Saturday, February 25, 2012


Mimi Alford writes about a time in her life that I found sad and brought back that era when young woman were naive and idealistic.  The way John Kennedy and the first family really lived was so very different from the way he was presented to the American public.  I remember how we idolized our young president.  Those of us who were teens in that era, all wanted to go into the Peace Corps.  Kennedy and the energy that surrounded him inspired us in a way that was lost for all time as the Viet Nam war overtook our lives and left us disillusioned.
Mimi Alford was part of that generation.  What she exposes to us is the extent to which reality differed from her schoolgirl dreams.  The book is simply written and even boring at times.  There was so much happening politically and globally that she never touches on.  Rather we are witness to assignations and the degrading treatment given to this teenager who so passively gives in to the appetites of a powerful and flawed man.  If you were alive during Kennedy's presidency,  you may read this with sadness at the slimy truth behind the glamorous facade.

QUEEN OF FASHION What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber

    Caroline Weber's book is a delightful, yet sad look at the life of Marie Antoinette. Ms. Weber is a terrific writer, turning facts into the most interesting look into the live of an 18th century fashionista.  I was particularly interested in reading about Marie A.  because I had just finished the book on Catherine the Great of Russia.  Like Catherine, Marie was shipped of from her native Austria (daughter of the powerful personality Marie Theresa) to marry an immature young prince.  Unfortunately for both princesses, their husbands proved inadequate in every way leaving these teenagers lonely and unprepared to navigate the dangerous royal court filled with intrigue and danger.  How they handled this challenge led to the glory and power on one, Catherine and the degradation and pitiful end of the other, Marie.
     Unlike Catherine who turned to intellectual pursuits and assimilation into Russian life, Marie remained aloof from the French culture and surround herself with pleasure loving friends.  All her energy was spent on clothes, pleasure and good times with her fickle friends.  This book is a fascinating look into how to dance one's way to the guillotine and the saddest of all endings.  I highly recommend it; it would make a good choice for a reading-group discussion.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Books to consider 2/20/12

"The Patrick Melrose Novels" by Edward St. Aubyn (Fic)
"Restoration"  by Olaf Olafson (fic)
"The Tell Tale Brain" by V.S. Ramachandran (non-fic)

What I am reading now:
"Once Upon A Secret" by Mimi Alford (non-fic)
"Legacy" by Susan Kay (fic)
"Queen of Fashion" by Caroline Weber (non-fic)
"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand (non-fic)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DARKSIDE by Belinda Bauer (fic/mys)

If you enjoy mystery novels, this is an excellent choice.  Belinda Bauer has set her story in Shipcott, a small English Village.  At the center of the story is the town's only policeman, Jonas Holly who grew up in the village.  He is married to Lucy who is crippled by MS and is housebound.  A single murder brings in detective and forensic scientists from the local district.  This sets up a conflict between Jonas and the acerbic and sarcastic detective Marvel.  One murder is followed by several others and the mystery deepens.  The story soon becomes dark and creepy.  As the reader is drawn in, and begins to suspect the murderer, suspense builds to a horrific climax.  I recommend this book;  you will find it hard to put down.   

Books to consider 2/13/12

"Queen Elizabeth in the Garden" by Trex Martyn  (non-fic)
"Cosmos" by Witold Grombrowicz  (fic/mys)
"The Tigress of Forli"  by Elizabeth Lev (non-fic)

What I am reading this week: 
"Once Upon A Secret" by Mimi Alford (non-fic)
"Legacy" by Susan Kay (fic)
"Queen of Fashion" by Caroline Weber (non-fic)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ENVIOUS MOON by Thomas Christopher Greene

This book has been sitting on my reading pile for a while and when I picked it up, I saw that the setting is Galilee, R.I., an area that I know quite well.  It is the story of obsessive love between two scarred teenagers, from two different social groups.  I found the story somewhat unrealistic, but I kept reading like one does with a summer read. I couldn't find anything in the male character's development to cause him to act so recklessly. The girl's fascination with him was easier to believe.  Because the writing is fairly simple, it is a quick read, and you will finish it in a day or two.  It is a diverting story for a winter day at home or a summer day at the beach.  I can't think why the author uses a few real place names and makes up names for other obvious places in New England, especially the island which could be Block Island or Jamestown. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

CATHERINE THE GREAT by Robert K. Massie (bio)

Sophia a young girl of minor German nobility was brought to Russia to marry the chosen heir of the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. When she was baptized in the Orthodox church, leaving her Lutheran religion behind, her name was changed. Both Catherine and her husband Peter III were completely naive and never consummated their marriage.  Peter was socially retarded and after many unhappy years of marriage, Catherine fell into an affair with a courtier, Saltykov.  This was the beginning of Catherine's asserting herself, eventually becoming the Catherine of history books.  The story of her rise to the throne, her numerous affairs, her love of learning, art and music is fascinating reading.  Massie makes it all real.  Catherine lived at a time of great world upheavals and war.  It was the age of revolutions throughout Europe and the New World.  It was a time when rulers were deposed, exiled and beheaded.  She corresponded with the greatest thinkers of her time, and brought great art and learning to the vast Russian land.  She was the true spiritual heir of Peter the Great.  This book is fabulous.  It reads like and interesting novel, and if all you imagined of Catherine is that she was an oversexed oversized woman, you need to read this to fully understand her place in the great history of Russia, and the world.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Books to consider 2/5/12

"Venice: Pure City" by Peter Ackroyd (non-fic)
"Ghost Light" by Joseph O'Connor (fic)
"A Burial at Sea"   by Charles Finch (fic)

For Downton Abbey Fans: 
"The World of Downton Abbey"  by Jessica Fellowes
"Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey" by the Countess of Carnarvon
"Below Stairs" by Margaret Powell

What I am reading this week:
"What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution" by Caroline Weber (non-fic)
"Darkside" by Belinda Bauer (fic)
"Legacy" by Susan Kay (fic)