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Showing posts from July, 2013

A Scandalous Plan by Donna Lea Simpson

This is a relaxing and enjoyable Regency with good dialogue and likeable characters.  The story involves bored Lady Theresa who hears gossip about her new neighbour's child, so she sets out to find the truth.  When she meets handsome James Martindale who is struggling to cope with his two children, she takes them 'under her wing'.

The problem is that Mr Martindale doesn't appreciate being managed, and becomes suspicious of her motives...

I like fun Regencies, so I'll certainly read more books by Donna Lea Simpson.

DERVISH by Frances Kazan

Set in the exotic, tension-filled atmosphere of post-World War One Turkey, this book by Frances Kazan tells the exciting tale of a young American woman who becomes involved in the nationalist struggle and falls in love.

Mary, a very modern widow from New York follows her sister to Istanbul to try to find a new life.  When she sees a young man cruelly shot by Allied soldiers and meets Halide, she starts to help with the nationalist cause. She discovers that this is a very different world from New York, and when she falls in love with the leader, Mustafa Kemal, she wonders whether she can cope.

Beautiful and loving descriptions of Istanbul, an exciting, mystey-filled story and sympathetic characters make this a wonderful read set in an unusual time and place.

 Suleymaniye mosque from Wikipedia.

Diana's Baby by Angela Levin

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony from Wikipedia).

This is an interesting analysis of Prince William's struggle to mature into a normal and grounded young man and to commit to the love of his life, the beautiful Kate.  Levin relates the stories of Prince Charles's and Princess Diana's troubled childhoods and distant relationships with their parents.  Princess Diana's upbringing was certainly worse than Prince Charles's - her parents were disappointed that she wasn't a son, and her father abused her mother.  Her own grandmother didn't help her mother when she obtained a divorce.  Princess Diana suffered from bulimia and had temper tantrums, probably because of her troubled upbringing.  Charles's nasty treatment of her didn't help, to put it mildly.

The fact that Prince William is so normal is largely because of his parents, however.  Princess Diana insisted on taking her new baby on tour to Australia, and she also made him see 'ho…

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

This lovely story by Lori Nelson Spielman is about the importance of realising your dreams and being true to yourself.

When Brett's mother dies, she expects to become the CEO of the family cosmetics company.  She discovers that her mother has other plans, and wants her to fulfill the life list Brett made when she was a teenager before she claims her inheritance!  Not only has Brett got to deal with her grief, but she has to face a lot of other obstacles, including attempting to be a stand-up comic and teaching troubled children.  She certainly has a lot to endure!

Brett's troubles cost her her boyfriend, the cold Andrew, but what will happen with the attraction that she feels for her lawyer?  Did her mother have a secret plan?

I loved this book, although I found it a bit too politically correct and miserable at times.  Highly recommended!

The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris

When William the Conqueror was only 19, he fought off a threat to his life and began to win great victories.  He may have been a great leader and fighter, but it is lucky that Prince William isn't anything like his namesake, because he was apparently rather cruel and inhumane.  The Normans wrought a wave of destruction throughout England, according to this book, even carrying out a 'scorched earth' policy that caused a terrible famine in the north and killed thousands of people.  They disinherited the English, displaced them from their lands by building castles, and raped the women.

However, William also stopped the slave trade, and introduced a revolution in law, church reform and church architecture.  His greatest contribution, however, was the Domesday Book, the great survey  of the ownership of land in the Kingdom.  He also regarded his wife with great respect, and she often acted as his Regent.

This book by Marc Morris was well-researched and the history was interest…

When the Snow Gums Dance by Anne McCullagh Rennie

(Photo showing how the snow gum adapts to the weight of the snow by bending its branches. Photo by John Heyman from Wikipedia)

When I started this novel, I thought that it was relaxing holiday reading.  However, the story took an extremely miserable turn, and it was a little grim after that.  However, Rennie shines with her characterization and her descriptions of the beautiful settings in the book, including Australia's snow country, Whistler in Canada and San Francisco.  Kylie is a likeable, exuberant heroine and the hero is also lovely, although I didn't like his name. I also found the description of doing aid work interesting.

I will read more books by Rennie, but I hope that they're happier!

The Coat Route:

When Meg Lukens Noonan reads about a bespoke coat costing $50,000.00 being made by the Australian taylor John H. Cutler, she decides to learn more about it.  This takes her on a fascinating journey behind the coat's rare and expensive materials.  She travels to South America to find out about the costliest material in the world, vicuña, and she goes to the wild moors of Yorkshire to learn about wool.  She also learns about gold engraving and silk. 
This fascinating book also relates the history of the Australian wool trade and technology's destructive effect on the English 'rag trade'. I especially enjoyed the information about dress in the young Australian colony.
Anyone interested in fashion, luxury and history will enjoy this book.  In these days of cheap and disposable clothing largely made by people suffering in dreadful conditions, it is good to read about luxurious materials and garments being made with loving care.  I was also pleased that the famous and prest…

This and That:Random Thoughts and Recollections by Bel Kaufmann

This is an atmospheric book of essays by the author of Up the Down Staircase, a novel about an idealistic young teacher that made headlines in the 1950s.  Here Kaufman writes about her exotic Russian childhood, the Russian Revolution, motherhood and the importance of education. Although she came from a family with some money, life was difficult for many.  Some of these people ate bread made from the shells of peas, because there was no flour.

She also includes essays about her wonderful grandfather, Shalom Aleichem, who wrote the stories on which Fiddler on the Roof is based. The essay that I found the most moving was about how delighted Kaufman was to become a mother, and the difference between the mothers of her day and many mothers today.

She laments the changes in morals and manners through the generations, and she has well-considered advice about how to bring civility back.

Rendezvous with Destiny by Michael Fullilove

Harry Hopkins

Every eye in the room in the small Scottish town filled with tears when Harry Hopkins said: 'Whither thou goest, I shall go...'  The charming Harry Hopkins was one of the five envoys who President Roosevelt sent to Europe in the lead-up to the Second World War.  This enthralling book by the Australian author, Michael Fullilove tells their stories.

There was the endearing Harry Hopkins, who had to be dressed properly by the valet at the prestigious Savoy Hotel, 'wild' Bill Donovan, patrician Sumner Welles, aristocratic Averill Harimman and generous and big-hearted Republican Wendell Wilkie.  They all played their different parts, reporting to the President about the state of British and European defences and advocating for Lend-Lease. 

My favourite was Harry Hopkins, with his battered Hamburg hat.  He managed to charm both Churchill and the terrifying Stalin, and acted as their go-between with the President.  Sickly and frail, Hopkins died in his 50s.  Hi…

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

I was utterly charmed by this wonderfully romantic novel by
Jessica Brockmole.  Set in the beautiful Scottish island of Skye, it involves a young poet who falls in love with a younger American fan who writes her letters.  Unfortunately, she is married, and their love causes a scandal.  Many years later, her daughter also falls in love during wartime, and decides to attempt to find the truth of her mother's love story.

Epistolary novels are difficult to write, and they're often boring, but these letters range from light-hearted banter to wonderfully romantic.  Some of them describe the horrors of war.  Both love stories in this lovely novel are beautifully developed, and I was sorry to finish it.  I also liked the mystery of the first love story.

Skye is like another character in this novel.  Letters from Skye evokes the atmosphere of Skye with its descriptions of the sea-swept cliffs, thatch-covered crofts, stern Scottish characters and Scottish and Gaelic words.

I look forw…

BLOG TOUR. A Love Story Across A Clash of Cultures. Imperfect Pairings by Jackie Townsend

Image from Public Domain Images I was so pleased to be asked to participate in a blog tour for IMPERFECT PAIRINGS by Jackie Townsend. Please read my review, and my interview with Jackie Townsend!

Set in beautiful San Francisco and Italy, this moving and emotionally-charged love story involves a clash between cultures.  Luminous writing and memorable characters make this novel by Jackie Townsend a lovely novel to read, although I found it heart-rending at times.

Jamie, a career-woman comes from a torn family, and she is anxious to get ahead in her company.  Marriage is certainly not on her agenda, and her background makes her scared of it.  Her lack of a religious background means that she is not used to a strong faith.  She's also somewhat forthright at times. For example, when Jack's relation brings a girl home in San Francisco, she asks him whether he has 'protection'. He doesn't like this.

Jackie Townsend

She is surprised when her Italian boyfriend, Jack, sudden…

American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence

This inspiring and exciting book reads like a novel.  It concerns the Russian exile of John Quincy Adams, the American Ambassador to Russia, and his wife, Louisa.  The couple certainly had to endure a lot, but they both achieved success in the midst of their trials and tribulations.  L:yrical writing and judicious use of  John and Louisa's writings help to make Jane Cook's thoroughly-research book a joy to read from start to finish.

John Quincy Adams, the American Minister in Russia, found himself in desperate straits from the  very start of his term.  American ships were being sequestered by the Danish and the Russians because of French policies.  The British were also impressing American sailors, i.e. forcing them to join the British navy.  Adams had a struggle to deal with this situation.  The U.S.A. was still not respected as an independent nation by most of Europe, and this made it difficult for it to trade.  If Adams could help ensure that Russia, the largest European c…

Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

I am afraid that I couldn't continue reading this book after I finished the first chapter.  The heroine, Katherine Parr, helps her extremely sick husband to die.  I don't want to discuss euthanasia here, but I've read a lot about Katherine Parr, and this just didn't ring authentic to me.  She was too religious to consider it, and I doubt that anything like this occurred at the time.

If you are not as squeamish, the writing is vivid, and Katherine seemed likeable.

Appreciating the Beauty of the Night Sky. The End of Night by Paul Bogard

The Starry Night Sky

Paul Bogard was astonished when a relative wanted to know what the 'white dots in the sky' were.  She didn't know that they were stars!

Luckily, this is unusual.  However, the rapid growth of artificial light means that most of us never see the real night sky.  Consequently, we have lost the poetry and the romance of the night.  In this fascinating and highly informative book, Bogard outlines what this means for us and for our fellow creatures.  He also delves into history, philosophy and culture.

Bogard's The End of Night has chapters comparing the cleverly designed and romantic lighting of Paris with the poor lighting of London, and the history of gas and electric light.  He also travels to the isolation of Thoreau's Walden Pond to study the night sky, and see how it has changed.

Bogard studies the effects of light pollution on our health, and talks to shift workers about how working at night affects them.  He writes about the links between a…

The Book Publishers Toolkit 10 Practical Pointers for Independent and Self Publishers Vol. 1 IBPA Contributors

This is an excellent book for any author or aspiring author.  It has helpful tips on using Twitter, establishing a brand and marketing.  I am certainly going to look up the links.

I found the articles on Twitter and branding worth special study. I am also interested in writing e-books, and there are tips for writers of e-books here.  Read this book and take careful notes if you want assistance in establishing your writing business!

A Journey Through Tudor England by Suzannah Lipscomb

Hever Castle

This is the perfect companion for Tudor history-lovers when they visit England!  Suzannah Lipscomb tells the stories of characters, such as Henry VIII and his spoiled childhood and Lady Jane Grey, the tragic 'Nine Day Queen'.  She also provides tours of historic buildings, such as Westminster Abbey and Richmond Palace, so that the reader can see the details of the Tudor history in the architecture.  I also want to visit the National Portrait Gallery again with this book.

Lipscomb also studies many buildings that I haven't visited, including Charterhouse in London and Hever Castle, the haunt of the alluring Anne Boleyn.

 I received this book free from Net Galley, but I'll certainly buy it, so that I can tour these buildings with my beloved Tudors!

336 pages
$17.96 at Amazon

Suzannah Lipscomb Talks About Our Tudor Mania

A Delightful Story in an Exotic Setting. This Northern Sky by Julia Green

An image of the machair in the Hebrides of Scotland

Luminous writing, sympathetic characters and an exotic setting distinguish this haunting story by Julia Green.  Although it's a children's book and I am well over 30, I loved it, and I'm certainly interested in reading more books by this author.

The heroine, Kate, is upset when her parents take her to the isolated Hebrides for a holiday.  Headed for an emotional divorce, they want to attempt a reconciliation.  A distraught Kate hears them arguing, and notices her father ringing another woman.

She also longs for her ex-boyfriend, Sam.  Green cleverly keeps the reader guessing about the reasons for their breakup until well into the novel..

Her friendship with Finn, the handsome boy of the Manse, and his friends brightens her days and takes her mind off her troubles.  They collect cockles, have a party on another island and go swimming in the cold waters. 

Kate also learns to love the beautiful scenery of the Hebrides, and…