Thursday, April 30, 2015

474 (2015 #31). What Alice Forgot

by Liane Moriarty

What might happen if you hit your head while working out, and came to only to learn that you'd "lost" ten years of your life?  That's what happens to Alice, pregnant with her first child, only to find it's ten years later, she's thin, she has three children, and her husband Nick, the love of her life, has left her.

As in Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies, this book also tells its story from the viewpoints of three main female characters.  Besides Alice's point of view (written in third person, from both age 29 and age 39), there were journal entries to her psychiatrist from Elisabeth, Alice's sister, dealing with infertility issues; as well as letters to a (dead) former flame written by Frannie, the "grandmother" to Alice and Elisabeth.   These didn't add much to Alice's main storyline, other than to help clarify what drove Alice and Elisabeth apart, and shed some light on their goofy mother (now married to Nick's father). They made the book a bit longer than it needed to be.

However, I loved the premise of this book, and the dialogue, especially that of Alice with her children - the children she doesn't "know" because she doesn't remember them.  The younger Alice is upbeat and optimistic - and rather horrified to learn how much she has changed (mostly NOT for the better) in the last ten years she "missed."  Of course, her memory slowly returns, and the ending is rather predictable, but getting there is compelling, even with the not-so-necessary side stories.

Best quote in the book:   "Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It's light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you've seen the worst and the best - well that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word." 

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Sunday, April 26, 2015

473 (2015 #30). The Pirate's Bed

by Nicola Winstanley,
illustrated by Matt James

This is a fantasy picture book about a bed separated from its pirate owner in a shipwreck.  The bed has some interesting experiences for a while, but then becomes lonely.  I loved the ending of this book!

Nicola Winstanley apparently wrote this book to encourage her toddler son to stay in bed at night.  She uses some vocabulary that will be above the intended audience for this book, so I think it would be best for a read-aloud (or a bedtime story).

Matt James illustrated the book using acrylic paint and India ink on board.  The illustrations are busy and colorful and look like they could have been done by a little boy (such as scary-looking sharks or whales with lots of teeth), which is fitting for the story.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[I received this hardbound edition from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be added to the curriculum collection at my university library.]

Saturday, April 25, 2015

472 (2015 #29). Rebound!

by David Borges

Pickings were kind of slim in the February batch of Early Reviewer books for LibraryThing, and I've learned I have to request at least three books to have a chance of getting one.  This was my third choice book.

I put it on the list because my son was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut (UConn) at the time of their 2013-14 championship season, and he has been a longtime basketball player and fan.

Unfortunately, I just couldn't get through this book, and gave up after the first six chapters (52 pages out of a total of 189).  I'm not a sports fan, and there is just too much detail for me in this book.

Author David Borges is a sportwriter, and to his credit, he provides eight-and-a-half pages of footnotes at the end identifying sources for many of the quotes in his book.  There are also twelve pages of black-and-white photos about 2/3 of the way through the book.

Perhaps this book would be better appreciated by a UConn alumnus or sports fan, or a basketball fan.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be passed on to a UConn grad and basketball fan - my son - to enjoy.]

Friday, April 24, 2015

471 (2015 #28). The Revelation of Louisa May

by Michaela MacColl

The Revelation of Louisa May is a young adult historical fiction novel set in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1848, when future author Louisa May Alcott is almost 16 (not in 1846, as stated in a misprint in the author's note in this advance reader edition).

Louisa's father is trancendentalist Bronson Alcott, and his philosophy states that he will not work for others.  Unfortunately this means the family has no money, so author Michaela MacColl takes a real but little-known incident, Louisa's mother "Marmee" (Abigail "Abba" May Alcott) accepting a summer job running a "water cure" hotel in New Hampshire.  (Another misprint - in reality, it was in Maine, not New Hampshire).

Youngest sister May goes with Marmee, and oldest sister Anna is away working.  Louisa stays behind to take care of her father and fragile younger sister Beth.  The family's home, Hillside (called Wayside by a later owner, Nathaniel Hawthorne), was (truly) a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Louisa's worries about not being able to write while her mother is gone are compounded by the arrival of a new "package" - an escaped slave named George.  George is being pursued by a fictional slave-catcher named Finch, who has a history with Thoreau.  Finch winds up dead - and Louisa tries to figure out who killed him.

Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson lived in Concord at the same time, and they (along with Emerson's wife Lidian) are also characters in the book.  I liked the interweaving of these real persons and locations (such as Wright's Tavern and Walden Pond) that I actually saw on a recent trip to Concord.  I learned some more about the true characters of Bronson and Louisa May Alcott.

It isn't necessary to have read Little Women before reading this book, but having done so, MacColl treats such readers to relevant quotes from that novel as the openings to each of her chapters.  Although I could have done without the murder mystery and Louisa's romance, these elements might attract MacColl's target young adult audience and encourage them to read that classic and learn more about Concord and its famous authors.  A list of suggested readings is at the end of this book.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[I received this advance reader's edition through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

Sunday, April 19, 2015

470 (2015 #27). The Marriage Game

by Alison Weir

This book is the long-awaited sequel to historian Alison Weir's 2008 novel The Lady Elizabeth.  It takes up where that book left off, in 1558, shortly after Elizabeth I learns that she is now Queen of England after the death of her sister Queen Mary.  The book covers the rest of her life, and focuses on the political machinations concerning a marriage for her, the most eligible woman in the world.

Yet Elizabeth did not want to marry, for reasons hinted at in The Lady Elizabeth.  The violent deaths of her mother and a stepmother, the deaths in childbirth of two other stepemothers, and her sister Mary's experiences in marriage also contributed to her reluctance.  She also recognized that marriage (and giving birth to an heir) would leave her in a far less powerful position than what she had as the "Virgin Queen."

But was she really a virgin?  Weir hints at some hanky-panky between Elizabeth and her favorite courtier, Robert Dudley, her friend from childhood.  Most of the book is written from her viewpoint, but some is written from his, and the reader can see his frustration at being constantly toyed with (on the issue of marriage) by Elizabeth, ultimately frittering away much of his life waiting on her.

The story mostly ends in 1588 with Robert's death.  Elizabeth is 55 and no longer a prize in marriage, but has come to her glory in her own right with the defeat of the Spanish Armada.  A short epilogue briefly describes her death in 1603.

At times this book became rather tiresome, as Elizabeth overplays her hand in marriage over and over - promising her all-male council that she will marry this duke or that prince to ally their two countries, then going back on her promises.  It's no wonder men felt women were indecisive and unable to rule alone!  After a while, I couldn't tell one potential foreign suitor from another.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Thursday, April 09, 2015

469 (2015 #26). The Secret Life of Josephine

by Carolly Erickson,
read by Margot Dionne

In an afternote to the reader, Carolly Erickson describes this (and her then-previous novels The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette and The Last Wife of Henry VIII) as "a historical entertainment, not a historical novel" and "a way of blending fact and whimsy...[a] somewhat frothy mix." If you are looking for good historical fiction about Marie Jos├Ęphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie de Beauharnais, better known as Josephine Bonaparte, there are far better books out there.

Hopefully readers will see the afternote - unfortunately, it was not included in the audiobook I listened to - as it clarifies that the real Josephine never went to Russia (probably the most ridiculous thing that happened in this book), among other liberties with the truth.  The other inventions I found easier to accept, as they were more in character with the real Josephine, but the trip to Russia during Napoleon's defeat there was just too over the top for me to stomach.

Like Alison Weir, Erickson has written nonfiction biographies of many of the subjects of her "historical entertainments," and I'd be interested in reading one to evaluate its scholarship and readability.

Actress and acting professor Margot Dionne has a perfect voice for Josephine, who narrates the story - just vivacious and coquettish enough.  However, when she put on thick French accents for some of the minor characters, I found her very difficult to understand.

This is a fun read, as long as the reader/listener understands that it is only very loosely based on the truth.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]