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Monday, February 08, 2016

Courtesan and Countess The Lost and Found Memoirs of the French Consul's Wife Jana Verhoeven, Alan Willey & Jeanne Allen

Celeste de Chabrillan was certainly a formidable woman.  She blamed her stepfather's abuse for setting her on the 'road to ruin' and became a famous courtesan, nicknamed Mogador.  She wanted respectability when she married the count, who was given the position of French Consul in Australia when seeking his fortune on the goldfields.  However, her memoirs detailed her adventures as a high-class courtesan so the snobbish ladies of Australian society refused to associate with her. She started to write successful novels in spite of this.

These memoirs concern her life in France after her husband died.  She wrote plays and novels and enjoyed the company of famous people including the Emperor himself.  They are interesting but fairly melodramatic and 'flowery'.  Celeste is often nasty, for example, she describes her step-daughter as useless.  However, she could be kind-hearted - she set up a home for orphans which is still a shelter for vulnerable girls today.

I am really more interested in Celeste's life in Australia but this is worth reading if you like the Victorian era.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor by Elizabeth Norton

This could have been an extremely interesting book with its tale of a powerful rivalry between two brothers to assert power over the young King and the jealousy of a mature ex-Queen of an attractive teenage princess who gains the attention of the rakish Thomas Seymour.  However, I found Norton's style fairly dry.

I also found her evidence for some of her theories somewhat elusive.  For example, she writes that Princess Elizabeth wanted to marry Thomas Seymour after his wife died.  Most of the evidence suggests that she was attracted to him but she was extremely wary of his attentions. Her statement after he was executed about his having 'much wit, but little judgement' shows that she knew exactly what type of man he was.

Norton also brings up the old canard about a midwife delivering a secret baby in the middle of the night, suggesting that the baby might have been the Princess's child.  Apparently, this story was old when Princess Elizabeth was born. It's an old legend that has been passed down through the centuries and it's based on rumours and supposition.  Many historians have discounted it.  It's probably better than the myth that the famous Queen was a man, however!

I will read more of Norton's books but I think that I will take them with a grain of salt.

Monday, February 01, 2016

I'll See You In Paris by Michelle Gable

Giovanni Boldini [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I am afraid that I gave this up, because I found the stories very strange and disjointed.  The most interesting part of the book was about Gladys, the former Duchess of Marlborough.  I will read a biography of her instead!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Advent in Narnia Reflections on the Season by Heidi Haverkamp

This is a lovely way to prepare for Christmas. The author relates the story of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
 to the coming of Christmas very well. She discusses the effects of fear and revenge, reconciliation, feasting and many other important considerations from the book. At the end of each chapter there are exercises, and you can follow along with the novel as well.

I will definitely read this again this year and concentrate on it more.

This was a free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 29, 2016

L M Montgomery Challenge at Reading to Know

I am very late for this challenge because we've been away.  However, I am going to try to read The Blue Castle very quickly and write a review.  I've always loved Montgomery and I think that this is a great way to start a new year!

The Naked Writer by G. Miki Hayden

According to legend, there was once a dying Zen master.  The master shocked his pupils when he got up and suddenly started dancing.  Then he went back to bed and told them: ‘That’s effort!’

Hayden uses this story to tell her readers that clear and concise writing requires a lot of hard work.  Luckily, she actually manages to make a grammatical style guide interesting and not at all like many dry textbooks.  She explains the eight different parts of speech, the difference between active and passive writing and how not to be repetitive. Hayden also provides a list of the most common mistakes that writers make and easy ways to correct them. I especially enjoyed the chapter about finding the right word.

This is an extremely helpful book for writers and I certainly intend to buy a paperback copy!

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

She's Got Legs: A History of Hemlines and Fashion by by Jane Merrill & Keren Ben-Horin, Photography by Nasser K

Did you know that there is a legend that women shave their legs because of the Queen of Sheba or that the Etruscan ladies wore pretty, tiered skirts?  I didn't! This book is full of fascinating anecdotes about royalty and strange myths, but it also provides an excellent analysis of the fashion of hemlines.

I especially liked the illustrations and pictures.

Unfortunately, this was hard to read because the e-book kept freezing.

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

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Serving the Word My Life by Raniero Cantalamessa

This book about the longest serving and very spiritual papal preacher is in interview form so I found it a bit hard to read.  Father Cantalamessa is quite intellectual and philosophical so it's really not an easy book but it's worth reading for Christians interested in the Vatican and the spiritual life of the Capuchins. I also liked the Father's comparison of the different Popes that he has served.

The River House by Janita Cunnington

It is easy to imagine that you are in the middle of the Australian bush when you read this evocative and moving story about a family that is beset by dark secrets but bound together by their beautiful river house in Queensland.  Laurie, Tony and Miranda come here for holidays with their parents and love to share adventures until one day that changes everything...

Laurie likes to study the luminous insects and enjoys wandering through the bush with Tony but as she grows up the river house doesn't play such a big part in their lives.  A trusting and kind-hearted girl, she becomes the one who everyone relies on, until she realises that you have to toughen up to live in this world. Even her beloved river house may eventually come at a cost.

Laurie grows up after the Second World War and the author captures this era perfectly. Laurie's friendship with Carol and her experiences with boyfriends ring true to life and the effects of the Vietnam War on the family are also very well-done.  Her fraught relationship with her brother Tony, however, is probably the most important part of the book and the most unsettling.

Janita Cunnington describes the wild coastal region near Brisbane beautifully and conveys the terrible danger of floods as well.  Fighting the wilderness is always difficult with a 'river house' and Cunnington conveys just how hard it can be to keep a place like this.

Many families in Australia have a house like the river house. Expect this book to bring back memories!