Saturday, May 28, 2011

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Michelle Moran is an author whose work I have become a fan of during the past few years.  She is an author who I admire.  Her books are well researched and very well written.  (My husband asked what was wrong with me the other night and I told him that it was tough to transition from the middle of the French Revolution to The Big Bang Theory).  That's what is good about Moran's writing.  She brings you into history.  You feel as though you are there, part of what is happening.   That being said, this book should come with a warning - pay attention to the second part of this book's title "A Novel of the French Revolution".  The French Revolution was a particularly horrific, bloody time in history and this book does not spare the reader of the realism of that time period.  I was convinced I was going to have nightmares at one point, yet I was unable to put the book down.  That is saying a lot for me.  I don't like graphic violence so to be able to stay hooked in this one tells a lot about the writing of the book.
A great part of that was the main character Madame Tussaud herself.  She is a character I knew almost nothing about prior to reading.  I hear the name and I think of the wax museum in London.  Beyond that, nothing.  She has a very interesting perspective on the time of the French Revolution because she lived on both sides of it.  She was a commoner, friends with revolutionaries, and also tutored Princesse Elisabeth (sister of the King of France) in wax modelling.   Her salon and museum was popular and constantly changing, reflecting the news of the day.  Because she was so good at what she did, her work was in demand by the revolutionaries when it came time to make death masks of those they considered heroes and traitors to the cause. 
If you can handle the violence of the period, I recommend this book to you.  Madame Tussaud is a fascinating character of an unforgettable time in history.

Friday, May 13, 2011

If You Could See Me Now by Cecelia Ahearn

My 3rd novel by Ahern and I am getting the picture that you really have to suspend reality when you read one of her books.  This is the story of Elizabeth a control oriented person who is a care taker. She is the responsible one who looks after her alcoholic sister, her sister's son and her father.  She runs her own business as well.  Enter Ivan, a mysterious man who brings a little joy into her life.  This book was okay.  There were a lot of aspects to this book that would have make it more interesting to read. 


Things I would have liked to have seen in this novel
1) The actual conversation between Elizabeth and her father filling in the mysteries of the past
2) Elizabeth being able to say 'no' to her sister - to realise that being a caretaker is not a healthy way to be.
3) As the book went on, to see Elizabeth connecting more with Luke (her sister's son) - to build that relationship up

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Sight of the Stars by Belva Plain

This was Belva Plain's second to last book and exactly why I love reading her books.  It is a sweeping tale of a young man who starts out with nothing and makes himself into a success.  Throughout it all he remains humble.  Adam Arnring is first introduced at the age of 13 at the beginning of the 20th century.  He is the first son of the family.  His mother is a mystery to him, only having been told by his father that she passed away.  He lives with his father (a grocer), step-mother and 2 brothers.  As Adam grows up and comes to make his own way in the world you get caught up in his story.  The book spans his lifetime (though mostly focuses on the time from his early 20's to 40's).  I enjoyed this book a lot and am glad to have found it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thanks for the Memories by Cecilia Ahern

This is the second novel I've read by Cecelia Ahern. The first was (of course) P.S. I Love You, which I can't get through without tearing up (nor the movie of the same name).  I wasn't sure what to expect by this one. Was it to be another tear jerker?  Some of it was.  But the most of it wasn't.  This story is about Joyce, who loses a baby to miscarriage at the beginning of the story.  Her miscarriage leads her to have a blood transfusion.  The events that follow are far-fetched and fairy-tale like.  If you can get past the improbability of it all, it's a fairly decent time passer.  It just depends if you like that kind of book or not.  I thought it was okay.  I'll try another one of her books in the future and give her another chance.

Crossroads by Belva Plain

I usually love getting lost in a Belva Plain book.  I read and re-read the Tapestry series several times (one of my favorites).  This was her last book.  She passed away this past October at the age of 95.  This one was published in 2004.  The amazing thing with Belva Plain's writing is that she wrote every novel in longhand.  She didn't own a computer.  This book wasn't her best, but it was still enjoyable. It follows 2 women from the same town in New England who are at 2 very different social levels.  Gwen is the very plain adopted daughter of the woman who owns THE company (the Glassworks) of the company town (I apologise for the terrible sentence there).  Jewel is a poor, but incredibly beautiful woman who works as a secretary of the Glassworks.  Their lives keep crossing over.  Both bear jealousies of the other.  Gwen longs for the beauty and confidence that Jewel bears.  Jewel wishes for the wealth and status of Gwen.  It was a nice read for a rainy day.
*Edit update - there has since been a Belva Plain novel published posthumously, Heartwood.  You can read my blog post on it here.