Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Marvellous Italians. The Italians by John Hooper

During the Cold War, the Italians developed a huge imaginary army on its borders that fooled the Russians completely. This was an example of the Italian tradition of Fantasia, the creation of fictional systems or organisations. This has helped the country with defence, but it has also hindered it in several ways.

This is just one of the Italian traditions that John Hooper describes in his fascinating book. Others include the importance of first impressions and the belief in the sanctity of life. Hooper shows how the Italy's violent and divided history influenced the people and discusses the importance of the Roman Catholic religion to the country's character.

I started reading this book in Italy, and it certainly helped me understand the people more. Highly recommended!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Serbian Cooking Popular Recipes from the Balkan Region by Daniela Kracun and Charles McFadden

I am overseas now, but I am eager to try some recipes from this book when I get home. Several recipes seem to be reasonably simple, and most of the the photographs make them look good, although some photos are over the top, I think! Unfortunately, I am not much of a cook, but I should be able to do the French Toast for breakfast.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Elizabeth1 and Her Circle by Susan Doran

This was an excellent study of This great and powerful Queen's relationships with the important people in her life, such as Mary, Queen of Scots and the intriguing Robert Dudley. I especially enjoyed reading about Dudley's long and fraught romance with the Queen and the author's opinion of the reason for his wife's mysterious death. 

Doran also captures the splendid atmosphere of the Elizabethan court well. For example, she describes Dudley's entertainments and the special garden that he created for the Queen at Kenilworth vividly.

I have read a lot about Elizabeth 1, but I learned a few new things, and I would highly recommend the book for people interested in this era.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Fifty-year Silence, Love, War and a Ruined House in France by Miranda Richmond Mouillot

This is a beautifully-written and sensitive story about a young woman who wants to discover why her grandmother and grandfather haven't spoken to each other for fifty years, and goes on a journey into their dark past. Along the way, she finds a love story of her own.

Miranda's grandmother, Anna, a clever and feisty woman, appears to hate her former husband Armand, but she is concerned about his welfare and sends Miranda to a boarding school in Geneva where he lives. Armand also seems to hate Anna and avoids her company at all costs. Why is this?

Miranda searches for their past, and discovers a terrible story of struggle, narrow escapes, and suffering in war-time Europe. She finds out that the answers to her questions are not the ones that she expected.  She learns the truth about their relationship as their slow decline fills her with sadness.

Anna has left Miranda a legacy - a ruined house in France. At first, this is too much for Miranda, but she will also find love and peace here, perhaps a gift from her wonderful grandmother.

I highly recommend this book, although it is very harrowing at times.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause by Heath Hardage Lee

I enjoyed every moment of this luminous and moving biography of the beautiful and accomplished Winnie, although it's an extremely harrowing story at times.  Winnie, the long-suffering daughter of the President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, grew up in the shadow of her parents.  She saw how her father's ill-treatment in prison affected him, and her parents lost all of their sons.  Her mother understandably became deeply depressed, and this wasn't helped by Davis's tendency to become infatuated with other women.

The most fascinating part of the book is Winnie's star-crossed love-affair with a handsome young barrister who was the grandson of a prominent abolitionist.  The South made Winnie into a symbol of the 'Lost Cause,' and she was feted at balls and reunions of Confederate veterans.  Neither the North nor the South was pleased by Winnie's engagement.

I also liked the tale of how Winnie managed to become a 'New Woman,' - she wrote novels and articles, rode a bicycle, and lived a cosmopolitan life in New York. Here she enjoyed the theatre, opera and other cultural events, and associated with the social elite of the city.

 Heath Hardage Lee deserves high praise for bringing this winsome 'Daughter of the Lost Cause' to new life.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hollow Heroes An Unvarnished Look at the Wartime Careers of Churchill, Montgomery and Mountbatten by Michael Arnold

This is a well-written book about the careers of Churchill, Montgomery and Mountbatten, but I thought that the author often chose his evidence to fit his theme - that these leaders have been much too highly praised, had many flaws, and were largely interested in self-promotion and power at all costs. I didn't finish the book, because I felt that it was written in a rather nasty manner and I found it rather politically correct, for example, the emphasis on Churchill's alleged bipolar disease.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Life Cycles Revolution by Neil Killion

Let Neil Killion take you on another date with destiny with his fascinating book The Life Cycles Revolution.  This book continues the journey begun in Life Cycles and expands on the theory.  This is so that you can begin to 'know yourself' and start controlling your own life.

According to Neil's theory, we live in 'symbolically repeatable twelve-year cycles' with two important years in which fate plays an unusual part.  These are the first year of the cycle, the 'Year of Revolution', and the seventh year of the cycle, the 'Year of Broken Pathways'.  In the 'Year of Revolution' we face upheavals and new beginnings.  The 'Year of Broken Pathways' is marked by challenges and obstacles. Neil illustrates this hypothesis by showing how these years affected the careers of many famous people, such as Charles Darwin and Tony Blair.

Significant years include the ages of twelve, twenty-four and thirty-six.  In these years, you are likely to face an upheaval and the start of a new cycle.  The ages of seven, nineteen, thirty-one, and so on, are likely to bring changes of direction and challenges. Neil encourages readers to examine their last 'significant' year and see how fate affected them.  This will help you to understand your life and improve it.

It's certainly a fascinating theory, but this is a large book and I have to admit to finding it a bit complicated and esoteric at times! I felt that it required in-depth study and I didn't have time to go into it in enough detail, even though Neil kindly sent me a free copy to review almost a year ago, so I feel pretty guilty.  Luckily, I can keep it and continue to study it. Next year is one of my 'significant years,' so it will be interesting to see what happens.