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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Leo Tolstoy's Family Recipe Book by Sergei Beltyukov

This recipe book was compiled for Sophia, Tolstoy's wife, by her brother, and contains diary entries by many of the family as well as extracts from the novels.  These will take you into another world in which much more time was spent cooking and enjoying food than it is today.  Tolstoy had a big family and lots of visitors so they shared many discussions around the dining table!

Some of these recipes look as though they will be a bit difficult and take a long time to cook, but I will start off with the easier ones.  I am sure that they are delicious.

Some pictures of the recipes would have enhanced the book, I think.

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Queen Bees by Siân Evans

(Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent)

Queen Bees tells the story of six great society hostesses during the inter-war years; Lady Astor, Lady Colefax, Lady Londonderry, Lady Curnard, Laura Corrigan and Mrs Ronnie Grenville. These driven, ambitious women had an immense effect on the inter-war era on politics, culture and even royalty.  Apparently, Maud Cunard and Sibyl Colefax actually fostered the relationship between Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson.

Surprisingly, most of these women came from inauspicious backgrounds. Mrs Grenville was the illegitimate daughter of a millionaire and brought up in an Edinburgh lodging house, for example. Laura Mae Corrigan was born in rural poverty in the American Midwest and she allegedly worked as a telephone operator when she met the fabulously wealthy James Corrigan.  It was love at first sight, so she quickly divorced her respectable husband, a doctor.

These ladies could have stayed 'ladies of leisure' with their rich husbands, but they were so busy that it was sometimes tiring to just read about their activities.  Two of them even had successful careers late in life - Lady Astor and Lady Colefax (interior design).  Lady Astor had lots of children as well as her political life and her famous society functions.

This is a fascinating book full of anecdotes.  I especially like Lady Astor's telling a crowd that she 'would rather commit adultery than have a glass of beer!' Someone replied: 'Who wouldn't?'

I also liked reading about this Downton Abbey-like world of still-Edwardian luxury and style.  These ladies lived in large town and country houses with several servants, 'gleaming silver', and superb dining. This book could be another excellent mini-series, or, at least a documentary!

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Beautiful Spy. The Last Goodnight by Howard Blum

When a handsome old flame offered to write Betty Pack's biography, she slipped out of her older husband's French castle, and had a whirlwind romance with him in Ireland where she told him her adventures. And what adventures they were! The beautiful and well-bred American spy rescued an aristocrat from prison during the Spanish Civil War, rescued the British Ambassador from the same war, and passed on top-secret intelligence to London from bedrooms in Warsaw and dark streets in Prague.  She was the mistress of the 'honey-trap' and slept with many men in order to obtain their secrets. She was amoral, betraying her husband and deserting her son for the cause, but, according to Howard Blum, she even managed to change the course of World War Two!

I found this lively, well-written book about 'Cynthia' with its vivid descriptions difficult to put down.  I did wonder whether the author was half-in-love with his subject, however! She was likeable, but she was very selfish at times.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

In The Company of Dolphins by Irwin Shaw

(Aerial view of Saint Tropez, Wikipedia)
This account of a yacht cruise through the Mediterranean was the perfect book to read after The Red Wake! Shaw describes an idyllic trip through the spectacular coastline in the nineteen-sixties with his wife and son.  There were not as many tourists then and it really was a dreamlike world.  It reminded me of visiting Alassio with my parents when I was 11!

Shaw came from poverty but he certainly rose to live a jetset lifestyle.  During his voyage, he catches up with friends, such as the famous French writer Francoise Sagan, who wrote Bonjour Tristesse as a teenager, and the Australian Alan Moorehead.  This is a great book to dip into now and again to see how the wealthy and famous live, and to read about the beautiful Mediterranean!

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

The Red Wake by Kurt Johnson

(Chernobyl, Wikipedia)

As Kurt Johnson writes: 'History is a substance with weight and the more riven with tragedy the heavier it becomes'.  When Johnson decides to try to understand the world his grandparents left behind, he doesn't realise what he is letting himself in for! This is a dark tale of travels through the remains of a once horrific Gulag, war-torn countries of the former Soviet Union and even deserted Chernobyl with its irradiated animals.

It's all terrifically bleak and most of the people who Johnson writes about seem to be either depressed or strange, but the history is very interesting, especially the conflicts between the Christians and the Muslims and it also makes the yearning for Communism and even Stalin which affects the Russia of today clearer.  It's obviously a very unhappy place and Johnson should be praised for putting himself through all this! He manages to weave history, travel and memoir into a book which is worth reading if you want to find out more about the former Soviet Union.

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

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

A Savvy Sister. Sister Eve and the Blue Nun: A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery by Lynne Hinton

When Sister Eve's friend Kelly, a young lecturer, is killed by drinking cyanide in her tea, she is shocked and horrified.  Who could have murdered her? Was it her brother, Brother Anthony, who was upset with Kelly because she was about to make secret information that he'd given her about a nun who had committed miracles by appearing to a tribe of Native Americans when she was in Spain public? His actions after her death seem rather suspect, but he is a good friend of Sister Eve, and she doesn't think that he could have committed murder.

Sister Eve wonders if she should even become involved because she is struggling to decide whether to remain a nun or work with her irascible father, Jack Devine.  However, she is determined to find out the truth.  Can she cope with the dangers involved? How will she handle her attraction to a certain handsome detective? Will she eventually return to her beloved New Mexico?

This is an enjoyable and well-written mystery with a likeable 'streetwise' sister who rides a motorcycle and an interesting plot. Some reviewers have pointed out that she lies rather a lot, considering that she's a nun, however! he intrigues and rivalries of the community were well-done.  I also liked learning more about New Mexico and the snippets about its art, culture and history.

I will definitely read more books by Lynne Hinton.

I received this free book from BookLook Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Big Change Frederick Lewis Allen

Although I really enjoyed reading about the incredibly wealthy Vanderbilts, Morgans and Carnegies, I didn't finish this book because I found parts of it a bit text-bookish and dry. It's a good book to read if you want to study this era of American history in great detail.

I may continue reading it later.

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