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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Fell Murder A British Library Crime Classic by E.C.R. Lorac Poisoned Pen Press

The Garths, an old farming family in the North Country who own a large house which has been there since before Flodden Field, are a 'rum lot'. The old Squire is a curmudgeon who controls the family and has disputes with all of his children. Richard, the heir, fell out with him when he married and left for Canada, but he has come back after several years although he is keeping a low profile. Malcolm, sensitive and nervy, hates farming and writes poetry as well as keeping bees. Charles, his half-brother, has come back from Malaya. He hates farming too, being used to lots of servants. Marion, the single daughter, wants to modernize the farm and is arguing with her father. Elizabeth is in the Land Army and staying at the home. Her name is often shortened to 'Lisa'.

When the old father is murdered, suspicion falls on several people, including the mentally-challenged boy who works for him, and a farmer who has a dispute with him. Sensible Inspector MacDonald arrives to solve the dilemma, but finds that getting anywhere with most of this tough and hardened North Country crowd is like getting blood out of a stone...

This was enthralling reading which kept me awake until the small hours. The characters were all interesting and the description of the country was do detailed that I felt as if I was actually there! I also liked the old-fashioned British words like 'gey' and 'trigg'. The Kindle dictionary helped here! I would like to read all of this writer's books.

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

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Abandoned Castles by Kieron Connolly

This is a must-read for anyone who lives castles. Filled with spectacular pictures of abandoned castles all over the world, it contains short introductions describing castles all over the world in each era and short passages about the images. The only thing I didn't like about this book was the author's use of the abbreviations BCE and CE for B.C. and A.D. which always really annoys me.

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

Monday, January 06, 2020

The Paris Girl by Natalie Meg Evans Bookouture

This is a rather miserable and melodramatic book with the redeeming features of a lovable hero and an atmospheric setting in a glamorous era.  The self-sabotaging heroine, Tatiana, goes from one disaster to another, although she is likeable enough and her reasons for this are explained. Although I enjoyed the book, I won't be reading it again. Miserable books seem to be very popular at the moment, I am not sure why. The times are bad enough!

The book begins with the evil brother of Tatiana raping her and getting her pregnant. A Russian refugee in Paris, Tatiana works in the couture business and her pregnancy leaves her in grave danger of losing her job. Will her aristocratic fiancee stand by her? What are her feelings about handsome Regan, a smart young American photographer?

I loved the descriptions of life in Paris and the fashion and photography businesses in the 1920s, and I thought that this was a well-written historical novel, although the writing wasn't smooth at times. It is worth reading if you like historical novels.

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Manet and Modern Beauty by Edited by Scott Allan, Emily A. Beeny, and Gloria Groom

Manet's last works have been severely under-rated because of their so-called 'chocolate boxy' qualities. The authors of these essays tell how Manet's yearning for beauty and love of fashion and women influenced these lovely paintings and study them in great detail.

This is an interesting book for art-lovers and a useful one for art students.

I received this ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Art of Resistance : My Four Years in the French Underground: A Memoir Justus Rosenberg

This is a fascinating story, but occasionally written in a dry style. Justus Rosenberg looks back on his exciting years in the Resistance and provides insights into the famous characters he met, such as Chagall and Peggy Guggenheim in this amazing tale of daring and courage, against all odds.

When he was only a teenager, Rosenberg looked forward to going to the prestigious Sorbonne from his homeland in Poland.  He enjoyed his time studying in Paris where he learned fluent French but he didn't realise when he left Poland that he would be heading into the maelstrom as the Nazis leapt to power.  Ability and luck together with his blue eyes and blonde hair saved him from many dire situations, until he started work for the legend of the Resistance, Varian Fry, in Marseille.  Fry had a huge underground network helping anti-Nazi intellectuals and artists escape Vichy France. Here, Rosenberg met strange characters, such as the heiress Mary-Jayne Gold whose gangster boyfriend apparently helped provide money for the network! He also met Lisa Fittko who helped people escape across the Pyrenees.

The most dramatic scene in the book occurs when Rosenberg is arrested and jailed. Fearing a terrible death in a concentration camp, he follows the advice to pretend to be sick and ends up in hospital with his appendix taken out! A priest helps to save him, and he starts work in a Resistance cell learning to fight the Germans...

Justus Rosenberg is now a professor of Literature at 96 and still teaches occasionally. He was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French government for his services in the Resistance.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in the French Resistance.


Friday, December 20, 2019

The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit Author of The Railway Children by Eleanor Fitzsimons

Edith Nesbit, Wikipedia

I loved The Railway Children and read it time and time again when I was young, so I was keen to read this biography. Edith Nesbit certainly had a fascinating life, but not an easy one, and I really enjoyed the book.

Fitzsimons has researched Edith's life thoroughly and provides an account which is extremely detailed and quite long, but never dull.  She was a rather formidable woman who not only wrote children's books which are still highly regarded today, but also managed to provide for a large family, and actually do a lot to help poor children. She and her husband also belonged to a very intellectual and arty 'set,' which included such people as Shaw and Cyril Chesterton.

Probably, some readers in the 'Me Too' era will wonder why she put up with her handsome, but philandering husband, who even had some children with her friend. They lived in a strange 'menage a' trois' for a time. However, she seemed to be happy with him to some extent, and they were both rather bohemian Fabians with modern philosophies, such as free love and a belief in vegetarianism.

Fitzsimons analyses the background to Nesbit's books so this is a useful book to keep for those who want to read them again, or read them for the first time.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Catholic Hipster: The Next Level How Some Awesomely Obscure Stuff Helps Us Live Our Faith with Passion by Tommy Tighe

Mother Teresa once told a group of priests: "Celebrate this Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass". Tommy Tighe has written a beautiful exposition on this statement. It is probably easier for converts to do this, even if their first Mass was way back in their adolescence or even childhood, but great advice for everyone.  This book is full of excellent advice for how to live your Catholic faith, interesting anecdotes about saints and suggestions for prayers. I loved it.

However, it is directed mostly to a young American audience. At the risk of being thought old-fashioned, I think that some of  the advice was really too self-consciously 'cool'. For example, I didn't agree with the suggestion about considering a religious tattoo.  The fashion of tattoos comes and goes over the years, and it can still be dangerous to get one, and a risk to career prospects, as well. Apparently, it can be even more dangerous to get tattoos removed!

Apart from this, it is a great book for all Catholics.

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