I know, I missed May’s Fic Picks, and for that I should hang my head in shame. But I won’t because it means that I am also 90% finished with the draft of Twisted River! I am kicking it into high gear to finish writing by the end of June and switch into editing mode come July. I did manage to get through three books I truly enjoyed over the past two months – a classic romantic adventure, a humorous biography, and a historical non-fiction focusing on President Garfield.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Historical Fiction – French Revolution

From the Publisher: Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.

My Take: I watched the stage musical version of The Scarlet Pimpernel in 1999 and immediately ranked it in my list of favorites. The show carried suspense, betrayal, romance, guillotines, fantastic costumes, and a soundtrack worthy of listening to over and over again. So, when I finally picked up the novel version, I was glad to find a tale as worthy as my musical memories. Although written in 1905, the writing style fits in nicely with the historical fiction of today. Baroness Orczy’s characters are believable, amusing, and well rounded – definitely folks I could empathize with and want more of. Even the villain had an understandable side, although I certainly didn’t agree with his often distasteful methods. As far as classic novels go, this one is my third favorite. (Pride and Prejudice and The Time Machine are #1 and #2 if you’re interested.)

 

Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything In Between by Lauren Graham

Humorous Biography

From the Publisher: In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again. Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.  

My Take: Even if you’ve never watched Gilmore Girls or Parenthood, Lauren Graham’s two claims to fame, this book is well worth listening to. At right around four hours run time, this is a quick read, but one that will definitely brighten your day. Lauren Graham adds her usual spunk and witty repertoire to the narration, and so much would be lost simply by reading this on the page. She discusses her childhood on a houseboat with her father, goes into her time living in New York as a mostly failing actress, how she came to write a book and then another one, and of course all sorts of exciting tidbits about her time on Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. The wonderful thing about her story is that it isn’t just for us artistic types – although she gives plenty of advice for that – but she offers life lessons for everyone.

 

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

Historical Non-Fiction

From the Publisher: James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his con­dition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet.

My Take: If you’re like me, you know little about James A. Garfield other than he was a U.S. President. While he was certainly not without his faults, this book brought to light a man that otherwise history has seemed to forget. The author incorporated an amazing amount of historical research into her writing, combining Garfield’s story with those of other prominent historical figures such as Alexander Graham Bell, Joseph Lister, and Robert Todd Lincoln. By also adding the assassin’s side of the story (don’t worry, you won’t root for him), she created an intriguing tale I found myself flying through. Audio book readers will not be disappointed as the narrator is one of the best I’ve heard yet, and book readers will find the flow easy to follow. I personally recommend both as switching between formats offered an interesting perspective.

For more information, visit http://www.candicemillard.com/

Text Copyright © 2018 Kelsey Gietl.

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