Mary Doria Russell’s Doc (2011)

Doc

Doc Holliday probably needs no introduction. He’s one of the more mythic figures of the American West–the well-educated, consumptive, Georgia-born dandy, dentist, and gambler/gunfighter who tag-teamed with the Earp Brothers for the Gunfight at the OK Corral in the Arizona boomtown of Tombstone.

Most pop culture depictions of Holliday offer the legend called Doc. Though Mary Doria Russell chose that nickname as the title for her book, her focus is much more on the John Henry Holliday lurking underneath the legend.

This book was suggested to me by Leslie, one of my undergraduate English professors. Last year, she recommended The Hunting Accident to me, and recently, she asked me if I was familiar with Russell’s work. I quickly remedied that oversight, and I am so glad I did. Thanks for the wonderful recommendation, Leslie!

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Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers (2018)

Nine Perfect Strangers

I’ve been meaning to read Liane Moriarty for awhile. Her books seem right up my alley, so to speak, and Mary-Esther recently suggested that I give Moriarty’s most recent book a try. Since I was home sick for a protracted amount of time, I thought, “What better way to feel better about myself than reading about somebody else’s hellish experience at a health resort?”

And although the book did not, in point of fact, heal me of my own bronchitis, it was a wonderfully engaging page-turner–one I enjoyed very much. So much so that I’ve already requested a bunch of Moriarty’s other books from the library.

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Deborah Cadbury’s Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages That Shaped Europe (2017)

victoria matchmaking

If you enjoy PBS as much as I do, chances are you’re also spending your Sunday nights watching Victoria. Even if you’re not following the show, if you like historical nonfiction with a hefty dose of fascinating interpersonal relationships, have I got a book for you! Not your typical Valentine’s Day read but full of romance nonetheless.

Deborah Cadbury transitioned to writing historical nonfiction after a long career as a BBC producer. Quite a few of her books have focused on royalty, though this one has a much broader focus and grander ambition.

At its heart is Queen Victoria in her later years and the various schemes she and her extended family concocted to marry off her grandchildren. Her overarching goal was one of balancing power and ensuring peace in Europe, and she firmly believed that marital alliances between her grandchildren scattered across the continent and their respective royal houses was the key to achieving this ambition. However, her interests were not entirely mercenary, as she also plotted to pair up those whom she felt were the most well-suited for each other. But as the old saying about the “best-laid plans of mice and men” acknowledges, nothing actually went according to plan. . . .

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E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952)

Charlotte's Web

Wilbur is a sweet pig with a big problem. He’s, well, a pig. And no matter how delightful of a friend he is to young Fern, the young girl who saves him from a tragic early end, or Charlotte, the spider who lives in the barn, he’s still going to end up as Christmas dinner. That is, unless Charlotte can think of a way to save him. . . .

Confession: I’ve never read this book until now. Yes, I know that makes me a weirdo–who hasn’t read Charlotte’s Web?, you may ask. Well, me, that’s who. However, since it was the winner of the Great Berryville Read and is now officially our town’s favorite book, I decided to remedy my ignorance. And I’m glad I did.

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Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938)

rebecca

Asking people about which book they’d select for the Great American Read has been an fascinating exercise in armchair psychology this past few months–at least for me. Some folks have an immediate answer while others take some real time thinking it through.

Put me down as one in the thinking category. I couldn’t even pick 1! I finally narrowed my picks down to 3, but that was only after coming up with some perimeters to consider and pondering whether or not it should reflect personal favorites or some grand statement about the best/most influential American novel and resonant themes in American literature. (Gotta put that English degree to work every now and then.)

But, truth be told, if I were just picking one book solely on personal enjoyment, it would probably have to be Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.

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Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

At the Berryville Library this summer, we’re all busy reading the books on the Great American Read list and pondering which ones we’ll vote for in the Great Berryville Read. When I mentioned the Great American Read to my friend and one of my former English professors Elise Bishop, she mentioned really enjoying A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Well, that was one I hadn’t read, so I was determined to make it one of my selections. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed it! (Thanks again for the great suggestion, Mrs. B!)

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Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove

lonesome-dove

We’ve been chatting a lot about our “first favorites” for the Great American Read and Great Berryville Read. Those are the first books on the list of 100 books that jump out at you as automatic favorites.

I had 3 instant picks, and the one I have been leaning toward the most is Larry McMurtry’s modern classic Western Lonesome Dove. I’ve discussed my love of Westerns before, but I really don’t think you can get much better than this one. (As far as Westerns go, the only thing that I think ties with it is possibly Ron Hansen’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, another personal favorite. But it didn’t make the list!)

Trying to summarize the plot doesn’t do this novel, which is rich in characters and themes, justice. But at its heart, it’s the story of two former Texas Rangers, bored and burnt out with retired life, setting off on a cattle drive from South Texas to Montana. Along the way, they encounter psychopathic killers, stampedes, storms, snakes, sorrow, and more.

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