I plowed through a whole bunch of books in the last two weeks and throughly enjoyed every minute — or at least thoroughly enjoyed the act of reading if not the book itself. Here’s my latest…
The Whispering Road by Livi Michael – I freely admit that I am a book -judger-by-its-cover kind of reader. Sometimes I get a dud, but most often I get what I got from this book — a true little gem of a story.We first meet Joe and Annie as they struggle to escape the tortuous servitude they suffer under Old Bert and The Mistress. The children manage to get away and literally bump into Travis, a man of the Road, who saves them from certain death. Travis introduces our two young heroes to life on the Road, teaching them to hear through their feet, find food, and stay safe on the dangerous byways of England in the grip of the Industrial Revolution. Eventually, the pair find their way to a traveling show where Annie’s ability to commune with the dead lands her in the spotlight. Joe, jealous of Annie’s “talent” and of the attention she gets from the show crowd, hoofs it into Manchester, the blackest of the black industrial towns. There he hooks up with a gang called the Little Angels and begins a life right out of Oliver Twist. After much drama, Joe finds his way back to Annie, who desperately needs him. The two find each other and find a home. Happily. Ever. After.
Despite the tremendous number of plot twists and turns, I completely enjoyed this story. It presents an unusual look at the life of children during the Industrial Revolution, a point in history before the concept of “childhood” was known. The heart-rending choices made by parents who could no longer care for their children are presented in a way that will make any parent cringe. Although there are a few instances where I think the editing could be better — for instance, I somehow doubt that a 19th century English child would have “freaked out” — I had a fine time reading this one and would recommend it for ages 10 and up.
Urban Legends: 666 Absolutely True Stories That Happened to a Friend…of A Friend…Of A Friend – I can’t help it. I love urban legends and tales of the weird and macabre. The 001’s and 398’s are my favorite sections of non-fiction. And this collection of UL’s didn’t disappoint. Sure, there was the ubiquitous “spiders in the beehive” but also plenty that I’d never heard before, like “The Slasher Under the Car” which involves frat boys with a shoe fetish making pledges hide underneath cars. When a woman wearing a tasty pair of shoes stands next to the car, the pledge slashes her ankles, causing her to fall to the ground in fear and pain, while he slides out from under the car and makes off with the shoes. Lots of light, amusing reading here folks.
Triangle by Katharine Weber – I picked this one up because it appeared on all the “best of” or “must read” lists for the summer. It tells the story of one girl who escaped the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire and how her escape was not all it appeared. Truthfully, I don’t know why this is stirring so much interest. Well, that’s only partly true. It’s stirring up interest because of the topic — the Triangle Shirtwaist disaster — but it is such a strange book that I wonder how many people who pick it up put it down after the first few chapters. I had a heck of a time getting through Chapter 2 which was all about George Botkin’s musical genius. Maybe it’s because I’m not a musician, but I really didn’t get the whole thing about composing and the connection to the fire. Overall, this was a big disappointment.
The Judas Pair by Jonathan Gash – It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I had never read any of the Lovejoy mystery books by Gash, so I put a hold on his first — The Judas Pair. As soon as I started it, memory flooded back. I had read Lovejoy before, and I immediately remembered why I hated him. It could have been this passage on page 9:
- “I gave her a backhander to calm the issue somewhat, at which she settled weeping while I found a coat. I’m all for sex equality.”
And the domestic abuse continued throughout the chapter. Maybe when this was written in 1977, it was acceptable to beat a woman with whom you’ve just had sex. But sorry…not my cup of tea, thank you very much.