Victoria, by Daisy Goodwin

Victoria Daisy GoodwinVictoria: A Novel of a Young Queen
by Daisy Goodwin
Pub Date: November 22, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I have an affinity for Queen Victoria. There could be a number of reasons for it, but I think a lot of it stems from the time my Aunt Liz and I saw the film The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt during Priesthood session of General Conference one year. (The Asian restaurant we ate at beforehand only had women diners, and the theater was only women in the audience. UTAH.) I really love Blunt’s portrayal of a royal figure, was as entranced by Paul Bettany’s Lord M as Victoria was, and fell in love with Albert same as the young queen. It’s such a great “girl’s night” movie, and just a lovely film anyway. Years later, Aunt Liz and I took a trip to England and spent some time at Kensington Palace, where Victoria was raised before she became queen. (Oh my goodness, she really was tiny as a young woman!)

So this book popped up in my library ordering, and I knew I’d have to read it. The author, Daisy Goodwin, has created a show for PBS/Masterpiece on Victoria’s early reign coming out in the new year, and this book is a tie-in. It’s definitely not a rehash of The Young Victoria, but it does cover some of the same ground, so you get some additional context. I hopped onto Wikipedia at different points out of curiosity, and found Goodwin got quite a bit right in her story. There’s a new biography about Victoria that recently came out, and I may have to dive into that one to really get a good picture of all the circumstances around the young queen’s early reign.

A good bulk of the book focuses on Victoria’s relationship with Lord Melbourne, the prime minister when she was crowned, and her deeply appreciated mentor who guided her along. Not being a scholar on Victoria, I can only surmise from what I’ve read and seen thus far is she was not very well-prepared for the duties and protocols of being queen, and Melbourne turned into a father figure of sorts assisting her as she came into her own. Goodwin portrays their relationship has something deeper than that of father figure/foster daughter and hints at the romantic feelings they may have felt for each other. Victoria was 18 when she took the throne. She had been raised apart from society for the most part due to her mother’s fear that another in the line of succession would try to harm her. So in a sense Victoria was a teenage girl who finally had a chance to rebel. I thought Goodwin did an excellent job of portraying her as such, while still aching to be the kind of queen her country needed and that she wanted to be, and being confronted with so many different forces tugging her in different directions that she clung to the one man she saw as only there to help – Lord M.

Albert figures in later in the book, and I will admit I was a little disappointed with the development of his relationship with Victoria. But since the romance and marriage of Victoria and Albert has been done and redone so many times, Goodwin made the choice to not make it as much of a focus in her novel. However, I still felt like I was reading a nice Regency romance at times (technically inaccurate, I know, since this is *Victorian* times, but you know what I mean), and swooned along with Victoria at not only Lord M, but at all the opportunities Victoria had to spread her wings and find the woman she was destined to be. Definitely recommended for a reader in need of a more light historical fiction.


You’ve Got This!

32703163You’ve Got This!: How to Look Up When Life Has You Down
edited by Elise Hahl
Pub Date: October 11, 2016

I say, “You got this!” to my library patrons a lot. I run into a lot of folks who don’t know how computers work, or struggle with using a mouse or navigating a website. I give them the opportunity to do it themselves, and stay at their side encouraging them, letting them know they can do this, they have the knowledge. Whatever the task is in front of them, it is not insurmountable.

And that’s the basic gist of this compilation of essays from some well-known LDS personalities/speakers, giving words of encouragement aimed at a youth audience. But I wouldn’t restrict it to just the youth. I found a lot of edification in this slim volume. Some of these writers I knew of already, and others I got to know through their stories. And each gave me a little piece of thoughtful wisdom to dwell on and utilize in my life.

The essays from the Wilcox family about moving to Chile for a mission president calling, and learning to adjust and thrive, reminded me very much of the time my family moved from the north Virginia suburbs to inner-city Atlanta. We visited what would be our new ward, and found my sister and I would be the only white girls in Young Women. And we didn’t mind that since one of the young women immediately befriended us. We felt welcomed into our new ward, where my dad was eventually made bishop, and all these years later after I moved away it still feels like my home ward. Whitney Wilcox Laycock’s story of living in Chile reminded me that no matter where I am, I can be that welcoming person to someone else. You never really know how big of an impression you may leave on someone for such a seemingly small act.

Hank Smith’s breakdown of the story of Joseph of Egypt was pretty much exactly what I needed to hear right now, facing my own trials and hardships. It was a really refreshing take on the scripture story, and I want to seek more of his work out now. Zandra Vranes, who I had the pleasure of seeing at Time Out For Women last year, also touches on the story of Joseph of Egypt in her own unique way. (Clearly there are many things our youth can learn from him!!) Al Carraway delivers a wonderfully essay on perseverance and keeping up with the little things to retain our faith, and recounts her conversion story, which made me want to go back and read her book again because it’s just marvelous.

You’ll find a story in this volume that will speak to you. You’ll probably think of someone who needs to read that story as well. Maybe you can do one of those “pay it forward” things with this book. Read it, and then pass it along to someone you think might benefit from these words of encouragement. We could all use these nice pep talks throughout the week.


Many thanks for Cedar Fort Publishing for providing a review copy!

Faith and a Life Jacket, by Ben Bernards

faith_life_jacketFaith and a Life Jacket: 7 Truths for your Eternal Mission
by Ben Bernards
Pub Date: September 1, 2016

I have not served an LDS mission. My plan is to serve one day with my spouse. (I have yet to find a spouse, so waiting on the Lord for that one.) But I do appreciate these kinds of “mission prep” books for their simple and down-to-earth stories and advice that are at a young person’s level. And if you have a future missionary in your life, this would make an excellent stocking stuffer (if you’re like me and already making up Christmas shopping lists!).

“Sooner or later, the fires of Anticipation will dim, the thrill of the Unexpected and New will fade. Discouragement and doubt will entice you to give up and walk away from it all. That’s when you’ll face the Decision Point—the moment where you get to choose how you will respond to your challenges: rising up to them and pressing forward with faith, or remaining disengaged and frustrated.”

The author frames his “7 truths” around his personal mission experiences. Why this man’s story has not been made into a film already is beyond me. He served in Fiji, for starters, and spent part of that time living in a hut in a village, where he and his companion would have to hunt and cook their own food, and ran into a few occasions when their lives were very literally in danger. And at one point his mission president sanctioned a missionary band! Missions aren’t always going to be that drama-filled, but I love the way the author demonstrates how these kinda crazy experiences showed the Lord’s hand, and how a young person can learn simple lessons from them that can be applied to their own experiences and lives, even after the mission.

What makes this book even better for me is how universal it ultimately is. I’m not preparing to go on a mission like the intended audience, but I can use the excellent advice the author offers and expounds on in my everyday life (and maybe one day I’ll get to apply it to a full-time mission). While I’m guessing none of this advice is particularly new or earth-shattering for the average reader (you’ve heard it all in General Conference over the years), it is presented in a way that is fun to read, and easy to digest. It’s not written in a “dumbed down” way that really bothers me with many books aimed at the youth, but in a way that is more at their level, and assumes they want to be treated as an adult. And even those of us not preparing to serve a full-time mission, or already have, can gain some insights – both practical and spiritual – from this relatively light read of a book. I think all of at, at various times in our lives, could use a little help building up our “mental arsenal,” as the author calls it, to keep the Spirit of the gospel burning bright.

Give this easily-digestible book a try. It’s a nice little companion for some personal scripture study, prep for a teen getting ready to serve a mission, or anyone who just needs a light church-centered read to get them through the week.