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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot by Lettice Cooper Agora Books

Although the facts are true, this is written in the form of a novel - one which could easily be read by children.  The  oppression of Catholics by King James I is made clear and the characters and settings are well-drawn but there is a lot of dialogue.  There is no analysis of the plot and its implications but this is an excellent book to read before looking into the Gunpowder Plot in more detail.  I enjoyed it.

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots The Life of King Henry VIII’s Sister by Sarah-Beth Watkins

Sarah-Beth Watkins paints a fascinating picture of this fiery Tudor queen, who loved fine clothes, dancing and special occasions. She uses letters and excellent historical research to bring Queen Margaret to life. I was sorry to finish the book!

Queen Margaret led a rather tragic life. When very young, she married the much older, handsome and charismatic King James IV of Scotland who treated her well, but she must not have been too happy to discover that he was determined to keep his mistresses. She had many children but only one survived - a son, luckily.  King James's terrible death in a battle against her own brother, King Henry VIII was terrible for Margaret.

She was forever caught between Scotland, England and France and trying to please her dominating brother and keep the Scottish nobles on side proved incredibly difficult. Queen Margaret even had a terrifying struggle to keep custody of her son - she was fiercely protective of him and proudly attempted to gain custody against all odds. Unfortunately, she chose two adulterous and thieving husbands after James died, which almost destroyed her credibility. Her brother kept criticising her morals, rather hypocritically!

Luckily, her old age was somewhat more relaxing. She enjoyed spending time with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. It sounds much more peaceful than the rest of her turbulent life!

This is a must-read for anyone interested in the Tudors or British Royal history.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

This Is Cuba An American Journalist Under Castro's Shadow by David Ariosto St. Martin's Press

As soon as young American journalist arrives in Cuba, he has to cope with an attempted honey trap, a stolen sink (stolen by the workers who came to fix it), lack of air-conditioning in sweltering heat and a near-empty house because of the delay in receiving his furniture. As Cubans told him: 'This is Cuba'. A journalist for CNN, he is much luckier than most of the Cubans, who are used to all this and much, much worse.

Ariosto arrives at an interesting time when the Internet was beginning, the economy is changing, the old regime is dying out, and things are starting to become more open.  It still sounds incredibly difficult to live in Cuba, however, in an island where private property was turned over to the State and shortages and surveillance are just a fact of life. He has to quickly get used to the reality being different from his romantic vision of  a sun washed island set in another time. As he interviewed some of the residents, he realises that life can be incredibly tough here. For example, there is the extremely poor black man whose brother can't afford treatment for his diabetes, and the young law graduate who can't get ahead and has been working in a restaurant for years.

This is an interesting and lyrically-written book about a journalist thrown into the deep end who has to 'wise up' and a country on the verge of a new revolution. I greatly enjoyed it.

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

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Drawing: Basic Textures in Pencil Diane Cardaci, William F Powell, Nolon Stacey

This is an excellent book which explains the process of drawing with pencil clearly and simply, providing examples of flowers, still life pictures, birds, animals, trees and landscapes.  It goes into the types of pencils which you need and the different kinds of techniques.

I would recommend it for beginners.

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

Chronicles of a Fashion Buyer The Mostly True Adventures of an International Fashion Buyer by Mercedes Gonzalez

This looked good but I just didn't like the writing! I didn't finish it.

I received this free ebook from NetGalley

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots The Life of King Henry VIII’s Sister by Melanie Clegg

Queen Margaret, ,Daniƫl Mijtens [Public domain]

Melanie Clegg (otherwise known as Madame Guillotine) captured my attention when she dedicated her book to Margaret Tudor, because she was seemingly without any female friends.  This was a lovely thing to do.

Queen Margaret was certainly in need of friends! She had to cope with a warring husband and brother, the loss of several children, fierce Scottish nobles and thieving and adulterous husbands.  She also had to navigate her way through the Auld Alliance (with France) and the difficult relationship between Scotland and England. Like another famous Scottish queen, she was unfortunately a bit silly about men. She was relatively lucky with her first marriage, however. This was an arranged match to the handsome, intelligent and charismatic King James IV. He treated his much younger wife well, although it surprised and saddened Margaret that he wanted to keep his mistresses. As it wasn't unusual for royal husbands, she really couldn't do much about it.  The next two husbands were far worse!Trying to keep custody of the heir to the throne also proved a minefield.

This is a sympathetic and engaging biography of King Henry VIII's sister, who certainly led a tragic life. Margaret faced it courageously and her great inner strength enabled her to fight on through her terrible travails.  It's good that she had a little bit of peace before she died with her son and daughter-in-law and her grandchildren.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in the Tudors.

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

Sunday, December 02, 2018

A Light So Lovely. The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle by Sarah Arthur

Madeleine L'Engle, the author of the beloved children's classic A Wrinkle in Time, wrote in Walking on Water that Christians 'draw people to Christ...by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it'.  She certainly did that in myriad ways. This book explores her spiritual legacy to her readers and fellow writers in several different areas, including faith and science and religion and art. Although Sarah Arthur writes extensively about Madeleine l'Engle's life, this is not a biography, but a study of her faith and her writing. It also details the criticisms of her writing and about why some of her books were sometimes banned. I found this book a bit scattered, until I got used to it, but the last chapter was so beautifully written that it made me cry!

l'Engle is probably mostly remembered for her ability to combine faith with science in her famous children's stories, but this was almost an accident! She had an unhappy childhood and she and her husband found it easy to talk about the arts but difficult to discuss feelings. As a young married woman, she struggled with a stalled publishing career, and had even greater travails with her faith, telling the minister that she didn't believe in God. but she wanted to live as though she did. She started to read the German theologians, such as Paul Tillich, but found them very dry.Then she started taking an interest in theoretical physicists and amazingly found her theologian in Einstein who helped her to believe in a loving God.  This began her journey to writing A Wrinkle in Time.

If you like Madeleine l'Engle's books, this is a must-read. Madeleine l'Engle sounds like a lovely woman who cared about her fellow writers and tried to help them and was concerned about her readers, especially children and teenagers and tried to find real meaning in her faith. Sarah Arthur doesn't shy away from l'Engle's flaws but after reading this book, it is easy to see why the author was so loved.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.





Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France's Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando by Paul Kix

Robert de La Rochefoucauld trained to join the S.O.E., excaped execution at the very last minute, and led countless sabotages, including putting bombs into bread loaves! All this before he even turned 21! Courageous and determined, this nobleman joined the Resistance movement, partly because of the bravery of his famous ancestors. Although depressed at times, and not sure whether he could continue, he wanted to help free his beloved country at all costs.

This riveting and inspiring book is difficult to put down, although harrowing at times, when the hero is questioned and tortured by the Germans. It would make an excellent series or movie. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the French Resistance! 

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey

A Balcony in Paris by Gustav Caillebotte

Sarah is at a loss. Recovering from the death of her parents and a breakup with a boyfriend, she becomes fascinated by a distant relation from her past. Why did Louisa, a young debutante married to a duke, commit suicide and did it have anything to do with the beautiful courtesan, Marthe de Florian? Sarah decides to stay in Paris to see if she can discover more, but the only way that she can do this is by sharing an apartment with the French artist, Laurent...

Exquisite writing, engaging characters and the Parisian setting make this a lovely book to read. Ella Carey combines the stories of Sarah and Louisa in a fascinating way and captures the atmosphere of Belle Epoque Paris. At first, I thought that the story is a bit cliched, but Carey is more interested in the dark side of Edwardian Paris than the usual tale of sweetness and light.

I intend to read Ella Carey's other books ASAP!

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Carolina of Orange-Nassau Ancestress of the royal houses of Europe by Moniek Bloks

I found the writing very factual and I didn't finish it, so I think that this book is best for research. I am probably more interested in the British Royal family.

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

Behind the Throne A Domestic History of the British Royal Household by Adrian Tinniswood

This was full of interesting anecdotes and accounts of royal rivalries. For example, I liked the one
about Prince Charles having his servants line up several boiled eggs so that he could choose between them! The royal rivalries include stories about the King Georges and their dreadful relationships with their sons.

I found, however, that I could only read a little of this book at a time. There was just too much information, so I didn't finish it. It is a good read for lovers of royal history.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2018

An Irish Country Cottage by Patrick Taylor

I requested this because I thought that it would be like "Ballykissangel". It probably is, but the story about one couple wanting children and the other couple having too many just didn't interest me.

I will try the others in the series.

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Anne of Cleves Henry VIII's Unwanted Wife by Sarah-Beth Watkins

This was an interesting, well-researched book, but the writing was a bit dull.

However, I didn't know that much about Anne's life after Henry VIII died and Sarah Beth-Watkins details Anne's experiences during each reign. Also, I always thought of Anne as very Protestant but she was really Catholic and happy to go back to the Catholic Church during Mary 1's reign which surprised me.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Uneasy Lies the Crown A Lady Emily Mystery by Tasha Alexander

I have read all of the Lady Emily series and this is an excellent addition, although
I found it a bit more gruesome than most of the others.

When several murders occur which are similar to the murders of Kings, Lady Emily's husband is
asked to investigate. Do these murders indicate that the new King, Edward VII's life is in danger? And how do they relate to Queen Victoria's message to Colin and the strange messages which he is receiving? What do they have to do with Colin's ancestor, the knight William?

Lady Emily insists on helping Colin in her usual forthright way, and does so in an intrepid way, finding that it involves her in the labyrinthine intricacies of the East End underworld with its gangs,
child workers and 'ladies of the night'. Luckily, she has her highly intelligent husband to help her as well as the likeable Duke Jeremy and a sympathetic policeman who she finds after dealing with the misogynist Gale.

Engaging characters, an interesting plot, and a fascinating historical setting make this well-worth reading. I can hardly wait for the next Lady Emily book!

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


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Christmas at the Chalet by Anita Hughes

This is an enchanting, fairy tale like romance set in  glamorous Saint Moritz. Engaging characters and
an interesting story make this book a perfect holiday read. I also liked reading the evocative descriptions and history of the beautiful town.

Felicity, the heroine, a successful wedding dress designer is in town to organize a fashion show. Troubled by her boyfriend's reluctance to marry, she also has to work hard to make designs for a new contract.When a handsome, single Doctor keeps saving her from accidents, Felicity has a new but exciting dilemma!

Nell, one of Felicity's models, is getting married and wants her divorced parents to attend. When they both turn up in town, she has to struggle to keep them apart... But do they still love each other after all?

I enjoy Anita Hughes's romances and hope to read all of them!

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

Monday, October 01, 2018

Ten-Step Drawing: Flowers by Mary Woodin

This is a great book to own if you want to start drawing flowers. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and a colour guide is included. I didn't attempt many of them, but it is a good book for beginners.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Rubber Brain: A toolkit for optimising your study, work, and life! Sue Morris, Jacquelyn Cranney, Peter Baldwin, Leigh Mellish, Annette Krochmalik


Jen is effervescent, adaptable and resilient, ‘a mixture of scholastic goddess and comic genius’. However, when it comes to exam time, Jen changes completely. She convinces herself that she is going to fail and annoys everyone. Lecturers avoid her emails and Jen falls into a gloomy state of mind.

What happened? Jen is stressed and finding unsuitable ways to cope. Her sub-optimal thinking is making exam time even worse. Jen needs to change her thinking and deal with her stress. Does this sound familiar? Most of us indulge in these kinds of thoughts, leading to over-reactions, panic and even self-destructive behaviour.

Luckily, this book by five different psychological educators contains many different tools to help readers learn to think optimally, so that they can deal with many different situations, become realistic optimists and achieve their goals.  These tools include mindfulness, relaxation exercises and CBT. The authors also discuss the importance of self-knowledge, including knowing your core beliefs and values, and knowing more about your personality. This is especially helpful for young people working out their futures. There are lots of exercises, useful summaries at the end of each chapter and resources if you want to read more. These are personality tests, for example, finding out which words best describe your character.

This was written for students and it has lots of useful suggestions for coping with exams, but it is also useful for all ages. I found the section about realistic optimism and the myths about optimism especially helpful, for example.  It contains a lot of information and I found it a bit technical, so it is best to read it slowly, keep a notebook handy and try the exercises. There’s a lot to absorb! I think that it will be a useful book to dip into whenever it is necessary, and the resources, especially the TED talks, will be worth finding.

I received this free book from Australian Academic Press in return for an honest review.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

How to Live Japanese by Yutaka Yazawa Quarto Publishing Group - Aurum Press White Lion Publishing Home & Garden , Travel

I thought that this would be about Zen, minimalism and meditation. However, it seems to be more about how the Japanese actually live and the geography of the country. I didn't finish it because it wasn't what I was looking for, but I may try again.

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

The Girl on the Balcony Olivia Hussey Finds Life after Romeo and Juliet by Olivia Hussey Kensington Books Kensington


By UnknownUnknown author (eBay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One day Olivia Hussey was being fitted for a dress to wear in a ball scene in Romeo and Juliet, when Franco Zeffirelli astonished her by starting to tear it! He had a sudden, volcanic temper which the young teenager would have to live with. Hussey relates this, and many other anecdotes about making her most famous film, the beautiful Romeo and Juliet, the movie which defined her life, taking her from a tough upbringing in London to the joys of Italy and world-wide stardom.

However, this book is not just about Romeo and Juliet. Olivia Hussey takes the reader on her journey through life in this luminous book about her career, including playing Mother Teresa and the Virgin Mary, and her loves, her travels and the importance of her guru, Swami Muktenanda. I especially liked her poignant story of her first love and marriage. Parts of the book are harrowing, because of an abortion and her struggle with breast cancer, but she displayed such resilience that it is also inspiring – something that I certainly didn’t expect!

If you like reading about famous people, there are several in this book! Olivia Hussey met many of the greats, including Laurence Olivier, Vanessa Redgrave and Burt Lancaster. She even met Pope John Paul 11 who asked about her after she acted in a film of one of his plays.

I loved this eBook so much that I will certainly be buying the paperback or hardback. A big regret is that my mother who also adored the stunning movie of Romeo and Juliet is not here to read it.

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


EDITION                    Other Format

ISBN9781496717078

PRICE                         $26.00 (USD)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Soul's Slow Ripening 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred by Christine Valters Paintner Ave Maria Press

This is a beautifully-written book about Celtic practices to help you seek God and discover the divine in everyday life. Paintner discusses practices, such as crossing thresholds and encircling, clearly and eloquently, making it easy to include them in your life. She relates stories about the saints and the ancient Celts and her own experiences and  includes lovely poems.

This is a very profound book which will help anyone on their Christian journey. I would suggest reading it slowly and studying each chapter.

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

Bloodmoon A mystery of Ancient Ireland by Peter Tremayne


When Sister Fidelma, her husband Eadulf and the warrior Enda travel to an abbey in to give
Abbott Nessan a message, they are in for a shock. When the Abbott is suddenly murdered, suspicion falls on Cairenn, a young girl, who runs away. But the trio soon find themselves in a much deeper mystery which may concern a plot to assassinate Fidelma’s brother, the King of Cashel. 
Unfortunately, Fidelma is restricted by a geis, an ancient oath, which restricts her ability to ask for help from the other two.

This is an enjoyable mystery with a rather involved plot, engaging characters and vivid descriptions of the Irish landscape.. Fidelma is an interesting and clever character well-versed in Brehon law who usually remains calm in the most extreme circumstances. The other two are also likeable, but a bit irritable in this book because of the geis. I have read many of these books and this trio are like old friends. I will be very sorry to see the series end!

The trio do eat hedgehogs at one stage. I was a bit upset about that! 

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Thank You For Shopping by Kristal Leebrick

By Elkman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

ISBN9780745968513

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.