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Teenage Resistance Fighter with the Maquisards in Occupied France by Hubert Verneret

When Hitler invades Poland, 14-year old Hubert Verneret watches the French soldiers leaving South Morvan to fight, thinking that they will soon be marching victoriously through German cities. How little the Boy Scout knows! As the Germans march through France instead, he sees hordes of refugees fleeing their approach and he tries to help them. He also sees the French soldiers in a complete rout.

The brave young boy joins the Maquis and his adventures begin as he learns to shoot, attempts to prevent Germans retreating to the Rhine and looks for soldiers to take prisoner.  Much of his war, to his disappointment, consists of watching and waiting, and there is a nasty episode where he almost shoots one of his own.

This was written in the middle of the war and it provides a vivid picture of the suffering of the French and the courage of the Maquis and Resistance.  Some of the writing is quite beautiful and makes one wish that Verneret had written more books.  There are interviews with some…

To Light A Fire On The Earth. Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age. Bishop Robert Barron in conversation with John L. Allen, Jr.

When I went into a Catholic cathedral overseas a long time ago, someone started muttering about 'superstition and ignorance'. Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common view of Christianity and Catholicism in particular.  As Allen writes, Catholics 'have to cope with an elite snobbery that says religion is backward, benighted, superstitious, and dangerous...'  It's good, then, that Barron can actually stand up to the cleverest people of our increasingly secular world and argue about his beliefs in depth.
This book provides an interesting look at how Barron sees the Catholic faith, what he thinks about the Pope, and how to bring Catholics back into the fold.  He especially emphasizes showing someone the beauty of the Catholic world. He thinks that many people today find too much talk about 'truth' a turn-off.  Instead, it's more important to get them to look at the glorious Chartres Cathedral or Sainte Chapelle. Bishop Barron certainly has a wonderful …

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay Thomas Nelson--FICTION

When Mary Davies is offered the chance to go to a luxurious Jane Austen escape in a manor house near Bath by her best friend Isabel, she is reluctant to leave.  However, her father persuades her and she is having problems at work and with the man to whom she is attracted, so she seizes the opportunity after all.

Although the manor is beautiful and they like the other people, the 'sharp edges' of their friendship start to get in the way. Isabel's troubled childhood led Mary's parents to help her, and Mary has often felt jealous.  She also envies Isabel's attraction for men. Isabel even reminds her of the vain, sly and amoral Isabella in Northanger Abbey - not an ideal person to have for a friend! During the holiday, she discovers even more about the real Isabel, leading her to re-examine her life, her values, and what is truly important.

This is a moving and charming love story, but although I loved the way that Katherine Reay cleverly references Jane Austen stories…

Return to Shepherd Avenue by Charlie Carillo

Crowds gathered to watch the crazy man high up on Brooklyn Bridge. The police were called and people were terrified that he was going to jump.  Luckily, Joey Ambrosio just wanted to scatter his father's ashes, but the police still worried that he was mad.

People on Shepherd Avenue also thought that sixty-year old Joey was nuts when he bought his childhood home for too big a price, left his door unlocked and took the bars off the windows in a poor and crime-ridden neighbourhood.  However, after a troubled and peripatetic adolescence and an estrangement from his daughter, Joey feels the urge to return to the home where he lived with his uncle and grand-mother.

In this moving story, he finds old childhood friends, falls in love with a beautiful laundress and slowly starts to rebuild his life...

I enjoyed this very New York story by Charlie Carillo, but I wasn't sure about the author's attitude to age differences in romances.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in retur…

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

Brave Lucy and her brother Nick are in a terrible situation. They are involved in a long-standing lawsuit against their nasty family involving the ownership of a patent for valves. This has practically sent them penniless although they are both employed, and in their spare time they help the poor  by secretly installing the valves.

When Lucy, a telegraph operator at AP Press, discovers secrets about her family, the adventures start. Together with her young rival, Colin, who works at Reuters, she gets involved in dangerous situations - even ending up in an insane asylum at one stage! When they discover that Lucy's family may be even more evil than they thought, it's a race against time to stop a terrible assassination plot. Lucy has to struggle to keep the faith, however, there isn't much religion in this book.

Lucy and Colin were engaging characters and the historical setting was well-researched and interesting.  I found the story rather far-fetched, however, and I admit t…

Hank and Jim The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart by Scott Eyman Simon & Schuster Biographies & Memoirs

By Studio publicity still - [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14857265

An ageing Jimmy Stewart slowly walked up the hill every day to see his dying friend Henry Fonda. They didn't talk much, but they understood each other. Theirs was an unusual friendship between opposites. Stewart voted Republican while Fonda was a Democrat; Fonda wasn't religious and Stewart was; and Stewart had one long, happy and stable marriage while Fonda had five marriages. However, apart from some arguments along the way, their friendship lasted fifty years.

The friendship started when they met as young struggling actors, and it became deeper when they shared a house in NY and they were so poor that they practically lived on rice! They even fell in love with the same woman, the beautiful Maggie Sullivan, and both probably held a candle for her throughout their long lives. Fonda married her but the relationship was volatile and she soon left him for another man.

This b…

The Spirituality of Jane Austen by Paula Hollingsworth Lion Hudson Plc

This is an excellent book about Jane Austen's beliefs and how they affected her writing.

Paula Hollingsworth relates the story of Jane Austen's spiritual background, her loving family and her trials and tribulations.  A vicar's daughter, Austen's conservative and carefully considered Anglicanism was extremely important to her. She even wrote prayers from a young age!

Hollingsworth analyses the books thoroughly, telling how Jane Austen's Anglican values affected her characters and how her belief changed over time.  She was more attracted to the evangelical stream of the Anglican church when she wrote Mansfield Park, for example.  Hollingsworth's study of this book is especially good.

This is written in an interesting and lively manner and not at all dry.

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


The Potential Principle by Mark Sanborn

James Joyce wrote that: 'A man's errors are his portals of discovery'.  This inspiring book based on the Potential Matrix aims to show you how to use your mistakes to improve and how to decide what you need to do to develop a 'growth' mindset and not let disappointments weigh you down. As he writes, highly successful people are actually disappointed even more often than others. 'They just don't let disappointments bother them'.

Sanborn includes so much useful information in this book that it's hard to remember. I suggest that you keep a notebook beside you while reading it. He writes about the importance of finding purpose and thinking and evaluating . I especially likes his chapter on finding a quiet place to think and how to spot errors in thinking and the right way to focus.

He also writes about performance, and gives examples of how successful people improved their preparation. I liked the story of how he decided to become a better public speaker…

The Far Away Brothers Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham

Why do so many child migrants go to the United States? What struggles do they have to go through? Was it likely that they’d be able to stay? Lauren Markham set out to find the answers to these questions, and decided to use the example of thestory of the Flores brothers from El Salvador as an indication of their trials and tribulations. 
The town that the inseparable twins came from used to be beautiful, but now it was ruined by violent gangs. Even the brothers’ evil uncle had joined one. Their parents were struggling with poverty, large debts and illness. Life was incredibly tough, but the Flores’ older brother Wilbur had escaped to the US. Now Raul and Ernesto were thinking of joining him.
This book describes their terrifying and harrowing journey to the US. They had to endure lack of food and water in the desert, and other frightening experiences. Even when they finally reached the US, it was difficult to get legal representation and they had to learn English. Life with Wilbur wasn…

Vigil in the Night by AJ Cronin

I am a big fan of AJ Cronin, and this was a powerful medical story of self-sacrifice, redemption and love written in his inimitable style. Some nurses  have actually praised it in their Amazon reviews because it is so realistic, even today! I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as my all-time favourite Cronin book, however, my beloved The Keys of the Kingdom.  (This is one of the books which made me think about Catholicism).

The story concerns Anne, an excellent young nurse in a small town, who covers for her irresponsible little sister and consequently loses her job. She decides to leave and travel to Manchester where she finds herself working in a grim and dirty working-class hospital where the only interesting work is in Dr Presscott's operating theatre...She also has to cope with her unfriendly and sour colleagues and her sister's problems.

Although Anne is rather too saintly to be real, and the story is extremely harrowing, I found it riveting, probably because it was so w…

Why I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too) by Brandon Vogt

By User:MatthiasKabel (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When Brandon Vogt decided to turn Catholic, some of his friends and family were astonished. He was greeted with 'crickets and confusion'.  Vogt thinks that this is because it is 'countercultural' and provocative because it is travelling in the opposite direction to our Western culture. He argues that these days when practically anything is allowed, it is really the only way to rebel.  It's not rebellious anymore to get drunk, have sex, pursue money or turn atheist. As Vogt writes: 'What's truly radical is to consider a Church that billions of people have embraced throughout history but millions of people ttoday dismiss as bigoted and outdated'. He quotes G.K. Chesterton saying that the Catholic Church 'is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of h…

The Making of Jane Austen

Did you know that Jane Austen was a 'transnational' figure used in support of women's suffrage,' or that early twentieth century playwrights 'tweaked' her characters and plots to make them more 'feminist'? This interesting and well-researched book has these details and more.  The author looks at the history of illustrations of her novels, plays based on the novels and how they have been used in the education system.  Sometimes, Jane Austen has been seen as a traditional and pious, while at other times she has been seen as an author who wanted social change, especially for women. Her humour has often been seen as mild and gentle, but some have enphasized her biting wit and irony.

This is a good look by Devoney Looser at the different versions of Jane, but I did skim over some parts of it, and I found it a bit dry at times, although I enjoyed reading about the many fascinating people who have been involved in 'making Jane Austen,' such as the Aust…

I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott

Portrait of Mrs Alexander Hamilton by Ralph Earl
Although handsome and ambitious Alexander Hamilton was a ladies’ man, he wanted to marry a woman with character and wisdom as well as looks.  When he met charming Elizabeth Schuyler, he knew that he’d found her.  They were a perfect match.  She would be a courageous wife to the rising star of the developing nation through all the traumas of war, betrayals, scandal and illness. At one stage, she even showed great bravery when her parent’s home was under attack. ‘Betsy’ would also often have to look after the children while he spent long periods away.
Unfortunately, Hamilton’s brilliance caused jealousy and he also had a few flaws in his character which didn’t help his political career so  he unfortunately made several enemies. Elizabeth was also warned by her sister Angelica that Hamilton still had an eye for the ladies…She certainly had a lot to cope with but her life was never dull!
I had recently read a biography of the young Hamilto…

A Letter From Italy by Pamela Hart

Brindisi Cathedral
By Freddyballo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7331187

This beautifully written historical novel set in the dangerous Italy of World War One kept me riveted to the page. The story involves Rebecca, a young Australian war correspondent, who is in Brindisi with her handsome husband, Jack, who is also a journalist. When Jack sets off to chase stories, Rebecca wants to advance her career and she is anxious to write articles about the Royal Australian Navy which is stationed in Italy. Although she dislikes Sandro, an Italian-American photographer staying with his grandmother, at first, they start working on stories together and she soon finds herself increasingly attracted to him.  The problem is that they are both very Catholic and Rebecca is married… This was a moving love story and it became more exciting as Rebecca and Sandro look for a possible traitor in their midst and journey into war-ridden territory, as Italy is under …

How To Be A Catholic Hipster. The Catholic Hipster Handbook by Tommy Tighe Ave Maria Press

Do you know about all the coolest Catholic Twitterers, the best Catholic music, the loveliest prayers and the most interesting Catholic blogs? This handbook by Tommy Tighe will help you find all of these! It’s not just a frivolous guide, however. It also contains articles about important Catholic doctrines and history, and it’s worth keeping whether you are a cradle Catholic, a convert or even undecided! I greatly enjoyed it. I am not sure about going to a Tridentine Mass, however.  Although it sounds interesting, it’s a hard idea to get used to.  This section did remind me that my parents were shocked that the Mass was in Latin until recently, and I liked the thought of going to a service in Latin when I was a child!




I especially liked the fact that one of the authors reminded readers that the first duty of a Catholic (and, arguably all Christians) is to give. 


I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.
Paperback
ISBN9781594717079
PRICE$15.95 (USD)

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

When Kate becomes the lead counsel for a case against a Big Pharm company MPC which has allegedly been making migraine drugs causing brain tumours, she becomes involved in very dangerous situations and several mysteries. Who has killed the scientist who was going to be a witness in her case? Why are leading documents in the case going missing? When she starts getting physically attacked, she is forced to get security and finds herself attracted to Landon, who has his own security firm.  But Kate is so busy, her budding romance almost seems like another problem, especially when Landon isn’t a Christian like her…
Ethan, MPC’s leading defence lawyer, is a friend of Kate’s but is he willing to let ambition make him cross the line into unethical behaviour? At the very least, he wants to take advantage of her idealism and he knows that she does everything by the book.  He is put under great pressure by MPC. This is an exciting story which keeps one reading as Kate attempts to get to the tr…

A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility Jane of Austin by Hilary Manton Lodge

Jane and her two sisters Celia and Margaret have huge problems. Their father has skipped the country because of possible fraudulence and they are forced to close their beloved tea salon because they can't afford to pay the new landlord.  Their only hope is to take refuge with their cousins in Austin, Texas, a long way from beautiful San Francisco. Celia also still misses Teddy, her ex- boyfriend.

When Jane arrives in Austin to stay with her warm-hearted cousins,  she meets Callum, an war veteran who has lost his leg, and Sean, a handsome blond singer. Of course, she falls for Sean very quickly, but is he really what he seems...?
There is also the problem of finding a new property for their tea business.

This is a clever,  original and well-written modern American version of Sense and Sensibility written from the points of view of Jane and Callum, with tea quotes at the beginning of each chapter, recipes of Southern food and atmospheric descriptions of Texas.  Jane and Callum are b…

How to Listen So People Will Talk Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections by Becky Harling

Are you often distracted by social media when you should be listening? Do you sometimes look shocked when your child tries to tell you something important? Is it hard for you to handle conflict?
Then you need this book! As Maya Angelou said, 'The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear'.  Becky Harling has lots of excellent advice from a Christian perspective to help you improve your listening skills. She also fills the book with useful anecdotes, prayers and exercises. 
Harling writes about the importance of reflective listening.  This will help you to find hidden ulterior motives, such as jealousy or insecurity. She suggests asking yourself about your feelings and what you were looking for.  This is especially useful if you are inclined to offer unsolicited advice. This is very easy to do!
I found the chapter on conflict the most helpful.  Her advice includes finding a point of agreement, letting someone vent and asking for clarification.  Sometimes, y…

Alexander Hamilton's Revolution His Vital Role as Washington’s Chief of Staff by Phillip Thomas Tucker

Phillip Thomas Tucker restores Hamilton’s legacy in this timely book. Alexander Hamilton was an illegitimate child from a poor background in the West Indies who had a troubled youth, yet he rose to great heights in colonial America and played a big part in the Revolution. ‘Irrepressible and brilliant’, the young man became Washington’s unofficial chief of staff, liaised with the French, including Lafayette, and provided important military  advice to Washington and to Congress. Hamilton also fought in the Revolutionary Wars and  finally gained ‘battlefield glory’ in the most crucial victory of the war. The young lawyer who spoke fluent French unfortunately made many enemies, including General Lee (Robert E. Lee’s father) and, famously, Aaron Burr.

This interesting and detailed book which describes Hamilton's rise to power, his friendship with Washington, and his frustration about being trapped in his position is well-worth reading if you like American history and biographies. It…

A New England Affair by Steven Carroll

This is a luminous and beautifully written novel about Emily Hale and her love for 'Boston Tom', i.e. the famous poet T.S. Eliot.  This is part of a series about the couple by Steven Carroll and this one is just as good as the one I read years ago.
Tom and Emily famously enacted a scene from Jane Austen in the early twentieth century  and fell in love,  but Tom went to England and suddenly married someone else without even telling Emily. The marriage was extremely unhappy to say the least and Tom and Emily started meeting again secretly in England and the USA.


By Thomas Stearns Eliot with his sister and his cousin by Lady Ottoline Morrell.jpg: Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873–1938)derivative work: Octave.H - Thomas Stearns Eliot with his sister and his cousin by Lady Ottoline Morrell.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7748785
Steven Carroll has created a deeply sympathetic character in Emily, who struggles with her love for Tom, wondering if there is &…

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books by Marta McDowell

This is a lovely companion to the Little House on the Prairie books which shows Laura's love of nature, including the beautiful flowers and abundance of wildlife in the American West, and describes the history of the family's journey to the West.  The author also writes about her own relationship with nature and her search for Laura's past. The gorgeous illustrations and photos help readers imagine Laura's life.

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

Free Speech on Campus by Erwin Chemerinsky, Howard Gillman Yale University Press

This is a clear, well-written,  thoroughly researched and persuasive book about the importance of free speech on campus and the idea that places of higher education should encourage independent thought and the ability to challenge ideas.  It is quite academic and the authors go into some detail about the meaning of the First Amendment, the history of free speech, the definition of hate speech, protests and the modern liking of students for trigger warnings.

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

Your Shelf Victoria & Abdul (Movie Tie-in) : The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant Shrabani Basu

The Munshi by Rudolf Swoboda

Abdul Karim felt very excited when he first stepped on England's shores. Only 24, he had been chosen to be one  of Queen Victoria's Indian servants.  He soon introduced her to the colour and glamour of this 'Jewel in the Crown' by making her curries, teaching her Urdu and telling her stories about his homeland.  She quickly made him an unofficial 'secretary' and he helped her with her paperwork and even began meeting powerful people.  She lavished her Munshi and his family with attention giving them several houses in the UK and extensive lands in India. The Queen also conferred several medals and honours on handsome Abdul,took him on many trips to Europe with her Household, and had his portrait painted by famous artists. She even discussed Indian politics with him!

The Queen's family and staff were mostly horrified by all this attention being given to a lowly Indian clerk and feared that he would become another John Brown.  The…

As I Saw It A Reporter’s Intrepid Journey by Marvin Scott

This is a fascinating book about Scott's many years of reporting.  He tells how he met and liked JFK, Marilyn Monroe and many other famous people.  He also includes harrowing stories of injustice, for example, his account of Isidore Zimmerman, who came within two hours of dying in the electric chair for a crime which he didn't commit and spent many years in jail and  the civil rights protests of Martin Luther King.  He writes about spending Christmases with the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.Scott knows how to tell a good story and even bring a tear to the eye!

Scott includes articles which will help aspiring journalists, for example, about doing interviews and other important aspects of the profession.  This part of the book may not be as interesting for the general reader.

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

EDITIONHardcoverISBN9780825308420PRICE$26.95 (USD)

Train to Nowhere One Woman's War, Ambulance Driver, Reporter, Liberator by Anita Leslie

According to the Introduction to this book, this story is one of 'dancing among the skulls'. We certainly don't know that we're alive compared with the brave women who volunteered for roles in the World Wars, such as Anita Leslie who worked as an ambulance driver in France.  She certainly had a tough time, for example, she found herself on 'a road strewn for half a mile with dead bodies and blown-up carts' when driving a wounded little girl to the hospital.  She watched soldiers die in a 'sea of red snow' and heard dreadful stories about German atrocities, such as thier shooting the inhabitants of every house that had hung our French flags when they retook Metz'.  Nothing could have prepared her for the horror of the concentration camps, however.

It is not all grim reading. Leslie manages to invariably keep her spirits up under the most trying circumstances, and she includes humorous anecdotes, including the story of Miranda who would escape from th…

Doorkins the Cathedral Cat by Lisa Gutwein

Southwark Cathedral by Night, Carlos Delgado; CC-BY-SA"
I have met Doorkins, the regal but friendly cat at Southwark Cathedral, and I am sure that she would be very pleased with this beautiful book by Lisa Gutwein!
Doorkins, a ginger feral cat, turned up on the doorstep of the Cathedral years ago and never left.  This book describes her charming life accompanied by colourful and vivid images by Rowan Ambrose. Doorkins certainly has an interesting time.  She has met the Queen and the Bishop. Indeed, she loves to sit in the Bishop's special chair! She is a regular congregant and she attends weddings. Doorkins has a special place at this Cathedral (one of my favourites) where so many have found refuge.
This is a lovely gift for children.  My great-niece and great-nephew are a bit old for picture books, unfortunately, but I am certainly thinking of buying it for them!
I received this free ebook from edelweiss.abovethetreeline.net in return for an honest review.

Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins

When Tolkien began a new book called The New Hobbit, he got stuck after he'd written a few chapters. He asked his good friend C.S. Lewis to lunch and told him his problem.

Lewis told him that 'hobbits are only interesting when they're in un-hobbit like situations'.

Without that statement, we may never have had The Lord of the Rings! Jeff Goins uses this anecdote to show the importance of collaboration, one of his suggestions for pursuing a career as an artist. This book is full of wise advice, including how essential it is for artists to find their 'tribe,' to get the help of a mentor, and to be stubborn and take the right risks.  He illustrates his chapters on these subjects with examples of successful people and stories from his own career. For example, when he began his career as a writer, the novelist Steven Pressfield told him that you are a writer 'when you say you are'. He then put the word 'writer' on his business cards and email signatu…

Edward VII The Prince of Wales and the Women He Loved by Catharine Arnold

Actress and socialite Lillie Langtry photographed by William Downey (1829-1915).

This book is full of gossip and scandal and great fun to read! There is much less about Edward VII than there is about his mistresses, however, and they were certainly a fascinating lot.  There was the dashing Jersey Lily who eventually became an actress and hated the 'dreary rehearsals' in a 'cold and darkened theatre and Jennie Churchill who was 'too shrewd to be explicit about their relationship'. (I read in her niece's book, however, that she sometimes wondered why the room was so dark and perfumed when she entered it after the Prince visited!) The list also included the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt who kept a cheetah, a wolfhound, and chamelons on her shoulder which changed colour to suit her gowns and Countess Daisy who became a socialist after a newspaper editor explained the uselessness of costume balls as a method of providing work for the 'masses'.   There were a…

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis Ave Maria Press

There are more editions and translations of this Christian classic than any other work of Christian literature, and it has given strength to many famous people over the years, including Dietrich Bonheoffer and Edith Cavell. Maggie Tulliver in The Mill on the Floss thought that it turned 'bitter waters into sweetness'. I have always thought that it would be a bit daunting to read but Dr Creasy's wonderful translation makes it accessable and easy to understand although I found it best to read a little bit at a time!

This classic is meant to accompany a person on his or her spiritual journey through life but it is not altogetherr comforting.  A Kempis discusses, it is not easy to follow the Cross and it can mean endurance and suffering. However, it also brings the 'peace beyond understanding'.  This little book is full of wisdom, such as the importance of avoiding becoming emotionally or spiritually dependent on other people, avoiding gossip and idle chatter and bein…

Buddwing A Novel by Evan Hunter

This is a weird tale about a handsome man in his thirties who wakes up in Central Park with amnesia and meets a succession of strange women.  He starts to think that he has escaped from the mental hospital and he becomes increasingly haunted by his memories which leave him on the verge of discovering his real identity.  There are a lot of holes in this frenzied story but it kept me reading, and I will certainly read some of Hunter's other books, although there was one scene which was a bit shocking.

What I liked best about this book were the luminous descriptions of New York.  It was almost like a love letter to the city as Buddwing travels though it during the course of one day.

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

Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva

I am reasonably interested in  Marlene Dietrich but this biography written by her daughter was just too long and detailed, so I didn't finish it.

Also, it rather turned me off this star.  She was extremly possessive of her daughter and didn't want her to have lessons. Instead, Maria spent most of her time on set assisting her mother with costumes and advice.  Dietrich was also bad-tempered and inclined to put Maria down.  She gave her an enjoyable childhood in some ways, but I also got the impression that the oddness of Maria's experiences understandably embittered her for life. For example, Dietrich's husband's mistress lived with them in the same house much of the time and Dietrich would discuss her lovers with her husband! It's probably not strange for Hollywood but it would be hard to come to terms with such  a difficult upbringing



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

Strrength , Personality and Grace. The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane von Furstenberg

By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Common

Diane von Furstenberg's definition of beauty is strength and personality. The beautiful designer certainly has plenty of both! This autobiography is filled with wisdom and grace which makes it a must-read, especially for budding dress designers and fans of her gorgeous dresses.

The designer owes much of her strength and resilience to her wonderfully courageous mother who suffered in a Auschwitz but never showed any bitterness and looked for the good in everything and everyone.  When Diane' s mother had a problem, she looked for a way around it and found a different path to a solution which was so satisfying that she forgot what the problem was in the first place! Her mother taught her not to blame anyone else for her problems and to turn negatives into positives.  She set a fine example, so that Diane could become the woman she wanted to be.

Although Diane marri…

Penance of the Damned by Peter Tremayne

When Segdae, the Abbot of Imleach and adviser to Sister Fidelma's brother, the King, is murdered, she is sent to investigate with her husband Eadulf.  Gorman, the head of the King's guards, has been accused of the crime and the Ui Fidgente religious demand ritual execution in accordance with the new rules of the Penitentials, written by the Desert Fathers.

When Sister Fidelma and Eadulf travel intio Ui fidgente territory, they find a can of worms. How can they prove Gorman's innocence when the murder was committed in a locked room and he is seemingly the only one who could be guilty. How do they deal with Abbot Nannid, who is determined to impose the rule of the Penitentials and frightens everyone into submission?

Abbot Segdae's murder sets off a chain of murders and the couple have a difficult time trying to discover the truth of the situation.

Sister Fidelma and Eadulf are very likeable and professional and Celtic law and society are fascinating. Peter Tremayne alway…

Make Space by Regina Wong

I will definitely be buying this book! It is full of helpful tips about decluttering, meditation, gratitude and, generally living a more peaceful life.  I especially found the sections about decluttering books and paper useful. It is hard to keep only those books that you love and will reread when you have a whole lot of unread ones, however! Wong probably doesn't say anything new about decluttering but she does tell you how she deals with 'stuff' and I liked her suggestions.

She even has a section on budgeting which can be summarised by Oscar Wilde's advice: 'When you only have two pennies left in the world, spend on on bread and the other on a lily.' He valued the need to eat, but he also wanted beauty.  Wong sets out how to budget in a minimalist manner.

I also liked the sections on finding one's passion and putting all the advice together. Wong's story of how she found her passion is interesting and I also liked her advice about letting go, dealin…

Eight is Enough A Father's Memoir of Life with his Extra Large Family by Tom Braden

(The cast of the TV series 'Eight is Enough,' Wikipedia)

I would love to have a big family and I enjoyed this series, but, unfortunately, I found this book a bit dull and polemical.  I wanted to know more about the children and less about the differences between the generations.  I did think that it would be more of an amusing and light book.

However, I really enjoyed reading about the famous people who Braden and his wife knew.  For example, they were good friends of the Kennedys - Jackie and Joan (Braden's wife) seemed to be especially close.  There was also a fascinating anecdote about Rosa Lewis and the old Cavendish Hotel.

Braden's book about his time in the OSS might be more interesting.

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

After Many Years Twenty - One "Long Lost" Stories by L.M. Montgomery by Carolyn Strom & Christy Woster

Sand Dunes on P. E. I. (Wikipedia)

This collection of short stories by L.M. Montgomery isn't as enjoyable as the novels but it does have Montgomery's charm and magic. Filled with unusual characters and descriptions of the beauty of Prince Edward Island, they are a joy to read. Any Montgomery fan will want to read them.

There's the naughty orphan boy who makes friends with the old judge, old Miser Tom who sits under the apple tree, the strange and messy family who provide their judgemental neighbours with a wonderful dinner and the matchmaker who uses reverse psychology to get a young couple together.
These are just some of the memorable characters in these stories.  Montgomery has an almost mystical relationship with nature so even trees, such as the apple tree, become like people in her stories.

I prefer her series, but I have always loved L M Montgomery's stories as well so it was wonderful to find a new collection.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in retu…

How To Color Like An Artist Instructions for Blending, Shading and Other Techniques by Veronica Winters

This is an excellent introduction to using coloured pencils by artist Veronica Winters. She recommends the best pencils and paper to buy, explains techniques, such as rubbing and shading, and textures and provides lots of step-by-step demonstrations. It is probably better to buy the printed version unless you are used to printing pages from ebooks.

Winters also provides tutorials and video demonstrations at her website. Most of them cost a small amount of money.

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

EDITIONPaperbackISBN9780486813677PRICE$19.95 (USD)

God Moments Unexpected Encounters in the Ordinary by Andy Otto

I went to a service in Exeter's beautiful cathedral last Easter where I listened to a brilliant service partly about  finding God in the moment.  It was an extremely cultured presentation, however, and a bit difficult at times. I would like to read it!

This book is a clearer and simpler extension of the subject and not just for Catholics, although it is certainly written from a Catholic perspective and based on St Ignatius's system of prayer.  The most important principle of Ignatian spirituality is finding God in all things.    helps readers to do that and uses anecdotes to show how this has helped him during his life.

Many suggestions in God Moments involve using steps. For example, Otto lists the way to make an important decision using Ignatian spirituality. He also writes about St Ignatius's famous Examen in detail, explaining all the stages required to complete this each day. I found the firs part of this very helpful - asking God for a grace in the morning. It's…

Illuminating Women in the Medieval World by Christine Sciacca

Christine de Pisan educating women. http://bcm.bc.edu/issues/winter_2010/endnotes/an-educated-lady.html

This is a beautiful book which is worth buying for the luminous images of the medieval manuscripts but it is also a fascinating look into the world of the women in this era.

Medieval women are usually thought of as being  idle and wealthy, damsels in distress, nuns or prostitutes. The truth is very different. Women played a big role in the economy. Merchant's wives sold their crafts at markets and participated in the trade of goods and poor man's wives worked in the fields. Aristocratic women often commissioned manuscripts, became patrons of art and the higher-ranking ones even played a part in negotiations. Saint Hedwig, for example, had seven children, assisted her husband, a former duke, with peace negotiations, and after she and her husband made vows of chastity, she sponsored religious houses and cared for the poor.  She is also supposed to have performed miracles so s…

It's Always Summer Somewhere. Lilly. Palm Beach, Tropical Glamour and the Birth of a Fashion Legend by Kathryn Livingston

By WestportWiki (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Lilly Pulitzer should have had the world at her feet- she had a wonderful husband who was also handsome and wealthy and much-loved children - however, she found herself suffering a nervous breakdown in a New York institution. She married young and eloped, thinking that it would 'be just another adventure,' however, she started to find marriage difficult and the heat and humidity of Florida wore her down.  After a few months there, the psychiatrist told her that there was nothing wrong with her and she just needed to find something to do! 
This was hard because she dropped out of college and she had an extremely privileged background although she had worked as a volunteer for the Frontier Nursing Service in Kentucky which was very tough. Lilly had to travel long distances in mountainous terrain riding a mule or a horse and assist at home births in this wild hinterla…