Monday, December 15, 2014

Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness One-Minute Tips for Decluttering and Refreshing Your Home and Your Life by Deborah Smallin

I've probably read just about every book on decluttering there is, but my clutter has to be seen to be believed, unfortunately! This book does provide excellent tips that can be completed in a short time, however, so it lives up to its title.  For example, Smallin suggests doing one thing each day that will make you feel better, such as making the bed.  This is a good start.  The book includes advice for getting rid of the clutter in each room in the house, and useful ways to lessen the ubiquitous paper.  Smallin even includes advice for cleaning.

This is a useful book for people who want to become more organised and get rid of some of their 'stuff'.  It's a book that you can dip into when you feel overwhelmed and find a helpful suggestion so that you feel more in charge.  I'll definitely buy it.  Unfortunately, buying it will add to my clutter!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fascinating Women. Kennedy Wives Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family Amber Hunt and David Batcher

(Joan Bennett Kennedy from Wikipedia)

Once upon a time, five beautiful and strong women married charismatic Kennedy men.  They were called Rose, Ethel, Jackie, Joan and Vickie.  Rose, the matriarch of the dynasty, had a steely inner-strength and toughness that helped her through her husband's infidelities, the loss of his reputation in the UK and terrible tragedy.  She has often been thought of as fanatically religious and rather cruel to her daughter Kathleen, who fell in love with two Protestant men.  However, she is more likeable and softer in this account. Ethel, raucous and a tomboy, also clung to her faith through much tragedy.  She was a supportive wife to Bobby, managed to raise 11 children, and devoted much of her time to charity work, but she also loved a good time, and she was famous for her parties.  She also held educational seminars.  Jackie restored the White House to its former glory, charmed crowds everywhere she went with her elegance and facility for languages and became a symbol of the nation's strength and fortitude when her husband died. Kind-hearted, gorgeous Joan fell victim to her husband's philandering and found it more difficult to cope with suffering than the other wives.  She became an alcoholic but she bravely attempted to overcome it.  Vickie, clever and wise, was exactly the wife that the aged Ted needed in his last years.

This is a fascinating and sympathetic account of these wonderful women by Amber Hunt and David Batcher, and an excellent analysis of their characters.  I didn't find anything new in it, but I didn't know much about Joan or Vickie, so I was extremely interested in the last part of the book.

This is a great book for anyone who loves to read about this great American family.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Perfect Christmas Reading. A Christmas Feast by Katie Fforde

These romantic stories by the wonderful Katie Fforde will cheer up anyone who likes light holiday reading over Christmas. Amusing and warm-heated, the stories have sympathetic and likeable heroes and heroines. Travelling into Fforde's world certainly helped relieve my stress!

Her stories involve a family so shocked by the 'singleton' having a male guest that they all rush into the kitchen to see him, a woman who is rewarded for assisting the village 'witch' and a kind-hearted young lady who finds romance in a secret garden.

I prefer Katie Fforde's novels, but these short stories were a pleasure to read!

Friday, December 05, 2014

My Days with Princess Grace of Monaco by Joan Dale

Joan Dale and her successful diplomat husband Martin became good friends with Princess Grace and her family, and she can't praise the beautiful American royal highly enough. According to Dale, Princess Grace was a lovely, warm, hard-working woman who loved her family and sometimes longed to resume her career as an actress.  Dale tells lots of anecdotes about times spent with the royal family and meeting other important people, such as other Monaco royals and Onassis and Maria Callis  She describes spectacular events and galas.

The most interesting parts of the book concern Prince Rainier's fights with de Gaulle and Onassis over taxation and the economic growth of Monaco.  Dale's husband was in charge of the economic development of Monaco so he was directly involved in these battles.  There was also an argument with Prince Rainier's sister Antoinette over succession.

I enjoyed this book up to a point, but I grew a bit tired of the descriptions of all the events and galas.  This is probably because I live in a pretty boring place and it made me envious! It is worth buying just for the pictures, however!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

David Livingstone Presumes - To End Slavery In East Africa.


The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions by Jay Millbrandt.

Most people think of David Livingstone as a great explorer, and indeed he was, but this well-written and thoroughly-researched book tells the true story of how he sacrificed everything to accomplish his ambition of abolishing slavery. This became the true purpose of his life, because he was so shocked by the brutality of the horrific slave trade run from Zanzibar, and the complicity of the British and the Portugese in allowing it to continue. Livingstone elevated this goal even above finding the source of the Nile. Eventually, he succeeded because of back-breakingly hard work and the publicity that he gained with the American journalist Stanley's help, and the slave market was closed forever.

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions by Jay Millbrandt.

This is a long and harrowing book, and  Jay Millbrandt certainly doesn't spare the reader from the details of Livingstone's sufferings.  The man who raised himself from working in the cotton mills of Glasgow to becoming a doctor, explorer, and scientist, experienced hunger, rheumatic fever and weakness in Africa.  His wife became an alcoholic, and he was separated from his children.

However, it is well-worth reading, and there are some lighter parts.  This book made me want to read more about Stanley, who became a great friend of Livingstone.  Livingstone was shocked at first by Stanley's luxurious travelling, however.  His entourage consisted of an array of porters with kettles, tents, tin baths, and a folding boat! When he sat down to breakfast with Livingstone, Stanley's servants  set out silver spoons, knives, forks and a silver teapot.  Livingstone and Stanley sat on a Persian carpet.

If you like history and reading about great explorers, this is recommended.


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen

(Mary Pickford, Wikipedia)

Anne Helen Petersen's book combines gossip and glamour with academic analysis of the star-system and the effect of the gossip-columnists and audience on the celebrities. She studies how scandalous rumours ruined Fatty Arbuckle, how Clara Bow tried to be a 'New Woman', and Judy Garland's self- destruction, which was exacerbated by the cruel treatment of her by MGM and her mother. She also examines famous Hollywood romances, such as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. These were often 'reinvented' by Hollywood to avoid divorce and scandal becoming an issue.

This book is an enjoyable journey through Hollywood public relations and gossip. However, the writing is a bit slangy at times. It's worth reading if you like learning about the secrets behind Hollywood stories.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writing Great Books for Young Adults Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Getting Published

This is a thorough and comprehensive guide to writing for young adults.  Brooks defines the audience, and helps the writer through every stage of the journey.  She covers the beginning of the novel, the plot, characterisation, setting, and every other aspect that the aspiring writer needs.  The writing exercises also assist. She includes helpful quotes from other editors.

It is a difficult book to just sit and read, but that is mostly because it is technical and useful.  I would suggest that readers write notes, and check their stories against the notes. 

I am not sure if I will write a young adult novel after reading this book, unless I attempt a historical one.  As Brooks writes, YA writers have to know what is going on in the world of teenagers.  My writing would probably be much too influenced by books like Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden!

However, Brooks's suggestions are useful for any writer, and I really like her breakdown of each topic into bite-sized pieces.

Seven Letters from Paris A Memoir by Samantha Verant

(Toulouse by En-Batou, Wikimedia Commons)

Samantha Verant met an attractive Frenchman in Paris when she was very young and on holiday with her friend.  They enjoyed a wild and memorable night, but Sam thought that it was better to try to forgot the 'holiday romance, even though Jean-Luc wrote her seven incredibly moving letters.

Several years later, Sam is in a bit of a mess.  She can't solve her marriage problems; she's in debt; her beloved dog is ill; and she has to go and live with her parents.  When she works as a dog-walker, the local women are incredibly snobbish, calling her only 'the dog-walker!'  Thoughts of Jean-Luc return to her, and she begins to wonder what has happened to him.  She comes up with the idea of finding him in an unusual way, and it works!

Luckily, she does find Jean-Luc, but can they find true happiness after so long? What about their cultural differences? Where will they live if they become a couple?

I just loved this well-written and magical fairy-tale like romance, and I am sure that I would really like this couple if I met them! Highly-recommended!

Samantha Verant You Tube