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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Mysteries by Various (Open Road Media)

I am afraid that I just couldn't get involved in these stories at all.  It's probably because I like vintage mysteries, such as Dorothy L. Sayer and Agatha Christie.  Most of these were too modern for me!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Leap Launching Your Full-Time Career in Our Part-Time Economy by Robert Dickie

You need flexibility and the right resources to launch a full-time career in this part-time economy in which unemployment is growing, and many jobs are being automated.  This helpful book by Robert Dickie will certainly give you a head-start.

Dickie covers almost everything, including how to obtain the right knowledge and the right degree, online courses,  and the importance of having a freedom fund.  He also has chapters on staying focused, building a strong personal brand and social media.

This is a great book for anyone anxious to improve their career or start a new one!  Some people may be annoyed by the biblical focus, but I quite liked it.

Elsa Schiaparelli by Meryle Secrest

This sweeping biography of the great designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Meryle Secrest reads like a novel. Schiaparelli certainly led a fascinating life in exciting times, and she also collaborated with such famous artists as Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau. She was also responsible for such modern and practical innovations as the wraparound dress, reversible coats and the all-purpose dress.

Although Schiaparelli grew up in an Italian palace, her early life was a struggle.  She married a con-artist who was also poor, and they had a very sick daughter. When she first lived in Paris, her flat was infiltrated with mice and rats.  However, better times came.  She became a designer accidentally, but she had 'the right look, the right style [and] the right feeling', so she soon impressed society.  Even royalty wore her clothes. Invitations to her parties were also prized - she was a charming hostess, a good cook and she had a facility for languages.

This well-researched book covers every aspect of Schiaparelli's life, including her Surrealism, her relationship with her daughter, her romantic relationships with two brothers (!) and her mysterious actions during the Second World War.  One of her favourite employees was married to an important Vichy politician, so the designer was regarded suspiciously.  She also travelled to America and South America a lot during the war, and this aroused distrust.

I did find that this book skipped from one subject to another fairly often, but I enjoyed it immensely.

(I received this from Edelweiss.  My opinion is entirely my own).

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Battle Against Hitler by Dietrich von Hildebrand

The philosopher and devout Catholic theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand  told one of his students in 1924 that 'the Nazis are the most vicious animals'.  Brought up in a well-off family that loved beauty and art, he could see the danger of the growth of the Nazi movement at a young age.  He knew that its 'nationalism, militarism, collectivism, materialism, and anti-Semitism were unbridgeably antithetical to Christianity'.

Von Hildebrand's opposition to the Nazis caused huge problems for him, affecting his lecturing career adversely.  He had to escape to Vienna and then he spent time in hiding in France. Eventually,  he was lucky enough to get to the United States. It had caused him great sadness in Austria to watch many important people compromise with the Nazis, including Catholics and law lecturers.

The first part of this book consists of von Hildebrand's memoirs, and the second consists of some of his philosophical writings.  He was certainly a hero who had some hair-raising escapes from his Nazi enemies, but the problem is that his memoirs are rather dry and factual.  His essays are also heavy reading, unless you are extremely interested in philosophy. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tara Revisited Women, War & the Plantation Legend Catherine Clinton

(Arlington in Natchez, Mississippi by Ralph Clynne)

Catherine Clinton delves behind the myths and legends of the antebellum South to attempt to find some historical truths in this interesting book.  She studies the facts about slavery, the women of the plantations and the cruelty of the Union forces to the people in the Confederacy.  She notes that the Lost Cause remains popular even today, and how some of these myths are still promoted.

In the great TV mini-series, "North and South", one of the men from a plantation-owning family travels to the North where he is shocked to see the conditions of the black workers in the factories.  He thinks that his family's slaves are better off, because they are fed and looked after.  According to Clinton, this was one of the myths promoted by books such as North and South and one of my all-time favourite books, Gone With The Wind.  Many of the slaves were abused, and thousands of them gladly joined the Union forces or hid Union soldiers and helped them to escape.  Almost ninety thousand black men from Confederate states joined the Union troops.  There were exceptions, however - I am sure that Gone With The Wind has some truth in it.

Union soldiers were not always cruel to the white women on the plantations.  For example, one Union soldier helped a lonely woman find a cow to help feed an ailing baby.  Another lady had to accompany a Union officer up the stairs during an inspection of her house.  She had hidden her good silver cutlery beneath her hoops, and the spoons and forks suddenly fell out! The soldier helped her retrieve them.  Many women had recollections of these sorts of kindnesses from Union forces.

This book was a bit dry, but I enjoyed reading about the real facts of the South.  However, I am afraid that my heart remains at Tara!

Mistress by Matthew Berns and Terry Smyth

 Billy Snedden
This is a rip-roaring tale about the mistresses of important Australians, including the lady loves of bushranger Captain Thunderbolt, Governor King, the leader of the Rum Rebellion, Jim Cairns and the rather handsome and suave Billy Snedden. Many mistresses of the officers of the convict era were abandoned with children, but Governor King actually treated his girlfriend well.  He told his wife about his illegitimate children, and his wife agreed to raise them with the mistress's consent.  She was obviously very understanding.

I especially enjoyed the story of the hell-raising Lilly.  Lilly arrived on Medan in Indonesia in 1958 looking for her lover who was working for an oil company.  Although Lilly was a beauty, she didn't behave like one - she was  hard-drinking and even a bit violent. She hit someone who annoyed her, leaving him with a cut lip.  She also kept irritating the Vice-Consul, lying down naked and drunk in the bedroom one night!  As he was a gentleman, he covered her up and attempted to help her when she woke up.

This is light entertainment, written in a slightly slangy manner that suits the subject.  It's great fun to read, and I liked the stories from Australia's early days.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Honeymoon in Paris by JoJo Moyes

This is a novella that should be read after the novel The Girl You Left Behind by the fantastic author JoJo Moyes. It combines the stories of Sophie and Liv, both of whom are newly married.  Their tales are set in different eras - the Edwardian and modern times.  Both women experience problems with their marriages, and both have lessons to learn.

Sophie, a beautiful shopgirl, soon captured the heart of Édouard Lefèvre, a famous artist, but she now feels insecure because of the women in his past.  One of them annoys her by insinuations and snide remarks.  She also discovers that Édouard is still friendly with some of his other former models.  How can she compete with these women?  How can Sophie overcome her jealousy, and is she right about her husband?

Liv, only 23, newly married to David, an ambitious architect, looked forward to a romantic honeymoon in the City of Light.  However, David leaves her to see the sights alone while he attends important business meetings with a view to his future career.  Even an older man with whom she enjoys a coffee is shocked by David's neglect of his lovely wife.  Liv starts wondering whether she should have married in a hurry at such a young age.  How will she solve the problem?

This novella is enjoyable, relaxing reading, recommended for holidays.

Published by Penguin Group Viking.

(This was free from Net Galley. My opinion is entirely my own).

Say What You Really Mean How Women Can Learn to Speak Up by Debra Johanyak

Debra Johanyak aims to promote clear, honest and direct communication in this helpful book.  As the wonderful Malala writes, women are often scared to speak up or they are too passive to assert their rights.  Many other women speak indirectly so that people don't understand them, or they do it in a manner that annoys people.  (I have been guilty of this lately). Many women are also reluctant to tell their men unpleasant things or ask them to do nasty tasks, like putting out the rubbish! Johanyak deals with all of these problems and more.

Her book includes chapters on how to communicate your message clearly, the silent treatment, breaking bad news, and using the Internet.  She has useful sections summarizing the points made in each chapter.  The problem is that it's hard to remember these suggestions in the heat of the moment.  I think that I may actually have to make notes!

I didn't find the chapter on the 'silent treatment' helpful for my situation.  It was mostly about why not to do it, but not how to handle it when it's directed at you.  It is terrifically irritating, and I would have liked tips on how to deal with it.  However, I recommend this book, and I'll definitely buy it.

(I received this book free from Net Galley, and my opinion of it is entirely my own).

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Rosary The Prayer That Saved My Life Immaculee Ilibagiza, Steve Erwin

(Photo by Daniel Tibi, Wikimedia Commons)

Immaculee huddled in a tiny bathroom with several other women listening to the screams of the victims of the Rwandan genocide outside. Terrified, she prayed the Rosary and read the Bible.  Her fear enabled her to pray with a new depth, and she also thought about the Mysteries and actually imagined herself walking in Mary's footsteps as she cared for her son.  Immaculee credits the Rosary with saving her life, and even giving her the spiritual strength to forgive the murderers, even though almost every member of her immediate family was killed, and many of her friends were also slaughtered.  Forgiveness does bring freedom, and the Rosary helped her to find this true freedom.  (I have trouble forgiving small hurts!)

This is a harrowing book to read, but Immaculee's story of courage and faith in terrible times is certainly inspirational.  It helps readers to see minor worries in a new light!

Immaculee's enthusiasm about the "most beautiful and richest of all prayers to [Mary]" is contagious, and she explains the rather complicated system of prayers simply and clearly.  She tells how she learned the prayers and Mysteries, and she includes the new Luminious Mysteries.  As Immaculee writes, this isn't just a book for Catholics.  Any Christian can learn the Rosary, and many have been helped by these lovely prayers.

This is recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about the Rosary.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Reluctant Blogger by Ryan Rapier

I am afraid that I couldn't get into this book at all. It wasn't well-written and the story didn't interest me.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness One-Minute Tips for Decluttering and Refreshing Your Home and Your Life by Deborah Smallin

I've probably read just about every book on decluttering there is, but my clutter has to be seen to be believed, unfortunately! This book does provide excellent tips that can be completed in a short time, however, so it lives up to its title.  For example, Smallin suggests doing one thing each day that will make you feel better, such as making the bed.  This is a good start.  The book includes advice for getting rid of the clutter in each room in the house, and useful ways to lessen the ubiquitous paper.  Smallin even includes advice for cleaning.

This is a useful book for people who want to become more organised and get rid of some of their 'stuff'.  It's a book that you can dip into when you feel overwhelmed and find a helpful suggestion so that you feel more in charge.  I'll definitely buy it.  Unfortunately, buying it will add to my clutter!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fascinating Women. Kennedy Wives Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family Amber Hunt and David Batcher

(Joan Bennett Kennedy from Wikipedia)

Once upon a time, five beautiful and strong women married charismatic Kennedy men.  They were called Rose, Ethel, Jackie, Joan and Vickie.  Rose, the matriarch of the dynasty, had a steely inner-strength and toughness that helped her through her husband's infidelities, the loss of his reputation in the UK and terrible tragedy.  She has often been thought of as fanatically religious and rather cruel to her daughter Kathleen, who fell in love with two Protestant men.  However, she is more likeable and softer in this account. Ethel, raucous and a tomboy, also clung to her faith through much tragedy.  She was a supportive wife to Bobby, managed to raise 11 children, and devoted much of her time to charity work, but she also loved a good time, and she was famous for her parties.  She also held educational seminars.  Jackie restored the White House to its former glory, charmed crowds everywhere she went with her elegance and facility for languages and became a symbol of the nation's strength and fortitude when her husband died. Kind-hearted, gorgeous Joan fell victim to her husband's philandering and found it more difficult to cope with suffering than the other wives.  She became an alcoholic but she bravely attempted to overcome it.  Vickie, clever and wise, was exactly the wife that the aged Ted needed in his last years.

This is a fascinating and sympathetic account of these wonderful women by Amber Hunt and David Batcher, and an excellent analysis of their characters.  I didn't find anything new in it, but I didn't know much about Joan or Vickie, so I was extremely interested in the last part of the book.

This is a great book for anyone who loves to read about this great American family.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Perfect Christmas Reading. A Christmas Feast by Katie Fforde

These romantic stories by the wonderful Katie Fforde will cheer up anyone who likes light holiday reading over Christmas. Amusing and warm-heated, the stories have sympathetic and likeable heroes and heroines. Travelling into Fforde's world certainly helped relieve my stress!

Her stories involve a family so shocked by the 'singleton' having a male guest that they all rush into the kitchen to see him, a woman who is rewarded for assisting the village 'witch' and a kind-hearted young lady who finds romance in a secret garden.

I prefer Katie Fforde's novels, but these short stories were a pleasure to read!

Friday, December 05, 2014

My Days with Princess Grace of Monaco by Joan Dale

Joan Dale and her successful diplomat husband Martin became good friends with Princess Grace and her family, and she can't praise the beautiful American royal highly enough. According to Dale, Princess Grace was a lovely, warm, hard-working woman who loved her family and sometimes longed to resume her career as an actress.  Dale tells lots of anecdotes about times spent with the royal family and meeting other important people, such as other Monaco royals and Onassis and Maria Callis  She describes spectacular events and galas.

The most interesting parts of the book concern Prince Rainier's fights with de Gaulle and Onassis over taxation and the economic growth of Monaco.  Dale's husband was in charge of the economic development of Monaco so he was directly involved in these battles.  There was also an argument with Prince Rainier's sister Antoinette over succession.

I enjoyed this book up to a point, but I grew a bit tired of the descriptions of all the events and galas.  This is probably because I live in a pretty boring place and it made me envious! It is worth buying just for the pictures, however!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

David Livingstone Presumes - To End Slavery In East Africa.

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions by Jay Millbrandt.

Most people think of David Livingstone as a great explorer, and indeed he was, but this well-written and thoroughly-researched book tells the true story of how he sacrificed everything to accomplish his ambition of abolishing slavery. This became the true purpose of his life, because he was so shocked by the brutality of the horrific slave trade run from Zanzibar, and the complicity of the British and the Portugese in allowing it to continue. Livingstone elevated this goal even above finding the source of the Nile. Eventually, he succeeded because of back-breakingly hard work and the publicity that he gained with the American journalist Stanley's help, and the slave market was closed forever.

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions by Jay Millbrandt.

This is a long and harrowing book, and  Jay Millbrandt certainly doesn't spare the reader from the details of Livingstone's sufferings.  The man who raised himself from working in the cotton mills of Glasgow to becoming a doctor, explorer, and scientist, experienced hunger, rheumatic fever and weakness in Africa.  His wife became an alcoholic, and he was separated from his children.

However, it is well-worth reading, and there are some lighter parts.  This book made me want to read more about Stanley, who became a great friend of Livingstone.  Livingstone was shocked at first by Stanley's luxurious travelling, however.  His entourage consisted of an array of porters with kettles, tents, tin baths, and a folding boat! When he sat down to breakfast with Livingstone, Stanley's servants  set out silver spoons, knives, forks and a silver teapot.  Livingstone and Stanley sat on a Persian carpet.

If you like history and reading about great explorers, this is recommended.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen

(Mary Pickford, Wikipedia)

Anne Helen Petersen's book combines gossip and glamour with academic analysis of the star-system and the effect of the gossip-columnists and audience on the celebrities. She studies how scandalous rumours ruined Fatty Arbuckle, how Clara Bow tried to be a 'New Woman', and Judy Garland's self- destruction, which was exacerbated by the cruel treatment of her by MGM and her mother. She also examines famous Hollywood romances, such as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. These were often 'reinvented' by Hollywood to avoid divorce and scandal becoming an issue.

This book is an enjoyable journey through Hollywood public relations and gossip. However, the writing is a bit slangy at times. It's worth reading if you like learning about the secrets behind Hollywood stories.