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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

OSS Operation Black Mail One Woman's Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd Naval Institute Press

Elizabeth P. McIntosh was a leading figure in the realm of black propaganda, using various forms of media to destroy the enemy's morale and persuade him to surrender. This included compiling false newspapers, radio programmes,and changing letters and postcards. One of 'Donovan's Dreamers' of creatives and propagandists, she was the acting head of an operational branch in the East. She worked in India, China and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Here Todd not only tells Elizabeth's story, but she informs us about the little-known, but hugely important role of OSS in the East, in a tale full of colourful characters, such as Paul Child (Julia's husband) and Jane Foster, who led a tragic life.  She also fills the book with the vivid atmosphere of the East, and she has a thorough knowledge of the history. I would like to read more books by her.

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


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Marie Antoinette's Confidante The Rise and Fall of the Princesse de Lamballe by Geri Walton Pen & Sword

The Princesse de Lamballe was the most wonderful friend. She stuck with the doomed Queen through thick and thin, even paying the supreme sacrifice. Sweet and angelic with golden hair, the Princess liked a quiet life and didn't want to join in the Queen's love for playing games and her friendships with some frivolous aristocrats. Her main rivalry for the Queen's friendship was with the Princesse de Polignac, but when Marie-Antoinette wanted a more sensible, loyal companion, she turned back to the lovely Lamballe.

This is a very detailed and sympathetic biography of the Princess, but I thought that Geri Walton was a bit hard on the Queen at times. I also found the account of Madame Lamballe's death extremely graphic, but it had to be included.  The bloodthirsty French Revolution is also difficult to read about.

This is a must-read for anyone who likes reading about French royalty.

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

Friday, May 08, 2020

A Schoolmaster's War Harry Ree - A British Agent in the French Resistance by Jonathan Ree Yale University Press, London

Harry Rees takes you right into the thick of the French Resistance with his vivid writings in his diary and his charming tales for young people.  Although he was a pacifist, he reluctantly changed his mind to join the SOE. He is very self-deprecating, arguing that his French wasn't very fluent and that he made a lot of mistakes. However, he certainly had extremely quick wits, because he kept evading the Gestapo even though he was in danger of being betrayed quite often.

Although his job was to commit acts of sabotage, shoot collaborators or train the maquis, he had peaceful interludes in Switzerland occasionally, where he relaxed a bit and he had the time to read. He appears to have been a very wise man, so his thoughts on the war and the books he read are just as interesting as his descriptions of the Resistance.

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

Monday, May 04, 2020

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr Poisoned Pen Press

When the acclaimed detective Bencolin and his young assistant Jeff Marles are invited by financier D'Aunay to investigate the mysterious murder of the malovolent magician Maleger and his beneficiary Allison, they find themselves in a strange and creepy situation, surrounded by odd characters who are all suspects. One of the murders took place in a house above the Rhine called Castle Skull, a huge castle-like place built in the shape of a skull with its own moat and battlements. Bencolin and Marles have to find out whether the magician staged his own death, and who threw the actor Allison off the building.

John Dickson Carr really ramps up the Gothic horrors in this novel with its mysterious events, old legends, gruesome murders and nasty characters. At one stage, Bencolin and Marles travel across the Rhine in a terrific storm to explore the atmospheric house in the middle of the night. Poor Marles has to cope with a lot, and it doesn't help that he is attracted to young 'flapper' type Sally who is engaged, and seemingly telling lies. 

I prefer cosy mysteries and the plot became rather elaborate in the end, although very clever and difficult to guess. John Dickson Carr's writing is probably too creepy and gruesome for me, and I didn't like one of the characters hiding her Australian origins (although I realise that it was often done in those days).

I received this ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Drawing and Painting Botanicals for Artists How to Create Beautifully Detailed Plant and Flower Illustrations by Karen Kluglein

This is a beautiful book with lots of exercises and clear instructions which will inspire readers to practise their botanical art. It has sections on drawing and painting and lists all the materials you need for each project. I loved this book and I will definitely be buying it, although I feel that I need to use simpler art books first, unfortunately!

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

Learn to Draw (Almost) Anything in 6 Easy Steps by Rich Davis

This book shows you how to draw almost anything in a popular, cartoon-like style. The drawings are cute, especially the birds, and the instructions seem pretty easy.  Look at Rich Davis's website to get an idea of the drawings, although they are, of course, much more basic in this book. This book is probably more fun for children.

I received this ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Neglected C.S. Lewis. Mark Neal and Jerry Root

In this beautifully-written but fairly demanding book, the authors argue that readers can't really know C.S. Lewis until they have read his works of literary criticism,  the history of words and the medieval world-view. They include chapters on each of these works. Some sound much more interesting and readable than others, although the authors present an excellent argument about why people should read them. For example, C.S. Lewis's book on his fellow Inkling's rather obscure poem about King Arthur would be worth reading if you really wanted to study Williams's influence on Lewis and his thoughts about King Arthur relate to theology, but I would rather read Lewis's books on chivalry and literary criticism.

The Neglected C.S. Lewis certainly provides an excellent introduction to all of these works, explaining their reasoning and philosophy, and their relationship with his novels.  The way to read this book is to read the chapter about the book and then read the C.S. Lewis work.

I received a free ebook from Paraclete Press in return for an honest review.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Life Under Nazi Occupation The Struggle to Survive During World War II by Paul Roland Arcturus Publishing

Churchill condemned the Nazis strongly early in the war:
               'Every week (Hitler's) firing parties are busy in a dozen lands. Mondays he shoots
                Dutcchmen, Tuesdays, Norwegians, Wednesdays, French or Belgians stand against
                the wall. Thursdays it is the Czechs who must suffer and now there are the Serbs
                and the Greeks to fill his repulsive bill of executions. But always, all the days,
                there are the Poles'.

Paul Roland studies the effects of the Nazis on every occupied country in this thoroughly researched book, and what a tale of woe it is. They terrorised every occupied country; they were responsible for the Holocaust, and killed and tortured millions of others, as well as plundering and looting most of these countries.  It's incredibly harrowing reading and written in a fairly dry way, so it is really mostly useful for students and researchers, however, it is certainly worth reading if you are very interested in the subject.

I found the sections on Poland, the Channel Islands and Greece the most interesting, probably because I have read a lot about France during the war.  Roland restores the reputation of the Polish treatment of the Jews to some extent by pointing out that up to 90,000 Poles risked their lives and the lives of their friends and families to give shelter to 28,000 Jews in the months before the Warsaw uprising. The treatment of the Polish by the Nazis was especially horrific because they considered them to be an inferior race, so resistance was incredibly difficult, especially when Poland's leaders, elite, and members of the aristocracy were murdered. The Nazis also made every effort to destroy Polish culture.

If you are interested in The Second World War, this is worth buying.

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

Sunday, April 19, 2020

That Affair Next Door by Anna Katharine Green Poisoned Pen Press

When Miss Amelia Butterworth finds a dead lady next door, she decides to investigate, and finds herself emotionally involved in the affairs of the wealthy and mysterious family next door.  Her investigation leads her into interesting paths, but she finds herself up against the sarcastic and irritating Detective Ebenezer Gryce who seems determined to block her inquiries.

This was an enjoyable detective story, although rather wordy compared with today's mysteries. Amelia is snobbish, proud and rather pleased with herself, but likeable and I certainly wanted her to outwit the annoying Gryce. The mystery is reasonably complicated, but I liked the way that Amelia kept writing her reasoning down and employing logic to solve it. Some readers may be a bit shocked by Amelia's racism, but it wouldn't have been unusual at the time when this early detective story was written.

I will definitely read more books by Anna Katharine Green.

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

Mayhem Unanswered Questions about the Tsarnaev Brothers, the US Government and the Boston Marathon Bombing by Michele R. McPhee

This was an interesting book discussing whether Tamerlan, one of the brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing, was protected by the government because he was an intelligence agent. Unfortunately, I found it complicated and I found it difficult to concentrate on the book, probably because the present crisis is so involving that it is hard to read about another one.

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