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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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 the camp for a night out by digging in the sand under the barbed wire fence in a silver evening dress. She also writes about visiting the great Winston Churchill, her cousin, who sent the French 'his love'.

Anita Leslie has a rather breathless, fast-paced style which is very engaging and suits the story.  She seems to have been extremely likeable as well as wonderfully courageous. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre by General de Gaulle.

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


Friday, August 18, 2017

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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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 signature and told people that he was a writer. He also started writing every day and treating it as a job.

I did find some of the examples rather daunting, such as Michelangelo and Ernest Hemingway. This could put readers off because they might think that they will never reach the level of these artists. However, Goins also uses the examples of much less famous people, and they are not all 'artists' in the usual sense. For instance, Zach Prichard hated the thought that his favourite author might not be able to turn his memoir into a feature film so he began a crowd funding campaign.  It took enormous effort but he raised the money. This began his own successful career.

This is an extremely useful book to read for anyone interested in a career in the arts but it might be a good idea to take notes. I highly recommend it.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

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 also Agnes Keyser, a rather moral nurse from a privileged background, and the ravishing Alice Keppel with her curvacous figure and 'superabundent vitality', the legacy of her Greek grandmother.

Catherine Arnold does get Bertie's character exactly right.  He could be very ruthless, for example, he ignored one poor former mistress who tried to blackmail him about a failed abortion, and he treated poor Harriet Mordaunt and Gordon Cummings abominably.  He was a womaniser and a gambler.  However, he was strongly against racism, and he was 'a man of sensitivity' who rejoiced in his friend's triumphs and wept at their sorrows. He was apparently 'hard to know and not love'.

I didn't notice anything especially new in this book and the sometimes blunt statements annoyed me. For example, Arnold writes that Jennie Churchill had 200 lovers - she is alleged to have had them.  However, it was very engaging and I could never read enough about Edward VII!

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

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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 being a busybody.  Love, humility, solitude and calmness are all essential themes.

Parts of this book were written specifically for those in orders. Sometimes, they are still useful, however.

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

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Friday, August 11, 2017

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.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Kennedy Imprisonment A Meditation on Power by Garry Wills Open Road Integrated Media

I love to read about the Kennedys but I found this book a bit dry and I didn't finish it.

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.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

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 married a prince and mixed with the jet set (she is quite a name dropper!), she has had a difficult life.  She had a surprisingly hard time even setting up her fashion business and the company faced huge losses at times. At one stage, she had four million dollars of dead inventory and in the 1980s she was horrified to find out that the company owed the bank ten million dollars! Not only this, but she had to fight cancer during one awful period of her life. It's a great book to read if you need a lesson in resilience

The designer also writes about the famous people she has known, her marriage to the prince and her boyfriends and children.  I thought that she wrote a few too many details about her boyfriends! The glamorous side of the fashion business sounds like fun but she certainly had to work amazingly hard, even though her marriage gave her a headstart.

I enjoyed this book, although I found it a bit long and technical at times. II really liked her intimacy with the reader which can  be quite endearing, for example, I loved this fact. When Diane lacks confidence in her life, she straightens her hair! When she is confident, she lets it be naturally frizzy! That is one in the eye for all the straighteners.

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






Tuesday, July 25, 2017

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 always tells a great tale, and this is another excellent addition to the Sister Fidelma mysteries.

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

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, dealing with stress and considering the worst that can happen.  She also provides a useful list of resources and notes.

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

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 return for an honest review.

EDITION  Paperback
ISBN         9781771084994
PRICE      $21.95 (CAD)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

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.

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Saturday, July 08, 2017

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 certainly a lovely and soothing way to start the day when you remember to do it!

Many religious books are quite heavy and boring, I am sorry to say. This one is well-written, profound and interesting, and I actually enjoyed it!

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

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Friday, July 07, 2017

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 she became a saint.

Some women, such as Christine de Pisan, Helouise and Hildegarde of Bingen, also played important roles in the arts. Christine de Pisan and Helouise wrote while Hildegarde composed wonderful music, amongst other things. Other women illuminated manuscripts themselves or had their own images or words placed in works that they commissioned.

This book covers a wide range of topics, such as how women were viewed, the ideal women,'bad' women and marriage and courtly love. Each chapter contains manuscripts illustrating these subjects.  Although piety and obedience were regarded as virtues, I liked the fact that strong-willed and courageous Biblical women, such as Judith who slayed an Assyrian general in his sleep to save her people, were also greatly admired.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in medieval women.

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


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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 hinterland.

Her husband grew orange trees in Florida and Lilly came up with the idea of selling orange juice from a stall in a swish street in Palm Beach. She also delivered oranges to back doors of houses which she was accustomed to entering from the front! Beautiful and dark-haired, Lilly looked like a barefoot Gauguin princess as she made the orange juice. She was friendly and approachable so all the wealthy shoppers stopped to chat and buy some juice.

It was uncomfortable selling orange juice in the heat and Lilly was inclined to spill it so she designed a brightly coloured printed dress that wouldn't show the stains! So many women asked her about the dress that she started selling them and the 'Lilly' was born. Soon, Lilly was able to get her sister, who had more experience in fashion, to help her and she was also assisted by famous artists. She opened her own boutique and when her old friend Jackie Kennedy started wearing Lilly dresses, the business really took off. The dresses even sold in the winters. As Lilly said: "It's always summer somewhere!"

Lilly Pulitzer's story reads like a fairy-tale, although she certainly had her share of problems. I really enjoyed this book with its fascinating history of Palm Beach and Lilly Pulitzer's success, however, I did feel that the author was a bit too impressed with incredible wealth and glamorous parties at times.  

I certainly want a Lilly dress myself now, but it will have to be a maxi, unfortunately!

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




Friday, June 23, 2017

Living the Good Life in New York. The Heirs by Susan Rieger

Eleanor has a calm and wealthy life in New York - she is happily married to a sophisticated and successful Cambridge-educated lawyer and they have five well-educated and urbane sons. When Rupert (Eleanor's husband) dies at the 'young' age of sixty-five, a woman shows up claiming to be his ex-mistress with two sons who are allegedly his children.  This plays havoc with family relationships and affects them all in different ways. Harry's accusing attitude towards his mother especially shocks his brothers.

This is mainly the story of Eleanor and Rupert's pasts and their marriage, as well as the tale of Sam, their gay son. Rieger contrasts Eleanor's privileged and stable background with Rupert's difficult rise from being a clever boy in a nasty English orphanage who even had a hard time in a cheap boarding house in New York working as a bartender. Rupert was helped by an Anglican minister. (I didn't think that this priest's practice of flagellation was realistic, even in those days. It was usually a Catholic practice).

The book also covers Eleanor's ex-boyfriend Jim and his wife, Anne.  I didn't find this part of the book as interesting, and I also thought that the book perhaps involved too many characters. Eleanor and Rupert's story  was the most engaging although Rupert's past was pretty sordid and his time in New York - the boarding house and the precocious teenage girl - seemed rather cliched and old-fashioned, but also true to life.

This is a modern Edith Wharton-like story of relationships which gives the reader a lot of things to ponder about relevant issues. For example, San's friendship with Susanna, who is in love with him, is not unusual. How will this be solved? How will the brothers deal with the alleged ex-mistress of their father?

Some reviewers have criticised Susan Rieger's writing as being too 'wordy' but I liked her style of writing, and I liked reading about the Falkes's sophisticated and intellectual New York life and the twists and turns of their relationships. Reading about Rupert's childhood was depressing but his rags-to-riches story and how he achieved it was enjoyable.

I am going to read Susan Rieger's first novel now.

I received this free ebook from Crown Publishing through Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pondering the Reflections of Life and the Reflections of Love By Patricia Louise

This book is filled with sweet and uplifting poems, prayers and thoughts for each day. I liked it but I have read better books in a similar vein, so I am not sure whether I would actually buy it.

I didn't finish this book because I felt that it wasn't what I needed.

I received this free ebook from Book Look Bloggers in return for an honest review.

52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol by Bob Welch

I was really enjoying this insightful book by Bob Welch with its anecdotes about Dickens and its analysis of the characters and story and how we can learn from them,  but there was something wrong with the download, unfortunately, so I couldn't finish it.

I received this free ebook from Book Look Bloggers in return for an honest review.

A Selfish Plan To Change The World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems by Justin Dillon

This is an inspiring book about finding a cause and creating change.

In the first and second parts of the book Dillon delves into the psychology of creating meaning in our lives and why helping a cause which we are passionate about is actually selfish.  He discusses how many people are tempted by comfort and entertainment and putting 'survival and control' over meaning. This is because lots of us want to actually contribute to a cause by using our skills instead of just donating money.

He tells his own story about why he decided to start a campaign against slavery and he provides many examples of people who also found their passion in helping others.  These include Billie Holiday who sang a famous song about lynching of African Americans in the Deep South and William Blake who who wrote poems about the terrible poverty of nineteenth century England.  He also gives modern examples.  These people found what Dillon calls their 'riot' (the cause to which they want to dedicate their lives) and found  what they were 'born to do'.

The problem with this book, I felt, was that the last part was rather vague about how to use your talents and education to carry this out.  It's probably easy enough for most readers to find something which they really want to change but it's difficult to start a charity or a foundation or even make people more aware of important issues.  I didn't really feel that this part of the book helped me that much.

I received this free ebook from Book Look Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Web of Friendship Selected Letters (1928-1973) by Christina Stead

A character in a story by Jame's Joyce wanted 'real adventures'.  He reflected that real adventures 'do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad'.  Christina Stead, an ambitious young writer, also went abroad in search of adventures that couldn't be found in the provincial Australia of the 20s, although she longed to come back when she was older.

She writes luminious letters full of life about her adventures in Europe and America, which are full of life and discuss almost everything under the sun, including her impressions of London, Paris and New York, philosophy, politics and books.  In one letter she relates a dinner in Paris with a Serbian anarchist poet hailed by Picasso and an Emir, the head of a famous Arabian family, people she would not be likely to meet in Sydney.

I like her descriptions of the sights and the food the best, however.  Even though she dislikes London, she still writes about the squares in autumn in an almost loving way.  She loves the 'millions of light fluttering leaves --limes, plane-trees and beeches'.  She recounts the food and drink that she buys in Paris which includes unsalted butter, Russian herrings and halva and cheap white Burgundy wine.

She also writes about life with her gentlemanly husband, an American Marxist financier - a rather strange combination - and the books she is writing.  I haven't read any of Christina Stead's books, partly because some of them sounded pretty depressing.  However, if the books are better than these letters, I will put them on my TBR list!

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

EDITION  Paperback
ISBN         9780522862041
PRICE      $24.99 (AUD)


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Light-Hearted Quest by Ann Bridge


High Atlas, Morocco by Nouari0 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Common

This is the first book in a series about Julia Probyn, an intrepid woman who becomes involved in solving mysteries. When Julia's cousin Colin disappears, his unhappy family decide to send her on a quest to find him. They are sure that he's still alive and safe but they find his actions odd. His sister Edina is especially upset and annoyed because she has to leave her highly-paid advertising career to take care of the Scottish estate.

Julia may look like a 'dumb blonde' (the author's words) but she is an extremely clever and practical young journalist who can charm anybody, including her long list of boyfriends
who appear to propose at the drop of a hat! Julia discovers that Colin is in Morocco, perhaps smuggling, and sets off on a small, rather dirty boat that is not at all what she is used to! However, she makes the best of it and she soon becomes friends with the crew, especially a helpful officer, Mr. Reeder.

She is able to use her journalism as a cover in Morocco and she also obtains a job as a secretary to a rather eccentric archeologist. Julia's journey takes her all over Morocco and she certainly has to keep all her wits about her because she doesn't know who she can trust! However, she has a good time along the way - this book actually made me hungry at times because Julia  has delicious French food in some fine restaurants and always manages to find excellent picnic lunches as well! She also spends a lot of time in a bar trying to obtain information from the owner.

The Light-Hearted Quest is a travelogue as well as a mystery story. Bridge's descriptions of Morocco are colourful and vivid and she includes lots of interesting historical information, especially about the Phoenicians and Romans.  Anyone who reads it will want to go to Morocco.

This book was written in the 70s and, be warned, it's not politically correct.  None of this worried me, except for the anti-Semitism, which I found rather shocking.  Bridge praises the French colonists highly which may not go down well with some readers. I didn't know much about Moroccan history and the book has made me more interested in it.

I really enjoyed this rather frivolous story with its likeable heroine, interesting characters, exotic setting and its touch of romance.  I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

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


Monday, June 05, 2017

What Regency Women Did For Us by Rachel Knowles

Maria_Edgeworth_by_John_Downman_1807

This is an enjoyable and enlightening read for fans of the Regency or British history.  Rachel Knowles's lively and entertaining style makes thes interesting women come to life.  These enterprising women include Eleanor Code who had her own business manufacturing artificial stone, Caroline Herschel who was the first woman to discover a comet and the novelist Maria Edgeworth.  In a time when women had few basic rights and intellectual women were regarded in a derogatory manner, these women managed to have their own careers and overcome many obstacles.

I especially liked reading about Eleanor Code who even manufactured stone for King George III.

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

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Paperback

ISBN9781473882249

PRICE£12.99 (GBP)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Always in Fashion by Albert Geiger

I hadn't heard of Bert Geiger but I liked the photos of his dress designs when I looked him up.  This long book tells the story of his successes and failures in the fashion world, and it certainly sounds like a hard life.  Luckily, Bert had a resilient and optimistic character and he was able to pick himself up again fairly rapidly most of the time.  He needed every ounce of these qualities.

He is a very engaging person, judging by this autobiography, but he is also searingly honest about his being raised a Catholic and how this affected his relationships,and the troubles caused by the rebellion of his children who appeared to 'begin the Sixties revolution!' The book has some strange anecdotes about his time in India, as well.

This is fairly technical so I sometimes found it a bit dull, but I would recommend it for any budding fashion designers.

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

Ilsa by Madeleine L'Engle

Although I liked L'Engle's writing, I just skimmed the end of this book.  This melodramatic story of a young man's infatuation for his lively and beautiful distant cousin seemed to go on and on in no clear direction. The tale of this family with secrets in the 'Deep South' was atmospheric but the descriptions of the scenery and old houses were more realistic than the actual characters, I thought.

This is L'Engle's earliest novel, so I will read more of her adult fiction.

I received this ebook from Open Road Integrated Media via Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Life after Heaven by Steven R. Musick

Steven Musick is well-named because he translates the music of heaven into music on earth by helping others. Whether you believe his incredible story of experiencing the beauty of heaven or not, there is no doubt that it profoundly changed his life and it inspired him to do much good.  He tells this story in the hope that he can assist others to improve their lives and be more giving.

After a fairly traumatic but Anglican childhood, Musick was happily married and on his way to great success. He was going to train to be an officer in the U.S. navy and a SEAL. However, after receiving a swine flu vaccination from a bad batch and suffering an allergic reaction to the chemical that was supposed to cure him, he went into a coma for five weeks! During the coma, he writes that he went to heaven and he didn't want to come back.

After this, he continued to be very ill and this ruined his naval career.  He had a difficult time picking himself up again, but he became a successful financial adviser. He also found a church that he enjoyed and he eventually even became miraculously cured. He also concentrated on helping others and trying to experience some of the power of  heaven on earth, and he was eventually inspired to tell his story.

This is a memorable book. Although it is simply written, Musick's advice to readers is quite profound and needs to be though through.

I received this free ebook from www.booksforbloggers.com in return for an honest review.

Images of the Past: The British Seaside by Lucinda Gosling

This delightful book with its images of the seaside will take you into a world of nostalgia, gaudiness and even glamour.  There are photographs, posters, cartoons and paintings of every different aspect of the British enjoying coastal resorts in bygone days, such as the transport, the entertainment and the fashions, as well as the cliched scenes of happy families and children building sandcastles. Some of the pictures are amusing, such as the ladies wearing string vests on their heads, the men in suits on hot summer days and the lady in beach pyjamas which look home-made. The writing is interesting and easy-to-read and the captions are extremely detailed.

I especially liked the information and images of the resorts in Edwardian times, such as the Punch and Judy shows and the Pierrot shows. There were also glamorous buildings in some of the resorts, where a wide variety of entertainment could be found. Tower Ballroom at Blackpool with its dance floor of mahogany, oak  and walnut looks spectacular. The white turrets of Spanish City also look inviting, and this unusual building in Whiteley Bay also offered lots of shows. It inspired Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits's song 'Tunnel of Love!'

Unfortunately, some of these attractive towns have suffered from a decline in recent years. However, a regeneration project is enabling restoration of the famous dome of Spanish City, and there are other signs of new life. Hopefully, this book will help. If I were English, it would certainly inspire me to visit many of these towns!

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

EDITION
Paperback
ISBN9781473862159
PRICE£14.99 (GBP)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Valancy's Blue Castle. The Blue Castle by L.M.Montgomery

This book may not be as memorable as the Anne or Emily novels, but L.M. Montgomery still weaves her famous magic into this lovely story.

The heroine, Valancy, is 29, living at home and considered an 'old maid'.  She is downtrodden by her rather nasty family - even her mother is quite cold and sulks when she is opposed - and she seems to be completely lacking in spirit. She even hates her bedroom and its view over the railway station with its derelicts and flappers.  Valancy feels that she is  'lonely, undesired, ill-favoured - the only homely girl in a handsome clan, with no past and no future...' She is even called Doss by many of her relatives, a name which she understandably hates.

The only joys that Valancy has are dreaming of her Blue Castle in Spain and reading John Foster's books which describe the beauty of the Canadian countryside in a dreamy manner. It is not his descriptions of nature which interest her, however. She feels that he writes as if he is searching for an elusive and indefinable mystery.

When Dr Trent tells Valancy that she has a fatal disease, she begins to rebel. After all, if she is about to die, why should she care what people think or be afraid of them? She tells her family what she thinks of them, to their great shock, and she finds new friends. She even moves out, and then she meets wild Barney Snaith with his kind heart and bad reputation with women...Will Valancy finally find her Blue Castle?

I loved this book, and I could read it again and again! Valancy and Barney are such likeable characters, and the hypocrisy and bossy attitudes of Valancy's materialistic family is described perfectly. The beautiful Canadian setting is almost a character in itself.

If you like L.M. Montgomery, you will probably enjoy The Blue Castle.

I read this for the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge 2017 - I know that it's late!


Monday, May 15, 2017

The Tower by Marguerite Steen

This was a very strange and miserable story, although the Riviera setting brightened the second part of the book a little. The main character, Tom, is a struggling artist with a wife who he loves very much and a severely disabled child.  He can’t seem to get ahead no matter what he does and looking after the child is ruining their marriage. Antonia eventually gives him a lecture because he doesn’t want to take a job on the Riviera painting a tower in the mountains for an odd, egotistical French artist called Mesurat.

When circumstances change, Tom finds himself near Nice surrounded by the weird cronies of Mesurat, such as the calculating Comtesse with her frilly dresses and plimsolls.  But he also finds some inspiration in the beauty and serenity of the scenery which gives his painting new life, until a tragedy occurs…

This was written in a rather angry and bitter way a lot of the time, I found. In fact, the story involved a controversial modern issue and it was polemical, I thought.  But Steen’swriting is very good. I especially liked her ability to sum up minor characters in a few words. For example, she writes that the young painters who offered to help Tom, ‘flamed with enthusiasm like a pair of Roman candles.’
The politics of the book annoyed me somewhat. Steen certainly makes her feelings about the overpowering Welfare State and the coming Age of the Machine known! I didn’t think that these issues really had that much to do with the story, and that these were Steen’s personal views!
It was an interesting and unusual novel, however, so I would like to read more by this author.


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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding Freedom in Fashion. Freedom Is Fashion by Tala Raassi

Tala Raassi had an idyllic childhood in Iran but it was always under the shadow of the oppressive government, Under the Republic, women had to wear the hibjab, alcohol was banned and clubs were shut down and there were several other restrictions.  The religious police stopped women on the street for wearing lipstick or showing a bit of their hair.  Tala chafed under this regime and she was horrified to discover herself in a nasty jail and sentenced to 40 lashes for wearing a mini-skirt! This horrific experience started her thinking about how women should have the right to wear what they like, and she started to dream of starting her own fashion business.

She was lucky enough to have an American passport and she eventually went back to America Starting her own business was extremely difficult, however, and she had lots of bad times along the way.  For example, she had a dreadful partner and even after finally attaining much success with a swimwear line, she found being part of the Miss Universe event traumatic. She was also subjected to a lot of disapproval from many fellow Muslims for promoting swimwear. She even received death threats.

Tala Raassi had a lot of drive, ambition and resilience, and she certainly needed all of it! This is an inspiring but rather harrowing story,  Raassi has plenty of helpful advice for would-be entrepreneurs, especially for those who want to start a fashion business. However, this is an interesting story for anyone to read, and I highly recommend it.



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

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Fighting Hislam Women, Faith and Sexism by Susan Carland

I am afraid that this was yet another book that I just couldn't get into at the moment! I was interested in the subject, but this is a thesis and I think that I just found it a bit heavy-going.

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

The Other La Boheme by Yorker Keith

I love opera, especially Puccini, but I couldn't get into this novel about young opera singers trying to get ahead in New York for some reason. I may try again later.

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

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

I am afraid that I couldn't get into this novel about a women's choir in The Second World War in spite of rave reviews. I didn't like the diary format and there were also a lot of different characters.  It's a pity - I may try again later.

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

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Finding the Value in Rare Objects. Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

This beautifully written book strikes straight at the heart, like all of Kathleen Tessaro's novels. Tessaro's writing improves with each novel, and this is definitely one of her best. Be warned, however. The story is extremely miserable at times.

When the novel begins, Mae has returned to her small but bright Irish/ Italian suburb in Boston after getting into a mess in New York.  She failed to find the success that she craved, so she turned to drink and slept around. After having an abortion, she ended up in an asylum where she made one very strange friend.

A clever girl, Mae 'reinvents' herself and finds a job in an antique store surrounded by lovely and rare objects. She becomes fascinated by the idea of the owner of the store who travels on exotic adventures and they begin a correspondence. But when Mr Winshaw arrives, Mae finds him disappointing and his conversation rather banal. She is much more attracted to the wealthy James, the odd Diana's brother...

There are many dichotomies in this novel- between fantasy and reality, infatuation and love and wealth and true riches. Mae has to learn many difficult lessons during the course of the novel. I never used to like novels that are written in the first person, but this helped me to feel for Mae during her several trials.

Rare Objects has a likeable, but flawed hero and heroine, an interesting villain, an atmospheric historical setting in Depression-era Boston and a moving love story which may even make you cry.  The other characters in the book, such as Mae's irritable Irish mother and her old Italian friend, are well-drawn. This is a must-read if you like well-written historical love stories!

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

Channel of Peace Stranded in Gander on 9/11 by Kevin Tuerff

Kevin Tuerff suddenly looked at the map showing the airline route on his plane which was going to New York from Paris. He was shocked to see that the plane was seemingly headed to the North Pole!
The passengers on his Air France plane eventually landed in a little town called Gander in Newfoundland, Canada along with many others because of the terrorist attack of 9/11, 2001.  Frightened and hungry, the passengers were treated like hotel guests by the town - almost everyone in this small place volunteered to help. One meal that Tuerff had there was better than any food that he ate in France, he writes.

Although rather simply written, this is a fascinating tale about how one small town stepped up to the mark, the people who Tuerff met in Gander, and how it inspired him to start doing random acts of kindness on the basis of the book Pay It Forward. He also writes about the musical based on his experiences in Gander.

I was also glad to see that he has remained a member of the Catholic Church in spite of his differences with it.

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

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear


When he started work for President Obama Michael Wear was very young and incredibly excited, especially when Obama spoke to the religious leaders at the first meeting of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neeighborhood Partmerships.  Obama spoke about ‘importance of faith in his own life and the positive role faith communities had to play in bringing our country through the difficult times ahead. Wear hoped that divisive politics could be overcome and faith could be part of that solution.  The President had a different approach to faith than over Democratic presidents.  He was willing to talk to religious leaders and he also realised that there was an ‘evangelical reawakening to issues of justice and the common good’, according to the author.

Although Wear was a Democrat, he was not completely at ease in the party.  He was very troubled by abortion and he disagreed with the approach to matters of sex and sexuality.  Gay marriage, for example, would become extremely difficult to deal with.

Wear discusses Obama’s approach to religion profoundly.  Obama was heavily criticised because he didn’t go to church very often.  However,   explains that the attendance of the President at church creates several security problems.  But    does think that Obama was deeply religious. 

Wear also writes about how Obama’s administration dealt with abortion, contraception, and other areas which intersected with religion.  What made him most disillusioned was Obama’s attitude towards gay marriage.  Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage was crucial in 2008 because of the importance of winning over conservative white voters and many African-Americans. It was a surprise to   when he changed his mind in 2012.  It was even more of a surprise when Wear read a book by David Axelrod in which Axelrod wrote that the president personally supported gay marriage as early as 2007 but he accepted advice to support civil unions which he called ‘sacred’ unions.   Wear was troubled by the possibility of Obama’s misleading the public and using religious language to do it, although he still admires the former president for many reasons.

This book was an interesting insight into what goes on behind the scenes in Washington and I may even re-read it.  However, I thought that it became rather technical at times.  I highly recommend it for anyone interested in politics, and the intersection between religion and politics.

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


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Manderley Forever by Tatiana de Rosnay

This sensitive and evocative biography of the wonderful Daphne du Maurier is a must-read for fans of her novels. De Rosnay walked in her footsteps, talked to her descendants and reimagines her life in  this beautifully-written book. I could hardly put it down!

De Rosnay vividly describes the important places in Du Maurier's life, including beautiful and calm Hampstead where she grew up, romantic Paris and the dramatic cliffs and sailboats of Fowey in Cornwall. This is where she found Menabilly, the famous house in Rebecca, and the scenery and history which formed the background to most of her novels. The author also skillfully brings to life the people who helped to form her character, such as Gerald, her sparkling actor father who, unfortunately was unfaithful to his wife and descended into drunkenness.

This is a lovely book to read even though Du Maurier had much tragedy in her life. It is an excellent study of the famous writer.

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Shine Like The Dawn by Carrie Turansky

Maggie sees a bleak future ahead of her, working in her grandmother's hat store. She longs for the happy life she knew as a respected architect's daughter and misses her family terribly. She and her sister Violet are the only survivors of a boating accident. When Nate, an old friend, enters her life again, Maggie has many conflicts. She is attracted to Nate but angry with him because of his treatment of her after the incident. She also discovers new information about the tragedy - was it an accident at all?

I liked the main characters of this book by CarrieTuransky and the historic atmosphere and plot were well-done. However, I found the writing rather stilted and I skimmed the end.

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thomas More by John Guy

Was Thomas More the wise man who died rather than disobey his conscience as portrayed in A Man For All Seasons or the fanatical heretic burner of "Wolf Hall"? Perhaps he was both?

I though that this was a biography of Thomas More and, indeed, John Guy does relate his life story. However, the purpose of the book is really to examine his legacy and the different versions of his actions. Guy examines More's writing, especially Utopia, portraits of More, and his canonization, for example. I found the account of his canonization and the English attitude to it especially interesting. Some of the book was rather dry - I would have preferred a biography.

This is well-worth reading for anyone interested in Tudor history.

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Wedding in Italy by Tilly Tennant

Kate lives in Rome, rents a flat, and she has a wonderful Italian boyfriend. However, she has many problems. Her landlord is troublesome; she hasn't got a job; and her boyfriend's old girlfriend and his sister want to make life difficult for her. How will she get through all this?

This was perfect light reading while in Italy with a beautiful Italian setting. Kate and Alessandro are like able and the setting is described charmingly. However, I found the writing rather wordy. Tighter editing may have helped.

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Art Deco Interiors by Henry Delacroix Dover Publications

These designs are a modern minimalist's dream! They include pictures of living rooms, salons, bathrooms and furniture. They are mostly rather stark, sparsely furnished and brightly-coloured. I much prefer the more ornate Art Nouveau and several of these rooms struck me as rather mannish. I am also far from being a minimalist. However, these images are so modern that they are still suitable for buildings today!

Some of the bathrooms, salons and dressing-rooms are quite pretty and Parisian. This book is certainly worth buying, if only for these pictures. It is an excellent book for historians of interior design as well.

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


Saturday, March 04, 2017

Art Nouveau Architecture R Beauclair, M I Gradl

These beautiful plates feature wonderful aspects of this revolutionary architecture including Grand staircases, wrought iron balconies, ornate mantels and intricate storefronts. Bright colours, floral and insect motifs and fancy apartment facades are also shown.

Anyone interested in art and the Edwardian era will enjoy this book.

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

The I Factor How Building a Great Relationship with Yourself Is the Key to a Happy, Successful Life By Van Moody

This is a helpful book which uses anecdotes and stories from the Bible and real life to get people back on the right track.  Van Moody has a theory that people who crash and burn or just fail at life generally have a problem with their 'I-Factor'.  This 'I-Factor' is about managing yourself and your life well.

Moody includes chapters on  the importance of finding your identity, regaining your passion and forgiving yourself and others. He provides examples of how people have done this and gives wise advice.  This is an extremely religious book which emphasizes prayer and faith, so it may not be suitable for everyone.  I found it quite useful and inspiring.

I received this free eBook from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Smart Housekeeping The No-Nonsense Guide to Decluttering, Organizing, and Cleaning Your Home, or Keys to Making Your Home Suit Yourself with No Help from Fads, Fanatics, or Other Foolishness by Anne L. Watson

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

This is a great book, especially for those who want to declutter.  Anne Watson provides excellent advice, such as to start with small projects and keep your goal in mind.  She also advises readers to forget perfection and not to be too hard on themselves.

This book will actually make you feel energised and ready to begin! I also like the amusing dialogues with imaginary perfectionists and the cute animal figures on her helpful website.

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

By Tim Collins (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

EDITION
Paperback

ISBN9780938497714

PRICE$10.00 (USD)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Simply Clean The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean, and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day by Becky Rapinchuk

Betty Rapinchuk writes that readers will not feel overwhelmed by her method of cleaning and this is certainly true. She writes that it is 'easy, seamless and simple'.  Remember when washing was done on Mondays and roasts were cooked on Sundays?  This method is probably based on that old-fashioned but useful scenario.  Every day of the week has a task and Friday is catching-up day! There are also weekly cleaning tasks.

Betty provides guidelines for doing each task and she also gives you a checklist of materials to buy to clean each room, which is very useful.  For example, there is a bathroom cleaning caddy, a dusting caddy and even a seasonal cleaning caddy. There are also useful tips, such as keeping makeup in a basket in the bathroom and keeping baskets for magazines and mail.

This book will certainly help those with young children, pack-rats and people who are generally messy.

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

Simply Clean The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean, and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day  by Becky Rapinchuk

EDITION
ISBN
PRICE

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge

By Markus Koljonen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Beryl Bainbridge reimagines Captain Scott's expedition to Antarctica on the Terra Nova in this novel, through the eyes of most of the men.  Her ability to put herself into the minds of such different characters as Birdie and Captain Scott is brilliant, and her descriptions of Antarctica are irradiant. However, this is an extremely harrowing story and difficult to read. I also thought that she was quite hard on Captain Scott - she takes a dim view of his capricious character, his tendency towards depression and his blaming his mistakes onto others.  She also criticises the team's inexpertise on skis and Scott's mistrust of dogs.

I especially liked her descriptions of the wive's characters and the rivalry between them, especially the rather intimidating Kathleen Scott, whose fame as a sculptress has sadly been eclipsed by her husband's ill-fated journey.  Ever since I saw her sculpture of Captain Scott at Christchurch (and I was lucky enough to see that gorgeous city before the earthquake), I have been interested in reading more about her.

If you are interested in the expedition, this is an excellent novel about it.

Lara : The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago Anna Pasternak

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

Boris Pasternak, the author of the classic Dr Zhivago, 'characterised his life as a fight with a reigning and triumphant triteness for a freely playing human talent'.  He suffered a great deal and he was persecuted by the authorities, but, according to legend, Stalin said: 'Leave him in peace, he's a cloud dweller' and protected him from arrest. Instead, the love of his life, Olga Ivinskaya, his mistress for forty years, on whom he based his wonderful Lara, was punished by the totalitarian regime.

Incredibly brave, she was sent to the gulag and interrogated while pregnant with Pasternak's child, but she came out of her questioning 'victorious'. Olga spent many years in the gulag twice under horrendous conditions (she had to work in fields all day in baking heat or bitter heat and eat gruel) and never betrayed Boris Pasternak. She was constantly persecuted because of Boris, but she had wonderful inner strength, which shines through in this book.

This is a harrowing but well-written and moving book by Boris Pasternak's great-niece, but it is also the tale of an incredible writer, Pasternak'sfascinating love story with the real 'Lara' which is very similar to the one in the book and his struggles wth the regime. Anna Pasternak certainly describes the evils of the Soviet Union in great detail.  Sometimes, it is hard to face the story but this is a must-read for anyone who loves Dr Zhivago.

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

Interview with Anna Pavlova

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fashion In The Time Of Queen Elizabeth 1 (1558 - 1603) by Melinda Camber Porter

This was written by a young schoolgirl who eventually went to Oxford and became a journalist. It's extremely useful for anyone studying the fashions of the time and it has detailed illustrations.  However, it's really a book for researchers.

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

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

By Deror_avi - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44851293

I read in Witnesses to the Revolution about a young student who complained that the 1917 revolution had begun with good intentions but unfortunately, it had been taken over by 'the dark people'. Rappaport's thoroughly researched and fascinating book provides evidence of this, but it mainly concerns the British and French in Russia who literally found themselves trapped in the revolution. She describes the British colony in Russia, the ambassadors and the journalists who watched as the country dramatically disintegrated.

It's quite a gruesome book - be warned.  It is a myth that the February revolution was comparatively peaceful with little violence. Although it came 'like a thief in the night', chaos soon descended and the world became one of 'dilapidation, of demoralization and decay'.  There were many reasons why Kerensky, who believed in orthodox socialism, ultimately lost control but in the end it was simply because the Bolsheviks were better organised with a 'definite political programme' and the government was not strong enough to put them down with force, as Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador had presciently warned.

My favourite characters in this book include Sit George Buchanan and his family. Sir George was a favourite of the Russians and he had even warned the Tsar that there would be trouble if he continued with his authoritarian government. Sir George stood like a rock amidst all the turmoil but he had to leave when Russia turned to anarchy after the Communists took over and he became one of the hated symbols of the hated capitalists.  Rappaport writes vividly that they escaped during the darkness of another power cut, sneaking downstairs by flickering candlelight past portraits of British royalty while their Russian maids sobbed.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in Russian history.

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

The Last Marlin: A Family at Sea by Fred Waitzkin

This was well-written but I couldn't get into it.  I am not interested in reading about fishing.

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

Friday, February 10, 2017

In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine by Tim Judah

In Wartime by Tim JudahWhen the new American Embassy in Kiev asked Natalie to set up the economics section in 1992, she was very excited. She thought that Ukraine had a bright future because it was 'close to the rest of Europe, rich in various resources, had an educated population, ports, and so on'. She didn't think that you could ask for anything more. Now, as the Minister for Finance she wants to help solve the country's deep problems.  The war with Russia is ruining a country already burdened with terrible debt and corruption.

Tim Judah travels through different parts of the country, the second-largest in Europe, to explain the origins of the war and how it is affecting people by means of interviews and descriptions of different districts and the info-wars. This war is based on maps and history, for example, most of the east, south and Crimea speak Russian and many of the people in these areas are sympathetic with the Russians. Many of them even wonder how they ended up Ukranian. Apparently, Russia is taking advantage of the fascist elements in Ukraine's past to accuse all of those fighting against them of being reincarnated Nazis, according to Judah. Many of the rebels also believe that Stalin was great and that everything 'has gone to hell in a handcart since the end of the Soviet Union'.

This is an extremely depressing book, but it did help me to have a clearer understanding of the origins of the war and the problems in Ukraine.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

I usually like Joanna Trollope's novels but I didn't finish this one.  There are a lot of characters and I found some of the connections confusing. Also, I like the way that Trollope writes about modern trends so I thought that I would be interested to read about a character with a mother who has Alzheimer's, however, I found it extremely depressing.

I may give it another try later, but it didn't grab me and life is short!

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

The Essential Guide to Mindful Dressing Jules Standish

File:Blue dress - Ch9 Today Show, Bourke Street Mall - Flickr - avlxyz

This is a great book for anyone who wants to improve their way of life by using colours! Standish explains how to tell what 'season' you are and how to dress appropriately. She also gives excellent advice about choosing the right colours to wear for different occasions or just to improve your mood. For example, blue is soothing and red can give one energy. She also tells readers how to match colours.

I think that I will buy this one!

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