Thursday, April 2, 2009

Genre group recap

We had a great discussion Tuesday night and here are the books we talked about!

Pictures by Robert Daley  
From Booklist
Tony Murano is a lower-echelon tennis pro married to the princess of one of Europe's "little" monarchies who is pregnant with the heir to the throne. Unfortunately, the king doesn't like Tony and constantly reminds him of his commoner status. With his wife in the final stages of the pregnancy, Tony is caught on film in a compromising position with another woman. The photos quickly appear in every scandal rag in Europe, Tony is excised from the family, and his wife is heartbroken. To mitigate her daughter's despair, the queen hires New York's premier detective agency to determine who set the trap for Tony. The firm assigns former NYPD cop Vince Conte to the case. Conte finds the woman in the photos, convinces her to cooperate with his investigation, and then, shockingly, finds himself falling in love with her.

The Falcon of Palermo by Maria Bordihn **highly recommended** 
From Booklist
This fascinating fictional account of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II is realistically detailed with all the pomp, pageantry, poverty, and pestilence of the Middle Ages. Born into uncertainty and upheaval, Frederick, the son of Henry Hohenstaufen, is orphaned and running wild in the Muslim quarter of Palermo at an early age. Taken under the wise and kindly wing of an archbishop sent by the pope to recover papal lands that had been stolen in a Sicily overrun by German invaders, Frederick begins the seminal tutelage that sets him on his remarkable journey toward greatness. Amazingly sympathetic to Arabic mores and culture, Frederick blends elements of East and West during his reign as king of Sicily. When Frederick is eventually elected Holy Roman Emperor, intrigue, power struggles, political machinations, and religious controversies run rampant as he struggles to maintain and extend control over a difficult empire. Bordihn artfully humanizes her larger than life subject in this remarkably intelligent and entertaining fictional biography.

The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth 
Product Description
The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth's classic saga of the privileged von Trotta family, encompasses the entire social fabric of the Austro-Hungarian Empire just before World War I. The author's greatest achievement, The Radetzky March is an unparalleled portrait of a civilization in decline, and as such, a universal story for our times.

Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham **an entertaining social commentary** 
Product Description
When Maybell Brumby, frisky, wealthy, and recently widowed, quits Baltimore and arrives in London, she finds that her old school chum, Bessie Wallis Warfield, is there ahead of her. Impoverished and ambitious as ever, Wallis is on the make. Hampered by plodding husband number two, but armed with terrific bone structure and a few erotic tricks picked up in China, Wallis sets her sights on the most eligible bachelor in the world: the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. Maybell, with her deep pockets, makes the perfect ally, and her disarming dimness makes her the most delicious chronicler of the scandal that rocked a monarchy and changed the course of history.

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner **a sad, but beautiful story** 
Spanish Princess Juana, 13, watches as her parents, King Fernando and Queen Isabel, unite Spain, vanquish Moors and marry their children off to foreign kingdoms for favorable alliances: Princess Catalina becomes first wife to Henry VIII; Princess Juana, who narrates, is shipped off to marry Philip of Flanders, heir to the Hapsburg Empire. Although Juana balks at leaving Spain for the north and a husband she has never met, their instant chemistry soon turns to love. Years and children later, Juana unexpectedly becomes next in line to the Spanish crown and must carefully navigate every step of the journey from Flanders to Spain, fearful of alienating husband or parents or both. Emotional and political tensions soar as Juana's loyalties are tested to their limits. Disturbing royal secrets and court manipulations wickedly twist this enthralling story, brilliantly told.

The King's Favorite by Susan Scott **highly recommended** 
Product Description
Nell Gwyn has never been a lady, nor does she pretend to be. Blessed with impudent wit and saucy beauty, she swiftly rises from the poverty of Covent Garden to become a sensation in the theater. Still in her teens, she catches the eye of King Charles II, and trades the stage for Whitehall Palace—and the role of royal mistress. Even though she delights the king, she must learn to negotiate the cutthroat royal court, where ambition and lust for power rule the hearts of all around her. For beneath her charm and light-heartedness, Nell has her own ambition—to become no less than the king’s favorite. 

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett **short, fun, and fabulous** 
From Publishers Weekly
Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a common activity. With the dawn of her sensibility... mistaken for the onset of senility, plots are hatched by the prime minister and the queen's staff to dispatch Norman and discourage the queen's preoccupation with books. Ultimately, it is her own growing self-awareness that leads her away from reading and toward writing, with astonishing results. Bennett has fun with the proper behavior and protocol at the palace, and the few instances of mild coarseness seem almost scandalous. There are lessons packed in here, but Bennett doesn't wallop readers with them. It's a fun little book.

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland **highly recommended**
Product Description
In this first of three books inspired by the life of Josephine Bonaparte, Sandra Gulland has created a novel of immense and magical proportions. We meet Josephine in the exotic and lush Martinico, where an old island woman predicts that one day she will be queen. The journey from the remote village of her birth to the height of European elegance is long, but Josephine's fortune proves to be true. By way of fictionalized diary entries, we traverse her early years as she marries her one true love, bears his children, and is left betrayed, widowed, and penniless. It is Josephine's extraordinary charm, cunning, and will to survive that catapults her to the heart of society, where she meets Napoleon, whose destiny will prove to be irrevocably intertwined with hers.

Our next meeting will be Tuesday April 28th at 6:30pm in the Library's Conference Room and we will be discussing Southern history (this is a nonfiction genre).  There is a selection of books on reserve at the 2nd floor Reference Desk but, as usual, you are welcome to browse for your own at your local library or bookstore!  Contact me (Holley) by phone (205/445-1117) or email ( if you have any questions or would like to know more about the most fun book group in town!  New members are always welcome so bring a friend!

Happy reading!

1 comment:

Irondale Public Library said...

So many good books to choose from!!! Gone with the Windsors sounds esp. cute!