Friday Book Whimsy: My Dear Hamilton

Probably inspired by the wildly popular musical Hamilton, the novel My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tells the story of controversial United States statesman and founding father Alexander Hamilton through the eyes of his wife Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.

I love to learn history via novels. It is always so much more real to me, and therefore I remember everything so much more easily. It is always necessary to keep the fact that it is a novel in mind so that you don’t assume that every teeny tiny part of the story is true. Eliza Schuyler, for example, simply couldn’t have been as perfect as the story lets on.

Eliza Schuyler was defined by the men in her life. She is the daughter of a strong general who fought in the Revolutionary War. From him she learned to be a patriot, to think for herself, and to do what it takes to help fight for the nation’s independence.

She marries handsome Alexander Hamilton, and then spends the rest of her marriage as his soundboard and his helpmate. Well, except for the times when he was having affairs.

The authors might have spent a bit too much time talking about Alexander Hamilton for a novel that purports to tell the story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. Still, I learned a lot about the early days of the nation’s history, about the creation of the Federalist Papers, and Hamilton’s role.

The pivotal story of Hamilton’s life, of course, is the duel  against Aaron Burr, a duel that he unfortunately lost. The truth about whether or not he wanted to duel, and whether or not he fired a shot remains to be seen. Even in this novel, while he told his wife he didn’t fire a shot, she doubts the truth of his statement.

It’s a good story, if a bit long. Quite a bit too long, in fact. I found myself doing a lot of skimming as the story went on and on. Still, it was a fascinating time in our nation’s history, and seeing the story from a woman’s view is a welcome change of pace.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Watching You

Before sitting down to write this review, I tried to think how to describe Watching You, the newest novel from author Lisa Jewell. I finally decided it’s like eating some kind of complex meal in which the flavors combine to create something wonderful and oh-so-satisfying.

Tom Fitzwilliams is a handsome and charismatic educator who has traveled from school to school, “fixing” them. He is successful, the husband of a beautiful young wife and the father of a gifted — if voyeuristic — young son.

But there is something a bit off about Fitzwilliams, starting with an interaction 10 years earlier with a mother who attacked him, shouting that viva was her life, her everything. Who or what is viva?

The novel includes a variety of characters, including recently-married Joey, who moves to the neighborhood to live with her brother, but is immediately obsessed with their neighbor Tom. There is Tom’s son Freddie, who sits in the window and watches everything that goes on in the neighborhood, and knows there is something a bit off about his father. Nicola, Tom’s adoring wife; Bess and Jenna, two high school students, one of whom is infatuated with the teacher, the other of whom distrusts him from the get-go.

The author doles out the information piece by piece, little by little. The reader knows from the beginning that a murder has taken place. What we don’t learn until the end is just who was murdered, and why. And, of course, the name of the murderer.

I loved this novel from beginning to end. I read it in a day-and-a-half, and was satisfied with how the novel wrapped up.

Great read!

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Super Bowl Crime Prediction

An article about the Super Bowl caught my eye. Odd, because I have been paying absolutely no attention to any of the Super Bowl hype, in part because my beloved Denver Broncos are not playing, but in larger part because the New England Patriots ARE playing. Again.

Anyway, this particular article caught my eye because while the sports people have been analyzing this game down to the very last detail, this author is basing his prediction on the mystery and crime novels that identify with each city — Los Angeles and Boston.

Despite the fact that the author is a (rather smug, I believe) New England fan, I found his article to be amusing and interesting.

Enjoy his prediction!



Read Much?

Why do some people like to read and other’s don’t? Even within families, some of the members are readers and others would simply use a book as a coaster.  It’s question that I’ve spent more than my share of time pondering.

I most recently pondered that question one morning last week upon awakening at 5:30 but not yet wanting to get out of bed. I had been reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and my pondering began with a question I asked myself: How did it come about that you first chose that book back when you were 12 or 13 years old? Who recommended A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to you?

While I had good elementary school teachers, I don’t recall any of them particularly inspiring me to read. It’s true, however, that despite the fact that I can remember the lyrics to nearly every song written between 1963 and 1975, I can’t remember the name of my 5th grade teacher. Teachers for grades 1 through 4 I remember. Grade 6 I remember because she died halfway through the school year. An 11-year-old doesn’t forget things like that. But 5th grade? I got nothin’. Maybe she inspired me to read.

Anyway, back to my pondering. I began recalling that from the time I can remember, we had a little bookcase in our dining room that was full of books. There were many Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames and the Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden books. We had Little Women, which I read innumerable times. (Jen still has that book, and the Jo on the cover doesn’t look like Winona Ryder). And I read them all, many more than once. And we had World Book Encyclopedias, some parts of which I would pore over, like the dog section of the D encyclopedia.

Where did those books come from, I wondered. Did Mom buy the whole sets of all of those books? Or, perhaps, did one of her sisters who had children older than the Gloors donate the books to her? It’s something I will never know. Kids, ask your parents questions now.

I further recalled that every Saturday morning, I would go to the city library to return books and make new selections. While I don’t vividly recall, it must have been my mother who drove us to the library and stayed with us while we chose our books.

So, my conclusion was that it was my mother who inspired me to read, and not my 5th grade teacher. That, however, doesn’t answer the question as to why my sisters and I all like to read, but my brother isn’t particularly a reader.

I had always been taught that if you read to your kids, they will, in turn, love reading as they grow into adults. From the time he was a baby until he was mid-elementary school, I read to Court every night. Now, though I think he reads on occasion, he certainly doesn’t LOVE to read. And of this three children, all of whom have been read to, only Kaiya loves to read. I think all of the rest of my grands are readers, and they have all been read to. So, is it DNA or is it environment?

I have no answers, only questions. This, my friends, is often true with life.

Any thoughts?

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Friday Book Whimsy: Murder at Archly Manor

I’ll be honest with you; lately I’ve read so many of these mysteries featuring high-society lady detectives that they’re all starting to run together. Murder at Archly Manor, the first in what’s called the High Society Lady Detective series by author Sara Rosett, while not quite Agatha Christie material, was a fun romp with high society in 1920s England.

Olive Belgrade is a solid member of the aristocratic class in London, but that doesn’t mean she’s rich. In fact, she is barely making ends meet, and is finding job-hunting to be unsuccessful. While visiting relatives, she learns that her cousin Violet is newly engaged to a man that nobody trusts. There is too much about his background that is vague. This leads to that, and Olive is hired by her aunt to look into Alfred’s background.

To this end, Olive attends a weekend party given by an aristocrat who actually IS rich. Unfortunately, before Olive can find out too much, Alfred is killed. Olive sets out to find the murderer.

First novels are always hit-or-miss. The reader needs to learn a lot about the characters. Rosett does a good job of introducing us to Olive and her friends, making them likable and mostly believable.

I found Murder at Archly Manor to be a good cozy mystery, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: What the Dead Leave Behind

There are two era’s in which books take place that will suck me in every time, particularly if it is a murder mystery: a) I love the 1920s, just after WWI, when fun is the name of the game, and thoughts have not yet turned to the possibility of WWII; and b) the late 1800s in New York City, set among the Vanderbilts and the Roosevelts and the Astors. There is just something I find so romantic about that era, despite the fact that women were definitely considered second rate citizens.

A new series by author Rosemary Simpson features a strong-willed woman who lives in one of the famous Fifth Avenue mansions. The night of the real-life Great Blizzard of 1888, Prudence MacKenzie awaits the arrival of her fiance Charles, who must travel through the blizzard to see her. He never arrives, and is later found dead. She soon learns that though her father left her all of his money upon his recent death, the will declares that in order to receive the money, she must be married to Charles so he can manage her fortune. Otherwise, the money goes to her father’s young second wife. Prudence suspects foul play when Charles is found dead and buried under snow with an Ace of Spades in his hand.

Soon, Charles’ long-time friend Geoffrey Hunter, a former Pinkerton agent, shows up. He not only knows the meaning of the playing card, but suspects, as does Prudence, that there is something sinister about her father’s young wife and her dispicable brother.

I liked the character of Prudence, because despite living during a time when women really did have no power, she used her wits and her money to her advantage. Her evil stepmother tries to control Prudence by keeping her under the influence of laudanum, and I found that prequel to today’s drug problems interesting.

A new Prudence MacKenzie novel has just been released, and I am looking forward to reading it.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: The President is Missing

Call me crabby, but I stopped reading James Patterson a long time ago. Oh, I made an exception sometime in the recent past to read I, Alex Cross, one of the series of over 25 books about fictional detective Alex Cross. I read that particular book because the series was selected in the PBS-sponsored Favorite Book Ever Read as one of the 100 chosen by readers. Upon reading the book, I remembered why I’d stopped. I found that book, like others in that series, to be predictable, and more graphically violent than I’d remembered. I’m getting old.

Having said that, I was intrigued last year to learn that Patterson had teamed up with President Bill Clinton to write a mystery/thriller involving the president of the United States. I don’t know how much involvement Clinton had in the writing The President is Missing, but I’m sure he contributed to the details involving the presidency.

Enjoying this novel (which I did) requires an incredible amount of suspension of disbelief. Most significantly, a reader would have to believe that a president could hide from everyone — even his own Secret Service. But I think many novels require a suspension of disbelief.

President Duncan faces a threat more serious than any threat faced by a past president. The bad guys (who are unbelievably smart and computer knowledgeable ) have created a computer virus that will shut down every segment of the United States, from security to finance to airports and highways. Through this virus, life as we know it will come to an end.

To prevent this from happening, Duncan (who happens to have been a special forces agent in his past) goes rogue. He hides where no one can find him and works with other really smart computer guys to stop the virus using intelligence rather than brawn. During this period of three or four days, the world faces disaster, but is ultimately saved. I don’t think that’s a spoiler.

The novel is long, and I approached it with some trepidation. To my surprise, I found the writing to be rather driving, and the story — though unrealistic — to be interesting. The villain behind the virus caught me by surprise.

The President is Missing ends with a speech by President Duncan to Congress that I found to be a bit political for my taste. However, I recommend the book with no hesitation.

Here is a link to the book.