Category Archives: Book Review

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Review of Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Restoration Queen

Thanks to Sarah-Beth Watkins’ Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Restoration Queen, we finally get a solid biography of the Portuguese princess turned queen of England.

As the title suggests, this biography mainly concentrates on Catherine’s years as queen consort to Charles II. However, Watkins does nicely provide a rare glimpse of Catherine’s life before her marriage and after the death of Charles II.

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Whether it was the beginning, middle, or ending of Catherine’s story, a reoccurring theme is the difficulties of being a princess and a queen. Through good storytelling, this biography gives information about what real life is like for royal women. They constantly get judged publicly, have obligations to follow, and have to pick and choose their battles carefully. Watkins gives the valuable insight: “A princess, and often a queen, must do as she was told.”

A common hardship being married to a king is often his affairs. Catherine goes down in English history as a tragic queen who had to deal with a husband who womanized a lot. Far too often, though, I read books and blogs that describe Catherine being “desperately in love” with her unfaithful husband. Watkins doesn’t jump to that conclusion. Instead, she gives us stories in which show the tension and tenderness between Catherine and Charles. We also get more details of what Catherine did away from the royal court and Charles.

Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Restoration Queen is a valuable read. The more you get to know this queen, the more you agree with the observation of Minette, Charles II’s sister, about Catherine: “It is impossible not to love her.”

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Link:
Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Restoration Queen

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Review of Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars

Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars: Her Life, Her Times, Her Legacy by Elena Maria Vidal left me a lot to think about. 

Elena Maria Vidal is a fantastic writer and researcher. She paints a realistic portrait of Marie-Antoinette with facts to back all of it up. It’s very exciting. This book is spiritual, adventurous, and sweet.

I was especially surprised to learn about two specific pieces of unique artwork. It was fun to find out that Louis XVI kept a certain, flirty picture of Marie-Antoinette on his desk in which she’s dressed like a goddess holding a vase with his profile on it. The other one was a tearjerker sketch of Marie-Antoinette entering heaven to her welcoming husband and her two children who died before her.

One of the most memorable scenes comes from a memoir of a servant who witnessed Louis XVI coming into Marie-Antoinette’s room. While he’s being comforted by his wife, she commands the servant to leave.

From other examples, it’s obvious he suffered from depression, but with all the exterior events and past memories, who could blame him? And shouldn’t Marie-Antoinette get the most dedicated wife award? She stuck with him despite the multiple times he wanted her and their children to go to safety.

The spouses gave each other strength and were concerned parents. After their deaths, their daughter was provided for thanks to Louis’ emergency fund and Marie-Antoinette’s diamonds that had been sneaked out of France.

Thank you, Ms. Vidal, for providing so much information that makes me want to learn more!

 

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The Extraordinary Mark Twain According to Susy

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I got this from a school book fair. $5 was the final and fair price.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain According to Susy, by Barabar Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, had a creative narrative and brilliant illustrations with little inserts of what Susy, the real life daughter of Mark Twain had to say about him.

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Funnily enough, a couple years ago, my dad said we should write short biographies of each other! Susy ended up writing over 130 pages about her dad!

In regards to Susy herself, I think it’s very appropriate and entertaining to write your own family member’s biography—especially in their life time so they can get more of a say. Susy wrote when she was thirteen, “It troubles me to have so few people know Papa, I mean really know him.” She made a good case for her papa and added unknown dimensions of him. From her portrait of him, I still saw a narcissistic man, but I felt more sympathy with how insecure and just how loving he was.

While I like what all the creators of the book did, I found my mind wandering, and it was hard to concentrate. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I recommend that classrooms should get their own copy.

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Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Last Friday, Rosemary finally came! Beforehand, I had noticed her on Amazon’s best sellers’ list, researched her online, placed a hold, and researched her a little more. I couldn’t wait to read about JFK’s remarkable sister. Finally I was alerted Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson had arrived.

It was a quick read.  As soon as I started reading Rosemary, I felt like I was being introduced to a new friend. Whenever I had to do something else, I closed the book, looked at the cover with Rosemary’s  portrait, and promised I’d be back.

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The book starts out with Larson dedicating the book to those with disabilities and their families. Larson narrates Rosemary’s story the way she sees it. It’s honest, heartbreaking, and hopeful.

I watched videos of the author on her book tour, and Larson is more frank with her opinions. However, in the book she gives the reader more lead way to decide if Rose and Joseph Kennedy Sr. did the right things for their daughter. Their concern for perfection and family seemed to be a constant conflict.  The Kennedy family cares a lot about image, and they worked hard to include Rosemary while strategically positioning her in public or hiding her so no one would notice their gorgeous daughter’s learning disabilities and mood swings. At the same, Rosemary also wanted to please her parents—from adjusting to multiple schools to the fateful lobotomy.

I enjoyed reading about the love between Rosemary and her siblings—especially Eunice who was especially talented when it came to calming down Rosemary. Whenever Eunice appears, you feel safe.

I’ve always had reservations about the Kennedy family—and still do—but have a new respect and admiration for them. Learning about how Eunice Shriver  founded the Special Olympicsis of course impressive. But I was happy to learn how much they personally cared and didn’t (and still don’t) do this charity work at a distance. The last part of Rosemary’s life, the Shriver family put a lot of effort into strengthening bonds with Rosemary. They made sure that Rosemary made frequent visits to their home. The visits could be challenging but also uplifting. The visits seemed to have inspired the Shriver children to be better people, and they would continue to be involved with the work their mother started.

I texted my mom right after I finished reading Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter. I highly recommended the book to her and recommend it to you. Rosemary is so compelling—so get to know her! Place a hold at the library.  Read this book. It sounds cliché, but you won’t regret it.

Recommended Videos:
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter 

Timothy Shriver Remembers His Aunt Rosemary Kennedy | Super Soul Sunday | Oprah Winfrey Network

Eunice Kennedy Shriver discusses her life and legacy

Recommended Sites:
https://bestbuddies.org/

http://www.specialolympics.org/