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Showing posts from October, 2014

Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

(Montmarte in 1925 from Wikipedia Commons) Eva, a struggling seamstress at the MoulinRouge in the early 20th century, becomes attracted to the magnetic young artist Picasso. But he already has a mistress who calls herself his wife, and Eva is ambitious to further her own career. This isn't easy when she has to deal with bossy women, such as Misinguett. Things come to a head when Picasso is accused of stealing the MonaLisa. Can Eva still resist his charms, or will she help him?

This is the perfect novel to read in France, especially in Paris, but it's a lovely book to read anywhere. Anne Girard captures the romantic setting beautifully, and the historical characters are well-rounded and ring true to life. Eva really was shy and innocent by all accounts, and Picasso was fought over by women. The descriptions of the Moulin Rouge and the artistic scene are interesting, and made me want to find out much more.

I look forward to Girard's next novel!

The Culinary Lives of John and Abigail Adams: A Cookbook by Rosana Y. Wan

It's interesting and fun to learn about history by reading about the food that important people from the past ate. John and Abigail Adams liked to garden, grow many vegetables, and eat fresh and fairly plain food. They ate such English foods as roast chicken, roast turkey, custard, mince pies and cherry pie, for example.

I like this sort of food too, so when I get back from my travels I hope to try some of the recipes and post pictures. Unfortunately, I can't grow the 'veggies', as we call them in Australia.

Rosana Wan has filled the book with fascinating information about the famous couple's meals and activities, and it is full of scrumptious pictures of the foods.

Salmon fillet

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: being a Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron features a charming but feisty heroine, a mysterious Rochester-like hero, and a clever murder mystery. Jane and her family are portrayed in a realistic way, and Barron even manages to write in a 19th-century style without ruining it by using jarring modern expressions.

There are also interesting snippets of information about Jane and her family and times, such as information about the game of billiards. I didn't like this book as much as the first one that I read by this author, but I hope to read the whole series soon.

Tolkien How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century Devin Brown Abingdon Press

This is a good introductory biography to Tolkien by a respected English Professor. Devin Brown has written a warm and sympathetic biography in which he studies the main influences on the great writer's works, especially his star-crossed romance, his beloved Catholic faith, his parent's early deaths and the loss of many of his friends in The First World War.

I found the description of his long friendship with C.S. Lewis and how Lewis encouraged him especially interesting. This will make any fan of Tolkien want to read and learn more about him.

The Woman Who Would Be King. Hatshepsut's Rise To Power In Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

Kara Cooney is at her best when she describes Egyptian society and the rich and strange rituals if Egyptian life. I found her account of the powerful and ambitious Hatshepsut interesting, but the book was very 'text-bookish'.

There was a lot of speculation in this biography, so it was full of words like 'might' and 'probably'. I thought that this made it difficult to read and annoying, unfortunately.

Elements of Style by Erin Gates

Do you know how to choose a sofa, or renovate a kitchen? Do you know the essential items that you should have in each room? Erin Gates covers all this and more in her new book Elements ofStyle. Filled with gorgeous pictures and useful information, this is a great book for any would-be decorator.

Gates also writes amusingly about her decorating disasters, renovating her kitchen in the midst of a snowy New England winter, and walking down the aisle. This book will provide you with endless inspiration in an entertaining way.

An Unsuitable Match by Sasha Cottman

Welcome to the glittering Regency world of splendid balls, bespoke gowns and spring garden parties.  Cottman takes readers into the heart of Georgette Heyer's ton in this captivating love story, and helps them to escape from the inelegant bustle of modern life for a few enjoyable hours. Any lover of light Regency  novels is sure to like this book.

The love story involves the rather sweet Clarice and dashing David. Even though the heroine Clarice lives in a luxurious way, she has lots of problems to overcome, including her demanding father and her new feelings for her old friend David.  Her father regards David as highly unsuitable, and he is determined to marry her off to an untrustworthy, but titled man.  Clarice also has to deal with the snide remarks of a 'friend', which doesn't help her lack of confidence in society circles.

When David discovers that he wants to win Clarice at all costs, he has to cope with his illegitimacy and money problems.  The women from his p…

Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant: True Tales and Gossip from the Galley by Owen Beddall

If you think that the life of a flight attendant is glamorous, think again!  According to Beddall, flight attendants do meet celebrities, stay in five-star hotels and party with the jet-setters, but they also pay a high price for it.  Apparently, there's lots of drug-taking, illness and general bitchiness, and it's a terrifically demanding life. It also wreaks havoc on one's love-life.

Beddall shares lots of enjoyable anecdotes in this book, such as his meetings with Kylie Minogue and Katie Perry.  He even thanks Katie Perry in his Acknowledgements. Some of the stories that he shares are painful, such as the time that he met his long-standing boyfriend's wife! He also shines a light on the goings-on of the pilots and the 'Essex Girls' and other gold-digging staff.

This book is a real indictment of Beddall's treatment by Qantas, and his opinion about the decline of the airline is interesting.  It's quite hard to read. However, it probably won't affec…

How To Get There by Maggie MacKellar

This is a moving and emotional story about falling in love at an older age. After MacKellar's painful tale was revealed on the ABC, several men wrote to her, but she was wary of starting again after making a soothing life in the country with her children. However, a letter from a Tasmanian farmer intrigued her, and she fell in love with him quite quickly and she and the family moved to Tasmania to be with him.

This lovely book tells of the ups and downs of starting again, combining two families and how she and Jim overcame the obstacles that moving in together involved.

Interview with Maggie MacKellar