Monday, December 22, 2008

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson

The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, A Daughter, and the People Who Raised Them – A Memoir by Amy Dickinson

A wonderful, honest and heartwarming memoir of author and advice columnist Amy Dickinson (the replacement for Ann Landers after her death), and her family of women. The tale flows with a very comfortable voice, albeit a story of survival not only for Amy but for her entire family who, one way or another become single mothers over generations, the “Mighty Queens of Freeville”. The family is about as close knit as anyone could imagine, whether at one of their weekly breakfasts, the barbecues after church on Sundays, or all in one house for whatever occasion.

Her sense of loss and aloneness in London when her husband leaves her, her decision to return home to the very small town of Freeville, on the edge of Appalachia in upper New York State, her fears bringing up her daughter Emily alone, and much later her attempts at returning to dating, all make for an entertaining read. Working in Chicago, she and Emily move there but find they make constant trips back “home” to visit, and Amy buys a small house in Freeville, coincidentally one that had been in the family years before, so that they would have a place of their own to stay every time they came. Eventually, a time comes when she decides to give up the rental apartment in Chicago and move back to Freeville.

Amy is a great storyteller, funny and sad at times, but always true to herself. The growth and relationship between Amy and Emily are a joy to witness. I think her motto as an advice columnist tells a great deal about her character – “I make the mistakes so you don’t have to.” I loved this book and recommend it for an enjoyable, fascinating read.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

Odds bodkins! I’ve fallen into A Midsummer Night's Dream! Lesley Livingston’s debut “Wondrous Strange” is exactly that, a book of wonder and enchantment; a world of faeries, fauns, sirens, changelings, and the Hounds of Hell. The author is obviously familiar with Shakespeare’s works, and certainly has done a lot of research into legends, mythology and faerie lore. This wonderful story is captivating, the characters both surprising and interesting. It is listed as Young Adult, but I as a grandmother thoroughly enjoyed it for myself, in fact I only put the book down to go to sleep. A fast and gripping read.

The story is pure fairytale, authentic and creative. A 17-year old actress, Kelley Winslow, suddenly finds herself playing a major role in A Midsummer Night's Dream, that of Titania, when the original actress breaks her ankle. Her first rehearsal does not go well, and she is ordered to go home and learn her lines. Kelley has always been drawn to Central Park and finds it a quiet place to study; little does she know that it is also a gate to the Otherworld. A changeling, one of the guards of the Gate, happens to be in the park as she is rehearsing her lines and he at first mistakes her words as from the real Titania. The meeting between the two young people triggers a string of very strange happenings.

I do not want to put any spoilers in this review, the book must be read to feel it and enjoy it. The plot is fascinatingly played out, but the adventure needs to be experienced, for adventure it is. It has history, passion, danger, a world of opposites, fantasy, and young love. I loved this book and highly recommend it. A very strong debut, I will certainly be interested in reading more of Lesley Livingston’s books. 5 stars