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Sunday, October 23, 2016

VICTORIA by Daisy Goodwin...A lovely, enlightening read for British history lovers.

When I received this novel from Netgalley for review purposes, I did not know that it was written by the creator of the PBS/Masterpiece series, Victoria. In fact, I did not know there was a PBS series about Queen Victoria planned. Now, I cannot wait to find the series and make up for my lack of knowledge.

From the books blurb:
"Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. 

The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world. Surely she must rely on her mother and her venal advisor, Sir John Conroy, or her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who are all too eager to relieve her of the burdens of power.

The young queen is no puppet, however. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.
"I do not like the name Alexandrina. From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.” 

Everyone keeps saying she is destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously."
Victoria is so well written and engaging that I was unsure of its historical authenticity. That's when I researched the author and learned of her extensive research for the PBS/Masterpiece series. Her work translates beautifully into this novel. 
The characters were so well drawn that there were times I wanted to shake the young queen and times I wanted to shake everyone around her. The dialogue and descriptions were light and easy and moved the story along without effort. 
I was especially curious about her attachment to Lord Melbourne. I knew, of course, that Victoria married Albert, 'the great love of her life,' but Melbourne seemed to forever be in the way of this happening. Perhaps it was all fatherly love and concern and returned the same way to him. Perhaps not, but I was often irritated by both of them and their attachment to each other. But, all was well in the end.
Amanda Foreman sums it up beautifully when she writes, "Victoria is an absolutely captivating novel of youth, love, and the often painful transition from immaturity to adulthood. Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit."
Daisy Goodwin, the author, drew from Victoria’s diaries, which she first read as a student at Cambridge University. She has since added extensive research. She is  the author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria. She effortlessly brings the young queen richly to life in this novel.
The book's publication date is November 22, 2016 from St. Martin's Press. This will be a wonderful gift for those on your list who enjoy British historical fiction at it's best.  I highly recommend this work.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Memory of Us... by Camille di Maio offers a different WWII story.

The blurb for the book:
"Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?"

A woman about to commit suicide, a birth, a death, and a priest. Wow! What a combination for the opening of a rewarding novel. A little later add an unknown twin brother hidden away in an institution and WWII. There you have The Memory of Us in a nutshell. But don't stop just knowing that. The book, while not deep in history, while not steeped in thought provoking moments, is still a very good read. 

I received the book from Netgalley for an honest review. It should be available at all major outlets. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Kobe Manatee....a feast for the eyes and a treat for the ear... for adults and young children alike.

From the book's blurb: 

"Gold Medal, 2016 Readers' Favorite International Book Award in the Children's Educational category

Winner of the 2015 International Book Award in the Children's Educational category

Packed with exciting illustrations and interesting facts, this adventure story will enchant as it creates awareness for the endangered Florida manatee. In late September, Kobee Manatee is on a twelve hundred-mile mission to get back home to Florida from Cape Cod, Massachusetts before the impending cold threatens his life. On his journey, he meets two new friends: Tess the seahorse, who loves to learn, and Pablo the hermit crab, who is in search for a new shell. Will Kobee and his friends make it to Florida in time?"

I love this book. What a great tie-in to the 'real' news of the Florida manatee found at Cape Cod and recently returned, with the help of humans, to Florida. Facts about manatees are presented in side boxes and can be read at the same time as the story, or perhaps, read later as a means of teaching. 

The story is delightful and the full page illustrations are glorious. If you have young children to buy for, consider this book as a delight to the eyes, the ears, and the brain. If you wish to enhance the classroom of a younger age child, consider this the book to do it. 
If you or your children/grandchild like Finding Dora, you will love this.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Quirky Fannie Flagg: The Whole Town's talking.

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg.

From the book's blurb:
"The bestselling author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is at her superb best in this fun-loving, moving novel about what it means to be truly alive.

Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening at the cemetery. Still Meadows, as it’s called, is anything but still. Original, profound, The Whole Town’s Talking, a novel in the tradition of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Flagg’s own Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, tells the story of Lordor Nordstrom, his Swedish mail-order bride, Katrina, and their neighbors and descendants as they live, love, die, and carry on in mysterious and surprising ways."

 Lordor Nordstrom, a Swedish farmer with whom I fell in love, builds a farm, a home, a town (Elmwood Springs), and even a cemetery where he and his fellow Elmwood Springers can rest in peace when their time comes. Lordor is respected, even loved by his neighbors. Only problem, he is not married and there is not an eligible bride-to-be in sight. The solution, as advocated by the women of the community is, of course, to order one. So, by mail arrives the bride.  

The book is full of loveable, quirky characters essential to any Fannie Flagg novel. They meet their problems with the fortitude you would expect of a Swedish farm community and with a grain or two of humor when needed. 

The book is set for November publication, and I would suggest this as a wonderful holiday gift for those readers on your list who like wholesome, sweet, and quirky. For Fannie Flagg fans it is a must and a nice change for everyone else. Should be available at all major outlets and online.

ABOUT FANNIE: (This blurb about Fannie neglected to mention that when I was in college, Fannie was my weather girl. Years later I heard her admit that she knew nothing about the weather, so she simply took the weather forecasts used the day before from a community west of us and used that as her forecast. Oh, Fannie, we believed you!)

Fannie Flagg began writing and producing television specials at age nineteen and went on to distinguish herself as an actress and writer in television, films, and the theater. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (which was produced by Universal Pictures as Fried Green Tomatoes), Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!, and Standing in the Rainbow. Flagg's script for Fried Green Tomatoes was nominated for both the Academy and Writers Guild of America Awards and won the highly regarded Scripters Award. Flagg lives in California and in Alabama.