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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Books Read in March, 2012

Artistic Licence by Katie Fforde

This was perfect holiday reading, like all of Fforde's romances.  They're light, easy to read, and even have a little bit of depth.

When Thea, tired of running a boarding-house full of unruly teenagers, decides to take a holiday in Provence, she is in for a few surprises.  Here she meets Rory, a handsome Irish artist.  Although he is younger, Thea takes a chance on him and visits his place in Ireland when he invites her.

Thea used to have an interesting job in the art world.  She's impressed by Rory's paintings and decides to support him.  She is soon faced with a dilemma.  Will she accept Rory's offer of romance or will she choose Ben?  Ben's the same age and has a cute son, Toby.  However, he's divorced and the last thing that he wants is a 'relationship'.  Who can Thea trust?  She has many lessons to learn.

Thea is easy to identify with.  I even had a few things in common with her.  These include preferring tea to coffee, listening to the BBC World Service during the night, and, unfortunately, messiness!

I did find it hard to keep up with her great energy, though.  She's on the go all the time!

This novel also had beautiful descriptions of Irish scenery and some English towns.  I also enjoyed this part of it.

The main flaw is that the hero was a bit unlikeable and bad-tempered.   However, if you like light romances, you will probably enjoy this.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

When I read the blurb on the cover I thought that this would be a novel about coming-of-age and heartbreak.  I also thought that it would be a relaxing and sweet book -  the perfect choice for holiday reading.  Boy, was I wrong!

Fifteen-year old Daisy's father is more interested in his new wife than his troubled daughter so he sends her off to stay with cousins in England.  Here she falls in love and lives an idyllic, fun-filled life in the beautiful countryside - for a while.

Terrorists are on the march and bombs start exploding.  Soon Daisy's gentle world is beset by war and the unimaginable horrors begin...

This was a well-written and frightening book which is also extremely realistic.  It probably describes the kind of scenario which England would incur during another war.  Daisy has to endure countless scares, watch people being killed in the most bloodthirsty ways, and try to escape being killed herself.

It was a good book - I can recommend it if you enjoy frightening novels.  It wasn't my type of book, however, especially when I was travelling in beautiful Italy!

After Camelot by J. Randy Taraborrelli

                                                 The Best Of Us And The Worst of Us

“This family, America’s family, at one time or another was the best of us, and the worst of us,” according to J. Randy Taraborrelli.  This comprehensive study of the Kennedy family tells us why this is such a true statement.  This highly entertaining and well-researched book looks at the many tragedies of the Kennedy family, the troubles which they share with many American families, and why millions of Americans regard them as their First Family.  This applies no matter who is the President!

Taraborrelli looks at all of the members of the Kennedy family, especially the younger generation and their failures and achievements.  He has a section on William Kennedy Smith and the Palm Beach scandal, for example, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s and Joe Kennedy’s political achievements.
He certainly doesn’t neglect the past generations, however.  He gives the background of the Kennedys and their wives in detail and includes new revelations.  These include an in depth section on the financial negotiations concerning Jackie’s marriage to Ari Onassis and whether there was really anything wrong with Rosemary.

Toraborrelli also gives thorough accounts of the Kennedy’s impressive achievements.  These include the great political success of Jack, Bobby, and Ted, of course.  However, he also has large sections on  the achievements of the wives, such as Eunice Shriver’s founding of the Special Olympics.

The book also studies the Kennedy’s flaws.  Especially noticeable is their rather ruthless treatment of outsiders.  This didn’t just include the wives.  Ted was apparently not too pleased by Sergeant Shriver’s political ambitions. Most of the Kennedys and Ted didn’t go out of their way to help Shriver achieve political success.

Many people probably don’t think that we need yet another book about the Kennedys.  However, they’re a fascinating family and some of us feel that there will never be enough good books about them!  This is an excellent addition to Kennedy biographies, although it is very long.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Was Gone With The Wind Right About Sherman?

I didn't know that much about General Sherman before reading Sherman: The Ruthless Victor.  Unlike many Americans, we didn't learn about him at school.  The little that I did know came from watching movies such as Gone With The Wind and the heart-wrenching Shenandoah. (They're both amongst my favorites!) According to this book, the version of Sherman presented in these movies is fairly correct.  Sherman was a ruthless, nasty person who really did let nothing get in the way of "total war." His hatred of the South apparently knew no bounds.

This is an interesting book. It discusses his traumatic childhood, his long-suffering wife, and his struggle to succeed in the army.  It also provides an account of important incidents in Sherman's life.  For example, I didn't realize that he worked as a banker or that he taught at Louisiana State Seminary and Military Academy).  He hated both of these occupations.

This book is certainly worth reading for anyone interested in the Civil War and General Sherman, however I didn't think that it was really a balanced account.  Sherman apparently had lots of friends and his students liked him so he seems to have had some good points, surprisingly.  The authors give him little credit for this.  They also judge him by the standards of today quite often. An example of this is when they argue that he was a racist.  This was certainly not unusual in those days.

They do attempt to explain why Sherman took such a ruthless attitude to the South.  There was mental illness in his family and Sherman regarded all Southerners as traitors.  Lincoln doesn't come out well either - he seemed to favor Sherman's extreme measures according to the authors.

The authors do come into their own when they discuss Sherman's legacy and how his war strategies influenced the Prussians and B. Liddell Hart.  Here they manage to be a bit more balanced in their views.

NB: This book was provided to me  free by Book Sneeze.  These opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

GIVEAWAY of Life Skills by Katie Fforde

I have an extra copy of this book so I am hosting a giveaway!  Please become a follower and send in your comments and your email address.  I will draw the winner on April 30.  This is available internationally.

I reviewed the book here: Books Read in January.