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Showing posts from December, 2012

Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

When lawyer, Rob Shindler , discovers that his son, Oliver, has difficulty reading, he ignores the situation.  But soon he hears nasty remarks directed at his son, and he knows that Oliver is really quite bright.  Eventually, he decides to learn how to teach literacy to adults in Chicago.  This is the story of how he did it.

He met 'Aunt June Porter', Bible-toting Elvira, motivational speaker Charles, and bad-mouthed Michael along the way.  He grew to love his class and his students, and you probably will too!  This is the kind of book that you miss when you've finished it.  I felt that I'd made a lot of new friends, and I even got teary-eyed at the end.

It's a lovely, well-written book, and I hope that it encourages more people to teach literacy.

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How To Build Your Blog With Passion

Fresh Passion by Michael D. Brown

Building a brand requires determination, hard work, great ideas and passion.  Brown provides lots of tips for creating a brand effectively, such as doing something that will help you achieve your ambition everyday, and associating with people you admire.  He includes several anecdotes from his own life.

He also summarizes the main points of each chapter, and space for notes on the book.

I haven't finished this yet.  It's a lot of work, and I'm having a break. It's also a bit hard to apply the tips to freelancing.  However, I'll certainly have another look at it soon!

Constance: The Scandalous and Tragic Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle

Oscar Wilde and his beautiful young wife, Constance, were very much in love, and feted in both London and Paris.  Constance, like Oscar, edited journals, wrote stories, and gave lectures.  Her writing was highly regarded, and she gave Oscar a huge amount of help with his stories. Both Oscar and Constance were highly concerned with the Women's Movement, and Oscar edited the journal, Women's World.

They mixed with high society, and great artists like the actress, Sarah Bernhardt. They invited these people to their 'House Beautiful' for fashionable parties.

Tall and slim, Constance played a large part in the Rational Dress Society.  This society promoted healthier clothing for women, wanting to get rid of dangerous and restrict corsets, for example.  Constance's exotic and colourful fashions were somewhat eccentric for her time, but many women admired them.

Constance and Oscar had two lovely little boys, and the couple's 'artistic marriage' seemed the epi…

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

Thomas Jefferson grew up in a distinguished, privileged family, with every advantage - money, an excellent education and a brilliant mind.  Even he had his share of troubles, however.  His father and his sister died when he was young.  The lanky and handsome young man also had a few rejections before he met his wife, surprisingly.  These included a rejection from one of his friend's wives! The great man chased her for two years, even going into her bedroom.  She was not pleased, to say the least!

These are just some of the stories in this book, which is a pleasure to read. They are amongst the more frivolous tales, of course. I haven't finished it yet, but Jon Meacham also studies Jefferson's personality and background acutely.  He has also thoroughly researched the tactics which made him so powerful and such an important part of American history.

Birthplaces of the Presidents

Where the Presidents Were Born by Louis Picone

Nine presidents were born in log cabins, and some were, indeed, humble log cabins.

Houses of the Presidents by Hugh Howard

I'd love to buy Houses of the Presidents by Hugh Howard.  This book was a pleasure to read with its lush photographs and interesting narrative about each president.  From Thomas Jefferson's classical Monticello to the more informal Edwardian holiday home of Theodore Roosevelt, the houses never failed to be worth studying even if they were the epitome of bad taste!

This book made me want to visit the houses, but they're a long way from here!  Unfortunately, I didn't finish the book, because it was difficult to read on the computer.

Little Women in India by Jane Nardin

Imagine being an English girl in India in the middle of the nineteenth century.  There is rebellion everywhere, and even though you are somewhat sympathetic with the Indians, you are also terrified.

This is the scenario of Jane Nardin's version of Little Women.  Exciting and exotic, this very different version features four girls, who all resemble Alcott's heroines, but they're cleverly re-imagined for today's readers.  They're more liberated - they hate being called 'Little Women' by their father - and they're much less sympathetic with each other, although they all love each other dearly.  For example, Elizabeth (Amy) thinks that Fanny (Beth) is soppy and too good to be true.  The girls are all likeable and share many of the characteristics of their classic counterparts, but they're also much more intrepid. 

Evocative and somewhat political, this novel contrasts the British way of life in India with the treatment of the Indians.  It is an indictme…

Jolt Your Life

Jolt: Get The Jump On A World That's Constantly Changing by Phil Cooke

Do you want to change your life?  In this book, Phil Cooke tells people how to discover their aims in life, set their priorities, be more creative and improve their thinking.  Well-written and enjoyable, the book has a lot of anecdotes and personal stories.  I especially liked the one about the magician who helped the generals in the Second World War.

Like many reviewers, I felt that this book wasn't very different from most self-help books.  It also seems to give people a lot of hard work to do.  (Can't someone write a self-help book that makes improving yourself fun?)  However,  I did find it helpful, and I found the chapters on creativity and thinking particularly useful.

I also agreed with Phil Cooke when he pointed out that science has failed to answer the important questions of life, for example, what is our purpose in life.  He's a Christian, but he doesn't seek to convert anyone in this …

What Matters In Jane Austen? by John Mullan

John Mullan sets out to 'catch Jane Austen in the act of greatness' in this book, and he achieves it.  Mullan studies the importance of details about age, weather, the seaside and various other subjects in Jane Austen's novels.  He shows how these affected people in Regency times, and how knowing more about these topics improves our understanding of the novels.

For example,  Mullan writes about how Mr Collins is usually depicted as in his forties in the movies and the TV series.  However, it helps for readers to know that he's really only in his twenties.  His comic pompeousness and snobbishness becomes much clearer for readers.

He also writes about the importance of knowing more about the heroine's ages in the novels. Elizabeth, for example, is an ideal age for a woman, but Anne is regarded as being certainly destined to be an old maid until she goes to the seaside and regains her bloom.

I found the chapter on servants the most interesting part of this book, alth…

Mistress to the Crown

I enjoyed one of Martyn's previous books, and I usually like historical novels.  However, I didn't go on with this one.  I felt that the medieval style in which it was written didn't ring true, and I just didn't like the writing at times.  It's a pity, because the character of Jane Shore was sympathetic, and I did like Martyn's descriptions of the sumptuous fashions and textiles of the period.

A True American Lady

This book is a fitting biography of Susan Mary Alsop, and has many of the qualities that she had herself.  It's charming, engaging and interesting.  Anyone interested in American history will find this a pleasure to read.

Alsop had a rather sad childhood, traumatised by the loss of her beloved sister and father.  She also endured a judgmental mother.  But the wealthy and privileged debutante, descended from one of America's first families, fell in love at a young age with Bill Patten, and life changed when she married Patten and lived in Paris after the Second World War.  Here she went a Sabrina-style transformation from a shy young woman to a popular and fashionable one, who was sought after for her opinions.  Dressed in Dior and other haute-couture designers, she associated with Paris high society.

The book tells the tale of Alsop's 'grand affair' with the British Ambassador to France, Duff Cooper, her two marriages, and how she became a formidable and influentia…

The Black Count by Tom Reiss

This tale about the swashbuckling general, General Alexandre Dumas (the novelist's father), reads like a novel and never fails to be exciting.  The mulatto general, the son of an aristocrat and his black wife, was lucky enough to receive an excellent education and rose to the top of his career in the army quickly.

This book relates his exploits as he led the Army of the Alps, sparred with Napoleon, and attempted to uphold the true principles of the French Revolution.  Sometimes it's a little bit too admiring, I feel.  However, anyone interested in French history will love this book.

I found the little-known story of the legal battles for the rights of mixed-race peoples and former slaves in France especially interesting. More than two hundred years before the Civil Rights movement in America, former slaves who landed on French soil were regarded as free (with several exceptions), and a society for the advancement of black people established a school for bright mixed-race and …