Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nevermore: Roosevelts, Taft, China Dolls and Death, Snow, and Mistletoe

It may or may not have had something to do with the airing of the recent Ken Burns series on PBS, but this week’s Nevermore members brought in two books which featured members of the Roosevelt family. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit illuminates the turbulent times at the turn of the century when two close friends become heated rivals over the presidency of the United States.  Theodore Roosevelt was the young, charismatic, dynamic leader who took on special interests and looked to reform the nation.  He endorsed his friend William Howard Taft to succeed him as President, believing that Taft was a kindred spirit who would continue on the path Teddy had begun.  When Taft failed to live up to Roosevelt’s expectations, Teddy took it as not only a political but a personal affront.  One member described it as a book about “spectacular people who extended democracy in a new way.”  Goodwin has received much acclaim as an historian whose books have broad popular appeal in addition to solid scholarship.

The second book was a tie-in to the aforementioned series and has the same title: The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns.  The book follows the show in covering the roots of this fascinating family, including background on Theodore, his fifth cousin Franklin Delano, and Eleanor, wife to Franklin and niece to Theodore.  Our reviewer praised the books many illustrations, saying that there is much information to be gleaned from the photos alone but that the text is quite well done. The story begins with Theodore, who began life as a sickly child, and ends with Eleanor’s death in 1962.  The relationships between the principals and their circles are fascinating and will give readers an entirely new perspective on the family.

China Dolls by Lisa See is a novel set in the late 1930s, when three girls vie for a job as a showgirl at the Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco.  Although the girls are all of Asian descent, their backgrounds are very different.  Despite this, Grace, Ruby, and Helen become close friends. They rely on each other for their very survival.  Then Pearl Harbor happens, and Japanese are being rounded up for the internment camps.  Since few people know that Ruby isn’t Chinese but Japanese, her arrest means someone close to her has betrayed her. Lisa See is the author of the best-selling book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love.

Finally, there was Death, Snow, and Mistletoe by Valerie Malmont.  Tori Miracle moved to the little town of Lickin Creek, PA to be near her fiancé, who promptly took a job in Costa Rica.  Tori is waiting (mostly) patiently for his return while acting as temporary editor for the local paper, taking photos and writing about the Christmas pageant.  Then a child goes missing and a local resident is murdered, and Tori’s job becomes a lot more interesting—and maybe dangerous.  Our reader said this was a cut above many small town mysteries, with a good mix of humor and danger.

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