Monday, August 25, 2014
The Best of August
Flight of the Sparrow, by Amy Belding Brown. My review of her earlier novel, Mr. Emerson's Wife, is here.
The Rest of August's Reading
What's not to love about a book in which a book set in the 12th Century becomes a ghostwritten best-seller? Life in contemporary Paris and its suburbs has never been so compelling a read! Throw in a Kenyan Crocodile farm, a new shot at love and.....well too many details would spoil the fun of reading it!! The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol.
The word "iconic" is woefully overused today. But it is the only word to describe the pink suit and pillbox hat that Jackie Kennedy wore on that fateful day in Dallas in November of 1963. This is the story of that dress--the fictionalized story--of how it came to be. In the final days of a world in which people "knew their place" based on their socio-economic level, the seamstress who works on the ensemble, a Chanel original copied legally so that Mrs. Kennedy can be said to be wearing a suit by an American Designer, comes to terms with who she is and where she belongs. The Pink Suite by Nicole Kelby
If you grew up in the late 60s and early 70s likely you remember Fannie Flagg trading wise cracks with Gene Rayburn, Brett Summers and Charles Nelson Riley on the The Match Game. Well, today, she's the author of a great slew of novels. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion tells the story of the SPARS--women who ferried planes to US Army Air Corps bases during World War II. It's also the story of identity and what it means to be "me" and "us." This little gem is nteresting, fun and well worth your time in every way. And, please, somebody play me the "Aw Jeese, You Bet Polka." The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
This year, in case you missed it, is the Centenary of the First World War. This book, a sweet story of a young couple separated by that war, show a different side of the war--that of the common folks, those outside the realm of Downton Abbey. Morale among the troops is so low it cannot be mentioned in letters home. Food is so awful that a group of soldiers lives for the young wife's lettters detailing the meals she imagines cooking for her new husband.The beauty of the wife's cooking, contrasts with the ugliness of the war. The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear.
I loved Bernadette!!! The wife of a powerful Microsoft executive with one talented daughter, Bernadette is the Grumpy Cat of her daughter's school drop-off line. When Bernadette's life careens a bit off the streets of Seattle, things get very interesting. There isn't a boring moment in this one! Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
I enjoy Stephanie, Joe, Ranger, Lula, Connie, Bob the dog and Rex the hamster and totally love Grandma Mazur, but this time.........hmmmm...even my favorite "other" character, Randy Briggs, just didn't do it for me. Granted in real time Joe and Stephanie would be about 50, its more than that. This one seemed to be coasting. No Joyce Barnhardt? (She was merely mentioned), almost no Vinnie. Just "blah." It's time for Stephanie and Joe to settle down, time for Ranger to disappear under cover, time for Grandma's own viewing at the funeral home. These folks are worn out. Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich.
Want suggestions on what to read next? Have a look at all the great Nightstand posts at 5 Minutes for Books.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
The "Grandmother of Europe" left a legacy unlike that of any other monarch--Hemophilia--the disease that is fully manageable today that keeps blog from clotting. Alexei, the last Tsaravitch of Russia, is the best known of these.
Note: unless otherwise noted, all images are in the public domain.
Victoria's second daughter, Alice, was a carrier of hemophilia.
Her son, Prince Friedrich of Hesse was a hemophiliac who died after falling from a window as a toddler. This family would suffer more tragedy, losing Alice and her daughter, Marie, within days of each other from diptheria.
Alice's grandson, Prince Heinrich of Prussia (also the nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm), died after a fall when he was just four years old thanks to his hemophilia.
Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, was the first of the royal hemophiliacs. He lived long enough to marry and father two children--one of whom was born after his death. His daughter, Princess Alice of Albany, passed the hemophilia gene on to son, Rupert, and possibly to her son Maurice who died in infancy.
Princess Beatrice (Princess Henry of Battenberg after her marriage) was Victoria's youngest child and the one she kept at home. Her children grew up in Victoria's household, as the family moved with the Queen in her seasonal migration from Osborne on the Isle of Wight, to Windsor, to Balmoral, etc.
Beatrice's son, Prince Leopold of Battenberg (after World War I he was known as Lord Leopold Mountbatten) as a hemophiliac. Leopold was shown in uniform during World War I but was a hemophiliac. He died during an operation in his early 20s.
Alfonso's younger brother, Gonzalo, was also a hemophiliac. Gonzalo lived to his late 20s. He died from internal bleeding following a car accident. He and Alfonso were put into special padded suits to protect them when they played outside.
Prince Albert Victor, son of King Edward VII, may have been deaf like his mother Queen Alexandra, but functioned well enough to deal with the Army.
Down's Syndrome and Intellectual Development Disorders
King George V and Queen Mary's youngest child, Prince John, is best know as an epileptic and as the subject of the television show "The Lost Prince." He had some form of intellectual development, though given the times he lived in not much could have been done to aid him. (It is important to remember that the "Lost Prince" is merely "based" on his life--there is no evidence, for example, that John ever mastered playing the coronet as was show in the program, though there is a good deal of evidence that he did enjoy gardening like his two eldest brothers, Edward VIII and George VI did.
[Many readers will now search for the two Bowes-Lyon cousin's of Queen Elizabeth who were famously institutionalized and written out of Burke's Peerage. They are not descendants of Queen Victoria and so are not profiled here.]
The German decscendants of Queen Victoria include the only known royal with Down Syndrome. Princess Alexandrine of Prussia, a granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm, lived at home and was frequently photographed. She died in 1980.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
|Copyright Ponopresse Anthony Cricknay|
|Copyright Getty Images|
As all of these folks are now certified Old Age Pensioners, the question looms large: Who will replace them when Charles and then William ascends the throne? As we saw in the Diamond Jubilee, Charles is for a very streamlined Royal Family and not the yards and yards of distant cousins featured on the balcony after the Trooping of the Colour each summer. But is this realistic? Can Posh Spice (Mrs. Becks) or other celebrities take this over? Is this really even "relevent" any more. You bet your charitable contribution it is! A royal on the letterhead as "patron" makes raising money for charities, schools and general good causes much easier. Bono and Sting and the footballers and the movie stars can only do so much. There's nothing like those three little letters--H.R.H. to bring in the pounds and pence!
Who is out of the running?
Well, let's start with those who are out of the running. In times past (i.e. Victoria's day) the title H.R.H. continued down the (male) line a while. Today there are term limits. Not past the soveriegn's grandchildren of the male line. While it can be overlooked, it is helpful if the said H.R.H. is still in the line of succession (that's a euphemism for not having married a Catholic--though that's being fixed I believe since its terribly un-pc to knock someone out of the running just for marrying someone with an older religon).
|copyright Desmond O'Niell Features|
Photo (left) Earl and Countess of Ulster
|Copyright Sam Greenhill|
Photos: Edward (yes another Edward) Baron Downpatrick, Grandson of H.R.H. the Duke of Kent is in the tartan trews in the Bullingdon Club photo on the right. He's also in the photo below with his sisters, Lady Marina and Lady Amelia Windsor.
|Copyright Getty images|
Photo (right) Prince Edward Edward, Duke of Kent with daughter, Lady Helen Taylor
Also knocked out of the running are the children and grandchildren of the Duke of Kent. His sons married Catholics and none of the Duke's offspring are H.R.H.s. His heir, George, Earl of St. Andrews, so un-Royal that he won a King's Scholarship at Eton, managed to begat a son who shares membership in the notorious Bullingdon Club at Oxford [think richest, most obnoxious frat on campus] which boasts members such as Diana's nephew and Prime Minister David Cameron among many others. Lord Downpatrick (as this "Eddie" is known) and his sisters only came to light recently with an appearance in the society magazine Tatler. Their Aunt, Lady Helen Taylor, is the former "Ambassador" for Armani. Her children are also not H.R.H. but ARE C.of E. (Protestant).
The potential replacement (minor) royals:
So, who are the up-and-coming "Minor Royals?" There are four of them--all the "other" grandchildren of the Queen and Prince Philip--the children of their two younger sons. Not being Royal (i.e. not of the male line) Princess Anne's successful, apparently normal and well-adjusted, children are free to make money off their sponsorships and patronages so they don't count. I wrote about all of them a few years ago HERE, but its time for a different look at them--a job interview, if you will.
|copyright Getty Images|
|copyright Getty images|
|Copyright Getty Images|
Beatrice has tried "work," in a financial firm, but having a degree in the History of Ideas put her at a disadvantage to those people who have attended say, the London School of Economics or Harvard Business School. Plus it was difficult to work in her long nights of bar-hopping with Mom and vacations with Dave. It was just announced she's doing yet another "work experience" (i.e. volunteer) stint learning the ropes in television production or something like that. So, becoming a full-time minor royal really could improve her C.V. ['resume' to Americans]. Still, "History of Ideas" could perhaps have run her thru the major science ideas of human history so she could take on that sort of thing so Harry doesn't have to be tutored in the difference between Ortho- and Osteo- and bytes and kilowatts in order to avoid the dreaded "How did you come--by car or train?" sort of chit-chat at charity dinners and receptions for the science-minded. And she does seem to be terribly sweet to oldies -always a plus when the nursing home visits rota gets doled out. Having "come out" as dyslexic was a wise move--made her seem almost grown up and gave her her first "cause."
Princess Eugenie attended Kate's (and Princess Anne's ex Mark Phillip's) old school, Marlbourough, followed by the party school New Castle University and made headlines by....wait for it....living in a dormitory. Yes, you read that right. (More recently she has made headlines as a friend of Harry's sprite-like ex-girlfriend, Cressida Bonas.) She has a degree in art history and literature. That's good--that frees Harry from having to read something other than girlie magazines and tedious summaries of his Army training manuals the equerries prepare for him. She can take on the "high brow" stuff. And, God knows what a "charity benefits auctions manager's" long-term career outlook is anyway. That's what her Wilipedia entry claims she does as "work." Plus, like Beatrice, she has a personal cause--scoliosis--based on her surgically corrected childhood disability. You could look on this as "royal street cred," if you will. A good candidate for minor royal duties if ever there was one.
|Copyright Getty Images|
Thursday, July 31, 2014
My newest blog went live yesterday--The Local Reader--Fiction and Memoirs Where YOU Live. This one is simply another attempt by my librarian self (M.L.S. Indiana 1989) to make another access point to popular reading by cataloging books by their geographical setting. It is an ongoing project. I hope especially to populate it with "gems": "sleepers," great self-published books, small press books and the like, but all books are welcome except porno and erotica. If you'd like to suggest books I'd love to hear from you--you can leave a comment here or at the LOCAL READER. Just be sure to give me the state! Right now I am not doing any picture books or young children's books, but those suitable for any age even though classified as "chapter books" can be included. Mostly I'm looking at normal "grown up" fiction, though memoirs and occasional non-fiction are fine (see the blog for examples of the type non-fiction I've included).
You may not be aware, but I write the following blogs, all of which are merely catalogs of information on the stated topic--no real commentary by me:
Hopewell's Perfect Cabinet of Oddities [the blog you are currently reading; formerly Hopewell Takes on Life!]
Two versions of essentially the same blog (I can't find a format I really like for this one) which will have updates soon (not sure which version I'll put them on though):
21st Century Charlotte Mason Education
21st Century Charlotte aka Thoroughly Modern Mason
A Lifelong Reader in Ambleside
A Quiver Full of Information
Downton My Way -- my tumblr blog on Downton Abbey, Royals, Jeremy Irons and other stuff--this is just for fun!
I am a HUGE fan of Pinterest for what is it but a visual catalog of "stuff"! Perfect! You can find me there where I have two huge boards supporting my novel in progress as well as my obsession with scrapbooking (though I've done almost nothing in recent years, I still collect examples by the thousands), photos of the Royals, tons of recipes, book and library humor and other "stuff."
I also "officially" have a presence on Instagram and Twitter but am not a big user of either service.
Monday, July 21, 2014
The Best of July
Is there a reader alive (or dead!) who hasn't spent at least a few minutes daydreaming about owning a great little bookshop? A.J. Fikry's Island Books is a quirky little shop populated with great, quirky book reviews, a quirky staff and a fascinating story. Looking like "a depressed, malnourished superhero," A.J. believes you can know everything you need to know about a person based on how the answer the questions "What is your favorite book?" A fun little book that will make you stop and think and also add other books to your to-read list. The Storied Life of A.J. Firkry by Gabrielle Zevin.
I know! I know! A book about sewage and other icky things? But wait! It's so well worth it! This is a fascinating story of science, research and humanity. Now, if I can rave about a book that discusses SCIENCE you can surely read it and enjoy it, too! I was drawn to this story due to my love of Anne Perry's William Monk books, but I stayed because it was just so fascinating. It reads like a novel, not like a science book (oh the relief!) so just try it! The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.
Author Lily King has put together a good read based on the lives of three famed anthropologists.I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched, well-told tale set in the South Pacific in the 1930s. The details rang true and no one was give ridiculously modern PC views--a huge plus in historical fiction these days. Well-told though the story is, what stuck with me most was the description of one man's "member" as "flushed purple...." That has to go down in the annals of writing as one of the most vivid descriptions of that oft-discussed organ ever! I look forward to more from this author. Euphoria by Lily King.
I'm not a big fan of so-called "Young Adult" literature. I can't get into vampires! I found this one while watching the trailers before the movie Fault in Our Stars and since it featured a teenage cellist, I was all for it. The problem I had with this book was simply the Y.A. genre label. This, like sexy "teen" clothing and other things meant originally for the 16--19 year old age bracket, makes it attractive to 11--13 year olds today. Are kids that young really ready for topics like abortion, foreplay, religion-bashing, disrespecting authority figures, kids being "queer," Moms who immediately offer birth control and condoms when a teen starts a relationship, a teenage lesbian couple, Mom being "ok" with turning down a very prestigious college for a boyfriend, a guy dressing in drag and trying to enlist in the military or the boyfriend stealing the covers? In all likelihood NO! But my other self asks "Would they even notice those lines in the conversation or narrative?" Probably not. I found it MORE interesting that Mia thinks of the cello as a "solitary" instrument and only encounters playing in an ensemble at a competitive music camp! I've come down very hard here because these topics are in here--yes they are all current and "relevant" to teen culture today, but the kids who will WANT to read this are barely into puberty! That's the conservative side of this review. The flip side, the liberal side, says there are kids out there who will be validated by those things being in the story. I would have devoured this book at 14 or 15 for the music story and ignored most of the rest. As an adult I loved that the family had parents who were only ever married to each other, who loved and supported their children, who cared about their friends and their community. THAT is the take-away from this book: The loving caring family who have views that are theirs and for which they make no apologies. That I truly loved. I can't wait to see the movie! If I Stay by Gayle Forman.
The Rest of July's Books
I LOVED Jeremy Irons in the tv series The Borgias, so when I saw this I hoped it would be good and it was! This is a vividly told page turner! The setting, the characters, the gamesmanship--all were exciting. The wily Rodrigo Borgia, aka Pope Alexander VI, and his family had fascinating, if ruthless, lives! The notes at the end were very good as well--pointing out what was "legend" and what was documented "history." I will definitely read more by this author. Blood and Beauty: The Borgias : A Novel by Sarah Dunant
I've had Gilead on my to-read list for ages, so when my friend Jeanne started reading it for her book club I decided to read along. Well, I did like it. It is an interesting way of telling the story, but for me it was like being stuck at the dinner table circa 1968 with my great Uncles Paul and David holding forth about their childhood. A bit too "meander-y." I LOVED that there was a cross-generational marriage that was loving and true and adored the man's love for his only son. If you are not a Midwesterner this story will a look at a different culture. When it was all done I was happy I had read it and that I can recommend it. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
WT???? What editor let this be published with Part 9 still attached? SPOILER A perfectly reasonable piece of not-too-heavy -handed revisionist historical fiction ends with reincarnation in the Nile? Water borne diseases thrive in the Nile, not lunacy! We'll skip a 1920s maiden teacher voting for Debbs and keeping her job. Small change. A German Jewish character prescient enough to equate the Armenian genocide with the future fate of Jews (but then doesn't leave Nazi Germany? ??)...that's a stretch. Still, it is one line in the whole book. But the (at a loss what to call it) bizarre rant against all religions (except maybe Buddhism??), war, politicians, etc., sounded just plain absurd. The author sounds like a college freshman at best from this. Oh, and naturally, the "spinster" not only must have an affair with a married man to set her free! Then.....wait for it!!! She is a librarian..... Oh one helpful tidbit-- unless you are a T.E. Lawrence scholar the hinted-at episode involves same sex rape. At least she didn't recount what supposedly happened in that. In spite of this, she does tell a great story and I will likely read more of her books. I just hope the ending is more mature. Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell.
Check out all of this month's reviews at 5 Minutes for Book's monthly "What's on Your Nightstand."