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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.

EDITION
Paperback

ISBN9781473882249

PRICE£12.99 (GBP)