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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Wonder Women 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Mags

This book about great women is inspiring and interesting and highly recommended for teenage girls. However, I didn't like the 'slangy' language, such as 'dudes'.

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Planet Jackson Power, Greed and Unions by Brad Norington

Luxury holidays, private schools, clothes, perfume, presents, electronics. These are just some of the ways in which some of the leaders of the Health Services Union spent union funds obtained from their poorly paid members. These members were amongst the lowest-paid workers in the country. The greed, corruption and lack of oversight in this organisation was almost unbelievable.

Brad Norington has carefully gone through the evidence in this well-written account. However, some of the machinations and intricate dealings of people like Kathy Jackson were necessarily convoluted and can be difficult to follow at times. Michael Williamson, now in jail, had a family company which he used to spend union funds, hid this so carefully that even the lawyers of the Royal Commission had difficulty finding it.

Abbott, the former PM, and Shorten,the Opposition Leader, do not come out well in this book. Abbott appointed Michael Lawlor, and then didn't do anything about his taking long periods of unpaid leave from his important role at the Fair Work Commission and various other matters. Turnbull was quick to act, apparently.

The book raises questions about Shorten that are far worse than this, however. Several criminal and civil offences occurred when he was in charge of the Victorian AWU branch. What was he doing? This is the man who could be Australia's next Prime Minister.

This horrifying story of unmitigated corruption and greed should be required reading for all Australians.

I received this free e-book published by Melbourne University Press from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dylan's Nobel Prize

I completely agree with this article!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba

Noel Coward wrote in 1939 that: 'Paris is beautifully war-gay. Nobody dresses and everybody collects at Maxim's'. Life was good for the glamour- set such as Coward and Chanel who lived at the Ritz which had the best bomb shelter in Paris. Some of them refused to face reality and thought that the threat of war would just go away, while others continued to live jet-set lives and even collaborated.

Sebba has written an excellent and interesting study of how the war changed the lives of these French women and women who worked for the Resistance or helped the Jews and poor women who faced a more desperate struggle than ever. This is a must-reAd for anyone fascinated by France during the Second World War.  

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

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

Nat Sakunworarat, Power of Light, Public Domain Pictures

When I first started reading this book, I didn't find Shauna Niequist's writing at all relaxing. Her description of her busy, hurried life with her husband and family, her stellar career and her travelling and speaking engagements made me feel rather frantic myself! She was probably heading for a burn-out if she continued to pursue that kind of life, so I wasn't surprised that she started looking for a more peaceful life. Much of the book is written in the present tense which didn't have a calming effect.

However, as Shauna started to live a less frantic life, I found that her writing settled down as well and I liked the quotations, Catholic references and bits of philosophy that she includes.  This is a helpful book for everyone who wants to live a less stressful life, not just those who are trying to combine careers with motherhood.  Her account of how she was seeking approval from others and suffering from exhaustion and her journey towards peace, grace, gratitude and finding God's love will resonate with many readers.

This book reminded me of a quotation from one of my favourite books, The Purple Veil by Somerset Maugham: 'One cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one's soul'.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Six The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson

Asthall Manor, the family home of the Mitford sisters. (Wikipedia)

I could never read enough books about the Mitford sisters. They are endlessly fascinating, especially the wonderful Nancy, who wrote the adorable Love in a Cold Climate. Another book about them is a welcome addition!

This book is a little bit academic and factual, but it is very analytical and Laura Thompson certainly explains Diana's and Unity's personalities and why they were drawn to Fascism, extremely well. She also describes Jessica's character and I was pleased that she has little sympathy for Jessica's attraction to Communism and makes it clear that Stalin was a tyrant and murderer, like Hitler. History has been kinder to Jessica and she did get involved in the civil rights movement. However, Communism is just as bad as Fascism and 'fellow-travelling' in either direction shouldn't be condoned.

This may become the definitive book about the sisters. It's all here  - the mistakes of the parents, the combative rivalries between the sisters, their love affairs, and the differences between their personalities.  If you are interested in the Mitford's, you should read it soon!

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Christmas at Designer's Homes Across America by Katharine Kaye McMillan & Patricia Hart McMillan Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

This is a gorgeous coffee-table book to inspire your Christmas decorations at this holy time of year.  It's full of beautiful photos with interesting descriptions as well as chapters on famous designers.  All of the designers have very different ideas about how to embellish their homes for Christmas.

The designers include Christopher Radko with his love of vintage ornaments, such as toy soldiers from The Nutcracker, and nostalgic Christmas trees, Shayla Coplas, who also likes a traditional Christmas.  She prefers a more glamorous style, however, with glittering reindeers, and gold and Tiffany blue decorations on the tree.  Another designer is Mary Helen McCoy. Her house is filled with fine French antiques and she likes gilded birds and peacocks.

Many of the designers fill their houses with roses because they are a symbol of Jesus.  I didn't know that, and I like that idea, as well as many of the others.

I received this book from Schiffer Publishing via Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon

Anna Leonowens (Wikipedia)

I have always wanted to read this book since I saw the wonderful movie The King and I when I was very young, and I wasn't disappointed! It's a wonderfully exotic and vivid story about a clash of cultures and the strange tyrannical world of the old East, and a brave young woman's struggle to 'own' her place in it.  It's the kind of book that one could read many times without being bored.

When Anna, a young widow, arrived in Siam with her ten-year old son, she was given an ignominious welcome and had to insist to herself that she wouldn't get straight back on the ship! After this, she was not given her own house for months and she had to cope with a lack of privacy and the stifling quarters of the palace. When her poor servant walked into the harem accidentally, she had to stop him being whipped.

The King kept her waiting, and she had little to do.  When she finally met him, she found him rather terrifying, although she very engagingly felt a strong urge to leapfrog down the lines of squatting figures  in front of him. Anna finds it hard to cope with the irascible and unpredictable king, the cruelty and slavery in the nineteenth-century Kingdom, and the ghastly tropical heat and humidity.
However, she is a very strong, independent and stable woman and she copes admirably.

This is a beautifully-written book that is highly-recommended.

I received this from Open Road Integrated Media via Net Galley in return for an honest review.