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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sugarland by Martha Conway

Al Capone byy Chicago Bureau (Federal Bureau of Investigation) - Wide World Photos [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Eve, a talented black jazz pianist, returns to Chicago to take refuge with her sister after she gets involved in the accidental killing of a bootlegger.  Here, she finds herself in a sinister but exciting world of 1920s jazz nightclubs, gangs and mysteries as she attempts to find out where her sister, Chickie, has gone.

This was a riveting and well-written novel about jazz, bootlegging and murder in 1920s Chicago, but I found the actual mystery a bit complicated.  However, Martha Conway certainly captured the atmosphere of the time and researched the history thoroughly.  I will be interested in reading more of her novels!

This ebook was provided free by Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Newsmakers by Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart

Erica, an intrepid young and beautiful journalist has a wonderful new job in New York working for a large broadcasting firm and a handsome man who is attracted to her.  She should be on the top of the world! However, she has a sad past- she is a former alcoholic and she lost custody of her daughter. She also finds her new boss Nathan rather creepy.

When she starts attempting to discover who is behind an attack on the Staten Island ferry and who killed a woman presidential candidate, she puts herself in grave danger. She is not sure who she can trust.  She doesn't want to end up like Mark - a computer expert who studies the hacking of the ferry computers and winds up in hospital after a nasty attack.

This is a fast-paced thriller that is enjoyable and easy to read.  Erica is a likeable and ethical character, who is also vulmerable because of her unhappy childhood and drinking problem.  Most of the characters are well-rounded, but some of the villians are drawn in an unsubtle way.  I found the plot rather far-fetched and complicated, however, but anything is possible these days! This is the start of a series by the extremely talented Lis Wiehl who, I was pleased to see, studied a Master of Arts in Literature at The  University of Queensland.

I received this free ebook from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Matters of Fact in Jane Austen

Janine Barchas  suggests that many of Jane Austen's fictions allude to real people, such as Regency celebrities, and she also studies references to the great gardener Evelyn and symbolism in some of Austen's works.  For example, Frederick Wentworth may have been named after the last Eart of Strafford who also rose from humble beginnings against all odds, and Louisa Musgrove's fall may have been based on Henrietta Wentworth who financed the Duke of Monmouth's failed rebellion at Lyme Regis.

Barchas also writes about Austen's playfulness in her use of names.  Austen probably named the naval families in Persuasion after great landed families of the time, for example, and she called the landed aristocrats after naval families.  This makes Persuasion less revolutionary than previously thought. Perhaps, Austen was hedging her bets and not as much in favour of Wentworth's self-made status as many critics thought.

This was interesting, but it became rather tiring at the end because there was just so much information in the book.  You really need to read it slowly and thoroughly to absorb it all!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Early Life of Anne Boleyn: A Critical Essay by J H Round

I usually love reading about the fascinating Anne, but this was extremely dull.  Round criticises the works of other scholars and sets out to prove that Mary was the older sister and that many historians got Anne's date of birth wrong.

Unless you're obsessed with Anne or the Tudors, don't bother.

I received this ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe

I couldn't read this at all.  Sillitoe just isn't my kind of writer, I am afraid.

Monday, May 09, 2016

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe

There's Uncle Ernest, whose only friends are two teenage girls, a lascivious teacher, and a married man whose wife leaves him for a house painter but returns to take advantage of his good nature. These are just some of the characters featured in this collection of stories about the working-class or the dispossessed, although the most famous tale concerns a delinquent boy whose only escape from his grim life is long-distance running. Each story is very different.

Sillitoe's ability to write from the point of view of these diverse characters is amazing. The story about the long-distance runner is certainly memorable and has become a classic. However, I found them extremely dark and depressing, and Sillitoe really isn't my kind of writer, I am afraid. I may have liked it when I went through a phase of reading some of the 'Angry Young Men'  when I was much younger. However, if you like gritty stories about the English working-class, you will love this collection.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

How To Have A Good Day Harness The Power of Behavioral Science To Transform Your Working Life by Caroline Webb

This is an invaluable book which is full of helpful information derived from behavioural science. Webb uses the interplay between our brain's deliberate and automatic systems to assist readers to make the best use of their strengths and weaknesses. However, although she includes a useful summary at the end of each chapter, I think that there is so much in this book that it is hard to remember. Perhaps, it is best to work on one chapter at a time!

There are chapters on goal-setting, handling problems, creativity and building relationships. I especially liked her suggestions for thinking about dilemmas in different ways. She cites the example of Greg, a fundraiser, who sometimes invites his audience to think about finding new cancer drugs from the point of view from a cancer cell. Also, she uses the example of Emma, a young and enthusiastic English teacher who invited her colleagues to imagine themselves as modern teenagers, so that she could introduce modern methods of teaching.

I highly recommend this book, but it may be a good idea to write notes as you read it!

I received this free ebook from Books for Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Secret War by Max Hastings

This highly ambitious history of global intelligence during The Second World War is well-written and thoroughly researched with interesting anecdotes about strange characters, such as Sorge, a hard-drinking and womanising Russian who set up a spy network in Japan and the Maverick academic Hugh Trevor-Roper. However, I have decided not to go on with it. It's just too long and I am mostly interested in the French Resistance.

The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson

I am still struggling through this, I am afraid. The writing is haunting and ethereal, but I am finding the story rather confusing and obscure. Also, it is very anti-British in a nasty sort of way, I feel. However, I will trySuzanne Joinson's first book because that was highly praised.