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Showing posts from 2009

TBR Challenge

I am going to do MitzB's TBR 2010 Challenge .

My List of Twelve Books

A Castle in Tuscany: The Remarkable Life of Janet Ross by Sarah Benjamin

Wordsworth and Coleridge by Adam Sisman

Time Out: 1000 Books to Change Your Life

That Summer in Sicily by Marlena de Blasi

Katherine The Virgin Widow by Jean Plaidy

True Grace by Wendy Leigh

The Emperor and the Actress by Joan Haslip

The Golden Fleece by Bertita Harding

A Place in the World called Paris

I Remember St.Petersburg by E.M. Almedingen

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopkik

The Party that Lasted 100 Days by Hilary and Mary Evans

I will put by Alternative List up soon!

I've made a mistake and the print has suddenly got much smaller. Help! I've read: Paris to the Moon, That Summer in Sicily, and Katherine: The Virgin Widow.

A Candle for St.Jude by Rumer Godden. Chapter One

(I used this picture because it's in the Common Domain. I am going to look for one that is more suitable.)

An old coach house covered with wisteria, with its own theatre with red plush chairs and chandeliers, and a ballet school. This is the setting for Rumer Godden's novel.
The coach house in Anna Pavlova's old haunt, Hampstead, is almost a character in this novel. The struggles to keep the ballet school and theatre going will be a central theme. As Godden writes, 'A theatre is blooded in triumphs and tears.'

Madame Anna, the main character, runs the ballet school and theatre. She is a typical Russian ballet diva - vain and dominating but good-hearted. She surrounds herself with relics of her great career in the ballet, such as a chocolate box from the Tsar and an opal from the people of Sydney. These relics are 'personal memorials to be held in reverence and an incentive to faith.'

There are also the characters of Lion and Caroline, the premier stars of…

A Candle for St.Jude by Rumer Godden

I am going to start my Rumer Godden retrospective with this book. I know that This House of Brede is the favourite of most people but I've always loved A Candle for St.Jude the best for some reason. I'll start reading my battered old copy soon.

Does anyone want to join the discussion? Are there any Rumer Godden fans about? I'm hoping to discuss the first three chapters by next week.

Art History Reading Challenge

I didn't get very far with the last one but I'm going to try again! I'm joining : Heidenkind's. I will probably start with Renoir's biography of his father.

I'd love to hear from others doing this challenge!

My theme for this challenge is the French Impressionists. That is just the way that it has worked out.

With Violets by Elizabeth Robards

This is a beautifully written novel about the ambitious, young woman artist, Berthe Morisot, and her love affair with Edouard Manet. The prose does descend into the 'purple' sometimes, I feel, and the dialogue is a bit contrived at times, but I enjoyed it very much.

The characterization is very good. Berthe is a very likeable young woman, torn between trying to please her mother who wants her to marry well, and her love for a married man. She is also an excellent artist.

Edouard Manet is also well-imagined. He is handsome and charming, but has a certain ruthlessness. I also liked the character of Degas, who seems to…

Books Read in December

I read quite a few books in October and November but I don't think that I can put them in order. I'm starting again now!

The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith

I love reading about the charming and philosophical Isabel. The third one in the series, this book includes all of the usual characters - Jamie, Cat, little Charlie, and Grace. Isabel is asked by Minty to help solve a problem and has to apply her detective skills and decide whether the rather hard-headed Minty is trustworthy or not. She is also required to meet her niece Cat's new boyfriend, a trapeze-artist. (!)

Alexander McCall Smith's gentle, Scottish novels evoke the misty, romantic setting of Edinburgh very well. They are also very amusing, although the ones set in Africa are probably funnier. I am attracted to cold, green locations, and I like the philosophical questions in these books so I prefer this series. I've only read the first one in the other series so I'm not sure about this…

Books Read During September

I've been on holidays so it's a bit hard to remember which books I read in September. I'll try to list them!

Love In The Age Of Drought by Fiona Higgins

This was a very Australian love story between a farmer and a city girl. Fiona has issues with her past and misconceptions about cotton farmers so the Sydney executive has a lot to cope with when she becomes attracted to Stuart. Stuart falls for her quickly. Fiona realises what a good man he is and goes to live on his farm in Queensland.

Here the city girl finds frogs in the loo, finds dangerous snakes in the grass, and tries to work in 40 degree heat without air-conditioning! She also has to compete with women who appear to be perfect housewives and cooks.

This book is a sensitive love story and very interesting about many issues which affect Australia.

The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble

This book was so well-written that reading every word was a pleasure. It was also a very emotional love story and a good mystery.

Humphrey …

Books Read During August

I started many books in August, as usual. I didn't actually finish many, though!

Chez Moi by Agnes DesartheI enjoyed this quintessentially French novel about charmingly disorganized Myriam who transforms her life by opening a restaurant in Paris. Myriam has led a tough life. Divorced from her cold husband and estranged from her beloved son, she concentrates entirely on her restaurant. She has no time to do anything but sleep and cook at first. Soon her wonderful food attracts customers and helpers. She eventually becomes part of the community but it is a hard journey...

Like most French novels, this is very philosophical and somewhat circular. It's worth reading, however, especially if you want to try out the recipes!

Between Wyomings: My God and an iPod on the Open Road by Ken Mansfield

This is a very moving account of a spiritual journey and an examination of a life. Most people will enjoy this tale about Ken Mansfield’s career and conversion to Christianity. It will appeal to anyone who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies because Mansfield tells many stories about the singers of these decades.

After Grammy-award winning record-producer, Ken Mansfield, is diagnosed with cancer, he and his wife decide to revisit old haunts and come to terms with his successes and failures. He also needs to get rid of ‘baggage’ and finally understand his relationship with God.

The tales of his glamorous musical career and his pilgrimage seem incongruous until the second half of the book when Mansfield compares the peace he has found in Christianity with the money-dominated world of the music industry. Here his writing flows more as he describes the towns and countryside that he visits. They all remind him of his past life.

I enjoyed his anecdotes about his record-producing days and the …

Search For The Latest Menswear At ShopWiki

ShopWiki is a revolutionary new search engine for shopping. It crawls the web for shopping websites and it also includes buying and gift guides. It doesn't only show stores that have paid for placement unlike traditional shopping sites so you can see all the suitable shopping sites.

At Shop Wiki you can seach for the latest menswear. ShopWiki provides you with guides to the latest styles, such as the Men's Fall Style Guide. This shows you where you can find the new menswear fashions for Fall, including the updated white shirt and the turtleneck cashmere jumper.

There is also a Men's Winter Style Guide at ShopWiki which shows men how to stay warm but still look well-dressed. The latest winter styles include pea coats and argyle sweaters.

The latest styles by menswear designers, such as Liz Claiborne and Pierre Cardin, can be found by searching
ShopWiki's men's clothing designers .

Stylish men's suits can also be found at ShopWiki .

Books Read During July

.Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear is an engaging character who works hard to join the middle class and becomes a detective. Her first case involves investigating the mysterious death of a badly injured soldier after World War One.

This was an enjoyable book with lots of interesting philosophy. I especially liked the line that 'coincidence is the messenger of truth'.

My main problem with the book is that I found the ending very unbelievable. Also much more time was devoted to history rather than the actual case. I am going to try the next book in the series soon, however.

Veuve Taylor by Henrietta Taylor

After her husband died Henrietta Taylor became a young widow with two little children. After a terrible time with grief, bouts of drinking, and a difficult court case, she decided to 'escape' to France with her children. She was a former teacher of French so she had no difficulties with the language.

She tells her story in a self-deprecating, charming way in this…

A Relaxing Holiday at Myrtle Beach

Enjoy a relaxing holiday at the beautiful Prince Resort at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina this year. The Myrtle Beach Resort, set on the ocean front provides comfortable and modern rooms in many different sizes. Many have excellent views. All of them have attractive furnishings and spacious bathrooms.

The Myrtle Beach Accommodations also have many other features, such as fine dining, hot tubs, and a quiet river nearby.

There are lots of attractions and activities available at the Myrtle Beach Resorts. These include the historic Cherry Grove Pier, golf and many shopping centres with interesting specialty shops.

Books Read During June

I can hardly believe that June is almost over. Time goes so quickly. I haven't finished many books yet. It's probably because I try to read too many at a time!

Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham

Wealthy and beautiful, Mary is staying at a villa in Florence and thinking of marrying an older man about to be promoted to an excellent position in India. The only problem is that she doesn't love him. Feeling somewhat jaded, Mary longs for an adventure. When a poor young refugee falls in love with her she gets more than she bargained for...

Maugham often writes about rather shallow women who long for more purpose in life. Mary's character is sympathetically drawn and the book is unusually exciting for Maugham. It gives a very different perspective on life from The Purple Veil and it was more fun. However, The Purple Veil was much wiser and the main character was easier to identify with.

Act of Mercy by Peter Tremayne

This is part of a series about Sister Fidelma, an enga…

The Art History Reading Challenge

This is another challenge which appeals to me. Joining involves reading at least six books about art history this year - fiction or non-fiction. You can make a list or read according to your whim - I think that I'll do the latter!

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday suggests making a list in fifteen minutes of 'fifteen of the books that have stayed with you'. Here they are:

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
3. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
4. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
7. Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
8. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
9. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
10.None Dare Call It Treason by Catherine Gavin
11.How Sleep the Brave by Catherine Gavin
12.The Free Frenchman by Piers Paul Read
13.A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
14.Sorrell and Son by Warwick Deeping
15.Little Women by Louisa Alcott

These are not in any particular order and I have many other favourite books!


I have been away recently and I am going to find it a bit difficult to write often because of travelling between two places. I will do the best that I can to make my posts as frequent as possible.

Books Read During May

Learning by Heart by Elizabeth McGregor

I enjoyed this moving and tender story about a mother hiding dark family secrets and a daughter trying to cope with an unfaithful husband. The descriptions of Italy were especially evocative. The novel was very cliched in parts, which was a bit annoying.

I exchanged this for Rhett Butlet's People so I'm quite pleased!

An Antarctic Affair by Emma McEwin

When Douglas Mawson endured the horrors of his Far Eastern Sledging Journey in Antarctica his love for his beautiful fiancee spurred him on. Paquita, the daughter of the founder of BHP, was a well-educated, cultured young woman who impressed the great explorer. They fell in love but waited until Mawson returned from Antarctica to marry - this took much longer than they thought because Mawson had to wait an extra year.

This is a moving love story by Mawson's great grand-daughter and an excellent account of Mawson's explorations. Sir Douglas Mawson achieved a great deal for Australi…

Roxana Freed!

She is not really free, but she is out of jail and Iran. I am glad that Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist accused of spying on Iran has finally had her sentence reduced, and that she is able to go back to America. She recently ended her hunger-strike and is now very weak. There is some suggestion that her case has been used to appeal to the hard-liners who don't want to make any concessions or agreements with America. Many of the ordinary people of Iran are upset about the dire state of the economy so the extremists felt that jailing Saberi may help their cause. You can read more about her case at: Free Roxana.

Victorian Reading Challenge

I've finished the first book for this challenge!

Becoming Queen by Kate Williams was a very enjoyable, fast-paced read about the wild Princess Charlotte Augusta and the young Princess Victoria. Williams keeps this story interesting and is especially good when describing Victoria's struggles with her mother and John Conroy. I was sorry to finish this book and I'm looking forward to reading William's other books.

Queen Victoria Was Amused by Alan Hardy

I didn't quite finish this. This collection of amusing anecdotes shows that Queen Victoria had a good sense of humour, loved to dance and was quite broad-minded. She even danced Scottish reels at 72! This book became a bit repetitive, however.

I am reading American Jennie by Anne Seba at the moment.

Alumni Book Fair Acquisitions

The Alumni Book Fair of my university is a great place to find books. Even rare and signed books are available there. Boxes of books are available on the last day for only $12.00. It's held every two years - it used to be held every year. I've still got at least one book that I bought there at least twenty years ago! The one that I can find is Unquiet Souls by Angela Lambert. Just wonderful, although I am not sure that I agree with her about the pointlessness of the First World War.

These are mostly about royalty and history:

Elizabeth and Alexandra by Anthony Lambton. This is about the two Hesse sisters. One became the last Tsarina and the other married a Russian Duke. Both died tragic deaths. This will suit my Romanov obsession!

Victoria and Disraeli: The Making of a Romantic Partnership by Theo Aronson: I like Aronson's style and this will fit nicely into the Victorian Reading Challenge.

The Prince and I by Rosemarie Buschow: Buschow was a nanny for a Saudi prince. H…

Books Read in April

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

This wasn't especially well-written, except in patches but I thought that it was reasonably helpful. After all, it's not a good idea to brood about the past all the time or constantly think about a better future. How often have you regretted not enjoying good times in the past as much as you should have? How quickly it goes! (I'm over 30.) This book shows a way of finding peace of mind by living entirely in the present.

Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard

This Antarctic hero famously almost lost his life searching for the eggs of the Emperor Penguin hoping that they'd help solve a Darwinian problem.

A son of an aristocratic family who eventually inherited two English estates, Cherry-Garrard could have become a country gentleman and squire. He didn't need to work, but he was looking for more meaning in his life. He met Edward Wilson who became his mentor and helped him win a place on Scott's last expedition. 'Cherry&…

Victorian Reading Challenge

I've joined the Victorian Challenge is being hosted by Alex from Le Canape

When you join you choose one of these levels:

* A drink at Whitechapel: 3 books
* A walk in Hyde Park: 4 books
* A tour of the British Museum: 5 books
* A visit to Buckingham Palace: 6 books

I've joined a bit late because the challenge has to be finished by 30 June 2009. Your books must have either been written during the time of Queen Victoria's reign, or be set during this time!

I read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell at the beginning of the year so I'm going to include that. I'm reading Crime and Punishment now.

I hope to make the visit to Buckingham Palace and read 6 books!

Bingo Hideout

I love to have a game of bingo occasionally. Now there is a cool way to play bingo online! Bingo is a social networking site which enables you to find out where to play free bingo online and chat about bingo.

Bingo features a directory of bingo sites, the latest news about bingo, articles about bingo and a blog. The news includes helpful articles, such as ten tips to make the most from your bingo site. The site is attractively laid out and very easy to use.

If you join Bingo you can obtain 200 pounds towards playing no deposit bingo.

Where Will Books Take You?

Strumpet recently posed these questions: "Is there a place that you have always dreamed of visiting specifically because of a book you read? It can be any kind of book: fiction, non-fiction, travelogue, you name it. If you have been to the place, did it live up to your expectations? If you haven't been, do you think you'll ever make it there?" (It was really last month's question but I couldn't resist!)

Dreaming of Russia

At first it was ballet books with their gorgeous photos of the Bolshoi Ballet. Then I read the incredibly sad story of the last Tsar and the Imperial Russian Family so I wanted to visit the palaces and The Golden Ring Soon afterwards I read War and Peace (not properly) and admired Natasha, a rather frivolous girl whose character became forged by the hardship of war. Will I ever see the splendour of the Hermitage and Tsarskoe Selo, let alone feel the haunting presence of Tsar Nicholas, Alexai and his four daughters in the isolated Golden Ring…

March Reads

Anna Pavlova: Her Art and Life by Victor Dandre.

This reminded me of the saying that: "There's gold in them there hills if you're willing to look for it." This book by the great ballerina's husband was written in an excessively old-fashioned and rather dull way but he does include lots of interesting details about her tours, the people that Anna Pavlova met, and the work involved in running a ballet company. Pavlova liked Australia - even Brisbane's ghastly heat and humidity was preferable for her dancing than the cold, apparently. She took home bulbs of a purple bell-like flower to grow in her greenhouse.

This isn't a chronological biography. It is composed of chapters about different aspects of Anna Pavlova's life.

Luckily I got this through Inter-Library Loan because it is very expensive! If you are a big fan of the wonderful Anna, however, it is worth buying if only for the beautiful photos. (For a bit more on Anna see my Edwardian Promenade blog

The Author of The Interrogator Interrogated!

JJ Cooper's novel,The Interrogator, will be published in 2009. This exciting thriller about a military interrogator who knows too much was, amazingly, JJ's first novel. He very kindly agreed to this interview:

1. Could you tell us a bit about your book, The Interrogator, please?

I like to think of it as an ‘Aussie fast-paced thriller’. I’ve converted my experiences as an interrogator into a work of fiction.

Here’s the short synopsis – THE INTERROGATOR is a story of betrayal and nightmarish conspiracy firmly rooted in the highest levels of government across international alliances. Jay Ryan is an interrogator with a dark past and a tortured soul; he’s also the keeper of secrets Israeli spies will kill to get their hands upon. Renowned for his skills, he is used to commanding a certain level of respect amongst his peers. Then one day Jay is drugged, tortured, tattooed and accused of rape. He is forced to reveal information that could further destabilise fragile Middle East relat…

Books Read in February

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

Miss Christie never lets one down and this is no exception! In this enchanting novel, Jerry, who is suffering from a bad case of ennui after the First World War, and his smart and fashionable sister go to the country so that Jerry can recover from a car accident. They expect the country to be very boring so they're amazed to discover the small village awash with talk of poison-pen letters. They join the investigation when they receive some themselves. The situation becomes even more dangerous when murders suddenly start happening...

Eccentric characters and a fairy-tale romance make this book one of the most enjoyable of Christie's novels.

The Road to San Michele by Bengt Jangfeldt

The Story of San Michele was such an unusual book - so lyrical and magical that it's hard to beat. It remains one of my favourites.

This is the true story of Axel Munthe, the famous doctor who owned a villa on Capri, Italy, and saved birds from cruel methods …

Books Read During January

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Gaskell's writing lacks the precision of Jane Austen and the passion of the Brontes. However, it is very lucid and descriptive, if rather long-winded. I find her quite soothing even though this book deals with class-wars during England's Industrial Revolution.

The story involves Margaret, who is forced to move from her beloved country village when her father decides to leave the Church. They decide to live in the polluted, but thriving town of Milton. Here she has to cope with her invalid mother, her growing feelings for mill-owner, Mr.Thornton, and her escapee brother. Margaret has great integrity but she is also very human and it is easy to identify with her. Gaskell's characters are very well-drawn, generally.

She also writes very perceptively about the conflicts between the employers and employees - these are still very relevant today.


This sentence made me think: "Plus ca change...."

"Hitherto there had been …