Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Kirribilli Christmas by Louise Reynolds

When Shelby's American boyfriend buys her a ticket home after telling her that he's not spending Christmas with her, she feels that she may as well use it. When she returns to her childhood home in the beautiful Sydney suburb of Kirribilli, she meets handsome Dan again. He was one of her mother's many foster children. Shelby's attraction to Dan and her feelings of rejection by the other grown-up foster children cause her many dilemmas. How will she enjoy this Christmas?

I enjoyed this light romance, especially the vivid descriptions of Sydney, and it was good holiday reading. I actually read it in Sydney! However, it was disappointingly short, and I preferred Louise Reynolds's other novel, The Red Duchess.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Case for Christmas A Journalist Investigates The Case Of The Child In The Manger Lee Strobel

When Lee Strobel visits an extremely poor family living in an almost bare apartment, the faith and hope of the family surprises him.  He goes back to his writing troubled and starts to reconsider his atheism and his despair.  He feels that he has every material possession but he is unhappy, while they are poor and their faith gives them inner strength.

After he writes an article about the family, he visits them again to find that generous people have showered them with money and gifts.  He is even more surprised to learn that the family is going to give most of them away!  This is what Jesus would want them to do, the mother tells him.

Strobel decides to discover more about Jesus and investigate him like a journalist.  He speaks to experts to find out the truth of the gospels, and learns that they really are based on eyewitness accounts and written by the actual authors.  He also finds out that archaeological discoveries are validating places mentioned in the Bible, and other biblical facts. The virgin birth stumps him, he admits, but after he speaks to a medical expert about it, he thinks that it is possible.

This book probably won't convince died-in-the-wool agnostics and atheists to convert to Christianity, but I found it an interesting account of a spiritual journey, based on a great idea.



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Mysteries by Various (Open Road Media)

I am afraid that I just couldn't get involved in these stories at all.  It's probably because I like vintage mysteries, such as Dorothy L. Sayer and Agatha Christie.  Most of these were too modern for me!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Leap Launching Your Full-Time Career in Our Part-Time Economy by Robert Dickie

You need flexibility and the right resources to launch a full-time career in this part-time economy in which unemployment is growing, and many jobs are being automated.  This helpful book by Robert Dickie will certainly give you a head-start.

Dickie covers almost everything, including how to obtain the right knowledge and the right degree, online courses,  and the importance of having a freedom fund.  He also has chapters on staying focused, building a strong personal brand and social media.

This is a great book for anyone anxious to improve their career or start a new one!  Some people may be annoyed by the biblical focus, but I quite liked it.

Elsa Schiaparelli by Meryle Secrest

This sweeping biography of the great designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Meryle Secrest reads like a novel. Schiaparelli certainly led a fascinating life in exciting times, and she also collaborated with such famous artists as Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau. She was also responsible for such modern and practical innovations as the wraparound dress, reversible coats and the all-purpose dress.

Although Schiaparelli grew up in an Italian palace, her early life was a struggle.  She married a con-artist who was also poor, and they had a very sick daughter. When she first lived in Paris, her flat was infiltrated with mice and rats.  However, better times came.  She became a designer accidentally, but she had 'the right look, the right style [and] the right feeling', so she soon impressed society.  Even royalty wore her clothes. Invitations to her parties were also prized - she was a charming hostess, a good cook and she had a facility for languages.

This well-researched book covers every aspect of Schiaparelli's life, including her Surrealism, her relationship with her daughter, her romantic relationships with two brothers (!) and her mysterious actions during the Second World War.  One of her favourite employees was married to an important Vichy politician, so the designer was regarded suspiciously.  She also travelled to America and South America a lot during the war, and this aroused distrust.

I did find that this book skipped from one subject to another fairly often, but I enjoyed it immensely.

(I received this from Edelweiss.  My opinion is entirely my own).

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Battle Against Hitler by Dietrich von Hildebrand

The philosopher and devout Catholic theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand  told one of his students in 1924 that 'the Nazis are the most vicious animals'.  Brought up in a well-off family that loved beauty and art, he could see the danger of the growth of the Nazi movement at a young age.  He knew that its 'nationalism, militarism, collectivism, materialism, and anti-Semitism were unbridgeably antithetical to Christianity'.

Von Hildebrand's opposition to the Nazis caused huge problems for him, affecting his lecturing career adversely.  He had to escape to Vienna and then he spent time in hiding in France. Eventually,  he was lucky enough to get to the United States. It had caused him great sadness in Austria to watch many important people compromise with the Nazis, including Catholics and law lecturers.

The first part of this book consists of von Hildebrand's memoirs, and the second consists of some of his philosophical writings.  He was certainly a hero who had some hair-raising escapes from his Nazi enemies, but the problem is that his memoirs are rather dry and factual.  His essays are also heavy reading, unless you are extremely interested in philosophy. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tara Revisited Women, War & the Plantation Legend Catherine Clinton

(Arlington in Natchez, Mississippi by Ralph Clynne)

Catherine Clinton delves behind the myths and legends of the antebellum South to attempt to find some historical truths in this interesting book.  She studies the facts about slavery, the women of the plantations and the cruelty of the Union forces to the people in the Confederacy.  She notes that the Lost Cause remains popular even today, and how some of these myths are still promoted.

In the great TV mini-series, "North and South", one of the men from a plantation-owning family travels to the North where he is shocked to see the conditions of the black workers in the factories.  He thinks that his family's slaves are better off, because they are fed and looked after.  According to Clinton, this was one of the myths promoted by books such as North and South and one of my all-time favourite books, Gone With The Wind.  Many of the slaves were abused, and thousands of them gladly joined the Union forces or hid Union soldiers and helped them to escape.  Almost ninety thousand black men from Confederate states joined the Union troops.  There were exceptions, however - I am sure that Gone With The Wind has some truth in it.

Union soldiers were not always cruel to the white women on the plantations.  For example, one Union soldier helped a lonely woman find a cow to help feed an ailing baby.  Another lady had to accompany a Union officer up the stairs during an inspection of her house.  She had hidden her good silver cutlery beneath her hoops, and the spoons and forks suddenly fell out! The soldier helped her retrieve them.  Many women had recollections of these sorts of kindnesses from Union forces.

This book was a bit dry, but I enjoyed reading about the real facts of the South.  However, I am afraid that my heart remains at Tara!

Mistress by Matthew Berns and Terry Smyth

 Billy Snedden
This is a rip-roaring tale about the mistresses of important Australians, including the lady loves of bushranger Captain Thunderbolt, Governor King, the leader of the Rum Rebellion, Jim Cairns and the rather handsome and suave Billy Snedden. Many mistresses of the officers of the convict era were abandoned with children, but Governor King actually treated his girlfriend well.  He told his wife about his illegitimate children, and his wife agreed to raise them with the mistress's consent.  She was obviously very understanding.

I especially enjoyed the story of the hell-raising Lilly.  Lilly arrived on Medan in Indonesia in 1958 looking for her lover who was working for an oil company.  Although Lilly was a beauty, she didn't behave like one - she was  hard-drinking and even a bit violent. She hit someone who annoyed her, leaving him with a cut lip.  She also kept irritating the Vice-Consul, lying down naked and drunk in the bedroom one night!  As he was a gentleman, he covered her up and attempted to help her when she woke up.

This is light entertainment, written in a slightly slangy manner that suits the subject.  It's great fun to read, and I liked the stories from Australia's early days.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Honeymoon in Paris by JoJo Moyes

This is a novella that should be read after the novel The Girl You Left Behind by the fantastic author JoJo Moyes. It combines the stories of Sophie and Liv, both of whom are newly married.  Their tales are set in different eras - the Edwardian and modern times.  Both women experience problems with their marriages, and both have lessons to learn.

Sophie, a beautiful shopgirl, soon captured the heart of Édouard Lefèvre, a famous artist, but she now feels insecure because of the women in his past.  One of them annoys her by insinuations and snide remarks.  She also discovers that Édouard is still friendly with some of his other former models.  How can she compete with these women?  How can Sophie overcome her jealousy, and is she right about her husband?

Liv, only 23, newly married to David, an ambitious architect, looked forward to a romantic honeymoon in the City of Light.  However, David leaves her to see the sights alone while he attends important business meetings with a view to his future career.  Even an older man with whom she enjoys a coffee is shocked by David's neglect of his lovely wife.  Liv starts wondering whether she should have married in a hurry at such a young age.  How will she solve the problem?

This novella is enjoyable, relaxing reading, recommended for holidays.

Published by Penguin Group Viking.

(This was free from Net Galley. My opinion is entirely my own).

Say What You Really Mean How Women Can Learn to Speak Up by Debra Johanyak

Debra Johanyak aims to promote clear, honest and direct communication in this helpful book.  As the wonderful Malala writes, women are often scared to speak up or they are too passive to assert their rights.  Many other women speak indirectly so that people don't understand them, or they do it in a manner that annoys people.  (I have been guilty of this lately). Many women are also reluctant to tell their men unpleasant things or ask them to do nasty tasks, like putting out the rubbish! Johanyak deals with all of these problems and more.

Her book includes chapters on how to communicate your message clearly, the silent treatment, breaking bad news, and using the Internet.  She has useful sections summarizing the points made in each chapter.  The problem is that it's hard to remember these suggestions in the heat of the moment.  I think that I may actually have to make notes!

I didn't find the chapter on the 'silent treatment' helpful for my situation.  It was mostly about why not to do it, but not how to handle it when it's directed at you.  It is terrifically irritating, and I would have liked tips on how to deal with it.  However, I recommend this book, and I'll definitely buy it.

(I received this book free from Net Galley, and my opinion of it is entirely my own).