Sunday, August 31, 2014

How To Ruin A Queen by Jonathan Beckman

Beckman tells a fascinating tale about the characters in Marie Antoinette's 'Necklace Affair' and it's ramifications for the monarchy in France. There is the Queen who is the victim of a scandalous plot, a poverty-stricken and vengeful girl with delusions of grandeur and the Cardinal who falls for the plot in a careless manner, even though he knows that the Queen hates him! The affair is complicated, but Beckman's narrative is clear, well-researched and written in a captivating way.

The setting- the lead-up to the Revolution is full of atmosphere and colour- and Beckman's describes the dog-eat-dog scenario in a grand style. This is not a dry history. It will capture your attension from beginning to end.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Red Dirt Duchess by Louise Reynolds (Penguin Destiny Romance)

(Outback by Gabrielle Delhey at Wikipedia)

Sparks fly when Charlie, the outgoing owner of an outback pub, and handsome aristocrat Jon meet. But are their differences too great?  Jon needs to marry a suitable aristocratic bride, for example, and have an heir - this is the role in life that he is running from. However, he soon finds himself attracted to Charlie's Australian honesty, good sense and bluntness. He also wants to discover why he feels a connection with Charlie's father's painting.

This is an emotional and surprisingly moving story with sympathetic characters and beautiful settings, ranging from the spectacular Australian outback landscape to a sumptuous English country house.  The love story involving two damaged young people who gain strength from each other is nicely developed with good dialogue.  The sub-plot of the mystery painting helps to keep the story intriguing.

There is a coincidence in the book that is a bit silly, but as it is well-written Louise Reynolds just manages to make it seem convincing.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Places: The Journey of My Days, My Lives by Thaao Penghlis

I've been a fan of handsome Australian actor Thaao Penghlis ever since I was quite young, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to read his autobiography at Net Galley, and I am so glad I did.  It's full of stories about famous people and his travels to places such as Egypt, and well-written.

Penglis begins with the account of how a former psychic predicted that he would travel to America and become an actor.  He didn't take much notice of this, but he jumped at the chance to go to the USA to the horror of his Greek parents, and the prediction was fulfilled, to his surprise.  Charming and suave,  Penglis began his career at a prestigious art gallery where he worked for a snobbish boss who treated him rather like a servant.  The boss was amazed when Jackie Kennedy insisted on dealing with Penglis!  While working for a fashion designer, Penglis met other famous people, such as Robert Redford and Paul Newman.

Soon he made it to Hollywood where he started his career in films and soapies, especially Days of Our Lives.  He tells tales about nasty directors, meeting Omar Sharif, and the dog-eat-dog world of the soapies. The worst part of starring in soapies seems to be having to die over and over again.

I enjoyed this part of the book more than the anecdotes about his travels.  Penglis is rather spiritual and 'New Agey', and some of this was a little bit over the top, I thought.  However, he's obviously a lovely man, and Australians can be proud of him.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Life at the Marmont The Inside Story of Hollywood's Legendary Hotel of the Stars -- CHATEAU MARMONT Raymond Sarlot and Fred E. Basten PENGUIN GROUP Penguin

I would love to stay at the Chateau Marmont, perhaps see the ghosts of some movie-stars, and experience the ultimate in luxury. Unfortunately, I won't be doing this in the near future, but reading about it was the next best thing!

This book gives you an inside look at the legendary history of the beautiful hotel, which was modelled on a French chateau.  It's filled with lots of interesting characters, such as the socialite who was a secret journalist and wrote gossip about the stars and the manager who didn't believe in doctors.  The authors tell several fascinating anecdotes about stars such as Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Heddy Lamarr.  There's the story of Billy Wilder sleeping in the annexe next to a bathroom because he was so happy there, and lots of tales about secret affairs.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in Hollywood history!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Great War Literature

Today we commemorate the start of the Great War which began when Germany violated Belgium's neutrality, and Great Britain declared war. I would like to read more books about the war. Heavenali has an interesting list here: The Great War Theme Read for 2014. Edith's Miscellany also has a good post about Great War books: The Great War in Literature.

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal

The Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal is getting better and better! The audacious heroine, exciting story, stunning scenery, thorough research and luminous writing makes The Prime Minister's Secret Agent a joy to read.  I also liked the touches of culture and the description of the language of flowers. MacNeal also has a bibliography for those interested in learning more about the historical background to her tale.

In this book, Maggie, now an instructor at the S.O.E. school at remote Arisaig in Scotland, suffers from the Black Dog and loneliness.  Even taking in a stray cat doesn't cure her.  When she becomes involved in a mystery involving her good friend whose life is in danger, however, she soon returns to her old self. Maggie has to work out why she saw sheep with strange markings on the island and why her friend is ill.

The second story in the book involves the lead-up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, whether Churchill knew and the failure of American intelligence.  This is just as well-written and interesting, although somewhat sympathetic to the Japanese.

If you are interested in riveting Second World War mysteries, this is a must-read.  I can't wait for the next one!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life by George Brescia

George Brescia's book is wonderfully useful for anyone who feels fed up with their wardrobe and their life! He provides lots of helpful tips, such as buying lights for your wardrobe, and how to go through your cupboards and get rid of old clothes and shoes.  The trouble is that this takes time and effort, but he makes it as easy as possible.

I will just have to find some time to follow his guidelines step-by-step!


Friday, August 01, 2014

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

(Dressing table designed by Carl Bugatti for his own use in Paris in 1904)

This is the perfect book for people who want to decorate in an inexpensive and creative way.  It is also perfect for messy people, and those who feel that their lives are on hold, such as renters.  I really liked it, because it actually emphasizes the importance of being imperfect, and I constantly worry that my life is on hold.

Smith became very unhappy when she and her family had to move from a beautiful house to a small apartment.  She decided, as so many of us do, that she would decorate when she had a home that she liked. The sad story of Anna Nicole Smith changed her attitude, and she realized that she had a loving and happy family, and that her sons even liked fighting over where they'd sleep!  She started to see that 'every home has a silver lining' and make the best of it.

She includes lots of great decorating tips and pictures so that readers can gain ideas and follow her methods. (I especially liked the photo of the messy office!)  For example, Smith advises people to look for second-hand pieces that add beauty and have history.  She writes that even if she had all of the money in the world, she would still buy vintage or antique items. I absolutely agree.  I bought a small coffee table and an old dressing-table very cheaply at the markets, and I love them!

Her chapter on adding small touches that help a room look right is one of the best in the book.  She suggests concentrating on lamps, rugs and the natural light of the room.  Plants, candles and decorative pillows are some other thoughts.

I received this eBook from Book Look Bloggers, but I am definitely going to buy it and go through each room with it!