It's Sunday, and that means, yep, more book reviews. Well, five more, at any rate. So, once again, here are five more books that I've read in 2014 that have won the full 5 stars from me, the dear and gentle reader. If you read any of my recommendations based on this blog, I would love to hear from you!
Happy Sunday, and enjoy! (All synopses borrowed with gratitude from Goodreads.)
1. (Historical Fiction/Romance) My Lady of Cleves: A Novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (Harlequin Romance # 169) by Maragaret Campbell Barnes
Written by world-renowned historical novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes, My Lady of Cleves gives readers an intimate portrait of the warm, unpretentious princess who never expected to become Queen of England. Knowing the king's ravenous desire for a son, and aware of the disastrous consequences of not bearing an heir, Anne of Cleves bravely took on the duty of weathering the Tudor King's temper, whims, arrogance, and irresponsible passions--and won the hearts of his subjects in the process. A treat for readers of Tudor fiction and those fascinated by the complex relationships of Henry VIII and his wives, My Lady of Cleves leads readers into a world of high drama and courtly elegance.
(Linda's Note: As I began to read this novel about Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII, I wasn't sure I'd like it, as the "fictional" part took quite a stretch from what I've read in various biographies on Henry VIII. But I reminded myself that heck, The Tudors mini-series used many inconsistencies with the truth, and I loved it anyhow, so I continued on with the novel. I'm glad I did. The best compliment I can give an author is to read a line they wrote, sigh and wish I had written it. There were several instances in this novel where I felt that way. The story about Anne, who had the fortuitous misfortune (she outlived all of Henry's other wives) of Henry's dislike, is riveting start to finish, albeit the fictitious possible romance between her and painter, Hans Holbein, a reference to Henry sleeping with Anne after the divorce, and oh yes, a flirtation between Anne and Thomas Seymour. Still, if you're a fan of historical fiction, especially the Tudor period, this is a don't miss!)
2. (Non-Fiction) The Three Faces of Eve by Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley
The Goodread's synopsis was in German, so I'll skip posting that and just give a brief overview of the book in my notes below. Thank you.
(Linda's Note: This book is the factual account of the authors' treatment of Chris Costner-Sizemore, a woman with Multiple Personality Disorder and upon which the movie "The Three Faces of Eve" was based.
After watching "The The Three Faces of Eve", and realizing it was based on a true incident, I had to read the book. I was not disappointed by either movie or book. Actually the movie did the best it could given the time frame it had, but I was completely mesmerized by the book and the account of Chris Costner-Sizemore (referred to in the book as Eve White), a woman with three personalities. Written by her psychiatrists, we follow Eve's journey as she presents as a troubled and meek housewife, yet, over time, reveals her other personalities in the forms of lively Eve Black and mild-mannered, Jane. The book explains in detail how the doctors got to know each personality, each "woman's" troubles and quirks, and how, through patience, diligence and understanding, helped integrate them back into one person. Although not as horribly traumatic as the Sybil story we've read, Eve White's plight to help her selves become whole again is a fascinating read and one I could not put down.)
3. (Non-Fiction) Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir by Mark Higgins Clark
In her long-awaited memoir, Mary Higgins Clark, America's beloved and bestselling Queen of Suspense, recounts the early experiences that shaped her as a person and influenced her as a writer.Even as a young girl, growing up in the Bronx, Mary Higgins Clark knew she wanted to be a writer. The gift of storytelling was a part of her Irish ancestry, so it followed naturally that she would later use her sharp eye, keen intelligence, and inquisitive nature to create stories about the people and things she observed. Determined to care for her family and to make a career for herself, she went to work writing scripts for a radio show, but in her spare time she began writing novels. Her first, a biographical novel about the life of George Washington titled "Aspire to the Heavens," found a publisher but disappeared without a trace when the publisher folded. (Recently it was rediscovered by a descendant of the Washington family and was reissued under the title "Mount Vernon Love Story.)" The experience, however, gave her the background and the preparation for writing "Where Are the Children?" which went on to become an international bestseller. That novel launched her career and was the first of twenty-seven (and still counting!) bestselling books of suspense.As Mary Higgins Clark has said when asked if she might consider giving up writing for a life of leisure, "Never! To be happy for a year, win the lottery. To be happy for life, love what you do." In "Kitchen Privileges," she reflects on the joy that her life as a writer has brought her, and shares with readers the love that she has found.
(Linda's Note: I would like to thank my friend, Jennifer Das, for recommending this memoir to me! Mary Higgins Clark not only writes great suspense novels, but a highly entertaining memoir as well. Starting from humble beginnings and rising to the famous novelist she became, I enjoyed reading how her life and writing career progressed. You'll laugh, you'll cry...give this book a try.)
4. (Non-Fiction) The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin
Now a major motion picture directed by Ralph Fiennes, co-starring Fiennes and Felicity Jones with Michelle Fairley, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Tom Hollander: the unforgettable story of Charles Dickens's mistress Nelly Ternan, and of the secret relationship that linked them. When Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan met in 1857, she was 18: a professional actress performing in his production of The Frozen Deep. He was 45: a literary legend, a national treasure, married with ten children. This meeting sparked a love affair that lasted over a decade, destroying Dickens's marriage and ending with Nelly's near-disappearance from the public record. In this remarkable work of biography, Claire Tomalin rescues Nelly from obscurity, not only returning the neglected actress to her rightful place in history, but also giving us a compelling and truthful account of the great Victorian novelist. Through Dickens's diaries, correspondence, address books, and photographs, Tomalin is able to reconstruct the relationship between Charles and Nelly, bringing it to vivid life. The result is a riveting literary detective story—and a portrait of a singular woman.
(Linda's Note: I saw the movie "The Invisible Woman" first, and it really intrigued me into this true, but debated issue, that, for many years, Charles Dickens had a mistress whom he kept hidden away. This account goes into much more detail than the movie could, and I found it an amazing look into the societal morals and thinking of Victorian England in the 1800's. Actresses were akin to prostitutes, and so when Dickens fell in love with one, he divorced his wife (in a most ugly fashion) and kept his mistress hidden in homes in England and France and supported her mother and sisters for their silence, thus remaining the respected and honored author. Equally fascinating, was that after he died, his mistress, Nelly Ternan, was able to completely reinvent herself to live the life she then wanted, while still keeping her secret identity. I was completely absorbed in this book, and now want to see the movie again. Fascinating account.)
5. (Fiction) The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
(Linda's Note: I have yet to read a Harry Potter book. That said, should J.K. Rowling continue her journey into writing adult novels, consider me a fan. "The Casual Vacancy" had me hooked from the start, although at the beginning, I almost needed a spreadsheet to keep all the various characters straight. Once I got a bit further into the book, however, each character became so well-defined, each with his or her own goals, that they came alive on the page. I very much enjoyed this novel; it's a page-turner, but be warned...it's dark. It's not a happy story, but I became deeply engrossed, none-the-less. The ending fell a bit short for some of the characters, but perhaps this might be the set-up for a sequel? If so, I'd be first in line to buy it.)
That's it for this time, friends. See you next week! Happy Belated Thanksgiving to you all!