Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Doomed Queen Anne: Carolyn Meyer

After reading Beware Princess Elizabeth and loving it, I went to my favorite used book store and bought two more books from The Young Royals series. Carolyn Meyer has written four novels in The Young Royals series, each about a different notorious woman in King Henry VIII's court. These are young adult novels, written as historical fiction. Each novel is narrated with the youthful tone of their title character. Blending historical accuracy with all of the emotional teen drama we expect from young adult fiction, Meyer has created a special voice in her writing that makes centuries-old royalty seem as accessible as the girl next door.

If King Henry VIII is the most memorable King in English history, certainly Anne Boleyn is the most memorable Queen. Her life story has been told and retold so many times that the truth seems unobtainable. The younger sister of one Henry's many mistresses, Anne Boleyn has long been accused and suspected of being motivated not by love, but by aspirations of royalty. Her rise to--and subsequent fall from--royalty was aided by family members with political agendas. There are some historians who question if Anne loved her king at all. Meyer writes about Anne with more honesty than you will see in the movies by illustrating her physical flaws and her emotional insecurity. In this novel Anne is not a confident, manipulative femme fatale, but a young woman with a girlish crush on her king. As she gets closer to Henry, she narrates her fear of his temper. Her frequent blushes and flusters give her a sense of propriety not often associated with Queen Anne.

Despite it not being a new story to me, I was riveted by this telling of Queen Anne. I love Carolyn Meyer's writing and how accessible she has made the Tudor history.

Rating: $$$

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Alice Hoffman:Fortune's Daughter

Fortune's Daughter is not an uplifting, fast-paced, feel-good novel. It's actually the exact opposite. It is slow, internal, and melancholy. And yet...

Alice Hoffman has written many noteworthy novels, and this is one of her quieter publications. Fortune's Daughter is a novel about motherhood, loss, empathy, relationships, story-telling, and ultimately, about human connection. Lila is a young woman who learns how to read tea leaves from an old fortune teller named Hannie. When Lila becomes pregnant, she aches for Hannie's companionship, but Hannie can see that Lila's future will be a struggle. Lila flees her home and does indeed struggle, only to find herself faced with Rae, who is a young pregnant woman in nearly the same position Lila once experienced. The lives of these two women intertwine and weave a beautiful, though heartbreaking story of love and loss, all for the sake of revealing just how important true connections are in each life.

Now the footnote. Do not read this novel if you have ever experienced a stillbirth or had to give a child up for adoption. The platform for this novel is the loss of a child through adoption or stillbirth. It is a difficult read, but I found it rewarding. There is also an underlying theme in this novel that illustrates how we sometimes perceive other's to be more like ourselves than they are. Lila relates to Rae so strongly that she fears for the life of Rae's child for no reason other than their similar circumstances.

Hoffman is a great writer, obviously well educated in the ways of breaking the hearts of her readers. She first pulls you in and makes you empathize with the characters until you care about them so much that your heart breaks as they discover the dark truths they had hidden from themselves.

Rating: $$

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sherman Alexie: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I haven't been reviewing lately because I haven't read much that got me excited. I can't tell you how many books I've read a few chapters of, only to put them aside for later. And then I picked up Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie has long been a favorite author of mine, and he has yet to fail me. He writes about his experiences growing up on a Spokane reservation in Washington. Alexie is intelligent and witty and his writing is so wonderful that it has the ability to pull me back into my interest in reading.

Junior narrates Alexie's latest novel with all the candor and wit of a middle school boy. Junior is about as average as one can get. He's not tall, he's not a bully, he's not the smartest. He's just average. Until he decides to go to school in Reardan where all the kids are middle class and white. Suddenly there's nothing average about Jumior and he is faced with the fact that he no longer fits in anywhere. The indian kids at home think he's a traitor, trying to be a white kid. The white kids in Reardan think that he will always be a strange indian kid. Junior finds himself struggling with his identity while also handling real-life situations that only further alienate him from the two worlds he lives in.

I can't recommend Sherman Alexie enough. His writing is so unique and so charming. His stories are so real and so relatable. Alexie gets me excited about reading again!

Rating: $$$