Victoria: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin and Victoria: Season 1

I knew very little about Queen Victoria.  The various Queens Elizabeth are much better known to me, but I am very glad I watched the Masterpiece show on PBS.  Daisy Goodwin wrote the TV show and also the book.  Having seen and read both, I would recommend you do the same.

Queen Victoria was quite small, under five feet tall.  She was imperious, and while an era is named after her, she was not the fierce little old lady I was expecting.  Her ascension to the throne happened when she was young, and many in power at the time tried to control her.  She was determined to rule wisely and make her own choices.  Jenna Coleman does a remarkable job in the title roll of the show, and if you look at pictures of Victoria when she was young, there is a good resemblance.  The show closely follows the book, but it is still enjoyable to check out them both.

Lord Melbourne is the Prime Minister and the Queen’s first love.  Lehzen, Victoria’s governess, later advisor and companion and Dash, the dog, also lend support.  Of course we must mention Prince Albert, also a fascinating character with an interest in modernization and his own difficulties being married to Royalty.  With politics, romance and history, this coming of age story is most enjoyable.  So do read the book and also see the DVD of season 1.  Some scenes were deleted from the original Masterpiece TV show, so it may be preferable to watch it on DVD if you are able.  And God save the Queen!  Request a copy.

Becoming Grandma by Lesley Stahl

Even though I am not a grandparent (and not about to become one), I saw Lesley Stahl’s book about grandparents and grandchildren and thought I would take a look – or a listen to the audiobook.  Being familiar with Lesley from 60 Minutes, I found her stories from her own family life and experiences well written and researched.  There is a science to the instant affection between grandparents and their newborn grandchildren.  This is explained as an overwhelming feeling of attachment akin to love at first sight.  There is also a wealth of difference in the parental experience and the “grands” experience.  Differences in age and what grands will be called today are not what they were in the past.  Finances also affect the family experience and more children are being raised by grandparents or foster grandparents today than ever.

The book describes the birth of grand-daughters Jordan and Chloe and stories from interviews with Diane Sawyer, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Brokaw.  The grandfather experience and step-grandparents are also covered.

If you are a grandparent, a parent, or a grandchild, you will find this description of modern family relationships of interest.  There is more to family dynamics than I would have thought possible, and Lesley Stahl narrates a wonderful audiobook on “the Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting.”

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Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Displacement
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Similar to Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast – but better!  Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel memoir of her Caribbean cruise also addresses the difficulties of aging, but is less depressing.  Lucy is a young “poor, single, obsessive freelancer” who gets the opportunity to accompany her grandparents on a trip.  Her “grands” are in their 90s, so her help will be invaluable.  This is also an opportunity for her to spend more time getting to know them better.  She has a copy of her grandfather’s writings about WWII, which are interspersed with the modern-day story.  Nothing seems to go well on this trip.  This is one of the best of the new adult graphic novels with both humor and sadness.  The illustration is lovely.  A great read!

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please
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Amy Poehler is such a nice person!  Funny, down-to-earth, and very likeable, she does a terrific job as the narrator.  Her description of her faults is endearing and easy to relate to.  Aren’t we all our own worst critic?

From her childhood to her work on Saturday Night Live, Baby Mama, Blades of Glory and Parks and Recreation, she shares well-told, amusing anecdotes.  Many of the stars she has worked with appear in the audiobook.  Also included is a special one-night only live performance from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.

Strange, her need to know more about the day she was born.  This part made me go home and ask my mother about the day I was born.  The answer was very unsatisfactory.  Still, you should listen to Yes Please or read the book if you prefer.  I do recommend it!

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires

I love Binky the Space Cat!  Binky is a well-fed black and white house pet.  He loves his family and he absolutely hates bugs – space bugs, that is.  His goal in life is to become a space cat.  When he receives notification that he has been accepted into the F.U.R.S.T. (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) program, he is thrilled.  Binky seems to think that space is outdoors and that bugs are space monsters, but never mind – with the help of his little cat toy Ted, he will succeed in building a space ship.  With a grade level of 2 to 5, for ages 7 to 10, this is one of those books that cat lovers of all ages will enjoy.  The illustrations are charming and there are additional entries in the series so fans can follow Binky’s further adventures – although the first book is arguably the best.

 

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts

Dark Witch

Book One of the Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy – on Audiobook:  I enjoy a good scary story!  This one fills the bill with witches and warlocks, spooky fog, plus romance, spells, wolves and horses, and it’s set in Ireland.  When Iona arrives in County Mayo, she possesses mystical powers and a talent with horses.  She is hired by the local stable and begins an affair with Boyle McGrath, the dashing owner of the business.  Iona meets her cousins and fate decrees that joining their family powers will combat an ancient evil force.  The narrator does a great job with the various voices, but spends too much time actually yelling during the action sequences.  If you enjoy this story, there are additional books and audiobooks available in this series.

Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon

Coldbrook

At a secret lab in the Appalachians, Jonah Jones and his group of scientists have found a gateway to… well, they don’t quite know what yet.  It’s what comes in through the gate that is the problem.  A zombie plague from another world rapidly infects the scientists, the U.S. and then the world.  Holly Wright manages to escape through the doorway.  What will she find there — a cure for the plague, escape, or maybe just some explanation?  And who is this dark mysterious figure coming after Jonah in his dreams?  Will the earth be saved?

If you are a fan of zombie apocalypse books, you will love this one.  Can’t wait for the next book in this exciting series.

Omega Days by John Campbell

Omega Days

Another Zombie apocalypse novel.  And well worth your time!  Well drawn characters battle for their lives in an America ravaged by a zombie horde.  Father Xavier Church questions his faith, as one might imagine, but shows bravery and skill in surviving and leading other survivors.

Skye Dennison, an incoming college student at the University of California, Berkeley, watches as her family is killed.  After her own rescue she learns to defend herself.  Young and brave, her driving purpose is revenge.

Then there is Angie West, star of a History Channel reality show that features her family’s gun business.

Our characters fight for survival and move toward a final gathering that presages the next book in the series.  As the book switches between the adventures of each small group, the reader feels sorry to leave one group, but the next is even more intriguing.  Zombie fans take note!

The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir

Mark Watney is left for dead on Mars.  Knocked unconscious, he is lucky enough to be alive, but how much longer will his luck hold out?  He has no contact with Earth and few supplies.  Wounded and alone, he must use all his knowledge, cunning, and bravery to stay alive long enough to contact someone for help.  Will he survive long enough for a crew to come back and save him?  If they can!  With its sharp sense of humor and scientific savvy, his struggle is engrossing.  A bit heavy with mathematical and scientific explanation, Mark’s story is still a mesmerizing adventure.

DRACULA by Bram Stoker

Dracula

Dracula:  The audiobook!  Recommended by reviewers for its cast (every audiobook should probably be read by a man and a woman together).  Susan Adams and Alexander Spencer bring this old story to life.  If you have seen the newer movies and tv shows of Dracula, you will not recognize the story, so much has been changed from the original tale (1897).

Jonathan Harker’s travels and experiences in Transylvania and at the castle create a growing horror as you tiptoe down dark hallways with him and see specks of light moving and growing into mysterious figures.  When Jonathan finally realizes the danger he is in, the listener will root for his seemingly impossible escape.  Our heroes are a likeable group of characters and the evil Count is suitably terrifying.

The book is a famous classic and the audiobook is just that much more thrilling in audio.  The story loses none of its edge and is superior to many of its modern incarnations.  Highly recommended!

 

Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Jane Maxwell

Jane - the woman who loved Tarzan

(Audiobook)  It’s 1905 in Cambridge, England.  This story follows the adventures of Jane Porter from her time as the only woman student in Cambridge University’s medical program to her ill-fated travels in Africa with her father.  There they search for fossils that will prove Darwin’s theories.  Jane, after being injured, is rescued by Tarzan.  Various reviews of the book are critical of many aspects of the story that vary from the original Tarzan of the Apes series.  This book is, however, authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate.  I was prepared to like the audiobook and, in spite of changes in the story, found this to be a fine romance with strong characters, well read and performed, and very enjoyable.  Jane is a woman ahead of her time and takes a dominant role as the main character.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Dog Stars

This is the story of Hig, a flu survivor, who with his faithful but elderly dog, Jasper, works hard to survive.  Life is tough in the future after the majority of the population has died from a new strain of the flu.  There are no zombies, vampires or werewolves in this story, but it is still downright scary!  Most of the remaining population are not nice people.

Hig’s only human friend works with him to survive, and he can still fish, hunt, cook, and fly his 1956 Cesna, but Hig misses life as it was.  One day he flies beyond his return point in the hope of finding something more.  Full of philosophical musings, sometimes meaningful, sometimes less so, this is an enjoyable and high-tension story of characters you will care about.  Ignore the swears —  life is brutal here.

How To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You by the Oatmeal

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You

This graphic novel is a complete explanation of the mind and behavior of the cat.  Apparently, they are evil and wish to kill us all.  So cute when they sleep, they dream of flying jets and riding dinosaurs.  The best part of the book shows what happens when they switch roles with humans.  The cat is shown reading a book, ignoring his human who stands at the door waiting to be let in, with predictable but comic results.

The level of satisfaction when a man walks his dog is 100% for both parties.  The level of satisfaction when walking the cat is 0%.

The two Bob Cats who work in an office get more plotting done than actual work.  They wear ties and conspire to get their tummies rubbed by their fellow workers.  There is an unnecessary chapter on assessing the homosexual qualities of your pet.  Otherwise, this book is hilarious.

Written by New York Times best-selling author Matthew Inman, aka TheOatmeal.com, the book includes “Cat vs Internet”, “How to Pet a Kitty” and a guide to interpret “Direction of Ears”.  A must-read for all cat fans!

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless

Alexia Tarabotti is a 25-year-old spinster in Victorian London.  She also has no soul; her father is Italian and dead; and she was attacked by a vampire in the library during a social event.  As if that were not bad enough, she finds herself working with the disturbingly handsome werewolf, Lord Conall Maccon, to determine who is creating vampires outside of vampire hive rules.

This is a witty blend of the supernatural, steampunk, alternative history and romance.  Alexia’s spirit is engaging, and the clever plot will keep readers enthralled.  Happily, Soulless is the first in a series of Alexia Tarabotti mysteries, which appear under the name of The Parasol Protectorate.

Ashes by Ilsa Bick

Ashes is the story of Alex, a girl with an incurable brain tumor, who runs away into the woods to come to terms with her illness and say goodbye to her deceased parents.  As if that weren’t depressing enough, an unexplained electromagnetic pulse suddenly strikes, killing most of the population, turning teens into zombies, and giving some of the survivors the power of heightened senses.

With angry, eight-year-old Ellie and handsome Afghanistan War soldier Tom, Alex seeks answers to what has happened and fights for survival in a world where nothing is the same anymore.

Alex is a good, strong main character.  Even with her new powers, it is easy to root for her and care about what befalls her.  This new world is a perilous one and the adventures of these characters are frightening and addictive, dark and creepy.  Note:  A sequel is planned.