Fabulous Fiction Firsts #275

Daisy Goodwin's The American Heiress * * is the story of Cora Cash - beautiful, vivacious, spoiled and very wealthy (Gilded Age - Newport). The only thing missing in her life is a title, so her domineering mother thinks.

So off they go, to the playground of the aristocracy, and sure enough, they land the most eligible bachelor in England. Cora suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, and madly in love. Ivo Maltravers, (beleaguered by death duties and a crumbling country estate), Cora comes to find, could be withdrawn, secretive, and increasingly duplicitous (no surprise to the knowing reader). Though her fortune is eagerly anticipated, it does not smooth her way with her powerful mother-in-law, snobby servants, or the insular English society. Cora soon learns that wealth cannot buy everything, and she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

"Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining".

"A shrewd, spirited historical romance with flavors of Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, Upstairs, Downstairs and a dash of People magazine that charts a bumpy marriage of New World money and Old World tradition."

"...Goodwin, borrowing elements from a variety of beloved romance classics, keeps you guessing until the very last pages of this fun and finely tuned historical".

Daisy Goodwin attended film school (Columbia) after earning a degree in history (Cambridge). She is a British television producer, a poet 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life , and chaired the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. This is her debut novel.

* * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #273

If you enjoy a leisurely afternoon browsing in antique shops, or find yourself searching out flea markets in your travels, then I think you will find a little treasure here. 13, rue Thérèse came out earlier this year but I waited for the audio book, and I was not disappointed. Jefferson Mays and Mia Barron did an amazing job bringing drama and breathing life into this recording of Elena Mauli Shapiro's debut novel.

Trevor Stratton, an American academic working in Paris is fascinated with a box of personal artifacts found in a filing cabinet in his new office. Sorting through the photographs, postcards, handkerchief, letters, and other vintage keepsakes that once belonged to a woman named Louise Brunet, Trevor begins to imagine and invent a life for her at 13, rue Therese, Paris, - from losing a young lover on the WWI battlefield, a marriage to someone of her father's choosing, to a daring and passionate affair with a married neighbor.

As Louise's life takes shape in Trevor's mind, he begins to notice Josianne, one of the young secretaries, and her eerie connection to the box. Trevor is intrigued and must find out why.

Elena Mauli Shapiro was born and raised in Paris, France, in an apartment below the real-life Louise Brunet’s. Shapiro found herself in possession of a box of Louise’s keepsakes after her neighbor died. They became the inspiration for the novel. See the real artifacts online at the book's website.

Joyce Saricks, Readers Advisory guru, focused her attention recently on the Unexpected Pleasures of audiobooks. I especially enjoy listening to translated works or works set in exotic locales. I often find them impromptu language lessons, with a bit of serendipitous armchair-traveling thrown in. 13 rue Therese was a real find.

Author Birthdays: de Saint-Exupéry, Toland, Fallaci

June 29th marks the birthday of authors Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, John Toland, and Oriana Fallaci.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French author most known for his children's fairy tale The Little Prince. The story has also been turned into a graphic novel and opera.

de Saint-Exupéry also wrote some things for adults, including the memoir Wind, Sand and Stars and the posthumous The Wisdom of the Sands, printed four years after his disappearance in 1944.

John Toland was an American historian, known for his works on WWII, especially the Pulitzer-winning The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. He also wrote a book on the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. In regards to the Japanese people, he was known to have said, "You don't have to take sides. All you have to do is get people's motivations."

Toland also wrote a biography of Adolf Hitler; in order to write the book, he actually interviewed people who had known Hitler. The biography is thought to be something of a "myth-buster."

Oriana Fallaci was an Italian writer and journalist, and opponent of the fascist regime during WWII. Interviews with History and Conversations with Power was compiled after her death and includes interviews with powerful leaders.

Fallaci also wrote some fictional works. These include A Man, which is a historical novel based upon the would-be assassin of a Greek leader, and Inshallah, a novel about Italian soldiers stationed in Beirut.

Author Birthdays: Haggard, Remarque, Brown

June 22nd marks the birthday of authors H. Rider Haggard, Erich-Maria Remarque, and Dan Brown.

H. Rider Haggard, also known as Sir Henry Rider Haggard, was an English author, mainly known for his works featuring the character Allan Quartermain, most notably the novel King Solomon's Mines.

Haggard's writing and characters have been the basis for many things: Quartermain was the prototype for Indiana Jones; his character Ayesha influenced psychologists and other writers; and his adventurous story lines influenced the "Lost World" genre's later writers.

Erich-Maria Remarque was a German author. His best known work was the WWI novel All Quiet on the Western Front, which was also made into a film.

Remarque's other novels include The Night in Lisbon, which tells the story of German refugees during the beginning of WWII, and Arch of Triumph, which was also made into a movie (starring Ingrid Bergman).

Dan Brown is an American novelist, best known for his book The Da Vinci Code, and the other novels starring the character of Robert Langdon.

Brown's first novel was Digital Fortress, which, like The Da Vinci Code, features code-breaking, though the main character is a mathematician rather than a "symbologist." In 2007, Brown also published a memoir about his work as a New York teacher.

Ben Franklin on Video

The Ben Franklin exhibit continues!

Obviously, there are many documentaries on Ben Franklin. One from the History Channel not only features Ben, it also has a snippet from the series Save our History. Another from the History Channel includes a small printed study guide. Ben is even the main subject of one of the discs of the channel's The Founding of America series.

There are also some more interesting DVDs we have that include Ben. Liberty's Kids, a chidlren's TV series from 2002 has Ben as one of its main characters. There is also a short Disney production based on the book Ben and Me.

Two characters that have been named after the real Ben are Benjamin Franklin Pierce, from M*A*S*H, and Benjamin Franklin Gates, from National Treasure.

My personal favorite is either the "Ben Franklin" episode of The Office, or the musical film 1776, starring Howard Da Silva as our beloved Ben.

Author Birthdays: Lorca, Scarry, Drabble

June 5th marks the birthday of authors Federico García Lorca, Richard Scarry, and Margaret Drabble.

Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet and playwright who is believed to have been killed during the Spanish Civil War. Some of his unpublished poems and essays were collected in a volume in 1998, A Season in Granada; the overall theme of the collection is Granada, where Lorca was supposedly killed.

Lorca's works also include: In Search of Duende, which describes theories on dance, music, and bullfights; the play Yerma, which was made into a Spanish language film; and a collection of his letters, which gives a sort of autobiography of his life.

Richard Scarry was an American author and illustrator of children's stories. His most well-known works include those about Busytown, a place inhabited by animals.

Scarry wrote for many ages; we have board books, picture books, and readers. We even have some of his works in Chinese.

Margaret Drabble is an English writer of novels and biographies, as well as some other assorted non-fiction subjects. Of these non-fiction works, AADL has a biography of Angus Wilson (a fellow novelist), and a book on jigsaw puzzles, The Pattern in the Carpet.

Drabble's novels include: The Red Queen, which details the story of a London woman who receives an unpublished memoir of a Korean princess; The Seven Sisters, which Library Journal noted as having "a character who describes herself accurately as having 'much to be ashamed about'"; and The Millstone, set in 1960s London.

Nebula Award Winner

Nebula AwardNebula Award
The brilliant writer, Connie Willis, has achieved another award to add to her auspicious collection. Having won a previous 6 Nebulas and 10 Hugos, she recently won another Nebula for her 2 volume novels, Blackout and All Clear (released separately in 2010). These novels were also nominated for the 2011 Hugo. These two books further the time-travel storyline started in a 1982 short story, "Fire Watch" (included in her short story collection Fire Watch), and the books Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, all multiple award winners too. They all revolve around time traveling history students and their professors at Oxford University circa mid-21st. In these latest award winning books, the students' field work assignments involve time-travel to various points during WWII England. The assignments involve reporting on the events while taking on roles like a shopgirl during the Blitz, an American reporter at Dunkirk, and a servant helping to evacuate children to England's countryside. But time-travel is never without some hiccups along the way. If you like adventure, historical fiction, and don't mind a bit of time-travel, dive into these right away! Great summer reading awaits!

Author Birthdays: Doyle, Hergé, Peck

May 22nd marks the birthday of authors Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Hergé, and M. Scott Peck.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish writer, most known for his stories of Sherlock Holmes. According to Wikipedia, there were 56 short stories and 4 novels about the detective written by Doyle.

Doyle's other works include those that focus on the character of Professor Challenger, and quite a few historical novels such as The White Company, which was set during the Hundred Years' War.

Hergé was a Belgian comic writer. His real name was Georges Prosper Remi, and you may know him if you've ever read a Tintin comic. We even have Tintin in the original French.

While Hergé also wrote a few other comics (Quick and Flupke, The Amiable Mr. Mops), copies of them are quite hard to find.

M. Scott Peck was an American author and psychiatrist. His most well-known book is The Road Less Traveled, about human fulfillment.

Peck's others works include Glimpses Of The Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts Of Possession, Exorcism, And Redemption and Denial Of The Soul: Spiritual And Medical Perspectives On Euthanasia And Mortality, two of his more spiritual works.

Author Birthdays: Baum, Porter, Bulgakov

May 15th marks the birthday of authors L. Frank Baum, Katherine Anne Porter, and Mikhail Bulgakov.

L. Frank Baum was an American children's author most well known for his story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; there were at least 17 total Oz books that Baum wrote.

Baum also wrote short stories about the magical land of Mo. You may be interested in looking up other books by Baum which were actually published under the pseudonyms Edith Van Dyne, Floyd Akers, Schuyler Staunton, John Estes Cooke, Suzanne Metcalf, and Laura Bancroft.

Katherine Anne Porter was an American writer and Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner (for The Collected Stories). She was also nominated numerous times for the Nobel Prize.

Porter's novel Ship of Fools was a best-seller and was made into a film starring Gone with the Wind's Vivien Leigh.

Mikhail Bulgakov was a Russian playwright and novelist. His most well known work was The Master and Margarita, a novel about the Devil visiting Soviet Russia. The book is something of a cult favorite now.

In addition, we have a collection of six of Bulgakov's plays. There is also another of Bulgakov's novels at AADL, Heart of a Dog, which is a strange story about a dog-turned-kind-of-man.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #263

Touch *, Alexi Zentner's debut is set in Sawgamet, a north woods boomtown gone bust, where the cold of winter breaks the glass of the schoolhouse thermometer, and the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Stephen, a pastor, is at home on the eve of his mother's funeral, thirty years after the mythic summer his grandfather returned to the town in search of his beloved but long-dead wife. And like his grandfather, Stephen is forced to confront the losses of his past.

"Touch introduces you to a world where monsters and witches oppose singing dogs and golden caribou, where the living and the dead part and meet again in the crippling beauty of winter and the surreal haze of summer."

It brings to mind another powerful debut Three Day Road by fellow Canadian Joseph Boyden. It is a stunning tale of brutality, survival, and rebirth set in Northern Ontario where Niska, an Oji-Cree medicine woman journeyed to retrieve Xavier Bird, her only relation, who has returned from the trenches of Europe, gravely wounded and addicted to morphine.

Sharron Smith, a librarian who knows everything Canadian (mostly books and authors), also suggests Gil Adamson's The Outlander as a readalike for its setting (wilderness); the suspense (the deadly pursuit of a young woman accused of murder); the style (slow and lyrical unfolding of the storyline); and the elements of magical realism.

* = Starred review

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