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Showing posts from September, 2013

Sunset Ridge by Nicole Alexander

This was a beautifully written and detailed novel about Australian country life, family troubles, and the horrors of the First World War.  I found it a bit grim, but it certainly deals with grim subjects, and life in the country here is harsh.

When Madeleine has to organise an art exhibition of her grandfather's work, she travels to the family home in the country, where she looks into the dark past of three brothers who ran away to war.  The story flits back and forth between Maddy and the story of the brothers who include her sensitive grandfather.  Maddy is looking for healing because of the way in which her father died.  Will she find it when she opens up a can of worms by delving into old family secrets?

I am a big fan of Nicole Alexander, but her books are too full of troubles to take on holiday, so read them at home.

The Jade Widow by Deborah O'Brien

I was utterly charmed by this sweet romance set in country Australia.  Easy to read and relaxing, this is a well-written and interesting story by Deborah O'Brien.  I enjoyed every minute of it.

Set in the late nineteenth century, the plot concerns two sisters-in-law - the conservative widow Amy Chen and Eliza, an ambitious but self-sacrificing medical student who studied at the Sorbonne.  It follows the pattern of their lives as Amy struggles with the prejudice of the town towards her half-Chinese son and Eliza tries to fulfill her medical aspirations in the small country town.  Amy is also a business woman, and she is building a sumptuous hotel with its own ascending machine.

The inclusion of fascinating true characters such as suffragette Rose Scott and artist Charles Condor is one of the highlights of the book, I thought.  I didn't know much about Rose Scott, but I am going to find out more, and I hope to write about her on my Edwardian blog.

I also liked the descriptions …

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

By Eric William Okeson (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Esme, a serious-minded English art history student in New York hates messes, so it is a shock when she finds herself in one.  She realises that she is pregnant to her sophisticated American boyfriend and doesn't know where to turn.  Esme finds refuge at The Owl, an old-fashioned bookstore in the city.  Here she meets George, the sweet owner, Luke, a taciturn colleague, and various eclectic people, including the homeless and strange customers. Here she finds a new 'home' and family . But when Mitchell comes back and finds her working 'in that drab little secondhand store', what will Esme do?

Esme provided me with good company on my holiday in New Zealand. Interesting, young, and a bit naive, Esme is easily manipulated and she has a lot to learn.  Deborah Meyler certainly takes her on a fascinating journey.

This is a very literary story filled with quota…

Francis of Assisi by Augustine Thompson, O.P.

This was written in a fairly dry way, I thought, but I still found it interesting.  It dispels many of the myths about St.Francis, who is sometimes regarded almost as a 'hippie saint' because of the film, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, or regarded as perfect.

Thompson tells the story of Francis's rebellion against his father, his struggle with leadership, his friendship with St. Claire, and his love for animals.  I especially liked the anecdotes about St. Francis's idea of the model of the nativity for Christmas, and his concern that the animals should also be fed at celebrations.  I also liked reading about St. Claire, and I hope that Thompson writes a book about her too.

The bibliography will be extremely useful, because I find St. Francis fascinating, and I certainly want to read more about him!

Do-Ahead-Dinners by James Ramsden

Some of the recipes in this book seem to be quite complicated and it made me a bit tired to read them, so I don't know if it takes the pressure out of cooking!  Unfortunately, I am not in a position to try them out at the moment, so I can't really tell.

However, I would like to bake bread, and the instructions for baking bread look quite easy.

Cinderella and the Carpetbagger by Grace Robbins

This is a rather shocking and trashy tale, but I couldn't help liking its long-suffering and good-hearted author, Grace Robbins.  If you get past the weird beginning, the book is enjoyable to some extent until it reaches its tragic ending.

When Elizabeth Taylor look-alike, Grace, met the famous writer Harold Robbins, he swept her off her feet and showered her with diamonds and fur-coats.  They eventually had a daughter, married, and lived a glamorous life in California and the south of France.  They associated with movie-stars and the very wealthy and held lavish parties.  Grace raised money for charity.

After Harold Robbins demanded an open marriage and started taking drugs, everything went to hell...

This book if certainly not suitable for children, and I really felt that Grace gives the readers 'too much information' at times, and she also seems to delight in doing it.  This annoyed me a bit.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

Anya van Bremzen   relates an interesting and unsettling tale of the history of Soviet and pre-Revolution cooking that ranges from stories of the extravagant Imperial meals to the meals enjoyed during dark rationing days.  The book is full of sagas about the bleak Soviet era with its progroms, famines, murders and tortures.

Van Bremzen also tells the stories of her family, including her strong grandmother Liza and her grandfather, who worked in Naval Intelligence.  She also shares her reminiscences about her Soviet childhood and her mother's memories of her childhood in the 1930s.

I liked this, but I'd advise you not to read it on holiday!  Choose a happier book.

How to Handle Rejection Well. Downside Up by Tracey Mitchell

When Tracey Mitchell first started in the media, she worked for a man who said extremely hurtful things to her, and told her that she would never make it.  She rehearsed his words for days, and they became even more powerful as she rehearsed them.  Eventually she decided to either accept them as final or she could turn his rejection into a positive.  She decided to do the latter and she didn't look back.

This great book will help you to do the same.  Most people find it difficult to deal with rejection, but handling rejection is an essential part of life.  Tracey Mitchell shows how to turn rejection into a 'golden opportunity', and she encourages people to use the power of religion and prayer to help them to achieve this.

She discusses the truths about rejection, the importance of handling rejection well in order to become successful and many other aspects of this subject.  I especially liked her chapters on self-esteem and handling other people's opinions, and how to …

Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe

Only 'Janeites' understand the joy of studying Jane Austen, dressing up in Regency clothes, reading the many Jane Austen blogs or sequels on the Web and, perhaps actually studying her books seriously, and as Louis Armstrong said about jazz, 'If you have to ask, you just don't get it'.  Deborah Yaffe, the author of this book, has been a Janeite since she read Pride and Prejudice at the age of ten in 1976.  In those days, she regarded herself as a little unusual, because Jane Austen 'madness' only began almost twenty years later with the 1985 series in which Colin Firth as Mr Darcy famously appeared in his sexy white shirt.

This is an enjoyable journey through the world of the Janeites.  They range from serious academics to writers of fan-fiction and fans who've only watched the series and films.  There are even romances inspired by the study of Jane Austen.  I also loved reading about Sandy Lerner who saved Chawton House, the home that Jane Austen enjoyed…

The Making of Markova by Tina Sutton

(Alicia Markova photographed by Carl Van Vechten)
After Anton Dolin took the great ballerina Alicia Markova out for an evening's entertainment, he expected to be asked in to have a nightcap. Markova was too proud to invite him, however, because she lived with her widowed mother and her three sisters in a tiny two-bedroom flat with a kitchen, and she didn't want him to see it.  Even though she was successful, she still had to do household chores, another reason for the lack of the invitation.
Markova thought that ballet was an enchanted fairy-tale world that helped people to forget their troubles, and like many others, she was inspired to join it by watching the wonderful Anna Pavlova.  However, Markova's actual life was quite tough, and she paid a high price for devoting her life to ballet, because she never married or had children.  She also had to cope with losing her father early, supporting her mother and sisters from a young age, and vicious anti-Semitism that affect…

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Luminous writing and great attention to detail make this book a delight to read.  Although the story concerns servants who have to scrub, wash and clean, Jo Baker manages to convey their world in writing that contains great beauty.  She also makes the reader realise the back-breaking work that Regency servants had to do. The main character, Sarah, is a rather fey and dreamy girl who would probably be an artist or a writer if she had a proper chance.  Unfortunately, her world consists of washing clothes and dishes, scraping the mud off boots and similar tasks.  Young and innocent, she becomes intrigued by Ptolemy Bingley, the Bingleys' mulatto servant, but she also has a sneaky liking for James, the Longbourn footman, who has a dark secret.
Writing a novel about the servants at Longbourn was a brilliant idea, and Baker shows how the lives of the Bennet family affects them.  The reader will see another side to Pride & Prejudice.  For example, Elizabeth's decision to walk th…