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Showing posts from June, 2012

Women, Popular Culture, and the Eighteenth Century

Lavinia Fenton

Women, Popular Culture, and the Eighteenth Century is a varied academic collection of essays about how popular culture influenced women and how women changed popular culture in the eighteenth century.  I found some of the essays enjoyable and extremely interesting but others were difficult to read.

Women apparently did a lot in the eighteenth century.  There were actresses, singers, fashion leaders, and women with their own businesses.  Many of the women who influenced popular culture were aristocratic, for example, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, but some were not.

I especially liked the essay about the actresses in the ballad operas.  These included Lavinia Fenton and Kitty Clive.  They had to perform in operas written by authors with misogynist views of women, but they managed to make the parts their own and become admired in their own right.  Lavinia Fenton even married into the aristocracy.  Actresses were almost regarded as being on a par with prostitutes ea…

Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master in No Time

Have you 'run the gantlet' lately?  Have you watched any 'fun' films? Do you know how to spell 'Hanukah'? Grammar Girl in her entertaining new book, Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master in No Time, will inform you about these phrases and words.  Mignon Fogarty is perhaps the only person who can make grammar so interesting!

Cleverly constructed, this book tells you the history of difficult words and phrases.  You are then informed about why the words and phrases are troublesome. Fogarty explains the difference between 'running the gauntlet' and 'running the gantlet', for example.

Fogarty then tells you how to use the word or phrase correctly and gives examples.  The examples are from many different sources including classic novels, current novels, columns and non-fiction books.  In some cases, I enjoyed the examples so much that I discovered books to check out!

Everyone should have a copy of this extremely useful and intere…

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann should be read while sipping a cool drink on a green lawn at Martha's Vineyard or Rhode Island.  It's unusual and absorbing.

An atmospheric story with a post-Second World War setting, it tells the tale of two cousins, Nick and Helena.  Pretty and rebellious Nick is married to steady, handsome Hughes.  Weak and fragile Helena isn't as lucky.  She marries money-hunting Avery.

The story also involves the children, Daisy and the strange Ed.  When a horrific murder occurs it affects all of their lives.

This is well-written and the vivid characters almost leap off the stage but the novel annoyed me somewhat.  I was just getting involved in the stories of Nick and Helena when the tale suddenly moved forward to ten years later and I found myself reading about Daisy.  Also there were a lot of flashbacks so it was easy to get lost.  I also thought that there were too many characters.  This novel just wasn't focused enough, I thought.


How to be Ballet Beautiful!

Ballet Beautiful is the best exercise book I've read!  I hate exercise and I love ballet so I had high hopes when I received this book and it didn't let me down.  It's an exercise program which is suitable for travelling - it can be done anywhere and you hardly need any equipment for it.  If you haven't got time to do an hour of exercises, Mary Helen Bower's fifteen-minute 'blasts' will help you to keep fit.

Mary Helen Bowers  promises a lot in the first part of the book.  She writes that this program will help you improve your flexibility, your posture, your 'abbs' and even your 'inner beauty'.  It will help you to get the long lines of a ballerina, become fit, and lose weight if you need to. The former New York City Ballet dancer did train Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan, however, so I was prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt!

Still, I found all of this a bit difficult to believe.  However, I was pleasantly surprised!  M…

How To Travel The World For Free

After reading the first chapter of How to Travel the World for Free I realised that travelling around the world for free isn’t for me. In this chapter, Wigge scales a high fence and gets food out of a restaurant bin in Berlin.  I’d rather stay in hotels and eat in cafes and restaurants!  
However, this is an extremely enjoyable and often hilarious account of Michael Wigge's journey from Europe all the way to Antarctica without money.  He works hard, meets lots of interesting people and has plenty of adventures.  He also manages to do a lot of sightseeing.
Wigge has to be very ingenious at thinking up ways to earn money along the way.  He becomes a human couch, earns money for pillow fights and endangers his health by carrying tourists’ luggage up high mountains in South America.  Wigge also tries to be a butler to the German Ambassador to Panama in a very funny scene in the book. He also begs restaurants and shops for food by telling his story.  
He mostly relies on couch surfing…

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

A moving love story, a romantic old bookshop, and charming and likeable characters.  What could be better?  After reading The Bridge, I could understand why Karen Kingsbury is a best-selling author.  Molly Allen watches a video which she made with Ryan Kelly once a year – the only time she allows herself to indulge in her happy memories of their time together.  Even though she is pretty and successful, she remains single because she yearns for the handsome boy who she met years ago.
Ryan, an aspiring musician, has never married or forgotten Molly either.  He also longs for the days when he and Molly used to meet at The Bridge, a cosy bookshop in an old house.  Here they would discuss books such as Jane Eyre and enjoy talking to Charlie and Donna, the understanding and helpful couple who own the bookshop.  Their love of books unites them with Charlie and Donna and leads them to fall in love.
A terrible misunderstanding tears the young couple apart. Now, years later, Charlie and Donna…

A Restorative Month of Italy

Chris Brady and his family are chased by sheep, ripped off in Rome, and get lost in Sienna.  They certainly have an adventurous time during their Month of Italy! This entertaining account of a family’s travels in Italy combines a travel diary, an introduction to Italy, and an argument for learning the art of vacation.
Brady writes in a chatty and intimate manner as though the reader is a close friend.  He describes the scenery and art of the most beautiful country in the world in a vivid, but simple way.  I especially enjoyed his tales of his explorations on his motorbike which leads him to unexpected hillside towns which have views over green valleys filled with olive groves and meetings with interesting people.
A Month of Italy is also very amusing at times.  For example, after explaining Italian art to his children and discussing visiting the Sistine Chapel, Brady asks them who painted the ceiling of the chapel.  One of the children answers, ‘Michael Jackson!  with all the sincerity…

An American Chick in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson

Jean Sasson, an intrepid Southern woman famous for writing Princess: A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia provides a short but interesting memoir of her life in Saudi Arabia in this book.  Nothing fazed this young woman, not even the vicious military police.  She writes about her experiences as a white woman in a restrictive Muslim country and her romance with Peter Sasson.
Sasson arrives to work in a lavishly decorated hospital which King Faisal dreamed of making the finest medical hospital in the world.  She enjoys her job and she likes sharing an apartment with two other women.  Sasson, young and adventurous, is ready to experience life in a very different country.
She soon becomes shocked by the mistreatment and lack of freedom in Saudi Arabia.  Women are forbidden to drive or dance with men in public.  They often have arranged marriages at a very young age.  Saudi husbands can easily leave them or have more than one wife. Many wives are beaten.  Some men even slee…

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

Paris in Love transported me back to that wonderful city! I went to incense-laden Masses, wandered the aisles of Galleries Lafayette, looked at chocolate shoes in shop windows, and saw the sights all over again.  This is a book which all lovers of Paris should read.
After romance writer and academic, Eloisa James, received treatment for cancer, she decided to move to Paris with her Italian husband and young family.  Here she wrote her observations and musings on Facebook and Twitter.  This charming book is based on these.
This lovely series of vignettes evokes the atmosphere of Paris.  James writes about many experiences, including a snowy Christmas and the children’s schooldays.  She writes about delicious food and Parisian fashion, of course, but this is not another ‘foodie and fashion’ travel book.  This is a different look at Paris – James sees it through the eyes of an American mother and her children’s eyes.
Her vignettes are often serious, for example, she tells the story of a …

The Dangers of Oprah's Influence

Review of Where Has Oprah Taken Us? by Stephen Mansfield

Oprah grew angry when she listened to her Baptist preacher give a sermon about a ‘jealous God’.  She didn’t understand why God should be ‘jealous of anything that she had to say’.  This marked a turning point in Oprah’s attitude to Christianity and started her interest in ‘New Age’ philosophies. Stephen Mansfield discusses why Oprah did this and the dangers of her incredible influence in promoting this kind of spirituality.
He analyses Oprah’s rather sordid background to see why she quickly misinterpreted the pastor.  He meant that God was jealous of other gods and a loving God.  Oprah overcame relative poverty, a mother who had troubles with men, and racism to begin her road to success.  A clever and ambitious young girl, she always knew that she’d be famous and she had a sense of destiny from an early age.  This made her lacking in humility and impetuous.  She immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion when she heard the pasto…