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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays 1920–1970 by Karie Bible & Mary Mallory Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

This is a beautiful collection of photos of Hollywood stars celebrating the holidays, including New Year's Day and Valentine's Day.  It's the perfect gift for anyone who loves to look at pictures of old Hollywood!

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Born to Rule by Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning certainly doesn't do our PM any favours in this book.  Apparently, Malcolm Turnbull is brilliant, but he can also be arrogant and bad-tempered and lack judgement.  There is also a lot of fuss about an ex-girlfriend's cat which was killed and left on her doorstep.  Known to be an animal-lover, Turnbull actually sued for defamation twice because he was accused of killing the cat in revenge for a broken heart.  I don't think that anyone who loves animals would kill a cat! However, there are still suspicions about the poor cat, apparently.

This is a rather dry book but Manning provides all the details about Turnbull's great success in the Spycatcher case, his intricate business dealings, his personal life, and his Republicanism.  He also discusses Turnbull's fraught relations with Tony Abbott. The most interesting part of the book, I thought, was Turnbull's rather complicated relationship with his academic mother who left his father when Malcolm was only young and his struggle to get ahead when he was young.  I would actually be more interested in reading a book about her!

This is a good book to read if you want to know more about the new PM but, although the author tried to be fair, I didn't think that it was completely unbiased.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher

Harry Houdini with his mother and his wife. (Wikipedia)

Beautiful, cultured and refined, Mina Crandon held séances that were the talk of Boston.  Her husband, a doctor, appeared to have complete faith in her powers.  She conjured up the spirit of her dead brother Walter who loved to have fun.  He whispered through a spirit trumpet and teased spectators.  Mysterious objects also appeared, such as tambourines illuminated by spirit lights and psychic dogs barking.  Nobody was able to discover whether her powers were real and she wasn’t corrupt – she didn’t take money for her popular séances.  Nicknamed the ‘Witch of Lime Street’, the only person that she was afraid of was the fantastic escape artist, Houdini.

Houdini hated ‘psychics’ and ‘outed’ several of them, including George Renner in Cleveland and Mrs Cook in Harlem. He wore a disguise of white whiskers and tousled hair, holding a hand raised to his ear whenever the mediums spoke.  Renner crawled around at his séances and smeared the spirits that he was supposed to enchant with lampblack.  Houdini shone his pocket flashlight after the séance began, when voices were heard through a trumpet and the guitar levitated, showing Renner smeared with soot.  Renner was told that he was a fraud.

Houdini caught Mrs Cook with her mouth on the trumpet rather than her spirits – Snowdrop, Chief and Bright Eyes.  He shone his flashlight at the surprised medium.  The spectators must have been astonished.

Unlike the great magician, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had strong faith in Spiritualism, calling it ‘the greatest thing that ever came out of America’.  He believed that he had spoken face-to-face with his dead son, twice with his dead brother, and once with his dead nephew.  He would be extremely impressed with Mina Crandon.

This book by David Jaher tells the strange and fascinating story of Houdini’s friendship with Doyle, a scientific contest to find a real psychic and the larger-than-life character of Mina Crandon.  Well-written and thoroughly researched, it will keep readers intrigued until the ending.


I received this free ebook from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wallis by Anne Edwards

I thought that this was a biography. I don't read to read a novel about Wallis Simpson!

Mary, Queen of Scots by John Hale

I thought that this was a biography. The writing seemed quite vivid, but I just don't want to read another novel about Mary at the moment. The ones by Reay Tannahill and Jean Plaidy were so good.

This was a free book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 14, 2015

6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel

I was looking forward to this book but I don't think that I will go on with it.  I am not keen on stream-of-consciousness writing and I found the main character a bit unlikeable.  I may try Blondel's other books.

Avenue of Spies. A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and one American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alex Kershaw

The French Army Returns to France, Wikipedia.

When Toquette Jackson was asked to join the French Resistance she didn’t hesitate for one second even though she lived on the Avenue Foch, surrounded by buildings taken over by high-ranking Nazis, including the Gestapo. She knew that her American husband Sumner Jackson, the head of the American Hospital in Paris, was already in danger because he helped Allied prisoners escape. He even falsified records so that recovered prisoners were listed as deceased. He did all this in spite of the German headquarters being opposite the main entrance gate. Phillip, their son, was also anxious to help the Resistance and did as much as he could but he was a schoolboy so it was difficult for him. However, he also showed great bravery by  infiltrating a German submarine base at Saint-Nazaire to photograph U-boat pens and managing to give the photos to the Allies.

This true story about an amazingly courageous family who went beyond the call of duty to fight the Nazis even though they were surrounded by spies on every side is wonderfully inspiring.      Excellent writing and thorough research makes Avenue of Spies one of the best books of the year.

Be warned, however.  It is extremely harrowing even for readers who have read many books about the French Resistance.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dandelions by Katrina McKelvey and Kirrili Lonergan

Petr Kratochvil, Dandelion, Public Domain Pictures

This charming book with its beautiful pictures would make a delightful present for a small child.  Sarah is upset when her father mows the dandelions because she likes blowing the puff-balls.  Can he find her more dandelions?

I love dandelions too, so I might buy this for my great-niece.  Oops, I almost wrote niece!

I found some notes to accompany the story.

This was a free ebook from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Treading Water by Angie Oakley

I found it difficult to put down this haunting novel with its memorable characters.  I felt that the characters were so real that they seemed like friends! I wanted to read Treading Water all in one go because the story was just so intriguing, but I couldn’t do that, unfortunately.  However, I wondered what was happening in the book while I did other things!

The book begins when Lucy sees someone jump from a Brisbane bridge and finds out that it is someone who she once met.  She then starts thinking about her troubled adolescence.  A privileged child, Lucy’s life changed completely when her father abandoned the family. Her intrepid mother Sandy then had to struggle to keep them on their feet.  Lucy’s life begins to intersect with Paul’s family because she becomes friendly with his cousin Beth.

Lucy has to deal with several issues, including her father’s new life and bad treatment of her mother, her unhappiness at school and her sister, who is hard to like.  She spends her life ‘treading water’ and finds it difficult to develop her inner strength.

The tension slowly builds until we get to the dark mystery at the heart of the book and we find out what happens to Lucy. The unfolding drama would make an excellent movie, although I did get a bit confused with all the characters sometimes.  Maybe, a few minor ones could be left out of the film.

Brisbane plays such a major role in the book that it’s almost a character, too.  I thought that Angie Oakley described the conflicted relationship of the characters with Brisbane that was typical of the 1980s extremely well. This probably isn’t as prevalent now when we’re supposed to have ‘grown up’ but, on the other hand, the soul of the city is being ruined with so many old Queenslanders being redeveloped.  However, I am getting off-topic! I did think that comparing the greenery of the city with Kew Gardens was going a little far, but I can see what the author meant.

This is one of the best Australian novels that I’ve read! I highly recommend it.  Random House, Penguin, Hachette – where are you?


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Elizabeth 1 Renaissance Prince by Lisa Hilton

This book is a comprehensive study of the great Queen which analyses why she regarded herself as a 'prince,' her relationships with men, including Phillip 11 and Robert Dudley, her dealings with her rival Mary, Queen of Scots, and even her contribution to culture.  also scrutinises her attitude to religion and the way most of Europe regarded her reign – they apparently thought of it as repressive and harsh. Although Elizabeth didn’t want to ‘make windows into people’s souls,’ she eventually felt forced to persecute the Catholics because of their threat to her kingdom by the fanatical members of that denomination. (This resonates today because of fanatical Islam).  It is a bit heavy at times, but always interesting and well-written.

As I am a bit frivolous, I especially liked Lisa Hilton's vibrant descriptions of the festivals and pageants and the Queen’s makeup and scent.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I am afraid that I have given this up at the moment.  The plot about a bookshop owner who goes on a journey to find out the truth about his lost love is based on a good idea, but it is just too kitsch and rambling for me.  I may try it again later.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Light of Hidden Flowers by Jennifer Handford

Missy is stuck.  Clever and introverted, she still works for her father's financial firm at thirty-five and she has never travelled to Europe even though she learns Italian while she drives and loves cooking Italian food.  She is also single and often thinks of Joe, her first boyfriend.

When Missy's beloved father suffers memory loss in the middle of a seminar, he looks to her for help, but she doesn't speak.  However, she might be forced to 'step up'. When old boyfriend Joe contacts her on Facebook, she has a new dilemma...

I loved this well-written, luminous novel and found Missy and Joe delightful characters. I also found the description of Missy's work true-to-life and interesting.  Joe's help for veterans and Missy's father's disease are sensitively dealt with and add a rather sombre note to the story.

I must read Jennifer Handford's other novels!