The Lions of Fifth Avenue Book Review

Sometimes, life throws us a twist when we least expect it. What matters is if we choose to go along with that twist or pretend that it never happened.

Fiona Davis‘s 2020 novel, The Lions of Fifth Avenue, starts in 1913. Laura Lyons is living the dream. Happily married with two young children, Laura’s husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library. This allows them to live in an apartment within the library. But she wants more than just being her husband’s wife and her children’s mother.

Things begin to change for Laura when she is accepted into the Columbia School of Journalism. This leads her to the Heterodoxy Club, a group of women who meet in Greenwich Village, flout society’s norms and openly discuss their discontent with being second-class citizens. This opens the door to Laura questioning her life choices and possibly losing everything and everyone she loves.

Eighty years later, Laura’s granddaughter Sadie Donovan is working in the family business. Though she is thrilled when she is promoted to becoming the library’s curator, the questions about her family’s past hang over her head. Her dream job becomes an ordeal when books start to disappear.

In order to save her career and the exhibit that had become her primary responsibility, Sadie has to put her fear of risk aside and work with a private security expert. The investigation goes from strictly business to personal when uncomfortable facts about her family and the building itself come to light.

The book is amazing. Everything that has been said about it is true. Davis’s writing is gripping and powerful and immediately draws you in. The protagonists, Laura and Sadie are easy to follow. In another writer’s hands, it would be easy to get confused with the dual narratives and the numerous characters. But the author writes in a way that each era is clearly delineated.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue is available wherever books are sold.

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Cutting the NYPL Hours is the Wrong Decision

A library is more than a space to take out and return books. It is a community center, a meeting space, and an opportunity to spread our figurative wings.

If the recent article in Gothamist is true, then the New York Public Library may be cutting its hours and staff in the new year due to city budget cuts.

Obviously, I am not privy to the specific numbers coming from the city or the library itself. I also understand that in this situation, hard decisions have to be made.

That being said, I would argue for keeping the status quo as much as possible.

  1. As much as I am a bookworm, I cannot afford to buy every book that I have borrowed. Nor do I have unlimited space on my shelves.
  2. It is more than a place to borrow books. I’ve been to a number of classes and lectures over the years, mostly relating to my career and keeping my computer skills up.
  3. Not everyone has the money to purchase their own computer.
  4. It gives the kids a safe place to stay after school and get some extra tutoring if need be.
  5. Some locations may offer movie screenings and author talks. There is nothing better than connecting with an author on a one-to-one level.
  6. The bathrooms. When mother nature calls, there aren’t many places in which restrooms that are open to the public.
  7. There can be social and learning opportunities. The branch I go to offers language classes for non-English speakers and niche events for specific interests.
  8. One of the things I have personally taken advantage of is job coaching. Private coaches can charge hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for their work. The library offers a number of services in regard to finding new employment.

Only time will tell when and when the ax falls. But I hope that the Mayor and the City Council will consider the importance of this institution.

How to Save Money in NYC

We all know that NYC is an expensive place to live. As much as I love this city, I am fully aware that the cost of everything is higher. But, if you know where the look, there are ways of saving a few dollars.

  1. Take public transportation. Like anyone who lives there, I am fully aware of the downsides of using the MTA to get around. But even with those problems, there is no beating that for one fare, you can go from one end of the city to another, 24/7/365.
  2. The dollar store is your best friend. Not everything is cheaper than the big box stores, but the deals may be surprising.
  3. Not everyone can afford to live alone. Though the roommate experience is sometimes hit or miss (as I painfully remember), it is the most economical way to reside here if you cannot afford an apartment on your own.
  4. If you need furniture, there are multiple options: local stores, Craigslist, various apps, etc. If you must buy new and prefer to go to a name brand store, hit up Target or Ikea. They are a pain in the ass to put together (even if you have to pay someone), but overall, it is worth it. The pieces I bought from Ikea more than a decade ago are still in good condition.
  5. When it comes time to get a haircut, find a local salon. Their work is just as good as the expensive salons and many will throw in a free blowout. In my experience, the ones owned by AAPI owners provide a pretty good service at a price that will not break the bank.
  6. Buy in bulk, large sizes, and store brands. If you do have access to a car, stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are worth the drive and the membership fee.
  7. Take advantage of the opportunities to be outdoors. Most, if not all of the parks and beaches are free to enter.
  8. If you are a bookworm like me, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the public library. If you must buy a book, hit up a local bookstore or 2nd hand store/thrift shop. This is also good if you are looking for a gift for someone. Now granted, you might not find exactly what you are looking for. But you never know what you may find. My favorite bookstores are the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan (great for browsing), Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, and of course, Housing Works.
  9. If you have a New York State driver’s license, you can get into some museums for nothing or almost nothing.
  10. Use Yelp and Time Out. Yelp is great because the reviews come from customers. Time Out has listings for things to do that will please almost anyone.
  11. If you can, purchase your produce from a street vendor. The quality is just as good as a traditional retailer and the price is just a tad cheaper.
  12. Finally, if you want to see a Broadway show, there are ways to have this experience that will not empty your wallet. If you are willing and/or able to climb stairs, seats on the upper levels of the theaters are always cheaper. For me, it’s about the experience. I don’t mind going up a few flights. Organizations like TKTS sell tickets at discounted prices. However, not every show is listed (especially the popular shows) and the desired seats are not always available. There is also the option of going to one of the booths. The primary one is located in Times Square. Just prepared to be waiting in a very long line.
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Sometimes, A New Perspective on an Old Favorite Can Be Unexpected Surprise

Yesterday, I met two friends for lunch. We had not seen each other for a while and it was time for us to catch up with one another.

Between the three of us, we have read and/or own quite a few books.

One of my friends had never been to the Stephen Schwarzman Building, which is the main branch of the New York Public Library. My other friend and I had been there many times, mainly to pick up or return books. To be honest, I don’t think about the experience of visiting the library, my focus is the books that I either need to check out or return.

But my other friend had never been to that library. The look on her face was of pure joy and wonder. It reminded me that a new perspective on an old favorite can be an unexpected surprise. Looking at the library through her eyes, I was reminded of the majesty and beauty of this temple dedicated to books, knowledge and learning.

Sinatra: An American Icon Review

We knew him Chairman Of The Board. We knew him as Old Blue Eyes. Or just plain Frank Sinatra.  When he passed away in 1998, the world lost an icon.

This year he would have been 100. The New York Public Library celebrates his life, career and music with an exhibit as Lincoln Center titled Sinatra: An American Icon.

Frank Sinatra was not just a singer. Nor was he not just an actor. He was one of the few individuals in show business who was able to succeed in both arenas and keep both sides of his career going at the same time. But the exhibit is not just about the performer. It is about the man, the father, the husband and the icon who may no longer be physically with us, but his work and his spirit live on.


I absolutely recommend this exhibition.

Sinatra: An American Icon will be at the New York Public Library For Performing Arts Until September 4th. 

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