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review 2018-12-03 01:56
Joan Of Arc's inspirational life story shines through in this unique novel told entirely in verse
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc - David Elliott

This book is exquisite. ‘Voices: The Final Hours Of Joan Of Arc’ has brought life once again to one of the most unforgettable and extraordinary female warrior icons. Everyone knows her name, but do they know her story?

 

Told in verse, in different medieval forms of poems, ’Voices’ is so unique (some stanzas are shaped like the subject that is ‘speaking,’ ie the sword or the crossbow). David Elliott has written such a compelling account of Joan’s short life from her beginnings in Domrémy, to her visions of the Saints, the battles she led against the English, and her eventual capture and execution. The encroaching ‘Fire’ poem that repeats throughout the novel is particularly clever and impactful.

 

Back then in 1430 France (when she was captured and put on trial), Joan was viewed with suspicion and as an affront to the Crown because she dressed in armor and wanted to ’look like a man’. She didn't believe she should have to stay at home ’to sew and mate’ when a war was being fought, simply because she didn't want to, never mind her sexuality. Her story has always been known as one of the earliest examples of a woman standing up against misogyny, against a patriarchal system that didn't make sense to her, and because her beliefs simply wouldn't allow her to sit down and accept what was happening around her.

Joan’s voice and perspective come through clearly in the novel as brave and courageous, with the right bit of stubborn. She questions the system and pursues her objectives, which give the novel an obvious ambiance of inspiration throughout. I only really wanted more from the novel when it came to the trial and perhaps the very end of her life.

Joan became a Saint after her death and was declared a martyr for everything she gave for ’God and country’. I did appreciate the epilogue and author's note at the end of the book; it seems this work was a labor of love and I enjoyed reading about its inception.

 

Joan of Arc is a historical figure who is infamous because of the brave, short life she lived, with such a tragic death, and I think Elliott has written something brilliant here that can draw many people in to learn more about her.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/40796139-voices
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review 2015-11-04 14:39
Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott - Jeannine Atkins

We are enormous Louisa May Alcott fans in my house -- so much so, my son's middle name is Alcott!

When I saw mention of this book, a novel about Louisa's sister Abigail May (or Amy in Little Women), I was consumed with need for it. I knew a little of May from our visits to Orchard House, and my wife and I tripped over an exhibit of May's art at the Concord Public Library by accident some years ago. But I never thought more about her; I just assumed the girl portrayed by Louisa was more or less that vain and silly.

Yeah, I'm the silly one.

I inhaled this novel in a matter of days. The May portrayed here is an ambitious young woman who wants more than her family expects; and worse, she's made to feel bad for wanting it all -- a husband, a family, an artistic career, money, a home. Teaching art to young women who do it out of obligation, May yearns to go to Europe to learn from the masters. Conservative New England mores combined with her family's poverty means she struggles for access to materials, classes, and inspiration yet the fierce hunger we see in Louisa's Jo (from Little Women) is just as urgent in May.

Atkins reveals a less appealing side to Louisa May Alcott, but she offers it with such respect for the Alcott family that I appreciated her unvarnished story. In Atkins' hands, Louisa's determination comes off callous and brusque, cruel even, and suddenly the bratty Amy I had written off most of my life seemed less selfish and more sympathetic.

In fact, May's life is rife with tragedy and full of unexpected encounters with the luminaries of her time. She makes it to Europe where, for a while, she has professional praise, income, and even love. For those unfamiliar with how her life proceeds, I'll not say more, but it reads like the best kind of novel, and I heaved a big, teary sigh at the end.

Atkins' writing style is lovely, mixing wonderfully evocative details with brisk dialogue, and I don't think one need be familiar with the Alcotts or the world of mid-19th century Concord to enjoy this story. It's a kind of coming-of-age story, an exploration of the obligations of family and the wishes of personal fulfillment. As a new mother trying to work on my novel, I appreciated the tension the Alcott women faced, from angry Marmee to impatient May, in trying to balance family life with vocation.

Fascinating and delightful, this is a marvelous novel for those who enjoy biographical fiction that focuses on figures less well-known. And of course, any fan of Little Women will want this one -- it'll invite a rereading of that classic with a new eye!

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review 2015-06-08 02:25
The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand - Elizabeth Berg

May 2015: Am going to just DNF this and move on. Am at about 73% and while I'm liking it a smidgen more, I'm just exhausted by the encyclopedic focus on Sand's life (to the detriment of the story, I feel), and the dual story lines (I do not see a difference in young Sand and older Sand, and it just makes the story drag on and on and on...).
Berg's articulation of a writer, however, was interesting (I love writers on writers). It's obvious she likes and admires Sand, for all her flaws, but despite the amount of words dedicated to Sand, I actually didn't feel like I knew her.

 

April 2015: I just cannot get into this book. Every time I mention it, everyone talks about how much the love Berg's novels, so I keep trying (this is my first time reading her) but the story is agonizingly slow. The split narrative -- her childhood, and then her adulthood -- just slows things down even more.

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review 2014-10-16 07:55
Kid Presidents True Tales of Childhood from America's Presidents by David Stabler
Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America's Presidents - David Stabler

Extraordinary kid presidents, enjoyably witty, humorous but also sad and legendary.  Our presidents detailed childhood, quirky upbringing?  Ether hardships, bullying, prankster, privileged, competing for attention or status quo in the family, this book spins all the childlhood tales of our presidents.  Ulysses Grant love for horses at age nine was hired to break unruly colts because of his talent to train them. Theodore Roosevelt grew up in a wealthy family, his curiosity and collection of animal bones and skulls to their skins intrigued him.  His desire to be the youngest zoologist in the making. Teedie (his nickname) had a traveling taxidermy lab before the age of eleven.   George W. Bush has a massive collection of baseball card.  You know he could recite the starting lineups of every Major League team from memory?  Andrew Jackson grudge against the British stems from being captive and imprisoned by the British.  Andrew at the age of thirteen, both him and his brother Robert enlisted in the miltia to avenge his older brother's death, later both brothers were caught and imprisoned.  Can you believe it, age thirteen joining the militia?

So many stories, President George Washington to John F. Kennedy and our present President Barack Obama. Ronald Reagan couldn't see straight, he was legally blind, did you know that?  Lyndon Johnson was a class clown and Dwight Eisenhower was bullied by a goose on his uncle's farm.  I enjoyed the illustration that accompanied this book, especially the part where Gerald Ford would blow his top, the top of his head shoots out like an atom bomb went off.  Why?  He was known to have the worst temper in his neighborhood.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, pleasant read and delightful stories.  We tend to forget our presidents were children, they were teased, bullied, punched and kicked.  Some had to grow up really fast and assume adult responsibilities, their childhood had stopped. It was nice to know they were humans after all before the politics.  It is a nice read for children to read or to be read too.  I won this book on BookLikes and I thank you!  Thank you, Darlene Cruz

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