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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Books Read Lately

I''m a bit pressed for time lately.  I hope to be a better blogger soon! I intend to join a few challenges, include a few interviews, and start a series.  Please keep reading!

Here are some new short reviews.

Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart

This was a cleverly plotted mystery involving Jenny's search for her cousin in the French Alps.  The eerie atmosphere and strange characters make this book difficult to put down.  The ending is especially exciting.

Jenny is a sweet, but immature and innocent girl at the beginning of the book.  She is likable, but she might seem old-fashioned to the young women readers of today.  She has to grow stronger and much more mature, however.  In the end she discovers where her heart lies.

Marie Lloyd by Richard Anthony Baker

This book will interest anyone who likes to read about music-hall stars and music-halls.  It is probably rather too factual and dry for other readers, however.  Some of the descriptions of music-halls are evocative and the era was certainly fascinating.

I liked this book but I think that the generous star deserved a better writer.

Friday, November 25, 2011

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

A charming and beautifully written historical mystery about an engaging heroine.  Read my review here: An Appealing Historical Mystery

Saturday, October 01, 2011

An Eloquent Journey Towards Grace



Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber is almost like a non-fiction Brideshead Revisited.  Like that wonderful novel, Surprised by Oxford, is a moving love story and a tale of conversion.  Set in Matthew Arnold's "sweet city of dreaming spires", this is an eloquent memoir of the journey to faith.

When Weber is a young undergraduate student studying Donne in Canada, she is criticised by her lecturer for not understanding the poem.  She is surprised to discover that her professor is a devout Christian who tells her that "anything not done to the glory of God is doomed to failure..."  She begins to think about this in a deep way.  This is the first sign that, like the great poet, Weber is on a spiritual pilgrimage.

When Weber arrives in Oxford on a graduate scholarship, she is engaged to a nice young man but she feels dissatisfied with her life.  She has an anguished relationship with her clever father who apparently threw his life away to a great extent.  A tall, dark, and handsome American student realizes that she is homesick and sympathizes with her, making her feel somewhat happier.

She starts to think that 'TDH' is a bit strange when she sees an email from his friend attempting to match him up with a 'virgin', and TDH tries to convert her rather too quickly.  However, she soon starts wanting to find out more about Christianity and finds out that many of her tutors and fellow students are Christians.  Even her study of Romantic literature is leading her along this path.

Weber struggles with her new search which some people, including her fiance and her family, find difficult to understand.  TDH helps her on her journey and she begins reading the Bible and going to church.  However, she tries to escape from her new-found faith at times, which leads to a falling-out with TDH.

This is a journey towards finding meaning in life.  A passage which will resonate with many Christians is when Weber discusses Christianity with her friend, Edward.  He argues that he "gives himself meaning" and he "is the ultimate judge of goodness."  She finds this attitude a very odd one.

The memoir is beautifully written.  Lovers of the classics and great literature will especially enjoy this book because it contains many quotations and descriptions of Carolyn Weber's studies.  She also describes the beauty and traditions of Oxford vividly.

I liked all of these aspects of the book, but I have to admit that I liked the love story best of all.  It was almost like a real-life version of a Jane Austen love story.  Jane Austen, a deep-thinking Christian herself, would certainly approve of this lovely memoir!

NB:  This was a free book from the Book Sneeze program.  This opinion is entirely my own and I was offered no incentive to write a good review.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Books Read in September

That Woman by Anne Sebba

Sebba created controversy with this biography of Wallis Simpson because of her theory that Wallis suffered from a strange sexual disorder which may have even rendered her incapable of sleeping with her husbands.  This would have meant that Prince Edward told King George the truth technically when he said that he and Wallis had not had "sexual relations".

Sebba really doesn't appear to have much evidence for this hypothesis.  There are also rumours about abortions and trouble with her ovaries.


The author dismisses some other tales as myths. For example, she writes that Simpson really wasn't very interested in politics and that she probably didn't have affairs with Guy Trundle or Ribbentrop.  There's also no mention of any drug-smuggling in China.


She still paints a picture of Simpson as very ambitious, materialistic and unlikeable.  She married the Prince because she'd gone too far and couldn't get out of it without incurring even worse problems.  There is some evidence that she didn't understand the British Constitution and thought that she could possibly be Queen.

This biography was a bit dull compared with Sebba's excellent biography of Jennie Churchill which I really enjoyed.

I intend to start a new series soon because I feel like doing something different as well as keeping a book journal.


Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran


Madame Tussaud had to play a dangerous game.  Friendly with revolutionaries, such as Camille Desmoulins and Robespierre who came to her mentor's salon, she also taught Madame Elizabeth (the King's sister) to make wax sculptures and she was a closet Royalist.  She was an incredibly tough woman who was forced to make sculptures of people straight after they'd been guillotined because of threats to her life.  Eventually she was able to escape to England from the Revolution.  She also had to overcome many struggles there.


I liked this book by Moran although it was fairly simply written.  Marie is an engaging and strong character and the other characters also ring true.  Moran manages to make the royal and the revolutionary characters ring true, no easy task.


Be warned, some of this book is quite gruesome.  I couldn't read parts of it.  I'd like to read more books by Moran, however, especially a sequel to this one.




Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

This novel enchanted me.  I enjoyed it almost as much as Little Women! Rose did get on my nerves a bit though because she was just too anxious to be good.

The Rose of Eight Cousins has come back from her tour of Europe with Uncle Alec and she is now an accomplished young lady with many ambitions.  Uncle Alec is rather tyrannical.  He fears that the temptations of going to balls, flirting and generally having a good time will stop Rose from achieving these.  The trouble is that he is really too much of a Puritan altogether!

Rose insists on having a few months of doing what other young ladies do.  She still tries to be good, however.  For example, she doesn't buy a beautiful dress at one stage because she comes into contact with a poor woman who makes her feel guilty about wanting it.  I felt that this was going a bit too far!

Rose also has a dilemma.  She doesn't just want to get married - she wants to do more with her life.  However, she has many suitors including some of her cousins.  How will she make up her mind?  What kind of lover should she choose?  Should she choose a man with deep flaws and try to change him?  The love story in this book is beautifully written.

This novel was surprisingly modern for its time.  Alcott deals with many issues still relevant today.  These include feminism, women's careers, and class distinction.  It may get on some young girl's nerves because its morality is rather old-fashioned, but many will enjoy it.Search Amazon.com Books for rose in bloom


Playing with Fire by Nigel Havers

This was surprisingly enjoyable and not badly written.  It's full of hilarious anecdotes, but it is a bit crude at times.

Havers, a son of a former Attorney-General, has led a charmed life.  He chose to go to a high school in London which focused on the arts because he realised that he wanted to be an actor from an early age.  The lucky boy lived by himself in his parent's London flat but he mostly managed to avoid temptation and focus on his studies.  His father defended the Rolling Stones so Haversl met them and even found himself at a party with them at one stage! These were just some of the famous people who he met from an early age.

Havers's blonde good looks and cut-glass accent together with his excellent acting ability soon won him roles.  He tells all about many of his films, including his exploits in outback Australia. I found his chapters about his role in my favourite film, Chariots of Fire, the most interesting.  It's certainly a fairy-tale story.

The actor is also very candid about his personal life.  He tells the story of the break-up of his first marriage and his love affair with his wife, Polly.  Some women won't be sympathetic with his marital problems but he did feel extremely guilty.

Any fans of the good-looking, sauve actor will appreciate this book.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Books Read in August

Was She A Gold-Digger Or A Woman In Love?

Did Wallis Simpson want to be Queen or was she just desperately in love with King Edward VIII? According to Charles Higham in Mrs Simpson, she 'wanted to have her cake and eat it too'.  She liked the grand life-style and the stunning presents she received as Prince Edward's mistress and she wanted to remain his mistress after he became King.

This is about the best thing about her, according to this book.  Apart from being vulgar and common, Higham writes that she was also a Fascist, promiscuous, and even a drug-runner in China!  The Duke of Windsor was also sympathetic to the Nazis and even gave secret information away.  He even suggested that England should be bombed more heavily so that the country would be more inclined to want peace!

They were apparently an extremely nasty couple if this information is correct, and Great Britain was extremely lucky that this King abdicated!

This book is full of salacious gossip and scandal but it's written in a fairly dull way.  I wouldn't recommend it unless you are very interested in this story.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This book has been the hit of the year and it is certainly a tour-de-force.  After 'Skeeter' comes back to her small Mississipi town from college in the 1960s, she looks at her home with different eyes.  She starts wondering why the family maid, Constantine, disappeared.   She also begins noticing what a hard life the African-American servants lead and the discrimination and persecution they suffer.

Skeeter decides to tell the stories of the maids but what will this cost her? How much is she prepared to sacrifice?

Stockett captures the stifling, small-town atmosphere well and even writes in the vernacular in an authentic way. Skeeter is an engaging character and the other characters are well-rounded and believable.  It's a great book and highly recommended.

I do have to admit that it struck me as a bit contrived, but that's not a big criticism.  I also feel obliged to admit that one of my favourite books is Gone With The Wind.

















Thursday, August 11, 2011

How To Find Cheap Textbooks

Do you need affordable textbooks? Many college students have trouble finding cheap textbooks.  Textbooks are often printed in limited editions which makes them extremely expensive. Don't despair! There is a way to solve this.

You can use this excellent comparison site to find affordable textbooks.  Here you can search 20 different partners for a book.  You can search for books easily by searching by college, university, title, or keywords.  You can also search for multiple college books at once.  There is even a free iPhone app that you can use to search for books!

This site also has other interesting features, such as a featured book and some of the New York Times Bestsellers.








Saturday, August 06, 2011

Books Read in July

Marrying Anita by Anita Jain

Anita Jain is a clever, Indian-American journalist who is over thirty and wants to get married.

She becomes tired of the dating scene in New York.  Most of the men she dates tell her at the start that 'they're not looking for anything serious'.  She writes that if they say that at the beginning, they think that they can easily date women for a while and then leave them.  Honesty, she writes, is about their only good quality.

Jain thinks that the Indian attitude to marriage is better.  Indians don't see anything wrong with wanting to get married and they don't place as much value on  independence and freedom.  She decides to live in India and try her chances there.  The men who she dates in India seemed to me to be just as bad or worse, unfortunately.

Jain annoyed me a bit by drinking too much and taking drugs.  There seemed to be even more of this in India than America, surprisingly.  She also struck me as rather silly in other ways at times.  However, her comparisons of Western and Indian attitudes and her descriptions of life in Delhi are well-written and atmospheric.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Great War- Hero of Many Countries

My mother worked for the U.S. Air Force in Australia during the Second World War, so I was very interested in reading Macarthur by Mitchell Yockelson.  She used to see the General in the lift (elevator) and she told me how nice and pretty his wife was.  She's also told me hair-raising stories about typing letters begging for more planes.  Macarthur is certainly a hero to my mother and should be a hero to all Australians as well as Americans.

Yockelson's book is an excellent introduction to the life and legacy of the great general.  It outlines the importance of Macarthur's noble family background, the facts of the wars and the general's struggles with Presidents and other war-leaders.  Unfortunately, there is only a small chapter on Macarthur's time in Australia.  This was, of course, the part that interested me the most.  However, I couldn't really expect more because the book is written to appeal to American readers.

 The writing is, unfortunately, a bit dull and the book could be used as a textbook.  The extracts of Macarthur's own writings are much more lively!  However, it did make me want to read more.

The author does include many anecdotes and details about Macarthur's personal life which makes Macarthur more accessible and the book more interesting.  For example, Macarthur had a mistress at one stage.  He was also a natty dresser - during the First World War he often wore bright turtleneck sweaters, riding crops and shining puttees! He was nicknamed 'the Beau Brummell of the AEF'!

I hope to read some more biographies of the general now, and I'll certainly visit the Macarthur Museum again soon!

NB: This book was a free book provided by the Book Sneeze blogging program.  My opinion of this book is entirely my own.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

No Way Home by Carlos Acosta

The troubles of Lee Cunxin (Mao's Last Dancer) were bad, but seem like almost nothing when they are compared with those of the famous ballet star, Carlos Acosta.  This book made my hair stand on end!<br/><br/>Born in a poor area of Havana, Acosta overcame terrible conditions to become a ballet dancer.  He really wanted to be a footballer so he played truant from his first school and played football and joined breakdancing groups.  His father gave him a good thrashing when he found out.  Luckily, another school accepted him.  Once Acosta was inspired by going to the ballet, he decided to put up with his coackroach-ridden shed in a swamp, absence from his family, and long bus-rides to school. His teachers saw his potential and helped begin to achieve his ambitions.

These weren't his only problems.  His father was injured in a car accident which worsened his already bad temper.  His mother suffered a stroke at only 35 and one of his sisters was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia.  It was almost too much for anyone to cope with.  Acosta must have had supreme inner strength and determination, however.  He was also spurred on by his father who wanted to help him get ahead.

This is probably the most miserable book that I've ever read! It becomes somewhat happier when Acosta starts becoming successful.  It's interesting to see how he copes with life in the wealthy West and isolation.  He describes the contrast between Cuba and the West well. In spite of the poverty of Cuba and his father's bad temper, Acosta  longs for his family and his country, but he wants to become famous in other countries.

It's certainly an emotionally powerful story and it's well-written and easy to read.  Acosta's very honest as well.  He gives a lot of details about his love life which makes the book spicier and even more interesting.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Books Read in June

To Hellas and Back by Lana Penrose

Penrose jumped at the chance to go to Greece with her Greek-Australian boyfriend.  However, she was very miserable in Greece.  She found herself amongst unfriendly people who were difficult to understand and lost without a career or friends.  Learning the language was impossible.  Her partner loved it and his career was leaping ahead. This had drastic effects on their relationship.

Penrose tells a hilarious but sad tale.  I enjoyed this book but the author was too 'out there' for me.  She reminded me on occasion of why many people avoid being known as Australian when they go overseas! She liked drinking a bit too much and only became happier when she found some New Zealanders who also seemed to be drunk a lot of the time.  The Greeks can apparently enjoy a few civilised glasses of wine over dinner without getting drunk afterwards.  I am not a 'wowser' but this can only be praised.

* 'Wowser' means someone who wants to stop people enjoying a few drinks, gambling in moderation, or generally having a good time.

Queen Emma and the Vikings by Harriet O' Brien

Harriet O'Brien captures the atmosphere of Viking times and studies Emma's character reasonably closely.  She describes the splendour of Emma's life but doesn't shy away from the grisly times.

Emma was certainly a strong and interesting woman.  Her relations included Vikings and Normans and she married two important Kings, Aethelred the Unready and Cnut (Canute).  One of her sons was actually Edward the Confessor.  Queen Emma was even called the 'Queen of Spin' in modern times because she commissioned a book which  whitewashed much of her history!
I will read more about her.

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

I couldn't read this at all.  The writing was just too 'ocker'.  Yet I loved The Harp in the South series by Ruth Park which is a very Australian series.  I will watch the adaptation on TV, however.

Absorbing the Liturgy

Chittister shows  how absorbing the liturgy throughout the year makes one a better Christian.  This is a deep, thoughtful and philosophical book about the importance of the liturgy and its history.  It is well-worth reading.

Do you go to sleep during readings and sermons?  Do you know whether its Lent or Advent?  Reading this book will help you if you do! The Liturgical Year shows the importance of the different spiritual times of the year, for example, the sacrifices and fasting of Lent and the candles and decorations of Christmas. Chittister studies the origins of these periods of the year and their connection with the story of Christ.  She even goes into the different colours of the church decor of these times, for example, purple for Advent.

She writes that the symbolism, the readings, and the drama of the liturgy all correspond with Christ's life.  If we follow them and absorb them, this will help us become better Christians.

 This book is written from an extremely Catholic perspective.  Chittister grew up with colourful Catholic processions and all of the drama of Catholic traditions.  I was raised an Anglican so I didn't find this hard to understand because the Anglican church retains some of these traditions. I also like the colour and drama of Catholicism.  However, this aspect of the book could annoy many Protestants who don't attach much importance to symbolism.

 The problem that I had with this book is that it is inclined to be vague and heavy-going.  I will keep it because it is a book that requires re-reading.

NB This was sent to me as part of the Book Sneeze blogger program.  My opinion of it is entirely my own.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beautiful Medical Uniforms at Blue Sky Scrubs

Are you tired of wearing unfashionable medical uniforms?  There is an answer.  Blue Sky Scrubs specialize in making beautiful nursing uniforms.  They manufacture custom made scrubs which have a slimming flit and high quality fabric.

The company makes two types of scrubs for women: Original Scrubs and Simple Scrubs.  The Original Scrubs feature fashionable stitching on the two back pockets of the scrub bottoms and matching stitching on the pocket of the top.

These very attractive uniforms will help you look good at the hospital or wherever you work in the medical field. They are designed to flatter any figure.  The uniforms are available from http://www.blueskyscrubs.com/categories/Scrubs/Scrubs-for-Women/Original Scrubs.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Adding Books to my May Post

I have added a few books to my May post. I added another book today.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why You Should Use Repair Pal



Do you want to find the best information about your car?  If so, you should look up Repair Pal.  This useful site contains reviews of different car models and information about recalls and technical service bulletins of many different cars.

Repair Pal also provides price estimates for repairs.  They tell you what you need to know about particular repairs.  They will even send a printable version of the estimate to your email.

You can also find a list of repair shops in your area by looking up Repair Pal.  You do this by entering your city or postcode. Then the company shows you the best repair shop in your area.  It also has user ratings and reviews of the shop.

This is an excellent website with lots of helpful information for car owners.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Books Read in May

Elizabeth of GlamisElizabeth of Glamis by David Duff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Elizabeth of Glamis provides evocative and descriptive accounts of royal events and ceremonies.  The royal history is interesting.

However, you won't learn much about the Queen Mother from this book. She must have had a will of steel and she was very supportive of her husband.  She was also devastatingly charming and a wonderful hostess.
Duff seems to regard her as almost verging on sainthood! You won't find any criticism of her in these pages, let alone any scandal or gossip.

I am a fan of the Queen Mother's, but this book even got on my nerves in the end.  The writing was just too cloying.  The style is also rather old-fashioned and breathless, although I didn't mind that.

Me & Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow

This is a coming of age story full of excitement and drama.  When Richard is 'discovered' by Orson Welles and placed in his innovative Caesar, his life changes for ever.  He falls in love with the damaged Sonja, decides what he wants to do with his life, and meets stars such as Joseph Cotton.

Eventually Richard has to learn to judge what the enigmatic Welles and the other actors in the play are really like, and whether Sonja is worth it.

This fast-paced novel captures the fascination of 1930's New York, although I would have liked even more about this, and the strange character of Welles.  If only we could have read this type of book at school instead of the boring and dreary Josh by Ivan Southall!   I know that I'm being unpatriotic here, but Australian literature is often dreary and depressing.  Why?





View all my reviews
Elizabeth of Glamis: Story of the Queen Mother

Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants To Do This by Bruce Beresford

Diaries can often be quite dry and dull, but this one is surprisingly interesting.  Beresford drops lots of famous names and the difficulty of a director's life is made very clear.

                                      He writes about many celebrities, such as Barry Humphries.  He's also extremely honest about them.  For example, he tells how Jennifer Byrne did an interview with him and wanted to write about his teeth and argue that his political views were controversial.  He also relates how he got into big trouble for saying that Toni Collette's acting was over-rated.  I enjoyed all this.

I was surprised to learn how difficult a director's life is.  Beresford has to make films he's not at all interested in and he lost films such as Miss Potter and Amazing Grace because of contractual problems! He has to deal with people who he dislikes all of the time.

He also writes about some of the extreme political views of the people in the arts.  One woman told him that she admired Bin Laden, for example!  Beresford seemed to me to stick to the mainstream in his politics, but that apparently annoys many.  I'm not going to discuss politics here!

Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants to Do This--: True Stories from a Life in the Screen Trade

Ella: Princess, Saint and Martyr by Christopher Warwick

This well-written book captured the rich and colourful atmosphere of the Russian Imperialist era. However, I felt that I didn't learn that much about the personality of Grand Duchess Ella, the sister of the last Tsarina of Russia, except that she was incredibly brave and charitable.

Did she really love Sergei, her husband?  Warwick is very objective about him but he was universally hated and a nasty piece of work.  Was she cold or just extremely repressed?  What was her true attitude towards her wards, Dmitri and Marie?  I was not sure about the answers to these questions when I finished reading.

The Education of a Princess by Marie Pavlovna is helping me gain more of an understanding of Ella's true character.






Friday, May 13, 2011

The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley


When Andy Stanley was young, he and his girlfriend drove along a shortcut on a road that was closed.  Suddenly a black Monte Carlo drove up behind them at great speed.  This scared them especially when the driver of the car stopped and got out, waving his hands around.  He told them that if they continued along that road they’d wind up on a half-finished bridge! He then helped them get to the right road.

This is what Stanley’s book aims to do – direct people along the right paths in life.  He points out that good intentions and even goals don’t matter that much if you don’t do anything that helps you achieve them.  If you want to have a happy and successful life, you have to follow the correct path.  He writes that following a certain path will always lead to a destination.

Stanley uses many Biblical examples and examples from life to show that this is true. For example, he cites cases of single men who’ve had affairs with married women only to be puzzled when this got them into trouble.  He also gives the memorable example of a couple who found themselves in financial difficulties.  It wasn’t sudden – they’d overspent and had problems with mortgages.  At one stage they saw a financial adviser.  They told Stanley that he gave them a good plan which was very ‘do-able’.  When he asked them what they did with the plan they replied that they’d put it in the drawer! 

Stanley writes that there are always signs that people are heading in the wrong direction.  For example, the couple should have acted on the financial plan.  Everyone knows where affairs with married people lead. 
His book is designed to help his readers follow the right paths or return to the right paths.  He provides questions to help you to make decisions and see whether you are on the right track.  He also has a useful chapter on how you can determine your motives for following particular paths.

This is a very helpful book and certainly one of the best ‘self-help’ books that I’ve ever read.  If I’d read it when I was younger it would have helped me even more. The questions at the back of the book which are designed to help people examine their lives and their directions in particular categories in their lives are especially helpful.  Although it will certainly appeal mainly to Christian readers, this book will help anyone searching for the right direction in life.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by Book Sneeze as part of their blogging programme.  The views expressed are my own. I was not required to write favourably about this book.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Books Read in April

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

This is a haunting book about a young Irish girl who has to leave Ireland for a new life in Brooklyn in the 1950's.  When she gets there, she suffers from terrible homesickness but she gradually starts to enjoy her new life and fall in love.  Eventually she has to return to Ireland where she faces difficult choices...

Toibin certainly captures the atmospheres of Ireland and Brooklyn in the 1950's and cleverly compares them.  He also has an uncanny ability to describe the way that Eilis, the main character, would feel in that situation.  He also makes her extremely likeable and memorable.

The only problem that I had with this book is that I felt that I had to read every word.  It seemed to require a lot of concentration for some reason, although it isn't by any means a difficult book to read.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Books Read in February

 I hope to write about the books that I read in January when I have time, but I'll have to start off with my February books.  The first one was a biography of James Stewart.

James Stewart by Marc Eliot

Jimmy Stewart lived a life full of integrity and had a stellar acting career.  He began his career as a rather sweet and innocent young man who'd lived a reasonably sheltered life.  He became a war-hardened man able to identify with many different types of characters and show anguish in his face.  In his greatest role in the film, It's A Wonderful Life,  Stewart took his character from an ambitious, cheerful young man to a despairing, disappointed man on the verge of suicide.

Stewart was a war hero - he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for showing incredible bravery during the Second World War.

This book is long and full of interesting anecdotes, many of which should probably be taken with a grain of salt.  Did Jimmy Stewart really lose his virginity to Ginger Rogers?  Did his crush on Margaret Sullavan have such a big effect on his life?

The problem with this biography is that it is just too detailed.  Every one of Stewart's movies is analysed at great length.  It is advisable to skip some of this if you haven't seen the particular film being discussed.  I got rather tired of this detail.  However, the summary of Stewart's character was excellent, I thought.

Hidden Treasures of the Romanovs by William Clarke

This is a nicely written book about a strange, complicated man who bravely saved many of the Romanov's jewels.  Bertie Stopford was an antiques dealer who mixed with high society and a secret agent until a scandal marred his life and he discovered who his true friends were...

I felt that Clarke preferred to write about people like Gladys de Grey and the Ballets Russe.  He obviously loves the grand life of the Belle Epoque. He was also in his element with Russian high society and the value of the jewels. However, the book certainly didn't disappoint although I didn't enjoy it as much as Clarke's last book.

A Romanov Fantasy by Frances Welch

I found this a very odd book. Welch describes Anna Anderson and the rather mad cast of characters who supported her in a rather abrupt way.  It's amusing but I found the writing pedestrian and it just doesn't flow.

It's a pity because the story of this imposter is incredible.  Most of her supporters appeared to favour her because of her rudeness and nasty character!  I would have thought that anyone truly aristocratic would be gracious.


Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

NB: This contains spoilers.

This wonderful book retains all of its old magic, although I was disappointed when I first read it.  I started off with Anne of the Island and found the first one in the series a bit childish after that. However, I enjoyed it much more later.

Anne of Green Gables is the story of a charming red-haired orphan who is adopted by mistake by Marilla and Matthew. The old brother and sister really want a boy to help them on the farm.  Anne manages to win their hearts, however, and the hearts of all of Avonlea people.

This book is full of constant action as Anne gets into constant scrapes.  She lies about Marilla's brooch, dyes her hair green, accidentally gets her best friend Diana drunk,and hits her rival Gilbert on the head.  Anne certainly has a lot to deal with in this book.  Apart from the scrapes, she  has to obey strict Marilla, attempt to outdo Gilbert in the exams and endure the sneers of Josie Pye.

Anne also has a lot of growing up to do.  She has to face kind Matthew's death and decide whether to make up her argument with Gilbert.

Many girls have been inspired by Anne.  I think that they like her independence and ambition as well as her famous optimism and charm.  She is also easy to identify with because of her many scrapes.

L.M. Montgomery's writing can hardly be faulted.  All of her characters are memorable and her main character is adorable.  She writes with great depth about the troubles of young girls and obviously understands them.

Her descriptions of Prince Edward Island are so vivid that the beautiful island becomes another character of the book.  Any 'Anne' fan who visits will be able to immediately recognize such settings as The Lake of Shining Waters and Lover's Lane.