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.



Saturday, February 07, 2015

A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie

Luminous writing, interesting characters, and an exciting story make this wonderful novel a must-read.  The exotic locations also help.  It is definitely difficult to put down!

The story revolves around the heroine, Viv, a young English archaeology student.  When the book begins, she is on a dig in Turkey where she finds herself falling in love with her much older tutor.  He faces terrible danger, however, because he has Armenian blood, and the Turkish hatred of Armenians. When the First World War starts, Viv and Tahsin Bey are on opposite sides, and Viv returns to England.

She starts nursing, but it doesn't suit her, so her wise mother sends her to Peshawar where she keeps studying the history of Scylax and Darius and searches for a historical silver circlet.  Here she teaches the Pashtun Nageeb, who dreams of becoming an archaeologist himself.  Meanwhile, his brother, injured in the war, joins the independence fighters.  A great tragedy strikes Viv, and the story begins again many years later...

I can well understand why Kamila Shamsie has received a nomination for the Folio Prize for this novel.  The only problem is that I found that the book had several characters and that it was rather complicated, and it involved a lot of ancient history.  I read an ebook - it is probably better to buy the paperback. I will certainly read Shamsie's other novels.

(This ebook published by Bloomsbury was provided through Net Galley. My opinion is entirely my own).

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I make lists, go through piles of papers, give books to Bookcrossing, and make donations to St Vinnies.  However, I still have loads of stuff!  Unfortunately, this book probably won't be the answer, but it is helpful, and I will buy it eventually (when I find some room for more books!)  Marie Kondo's way of tidying up is to do it all at once, by putting your clothes or books on the floor and going through them to see if they bring you joy.  Now, this might work with clothes, but it's not going to work with books. What happens if you discover that you've got rid of a favourite book accidentally! She does have plenty of tips for deciding which clothes to keep, but I find her method of discarding books slightly crazy.

Kondo does include suggestions for living, such as not wearing 'lounge wear' around the house, and wearing something elegant as nightwear.  An American man said that he was pleased to see so many Irish women wearing dresses in Ireland, because so many women wore sweatpants all the time.  I was a bit shocked! Her other tips include organizing the clothes in the wardrobe from left to right - hang the heaviest and darkest on the left - and hanging them in categories.  Also, she thinks that clothes should be opened and the tags removed immediately after you've bought them.

I especially liked Kondo's treatment of inanimate objects as living things. Jung also did this.  She suggests, for example, that you should greet your home when you walk in the door.  I am trying this, and I quite like it so far! I am even apologising to it because of the clutter!

Marie answers questions here.









Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pope Francis In His Own Words by Julie Schwietert Collazo and Lisa Rogak

Pope Francis in South Korea (Korean Media and Information Service)

Pope Francis chose the name 'Francis' because Saint Francis was the man of the poor and a man of peace..  This clever, sympathetic and kindly Pope is arguably trying to live up to his name. For example, he said that he'd just go with the guys on the bus after being elected, and he often attempts to be a peacemaker.

This book is full of wise quotes from the reforming Pope who surprises everyone by sticking to the principles of the Catholic church but also being understanding about minorities, such as gay people.  This book includes quotes on controversial subjects, such as euthanasia and abortion.  But it also has helpful quotations for Christians, such as the experience of the dark night of the soul and learning how to love.  He said that: 'No one knows how to love; we learn every day'.

This is a book that many Christians and admirers of the Pope will want to keep as one of their treasured books.