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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Gospel in Dorothy L. Sayers: Selections from Her Novels, Plays, Letters, and Essays Dorothy L. Sayers, Carole Vanderhoof (Edited by), C. S. Lewi

I read Dorothy L. Sayers’s mysteries a long time ago, and enjoyed the stories, without realising what
Tortured consciences Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane actually had, or really noticing the Christian values of the books. This book shows how the Gospel shines in her mystery novels, cleverly interspersing the relevant extracts from her religious plays and essays, so that you can see how she wrote her beliefs into her novels.

In one example, Lord Peter sees an Anglican minister, troubled about whether he should bring a person guilty of hastening someone’s death to justice. The minister is much more practical and gives excellent advice, but doesn’t dwell on the situation like Lord Peter! He thinks to himself how scrupulous someone of Wimsey’s class, but how vague they are outside their ‘public school code’.

The essays and even the extracts from the plays can be convoluted and sometimes a bit difficult, but in many of them, Sayers shares her enthusiasm for Christianity. She points out that many people who sneer at it have it wrong. If they knew how interesting, exciting and dramatic the Creed really is, they might think again, but they ‘heartily dislike and despise Christianity without having the faintest notion what it is’.

She can also be extremely prescient. In one essay, she studies feminism, and although she agrees in women’s equality, she concludes that we should be treated as individuals in the end, and not put into categories. She argues that we shouldn’t fall into the ‘aggressively feminist “point of view” about everything’ because opposing one class perpetually to another can ‘split the foundations of the State and if the cleavage runs too deep, there remains no remedy but force and dictatorship’.  

This is worth reading if you want more of an insight into Sayers’s Christian beliefs and how she included them in her novels.

I received a free copy of this ebook from Edelweis in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters. The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger

Gore Vidal once said about Jackie and Lee Bouvier that they ‘were brought up like geishas, to get money out of men’.  This book is fair, but, unfortunately, both sisters do appear to have been rather mercenary, according to the writer. Lees, for example, Lee wanted to live well beyond the means that her first husband could provide. (There were other worse problems in the marriage, however). Jackie allegedly sold second-hand clothes to get extra money when she was married to Onassis.

Kashner and Schoenberger tell an account of the cultured sister’s fierce rivalry – even over Ari Onassis - and fascinating lives which anyone interested in the Kennedys will enjoy.  He also provides a lot of strange anecdotes, such as how someone thought that Lee was actually Jackie because she looked so like her when she visited her when she was dying – even being dressed like her!  I also found the opinion of one of the “friends” that Jackie chose some of her husband’s mistresses odd. Jackie set such a wonderful example at her husband's funeral, though, that my opinion is that this makes up for any flaws in her character!

It’s a gossipy book, but the writer does give the sisters credit for their career achievements, describing Jackie’s work as an editor and Lee’s luxurious interior design business. It’s a good character study and an interesting glimpse into the era. It was a good read, but the writing was a bit staid.

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

Friday, September 07, 2018

None of My Business by P.J. O'Rourke

I love to listen to P.J. O'Rourke but I didn't like reading his writing nearly as much, although he makes a lot of sense and the book is amusing. However, I didn't finish it.

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

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull

Although I usually like Poison Pen Classics, this one was very wordy and I just couldn't get into it. I may try again later.

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

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

An Inspiring Story by Rachel Hauck. The Love Letter

Broken-hearted actress Chloe is on the verge of despair. Her last boyfriend betrayed her and she thinks that she is ‘the Queen of Death’ because she has died in so many parts! However, she decides that she is going to be assertive for once, and actually ask for a role which she really wants…

Jesse, the young screenwriter of Chloe’s new film, has also had his heart wounded, but he regards it as his own fault and he has a big burden to bear. Attracted to Chloe, he finds it difficult to get close to a woman again. He wonders whether he can ever find a love story like the one in his family past, that of Hamilton Lightfoot and Esther, star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of the American Revolutionary War.

Rachel Hauck deftly combines the modern story of Chloe and Jesse with the historical one of Hamilton and Esther. The main characters are all likeable and engaging and the intriguing story keeps one reading, although I found the book a bit long. Hauck also shows how a strong faith can help her characters and the importance of trust and forgiveness and believing in true love.

I preferred the modern story to the historical one, however. I thought that it was better written and more believable.

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

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird

Although this book vividly described the Civil War and Sarah Bird cleverly depicted her heroine's life, this wasn't my kind of book because it was written in the vernacular. This is a brilliant idea but I didn't go on with the novel.

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

Constance Garnett

Janet Malcolm defends Constance Garnett's translations: Socks by Janet Malcolm,

Gaze Upon Jesus Experiencing Christ’s Childhood through the Eyes of Women by Kelly M. Wahlquiest Ave Maria Press

Have you ever wondered how Mary felt at the Annunciation? Have you ever wondered how Elizabeth felt? This book is full of lovely stories and exercises to help women realise the significance of Mary and to follow her example.  These exercises include many examples of the ancient spiritual practice of visio divina using beautiful medieval paintings and there are also discussions for groups and refelctions on praying.

Many people today regard Mary as passive and submissive, but she is actually a figure of "cosmic significance," according to this book by Kelly M. Wahlquiest, and, in choosing to be like her, we can become more powerful as well, and live lives of freedom and authenticity. One way to do this is to imagine going back in time, and imagining what it was like for her. This us to see Jesus as she did and to be closer to God in our hearts and lives. This is a book worth reading for all Christians, not only Catholics, although Catholics may find it easier to understand.

I found the exercises of visio divina difficult on my black and white kindle, so I am certainly thinking of buying Gaze Upon Jesus.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Princess The Early Life of Queen Elizabeth II by Jane Dismore

By Ministry of Information official photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, I found this book a bit dull except for some interesting snippets of gossip, such as whether the Queen Mother was nicknamed 'Cookie' because she was really the daughter of a French cook and Edward VIII's attraction to the Nazi's. (You only have to look at the Queen Mother with her mother to see that this is not true). The book became livelier when Prince Phillip started courting the Princess.

It's certainly well-researched and worth reading if you like to read about the Royals or biographies in general.

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


Monday, August 20, 2018

Playing to the Gods Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, and the Rivalry that Changed Acting Forever by Peter Rader

Mark Twain once said, 'There are five kinds of actresses, bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses -- and then there is Sarah Bernhardt'. The very name still fascinates many people. This charismatic and beautiful actress was courted by royalty, inspired works of art and stunned her eager audience with her antics, such as travelling with a chimpanzee named Darwin, having a pet alligator which drank champagne and sleeping in a coffin. She loved publicity.

Eleanora Duse was the opposite of Sarah in several ways. The shy actress kept away from publicity, was rather reclusive, and she liked a more natural form of acting rather than Sarah's artificial posing, which was rapidly becoming dated. However, she was just as ambitious, if not more, seeking to grab the limelight from the 'Divine Sarah' at every opportunity.

This is an enjoyable book to read, sympathetic to both great women, but not sentimental and always interesting. It is a must-read for history and lovers of the arts!

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

EDITION        Other Format
ISBN               9781476738376
PRICE             $26.00 (USD)

Friday, August 10, 2018

A History of France by John Julius Norwich

This is a whirlwind tour through the history of France. Although the writing is
Lively, and I enjoyed some sections, such as the story of the beautiful Eleanor of Aquitaine,
There was just too much information. It is useful if you want a basic history and introductory information on an era, but I found it difficult to read much of the book at a time. I didn’t finish
This one, unfortunately.

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

Monday, August 06, 2018

Blog Tour for The Art of Royal Poison by Eleanor Herman.

Welcome to my review for the blog tour of The Art of Royal Poison by Eleanor Herman, published by the wonderful St Martin's Press.

Eleanor Herman

A Devious and Arcane Art

As the French King Henry IV went to receive Holy Communion, his dog suddenly started barking loudly.  The wise King immediately thought that something was wrong and decided not to drink from the Chalice.  He was right!   An evil Cardinal had hoped to poison him.

Others were neither so wise nor so lucky.  Eleanor Herman tells many stories of Royals who were probably poisoned, such as the beautiful Agnes Sorrel, mistress of  Henry VI , who was found to have died after suffering from a huge amount of mercury and  the charming sister of Charles II who was thought to have been poisoned by her husband. Some even poisoned themselves accidentally like Charles 11 who played with his dangerous alchemy experiments in his laboratory too many times, or some of the women who actually wore cosmetics filled with lead and arsenic.. 

This fascinating, well-researched and well-written book will take away any fanciful ideas of travelling back in time, even as a royal! Life really was ‘nasty, brutish and short,’ no matter how glamorous it looks in movies about royalty. If you were not in danger of being poisoned by mercury, arsenic, or another nasty substance, you could die from a terrible disease often caused by the filthy living conditions of the era, such as cholera and typhoid. Until relatively late in the nineteenth century, cholera was believed to have been caused by germs in the air.

I enjoyed much of this book, but I found some of it difficult to read because it was either too gruesome and creepy or the story of the dirt was too revolting! I hope to read more books by Eleanor Herman.

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

EDITION    Other

Format        ISBN9781250140869

PRICE         $27.99 (USD)

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Review for Blog Tour Tomorrow!

I will be taking part in the blog tour for The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

In the Valley of Blue Gums by J.H. Fletcher Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA MIRA Historical Fiction , Women's Fiction

J.H. Fletcher is one of my favourite novelists. His books are usually large family sagas with sympathetic characters, a wide range of settings and moving love stories.  This one is no exception. It tells the tale of mother and daughter Thea and Allison, but it is mostly Thea's story and involves her looking back on her life and attempting to start again after the death of her husband. Although Thea is very much in love with winemaker Peter, she is an ambitious journalist and her career takes her to the Vietnam War where she discovers a dark secret...Allison, a single mother, is struggling to look after the Tasmanian winery but she now has help from a handsome South African.

I found some of this story rather confusing because it jumps between time periods and it has several different settings and characters. However, I enjoyed it but the novel is quite harrowing and a bit unbelievable in one instance.

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


Monday, July 16, 2018

Zen for Christians A Beginner's Guide by Kim Boykin Dover Publications

When Kim Boykin studied Zen, she found the rich tradition of Christian contemplation which had always been there. She decided to combine Zen meditation and practices with her Christian meditation and prayer. This is a clear and easy-to-read guide about how to practise Zen meditation, which includes breathing and walking meditation and shows how to incorporate these habits into your daily life.  She writes about Buddhist beliefs and shows their similarity with Christian beliefs in a concise and interesting way.

I found this book especially easy to relate to because Boykin converted to Catholicism and I share her love for the beautiful liturgy and I  could understand her journey to faith.

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

EDITION  Hardcover
ISBN         9780486824406
PRICE      $19.95 (USD)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fire in the Thatch A British Library Crime Classic by E.C.R. Lorac

When Nicholas Vaughan, a respectable tenant farmer, dies in a fire, many people come under suspicion.  These include the disliked Gressingham, a wealthy businessman, with an interest in buying country property, Gressingham’s rather sleazy friend and even Vaughan’s sister. When Scotland Yard Inspector Macdonald gets on the case, the mystery thickens even more. Why did Vaughan settle in Devon instead of his beloved North and who was the girl he was planning to marry?

This was an enjoyable and cosy mystery with well-rounded characters and lyrical descriptions of the beauty of the countryside.  It was clever as well, keeping the reader guessing until the end.  I am looking forward to reading more of E.C. R. Lorac’s classic mysteries.

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


Sunday, July 08, 2018

The King and the Catholics. England, Ireland, and The Fight for Religious Freedom 1780-1829

Charles Green [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lady Anne Erskine, a Scottish lady living in Clerkenwell, watched the flames rise nearby in horror from her window. She wrote that ‘the sky was like blood in the direction of the fires’.  She was looking at the Gordon Riots in 1780, the worst riots in London until that time. These riots were in reaction to the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 which introduced mild changes to discrimination against Catholics.

Those who fought bravely against the horrendous discrimination against Catholics in Great Britain had a tough fight on their hands. Before 1778, no Catholic could re eave political office, become an official, or receive a commission in the army or navy. Running a Catholic school or exercising the function of a Catholic priest were both punishable by life improvement. There were countless other laws against Catholics.  Until the nineteenth century MP’s had to swear the ‘sacrifice of the Mass and the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints, as now practised in the Church of Rome, are impious and idolatrous’. The King promised to maintain…’the Protestant reformed religion established by law’ to the ‘utmost of his power!’ 

Lady Antonia Fraser writes a fast-paced and thoroughly researched tale of Catholic emancipation which includes fascinating characters, such as the great Irish hero Daniel O’Connell, the urbane Cardinal Consalvi and the vehemently anti-Catholic Sir Robert Peel.  She describes the largely lacklustre Catholic aristocracy, who tended to take the easy way out, and the role of the ‘Irish Question’ which played a huge part in Catholic Emancipation. George IV, who secretly married a Catholic, but who was also strongly anti-Catholic, was the most important man of all in this story, and Antonia Fraser can even make the reader feel sympathetic with him at times.  When he was Prince Regent, he told Cardinal Consalvi to: ‘Hush, hush, Cardinal Tempter: when listening to you I seem to see Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth following me as avenging spirits’.

I have read most of the wonderful Lady Antonia Fraser’s books and this one is another must-read for history-lovers. It also has resonance today when religious freedom is again in question.

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

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Political Correctness Gone Too Far

I am furious about the renaming of the Laura Ingalls Wilder legacy award. Here is the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Foundation response to renaming of ALA award which is excellent.

Charleston by Quentin Bell, Virginia Nicholson Quarto Publishing Group - Frances Lincoln

By APB-CMX at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone who is interested in the artists and writers of the Bloomsbury Group will enjoy this book with its beautiful pictures of Charleston, the paintings and decorations of Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell and Duncan Grant and the memories and stories of Quentin Bell and Virginia Nicholson. This is not just a book about a house but a book written with love by the authors. A substantial but attractive English country house with a walled garden and orchards, this was a holiday home for Virginia, who has fond memories of the smell of new cake and the dahlias in the garden. It was a place of 'messy ceativity' which had no telephone, radio or central heating. Tea was eaten by the fireside and children went to bed by candlelight.

I especially enjoyed the anecdote about T.S. Eliot being invited to a dinner party.  Vanessa apparently became confused and mistakenly ordered a bird for each guest! The great poet was delighted with the 'covey'.

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


Thank You For Shopping by Kristal Leebrick

By Elkman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

I would love to go back in time and visit the opulent department stores of Minnesota, especially Young-Quinlan with its 'crystal chandeliers, walnut and brass trimmings, elegant merchandise and sophisticated clientele.' Enjoying lunch in the Fountain Room with its 'high ceilings and mirrored walls' must have been a magical experience.  It is such a pity that most of these stores have closed, and it really does signify the end of an era.

This book will evoke fond memories of visiting the department stores for people who visited them or worked in them, and delight other fans all over the world with its beautiful pictures and lively anecdotes. The story of Elizabeth Quinlan, the ambitious woman who became the only female merchandise buyer in the country, and some of the obstacles which she faced was particularly interesting. For example, she had to climb stairs to 'dingy lofts' and speak to condescending women who looked down on her. In spite of all this, she managed to build a great business, largely through her own efforts.

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

Monday, July 02, 2018

A Collar for Cerberus by Matt Stanley Thistle Publishing You Like Them General Fiction (Adult) , Literary Fiction

By Inkey [CC BY-SA 3.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons

When this story begins, the young narrator is in a bad way. Bored with his life and unhappy with a recent break-up, he 'runs away' to the beautiful Greek islands to search his soul about his future. He wants to write, but his family and former girlfriend wanted him to face reality and choose a dull office career. He is looking for his hero, the Nobel-Prize winning author, Irakles Bastounis, only to find that he is an unlikeable, sarcastic old man who has given up writing!

However, Bastounis persuades the young graduate to drive him on a journey and gives him several challenges, including killing an octopus and saving a prostitute from a pimp. Along the way, they discuss Greek mythology, writing and facing fear. But when he discovers that Bastounis has a secret, the narrator has to deal with the biggest challenge of his life...

This is an inspirational story filled with philosophy, although I found it a little bit pretentious at times. This coming-of-age story is certainly worth reading at least twice.

I received a free copy of this ebook from Thistle Publishing in return for a free review.

EDITION          ebook

ISBN                 9781786080622

PRICE              $14.99 (USD)

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Collectable Names and Designs in Women's Shoes by Tracy Martin Pen & Sword

Did you know that ninety-three pieces of footwear were found in King
Tutankhamen's possessions? Tracy Martin relates lots of fascinating anecdotes in her short history of shoes. As Martin writes, these fashion items can epitomise an era in designs. They bring back memories of the music, films and social life of the time. Collecting shoes can be both interesting and lucrative.

 Tracy Martin studies the great designers, such as Ferragamo and Perugia.  She also writes about new designers and she gives tips for collecting several different types of shoes. This is a useful book for beginners and people who have started collecting.

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

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Louisa May Alcott Challenge

There isn't much time left for this Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge but I hope to read and review An Old-Fashioned Girl and watch the film which is free on YouTube!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Five Classic Books with Strong Females

Read about these classics with their strong and independent heroines.

Monday, June 25, 2018

She Read to Us in the Late Afternoons A Life in Novels by Hill, Kathleen

Unfortunately, I couldn't get into this. I think that it might need to be read as a paperback, instead of an ebook.

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

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Jabbed by Brett Wilcox

Brett Wilcox presents a good argument that it is improvements in sanitation, clean water, clean air and other living conditions which have eradicated or lessened many diseases, and not vaccines. Although we are told that most vaccines are safe and effective with either minor side-effects or none at all, he writes that they are, instead, positively dangerous. Even the flu vaccine can have ingredients which cause major side-effects, especially when given to pregnant women.  He also writes about the corruption of the pharmaceutical industry, its influence on governments and its limited liability for injuries.

The problem is that this is hard to read. This is partly because the allegations are so horrifying and partly because it is so dense. For example, there are several excerpts from studies.

I don't want to get into arguments about vaccines, but I was a bit amazed to be told that there are 74 mandated vaccines for babies in California. Also, I was lucky not to be given a vaccination for one particular disease because my sensible doctor knew that it might kill me.

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Women Design by Libby Sellers

By Boberger. Photo:Bengt Oberger [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Women Design celebrates the achievements of some of the great women designers in a patriarchal industry.  When asked about important designers, most people only name men. This is an excellent addition then to the books about women architects, industrial designers and textile designers.

The interesting articles include biographies of Althea McNish who brought a 'riot of colour' into the drab post-war world of Britain with her tropical textile designs, Lella Vignelli who took 'modernist designs with European sensibilities' to New York with her husband and Lora Lamm who epitomised the La Bella Vita era with her playful graphic designs.There is also the incredible architect Zaha Hadid.

This is a great book for anyone interested in the world of design. I was a bit confused however by the mention of the Trinidad artist Lord Kitchener. I think that Sellers should have pointed out that this was a stage name for a calypso artist!

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Know It All Fashion The 50 Key Modes, Garments, and Designers, Each Explained in Under a Minute by Rebecca Arnold Quarto Publishing Group – Wellfleet Press Wellfleet Press

21stCenturyGreenstuff at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This book probably lives up to its name. An excellent introduction to the fashion world, it contains sections on every aspect from haute couture to street style.  There are short explanations of the intersections between fashion and art, fashion and the movies and fashion and music, as well as succinct biographies of some of the great designers, such as Marc Jacobs. It also includes useful glossaries. This is certainly worth buying if you are interested in the history of fashion. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I especially liked the section about the Teddy Boys and their influence on fashion.

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


Friday, June 15, 2018

The Price of Greatness Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy by Jay Cost

This is a useful reference book for students of political philosophy. I didn't finish it because I found it a bit heavy and dull, unfortunately.

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

Icons of Style A Century of Fashion Photography by Paul Martineau

This book is an excellent study of the history of fashion photographers and trends from the early 20th century.  Martineau explains the transition from fashion drawings to photography and how the great photographers changed the world of fashion and art in each era. For example, Edward Steichen began his career photographing the lavish designs of Poiret but in the 20s he focused on his love of naturalness and simplicity and started taking outdoor shots.  He also used chic, independent women models, such as Marion Morehouse and Lee Miller.

A useful book for anyone studying fashion or photography, this contains beautiful photos from each era.

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

Friday, June 08, 2018

Louis XIV, the Real Sun King by Jules Harper and Aurora von Goeth Pen & Sword

This book was a little dull at first, but it soon livened up with the account of Louis's fascinating love life, with the beautiful Mancini sisters and Louise de Valliere, who seemed to be having affairs one minute and guiltily rushing to church the next.  There are chapters devoted to every aspect of the great French king's life, including his patronage of the arts, his wars,  and the building of the magnificent Versailles Palace.  It is clearly and simply written but an interesting read.

While Louis XIV was undoubtedly a despot, he could be quite enlightened. There is evidence that he refused the offer to use a biological weapon, for example. Louis thought that 'the means of destroying life were sufficiently numerous', and paid the chemist who made the discovery to keep it to himself. The great king was also the first to introduce an award for 'exceptional officers' of the military which could also be granted to non-nobles.  He also founded a large home and hospital for aged and wounded soldiers, an idea which is also a good one for our times. 

The French king still has a huge influence today, through music, comedy, dance and his splendid palace. He is an endlessly riveting object of study, and this book is an excellent addition to the collection.

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


Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Prince Who Would Be King The Life and Death of Henry Stuart by Sarah Fraser

Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Henry Stuart would probably have been an excellent King.  He was clever, literary and interested in foreign affairs and politics and even science and foreign expeditions. He also had a mind of his own and even managed to defy his father, the rather intimidating James, enlist his own adviser and establish his own court! He was also strongly Protestant, which may have suited the English at the time. Henry's early death lead to his brother becoming King. Charles 1 was heavily criticised for his Catholic leanings and for having a Catholic wife, the Portugese Henrietta Maria.

This was an interesting book but I found Sarah Fraser's style a bit abrupt at times. I hope to read her other book, however.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Fraver by Design Five Decades of Theatre Poster Art from Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Beyond by Frank “Fraver” Verlizzo Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

'How does one come up with these things? A gargoyle with a gun...a philosophical frog with a book and a martini...' Actor and singer Jared Bradshaw asks these questions about Frank Verlizzo, the famous poster designer.  'Fraver' certainly must have an extraordinary imagination to produce such flamboyant and dramatic posters! This book includes background stories by Verlizzo and commentaries by Hollywood stars, such as Bernadette Peters.

This is an excellent book for art-lovers and for those learning the craft.

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


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Secret Houses of the Cotswolds by Jeremy Musson

This is a gorgeous book which includes the history and pictures of such beautiful houses as Burford Priory, whose owner once defied Charles 1, and Clevenage - Trenwith in the Poldark series. These historical houses have stunning features, such as decoration in the Arts and Crafts style, antique stained-glass, and Regency four-poster beds.  There are interviews with the owners who tell how why they bought the houses (unless they were inherited) and how they restored them.

I found the writing a bit staid and it was hard to read online because the print is quite small.

This is a must-buy for anyone who loves beautiful historical houses and architecture.

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


Thursday, May 17, 2018

First Impressions by Debra White Smith

Although Eddi, a bright young lawyer, thinks that Dave, a handsome cowboy, is arrogant and pleased with himself, she can't help feeling attracted. But after she overhears him describing her as 'too short and too prissy,' she is horrified to be cast as Elizabeth alongside his Darcy, when his aunt produces the play of Pride and Prejudice!

I really enjoyed this sassy American version of Pride and Prejudice. It moves along at a fast pace; the characters are well-rounded'; and it's interesting to see how it's been changed. The country setting was excellent.  I also found the dialogue quite amusing at times. I liked this Mr Darcy having a secret. However, I didn't like this novel as much as Jasmine Field and Pride and Prejudice by Melissa Nathan, which was similar but set in New York.

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

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Being Creative: Be inspired. Unlock your originality 20 thought-provoking lessons (BUILD and BECOME) by Michael Atavar

Everyone is creative, but they just don't know it. Michael Atavar provides a toolkit to help you unleash your creativity, focusing on five areas, including persistence and ending, with a specific example for each. He also provides exercises and suggestions for each area.

Even if you just use one suggestion from the book, it will expose you to a whole new way of noticing the world around you and this is sure to help your creativity!

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

May 3, 2018/ $16.99 / hardcover

Celestial Bodies by Laura Jacobs

The great critic Theophile Gautier wrote in 1839 that: '...A good ballet is the rarest thing in the world; tragedies, operas and dramas are nothing in comparison with it'.

Laura Jacobs brings the magic and beauty of the ballet to life in this beautifully-written book.  She conveys the excitement and wonder of ballet to beginners and devotees alike, filling the book with stories, anecdotes and history. I especially liked her chapters on the history of pointe shoes and Tchaikovsky, the godfather of ballet.

This is a must-have for any ballet fan.

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

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Faith, Angels and the Poor by Keith Hooper

Charles Dickens wrote near the end of his life that: 'I have always striven in my writings to express
veneration for the life and lessons of our Saviour'.  He certainly did that, writing novels that enlightened Victorians about the terrible poverty in their midst and even helping to change cruel laws. He also tried to live a Christian life, helping many people and charities, agitating for change, and even starting a home for 'fallen' women.

Dickens had a religious Anglican upbringing. His parents went to church, sent him to Anglican schools and sent him to stay with an Anglican minister, the Reverend Giles and his family at one stage. The wise minister and schoolteacher and his family made a deep impression on ten-year old Charles and he became good friends with Reverend Giles's sons. His mother read him Bible stories as well and he had a good knowledge of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer.

Dickens's time at the blacking warehouse when he was a young boy after his father was imprisoned for debt working in terrible conditions and drudgery not only made him determined to succeed but it also made him aware of what the poor had to endure.  His early careers as a legal reporter and journalist with the Morning Chronicle deepened his knowledge of laws relating to the poor and their conditions.  John Black, his editor, remembered the kindness of his young colleague when they walked through the markets and saw a poorly-dressed boy being carried by his father. As they followed the father and son, Dickens fed the boy a whole bag of cherries without his parent knowing.

 The great writer believed in a practical Christianity and that Christians had a responsibility to care for the underprivileged.  Hooper relates how Dickens used his knowledge of social conditions in his novels to awaken the social conscience of his readers who had old-fashioned ideas about poverty.  He achieved great changes with his books.  For example, there was such an outcry about the terrible Yorkshire schools after the publication of Nicholas Nickleby that the government introduced strict regulations and the worst of them were closed down.

This is an inspiring and interesting analysis of Dickens's Christianity and how he exemplified it in his life and novels.  There are detailed analyses of his novels and how he used the Christian 'angels' featured in them.    also explains Dickens's attraction to Unitarianism but his decision to stay Anglican. There is not much detail about Dickens's rather shabby treatment of his wife, however.  This is a book that is well-worth reading for any fan of Dickens or any student of Dickens.

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

EDITION    Paperback


PRICE        £9.99 (GBP)

Thursday, May 03, 2018

How to Pray Reflections and Essays by C.S. Lewis

This is a beautifully written collection of reflections and essays, full of great wisdom and insights, and it includes some lovely poems.  However, I felt that it mostly concerned reflections about the power of praying and persuasive reflections about why one should pray, rather than how to actually pray.  However, the collections from the marvellous Screwtape Letters were somewhat easier to understand and very helpful

This is a worthy addition to C.S. Lewis's writings.

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

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

In Praise of the Useless Life. A Monk's Memoir by Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O.

‘Man’s unhappiness springs from one thing alone, his incapacity to stay quietly in one room’. This is a beautiful set of reflections by   about a monk’s life.  Quenon writes about the importance of solitude, how to pray, how to find rest in God and spiritual growth.  It is not all deadly serious, though. There is plenty of charm and humour. I especially liked his battle with a certain little bird which disturbed his sleep.

   Quenon also shares many anecdotes about his mentor Thomas Merton and how Merton helped him. He also gives details about Thomas Merton’s life and thoughts.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

A lost castle in France, the legend of a sleeping beauty, a courageous grandmother's secret and the power of true love. Kristy Cambron  deftly intertwined these themes in an enchanting tale that kept me utterly entranced until the end of the novel. I was sorry to finish it.

The story involves three women. Aveline  is about to meet her fiancée at a party in his chateau but French  revolutionaries launch a violent attack. Luckily, she is saved and hidden in the woods but where is her fiancée?

Viola is hungry and desperate and trying to hide from the Nazis in the midst of the Second World War. She enters a chapel where she meets a handsome young Frenchman who agrees to hide her. Can she trust him?
Ellie is struggling to help her grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer's. She knows that she has to find out her secret before it's too late. She travels to France only to find many obstacles in her path, including a stubborn Irishman called Quinn.

This is beautifully written and I look forward to the next book in the series but I occasionally found the leaps in time a bit confusing. the love stories were very moving and I especially liked d the wartime story.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Giant Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film

I liked the film Giant but I found this book a bit dull even though
there are lots of anecdotes about the cast and crew. I didn't finish it,

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Duchess by Penny Junior

Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is really a rather uninteresting woman who has becomeinteresting because of her marriage to the Prince of Wales after a contentious affair. Her great-grandmother, the mistress of Edward VII is much more fascinating. However, it's worth reading different accounts if you want to know more about Camilla, and this is an engaging, sympathetic biography of her by a journalist who knows them both.

Unlike Charles, Camilla had an idyllic English country upbringing with loving parents.
She had an old-fashioned schooling and wasn't ambitious. She wanted a similar life to her parents
and that's what she got, except that her husband was a philanderer. He even had affairs with her
girlfriends. One even asked Andrew Parker-Bowles what was wrong with her because she was the
only girlfriend he had not made a pass at! However, Camilla knew what he was like before he married her.

According to this book, Camilla was not that keen on Charles but he was so upset when she married
Andrew, he couldn't attend the wedding. However, she turned to him later because she was upset with her husband. However, after he married Diana, he fully intended to be faithful but only went back to Camilla when his marriage finally broke down and he knew about Princess Diana having affairs.

Camilla sounds quite likeable and down to earth, however, one can't help
if it would have been better for her to have refused to go back to Charles while he
was married.

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

Thursday, April 05, 2018

IN Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson

When Camri travels to San Francisco to search for her missing brother Caleb, she discovers several mysteries. What did his disappearance do with his Defence of Patrick, a young Irishman accused of murder? Can she trust Henry Ambrewster, Caleb's employer? What do Caleb's servants, the Wongs know? Luckily, she has some friends to share her troubles with, but she also has to cope with her feelings for Patrick, who comes from a much lower social class. She also has a strong Christian Faith which stands by her.

This is a fast-paced and enjoyable Christian mystery, set in San Francisco in the early 1900s, a city rife with corruption and murders. Capri is likeable, although she can be a bit dogmatic and 'preachy,' however, she struggles with this herself. Patrick is also a likeable hero, but there is little about his being Catholic which would have been a big divide with Camri's being Protestant. Camri's friends are lovely characters. The historical research seems well-done, although I don't know much about San Francisco's history. I did find the use of the Irish vernacular a bit jarring and wondered whether it was  true to life.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid

Anne tore out of the house with her hair streaming and without her hat although it was freezing and Marilla called after her. She felt the 'fierce energy of winter' on the beautiful, snowy Prince Edward Island. Like her creator, Anne loved all of the seasons although Lucy Maud may have been affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder  in the long, dark winters at times.

This beautifully-written book by Catherine Reid with its gorgeous photographs is a welcome addition to the collection of writing about L.M. Montgomery. It relates how Lucy Maud's love of the seasons and the different landscapes of P.E.I. led to her luminous descriptions and how she used it in her scenes in her books. For example, Anne had her last walk with Matthew in the spring making the scene especially poignant.

This is a must-by for any lovers of Anne and L.M. montgomery's writing!

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Despair of Monkeys and Other Trifles by Francoise Hardy

I didn't finish this autobiography because it was just too meandering and I found it a bit dull. However, her philosophy was interesting and I enjoyed reading her opinions of famous people, such as Mick Jagger.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

Estella is upset when her mother sends her to New York to get her away from Resistance work and the dangers of war. However, the young and beautiful seamstress soon finds friends and sets up her own sewing business. But she is puzzled by many mysteries. Who is the handsome spy she keeps meeting? Who is Lena and why is she the image of her? Who is her real father? What does the tragic Evelyn Nesbitt have to do with it all?

Fabienne, Estella's granddaughter, also must solve mysteries. Who was her real father? What did Estella do in the Resistance?

This story sweeps between France, New York and Australia in a fast-paced manner and kept me riveted to the page.   Natasha Lester deftly combines the worlds of Second World War fashion and the dangers of the Resistance. Esttella and Fabienne are lovely characters while the villain is frightening and the men are handsome and intriguing. I liked the way in which the historical information was cleverly intertwined with the story.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for a free

Monday, March 05, 2018

Renoir's Dancer. The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon by Catherine Hewett

Suzanne was once called 'the terror of Montmartre'. The pretty golden-haired child of a single mother climbed out of Windows, played truant from school and associated with vagabonds. After joining the circus, however, she suffered a terrible accident and focused on her drawing. Once she became an artist's model for illustrious artists, such as Renoir, she was on the road to success.

She became respectable married woman, the mistress of a large house with her own studio and servants. But she had trouble with her son's inclination to drink. Would she give it all up for a handsome and much younger man...?

This is a fascinating tale about the wild-child of Montmartre and her talented son with vivid
descriptions of the bohemian lives of the famous artists of the late 19th century. I felt that I had a birds-eye view to the charm and glamour of the  Paris of the time. Suzanne Valadon has been neglected so this biography is a welcome addition to books about these artists.

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

Friday, March 02, 2018

Breakthrough by Fr Rob Galea

When he was a teenager, Fr Galea suffered an existential crisis. Bullied at school, he sat alone in his room night after night, and he eventually turned to bad company and even shoplifting. He felt abandoned although he had a good and loving Maltese family. Eventually, he decided to join a Catholic youth group which changed his life and led him on the path to bring a priest in Australia.

In this book, Fr Galea tells his life story and the pitfalls on the way to his becoming a priest. He had to overcome several obstacles, including depression, while he was studying. He also fell in love before hearing the call, and had to choose between his girlfriend and the priesthood.

I found Fr Galea's description of his parish and the people in Australia the most interesting part of the book. He was surprised that we are such a secular and agnostic society compared with Malta which is very religious. His struggles to bring young people back to the 
Church sounds very tough but his decision to 'take the church to the people' is an excellent one. He also inspires people with his music.

I also liked Fr Galea's helpful suggestions about prayer and the Sacraments.

This is well-worth reading, especially for young Catholics.

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

Clutter Intervention by Tisha Morris

This was well-written and philosophical but the author's system just didn't work for me.

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

A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

Vivienne, a lacemaker to Queen Marie Antointette, finds herself in grave danger in the midst of the French Revolution. She manages to escape to Philadelphia only to see that the Jacobins are powerful there, and she is surrounded by untrustworthy people, except for Liam, a brave farmer,. who helps her. Suddenly she has a precious charge. Can she protect him?

This enjoyable Christian novel by Jocelyn Green has a likeable hero and heroine, interesting historical detail and a well-thought out plot.  I especially liked reading about the real people who were involved in the fascinating politics of this era of American history, such as Alexander Hamilton, and the intricacies of the whisky tax. The whisky tax was a surprise to me.

I received this free ebook through the Bethany House Reviewer Program in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Dangerous Woman by Susan Ronald

Beautiful, wealthy and clever, Florence Lacaze had a great ambition. She wanted to be an opera singer. However, it was easier for her to marry wealthy men and when she eventually married Frank Jay Gould, she hit the jackpot! She and Frank cut a swathe through the Riviera with their lavish hotel and casino businesses but they associated with swindlers and thieves, and scandals would eventually follow them. These were nothing, however, compared with Florence’s extremely questionable activities during The Second World War…

This was a very enjoyable book, partly because of all of Florence’s famous friends, such as Chanel and Arletty, and the wonderful descriptions of the luxurious lifestyle on the Riviera in those days. I have seen Arletty in old movies but I didn’t know much about her. However, I found the machinations of the casino and hotel businesses very technical at times.

If you like biographies and reading about high society, you will enjoy learning about this ‘dangerous woman’.

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


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Fire on the Track by Roseanne Montillo

By Unknown (Library of Congress) - [1], Public Domain,

I don't usually read books about sports but this true story of the first women track and field stars kept my interest. It tells the tale of several women who went to the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, including Helen Stevens, Babe Didrikson and Stella Walsh. The main story, however, is that of Betty Robinson who was the first women to win an Olympic track and field gold medal.

Pretty and popular, Betty Robinson loved to wear attractive clothes so when a determined coach accidentally discovered her, one of her main problems was finding the right shoes to wear on the field. She sailed through her first Olympic games, capturing gold.  But a terrible event would cause her much hardship and pain. She wondered whether she would ever walk again, let alone run...

The stories of the other athletes are not as enjoyable, but still interesting. All of them have to deal with opposition to women being in the Olympics at all, let alone running. Some have to struggle with questions about their sexuality and gender. Most have a hard time scraping money together.

This was a well-written book. I did find some of the information in it rather detailed and personal, though. However, it's well-worth reading, especially if you like reading about sports.

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

Making Room for God Decluttering and the Spiritual Life by Mary Elizabeth Sperry

G.K. Chesterton once wrote: 'There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.'  These are extremely wise words for pack rats, and Mary Elizabeth Sperry's book will not only help you to declutter. It will also help you to desire less. 

Some early Church Fathers, such as Saint Anthony, escaped from the Roman Empire, to live ascetic lives and become closer to God.  They owned nothing and ate very little. This was partly because they wanted to separate themselves from attachment to material possessions so that they could become closer to God.  As Sperry writes, they were the true forerunners of today's minimalists.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sin as 'failure in genuine love for God and neighbour caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods'. (CCC, 1849) (Buddhism states that misery is caused by attachment). Possessions can separate us from God and from other people. Sperry explains how and why this is so, and combines the spiritual advantages and reasons for decluttering and gives practical tips in this well-written book. She writes about spiritual discipline, gratitude and generosity as well as how sins, such as envy, can lead to accumulating more 'stuff'. There are exercises at the end of each chapter to help.

I also found Sperry's struggles with her own clutter similar to mine, and rather endearing. For example, she sometimes has to look through several cabinets and drawers to find a utensil. She also almost lost a job opportunity because the offer got mixed up with the spam! It was good to read this, and know that I am not alone!

This is highly recommended for Catholics, or indeed, any Christians who feel that they need a more spiritual approach to getting rid of clutter.


Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

When Alex, a handsome young writer, tries to defend successful chef Rachel from an awful allegation, it leads to disaster. Rachel makes a mistatement on social media anbd ruins an interview leading to the shattering of her career. Luckily, she has good friends but she is only 30 and now she has to start again. Alex comes to the rescue but can Rachel really trust him?

This is a well-written and moving romance with likeable characters who struggle with their ambitions and their consciences. Both Rachel and Alex have also had problems with their families. Alex comes from a Russian Orthodox family but he is searching for a different kind of Christianity and his parents are also upset that he didn't become a psychologist. Rachel left home for various reasons at a very young age.

I also liked the sometimes glamorous setting of Denver's thriving food scene. Some of Rachel's recipes sound scrumptious! I suggest that it's a bad idea to read this novel if you are hungry - unless it inspires you to try to cook like Rachel.

The criticism of social media is also timely. People can easily lose their careers or be publicly shamed all over the world by one mistaken or even false tweet. Judgment is swift and there are very rarely second chances.  It's a dangerous technology and this book highlights the problems associated with it, even for totally innocent people with good intentions.

I love Carla Laureano's writing. This is highly recommended if you like light romances with some depth.

EDITION  Other format

ISBN         9781496428271

PRICE       $24.99 (USD)