Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Elizabeth the Queen, by Sally Bedell Smith


Elizabeth the Queen:The Life of a Modern Monarch
Sally Bedell Smith
Original Publication Date: 2011
Edition 2012,
ISBN 1400067898
Random House 688 pages

Sally Bedell Smith presents a comprehensive picture of Queen Elizabeth II. What makes this such a compelling read is the information and candid picture the reader will visualize from this biography. As an American, the image of Queen Elizabeth is often vague and remote. Perhaps that is how our president appears to other countries, but without experiencing Parliament and the British Monarchy first hand, one can’t help but feel unconnected and distanced. Yet, after reading Smith’s book for the Early Reviewer program at Library Thing, a clearer more human and genuinely warm image of the Queen is more likely probable. This biography depicts the Queen as a mother, who believes in the sacrifice of her role as the monarch above all. The love for her family is no less important, but her dedication to the British people will often cause limitations and conflict. The reader will identify with her positive inspirational spirit. This biography is a kind and gentle history of the Queen up to this current Diamond Jubilee Year. It is not just about the Queen, but about it encompasses her life, her extended family and her long and steady reign. I can’t judge how candid this biography really is. For example, does the author paint a pellucid portrait of the Queen? As with any popular public figure, the paparazzi, the press and the world will try and judge her. Draw your own conclusion by reading this enchanting biography, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. Did you know she has a Facebook page? How special would it be to actually friend this mighty yet petite techno savvy sovereign. Sally Bedell Smith’s biography is a noteworthy addition to the existing archives about the House of Windsor. Happy Diamond Jubilee : “Long Live the Queen!”

Disclosure: Early Reviewers(Library Thing)sent a free ARC for review.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2012].

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review-The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen


Lois Leveen
William Morrow
2012, pb, 496pb

Lois Leveen will admit that when she studied The Civil War in school she found it to be rather dull. For the author, it wasn’t until she began to examine the social and cultural climate during the war, rather than specific battles that defined the war that changed her opinion. Fortunately for the reader, Leveen begins a search to answer a few curious questions. The result is a blend of known history and her imagined historical fiction surrounding the lives of three people who spied for the Union they were Mary Bowser, Elizabeth “Bet” Van Lew and Thomas McNiven.

This story takes place in Richmond Virginia where Mary is a house slave for the affluent Van Lew family.  The Van Lew’s have a daughter Elizabeth who has strong abolitionist views.  It is “Bet” who notices that Mary is quite bright. Although she can not read, she has a unique memory and demonstrates a quick mind. When Elizabeth manumits Mary, she arranges to send her to live in Philadelphia to attend school. Years later, Mary returns to Richmond to join with “Bet” to spy for the North. Mary, assumes the identity of a slave and works for Jefferson Davis and his wife. With clever irony Mary assumes the part of an illiterate and simple minded slave who actually has a photographic mind, is highly educated and has a natural mature poise. “Bet” Van Lew is believed to be pro-South, but is a true abolitionist. With her Southern charm and hospitality she apparently eludes suspicion.

The Secrets of Mary Bowser is an irresistible story of espionage and bravery.  Leveen has opened up the souls and minds of people who lived during this divisive war.   Whether slave, abolitionist, soldier, slaveholder, woman, freed African American, northerner or southerner, the Civil War impacted peoples’ lives beyond each gruesome and gory battle in disparate ways.   To this day, there is an unquenchable allure for books, articles, photos and anything about the Civil War. What makes this period of American History so compelling?  Perhaps it is a desire to seek understanding as we unravel the evil mark that slavery left on our history. The Secrets of Mary Bowser will satisfy those seeking historical fact and lovers of historical fiction who search for any perspective that will move us a step closer to understanding the disunion to e pluribus unum.

Wisteria Leigh, May 21, 2012

Copy of book received from TLC Tours for review.  
Alternate copy purchased :Kindle edition. 
 © [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2012].