoming number 6 subway train and therefore criminal charges are being contemplated against the twins. The problem is the twins have only vague memories of that night’s happenings.

However, getting their memories back and finding out who killed Parker and Sam takes a back seat in Triple Moon behind the girls hooking up, borrowing expensive stylish clothes, hooking up, drinking expensive wines, eating caviar, being jealous and secretive with each other and did I mention hooking up. Mardi races up and down North Hampton in her vintage red 1972 Ferrari. Molly rides Ingrid’s bike in stylish espadrilles or designer heels.

Ingrid and her sister Fryda, also witches, understand the seriousness of the matter and have even called in help from New Orleans in the form of Jean-Baptiste Mesomier, who specializes in regaining memory. However, the twins still remember little and do not take it seriously.

I do remember reading one of Melissa de la Cruz’s early books and liking it, however I don’t remember which one. Quite honestly, if I didn’t have to read Triple Moon for a journal review, I wouldn’t have read past page 2. I found the book truly mind-numbing and while I’m all for getting kids to read anything as long as they read, I would put Triple Moon at the bottom of the wish list. Not even the chapter names which are song titles (many of which her audience would not know) make this book palatable.

Mardi and Molly could care less about others, only thinking of themselves. Mardi drives a vintage Ferrari. Molly has a closet full of clothes. The boys in the story are gorgeous, blue-eyed, ribbed and rich…of course, rich. The girls think nothing of ‘hooking up’ and ‘removing clothing’, reneging on promises to babysit so that they can be with boys, drinking, etc. And while I don’t think every book has to have a moral, Molly and Mardi are no role models and surely project the wrong image for teens. If this isn’t offputting enough, it almost appears that Ms. de la Cruz got tired of reading her book because it hastily draws to a close with an improbable ending, even for a book about witches.

While I realize that Ms. de la Cruz is a prominent YA author and teens love to read her books, I could not in good conscience recommend Triple Moon to any reader.

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In all ages, the ‘elite’ have their own way of living, their own HouseOfThievesmoral code, their own mannerisms, their own etiquette. However, there is no era in which these rules and regulations were more evident than in 1880s New York City. Even if you were tangentially related to wealth, you had to abide by certain rules and those differed if you were ‘old money’ or ‘new money’. But one thing is certain: if your name is tarnished, you will be disowned in a flash. So, when John Cross, successful architect and friends with Stanford White among others, and a reasonably close relative of the Astors, finds himself in a bind, he’s not sure what to do.

It seems that his son, George, a recent Harvard graduate, has accumulated a sizable gambling debt that he’s unable to pay. The man he owes, James Kent, a well respected New York socialite whose sideline happens to be crime, upon hearing that George’s father is an architect, presents John Cross with a proposal–in exchange for sparing George’s life, Cross will assist in the planning of robberies of buildings and homes he designed. A percentage of the proceeds will go towards paying off George’s debt. Of course, Cross feels like he has no choice. Thus begins a great book by Charles Belfoure, House of Thieves, author of The Paris Architect.

ParisArchitectI heard Belfoure speak at Book Expo and he mentioned he always wondered what a life of crime would be like.  An architect by profession, he thought this would be the perfect way to marry these two professions. However, he also said that the idea was not original, but had come from the life of George Leslie. The headline in the Daily Beast of October 19, 2014 states “The High Society Bank Robber of the 1800s: He was wealthy, a member of New York City society, and a patron of the arts. And he was also the secret mastermind behind the biggest bank heists of his day.” Leslie was also an architect by profession.

However, while I admit there is a lot of drama and tension regarding the events of the book, the real treat is Belfoure’s description of the Manhattan of the late 1880s, the tenements, the grand houses of the rich, the vacant land and farms above 80th Street. It is inconceivable to me that parents who could not care for their children would throw them out onto the streets to make their own way in the world as pickpockets, newsies, etc. The piss and manure that lined tenements streets is contrasted by the opulence of the mansions along Madison Square.

The squalor of the poor is described against the huge amounts of money spent on Julia, Cross’ daughter’s, coming out party. No expense was spared–as it was paid for by her Aunt Caroline (Astor). Belfoure goes on to explore women’s roles at the time–Julia was being groomed to marry someone of her social class and her desire to go to college and write a novel were smirked at. The mother’s and grandmother’s roles were to educate Julia regarding proper etiquette, provide here with piano lessons and enough education to enable her to converse with eligible bachelors.

There’s a psychological element to the book as well. Cross was armed forces age during the Civil War and the law allowed the wealthy to pay a substitute to serve in the army. Cross’ family having the means, did just that (as did George Leslie’s family). But Cross always wondered whether he had courage enough to do something dangerous.

All in all, House of Thieves is good on so many levels. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

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FlatironThe full title of this wonderful book by Peter Gwillim Kreitler is Flatiron: A Photographic History of the World’s First Steel Frame Skyscraper, 1901-1990. The Flatiron Building is that triangular building the looks like a ship’s hull from the front. It is probably one of the most famous buildings in the world. Every time I pass by it, I marvel at its beauty.

Flatiron, the book, is filled with photos dating from 1901 through 1990. It has commentary from journals and individuals from the beginning of its construction in 1901 through the mid-1980s. There are photos taken by famous photographers such as Alfred Steiglitz, Edward Steichen and unknowns, including many anonymous.

My favorite photos are one by Steiglitz taken in 1902 on a snowy day taken from the park across the street from the building and one by Ed Kaplan taken in 1977 which is almost like a silhouette of the building in the background with a steam pipe in front of it spewing white steam.

Not only is the book a history of the Flatiron Building, it is a photographic history of New York. At the outset, the photos depict a street filled with horses and carriages. However, by 1910-1912 there is no sign of a horse and carriage. The streets are filled with the horseless carriage. Additionally, you see the changes in the buildings surrounding the Flatiron.

Both praised and panned as it rose, the Flatiron has turned out to be an architectural and aesthetic marvel. This book is a marvelous tribute to the building.

 

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